This month on May 26th, my mother turned 92. As I thought about an African-American woman I wanted to honor in my post this month, Catherine Louise Williams Taylor Phillips came to my mind.
Lately, I’ve been asking her questions from a book/journal called My Mother’s Life: Mom I Want To Know Everything About You. I speak to her every morning and after our check-in ritual, I ask her if she’s ready for the question of the day. She says yes, answers what she can recall then shares anecdotes that have nothing to do with the question. That’s my momma.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the turn of the 20th-centuryth century song “M-O-T-H- E- R (M Is For The Million Things She Gave Me).” Here’s a vintage recording if you want to give a listen. It’s a schmaltzy ditty that touches my heart because of the mother I was fortunate to have. So today, I want to celebrate a few of the million things my mother gave me.
My mom was born on May 26, 1930 and was sent to live down South with her grandmother when she was a few months old. She shared with me that she didn’t even know there was a depression and regales me with stories of being the spoiled red-haired fox her uncles chided and chastised.
When Alex Haley’s Roots was televised, she wondered what the big deal was then proceeded to tell me about the Pitt family that owned her grandparents. When I let her know I’d decided to pursue a Masters degree two years after graduating from college and having worked in the big bad world of advertising, it was only then she shared that she had been hoping I would go back to school. She even declared, “Why who knows? You may want to go on and get a PhD.” That was the first time I realized my mother wished things for me, but by her restraint showed she respected that what I wanted when and if I wanted it was what was important.
In things small and large, she made it plain—not only to me but to my sister as well—that we were to be who we wanted to be. We weren’t put on this earth to live up to anyone’s expectations. She recalled a time my sister came to her with a picture she had drawn and said, “I couldn’t do it as good as Anna.” To which my mother assured her she wasn’t supposed to do it as good as Anna. She was supposed to do it as good as Muriel. When I felt unconfident or about to settle for less than what I was worth, I recalled her telling me with great vehemence, “You can scrub toilets before you kiss anybody’s ass.” She doesn’t remember saying this but I do, and I will always be grateful for the confidence those words instilled.
As a minister, I’ve helped families in which the relationship between mothers, daughters and sons was strained and far from loving. They can’t sing without reservation as I can the last line of the song I shared above but thanks to the love I have from my mom, I’ve found ways to help honor their struggles and woes.
The last line of M-O-T-H-E-R goes, “Put them all together they spell MOTHER. A word that means the world to me.” I will forever be grateful to my mother who means the world to me. For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments about someone who was a mother to you or perhaps you have mothered.
HauntedSerenade – by Anna M. Taylor
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived haunted by the curse of Poor Butterfly: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, Anora fled Harlem for Brooklyn, not only severing her ties with her mother Angela, but also ending her relationship with Winston Emerson, her lover and the father of her child.
Six years later, Anora comes home to make peace, but an unseen evil manifests itself during the homecoming and targets not only Anora, but her little girl Cammie.
With nowhere to run, Anora must confront the evil now trying to destroy her life. She vows to protect her daughter at all costs, but if that protection can only be found with Winston back in her life, how will Anora protect her heart?
Excerpt from Haunted Serenade…
In September 15, 1963, the one year anniversary of my aunt Diana’s death, four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama died when their church was bombed for its involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
My mother called that evening and inquired after my health and the health of my daughter Cammie – the granddaughter she vowed never to acknowledge.
Fear, anger and sorrow sounded in her voice. Mine too. We mourned those girls, their families and the sister/aunt we both loved. In that spoken grief, I silently mourned what had died between my mother and me.
The following month she called again, this time inviting me to bring Cammie to dinner. Like some sulky child, I felt tempted to ask what took her so long. Instead, I swallowed my hurt and came home.
Giddings’s title made me stop and think about where and when I enter history as well. School has trained us to think of history as something made by others, but you and I make history in small and large ways every day. As a minister, I have worked with at least a hundred churches and their ministers and lay people seeking how to share their faith and resources with their communities. As part of a community organizing group, I helped address issues of inequality in the communities in which I lived and worked.
As I look back on the last year and a half, I am filled with awe and pride by the creative ways neighbors have helped one another get through the tragedy of this pandemic. These acts of kindness—both random and intentional—will be included in books written about this time. Those who acted will be cited by name just as Giddings’s book names women like Anna Julia Cooper and Mary McLeod Bethune, who chose to challenge the racism and sexism of their day.
