Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: Ghostopolis

This is my second book review this week.   I suppose that probably says a lot about my week.   It is cold outside and there has been snow on the roads.  The children have been sick and a sense of Christmas quiet has taken hold of my house.  This has given me excessive amounts of time to read.  This is wonderful.

Ghostopolis is a graphic novel for younger readers, but I enjoyed this book as much as my children.  Its protagonist is a young boy, Garth, who is dying.  There is a secondary protagonist in the form of a burnt out detective.  In truth, the detective is really more of a ghost hunter with a detective feel.  This protagonist gives us some surprisingly adult glimpses into a man torn between two worlds.  The ghost hunter works for a government agency whose job it is to send ghosts back to the afterlife.  Most of the ghosts don't seem to happy about this and he has a very stressful job.   He is also tortured by his own love for a beautiful ghost woman who dwells in between worlds.  When the ghost hunter accidentally transports Garth to the afterlife with one of his ghosts, we are transported to a world of magic and wonder where the dead rule and the living are the ghosts.  As the detective tries to find a way to bring the young boy out of the afterlife,  the young boy travels the afterlife learning about the rules of his new world and discovering secrets about who he really is. 

I read a lot of books with my boys and mostly I just make my way through them.  I endure.  This book I loved.  Like Harry Potter or The Golden Compass, Ghostopolis had an appeal that stretched way beyond its intended reading level.  In fact,  after I put my son to bed the first night we read together,  I sat up late finishing the book.  The illustrations are beautiful and the story is intriguing.  My husband also finished this graphic novel on his own.  It was a great read.  John Hodan at graphic novel reviews said, "Immediately, it is clear this book is something special."   I couldn't agree more!  I've also heard that a movie version of Ghostopolis is going to be made with Hugh Jackman as our burnt out ghost hunting detective type.  That should defiantly be interesting. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: The Dead Path

It took me quite a while to make it through this unusual book.  I've grown accustomed to reading books that are high on action and low on art.   Sometimes I find myself wondering if the art behind the written word is lost in horror and fantasy.  This book definitely rediscovers the art of words.  It slowly pulls you into a world of darkness and dread, a world where the dead talk and something infinitely evil lurks in the woods, killing you children and feeding on fear.

After Nicholas Close's wife dies tragically, his entire world begins to unravel.   His friends blame him for his wife's death and he blames himself.   To make matters worse, he can see the dead everywhere.   To escape his tragedy, he flees London and returns to he small town where he grew up.   He returns to his mother's home.  His mother believes Nicholas is cursed and fears his return.  Death has followed him his entire life and she is more afraid of him than ever.   After Nicholas's return, strange events remind him of the mysterious deaths of his childhood that were marked by dead birds with sticks where their heads should be.  The story steadily unwinds from here, bringing the dead of the woods and death closer and closer with each breath.

The Dead Path is Stephen M. Irwin's debut novel and isn't a light read, but it is a beautiful read and for lovers of things dealing with ghosts and darkness it is definitely worth the time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winners and Other Announcements

My Anniversary has come and gone and the winners of my contest were Dave of the Dead and LaughtingWolf.  I'll be getting in touch with both of you to get your addresses etc. so I can mail your prizes.  I used the well tested inny minny miny moe technique to chose my winners.  I'm sure this was much better than the best random number generator.

Before I begin with another year of ghost stories,  I have a few other announcements to make.  Due to my growing pressures in life,  I will be changing my blog a little bit.  I won't be a daily blog any more.  If I were completely honest,  I was never a daily blog.  I missed 65ish days of blogging this year, but I tried to blog every day.  Now I will be cutting back to two or three times a week and I'm hoping that will give me an opportunity to increase the quality of my posts and finish Haunted Chatanooga.

Also, I also want to apologize in advance for any slowing in comments to all you wonderful bloggers out there.  I have a few big life changes that have slowed me down a bit, but I'm still reading and will be commenting as often as I can.   Thanks again to everyone and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Year of Blogging and Time for Me to Give Back

I have been blogging for one year now.  Today is my blogs birthday!  Last year,  the night before my birthday was the winter solstice and it felt like a night to make changes.  I was frustrated with my writing career and had just been moved by my publisher  from an 18 month contract to a 3 year contract meaning that they may not publish my book until 2014.  Part of me wanted to give up and another part of me just wanted to write about something I loved and enjoy it and not worry about publishing houses or agents or anything else.  So I picked something I loved, ghost stories, and began writing everyday, well, almost everyday.  I fell in love with writing all over again and fell even more in love with ghosts and hauntings and old buildings that creep and moan and speak of forgotten histories rich with tragedy.  Blogging was wonderful!

I was helped along the way by other bloggers who found my blog and encouraged me to keep writing.  Courtney Mroch from Haunt Jaunts was and is amazing.  Her blog inspires me every day.   Autumn Forest of Ghost Hunting Theories was also there with ideas and inspiration from the very beginning.  And what have I gained from my year in blogging?

*  I have posted 299 posts of ghosts, hauntings, and all things dark and beautiful
*   I have met numerous other bloggers, artists, and ghost hunters and found a world of wonder that I have    enjoyed exploring
*  I got to travel all over the country and go to some amazing places looking for wonderful stories.
*  I was invited by a publisher to write a book based on my blog and it was published this year
*  I am working on my second book that will come out next year
*  I have a column in the Valley Planet and I can write even more ghost stories there!
*  I have learned that sometimes if you just do what you love everything else will follow.

