The Self-Immolation of Thích Quảng Đức

On June 11th 1963, Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, sat down in the middle of a busy intersection in Saigon, covered himself in gasoline, ignited a match, and set himself on fire. Đức burned to death in a matter of minutes. He was immortalized in a photograph taken by a reporter who was in Vietnam to cover the war. All those who saw this spectacle were taken by the fact that Duc did not make a sound while burning to death. Đức was protesting President Ngô Đình Diệm’s administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion.

Via: ThatWasNotInOurHistoryBooks


The Dashka Stone: Map of the Creator

In 1999, a professor at Bashkir State University in Russia named Alexander Chuvyrov made a remarkable archeological discovery. He was called to the house of Vladimir Krainov, who reported a strange slab buried in his backyard. Chuvyrov was instantly intrigued, as he had been searching for similar slabs that have been cited in various historical manuscripts. The slab was so heavy that it took over a week to unearth. The discovery was named the Dashka stone and later titled the Map of the Creator. The artifact is approximately 5 feet high, 3.5 feet wide, .5 feet thick, and weighs at least one ton. The stone was investigated and determined to be some sort of three-dimensional relief map of the Ural Region. Today the military uses similar maps to measure elevation and terrain. The Dashka stone reportedly contains representations of civil engineering work, weirs, an irrigation system, and powerful dams. To date, the ancient technology used to make the map is unknown and extremely advanced.

The map also contains numerous inscriptions. At first, the scientists thought that it was an Old Chinese language, although it was later reported that the inscriptions were done in a hieroglyphic-syllabic language of unknown origin. A group of Russian and Chinese specialists in the fields of cartography, physics, mathematics, geology, chemistry, and Old Chinese language researched the artifact and were the ones that identified it as a map of Ural region, with rivers Belya, Ufimka, and Sutolka listed.

Dating of the slab was reported to be over 100 million years old, but no reliable resources citing evidence of what type of test were used or the exact results could be found. If the Map of the Creator is genuine then it would suggest the existence of an ancient highly developed civilization. Researchers have claimed that a three-dimensional map of this order could have only been used for navigational purposes. Many websites claim that the slab is proof of ancient flight. Recent discoveries indicate that the slab is a piece of a larger artifact.

The Dashka stone continues to undergo scientific testing and is not available for public viewing. … veries.php … _0237.html

His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I of the United States

Joshua Abraham Norton, the self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself “Emperor of these United States.”

Born in England, Norton immigrated to San Francisco in 1849 after receiving a bequest of $40,000 from his father’s estate. He lost his fortune investing in Peruvian rice. After losing a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, Norton left San Francisco.

He returned a few years later, apparently mentally unbalanced, claiming to be the Emperor of the United States. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.

Norton spent his days inspecting San Francisco’s streets in an elaborate blue uniform with gold-plated epaulets. Although penniless, he regularly ate at the finest restaurants in San Francisco; restaurateurs took it upon themselves to add brass plaques in their entrances declaring “by Appointment to his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I of the United States.” Such “Imperial seals of approval” were prized and a substantial boost to trade. No play or musical performance in San Francisco would dare to open without reserving balcony seats for Norton.

On January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed at a street corner, and died before he could be given medical treatment. The following day, nearly 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco to pay homage to Norton.

Via: TheOddmentEmporium

The Holy Lines and The Extersteine

About the same time ley lines were first introduced by Alfred Watkins (1855–1935) in the 1920s, a German evangelical parson named Wilhelm Teudt proposed a similar theory he called heilige linien (holy lines) that linked a number of standing stones, churches, crosses, and other objects of spiritual significance in Germany. Teudt’s holy line theory met the same fate as Watkins’s ley lines. There were so many possibilities for connecting a variety of objects on a landscape that the odds were better of finding alignments than not finding them.

Teudt made another observation that had more lasting significance. He noted that an ancient chamber constructed in the naturally formed megaliths called the Extersteine had a circular window that formed a point where rays of light at the midsummer solstice shone through, and where the moon was visible when it reached its northernmost position. He believed the Neolithic peoples (before 2000 B.C.E.) had used the site as an astronomical observatory and a calendar.

