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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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[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.

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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!

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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!]

This Is Not The Scary Halloween Blog You Were Expecting

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You read the title correctly.  I’m very sorry but I just don’t have the energy, creative or otherwise, to put together a high-quality very scary blog that you have come to expect of me.  I just put the spooky image at the head of this post to grab your attention.  I know I posted something at the start of October that promised a series of totally mind-blowing blogs celebrating my favorite time of year.  But, as I’m sure many of you know, I took sick shortly after attending my 50th High School reunion.  I’m still not well and it’s been a month, three ER visits, a chest x-ray, a hefty dosage of antibiotics, a diagnosis (shown later to be a little inaccurate) of pneumonia, and all capped off by an allergic reaction to one of the drugs I was proscribed.  My flesh looks like a scary Halloween story by itself.  I have red spots on parts of my body that I forgot I had.  I’ve been rubbed with aloe vera and other lotions that you would have to travel to a cheap Bangkok brothel to find.

So, instead of something scary, I thought it would be highly entertaining to tell you about our last-minute preparations for our winter “on the road” in our R-pod RV.  Remember the late part of 2013 when Mariam and I drove across the country to visit my grandson, Elias, in Orting, WA?  I even compiled those travel blogs and published them in book form.  It’s called: “In the Middle of Somewhere”–and did I mention it’s available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Anyway, here is a picture of part of the R-pod.  I tried to get some colorful trees in the frame as well to show you that its peak foliage time up here in the North Country.

RPodAutumn

Like I was saying, I am picking out the books I intend to take along.  We’re busy choosing CD’s, books-on-tape and DVD’s.  I also pack all the writing material for future projects (like a few novels, etc).  I even considered bringing along my banjo.  I googled music lessons in Fort Myers and found that I can get private lessons for a reasonable rate.  But, I’m having second thoughts about this.  It will require practice time and I just can’t see myself sitting by the door of the RV and learning chords for the banjo.  People (mostly elderly from what I hear) will think they’re in a scene from “Deliverance”.  I don’t want to frighten old people.

I’m writing this late at night on October 11.  The rain has stopped and it is very dark.  It’s nearly midnight.  I just looked out the front door and noticed a dull light shining at the end of the driveway.  I thought of the moon, but it’s too low to the ground.  Perhaps it’s a reflection of the light in the guest bedroom against the front window of my car.  Maybe someone is out for a late night walk?  Hold on while I check if it’s moved…

Nope.  The dull light is still there.  It’s not our new motion lamp because it would be much brighter.  I wonder…

Well, on second thought, maybe some of you would feel shorted somehow if I didn’t come through with some weird Halloween photos.  I must keep my contract with my readers.  If I say I’m going to do something–I have to do it!

After all, what are the “things that go bump in the night” going to do to me?  Come creeping down my driveway and walk through my dining room wall?  I doubt it.  This isn’t the History Channel.  There are no aliens on my property.  (Although, I have some doubts about our neighbor)–

So, here are a few nutty Halloween customs:

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Pretty scary stuff, huh?

I’m going to check on that light again–don’t go away.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think it has moved just a little–only a little–toward the house.  Let me look again…

OMG, it’s nearly passed the short row of cedar trees…just at the end of the walkway to the porch.  Who could this be at this hour?  It’s just a few seconds before midnight.  I feel that I have to type fast to finish this…what’s that?  I hear something on the front porch floor…sounds like footsteps.

I hear a voice.  It’s almost a mumble and I hear saliva helping to slur the words…”You think messing with the dark is funny?  Do you think we laugh when you pretend there’s nothing out there?”

The power is going out in the house.  Mariam has locked the bedroom door.  She’s having a nightmare.  If she’s having a nightmare…then what’s on the porch…at my door?

I must finish this quickly….I….can’t……..

Elegy From The North Country

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The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day;

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea;

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

                                     -Thomas Gray

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline

Remember me to one who lives there

She once was a true love of mine.

