Fairy, Texas: A Tiny Legacy with a Big Heart

     Driving through Central Texas recently, I made a detour to visit a Fairy . . . and the tiny town named after her.

     In a state that likes to brag that “bigger is better,” the town of Fairy Texas in Hamilton County named themselves after a surprisingly diminutive member of their community.

     Originally known as Martin’s Gap it was named after James Martin, a settler killed by local Indians in the 1860s while driving cattle through a “gap” between two mountains in the area. He was buried at the foot of one of those mountains.

     As you can see from the map, it isn’t “on the way” to anywhere particularly…but it’s worth a road trip diversion.

     When a post office was requested for the town in 1884, locals renamed it “Fairy” to honor Fairy Fort Phelps (1865-1938), the daughter of Sallie and Battle Fort, a former Confederate Army Captain and lawyer.

     One of the smallest Texans ever, Fairy was just 2’ 7” tall and weighed about 28 pounds. Her size didn’t stop her from leading a somewhat normal life and becoming one of the most beloved people in her community.

     Her namesake town once had a cotton gin, school, general store, café and businesses to serve the ranchers in the area.

     Fairy had four younger brothers: Henry; Hugh Franklin; William “Battle,” Jr; and Walter Herbert – all of whom were average heights.

     Fairy and her father taught area children at a school in their home for many years. One story reflects how respected and well liked she was by her students. The tale states that it became necessary for Fairy to paddle an unruly student, but she couldn’t high enough. The student himself lifted his teacher onto a chair so she could paddle him.

     The petite young lady even married twice, once to William Y. Allen in 1892 and again to T. J. Phelps in 1905, but both marriages ended in divorce. Probably not surprisingly, she never had children, but she did live into her 70s and is buried with her parents at…yes…Fairy Cemetery. The sign on the gate alone is enough to back you look twice.

     Fairy’s post office closed in 1947, and the school consolidated with Hamilton schools in 1967. A Baptist church, community center, volunteer fire department, a few homes and one historic cemetery are all that endure.

     The stories of a petite woman who lived life to the fullest remain with the residents, and those who stop to visit her gated grave.

     The tiny town’s cemetery is interesting on its own for a variety of style of distinctive, handmade grave markers. Many exhibit expert stone carving skills, but others include one constructed of petrified wood and another meticulously covered with sparkling, local minerals.

     Oh….and if you’re curious what locals are called, they are “Fairians.” How cute is that?





Ghostly Residents of the Baker Hotel

     It’s impossible to roam the halls of Mineral Wells’ 14-story Baker Hotel without uttering the stories of its hauntings. And while I look forward to sharing more about the history and state of the hotel itself in my next post, Halloween calls and insists that we revisit their stories once more.

 

     Now closed to the public the once luxurious Baker was one of the most popular resort destinations of its day.

     Now the graffiti covered walls with their flaking paint and the crumbling walls and ceilings create what seems to be the ideal home for the numerous phantoms that are said to roam the premises.

     Climb the front stairs, turn on your flashlight and join me for a visit with the Baker Hotel ghosts.

ELEVATOR ANTICS

     15-year-old Douglas Moore earned a job as a passenger elevator operator at the grand hotel two years after his family moved to Mineral Wells.

     On January 16, 1948 Douglas arrived early for work and went to the basement to catch up with his friends working maintenance shifts. Teenage talk turned to horseplay and Douglas began to play with the service elevator at the base of the stairs, jumping in and out when it was in motion.

     Mind you, this was in the days before safety features would keep doors from closing entirely if something (or one) was in the way.

     You see where this is going…and it can’t be good.

     One of his friends notice that Douglas hadn’t jumped quite far enough to get his body totally inside the elevator compartment on one attempt, and pulled the young man’s legs to try to get him out. Tragically, he wasn’t quite fast enough and Douglas was caught between the doors and floor of the rising elevator, crushing him at the abdomen.

 

     Even more gruesome, it was half an hour before help could dislodge him and get him to the hospital, where he died of his injuries.

     As if his fate wasn’t horrific enough, lore states that he had actually been cut in half and that apparition of merely the top half of the unfortunate teen has been seen throughout the basement. According to his death certificate was an exaggeration of his fatal injuries, however.

     Visitors have said that those who call the young man’s name aloud will feel a cold rush of air push by them…but it’s best not to tempt him while standing too close to the elevator shaft. The teen might just be lonely for a bit of company after all these years.

     In an odd coincidence, his only brother Thomas was also killed as a teenager in a horrific accident while at his job in Mineral Wells.

BAKER, BUT WHICH ONE?

