Sunday, May 30, 2010

Looking for Ghosts in Orlando

Tomorrow,  I am leaving for Orlando.  It is not my dream vacation.  I like travelling to places with history.  I like old, interesting cities with a story to tell.  Orlando seems too bathed in sun and tourism to have any interesting stories.  However,  everyplace has history and ghost stories.  A trip is what you make of it.   I plan on making the most of this trip.  I am packing my bags and making sure my sons have all there under where.  I've packed my GPS and put out food for the pets.  Everything is in order.  There is only one last thing to do.  Plan each of my haunted excursions.   This is my list of haunted places I will visit while in sunny Orlando.  Of course this list may change.  But here are the haunted places I plan on visiting in Orlando.  They have been taken from the Shadowland's haunted place index.

Pirates of the Caribbean:   This ride is haunted by the ghost of George.  George was a welder who died while building the ride. 

Boston Hill Cemetery:   A man can be seen swinging from one of the trees here.  There is a woman kneeling at his feet and weeping.

Rouse Road Cemetery:  The shadowy figure of a man who died in the 1840's can be seen wandering this cemetery.

The Tower of Terror:  The ghost of a man walking against the flow of traffic can be seen in this ride.

Epcott Center:   The ghost of a little girl who died on this ride still wanders the area.

Universal Orlando:  Back to the Future:  The third floor of this ride is haunted by unknown spirits.

I've packed my camera and am hopeful that I'll find interesting stories at each of these places.   Even in the sunlight,  there are shadows to be found and  I'm hoping to bring back more than a sunburn. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Link Between ADHD and the Ability to See Ghosts

I am reading an interesting book by Caren B. Goode right now called Kids Who See Ghosts.  I'm not very far into the book, but it is well written and well researched.  It brings up some interesting neurological research that I was unaware of in the first chapter.  According to Goode,
          "Brain mapping using EEG topography has found that creativity and intuition are associated with theta waves usually linked with daydreaming or fantasizing.  Theta waves are calm states in which intellectual activity at the conscious level isn't occurring. Children and adults with ADHD produce excessive theta waves.  Most people, children and adults alike, who see ghosts experience theta waves or brain-wave states of relaxation and meditation.  People who practice psychic skills have learned to concentrate in these states and master their psychic ability."

One of my constant concerns when I was working as a child therapist was the over medication of young children.  As a therapist,  I wasn't given an opportunity to question the psychiatrists who are given most of the control in the field, but the standard of care for children who have any problems was to diagnosis them almost exclusively with ADHD and medicate them.  Every child I saw in therapy was also being medicated for ADHD, despite the fact that research shows that this medication suppresses growth and causes other side effects.  In my opinion,  many of the children being medicated for ADHD didn't actually even have it.  They had PTSD or adjustment disorders etc., but of course that is another matter.  The ones who did have ADHD were often high functioning and performing well in school, but their behavior was a problem so they were medicated because it is a quick and easy fix to children who don't conform.

This research brings to light other questions.  In a world where ADHD is diagnosed in every other child,  could we be suppressing children's potential.   There have been links seen between ADHD and creativity and if is Good is right then perhaps there also might be links between ADHD and psychic abilities.  Are we suppressing our children's potential when we medicate them into silent, compliant behavior?   Are we shutting out the portion of their mind that might let them see beyond the concrete into a more abstract and deep world of ghosts and beauty?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Review of the Three Manifestations of The Haunting

Fictional ghosts and hauntings are often the most wonderful.  My favorite fictional haunting can be found in the works of Shirley Jackson.  The Haunting of Hill house is possibly the best haunting book ever written.  The story is beautifully written and creates a story that breathes life into a house turning it into a creature unto itself.  It is a slow tale of the seductive power of darkness.  Its main characters are psychics and ghost hunters brought together for the singular purpose of opening up the darkness locked within Hill house.  According to Jackson,  Hill house was evil from the beginning. Deaths and tragedy swirl around it like the mist that settles on the grass around it.  As the main characters explore Hill house,  they are tortured by a subtle and psychological haunting that drives them to the brink of madness and pulls one of them to their death.  Jackson draws us into Hill house with words of such beauty that you could drown in them and there is nothing that can describe them as well as to quote them.

