- Ghost Adventures Season 10
- Ghost Adventures Volume 12
Island of the Dolls (episode)
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Islands of the Dolls is the fourth episode of Season 10 of Ghost Adventures . Zak , Nick and Aaron travel to Xochimilco, Mexico where the dark and creepy canals are home to what might be the world's strangest and scariest tourist attraction; the " Island of the Dolls ", because of the many baby dolls in the trees. The island is also the site of a sinister and haunted mystery.
- 1 Preliminary Investigation
- 2 Investigation
- 3.1 Pre- Investigation
- 3.2 Investigation
- 4 Reference
Preliminary Investigation [ ]
Investigation [ ], evidence [ ], pre- investigation [ ].
- Physical Harm: Zak receives 3 bruises on his left arm, and coincidentally he was holding "Harold the Haunted Doll" earlier, that had a very loose and almost broken left arm.
- Unexplained Noises: Cans moving or possibly a lighter fluid tin can quickly being squeezed to start the fire, Dolls laughing, Screaming
- Other Phenomena: When Zak, Aaron, and Jay arrive to dock, they hear noises in an area where a fire pit is located. Soon afterwards, a fire is sparked in the same area and there was no other people on the island to have had the fire started.
- Physical Contact/Other Phenomena: Before Zak brings Harold the Haunted Doll out of the bag, an energy force is released causing 2 cats to start fighting. Seconds later, a doll on shed wall starts to laugh as if its trying to lure the guys away.
- Physical Contact: Cold energy is felt throughout the investigation, even in base camp.
- Apparition: After an energy force goes off in the Possessed Doll Shed, Aaron sees a figure walking outside on the bridge. He continuously sees the same figure on the bridge.
- Apparition: A rectangular black mass is captured on the camera directed in Don Julian's hut.
- Apparition: Billy sees lights in the hut the same time the black apparition was captured.
- Spirit Box Voices: Man's voice
- Apparition: An unexplained figure moves in the back right corner of the hut, and with this, the dots of camera move and footsteps are captured.
- Physical Contact: Zak feels an icy hand move down his back.
- EVPs: "I don't like her...stupid"
- Temperature Fluctuation/Apparition: Before the lockdown is concluded, the thermal apparition directed at Harold the Haunted Doll detects a warmer temperature change underneath the doll as if the doll is a living being.
Reference [ ]
- 1 SLS camera
- 2 Debbie Constantino
- 3 Ghost Adventures: The Beginning
Ghost Adventures investigate the Island Of The Dolls with mixed results
By verona jones | apr 30, 2019.
Over the years, the Ghost Adventures crew have investigated some notoriously haunted locations. Though none of those sites carry the same spook factor as the Isla de las Munecas, evidenced by their investigation in “Island Of The Dolls”.
For those unfamiliar with the Ghost Adventures , the crew of investigators visits various locations across the globe that possess paranormal properties. One of their more compelling investigations was at the Island Of The Dolls, a small Mexican island isolated in the canals of Xochimilco.
The myth around the island goes that a man named Don Julian Santana Barrera found the body of a girl floating in the canal waters. Later, the island’s caretaker discovered a doll floating in the same area that he found the little girl in. He assumed the toy belonged to her.
Feeling guilty because he couldn’t save her from a watery grave, he hung the doll in a tree—hoping once the little girl saw her doll—it would appease her angry spirit. While the legend stands and residents of the island believe in it, there’s no supporting evidence to suggest that a child really drowned there. But then again, a girl drowning in a rural area isn’t unheard of and more than likely wouldn’t be accurately recorded.
Don Julian, he believed in the legend and also felt like the girl’s spirit haunted him because he was unable to save her in time. His peace offering of the first doll didn’t seem to work so Don Julian spent the next fifty years collecting dolls and hanging them around the surrounding trees. Now, the island is littered with them—and they’re even creepier now that weather has caused a fair amount of them to decay.
In Season 9, Episode 6 of Ghost Adventures , Zak Bagans and the crew spoke with Don Julian’s nephew, Anastasio Velasquez about his uncle’s story. Anastasio was actually the one who found his uncle’s body in the canals—mind you that it was in the same area the little girl was discovered in. Velasquez even claims he’s seen the dolls move—all of which took place after he assumed his uncle’s duties as the island’s caretaker.
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The question on many fans minds’ is whether or not Don Julian died because of guilt? Or did the little girl’s spirit drown him? There are rumors of DJ being hunted down as vengeance for standing idly by while the little girl drowned. The man’s account could not be verified and that was one of the questions Zak Bagans’ and his intrepid crew were hoping to answer by investigating the site.
Nevertheless, the Island Of The Dolls has maintained a reputation for being a highly active paranormal location, prompting eager paranormal investigators to visit and see these hellish dolls in action. One of them was Josh Gates from the Destination Truth series who did an investigation of the island and captured some paranormal evidence of their own. Zak Bagans, however, is the first investigator to bring a haunted doll as a trigger to provoke a response from the creepy dolls on the island. The theory being that as the island doesn’t like visitors—human or doll—the presence of “Harold” the doll would evoke a response from other dolls.
A little background on Harold, he’s supposedly one of the most haunted dolls in the world. Howard is right up there with Annabelle who was the inspiration for “Chucky” from Child’s Play .
Ghost Adventures’ Zak Bagans brings along “Harold” The Doll
In 2004, Anthony Quinata purchased Harold on eBay of all places but after experiencing paranormal incidents of his own, Quinata put the doll into storage from 2005-2013. People have even reported suffering a range of painful symptoms hours after mere contact with Harold. The symptoms range from migraines, headaches, severe lower back pain, and feelings of disorientation. This is the doll Zak Bagans wants to accompany him to Mexico’s Island Of The Dolls.
Before subjecting his crew to the doll’s presence, Zak advises his crew not to look directly into the eyes of Harold. Bagans briefly introduces the doll to the episode viewers as a guest investigator, before delving into Harold’s rather sinister past.
The next stop our friendly ghost hunters visit is to a local psychic who tells them that Harold doesn’t like being closed inside a suitcase (surprise…surprise) and wants out. Sabrinah, the psychic, also informs them that there is a demon inside of Harold and that they’re in danger if he accompanies them to the island.
Additionally, the psychic also claims to be in constant communication with Don Julian. She informs the Ghost Adventures crew about DJ’s concerns which present another challenge for them.
According to Don Julian, the canals are filled with the bodies of soldiers killed in the Mexican Revolutionary/Civil war of 1910. Naturally, it was their spirits that haunt the canals and it was those spirits who were responsible for the little girl’s death.
Eventually, the Ghost Adventures’ crew move past Harold, but on their way to the island get sidetracked by legends of Mermaids, haunted canals, and a play about “La Llorona.” The legend of La Llorona is about a woman haunted by guilt for drowning her children.
Finally, the crew arrives at the island, greeted by a fire burning in a pit that wasn’t burning just moments before. Since they were the only people on the island. The fire starting by itself was unexplainable.
Moving into the hut that housed the most haunted dolls, Zak announced that he was going to release Harold out of the suitcase. Suddenly, there is screeching of cats with a cat racing through the hut like Hell is following it, scaring the bejesus out of both Zak and Aaron.
Related Story. Ghost Adventures: Trip to Whaley House. light
The crew also invited their boat driver on their adventure—Pedro being Don Julian’s best friend before he died. Don Julian would tell Pedro about the things that happened to him while living on the island. Using a spirit box, the Ghost Adventures crew try to connect DJ with his old friend but the task is more difficult than anticipated, mainly because the voices were too hard to make out.
There has been a lot of evidence collected from earlier investigations that validates the island haunted status, though Zak Bagans failing to capture an actual recording of Don Julian or the little girl who drowned creates an air of doubt. Then again, instances of other investigative teams capturing EVP’s and other recordings gives us the impression that there truly is a paranormal presence on the Island Of The Dolls.
What are your thoughts on this investigation episode? Let us know in the comments section below.
All episodes of Ghost Adventures are currently streaming on Hulu. For more on this Travel Channel original, follow us on the Hulu Watcher Twitter Account @HuluwsatcherFS or on the Hulu Watcher Facebook Page.
“Fear is the path to the dark side.”
The haunted museum’s “dollhouse of the damned”: 5 episode questions.
To tantalize our binging tastebuds, discovery+ released two episodes of The Haunted Museum series on October 2. Episode 1, “Dollhouse of the Damned,” could’ve also been called either “The Demon Dollhouse” or “Curse of the Black-Eyed Dad.” (Because black-eyed children have to come from somewhere, right?)
Anyway, as I watched I couldn’t help but have some questions, like these five. Maybe you had some of the same ones? (Or might when you watch if you haven’t had a chance yet?) But first, let’s revisit what the episode is about.
