Shipwreck

 

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
To the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.”    —  Gordon Lightfoot

Some say the Great Lakes are haunted. They have caused the demise of many a sailor, and within their waters lives the blood and despair of lives cut short.  This is one such story.

They came from Duluth. From Toledo. From Sturgeon Bay, Iron River, St. Joseph, Ashtabula and Milbury. They worked as oilers, engineers, first mates, captains, cooks, watchmen and deck-hands. Their names were John, James, William, George, Russell, Bruce, Oliver and a few Thomases. They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, beloved of many. Some were as young as twenty, on their first trip out.

Karl Peckol, b. 1955, Watchman

Some were in their fifties, making a last voyage before retirement.

Frederick Beecher, b. 1919, Porter

Twenty nine men lost their lives in the wreck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975.  They are gone but not forgotten.

It started with a mighty ship.

“Pride of the American Side”

The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was built in 1958. At 729 feet long, 39 feet high, and weighing in at 13,362 tons she was, at the time, the biggest ship of the Great Lakes. She was worth 7 million dollars (the equivalent of $46 million today!)

By industry standards, the Fitzgerald’s accommodations were top notch. Her furnishings included deep carpeting, tiled bathrooms, drapes over the portholes, and leather swivel chairs in the guest lounge. There were two guest state rooms for corporate clients, a large galley and two dining rooms. The crew’s quarters were air conditioned. The pilot house was outfitted with “state-of-the-art” nautical equipment and a beautiful map room. In a way she was more like a luxury liner than a freight ship.  Up until a few weeks before her loss, passengers had traveled on board as company guests. Frederick Stonehouse wrote:

“Stewards treated the guests to the entire VIP routine. The cuisine was reportedly excellent and snacks were always available in the lounge. A small but well stocked kitchenette provided the drinks. Once each trip, the captain held a candlelight dinner for the guests, complete with mess-jacketed stewards and special clamdigger punch.”

Yet the Fitzgerald had an ominous beginning. When she was christened on June 8, 1958, she slid into the water at a strange angle, then jolted and crashed back into the dock. Spectators said it seemed like the gargantuan ship was “trying to climb back onto the dock”, as if the vessel had a mind of its own.  One observer was so startled by the sight he actually had a heart attack and died!

For seventeen years, the Fitzgerald sailed the Great Lakes. She carried iron ore from the mines of Duluth, Minnesota to iron works in Detroit Michigan, Toledo Ohio, and other ports. She set seasonal haul records. Her nicknames included “The Mighty Fitz”, “Pride of the American Side”, “Toledo Express”, and the “Titanic of the Great Lakes”.  By November 1975, Edmund Fitzgerald had logged an estimated 748 round trips and covered more than a million miles, “a distance roughly equivalent to 44 trips around the world.”

The Voyage

The weather was balmy on the morning of November 9, 1975, when the Mighty Fitz left out of Superior, Wisconsin. She was under the command of  Ernest McSorley, a seasoned captain with many years experience. They were en route to a steel mill on Zug Island, near Detroit, where they would deliver 26,000 tons of iron ore.

November is storm season on the Great Lakes, and so it was not unusual when the National Weather Service predicted that some turbulence would pass just south of Lake Superior that night. The crew probably thought nothing of it.

At around 5 pm, the Fitzgerald joined a second freighter, the S.S. Arthur Anderson,  which was under the command of Captain Jesse Cooper.  Through the two captains’ communications the final reports of the Fitzgerald’s demise would be recorded.

At 7 pm on the night of November 9, the National Weather Service issued a gale warning for all of Lake Superior.  The captains decided it would be best to alter their course northward, seeking shelter along the Ontario coast. At around 1 am the gales turned into a severe winter storm. The Fitz reported winds of 52 knots (60 mph) and waves 10 feet high. That is a pretty bad storm! But by daybreak it had gotten worse. Waves up to 35 feet high were crashing over the deck of the Fitzgerald. McSorely and Cooper, both veteran captains,  thought they had seen everything. They were about to meet their match.

The storm increased to a near hurricane.  Captain Cooper later stated, “I don’t think I even believed it at the time, but they had reports of 92 mile per hour gusts at the Soo.” (He refers to the Soo Locks of Sault Ste. Marie, where ships pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.)

