Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Ghost Ship

I have read several versions of this story.   They are all very similar but vary slightly in the details.  Every version of the story has the same ending and carries with it haunting images of ghost ships and skeleton crews.  I'm describing my favorite version of this story.

In 1812, there were two young sailors named Charles Jose and George Leverett.  The sailors were friends, but a woman came between them.  The woman's name was Sarah Soule and both men fell madly in love with this beauty the first time they glimpsed her.   Their friendship quickly turned to rivalry and hatred as the two men each wooed the lovely Sarah.  As is always the case, only one man won the heart and hand of the beautiful Sarah and the other was sent off to brood and mourn.  George was the luckier of the two.  He married Sarah and his love for his wife was so great that he named his ship, Sarah, after his wife.

The ship was doomed from the beginning.  One night, when the ship was out to sea, the crew of the Sarah noticed they were being followed by a dark ship.  Leverett tried desperately to shake the dark ship that was chasing him, but the dark ship was faster.   Charles Jose and his black ship quickly overtook the Sarah.  They boarded the ship and killed every member of Leverett's crew.    Charles thought death was too easy for George, however.  Charles wanted George to suffer as he had suffered.  He wanted him to die slowly and to feel true hopelessness.  So Charles bound Charles to the mast of the ship and set the ship adrift deep at sea.  He set him adrift so far out to sea that there was no chance of George every being found or rescued.

Leverett quickly lost hope.  He couldn't escape his bonds and he had no idea where he had been left.  He knew death would come for him.  However, the death that came for him wasn't the death he expected.   Slowly, the corpses of his murdered crew rose up from the floor.   They rose up and took control of the ship and guided it to Harpswell, Maine.  Those who saw the ship come to shore, describe a ship full of ghosts  coming into shore in the fog.    The ghosts said nothing.  They set Leverett safely ashore and returned to the ship.  A heavy fog drifted in as the ghosts boarded their ship and when the fog had lifted, the ship was gone.  The Sarah and her crew were never seen again.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ghostly, Paranormal, and Fun Books for the End of Summer

 I have been reading a good bit lately and I've been lucky to have come across some truly haunting stories.   Some of these books involve ghosts and hauntings, and one is just good fun, but they are all worth a read.  Sometimes the best ghost stories can be found in fiction and these books are definitely examples of that.  I love haunting and supernatural stories that take me to another place.  They never get old.  Whether I'm exploring regional folklore or reading a good novel,  they make my day a little better.  These are some of the books that have made my day a little better lately.

Her Fearful Symmetry:   This bestselling novel was written by Audry Niffenegger, the author of A Time Traveler's Wife.  It hasn't been as well reviewed as The Time Traveller's Wife and I've read that some folks have been disappointed by it, but I loved this book.  It is set outside of London's Highgate Cemetery and involves some strange theories about ghosts and their relationship to the mortal world.   How could I not love this book?  It tells the tale of two sets of twins and their unhealthy relationships with each other and the rest of the world.   One twin is a ghost for the duration of the book and her struggle to become part of the living world is the driving force of the novel.   This book is creepy and the end is disturbing.  I think it is a haunting addition to any ghost lovers library.
Shadow Fox: This is Ashley Barnard's debut novel and it is excellent. This book is not ghostly, but it is fun. This book is a dark, urban fantasy about a young man who is struggling with Heroine addiction in London. His life is a mess and everything seems to go wrong for him. He is self destructive and would seemed doomed until he finds a mysterious journal that sheds light on his shadowy antecedents. Suddenly, he finds himself in a world where his gifts will make him the hero. This is the first book in a series and it definitely hooks you a draws you into a mysterious world.
The Abandoned: This is Amanda Steven's lovely prequel to the Graveyard Queen series. This book has it all. It is the story of a young psychology intern working on her master's degree. She works at a shadowy mental hospital and picks up a ghost when one of her elderly patients dies. After she overhears a devious conversation, she is drawn into a mystery that involves old cemeteries, secret societies, and haunted places. She also finds herself drawn into a relationship with a sexy ghost hunter. This is definitely haunted fun and to make it better, it is free on kindle.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Haunted Chattanooga

