Tag Archives: spirits

THE FASHIONABLE GHOST

This is the time of year of ghosts, spooks, specters. Americans love a good ghost story, don’t we? I’ve always thought so. This week, I found a few statistics that surprised me. A Harris Poll (2013) found 43% of us believe in ghosts and 20% (according to the Pew Research Center) report an encounter with a ghost or presence. All I can say is really? That all? Actually, I suppose the number is quite high given the prevailing material paradigm.

When writing my ghost tale, I stuck to the notion of the white, insubstantial energy form portrayed in many traditional stories. Annika in Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds appeared this way but also took solid shape when Lydia time traveled back to the 17th century. My portrayal of a ghost had both wispy and life-like appearances. Not unlike stories that have come down to us from ghost lore. While many spirits have appeared in flimsy diaphanous, white apparel—some haven’t. Some have donned colorful clothing they’d be comfortable wearing in daily life. Specters fitted out in armor, monk’s robes, or silken gowns are common enough. Some of these appear solid and fully fleshed out. Real, in fact. There are reports of people shaking hands or trying to, with some of these ghosts. Naked ghosts are rarely reported, cultural propriety prevails even for those stuck between worlds.

As we approach Halloween and the veil thins, it’s good to keep an open mind. I’ve had a few experiences that leave me highly suspicious of our understanding of reality. One of those instances is highlighted in the dedication of Timeless Tulips, the others I’ll save for another occasion.

I remind everyone of my own ghost tale offering, Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds. 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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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

8 Comments

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THE GHOST STORY

IN LITERATURE

This time of year as the days grow short and the air crisp, Halloween lurks just around the corner, my thoughts turn to those creepy tales told before the fire. Ghosts figure in many of them and the traditional ghost story has a long history. Every culture produced oral and/or written stories of ghosts.

Among the earliest written examples, Homer’s Odyssey depicts a journey into the underworld where the hero finds ghosts of the dead. A haunted house was portrayed by Plautus, the Roman playwright in his work entitled, Mostellaria. The ghost bound in chains was perhaps first described by Pliny the Younger in another haunted place tale. The Roman writer, Seneca was also fond of using ghosts in his tragedies. These classical examples would start to set the stage for the development of ghost stories in our own culture and day.

In celebration of the deep roots of this tradition, 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.

E-book: sale $2.99 https://amzn.to/2l7LhHP

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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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Time to Get Your Halloween On

whisperers

JH Brennan’s, Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World explores the powerful undercurrents flowing just beneath the surface of the history we’re taught in school. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, spirits, or faeries, is immaterial (pun intended). The fact that various phenomena have been occurring throughout pre-history right up until today is undeniable. Brennan doesn’t set out to prove the existence of ghosts as disembodied, earth-bound entities but rather he examines the effect they may have played on history.

It’s a fascinating book with lots of little surprises. I read the last two sections first and went back to the older histories later. While I love a good ghost story (and Brennan does share two personal experiences), it was some of the research into the phenomena that caught my attention.

ghost1

There have been many theories put forth to explain all manner of ghostly happenings, but none seem to fully explain everything. Indeed, although we tend to lump everything under the vast heading of the paranormal (or PSI), different phenomena may be different things entirely.

Brennan cites two studies which are fascinating. I’m going to outline the first one here and then take on the second in a follow-on piece.

In 1966, Kenneth Batcheldor (a UK psychologist) published findings in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research concerning the levitation of tables. Recall from the Victorian era, the spiritualism craze which involved spirit contact and various physical manifestations including rappings, materializations, levitation, etc.

ghost2

In 1964, Batcheldor conducted a series of 200 séances with a small group of sitters. In 120 of the sessions, no phenomena were observed but in 80 of them (40%), physical phenomena was seen. While table movement early in the trials could possibly be dismissed by involuntary muscle movement, by the 11th session, Batcheldor watched as a table rose and floated in the air. At this point he couldn’t rule out fraudulent means so he worked with an engineer to tighten his experimental controls. Once the controls were in place, the phenomena stopped- but over time, the phenomena returned. This was a pattern Batcheldor saw over and over again. Introduced slowly, the sitters appeared to acclimate to the controls and the happenings would start anew. Astonishingly enough, Batcheldor observed not only table movement and levitation, but a whole range of spirit phenomena reported by Victorian spiritualists and witnesses. Amongst the phenomena observed were rapping sounds, breezes, lights, the feeling of being touched, movement of objects including the pulling back of chairs, apports, and holding the table to the floor so it couldn’t be lifted.

