Episode 165: On the LineLore
- 1,481 views
- 1 Mar 2021
Some places seem to straddle the boundary between one world and another. It’s a feature than can often generate charm and beauty, but sometimes it creates darker things, as the history of these historic islands demonstrates so well.
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In the long history of human civilization, few pathways have been as important as the Silk Road. Of course, the Silk Road isn't a single stretch of flat land or even a road in the sense that you or I might imagine. But this network of trade routes change the world by connecting one distant part to another. We're over 2000 years, the Silk Road serves a dual purpose on the surface, it was an economic machine enabling trade between those who traveled it and the settlements along the way.
But it also allowed disparate cultures to connect in a way that was never before possible and no better.
Location represents this connection and the Tarim Basin in western China. Archaeological digs in the Tarim Basin have uncovered now extinct Indo-European written languages and beautifully preserved mummies that don't fit our idea of Chinese culture. They are tall with blonde or red hair, fair skin, long noses and clothing made of tartan fabric that looks an awful lot like patterns from Scotland. Some places are just too unique and nuanced to be one single thing, they blur the lines and break the rules.
They stand with one foot in a world we expect, but the other is planted firmly in the unforseen, whether by chance or design.
These locations have refused to be labeled as purely one thing, and that duality has become their defining characteristic. But there's one place in the world that straddles more than just two cultures, it also manages to walk the line between the past and the present in a powerful way, no matter how tragic or horrifying that past might be. And if you're up for it, I'd like to take you there. Because the places where two worlds collide can also be the most frightening.
I'm Aaron Manque, and this is Laura. It's fair to say that people are really good at ignoring the little things in general, we love big cars, big houses and big ideas, but in the pursuit of the bigger things in life, we miss the nuance. And few places represent that better than the Channel Islands. When we discuss European history, we tend to talk about those big areas, for example, France and England are easy targets for any storyteller with plenty of drama and excitement across the pages of their collective history.
But right between them, the Channel Islands are a forgotten wonderland of folklore and dark history. To overlook them is to miss out on some truly amazing tales. First, let's get some basic geography out of the way. Everyone knows that the northwest of France and the southern edge of England are separated by a stretch of water known as the English Channel. Think of it as the connective tissue that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. So when I say Channel Islands, that's the channel they're connected to.
It's technically an archipelago, a cluster of small islands all positioned close together. There are more than a dozen islands in the collection, but only a handful of them are inhabited. And of those, the most prominent are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Saqr. The history of humans on the Channel Islands looks a lot like that of its neighbors. Archeologists have uncovered evidence of human settlements dating back at least 250000 years. But the past fifteen hundred years or so have been the busiest Celtic Britain settlers were there as early as the fifth century, followed by Christian missionaries a few generations later.
Then in 933, they fell under the control of the Normans. A century after that, William the Conqueror sailed across the channel and became king of England, and for a while all of those lands fell under one crown. A century later, though, that kingdom was broken into pieces. Despite being closer to Normandy than England, the Channel Islands stayed under English rule and have been considered a possession of the crown ever since. Because of this back and forth history, it's probably not surprising to learn that the people who live there are ethnically both British and Norman French in a very real sense.
The people of the Channel Islands live on the blurry line between two distinct worlds. But during World War One, that line became even more fuzzy thanks to the successful invasion by Nazi forces. In fact, most people forget that it even happened, but the invasion of the Channel Islands represented the only known instance of Germans occupying British territory during their five years on the island of Alderney. The Nazis built a number of work and concentration camps, which honestly just blows my mind.
A Nazi concentration camp on British soil and all of those tragic stories, you know, from the continents had little counterparts on the Channel Islands to Jews were rounded up just like they were in other European countries. Rebels were stamped out and citizens were harassed and abused. One local, a woman named June Sinclair, was said to have slapped a Nazi officer who made unwelcome advances toward her, and she was sent to a concentration camp as punishment. She never left the camp alive.
When the war was over, the Nazis left, but their impact was felt for decades, the economy had been destroyed and all over the landscape were physical reminders of the occupation like camps and bunkers. The people of the Channel Islands went from living on the boundary between France and the UK to straddling the line between a painful past and an uncertain future. But few stories illustrate that duality as well as that of the underground hospital. Even on these remote islands, the Nazis seem to be obsessed with building underground structures.