However, there are many more who will remain unnamed but whose acts will have touched hearts and minds and spirits, enabling everyone to be encouraged during this difficult time. The smile you share with a stranger from a distance or a phone call you make to someone who is homebound create ripples of goodness that touch the universe in many pay-it-forward ways we may never know. I wonder if this isn’t why history has always had my heart.
My initial idea for this post was to share unsung Black history events that took place in June, events that aren’t getting the attention June 19th—Juneteenth—is getting. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when in Galveston Bay, Texas, the Union army announced the official end of slavery to more than two hundred and fifty thousand enslaved people. There’s a move to make Juneteenth a national holiday but is anyone commemorating June 17, 1775 when Peter Salem and Salem Poor were commended for their service at the Battle of Bunker Hill? As I made my list of such lesser-known events for this post, I realized even Peter Salem and Salem Poor had their names recorded in a place where I could find them and their deeds. Inspired by the title of Giddings’ book, I switched gears and decided to make this post a place where you and I could share when and where we enter history. That way someday someone can come across this post and read about where and when you entered history.
So for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, but more importantly to be remembered for posterity, share a moment in your life when you made an impact on the history we call everyday life.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies”: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, Anora fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing her ties with her mother, Angela, and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.
Six years later, she comes back to Harlem to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston, and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?
On September 15, 1963, the one-year anniversary of my aunt Diana’s death, four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama died when their church was bombed for its involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
My mother called that evening and inquired after my health and the health of my daughter Cammie—the granddaughter she vowed never to acknowledge. Fear, anger and sorrow sounded in her voice. Mine too. We mourned those girls, their families and the sister/aunt we both loved. In that spoken grief, I silently mourned what had died between my mother and me.
The following month she called again, this time inviting me to bring Cammie to dinner. Like some sulky child, I felt tempted to ask what took her so long. Instead, I swallowed my hurt and came home.
Cammie squeezed my fingers and stared at 13 141st Street with a wide-eyed wonder only six-year-olds possess.
“Wow. Grammie has a real house.”
I don’t know what excited her more: the prospect of meeting her maternal grandmother or visiting a real house. Single-family homes with front stoops, porches and backyards were things she saw only on television. We lived in a Brooklyn housing project with eight apartments to every floor and eight floors in every building.
All last night she ooo’d and ah’d over the photo of Number Thirteen my mother had sent her. Too wound up to sleep, her pudgy little body tossed and turned like a happy puppy on the double bed we shared. She shook me awake each time a new possibility occurred to her. Did her Grammie really own the whole house? Could she have a room of her own when she spent the night? Could she have a puppy there? No cats or dogs were allowed in the projects. How many staircases were inside the house? Did it have a doorbell she could ring?
The sound of her excitement cleaved my heart. She showed no signs of discontent with our life, yet the smile she wore as she slept told me my daughter had desires of which I was unaware.
I never make New Year’s resolutions. They only turn out to be promises I never keep. But being fortunate enough to survive the hell that was 2020, I’ve decided it’s time to change my ways. I have resolved to share what I’m calling “Aspirational songs for the heart” on my Twitter and FB accounts every day.
My resolution started back on August 2nd, when I began posting “Democracy Reset” quotes to keep my spirits up as we here in the US headed toward the November election. I alternated between words from men and women of all races and all nations, words like Eleanor Roosevelt’s, “It seems to me that the least a citizen can do is to vote” to present-day quotes like John Lewis’, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
With the advent of then-President-elect Biden’s win, I switched to songs of all types and from all sources that I labeled, “Aspirational songs for the heart until noon Inauguration Day January 20th.” I enjoyed anew the messages of songs like Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “The House I Live In,” the Beatles’ “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends,” and Chris Williamson’s “Song of the Soul.” Even Broadway favorites like Grand Hotel’s “Let’s Raise A Glass” and Rent’s “Seasons of Love” got into the act.
