Friday, August 18, 2017

Ten Eclispe Superstitions

Monday is a much anticipated day for many around the world. This will be “The Event of the Century,” when the sun, moon and earth line up to create a total eclipse.
A total solar eclipse is a unique visual occurrence. In the US, it will be visible, in some form, in all 48 states. The eclipse will pass over North America, Western Europe, Northern and Eastern Asia, Northern and Western Africa, a large section of South America and the Arctic along with islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Millions of people will see it.

A lunar eclipse occurs about once every 18 months, but one of this magnitude that will be viewed by millions occurs approximately once every 375 years according to Belgium astronomer Jean Meeus. (Now you see why this is such a BIG deal!)

But our ancestors have always had a dubious relationship with the heavens. In fact, most people thought the world was ending when an eclipse – full or partial – occurred. 
Here are 10 superstitions that our ancestors may have harbored during an eclipse.

1. Gods Were Angry
Ancient Greeks believed that Helios, the Sun God, (or Apollo, take your pick) drove his fiery chariot across the sky each day, and could see and understand what was happening on Earth. He would then report this behavior to Zeus. When the sun disappeared during the day, the only conclusion drawn was that the people had offended the gods and were being punished.

2. Sun and Moon Quarreling
Ancient cultures in Togo and Benin believed that the Sun god and the Moon god were arguing. The only way to make amends between the two was for those on earth to set an example and let go of their grievances toward one another.

3. Sun Being Devoured
Photo from NASA
Each culture had its version of what was happening when an eclipse took place, and most of these ancient cultures thought that something was eating the sun. 

In Hindu mythology it was believed that the demon Rahu’s severed head was devouring the sun. When this occurred, the people would grab something to bang on in order to scare Rahu into coughing up the sun.
Ancient Egyptians thought that a sow had swallowed the moon.
In Korea, ancient dogs were blamed for taking a bite out of the moon as they tried to steal it.
Other societies would throw things into the sky to scare away the demon that was trying to swallow the sun.
Native Americans believed that an eclipse happened because the sun and a bear were quarreling. The bear grabbed the sun and bite out a chunk.
4. Spirits of the Dead
Incas thought that the souls of the dead, in the shape of a jaguar, had attacked the moon and once finished with it, would come to earth. In order to save mankind, they would throw spears into the sky to keep it away.

5. Danger to the Monarch
Kings and queens believed that their power to rule was in danger of being overthrown during an eclipse. To thwart an attempt, a person was hired to sit on the throne during an eclipse so nothing bad would happen to the ruler.
6. Sacrificial Offerings
The Aztecs believed that the gods were angry and must be appeased. People of lighter complexions were immediately sacrificed and any captives were killed to quell the god’s wrath and keep them from walking the earth looking for men to eat.

7. Trickery
In 1503 Christopher Columbus and his crew were stranded in Jamaica. The natives became tired of assisting them. Columbus, knowing that an eclipse was due, told the Jamaicans that his god was angry with their treatment and would take away the moon as punishment. When the eclipse occurred, the natives agreed to tend to the crew until help arrived if the moon was restored.
8. Deform Children
The Aztecs also thought that if a pregnant woman went outside to view the eclipse, her child would be born with a cleft palate in a similar fashion to the bite that had been taken out of the moon.
9. Karma
Tibetan Buddhists believe that during an eclipse our actions are multiplied one thousand times – be they good or bad.
10. Cause of Natural Catastrophes
The Chinese believed that an eclipse foretold of the coming of famine or disease. 

Others believed that the solar eclipse of 1652 caused the Great Plague in London. 

Modern astrologers report that an eclipse can cause natural phenomenon like earthquakes and storms.
Today, in certain cultures, an eclipse still portends evil, but most of the world will be celebrating the sight of the total eclipse on Monday. If you happen to miss it, mark your calendars because there will be an annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023, and another total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 that will be visible mainly in parts of the Midwest and the East Coast.
~ Joy
And a note: My new book The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide will be shipping out next Tuesday for early orders. Click here to get your copy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Haunted New Harmony - Worth a Trip

New Harmony, Indiana is a quaint town with bustling businesses surrounded by two hundred years of history, and some spritely spirits. In fact, most of the buildings in the town are haunted. What could cause so much paranormal activity? A myriad of things, apparently.

