Malahide Castle, just outside Dublin, is one of Ireland’s most haunted.

Malahide Castle, just outside Dublin, is one of Ireland’s most haunted.

One of the supposedly spookiest castles in the entire world is Malahide Castle. The castle, which is in County Dublin, Ireland, is well-known for its many ghosts and apparitions. But it’s also a very appreciated leisure spot where locals and tourists go to experience some of the fascinating Irish history, nature, music, and sports. In this article, we will investigate if there could possibly exist any real paranormal phenomena among all the happy holiday- and Sunday visitors.

A brief background to Malahide Castle

It’s situated just 14 kilometers north of Dublin, Ireland, in the small coastal town of Malahide. With a history that dates back to the 12th century, it is one of the oldest castles in Ireland.

Sir Richard Talbot, a formidable Norman knight who was given the land by King Henry II of England, first constructed the castle in the 12th century. The Talbot family lived there for more than 800 years, constructing additions and improvements throughout the centuries.

malahide castle

The castle has witnessed a great number of battles and sieges. It played a significant role in the political and military affairs of the time and was at the epicenter of the power struggles between the Irish and English during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Despite suffering significant damage during the Irish uprising of 1641, the castle was rebuilt in the 18th century by the Talbot family, who focused on the structure’s aesthetics and added a number of elaborate features, including the magnificent Gothic Revival Great Hall.

The last Talbot owner sold it to the Irish state in 1975. More about that later on.

Why is it called Malahide?

Malahide, which in Irish means “Hill of the Hydes,” is a place name. Prior to the Talbots, there was a family called the Hydes who were renowned for their generosity and hospitality.

The Family Talbot

One of the most powerful families in Ireland, the Talbots had a presence outside the boundaries of the castle. They were well known for their wealth, influence in politics, and support of the arts.

Malahide Castle Talbot Family
Richard Wogan Talbot II

When the Talbot family first settled in Malahide in the 12th century, they gradually added to and upgraded the castle, transforming it into the imposing building it is today. The Talbot family lived in the castle for more than 800 years, and many of Malahide Castle’s most well-known ghosts are said to have appeared during this time.

Being a prominent family, the Talbots frequently found themselves at the center of political scheming and conflict. A number of the family members participated in uprisings against British rule during the 17th century, and the castle was frequently besieged as a result.

Despite these difficulties, the Talbots were able to hold onto their sway for many years. They had their own currency at one point because they were so strong. Rose Talbot, the sister of Milo, the 7th Baron of Talbot, was the castle’s most recent owner. He passed away in 1973, leaving Rose the castle, who was forced to give it up to the Irish government because of inheritance taxes.

The Talbot family’s influence is imminent inside the premises. The numerous rooms and hallways host decorations and furniture from the 15th century all the way up until the 1950s. It is an impressive residence… And it supposedly has a pretty impressive collection of ghosts as well.

The Haunted Castle of Malahide

A number of ghosts, each with their own legend and story, reside at Malahide Castle. Here are six of the most well-known specters rumored to haunt the castle:

  1. The ghost of Maud Plunkett: One of Malahide Castle’s most well-known ghosts is that of Maud Plunkett. Her ghost is thought to serve as a tragic reminder of her murder and is said to wander the castle wearing a white dress. The story goes that Sir Walter Hussey, Maud’s husband, killed her because he was envious of her wealth. Many visitors to the castle claim to experience a chill when they are close to the spot where Maud’s alleged murder took place.
  2. The ghost of Lord Galtrim, who is infamous for his violent tendencies and elaborate attire. He was said to have been a notorious drinker, and gambler, and to have treated his servants with great cruelty. He is sometimes spotted by guests walking through the halls, and some even claim to feel a chill in the air when he is nearby.
Malahide Castle Ghosts
  1. The ghost of the Lord Chief Justice: It is said that the Lord Chief Justice’s ghost can be heard screaming in agony throughout the entire castle. His execution, according to legend, was due to his participation in a scheme to overthrow the government. Visitors mention hearing his screams and experiencing uneasiness when they are close to the spot where he was put to death.
  2. Miles Corbett’s ghost is another well-known ghost that resides in Malahide Castle. He supposedly supported Oliver Cromwell and was executed for his participation in the English Civil War. Sometimes, people claim to see his ghost wandering the corridors wearing a white shirt.
  3. The ghost of the White Lady: She frequently appears floating through the castle while wearing a white dress. She was a young woman who, according to legend, was made to marry against her will. She passed away soon after her wedding, and it is said that her ghost serves as a reminder of her tragic end. Many times, visitors to the castle claim to see her ghost and get a chill when she is nearby.

… The most well-known ghost, however, goes by the name of Puck.

According to the legend, Puck was in charge of guarding the castle and warning his masters if the enemy was nearby. Puck neglected his responsibilities one crucial evening and failed to warn the Talbots of an impending attack. Many people died as a result of the enemy invasion of the castle. Puck is said to have hanged himself in the castle after feeling overwhelmed by guilt and shame over his failure.

Malahide Castle the library

But sometimes the stories don’t line up. Others assert that he worked for the Talbot family as a jester. He committed suicide because of a broken heart after the family no longer required his services. The area where he once performed is frequently where visitors to the castle report feeling uneasy.

Others claimed to have heard his laughter and noticed odd movements out of the corner of their eyes before turning to discover nobody was there. Additionally, he detests changes to the castle, especially those that are unfavorable. There were reportedly many incidents when Rose Talbot turned over the castle in 1975. That clearly didn’t sit well with Puck.

Puck is regarded as a friendly ghost despite his reputation for mischief. In an effort to curry his favor and keep away from his pranks, visitors to the castle frequently leave offerings of coins, treats, and other little trinkets in his honor.

His name is pùca, which is an Irish word that simply means “ghost.”

So, are the ghost stories true in any way?

Let’s examine what we have:

There hasn’t been a thorough and well-documented paranormal investigation of the site, as far as I can tell. That might be a result of the Castle’s managers’ reluctance to approve such endeavors. The castle has developed into a significant tourist destination with a variety of attractions. The Talbot Botanic Gardens, which has a Victorian conservatory, a cricket field, two golf courses, tennis courts, and a boules area, is part of the estate. Additionally, there is a visitor center, a cafè, and a large children’s playground.

As if that weren’t enough, Shannon Heritage, the site’s current operating partner, has been opening up for concerts since 2007. This covers appearances by artists like Liam Gallagher, The Cure, Nile Rodgers, and Depeche Mode, among others.

The ghost tours are a part of the deal because the castle is managed and marketed as a full-service attraction. It still doesn’t focus on paranormal phenomena as much as many other places of a similar nature. However, that is not a drawback. It could provide us with more precise information about any eerie activities taking place.

Even so, simply put, no concrete evidence other than witness testimony has surfaced. The only thing we have are stories of feelings, a sense of chill, and uneasiness. No registrations, video footage, photo, or even a scraping EVP.

What the experts say.

However, the Castle is stunning and it has a fascinating past. You should definitely visit it if are in the neighborhood, and you don’t mind the complete lack of paranormal activity.

Malahide Castle, Dublin view from the park

Practical Information

The best way to get the most recent information about visiting hours is to always check Malahide Castle’s official website. It is situated nine miles north of Dublin’s downtown in the lovely coastal town of Malahide.

  • Address: Malahide Castle in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland.
  • Telephone +353 1 8169538
  • e-mail to

Use these contact options if you have any inquiries or wish to make a reservation for a guided tour. The ghost tours provide an exciting look into the castle’s past although you are not likely to be able to witness any real paranormal phenomena. They are available all year long, but it is advised to make reservations in advance.

In-depth information about the history of the castle, and the Talbot family, is also available in the form of self-guided audio tours. The audio tours can be purchased on-site and come in a variety of languages.

The estate also has two distinct gardens, a children’s playground, and the only butterfly house in Ireland.

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There really isn’t much to go on. Stories and feelings. I can’t consider it reasonable to give the beautiful Malahide Castle more the one star… And that’s just because I don’t give zero stars.



Beelitz Heilstätten

Beelitz Heilstätten’s haunted history.

Just a short ride to the southwest of Berlin is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Germany. Beelitz Heilstätten, an abandoned Sanatorium from the beginning of 1900 has become a paranormal hotspot. Although the many buildings in red and yellow bricks and seemingly endless rows of trees, hedges, and roads give it an eery feeling, it’s not haunted. It’s still a striking scenery with a fascinating history.

How to get to Beelitz Heilstätten.

Some 30 miles southwest of Berlin, Germany, lies a small town called Beelitz, sometimes called “home of the white asparagus” because of its abundance of the delicious vegetable. Other than that, there isn’t very much to say about this place. A much more interesting destination is just a few miles drive to the northwest. 

Follow the Strasse nach Fichtenwalde and after a minute or two, a huge complex of reddish and yellowish Art Nouveau buildings between old dark green beeches and alders will fill the windscreen. 500 acres of spooky trees dotted by 60 dark and desolate edifices. 

This is the Beelitz Heilstätten Pulmonary Sanatorium… Supposedly one of the most haunted spots in Germany. 

Beelitz Heilstätten Sanatorium – A short background.

The hospital was built in three faces, 1898 – 1902, 1908 – 1910, and 1926 –1930. These were wartimes in Europe as well as a period of big changes in the German political, and economic framework. During the first world war, some of the structures were used as a war hospital. 

  • Adolf Hitler was treated here from October 9 to December 4, 1916, for a shrapnel wound after the battle of Somme. 

… And of course, the same use was applied during WW2.

Beelitz Heilstätten
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

After the war, the occupying Sovjet Red Army continued to use Beelitz Heilstätten as a military hospital all the way until 1994, five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

  • In late 1990 the General Secretary of the Communist Party of East Germany, Erich Honecker was treated here for Liver Cancer before he was abruptly flown to Moscow in 1991.
  • There are also rumors that the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, was a patient in the late 1980s. That fact can not be confirmed.

A few buildings were refurbished and now have clinical use. For example, there’s a recognized Parkinson’s Specialist clinic as well as a few other specialist wards.

From 2001 to 2015 many of the buildings were left to decay and vandalism due to a lack of funds. 

Since 2015 the parks and the buildings have had separate owners, and plans for the whole area include health and welfare activity as well as residential areas. For now, the future of Beelitz Heilstätten isn’t 100% confirmed, but work is ongoing to restore and secure the premises. 

Beelitz Heilstätten

Many of the scariest and ghostliest photos you see online are from the abandoned years when anyone could just step in and walk around inside the crumbling buildings. That is not possible anymore.  

So what

 about the hauntings?

Well… There are numerous stories, legends, anecdotes, and video footage of strange sounds, voices, touchings, and opening and closing doors, windows, and hatches. All the normal stuff, as you will see. 

More precisely the following have been witnessed:

  • Apparitions of former patients who have been seen roaming the corridors. 
  • Visitors have claimed to have been approached by shadowy figures. Shadows have been seen sliding along the walls, as well as other light anomalies.
  • Voices, phantom footsteps, screams, and other unexplained sounds have been heard and sometimes registered
  • Some spots are much colder (or hotter) than the surrounding areas.
  • Shapes moving quickly past empty windows. 
  • Feelings of being watched, being followed, not being alone. Some subjects can confirm feelings of strong hostility in certain locations.

These affirmations mostly come from websites, podcasts, and in a particular mode, youtube videos. A reasonably serious paranormal investigation (… and I would even accept any of the bigger Ghosthunting Tv series) has never been done. The best we have are videos like this:

Can you draw a conclusion already at this stage?

Yes, I think you can, but let’s look at some documented real creepy activity from the last decades.

Crimes and incidents in the neighborhood.

  • Between 1989 and 1991 a serial killer, known as the Beast of Beelitz or the Pink Giant, stalked Beelitz. Former police officer Wolfgang Schmidt murdered six people and tried to kill three more in and around the small town. Two victims were the wife of a Russian doctor and their newborn child. They were assassinated in the neighborhood of Beelitz Heilstätten, and the circumstances of the killings were gruesome. 
  • In 2008 an amateur photographer killed his model inside the premises. He used to do erotic photo sessions within the ghostly environment. The murder was inspired by the 1991 murder. 
  • In 2010 a young man fell from a window on the fourth floor. He died from his injuries.
  • Also in 2010, a man fell four meters into a hole, while unlawfully spending the night together with three friends inside the hospital. He survived.
  • In 2011 a homeless person who had lived for many years on the site hung himself in one of the buildings.
Beelitz Heilstätten 1904
Beelitz Heilstätten 2022

And the verdict is… 

We have only anecdotal evidence, nothing else. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t have to mean that we don’t have any evidence at all. What people say, and what can be derived from statements can be very informative. We use testimonies in court all the time. Still, small talk and chit-chat should be treated with suspicion. So, to debunk the stories we have quite a few arguments on the skeptical side:

  • The fact that there is no hard evidence at all is damaging to the proposal of paranormal activity. Not even a half-credible footage or mumbling EVP-audio of some sort. 

