Monday, October 27, 2008

Graveyard Madness!

I like graveyards. More than I should, some would say. I’ve read book after book on these strange and mysterious places, I visit them whenever I can (one more reason why New England is such a great place to live), and I always slow down when I see them near the road, much to the annoyance of the drivers behind me. Sometimes I think I’m more at home in a graveyard than a mall full of people.

But maybe that’s because the dead are easier to talk to.

Over the years, I’ve seen countless graves, some elaborate, some just the facts, ma’am, some are only a stone without words. I think these blank faces sadden me more than the ones with words. Someone cared enough to mark the passing of a loved one, but could not afford to pay for a gravestone. Most likely it’s the grave of an infant or young chil who did not survive long enough to warrant the expense of a gravestone. That sounds coldhearted, I suppose, but when it comes down to buying a stone or feeding your remaining children, I think it’s only right to choose the living. The stone, unmarked, is still a memorial, whether it is fancy, or not. Someone cared. At least that’s what I like to think.

There are so many graves in this world. Children’s graves, mother’s who’ve died in childbirth, young men sent off to war, only to return home in a pine box. There are those who have lived decades beyond many of their peers, though such a long life was not necessarily a blessing. You can just tell by their gravestones that they were miserable old codgers. Mean in life, mean in death.

Others have a sense of humor about passing into the great beyond. Here are some funny epitaphs (I told you I was sick!)…


Here lies the body

Of Margaret Bent

She kicked up her heels

And away she went.


Jedediah Goodwin


Born 1828






Here lies Barnard Lightfoot

Who was accidentally killed

in the 45th year of his age.

This monument was erected

by his grateful family.

~and lastly…

Ann Mann

Here lies Ann Mann,

Who lived an old maid

But died an old Mann.

December 8, 1767


Over the centuries, countless gravestones have been knocked over, broken, or stolen. Others have simply sunk into the ground, slowly disappearing beneath a mound of thick moss. A fitting blanket for the resting soul. Perhaps the stone survives, but the writing has faded into non-existence, courtesy of the wind and rain. We may never know who lies beneath the grass. But then, there are a lot of dead who have been lost and forgotten.

Along with our new house, we acquired a graveyard. It’s a family one, with about seventeen gravestones. We managed to find one stone buried beneath the moss and leaves, nearly forgotten. Why were we the ones to find it when the previous owners, who had lived here for seventeen years, did not? Is there a story developing here? I wonder. Or is it simply a footstone, nothing special? Whatever the answer, it’s up to us to find out. Whoever it belonged to won’t be forgotten. Not on my watch!

One of the occupants died young - age twenty. Her tombstone is the most ornate of the bunch; she was obviously much loved. There are many tombstones here with the same name, or initials - a line followed, though sometimes broken. A few are children. How painful to consign a once warm, living being to the cold earth. I can understand the desire to lie down next to your beloved to keep them warm. Macabre, you think? Or human? On the other side of the coin, I have a relative who bought up twelve plots because she doesn’t want anyone to be buried by her. She will be the lone tombstone. Sounds lonely to me. No beloved will warm her plot.

There is no joy in a graveyard, yet they are not especially sorrowful, either. These idyllic spots always seem such peaceful places to me. That is, until a hand reaches up out of the ground and grabs my leg. But typically that’s no big deal. You just shake it off. They don’t mind. When my husband hides in our graveyard at night, while playing hide-and-seek with the kids, he swears he feels someone tugging on his leg. I tell him to stop being such a wimp, it’s only the spirits wanting to play.

My youngest son is glad that we bought this house because, "If somebody dies, then we have some place to bury them!" He’s a strange child - I don’t know where he gets it from. Okay, he gets it from his dad. Maybe a little from me. I do like graveyards, after all. Though here’s the funny thing. Even though I like them, I’m not sure I want to end up in one. I hate the idea of putting a lead-lined coffin into the ground - it’s so poisonous and unnecessary. I recently read about places that are eco-friendly, returning to the simple pine box of old. Hmmm… I like the idea, but I’m not sure I’d want to be buried someplace I’ve never been to. I’m also not sure I like the idea of being buried, and possibly still alive. There was a brief time when they would bury a person with a string attached to both the supposedly deceased’s hand and to a bell above ground - just in case they were still alive and needed to let somebody (who was hopefully paying attention) know. Of course, being incinerated, which is my other option, doesn’t leave much room for error, either.