Earl Maynard Baker, nephew of the hotel’s found Theodore B. Baker, managed the Baker Hotel for over 40 years and lived in its Presidential Suite. After a string of contentious years with his family, spouse and even the community, Baker had a heart attack in his suite and subsequently died in the local hospital.

Reports say that he (or perhaps his uncle, the original resident) endlessly paces the rooms, now only a shadow of their former elegance. When the hotel was available to guides of ghost tours it was customary to knock before entering the suite as a form or respect…or perhaps to avoid his fiery temper.

Visitors to the area have claimed to smell cigar smoke, and to have small items from their purses or pockets come up missing…only to be found on the premises by tour guides later.

Whichever Baker may remain, he certainly has a sense of humor!

THE MISTRESS

The most famous spectral resident of the Baker is the lovely apparition of a ghost with red hair and green eyes. A porter of the hotel first saw her in the 1960s.

Known as the “Lady in White” she is believed to be the former manager’s mistress Virginia Brown, she flirts with men whom she finds attractive and resents the intrusion of other women in her suite at the southeast corner of the 7th floor.

Apparently the woman, distraught from the affair, committed suicide by jumping to her death from the window of her room (or the roof, depending on which version of the tale is told).

Her distinctive lavender perfume wafts throughout the floor; a red lipstick was even found by a maid on the rim of a glass when no one was staying in the suite.

The most restless spirit in the hotel, she refuses to be confined to one floor as she was in life, and the clicking of her high heels can be heard on the lobby floor.

I couldn’t find a Virginia Brown that would fit her age range and profile living in Mineral Wells at the time, though there were three others with the same name.

Whatever the name of the permanent guest, she is not to be taken lightly.

HIGH DIVE DURING COCKTAILS

     The parties held in the Cloud Ballroom on the 12th floor were legendary, and guests often enjoyed themselves to excess.

     One intoxicated woman actually tried to jump from the ballroom balcony into the pool below and naturally died in the attempt. Versions of the story say that she may have been racing her boyfriend who fled down the stairs to the pool deck and others that perhaps she may have received an unfriendly push.

     Now she paces along the balcony considering her fate.

The Cook and the Maid

     One of the persistent tales linked with the Baker is that of a hotel cook who was having an affair with one of the chambermaids. The legend states that the hotel’s cook was having an affair with one of the maids. The story goes that the woman threatened to expose their relationship to the cook’s wife, causing him to fly into a fit of rage and stab her to death in the kitchen pantry.

     It’s said that female visitors have reported hearing a woman’s voice telling them to leave when they entered the kitchen.

     Not surprisingly there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support that such a murder too place – though the hotel’s food was reputed to be “to die for.”

LITTLE BOY

     Considering the fact that many visitors to Mineral Wells came in search of thee curative properties the local spring waters were said to possess, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that not all cures were successful.

     The spirit of a little boy about six-years-old plays in the hallways of the hotel, accompanied by his large, shaggy dog companion. A visiting medium claims that the boy communicated to her that he passed away in 1933, when his parents brought him there seeking treatment for his leukemia. He tends to be watched over by the spirit of an older woman who remains nearby, and try to gain visitors attention by bouncing his rubber ball.

OTHER DEATHS

     Any hotel that has had some many people pass through its doors has seen its share of tragedies, and the Baker is no exception.

     In 1944, a federal civil investigator – probably assigned to Camp Wolters- threw himself out of a window from Room 919. The FBI is said to have investigated, but no foul play was found.

     In 1952, a man rented a room, went upstairs and cut his throat.

     In the 1940s one man murdered another man in the lobby, reputedly over a private parking space. The murderer was found guilty, but released…enough of a reason for any victim to roam in anger.

     Stories have also circulated about a spooky, secret network of tunnels beneath the hotel. There is one known passageway that leads from the hotel the pool on the property, and it’s possible that originally extended northeast to the original water tower (now a parking lot for a Methodist church). No other tunnels have been discovered but just the possibility can cause a shiver.

     Although it doesn’t have stories of specific haunting attached to it, the hotel spa on the second floor is unarguably one of the creepiest areas on the property. It’s difficult to say whether that feeling is due to the archaic equipment crumbling in place or the general atmosphere.

The “Brazos Room”

     When a group of World War II veterans and their spouses toured the hotel, multiple people in the group heard voices chatting, orchestra music playing and the sound of dinnerware and utensils being used. This occurrence seemingly had not happened before or since that day. Maybe their recognized their contemporaries?

     With the Baker Hotel now receiving long overdue renovations and restoration, the ghosts of the famous inn will hopefully have plenty of living company very soon.