The worst of the weather was blowing right toward the ships, so the captains decided to change course again.  They would head south, attempting to reach the safety of Whitefish Bay.  This, however, involved crossing the dangerous ‘Six Fathom Shoals’ – a bed of jagged rocks, hidden in a mere 36 feet of churning water. The shoals could tear a ship to shreds. To make matters worse, it began to snow! In the blizzard white-out, nothing was visible and the captains then had to rely on their radar systems.

At around 3 pm, McSorely reported that his guard rails had collapsed and two vents were damaged. Water was coming in. The bilge pumps were on but unable to empty the ship fast enough. To make matters even worse, within an hour, the Fitzgerald’s radar system failed! The crew now sailed blind, with only radio communication to guide them. Meanwhile, 30 foot waves washed the deck. McSorely, who had been sailing the Great Lakes for 44 years, said this was the worst storm he had ever seen.

At 7 pm the Mighty Fitz had her last communication. Cooper radioed to ask how they were doing. McSorely replied: “We are holding our own.”

They obviously weren’t.

Deadman’s Cove

By 7:30 the snow had cleared. Cooper tried to locate the Fitz, but she had completely vanished. The Arthur Anderson sailed to safety in Whitefish Bay. Cooper then contacted the US Coast Guard and they began a search.

Because the Coast Guard lacked sufficient crew for a full rescue, they asked Cooper to take the Anderson back out and help. Cooper was reluctant to re-enter the terrible storm. But he agreed, further risking his own life to help save the men of the Fitz. Another ship, the S.S. William Clay Ford, bravely joined in as well.  They searched for three days. Reportedly, they found a torn lifeboat and some debris, but nothing else.

On November 14, a US Navy Lockheed aircraft, piloted by Lt. George Conner and equipped to detect “magnetic anomalies” that were usually associated with submarines, found the wreck.

The Edmund Fitzgerald lay about 15 miles west of an inlet in Ontario which was called (ironically, or appropriately) “Deadman’s Cove.” The ship was split in two pieces at the bottom of 530 feet of water.

The bodies of the crew members were never found.

The Fitz had been only 17 miles away from the entrance to the safe harbor of Whitefish Bay.

Legacy

“All that remains are the faces and the names of the wives, and the sons, and the daughters.” — Gordon Lightfoot

One can only imagine the sadness and shock the families faced when they got word the men had been lost on the lake. Doreen Cundy, the widow of watchman Ransom Cundy, received a phone call from a friend, but refused to believe the ship had sunk. She turned on the news and to her horror, saw that her friend had been right.

Ruth Hudson, the mother of deck-hand Bruce Hudson, remembered her son as “adventurous, friendly, and very fond of the Fitz.”

The most bizarre thing about the shipwreck is the quickness in which the ship went down. She had been in steady communication for so many hours, then she just disappeared without so much as a mayday call.  Captain Cooper believes that the Fitz may have hit a shoal that produced a leak, unbeknownst to the crew.

The day after the wreck, Mariner’s Church in Detroit conducted a service for the deceased. The names and occupations of each man was read, and the bell was rang 29 times, once for each man of the Edmund Fitzgerald. A full list of them can be found here.

Sailors RIP.

Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian composer, saw a news story of the shipwreck in which ‘Edmund’ had been spelled ‘Edmond’. He thought this showed incredible disrespect for the captain and crew. In response, he wrote his ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

The haunting melody does justice to the men of the Fitz.  If you are ever out on Superior, on a moonlit night, listen for their cries…

They came from Duluth. From Toledo. From Sturgeon Bay, Iron River, St. Joseph, Ashtabula and Milbury…

 

 

 

 

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Quiz: Which Ghost Are You?

 

With just three days to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to explore our ghostly potential! What type of spirit will you be when you go to the great beyond? Will you be vengeful or helpful? Scary or sentimental? Bloody of beneficent?  Take the quiz to find out!

Click here to take the quiz.