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm

When the rivers freeze and summer ends

Please see if she’s is wearing a coat so warm

To keep her from the howlin’ winds.

                               -Bob Dylan

Driving north from Saranac Lake to Malone, one notices that the country has a peculiar and distinctive appearance.  Mostly covered by trees, there is a the occasional pond or lake–even a farmhouse or, as you progress northward, a cornfield may come into view.

Odd, is it not?

FallMaloneDrive

I’m driving to the county jail to tutor a few inmates in the correct methods to write an essay for a G.E.D. (now called, T.A.S.C.).  I sit and listen to a thirty-three year old woman in prison orange (with matching orange CROCS), tell a tale of a life spent smuggling drugs, addictions, abuse and even witnessing a murder.  Yes, I sit and listen.  I hand her a golf pencil and a few sheets of paper.  No staples, paper clips or pens that contain tiny springs are allowed.  I keep myself from staring at the diamond stud in her nose.  She wants her G.E.D. very badly.  I seriously question what meager skills I can offer this poor misguided woman who, ten years younger than my daughter, has already lived a lifetime of grief and bad judgements.  I feel helpless and not a little insignificant when I hear my voice explaining the meaning of a “Thesis Statement.”

But, I digress.

As I drive, the clouds are low and heavy.  It has been raining steady all the previous night and day.  The spectacular colors for which the North Country is so famous, are muted in the dull monotones of a late afternoon sun that is hidden beyond a layer of gray, slate and approaching darkness.  Darkness comes early around these parts this time of year.  Usually, in these weeks of approaching winter, the dusk begins around the end of the day.  If the sun was shining, the shadows would be long.  But, it’s a world without shadows–because the day is one of clouds.  I am losing the npr station so I slip a CD of bluegrass into the player.  The group is called the Welfare Liners.  They sing a sad song.

I become aware of the date.  It is September 30, 2015.  In a few hours it will be October 1!  That should come as no surprise since there are only thirty days in September (April, June and November).  All my senses are now on alert.  I have yet to plan my 2nd Annual Countdown To Halloween blog series.  I will be weary and depressed when I get back home after the tutoring.  How will I ever have the energy to write an interesting post that will live up to the standards that my readers have come to expect?

I worry about these things.  But, something strange has happened in my subconscious.  My lateral thinking skills kick in.  Thoughts begin to fill my brain.

One terrifying thought concerns the date, October 1, 2015.  Another, relates to recent events that have happened.  I have stumbled on somethings so strange that I am fearful of revealing my discoveries.  But, I shall:

  • Consider that a vast number of those attending the 50th high school reunion of O.F.A. have been stricken by a mysterious aliment, myself included.  What did these people have in common?  I have discovered the following: All were present for the dinner dance at the Treadway.  Even the name, tread and way denotes caution.  And, all listened to me make a short speech.  Did the sound of my voice somehow carry with it a strange and mutant virus.  Many of my friends have felt this has been the case for many years.  Perhaps…just perhaps????
  • Many of those attending had undergone a process known as aging, something we all swore would not happen.  So, why did it?
  • All of us have recently been exposed to a rare Blood Moon Eclipse.  The next such astronomical event is not scheduled to occur until 2033.  Is there anything strange about that year?  May I be the first to offer the theory that in all likelihood, many of us may be deceased by that date!  Statistically speaking, that is.  Does this suggest a curse of some sort placed on those attendees?  I’ll let you decide.  This may sound shocking and unusual, but the facts are the facts.
  • And, now the date: October 1, 2015.  If written out numerically in numbers, it would read 10/01/15.  That makes 6 digits!  Now, if you add the numbers together the sum of the total is 26, again, a 6!  That makes two 6‘s. Using the same logic, if you take the total of 26 and divide it by 4, the number of Beatles (before Paul was killed in the car accident), then you are left with 6.5!  Eliminating the decimal point, it is the very year of our graduation!
  • It gets stranger.
  • What about the 19 in 1965, you may ask.  Well, simply add those two digits and the result is 10!  If you then add my present age, 68, the number is 78!  Now, subtract the reoccurring number 6 from this number and you get 72! The present age of Mick Jaggar.  Sound familiar?  Simply reverse that number and you arrive at 27, the age when Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain died!  Further, if you add the 2 and the 7 the result is clear, 9.  If you then subtract the estimated number of Rolling Stones who have OD’d (3), the inescapable number is 6!
  • And, know you have it! The dreaded number: 666, the Number of Satan!

