Tag Archives: history

HALLOWEEN ODDITIES

I don’t know what it is about Halloween and fall that makes me want to go back and revisit the past but in doing that, I realized I have several pieces that really fit the need for the strange, creepy, and odd for this time of year. Here’s one in case you missed it.

THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

(A revisit to a post published a few years ago.)

A HALLOWEEN TALE

Over the past few years my husband has endured a long commute from our home to his work in Colorado Springs. To make life easier, we will relocate to a small town nearby. Now this isn’t just any town, this is QUITE a town.

 Manitou Springs got its start by catering to the tuberculosis sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. Emma Crawford and her family (practicing Spiritualists) relocated there in 1889 seeking relief for Emma through the mineral springs and mountain air. Young Emma was engaged to a railroad engineer, William Hildebrand. Legend has it that one day she hiked to the top of Red Mountain where her spirit guide appeared. She tied a red scarf to a tree and later it became her dying wish to be buried there. Emma never married William. She died on Dec.4th, 1891 at the age of nineteen.

Emma

Her fiancé and a dozen others carried Emma’s coffin to the top of Red Mountain where they buried her fulfilling Emma’s request. Emma’s grave became a popular hiking location for other Spiritualists throughout the next couple of decades. In 1912, the railroad removed her remains and re-interred her on the south side of the mountain. Heavy rains in August of 1929 unearthed her coffin and sent it careening down Red Mountain. Her bones were discovered 7200 feet down in a canyon. Emma was eventually reburied in Crystal Valley Cemetery in an unmarked grave. And that could be the end of the story, but it’s not.

coffins

Remember, I told you, Manitou is a different kind of place. Enter the quirky creativity and entrepreneurial instincts of this town’s folks.  Around Halloween each year the town celebrates The Emma Crawford Festival with a parade and coffin races. The coffin races feature a team of five (one person plays Emma and the other four act as pallbearers and push the coffin). Creativity and speed both play a role in judging the races. There are also prizes for best Emma and best coffin. It’s quite a spectacle and a great day out for family fun. Not your thing? That’s OK. There’s always the fruitcake toss early next year.

I have since learned that Emma’s Wake is held each year at Miramont Castle in the center of Manitou Springs. Rustle up some Victorian funerary garb for this event!

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THE INCIDENT AT WATSEKA

We’ve all probably read and seen movies about possession. I doubt very many missed The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or the Amityville Horror. These tales follow the familiar saga of demonic possession. But what happened in Watseka, IL in 1877 was different. In this wild tale in a small town, the possession was helpful and healing. Did it really happen?

Lurancy

Thirteen year old, Mary Lurancy Vennum began to suffer fits and fell into trances in which she saw heaven, angels, and the spirits of the dead. People around her believed Lurancy was going insane and needed to be confined to an asylum. Back in 1864, the town of Watseka had had a previous case of an eighteen year old, Mary Roff, who had manifested similar symptoms to Lurancy’s. Unfortunately, Mary Roff turned violent, cutting herself and lapsing into unconsciousness. When she came to, she existed in a state of raving mania with various extra-sensory abilities. She expired in a mental hospital after five days. Mary Roff’s father, Asa, learned about his neighbor’s predicament and pleaded with the Vennum’s to bring in consulting physician, Dr. E.W. Stevens.

MaryRoff

Dr. Stevens diagnosed Lurancy with spirit obsession and hypnotized the teen. In this state, Lurancy claimed to be possessed by evil spirits. Interestingly, Dr. Stevens was a spiritist, someone who believed in spirits and reincarnation (which distinguishes him from spiritualists who don’t necessarily believe in reincarnation). Dr. Stevens suggested that one of the spirits might be able to help Lurancy and Lurancy named Mary Roff as an entity willing to do just that. In this way, Mary Roff took over Lurancy’s body in February 1878. Lurancy moved in with the Roff family for several months during which time she acted like Mary Roff picking up her former life and recognizing old friends. She recognized distant relatives and used nicknames Mary Roff had used. The Roff family and many in the small town believed Lurancy was Mary Roff. Also during this time, Mary Roff- in the body of Lurancy, exhibited clairvoyant abilities, traveled out- of- body, and visited astral planes. She also shared information about Dr. Steven’s dead children in heaven. In May, Mary Roff announced that Lurancy was ready to come back. She fell into a trance, and awoke as Lurancy fully healed. This was the same girl for which medical authorities had no treatment other than confinement in a state hospital.

In 1882 Lurancy married and moved to Kansas. Mary Roff continued to watch over Lurancy occasionally possessing her for her protection. Over the years, Lurancy was protected from pain during childbirth (she had 11 children) and given information clairvoyantly from Mary Roff. Lurancy died in the 1952.

