Haunted Houses

 

“It was a mistake to think of houses, old houses, as being empty. They were filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears, drops of blood, the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that had ebbed and flowed between the walls, into the walls, over the years.”  -Nora Roberts, “Key of Knowledge”

An old farmhouse sitting on top of a hill.  Tall hemlock and walnut trees surround it.  The original front porch shone with a silvery gray color in the moonlight…from the silver paint applied by a wandering group of shysters who convinced the previous owners to let them paint the roof.  The silver paint had washed off by the first winter rain, staining the original lapboard that clad the old farmhouse.  The shysters were long gone.  Moss covered chimneys in disrepair rose above the rust stained, metal shingles.  If you need a site for a horror film, I have a one for you.

This was the house we purchased thirty-one years ago…a house we fell in love with as soon as we saw it.  A house we renovated and brought into the twenty-first century.  I wish we had left it the way it was when we first saw it but sometimes my memories are softer than the here and now.

Spirits reside here.  Renovations have not chased them away.

Mike Franks, a character from the television program NCIS made the follow observation, “With the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there, the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”

I always laugh when I hear him say that.  I think too, our spaces become haunted not only with the memories of naked people but any person who has been lost…people we don’t even know…people who lived their lives and died within these walls.

Four families have contributed memories I believe haunt this old farmhouse.  Except for a period in the Fifties, it has been occupied continuously since 1892…a lot of spirits I would guess.

Despite our renovations, this old farmhouse still creaks and moans.  If the wind is just right and the TV is low, late at night you can hear the spirits…whispers in the dark, a light footfall, a woman’s giggle…or a maybe just a scurrying mouse or a puppy moving in her sleep at the foot of the bed.  I choose the former.

Sometimes when I’m reading, as the witching hour approaches, I catch movement just outside the periphery of my vision…beyond the light cast by my reading lamp.  A shadow that doesn’t quite belong, a flash of light despite the darkness that surrounds me.  I don’t fear them, I welcome them.

We’ve spent thirty Halloweens inside of these walls…we’ve never had a trick or treater.  No little ghouls or goblins.  The house looks haunted in the darkness of night with little light filtering through the hemlocks.  It is their loss.  A not so wicked witch lives here.

I’m comfortable with my spirits.  The spirits residing here…and the ones I brought with me from a time gone by, from places that no longer exist anywhere other than my mind.  No vampires or werewolves, just spirits that lovingly caress a cheek or place a steadying hand lightly upon my shoulder.  Comfortable and loving spirits from a time long past who visit me every day, not just Halloween.

For more of Don Miller’s ramblings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.narcity.com/ca/on/ottawa/things-to-do-in-ott/a-giant-mansion-in-ottawa-is-being-transformed-into-a-creepy-haunted-house-this-october

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Wake up?  I am Awake What About You?

I was told to wake up by a former student.  I hold no ill will toward him and am happy he gave me a topic and a reason to vent.

I realize I don’t know everything, but I am awake.  Sometimes I wish wasn’t, just caught in a bad nightmare or watching bad horror movies.

I was young, but I wasn’t asleep during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, used to stoke up war fever against Vietnam and communism.  I watched Cronkite describe the Tet Offensive and the destruction of any belief in victory. I cringed at the Mai Lai Massacre and its attempted cover-up.  I read the Pentagon Papers which uncovered the secrets of our clandestine involvement in Vietnam and its neighbors from Truman to Nixon.

I watched hollow-eyed veterans come home to a disrespect they didn’t deserve.  I saw the aftermath of the student massacres at Kent State and Orangeburg…something we the people didn’t deserve.  I viewed the Vietnam protests on my black and white TV.

The evening news showed protesters threatened with thirty caliber machine guns in Chicago and journalist Mike Wallace thrown to the floor for asking a question before being escorted out of the Democratic Convention.  Carnage raged outside the convention center as Daily’s minions used batons and tear gas to disperse protestors.