Johann Georg Rapp
The first settlers to the area were members of the Harmonie Society, more than 800 German Lutheran immigrants who were followers of  Father Johann Georg Rapp. Also known as Rappites, the religious group believed in a literally interpertation of the Bible and sought Christian perfection by practicing celibacy while living highly ordered and productive lives. 

Rapp-Owen Granary
These men and women built more than 160 buildings including a church and graveyard,  school, cotton mill, grain mills, sawmills, tanneries, winery, brewery and other businesses. The Harmonists lived here from 1814 to 1824 when they returned to Pennsylvania to form another community.

Robert Owen

Then came another utopian group called the Owenites. This group was the polar opposite of the Harmonists. Founder Robert Owens wanted to establish a new moral social utopia, one that stressed education and the equality of men and women while shunning marriage and religion. Members of his movement, more than 700 people, came to live here along the banks of the Wabash River. Although the community lasted only a couple of years,  it established the first free school system in America including something known as kindergarten. The group completely disbanded in 1829 due to a lack of funds.

Wabash River
Two groups so radically different in their beliefs could make for an interesting paranormal situation. Then factor in the influence of the river and the beliefs of the Native Americans, and you have an interesting mix of beliefs and cultures. 

Destruction of Griffin, Indiana - nine miles away
Then there was the Tri-State tornado of 1925 . The mile-wide twister ripped through Missouri, Southern Illinois and Southern Indiana killing 695 people during its three hours on the ground. New Harmony was in its path and 52 people died here. Their bodies were taken to the Ribeyre Gymnasium so next of kin could identify them. That’s another spot with lots of paranormal activity.

The Harmonist or Rappite Cemetery
Native Americans seemed to know that the area was a hotspot of activity. The Harmonists didn’t mention it, but the Owenites, with their interest in science, would have been curious as to what was causing all the incidents.

Fauntleroy House
The first reported haunting was in 1848 in the Fauntleroy Home when a guest reported passing “the resident ghost” on the stairs as she was retiring for bed. The home was renovated a few years ago and paranormal activity has picked up. In fact, it's the most haunted house in town. One reason may be the adjacent cemetery. 

More than 200 Rappites are buried in the Harmonist Cemetery, all in unmarked graves due to the sect's belief in equality for all of its members. A wall constructed of bricks from the old Harmonist church surrounds the graveyard. Also located here are several burial mounds of Native Americans from the Middle Woodland period, about 2,000 years ago. 

Outside the Cemetery Wall
New Harmony, Indiana is worth a trip just to soak up the ambience, but don’t be surprised if you catch a shadow person pass by – it's a town where some residents never leave.

Friday, June 23, 2017

I Thought I Saw a ...Ghost?

Most people, if they're honest with you, will admit that they believe they've seen a ghost. Some of us have photos that show something in them that’s just “not quite right.” A ghost? An apparition? A shadow? There are times we know for sure there’s no other explanation and others when we are left wondering.

Here are 23 slides that will make you want to take another look at those recently snapped photos, because as you’ll see, you don’t have to be in a cemetery, an abandoned building or anywhere spooky – you just have to be observant to see a ghost.

Have a ghost photo you’ve taken? Share it at AGraveInterest on Facebook and let us know where you were when you took it.



Friday, June 9, 2017

St Ignatius Cemetery in West Baden, Indiana

The summer of 1929 was uneventful for the most part, but the date October 24, 1929 would be remembered for years to come. That’s the day the Wall Street Stock Market crashed. Word spread quickly throughout West Baden Springs Hotel. Within hours, panicked guest were checking out. The mass exodus continued for four days until everyone was gone; the life had literally been drained from the hotel.
West Baden Springs Hotel
Hotel owner Ed Ballard hoped the crash would be short-lived but as it drug on into the 1930s, Ballard realized that it was the end of an era for his beloved hotel. In 1934, after numerous attempts to find a buyer for the business, he sold the $7 million grand dame for $1 to the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits. Thus began thirty years in the hotel’s history as a Jesuit seminary.

