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"The lawn is pressed by unseen feet, and ghosts return gently at twilight, gently go at dawn, the sad intangible who grieve and yearn..." - T.S. Eliot
Greetings from The Grove! "April showers bring May flowers..." I remember the little saying from elementary school, but it seems to be especially true this year. We've had an extremely wet spring in East Texas - I don't complain about rainfall, though, because I know that we'll be begging for it in July and August. Still, I'd prefer to spread it out a little if I had a choice. I've had to empty out our rain gauge every few days. I mean, we got over twelve inches in just a couple of weeks - that's insane!
There's one sad thing to mention - you remember several months ago I reported about the Pride House burning here in Jefferson. It was Texas' first B&B, and an 1888 home. Everyone was hoping that the damage wasn't too severe, and that it could be rebuilt. I was talking to a GroveZine reader who had called to make a tour reservation, and she asked about Pride House. I realized that I'd never told the end of the story - and I have to say, it's not a happy ending. The damage was apparently so extensive from the fire that the house couldn't be salvaged. One morning the bulldozer showed up and tore down what was left of it. The wood was hauled away, the lot was cleared, and a for-sale sign was put up in the yard. It was a very sad day... we all loved the Pride House. The land is for sale, and it's such a prime location that I'm sure that it will get picked up before long. I have to wonder about whatever is built there... will the spirits of the Pride House begin to show up there? It's going to be very interesting to watch and see.
Now for the story of the "Big Giant Mitch." I'm really very blessed that I get invited to speak at different paranormal conferences throughout the year, and over the last couple of years I've noticed a trend. Speakers have these big banners that they put next to their tables to promote their books and such. The banners have their photo, bookcovers, name, etc. At a conference last year, I went around snapping photos of all these banners, and texting my wife in the process with the message, "I don't have a banner with a big giant picture of myself." She was very understanding, saying, "Don't worry, dear, we'll get you a big giant picture of yourself for the next conference." God, how I love that woman. Anyway, we did just that, and starting with a conference last month, I had a big giant Mitch right beside my table.
All that said, you know, it made me feel a little silly. I mean, to begin with, I set it up at The Grove when it first arrived, and it seemed simple enough. I therefore didn't bring the instructions for erecting the stand to the conference. It took me thirty minutes of fumbling trial-and-error to get it put up. And once I did, there I was in the vendor room, standing by my table that had a number of my books spread out, and there was a big, giant banner with my picture on it right there. Most everyone else in the room had one as well, but for some reason I felt a little, well, weird about it. I therefore had to start having some fun with big giant Mitch. I made a handlebar mustache and taped it on under my lip. I poked fun of it in my presentation. I think that it's because I'm basically a simple guy that shys away from attention. But whatever, I'm getting a little more used to big giant Mitch, and so I'll have it there when you visit my table at a conference. Feel free to bring a handlebar mustache along when you stop by.
Speaking of writing, you know, I think that my interest in exploring and documenting the supernatural may be a hindrance to my writing career. It looks like to be uber-successful, you have to look for a fake catastrophe, frighten the heck out of the public, and then watch the book sales roll in. I remember back in the Y2K scare - I'd done a ton of research and knew that absolutely nothing was going to happen. I wrote a book called "Debunking the Y2K Terrors and Tales" where I outlined the facts that showed the safety checks that were in place... unfortunately, the writers who sold the most books were the ones touting total global apocalypse. I was reminded of that this month when I was enjoying the natural phenomenon of a "Blood Moon" - an eclipse of the moon when it is in alignment with the Earth and sun, where the reflected light on it makes it appear to be red. This month's lunar event is the first of four (a "tetrad") that will take place over the next two years, roughly six months apart, all on religions holidays.
Of course, it didn't take long for someone to put out a new book that touts the the four blood moons as evidence of a future "world-shaking event" that begins to fulfill End Times prophecy. There's already been a TV special about the tetrad. Acts 2:19-20 is referenced as a pointer to the sign: "And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord." The author of the book has been quoted as saying, "I believe that the heavens are God's billboard, that He has been sending signals to planet Earth, and we just haven't been picking them up. God is literally screaming at the world: 'I'm coming soon.'" I really think that we're going to be seeing more and more books and TV about this, because there is money to be made on any proclaimed end-of-the-world event (think about the end of the Mayan Calendar)... remember, you heard it here first.
