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Knaresborough and Even More Magic



Halloween is in two days and I should be working on my costume but my boyfriend has sort of taken charge! We are doing a couples costume, the first time I’ve ever done such a thing, and it’s sort of obscure. I am not the type to go for store-bought costumes but I also have 0 talent (generally?!) when it comes to crafts. Two years ago I was David Bowtie (David Bowie with bowties. Sigh.) and I did the sexy dinosaur thing before that was something you could just order online.

Precisely this time last year I was in London painting a dress and sewing capes in Pear and Jamie’s flat. Pear and I decided to be the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. I had ordered myself a dress off of Ebay because I could not find a chevron dress anywhere for the life of me (of course, they were hugely popular immediately after Halloween). I thought because the size was XL (or even XXL) it might fit me, but it ended up looking very cute on Pear, who is many sizes smaller than I am, instead. Pear is very kind and talented so they made a chevron stencil for me that I painted on an ASOS plunge gown that was on clearance for 15 pounds.  They also cut out the pattern pieces and taught me how to do a basic handstitch. We watched “An American Werewolf in London”, which aside from being a perfect film generally, felt particularly appropriate for an American living in Yorkshire visiting London for Halloween. I have some flashes of memory of some time I spent on Hampstead Heath at night but I can’t really piece them together. Strange!

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I spent the day with Pear at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, where I met my darling Wookie for the first time. In the evening Pear and I went with our wonderful friend Kat, who was dressed as Sara Sanderson from Hocus Pocus, and her boyfriend Alex to the Halloween Ball at the Coronet.

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For entertainment there were a lot of naked people, some trapeze acts, and a couple of bands. There were approximately 80000 white girls in sugar skull makeup and entirely too many scraggly old man balls directly in my face. I tried to take a picture of someone’s very cool plague doctor costumes and an old naked guy was like, “You want me in it?” Why would you think that?

There is another version of this picture were balls are involved
There is another version of this picture were balls are involved

It turned out the preparation for Halloween was better than the night itself, especially as no French guys street harassed me in Pear’s flat, but I think England is still getting the hang of Halloween. Philadelphia isn’t typically great at it, either! I wish adults could trick or treat.

Have you guys been listening to the excellent Black Tapes podcast? If you have, don’t spoil anything for me. Martin and I are only halfway through it. It’s an excellent Halloween listen, though I wish it didn’t pilfer so many things directly from the Exorcist. I’m not afraid of Pazuzu!

Well, I am a little. I saw the movie the Exorcist when I was 6. My sister was having her 11th birthday party and I stuck around, despite probable warnings that it was a bad idea. It terrified me to the point that I was afraid of the dark until I was about 20. It didn’t help that when I went to my father for guidance he told me that the Exorcist was the only book that ever terrified him because it could happen. Thank you, Catholicism, for that and for the shame that is deeply embedded in my psyche, never to leave me.

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It’s shame that created the story of Ursula “Mother” Shipton (LOOK AT THE BEAUTIFUL SEAMLESS SEGUE. NOT SHOEHORNED IN AT ALL), the Early Modern soothsayer who lived  in Knaresborough in North Yorkshire. She was born out of wedlock in a cave to a young girl named Agatha, who refused to say who the father was. Ursula was supposedly hideously ugly, but she managed to marry a young man. Presumably she then wrote an XOJane article about how even though she is ugly she can still catch a dick, but no evidence of it remains.

Presumably Mother Shipton's actual body that became petrified and not a statue built this century
Presumably Mother Shipton’s actual body that became petrified and not a statue built this century

She is said to have predicted the Great Fire of London, but is it that great a feat to look at scads of wooden houses pretty much on top of each other and say, “One small fire could take this whole city out, especially considering the fact that it’s full of drunk assholes”? She may not have said that verbatim.  In fact, it’s a common practice to attribute prophesies to Mother Shipton that she did not predict. Despite being ugly, when it came to misattributed quotes, she was basically the Marilyn Monroe of her time.

Gorgeous Knaresborough. The dress is one of my favorites, a vintage find that I picked up in Newcastle
Gorgeous Knaresborough. The dress is one of my favorites, a vintage find that I picked up in Newcastle

My friend Jont and I took a couple of trains to Knaresborough and took the beautiful little hike up the river to Mother Shipton’s Cave, which is next to the legitimately astonishing Petrifying Well. People believed, with pretty good reason, that the Petrifying Well had healing properties because of the high mineral content of the water.

items petrifying over the well, including a roller skate and a lobster
items petrifying over the well, including a roller skate and a lobster

This high mineral content is proven by the fact that if you leave an object in the well long enough, it practically turns to stone. Visitors are encouraged to make wishes at the well, but I feel like my wish had a better chance of coming true if, say, I left one of my hands there to petrify. You can also buy water from the well from the gift shop. You’re not supposed to drink the water, but Jont did and now he is made of stone. This is probably why we spent several hours of our trip being very quiet in a pub.

The other very intriguing thing in Knaresborough is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag, a medieval chapel carved out of rock in the woods.

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It was closed when Jont and I got there so I left Jont to be a fountain in tribute.

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As self-flagellation I put myself in jail. And hit myself with my long tail, as I am a flagellum.

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The rest of the time was spent still being quiet in pubs. 100% of pubs are haunted, and I miss them very much.

I recorded a spooky Halloween incantation for you to listen to. You should share it with people you hate, as it will curse them.

What are you being for Halloween? A spooky ghost? That’s a good idea.

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