Ah October: shorter days, longer nights, and an endless parade of “spooky” ghost stories accompanied by photos of the local cemetery with the fog machine turned up. We call bullshit.
We think we can do a hell of a lot better with the real horrors of the world, so we’ve decided that on Atlas Obscura this month, everyday is Halloween.
Stop by this blog every day this month for true tales of the unquiet dead. Come for the severed heads, stay for the book bound in human skin. Every story is true, and each one is a real place you can visit. We dare you. Day 1: To get you started here is a set of photos from one of our favorite ossuaries in the world: The Hallstatt Ossuary in Hallstatt, Austria. (Photo Source Above, Photo Source Below)
The town of Hallstatt looks like the kind of Austrian town that the Sound of Music might have been set in. On a beautiful forested mountain, next to a perfectly blue lake, filled with charming 19th century houses, the town is a perfect vision of cheer. Except of course, for the room filled with skulls. (Photo Source)
In the 1700s, the Church began digging up corpses to make way for the newly dead. The bodies which had been buried for only 10 to 15 years were then stacked inside the charnel house. Once the skeletons were exhumed and properly bleached in the sun, the family members would stack the bones next to their nearest kin. (Photo Source)
In 1720 a tradition began of painting the skulls with symbolic decorations as well as dates of birth and death so that the dead would be remembered, even if they no longer had a grave. Of the 1200 skulls, some 610 of them were lovingly painted, with an assortment of symbols, laurels for valor, roses for love, and so on. The ones from the 1700s are painted with thick dark garlands, while the newer ones, from the 1800s on, bear brighter floral styles. (Photo Source.)
Though this practice has been dying out since the 1960s, there is a much more recent skull in the Beinhaus. Beside the cross with a gold tooth is the skull of a woman who died in 1983. Her last request was to be put in the Beinhaus. Her skull was entered into the ossuary in 1995, the very last bone to be placed in the Beinhaus.
Read more on the Atlas Entry and see you tomorrow for day two of our 31 Days of Halloween!