The Most Terrifying Ghost Blog Ever Written

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.”

–Madeline L’Engle

[Reading by the light of a single candle. Source: Google Search]

For reasons unknown to me, I’ve always been attracted to things that are dark and gloomy. When the wind blows against the thin glass of my window and the moon appears and reappears behind the darkest of clouds making shadows black and sounds in the woods (or wherever) make a dreadful moaning, then I’m happy. Well, sort of.

But first I need to tell you that as far as ‘ghosts’ in the common meaning are concerned, I’m pretty much of a skeptic. I don’t necessarily believe in the dead returning, but I do love a good ghost story. And, make no mistake, I’ve read more than my share. My favorites are M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood and Poe, of course. But Poe didn’t really write a classic ‘ghost story’…he was just plain creepy and morose.

Instead of telling you a ghost story, I thought I’d like to share just a small sample of my favorite Spirit Photographs. Many of the most famous photos have been debunked. Some have not and they defy explanation.

–Here is perhaps the most famous (if you exclude Mary Todd Lincoln sitting in a chair with Abe hovering just behind her) is the Grey Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. A Captain (sorry the name escapes me) took this photo in 1936. I’ve read many possible explanations but the photo remains an enigma.

What do you think?

[The Grey Lady descends the staircase. Source: Google Search.]

The woman has even been identified. She is the sister of British statesman, Horace Walpole. Apparently she was having an affair. Someone didn’t like that and had her locked in a room for quite a few years.

–I find the next one very interesting. Perhaps because it involves children (often the haunters). The back story is that the little girl’s sister died in a fire I believe. The photo was taken in 1925:

[At the poolside in a cemetery. Source: Google Search.]

I’m not a professional debunker, but this one has me puzzled as to how it was done…assuming it’s a fake. If it isn’t, well then.

–The next one has very little information regarding it. It looks like Ireland. And we all know Ireland is quite haunted:

[I’ll say this. The composition is too classically “ghosty”. A sheet? Your call.]

–The Bachelors Grove Cemetery in Illinois is reputed to be a very haunted place. When Paranormal Investigators set up their equipment, all manner of odd readings came up. I’ve seen many photos from that cemetery, but I find this one heartbreakingly sad:

[She sits. She is thinking about something profound. Who is she? Why is she there? Source: Google Search.]

I read that all the researchers present claimed there was no-one in that location when the photographers went to work. I would like to know more about her. Alas, I fear I’ll never know any answers.

That’s not all the photos I have, but I wanted to share a small sample.

I’ll end this frightful post with this:

It’s plain to see that this is an illustration and not a photograph. That’s okay. It still sets the mood for a memorable Halloween.

The Lost Mausoleum

“Reader beware as you pass by.

As you are now so once was I.

As I am now so you will be.

Therefore, prepare to follow me.”

–Tombstone Inscription [Source: Pintrest]

[Antique map of Owego, NY. [Source: Exhibit at the Tioga County Historical Society]

This is a true story. It does not involve ghosts but it has potential. It takes place in Owego, NY, my hometown. Yes, it has the elements of a tale that would chill your bones on these chilly nights when the pumpkins line the window sills and the porch steps creak with the frost. The fake spider webs hang from second floor windows and tree branches. The cold wind stirs the red, brown and yellow leaves into dark corners. Candles burn in some windows. Lights are on in the basements of a few dark mansions that line Front Street. The time of year has come to turn up one’s collar, wrap the scarf once more around your neck and pull your hat over your ears.

It’s Halloween and I am trying to find a mausoleum.

When I was a young teenager I often visited the Owego Museum, aka The Tioga County Historical Society. On the wall a large very old map (1853) of Owego hung for years. I used to stand and gaze at the beautiful map, memorizing the names on the plots all over the Village. In the margins are architectural sketches of notable buildings. And here is the problem:

I distinctly remember focusing on the corner of Main and McMaster Streets. There was a rectangle drawn there with the word MAUSOLEUM written in the small box.

On October 20, I was in Owego tending to some business (we were staying at the Parkview Hotel, notably haunted). I dropped in at the Museum to photo the map. I was in for a shock. It wasn’t where I remember it. It wasn’t there. I asked the Director and he led me to an office on the lower floor. There was the map. I slipped out my iPhone and began photographing details of the map. Something was wrong. The mausoleum wasn’t shown. What could have happened? I’m 99.99% sure it was the same map I saw as a boy.

