Hunting for the Vampire of Barcelona
At the turn of the 20th century, Enriqueta Martí—a woman from the witchcraft-steeped countryside of Cataluña—came to Barcelona. Like many of the poor rural immigrants flooding into Barcelona at the time, she found that the Catalan capital was less “Pearl of the Mediterranean” and more “City of Death.” This didn’t bother her, though, because it was in Barcelona that she became her country’s answer to Jack the Ripper, luring children back to her house, killing them, and then drinking their blood.
Fast forward a century and Marc Pastor, a CSI detective based in Barcelona, finds himself working on a case involving another female serial killer. In his spare time, he writes Barcelona Shadows, a retelling of Martí’s diabolical career redolent of Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and David Peace. Already a bestseller in Spain, the book has just been published in English. I caught up with Marc for a trip back to the dark alleys of the Barcelona slums.
VICE: Hi, Marc. When exactly is your book set?
Marc Pastor: It’s in 1912. Barcelona is leaving its rural past behind and becoming a modern city. There is the biggest casino in Europe, which was an amazing amusement park with a rollercoaster. There’s a lot of poverty. People are living in the streets and there’s a lot of sickness. This is where Enriqueta appears, where she rises up. A woman. She is a female killer, which is very unusual because 99 percent of serial killers are men. It’s a dark and creepy city with a dark and creepy serial killer.
And Enriqueta came onto this scene from the countryside, to work as a servant in a house?
Actually, as a whore.
I was about to say: she swiftly becomes a prostitute. How quickly does she start to kill people, and can you tell me about her methods?
We don’t know exactly how many people or children she killed. That’s part of the myth. Jack the Ripper had five victims, but you don’t know how many victims Enriqueta had. She was arrested in 1912, but she went to Mallorca in 1901 for three months and had to come back because people wanted to kill her. So you can imagine she was murdering people and children for 12 years, at least. I met a lot of people after publishing the book who told me, “My grandma was a victim of Enriqueta,” or, “My grandmother-in-law was one of the people Enriqueta tried to kidnap.” They showed me pictures. She tried to kidnap a lot of people. One woman told me her grandmother-in-law was approached by a woman who tried to give her candy and told her to come with her.
Inside the Sad World of Adults Pretending to Be Kids for Retweets
Can you imagine taking a few hours out of your day to sit down with a crayon and forge a child’s exam paper? Or trying to convince thousands of people that one of your kids picked up a bra and dropped a witty quip about it being a “booby trap”? If the answer is “yes,” then you might not be as weird as you think. You might just be one of the legions of “Twitter comedians” who present clearly fabricated child-related anecdotes as things that really, definitely happened, purely to pick up brownie points from strangers on the internet.
That’s right: adults lying about stuff kids said is the new animals doing funny faces on the internet. After all, what are kids but animals with slightly better communication skills?
In terms of the trend’s Twitter popularity, it’s not yet up there with people arguing about David Moyes or RTing “Brazil smiles when Niall Horan smiles.” But these types of fake tweet are slowly colonizing the platform and the multitude of viral websites that feed off of it. It’s a phenomenon that is clearly bullshit; bad jokes told like news stories, fallen for and spread by idiots. A bit like crop circles.
The formula is simple: Think of a phonetic mistake that’s vaguely amusing but that a child is unlikely to have made in real life—getting “the Smurfs” mixed up with “The Smiths,” for example. In an ideal world, this phonetic mistake will hint at some higher truth about humanity; the more sentimental, the more chance your fake tweet has of being picked up by UpWorthy and shunted around the internet by moms who just got Facebook. Attribute this quote to your unknowing children, post it on Twitter, and hope it goes down as well as this one did with all the twee people on there who spend their time making jokes about badgers and biscuits:
Like most twee things, it’s difficult to figure out quite why it’s so annoying. It’s not that it harms the world in any specific, grievous way. There are certainly far more worrying things to stress about. And it’s not like I make a habit of playing Twitter cop. There are many other types of lies on Twitter that I don’t understand but that I don’t give a second thought to. There’s just something about this trend and its flagrant attention seeking—not to mention its cynical use of kids as props for added “ahhhh” factor—that really grates on me. If you’re being highfalutin, it’s a weird and sad nadir in the continued internet-driven devolution that’s turning fully-grown adults into infants. If I’m saying it straight, I just wish irritating people would stop trying to con me.
