Friday, August 29, 2014

The Winchester Mystery Mansion



Sarah Winchester lost her husband and her baby when she was young. Up until that point, she had lead the perfect life.  She was a rich woman and was surrounded by luxury.  Her husband had been heir to the Winchester fortune and his family had made millions selling and manufacturing the famous Winchester Riffles.  The fortune given to her by these guns was astounding and after her family died, she blamed this fortune for their death.  A medium convinced Ms. Winchester that the ghosts of those killed with Winchester Rifles has contributed to the death of her family.  These ghosts were still angry and would seek revenge on Mrs. Winchester unless she bought a house and never stopped building. 

Thus began construction on the Winchester Mansion.  The Winchester Mansion is one of the most unique
architectural events in the United States.  It is a building that was built by either spirits or madness or maybe a combination of both.  Everyday Mrs. Winchester drew up blue prints for new additions to the eight bedroom farmhouse she bought in San Jose California.   These blue prints were drawn up in her Séance room.  No one but her was allowed in or out of this room.   Once she presented new blue prints to her construction team no one was allowed to question them no matter how nonsensical or impractical they were.  The resulting house is a nest of endless rooms, stairs to nowhere, windows into the floor, upside down pillars, doors that open to nothing, endless chains of strange rooms, and chaos.  It is miles long and truly haunting and labyrinthine. 

 In the small tour of the house we took, we walked for over a mile and we didn't even take the "grand tour". 
The house felt haunted to the core and is possibly one of the creepiest and most beautiful places I have ever been.  This bizarre house inspired Stephen King to write Rose Red and it inspired me to marvel at the fine line between spiritualism and mental illness.  The photographs included in the blog are only a glimpse of the oddness that is The Winchester Mansion.  






Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Murder of History: Kildare Castle to Be Destroyed

One of my most popular blog posts and chapters in my book, Haunted North Alabama, tells the tale of the Kildare Castle or McCormick House.  This beautiful, haunted, historic home has fought a long battle with its current owner.  The owner hates anyone looking at their home.   Now, they've decided to gut it as a kind of punishment to all who ever tried to look at this brilliant piece of history.  It is funny to me because in the below news story on WSFA the owners' were upset because people cussed at them and called them names driving by.  I drove by there one time with my children just to look at the house I did nothing harmful.  I just drove by with my children and looked at the house and took a couple of photographs.   I was squirted with the hose and cussed at by the owner.  The things they yelled in front of my children (6 and 8) made my ears bleed.  Maybe if they didn't curse at everyone that passed and throw things at them, people wouldn't treat them with the same disrespect.   Their odd behavior has lead directly to the number of people that drive by causing problems hoping to view this insane behavior.   Click the link below to see the full story.

Kildare Mansion to be gutted and the pieces sold - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

My Original Story on the House:

  The Kildare Mansion was first famous for it's ghosts.  It was built in 1886 by a wealthy Irishman named O'Shaughnessy.   He built the castle as a reminder of his homeland, Ireland.   He put a fortune into making it the most extravagant house in the area and he did a good job of it.  This giant of a house overshadows everything around it. It has over 40 rooms and is over 17,000 square feet including the massive basement.   In 1900, MR. O'Shaughnessy went blind and his wife Anna sold Kildare to the trust fund established for Mary McCormick who inherited a multi million dollar fortune from her father

Unfortunately, Mary McCormick was mentally ill and suffered greatly during certain periods.  At the time,  treatment options were limited so they kept her locked in the house and had several nurses and staff to take care of her.  During her lucid periods,  Mary a wonderful woman who was known for her kindness and generosity.   For her entire life, she needed nurses to help her care for her mental illness.  Finally she had to retire to a sanitarium,  leaving her beautiful house behind.

From 1932- 1975, the Kildare Mansion fell into disrepair.   It decayed slowly as slums and lesser buildings slowly surrounded it hiding it's beauty in their sullen shadows.  In 1975, the house was purchased by the Reeves, who lovingly restored the house to its original splendor  It was during this time that the house was shown in the tour of historic homes and became a popular visit for haunt jaunters.   The house's basement was notoriously haunted by the ghost of  Mary McCormick.   Still tormented by her madness, she apparently made quite a ruckus at night.

