Monday, October 31, 2016

Games of Death

Th's the season when graveyards speak and we've added our two-bits to the fray. Ghosts, spirits, and haunts are all the rage - our stories are aimed at a general audience of mixed ages and for the most part the stories are meant to be read aloud for entertainment.
  The stories come closer to being eerie more than scary as Lynnwood Montell mentioned about an earlier volume they are both "plausible and possible." 

   I'd like to say they were planned and constructed according to all the writing rules, but it isn't true. The stories evolved as we record the speech of the storyteller. The narrator tells the story and we follow them with our fingers on the computer keys, so that some are rather complex as the human mind and its experience.
   Ford Nashett's non-fiction piece from this collection, 'Ghosts of Baseball' was posted earlier this month when the World Series began.    
   Games of Death is a collection we had fun writing, because we took simple games and sports we enjoyed then twisted them into ghost stories.
   How many of you have played mumblety-peg in a vacant or behind a building where no adult can see and tell on you? We were warned not to play with knives, maybe that was why it was so much fun learning to put the right torque on the tip of the blade to bury it in the circle. I still have my 'Barlow Knife.' I carry it in my camera bag.
   'Snow on the Track' is built around snow mobile racing. A friend of Nash's was present about forty years ago when a driver was decapitated. Coincidence? Maybe, but just after he wrote the story a photo appeared on Piniterest of a driver with his helmet on a table beside him. In the helmet is a ghost's head - you explain it because I can't.
  I've read about haunted dolls being possessed. Our doll has waited for 100 years for someone to find her, and then free her from the roots of an ancient lilac bush. 'Swing in the Lilacs' is a ghost tale of a mother's grief at the loss of her child who found a new lease on life through the ghost of another little girl.

   Have a scary Halloween!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Woven in Time

   Look around your place. Each of us can find baskets being used to store onions, gather flowers & vegetables from the garden, sewing accessories, trinkets, extra towels, garden tools, balls of yarn, clothes pins, and a shopping bag in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I have one shaped like a star (from $ store) that I use at Christmas to make a no-bake low-fat 'Creme Brulee' for dessert.
   A list can go on and on, but while they're handy to stick things in we are sharing a heritage with ancestors that goes back at least 29, 016 years. The oldest basket to survive has been carbon dated back to 27,000 BC, add our AD years gives the first figure. Baskets are fragile, they're made from plant materials - hence they rapidly perish when exposed to the elements or come in contact with the soil. They were a creation of necessity to gather and store food from materials that were readily available to the weaver.
   Early peoples were hunters and gatherers who moved in small bands from place to place when food supplies diminished or calamities threaten the group. Baskets were then used as baby carriers and backpacks to transport their possessions. This was true all over the world in every known culture - a well stocked hearth had a plentiful supply of baskets. They were also used as fish traps, to boil water, and as very early cooking pots for stew.
   If you ever tried boiling water in a reed basket it is a tricky business. First the basket must be tightly woven to prevent leakage. Fibers will shrink as they dry creating gaps. Then the container must be re-soaked to close the spaces before liquid is added. Stones are heated in a fire, and then dropped into the water. It takes constant work over a long period of time to fish out the stones and then reheat them to complete the cooking process. Specialize baskets with small holes like colanders were used to extract seeds from their pods.
   Great civilizations evolved around the globe. Farmers not only used baskets to gather their grains, but they made one side flat to rest against the donkey's side so they could transport their produce to market. Woman developed a technique of carrying a basket on their heads particularly in rural areas, which is a good trick in of itself.
   Available materials influenced weaving techniques. Some common materials were tree bark, stalks & stems of plants, palm fibers, raffia, and bamboo. Anthropologists, who are knowledgeable in this area can identify where a basket originated from the material used and its construction style.
   About twenty years ago there were some lovely unique little baskets displayed in a window of one of the stores on the square. They were constructed from polished pine needles and made here in Ono County. We used those little baskets filled with seed pods of the Black Adler (look like tiny pine cones) in a scene in our latest mystery, Legacy of Death.
   Enjoy your baskets as they're a treasure that reaches back through the ages to unite people with a common utilitarian household item, that had another use. Little baskets were used to throw pieces like dice when people gambled or played games of chance.
   We've all heard the phrase "going to hell in a hand basket" when someone is doing their level best to destroy themselves. It means just that, "to rapidly deteriorate," which is what happens to a basket when it rots.
   Nash Black's ghost story collections are Haints & Games of Death.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Scariest Stories Ever Told

Th's the season for Scariest Stories Ever Told by Roberta Simpson Brown. She delivers to her multitude of fans a humdinger collection of lip biting tales that will send you to peek out the window. You have no choice, but to look to see just what is out there milling in the dark.
   She uses her astute knowledge of place to set six stories in the most common everyday locations we know and visit. Trouble is in the making when we don't know what awaits us behind closed doors or after dark when sleep evades us.

