Monday, January 10, 2011

Terror at the "Red Terror" Martyrs' Memorial Museum, Ethiopia.

 It hit me hard. Just as I walked through the doorway of the "Red Terror" Martyrs' Museum in Addis Ababa, it came at me...all around and into my mind. A wave of emotion...feelings of pain, loss, despair even...enveloping my senses...but yet not threatening. As if there was something unseen there, wanting to desperately share and communicate deep grief with another empathetic soul...another who could understand the pain. Was that going to be me? I didn't expect this...I didn't know enough to share the grief...I had no connection in this world to any one's loss or grief here in Ethiopia. I was an outsider, a mere ignorant tourist, with scant knowledge of Ethiopia's recent turbulent history.

 What was this presence? I got the impression there was not just one...many...why would they want me? But the other part of me wanted to surrender...accept the honour...understand why it was that spirits of departed ones revealed themselves to me. What were their stories? What could they tell me? I could feel it was pain and anguish, but there was also a sense of desperate hope...hope that they could tell their story.

 Red Terror Martyrs' Memorial Museum opened in May 2010 as a monument to the 10's of 1,000's murdered, and also the millions who died of starvation during the regime known as the DERG. The socialist DERG had come to power with the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1979. Parallels exist with the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia where a popular uprising, and its socialist ideals, is taken over by one man with an extreme ideology, and a determination to eliminate any opposition to retain power. Local militias were armed and given licence to kill any other villager thought to belong to the opposition - many an old grudge was settled, or property taken under this pretext. Torture and death for you and your family were your payment for questioning. Eventually, rebel groups throughout the country began to coordinate, and form a credible guerilla threat to the DERG, which was finally ousted in 1987. Although atrocities were committed by both sides during these conflicts, the majority were committed by the ruling DERG...and of course history is memorialised by the victors.

 We knew nothing about this museum prior to our trip to Ethiopia last July 2010. The very modern, newly opened building had grabbed our interest as we drove by in a taxi to visit the Ethiopian National Museum in Bole Road, and we noted it to visit if we had time. Next morning we walked into the reception area and asked at the desk if we need to pay. The staff indicated we could make a donation if we wished. Quite a cheerful exchange as we explained we'd like to visit just to learn more about Ethiopia's recent history. We entered through the door on the left, expecting just some historical portrayal of that period.

I took two steps through the door and stopped.

"Kay. There's something strange about this place."
"In what way?"
"There's something weird I can feel here."

 I could explain no further. I was confused with what I sensed around me, knowing only the power I was feeling. We separated, and I moved on alone. At times like this, I would normally slip into quick meditation, to try and sense what otherworldly influences were there, but I was unwell and letting one's mind go blank was impossible. Something else could let go if I relaxed....

 If you have ever buried a loved one, you will know how I felt- the same emotions of loss, sorrow, and pain. I have experienced this before, many times, but more frequently over recent years. An experimental meditation in one of the torture rooms of Tuol Sleng, S21, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, scared the shit out of me, where a similar wave of anguish arose around me with apparitions appearing. At Cable Beach Buddhist Sanctuary I experienced a welcoming, tangible feeling manifesting in my fingers, hands, and arms as if being charged with a glowing, tingling energy.

 But why was this happening to me here? This was just a museum, like many others we've been to, seeking the history of countries we have visited. Normally I am the one that reads every notice, peers at any exhibit, and wanders through so slowly Kay will be drinking coffee in any nearby cafe long before I come out. But this was very different. I moved on through, unable to view all but a few of the graphic photos and exhibits. There was something ahead of me, as I had the strongest impression I was moving toward death. What form it took I could not know, just a sense that it was not threatening to ourselves. At times the emotions transmitted to me were almost overpowering...I was feeling the anguish that others had was not mine...but I was sharing it.

 As I walked around, towards the end of the exhibits, I came upon a display of several coffins laying on the floor to my right. Each one open, and full of many items of equipment or clothing from those killed during the 'Terror'. On the left side of the display corridor, was a doorway opening to another room of about 10 flag-draped coffins laying on the floor. This was where the 'feelings' felt strongest. By the door was a sign which states that the relatives, of the exhumed remains, want these to remain in this museum as a reminder for this to never happen again.

I was looking at the 'death' I felt I had been moving towards, and I felt I was feeling the despair and anguish of those who had died so painfully. The Lord's Prayer came to mind, and I felt myself repeating as much of it as I knew - I'm not religious. But as those words flowed, the 'feelings' subsided, and a peace came upon me, and the ambiance of the place seemed to change. Ethiopia is over 60% Christian. I'm sure they appreciated my intent because they seemed to be content - no longer getting at me.