In 2005 the house was bought by a family whose name I won't mention.  Since that time, the ghosts have become the least interesting part of this house.   The house has always been a favorite site for anyone visiting Huntsville because of its historic significance, its beauty, and its haunted history.  Many people drive by the house and photograph it.   Since 2005, however, the new owners have spent a considerable amount of time watching out for anyone lingering near the house.  If you drive by slowly or stop in front of the house,  a woman will emerge screaming at you.  Sometimes she'll curse and sometimes she'll use the garden hose to spray your car.  Other times she'll shine a spotlight on you and others she'll take pictures of you with her cell phone.  No matter what the new owner does, it is always hostile and she seems to always be watching.  She sits day and night waiting for those that linger to long, which might make one wonder if  Mary McCormick's mental illness might not be spreading?   Perhaps the house and its dark secrets have driven the new owner mad?  Perhaps madness is part of the curse of the house?

No matter what the case. Sadly,  the reason most drive by these days is to see the new owner run out and start screaming.  Her wild antics have become a fun attraction for locals who stop by just to see her jump around and scream  Few remember the ghost stories or the house's beautiful history.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Playful Ghost of The Hotel Monteleone


 Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, LA
Last week, some friends of ours traveled to New Orleans.  They love this beautiful, historic city and they enjoyed their trip.  They also had an encounter with one of New Orleans most famous haunted locations.   They stayed at The Monteleone, one of New Orleans most haunted hotels.  They didn't book the hotel for this reason.  They booked the hotel because they had a Groupon.  Discounts may have brought them to the hotel, but the Groupon didn't protect them from the ghosts of this historic haunt. 

Our friends visited the hotel on a family vacation.  They are the typical family. There was a mother, father, and two daughters.  They have no particular interest in ghosts or hauntings.  They just enjoy traveling. When they traveled on the elevator together, they immediately noticed that the elevator always stopped on the 14th floor.  Being reasonable people, they assumed this was a technical difficulty.   The door would open on 14 and they would push the button and continue their journey. The problem continued, but they didn't let it hamper their enjoyment.  On the second day, they heard one of many ghost stories that floats about the historic hotel like dust.  They heard the story of a little boy who once visited The Monteleone with his family.   During their stay, the parents caught yellow fever.  They passed away and the boy was left orphaned.  They boys life went on.  He went to live with family and time passed.  Sadly, the boy died a few years later.  According to legend, the boy's ghost keeps returning to the Monteleone, however.  It is forever searching for his parents.  Apparently, the ghost believes that he can find his parent's spirtit where they died, on the 14th floor of the hotel.

When my friend's discovered this story, the cute technical difficulty suddenly became terrifying to their two daughters.  They were afraid of the 14th floor and wanted nothing to do with it.  So my friend decided she would investigate on her own.  She went up and down the elevator several times and without her daughters and the elevator never stopped.  She got out and wandered the halls and found nothing strange.   She felt safe taking her daughter's on the elevator again.  As soon as they got on, the elevator stopped on 14 again.  It waited there, as if calling to them.  The girls were mortified.  It seemed the ghost wanted them and was waiting for them.  The ghost wanted a friend. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Unlucky History of Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the 13th.  I am reposting my origins of Friday the 13th post to help celebrate this wonderful day.  I hope your 13th is as luck as mine has been!  Friday the 13th is considered the most unlucky day of the year. Most people aren't entirely sure where this bad luck comes from, but fear of Friday the 13th can affect as many as 1 in 4 people. The fear of Friday the 13th is known as triskaidekaphobia.


"It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

So where does this fear that can cripple a nation come from? There really seems to be no consensus on the origin of Friday the 13th. Everyone has a story, but most of them are different. The fear comes from an unknown source. Here's a look at a few of the Friday the 13th origin stories I've found.

