Mother’s Day Traditions Around the World

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Mother’s Day, in the US, is May 9th. It’s a day for honoring and appreciating our mothers.

I wanted to know what other cultures do, to honor mothers. My curiosity led me to countries around the world, and a wide range of celebrations.

Mother’s Day Traditions Around the World is a fun sampling of what I found.

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England

In the UK, Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. The holiday originated from an earlier custom in which families who had moved away returned to the “mother” church they used to attend. By the 1700s the holiday shifted into a day for house servants to return home to spend the day with their mothers.

Today Mothering Sunday is still strongly connected to the church however the focus is on mothers and families. Many churches hand out daffodils for children to give to their mums. And girls in the family traditionally bake Simnel cakes…luscious fruitcakes…for the entire family to enjoy.

United States

Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May, in the US. We have a variety of traditions from serving Mom breakfast in bed to giving her cards, handmade or purchased gifts and bouquets of flowers.

Our version of Mother’s Day began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis imagined a day set aside to honor all the sacrifices mothers make. Anna’s mother, Ann, started Mother’s Work Day Clubs, an organization that taught women how to properly care for their children.

With persistence, Anna’s idea led to the first official Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, 1914.

Today Mother’s Day is an important celebration in the US. Mothers receive recognition, cards, gifts, flowers and dinners out.

Mother's Day Traditions Around the World usa
Mother’s Day traditions around the world – USA

France

Mother’s Day in France is celebrated on the last Sunday of May or the first Sunday in June. Their holiday originated during the Napoleonic Era, when families with a large number of children received medals.

Some regions in France still present moms with traditional medals on Mother’s Day. A more modern celebration involves baking or buying Mom a cake shaped like a flower bouquet. Children also gift their mothers perfume, jewelry, chocolates and handmade gifts.

Peru

In Peru, Mother’s Day is a week long celebration leading up to the actual holiday on the second Sunday in May. Families organize events such as trips, dinners, lunches and parties throughout the week. Art exhibits and musical performances are common too during those seven days.

Mothers attend these activities and festivities, museums and exhibits, free of charge. Children present moms with gifts and flowers and may recite poetry and stories.

Peru also honors their deceased mothers. People take balloons and flowers to cemeteries and place them on the graves of mothers, grandmothers and wives.

Mother's Day Traditions Around the World peru
Mother’s Day traditions around the world – Peru

Mexico

The origins of Mother’s Day, or La Dia de la Madre, in Mexico has a story behind it. The Mexican magazine, El Hogar, met with the Association of Catholic Ladies and published an article about motherhood and traditional Mexican values. This happened in conjunction with mothers venturing out into the professional world and choosing to have fewer children.

The first Mother’s Day, May 10, 1922, was celebrated in support of this campaign.

Today families go out to eat on Mother’s Day, typically for lunch. They listen to music together and children give their mothers flowers, candies or small gifts. They sometimes perform a play, to show their love and appreciation.

Japan

The earliest Mother’s Day in Japan was held in March, 1913. However, the celebration ceased during World War II. Afterwards, Mother’s Day became a time to comfort mothers who lost children during the war.

Today all mothers are celebrated in Japan. Children give their moms carnations to symbolize purity, love and endurance. Traditionally, they gave red carnations to their living mothers and they displayed white carnations if their mothers had passed away. White carnations are now the favored color for all mothers.

Kids also do the household chores for the day and prepare meals.

Mother's Day Traditions Around the World japan
Mother’s Day traditions around the world – Japan

Ethiopia

The Antrosht Festival, observed yearly during the fall rainy season, is dedicated to mothers.

Families gather for large meals. Daughters traditionally bring vegetables and cheeses while sons supply the meat. Together the children prepare a hash. Later they sing and perform dances that tell the stories of their families.

Italy

Mother’s Day is called La Festa della Mamma in Italy. Mothers are highly esteemed throughout the year in Italy. However, on Mother’s Day…the second Sunday in May…mamma is pampered even more.

Families gather for a meal together. If someone can’t make it for the meal, they must call. Children give small gifts, fresh flowers…traditionally roses…and handwritten poetry. Dessert after the meal is a heart shaped cake.

Mother's Day Traditions Around the World italy
Mother’s Day traditions around the world – Italy

Indonesia

The Indonesian Mother’s Day is celebrated late in the year, on December 22. The holiday began as a time to recognize the spirit of Indonesian women and honor their achievements.

Today Mother’s Day honors all mothers. It’s a time to show great love and appreciation. Mother’s take the day off from household chores and children bring them gifts and flowers.

Germany

Germany’s Mother Day is called Muttertag and it’s also celebrated on the second Sunday in May. It’s origins date back to the Middle Ages when relatives visited and wished each other a happy spring. During the German Reich, mothers who bore four or more children were presented with a Cross of Honor.

Today the celebration honors all mothers regardless of the number of children. Kids bring colorful flowers to their moms…the more colorful the better…and gifts and cards are common too. German mothers are often surprised with travel tickets! They then get to revisit a favorite place or experience a new part of the world.

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Mother’s Day Traditions – Germany

What Are Your Mother’s Day Traditions?

As a kid, I loved making gifts for my mom. I cringe when I think of some of those “creations” but I poured my heart into them. Typically, my sisters and I take Mom out to eat now, when we aren’t experiencing a pandemic. This year we are having a big “work in the yard” day at her house.

My kids used to make homemade cards and bring me breakfast in bed. As adults they call, text or surprise me a gift.

I love the different traditions that I learned about. Of course, the German custom of gifting trips is amazing to me! However, I love the gifts of handwritten poetry, singing and performing plays. They seem so personal.

What are your favorite Mother’s Day traditions? Do you take your mom out to eat? Do your kids bring you breakfast in bed?

Mothers Day Traditions Around the World mothers

Looking for thoughtful gifts for Mom? Check out this post!

And did you know you can order fresh flowers from Amazon and have them delivered to your mother? Click picture below to get started!

 

 

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Easter Traditions from Around the World

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In the US, common Easter traditions include attending church and spending time with family, dyeing and hiding eggs, gifting children baskets full of goodies and dressing up in spring finery. Do you know that Easter is celebrated in 95 other countries around the world? And some of their festivities are quite different from those practiced here in the United States.

I love learning about other countries and others cultures. See how many of these Easter traditions from around the world are familiar to you.

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Washington DC

Let’s start with a 130 year old tradition in the US. The White House hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn. Children roll colorful hard boiled eggs across the lawn using large serving spoons. The event also offers music, and egg hunt, sports and crafts.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Washington DC
Easter traditions from around the world – Washington DC

Australia

In Australia, rabbits are considered pests that destroy crops. In 1991, the country replaced the symbolic Easter bunny with the Easter bilby, also called the rabbit-eared bandicoot. You can purchase chocolate bilbies for Easter and the proceeds benefit Australia’s endangered animals.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Australia
Easter traditions from around the world – Australia

Norway

In Norway, the Easter season is a popular time to read detective novels and watch crime shows. The unconventional tradition began in 1923 when a book publisher advertised its new crime novel on the front page of newspapers. The ads, made to look like a news article, caught the attention of readers who didn’t realize they were promotions. The tradition continues today with new crime novels releasing around Easter and crime dramas playing on television. All over the country, people spend the weekend with whodunit shows and books. Even milk cartons carry short detective stories on their cardboard sides during this time.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Norway
Easter traditions around the world – Norway

Bermuda

Easter celebrations last all weekend in Bermuda. The holiday begins on Friday with the Good Friday KiteFest. All over the island, locals and visitors gather to show off their homemade kites and send them soaring into the sky. During the weekend people eat codfish and hot cross buns. Sunday sunrise services on beaches are a fitting end to the weekend.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Bermuda
Easter traditions from around the world – Bermuda

France

Every Easter Monday, the day after Easter Sunday, the town of Bessieres in southern France, serves up a giant omelette. Using more than 15,000 eggs, the omelette feeds the entire village. According to local stories, the tradition began with Napoleon and his troops traveling through the south of France. They stopped in this small town for a meal, eating omelettess. Napoleon enjoyed the meal so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all of their eggs and make a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.

Easter Traditions from Around the World France
Easter traditions from around the world – France

Russia

Easter meals in Russia include knobs of butter molded into lamb shapes. In ancient times lamb were considered lucky. The Russians believed the devil could take on the form of any animal, except a lamb. Their religious symbolism protected the lambs.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Russia
Easter traditions from around the world – Russia

Spain

In the medieval town of  Verges, in Spain, the “death dance” is held on Holy Thursday. Townspeople reenact the Passion, dressed in skeleton costumes. Passion comes from the Latin word for “suffering” and is connected to Christ’s crucifixion.  Processions wind through the streets with skeletons carrying boxes of ashes. Dancing begins at midnight and concludes at 3:00 am.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Spain
Easter traditions from around the world – Spain

Poland

Smigus-dyngus is a Polish tradition carried out on Easter Monday. People try to drench each other with buckets of water, squirt guns, water balloons…anything they can carry water in. According to legend, the girls who get soaked with water will marry within the year.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Poland
Easter traditions from around the world – Poland

Vatican City

Each year on Good Friday, the Pope commemorates the Way of the Cross. He begins at the Colosseum. People joining the procession carry candles and walk around the amphitheater and up to Palatine Hill, stopping 14 times along the way. This walk represents the 15 Stations of the Cross. Mass is celebrated Saturday evening. And on Sunday morning, thousands gather in St Peter’s Square to await the Pope’s blessing from the church balcony.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Vatican City
Easter traditions from around the world – Vatican City

Greece

Traditional pot throwing takes place on Holy Saturday, on the Greek island of Corfu. From their balconies and windows, people throw pots, pans and other clay or earthenware containers into the street. These pots are frequently filled with water. The custom originated with the Venetians who threw out old items on New Year’s Day. It also symbolizes welcoming spring crops in new pots.