I got:

Compassionate Ghost

“You’re not here to hurt anyone. As a compassionate ghost, your mission in death is to help someone who is still alive. Maybe this is someone you loved in life, or just a stranger who needs you. To them, you could be a guide or a guardian angel. But in reality, you’re just a trapped soul doing something good for the sake of doing something good.
SCARE FACTOR: * 1 Star”

Seems I would not be very scary…

Let me know your results!

 

And just for fun, here is  a “ghostly song” by the Psychedelic Furs. Hope you like it!

 

 

 

 

Resurrection Mary

 

His name was Vince. By day he worked as a mild mannered bookkeeper for the infamous Chicago Stockyards — those that fueled the meat packing industry and gave us the name “Hog Butcher To The World.”  Vince, however, liked to reassure people he worked “Nowhere near the slaughter houses.” But most of the time he figured it was best to not mention his place of employment at all. Especially in polite conversation, when he hoped to meet girls. Which was his exact intention one spring evening in 1939 when he cruised out to the Oh Henry Ballroom.

A fan of the big bands,  Vince loved nothing more than to patronize Chicago’s many dance halls, tap a toe, and if he was lucky, get a pretty girl to dance with him.

And so, nothing was so very strange about that one Saturday night when a restless Vince slicked his hair with Bryl Cream, put on his best double breasted suit, and headed out to his favorite  jitterbugging joint. The Oh Henry Ballroom was located in the suburb of Justice, Illinois, just southwest of Chicago on Archer Avenue.

Vince spent a while grooving to the music and drinking Cuba Libres (rum and cokes) before he spotted one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen. She was wispy and ethereal, what Vince would call “a real looker,” a blue eyed blonde dressed in a white ball gown and fancy silver dancing shoes.

Vince could not resist. He approached her, and, wanting to appear cool, said as casually as he could manage: “Hey, it ain’t right to stand still for Count Basie. Why don’t we cut a rug on this one?”

The girl agreed. The couple danced to a few loud, fast numbers. When the band took a break, Vince began a conversation. He found out her name was Mary and she lived in  Brighton Park on Chicago’s south side, somewhere near south Damon Avenue. Vince was from the same neighborhood.

The band played a slow, romantic ballad and the couple danced cheek to cheek. It was then that Vince noticed that Mary’s hands were cold and her skin brittle. Much colder and more brittle than they should have been, for Mary could not have been more than twenty or twenty one years old.

Vince sensed that she seemed self conscious as he cringed at her cold skin, so he made a joke. “You know what they say? Cold hands means  a warm heart.”

Mary smiled. The couple spent the rest of the night dancing together and when the ballroom closed, Vince offered her a ride home.

Mary gave Vince her exact address on south Damon. It was a straight shot down Archer Avenue, not a bit out of his way. However, on the ride home something strange happened.

Vince was driving down Archer when they passed Resurrection Cemetery, the graveyard of Chicago’s Polish community. Mary insisted that Vince stop the car there.  Vince was baffled, but, not wanting to upset her, he complied. Mary opened the door, and stepped out of the car.

She looked at Vince, her eerie ice blue eyes piercing.

“I have to go now. You can’t follow me, so don’t try.”

With that, she turned and walked up to the cemetery gates. She put one hand upon the iron chain that bound the gates together. She then disappeared.

At this point the dumbfounded Vince began to wonder if someone had slipped a mickey into his Cuba Libres. He was terrified, but determined to solve this mystery. Not only was there the weirdness of her disappearing, but since she had danced with him all evening, Vince had hopes of beginning a relationship with this lovely girl.

Vince spent the rest of the night driving his Chevy up and down Archer Avenue, looking for a blond girl in a white dress. He drove until dawn, and then, when the cemetery gates opened, he entered. There, among the cement angels and monuments engraved with a variety of old world names like Barankowski, Ignasiak and Janulewicz, he explored.

The morning sun reddened his sleepless eyes. The Bryl Cream of the night before had lost its effect and Vince wandered, hair falling on his face, clothes disheveled and stubble of a beard now sprouting on his cheeks.

There was no sign of Mary.

Vince decided to drive to the address Mary had given him.

He drove to south Damon Avenue and parked the car. The street was a chain of near identical brick bungalows separated by narrow concrete gangways. Only the porch and lawn decorations differentiated the houses – American flags, statues of the Virgin Mary, velvet portraits of an all seeing Jesus whose eyes seemed to follow him as he walked up the street.