One folklorist traces the origins back to Norse mythology. There were 12 gods who had a dinner party in Valhalla. A 13th guest, Loki, was uninvited. Always the trickster, Loki tricked the god of darkness, Hoder, into shooting Balder, the god of joy. Balder died and darkness descended on the earth. Joy was lost to man and from then on 13 was considered unlucky.

In 1307, on October 13, 1307, King Phillip IV of France ordered every member of the order of the Knights Templar executed on charges of high treason and heresy. King Phillip owed the Templar's a good deal of money and they had amassed an enormous amount of wealth on their crusades. It is thought that the order was actually to strip the Templar's of their wealth. The Templar's were tortured horribly and forced to confess to crimes they didn't commit. They all died, but as the grandmaster died he cursed King Phillip and the day making Friday the 13th unlucky for future generations to come.

Many believe the fear comes from the number 13 itself. According to numerologist, the number 12 is associated with completeness. There are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles, 12 Olympian gods, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 hours in the clock, 12 labors of Hercules. The list goes on and on. The addition of the 13 ruins perfection is utterly bad and unlucky. In many stories, the 13th guest is always a bad sign. Think Judas at the last supper and Loki in the above story. It is the number 13 that lends the curse to Friday the 13th. Combine that with the unlucky Friday, when Jesus was crucifies and Adam tempted Eve and you have a recipe for an unlucky day.

It is clear there are many reasons to fear the dreaded Friday the 13th, but for me Friday the 13ths have always been lucky. So have a happy Friday the 13th, watch one of the 12 million Friday the 13th movies (I like the one in space), and wish me luck on my lucky day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Get a Free Copy of My New Book!!!


My new middle grade book, The Monster Hunter's Manual, is now available.   It is a children's book set in the haunted castle, Chateau Larcher in France!  For the next two days, I will send free copies of this new book to the first 5 commenters below who agree to review the book on Amazon or Goodreads! 


The Monster Hunter's Manual is the story of Gabriel.  Gabriel is a boy who has just lost everything.  His parents have died and he's forced to move to a strange county, France, to find a new home.  He dislikes his crazy aunt, who he has to live with, he doesn't want to learn French, and to make matters worse, the only real family he has left is his whinny, baby brother.  Despite all this, as soon as Gabriel enters his aunt's ancient castle, he realizes that all these disasters might be the beginning of a grand adventure.  In the castle of Chateau Larcher, the walls groan and the attic talks.  Shadows take on strange shapes and Gabriel becomes convinced the castle is haunted.  But the ghosts in Chateau Larcher aren't what Gabriel expects and he soon learns that skeletons aren't always scary and ghosts can tell the most interesting stories.  Even Aunt Perrine can end up being the most powerful monster hunter in the world.

BUY NOW AT AMAZON!!! 
http://www.amazon.com/Monster-Hunters-Manual-Jessica-Penot/dp/178099933X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401887270&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Monster+Hunter%27s+Manual

Friday, April 18, 2014

Animals in the Afterlife: Your Pets Talk From the Other Side




Today I welcome guest blogger and medium,  Deborah Kauflin, Ph.D.  Deborah is a psychic medium who is a retired, famous criminal profiler. Deborah interviewed twenty five serial killers and wrote three books about profiling killers. She trained thousands of FBI agents and homicide detectives and worked on hundreds of murder cases for police. She appeared on the Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery, Fox News, ABC, CNN and the Seoul Broadcasting Network. She also writes a blog for Psychology Today.  I am very excited to have Deborah here! 


Animals in the Afterlife: Your Pets Talk From the Other Side

If you fear that you will never see your beloved pet again, then let me assure you that your pet is still with you. Animals go to the other side, and they love nothing more than seeing you. Their spirits are right in front of you, but too many times you just can’t see them. Let your broken heart heal knowing that they are still with you.

Have you felt your dear car curl up on you lap after he passed? Maybe you have heard your dog’s bark or your bird chirp. The truth is that they are still here looking after you. They loved you so much in life, so why would you ever believe that they would leave your side?

Animals can be some of the most pure, loving spirits. They bring us love and companionship when others have left us. They are always so happy to see us and want nothing more than our love in return. If you have loved a dear pet in your life and you miss that pet, then realize that their love is with you. They look out for you from the other side.