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

In 1963,  Robert Wise directed a movie version of The Haunting of Hill house called The Haunting.  Filmed in black and white,  The Haunting is a slow a deliberated film that builds on the terror of those trapped in Hill house to create a terror more real than any slasher movie has created.  This movie follows the plot of the book closely and carefully recreates the almost romantic attachment the main character, Eleanor, develops for the house. Jackson's own words start and end the film in all  their chilling beauty.   This is still one of the best haunting/horror movies ever made.

In 1999,  Hollywood imagined it could remake The Haunting.  I'm not sure if the directors of the 1999 revision of the classic read or understood Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill house at all.  This remake of  two masterpieces lacked everything that made the first to manifestations great.  It lacked the subtlety and psychology that pulled you into a dark pool of human emotion and left you there to drown.  It replaces these things,  with over the top special effects and characters that are both uninteresting and unbelievable.  It adds bizarre plot lines about child serial killers and dead relatives that are both unnecessary and badly thought out.   In the end,  it was at times so bad it was laughable.   It is a shame that this movie was even made.

The Haunting of Hill house and  The Haunting (1963) are two of the greatest depictions of hauntings in art.  Its to bad Hollywood can't just leave perfection alone.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reviewing "The Devil's Backbone"

Instead of writing about real ghost stories tonight,  I'm going to salute one of my favorite fictional ghost stories.  The Devil's Backbone is one Guillermo del Toro most compelling stories.  Del Torro's best work is set in Spain.   This is a historical movie set during the Spainish civil war.  It echoes the beauty of  his future films like Pan's Labrynth and The Orphanage.   Del Toro knows how to pull at the heart strings and chill the soul with his lovely stories of everything that can be lost and forgotten in the course of life.

I should have watched this movie years ago.  It is one of the best and most tragic ghost movies.  I just saw this movie a month ago.   The Devil's Backbone is the story of a young boy orphaned by the Spainish civil war.  He is left in a large, broke orphange with ties to the resistance.   The boys in the orphanage are starving, despite the best efforts of those who run it.   The young hero meets the ghost that haunts the orphange as soon as he enters it.   He follows the ghost, but its secrets are kept hidden until the end of the film.   The most compelling feature in this film is the way in which Del Toro intertwines the characters' lives and stories turning the most mundane movements into a kind of art.   The ghost in this story is a hero as well.  It warns the boys of the many horrors ahead.  They are the horrors of the world of living and this movie reminds us that what we should fear most isn't what lurks in the shadows of old buildings, but what comes charging at us in broad daylight.

Although this movie was given lukewarm reviews,  I believe it is a classic ghost tale that brings the dead to life and celebrates the power of life to triumph in the face of death.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding Your Inner Psychic

Every ghost hunting team should have a good psychic.   Most things I have read on ghost hunting agree with this.  Of course,  psychics are rare.  Or at least,  people who advertise being psychic are rare.  Many people are psychic without knowing it.  They just have to develop their abilities and open up to it.  I went to a lecture on this topic a few months ago. It was interesting.  The psychic who was lecturing spoke about finding your spirit guide and developing your psychic ability.  She said she didn't discover her psychic abilities until later in life.  

My son and I discovered our untapped psychic ability while playing mastermind yesterday.   In mastermind,  you line up a series of 4 different pegs of different colors in 4 slots and hide them from your opponent.  Through process of elimination and logic your opponent uses pegs to determine what you have hidden from them.  A good player can determine their opponent's pegs color and arrangement in 4 or 5 moves.  My son and I were doing it on the first every time we played.  We just knew.  We have stopped playing each other.  Its boring now.  

So,  are you psychic?  I found this fun exercise to help exercise your psychic abilities in a book I've been reading. Try this exercise at home and see if you have some untapped psychic energy.

Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and sit comfortably.  Take a deep breath.   Feel a protective bubble of light surround you.  Let your eyes go out of focus as you concentrate.  When you are ready, focus your mind's eye on the images that are behind your eyelids.   What do you see?  It's possible you will not see anything at all, and if so, that's OK.  If you do see images, can their meanings be understood?  When you are ready, take a deep breath, exhale and return to consciousness in a positive relaxed mood.