The “Dollhouse of the Damned” Storyline
When a recently widowed father brings home an enormous dollhouse as a birthday gift for his teenage daughter, she quickly rejects the present, sensing there is something “not right” about it. But he quickly falls under its powerful spell. He loses himself within it, using the tiny rooms to stage meticulous recreations of the happiest moments of his life with his wife.
Yet all is not well within his own house, as his daughter begins to experience terrifying visions that she fears may be something incredibly evil. Following his discovery of a secret spell hidden within the dollhouse, the father embarks on his most dangerous course of action yet, using the spell and the power contained within the dollhouse in an attempt to raise the spirit of his dead wife. The ritual culminates in a terrifying night that finally reveals the dollhouse’s horrifying occupant and its true intentions.
“Dollhouse of the Damned” Episode Questions
1. did they use zak’s actual dollhouse or build a replica.
At first, I wasn’t sure. Zak doesn’t do a lot of interviews and the couple I found did not ask this question.
Then yesterday I noticed a video on Ghost Adventures’ Twitter account that started out with Zak asking what appeared to be a question others may have had. “Did anything ever happen while you were filming The Haunted Museum ?”
Get the behind-the-scenes story on #TheHauntedMuseum from @Zak_Bagans ? #Ghostober pic.twitter.com/xhtt2TFJDn — Ghost Adventures (@GhostAdventures) October 5, 2021
He said his crew did have a couple of things happen, but he didn’t say what. However, he ended up describing something that happened to him while watching a cut from one of the other upcoming episodes, “Helter Skelter Station.” Which we know from the Haunted Museum artifact reveal will be episode 4 and will start streaming on October 16.
Was it just a general behind-the-scenes sneak peek video Zak shared or did he make it based on fan questions?
In case it was the latter, I took a shot and Tweeted at @GhostAdventures, @discovery+, and @EliRoth asking if any of the objects that inspired the series were really used during filming. If I get an answer, I’ll be sure to share that update.
However, I may have answered my own question during my quest to find images from the episode to include in this post. I used to be able to screenshot scenes from discoveryplus.com , but they don’t allow that anymore so I had to find another way.
Then I remembered the trailer in the Ghostober 2021 programming guide . I can screenshot YouTube videos! That’s when I noticed the houses looked slightly different. Or is it just me?
2. Who was the psychic who gave Zak a reading on the house?
During Zak’s intro monologue at the start of the “Dollhouse of the Damned” episode, Zak explains how he came to possess the massive dollhouse. He was drawn to it when he was “struck by a powerful kind of energy” during a visit to an antique store. He explained how he felt like it was reaching out and calling to him.
After purchasing it, he felt “a strange compulsion to fill it with satanic symbols and images.” But why?
He didn’t say exactly when, but sometime after that he had the chance to investigate the Westerfeld House in San Francisco, which was used by Satanists like Anton LaVey and Kenneth Anger in the 1960s and 70s. It was during his investigation that he realized the dollhouse was an “exact replica of this dark fortress.”
Did the dark ceremonies conducted at the real house also open a parallel portal in the dollhouse? One that may still be open?
A psychic he consulted confirmed his suspicions. But she also added that “it’s one of the most dangerous and demonic objects that she has ever seen.”
Zak has no idea who owned the dollhouse before him, but the psychic believed the demonic forces dwelling inside it ripped a young family apart. (Which is what the “Dollhouse of the Damned” episode is about.)
I kept hoping he’d say who the psychic was, but he never did. He remained vague about it. All we know is it was a woman because he did say “she.”
Patti Negri, who he’s consulted on Ghost Adventures investigations, like the one at the Cecil Hotel , popped to mind, though.
Do you think Zak will ever reveal the psychic’s identity?
3. Did they use multiple dolls with different facial expressions?
In the “Dollhouse of the Damned” episode, the dad crafts dolls for each member of his family: himself, his dead wife, his daughter, and the baby boy. They’re super creepy, and their faces change, right? As in their expressions? Or was I just imagining that?
I’m pretty sure they did, so I was curious how many dolls they made for each character that they used during the episode. Or did they craft them in such a way that they could easily just change the faces? Like with either just makeup or did they create different heads they could easily pop on or off, etc.?
Something else to Tweet at Eli Roth…
4. What’s the story with the miniature ventriloquist doll
Speaking of creepy AF dolls, during Zak’s opening monologue the camera pans up and down and all around the dollhouse. One shot shows a miniature ventriloquist doll with his mouth agape staring out of the window.
He’s not in the scripted part of the episode, but what’s up with that guy? Surely he has a story of his own, right?
I have so many sub-questions about him. Who made him? Is he based on a real-life ventriloquist’s doll? Does he have a name? Has Zak or anyone else at the museum ever seen him move on his own? He looks like the type to get into mischief. Just sayin’…
5. Can parents be arrested for child abuse for summoning demons?
**WARNING** Spoiler ahead!!!
The dad starts off trying to be good in the “Dollhouse of the Damned” episode. That’s how the dollhouse comes into his family’s life. He’s hoping his daughter will like it.
However, once he falls under the dollhouse’s spell —or demonic forces— that’s the end. He gets possessed, black eyes and all.
Even if it hadn’t escalated to the point where he killed his kids, he still subjected them, especially his daughter, to mental and emotional abuse. The daughter sensed something wasn’t right with it. At least he moved it outnof her room when she asked, but it would’ve been better to get rid of it altogether.
Have any parents ever been arrested by a child who accused them of summoning demons and then tormenting the child with them?
That sounds like a great Haunting American True Crimes episode. If I come across any cases like that, I might have to do another season for the podcast! (Or at least a bonus episode?)
“Dollhouse of the Damned” Sneak Peek
What differences do you see in the “Dollhouse of the Damned” dollhouse vs. the Westerfeld replica? Any?
Courtney Mroch is a globe-trotting restless spirit who’s both possessed by wanderlust and the spirit of adventure, as well as obsessed with true crime, horror, the paranormal, and weird days. Perhaps it has something to do with her genes? She is related to occult royalty, after all. Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo practitioner of New Orleans, is one of her ancestors. That could also explain her infatuation with skeletons.
Speaking of healing, to learn how she channeled her battle with cancer to conjure up this site, check out HJ’s Origin Story .
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I think the Westefeld house is more ornate, don’t you? Haha, I jumped a little during the sneak peek video.:-)
Yes! Okay, I thought the same thing…they’re very similar but Zak’s actual dollhouse has a few more flourishes. THANK YOU for being a second set of eyes and assisting with the examination of the two!
The house on the right (in the comparison photo) the distance between the windows above the entrance is greater. Also the detailing is less pronounce, not as fine as the one on the left. Creeeeeepy, would’ve thrown it down the stairs and right out to the trash.
Oooh! Iris, great eye for detail! Thanks for taking the time to share your observations…and then make me laugh with what you would’ve done with the house!
I can almost guarantee the psychic was Lorraine Warren. I believe Zak has consulted her in the past when she was still alive. Theu were close I believe.
That’s an interesting suggestion, Shatona. If Lorraine Warren was still alive when Zak acquired the dollhouse it might’ve been her. He’s never been reticent about name-dropping though so I wonder why he wouldn’t have said it was her. The mystery deepens… lol
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Hauntings of Vicksburg: Demons and Dolls
- Episode aired Oct 7, 2017
Zak and the crew continue their exploration of Vicksburg, MS, by investigating a demonic presence at a hair salon that was hit by cannon fire during the Civil War. They also investigate an a... Read all Zak and the crew continue their exploration of Vicksburg, MS, by investigating a demonic presence at a hair salon that was hit by cannon fire during the Civil War. They also investigate an antique doll museum said to contain dolls that come alive. Zak and the crew continue their exploration of Vicksburg, MS, by investigating a demonic presence at a hair salon that was hit by cannon fire during the Civil War. They also investigate an antique doll museum said to contain dolls that come alive.
- Aaron Goodwin
- Billy Tolley
- 1 User review
- Self - Lead Investigator
- Self - Investigator
- Self - AV Tech & Investigator
- Self - Historian and Vicksburg Resident
- Self - Owner - Antique Doll & Toy Museum
- Self - Paranormal Investigator
- Self - Karen's Son
- Self - Karen's Husband
- Self - Salon Owner
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Did you know
- Trivia The family who lives in the hair salon investigated in this episode was not aware that the building (which is also the oldest building on the block) was known as haunted until after they moved in and saw a local ghost tour group standing outside.
- Connections Featured in Ghost Adventures: Screaming Room: Traumatized in Vicksburg (2020)
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- Aug 28, 2020
- October 7, 2017 (United States)
- Antique doll & toy museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA
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- Runtime 45 minutes
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Real story behind ‘haunted’ island of the dolls in mexico.
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Deep in the heart of the canals of Xochimilco — Mexico City’s last vestige of the Aztecs — is one of the world’s most haunted and tragic locations: the Island of the Dolls.
