28
Aug
18

Helping & Sharing & History (and a ghost story)

I’m writing this at the end of August – cannot believe summer is over already! I have spent some great moments these last few months discovering all kinds of new tidbits, meeting fantastic new people, investigating new places and helping with some fundraisers.

One of the best parts of this business is helping others, often by the usual monetary or time donation, but also in many other ways. We did a really great fundraiser earlier in the season that raised a good amount of funds for a children’s project – they assist with meals, back to school supplies, Christmas, etc.
We help by reassuring folks who might have some unnerving experiences with the paranormal. Sometimes they are so relieved just to learn that other people might have had a similar experience and that they are not alone. Just being able to tell your experience in a “safe” environment is often enough.
We also help to encourage people’s interest in history. Many people think that history is boring and we open their eyes to a whole new world of fun, exciting, history – kind of like thinking out side the box and looking at it in a different way. I saw an exhibit at a new found museum that used art sketches and stereotypes from the 1800’s to tell a portion of the area’s fishing industry. It was certainly more interesting than reading a book about it!
That museum was one of my newfound treasures! Maine has surprises at every turn if we just keep our eyes open – a historical marker hidden by a tree branch can be just the thing to open your eyes to a piece of that area’s history. A local corner store might have some old photos on the back walls that showcase something you’ve never seen. Even a lecture at a small historical society can really spark a new interest in something you didn’t even think about.
Our new Maritime History Tours have opened my eyes to a lot of things that I’d seen over the years, but didn’t really realize the meanings behind them. I am having such a great time sharing on these new tours in Bar Harbor and Boothbay Harbor. I hope to finalize one for Rockland over the winter. All of the early history of Maine was associated with the water – rivers or sea, as it was the main mode of transportation as well as the livelihood of most, one way or another. Farmers, brickmakers, coopers and more all sent their goods off on boats for trade, unless of course they were small operations and dealt locally.
One of the reasons I like offering custom or specialty tours and speaking engagements is that it does give me the chance to look into different pieces of history. A tour on a singular topic or a particular person offers all kinds of challenges, but what fun when you find the hidden tidbits that make it come alive! Better yet, you get to share it!
I have 3 places on my fall bucket list of travel. We don’t have that much time to travel between May and November, but these are right here in Maine and should be easy. One is to Greenville and the Lumberman’s Museum in Patten – these are really 2 places, but they both relate to the lumber industry in Maine, of which my ancestors were a part of.
The next is to Castine – just a place I’ve always wanted to go. A huge maritime history as well as Revolutionary War ties are there and I hear it’s beautiful! Maybe there’s a ghost or 2 as well…
Lastly, an inn in Bethel that I just heard a haunted story about. Now, I hear ghost stories all the time, but this one was intriguing and offers an opportunity to go somewhere new and different to see what we can find! I’ll share it with you –
A couple was staying at this inn and both commented in the morning how they had heard noises in the night and both had heard similar things. It sounded as if someone was scratching inside a bureau drawer, opening it and rattling the handles. The handles were the hinged pull handles which do make a pretty distinctive noise when jiggled. Neither one of them got up to investigate, but did comment to each other in the morning. When they returned to their room after breakfast, they could not get in. No matter what they did to jiggle the key in the lock and turn it every which way, it would not open! In frustration, they went to get the innkeeper who opened the door with ease. They couldn’t help but think they were being kept out of the room just at that moment for some reason, though nothing seemed amiss!
Thanks for reading – share some history today!
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03
May
18

National Paranormal Day

Happy Paranormal Day to you! It’s good timing for us at Red Cloak Tours since we just opened for our season 2 days ago.

Paranormal interest certainly has its cycles. There are not quite as many shows on TV anymore, so in some cases interest has waned, but in others it has left a void for some who would like to continue to live vicariously through those shows.
In the later half of the 19th century, Spiritualism was very, very popular with seances, table tippings, and private readings. The Civil War had prompted many to try to connect with their lost loved ones. Over time it became less and less popular to be associated with such events.
We have an interesting story of a minister who spent some time here in Maine in the early 1800’s. Rev. John B. Dods was preaching in Levant as a Congregationalist and had so many experiences with spirits and haunts (not for the first time – his deceased father appeared to him several times as a younger man) that he was forced to to leave the house that he’d built. Many Levant residents witnessed activity at his home.
He moved to Union, changed his vocation per the demands of a particular spirit, and began preaching at Universalist Churches in Thomastonand Rockland. His home in Union was also taken over by violent activity, deemed to be poltergeists! This activity was again witnessed by many people. “This was followed by a series of astonishing physical phenomena, such as loud rappings about the room, the moving of a table across it without perceptible means, the raising of himself in his chair, etc., until he had all the evidence that the senses were capable of receiving, that these things were real, and that he was in his normal state.”
Rev. Dods often used the pulpit to share his paranormal experiences and over time this was considered inappropriate and his connections were dissolved by mutual consent on June 20, 1829, according to “A History of the Town of Union, in the county of Lincoln, Maine to the middle of the 19th Century” by John L. Sibley.
John moved to Massachusetts, became involved in animal magnetism and electrical psychology and wrote several books. He converted to Spiritualism and became very well known in that circle. Some credit him with coining the term “Spritiualism.” Here is a link to one of my sources if you’d like to read more –
26
Apr
18

