Friday, September 26, 2008

Of Fates and Fortunes...

Gary and Anne Henry of Coronation, County Durham, were just scraping by financially. They ran a small sandwich shop out of a converted shipping container. It was just another dreadfully rainy day two weeks ago on Tuesday when a ragged woman approached the stand. She was soaked, so Anne offered her a cup of hot tea and an egg sandwich.

The woman went on to tell Mrs. Henry that she was a gypsy, capable of predicting the future. Anne was accustomed to odd people making odd claims, so she politely brushed off the notion.

"You're going to win on the lottery," the old woman said. "I can see a four but I don't know how many zeros." The gypsy went on to mention many factual things about the Henry family before finishing her cup of tea and vanishing into the rainfall. Anne went about her day not giving it much thought.

Until Saturday.

Gary purchased a lottery ticket shortly before the drawing. And it won.

The prize? £4,493,783.

They plan on building their dream home and living off the interest from depositing the money in a bank account (approximately £19,000 per month, after taxes). As for the business, they'll be giving it to their sons to keep in the family.

The couple would very much like to thank the mystery woman, yet she remains unidentified. "We have no idea who she was, though I hope we meet her again," Anne said. "I expect she'll be back at Christmas, with a wheelbarrow."

Oh, ye of little faith...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shiver Me Timbers...

Since I missed last week's celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I'd take the time to write a better-late-than-never bit about those interesting pirates of yore, Anne Bonny and Pierre Bouspeut: tales of a different sort of romance on the high seas.

Anne Bonny was a fierce Irishwoman who turned to a life of piracy while living in New Providence (now known as Nassau). It was there where she befriended many other pirates, and a man named Pierre, who operated a few businesses on the island, including a dressmaker's shop.

Pierre Bouspeut was known by several names. Pierre Delvin. Peter Bosket. Yet one stands out among the rest: "Pierre the Pansy Pirate". That's right, Pierre was gay. And what did he and Anne choose as their first ship to pillage? A French merchant vessel laden with expensive cloth! The duo stole a boat from the harbor, covered its sails with turtle blood, set up a bloodied dressmaker's mannequin on the deck, and had Anne stand beside it with a blood-soaked axe. Upon seeing the ghastly site in the moonlight, the French sailors immediately handed over all their cargo.

I'm sure Pierre was in heaven.

Anne's partner in crime was John "Calico Jack" Rackham (whom "Jack Sparrow" may have been loosely based upon), nicknamed for the colorful clothing he wore... which happened to be lovingly created by his "companion", Pierre Bouspeut. Calico Jack met his demise after being captured on his ship, Revenge, in October of 1720 (his crew was drunk from a night of celebrating a hefty cargo seized from a commercial Spanish ship). He was hung for piracy on the island of Jamaica in a spot now called Hangman's Cay or Rackham's Cay. The rest of his crew, presumably including Pierre, were tried and later hanged in February of 1721 at Port Royal.

Anne was also said to have had a lesbian love-affair with the only other documented female pirate on the seas, Mary "Mark" Read. Mary died in childbirth while imprisoned with Anne. Anne, though, seemingly vanished. It is rumored that she escaped and lived out her days in Charles Towne (Charleston), South Carolina.

Who knew there was so much intrigue and alternative lifestyles in pirate life?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nose Over Matter...

Suffering from bad dreams? Don't just dream of better sleep. Get yourself some roses.

Scientists in Germany have discovered a correlation between dreams and scent. While pleasing smells seem to result in positive dreams, offensive odors can lead to nightmares. Studies lead by Professor Boris Stuck at the University Hospital Mannheim involved 15 sleeping volunteers exposed to various scents during REM sleep. They were soon awakened and interrogated regarding the content of their dreams.

“The emotional coloration of dreams," stated the researchers at a Chicago meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology, "can be significantly influenced in accordance with the hedonic aspect of the stimulant."

According to Cardiff University's Professor Tim Jacob, "Smell is the only sense that doesn't 'sleep'... Other senses have to pass through the 'gate' of the thalamus, which is closed when we sleep."

The researchers are currently planning a study involving people suffering from nightmares.

And if your partner has a problem with flatulence in the middle of the night, you finally have an excuse to kick him or her out of bed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

They Really Bought the Farm...