Now, if we try to come up with motives for faking the videos or inventing the stories, there are mountains of those. 

  • Ghosts underneath the SanatoryThe environment is perfect as a background for ghost stories. It’s vast, 200 acres with 60 different buildings to explore.
  • The premises were unguarded and open to anybody for 15 years. No barbed wire, no CCTV, no guards, and most importantly, no guard dogs. You could practically just bring a cell phone and make your own Ghost video in a few hours. 
  • The historical background is almost as perfect as it could possibly be. The German and Soviet armies, Erich Honecker, and even Adolf Hitler himself are in the logbook. That’s impressive. 
  • The medical/hospital environment creates a special atmosphere. There’s nothing as intriguing as a sign with a psychological ward on it, or old rusty hospital equipment.
  • Some hauntings include ghosts and phantoms from the deceased by the terrible experiments conducted on Romani and Sinti prisoners, political adversaries to the NSDAP, disabled, POWs but with greater determination on Jews by the Nazis. These experiments were carried out in Concentration Camps such as Auschwitz and Mauthausen. In Beelitz Heilstätten there were never any prisoners and during both world wars, the whole structure was a military hospital. The stories about human experiments and euthanasia are simply false.  
  • It is situated no more than a 45 minutes train ride from Berlin, the biggest city in the whole European Union (after the UK left). 

More facts…

Monument over Russian soldiers of WW2
Monument of fallen Russian soldiers.

During the abandoned years, vandalism and theft were huge problems. Every day the inhabitants of the small community had to cope with hoards of roaming youths, disturbing the tranquil little neighborhood. Other than just partying and exploring, metal scraps were also stolen from every part of the hospital. Even roof piles in copper and zink were taken down to be sold. 

In that context, locals tried to defend what they looked upon as their inheritance. In doing so they created ghosts, they manufactured them themselves to try to scare away the intruders. There are stories about people hiding inside the buildings, moving objects and whispering words from ventilation shafts, etc. Some of these stories can be confirmed, but even if they’re not, they still provide a good explanation for how ghostly activity possibly could be explained.

Almost all documentation of paranormal activity is from the period 2001 – 2015.

The Movie… Yes, Beelitz Heilstätten has its own Movie too. 

It is simply called Heilstätten. 

The German production from 2018 was directed by Michael David Pate and starred Nilam Farooq, Emilio Sakraya, Timmi Trinks, Sonja Gerhardt, and Tim Oliver Schultz.

The story tells of four friends and Youtubers who engage in a 24-hour challenge to stay within the haunted hospital in hope of making a truly viral video. They all start out much like many of the Youtube videos you can find if you search for Beelitz Heilstätten… Young and slightly overconfident entrepreneurs in search of a good story. But after some cool initial footage of the four participants, the friendly enterprise very soon turns into a much more sinister and dangerous affair, although not actually including any paranormal entities.

… Oops, was that a plot spoiler? 

If you like scary movies of the handheld flickering camera type, this one could be a winner. 

A particular fact is that the new owners of Beelitz Heilstätten didn’t authorize the film team to shoot inside the premises. The movie contains some footage from the outside of the hospital but all inside footage is actually from Grabowsee Sanatorium about 40 miles to the north.


It seems the Beelitz Sanatorium has become a paranormal hotspot mostly because it was abandoned for 15 years. That made it a perfect spot to shoot videos and invent legends. The obvious accessibility of the premises turned it into a cheap and easy target for Youtube wannabes

No. there are no ghosts at Beelitz Heilstätten. Not even a small, friendly one.

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Is the word Eskimo inappropriate to use? Should I say Inuit? Eskimo vs Inuit, what’s the correct term to use?

Is the word Eskimo inappropriate to use? Should I say Inuit?
Eskimo vs Inuit, what’s the correct term to use?

The word, Eskimo is fading from use. Most Natives of the Arctic regions from Greenland to Chukotka (Russia) prefer the term Inuit as a collective nominative. More correctly two distinctive groups could be the Yupik in northeast Russia, and western Alaska, and the Inuit in northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Even better is to use the correct local name of the different native groups… Kalaallit, Inupiat, Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Sugpiaq, Unangax̂, Aleut, etc.

Are they even one people?

Yes, they are.

eskimo vs inuit

About 9000 years BC, the Bering Strait opened up and closed the land connection between Siberia and America. For a period of 20.000 years before that, people could migrate from Asia to Alaska dry-shod. The whole American continent was first populated over the Bering land bridge.

In the beginning, the Laurentide Ice Sheet blocked the way south, so the new immigrants had to stay more or less in Alaska. But as the Ice melted new lands opened up for exploration. Many went south, but some went east. We don’t know much about these early settlers but what we do know is that about 4500 years ago, Paleo-Inuit were present in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

Then, around 1000 AD, a new group expanded eastward through Canada. These were the Thule people who had been living around the Bering strait for a very long time. But for some reason, in just a few hundred years, they spread all the way to Greenland, and subsequently pushed other groups back. 

The Thule were able to process iron, and that could have been a reason for their fast expansion. By the 14th century, they were present in all of today’s Inuit areas. These Thule are the Inuit’s ancestors.

That’s why they are tied together.

So, the Inuit spread across the Arctic less than a thousand years ago. Since then the different groups have developed somewhat different traditions and languages. The Yupik language is spoken mostly around the original location of the Thule: western Alaska and Siberia. 

Someone could look at the normal map (Google map) and note a long distance between Alaska and Greenland. But using a different angle, it becomes obvious that the polar region actually is rather limited. And apart from the extreme environment spot on the North pole, the regions around it, together with the sea ice, could be seen as one single continent… And a reasonably small continent. The Inuit population has conquered and today, inhabit this part of the globe. It’s their land. 

The stupid borders…

Unfortunately, their land is divided into various nations, even different continents. There are other peoples all over the world facing exactly the same issue. The national borders, sometimes drawn with a pen on a map without any knowledge about the realities of the territory, divide and separate populations, groups, and even families. 

The white man has a dubious reputation in some parts of our planet. He brings diseases, he brings guns and warfare, he brings alcohol and he has a peculiar idea about land… He likes to put fences and flags into the ground and then this part is this, and that part is that. 

The Europeans, without understanding the ethnic and territorial facts, have treated the Inuit like second-class citizens for centuries, in the US, Canada, Russia (The Soviet Union), and Denmark. In recent years many of the Indigenous people present on all continents all over the world, rightfully have reclaimed some of their lost rights and privileges. 

The Sami of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia is one example. Their Saami Council, founded in 1956, is a voluntary organization dealing with Saami policy tasks within these different nations.

constructing an igloo ArcticIn the same way, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), founded in 1977, is a body that represents all Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka in Siberia on matters of international importance.

We all want to be called by the correct name.

So, back to the name. Eskimo vs Inuit.

Inuit is the name for those previously called Eskimo. The Inuit Circumpolar Council decided in 1977 after having debated Eskimo vs Inuit, to prefer the term Inuit instead of the previously used Eskimo. The Inuit have never referred to themselves as Eskimo. In Canada and Greenland, the term has a derogative significance. This supposedly has to do with some interpreters having the word Eskimo meaning “Eater of raw meat”.

But it is normal that one would prefer naming oneself instead of having a complete stranger telling you what you’re supposed to be called. And that, in a strange language too. I believe it’s as simple as that. 

aurora borealis

The decision to use Inuit for all, was a somewhat pragmatic compromise. 

Most people would have had a hard time distinguishing exactly who they would be talking about. And having one, single, and easy way to substitute Eskimo for something else, would be a great help. 

The eastern Inuit agreed, but the linguistically distinct group of Yupik didn’t like the idea. The term Inuit would mean that they still have to call themselves something that wasn’t in their own language. 

  • The word Inuit is the plural of Inuk meaning person, in Inuit language. Thus Inuit means People.
  • The word Yupik means real person from the term Yuk, meaning person, in Yupik language.

So, even though Inuit is accepted everywhere in the Arctic, a more correct way to address those from western, central, and southern Alaska would be Yup’ik (written with the accent.), and the people of Siberia and S:t Lawrence island as Yupik.  

Here are some more rules when addressing the American Indigenous people.

Generally accepted rules about First Nation and First People:

  • The term Inuit replaces the term Eskimo. 
  • The term First Nation replaces the term Indian.
  • First Peoples is an all-encompassing term that includes Inuit, First Nations, and Métis.

The groups within the Inuit community.

eskimo vs inuit

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The correct term for the people formerly known as Eskimo, is Inuit. Better still is to refer to the western groups as Yupik or Yup’ik.



Ice cream, apple pie, and chocolate… Sugar is tasty, but it’s also claimed to be unhealthy. So, can you live without sugar?

Ice cream, apple pie, and chocolate… Sugar is tasty, but it’s also claimed to be unhealthy. So, can you live without sugar?

Can you live without sugar?

I suffer from diabetes. I have dysfunctional insulin production and have to balance the sugar intake with injected insulin.  The body of a non-diabetic regulates this by itself, but I need to take injections. 

The principle is the same though… The more sugar, the more insulin, injected or naturally produced. So, I started wondering, why all this fuss about it, about the sugar? Why not just throw it out altogether, the apple pies, and the ice cream… Why not completely stop eating sugar, and my blood sugar values would be under control…

And I wondered… Is it possible? Can you live without sugar?

  • Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, nor a medical expert. Before trying any radical diet, please consult your primary care provider

Sugar is the fuel for the human organism.

can you live without sugar

Sugar is a generic name for soluble, sweet carbohydrates. Any carb with only one or two sugar molecules will taste sweet and is called sugar. All carbohydrates, one, two, or more molecules, are our body’s main source of energy. We need them to move, think, and all the rest. Without carbs, we would still survive because of backup systems like ketosis, where fat is used for energy. But, in the long run, with no carbs, you will face health issues. More about that further ahead.

Sugar – A chemical definition.

So, can you live without sugar? Yes of course you can, if you’re Ok with sacrificing grandma’s brownies. But the real question should be, can you live completely without carbohydrates? That is, without any bread, potatoes, rice, beans, fruit, etc..

A very simplified way to explain the complex system of carbohydrates is this:

There are three monosaccharides, single-molecule carbohydrates. These are glucose, fructose, and galactose. These three contain the building blocks, and they are very sweet, especially glucose. If you put two of these molecules together, you get a disaccharide, e.g. normal table sugar (sucrose) which is one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. Sucrose is produced from processing Sugarcanes or sugar beets and these disaccharides are still very sweet.

Combining more molecules you get oligosaccharides (roughly 3-10 monosaccharide molecules) and polysaccharides, which is starch (more than 10 monosaccharides ). These are not very sweet. 

If you continue with even longer chains of monosaccharides, you arrive at cellulose. The cellulose chains are so long and robust that most animals can’t digest them. Only cows and other ruminants, and a few other species, have that capacity. We humans use it for paper and paper products.

diagram carbohydratesSo, all carbohydrates work in the same way, then?

Not really. And this is the heart of the matter. Our body can only absorb monosaccharides, so before any carbohydrate longer than one molecule can be of any use to us it has to be broken down. This process happens in the small intestine with the help of enzymes, and the longer the carb chain is, the more the intestine has to work, and the longer it takes. 

That’s why diabetics are advised to eat more complex carbohydrates… Vegetables, whole wheat bread, and other stuff with lots of fiber in it. That is also one of the reasons why table sugar is regarded as not as healthy as whole grain. Complex carbohydrate helps control the blood sugar, and it makes the intestine exercise, which is another benefit.

Can you live without sugar?

Yes. Table sugar isn’t necessary, nor is it beneficial.

Can you live without carbohydrates, altogether?

Yes, you can. Because the human body’s gastrointestinal tract is a miracle of flexibility. After all, we are one of the very few species that have spread to every corner of this planet, excluding Antarctica. And we have done so partly because our digestion system is so incredibly adaptable… Which brings us to the Inuit and their very particular diet…

The Inuit and the high-protein diet.

Inuit in kayak

There are certain places on our planet where things just do not grow. One such place is the vast, frozen land around the north pole –  Greenland, and the northern parts of Siberia, Alaska, and Canada. The Inuit who live there, are forced, by the climate, to limit their intake of carbohydrates. Instead, their traditional diet consisted almost exclusively of the two other main parts of our food: protein and fat.

According to most diet experts, they should all be high on cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and cancer. They should have extreme cholesterol levels, and no teeth left after 30, with a high protein diet like that.