Easter Traditions from Around the World - Greece
Easter traditions from around the world – Greece

Israel

Christians celebrate Good Friday in Jerusalem by walking the same path that Jesus did on his way to the cross. Many participants carry a cross with them, in remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion. On Easter Sunday a church services take place at Garden Tomb.

Easter Traditions from Around the World - Israel
Easter traditions from around the world – Israel

Italy

Locals in Florence, Italy celebrate a 350 year old Easter tradition called Scoppio del Carro, “explosion of the cart”. Fireworks fill an ornate cart. People in colorful 15th century costumes lead the cart through the streets, stopping in front of the Duomo. The Archbishop of Florence lights the fireworks during Easter mass, setting off a lively display. The custom dates back to the First Crusade. It ensures a good harvest.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Italy
Easter traditions from around the world – Italy

Hungary

A popular Easter tradition in Hungary is observed on Easter Monday. Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls, after getting their permission to do so. During the older version of this custom, the boys poured a bucket of water over the girls’ heads. Today they spray perfume and ask for a kiss. The young ladies dress up in traditional clothes.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Hungary
Easter traditions from around the world – Hungary

Papua New Guinea

This is perhaps the most unusual Easter tradition that I discovered. With the high temperatures and humidity in Papua New Guinea, eating chocolate during the Easter season isn’t a “thing”. Instead, the locals celebrate in their own way. They decorate the trees outside their churches with packets of tobacco and cigarettes. After the Easter Sunday services, worshippers divide up the tobacco. This tradition increases church attendance on Easter Sunday!

Easter Traditions from Around the World Papua New Guinea
Easter traditions from around the world – Papua New Guinea

What Are Your Easter Traditions?

When my kids were young, we dressed up and attended church together. The “Easter Bunny” delivered goody filled baskets and the kids played all day, hiding and finding colored eggs. Now, with my children grown and parents of their own babes, I simply gift my kids and grandkids with small presents.

I like the traditions of flying homemade kites, reading crime novels and watch out…throwing water! My children and grands better beware. Mostly, I love learning how other cultures celebrate holidays. It’s fun and educational too.

What are your Easter traditions? And did you find any in the list above that surprised you?

Happy Easter
Happy Easter. Cute frame, ceramic bunny and card art from Decocrated.

 


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Travel Quotes for the Wanderer

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This post combines two of my favorite things in life…travel and inspiring quotes. Words possess power and energy. For that reason, I surround myself with words that encourage, inspire, teach and motivate.

During these months of non-travel, quotes about traveling help feed my soul and keep my desire for exploring the world stoked. Some make my heart beat faster, in anticipation of the day I hop on a plane and fly over the ocean. Others remind me of my “big why” and the importance of travel in my life. And some quotes bring tears to my eyes as the longing for other places becomes an ache that cannot be eased.

Check out my favorite travel quotes for the wanderer. A photo from my travels accompanies each quote.

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 “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta

I’m a storyteller, from a family of travelers and storytellers. It’s how I love to communicate with others. Travel enriches my life and so many of my tales.

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Travel quotes for wanderers – Island of Burano, Italy

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”  Anais Nin

One of the things I most love about travel is meeting other people. My daughter, grandson and I toured Italy with Globus Tours. We joined a group of people from around the world. After 12 days together, we felt like family. Our amazing tour guide, Fabi, and incredible bus driver, Luciano, created that sense of togetherness on day one of our journey together.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer tour group
Travel quotes for the wanderer – Rome, Italy

“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” Freya Stark

Although I have not done so yet, solo travel is my next big adventure. It’s fun to go on adventures with family and friends. And, I believe I’ll learn new things about who I am as I set off on my own.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Dublin, Ireland street in the shopping district

“Live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry.” Jack Kerouac

What a recipe for the adventurous life. I especially love the inclusion of “bless” and “don’t be sorry”. Blessing others I meet as I travel is important to me, even as I am blessed by others. It’s an ongoing ripple of energy made up of kindness and compassion. And equally important is experiencing it all without regrets. No holding back, no waiting until another time, no thinking I can do it later.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Temple Bar in Dublin

“He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him.” Dutch Proverb

Such a Tokien-like quote, these words remind me of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. There’s nothing wrong with being an armchair traveler. However, we don’t experience the life changing events if we always stay safe within our homes. It takes courage to step through the door and allow adventure to sweep us away.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Door in Dean Village, Edinburgh, Scotland

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” Anna Quindlen

I began traveling internationally when I was well into my 50s. Just because I’ve not traveled much before doesn’t mean I can’t now. Thankfully, past actions don’t predict future actions. And even when those first travel opportunities came, I didn’t ever see myself as a travel “influencer”. How fun, on my most recent trip to Scotland, to experience comped meals in amazing vegan restaurants, in exchange for posts and social media shares.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer seeds for the soul
Travel quotes for the wanderer – the beginning of a fine vegan meal at Seeds for the Soul, Edinburgh

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” Anonymous

Yes! My travels are not an escape from my life. The purpose beneath my journeys is to deeply participate in life. New adventures, new cultures, new people, food and languages all broaden my life experiences and raise my awareness so that I see with fresh perspectives.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer dublin angel
Travel quotes for the wanderer – Dublin angel

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

Wise words from one of my favorite authors. They remind me that while it’s perfectly okay to plan out a trip it’s also okay…desirable even….to wander down intriguing streets or veer off the beaten path. Small towns in Italy beg the visitor to get a little lost, wandering the narrow lanes and exploring unexpected courtyards.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer street in Italy
Travel quotes for the wanderer – street in Orvieto, Italy

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  Susan Sontag

So strong is my connection to Scotland’s capital city that sometimes when I say I long to travel what I really mean is, I’m so missing Edinburgh. However, when I see photos of Bali or Greece or Brazil I think “I want to see it all.” As a result, my travel list is quite long! And Edinburgh remains, always, at the top of that list.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Thistle Street Apartments, Edinburgh

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oh I dearly love new experiences! Seeing something for the first time, even something familiar from photos and films, is one of my favorite things to do. How powerful to see Michelangelo’s David for the first time in person and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And touring my ancestral home, Thirlestane Castle, after I’d read about it all my life, literally made me sit in silent wonder for a while before climbing the steps to the massive front door. I am changed and expanded by such experiences.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – my first glimpse of David, Florence, Italy

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” Anita Desai

We all collect souvenirs when we travel. However, my favorite things to take home are bits and pieces of the experiences themselves. I adopt practices and customs from other countries, such as afternoon tea. Phrases from Italy or Ireland flavor my speech. Those countries become a part of me. Travel becomes written into my DNA.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer edinburgh
Travel quotes for the wanderer – my beloved Edinburgh, Scotland

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” Mary Anne Radmacher

How magical, when perspectives shift the familiar. Seeing the moon from a country across the Atlantic or tasting fresh basil pesto in a tiny village perched on a mountainside makes the ordinary extraordinary. My sense of curiosity and wonder spikes when encountering familiar things in fresh settings.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Rome, Italy as dusk gathers

“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.” Lovelle Drachman

Following curiosity leads me to such amazing adventures. Curiosity opens my  heart and soul and allows me to see with more than my physical eyes. Details stand out that I might miss without curiosity as my guide. And surprises await as I travel paths unknown.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer take a photo
Travel quotes for the wanderer – trying to adequately capture what I see

“Wanderlust – noun. a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world” dictionary definition

I experience wanderlust quite frequently. That strong desire or impulse to wander and travel and explore the world motivates me to make my dreams reality.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer passport
Travel quotes for the wanderer – my passport

“The more often I do things I want to do, the less bitter I am at people for doing what they want to do.” Glennon Doyle

While not exactly a travel quote, Glennon’s words remind me to express gratitude and happiness for others as they do what they most want to do. For me, doing what I most want to do involves travel. For someone else, it might include rescuing animals, acting in films or building houses. We are not competing for limited resources. Another’s success or joy does not diminish mine.

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer castle
Travel quotes for the wanderer – Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands, Scotland

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Long one of my favorite quotes, Twain’s words encourage me to live life beyond the edges of fear, comfort zones and limiting beliefs. I’m not created to play it safe and remain tied to a dock. I’m made to live in expansive freedom and explore, dream and discover.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – La Spezia, Italy

“When you have a dream, you’ve got to grab it and never let go.” Carol Burnett

Oh, am I ever a dreamer. Since early childhood, I’ve crafted the most vivid dreams about my future. As an adult I’ve learned that dreaming is vital to creating the reality I desire. If I imagine it, I can achieve it.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Dean Village, Edinburgh

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” Randy Komisar

These powerful words serve as a reminder to not wait. Honestly, at age 63, waiting is a greater risk than going for it. I refuse to spend my life “hoping for an opportunity later”. Every step I take toward realizing my dreams takes me closer to the reality of them.