[A detail of the 1853 Owego map]

All that is labelled on the corner of Main and McMaster is: Methodist Ch. There is no church on that corner. Here is a photo of the corner:

[The corner of Main and McMaster Streets]

The mystery is now in place. Was there ever a tomb at this corner? Did I recall the map correctly? If the structure did indeed exist, who was interred there? Where are the hallowed remains now?

I can say this with the utmost confidence, I did see the word MAUSOLEUM on a map at the Owego Museum. I also find it very unlikely that there are two very similar maps. Since so many plots of land has the name Pumpelly on them, it’s likely that the tomb held the remains of a member of that family.

So there it is. Not a very complicated story but certainly a puzzling one.

Putting any potential ghosts aside, I will share something personal with you. It involves the map in question. At the other end of Front Street is the house where I grew up. The address is 420 Front Street.

Interestingly, the map was printed before our house was built.

[The Hollenback Estate]

The view before you is Front Street and part of John Street. This section of Front was long known as “Broken Arm Curve”. It may still have that moniker even though the sharp angle has been modified. As a child, hardly a Saturday night would pass without an accident. (Now there are traffic lights and plenty of warnings of the curve.) Notice the tree icons that appear on several properties. See the large house close to the center of the photo? That was the Hollenback House. Apparently, Hollenback, a successful businessman, had something of a Gentleman’s Farm. Look closely at the angle of Front where it makes a right turn a heads towards the Hickories Park. There is a single tree icon. That is where my house is located. I believe it was built by Hollenback as a wedding present to his daughter. My father bought the house in 1945. After he passed in 2004 we sold 420 Front Street to a young family. That was the Egan house for sixty years.

Now there are only memories of my time playing in the fields that filled the grounds from #420 to the river. There are still live apple trees from Hollenback’s orchards in those yards.

So, while not really a ghost story, this narrative elicits my love of local history…and the very interesting fact concerning a missing crypt.

[All photos are mine. I am grateful for the assistance given to me by Scott MacDonald, Executive Director of the museum and for allowing me to photograph parts of the old Owego map.]

ADDENDUM

Several hours ago (it’s Sunday night) I received a Facebook message from John P. Ricklefs. Attached to his comment was a photo of THE MAP. I am very grateful and glad that the map I saw as a child did indeed exist. Look at the upper left corner of the rectangle. You will see the word Vault. I was not mistaken. But the existence of the vault itself remains a mystery of sorts.

[The map showing the vault. Photo: Courtesy of John P. Ricklefs. Used with permission]

Ghosts? Who Am I To Judge?

[illustration of mysterious man behind glass surface. Source: Google search.]

To me, Halloween evokes memories of walking down Front Street in Owego, NY, kicking the piles of unraked leaves while dressed up in a throw-it-all-together costume. Clutching paper bags, my friends and I would go door to door seeking treats. There was a chill in the air, mixed with the rotting leaves that produced a scent that has stayed with me over the years. Never has an autumn arrived that doesn’t take me back to the old houses of Owego and the leaves.

It was a magical evening that enriched my store of memories that etched themselves in my fascination with the past.

Before the advent of such films as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, the themes were witches, Frankenstein, vampires of all sorts and ghosts. Every young kid on the streets that night became believers in spirits from beyond the grave.

It certainly didn’t hurt to live in a town overshadowed by the presence of the awesome Evergreen Cemetery set on a hill to the north of town.

Do I believe in ghosts? I’d like to say that I do but I am a true skeptic. I’ve heard many strange unsettling stories about my hometown over the years and I do believe some of them sound quite believable. But still I wonder. I have never seen a spirit (once in a B&B in Cooperstown a voice called me at night.)

I post many photos in my blogs and on Facebook and I love looking at supposed “spirit photos’. I look at these pictures and wonder.

Here are four of my favorite:

[The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. Source: Wikipedia]

This photo has never to my knowledge been fully debunked or proven authentic. This is arguably the most famous ‘ghost’ photo that has been published.