My fingers tremble as I type these words.  This is due to pure fear combined with the fact that the outside temperature is 37.8 F.  That isn’t far from the temperature from this dining room where I am writing this.  Hey, I’m always cold.

This, then is the first of an irregular blog post relating to Halloween.  The posts that will follow will be something like I did last year, a collection of scary and frightful things.  WARNING: The images I post may be too intense for those with gentle hearts and delicate natures.  Guys like Chuck Carter, for example.  But, be fore-warned.  You may be exposed to pictures of ghosts (I will state here that these images are in no way intended to disrespect those individuals who are “life-challenged”.  Some of my best friends are like this.)  There may be depictions of female vampires or zombies with cleavage.  I have viewed hundreds such images and I have selected only the most appropriate for general viewing.  I apologize ahead of time for this.  There may be graphic images of kittens dressed in goofy Halloween customs.  There will surely be photos, graphic photos, of disfigured and hideous pumpkins.

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But don’t expect too much too soon.  I’m going to toss in a non-Halloween post on my ancestral castle in Ireland.  (Sorry, but I wrote it as a back-up to having failed at my speech at the reunion.)

I welcome public comment on the posts.  If you have something strange and frightening to share, please don’t hesitate, as long as it does not involve sleeping puppies.

And, speaking of curses–it is well-known that if a person reads a blog and fails to “like” said blog, well, I cannot be held responsible for the aftermath.  The most dreadful action, they say, is to take no action.  So, find the little button on my blog and click “FOLLOW”.  That way, my posts will come to you as email, along with all the other important emails you get every day.  (FYI–there a sale at Macy’s coming up!).

Sleep well, my friends.  Keep you collars turned up against the chilly winds of Autumn and keep your loved ones near you at all times.

You never know…

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The Haunted Well Of Avebury

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I heard about the haunted pub and the cursed well of Avebury while touring a church in Gloucestershire.

I was purchasing a CD of Traditional Country Songs (sung by a small chorus) at the gift shop of St. John the Baptist in Cirencester.  I recognized many of the titles from my collection of Irish songs and I was curious as to how it would sound by a choral group.  I paid my £12.00.  I noticed from a lapel tag that the man behind the gift table was a chap named Jonathan.

“Don’t you think this is a beautiful space?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “its beautiful enough and large enough to be an Abbey.”

“Have you seen the Green Man?  We have a Green Man here…if you know where to look.”

Being a fan of Green Man legends and mythologies and I was surprised that I had missed the carving of a face with branches growing out of eye sockets, the nose and the eyes.  Unless this figure was quite hidden or very tiny, I had overlooked a most fascinating detail.

Jonathan locked his cash box and literally leapt from his chair.

“Follow me,” he said.  “I think you’ll find this interesting.  I worked here a year before anyone mentioned the Green Man and pointed him out to me.  Here.  Just stand here and look up…straight up.”

I leaned back and picked out the figure on the ceiling in less than a minute.  I told him that I found symbols of all kinds of great interest.  I look for them on tombstones, along the walls of old churches and in the amazing scenes depicted in stained glass windows.

“Thank you so much,” I said.  “I’d love to talk but my wife and I are one our way to visit the stone circles of Avebury so I’ll have to say thanks and good-bye to you, Jonathan.  I appreciate you’re taking a few minutes to point the Green Man out to a couple of Yanks.”