But strangely, they seem to be just as healthy as anybody else even though they eat almost no carbs whatsoever. It’s a mystery and has been so for a long time…

The Inuit paradox

So, how can they be so healthy with an almost complete lack of carbs? And we’re back to the extreme capacity for adaptation within the human race. 

Harold Draper, biochemist, and expert in Eskimo nutrition:

  –  There are no essential foods… Only essential nutrients. And humans can get those nutrients from diverse and eye-opening sources.

One big problem with the Inuit diet would be the lack of vital vitamins, present mostly in vegetables, and fruits. But researchers found vitamins in a lot of different animal food sources. 

traditional Inuit food
Traditional Inuit Muktuk. Courtesy of cogdogblog.

D-vitamins that are produced by the sunlight, are also found in fatty fish. 

  • A-vitamins are also plentiful in the oils of cold-water fishes and sea mammals. 
  • Even vitamin C, typically found in citrus fruits, can be extracted from meat, fish, and internal organ, especially if it’s raw. The Inuit diet includes quite a lot of frozen raw meat. Muktuk, a traditional Inuit dish made of frozen whale skin and blubber, contains weight for weight as much vitamin C as orange juice.
  • Fat or sugar? What to choose?

    Can you live without sugar for energy?… Fat and carbohydrates are the body’s main energy sources. Fat is for storage, and carbs are for immediate use. Both have their issues, but there’s nothing inherently worse with fat as an energy resource. 

    And the intuits still eat some carbohydrates. A minimal part of carbs come from the tubers, and berries they pick in summer. Another source is the glycogen present in meat, especially raw meat.

    The fantastic evolution of the human body.

    For many years, omega 3, a beneficial fatty acid, was considered the reason why the Inuit didn’t die from heart attacks at a greater range. Omega 3 is a known protector against cardiovascular diseases, and the Inuit population has very high levels of omega 3.  Even though they eat a lot of protein and fats they are not subject to more heart problems than the rest of us.

    Workers in a sugarcane field
    Workers in a sugarcane field.

    But recent studies have discovered a gene, a mutation, found in the Inuit population. This mutation partly counteracts the effects of a diet high in marine mammal fat. Interestingly it is also in some way connected to height. Inuit, in fact, are statistically much shorter than their Canadian, Danish, and Russian peers. This would be another advantage in a cold climate.

    Is a complete no-carb diet healthy? … Or even possible?

    So, back to my diabetes. Would it be possible to throw all the carbohydrates out the window, and eat only fat and proteins? Can you live without sugar… completely?

    It evidently is possible. The fantastic human body, perfected after billions of years of evolution, can take almost anything. It can adapt.

    But… And this is maybe the crucial point, would it be good for me, even if I’m a diabetic? 

    What the scientists say. 

    There is a clear link between low-carb diets and increased health risks. Many studies have confirmed that. But much like the Inuit, you will have to increase fat and proteins, if you decrease carbohydrates. And there’s also a clear link between eating animal protein, especially red meat, and increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. 

    So, do you get sicker because you eat fewer carbs, or because you eat more steaks?

    However, excluding carbs altogether doesn’t seem like a good idea, unless you’re of Inuit origin. 

    ccan you live without sugar

    There is also a clear link between refined sugar and health risks. Maybe the choice shouldn’t be so much between simple and complex carbohydrates, as between refined and non-refined. The sugar in the apple pie is more damaging than the sugar in the apple

    Is a piece of apple pie really all that dangerous?

    No, not really. If you eat one piece and stop there. Even a diabetic can eat one small piece of apple pie without any particular consequences. Sweets taste good, and as long as you don’t exaggerate, don’t be too hard on yourself. 

    There still are a few general propositions about healthy dieting I would like to make. Some basic rules for any diet, anywhere. 

    • Surviving is different from living for many years. You can survive on whatever for a short period of time, but if the nutrition is incomplete, you risk your long-term health.
    • It is always preferable to mix. The more one-sided you eat, the greater the health risk. (So, it’s better to eat fat, protein, AND carbs.)
    • Unrefined food is preferable to refined
    • Seasonal food is preferable to food that is out of season and maybe imported.
    • You can go low on something, low protein, low fat, or low carb. But do not exclude anything. We are built to eat a little of everything. And we need all of it, at least to some degree.


    First, you can and should avoid refined sugar.

    Secondly, living completely without or with a limited intake of carbohydrates is possible, that is, you will survive. But unless you are an Inuit or of Inuit origin, it’s unhealthy. And even if you are of Inuit blood, the modern lifestyle and the many easily accessible industrially made foods suggest that a no-carb diet could still be very harmful. Hey, even a low-carb diet should be used with caution.

    We just don’t get around it. We need the carbs, at least some of them… Just like we need protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and all the rest.  We are omnivorous.

    … And maybe that includes a piece of the apple pie and a small brownie too. 

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    Yes, you can and should live without refined sugar. But to live for an extended period without any carbohydrates? That, I’d say, would be very risky.

    sugar and carbs in food


    If you look at it it seems completely incomprehensible with all the frets and strings. But is guitar hard to learn?

    Is guitar hard to learn?

    Reasons why the guitar is so popular.

    Of all the musical instruments, there are few with such a wide range of types, models, and different ways to play, and in different styles as the guitar. It is the king of every rock band, and thousands of more or less famous rock legends have treated it with passion or violence on stage, during the last 70 to 80 years, in front of screaming teenagers. 

    woman with guitar 17th century

    It is also one of the oldest instruments still in use today. And it comes in a huge variety of models, six strings, seven, eight, twelve, small, big, acoustic, electric, and even with double or even triple neck. There are all kinds and for every taste. You just have to learn how to play it. And that’s where it sometimes gets a little uncertain… 

    Because how on earth could you ever make order in all that chaos lurking between the six strings, and the 19 or more frets… How could you ever decipher the code and understand where to put down the finger…? 

    A reason why the guitar seems difficult.

    Is Guitar hard to learn? The guitar is difficult in the very beginning. The strange position, the many strings, and all the frets. But it gets easier as you get familiar with the outlining of the instrument. If you play fingerstyle you have to play each string separately. That needs more studying. The easiest technique is strumming. You can learn a few chords to accompany a song in no time. Just like everything else though, the key to succeeding is persistence. 

    The different types of guitars.

    So, I asked my dear friend and colleague Professor Nicola Marsi, guitarist and guitar teacher. This is some of what he told me, but let’s start with a look at the instrument itself. There is a vast number of different types, and a guitar is actually not one instrument but a whole family of instruments. 

    A broad distinction would be that between acoustic and electric guitars. 

    • The acoustic guitar has a built-in resonance chamber – The vibration from the string is amplified inside the hollow body. It sounds good as it is. In this category, we also have the classic guitar.
    • The electric guitar doesn’t have any resonance of its own. Unplugged, it is almost mute. It has microphones underneath the strings, and you need to connect the guitar to an amplifier to be able to hear anything.
    is guitar hard to learn

    Which one is easier to learn? At this point, it’s about the same.

    Which guitar technique is the easiest?

    This also is a vast field, and there are many different ways to play the instrument. Three basic distinctions could roughly be something like this:

    The position of the guitar.

    • The classical technique. Sitting down, you position the guitar on your left leg, and the neck points upwards at about 45°. You put the left foot on a footstool to raise it about half afoot. This gives a somewhat better position for the left hand to be able to play fingerstyle. 
    • The Acoustic/Electric technique. You position the guitar over your right leg or hang it over your shoulders with a strap, standing up. The guitar neck is often a little lower than the classic style. How high you hold the guitar can vary from very high to below the belt. The left hand is closer and that can be an advantage.

    How to play the strings.

    • You can play fingerstyle. That’s when every finger plays one string and one note.
    • Strumming is when you play all the strings in one movement up or down. This produces a chord.

    With what you play the strings.

    • You can play with your fingers.
    • Or you can play with a small piece of plastic or wood, a pick. You hold it between the thumb and the index finger.
    • There’s actually a third option, finger picks. It’s like having a pick on every finger. You play as you would with your fingers, but it’s the plastic or steel that picks the string.

    And now, is one technique harder than another? Playing fingerstyle is more difficult than strumming. It’s easier to just strike all the cords than to keep track of the different fingers of the right hand. For the rest, it’s a matter of choice.

    is guitar hard to learn
    Plastic Guitar Pick

    Which guitar style is easiest to learn?

    This is another topic where there is so much variation that it could be difficult to reduce it to a simple list. A would very broadly pin it down to three styles. 

    • The classical style. In this style, you play sitting down and with nylon strings. We have a lot of classical music, but also South American music, Spanish flamenco, etc. 
    • The acoustic guitar. This is everything from the teenager playing three chords at the bonfire, to Bluegrass, Folk, Pop, Jazz, and a lot more. This is a category that is very rich in content. You have millions of easy songs to choose from.
    • The electric guitar. This is the rock- and pop music instrument by excellence. This is the guitar for all the most famous rock riffs, and solos.

    Finally, which is more difficult? Well, you just can’t say that one style is harder than another. Playing many notes very fast is more difficult than not. Those who practice most of all, I would say, are classical guitarists, and soloists on electric guitar. 

    Is the guitar hard to learn compared to other instruments?

    Now, this is tricky. Think about it like this: Playing an instrument for two hours every day for one year gets you to a certain level. That level is lower if the instrument is difficult. But you will always be comparable to anyone who has practiced as much as you. It’s in no way easier to become the best in the world just because the instrument you’ve chosen is easy to play.

    Most people could probably learn how to play only the melody of Twinkle, twinkle little star with their right hand on a piano in, let’s say, half an hour. To play the same melody on a Theremin, which is probably the most difficult instrument in the world, you would need a whole lot more practice.

    The guitar is often put somewhere in the middle of the difficulty list. 

    Is guitar hard to learn? It also depends very much on how far you want to go. 

    • I think, with a few days of training, anybody would be able to learn three, or four chords, and play them in the right order to accompany his/her favorite song. That’s very easy, and extremely fast compared to almost any other musical instrument. 
    • To play like the best classical guitarists, on the other hand, you would need ten, fifteen, or more years of studying 4 – 8 hours a day. And you need to start at a very young age. 

    But, is guitar hard to learn, then?

    rock on stage
    Double Neck Guitar

    From a strictly learning point of view, the guitar has a few positive properties, and some drawbacks, compared to other instruments.  

    The negatives:

    • The neck and the frets are difficult to understand at the beginning, It’s not as straightforward as the blacks and whites on a keyboard.
    • You would need certain coordination as you strike the strings with one hand and determine the pitch with the other. All instruments require coordination to a certain degree though.
    • A guitar is, kind of, big and awkward. It can be hard to find the right position around the big wooden case. And bending the fingers around the neck to find the right position for the chord is also awkward. You have to try out which guitar, and which style is best for you. An how to hold it. There’s no right answer here. Ask your teacher.

    The positives:

    • The difficulty of understanding the pattern on the neck diminishes with time. After some training, it will start to feel more logical and apprehensible.
    • You can see exactly what you do. It’s all in front of you at a normal observable distance. 
    • It’s not a loud instrument unless you play an acoustic guitar with steel strings. Even so, there are always solutions to the disturbing-others issue. You can play the electric guitar with headphones.
    • It’s maybe the most common instrument of all. It’s easy to find good teachers and good school literature. 
    • The frets give the notes a precise position. You only have to put the finger somewhere between the two frets and you’re good. Instruments in the violin family have a smooth neck without frets. It’s more difficult to find the correct spot on the violin neck.

    Which is easier, the Acoustic/Classic or the Electric guitar?

    Reasons why the electric guitar is easy to learn.

    • The acoustic guitar is much bigger and can be more tricky to hold, especially if you’re short/young. 
    • The electric guitar is much thinner and therefore there’s less bulk to get around.
    • The neck of the electric guitar is typically thinner and easier to bend your fingers around
    • Because of its construction, it requires less pressure on the string. 
    • The classical guitar has nylon strings which are softer on the fingertip. But it still requires more pressure on the string.
    • The classical guitar has a wider neck with more space between the strings. That can put more strain on the gripping hand, especially for younger players.
    • With an electric guitar, you can have a full-blown sound without disturbing anybody wearing headphones.

    Reasons why the acoustic/classic guitar is easy to learn.

    • There are all kinds of middle ways. E.g. you can have an acoustic guitar, with or without a pickup (A so-called acoustic electric guitar) with a thinner body. 
    • With an acoustic/classic guitar, you don’t need an amplifier. You just pull out the guitar and play. This is a major advantage. You can bring your guitar anywhere and you’re always ready to play.
    • The many knobs and levers on the electric guitar can be intimidating for a beginner.
    • The Classic guitar position can be more ergonomic. But not for everybody. You have to try it out for yourself.

