Welcome. This is my blog, and you're my most coveted guest. If I seem a bit too intense, it's only because I have so much that I want to share with you, and I can see that you're eager to begin as well. So, please...make yourself at home, sip an East India cocktail (I blended the pomegranate juice myself), and sample some of my domestic and imported Arcana: useless, but fascinating information about Victoriana, Steampunk and other favoured topics; music which evokes that dark, lost Lenore sensibility; and other pleasant or, perhaps, unsettling non sequiters whispered in a darkened room. Linger long or short, leave a comment or refrain, but remember to come back soon to play a (shhhh) parlour game.
Velkommen. Dette er min blog, og du er min mest eftertragtedegæst. Hvis jeg synes en smule for intenst, det er kunfordi jeg har så meget at jeg vil dele med jer, og jeg kanse, at du er ivrig efter at begynde så godt. Så kan du ...føl dig hjemme, sip et East India cocktail (jeg blandetden granatæble juice mig selv), og prøve nogle af mine indenlandske o importerede Arcana: ubrugelig, menfascinerende oplysninger om Victoriana, Steampunkog andre begunstigede emner; musik der fremkalderdenne mørke, mistede Lenore sensibilitet, og andrebehagelige eller måske foruroligende, ikke sequitershviskede i et mørkelagt rum. Linger lang eller kort,efterlade en kommentar eller afstå, men husk at komme tilbage snart til at spille en (Shhhh) selskabsleg.
- I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
Nocturne in G Flat major
Chopin, darkness, light, sand and wind, starlight tread. Beethoven, love, fear, madness, redemption in the night. Liszt, waltzing widows, desperate bargains, pleasure's secret plight. Now, then, before, always, forever. Promises made on lonely beaches, celestial summer's perfect kiss, passions quenched in salty breezes, the lure of distant mist-draped heights. Bitter interlude. Final, private nocturne. Burned down like a candle. Doomed bleeding beauty. Fated sacrificial night.
We love all things dark and mysterious, macabre and obscure, odd and unfathomable. Nothing is too strange or bizarre for our little blog. And although we would never presume to offer definitive answers to the great questions of life, we shall do our best to enlighten, inform and delight our visitors with our whimsical potpurri of facts, anecdotes, trivia and informational outpourings. We strive not to offend, but to edify those who wish to reach beyond their comfort zone and touch the fabric of another time and place, and of distant, but genuine worlds and lives. As Victorian-themed blogs go, ours may not be the most austere, nor the most comprehensive, but we know what we like, and if our readers like it as well, then all is as it should be in this ramshackle corner of our own personal Victorian empire.
A Musical Note
A Musical Note: We feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by one or more of the following musical selections. Then again, we also feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by a glass of absinthe, a bite of lemon cake, and a foot massage (preferably by someone you know). So, to paraphrase the otherwise completely irrelevant-to-our-blog Mr. Aleister Crowley, "Do what thou wilt...but be open to Chopin."
Follow Us On Twitter
Thursday, March 15, 2012
BRING ON THOSE 19TH CENTURY SPIRITS!
When her son Willie died at the age of 11 from typhoid fever in 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln, who had pretty much been a hot mess throughout her husband Abe's presidency, was so overcome with grief that Abe confided in friends that he feared for her very sanity. And with good reason. Already predisposed to wild displays of public emotion, Mary was a loose canon whose manic behavior and spendthrift ways kept the president's handlers working round the clock on various means of damage control. This time, though, unable to accept her son's death, Mary refused to be handled. Instead, she turned to spiritualism.
Mrs. Lincoln had been interested in spiritualism even before her husband was elected to office, but following Willie's death (which had been preceded by the death of his brother, Eddie a few years before), the grieving mother insisted on inviting a succession of spirit mediums to the White House for the purpose of conducting seances. Contemporaries claimed that eight seances in all were held in the White House, one of which Lincoln himself attended, most likely to appease his wife. The results? In a letter to her half sister, Emilie, Mary wrote, "Willie lives. He comes to me every night and stands at the foot of the bed with the same sweet adorable smile he always has had. He does not always come alone. Little Eddie is sometimes with him, and twice he has come with our brother, Alex."
