Friday, October 21, 2011

Ghost Stories

Said to be haunted by a woman named Thelma.
Candles in glass jars clutched in skeletal hands. Warm cider and rum. The patio door open to the rain pattering on leaves. A black beast winding around ankles. The perfect night for tales of stickball players afraid of the dark, a mad woman scientist, and unnatural creatures in the woods. 

Last weekend, my good friend Crystal invited a bunch of her writer friends to her home for a reading party. The theme was the supernatural to get us in the mood for Halloween. There was much snacking and storytelling and a grand time had by all. At our parting, we agreed this had to be at least a yearly occurrence; perhaps even continued in the future with other themes a little more often than once a year. I certainly feel reinvigorated to return to my own work with fresh zeal!

Also that evening, Kimmy and I went on the Ghosts of Kalamazoo's haunted downtown tour. I only learned of its existence last year, but was unable to participate. The tours are conducted by the Kalamazoo Jaycees and proceeds go to Warm Kids, a group "dedicated to providing new coats, boots, hats and mittens for children in need" in Kalamazoo county. 

There weren't very many ghost stories, but I did learn a lot of local history. For instance, the widow of one of the Gilmore brothers, founders of a long-lived local department store, married another very prominent citizen, W. E. Upjohn, whose pharmaceutical company later went on to invent life essentials like ibuprofen and antibiotic ointment. (Well, essential to me, anyway.) 

Also, I was reminded, if I ever really knew since I can't recall the incident, that Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers died at the Radisson hotel in Kalamazoo on November 5th, 2003. It is sometimes speculated that he now haunts the hotel. Incidents of dishes being thrown and the jukebox turning on by itself have been reported. Other alleged ghosts may be to blame, however, and not Mr. Hatfield.

But Bobby Hatfield is not the only singer to allegedly haunt Kalamazoo. Elvis Presley, a huge fan of Gibson guitars which was founded and at the time located in Kalamazoo, is said to still hang around his old hotel room at what is now the Columbia building. There is even a little homage to the late great Mr. Presley in one of their conference rooms. 

There was also an scandalous murder almost 100 years ago of a woman killing a wealthy elderly lady, claiming the latter was a witch and needed to be stopped. Her accomplice killed himself, leaving her to take the rap all by herself. No mention of any ghosts here, however. 

If you'd like to read a more in-depth description of our tour, check out Kimmy's blog entry at American Haunts: Kalamazoo and Ghost Tour, Too!

After all that, I am totally in the mood for the season.

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