What you might notice is that when you are going through a particularly bad time, you may feel your old pet rubbing against your leg or walking across your keyboard! One woman reported going through a terrible time when her husband died. She had lost her dear Bessie, her cat. As she grieved for her husband and her furry friend, she experienced something miraculous. One day her grief was too much for her, and she was crying as she sat at her computer. With her hands shaking on the keyboard, she actually felt Bessie walk across her fingers as she typed. This is what her cat always did in life! This happened several times and this act by her beloved Bessie was enough to help the woman stop crying. That is how strong the connection is between loved pet and human.

As you miss your pet, you might even start seeing it. Sometimes if you are particularly sensitive, you may see your animal in your home. If you do, then know it is your pet coming to say hello. They want you to see them so that you won’t hurt so much. They love you.

Other times pets come back to play with their old friends. In one case, two dogs spent their entire lives together. One died, and the other went into a terrible depression. The family could not get her to eat or do anything. She was dying of grief. Then all of a sudden, she got up and ran around playing as if she was with her old dog friend. She ran around in circles, crouching and jumping, just like she always did with her partner. She’d bark at what seemed like nothing. It was then that the family began experiencing activity of their own. Their oldest son saw the dog that had passed away. Others heard his bark. The family then knew their dear dog was still with them and doing everything he could to help his old friend heal from his passing.
It shouldn’t surprise you that your pets are still with you. Love never dies, especially love for animals. And your pets know how you feel about them. They know more than people give them credit for. Have you ever noticed that your pet tries to comfort you when you feel down? They do the same thing from the other side. Their connection with you will not be cut.

If your pet has crossed over, and you feel sad, then take a deep breath and call your pet to you in your mind. I guarantee that your pet will come. You may not be able to see it, but your pet will be at your side or in your lap. They love you that much. Don’t be surprised if when you call them that you begin to see unusual things go on in your home. That will be your pet letting you know that he is there.

Furthermore, in every psychic reading I have done where an animal has come through, the dear pet has ALWAYS said thank you to his human pal for taking care of him. They know what you do for them and are grateful. They will repay your love forever.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Haint Blue: The Ghostly Blue


 


If you drive through the South, you'll notice old houses painted in a peculiar shade of blue.  The entire house is never blue.  It is always the details that are blue.  The shudders, the door, the top of the porch may all be this lovely, eerie shade.  The blue is deeper than a sky blue and more subtle than an eggshell blue.  It is completely unique and utterly Southern.

This blue is called "Haint Blue".  A Haint in Southern parlance is another word for a ghost or a specter.  It is the restless spirit of one that has been left behind in the after life.   The blue that is so beautiful and so engaging is not just a color, it is a form of magic. 

Although Haint Blue can be seen on every kind of Southern house from sprawling mansions and old plantation homes to decaying shacks, the history of Haint Blue goes back to the Gullah or Geechee people.  These were the decendants of African slaves that lived in South Carolina and Georgia.   Their ancestors were brought to the Americas from Angola which is where the word Gullah is thought to have come from.   These peoples clung to the traditions of their ancestors and stories of ghosts and haints were common to their ancestors.   Haints were not kind ghosts in their traditions.  They were tragic, angry ghosts that were set on causing pain and heartache for the living.   As is common in many spirit traditions, however, Haints were unable to cross over water.  Therefore the best way to protect yourself from a Haint was to surround yourself in water.   The descendants of these African people found the easiest way to protect themselves was to fool Haints into thinking their homes were surrounded by water.  They painted their doors and shudders and porches in a watery blue to trick Haints.  This Gullah practice spread throughout the South as a method for keeping spirits and Haints at bay.   So now you can see the remnant of this old African tradition in homes throughout the South.

