Top Stories This Week: Child Snatchers, Haunted Mirrors & A Pharaoh’s True Face
In this top story overview, we highlight our most read articles this week, including a look at the Erkling, a strange mythical snatcher of children, and the fascinating mythology and superstitions around mirrors. Among our most popular this week were also three breaking news stories – the recovery of the shattered skeletons of a man and dog in Turkey who died thousands of years ago by the force of a huge tsunami, the digital unwrapping of the 3,500-year-old mummy of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I, revealing his face for the first time, and the discovery of the Clotilda wreck, the last known active slave ship in the United States.
The Erlking: The Powerful Germanic Mythical Snatcher of Children
In this painting the Alder King, another name and version of the Erlking myth, is trying to snatch a child. (Public Domain)
European traditional folklore is full of diverse and mythical creatures both good and bad. Often enough, they become popular again during the time of Christmas or Halloween, when the stories of their mischievous deeds and daring adventures are retold. Some of them, like the Krampus, are used to scare particularly naughty youngsters, while others like Santa Claus are used to motivate and inspire. One of the lesser-known creatures from European folklore is the infamous Erlking , a powerful Elf King that snatches children away in the forest depths and on remote pathways.
This being is described as a mischievous, sinister elf, who both dwells and lingers in the woods. Elsewhere, he is described as a bearded goblin, or a troll of small stature. Either way, his nature is malignant: he preys on children, especially those that wander off into the woods or stay there after dark. According to myth, the Erlking has the power to kill children with a single touch. Though somewhat obscure today, the Erlking nevertheless has very deep and important origins that should not be forgotten.
Haunted Mirrors, Bloody Mary and Superstitious Mirror Mythology
There is a myriad of mythology surrounding mirrors. Source: MiaStendal / Adobe Stock
A particular genre of mythology has formed around mirrors, made up of traditions and superstitions within cultures throughout the world. Researchers have tried to get to the bottom of these legends, such as those relating to haunted mirrors. From Buddhists to the ancient Greeks, and right up into the present day, these superstitions and traditions have remained with us in many shapes and forms.
Probably the most well-known superstition related to mirrors is the one which concerns Bloody Mary. Legend has it that a young girl who climbs the stairs backwards in the dark while holding a mirror and a candle will see her future husband in the moment when she reaches the top of the staircase. It is also said that the appearance of the image of Death as an entity in the mirror means that the girl is going to die before getting married.
Due to this superstition, over time a game known as Bloody Mary developed. The classical variant of the game implies a person standing in front of a mirror in the dark and saying Bloody Mary three times. In the moment of turning on the light, Bloody Mary should supposedly be standing next to the respective person. The person can then ask questions about the future, and Bloody Mary is obliged to answer.
The old civilizations used mirrors in order to obtain messages from the gods. Also with the help of mirrors, John Dee , the magician of Queen Elisabeth I of England , made a prediction in regard to the plot which was to be organized against King James.
Shattered Skeletons of Man and Dog From Eruption and Tsunami 3,600 Years Ago
Volcanic eruption. Source: MiaStendal / Adobe Stock
Archaeologists have recovered the shattered skeletons of a man and a dog at a site in Turkey. Their frames were both smashed to pieces, but not by an act of human violence, but by the force of a huge tsunami tidal wave that was sparked by the mega-volcano Thera eruption.
The human and dog skeletal remains found at the Çeşme-Bağlararası archaeological site, near Çeşme Bay, on Turkey's western coastline, were created when the Thera mega-volcano (modern-day Santorini) erupted in the late Bronze Age. The Thera eruption blast of roughly 1600 BC happened 249 miles (400 kilometers) distant from the articulated human skeleton and a dog skeleton recently uncovered in Turkey. This tells us that the destructive tsunami tidal wave caused by the Thera eruption travelled a great distance with deathly consequences for countless peoples. The Santorini Thera eruption, now a caldera at the center of the Greek island, is thought to have ended the magnificent Minoan civilization based on nearby Crete.
Now, tsunami deposits discovered at the Turkish Çeşme-Bağlararası site have revealed how multiple massive destructive waves smashed across the northern Aegean after the Thera eruption. And this has all become evident from the way the skeletons of the man and the dog had been broken to pieces.
Digital Scan of Ancient Egyptian Mummy Amenhotep I Shows His True Face
The full facial reconstruction of pharaoh Amenhotep I is eerie and still leaves us wondering what his life really was like and who he really was. ( S. Saleem and Z. Hawass / Frontiers in Medicine )
The 3,500-year-old mummy of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I had remained virtually unexamined since its discovery at Luxor, Egypt in 1881. As one of the few royal mummies from ancient Egypt yet to be unwrapped, it had revealed precious few details about the life of the man who ruled over a united Egyptian kingdom from 1525 to 1504 BC. But that situation has now changed dramatically, thanks to the development of an advanced digital scanning technology that let scientists “unwrap” Amenhotep I’s mummified remains without disturbing or damaging his physical coverings in any way.
The mummy of Amenhotep I was one of the few remaining royal mummies from ancient Egypt that had yet to be extensively examined, either digitally or through a physical unwrapping. Egyptologists had always been reluctant to touch the mummy, which had been remarkably well preserved in high-quality linen covered by garlands made from safflowers, delphiniums, and Egyptian river hemp. The mummy also featured a striking and attractive painted burial mask that could have been permanently damaged if its linen had been removed.
Fortunately, digital technology has now advanced to the point where a digital scanning is actually superior to a direct hands-on examination. Saleem’s extensive analysis has revealed a significant number of details about Amenhotep I’s physical characteristics, which up to now had been largely unknown.
Clotilda, the Last Ship Used in U.S. Slave Trade Found Remarkably Intact
This sonar image created by SEARCH Inc. shows the remains of the Clotilda, the last known U.S. ship involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Source: SEARCH Inc. / AHC
The remains of the last known active slave ship in the United States have been marooned in the mud at the bottom of the Mobile Delta for more than 160 years. Since the wreckage of the ship known as the Clotilda was first discovered in 2019, underwater archaeologists and historians have been closely studying the preserved wooden remnants of the two-masted schooner, which was burned and scuttled after delivering an illegal shipment of slaves to a slave trader in Mobile, Alabama in 1860.
Astonishingly, these examinations have revealed that the Clotilda is still largely intact, according to a report released by the Alabama Historical Commission to the Associated Press. Various sections of the 86-foot (26-meter) schooner have been identified, including the large hold or pen in the ship’s belly that functioned as a prison for the 110 African captives who were transported across the sea to the Americas on the ship’s grim 1860 voyage.
The decision by Captain William Foster to sink his rogue vessel after initially setting it ablaze appears to have prevented the fire from doing too much damage. The upper deck was destroyed by the fire, but everything below deck has been well preserved.
By Joanna Gillan