Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Ghost of Plaza de la Catedral, Cuba

Part of my next novel, the first in the Tres Perdidos Detective Agency series, takes place in Cuba, where a missing girl escaped as a teenager and was never heard from again.  Plaza de la Catedral, Cuba, was the setting of a ghost story I heard while visiting Cuba a few years back. This stone streets of the Plaza are the setting of many gatherings and religious festivals.

One of the tour guides for our trip says that there are many haunted stories from the Plaza, and one involves a young woman standing atop the roof of one of the buildings in the plaza. People see the woman at dusk, as the sun sets and the light is gray. She wears a purple rebozo over a long white dress. Tourists report hearing a high pitched singing, some say it is "Ave Maria" and then the figure begins to descend into the plaza. One man reported that the woman touched down on the brick surface of the plaza and began to walk towards him. He took off running.

No one knows who the figure is or why she is singing. For certain, our guide said. The plaza is haunted. I was there at dusk, and I saw a beautiful good Friday procession -- but no ghosts in purple rebozos. So I can't say whether it is true or not. Only that things appear to be mysterious in Cuba as well as Mysterious in New Mexico!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Fishing Ghost of Pine Island

On a recent visit to Pine Island, Florida, I heard the story of the disappearing fisherman. Since we were planning our first kayaking voyage, I was a little nervous to hear about the man who went out with his wife to catch a few Sheep's Head fish for dinner, and never returned...

In all started in September of 2017, just before Hurricane Irma made a pass at the island. All the weather forecasts threatened a direct hit on the island. A man named Earl and his wife Ivey had made plans two weeks in advance for a kayaking adventure. Ivey wanted to cancel, but Earl insisted that no hurricane would stop him from catching a fish.

Apparently Ivey continued to hound her husband the night before at Woody's Bar and Grill and then even later at the Ragged Ass Saloon. Earl insisted the hurricane was two days away, but by then Ivey was pretty drunk and kept repeating the same phrase over and over.

"You'll never return, Earl. You'll never return."

Her husband left the Ragged Ass without her, and it's rumored that Ivey went went home with one of the other patrons.

Anyhow, by the next day at noon, when the two showed up for the kayak rental, they seemed to be getting long fine. The hurricane was still off a day or so, and they both laughed at Ivey's fear. The guide gave the couple a map and pointed out a few good fishing spots. Earl loaded the gear and both rolled into their kayaks and paddled off...but, you guessed it, only Ivey came back. Ivey said he simply disappeared. Maybe he was lost. Search and Rescue looked for Earl for two weeks straight, but he was never seen again.

The turned south and missed the island for the most part. But by December, fisherman, taking off in their kayaks were getting a weird message from the wind that whistles through the mangroves. Two men and one woman, swore they heard a woman whispering...

"You'll never return, Earl. You'll never return."

Did Ivey help Earl disappear?

Nobody knows, but one thing's for sure: It's mysterious in New Mexico (and, apparently, in Pine Island, too).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ghosts in the Santa Fe Cathedral

In Santa Fe, Salacious by Tower Lowe tells about a murder that haunts the Santa Fe Cathedral until the true story unfolds. The main event in the novel takes place in the small adobe chapel at the Basilica, dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora and brought from Spain in 1625. That's centuries of prayers and offerings for peace. 

There are said to be ghosts in the adjoining cemetery, and I can attest that there are angels in the chapel.

One afternoon I dropped by to pray the rosary for my daughter. As I sat there, quietly touching the beads and remembering the prayers, an old woman entered the chapel. She was quite small and wore a black lace mantilla over her head. this struck me as odd, as few people actually wear the mantilla walking around in these days. When I finished my rosary, she touched my arm gently.

"I want to tell you something," she said. "In my life, there have been many difficulties and people whose actions you can't understand. But don't worry. It all works out in the end."

I smiled politely. "Thank you." I didn't want to be rude, but the elderly lady looked concerned, as though she feared I had not understood her.

"No, she said. Listen. You don't need to worry so much. It all works out in the end."

The she stood, pulled the mantilla close to her face and exited the chapel.

Was she real? An angel? Perhaps it doesn't matter. My father was a lapsed Catholic, and I was not raised in the church. But I do pray often in the chapel, and I learned the rosary while teaching at a Catholic school. 

For me, she was an angel. What about you? Any church ghost stories you want to tell?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mystery Muse Reports: Ghosts on Pine Island, Florida

Last January, I visited Pine Island and the Randall Research Center with friends. The day was sunny -- perfect paradise weather in Florida. We got out of the car, talking and laughing until we neared the outdoor deck of the Research Center Building. Two of us stopped in our tracks. We felt a force emanating from the building. And believe me, the friend at my side is no ghost buster. He's a scientist who thinks ghosts are like Casper from the old cartoon. But he said.