My neighbor recently painted her ceiling of her porch and patio Haint Blue.  She hasn't told me if it has driven off any dark spirits yet, but I remain hopeful that this old tradition will hold its power as I am planning on painting my porch ceiling Haint Blue this summer. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lonely Lakeforest Ghost

Lakeforest is a quiet neighborhood.  It is hidden away in one of those areas that used to be farmland and swamp.  It is off the beaten path.   The houses there vary is size and type.  The houses around the lake are million dollar mansions.  They are large and presumptuous.   They are the houses of people who want the world to know their wealth.   In other areas of the neighborhood, the houses are more middle class.  They are four bedroom, three bathroom American homes that are perfect for the average family.  The neighborhood is new and clean and typical and seems like the least likely place for a haunting.  The neighborhood is so young, it is hard to imagine any accumulation of sorrow that could create a ghost.

However,  tragedy and ghosts do lurk in the quiet history of this ordinary neighborhood.   The pool at Lakeforest is a crowded party during the long Alabama summers.  During the day, children fill the water.  The sounds of splashing and laughter drift up from the pool and linger in the air around it.  During the sticky, hot evenings and weekends the adults come out.  They sneak in beer and alcohol that is strictly forbidden by the pool rules.  The adults don't care.  It is all in good fun.   It was one such group of adults that begins this tale of ghostly woe.

One Saturday night, a group of  friends gathered around the pool, drinking and laughing and trying beat the heat. The night progressed and they decided to go back to the house.  They all loaded up in one truck.  People sat in the bed of the truck.  They knew they were drunk but it was such a short drive they thought they couldn't get into any trouble driving.  On the way home, the driver hit a bump.  In his tipsy state, he didn't realize what was coming.   When he hit the bump, one of the men in the back was thrown from the bed of the truck onto the driveway of a house he was passing.  The man died in that driveway while he was waiting for an ambulance.

The homeowners will never forget that night.  Finding a dying man in your driveway isn't something you forget.   They watched the man draw his last breaths and watched him be driven away.   It isn't just the memory that haunts them.  It is also the ghost of the man.   He lingers in the shadows of their home.  He makes odd noises and sometimes they can even catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of their eyes.   They aren't sure what he is waiting for.   Maybe he just doesn't know where else to go. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ghost Photographs from the Pope Mansion

The plaque in front of the Leroy Pope Mansion reads:  During the original Madison County Land Sales of 1809, LeRoy Pope of Petersburg, GA, secured among other purchases a majority of Section 36, Township 3, Range 1 West, the site of the future town of Twickenham, as Huntsville was originally known. Pope created Poplar Grove Plantation on this site and erected his home in 1814 in time to entertain Gen. Andrew Jackson on his return from the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The residence was among the earliest brick structures in Alabama. Inherited by his son, William H. Pope, the mansion was sold in 1848 to Dr. Charles Hays Patton, who commissioned George Steele to add the handsome Classical Revival portico. Nearby during the Civil War, Federal forces built an earthen breastwork to defend the eastern approaches to the city.




But there is more to the story of the Pope Mansion than can bread on plaques.  It is said that Leroy Pope Mansion is haunted by the ghosts of two slaves who still roam the property. These two ghosts like to bother audience members of touring groups, and one was even mistaken for a costumed character once.  Steve Genty caught some wonderful photographs of ghosts at a recent ghost walk. 

Huntsville Ghost Walk meets at Harrison Brothers Hardware Store. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under and are available at the hardware store all month. It’s good to get there at least 30 minutes early since the walks start promptly at 6 p.m. Cost is $12 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under. Visit the website or call (256) 509-3940.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Passing Phantom


 
A fellow ghost enthusiast I know shared this little spooky tale with me.  He is a nurse who has spent many years working in nursing homes.  He has seen death and knows his face better than most.   Having a patient in a nursing home die is a common occurrence, but it isn't common for that patient to linger after they have died.   My friend witnessed one such occurrence late one night at a nursing home.


One of my friend's favorite patients had passed away that day and he walked into her room to say goodbye.  The room had been cleared out and little remained of the woman he had cared for, however when he entered the room a resonant thudding filled the room.  My friend looked around the room and checked the bathroom.  The thudding appeared to be coming from an empty, plastic box.  He left the room and brought others in the verify what he was hearing and help him discern the origin of the noise.