I experienced the Civil Rights era with government attempts to discredit Black leaders and the Black Panthers…something we still attempt to do today unless we need a good quote to make a point or someone to focus hatred upon.  1968 WAS a time when we really shouldn’t have believed our FBI.  No J. Edger Hoover probably wasn’t a crossdresser, but he was a paranoid racist at his best.

In real time, I watched people of color marginalized, beaten, bombed, and their buses set on fire.  Their votes suppressed by men who looked like me flying a flag from old time’s there not forgotten.  With reports from several states, how has that changed?

I lived through the assassinations of two Kennedys, a King and attempted assassinations on two Presidents.  I don’t believe Oswald or Jones did their evil alone but have no definitive proof, so I don’t spout off about it or embrace conspiracy theories.  I don’t believe in conspiracy theories about bombs being sent through the mail.

I witnessed, in black and white, the murder of a sovereign Asian countries’ president and a military coup but didn’t know we were complicit until well after the fact.  Complicit in attempted assassinations on Castro and the Bay of Pigs?  Yeah, those two and others.  Still, until the Seventies, I believed we wore the white hat in our gunfights at high noon and were better than assassinations, coups, and invasions.

Watergate and Contragate?  I witnessed the hearings that followed, a President riding off into the sunset and a Marine Colonel falling on his own sword so another President didn’t have to ride off to California.

Wake up?  Bullshit!

Gerald Ford told the nation their great nightmare was over.  Bill Clinton comforted the people of Oklahoma City and the nation after a mad bomber killed over a hundred and sixty.  George W. Bush left an elementary school reading to reassure a nation when planes crashed into skyscrapers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  Yes, as we continue to point out, they were imperfect men, but they knew how to act in times of national distress.  They knew how to calm and unify.

Why do I need to wake up?  There is plenty of evil to go around, and I’ve lived through much of it, much of it created and covered up by our own government.  I don’t need to embrace loudmouths who make a living spouting conspiracy and pointing fingers at the other side.  Maybe we should wake up and realize they are nothing more than small-minded hatemongers attempting to make a buck.

When you share their hatred and conspiracies, you become a part of the problem.  Maybe you should wake up and realize when you share hate you become the problem that is undermining the nation and your friends and neighbors.  We need compromise, not a conspiracy.

More rants and musings at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image was liberated fromhttps://www.lifehack.org/648887/how-to-detect-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

A Love For Horror

 

We are a week away from our annual celebration of St. Hallows Eve, originally a Christian three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.  It has turned into something else but that too is okay.  I don’t have a problem with little ghouls and goblins running about begging for treats…the tricks I worry about.

As with many subjects I choose to write about, the pathway I followed was a crooked one leading from sharing cute posts about “scary” things that have become a staple for Halloween to books and movies about horror.  Not “real” horror.  With what I read in the news, on social media and see on my local TV news stations, there is too much “real” horror.

I fell in love with the horror genre sitting in a lit class in high school.  We were assigned Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”.  I was hooked.  Later I would pound out a C+ book report on an old Royal typewriter after reading  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, a yarn that combined the supernatural allure of a hound from hell, murder, and Sherlock Holmes.  The book report was just average but I was still hooked.

Poe and Doyle were followed by Stoker’s Dracula and it’s underlying sexual innuendos.  Vampires living off the blood of virgins… I read it in the “free love” Sixties, a vampire might have starved…well, not where I grew up.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, a book written in a competition suggested by her lover and future husband Percy and poet Lord Byron, was not well received at first, especially when the twenty-year-old authoress was identified, and religious debates ensued.  I found it enthralling and didn’t understand the religious implications at the time.

I honestly don’t remember if I watched the movies based upon these books on late night “horrorfests” or read the books first.  Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff scaring me on late night reruns.  I don’t guess it mattered to the chicken which came first or why it crossed the road so I’m not going to concern myself with the order of my interests, just that I have them.