    It would seem that the electric guitar wins this round. But that’s really just a very broad generalization. The guitar world is enormous, and the best guitarists in the world all have their own preferences and styles. There are different guitar sizes and forms, different widths and depths of the neck, and different positions and different ways to treat the instrument. After you’ve learned some more, you will know what works for you and what doesn’t.

    Then, of course, you need a guitar that’s in tune with the style you’re going for. If you want to play like Eddie Van Halen, you can’t buy an acoustic guitar.

    Today it’s also easier to buy a guitar. The many cheap brands are getting better and even if just have a few dollars to spend, you can still find a decent playable instrument.  

    How long does it take to learn to play the guitar?

    A list of tips and tricks on how to succeed.

    • Be persistent. Our brain and body work much better with short repetitions than with long sessions. It’s much, much better to practice fifteen minutes a day than to practice five hours Sundays.
    • Organize your study. If you have half an hour, do 10 minutes this, 10 minutes that, and 10 minutes something else. It’s too easy to just play the things you already know in a way you’re already comfortable with if you don’t have structure. And to get better you have to learn new things, not just repeat the old, That’s just the way it is.
    • Record yourself. Hearing yourself from the outside is very helpful. You may find that what you think is bad, really is quite good, and vice versa. Don’t overdo it, but a simple recording app is an awesome tool.
    • Take breaks. Especially in the beginning, the position with the right arm around the big wooden box and the left hand cramped around the neck, is tiresome. You resist only a short time. Play for ten minutes, then get up and walk around before you continue. And listen to your body. Pain in the fingertips from the strings is no big deal, but shoulders, back, arms, and wrists shouldn’t ache.   

    close up guitar left handThe reason why you should at least try out a real, certificated teacher.

    Approximately one-third of all non-professional guitar players suffer from pain. Most commonly in the neck and lower back followed by pain in the wrist, and the shoulders. These problems can be dealt with but you have to know how to resolve them, and what is the cause of the pain. 

    Having a good teacher is the best way to avoid these issues, and if you already face stiffness and pain, a teacher can point to where your position is wrong, or to other errors that you make. It’s almost impossible to observe yourself, but for someone else, it’s often obvious what’s missing. That goes for musical expression and playing technique as well. An experienced musician who guides you from the outside, and follows your progress from an external point of view, can be a big help. And as a beginner, a good, certified teacher can’t be overrated. 

    It’s also a way to be consistent in your studying. If you have lessons scheduled, and you pay for them, it’s harder to skip the daily practice. 

    So finally, Is guitar hard to learn? 

    Learning how to play the guitar, is not very difficult. It can be intimidating with the seemingly disorderly outlook of the strings and the frets, but if you practice, with time, that will not be a problem. And the fact that you can learn strumming chords in a very short time, makes it a good candidate for a beginner’s first choice


    No, Guitar is not a difficult instrument to learn. There are a few initial hurdles, but not more than most musical instruments. Be aware of rigidity and pain in the neck and lower back, shoulders, and wrists.

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    Was boiling oil used in sieges?

    Was boiling oil used in sieges?

    Though we have seen it in a myriad of Hollywood films… The defending troops await the enemy at the castle. And when they arrive, the soldiers in the stronghold open the secret trap doors above the big iron gate and pour hot oil on their adversaries. 

    So, I set out to discover if it really was a realistic description of medieval warfare, the hot oil thingy… Was boiling oil used in sieges back then, in the middle ages?

    Throwing things at the enemy from the security of the inside of the castle was a very common medieval defense strategy. The strong walls were difficult to break for the attacker and if they tried, they had to expose themselves to enemy fire. But to use burning oil was expensive, and in most places, they just didn’t have enough. Reports of hot sand and boiling water are far more common.

    was boiling oil used in sieges

    How did a siege work in medieval and ancient times?

    First of all, we’re talking about a very long period. Things started changing in the 16th and 17th centuries when firearms became widely available. So, practically from when we first started building fortifications up until that time, we have situations with defenders inside some sort of wall and attackers outside trying to break in. 

    Secondly, during this very long time, many ingenious weapons, structures, catapults, and methods were invented to be able to force the defenses. And all these methods were always heavily depending on the immediate geographical situation, the state of the attacking soldiers… As well as the defending soldiers, the supplies available, the time of year, the climate, and a whole lot of other factors. In short, no siege was the same as the other.

    Wars, before guns, were fought with swords, pikes, bows, and lances. And if the enemy had taken refuge inside a castle with thick stone walls, these weapons were of little use. In fact, to break a castle defense you needed more than that.

    Fortunately, for the attacker that is, such solutions existed. 

    Siege weapons

    siege tower
    Siege Tower – A very big one.


    This was the simplest, most straightforward method to conquer a stronghold. It was also the most expensive in cost of lives. To raise ladders against the castle wall you would need a massive attack force, and death-defying soldiers. Because you give the defenders every possibility to shoot arrows, throw things, or simply push the ladders away from the wall.

    Siege towers

    These were huge wooden structures that did the same job as a ladder but at the same time protecting the soldiers while they got up and over the wall. If you got a siege tower close to the castle, it could send an attacking force big enough to clear that section of the wall and create a safe passage for more to enter. The best defense against siege towers was to try to burn them with fire… And they couldn’t be used if the terrain wasn’t reasonably flat and solid… Or if there was a moat.


    These were a type of catapults that used manpower, later counterweights, to launch big projectiles against or inside the castle wall. They were very effective in certain situations, but less so if the castle was higher than the surrounding terrain. They also needed to be very big if they were to do any significant damage to the wall. Another issue was that a tore down wall still left a large amount of rubble in the way of the attacker. There are examples where a castle resisted for months after the wall had been breached. One other thing, trebuchets and other forms of catapults could be used by the defenders as well.

    throwing things on a castle
    A Trebuchet of medieval design.


    Sapping in warfare means digging under the wall, and under or close to the foundation so that the whole structure collapses. It was a very effective, easy, and economic way to bring down a significant part of the wall. The problem evidently was that it was slow. 

    The different situations inside and outside the castle.

    A standoff like those in a siege created very different conditions for those inside the castle compared to those outside. For both sides, time was crucial. 

    The attackers had access to the surroundings and could have food and supplies sent to them. But if they were in enemy land,  the supply chain could be slow. And they always risked being attacked in the back by the defender’s reinforcements or their allies. 

    • During the siege by the Spartans of the city of Platea in 429-428 BC., the attacking Spartans first built a wall all around the city to prevent anybody from escaping or attacking from the city. Then they built another wall on the outside of their camp as a defense against any reinforcement from the Athenians. The sieging forces lived inside this corridor for several months before the city finally surrendered after 212 men successfully had breached the two defense palisades and fled.

    A big problem for the defenders could be the lack of food or even worse, the lack of water. And the fact that they were cut off, without the possibility to send scouts and messengers to friends and allies… Unless they had some secret opening or tunnel. 

    • The St. Patrick’s Well in Orvieto, Italy, was dug in the 16th century to ensure water supply to the city in case of a siege. Orvieto is a rock rising some 200 feet off the surrounding terrain. The distance from the city to the groundwater level was too great, so a big cylindric hole was dug with a double, spiral road on the side… One for going down and the other for going up. The depth is 175feet (53 mt), and the diameter at the base is 43 feet (13mt).

    More issues…

    breaking the gate
    Battering Ram

    Both parts risked quarreling, and desertion among the soldiers. For the defenders, the civilians too could create problems. 

    The biggest danger still was diseases. If the siege continued for months or even years, having men in closed encampments, as well as the closed spaces inside the castle, could be extremely hazardous. Especially since knowledge about germs, and viruses was close to inexistent. In human history, diseases were always much more fatal than war and starvation ever were. 

    There was dialogue even in medieval warfare.

    During the siege, there were normally also continuing discussions and negotiations between the parties. These depended very much on how the war developed. If the attackers had trebuchets, and siege towers, they would have a much stronger position in those negotiations. The same for the defenders. If they had food, they would be less eager to sign any peace treaties.

    It is reasonable to conclude that any warlord would rather force a surrender than losing lives in battles along the castle walls. 

    There are many examples of defeated armies being treated fairly because they surrendered and thus avoided further bloodshed. And there are many examples of defeated soldiers being lined up and killed just for opposing too fierce resistance…

    But there are also examples of the opposite:

    • Lady Bankes defended Corfe Castle, Dorset, England, against 500 soldiers in the mid-1600. For three years with practically only a handful of servants, she resisted the siege of the Roundheads. In the end, she had to give up the castle as she was betrayed by one of her men. The castle was demolished, but Lady Banks suffered no penalty. Her heroic resistance had made such a strong impression on her adversaries, that they wouldn’t bring any repression on her. 

    Forcing the main gate.

    If you couldn’t breach the walls, another way to get in was to force the main gate. For this, you would need a ram, and rams could be a simple tree log cut down from one of the nearby trees. Or it could be an ingenious construction with levers and wheels and stuff. However it was made, you still had to get close to the gate. And that could prove deadly.

    Caernarfon Castle Gate with murder holes.

    The Caernarfon Castle in Caernarfon, Wales, UK has two main gates, the King’s gate, and the Queen’s gate. The King’s gate was never completed, but if it would have been, a visitor would have crossed two drawbridges, passed through five doors and six gates, portcullis, a right-angle turn before an enclosure from where you entered the courtyard. This whole route was overlooked by numerous murder holes and arrowslits. The latter is a vertical slit in the wall through which the defender could shoot. And the infamous murder hole is a simple hole in the roof. Was boiling oil used in sieges? Well, if it was, this is from where it would have come down on the intruder.

    And why the five doors and the six gates? To create a trap for the enemy. Inside the sidewalls and over the roof, there were corridors where defending soldiers could move perfectly safe, and one by one kill off the attackers trapped inside the space between two doors or two portcullis.

    By far the best way to conquer a castle. 

    There was one last trick that guaranteed success and would save numerous lives on both sides. And that is to enter with deceit or betrayal by someone inside. It has happened many, many times over the centuries. 

    • In the fictional siege described by Homer in the Iliad, The Achaeans conquered Troy with a hollow, wooden horse. From inside the horse,  Achaean soldiers sneaked out, opened the big gate, and Troy was sacked.
    • One of the many Sieges of Antioch (Antakaya in today’s Turkey) was fought between the Crusaders and the Seljuks. In October 1097, Bohemond of Taranto besieged it with 40.000 men, but from that point until June 1098, they were not able to overtake the garrison. In winter the situation became very difficult in the Crusaders’ camp, with a shortage of food, problems with supplies, and constant attacks from the Turks. In May, as reports came in about a Seljuk relief army led by Kerbogha, Bohemond used his contacts with a Seljuk tower guard named Firouz. Firouz agreed to let the Crusaders through, in change for money and a title. So after 8 months, Bohemond could finally conquer the city, and massacre the population – military, civilians, Muslims, and Christians alike.

    The political context.

    Another important role did acts of submission play. Very often wars were fought to win loyalty and subordination. The Emperor of a large territory couldn’t even dream of controlling his domains without loyal vassals. And so, often it was more important to gain trust and fidelity from the defeated than simply to cut their heads off. This could be done by oaths, humiliation, or acts of subordination. All this was from a political point of view, a very delicate matter… Kill everybody or treat them fairly?

    • When Alexander the Great marched against the Achaemenid Empire, he easily conquered and gained subordination from all of the cities on the Mediterranean coast of what is today, Syria and Lebanon. He subsequently treated them fairly. When he came down to Tyre, that changed. The citizens put up resistance and Alexander had to siege the city for 6 months and build a causeway one kilometer straight out into the sea to be able to get close enough with his siege towers. That failed and thousands of his soldiers were killed. He sent for more warships from his allies further north, and finally, after six months he could enter Tyre. The King wasn’t happy… He immediately killed 6000 soldiers, and sent the remaining 30.000 men, women, and children to slavery, except for 2000 whom he crucified right there on the beach for everybody to witness.

    But how much good virgin olive oil was there?

    Oil wells existed in China, and the middle east already thousands of years ago, But it wasn’t until the 19th century, that commercial oil and petroleum became available to the general public. Vegetable and animal oils were used and still are, for cooking. But before 1800 non-mineral oils were used for much of what we use mineral oils for today, as well. From making soap to treating leather and wood. It was possibly even used for mechanical lubrification. 

    Interestingly it was essential for fire arrows and other thermal weapons. Remember that the best way to defend yourself against many of the Seige weapons was to put them on fire.

    In some regions, vegetable oils were abundant, such as the Mediterranean region. But it still probably wasn’t abundant enough to be used in battle… Not even around the Mediterranean.

    Was boiling oil used in sieges, even if there were perfectly valid alternatives?

    And what were those alternatives?

