Saturday Night Serenade–Happy Halloween!

Here we are at the end of October, celebrating fall and Halloween and the beginning of the holiday season.  Where did the time go?  Wasn’t it just summer?

I’ve chosen two of my favorite Halloween videos.  The first one isn’t really a spooky song, it’s the video that lands it here.  And say what you will about the Backstreets Boys (Mr. R. likes to call them the Backdoor Boys) but they remain a guilty pleasure.  I love the dance sequence in this video.

But how can we celebrate Halloween without Thriller?  I chose the short version of the video that cuts out most of the crap and leaves the best part, the dance sequence.

Watching these videos leaves me wondering…  When will The Walking Dead have an episode where the zombies break out dancing?  Paging Greg Nicotero, Frank Darabont, Scott Gimple, and Robert Krikman.

Happy Halloween Saturday night!

Final October Story–When Mr. R. Lived In A Haunted House

This last October story is the most personal.  I have no photos or other documentation to prove what I’m saying but this is the single reason that I now entertain a certain amount of curiosity about the paranormal.  Up until this point, I was pretty sure I had it all figured out.  Yeah, right.

In the earlier days of our relationship, my sweet lived in a haunted house.  No, honestly.  I know what you’re thinking.  Even I didn’t believe it at first.  He tried to tell me.  I just thought he was messing with me.

Before Mr. R. and I got married, he rented a house with two other guys for a little over a year.  It was just a regular older house in a normal neighborhood and it was owned by a personal friend of Mr. R.  There was nothing remarkable about it, in fact, it needed quite a bit of updating, but it was a nice size with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.  It also backed up to a large lake and had a nice pool in back between the house and the water, these two features being really the best of the whole place.

I vaguely recall Mr. R. mentioning to me that there were times when his roommates were out and he felt as if he were not alone in the house.  I completely blew this off.  I am an educated, logical person.  There is always an explanation for everything.  I just thought he was trying to creep me out.

We spent many Saturdays hanging out at the house, sometimes swimming in the pool or fishing off the dock, lots of nights watching television in the converted sun porch just off the dining area.  I never noticed anything weird.  Never even thought about it.  Until…

One night we were watching television and I left the room.  As I headed through the darkened dining area, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  My heart jumped and I stopped immediately, looking to my right, the direction of the movement.  Mentally, I scolded myself.  You saw yourself in the mirror, I thought.  There was a mirror on the wall and that explanation made total sense.  Except…I was about 10% certain that myself was not what I saw.  I shook my head and went about my business.

After that, from time to time as we watched television, I was almost certain that I saw movement in the dining area.  Let me describe a little of the design of the house.  The tv room and dining area were separated by double french doors which were always left open.  The double-wide opening was flanked in the tv room by the multi-paned french doors pushed flush against the wall.  The panes of glass reflected light and color from the television, not to mention the lights of the boats passing outside on the lake.  So it made sense that the movement I saw was the reflection in the glass doors from the television and from outside.  Except…There were times I was sure the movement I saw was not in the glass on the sides of the doorway, but in the empty space of the doorway which would be the center of the dining room.

Mostly I just tried to ignore it, sure that I was being silly.  And there were long periods of time when nothing unusual happened.  I would forget about it, have no expectation of anything at all.

Until the night I had an experience that I could not explain in any way.  Once again, we were watching television.  During a commercial, I glanced out into the darkened dining area where my purse was hanging on the back of a chair.  Oddly, in the space between the top of my purse and the handles hanging on the chair, I saw a tiny red light, like the ready light on something electronic.

That’s weird, I thought.  What in the world is it?  My first thought was that it was my phone.  But I realized it couldn’t be my phone because: a) my phone didn’t have a red light like that; and b) my phone wasn’t sticking out of the top of my purse, it was in the pocket in the end of the purse, which was the reason I bought that purse to begin with.  That’s so weird, I thought, and I looked back at the television without thinking about it beyond being perplexed.  When I glanced back at my purse, the red light was gone.

I was properly freaked out for the first time.  Mr. R. realized something was wrong, but I’m from the school of thought that says, If I don’t say it out loud, it didn’t happen.  I made him sit beside me, and it was only after the show was over, when we went out onto the back deck that I told him what I’d seen.

He told me a few more stories, and now, of course, I was all ears.  The master bedroom of the house was separated from the master bath by a short, narrow hallway that ran between ‘his and hers’ closets.  Mr. R. said that once he’d been on his way into the bathroom when he’d suddenly changed his mind and turned around in that area between the closets.  As he abruptly turned, he said he saw someone standing there, then instantly he didn’t see someone.  His sense at the time was of someone who was lonely and desperately wished to be ‘one of the guys’.  He told me about many times when he’d been in the kitchen cooking and he’d felt certain that someone was just behind him, looking over his shoulder.

After that experience, I was very aware of the nights when we’d hear thumps and bumps of unexplained origin.  I chalked a lot of those up to the wind getting under the eaves, but that only explained some of the noises we heard.

One night, after his roommates left for the evening, Mr. R. and I were in the house by ourselves.  We were sitting together on the sofa just chatting about nothing in particular when we heard, from the other room, the distinct sound of someone clearing their throat.  “Ahem!”  We just stared at each other.  “You heard that, right?” we said simultaneously.

