Things that Go Bump in the Night

Because it’s almost Halloween and because I’m homesick (aren’t I always?) this blog is going to take a tour of some of the most haunted places in Wyoming in no particular order. Wyoming has been described as a large plateau broken by mountain ranges and is best known for its assortment of wildlife, the Yellowstone National Park, its massive size, and a place that has always held women’s rights extremely high. It is the ninth largest state in the United States and has had a rich history involving fur trappers, Native Americans, the cattle industry, and vast amounts of different people coming to this land for a new change. What can be said of some of these people is they left behind their history, legacy, or families. But, what if they left something else behind? Maybe a little too much behind. What if they left their spirits?
5) St Mark’s Episcopal Church, Cheyenne: A Bell Tower For A Spirit

This church dates back to the year of 1868 and the work on the bell tower started in 1886, but was not continued until 1926. It seems that the two Swedish stonemasons who were working on the bell tower mysteriously disappeared. Construction halted many a time because it seemed that a spirit kept interrupting the workers when they were hard at work. This was at the point in which the construction crew decided that it would probably be a good idea to build a room for the spirit so that it may leave them in peace. It was agreed upon by the reverend. The room is still accessible, but you’ll have to take an 85 foot spiral staircase down into the basement. Good luck with that. Who was the ghost? It was confessed by one of the stonemasons in 1966 that his friend who had been working with him in 1886 had fallen to his death. The remaining stonemason believing that he might be accused of murder panicked and put his friend’s body in an open part of the foundation. So, the stonemason is encased somewhere in there, but at least he has his own room.
4) Old Wyoming State Penitentiary, Rawlins: The Old Pen

This state penitentiary went out of service in the 1980s. It is a historical tourist site now and has had a report of many supernatural sightings. The most common occurrences are strange voices in the cells, a feeling of being tense, and seeing people disappearing around corners. There was a paranormal investigation into these and many other occurrences and what was found was non-specific but included the areas of the shower, death row, the gas chamber, the hold, and specific cells (including one in which the prisoner’s artwork was hung on the walls). Recently restored was the women’s facility and the chapel which are said to possess paranormal activity as well. The shower area is said to hold a lot of malice and is very cold. One prisoner was the victim of a very vicious attack in the shower. Also there is a story of an inmate who was hung by two inmates and when he did not die he was hung again until he died. With how screwed up everyone was, no wonder it is haunted.
3) Dean/Summer House, Rawlins: One Pissed Off Witch
This place was the site of terrifying haunting in the 1970s. The family noticed odd scratching noises coming from inside the walls. The lights kept going on and off, but rewiring would not help. Both the families in this duplex noticed a sinister presence back by the garage. Young Mark Summer was once tossed about five feet by the Garage Witch (as the family called it). When they cornered a dark female shape in the garage black tentacles began to come from the apparition. It paralyzed one of the women until the other set her free. Blessing helped the hauntings somewhat, but supposedly the malevolent presence is still felt. Later it was found that there was a small church graveyard here in the early 1900s. While most of the bodies were moved to the Rawlins Cemetery, it seems that two weren’t accounted for. They are believed to be buried underneath the general area of the garage.
2) Shoshone Bar, Lovell: A Bar of Supernatural Circumstances

This has been quoted by many as one of the most haunted spots in all of Wyoming. The sixty year old tavern has had strange electrical problems, loud banging noises, unexplained strange voices, floating money, and ghostly forms. Many of the former owners are said to be announcing they are still around by creating sounds of keys turning in locks or the tumbler on the combination safe going off. Ted Louie is the resident famous ghost who was a candy salesman and the subject of a nationwide man hunt in the 1940s. He felt a little strange when he was at the Shoshone Bar so the bartender dropped him off at the hotel, but he was never seen again. He didn’t check into the hotel. Everyone searched for him including the FBI, but nothing turned up. So, now he haunts the hotel and it is almost always in the basement.
1) Sweetwater County Library, Green River: Don’t Mess With A Cemetery