The noise was irregular.  It came and went but it never left the room or the box.  Everyone who entered the room that night heard it.  The security guard had to leave the room he was so put off by the noise.  The next day the noise was gone and no one could figure out where it had come from.   My friend believes it was the ghost of the woman who had just died coming to say goodbye.  She didn't want to leave without one final farewell. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Dark Figure

A coworker told me this story.  He has never been quite sure what to make of it, but it still bothers him.  A long time ago, he had a home in the rural portions of South Alabama.  The house was one of those old houses that groans complaintively at night as if it is protesting its age.   The sounds of old pipes and old wood fill the house and make it easy to ignore small noises and sounds that might be out of place in another house.

However, one night he saw something he couldn't ignore.  It was late at night and my coworker was in bed. His children and wife were out of town so the house was quiet.  Something woke him from his sleep and he opened his eyes to see a dark figure standing in the corner staring at him.  At first, he assumed the figure was of natural origins.  Being a proper Southerner, he reached for his gun to drive the intruder from his home.  Upon careful inspection, he knew the figure wasn't anything that could be driven away by a gun.  He blinked and pinched himself trying to make sure he wasn't trapped in some bad dream.  The figure remained.  Finally, the figure left.  He never told his family about the event.  He didn't want to scare them, but he'll never forget the shadowy figure that lived in the old house, deep in South Alabama. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Owl Spirit

Owls have been a reaccuring symbol in my life. In folklore and mythology, owls are seen as creatures that can travel between worlds.  In Egyptian, Celtic and Hindu cultures owls are the guardians of the spirits of the dead and they guide spirits from one world to the next.  They are symbols of wisdom, intuition, and the ability to see the beyond.

A few weeks ago, I had another amazing encounter with an owl.  An owl fell onto my car from a tree branch.  I didn't know what had hit my car at first, but I turned around to find out.  I found the owl looking almost dead in the tall grass beside the road.  I wrapped the owl in my sweater and drove it to my vet.  On the way there, the owl awoke and sat up.  It didn't open its eyes.  It just sat quietly, wrapped in my sweater.   I carried the bird in and it fell down and seemed dead again.  Finally, it got up and opened its eyes.   Fortunately, Wheeler Wildlife refuge has a raptor recovery program and my vet was able to contact them.  The bird was taken to the Wildlife refuge for rehabilitation, but I was left slightly stunned by the beauty and the power of the bird I had actually held in my arms.  It was a barred owl and it was beautiful.  I have to wonder why owls keep coming into my life sometimes, but I am always grateful.

Here is another post I wrote about owls: 

Owls are important symbolically in many cultures. In ancient Greece and Rome, they were linked to Athena and considered symbols of knowledge and wisdom.  In Arthurian legend,  Merlin is often depicted with an owl on his shoulder and again, the owl is linked to wisdom.  In Japan,  owl statues are said to ward off plague and illness.  In some Native American cultures owls are linked to knowledge and magic.  I knew all these things when I chose owls as the decorative theme for my new baby's nursery.   I didn't know the darker side of owls.  In many cultures, especially the Apache culture, owls portend death and are associated with the dead.  The Apaches are not alone.  Many other cultures see owls as linked death.    Of course, I choose to ignore all the cultures that see owls as ill omens in the same way I have ignored the ill omens associated with black dogs and cats.  Some of my favorite pets have been black dogs and cats and they've only brought good luck to me.

Therefore, as I sat in my owl themed nursery late at night just before my son was born,   I saw owls only as good omens.  They have become a symbol of my baby boy.   They are wise and beautiful creatures of the night.

My neighborhood and my house have no trees.   So birds of any sort are a rare commodity in my neighborhood.  The lake brings geese and goose poop, but owls are never seen in my neck of the woods.   However,  the night before my baby was born,   as I sat in the nursery, unable to sleep and very pregnant, the call of three owls filled the night air.  I sat up and listened to them hoot back and forth to each other with their distinct calls for over an hour before I drifted off to sleep.  The next day I held my baby in my arms, making owls forever a good omen for me.  I'm not sure if there was any real significance to the presence of the owls, but to me there was something mystical to their presence that night.  They were omens of life to come.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Chateau Larcher

This week I found out my new book, The Monster Hunter's Manual, is going to be released in June.  The book is a middle grade novel set in a haunted castle in the Loire Valley in France.   In order to celebrate my new release date, I'm reposting the blog I wrote about Chateau Larcher.  This castle will always be one of my favorite places and a source of inspiration for me.  