"Wait a minute. There's something funny here."

I was the one who said, no, let's go in. And the feeling dissipated. We completely forgot until we again exited onto the deck and walked past a small room. It was said to be the former post office. My scientist buddy stopped again.

"We've been here before," he said.

"No," I responded. "But I think we're in the presence of a ghost."

He laughed and followed the rest of our crew out into the exhibit of Calusa Indian life. I lingered back and stood at the entrance to the little room. A sign said it was the former post office. Nothing hit me, so I stepped back and that's when I saw her. she was more than a shadow, less than a person in a red sweater and dark skirt. I heard a whimper and then silence.

That scurried me along, I'll tell you, but ever since I got back, I wondered. Has anyone else seen a ghost there? I've been writing two new books and experimenting with all sorts of publicity, most of it helping only a little, but it's work, so I forgot about my Pine Island ghost. I finished the second book in the Cotton Lee Penn/Max Mayfair series and got 3/4 of the way through the new series featuring the Lost Coin Detective Agency, when I found myself writing a scene on Pine Island and I remembered my ghost...

So I took a look on the Internet, and discovered that Make Shevlin of the Pine Island Eagle reported a similar incident from Dave Holmes. Right there, in that location, Dave heard a woman weeping and the shuffling of slippers!  Could they be the same person, and what is her regret?  There's a story that a young child drowned in a pond near there. Perhaps the weeping woman is the mother. Nobody knows for sure. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bees equal ghosts in a Burning Hearth

This story takes place in Homeville, Virginia where my new book Gone on Sunday takes place. It is a story from my childhood, but recently, when I got together with family, I found out more details about this fiery adventure. Ghosts were often rumored to haunt the house, and now a friend tells me that bees are a sure sign of haunting spirits. After this story, you'll conclude the house in Homeville needs an exorcism!

We lived in an old two story plantation house built in 1830. There were fireplaces on each side of the house, on the first and second floor. Bees (spirits?) made a nest in the unused fireplace on the second floor of my parents room. My mother was deadly allergic to bees, so the hive had to be eliminated. Now, I don't know too much about exterminators in the 1960's except that my grandmother, who lived with us, was dead set against these professionals. Her comments on pesky critters usually addressed by exterminators went as follows.

"In my day, we never paid to get rid of bees or roaches or whatever. We lived with them, or we used borax or lemon oil or we burned them out."

My opinion is, mostly they lived with them. But, in this case, it was resolved that, since the bees were in a fireplace, they could be burned out. My mother was super committed because of her fear of dying from a bee sting (reasonable, but, then so is an exterminator).

So, all I remember is the fire, that it got out of control, and that I thought it was the fire that burned up the original Tower Lowe (Eiffel Tower Lowe, my writer namesake.) I learned, however, that the fire was fueled by my brother's favorite comic books (burned up money, he moans today). Every time he complained, my mother apparently shouted the irrelevance of comics and said, "We'll burn everything we can get out hands on." To which I say:


Not surprisingly, as my mother got more desperate, the fire got more out of control. Both my brothers were  sent outside to make sure the house didn't catch on fire. As I recall, I was being kept out of the bedroom in the hallway, listening to the panic and hearing the roar of the fire.

What happened.? Well, the bees were driven away and the house didn't burn down. Next, the fireplace was blocked and is still blocked to this day.

Everyone involved had the incident burned into their memory, pardon the pun. Maybe a few of the spirits took off, but I'll tell you, the last time I slept in that bedroom, with my two little children, my daughter woke up and said,

"Momma, there are other people here in this room. I can hear them."

And that, folks, is more mysterious than New Mexico.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Professional Review Fest!

(Okay...sort of like a BAR-B-Q Fest -- and this place is in Virginia where my novel, Gone on Sunday, is set...)

Hi all...no ghost stories just yet, but I have one coming about bees and evil spirits in the pink room. Hang on for that.

Today I'm celebrating two professional reviews of my first novel in a new series: The Cotton Lee Penn Historical Novels.

The first appeared in Foreward Clarion Reviews.

