Category: Paranormal


The last time Drake’s drum was actually seen beating was probably in 1596, when Sir Francis Drake, one of Elizabeth I’s greatest admirals was buried at sea off Portobello, Panama. But it is rumoured to have been heard several times since. Along with his sword and Bible, the drum was returned to Drake’s widow in England, where it still hangs in the great hall of his Devon home, Buckland Abbey.

The drum was apparently shown to visitors to Buckland Abbey in the eighteenth century, and it is thought the legend about it may have been invented for their entertainment. Late in the nineteenth century the folklorist Robert Hunt heard from the old housekeeper at Buckland Abbey that beating the drum would summon Drake: “Even now . . . if the warrior hears the drum which bangs in the hall of the Abbey . . . he rises and has a revel.” It was rumoured that the drum had been heard before the Battle of Trafalgar, and that Drake himself had been reincarnated as Lord Nelson.

The belief that the drum would summon the admiral was celebrated in a poem by Sir Henry Newbolt, Drake’s Drum, which was first published in the St. James’s Gazette, 1895. According to the poem, when Drake was dying he ordered that the drum be taken back to Devon, promising that if it was struck in an hour of danger for England, he would, like King Arthur, return to defend his country.

Newbolt’s poem was publicized for patriotic inspiration in 1916 during the First World War and again during the Second, in August 1940. On both occasions “hearings” of the drum followed. Mysterious drumbeats were rumoured to have rolled in England’s West Country when war broke out in 1914, and Drake’s drum is said to have been heard by officers on board the flagship Royal Oak at the surrender of the German fleet in 1918 at Scapa Flow. A thorough search of the ship failed to uncover a real drum that might have produced the noise. The drum was said to beat during the retreat from Dunkirk in June 1940 and was again heard by two army officers in September 1940 on the Hampshire coast.

But there is no record of anyone beating Drake’s drum to summon him. When the soldiers and sailors heard it, it was beating of its own accord at a time of national crisis.


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In 1807 a local plantation-owner, Thomas Chase, purchased a family vault at Christ Church graveyard in south-west Barbados. That year Mrs Goddard, one of his relatives, was laid to rest there. Chase’s infant daughter, Mary Anna, was buried in 1808, and Dorcas, another daughter, followed in July 1812. When the vault was opened later in 1812 to receive Chase’s own body, Mary Anna’s coffin was found upended against the opposite wall, and the others had been flung about. Attendants set the coffins straight and sealed the vault.

When another baby from the family was buried in 1816, the vault was again found dramatically disordered, although sand on the floor remained undisturbed. The coffins were set out neatly again. But another family interment seven weeks later saw a repeat of the chaotic scene. Tales of evil spirits and the cruelty of Thomas Chase began to circulate.

A crowd gathered to witness the next burial in 1819. This time Lord Combermere, governor of Barbados, observed the havoc in the crypt. His wife’s diary records that he examined the building, supervised the rearrangement of the coffins, the re-sprinkling of sand on the vault floor, and the careful sealing of the heavy door, with “secret marks.”

On April 18, 1820, after noises had been reported from the vault, Lord Combermere returned to the graveyard. He found the seals unbroken and the door difficult to move. Yet again the coffins had been thrown about, and one had even damaged the stone wall. This time family members were so horrified that they removed all their dead to new graves, and the vault has remained empty ever since.

In England similar instances were reported near Bury St Edmunds in the eighteenth century and Stamford in the early 1800s. Flooding or earth tremors were suggested explanations. Other such disturbances occurred in 1844 on the Baltic Sea island of Saaremaa. Officials investigated thoroughly, and carefully sealed the vault, but noises and damage persisted until the bodies were placed elsewhere.



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Temples For Dreaming

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Archaeologists found an amazing story engraved on a stone tablet at the temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus in Greece. It described how Ithmonike of Pellene came to the temple to ask for offspring. She fell asleep and dreamt she saw the god, who promised she would become pregnant. When he asked if there was anything else she wanted, she said “no.” After leaving the temple she soon fell pregnant, but her pregnancy lasted three years. Finally she returned to the temple to dream again. Asclepius explained that he had given her what she had requested, but she had asked for nothing more. Now he would grant her new wish, Ithmonike gave birth as soon as she left the temple.

The Epidaurus tablet listed many other miraculous healings attributed to Asclepius, god of medicine. His cures were given in dreams, by a process called “incubation.” In this, the sick person slept in the temple precincts after offering sacrifices and performing rites invoking the god. As at other dream temples, petitioners drank from or bathed in the temple’s sacred spring. Then, their unconscious minds full of expectation, Asclepius appeared to them in their dreams.

Cures were of two main types. Either Asclepius miraculously healed the patient, perhaps appearing to operate during the dream, or he recommended a course of treatment. A team of priestly doctors, or therapeutais, were on hand to interpret the god’s instructions and oversee the treatment that followed. People suffering from lameness, blindness, insanity and nervous diseases were among those most likely to come seeking cures.

Epidaurus was the most celebrated of a number of temples dedicated to Asclepius in the Greek world. At temples sacred to other gods, the incubation process produced answers to questions, rather than cures. The shrine of Amphiaraus, a well-known seer, was at Oropos. During the siege of Thebes, he was said to have driven his chariot straight into the underworld while still alive. The procedure at Oropos was to drink from the sacred spring, and then sacrifice a ram and skin it. The questioner slept wrapped in the animal’s skin and awaited a response. He might hear a spoken answer in his sleep, or receive a normal dream – either way, interpreters at the temple helped him to understand the answer.

Trophonius, who reputedly built the oracular temple of Apollo at Delphi, was also believed to have been taken alive into the underworld. Because sleep was regarded as a halfway stage between life and death, it was thought that those who were still alive in the world of the dead were especially able to send oracular dreams. Trophonius had an oracle at Lebedea, where the questioner slept in a cave, but what happened there is not clear, and the cave has never been found.

Ordinary dreams could also be prophetic, but they were not always to be trusted. According to Homer’s Odyssey, written in the eighth century BC, dreams dwelt in the far west, near the sunset and the kingdom of the dead. From there they spread out over the earth, the deceptive dreams leaving through a gate of ivory, the true ones through a gate of horn.

Philosophers were more concerned with the mechanics of dreams than with their meanings. Democritus (c. 460-370 BC) believed that dreams were spectral images that penetrated the body through the pores. The Greek historian Herodotus (fifth century BC) was the first to explain dreams as daytime worries carried over into the night. But both Democritus and Herodotus thought some dreams were sent by the gods. Cicero, writing in Rome in the first century BC, thought dream divination was totally unreliable.

Yet books of dream interpretation were used to help dreamers understand. The most famous, written in the second century AD by Artemidorus, is the forerunner of today’s dream books. Among hundreds of dreams interpreted, we hear that to dream of a chef in your house is good if you want to marry, because you need a chef for a wedding. But a dream of a descent into the underworld means you will lose all your money.



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