If you had told me a year ago that I would gain all these things just by sitting down almost every day and writing I wouldn't have believed you.  It has been a wonderful year filled with travel, hauntings, and fun and I accomplished all this in one year of blogging and I owe it to all of my readers and those other bloggers who have helped me on the way.   So,  in order to give back to my blogging friends,  I will be giving away 2 Barnes and Noble Gift Cards for $25 dollars  on my birthday, tomorrow.   Spread the word.  All you have to do is comment below and twitter or facebook about this post to enter to win!  Thank you all for a wonderful year of blogging, it has been an amazing year.

I also made a promise to the Mobile Rape Crisis Center 6 months ago that when by book came out I would give them  five cents for every follower I gained on twitter.   Well,  I am now on a three year contract with my publisher, but since I've had a wonderful year with blogging I'm celebrating by doing that now.   I have 2,800 followers on twitter today and I'm writing a check.   I learned from Courtney Mroch from Haunt Jaunts who gave to the Leukemia Society on her 1 year anniversary that the best way to celebrate is to give back.  So I'm giving back to victims and I'm giving back to my readers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Lonely Bridge

Haunted Bridges are a common thing in ghost lore.  Throughout the South, stories of cry baby hollows and  bridges that lead to hell can be found in every other town.  As a collector of ghost stories, I've heard so many of these stories they begin to blend together in my head so I can't remember which town and which bridge held which story of ghostly sorrow.  It is rare for one of these stories to stand out to me, but the story of a bridge in Gadsden, Alabama that I heard recently left an impression.  

According to local legend, there is a bridge in Gadsden, Alabama that is haunted.  It is an old bridge with an old history.  According to the story, there was a young couple who lived near the bridge.  They had just had their first baby and times were hard for them.  They were pressed upon by economic concerns and the stress of their newborn baby.  Such stress is common in young parents and it is also common for these stresses to lead to fights.  The couple had been fighting often enough, but one night the fighting escalated to a fevered pitch and the young wife couldn't take it any longer.   She packed up her baby and walked out into the night.  She stepped out to get away from the tension and get away from the fighting.

After a while, her husband felt bad about the fight and about his wife and child walking alone in the dark night.  He grew concerned and took the carriage out to look for his family.  His wife and daughter were just crossing over the bridge when he caught up with them in the carriage.   It was dark and his wife was in black.   In the darkness, the poor young man didn't see his beloved and it was his carriage that pushed her and her baby over the edge into the dark waters below.  Both wife and baby died that night on the bridge.    Since that time,  people have described seeing a woman in black wandering the area around the bridge.  She wanders the bridge looking for the baby she dropped in the dark.   People have also described hearing the baby cry out.  People have also seen the husband wandering the bridge looking for something, heard carriage wheels, and heard the sound of a lonely woman screaming in the dark.  Many locals also say that the house near the bridge that is thought to belong to the young couple is also very haunted.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Ghosts of the Vicious Circle

The Vicious Circle is a group of writers that shaped the literature of their time.  This group was also known as the Algonquin Round Table and consisted of such notable wits as Franklin Pierce Adams,  Robert Benchley,  Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross,
Robert E. Sherwood, John Peter Toohey, and Alexander Woollcott.  The impact of all of these writers as a collective is amazing.  One was the founder of the New Yorker, others were famous playwrights and journalists.  Dorothy Parker is my favorite of this group because she seems like the kind of woman I could really relate too. She is famous for such brilliant quotes as, "Brevity is the heart of lingerie."  All of the vicious circle were all influential and they all met together at the Algonquin Hotel to talk.   The Algonquin Hotel still houses the famous restaurant where these literary giants met  and as soon as you walk into the Algonquin you can feel the presence of these great minds.  The restaurant even features pictures of the famous circle of writers on the back of the menu.  

When you walk into the Algonquin you know why the Vicious Circle chose it.  It is cozy and and comfortable with an atmosphere that invites you in.   You can also see why the ghosts of these famous literary minds might linger.  It is a dark place, filled with shadows and hidden places.   Shadowed corners provide privacy and seclusion for phantoms.  I ate dinner at the Algonquin and I wasn't lucky enough to see any ghosts, but guests at the Algonquin have reported seeing moving objects and the faces and figures of the old writing circle. Numerous reports of  ghosts and spectral visitations have filled this old hotel over the years.  Although I had a wonderful meal and wandered through the lobby, I didn't see any evidence of these stories.   Perhaps next time I'll have to stay the night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Worst Nightmare

This is a horror story of a different sort. There are no ghosts, but I certainly felt haunted.    I wasn't alone in my haunting.  Yesterday, it seemed like every single person who set foot in New York Lagaurdia Airport was being chased by a demon with a violent disposition.  The demon, in this case, was a massive blizzard that was cutting through the middle of the country and grinding air travel down to an utter standstill.   In New York it was warm.  There was a gentle rain, but just to the other side of the Appalachian Mountains the country was being buried in snow.

When I walked into the airport, the line was already so long it hung outside the building.   We waited for hours just to check in.  I knew my flights had been cancelled and had already spoken with a very unhelpful woman who told me it would probably be several days before I escaped from NewYork.  I got to the front and another lady did what she could.  She put me on standby on a flight to Atlanta that if  if left on time at 3pm I could then catch a flight to Huntsville, Alabama that left at 6pm  What were the odds?  The people in front of me in line had already waited for standby seats 3 times and I was the 10th person on the standby list.   But I went and waited.   The bathrooms were filthy because thousands of people were crammed into terminal C praying to get anywhere and also, apparently, peeing on the toilet seat and floor in their anxiety.   

