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 email addresses with anyone else, for any reason at any time. We hate SPAM as much as you do!
"We can see a thousand miracles around us every day. What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken?" - S. Parkes Cadman
Happy Thanksgiving from The Grove! I love this time of year with friends and family getting together. I also really love waking up on Thanksgiving day to the smell of turkey roasting in the oven. More importantly, it's the time of year to remember to stop the craziness of everyday life and simply give thanks. I try to remember to do that throughout the year because I have so many things to be thankful for, but I'm guilty of letting life overwhelm me at times. This time of year tends to ground me, and take me back to thinking about the things that are most important in life. And for all of those things, I give thanks!
First of all, let me say that I accidentally included a heinous typo in the last GroveZine. When I was writing about Steven Spielberg leaving a hotel in the middle of the night because of the supernatural activity there, I was thinking "Excelsior House" in my mind, but typed "Jefferson Hotel." I know the story well, and have told it many, many times, but for some reason my fingers and brain weren't connected. To make matters worse, I even proofed the GroveZine three different times over the course of several days, and still didn't catch it! And then to make matters even worse, I started the next paragraph off with "And speaking of the Excelsior House..." and even included a photo of it! Sigh. I knew that something was terribly wrong the morning after I sent out the 'zine. While I'll usually have a few replies or questions once it goes out for the month, I woke up to an inbox overflowing with replies. I looked at it and said to myself, "Wow, I must have said something really, really wrong..." I did correct it in the GroveZine archives on the website, but all that I can say is "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!"
A while back I reported in the GroveZine that Jefferson was getting a new suite motel on Highway 59, and it's coming right along. It's two stories high in one wing, three stories in another. This is a small town, of course, so rumors abound about the place. Some say that it will be a suite hotel, maybe even an Executive Inn & Suites. Others say that will include a Starbucks on the property, which would probably do well. For now we all just drive by it every day and speculate. Jefferson is the Bed & Breakfast Capital of Texas, and boasts literally dozens of unique B&Bs, but I don't think that they'll be affected by the new place. Most everyone's expecting it to fill up during the various festivals here in town such as Mardi Gras, the Pilgrimage and Civil War Re-enactment, Candlelight, etc. Stay tuned for more news as it develops.
I mentioned in the last GroveZine that the new book was out - and even though it's not even on Amazon, B&N, or in stores yet, it is freaking people out. There's something about contemplating the fact that the Bible has accounts of what only can be described as ghosts coming back from the other side that people are greatly disturbed by. The Bible and ghosts? That seems to be a problem. I think that part of it is wondering whether or not it's sacrilegious to think about such things. I contend that it's not at all! Still, folks are a little disturbed by it. Take, for example, the following Facebook conversation. One of the two people involved is a friend of mine, and the conversation that he/she was involved in gave me a huge smile this month. I hope that he/she doesn't mind me sharing it ('cause I know the he/she is reading this right now), but I'm keeping it anonymous and after all, it really was posted right there on Facebook for a gazillion people to read. It was definitely in the public eye. It went something like this (and I SWEAR to you this is true):
Person A: Hey, are you going to the "flying humanoid" conference this weekend?
Person B: Naw, my schedule won't let me. I did read a new book on the subject. Also just got Mitchel Whitington's new book on Ghosts in the Bible.
Person A: Ghosts in the Bible? That's pushing it for me, but you can give me a synopsis.
I read that and thought, "Wait a minute... flying humanoids are okay, but ghosts in the Bible are absurd? Really?!?" Still, it's one of the reactions that I'm getting from the new book. I can't decide whether I'm stepping on people's toes with it, or just taking them into really, really uncomfortable territory. The book should be available everywhere soon, but if you want an copy before that, just click on the book cover for info.
One entertaining thing that we did recently was to rent the movie The Conjuring - and I wanted to examine it for our ghost stories this month. One thing that I noticed right away was that from the rental description, to the Netflix sleeve describing the film, to the start of the actual movie, you are reminded that it is, "based on true events!" I can't tell you how many times I've seen that associated with a movie. Hollywood uses this phrase all the time - you've heard it with movies like The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut, and The Exorcist. It's important to note that the "based on true events" phrase doesn't mean that the film is a factual portrayal at all. It just means that at least a few of the events are somewhat related to events that really happened... at least, to some degree.
You have to understand that the 1958 film The Blob is "based on true events." Not that a gigantic jelly-like man-eating blob has ever attacked a city. No, instead, a mysterious gelatinous purple object reportedly came down into a farmer's field outside of Philadelphia in 1950. The New York Times wrote about it on Sept. 28, 1950. According to the article, two police officers saw the object float down to Earth, but were unable to pick it up. "The part touched by his hand dissolved... leaving a sticky, odorless residue. Within a half hour the entire object had evaporated," a patrolman said, according to the news report. The FBI was notified, but when they went to examine the find, there was nothing left but a spot on the ground. Yet the movie The Blob could actually say that it was based on true events - no matter to what small degree.
