Journal

Author: Mason Winfield Created: Friday, February 26, 2010
Journal

 

 Thou still unravished bride of quietness, 

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time...

John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

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You can always tell when I'm on a work crunch with a book: hasty and intermittent updates of the journal! Still, one of Western New York’s many hidden haunts deserves a mention. It is also one of the most poignant. Somewhere under the sod of a little family cemetery in the Town of Wales rest a horse, a girl, and a piano.

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[In November 2007 I appeared at the World Horror and Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. I was not one of the headliners. I was actually just a guest on a couple of panels and the leader of a bunch of village ghost walks. It was a riot, not to be denied. On the semifinal afternoon of the con, though, it was my privilege to take one of the real headliners–the groundbreaking cartoonist Moebius–on a drive around the Saratoga area. It seems that the thoughtful, spiritual Frenchman liked to get to know a bit about every place he visited, and at this conference it was my honor to show him, his wife, and his young daughter some village haunts and architecture and take them for a tour around Saratoga Lake. 

The organizers were actually hoping the author and storyteller Joseph Bruchac would be the leader of Moebius' tour. I commended their choice. Not only is my Abenaki friend more of an expert on the area–he lives there!–but he was another conference headliner. He can talk Native American tradition and spirituality levels deeper than I can. However, Joe was on what I call "Native American time." The conference organizers couldn't find him. I was next in line for the chauffeur duties, which I accepted. I think a lot of my "Heavy Metal" reading college buddies would have been impressed to know that I would someday meet and even teach the famous Moebius.

This article was first published on this website in December, 2007. Let's recycle it in honor, recollection, and tribute of Jean Henri Gaston Giraud, the influential Moebius, who traded this life for the next one today, March 10, 2012.]

 

 

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Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) was one of the most capable writers of his period in the supernatural genre. One of his niftiest creations was the psychic doctor-detective John Silence. In the longest of his tales about this character, Silence brings a dog and a cat into a troubled house and keeps them with him as he tries various methods to drive out the ill-tempered psychic presences. Their reactions make a magnificent plot tool for creating suspense. Through this device, Blackwood shows us what is going on but doesn’t stretch our belief unnecessarily with a description of ghosts/spirits. Neither Blackwood nor his character is the only one with the impression that animals may sense what humans cannot.

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Those of us who attended Christian churches in the 20th century may have taken His existence and the truth of His story as a matter of faith. We were likely taught to envision Christ as a pacifist, a saint, a victim, and a lamb. Our most familiar images of Him are pale and halo-crowned, in the role of blessing people like a gentle, revered priest, or in one of the stages of suffering and death on a cross. Patient, enduring, borne by angels and resurrected by God, Jesus is not an action-figure in most contemporary imaginations. He might not always have looked so timid…

This may seem like a unusual article for a ghost-hunter, but… It’s the season of Christmas–an unusual time of year.

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We live in very definite physical space as well as within measurable but indefinable time.

We move about as we choose in physical space, which can be relatively constant. We can go, stay, or return to a single spot on the earth, and often times not much will have changed. The Great Pyramid is a handy example.

We have no choice about time. It changes irrevocably around us. The seconds tick as we sit. Yet there is this cyclical quality about it, too, at least as regards the calendar year. Any single cycle of the year will come again, predictably, unstoppably.

Not all points in time or space seem of equal significance, at least in their effects on human consciousness. Some places and times are more impactful than others. Great sacred spaces (like Stonehenge) and power-times–like a solstice–are obvious examples. Both types of power can be exploited for the development of the interior life.

We’re coming up on MidWinter’s Day, the Winter Solstice, likely the most sacred point in the Western year. Christmas, its companion festival, is the most influential holiday of the American calendar. You might suspect that I would be writing about the spiritual impact of the time. We usually get a good Christmas-season ghost story, for instance, from East Aurora’s Roycroft Campus where I have my office. But I’ve done that many a year in the past, and I’d like to write about power-space, American style.

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 The nights are closing in around the days, and the northern world enters the year’s darkening quarter whose official prime is Halloween. I think a discussion of power-times–essentially power-points in the calendar year–would be more salient and spiritually uplifting than what I’m about to deliver, but I have already done that many a time. Those articles are in the archives of this website, and a 4,000 year old holiday doesn’t change that much since I posted them. Why don’t we talk about some of the psychic encounters that have been reported over the years on Haunted History Ghost Walks?

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Every few weeks I drop on out to South Wales, NY, for a couple early evening scotches with an old friend, my former headmaster at The Gow School, David W. Gow. We talk about the campus, its direction, and its personalities from before, during, and after the thirteen years I taught there. Almost never does the talk turn paranormal. But one of my favorite tales about a classic East Aurora site comes to us by way of these happy hour conversations and the memory of a cafeteria cook from before my time on campus. I think I can update this site again in mid-October with something more Halloweeny than this ragtag tale of a presumptive religious apparition at one of my favorite East Aurora pubs. But what isn’t Halloweeny about ghosts?

 

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 In the old days of the Colonial and plantation era South, the African American servants and slaves believed that a certain shade of blue had an effect on ghosts and negative spiritual influences. They called all such forces, “haints.”

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 After a ghost walk, I often fall into conversation with the attendees. To me it’s just friendly socializing and a bit of relaxing after two hours of remembering lines and focusing on deliveries. I pick up some great stories this way, though. One I heard recently got my antennae up. It was a story about a very young child having frequent, determined encounters with invisible little beings in his home.

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