The waiting areas spoke of the cultural differences between North and South.   There were so many people there weren't anywhere near enough seats so people were sitting and laying on the ground.   I looked around and saw women in their 60's and pregnant women sitting on the floor while young men and middle aged men mostly had the chairs.   I was switched between gates 6 times and as I struggled with my bags I was pushed aside for being to slow.  After my standby flight came in later than expected, one woman told me she could get me on the next flight to Atlanta.  She said just to take it because I might not get out of New York for a while.  She said take it even though all the flights to Huntsville from Atlanta were oversold.  She gave me a first class ticket and I figured I was at least closer to home.  May I say that first class is amazing.  They fed me a meal, gave me liquor (which I needed), warm towels, and kept my drink glass full. It is amazing how much the little things matter.  That terrible, half froze, airplane sandwich made me feel like everything was going to be fine.

I made it to Atlanta and I knew I was back home in the South.  Several gentlemen offered to help me with my bags instead of pushing me over.  In the full train, gentlemen gave up their seats for ladies and elderly.  The South may have its problems, but they also know how to to be kind and unselfish.  I was happy to be home.   I went to the last flight to Huntsville and found that it was almost empty. Everyone who was meant t be on the flight was trapped somewhere and virtually no one had made it to their connecting flight.  I made it home and I've never been happier to be back in the South, even though it is colder here than it was in New York.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Ghosts of Grand Central Station

 I skipped my list today.  I was far too tired to travel to far from home to chase fog and specters.  So instead I stayed close to home and went to Grand Central Station, one of the most famous haunted locations in the city. Grand Central Station is an imposing structure that is embedded into the corner of 42nd and Park  in Manhattan.  It is the largest train station in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in New York City.  The terminal is home to 44 platforms and 66 tracks.   The station is a living breathing work of art and a part of history.  Grand Central Station was built in 1871 and has been remodeled on many occasions.  The mural on the ceiling has been repainted two times now and the current painting is both lovely and infamous.  It is a picture of the Constellations.  One of the more interesting facts about the ceiling is that the constellations on it have been flipped.  The artist claims he did this purposely to show God's view of the constellations but many believe the artist just made a mistake.

The ghosts that linger in this station are many.  There are so many ghosts in the station that there is a ghost walk just for Grand Central.  My favorite ghost story from Grand Central is a lovely bit of folklore.  In the 1880s, when Grand Central was new,  Vanderbilt was one of the richest men in the nation.  He was so rich he could indulge in things that others might view as extravagant.  One thing he indulged in was race horse.   He bought the fastest racehorse in the world, Maud. S. and had her stabled next to grand central station so when he arrived on a train he could have the fastest horse in the world to deliver him home.  Maud S. died next to the station and her specter is said to wander Grand Central to this day.  There may be many more tragic ghosts in Grand Central.  The ghosts of those who have died in accidents and suicides linger in the shadows of the famous building, but Maud's ghost is by far the largest and the most interesting.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Haunted New York Wish List

I am travelling again.  This time I'm going to New York for the rest of the week.  It will be a long, cold trip, but I will be bundled up in many layers of clothing and their are many secret haunted places in Manhattan to keep me company during the long, dark nights after my conference ends.   At the beginning of every journey, I make a wish list.  It is the list of places I would visit if everything went right and time were as abundant as sand.  Sadly, I rarely finish my wish lists, but they are wonderful starting points and any place I miss this time I can see next time.   So here are all the haunted locations I would like to see while I am in the big apple.

1.  The Algonquin Hotel:  The Algonquin Hotel was once home to the vicious circle of writers that once included some of the most famous writers of the time.  Some say that the ghosts of these writers still haunt this old hotel.  The linger in corners and behind shadows.  

2.  "The House of Death".  How could I not want to visit a haunted location with such an ominous name.  This house is believed to be haunted by 22 people including the Mark Twain.   I love Mark Twain and would go to New York just to see his ghost.

3.  The Empire States Building:   Many depressed people have taken the elevator to the top of this famous building just to jump to their deaths.  Their ghosts are said to haunt the building to this day.

4.  Manhattan Bistro:  This SoHo bistro is said to be haunted by a young woman who was murdered in the building in 1799.  She haunts this restaurant knocking ashtrays off of tables, breaking plates, and causing other  havoc.

5.  The Chelsea:   I am a Sex Pistols fan so this location has to be on my list.  It is room 100 at The Chelsea that the notorious Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols killed his girl friend Nancy.  Her ghost is said to remain at the Chelsea to this day.  The Ghost of Sid Vicious himself is said to haunt the elevator.

6.  Bridge Cafe:  This bar that is said to be the oldest in New York dates back to 1794.  Ghosts of the pirates that used to frequent this establishment have been sited at the cafe.