That said, I'm fairly sure that Hollywood could make a horribly frightening movie from our experiences at The Grove - "based on true events." Now, if you've been reading the GroveZine a while or have taken our tour, then you know that 1) we're not the least bit frightened of the place - we absolutely love it; 2) the house is very active, though, perhaps more so than a lot of places that I've run across over the years; and 3) we are convinced that there is nothing evil, sinister, or even just plain bad here. But with all that in mind, let's take these true events that I'm going to recount, add a dose of playful imagination, a few photoshopped images to enhance the story, and do a quick summary of how Hollywood might portray The Grove movie. Let's have some fun, shall we?
THE WARNING - Most scary horror movies have a harbinger of the terrible things to come. You may remember some of these flicks where a couple first goes up to the house in the movie, and a neighbor raking leaves next door looks up and ominously says, "Can't nobody live in that house... never have, never will..." and then goes back to raking. It's a fairly common opening scene, and we had something very similar happen to us. The house had a lot of work that needed to be done when we bought it. Patrick, the prior owner, did a restoration that literally saved the place. The Grove had been sitting empty for a number of years, though, and needed some attention when we bought it. I remember those first few months with fondness. Family would all come down for the weekend and we'd all pitch in to whatever project was scheduled to come next. One weekend we were all taking a break for lunch - myself and my wife, her parents, and my folks; I went out for deli sandwiches for everyone, and we decided to eat them outside on the front steps of The Grove. As we sat there eating, laughing and talking, we saw a man walking up Main Street, which is just to the east of our house. He turned onto Moseley, walked past our neighbor's house, and then stopped in front of The Grove. After a pause, he crossed the small wooden bridge and walked halfway up the sidewalk, stopping a few yards in front of the house. He held out his hands, palms forward, and stood there for a moment. I finally said, "Can I help you with something?" He stood there a little longer, and then said, "I came here before, and thought that the house had an evil feeling to it. I just came back to see if the evil was still here." He put his hands down. "It is," he added, then turned and walked away. That's literally what happened and what was said. We all just looked at each other, laughed, and kept eating our sandwiches. If Hollywood was making a Grove movie, though, they'd probably turn him into an elderly Catholic priest, and maybe have him hearing some disembodied voices coming from the house that he alone could hear. He'd then turn and flee for his life, dropping his Bible and crucifix out in the street. They would also have him approaching the house at night to make it even creepier. That would make for a much better beginning, and after all, it would be "based on true events."
THE HAUNTING - In The Conjuring a woman sees a dark cloud appear before her in the hallway. There have been three different people who reported something very much like that at The Grove. The first was a lady who spent the night here when it was a restaurant. She walked over to the east side of the house, a place where both psychics and sensitives have told us stories about. In her own words, the woman reported, "I was about to turn the corner to walk down the right side of the house when I suddenly got a very strange and spooky feeling. I stopped and carefully looked down the side of the house. I saw a very large, black massive shape (had to be at least six feet tall and extremely broad)! I looked very carefully to see if it could be part of the tall bushes - it wasn't. The blackness was more like a void than a shadow. I called to my friend and asked her to look and tell me what she saw. She described the same thing that I was seeing. It was definitely NOT a human. This was one of the two things that really freaked me out during our visit. I don't know what it was but it was not good! Did it make me uneasy? Hell, it made my skin crawl! Needless to say - I DID NOT walk down that side of the building!" The next account comes from two owners back, when a lady named (coincidentally enough) Mrs. Grove spent just one night in the house. She was sleeping in what is now our game room, and fell asleep. She woke up to see a large black cloud hovering up near the ceiling - it frightened her, so she closed her eyes and started praying. When she woke up the next morning it was not there. It's interesting to note that the room is on the east side of the house. Finally, a friend of ours who owned a B&B here in Jefferson had broken into the house with some friends back when it was empty. Everyone had walked back into the house, but she was frightened and stayed up front. She was sitting on a windowsill, waiting for them to return, when the light seemed to dim. She looked up to see that a dark cloud was swirling around the chandelier. Again, that room is on the east side of the house. When she cried out everyone came running, and one man pulled over a chair and put his hand into the dark, smokey form. He told them that it was very cold - they left the house in a run. I believe that the black cloud was there, even though we've never seen it. The same basic thing was reported by three different people, none of them aware of the other two and their stories, all from different times. It's like the police having three witnesses describe the same bank robber - the corroborating evidence is overwhelming. Basing The Grove movie on "true events," Hollywood would probably have my wife and I walk into a room, see the black form, and feel the evil force emanating from it. They might even give it some sinister red eyes like in the photo that I drew. Although that didn't really happen to us, it's only based it on true events, so I'm sure the producers wouldn't have a problem with that.