Perhaps I will, like a wild animal, just crawl into the woods one day and die (provided, of course, that I live to a ripe old age and am allowed to die naturally). Under the shelter of a grand, old tree, my body will rejoin the earth, my flesh will become food, my bones, play toys for coy dogs.

It seems the ultimate way to give back and certainly better than being stuck in the ground or burned up. But that’s just my opinion. I might feel differently when I’m dead.

I’ll be sure to let you know…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Hunters!

As part of my October blogging funfest, I couldn’t possibly leave out a review of one of my new favorite shows…Ghost Hunters. I got hooked on the show last season because of my mom. She needed someone to share her addiction so she taped a bunch of episodes for my husband and myself (at the time we didn’t get the Sci-Fi station because we’re frugal). That means we were able to watch several episodes, one right after the other. We got hooked.

And now we have Sci-Fi.

I blame my mother for our decision to get the extended cable package, just so we can watch Sci-Fi. It’s not something I would do for myself. It costs more money and I really don’t want the kids watching TV all day, or myself, for that matter. But since she’s living with us now, I figured we’d better keep her happy by making sure she had her favorite channels to watch. I did this all for her. It had nothing to do with my wants or desires.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, Ghost Hunters centers around TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), a paranormal research group that travels around the U.S. gathering evidence to either confirm or debunk a purported haunting. Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson run TAPS out of Rhode Island. Surprisingly, they are about as normal as you probably could get for being ghost hunters. They seem to love what they do, but they are always happy to head home to their families at the end of the day. If they look tired to you, it’s because they are. They do all their investigations at night (natch), after working all day as plumbers for Roto Rooter.

Compared to a good portion of those working in the paranormal field, TAPS takes an unusual approach to their investigations. Their first priority is to debunk a haunting. That means they want to try and prove that what is happening is not paranormal. They appear to be very serious and dedicated to finding other explanations and are slow to call a place haunted. While they have both had their own paranormal experiences (which they won’t talk about), they are healthily skeptical and prefer to take a scientific approach to their investigations. I don’t know about you, but this makes me enjoy the show all the more. I guess it’s because when they do find something they think is a haunting, you feel like you can really believe them.

While ghost hunting, they use an array of technological devices to help them track down spirits (a.k.a. entities, full body apparitions, shadow figures, but rarely called ghosts). A few of my favorites: the thermal-imaging digital camera, which is used to record images often created by heat signatures that humans cannot see with the naked - or partly dressed - eye; a recorder that tapes EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), capturing voices or sounds ordinarily not picked up by the human ear; and K-2 meters, which measure magnetic fields. Oftentimes, the researchers use the K-2 meter to communicate with intelligent hauntings. I like watching it light up in response to questions, and not just because it’s pretty. You really feel like they’re having a conversation with the entity, or whatever it is. One time they asked a spirit, which was supposedly a 9-year-old boy, are you lonely? And he responded with a fervent, "Yes." How did they know the spirit was a boy and nine years old? They asked him.

One of my favorite episodes happened right here in my own backyard at the Mt. Washington Hotel. A princess is purported to haunt the premises (I believe it is the Princess Clarigny de Lucinge). While doing EVP work, Grant and Jason captured her replying to one of Jay’s questions. He said something like, "Where are you?" and she replied, "I’m in my room. Where are you?" At the time, he couldn’t hear her, but later when they played the EVP recording, it was very clear - I could hear her perfectly.

The Princess is what you would call an intelligent haunting because she can interact with you. A residual haunting has no sense that you are there, just keeps repeating whatever it does over an over again. I once read up on a theory that postulates that we are not actually seeing or interacting with a ghost (the spirit of a dead person), but are crossing a time-space continuum. So the princess might actually have been alive, but in her time, while Jay and Grant were doing their ghost search in their own time. It kind of makes sense to me, in a weird, fascinating sort of way.

I feel bad for the people who want ghosts and no evidence is found and vice versa, those who don’t want ghosts and several are found. Service places (restaurants, bed and breakfasts, bars) tend to like having stories to tell about hauntings. Having evidence to back up their stories always makes them that much more alluring. It’s kind of sad when TAPS does research (at the library, town hall, or on the internet), which actually shows that the stories behind the hauntings aren’t even close to being true. I think we all like a good story, and we all want to believe in that story. Their job is to debunk, which is good, but sometimes I’d rather be fooled.