“Avebury?  You’re going to Avebury?  That’s one of my favorite places.  So much better than Stonehenge,” said Jonathan, “and you can walk among the stones.  Can’t do that at Stonehenge…unless, of course you’re a Druid.”

“Well, they probably would make it difficult to allow me, as a foreign person, to be a Druid,” I said.  “Again, I’d love to chat but we need to get on the road.  Thanks so much…again.”

I walked toward the large dark wood doors.  I was preparing to put on my sunglasses in the bright light when I heard Jonathan say something.

“There’s a haunted well in Avebury, did you know that?”

I stopped in mid step and spun around.

“A haunted well?” I said.

“Yes, and it’s inside a pub.  Want to hear the story?”

There is no way that I could say “no” to this fellow.  The promise of such a story had great potential.

“Yes, I would like to hear it, Jonathan.  I most certainly would like to hear it.”

“Well, it has nothing to do with the stones of the neolithic circles,” he said.  “this is how the story goes, at least as I’ve heard it.”

“During the Middle Ages, actually about the year 1500, the village of Avebury was ruled by a Lord of the Manor.  Typical in those days.  Apparently he had his rheumy old eyes on one of his prettiest milkmaids who worked at one of his farms.  She was barely out of puberty.  Some have written that she was about fourteen years old.  Well, you don’t need a vivid or particularly dirty imagination to figure out what this Manor Lord did with this poor girl.  She became pregnant.  In those days, women who found themselves in such a situation were almost always blamed for their condition, and her “behavior” was frowned upon by the townspeople.

“The Lord of the Manor?  He was untouchable, wasn’t he?  No court of law would rule against him…he likely was the law.  So, justice was carried out by the mob.  They came one night to the girl’s farm and dragged her to the market square.  In that square was a deep well.  Her fate was sealed.  They led her screaming to the edge of the hole and threw the poor soul in.  The well has been measured at 87 feet to the water.  Can you imagine the terror and the screams from the child as she fell those 87 feet, clutching vainly at the sharp rocks, trying to stop her fall with her bare feet and bleeding knees?  After she hit the water, a silence descended on the crowd.  The screams stopped.  The silence from the bottom of the well was absolute.  The torches couldn’t penetrate that deep so the men who looked down could only see inky blackness.  And hear the total quiet.  It chills my skin to tell you this.  But, the well is still there.  It’s now been covered by plastic and it is part of a table in the dining area of the pub…how’s that for a story?”

I was transfixed.

“Oh my God, how sad,” was all I could say.

Several hours later we were in the Car Park of Avebury.  We walked around the stones.  I watched a Druid-like ceremony at one of the standing stones.  I kept looking across the field at the pub.  It was white, and I think it had a thatched roof.

I simply had to look down the well.

“Let’s have a quick drink and a light sandwich here,” I said to Mariam.  She had heard the story as I did and she was as anxious to see the well as I was.

It was crowded with tourists.  I went from sitting room to dining room and looked for the well.  Finally, I found it in the third dining area I entered.  There was a woman sitting at the table sipping a white wine.  I apologized and asked if she’d mind if I took a few photos.  She said it was no problem.

I told her it was the price she paid to sit at a table built over a haunted well.

I approached the plexiglass cover.  I leaned over and looked down.  There were lights along the round wall that made small green-leaved and moss seemed to glow.  I looked deeper and say the surface of water, 87 feet down.  The light in the room lit the bottom of the well and I could see my own reflection in the still water.

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I stared, waiting for a small pretty face to look up at me, but none appeared.  But, I must admit that I felt a particular unease as I looked down.  It was though I was expecting something or someone to speak to me.  I could almost hear the girl’s voice.  I could almost hear her screams.

But, what I seemed to sense, overwhelmingly, was sadness.  Someone was crying inside my head.  Someone, through no fault of her own, was violated and murdered.  I almost began to cry but my wife pulled me away.