Those are my top six.  Hopefully,  I'll get the time to see all of these haunted locations, but if I miss a few, I'll enjoy the ones I do see.  I might go to the Chelsea first.  I've always wanted to meet Sid Vicious.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to Protect Your Home from Haunting and Evil Spirits

 While exploring the Burritt Museum and the many historic cabins within it last night,  I came upon an old witch bottle sitting atop a shelf in a cabin from 1825.   The witch bottle was a hideous and fearsome thing that reminded me of my love of folklore and folk remedies.  I especially love old cures for hauntings.  Witch bottles have a long history and have been popular for well over a millennium.  They were most popular in the 16th century when fear of witches, hauntings, and bad spirits reached a kind of fevered pitch that resulted in many a poor soul being burned a live for witchcraft.

The basic theory behind witch bottles is that spirits and ghosts have to count every item in a house or building before they can enter and haunt the home.  The bottle was meant to have so many small items in it that no spirit or ghost could ever count its contents. Thus the house was protected from haunting.  Early bottles were filled were filled with sand, dirt, pebbles and other small items that would be difficult to count.  By the sixteenth century the bottles took on a more sinister and disgusting tone.  They were often filled with urine, toe nails, hair, pins, and nails.   These witch bottles were thought to actually prevent a witch from casting a harmful spell on you.  They were also believed to lure evil spirits in and trap them, impaling them on the nails and pins so they can't escape.  These bottles were usually hidden and buried upside down in the home.  The picture to the side shows a classic witch jar from the seventeenth century.  It was thought that if such a witch bottle was thrown in the fire any witch that had set a curse on the owner of the witch jar would die.

Now the witch bottle has gone full circle.  Modern incarnations of these jars are said to protect against bad spirits and ghosts and are again filled with more pleasant things.  I looked at many crazy websites with recipes for witch bottles and it seems that some people still prefer the stinky bottle and place hair, nails, finger nails etc in the bottle, but that is just gross.  Also, these people are often using the bottles for larger magical purposes that I avoid.  Here is a simple recipe for a witch jar to protect your home from bad spirits and ghosts and hauntings.  These type of witch bottles are pretty and smell good too!

1.  Choose a pretty bottle with a lid and clean it
2.  Fill the bottle with some sand  or salt to make a foundation for the rest of the materials to rest on.
3 Add the pebbles, sea shells, or rosemary alternately to the bottle. After you have added these, add a bit more sand.
4.  Add  flower petals or  greenery .  There is no right or wrong way to make the bottle. Keep in mind your intent while making the bottle and envision what you want it to look like.

After you have all the items in the bottle, affix the lid. Tie the ribbon around mouth of the bottle near the lid as a final touch
Here is a picture of a modern witch bottle I found on Etsy.  The seller says the witch bottle will banish evil spirits.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ghosts on the Mountain

Burritt Museum is a living history museum on the top of scenic Monte Sano Mountain.  It is a breathtakingly beautiful location.  It sits perched atop the mountain lost in the clouds.  The view from its steps is awe inspiring.  The museum began with the Burritt Museum which is a mansion once owned by a local physician that donated the land and the house.  Since that time,  numerous historic cabins have been moved up on the mountain so as you walk through the property it is like travelling through history.  Each cabin is staffed by volunteers dressed in period costumes and kept to look like it would have in the year it was built.   According to legend, the mansion is haunted.  I don't have all the details, but here are the pictures from my trip to the mountain today.  More will come later.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Ghosts of The Algonquin Roundtable Writers

Next week I will embark on a journey that is completely ill advised.  I am going to New York to attend one of the Algonquin Writer's Conferences.  This trip is ill advised because I don't have the money to waste on a trip to New York,  I am leaving my children during a time when they need me, and the probability of me actually accomplishing anything with this conference is slim.  During this conference,  I will have an opportunity to pitch my latest fiction novel to 4 editors from big houses like Penguin.  I will be nervous and sweaty and will probably stutter and drool, making the likelihood of them having interest in my book even lower.   Why am I going you may ask?  I am going because I am a dreamer and I just can't help myself.  I really want to be a fiction writer. 

As I have prepared for me trip, I found a link between my trip and the ghosts of many old writers. This link, however tangential, has just made my day.  The Algonquin group  is running the conference  I am going to and one of the most haunted locations in New York is the Algonquin Hotel, which is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the Algonquin Writers Round table.   The Algonquin Hotel  was made famous as being the meeting place for the Algonquin writer's circle who were considered to be some of the best writers of the time.  The Hotel is said to be haunted by these authors to this day.   The group, who called themselves "The Vicious Circle" included Dorothy Parker, Franklin Pierce, Robert Benchley, Robert Sherwood, Alexander Woolcott, Harpo Marx, Harold Ross, Heywood Broun, George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Franklin Pierce Adams, and Edna Ferber.   Guests at the Alonquin have claimed to have seen various members of this group of writers throughout the hotel.   They have also claimed to hear odd noises and witnessed other supernatural occurrences withing the hotel.

I'm not sure what the link between the group that is hosting the conference I am going to and the old Algonquin writing circle is, but I feel inspired to know that there is some kind of link between the conference and the ghosts of more successful writers.  The Algonquin Hotel will be the first haunted location I visit in New York.  Maybe I can find inspiration in the ghosts of greater writers than me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Time to Begin Your Krampus Day Celebrations!!

