This is a tiny little free subscription ezine for friends of The
Grove - it is by request only. In other words, we NEVER
arbitrarily add email addresses. We also NEVER sell or share
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Hello from The Grove in Jefferson, Texas! This year has been very strange... we passed from Winter into Spring without even having a single snowflake. In fact, I think that we only had a couple of light freezes, but nothing major. Because of this, everything's been waking up early in the garden, and in this photo you can see some of the beautiful purple wisteria that's blooming here. It won't be long 'til Ms. Daphne's Day Lilies and Tiger Lilies will be coming up as well - they're descendants from bulbs that she planted over one hundred years ago when she was the lady of the house at The Grove.
We have a new flowerbed, and while it's nothing to look at now, I hope that it will be in the future. A few years ago, my dad was talking to his pastor and the conversation slowly meandered into one about where they'd each grown up. Dad was born and raised in Corley, Texas, which is a very small East Texas town not far from Jefferson, and he was describing where the house had been (it had long since burned), although the smoke house was still standing along with a few other things. He hadn't been there in decades, since the land had been sold by his brother long ago. His pastor told him that the place he was describing sounded exactly like some property in Corley where he was part of a deer lease, so he and Dad drove out there. When they arrived, tears came to my father's eyes - he was looking at his old home site for the first time in years, and it brought back a flood of memories. His mother - my grandmother - had planted irises out in one area, and they were still growing after all the time that had gone by. Dad was heartbroken over the fact that he hadn't brought a shovel, but his pastor said, "Don't worry, I've got one in my truck!" To make a long story short, they dug up a good many of the iris', and he planted them back at his house. Many of you know that I lost both my parents last year, but before putting their house up for sale, I was able to go in and dig up a number of these iris bulbs, and bring them to The Grove. We planted them with fertilized gardening soil, and have been watering them religiously, so even though they probably won't bloom until next year, I was able to bring some of my grandmother's plants to The Grove, and for me, that was a very special thing.
Oh, and I have a cat story to tell this month. My wife and I have always been dog people - in fact, I tell people that our lives will be measured in basset hounds. We're on numbers four and five in our thirty-three years of marriage, two wonderful girls who were both rescues. When we bought The Grove a decade ago, however, the gentleman that we bought it from informed us that two cats came with it. I wasn't excited about that fact, since I'd never been a cat person. Once I learned that they killed mice and snakes, however, I became infinitely more impressed with the felines, and had no trouble adopting them. When they both died of old age, two new cats showed up; they weren't strays who were malnourished, they instead just seemed to report for duty. Apparently The Grove has always had cats. They've become part of the family by now, and Elsie, the tortoise-shell-colored girl in the photo, has taken to heading out front before every tour to get some attention - some of you may have seen her and had her demand your attention. A week ago I was starting the tour on the front porch, and as I was talking to the group I saw Elsie strolling onto the property from across the street. I kept telling the stories, when I noticed that she was carrying something in her mouth. As I watched, it became obvious that she had killed a bird and was bringing it back for a snack. Now, any of you that own cats know that they love to bring "presents" to their humans, and all that I could imagine was that Elsie was going to bring the dead bird up onto the porch where we were and drop it in the middle of all those nice folks, which would probably freak everyone out. With each step that she took, I told my stories faster and faster. I was actually able to get everyone inside the front door and close it before she could present her kill to our guests. Ah, the pleasures of being a cat parent.
I always like to mention anything new going on in Jefferson, and this is a month when some exciting changes are happening in town - a restaurant rebuilding, a riverwalk being built, and a positive change in one of the town's famous eateries. Here are the stories...
I reported a month or so ago that Riverport Barbecue, one of the best BBQ joints in the great State of Texas in my opinion, had tragically burned. Well, I am very happy to report that Stephen Joseph, the owner, isn't letting any grass grow there - the building has already been framed out, roofed, and work is going back up at a breakneck pace. At this rate, I'll be eating my favorite sliced barbecue sandwich again before you know it - along with a side of their delicious fried okra, of course, and a cool glass of tea. I can hardly wait for them to re-open... I wonder if they'd let me swing a hammer there to help them get the place finished a little quicker?
When we first looked at The Grove eleven years ago, the real estate agent stood on the front porch with us and said that there would soon be a river walk along the Big Cypress Bayou. We've heard about it off and on for all the years since, and the plans for it seemed to be changing constantly. To be honest, we'd pretty much given up hope of ever seeing it. We're still not sure what it's actually going to be, or what it will look like, but at least ground has finally been broken! The first step is to move the boat launch from where it is by the bayou bridge a bit east across from the Transportation Center, which is what the bulldozers and other heavy machinery are working on now. I'll keep you posted over the next few months as this begins to unfold!
