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Ah, summer's finally here. I was crusing down Austin Street here in Jefferson this afternoon and looked at the temperature display on my car to see that it was 95 degrees outside. I think that triple digits are just around the corner - probably in time for July 4th.
I'm sorry that the June GroveZine is running a little late - I'd been writing it all during the last week of the month as time allowed, and I had really planned to send it out on the 30th, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men... but here it is, though, and I really appreciate the fact that you're reading. I've got some of the latest ghostly goings-on at The Grove, along with a few tidbits about the old riverport city of Jefferson.
What's the most exciting thing that's happened at The Grove lately? Well, we experienced it this month after coming back from the grocery store one morning. On both the state and national historic registers, The Grove is called the Stilly-Young House, being named for the family that built it, and then the family that was here the longest. When we checked our phone messages we had one from a couple named Stilley who wanted to come tour the house. We had to stop and rewind that message several times - we simply couldn't believe it. Hubert and Iris Stilley from Louisiana were our guests the next morning, and we had the most incredible time visiting and talking about their relative Frank, the man who built The Grove. With all of us sitting in the parlor swapping information about him, I'm sure that he was looking down on us, smiling.
Run for your lives - Jefferson is sliding off into the ocean!!! Okay, okay, maybe that's not entirely accurate... especially since Jefferson doesn't have a coastline. Still, we appear to sinking, much like the city of Venice, Italy. Um, I guess that's not exactly true, either... but we do have a huge sinkhole in the parking lot behind the Jefferson Hotel! Trust me, that alone has caused a lot of excitement here in town. A friend of mine called me on the phone sounding very excited and said, "Have you seen the hole?" I cautiously replied, "I guess not, since I'm not even sure what you're talking about." He said, "Meet me out in front of your house in five minutes - I'm picking you up!" He rushed me over to the parking lot that is between the bayou and Dallas Street, and sure enough, there was a huge hole there... one that could easily swallow up a Winnebago. Now, if I were to play amateur civil engineer, I'd guess that the water from the bayou has been slowly washing away the soil from under that part of the parking lot, and it finally caved in. Or perhaps there is some sort of underground drainage issue that has been slowly eroding away. All that I know for sure that in a quiet little town like Jefferson, a huge hole in the ground is big, big news. For the next week or so, anytime that you ran into a friend on the street the first words exchanged were, "Have you seen the hole?!?" It's been a couple of weeks now, though, and so it's old news at this point. Still, if you drive by the hole you'll probably see a couple of people standing near the edge, peering over into the abyss, speculating as to just how the city is going to repair it. I love life in this little town!
For all the GroveZine readers in North Louisiana, I thought I'd mention that I'll be at the "Author! Author! Book Festival" weekend on July 18-19 in Shreveport talking about ghosts and haunted places, so come hang out and have some fun. It's being held at the historic Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, which has a few ghost stories of its own - the basement used to be the city morgue, in fact. The event is a celebration of the written word, and features many authors who will be speaking, signing books, and just visiting with the folks there. If you get a chance to attend, please stop by and say hello. All the info is at www.authorauthorshreveport.com
"Jefferson Salutes America" is just a few days away, and it's a magnificant way to spend the Fourth of July. In the afternoon, everyone gathers in Otstott Park downtown where there is live, patriotic music in the gazebo. Civic and community groups have booths set up around the park where you can get everything from popcorn to hotdogs to snow cones. There's a cake auction to benefit the children's reading program at the Carnegie Library, and this year Tami is contributing (I hope that I'm not giving away any secrets here) a Chocolate Cherry Jubilee cake. After the festivities at the park are over and it gets dark, there is a fireworks show over the bayou that defies description - it is literally breath-taking. We always have the best seat in the house... want to know how? Well, this is a deep, dark secret that I'm revealing. We always watch from the bed of a friend's truck, so early on the morning of July 4th, when most of the townsfolk are still in bed, we take the truck over to the premier parking place to watch the show, and put it into position. It sits there all day, but as people start arriving for the fireworks, we already have our seats reserved. We walk downtown just before it's time to start, climb up into the truck bed, and we're ready to watch. When it's over, our friends deliver us right to the front door of The Grove. Now you know the secret to getting prime positioning at the fireworks show!
Before getting on to the ghost stories, I thought that I'd update you on the "Sandtown Irish Stew" team (back from the March GroveZine). Don't think that we're sitting back resting, just because it's eight months or so until the next annual Jefferson St. Patrick's Day Irish Stew Cookoff. The Sandtown Stew team has already had two strategy meetings, and we're even planning team t-shirts for the cookoff next year. For any Irish Stew afficinados out there, we would welcome any tips - we want our name on the trophy!