Jesuit Brothers at West Baden
West Baden College became an affiliate of Loyola University in Chicago where priests, brothers and students were sent to train and teach. These Jesuits immediately removed or covered most of the hotel’s lavish furnishings and decorations to fit with their belief in simplicity. Anything that was considered too extravagant by this austere order was hidden from sight (but thankfully stored, and therefore preserved.) Even the regaled mineral springs were capped with concrete and turned into shrines for saints after tons of stone were dumped down into them. 
Path to St Ignatius
During their thirty years there, the Jesuits established a small cemetery in which to bury those priests who died while serving here. The first burial was for Eduardus J. McDonald, Scholasticus, and took place on August 26, 1935. 
The last burial was for Warner Richard Kerzmann, the first director of Northwood College, the institution that took over the structure from the Jesuits in 1966. Kerzmann was granted approval to be buried here in 1979 because of his deep ties to Northwood College. 
Those Buried at St Ignatius
In all, a total of 39 priests have been buried here over the years. In fact, Jesuits may still request to be buried in St. Ignatius Cemetery.
The seminary was closed in 1964 due to low enrollment and the high cost of keeping the building up. In 1966, Northwood College took over the structure, but the Jesuits retained ownership of St Ignatius Cemetery. 
The cemetery is located to the west of West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden, Indiana. It may be visited by climbing a shrub-lined pathway of stairs which lead to the top of a hill. There you will find a large white cross with 39 marked graves; this is St Ignatius Cemetery, known locally as the Jesuit’s Cemetery. 


Friday, June 2, 2017

I'm Back!!

Hello Tombstone Tourists! 

WOW! Where has the time gone? It's been a busy six months, but I turned in my final book corrections yesterday so this seemed the perfect time to dive back into A Grave Interest. (And you wouldn't believe how I've missed it!)

Regarding the book, I already have a title and publication date so it finally seems real. In fact, Family Tree Publishing is taking preorders. The title is The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide and it will be released on September 22, 2017.

What's it About?
It’s full of tips and tricks to help you locate your ancestor’s graves plus those illusive death records that can lead to other clues in your genealogy search. Plus, I share some stories of how cemetery research has led me into some interesting findings; an unknown family member, a sudden profusion of ancestors, and a family secret of monumental proportions. Suffice it to say I'm excited! 

Jesuit Cemetery
Thanks for your patience while I tackled this milestone. Now, back to cemetery jaunts and writing about what I find along the way. Next Friday, we'll take a look at Jesuit cemetery tucked away at a resort.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Nikola Tesla - Inventing the 20th Century

By Joy Neighbors

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla is considered one of the greatest inventors of all time. He is best known for his work in designing the modern alternating current (AC) electric supply system.

Tesla worked for Continental Edison Company in 1882, and immigrated from Austria to the U.S. in 1884 to work with Thomas Edison. He redesigned Edison’s direct current (DC) generator after Edison offered him $50,000. When Tesla approached him for payment, Edison replied that it had been a joke and offered him an extra $10 per week. Tesla resigned.

AC Patent
Tesla later licensed his induction motor and sold his AC current patent to George Westinghouse. In1888, the “War of the Currents” began with Tesla and Westinghouse on the AC side, and Edison supporting the DC side. Over time, Westinghouse lost control of his company and Tesla was left to fight for his royalties from the bankers that took over the company. Westinghouse then convinced Tesla to accept a lump sum of $216,000 for the AC patents.

Tesla was brimming with ideas and gained the reputation as a “mad scientist” during the latter 1890s with his work in wireless communications, electrical discharge tubes, remote control, the rotating magnetic field, and x-ray machines.

Wardenclyffe Tower
In 1900, Tesla received funding from J. Pierpont Morgan to establish a trans-Atlantic wireless telecommunications facility at Shoreham, New York. The facility was called Wardenclyffe. Due to the Panic of 1901, which Morgan had started, Tesla could not build his transmitter and in December 1901, Guglielmo Marconi was the first to transmit across the Atlantic.