Speaking of restaurants in Jefferson, I have to give kudos to The Bakery on Austin Street. We've always thought that their food was incredibly delicious - from their breakfasts (I love the Pancake Sandwich, but it's not really a sandwich - it's 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 pieces bacon, just like you see in the photo) to their Texas-Size Chili Hamburger for lunch or dinner, and their baked delights... well, more about those later. The thing that I wanted to be sure and mention is that The Bakery has now gone totally non-smoking. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't care whether someone smokes or not in their life, but it was always just a little overbearing when someone lit up at the table right next to us. Now the only scent that permeates the air, the one that you can't escape, is bacon frying, bread baking, and delectable vegetables simmering on the stove. Geez, I'm getting hungry just writing this!
The thing about The Bakery that I've known for many years, even long before we bought The Grove and moved to Jefferson, is that the owners of the restaurant make WONDERFUL pastries and breads. When we were coming to Jefferson as tourists back in the 90s, our last stop on the way out of town would be at The Bakery to pick up a loaf of bread. We'd have them slice it in their machine, and as we snacked on it for the next week, we'd think back to our stay in Jefferson. My favorite has always been the jalapeno-cheddar loaf, but everything that they bake is delicious!
It's just a couple of weeks away... Jodi Breckenridge and the Historic Jefferson Ghost walk presents the Spring 2012 History, Haunts and Legends Conference in Jefferson on April 14th. This conference is going to be incredible. It features top-shelf speakers including Larry Flaxman, Peter J. Haviland, Olyve Abbott, Dash Beardsley, Dr. Rita Louise, Jennifer Broussard, and Cathy Nance. I've been on the program with most of these folks at various conferences over the years, and I can tell you, you'll DEFINITELY be impressed with their presentations. Jodi's also asked me to be on the podium, so I'll be there as well - and I'm looking forward to the day. With your conference ticket comes evening investigations at some of Jefferson's unique - and most haunted - locations, so plan on being up late! Reservations are required, and you can get all of the info that you need by clicking on this link: www.jeffersonghostwalk.com.
People always ask us what kind of supernatural things happen at The Grove, and every month we try to share a few typical ghost stories from the old 1861 home... so here we go!
I don't understand why our guests have had so many electronic episodes at The Grove over the years - but they have been occurring since day one. I can't count the number of people who have tried to take a photo on the tour, only to find out that their batteries were suddenly drained. We've had paranormal investigators who put fresh batteries in their equipment out in the driveway, only to discover that they failed upon walking into the house. Strange, electronic phenomenon is very common for visitors to The Grove! On one Saturday tour this month, someone had a cell phone that went off. That isn't all that unusual, and most folks just quickly silence their phone and apologize. This time, the person appeared to be struggling with the phone - he even dismissed himself into the next room, joined by his spouse, to try to shut it off. After a few minutes they finally accomplished the feat, and re-joined the group, saying, "The phone simply wouldn't turn off - that's NEVER happened before." We just laughed and went on, but in the next room, another person's phone started sounding. She tried to turn it off, started struggling with it, and finally went back into the previous room to work on the problem. Eventually the phone was silenced, but when she came back to join the group, she said, "I couldn't get it turned off - and that's something that I do ALL THE TIME!" Skeptics might say that two people's phones went off, and they just couldn't get them silenced. We all use our phones so much, though, that I believe these folks when they say that the phones wouldn't turn off in the usual manner, even though they've done that a thousand times. The Grove sometimes has that effect on electronics, and I certainly don't believe that these two strangers met beforehand to coordinate their phones going crazy on the tour!
If you've been on The Grove tour, you probably remember the stories about the northwest corner of the parlor, a place that has produced very strange feelings, cold spots, and to those who are especially sensitive to the supernatural, even visions and voices. One of the stories that I tell on the tour is about a family with several daughters. When we came through the front door, the youngest daughter walked directly over to that corner, and began to talk to someone. It was very much half a conversation we were hearing - it was if she was answering questions. She was saying, "Oh, just for the weekend," and "No, my family and I." We were all looking at each other, a little confused, and her mother asked her, "Honey, who are you talking to?" The little girl said, "I'm talking to this lady!" After another round of all of us exchanging glances, her mother said, "But honey, there's no one there." The little girl insisted, "No, the pretty lady right here!" It went on for a minute or so, and then the little girl turned and joined her sisters. We were all wondering what was going on, but her mother finally voiced it. She asked her daughter, "What happened to your friend?" The little girl looked at us like we were crazy, and said, "Didn't you see? She just left!"