Sometime around 1942, they began construction on a series of tunnels and bunkers that would eventually grow to over 70000 square feet. This concrete network was designed to serve as a shelter, a medical facility and a munitions depot. But creating that came at a steep cost. During construction, it said that roughly 40 people passed away either from the working conditions or accidents on the job. There are also rumors that the Nazis didn't have enough tools to go around. So some of the workers were forced to dig with their bloody hands.
And that mixture of violence, pain and death has left people whispering ever since. They say the tunnels are haunted by those lost souls and visitors to the place have claimed to hear screams and footsteps in the distance, as if the events of the past are still playing out here in the present. Clearly, it's a place that has one foot in another time. But amazingly, the details of the Nazi occupation aren't the most frightening stories to drift around the islands.
In fact, if you know where to look, there are countless tales that offer fresh glimpses of a darker past. Tragedy and death, it seems, have been part of life there for a very long time. It's everything you would expect, considering how many boundary lines are blurred on the Channel Islands, it shouldn't be a surprise that the one separating the natural and the supernatural is also on full display. And the stories that have come out of that duality are absolutely thrilling on the island of Guernsey.
There are still legends of something that sounds and feels very English at its core, very far to the west, out toward the end of a short peninsula is a small cavern. Well, it's not really a cave in reality. It's a Neolithic tomb that's been there for thousands of years. But all that time, plus the power of the elements and the human imagination have transformed that tomb into a home for fairies. And of course, there are stories about it's the most common legend states that if one were to walk toward the back of the tomb, they would find a hole in the back wall, just large enough for a grown adult to climb through and past.
It is a larger, more spacious chamber. Locals still claim that this deeper room contains a table set for dinner with cups and plates and everything else one might need for a feast. It's the fairy banquet hall and it's right there waiting to be explored. The trouble is, no one has had the courage to go in there, which begs the question, how does anyone know if the stories are true? Another story whispered on Guernsey is that of a monstrous black dog again, that's the sort of legend that would fit in right at home to the north in England, showing how portable folklore can be when cultures move from place to place.
But the black dog stories on Guernsey Island have their own distinct flavour. Some have explained the black dog stories by claiming that ancient human sacrifices and the ritual burials that went with them left spirits to roam the land. And the spirits come out at night, often in the form of black dogs, to wander and hunt. And none of these are as frightening as the stories of labetalol tour. The Beast of the Tower. It's a story local to the capital of Guernsey, the city of St.
Peter Port, long ago, the city was like many of its day, surrounded by a fortified wall. And at intervals along that wall, tall towers were built useful for keeping an eye out for trouble long before it arrived. And one of them, built right above a hill where heretics and witches were executed long ago, was the Beauregarde Tower. For centuries, locals who lived in the shadow of that tower claimed to hear terrifying sounds at night, chains being dragged across, cobbled streets, cries of pain and, of course, the unearthly sounds of a monster.
Those who found the courage to look out their window for the source of the growls always reported the same thing. An enormous black dog as big as a bear with eyes that glowed red in the darkness. And if the local legends are true, we know who that beast really was. It's a story that starts way back in the late 13th century when a rich man named Galtieri De La Salle used his power and wealth to frame one of his neighbors for a crime the man didn't commit.
It seems that the two men shared a fresh water well, although it was located on Lasalle's property. The neighbor, however, had a legal right through some old agreement with a previous owner to walk onto Lasalle's land and fetch water whenever he needed to. And being a greedy and controlling man, Lassalle hated this. Of course, he tried to offer the neighbor money to end the agreement. He tried refusing him entry, but over the years, nothing worked.
So to solve this problem, Lascelles plotted something darker. And no, he didn't begin to plot the man's murder, but he did set the wheels in motion for the authorities to do it for him. Lizelle took two of his nicest silver drinking cups and hid them deep inside one of the bundles of cornstalks in his field, then certain that a search of his home would never locate the cups, he called on the authorities to report a theft that never actually happened.
And who was the thief? They asked his neighbor, of course. The neighbor was quickly arrested, tried before a jury that was favorable to the wealthy and powerful LaSalle, and then sentenced to death steep. I know, but it was a common punishment at the time for crimes like that. And soon enough, the community was preparing for his execution. That morning, LaSalle left home to travel to St. Peter Port to watch the hanging of his neighbor, he planned to celebrate his victory in only the way a twisted, greedy man really could.
But as he was leaving, he made sure that his servants had their instructions for the day, including bringing in the corn harvest for the winter. A short while later, LaSalle found himself seated in the courtroom, ready to follow the magistrates and prisoner out to the gallows that had been prepared for him. But before the procession could begin, one of Lascelles servants burst through the door, holding two silver cups high above his head. They are found, he shouted.