Cows in Tennessee are feeling a sense of unease.

Union County residents along Hickory Valley Road noticed vultures circling a pasture near their property last week. Upon closer inspection, the bodies of eleven cows were found scattered across the property belonging to E. G. McCoy of Knoxville. Assuming the animals had been shot, police were notified. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture disagreed with the verdict.

According to their workers, and those at the University of Tennessee's Animal Clinic, there were no signs of bullet wounds. In fact, no cause of death could immediately be determined. Sergeant Mike Butcher (aptly named) of the Sheriff's Department said that biopsies of the bodies were taken Thursday and investigators are awaiting the results.

"Nobody's seen anything like it," Butcher stated. "It's a first for us."

Four other cows survived. No evidence of foul (or bovine) play could be found. A few local residents claimed to witness UFOs the same night, but authorities aren't ruling anything out at this time.

Of course, if you want to witness your own cow abduction by an alien, you may not have to wait for extraterrestrial life forms. Designer Lasse Klein is working toward production of an Alien Abduction Lamp, complete with human and cow for teleportation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Thespians of Doom...

Last night was a reunion of sorts; the (very) few of us from an old ghost hunting group reunited for an evening in an old theatre facing demolition. At 8:00 PM, we were locked inside the partially-renovated structure to begin our vigil. Of course, we spent a good portion of our time reminiscing and laughing, recalling funny moments from the past and laughing at the occasional mindless remark spoken without thinking of the consequences. Needless to say, we all have an overabundant sense of humor.

Amid heaps of dismantled theater seats, we explored each floor of the structure. In the basement, I noticed some old bits of history: old signs from the facade, doors for the entrances and rooms, and broken stained glass. Dust filled the air. I wished I had brought anything to drink with me. Both the laughter and stale air prolonged the headache which plagued me all day.

We heard a few faint noises, some of which could be explained by outside traffic. Occasional knocks came from far corners, but with the echo in the auditorium, it was impossible to locate a source. While exploring the projection booth, a bang came from the cutting room. While the woman I was with quickly headed the opposite way, I ventured in to explore it. There seemed to be no known source of the sound.

Being the history buff that I am, I couldn't leave the 80-year-old structure without a souvenir or two. It was, after all, expected to be demolished if possible plans to salvage it didn't go through. I found a wooden arm from one of the old seats with a brass number plate (lucky number seven) and placed it with my things. And while exploring the projection area, I couldn't help but notice a set of old cast iron, hand-cranked reel rewinds (judging by their appearance, original to the building) bolted to a makeshift table. Lacking the necessary tools, a washer made a decent screwdriver to remove them.

I'm a film and history buff. I couldn't resist.

We left after midnight, failing to make any definitive contact with "Elizabeth", a spirit who may dwell there. I headed out the front door, lugging my antiquated (and quite heavy) cargo. It wasn't until I made my way home and had a very late supper that my headache finally abated.

I did get a little flack for removing artifacts from a haunted structure. I did get permission to take the objects, mind you, but one person in particular asked me about any concern I might have taking something ghostly along with them. Bollocks. "Nah, I'm not worried. I've taken things before over the years. Nothing has ever happened," I said. And it's true. I've never had anything odd happen after removing something from a haunted place. Perhaps it's because I've always had good intent when removing anything. They have always been "souvenirs", but with the mindset of preserving a bit of history that would otherwise be destroyed. It has never been "because the place is haunted". It is always "because it'll end up in a landfill and no one gives a darn about preserving these sorts of things".

I think any spooks appreciate that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

To Err Is Human...

I was at my computer all day yesterday, yet didn't find time to post anything. Instead, I was working on a few dozen pages for my revamped website. It too a lot longer than expected since I forgot to bookmark several websites to gather information about different places open to the public. I still have to tackle brief histories of each place, but I'll get to that eventually.

Research has showed to a painstaking level for the book. But I'm all about historical accuracy so it'll be worth it. Unfortunately, this means there are numerous errors in my "road trips" that will be corrected as time progresses. I'm attempting to find genealogical information for a few places to verify ghostly legends, but that's not proving to be very easy. I have gathered enough evidence, though, to safely say that an article produced in the LA Times about one specific place contains a few errors... and a book by Troy Taylor about Hollywood haunts is riddled with inaccuracies when it comes to one tale in particular (if a 40th birthday party was held for the son of a prominent citizen on the date mentioned, that would mean his mother would have been 3 years old... I doubt even then they started that young).