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Travel quotes for the wanderer – Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

This is currently my top travel quote. The late Anthony Bourdain understood how travel changes a person. It’s not always pretty or comfortable or easy. It can be exhausting to the body and painful even.

However the impression travel makes as it leaves its marks on me is life shifting. Coming home I’m not the same person who left. I bring back with me experiences and new connections and discoveries I make about myself and the world around me. Every trip I take changes me a bit more. How can I not long to keep exploring and keep challenging myself to grow?

Travel Quotes for the Wanderer life changing
Travel quotes for the wanderer – travel can be exhausting and life changing. On the train to London, England.

Favorite Travel Quote

My collection of travel quotes shifts and changes, as I do. They reflect different points on my journey. And sometimes they serve as a beacon, guiding me to the next right spot along the path.

Do you have a favorite travel quote? Please share it in the comments below!

Grand Canal of Venice
Grand Canal of Venice

 


 

 

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Movies That Inspire You to Visit England

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Third in the Movies That Inspire Travel series, this post offers a selection of movies that inspire you to visit England. Click these links for the Italy and Ireland movie posts. I’m enjoying this series greatly as it combines two of my favorite activities…traveling and watching films. I hope you are enjoying them too. Additionally, my intention is to encourage readers to add countries to their travel lists, inspired by these amazing movies.

While I can’t travel as much right now, due to COVID imposed regulations, I can soothe the longing to do so by watching films with storylines set in the countries I love.

Grab a cup of tea or a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy an evening watching one or two of these movies.

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England title meme

Sense and Sensibility  1995

This Jane Austen classic stars Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet.

The death of Mr. Dashwood leaves his widow and three daughters poor, as his son from his first marriage inherits all. The women are marginally provided for by a kind cousin. However, marriage prospects for the young women are limited. Sisters Elinor and Marianne possess different perspectives on life and different interests but they love and support each other through challenging circumstances and tangled romantic relationships.

Fun fact: Newcomer Kate Winslet was originally only considered for the small role of Lucy Steele. However, Kate really wanted to play Marianne. When she arrived for her audition, she pretended her agent sent her to read for the role of Marianne. Her reading won her the part.

Watch Sense & Sensibility on Starz or rent on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to visit England sense and sensibility
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Sense & Sensibility

Bridget Jones’s Diary  2001

Rene Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Gemma Jones star in this romantic comedy.

Bridget Jones struggles with self perceived imperfections. As a New Year’s resolution, she decides to take charge of her life and make changes. Keeping a diary of her thoughts allows her to discover her own personal truths. When two very different men enter her life during her year of self improvements, and both catch her romantic interest, hilarity ensues.

Fun fact: For the role of Bridget, Zellweger gained 25 pounds, learned to speak with an English accent and worked at a British publishing company for a month. No one at the publishing company recognized her. On her desk she kept a framed photo of her then husband, Jim Carrey. Her co-workers found this odd but did not mention it to Zellweger for fear of embarrassing her.

Watch Bridget Jones’s Diary on Starz or rent on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England bridget jones diary
Movies That inspire you to visit England – Bridget Jones’s Diary

Gosford Park  2001

Gosford Park, a comedic mystery, starts Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles Dance, Tom Hollander, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen and Stephen Fry.

Set in the 1930s, in an old country estate, Lord and Lady McCordle host a weekend gathering. The invitees…rich, pretentious and famous…anticipate a relaxing weekend hunting pheasant. But when a murder occurs guests and members of the below stairs staff go on the suspected murderer list. As an investigation ensues, by bumbling Inspector Thompson, each person does their best to hide his or her secrets.

Fun fact: The well received series Downton Abbey was originally planned as a spin off of this film. Instead it developed into a stand alone series inspired by Gosford Park and set several decades earlier.

Rent Gosford Park on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England gosford park
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Gosford Park

Calendar Girls  2003

This comedy stars Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett and Annette Crosbie.

Middle aged women in the Women’s Institute brainstorm ways to up the fundraising efforts for their local chapter. Last year’s calendar, featuring area bridges, only raised a little more than 76 pounds. Inspiration comes from a member’s husband, who before he dies of leukemia says: “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. The last phase is always the most glorious.”

The women choose to sell a calendar featuring 12 local middle aged women posing nude. They hope to sell a few hundred calendars. The outcome surprises and delights them.

Fun fact; This movie is based on actual events. The real “calendar girls” were all members of the Rylstone Women’s Institute. They make guest appearances in the film.

Watch Calendar Girls on Cinemax or rent on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England calendar girls
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Calendar Girls

Love Actually

Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Martine McCutcheon, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Colin Firth, Kris Marshall, Martin Freeman, Johanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Lucia Moniz star in this romantic comedy.

Christmas time in London is the setting for this fun romp of a film that follows the interconnected lives of eight very different couples. Each couple deals with their love relationships and their complex lives, some doing so better than others.

Fun fact: The lake in which Firth and Moniz “swim” is actually only 18 inches deep. The actors knelt to give the illusion of deeper water. The lake was also swarming with mosquitos. Firth’s bitten elbow swelled up to the size of an avocado and required medical treatment.

Rent Love Actually on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England love actually
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Love Actually

Pride & Prejudice  2005

Keira Knightley, Matthey Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan star in the romantic drama adapted from a Jane Austen novel.

Pride & Prejudice is the humorous and tender story of five sisters growing up in England’s Georgian era. The Bennett Family’s future happiness depends on the daughters marrying well. When the wealthy and seemingly snobbish Mr. Darcy moves into the area, for a summer in the country, the sisters’ lives are upended. Is it love in the air…or is it a battle of the sexes?

Fun fact: Macfadyen, who portrays Mr. Darcy, is very nearsighted. During the early morning scene, in the misty rain, the director stood behind the camera waving a red flag so the actor knew where to walk.

Rent Pride & Prejudice on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England pride and prejudice
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Pride & Prejudice

The Theory of Everything  2014

This biographical drama stars Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior and David Thewlis.

The Theory of Everything explores the life of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking. It’s also the love story of Hawking and his wife, Jane. Over the course of their marriage and life together, Hawking becomes ill with ALS, a degenerative motor neuron disorder. As Hawking defies his prognosis and makes amazing discoveries in science, his marriage is challenged to its core.

Fun fact: To prepare for the role, Redmayne lost 15 pounds, trained for four months with a dancer to learn how to control his body, met with 40 ALS patients and kept a chart tracking the order in which Hawking’s muscles deteriorated. He stood for hours before a mirror, contorting his face and between takes stood motionless and hunched over, to stay in character. And he met with Stephen Hawking once for three hours, before filming began. He was afraid to ask the physicist anything.

Rent The Theory of Everything on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England the theory of everything
Movies That Inspire You to Visit England – The Theory of Everything

Paddington  2014

This fantasy adventure stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Matt Lucas, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi.

A young Peruvian bear, with a love for all things British, travels to London in search of a home. Around his neck is a label: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Lost at Paddington Station, the bear realizes city life is not what he imagined. Fortunately, he meets the Brown Family, who kindly offer him a place to stay.  All appears to be going well until the newly named Paddington Bear catches the attention of a museum taxidermist.

Fun fact: Paddington Bear is based on an actual lone teddy bear that author Michael Bond noticed in a London store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve, 1956. He purchased the bear as a gift for his wife and later wrote a story about him. The bear’s appearance in the story…and subsequent movies…was inspired by old newsreels showing train-loads of child evacuees leaving London during WWII with labels around their necks and their possessions in small suitcases.

Rent Paddington on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England paddington
Movies That Inspire You to Visit England – Paddington

Downton Abbey  2019

Hugh Bonneville, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leach, Michelle Dockery, Phyllis Logan, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Brandon Coyle star in this lavish period piece drama.

The film continues the story of the Crowley family and their below stairs staff at Downton Abbey, following the popularity of the long running television series. Set in 1927, the Crowleys and the Downton Abbey staff prepare for the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary while struggling with their own life dilemmas and challenges.

Fun fact: The royal visit of King George V to Downton Abbey was based on his real life visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, an estate in Yorkshire used to film the ballroom scenes in the movie.

Watch Downton Abbey on HBO or buy on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England downton abbey
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Downton Abbey

Emma  2020

This romantic drama, inspired by the Jane Austen novel, stars Anna Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Gemma Whelan, Bill Nighy and Josh O’Connor.

Handsome, clever and rich, Miss Emma Woodhouse is without equal in her small town. Desiring that everyone other than herself find true love, Emma moves through a series of comical mismatches and romantic missteps before discovering what real love is all about.

Fun fact: Emma and Mr. Knightley are not wearing gloves during their dance scene, while all the other dancers are gloved. Director Autumn de Wilde felt the bare hands added to the sexual tension between the two characters during their last dance.