The Glue-Sniffing Street Kids of Somaliland
On an ordinary night, after the sun sets over Hargeisa, Somaliland, Mohamed packs up his shoe-shine kit and heads to the storm drain where he lives when he’s not working. All things considered, it’s a good spot for the 12-year-old to sleep—the discarded snack wrappers and plastic bottles help keep him warm, and when the sun creeps in each morning the shadow of a nearby skyscraper shields him from the heat.
The skyscraper, which was built in 2012 and houses a company whose business is to bring high-speed internet from neighboring Djibouti, is one of the many symbols of Hargeisa’s relative wealth. The city itself is the crown jewel of Somaliland, a self-declared republic in northwest Somalia.
Although Somaliland’s sovereignty has yet to be formally recognized by any other country or the UN, it has its own democratically elected government and a 30,000-strong military. Its nascent borders contain valuable natural resources—the Turkish oil company Genel plans to drill for oil there in the next two years—and the bustling northern port city of Berbera, which are two good reasons Somalia doesn’t want the region to secede. The government in the terror-torn capital, Mogadishu may also be clinging to the hope that Somaliland’s peace and prosperity could spill over into the rest of the region. But whatever the contours of this convoluted political landscape, at the very least Somaliland feels like a separate nation; houses in Hargeisa fly the tricolored flag the region adopted in 1996 instead of Somalia’s sky-blue standard.
The Make-A-Kush Foundation: Kids, Cancer, and Medical Marijuana
The way Frankie Wallace tells it, his calling revealed itself in his sleep.
“I had a dream [that] cannabis would cure cancer and many other diseases,” he recalled as his wife, Erin, stood beside him on the back porch of their house.
A few minutes before, the three of us had ducked into the basement of Frankie and Erin’s suburban split-ranch house near Portland, Oregon. We went down there to sample something called Absolute Amber, a potent concentrate Frankie concocted by soaking a batch of his latest crop of medical marijuana in butane and isopropyl alcohol, boiling those liquids away, after which the oily residue was frozen and double-filtered. The resulting product was as close to a pure distillation of THC as a mortal was likely to get.
Frankie lit a blowtorch and held it to a small piece of metal attached to a glass water pipe until it was red-hot. He touched the matchstick-size shard of burnt-sienna-colored hash oil to the metal, and it released dense white smoke that the pipe caught, filtered, and delivered into my body. On exhaling, I felt an astringent tingle pass through my lungs. I sat down and quietly counted to 30. The urge to speak would be great, Frankie had warned, but to do so might send my body into a fit of convulsive coughing. As I looked at Frankie and Erin, their soft smiles appeared to curl up like arabesques in an illuminated manuscript.
Frankie is more than a weed aficionado—he’s a marijuana evangelist, a THC high priest. After his fateful dream, he sold all of the couple’s belongings and moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Erin’s cousin’s garage in Portland, where medical marijuana is legal. They partnered up with another grower and found a house in a nearby suburb, where they now live alongside the two dozen marijuana plants in their garage. They have 12 patients and keep their modest grow operation afloat through donations.
This kind of small business isn’t uncommon in the statured legal-marijuana market of the Pacific Northwest, especially now that “dabbing” is becoming a luxurious but increasingly popular form of ingesting THC and its cohorts. What sets Frankie and Erin apart is that they believe pot can literally cure cancer. And ever since the dream they have been testing their theory on an eight-year-old named Mykayla Comstock.
Kids Telling Dirty Jokes
Kids Telling Dirty Jokes is our new series that features tiny comedians we found on Craigslist. This episode stars Gigi, an adorable straightlaced kid whose parents forced her to say filthy jokes on camera for a little bit of money.
