It seems to me that Halloween has grown darker over the years. Growing up in Michigan, we dressed up as beggars and yelled “Help the poor.” I don’t remember anyone wearing scary costumes. Another place where you probably wouldn’t have seen werewolves or zombies is in the Old West.
During the 1800s it was considered a night of romance. Many of the tricks and treats of those Victorian Halloween parties were designed with romance in mind.
In the Old West, Halloween dances were held in schoolhouses, barns or churches. Guests were required to jump over a broom upon arrival to assure future happiness. Masquerade balls were popular, too, but mostly held in the east.
Apples played an important part in these Halloween rituals but so did tin soldiers. An article in the El Paso Daily paper in 1899 described the ritual of melting tin soldiers. A young woman would then drip the melted tin from a spoon into cold water. The tin would harden in all manner of shapes, thus foretelling a maiden’s future. If, for example, the tin looked like a shoe, she would marry a shoemaker. A ship meant her future husband would be a sailor and a hammer foretold a carpenter in her future.
Bobbing for apples was a must, but with an interesting twist. The apples would each contain the name of a male guest. A woman lucky enough to sink her teeth into a pippin would come up with more than just a wet face; she’d also know the name of her future mate.
Some enterprising hostesses who owned apple trees went one step further. While the apples were still green they glued the initials of single males onto the apples. When the apples ripened, the paper was washed off revealing the green initials on the rosy cheeks. Upon arriving at the party, female guests would draw an apple from the tub to find out the name of her dance partner.
Another popular game involving apples required careful paring so that the peels were cut into one long strip. These were then thrown over the left shoulder. The initial the peel made on the floor was the initial of a future love.
Peelings were also hung from barn doors and female guests were given a number. If for example, you got number two, then the second male through the door was your true love.
Another crowd-pleaser was the cobweb game. Guests were each given two bright colored threads attached to a cardboard heart in some remote corner. The threads ran through the room in an intricate pattern. The idea was to unravel your thread by bobbing under a red thread or slipping through a tangle of green or blue threads until you reached the heart which named your partner for the night.
Halloween games also included the game of Proposal. Each woman was given a stack of cardboard hearts and lemons. The males had to go around the room and propose to each woman. He had thirty seconds to convince her to marry him. When the bell rang, she would either give him a lemon for no or a heart for yes. At the end of the game, the man with the most hearts won.
With all the ghosts and goblins of today, it’s hard to imagine a time when Halloween was just another word for romance
How are you and your family planning to spend this pandemic Halloween?
Yup, you read that right. How do I get from the first two to the later? It’s easy when the wedding is in Estes Park, Colorado, at The Stanley Hotel, the famed inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.
First a little history. Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora, missing the east’s grandeur, opened The Stanley Hotel complete with electric lights, telephones, en suite bathrooms, uniformed staff and a fleet of automobiles in 1909 among the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado. However, by the 1970’s the hotel’s splendor had faded, and it might have been demolished if not for Stephen King.
The famed author stayed in Room 217 and a dream here inspired The Shining. The room is thought to be haunted by Elizabeth Wilson. Injured in 1911 in an explosion lighting lanterns in Room 217, when recovered, Mrs. Wilson became head chambermaid and worked at the hotel until her death. Since then, guests have reported luggage being unpacked (now this I’d appreciate ?) and lights being turned on and off. Mrs. Wilson, not a fan of unmarried couples sharing the room, has been known to show her displeasure by climbing into bed between them!
The Concert Hall is another room frequented by otherworldly inhabitants including Flora Stanley. When the hotel opened, F.O. presented Flora with a Steinway Grand Piano. Since her passing, guests and staff claim Flora can still be heard playing. Paul, a jack-of-all trades at the hotel, enjoys frequenting this room as well. Charged with enforcing the hotel’s curfew during his tenure, guests and workers claim Paul can be heard saying “get out” after hours. He’s also said to “nudge” construction workers and flicker flashlights for tour groups here.
On the hotel’s fourth floor, originally a cavernous attic where female staff, nannies and children stayed, guests report hearing children running, laughing, giggling and playing. People also claim a certain closet opens and closes on its own. In room 428, guests report footsteps and furniture being moved above them. However, many claim this impossible due to the roof’s slope. But the room’s most frequent ghostly visitor is a “friendly cowboy” appearing by the bed. Now that’s the room for me! What a great opportunity for hero research!
These are a small sample of the ghost stories associated with The Stanley Hotel. If you’re interested in more tales, I recommend Ghost Stories of the Estes Valley Volumes 1 and 2 by Celeste Lasky. (I purchased mine at The Stanley but they’re available on Amazon.)