Here, on this single acre, which houses three huts and a crowd of decaying dolls, locals swear they see ghosts and hear shadows talking. It is, they believe, cursed.
“During the time of Cortez many people fled here to Xochimilco and hid on the canals,” Gerardo Ibarra, co-founder of Ruta Origen, a sustainable travel company in Mexico, told The Post. “A lot of these people were women and children hiding from the conquistadores. And many women killed themselves rather than be caught and raped [by the Spanish].”
The Island of the Dolls was, for centuries, a place to disappear.
Remarkably, it’s within the city limits of one of the world’s biggest metropolises. Mexico City was originally an island in a volcanic caldera lake surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountains. The Aztec empire (1300 BC – 1521 BC) was the first to start developing the area, building a system of manmade islands, called chinampas, and a canal system for farmers to navigate them.
After the Aztecs were defeated in the Spanish Aztec war (1591- 1521), much of the chinampas were filled in and turned into the basis of the city we know today. Except for, that is, the most southern end of Mexico City, in Xochimilco, where the chinampas and canal system still exist – an integral part of local life and are a UNESCO world heritage site.
At times, the neighborhood was also used as shelter for Mexican revolutionaries and religious practitioners who may have fallen out of favor; some of them ended up killed or drowned in these canals.
Ibarra introduced me to Don Lauro, a community leader who has spent his entire life in Xochimilco, paddling through the small islands that are used for farming maize, squash and chiles.
Using a on a wooden, flat-bottomed chalupa, Lauro paddled to the infamous Island of the Dolls and recalled how, 50 years ago, the water was “so clear you could see to the bottom.”
And that’s how, in the 1950s, Julian Santana Barrera found the body of a young girl at the bottom of the waterway just outside his door.
“The girl was swimming with her sister or friends and the current took and she drowned,” said Rogelio Sanchez Santana, the current “guardian of the dolls” and a great nephew of Barrera.
According to him, it was after his uncle found the body that trouble started.
“The spirit of the girl was living in sorrow,” Santana said. “In the mornings Julian started seeing ghosts, and one day woke up and found all his crops had died. He tried many things to improve his crops but he couldn’t because the spirit damaged it. He became more and more scared.”
Barrera built an altar in his one-room cabin on the island where he and his wife lived, hoping to appease the spirit.
“But the spirit still came,” Santna said. “So he started collecting dolls as a way to protect himself from the spirit.”
Over the next half-century, Barrera collected more than 1,000 dolls — some from the trash in the area’s main city, others gifted by neighbors and visitors. They’re all still there, decaying, sometimes beheaded and truly creepy. Everywhere you look, there are dirty dolls hanging from trees, nailed to buildings and other structures, strung along clothes line.
In 2001, according to Santana, Barrera died of a heart attack in the same spot where he had found the body of the girl.
“The spirit of the girl came to him and dragged him into the water,” Rogelio said. “He and his wife could never have children [because of the island], so my uncle Anastacio took over.”
After Anastacio’s death in 2019, Santana assumed guardianship of the island, although he and his wife and three children do not live there, choosing to stay on their own island 20 minutes away.
Over the years, several other imitation doll islands have popped up in the canal. “It is big business now,” Santana said. But there is only one true Island of the Dolls.
Santa said he sometimes sees “some shadows in the night with the moonlight” but other visitors have claimed to have witnessed the dolls eyes moving and hearing them talk.
As for what will happen to the island when he dies, Santana said: “The ownership, I leave to the dead.”
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The 10 Best Episodes of Ghost Adventures, Ranked
Posted: October 12, 2023 | Last updated: October 12, 2023
With the surge of paranormal investigation shows in the early 2000s, it's no wonder Ghost Adventures became a household name when it comes to ghost-hunting series. The show stars Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin, Billy Tolley, and Jay Wasley as the main investigative team, though Nick Groff was also a main cast member for ten seasons through 2014.
Each episode has two portions: an investigation, where the location's backstory is covered, and the lockdown, where the team spends a night documenting their experience in the space. They have traveled across the US and internationally to determine whether these locations are actually haunted.
Ghost Adventures premiered in 2008 and now has over 250 episodes, including Halloween specials, unique spin-offs, and celebrity guest stars. While some question the validity of the evidence or of the supernatural altogether, the show has an excellent balance of humor, paranormal evidence, and a consistent cast viewers can connect with. Here are the top 10 episodes of Ghost Adventures , ranked.
Upper Fruitland Curse (Season 14, Episode 8)
Season 14 of Ghost Adventures brought us Episode 8, titled "Upper Fruitland Curse." This investigation takes place in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, where the Harris family is experiencing paranormal activity from the ghost of a faceless young boy. The lockdown location is in the Navajo Nation, where the team captured an impressive amount of evidence during their investigation. One piece of evidence viewers found terrifying was from the Harris family, who captured a black mass on their home footage.
During the investigation, Zak learns how animals have been attacked on the property and how crops struggle to grow. He experiences an intense amount of energy while examining the family's trailer and banging on the side of the van. The lockdown proves to be just as extreme, as the team catches a chair moving on its own and a strange EVP.
Return to Bobby Mackey’s (Season 4, Episode 3)
"Return to Bobby Mackey's" from Season 4 of Ghost Adventures is one of the most iconic episodes of the show. The location in Kentucky is a repeat visit for the crew and is referred to as a "gateway to hell." Bobby Mackey's Music World is a former slaughterhouse turned country nightclub that is believed to have had satanic rituals performed on the land. Their first visit to Bobby Mackey's was the Season 1 series premiere, where they encountered physical scratches and spirits that followed them home.
In the Ghost Adventures return to the honky-tonk nightclub, there are numerous instances of evidence and unsettling activity. There are apparitions, spirits communicating messages through EVPs, and a possession that causes Zak to seek an exorcism after the visit. With how deeply each of the crew was affected, "Return to Bobby Mackey's" remains one of the scariest episodes so far.
Fear in Flagstaff (Season 24, Episode 4)
One of the show's newer episodes that ranks best among the series is Season 24, Episode 4, "Fear in Flagstaff." It first debuted in June 2023 and follows as the Ghost Adventures crew visit the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The historic hotel dates back to the late 1800s, though today, it has most of the staff and guests dealing with terrifying paranormal experiences. The hotel staff share their decade-long experiences during the investigation, which adds another layer of mystery to this location.
There is a good amount of evidence collected during this episode, but the best part is the game the crew plays to determine who will investigate the basement alone. Viewers see Aaron and Zak too scared to go into the basement, along with their fluctuating emotions during this lockdown. It's not the scariest episode of the show, but it brings back a classic, authentic feel from the early seasons.
Hell Hole Prison (Season 12, Episode 8)
Season 12, Episode 8 of Ghost Adventures is "Hell Hole Prison," an investigation that takes Zak, Aaron, Billy, and Jay to Yuma, Arizona. Here, they visit the Yuma Territorial Prison, which dates back to 1876 and is known for being a historic park and graveyard where over 100 prisoners are laid to rest. The prison gained the nickname "hell hole" due to the terrible treatment many inmates received and the extreme heat that plagues the Arizona desert.
Related: Scariest Episodes of Ghost Adventures, Ranked
What makes this one of the best Ghost Adventures episodes is the unique evidence captured at the prison. While these types of locations are known to be paranormal hot spots, this lockdown had the team interacting with some friendly spirits. The most impressive evidence captured is with their SLS camera, which shows several figures on the stage who appear to be putting on a musical performance for the team.
Panic on Pine Street (Season 25, Episode 11)
Season 25's "Panic on Pine Street" takes the crew to Paso Robles, California, where the team visits a historic saloon that is said to be haunted by a spirit known as "The Old Hag." Zak and the team learn during their investigation that many of the saloon's staff members are uncomfortable being in the building alone, and the tension throughout the episode is easy to pick up on. The owner's security footage is particularly creepy, as well as the audio evidence captured in their lockdown.
"Panic on Pine Street" is a very active location that provides a great deal of evidence for the Ghost Adventures team. The polterpod device picks up several clear voices that say hello and clearly state the name "Lincoln." There wasn't much evidence of "The Old Hag" entity specifically, but the team seems certain her spirit is not at rest and determines she is still a threat to those in the saloon.
Island of the Dolls (Season 10, Episode 4)
"Island of the Dolls" is from season ten of Ghost Adventures and takes place in Mexico at a tourist attraction known as the 'Island of Dolls.' This location is desolate and weaves through the canals where hundreds of decrepit baby dolls are hung from the trees.
The site is not only creepy from its appearance, but it was also the site where a little girl is rumored to have drowned sometime around the 1950s. A recluse man named Don Juan lived on the tiny island and felt he was being haunted by the little girl's spirit. He began hanging dolls around the canals as an offering to her but ended up becoming obsessed with the shrine.
