Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

08
Sep
20

National Telephone Day

Where would we be without our phones? Especially these days, they are key to keeping people in touch with loved ones, health care professionals, stores and the outside world.


It’s always been that way, though to a lesser extent of course! I remember the emotion and excitement in my family when we were scheduled to receive a call from my brother serving in Viet Nam – what an amazing feat of technology!


You may have read a story that circles around on social media now and then about a young boy, decades ago, who was often home alone after school and had learned that he had a terrific friend and helper on the other end of the phone by dialing “O” for operator. She helped him with spelling words, first aid, geography and even pet questions. Later in life, he learned that he had made an impact in her quiet, lonely life by giving her something to look forward to.


All of these questions could now be answered with a quick call to Siri or the like, but the personal connection is not there. We can watch movies and the news, listen in on webinars and play games, read books and take classes, but these are mostly done in a solitary manner without personal interactions.


When we had to re-invent our Maine walking tour business at the outbreak of COVID19, we thought of options of virtual tours or videos, among other possibilities. Our choice was to utilize the power of the phone, but we felt strongly about keeping the personal connection; we did not want to offer a recorded tour. Thus, our private, live TeleTour walks were born.


While taking one of our TeleTour walks, you’ll have the opportunity to interact, ask questions, say “wait a sec, I need to tie my shoe” or let passers by pet your dog for a minute. Even though I am not there guiding you in person, I am there to point out interesting architecture, caution you on crossing a particularly dangerous street or suggest photo opportunities. You can ask for recommendations on where to eat dinner or how to spend your last afternoon before leaving town.

Of course, you’re also getting a very informative tour of one of 11 Maine towns! All of our walking tours are historically based, but we often add twists such as ghost stories, mysteries, secrets, legends, famous folks, etc. These have been the ideal way to deal with social distancing, yet allow for people to still experience something fun and different while on vacation, or staycation. 


So, Happy National Telephone Day from Red Cloak Tours and we hope to “see” you on one of our TeleTours soon!

29
Jul
20

Ghost Storytelling around the world

I learned something interesting the other day – something I kind of knew, but it inspired me to do a little more research.

Ghost storytelling around the world is very different!

I learned that now, mid-summer, is the most common time for ghost stories in Japan! Dating back to ancient times, it is believed that during summer the souls of the dead temporarily come back to this world. These spirits would include your ancestors, but also those who had no relatives praying for them as well as vengeful ghosts.

In some households the traditional custom of greeting your ancestors with a welcoming fire or altar is still practiced. Also during this summer season, ghost stories are told and plays are performed with themes developed from village folklore of unusual, other worldly stories.

The season is symbolized by these events used for interacting with the spirits of ancestors and taking pity on the unhappy souls. They say that telling the chilling tales also helps people to cool off in the summer heat.

This is similar to the Ghost Festival in China and some other East Asian countries. It is held on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The seventh month is generally regarded as the Ghost Month. At this time the deceased are thought to visit their living relatives.

Many cultural traditions are honored during the Ghost Festival. These can include preparing food offerings and having elaborate meals with empty seats for the visiting ghosts. Incense is burned to pay respects and sometimes paper boats or lanterns are released to guide any lost spirits.

Hawaiian culture also uses lunar phases to base their ghostly activities on. “Marchers of the Night,” spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors, appear at sunset during these specific times, usually around the new moon, and march from their burial sites to battlefields or other sacred areas.

The Nightwatchers arrival is announced with the beating of drums and blowing of conch shells. The warriors are carrying torches so they are usually seen from afar. Often fog, thunderstorms or high winds accompany them.

There are no festivals or celebrations surrounding the Nightwatchers; in fact, it is quite the opposite. No one should look at, or be seen by these warriors, according to Hawaiian legends. If a mortal should be accidently in the area, they should lie face down on the ground, motionless, to show proper respect and deference.

Hawaiian history, rich in mythology and folklore, is full of supernatural entities so the Nightwatchers are not the only ghosts of the islands.

I knew that in Victorian England, telling spooky stories around Christmas time was very common – I often hold some storytelling presentations during the holidays – but why is this?

The Winter Solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year occurs just days before Christmas and is a harbinger of the end, or death, of the year.

Many people focus on those no longer with us during the holidays and it makes sense to think that during this dark time of change to the new year that the dead might have a closer connection with the living.

Inuit stories are full of ghosts, monsters, shapeshifters and other paranormal entities. These tales are told year-round, day or night, by the elders of the community and are used as lessons for the children.

Also based on oral history, Jamaican Duppies often manifest in the form of a relative, and like Inuit folklore, are always present.

A Duppy may also manifest as a shadow, animal or material object so it is hard to know when one is present, though they only come at night. Here are a few ways to tell – if you smell food but there is none in the area, if you hear a stick break, if a dog whines or howls, if you have a spider web in your face.