      1. Something's Not Safe in School
      2. Shadows in the Woods and by the Water
      3. Welcome to Your New Home
      4. Things Aren't Always What They Seem
      5. Better Not Mess with What's Best Left Alone
Nowhere is off limits from her creative pen. It won't help you one iota to search  under the bed for what may be sulking there when you hide Scariest to savor by flashlight after 'light's out.' It will crawl in and cuddle up next to you because Roberta knows like the Shadow "what lurks in the hearts . . ."
   She gets requests for stories that are 'really scary" when she tells stories around the country. This volume is her answer to those requests. Roberta doesn't explain in minute detail all the gruesome aspects of disembodiment, or the blood and gore strewed across the floor. She hints and teases your mind to conjure up the fine details to your own tastes.
   We enjoy being scared when the lights are on and a favorite pet snoozes beside us. We know it would be up in an instant growling with hair standing on end if anything harmful was outside the window. I will admit ours do the same when a squirrel runs across the patio and they hide under my legs when firecrackers are exploded in the neighborhood.
  My favorite is 'The Dead of Winter.' Grace has a constant companion, 'Moosie." He is a stuffed moose she left at a friend's house. It was a difficult choice when there are 30 fascinating stories to send delicious shivers up the spine of anyone who loves to be scared. The mental image of tiny Roberta standing alone on a stage telling that story in her soft voice so you must strain to hear each word is strong in my mind. One knows she's earned her title, "Queen of the Cold-Blooded Tales."
   Roberta Simpson Brown is Ono County's national treasure of a storyteller and many are proud to call her a friend. Circumstances prevented her from appearing this year for a story telling session at the Star Theater, but she has given us a chest of some of her best stories yet for us to read and imagine every night during the witching season.
   You must read, Scariest Stories Ever Told or "the goblins will get you if you don't watch out."

Nash Black, author of Games of Death.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ghosts of Baseball

Home Team 1922
   Peoples we know as American Indians migrated across the Bering Sea. They moved down through Alaska and Canada to the lower reaches of the American continent. Strong winds pushing, swirling, lightning-marred clouds of black and gray followed the tribes on their journeys. Death clouds were their constant companions.
   Bodies of the fallen were buried where they fell and held sacred by the tribes. Burial ground are scattered across the North American continent. Thousands are lost or forgotten except by the spirits that lurk near their earthly remains.
   As time went by white settlers arrived and took possession of the land. Towns grew along the trails. Railroads forged their way across the frontier. Group games allowed players to take the field as teams. The game of baseball was born where a level field free from rocks and trees could be found.
   Nothing was known of what had gone before as all traces of those resting below the turf had vanished into time.  Clouds of death knew where the fallen resided. They watched as their concentrated soil became the playing fields of their conquerors to be trampled and pounded by alien feet. Spirits expressed their displeasure at the sacrilege of their sacred home.

   Observers reported seeing phantom figures moving the bases. Players were knocked to their knees while standing in position. Balls were deflected from the player's hand as if an unknown batter was in the game, whose presence they could feel yet couldn't see.
   Chalked numerals changed by unseen hands when no runs were scored. Teams waiting on the sidelines and locker rooms were harassed as equipment disappeared or was destroyed. Fans suffered as their chairs were pulled from under the, dumping their food and beverages.
   Eerie death chants echoed on the wind across the fields, through the bleachers, and in the dugouts wherever these facilities were built over the sacred Indian burial grounds.
   The game of baseball became so popular professional teams were organized that could travel long distances to play opposing teams. Huge stadiums were built to house these events. The early players who took to the fields were dying off, but they didn't abandon their chosen home.
   "Ghosts are believed to be actual entities, intelligent beings that are surviving death." /author unknown, but it is a quote.
   Charlie Babb played for the New York Giants in 1903. He moved to Brooklyn Suberbas playing short stop, first, second, and third base. His images still visits his old fields. He has been known to stand next to the players who currently hold his positions.

Ghost of Yankee Stadium

   Yankee Stadium hosts a legion of baseball greats who keept the faith after death.
   Harry Ables played for the Saint Louis Browns and the Naps early in his career, his home field from 1905-1911 was Yankee Stadium when the team was known as the Highlanders. Harry has been seen sitting in one of the windows of the score board keeping runs for his beloved team.
   Babe Ruth's faded contract when he was sold to the Yankees from the Boston Red Socks still hangs on the wall. His worn, tattered, and torn uniforms remain in the keeping room. On game day Babe can be seen walking along what remains of the Old Concord Road. He also visits watering holes in Sudbury.
   Joe DiMaggio was born on November 25, 1914 and died March 8, 1999. He played his entire career with the Yankees. His last game in uniform was in 1951 and four years later he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His spirit still lives the sport. In the locker room he likes to play pranks such as holding the bats so they cannot be moved to the practice field or switching gloves and shoes of the players.
   On the field during practice Joe has been seen helping young players develop a feel for the game.  He has been sighted sitting in the windows of the score board. Fans report him in the grandstands or on the roof of the dugout cheering for his team. When the team sustains a loss he walks the streets of New York.
   Fans like Yankee memorabilia collector Ben Blake have experienced strange happenings. Blake came into possessions of a ball from 1958. It was in a plexiglass case fastened to the wall with screws long enough to reach through the case into the wall studs. A few years later Blake added a ball to his collection that had been signed by twenty-seven Yankee players including Dandy Koufax and Micky Mantle. It was mounted in a separate case next to the "58" ball. During supper the same night the second ball was added to the collection a crash was heard from his study.
   When he got to the room both cases lay shattered on the floor and the two balls were gone. Later Blake found the signed ball, purchased a new case, and remounted it, but the "58" ball was never found. From that day on his study had a eerie feeling and was always cold with a breeze from an unknown source strong enough to move the curtains.