In America, we embrace all cultures and pull their traditions into our own culture and make it our own. I believe we should do the same for Krampus Day.   It is time to begin our Krampus Day Celebrations!  According to Wikipedia,   "Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December, and roam the streets frightening children and women with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes birching – by Krampus, especially of young girls"

Krampus is part of Austrian and Hungarian folklore and is associated with Christmas. His name, taken from the Germanic Krampen means claw. Krampus looks like and acts like the devil. He is a demon that travels with Saint Nickolas on Christmas Eve and while Santa delivers candies and treats to the good little children, Krampus delivers corporal punishment and horror to the bad little children. He provides a little extra incentive for the children to be good. Apparently in Austria, not getting presents wasn't enough to motivate children. Satan himself had to beat the children with willow branches and carry them off to hell.  I think it would take about this much incentive to get my boys to stop fighting on a nightly basis, so they might be on to something.

Krampus became so popular that his story and legends spread throughout Europe and became especially popular in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and northern Italy. He became so popular that he earned his own holiday. Dec 5 is Krampus day. It is almost like  a prolonged Devil's Night in Detroit, without the fire. On Krampus day and the days around it, young men take to the streets dressed in their most fearful Krampus costumes. They roam the streets scaring children with loud rusty bells and chains. They chase down young girls and hit them with birch branches.  I feel like this would add some spice to our Christmas preparations.  Who wouldn't want to be terrified by a large devil in these days leading up to Christmas?  I have to say that it would make shopping a little bit less painful and it certainly sounds like more fun than black Friday! So get out your rusty chains and bells an find your ugliest mask and take to the streets.  It is almost Krampus Day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Lost Princess of Noccalula Falls

Noccalula Falls is hidden in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the side of Lookout Mountain.  It is hidden in the quiet green of  the forest and is buried in rich history that isn't evident when you look.    The history here is Native American history.,  There is a gorge and trails and caves thick with carvings that tell of the first occupants of the region.   The waterfall is named for one of these occupants.  It is name for a Native American princess whose beauty was legendary.  It is said that her ghost still wanders the mountain side and that her face can still be seen in the mist around the falls.

According to legend,  Noccalula fell in love with one of the braves in her tribe.  The two lovers wanted to be united in marriage, but fate was against them.  Their love was thwarted by Noccalula's father who wanted her to marry another man.  It was the costume of the Native's at the time for the parents to chose their children's mates and Noccalula was told to marry another.

Noccalula was broken hearted.   She couldn't bare it and she climbed to the top of the waterfall and threw herself over the edge.  She died in the cold waters beneath the falls.  Her father was so beside himself that he named the waterfalls for his lost princess.  Since that time,  many visitors to Noccalula falls have seen a Native American maiden walking along the top of the waterfall.  Some say they can see her face in the mist near the base of the falls.  They say she rises from the water and then fades away into the mist, forever searching for her lost love.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Am I Fester Adams?

Today was one of those days.  It was one of those days when you have to step back at least three times and take deep cleansing breaths to prevent yourself from falling apart completely.   The day started badly.  I had bought new, prelit garlands for the house and none of them lit up.  I had promised my boys that we could decorate the tree today and they woke up early with Christmas carols on their lips and joyful smiles.   I took out the new lights and tested them.  None of them worked.  I took a deep cleansing breath and drove to Pottery Barn to buy new lights.  We decorated the tree and ran some errands. They were the errands from hell.   I won't bore you with the details but I will say that you should never trust a car salesman.  After this, I was ready for something fun and relaxing.  I asked my boys what fun activity they would like to do for the afternoon.

This was where my bad decision making came in.  Never ask two brothers to chose an activity.  I was doomed.  They couldn't pick the same activity and they fought for literally fours hours over which movie to see, whether the movie was too girly, should they go swimming at the YMCA, was there another movie worth seeing.  The fighting escalated and I could do nothing.  I couldn't side with either of them as I never show favoritism.  So I just sat down.  I sat down and watched Confessions of a Shopaholic while my hair turned white.  The day faded.  The moment passed and it was too late for fun activities. My boys got over themselves and left to play outside and I was left with a moment of peace.  I took a deep breath and put up my new garlands.

As I hung the first garland over the fireplace, it lit up.  I stood there staring at it trying to understand why it lit up.  I took my hands off the garland and the light faded.  I checked the plug.  It wasn't plugged in.  The plug was still encase in those plastic things from the box.  I was beginning to feel like Fester Adams.   I probably look like Fester Adams today.  I certainly have the black rings around my eyes.  For many years now, strange things have followed me that I ignore or say, "it must be a ghost" with a laugh.  Faucets turn on by themselves.  The garage door opens and closes for no reason.  I believe there must be a rational explaination for these things, but this event today got me to wondering if it wasn't just me. Am I Fester Adams? I certainly can't think of any explanation that makes sense. I love rational explanations.  So if any of you have any explanation as to why the lights went on when I touched them please comment.  Static electricity maybe?   Maybe I just need medication?  Maybe I was Fester Adams in another life?  I guess that isn't rational.  Maybe my house is just electrically challenged.  I am open to all suggestions.  For now, I am going to enjoy the quiet while my boys play and maybe have a beer and hope I don't go to crazy tonight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Lady in the Lake

I can't resist.  I know I should, but I can't.  I have too many wonderful ghost stories from Chattanooga to not write at least a little about one of them.  So here is my favorite.   There is an old cemetery on a mountain in Chattanooga.  The cemetery is called Greenwood Cemetery and the most remarkable ghost stories from this cemetery aren't really from the cemetery at all.  It is the quarry across the road from the cemetery that has the most remarkable ghost stories.  The quarry looks more like a small pond than a quarry, but according to local legend, this pond is deep with caverns that drift off into nowhere lurking beneath its murky depths.