I assume her spirit wanders the village square, the dining room or the stone circles…looking for someone to protect her.  I wondered.  If I stayed overnight at the pub or a nearby B & B, and I happened to come face to face with a girl dead over six hundred years…what would I say?  How could I find a way to break the chain that keeps her spirit linked to the well?

I know I couldn’t.  If there is a just God, than He or She must have pity on her lost soul.

I walked back to the car park with a leaden heart.

I also wondered which local churchyard held the grave of our Lord of the Manor who damaged this young girl’s soul for over half a millennia.  Is his soul resting in eternal peace?  Or does he too wander the lanes and fields trying to find forgiveness?

He does, if there is true justice.

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[The haunted pub is the small white building in the right portion of the photo just above the largest upright stone on the right]

 

 

 

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XVI: “Is My Childhood Home Haunted?”

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Sometime in 2005, I handed the keys of my childhood home to the new owners.  That action was very difficult for me.  This was the only home I had ever known from birth to the time I went off to college.  But, even in the years since 1965, when I hopped into a car and headed for my higher education experience in Louisiana, the house was always a special place for me, my children, my nieces and nephews.  That sense of ‘home’ was not just in my heart but also found its way into others.  We all brought our girlfriends and wives to the house to show them the nooks and hallways and hidden rooms.  See my post “This Old House” on WordPress to read more of this experience.

But, on that afternoon, as the new owners sat and faced me…before I would give up the key…they had questions.  The daughter was quite interested in whether or not the place was haunted.  How could I give them full disclosure?  How could I tell them of the little things that happened over the years that had a meaning only to me, or my brothers?  No, I said. Not that I know of.

I was telling the truth.  I didn’t really believe it was haunted.  But this was something the new owners would have to find out for themselves.

Another reason I didn’t say anything was that I simply didn’t have the time to tell all the stories.  I couldn’t go into every odd sound, every feeling, every visceral reaction I had…not to mention the experiences of my brothers and parents who were not present to tell their side of events.

So, here, for the first time, is a short list of occurrences that happened to me or my family (who related them to me).  I was present for some of these events.  Others, I relied on the honesty of others.

So, was 420 Front Street haunted?

–My mother always said the house was devoid of anything ghostly but…she told me more than once that when she would go into the backyard to tend to the weeds or just take a walk to the river, at a certain place, at the bottom of a slight decline in our yard (which marked the ancient riverbank before the river meandered to its present location), she felt the presence of an ‘indian” as she would say.  A chief or a brave.  But she felt his presence very strongly…but only when she stood at one spot in our yard.

–My older brother, Chris, once told me that he was lounging in the bathtub on the second floor.  He distinctly heard the front door open and close.  Then he heard footfalls on the wooden stairway leading from the front foyer.  (Years later, the stairs were carpeted).  He claims that the footsteps never reached the top of the stairs.

–My three brothers and I always seemed to have a cat.  One particularly fertile female, Portia, gave us litter after litter.  One evening, three of us were playing with her in the large front bedroom.  She loved to get high on catnip and do goofy things.  On this evening we were just watching her bounce about from bed to bed.  Suddenly, she went stiff.  We stood in front of her.  She arched her back and hissed…really hissed.  I was there and I recall that the cat seemed to be looking beyond us toward the wall.  She ran from the room.  I won’t forget her reaction…to nothing we could see.

–We had a pool table in our cellar.  It was an unfinished space so there were many cobwebs and a great deal of dust.  Many of my friends in Owego will recall the games we played.  Once, after making a great shot off the bank, I let the cue stick hit the floor a little harder than I wanted.  The concrete floor sounded hallow.  I tapped around and the area seemed solid but the one spot where I had put my cue stick was hallow.  What could it have been? An old well? An old furnace pit?  I never knew.

