Monday, August 31, 2009

Special! Small Group Ghost Walks Sept-Oct 2009



Now that "Ghost Season" is coming, I wanted to let folks know that during September-October, you can go on a Ghost Walk here in Helena on ANY night you are in town, not just Tues/Fri/Sat.

That's right. All you have to do is call me at 406-422-5911 and confirm a party of at least 2 adults for any night during September through the beginning of November, and I will take you on a special Ghost Walk just for you and your party on any night besides the regular Tues/Fri/Sat walks!

If you want a family night out, or a special event for your office, it could be just the ticket.

Small groups are a lot more fun most agree, for taking photos, hearing faint noises...on quiet fall nights, with the leaves rustling in the night, in the dark...

No, there are no extra charges. The prices are the same...$10 for each adult, $5 for each teen, and little kids are free but must be accompanied by an adult.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Witches in Montana and in Nigeria



It's cool to be an anthropologist. Just about everything people do is studied about in anthropology. Including witches and witchcraft. One cornerstone class most anthropology majors take is "Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion." I took it myself at Iowa State while getting my Master's in Anthropology while working for the Helena National Forest as an archaeologist. I took the class from D. Michael Warren, who became a chief in Africa after his service in the Peace Corps. I ended up going to Africa under his mentorship. Let me tell you...there are significant differences in what it means to be a witch in Montana, and what it means in Nigeria.

People often argue about just what makes a person a "witch." Are you born one? Is it just passed down in certain families? Can you learn to be one from a book? Isn't a witch just another name for Wiccan? Some say Wicca is witchcraft. That is the general popular view these days, supported by much television and film. There are loads of books that purport to teach you how to become a witch/Wiccan.

But practitioners of "traditional witchcraft" say that a Wiccan and a witch are entirely different. "Traditional witches" hold that such witchcraft are particular practices passed down in families, that it must be "in the blood," etc. They tend to be derogatory towards Wicca.

Christianity tends to lump everything to do with magic or nonChristian worship as "witchcraft": shamanism, Native American herbalism/healing, New Age stuff like channeling...anything not Christian is considered "witchcraft" and believed to be demonic. Unless of course you belong to one of the southern African American churches that allows for certain beneficial magical practices of hoodoo (though giving these a different term entirely). And for many sects of Christianity, any OTHER type of Christianity other than their own particular brand is at best suspicious, and perhaps aligned with the Devil (those little "Christian" comic books from Jack Chick that characterize Catholics as "pope-alators" and devil-worshippers for example).

Actually, within the neopagan views, the practices of satanism, luciferianism, demonolatry, etc. are all distinct from witchcraft. Many self-described witches do not believe in the Devil as such, but believe the Devil to be a Christian belief. Just as Christian denominations sometimes end up denouncing each other as "not really being Christian", the neopagan/alternative spirituality folks seem to end up in arguments as well, about who is the "real deal" etc.

To be frank, it is rather a mess, with folks on all sides not really knowing the facts about the others. It can get pretty confusing. Just what IS a witch?

I wondered what the situation was like here in Montana so I did some searching, starting with Witchvox. Their Montana page for "Adult Pagans" had 265 folks who submitted a listing. Of those 265, there was an immense variety of self-identified classifications, many hyphenated, idiosyncratic, or uncertain. Some subcategories of "witch" such as "solitary" are listed that way rather than "solitary witch." There were about about 160 of the 265 (about 60%) which used such "witch" descriptors as "Witch," "Wiccan," "Gardenerian," "Alexandrian," "Corellian," "Green," "Solitary," "Hedge," "Kitchen," etc. That left about 40% of self-described Montana neopagans or searchers who did not describe themselves as witches/Wiccans of one sort or another. There was even one "Christian pagan."

There are several pagan groups and covens of witches throughout Montana. Mountain Moon Circle in Billings. Garden of the Crescent Moon Coven in Kalispell. Great Falls Pagan Group. And there are others as well. I know there is a Corellian group in Helena for example. There are at least 20 or so looking for others through the Helena meetup group alone. There was a witch/pagan store here in Helena for several years, that sold books, herbs, candles, athames, jewelry, etc., but it closed several months ago.

One thing that is definite, at least here in Montana. The religious atmosphere is overwhelmingly Christian in the Big Sky country, and in varying degrees, unfriendly to those seeking alternative spiritualities, whether one follows the path of the witch, or the path of the Buddha. So all varieties of "witches" (and other neopagans) in Montana tend to keep under the radar, or else risk their jobs, their friendships, and also be harassed in the community. Of course during Halloween, Montana newspapers always seem to find a witch/pagan or two willing to share about their beliefs...and thereby provide "spooky ambience" for the paper's readers.

I don't know if people will ever agree about any of this, or learn to be more tolerant of others trying to find meaning in life in their own ways, but I learned about another view of witchcraft when I lived in Nigeria in 1996 doing an anthropological study of traditional knowledge systems.

When I was in Africa, traditional healers were not referred to as witchdoctors. In my situation, in Nigeria among the Yoruba people (pronounced YO-ra-ba, not yo-ROO-ba!) , the use of the word Aje, translated as "witch" was very specific. There were many people who used juju (magic): babalawo (diviner/priests of Ifa), egungun (ancestor cult), ode (hunters), etc., and who worshipped traditional gods such as Shango, Osun, and Ogun. But "witches" (aje) were something entirely different.

Witches were a kind of nonhuman, even vampiric, spirit, which were passed through families, and went into their bodies. Outside the bodies they were seen as "witchbirds." They could also go into animals such as cats or into trees. A "witch" was innately magical of themselves. While the babalawo and hunters got their magic from learning medicines (herbs, etc.) and from the gods/goddesses, Aje were a magical class themselves. Their magic emanated from what they were.

The only way a human being could become a witch was for a witch spirit to go into them, possess them in a sense; they would become a host to the witchbird and thus become a witch themselves. Sorcerers were not witches; sorcerers were just called juju men or women. A true witch was a class of entity/being that lived in a human host and transformed that host.



Witches not only had innate magic, they did also use herbs gathered at night in the forest and the "personal effects" (hair, nails, bones, feces, menstrual blood, etc.). This was common to all users of juju however. In the forest, the hunters and witches battled each other with their different medicines, and first one side would win and then the other. Babalawo were neutral between the two. I was in a hunter's house once, when he invited a babalawo in to do a divination...and a witch came in too. The hunter and witch hurled insults and threats at each other, but could do no magic against the other in the presence of the babalawo, who represented Fate.

They also had a severe society called the Ogboni, the "witch-hunters" who wore masks and used bullroarers and went about seeking to kill Aje. The Ogboni also had terrible juju.

In the Yoruba system, Aje (witches) were nonhuman, innately magical, and hostile to human society. They were battled by hunters and Ogboni. But just about everyone used juju (magic) in one form or another, and just because you worshipped the old gods and used magic did not make you a witch. They were a power unto themselves, and only really consistently got along with each other and the babalawo.

There is an EXCELLENT article on the Yoruba view at:
http://www.arthistory.upenn.edu/summer07/curnow/princewitch.pdf

See...the situation isn't as simple as you might think...in Montana OR in Nigeria!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review: Ghosts of the Old West, by Earl Murray


Ghosts of the Old West, by Earl Murray. Tor Books; 1st edition (August 5, 2008). 208 pages. List $14.95.

A wonderfully-told collection of ghost stories from sites not only in Montana, but also scattered across the West; it was one of the first such collections published with Montana stories (1988) and is considered a must-have classic. Reissued with a new cover in 2008.