[Little girl being comforted by a friend/brother sitting on the stairs. Source: Wikipedia]

I have no comment on this photo.

[Who is in the corner? Source: Wikipedia]

Again, I am not familiar with the background of this photo.

[Little girl looks into a pool. Source: Wikipedia]

This photo has always fascinated me. If it’s a faked picture, it’s a very clever one.

It’s creepy!

[If you care to comment on any of these or just tell a ghost story, be my guest. pegan7@roadrunner.com.]

BONUS PHOTO

[ A Peek at my collection of ghost stories.]
[Source: Google search.]

10,000 Eyes

Most seasoned travelers to Paris would not be surprised that many of them are walking on countless remains of past Parisians. It is estimated that there are over 6,000,000 bodies, skulls mostly, that are buried in ancient rock mine shafts.

It all began with a gruesome and tragic collapse of a catacombs from the church St. Innocents. This prompted the city engineers to use the remaining mine shafts to bury the dead. Only a portion of these unfortunates are on view and open to the public. Touring the tunnels will cost 5€ and I estimated that only about 10,000 skulls and bones are on display.

Who were these people? What were their lives like? Did they often meet, fall in and out of love? Cry? Laugh? Grieve? Were they happy or were their lives spent living in squalid misery? We only have the blank eyes staring back at us to even give a hint.

But we are confident that as Parisians, they approached life with a certain savoir faire.

Think of it. The sightless eye sockets of 10,000 watch your every move. Try to steal a kiss from a sweetheart or a nip from a flask, you certainly won’t be alone.

Oddly enough, it not a dismal environment.

On the streets above, you’re mostly alone. But in the catacombs you have thousands of friends, although mute, at least they are watching you in their own way.

My Halloween Guest Blogger

[Source: Google search.]

Pleased to meet you, I’m a man of wealth and taste.

–Mick Jagger, Sympathy for the Devil.

It’s my favorite time of year. It’s Halloween. And to help me celebrate, I have invited a “guest blogger” to take this space and make it her own.

Erin Egan lives with her husband, son, and cat in Washington State, in a small town with an awesome view of Mt. Rainier (that is when the sun is out). She cooks, reads and tries to get the cat to pay attention to her.

So as to not make her father sound old, she will only say she’s in her mid-40’s.

The graphic above was added by me. All else, below, is from the creative mind of Erin.

Enjoy!

SEEKING

An Original Ghost Story

By Erin Egan

TO:           Zoe Crosby

FROM:   Dennis Winchester, HR Director, Beyond the Summit Technology

CC:           Internship Dept., Amherst College

RE:           2018 Fall Marketing Interns

DATE:     May 25, 2018

Dear Zoe,

I am excited to announce your selection as one of three students selected to be an intern in our rapidly growing marketing department. As you know, Beyond the Summit Technology has been named one of the “Top 5 Companies to Work For” in Seattle Magazine, and we look forward to you–with your ideas and energy– joining our team.

As discussed, we will be providing a modest stipend to help cover living expenses. Our office will contact you shortly regarding relocation assistance.

I look forward to greeting you in person.

Sincerely,

S: //Dennis Winchester

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           I’M IN!!

DATE:     5/25/18

I GOT THE INTERNSHIP!! Can you believe it? After three years of living in the shadow of Emily Dickinson, I can finally show the rest of the world that we New England chicks aren’t just uptight spinsters who walk around talking to ducks.

Now that I’ve told you, I’ll email Aunt Clara with the news. I didn’t want to tell anyone else in case this fell through and I ended up working at Starbucks this summer (Note to me: Ahh! Do not disparage the patron saint of your new adopted home city. Bad karma.) She mentioned driving out West with me if this job came through. She said something about wanting to go to the annual “Dames of the Dunes” gathering near Reno…she is looking for an excuse to take a road trip and hit some of the “retail shops” out here before going to Utah.

Could be fun!

Love you and thank you!

Zoe

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Checking in from the road

DATE:     8/17/18

Wow. We are in Iowa and my mind is reeling with questions. Who lives by choice in a town of 524 people? How do people sleep during tornado season? Where is the water? Why, in a land of acres/miles/counties, of nothing but corn, do people look at Aunt Clara and squint their eyes and chuckle when she asks for a vegetarian menu? I mean, we are surrounded by grains.