Watch Emma on HBO or buy on Amazon Prime

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England emma
Movies that inspire you to visit England – Emma

Movies That Inspire You to Visit England

Truly, there are SO many movies with English storylines that it was difficult to limit my choices to ten. These are some of my favorites though. And several, such as Emma, have more than one version to enjoy.

All of these films increased my desire to experience England for myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit this beautiful country in 2017.

Until I can return, I’ll stir my memories and create new intentions by watching British films.

What’s your favorite movie set in England?

Jack the Ripper London Tour
Seated on the top deck during our Jack the Ripper London tour.

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Fun Facts About Big Ben

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When visiting London, one of the most iconic structures in the grand old city is Big Ben. In fact, the tower is one of the most recognizable buildings around the world. Big Ben symbolizes the United Kingdom and parliament and frequently graces still shots of London.

We all recognize Big Ben however how much do we really know about it?

Check out these fun facts about Big Ben and discover something new.

Fun Facts About Big Ben title meme

Fun Facts About Big Ben

Before diving into the rest of the fun facts, let’s discuss the name. The most surprising thing about this tower is that its name isn’t really Big Ben! The largest bell in the tower is nicknamed Big Ben. The tower’s official name is currently Elizabeth Tower, changed from Clock Tower in 2012 in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

A hundred years ago the tower went by the name St. Stephen’s Tower. The clock within the tower is known as the Great Clock.

Because everyone refers to the tower as Big Ben, I will too throughout this post.

Big Ben’s Stats

The tower stands 315 feet tall and contains 11 stories with 334 steps rising to the belfry. Each of the four clock faces is 23 feet in diameter and composed of 300+ sections of opal glass. The hour hand is 9.2 feet long while the minute hand is 14 feet long. Twenty eight energy efficient bulbs illuminate each clock dial.

From 1939 to April 1945 the clock faces remained unlit, in compliance with wartime blackout rules.

The Big Bell

Big Ben is the nickname of the largest bell in the tower. It weighs 13.7 tons, stands 7.2 feet tall and has a diameter of 8.9 feet. It’s intended name was Royal Victoria.

The original bell cracked during testing in October 1857. The replacement bell developed a crack too, in 1859. They turned that bell a quarter clockwise and installed a lighter hammer. The bell remains flawed but it works.

When struck, the bell chimes with the musical note E. Four smaller bells rest beneath Big Ben. They ring on the quarter hour and chime in G sharp, F sharp and B.

Fun Facts About Big Ben red bus
Fun facts about Big Ben – it’s currently undergoing renovation and has scaffolding around it

For the Birds

In 1949 a flock of starlings roosted on the clock’s minute hand. As more and more birds gathered, their combined weight slowed the time-keeping mechanism, setting it back five minutes.

On New Year’s Eve 1962, heavy snow and ice slowed time as well. The clock rang in the new year 10 minutes late.

Pennies

Except for rare instances, such as those listed above, the clock is considered the most accurate in the world. It stays that way with the use of copper penny weights on the clock mechanism. Removing or adding a penny changes the clock’s accuracy by two fifths of a second per day.

They replaced three of the pennies for the London Olympics in 2012.

Keeper of the Clock

The keeper of the Great Clock is Steve Jaggs. He ensures that the clock is well maintained and oversees the changing of the time twice a year. He also heads up a team of clockmakers responsible for all of the clocks in the Palace of Westminster.

Prison Inside

Did you know a prison exists inside Big Ben? One third of the way up the stairs is the Prison Room. MPs, in breach of codes of conduct, were imprisoned there.

It was last used as a prison in 1880 when newly elected MP Charles Bradlaugh refused to swear allegiance to Queen Victoria on the bible. He spent one night in the room. There’s a pub named after Bradlaugh in Northhampton.

Fun Facts About Big Ben Westminster
Fun facts about Big Ben – there’s a prison room inside

Twitter Account

Big Ben has its own Twitter account! It tweets the appropriate number of BONGS on the hour, every hour. That’s all that the account tweets…no replies, no retweets…and yet it has more than 430,000 followers.

Is the Light On?

When the Ayrton Light is illuminated above the clock face, that means parliament is in session.

Latin Inscription

The Latin words beneath the clock face read Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam. The phrase means, “O Lord keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”.

Christmas Bells

Big Ben’s chimes first aired internationally in 1932 during King George V’s Christmas Broadcast.

Fun Facts About Big Ben with the bridge
Canva photo: Big Ben without the scaffolding

Superstar

Big Ben is often featured in films. The earliest recorded film cameo was Stage Fright in 1950. It’s appeared in many other movies, including 28 Days Later (2003), V for Vendetta (2006), Spectre (2015) and London Has Fallen (2016). Plus the big tower features in 17 Disney films!

Who Can Tour Big Ben?

As of 2010, only residents of the UK can tour the tower. And even the British must be sponsored by a member of parliament. Tourists are no longer allowed inside.

Leaning Tower

During its 161 years, Big Ben developed a slight tilt. The clock tower leans about a foot and a half off center, pointing slightly northwestward. The cause of the lean? The London clay beneath the tower is drying out.

Renovations

Big Ben is currently undergoing renovations. When I visited in 2017, scaffolding surrounded the tower and remains in place today.

The clock was dismantled, piece by piece, cleaned and repaired. Architects are modernizing the tower, making it more energy efficient and adding an elevator, a kitchen and a toilet. Until that work is completed in 2021, Big Ben chimes only on New Year’s Eve, Remembrance Sunday (a UK holiday) and other special occasions.

Fun Facts About Big Ben - featured in films
Fun Facts About Big Ben – it’s often featured in films  Canva photo

A Must See When in London

When my sisters, mother, niece and I visited London, catching a glimpse of Big Ben was high on our list of must sees. Our first day in London, riding on the hop on/hop off bus, Big Ben suddenly came into view. What a thrill to see it. Even surrounded by scaffolding, it looked gorgeous.

The light rain ceased and as the sun peeked out, a rainbow appeared, arcing over Big Ben. We’d see the big clock tower several more times while in the city, however I’ll never forget my first sight of this iconic structure.

Have you seen Big Ben?

Fun Facts About Big Ben rainbow
My favorite photo of Big Ben. See the rainbow in the sky?

Check Out These Travel Tales From England Posts:

Ghost Stories from London

Daring Escapes from the Tower of London

The Tower of London Ravens


 

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Ghost Stories from London

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As we enter Halloween Week, I bring you Ghost Stories from London. The capital city of England, London boasts a long history that stretches back to Roman times.  That history includes its fair share of darker episodes and notorious people such as Jack the Ripper.

Some of London’s iconic structures such as Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are famous for reasons that go beyond interesting architecture.

Grab a cup of hot tea and settle into your favorite chair while I tell you five stories from London’s spooky side.

Ghost Stories from London title meme

Ghost Stories from London

This magnificent city, that survived plagues, fires and bombings, stands today as one of the world’s greatest cities. For more than 2000 years it’s been a major settlement for the area and a powerful, influential center for arts, commerce, education and finance.

London’s population of almost 9 million people, as of 2019, makes it the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. It also boasts a large unseen population of spirits and ghosts who wander the streets after dark or inhabit many of the historical buildings.

Ghost Stories from London Dungeons
I highly recommend The London Dungeon, a fun interactive way to learn more about the city’s dark side.

The Tower of London Ghosts

Numerous ghosts haunt the Tower of London. This complex began as a royal palace and eventually became known for its prison. Since 1067, the Tower has experienced many deaths, mostly by executions and the occasional murder.

Supernatural activity in the Tower includes strong, repugnant smells, temperature drops in rooms, mischievous poltergeists and even a death heralding bear!

Among the more famous ghosts are the murdered young princes, Anne Boleyn and the White Woman in the Castle Keep.

Young Princes

In 1483 two young princes, Edward and Richard, came to the Tower. Their father, King Edward IV died, technically making his son Edward the next King of England. At age 12, Edward was too young to rule so his uncle Richard III became Protector of the Throne.

Unfortunately, Edward never became king. The princes disappeared, believed murdered by their ambitious uncle. The murder was never officially solved, however the skeletal remains of two young boys were found buried in a stairwell 200 years later. They are thought to be the princes.

The shadowy figures of the two little lost boys appear often in the White Tower, holding hands as they drift from room to room.

Anne Boleyn

Anne, the 2nd wife of King Henry VIII, was imprisoned in the Tower in 1536, after failing to give the king a son. She was beheaded the same year. Her ghost is spotted in different parts of the Tower, inside buildings and also outside on the Tower Green where she was executed.

Visitors report seeing her headless torso pacing the Tower at night. She’s also seen in the Chapel of St Peter, where she is buried. A captain of the guard, patrolling the Tower at night, saw a flickering light in the chapel and investigated. Peering through the window, the astonished captain watched a procession of lords, ladies and knights in armor. A small woman appeared in the center of the festivities. He identified the woman as Anne Boleyn.

After a few minutes, the light faded and the procession of ghosts disappeared.

The White Woman in the Castle Keep

The White Tower, at the center of the Tower of London, is called the Keep. Amazingly, almost all keeps in England are haunted by a similar ghost…a woman wearing white or black robes.