Finally he came to Mary’s “house”. He rang the doorbell.

The woman who answered looked (as you may have guessed) like an older version of Mary. Her mother! That, of course made perfect sense. Vince would inquire after the daughter, who no doubt had somehow made it home by now.

“Is Mary home?” Vince asked.

The woman stood silent for a few moments, then a look of fresh grief spread across her face. “Mary doesn’t live her anymore,” she said.

“She… She doesn’t?”

The woman took a deep breath. “My daughter Mary died in a car accident four years ago. Who are you?”

Vince, who feared for his own sanity as well as his reputation as a “normal” person, made up an elaborate lie on the spot:

“I knew Mary in high school,” he said.

Vince claimed he had been Mary’s friend, but lost touch with her when he went to attend college downstate. He said he had only recently moved back to Chicago, and sought to rekindle their friendship.

Mary’s mother invited him into the house. The first thing Vince noticed was a framed photograph hanging on the wall.  It was indeed the same girl he had danced with the night before.

Mary’s mother went on to explain that, four years ago, Mary had gone out dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom with a boy she had been dating. Sometime in the course of the evening, Mary had gotten into an argument with the boy. Mary stormed out of the Ballroom. Even though it was winter, she did not bother getting her coat. She wandered down Archer Avenue, dressed only in her gossamer white ball gown and silver slippers. It was then she was struck by a hit and run driver and instantly killed.

Mary’s family, who were of Polish descent, had her buried in Resurrection Cemetery. The corpse was dressed in her white ball gown and silver slippers.

Her ghost has ever after been known in pop culture as “Resurrection Mary.”

** NOTE: There are many similar stories of Resurrection Mary that have circulated over the years. Several people have claimed to see “a woman in a white gown” hitchhiking near Archer Avenue. Some have even claimed to pick her up. She inevitably pulls the same stunt Vince witnessed; asking to be let off near the cemetery, upon which she touches the gates and disappears.

I chose to relate Vince’s story because it seemed to have the most character. Vince was a patron of Chet’s Melody Lounge which is located across the street from Resurrection Cemetery.

Photo of Chet's Melody Lounge - Justice, IL, United States

According to patrons and bartenders, Vince told his story in the Melody Lounge for fifty years until his death sometime in the 1990’s. Reportedly, he told it in intimate detail and each time, looked as if he had, indeed, seen a ghost!

The bartenders at the Melody Lounge began a tradition which they keep to this day. Every Sunday, they mix a Bloody Mary for Resurrection Mary. The set the drink on the edge of the bar in hopes that Mary might show up and drink it. So far, no luck.

Vince never returned to the Oh Henry Ballroom. The place was later renamed The Willowbrook Ballroom, and remained open as a dance and banquet facility until it was destroyed by a fire in 2016.

Vince also never located Mary’s grave. He was apparently too spooked by the whole incident, plus he never asked her mother her last name (as this would have trapped him in the lie…)

For the record, I have two grandparents and a few other relatives buried in Resurrection Cemetery. I have also been dancing at the Willowbrook Ballroom. However, on no occasion have I seen Mary, not near the ballroom, not on Archer Avenue, nor in the cemetery.

But hey! I am still a believer. Who doesn’t love a great ghost story? 🙂

Do you believe?

 

 

 

 

 

Thirty-Three: The Spooky Side

 

In just thirty-three days, the ghostly and ghoulish festivities of Halloween will be upon us! Are you prepared? In honor of Halloween I will be posting  Halloween countdowns to help get you in the mood. Stay tuned for all things Halloween —  the macabre, the mystical and the mythical, as well as the silly, the satirical and the sadistic!

I thought a countdown of 33 days would be a good place to start. Why 33?  Well…  The number 33 has a sacred and spooky history.  According to some numerologists, 33 is the most significant of all esoteric numbers. It is an important part of many spiritual, occult and religious practices.

First of all, three is a magical number. In Faerie tales, we get three wishes.

We are given three tasks, and the “third time is a charm.”  Baseball gives a chance for three strikes before you are “out”. Mother, father, and baby makes three, thus ensuring the continuation of humanity.  Three is part and parcel of our culture. In Tarot, three is the Empress, who gives birth to all human creativity.