Have you been contemplating a change in location, a suitable place to relocate, a change of venue for your life? Well if so, I may have found the perfect place for you - the island of Poveglia, which is considered to be one of the most supernaturally-active places in Italy, and one of the world's most haunted islands, is up for sale. The 17-acre island was fought over by the Venetians and the Genoese in the 14th century - and still shows traces of being fortified - before it became a quarantine station for ships arriving at Venice in the 18th century. After a plague was discovered on two of the ships that were docked there, the island was sealed off and used to host people with infectious diseases, leading to legends of terminally ill Venetians waiting to die before their ghosts returned to haunt the island. Next, a hospital for the elderly which opened in 1922 and operated until 1968 is rumored to have hosted experiments on the mentally ill, including crude lobotomies, carried out by a director who was driven mad by ghosts before throwing himself from the hospitalís tower. While the sale price is still being debated, it was last offered at $3.8 million dollars... probably not something that I'm going to consider as a summer home. To read more about this haunted little island, just follow this link.
Speaking at a conference this month, I was doing a Q&A after my talk, when someone asked me one of the most interesting questions that I've ever gotten. I had talked about how I felt that the Lady in White at The Grove was a residual haunting, and someone put up their hand and said, "Do you think that you're doing anything at The Grove now that will eventually become a residual haunting?" It blew my mind completely. After all, if the Lady in White is merely stepping onto what was once the back porch, coming through a back door, and walking across the house to the children's bedroom, it was probably something that she did all the time. So if I'm leaving energy behind that people will encounter in the future, what will it be? Rocking in a chair on the front porch? Walking down the hallway as I'm giving a tour? Standing at the 1930s Chambers Stove, cooking breakfast? Who knows... but it's a question that I had never, ever considered... and now I can't stop thinking about it!
I've written about our mischievous spirit that hangs out in the back part of the house many times, and whoever this is loves to play tricks on us. He also seems to delight in interacting with the folks on the tour from time to time as well. This month, he succeeded in tricking me. My wife was at work, so I was getting the house ready for a tour by myself. I was straightening up, vacuuming, and trying to handle everything that needed to be done - although time was running out. About twenty minutes before the tour I was working in the den, when I heard someone knock on the back door. Now, very few people come to our back door - I can count them on one hand and have a couple of fingers to spare. I figured that it would be prudent to put pants on, so I grabbed them and stepped into them, then opened the back door. The back porch was empty. I walked out and looked around, and no one was there. Stepping to the edge of the porch I could see the entire garden, and not a soul was there. Because a fence surrounds the property, no one could easily run away. I ran back through the house and opened the front door, but no one was there either. No cars were outside, no people were in the street, the property was vacated, except for me. And whoever knocked on the back door. As I walked back into the house I was already complaining loudly... "YOU KNOW that I'm trying to get everything ready for the tour all by myself, and you're playing tricks on me like that? Why not help me vacuum? Why not help me dust? Nooooo, you have to take up precious time that I don't have to spare." If I could have stuck my head over into the spirit world, I'm pretty sure that I would have heard someone laughing.
And finally on the subject of ghosts, I've got a new book out called Haunted Tyler and Beyond... written with my friend George Jones. Not THAT George Jones, the country singer - we lost the Possum a year or so ago. No, this is the paranormal investigator and owner of Jericho's Tours of Tyler. We've been working on this book for the last year - we drew a 30 minute circle around Tyler, and included haunted locations from all over that area, focusing mainly on Tyler. You might think of it as a sequel to my Ghosts of East Texas book. It was a fun book to work on; George did some chapters, I did some chapters, and some we did together. I got to visit many new places, and to re-visit a few that I'd been to before. There are some very interesting places in the book, most of which you can visit for yourself. Click here for more info!
Well, that's it for April, and I'm anxious to see all of the "May Flowers" that the "April Showers" bring. In reality, things have been blooming, and it's always fun for us to watch. In the May GroveZine I'll have a report on Pilgrimage here in Jefferson, including the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial play that I play the sheriff in, and also one particular tour of The Grove that was extremely active with the supernatural. Meanwhile, have a great month, and thank you so very much for reading the GroveZine. Talk to you soon!
Here's what's coming up around Jefferson...
5/17-5/18/2014 - Jefferson Train Days
6/6-6/7/2014 - Corvette Car Show
6/6-6/8/2014 - Route 49 Biker Rally
7/4 - "Jefferson Salutes America" Celebration & Fireworks
8/16 - Jefferson Civil War Symposium
8/23-8/24/2014 - Gun & Knife Show
10/4/2014 - Cypress River Airport Fly-In
11/29/2014 - Christmas Tree Lighting in Lions Park
12/4-12/6/2014 - Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/11-12/14/2014 - Candlelight Tour of Homes
...and more throughout the rest of the year!
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