I have spent the last week or so struggling with a lot of drama around this book, but I have to say now that it is in my hand, I can forget the drama.   The book is out and that is all that matters.  My new History Press book, Haunted Chattanooga, was released today and is now available at  The first shipment has arrived at Barnes and Noble and Books a Million and will be shelved soon.   I'm overjoyed.  A lot of work and stress went into this one and I think it is lovely.   I have to confess that much of that loveliness is due to my coauthor, Amy Petulla.    Her chapters introduced me to some amazing new ghost stories.   The chapter on the Black Aggie is particularly riveting.   She certainly knows the dark side of Chattanooga.    Now it's time for me to put my feet up and celebrate.   I'm thinking I may even be bad and have a beer.  Thanks to all of you who supported me through the writing of this book and supported me through last week's drama.  You all were part of making this book possible.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Devil Lived In New Orleans

It is not surprising to think of the devil living in New Orleans.  The city is not known for being pure of heart.  It seems an apt setting for the demon to live among us.   The devil made no secret of his address while living in New Orleans.  He lived at 1319 St Charles Avenue in the 1820's.  According to legend,  the mansion at this address went up overnight, as if by magic.  One day there was nothing there and the next there was an ornate mansion.  The mansion is said to have been built so quickly that it made little sense inside.  Every room is on a different floor and stairs go off in all directions.  

The devil built this house for his mistress, Madeline Freneau, whom he kept in lavish luxury.  Sadly, Ms. Freneau was not a very smart young woman and her fate was sealed by her utter stupidity.  The devil was a busy demon and Ms. Freneau found herself lonely and bored.   She took another lover, Alcide Cancienne.  Ms. Freneau wasn't smart enough to consider the diabolical nature of her first lover nor to even bother to trying to keep her affair that secret.  Alcide dined openly with Ms. Frenau in the beautiful dining room and when a strange man in a cape asked him if he knew Ms Freneau, Alcide told the stranger he was Ms. Freneau's lover.   That night at dinner,  Alcide told his lovely mistress that the devil had told him he could have Ms. Freneau and 1000 dollars if they would take the name Mr. and Mrs. L.   Ms. Freneau was delighted and told Alcide they should be together forever.  Alcide laughed at the beautiful young woman and told her he was bored with her and wouldn't keep her even for 1000 dollars.  Madeline was furious and lept across the table and killed Alcide.  The devil came in laughing.  He delighted in the horrific scene and promptly ate both Alcide and Madeline.

For many years after this,  the house on St. Charles Avenue sat empty, but eventually a few intrepid families dared to occupy the mansion.  The reports of the haunting there were terrifying.  Apparently, the fateful dinner would replay over and over again in front of residents in phantom form and both Alcide and Madeline's ghosts haunted the house.   Some say that the image of the devil himself was imbedded on the outside of the house and that blood would drip from his open mouth.  The house on St. Charles Avenue was demolished years ago, but it is still unsettling to think that the devil lived in New Orleans.

I found this wonderful ghost story in Haunted America, a collection of American ghost stories.  I have been unable to find any other sources for this story, but I'm still looking because this is a fabulous piece of folklore.  I also have to wonder if the lovely hotel that now sits at this address wouldn't have a few lingering affects if this story were true. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Haunted by the Living

I began working on Haunted Chattanooga a little over a year ago.  At the time,  I didn't have a firm book contract and I wasn't sure what region I would write about, but I knew I wanted to write about Tennessee.   I was lucky enough (I thought) to be brought to a wonderful haunted place in Tennessee and was thrilled to be able to include it my new book.  At the time,  I was also thrilled that  Haunted North Alabama would be out soon.  I talked at length about Haunted North Alabama and my books to come to all involved in traveling to this haunted location.  I was a new writer and I had that glow that can only come from a writer who is soon to publish their first book.  I interviewed the staff at our location and they were pleasant, friendly, and kind.  I told them about my writing and how excited I was to be able to write about their location.  This was still somewhat new for me and I was thrilled.  I took pictures.  The staff even posed for the pictures.  I still have these photographs.  Photos of happy staff that were happy to be interviewed and photographed inside their haunted location.  When I look at these photos now, they seem wrong.  They seem crooked. 