Wrigley Field home of the Chicago "Loveable Losers" Cubs.

   In 1998 the Cubs were winning! The owners' couldn't understand the strange turn of events. They called paranormal investigator, Ursula Bielski.  She and several aids were given permission to go anywhere in the stadium and encouraged to do so. They checked the entire field, the dugouts, both home and visiting team locker rooms and found nothing until they explored the bleachers.
   Fields of energy and cold spots where the temperature would drop as low as four degrees Celsius for a few seconds while the outside temperature remained 72 were recorded. Readings such as these on paranormal equipment are expected where tragic or traumatic evens have occurred, but not in the stands of a major league baseball stadium. The only connection the investigators could discover was that before the 1998 season began the longtime announcer, Harry Caray died.
   The songwriter, Steve Goodman, best known for composing the Arlo Guthrie hit City of New Orleans was a longtime Cubs fan. He practically lived at Wrigley Field. He died from leukemia several days before the Cubs made their first post-season game after forty years of losing. Claims have been made that Goodman can be seen sitting in the stands behind home-plate.
   Charlie Grimm played and managed the Cubs several times leading up to their winning pennants in 1932, 1935, and 1945. Rumor has it that Grimm's ashes are buried in a box in left centerfield. Grimm is believed to still be in the ballpark. Security guards who worked at Wrigley for more than seventeen years claim to hear the bullpen and dugout phones ring in the middle of the night.
   Grimm's presence is also felt in the front office. Guards have reported that on a walk through the lights are off, but when they returned the lights were on. The guards would hear their names called though they were the only ones in the park.
   Fans can be heard cheering from the upper decks when no one is present. Wrigley is a fan-friendly stadium  that is considered the most beautiful baseball park in the league.
   The winning didn't last. In October the singing bats turned to clumsy clubs. Was Billy Sianis' curse of P.K. Wrigley, for having him and his goat ejected from a game in 1945. still pervading the club? Were the spirits of "those gone before" exercising their displeasure at having the sacred burial grounds trampled and pounded to the strains of "Play Ball?" 

  When Ford Nashett was doing the research for his contributions to Games of Death he found the truth was stranger than fiction. He published his research as a non-fiction piece in the book because the facts he discovered made a fascinating story.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Do You Remember?

   We write about memories and current of events of the rural kind. Many scientists say that our memories are memories of the last time we remembered an event and not the actual event itself.
   Who knows? We're of the opinion that some who profess to be experts need to have their heads examined.
   Childhood for most is a is a long forgotten era and for some that is the best place for it. We all know terrible things happen to children and that as adults all we can hope to do is help them muddle through it. We've never ignored this fact, but for those whose childhood was as close to average as possible we're posing a few questions for memories that are too small and insignificant to rate a full column.

Do You Remember:
  When stumping your toe or skinning you knees was considered normal?
   A rope swing over a creek?

   Standing in line at school to get the dreaded typhoid shot?
   Someone yelling, "Don't slam the screen door?"
   Catching lightening bugs and putting them in a jar?
   The joy of waking up and knowing you didn't have to go to school?
   Failing to catch the ball for the winning out?
   Your first two-wheeler?
   Walking through mud with it squishing up between your toes?
   Finding a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks?
   Licking the beaters when someone baked a cake or made cookies?
   Turning your head to see if Jesus was watching your every move and having that sharp little pain shoot up the back of your neck?
   Dimmer light switches on the floor boards of cars?
   Your first taste of coffee?

   Catching your first fish?
   What happened when you told your first fib?
   Cracking peanuts with your teeth?
   The death of a beloved pet?
   Trying to smoke Catalpa bean pods for cigarettes?
   Hiding and listening in on grownup conversations?
   A Valentine from someone you didn't like?
   The first real money you earned all on your own?
  Finding your way in the dark and wondering if spooks were following you?
   Watching it snow and praying for a snow day?
   The first time you got behind the steering wheel to drive?
   Taking a walk with someone special?

   If you can remember and answer yes to most of our questions, then we'd say you had a rich childhood despite individual circumstances.
   Can you add a few more to our list? It has to amount to a hill of beans or it doesn't count.

   Nash Black, author of Games of Death