Three is also significant to many religions. Christianity uses the Trinity of three — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Pagan faith involves the veneration of the Maiden, Mother and Crone, as attuned to a woman’s life cycles and the phases of the Moon. Three is great on its own, but two threes put together is considered extremely powerful. Two threes facing each other make a mirror-image design that is said to represent the ancient Hermetic maxim  “as above, so below.” The heavens mirror the earth; the spirit world reflects the human world. This maxim is often shown as the Tree of Life. (Note the outline, 3 and inverted 3.)

Thirty-three was also important in English literature. The number is often hidden within significant texts. Take Shakespeare, for example.  In Julius Caesar, Caesar himself is stabbed 33 times.  The ghost of Caesar visits Brutus in a passage that starts with a 33-character sentence: “That shapes this monstrous apparition.” Brutus recovers from the shock and addresses the ghost in a 33-word sentence: “It comes upon me. Art thou any thing? Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil, that makest my blood cold and my hair to stare? Speak to me what thou art.” 

In Hamlet, Horatio first questions the Ghost in a 33 word sentence: “What art thou that usurp’st this time of night, together with that fair and war like form, in which the majesty of buried Denmark did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!”  Horatio also addresses the ghost in a 33 word sentence as he leaves: “O, speak! Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life, extorted treasure in the womb of earth, for which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,speak of it: stay, and speak!”  The number here is used to represent the link between normal, waking life and the ghostly realms.

Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queen is full of allegory and characters ranging from King Arthur to Gloriana (Queen Elizabeth I). In Book 3 Canto 3 (3 + 3 = 33) the opening line begins with a 33-letter sentence: “Most sacred fyre, that burnest mightily.” Spenser linked the number 33 with the concept of a human spirit and at the same time a mirror image in the celestial realm.

Fun Facts:

  • Jesus is said to have performed 33 miracles. He was crucified at age 33.
  • The mystic Edgar Cayce wrote that there were 33 incarnations of Jesus.
  • According to some Islamic teachings, when people reach Heaven they will exist permanently at the age of 33. (Sounds good to me!)
  • The Ancient Hindu text of the Rig Veda describes “33 deities”. 11 are of heaven, 11 are of earth and 11 are of the realm in-between.
  • In Buddhism, the goddess and bodhisattva Kuan Yin is said to take on 33 different likenesses.
  • The Tibetan Book of the Dead tells of 33 heavens ruled by Indra (the Protector) and another 33 ruled by Mara (the Evil One.)
  • The ancient city of Babylon was very near the 33rd-degree latitude line, while modern Baghdad is on the 33rd parallel. This area was once thought to be the Garden of Eden.
  • Dallas, Texas, the place where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, is on the 33rd parallel. The date of his assassination, November 22, or 11/22 adds up to 33. (I know! Creepy…)
  • A complete sequence of human DNA contains 33 turns.
  • There are 33 vertebrae in the human spine. In India, it is believed that vital spiritual energy which must be awakened is located at the base of the spine. This coiled-up energy is known as Kundalini. Through Yoga practices, this energy ascends to the brain and beyond.

Pretty cool stuff, huh? I bet you’ll never think of 33 in a mundane way again! Enjoy this day as a “sacred countdown” to the sacred festival of Halloween 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Wedding and a Funeral

 

All eyes will be on St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle next Saturday, May 19, 2018 as Prince Harry ties the knot with his American princess, Meghan Markle.

The event has been dubbed the ‘wedding of the century’ – much in the same way the wedding of Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer back in 1981 was the ‘wedding of the (20th) century’.  These nuptials, however, are filled with controversy.

In case you have been living under a rock, or missing the News, I will fill you in on the juicy details.

Former bad boy and beloved troublemaker Prince Harry – AKA Henry Charles Albert David Windsor, Prince of Wales – announced his engagement to American actress Meghan Markle on November 27, 2017.  Harry’s former outrageous antics include underage drinking, pot smoking, dressing as a Nazi for a costume party, and being photographed naked after he lost at a game of ‘strip billiards’ in Las Vegas.

Prince Harry Blames Wild Behavior On Princess Diana's Death

But now!