I love to travel and I love to rent houses when I travel.  I avoid hotels when possible and look for rare and interesting places to stay.  When I went to France, I found an old medieval castle that had been broken up into 4 town houses. I was able to rent one portion of this castle.   The castle, Chateau Larcher, was a bit of a mystery and still is.   I travelled during the off season and the small village's tourist information center had been closed, so I was never able to learn much about the history of the castle.  I read the plaque by the Cathedral which dated the Cathedral built into the church at around 980 and the castle itself wasn't finished until 1070.   Outside of this,  I found nothing to denote the castle's origins.  It was located in the Poiters region of France just South of the Loire valley and would have been in Aquitane during it's highest uses.  The location of the castle must have been a sacred place at one time because the area is also known for it's dolmen.  Dolmen are large, neolithic stones arrangements that are usually placed over tombs.  The dolmen in Chateau Larcher are placed over a vast necropolis of more than 100 graves.  They are usually places in a sacred or important location.

Staying in the castle was wonderful.  I loved it and I snuck away every evening to walk in the dark.   One time I enlisted help to break into a roped off section of the castle and sneak around.   The castle was mostly ruins and in the night as I wandered alone,  I found myself chilled.  There is nothing tangible I can use to prove that this castle was haunted.  There was only a profound feeling that I was not alone.  As I have little else to offer,  I have posted pictures of the castle.

Friday, February 14, 2014

How Valentine's Day Started with Naked Ladies and Dead Animals

It is time for my annual Valentine's Day Post.  This is my favorite post of the year because Valentine's Days origins are so interesting.  I hope you all have a happy Valentine's Day!

My favorite thing about holidays are their bizarre origins.  Most of our modern celebrations have roots in old pagan traditions.  Valantine's Day is no different.  Its pagan roots are just more bizarre than most. They are so strange I like to write about them every year.  I know it is slightly off topic, but naked people being flogged with animal hides is worth discussing in any forum. Apparently the ancient roots of Valentine's Day begins with the Romans. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia from Feb. 13 to 15. In Roman mythology Lupercus was the equivalent of the Greek god Pan who was known to be a sexy sort of fellow who promoted fertility. His holiday was a somewhat romantic kind of celebration. During Lupercalia the men would sacrifice a goat and a dog and then whip women with the hides of the dead animals. The women would line up naked in order to be whipped. They did this because they believed this ritual would make them more fertile. Afterwards, there would be lottery in which men and women would be paired up for a night of naked fun.


I know, you are now wishing we still celebrated Valentine's day this way. Enough with the cheesy cards. Where are the dead animals, whippings, and naked people? It was the Catholic Church that ruined the fun. Emperor Claudius II killed two Valentine's in different years of February 14th. Both men were martyred and the day derives its name from these two martyred saints. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I got confused and merged the two martyrs into one person and named February 14th after them. He also absorbed the romantic traditions of Lupercalia into the day in order to soften the pagan debauchery and retake the day for Christianity. Christianity has a long history of doing this type of thing. Christmas was taken from Roman Saturnalia traditions and Norse Yule traditions. By absorbing pagan holidays rather than forbidding them, ancient Christians were able to gain new followers rather than lose them.

Chaucer and Shakespeare can be credited with further romanticizing St. Valentine's day and turning it into the romantic, kissy holiday it is today, but I will always think back to better days when women ran naked through the streets being beaten with dead animals.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ghost Girl Apparition- Interesting Ghost Caught on Video





Faith Serafin, the director of  Alabama Paranormal Research Team, posted this awesome video on her facebook page.  Thanks to Faith for sharing this interesting ghost footage!