levitation

The experiments seem to indicate people have the ability, through unconscious means, to produce a variety of physical phenomena. While it doesn’t definitively rule out spirit action, it does point toward interesting avenues for further research. Batcheldor theorized that early movement of the table due to muscle contractions conditioned sitters to expect phenomena and opened them up to actually producing it. This is something later PSI researchers discovered when examining other kinds of phenomena in a lab setting. Belief makes a difference, and in Batcheldor’s case, seeing the phenomena may have led to its manifestation. So here we learn nothing really about spirits, but it does indicate how little we (or science) know about the mind.

The book on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Whisperers-Secret-History-Spirit-World-ebook/dp/B00EOARZGY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395336244&sr=1-1&keywords=whisperers+the+secret+history+of+the+spirit+world

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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.

7 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books

THOSE THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

whisperers

JH Brennan’s, Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World explores the powerful undercurrents flowing just beneath the surface of the history we’re taught in school. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, spirits, or faeries, is immaterial (pun intended). The fact that various phenomena have been occurring throughout pre-history right up until today is undeniable. Brennan doesn’t set out to prove the existence of ghosts as disembodied, earth-bound entities but rather he examines the effect they may have played on history.

It’s a fascinating book with lots of little surprises. I read the last two sections first and went back to the older histories later. While I love a good ghost story (and Brennan does share two personal experiences), it was some of the research into the phenomena that caught my attention.

ghost1

There have been many theories put forth to explain all manner of ghostly happenings, but none seem to fully explain everything. Indeed, although we tend to lump everything under the vast heading of the paranormal (or PSI), different phenomena may be different things entirely.

Brennan cites two studies which are fascinating. I’m going to outline the first one here and then take on the second in a follow-on piece.

In 1966, Kenneth Batcheldor (a UK psychologist) published findings in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research concerning the levitation of tables. Recall from the Victorian era, the spiritualism craze which involved spirit contact and various physical manifestations including rappings, materializations, levitation, etc.

ghost2

In 1964, Batcheldor conducted a series of 200 séances with a small group of sitters. In 120 of the sessions, no phenomena were observed but in 80 of them (40%), physical phenomena was seen. While table movement early in the trials could possibly be dismissed by involuntary muscle movement, by the 11th session, Batcheldor watched as a table rose and floated in the air. At this point he couldn’t rule out fraudulent means so he worked with an engineer to tighten his experimental controls. Once the controls were in place, the phenomena stopped- but over time, the phenomena returned. This was a pattern Batcheldor saw over and over again. Introduced slowly, the sitters appeared to acclimate to the controls and the happenings would start anew. Astonishingly enough, Batcheldor observed not only table movement and levitation, but a whole range of spirit phenomena reported by Victorian spiritualists and witnesses. Amongst the phenomena observed were rapping sounds, breezes, lights, the feeling of being touched, movement of objects including the pulling back of chairs, apports, and holding the table to the floor so it couldn’t be lifted.

levitation

The experiments seem to indicate people have the ability, through unconscious means, to produce a variety of physical phenomena. While it doesn’t definitively rule out spirit action, it does point toward interesting avenues for further research. Batcheldor theorized that early movement of the table due to muscle contractions conditioned sitters to expect phenomena and opened them up to actually producing it. This is something later PSI researchers discovered when examining other kinds of phenomena in a lab setting. Belief makes a difference, and in Batcheldor’s case, seeing the phenomena may have led to its manifestation. So here we learn nothing really about spirits, but it does indicate how little we (or science) know about the mind.

The book on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Whisperers-Secret-History-Spirit-World-ebook/dp/B00EOARZGY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395336244&sr=1-1&keywords=whisperers+the+secret+history+of+the+spirit+world

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