Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 254 and a Half/365 So Much For Samhain...

This is Halloween, this is Halloween...

Our house is decorated in early ghostie. Bobble heads in my office...

The sign up over my office (husband has been warned not to change any letters...)

Our resident mummy looking nervous about all the books...

The walking hand on the fireplace mantle...

Bathroom sconces and skulls (everyone has these right? No?)

Nice little homey sayings on the wall...

Dramatic shower walls and jet black shower curtain...

Bathroom attendant...

and vampire bats in the closet.

And that's year 'round before we start decorating for Halloween.

This morning the husband and daughter were up early putting together the tents for this evening's Halloween display. We fill our front yard every year with something guaranteed to frighten even the adults, and most definitely the teenagers. Barring non-cooperative weather, we draw anywhere from 150 -250 trick or treaters. Cars line the street, church buses dump their kids off, and sometimes too-scared kids wait on the sidewalk while their parents walk through our yard. A couple years ago we had a cop directing traffic when our artifical fog got too thick and rolled down the street.

Every year is a little different and little bigger. Our firm rule has always been "up and down in one day", partly because of time constraints and party because we don't want to leave our spooky collection out in the front yard overnight.

This year daughter designed a wooden set that would bridge a gap and double our space. So she and her dad built it this morning, while I unpacked the various props and put batteries in where they were needed.

Unpacking Halloween is better than Christmas. It's like seeing old friends again.

Some just throw up their hands and give me a quick bite.

I'm thinking of making this my new FB profile pic...

We have a weakness for skeletons and skull lanterns that glow.

Family portrait.

Together forever.

One of my favorites - always happy to get out of the box.

Nothing like a box o' bones...

And the matching jewelry.

Tiny skull fences, stacks of skulls, and that's a skull candleabra off to the right. Nothing weird about us.

This is part of the completed set built this morning. Right after this we hung black sheet panels to enclose the tents. Normally after this we'd start bringing down the full-size coffin, the animated skeletons, witch, mummy and the various electric props, then finally do costumes and remember to bring out the candy.

*But* today, the wind came up - as in, right after the sheets were hung. So between the tents and the sheets, it was like watching a beautiful,black-sailed ship rise up off the ground. Not good. Gusty wind is not good when you have a tent (soon to be a tent in the dark) full of expensive animated props and electrical cords.

So it all came down. No Halloween this year. And after taking an hour or so to tear it down, the wind decided to die down. By that time it was too late to start all over.

And yes, we had trick or treaters knocking on the door, wondering where we were.

Next year is another Halloween.

Day 254/365 Samhain Rising

The game is afoot...

More to follow, after the ghoulies are gone, and closer to the thinning of the veils...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 253/365 I Think It's a Ghost, Scooby...

Did I grow up believing in ghosts? Is the Pope Catholic?

Give me a haunted graveyard, haunted house, haunted stretch of road, haunted car....even a haunted junk yard like Puckett's shown up above.....I'm happy.

It's not a belief I take lightly, nor does it come to me secondhand. I've lived in several haunted houses, done my share of amateur ghost hunting, heard my name called by invisible things in empty rooms, and felt the brush of fingers on my arm when no one was there. My great grandmother is a ghost, for crying out loud.

I've also read various theories on ghosts covering every possible angle of "what if", including the everyday explanation of a spirit-who-cannot-pass-over-for-whatever-reason, the haunting-as-revenge approach, the life-force-energy-left-behind-because-of-a-traumatic-death, the ghosts-are-demonic idea, and more recently a geologic explanation for supernatural sightings.

Supposedly many hauntings are located over areas with basalt or magnetite, either above or below ground. A quick search turns up Edinburgh Castle -one of the most haunted places on earth -sitting -sure enough -on a giant bed of basalt. Tower of London, chock full of ghosts and walking appartitions, again, sitting on and full of stones of basalt. Even the Stanley Hotel in Colorado sits atop a huge bed of magnetite. The existence of magnetite plays havoc with EVP recording devices, but aside from that there is the idea that these sort of rocks fall along fault lines, and fault lines generally have a higher electro-magnetic field (which might account for that feeling that one's hair is standing on end, or someone is watching).

And then there is a pesky experiment by a university in Canada that involved participants and electromagnetic fields. They found that the higher the EMF level, the more participants report seeing shadow people or ghosts with several even hearing voices. The immediate conclusion is that EMF's cause hallucinations.

Of course, there's another way to look at that. Is it possible that a high EMF level simply allows people to see what is actually there?

