"I don't suppose you have to believe in ghosts to know that we are all haunted, all of us, by things we can see and feel and guess at, and many more things that we can't." - Beth Gutcheon
Hello, and I hope that everyone's having a great wrap-up to 2016. Before we get too far into Jefferson and The Grove, I have a public service message. Earlier this month my wife was in the Dining Room putting up the final, finishing touches for Christmas, when she saw a dead bee on the corner of the table. Very unusual, considering that the nighttime temperatures had already been high thirty degrees (Fahrenheit, for all you international readers). Bees can't fly when it's that cold, which may explain why it looked dead. Yep, when she picked up the bee to toss its deceased little body outside, it summoned up the gumption give her a pretty good sting on the palm. She yelled out in pain, threw the bee like the opening pitch of the world series, and that's when I joined the party.
I remember a number of years ago when we went to a Renaissance Festival here in Texas, and we were sitting on a grassy hill watching their "Living Chess Match." I heard my wife yell out, and she held up her hand and I saw that it was crawling with red ants, all of which were actively stinging her. I took her straight to the first aid station, and the paramedics applied a white paste from a little bowl onto her hand. The relief was almost instantaneous! When I asked what the miracle potion was, the paramedic told me it was a paste made from Meat Tenderizer and water. We immediately added that to our first aid bag of tricks, and in the past I've used it for wasp stings, ant bites, and any number of venomous insect attacks. I remembered the trick with this bee sting, and grabbed the tenderizer off of the spice rack, made up a paste, and voila! She was fine. This works because the meat tenderizer contains papain, an enzyme that breaks down proteins - like the ones in your T-bone steak. But papain can also break down the toxins contained in bug bites and cut back on the burning and itching. It's really, really important to note that this isn't a substitute for medical care if you have someone who has an insect allergy. For a non-allergic person, though, the meat tenderizer solution is wonderful first aid. Just make a paste, rub it on the sting, leave it there for 10-15 minutes to work its magic, and then wash with cold water. It works, as we proved again at The Grove just a few weeks ago!
This was a busy December in Jefferson. We had the Naughty & Nice Pub Crawl, lighting of the Lions Park Christmas trees, the B&B Crawl, the KCS Christmas Train that came through town, but it all started out with the Candlelight Christmas Tour of Homes. My wife and I were volunteer docents in a couple of the historic, old homes over both weekends, and at one of them I was stationed in a room that the homeowner told me was once an operating room when a doctor owned the house long ago. When we had a momentary lull in the crowds, she came in and asked me whether I'd picked up on anything supernatural, since certainly a number of people must have died in that room. I told her that I hadn't at all; about that time, however, my wife walked in and asked the homeowner, "Who's the mischievous spirit in the kitchen?" Apparently she'd been having all kinds of strange things happen in there, including cabinets that opened and closed on their own.
Some strange things happen at The Grove that seem to have no rhyme or reason - I have no idea what they mean, what was happening, or how to interpret them. Such was the case one morning this month. We were sleeping in a little on a Sunday morning because we didn't have a tour that day, and I was suddenly woken up by our cat Elsie who had come into the bedroom and was meowing at the top of her lungs. This was very unusual; in fact, the last time that she did something like this was last year when we put the oven on self-cleaning mode one night before we went to bed, and the odor from the gunk being burned off was horrific. I guess that Elsie thought that the house was on fire and came in to get us up. Even though everything was okay, I praised her for her diligence. As she was waking me up this time, I remembered that last incident, and jumped up out of bed; glancing at the clock on the nightstand, I saw that it was 9:20 in the morning. Elsie led me from the bedroom into the hall, to the stairwell, Game Room, and then the Dining Room. I was combing the place for anything wrong, but saw nothing out of sorts. The outside gates were locked, so it was highly unlikely that anyone was on the property. I gave everything a final once-over, and went back to bed for a little more sleep. When I got up about 10, I was walking down the hall and saw something interesting - the cuckoo clock in the hall was stopped, still wound, but not running. The odd thing was that it had stopped at exactly 9:20, the very time that Elsie had come in and woke me up, carrying on like something was going on in the house. A lot of people would say it's just a coincidence... but after owning The Grove for fifteen years, I no longer believe in coincidences. I just don't know what was happening at The Grove at 9:20 that morning!
