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."
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Saturday, April 21, 2012
A ROAD BEST LEFT UNTRAVELED
On a hot June afternoon in 1906, 14-year-old Mary Bailey and her 13-year-old cousin Zylphia McPhearson were picking wild strawberries in a field near Mary's house on Hooker Road in the small town of Aston, New Hampshire. It was something they had done many times before, and, as they went about the task, they chatted about the kinds of things that young girls chat about, paying no mind to the deserted dirt road behind them. At one point, the girls thought they heard the sound of a horse's hooves and wagon wheels passing on the road behind them, and turned to see who it was, but there was nothing there. A short time later, Zylphia thought she heard a woman's voice call out her name. But looking around, she saw no one.
"She asked me if I had heard someone calling out to her. I told her that I had heard nothing," Mary later recalled. "We weren't overly concerned or frightened in any way whatsoever. We were both country girls, from good, Christian families, whose minds did not turn naturally toward fanciful thoughts or ideas. We spoke only briefly about it, reaching the conclusion that both the sound of the wagon wheels and the voice had come from further down the road, but, somehow, due to the lay of the land, had seemed closer to us than they really were. "
And, so, having reached that conclusion, Mary and Zylphia finished loading up their baskets with wild strawberries and headed home.
The following Saturday night, another resident of Aston, a 45-year-old man called Robert Blaisdell, was walking down the same road on his way home from a visit to his brother's house. Blaisdell was not what one would call "an upstanding citizen." A carpenter who had fallen on hard times, he was known to have a drink or two (or three or four), when the opportunity presented itself, which, apparently, it did at regular intervals. His wife had left him because of his drinking, taking their three children with her, and in their absence, Blaisdell had become a familiar, morose figure who could often be seen strolling aimlessly through the countryside, or sitting on the porch of his house "glaring angrily at those passers-by who dared to look in his direction." Despite his anti-social attitude, he still attended the local Congregationalist church occasionally, which kept his fellow townsfolk from shunning him completely. However, on the night in question, he was, in his own words "as sober as a judge and thinking of nothing but getting home to bed." Unfortunately, there was a slight obstacle in the way of that simple objective. As Blaisdell sauntered down the road, his attention was drawn to a "glowing shape of a white-ish color" standing on the side of the road several yards ahead of him. As he got closer to it, Blaisdell saw that it was a woman, "in a long white cloak and wearing a white kerchief on her head." Fair enough. Save for the eerie glow which surrounded her...and the disturbing fact that there was nothing but an empty space where her face should have been.
Later, relating the experience to acquaintances, Blaisdell said that he felt as though he had met the devil. Too frightened to walk past the glowing, faceless figure, he turned and hightailed it back to his brother's house from which he refused to budge until his brother agreed to walk home with him the next morning.
It was only when the details of Blaisdell's strange encounter reached young Mary Bailey's ears that she thought to tell her parents of what she and Zylphia had experienced in the strawberry field. Her parents were not overly concerned, since, as Mary put it, "(My parents) put no stock in anything that Mr. Blaisdell said on account of his reputation as a drunkard. The odd occurrence which had befallen Zylphia and myself was put aside as a simple trick of the mind, meaning, in plain language, that my parents believed our girlish imaginations had gotten the better of us."
And perhaps that would have been that as far as Mary's parents and the rest of the town were concerned. But, as might be expected, there is more to the story. Mary, who, at the age of eighteen, would leave Aston to attend William Smith College in New York from which she would be among the first young women to graduate with a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, might have been a "country girl" from a "good, Christian family", but she had curious mind, and Robert Blaisdell's account of what he had seen on Hooker Road had piqued her interest. In what was, by her own account, a very uncharacteristic display of disregard for propriety, she convinced her cousin Zylphia to accompany her on what amounted to a late night stake-out of the spot on Hooker Road where Blaisdell claimed to have seen the glowing, white-clad figure of a woman.
"My cousin was not as enthusiastic as I was regarding the adventure," she recalled. "She was not a timid girl, but in the several weeks during which she had been staying with our family following the death of her mother, she had come to know my father as a very stern man, and my mother as his fitting counterpart in that attitude. We both knew that my parents would not be pleased by the idea of two young girls sitting alone in the dark half a mile from the house which contained the beds in which they should, according to household rules, be fast asleep at that time of night."
But, having decided to risk whatever repercussions might come their way, the girls went through with their plan, waiting until Mary's parents had gone to bed, and then slipping out of the house through Mary's bedroom window.
"We had already retired for the night, some time before, but, in preparation for our covert departure from the house, had kept our clothes on underneath our nightgowns so as not to be bothered with having to put them back on again," Mary recalled. "It was a little after ten o'clock when we finally felt confident enough, judging by the silence behind the door of my parents' bedroom, to make our escape through the window next to my bed. The night was very dark, which heightened the sense of excitement that Zylphia and I both felt as we hoisted ourselves through the window and dropped to the ground below. Not being used to coming and going through open windows, I made a clumsy job of it, landing on my knees and scraping them against the ground. It was only my determination not to be stopped in my quest that kept me from crying out in pain."