In making Meghan his bride, Harry the rebel is breaking with tradition, big time!

First of all, Meghan is an ‘older woman’. (Only by three years. But still.) Second of all, Meghan is a divorcee. (Not such a big deal, considering Harry’s father is also a divorcee who married a divorcee.) Meghan was an actress. (Gasp! Luckily she quit that scandalous profession.)  She is an American, she is of mixed race and a commoner.

Meghan is not the first American commoner to enter the Royal Family. Before her there was Wallis Simpson, who in 1936 famously caused Kind Edward VIII to abdicate his throne in order to marry her. (Read more about Wallis Simpson HERE.)

Neither is Meghan the first woman of mixed race. Before her there was Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who married King George III in 1761.  Charlotte was a direct descendant of  Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House.  Harry is also a descendant of Queen Charlotte, so technically Harry is part black too. Albeit some 250 years past. (Read more about Queen Charlotte HERE.)

Perhaps the most controversial thing about Meghan is that she was raised Catholic. Prior to 2015, the law would have forbidden Harry from marrying outside the Anglican Church. The new law declared that the reigning monarch would be considered ‘defender of the faiths’ rather that ‘defender of The Faith’ (meaning only the Anglican Faith). Hence Catholicism is sort of okay.  Although Henry VIII is perhaps turning in his grave. Read on.

Some people are welcoming this new, 21st century style marriage with open arms, while others have condemned it. And yet! There is one more, less talked about ‘controversy’ that everyone seems to be ignoring, except those of us who are (like me!) rabid Tudor fans.

The glaring elephant in the room here is… NOT Meghan’s background. Consider this: The royal wedding will occur on PRECISELY THE SAME DATE that QUEEN ANNE BOLEYN was BEHEADED AT THE TOWER OF LONDON!!

Cue eerie organ music.

What were they thinking? This is surely bad luck. The ghost of Anne has been known to haunt various locales in and around London. These include:

  • Hever Castle, her childhood home
  • Blickling Hall, her alleged birthplace
  • The Tower of London, where she was executed
  •  Windsor Castle, where Anne and Henry resided during their marriage

Was it unwise of Harry and Meghan to choose this ominous date? Are they stealing Anne’s thunder in doing so? Will there be consequences?

Maybe not.  After all, Anne, like Meghan, was a bit of an ‘outsider’ herself when she decided to wed the still married King Henry.

Anne Boleyn became a lady in waiting in the court of Henry’s wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, in 1521. Henry was anxious that Catherine (also an ‘older woman’ being six years Henry’s senior) was unable to bear him a son. By 1527 Henry was questioning the validity of his marriage and set his sights on the younger and presumably more fertile Anne.

Henry begged Catherine for a divorce. She said no way.  Henry began a relationship with Anne, flaunting her in public and taking her on various outings. In the meantime he started bugging his religious people, Cardinal Wolsey in particular, to figure out a way that he could get a ‘legal’ divorce from Catherine. Wolsey petitioned the Pope. The Pope said no way.  England was a Catholic county, divorce was impossible.

Henry and Anne got married anyway, in a secret ceremony which took place on November 14, 1532. Henry was of course, still married to Catherine.

Anne soon became pregnant. There was a second wedding service, which took place in London on January 25, 1533. Henry was of course, still married to Catherine. Eventually Henry decided to break from the Catholic Church and create his own church where he was essentially the Pope.

And you thought Prince Harry was controversial?

To make a long story short, Anne gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth, but ultimately failed to give Henry a son. So… Henry needed to get out of that marriage too. He got his legal counsel to nail Anne and several men on charges of adultery/ treason. These so-called adulterers even included Anne’s brother George Boleyn. All were arrested, taken to the Tower and executed. Anne was the last to die, thus leaving her to witness the long line of bloodbaths. She was beheaded on May 19, 1536.

But the restless spirit of Anne is far from dead. According to eye witness accounts, Anne has been known to haunt the Tower of London.

In one story, a Captain of the Tower Guard claimed he saw a light flickering in the Royal Chapel one night.  The chapel was locked, so the Captain tried to find the source of the light by climbing up a ladder and looking inside. He then saw a wondrous sight; a procession of Knights and Ladies dressed in ancient costumes were parading around the chapel.  Their leader, he claimed, resembled Anne Boleyn from the portraits he had seen. The procession soon disappeared.