This episode is not only creepy because of the dolls but also because viewers get to watch as Zak tries to overcome his fear of dolls. However, this proves to be difficult when dolls start laughing on their own, and a fire ignites with no one around. There's also evidence of a figure walking across the bridge captured, voices on the spirit box, and thermal apparitions in one of the haunted dolls, making this an episode to remember.
Curse of the Harrisville Farmhouse (Season 22, Episode 1)
In the Season 22 Halloween special, "Curse of Harrisville Farmhouse," the Ghost Adventures crew travels to Burriville, Rhode Island, to investigate the infamous house that inspired The Conjuring franchise . The colonial farmhouse is over 250 years old and sits on a secluded road in the Ocean State, with a history rich in supernatural activity and unfortunate events. Most of the evidence and attention over the years was garnered from the Perron family, who lived in the home during the 1970s and eventually sought help from Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Related: The 10 Most Convincing Paranormal TV Show Episodes
It's clear from the beginning of this episode that the Harrisville farmhouse has a dark energy that immediately starts to affect the crew. Both Aaron and Zak experience physical symptoms ranging from chest pain and dizziness to extreme emotional distress, which is terrifying for viewers to watch them go through.
They also capture a dark apparition in a window while working with demonologists Carl and Keith Johnson, two brothers who investigated the property even before the Warrens' involvement . One of the Perron children who grew up in the house, Andrea, is also a part of the episode.
Ireland’s Celtic Demons (Season 10 Halloween Special)
The Season 10 Halloween special "Ireland's Celtic Demons" is a two-hour episode that takes the team on an international investigation to Leap Castle, one of the most haunted castles in the country. Zak and the team dive into the history of Halloween and learn about the legends surrounding an ancient Celtic goddess before diving into a lockdown, where the team splits up and gains a wealth of paranormal evidence. They get to visit several different locations, but their time at Loftus Hall proves to be one of the most active.
During their time in the 1300s home in Wexford, Ireland, rumored to be haunted by the devil, the Ghost Adventures crew does capture a few different strange occurrences. These include a floating white mist, a voice saying "Help me" through the spirit box, and a figure messing with Aaron. Things only intensify during this episode when Aaron becomes violently ill after his encounter with the spirit.
Route 666 (Season 13 Halloween Special)
Another Ghost Adventures Halloween special that ranks as one of the best episodes is "Route 666." This two-part episode follows the team as they travel on their own route 666 across Texas. They stop at three different haunted locations: the De Soto Hotel, the Concordia Cemetery, and Goatman's Bridge.
Each of these spots is believed to be riddled with demonic activity and proves to be one of the most intense investigations the crew has had to date. The Concordia Cemetery is filled with apparitions and leads Billy to encounter three dark figures walking in the area. The figures are so realistic Billy ends up calling the police to check the grounds for intruders.
While the De Soto Hotel and Concordia Cemetery had numerous pieces of unsettling evidence, the most terrifying was, without a doubt, at Goatman's Bridge. Nearly every person on this investigation had a violent, overpowering experience, especially Jay Wasley's wife, Ashley. The demonic presence at the bridge seemed to take over Ashley, and ultimately, the experience caused her to quit the show altogether. The sheer amount of evidence combined with how intense this episode is makes it one of the series' best.
Poveglia Island (Season 3, Episode 3)
One of the best Ghost Adventures episodes is Season 3, Episode 3, "Poveglia Island." Poveglia Island is located off the coast of Venice, Italy, and is believed to be a prime spot for paranormal activity.
The site has a rich history filled with death and despair, as it's where many criminals and those suffering from the plague were sent to live their final days. This episode is filled with not only a mountain of evidence, but also Zak becomes possessed by an entity that makes him turn on Aaron and Nick. He has little control over his emotions and continues to get more and more aggressive as the episode goes on.
It's disturbing to see Zak in the plague doctor mask trying to entice the spirits only to be overtaken by an unseen force so quickly. In addition to the possession, the Ghost Adventures crew captures EVPs of a girl's voice that causes their equipment to malfunction and a creepy figure that knocks over one of their cameras. The raw emotions, along with the different types of evidence captured on Poveglia Island, make it the best Ghost Adventures episode to date.
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5 famous ghosts that you might meet on the streets of Moscow
The headless boyar, 12th century.
The first scary legend concerns Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, Moscow’s founder. It’s said that in 1158 Prince Dolgoruky was traveling through the Moscow lands with a Greek sage and came upon a strange three-headed, piebald animal that looked at him and then ran into the forest. Prince Dolgoruky was frightened, but the sage said not to worry: this was a good sign, and that one day a majestic city would be built on this spot and that many nations would gather here.
Prince Dolgoruky emerged from the forest to find a hill on which stood a town belonging to the wealthy boyar, Stephan Kuchki. But the proud boyar did not meet the prince according to tradition, and therefore, Dolgoruky ordered the boyar to be seized and executed. His head fell to the ground, sprinkling blood everywhere. Meanwhile, Dolgoruky went on to rule over Moscow.
Ever since then, the area of modern-day Sretenka is home to the ghost of the proud boyar, who appears and frightens local residents. Therefore, superstitious Moscow residents say the city, “stands on blood.”
An Italian architect killed in the Kremlin, 15th century
Soon after marrying Sophia Paleologue , niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Russia’s Tsar Ivan III decreed construction of a magnificent cathedral in the Kremlin. But no matter how hard the Russian architects tried, the walls of the Dormition Cathedral always crumbled. Metropolitan Philip, who had been against the Tsar marrying Sophia, believed it was God’s curse for the marriage.
Sophia advised her husband to invite a foreign architect, but finding a suitable candidate proved very difficult because no one wanted to go to distant and mysterious Russia. Finally, in 1475, Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti agreed to come and build a great cathedral for the tsar.
Construction was successful, and according to legend Fioravanti built many secret hiding places and underground tunnels in the cathedral. To keep enemies from learning the secrets of the Dormition Cathedral, Ivan III refused to let Fioravanti return home.
The architect even participated in some of the Tsar’s military campaigns before attempting to escape to Italy. He was seized at the border and imprisoned in the Kremlin’s Tainitskaya Tower, which is when historical chronicles ceased mentioning him. Most likely he died – walled up in the Tainitskaya Tower. Legend has it that since then Russian leaders see Fioravanti’s ghost just before terrible events are to take place. It vexed Vladimir Lenin, and later Joseph Stalin before the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
A condemned murderer on Gorky Highway, 18th century
The Gorky Highway was once called the Vladimir Road, along which people convicted to Siberian penal colonies were led out of Moscow. One day, a dangerous murderer was marching in a penal convoy. He didn't survive the trip, however, and since there wasn't time to bury him, they left his body at the side of the road. This is why his soul can't find peace and still terrorizes the living.
Drivers say that late at night a strange man sometimes appears on the roadside: bearded, poorly dressed and resembling a homeless man. He waves to cars as if he wants them to stop, but his gait is strange, as if his feet are shackled.
If you see him be careful: he’s the ghost of the tormented murderer. If you stop, the ghost comes over to the window and says, “Forgive me.” Then you should say, “God will forgive you,” and quickly drive away without looking back. Otherwise, the convict’s restless soul will take you with it to the afterlife.
The miserly old man from Myasnitskaya Street, 19th century
This legend dates to the second half of the 19th century, in the home of the Kusovnikov family. Between 1843 and 1870 a childless couple lived on 17 Myasnitskaya Street. These merchants were known for their eccentric behavior and solitary lifestyle. The house is decorated with Masonic symbols, and legend says the husband and wife found a masonic cache in one of the rooms and decided not to have kids and not to employ unnecessary servants.
The couple was so afraid of losing their money that they almost never left home. Once, they had to leave for a short time and hid all their riches in the fireplace. Only one caretaker remained to look after the house.
When the couple returned, however, they saw that everything had been burned in the fireplace: the caretaker had been very cold and so decided to warm himself with a fire. Old woman Kusovnikova died on the spot, while her husband went mad and died shortly after.
Today, Muscovites say that late in the evening you can sometimes see a gray-haired old man in a shabby coat approaching passersby and asking them, “Where is my money?” This encounter does not promise anything good because anyone approached by the miserly old man soon loses large amounts of money and goes bankrupt.
A vindictive female spirit in the Moscow metro, 20th century
There are many scary stories about the Moscow metro. For example, it’s dangerous to ride in the ordinary train cars of the orange line after midnight on one particular day of the year. It first happened on Sept. 9, 1999, when five young ladies riding at night in car 26498 late suddenly lost consciousness.
One of the passengers was able to film the face of a young woman outside the train with his mobile phone. What had happened? A year earlier on Sept. 9, 1998, at the VDNKh station, a young lady had lost consciousness and fell under an approaching train.
Ever since then, she appears on the day of her death and causes passengers to lose consciousness.
