Friday, November 28, 2014

Supernatural Friday: Are Those Kelpies and Water Horses Swimming in Your Pool?

“Riding upon the back of a waterhorse - what mortal had ever stayed in such a seat for so long? On a horse made of cold currents and liquid convergences, jests and trickery - pressed against a hide like the burnished sea of midnight, thing look different to the rider.”
― Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Battleof Evernight

Kelpie, or water kelpie, is the Scots name given to a water being inhabiting the lochs and pools of Scotland. Sometimes said to appear as a horse, sometimes like a giant snake-like monster with horse’s head, it can also assume human form. Some accounts state that the kelpie retains its hooves when appearing as a human, leading to its association with the Christian idea of Satan. The etymology of the Scots word kelpie is uncertain, but it may be derived from the Gaelic calpa or cailpeach, meaning "heifer" or "colt.”  The term kelpie to a wide variety of mythical creatures. Counterparts in some regions of Scotland include the shoopiltee and nuggle of Shetland and the tangie of Orkney; in other parts of the United Kingdom they include the Welsh ceffyl dŵr and the Manx cabbyl-ushtey.
Many bodies of water in Scotland have kelpie story in connection, but the most famous is that of Loch Ness, and it parallels to the general Germanic neck and the Scandinavian bäckahäst (Shapeshifting water spirits in Germanic mythology and folklore who usually appeared in forms of other creatures.).  More widely, the wihwin (Malevolent water spirit of Central America, particularly associated with the Mosquito tribe. The horse-shaped monster has "jaws fenced round with horrid teeth", which it uses to consume humans and other prey it finds on its nocturnal hunts.) of Central America and the Australian bunyip (A large mythical creature from Aboriginal mythology, said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes.) have been seen as counterparts.

The origin of the belief in malevolent water horses has been proposed as originating in human sacrifices once made to appease gods associated with water. The association with horses may have its roots in horse sacrifices performed in ancient Scandinavia There are narratives about the kelpie that served a practical purpose in keeping children away from dangerous stretches of water, and warning young women to be wary of handsome strangers. The kelpie is usually described as a powerful and beautiful black horse inhabiting the deep pools of rivers and streams of Scotland, preying on any humans it encounters. One of the water-kelpie's common identifying characteristics is that its hooves are reversed as compared to those of a normal horse, a trait also shared by the nykur of Iceland. An Aberdeenshire variation portrays the kelpie as a horse with a mane of serpents, whereas the resident equine spirit of the River Spey was white and could entice victims onto its back by singing. Kelpies take their victims into the water, devour them, and throw the entrails to the water's edge. In its equine form the kelpie is able to extend the length of its back to carry many riders together into the depths, a common theme in the tales is of several children clambering onto the creature's back while one remains on the shore. Usually a little boy, he then pets the horse but his hand sticks to its neck. In some variations the lad cuts off his fingers or hand to free himself; he survives but the other children are carried off and drowned, with only some of their entrails being found later.

A tale set at Sunart in the Highlands tells of nine children lost, of whom only the innards of one are recovered. The surviving boy is again saved by cutting off his finger, and additional information is given that he had a Bible in his pocket. Some this creature responsible to have been a water horse rather than a kelpie, and the tale "obviously a pious fraud to keep children from wandering on Sundays.”
When a kelpie appeared in its equine persona without any tack, it could be captured using a halter stamped with the sign of a cross, and its strength could then be harnessed in tasks such as the transportation of heavy mill stones. A bridle taken from a kelpie was endowed with magical properties, and if brandished towards someone, was able to transform that person into a horse or pony.

A kelpie can be killed by being shot with a silver bullet, after which it is seen to consist of nothing more than turf and a soft mass like jelly-fish (I can see this, as like the werewolf or other shapeshifters that can be killed by silver too.). When a blacksmith's family was being frightened by the repeated appearances of a water kelpie at their summer cottage, the blacksmith managed to render it into a "heap of starch, or something like it" by penetrating the spirit's flanks with two sharp iron spears that had been heated in a fire.