WatsekaThe case is an oddity standing apart from the traditional demonic possession story. It also happened in a time when spirit contact was all the rage in spiritualism circles. Some people regard this as a reincarnation case, but Lurancy was two when Mary Roff died. The timing doesn’t seem plausible and generally, in reincarnation cases, a child will recount previous life stories as soon as language develops. A walk-in case? A hoax? Some think it might have been since Asa Roff played such a large role in Mary’s arrival. Others believe it was Asa’s guilt which drew Mary’s spirit back to help another teen destined for the asylum.

For more information on the Watseka Wonder:

THE WATSEKA WONDER- A Narrative of Startling Phenomena Occurring in the Case of Mary Lurancy Vennum by E. Winchester Stevens

http://www.amazon.com/Watseka-Narrative-Startling-Phenomena-Occurring/dp/1230414614/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406751816&sr=1-5&keywords=Watseka+Wonder

THE POSSESSED- movie of events at Watseka

http://www.amazon.com/The-Possessed-Christopher-Saint-Booth/dp/B002348RFQ/ref=tag_dpp_lp_edpp_img_in

The Roff Home- still standing in Watseka (so is the Vennum’s but a family lives there).

http://www.roffhome.com/

 

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Part II: THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

 Continuing with JH Brennan’s, Whisperings: The Secret History of the Spirit World, I wanted to mention the research conducted by Dr. A.R. G. Owen a few years after Bacheldor’s work. A Canadian research group led by Owen wondered if they could create a ghost.

Working a lot like fictional writers, the group created “Philip” and gave him a whole history. Philip had been a Cavalier officer during the English Civil War and had resided at Diddington Hall (a real place). The story of his life was a fabrication and went like this. Although Philip was married, he had an affair with a gypsy girl which had enraged his wife. The wife managed to have the girl denounced as a witch and burned. So distraught was Philip that he threw himself off the battlements of the hall committing suicide. Poor Philip!

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

The group held séances for a year trying to contact the Cavalier with no luck. I think it’s pretty amazing they’d keep at it that long with no result. One of the group eventually read Bacheldor’s work and wondered if a lighthearted atmosphere might make a difference. Giving it the old college try, they sang and told jokes, and oddly enough, after a few more séances, things started to happen. They heard their first rap and the table slid across the floor. Success at last! Encouraged, someone asked if Philip was doing it and was answered back with a loud rap. Having contacted the entity, the group used the one knock for yes and two for no method, to go on to communicate with Philip. Phillip affirmed the basic facts of his fictional life story and went on to reveal additional details the group had not created. The séances also produced various physical phenomena. The most spectacular was recorded for a television program. A table climbed a set of steps joining the panelists being interviewed.

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

I’ll leave you to ponder the significance of the Philip research. As a fiction author, I’m already concocting plots about how the other side conspires to have a good laugh at Owen and the other sitters.

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WHEN DEE MET KELLEY

John Dee Portrait- Ashmolean Museum

John Dee Portrait- Ashmolean Museum

February, 1582

Mortlake

Light flooded through the west window illuminating the simple study. The doors were closed against the noise of his toddler children. Within was sanctuary. Some especially interesting manuscripts had been hidden in a traveling bag secreted inside the chimney. The comings and goings at Mortlake had drawn many rumors which John Dee had carefully tried to sidestep. Owning one of the best libraries in Europe drew many scholarly types. Dee’s interests included math, astronomy, astrology, navigation, and the occult. He had access to the powerful ministers of Queen Elizabeth I’s court as well as to the Queen herself. Dee’s interests were not unique because many at court dabbled, but Dee hated the caricatured image created by the term “arch conjuror” he had been given in some circles.

Dee called his work optical science and for him crystal gazing was just another way of discovering how the universe worked much like using a telescope to understand the motion of the stars. But Dee had a problem. Not having the power to scry himself, he had to rely on others to do the gazing for him. Previously he had worked with Barnabas Saul but Saul had disappeared a few days earlier. Now a man named Talbot (later known as Edward Kelley) had appeared on his doorstep claiming to be able to do what Saul had done.

Dee’s expectations were modest but using a crystal ball, Talbot soon had a vision of the archangel Uriel. Unable to resist access to such a highly placed spirit, Dee asked about a coded manuscript he possessed. Uriel told him that The Book of Soyga (a copy resides in the British Library) was revealed to Adam in paradise and could only be understood with the help of Archangel Michael. In a later session, Uriel told Dee to construct a table to facilitate future angelic communications.

The table was to be set into four divine wax seals and each seal had to contain an image revealed by the angel. On the top of the table, resting on the Seal of God, a crystal ball or shew stone would be placed.