Practice this exercise several times to see if you can see anything.  Do you see the future?  The past?  Images of someone else's life?  If you do,  maybe you are psychic.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ghost Town of Pripyat

Founded in 1970, Pripyat was a model Soviet city built for the Chernobyl plant workers and their families. It was the ninth nuclear-city.  Its population had been around 50,000 before the accident.  It was a beautiful city filled with everything that anyone could want in a community.  It had high-rise apartment buildings, schools, a cultural center, hospital, swimming pools, theatres, stores, restaurants, cafes, playgrounds, and a stadium. On the morning of April 26, the citizens of Pripyat awoke to column of smoke rising from reactor four off in the distance. The reactor at Chernobyl had blown and Pripyat was within what would later be known as Zone of Alienation.   At noon on April 27, the Soviet government informed the citizens of Pripyat that they had two hours to gather their belongings and leave on a bus for mandatory evacuation. They were told that their evacuation was only temporary, for perhaps three days at the most, and so the residents left most of their belongings behind. The 50,000 citizens left their expecting to see their hometown again in just a few days. They would never return.  It took 36 hours for the residents of Pripyat to be evacuated from the city.  Many say the government failed them and should have evacuated sooner and although the citizens never would return,  many still suffer the ill health effects of the massive dose of radiation as a reminder of the home they will never return too.  Many have suffered losses as well and grief paints the city of Pripyat with sorrow.

Pripyat was left abandoned.   It became an enormous ghost city.  For a while it sat in stoic silence and then it began to decay.   Roofs gave way and water leaked in.  Grass grew between the cracks of the sidewalks  and weeds took a stranglehold on the once beautiful city.  The giant Ferris wheel that once entertained laughing children rusted and turned into a skeletal reminder of everything that had died in the city.   Ghost stories came with the dust and hid in the shadows of the empty buildings. Stories of ghost children seeped out like the radiation.  Pripyat has become a popular location for tourists and explorers.  Those with a fascination for the forgotten can get passes and travel to the ghost town with guides.  Radiation levels have been reduced to acceptable levels and for short periods of time Pripyat is harmless in small doses.  Destination Truth even visited Pripyat in search of the ghosts that wander its darkened shell.   What they managed to capture on film was chilling at times.  Pripyat is one of the most haunting ghost towns in the world.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Ghost Festival

I spend a considerable time telling ghost stories and travelling to haunted locations.   I travelled to some of the cemeteries I visited in Chicago with a Taiwanese friend.  After we left the cemetery,  he laughed and said that his mother would be very mad at him for his careless wandering of the cemetery.  He explained that in his culture after you leave a cemetery, you must go to a temple and cleanse yourself or you risk bringing a spirit home with you.  This got me to thinking about other differences there might be in perceptions of ghosts in between cultures.   In my search for cultural differences I discovered the ghost festival.

The Ghost Festival is celebrated during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar.  It is also called the Hungry Ghost Festival in some regions.   During this month, the gates of hell are opened up and ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment.  The ghosts are ancestors of those who have not offered any tribute to them.  They are also ghosts of those who died and were never properly disposed of.  They have long thin necks because they have not been fed by their family. During this time,  family members pray to their deceased relatives and burn joss paper. In the underworld paper items hold value, which is why they burn it as offering to the ghosts that have come from the gates of hell. The afterlife is very similar in some aspects to the material world, and the paper effigies of material goods would provide comfort to in the afterlife. People would also burn other things such as paper houses, cars, servants and televisions to please the ghosts.

Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls do not intrude on their lives and bring misfortune and bad luck. A large feast is held for the ghosts on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, where everyone brings samplings of food and places them on the offering table to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck. So i seems,  in many Eastern cultures ghosts are treated with much more respect than they are here.  The living are careful to care for ghosts and to make sure that ghosts are given what they need to prevent hauntings.  This seems so very foreign to our culture here, which views ghost stories as fairy tales and folk lore.    I like the Asian perspective.   The picture above is some of the offerings that have been left during ghost festival.
In this photo Chinese throw paper money into a fire in front of a King of Hell statue during the Hungry Ghost Festival in Bukit Mertajam, northern Malaysia.