In December, I switched to hymns and carols that focused on the birth of Jesus, the event Christians like myself use to remind ourselves to be hopeful as we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). By the time I reached December 31st and had posted “O Come All Ye Faithful,” I knew I would return to posting songs of aspiration and encouragement as I looked forward to Inauguration Day. My song for January 1st was Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come.” It was then I made my new New Year’s resolution. I wouldn’t stop on January 21st but would keep posting inspirational and aspirational songs for the heart and spirit for the rest of the year. The unfortunate events of January 6th in Washington D.C. made it all too clear how easy the human spirit can be turned to do wrong when its focus has been warped.
My songs may seem like a drop in the ocean or a ripple against a tide of negativity and uncertainty, but it’s a start. Finding ways to say yes each and every time no keeps jumping in your face is what keeps the moral arc of the universe bending toward justice. Music has always done that for me, and I hope it helps those who read my social media posts to do the same.
My goal is to post 365 different songs, so for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, suggest a song or two that lifts your heart that I can share.
Happy New Year.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies:” women still longing for – but deserted by – the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, she fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing ties with both her mother and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.
Six years later, Anora returns to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?
Excerpt from Haunted Serenade…
“I never understood how you and Elizabeth could stay here after Diana…” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word. My mother didn’t finish my sentence for me. Apparently, she couldn’t say the word either.
We waited in the shared silence, unable more than unwilling to offer terms of peace.
“A person can will themselves to die,” my mother said. Her gaze drifted to the album cover in my hands. “It’s not so hard where unforgiving spirits reign.”
My gut clenched. “Do you really believe you’re dying, Ma?”
“According to my doctor, I’m sound as a dollar. But when you’ve got more days behind you than in front of you, that’s not saying much.” She directed her gaze to me. “That’s why Cammie is so important. She’s the future. I feel better just having been in her presence a little while.”
“I should have known.” I gripped the album cover with fingers trembling with anger and disappointment. “All that display of affection…you’re only using her to make you feel better.”
“No, Anora.” My mother came over and grabbed my arm with an earnestness that surprised me. “It’s not like that. I—I want the ghosts keeping us apart to die. Don’t you?”
I wanted it so much it hurt. I grimaced but nodded.
“Cammie took one look at this house and asked if it was haunted.”
My mother snorted. “Out of the mouths of babes.”
“Exactly what I thought.” I returned the album cover to its resting place.
The term troubled my mind. Can the spirit of anyone who dies the way my aunt died ever rest?
The question went unanswered, interrupted by my daughter’s screams.
It is cold, and winter is here. You’re mostly stuck indoors because it’s warmer. So, what do you do? Why read, of course! It’s an excellent time to catch up on all those books you received for Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year to read some scary ghost stories.
Wait a moment; you are saying Halloween is long past, and Christmas was last month. It’s chilling, dreary weather, maybe even it snowed where you lived last night, so you want to read something light and fun. What better time for spooky tales, especially those even happening during the winter season in the story itself?
Humans have always sought out horror stories: reading, writing, and watching horror is an entirely rational response to the world. By the end of a book or movie, the crisis will be over in some way, and the danger will have passed: this applies, of course, to fiction, that when the stakes are at their highest, the catharsis is all the more wonderful. Winter horror reminds you that spring will arrive.
It is not about escaping reality but raising the stakes on the fear by adding a dash of a monster, ghosts, or even a serial killer, and then seeing what happens to the characters in wintry conditions that will make things even worse. Most books or stories end happily for the heroes unless there is a sequel in the works. And don’t worry—you are safe and warm, in your home. Right? Wait a moment! Do you hear that?
Some books you might like to check out for that wintertime reading…
The Shining by Stephen King: This is a great book to read. Stephan King is a master of his characters and storytelling. Jack, Wendy, and their son, Danny Torrance, move to the remote Overlook Hotel for the winter as caretakers. For the next few months, Jack, a recovering alcoholic, spirals into murderous insanity. Then there are the ghosts, too. Although the hotel is nominally the malevolent force in this story, for me, it comes down to Jack Torrance as, like a Shakespearean tragic hero, he unravels from within himself. To quote the book: “Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: It might not be winter as the season in this masterful classic ghost story novella from 1898, and yet the story can still chill a reader from 2021. Characters like a man called Douglas relates the story of an unnamed governess who takes a job at Bly to look after two seemingly angelic children on behalf of their uncle, whose only stipulation is that she must never contact him. Miles, the little boy, arrives home from boarding school having been expelled for unknown reasons. Flora, the girl, has an ‘extraordinary charm’, but the governess becomes entirely besotted with Miles. When the governess sees the ghosts of both Quint, a former worker, and Miss Jessell, the former governess, things begin to spiral out of control. Are the spirits truly there? Is the governess to be trusted? Read the book and find out.