There are many stories associated with this quarry.  There are tales of spectral green lights and drownings.   But the most poignant story is the story of a young woman afflicted with polio.   Apparently the disease crippled her and reduced her to a shell of a woman.   Her husband was left to care for her, but he wasn't really up to the job.   He took her out to the quarry and rolled her into the water and watched her drown.

Many tell the story of this young woman.  They say she comes out at night.   She drifts across the water dressed in white.  She is beautiful, like she was before the disease.  She comes with the mist and when the mist touches the ground, the footprints she leaves behind aren't footprints at all.   They are wheelchair tracks.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Thanksgiving Horror Movie!

For every holiday there is at least one horror movie and here is Thanksgiving's. Thankskilling is about an evil turkey turned ax murder that kills college students on Thanksgiving.  There really isn't much more that can be said about this very silly film.  It is on netflix instant view.  So happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I hope you all have as many things to be grateful for as I do.  Now off to cook more food!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Totoro's Ghosts

This morning I watched a Japanese film called My Neighbor Totoro with my children.  Totoro is a haunted house movie, although it is nothing like any haunted house movie you would ever see in America.  As I sat watching Totoro this morning,  I got to thinking about the amazing difference in perceptions of the spirit world and the world of ghosts between the Japanese and the Americans.   Different culture's perceptions of ghosts have always fascinated me.   I  once went to a cemetery with a friend from Taiwan and he said that his mother would be furious with him because he didn't go to the temple to cleanse afterwards.  Apparently, his mother believes that ghosts can be carried with you if you don't go to the temple.  Miyazaki's movie, Totoro, and many of his other films, show a vision of ghosts and spirits that is so different from our vision of ghosts it is amazing and completely charming.

In the movie Totoro, two little girls move into a house that is known to be haunted.  In America, this is the beginning of a horror movie.  For Miyazaki, this is the beginning of a lovely adventure.  The little girls know the house they live in is haunted and they aren't afraid.  In fact, they go hunting the soot gremlins that live in the attic and when their father finds out the house is haunted he yells, in a most joyous voice, "I have wanted to live in a haunted house since I was a boy."   Clearly, the negative associations we have with hauntings are not  present.

Of course, in Japanese folklore, there are many, many spirits. Every object has a spirit and these spirits are usually good or at least neutral.   The spirit world is ever present and in Totoro the little girls' journey into the spirit world is more than fun.   I love this haunted house movie because it is the absolute opposite of everything Americans expect of a haunted house movie.  It is delightful and fun and worth watching on a sunny morning with your children.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Touring Chatatnooga with Amy of Chattanooga Ghost Tours

There is no better way to spend a lovely autumn day than on a haunted tour.  Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day.  The leaves were still dressed in their fall colors.  Deep reds and burnt umbers painted the hills.  The sun was blanketed in thick clouds which made the temperature perfect.    And I had Amy Petulla of Chattanooga Ghost Tours giving me a personal tour of Chattanooga's most interesting haunts for our new book, Haunted Chattanooga.  Having Amy as the coauthor of my next book is such a relief, not only does she know everything about the ghosts of the area, but she is also an accomplished writer.  It almost feels like this next book will be cheating and I couldn't be happier to be the author with the cheat sheet.  The last book was exhausting.  Here is a link to her website if you ever find yourself in Chattanooga . 

 Amy drove me to all of the haunted locations for the book.  Amy took me to Chattanooga underground to look for the ghosts of the lost city.  She took me to an old quarry to find a white lady  We went to lovely museums and old hotels and I found that Chattanooga is filled with a rich folklore I just can't wait to write about.   I don't want to say to much and give away all the surprises that will be in the next book, but Chattanooga is just teaming with monsters and ghosts. Here are a few pictures of our journey.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

7 Reasons Why We Love Ghost Stories by Guest Blogger Maria Rainier

People seem to feel strongly about the paranormal, and many seek it out by actively listening to or reading ghost stories. Horror films, books, podcasts, blogs, social media sites, and personal videos are all popular ways to experience ghost stories. There are many ways to access dialogue about the paranormal, and that demonstrates a societal appreciation for a good ghost story. But why is that? Why do people gravitate toward ghost stories? Even those who don’t enjoy them can’t seem to put them down or stop listening. There’s something fascinating about ghost stories – more than one something, it seems. I’ve identified seven different reasons in no particular order for seeking out ghost stories, but we’d love to hear from you, too. Do any of these reasons motivate you, or do you have your own?

1. Gaining Perspective
Maybe you just got a big stack of monthly bills in the mail, a notice from the school that your kid skipped out today, and a smaller holiday bonus than you were expecting. These seem like terrible problems until you find a good bone-chilling ghost story to remind you that at least you don’t have zombies to contend with in your everyday life. Sometimes, like many forms of entertainment, ghost stories are merely a distraction from the problems of the real world. Reading about someone who’s just lost their face to a werewolf makes your financial woes look tame in comparison. Ghost stories can be just the ticket when you need that extra dose of perspective to make it through the rest of your day.

2. Enjoying an Adrenaline Rush
Some people are adrenaline junkies, and while ghost stories won’t give you a huge dose, they’re still viable means of getting a little tingle along your spine. If you’re the kind of person who just likes to be scared out of your pants, ghost stories are probably great bedtime reading.