Friday, May 21, 2010

San Zhi UFO Ghost Town

I was just killing time today when I found the most spectacular ghost town.  It's futuristic symetry juxtaposed with it's haunting emptiness makes it high on my list of places I would some day like to visit.   It is located in Northern Taiwan and is called San Zhi.   It has been called San Zhi UFO town and San Zhi Space Town and it is one of the most bizarre ghost towns in the world.  It was built to be a futuristic resort, where guests could escape life in space age luxury. It was built to be a retreat for the very rich.  Unfortunately,  the resort was cursed from the beginning.   There were numerous construction accidents and fatalities.   These fatalities combined with rising cost due to the numerous accidents lead to a complete end to all construction.   The incomplete resort has been left abadoned.  It sits empty like a ghost town from an alien landscape.

There are numerous rumors that this ghost town is haunted.  The stories say that the deaths were due to a curse brough on by the bisecting of a sacred dragon statue.  Other stories say that the site used to be a Dutch burial ground and the dead rose up to curse the new construction.  The government was involved in the initiation of this resort and has acted to cover up all that were involved so no architects are known.   Growing rumors of ghosts and curses have made it extremely unlikely that construction will ever begin again.  So for now,  San Zhi is left to the lonely spirits that wander its strange landscape.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Many Ghosts of Littlecote House

Littlecote House has played a central roll in many of the major events in English history.  Elizabeth I, Charles II, and Henry VIII have all stayed here.  The D-Day invasions were planed here.  Guy Fawkes was tried here.  It was in Littlecote's lovely halls that Henry VIII seduced the one wife he was said to truly love,  Jane Seymore.  Historical events gather around this beautiful mansion like mist and so do the ghosts.

The house was built in the thirteenth century, but the ghosts of Littlecote come from a later time.  In 1575,  Littlecote became the scene of a despicable crime.  The owner, William Darrell was a wild man.  According to legend,  one night a n nobleman sent for a midwife from another village, had her blindfolded and taken to the house where she was instructed to help deliver the baby of a woman.  As soon as the child was born the nobleman threw it in the fire.  The midwife was given a handsome sum to keep her mouth shut, but she reported the crime.  Littlecote was the main suspect in this case, but the midwife could never prove his guilt.  He was arrested and acquitted.  Fourteen years later,  Darrell was thrown from a horse and died.   Legend says that the ghost of the dead baby killed him.  This ghost is called the burning babe and has been seen all over Littlecote since this time.  

Darrell has also been seen with his phantom hounds roaming the grounds of the old estate.  He is said to be a death omen,  appearing with a coach and horses when a death is eminent.  There are other ghosts at Littlecote.   There is a woman in a pink night dress that appears from the mist and another woman holding a baby who could be one of Darrell's many mistresses.  Littlecotte is now a hotel, so if you are looking for a ghostly vacation,  this might be the perfect stop.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Passing on the Life is Good Award!

AutumnForest of Ghost Hunting Theories gave me this award this week.  I love it!  Life is good.   She didn't say how many people to pass this on to, but here are a few wonderful bloggers I can't get enough of!

Haunt Jaunts
The Weekly Spectre:  Paranormal Blog
Ghost Stories
Frog on the Pumpkin
Labrynthian Creations
Above the Norm

This award came with questions I was supposed to answer!  Here are the questions and answers:

1. What celebrity would you like to have as a real life sister or brother?
Phillipa Gregory.  She's a great writer and I'd love to talk about books and history with her.

2. What was the first career you imagined for yourself when you were a kid?

3. Given a free first class flight round trip anywhere--where would you go?
Back to France

4. Which character on Gilligan's Island are you most like?
The Professor

5. What would you like to be famous for doing, making or being?
Writing good stories.

6. Who do you think is the most frighteningly influential and asanine person in the public eye?
Sarah Palin.  She horrifies me.  Why do we want uneducated Sports Reporters as our leaders?

7. Are you a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert person?
Breakfast.  I could eat breakfast for every meal.

8. Cheap mass produced beer? Import beer? Or local brewery?
Import Beer.  I like high gravity beers.  Belgian Lambics, Belgian Ales, Trappist Ales,,, yummy. 

9. What do you most want to change about you, Physical? Mental? Spiritual? Emotional?
Physical... Eek, but I could probably use some spiritual help as well.