The Terror by Dan Simmons: It is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to locate the Northwest Passage. The ship enters a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, and they become stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror always clawing to get in.
Snowblind by Christopher Golden: Twelve years ago, the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts, was in the grasp of a fierce winter, then came the Great Storm. It hit hard. Not everyone saw the spring. Today the families, friends, and lovers of the victims are still haunted by the ghosts of those they lost so suddenly. If only they could see them one more time, hold them close, tell them they love them. When a new storm strikes, it doesn’t just bring snow and ice; it brings the people of Coventry exactly what they’ve wished for, plus the realization that their nightmare is only beginning.
Who Goes There by John W. Campbell: This science fiction horror novella by American writer John W. Campbell Jr., written under the pen name Don A. Stuart, was first published in the August 1938 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It formed the basis for The Thing movies. You can find this at Amazon, even as a free PDF, and I know a current publisher who got the original version, which had more to the story and published it in its entirety.
That is Frozen Hell: The Book That Inspired The Thing: Recently discovered among Campbell’s papers, this version adds another 45 pages to the story. It also includes a Preface by Alec Nevala-Lee and an Introduction by Robert Silverberg.
A group of scientific researchers, isolated in Antarctica by the nearly-ended winter, discover an alien spaceship buried in the ice, where it crashed twenty million years before. Thawing revives the alien pilot of the ship. This being can assume the shape, memories, and personality of any living thing it devours while maintaining its original body mass for further reproduction. And once it does, who is really the alien and who is the real person, as they must stop it from getting out of Antarctica.
Pamela K. Kinney
Journey to worlds of fantasy, beyond the stars, and into the vortex of terror with the written word of Pamela K. Kinney.
Take a journey along Virginia’s scenic Routes 10 and 460 eastbound to enjoy the lovely countryside and metropolises that spread around these two roads. Most of all, discover that some historical houses, plantations, battlefields, parks, and even the modern cities, have more than touristy knickknacks, ham, and peanuts to offer. Many have ghosts! Bacon’s Castle has spirits haunting it since the 1600s. Stay in a cabin overnight at Chippokes Plantation State Park and you might find you have a spectral bedfellow. The city of Smithfield has more to offer than the world’s oldest ham; it also has some very old phantoms still stalking its buildings. Take a ghost tour of Suffolk and see why the biggest little city is also one of the spookiest. Discover the myths and legends of the Great Dismal Swamp and see what phantoms are still haunting the wildlife refuge. And if that’s not enough, Bigfoot and UFOs are part of the paranormal scenery. These and other areas of southeastern Virginia are teeming with ghosts, Sasquatch, UFOs, and monsters. See what awaits you along 460 south and 10. No matter which road you take, the phantoms can’t wait to SCARE you a good time.
And for fiction for a winter night, HWA Poetry Showcase Volume VII. It is an anthology, not with short stories, but dark poetry that tells terrifying stories. Includes my Lovecraftian horror poem, “Dementia.” It is available in both Kindle and paperback.
The Horror Writers Associations presents their seventh annual Poetry Showcase, featuring the best in never-before-published dark verse. Edited by Stephanie M. Wytovich, this year’s featured poets are K. P. Kulski, Sarah Read, and Sara Tantlinger, plus dozens of poems from the talented members of the Horror Writers Association.