Here's a quote:

With nary a mint julep or other southern cliché to be found, Gone on Sunday mixes the light touch of a cozy mystery, the terrible weight of history, a hint of romance, and the secrets of stifling summer to engrossing and highly entertaining effect. The result is a historical mystery combined with a modern one, satisfying on every level. -- Foreward Clarion Reviews

 The second, and most surprising to me, appeared in Kirkus Reviews. Those guys can be so-o-o mean -- but they gave me a thumbs up.  Here's a little of what they had to say:

The author does an admirable job of tying the two eras and two crimes together. She deftly drops a trail of crumbs from suspect to suspect, leading the reader down multiple paths before revealing the surprising truth in a climax worth waiting for.…This vibrant first installment of a detective series should leave readers looking forward to more adventures with the engaging heroine. --Kirkus Reviews

For a writer, every book is a work of love -- until the next book comes along.  But I am so pleased this mystery story has entertained readers and now -- a few critics.

I recently finished the first draft of the  next book in this series, tentatively titled Premonition. Here's an excerpt:

Anselm tugged on his flannel shirt and held his gun loosely at his waist, making his way through chiggers and ticks and the underbrush where they thrived. A shot fired in the distance, followed by a hollow echo and a scrambling noise in the brush. A male deer, antlers high into the green, stopped some fifteen yards ahead. Anselm made eye contact. Deep in the brown iris he saw a story unfold.
A small boy with dark hair and pink puffy hands reached up, asking Anselm to take him. The hunter thought to lift the child, but the figure grew to six feet and became a young man, holding a law book in long curved fingers. Anselm drew back from the deer and grabbed his satchel. The tall young man shouted at him.
“Daddy. Watch out!”
Another shot fired, striking Anselm through the heart. The startled buck blinked, and then leapt high into the forest, taking with him the young man and the law book. Anselm felt the sadness of the young man’s going, as he did the sadness of his own passing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spirit Leads Us to Light in Las Vegas

The Montezuma Hot Springs in Las Vegas, New Mexico reflect the wild history of this town and the numerous stories and tales that accompany it's past.

On a recent visit to the hot springs, a friend and I soaked our feet with a couple of local college students. As we sat, taking in a beautiful winter day, I asked about a wooden building nearby.

"Oh...there's a spring in that building, too. But it's locked and nobody can go in."

"Why? Is it ghosts?" (I'm always looking for a story....)

"No, I don't think so. I heard that the building was opened years ago, and people would go in there to soak.  A woman was sexually assaulted, I was told, about twenty years ago, and then a series of children were molested there and that was the last straw. It's closed forever.

Yikes!  Not the kind of story I was looking for. I don't know if it's true at all, but it gave me a creepy feeling for the rest of my trip. The town is a beautiful record of the history of the railroad (Montezuma Castle here is said to be haunted by the ghost of a railroad executive's wife.) It has a vital group trying to revive the historic building on the plaza, an international school and a chapel of light. Plenty of spirits might enter here. And, as I stood up to wrap myself in a towel at the hot springs, I got a burst of spirit energy that led me right to that chapel.

I'd never heard of the Dwan Light Sanctuary even though I've lived in New Mexico for over thirty years. I visit Las Vegas regularly because I like the plaza and the Montezuma Castle. But this trip was already turning a bit sour. While the hot springs were free and great, the story about the sexual crime left me filled with anxiety. I've heard stories that the springs are on Jicarilla Apache land, and that the native spirits want it back. I wondered if there weren't bad spirits there, welling up with the spring water. An yet, when I stood to look around on a January day, the weather was mild, the sun shining and the water sparkling. I dried myself off and walked towards the car.

But it was still there, and it wasn't only a feeling. The hair on my arms stood up, and I knew I was in the presence of a spirit stream, or a metaphysical energy of some kind. I had planned to return to the car, but I felt this urge to keep walking. I put on a sweatshirt and a jacket and followed the spirit urges up to the college. Maybe you think I'm a little wacky, but even though I write this ghost story blog, I don't normally follow spirits or energies or even ghosts. In fact, I rather prefer to keep ghosts in stories and not in my presence. But, on this day, I even talked my friend into following my urges.

We walked through a parking lot, past an office building and then I saw it, up in the distance -- the chapel. Now, many of you probably already know about the chapel. My friends laughed at me when I got home. But, remember, I'd never heard of the place. I was following a presence that led me away from the awful story at the hot springs and into this strange round building. Inside, the feelings of doom faded as a bathed the the prism filled light of the chapel. I sat on a molded bench with my friend and we were silent for a few minutes. The story of the wooden building at the hot springs, true or false, faded and was replaced by a sense of peace and tranquility. I felt my spirit rise above the troubles of the day, the need to believe in the negative and dark side of live, and lift up to the light. A spirit led me there, to contemplate the joy of life on this earth.

And that, my friends, is more evidence that things are, indeed...mysterious in New Mexico!