Once we cast off the straitjackets around our imagination, and let our feelings soar, perhaps we're revealing portals where communication beyond this world can be found? Perhaps spirits sense a mortal's ability to sense them, so reveal themselves? I don't know, but perhaps our intuitive and perceptive abilities may be capable of much more than science can accept? Others perhaps seek this connection through prayer, meditation, even drugs or other mind-altering substances?

Outside the museum fronting the entrance is a monument. This is the only photograph I took. Sometimes I feel it's time to put the camera away....

The Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum is located on the corner of Bole Rd, and Meskal Square, central Addis Ababa.
Entry is free, but you are encouraged to leave a donation.
Further information:
Try this very informative site-Velvet Rocket/ red terror
I cannot recall seeing the recreated mass grave exhibit Velvet Rocket speaks of.
Perhaps the flag draped coffins we saw, were being held there awaiting reburial in that exhibition.



alejandro guzman said...

Wow Jim, your writing style as well as the story itself kept me planted in my seat even when Amelie was screaming her lungs out for me, hehe.

Cheers very good

robin said...

Sounds like a very powerful experience!

Papercut Doll said...

Some people are very sensitive to atmosphere, sounds, etc. We have a long line of it in our family.

I completely understand what you mean about the sensations and experiences. You gave me goosebumps all the way through that. It's so sad that so many have to suffer and that their suffering has to be displayed least we forget - it shouldn't happen in the first place.

Mary Hudak-Collins said...

how intense! great article.

Jim said...

Thanks everyone. It was a totally unexpected experience. Unlike other places where I have deliberately tried to 'connect' (with some success) we were just expecting the usual sort of museum. I cannot understand how I sensed that there was 'death' there in the form of those exhumed remains in the coffins. It had just opened, and possibly they were awaiting interment in the mass grave exhibit that Redvelvet rocket blog speaks of.
We later visited the Memorial Museum in Mekele, which contains copies of many of the photos and exhibits on display as in the Red Terror Museum. And I could walk through there with no weird feelings, it was just a museum.

Barbara Weibel said...

Hi Jim: I have had similar experiences and they always happen unexpectedly, in places that are surprising, such as a lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have no control of these experiences but I allow them in when they happen and in every case I am glad I did. Others may see this all as hogwash, but I know they are very real. We all have access to higher source information, if we are willing to be open to it.

Jim said...

Hi Barbara, when I first came across you online, I did get a sense of -I suppose I could say 'familiarity' in the sense that we think alike. I seem to remember you saying something back to me like that. On these issues I like to encourage discussion because a lot of people are sensitive to other senses.But often won't talk about it. Agree with you comment' I have no control..' ...they just happen...and can't be turned on for science to measure. Kay now just leaves me to it. But she's also very sensitive , but more with family issues.
Barbara, where have you written about your experiences?

Michael Schuermann said...

If you had felt the way you did, the museum's curators have done a pretty good job of communicating all that anguish and suffering of a people that reaches even your subconscious.

Pamela said...

Yes, Jim. . .I agree with Alejandro. I was completely absorbed!!!! There's been so much hatred and suffering inflicted on humanity there must be anguish left to be expressed only in the spiritual realm.

Jim said...

Yeah, one could think that Michael and I agree, but we hadn't even viewed any exhibits, I had just walked through the door and I could feel 'it'. Viewed many graphic images of atrocities, battlefields, etc, but this experience is much as I described...otherworldly.
And we later visited the Mekele memorial museum...and I was trying to sense things there, similar displays, same graphic photos and I felt nothing.
The difference was those coffins with the exhumed remains, which we never knew about until we walked around to them. Other things have happened, and these days I accept that we just do not know what our sub-conscious, or intuition is capable of, and like Barbara, I'm prepared to go with it.

Jim said...

I'll post a lot on Intuition/perception on this blog, but need to lead into it otherwise I'll get dismissed as a weirdo, and I'm certainly not. With my feet firmly on the ground :-) .
But if anyone's interested, bookmark or follow and we'll have a great read. And anyone with similar experiences, I'd like to read about them.
That's why my header sub-title refers to "...within the Id"

John in France said...

"Perhaps spirits sense a mortal's ability to sense them, so reveal themselves...?". Fabulous article. There's a lot science can't account for! On your own health issues I hope you are feeling nearly 100%.

Jim said...

"Perhaps spirits sense a mortal's ability to sense them, so reveal themselves...?". I've wondered about that....

John, I'm 99% after that re-bore. Thanks for asking. No leopard will have a chance of getting me now! Oh and the bathroom cabinet which I managed to put upside down, has been re-positioned correct way round!Things don't fall out of it now! LOL

Norbert said...

Jim, I have the impression you are very perceptive when it comes to these "unexplainable phenomenas".