Since the day this library opened in 1980 it has been nothing but supernatural disaster. Electrical appliances are known to go on and off in an unexplainable manner, books fly off the shelf at night, and strange voices and flapping noises are heard throughout the library. Balls of light have been seen wandering around in the closed art gallery by the director. Typewriters (back when people actually used such things) have been seen typing on their own, gates swinging wildly by their own accord and many times the recorder has turned on by itself and records the air around it. Clicks can be heard on the recordings along with a loud breathing. The most alarming is when you flip the tape over. You will hear silence until halfway through you hear a girl scream, “Hello.” Maintenance has also reported a ghost hanging around in the multipurpose room at night. When it was looked at directly it flew towards the ceiling and made a large popping noise when it hit the ceiling. There is a reason for these occurrences. It seems that the library was built on a cemetery from the 1860s. Graves were moved in the 1920s but bodies were missed and they kept coming up in the 1940s and then again in 1983 and then in 1985 a child’s coffin was found also. (Note to self: NEVER, EVER, EVER build something over a graveyard.)
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It’s Official…

It’s official. I signed the contract with The Wild Rose Press for my second historical romance novel. This novel is the book that I started last November for NaNoWriMo, a novel that haunted me for days on end until I finished it. I didn’t get it finished during November but after the fall semester ended and I could devote myself full time to writing, I wrote the last two thirds of that novel in less than two weeks. I couldn’t write fast enough.
On the way home from teaching today I found myself smiling. Okay, it was more like grinning from ear to ear. A.J. and Alli’s story is going to be published. My favorite couple will have their own cover, their own novel, and I get to share them with the world.
I shouldn’t have favorites. It almost feels as if I’m picking favorites with my children, but I can’t help it with these two. They have been living in my head for a while now, making the occasion appearance every so often to ask when it’s their turn to have their story told, and for several years now, I’ve had to tell them, “Not yet.” I almost think they’ve felt unloved and neglected.
They truly are my favorite couple. Alli is strong. She never loses her sense of who she is and she knows full well what her weaknesses are. Yet, she’s resilient and able to roll with the punches. She also never really loses her faith in her fellow man, despite being hunted down by a man who needs to see her dead to protect his reign over a small county in Georgia. She’s head-strong, which gets her in trouble and she’s a sucker for lost causes and the underdog—so of course she falls for an emotionally broken, former Confederate cavalry officer.
And, A.J. is so broken—physically and psychologically. In modern parlance, he’d have PTSD. What he saw in the War of Northern Aggression (cut me some slack here—half this story is told in his point of view!) and what he survived in a Union run prisoner of war camp would scar just about anyone’s psyche. In spite of the damage and the toll taken, A.J. is the most honorable character I’ve ever envisioned or wrote. Under the definition of “honor” in the dictionary I imagine his picture.
The story of my two favorite characters, my favorite couple, is being polished under the working title Smolder on a Slow Burn and it will be coming soon to a virtual book store near you. As soon as I know the release date, I will let everyone know.

IT’S OFFICIAL!

They Deserve Better

I usually post a new blog on Sunday evening, but I just couldn’t force myself to write and when I did, it was angry—much too angry to post on a blog I allow the whole world to see. So I started thinking about what had me so angry on Sunday and I can emphatically state what I was so angry about is the continual barricading of our National Parks

(and to the governors who have opted to open those parks on state funds, thank you! because they are OUR parks), our National Monuments (thank heavens there wasn’t a tarp big enough to cover Lady Liberty or the Washington Monument),

our National Battlefields (Political Statement following: THIS is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they broke free of the chains of tyranny and unfortunately exactly what the Southern States feared in the aftermath of the American Civil War), and our National Memorials (so believe me when I say the irony of 80 and 90 year old men and women having to break down barricades to visit their own Memorial was not lost on me).

I found myself thanking God that my Daddy did not live to see his own government resort to such petulant, churlish, and frankly childish behavior. Good grief, I have an eight year old grand-daughter who doesn’t throw tantrums on this kind of scale! And I didn’t dare call my mother because she thinks all of this is a good idea. (Please insert eye-rolling here…) To this day, I don’t understand my mother’s political leanings.
It was the barricading of the Memorials that sent me over the edge and had me screaming in frustration and anger at the television set. The National Mall in Washington D.C. was closed to everyone, except for a rally supporting amnesty for illegal immigration, at which point the barricades were removed for the day. Yet, when the WWII veterans arrived at their Memorial, they were barricaded out. Barricaded out of an open air memorial that was paid for with private donations, maintained with private donations, and built to honor the sacrifices of the men and women who paid for that memorial in measures much too full and far too dear. Barricades were nothing for these men and women. One old veteran said when he was told the Memorial was closed, “The beaches at Normandy were closed, too.”