If you visit Estes Park, maybe you’ll be inspired as I was. That’s where the idea for my first novel sold to Harlequin, Big City Cowboy, literally walked up to me. But that’s a story for another blog…
If you stay at The Stanley Hotel, could you’ll encounter F.O. Stanley hovering behind his staff at the reception desk. ? If you do, keep these tips from tripsavvy.com on how to capture ghosts on camera in mind. “Take five or six quick shots to capture a fleeting spirit. Oh, and bring up back-up batteries because paranormal experts will tell you if spirits are present, they’ll have a draining effect on your batteries.”
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about a place where you’ve encountered a ghost or that’s left you feeling a bit creepy to be entered in my give away. And oh, yes, Happy Halloween!
For the last few posts, I’ve been writing about El Camino Real and the haunted missions along the way. Today, I’m going to discuss one area of Highway 101 that I bet just about everybody has seen on television commericals … the Gaviota Pass one and a half miles west of Gaviota, near Santa Barbara, California.
It’s a place where the road narrows to just a few feet. It’s where El Camino Real moves away from the coast and into the interior of California. The long climb up the grade takes travelers to Mission Santa Inez and La Purisima, which I’ve previously blogged on. The land mark is a haunted one, also.
This bronze plaque commemorates where on Christmas day 1846 an ambush set up by Mexican loyalists to stop Lt. Col. John Fremont’s U.S. troops from moving south forcing the Americans to take a more labored approach to capture Santa Barbara where it was captured without bloodshed.
The ghosts of Gaviota Pass date to an earlier time when a detachment of Spanish Lancers were set upon by the local inhabitants. The Spanish were forced to retreat down the road and through the pass toward to coast. For a while it looked like the Natives would win the day, but as the warriors prepared to mount a charge on the exhausted Spanish Troops a strong wind came up from the sea and inland. In desperation the Spanish set fire to the dry grass in the pass. The flames fueled by the ocean’s wind roared up the pass. The native warriors trapped in the conflagration were burned to death.
Defeated spirits haunt the pass today. Some have reported seeing a figure who wanders alone. Local legend is that this is the chief who led his people into the fiery defeat. There is no doubt this is a spooky place, especially for those who visit the place at night. When the wind blows one may still hear the horrible wails of those warriors succumbing to fire.
Now my truth. I’ve gone through this pass hundreds of times, during all times of the night and day, and my daughter who lives in Santa Barbara County travels to LA regularly and neither of us have seen or heard anything. I certainly want to make it clear that I’m not discounting any of this as fact, because I just know that sole legendary chief will make sure I believe in him the next time I’m around the pass.
Those of you who have traveled the 101 and gone through this pass, have you ever had any weird sensations.
Okay, as I promised this is the month, I’m telling you all about my grandson’s experience at the La Purisima Mission not far from his home. Last summer when I was out there for four months, he came out from college in Texas to one of his sister’s graduation. A friend from Texas had moved out to Santa Barbara with her family, so they went ghost busting at the mission. They climbed over the gate, as others did, and after not finding anything that interested them, they returned to his folks home. When his friend started to leave, she couldn’t find her keys. She was sure they were secured in her closed up shoulder bag. They looked everywhere and could find them, so as a last resort they went back to the La Purisima.
When they turned into the drive right outside the gate they saw a flash. Checking it out, they found not only her keys but a billfold, both which had been crushed. There was no way a car could have done it. They came home certain that this had to be an act of one of the Mission’s ghosts.
There wasn’t a driver’s license in the billfold, but a card for a doctor’s appointment and cash. They physician’s clerk called the gentleman and told him where his billfold was but never mentioned where it was found. I answered the door when he showed up. He was pleasantly surprised we had his billfold but perplexed because he was sure it had been secure in his back pocket which was zipped up. “Where was it found?,” he asked. When I told him, all he could say was “That dern ghost must have stolen it, crushed the dern thing to let us know not to go ghost busting out there again.”
Now you tell me whether you think it was just a coincidence or a reminder from our La Purisima ghosts not to bother them at night?
To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will give away an autographed copy of the award winning anthology A Texas Christmas by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me.
It seems like just last week I blogged with you all … well it was! But if you can stand me one more day, I’m going to continue along the El Camino Real and write about another Mission I visited not long ago.
My youngest granddaughter came home from school and said she had an end-of-the-year school project and needed my help. She had to select a mission and write about its history, as well as draw pictures. Of course the Mission La Purisima was the first one to come to mind, but as she reminded me, anybody could drive the two or three miles to get a bird’s eye view. The next choice is where we went every Wednesday to the market in Solvang … Mission Santa Inez. It was a great choice, so we rounded up as many grands who wanted to go and my daughter and I headed towards Solvang. We could kill three birds with one stone, go to the market, go to our favorite winery while the kids went to the ice cream shop, and visit the Mission for Addison’s project. What a wonderful outing!