Author Pamela K. Kinney gave up long ago trying not to listen to the voices in her head and has written award-winning, bestselling horror, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, along with nonfiction ghost books ever since. Three of her nonfiction ghost books garnered Library of Virginia nominations. Her third ghost book, Virginia’s Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, and Other Haunted Locations, had reached a second printing and is now a 2nd edition with extra new stories and ten new ghostly images added, plus a new ghost book, Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Takes Along Routes 10 and 460 released in 2020 from Anubis Press. Her horror short story, “Bottled Spirits,” was runner-up for the 2013 WSFA Small Press Award and is considered one of the seven best genre short fiction for that year. Her latest novel was an urban fantasy, How the Vortex Changed My Life. In 2019, her science fiction novella, Maverick Heart, released from Dreampunk Press, along with a horror story, “By Midnight,” in the Christmas horror and fantasy anthology, Christmas Lites IX, and a nonfiction story, “The Haunted Cavalier Hotel,” in the paranormal nonfiction anthology, Handbook for the Dead. Five micro horror stories of hers in the anthology, Nano Nightmares, a horror short story, “Hunting the Goatman,” was included in the anthology, Retro Horror, plus a horror short story, “A Trick, No Treat,” plus three horror poems of hers, were included in Siren Call Publications’ Halloween issue, released October 2020. She has a poem, “Dementia,” accepted for Horror Writers Association’s horror poetry anthology, HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. VII. Of course, she is working on various horror and fantasy short stories and has finished a supernatural horror novel and is also working on a nonfiction book, Werewolves, Dogmen, and Other Shapeshifters Stalking America, for Anubis Press.
Pamela and her husband live with one crazy black cat (who thinks she should take precedence over her mistress’s writing most days). Along with writing, Pamela has acted on stage and film and investigates the paranormal for episodes of Paranormal World Seekers for AVA Productions. She is a member of both Horror Writers Association and Virginia Writers Club. You can learn more about Pamela K. Kinney at http://www.PamelaKKinney.com.
I’ll be the first to admit that 2020 was not my best year. Like most of you, I’m sure, I had high expectations at the outset. After all, I’d successfully retired early, successfully downsized in a remarkably efficient fashion to a large truck and suitable 5th wheel camper with my DH (Darling Husband).
Our anticipation of the next stage of our adventure was full of promise. We had lived and traveled for five years, marking off all the sites and escapades of the journey on our combined bucket list. We enjoyed volunteering, being outside, open campfire cooking, the life of carefree non-attachment, living as close to “off the grid” as we were comfortable with at the time.
But of course, all good things come to an end. I felt the need to settle down and take writing seriously once again. Around about Labor Day of 2019, my DH and I decided to settle down and purchase and brick and stick house. He chose Alabama. Specifically, northern Alabama, the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
I found the area to be not only beautiful but the scenic hiking trails spectacular. The residents here are warm, friendly, and welcoming. Our search for a house went well, even if we were outbid on several fronts as the home sellers’ market was hot when we arrived. It has long been my belief that these things work themselves out exactly as they should.
After three months, we purchased a few acres including the original farm homestead. The home had been lovingly refurbished, restored, and offered everything we were looking for. Plenty of space for our families to visit, an open layout for entertaining, and in a small town with a terrific community.
I made myself at home, made a few friends, joined a club or two, and began to settle in at the homestead.
Interesting that several of my new acquaintances, one of them my close neighbor, one of them the relative of the original homestead family, told me a story about a man who had drowned in the nearby lake.
The lake is man-made, extremely deep, and very cold. A beautiful spot for kayaking—one of my favorite pastimes. In fact, I became involved with a group of women who routinely went kayaking and then socialized over a shared lunch. This activity became a godsend as the pandemic forced many into isolation.
While learning about one another I shared with the group my story of growing up in a haunted house. And that sharing brought out stories of locals who had died by drowning in the lake.
Now if you’re wondering if the haunted house found me, well…it did.
My first night in the house, which was built more than 100 years ago, the lights in the kitchen came on by themselves. I saw the lights power on through our open bedroom door and ran to see if someone was in the kitchen.
My DH had been sound asleep beside me, and no, I did not get him up as I thought it was merely bad wiring in an old house. Yes, we’d had an inspection, but it is possible to miss some things.
I turned off the lights and went back to bed.
Several nights later, the lights again awoke me after midnight. The following weeks I lived with dresser and cabinet drawers opening without reason. Returning to the house after a few hours away, the house often greeted us with misplaced items: keys, groceries, and personal items.
But none of this bothered me. I’d grown up in a haunted house, remember?
Then one day my neighbor stopped to chat, and as we sat visiting, simply passing the time of day, he shared the story of his uncle who had lived in the house when the lake was first made.
He told me his mother never believed the uncle, who had been visiting with his estranged wife attempting a reconciliation, would’ve left without telling her. He said how his mother refused to empty his closet or store his personal things since she knew in her heart he would return.
