I’m finishing a novel set in Colorado at the turn of the nineteenth century. Part of the tale includes my protagonist traveling to a high-altitude mining town. Research for the book allowed for an excursion into the Colorado mountains. Ghost towns are boom and bust towns related to the mining industry that flourish for a short time but then are abandoned. They are not particularly known for ghosts, but I’m sure a few linger…
The photos show some of what remains of St. Elmo today.
The town was founded in 1880 and originally named Forrest City. It was changed when several other towns also used that name causing confusion. One of the founding fathers happened to be reading a book titled St. Elmo and was inspired by the romantic tale. Gold and silver mining drew people to settle there.
At its height, St. Elmo had about 2000 residents (mostly male, typical of all mining endeavors). The town center included several hotels and saloons, a general store, a telegraph office, a newspaper office, a town hall, and a schoolhouse. No mention of a church nor the prostitution cribs (in some places like Cripple Creek, we know where the “Red Light District” was).
There were 150 mine claims in the area, but the majority of men worked at only four of the biggest mines. The largest and most productive was the gold mine called the Mary Murphy which operated until 1922 recovering $60 M through the years. A railroad ran through St. Elmo allowing the town access to supplies.
Although the Mary Murphy continued to be profitable many of the other claims failed. By the 1920s, the town had been in steady decline for years. By 1958, the place was a virtual ghost town although a few people still reside in the houses photographed.
Nowadays, most of St. Elmo is considered private property. You are allowed to photograph from a proscribed distance, but the buildings are not necessarily deserted like they are in some more remote ghost towns of the west. In fact, St. Elmo is considered to be one of the most accessible Colorado ghost towns (despite the long drive on unpaved road) because you can actually drive up to it. Many require hiking through remote parts of the state.
So if you read about Tallulah visiting Teller City searching for her long-lost Ma, you’ll know I’m waving from St. Elmo!
This is book two of a series with Giordano Bruno (defrocked-friar,
philosopher, mathematician, poet, cosmological theorist, and Hermetic occultist)
starring as master sleuth.
Queen Elizabeth sits on the throne while rumors of her demise
circulate. It is the time of the Great Conjunction when Jupiter and Saturn align,
signaling the cataclysmic end of the age. Fear and uncertainty grip the nation.
France and Spain are eager to exploit any opportunity. Giordano Bruno is on the
run from the Inquisition and under the King of France’s protection in England.
He is also a mole for Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham.
When several murders happen within the palace walls, Bruno
must rely on his wits and his friends to survive. Luckily, he has John Dee
(personal astrologer to the Queen) and the extensive spy net.
A very good historical thriller. Would have liked more astrology, occult material, etc. This is essentially an Elizabethan period, who-dun-it. So, a bit disappointing for me who wanted more depth on Bruno and his inner mind.
There are many misconceptions about astrology. This book attempts a survey of its effects on Western Civilization. It’s a big job! This is a history book and astrology has been around a very long time. Most of us think astrology can be summed up by those little paragraphs written about your sun sign that commonly occur in magazines and papers. Some who have delved deeper know astrology is a science- one that predated and in part, gave birth to modern science. How is it that this thread is all but missing from history books? It is said that history is written by the victors and from that perspective (I suppose), astrology did not win. Bobrick’s book is not a book about whether astrology is a valid science. Rather, this is a book about how ideas and people’s understanding of them played a role in history.
Bobrick opens the book with a very compelling case about how Columbus would never have set sail on a voyage of discovery except for having been inspired by an astrological idea that had come from the Persians through the Arabs and finally to the West by way of a French Cardinal and astrologer, Pierre d’Ailly. Known as the great conjunction theory, where Jupiter and Saturn unite, it was thought to herald great changes. The once- in- 960- year astrological event so excited Columbus, he decided it heralded the end of the world and everyone on the planet would need to be converted. He adopted the name Christophorus, “the Christbearer” and sought the financial aid of Spain. Columbus’ copy of the astrologer’s work who so influenced him, including his personal notes, can be seen in Seville. Ideas are no small matter!