     Which floor would you choose to stay on?

Did You Say . . . Funeral Museum?

     One of the least known and most fascinating museums in Houston surrounds a topic that not everyone is entirely comfortable discussing – funerals.

     The National Museum of Funeral History isn’t only a great idea to visit around Halloween, though. The tasteful curation of a fascinating collection from across  generations and cultures will soon have you roaming around wondering why you haven’t visited before.

     I admit I hadn’t visited the museum since they were in their original, much smaller space so I was wowed by the 30,500 square feet of exhibit space is filled with fifteen permanent displays that explain topics from the lives and deaths of popes, to presidential funerals and the Day of the Dead celebration as well as visiting exhibits.

     My favorite room is filled with historical hearses, which will especially amaze car enthusiasts.  Rare horse drawn carriages from the 19th century sit beside the actual hearses that carried actress Grace Kelly and U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald R. Ford. There’s even a 1916 Packard funeral bus large enough to hold a coffin, pallbearers and up to 20 mourners.

 

     The museum even has Roy Rogers and Dale Evans parade car…and you have to see it in person to believe it!

     Around each corner are unexpected surprises, including a replica of Snow White’s glass coffin and displays of funeral details of the rich and famous.

     A collection of fantasy coffins from Ghana, West Africa captures the personalities of the departed. Imagine being laid to rest in a wooden coffin carved to resemble an eagle, a chicken, an airplane or even a Mercedes Benz! They are truly pieces of art.

     Other exhibits explain the history of topics like the history of embalming or 19th Century mourning. They’ll open your eyes to a part of history that isn’t often talked about, but can of course be bypassed if you’re with younger ones who you’d rather not have view them.

     Rest assured though, there is nothing gory or blatant about any of the displays. And yes, there’s a gift shop with a great selection of conversation-starters to commemorate your visit.

     Whether you’re looking for something you consider a bit creepy to visit for Halloween, or an unusual museum that your friends probably haven’t even heard of…this is the spot.

     Find days, times, and other information to place your visit here: National Museum of Funeral History.

 

 

Stories Along the Road

     Do you ever see an abandoned car and wonder how long it’s been sitting or how it got there?

     One of the most photographed sights in the Texas ghost town of Glenrio is an abandoned 1968 Pontiac Catalina that rests in front of the remains of a Texaco gas station. It’s not for sale, and the “Private Property” and no trespassing signs do their best to keep people at a distance. (And yes, I respected them!)

     There’s no shortage of old, broken-down cars along old Route 66 – at deserted gas stations, homes, and in empty fields, but this one is different. It has a story.

     In my last blog post, I shared a bit about Joe Brownlee’s businesses and family in Glenrio. If you missed it, you can find it here. In that post I mentioned Roxann, Joe’s daughter who grew up helping her father with his Glenrio gas station. It’s that station the Pontiac sits at now.

     In 1970 when Roxann was just 19 she married 22-year-old Larry Lee Travis, the quiet young man from the small farming community of Darrouzett. The young couple originally lived in Adrian where his father was the preacher for the Methodist church, but soon moved back to her hometown of Glenrio. By 1975 almost all of the small town’s businesses had closed after the new interstate had bypassed them three years earlier, and Larry and Roxann now had an infant son to support.

     The young father approached his former employer, Don Morgan, who closed his own Standard Service Station in Adrian to ask if he could rent the building to run his own station. Morgan, who admired the Larry’s work ethic, agreed.

     For six months, Larry climbed into his 1968 Pontiac Catalina and drove 25 miles to Adrian to run the gas station.

     These lonely stretches of road could be dangerous, and the previous year local gas, shop and service station owners had formed a vigilante force (encouraged by the local police) to patrol the streets and discourage criminal mischief. The lack of burglaries and robberies while the watch was active proved a success, but the participants decided to disband, thinking the hard times may have passed. By the beginning of 1976, the patrols ceased.

     That year on Sunday, March 7ththe 28-year-old father drove his Pontiac to work for the last time. His former boss Morgan called at 7:30 that night to ask if he was prepared to receive and order of fuel, and had a brief conversation with him.

     Just about an hour later, 23-year-old Lewis Steven Powell entered the station and demanded the money from the register. Though no one will ever know exactly what went on the in next few moments, Powell made Larry kneel before shooting him in the back of the head. I’ll spare you he gruesome details, as they aren’t necessary to understand the tragedy of the situation.

     At 8:45 p.m. two tourists pulled into the gas station to use the self-service pump. They were both made uneasy by the constant barking of Larry’s large white dog just outside the office. When one of them went inside to pay, they found Travis.