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A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co-production of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece
The Russian-language press thoroughly covered Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas after it opened in the ancient Greek city of Epidaurus (29 July 2016), and after its Russian premiere at the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow on the day of the company’s 95th anniversary (13 November 2016). Almost a similar “boom” in newspaper publications occurred in November 2013 after the opening of Eugene Onegin at the Vakhtangov; it seems that almost every Moscow periodical with an arts section published an article dedicated to this production.
Most recently the critics’ attention was once again drawn to Oedipus; the Vakhtangov Theatre revived this play—the last production by Tuminas in the 2016-7 season—to open its new season on 6 September 2017. Apparently, the life of this production is still very dynamic; from one performance to another, Oedipus changes tangibly and still has a strong impact on the audience, including those who saw it a number of times. The life of this production is worth remembering, discussing, and covering in the press, today and in the future. The goal of this article is modest: to share some of the impressions of a witness and participant of the creative process, from the emergence of the concept of Oedipus Rex to its performances in Russia.
In fact, there were two productions of Oedipus Rex by Tuminas in 2016. The first one opened in July in ancient Epidaurus, and played there only twice, in compliance with the rules of the Summer Festival in Greece, then once in September, at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens (the second performance had to be cancelled because of the heavy rain). That Oedipus remained in Greece, preserved only in a video made by the National Theatre of Greece: it was shot on the day of the first premiere—29 July—with multiple cameras and edited by Greek filmmakers. This production might be revived in the future if the decision is made to show it again on the open stage of an ancient theatre, be it in Greece, Italy, Israel, or some other country. Within the orchestra of the theatre in Epidaurus, the production can be performed only twice: there have been almost no exceptions to this rule throughout the history of the Summer Festival in Greece. Perhaps the only exception was the legendary production of The Birds by Aristophanes directed by Karolos Koun: it was performed several times—in Epidaurus, and within the orchestra of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens—because of its exceptional importance to the theatre culture of Greece.
The second Oedipus was created specifically for the stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre in the fall of 2016, prior to the Moscow premiere. It was this production that the Moscow and St. Petersburg audiences saw. Lots of things were added to the first Oedipus which opened in Epidaurus. Firstly, never before had a Russian theatre company opened a production within the ancient orchestra in order to perform the premiere there, in Greece, in front of an audience of thousands. Before 2016, the most notable performance by Russian actors on the stage of an ancient theatre was the Russian production of The Oresteia directed by Peter Stein which toured Epidaurus in 1994. However, The Oresteia was produced within the framework of the Chekhov International Festival at the Theatre of the Russian Army in Moscow; the ancient theatre space was not its essential element, but only an episode of its existence.
Secondly, never before had a production with Russian actors featured a Greek chorus. In the past, slightly different things happened; in 1961, in the Mayakovsky Theatre’s production of Medea directed by Nikolai Okhlopkov on the stage of Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, the role of Medea was several times performed by Greek actress Aspasia Papathanasiou, who came to Moscow specifically for that purpose. The current production of The Bacchae at the Electrotheatre Stanislavsky in Moscow is performed by Russian actors with the participation of the Greek director, Theodoros Terzopoulos, who in the final scene performs a Greek lament song.
Oedipus at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, Greece . Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.
The idea to invite a Greek chorus to participate in the production and to make Oedipus a joint project of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece emerged immediately, during the initial discussions of the production in the winter of 2016. Of course, it certainly helped that 2016 was the year of Russia in Greece, and Greece in Russia. However, the main reason for bringing the Greeks and Russians together was different; Greek culture is the only one to be endowed with practical knowledge about the chorus in drama, and theatre in Russia or Lithuania has no source from which to draw this knowledge.
European drama actors started to perform within ancient orchestras as early as the late nineteenth century. The Comédie-Française actors were the first to try their hand at performing in an ancient Roman theatre at Orange in the South of France. Then, in 1911, at the arena of Circus Schumann in Berlin, Max Reinhardt produced his famous Oedipus, featuring a chorus of several hundred people. Later, in Italy and Greece they would hold festivals on ancient stages. However, regular work with the chorus within the orchestra started no earlier than in 1938 when celebrated Greek director Dimitris Rontiris, assistant and student of Max Reinhardt, was the first in Greece to direct a production in Epidaurus with actors of the Royal Theatre, which became the National Theatre of Greece. Performances by Greek actors in Epidaurus and Athens happened more and more often, and in 1954 they grew into a regular Summer Festival, where Greek companies would annually present ancient plays, and every year the chorus would perform within the orchestra.
Actually, what is the chorus? What is this group of 12 people who are collectively referring to themselves as “I,” not “we,” who are constantly present on stage—from time to time reacting to the actions of solo actors—and who in the breaks between episodes perform collective parts, sometimes taking the form of recitatives, songs, or even ecstatic exclamations?
That has been thoroughly discussed by the 20 th century scholars; however, in the National Theatre of Greece there is a practical concept of the chorus, drawn from ancient texts and tested in practice multiple times. The concept is passed from one director to another; actors are also familiar with it. I learned about it from director and composer Thodoris Abazis, deputy artistic director of the theatre and creator of the choral parts in Oedipus Rex.
The chorus, according to this concept (and the chorus, in accordance with ancient rules, consisted of 12 or 15 people), is the audience, the members of which are allowed to go to the orchestra and act in compliance with the tradition, embodied in the text of the drama: to comment, evaluate, agree or disagree, answer, or actively react to every element of action. That is why the chorus’s conventional location during the work of solo actors is close to the seats of the audience, often along the orchestra’s curve, becoming, so to say, the first row of the auditorium. That is how the union of the chorus and the audience was marked.
The Greek Chorus. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.
The chorus’s words sound like statements, anticipating the audience’s reaction; the chorus “orchestrates” the audience’s mood and emotional experience, directing and amplifying them, plotting the vector of the their emotions, and harmonizing (i.e. putting into words and music) strong feelings, inspired by the action. In order to perform their parts between the episodes, the choreuts enter the orchestra, thus breaking away from the audience and facing it. Now the chorus talks to the audience directly, contemplating in front of it through songs and, of course, appealing to gods; in ancient times tragedy was performed only during sacred rituals, therefore the sacred images of gods (Dionysus, in the first place) were placed near the orchestra.
Of course, some skeptics might have reservations about this interpretation of the chorus as an audience member acting on stage. For instance, in the works of Euripides the majority of choruses are women whose origin is far from aristocratic (as well as in The Choephori by Aeschylus); it is hard to imagine that the Council of 500 in Athens, as well as other male audience members, could have been able to identify with these women. However, the fact that this concept is understood by the actors, accepted by the audience, and may be applied in practice in a variety of ways, has been proved many times by the productions of Greek companies on ancient stages.
In Oedipus the chorus, according to Sophocles, consists of male citizens of Thebes, feeling all the hardships of the terrible pestilence which befell the city. Therefore, in the production by Tuminas, during their first entrance they trudge, exhausted and holding onto each other; someone falls to the ground, breaking this sad row, but others instantly help him to get up, because the Thebans are used to such fainting.
For the costumes Tuminas drew on the aesthetic of “gangster” world, as if borrowed from the movies about the 1930s Chicago: black suits, waistcoats, white shirts, and fedora hats. All the choreuts are undoubtedly devoid of any gloss not only because there is pestilence in the city; for them these costumes are, so to say, casual. They are used to wearing them in everyday life.
“Chicago” as the aesthetic reference point for the chorus is a sudden insight of Tuminas which has proven itself totally right. First of all, the Greeks—bearded and emotional in a southern way—look very colorful in these costumes. Secondly, the aesthetic is justified by action; the chorus consists of Oedipus’s confidants, witnesses of all of his conversations, interrogations, meetings, as well as Oedipus himself—played by Victor Dobronravov. The King’s hot temper, fury, demands for absolute submission, and readiness to begin shouting at any minute to start a fight or sentence someone to death, sometimes resembles the “kings” of gangster world. However, the chorus can never serve as an instrument for the hero to realize his intentions; that is impossible in ancient tragedy.
Thus, on the one hand, the chorus is a part of Oedipus’s world; Coryphaeus, the character created by Vitalys Semenovs, is his constant confidant, often rather bold and straightforward. However, the concept of the chorus as a part of the bulk of the audience was also realized in the production; this was especially noticeable at the opening in Epidaurus.
When Oedipus appeared in his royal attire, the choreuts, shocked, would fall on the ground and listen to their king, sitting with their backs to the audience and forming a semicircle (similar to the semicircle of the orchestra), as if the first row of the auditorium had been transferred onto the stage. Prior to the final episode, the choreuts exited the stage, went towards the audience, and sat just a step from the first row, right on the stone floor of the theatre, following the curve of the orchestra, with small gaps between one another, to watch the final scenes.
Lyudmila Maksakova as Iokasta. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.