Poem

It’s National Poem in Your Pocket Day, did you know? I’m not sure what that means or why it came about, but I thought I’d take a stab at a poem –

Roses are red, cloaks are too
We open in 5 days, just for you!
There’s goosebump fun,
Enjoyable for everyone!
But don’t forget that history
To go along with the mystery
Sometimes it’s the best of the best,
Please join us, you’ll see the rest!
I know it’s a little silly, but it is all true. Many times folks come on our tours because of the haunts and ghost stories, but walk away with a real interest and surprise at the history. I love that we can inspire people to become a little more interested in the history that surrounds them.
My personal bucket list only includes historical or genealogical visits/activities. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me, it just is. I have no desire to jump out of a plane or go mountain climbing, but visiting a cemetery or historical site… well, that’s what does it for me.
My imagination plays a big part in it – I love thinking about my great – greats doing this or that and standing on those spots. Feeling that connection is so important; even the cemeteries, the graves, are meaningful. These often are the only physical pieces of their lives that are left to us.
Another part of it is the hunt! Looking for some tidbit, some tie that connects, some missing piece of information – treasure found – it’s an adrenaline rush! I will happily read through countless pages of information just to find one sentence that excites me.
I hope, in this cyber world, that we can all take a little interest in the actual places, physical sites of our history and our being.
14
Feb
18

For Valentine’s Day – “The Frozen Lovers”

There was a terrible storm in December of 1850, with several ships going aground in Penobscot Bay, Maine. About midnight the storm picked up and the winds were howling. One small schooner had anchored earlier, intending to wait the storm out and continue to Boston the next day.
 
The captain had gone ashore and left his first mate, a seaman and one passenger on board. When the winds intensified, the schooner broke free, was blown across the bay to Owl’s Head, and crashed into the rocky ledges.
 
The 3 on board were not injured, but were exposed to the storm and waves and were soon soaked. They wrapped themselves in blankets to try to stay warm. As the schooner began to break apart, the seaman, Roger Elliott, scrambled ashore over ice coated rocks and eventually made his way to a road.
 
It was the road to the Owl’s Head Lighthouse and fortunately the lighthouse keeper was going by in a sleigh and saw the exhausted, freezing man. He quickly took him home and put him to bed (after a hot rum). Roger told the keeper about the 2 left on the schooner.
 
About a dozen men were called out for the rescue and made it to the schooner before it had totally broken apart. They found the 2 wrapped in each others arms under a blanket which was covered in ice! They seemed to be dead, but the rescuers would not take a chance and took them to the keeper’s house where they chopped the ice off of the pair and then placed them in cold water. The water temperature was slowly raised and the limbs of the pair were gently exercised and massaged.
 
After about 2 hours the passenger, Lydia Dyer, began to come to and within the next hour Richard Ingraham did as well!
 
During the sharing of the events, it became known that the pair were engaged to be married and thought, as they were freezing on the wrecked schooner, they’d never have a chance to share their vows. It was many months before they were totally recovered, but they did marry and had 4 children, living very near Owl’s Head, Maine and extremely thankful for Roger Elliot’s bravery.
Check my Facebook page for a Valentine poem written for a medium in 1875.
08
Dec
17

Mistletoe Bride

“The Mistletoe Bough” written by Thomas Bayley (Bayly) in the early 1800’s and set to music in 1830, might have been inspired by an incident in Germany, reported in 1809.

Also known as “Mistletoe Bough, ” “The Missing Bride,” “The Lost Bride,” and sadly “Bride-and-Seek.”

The tale goes… a group of young friends on the night of the wedding were playing hide-n-seek and all were found but the bride. Everyone, including servants were employed to search the home and grounds. Thinking maybe she had been taken or had second thoughts, searchers were sent out through the countryside, looking in vain through the night. She was finally found 30 years later when the estate was being repaired and an old trunk in the attic popped open upon removal, finding the aged skeleton, and remnants of her wedding dress… I’m sure she haunts that castle!

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,

The holly branch shone on the old oak wall’

And the baron’s retainers were blithe and gay,

And keeping their Christmas holiday.

The baron beheld with a father’s pride

His beautiful child, young Lovell’s bride;

While she with her bright eyes seemed to be

The star of the goodly company.