In 1864, a soldier, on duty near the Lieutenant’s lodgings, made another sighting of Anne’s ghost. He claimed to have seen an intruder, the pale figure of a woman. He confronted her but when she refused to respond he plunged his bayonet into what he thought was her flesh.

To his complete shock, the weapon went straight through her. There was another witness to this event; an officer stationed in the Bloody Tower claimed to have seen the whole incident from his window and verified the soldier’s story.

Blickling Hall in Norfolk is believed by many historians to be Anne’s birthplace. Each year on May 19th, Anne is said to return to Blickling Hall in a carriage drawn by six headless horses and driven by a headless coachman. The carriage gallops up the driveway to reveal a headless Anne sitting inside. She is dressed in white and holds her severed head in her lap.

When the carriage reaches the front doors, Anne goes inside where she roams the halls until daybreak.

Also on May 19 Anne’s brother, George, has been seen being dragged across the countryside by four headless horses. His headless ghost then wanders around the grounds of the Blickling estate, pleading for justice.

Blickling Hall is also said to be haunted by their father, Sir Thomas Boleyn. (Sir Tom, it should be noted, dropped the ball on his own children, choosing not to come to their defense when they were accused of incest, adultery and treason. Instead he sided with Henry, mostly to save his own skin and stay in the King’s good favor.)  Some say Thomas Boleyn is the driver of the coach that delivers Anne to Blickling Hall. After dropping Anne off at the front doors at midnight, Sir Thomas continues on. He is pursued by hoards of screaming demons who condemn him for his betrayal of his family.  According to this legend, Sir Tom is forced, as his penance, to drive the spectral carriage over 12 bridges between Wroxham and Blickling for 1,000 years.

But Blickling Hall is safely far away. What about Windsor Castle, where the wedding of Harry and Meghan will actually take place?

Anne’s ghost has reportedly been seen standing at a window in the Dean’s Cloister of Windsor Castle. Henry VIII also haunts the castle — guests claim to have heard his  footsteps echo along the corridors. Henry, who in life suffered ill health and a painful leg wound due to a jousting accident, has apparently brought these ailments with him to the afterlife. The ghost of Henry moans and groans as he miserably drags his ulcerated leg  behind him through the hallways.

And that’s not all.

The ghost of Queen Elizabeth I haunts the Royal Library of Windsor Castle as well.  Bess’ heels have been heard clicking along the floorboards in a steady gait. Her ghost then appears, passes through the library and disappears into an inner room.

Bess’ ghost has been seen standing at a window in the Dean’s Cloister, wearing a black dress with a black lace shawl. Since Anne has also been seen in the Dean’s Cloister, perhaps mother and daughter have reunited in the afterlife.

But all that is old history. Surely the date of Anne’s execution should have no bearing upon the date of this current wedding. Right?

It is interesting to note that Prince Harry is a descendant of Anne Boleyn. How so, you ask? Well…

It seems Queen Elizabeth II (Harry’s Grandma) is related to Anne Boleyn through the children of her sister, Mary. Mary Boleyn, we may recall, is famous for having an affair with King Henry before Anne came into the picture.

The Queen Mother (Harry’s Great Grandma) is descended from Catherine Carey, the daughter of Mary Boleyn.

Furthermore…

Catherine Carey was the mother of Lettice Knollys, the Countess of Essex. Lettice, who was Queen Bess’ cousin, was also her Lady in Waiting. Lettice made the great mistake of marrying Robert Dudley, Master of the Horse, who was Queen Bess’ favorite, and also rumored to be Bess’ lover.

And you thought Meghan Markle was controversial?

Needless to say, Bess disapproved of the marriage.  Lettice was banished from court, never to return again. Bess, however, forgave Robert and restored his position.

But back to the blood line. Queen Elizabeth II, and hence Prince Harry, descend from the Boleyn line through Lettice Knollys. In further controversial news, a very high degree of probability exists that Mary Boleyn’s children, Catherine and Henry Carey, were the illegitimate children of Henry VIII. This is because Mary’s pregnancies coincided with the time she was having an affair with Henry.