In The Tower Keep, visitors catch a glimpse of a woman in white, from the corners of their eyes. They then report smelling a pungent, stale perfume. Some feel as if the room closes in around them while others say that chills run down their spines. In recent years, people feel taps on the shoulder. When they turn around, there’s nothing there except a wisp of white that disappears.

Ghost Stories from London Tower of London
Ghost Stories from London – many ghosts haunt the Tower of London

Buckingham Palace Ghosts

Buckingham Palace, the royal home of English monarchy, houses hundreds of people and a host of ghosts. The two most repeated stories involve a monk and the secretary of King Edward VII, who committed suicide in an office on the first floor.

The Ghost Monk

The palace is built on the site of a monastery. A monk died there, chained in his cell. The ghost of the monk appears frequently on the palace’s rear terrace, cloaked in his brown cowl. Others report hearing the rattle of chains and moans from the same terrace at night, when no one is out there.

The King’s Secretary

During King Edward VII’s reign, from 1901 to 1910, his private secretary Major John Gwynne was involved in a scandal. After divorcing his wife, the Major couldn’t handle the rumors that followed his decision. He ultimately shot himself in the head, in a first floor office.

Today staff and employees avoid that office. They report an uneasy feeling in the room. Some claim to hear a single gunshot coming from the empty office.

Ghost Stories from London Buckingham Palace
Ghost Stories from London – Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey Ghosts

Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place in London with the ghost of a monk. Westminster Abbey has one as well, along with the ghost of an unknown soldier.

Father Benedictus

For 500 years, a Benedictine Abbey occupied the site of the Westminster Abbey. Edward the Confessor rebuilt it and from 1066 on, the current abbey serves as the place for the coronations of England’s kings and queens.

Over the centuries, during many renovations and additions, the abbey’s floor level lowered. This might explain why the ghost haunting the abbey floats a few feet above the floor. Called Father Benedictus, this spirit is frequently seen bobbing about the cloisters in the early evening.

Father Benedictus appears so solid that visitors often have conversations with him. He once helped a lost couple find their way out of the abbey. And in 1900 he entertained a group of 25 people, who watched him drift around and then disappear into a wall. Two American visitors claim the spirit spoke very politely to them during a long conversation.

The Unknown Soldier

In the abbey is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It is a memorial to soldiers who died during WWI. On November 11, 1920, an unidentified soldier received a royal burial in soil brought in from the battlefields of France. He rests beneath a marble stone quarried in Belgium. When the abbey becomes quiet after dark, the soldier ghost materializes beside the tomb. He stands for several minutes, head bowed, and then slowly fades away.

Ghost Stories from London Westminster Abbey
Ghost Stories from London – Westminster Abbey

The Ghosts in London’s East End

London’s most notorious person, known as Jack the Ripper, terrorized the city in 1888. The serial killer was never caught nor was his identity confirmed. He killed at least five women, all prostitutes in the Whitechapel District in London’s East End.

With the ferocity of the killings, it’s not surprising that several locations and buildings near the murder sites are haunted. The ghosts of some of the victims stalk the streets where they died. However, the Ten Bells Pub is strongly linked to the Jack the Ripper story. Located at the corner of Commercial and Fournier Streets in Spitalfields in the East End of London, this pub is connected to two of Jack’s victims, Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly.

Annie, the second victim, was reportedly seen drinking in the pub shortly before her body was found around the corner. Her ghost appears, sitting in the exact same spot where she sipped her last drink before death. She’s also known to move pints of beer, break glasses and even steal from patrons.

And staff members working at the pub claim to see a ghostly older man dressed in Victorian clothing. They’ve encountered cold spots in the pub and experience feelings of uneasiness. Others who slept upstairs in the building heard footsteps in the hall and faint laugher, when no one else was present, or woke up to find the specter lying next to them in bed!

Ghost Stories from London Jack the Ripper
Ghost Stories from London – a moody street from our Jack the Ripper Tour.

London’s Most Haunted House

Claimed by many as London’s most haunted house, 50 Berkeley Square looks like a normal townhouse from the outside. However, stories of its hauntings became so prevalent that it sat empty for many years.

The ghosts of 50 Berkeley Square include a child wearing a kilt, a young woman who committed suicide and a man who went mad, locked in a room in the attic.

A Young Man Goes Mad

A couple of people occupied the house in its early days, without incident. But when Thomas Myers moved in, in 1859, a shift occurred. Thomas prepared the house for his soon to be bride, however days before the wedding, she jilted him. Despondent, Thomas moved into a room in the attic and did not leave the house again until his death. He supposedly went mad in his seclusion. Passersby saw him moving from room to room by candlelight, late in the night.

After he died, people walking by still saw the flickering candlelight, moving throughout the house.

People who lived in the house after Thomas experienced strange things in that attic room, including seeing a brown mist appear. Several died and at least one went insane.

A maid making up a bed in the attic room for a visiting man screamed in terror. Occupants of the house found her lying on the floor, muttering “Don’t let it touch me.” She died the next day. The visitor, a Captain Kentfield, arrived and decided to sleep in the room anyway. Thirty minutes after going to bed he screamed. The house owners heard a gunshot and found him lying dead on the floor, a horrible expression on his face.

Another man, Lord Lyttelton, spent the night in the attic room, armed with a shotgun. When an apparition approached him, he fired his gun. Although he heard something fall to the floor, he couldn’t find anything beyond cartridge shells.

Shapeless Creature

Another story is the tale of two sailors who, needing a place to sleep, broke into the abandoned house in 1887 and slept in the attic room. They woke to the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs. The door creaked open and a strange shapeless creature with a huge gaping mouth entered the room.

One terrified man squeezed past the apparition and ran for help. He returned with a police officer. They found the second sailor impaled on the iron fence, below a broken window in the attic room.

Other Ghosts

Another ghost associated with 50 Berkeley Square is that of a young woman who jumped from the attic room, after suffering abuse from an uncle. And the child in the kilt is thought to be a young girl killed in the house by a servant.

Eventually the house stood vacant and run down, for many years.

Maggs Bros, antique book dealers, purchased the property and occupy the ground floor. Although staff hear strange noises from the upper floors of the house, no one goes up to check. In fact, no one is allowed to go upstairs. A posted sign warns that the upper rooms are not to be used for any reason.

Ghost Stories from London 50 Berkeley Square
Ghost Stories from London – 50 Berkeley Square, London’s most haunted house.

One More Post in This Series

Next week, just before Halloween, I’ll share the last post in this series, tales from my own hometown. I’ll include a couple of personal stories as well.

Whether you believe in ghosts, or not, I hope you are enjoying this series of scary tales from some of the world’s most amazing cities.

And I’d love to read your ghost stories, in the comments below!

Check out the other posts in this series:

Ghost Stories from Dublin

Ghost Stories from Venice

And…Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

Ghost Stories from London group shot
Group photo in front of Buckingham Palace

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Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

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Off to Edinburgh, Scotland for the third installment in the October Ghost Story Series. I decided to hold off for another week on my own hometown spooky tale.

Ah Edinburgh, my favorite city in the world. The capital of Scotland, this magical city offers much to enchant the visitor. With its charming cobblestone streets, medieval castle and historical stone buildings, Old Town delights while it hides a few secrets.

Check out these ghost stories from Edinburgh.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh title meme

Edinburgh’s Long History

This city, nicknamed Auld Reekie, possesses a long, colorful history full of acts of bravery and the macabre. A center for education, philosophy, arts, literature, science and engineering, Edinburgh typically attracts millions of visitors a year. In fact, it is the second most visited city in the UK, right behind London.

Ghost hunters considered it a hot spot for paranormal activity. That’s not surprising considering its history that spans thousands of years and the labyrinth of passageways and rooms hidden beneath the streets and bridges of Old Town. I find the energy of Edinburgh electrifying and interesting, rather than frightening or dark.

“Scotland incorporates magic so thoroughly into its everyday life that the official national animal is the unicorn and its capital city, Edinburgh, counts “being haunted” among its local industries.” Unknown

Check out these five tales. And as a three time visitor to Edinburgh, I’ll share a couple of my own ghostly encounters.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh unicorn
Magical Scotland claims the unicorn as its national animal so you know anything can happen here!

Greyfriars Kirkyard

This kirkyard, Scottish for churchyard or cemetery, is known to house a number of ghosts. Among the most famous, and on opposite ends of the scary spectrum, are Greyfriars Bobby and Bloody MacKenzie.

Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby is the small Skye Terrier dog that loyally remained at his owner’s grave, long after the man passed away. For 14 years the pup stayed nearby, surviving due to the kindness of the fine people of Edinburgh, until he too died and was buried in the kirkyard. Today visitors wandering in the kirkyard tell of hearing a small dog barking, near Bobby’s grave, when no dog is present. It seems that Bobby guards his owner’s resting place still.

Bloody MacKenzie

And then there is the more frightening ghost of the man called Bloody MacKenzie. A wealthy lord and lawyer, George MacKenzie punished thousands of Scots in the late 1600s, who refused to change their religion to the national one. It’s believed he’s personally responsible for more than 18,000 gruesome deaths, earning him the name Bloody MacKenzie.

