Dymphnakirk, Gheel, Belgium Painting: Thomas Van Stein
She was born in Ireland in during the Merovingian period—very early in the seventh century—the daughter of a pagan king named Damon and a mother who converted to Christianity to ensure Dymphna would be educated under the tutelage of a priest named Gerebern.
Dymphna’s beautiful mother died suddenly. Her father, inconsolable, fell into what today we would call clinical depression. Courtiers worried that their king’s mental health would further deteriorate unless he took another wife, so they urged him to do so. Damon dispatched envoys around Ireland to find a woman as beautiful as the wife he’d lost. When they returned empty-handed, a deranged notion struck the lustful king. Hmmm, my fourteen year-old daughter, Dymphna-–she looks exactly the same as her mother…
Dymphna was horrified by her father’s proposal. Each time she refused his advances, the king’s rage grew worse. Gerebern, the priest, was also perplexed by this situation, and he plotted an escape for them both.
With assistance from the court jester, Dymphna and Gerebern crossed the English Channel by boat and sailed up the River Schelde to Antwerp. Feeling unsafe near a waterway, they made their way inland to Zammel, a small settlement of about fifteen houses and a well six miles from what would later become Gheel.
When King Damon realized his daughter and her pesky priest had duped him, he went nuts. (Also, he no longer had a court jester to help him see the lighter side.)
With a small army of warriors in three boats, the king set sail in search of Dymphna. How did he know where to go? For two months Damon followed the money. Dymphna and Gerebern recklessly left a trail of their native coins as payment for services rendered en route to a new life abroad. The final tip came from a woman at an inn called The Kettle, in a village called Westerlo. She pointed out the direction Dymphna had taken. (Legend suggests arthritis cut in immediately, for the woman’s arm remained rigidly outstretched for the rest of her life.)
When Dymphna and Gerebern learned the king and his warriors were near, they fled Zammel. But not fast enough. The king caught up with them six miles away.
Blaming the couple’s misadventure on Gerebern, Damon slew the priest without further ado (no trial necessary). Then he asked his daughter one last time: “Will you marry me?”
Damon commanded his warriors to execute his daughter. Not one stepped forward. So the crazed king raised his mighty sword and severed Dymphna’s head with one blow. (No one knows what he did to the court jester.) Adding insult to murder and mayhem, Damon and his warriors left the scene without bothering to bury their victims.
Zammel’s citizens were greatly distressed by the carnage they found at the scene. They interred Dymphna and Gerebern at the very spot they were slain.
Word of what happened that tragic day in 621 A.D. traveled around Europe. Within a few hundred years (word traveled slow back then), the burial site became a shrine for mentally disordered pilgrims. They discovered that if they prayed at Dymphna’s burial site, to her relics (bones), their mental illnesses gave way to sanity. (It sure beat an Abilify/Zoloft cocktail.) After notching up a few such miracles, Dymphna qualified for sainthood.
A whole town grew up around it. The town of Gheel.
Today, a marble statue marks this site–diagonally opposite Dymphnakerk: Demented Damon, under the influence of a demon, poised to decapitate Dymphna–martyred for her morality.
Dennis Hope has made millions of dollars selling acres of real estate on the moon. As far as he's concerned, it's his to sell.
In 1980 Hope realized that while the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty said no country could own the moon, it said nothing about individuals.
So hewrote a letter to the United Nations claiming ownership of the moon and asking for a legal reason why an individual couldn't claim
ownership. He hasn't heard back.
Ever since Hope, 65, has sold lunar land certificates at around $24-per-acre, including sales to Barbara Walters, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Nicole Kidman in addition to former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.
The Gardnerville, Nev., resident once sold a "country-sized" plot of land — 2.66 million acres — for $250,000, according to U.S. News and World report. He says that in 2011 a group offered him $50 million for the moon's north pole, but he declined the offer.