Well, he did return. To the original homestead house, sold twice over, where I now live.
My ghost is like an old family friend. He’s a quiet spirit, mostly well behaved, and genuinely polite. A spirit with a sense of humor.
When my DH acquired two feist puppies from a local friend, my ghost determined to help me train them.
I have to tell you it creeps me out to see the puppies run across the field and suddenly stop, sit and hold their paws up for obvious shaking. Then they lay on their backs to get tummy rubs before they bounce back and resume the run across the field. Weird.
About the Author
Born and raised in southeastern Pennsylvania and seasoned in west Texas, Ane traveled with her husband and enjoyed writing from wherever they roamed. Currently writing from Arely, Alabama, she is working on a Regency series Talk of the Ton, including three stories. There’s a New Earl in Town, a secret baby story, The Trouble with Harry, a woman disguised as a man to support her family whose employer falls in love with her, and Mismanaging the Marquess, about a widow who falls in love with the man who killed her husband.
I realize when I ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?” I’m really asking, “Do you think there’s anything stronger than the grave?” A Roman Catholic colleague of mine had someone ask her why she prayed to her dead grandmother. Her response was she didn’t believe death could kill all that love. No way was that connection gone. I agree with my friend. I believe love is stronger than the grave and that love wants to work to our benefit. That love is stronger than the evil often attributed to ghosts by the likes of Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. Even phenomena like poltergeists are considered rare and tied to the unresolved issues of the living.
I was always attracted to the idea of friendly spirits who want to be helpful. Be they the ghosts from the TV show Topper or cartoons like Casper the Friendly Ghost. As a kid, my heart always broke for Casper when the kids he was playing with were dragged away from him by scared screaming parents. Maybe growing up in the turbulent ’60s and knowing people rejected people like me because of the color of my skin had me identify with Casper on a level I wasn’t aware of.
I know my belief in help from beyond the grave is firmly rooted in my belief in the resurrection. But I’m also sure my belief in helpful ghosts has been shored up by the various movie versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843 as “A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” Dickens had a similar themed story in his 1836 novel, The Pickwick Papers, entitled “The Goblins Who Stole A Sexton.” In that story a selfish sexton is visited by goblins who help him see the error of his ways much like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future helped Ebenezer Scrooge see the light. Between you and me ghosts are much more appealing than goblins.
My interest in ghosts has led to loads of research about the parapsychology realm. For instance, I learned there are five types of ghosts: the interactive personality, ectoplasm, poltergeist, orbs and funnel ghosts. Who knew? Most stories naturally focus on the interactive personality, but I’m intrigued to learn more about the other four. I came across the Louisville Historic tours has some cool photos of each if you’d care to check them out: https://louisvillehistorictours.com/the-5-different-types-of-ghosts-with-photos. They’ve even got a video purporting to capture an orb: https://louisvillehistorictours.com/ghost–orbs.
It’s also nice to know I’m not alone in my interest in manifestations from the other world. I went to ParanormalSocieties.com and have discovered thirty-five paranormal societies I intend to check out here in New Mexico.
So how about you? Do you believe in ghosts as a quantifiable reality or the stuff of fantasy and wishful thinking? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to give someone a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card. Hope your holidays have been merry and bright.
A Little In Love With Death
Ten years ago no one — not even the man who said he loved her — believed Sankofa Lawford’s claim she had been brutally attacked by a ghost. Ten years later an assault on a new victim brings her back to Harlem to a mother going mad, a brother at his wits’ end and a former love who wants a second chance. Sankofa longs for her family to be whole again, for love to be hers again, but not if she must relive the emotional pain created by memories of that night.
Mitchell Emerson is convinced science and reason can account for the ghostly happenings at Umoja House. He resolves to find an explanation that will not only satisfy him but earn back Sankofa’s trust and love. Instead, his own beliefs are shaken when he sees the ghost for himself.
Now reluctant allies, Mitchell and Sankofa learn her family was more than a little in love with death. Their search for the ghost draws them together but discovering sixty years of lies and secrets pulls them apart. As their hopes for happily ever after and dispersing the evil stalking Umoja House slip beyond their grasp, Mitchell and Sankofa find an unexpected source of help: the ghost itself.