The Extersteine, which lies at the approximate latitude as Stonehenge in Great Britain, is a natural site of five sandstone pillars rising 120 feet above an area filled with caves and grottoes. It served as a ritual center for nomadic reindeer hunters, and later was the site of pagan rituals until the eighth century, when such rituals were forbidden by law. Christian monks took over the site and set up crosses and reliefs depicting biblical scenes. They abandoned it after about 1600. Many people continued to visit the Extersteine, claiming they were aware of its energy and that their physical ailments had been cured by walking among or rubbing against the stones.

Via: EncyclopediaOfTheUnusualAndUnexplained

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz, also referred to as “The Rock,” is rich in American history, more so than most people realize. It is the home of the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast, a Civil War fortress that served as the San Francisco Arsenal, the infamous federal prison, the beginning of the American Indian Red Power movement, and also a bird sanctuary.

In 1775, Spaniard Juan Manuel de Ayala named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces” which translates into “The Island of the Pelicans.” Since then, the earliest recorded owner of the island is Julian Workman, who was assigned by Mexican governor Pio Pico to build a lighthouse on it in June 1846. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore claimed Alcatraz Island for military use only after America gained California in the Mexican-American War. As the American Civil War broke out in the early 1860s, Alcatraz was loaded up with cannons and served as storage and protection of firearms for the San Francisco Arsenal. During the war it was also used to imprison Confederate sympathizers. In 1868, after the building of a brick jailhouse, it was officially designated a long-term facility for military prisoners.

The main cellblock was constructed between 1909, and 1912, and an excavated pit was created as a dry moat to increase defensive efforts. The fortress was deactivated as a military prison in 1933, and opened as a federal prison in August of 1934. Through 1963, the prison held many notable criminals like Al Capone, Bumpy Johnson, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz). However, in all of the 29 years it was in operation, no prisoners ever successfully escaped, or at least none that they have found alive.

Fourteen escape attempts were made by thirty six different Alcatraz inmates over the years and though almost all were captured or killed in the process, in two escapes in 1937, and June 1962, the inmates disappeared without a trace. The prison assumes they all drowned, (quite likely correct in the 1937, case) but over the years there have been sightings of the escapees, leading to much speculation has been made about their possible successful escape. The 1962, escape from Alcatraz inspired a book and movie of the same name which brought the prison to national fame.

The penitentiary was closed in 1963, due to the high costs of operation in comparison with other prisons as well as the severe eroding of the building due to the salt water. In 1976, Alcatraz Island became part of the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1986, it became a National Historic Landmark.


No Prison Can Hold Me

A 25 year old Harry Houdini in a publicity shot photographed in 1899.

Harry Houdini (1874-1926) rose from humble beginnings as a boy in Budapest and a poor Jewish teenager in New York to become the most famous escape artist in 20th century America. His work not only broke through the boundries of what human beings were thought capable of doing but also broke through the even thicker walls of bigotry and prejudice. Harry Houdini is remembered today as a legendary showman and magician whose life and death is still shrouded in mystery.

Eric of the Air
Ehrich “Harry Houdini” Weisz was born into family of four boys to a Rabbi and a country girl in Budapest, Hungary. At four, Ehrich’s family migrated to America first settling in Appleton, Wisconsin as the Weiss family. His father was named the leader of the local Jewish Orthodox Church. Over the next few years two more children were born.

When Samuel Weiss lost his congregation, due to his strict adherence to orthodox views, he and eight year old Ehrich moved from Wisconsin to New York City to search for work. During this time, they lived in a crowded boarding house on East 79th Street. Young Ehrich worked several jobs, including as a “newsie” and shoe shine boy or “bootblack”.

In New York, Ehrich discovered the adventures of 19th century French magician, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, whom he would later take the stage name Houdini from. It’s not hard to imagine the young Ehrich working a series of menial jobs day in and day out and dreaming of being a mysterious magician while in reality he and his father were desperately poor and living in one the most crowded and dangerous cities in the world.

When Samuel Weiss brought the rest of the family to New York, a few years later, Ehrich began performing in the streets with his older brother Theodore. They performed in city parks and at Coney Island where Enrich undertook a variety of unsuccessful routines such as a daredevil trapeze artist “Eric of the Air”, simple hucksterism, and enacting sleight of hand routines as the “King of Cards”. This was all well before Ehrich began performing in minor escape acts with Theodore in the “The Brothers Houdini”.