In the introduction, Murray describes some of his own experiences, such as one at an abandoned ranch on the Gallatin River, near Bozeman, Montana, in 1970, and seeing phantom Indian horsemen near Laurel, Montana. The other stories and their locations:

= Old Forts and Battlefields
1. "The Phantoms of Fort Laramie": Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming - phantom soldiers and the Lady in Green
2. "Visions of Reno Crossing": Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana- Reno Crossing and occurrences at the apartments and stone house by the cemetery
3. "The Hill at Hat Creek": Hat Creek (Warbonnet Creek) State Historic Site, northwestern Nebraska - ghosts form the 1876 battle where Merritt defeated Cheyenne
4. "The Blue Light Lady": Fort Hays State Historic Site, Kansas - legend of Elizabeth Polly who died in 1867 and haunts the site; other spirits as well

= Old Hotels and Mansions
5. "The Legacy of Winchester Mansion": the story of the obsession of Sarah Winchester in continually building on her San Jose, California, mansion to avoid the vindictive spirits killed by the Winchester firearms
6. "The Hot Springs Phantom": Chico Hot Springs, near Pray, Montana haunted by proprieters Bill and Percie Knowles
7. "The Lost Trail Hotel": a haunted hotel in the Arizona desert near the Mexican border
8. "The Cries of Millie Pratt": The Old Pratt Hotel in Empire, Colorado is haunted by little Millie Pratt and others
9. "The Ghost in the Sheridan Inn": This hotel in Sheridan, Wyoming is haunted by Miss Kate Arnold
10. "The Gambler": The St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico has had many famous historical figures stay there, and some of their ghosts remain to this day

= Old Trails and Ghost Towns
11. "The Mysteries of Old Garnet": The ghost town of Garnet, Montana is full of people you cannot see
12. "La Llorona--The Weeping Woman": The famous lady of the Hispanic people of Mexico and the Southwest roams many places, including this account of her sightings along the Santa Fe River, Santa Fe, New Mexico
13. "Night of the Iron Horse": Sinks of Dove Creek - Kelton, Utah, near Golden Spike National Historic Site - incidents with ghost trains and the spirits of Chinese railroad workers
14. "The Cabin in Brown's Park": a shadowy presence in a one-time hideaway of the outlaw Butch Cassidy along the Green River of northwestern Colorado
15. "The Wolf Girl of Texas": a legend of a girl who lived among the wolves of the Devil's River, not far from Del Rio, Texas, and the seeming return of her spirit
16. "The Shadows in Scapponia Park": the ghosts of a man and his dog haunt a small isolated campground on the Nehalem River in Oregon

= Native American Spiritualism
17. "The Mystery of the Little People": The Crow knew them well, the Little People of the Pryor Mountains of Montana...and a tiny mummy found in the Pedro Mountains near Casper, Wyoming
18. "Secrets of the Desert": Recollections of an archaeologist who worked with the Papago tribe on sites in Arizona such as Ventana Cave
19. "The Face of the Wolf": a tale of religious conflict and the old ways among the Jicarilla Apache of New Mexico
20. "The Snake People": The story of a feared giant supernatural snake somewhere in the Central Rockies (perhaps Colorado or New Mexico) and the hybrid people who worship it
21. "The Face": A haunted tribal building in Poplar, Montana on the Fort Peck Reservation
22. "Sacred Ground": two stories of what happens when people disturb Indian burials, along the Tongue River and in the path of a county road, in Montana and Wyoming
23. "Night of the Blizzard": Three Indian ghost men help a woman in a storm near Wounded Knee, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

A wonderful variety of tales by a master storyteller! If you don't have the older version, the new one is the same, so no worries.

-Lance M. Foster, Paranormal Montana

Book Review: Mysteries and Legends of Montana, by Edward Lawrence



Mysteries and Legends of Montana: True Stories of the Unsolved and Unexplained by Edward Lawrence. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007. TwoDot; 1st edition (June 1, 2007). 144 pages. $12.95.

A selection of teaser mysteries from Montana's past, some relating to true crime, others to paranormal or cryptozoological events, and some plain old "history's mysteries." Probably the most diverse sampler of all the books out on Montana so far. Mr. Lawrence is not "a believer" in such things, but he tells the stories in a spirit of fun. The chapters include:

1. "What Happened to Meriwether's Boat?": Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, buried the iron frame of an experimental boat somewhere on the Missouri River in Montana in 1805; researchers are still trying to locate it.

2. "A Mummy and the Little People": Several mummies (desiccated remains) of humanoids (most scientists have accounted them deformed infants or fetuses) have been discovered in caves in Wyoming and Montana. Many tribes have legends about the "Little People." This entry, with a photo of one of the mummies, summarizes the stories.

3. "Did Governor Meagher Go Swimming? Or Was He Drowned?": The story of Thomas Francis Meagher, who is believed to have drowned in the Missouri River near Fort Benton in 1867, either pushed in or as a result of an accident/murder/suicide. [Interesting sidenote, not in this book: This is a big mystery for many in Montana. However, in the summer of 2007, when I was taking a tour on the Last Chance Tour Train in Helena (where I live), the tour guide said that a year or two ago, some tourists from Ireland came up to him and said that Meagher had faked his own death, absconded with a large loan from the federal government, and fled to Ireland where the money was used to fund the IRA (Irish Republican Army)!]

4. "Was Frank Little Murdered by a Cop?": The mystery of a 1917 murder of a workers' union organizer in Butte by a cop and the anti-union forces there, and the subsequent murder of the cop.

5. "Is the Mystery of the Easton Murder Solved?": The 1963 murder of the Eastons, an elderly couple who ran The Paradise Lodge north of Kalispell, and the later murder of the probable perpetrator Pendleton.

6. "Was Sheriff Henry Plummer a Highway Robber?": The apparent double life of Henry Plummer as a lawman hung as a highwayman by the Montana Vigilantes in 1864.

7. "Is There a Connection Between UFOs and Cattle Mutilations?": Summary of the 1975 cattle mutilation cases of Cascade County (near Great Falls) and a possible link to UFOs/mysterious helicopters; additional material on other Montana UFO sightings in the early 1950s (notably the famous "Montana Film") and other incidents up through 2001.

8. "If Bigfoot Exists, He Needs a Shower...": A look at some of the sightings of Bigfoot in Montana, from the 1974-76 events associated with cattle mutilations and UFO sightings mentioned in the previous chapter, to more recent sightings in the 90s and 2006.

9. "Who Named the Crazy Mountains?": Some of the different stories about how the Crazy Mountains down by Livingston got their name, from the Crow Indians to the story of the "crazy lady" later portrayed in the movie "Jeremiah Johnson."

10. "Meet Flessie, the Monster of Flathead Lake": First sighted in 1871, this lake monster (or mysterious objects thought to have been the monster) has been seen many times since then --over 80 times.

11. "There Are Ghosts in the Butte Archives, Aren't There?": Accounts of ghosts and hauntings in Montana, with mentions of Ellen Baumler's books, Tortured Souls Investigations in Missoula and at the old state prison in Deer Lodge, the Butte-Silver Bow Archives (once a fire station), Lucille's house and Bonanza Inn/House in Virginia City, the Crowne Plaza Hotel (old Sheraton) in Billings, Chico Hot Springs, Bannack, and the Little Cowboy Bar in Fromberg.

Epilogue. "A Shaggy Dog Story Produces a Mystery": The story of Shep, the legendary faithful dog of Fort Benton who waited at a rail station every day for 6 years for his master who would never return; the master had died and shipped off on the train. Shep died waiting for him, and has been immortalized in state legends and has had a statue made of him by famed sculptor Bob Scriver.

Lawrence has written up a nice short fun read for people of all ages (except the -very- young of course! Most kids shouldn't read some of the violent details or see the photos of some of the crime cases) from many sources sure to entertain anyone with an interest in the unexplained or who is traveling through the Big Sky Country..some nice b/w photos and a list of sources cited. This is a nice collection to give someone who has wide-ranging tastes in the realm of the odd and eerie, and a fascination with Montana's history and urban legends. The cryptozoological chapters are a particularly nice addition. Worth getting!

-Lance Foster, Paranormal Montana

Book Review: Ghost Stories of Montana, by Dan Asfar


Ghost Stories of Montana, by Dan Asfar. Ghost House Books (July 28, 2007). 192 pages. List $12.95.

This is a fast and enjoyable overnight read, with a selection of popular Montana ghost tales, such as the urban legends associated with phantom hitchhikers and the ghosts of Carroll College in Helena.

But there are a couple of newer gems that this reviewer had not seen before, centering on the mysteries of the deep woods and mountains of Montana, that really make the book worth its cover price. Other books concentrate on haunted buildings and towns, with an occasional visit to the Little Bighorn, but Asfar adds some chills to the dark Montana wilderness.