I haven't had an experience like that myself, but when I visited the Warsaw uprising Museum in Poland I got a heavy feeing inside me. Maybe it was psychological, just for the fact that I already knew the history behind it and how dark it was.

What I know is that "dark" places like these tend to have a strong impact in our self.

Thanks for educating me on a part of Ethiopia I didn't know about.

Jim said...

". Maybe it was psychological, just for the fact that I already knew the history behind it and how dark it was. " A possible explanation.
Could be... but then we've been to many battlefields,cemetaries, concentration camps etc in our travels, and odds are similar things would have happened there if there was the psychological driver. In fact I would have more in my mind about the castles in Scotland we visited last Sept,and their violent history over centuries, than I would of a 2 month old museum in Addis Ababa, and it was not until we went there, we learnt the full horror of that period.
. What I have noticed is that it's the places where traumatic events have happened very recently in history that have more
aura or psychic influence around them for me. I once read the book 'The lost world of the Vanishing Kalahari' where Laurens Van der Post wrote about San reverence for their sacred Tsodilo Hills. And he wrote that while Bushmen could go there and practice their beliefs there, it kept the spirits there strong. But now the area is hardly visited by modern Bushman, and the spirits wane or leave the place.
In some ways I think that happens with many places.Over time any spirit influence departs or dissipates... because there is no reason to hang around if you're a spirit. Could be a better party kicking in another place, so to speak LOL>

Many of us will recognise the aura when entering a church, and that it's quite different than going to the ruined remains of a church in England. They are both churches, but one still has a warmth about it, the other cold...nothing. Perhaps our devotion to religion there keeps spirit influence strong?
I'll chat further about divination by sensing 'warmth' or 'cold' when sensing a place or even buying a mother of peral frog as a present for my wife from a pearl jewellery store. The pearls left me cold, but as I walked past a counter I felt a warmth come over me, so I recognised the feeling, looked down and there they were... frogs... mother of pearl. So bought one. Crazy eh?
Not cheap either.

Jim said...

And no...I didn't walk past a heater...

Debra said...

The collective unconscious of these martyrs remain, their spirits beckoned your prayer, as much for you as for them. Grand post Jim.

Jim said...

That's quite interesting Debra...hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, Jim.
I visited the Choeung Ek "killing fields" memorial in Cambodia and I was surprised that I didn't "feel" any kind of presence. Even when I realised I'd stood on a little piece of human bone that had just pushed up through the ground. But I did feel very very sad as I read about the history of the pllace.
You seem very sensitive - in more ways than one!

Lorna - the roamantics said...

wow jim- what an intense experience! we went to the killing fields in cambodia and it was really tough to take. so important to learn about these histories though!

Anonymous said...

You had me on the edge of my chair, mouth wide open, waiting for the end results! I have to agree with Michael Schuermanns comment, but YOU were the one that communicated the results of this extrordinary experience, through your post.. to me, so I was able to cast aside MY straight jacket around my imagination, for a few moments and walk with you through this psychological experience! How Awesome!

Jim said...

S21 and the Killing Fields is another story. I have written about it elsewhere, and the story belongs on this site. But I'm really interested to hear of your stories to. Have you written about them?
I have noticed that when other people are around, their distraction stops any ability to connect. But in quiet moments, no one else around the mind can let go.
Just imagination I'm told. Used to think the same , myself, until I realised that it is imagination that makes humans unique, and so perhaps allowing the imagination to wander, creates the right conditions for 'connection'?
Prayer, meditation, shamanic rituals, mind altering substances all affect your imagination, and are they not all methods of trying to achieve a contact with an other world?

Cherie said...

Um Jim, you should be a College Professor.

Jim said...

Cheryl, how kind! But gee, with only 2 years high school education, that would be a flight of the imagination... :-)
Mind you, if they're just as crazy then why not?

photos by jan said...

What an experience, Wow. I do love your posts they are always interesting and enlightening. I think Debra is right BTW. <3<3<3

Easy Hiker said...

Quite apt and moving.

Emme Rogers @ Roamancing said...

Always find it amazing how the energies of some places can hit us so hard with strong emotions.

Always wondered if this was just something in my own over-active imagination or if it happened to other people too.

Thanks for letting me know that 'it is not just me'.


Jim said...

Hi Emme, no, it's not just you, and the joy of the internet allows us to discover so many people experience similar, so it's not unusual.
Imagination may be the key to 'connection' to whatever other worlds or dimensions exist, that we have no comprehension of.
These days when I sense that feeling, I let my imagination go wherever it wants rather than fighting it. Perhaps that openness creates an empathy that 'spirits' may then decide to reveal themselves to...if they want to.