10. Boxers or briefs or boxer briefs? (for you or your man--depending on which sex you are)

Here are some questions for those I'm passing this on to:

1.  What is the one place in the world you feel at peace at?

2.  What is your favorite haunted location or attraction?

3.  Zombies, Vampires, or Ghosts?  Which are your favorite and why?

4.  What is your favorite kind of food?

5.  Where did you grow up?

6.  What is your most interesting reoccuring dream?

7.  What inspired you to start blogging?

8.  Is life beautiful?

Thanks Autumn Forest!  Life is good!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Horrible Ghosts of the Old South

I've been very tired lately.  I have been working hard on the deadline for my Haunted North Alabama book and between that and my day job,  I think I'm not sleeping at all any more.   Sleeplessness has its benefits, however, and one of those is that I have been reading more and more ghost stories.  I discovered a brilliant story and utterly tragic story recently.  I am including all the details for in my book, but I just can't help writing a little about it here.

I discovered an old plantation house deep in rural Alabama.   The house was built sometime prior to 1850 and housed several hundred slaves and their white masters.  The slaves lived in cabins around the  plantation and the masters lived in an exquisite mansion with imported marble.   Apparently,  these particular masters were more cruel than most and the neighbors spoke in hushed tones of how brutal they could be.  Their cruelty was so severe that the descendants of those that gossiped about this still know the stories.   When the slaves misbehaved they were chained in the basement and beaten and tortured.

The Civil War came and went and when it went the slaves were all free,  but the ex-slaves couldn't forget.  They couldn't forget nor could they forgive.  They joined together and murdered their masters in their beds and ran off into the night.   Southern justice couldn't let such an act pass.  So the Klu Klux Klan joined in and the ex-slaves were hunted down.  Lynch mob justice was delivered to the poor, tortured souls and, according to legend,  they were hung from the tree in front of the house.

The ghosts of the masters and the slaves still haunt the house today.  Their cries fill the night with their torment.   The house seems to be cursed because other tragedies have filled the house with many other ghosts that I am saving for later.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Roman Soldier Ghost

One of my neighbors told me a wonderful story last night.   She is from the UK and her family lives there now.  In the UK,  she says history is so common it is taken for granted.  The landscape is dotted with old castles, abbeys, roman ruins, and dolmen.  They are like trees there.  Her father lives in Wilshire and enjoys walking his dog every day.   The people in the town he lives in like to walk their dogs around Ringsbury. Ringsbury Camp is an Iron Age hill fort, thought to date from approximately the year 50BC. It is located in the civil parish of Purton in Wiltshire.  It was a Roman forte.

One night,  her father was walking his dog, as always, and he saw what he thought was a drunk man stumbling through the ruins.  He didn't think twice about the figure staggering towards him.   He ignored the man.  As the drunk got closer my friend's father noticed he was in tattered Roman garb.  This made him hesitated.  Asher father watched, the Roman man staggered another time and vanished into the morning mist.  He didn't believe in ghosts before,  but now he believes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Headless Ghost of Ferrar House

There many ghost stories in the backwoods of Alabama.   They sneak out of the shadows of history and turn into nothing more than legend.  They are disregarded as the types of crazy stories old people tell to scare the children.  People who tell these stories tell them with a wink and a grin because they don't think they are true.   The story of the ghosts of  Ferrar House are told this way.  They are told as if they are legend. But there was a Ferrar House and the deaths that occurred in the old Ferrar House on Davis Road could very well be more than legend.

Perrin Ferrar lived in Limestone County with his wife and eight children.  He had four daughters and four sons. His eldest daughters were known for their beauty.  Apparently they caught the eye of someone dangerous,  because one knight someone snuck into the house on Davis Road and cut the two sleeping beauty's heads off.   Records show that Perrin did have two daughters that disappeared around this time.   After this,  the family moved.  They built another house on Snake Road  in 1854 and tried to move on.  However,  the two girls weren't ready to be forgotten.  They haunted the house on Snake Road and still haunt it to this day.