One of my favorite parts about Ghost Hunters is the interaction amongst the crew. Things seem to be more tame this season, but in previous seasons there were a lot problems to work out. As an unapologetic voyeur (though not the creepy type), I like watching conflict. Jay and Grant are funny guys, and Steve, the tech guy is a smart aleck if I’ve ever seen one. He likes to poke people and his current favorite target is Tango. Tango is such a sweet guy and probably a bit naive, but he is learning to stick up for himself. Interesting fact: Steve is scared of just about everything (heights, spiders), but he’s a ghost hunter. Go figure. Kris (the main female) serves as their liason to the customers and also goes on investigations. I like her, which is too bad. No conflict there. Sigh…

This sounds morbid (which I am), but I always like when they visit asylums, prisons, and places of that sort. Tons of activity is always happening in these buildings, most likely because there’s been a lot of suffering and death inside them. On Friday, October 31st, starting at 7:00E, a special Halloween TAPS takes place at Fort Delware, a very active site. It’s supposed to be an awesome episode and you can participate in live feeds and all that fun stuff while watching. Plus, it’s hosted by Josh Gates, host of Destination Truth and one of my favorite television personalities. If you have trick-or-treating duties, you’ll have to Tivo it. We don’t have Tivo (we’re frugal, remember?) so we’ll probably have to tape it. Or go T-o-T’ing very early, which sounds better. Poor kids.

So, if you ever encounter a spirit, entity or things that go bump in the night, tell me, who you gonna call?

Ghost Hunters!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Captured Me A Castle!

Well, not really. Wishful thinking on my part. But I did visit one this weekend, named…wait for it…Hammond Castle (cue thunder and lightning now!). As part of my October blogging spooky funfest, I thought I’d share my experience with you so that for once you’ll have to live vicariously through me instead of the other way around, which is what usually happens. Not only is this castle awesome, it’s located in the U.S., which means most of you Americans reading this won’t have to cross an ocean to see it. To add flavor to my blog (just a pinch of spice), I also want to share a couple of the strange things that happened to us while we were there.

Paranormal stuff, that is…(cue thunder and lightning now!).

First off, I’ll tell you a little bit about the history of Hammond Castle. It’s located in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a beautiful town stretched out along the Atlantic Ocean. It was built by John Hays Hammond, Jr. (the guy on the right) between the years 1926 and 1929. A world traveler and inventor, he built this home for his new bride and also to accommodate both his artifacts gathered while traveling and his laboratories for inventing all his hundreds of inventions. Thanks to Mr. Hammond, we have the remote control. It if weren’t for him (and a few others) I might actually have to get up off the couch to change the channel, and that’s just wrong! You da bomb, John!

John Hammond was, at least in my (always) humble opinion, a very unique and interesting man. I think you’ll agree when you see what he did and what he created. Inside the castle, you will find one of my favorite places - a conservatory made to look like a town square. The main feature of this glass-ceilinged room is the gorgeous, plant-lined pool that can be filled with tap water or switched to seawater with just the pull of a lever. There is also an optical illusion in the pool that I’ll leave for you to discover when you visit. Fun fact: Back in the day, Mr. Hammond used to jump into the pool from one of the windows overlooking it, which would have been quite a leap from what I can see. If I had lived there, I might have tried it myself. Admit it, you would have, too.

The kids especially liked seeing all the weapons and the suit of armor, sneaking up the spiral staircases that led to the turrets, and staring at the pool, wishing they could swim in it for just a ‘little’ bit. I was of the same opinion as my wee ones, plus I enjoyed visiting the rounded library, walking through the great hall and imagining this was mine, all mine!, studying all the old artifacts (including a skull, which I’m in the market for myself), and taking in the views overlooking the ocean.

I’m thinking of putting in a bid for the place.

Now comes the paranormal part…While we were there, my husband decided to take a picture of the two younger boys in front of the suit of armor. It was my middle child’s turn. While he was patiently trying to maintain his he-man pose, my husband was fiddling with the camera, which was not cooperating. Suddenly, my hubby looks up at us.