“I’m weary of dancing now,” she cried;

“Here, tarry a moment-I’ll hide, I’ll hide!”

And, Lovell, be sure thou’rt first to trace

The clew to my secret lurking place.”

Away she ran-and her friends began

Each tower to search, and each nook to scan;

And young Lovell cried, “O, wher dost thou hide?

I’m lonesome without thee, my own dear bride.”

 

They sought her that night, and they sought her next day;

And they sought her in vain while a week passed away;

In the highest, the lowest, the lonliest spot,

Young Lovell sought wildly-but found her not.

And years flew by, and their grief at last

Was told as a sorrowful tale long past;

And when Lovell appeared the children cried,

“See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride.”

 

At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,

Was found in the castle-they raised the lid,

And a skeleton form lay moldering there

In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!

O, sad was her fate! – in sportive jest

She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.

It closed with a spring! – and, dreadful doom,

The bride lay clasped in her living tomb!

20
Nov
17

A Time for Thankfulness

We are all thinking along these lines this week. Here at Red Cloak Tours we are most thankful for each other, our outstanding team that makes the Haunted History Tours happen!

Next, we are thankful for the wonderful guests who come on our tours and share in our love of the lore and legends!

We are also thankful for you readers – you may not have ever been on a tour or to a speaking engagement, but we are grateful for your support!

Our thankfulness extends to our communities – the property owners and neighbors, chambers and businesses that support us and help in every way they can!

Of course, we must be thankful for the beautiful state of Maine – its rich history, huge amounts of folklore, both oral and written, and amazing people!

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours!

26
Oct
17

Candles

It’s my birthday week, so I thought this was a timely article to write –

Candles are romantic, candles are for birthdays, candles are for scent, candles are for religion and celebrations, candles have lots of different meanings for many of us – crossing cultures around the world.

The earliest candles may have been small torches – branches dipped in animal fat and lit for a slow burning, dependable light source.

In 3000 BC, Egyptians were using tallow (fat rendered from animals other than pigs) for candles and as time went on, other cultures began finding different sources to use. In India they found that a residue was left by melting cinnamon and it would burn (also smell nicer than tallow, I presume!). China was using whale fat and insects, while Japan extracted oil from tree nuts.

Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest found that fish called eulachon had a very high fat content during spawning, so they would dry them and use them as candles for lighting, thus the fish’s new name “candlefish.”

In more modern times, beeswax, bayberry wax and whale spermaceti were used. Spermaceti was made by crystalizing sperm whale oil which was a harder wax that didn’t melt in the summer, produced a brighter light and didn’t smell as badly as tallow.

In the early 19th century a French chemist discovered how to extract stearic acid from animal fatty acids, which lead to stearin wax, a wax that burned cleanly and was hard and durable. Later, paraffin wax, made by distilling coal, came into use.

Candles seem mystical – have you ever been mesmerized by watching a candle’s flame flickering? It’s easy to understand why/how certain superstitions got started. If a flame burns blue, supposedly a ghost is in the area and if there is a tall, straight flame it means a stranger will come. Burn a candle in the window to make sure a lover will return.

You should always light a candle with your right hand, otherwise, expect bad luck! Also, it’s bad luck to melt the base of a candle to make it set well in its base or to light it from a fire’s flame. I do hope, for your sake, that a candle that you light does not immediately go out – otherwise bad luck will follow! If it is difficult to light – rain is on the way.

The Irish used to have a superstition that 12 candles must be lit around a body at the wake as protection from evil spirts.

In 1700’s New England, a cultural tradition was begun using wax and oil of the bayberry plant added to their candles. They found the candles burned longer and gave off a wonderful scent. They presented these new candles to friends and neighbors at Christmas time, with the poem that indicated all good wishes would be lost in the smoke if they were blown out.

A Bayberry candle, burned to the socket

Brings joy to the home, and wealth to the pocket.

And now to the point of this whole article – birthdays! And of course, with birthdays, come candles on birthday cakes (or in my case birthday pies) and the tradition of blowing them out.

Apparently, the first birthday party was recorded in early Egypt, for a pharaoh on his coronation, which marked the moment he was “birthed” as a god. But the Greeks made cakes in offerings to some of their gods and eventually placed lit candles on some cakes as a way to symbolize the moon. It was believed that when the candles were blown out their prayers were carried up to the gods.

In the 1700’s in Germany, there were many accounts of cakes and candles used to celebrate children’s birthdays – a kinderfest. A record of a cake decorated with a candle for each year of life was in 1746, for Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf.

Just when the belief of having to blow out all the candles to have your wish (or prayer) come true is unsure, but we still all make that important wish (prayer) annually, and send the wishes up to the heavens.