One book leads to another...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dauntless Departed

With 400 miles of coastline; dotted with captivating harbor towns infused with impeccable New England charm, it’s difficult to imagine Rhode Island as the smallest state in the nation. More so, the fact that sixty percent of the state is densely burgeoning forest land. It’s important to note that in this state, no one may bite off the leg of another, and the throwing of pickle juice on a trolley is prohibited. 
In 1907, when whiskey magnate Edson Bradley first built his 40 thousand Sq. Ft. home in Washington, DC, he called it Aladdin’s Palace. Covering nearly a full city block and, among many other impressive attributes, sporting a chapel big enough to seat 150 people. What caught the attention of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” was when he moved it to Newport in 1923! Incorporating the massive home into an existing mega mansion called Seaview Terrace, he, along with wife Julia, lived out their lives in the idyllic “Cottage” by the sea. Mrs. Bradley, they say, loved the place so much her Esty organ can still be heard on quiet windswept nights, along with footsteps, jiggling door handles and soft voices. Though the sprawling mansion had fallen into sad disrepair by 1974, it was purchased by Milton and Millicent Carey; who began immediate restorations and renamed it Carey Mansion.
If the image brings to mind Dark Shadows, it’s because it was indeed the (exterior) setting used for the fictional Collinwood Mansion. 

Connecticut, Bridgeport
While traveling through the birthplace state of the Frisbee, and Noah Webster (Hartford) you might want to keep in mind that it’s illegal to cross a street while walking on your hands, you may not educate dogs and kissing your wife on Sunday is prohibited.

Decommissioned since 1986, the old Remington Arms Factory is far from abandoned. Aside from migrant homeless and passing fugitives, there are more than a few who haven’t left the building since they died there.  Dating back to WWI, this was the site of what the New York Times dubbed the “greatest small arms and ammunition plant in the world”, boasting well over 17,000 employees with an implicit emphasis on production rather than safety; which led to an extremely high mortality rate among workers. In 1905 three men were killed when an explosion blew one the 38 buildings to literal pieces. Lead dust from the accident filled the factory and resulted in the slow demise of many with prolonged contact. Demand for munitions was still high in 1914 when the workers staged an uprising in protest of the dire conditions, which was quickly and forcibly quelled by Remington Security in accordance with local Police forces. But it was yet another explosion and subsequent fire in a munitions building that blew bullets into adjacent buildings and nearby neighborhoods that signaled the inevitable end to one of the most dangerous industrial transgressions in history when 7 workers were killed and 80 more injured. These days; according to locals and those on security patrol, the building remains quite alive with the disgruntled spirits and disembodied screams and voices of those who are not.

Did you watch Dark Shadows? Is there a pie plate in your cupboard? Would you visit these places?

Thanks for coming along!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mindful Presences

After a few work related detours, I’m back on the road again! To my delight, my first stop happens to contain more than a 100 covered bridges! Can you imagine my astonishment when I discovered there is (according to reports) at least one covered bridge still standing in at least 30 states, and I hadn’t ever seen – let alone been on – one?

It comes as no surprise that the legendary Von Trapp family chose to settle in the boreal forest ridges of Vermont where every season bursts in festive dress; as it reminded them of the Alpine setting of their homeland. Known for Dairies, lakes and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Vermont is also the largest U.S. producer of Maple syrup and (at one time) Marble; the legacy of which still remains in the form of sidewalks. Wow. 

At one time, it was illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole, though other changes are slower to come about. For example, the Police Academy in the town of Pittsford has a unique recruit in the form of Nurse Mary; who’s been there since the building served as the State (mostly tuberculosis) Sanatorium.  Though Mary eventually succumbed to the disease herself, she was and evidently remains compassionate, as she reportedly continues to respond to late night buzzes on the antiquated call system installed in every room.

Moving on to Massachusetts, there are a few special laws to be aware of, such as no Gorilla shall ride in the back seat of any car, snoring is prohibited unless windows are shut and locked, and mourners may eat no more than three sandwiches at a single wake. They may have had my next stop in mind on that last one.

Secluded in the verdant fern and grassy woodlands of Leicester is a cemetery called Spider Gates. This atmospherically pleasant place might well be a public park; if not for the dear departed resting there. The name describes entrance gates of iron that do resemble spider webs (some say sunrays), though the official name is Friends Cemetery; owned and maintained by the Quakers. There’s a well-worn path in the earth around the grave of Marmaduke Earl, where walking ten times around at midnight is said to bring good favor and sometimes whispers from the spirit himself! Beyond the majestic hanging tree and alter, the low stone wall which surrounds the cemetery is often dotted with assorted coins for the ferryman; as it and stands before the path to Kettle brook, rumored to actually be the River Styx

Is there a covered bridge in your state? Have you been or would you visit either of these places? What would you say or write about them?

On a stone and marble bench at Spider Gates, sweet Mary nibbles a sandwich near the headstone of her only love and fondly recalls the last kiss they shared in the shelter of Emily’s Bridge before she’d hurried off to her duties at the Sanatorium and he never made it out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

During the Hours of Darkness

This week, in my never-ending search for all things odd and ghostly, I’ve been exploring the oldest region in the country – New England! Today the state of Maine has captured my attention. Home of the largest toothpick factory in the United States, Maine encompasses nearly as many square miles as the other five New England states combined, and like most of our states still carries a few odd old laws on their books. For instance, it is customary to bring your shotgun to church on Sunday - in the event of a Native American attack, and stepping out of a plane in flight is prohibited.  I hear they make the best Clam “Chowda”, but for now, it’s the charm of the coastline that lures me with summoning harbors so deep as to port the lot of worldwide Navy fleets!

Accessible only by boat or helicopter, the Seguin Island Lighthouse stately stands as Maine’s tallest and second oldest maritime watchtower; overlooking breathtaking views of the mainland and mid-Atlantic coast.  The winters are long and understandably desolate for a young Keeper’s wife, and to alleviate her boredom her husband ordered a piano.  The young wife immediately took to the clavichord and proceeded to play the only song for which sheet music had been provided; over and over. And over again. Driven quite insane by the inveterate repertoire, her husband took an ax to the piano one night, before using it on his wife, and then himself.  According to legend, the piano was never truly silenced; for a lone melodic stanza tinkles soft on wintry seaboard breeze, and soothes the plight of the Keeper’s soul; ever searching for she who plays.         

Note to Self: Not all Superhighways are fast and free. Sometimes you have to waitand pay! Toll roads? Meanwhile, back on the mainland
It can be challenging enough to find a headstone by day, but imagine traipsing around the Old Anderson Cemetery in Windham, Maine – at night!  Dating back to the 1700’s and accommodating many more than just the Anderson family, this place has raised hackles in broad daylight when visitors returning to their cars find the doors wide open. But its popularity is derived from activities detected after-hours; when you need permission to be there. One of the more obvious, yet benign attractions is a three-foot mound; designating the resting spot of a decorated soldier, in a veritable sea of markers placed on flat ground. Then there is the ‘den’, a cave-like area inhabited by an unfriendly entity with hot, fetid breath; which shows up in pictures as a red orb. If you’re still feeling brave, you can visit the mausoleum and listen to someone (something?) knocking to be let out. If you’re like me, by now you’re high-tailing it out of there as shadows furtively dart between trees, only to find your dome light on in a car that won’t unlock!  (Note: Cell Phones do sometimes work out there - thankfully)

If you were to use one of these settings in a story, which one would it be? Have you been or would you visit either place? 

Thanks for coming along!