Otherwise, I've run across some odd bits for future posts and have a busy evening of ghost hunting in store for me, which I'll touch upon tomorrow. For now, I have a few things to hurry up and complete before I run out of time!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Could It Be... Satan??

As if Iran didn't have its share of problems already, the country if facing a greater threat than the Taliban: Satan worshipers.

According to Iranian police, dozens of satanic cults have infiltrated the country and are running amok. Books about satanism are available in the country, and the press claims they are attempting to turn people against Islamic faith.

Here's what AsiaOne News had to say in their report:

Such groups commonly "deviate from conventional religions, make false promises, sexually exploit" and "are tasked with (promoting) Islamophobia," [deputy police chief Hossein] Zolfaghari said.

"Satan-worshippers wear broken-cross and skeleton necklaces and rings, drink alcohol and dance in their ceremonies. They believe they should defy religions, especially Islam, do as they want and drag the world into anarchy."

Zolfaghari said some of these groups sought to "attract young people by playing satanic music during (private) sports activities," had books in English and "gather in parks to talk about events across the country and Satan."

Sounds like the average American teenager to me. And most politicians. Well, perhaps minus the necklaces and music.

230 people were arrested at an underground rock concert near Tehran after being accused of worshiping Satan and wearing clothing "contrary to Islamic law".

All this from the same country that hanged two teenagers for being gay years ago.

Something smells funny here. And it's not goat's blood.

Misery Loves Company...

Who says games were meant to be fun and cheerful? One card game created by Keith Baker changed that belief. It's called Gloom.

Lemony Snicket meets The Addams Family in this bizarre game that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud. Players try to bring down their misfit families with dreaded disease and calamities, while cheering up their opponents with weddings and the like. It's a game of losing self-esteem; he or she with the lowest total Family Value wins.

Gloom is available from Atlas Games at a wide range of stores. It's intended for two to four players, ages 8 and up. Expansion packs, such as Unwelcome Guests, Unfortunate Expeditions, and Unhappy Homes, are also available.

So if you're looking for something a little macabre to play this autumn, this just might be the ticket...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just a Sorcerer Loser...

A football match in the town of Butembo in Democratic Republic of Congo turned deadly last week. Not from overzealous fans, but hexing.

Nyuki was losing against the local team, Socozaki. In an effort to sway the odds in their favor, Nyuki's goalie performed a little ritual in an effort to curse the opposition. A brawl started between players, resulting in an all-out riot.

Eleven people were killed. Several others were seriously injured.

Africans take witchcraft as seriously as their football. Throughout the summer, dozens of people have been killed in western Africa for practicing black magic.

And to think fans of American football claim to be rowdy...

Put the Crystal Ball Down and Come Out with Your Hands Up...

Last month, new age practitioners breathed a sigh of relief in Vermont. A 1966 ban on fortunetelling was lifted in the town of St. Johnsbury on August 21st. Among the many acts deemed illegal by the former law were tarot reading, palmistry, and even feng shui.

Many communities across the country, from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C. to Florida, have similar laws on the books in an effort to prevent fraud. Arguably, these could also be considered infringements of freedom of religion in many cases.

Last year, Livingston Parish in Louisiana officially outlawed fortunetelling. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania discovered a forgotten law and cracked down on tarot readers, crystal gazers, astrologers, and psychics, closing businesses across the city.

Yet Scientology, with its belief in alien beings forming humanity and returning to earth one day, remains protected by religious freedom.

We may all have our opinions of different practices, but everything from psychics to ghosts to voodoo is a part of our culture: our human makeup. If Ebay can sell a grilled cheese Virgin Mary effigy for thousands of dollars, is there really anything inherently wrong with someone asking for a few bucks for a palm reading?

It may not last as long, but there's no worry of mold from it killing you...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Got a Light?

I wasn't lying about catching up on posts. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had an alternative plan. Sunday evening, the lights flickered off and on several times before going dark at 8:00 PM. It was only at 10 PM tonight (two hours after being reassured, so to speak, by the electric company that power wouldn't be restored until Friday) that my bedroom light astonishingly began to glow once more.

