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I'm sorry that I'm starting out 2008 with a late issue, but I've been under hack-attack. For a couple of weeks now, anytime someone sent me an email they got an error message saying that it couldn't be delivered. I was still getting most emails, but it looked to the world like my email was completely down. My ISP finally determined that my personal website was being bombarded with connections by a hacker-type program that was trying to busy out the site so that no one else could get there. The same thing then started happening to The Grove website, so I've had to remove all the files and give it a few days for this joker to lose interest. Anyway, between the quilt show two weekends ago and Mardi Gras this past weekend, AND fighting cyber-wars, things have just been CrAzY.
Long-time subscribers to the GroveZine may remember a close encounter of the critter kind that we had back in May of 2006 when we found an opossum in the house (see the GroveZine archives for the story). Well, this past month we had another wild animal encounter. We were sitting in the den watching TV and noticed that our basset Lily was in the game room intently staring up at the ceiling. Curiosity finally got the best of us, and Tami got up to investigate. Suddenly, she said, "There's a bird in here!" Sure enough, there was, and it was perched near the ceiling. Even though we had no idea how it got in, we wanted to get it out unharmed... the only problem was that we didn't have a net of any kind. In a burst of inspiration, we bent a wire clothes hanger into a circle and attached it to a broom handle with duct tape. For the net part, we used a plastic Wal-Mart bag - it was plastic so it would keep its shape, but being paper-thin it wouldn't hurt our feathered friend. After stalking the little fellow through several rooms, we finally cornered him up front in the dining room, and managed to get the makeshift net over him. Quickly taking him outside, we watched as he flew away into the wooded area across the street. The wildlife catch-and-release program is still in full force here at The Grove.
Well, the long-awaited episode of HGTV's "If Walls Could Talk" featuring The Grove aired in January, and we were very happy with it. There's a few story-related shortcuts that they took, but they were working to get it within the time constraints. The show focused on Charlie Young, the barber who bought the house in 1885. Hopefully he's happy with it as well.
Like I mentioned before, the annual "Quilts on the Bayou" show was held a couple of weeks ago, and it was a rousing success. Somewhere around a thousand people came through to see over 100 quilts entered in competition, not to mention all those just on display. I've been volunteering there since the first year, so I'm in and out all weekend. They've outgrown their current venue, and will be spreading out for the 2009 show. This year I bought a couple of raffle tickets on quilts being used for fundraisers by various groups, because there's nothing that I like more on a cold winter's night than snuggling down under a big heavy quilt. When I mentioned that fact at the show, everyone recoiled in horror - apparently these quilts are for looking at, not for using to keep warm. They just better hope that I don't win the drawing!
Just this past weekend was Mardi Gras in Jefferson, a celebration that goes back to the 1800s when we were connected by river to New Orleans. It was a lot of fun: parades, beads, food and music were all in abundance. I came away with two favorite stories, though. The first one came from my folks - they have a historic home here in town that offered a great view of the parade from the front porch. The parade had already passed by, and they could see that it was wrapping up even a couple of streets over, when a renegade float came barrelling down the street. Apparently they'd got the start time wrong or encountered some other operational problem, and so they were giving it their all to catch up to the rest of the parade as they dashed down the street hurling beads to anyone still standing there. I never saw that float, but it was funny to imagine the panic that they were in to try and overtake the parade. I did see it in another parade over the weekend, so I guess all's well that ends well. The other story comes from the location where Tami and I were watching the parade - over at Sterne fountain (you'll find us there every year - the floats have to slow down to turn the corner, so there's more time for them to throw beads). Anyway, I was talking to a friend of mine in the Krewe of Hebe who was in charge of that corner of the parade route, and we were watching the vintage cars rolling by, all polished and manicured. A dirty mini-van was following along, and when he saw my buddy's orange official vest the car stopped and the driver rolled down the window. "Can you help me?" he asked in desperation. "Several blocks back I turned in behind these cars to get out of downtown, then suddenly realized that they weren't in the normal flow of traffic." My friend just laughed and said, "Nope, you're in the parade. You're going to have to drive it through to the end." With a helpless look, the guy just took off, as the crowd was screaming at him, "Beads! Beads! Throw me some beads!" Anyway, it was a fantastic Mardi Gras this year, so start making plans to join us in 2009.