And why didn’t you ever tell me about Aunt Clara and the man from Minneapolis?

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Arrived!

DATE:     8/26/18

I’m settled into a temporary apartment. I’m not sure if I want to stay here. I’ll tell you right now, even with the cost of living allowance I get from BTS, I can’t afford much (read: anything unsubsidized) in Seattle. If I do well in this internship and could get an interview to start permanently I would be thrilled, but I plan to seriously look into opportunities in less spendy locations.

The apartment is in a cool old building in the International District. It’s kind of like Chinatown, but broader geographically. Like I said, it’s an old area. It’s a little shabby, in a good way

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Lonely

DATE:     9/18/18

I know I haven’t written in a while but everything is fine. Just busy, and…you know. Busy.

A strange thing happened yesterday. I was buying wine at Trader Joe’s, and when I gave the guy at the checkout my ID, he stared at it for about five minutes. I was just about to say, “Dude, it isn’t fake” when he started talking about prospectors. (Yes, this is a topic of conversation in Seattle.) Apparently, I have the same last name as a guy who came here in the 1890’s from Minnesota, loaded up on supplies, took off for Skagway and was never seen again. Not uncommon, except he haunts the old boarding house he lived in while he was here getting ready. The guy then said that the rooming house is still around, one of the places along Denny Avenue that was turned into apartments after the Depression. It’s probably my building. It does have that 19thcentury YMCA-type vibe.

Speaking of prospectors, I might get to take a business trip to Alaska in a few weeks!

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Itinerary

DATE:     10/21/18

Here you go–As you can see, I’ll be gone for twelve days, starting and ending the trip in Anchorage. I’m excited, and it’s a great opportunity to show off my design for the BTS booth at this year’s Sourdough Days.

Since I’ll be in Skagway for three nights, I asked my friend at Trader Joe’s more about the ghost. The prospector’s name is Karl, he said, and people who have seen him say he’s a thin, blond man dressed in dark green flannel and dungarees, and he opens drawers and cupboards and whispering “Tomas…help me, Tomas! Where is it?” When he heard I was on my way to Alaska, including the Skagway area, he told me to ask someone named Reid at the post office in Tagish to tell me the story about Tomas’s ghost.

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Northern Lights!

DATE:     11/4/18

I just can’t do this place justice in words, so your postcard is on its way. When I stopped in the post office to buy stamps, Reid was at the counter, and when I asked him about the ghost of Tomas he just said, “Ah, Karl’s friend.”  I asked what was so unusual about two prospectors who froze to death, and he shook his head and sighed. “Not everyone who didn’t make it froze. Or starved. Or fell. Or died of infections. Some had the nerve to be murdered.”

I asked who murdered whom and he shrugged, then went back to tearing rows of stamps.

“Karl and Tomas were two Swedes who knew each other back in Minneapolis. Their fathers were business rivals. Karl and Tomas both claimed to have had the idea to scout locations for mines, and I think the fathers both encouraged their sons to do whatever it took to beat the other one to mining rights.”  According to supply receipts and banking records, they both hit the Chilkoot the same week, but there is no official record of Tomas crossing into Canada. Other men said Tomas was on the Canadian side but he was alone.

I asked Reid how people know someone was murdered if they both just disappeared. I don’t think he gets to talk about this with a lot of people. “Because each one haunts the other. Both of them thought the other one was cheating. The legends that made their way to the cities in the following years suggest that they were both betrayed by the same person.”

So, that was my visit to the post office. Lots to ponder. It’s my last night in Skagway.

 

TO:           Mom and Dad

FROM:   Zoe

RE:           Aunt Clara

DATE:     11/6/18

I woke up last night and heard her voice whispering “No. No. No.”

Seriously, I heard someone hissing. I thought it was the heater but I heard words. “Clara…did you tell him? You told him. You ruined us Clara.”

It gets dark here so early, and the light comes so late, so I don’t know what time it was. I couldn’t sleep after that so I sat up and watched TV until my meeting. I am eager to get back to Seattle, where I can sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Full Day In Edinburgh

[The Scott Memorial being evacuated by the police.]