And it didn't stop there. Following her husband's assassination in 1865, Mary once again sought out the help of spirit mediums in an effort to make contact with her dead spouse. During a trip to Boston some years later, she attended a seance at which, she claimed, the spirit of Abe appeared to her. Not satisfied with that brief encounter, she made a visit to the studio of famed spirit photographer, William Mumler, where she was photographed against a blank backdrop, over which, when the photograph was later developed, the image of a somber-faced Abraham Lincoln seemed to be superimposed.
Even allowing for the probable fact that Mary Todd Lincoln was a few degrees shy of "normal" (and what is normal, really?), she was hardly alone in her quest for otherworldly contact in a century in which spiritualism held sway over an impressive segment of the population of the western world. But how did it all start? Well, if you ask the spiritualists, it can all be attributed to a pair of sisters called Kate and Maggie Fox, who became mediums by chance whilst residing with their parents in a rented cottage in Hydesville, New York in the cold early spring of 1848.
Kate and Maggie Fox were about 11 and 14, respectively, when the family began hearing strange rapping noises in and around their house. Now, lest you think that the Fox family were predisposed to the playing of hoaxes or had ulterior motives in mind, neighbors who witnessed the strange events at the Hydesville house were adamant that neither Mr. Fox nor his wife had ever shown the slightest interest in the occult. John Fox was a blacksmith who had recently sworn off liquor in an effort to save his marriage. Kate and Maggie were, by all accounts, "normal", even somewhat simple girls with no aspirations toward fame and fortune. The sudden "haunting" of their humble abode seemed to come not only as a complete surprise to the entire family, but caused great distress for Mrs. Fox, who was convinced that the manifestations were caused by an unholy agency. It didn't help when Kate began mimicking the thumps and raps taking place in the house, addressing the alleged spirit as "Mr. Splitfoot" (an archaic euphemism for the devil) and challenging it to "do as I do." And, according to contemporary reports, it obliged. When Kate snapped her fingers three times, the alleged spirit did the same. When she rapped on the table, the unseen visitor responded with its own raps. By the next morning, the tiny house was overrun with curiosity seekers, one of whom took it upon himself to interview as many people that he could find who knew anything about the strange goings-on. It is largely because of his efforts that we know the details of what actually went on during those early days of the Fox sisters' apparent mediumship in Hydesville.
Utilizing a hastily arranged code based on the alphabet, the Fox sisters and other witnesses to the events in Hydesville were able to ascertain that the alleged spirit was that of a peddler called Charles B. Roma who was supposedly murdered by a previous resident of the house and whose body had been buried in the cellar. A subsequent investigation into the matter failed to turn up any evidence to support the spirit's claims, although local officials did find a bone which could not be positively identified as human. The ensuing excitement, however, was such that Kate and Maggie were forced to leave Hydesville and take refuge in the homes of older siblings in Rochester. The rappings followed them. For all practical purposes, and seemigly through no efforts of their own, the Fox sisters had become not only mediums, but the harbingers of a new age of spiritualism. The girls, along with their older sister, Leah, who fancied herself a medium now as well, held seances and private readings throughout the mid 1800s, attracting sitters from all over the world, many of them very prominent and well-respected people, and making a great deal of money in the process. Sadly, things began to fall apart in the late 1880s, at which time Kate's heavy drinking started taking a toll on her "powers" and Maggie (who also had a drinking problem) developed concerns that her mediumistic talents were "diabolical", prompting her to contemplate a return to her earlier belief in Roman Catholicism.
The Fox sisters really hit the skids when Maggie confessed to a reporter that she and Kate had been faking it all along, cracking their toe and knee joints to simulate the sound of spirit rapping. However, she recanted the confession a year later, saying that the reporter had bribed her with money and alcohol in an effort to obtain a good story. Both sisters died in the early 1890s, penniless, their popularity overshadowed by accusations of fraudulence, and were buried in paupers' graves. Even so, their sad demise seems to have had no effect on the spiritualist legacy they left behind. Still revered by modern day spiritualists as the pioneers of a new age in inter-dimensional contact, they remain objects of fascination and deference to the hundreds of "true believers" who trek to Lily Dale every year to view the carefully constructed replica of the Hydesville house where it all began.
NEXT POST: SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE AND THE COTTINGLY FAIRIES.