Before and after work, when the brothers couldn’t find audiences to give them money they would beg for coins. In Ruth Brandon’s biography The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini she retells how a young Houdini would give coins he had begged for to his mother by making them mysteriously emerge from her hair in silver fountains. If that failed in causing a smile, he would hide them in his pockets and tell her, “Shake me, I’m magic!” and proceed to sprout puddles of pennies and nickels.

Rabbi Weiss died in 1892 leaving a family of five boys and one girl. At this time, all of the family worked in New York’s garment district sweatshops to survive. Ehrich himself worked sewing together men’s ties in the sweatshops. In 1893, at 19, he met his future wife Wilhelmina “Bess” Rahner, a struggling singer and dancer, while performing at Coney Island. She eventually replaced Theodore as Houdini’s assistant. They performed together for the next six years and in 1899, Houdini was discovered by a vaudeville agent while the act was traveling in Illinois. There, Houdini was offered a contract to tour Europe which he gladly accepted.

King of Handcuffs

Harry Houdini in Cleveland, Ohio circa 1915.

In 1890, Ehrich threw himself into European public relations the likes of which have never been seen. As part of his over the top advertising, he would stop in the jail of every village or city that he toured to challenge the local police to keep him locked inside a cell for one night. As part of the routine, he would be strip searched, shackled and then led into a cell only to escape by morning. He succeeded each time, even freeing himself from a Siberian prison train, leading skeptics to charge him with cheating by bribing jail guards.

Not one to allow slander, a trait he must have inherited from his proud father, Houdini sued a police officer in Cologne, Germany for making one such false allegation. He won by a demonstration in opening a hefty safe from the inside. The safe, itself, belonged to the judge in the case. The amazing escape cleared Houdini of any wrong doing – winning the law suit and prestige for Houdini.

In London, Houdini spent nearly an hour freeing himself from a set of specially designed handcuffs before a crowd of 400 people and 100 journalists. Never before had Houdini had such a difficult time in an escape – requiring nearly an hour of sustained effort. Only after Bess surreptitiously passed him a special key did he manage to free himself before the thunderous applause of the crowd.

These tactics of showmanship, publicity stunts and spending nearly ten years traveling exhaustively in Europe and Russia, made Ehrich widely known as “The Handcuff King” in Europe. For several years he was the highest paid vaudeville entertainer in the world. His unusual talents provided Houdini with a new found wealth that he had struggled to find since he was a boy a in America.

After returning to the US in 1907, one of the first things Houdini did was buy a brownstone home in the German part of Harlem for $25,000 for his mother and siblings in New York. He published a book called Handcuff Secrets in 1909, and determined to be more than a simple conjurer began devising a series of ever larger illusions that would place his life in danger.

The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls
Starting in 1912, his stunts evolved into elaborate escapes from watery graves or being held in mid-air and set aflame. Right before the audience’s unbelieving eyes, and no longer behind the safety of a curtain, he was locked in chains, hand-cuffed, crammed into straitjackets, bound with thick ropes and then given a few minutes to escape.

Harry Houdini slipping out of a straitjacket while hanging upside down over 46th and Broadway in Manhattan circa 1915.

With only the air in his lungs to survive, he performed his definitive Chinese Water Torture act. In this performance, Houdini was regularly required to hold his breath for three minutes as he unlocked a series of chains and restraints to free himself from a 5′ x 3.5′ re-inforced glass chamber. The original cell was built in England, where Houdini first performed the escape for an audience of one person as part of a one-act play he called “Houdini Upside Down”. This was so he could copyright the effect and have grounds to sue imitators – which he often did.

The Overboard Box routine evolved from the Milk Can Escape that he performed on stage in vaudeville. In his unique role as a performer that could go anywhere and do anything Houdini would escape from a chest that was chained and nailed shut while he was held in heavy shackles. To further complicate the act, the chest would be thrown into the East River in front a large audience. Houdini escaped from the chest as quickly as 57 seconds leaving only a pair of empty manacles in the wooden box.