3. Connecting with the Past
Not only are many ghost stories set fairly far back into the past, but some are also about people directly from your lineage. Maybe you have family ghost stories that help you connect with the people who preceded you. Family histories are fun places to find ghost stories that help you feel as if you knew the people in them. Even ghost stories about well-known historical figures can be a little more intriguing than the typical variety because the time period and notoriety add interest.

4. Finding Food for Thought
Ghost stories often operate on multiple levels and are thought-provoking in their unconventional approaches to reality. For some people, ghost stories are like brain teasers – finding the weak points in the story that make it implausible can be fun, and taking the ghost story’s side by challenging reality is also a popular mind game. Those who enjoy “playing devil’s advocate” might seek out ghost stories for these reasons.
5. Figuring Out Life After Death
For anyone seeking affirmation or hypotheses about the afterlife, ghost stories can be good places to find material. People who believe that their ancestors can still influence them on earth might find comfort in ghost stories, and those who are seeking some support for the idea of something (anything) occurring after death might also appreciate them.

6. Participating in a Cultural Phenomenon
Colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities, and even some companies have ghost stories that help cement a certain community with a cultural component. In these situations, people accept and listen to ghost stories in order to be part of a group and participate in a cultural phenomenon.

7. Enjoying the Art of Storytelling
Almost no one tells stories these days, but storytelling used to be a primary form of entertainment. When it’s done right, it’s truly an art and can be a very pleasant way to pass the time with good company. For those with storytelling nostalgia, listening to ghost stories can be a favorite pastime.

Let us know in the comments if any of these reasons motivate you to read or listen to ghost stories and please add to the list as you think of more.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Paranormal Leadership Award

Recently, the wonderful Courtney Mroch presented me with a paranormal leadership award.  I am deeply honored that she thought of me for this award.  I was also honored to be included in a group with Ghost Theories, Ghost Eyes, and The Weekly Specter.  You should stop by to see the rest of the wonderful blogs on Courtney's list.  Although there were no rules or expectations connected with this award,  I wanted to pass it on to some of my favorite  paranormal bloggers out there.  I have many favorite blogs but these are my favorite paranormal blogs!

1. Ghost Stories: This wonderful site includes ghost stories, haunted places, and reviews of all books and movies etc that are associated with the paranormal.  It is a wonderful blog!

2.  Southern Spirit Guide:  This blog is amazingly well researched and explores haunted locations in the South.

3.Above the Norm:  This beautiful blog features some of the best photographs of haunted locations on the Internet.  If a picture says a thousand words, this blog is an epic.

4.  Parnormel:  This blogger tells her own ghost stories and they can be absolutely chilling.  She also does posts on famous haunts

5.  Haunt Jaunts:   It wouldn't be a list of my favorite blogs if I didn't include Courtney of Haunt Jaunts.  Her blog is definitely on of the top paranormal blogs on the Internet.

6  The Weekly Specter:  This award started with the Weekly Specter and I'm sending it back.  This is definitely  a blog worth reading.  Sadly the blog will be shutting down so this is my farewell to one of my favorite blogs.  I'll miss reading your posts!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Lost Lovers of the Eiffel Tower

It is appropriate that I end my week of French hauntings with the most famous location in France.   Whenever you think of France,  this is the first structure that comes to mind.   The Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of France.   It can be seen in every souvenir shop in Paris in miniature.   If you know nothing else about France, you know the Eiffel Tower.  The Eiffel tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world .  It was built for built for the 1889 world fair and was a marvel of modern engineering.  It awed visitors of the fair and became the golden mean to be met by all world's fairs to come.  At the time of its completion,  the tower was the tallest man made structure in the world.

It is not surprising that legend speaks of the Eiffel Tower being haunted.  Legends cling to historically ssignificant locations like moss on a rock.   The legend of the ghost of the Eiffel Tower is a sad one.   According to legend,  a young couple once met atop this romantic tower.  They met at the Eiffel Tower set on singular purposes. But, sadly, their purposes were divided.  The young woman was determined to end her relationship with her lover and thought that the beauty of the view from the tower might soften the blow.  The young man was taking his belle to the tower to propose marriage.  So the two ill fated lovers met atop the tower and declared their purposes.   The young man didn't take it well and became enraged.  Perhaps his temper was part of the reason the young woman didn't want to marry him.  He became so enraged that he gave his belle an ultimatum.  He told her that if she didn't marry him, he would kill her.  The young woman was set.  She would never marry him.  He gave her one last chance and offered to spare her life if she would consent to marry him.  The woman stood firm.

The young man pushed his belle from the top of the tower, ending her life.  It is said that the young woman still haunts the Eiffel Tower.   Her laughter can be heard atop of the breath taking structure and sometimes it is accompanied by her scream.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Chateau De Saumur and the Ghost of the Marquis de Sade

The Chateau De Saumur is a hauntingly beautiful and very haunted castled nestled in the historic Loire Valley of France.  The Chateau De Saumur  was built in the 10th century by Thibault le Tricheur the Comte de Blois.  The castle was completely destroyed in battle in 1076.  Henry II  Of England rebuilt the castle in 12th century.  Phillip II of France retook the castle as part of France in the 13th century.  The castle seems to be tightly tied to France's turbulent history.  It witnessed the wars between England in France and changed hands many times. In 1589 the castle fell into the hands of King Henry de Navarre, a critical figure in the French wars of religion and the first Protestant king of France. 