Unaccompanied Miners: Down the Shaft with Bolivia’s Child Laborers
In 1936, George Orwell visited a coal mine in Grimethorpe, England. “The place is like… my own mental picture of hell,” he wrote of the experience. “Most of the things one imagines in hell are there—heat, noise, confusion, darkness, foul air, and, above all, unbearably cramped space.” Orwell was a lanky guy, 6’3” or 6’2”, and I am too. So I was reminded of his comparison recently while crawling through a tunnel as dank and dark as a medieval sewer, nearly a mile underground in one of the oldest active mines in Latin America, the Cerro Rico in Potosí, Bolivia. The chutes were so narrow that I couldn’t have turned around—or turned back—even if I’d wanted to.
Orwell wasn’t the first to equate mines with hell; Bolivian miners already know they labor in the inferno. In the past 500 years, at least 4 million of them have died from cave-ins, starvation, or black lung in Cerro Rico, and as a sly fuck-you to the pious Spaniards who set up shop here in 1554 and enslaved the native Quechua Indians, Bolivian miners worship the devil—part of a schizophrenic cosmology in which God governs above while Satan rules the subterranean.
As an offering to him, miners slaughter llamas and smear blood around the entrances to the 650 mineshafts that swiss-cheese this hill. Near the bloodstains, just inside the mine, a visitor can find beady-eyed statues with beards and raging boners—a goofy caricature of Satan known as El Tio, or “the Uncle,” to whom workers give moonshine and cigarettes in exchange for good luck. Before entering the mountain, I’d offered a small pouch of coca leaves to one of these little devils, requesting a bendiga, a blessing for my safety.
A few hours later, I was hundreds of feet underground, shambling through three-foot-tall tunnels, bony knees bruising over hard rock. My guide, Dani, a miniature man with the strength and temperament of a donkey, had burrowed so far ahead that he’d disappeared into the darkness. I called out to him. When he didn’t reply, my photographer Jackson turned to me and coughed. “I’m freaking out,” he said, and we soldiered on, trying to trace Dani’s path through the hot, sulfur-stinking tunnel.
Kids Telling Dirty Jokes
Kids Telling Dirty Jokes is our new series that features tiny comedians we found on Craigslist. The premiere episode stars Talin, who looks like a sweetie but is actually the devil. Someday he’ll be on a Disney show like Dog with a Blog, sleeping with all three of female co-stars, and every morning he’ll wake up thinking, I owe it all to VICE Media. You’re welcome, you little shithead.
Natural Insemination Is Tinder for People Who Want to Get Pregnant
Procreation is a pretty vital aspect of human existence. But tragically, not all of us are equipped to pollinate and populate, whether that’s because our junk doesn’t work right or because we can’t find anyone who wants to make a baby with us. Luckily, science has done what it was invented to do and created a number of methods to help prospective parents get around those problems—methods like IVF, artificial insemination (AI), and surrogate motherhood.
However, for those who find the concept of stepping into a hospital and walking out with a baby in their womb a little too abstract, there is a less traditional, 100 percent more tangible alternative: natural insemination (NI).
NI is exactly what it sounds like: sexual intercourse that’s supposed to result in a pregnancy, a.k.a. having sex to make a new human being. Only, instead of being the planned outcome of a relationship or accidental result of an awkward hookup, it’s facilitated by the internet and allows you to meet up with a complete stranger with the specific aim of making a baby. It’s sperm donation for the Tinder generation.
Why Do People Keep Getting Into Fights at Chuck E Cheese’s?
Although their slogan is “Where A Kid Can Be A Kid”, Chuck E. Cheese’s prepares kids for some of the greatest truths they’ll run into as adults: the addictive thrill of gambling, the drug rush of salt, sugar, and carbs, the economic shortfalls of a monopoly fixing both the means of production and the mode of distribution, and the crumbling disappointment of seeing grown adults beat each other with their fists at what is, essentially, a playground.
Just this Monday, Chicago police arrested two 21-year-olds after a fistfight in a Lincoln Park area Chuck E Cheese’s, apparently started while waiting in line for prizes. The argument began over prize tickets, which are literally worth their weight in paper, and ended with three injured and one bleeding.
This is far from being an isolated incident.