Buried Alive, one of Houdini’s acts that has been repeated many times, involved Houdini literally being buried alive strapped in a straitjacket and then to emerge – clawing his way to the surface – unharmed. In 1917, in Santa Ana, during his first public performance of the act the heavy weight of the earth pressed down on Houdini nearly killing him. Afterwards, he would use a specially built bronze casket to avoid being crushed or suffocated.

Houdini, ever resourceful and wary of competition, also patented a small specialized “diving suit” that he used in some of his escapes. The innovation was granted as U.S. Patent Number 1,370,316 on March 1, 1921.

Spiritualism and the Houdini Picture Corporation

Houdini, in a publicity shot, in his fifties.

In the 1920s, spiritualism became a great interest in America. His competitors, like the Davenport Brothers, ascribed much of their own illusions to supernatural powers. Something of the hard-working religious character in Ehrich must have taken great offense in this tactic. Altough he had used the aura of “ghost worlds” in some of his early routines he always attributed his escapes to his own natural skills. Where his “powers” were purely physical or intellectual and advertised as simply mysterious the various charlatans of his day were using superstitious beliefs to bilk large and small audiences out of fortunes.

After his mother’s death in 1913, and researching spiritualism himself, Houdini became convinced that the practitioners were frauds, and he spent much of his time debunking the fakes. In his vaudeville shows he advertised a “Three Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed.” Where he would explain how mediums would research their victims or how they used common parlor tricks to fool them into believing they were contacting dead relatives. He was even more merciless to magicians that claimed spiritual powers.

Houdini challenged one of these “mystical” performers, the Egyptian Conjurer Rahman Bey, in August of 1925 to better the mystic’s record of spending an hour underwater in a small, sealed container. Houdini remaining at the bottom of a New York Public pool for an hour and a half, in a casket, using none of the special powers that Rahman Bey claimed to allow him to survive. Houdini would later say that all he did was control his breathing.

He was also a early Special Effects artist in the new medium of motion pictures and acted as a consultant on early films made by Pathe Films (inventors of the newsreel) in France. Building on his many appearances in newsreels, in 1919, The Master of Mystery series was made. It was a 15 part serial in which Harry performed his trademark escapes on film. The series was released to early matinee audiences as a success. Houdini formed the Houdini Picture Corporation with it’s own film lab going into business with his brother Theodore. They made two features, The Man From Beyond (1921) and Haldane of the Secret Service (1923). But, in late 1923, citing lack of profits, Houdini abandoned motion pictures.

The Final Challenger
In the end, Houdini’s reknowned hubris would eventually be his undoing. For all of his death defying feats, he died as a result of long standing personal challenge to his audience in late October of 1926. Nine days prior to his death (and with a broken ankle on the mend from the previous night’s show) his challenge was accepted in Montreal by a McGill University college student and amateur boxer named J. Gordon Whitehead.

Among his many challenges to his audience, Houdini had long laid claim that he could painlessly absorb any blow to the gut. But, before being prepared for the strike, Whitehead struck him three times – doubling Houdini over where he lay. Apparently Houdini was already suffering from appendicitis at this point and Whitehead’s punches ruptured the organ. Houdini did not seek medical attention and continued to perform for a few days afterward. He finally had the appendix removed on the 29th of October before dying of peritonitis and sepsis due two days later at the age of 52. Ehrich Weisz died on Halloween in a Detroit hospital saying, “I guess this thing is going to get me…”

Houdini’s death was a great shock to the country. Theodore eventually took up the Houdini act and would perform his brother’s escape routines, as Hardeen, until 1945. According to his will, the Houdini book collection, valued at $30,000 at the time, was left to the Library of Congress where it remains today as part of a larger collection on Houdini.

Ironically, after Ehrich’s death, his wife Bess held yearly seances on Halloween attempting to use spiritualism to unsuccessfully contact her departed husband’s soul. After ten years, Bess ended the practice saying “Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.” Bess died in 1943 well provided for by Houdini’s legacy.

Harry Houdini remains an enigmatic performer who was celebrated during his time as “the young Hungarian magician with the pleasant smile and easy confidence.” Today, he is remembered as a titan of his craft and an inspiration to many modern magician’s such as David Copperfield and David Blaine.

