Saturday, May 4, 2013

2000 Years Ago…

There was a fine spacious house in Athens that had an infamous reputation. It was stated this home was filled with a relentless horror. The owners passed many sleepless hours, as they lay awake listening to the sound of rattling chains. What was most frightening was this sound always approached, coming nearer with each rattle. They would quake in their beds as an apparition of an old man appeared before them. His skin was pale and his frame was emaciated, his long white beard tangled as if blown by the wind. The chains on his hands and feet fettered his movements.

Many nights without rest began to take their toll. The owners fancied that they even saw this horrible apparition during the day. As their imaginings increased a madness of nightmarish pondering took over their minds. Before death could take them they abandoned the property despite its’ splendor. The local purveyor wanting to make a profit from its’ desertion hoped he could find someone to rent the house who might be unaware of its malevolence presence. He posted it for sale or rent.

A philosopher and writer, Athenodorus * just moved to Athens was looking for lodging when he saw the posting. Suspicious of the cheap price he heard the history of the home but despite this he was not put off. He eagerly moved into his new abode. Not settled yet he had a servant place a couch in the front of the house. He requested a light be brought near so he could write **. He was determined not to be distracted. At first all was silent but as the night darkened the rattling of chains echoed through his new residence.

The philosopher neither looked up nor laid down his pen. He increased his concentration on the task before him as strange sounds drew nearer. As this noise increased an apparition entered his chamber, pausing he looked round. The figure matched the descriptions given to him. It stood before him beckoning him with one finger to follow. Athenodorus made a motion with his hand to let the visitor know he should wait. But the ghost impatient now shook its’ chains over the philosopher’s head. He once more beckoned with his finger.

Athenodorus took up his lamp and followed. The ghost moved slowly as if held back by its’ chains. As it entered the home’s courtyard it suddenly vanished. Athenodorus carefully marked the area with dried leaves and twigs. The next day he he requested permission from the local magistrate to dig up the spot. He found bones fettered in chains. These remains were then removed with care and given a proper burial. The house was no longer haunted and the philosopher was pleased with his economical purchase.

This ancient ghost story dates back thousands of years. It was recorded by a Roman letter-writer by the name, Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus or “Pliny the Younger”. It was then circulated widely. It contains several elements that now are considered classic horror tale devises. Just to name three: the beckoning finger, the restless corpse, and the rattling of chains. 

*  Athenodorus Cananites was born in Canana (74BC-7AD) near Tarsus--today is Turkey. He was a Greek Stoic Philosopher. He mentored, taught Octavian.

** He was writing a book about philosophy at the time the ghost approached him.

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