Duppies are restless spirits and usually malevolent. They can be controlled in various ways which often involves using their grave dirt. They are said to live in bamboo thickets and the roots of cotton trees.

Here in the U.S., in spite of my line of work, telling ghost stories year-round, ghosts are generally thought of around Halloween, or All Hallows Eve.

The Halloween tradition stems from Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival held during harvest when people would wear costumes and light bonfires to ward off ghosts.

Other All Hallows’ Eve traditions can include lighting candles on graves, attending church, lighting jack-o-lanterns and eating certain vegetarian foods such as apples, potato pancakes or soul cakes.

Over the years, Halloween has become a time for trick-or-treating, parties and telling ghost stories. It is only about 3 months away, in case you’re counting!

14
May
20

Strange Cyphers

20200505_152817This is from a newspaper dating to 1931, figures that were found on the body of a woman floating in the surf off of Southport, Maine that same year .

There are many questions surrounding these cyphers, besides what they might stand for – why might the woman have wrapped the card they were written on carefully in waxed paper to protect them if she was going to commit suicide as the authorities believed?

Why did she, a woman in her 30’s, travel alone from the Philadelphia/New York area to the summer town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine in December of 1931?

What prompted her to rip the labels out of most of her clothing and also to remove labels from her prescription bottles? Did she even check in to the hotel under her real name, signing in as Louise Meade?

She was determined to see “the Rockbound Coast of Maine” according to witnesses. So much so, that she walked about 6 miles, in high heels, in December, without a coat, to get to the wild, open coast!

Found several days later with a belt buckled around her wrists and an early electric iron cord (with iron) and her pocketbook handles tied up, also.

Another mystery involves this finding – many folks saw her walking those 6 miles and she was not carrying a bag large enough to hold a heavy iron and she was not wearing a belt.

Yet, the local police determined that she had committed suicide and the case was closed.  The woman was buried in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery due to the generosity of the townspeople. Can you help us figure out what these numbers and letters might mean? Do you have a missing person in your family genealogy that might be “Louise”?

 

 

07
Apr
20

World Health Day

Today is World Health Day, an international day created in 1950 to celebrate the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948.

I am writing today to just offer hope and prayers for all of us in the world because we are all affected one way or another by this pandemic. I’m hoping with the help of WHO and others working so hard to find solutions that we can soon be working together to help our fellow humans through this incredibly difficult time.

Thank you to health care workers of all types and to the scientists and to all the people who are risking their health and working overtime to save lives. Special thanks to the countless “unknown” helpers who are delivering groceries, making masks, teaching our children, helping a neighbor, etc.

Please remember you don’t know what one’s personal situation might be, so just be kind and helpful.

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15
Dec
19

Santa Claus at the Department Store

20191214_200420This is me about 58 years ago. Maybe I was asking for a Chatty Cathy doll, one of my favorite Christmas presents! My mother had taken me from our rural community to “the big city” to see Santa Claus. I do not have much in the way of a memory of this, though the magical image of him in the department store window, and lines of children waiting their turn is familiar.

In our area, a trip to the city was a cause for something special – you dressed in your Sunday best and had a special occasion to visit the department store; maybe a wedding or back to school clothes, some sort of milestone. We also dressed to visit the dentist or doctor and maybe had a chance to go out to lunch!

A Christmas visit to Santa was one such milestone! I don’t remember going more than once, but I’m sure many children did. Just a visit to the city was excitement enough, but at Christmas time – oh my! Downtown department stores often had signature restaurants, cafes or tea rooms that were a delight for the senses. I particularly remember the very elegant restrooms in the department store!

Of course all stores didn’t have Santa Claus, some had train displays or lit villages in a winter wonderland, or displays of bows, bells, packages and holly. Snowmen and animated elves working in Santa’s workshop were common. Nativity scenes were often present as well. Carols were played on loudspeakers everywhere, which added to the festive season!

I did not grow up in New England, but for those of you that did, this may bring back some fond memories – http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/downtown-department-stores-meant-christmas/?fbclid=IwAR3tU-LjzYM1W03W1zDh0JTCZoTa4WQf0PPxST_aWIThebo7XunqsVYDgs0

26
Nov
19

Colonial Life in New England

Today I had the best time doing a presentation on Colonial Life. This is something I’ve been fascinated with/by/about as long as I can remember!

I was able to take a few family heirlooms that I have to use as examples.

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Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, this was a fun topic to explore and think about as the Pilgrims landed 399 years ago!

We talked about cranes in fireplaces, baking ovens using cabbage leaves, spider pots and porringers, among other cooking items.

The Colonial table was very different than you might imagine. First of all, it was called a board, as it was a board just set on trestles or sawhorses. The covering was a boardcloth rather than tablecloth! There were no chairs, just benches or stools and we learned that children rarely sat – they stood at the table or even behind their parents, waiting to be handed food.