The cups are found. And in that moment, the magistrates realized the mistake. They had made a quick investigation confirm their suspicions, and the school found himself taking his neighbor's place at the gallows. After his death, the Crown claimed Lasalle's land, and ever since it's been known as Velu Ruah, the village of the King and in the fields that were once farmed by his servants, it was said that a large black dog began to appear terrorizing anyone who encountered it.
Many of those early reports actually describe the beast as headless, which might sound frightening, I know, but I can't help wonder how that made it more dangerous without a mouth the bite. But that's the beauty of folklore, isn't it? There's character and texture and more than a bit of mystery. And sometimes, as is the case with one location on Guernsey, that mystery hides a deadly crime. It was the screams that kept them away. Yes, on the surface, the small little beach known as Petti Port was a beautiful little patch of sand and gentle waves on the southeastern tip of Guernsey.
But in the early 1400's, locals avoided it because of the screams they claimed they could hear down there. They could only be heard at night and naturally, that sort of mystery deserves an explanation. Thankfully, the pages of Guernseys history books provide two possibilities. And the first involved, a man named Richard Damico. Richard had fled the French Revolution, something his wealth and social position allowed him to do to get away. He sailed to Guernsey and purchased a large house there, not too far from the beach in question.
And it honestly could have been the view that drew him there. Petty port is only reachable by descending hundreds of steps from the cliffs above, and the view from up there is breathtaking. It said that Richard loved taking long walks along those cliffs, gazing out at the ocean and his former homeland beyond. One evening, though, as he began one of his long walks, a group of men noticed him and began to follow. They were three brothers from a large family and no one in the area as troublemakers.
It didn't help that Richard lived and dressed in a way that screamed wealth and privilege, making him an easy target to spot.
It said that the brothers managed to get ahead of Richard hiding in a spot along the path that was thick with bushes and trees, and as the wealthy newcomer passed through, they attacked and killed him, stealing his jewelry and a gold pocket watch and then burying the body beneath a pile of stones. Of course, friends were worried when Richard failed to return home, one colleague, a doctor who had stayed behind in Paris but corresponded with Richard by letter, frequently became so concerned that he started his own investigation.
But no clue ever turned up. Years later, though, while walking through the streets of Paris, that doctor claim that he spotted a gold pocket watch hanging in a jewelry shop. After stepping inside, he inquired about where it had come from. The shop owner was happy to inform the good doctor that the watch had been sold to him by some men from Guernsey brothers. In fact, the mystery ended with the doctor taking his own trip to the island, contacting the authorities and helping with the arrest of all three of the murderous brothers.
Soon after, they confessed and the location of Richard's body was discovered, allowing for a proper burial in a nearby churchyard. And that story, some say, was the reason behind the nightly screams down near the beach, but others disagree to them, the answer to the mystery of the screams and groans can only be explained by a story of love and betrayal and yet another piece of jewelry.
A century before the brothers were killing Richard, there was another wealthy family in the area, the Huges lived in the parish of St. Martin, where they ran and estates and raised their children, including Rachel. Now, Rachel had recently become engaged to a young man named John Gaudier who lived on the nearby island of Jersey. It was assumed that once married, the couple would live together near her parents. But until then, he made frequent trips to Guernsey to see her always coming ashore at the beach of Petit Port.
The trouble was the Maja's business clerk, a young man named Gary, had fallen in love with Rachel. He had made constant proposals to her. But Rachel and her family politely told him no. She was engaged to another, of course, and he needed to stop. Beaugard refused, and because of that, the family terminated his employment. One day, not long after Rachel's fiance, John, sailed to Guernsey for one of his visits and she left the house to go meet him after waiting in their usual meeting place for far too long.
Rachel went home disappointed. John had never failed to show up before, and it left her feeling worried.
The following morning, Rachel's family led a search of the area, including the beach, to look for signs of John's arrival. Hours into their hunt, a group of children who had joined the effort shouted for help, and everyone converged on the small seaside cave they were near. Inside lay the cold, dead body of John. Rachel, upon hearing the news, fainted where she stood. In the days that followed, her family began to talk about the future, John had been a wonderful man, but with his death came the question of who Rachel should marry.
And although he had been pushed away before, the former clerk seemed like a good backup option. Now he came from a wealthy family. He understood their business and adored Rachel, so she gave Gaylard a chance. As time went on, the young clerk did his best to win Rachel's hearts. He even gave her an oddly shaped necklace, a lovely gift and one that she took to wearing it once things were looking up for the unlikely couple. But then John's mother came to visit.