THE GRAVEYARD - One common theme in haunted house movies is that the owners learn that the house is actually on a graveyard - think Poltergeist, think Amityville Horror. As it turns out, we've had three psychics over the last decade who've visited the house at different times, cold reads with no prior information, and in the course of their time on the property they all asked the same question: "Where are the bodies buried?" We've never uncovered any evidence to indicate that there were graves on the property, but one went farther and told us that they were not related to the house - that they were here before the house was built. One of the others went even further, and told us that they were Native American. Very possible, I suppose, since the house is only a couple of hundred yards from Big Cypress Bayou, and Native Americans in the area used the rivers like we use roads. I was once told that some buried their dead under fruiting trees so that they would have food in the afterlife, and The Grove is named for the natural grove of pecan trees surrounding it. That's certainly enough for Hollywood to base a scene on true events - they'd probably have an actor portraying a psychic visit the house, and after a brief spell of fainting and convulsing appropriately, announce that The Grove is built on a Native American burial ground, which is contributing to the terrible events at the house. To make the movie more exciting, they might even have tombstones popping up out of the ground like in the photo. The fact that Native American burial grounds don't have headstones is a mere technicality.
FLEEING IN TERROR - It seems like every one of the ghostly horror movies end with the family fleeing in terror. Of course, we've never done that - we love it here. Still, I remember one night when a friend of ours called us. She was alone in her house and had tripped and hit her head - it was apparently bleeding quite a bit. We grabbed a first aid kit and some towels, jumped in the car, and raced for her house. Basing our movie on real events, my wife could come running down the hall screaming, "Blood! Blood!" and we could run to the car and flee The Grove. I might even slip and fall on the way, glancing back at the house in terror. Of course, that's a total misrepresentation of the real event, but technically, it's "based on true events." And that's the way Hollywood does it.
Oh, and one more thing... they'd need a movie poster that sounds and looks scary. How about this one? Most importantly, it has those magic words at the bottom. And there you have it - the basic outline for the Hollywood horror movie about The Grove. Best of all, it's "based on true events!" Unfortunately, the little exercise that we just had some fun with is not far AT ALL from how it works in real life. Supernatural events happen at a place, and then Hollywood blows them out of proportion and because of those four terrible little words ("based on true events") people assume that ghosts are all evil, and that all supernatural activity is exactly as presented in the movies that they see.
We know that there is no evil or terrible presence at The Grove, so this exercise was all in fun (and it actually was quite a lot of fun, to be honest!). I've visited, investigated, and conducted interviews at some of the most notoriously haunted places in the country - Alcatraz, The Myrtles Plantation, Eastern State Penitentiary, The Winchester House, and many more - and at none of these places have people fled in terror like you see in the movies. There are everyday folks like you and I who have been exposed to the supernatural on a daily basis, and it has simply become a normal part of their lives. Just like it has with both of us at The Grove. Still, we have people call and ask to come to the house at midnight... and when we ask why, they say, "Because that's the witching hour - we saw it in a movie!" I fight the urge to ask them if the spirits know about Daylight Savings Time. By the same token, we've had people on the tour ask, "When are you going to tell us the scary stories?" We just smile and say that while we have all sorts of supernatural activity, we don't get scared. Sometimes the mischievous spirit in the den gets a bit annoying, but that's just something that we've learned to live with.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to read the GroveZine. I hope that you enjoyed it... I actually had a great time extrapolating some of our real stories into a Hollywood-type interpretation. Really, that was a lot of fun!
At the start of the 'zine I was talking about being thankful, and I have to mention how truly thankful I am for the GroveZine readers. I spoke at a conference earlier in the year with several national authors who said that they were happy to have sold a few hundred books. With the GroveZine, I write it up, click the button and it goes out to almost fifteen hundred readers... a good number of which are ready and willing to correct me when I mistakenly say "Jefferson Hotel" instead of "Excelsior House." :) To be honest, a writer can't ask for more than that. You all warm my heart. The GroveZine readers are truly wonderful, and I'm so blessed to be associated with you guys. You rock. My hope and prayer for you all is that you have a wonderful holiday season, leading into a happy and prosperous 2014. We'll talk again next month to finish up the year!
And if you're visiting Jefferson, here's what's coming up around town...
11/29/2013 - Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
12/5-14/2013 - 31st Annual Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/14/2013 - Jefferson Christmas Parade
1/16/2014 - Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson
1/24-1/26/2014 - Quilts on the Bayou
2/28-3/2/2014 - Mardi Gras Upriver
4/10-4/13/2014 - Diamond Don's Vintage Motocross
3/12/2014 - History, Haunts & Legends Paranormal Conference
4/18/2014 - Outlaw Nationals Car Show
5/2-5/3/2014 - Jefferson Historic Pilgrimage & Civil War Re-Enactment
7/4/2013 - Jefferson Salutes America
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