–The second oldest brother, Dennis, was born in 1942.  My father bought the house in 1945.  So, Denny would have been 3 years old when my parents came to look at the place.  Denny swore that he remembered coming into the house and entering the living room.  He insists that there was an old man sitting in a wing-back chair reading a newspaper.  The man put the paper down and look at Den and smiled…then went back to his paper.  My brother always stood by his memory of that day in the winter of 1945.  On many occasions, I asked my father about the old man in the chair. He insisted that the house was absolutely empty.  Nothing and no one was in the house the day he and my mother looked at it.  He never changed his story. Who was right?  Both of them?

There are other stories, small memories, tiny happenings, obscure sounds, and dreams that I can attest to.  But, I’ve said all I want to say.

Part of my soul, my memory, my childhood and my sensitivity was in that key that I pressed into Lauren’s hand that day. The house is now on the market.

I’d buy it…but you really can’t go home again.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XV: “The Ghost Who Called My Name-A True Story”

DoorKnocker2

What I am about to tell you actually happened to me.

But, do I have the absolute right to say that a “ghost” called my name?  No, I cannot.  Declaring it an actual spirit from beyond the grave, requires scientific proof…and I cannot offer you any.  But, I have no other word to describe the voice of the woman that night, the woman who called my name.

So many years ago…

I believe this happened on New Years Eve, as 1991 rolled over and became, in the moment past midnight, 1992.  My wife and I decided to escape the noise of Manhattan and instead, spend a quiet holiday in a lovely little town in the center of New York State.  It was to Cooperstown that we drove that cold day.  We had booked a room for two nights in a quaint B&B on Chestnut Street.  I will not reveal the name of the establishment.  No, I cannot do that for two very good reasons:  some inn-keepers would prefer not to have that kind of ‘stigma’ attached to their establishment.  After all, there are travelers who would balk at the idea of spending a night in a house…with an unknown entity.  The other reason is even more concrete.  I simply do not remember the name of the place.  So, let’s leave it at that.  If you want to find this place, just drive along Chestnut Street and look for an old white Victorian-style home.  It may be the very place where ‘she’ stood outside my door in the dark hours past midnight.

After checking in and putting our suitcase in the room at the top of the stairs, we chatted with the inn keeper for a few minutes.  She was middle-aged and carried herself with grace and intelligence.  Her husband was away for a few days.  So was her daughter.  It was just the three of us in the old white house.

We made the short walk to the main street and had dinner in a small restaurant.

The wind blew cold from the far reaches of Otsego Lake.  (The outlet of the beautiful body of water, often called Glimmerglass, was a small creek that was to widen and become the great Susquehanna, the very river that flowed past my childhood home in Owego, NY.)  At the mouth of the lake, you could toss a pebble across the water with the slightest effort.

We bar-hopped for several hours and watched the patrons prepare to welcome the New Year by donning those little cone-shaped hats.  We decided that we would prefer to spend the midnight hour back in our room watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, again.

Around 1:30 am, I tired of reading (my wife had already fallen asleep) and turned off the light.  The window was open a crack to let the fresh and chill air in to the room.

I pulled the covers to my chin, closed my eyes and in a few minutes I was lost in a dream.

I sat up suddenly an hour or so later.  Someone had knocked on our door which was an arms length away from my pillow.  A woman called out: “Patrick.  Patrick.”

“Yes?” I replied and I slid off the bed and approached the door. “Yes?”

“Patrick,” was all I heard.  She had called me three times.

I began to worry.  If the inn keeper was calling me at this hour, then clearly something was wrong.  Perhaps a small fire had been detected and she wanted us to get out of the house.

I stood at the door.

“What is it?” I asked. “Yes, what is it?”

Silence.

I unlatched the door and opened it a crack…

There was no one there.

I opened the door wider and stuck my head into the hallway.

“Hello?” I called out.

Silence. There was no one in the hall.  No one was near the stairs.

My wife was sitting up in bed.

“What did she want?” she asked.

“There’s nobody there,” I replied. “But you did hear her?”

“I heard a woman call your name several times.”

So, it wasn’t a dream. I was awake.