Man has always been intrigued by the skies. The origins of astrology go back to Mesopotamia, the Chaldean East, including areas of Babylonia and Assyria. From there, it spread to Egypt and Greece. Astrology was known in Greece at least as early as 1184 BC. Plato was tutored by a Chaldean astrologer. Astrology eventually incorporated Pythagorean concepts. But it wasn’t until Hellenistic Egypt that astrology came into its own and combined with Greek mathematical astronomy. By 150 BC, the earliest handbook on astrology was written. These ideas spread throughout Greece and on to India.
Babylonian astrology tablet, (photo: Poulpy)
Astrological disc, Egypt (Ptolemaic 332-31 BCE)
During the Roman Empire, all classes of people were influenced by the practice of astrology. Astrologers were consulted at the highest levels and several Emperors were skilled astrologers (including Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian). The fundamental work on astrology (Tetrabiblos) in the classical world was done by Claudius Ptolemy who drew on ancient sources.
Zodiac, (6th cent.) synagogue, Beth Alpha, Israel
From Tetrabiblos (9th cent. Byzantine manuscript), zodiac & months
As the Roman Empire declined and the West fell into darkness, astrology flourished in the East and the lands held by the Byzantines. By the 9th century, Islamic, Jewish, Greek. Persian, and Hindu scholars gathered in the intellectual capital of Baghdad. This was Islam’s Golden Age when cooperation, innovation, and learning flourished! The Arabs translated Greek texts and got to work on pioneering science. Arab scholars pursued astronomy, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, introduced a system of numerals, created a decimal system, refined the lunar calendar, and built observatories. What came into existence then was what is today called “Arabic astrology”- a fusion of Greek thought and Arabic science. From this tradition, the formidable astrologer al-Biruni’s text, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology (1029), had a strong mathematical basis and he firmly believed no one could call himself an astrologer without a thorough understanding of all the sciences. Such was the nature of the profession.
Astrolabe, Islamic (1067AD), (photo: Luiz Garcia)
All of this is a fascinating way of viewing history through the perspective of the emergence of science. From this lens, astrology is the science that underpinned what we think of as modern science. This was the need to watch the skies, to take measurements, to create the mathematics and instruments for observations, and then to make it relevant. Of course, astrology is also the oldest of the occult (meaning “hidden”) arts. And so much more than those little paragraphs in magazines that pass as horoscopes.
In part 2, we’ll look at how the Church and European Courts have viewed the practice of astrology. (Have you ever seen an astrological clock or a stained-glass window with the full zodiac?)
The Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is the most visited cemetery in the world. On a recent trip, I visited this vast, interesting place. Famed for being the first garden cemetery, it opened in 1804 but there isn’t much space devoted to what we would think of as gardens. Instead, the cemetery is chock full of ornate, closely placed tombs. If you’ve visited the cemeteries of New Orleans, you’d feel right at home here. The sixty-nine thousand tombs cover a range of architectural styles, but the Gothic crypt seems to predominate in the older sections.
Although there are over one million interred in the cemetery, and there is a waiting list today, it wasn’t always a popular burial site with Parisians. Located far outside the city when it opened, and not being attached to a church, made it an undesirable final resting place. So a bit of creative marketing helped it along. First, Jean de La Fontaine (poet) and Moliere (playwright, actor, and poet) were buried there. Burying the famous in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery increased its popularity. A decade or so later, the purported remains of Abelard and Heloise (the famous lovers) were moved to the cemetery and then Parisians clamored to get in. By 1830, the cemetery had thirty-three thousand graves!
Today, people visit the Pere Lachaise to see the tombs and architecture, and the graves of the famous. Americans are probably most interested in Jim Morrison’s grave. There’s an interesting story on how he came to be interred here. He died in Paris, but cemetery officials weren’t interested in offering a musician a place. They were persuaded when they found out he was working on a novel. The cemetery has many famous writers including Balzac, Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde. The graves of composer Frederic Chopin and actress Sarah Bernhardt can also be visited.
This was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1146 and active until the French revolution. It reached its height and fame in the 13th Century. It’s estimated that as many as one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers lived here. Sleeping and eating accommodations were separate for the two groups. You can walk the tight passageways from the dormitories to the church, visit the rooms where they held meetings and stored holy books and vestments. The church remains a beautiful structure even in ruin.
The Cistercian order was known for its dedication to a life of manual labor and self-sufficiency. Abbeys supported themselves through agriculture and ale-brewing. This abbey had massive land holdings throughout the region.