I have watched all of the horror movies in the world plus one and probably just as many books of that subject.  Why does someone enjoy getting the bejesus scared out of himself?  I don’t know.  Adrenaline rush?  The release of extreme emotion without the specter of reality hanging over his head?  Maybe.  I know it is an experience best shared with someone.

Years, and years ago I became enthralled reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, a rousing vampire yarn that gives wayyyyyyy too much information on how the bloodsuckers operate.  They can’t come into your home unless you invite them, but they can hypnotize you into asking.  Not fair.  After reading a scene in which a character is levitating outside his older brother’s second story window, tapping to get his attention, I heard “tap, tap, tap” on my second story window.  I was in bed alone and not about to go look.  It was probably a limb from a tree planted too close to the building…maybe.

Later, when I coached high school football, I found it hard to sleep after Friday night games and would while away the sleepless hours watching an all-night horror marathon on the Turner mega station, TBS.

Some of those movies were awful, others comedic but one with the humorous name, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, scared me out of my wits on a night when I was alone, with no one to hold on to, my screams heard by no one, no one to call.  No, Ghostbusters hadn’t been released yet not that I would have known their phone number.

I’m not a fan of most of what passes for horror in these modern days…there is the new Halloween sequel…I’ll probably go see it…Maybe.  The modern special effects are too graphic, and I tend to lean toward modern Sci-Fi now.

I come from a time when the best special effects were those imagined.  Well, I did just see a commercial for an LG phone involving zombie lovers and the song “You Sexy Thing”…it was funny when his arm fell off.

Many TV stations are having “fright week” to honor Halloween so maybe I can get a fix on some classic horror.  If not there is Netflix and I’ll remember the quote to Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man, from almost everyone in his small hamlet “Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night; may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

I don’t think we have wolfbane around here.

The video is a voice over from Paul Anderson at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9ZAIej7jkg.

The image was liberated from http://rebekahganiere.com/tag/monster-mash/

For more of Don Miller’s musings or a book or six go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Kaleidoscope Eyes

 

I’ve never been on a trip in my life…a drug trip.  I’ve abused alcohol on occasion, made a road trip or a dozen, but I’ve never dropped a tab of acid.  For some reason, my mind is broken, and I now understand the description kaleidoscope eyes despite mine not being drug induced.  Unlike the lyrics from the old Beatle’s song, there were no “tangerine trees and marmalade skies.”  My scrambled and flaring neurons fired in black and white.  It was just a damn dream!

I slept in my recliner.  Upright to offset the post nasal drip exacerbated by our extended ragweed season and the sudden change from a long summer to the late arrival of fall.  Undoubtedly my location confused my blind and aging puppy and sent me down a path that didn’t include “cellophane flowers of yellow and green”.  It bewildered me just as badly as any of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Tilly pawed me awake begging for attention, a treat or both.  The thirteen-year-old would not be quieted until she received her puppy treat and an extended belly rub while lying on her back on my lap.  Finally satiated and bored, she left me for her mommy’s side.  I looked at my watch and found it to be just a bit after three…maybe it was a little after three, now I’m not sure…of the time or the blind puppy dog receiving a tummy rub.  Did that really happen?

I tried to return to sleep, my mind misfiring, sparking like an electrical short.  My thoughts were on our aging puppies, their aging owners and friends I have lost or are losing and not on “the girl with the sun in her eyes”.

When you’re sixty-eight thoughts of your own mortality lurk nearby, no matter how much you try to push it out of your mind.  There are fewer sands in the hourglass.  I don’t dwell on those thoughts but they tend to explode unexpectedly.  I pushed them aside, and they shoved back…hard.  My thoughts seemed to be on a repeating loop, a loop flashing from scene to scene, person to person, my own version of Dante’s Inferno on rewind.