In the Moscow production of Oedipus this aspect of the chorus’s existence was less noticeable. Raised stage and portal arch divide the stage from the auditorium, therefore when the chorus falls on the floor in order to listen to the king’s solemn address to the city, this mise-en-scène no longer gives the audience a chance to feel the visual and emotional proximity to the chorus as fully as it did in Epidaurus. Prior to the final episode, the chorus went backstage, and not to the auditorium. This is the only way it could happen, because on the black box stage the laws for tragedy are different than on the open stage; here the action has to be more autonomous, wholesome, and condensed.
However, recalling the open and free interaction between the performers of the tragedy and its viewers in the ancient, open-air theatre, Tuminas begins the production at the Vakhtangov with house lights on. When the chorus enters the stage, some actors sit on the chairs, placed on the left and right along the wings, and look intently and curiously at the audience, as if making it clear that the portal arch is fully transparent and permeable, so that the look from the stage enters the auditorium as freely as the returned gaze. And when the lights in the house slowly dim, the actors continue hypnotizing the audience, appealing to its members as if they were “the citizens of Thebes,” so the members of the audience have a role in the production anyway.
Still, given the circumstances of the black box stage, instead of visually bringing together the chorus and the audience, the creators of the production put more effort into emotionally gripping the audience through the action of the chorus, which descends very easily from the stage to perform from the auditorium. We should admit that at the Vakhtangov Theatre this worked even better than within the orchestra in Epidaurus.
The strong emotional impact of the chorus in Oedipus is first of all determined by the fact that very powerful Greek actors have participated in it from the very beginning. It is not a secret that in Greek theatre culture, as once in the ancient world, the choreuts were never placed on the same level with solo actors; at that time the tragic contests (and awards) were only for solo actors and never for the chorus.
When in the National Theatre of Greece there was a casting call for the chorus of Oedipus, there were over 150 candidates for only 11 places. Eventually, the majority of the chorus participants could have been promoted to principal roles because of their maturity, high professional reputation, and enviable resume. However, they were motivated only by their enthusiasm for this joint Russian-Greek production, the Vakhtangov Theatre, and, of course, the director, Tuminas. (By the way, 4 of the 11 actors even spoke Russian because of their connection with Russian theatre schools). Many theatre people in Greece admitted that this was by far the strongest performance of the chorus in a tragedy that they could remember.
Rehearsal of Oedipus at the Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow. Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.
The first time that the Russian actors could feel the impact of the choral parts in all its strength, was in Moscow, at the very beginning of the rehearsals on the small stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre in spring 2016, when Thodoris Abazis arrived and played a record that the chorus made during the rehearsals in Athens. And when in July joint rehearsals of the chorus and actors at the arena of the summer stadium in Athens started (where the National Theatre of Greece normally rehearses before opening a production on the open stage), Liudmila Maksakova said, half joking and half serious, “No doubt they will surpass us!”
Thodoris Abazis, who wrote the chorus’s parts, created a complex combination of declamation, recitation, melo-declamation, and singing (unisonant and part-singing) without using musical instruments or a sound record. This combination is based on the pace, set, first of all, by breathing. The impact of a rhythmic sound, in which one can distinctly hear the energetic and powerful breathing of a group, turned out to be very impressive; the phonetics and melodics of the Greek language helped a lot. The composer, similarly to the director, interpreted the tragedy as the place where all kinds of emotions manifested themselves: not only fear, sadness, and anxiety, but also joy, enlightenment, and triumph. The promise of the unilateral exultation is heard in the third choral song, in which the choreuts, praising Oedipus, are waiting for the prompt revealing of his birth; they have no doubts that he was born to one of the immortals.
That is how the genuinely Greek chorus of Oedipus Rex was born, the first Greek chorus in Russian theatre whose presence in the tragedy was instantly perceived by the Russian audience as a necessary, naturally legitimate, and integral element of the stage action—from the very first performances in Moscow.
Starting the rehearsals in Moscow, Tuminas suggested that the Vakhtangov actors should create interactions between one another through fight and exchange of “blows”—in words, gestures, and the state of mind—hence the particular emotional tension and overexcitement of almost every dialogue in Oedipus.
As early as in the first monologue of the Priest (Evgeny Kosyrev), when there is a plea to Oedipus to save Thebes, we can distinctly hear the notes of reproach addressed to Oedipus—where are you and why haven’t you yet done anything? And the first line of Oedipus after coming to the Priest: “Known, ah, known too well…” also reveals dissatisfaction and irritation. Anger, headiness, and propensity towards conflict have led him to kill his own father, to feud with the prophet Teiresias, and later with Creon.
As the famous saying of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus goes, “Character is destiny.” It probably means that, when man goes through the crucible of life, when the mind isn’t fast enough to follow statements and actions, then character takes over man (which also means passions, imposed by nature). Character sends the strongest life impulses; it leads man through life, thus mapping the line of fate. Victor Dobronravov captures this characteristic feature of Oedipus very precisely; an angry and heady temper has got the hold of his soul and adds belligerence to every conversation. That is how Sophocles saw Oedipus and that is the basis of his character in the production by Tuminas.
That is why, whenever Oedipus enters the stage (as he does in every episode), there is a collision, confrontation, or fight. His first opponent is the blind prophet Teiresias, who doesn’t want to reveal the truth about Oedipus instilled by Apollo. In this production, the role of Teiresias belongs to Evgeny Knyazev. I noticed that in the majority of performances of Oedipus Rex (in Epidaurus, Athens, Moscow, and St. Petersburg) the first applause of the audience is heard exactly after the first episode, when the confrontation between Oedipus and Teiresias reaches the boiling point; Oedipus is ready to stomp the rebellious prophet to death, in response drawing his ire, and is especially fearsome because the gods side with him. In fact, in Epidaurus it is uncommon to applaud before the end of the show. However, the audience inevitably applauded after the episode with Oedipus and Teiresias, and again after every episode, and after several appearances of the chorus.
The farther from Epidaurus, the more the character of Teiresias, created by Evgeny Knyazev, is filled with cunning, irony with a smirk, and pinch of madness—often present in depitions of prophets. This prophet managed to confuse everyone. At first he said that he was going to keep mum, and then suddenly he declared Oedipus the main culprit; at first he declared that he wanted to leave soon, and then, getting angry with Oedipus, delivered a long monologue in which one could hear either prophecy or condemnation. Eventually, he went away with a smirk, leaving Oedipus alone with the news, which may have come either from Apollo or from an insane old man.
The next confrontation is between Oedipus and Creon. The role of Creon is performed by Eldar Tramov, a young actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio. Tuminas is the first director to see in Creon not as a grown man or as a revered old man, but as a young man—a peer of Oedipus or someone even younger. Thus the potential for conflict has been maximized, as collision between peers, whose positions in the royal house are relatively equal, with fewer moderating forces than struggles between people with big age differences.
At the beginning of the play, Tramov’s Creon is the total opposite of Oedipus; he is lenient, weak-willed, enthusiastic, affectionate towards everybody and everything, and in adoration of his place in the royal house next to his sister Jocasta. Without lifting a finger, Creon can rule the city and enjoy the benefits of the royal house, and therefore is quite self-sufficient. That is how he looks when we first see him, on his way from Delphi, in the prologue. Here we can sense the brewing confrontation between him and Oedipus, which is not obvious but implied. Creon is laid-back and self-assured (Tuminas gave Tramov a clue that in Delphi they had already promised Creon that he would soon ascend to the throne); Oedipus is irritated by Creon’s mannerisms and even by the sheer presence of his wife’s brother. Like many kings, Oedipus suspects that his brother-in-law covets the throne.
In the second episode, Tramov conveys a sharp change in the manner of Creon’s behavior. It seems that for the first time the royal son does not look laid-back anymore, but rather fears that he is going to lose not only his position, but his life. He both believes and does not believe that he can die. Here he looks a bit like a holy fool; by hook or by crook he is holding onto his life, looking for support from everyone around him (the chorus, the audience) so that they could also persuade Oedipus that Creon is good and not guilty.
In the second to last episode, there is another collision, this time between the messenger from Corinth and the herdsman from Thebes. In Epidaurus and Athens, the Corinthian was performed by Valery Ushakov, and the Theban by Artur Ivanov; in Moscow, the cast of Oedipus was joined by Oleg Forostenko (the Corinthian) and Ruben Simonov (the Theban). I do not remember any other production where the director managed to reveal the war between the two messengers of Sophocles so convincingly, or where the actors conveyed it so impressively. The Theban wants to hide the truth about the baby with broken ankles, which the Corinthian is trying to reveal. The Theban knows that the truth will bring woe, the Corinthian is, on the contrary, positive that the truth will bring happiness to everyone and an award to him. The Theban has forever blamed himself for not being able to kill the baby (when asked why, he shouts in despair: “Through pity…”); the Corinthian, on the contrary, has always been happy as a result of his giving the baby to the house of the Corinthian king and deserving an award.