Their headless specters can be seen wandering the grounds of the old house.  Their white gowns are stained with blood and the bloody stumps where their heads should be offer a grisly reminder of the horrible way in which they died.     So even though some of this may only be legend,  there is enough truth in this story to keep it alive and enough people saw the bloodied maids to keep the story from dying.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Wonderful Ave Maria Grotto and The Monastery Ghost

There is only one monastery in the State of Alabama,St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman. The Abbey was founded in the late 1800′s after benedictine Monks were sent to the area to minister to German Catholic settlers in the area.   The Abbey is best known as the location of the Ave Maria Grotto. The Grotto is a strange wonder that draws thousands of visitors every year.

The Ave Maria Grotto was created by Joseph Zoettl who came to St. Bernard in 1892 and soon began to create detailed miniature sculptures of famous churches, shrines and buildings. As word spread of Brother Joseph’s work, donations of material and money came in from all over the world. By 1934, his collection had become so large that it was moved to the Grotto. Joseph continued this work for over 40 more years, completing 125 shrines. His Basilica of Lourdes was the last completed, in 1958, when he was 80 years of age.  The Grotto is an amazing thing to walk through.  It is a majestic Jerusalem in minature.
St. Bernard Abbey is also home to a prepartory school and boarding school.   St. Bernard Prep is a co-ed Catholic boarding and day school for grades 7-12.  According to legend,  the grounds of this school are haunted by a little boy.   Students describe waking up to seeing  the little boy staring down at them while they sleep.  There is no history to go with this ghost.  There are no stories of his tragic demise.  There are only the strange stories told by students intermingled with a place that doesn't seem to belong in Alabama at all, but seems to have fallen out of a fairy tale or fantasy book for middle grade readers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Ghosts That Walked in Beauty Like The Night

Lord Byron is one the most famous poets in the world. His dark poetry has seduced many, including me. George Gordon, the 6th Lord Byron after Napoleon, is possibly the most revered and reviled icon of the Romantic Age. The poet's personal beauty, brilliant mind, and reckless spirit fascinated his contemporaries. His dark poetry had many sources. It came from his own personal tragedies, his bipolar disorder, and his haunted history.  His poetry was greatly influenced by the infamous ghosts of  the haunted abbey that had belonged to his family for centuries and their dark beauty.

The Byron family home, Newstead Abbey, is one of the most famous haunted locations in the world. The Abbey is located in Nottinghamshire, England and is haunted by several ghosts. The priory was built around 1170 for the Order of St. Augustine and was bought in 1540 by Sir John Byron who turned the abbey into a mansion. Ever since the purchase of the Abbey, the Byron family was tormented by bad luck and poor fortune. By the time Lord Byron inherited the estate, it had fallen into terrible disrepair. His father had been known as the wicked lord and had let the house go to such a state that the only inhabitable portion of the house was the scullery. The wicked lord lived and died drunk in the scullery. In 1817, Lord Byron sold the house, but the ill fortune stayed with all the following owners of the notorious abbey.

The most famous ghost of Newstead Abbey is the black friar. Lord Byron claimed that the black friar came to him on his wedding night. The black friar was an omen of bad fortune and Byron’s marriage ended in less than a year. A white lady is also said to haunt the grounds. She is the ghost of Sophia Hyett, a young lady who fell in love Lord Byron. The love was unrequited and the young woman was said to have taken her own life for the sake of her beloved poet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Sad Story of a French Mother's Ghost

It is mother's day today and for me it is touched with sorrow.  For thirteen years our mother's days were split between my mother,grandmothers, and my husband's mother.  My husband's mother,  Nicole always spent the entire day with us.  I bought her many gifts because she was alone and her family was in France and she stayed just for us.    She was a sad woman.  She had a difficult life.  She had been raised by an old, French military family.  In those days,  France had been a colonial empire.  Nicole grew up in Vietnam.  It was a French colony that was called Indochine at the time.  When she was born,  her mother wept because she was so disappointed that she had a girl and Nicole was raised by her Vietnamese nannies and her father.  When she was old enough,  she cared for her younger brothers.  

Later, her father was transferred to another French colony.   The family move to Algeria, where Nicole cared for her three younger siblings and worked to make others happy.  When she was finally free to pursue her own fate,  she clung to the bonds of her youth and moved back to France to work to put her brothers through school.  Nicole was a nanny for their children and a source of financing for their needs.  At one point,  she broke free from her family and pursued her own dreams.  She got a job and moved to Morroco, where something terrible happened to her.  None of us know what.  She wouldn't talk about it, but we knew that it had been horrible.  After that, she moved back to France and continued taking care of her family.