MacKenzie rests in his mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Or at least, he did until his tomb was disturbed by a homeless man who broke in late one night. The frightened man fell through the floor of the mausoleum, into a mass grave filled with plague victims from centuries before.

Since that night, MacKenzie prowls the graveyard. And although his mausoleum is closed to the public, ghost tours routinely take people inside. More than 450 people claim vicious attacks occurred, from an invisible assailant, while they were inside the building. Injuries include bruises, burns, scratches, lacerations and even broken bones. One woman passed out when unseen hands strangled her.

Others report hearing strange noises near the mausoleum or feeling nauseated as they walk by it. An exorcism was attempted at the mausoleum, in 2000, by minister Colin Grant. He claimed he felt the torment of hundreds of souls and the presence of evil. He left Greyfriars Kirkyard, distressed, and died a few weeks later of a heart attack.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh MacKenzie Mausoleum
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Bloody MacKenzie’s mausoleum

Grassmarket

Every medieval town used a square for public executions. This is true for Edinburgh as well. Nestled in the heart of Old Town, with fine views of nearby Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket’s history includes a dark side.

Hundreds of criminals and people accused of witchcraft died there, up until 1886.

As you might imagine, especially for those labeled as witches, many people were innocent of their supposed crimes. Women thought to practice witchcraft suffered sleep deprivation until they finally confessed to crimes they did not do. As a result, the punishment was hanging or worse, burning alive.

Those innocents now haunt the Grassmarket area, sighing and sobbing over their unjust deaths.

Additionally, the White Hart Inn, located in Grassmarket, is one of Edinburgh’s oldest, and most haunted pubs. Parts of the pub date back to 1516. Paranormal activity there includes accounts of hair pulling, bottle throwing and apparitions captured in photos. Staff often hear footsteps upstairs, after the bar closes, and ghost hunters recorded a voice in that space saying “help me”.

Pub visitors also report seeing a pair of detached legs walking about and a ghost that hovers in the center of the cellar.

Historically, the murdering duo Burke and Hare lured victims away from the pub and killed them nearby. And a prostitute died in the pub in the 1800s.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Grassmarket
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Grassmarket

Haunted Tolbooth Tavern

On the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s Canongate area is home to one of the city’s iconic buildings, the Tolbooth. Dating back to 1591, tolls were collected here, from people traveling into the city.

The building housed an administrative center, courthouse and a prison before transforming into a pub in 1820.

Several ghosts, possibly the spirits of former prisoners, create havoc in the Tolbooth Tavern. Their antics include knocking pictures off the walls, flinging drinks from the tables and making banging and knocking noises.

Pub visitors report seeing ghosts dressed in old fashioned military uniforms. Historians speculate they are the departed spirits of jailer James Park and his assistant, who found themselves incarcerated in their own prison after helping prisoners escape.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Canongate Tolbooth
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Tolbooth Tavern

Mary King’s Close

In Edinburgh, closes are narrow covered alleyways that branch off the Royal Mile. Mary King’s Close is named after a merchant burgess who resided on the close in the 17th century. Many people shared the close with Mary, packed into tall buildings. With no proper sewer system in the city, residents dumped waste into the streets, which attracted rats.

Those rats carried diseases such as the bubonic plague to the inhabitants, bringing death to Mary King’s Close. Legend says that the close was walled up, leaving the tenants to die horribly. In reality, the people were cared for as well as they could be, for those times. Many people died in the close, regardless of which story is true. The last occupant of Mary King’s Close moved out in 1902 and the area was sealed up.

The close lay abandoned and inaccessible for many years, buried beneath the Royal Exchange. Stories of hauntings began after workers reopened the area when they drilled down into the close accidently. The site is a popular tourist attraction today.

Annie’s Room

One of the most famous ghosts in the close is Annie. In 1992 a Japanese psychic picked up on feelings of hunger, sadness and pain inside a room. The psychic spoke to the ghost of a young girl named Annie, who claimed she was abandoned during the plague and died in the room. She said she couldn’t find her doll.

Feeling sad for Annie, the psychic purchased a new doll for the girl. Since that day, visitors from around the world honor Annie and try to make her happy by bringing her dolls, toys and jewelry. First responders such as police officers and firemen leave their badges as a sign of respect.

People that enter Annie’s Room report feeling inexplicable cold spots and claim a little hand grabs theirs.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Mary Kings Close
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Mary King’s Close and Annie’s Room

Edinburgh Castle

High atop a volcanic rock, Edinburgh Castle perches majestically above the city. Surrounded by tall granite walls that shield 900 years of history, many ghosts supposedly haunt the castle grounds.

There’s the young piper who, two hundred years ago, set off to explore the castle’s hidden passageways that lead to the Royal Mile. He played his bagpipes so that people above ground knew his location. The music suddenly stopped and the boy disappeared without a trace. His body was never found but the haunting sounds of his bagpipe echo beneath the castle.

In the dungeons, a headless drummer boy wanders about. And a group of French soldiers, captured during the  Seven Years War, often make appearances in the dungeons as well.

Other activity includes shadowy figures walking around, sudden temperature drops and unseen hands tugging on shirt sleeves and trousers.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh castle
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – the castle

My Own Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

I visited Edinburgh in 2014, 2017 and 2019. On two of those three visits, I experienced my own supernatural encounters.

Haunted Vaults

In 2014, two of my cousins and I explored Edinburgh’s underground on the Haunted Vaults Tour. Experienced primarily in the dark, with only the guide’s lantern for illumination, the vaults are extremely creepy. After leaving one of the vaults, the tour guide stopped talking as we all heard a loud crash from the dark room we’d just left. We all crept back into the room where she shone her light around, looking for the source of the sound. Nothing appeared out of order and no explanation for the noise was discovered. As I stood in the deep shadows at the back of the room, I felt a small cold hand take my right one. Surprised I turned to look. No one stood next to me on my right. I continued to feel that hand holding mine until we left the next room.

Shadow Figure in the Apartment

And in 2019, my sister and I shared a cute renovated apartment for the duration of our stay in Edinburgh. The building, hundreds of years old, formerly housed offices.

We experienced several instances of electrical things turning off on their own but we shrugged them off. However, one night, after a long day of walking in the city, I struggled to fall asleep. Restlessness overtook me. I began to hear popping noises in the kitchen and then the dining area and finally the living room. For me, restlessness and popping sounds are signs that spirit is with me.

Peering into the dimly lit living room, through the bedroom door, I saw the dark figure of a man walk by. He headed toward the window on the far side of the room, then suddenly changed directions and walked to the bedroom door. As I watched, the shadowy figure stopped at the door and looked around before turning away and disappearing. We slept with a light on in the living room, after that, so I could see better if the shadow man returned. He didn’t appear again.

However, I woke up a couple of mornings later, with two small burns on my left forearm, that weren’t there when I went to bed. I have no explanation for how I received those burns.

Will I visit Edinburgh again? Absolutely! I love this city with all my heart and I’d happily stay in the same apartment. For me, the veil between this world and the spirit world is thin. That fact no longer stops me from exploring and experiencing the world.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh - burns
Unexplainable burns while in Edinburgh

More Ghost Stories

Check out these stories from Ireland and Italy:

Ghost Stories from Dublin

Ghost Stories from Venice

Do you have a ghost story to share? Add it to the comments below!

Ghosts Stories from Edinburgh group photo
Group photo in Greyfriars Kirkyard

 


 

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Ghost Stories from Venice

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In the second installment of the Ghost Stories from… series, we turn to beautiful Venice, Italy. This magical city, occupying a cluster of islands in the Venice Lagoon, captivates with its canals, history and charm. My daughter, grandson and I loved exploring this amazing city.

Haunting is another word that describes Venice. Like most cities, Venice has its dark side too. Wandering the narrow streets after sunset, especially when the fog rolls in, sends a chill down the spine that isn’t entirely caused by the weather.

The city’s long history is filled with stories of rebellions, conquests and death. It’s not surprising that energy lingers there. Check out these ghost stories from Venice, for a peek at the city’s mysterious side.

Ghost Stories from Venice title meme

Ghost Stories from Venice

Water is a great conductor of electricity and also of supernatural energy. Hauntings and water seem to go together. Whether from deep dark pools, rivers or even the moisture that accumulates within the walls of a house, water often amplifies ghostly activity. With its lagoon and 150 canals, water literally surrounds Venice and flows through it. And because the city is slowly sinking into the lagoon, many buildings and cathedrals have flooded subfloors and crypts.

No wonder Venice is not only one of the most uniquely beautiful cities in the world, but also one of the most haunted.

As you explore Venice, keep these locations and ghost stories in mind.

Ca’ Dario

Also known as Palazzo Dario, or Dario Palace, this house is also dubbed “the house that kills”.

Giovanni Dario, a local official, built the gothic palace on the Grand Canal in the late 1400s. After financial ruin and death, his daughter Marietta and her husband inherited the house. The husband died soon after, murdered, and Marietta committed suicide by throwing herself into the Grand Canal. Their son died a short time later in an ambush.

Over the centuries the palace continues to change hands. The owners have all been murdered, committed suicide, suffered horrible accidents or illnesses or experienced disastrous financial ruin.

Even leasing the palace comes with risks. In 2002 bass player John Entwistle died of a heart attack a week after renting the palace for a vacation.