     The cash drawer and its contents were missing, and Larry’s keys were still in the register.

     As a side note, this was the second time Powell had killed in 36 hours, the earlier incident being in Dallas. He was apprehended after a shoot-out with authorities in Colorado. In a plea bargain to escape the death penalty he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life. He was paroled after just seven years, after which he faced a murder charge in Dallas, and a 40-year sentence for assault in Colorado. It’s horrifying that all of theses convictions resulted in only a few years served. As of 2017 he was back in prison for parole violations, after which I could not locate information about him.

     The Standard station closed after Larry’s death and no longer exists, although its concrete foundations can be seen via Google maps just one mile east of Adrian.

     Larry’s Pontiac Catalina came home to Glenrio where it was parked at the empty station in front of the home in which his young family lived. It sits there to this day, rusting and weather worn, as a silent tribute.

     Roxann still lives in the home behind the station, and the barking dogs you will hear if you leave your car in the vicinity are hers.

     If you come to Glenrio, please respect the Private Property signs and remember that the Pontiac is more than a photo opp, it’s a piece of Glenrio history.

Photo via Google maps

Test Your Dia de los Muertos Trivia IQ

 

Stacy Anderson Photography


If you think that Dia de los Muertos is a creepy holiday, or the same as Halloween . . . think again! This Latin American holiday is rooted in the love of family and traditions.

     My friend Stacy, from the Hurried Hostess blog, and I got to visit with Houston Life TV and share a bit about this special tradition.

     Here are the trivia questions that I posed to the hosts. Give them a try to see how you do!

How many days does the celebration of Dia de los Muertos span?

  1. one

  2. two

  3. three

  4. four

Dia de los Muertos coincides with which two Catholic holidays?

  1. Halloween and All Souls’ Day

  2. Assumption and Good Friday

  3. All Saints Day and All Souls Day

  4. Halloween and Our Lady of Autumn

What is the traditional flower to leave on graves during the Day of the Dead celebrations?

  1. roses

  2. marigolds

  3. tulips

  4. mums

Dia de los Muertos was originally celebrated in what month?

  1. December

  2. August

  3. March

  4. January

The iconic woman skeleton character in a dress and hat is known as:

  1. la Madre

  2. la Madrina

  3. la Muertida

  4. la Catrina

In the United States, pumpkins are associated with Halloween. What traditional food does Mexico associate with Dia de los Muertos?

  1. corn

  2. beans

  3. potatoes

  4. butternut squash

Which people were the first to practice the beginnings of this tradition?

  1. Spanish

  2. Hondurans

  3. Aztecs

  4. Mayans

Answers:

.

.

.

Did you peek?

.

.

.

How many days does the celebration of Dia de los Muertos span?

Three. October 31 is All Hallow’s Eve, a day of preparation for the return of the spirits. November 1 is El Dia de los Innocentes (day of the children). On this day celebrants welcome the spirits of lost children. The last day is November 2, or Day of the Dead, when the rest of the family members and friends who have passed on are reunited with their loved ones for one day.

 

Dia de los Muertos coincides with which two Catholic holidays?

All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2)

 

What is the traditional flower to leave on graves during the Day of the Dead celebrations?

Marigolds! The brilliant color and strong fragrance of this flower is thought to attract the spirits and lead them in the direction of the celebrations.

 

Dia de los Muertos was originally celebrated in what month?

The celebration originally fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, which was around early August.

 

The iconic woman skeleton character in a dress and hat is known as:

La Calavera Catrina (the skeleton Catrina), also known as the elegant skull, comes from an etching created by Mexican cartoonist and illustrator Jose’ Guadalupe Posada around 1910. Wearing her fancy hat, she serves as a reminder that death does not discriminate between classes and comes even to the wealthy.

 

In the United States, pumpkins are associated with Halloween. What traditional food does Mexico associate with Dia de los Muertos?

Butternut squash is traditionally candied and enjoyed as a dessert, but squash recipes of all types can be found during the holiday.

 

Which people were the first to practice the beginnings of this tradition?

Aztecs. The origins of the rituals practiced during Dia de los Muertos can be traced back 3,000 years!

 

     So, how did you do? Share the quiz with your friends to see how their Day of the Dead knowledge matches up!

 

Watch Courtney Zavala And Derrick Shore of Houston Life TV

try their hand at the same questions, here!


 

     To find ideas for how to celebrate with a party of your own, see my previous post, here.