After a recent tour, a gentleman commented on that story by telling me something similar that had happened to him - and I'm paraphrasing here, so I hope that I'm telling it correctly (even though I'm sure that I'm getting the names wrong). The family was having a quiet evening together, and their little girl stood up, walked across the room, and started talking to someone. When he asked her what she was doing, she said, "Talking to Uncle Mike." They thought that it was some childhood game, until the next day when he learned that his brother had passed away.
Both of those stories are very interesting to me, because a dear friend of mine had a very similar experience. His wife had died, and soon thereafter his kids and grandkids were visiting. As they sat in the living room talking, they noticed that a young granddaughter seemed to be fixated with the empty corner of the room. When they asked what she was staring at, she said, "Grandma!" I've had people tell me a dozen similar stories, which makes me wonder if kids really are more sensitive than the rest of us to the supernatural. It makes sense - they haven't been conditioned to the fact that the dead don't return, and so maybe they're much more open to the fact that they sometimes do!
Moving on, I have to tell you a story that actually took place years ago, but has come on my radar screen twice in the last couple of days. I'm getting my presentation together for the History, Haunts and Legends conference here in Jefferson in a couple of weeks, and one of the stories that I'm going to include is when the Showtime series "Penn & Teller's BullSh*t" came to The Grove (sorry about the title, but that is literally what it's named). We weren't told who they were at the start, so we felt a little duped by the experience, which is something that I described in the GroveZine back in April/2005, and then again in July/2005 (click on either link to read the archived ezine). You can see the episode at http://www.gorillavid.in/3ishg6ptxymh.
Just to recap, an acquaintance of mine here in Jefferson called me and said that she'd been hired by Showtime to take their film crew around town, show them haunted locations, etc., and she wanted to bring them to The Grove. They showed up with the crew, two paranormal investigators and a psychic, and we turned the house over to them (one of the last times that we'd ever do anything like that). The film crew wanted to interview my wife and I, which they did, and after that we followed them to see what was going on. At one point the two investigators and the psychic were walking down the hall with the cameraman behind them, and me following closely after that. As they stepped from the hall up onto the stairs, the psychic stopped and said that she felt the presence of someone (an entity that we had come to know as Thomas, as it turns out). As soon as she said that, the instruments that the paranormal investigators were holding went crazy. The EMF meter that one was carrying pegged, and the video camera that the other held had a bright surge on the screen and then died. Both instruments went dead simultaneously, even though the batteries had been freshly replaced when the group arrived at The Grove. We were sure that Showtime had gotten some very compelling footage for their storage. As the crew was leaving, I asked when the "paranormal special" would be airing, and the director looked at me kind of puzzled and said something like, "paranormal special"? This is Penn & Teller's Bulls*it!
On Penn & Teller's show, they used part of the stairway incident which was caught on film, and then flashed to an interview with Dr. Steven Novella, Professor of Neurology, Yale School of Medicine and President of the New England Skeptical Society (that's him in the photo looking all scholarly). He went on to say that batteries die all the time, and if you believe in aliens then the aliens caused the battery drain, if you believe in ghosts then the ghosts caused the battery drain, etc. He was saying that batteries eventually all run out, but what this learned man ignored is that both instruments had new batteries, both pegged at the same time, and then both died at the same time. I'm very sorry to Professor Novella, but that is NOT a random event... no matter what the educated doctor says. But that's how the Penn & Teller show handled everything - ridiculing the investigators and psychic without basis or merit. But don't take my word for it - watch the episode and see for yourself!
And finally, since we've been talking about electronic oddities in this GroveZine, a guest from a tour this month sent me the following email, and was then kind enough to let me share it with the GroveZine readers:
My wife and I and our two friends took your tour on that rainy Sunday morning March 11, and enjoyed it immensely. I thought you might like a little feedback about the visit.
Since you gave us permission to take photos, I started using my small Sony digital flip camera to get your spiel and all its details. I was careful to note that the camera displayed the red "dot" and elapsed time indicator, which always confirms that it is recording. I guess I took about six or eight clips of the visit. However, when we went to lunch later, I could not find it anywhere on my camera. So I tried it again right there in the restaurant, and it worked perfectly as always. In addition, I took three "point and shoot" flash pictures with my other camera, which worked fine. However, when I tried to take a picture of the picture of the owner (the black gentleman with the white suit), my camera would not work; instead, it said "battery exhausted." Upon trying the camera later, it worked fine, with no battery indicator.