Only one character of the tragedy remains outside the battle: Jocasta, the wife and mother of Oedipus, a character created by Lyudmila Maksakova. When she first appears on stage (in the second and longest episode), Jocasta tries not to wage war, but to make peace between Oedipus and Creon.
In a conversation, Tuminas confessed that it is Jocasta who is the main character of his story. Jocasta is depicted as a strong and wise woman, mother, queen and patroness of the royal house, and the closest friend and advisor to her young husband and her young brother. Indeed, it is in Jocasta that Oedipus and Creon find strength and confidence; it is she who is the pillar of the kingdom.
Jocasta, in this production, is never happy, for she has suffered the utmost hardships which can befall a woman: the loss of a newborn child, the loss of her husband, the fatal disbelief in the justice of gods, and the suffering that from that disbelief. Only once does she utter an exclamation which sounds like an expression of happiness, when she hears that Polybus (whom Oedipus considered his father) died, which means that the prophecy about patricide failed. Yet even this exclamation is mixed with bitterness, for what can be joyful in the fact that the gods lie? Their lies put into question the very existence of truth in the human world. The conversation with the Corinthian herdsman has led her (earlier than Oedipus, because she is wiser) to the discovery of the terrible incestuous relationship—her marriage to a young husband which gave her temporary hope. This discovery was followed by the verdict—“Put to death!”—which she pronounced to herself. In listening to the ending of the herdsman’s monologue and bidding farewell to Oedipus by promising to be “silent evermore,” she immediately enforced the verdict without hesitation.
The composer for the production, Faustas Latenas, composed a splendid musical theme for Jocasta. It has beauty and yearning for flight, but at the same time, deep sadness and hopelessness, as if a man inhaled, flapped his wings and started towards the sky, but this was instantly followed by an exhale, accompanied by the understanding that the wings refused to fly, for there was not enough strength. One more flap—again no strength. Once in the performance this melody is performed by Oedipus; at the end of the chorus’s part following the second episode, he paces the stage, playing the saxophone, and the chorus picks up the tune. This happens right after a statement by the chorus that both in the royal house and Thebes there is disbelief in gods: “Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold.” Soon we will learn from Jocasta that it is Oedipus who is restless because he anticipates woe. Jocasta’s theme serves as the musical symbol of this premonition and becomes the theme for Oedipus, and the leitmotif of the entire production.
Rehearsal of Oedipus at the Vahktangov Theatre, Moscow. Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.
Before singing along with Oedipus, the chorus members put on military helmets, covering their faces. The chorus’s helmets and their action of singing with Oedipus’s saxophone were both introduced specifically for the Moscow production. Helmets replace masks, behind which the choreuts seem to be hiding from their own disbelief and shame, from their own unwillingness to stay in the chorus and sing, addressing the gods, who, according to the kings, lie. A few seconds before the saxophone, the chorus angrily reproaches the tyrants for their pride in front of the gods, and the choreuts are almost ready to dissolve and leave the stage in order not to praise the proud men—a witty reaction by Tuminas to the line: “If sin like this to honor can aspire, why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?”. Then they sadly get back together, and in order not to become proud men themselves, put on their helmet-masks and start singing along with the tune played by Oedipus. The choreuts see disbelief in themselves; through them the whole city is filled with the mood of despair, anticipation of woe, shame, and a desire to hide from the gaze of heaven. The beautiful tune of Latenas reminds more of a former beauty of a life which will never return.
The music and sounds created by Latenas deserve special mention; they play an important part in the success of Oedipus Rex. It was noted long ago that Tuminas’s productions are musical, and musicality is their inner, essential feature. Director Tuminas and composer Latenas share this musicality of thinking; their long-term co-creation in theatre is not accidental. In Oedipus, as in their previous productions, all their meaningful accents are musical, the periods of stage action are similar to musical phrases, the dynamic of action is picked up by music, and the dramatic turning points are accentuated with the intrusion of a sound composition. Almost every sound on stage becomes an element of the show’s monolithic musical palette.
Two musical themes define Oedipus : first, the aforementioned theme for Jocasta, and second, the theme of the loud, “beastly” breathing of fate, taking an active part in the life of Oedipus and the members of his household.
The set designer of the production, Adomas Jacovskis, created an impressive physical embodiment of “the machine of fate,” a topic thoroughly covered by critics and journalists. It is a giant cylinder with small square holes along its surface, relating to a huge clock mechanism, a mammoth music box, or probably an execution machine that will crush flat everyone who is doomed to lie under it. The “beastly” breathing and heartbeat of this machine was shaped by Latenas into a powerful musical and rhythmic theme—exhaling smoke, restlessly swinging and at the end rolling towards the auditorium and almost reaching the footlights—which is heard more and more often as the show approaches its conclusion.
The image of an object of fate that rolls over the people is highly characteristic of the artistic world of Tuminas and Jacovskis. In 1997, in The Masquerade of the Small Theatre of Vilnius, the image of a growing snowball was introduced. It was supposed to crush the main character at the end. In 1998 in Oedipus in Vilnius that very “machine of fate” was also in action—a cylindrical pipe with square holes, but of a slightly different shape and smaller size than what was needed for the orchestra of Epidaurus and stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre, which are much larger spaces. In 2001, in Vilnius, at the National Theatre of Lithuania, Inspector General opened, in which a giant “church” with a small cupola flew over the stage. It was made in a simplified manner and therefore resembled blind pagan dolls; it was swiping away every trouble the people stirred, and moved towards them as a giant ghost, but they still failed to notice it.
Therefore, Oedipus Rex, from the scenographic point of view, is on one hand a reminiscence of the productions by Tuminas and Jacovskis from the turn of the twenty-first century. On the other hand, “the machine of fate,” embodied by a pipe, rolling towards the actors and audience, is an impressive symbol of doom in our time, as well as an object that fits into both the open stage and the black box stage.
In both Epidaurus and Athens, the technical conditions of the stages did not allow for the giant pipe “roll over” the first row of the audience, so that the whole auditorium could feel the doom heavily hanging over it. However, this worked marvelously on the Vakhtangov stage. Therefore, the ending of Oedipus became famous and already left a mark in the history of contemporary theatre: two girls in white dresses—Oedipus’s daughters, Antigone and Ismene—are trying to escape the terrifying roll, running towards the footlights and attempt to roll it in the direction of the backdrop, but it advances anyway. When the girls run away in fear, “the machine of fate” goes fully into effect; it freely rolls over the audience, swings, emanates smoke, breathes loudly, and one could hear a giant heart beating, which sounds either like a threat or like the guarantee of life.
This ending is the result of a wise insight that Tuminas had during the final rehearsals. According to the initial concept, the production was supposed to end with the famous moralizing speculation of Sophocles’s chorus:
Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great, He who knew the Sphinx’s riddle and was mightiest in our state. Who of all our townsmen gazed not on his fame with envious eyes? Now, in what a sea of troubles sunk and overwhelmed he lies! Therefore wait to see life’s ending ere thou count one mortal blest; Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest.
During the rehearsals in Athens two last lines of this chorus part were edited out; eventually, before the very departure for Epidaurus, this whole chorus part was edited out. Our age does not accept direct moralizing, and Tuminas decided that a visual and sound image would do a much better job for the ending; the subsequent performances fully proved that. The last words before the ending of the Vakhtangov Oedipus are the king’s words about his daughters, addressed to Creon:
O leave them not to wander poor, unwed, Thy kin, nor let them share my low estate. O pity them so young…
The “machine of fate” brought Oedipus to stage twice: in the first episode, when he, solemnly put his hand on a staff and gave a loud promise to spare the city of abomination, and in the last episode, when Oedipus, broken by woe and turned into an old man, with both hands on the staff as his only support, delivered his farewell monologue before exile. Victor Dobronravov splendidly conveyed this change in Oedipus through the means of acting: from the stately king in full attire at the beginning (who seemed huge), to the frail old man in a canvas robe at the end. It seems that he has downsized two times, lost body volume, slumped and “shrunk” because of the hardships befalling him.
This very “machine of fate” brought towards the backdrop the characters who held onto it with one hand, as on a rack: Oedipus before the final monologue and the member of Oedipus’s household telling what happened in the house after Oedipus discovered Jocasta who had hanged herself.
Viktor Dobronravov as Oedipus. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.