But first some history. Mission Santa Inez was founded in September 1804, and was known for their excellency in saddle making. Today the Mission is fairly well dwarfed by the tourist town of Solvang. This is one of the most beautiful Missions I’ve visited, but like the others I’ve written about, it has folklore to match it’s magnificence!
One story tells of a dark vampire that once inhabited the church when it was in ruin. The tale says that there is a creature that will suck the blood from the toes of any hapless stranger who sleeps the night in the chapel and has the bad luck to remove his shoes. Maybe the tale has its origin in the owls who once perched in the building long ago. Maybe not. Maybe it’s just a myth!
Another legend caught my attention because it tells that the statue of San Antonio, that was brought by the Spanish padres, is somehow blessed and has the power to grant one prayer of an unselfish nature.
This quiet and beautiful place wasn’t always so peaceful, for it was here in 1824 that the Great Revolt started. The Chumash native converts grew tired of the cruel treatment afforded them by the Spanish soldiers, and revolted in a bloody rampage which lasted a month. According to folklore, A Chumash woman warned the padres of the uprising saving many lives. As the legend goes, she was buried under the alter in a special site reserved for padres and political leaders. Maybe it is this woman who haunts the grounds of the old church. Some say they feel her presence near the old laundry basin. It is said that tape recordings made at the cemetery and laundry area always seems to pick up stray whispers and the mournful wail of a Native American flute.
The site is calm now, but if its memories do replay to the visitor, this should be a very haunted site indeed.
Now for where Addison and I worked. This is the backside of the Mission. We sat on the wishing well and I helped her vocalize the mission, without the ghosts, but it’s history. She did a fantastically beautiful drawing from this view. She’s like her PawPa, an artist at heart. I lost five dollars in coins to the wishing well.
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my visit to California a few months ago. Stick with me because I’m still going to revisit the Mission La Purisima and tell you about my college grandson’s real adventure with what could have been a ghost. I’ll let you all decide.
And, yes we all had ice cream, got some beautiful vegetables along with strawberries, blueberries, and some wonderful mulberries, as well as a couple of bouquets of flowers and headed home … no Lucas and Lewellen Tasting Room for us that day.
To two readers who leave a comment, I’ll put your names in one of my
lady Stetson hats direct from Solvang and you can select
In my last blog I wrote about the Mission La Purisima on the Camino Real in California. I promised to write more about it and some personal things that have happened in the ol’ haunted mission. Before I publish, what I think is an intriguing finish to my personal story about the La Purisima, I wanted to explore some more places along the King’s Highway that I’ve visited or became intrigued with.
I’m gonna bet if you make any Tex-Mex or even Mexican dishes you’ve used Ortega brand products. Here’s my story about Ortega Adobe, Ortega Chili Company, and a mysterious little girl.
The picture to the left is one of the middle class adobe homes and also one of the last houses of its type still standing in California. Built in 1857 by local rancher Emedigio Ortega, he raised nine of his children.
In 1897, one of his sons began the Ortega Chili Company that exists today. Obviously, the international company has outgrown the small three room house.
The building has been used as a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese laundry, a pottery shop, an employment agency, a VFW hall, a speakeasy, the Ventura police state, and lastly, a boy’s and girl’s club. In the 1960’s it became an historic museum. The tiles on the roof were purchased from the Old Mission San Buenaventura after the earthquake of 1857.
Now for the more interesting part of this mission, as I promised.
Supernatural events have become a part of the adobe museum’s crew’s jobs. Staff have caught a glimpse of a man with a derby hat standing on the porch. A visitor who believes she has a psychic gift saw a ghostly little girl in the house standing in the doorway. She had a dark shawl over her head. The house also has a very cold spot in the largest of the rooms where some have heard voices! The story of soft music emanating from a phantom guitar remind us of the history and many different lives that have passed through this house and of some spirits that may have chosen to stick around.
The Ortega Adobe isn’t a mission but I found its story very interesting. I love going to California and this year, as many of you all know, I spent over two months in central California in order to celebrate graduation and birthdays for my grandchildren. I’m eager to write more about my adventures.
Earlier this month when I wrote about the Mission La Pursima, which you haven’t heard the last of, I received a lot of wonderful comments on missions, so I’ll ask you the same question … please share with us any of your experiences on missions, the Camino Real, and ghosts.
To one lucky reader who comments, I’ll give you a choice of one of my eBook’s, including any anthology I’m in or one of my short stories. I’m looking forward to reading all of your comments.
I’ve always been interested in history and did a lot of research on the West while I was writing the Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (Cengage, 2012). I also spent time in Arizona after my father moved to a ghost town near the Mexican border, and I was fascinated by the area around Tombstone, where much of the WANTED series is set.