In 1621 the castle was turned into an army barracks and  later  into a prison.   It would house many notourious figures.   The most notorious figure to live in The Chateau De Saumur was the Marquis de Sade.   The Marquis de Sade is most known for his writings in which he wrote about the link between sexual gratification, torture, and pain.  His name is the origin of the word sadism.  The Marquis spent most of his life in prison.  He was inprisoned for his disturbing writings, but continued to write in prison.  He was inprisoned in many asylums and prisons throughout France during the 32 yrs he was incarcerated but his ghost is thought to linger at Chateau De Saumur.    I have been unable to find any real information on the nature of the haunting at the Chateau, but I was intrigued by any haunting that involves De Sade, a man whose cruelty is legendary.

The Chateau itself is quite lovely.  It is one of many beautiful castles in the Loire Valley and has been turned into a museum dedicated to horses.  I missed this lovely castle in my tour of the Loire Valley, but I will look for it next time.  De Sade's ghost isn't something I would want to miss.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Ghosts of Notre Dame

Notre Dame is probably one of the most famous cathedrals in the world.  It took over 200 years to built and was one of the first Gothic cathedrals to feature flying buttresses.  It has witnessed the ebb and flow of history for almost a millenia.   During the French Revolution it was desecrated.  It witnessed both world wars and many other wars.   It is said to house the ghosts of kings and many great men.   As soon as you walk in front of the doors of the great old Cathedral you can almost feel the eyes of the cathedral itself staring at you.  Stone faces carved into the door look down at you with haunting eyes.

The Cathedral was restored in the 19th century and today is one of the most striking structures in Paris.  From the gargoyles that sit on top of the building looking out with their cold stone glare to the famous rose window within the church walking through the cathedral is like walking through living breathing art.   It is also like walking though history. Coils of history are twisted within the walls of Notre Dame and pictures taken here are often thick with the ghosts of those that have walked through her sacred walls.  Notre Dame is called one of the ten most haunted places in France and it is certainly the most haunting.  Out of the many buildings I saw in France, this is probably the most extraordinarily beautiful buildings I walked through.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Week at the Haunting Chateau Larcher

I am revisiting this old post again as part of my week of France. I love to travel and I love to rent houses when I travel. I avoid hotels when possible and look for rare and interesting places to stay. When I went to France, I found an old medieval castle that had been broken up into 4 town houses. I was able to rent one portion of this castle. The castle, Chateau Larcher, was a bit of a mystery and still is. I travelled during the off season and the small village's tourist information center had been closed, so I was never able to learn much about the history of the castle. I read the plaque by the Cathedral which dated the Cathedral built into the church at around 980 and the castle itself wasn't finished until 1070. Outside of this, I found nothing to denote the castle's origins. It was located in the Poiters region of France just South of the Loire valley and would have been in Aquitaine during it's highest uses. The location of the castle must have been a sacred place at one time because the area is also known for it's dolmen. These are the types of rock arrangements that have been made most famous by Stonehenge. They are usually places in a sacred or important location.

Staying in the castle was wonderful. I loved it and I snuck away every evening to walk in the dark. One time I enlisted help to break into a roped off section of the castle and sneak around. The castle was mostly ruins and in the night as I wandered alone, I found myself chilled. There is nothing tangible I can use to prove that this castle was haunted. There was only a profound feeling that I was not alone. As I have little else to offer, I have posted pictures of the castle.  If you saw my first post on this castle,  the pictures are different from the first posting.  I have hundreds of these pictures.  T

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Poltergeist of Calvados Castle

Calvados Castle is located in Normandy in the north of France.  The castle is relatively new as far as castles go.  Especially as far as French castles go.  In France, if a castle is less than three hundred years old it seems new compared to the medieval ruins that pepper the landscape.   Calvados Castle was build in 1835.  It was built on top of some ruins that have never been described.  Perhaps this was the source of the problem because between 1875- 1876 the castle endured one of the longest sustained poltergeist occurrences ever recorded.

The family involved in this poltergeist activity requested to be left out of the stories and so I have been able to find their names and they are often referred to X.  They inherited the castle in 1865.  The haunting started without subtlety.  On the first night, objects flew around the rooms,  there were bangings on the doors and a monstrous boom filled the quite halls of the castle.  The banging on the walls continued nightly for three months.   One of the worst events occurred during a terrible rainstorm.   The entire family was awoken by a screaming woman.  The servants helped Monsieur X find the woman who seemed to be in peril, but no one was found.  The screams seemed to be coming from a room that is known as the green room and is said to be the most haunted room in the castle.  Every night the screams became worse and worse.  In fact, the poltergeist activity in general seemed to get worse as time progressed.  It heaped books in the study.  Madam X reported hearing noises like a bull bellowing while her husband was away.   It was particularly active in the children's room where beds were turned over  and toys were thrown across the room. At the peak of the haunting, as it was recorded, the ghost played the locked organ, knocked over furniture and sent water down the chimney, scattering the lit coals in the face of the children's tutor.

Finally,  in January the family couldn't take it any longer.   They called upon the parish priest to perform an exorcism.  It was a long night and those that witnessed the exorcism described a male voice taunting the castle's occupants during the exorcism.  The exorcism peaked around 11:45 pm.  Those who were there  describe screaming and banging and when the last rites of the ritual were performed they say that a demon cried out in what sounded like agony.   The haunting was over and there have been no reports of incidents since that time.