I waited while Mariam took her shower and washed her hair. I felt like we were being delayed. We’re travelers, we don’t need showers. Tourists take showers.

So, I snuggle deeper into the comforter and went to Spotify. She seemed to take forever to wash her hair and do whatever women do in the only bathroom in the suite, and a guy has to relieve himself.

Once I secured Spotify ( not easy in any of the hotels we’ve been staying in), I decided to get her in the mood of the city and country we were touring.

After five playings of Scotland The Brave and two readings of Coming Through The Rye, I think she got the point.

She knew we were in Scotland.

Our first job of the day was to visit a dart shop and buy my son a dart set. I won’t say more. It’s going to be a surprise. Especially when I give him the 23 gram Titanium shafts. Don’t tell him.

We walked down Ely Street. The sandstone townhouses were beautiful.

I next secured tickets to an American musical that just happens to be playing about 30 feet from our hotel door. We’re seeing Wicked. (For a fraction of what we’d pay in NYC).

We decided to walk to the Edinburgh Castle. When we got to the Scott memorial, the police began to evacuate and tape off the whole area.

[Prince Street Garden}

I’ll buy The Scotsman tomorrow and find out what we almost became a part of. Someone told me that the tower gets a lot of jumpers. That’s very sad to hear that this beautiful and historical city has people who want to take a quick exit to oblivion.

Which takes us to our post dinner activity. We booked a tour called Doomed, Dead and Buried. I couldn’t be more pleased. The tour guide was a beguiling young Scotswoman named Rachel. She wore a hooded cape. There was a brass clasp at her neck and she knew how to tell a story.

[Rachel, our ghost tour guide. Okay, what guy wouldn’t have a slight crush on her?]

If you want to hear those stories, you’ll have to come here and take the tour. I’m too exhausted to retell anything she said.

[A “close”…the name I can not remember}

This is a city that could grow on me. Dark history and a bright future.

I was here about thirty-three years ago and I remember nothing of that trip, except that I was very cold on most evenings.

Perhaps that’s why one can smell the coal smoke in the air (I’m assuming that coal is still used here, hopefully I’m wrong).

As we left a pub after the Ghost Tour, I heard bagpipes in the distance.

Someone was playing Scotland The Brave.

 

 

A Halloween Ghost Story Told To Me By My Niece.

 

[Photo source: Google source.  This is not the spirit girl described.]

My niece and I share a fascination with stories.  Many of them are odd and unusual.  Many of them are ghost stories.

I’ve shared copies of ghost story collections with her over the years, mostly M.R.James and Lovecraft and Lord Dunsany.  All were classics and I hoped she pulled the comforter to her neck as she read them in her small cabin in eastern Maine.

Mostly, she lived alone in that state of endless forests, pulp wood factories and rocky coastlines.

She had a job as a receptionist at an Inn in North Conway, NH.  I’m sure you know the kind of inn where she worked.  Nestled in the midst of the White Mountains, where the shadows of Mount Washington darkened the glens and trails and leantos…where the evening shadows came early in the valley’s New England pubs and quaint olde hotels that could be found at many cross roads.  She would tell me local ghost tales, but I never had the opportunity of staying at the Inn where she worked.  Then she told me about the little ghost girl who was a legend at the Inn.  She laughed at the idea but I, to the contrary, thought that the story was something of interest.  Spectres of children always evoke a certain melancholy in me.  I’m a skeptic when it comes to ghosts in a general sense, but I love the ‘idea’ of them.  (I’ve never encountered a spirit, restless or not…that I know of…although I’ve have had some strange feelings in many an old hotel).

So, a few months ago she emailed and, with much excitement, said “I saw the girl in white”.  She said she was looking out of the window of her office and saw a little girl in white running around the corner of the Inn.  My niece ran to the back window expecting to see the girl…but there was no one in the large backyard.

She felt she had seen the “girl ghost”.  I’ve no reason to doubt her.  After all, its New England, it’s in keeping with legend and tradition and it fits all the requirements to compel me to tell this story.

At this time of year, as the night of All Hallow’s Eve is upon us.

This story of a little lost girl who died on some unknown date many years ago.  My niece’s astute observation skills puts to rest any need or reason for embellishment.

I trust my niece and I trust you to believe this old New England ghost story.