In the first book in the series, Grace and the Guiltless,Grace is the lone survivor after outlaws massacre her family. She risks her reputation by entering the notorious Bird Cage Theater to report the crime to the sheriff:
Clouds of smoke enveloped Grace. Like the black, acrid smoke from the burning cabin that still clung to her pores and clothes, the sweetish cigar smoke and the sharper scent of burning tobacco from hand-rolled cigarettes suffocated her. Raucous laughter, the tinkle of a piano, and the clink of glasses pulsed through the room. The infamous alcoves, or bird cages, some with their red velvet curtains drawn, perched overhead like rows of fancy packages.
Her eyes stinging from the haze, Grace squinted to find the sheriff. So many black frock coats blurred into an indistinguishable mass…
Disentangling herself from pawing hands as she crosses the room, Grace irritates the sheriff by separating him from the painted lady keeping him company.
The heavyset man frowned at her. “So, what can I do for you, Miss —”
“Grace Milton, sir. Yesterday my parents . . . my whole family . . .” Grace’s tongue tripped over the words. If she said them aloud, it would make it real. But if she didn’t, those killers would get away with what they had done. “Elijah Hale and his gang . . . they shot my pa, and-and…”
The sheriff’s face paled at the mention of Hale’s name, but he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, though his hands shook slightly. “Mr. Hale is well known in these parts as a respectable man.”
Respectable man? A picture imprinted itself on Grace’s mind – Hale smiling, his gun pointed straight at her father’s heart.
The sheriff pulled a cigar from his vest pocket and rolled it between his fingers, avoiding her eyes.
“Did you hear me? Hale killed my pa. And my ma, and my—”
The sheriff chomped down on the cigar, twisted, and then spat the end into the nearby spittoon. The wad hit the brass with a wet ringing sound. “Any witnesses?”
“Me,” Grace choked out.
Sheriff Behan lit his cigar and blew a puff of smoke in Grace’s direction. “Not sure your word,” he said, his gaze raking her disheveled appearance, “would stand up against Hale’s.” He waved his cigar in a dismissive circle. “You bring me some proof, and I’ll consider looking into it.”
A white-hot volcano of rage erupted in Grace’s stomach. Did that badge glinting at her from across the table mean anything at all?
“My family’s dead in the ground.” She sucked in air to control the tremor in her voice. “I dug their graves myself.” She held out her blistered and bloodied hands. “Is that proof enough for you?”
Something flickered in the sheriff’s eyes. Pity maybe? But he quickly shuttered it. “That’s a sad story Miss Milton, but people die every day.” His voice loaded with fake sympathy, he continued, “Lots of Injuns ’round here. Renegade soldiers. Hermits. Even coyotes. Understandable you’d be a mite mixed up following such a tragedy. You being hysterical and all.”
“I. Am. Not. Hysterical.” Grace spat out each word. Furious, yes. Hysterical, no. Although he was rapidly pushing her in that direction. She’d get no help from this snake.
As Grace suspects, the sheriff is in cahoots with the gang, so she trains as a bounty hunter to singlehandedly track down the criminals. One reviewer calls her the “Katniss of the Wild West.” But when Grace falls for Joe, a?rugged range rider, can she give up her independence to take on a partner?
In book 2, Her Cold Revenge, Grace must prove her skills and stop a train robbery masterminded by the outlaws who slaughtered her family. And as she slowly opens her heart to both Joe and the Ndeh tribe, who take her in, her heartache begins to heal. Yet she’s still torn between revenge and love.
“Every second had me on the edge of my seat…”
“I’ve never been so moved by a book. You honesty made me cry…”
The books in the WANTED series came out in the UK first, and then in the U.S., with different covers.
Erin Johnson grew up watching classic western movies with her father, which fueled her lifelong love of horseback riding. She’s always dreamed of being a fierce-talking cowgirl, but writing about one seemed like the next best thing. She loves traveling, painting, and teaching, and she writes under several pseudonyms for both children and adults.
Giveaway! : Erin has a great giveaway with two separate winners! For a chance to win, leave a comment for Erin and you’ll be entered. One winner will receive a copy of Grace & the Guiltless and the second winner will receive a copy of the recipe book, Feast on Fiction!
At only twenty-seven miles long and three miles across at the widest point, Galveston, Texas, is not a big place. Located about two miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico an hour south of Houston, the barrier island and tourist Mecca is home to 48,000 year-round residents.
At least, that’s the number of residents the most recent U.S. Census counted. Those who call Galveston home know the population is much larger, because a goodly number of the island’s dearly departed…well, never departed.
Built in 1859 by a wealthy hardware merchant, Ashton Villa is one of Galveston’s most striking museum houses. Miss Bettie Brown, the merchant’s eldest daughter, was quite the character during her lifetime. She never married, drove her own carriage, and smoked in public, scandalizing the community. She lived to a ripe old age and died in 1920…but that doesn’t mean she left the property. Today, she reportedly scandalizes tour groups by appearing in the Gold Room and her private dayroom, roaming the grand staircase, locking and unlocking one of her lavish trunks, stopping clocks, and playing the piano.