I mean, there is that whole other theory that what we call ghosts are simply a glimpse of a parallel layer of reality, where people are going about their business in the next dimension, completely unaware we are viewing them.

And people have differing EMF levels in their brain, depending on exposure, which could account for some being more "sensitive" to hauntings,etc. than others.

One of these days, science will explain ghosts down to the nth degree, putting all the theories to rest.

I'm dreading that day. Somethings are simply better unexplained.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 252/365 Let Sleeping Mummies Lie

When I was little, I was allowed to do my homework while watching a late afternoon TV show called Count Macabre. Count Macabre was a grown man who dressed up like Dracula,talked to a skull named Eric and introduced a different horror movie each afternoon. It wasn't enough that I had Appalachian relatives that told ghost stories and then we moved to Louisiana with its implied presence of voodoo and loup garou. Nope, my folks topped all that off by allowing me to be scared witless every afternoon while doing 3rd grade math.

I LOVED IT. (and yes I had an autographed picture....).

However, the Count led me directly to the creature that would inhabit my nightmares for years. Literally years. Frankenstein didn't bother me, I thought the Wolf Man was cute, the various giant creatures that threatened Tokyo and New York were conquered by science, and Dracula was....mmmm....interesting (the vampire thing still holds my interest).

But there was one other monster that I couldn't handle.

Right outside my bedroom window there stood a tree. That tree had long branches. The kind that scrap at your window if there's even a light breeze. Or if some wandering animal climbs up the tree at night. Or if the mummy tries to get in your window. Yep. The Mummy.
Thanks to the Count and Boris Karloff, the 1932 version of The Mummy terrified my 8 year old self with his never-relenting slow shuffle, the disintegrating bandages, the fixed stare, and worst of all - the extended arm. It was the stuff of nightmares.

At first the dreams were "I opened the tomb and now I'm cursed and here he comes." Then they shortened down to "run fast, here he comes." And rather quickly they compacted into dreaming that I was sleeping, and a huge bandaged hand was reaching for me.

Had that one for years and spent many nights lying awake, listening for the Mummy coming in the window, almost able to smell the dry Eqyptian mummy dust.

Loved every minute of it.

At least once I was fully awake and realized I wasn't Princess Anck-es-en-Amon being pursued by her lost lover Im-ho-tep (which makes sense on account of *I* wasn't the one who opened the tomb, now was I?)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 251/365 Full Moon

2000 B.C. .....The Epic of Gilgamesh is written down, including the first literary references to werewolves

500 B.C........ The Scythian people recorded as believing the Neuri people to be werewolves

400 B.C....... Damarchus, an Arcadian werewolf is said to have won a boxing medal at Olympics

55 A.D......... Petronius composes Satyricon, the first full fledged werewolf story

170.............. Pausanias visits Arcadia and hears of Lykaian werewolf rites

1020 ...........First use of the word "werewulf" recorded in English

1101 ...........Death of Prince Vseslav of Polock, alleged Ukrainian werewolf

1182 ..........Giraldus claims to have discovered Irish werewolf couple.

1521 ..........Werewolves of Piligny burnt

1541 ..........Paduan werewolf dies after having arms and legs cut off

1555 .........Olaus Magnus records strange behavior of Baltic werewolves

1589 .........Peter Stubb executed as werewolf at Cologne

1598 ........."Werewolf of Chalons" executed in Paris; Gandillon family burnt as werewolves

1603 .........Jean Grenier tried as a werewolf; sentenced to life imprisonment

1610 ..........Two women condemned as werewolves in Liege

1692 .........The Livonian werewolf Theiss interrogated

1824 .........Antoine Leger tried for werewolf crimes;sentenced to lunatic asylum

1880 .........Folklorist collects werewolf tales in Picardy

1913 ..........The Werewolf (film) uses a real wolf in transformation scene

1914 ..........Sigmund Freud publishes his "Wolf Man" paper.

1935 .........Werewolf of London (film)

1940..........Pat Shirley, Kent,England, reported that her grandmother saw a huge werewolf with red hair while walking in the woods.

1941 .........Wolf Man (film) starring Lon Chaney Jr.

1967..........In Oban,Scotland, a driver on the roadway spotted a wolf-man traveling along the road in the other direction.

1972..........In Defiance, Ohio the Ohio Crescent-News reported that police were on the lookout for a "wolf man" who had attacked three people near the railroad tracks. Two railroad brakemen also reported seeing the creature lurking along the train tracks several times.