Having made a successful exit from the house, Mary and Zylphia headed down the road, with Zylphia clinging to Mary's arm for comfort. It was the first time that either of them had been out on their own at that time of night. Perhaps, because of that, the same road on which they had walked countless times in the daylight seemed to take on a strange, sinister quality and filling the girls with a sense of foreboding.
"We walked to the spot on the road where Mr. Blaisdell had told some of our neighbors that he had seen the strange figure, which was a short distance beyond the field where we went to pick strawberries, opposite the stone ruins of a house once owned by a family named Blanchard, but who had abandoned it and moved away from Aston long before either of us had been born," Mary recalled. "Zylphia and I had walked past that same spot many times, but that night, under a moonless sky, it seemed an unfamiliar, and even dangerous place, which it took all of our youthful courage to approach."
Having come that far, the girls scoped out a pair of large stones, and sat down on them to wait for whatever might happen next. But it wasn't long before their nerves began to get the better of them. Even though the night was warm, Zylphia couldn't stop shivering, "so violently that I was afraid she might go into some kind of fit." Trying to bolster her cousin's courage, Mary suggested that they recite Bible verses out loud. The exercise seemed to calm Zylphia's nerves somewhat. But then Mary began to feel a heightened sense of discomfort as well.
"Every shadow around us seemed to be alive and aware of our presence there," Mary recalled. "Once, I thought I heard a voice speaking softly behind me, but whether it was a woman's voice or that of a man, I couldn't tell. Finally, after what seemed like hours, and just as I was beginning to think it a good idea to abandon our mission and return home, Zylphia called my attention to what appeared to be a small white circle of light which seemed to bob through the trees on the other side of the road. We stared at it, frozen in our positions, afraid to look away, but even more afraid to move. "Is it her?" Zylphia whispered. I didn't respond. We continued to watch the light as it seemed to draw closer toward us, while yet, somehow, remaining inside the thicket of trees across the road from where we were. How long did we watch? It felt like hours. Then it happened. As we sat staring at it, the mysterious bobbing orb of light dropped suddenly out of sight among the trees, and, in its place, a thin, tall figure of a woman clad in white shimmered softly into view. But to call her a woman is to discount the eerie nature of her form, which, though unquestionably human, exuded what I can only describe as a preternatural quality that was at once terrifying and transfixing. She wore what resembled a long, hooded cloak, with a white kerchief or veil covering her hair, but she had no face. In the place where her face should have been, there were only darkness, a darkness so deep and total that I felt as though I was looking into the void of death."
Mary and Zylphia were so frightened by the sight of the apparition that, for a moment, they couldn't move or speak. But then, gathering her wits, Mary jumped up,l grabbed Zylphia's arm and pulled her down the road, both girls too terrified to even look back as they ran. They didn't stop running until they had reached Mary's house. Once they had, they were still so frightened that they went immediately into the bedroom where Mary's parents lay sleeping, woke them up, and gushed out their story. Mary's parents were not impressed. Not only did they refuse to believe that the girls had seen what might have been an actual spirit, they were so angry at Mary and Zylphia for leaving the house at night without permission that they forbade either girl to set foot outside the door for a week. Despite the punishment, Mary refused to recant her claims.
"I knew the difference between lies and the truth, and I knew that what I had seen that night was not a lie," she recalled. "But what it was, apart from that, I couldn't begin to fathom. My parents were God-fearing people, to whom the idea of spirits or ghosts was not only superstitious nonsense, but an affront against God and the religion to which they subscribed. In my frustration at not being taken seriously in my claims, I considered going to see Mr. Blaisdell, hoping, naively, to enlist his aid in convincing my parents that I was neither a liar nor a victim of imaginative fancy. But I didn't dare go through with it, and so, over time, simply accepted the fact that I had been witness to something of which I would never be able to speak in the presence of the two people most dear to me. It was a difficult thing, to be sure, but I contented myself with the knowledge that, if I had seen such a thing and knew it to be real, others must have undergone similar experiences and survived without having reconciled it."
Two months after the nocturnal adventure, Zylphia left the Bailey household to live with her father in Boston. She died at the age of 20, a victim of consumption, the same disease which had taken the life of her mother. Mary went off to college, graduated, and embarked on a teaching career in upstate New York, eventually marrying a doctor with whom she had two children. In her memoir, entitled Memories Of Former Days, which she wrote in 1942, the same year she retired from teaching, she remained staunch in her claim that she had seen something otherworldly, but refused to categorize it as "a ghost."
"There are things in this world that are unknowable simply because we haven't the knowledge or the experience which allows us to name them," she wrote. "Did we see a ghost that night? Perhaps. But all I say with any real certainty is that we saw something, and that whatever it was, it was beyond our ability to comprehend. That is where I must leave it."