God LOVE our veterans!
The men and women of our military are beyond a doubt second to none. They willingly don the uniform, knowing that when they signed that contract with our government to serve our nation, they in effect, signed a blank check for any amount, up to and including the ultimate sacrifice. Those men and women of “the Greatest Generation” knew what the stakes were—defeat tyranny or allow the world to slip into the stranglehold of fascism. That was an unacceptable proposition to them and they set about to deliver freedom, knowing full well what the cost could be. They died on the beaches of Normandy, on the sands of Iwo Jima, in the snow at the Battle of the Bulge, in the depths of the jungles while being forced to march to Bataan…and for our own government to so disrespect these men and women in this fashion is beyond the pale.
And, for people like Bill Maher to ridicule these men and women, saying that no one called them “the brightest generation” I have only one thing to say to you, sir. You owe those brave men and women, those men and women who bled and died to preserve your freedom to be a complete and total ass, a very deep and sincere apology. Were it not for those men and women of “the Greatest Generation” you would not be here today.
The people of this country deserve better than the dysfunctional government we have now. The Greatest Generation deserves better than they have been treated by the very government they fought to preserve. Our veterans deserve better.

Media White-Out

As I sit at my desk, my heart feels as if it has been torn in two. For the past week, the news cycles have been filled with stories about our 17% shut down of the federal government, about the abuses that have been heaped on the American public through the selective implementation of that shut down, the partisan bickering over who is at fault for this shut down (and I have news for everyone—it takes two to tango, and in this case, not only are the parties tangoing this country into a frenzy, but the person who should have the sign Harry Truman had on his desk about where the buck stopped is doing precious little to get the parties to talk to one another), yet it isn’t the shut down which has torn my heart. Rather it is the news we aren’t being told of the destruction of herds of livestock and horses which perished in the blizzard that roared through parts of Wyoming and South Dakota a week ago. Most people have only heard of this storm and the destruction it brought through Facebook and the sharing of local news stories about the disaster. (http://dawnwink.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/the-blizzard-that-never-was-and-its-aftermath-on-cattle-and-ranchers/)
This storm was epic in its proportions and the destruction it has brought to the ranching community. Much as the perfect storm conditions existed in the winter of 1886-87, this storm has delivered a crippling body blow to the cattle industry. In 1886-87, most of Wyoming and the Dakotas were unusually dry. It started to snow in November of that year and it didn’t stop snowing (from some local accounts) until May of the following spring. When it wasn’t snowing, the heavens were dropping freezing rain onto the snow, crusting the snow with inches thick ice. And, it was cold, the kind of cold that locals called “freeze-eye cold.”
Just as in 1886-87, this recent storm came on the heels of an unusually dry summer. It started out with twelve hours of driving, pounding rain that changed to snow—a heavy, wet, suffocating snow that fell to almost four feet deep in places. And, it was driven by winds that at times gusted to over 60 miles an hour. This storm caught the ranchers off guard. It was worse, much worse, than had been originally predicted.
Cattle and horses were still on summer pastures. Typically, cattle aren’t moved to winter pastures with more protection from the elements until late September or early October. Neither the cattle nor the horses had put on a full winter coat yet. When this storm hit, all the ranchers could do was hunker down and pray that it wasn’t going to be as bad as they were fearing it would be.
It was worse. So much worse. The losses are the make you sick to your stomach, rage at the heavens and weep kind of losses.  The vast majority of ranchers view these animals not as a cash crop, but as living, breathing creatures that they need to take care of and protect. Yes, the reasoning for that care is based on the bottom line, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of the ranchers really do care about their livestock. You can’t spend a lifetime breeding any kind of animal for the best possible combination of genetics and not come to view them as more than just a herd of cattle. You can’t spend eighteen hour days, most of the time for all three hundred and sixty five days of the year, taking care of these animals and not form an attachment to them. You can’t be out in the freezing cold assisting a cow to have her calf, out in the blistering heat to make sure water is available, or bottle feeding a calf that has been orphaned or pulled off the mother because she can’t nurse it without growing to care deeply about these animals. (http://realamericancowboymagazine.com/2013/04/17/ryan-mcconnel-on-the-pbr-comeback-trail/)
As someone who writes western historical romances, I have a soft spot in my heart for modern day cattle ranchers and have a tiny inkling of what they endure on a daily basis to make the ends meet. Most ranchers are not rich. Most walk a razor’s edge between solvency and literally losing the ranch. This storm may push some of these ranchers over that edge.
I’m asking the readers of my blog to share these links. Make others aware of what has happened. At the end of the linked article for Real American Cowboy are links to help these folks out. If you can, great. I’ll say “thank you” in advance.