1. "The Ghost of Judge Theodore Brantley": Brantley House in Helena

2. "A Billings Haunting": unidentified house; childhood story by anonymous man, pseudonym "Richard Carter"

3. "Two Haunted Helena Houses": "The Tatem House" and "The Ghost at 600 Harrison" (T.C. Power Mansion)

4. "Guests in a Haunted House": a second unidentified house in Billings; childhood story by anonymous woman, pseudonym "Mary Walters"

5. "The Ghosts of Little Bighorn": Little Bighorn Battlefield's Stone House, Visitor Center/Museum, Last Stand Hill and battlefield (the surrounding area) in general

6. "Major Marcus Reno's Fight": Battlefield cemetery, Reno's Crossing

7. "Of Mines and Fires": Story of spectral torso in a Butte mine told by "Jerry" and retold by miner Waino Nyland in "Scribner's Magazine" (May 1934), and Granite Mountain disaster of 1917

8. "The Royal Milling Fire and the Quartz Street Station": Butte's 1895 explosion, and the old fire station

9. "Jack and Virginia Slade and the Phantoms of Virginia City": The story of the Slades, the Meadow Valley ranch house (aka Slade House or toll house on the Bozeman Trail) ruins, and Virginia City

10. "Boots on the Boardwalk and Other Nevada City Stories": Cabin #5, the Nevada City Hotel (including the filming of a movie in 2001 that was interrupted by phantom bootsteps.

11. "The Chase in the Woods": Story told by anonymous Calgary man "Rich" camping in 2002 in Lewis and Clark National Forest, Swan Range, Teton County. Man-shaped apparition chased by something unseen making a "gurgling noise."

12. "The Vision at Lake McDonald": At Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald, man camping with family sees an apparition of a woman(footsteps in brush, then on lake, etc.)

13. "Montana's Earth Lights": Mystery lights near Grass Range in Fergus County; mystery lights in Helena/East Helena Valley at Tacke Ranch

14. "The Demons and Spirits on Montana's Highways": the hitchhiking girl on McDonald's Pass (US 12, west of Helena); male highschool phantom hitchhiker on road between Conrad and Valier in Pondera County; the spirit that appears on windshield as though struck by car around Black Horse Lake by Great Falls; story of the Devil as a hitchhiker (source: C.W. Doulson's "Old One-Eye and Other Lost Souls," Montana Magazine (spring 1985))

15. "The Spirits of Carroll College": St. Charles Hall and the fourth floor bathroom, story of suicide jumper apparition; St. Albert's Hall

16. "Ghost of a Memory": Anonymous man "Andrew" childhood story of "Mr. Ditters" who haunted an unnamed Great Falls home

17. "A Ghostly Murder Mystery": The murder of John Denn and of his apparition that haunts the area between the old Federal Building and the Library, at the end of Helena's Walking Mall

Overall, a nice collection of Montana's usual favorite ghost stories, and a few new gems like "The Chase in the Woods" and "The Vision at Lake McDonald" that this reviewer has not seen elsewhere.

-Lance M. Foster, Paranormal Montana

Book Review: Montana Ghost Stories, by Debra D. Munn


Montana Ghost Stories: Eerie True Tales, by Debra D. Munn. Riverbend Publishing (April 1, 2007). 174 pages. List $9.95.

This book is a 2007 compilation of a selection of 11 popular stories from two books from the same author that are now out-of-print, Big Sky Ghosts, volumes I (1993: it has the red cover) and II (1994, the green cover).

The stories in Montana Ghost Stories are:

- Things that Go Bump in Bannack
- The Ghost who Didn't Like the Rolling Stones and other Spooks at the University of Montana, Missoula
- Ghosts of the Little Bighorn Battlefield
- This Property is Condemned! Spooky Condos at the Big Sky Resort
- The Gracious Lady of the Grand Street Theater, Helena
- Spooks Galore in Mining City Mansions, Butte
- The Man in the Photograph, Great Falls
- Virginia City, Ghost Capital of Montana
- Ghostly Garnet
- The Haunting of the MSU Theater, Bozeman
- The Lonely Lady and Other Ghosts of Chico Hot Springs

If you can find the two original books, go for them, as they have additional stories not included in this edition. If you have them already, you don't need to buy Montana Ghost Stories, because there is nothing in here that isn't in the original books. If you don't have the original two books, this book is the next best thing, as it has some of the best stories from the originals. In any case, this book is an enjoyable read for those into Montana and regional ghost story collections. My favorite story from both original books is in this book: "This Property is Condemned!"...the condos are gone now, but Munn relates a really eerie story that connects the weird energy of a mountain and the personal experiences of a man left alone to inspect the troubled structures.

-Lance M. Foster, Paranormal Montana

Book Review: Haunted Montana, by Karen Stevens


Haunted Montana, by Karen Stevens. Riverbend Publishing (October 1, 2007). 255 pages. List $12.95.

Karen Stevens' book "Haunted Montana: A Ghost Hunter's Guide to Haunted Places You Can Visit -If You Dare!" focuses on haunted places in Montana that are accessible to the public, so that you too can go and try to experience the spooky goings-on yourself! This is a guidebook for ghost hunters in Montana, as Stevens is an avid ghost hunter herself.

While this book does cover some of the most famous sites in Montana mentioned in previous Montana ghost books by Munn and Baumler, such as the Grandstreet Theater in Helena, and Virginia City, it is different in several ways:

1. Stevens covers only publicly accessible sites, no private homes, so that you can go and do a little investigating yourself.

2. Stevens adds some new sites, especially in eastern Montana, not covered
before.

3. One of the best features is a ranking of the frequency of ghostly activity at the site, whether low, moderate, or high; very useful to the novice ghost hunter

Following is a listing of the sites this book covers, first the town (or closest town) and then the sites themselves:

Anaconda: Copper Village Museum and Art Center (originally Anaconda City Hall); Anaconda Copper Company Smelter site with stack

Bannack State Park: Meade Hotel; Bessette House; Grasshopper Creek; Old Jail

Big Hole Valley: Big Hole National Battlefield; Chief Joseph Pass

Billings: Western Heritage Center (originally Parmly Billings Memorial Library); Union Depot/"The Beanery"restaurant; Juliano's Restaurant; Parmly Billings Library

Bozeman: Casa Sanchez restaurant; MSU Strand Union Theater

Browning: Highway 464/Duck Lake Road, between Browning and Babb

Butte: Arts Chateau Museum (originally Charles Walker Clark Mansion); Rookwood Speakeasy (originally Rookwood Hotel); old Hirbour barbershop; old City Hall Jail

Deer Lodge: Old Montana Territorial Prison; Grant-Kohrs Ranch

Fort Peck: Fort Peck Summer Theater; Fort Peck Hotel

Fromberg: Little Cowboy Bar

Gallatin Gateway: Gallatin Gateway Inn

Garnet (ghost town): Kelly's Saloon; J. K. Wells Hotel

Great Falls: Tracy's 24-Hour Family Restaurant (originally Stanton Bank & Trust foundations and Hank's Hamburger Haven); Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art(originally Central High School); Black Horse Lake (near Great Falls, north on Highway 87, near mile marker 9)

Hamilton: Marcus Daly National Historic Site ("Riverside" mansion)

Hardin (Crow Agency): Little Bighorn Battlefield

Havre: Park Hotel; Havre Railroad Museum and Havre Beneath the Streets (underground display of exhibits); Oxford Bar

Helena: Grandstreet Theater

Highway 382 (Perma to Hot Springs): Markle Hill

Hobson: Meadow Brook Farm (Bed and Breakfast)

Hysham: South of Interstate 94: the old Bridger Trail (?)

Kalispell: Conrad Mansion

Lincoln: Hotel Lincoln

Miles City: Club 519 (originally First National Bank); Olive Hotel (originally Leighton Hotel)

Missoula: Fort Missoula

Nevada City: Nevada City Hotel

Red Lodge: Pollard Hotel

Reed Point: Hotel Montana and Wild Horse Saloon

Virginia City: Many of the buildings have ghost incidents, including Bennett House (now aB&B), Wells Fargo Coffee House (originally Buford Store); Bonanza Inn(originally a Catholic hospital), Bonanza House (originally nun's rectory), Opera House and rehearsal hall behind.