Excerpt from A Little in Love with Death…
Mitchell swallowed hard. Ten years hadn’t lessened the effect of Sankofa’s beauty on him. Photos in various alumni newsletters showed the gray in hair that had once been charcoal, the roundness in a face that had once been slender, the tiredness in a gaze that had once been energetic. He’d expected his ex-lover’s effect on him to be just as diminished. His shoulders suddenly drooped, weighed down with the loss of what might have been.
Harlan Montgomery Jr. clapped Mitchell on the back.
“Here he is, Langston. I told you Mitch would respond to our S.O.S.” He peered into Wanda Lawford’s room, shuddered then addressed Langston again. “How’s Auntie doing?”
Langston shrugged and averted his gaze.
Sankofa crossed her arms and glared. “As well as can be expected.”
Mitchell cleared his throat. Ten years hadn’t changed how emotion colored the Lawford siblings’ light complexions. Embarrassment darkened Langston’s. Anger still set Sankofa’s ablaze.
Harlan smiled, unfazed by the hostility she poured on him. “It’s good to have you back in Harlem, Sankofa.”
Sankofa uncrossed her arms. “I’m not glad to be back.” She turned her sharp glare on Mitchell. “And I won’t be staying long.”
He touched the side of his face where her scowl scraped his cheek, half expecting to find blood. He remembered how her eyes sparkled like sunlight through honey when she smiled. He would receive no smiles this trip. And rightly so. She had no reason to be glad to see him.
Halloween is almost here, so this time, dear Delilah fans, I’m going to share a personal story before I tell you about my featured short story. Snuggle in with a cup of hot tea and tuck that blanket around your legs. And enjoy the hair standing up on your neck.
A friend had come to stay with me while she searched for a place to live. She had lived in Europe for several years, and on her journey back to the States had stayed for a time in London with an old friend. He was ailing and subsequently died. She told me about her mysterious experience with his ghost visiting her after his death.
After returning to the States, she lived at my house maybe two or three months before finding a rental she liked. After she moved out, a month or so later, I was sitting in the living room watching television like I did every night when I suddenly became aware of another presence in the house. The hair went up on my neck.
At first, I tried to convince myself it was my imagination, because that’s what we all do at moments like that, right? Then I reasoned that if someone had come in at the back end of the house through that seldom-used door, I would have heard it. It didn’t open without a creak. I heard no creak.
But after several minutes of very eerie energy wafting through the house, I forced myself to get up from the couch and go back there. I slowly crept the thirty feet down the hallway to that back door, gooseflesh on my arms. I even stopped to pick up a large bamboo rod to use on an intruder. I flipped on the hall lights, calling out ‘Who’s there?’
When I got to the room with the door, it was empty. So was the rest of that part of the house, including closets and under the beds. Yes, I checked. And the door was locked. But Something was there, an energy that was so strong and so haunting that I could feel it all around me.
Almost immediately, I realized it was the ghost of my friend’s friend. It must have followed her since she was the person who had seen him through his last days and communed with the ghost after her friend’s death. I remembered her remarks that she had visited with the ghost more than once.
Well, thanks a lot! I didn’t need that ghost, and I didn’t appreciate her leaving it here with me.
It was hostile, maybe because she had left it behind. I didn’t trust it. Didn’t want it. I tried to reason with myself. Maybe it was likely just lost.
So I addressed it. I stood there in the rooms she had stayed in and told it this wasn’t where it needed to be. I tried to change my energy from fear and resistance to a more loving and sympathetic frame of mind. It wasn’t easy because I was spooked, but I said it would rest better if it joined the other spirits in the places they lived. I told it to go to the light.
I thought it had listened because the presence seemed to leave. Later, though, when I went back to that part of the house after a few days, my eye caught on a work of art one of my kids had done in grade school. Taking pride of place near the end of the hallway, it was well-done rendering of a clown with a teardrop on its cheek that had always made it a sad image.
Well, now the image was not sad. It was demonic.
The ghost had taken up residence.
I admit I’m not a big fan of clowns in general, so there might have been some prejudice in my observation. But a couple of visiting neighbors got the same chill from looking at the painting. Disturbed by what was either a supernatural presence existing within my house or, alternatively, the fact that I was losing my mind, I ended up asking my daughter to take the art to her dad. Where it remains. I have not been bothered by that ghost again.