1975 .........Surawicz and Banta publish the first two modern cases of lycanthropy

1979 .........An American Werewolf in London (film) with first four-footed werewolf

There's a full moon every month.

And they've been around a very, very long time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 251/365 Now You're Here, Now You're Not

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist and short-story, best known for his short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and his satirical dictionary The Devil's Dictionary.

In October 1913, Mr. Bierce departed Washington, D.C., for a tour of his old Civil War battlefields. By December he had traveled through Louisiana and Texas, and crossed into Mexico, which was in the throes of revolution. In Ciudad Juárez he joined Pancho Villa's army as an observer, actually participating in the battle of Tierra Blanca.

Mr. Bierce is known to have accompanied the army as far as the city of Chihuahua.

After a last letter to a close friend, sent from there December 26, 1913, he vanished without a trace.

Unexplained disappearances appear throughout history. Most, although often repeated, are eventually proven to be hoaxes.

But there are those few instances that have no explanation.

Consider the Mary Celeste, discovered sailing in December 1872 abandoned and unmanned in the mid-Atlantic. The crew were never seen or heard from again, and their fate remains unknown and unexplained.

Or the four B-47 Stratojets that left MacDill Air Force Base (near Tampa, Florida)on March 10, 1956, for a non-stop flight to an overseas air base, completing their first aerial refueling without incident. After descending through solid cloud to begin their second refueling,one aircraft (manned by Captain Robert H. Hodgin- 31, commander, Captain Gordon M. Insley-32, observer, and 2nd Lt. Ronald L. Kurtz 22, pilot) failed to make contact with the tanker. Neither the aircraft or wreckage from it were ever found.

And, finally, the odd disappearance of Frederick Valentich in 1978. While piloting a Cessna 182L aircraft to King Island, Australia, Valentich reported an unusual aircraft was following his, and his last words were "It is hovering and it's not an aircraft". No trace of Valentich or his aircraft was ever found.

Some theorize that unexplained disappearances might be the result of tears in the fabric of reality, with people or objects passing out of our world,and into another,simply falling into the fourth dimension.

Others propose that there are certain locations around the globe that are linked to magnetic vortexes,places where the boundaries between our dimension and the next is thin enough for people to pass through given the right conditions.

One wonders whether the 19th century crew of the Mary Celeste, the crewmen of the B-47 Stratojet, Frederick Valentich, and, of course, Ambrose Bierce, all ended up in the same "other" dimension.

Was it in the past? The future? Or side-by-side with our time? Are they are watching with their faces pushed up against a glass wall of time, as our world goes on without them?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 250/365 Vintage Halloween Costumes....


Halloween costumes before walmart and Fright,inc.....

These are my great-aunts (way back long before they became my great-aunts, and definitely way before I was anything at all).

That's Onie on the left, and Lucy on the right. When Onie (it's short for Leona) gave me this picture, she wrote on the back that she was a pumpkin, and Lucy was a gentleman farmer, apparently a gay gentleman farmer, cause of the big bow in her hair.

Freddie Krueger wasn't even a distant dream at this time (probably around 1905 maybe?). The original Dracula novel was published, but Lon Chaney was still an extra. The Mummy had yet to frighten me to death, crawling out of the tomb with the help of tannis leaves, looking for Princess Akenaten.

Handmade costumes ruled the day, and the more creative the better. Paper mache masks were considered exotic. And mom sewed the costumes.

Sometimes, this approach went horribly wrong. Sometimes it was much weirder and much scarier than anything Hollywood can create today.....

See for yourself

Our ancestors were some strange people.

Pumpkins in pointed hats and gentleman farmers in hairbows almost look normal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 249/365 Oak Island Mystery

This pastoral little seaside setting is none other than the Money Pit on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Misleading in its isolation and apparent state of disrepair, this is one of those all-consuming mysteries that hasn't been solved by modern treasure hunters.

Lots of details and twists and turns (and tunnels) in this story, but the basic facts are this:

1795 - Three young hunters catch sight of a ship's block and tackle hanging from a tree. Directly underneath is a large circular depression. Of course they begin to dig, having grown up with tales of pirates and treasure. Two feet down, they encounter a man-laid layer of flagstone. Ten feet down they run into a layer of oak logs, and another layer at 20 feet, and stil another at 30 feet.

