Category Archives: Halloween

A CHILL IN AMSTERDAM

The fascinating history of the rise and fall in the speculative tulip market during the seventeenth century provided the backdrop for my book, Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds. The tale developed through daughter Annika’s eyes who grew up in a typical Dutch merchant class family. Annika lived during the Dutch Golden Age, a time of wealth, power, and opportunity. Even hundreds of years later, she would recognize Amsterdam’s canals, grand houses, and the Western Church. And perhaps, she might smile at the stories of others like herself who haunt the city.     

THE SPINHUIS (Spinning House)-Today this site is a fashionable hotel but back in 1597, convicted women were held here and forced to sew clothes. In one famous tale, a priest fell in love with a young girl jailed in the facility and when he was denied access to her, he committed suicide. The ghost of the priest is said to haunt one of the hotel rooms and hotel staff refuse to enter the room.

BLACK MATTHEW– In Amsterdam, there is a tale dating back to the thirteenth century of a sinister character called Black Matthew. This rogue and magician apparently made a pact with the devil. Ever since, he has haunted the streets threating locals and tourists alike. Beware being out alone on the streets at night. No area in the entire city is outside his evil reach!

SPOOKSTEEG (Ghost Alley)- This story involves the notorious ghost of Helene who murdered her sister to marry a sailor who had favored her sister. On her deathbed, Helene confessed to the husband who cursed her for the act. Helene’s ghost has been seen in dark corners of this part of the city, moaning and screaming.     

Should you like to explore more ghostly tales, I invite you to escape into the seventeenth century to visit Annika and see how she meets a modern-day American teenager named Lydia. Let the haunting begin! (Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds)

I remind everyone of my own ghost tale offering. The e-book has been discounted from $4.99 to $2.99 for all of October. The print copy is also available.  

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

TIMELESS TULIPS, DARK DIAMONDS- A GHOST STORY

When fourteen-year-old Lydia travels to Amsterdam with her parents, the last thing she expects is the weird incidents that plague her stay. Curtains flutter mysteriously, and unexplained shadows move through the kitchen unnerving her. But Lydia is more concerned with the potential move to upstate New York. She dismisses the odd occurrences blaming them on jet lag and the various symptoms of her migraine disease.

When Lydia’s father lands a new job and the family moves to an area first settled by the Dutch, the bizarre happenings continue. Suffering from migraines has never been easy, but now Lydia must face what she may have inadvertently brought home with her. A vengeful ghost!

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

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HALLOWEEN- The Dark Rises

It’s the time of year when we allow the dark to approach. Halloween offers the opportunity to explore everything scary and otherwise forbidden. A necessary purge. I grew up in Upstate New York where in fall, the trees are turned into a mosaic of autumn colors and the air is ripe with the decay of leaves. Fires and furnaces keep out the chill. But not all of it. I’m my father’s fourth child. Born after his first wife shot herself in front of their three, small children. That shiver runs still.

The region of my birth is steeped in ghostly tales of early Dutch settlers, Revolutionary soldiers, and murders most foul. Washington Irving made his home just down the road and gifted us the Headless Horseman and the Catskill Witch. New York is home to many ghosts and many haunted places. A quick Google search will provide you with many articles of places to visit to make your Halloween spooky fun.

Washington Irving

Here are two places connected with my haunts (pun intended!!). The first is near where I grew up. The second dates to my college days.

Leeds, NY: Salisbury Manor- Known for its colonial architecture, this 1730s farmhouse was the scene of a brutal murder back in 1755. William Salisbury killed a servant girl by dragging her behind a horse when she attempted to flee his abusive treatment. Convicted of murder, Salisbury escaped justice by bribing the judge to suspend sentence until he turned 99. Anna’s ghost has been seen outside the manor. So has a large phantom horse. Screams and the thunder of hooves echo down the lane.  

Salisbury Manor (Photo: Robert Drake)

Loudonville, NY: Loudon Cottage- Clara Harris’ dress was stained by the blood of President Abraham Lincoln that terrible night in Ford’s Theatre. The grisly dress was stored in a closet in this cottage. One day, Clara saw Lincoln’s ghost in a rocking chair staring at the closet door. In 1883, Clara was murdered by her own husband, Henry Rathbone, who had tried to stop John Wilkes Booth after shooting Lincoln. There is an account by one historian of an instance when in 1900, President Lincoln in ghost form arrived to counsel Governor Gardiner of Massachusetts at the cottage. (The Town of Colonie: A Pictorial History, by Jean Olton)

Clara Harris

Don’t forget to check out my own ghost tale centered on the New York’s Dutch heritage. The e-book has been discounted from $4.99 to $2.99 for all of October. The print copy is also available.  