West Glacier: Belton Chalet and railroad station

All in all, "Haunted Montana" is a splendid addition to Montana's ghost lore,and especially valuable for tourists and ghost hunters of all ages!

-Lance M. Foster, Paranormal Montana

Book Review: Beyond Spirit Tailings, by Ellen Baumler


Beyond Spirit Tailings: Montana's Mysteries, Ghosts, and Haunted Places, by Ellen Baumler. Montana Historical Society Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2005). 200 pages. $13.95.

Ellen Baumler continues in this book where she left off in her earlier book "Spirit Tailings." While "Spirit Tailings" concentrated on the many haunted sites of the historic mining communities of Virginia City, Butte, and Helena, she ranges further afield in location and subject matter. Not all the stories in this book are about ghosts or haunted places. Some are about mysterious events, and there is one about Montana's famous Flathead Lake Monster.

Baumler's approach is that of a professional historian (she is interpretive historian for the Montana Historical Society) trying to make sense of the many anecdotes brought to her by people she meets in her job, while being respectful of their experiences. As she terms it, she writes "history with a twist." This is why the stories are based in thorough historical research to try and find possible historical reasons for the things that people tell her.

Baumler starts with a number of short anecdotes in the first story, "Beginnings," including bits on the Richards House (Lenox Addition house in first collection); Eighth Avenue house; Helena High School; a house on Hillsdale/site of Hangman's Tree near corner of Blake and Highland (and a couple other houses in that neighborhood); a new house site in a heavily wooded area of Jefferson County (north of Helena), the Harlem Hotel (in Harlem of course!), unnamed houses in Havre and Shelby; Virginia City's Fairweather Inn and Bonanza Inn; Virginia City Theater and Opera House.

"The Sleeping Buffalo" is about a Native American sacred place, now called Sleeping Buffalo Rock. Originally it was located on the Milk River at Cree Crossing, then it was removed from its ancient site by white people to Trafton Park in Malta, and finally to the junction of Montana 243 and US 2.

"Fruit of the Hangman's Tree" relates the history of the infamous hangman's tree of Helena, which was located on what is now the corner of Hillsdale and Blake, the "Boot Hill" graves associated, and some of the eerie happenings in houses in this quiet old neighborhood.

"The Hoo Doo Block" is about an unlucky series of events in an area in Fort Benton, Block 25 (now Block 164).

"Digging Up the Dead" is a tragic and spooky tale covering Benton Avenue Cemetery (mention also of Boot Hill, the pioneer City Cemetery (now Central School), and Forestvale Cemetery.

"Speaking with Artifacts: Conversations with George" introduces the reader to a Helena-based dowser who does "psychic archaeology," George McMullen. He has traveled to and dowsed many Native American sites, including Hellgate Canyon (in Broadwater Co., not far from Helena); in the story he also does psychometry (reading the impressions) of some historical artifacts.

"The Hanging of Peter Pelkey" is about a brutal murder on a ranch between Helena and East Helena, the execution of the murderer (buried in what is now Robinson Park), and the mysterious ghost lights at the ranch.

"Celestia Alice Earp" is a story of a murder by a pioneer woman's stalker and the victim's burial in Bozeman.

"Legacy of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch" lets the reader in on the history, secrets and spooky goings-on at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Landmark in the Deer Lodge Valley. Also a mention of the thermal cone (a sacred Native American site), and furtrade rendezvous site at the Warm Springs State Hospital, about 15 miles away.

"A Ghost Within a Ghost" is a story about a scary night many years ago at the historic ruins of old Fort Assinniboine.

"School Spirit" is a look at urban legends and student tales about the University of Montana-Western in Dillon (Old Main Hall), Montana State University in Bozeman (the old theater now torn down and replaced as of 2007); University of Montana in Missoula (Brantly Hall and University Hall). Most of this story is devoted to Helena's Carroll College, and its stories of St. Charles Hall (including the urban legend of the third story bathroom), Borromeo Hall, and St. Albert's Hall. It also tells the story of Father Paul Kirchen, who is said to still hitchhike around Helena, trying to help people as he did in life. This last bit hits home personally, as I attended Carroll in 1979-1980, and I used to visit with Father Kirchen in his office all the time, and he was truly a living saint.

"The Centerville Ghost" is the story of a 19th century hoax that put a scare into one of Butte's outlying communities.

"Remnants of a Copper King" covers the ghostly happenings at Riverside, the Marcus Daly Mansion in the Bitterroot Valley, near Hamilton.

"Ghostly Transport" is about a phantom train seen in 1893 in the Bitterroot Valley.

"The Bishop of All Outdoors" relates the tragedy of a murder-suicide in Havre.

"Stranger at the Door" is my favorite in the collection, as I currently (2007) live a block away from the site where the events all took place. It is a very creepy story about Catholic Hill (now called Tower Hill, site of the famous firetower "Guardian of the Gulch") in Helena, the various buildings and historic activities there, notably Immaculata Hall, and probably the scariest story in the entire book, about a "stranger at the door" of one of the Tower Hill Apartments.

"Late Night Fright at the Fairweather Inn" adds more stories about Alder Gulch's Virginia City and Nevada City, including the Sedman House/Junction Hotel, the Fairweather Inn, and the Elling House; this entry revolves around the filming of a spooky overnight stay by the FOX network for "Real Scary Stories" in 2000.

"Spirited Victoria Charmer" is a house which attracted national attention at one time as the "House of Screams," the Zakos house haunting in Missoula, which was featured in FATE magazine in August 1975.

"The Adams Hotel" is a haunted hotel in Lavina, north of Billings.

"The Mysterious Death of Thomas Walsh" is the story of the unexplained death of Montana's Senator Thomas Walsh, who died on a train to Washington, D.C., where he was due to be appointed to the cabinet of President Theodore Roosevelt.

"Fire in the Snow" covers the 1945 crash of a C-47 transport plane in Billings, and the reported haunting of the Depot Antique Mall, originally the Sawyer Store, and the store's refrigerated vault where the remains of the crash victims were kept for a time.

"Montana Nessie: Flathead Flossie" is a cryptozoological entry about sightings of the Flathead Lake monster.

"Laura's Canaries" is the story of the Stonehouse Restuarant in Helena's Reeder's Alley, and the "bird lady" who once lived there.

Baumler is a great storyteller, and this collection is a nice mixture of ghosts and historic mysteries ideal for the Montana traveller.

There is also an audiobook version of Beyond Spirit Tailings, which has Baumler telling stories with music. I have not heard this version. From Amazon.com: "Historian Ellen Baumler has collected these stories of Montana's haunted places, and tells them with the backdrop of Philip Aaberg's original soundtrack. Richly embroidered with Montana's unique historical legacy, these eerie and mysterious tales will leave you looking over your shoulder and sleeping with the lights on. 5 CD audiobook read by author Ellen Baumler with music by Philip Aaberg. Set includes 4 CDs of stories/music plus a bonus CD with the music only. Abridged edition." It lists at $25.95.

-Lance M. Foster, Paranormal Montana

Book Review: Spirit Tailings, by Ellen Baumler


Spirit Tailings: Ghost Tales from Virginia City, Butte and Helena, by Ellen Baumler. Montana Historical Society Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2002). 160 pages. List $13.95.

Baumler is an interpretive historian for the Montana Historical Society, and she brings her professional credentials and storytelling ability to create what has become a very popular book here in Montana. Baumler travels around the state, and people tell her their stories, which she takes further through historical research. The sites covered in "Spirit Tailings" include:

Virginia City: Tollhouse ruins in Meadow Valley; Boot Hill and Hillside Cemeteries; House on Cover Street; Elling House; Bonanza House and Bonanza Inn; Episcopal Church; Lightning Splitter (house); Bennett House Country Inn; Gohn House.