So, the past 48 hours has been spent panicking about coffee, figuring creative means to cook meals, and feeling immense frustration at getting NOTHING done. I managed to write a few paragraphs of work longhand, but all my research was on my laptop (which was nearly dead), so that little deadline of mine? Yeah... it's beyond crunch time now. Three days of lost work at a time when I was eager to tackle things. Yipes.

For having days without power, the "storm" was an exaggeration. Two hours of gusty breezes with winds capping at 65 MPH. After the winds turned to stillness, a trickle of precipitation fell in the dark hour before midnight. I've seen much worse, and for the power to be lost like this boggles my mind.

Nonetheless, it's back to work... and back to blogging tomorrow, followed by a ton of catch-up work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creepy Queer Photo Ops...

I stumbled across this illustration while doing some research last week, and given its supernatural (and homoerotic) nature, I thought it fitting for this blog.

The artist is a creative and talented man named Valerhon. Mythological themes run throughout his body of work, yet I find the darkness intriguing. You can check out his blog for more information and to view more examples of his work. I know one picture, titled "Blessing of the Sidhe" will get the attention of a certain someone...

This painting is entitled "The Immortal".

Click on the picture to view the full-sized image. But I should warn you now, there is full frontal nudity involved...

Secret Agent Man...

Honestly, I am alive and well. I haven't entered the Witness Protection Program or passed out cold in a dark alley. Nor have I started work for the CIA and abandoned my former identity. I've had a bit of a busy week and battled my internet connection more times than not. It's been one of those weeks, I guess.

I am, of course, pondering the age-old dilemma: is a literary agent a wise move?

I'll get caught up on my blog posts soon. Deadlines are looming over my head, though, so don't be shocked if my posts aren't on a daily basis. I do have a few lined up, though, so they should be up by the time Hurricane Ike swings into Ohio and brings a few good storms to my neighborhood.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shake, Rattle, and Roll...

Crazy start to the week. My entire family has been on edge lately, waiting to see what happens with my sister. She was due on Friday, and the doctors decided to induce her today if nothing had happened. And so, she entered the hospital at 7:00 this morning.

At 6:30 this evening, I officially became an uncle. My new niece is (and no, I had NOTHING to do with the decision, nor did I even make any suggestions) named Sydney.

Yes, I'm getting old. I've become the "funny uncle" in so many ways...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quirky Paranormal News Shorts...

Just to catch everyone up on some of the news of the odd from the past few weeks, here's a brief glimpse at some of the world's more strange occurrences.

Big Fish, Mork, Mork, Mork!

A local videographer in Sweden claims to have captured footage of Storsjöodjuret, Sweden's version of the Loch Ness Monster. The creature in great Lake has been spotted hundreds of times over the past 400 years. It is described as a humped serpent with the head of a dog. Just be careful to keep the Swedish Chef at bay. Who knows what he might do with such a delicacy.

Your Mystic Money's Not Good Here...

In King County, the Solid Waste Division as turned down psychic funds. Seattle psychic Alexandra Chauran was impressed with the composting of our bodily functions and offered to donate her services for a fund-raising program for the Christmas holiday. They replied with a "thanks, but no thanks", stating that a paranormal business was "not an appropriate fit for a county program". Crooked politicians? Yes! Tarot readers and pet psychics? Absolutely not!

What Big Feet You Have...

Fossilized footprints believed to belong to a bigfoot-like creature have been unearthed near Cookville, Tennessee. They were discovered by Harold Jackson on his property and measure 15 inches long and 11 inches wide. Jackson thinks they're simply Native American tracks. That might be wise, after the bigfoot corpse hoax of recent news. Still, footprints that large are questionable, unless it was a native basketball player from the past.

Police Hounds of the Baskervilles...

A band of would-be ghost hunters broke into Westboro State Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts to hunt for ghost of the former mental patients. What they encountered instead was the rattling of handcuffs as local police arrived on the scene. One man jumped from a window and eluded police, while the others quickly ran out when they heard the police dogs bark. They were arrested on charges of trespassing and breaking and entering. But luckily, they weren't bitten by any dogs... or ghosts.

Religion and the Grape Lady...

