Monday, December 21, 2015

A Ghost from Homeville, Virginia Visits Santa Fe!

Ghosts wandered about in my childhood home in Homeville, Virginia.  The most talked about was Miss Rosa.
Miss Rosa Thornton Briggs, on of three wives of the family patriarch, Dr. Henry Caroline Briggs, was buried here, in a cemetery directly behind the big house.   She was the last of Dr. Briggs' wives -- the first two died in childbirth.  In life, she was said to be very protective of the family and of their reputation.  

My grandmother never knew Miss Rosa, but she knew the maids who had helped maintain the household in those days.  One maid in particular, a favorite of Miss Rosa, saw her rocking in the front hall for the first time when one of the children was gravely ill.  Miss Rosa particularly worried over children, as many of the small children in her day died of whooping cough and there was no vaccine. 

The maid walked out into the front entrance hall and noticed the old wooden rocking chair moving, looking closer, she clearly saw the figure of Miss Rosa rocking there, holding an infant in her arms.  On another occasion, the maid saw Miss Rosa rocking alone when one of the children were ill.

For myself, I never actually saw the figure of Miss Rosa, but when I descended he stairs in the front hall one morning after my mother died, I clearly saw the rocker going back and forth, but the house was empty except for my father, who was in the kitchen at the back of the house.

Then, once, when I was much older and living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was packing up to move me and my children. I was getting over a very difficult divorce.  As I packed the last box and looked out onto the front porch of my own home, where an iron rocker waited for the movers. I clearly saw the chair going back and forth, as though someone were seated in it, rocking.  I saw no figure, but I clearly felt the presence of Miss Rosa, who was concerned for me and my children.  

Say what you like, I believe she was there!  And that's how it is in Mysterious New Mexico.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Ghost of Death at Santa Fe College

In Santa Fe, during WWII, a set of army barracks were set up on what is not the location of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design (formerly the College of Santa Fe).

I worked at the College for many years, and during the last two years, my offices were located in these barracks.  What an adventure. One of the offices was the former surgery -- or so the story went.  And wa-ay in the back, there was a storage room that had once been the recovery room.  A very spooky place to look for supplies and records.

We tutored students in our crusty office building, and, one afternoon, a young woman I'll call Esperanza, entered the former surgery and began to cry.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Someone died here," she said.  "And there's sadness everywhere."

I didn't contradict here, exactly, but I said that no one had died there recently -- we were all well and happy.

"No.  I can't be in here," she insisted.  So I took her out into one of the larger offices near the front.

She stopped crying.  "Okay," she said.  "This is fine."

After the student left, the staff all gathered around to discuss the incident.  We knew that office was supposed to be the former surgery room for the army barracks, and we wondered if "Esperanza" had sensed the presence of death there?

Several months later, I needed records from that room in the back of the barracks.  This room held dusty old notebooks full of paper forms -- the kind we used in the last century.  The door was locked, and the key tuned stiffly in the lock.  I was greeted with a puff of stale, mildewed laden air and the stench -- this is truly what I smelled -- blood.

Of course, I told myself it was all in my head, but that didn't help at all.  The room was packed with filing cabinets and old chairs and desks.  I could barely move next to the shelves where the record notebooks were lined up like stacked. 

I pulled out the notebook I needed, but I had to sit down on a dusty metal chair and try to breath.  I could not shake the sense that someone was dead right there in the room with me.  Finally, unable to find the records I needed, I loaded up my arms with about 5 notebooks and fled that place.  Immediately, I felt better. One of my co-workers and I dusted the books and found the papers we needed. 

I told her the story about smelling blood, so we stored the notebooks upfront.  We never needed records again while I worked there, but one time we did need an extra desk and some chairs.  I suggested the storeroom, but the janitor refused and we borrowed furniture from one of the main buildings and brought it by truck just to avoid going into the "death room."

Are there really ghosts in those barracks at the back of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design?  I think so -- the buildings are abandoned now, but I have a feeling the spirits who haunt it are not.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ghosts in Santa Fe hotel?

The old time Santa Fe residents have circulated stories about ghosts in the old hospital in downtown Santa Fe for years.   Now that the hospital, a nursing home for years, has been gutted and turned into a fancy hotel,  I hear the stories repeated in the hardware store, the grocery store and in classrooms in Santa Fe. 

People say the hospital was haunted by several of nurses.   The nurses are looking for patients who died because they want to keep taking care of them.  One of my college students, Amanda, told me that her grandmother claimed that a nurse came every night to cover her with extra blankets and give her a glass of water.

When Amanda went to thank the staff for being so good to her grandmother, she found no one had visited her grandmother during the night or brought her water.  The staff said it was likely the ghost of "Esperanza", a nurse at the old hospital.  "Esperanza" worked the night shift, and one night she took off to be with her novio (boyfriend).  When she returned the next night, three of her patients had died.

"Esperanza" never got over those deaths and never took another night of her shift off after that day.  It is said that "Esperanza" circulated in the nursing home, still finding patients to care for and watch over at night.

So, is "Esperanza" circulating in the new, fancy hotel, taking care of tourists?  Maybe...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review in Publishers Weekly/Book Life goes LIVE!