A US company purchased Ca’ Dario in 2006, on behalf of a wealthy American woman. It’s currently undergoing renovations. Would you stay there? I would not!

Ghost Stories from Venice Ca Dario
Ghost Stories from Venice – Ca’ Dario, the house that kills.

Ghost of the Venice Bell Ringer

There once lived a man who rang the bells in the bell tower, or campanile, on St. Mark’s Square. Because he was quite tall, a Venetian scientist offered the bell ringer a large sum of money for his skeleton, after death.

Spurred on by greed, the tall man accepted the cash in exchange for giving his skeleton to the scientist. With this unexpected wealth, he promptly drank himself into an early grave.

After death, the bell ringer apparently regretted the deal he made. His ghost haunts Bressana Court where he begs visitors for money so that he can buy back his skeleton.

The actual skeleton of the man resides in Venice’s Natural History Museum. The skeleton shows that the man was indeed very tall. It is also said that the skeleton creeps out of the museum at night to ring the twelve bells of St. Mark’s Campanile.

Ghost Stories from Venice clock tower
Ghost Stories from Venice – the ghost of the bell ringer

The Bride Ghost of Venice

Those who walk Venice at night risk running into the ghost of a young bride.

Tosca, a beautiful but poor young woman from Treviso, was betrothed to a wealthy, older nobleman. However, she fell in love with a young hunter and the pair ran away to Venice. The jilted groom tracked down the couple and killed the hunter. He cut off Tosca’s ring finger, declaring that no man would wed her if he didn’t.

Tosca took her own life on September 22, 1379. Her ghost, wearing a wedding dress, wanders Venice after dark, searching for her missing finger.

Ghost Stories from Venice bell tower
Ghost Stories from Venice – watch for the Bride Ghost wandering Venice after dark

The Serpent of Punta della Dogana

Ghosts aren’t the only supernatural inhabitants of Venice. Punta della Dogana is the triangular shaped land mass jutting out between the Grand Canal and The Guidecca Canal.

Allegedly, a cousin of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster inhabits the swirling waters just off the tip of Punta della Dogana. This beast’s body resembles a large, dark colored snake while the head looks horse-like.  It hides in a hollow beneath the land.

Fishermen swear that the sea serpent appears out of the dark waters on moonless nights, earning it the nickname “the black water monster”. One witness, in 1933, claims he saw the serpent rise above the surface to catch and eat a sea gull in a single gobble.

Ghost Stories from Venice grand canal
Ghost Stories from Venice – the domed buildings in this photo are on the Punta della Dogana

Poveglia Island

Known as one of the most haunted places in the world, Poveglia Island, located between Venice and Lido, originally served as a port. During the bubonic plaque, the small island became Venice’s dumping ground for dying and dead Venetians. Over the centuries, anytime an epidemic came along, the infected went to Poveglia. Most remained there until they died. The dead were buried in huge mass graves.

In 1922 Venice established an asylum on the island as a place to hide the city’s mentally ill and seriously ill citizens. Sadly, one of the asylum doctors performed cruel experiments on patients, in the island bell tower. He met his death by falling from that very tower. Some claim the ghosts of his victims pushed him. The story goes that he actually survived the fall, but a mist surrounded him and swallowed him up, finishing him off.

More than 160,000 deaths reportedly occurred on Poveglia, earning it the name of “the island of no return.” Visitors are no longer allowed on the island. Past visitors, including paranormal researchers, call it the final restless place of thousands of diseased and insane people who died there.

Ghost Stories from Venice Poveglia Island
Ghost Stories from Venice – Poveglia Island, one of the most haunted places in the world

October Ghost Story Series

You can check out last week’s Ghost Stories from Dublin, the first post in this month long series. Next week, watch for a local ghost tale from my own city. I’ll be checking out the famous Joplin Spook Light.

Have you ever had an ghostly encounter?

Share your stories in the comments below.

Ghost Stories from Venice
Ghost Stories from Venice

When in Venice, check out this walking ghost tour.

 


 

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Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

This month, my Friday Road Trip became a Weekend Getaway, at a unique destination 1.4 miles from my home in Joplin.

My sisters joined me for an overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout.

And here’s how this interesting weekend came about. Wanting to include local sites of interest on my blog, I checked online to find the owner of this historical building in my city. Intending to gain permission to take photos in the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout, I instead discovered the apartment over the garage is an Airbnb available to rent.

Perfect!

My intention to take photos for a story turned into a fun overnight experience.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout title meme

The Barrow Gang Comes to Joplin

The Joplin connection is a vital one, in the saga of Bonnie and Clyde.

This infamous couple, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow, traveled the lower Midwest between 1931 and 1934. The pair’s life of crime began with robberies of small stores and gas stations and escalated to bank heists and murder.

Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche and the youth WD Jones completed the Barrow Gang. During their years of crime, they killed nine police officers and four civilians.

On April 1, 1933, the gang rented an over the garage apartment in Joplin, Missouri. Located in a quiet, affluent neighborhood, the upstairs apartment’s many windows provided vantage points to watch for the approach of law enforcement.

For 13 days the group hid in the apartment while committing a series of robberies in Missouri and neighboring states. They slept late into the day, partied heartily at night and cleaned weapons in the garage.  A variety of stolen cars appeared and disappeared from the property. Their unusual activities drew suspicion from the neighbors.

On April 13, 1933, police arrived, expecting to find bootleggers. Instead, a furious shootout occurred. Joplin police detective Harry McGinnis and Newton County Constable John Wesley Harryman lost their lives. McGinnis died from his wounds in a nearby hospital while Harryman died instantly, his body falling into the garage.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout 1933
Bonnie and Clyde apartment 1933. Photo taken by Blanche Barrow.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout 2020
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout in 2020.

The Importance of the Joplin Hideout

Bonnie and Clyde, Buck and Blanche and WD escaped, however they left all of their belongings behind. Police discovered a camera and undeveloped rolls of film. The circulated photos from those canisters allowed law enforcement across the lower US to see what the outlaws looked like. The brutality of the shooting in Joplin helped to change the public’s opinion about the gang.

Buck Barrow died as a result of gunshot wounds from a raid at Platte City, Missouri on July 29, 1933.

Blanche Barrow eventually served six years in prison for assault. After her release she remarried and lived quietly for the rest of her life. She died December 24, 1989.

WD Jones, who was only 16 when he joined with Bonnie and Clyde, received a 15 year sentence. He was paroled after six years. WD died August 20, 1974 from gunshot wounds, after an altercation.

And Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree came to an end on May 23, 1934 on a rural road in Louisiana. A posse of Texas rangers and Louisiana officers set up an ambush, firing more than 100 rounds into the car carrying the duo.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout duo
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – photo of the pair found in the camera left behind in Joplin.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Bonnie
One of the most famous photos of Bonnie Parker, found in the camera left in Joplin.

Spending the Night at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

I reserved the apartment through Airbnb. My sisters and I, along with our mother, arrived at 3:00 pm sharp. We checked ourselves in through the access keypad on the door.

The apartment, which is registered as a historic site, contains a living room, full kitchen with a dining area, two bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the bedrooms is set up as a parlor without a bed.

Saundra, the owner and host, offers charming and meticulously clean accommodations with an authentic 1930s feel. The rooms contain photos, newspaper articles and books detailing the lives of the Barrow Gang. And guests can watch the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, on the television hidden in a cabinet in the living room.

Join me on a photo tour of this unique apartment.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout stairs
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – stairs leading up to the apartment. The door to the garage, lower right, is locked.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Ferni
Ferni’s first photo op. Check out our last adventure.

Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Kitchen

I love Airbnbs with kitchens. We toted in groceries for our evening meal, snacks and breakfast the next morning. The kitchen in the Bonnie and Clyde apartment offers a full sized electric range, a small refrigerator with freezer and an assortment of cooking pots, dinnerware and utensils.

A small dining table and two chairs provide a spot for meals.

With its windows and cozy decor, the kitchen became my favorite space in the dwelling. I enjoyed preparing aloo matar for dinner and fruit bowls for breakfast. A black tea kettle inspired me to prepare cups of peppermint tea.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout kitchen
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – love this cheerful, bright kitchen.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout making tea
Making tea. The full sized stove made cooking easy during our stay.
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout dining area
My favorite spot in the apartment.

Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Living Room

The living room, with its original wood floors and wall of windows, provides the perfect place to gather. The four chairs offer ample seating. We enjoyed thumbing through the books about Bonnie and Clyde.

Because Mom and my daughter Elissa joined us for dinner, we used this space for eating as well as lively discussions and watching the Bonnie and Clyde film together later.

Tucked into a corner is a large cupboard where the gang stashed their guns. There’s a bullet hole within it, from the spray of bullets that came through a window.

I also enjoyed looking through the guests books in this room, where visitors record their appreciation for this apartment.

 

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout living room
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – comfy living room
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout book
Copy of Blanche’s book, My Life with Bonnie and Clyde, available to read. We all read the Joplin chapter while there.

The Bathroom

The bathroom off of the short hallway still contains its original bathtub. However the rest of the bathroom is updated for convenience.

I love the black and white theme and the clean, bright space.