When she was 40 years old,  she met a man who was studying Philology (the study of languages) at Yale.  He was a brilliant, older Frenchman who spoke 7 language and  was working on his doctorate abroad.  They wrote love letters to each other across the ocean and a year later they married,  only having met each other a few times.  She had beed seduced by her husband's poetry and gift of languages.  He had won her heart, but she wasn't prepared for what was ahead of her.  She wasn't prepared for Alabama.

She was already pregnant when she moved to America.  She didn't know English and she immediately hated Alabama.  She had never learned to drive.  In France, it hadn't seemed necessary.  In Vietnam, Algeria, and Morroco,  it hadn't been necessary.  In Alabama, she was trapped and alone and the only joy she found was in her son, who she took back to France for months at a time at least once a year so that the little boy was raised as part of two countries,  one that his mother loathed and one that she pined for. 

When my mother-in-law died,  her best friend told me that my mother-in-law's ghost had tormented her for days.  She had moved objects and left things in disarray.  When her friend went up to visit the grave,  the haunting stopped.  Similarly,  after Nicole's death,   I felt her presence with us for a long time.   There was nothing tangible.  My sons said they saw her in her old chair.   I thought I heard her voice in quiet moments and Xander, my youngest, would come down looking for her when he heard her calling.   After we paid for her tombstone and buried her ashes in the mountains with her husband, I thought her spirit left us.   I thought she had found peace, but over the last few weeks she seems to have come back.  I often see the dogs barking at the china cabinet.  They can bark forever.  When I am alone,  the garage door opens and closes on its own.  Strange noises echo throught the silent house.  We kept a portion of her ashes in a small urn that is in the china cabinet to carry to France next year and cast into the sea.   Perhaps she is waiting for that or maybe she just misses us. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ghost Photographed in My Living Room!

Recently The Sun has published several stories about ghostly occurences.  One story that was featured with the picture above ran as follows:

The ghostly image of a young boy was captured on camera as builders demolished an old school building.

John Fores, 47, insists the spectral figure was not present when he took the picture of the part-demolished brick building. But when he looked back at the images he spotted the boy, aged around eight with short hair and wearing a dark top, standing on the right of the picture looking into the camera.

The Sun has printed several other similar stories with photos.   Interesting,  that same little boy ghost visited my house today.  Here he is,  playing with my son! 

Wow.   What an amazing coincidence.   Several other ghosts seen in The Sun have come to visit my house.  Here they are!

We really are haunted.  Actually,  these ghosts were donated to me by new favorite iphone app.  The app. called ghost capture allows you to add one of 30 wonderful ghosts to any picture.   I see a new wave of  ghost photos in the future.   Ghost capture is even having a contest for the most realistic and scary picture  created with thier app.  I would like to thank one of my favorite blogs  for introducing me to this app and helping me fill all of my favorite family photos with ghosts and zombies.  Our Christmas pictures are going to be awesome this year.   

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Guide to Magical Trees

I am going to give up the ghosts for a day or two. It is almost too beautiful and bright outside to look for death and the dead.  Even cemeteries seem cheerful when spring has decorated them with flowering trees and colorful flowers.  Spring is here and it is time to start gardening.   As you consider what to plant,  I thought that this guide to the magical properties of trees might help.   You can never be too careful when planting your garden and making sure you have the right trees is important.  The Celts believed that every tree and plant had particular properties and spirits.  Here is a brief guide for your spring planting needs.

Apple Tree:  The spirit of this tree holds the knowledge of eternal youth and beauty.  It will keep you young and good looking. 

Cedar Tree:  The tree brings protection and healing.   It also brings calm and balance to emotions and can make your dreams more vivid and more interesting.

Cherry Tree:  The cherry tree brings new awakening and wisdom.  It is associated with the phoenix and rebirth.

Oak  Tree:  The Oak is a very powerful tree and it gives great strength and endurance.  It is a tree of ancient knowledge and is  a doorway to the fairy world.   According to legend,  every acorn has its own fairy and bringing acorns into your home invites fairy into your life.  I'm assuming our house has many fairies because my sons fill their pockets with acorns all the time.