"That’s weird," he mutters. "The words (or something close to this), ‘You are not authorized to proceed as it is not deemed to be a public photograph’ just came up on the camera screen." We looked at him strangely, as we so often do, and he shrugs. "That’s what it says." We don’t know what to tell him. Too bad it disappeared before I had a chance to confirm his report. At any rate, he finally got the camera to work and was able to take the pictures in front of the suit of armor without consequence (i.e., the ghost of John Hammond did not strike us down). Not long after that, I tried to take some pictures of my oldest son and the dang camera wouldn’t work. I kept pushing the button and finally had to turn it off and back on before it would work again. Now I know this can be put down to a mechanical problem with the camera (I’ll mention here that when we left the house, our camera was fully charged and working well), but those words coming up are hard to explain away. If this is something that can be debunked (yes, I watch Ghost Hunters), please let me know. It’s a Kodak, Easy Share DX6490. The strange thing is that I feel like I’ve heard about this before.

So what had happened here? Was it a ghost? Maybe. The camera malfunctioning? Possibly. Was it spooky? Most definitely. Good thing I like spooky.

As you can see, we always enjoy our visits to Hammond Castle. Every time I go I feel like I learn something new. For more information on the castle, click here. Keep in mind that they put on a Halloween extravaganza (which I’ve never been to and would like to try out) in the middle of October, closing the castle to regular tours during those few weeks. I advise that you call ahead. For more photos of Hammond Castle, go to my photo page. Also know that there is a nearby park (you pass it on the way to the castle) for rock climbing, playing, beach combing and picknicking. We typically visit the castle, then have lunch at the park. Though we’ve also hit a couple of the restaurants for yummy chowder, like we did this last time (since it was raining).

I’ll leave you with John Hammond’s words, written in a letter to his father in 1924:

"My ambition is to leave a modest, but beautiful, museum. I want only an authentic atmosphere, some furniture, and genuine architectural pieces — doors, windows, etc. In cold restrained New England, a place with the romantic beauty of the Italian and French past may prove the inspiration of many poor artists and students to come. It will give them something that I have been fortunate enough to know and enjoy. It also gives me satisfaction to think that I may be able to produce something of lasting worth."

I believe he certainly accomplished that.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where in the World is Harry Potter?

Imagine my dismay when I went to look up the date for the next Harry Potter movie (HP and the Half-Blood Prince), knowing it was going to be in November and getting excited, only to find that it’s been moved to July of 2009! My reaction…?

You’ve got to bleepin’ be kidding me!

Okay, okay. I know this news broke in August, but I’ve been a bit behind on things these days. Still, I was really looking forward to seeing the H-B Prince this fall. It’s been a long summer with moving and all and this movie was serving as my perfect escape to look forward to. I don’t know what the big wigs were thinking, pulling such a stunt. All the reasons they provided seemed pretty silly to me and explained nothing. Here’s two of them:

Alan Horn, President of the WB, said, "Our reasons for shifting ‘Half-Blood Prince’ to summer are twofold: we know the summer season is an ideal window for a family tent pole release, as proven by the success of our last Harry Potter film, which is the second-highest grossing film in the franchise, behind only the first installment. Additionally, like every other studio, we are still feeling the repercussions of the writers’ strike, which impacted the readiness of scripts for other films–changing the competitive landscape for 2009 and offering new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of. We agreed the best strategy was to move ‘Half-Blood Prince’ to July, where it perfectly fills the gap for a major tent pole release for mid-summer."

First of all, what’s a tent pole release? Sounds a bit naughty. Second, making such a move makes people feel bitter, especially as this stunt seemed to be all about money (and making headlines). It makes people not want to go see the movie just to prove a point. I’m still going to go (I don’t like cutting off my nose to spite my face - I’m the only who loses on that one), but I won’t like it. And that really takes away from the whole idea of Harry Potter. Magic, Fantasy, Heroism, Flying on Brooms. Harry Potter should be bigger than just the bottom line. Fans don’t want excuses about why they’re being disappointed, they want their movie when it was promised to them. I really don’t care that it puts the date closer to the release of the final movie (which is being split into 2 movies - oh, and what’s up with that?). I want my Harry Potter now!

I vote that we should get a discount on the movie price that the head honchos take out of their own pockets. That might go some ways toward making me feel better. At the very least they should pay for my popcorn and jujubees.