It’s a classic.

 

 

To All My Blog Followers And Friends

My computer

I just want you to know that I appreciate the “likes” and the “follows” that have made my blogging experience exciting and fulfilling.  But, I’m going to take a hiatus from “pumping out the posts” for a few months.  You deserve to know why.

-I’m still exhausted from the 50 or so posts I published during our 13,000+ mile road trip.  It wore me out more than you can imagine.

-I’m still suffering from the vestiges of viral bronchitis that came on at the end of the trip and hasn’t let me go.

-I am going to spend time working on a collection of Adirondack based ghost stories.  I have ideas, I have titles…I’m just working on the endings.

So, stay with me on Facebook, and stay with me on my blog site.  When I’m back on WordPress with some blogs…I may get a brilliant idea, you never know….you won’t miss a thing.

Follow me on Instagram (patrickadk) and see that I can actually take a picture or two.

Take care and don’t unfriend me…I’ll be back with more and better stuff.

Love to you all……Pat

 

My Grave Nightmare: A Halloween Story

SpookyImage

Was it a day in full blinding sun or a night in deep gloomy shadows?  Was I asleep?  Awake?  I don’t remember.  No, it was both.  I wandered about in my dream with my eyes open, my dream that quickly became a nightmare.

What I looked upon were reflections of my darkest thoughts and fears.  My sub-conscience was trapped in the dreaded landscape of the land of the dead–the churchyard, the cemetery, God’s Little Acre, the lawns and fields of the departed.

AngelOverlookingGraves

The angel stood on the rock and watched over the mute stones.

“O, What has come into this world that these once vital souls, who lived, loved and danced and sang must now repose until the Day of Judgement?”

I stood watching a man mourn the loss of his wife, lover, child, parent or self.  He cannot bear the loneliness of existence.  He pulls at the door.  It is solid and firm in its closure.  The door is thick bronze.  I touch his shoulder to offer solace.  He, too, is bronze.  It’s all metal and stone except for the dust that lies within.  He will remain in this torment until the acids of the rain reduce him to molecules.

BronzeAtDoor

I walk on.  I don’t know why I do this.  I know what awaits me behind the next tree or over the next hill.  I walk into the trees.  Roots have begun to ensnare a gravestone.  The trees will absorb the crystals in another century.  Then, who will remember?  Where will the flowers be placed?  Where will the tears be spilled?

RootedGrave

The only comfort for my eyes are the green and living leaves, mosses and lichens.  Objects with life hold firmly to the ultimate symbol of death.

True irony.

I leave the dark trees and stand to meditate the monument before me.  I read the inscription.  It’s not an epitaph–it’s a promise:

Somewhere in Mexico–when you were hurting and in despair, I sent my angel to comfort you.  You are not alone.  I will be with you even unto the end of the earth. 

ComfortAngelCaption

There is an old house with an open door.  I grew up and passed from childhood into manhood in an old house.  I must enter.  I walk into the foyer and along the hallway.  There she is.  The transparent image of a long-ago lover.  Or is she the sister I never had? Or is she my mother as a beautiful youth?  Or is she someone unknown to me–coming to hold my wrinkled hand and place her young cold lips on my warm cheek.

Instead, she passes through me and ascends the stairs to meet another shade–someone her own age to play with–someone as spectral as she.  I watch her ascend the stairs and experience an overwhelming sense of melancholy.  I wished to know her in life.  I probably would have given her my heart–the heart she would break when she passed away.  My heart breaks as easily as ancient Oriental porcelain.

SpiritGirl

I leave the house to her spirit.  I whisper a prayer for her restless soul.  Does anyone hear my words?  I walk on into a monochromatic world.  There at my feet is the grave of a man who is holding…is it his own face?  The head of someone he is longing for?  The visage of a family member?  I walk by and he continues to stare, without terror or anger into another pair of eyes.

HoldingHead

I have seen too much for a living and mortal mind to comprehend.  I want to be awake.  I don’t care if it’s just past mid-night or if the sky in the east is becoming pale.