Via: FleshyBones
References: Wikipedia, Theodore Hardeen, Harry Houdini,, Legendary Escapes!, Find-A-Grave, Harry Houdini, Humbugs of the World, P.T. Barnum, New York: G.W. Carelton, 1865, Magician Among the Spirits, Harry Houdini, New York: Harper, 1924., The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini, Ruth Brandon, London: Secker & Warburg, 1993. Appleton Public Library, Harry Houdini, Adam Woog Wisconsin: Lucent Books, 1994

Unit 731

During the second Sino-Japanese War and World War II the Japanese military formed an infamous secret squadron whose goal was to research and develop biological and chemical warfare. This unit showed no remorse and carried out some of the most heinous experiments in human history on men, women, children, and infants. Thousands of civilian and military personnel were subjected to human experimentation.

Ping Fang was the headquarters of the Japanese Biological Warfare Unit 731. Often refered to as the “Asian Auschwitz” the facility had an airport, railway, dungeons medical facilities and an incinerator where the bodies of the victims were disposed of. The Japanese burnt most of Ping Fang to destroy the evidence of their crimes but the incinerator remains and is still used by a local factory that has taken over the complex.

In 1942, Shiro Ishii, began field tests of the germ warfare agents developed by Unit 731, He also began testing various methods of dispersion (i.e. via firearms, bombs, gas, clothing, etc.) on both Chinese prisoners of war as well as, operationally on battlefields and against civilians in Chinese cities. Some historians estimate that as many as, 200,000+ died as a result of the bio-weapons that were deployed. His unit also conducted physiological experiments on human subjects, including vivisections, forced abortions, simulated strokes, heart attacks, frostbite and hypothermia.

Arrested by the American authorities at the end of World War II, Ishii and Unit 731 leaders received immunity in 1946 from war-crimes prosecution before the Tokyo tribunal in exchange for germ warfare data based on human experimentation. Many of the scientists involved in Unit 731 went on to prominent careers in post-war politics, academia, business, and medicine. Ishii never spent any time in jail for his crimes and died at the age of 67 of throat cancer.

Initially set up under the Empire of Japan’s Kempeitai military police to develop weapons of mass destruction for potential use against Chinese, and Soviet forces. Unit 731, was officially disbanded in August of 1945, when the Russian’s invaded Manchukuo and discovered another of the highly secret Japanese programs. Unit 200 was researching bio warfare.

Unit 731 was divided into eight divisions:
Division 1: Research on bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax, typhoid and tuberculosis using live human subjects. For this purpose, a prison was constructed to contain around three to four hundred people.
Division 2: Research for biological weapons used in the field, in particular the production of devices to spread germs and parasites.
Division 3: Production of shells containing biological agents. Stationed in Harbin.
Division 4: Production of other miscellaneous agents.
Division 5: Training of personnel.
Divisions 6–8: Equipment, medical and administrative units.

Some of the experiments conducted by Unit 731 and its subsidiary units included:

Vivisection, victims were subjected to live autopsy without anesthesia whereupon they were purposefully infected with diseases (including pregnant women who were impregnated by doctors). The reasons for this was to study the effect on human organs and avoid decomposition from affecting results, amputate limbs to study blood loss and the effects of rotting and gangrene (some limbs were later attached to the other side of the body), parts of the stomach, liver, brains and lungs were often removed to observe the effects.

Weapons testing, grenades, mortars and other explosive devices were detonated near living targets to determine the effects with regards to different distances and angles. So they could determine how long victims could survive with their sustained injuries while others were tied to stakes and were subject to the use of biological bombs, chemical weapons, and other explosive material.

Germ warfare, male and female prisoners were injected with venereal diseases in the disguise of inoculations (or sometimes infected via rape) to determine the viability of germ warfare, victims were infested with fleas in order to communicate the disease to an organism which could be later dropped onto a populace. Fleas themselves were also tainted with cholera, anthrax, and the bubonic plague, as well as, other plagues. These were later dropped in the guise of clothing and supplies which resulted in the estimated death of another 400,000 Chinese civilians. This was the origin of the “flea bomb” which infected large geographic areas and polluted land and water.

In other experiments victims were hung upside down to observe how long it took for one to die due to choking and the length of time until the onset of embolism occurred after inserting air into ones blood stream.