Returning in 1803, they resume the dig, finding an oak layer every 10 feet, until they reach a depth of 90 feet. In addition, at 40 feet, an additional layer of charcoal is found, at 50 feet an additional layer of putty, and at 60 feet, an additional layer of coconut fiber.

At 90 feet, an inscribed stone is found:

Claimed translation: "forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried"

After the digging past the 90 foot oak layer, the ingenious design of the pit was revealed. A booby trap, if you will. As the shaft is dug out, deeper and deeper, side tunnels intersect. Side tunnels that are filled with water supplied by the sea surrounding around the island. Think of it this way:
Nobody's stealing this treasure. In fact, the search was abandoned for 45 years. Later various parties would try their hand, even drilling a parallel shaft to drain off the flood water. Didn't work. The relief shaft flooded too. But while it was being drilled, it encounted metal shards and wood that have been carbon dated to 300 years.

Over the years, various famous folks have shown up. Including Franklin Delano Roosevelt (above with the pipe) - like he needed to find treasure.

Various other attempts have included drilling for core samples. At 98 feet a layer of spruce was encountered,then a 4 inches of oak, then 22 inches of small bits of metal, another 8 inches of oak, 22 inches of metal, another 4 inches of oak, and another layer of spruce. Some speculate that this was the actual treasure and the drill went right through it (several small bits of gold link came up with this sample, but no one seems to know where they went).

At this point there have been numerous shafts drilled all over the island, each encountering buried man-laid layers of foreign materials: rock, gravel, fieldstone, oak, spruce, metal, etc. The beach has been discovered to be artificial, with two dams built at some point long ago, one with submerged logs engraved with Roman numerals and secured with wooden pins.

The most interesting discoveries came in 1976 when a 235 foot shaft was dug and cameras were lowered. Supposedly images came back of several chests, a severed human hand, tools, wooden shoring, and a human body. None of those claims have been independently confirmed, and the shaft collapsed, and was abandoned.

Visitors to the island have even produced photos with orbs, and when the photos are enlarged, the orbs appear to have a maze pattern in them. (For my non-ghost-hunting friends, orbs are spots of light, sometimes visible to the naked eye, but usually appearing in photos. Some opinions hold that orbs are light reflecting off dust, or light reflecting off bugs, or just light reflecting. Many are debunked. A select few aren't. Those are the ones of interest. But I've never heard of any orb having a maze pattern....)

So thanks to my BFF Cathy, I've found a new all-consuming mystery. Fortunately I don't have a million bucks to sink into this one like the others before me.

'Cause you know I would.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 248/365 Halloween For the Ancestors

Having all this Scottish blood in me (and being a southern hybrid) means I am required by law to understand my ancestors.

Those would be ancient Celts. Pagans. The original tree-huggers. On October 31st one of their most important holidays arrives: Samhain (pronounced sow-wen, for the non-Celts among you).

Samhain marks the end of harvest season and the light - light being life itself. Afterwards, winter is upon us - the dark season, associated with hunger and death.

On October 31st, the thin veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is lifted, and the Lord of Death (Saman) calls together all of the souls of those who have died during the year and escorts them to the afterlife. In olden days, huge bonfires were lit on hilltops to light the way for the spirits to make their way.

All sorts of odd beliefs have traveled through the years from these ancient practitioners, some of which have been absorbed by newer religions.

The Welsh pagans believed if a person sneezed on Samhain,the soul left the body - a little death of sorts -this would be the origin of saying "god bless you", although I doubt the early pagans said god. More likely "gods".

Slice an apple horizontally and watch the seeds form a pentagram. Now regarded as a symbol for witchcraft, the pentagram in ancient times was a symbol for fertility, a promise of renewal for a pagan people going into the dark season. Bobbing for apples, either in a bucket of water, or catching the apple hanging on a string, has been a game for the young for thousands of years. The young man or woman who caught the first apple was assured of being married and prosperous before the next spring.

Samhain is the one mystical day of the year, when life and death, time itself, and even the past, present and future bend and shimmer.

Samhain is that one particular night when anything is possible.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 247/365 A Doll's House

Some rich folks spend their time on yachts, or vacationing in Europe.

Some, like Frances Glessner Lee, build eighteen dollhouse dioramas of crime scenes. Frances had an all-consuming interest in crime. During the 1930's she created composite details of actual violent crimes and then recreated them in miniature, right down to tiny working locks and equally tiny bloodstains.