    Well, I would think the throwing was the main thing here. Throwing things at the enemy from the wall, or from a murder hole, was perfectly safe, and could range from being a nuisance to being a deadly threat. 

    There are many records of hot water being used. And quicklime, hot coal, and hot sand. The sand is interesting, as hot or cold, having sand inside a medieval iron armor wouldn’t be a very nice experience. 

    fly photo Carcassonne

    Other testimonies include dirt, rubble, rocks, tar, and even excrements from humans and animals, as well as urine. And of course, they could shoot. Arrows coming in from a murder hole at close range make a lot of damage.

    • Carcassonne in southern France was besieged by Charlemagne in the 8th century. After six years of siege, the food inside the city was almost completely finished. The ruler, Lady Carcas, decided to feed the only remaining sack of wheat to the only remaining pig. Then she shot it over the wall with a catapult. When Charlemagne saw the well-fed hog on the ground, he concluded that the city was well-supplied and decided to lift the siege. A cute narrative. Unfortunately, it seems to be just a legend.

    Final thoughts.

    We don’t have any exact statistics of what was thrown on the enemy during the sieges of the past. Was boiling oil used in sieges? We know with reasonable confidence that it happened. Still, I would consider two very important facts:

    • Oil was expensive and often there wasn’t much around.
    • As it was the same oil they used for cooking, at least mostly so, Throwing away a resource that could prove essential if the siege would pursue, wouldn’t have been a smart move. Food and water were after all fundamental for resisting inside the castle.

    Was boiling oil used in sieges… ever?

    These are some of the sieges where we know with reasonable confidence that burning oil was used by the defenders:

    • The siege of Yodfat (Israel) in 67 AD.
    • The siege of Orléans (France) from 1428 to 1429.
    • The Great Siege of Malta in 1565. 
    • The Siege of Sommières (France) in 1573.

    … and probably many more that we just don’t know about…

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    Well, we know it happened, but it probably wasn’t very common. Oil was too precious to just be thrown away.

    impenetrable walls
    Fenis Castle, Valle d’Aosta, Italy



    Is gender a social construct?

    Is gender a social construct?

    Do we identify as man, woman, or in between because of social conditions and teachings?

    is gender a social construct
    Courtesy of Charlie Eaton

    Is gender a social construct? 

    Agender, Bigender, Butch, Gender outlaw… Where do they all come from? And are all these labels motivated, or are they just a way to express a disaccord with the “normal”, boring binary male and female?

    So, before jumping into all the terminology, I set out to try to answer the first question… Is gender a social construct, or is it something we are born with?

    This is what World Health Organization has to say about it:

    • Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls, and boys that are socially constructed.  This includes norms, behaviors, and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl, or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time.

    And this is what the Oxford English dictionary has to say about it:

    • (Gender is…) The state of being male or female as expressed by social or cultural distinctions and differences, rather than biological ones; the collective attributes or traits associated with a particular sex, or determined as a result of one’s sex. 

    So, is gender a social construct? Well, it seems that way, but let’s dive in a little further:.

    What is biological sex?

    Your sex is what is determined by your chromosome setup. If you are born with two X chromosomes in your 23rd, and last, chromosome pair in your DNA, then you’re a woman. If you have one X- and one Y- chromosome, then you’re a man. As simple as that. 

    gay man

    An effect of the XX or XY chromosome setup is the physical attributes. Penises and vaginas, as well as all the rest… Body structure, breasts, hair growth, voice pitch, etc. These attributes are not always easily detectable, or even always present. There are many variations. And defects in the chromosome structure can occur. 

    Man, woman or intersex?

    You can be a man, a woman, or neither of those. The male-female binary system has only two outcomes. But someone may not have all the attributes to be determined only as a boy or only a girl right at birth. 

    In that case, the child can be determined as intersex

    What is gender identity?

    If you think of it, we don’t really know at all who our colleagues, friends, and relatives are from a sexual point of view. At least I have never seen the penises and vaginas or breasts of my acquaintances. Nor have I ever seen a testosterone test or anything similar on any of my friends. We trust the outside, the clothes, the makeup or absence of makeup, and the general physical characteristics…

    Gender identity actually is what determines much of all that. It’s what we feel inside, what we identify as. The biological sex scale is somewhat limited. There’s only man and woman, and a blending of those two. But gender identity, in theory, has no limits. What you feel inside and how you express yourself is for you to decide.

    …Or is it?

    But, what if there’s a difference between your biological sex and your gender identity?

    Someone who is a biological man, and has the gender identity of a man, is called a cis man. A biological woman who has the gender identity of a woman is called a cis woman. “Cis” from the Latin prefix meaning “on this side of”. 

    If a biological man identifies as a woman, he’s called a trans woman.  A biological woman who has the gender identity of a man is called a trans man. “Trans” from the Latin prefix meaning “on the other side of”.

    People who identify as their biological sex are cisgender, and those who identify as the opposite sex are transgender.

    A transsexual person is someone who physically transitions from male to female or vice versa. 

    Do sex and gender have anything to do with sexual orientation?

    Apart from the biological sex, which is the Chromosome setup, and the gender identity, there is a third part of the equation. And that is sexual orientation. Are you straight, gay, bisexual, or something completely different?

    Sexual orientation does not necessarily have anything to do with the previous. Sexual orientation is simply what we are attracted to, and apart from rare examples of very strange sexual fantasies, we are most often attracted to women, men, or both.

    is gender a social constructIs it more natural to feel like a man/woman when you, in fact, are a man/woman?

    Very often people refer to what’s natural and what’s not. Natural, is a difficult concept, though. Sometimes it just means that I, myself consider it acceptable. And that is often based on my personal view, which is based on my personal background and convictions. 

    Natural, as in nature… That is often a totally different story. 

    Can an animal identify as something that it does not appear to be? 

    Can a dog be transgender?

    We simply don’t know how they feel, because we can’t ask them. But we can observe the observable, and we can draw conclusions from that.

    We do know, that many animals demonstrate homosexual behavior. And that would indicate that sexuality among animals isn’t as simple as only a treat that aims at reproduction, even though we cannot say for sure how they feel about their assigned sex.

    So now, Is gender a social construct or not?

    It is true that transgender really exists? I mean that it is something more than just an expression, a way to dress? And not only trans… There are Agender, Bigender, Gender fluid, Genderqueer, Gender expansive, and many more. For this article, we would need to determine if all these genders come from the environment, or if they are within us from the beginning.

    is gender a social construct
    Judith Butler

    Judith Butler 

    She introduced the term gender performativism in 1988. In the book Performative Acts and Gender Constitution, she develops the idea that gender is something we perform. It is the stylized repetition of acts through time. According to Butler, it is not a performance that you can choose in any way you like, as an actor plays a role. Instead, performative speech can constitute an identity. It’s not so much the subject expressing her-/himself but the repetition of stylized actions that actually make up your gender identity. 

      –  Performativity is a matter of reiterating and repeating the norms through which one is constituted.

    Your gender identity is not an expression of something inside yourself. Instead, IT IS yourself. And so, you can actually never really be wrong about it. You are what you are.

    Butler also emphasizes that the repeated stylized actions that make up your gender don’t come from you. They are taught to you. In that way, gender is a social construct.

    Julia Serano

    Serano introduced yet another idea. The Subconscious sex concept. What she’s talking about is an unconscious and inexplicable self-understanding regarding what sex one belongs to or should be.

    Someone would explain why people act against what we would expect their gender expression to be, with genetic anomalies. But Serano notes that these non-coherent people occur far more frequently than can be accounted for by biological factors. 

    Transgenders are aware of the painful dissonance between the subconscious sex and the biological sex, while cisgenders are not. 

    Serano argues that the subconscious sex is innate in some way, but social conditioning can play a role in how you interpret it. Is gender a social construct? Yes, but only partly so.

    Other research

    boy with rc bus toy

    This study from 2016, and this study from 2017 both conclude that boys play more with typical boys-toys, and girls play more with toys typed to their own gender. The 2017 study included children until 8 years, and the 2016 study started at 9 months. A large spectrum.

    There are many more studies like these, and none of them is really conclusive. Yes, we know that boys are boys, and that girls are girls, but it’s very difficult to be able to definitely say if they were born this or that, or if they have become such.

    9 months is also reasonably old, in this context. We know that a lot of imprinting happens before that age.

    Is gender a social construct?  The many studies of children’s preferences of gender-type toys, don’t really conclude anything.

    … And at the end of the day, maybe everything is a social construct.

    I remember my uncle, who used to work as a land surveyor far away up in the mountains in my home country. When he visited the farmers up there, they offered him huge quantities of liquor. Only after that, and of course, him being pretty stoned, he could go to work. They wanted to be sure that he was Ok for the job, and being an Ok man in that context, meant being able to drink a lot of alcohol.

    afghanistan women oppression

    Being this or that depends on geography, time, and type of society. When I dress in jeans and a t-shirt, get on the bus with mixed men and women, and speak my native language in a certain way, I am just being me. But I too am a result of social conditioning. My identity is a social construct if you will.

    In tropical parts of Africa and South America, men and women wear almost nothing. Scottish men wear skirts. In the middle east, they wear Thawb, and I wear my T-shirt. In the 90s many women in Europe walked around topless on the beach. In some parts of Afghanistan, the Burqa, covering every single part of the woman’s body, is now mandatory if she wants to stay safe.  And a thousand years ago, dress codes and gender codes were radically different from today.

    We live in a world of social constructs, and that includes not only gender but everything in our daily life. People who dare to step outside our well-defined binary gender system, have always been looked upon with everything from distrust to persecution and oppression. As has any other diversion from the accepted codes.

    In India, the Hijra community has suffered oppression and violence under the British administration, for hundreds of years. In 2019 The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed by the Indian Parliament. The objective is to provide protection of rights of transgender people, their welfare, and other related matters.


    Maybe one thing we can learn is to stop being so afraid of things we don’t understand. If someone or something appears strange, why not ask, inform yourself and reflect. Learn about the other…

    But even more so, learn about yourself. You, just like me, are just a product of a whole lot of coincidences, of which most, probably are social constructs.

    … And you should always respect a person’s preferred way to be addressed. It’s okay to ask, but then always use the name and pronouns they tell you.

    Back to the top of the page

    Yes, Gender is a social construct… At least mostly so. 

    two women embracing



    What is Chi?

    What is Chi?

    They speak about chi as if it’s essential. They teach it as if it’s fundamental. They use it in a thousand different ways, and it’s supposed to be extremely powerful. 

    But does chi really exist?

    First of all, the name…

     氣 – That’s how it’s written in traditional Chinese. In English, it’s written Chi, Ki, or Qi, and pronounced [tʃiː]. In Japanese, it’s pronounced [kiː]. 

    The meaning of the word is air or vapor, or energy in general, or life force, or vital energy… It is quite difficult to give a precise definition, and that can be a problem as we will see further on. The concept is very old. It originates from many thousands of years ago. Probably from China or at least from Asia. 

    In Taoism, Tao is an absolute principle and it conceptualizes the order of everything. The Universe has two opposite forces, Yin and Yang, and these make up all of what we can experience. They are light and darkness, expansion and contraction, male and female, deficiency and excess, etc. And they are the forces that have produced this universe… The energy with which all this is conceived is called chi… Chi Yang and Chi Yin. 

    • 气 means Vapor or Air. But as such it also means energy.
    • 天气 means Sky and Air (Energy) – Sky-energy,  Weather.
    • 米 means Rice. 
    • 米 气 means Rice and Vapor/Air. 
    • 氣 is a combination of the last two, meaning Rice-Vapor, as in the vapor from the boiling rice. Or it could be interpreted as the two forms of energy necessary for our body to work… Rice (food) and air (oxygen). 
    • 氣 is Chi in traditional Chinese.

    Interestingly, many languages of Indo-European origin have the words for breath/breathing and life force very similar. (Comp. Expire in English)

    what is chi

    What is chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

    In traditional Chinese medicine, Chi is the vital life force or energy that is in all living beings. It is the energy of life and it runs all through our bodies. But not only that: It is also the essence of-, and connection between every living thing as well as between those and the universe. It unites our body, our mind, and our spirit, and it unites us with everything. 

    This life force can be imbalanced, and if so, it’s the scope of the doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine to create balance within the organism again. 

    • Yin chi is heavy. It falls, it is stationary, and binding. Yin chi is condensation. 
    • Yang is light. It moves away, upwards, and it’s volatile and etheric. Yin chi is expansion.

    The body has to keep its balance between those two forces. Furthermore, we need to keep the flow of chi unrestricted. Because obstacles and blockages can form in our chi for various reasons, and if they do, the channels need to be opened. The doctor does all this with medication, often traditional herbal medicine and/or therapy, like Therapeutic Massage, Acupuncture, etc. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based strongly on the concept of Chi as a life force.