Time passed.  It takes a long time to write and publish a book and my publisher is actually very fast.  I have an excellent publisher.   A year later, my new book is coming out!  Haunted Chattanooga will be released this week.  I was thrilled again, until I got an angry email from the staff at my haunted location demanding money for the photographs they let me take last year.  In fact, they are demanding far more money than I have made on the book.  They are demanding more money than I will ever make from the book.  They say they didn't ever give me permission to photograph their location and that no releases were signed. They are saying that unless we pay more money than any of us have, they will come after us about the photos they once so happily posed for, they didn't give us permission to take or use these photos.  So,,,,, now it seems Haunted Chattanooga could be stopped by the happy staff that once welcomed me. Their smiling photographs are now a bitter reminder of the duplicitous nature of the living.  I'm leaving names and locations out of this blog for obvious reasons.  I don't want to make anyone mad, but on a day like today, writing seems like the best coping skill I have to deal with the stress associated with living people.   I really wish I could just deal with the ghosts.  The supernatural is never this hostile.  In truth, I'm spoiled.  I've been lucky enough to spend most of my adult life around pleasant happy people that are honest and forthright.  I've been to hundreds of haunted locations and the staff and owners of these locations have always been welcoming.  Some of the locations I've visited even have my books in their gift shops.  One place asked me to do a book signing during one of their paranormal tours.  I have only seen the good people associated with the paranormal world.   Perhaps that is why these events are taking me so much by surprise and really making me question whether or not I want to write another Haunted book.   The biggest irony is that the ghosts I sought at this location filled me with no dread or fear, but the living staff at this location have kept me up night after night. They are haunting me and I find myself wishing I had a nice ghost instead, or at least a drink.  I wish pregnant women could drink.....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A lot Like Halloween

When I was a kid, my mother never let me decorate for Halloween until it was 2 weeks before Halloween.  She would see Halloween decorations out at the end of September and roll her eyes like the stores had lost their mind for putting Halloween decoration out for sale so early.  Times have changed.   Everywhere I go I see the signs of my favorite holiday.  Old Time Pottery Barn has aisles of Halloween decorations and Cracker Barrel glows with a ghoulish light.  Ghosts haunt the dollar store and all the small corners of stores are beginning to whisper of phantoms and hauntings.  It is already beginning to look like Halloween.  Here are a few samples of the Halloween toys I've seen out so far.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ghosts and Cocktails

In my opinion, the best ghost stories always come out at gatherings.  The lights are dim and everyone has had a few cocktails.  Tongues are loosened and people suddenly feel much closer.   They admit to things in these intimate settings that they would never admit to in the brighter light of day.  Secrets slip out and skeptics say things like, "I don't believe in ghosts but I had this experience once......."

I have been to a lot of gatherings like this over the last week, but only during one of them did ghosts come out.  The first story told around our glasses of  white wine was a haunted house story.   One of my lady friends talked about her father's house.  She said it had been haunted for years and everyone seemed to accept this, but she described the strange nights of dread she had spent in this old farm house  The house was built around 1920 and old ghosts sleep in the shadows there.  She described one night in which her son and she were sleeping in the bed together.  Her son was in front of her asleep and she went to sleep quickly.  When she awoke, she felt someone moving behind her.   In her dream state, she thought it was her son.  She felt him against her back, but as she became fully awake she realized her son was in front of her.  She sat up in bed in a panic and the light flicked on by itself.   Although she felt no hostility from the spirit,  she was still terrified and unnerved.

Another lady confessed that spirits often come to her.   She has had many experiences throughout her life with the supernatural and she doesn't talk about them because she thinks most people will think she is crazy or strange.  She prefers keeping them to herself.   She told two stories.  The first story was in a new house.  She says that she was alone in the house when she heard a loud repetitive banging in the attic.  The noise became louder and louder.  It was late at night and she was alone, so she became afraid it might be a burglar.  She called the police.  They searched the attic and found nothing.  The house was empty and there was no explanation for the noise.  She told another story in which she awoke and saw a spirit standing at the foot of her bed.  She asked the spirit, "What do you want?"  and it answered her, "I mean you no harm."