Eventually she founded the Harvard University Department of Legal Medicine in 1940 and donated what had become known as The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, using them for crime scene investigation lectures. After the department closed in 1966, the dioramas ended up in the Maryland Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore on permanent loan.

This crime scene dollhouse idea is unusual enough on its own.

But I'd like to add that for the last six years I've had a daughter fascinated with miniatures and forensic science, and we actually had this idea for a dollhouse early on in her studies.

Tiny little stabbings, tiny little hangings, tiny little guns, tiny little knives.

So either that makes Frances Glessner Lee a little more normal, or it makes us a little weirder.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 246/365 Uncharted Territory

At our house there's no destination better than Scotland, and nothing more fascinating than ghosts, and therefore a Scottish ghost is perfection.

A Scottish piper ghost is just the icing on the cake.

Edinburgh Castle is built on an extinct volcano, and beneath it lie miles of tunnels and catacombs, some public, some private, some secret, some unmapped. It is said every corner of Edinburgh can be reached by these tunnels.

Two centuries ago a young piper was sent down into the tunnels, with the instruction to keep playing as he walked. The pipe music drifted back up the tunnels for a good long time, until it finally faded away. The young piper was never seen again.

But over the following two hundred years, he has been heard. And frequently. Both in the tunnels, and on the streets that cover them today.

Bagpipe music is eerie and haunting on its own, never mind ghostly piping.

Here, take a tour yourself. Welcome to the South Vaults, Edinburgh Castle catacombs, one of the most, if not *the* most haunted place on earth. Maybe leave some bread crumbs so you can find your way out.

Unless you have your own pipes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 245/365 Disembodied Whispers

Courtesy of National Archives

On May 27, 1827, Edgar A.Perry, age 22, enlisted in the United States Army as a private. Eventually Private Perry served two years and attained the rank of Sergeant Major for Artillery.

While stationed at Fort Monroe in Hampton Virginia, Sgt. Major Perry, miserable in the military, attempted to bring an early end to his military service by revealing his true name, Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe's pleas for dismissal were ignored for some time, but he was eventually discharged in 1829, just in time to attend the burial of his foster mother.

While waiting for his discharge, unhappy in his military obligation,Poe wrote his second volume of verse, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, but it went largely ignored. The reviews ran from "incoherent" to "beautiful and enduring."

Whether the poems were "enduring" or not, apparently Poe himself is. Numerous visitors to Fort Monroe have seen his spirit writing at an enlisted man's desk.

Of course, Poe is also said to be walking the grounds of his own burial at Westminister Hall. Poe’s ghost has been seen both at his grave and in the haunted catacombs. There are cold spots, footsteps and disembodied whisperings - all worthy of The Tell-Tale Heart or The Raven.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 244/365 Midnight At the Crossroads

Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1930.

Intersection of Hwy 49 and 61.


Legend has it that a young black bluesman showed up here and offered his soul to the Devil, in exchange for an extraordinary musical talent.

Six months or so earlier, he had disappeared from his home,publicly known to be utterly and dismally incompetent on the the point that an audience would beg him to stop playing.

When he reappeared, somehow he literally could play *anything*. Without practice. In local juke joints he played current pop standards, not the blues he would later become famous for. He was known for playing until both booze and money flowed, then walking off the stage and out the door, disappearing into the night.

A closer look at the story reveals that Robert Johnson met another bluesman, Ike Zinnerman, and spend a great deal of time learning from him.

Of course, that closer look also reveals that the two practiced at night, in a graveyard.

One way or the other, something happened to Robert Johnson in 1930. Something that pushed him into history as possibly the greatest blues guitarist, and the father of modern-day rock and roll.

It wasn't the pop standards of 1930 that gave him those titles. His own dark compositions were the currency for that: Hellhound On My Trail, Me and the Devil Blues, Crossroad Blues...

"Early this morning,when you knocked upon my door
Early this morning,when you knocked upon my door
And I said, 'Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go,'
You may bury my body down by the highway side
You may bury my body,down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus and ride."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 243/365 Something Wicked This Way Comes

Round about the cauldron go;
Round about the cauldron go;

In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

Macbeth, written in approximately 1604 by William Shakespeare

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 242/365 Dead Dictionary

"What does it take to convince you that the dead do not always rest in peace?" *

Interesting definitions:

Astral Body: An exact, non-physical replica of the individual physical body which separates at death and occasionally before death. Sometimes seen as an apparition, phantasm, ghost or haunt (i.e. the famous Brown Lady in the above photo)

Clairaudience: Extrasensory data perceived as sound (i.e. those voices heard in the night breeze)

Clairsentience: Extrasensory data perceived as heightened feeling or awareness (i.e. that "feeling" that someone's there...or something)

Dualist Hypothesis: The view that the human mind is partially non-physical in nature, and could, therefore, theoretically, survive the physical dissolution of the body and brain at death (and, logically, communicate.)