Getting this review came after a long shot entry into the contest that is getting a review from Publishers Weekly/BookLife....and hoping it is favorable!

I followed the directions on the website and then waited.  After 4 weeks, I was notified by email that I cleared the first round.  After 13 weeks, I was notified that I would be reviewed (with the puzzling caveat that my book might be lost in the shuffle and never reviewed).  For a self-published writer, doing my own publicity, it's hard to get outside reviews, so I'm pretty happy to get this, and happy that it's favorable.  All the reviews on the site follow this format...a lot of description and a one line evaluation.  Some of the one line evaluations are pretty negative, so I'm fine with getting a decent last line.  I can't see using "far from run-of-the-mill" on my cover, but maybe "...distinctive..."  Don't laugh, I might just do that!

Lowe's first novel...features an unusual pair of New Mexican sleuths.  Burro, a schizophrenic, is susceptible to psychotic visions... a gift that comes in handy when he's working on a case with his PI partner, Cinnamon.  Cinnamon uses the income from their investigations... to try to track down the mother who abandoned her decades earlier.  Mirage, who blacked out after a party and woke up to find her brother, Lonnie, stabbed to death, fears she killed Lonnie.  The far from run-of-the-mill leads and Burro's distinctive investigative methods are the books main draw.  (Publishers Weekly/BookLife)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Santa Fe Ghosts

Cristo Rey Catholic school was a k-8 parochial school in the old barrio, now called the eastside of Santa Fe.  For many decades the school served the Cristo Rey Church parish children.  The old school closed down and the building is rented out by a pre-school.

I started teaching there in the 1990's, and the kids told each other stories from the old days that they had heard from their parents, who also attended Cristo Rey School.

One evening, as my 7th class prepared out exhibition table for the annual fund drive and fair -- held in the cafeteria -- we needed to go upstairs to my classroom for scissors and construction paper.

"No, teacher, we're not going up there at night.  Father Joseph is there."  A girl said.
"Sister Angelina might be in the 5th grade room," from one of the boys.

"Who are they?" I asked.

"Ghosts," the kids replied in unison.  They the children took turns explaining that Father Joseph was the first principal and he still watches over the classrooms at night.  One boy has seen the Father when he was 2nd grade.  Others told stories of their seeing both Father Joseph and Sister Angelina.

"Are they mean ghosts?"  I asked.

"Oh, no," in unison again.  "They watch out for the school."

"Well, then, they won't hurt us."


But, finally, a couple of adventurous 7th grade girls agreed to go with me to my classroom on the 2nd floor.

We entered my classroom uneventfully, and I sent the girls on with the construction paper while I picked up the scissors.  I heard a scream.


I ran out into the hallway.  "Girls, slow down," I shouted.

"Father Joseph!  We saw Father Joseph at head of the stairs."

I smiled.  Of course they did.  The girls were already down the stairs, telling their story to all who would listen.  I was glad I didn't send them with the scissors, since they might have hurt themselves running down the hall.

I put the scissors into a cloth bag, and headed down to the stairs, thinking about Father Joseph and sister Angelina.  Out of curiosity, or perhaps sentimentality, I turned to look into the fifth grade classroom for the second ghost.

At the far end of the room, looking out the window into the dark night, stood a man in a priests robe.  I stepped back, not sure.  And then I saw her, all in white, her head covered, standing at the desk, looking kindly towards the father, her hand on a sheet of ungraded student papers.  They did not look up at me, but, then, I withdrew from the door like a hand from a flame.  I didn't want to see those two, and yet, all these years later, I still think I did see them.  I pass by the school on my daily walks, and I think, even now, the two watch over the preschool at night from the upper floor, ever vigilant.

Or that's how it seems in mysterious New Mexico.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Peak at the Past: Blonde Faith, Walter Mosley

In 1990, Walter Mosley invited us into black Los Angeles in Devil in the Blue Dress.  Sam Spade now had a black counterpart in Watts named Easy Rawlins.  Spade operated in the 1920's and Easy Rawlins occupies a black underworld in the 1940's in L.A.

Blonde Faith, Mosley's 11th Easy Rawlins novel, brings us forward a few years from Devil in a Blue Dress, and Easy's life still ain't easy.  He understands women even less (his latest, Bonnie, marries another man) and his family makes no sense but Easy is still solving crimes for his luckless friends and neighbors..

Here's the down and dirty on the women:  Tourmaline wears form-fitting white.  Pretty Smart wears red and is "short, built to populate the countryside."  Faith wears a shapeless charcoal dress, but there's nothing shapeless about her figure.  Lynne wears a short red silk kimono with nothing underneath.  Anyway, you get the idea.

Easy's dangerous associate, Mouse (aka Raymond Alexander), is in true form.  "'I knew a dude got himself buried in his Caddy,' Mouse said jauntily. 'He weighed six hunnert pounds.  There was five women cryin' at his grave, too.  Some men just lucky, is all.'"

Easy seems a bit tired, a bit old, and just plain fed up with the world.  But it's a good visit to a part of LA this white girl never saw.  Worth the ride...

At least that's what we think in mysterious New Mexico.