Also called “the Mardi Gras ghost,” the spirit that inhabits Texas Declaration of Independence signatory Michel B. Menard’s 1838 mansion is thought to be that of his daughter Clara, who died in her teens. According to legend, within the first few years after it was built, the house was the site of one of the first Mardi Gras balls in the country. During the festivities, a young woman slipped on the staircase, fell, and broke her neck. Ever since, the hazy figure of a young woman dressed in party regalia of the era has been seen standing at the foot of the stairs during Mardi Gras season.
In 1920, twenty-five-year-old police officer Daniel Brister attempted to stop a robbery outside the 1877 Smith Brothers Hardware Store. He had just handcuffed one of the perpetrators when the second one shot him in the chest. Though bleeding, Brister chased down and cuffed the second robber, too…only to die of his wound moments later. Brister seems to have become less upstanding in the afterlife. These days, he pinches women’s posteriors and breathes down their necks in the restaurant now located at the spot of his death. He also throws pots and pans in the kitchen.
The pirate Jean Lafitte built the first permanent structure on the island. All that remains of the 1816 smuggler’s refuge Maison Rouge, originally painted red and surrounded by a moat, is a crumbling foundation. The U.S. Navy chased the privateer off the island in May 1821, but Lafitte reportedly loved Galveston so much, he returned in 1823…after he was killed during a sea battle off the coast of Honduras. Legend holds the pirate buried a treasure beneath three oaks on the western end of the island. Treasure hunters never have found the loot, but several have reported encountering Lafitte—right about the time he chokes them.
Because of its location overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the 1911 Hotel Galvez once was a favorite getaway for Frank Sinatra and several U.S. Presidents. The most famous guest of the “Queen of the Gulf” never checked out of Room 501. According to generations of hotel staff members, the lovelorn lady awaited her fiancé in the room. When his ship went down off the coast of Florida and he was not listed among the survivors, she hanged herself. Sadly, the fiancé showed up about a week later. These days the Lovelorn lady doesn’t confine herself to Room 501, although that seems to be her favorite haunt. She has been seen or felt throughout the hotel, wandering the halls, breaking dishes, turning on water faucets, slamming doors, and blowing out candles.
Capt. Marcus Fulton Mott
After serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, Marcus Fulton Mott became a prominent lawyer and state senator. He built a grand Victorian mansion in Galveston’s upscale East End in 1884. The home burned in 1925. Prominent businessman George Sealy Jr. subsequently built an 8,200-square-foot “summer retreat” on the site after acquiring the property in 1926. Although the existence of a cistern on the grounds has never been confirmed, Mott’s son may have murdered three women and thrown their bodies into the well—or at least that’s what Mott’s ghost has told people. Reportedly, he vowed never to leave until the women’s bodies are recovered. Reports of supernatural activity at the house have died down in the past two decades, but prior to the mid-1990s, the ghost at the Witwer-Mott House allegedly ordered people out of the home, threatened them, and threw mattresses across the room…while people were on them.
Point Bolivar Lighthouse Ghost
The original Point Bolivar lighthouse, built in 1850, was pulled down during the Civil War so the Yankees couldn’t capture the light and use it as a navigational aid. The new lighthouse, built in 1872, still stands, though it was decommissioned in 1933 and sold to a private individual in 1947. No one has been inside the 116-foot-tall structure for years, yet people—including Patty Duke and Al Freeman Jr., who filmed a movie there in 1970—have reported seeing a figure on the light deck at the very top. Some say the ghost may be that of a lighthouse keeper’s son who killed his parents at the scene. Others believe Harry C. Claiborne, who began a twenty-four-year, two-hurricane tenure as lighthouse keeper in 1894, was so devoted to duty that he still mans his post.
Samuel May Williams
Samuel May Williams served as Stephen F. Austin’s secretary, became the first banker in Texas, and founded the Texas Navy. The home he built on Galveston in 1838 is the oldest standing residence on the island. Known as “the most hated man in Texas,” Williams had a habit of pinching pennies and ruthlessly foreclosing on mortgages. Few are surprised he apparently hung around to terrorize the living. Fires have been lit in fireplaces when no one was in or near the home, there’s a “cold spot” outside the children’s rooms on the second floor, and a misty figure appears in the windows of the cupola atop the roof.