Haunt: Paranormal phenomena connected with a certain location, especially a building. May include apparitions, poltergeist manifestations, cold spots, sounds of steps and voices, lights and sometimes fragrances (should cover most of my personal experiences).

Poltergeist: Literally "noisy spirit". Might include lifting, throwing and/or breaking objects, setting fires, and sometimes injuries to people. (Pretty much covers my aunt's experience).

Precognition: Prediction of random future events. Not to be confused with deja vu. (not really useful, but entertaining enough to blurt out "I knew that was going to happen" and have no one believe you.)

Second Sight: A term used in Celtic folklore. (Or by cryptic Scottish great-grandmothers, particularily one who continues to haunt her home, 45 years after her death).

Think of this as a guide to this month's postings.

*The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 241/365 Sixteen Coal Black Horses

St. James Infirmary Blues

I went down to old Joe's bar room
On the corner by the square.
Well, the drinks were bein' served as usual,
And this motley crowd was there.

Well, on my left stood Joe McKinney
And his eyes were bloodshot red.
When he told me that sad story,
These were the words he said:

I went down to the St. James infirmary,
I saw my baby there,
She was stretched out on a long white table,
So cold, and fine, and fair.
Go ahead!

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be,
She can search this world over
Never find another man like me.

Yes, sixteen coal black horses
To pull that rubber tied hack.
Well, it's seventeen miles to the graveyard
But my baby's never comin' back.

Well, now you've heard my story,
Well, have another round of booze
And if anyone should ever, ever ask you
I've got the St. James infirmary blues!

St. James Infirmary Blues, so famous in New Orleans, is actually a direct descendant of an old English pub song "The Unfortunate Rake" that recounts the death of a young gentleman from morally questionable causes. The St. James Hospital was a London leprosy hospital, at least until King Henry VIII torn it down to build St. James Palace.

There are almost as many singers of St. James Infirmary as there are versions of the lyrics. But all the versions end with death, the inevitable trip to the graveyard, and those stately coal black horses.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 240/365 It's Close To Midnight....

What is this current fascination with zombies? I love a good zombie as much as the next person, having grown up with tales of zombies rising out of the bayou, sponsored by the local voodun priest, but lately vampires are getting shoved aside for....zombies?

Oh please.

Vampires have style and grace with an attitude (albeit a bit on the cold side). Zombies have rotting flesh and fluttering disintegrating bandages, never mind they can't walk five feet without losing an appendage.

After spending years listing romance novels, I can spot a trend and currently paranormal romances are spiraling out of Hot Vampire-Lusty Werewolf-Land directly downward into Gender-Confused Rotting Zombie Country.

Even Jane Austen and Abraham Lincoln are flirting with zombies. Our local Halloween store has a Zombie Baby Playground, complete with bloody sharp-toothed toddlers. I'm a parent. This doesn't scare me. This is everyday life.

I've always thought of myself as a radical progressive, but this time I'm not getting it.

As always, thanks to the late great Michael Jackson for making zombies cool.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 239/365 Familiar

Our rural conservative county residents seem to dislike black cats in particular, especially this time of year, and so, there's a high probability of finding black kittens or adult strays at the dumpsters.

That's okay.

I love black cats. My lineage of black cattage includes Lucifer, Merlin, Ozma, Luna, and Serious Black - all stunning with enormous gold or green eyes.

And October is definitely Black Cat Month. All of ours are kept indoors so that the mobs with pitchforks and torches don't find them (I am only halfway joking -last Halloween some enterprising teenagers thought it would be a treat to douse a black kitty in gasoline and set her on fire. Don't ask my opinion on an appropriate punishment would be. )

My Scottish great-grandmother believed finding a strange black cat on her porch was a harbringer of good fortune and prosperity. She ended up owning half the valley, so she may have been right.

Whenever the pups are outside, the black kitties come down and take their rightful places.

Sometimes on top of my printer....

Sometimes perched on my shipping table....

Sometimes hiding under my monitor, right over my keyboard...

Or draped all over the homeschool supplies.

The ancient Egyptians were right: they are after all gods, and they will never forget that.