Nevada City (only a few miles from Virginia City): Cabin #5; Nevada City Hotel

Butte: The underground mines; Anaconda Hill; Speculator Mine/Granite Mountain shaft; Quartz Street Fire Station (now Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives); Metals Bank Building; Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse and Jail; Forsythe house; Maury house; Dumas Hotel/Brothel; East 2nd Street house

Helena: Grassy slope near Public Library (story of John Denn); Robinson Park/Sixth Ward Old Catholic Cemetery; Mamie's Bells (Cathedral; Resurrection Cemetery; Zastrow House; Lenox Addition house; Pioneer Cabin and Reeder's Alley; 10th Avenue rowhouse; Grandstreet Theater; Tatem House; Montana Club and Rathskeller; and even Baumler's own home in Helena has had paranormal happenings!

A great collection of Montana stories, not to be missed!

-Lance M. Foster, Paranormal Montana

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bad Places: "Genius Loci" by Clark Ashton Smith

Of course we all like to focus on the good in the landscape, the animist forces that are benevolent towards mankind. But not all places are like that. Some are inimical to human life, and it is good to recognize that fact. And it's not just a Christian thing. The old traditional pagan cultures had many places that were forbidden to go, that were dangerous to go. This ongoing series will look at the experience of such places, in literary short stories, in folklore, and in my own personal experiences. I am calling this journey, "Bad Places."

"Genius Loci," by Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)


'It is a very strange place,' said Amberville, 'but I scarcely know how to convey the impression it made upon me. It will all sound so simple and ordinary. There is nothing but a sedgy meadow, surrounded on three sides by slopes of yellow pine. A dreary little stream flows in from the open end, to lose itself in a cul-de-sac of cat-tails and boggy ground. The stream, running slowly and more slowly, forms a stagnant pool of some extent from which several sickly-looking alders seem to fling themselves backwards, as if unwilling to approach it. A dead willow leans above the pool, tangling its wan, skeleton-like reflection with the green scum that mottles the water. There are no blackbirds, no kildees, no dragon-flies even, such as one usually finds in a place of that sort. It is all silent and desolate. The spot is evil — it is unholy in a way that I simply can't describe. I was compelled to make a drawing of it, almost against my will, since anything so outré is hardly in my line. In fact, I made two drawings. I'll show them to you, if you like.'

Since I had a high opinion of Amberville's artistic abilities and had long considered him one of the foremost landscape painters of his generation, I was naturally eager to see the drawings. He, however, did not even pause to await my avowal of interest, but began at once to open his portfolio. His facial expression, the very movements of his hands, were somehow eloquent of a strange mixture of compulsion and repugnance as he brought out and displayed the two water-colour sketches he had mentioned.

I could not recognize the scene depicted from either of them, Plainly it was one that I had missed in my desultory rambling about the foot-hill environs of the tiny hamlet of Bowman, where, two years before, I had purchased an uncultivated ranch and had retired for the privacy so essential to prolonged literary effort. Francis Amberville, in the one fortnight of his visit, through his flair for the pictorial potentialities of landscape, had doubtless grown more familiar with the neighbourhood than I. It had been his habit to roam about in the forenoon, armed with sketching-materials; and in this way he had already found the theme of more than one lovely painting. The arrangement was mutually convenient, since I, in his absence was wont to apply myself assiduously to an antique Remington typewriter.

I examined the drawings attentively. Both, though of hurried execution, were highly meritorious, and showed the characteristic grace and vigour of Amberville's style. And yet, even at first glance, I found a quality that was more alien to the spirit of his work. The elements of the scene were those he had described. In one picture, the pool was half hidden by a fringe of mace- weeds, and the dead willow was leaning across it at a prone, despondent angle, as if mysteriously arrested in its fall towards the stagnant waters. Beyond, the alders seemed to strain away from the pool, exposing their knotted roots as if in eternal effort. In the other drawing, the pool formed the main portion of the foreground, with the skeleton tree looming drearily at one side. At the water's farther end, the cat-tails seemed to wave and whisper among themselves in a dying wind; and the steeply barring slope of pine at the meadow's terminus was indicated as a wall of gloomy green that closed in the picture, leaving only a pale of autumnal sky at the top.

All this, as the painter had said, was ordinary enough. But I was impressed immediately by a profound horror that lurked in these simple elements and was expressed by them as if by the balefully contorted features of some demoniac face. In both drawings, this sinister character was equally evident, as if the same face had been shown in profile and front view. I could not trace the separate details that composed the impressions; but ever, as I looked, the abomination of a strange evil, a spirit of despair, malignity, desolation, leered from the drawing more openly and hatefully. The spot seemed to wear a macabre and Satanic grimace. One felt that it might speak aloud, might utter the imprecations of some gigantic devil, or the raucous derision of a thousand birds of ill omen. The evil conveyed was something wholly outside of humanity — more ancient than man. Somehow -- fantastic as this will seem — the meadow had the air of a vampire, grown old and hideous with unutterable infamies. Subtly, indefinably, it thirsted for other things than the sluggish trickle of water by which it was fed.

'Where is the place?' I asked, after a minute or two of silent inspection. It was incredible that anything of the sort could really exist — and equally incredible that a nature so robust as Amberville should have been sensitive to its quality.

'It's in the bottom of that abandoned ranch, a mile or less down the little road towards Bear River,' he replied. 'You must know it. There's a small orchard about the house, on the upper hillside; but the lower portion, ending in that meadow, is all wild land.'

I began to visualize the vicinity in question. 'Guess it must be the old Chapman place,' I decided, 'No other ranch along that road would answer your specifications.'

'Well, whoever it belongs to, that meadow is the most horrible spot.I have ever encountered. I've known other landscapes that had something wrong with them, but never anything lihe this.'

'Maybe it's haunted,' I said, half in jest. 'From your description, it must be the very meadow where old Chapman was found dead one morning by his youngest daughter, It happened a few months after I moved here. He was supposed to have died of heart failure. His body was quite cold, and he had probably been lying there all night, since the family had missed him at suppertime. I don't remember him very clearly, but I remember that he had a reputation for eccentricity. For some time before his death, people thought he was going mad. I forget the details, Anyway, his wife and children left, not long after he died, and no one has occupied the house or cultivated the orchard since. It was a commonplace rural tragedy.'

'I'm not much of a believer in spooks,' observed Amberville, who seemed to have taken my suggestion of haunting in a literal sense. 'Whatever the influence is, it's hardly of human origin, Come to think of it, though, I received a very silly impressiom once or twice --' the idea that some one was watching me while I, did those drawings. Queer — I had almost forgotten that, till you brought up the possibility of haunting. I seemed to see him out of the tail of my eye, just beyond the radius that I was putting into the picture: a dilapidated old scoundrel with dirty grey whiskers, and an evil scowl. It's odd, too, that I should have gotten such a definite conception of him, without ever seeing him squarely. I thought it was a tramp who had strayed into the meadow bottom. But when I turned to give him a level glance, he simply wasn't there. It was as if he melted into the miry ground, the cat-tails, the sedges.'

'That isn't a bad description of Chapman,' I said. 'I remember his whiskers — they were almost white, except for the tobacco juice. A battered antique, if there ever was one — and very unamiable, too. He had a poisonous glance towards the end, which no doubt helped along the legend of his insanity. Some of the tales about him come back to me now. People said that he neglected the care of his orchard more and more. Visitors used to find him in that lower meadow, standing idly about and staring vacantly at the trees and water. Probably that was one reason they thought he was losing his mind. But I'm sure I never heard that there was anything unusual or queer about the meadow, either at the time of Chapman's death, or since. It's a lonely spot, and I don't imagine that any one ever goes there now.'

'I stumbled on it quite by accident,' said Amberville. 'The place isn't visible from the road, on account of the thick pines... But there's another odd thing. I went out this morning with a strong and clear intuition that I might find something of uncommon interest. I made a bee-line for the meadow, so to speak; and I'll have to admit that the intuition justified itself. The place repels me - but it fascinates me, too. I've simply got to solve the mystery, if it has a solution,' he added, with a slightly defensive air. 'I'm going back early tomorrow, with my oils, to start a real painting of it.'

I was surprised, knowing that predilection of Amberville for scenic brilliance and gaiety which had caused him to be likened to Sorolla. 'The painting will be a novelty for you,' I commented. 'I'll have to come and take a look at the place myself, before long. It should really be more in my line than yours. There ought to be a weird story in it somewhere, if it lives up to your drawings and description.'

