I just finished reading Into the Shadows – America’s Unsolved Mysteries and Tales of the Unexpected, by Troy Taylor. As a veteran reader of books on the paranormal, I can say this collection of stories is the best I’ve discovered. Often the actual writing in such books is barely tolerable, but Mr. Taylor’s work is clean, his voice is personable, and his tone is not overwrought. One story, in particular, fascinated me.
In Missouri, in 1913, a childless, 30 year old housewife named Pearl Curren regularly met for afternoon tea with her mother and a neighbor. On July 18th the women decided to experiment with a Ouija board – a gadget that was all the rage in the spiritualism-friendly era. A presence which introduced itself as Patience Worth came through. Over the next weeks, Patience showed a particular affinity for Pearl. Eventually, Pearl was able to dispense with the slow Ouija board, and simply recite and/or write that which Patience wanted to share.
And Patience wanted to share a lot – over the course of the next twenty-five years, she dictated personal communications, essays, a play, several novels and over 5,000 poems. Much of her work was critically acclaimed.
*Lullaby – Patience Worth
Dream, dream thou flesh of me!
Dream thou next my breast.
Dream, dream and coax the stars
To light thee at thy rest.
Sleep, sleep, thou breath of Him
Who watcheth thee and me.
Dream, dream and dreaming,
Coax that He shall see.
Rest, rest thou fairy form
That presseth soft my breat.
Rest, rest and nestle warm,
And rest and rest and rest.
The story becomes particularly interesting when the pre-Patience life of Pearl Curren is examined. By all accounts, she was an “indifferent student”, with no particular knowledge of history nor attraction to spiritualism or writing.
Of course I’ve been all over the web, but I would say the best source for more information and further details is over at Smithsonian.com.
By the way, I would never touch a Oujia board. I hesitated to even post a picture. ‘Too many horror novels & movies for me, I guess.
*I found the text of this poem at Google Books. It was in the public domain title Antholgy of magazine verse.
Originally posted at main blog on December 3rd.
Last night, instead of watching another great horror flick, I settled onto the sofa – properly equipped with a cup of tea and my knitting – to enjoy a Miss Marple mystery. As my cats passive-aggressively dueled for my lap-space, and my dog warmed my feet, I added another 2-3 inches to the baby blanket I’m hoping to finish before Solstice eve. (One of my goals is to knit an item for charity each season. This one, I think, will be dropped off at the hospital with a request that it be given to the next baby born to a young single mother.) When the movie finished, I went to sleep. It was not yet three o’clock in the morning.
Last night was a portent of things to come. My blog is likely to … soften a bit in the next month – for two reasons:
1) Despite my general dislike of the yuletide season, I am not entirely immune to the warm fuzziness of Christmastime, with its sentimental music, uplifting movies, and incessant good cheer.
2) My autumnal bout of hypomania has all but faded away. Coming to this realization so quietly is a good thing. By acknowledging and accepting what is happening, I am less likely to spiral into a depression. With luck, I will simply shift gears and become more domestic for a little while.
This month I will cook and putter more. I will stay home as much as possible. I will dote on and pet my menfolk as much as they will allow. I will make a point of taking the dog for a walk in the brightest part of the day. When the real cold comes, I will fret about the chickens and the feral cats, and make warm meals for them. (A grain and veggie mash for the hens, a kibble and gravy mush for the felines.) Despite my resolution to not fuss over the holiday, I will probably decorate something with twinkle lights. I will listen to classic standards by the likes of Mel Tormé and Bing Crosby. I will watch White Christmas. Probably more than once. Because it features the incomparable song and dance man, Danny Kaye.
But I will also re-read Stephen King’s It, as I have done, during winter break, for the past 25 years. And, if I follow my pattern, I will spend more time in my closet-office, with the door closed, wearing my headphones, listening to Midnight Syndicate, writing about witches and ghosts, pretending it is whatever season my characters are living in.
Here in the blog, I might not write about haunts and horror as much, but my interests will remain skewed toward the mysterious and the magical. In that vein, let me point you to a wonderful web find: Edinburgh’s mysterious book sculptures.
Watch a news clip about the sculptures by clicking HERE.
I’d recommend that you search the web yourself for more information. I poked around enough to learn that a total of ten sculptures were gifted to libraries in Edinburgh, and that the artist has indicated she is female. I don’t really want to know any more than that – I prefer that some mystery remains.
Posting delay - this is from November 26th. This tumblr blog is a mirror of my primary blog at Wordpress.
Last night, as the midnight NaBloPoMo deadline approached, I was completely caught up in a rollicking game of Catch Phrase. Unwilling to step away from the game, I begged my great-niece to write a blog post in for me. She is the only person in my family who shares my fascination with creepy things. (This fact amuses me because she is also my namesake – her middle name is Renae.)
She had no idea that I was going to ask her to do it, nor any familiarity with my blog. Of course she knows I’m a horror writer, and that her mother and I are preparing to do paranormal investigations together – so she wasn’t too startled by the request. She did have to think on her feet though, because I gave her almost nothing to go on. I merely pointed her at my blog, told her to read a few entries to get a feel for the theme, showed her how to add a new post, and let her go.
I was surprised by what she wrote … but not shocked.
I suppose I was about Chammi’s age when I experienced my own nocturnal visitation.
(Forgive the picture quality. This a snapshot, taken with my cell phone, of a snapshot taken when I was 14.)
I remember coming awake slowly in my twin bed, turning from my habitual fetal position onto my back. As usual, my nightgown wrapped uncomfortably around my legs. (I still hate to feel constricted or constrained when I’m sleeping.) I decided to get out of bed – I suppose intending to stand up and straighten out my bedclothes – but when I opened my eyes, I froze.
A figure was leaning over my bed. Its featureless “face” hovered inches above mine. I did not get the sense it was a solid thing. I did not feel any malevolence from it. When I think of it now, I conjure a mental image of a tall, willowy, feminine … presence. And I think of the color blue.
Like Chammi, I didn’t scream or freak out. I think I just went back to sleep. Of course it could have been a dream. I dreamed a lot when I was a child and teenager. Most of my dream images were recurring. (There was one in which I saw the shadow of a wolfman on my bedroom wall, another in which I bounded through an endless meadow.) The Blue Lady, though, I saw only once. Like Chammi, I can’t exactly articulate how or why I became convinced that this single event was not a dream – if it wasn’t, however, I don’t know how to explain it. It doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any of the most common paranormal categories. (Ghosts, apparitions, poltergeist, grays, etc.)
The phenomena which seems most similar is called sleep paralysis – which occurs when a person retains a type of consciousness even though the brain/body is in a REM sleep state. It can occur either at the beginning or end of the REM cycle (when falling asleep or waking up.) Sufferers of sleep paralysis report sensing an evil presence or feeling watched; feeling pressure on the chest / suffocated; being unable to move (which is accurate – the body does enter into a paralyzed state during REM, so that the sleeper doesn’t injure themselves or others during dreams;) feeling panicked or threatened; and seeing hallucinations.