31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, every day is Halloween. Stop by the 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.
Many churches in Rome use artful images of hellfire and damnation to keep the faithful in line, but only one has a collection of objects scorched by the hands of of trapped Purgatorial souls.
Medieval clerics used stories of the endless torments of Purgatory to keep babies baptised and errant teenagers in confession. Dante envisioned it as a mountain on the flip side of Hell, divided into terraces where the dead worked their way through each of the deadly sins towards the goal of an earthy paradise at its peak.
But to the French priest Victor Jouet it was a very real place, full of trapped souls attempting to communicate with the living. His first encounter with the dead was in the wake of a fire at the church, after which he found an image of a face he believed to be from a trapped soul.
Following that experience, Jouet dedicated his career to collecting evidence of these communications from beyond the grave, usually in the form of burned hand prints. His collection is now contained in the small but haunting Piccolo Museo Del Purgatorio, or “Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory” in Rome.
PACK THE OUIJA BOARD
MUSEO DE PURGATORIO, Rome, Italy