Objects belonging to Dee at the British Museum (photo: British Museum)

Objects belonging to Dee at the British Museum (photo: British Museum)

 

Later in the week, Talbot had a vision of the Archangel Michael anointing Dee. There was no doubt in Dee’s mind that some very special work lay ahead of the two men. Over the next decade Dee and Kelley would receive and communicate in Enochian, a fully developed angelic language. People still puzzle over those messages and their importance.

For more investigation:

John Dee’s Conversations with Angels- Deborah E. Harkness

The Queen’s Conjuror- Benjamin Woolley

John Dee’s Five Books of Mystery- Original Sourcebook of Enochian

Magic- Joseph H. Peterson

The Complete Enochian Dictionary- Donald C. Laylock

Enochian Alphabet- Vincent Bridges (YouTube- video, the importance of Dee’s

communication )

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Filed under alchemy, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism

WALKING THE LABYRINTH

Cretan Labyrinth

Cretan Labyrinth

A book I read recently featured a labyrinth and I got to wondering about them. Here’s what I’ve learned. Although maze and labyrinth are often used interchangeably, there are distinctions for the purest. A labyrinth features a single, non-branching path leading to a center. Unlike a maze, the path of the labyrinth is not intended to be difficult or confusing. So no corn labyrinths for Halloween, please! Labyrinths have appeared in most cultures at some point or another across the globe. The designs have occurred on baskets, pottery, body art, caves, and churches. Their meaning is not fully understood, which made me think about crop circles. From Roman to Renaissance times, most labyrinths have traditionally been unicursal.

Labyrinths reached their most grand expression in the gothic cathedrals of northern France (Chartres, Reims, Amiens). These were magnificent pavement labyrinths set in the floor. Some believe pilgrims walked these paths in prayer or meditation although it was never an early Christian practice. Some guide books of the 18th Century refer to the practice of walking the labyrinth instead of making a costly journey to the Holy Land. No one really knows though if pilgrims did this. The grand medieval labyrinths probably did inspire the later turf mazes found in the UK.

Chartres Cathedral, France

Chartres Cathedral, France

Walking a labyrinth can be seen as a pilgrimage moving toward salvation or enlightenment. Lately there has been a resurgence of interest in the use of labyrinths as a spiritual tool. More and more are being built. If you go to the Labyrinth Society’s website (below), you can search for one near you. I was surprised to see how many are in and around Denver. Many of these are connected to churches or are in private hands, but there is certainly a chance for me to walk the labyrinth.

Edinburgh Labyrinth- photo by Di Williams

Edinburgh Labyrinth- photo by Di Williams

Locate a labyrinth near you: http://www.labyrinthlocator.com

Make your own finger labyrinth:

http://http://www.pattonhq.com/links/uccministry/labyrinth.html

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THE LINE BETWEEN FACT & FICTION

tantra

Since the release of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, there have been some questions concerning what’s real and not real in the book. From the perspective of this being a book whose main theme concerns defining that very line, it’s a somewhat amusing question. I concern myself with it because I’ve heard some people dismiss the book as fantasy. But that’s not the whole story.

The book is set in the magical Himalayas surrounded by a rich cultural tradition. In such a place, my job as author was relatively easy. I chose concepts and ideas already present there to create a story around an American teenager. I made up very little.

Now as to the facts.

1. Locations- The map at the beginning of the book accurately depicts the placement of real locations Blake would visit along his route, had Blake actually gone there. But the careful reader will notice that about half way through the book, Blake continues his journey, but the map stops. This is because Blake has left the material reality of our world. An alternate reality opens up for him to fully experience the magic and potential for enlightenment.

2. Mallory& Irvine- The story of these climbers disappearing into legend while on the Third Step is true. The camera Mallory carried that day is still missing. We don’t know (for sure) who summited Everest first, although Hillary is officially credited with it.

3. Yetis- These animals/beings remain a mystery. Sherpa culture recognizes different kinds of yetis. I took great liberty with the Tantric yidam concept.

4. Baian-Kara-Ula Mountains- There are legends of star people and an origination story. As late as the 1950s, stories of the Chinese gathering evidence in the region exist.

5. Chakra points- There are many different systems. Tibetans usually depict 5 while Indian schools generally have 7. Research by Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama revealed the heart chakra produced measurable physical light.

6. Singing Bowls- Are used for healing.

7. Lung-gom-pa/Tumo/Yidam- Are Tantric practices.

8. Birds- The sneaky placement of rare birds in the region was my invention and homage to HH. The 16th Karmapa, who loved birds.

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Filed under Books, Spiritual/Mysticism, Story behind ITLS