But Tesla was never one to give up. He invented a bladeless turbine, and a steam-powered mechanical oscillator during the next decade. In November 1915, Reuters reported that Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla had won the Nobel Prize in Physics. But the prize was awarded to two other men with rumors circulating that Edison and Tesla had been “over-looked” because of their intense feud. In 1917, Tesla received the Edison Medal.

Allis-Chalmers Turbine
From 1919 to 1922, Tesla worked with Allis-Chalmers on a turbine, and in 1928, he received his last patent for a bi-plane that could take off vertically. In all, Tesla had well over 300 patents for his inventions in the U.S., Canada, and Britain.

Nikola Tesla
Tesla kept a regular work schedule throughout his life. He would begin work at 9am and continue until 6pm each day, then break for dinner at 8:00. He then resumed his experiments until 3am when he would retire. He claimed not to sleep over 2 hours at any one time.

He retired in the 1930s and began working as a consultant but his ideas became more outlandish as he became more eccentric. Tesla died alone in his hotel room in New York City of a blood clot to the heart. His body was discovered on January 7, 1943. Nikola Tesla was 86 years old.

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Final Look at Those Who Died in 2016

By Joy Neighbors

If you thought the first six months of the year took a toll on our creative forces – consider just the last month of December. Closing out 2016 with a final look at those who passed …

Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall
He was a man with the comedic Midas touch. Garry Marshall was a writer, director and producer known for his 1970s-80s sit-coms Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and The Odd Couple. His directing credits include Pretty Woman, Exit to Eden, The Princess Diaries and Georgia Rules. Marshall began his career as a joke writer for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in 1961.Marshall teamed up with Jerry Belson and together they wrote episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show and I Spy. Marshall set out on his own with Happy Days in 1974 which spawned a number of sitcom spinoffs. Garry Marshall died July 19 in Burbank California of pneumonia after suffering a stroke. He was 81 years old. Marshall was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.

Anton Yelchin
As Pavel Chekov
Anton Yelchin was a Russian born actor known for playing Pavel Chekov in the successful 2009 Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. Yelchin took acting classes in L.A. when he was a child and made his television debut as Robbie Edelstein on ER in 1994. During his short career, Yelchin had acted in over 20 feature films and television shows. Anton Yelchin died on July 22 of blunt traumatic asphyxia when his vehicle rolled and pinned him against a brick pillar outside his home. He was buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angles, California. He was 27.

Kenny Baker
R2D2 & Kenny Baker
Although you might not recognize his face, you will recognize the character he played. Kenneth Baker, an English actor of short stature, was best known as the robotic character, R2D2 of the Star War movies; Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983). And again in 1999 with Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Baker was active in movies throughout his life. Kenneth Baker died on August 13 in Lancashire, England. He was 81 years old.

As Fredrick Frankenstein
Gene Wilder
Another comic genius was lost in August. Jerome Silberman, better known as Gene Wilder began his movie career in 1967 in Bonnie and Clyde. But Wilder soon became a favorite of director Mel Brooks when he proved he could hold his own with comedic timing. Wilder starred in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), which he also co-wrote with Brooks. Wilder went on to star in Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980) and Another You (1991) with his pal Richard Pryor. He married Saturday Night Live performer Gilda Radner in 1984 but lost her to cancer in 1989. Wilder retired from show biz in the late 1990s and became a writer, publishing several books. Gene Wilder died August 29 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83 years old.

Jose Fernandez
Baseball pitcher, Jose Fernandez died September 25 in a boat crash off Miami Beach. Fernandez, who was a star pitcher for the Miami Marlins, was born in Cuba and had played with the Marlin’s since 2013. Fernandez signed with the Miami team in 2011. During that time, he was named as the Marlin’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Fernandez’ last game was September 20 when he pitched eight shutout innings. Jose Fernandez was 24 years old.

Arnold Palmer in the 1960s
Arnold Palmer
Another sports figure also died on the 25th. Golf legend Arnold Palmer was nicknamed “The King” because he was the first television superstar of sports back in the 1950s. Palmer won 62 PGA Tour titles between 1955 – 1973. In 1974, Palmer was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He also won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. In 2004, Palmer made his last appearance in the Master Tournament having appeared there 50 consecutive times. He retired from tournament golf in 2006. Arnold Palmer died September 25 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania while awaiting heart surgery. He was 87 years old. Palmer was cremated and his ashes scattered at Latrobe County Club in his hometown.