Tremont House Ghosts
The Tremont House opened with great fanfare on April 19, 1839, in commemoration of the Battle of San Jacinto. By the 1860s, the Tremont had fallen on hard times—in more ways than one. In 1862, the Union Army commandeered the hotel to quarter soldiers. In 1865, the Tremont burned to the ground. Seven years later, the phoenix rose from the ashes even bigger and grander than before. The Tremont hosted guests including Buffalo Bill Cody, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, and five U.S. Presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant. More hard times and several hurricanes later, the Tremont was demolished in the 1920s…only to be rebuilt once more in the 1980s. Somewhere along the line, a whole passel of ghosts moved in. A Confederate soldier marches up and down the lobby, where a little boy the staff calls Jimmy plays with bottles and glasses at the bar. Jimmy is thought to be the child who was run over in front of the hotel in the late 1880s. “Sam” was murdered on the fourth floor by a thief who wanted the haul Sam had made at one of the city’s storied casinos. The spirit in Room 219, assumed to be a disgruntled former employee, scatters the contents of guests’ luggage.
Among the many acts of bravery and selflessness recorded during the Great Storm of 1900, one stands out as especially poignant: That of a young schoolteacher who had taken refuge on the third floor of the Hutchings, Sealy and Company Bank on the Strand. As the seventeen-foot-storm surge submerged the island, sweeping property and lives from the face of the earth, the schoolteacher climbed through a window, perched on a ledge, and dragged people out of the flood and inside the building. She cared for the living for several days, until she succumbed to a fatal fever. To this day, no one knows her name, but she has a familiar face. Ever since the disaster, residents and visitors alike have seen a young woman dressed in the fashion of the day in various parts of the historic bank building. Before the restaurant that occupied the building for many years closed in 2008, some employees reported hearing her call their names.
(May disturb some readers.)
Of all the ghost stories on Galveston, William Watson’s may be the most gruesome. A bit of a daredevil, the thirty-two-year-old engineer was standing on the cowcatcher of a locomotive as it left the Santa Fe Union Train Station September 1, 1900—one week before the Great Storm destroyed the city. According to reports at the time of his death, Watson frequently pulled the stunt. Something went horribly wrong that day, though. He slipped from his perch, went under the train, and immediately was decapitated. His body stayed put; his head ended up one-quarter mile down the track, where the engine stopped. Watson reportedly haunts the former station (now the Galveston Railroad Museum), though not usually in visual form, thank goodness. Most of the time he merely makes strange noises and redecorates.
A second spirit hangs out at the museum, as well. For a time, part of the building served as a residential psychiatric treatment facility. In the 1980s, a female patient jumped to her death from a fourth-floor window. Since then, the gauzy form of a woman has been seen sitting on windowsills, one leg outside, before disappearing.
These are only a handful of the non-corporeal residents of Galveston. Sometimes called “a cemetery with a beach attached,” the island is second only to New Orleans in the number of reported hauntings. In addition to the celebrity ghosts, other spirits with unknown names and less spectacular stories remain on the island, partly because of Galveston’s dramatic history.
The island switched back and forth between Union and Confederate hands several times early in the Civil War (the Rebs finally managed to hang onto it from January 1863 on), and both sides left bodies behind in buildings along the Strand. After the Great Storm, the surviving buildings along the Strand became temporary hospitals and morgues. The Strand fell into disrepair for a number of years until late Galveston philanthropist George Mitchell stepped in to renew and revitalize the area in the mid-1980s. During renovations, a number of skeletons were discovered in the walls, left there by war or storm victims who literally “slipped through the cracks,” evidently. That may explain why Galvestonians and visitors frequently notice vague forms in uniforms or period clothing floating near ceilings in some of the historic buildings.
Hi everyone! I wanted to talk a little bit about my brand new single-author western romance anthology, WINTER MAGIC.
This is a collection of three stories that appeared in some of Prairie Rose Publications’ anthologies over the last year. Sometimes, it’s hard to tie stories together with a logline, but I love this one we came up with: Three criminals who’ve lost everything…three women who have nothing to lose…is it love or magic that bring them together in these three romantic tales of the old west?
The first story, HEARTS AND DIAMONDS, was a part of the Cowboy Cravings anthology (June 2014). Hired gun Nick Diamond is determined to ruin the life of his nemesis, Carlton Ridgeway, by claiming Ridgeway’s bride at the altar with a damning lie. He never gives a thought as to how his actions might affect the bride, Liberty Blankenship, who is ready to sacrifice herself for respectability—though she longs for love with all her heart. When Ridgeway comes looking for a fight, Nick obliges—and all hell breaks loose—but will Liberty get her heart’s desire in the end?
Since I had brought the subject of brothers up in Nick and Libby’s conversation, and since Jake, the youngest brother, made a short appearance in HEARTS AND DIAMONDS, I decided to introduce the middle brother, Brett, in SPELLBOUND, my contribution to the Cowboys, Creatures and Calico II (Oct. 2014) anthology. We had so many wonderful submissions for our Halloween anthologies in 2014 we had to make a second volume! My story appeared in this anthology because of the element of magic—and the fact that the heroine, Angie Colton, is a witch—but it actually takes place closer to Christmas. In fact, the Christmas tree is the entire reason the showdown happens like it does between safecracker Brett Diamond and the villain, Teller Magdon. Without a bit of magic, things might not have turned out as they do!