She had lost her son to tragedy, so maybe visiting Rachel in her family was a way of easing that pain, or maybe she came looking for clues to his murder, whatever it was that brought her to Guernsey that day, she fell into conversation with Rachel and that's when she noticed the necklace. Where did you get that? John's mother demanded from Gaylard. Rachel replied, No. The mother said that was made by a jeweler near me, hired by my son as his gift to you.
At these words, the legend says that Rachel fainted yet again.
Only this time she never woke up, whether frightened to death by the implications or crushed beneath the weight of her own broken heart. The revelation that the necklace had come from John pushed her too far, and she died as a result. Naturally, Rachel's family was furious. They had already lost a future son in law, another daughter was gone as well. After hearing the story from John's mother about how her death had happened to Rachel's parents were shocked to learn about the necklace.
So they confronted Gaylard. The young Kirk denied the claims. Of course, he had purchased the necklace himself as a gift for Rachel, and the accusations were insulting at best. John's mother refused to be swayed, taking the necklace from Rachel's parents. She held it up for Gaylard and the others to see. Turning it over. She pointed out an odd piece of decoration on the back of the necklace, which moved when she pressed it instantly, a hidden door popped open.
The necklace, it seems, with something more. It was a locket. And inside was all the proof the family needed to know the truth. A portrait. A portrait. Of her dead son, John. There's something attractive about places that sit between two worlds, the tourism of Europe stands as proof of that, whether through guided tours, backpacking trips or those fancy river cruises, millions visit Europe each year just to experience a bit of the old world tucked in with the new and a lot of ways.
The Channel Islands really do exist in two worlds right there in the tension between the past and the present, between painful tragedy and bucolic hope, between the natural and the supernatural.
Real life is taking place and it always seems to be colorful. Take a recent story from August of 1990. That was when an unemployed French nuclear physicist named Andre Gaylard arrived on one of the smaller islands, Saqr, with an odd mission. He was there to declare himself Lord. Now, Saqr is tiny compared to its neighbors, Guernsey and Jersey, in the 1990s that were barely more than 600 people living there, Bogard believe that he was the rightful heir to the island.
So he set sail and began his own one man invasion.
He carried weapons, of course, a semi-automatic among them, but he went about it in what can only be described as an unusually polite manner. He tacked up some posters in town declaring his purpose, and then he marched back and forth in front of the manor house where the real Lord of Saqr, known as the Senor, lived. But apparently all that work tired Mr. Gaylard out. So after just a couple of hours, he took a seat on a nearby bench.
And that's where one of the few constables who worked on the island found him. And the two men struck up a conversation after complimenting guards semi-automatic rifle. The invader handed it to the constable so he could get a better look at it. A moment later that Constable had tackled the man and the invasion that never really happened was over without bloodshed. Oh, and the weapon Gaylard plan to use in his invasion, it seems that the authorities of Saqr viewed it as an interesting part of their history.
So they put it where they believed an object of cultural significance truly belonged. They put it in their museum. There's more to the Channel Islands than tales of monsters and murder. In fact, a lot of its character comes from elements that are a lot more ancient and because of that much more fascinating. And there's no better way to explore that than through a story I've dug up to share with you. Stick around after this brief sponsor break to hear all about it.
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Sometimes the stuff that inspires the most story are those things around us that leave us scratching our heads and on the island of Guernsey, there's nothing more mysterious and unexplainable than all the stone monuments scattered around. Remember, human settlements on the Channel Islands, especially the big ones like Guernsey, date back thousands of years. And while most of what they built is gone, thanks to the elements and time, the more durable pieces are still visible, such as the Neolithic tomb that's rumored to be a fairy banquet hall that I mentioned a while ago.
But there are more stone relics to be seen, and boy, do they have some stories attached to them. They're technically called chromatics stones of various sizes that have been stood upright, but there's not much that we know about them today. They might have marked important graves or served as altars. They might have even been used as astronomical tools. We just don't know. So, of course, a lot of legend has flooded in to fill the gaps because that's what people are good at doing.
For example, a common warning from Guernsey locals in years past has been to avoid standing stones if possible, because if you were near one and saw goblins dancing around it, it was imperative that you turn and run away. Otherwise the goblins would catch you and force you to join them dancing until you died from exhaustion. Back in the mid eighteen hundreds, one stone was discovered in a field by some farmers with an inscription on it. According to the story, the people were able to translate the ancient characters and learned that it bore a message to him who turns me up?