    But what is chi… What are we actually talking about here?

    esoteric energy

    We need to know exactly what we are referring to. And, as said before, that isn’t all that obvious. Because a lot of people see Chi as a concept, much like many other words that we use in a metaphorical way…

    • The chi is in balance – We feel alright and things are good, generally speaking. But it’s not that there is any actual balance. We wouldn’t fall over because we are off Chi.
    • The Chi is flowing – People around me like me, and I feel appreciated. Today my project got approved, and that special person called me… I’m in a flow. Things work out. But it’s not that there is any special energy that is moving inside me, from my toes to my head, from my left hand to the right.
    • I am connected to the universe – I feel as one with every other living thing. That is, I understand that we all have to share space on this earth. We have to stop the pollution, help each other, and stop the wars because otherwise, we will all suffer. But it’s not that I am really connected in any way with anything else. There are no radio waves or cables between us.

    Then there’s the other way of looking at it…

    what is chi

    And this is where we could run into problems. Because some people claim that Chi is also a very physical, real, demonstrable, and powerful force. And it’s a force that can be manipulated to make you feel this or that, to move objects and people, to awaken your cosmic awareness… And lastly, which in my opinion is morally very dubious, make you ill, and consequently cure you.

    So, if there actually is some truth in it, that there really is a real, physical force within us and around us that has an impact on our wellbeing, then that is very important information. And if that life force really could create diseases, and then cure us, make us create or overcome problems, connect us to each other and to the far side of the galaxy. Then that could be a real game-changer for all of us. 

    What do the practitioners/believers say themselves?

    what is chi
    • Chi is constant, it holds matter together. Chi is the energy that floats through humans, through the earth, and through the heavens. It is the energy, the power of the universe. Chi is like a river, it’s constantly happening. Yin and Yang are moving in and out while Chi is constantly generated
    • Chi is bioelectric power. Chi is the electricity that nourishes the living cell. Qigong helps you to draw energy from the outside so that you have more energy on the inside. 
    • Chi is the current of energy that passes through the inside and outside of the body. It also passes through physical objects. When your chi is strong, it flows through you and fills you with life and health. When your chi is weak, it remains still and stagnant.

    Do you understand it better from these quotes? Having a true believer explain what Chi is, doesn’t make it easier to grasp. It’s very mystical and philosophical, just like it’s supposed to be, being a 4000 years old concept.

    What does science say?

    There has been a lot of research to try to find out: What is Chi? Most have studied the technique of Qigong. Qigong and Tai Chi are similar but Qigong has a supposedly more internal focus. The movements are more specific and the aim, is to heal, aid, and restore Chi, more than physical exercise. So, many of the studies focus on the measurable energy when Qigong is used. Either during the session or after, and both from the Qigong master, the healer, and from the subject.

    Thai Chi vitalizes the energy

    In fact, many of these studies show a verifiable effect. This paper by Xinqi Dong, E-Shien Chang, and Kevin Chen reaches a conclusion: 

    •  … Many other exploratory studies of external Qigong effects have used various physical detectors, including Gamma-ray, microwave, and high-frequency X-ray. Body temperature changes before, during, and after the practice of Qigong have been documented by many empirical studies, in which far-infrared measurement was amongst the most commonly used physical detectors of Qi.

    Another study from 2011 by Roger Jahnke, Linda Larkey, Carol Rogers, Jennifer Etnier, and Fang Lin found benefits from both Tai Chi and Qigong:

    • … This review has identified numerous outcomes with varying levels of evidence for the efficacy of Qigong and Tai Chi, including bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness and related biomarkers, physical function, falls prevention and balance, the general quality of life and patient-reported outcomes, immunity, and psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, and self-efficacy.
    scary Chinese mask

    But it’s hard to see evidence of a force, an energy source, other than the obvious benefit exercise would give. These techniques are also connected to breathing and a meditative focus in a way that most other sports are not.   

    The lowering of the pulse, rising of the temperature and other effects could be explained well within the known physical realm. These are nothing more than normal functions of the body.

    What is Chi… And what is Yi?

    Professor Lin Housheng’s answers to the question, What is Chi in Qigong? And this could be the reason why we aren’t able to find any proof. 

    • Qigong is a method or process in which the cultivation of Chi (vital energy) and Yi (consciousness or intent) achieves the optimal state of both body and mind. Yi, the intent or mental process of the practitioner, is integral to the Qigong process. Although exploratory studies focus on the Chi part only, Chi itself cannot be truly defined without including Yi, or intent. After all, Chi emission is a process of bio-physiological activity coordinated by human intent or consciousness.

    As such, maybe it’s impossible to separate the force from the practitioner. And maybe we cannot examine the Chi at all without adding the subjectivity and the intent of the mind… And so we’re stuck. 


    Traditional Chinese Medicine

    I didn’t want to derail down the Acupuncture track. But Acupuncture is a consequence of Chi. The theory is that sticking in needles where the Chi flows inside one of the 12 meridians in our body can cause stagnant Qi to be dispersed and deficient Qi to be tonified.

    Acupuncture has been thoroughly examined and the result is that some effects, especially as a method of pain relief, can be observed. The general problem is that similar effects can be seen with needles being inserted randomly, or needles not being inserted at all, while the subject is convinced that they, in fact, are.

    It would seem that the inserting of needles, or believing that needles have been inserted has an effect, but that the Chi meridians have nothing to do with it.  ,

    And now to the other side of the coin… The darker side.

    Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese Martial Art. Today it is mainly used as a way of exercise, health benefits, and meditation (Shadowboxing), but there is a strong fighting component as well. The technique is closely connected to Chi, thus the name. 

    But some Martial Arts schools take the whole Chi idea a step further. Some training is focused on learning to control the Chi to such an extent that it can be used to send an opponent to the floor without even touching him… The so-called No Touch Knockout: 

    Focusing on Chi, trying to relax, exercising to find the right posture, and breathing correctly could be very important tools in a myriad of situations. 

    But some experts don’t stop there. They use the Chi-concept as a way to do tricks. While professional illusionists do magic on stage for entertainment and they are absolutely transparent about it. What they do is based on tricks… The self-appointed Chi-guys on the other hand, claim their performances are real. They claim that their Chi is so powerful that they can start fires, and move objects around only by using their God-like powers.

    The Qigong movements are specific and the aim here is to heal, aid, and restore Chi, more than physical exercise. If you look at Qigong and Tai Chi from a westerners point of view, they are very similar. And the effectiveness of the two styles is similar too. The exercise, the training, the cardiovascular response, etc are all benefits that are well documented… 

    Unfortunately, some healers go a step too far, claiming they can actually heal severe diseases with the Chi-power. 

    But why do we always have to be so darn scientific? Especially about old Chinese beliefs?

    I don’t think we should limit ourselves to seeing the world exclusively in terms of real or fake, black or white. The concept of Chi is very attractive. The flowing movement, the fact that we are all connected, the focus on internal balance and physical and mental wellbeing. 

    And I personally am very drawn to the idea of a sport, or physical activity, that is so non-competitive. 

    Having said that, it is our strong belief that fraudulent behavior is wrong. But fraudulent behavior that intends to exploit people’s vulnerability and fear in life-threatening situations, is morally and ethically deceptive. It’s misleading in a particular way and those doing it should be called out and should be held responsible. 

    Chi is a very interesting phenomenon, and it is possibly very useful as an ingredient in physical exercise and mental training. Our internal chemical and psychological environment can suffer from stress, and Qigong and Thai Chi is surely a good way to ease that stress.

    But Chi is not a mystical, magical force of nature, that only those who are trained in the right way can master. It’s just another way of saying energy or saying connection, or balance.

    So, no… Chi cannot knock people down from a distance, it cannot move objects, or start fires… And it most probably can do absolutely nothing to cure cancer. 

    For health issues always contact your local health authorities.

    Back to the top of the page


    Yes and No. The Chi concept as a subjective connection between all living things, as the energy that all life is made up of, and as the positive effects of physical activity, breathing correctly, relaxation, balance, etc. That part exists.

    But the magical, mystical part where Chi is some special energy that can be modified and channeled, that part, I would say, does not exist.

    Muscat Oman



    Is the Origin of Karate in Okinawa?

    The Origin of Karate

    Did Karate originate from the Japanese island of Okinawa just as Mr. Miyagi claims in the film Karate Kid?

    The Origin of Karate can be found as far back as the dawn of man.

    Karate is actually not unique at all. Hand-to-hand combat has been practiced for at least 2500 years and probably much longer than that. The first weapons the first humans had were sticks, stones, rods, and other things they could find in nature, And when that wasn’t enough, they probably just used their hands and feet. It’s not strange to suppose that in the beginning, everybody used some sort of primitive martial art.

    Later, soldiers and war-folks always tried to train and prepare for every kind of opponent as well as every kind of situation. The Roman and Greek soldiers trained with weapons, and they trained without weapons. The training techniques with weapons became the foundation for track and field… And hand-to-hand combat techniques became the foundation for a series of martial arts from Scandinavia to South Africa, from Japan to America. Kicking, throwing, punching, and holding is in no way unique to the east. 

    The seeds of modern Karate.

    Japan stretches from northeast to southwest between the Russian Sakhalin Island and a point south of Korea. But the Empire of the rising sun doesn’t finish there. From Kyushu in the south, Japan continues almost all the way to Taiwan. These are the Ryūkyū Islands and of these Okinawa is the biggest. 

    The history of Okinawa goes back thousands of years. But let’s focus on the last six hundred of them. In 1429, Okinawa was unified as the Ryūkyū Kingdom. With a large and effective administration, little internal warfare, and a perfect geographic position right there on the border of the East China Sea, their Empire grew in importance. Through effective trade between China, Southeast Asia, Korea, and of course Japan they slowly became a lively, cultural melting pot. And it is in this context we should try to find the origin of karate.

    The seed germinates…

    origin of karate

    Okinawa at the time had a very complex caste system. The Okinawans were born into their respective roles in society. 

    • There was the King and the King’s family. 
    • Below them, there were several noble classes and priests. 
    • Then came three levels of Pechin, the feudal warrior class. These were charged with enforcing the law and providing military defense to the nation, similar to the Japanese Samurai. 

    In 1477 a general weapon ban was issued by King Shō Shin. He also moved most of the local district rulers to the capital, Shuri. All this to eliminate any possibility of uprising or rebellion in the districts. The ban lasted for 50 years until the King’s death. 

    In 1609 the Shimazu family of the Satsuma-han (today’s Kagoshima prefecture) in southern Japan invaded and conquered Okinawa. From that point on, Okinawa has always been, in at least some way, a part of Japan. This was the time when a second weapon ban was introduced. 

    Although these bans weren’t total and didn’t include all sorts of weapons, they still had a big influence on the way the Okinawan warriors trained. They had to adapt to the new rules. So, they developed and elaborated various techniques to fight with bare hands Te (手)… And they formed the Kobudō (古武道), which is a collective term for battle techniques with various weapons that were not forbidden, like staffs, hooks, sticks, etc. The chain stick, Nunchaku, is a weapon in this category.

    The old Okinawan masters generally practiced Karate and Kobudō together. These two branches were originally one as fighting with and without weapons was all a part of the general technique of warfare. They complete each other.

    China and the origin of Karate. 

    Having close relations with all the surrounding countries, the Okinawans picked up useful skills from all of them. That included not only China but also other countries in the neighborhood.

    origin of karate

    It is sometimes described as if the origin of Karate was just Chinese Kung Fu, and the Okinawan Pechin just modified it.

    The truth is that hand-to-hand fighting techniques were not at all unique for their particular origins or location, Chinese, Japanese, or otherwise. There were hundreds of various disciplines, and styles, and every corner of the landscape had its own schools and masters. 

    Having said that, it is true that China and Okinawa had a long history of mutual economical and cultural exchange. 

    After 1609 Okinawa still wasn’t yet fully Japanese. It was a Satsuma (Japanese) vassal state, and as such enjoyed quite a lot of independence. Interestingly it was also a Chinese tributary state.

    China requested the tributary status to engage in trading relations. And as Japan didn’t have good relations with China, and as China straight out banned all economic transactions with Japan, Okinawa became the backdoor for anyone who wanted to exchange goods between the dominant powers of the region. It was a win-win situation for all. And it also allowed for China to continue dominating the cultural influence over the Ryūkyū islands.

    Sakugawa Kanga.

    Very little is known about this extraordinary master of Karate. He was born in the second half of the 18th century, probably in Akada Village outside the capital of the time, Shuri. He studied the traditional Okinawa hand-to-hand fighting technique, Te (手).