Many think these atrocities were overlooked because The United States feared that the Soviet Union might acquire Ishii’s expertise and records through a secret deal. Allied POWs had a lot of stories to tell about biological experimentation on humans. Prosecutors at the Tokyo War Crimes trials were warned not to investigate the specific crimes and by 1948, all Unit 731 members were offered immunity in exchange for data and co-operation.

The discovery of the bodies beneath Tokyo, broke a cover-up which lasted for more than four decades. Suddenly, allied servicemen started telling about their ordeals. Joseph Gozzo, a former aviation engineer, had glass rods inserted in his rectum during his internment. He said “Damn right I remember; I can’t believe our government let them get away with it”.

Ex-POW, Frank James, shared his memories with a US House of Representatives sub-committee in 1986: “We were just pawns. We Always knew there was a cover-up”. The House of Representatives hearing lasted just half a day and only one of 200 US survivors was permitted to testify in front of the chief archivist for the US Army. The official report said that files provided by Ishii were returned to Japan in the 1950s and copies had not been made.

Initially, the US and Japanese governments denied that atrocities had occurred but when official information was made public from General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters that stated that the investigation of Unit 731 was “under the direct supervision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The utmost secrecy was essential in order to protect the interests of the United States and to guard against embarrassment.” Finally, in 1993, US Defence Secretary William Perry declassified records of WWII biological experiments.

For more information on Unit 731 there is also a documentary titled “Unit 731: Nightmare in Manchuria” and a graphic movie titled “Man Behind the Sun“.

Via in Part by: AboveTopSecret and DawnOfDarkness

The Acámbaro Figures

The Acámbaro Figures are a collection of small ceramic figurines allegedly found in Acámbaro, Guanajuato, Mexico. They were discovered by Waldemar Julsrud in July of 1944. According to accounts, Julsrud stumbled upon the artifacts while riding his horse in the Acámbaro area. He hired a local farmer to dig up the remaining figures, paying him for each object he found. Eventually, the farmer and his assistants discovered over 32,000 figures, which included representations of everything from dinosaurs to people from all over the world, including Egyptians, Sumerians, and bearded Caucasians.

The Acámbaro Figures have been cited as out of place artifacts, as they are clearly human made and portray a large variety of dinosaur species. According to all history books, humans did not live in the time of the dinosaurs. Upon the discovery of the figures, many creationists from all over the world proclaimed the artifacts legitimate. If these figures are genuine, it could stand as credible evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans, which would severely damage the theory of evolution and offer support for the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Attempts have been made to date these figures using Thermoluminescence, or TL dating, and the results suggested a date around 2500 BCE. A man named Don Patton claims he found radiocarbon dates for the figures ranging from 6500 years to 1500 years ago; however, the objects are in very good shape and show no characteristic evidence of having been in the ground for at least 1500 years. If they were authentic artifacts, they should be scratched and marred from the rocky soil, which is characteristic of other objects found in that area of Mexico. Other supporters of the figures claim that the incredible detail of the dinosaurs suggest a firsthand experience with the creatures. The sheer number of the figures discovered is often cited as evidence for a hoax. To date, no credible scholars of archaeology or paleontology accept the discovery as valid.

Via: MythicMysteriesMiscellany

England’s Hill Figures, Part 6: The Kilburn White Horse

The final of our six part posting of England’s Hill Figures the Kilburn White Horse, is formed in the hillside near the village of Kilburn, in North Yorkshire, England. The horse is 318 feet long by 220 ft high and covers about 1.6 acres and is said to be the largest and most northerly of the chalk figures in England.

The Kilburn horse faces south-south-west and is clearly visible from some distance. On a clear day, the horse is visible from north Leeds, 28 miles away on the higher ground to the west of the Vale of York.

Sutton Bank, geologically, is formed of limestone. The horse was created by removing the topsoil and exposing the underlying rock. It was created in November 1857, and some accounts state that it was done by school master John Hodgson and his pupils, together with local volunteers. A tablet erected at the car park below it reads, “The Kilburn ‘White Horse’ — This figure was cut in 1857 on the initiative of Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn. In 1925 a restoration fund was created by the readers of the Yorkshire Evening Post to provide for the ongoing grooming of the figure.”