Maksim Sevrinovsky, an actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio, plays Sophocles’ Messenger, interpreted by Tuminas as a member of Oedipus’s household. Normally, directors bring the Messenger to stage precisely at the moment when the audience needs to be told how Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus stabbed out his eyes. In this production, the Messenger, who delivers the monologue at the end, appears at the very beginning of the show as a silent character. As the majority of Thebans, he is fatally ill, his face is covered with a bandage; he is a reminder of the pestilence that befell the city and is inevitably getting to the royal house. Sevrinovsky’s monologue, permeated with the feeling of horror caused by current events, is handled through the physical conveying of visual images that were witnessed by the Messenger; in describing how Jocasta hanged herself, he tightens the band near his neck; in speaking about the blinding of Oedipus he uses powerful and energetic gestures to show how Oedipus stabbed himself in the eyes multiple times. Closer to the ending of the monologue he removes the bandage and reveals huge, blind eyes in black caves. We can hear the loud, intermittent breathing of a man, who is inhaling for the last time before his death. This is an impressive precursor to the final monologue of blinded Oedipus.
Tuminas, as it is customary, introduced a number of characters, who were not among the original dramatis personae. Those include the Soldier (Pavel Yudin, actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio) and the Lady with the Wings (Ekaterina Simonova), who both live on the stage from the first moments of the production.
The Soldier is the instrument of Oedipus’s vindictive plans and threats: his endlessly faithful dog; the guard of his house, tirelessly running in circles (this running around the orchestra marked the beginning of the performance in Epidaurus); a threat to the enemies of Oedipus and participant in his bullying of Creon (Oedipus jokingly crowns the Soldier with Creon’s golden wreath when he wants to execute his brother in law); and eventually, the king’s most loyal subject, crying more than others, when the entire truth about Oedipus is revealed.
The director and actress created the character of the Lady with the Wings, inspired by the image of the Sphinx, which was defeated by Oedipus. According to the myth, Oedipus solved her riddle, thus facing deflecting threats from Thebes, and the Sphinx ended her life by jumping off a cliff. Tuminas, true to his manner of posing non-conventional questions to traditional tales (“and what if it did not happen this way…”), made an assumption that Sphinx had not died, instead becoming a captive and servant in Oedipus’s house, always accompanying the queen, Jocasta. As a result, they came up with an image of a girl with huge wings: raven-haired, with deep black eyes, and beautiful in a strange, exquisite way. She flaps her wings—at times black, at times white—but it is understood that she will never take off again. Because of that, her beauty is combined with sadness, as in Jocasta’s musical theme. Ekaterina Simonova’s movements are smooth and harmonious, as a ritual dance, but she often bends down in a gesture of submission, folding her wings behind the back. Here we see the image of power and beauty, going beyond all human capabilities, and yet defeated by man, living joylessly like the rest of the people in Oedipus’s house.
In Oedipus of the Small Theatre in Vilnius (1998) there was also a winged maiden. However, she was more like a small white angel and her image was more ironic than filled with sadness caused by beauty in captivity. Generally, in the Lithuanian production there was much more irony, laughter, and more props; they had a big figure of a tiger, and the manner of communication between the characters was closer to prose than to poetry.
The Lithuanian production had success, and performed in Russia, too, where it played at the Baltic House festival. This makes it especially interesting to compare the two versions of Oedipus in Vilnius and Moscow.
Firstly, the scenography of the Moscow production was “cleaner” and more reserved. Secondly (and perhaps most importantly), in Oedipus at the Vakhtangov there was much less irony than in the Lithuanian version; its structure has become simpler, it is now much more serious, in the tradition of classical tragedy.
Of course, even in this version there were moments when the director and actors found humor appropriate. For instance, for some reason Creon is late on his way back from Delphi, and the audience feels some kind of a funny fear—how long is the delay going to be? (They do not have to wait for long.) During the second episode, Creon, maddened by anticipation of execution, which Oedipus threatened him with, suddenly and desperately bursts into singing a popular Greek song about love “Eim’ aetos choris ftera / Choris agapi kai chara” (“I am an eagle without wings/ without love and joy”). Or the moment, when the chorus, condemning the tyrants and flying into a rage caused by righteous anger, suddenly leaves the stage, refusing to continue its performance. After hearing that, the audience in Epidaurus burst into laughter, because for a moment it seemed that the performance, which had sold 7000 tickets, could be suddenly interrupted before the ending.
These moments, however, do not distract from the most important thing: creators of the production managed to achieve the incredible seriousness and acuteness of tragedy—a seriousness unheard of and forgotten these days. In the era of the “post-” (postmodernism, postdramatism, postculture, metatheatre, etc.), it sometimes seems impossible to hold the audience’s attention without tricks, jokes, and laughs. The ancient tragedy of Oedipus, with its themes of human dignity, responsibility for crime, crisis of belief in the divine, helplessness of royal power in the face of conscience, frightening discoveries of truth about oneself, and heroism in self-knowledge, arouses compassion and fear, as Aristotle would put it, in an auditorium with 1100 seats.
Evgeny Knyazev as Tiresias. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.
Of course, a lot in the Moscow Oedipus was determined by the venue of the first performance in Epidaurus. The Moscow audience might get a sense that all the Vakhtangov actors play “with memory” of the magical land named the Argolis, with its sea, mixed with healing springs, the best oranges and olives in Greece, and with the thousands of audience members in the ancient theatre at twilight during the premiere. The Moscow Oedipus resonates far beyond the Vakhtangov theatre. The words of the actors leave the stage and go above beyond the walls, balconies, and gallery, in the direction of the place dedicated to the cult of Asclepius and Apollo, connected in our mind with material and spiritual catharsis. They play with memory of the most beautiful theatre in the world—the first theatre with an ideally round orchestra, erected in the sanctuary of Asclepius, it seems, specifically for the purpose of healing through visual harmony and magical energy.
And I will remember how, at the beginning of the performance in ancient Epidaurus, two laughing girls in white dresses were running against the background of the black forest—how, accompanied by the rumbling theme of fate, huge shadows of birds, carried on high poles by the choreuts, were flying above the ground and branches of trees—how the grove surrounding the theatre in Epidaurus, was alive with sound, because Tuminas and Latenas made a witty decision to put the speakers close to the trees behind the orchestra—and finally, how at the very end of Oedipus a complete blackout occurred. The only light reaching the people, was coming from the stars in the night skies: therefore all the thousands of people in the audience—in those several seconds of silence before the final applause—raised their heads up to the sky.
English translation by Anna Shulgat.
Dmitry Trubotchkin (Moscow, Russia) is Doctor of Sciences in Art Studies; Head of Department at the State Institute for Art Studies; Vice-rector and Chair of Art Studies and Humanities at the Higher School of Performing Arts; Professor of Theatre Studies at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS). He has published extensively (in Russian, English and Italian) and presented at conferences around the world on European classical theatre and on contemporary Russian theatre. His most recent monographs, in Russian, include: Ancient Greek Theatre (Moscow, 2016); Rimas Tuminas: Moscow Productions (Moscow, 2015).
European Stages, vol. 10, no. 1 (Fall 2017)
Marvin Carlson, Senior Editor, Founder
Krystyna Illakowicz, Co-Editor
Dominika Laster, Co-Editor
Kalina Stefanova, Co-Editor
Taylor Culbert, Managing Editor
Nick Benacerraf, Editorial Assistant
Joshua Abrams Christopher Balme Maria Delgado Allen Kuharsky Bryce Lease Jennifer Parker-Starbuck Magda Romańska Laurence Senelick Daniele Vianello Phyllis Zatlin
Table of Contents:
- The 2017 Avignon Festival: July 6 – 26, Witnessing Loss, Displacement, and Tears by Philippa Wehle
- A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co-Production of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece by Dmitry Trubochkin
- The Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2017 in Brussels by Manuel Garcia Martinez
- A Female Psychodrama as Kitchen Sink Drama: Long Live Regina! in Budapest by Gabriella Schuller
- Madrid’s Theatre Takes Inspiration from the Greeks by Maria Delgado
- A (Self)Ironic Portrait of the Artist as a Present-Day Man by Maria Zărnescu
- Throw The Baby Away With the Bath Water?: Lila, The Child Monster of The B*easts by Shastri Akella
- Report from Switzerland by Marvin Carlson
- A Cruel Theatricality: An Essay on Kjersti Horn’s Staging of the Kaos er Nabo Til Gud ( Chaos is the Neighbour of God ) by Eylem Ejder
- Szabolcs Hajdu & the Theatre of Midlife Crisis: Self-Ironic Auto-Bio Aesthetics on Hungarian Stages by Herczog Noémi
- Love Will Tear Us Apart (Again): Katie Mitchell Directs Genet’s Maids by Tom Cornford
- 24th Edition of Sibiu International Theatre Festival: Spectacular and Memorable by Emiliya Ilieva
- Almagro International Theatre Festival: Blending the Local, the National and the International by Maria Delgado
- Jess Thom’s Not I & the Accessibility of Silence by Zoe Rose Kriegler-Wenk
- Theatertreffen 2017: Days of Loops and Fog by Lily Kelting
- War Remembered Onstage at Reims Stages Europe: Festival Report by Dominic Glynn
Martin E. Segal Theatre Center:
Frank Hentschker, Executive Director
Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications
Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director
©2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
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