The party ended and  the stories were forgotten.  We won't mention them again, but cocktail ghost stories are always my favorite, because they are the secret ones that will never be known publicly.  They are the ones that people keep to themselves to avoid being called weird.  I love ghost stories and cocktails.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Black Eyed Children

Black Eyed Children are the cause of much debate.   They appeared, as if from a vacuum, in 1998, and since that time the Internet has been crowded with stories of their appearance and activity around the world.  In 1998, a reporter named Brian Bethel was working in his car.  He was sitting in his vehicle alone at night and everything around him was quiet and dark.   Out of this darkness, two children emerged.   The reporter rolled down his window to talk with them.  The children told the reporter that they had been dropped off by their parents to see a movie, but they had no money and had begun the walk home.  The begged the reporter to help them and let them into his car with him.  The reporter was somewhat put off by the appearance of the children in the night and although his first impulse was to let the children in, something in his gut told him not too.   The longer Brian put off letting the children in the car, the more persistent they became.  Finally Brian peered into the darkness and noticed that the children had black eyes.   Their eyes were entirely inky black with no white or iris.  Brian became terrified and was driven by an overwhelming panic and need to run away.  The children sensed his fear and became even more aggressive in their pleas to enter the vehicle.  Finally, Brian abandoned the eerie children and went on to tell his story.

Since Brian's encounter, countless other stories like this have peppered the Internet.  One story I read on the Internet was told by a young man who skateboarding in the dark.  He was approached by two young children who claimed they were lost and asked if he could take them to his house and let them use his phone.  He offered his cell phone, but the children insisted they use his home phone.  The young man noticed the children's eyes and asked them why they were wearing contacts.  He then declined the children and went home on his own.  He was scared of the children and wanted nothing more to do with them.  When he looked out his window later that night, the two children were still watching him from the front yard.   Another story was told by a woman who was awoken in the middle of the night by two children asking for help.  They wanted to use the phone to call their parents.  The woman was overwhelmed by fear and didn't let the children in, but they stayed at her door for hours begging and pleading.

These Black Eyed Kids or BEKs  have stayed on the fringes of the paranormal and have remained so because no one really knows what to make of them.  Some people believe BEKs are part of an elaborate Internet hoax and that those telling the stories speak out on the Internet as part of this hoax.  There are others that believe the BEKs are the ghosts of lost children who wander the earth searching for safety.  Others believe they are lost souls trying to gain entrance to our lives.  Another theory states that the BEKS are demons trying to con their way into people's lives and yet another theory says they are vampires, who must get permission before entering to feed on their victims.  A final group of people argue that BEKS are the product of some bizarre alien human mating.  Whatever the truth is, the stories about these phantom, black eyed horrors are enough to send chills down your spine on the warmest nights.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady Jane's Ghost

The Tower of London is haunted by a multitude of ghosts.   It is no surprise that the tower crawls with ghosts, since the suffering of legions waiting for death and torture occurred in this stone structure.   The ground is saturated with the blood of those who practiced the wrong faith or followed the wrong kings.   Lady Jane Grey is one of the many ghosts that walks the halls of  The Tower of London.  She is also one of the most tragic figures that wanders the tower.

Lady Jane Grey was a victim of  her plotting uncle.  He wanted to take the throne from Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII, before Mary succeeded the throne.  Lady Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VII and was thus loosely connected to the succession.  Lady Jane's uncle married her to Guildford Dudley and the two claimed the throne of England.  The two young people were idealists and believed they were taking the throne to save England from the Catholic leanings of Mary Tudor.   Jane Grey was only 16 when she took the throne.   She was deeply in love with her husband and completely unaware of weakness of her claim.   She was an intellectual who loved books and a romantic who believed that she and her husband could change England for the better.  She ruled for nine days before Mary Tudor claimed the throne.  

Jane was forced to watch her husband die before she was executed in the tower for treason.  She prayed as she was taken to the slab.   She was beheaded on Tower Hill on February 12, 1554.   Since that time she has been seen wandering the tower on many occasions.   Guildford Dudley has also been seen weeping in the tower.   The best documented siting of Lady Jane occurred on February 12, 1957.  A guard saw the phantom lady standing above him in the battlements.  He called out to the other guard and he also saw the lonely lady walking above them in the cold night air.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Death's Dream Kingdom Free Book Winner!