Coloring in the Past

I’m at a bit of a wall right now (I refuse to call it writer’s block—even if that’s what it is), so I’ve been playing on Reddit and I’ve found the most amazing page there. On this page, members take old photographs and colorize them. Now, when the old black and white movies were colorized, I wasn’t all that impressed. I am, on the other hand, impressed by a lot of the photographs here. (http://www.reddit.com/r/ColorizedHistory/)
I spent the better part of an hour wasting time and looking at pictures. I was impressed by several things—the least of which was the clarity of the photographs. Colorized or not, the clarity was just incredible. Details such as individual hairs and even the texture of skin was visible in many of these old photos. Who knew that those old photos could capture such detail?
I looked at a lot of Civil War era photos and was impressed with the gravity the subjects seemed to carry. Because of the photographic process of the period a smile would be almost impossible to hold, yet there was a deep sense of gravitas that each subject brought to the sitting. It just wasn’t that they didn’t want to try to hold a smile for several long seconds and try not to move at the same time. It was something else in these pictures, something deeper, more profound. Many of the portraits taken of these men were the only photographs that would ever be taken of them in their lifetimes. Very few families could afford photographs and I think many of these young men—despite the brash claims of a war being over in six months and being home by Christmas—understood that war can be and is deadly. Part of that gravity in those photographs was the fear they were trying to mask.
Anyway, go take a look. The images are amazing and humanizing.

Just That Land

Right at this very moment, it’s 44 degrees in Laramie, it’s raining and that rain is expected to turn into snow by the morning and continue snowing for most of the day. I keep looking at the weather forecast for the area, noting the 18 or more inches of snow forecast for the area around Medicine Bow and I realized something. 
I’M STUCK IN INDIANA!
Yes, I just wrote that I’m stuck in Indiana. I’m stuck in the Midwest where it’s still green, even though the fall foliage is beginning to reveal itself. I’m stuck where it’s still in the mid to upper 80s. I’m stuck where there are four seasons, not the seasons of “road construction, almost winter, winter, and still winter” although three of the seasons here in Indiana could also be called “road construction.”
It’s being stuck when I came to the very hard conclusion that no matter how lovely it is here in Indiana, no matter the opportunities, it’s not where I really want to be. It’s being stuck when the drive into work through some of the small hills and low areas reminds me very much of the terrain in areas around Laramie that I love so much. It’s being stuck when you’ve got the property (currently being rained on and later to be snowed on tonight) and you can’t be there to watch the snow cover the broom, sage, and cactus plants because all that is on that property is broom, sage, and cactus. There’s no well, no electricity, no home, no kennels for the dogs, no coop for the chickens…just that land.

Just that land which holds my heart, calls to me, grounds me, allows me to recharge the spiritual batteries. Just that land which is so harsh and unforgiving and so incredibly beautiful in its stark desolation. Just that land which spreads out before the eyes and fades into the night to be illuminated by a million stars and silvered moonlight. Just that land getting ready to slumber the winter away under a mantel of white, purpled and blued in the shadows cast by the small ridges cutting through it. Just that land…
Some time ago, when I first wrote The Devil’s Own Desperado, I wrote of how much Amy had come to love the land. No matter how careful we are, a part of who we are as authors spills over into what we write. My love of Wyoming is what spilled over into Amy.
I want to go home. I don’t want to be here.