Several days passed. I was deeply preoccupied, at the time with the toilsome and intricate problems offered by the concluding chapters of a new novel; and I put off my proposed visit to the meadow discovered by Amberville. My friend, on his part, was evidently engrossed by his new theme. He sallied forth each morning with his easel and oil-colours, and returned later each day, forgetful of the luncheon-hour that had formerly brought him back from such expeditions, On the third day, he did not reappear till sunset. Contrary to his custom, he did not show me what he had done, and his answers to my queries regarding the progress of the picture were somewhat vague and evasive. For some reason, he was unwilling to talk about it. Also, he was apparently loath to discuss the meadow itself, and in answer to direct questions, merely reiterated in an absent and perfunctory manner the account he had given me following his discovery of the place. In some mysterious way that I could not define, his attitude seemed to have changed.

There were other changes, too. He seemed to have lost his usual bitterness. Often I caught him frowning intently, and surprised the lurking of some equivocal shadow in his frank eyes

There was a moodiness, a morbidity, which, as far as our five years' friendship enabled me to observe, was a new aspect of his temperament. Perhaps, if I had not been so preoccupied with my own difficulties, I might have wondered more as to the causatiom of his gloom, which I attributed readily enough at first to some technical dilemma that was baffling him. He was less and less the Amberville that I knew; and on the fourth day, when he came back at twilight, I perceived an actual surliness that was quite foreign to his nature.

'What's wrong?' I ventured to inquire. 'Have you struck a snag? Or is old Chapman's meadow getting on your nerves with its ghostly influences?'

He seemed, for once, to make an effort to throw off his gloom, his taciturnity and ill humour.

'It's the infernal mystery of the thing,' he declared, 'I've simply got to solve it, in one way or another. The place has an entity of its own — an indwelling personality. It's there, like the soul in a human body, but I can't pin it down or touch it. You know that I'm not superstitious — but, on the other hand, I'm not a bigoted materialist, either; and I've run across some odd phenomena in my time. That meadow, perhaps, is inhabited by what the ancients called a Genius Loci. More than once, before this, I have suspected that such things might exist — might reside, inherent, in some particular spot. But this is the first time that I've had reason to suspect anything of an actively malignant or inimical nature. The other influences, whose presence I have felt, were benign in some large, vague, impersonal way — or were else wholly indifferent to human welfare — perhaps oblivious of human existence. This thing, however, is hatefully aware and watchful: I feel that the meadow itself — or the force embodied in the meadow - is scrutinizing me all the time. The place has the air of a thirsty vanpire, waiting to drink me in somehow, if it can. It is a cul-de-sac of everything evil, in which an unwary soul might well be caught and absorbed. But I tell you, Murray, I can't keep away from it.'

'It looks as if the place were getting you,'. I said, thoroughly astonished by his extraordinary declaration, and by the air of fearful and morbid conviction with which he uttered it.

Apparently he had not heard me, for he made no reply to my observation. 'There's another angle,' he went on, with a feverish intensity in his voice. 'You remember my impression of an old man lurking in the background and watching me, on my first visit. Well, I have seen him again, many times, out of the corner of my eye; and during the last two days, he has appeared more directly, though in a queer, partial way. Sometimes, when I am studying the dead willow very intently, I see his scowling filthy-bearded face as a part of the hole. Then, again, it will float among the leafless twigs, as if it had been caught there. Sometimes a knotty hand, a tattered coat-sleeve, will emerge through the mantling in the pool, as if a drowned body were rising to the surface. Then, a moment later — or simultaneously — there will be some- thing of him among the alders or the cat-tails. These apparitions are always brief, and when I try to scrutinize them closely, they melt like films of vapour into the surrounding scene. But the old scoundrel, whoever or whatever he may be, is a sort of fixture. He is no less vile than everything else about the place, though I feel that he isn't the main element of the vileness.'

'Good Lord!' I exclaimed. 'You certainly have been seeing things. If you don't mind, I'll come down and join you for a while, tomorrow afternoon. The mystery begins to inveigle me.'

'Of course I don't mind, Come ahead.' His manner, all at once, for no tangible reason, had resumed the unnatural taciturnity of the past four days. He gave me a furtive look that was sullen and almost unfriendly. It was as if an obscure barrier, temporarily laid aside, had again risen between us. The shadows of his strange mood returned upon him visibly; and my efforts to continue the conversation were rewarded only by half-surly, half- absent monosyllables. Feeling an aroused concern, rather than any offence, I began to note, for the first time, the unwonted pallor of his face, and the bright, febrile lustre of his eyes, He looked vaguely unwell, I thought, as if something of his exuberant vitality had gone out of him, and had left in its place an alien energy of doubtful and less healthy nature. Tacitly, I gave up any attempt to bring him back from the secretive twilight into which he had withdrawn. For the rest of the evening, I pretended to read a novel, while Amberville maintained his singular abstraction. Somewhat inconclusively, I puzzled over the matter till bedtime. I made up my mind, however, that I would visit Chapman's meadow. I did not believe in the supernatural, but it seemed apparent that the place was exerting a deleterious influence upon Amberville.

The next morning, when I arose, my Chinese servant informed me that the painter had already breakfasted and had gone out with his easel and colours. This further proof of his obsession troubled me; but I applied myself rigorously to a forenoon of writing.

Immediately after luncheon, I drove down the highway, followed the narrow dirt road that branched off towards Bear River, and left my car on the pine-thick hill above the old Chapman place. Though I had never visited the meadow, I had a pretty clear idea of its location. Disregarding the grassy, half-obliterated road into the upper portion of the property, I struck down through the woods into the little blind valley, seeing more than once, on the opposite slope, the dying orchard of pear and apple trees, and the tumbledown shanty that had belonged to the Chapmans.

It was a warm October day; and the serene solitude of the forest, the autumnal softness of light and air, made the idea of anything malign or sinister seem impossible. When I came to the meadow-bottom, I was ready to laugh at Amberville's notions; and the place itself, at first sight, merely impressed me as being rather dreary and dismal. The features of the scene were those that he had described so clearly, but I could not find the open evil that had leered from the pool, the willow, the alders and the cat-tails in his drawings.

Amberville, with his back towards me, was seated on a folding stool before his easel, which he had placed among the plots of dark green wire-grass in the open ground above the pool. He did not seem to be working, however, but was staring intently at the scene beyond him, while a loaded brush drooped idly in his fingers. The sedges deadened my footfalls, and he did not hear me as I drew near.

With much curiosity, I peered over his shoulder at the large canvas on which he had been engaged. As far as I could tell, the picture had already been carried to a consummate degree of technical perfection. It was an almost photographic rendering of the scummy water, the whitish skeleton of the leaning willow, the unhealthy, half-disrooted alders, and the cluster of nodding mace-reeds. But in it I found the macabre and demoniac spirit of the sketches: the meadow seemed to wait and watch like an evilly distorted face. It was a deadfall of malignity and despair, lying from the autumn world around it; a plague-spot of nature, forever accursed and alone.

Again I looked at the landscape itself — and saw that the spot was indeed as Amberville had depicted it. It wore the grimace of a mad vampire, hateful and alert! At the same time, I became disagreeably conscious of the unnatural silence. There were no birds, no insects, as the painter had said; and it seemed that only spent and dying winds could ever enter that depressed valley- bottom. The thin stream that lost itself in the boggy ground was like a soul that went down to perdition. It was part of the mystery, too; for I could not remember any stream on the lower side of the barring hill that would indicate a subterranean outlet.

Amberville's intentness, and the very posture of his head and shoulders, were like those of a man who has been mesmerized. I was about to make my presence known to him; but at that instant there came to me the apperception that we were not alone in the meadow. Just beyond the focus of my vision, a figure seemed to stand in a furtive attitude, as if watching us both. I whirled about and there was no one. Then I heard a startled cry from Amberville and turned to find him staring at me. His features wore a look of terror and surprise, which had not wholly erased a hypnotic absorption.

'My God!' he said, 'I thought you were the old man!'