This month's first story actually happened on the Jefferson Ghost Walk, out in front of The Grove. Before getting into it, though, I have to mention that Jodi Breckenridge (who's been doing the original ghost walk in Jefferson for years now) has started an additional ghost walk with new places to visit. The ghost walk meets in front of the Historical Museum, and has always covered the west side of town where some of the more famous haunts are: the Jefferson Hotel, Excelsior House, The Grove, etc. It lasts from 8:00 PM until about 9:30. At 9:45, however, Jodi starts the new ghost walk, which covers the east side of town with many places that people haven't heard of before. The best part is that she offers a discount if you take both ghost walks; be sure to check it out next time you're in town. On the ghost walk a week or so ago, one of the folks was a paranormal investigator who brought along a recorder. As I understand it, she was recording in front of The Grove while everyone was quiet, but when she played it back there was a man's voice that distinctly said, "I miss my family..." I wish that I could have been there to hear it - occasionally someone gets some very interesting Electric Voice Phenomenon (EVP) here. If you haven't heard the one on The Grove website, just go to the main page and scroll down until you see the EVP link.
Years ago, one of the first things that I read about Jefferson was in the Dallas Morning News - a column called "There Were Ghosts Among The Hotel Guests". The reporter wrote about his night in the Jay Gould Room of the Excelsior House Hotel, and a spirit or two that he encountered there. One thing that happened to him was while he had gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. He was going back to bed, but as he tried to open the bathroom door it felt like someone on the other side was holding the doorknob. His first thought was, "Why is my wife playing a trick on me in the middle of the night?" Suddenly, the person holding it let go, and he swung the door open to see that his wife was in bed fast asleep. I thought of that story the other day when Tami had a similar incident. She was in the bedroom getting ready to go out, and since she had her clothes spread out on the bed, the bedroom door was shut to keep the bassets out (they would have loved to catch her not paying attention, and wallow in her dress clothes). When she was ready to go, she turned the doorknob, and guess what... someone on the other side was holding it. She said that there was no doubt what was going on - the knob would turn a little and stop, as if the hand on the other side was gripping it tightly. Frustrated, she finally yelled, "Will you please let me out of here?!?" The knob suddenly turned easily; whoever was holding it from the outside had simply let go. I missed all the excitement, since I was in the den working on the computer, but she was more than a little put out with the spirits of The Grove. Like I've said before, sometimes living in a haunted house can be down right annoying.
While I enjoy writing about the things that happen to Tami & I living here at The Grove, I may have even more fun telling the tales of things that happen on the tour. This month, a couple came up to me in the kitchen when the tour was over and asked if we had any "ghost cats." I told them that we didn't, at least that I knew of, but they went on to tell me that while the tour group was in the den, something rubbed up against their calves that felt like a cat. Now, this didn't surprise me; a good friend of ours had described that exact feeling several times before, but had instead attributed it to a hand brushing across her leg. When I mentioned that to the couple, they immediately said, "No, we have cats, and whatever it was that we experienced happens several times a day back home. Trust me, a cat was brushing against our legs." The odd thing is, as we were talking another fellow came up and said, "Did you feel that, too? It was like something was rubbing up against my legs."
The story above would be something interesting in its own right, but a week or so later, we had a little girl on the tour that must have been sensitive to supernatural things. As I told the history of the den - the new room - she started brushing at her calves and jumping around. She finally sat down on the couch, and said, "I don't want to stand up, 'cause something keeps rubbing up against my leg!" Ghost cat, ghost dog, or simply a mischievous fellow playing with some of our visitors... who knows?
June is over, and you know what? It's been a little more wetter than I expected. We've had plenty of rain so we haven't had to do any outside watering - I'm sure that's coming, though. At the moment, we're just enjoying the flowers in the garden. Thanks for continuing to read the GroveZine - it's really, really nice to have you along for the ride. We have a wonderful time every month putting the GroveZine together, and sincerely hope that you enjoy reading it.
There's a great summer price on one of my favorite books: A Ghost in My Suitcase. I had a great time traveling around and writing about haunted places all across the nation, and we had a lot of strange things happen. Anyway, you can now get it at a better price than any bookstore, bn.com, or even Amazon.com - just visit the book's website for all the info.
If you'd like to check any of my other books, 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.
If you missed any issues of the GroveZine, you can find them at the GroveZine Archives.
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