The Floating Coffin

235px-charles_francis_coghlan_003Among the most famous and tantalizing stories to come from the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” franchise is one that begins with a death at the Tremont House Hotel in Galveston.

An Omen

The curious tale began when a young actor named Charles Francis Coghlan visited a gypsy fortuneteller. The mystical soothsayer told Coghlan that he would die at the height of his fame in a southern U. S. city – but that he would have no rest until he returned home.

charlesfranciscoghlanwikimcmmThe prediction tormented Coghlan, disturbing him so much that he repeated it to friends and co-workers numberous times in the course of his life.

Over the next thirty years, Coghlan became one of the most famous actors of his day, appearing on stages across the U.S. and Europe. During the rare weeks that he did not appear on the stage, he and his wife retreated to their beloved home on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.

Fate Enters

On October 30, 1899, Coghlan arrived in Galveston with his performing troupe, ready to present one of his own works,screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-10-52-18-am titled “The Royal Box.”

He never had the chance to appear on stage on the island, however. He became seriously ill with what doctors at the time diagnosed as acute gastritis. His understudy, Mr. Robinson, received wonderful reviews often mistakenly credited to Coghlan in print.

The actor’s wife remained with him, transcribing the first four acts of a new play, which he dictated while resting for four weeks. But, after an abrupt relapse of pain, he died in bed at the Tremont Hotel on November 27, with his distraught wife by his side. He was 57 years old and at the peak of his career.

His body was taken to the Levy Brothers Funeral Home, while his wife attempted to make arrangements in a strange city far from family and friends.

The grievcharles-coghlaning widow knew that her husband, upon his death, had wanted to be cremated and buried in New York. Galveston did not have a crematorium at the time, so she arranged for her husband’s body to be sh
ipped to the nearest facility in St. Louis.

By the time those preparations were made, a flood of demands from family and admirers insisted he be taken immediately to New York. It is no wonder that confusion exists about the final arrangements for the disposition of the actor’s body. Unfortunately, the funeral home records from this time were destroyed in 1979.

Her funds and energy exhausted, Coughlan’s widow had his remains placed in a temporary receiving vault at the Lakeview Cemetery until she could manage to have him sent to New York the following year.

In September of the following year, the infamous 1900 Storm hit Galveston, killing thousands and sweeping coffins out of mausoleums and vaults. Though300px-wea00586 the vault where Coghlan’s body was constructed of heavy granite blocks, it was washed away like so many other structures on the island.

Those coffins that were recovered were reinterred in the cemetery, but many were never found. Coughlan’s casket, which was among the missing, had been caught in the swift-running current and believed to have been swept into the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Actor’s Club offered a sizable reward, but the casket was never located.

Because his widow had purchased an elaborate cast iron casket for her beloved, it is highly unlikely it could do anything but sink in a body of water.

Going Home

In 1929, an edition of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” published a rumor that had developed in the years after the storm.

The original Ripley feature said: “Charles Coughlan comes home! He died in 1899, and he was buri00-01ed in Galveston. When the tragic flood came his coffin was washed out to sea and the Gulf Stream carried his around Florida and up the coast to Prince Edward Island – 2,000 miles distant – where he had lived.”

Ripley mentioned in October of 1908, fishermen spied a large box floating the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Snagging it with their nets, they pulled the badly damaged object to shore. A silver plate was revealed after cleaning off a few barnacles, which identified it as the casket of Charles Coughlan.

The legend tells that the actor was taken to his home church on Prince Edward Island and buried near the church where he was baptized in 1841. His wandering spirit was finally home.

Truth or Urban Myth?

Numerous books and articles have been written about the incident over the years, with slight to outrageous changes in the details. A brief internet search yields several versions of the story.

Local cemetery records of the small church on Prince Edward are considered to be complete and accurate. They show no sign of Charles Coughlan’s burial, and no gravestone exists.

It was reported that his daughter, actress Gertrude Coughlan Pitou visited Prince Edward in the 1980s and stated that her father’s remains had not been recovered or reinterred in Galveston. This report is seemingly eerie enough, since Gertrude herself died in 1952!

His sister, actress Rose Coughlan, was highly offended by the stories about her brother and she asked Robert Ripley for a retraction. Ripley, ever the savvy businessman, declined. He credited Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, a Shakespearean actor and friend of Coughlan, for sharing the story with the publication.

The question remains: If Charles Coughlan is not at home at rest, and not in Lakeview Cemetery…where is he?

 

Bounty of Souls

20151120_110206_DSC_5872

During the Thanksgivi4fd3151700e18d3acab293cb952eedccng holidays, we are surrounded by symbols of harvest and bounty. One of the most popular symbols of the season’s bounty is a sheaf of wheat, which is why it is often incorporated into decorations.

lincoln-wheat-pennyThe image is so connected with bounty and prosperity that it was at one time used on United States currency.