A few weeks ago, when my book came out in print,  I had a little party. For this party, I said I would give away a free copy of my new book to one of my readers.  I had a few entries and it is time to announce the winner.   In order to select the winner,  I used an ancient selection technique that most of us have been using as long as we can remember.   I used the inny miny miney moe technique and selected Adsila as the winner of the free book!  Adsila is well known for her beautiful blog Above the Norm (   I will be popping by her blog to let her know she won today.

Thank you to everyone who entered and thank you to all of my readers and those who have helped me spread the word about my new novel.  You are all wonderful and deserve many more prizes than I can afford to give you. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Possession of Joseph and Theolbald Bruner

Most cases of possession can ultimately be explained by medical and psychological causes, but in some cases there is no easy medical answer and the supernatural is the only reasonable answer.  The case of Joseph and Theobald Bruner was a a tragic one that baffled all the medical professionals of the time.   Their case is one of the most striking and violent cases of demonic possession ever recorded.  The records of the local priest say that the possession began when both boys began drawing pictures of devils and demons on the walls in their bedroom.  They would whisper to the demons at night and treat them as friends.   Shortly after, the boys began going through terrible physical contortions.  Their limbs would lock together in unnatural positions and they couldn't be unlocked.   They would arch their backs backward in impossible positions and speak in languages they had never heard.

The symptoms became worse with time and eventually their bodies would begin to bloat.   Shortly after the bloating, the boys would vomit a lovely mixture of foam, feathers, and seaweed.   They vomited all manner of things they had never eaten and many of the objects they vomited weren't even available at the house they lived in.  The boys were constantly covered in seaweed and feathers and vomit no matter how often they were cleaned. Their beds levitated and objects in the room around them were flung about inexplicably.  The boys also gained psychic abilities and were able to predict the deaths of people in the village.  The boys parents eventually sent the boys away for the exorcism ritual and spent the rest of their lives at the St. Charles Orphanage.  During their stay at the orphanage they told the nuns that they were "The Lord of Darkness."  It took four years to exorcise the boys, during which time they lived in constant torment

Even after the exorcism, there was no happy ending for the two cursed children.  One boy died shortly after the exorcism at the age of 16 and the other boy died at 25.   The case of the Bruner boys still baffles people to this day.   Assuming that the priests and witnesses weren't lying, no natural explanation for what happened to the Bruners has been found.  If their case wasn't an elaborate hoax perpetrated by an entire village, orphanage, and the clergy,  it is one of the most conclusive cases of possession.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Old Photographs with Old Orbs

Although I have always loved a good ghost story, for many years of my life, I wrote off all paranormal experiences as part of my overactive imagination.  I was a rationalist.  In many ways,  I still am.  I always look for natural explanations for everything before  I look to supernatural.  It is only when there is no other explanation that I will look to other answers.   When I lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, I was plagued by a series of bizarre occurrences that I explained away with whatever natural explanations I could.  I still explain them away.  I honestly can't believe that house was haunted.

For example, one night I was watching television and the garage door just started opening and closing over and over again.  I couldn't get it to stop.  I mashed the button and yelled at it but it kept going.  I figured the damned thing was broken.  It finally stopped and worked fine after that, but mechanical malfunctions happen, right?   Another night all the electronic toys in the living room started going off at the same time.  Remote control cars buzzed around the room and toy Buzz Lightyear's screamed out about infinity and beyond.  A cow flashlight bellowed "moo"  over and over again.  I laughed.  It was funny.  I don't remember how I explained that one, but it made a lot of sense.  Similar things happened often in that house, but it was a new house and I didn't think it was haunted.  One night I did panic.  The garage door opened and I couldn't get it to close.  Every time I closed it, it just opened again.   It really freaked me out, but what are you going to do?  In the morning it was OK.   We moved,  I forgot about all these oddities and I had wonderful explanations for all of these types of events even if I can't remember them now.

