Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mexico’s Cihuateteo

Beware theses female entities for they may steal your children.

The cihuateteo is a female spirit in Mexico that originated in ancient Aztec mythology. They were the deified spirits of women who died in childbirth.

On traditional feast days, it is said the cihuateteo haunt crossroads in the darkest part of the night. They lay in wait for their victims, hoping for young ones.

Skip forward to modern times were Mexican parents still warn their children to stay indoors and hide on feast days. For they fear a cihuateteo may kidnap them. If they succeed in taking a child, all that is left behind is a sacrificial knife.

These spirits are also feared because for it is believed they cause sickness, paralysis, and seizures. The cihuateteo can also possess their victim’s bodies. Men were cautioned to beware, for these spirits would try to seduce them.

Some believe the legend of La Llorona is based upon the cihuateteo spirits. More about this legend is located here.

The Aztecs gave the cihuateteo offerings on feast days in order to appease them. These consisted of bread or tamales shaped like butterflies or lightning. These offerings were left at altars or at crossroads.

The cihuateteo are described as having skeleton faces, claws for hands and pale white limbs. They wear horned headdresses, black blouses, white sandals and skirts embroidered in several colors.

Statues that the Aztecs made depicting the cihuateteo are always naked from the waist up.

The Aztecs treated these women like fallen warriors. They were given the same privilege as warriors who fell in battle. They were allowed to go to the Heaven of the Sun, which was an honor.

After four years, their spirits could then inhabit the clouds. It was at this point they were turned into cihuateteo or goddesses. They were allowed to return to their earthly homes—where their former husbands sometimes saw them.

These women were so powerful after death their bodies had to be guarded by loved ones to prevent theft.

Warriors would steal their middle fingers and hair for it was believed that if these items where placed on their shields they became braver in battle. It was also believed these two relics blinded their enemies.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lover’s Warning

Mount Konochti and
Clear Lake
Native American lore states that Mount Konochti in northern California has magical powers. Descendants of one tribe believe the spirit of one of their ancient chiefs dwells within this mountain.

Some still believe this mountain can predict the future.

Centuries ago, the Pomo Indians lived on one of  the islands in Clear Lake—which sits at the base of Mount Konochti.

According to the legend . . .

The tribe’s wise chief, Konochti, had a lovely young daughter, Lupiyomi.

A rival chief from a neighboring tribe, Kahbel, approached Konochti and asked for Lupiyomi’s hand in marriage. Konochti refused. He felt the two were not compatible.

He knew they had been meeting on the sly but physical attraction was not enough. He felt since they came from different tribes they had different values, which would not bode well for a union.

Kahbel left, angry. Driven by his pride and lust he returned one night and kidnapped Lupiyomi. It is said he used his magical powers to build a causeway to the island were Lupiyomi lived.

This narrow strip of land cuts Clear Lake in half. It can still be seen and is known as the Narrows.

Konochti gathered his men together and fought Kahbel and his men on the Narrows. Both chiefs having magical powers hurled huge boulders at each other. These large rocks are littered across the slopes of Mount Konochti today.

Chief Konochti managed to kill Chief Kahbel but he did not walk away unscathed. He was mortally wounded and died.

The lore states the spirits then transformed Konochti’s, as he was dying, into the 4200-foot high mountain that bears his name. This is a common theme in Native American tales—powerful spirits are said to remain as notable landmarks.

Since, the belief is that Chief Konochti gives advise to lovers about the future of their relationships.

Hopeful couples, for years have stood along the shores of Clear Lake and looked toward this mountain. They then ask the chief if their relationship will last.

They always receive an answer within 24 hours. If the sun shines on the mountain the next day, Chief Konochti approves their relationship but if a fog or mist covers the peak, the couple should step back and think about their decision.

If storm clouds appear over the mountain, the couple is not meant to be together so they should pursue other relationships.

Most drastic of all is if one of the large boulders that remain dislodges and tumbles down the slope, this means the relationship will end in a murder.

Of course, this is just a legend but a running joke is some couples regret they did not heed Chief Konochti’s warning.

For the last 150 years, most of the land around Mount Konochti—which is a dormant volcano-- was owned privately. Recently, Lake County purchased some of the land, plus the highest peak. They plan to develop a public park. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stambovsky v. Ackley: Notoriety Backfires, Part ll

Ackley home.
In 1989, Jeffrey Stambovsky, a Manhattan transplant bought Helen Ackley’s house for $650,000.

Stambovsky not aware of the home’s reputation for being haunted first heard the news from a neighbor, after he and his wife moved in. He professed he did not believe in ghosts.

But he was disturbed that Helen and the realtor had not mentioned this information. He felt the notoriety of a haunting could potentially affect the home’s value.

Later, when his pregnant wife heard the news, Jeffrey decided for her comfort they should not have to stay in a place that made her nervous. Nor should they be expected to put their life savings into the home.