I can not be sure whether anything more was said by either of us. I have, however, the impression of a blank silence. After his single exclamation of surprise, Amberville seemed to retreat into an impenetrable abstraction, as if he were no longer conscious of my presence; as if, having identified me, he had forgotten me at once. On my part, I felt a weird and overpowering constraint. That infamous, eerie scene depressed me beyond measure. It seemed that the boggy bottom was trying to drag me down in some intangible way. The boughs of the sick alders beckoned. The pool, over which the bony willow presided like an arboreal death, was wooing me foully with its stagnant waters.

Moreover, apart from the ominous atmosphere of the scene itself, I was painfully aware of a further change in Amberville — a change that was an actual alienation, His recent mood, whatever it was, had strengthened upon him enormously: he had gone deeper into its morbid twilight, and was lost to the blithe and sanguine personality I had known. It was as if an incipient madness had seized him; and the possibility of this terrified me.

In a slow, somnambulistic manner, without giving me a second glance, he began to work at his painting, and I watched him for a while, hardly knowing what to do or say. For long intervals he would stay and peer with dreamy intentness at some feature of the landscape. I conceived the bizarre idea of a growing kinship, a mysterious rapport between Amberville and the meadow. In some intangible way, it seemed as if the place had taken some- thing from his very soul — and had given something of itself in exchange. He wore the air of one who participates in some unholy secret, who has become the acolyte of an unhuman knowledge. In a flash of horrible definitude, I saw the place as an actual vampire, and Amberville as its willing victim.

How long I remained there, I can not say. Finally I stepped over to him and shook him roughly by the shoulder.

'You're working too hard,' I said. 'Take my advice, and lay off for a day or two.'

He turned to me with the dazed look of one who is lost in some narcotic dream. This, very slowly, gave place to a sullen, evil anger.

'Oh, go to hell!' he snarled. 'Can't you see that I'm busy?'

I left him then, for there seemed nothing else to do under the circumstances. The mad and spectral nature of the whole affair was enough to make me doubt my own reason. My impressions of the meadow — and of Amberville — were tainted with an insidious horror such as I had ever before felt in any moment of waking life and normal consciousness.

At the bottom of the slope of yellow pine, I turned back with repugnant curiosity for a parting glance. The painter had not moved, he was still confronting the malignant scene like a charmed bird that faces a lethal serpent. Whether or not the impression was a double optic image, I have never been sure: but at that instant I seemed to discern a faint, unholy aura, neither light nor mist, that flowed and wavered about the meadow, preserving the outlines of the willow, the alders, the weeds, the pool Stealthily it appeared to lengthen, reaching towards Amberville like ghostly arms. The whole image was extremely tenuous, and may well have been an illusion; but it sent me shuddering into the shelter of the tall, benignant pines.

The remainder of that day, and, the evening that followed, were tinged with the shadowy horror I had found in Chapman's meadow. I believe that I spent most of the time in arguing vainly with myself, in trying to convince the rational part of my mind that all I had seen and felt was utterly preposterous. I could arrive at no conclusion, other than a conviction that Amberville's mental health was endangered by the damnable thing, whatever it was, that inhered in the meadow. The malign personality of the place, the impalpable terror, mystery and lure, were like webs that had been woven upon my brain, and which I could not dissipate by any amount of conscious effort.

I made two resolves, however: one was, that I should write immediately to Amberville's fiancé, Miss Avis Olcott, and invite her to visit me as a fellow-guest of the artist during the remainder of his stay at Bowman. Her influence, I thought, might help to counteract whatever was affecting him so perniciously. Since I knew her fairly well, the invitation would not seem out of the way. I decided to say nothing about it to Amberville: the element of surprise, I hoped, would be especially beneficial.

My second resolve was, that I should not again visit the meadow myself, if I could avoid it. Indirectly — for I knew the folly of trying to combat a mental obsession openly — I should also try to discourage the painter's interest in the place, and divert his attention to other themes, Trips and entertainments, too, could be devised, at the minor cost of delaying my own work.

The smoky autumn twilight overtook me in such meditations as these; but Amberville did not return. Horrible premonitions, without coherent shape or name, began to torment me as I waited for him. The night darkened; and dinner grew cold on the table. At last, about nine o'clock, when I was nerving myself to go out and hunt for him, he came in hurriedly. He was pale, dishevelled, out of breath; and his eyes held a painful glare, as if everything had frightened him beyond endurance.

He did not apologize for his lateness; nor did he refer to my own visit to the meadow-bottom. Apparently he had forgotten the whole episode — had forgotten his rudeness to me.

'I'm through!' he cried. 'I'll never go back again — never take another chance. That place is more hellish at night than in the daytime. I can't tell you what I've seen and felt — I must forget it, if I can. There's an emanation - something that comes out openly in the absence of the sun, but is latent by day. It lures me, it tempted me to remain this evening — and it nearly got me... God! I didn't believe that such things were possible — that abhor- rent compound of--' He broke off, and did not finish the sentence. His eyes dilated, as if with the memory of something too awful to be described. At that moment, I recalled the poisonously haunted eyes of old Chapman whom I had sometimes met about the hamlet. He had not interested me particularly, since I had deemed him a common type of rural character, with a tendency to some obscure and unpleasant aberration. Now, when I saw the same look in the eyes of a sensitive artist, I began to wonder, with a shivering speculation, whether Chapman too had been aware of the weird evil that dwelt in his meadow. Perhaps, in some way that was beyond human comprehension, he had been its victim. ... He had died there; and his death had not seemed at all mysterious. But perhaps, in the light of all that Amberville and I had perceived, there was more in the matter than any one had suspected.

'Tell me what you saw,' I ventured to suggest. At the question, a veil seemed to fall between us, impalpable but terrific. He shook his head morosely and made no reply. The human terror, which perhaps had driven him back towards his normal self, and had made him almost communicative for the nonce, fell away from Amberville. A shadow that was darker than fear, an impenetrable alien umbrage, again submerged him. I felt a sudden chill, of the spirit rather than the flesh; and once more there came to me the outré thought of his growing kinship with the ghoulish meadow. Beside me, in the lamplit room, behind the mask of his humanity, a thing that was not wholly human seemed to sit and wait.

Of the nightmarish days that followed, I shall offer only a summary. It would be impossible to convey the eventless, fantasmal horror in which we dwelt and moved.

I wrote immediately to Miss Olcott, pressing her to pay me a visit during Amberville's stay, and, in order to insure acceptance, I hinted obscurely at my concern for his health and my need of her coadjutation. In the meanwhile, waiting her answer, I tried to divert the artist by suggesting trips to sundry points of scenic interest in the neighbourhood. These suggestions he declined, with an aloof curtness, an air that was stony and cryptic rather than deliberately rude. Virtually, he ignored my existence, and made it more than plain that he wished me to have him to his own devices. This, in despair, I finally decided to do, pending the arrival of Miss Olcott. He went out early each morning, as usual, with his paints and easel, and returned about sunset or a little later. He did not tell me where he had been; and I refrained from asking.

Miss Olcott came on the third day following my letter, in the afternoon. She was young, lissome, ultra-feminine, and was altogether devoted to Amberville. In fact, I think she was a little in awe of him. I told her as much as I dared, and warned her of the morbid change in her fiancé, which I attributed to nervousness and overwork. I simply could not bring myself to mention Chapman's meadow and its baleful influence: the whole thing was too unbelievable, too fantasmagoric, to be offered as an explanation to a modern girl. When I saw the somewhat helpless alarm and bewilderment with which she listened to my story, I began to wish that she were of a more wilful and determined type, and were less submissive towards Amberville than I surmised her to be, A stronger woman might have saved him; but even then I began to doubt whether Avis could do anything to combat the imponderable evil that was engulfing him.

A heavy crescmt moon was hanging like a blood-dipped horn in the twilight, when he returned. To my immense relief, the presence of Avis appeared to have a highly salutary effect. The very moment that he saw her, Amberville came out of the singular eclipse that had claimed him, as I feared, beyond redemption, and was almost his former affable self, Perhaps it was all make- believe, for an ulterior purpose; but this, at the time, I could not suspect. I began to congratulate myself on having applied a sovereign remedy. The girl, on her part, was plainly relieved; though I saw her eyeing him in a slightly hurt and puzzled way, when he sometimes fell for a short interval into moody abstraction, as if he had temporarily forgotten her. On the whole, however, there was a transformation that appeared no less than magical, in view of his recent gloom and remoteness. After a decent interim, I left the pair together, and retired.