Religiously, the image of wheat has a deeper meaning. Wheat is baked into the 67bd297f31d93d7f8069455b09a58857Eucharist, a motif of everlasting life through belief in Jesus. Therefore when wheat is used on gravestones or memento mori, it represents a divine harvest – being cut to resurrect the “harvest” into everlasting life or immortality.

Wheat has also been symbolic of love and charity in the bible, and was a popular emblem used by Masons.

20151120_110206_DSC_5872

20151120_110201_DSC_5871The wheat sheaf can also signify a long and fruitful life, often more than 70 years.

So the net time you see an image of wheat on a grave, check the lifespan of the person who the stone memorializes.

 

 

 

Hold Your Breath & Other Cemetery Superstitions

a4a9d33b085192708051db439483f4bdFolklore and customs concerning death and cemeteries can run from humorous to gruesome, and are almost always entertaining. Most of us have heard it’s bad luck to walk across a grave or speak ill of the dead, but if you didn’t know that collecting epitaphs could cause you to lose your memory perhaps you should read on…just in case!

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Mirrors

  • As soon as death occurs, the mirrors and pictures in the room should be covered or turned where they can’t be looked upon. It is bad luck to let the reflection of the corpse be seen in the mirror.

  • Cover mirrors with black crepe or veiling to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the looking glass

  • A European tradition says that if you look into the mirror before the body is removed, you can see the deceased looking over your shoulder.

 

You’re Nextmrs-howes-in-deep-mourning

  • Sweeping the home before the corpse is taken out will ensure that the person who does so will be the next to die.

  • Take care that you do not see your reflection in a hearse, or you will be the next to be carried in it.

  • Being the first to leave the cemetery after a funeral is bad luck and could bring you death.

  • The person who walks out in front of the coffin as it is being taken from the house will be the next to die.

  • If the body of the deceased is limp for some time after death, another member of the family will soon follow.

  • A corpse should leave any home or building feet-first, or else the corpse would be looking back at the building and calling for someone within to follow him in death.

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Please Proceed

  • Locking the door of your home after a funeral procession has left the house is bad luck.

  • It is also bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If you see one approaching, turn around or hold on to a button until the cortege passes.

  • If a funeral procession passes your home, draw the curtains or close the blinds to prevent the dead from entering your home.

  • Never count the number of cars in a funeral procession, as it is considered counting the days until the your own death

  • The corpse should not pass over any part of the same road twice or the spirit will lose its way.

  • If the funeral procession stops on its way to the cemetery, another death will soon follow.

  • It used to be believed that carrying a baby in a funeral procession would ensure that it would die before its first birthday.

  • A black cat crossing in front of a funeral procession means another death in that family.

  • It is a sign of bad luck, if a horse in a funeral procession becomes frisky.

  • Never look backward while in a funeral procession, or you will soon go to another funeral.

  • After a funeral, if two carriages from the same funeral meet at the intersection of two streets then go in opposite directions, expect another death.

Flowers

  • If the deceased lived a good life flowers will bloom on his grave, but if he has been evil only weeds will grow.funeralflowersinparlor

  • Having only red and white flowers together in a vase (especially in a hospital) means death will soon follow.

  • Never take flowers from a grave or that spirit will haunt you.

  • A living flower taken from a gravesite will not grow.

  • If you smell roses when none are around, someone is going to die.

  • A single snowdrop growing in the garden foretells a death

Anders_Zorn-The_Widow

Clothing

  • Do not put the clothes of a living person on a corpse. That person will die once the clothes decay.

  • A witch must be buried face down to prevent the community further supernatural spells. If this doesn’t work, unbury them and turn their clothes inside out, then re-bury them face down.

  • Removing the bed sheets from the home before the corpse leaves ensures another member of the family will soon die.

  • The Irish believe in wearing black to appear to be a shadow, so that the dead person won’t enter your body.

  • It is bad luck to wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes.

  • If you bury someone with a veil over their face and the veil gets in their mouth, they will call the family away.

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Home

  • Family photographs should be placed face down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.

  • If you hear three knocks and no one is there, it usually means someone close to you has died. The superstitious call this the three knocks of death.

  • A knife falling to the floor means a loved one has died.

  • If a picture suddenly falls off the wall, someone has died.

  • Stop the clocks at the time of death to show the departed that “time was over” for him or her.

  • On the night after November 1, a candle should be lit for each deceased relative and placed in a window.