He filed a lawsuit against Helen and Ellis Realty for “fraudulent misrepresentation.” He lost his first suit in a lower court, it sided with Helen Ackley citing caveat emptor or buyers beware.

Stambovsky then appealed his case to the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court in 1991 in front of a panel of 5 judges. In a narrow 3 to 2 decision Jeffrey won.

Whimsically, Justice Israel Rubin, who wrote the decision declared, “That Helen Ackley had promised the Stambovsky’s that the property would be vacant when they took possession, which was obviously not true.”

The court based their decision on the fact that buyers beware did not apply in this case for how does one inspect a house for ghosts. They also cited the fact that Helen had deliberately publicized her house as being haunted so she owed the buyer no less.

Helen Ackley at age 77 before her death.
They did not find fraud on Helen’s part but considering the history of her published comments she could not deny the property was haunted—so as a matter of law, the house was haunted.

Excerpt of dissent.
Stambovshy was allowed out of his contract and his down payment of $32,000 was returned.

The next buyer of this LaVeta Place home on the Hudson River sold it for $900,000, a fair market value. None of the 3 subsequent owners of the home experienced paranormal activity.

The Stambovsky v. Ackley decision is considered historic because of its impact on New York and several other states' laws when it comes to property that is stigmatized.

It varies from state to state but most, including New York now have statutes on their books that the seller does not have to disclose ghostly activity to prospective buyers.

The one failsafe to this is if the prospective buyer asks, then the seller does have to tell the truth about a possible haunting.

In Part l of Stambovsky v. Ackley: Notoriety Backfires, the hauntings the Ackley family experienced over many years are described.

Stambovsky v. Ackley: Notoriety Backfires, Part l

Stambovsky v. Ackley is an historic court case where a house in Nyack, New York was declared legally haunted.

It appears when Helen and George Ackley with their 7 children moved into their stately Victorian home--several entities watched them.

Ackley's home.
The Ackley’s felt this 2-story, 5,000 square foot, 18-room home, with a full attic and basement, would be ideal for raising their family.

They had only one initial concern. The house had been abandoned for 7 years so there was a lot of work to be done.

The family soon discovered their new home was already occupied. As Helen looked out one bay window at the Hudson River a plumber who had been working in the basement mentioned that before they moved in he had heard footsteps on the floor above him.

He said they would stop mid-swing, defying gravity.

Then a neighbor mentioned that one set of French doors would burst open without cause. George was told that people had heard disembodied “voices” in the house.

One day as Helen painted the living room she spotted a ghost watching her. It looked on with approval so Helen took this to mean it liked the color she had chosen.

The family discovered the house was occupied by a poltergeist as well. Items were moved or would disappear.

Helen’s oldest daughter, Cynthia frequently felt her bed shake on school days. This would occur just before her alarm was set to ring. Over spring break she informed the ghost that she didn’t have to get up early the next morning. The bed didn’t shake.

As the years passed, Helen and other family members saw three distinct ghosts. One was a young woman who wore a red cloak. She was seen descending the stairs.

An elderly man was often seen levitating four feet off the floor. He was spotted most often in the home’s living room. Helen stated this man with his “cheerful” continence and “apple cheeks” reminded her of Santa.

The third ghost was a sailor that wore a powdered wig. Helen came to the conclusion that all three of these ghosts were from the Revolutionary War period.

The Ackley’s home gained notoriety when Helen wrote an article in 1977 about this activity for Reader’s Digest entitled, My Haunted House on the Hudson.

This article is no longer available online but one quote from it states--

“The ghosts have been, gracious, thoughtful—only occasionally frightening—and thoroughly entertaining. Our ghosts have continued to delight us . . .”

In 1982, local newspapers, Nyack News and Views also published articles Helen wrote about the ghosts.

As the family grew up, the house turned into a compound, the older children’s spouses moved in.

Various family members received gifts from the ghosts that would appear and then disappear.

Helen was given a set of small silver sugar tongs that then disappeared. The grandchildren all received baby rings and a daughter-in-law was given coins.

Cynthia’s husband, Mark Kavanagh who later wrote an article, The Ghost of Nyack , was alone in the house one Christmas. As he put various toys together, he heard a muffled conversation in the dining room.    

When he went to investigate the voices stopped but once he left the room they continued. After, he felt he was being watched.

One night as he lay on his side he heard his bedroom door open. He heard the floorboards creak as someone approached the bed. He felt a weight as someone sat down by his feet. Then something pressed against his body.

When he turned he saw, “a womanly figure in a soft dress in the moonlight.” Within minutes this figure got up and walked out.

After George died, Helen decided to sale the house. This decision would involve her in a case that landed in front of New York’s Supreme Court.

In Part ll of Stambovsky v. Ackley: Notoriety Backfires, this case is described.