I rose very late the next morning, having overslept. Avis and Amberville I learned, had gone out together, carrying a lunch which my Chinese cook had provided. Plainly he was taking her along on one of his artistic expeditions; and I augured well for his recovery from this. Somehow, it never occurred to me that he had taken her to Chapman's meadow. The tenuous, malignant shadow of the whole affair had begun to lift from my mind; I rejoiced in a lightened sense of responsibility; and, for the first time in a week, was able to concentrate clearly on the ending of my novel.

The two returned at dusk, and I saw immediately that I had been mistaken on more points than one. Amberville had again retired into a sinister, saturnine reserve. The girl, beside his looming height and massive shoulders, looked very small, forlorn and pitifully bewildered and frightened. It was as if she had encountered something altogether beyond her comprehension something with which she was humanly powerless to cope.

Very little was said by either of them. They did not tell me where they had been; but, for that matter, it was unnecessary to inquire. Amberville's taciturnity, as usual, seemed due to an absorption in some dark mood or sullen reverie. But Avis gave me the impression of a dual constraint — as if, apart from some enthralling terror, she had been forbidden to speak of the day's events and experiences. I knew that they had gone to that accursed meadow; but I was far from sure whether Avis had been personally conscious of the weird and baneful entity of the place, or had merely been frightened by the unwholesome change in her lover beneath its influence. In either case, it was obvious that she was wholly subservient to him, I began to damn myself for a fool in having invited her to Bowman — though the true bitterness of my regret was still to come.

A week went by, with the same daily excursions of the painter and his fiancé — the same baffling, sinister estrangement and secrecy in Amberville — the same terror, helplessness, constraint and submissiveness in the girl. How it would all end, I could not imagine; but I feared, from the ominous alteration of his character,' that Amberville was heading for some form of mental alienation, if nothing worse, My offers of entertainment and scenic journeys were rejected by the pair; and several blunt efforts to question Avis were met by a wall of almost hostile evasion which convinced me that Amberville had enjoined her to secrecy — and had perhaps, in some sleightful manner, misrepresented my own attitude towards him.

'You don't understand him,' she said, repeatedly. 'He is very temperamental.'

The whole affair was a maddening mystery, but it seemed more and more that the girl herself was being drawn, either directly or indirectly, into the same fantasmal web that had enmeshed the artist.

I surmised that Amberville had done several new pictures of the meadow; but he did not show them to me, nor even mention them, My own impressions of the place, as time went on, assumed an unaccountable vividness that was almost hallucinatory. The incredible idea of some inherent force or personality, malevolent and even vampirish, became an unavowed conviction against my will. The place haunted me like a fantasm, horrible but seductive. I felt an impelling morbid curiosity, an unwholesome desire to visit it again, and fathom, if possible, its enigma. Often I thought of Amberville's notion about a Genius Loci that dwelt in the meadow, and the hints of a human apparition that was somehow associated with the spot. Also, I wondered what it was that the artist had seen on the one occasion when he had lingered in the meadow after nightfall, and had returned to my house in driven terror. It seemed that he had not ventured to repeat the experiment, in spite of his obvious subjection to the unknown lure.

The end cane, abruptly and without premonition. Business had taken me to the county seat, one afternoon, and I did not return till late in the evening. A full moon was high above the pine-dark hills. I expected to find Avis and the painter in my drawing-room; but they were not there. Li Sing, my factotum, told me that they had returned at dinnertime. An hour later, Amberville had gone out quietly while the girl was in her room. Coming down a few minutes later, Avis had. shown excessive perturbation when she found him absent, and had also left the house, as if to follow him, without telling Li Sing where she was going or when she might return. All this had occurred three hours previously; and neither of the pair had yet reappeared.

A black and subtly chilling intuition of evil seized me as I listened to Li Sing's account. All too well I surmised that Amberville had yielded to the temptation of a second nocturnal visit to that unholy meadow. An occult attraction, somehow, had overcome the horror of his first experience, whatever it had been. Avis, knowing where he was, and perhaps fearful of his sanity — or safety — had gone out to find him. More and more, I felt an imperative conviction of some peril that threatened them both -- some hideous and innominable thing to whose power, perhaps, they had already yielded.

Whatever my previous folly and remissness in the matter, I did not delay now. A few minutes of driving at precipitate speed through the mellow moonlight brought me to the piny edge of the Chapman property. There, as on my former visit, I left the car, and plunged headlong through the shadowy forest, Far down, in the hollow, as I went, I heard a single scream, shrill with terror, and abruptly terminated. I felt sure that the voice was that of Avis; but I did not hear it again.

Running desperately, I emerged in the meadow-bottom, Neither Avis nor Amberville was in sight; and it seemed to me, in my hasty scrutiny, that the place was full of mysteriously coiling and moving vapours that permitted only a partial view of the dead willow and the other vegetation. I ran on towards the scummy pool, and nearing it, was arrested by a sudden and twofold horror.

Avis and Amberville were floating together in the shallow pool, with their bodies half hidden by the mantling masses of algae. The girl was clasped tightly in the painter's arms, as if he had carried her with him, against her will, to that noisome death. Her face was covered by the evil, greenish scum; and I could not see the face of Amberville, which was averted against her shoulder. It seemed that there had been a struggle; but both were quiet now, and had yielded supinely to their doom.

It was not this spectacle alone, however, that drove me in mad and shuddering flight from the meadow, without making even the most tentative attempt to retrieve the drowned bodies. The true horror lay in the thing, which, from a little distance, I had taken for the coils of a slowly moving and rising mist. It was not vapour, nor anything else that could conceivably exist — that malign, luminous, pallid emanation that enfolded the entire scene before me like a restless and hungrily wavering extension of its outlines — a phantom projection of the pale and deathlike willow, the dying alders, the reeds, the stagnant pool and its suicidal victims. The landscape was visible through it, as through a film; but it seemed to curdle and thicken gradually in places, with some unholy, terrifying activity. Out of these curdlings, as if disgorged by the ambient exhalation, I saw the emergence of three human faces that partook of the same nebulous matter, neither mist nor plasma. One of these faces seemed to detach itself from the bole of the ghostly willow; the second and third swirled upwards from the seething of the phantom pool, with their bodies trailing formlessly among the tenuous boughs. The faces were those of old Chapman, of Francis Amberville, and Avis Olcott.

Behind this eerie, wraith-like projection of itself, the actual landscape leered with the same infernal and vampirish air which it had worn by day. But it seemed now that the place was no longer still — that it seethed with a malignant secret life — that it reached out towards me with its scummy waters, with the bony fingers of its trees, with the spectral faces it had spewed forth from its lethal deadfall.

Even terror was frozen within me for a moment. I stood watching, while the pale, unhallowed exhalation rose higher above the meadow. The three human faces, through a further agitation of the curdling mass, began to approach each other. Slowly, inexpressibly, they merged in one, becoming an androgynous face, neither young nor old, that melted finally into the lengthening phantom boughs of the willow — the hands of the arboreal death, that were reaching out to enfold me. Then, unable to bear the spectacle any longer, I started to run.

There is little more that need be told, for nothing that I could add to this narrative would lessen the abomiable mystery of it all in any degree. The meadow — or the thing that dwells in the meadow — has already claimed three victims... and I sometimes wonder if it will have a fourth. I alone, it would seem, among the living, have guessed the secret of Chapman's death, and the death of Avis and Amberville; and no one else, apparently, has felt the malign genius of the meadow. I have not returned there, since the morning when the bodies of the artist and his fiancée were removed from the pool... nor have I summoned up the resolution to destroy or otherwise dispose of the four oil paintings and two watercolor-drawings of the spot that were made by Amberville. Perhaps... in spite of all that deters me... I shall visit it again.

(Source: http://www.eldritchdark.com/)