  • If coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup form a straight line, you can expect a funeral

  • Dropping an umbrella on the floor or opening one in the house means that there will be a murder in the house.

  • A hat on the bed means death in the family.

  • If you spill salt, throw a pinch of the spilt salt over your shoulder to prevent death.

  • If an undertaker leaves anything of his trade at the house and it remains there after the funeral, someone in that family will soon die.

  • If a broom is rested against a bed, the person who sleeps there will die soon.

  • Taking ashes out of a stove after sundown will bring a death in the family.

It’s Black & White

  • A white moth inside the house or trying to get in means death.

  • If several deaths occur in the same family, tie a black ribbon to everything left alive that enters the house, even chickens and dogs. This will protect against deaths spreading further.

  • A diamond-shaped fold in clean linen foreshadows death.

  • If you bury a woman in all black with no color on her dress, she will always come back and haunt the family.

  • Meeting a white chicken on your way to a funeral is an omen of bad luck.

Fending Off Spirits

  • A corpse should be carried out feet first to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow.60ba1b4e0b47b03736184f82709a5b2d

  • You should always cover your mouth while yawning so your spirit doesn’t leave you and the devil enter your body.

  • Hold your breath when passing a graveyard so evil or the spirit of someone who has recently died can’t enter.

  • As soon as the person is dead and in the clothes in which they are to be buried, a dish of salt should be put on their chest to keep evil spirits away.

  • Never cry on a dead person because if the tears fall on them, it makes it harder for the spirit to leave this world.

  • If for some reason you find yourself needing to bury a body, bury them at a crossroads and their spirit won’t be able to leave.

  • Make sure windows and doors are open after a person dies to ensure their spirit a speedy journey to the other side.

  • Turning over a shoe under the bed when the dogs howl at night to prevent death from possessing you.

  • Pallbearers must wear white gloves so the spirit can’t enter their bodies.

East or West

  • Graves should be oriented so that the bodies lie with their heads to the West and their feet to the East. This old custom appears to originate with the Pagan sun worshippers, but is primarily attributed to Christians who believe that the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.

  • The bed of a gravely ill person should never be placed north and south, and always east and west with the head toward the west. This will speed the process of dying and reduce suffering.

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In the Cemetery

  • Tuck your thumbs into your fists when passing a cemetery to protect your parents.

  • The spirit of the last person buried in a cemetery must stand watch over all the others.

  • Never whistle inside the cemetery walls, or you will summon the devil.

  • A pregnant woman should not go to a cemetery or her infant may be possessed.

  • Visiting a cemetery after dark will bring you bad luck.

  • Go to a cemetery, get some black dirt off a grave and put that dirt under steps you have to walk over, and you will always have luck.

  • The person who takes something from a cemetery will return more than he took.

Graves & Burials

  • Being near an open grave will cure a toothache.

  • Being buried on the north side of the church is considered unlucky because of the lack of sun. That area is usually reserved for criminals and suicides.

  • The shovels and other tools used to dig a grave used to be left at the gravesite for a day or more after the burial, as moving them too soon would bring bad luck.

  • Graves should never be left open overnight. It will lead to another death.

  • If the casket slips while it is being lowered into the grave, another death will soon follow.

  • Leaving the grave before it is filled will welcome another death to follow.

  • It is bad luck to point at a grave, because the dead will see you.

  • Naturally, the post of guardian was to be avoided if possible, so, when two bodies arrive for interment at the same time, a rush was made by the friends of the deceased in order to prevent their friend from being “last man in.”

  • If the coffin does not go into the hole easily, it is because the devil does not want the deceased.

  • If you have an involuntary shiver, someone has just walked over your grave

  • Never bury anyone on Thursday or Saturday, as it will result in bad luck.

  • Never bury anything, such as toys with a child, or other family members will soon die.

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Wild Things

  • If a firefly or lightening bug gets into a house someone will soon die.

  • If a bird pecks at or crashes into your window, there has been a death.

  • If a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home will die.

  • The cry of a curlew foretells a death.

  • If a red-breasted robin flies into a house, death will shortly follow.

  • When the head of the household dies, one must go out and whisper the news of the death to the bees, or all in the home will meet the same fate. Bees were believed in past to be the messengers of the gods, so when informed, bees would take the news to them.

  • If the deceased cared for an orchard or any fruit trees, the trees must be informed of the passing.

  • If a turtle dove flies upward after a death, the soul of the deceased will go to heaven.

  • A person cannot die on a mattress with feathers of wild fowl, so when someone is dying a slow death, the person must be carried to a different mattress to ease the suffering.

