“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Well of the Seven Heads

On the A82 in Scotland, which runs along the western bank of Loch Oich, an unusual obelisk can be found at the side of the road. The obelisk catches the eye because at its pinnacle there is a hand clutching a dagger as well as seven severed heads. Beneath the obelisk a well can be found, which is unsurprising known as The Well of the Seven Heads.

The obelisk was constructed in 1812 by the then chief of the Clan McDonell, and it was built to commemorate an event in 1663. The event in question was the murder of Alexander MacDonald, the 12th Chief of the Clan MacDonald (also referred to as McDonell or MacDonnell) and his brother Ranald MacDonald who were stabbed to death by rivals within their clan (an uncle and his six sons). Eventually justice was enacted and the seven murderers were themselves murdered and then decapitated. As the legend goes, the heads were taken to Invergarry to be presented to the High Chief of the Clan MacDonnell (McDonell), and en route they were washed clean at the well, resulting in the well becoming known as 'Tobar-nan-ceann', 'The Well of the Heads'. It is also claimed that at least seven headless bodies were found buried in a mound close by to the well, supposedly validating the legend.

The obelisk.
The heads.
The entrance to the well.
The tunnel to the well.
The well.

Pictures, Scotland (October 2011).

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A visit to Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel is a small chapel located in the village of Roslin (about 7 miles south of Edinburgh), which was founded by William St Clair in 1446. The chapel lived a relatively quiet existence until the 20th Century when a number of interesting claims were made about the chapel's history in both works of fiction and non-fiction. 

A lot of the speculation that has arisen around the chapel and its history is inspired by the intricate carvings that adorn almost every part of the walls and ceilings of the chapel, and the attempts that people have made to decode the messages that they are assumed to contain. Some of the most prominent features of the chapel include:
  • Three intricately carved pillars: the Master Pillar, the Journeyman Pillar, and the Apprentice Pillar. The Apprentice Pillar is the most well known of the three and it has a legend associated with it. The legend claims that the apprentice who carved the pillar was murdered by his jealous master, for carving it against his master's orders.
  • 213 cubes which protrude from the pillars and arches within the chapel. Each of these cubes has patterns on its faces, and numerous attempts to decode the meaning of these patterns have been made. One theory is that the patterns on the cubes represent the wave patterns seen when flat surfaces vibrate at different frequencies, and that these frequencies can be interpreted into music. 
  • Over 100 carvings of Green men (which are typically human faces adorned with various leaves and plants).
  • Carvings of various plants, including carvings that are interpreted to depict both maize and aloe vera. Maize is believed to have originated from North America and to have been unknown in Europe at the time of the chapel's construction.
  • The chapel crypt in which generations of the St Clair family have been buried. The contents of the crypt have been subject to many theories over the years, and it has been rumored to have housed such things as the Holy Grail and the treasure of the Knights Templars.
It is mostly likely that the chapel was built by the St Clairs purely as a family chapel for private use, however who knows? Perhaps there is a hidden message or treasure residing within the chapel awaiting discovery.

Chapel frontage.

 Chapel frontage. 
Memorial close up.
Chapel side.
Chapel frontage.
Pictures, Scotland (October 2011).

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Great Dangaroo Flood

I happened across a bizarre plaque (see below photo) in Old Compton Street in London while wandering Soho on the trail of the Seven Noses of Soho and Lost Little Compton Street. Reading the plaque it made no sense to me whatsoever, and I had to have a good read of the referenced website before I could understand what it was all about. 

So what was the Great Dangaroo Flood? Well it seems that the flood occurred at the location of Old Compton Street, but in the parallel universe of Kcymaerxthaere. The Great Dangaroo Flood plaque is part of an otherworldly art project, which is the brain child of a man called Eames Demetrios. The project seems to be focused on disseminating Demetrios' alternative mythology of the planet based on the parallel universe of Kcymaerxthaere via the medium of plaques (refered to as markers) that give a snippet of the alternative history of a location.

There are markers outlining the history of Kcymaerxthaere all over the world, including in Europe, North America, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Singapore, Africa, and Indonesia (to name a few). In America for example there is an alternative Kcymaerxthaere history of the ghost town of Rhyolite.

In the UK there seem to be markers in: Angel Alley (Whitechapel), London; De Laune Street, London; Old Compton Street, London; Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire; Wardington, Oxfordshire; and in the Edinburgh College of Art Car Park, Edinburgh.

So keep your eyes open when you are on your travels, as you may come across a marker that gives you a little part of the weird history of Kcymaerxthaere.

The Old Compton Street plaque.

Pictures, London (May 2012).

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Monday, 6 May 2013

W. T. Stead

Pictured below on the banks of the Thames in London is a bronze monument to William Thomas Stead (5 July 1849 – 15 April 1912), which is the twin of an identical monument in Central Park, New York.

Stead was an English journalist and editor who is considered to be the pioneer of investigative journalism and the father of the tabloid. Stead is most famously known for using investigative journalism techniques to publicise the plight of young girls who were at times sold into servitude abroad, and Stead's work supported a government bill trying to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16 (commonly known as the "Stead Act").

What is less known about Stead is that he had an interest in spiritualism and psychic research and in 1893 he founded a short lived spiritualist publication call "Borderland". During the lifetime of the publication Stead frequently claimed to be in receipt of messages from the spirit world, from dead American journalist Julia Ames. Stead also had an assistant editor (Ada Goodrich Freer) with whom he claimed to regularly communicate with by telepathy and automatic writing.

Perhaps before the advent of "Borderland" Stead had already been dabbling with the spirit world and had had a glimmer of what his future held. In 1886 Stead published an article entitled "How the Mail Steamer went down in Mid Atlantic by a Survivor", in which a steamer collides with another ship resulting in a high death toll due to lack of lifeboats. Then in 1892 Stead published a story called "From the Old World to the New", in which a ship rescues survivors of another ship that had had the misfortune of colliding with an iceberg. Unsurprisingly Stead was of course himself one of the victims of the Titanic disaster in 1912!

Stead's Monument in London.

Pictures, London (May 2012).

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