There is a folk tale from Barra tells of a lonely kelpie that transforms itself into a handsome young man to woo a pretty young girl it was determined to take for its wife. But the girl recognizes the young man as a kelpie and removes his silver necklace (his bridle) while he sleeps. The kelpie immediately reverts to its equine form, and the girl takes it home to her father's farm, where it is put to work for a year. At the end of that time the girl rides the kelpie to consult a wise man, who tells her to return the silver necklace. Once again transformed into the handsome young man she had first met the wise man asks the kelpie whether if given the choice it would choose to be a kelpie or a mortal. The kelpie in turn asks the girl whether, if he were a man, she would agree to be his wife. She confirms that she would, after which the kelpie chooses to become a mortal man, and the pair is married.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Supernatural Friday: The Truth or Maybe Falseness of Legends and Urban Legends

Everyone participates in the reading of legends, myths, or folklore at some point in their lives. Who hasn’t read Greek mythology in school, or the folklore of Paul Bunyan, or even tall tales of famous, real people like Calamity Jane or Johnny Appleseed? What about urban legends? Urban legends are myths told in modern society, in cities or online, unlike many of the old tales set in the countryside. Even now, these get passed around in emails or are posted on the Internet—stories about the serial killer with the knife hanging around Lover’s Lane, Bloody Mary, the terrible smell under the bed in a hotel room or even the computer virus story that may have been true three years ago, but is still sent out as a warning.

A legend (Latin, legenda, "things to be read") is a narrative of human actions told about someone that existed in reality, once upon a time, but the true events have been twisted, making them more fascinating. Legend includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility,” defined by a highly flexible set of parameters. These may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened. There is the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arose, and in which the tale may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh, vital, and realistic. It is kinda like that game you played with your classmates in school, where you whisper to the next person a story, and by the time it comes full circle, that story has changed drastically from what it began as.

A myth is a sacred or traditional story that concerns the origins of the world or how the world and the creatures in it came to be in their present form. Myths serve to unfold a part of the world view of a people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. Parables and allegories are myths. Nothing is supposed to be real about it at all, even if someone mentioned in the story is a real person, like some famous Virginians in my book, Haunted Virginia: Legends Myths and True Tales. There are stories told about their habits or life that are not true.

Folklore is the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. It is popular, but unfounded beliefs. Or, as Merriam-Webster says: “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.”

The flavor of people and their culture, all interwove with day to day life when settlers came to the New World. They brought with them their folk tales and beliefs, and founded new ones in the new country. Some old stories mutated into different ones. There were older tales told by the Native Americans who were already living in Virginia before the white man came. Then, when slaves were brought to the New World, they brought with them tales from Africa and changed them, molding them to fit their new home.

Today, in modern times, we continue this with urban legends. Who hasn’t heard of the killer with the hook in lover’s lane? Or who hasn’t said, “Bloody Mary” while staring into the mirror, hoping to make a ghost appear? Or spread the story of the fried rat found in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. There’s the hitchhiking woman dressed in an evening gown that is picked up and climbs into the back seat, giving directions to an address to the driver. Once they arrive at the house, though, the driver discovers that she has mysteriously disappeared. When he goes to the door, he is told that his hitchhiker is the daughter of the owner of the house, who had been killed just after she left a party several years before, never making it home. But stories like the hitchhiking ghost existed long before they ended up as urban legends. I know I’ve read stories when it was a buggy or wagon being driven, not a car. So how many urban legends started as folk tales by those who colonized America? How many are false, but again how many are based on truth? Like the smell under the bed in the motel--that was proven to be true, both happening in Northern Virginia motels.

Many of the legends and folk tales told by our ancestors have some kind of moral attached to them. These may be warnings. Watch your womenfolk and children, so that marauding Indians could not kidnap them. Don’t dare approach some old woman living in the woods for a much needed potion to rid one of an unwanted pregnancy, for she may conjure a spell and convince you to crawl into her oven to be cooked.

All of the above are the start of human storytelling, most likely around the campfire at night and told by the village shaman or official storyteller. What stories do you remember and still like to tell?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Supernatural Friday: Petersburg , Virginia Is Full of Spirits

People talk about the most haunted spots in the worlds, using top tens and twenties. Of course, many of these are logical places in Europe and elsewhere, but many of those in the United States are ones I’ve seen done by "Ghost Hunters" or "Ghost Adventurers" TV shows. There are many more I’ve been to, not mentioned on these shows I have seen activity. Many have stories behind them, from legends to people actually experiencing things.  So whose to say these aren’t as haunted as many of those from top tens and twenties?

I’m going to talk about a town I feel can match many of those. Petersburg, Virginia. When I submitted a book proposal to Schiffer Publishing, I wasn’t sure how much I would get just in the town itself. I added the whole Tri-Cities area, including Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.  I got more than I bargained for, especially in Ole Town section of Petersburg. Had some experiences that will chill some readers, and did freak out with a paranormal incident, one investigator who investigated a couple of spots with me back in July 2014. Even weirder (or maybe not), there had been a full moon that Saturday night.  Won’t go into it—it will all be in the book that I heard may be out Spring 2015.