  • If a cow moos after midnight, it is an evil omen.

  • If you are going to a funeral and meet a mad dog, it will cause you bad luck.

  • The cry of an owl symbolizes death. Where it builds a nest, ghosts will haunt for as long as the bird stays.

  • The crowing of a rooster signals wandering ghosts that it is time for them to disappear until nightfall.

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It’s in the Numbers

  • Death comes in threes.

  • If thirteen people sit down at a table to eat, one of them will die before the year is over.

  • If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.

  • If two people in the same house are sick and one dies, the other will improve in health.

  • The first person that leaves the graveyard after a funeral will bring a death to his family.

  • A person who walks over three graves will die before the year is out.

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  • One who sees themself die in a dream, will die in reality.

  • If a person dreams about a birth, someone they know will die.

  • To dream of a deceased person in an agitated state means that they are in hell. To dream of them in a pleasant state means they have gone to heaven.

  • Touching a corpse on the forehead assures you will not dream of the dead.

On the Money

  • Leave a coin at the gate of the deceased family’s home for good luck.

  • Coins placed over the eyes of the deceased kept them from coming open. If the eyes of the corpse remained open, he was said to be looking for a follower and another death would soon happen

  • Finding a four-leaf clover on a grave foretells a friend coming to visit to give you some money.

  • As long as the funeral bill remains unpaid, the corpse will not rest in its grave.

A final word to the wise: shaving with a dead man’s razor will turn a beard prematurely gray. Consider yourself warned.

Survived the War – But Not the Storm

Today is the 115th Anniversary of the tragic 1900 hurricane in Galveston, that took thousands of lives. I thought it was only proper for today’s post to pay tribute to a veteran who lost his life in that storm.


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Johann “John” Karl “Charles” Seidenstricker was an immigrant who proved his allegiance and dedication to his new country soon after his arrival.

Born on September 7, 1842 in Bad Duerkeim, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany, Johann immigrated to America by himself when he was only 18 years old. He arrived in New Orleans aboard the ship Kate Dyer on February 4, 1861, just two months before the Civil War began.

He served as a private in Company F of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry, while they were stationed in Donaldsonville, Louisiana south of Baton Rouge. In December, joined by companies from nearby Fort Pike, the unit was armed and equipped as cavalry and stationed at Carrollton.

0314-redRiverCampaignFrom there, Johann took part in the Red River campaign and was engaged with loss at Sabine Cross Road on April 4, 1864. He re-enlisted during the winter and left on July 21 for furlough in Massachusetts, returning to Donaldsonville in November.

The regiment took part in the operations against Mobile, Alabama and occupied the city after the surrender. Johann remained on duty there until he mustered out on July 31, 1865.

Johann was naturalized in New Orleans on April 30, 1866, no doubt largely in thanks to his service to the country during the war.

Seidenst_edited-1While in New Orleans he met NOLA native Married Elenora Johanna Phillippi (1842-1906). They married on September 10, 1866 at St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church in Carrollton, Louisiana.

Johann, now known by his Anglicized name John,  and his wife moved to Galveston, and raised a large family, which included Charles Louis “Carl Ludwig” (1868-1925), Elenora Johanna (1869-1962), Emma (1872-1958), Anna Elizabeth (1874-1945), Bertha (1876-1946), Frederick Godfred (1878-1946), Henry William (1881-1952), and Maude Louise (1883-1953).

He became an active member of the community, and was eventually elected a trustee of Knights of Honor’s Goethe Lodge No. 2976, one of two lodges of this fraternal beneficiary society in the city.

From 1888-1891, Johnphoto-5 worked as a porter for Rosenfield and Co.

The building where he worked is now part of the historic Strand shopping district, on the second floor above Head to Footsies, The Admiralty and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

In 1900, the couple and four of their children (Bertha, Frederick, Henry and Maude) lived together at 1209 Avenue N, very close to what is now Stewart’s Beach.

ruinsOn September 8, 1900 a hurricane which is still the nation’s worst natural disaster struck the city, smashing buildings and killing thousands of people. John was one of those lost in the tragedy. It was the day after his birthday.

Because of the debris, bodies were found for months, and even years, after the storm. With John missing, I can only imagine his family checking the listings of identified bodies found each day in the local newspaper…praying for an answer.

John’s body was eventually discovered and identified by his son Charles. He was buried on Oct. 20, 1900 in Galveston’s Lakeview Cemetery.

Johanna died November 10, 1906 at her home at 1202 Church Street at the age of 54. She is buried at Lakeview as well.