Episode 161: Shell Game



The conflict had been a longtime coming. Tensions had been building between the supporters of king. Charles the first known as royalists and his enemy the parliamentarians for a very long time but on october twenty third of sixteen forty two all that angst was unleashed at the battle of edgehill. The first chapter of the english civil war was also too close to call. Both sides incurred such massive losses that most modern historians are in agreement that no one was victorious over the other it was a draw that bloody battle left. Its mark in more ways than one two months later in december of sixteen forty two some shepherds were working in the field where the fighting had taken place when an unusual noise took them by surprise they described it as the sound of horses screaming in pain followed by the distinct class of metal weapons on metal armor and when the shepherds the field around them they were paralyzed by fear. A ghostly battle was playing out before there is more reports of similar experiences. There began to be whispered across the countryside and eventually made their way to king. Charles himself curious he sent officials to investigate the stories. And their findings were revolutionary. Not only were the investigators able to witness the ghostly battle for themselves but some of the king's men who had participated in the battle of edgehill claim they recognised fallen friends. Among the phantom faces clearly wore puts us closer to the world beyond our own more than just about any other activity and while ghostly reminders of bloody battles are a common tale in the world folklore. It goes beyond simple reenactments the some. It's a sign that the supernatural world is right there waiting to help and protect them. One of the most common forms of battlefield folklore is premonitions and visions. A great example. Comes to us from an article in an eighteen. Eighty six edition of the detroit. Free press written by a former confederate soldier tells the story of how one morning while making coffee around the fire with a few of his fellow soldiers. One of the men claim to have had a dream the night before in its. He saw something that convinced him that he was destined to die in battle that day. I looked down upon a sheet of water. The frightened man had said who surface was covered in bubbles and amidst them. I saw my own dead face. I shall be shot before nights. He claimed of course his friends told him. It was nothing to worry about but later that day. During a skirmish with union troops an enemy canon ball rocketed across the battlefield. Cutting that very say man in half as it struck him in the same article. The author also discusses another type of folklore found within the theater of war charms according to him a common object found on a chain around the neck or in the pockets of his fellow. Confederate soldiers was a rabbit's foot. Some of the men even made a small business out of it making and selling them to the most desperate in fright among them decades. Later in the midst of the first world war another charm would become equally popular. They were type of stylized doll known as eight thumbs up. The name comes from the pos. They were fashioned in a wooden head on a metal body with arms raised to show two thumbs up over time. Thumbs-up became thumbs up. Some soldiers knocked on the wooden head of the doll for good luck while others carried them in their pockets or packs at all times. Early pilots even painted images of them on the signs of their airplanes charms. Like these represented the human desire to control things. Just put a rabbit's foot in your pocket and you'd be okay right. It's an understandable practice especially in an environment where so much was out of their control but battlefield superstitions went beyond good luck charms and some of the most common tales involve something much less physical ghostly assistance one. Such story comes to us from a battle that took place in serbia in nineteen twelve during the first balkan war in it. The army was stationed at the foot of a mountain while their enemy. The turkish troops had taken up a position above them inside in kassel. It was a fortress closely associated with a serbian national hero. A fourteenth century warrior king named marco initially orders from the serbian command. Were that their troops. Were to hold their position at the base of the mountain and wait for artillery fire to weaken the castles wall. But before that could happen. The soldiers there had a mass vision. The east claimed that marco had appeared before them sword raised commanding them to advance and take back his castle and amazingly it worked despite having the protection of those high walls. The turks were defeated by the serbian forces. Of course they were still lectured afterward by their commanding officers. When asked why they disobeyed a direct order. The soldier is relayed the story of the ghostly. Vision of king marco. I can't find record of their commanders response. But honestly i'm not sure that's important after all they won but not visions were of fallen soldiers or long dead focusses. Sometimes the ghostly help came in a much more religious package a great example of this can be found in a letter written by a british soldier to his mother back home in sussex in may of nineteen sixteen in the midst of the first world war. He wrote home describing something miraculous. That happened during a recent battle across had appeared in the sky. Above the fighting. Not just a flash either. This cross was said to have stayed visible for a full fifteen minutes. It was a scene later. Immortalized in a painting called the cross in the heavens above the trenches with was published by the illustrated london news and it wouldn't be the last during the war countless paintings. Etchings and illustrations appeared all throughout europe depicting christian imagery. Some like the story. I just told showed the cross shining above one army or another other images showed christ himself standing. Among the soldiers and a few even included the madonna. Not the pop star. Mind you but mary. The mother of jesus but the most common reports of all were of something witnessed in nearly every country across europe. No matter what side of the battle of soldier found themselves on it seems that visions of this other worldly protector. Were never that far away and it was hard to miss them to thanks

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