In 1645, Fort Henry was established for the defense of the inhabitants on the south side of the James River. Fort Henry's commander and owner, Abraham Wood, rose to the rank of major general of the militia, participated in Indian relations, revised laws of the colony, and led expeditions to the south and west. From 1638 to 1675, Fort Henry became a center of trade and exploration.

Peter Jones succeeded Abraham Wood as leader in the area in 1675.  He married Abraham Wood’s daughter, Margaret, and continued the trade established by Wood. He took charge of Fort Henry and established his own trading post.  Local tradition indicates that Petersburg may have been named for Peter Jones; however, there is no documentation to prove that.

Separate in the beginning, the towns of Petersburg and Blandford incorporated in 1748 followed by the town of Pocahontas in 1752. The towns of Petersburg, Blandford, and Pocahontas, along with the suburbs of Ravenscroft and Bollingbrook, all became one town called Petersburg.  Petersburg elected John Banister as its first mayor in 1781. As you will read later, he is still a presence around Petersburg.

And during the War of 1812, the city was named by President James Madison, “Cockade of the Union” (or “Cockade City,” in honor of the cockades the Volunteers wore on their caps. They had fought at the Siege of Fort Megis. No, this was not in Virginia.

Petersburg suffered the Great Fire on July 16, 1815. More than 350 buildings were destroyed with an estimated $3,000,000 in damage.  After that, Petersburg residents began building out of brick.  Between 1815 and 1817, Petersburg saw the emergence of approximately three hundred brick buildings.

The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign or the Siege, was a series of nine offensives by the Union forces against the Confederates defending Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. The Siege of Petersburg happened between June 9, 1864 and March 25, 1865. Upwards of 50,000 Union soldiers and 32,000 Confederates died during this time. Construction trenches were erected around the eastern portion of Richmond to the outskirts of Petersburg. The city was a major supply hub to the confederate army led by Robert E. Lee who finally abandoned the city in 1865 and retreated, leading to his ultimate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Siege of Petersburg was an early example of trench warfare used extensively in World War I.  

Today, Petersburg is a city of history dressed in the latest fashions. But its historical beginnings still show beneath its skirts. And some of those skirts belong to the dead still hanging around.


Lets’ talk about the haunted spots in this part of town. Like Wabi Sabi, Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House, Blue Willow Tea Room, The Bistro at Market and Grove (investigating tomorrow for Paranormal World Seekers episode straight to DVD), Peter Jones Trading Post,  High Street (including Dodson Tavern), and some places in buildings along Old Street. Plus I imagine many other places in town. Nearby is Centre Hill Mansion, famously haunted with the lady that has been seen and heard and the soldiers that march on January 24th, into the house, go up stairs, a half an hour later downstairs to walk back out the front door. There should be another Ghost Watch in 2015 as my husband and I attended the one this past January 24th. Wait until January 1st and call

804-733-2401, or keep tabs at http// to see when they will take reservations.

Not too faraway Blandford Cemetery and Church and Petersburg National Battlefield.  Ragland Mansion Bed and Breakfast is close by in downtown Petersburg has some stories.  

Where else would you find a house made of Civil War soldiers’ tombstones? Back in the Thirties, the city of Petersburg needed money, so they sold the tombstones from what is now Poplar Grove National Cemetery, owned by the US Government. Back then it was Petersburg. They replaced the missing stone gravestones with wooden markers. Today, small marble ones replaced those by the government. 

The man who bought the tombstones was a builder, O. E. Young, for $45.00. The ones used to build the house were placed facing inwards, and then Young plastered over the inscriptions. He even made the walkway out of the tombstones that face down. Okay, that is weird you say, but does that make the house haunted? For a long time, there was no stories about the house. Not until I overheard a docent at Blandford Church and Cemetery talk to another about the haunting that had happened there. Seems an owner of the place (not sure if it is the current owner) had a nephew stop by who had drank too much, so the man told the other to go upstairs and take a nap. The man was awakened by a ‘Rebel’ yell and sitting up, saw a Civil War soldier standing there. The spirit faded away. 