On one of the tours this month we had a lady who'd been at The Grove a month or so ago, and she related an experience that she had. She told me that she'd sent me an email about it but hadn't heard anything back, and although I try to answer all my emails, I get a ton of them between business, the house, my volunteer work, etc, so I regret that it's not unheard of for one to slip through the cracks. I went back and searched and located it - she has such an interesting story that I don't think she would mind me sharing it. Here's her story in her own words:
"Myself & three other ladies attended your tour of The Grove; this was the fourth time I had been on your tour. I have never experienced anything until this last time. After visiting with the other women after the tour was completed, we had all felt the same thing so I wanted to share this with you. When we walked into the dining room, my feet began to hurt severely. I was shifting my weight from one foot to the other to relieve the discomfort. When we went into the next room, I noticed my sister in law was doing the same thing so I asked her if her feet were hurting & she said yes. We didn't say anything else until we got outside. I wanted to purchase your new book so I left to get a credit card. Once outside, my feet immediately stopped hurting. I came back in to purchase your book & my feet started hurting again. You were visiting with a gentleman, so I was the last one to leave from the house. Again, once I left the front steps of your home my feet stopped hurting. As we left in my car, the other ladies said they had severe pain in their feet as well. My sister-in-law's feet were red and hot. I'm not sure why this occurred but thought it was interesting."
Interestingly enough, we've had many ladies feel ill in the Dining Room, and a couple of ladies who even passed out. This is the first time that I know of anyone's feet hurting and especially turning red and warm, but since it happened to several people at the same time, and stopped as soon as they left the property, it's hard to write it off to pure chance.
Something else happened just a week or so ago that my wife and I both got a chuckle from. We were expecting some friends to stop by, and since we'd both been back in the kitchen preparing some snacks, we left the front door unlocked so that they could just come on in. She carried a poinsettia up front and put it on the pulpit that we have in the entryway - her back was to the Christmas tree and the front door. As she was fluffing up the leaves, she heard the front door open, swing all the way in, and then close. As she was turning around she said, "Hey guys, come on in..." but saw that she was alone in the room. No one was there yet, but the door had opened all the way, and then closed back again. After all these years, things like that don't freak us out anymore, so she was laughing when she came back to the kitchen to tell me about it. I thought, "Well, maybe we have a couple of extra guests that we weren't expecting..."
To wrap up the year, I had an incredible experience not too long ago, and fortunately I happened to have an audio recorder rolling. I was researching an upcoming book, so for now I'll have to be a little vague on the location, but we were the guests of a few people who had gotten us access to an abandoned multi-story building in a city that you'd readily recognize. The building dates back to the early 1900s if not before, and the current owners are hoping to restore it to its original glory. In the basement was a 3-lane bowling alley that was frequented by members of the organized crime underworld, where they could party with some illicit booze during prohibition. They even had a secret back staircase that would take them up to street level if they had a need for a quick getaway - if they got wind that the feds were coming down the elevator, for example. When we were down there, as soon as we got to the old bowling alley (which was now in ruins, except for the names and high scores painted on a nearby wall), we heard the distinct, unmistakable sound of two bowling balls being rolled down an alley. We all heard them, and the owner of the building was the only one who didn't seem surprised. He said, "That's right, ghost balls," as if he'd heard them many times before. Click here to hear them for yourself. Again, our little group was completely alone in the basement of an abandoned, empty building, and the entire time that we were down there, we only heard the two balls roll when we first stepped onto the old lanes, so it couldn't have been any ambient noise from above. And besides, there's no mistaking the sound of a bowling ball being rolled down an alley - it was a very interesting way to wrap up the year!
Well, I guess that's about it for 2016. It seems like we were just welcoming the year in not long ago - has this one flown by, or what? There have been a lot of ups and downs over the past twelve months; looking back, it kinda seems like there were more downs than ups. But maybe that's what New Year's Day is about - a chance to draw a line in the sand and step across it, knowing that you left the last year behind, and have a brand new one ahead where there are infinite possibilities. My wish for you is that you have a safe, happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017. God bless you, and thank you so very much for being a part of this little project that we call the GroveZine!
Here's what's coming up around Jefferson...
1/27-1/29/2017 - Jefferson Quilts on the Bayou
2/24-2/26/2017 - Mardi Gras Upriver
3/25/2017 - Jefferson Gun & Knife Show
3/31/2017 - Jefferson City-Wide Garage Sale
4/1/2017 - Jefferson Spring History, Haunts & Legends Conference
4/14/2017 - Outlaw Nationals Hotrod Show
5/5-5/6/2017 - Pilgrimage Tour of Homes
5/5-5/6/2017 - Diamond Bessie Murder Trial Play
6/2/2017 - Corvette Show
...and much more throughout the coming year!
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