Pine Tree:  This tree is associated with water spirits and the ability to adapt to life.

Birch Tree:  Beginning, Youth, and Renewal

Ivy:  (I know this isn't a tree)  Determination

I got this list from several sources, but a fun online source you can look at to see all the plant's symbolic meanings and to learn a little more about the Celtic philosophy and how their writing system related to plants and the spirits of nature you can go to:  .  Happy planting!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Brissac Castle

I have always been in love with France and its turbulent history.  My husband is French and my grandmother claims to have a copy of our family tree going back to the 12th century.  She says she can trace our ancestry back to Henry de Navarre. Brissac Castle, located in the stunning Loire Valley,  was once owned by Henry de Navarre.  It was once owned by many people and, like many castles, has a history that is full of war and strife.

Brissac Castle was built as a fortified castle by the Counts of Anjou in the 11th century.  During the French wars of religion,  the castle was given over to Henry de Navarre in 1589.  It was badly damaged during the civil war that followed between the protestants and the catholics.  The catholics were lead by the infamous Catherine de Medici and her sons and the Protestants were lead by Henry de Navarre.  The damage to the castle was so severe that for a time, it was scheduled for demoliton, but was purchased and renovated by the Duke of Brissac only to fall into disrepair again during the French Revolution.  Again it was saved in 1844 by the Duke of Brissac's family.  Brissac is the tallest castle in France.  It is seven stories high and it towers over the French Countryside reminding  with its gothic towers and shadowed windows.

The ghosts of this castle are not ghosts of war.    They are the ghosts of a thwarted husband and his unfaithful wife.   For a period,  the castle was owned by a noble named Jacque.   Jacque was a successful man with a beautiful and faithless wife.  His wife, Charlotte,  took a lover and was completely indiscrete in her affair.   The legend says that she would make love to her young man in the room next to her husband, keeping him awake with her moaning.   Jacque couldn't take the abuse and it wasn't long before his wife and her lover vanished.  But the two murdered lovers had their revenge,  their moaning continued, even after their death.  It filled the castle, driving Jacque mad and making him flee his own home.  Visitors to Brissac say that the two lovers still fill the night with the sounds of their passion and their ghosts forever linger in the shadows of Brissac Castle.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Ghosts of the Union Station Hotel

It has been a long week and one of the many things I have fallen behind on this week is my blog.   Working in healthcare often comes in waves.  Sickness spreads and the hospitals fill.  Sadness also seems to come in waves and attempted suicides fill the beds on the little psychiatric floor I work on with sorrow and despair.  It makes for long days.

I do many groups during the day.  I talk alot about coping skills and how to dig your way out of depression and despair.  My favorite group is on the power of joy.  The power of clinging to the things you enjoy and making sure that even if life is hard, there is something you look forward to at the end of the day, the week, the month.  There always has to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  There always has to be a light in the dark or you just give up.  For me,  my lights are my journeys and my writing.   Every trip brings a new adventure,  even if it is only a trip to rural Alabama to find an obscure ghost story.   My next light comes in the form of another haunted hotel.   They are my favorite.  My sons enjoy them too and when there are ghosts in the closet the journey becomes something even more wonderful.

So this month I am going to Nashville, Tennesse to the beautiful Union Station.   The Station has been converted to a luxurious hotel.   The structure is limestone and is built in classic Romanesque style by H.H Richardson.  It was commissioned by the Louisville &Nashville Railroad and opened in 1900.  It features some rare and extradordinary features such as 128 panels of stained glass, bas-relief sculpture,s and two alligator ponds.  In addition to this,  it is haunted by a menagerie of ghosts.

A psychic I spoke with about train stations once told me that places that were connected with waiting and strong emotion in life, often maintain this importance in death.  Old train stations can become gathering places for the spirits.  This train station appears to be no different.  Of course, this station is made even more haunted by the tragic train wreck that occured here in 1918.  Spectral visitations have been plentiful since this wreck.  Many visitors to Union Station describe odd laughter, banging noises, moving objects, and strange smells.  Several floors of the hotel appear to be haunted and those that spend several nights in the hotel often report hearing and seeing ghosts.  Hopefully, my visit will be filled with many such experiences.