I say his labor won't be thrown away. It sounded to them like an invitation to dig beneath the stone, possibly in search of buried treasure. So some of the men got to work. They struggled for hours and hours to move it, but eventually managed to flip the stone over. When they did, they discovered a second inscription on its underside, tired of lying on one side to get turned over. I've long tried. I think it's fair to say that the men were pretty upset.
Clearly, they had been duped by a long dead farmer with a flair for practical jokes. But there's one last story about the stones of Guernsey that won't leave us laughing. In fact, if it's true, I think it gives us more than enough to be afraid of. And it all begins in the parish of Vale on the northeastern corner of the island. They called it Larocque Kishon, a rock that sings that was because of the sound the stone would make when struck with a hammer ringing out like a church bell.
It had been part of life there near Vail Castle for as long as anyone could remember. It clearly predated European settlers on the island. But just how old it was, no one really knew. By the mid eighteen hundreds, though, the rock that sings was on private land. In fact, that stood in the middle of a field recently purchased by a man named joka and joka shocked everyone else in the community when he announced his plans to build a new home on that land and break the stone into pieces that could be incorporated into the structure.
Naturally, locals begged him not to do it. But there's always that one person in the crowd who can't seem to see the value in something that is so obviously valuable and joka was that sort of man, even when some predicted misfortune, joka simply shrugged and carried on with his plans. And soon enough the deed was done. The rock that sings was no more. One of the pieces of a stone was used as the lintel of his new house.
That small piece of frame of the top of a door opening. Other pieces were incorporated elsewhere and eventually the house was finished. But on the day that all of its belongings were being moved in, a fire broke out and spread far too quickly to stop. Within a few short hours, his entire home was in ashes and a number of his servants were dead. Maybe, joka recognize the misfortune and wondered if his neighbors had been right. What if breaking up the ancient stone monument wasn't the best idea and now those pieces carried a curse?
A smoldering remains of his home certainly begged for an explanation. And since no natural cause could be determined, it's easy to see how he might have wondered whether or not Haukaas was a superstitious man. We do know that he was a bit hard up for cash thanks to that fire. So he took some of the remaining pieces of stone and put them on two separate ships bound for England. His hope was that he could sell them there and earn back a bit of money that he'd lost.
But his hopes were pointless on the short voyage to England, both of the ships mysteriously sank, taking the stones with them to the bottom of the channel. And according to the story, that's when HULKA simply gave up his dream of life on Guernsey. He packed up what little he had left and sailed the short distance to another of the Channel Islands, the tiny island of Alderney. Now, I don't know how long he spent there, but it's said that he tried building a new home for himself, only to have that one burned down as well.
And while I can't be certain, I think this new tragedy was the final straw for him. A sailed south once more south to Guernsey. Now, here's my assumption, so take it with a grain of salt, joka had no reason to return to Guernsey, maybe he's still owned the land there and wanted to either sell it or find a new use for it. Or maybe he finally realized what sort of curse he had brought upon himself by cutting up the rock that sings.
Maybe he thought that he could track down the remaining pieces of the stone like some sort of Indiana Jones film and put them back where they belonged. What is certain is that he boarded a ship bound for Guernsey. He lost two homes to mysterious fire. He'd lost two valuable pieces of stone that could have put a bit of coin back into his pocket. And he'd lost the respect of his neighbors and his sense of safety. So he can't have been a happy man as that ship crossed the cold waters of the channel that day.
Soon enough, though, the northern shore of Guernsey was in view on the horizon. But before his hopes could soar, before he could sigh with relief and plan his next chapter, a stiff wind pushed hard across the ship and as it did, it knocked the piece of rigging loose from one of the sails above. That rigging could have landed anywhere, but I think we all know where it did, it crashed into the top of Hooker's head, breaking his skull and killing him instantly.
Was it the curse of the rock that sings or a wild coincidence after so many other random tragedies? While it's impossible to know for sure. I think we can all agree on the larger truth. History is worth holding onto even when its value isn't always clear, because the road ahead of all of us is doomed without one foot in the past.
This episode of law was written and produced by me, Aaron Manque, with research by Marsat Crockett and music by Chad Lawson, law is much more than just a podcast, though. There's a book series available in bookstores and online and two seasons of the television show on Amazon Prime video. Check them both out if you want more law in your life. I also make an executive produce a whole bunch of other podcasts, all of which I think you'd enjoy.
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And as always, thanks for listening.