Therefore:  the current Queen of England can presumably claim descent from Henry VIII both through her patriarchal line (via Margaret Tudor who married James IV of Scotland) and through her matriarchal line by way of the Queen Mum.

Got that? Prince Harry descends from both the Boleyn and Tudor bloodlines.  With all this haunting going on – perhaps it would have been wise for him to choose a less ominous day for his wedding…

Come what may, Meghan and Harry are very much in love, and they will be married next week. We wish them the best of luck!

What do you think of Meghan, Harry and the hauntings? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Halloween Countdown: Soul Cakes

 

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“A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Mistress, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.”  — Soul Cake Song

 
Long before trick-or-treaters donned masks and Halloween became an international franchise, our Medieval ancestors had a different (and much more solemn) way of celebrating.  During these festivities, poor children went door to door, begging for cakes or bread in a tradition called ‘Souling’.

The basic idea was, you give the kid a cake and he or she says a prayer for one of your dead relatives. It was a win/win situation: a charitable donation for accumulated prayers.

Although Halloween/Samhain was originally a Pagan festival, when the Roman Church grew to power in the 4th century, it (like so many other Pagan celebrations) was hijacked and morphed to fit church traditions.

Hallowtide festivities in the Middle Ages took place over a period of three days, beginning on October 31 and ending on November 2. Three different holidays were  celebrated during this time.

All Hallows Eve (October 31st) was a day to honor deceased relatives.  It was customary to go to the graveyard, bring offerings of ‘soul cakes’ and wine, and commune with the dead, as veils to the otherworld were lifted. Visitors would light candles or bonfires and ring bells to help attract surreal  entities.

Joža Uprka

All Saints Day (November 1st) was a day to honor saints, while All Souls Day (November 2nd) paid tribute to ALL the souls of the departed.  On All Souls day, children would go door to door hoping to receive soul cakes.  Whenever you gave a child a cake, he or she then had an obligation to say a prayer or sing a song for one of your deceased relatives — who just might be doing time in Purgatory, waiting to enter heaven.

By giving out soul cakes, you could get extra prayers for your loved ones, thus keeping them from the clutches of Satan.

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First recorded in the 5th century, the tradition of giving soul cakes continued on in some parts of England as late as the 1890’s.

So, what exactly was a soul cake?

Soul cakes took many different shapes and sizes. In some areas, they were simple shortbread, and in others they were baked as fruit-filled tarts. Some were an early form of French toast, making use of stale or day old bread to be given to the poor.  Ingredients, of course, were used according to what was most available in the community.

If you’d like to try your own hand a whipping up some soul cakes for Halloween, here are a few recipes.

This one dates all the way back to 1350!

TRADITIONAL SOUL BREAD

6 large dinner rolls
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup currants
1 tsp. ground ginger and cinnamon combined
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of saffron

Grind saffron, mix with butter and set aside. Cut centers out of rolls to make a little bowl, reserving removed breadcrumbs. Mix eggs, currants, butter mixture, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Pour over breadcrumbs (which preferably has been dried out first) and stir carefully until all bread is evenly coated. Stuff rolls with mixture. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a large pan and bring it to boil. Then put in the rolls, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes with the pan tightly covered. Remove immediately from water with a slotted spoon and serve hot.

Source: Curye on Inglish. Middle English recipes
Oxford University Press.

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If you’d like a more modern recipe, try these:

PIE CRUST SOUL CAKES

You’ll need:

  • A refrigerated roll-out pie crust
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1 C mixed dried fruit
  • 2 Tbs honey

Roll out the pie crust and cut it into circles. Use the circles to line a tin of muffin cups. Mix the butter, fruit and honey together. Scoop the fruit mixture into the pastry shells, and then bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Allow to cool for about ten minutes before eating.

Source: Recipes for Halloween

Your trick or treaters will no doubt be delighted!

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On the other hand, parents will be suspicious of anything hand made and not wrapped… so you may want to keep your soul treats all to yourself 🙂

And finally! For your listening pleasure, here is a lovely version of the Soul Cake Song, performed in Medieval ballad style by Kristen Lawrence. Hope you enjoy it!

Happy Souling!