Pale!  Enough pale! I want to be amongst the living and the breathing.  I want to mingle with lovers who embrace with a terrible passion for life.  I want to walk along flowered paths rich with bees and insects and birds singing for the company of a mate.  I want to help a lame farmer till his field, an old woman with arthritic joints knead her bread, a teacher tell his students the truth about life, calm a couples angry words, write a song a child will love, write a book that will make a man weep, kiss a wanton woman, drink a dark ruby wine, eat a mushroom in a desert, draw a picture that a blind person could see, dig a grave, speak words at a burial, pour Holy Water on an infant’s forehead, stand on a mountain peak so very sharp and pointed that the highest crystal pierces my thick boot soles and makes my foot bleed so that red stains on the heather will guide a lost soul to the low meadows.

I can feel sleep falling away.  But, I sit up in bed, still in a deep slumber and see my last vision for the night.

It’s the Angel of the Fog.  But is she fading away or growing more real?

FoggyAngel

I rise and boil water for tea.  I wrap myself in flannel.  I rub the Sandman’s leftovers from the corners of my eyes.  I am fully awake and fully alive.  I will use and live this day to its fullest.  I will live with faith and hope.  As I slowly stir a drop of honey into my tea, I begin to wonder…

What will tonight bring me as I put my book down and let the dark envelop me?

Walking Charleston In The Light And Dark / A Few Tales To Tell

MeetingStreetCharleston

Midnight in the Laundry Room.

I’m writing this in a laundry room.  Four washing machines are on my right and four dryers to my left.  I’m here because the promised WiFi signal is very weak in the R-pod.

Here the signal really smokes.

Yes, it’s midnight in the laundry room, a spooky place where a sock can vanish before your eyes.

The fluorescent lights bring out all the blemishes of the white formica table top.  Above my head is a full moon.  I can’t see it because the remnants of a major storm passed through Georgia today.  The sky was left overcast, but, the weather is slowly moving eastward, out to the Great Atlantic Ocean.  If I step outside right now, I may see a brightness that reveals the moon’s location.

This post is about Charleston but I’m not even in that city anymore.  The day before yesterday (its past midnight now) is when we stayed just outside Charleston, SC.  Today, we’re in Brunswick, home to the fabled Golden Islands.

But, let’s go back to Monday.  It seems like I’m a day or two behind in my posts.  So, if your curious about Brunswick, wait a day or so.  For two tired travelers, we packed quite a lot into a single day in that most interesting and beautiful city.

We spent the daylight hours seeing the sights that all the tourists come here to see.  However, this city has two separate personalities.  There are the magnificent homes, with the flowered gardens, ivy and palm trees.  At night, there is the melancholic Spanish moss, greenish-gray and drooping from the Live Oaks.  We strolled under the overcast sky during the day and we spent the evening, the dark time, lurking around haunted buildings and spine-chilling churchyards.  You will have to pony up $20.00 a person for one of the four or five Ghost Tours.

Daylight Walks

The main thoroughfare through town is Meeting Street.  It’s a restaurant-lined avenue that acts like a reference to walkers and shoppers and diners.  We decided to take it easy on ourselves and take a 90 minute Grey Line tour.  My neck is sore from trying to see the tops of the houses.  I felt like Linda Blair trying to keep up with what the driver/guide was telling us.  (He’s a former teacher, so that explains a lot.)  The buildings are some of the most beautiful and interesting I’ve ever seen.  Pastel colors are common choices.  The heat and humidity of the summer days forced the designers to come up with inventive ways to maximize the sea breezes.  The great porches wrap 3/4 of the way around a building.  The porches are large enough to earn the title ‘piazza’ style.

That’s where you would find me, if were a wealthy planter, sitting in a wicker chair and sipping a mint julep on lazy afternoons.

Here is an example of one such house.  I can’t say it’s typical, the styles are highly variable:

CharlestonHouse

I walked the streets.  I turned corners and peaked into secret gardens.  I stopped to smell the flowers.  I rested on park benches and bought post cards.

And, I looked down at just the right time to notice something interesting.  We’re outside a locksmith shop.  The owner, in a raging fit of creativity, had placed dozens of keys in the wet cement when the sidewalk was being poured.  An easy to miss, but interesting approach to advertising.