However, Morris Marples in his 1949 book gives Thomas Taylor the credit for being the prime mover: a native of Kilburn, he was a buyer for a London provision merchant, and he seems to have attended celebrations at Uffington White Horse in 1857, at which time he became inspired to give his home village a similar example. Thirty-three men were involved in the cutting of the figure, and 6 tons of lime were used to whiten the exposed rock. The image itself is now formed of off-white limestone chips, but the steep gradient of the hillside, especially at the horse’s breast and forelegs, have led to slumping. Retention boards have been used to fix and halt the degredation.

During World War II the horse was covered over to prevent it from becoming a conspicuous navigation landmark for enemy bombers. This white horse can reputedly be seen from Julian’s Bower, Alkborough in North Lincolnshire, over 45 miles away.

Via: Wikipedia

England’s Hill Figures, Part 4: The Long Man of Wilmington

The Long Man of Wilmington, the mysterious guardian of the South Downs, has baffled archaeologists and historians for hundreds of years.

Until recently the earliest record of Europe’s largest representation of the human form was in a drawing made by William Burrell when he visited Wilmington Priory, nestling under the steep slopes of Windover Hill, home of the 235 feet high Wilmington Giant.  In 1993, however, a new version of the Long Man was discovered by surveyor, John Rowley, in 1710.

The new figure has confirmed some theories and dispelled others. It suggests that the original figure was a shadow or indentation in the grass rather than a solid line; there were facial features that are no longer visible; the staffs being held were not a rake and a scythe as once described and the head was once a distinctive helmet shape, giving credence to the idea of the figure as a helmeted war-god.

Until the 19th century the Long Man was only visible in certain light conditions and after a light fall of snow, but in 1874, it was marked out in yellow bricks. It’s claimed that during this restoration, the feet were incorrectly positioned, but, despite popular local legend, there is no evidence, historical or archaeological, to suggest that prudish Victorians altered the hill figure or robbed the giant of his manhood.

In 1925, the site of the Long Man was given to the Sussex Archaeological Society by the Duke of Devonshire. During World War II, the figure was painted green to prevent enemy aviators from using it as a landmark. In 1969, further restoration took place and the bricks were replaced with pre-cast concrete blocks that are now regularly painted to keep the Long Man visible from many miles away. The terracettes, horizontal ripples in the turf, change constantly as the soil is rolled downhill by weathering, erosion and animal activity.

The lack of firm historical evidence leaves many theories surrounding the Long Man’s history. Many in Sussex are convinced the figure is prehistoric, while other believe that he’s the work of an artistic monk from the local Priory dating back to between the 11th and 15th centuries. Roman coins bearing a similar figure suggest that he belonged to the 4th century AD and there may be plausible parallels with a helmeted figure found on Anglo-Saxon ornaments.

Fertility symbol? Ancient Warrior? Early 18th century folly? We may never know. Until such time as new evidence is unearthed.

England’s Hill Figures, Part 3: The Cherhill White Horse

The Cherhill White Horse is a hill figure on Cherhill Down, 3.5 miles east of Calne in the county of Wiltshire, England. Dating from the late 18th century, it is the third oldest of several such white horses to be seen around Great Britain, with only the Uffington White Horse and the Westbury White Horse being older. The figure is also sometimes called the Oldbury White Horse.

Facing towards the north-east, the Cherhill White Horse lies on a steep slope of Cherhill down, a little below the earthwork known as Oldbury Castle.  Near the Horse is an obelisk called the Lansdowne Monument, visible in some photographs of the White Horse.This is a 38-metre stone structure, erected in 1845, by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne to commemorate his ancestor Sir William Petty.

The Cherhill horse may have been inspired by the first such Wiltshire horse, at Westbury, which had just been remodelled. The origins of the Westbury horse are more obscure. Unlike the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, which has been shown to date from the Bronze Age, the earliest evidence of the existence of the Westbury horse is in a paper published by the Rev. Francis Wise in 1742. A bold theory for the origin of the first Wiltshire horse is that it commemorates Alfred the Great‘s victory over Guthrum and the Danes at the Battle of Ethandun, in 878.