After fifteen minutes of futility, I decided I was beating a dead mule when it came to sleeping.  I needed to get up and be productive or read or watch TV…something to remove the broken kaleidoscope in my mind or at least shade the sparking.  Looking at my watch my scalp crawled.  My loop had not lasted fifteen minutes, it had lasted over two hours.  Every timepiece in my house told me the same thing, two hours had passed.

According to my newest technological marvel, my Fitbit, I had never been awake.  I don’t know which is worse, a lost two hours or living a dream so real it doesn’t seem to be a dream.  Was my puppy even there?

The dream has been lost.  It’s memory rendered like a wind-torn fog.  If it is truly gone why am I still under its influence.  A four-mile walk and a church service later I am self-medicating with a beer…or five.  Maybe I should just listen to Judy in Disguise.  The words make no better sense than my dream or the old Beatle’s tune…but it does seem to be a happier song.

The image is  from Deviant Art at https://www.deviantart.com/ninjahekla/art/Kaleidoscope-Eyes-114938033

For other gentle musings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

A Fickle Finger of Fate?

 

The power is off but according to the little icon on my computer, I have a 99% charge.  I might as well use it.  It is the second time in the past twelve hours or so that we’ve lost power.  The remnants of Hurricane Michael have caused hundreds of thousands of outages as it has roared north…more to come I’m sure.

Some tree or limb is down across a power line…maybe, but we are in much better shape than our neighbors to the south.  Almost six hours of electricity charge left on my computer…my phone at eighty-nine.  If worse comes to worse, I can always crank a car and charge.  I don’t think we will be out that long…but you never know.

It’s quiet sitting here in the dark gray of late morning and the wind gust are audible.  Just forty mile per hour gusts.  Living where I live I worry.  We are surrounded by tall trees and have had a few come down over the years.  Hemlocks, walnuts, tulip poplars, a pecan, sweetgums, a twisted persimmon and oaks, all live inside our fenced in yard or close enough to worry about.  I worry one may come down on the house. We are on borrowed time.  We’ve lost four or five inside the fence over the years with limited damage, none to the house.  An outside building ripped open like a tin can, a fence and several trashcans flattened, the power line was taken down twice.  A tornado took a hundred and fifty trees down in a ravine behind the house…still down, tangled and stacked like giant Pick-Up Sticks, one upon the other.  It could have been worse.

The power has returned for now, just in time for Breaking News showing the devastation around the panhandle of Florida.  Mexico Beach is flattened as are other areas.  I have a special place in my heart for the area and the people who live there.  Memories of family vacations, an epic college road trip and the most memorable excursion of my life; my honeymoon, a meandering, two-week peregrination along the Gulf Coast from Panama City to New Orleans and back.

We are just barely three weeks past Hurricane Florence, a hurricane that whacked our Atlantic Coast’s bottom at Wilmington before making a hard-left turn and making its way to the foothills of the Blue Ridge and above.  More rains mean more floods and mudslides above us, but so far, we have dodged another bullet.

Is it okay to be thankful for the bad luck of others?  I feel deeply for those not as lucky and it is pure luck…nothing more.  An eleven-year-old in a bedroom in Georgia is hit in the head by a carport…why, not a sixty-eight-year-old guy sitting in his recliner typing?  Good luck, bad luck?  God’s will?

I thank God for his mercy, but I don’t believe my Divine Being points the “fickle finger of fate” at my little piece of heaven and says, “I shall spare you” any more than he cares who wins the World Series or predetermines the champion.  I don’t think God works that way…not that I have any idea of how he works.  I think he could work that way but he chooses not to.

I believe he cares more about how we treat people devastated by Mother Nature than Mother Nature herself.  At least my God does.  I don’t believe a hurricane is a punishment as some of my acquaintances have suggested or a precursor for things to come…unless it is a punishment for mistreating our world, something I do believe we have done.