The ghost had no direct influence on the story of Emily’s Halloween. But living in the deep woods offers plenty of opportunities to let the spirit world walk tall in the imagination. The Halloween magic that created “Emily’s Very Special Halloween” started one afternoon with a sketchy idea for a writing project. It was an early fall day with the woods taking on their colors of orange, gold, and scarlet. A wind blew that morning, sending a kaleidoscope of color whirling through the air. I thought, okay, something with dark mystery would be nice. I’d figure it out the next morning.
During the night, this idea came to me about an ancient book and masculine magic. The next morning, I could think of nothing else. I sat down at my desk and, by noon, the story was finished.
I’ve never had that happen before. In the story, a book falls, quite literally, into Emily’s hands while she’s dusting shelves in the bookshop where she works. Bound in blackened ancient leather, the slim volume includes a title visible more from the indentation on the leather than by surviving lettering. Spells and Incantations, it says. She leafs through the brittle pages, muttering some of the strange words written there. From there, a story unfolds of sex magic and a mysterious dark stranger.
Excerpt from Emily’s Very Special Halloween
He wore a long black cape which only emphasized his masculine stature. His other garments also were black except for an elaborate vest with bizarre geometric markings that seemed to glow in the dark and move of their own accord in the reflected light of the bonfire. Faintly, she wondered if he found the vest in the same vintage shop.
His mouth reminded her of the man today in the bookstore. Her startled gaze returned to his face where a teasing smile lingered along his sensual lips. If the black mask covering his upper face were gone, would he…
She gasped. “Were you…”
“At the bookstore today?” He bowed slightly. “I’m flattered you remember. Yes, I like old books. I look around in every town I visit.”
“You’re visiting?” she stammered. God, she was horrible at this. Her face heated. “Well, I mean…”
One of his eyebrows lifted and his mouth pursed as if he choked back a laugh. “I’m teaching a short philosophy course on campus,” he said. “You would be welcome to sit in, if you like.”
“Oh, I’m taking seventeen hours plus I work, so… But thank you for inviting me.”
“Yes, of course,” he said smoothly. “So if this is the only time we might have to get acquainted, may I escort you around the grounds?”
Emily felt her jaw sag. Her glance at Sarah discovered an equally stunned expression. This man was older than her twenty-two years, certainly leagues beyond any of her classmates in terms of worldly wisdom. A visiting professor, no less. What was he doing at this party? Why her?
“Uh, sure,” she said, unable to think of any other response.
“I saw Harris over there,” Sarah said smoothly, pointing to a group of people several yards away. “I need to talk to him.”
Well, at least one of them had a clue about what to do next, Emily thought frantically. What now? There weren’t any ‘grounds’ here. He talked as if they were at some palatial estate with sculptured gardens and paved walkways. The ground here was rough with clumps of recently-mowed pasture grass and unexpected dips, most of it in shadow with only the bonfire to cast uneven light.
Her pulse fluttered in her throat. How had she found herself so far beyond her comfort zone—the dress, the party, and now this man? Too late. She almost regretted not staying at home. This whole idea from dressing up to attending the party was Sarah’s thing, not hers. Sarah loved going out. Emily, not so much. Actually not at all. She had the Friday evening schedule of television programs memorized, her go-to method of chilling out after a hard week of class and work.
A more reasonable concession to Halloween might have been a couple bags of candy for the neighborhood kids, assuming any of them ventured up the rickety outside staircase to her apartment door. Instead, here she was at somebody’s farm with a man touching her elbow sending shockwaves through her body. She glanced up.
“Don’t be afraid of me, Emily,” he said. “I think we should be formally introduced. I’m Ned Lucian, but everyone calls me Jack. Among other things,” he added with a grin.
“I’m, well, how did you know my name?” she said.
“Your name tag at work.”
“Oh, yeah, gee whiz.” She grinned sheepishly. “Emily Sanders. Nice to meet you, Jack.” She stuck out her hand.
The firm clasp of his hand seemed to burn her entire arm. She couldn’t seem to let go or even think of backing away. His presence surrounded her as if she had slipped inside his cloak. That incense scent she’d noticed in the changing room filled the still air, probably because her body had become hot and pulled the scent from the dress. Her breath came in short gasps. She felt dizzy.