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

TIMELESS TULIPS, DARK DIAMONDS- A GHOST STORY

When fourteen-year-old Lydia travels to Amsterdam with her parents, the last thing she expects is the weird incidents that plague her stay. Curtains flutter mysteriously, and unexplained shadows move through the kitchen unnerving her. But Lydia is more concerned with the potential move to upstate New York. She dismisses the odd occurrences blaming them on jet lag and the various symptoms of her migraine disease. When Lydia’s father lands a new job and the family moves to an area first settled by the Dutch, the bizarre happenings continue. Suffering from migraines has never been easy, but now Lydia must face what she may have inadvertently brought home with her. A vengeful ghost.

Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WnlqZX

E- book available: https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

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COFFIN RACES 2014

EMMA-CRAWFORD-POSTER-

Last Saturday, my husband and I ventured into Manitou Springs for the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races. We haven’t done that for probably fifteen years and wow what a change! It has become a huge event. The town of 5000 swells to 20,000 and it’s hard to move. The atmosphere is festive and friendly, and the crowd is young with many small children.  A parade led by hearses circles the square so that all the teams can show off their creativity.  I really liked the Ghoules Verne and Steampunk teams, but there were also Pirates, assorted monsters, Bumblebees (?), Egyptians, etc.  There were over thirty teams competing on Saturday with each race run with two teams. Every team had an Emma and a suitable coffin. Years ago, actual coffins or plywood facsimiles were used. Nowadays, most teams use something that resembles a handcart- good for safety, but lacking in authenticity. A fun, free event!

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Photo: B. Marshall

Photo: B. Marshall

 

Photo: B. Marshall

Photo: B. Marshall

 

Photo: Craig Forhan

Photo: Craig Forhan

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Reaping Grimly: How to Make the Traditional Zombie

Another seasonal blast from the past.

A Real Tale for Halloween

 

Wade Davis is a Canadian anthropologist and ethnobotanist. He has written extensively about culture, botany, the environment and he has become a noted photographer. Davis has done hundreds of interviews, inspired many documentaries, and even was the source for three X-files shows. And Wade Davis has met a zombie. Not the made-up kind delighting so many Americans nowadays, but the very real kind. A poor, unschooled man who was victimized by his family.

Back in the 80s Wade Davis wrote about his experience investigating the zombification process in Haiti. His book The Serpent & the Rainbow propelled him to worldwide fame and a Hollywood movie followed in 1988.

Drawn to Haiti by legends concerning the existence of zombies, Davis wanted to investigate the botanical or chemical aspects of the phenomena. Soon he was drawn into the vodoun culture of the Haitian witchdoctor (bokor). Escape the cities of Haiti for the countryside and fear and magic play a very real role in the society. Wade Davis knew the story of Clairvius Narcisse and before long the two would meet.

In 1980, Clairvius Narcisse approached a woman in a marketplace and identified himself as her long gone, well- dead actually, brother. She was shocked to say the least, but then so is his story. Shocking. Clairvius told a tale of being drugged, buried, resurrected, and made a slave on a sugar plantation. Apparently a brother wanting Clairvius’ land sold him to a bokor. Having “died” in 1962, Clairvius escaped the plantation a couple of years later only to wander aimlessly for the next sixteen. Now having learned of his brother’s recent death, he felt safe enough to make himself known to the sister. A local doctor developed a questionnaire to establish once and for all, if the man was who he claimed to be. Clairvius answered everything correctly and the doctor along with his village accepted him as the true Clairvius. Had the curious tale of Clairvius Narcisse been isolated, maybe it could have been dismissed easily. But there are many tales of zombies in Haiti long before Clairvius and after.

Davis’ investigation into the world of vodoun and the zombie led him to advance the hypothesis that tetrodotoxin (TTX) was the chemical agent used by the bokor to induce a death-like state. A mixture of toad skin and puffer fish, either rubbed on the skin or ingested through food, seems to accomplish this. Breathing slows, the heartbeat weakens, and victim appears dead even to medical personnel. In the tropical climate of Haiti, bodies are buried quickly and the bokor likes it that way. A zombie in the ground for more than eight hours risks asphyxiation. The zombie is dug up and restored to life possibly with an antidote. Delivered to a plantation, the zombie is kept in a semi-permanent induced psychotic state by force feeding a datura paste. Datura destroys memory and wreaks havoc with gaining any sense of reality. It is also known to produce powerful hallucinations.

All of the chemicals used or potentially used are powerful enough to cause real death so the bokor has to be knowledgeable and proficient in their use to be successful. Davis also credited the culture of fear and belief that underlies the creation of the zombie. There are powerful cultural influences that must be in place to create and maintain a zombie.

Are zombies scary? Maybe not, they’re victims, but the idea that you or I could be made into one makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I try to make sure my siblings are happy with me and I’m not more valuable “dead” than alive. Happy Halloween!

 

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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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