Too much Old Testament, too much Sodom and Gomorrah.  My belief is in Global Climate Change, not the “fickle finger of fate.”  I believe as Algernon Sidney, “God helps those who help themselves.”  Either way, I believe storms like this will increase in both numbers and ferocity and that I’m on borrowed time for a tap from the “fickle finger of fate.”

For now, the skies are clearing and the sun is peeking out.  Fall temperatures are supposed to be here tomorrow.  I’ll give thanks for dodging one more “fickle finger” until the next one and enjoy the cooler less humid weather.

For those too young to remember, there was a movie entitled “The Fickle Finger of Fate”  starring Tab Hunter but my title came from memories of Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In from the late 1960’s.  Their “The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award” recognized actual dubious achievements by public individuals or institutions, the most frequent recipients being members or branches of the government. The trophy was a gilded left hand mounted on a trophy base with its extended index finger adorned with two small wings.  I would think it is time reinstitute the award.

The image is from http://www.hauntedstudios.com/Flying-Fickle-Finger-of-Fate-ONE-ONLY.htm

For more musings click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

 

I have a vision of our old farmhouse before we renovated.  Gray-silver metal roof shingles streaked with rust.  One bathroom with a bathtub and no shower.  An unheated upstairs and air-conditioned nowhere at all.  A fairly large kitchen despite the old woodstove with a walk-in pantry that was quite spacious.  A doorway leading to a stoop that led to a…patio?  On the other side of the kitchen, a doorway led to a small back porch holding among other things, a washer and dryer that we feared would freeze every winter and hid a rat snake during the summer.

The old home was quaint and comfortable unless you wanted to be warm in the winter or cool in the summer…or if you wanted to take a shower.  In 1995 we decided we would renovate.  Not much you understand.  We would take off and seven hundred and fifty square feet of kitchen and pantry while adding an upstairs bedroom and bath, with a shower of course, and a new kitchen, dining room, den and a half bath with shower downstairs.  Later we would replace the roof and all of the old wavy, paint-streaked, lead glass windows.  A total of about two thousand square feet replaced the original seven hundred and fifty…but it hasn’t replaced the memory of the old place and now the thoughts that usually begin “I wish.”

It’s not that Linda and I don’t appreciate being able to take a shower, we do, but we miss the quaintness.  We also miss the huge pantry…especially Linda Gail.  The huge fireplace in the den is a great conversation piece with its handmade “chainsawed” walnut mantle and huge centerpiece stone but sometimes I miss the original fireplace and wood stove.

There is a little bit of pride that goes with saying, “The flooring and cabinets came from pecan and walnut trees from the property…as did the table and kitchen island.”  Even when the table and island warp upward in the winter and downward in the summer.

For some reason, it is just not the same.  We lost the upstairs cubby hole with the pitter-patter of little “flying squirrel” feet and the slithering of rat snake non-feet.  That is actually a bad thing.

It is both funny and odd what Linda Gail misses and she is going to kill me when she sees this in print.  It’s okay Linda Gail, there are still some secrets I will never tell.  When we renovated the old bathroom we changed the location of the toilet.  Linda can no longer sit and see the birds dining in the feeder from her new “perch.”  This is something she reminds me of quite often.

Linda Gail and I aren’t angry. We just wish we had had a crystal ball or maybe enough money for just a little “do-over.”  Are there renovation “Mulligans?”  I guess not.  We thought we were outgrowing our little farmhouse and instead, we found we just overfill whatever space we have.  The good news is that we overfill that space with memories too…good ones.

There are other lessons we continue to learn from living in a house that originally dates from 1890 or so.  Not the least of which is, “Renovations are never completed.”  A new water heater or two to go with replacing the heating system or a leak here or there.  It is odd, knock on wood, “Seems as if everything replaced seems to be the first to go, having to be replaced again.”  Is that the designed obsolescence I’ve heard so much about?

Excerpt from Through the Front Gate by Don Miller which can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is of the old portion of the house, my little piece of heaven.