What do you think? Can we get them to do it? We’ll go see your movie, Mr. Horn, but first we have some demands. We pay your salary, show us how you earn it. We might even make him dance.

I think Harry Potter and the gang would approve. Now who’s with me?!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Destination Truth...Or Bust!

My friends, I have discovered a new show on that wacky machine we call the television. I don’t normally watch too much TV, preferring to…yes, read. However, my mother got me hooked on Ghost Hunters (which I will be blogging about some time during October - my month dedicated to Halloween topics, i.e., anything to do with the spooky) so naturally I began to catch glimpses of the Truth. Having seen the teasers, I ‘accidentally’ left the TV on just to see what the heck all this hype was about and got sucked into the fascinating world of Josh, Ryder, Casey and the rest of the Truth Crew.

Let me tell you something…those kids are crazy!

Seriously, they do things and go places I can’t even imagine fantasizing about doing or going to. At the beginning of the show, Josh, the show’s host and most intrepid of the bunch, says to us, "In my travels I’ve seen some unexplainable things and I’ve done some things I can’t quite explain." He means it. I sincerely believe he would walk a tightrope over the Grand Canyon while fending off hungry buzzards just to find a monster that may (or most likely doesn’t) exist. Oh, yeah, that’s what this show is about…chasing monsters (and yes, there is an uncanny resemblance to Scooby-Doo). On Wednesday’s episode, Josh joked that the rest of his crew was having trouble getting through customs because the officials weren’t buying their reason for being in the country…"Um, yes, we’re here to chase monsters." Can’t say I blame them.

The monsters the crew has chased after are pretty awesome - though some are kind of funny (like the three-foot tall monkey man). Just recently the crew chased after the Ahool - a giant flying bat with the face of a monkey and a 12-foot wingspan. I also saw an episode where they searched for angry spirits ‘living’ in a haunted cave in the middle of the jungle (which the crew could only visit after securing, for protection, a bottle of sacred water obtainable at the bottom of a sheer cliff - even with that great protection, their native guides abandoned them after only a short time in the cave). There was the Yowie to track - a bigfoot-like monster (I swear every country has their own version) and a wicked looking dinosaur in Australia. Two different episodes explored claims of giant water monsters - neither of them Nessie - one of which lived in mercury-infested waters (a mutant in mercury-poisoned waters? what a surprise!) in a lake in Indonesia. I’m not sure if I admire the crew’s decision to dive in deadly waters to search out the monster that was scaring the fisherfolk, or amazed at their lack of intelligence. Okay, they weren’t being stupid…they knew the risks they were taking, but wow, they went ahead and did the dive anyway because they wanted to reassure the frightened people. I hope they don’t end up growing another head from their exposure…great, another mouth to feed! Talk about no good deed going unpunished.

Ryder is the only female member of the crew (that I’ve seen so far). She’s an interesting study in contrasts. Here she is on this show choosing to do all these dangerous things, but she doesn’t seem all that thrilled to be doing them. I like this contradiction. Something else I’ve noticed: they often put this camera on her shoulder so that you get this close-up of her face (typically in the dark), which is always very expressive, especially in the green glow of night vision. If something is going to happen, you’ll see it on her face. She always looks ready to bolt at the first sound, yet she continues to go out on these adventures again and again. Why? I’m not sure. Still, I am impressed with her gumption. Though maybe she does these crazy things because she’s in love with one of the crew members. I have my guesses as to who.

After doing a little research, I just found out that Ryder has a first name…Erin. I thought it was Ryder. And Casey grew up on a farm. And Josh has a degree in Archeology and Drama (go figure). They take a medic along with them named Jarrod, who is just as involved in the adventures as everyone else. He is trained in deep sea diving and saving lives. They seem to use his services a lot. I think they also need to add a mechanic (and/or a mechanical engineer) to the crew. Things are always breaking on them.

During one episode, while in Australia, the crew drives by a sign that says, "Don’t risk your life" and Josh turns to the camera with this this querying look on his face, like what’s that all about? But does it stop him? No. Not jeeps that break down, day-long train rides, spider bites, cliffs, or lack of evidence. He is unstoppable, like a superhero, or something.

At any rate, I can’t wait to see where Josh and the Truth Crew are heading next. I haven’t even seen that many episodes yet but I’m already a convert.

But maybe that’s because I can handle the truth! Can you?

The Truth