That pesky Virgin Mary keeps popping up everywhere. Now she's taking over the supermarket fruit aisle! 24-year-old Becky Ginn of Arlington, Virginia found her effigy on a grape and blogged about it on Livejournal. After some prodding from readers, she contacted the local media. Ginn, a Baptist, hasn't given any thought to idolizing the green relic. But if she plans to sell it, she probably should do so before it becomes another California raisin.

That's all the wierdness for the day. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Creepy Queer Photo Ops...

Who knows what evil lurks within the... um, rears of men? Gives a whole new meaning to "enter at your own risk"!

Deluged with Ghosts and Technical Glitches...

My postings on here have been quite erratic lately. I do apologize for that. But it's not without reason.

Most of the time I've spent writing lately has been working on research, notes, and chapters for my new pet project. I've spent a lot of time reading various books and writing pages of notes, verifying facts and half-truths to get accurate information about various hauntings. After translating my scribbles (anyone who has seen my handwriting knows it's worse than a doctor's), I've been writing drafts for chapters and revising them after a few days away to clear my mind. My own personal deadlines have kept me quite occupied.

I took a brief break this week to write up a historical sketch as well. I researched a building months ago and packed the notes away, only to be asked about them a few days ago. I pulled out my old information and typed up a detailed background paper for the owner.

My wireless connection seems to be on the fritz as well. Originally, I thought it was a problem with the router, but instead it's in the wireless card. Apparently, jostling around a laptop and bashing the card against objects and my knee doesn't do it too well! lately, whenever I'm in the middle of anything online, it suddenly shuts itself off and I have to jiggle it to get it working again. I'll be remedying that tomorrow, and next week I'll avoid the hassle by trying to directly connect to the DSL (wish me luck on that one).

I still haven't touched the website redesigns. I have the basic pages done, but there is so much more to add and edit. Trying to get everything running properly isn't always easy, but I'm content in its simplicity. It's quick-loading, clean, and writing-intensive. Still, I have finished the basic work on my new Cafepress account for the site. Some graphics will be changed as I have creative bursts and think of better designs, but the basics are up and running. I always welcome feedback and suggestions as well. There are a few designs I have in mind, but haven't found a proper way of translating them to images.

Otherwise, it's back to the grind for me. Back to covering the rest of the Lizzie Borden story often left out in paranormal tales, researching a cross-dressing businessman, and recalling a famous musician who worried that being known to be gay would make that the only thing he was remembered for (which, inadvertently, became true). So much fascinating work and odd histories.

I have to say it: I truly love this project. And I haven't said that about any writing work of mine in almost a decade.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Bumpy Night for Spooks...

New Orleans may be relieved that Hurricane Gustav bypassed the city, but not everyone fared so well. Of all the places suffering severe damage from the storm, a famous haunted location was hit hardest.

The beloved Myrtles Plantation was rocked with high wind and pelted by rain during the storm. The list of damages is more extensive than we would have hoped.

Early indications of severe effects of Gustav include leaks in the roof and an unnatural sway to the frame itself. People staying in the home feared that it may actually blow over. Trees and debris are strewn across the property. One tree fell near the restaurant and another nearly missed the Caretaker's Cottage.

The gift shop, housed in the rear of the Bradford House, is gone. This first building built on the property was felled by a tree. A hand-etched stained glass in the front of the house was blown out. It is beyond repair and irreplaceable.

This information was confirmed by an employee and forwarded to me via email.

If you have further information on this, please let me know. As damages are further assessed, I'll update everyone.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The XXX Files...

You may know David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, one of the two FBI agents from the television series X Files. The movie came out this summer with an apathetic fanfare. Now, Duchovny, 48, has followed the footsteps of so many other Hollywood stars and entered rehab.

But he's not an alcoholic or cocaine junkie. Duchovny has a sex addiction.

In an ironic twist, this year Duchovny won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a sex-addicted struggling writer on Californication. Sometimes, life imitates art.

Duchovny is asking for people to respect his privacy at this time. It has been a difficult time for him, his wife Téa Leoni, and their two children.

Back in 1998, Leoni squashed rumors of her husband's high libido. "David was accused of being a sex addict," she said. "Which I always found very exciting. And then I found out it wasn't true."

Apparently, I Want to Believe turned into 'the truth is out there'.