Another place was Battersea, the home of Colonel John Banister, the first mayor of Petersburg and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Ghost stories are mentioned and reenactors have told me about experiences.  Unfortunately, the Easter Sunday I was there for the Revolutionary War re-enactment of the 1981 battle in Petersburg held at Battersea, I forgot some of my equipment and the chance to investigate the house and land myself.

The Bistro at Market and Grove stands on the spot where the warehouse for Peter Jones Trading Post was. Before the restaurant  a gas station stood on the land. Between the gas station and the warehouse, no knowledge. The night in July, we got the voice of someone from the trading post—maybe Peter himself, as he called himself Peter. We had gotten other male voices and female ones too. One of the men knew who the owner of the restaurant was when I asked. He said, “The owner!” I even got darting shadow or shadows in front of me when I switched my camera to video.  This was about fifteen minutes to 1:00 p.m.  Could this be the dancing female spirit caught in a photo from a past investigation, one that appeared to love dancing in the dining room? The one Russ and his workers called Francine, but told me over the ghost box that her name was Ann?

It wasn’t any one living. Customers were gone from inside since 10 p.m. and outdoors in the patio since midnight. As for the rest of us, my fellow investigators sat with me around the table we used, while the two male workers had already left at midnight and one can see the waitress entering the kitchen when it happened, to tell the owner she needed a ride home as her husband had just called to tell her he would be working late.

Need a restaurant that has good food? Try The Bistro while in Petersburg. Just don’t be surprise if your napkin disappears, or some see-through woman dances by your table, it’s just the entities still haunting the building.

Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House actually back in the 1930s was owned by Hiram Haines, friend of Edgar Allan Poe and a fellow poet and editor. He had convinced Poe to honeymoon at the place, staying upstairs in the second floor suite. You can find out more about Poe in Petersburg in the book by the current owner of the building, Jeff Abugel. It is called Edgar Allan Poe's Petersburg: The Untold Story of the Raven in the Cockade City. You can fine it also at, besides at Amazon.

Strangely, through my ghost box or on EVPs, Poe nor Virginia did not answer. Others, like the nurse who took care of the Confederates and the soldiers themselves on the third floor where it had been a Civil War hospital during the Siege, and the Frenchman, Richard Rambaut, did though. Richard even gave me an answer in French, when I asked him to say something in French to prove to me it was him. The answer: “Oui.” 

Right now, Hiram Haines is closed, but may reopen in January. The owner is trying to make the second and third floor up to code for the city so Hiram will be a bed and breakfast, not just an eatery. He has a Kickstarter up for it. You can find it HERE. The minimum donated can be a dollar—same price for an item on McDonald's dollar menu.  Help if you can and you might able to stay where Poe did sleep and even have your own ghostly incident.

Blue Willow Tea Room doesn’t have the ghost in the shop itself (unless they are not showing themselves to the living), but upstairs. Second floor above is full of antiques for sale by Penniston'sAlley Antiques and Collectibles next door to the tea shop. But it appears that the first mayor of Petersburg, Burgess. I did get one word, “Bur” over my ghost box, when I asked if any ghost was with us and a man;s voice said, “Yes.” Bur for Burgess? Can’t prove that one way or another, but still I felt it was him. The third floor, particularly the room upstairs from the third floor had no doubt spirits from the Underground Railroad. The owner who went with me heard the male and female voices that spoke from my box as much as I did.  They even admitted to scaring off a couple of guys who were investigating one night, filming.  Next time you got for a cup, try Blue Willow. You just might have the first mayor of the town sit down with you.

Another kind of African-American spirit is seen and heard at Wabi Sabi. Not a runaway slave, but a black Confederate soldier. I even got two photos of this man peeking through the glass door of the downstairs room. Not the only phantom to stalk the rooms of Wabi Sabi and the whole building (formerly the Nathaniel Friend house). I myself got a woman’s voice over my ghost box and a young boy who called himself Philip. A boy who grew excited when I said that maybe I needed to go back upstairs to fetch a ball from my ghost bag I’d left up there.  He even told me what my earrings I wore, which were snowmen, saying, “Snowman.” When the owner joined me, and I said to tell him hello, the man did, the woman said, “No,” and the boy said nothing.  Next time you want some sushi, try Wabi Sabi. Just be forewarned, more than the living enjoy the place.

 Need some good haunted places not in the top ten or twenties to visit? Come to Petersburg, Virginia. Between the  the good food at the eateries, shopping, and historical places and events, you just might catch sight of a Civil War soldier, or a man in a cockade hat, or a woman still dancing away. After all with such a long history connected, the dead do not want to give up their residency in the town.