    Karate punch wall

    When he was in his thirties (.. or twenties.), he traveled to China, once or several times, and studied Chinese martial arts. Once home again, he started a school in Shuri where he taught his own merged variant of Te. 

    The name of his technique was Tōde Sakugawa.  

    • Sakugawa, well that part is obvious.
    • Tōde is made up of two parts: De is the character for hand, Te (手) in Japanese. 
    • Tō is the character for Tang, as in the Chinese Tang dynasty. To (唐) in Japanese, but pronounced Kara as Karate (唐手) in this Kanji. The reason for calling the Chinese Tang was that Okinawa had made its first contact with the Chinese during the Tang dynasty. After that Tang (Tō) continued to be used for Chinese and Chinese goods in general… As well as “foreign” in general.

    So, the translation would be Chinese Fist/Hand of Sakugawa

    Ancient Okinawan Te bears a resemblance to Chinese Kung Fu.

    Now, let’s sail over to Japan

    Over in Japan, big things were happening. In 1868 the last Tokugawa shogun had to resign, and that was the end of the Edo period in Japan’s history. After that, the country returned to imperialism with its 122nd Emperor, Meiji. In 1872 an imperial order abolished the feudal domains, and overnight most of the samurai found themselves without a job. From being the backbone of Japanese society, suddenly they were obsolete. 

    If you’ve seen the film The Last Samurai, you get the sort of general idea.

    What followed was 15 years of brutal westernization. And in that process, the old ways of a feudal warrior didn’t fit in.

    To that, we have to add, modern weapons… If you face rifles and canons, that could shoot you from hundreds of meters, the traditional battle techniques fall kind of short. Never bring a sword to a gunfight.

    The result was a surplus of instructors, masters of ancient fighting techniques who nobody needed.

    Karate as entertainmentThe origin of Karate – Public entertainment.

    So, everything had to be European or American. The old Japanese culture was looked upon with skepticism The only martial art that still was popular during this period was Sumo. Because Sumo wasn’t a martial art connected to warfare and the feudal Tokugawa period. It was a sport, an entertainment, more tied to Shinto performance. It didn’t suffer as much from the anti-domestic movement in the late 1800s.


    In 1873 Sakakibara Kenkichi, who himself was one of the Samurai, engaged in organizing traditional Japanese sword battles, Gekiken Kogyo. As real swords were too dangerous, as well as banned, they used training swords made of bamboo. And so, Kendo was born. 

    But even though I wasn’t supposed to write about Kendo, the birth of Kendo still has a lot to do with the origin of Karate. It was the first time one of the old battle techniques was used as entertainment rather than a way to kill your enemy in battle.

    What Sakakibara Kenkichi did was to add a few very important details to his exhibitions, all borrowed from Sumo:

    • He introduced Sudden Death, the possibility to win with one strike if it’s correctly done. 
    • He introduced an independent referee. 
    • And lastly, he introduced commentators whose job was to explain the various rules, strikes, and how they were carried out. That made it enjoyable to watch, even if you didn’t understand anything about the event.


    Judo vs Karate
    Jigoro Kano (right) and Kyuzo Mifune (left)

    In 1882 Jigoro Kano created another Japanese sport based on the old hand-to-hand fighting techniques. He called his sport Judo and added two more very important attributes that would become a great advantage for all the Budo – Modern Japanese martial arts. 

    • He added a universal ranking system loosely based on the ranking system for the popular board game Go. The Judo ranking system allowed any student to compete against any other student based on their respective rankings. It also made it possible for a student to go from one Master to another without having to start all over. Everybody agreed upon the standards that had to be met for each level of ranking. The Judo ranking system was based on several classes, Kyū (級), with colored belts, and normally 10 steps, Dan (段) with black belts. 
    • Jigoro Kano chose to name his sport: Judo, instead of keeping the form Jujutsu (jiu-jitsu). Although the most radical westernization was softened considerably by 1882, the old battle techniques weren’t fashionable. The lingering sense that the Samurai methods were outmoded, remained. By adding the word do (道) meaning way, as in “the way of…”, Kano introduced the idea of personal development through sport. And that was a stroke of genius. 

    Karate, just like Kendo, Judo, Aikido, can be referred to as Karate-do… The way of the empty hand (空手道). 

    karate borrowed the colors from judo

    Karate later also adapted the white uniform from Judo, the Judo gi. As Karate don’t use holding, grappling, and throwing, and subsequently the material doesn’t need the same strength, the Karate gi is much lighter.

    Back to Okinawa.

    After the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate, the new government in Japan wanted to solidify its grip on Okinawa. The subordinate status was not well defined and could possibly open for claims from other countries. China still had vassal claims on the island, and when they upgraded Taiwan to a formal province, Japan saw that as a motive to tie up Okinawa harder. In 1887 they annexed the whole Ryūkyū archipelago and established Okinawa prefecture

    The politics were therefore very different from that in Japan. After the annexation, there was not only a westernization in Okinawa but more so a Japanization. The Japanese language was mandatory in schools, and much of the Okinawan culture, such as the Martial Arts, was banned. The reaction was that of hostility towards the intruders and secret admiration for the domestic trademarks. 

    Gichin Funakoshi

    basic kata
    Gichin Funakoshi

    Gichin Funakoshi was born in 1868, the same year as the Tokugawa shogunate ended in Japan. He was of Pechin class and desired to become a medical doctor. But as his father was a hardened traditionalist and insisted on the boy wearing his hair in the traditional Pechin-hairstyle, he practically couldn’t even approach any prestigious education facility, necessary to accomplish his dream. Instead, he became a teacher.

    Already in primary school, he had come across Asato Ankō, the father of one of his classmates. He also met Itosu Ankō. Funakoshi started training Karate secretly with those at night and continued doing so during all his school years and even as a full-grown teacher. His masters taught him not only Karate but also about Okinawan traditions, and language.

    So, when the ban was lifted in 1901 and Funakoshi finally could open his own Dojo, he was trained not only in Karate, Okinawan culture, Chinese and Japanese philosophy, and language but also in the art of teaching. 

    Funakoshi chose a name for his school that was identical to the pen name he had used when writing traditional Chinese-style poetry… Shoto (松濤) meaning waving pines. The school was called the house of waving pines – Shoto-kan (松濤館). 

    Funakoshi went to Japan in 1917, but it was his trip there in 1922 that really made the difference. He was invited by the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, to demonstrate Karate at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo. He was supposed to stay only for the demonstration but ended up staying for the rest of his life.


    At the end of the 19th century, Japan had a brand new, western-style education system. And just like the schools in Europe and America, physical education was an important part of educating the new generations. And so, a lot of funding was put into the schools, and a big part of this money went to hiring coaches.

    The various new Martial Arts that had sprung up, all wanted a piece of that, rather juicy, cake. They competed with each other, but very soon they found out that the biggest adversaries were the western styles, the European and American sports, such as Baseball, Football (Soccer), Track and Field, and of course Boxing.  

    In an attempt to unify the resources and work together to promote their various Martial Arts, they formed the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, DNBK  (大日本武徳会). An important selling point was the possible positive effect these domestic sports could have on the ethics and personality of the Japanese students… Remember the “do”. This argument increased in value during the 20th century when extreme nationalism grew in Japan.

    At that time the DNBK tightened its bonds with the military and the police force. 

    But long before that, the DNBK introduced and popularized the label, Budo, meaning some kind of Martial Art with the goal of moral cultivation and physical exercise.

    The DNBK was and still is today an umbrella organization for Japanese Martial Arts.

    Boxing and Karate.

    At the beginning of 1900 Japan strengthen its hold on Southeast Asia. Japan was on the winning side in WW1, and they had captured German possessions in the Pacific and in China. 

    Domestic politics went from nationalism to Shōwa Statism, an ultra-nationalism similar to the movements in Italy, Spain, and Germany at the time. Now it was more important than ever to have cultural manifestations that were truly domestic.

    The match of the century between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in 1921 turned everybody’s heads toward the ultimate sport – Boxing. The young crown prince Hirohito was in Europe when the fight occurred, and could follow the hysteria from the UK. Back in Japan, he was crowned Emperor later that same year. As he was a big fan of sports, and Martial Arts, in particular,  he wanted something similar but of Japanese origin. And nothing suited better than Karate. 

    But the popular Okinawan styles at the time were too complex. So, a transformation started in the Dojos on the Japanese mainland. This transformation also depended on the need to somehow unify the techniques (Kihon), forms (Kata), and rules. For this reason, much of the holding and grappling that until that time was present in Okinawan Karate, was removed.

    What was left was a sport, much more similar to boxing than the complete fighting technique that it had been at the beginning.

    Kenwa Mabuni

    Emperor of Japan
    Emperor Hirohito

    Many of the old masters from Okinawa were horrified by these changes.

    Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of the Shito-Ryu school, said this about the new sport:

      –  The Karate that has been introduced to Tokyo is actually just a part of the whole. The fact that those who have learned Karate feel it only consists of Kicks and Punches, and that throws and joint locks only exist in Judo and Jujitsu can only be put down to a lack of understanding. Those who are thinking of the future of karate should have an open mind and strive to study the complete art.  

    Jigoro Kano comes to Okinawa.

    Another very important event was Jigoro Kano’s visit to Okinawa in 1927. He wanted to experience the birthplace of Karate himself. And that’s probably when the name of the sport started to feel a little too controversial, being labeled Chinese. The organizers of the event called their styles  Shuri-te (首里手), Nahari-te (那覇手), and Tomari-te (泊手) from three the cities Shuri, Naha, and Tomari from where the performers originated. These villages are only kilometers from each other and they are today parts of the city of Naha. 

    The development into a worldwide, Olympic sport. 

    In an attempt to be accepted in the Butoku Kai the name changed… Sort of. The many schools from Okinawa were all referred to as Chinese Hand (唐手) So, they dropped the “Chinese” (唐) together with names of Kata that were of Chinese origin. Instead, the name became Empty Hand (空手). These two words are pronounced the same, Kara-te. It’s just the meaning that changes.

    In 1935, Karate was formally accepted in the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai.

    So, that’s where it came from… From Okinawa. But once Karate had reached popularity in Japan it continued to conquer the world.

    • Although many prominent Okinawan instructors had been to Hawaii in the thirties, the introduction of Karate to the US mainland came after WW2. Soldiers that had been stationed in Okinawa or Japan during and after the war brought the new sport home.
    • Also after WW2,  Karate was introduced to Europe mainly by Japanese instructors. The  European Karate Union was formed in 1965.
    • In 1970 the international karate union was created. It almost immediately was disbanded as it didn’t include Japan. Shortly after, the World Union of Karate-do Organizations (WUKO) was born, which was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1985. 
    • In the 2020s Olympics, postponed to 2021, Karate made its debut as an Olympic sport.
    • Karate has more than 100 million active practitioners, in 192 countries worldwide.
    • …  The 2024 Olympics organizing committee has announced that karate will officially be dropped…

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    Yes, the origin of Karate is in Okinawa. But the Karate we see in competitions today, in the World Championship and the Olympics, although that seems to be over for this time, is very far away from that origin.



    The Mansfield Reformatory

    Mansfield Reformatory

    Mansfield Reformatory, aka Ohio State Reformatory, is said to have been a particularly inhumane environment for the prisoners. That resulted in Mansfield Reformatory today being one of the most haunted places in the US…

    Mansfield Reformatory
    Courtesy of Mike Sharp under the CC BY-SA 1.0 DEED license.

    Ohio State Reformatory

    Correction facilities all over the world are filled with suppressed anger, unspoken despair, and insufferable anguish. Through the centuries they have gathered long lists of sad stories and tragic characters. Death was always a loyal companion to most in these godforsaken environments… And still is today. Life in prison is hard.

    It is not difficult to see a connection between the nature of the activity in a prison and paranormal activity. Many stories about ghosts and hauntings originate in violent and unjust deaths, and nowhere are those more common than in prisons. As a result, many of the world’s most haunted places are those where people have been incarcerated… In older times castles and strongholds, in the last few hundred years in state prisons and reformatories.

    In the US there are haunted prisons in every state… From Alcatraz in San Fransisco to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, from Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie to the Old City Jail in Charleston.

    But maybe the most terrifying of them all is the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio

    A short history.

    architect of the Mansfield reformatory
    Levi T. Scofield

    The beginning of the Mansfield Reformatory can be dated as far back as the 1860s when 30 acres of land were purchased for the new institution. Ohio already had two facilities, the Ohio State Penitentiary, in Columbus which functioned as a high-security prison, and the Ohio Reform School outside Lancaster for boys between 8 and 18 years of age. But the state needed something in between. So in 1886, the construction of the Mansfield Reformatory started. It was intended as a Reformatory halfway between a prison and the Boys’ Industrial School. The inmates were supposed to be prepared, educated, and reformed to be able to retake their positions in society. They were supposed to be first-time offenders only, and the age of the inmates should be between 18 and 30.