This is the Semper Augustus, a remarkable tulip of the 17th Century which fueled the world’s first love for the exotic and magical bulb. My recent visit to the Keukenhof gardens indicates flower lovers still lust after its charm. So do I.
Several years ago, I got caught up in the story of the tulip. Way back in 1554, an ambassador to Turkey sent some bulbs and seeds back home. These found their way into Vienna and then into the Low Counties. It took the careful work of Carolus Clusius (a botanist at the University of Leiden) to cultivate and catalog those bulbs that could tolerate the local conditions and soon tulips were popular. Newly independent Holland had a unique flower and it soon became a luxury item. More and more fantastic species were developed. The most sought after tulips actually suffered from a virus that broke the colors into streaks. Eventually, a whole speculative trade came into existence in which people who bought the bulbs never saw them and never possessed them. Tulip fever reached its height in the winter of 1636 when a single bulb might be traded as many as ten times in a day. Then abruptly in February, there came a day when traders just stayed home. The bubble had burst. Fortunes had been made and lost.
This is the background I used to create a YA ghost story. The manuscript has come within a hair’s width of publication four times with different publishers. My own gamble and bust market. Eventually, I do think this manuscript will come into the world, but until then enjoy some photos of the tulips that fueled, Tender Tulips, Dark Diamonds: A Ghost Story. The flowers of the Keukenhof are breathtaking and short-lived.
I wanted to read this book immediately after I read the premise.
Jac L’Etoile is a successful author and TV personality who hosts a show about myths. She comes from a long line of famous French perfumers, but she’s walked away from the business. It’s not until the business is in trouble and her brother goes missing in Paris that she returns to confront her past. Her mother’s suicide, a father suffering dementia, and troubling visions all connected with scent threaten to derail Jac from finding her brother.
Jac learns her brother has resurrected a family legend tied to an ancestor who discovered a scent created in Cleopatra’s time that could induce memories of past lives. Of course, Jac is highly skeptical of the idea, but as her own visions intensify bringing her closer to her dead mother, images of ancient Egypt and the French Revolution begin to emerge all calling her sanity into question. Evidence comes light that forces Jac to consider whether her brother may have been killed for Cleopatra’s secret scent. An esoteric society along with the Chinese government all have designs on the powerful perfume her brother was protecting. Interestingly, the brother’s only wish is to get the scent into the hands of the Dalai Lama who can use the memory tool as possible evidence for reincarnation.
I found the idea of scent as a possible device for unlocking past life memory original and irresistible. The visions/past life memory segments of the book were well done. The book reads like a thriller and that’s a plus for me. There is a romantic element woven in that’s kind of cliché but necessary for Jac to resolve her karmic past. I appreciate the author’s research into scent and the history of the perfume industry and did not find it distracted from the plot. I love that kind of detail! Unfortunately, two little details irked me. The Dalai Lama wears burgundy robes not saffron (saffron is worn by Southeast Asian Buddhists). There is also a lot made out of the Dalai Lama being inaccessible and unreachable by Jac’s brother which is not true. His Holiness travels and has a full calendar. He meets groups wherever he goes and he holds meetings in Dharamsala. I know people who have met the Dalai Lama so he is far from unreachable.
Overall, this is an interesting book that moves fast and keeps the reader’s attention while introducing a little known industry. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this book is part of a series on reincarnation by MJ Rose. Some of the reviews for this book indicate she’s hit her stride with this one.
I know Philip Kerr from his children’s novels and didn’t realize he wrote stories for adults. While searching for another book, I came upon his Dark Matter, a novel written in 2002 and it immediately caught my attention. It’s 1696 and Christopher Ellis has just taken on a job assisting Sir Isaac Newton at the Royal Mint. As Warden, it’s Newton’s job to hunt down counterfeiters. A challenging enough job but when mysterious murders start happening, Ellis plays Watson to Newton as an earlier version of Sherlock Holmes. Clues and body counts rise as Ellis and Newton face personal danger in the politically volatile back streets of London. Throw in a mix of alchemy and codes and we’re off on a most puzzling case. Turns out that more than the economy of the realm is threatened. A century’s old massacre pits Huguenots against Catholics in a revenge plot only the brain of Newton can piece together. This is a thoroughly fun historical thriller. Kerr excels with this one!