Most meat was cooked into “spoon meat” which was hash or porridge or stew – things you could eat with a spoon as they had no forks. Bread was rare, unless it was rye or corn bread, but they did have a lot of corn and pumpkin and root vegetables.

Honey and maple syrup were sweeteners when needed, and wild berries were always a treat, along with homemade applesauce. Dried apples as well as dried pumpkin were staples.

Indian corn was quickly learned to be easy to grow and cook, as well as filling and nutritional. It was served in countless ways and the husks and cobs were used for toy making as well as fire starters.

I talked about how cooperative the people were, whether they lived in a village or on outlying farms. There were quilting bees and barn raisings, as we’ve heard, but also stone bees (clearing fields) and husking bees (corn), paring bees (apples) and “whangs” which were cooperative spring cleaning bees (I think we should bring these cleaning bees back)! Of course, this is only a small sampling of ways that early folks used to work together to accomplish small and large tasks.

On Sundays, a horn, whistle or drum was often used to call people to “meeting” before meetinghouses had bells. There was a break in the day, held often at a “noon house,” a specific building for the lunch hour, that evolved into what we now might call a parish house or church society building.

Early meeting houses were not white as we see now, but just wooden buildings. Since they were the local meeting area, notices of all types were nailed to the outside walls and in the times when there was a bounty paid for wolves, wolf heads were also nailed to the outside wall as proof that someone had earned their bounty price.

Some other interesting things I discussed were goose baskets, pine knots, nocake, bean & corn counters, clam spoons, Indian brooms, heel pegs, rippling and more!

Don’t know what these are? Give me a follow and maybe I’ll talk about them soon!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

22
Nov
19

A New Type of Tour!

This summer we added a new type of tour to our list of historical offerings – a tasting tour!

Brushetta snacks for wine. Variety of small sandwiches on dark

Our Historic Tidbit Tasting Tours are following the trend of the “foodie” tours popping up all over the country, but we wanted to be based in history, as all of our tours are, but also to focus on Maine.

What we’ve come up with are really engaging, interesting tours that allow a guest to taste some real Maine foods and to learn tidbits of history about them in a fun way. If you love food and you love historical trivia, these tours are for you!

Since the tours take place in historic villages, some with original buildings, we thought we’d also offer just a tidbit of history about the restaurant or shop buildings that you’ll be in during the tour. In some lucky cases we also have photos of the old storefronts or can show you parts of the original woodwork or other unique items!

So, who knew that Maine blueberries used to be thought to have magical powers? Who knew that Maine potatoes are put to several unique uses other than just mashed or baked? Who knew that lobsters used to be avoided, or if necessary, eaten only by the poor or prisoners? Who knew that Moxie was not created as a soft drink?

There are many more fun tidbits that we share on these 2 hour tasting tours. Even though we say “tastes”, you should probably skip lunch if you’re joining us! You’ll have a chance to check off many of the food items in the “Maine Must Haves” booklet that you’ll receive at the beginning of your tour.

These tours are not just for visitors, local people also love the Tidbit Tastings just as much as someone who’s never been to Maine before! We are open through mid-December, and then will re-open again in the Spring – see you soon!

Red Cloak Historic Tidbit Tasting Tour in Bath Maine W

14
Nov
19

National Pickle Day

google eyes

Well, who knew, but I guess there’s a National Day for almost everything! I do love dill pickles, but I’m writing today because of a historical connection.

Half of my heritage is German, on my mother’s side, and I grew up in a German settled community in Nevada, now living in a German settled community in Maine.

Apparently there is a German custom of hanging a pickle ornament on your Christmas tree – the very last ornament to go on. This glass pickle ornament is supposed to be hung deep within the branches of the tree and a contest ensues as to who will be the first to spot it.

The first adult to spot it is guaranteed good luck for the following year, while the first child to spot it on Christmas morning gets an extra gift, something special from St. Nick.

I did not hear of this tradition until fairly recently and was a little puzzled that I hadn’t, given my background as well as having traveled in Germany several times in my life and knowing several German exchange students during my high school years.

In my house the star on top of the tree was always the last to go on! We didn’t have any tradition even close to the pickle and none of the German neighbors, church members, etc. practiced it.

Well, come to find out, no one in Germany does it either! Here is a link to an article that sums it all up pretty well – https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/holidays-and-celebrations/christmas/the-christmas-pickle-ornament/.

The idea is fun, though and could be something you start as one of your family traditions – hiding an ornament of some type in the tree and having a prize for the finder! I think I’ll put a pair of spooky google eyes in the tree, or maybe a skeleton, and use it similar to the “Elf on the Shelf” – you’d better be good because someone’s always watching!

Have a great day and enjoy gearing up for the holidays, whatever your customs and traditions!Pickle

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.
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.

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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…




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