Archive for the 'history' Category

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!

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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.

08
Sep
17

September, a New Beginning

Fall has always been the “New Year” for me. When I was young, it was the beginning of a new school year – new clothes, new routine, etc.

When I became a parent, it was the same idea, and to be honest, even though my oldest grandchild is in just starting Kindergarten, I still love walking the school supply aisles!

As a business owner, I am not controlled as much by the school year, but Fall still plays an important part in my business. With haunted history walking tours, people are drawn to the fall season with crunchy leaves, brisk evenings and the upcoming Halloween season.

Therefore, I am happy to announce that we have 2 new weekly offerings for Fall!

In conjunction with Maine Maritime Museum we are offering Sunday afternoon Lighthouse Legends, Lore & Haunts Cruises. These are  about 3 1/2 hour cruises to view up to 7 lighthouses and disembark once to actually see the oldest original lighthouse tower in Maine up close and personal. This will be the 3rd year we have done these tours and they are amazing! We have spectacular river views, many bird sightings, sometimes glimpses of seals and of course picturesque lighthouses (many of which are haunted!).

The very best part of these river cruises are that a portion of the ticket price goes to help preserve the 1821 lighthouse tower and associated buildings in time for their 200th anniversary in 4 years.

Our other special fall offering is a stroll though Oak Grove Cemetery in Bath, discovering the lives and times of shipbuilders and sea captains from “The City of Ships.” This tour begins by trolley, at Maine Maritime Museum, and takes guests by many of the spectacular homes of these same people that will be discussed once the garden cemetery is reached. Symbolism used in the cemetery, as well as types of graves and headstones is part of the 90+ minute tour.

Tickets for both of these tours may be purchased on the Maine Maritime Museum website, http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/events/.

Of course, we continue to offer our “Top Ten” evening lantern  lit tours throughout September and October (even creeping into November a bit!). Yes, we were listed in 2 different Top Ten listings this year, so please check out our daily offerings.

Thank you for reading and as always, please call with any questions! 207-380-3806

21
May
17

Part Two – Ancestor Appreciation Day

Two posts ago, I wrote about one of my ancestors who completed a great feat, at the time. He was the first to take a wheeled vehicle from the Kennebec River to the Penobscot River (Skowhegan to Bangor).

I do not know if this was a 2 wheeled or 4 wheeled vehicle, but it did cause a stir among settlers as he passed by small settlements in the 1800’s, according to reports. It certainly must have been horse or oxen drawn.

I wish there was more documentation – was he alone? what was he transporting? how long did it take (about 50 miles)? what time of year did this take place?

So, today, I had the opportunity to drive this route myself (in my 4 wheeled car! and in the opposite direction). I just wanted to drive the drive and imagine what it must have been like in the early 1800’s.

20170521_104325-e1495410840150.jpg

Most of the area is now farm country so it is nice open fields, but at the time it would have been all wooded (as above), and as I mentioned in my original post, must have certainly needed some trailblazing!

I passed by a few lakes, bridged several rivers and went up and down countless hills! All I could think of was the poor horse(s) or ox(en) that had to work so hard. The modern road is a nice, wide 2 lane highway in very good shape and was a pleasure to drive.

Caleb Shaw must have had good reason to go to all that trouble, or maybe he was just up to a challenge! Some of my Shaw ancestors certainly have been the type to make their own way.

History is wonderful, haunted or not, but always leaves us wishing for more…

27
Sep
16

Ancestor Appreciation Day

Today is Ancestor Appreciation Day – I’d like to appreciate my 4th great grandfather, Caleb Shaw.

During our Haunted History tours people often ask if I’m from Maine – I have to answer no, but I often can elaborate. I do have roots here in Maine, though I was not born here. To many, that means I’m “from away.”

On my father’s side, both his paternal and maternal ancestors were from Maine. He did not know this until just a few years before he passed and unfortunately was never able to visit any ancestral properties or gravesites. I know he would have loved to be able to do this, but I have been able to at least show some of his family members a home, a home town and a gravesite.

 Caleb Shaw is the ancestor who I’ve chosen to write about today. He was from New Hampshire originally, but came to Maine in 1801. He died in 1849 at age 80!

 He, with his wife Betsy, is buried in Newport, Maine, though they lived in nearby Palmyra. His gravestone says “Who first traveled with a wheeled vehicle from the Kennebec River to the Penobscot River.”

 caleb-shaw-headstone

 

I have not been able to find out a lot about this effort, though it is noted in several publications, one mentioning that “it was a great curiosity, upon which the people along the route looked with wonder.”

I do know that there were not many roads in those days. Most people traveled by river and/or Native American trails. These trails were certainly not wide enough for a wheeled vehicle, so some “trail blazing” certainly had to take place! I can only guess that it might be about where Route 2 is now, from Skowhegan to Bangor, over 50 miles.

I’m proud that one of my ancestors played an important part in the settlement of Maine. Caleb and Betsy had 13 children, many of whom have played their own parts in Maine’s history, as well as their descendants.

The other half of the family is one that I have not had luck with – the Locke’s from Maine who migrated to Kentucky in 1801. I will persevere, though, in my research!

Genealogy can be challenging, but it can also be very exciting and fulfilling!

08
Apr
16

Maine Lighthouses

We’ve been doing a lot lately with Maine Lighthouses. They are so iconic and romantic and full of history! Do you think many are haunted? It seems that may be the case!

We actually do know quite a few tales of haunted lighthouses, in fact one is on the cover of our most recent book, “Ghost of the Boothbay Region.”

Maine has over 60 lighthouses, many of which are open to the public or at least able to be seen  by land. Others are visible by short boat trips. Several have museums or informational centers and gift shops. In Rockland, the Maine Lighthouse Museum is open year round.

Next month, on Saturday, May 21, I will be leading a special Lighthouse Cruise that will view 5 lighthouses in the Boothbay Harbor area (weather permitting) and then stop at Burnt Island Lighthouse for an up close look at the tower as well as the outbuildings and keeper’s house.

You’ll learn about the lives of some of the keeper’s – their joys as well as hardships, their routines and their families. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist a ghost story or two, as well!

This is a morning cruise, so you’ll have time for lunch and some exploring in the Boothbay area in the afternoon. The link to purchase tickets is below.

https://msad11.coursestorm.com/course/maine-lighthouse-adventure?search=lighthouse

In the late summer and fall, we’ll also be doing some Lighthouse Legends and Lore cruises with Maine Maritime Museum. These will also include much history as well as haunted tales and ghost stories. The link to purchase tickets for these cruises is below, though I don’t think they are listed yet, so keep checking!

http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/

Hope to see you soon!