Ah, time for a ghost story or two. First, though, I have to tell you a related story. A year ago I was invited by editor Joan Upton Hall to be a contributor to a book on haunted jails around the country - you can get more info on it by clicking on the cover. It was a great opportunity, because I would be in the company of many nationally-known writers on the paranormal including Olyve Hallmark Abbott, Joan Upton Hall and Troy Taylor. I gave a couple of chapters to the project, and one of them was about Alcatraz... The Rock. I love that place, and have been there on a couple of occasions (and want to go back again). They have a good-size store out there that includes a mini-bookstore. I was elated when the manager of the bookstore wanted to carry the book - every week literally thousands of people pass through the place. I figured that the book would be a best-seller on the Alcatraz business alone. A month later, though, there was a HUGE scandal. The manager said that the book had created a fire-storm on the island, polarizing the rangers and staff. Apparently many people who work there have ghost stories about the place, but not everyone wants the ghost stories told. Although the book sold like hotcakes in the bookstore, the battle lines were drawn. The folks who didn't want ghosts mentioned won out, and the book was pulled from the shelves. Sigh... the fortunes of being a writer - especially one that writes about ghosts.
People are always asking me what it's like to live in a haunted house; they ask if it's like the movie "Poltergeist" or "1408", but to be honest, it's much more subtle. Sometimes, it's hard to understand exactly what's going on. For example, on Wednesday evening, Jan 15th, I was up a little late finishing up some work. Tami had already gone to bed, and I'd turned off the TV so that I could work in the quiet. Suddenly, there was a loud scraping like some huge piece of furniture was being pushed across the floor. My first thought was that Tami was up and doing some rearranging, but I looked into the bedroom and she was fast asleep. One of our bassets was asleep on the end of the bed, and another was curled up in the den in a beanbag. After walking through the house, I saw that nothing had been moved, so I quickly went outside to see if anything was amiss there. No one was around, and the evening was quiet and cold. Coming back in, I realized that there was only one place that I hadn't checked... the attic. I grabbed a flashlight and climbed the stairs, and then started exploring the attic. Although it felt very strange up there, I couldn't see anything out of place. I came back down and sat back in front of my computer, wondering just what had been going on. At The Grove, you just never know!
Later in the month, we had something happen that was obvious as to what it was, we just didn't know how it happened. We'd just come home one evening a few nights ago, so most of the house was dark, and I mean pitch black. I was in the hallway, and Tami had just stepped into the stairwell. We'd turned a lamp on in the den, and one in the kitchen, so we could see to get around. Tami then said, "One of us needs to turn on a light in the parlor..." I figured that I'd take care of it when I went up front. Just a few moments after she said it, though, she looked into the hallway with a puzzled expression on her face. "When did you go up front?" she asked, although there's no way that I'd had time to make it that far. When I told her that I hadn't, she nodded toward the front of the house and said, "Then check that out." I looked up there, and the center light in the parlor was now on. There is absolutely, positively no way that the light was on when we came in, because we'd only left a light on in the kitchen. Furthermore, when the center parlor light is on it also controls the one on the front porch, and the outside front of the house was dark when we pulled in. We spent several minutes trying to put together any scenario where we might not have noticed that the light was already on, but there just wasn't one. I guess that it's better than having the light on a "Clapper" - Tami said that we should turn the light on, and suddenly it had been done for us. Unlike the Clapper, though, those kind of things don't happen on command at The Grove... just at the whim of whatever spirits are wandering through its rooms.
Thanks for continuing to read the GroveZine, and for all the kind words... even if emails have been bouncing back to you! Okay, I'm off to continue cyber-wars and try to figure all these website woes out.
If you'd like to check any of my books on ghosts and the supernatural, you can find them at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, or
at The Grove's website if you'd like a signed
copy of anything (once the website's back up).
If you missed any issues of the GroveZine, you can find them at the GroveZine Archives (when I've staved off the cyber attack and everything's up and running again!).
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