However,  as I went through some old photo albums,  I found a series of wonderful photographs in that house with some lovely orbs.   Orbs in no way prove the presence of the supernatural, but I find their presence interesting and they make me wonder if maybe all my explanations weren't wrong?  Who knows?  They are lovely orbs.  I'm not going to put them all here because I was much better back then and I have them glued in scrapbooks I hate to destroy, but I placed one on the top of this page.  All the photos look similar. Some of the orbs almost have little faces in them. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Fringelology is an exploration of the paranormal by award winning journalist Steve Volt.  Steve Volt explores the world of the paranormal with a cautious eye in this fun book.  The book covered a lot of ground and explored a wide range of the paranormal.  Volt started with a unique hypothesis.   He set out with the argument that the study of the paranormal is polarized and biased to the point that it is almost never regarded in any kind of  real fashion.  He argues that there tend to be three groups and that all three groups are so passionate and furiously biased that they can't even really look at the subject of the paranormal in an unbiased light.  He lists these groups as skeptics, religious folks, and paranormal true believers.  He says the skeptics tend to lump religious and paranormal together and will defend the most unlikely natural explanation  before even thinking about a paranormal explanation.  The religious people tend to view the paranormal as the dark arts and the true believers in the paranormal will fight to believe any paranormal event no matter how unlikely it is to have occurred.   He is most passionate about skeptics who he believes are irrational in their closed mindedness.  He neither endorses nor argues against the paranormal but rather says that we should study it with he same objective, open mindedness we do any other occurrence rather than say faulty plumbing is the explanation for every phantom noise when it couldn't possibly be faulty plumbing.

Volt then presents a number of interesting chapters which cover various aspects of the paranormal.  The chapter called Death and Not Dying was the most interesting to me as it covered Elisabeth Kulber-Ross's interesting journey from being the authority on death and coping with death and grieving into a world of near death experiences and the paranormal.  Her journey is riveting.  Other chapters discuss UFOs, lucid dreams, ghosts, telepathy, and communicating with the dead.   Volt's usual way of exploring these topics is to pick a respectable scientist who has studied or been involved in the study of said subject and explore their findings, life, and opinions.

Overall,  I love this book.  It is well written and covers a lot of ground that has never been covered.  I couldn't put the book down.  I like Volt's argument that the paranormal should be study objectively and I believe he does an excellent job supporting this.   Volt is a good writer and his style made this book a quick and easy read.  However,  I am nit picky and Volt spent a good deal of time with psychologists and psychiatrists.   It did bother the hell out of me that he couldn't seem to keep the two straight.  Kubler-Ross is  a  psychiatrist.  She went to medical school.  Psychologists don't go to medical school.  We aren't MDs.  Throughout the book he called her a psychologist so often I didn't know in later chapters when he talked about psychologists if he was really talking about psychologists or psychiatrists.  This is important because psychiatrists study the medication end of the field, while psychologists are more mired in research and talk therapy.    He also presented new theoretical ideas that groups of psychiatrists or psychologists (I can't tell) dreamt up and presented them as actual diagnoses followed by statements that diagnoses aren't  real.   Just for the record,  according to the international medical community diagnoses are real and help to treat people who are sick.  For example, diagnosing someone with schizophrenia helps find the proper treatment for them.  In order to be a real diagnosis to be considered real,  it must come out of the DSM or ICD (the most current revision) and have a code and have been agreed on by an enormous panel of professionals.  I can't just dream up farting monster syndrome write a paper about it and call it a diagnosis.  It would take years of study and tons of support and research by more people than me to make my farting monster syndrome a working diagnosis that I could bill for.  Volt was similarly weak in his explanation of  the placebo effect, which he described as close to paranormal.  I won't explain why, because that would probably annoy everyone but me,  but there are oceans of data explaining why the placebo effect occurs and none of it is paranormal.  Volt also ignored theories on poltergeists that attribute them to one person when he described his house as being haunted by a poltergeist.   I could go on like this with other nit picky points of science and medicine and the paranormal for pages, but I'll stop here and say that had Volt been a little more careful in these types of details I would say his book is up there with Spook as one of my favorite paranormal books.  Volt managed to collect some really fascinating paranormal stories and tie them together with a brilliant writing style.  For me the devil may be in the details, but perhaps I am being too harsh.  To the normal reader who isn't a psychologist  these details would be lost.  The flow of the narrative and the structure of the book would be more pronounced and Volt certainly tells many good stories of those fighting for a scientific regard for paranormal subjects in a world than generally gives them as much regard as unicorns and fairy god mothers.