Tommy Ford
As Tommy on Martin
Thomas Mikal Ford was best known for his role of Tommy on the TV show Martin (1992), along with Harlem Nights (1989) and Uncle Buck (1990). During the 2000’s, Ford had starred in over 15 films and had been working behind the scenes as a producer/director. He had also done several theatre productions and was working on a documentary. Ford died October 12of an aneurysm in his abdomen ruptured. He was 52 years old.

Kevin Meany
On The Tonight Show
Veteran stand-up comedian, Kevin Meany died on October 21. Meany was a regular on late night talk shows and was famous for the line, “That’s not right.” Mean appeared on Saturday Night Live and the movie Big with Tom Hanks.  He also starred in the sit-com Uncle Buck for one season. He wrote for several television shows and performed in the Broadway musical Hairspray for seven years. Kevin Meany died on October 21 in New York. He was 60 years old. He is buried in Mounty Calvary Cemetery in White Plains, New York.

Janet Reno
Taking the Oath
The first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General died on November 7. Janet Reno
held the position for eight years, appointed by President Clinton in the 1990s. Under her guidance, initial prosecution in the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Oklahoma Federal Building in 1995 pieced together the groundwork for convicting terrorists in the 21st century. Reno was also the first female state attorney for Florida. Janet Reno died at her home in Miami-Dade County, Florida of complications from Parkinson’s disease. She was cremated and her ashes given to family. She was 78.

As a Young Reporter
Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill was one of the most prominent and respected news reporters in the country. She broke racial and gender barriers and was one of the most trusted reporters in journalism. Ifill was the first African American woman to host a major political talk show when she became moderator of Washington Week in Review in 1999. In 2013, she and Judy Woodruff broke the glass ceiling in the news business by becoming the first two women in the country to co-manage and co-anchor a nightly national news program, PBS’s NewsHour. Ifill moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates, and had just finished with the tumultuous 2016 Democratic primary debate. She was scheduled to receive the John Chancellor Award at Columbia University on November 16. Gwen Ifill died of endometrial cancer on November 14. She was 61 years old.

John Glenn
John Glenn in the 1950s
The first American to orbit the earth died on December 8. John Glenn, one of the most recognized faces of the American space program, was the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven astronauts. Glenn began flying during WWII. In 1962, he boarded the Friendship 7 capsule and made history. In 1998, he again made history as the oldest person to fly in space. Glenn left NASA in 1964, and spent several decades holding political office, retiring in 1999. Glenn was only the 9th person to lie in state in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on December 30th. John Glenn died in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 95.

George Michael
George Michael with WHAM!
One of the most iconic pop singers of the 1980s died on Christmas Day. George Michael, founding member of the group WHAM! was known for ‘80s hits Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go and Careless Whisper. In 1987, Michael went on to a solo career, earning numerous Grammy Awards and selling more than 100 million albums around the world. Michael released albums until 2014, when his final album, Symphonica was released. George Michal died of heart failure. He was 53 years old.

Carrie Fisher
As Princess Leia
Although she was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, Carrie Fisher was also an author and screenwriter. The daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actor Debbie Reynolds, Fisher did not take her celebrity too seriously. In fact, she was quite candid about her battle with bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse. Fisher went on to act in several movies including The Blues Brothers and When Harry Met Sally. Then, last year, she reprised her role as Princess Leia for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Carrie Fisher died December 27 of a massive heart attack. She was 60 years old.

Debbie Reynolds
In the 1950s
And one day later, on December 29, Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds died. Reynolds was well known for her role in Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly. She married Fisher’s father, Eddie Fisher and had two children before divorcing him after discovering his affair with Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds was known for her dancing and singing, which she continued through much of her life. Family members say Reynolds couldn't handle losing her daughter the day before and had simply let go. Debbie Reynolds died of a stroke. She was 84 years old.