Finally, in LUCK OF THE DRAW, the youngest brother, gambler Jake Diamond gets his own story. This tale appeared in WILD TEXAS CHRISTMAS (Nov. 2014) and I love the fact that “family” is the theme—with it being so close to Christmas. Jake has a bit of a history with the heroine, Lainie Barrett. She’s been held hostage with him for several days in Brett’s story, SPELLBOUND. They’ve said some things to one another under duress that maybe shouldn’t have been said. But when Jake accompanies Lainie back to visit her mother to let her know she’s all right, they make an incredible “find” that shows them Lainie’s odd “gift” and solidifies their relationship. Can a gambling man and a novice witch risk everything on each other?
Here’s an excerpt from the first story in the collection, HEARTS AND DIAMONDS. Nick has just forced Libby to marry him. They’re in the honeymoon suite having their first “heart to heart” talk…
“Be honest, Libby,” Nick said softly. “You weren’t any more in love with Carlton Ridgeway than you are with me. So what difference does it make you which one of us you marry?”
Libby was surprised at how quickly her little ladylike hand uncoiled from her proper stance and unerringly slapped his handsome face, only inches from hers. The noise it made was like a gunshot, and he flinched as he stepped back, his own hand going automatically to his cheek.
“You’re right, Mr. Diamond. I’m not in love with Carlton Ridgeway. The most I had to look forward to was a scrap of respectability—if not for myself, then for my parents. Now, that, too, is gone. So, the only choice is to go forward from this point and—and make the best of things between us. But I will not be used, any more than I have been already, Mr. Diamond.”
“Nick,” he corrected unthinkingly. “And we—can get an annulment, if that’s what you want.”
Libby’s smile held all the promise and danger that was stored in the reckless wildness of her spirit.
“I wouldn’t dream of disappointing you so, Nick,” she said sweetly. “No, we’ll make our dreams come true together,” she continued. “A home of our own, filled with children and, of course, true love.”
His lips quirked at her words. “That sounds pretty damn good to me, Libby. Uh…you do know what makes babies, don’t you?”
Though she only had a vague idea of how it was done, she wouldn’t give him the upper hand. She nodded sagely. “Oh, yes. And I’m looking forward to it.”
As if he knew her secret, Nick Diamond had the audacity to laugh aloud at that. Her face burned.
“I believe you’ll enjoy it more with me than you would have with Ridgeway.”
She moistened her lips and tried to settle the frantic pounding her heart had begun. “Well, then. Perhaps we should—start—immediately. With our family. Our baby.”
Nick stood silent as she floundered. Finally, he said, “Let’s have some dinner first, shall we? I’ll have the bellboy lay a fire for us so we’ll be comfortable when we come back from eating. You’ll need your strength for tonight…when the ‘baby making’ begins. I have a hell of an appetite—for good food and…good sex,” he added wickedly.
WINTER MAGIC BLURB:
The Diamond brothers are cast out into the world by a crooked business deal at a young age. They’ve lost everything—including their father. Although they are forced to make their own way, brotherly bonds remain unbreakable: It’s all for one and one for all.
HEARTS AND DIAMONDS—Revenge sets hired gun Nick Diamond after a bride, and nothing will stand in his way. But when that bride happens to be outspoken firebrand Liberty Blankenship, all bets are off. Anything can happen when HEARTS AND DIAMONDS collide!
SPELLBOUND—Safecracker Brett Diamond and witch Angie Colton take on a border gang leader who is pure evil. Can Angie’s supernatural powers save them? No matter what, Brett and Angie are hopelessly SPELLBOUND.
LUCK OF THE DRAW—Handsome gambler Jake Diamond and beautiful fledgling sorceress Lainie Barrett make a last-ditch effort to reunite Lainie and her mother for Christmas. Along the way, Jake and Lainie realize there’s no escape from the powerful attraction they feel toward one another. But do they know each other well enough to become a family when they rescue an abandoned infant? With their own particular talents, they discover life is one big poker table—and love can be had if they are willing to risk it all!
Thanks so much to everyone who has stopped by today!I want to give away a digital copy of WINTER MAGIC to one lucky commenter, and also a digital copy of the boxed set of COWBOYS, CREATURES, and CALICO I and II–which is now available for only .99 at Amazon for a limited time, so please leave your contact info in your comment in case you win!
If you can’t wait to see if you won, here are the buy links for each of these collections!
Once upon a time in a farmhouse in Hydesville, New York, there lived two sisters who loved to scare family and friends with their vivid imaginations. One day in late March 1848, the girls told a neighbor about spooky happenings in their bedroom. Eager to disprove the girls’ claims that the ghost of a murdered traveling salesman inhabited their home — a tale with which they’d already terrified their mother — the neighbor accompanied fourteen-year-old Maggie Fox and her eleven-year-old sister Kate into their bedroom … where the neighbor, too, was dutifully terrified by the apparently sentient wall-rapping in response to the girls’ questions.