Another is that it was carved in the early 18th century as a show of loyalty to the new royal house, the House of Hanover, the white horse being an heraldic symbol of the Electorate of Hanover. One writer on the subject has commented “…the hillside white horse can be a slippery creature, and the origins of some are impossible to establish with any certainty.”

The figure at Cherhill was first cut in 1780 by a Dr Christopher Alsop, of Calne, and was created by stripping away the turf to expose the chalk hillside beneath. Its original size was 165 feet (50 m) by 220 feet (67 m).  Dr Alsop, who was Guild Steward of the Borough of Calne, has been called “the mad doctor”, and is reported to have directed the making of the horse from a distance, shouting from below Labour-in-Vain Hill.

Since 1780, the horse has been ‘scoured’ several times. In 1935, it was dressed with a mixture of concrete and chalk, and it was cleaned up again in 1994. A major restoration was carried out in 2002 by the Cherhill White Horse Restoration Group, when the horse was resurfaced with one hundred and sixty tonnes of new chalk, the outline was re-cut, and shuttering was added to hold the chalk in place. This work was supported by a grant of £18,000 from the National Trust. The present surface is thus made of compacted chalk, and the edges of the figure are well defined.

In the 19th century, the horse had a glittering glass eye, formed from bottles pressed neck-first into the ground. The bottles had been added by a Farmer and his wife, but by the late 19th century they were gone, perhaps taken as souvenirs. During the 1970s, a local youth centre project added a new eye made of glass bottles, but these also disappeared. The eye now consists of stone and concrete and stands proud of the chalk surface.

In 1922, Oldfield Howey noted that “At the time of writing this horse is sadly in need of scouring, as due to the Great War all such things have had to be neglected, but we understand that a local lady, formerly the Lord of the Manor has come to its rescue and asked permission to restore it.

In the week of the coronation of King George VI in 1937, the horse was floodlit and the letters GE (for the king and his queen, Elizabeth) were picked out in red lights above it, with the power coming from a generator at the foot of the hill. The red letters were lit up for five seconds, followed by the floodlights for ten seconds, in a repeating pattern.

Thirteen such white horses are known to have existed in Wiltshire. Of these, eight can still be seen, while the others have grown over.The Cherhill White Horse is maintained and saved from this fate by the Cherhill parish council. Perhaps most notable out of the eight, along with the Cherill white horse, is Westbury White Horse.

Via Wikipedia

England’s Hill Figures, Part 2: The Westbury White Horse

The Westbury or Bratton White Horse is a hill figure on the escarpment of Salisbury Plain, approximately 1.6 mi east of Westbury in England. Located on the edge of Bratton Downs and lying just below an Iron Age hill fort, it is the second oldest of several white horses carved in the Wiltshire hillsides. It was restored in 1778, an action which may have obliterated a previous horse which had occupied the same slope. A contemporary engraving of the 1760s appears to show a horse facing in the opposite direction, and also rather smaller than the present figure. However, there is at present no other evidence for the existence of a chalk horse at Westbury before the year 1742.

The origin of the Westbury White Horse is obscure. It is often claimed to commemorate King Alfred‘s victory at the Battle of Eðandun in 878, and while this is not impossible, there is no trace of such a legend before the second half of the eighteenth century. It should also be noted that the battle of Eðandun has only tentatively been identified with Edington in Wiltshire.

Another white horse, that of Uffington, featured in King Alfred’s earlier life. He was born in the Vale of White Horse, not far from Uffington. Unlike Westbury, documents as early as the 11th century refer to the “White Horse Hill” at Uffington (“mons albi equi”), and archaeological evidence has dated the Uffington White Horse to the Bronze Age, although it is not certain that it was originally intended to represent a horse.

A white horse war standard was associated with the continental Saxons in the Dark Ages, and the figures of Hengest and Horsa who, according to legend, led the first Anglo-Saxon invaders into England. They are said to have fought under a white horse standard, a claim recalled in the heraldic badge of the county of Kent.

During the 18th century, the white horse was a heraldic symbol associated with the new British Royal Family, the House of Hanover, and it’s argued by some scholars that the Westbury White Horse may have first been carved in the early 18th century as a symbol of loyalty to the new Protestant reigning house.

In the 1950s, the horse was vandalized. It was repaired, but the damage could still be seen. The horse was fully restored in late 2006.

Via: Wikipedia