I fell back asleep.  I would talk with the inn keeper in the morning.

~~~

At the breakfast table, someone else served us.

As we went through the parlor to get our coats for our walk to the main street, I noticed the inn keeper sitting at her desk.

“What did you want me for last night?” I asked.

“Pardon?” she said. “What do you mean?”

“You came to my door and called me…it must have been sometime after 1:30.”

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t call you.  I was fast asleep at that time.”

“Well,” I joked, “must have been the ghost.”

Her mood quickly changed.  She looked away for a moment.  Then she looked me in the eye.

“Well maybe and maybe I should tell you the story.”

“Story?”

“Yes, you see, shortly after we bought the house my daughter and I were raking the leaves and cleaning the lawn.  My daughter asked me who the “lady with the grey hair tied in a bun” was.

“My daughter said she had just seen an elderly woman in a dark dress standing at the second floor window watching us.  I told her that there was no one in the house except her father, and the two of us.  We wouldn’t open the B&B until a month or two later.  But my daughter insists she saw this woman.  She described her just as I’ve told you…grey hair tied in a bun…the old-fashioned way.  Later, my little girl and I went to the library to check out a few books.  I took the opportunity to introduce myself as the new owner of the white house on Chestnut Street.  I asked about who the previous owners were.  She said she knew the house well.  And then she said that one of the owners, many years ago, was a widow…elderly woman who always wore a black dress.  I asked her if she could tell me anything else about her.  She thought for a moment and said that she never met the woman because she died before she had become the librarian.  But from things she picked up over the years, she could say one thing…she always, always wore her grey hair in a bun.”

I stared at the inn keeper.

“Guess, that was who called me last night, right?”

She smiled and said: “Certainly seems like it.”

Me? I can say only one thing for sure.  I did not dream of the knock on the door and the voice calling my name.

So, I can tell you what it was not…it was not a dream.  But I cannot tell you what it was or who it was.

Or, why a voice in a dark hall called my name.

 

 

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XI: “Ouija–Game or Gateway?”

OuijaBoard

It sells for about $20.00 on Amazon.  Barnes & Nobel carries a Glow-in-the-Dark version. It’s a ‘parlor game for a lot of people.  But, for many more, it’s something that should never be allowed in a God-fearing home.

The origins of a “talking board” type of game goes back to China…almost 1000 years ago.  But it was not marketed as a board game until 1900.  A woman named Paula Curran began using it as a divining tool around WWI.

There was a town in the mid-west somewhere they had a bon-fire to burn Ouija boards and copies of Harry Potter books.  And this was in 2001!

Do you own a Ouija board?

Read the following testimony from a site on the Internet:

 “I can see you through the window”

I was about 12 or 13 spending the night at a friend’s house, goofing around with the Ouija board with him & his sister and we were getting all sorts of gibberish plus words spelled out, just kind of scaring ourselves for fun not taking it very seriously when we got the message “I can see you through the window” and then “I can see you through his eyes” or something like that…there was just a small window in the basement room where we were, and just the back yard and woods past the driveway visible through that window…we asked it more questions and it said “I’m under the car” so we somehow got up the nerve to go out with a flashlight and peer under the car, where we saw a huge black stray cat which was hissing.

So, do you own a Ouija board?  Where is it?  Is it on the game shelf in your den, next to Monopoly and Scrabble?  Is it gathering dust under your bed?  Or…is it put away, in the attic, where the kids can’t find it.  Where you won’t be tempted to open it and light a  candle…and place your finger on the little moveable piece and ask questions…

Above all, don’t go looking for it at 2:45 am.  So that at 2:57 am you’re ready to play.

And don’t begin asking your questions at 3:00 am.  For it is widely known that is the ‘witching hour’ when the shadows of darkness descend over the earth.

Have you ever used a Ouija board?  Have you had fun innocent experiences with it, or did you have an unpleasant encounter with someone from the ‘other side’ that made you feel…less than funny?

Please share any experiences you may have had in the Comment section of this post.

I’d love to hear your stories.