KeysInSidewalk

We continued our stroll along Meeting Street, or was it King Street?  As we approached a fire station, I was amused by the statue of the Dalmatian that appeared to be sleeping on the sidewalk.  I hesitated.  I was curious if they had one of those brass poles that you see the fireman slide down (in the cartoons and movies).  I went in and asked a fireman if they had one.  This led to a tour of what he said was the oldest continuously operating fire house in the U.S.  He took us up to a building in the rear and there were three antique fire engines.  One was of special interest.  The story goes that the company that made those particular trucks was once on the verge of bankruptcy.  Along comes The Three Stooges.  They filmed a skit on one of those trucks that was very similar to the one we were looking upon.  After the film came out, the company was besieged by fire companies all across America.  They couldn’t make them fast enough.

3StoogesFireTruck

[A true classic isn’t it?]

He also showed us a very interesting display in one of the side rooms.  There, on the wall, was a typical red ‘fire-box’ that would be found along any city street.  He flipped the switch to demonstrate.  The signal would come into the fire station and trigger a teletype machine which would punch out a code.  The code was then referenced to a chart which gave the street where the fire was burning happily away.

FireHouseAlarm

The daylight was fading.  We had dinner in the one restaurant that had the widest reputation.  My friend, the poet, Dara Reidyr, who grew up in South Carolina,  said we simply must have dinner at Hyman’s–and be sure to include grits and hushpuppies.  This we did.  It was a four-star establishment in my book.  Thanks, Dara!

Hyman'sDinner

After sun sets

And, now for something completely different.  Night has fallen on the city.  We had booked a “Ghosts of Charleston” tour at 7:30 pm.  We met our guide by a circular fountain at Waterfront Park alongside the Cooper River.  Off we went to see the places that the TV “Ghost Busters” crew had claimed were “really hot” in terms of paranormal activity.

Our first stop is outside the Southend Brewery & Smokehouse on the corner of East Bay and Queen Streets.  Back in the day, the day of King Cotton and Indigo plantations, it was a three story cotton mill.  The rough work with the freshly picked white fluffy stuff was the first floor.  The finishing work was on the second floor.  One more flight up was a gentleman’s club where a planter or merchant could enjoy a whiskey and a cigar and talk the talk of men who made their fortunes from the labors of West African slaves.  Real gentleman, these.  One planter was celebrating a recent transaction of ‘selling’ his cotton to the merchant.  The goods were aboard a ship that had just set sail for England, where the quality of the South Carolina cotton was highly prized.  As this guy (forgot his name) gazed out of the window overlooking the harbor, he saw what he believed was the ship carrying his precious cargo, catch fire and then explode.

He stared in mute horror.  He was now a broken man, financially and otherwise.  He downed a few more fingers of whiskey before he realized he couldn’t go home and admit to his wife that all had been lost in the ship’s fire.  So, he did what every broken-spirited man with no future had done from time immemorial.  He fashioned a noose of twine and stepped off a chair into eternity.  The twine, of course, acted like razor wire and he essentially bled to death…his life’s blood dripping down three floors.  Clearly that wasn’t the end of the story.  You see, he still wanders the building to this day.  Was there anything good that came out of this tragedy?  Well, his widow got a very large check from the sale of the cotton and went from mourning black to bridal white in a very short time.

You may reasonably ask why she got the money.  Here’s the punch line to this sad tale:  The poor fellow had witnessed the wrong ship explode.  By the time he finished the last whiskey of his life, his cargo was already out of the harbor having departed on the outgoing tide.

Here is a dark and rather spooky cemetery.  Often, a kneeling woman is seen at the grave of her daughter who had died of a childhood disease in the 19th century.  I saw nothing.  Do you?

DarkCemeteryCharleston

A short distance away was the infamous “Dueling Alley”.  I can’t go into the fifteen stories of duels that took place there.  I’ll only mention that a prominent physician was killed in this alley sometime in the 19th century.  He used to walk the path and whistle on his way to work.

People have reported hearing the whistle and seeing a man in period clothes stroll the walkway.  Again, I saw nothing.

DuelAlley

It’s a long distance from the alley to this laundry room.  The alley was dark and forbidding.  The laundry room is blinding bright and a persistent noise is coming from behind the washers.

I can say one thing–it’s not a whistle.

[Next up: The Scary Halloween Blog.  Don’t say you weren’t warned!]