    Construction works didn’t finish until 1910 because of problems with funding. But already in September 1896, the first 150 men were transferred. These, together with other prisoners for the fifteen years to follow, helped with the completion of the building. 

    The architecture, by the Cleveland architect Levi Tucker Scofield, was a result of the ideas of the time. Just by being in a morally uplifting environment, the prisoners were supposed to better themselves. Especially since the inmates were young and adaptable. 

    From a model prison to Hell’s forecourt.

    The Reformatory character changed after a few decades though. Although the intention always was to take on younger prisoners, not to have inmates that were convicted for the worst felonies, and to continue reformation programs to at least some extent, by 1930 the Mansfield Reformatory had become a real high-security prison, although for younger male interns.  

    the hole Ohio state reformatory

    Between 1920 and 1930, the average population in federal prisons tripled nationwide and between 1930 and 1940, it nearly doubled again. And after the devastating fire in the Ohio Penitentiary in April 1930, where 322 inmates were burned to death, the Mansfield Reformatory came under even more pressure. 

    By then cells that were built for one prisoner housed two, and cells for two housed three or more. The sanitary problems were evident, and that definitely didn’t help when trying to keep interns and staff safe. 

    From the early sixties, Mansfield Reformatory was classified as a maximum-security prison. 


    Two prison guards were killed in the line of duty on prison grounds, Urban Wilford in 1926 and Philip Orleck in 1932. In 1948, two paroled inmates, Robert Daniels and John West, killed the prison farm superintendent John Niebel together with his wife Nolanda, and daughter, Phyllis. Before that, they had killed four more and injured several.  

    But the inmates themselves took the hardest blow. In the hundred years of activity, over 200 interns died in the Mansfield Reformatory.  Some of them by suicide but most were assassinated by fellow convicted. Diseases also flourished in the cramped cell blocks.

    One of the worst penalties was the so-called hole. These were Solitary Confinement cells, with only a toilet and a sink, but no bunk. The convict was fed only bread and water and had to sleep on the floor, sometimes naked. 

    Ohio state reformatory

      –  There were so many cockroaches that you had to put toilet paper in your ears and nose to keep them out, said one inmate. The ones that got into your mouth just counted as an additional protein supplement.

    Once, two inmates were put in the same isolation cell, dimensioned only for one person, After three days only one of them came out. The other was dead, killed by his cellmate.

    The end and closure.

    In 1978, the Counsel for Human Dignity filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the inmates. At that time there were around 2500 interns on-site, while the official capacity was 1900. The lawsuit claimed that prisoners had to live in “brutalizing and inhumane conditions.”, and thus their constitutional rights were being violated. 

    It took the court five years to agree upon a consent decree. The officials were to improve conditions while preparing for the closure of the Manfield Reformatory by 1986. The closing date was then extended and the prison was finally closed in 1990. 

    While still officially a first-offender prison with convicts between 18 and 30, many exceptions from this rule were made continuously. 

    Gary Mohr, former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, reformed the whole organization in the last second half of the 80s. A Decentralized Management system was implemented, and not only in the Mansfield Reformatory but in all the state. It supposedly diminished problems in the prison and created a safer and calmer environment.

    Many inmates from that time, do not always agree, though. They generally had to arm themselves at all times with razor blades, pens, and other self-made weapons for defense. Mansfield Reformatory was a very violent and unsafe place. Injures like cut wounds, and traumas to the head, arms, and legs after disputes were common. Murders occasionally happened within the prison, and they continued even after the reformed management was in place.

    The many possible ghosts of Mansfield Reformatory.

    So, finally to the ghosts. 

    The many stories about hauntings were told between inmates and guards already long before the prison closed. Footsteps, whispers, thuds, and other strange, unexplainable noises could be heard from time to time. The many deaths within the premises make it difficult to determine who this ghost really is. Or even if it’s a single, definable entity, many entities, or just the building itself. 

    Mansfield reformatory

    There are locations though, that are more probable than others to produce paranormal phenomena. 

    • One such place is the so-called called “Jesus Room” in the west wing, accessible via a staircase off of the west cell block. It’s named so after a big Jesus painting present in the room. 
    • Another spot is the West Attic where supposedly banging and scraping can be heard even in broad daylight.
    • There is a room with a chair on the third floor of the entrance building. This is a blind room with no windows, and with just one piece of furniture, namely the wooden chair. It is said that if you close the door and turn off the light, the chair will have moved when you come back.
    • The hole, the solitary confinement cells.
    • The old hole under the barber at the east diagonal. This part is closed to the public, but people who have set foot there say that it’s the creepiest part of the whole prison.

    The strange death of Helen Glattke.

    Arthur Glattke was the warden of the Mansfield Reformatory from 1935 to 1959. He was much liked and respected by both the inmates and his staff. His wife Helen, born Bauer, was a beautiful woman and they and their two sons lived on the premises together with a few other families in managerial positions.

    Around 10:15 Sunday morning, November 5, 1950, Helen Glattke was getting ready for church. She reached up to her closet shelf for her jewelry but for some reason, she put her hand on a hidden .32-caliber semi-automatic handgun. The weapon fell to the floor but by doing so it accidentally fired a bullet into her left lung. 

    She died at Mansfield General Hospital two days later. 

    Strangely, no outside investigation was carried out, and the death was labeled an accident. A number of gun experts stated that it is “very unlikely that a 32-caliber semi-automatic pistol could have discharged in the manner stated in the official account”. And the odd facts surrounding the case made rumors spread like wildfire inside the prison. 

    “Helen could have found her husband with another woman, and Arthur had killed her to avoid a career-damaging divorce.” Arthur died nine years later in a heart attack at the age of 57. 

    Soon after the death of Helen, many inmates, as well as guards, reported seeing the Ghost of Helen. The distinctive odor of her rose-scented perfume can be felt in her former quarters in the Entrance building.

    Ohio hauntingsWhat do the YouTube experts say?

    If you search Ohio State Reformatory or Mansfield Reformatory on YouTube, you’ll find a long list of videos. From self-proclaimed ghost hunters with just a cell phone to professional TV teams with all kinds of electrical gadgets and EMF toys. They are more or less all made in the same manner. And that’s the manner in which all the other ghost-hunting videos from all over the world are made as well.

    Darkness, flickering lights from flashlights, scared faces, night-vision cameras, and the pulsating EVPs that every now and then say… “scratch”, which is interpreted as “Mike” or “Death”… And all the ghost hunters confirm in a low voice that:

      –  This is a haunted place… I feel uncomfortable here… There definitely is someone here with us…

    But from the YouTube clips, there’s really not much certainty at all. We have many, actually loads of testimonies, audio recordings of voices, and videos of almost undetectable shadows moving around. But many uncertain, unconvincing testimonies do not add up to one true, convincing testimony. That’s just the way it is.

    The Special Bias problems with the Mansfield Reformatory. 

    The Mansfield Reformatory is a very popular ghost hunting site. And the reasons are two:

    • The structure itself. Even though the wall around it is gone, and so are all of the adjacent structures, the main building is awesome. The Romanesque- and Gothic style was inspired by European castles. Today, the totally grey facade, with its black, huge windows, gives it an eerie, uncanny atmosphere. It’s not strange that another popular name for the Ohio State Reformatory was Dracula’s Castle. And inside, with its cramped prison cells, long corridors, old, molded walls, and rusty steel bars, it’s even worse. It’s a scary place. 
    • The management focuses quite a bit on ghost hunts and other paranormal events. They take part in national and international events with various spooky themes, and they actively try to profile the Mansfield Reformatory as a haunted location.  
    Mansfield reformatory

    The new fashion of having old prisons being converted into haunted amusement parks has met criticism. Some social workers, scientists, and historians call it a distraction from the grim realities of the criminal justice system. We turn a violent and tragic past into a tourist attraction. 

    This kind of activity makes it even more difficult to find the real deal under all the fluff. Every Youtuber wants substance to get visitors and likes, and if the big channels are ready to fake footage and recordings to make a good show, what should prevent the less resource-full small YouTube channels to do so as well? We need to try to penetrate the obvious fakes to see if we can find something true underneath.

    Paranormal investigations of Mansfield Reformatory.

    Real, true, skeptical investigations are always hard to find. Here’s a list of the famous TV channels that have had their ghost hunting program series covering Mansfield Reformatory on various occasions:

    • Ghost Hunter (Sci-Fi channel) was there in 2005
    • Ghost Adventures (Travel Channel) was there in 2009
    • Ghost Hunters Academy (SyFy) was there in 2009
    • Inside Secret America (National Geographic) was there in 2013
    • Ghost Asylum (Destination America) was there in 2015
    • BuzzFeed Unsolved (BuzzFeed) was there in 2018
    • Portals to Hell (Travel Channel) was there in 2020

    As you see it’s been quite a flow at the Mansfield Reformatory. But not much solid and useful has come out of it. It’s an endless row of flickering footage, mumbling voices, and the ever-present pulsating EVPs. 

    prison 1900
    Courtesy of Brenda Gottsabend under the CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED license.


    No, sorry but no serious investigation has ever been made in the Mansfield Reformatory. As long as you don’t count the many TV shows that have documented the prison. We just don’t have the facts. 

    And the main difficulties when it comes to determining if there actually are ghosts roaming the property, are as follows:

    • The site is highly commercialized. The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society which is the present owner does an incredible job in preserving the property. But they don’t stop there. The goal is to be able to restore all of the interior as well as the exterior of the buildings. So far they’ve completed the restoration of the first floor, but they’d need funding for the continuing efforts. And that’s where the guided tours come in… Guided tours that cover everything from normal tourists visiting, to nightly ghost tours and Shawshank Redemption tours. All of which profit from the rumors the Mansfield Reformatory has of being one of the most haunted places in the US. We just can’t tell if the many stories are legit or if it’s just PR. 
    • The Mansfield reformatory is a very scary place by itself. Its atmosphere is that of an old haunted castle. And we know that the human brain is easily manipulated. I would say it’s much easier to imagine sounds, shadows, and touching in a vast correctional facility than elsewhere. Especially after dark. And all of the ghost hauntings are carried out after dark.

    Janice Urban of the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society:

      –  I’m never afraid in this building. I can walk in here at any time and I’m never uncomfortable at all.

    Final words

    And I would actually agree with her. I do not feel any special hauntings or any sort of negative energy inside the Mansfield Reformatory. It’s just a fascinating building with a fascinating history… Very sad and disturbing but fascinating. There is no need to add Ghosts and Phantoms to it. It is quite enough just by itself.

    The Mansfield Reformatory has its own merits, its own memories, and most of all, its own many real-life stories. We should respect that, and remember her hundred years of history and maybe we can learn something from it. 

    … But please, make up your own mind.

    haunted mansfield reformatory

    Check out this photo, and read the article by Ryan Clark.

    … I’ve traveled the country seeking out the weird and fantastic. I’ve been to supposed haunted houses and asylums. I’ve searched the skies for UFOs and hunted the woods for cryptids.

    Never have I seen anything that made me truly question what I know. And I want to see something. I do. It’d just never happened.

    … That is, until I visited The Ohio State Reformatory.

    And check out this video. Are the claims credible?

    Fun facts

    • The east cell block in The Mansfield Reformatory is the biggest free-standing steel cell block in the world.
    • Many TV shows and movies have used the intriguing interior of the Ohio State Reformatory for shooting prison scenes. The most famous being The Shawshank Redemption from 1994 (who actually used it for most of the scenography of the film), and Air Force One from 1997. Tango & Cash from 1989 shot various prison scenes inside while the prison was still in use.
    • The ground where the prison stands were previously used as a training camp for soldiers in the civil war. It’s been suggested that some of the ghosts derive from that time.
    • Warden Arthur Glattke was a creative person. In line with the ideas of the time, he installed loudspeakers and played music in the cellblocks. It was supposed to have a calming effect on the inmates. 
    • You could say that the film The Shawshank Redemption saved The Ohio State Reformatory. It was planned to be demolished. Then Castle Rock Entertainment needed the location for its film project and the demolition had to wait. After filming had ended, a local group of enthusiasts called The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society bought the estate for a symbolic $1. For that price, they are compelled to restore and maintain the buildings. 
    • Today The Mansfield Reformatory generates $16 million annually.

    Back to the top of the page


    It is difficult to say for sure because of all the prejudice and commercial interests in the building. It’s a creepy place, but I don’t see any signs of real paranormal activity.

    An extra star just for the awesome environment, and the fascinating history.  

     And The Shawshank Redemption is an awesome movie. You should see it if you haven’t already.