My question is this: Has anyone else had this problem? Someone told me that the "spirits" love to use the energy of portable electronic devices. I am a skeptic, but am just asking out of curiosity.
BTW, I never did fine those video clips...
We always love hearing the experiences that guests have at The Grove. The weird thing is that people who come to the house - whether they're paranormal investigators or simply visitors to Jefferson - have been having electronic problems here even before we bought the place. Patrick Hopkins, the former owner, tells the exact same stories. Patrick rarely, if ever, had any problems himself, though... and neither do we. Our cell phones work, cameras function properly, and batteries have normal lives. Whatever electronic oddities are going on, they seem to only happen to visitors here.
Thanks for reading another issue of The GroveZine. March was a wonderful month with a lot going on, and we're just getting into Spring. I have one more thing to mention that's new around here - a new book.
I got a call last year from an acquisitions editor from Arcadia Press, who said that they were looking for a writer to do a book on Jefferson. I told her that I'd already written a book on the city, another on the historic cemetery there, and even one on the haunted places in Jefferson... I didn't think that I'd left anything else to say. The editor said, "Can you send them to me?" I did, and she called me back about a week later. She told me that their books were different - they were photo-based histories of towns all across the country. I received a couple of sample books from her in the next few days, and realized that I already had several Arcadia Press books on my shelf - I'd bought them when we were traveling. With their sepia covers and photographic interiors, they're very distinctive. To make a long story short, I signed a contract with Arcadia, and then started scouring Jefferson for old photographs from the city's history. The Garden Club opened up their archives, as did the Historical Museum and the Carnegie Library. Individuals let me use theirs as well - one fellow opened a drawer of a filing cabinet in his back room and handed me a stack of photos, another literally gave me a handful that was in the glove box of his pickup. I learned things about the city of Jefferson that I didn't know. It was an incredibly rewarding and educational process, and in the end, a lot of fun.
And if you'd like to check any of my books, you can find them at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, or at The Grove's website if you'd like to order a signed copy of anything.
GroveZine Readers ROCK!!!
I'd like to say thank you so VERY much to everyone who's taken the tour of The Grove, and posted their review on Tripadvisor.com. We so appreciate the four-star reviews, but we absolutely LOVE the five-star reviews! so if you've taken The Grove tour, and you have a few spare moments, we'd really, really (did I say really?) appreciate you visiting TripAdvisor.com's site for The Grove, and leaving a review of your experience. You can go to TripAdvisor.com and search for "The Grove Jefferson TX," or go to The Grove's website www.thegrove-jefferson.com and scroll down to find the Trip Advisor logo-link, or simply click on the TripAdvisor logo right here in the GroveZine to take you to the page. I know that it takes a couple of minutes to do this (although not many more), but we'd sincerely appreciate it. Thanks, folks... you're so wonderful to us.
If you missed any issues of the GroveZine, or if you'd like to find out what's been going on for the last several years here at The Grove, you can find past issues at the GroveZine Archives.
04/14/2012 - History Haunts and Legends paranormal conference
04/21/2012 - Paws on the Bayou
04/20-22/2012 - Outlaw Nationals Classic & Antique Car Show
04/20-22/2012 - 10th Annual Diamond Don's National Vintage Motocross
05/03-06/2012 - Diamond Bessie Murder Trial Play
05/04-06/2012 - Battle of Port Jefferson Civil War Re-enactment
05/04-06/2012 - 65th Annual Historic Home Tours & Spring Festival
05/26/2012 - Cypress River Airport Fly-In
06/01-02/2012 - 2nd Annual Big Cypress Corvette Classic
07/04/2012 - "Jefferson Salutes America" 4th of July Celebration
07/15/2012 - Krewe of Hebe "Jefferson Heritage Triathlon
10/06/2012 - Jefferson's City Wide Rummage Sale
10/12-14/2012 - 15th Annual Boo Run Benefit
10/21/2012 - Taste of Jefferson
10/25-27/2012 - Marion County Fair
10/27/2012 - Krewe of Hebe & Auntie Skinner's "Monster Bash"
11/09-10/2012 - Trammel's Trace Rendezvous
11/23/2012 - Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony @ Lion's Park
11/29-30/2012 - 30th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/01,06-08/2012 - 30th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/03/2012 - Jefferson's Old Fashioned Christmas Parade
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