Saundra provides soaps and towels for her guests.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout bathroom
Cute and classy black and white bathroom.

Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Bedrooms

The original floor plan of the apartment shows two bedrooms, one at either end of a short hallway.

Although Saundra set up one room as a parlor, it’s easy to determine which bedrooms members of the Barrow Gang utilized.

The front bedroom, overlooking the street, is currently the parlor. Blanche and Buck Barrow slept in this room.

Bonnie and Clyde used the back bedroom. I read that WD Jones actually slept with the couple most of the time although in this apartment it’s possible he also claimed the living room as his space.

For our overnight, my sisters slept in Bonnie and Clyde’s room while I slept on an air mattress that I brought along, in the front bedroom.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Blanche and Buck's room
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout – Blanche and Buck’s room, now a parlor
Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout Bonnie and Clyde's bedroom
Bonnie and Clyde’s bedroom.

Our Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

We loved our overnight in this lovely apartment.

The neighborhood is indeed quiet and the windows in the upstairs apartment let in plenty of sunlight. After settling in, we savored our evening meal and snacks and chatted until early in the morning.

I enjoyed preparing tea for me and one of my sisters. And imagine the surreal experience of watching a movie about these notorious outlaws while actually sitting in the space they lived in for a short time.

With my sensitivity to energy, it was not hard to sense Bonnie, Clyde, Blanche, Buck and WD moving silently about the hideout. And while many romanticized this couple during the height of their crime spree, Bonnie and Clyde lived a life outside of the law. The consequences of their actions and lifestyle resulted in pain and death for innocent people. And yet, I recognize their humanity too and I’m willing to learn from their stories.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout tea time
Tea time during our overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout.

Sleeping Well

When I first arrived at the apartment, I felt some of that residual pain empathically. After all, two men died during the shoot out. Because of that lingering energy, I honestly didn’t know if I could sleep in Blanche and Buck’s room. However, by bedtime I’d made peace with the energy there, which mellowed out during the evening.

We slept well in the Bonnie and Clyde hideout, my sisters and I.

Awaking early, with sunlight streaming in through the windows, I curled up on the chaise lounge in the parlor and read in Blanche’s book. Taken from her diary, the book provides an intimate glimpse into life with the famous outlaws. Gratefully, I’m picking up the book at the Joplin Public Library tomorrow, to finish reading it.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout reading
A lovely spot to start the day.

Visit the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout

I highly recommend this Airbnb! Saundra is a super host, providing a unique experience for her guests. My sisters and I would definitely stay here again.

The apartment is located at 3347 1/2 Oak Ridge Drive, in Joplin, although the building actually faces 34th Street. There is a historic landmark sign in the yard.

If you appreciate unusual buildings, enjoy history or want to experience a space where famous outlaws once resided, book this outstanding Airbnb using this link. New to Airbnb? Save up to $65 off of your first stay with this link!

When you visit, soak in the history and the stories within those walls…and tell the Barrow Gang I said hello.

Overnight at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout sign
Historic landmark sign at the Bonnie and Clyde Hideout.

Purchase the movie and books below from Amazon:

 


 

 

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The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny

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I first toured Edinburgh Castle in 2014, with my cousins Mindy and William. On that dreich day in August, we stood huddled around our tour guide Jonathan as he spoke passionately about Scotland’s Stone of Destiny, housed nearby in a room of the castle.

With his long red hair blowing in the wind and fire in his fierce blue eyes, Jonathan epitomized the proud Scots warrior, ready to defend his beloved country. I shivered as he spoke in his heavy Scottish brogue and it had nothing to do with the cold. He shared how the stone left Scotland for a time…a very long time…and eventually returned home where, he declared vehemently, it will remain.

And he intrigued me with a tale of the infamous theft of the Stone of Destiny.

When my cousins opted to leave the castle complex to attend a whiskey tasting, I chose to stay behind and see this Stone of Destiny that stirred such passion in our guide.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny title meme

The Stone of Destiny Backstory

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone and in England, the Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone. This rather ordinary looking block of stone served for centuries as the coronation stone for the monarchs of Scotland.

The Scone Abbey near Perth, Scotland originally housed the artifact. Historian Walter Hemingford described the stone as “hollowed out as a chair on which future kings were placed for their coronation, according to custom.”

The stone measures 26 inches by 16.7 inches by 10.5 inches. A roughly etched cross decorates one surface while embedded iron rings aid with transport. It weighs 335 pounds.

In 1296 the English king Edward I took the stone as spoils of war and moved it to Westminster Abbey. A special wooden coronation chair became the stone’s resting place. Edward sought to claim status as the “Lord Paramount” of Scotland with the right to oversee its king.

All subsequent English monarchs sat in the chair, above the stone, when crowned. Queen Elizabeth II last used the coronation chair in 1953.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny coronation chair
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – illustration of the Coronation Chair with the Stone

A Daring Rescue Plan

In 1950, more than 650 years after the stone left Scotland, a group of Scottish college students concocted a bold plan…steal the Stone of Destiny and bring it home.

A law student at the University of Glasgow, Ian Hamilton joined with Alan Stuart, Kay Matheson and Gavin Vernon to break into Westminster Abbey and recover the stone.

Ian read everything he could find about the Abbey and scouted out the building several times. On one visit, he deliberately stayed past closing time, hiding near the Coronation Chair. A janitor discovered him and thinking the young man drunk, offered him a coin and let him out a side door.

During these surveillance trips, Ian found the side doors made of pine, making them easy to break into after hours.

On Christmas Eve, 1950, Ian and his companions drove to London in two separate cars. Arriving early on Christmas Day, the group parked near the Abbey. Kay remained in a running car, ready for a quick get away, while the boys stealthily entered the Abbey. That’s when the plan began to fall apart.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny top view
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – top view

Stealing the Stone of Destiny

The heavy stone rested in a chair made specifically for it. The young men found it difficult to remove the stone and ultimately broke part of the chair. Tugging the stone free at last, it fell to the floor, breaking toes on one of the men’s foot. More alarming to them, the stone broke in two.

Ian quickly grabbed the smaller piece and carried it to the car where Kay waited. He stashed the stone segment in the back seat. As he re-entered the Abbey, he heard a police officer approaching. Dashing back to Kay, Ian took her into his arms and kissed her. Questioned by the policeman, the pair claimed to be a couple searching for accommodations for the night.

Once the officer left, Kay drove off with the smaller stone segment hidden beneath a blanket. When Ian returned to the Abbey, he discovered the other men had fled. With great determination and ingenuity, the lad used his coat to laboriously drag the heavier stone segment out of the building.

As he heaved the stone into the trunk of the second car, his comrades returned. They all left together.

The theft discovered, roadblocks sprang up on all streets out of London. Kay did not draw suspicion, as a single girl driving a car. She made it through and crossed the border, taking her part of the stone to her family’s farm in Scotland.

The young men chose to hide the larger segment in England, fearing they could not make it across the closed border. They buried the stone in an empty field in Kent. Eventually they returned for the stone and successfully transported it to Scotland.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny side view
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – side view

Back to England

With the help of the Scottish National Party leader, the courageous college students had the stone repaired by a stone master. The theft made international headlines and brought a united sense of joy to the Scottish people.

As the investigation into the theft of the Destiny Stone came closer and closer to the perpetrators, the four decided that they had accomplished their purpose. By stealing the Stone of Destiny and bringing it home they raised awareness of Scotland’s subordination to England.

The four contacted two Arbroath town councilors and turned over the stone.

On April 11, 1951, the councilors helped the college students set up the stone on an altar in the abandoned Arbroath Abbey and called the authorities. The English got the stone back and returned it to the Coronation Chair. The students disbanded and never met again. Ian completed his studies and became a criminal lawyer.

The way was paved, however, for the stone to return to its rightful place in Scotland. In 1996 the English handed over the Stone of Destiny, on the condition that they may “borrow” it for any future coronations.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny Robert the Bruce
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – statue of Robert the Bruce

Viewing the Stone of Destiny

Twice I’ve viewed the Stone of Destiny in Edinburgh Castle. Both times I felt deeply moved.

The stone rests within a plexiglass case along with the Crown Jewels of Scotland. I can’t touch it yet I feel the hum of sacred energy that flows from it. My Scottish DNA responds, causing my eyes to fill with tears and my heart to beat faster. Photographs are not allowed so I spent several long minutes studying the stone, searing its image into my mind and soul.

What an amazing history this stone possesses. I love the courage and resourcefulness of the four young adults who accomplished what no one else dared. They took back what was rightfully theirs. That feat ultimately resulted in a permanent return of the stone and the Scottish are extremely protective of it now.

As an older adult, Ian said:

“When I lifted the stone in Westminster Abbey, I felt Scotland’s soul was in my hands.”

What a marvelous representation of Scotland’s hardy, warrior soul is the Stone of Destiny. Long may it remain in Edinburgh.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny group photo
Group photo at Edinburgh Castle, September 2017

Want to watch a fun depiction of this true story? Check out the Stone of Destiny film, available through Amazon Prime. Click on photo to rent.

Not a Prime member? Click HERE

 

Or purchase the book by clicking on the photo below.

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.