Thus began a religion known as Modern Spiritualism, which is still practiced today.
After having their worst fears seemingly confirmed, the Fox family abandoned the farmhouse, sending Maggie and Kate to live with their older sister, Leah Fox Fish, in Rochester, New York. That may not have been the wisest decision. Rochester was a hotbed of religious activity. Mormonism and the movement that later became Seventh Day Adventism both saw their genesis in the Rochester area.
Upon hearing the tale of the murdered salesman and the unearthly sounds, a group of Rochester residents examined the Fox homestead and found strands of hair and bits of bone in the basement. At a subsequent community meeting, the girls were put to the test: Could they communicate with the dead in Rochester, too?
The girls proved they could by summoning raps on the floor. In addition, Leah seemed to communicate with one community leader’s deceased daughter. All three Foxes were escorted into a private room after the demonstration, where they disrobed and were examined for any hints of duplicity. None were found.
Word of the sisters’ uncommon abilities reached Andrew Jackson Davis, later to become known as “John the Baptist of Modern Spiritualism.” Davis claimed to have received a Divine message on the very day the Fox sisters first channeled spirits on the family farm. In response to the dreary Calvinist teachings of the day, people could not wait to adopt a new spiritualism that taught each individual was the master of his own salvation. The spirits of those who had passed on were there to guide them to their ultimate fate, as they, in turn, would guide those who came after them.
The Fox Sisters embarked on a tour of New England and the Midwest, demonstrating their abilities to notables including newspaperman Horace Greeley, author James Fennimore Cooper, and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. Many accused the girls of perpetrating a hoax, but a growing number of people, convinced by the knocking and apparent communication with dead relatives, embraced the Spiritualist movement.
In 1857, Maggie married explorer Elisha Kent Kane, a man thirteen years her senior who, though he reportedly loved her to distraction, insisted she was a fraud. He died an untimely death shortly after the wedding. Maggie began drinking heavily and abandoned Spiritualism to honor his memory. Kate married a devout Spiritualist leader and continued to develop her skills as a medium, including the use of blank cards upon which messages from the Beyond seemed to appear magically. Among the hazy apparitions she allegedly summoned was Benjamin Franklin’s.
By the end of the Civil War, more than two million believers had converted to Spiritualism; by 1880, adherents grew to more than eight million.
In 1888, Maggie received $1,500 to tell her story in front of a large audience at the New York Academy of Music. By then doing her best to live a life of sobriety, Maggie confessed to the hoax that started the mass hysteria.
“My sister Katie and myself were very young children when this horrible deception began,” the New York World reported. “At night when we went to bed, we used to tie an apple on a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound.”
The sisters soon discovered they could manipulate their knuckles, toes, and other joints to make a variety of unusual sounds. Maggie demonstrated by removing her shoe, placing her foot on a small stool, and producing “rapping” noises
“A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them,” Maggie said. “It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street, and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: ‘I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder.’ Of course that was pure imagination.”
Spiritualists quickly split on the matter, one camp saying Maggie was a true medium who had been consumed by spirits intent on deceiving humanity, and the other claiming she had sold out her religion because, as a poor widow, she needed the money.
Leah, a popular medium in New York City, disowned her younger sister. Kate hit the bottle with increasing frequency and enthusiasm. The sisters never reconciled, even after Maggie recanted her confession a scant year after she embarrassed the family.
Leah, embittered by her sister’s betrayal, died in 1890. Kate died two years later while on a drinking binge. Maggie followed eight months later, in March 1893. Later that year, the diverse Spiritualist groups came together to found the National Spiritualist Association, the forerunner of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, which exists today.
Postscript: In 1904, a group of children discovered what appeared to be a skeleton among the ruins of the abandoned and crumbling Fox homestead. A doctor who examined the bones estimated they had been in the basement for about fifty years. Although the find lent some credence to the Fox sisters’ tale about the murdered salesman, the media and society at large continued to scoff at Spiritualists.
Five years later, another doctor examined the bones and pronounced them a clear attempt to defraud. The alleged skeleton was composed of bits and pieces from several bodies, including those belonging to chickens and other animals.
The Fox homestead burned to the ground in September 1955. A marker now stands on the spot where Modern Spiritualism was born:
Upon this site stood the Hydesville Cottage
The home of the Fox Sisters
Through whose mediumship communication
with the Spirit World was established
March 31, 1848
THERE IS NO DEATH
THERE ARE NO DEAD
Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.
The Worst Outlaw in the West
Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?
Have you ever encountered a ghost? Tell us about it in the comments! I’ll give an E-BOOK of Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts to one of today’s commenters.