One of the last things I experienced in that house happened as we were making dinner one night.  Mr. R. left the room, leaving me alone in the kitchen.  I heard, from another part of the house, a loud sort of boom, bang, crash as if a stack of pots or something had fallen.  I moved in the direction of the noise, the direction Mr. R. had gone, saying, “Hey, are you okay?”  I met Mr. R. coming toward me saying, “Hey, are you okay?”  We’d each thought the other had knocked something over, yet neither of us had.

As a result of the strange things I experienced in the house, I became somewhat interested in investigations of the paranormal.  No, I’m not going out to buy a bunch of electronic gizmos (except maybe a phone app).  But I have come to appreciate the TAPS investigators from the SciFi show, GhostHunters.  The reason I like them is that they set out to disprove paranormal activity, to find logical, rational explanations for odd things that people experience.  One thing I learned from them is that high electromagnetic emissions, such as would be present in an older home with faulty wiring, can cause various physical reactions including feelings of unease, of being watched.  I absolutely believe that explains some of what Mr. R. experienced in the house.  And then, every once in a while, the TAPS team comes across something that really defies explanation.  I can relate to that, too.

Now, a little history on the house.  These are things I know to be true, they can be verified in the news and by talking to the family members who owned the house.  Some years before Mr. R. and the boys rented the house, the family who owned it experienced an unfathomable tragedy.  A teenage son was murdered in a violent robbery at the fast food restaurant where he’d worked.  The mother, utterly devastated by his death, hired a psychic to come into the house and give a reading.  The psychic advised the mother to place some of the boy’s personal belongings around the house to encourage his spirit to stay.  Turns out, there were some skateboards and other things placed in the attic and other spots around the house during the time Mr. R. lived there.  Now, normally I’d say that whole business is a load of crap.  But things happened there that I can’t explain.

All of that to say this–I’ve always believed that most of the things that happen in this world have logical, rational explanations.  I still believe that.  Now, I also have to concede that some things simply defy rational explanation.

It gets real when you experience something for yourself.  Take, for example, those photos from the Pilar in Islamorada.  Or the photos from the Riddle House.  I’m much less certain that I have it all figured out.  Still, I’m okay with that.

I wouldn’t spend any time alone in that house, though.  Nope.

October Story–This Is New

I know I’ve said that I’m not really into ghostie things.  But…

You knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?  Since some personal experiences I had a few years ago, I’m interested in the paranormal.  More on that in another post.

I will admit to being dork enough that the only phone app I’ve ever paid for is the TAPS App.  This application turns your phone into an investigative device, with an EMF detector for measuring the ambient electromagnetic field, a Geophone which can detect very slight vibrations, and a digital voice recorder.  Investigators on the Ghosthunters show on SciFi use this app.

I bought it when Mr. R. and I were on our way to Ybor City, an old historic neighborhood of Tampa where we were staying in a reportedly haunted hotel.  Sadly, I didn’t capture any evidence and truthfully I don’t really get how to use the Geophone function, but I did learn that my suitcase runs an EMF of about 0.4 while the rest of the room was about 0.2.  I can hear you laughing.

The next time I used the app was when I was visiting my folks in Pennsylvania and we took a day trip to Philadelphia to tour Eastern State Penitentiary.  The prison, which opened in 1829 and was in operation as a correctional facility until 1971, is said to be haunted by the ghosts of former prisoners and employees.  While night-time ghost tours are offered, we simply took the regular daytime self-guided audio historic tour.  But that didn’t stop me from whipping out my handy-dandy app and taking EMF readings.  The power is off throughout most of the crumbling facility so there really weren’t any electrical fluctuations.  I also used the digital voice recorder to try to capture EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) but there were none of those, either.

I really have only one odd thing to report.  At one point, my son and I were off by ourselves and I turned on the voice recorder once more and began asking a few questions.  At exactly the one minute mark, the recorder turned off by itself, the only time I’ve ever had that happen.  At the same time, the wall in front of us began to crumble onto the floor.  Now the entire prison is crumbling.  But until then, that particular place hadn’t been.  We watched the fresh plaster dust sprinkle down all over the floor.

Proof of haunting?  No, of course not.  But if any place on the planet is haunted, doesn’t it look like this place should be?  Photos are from my Samsung.

October Story Three

The original title of this post was I Just Wanted To See Hemingway’s Chair.  This story is from over a year ago in July of last summer while, on a little jaunt down to the Keys, we stopped in at a sporting goods store.  Ghostie business was the absolute last thing on my mind.  I wanted a photo to go along with a Hemingway quote.  That’s all I was looking for.  The four photos were snapped in rapid succession in a dimly-lit boat cabin.  The light you see is from my flash.  See what you think.

I took the folks down to Key Largo for a couple of days this past summer.  Before heading home, we drove south just to sight see a little.  You can’t get that close and not cross the Seven Mile Bridge, right?  Mr. R. missed the trip because of work, but he recommended that we stop and check out an outdoor store on Islamorada called World Wide Sportsman (which is actually operated by Bass Pro Shops, but that’s neither here nor there).

wpid-20140713_102026.jpgAside from being a cool place to look around, as are most Bass Pro Shops, this particular store had something that interested me.  According to Mr. R. the store had a fishing boat that is the twin of the one used in the Keys by Ernest Hemingway.  Okay, it’s not his boat, but it’s one just like it.

And so it is that we stopped in at World Wide Sportsman.  We found the large shop fairly uncrowded and sure enough, the Pilar was sitting smack-dab in the center of the place.  Again, the Pilar is not Hemingway’s boat.  It just happened to be built at the same Brooklyn shipyard and is a twin of the more famous one that is supposed to be in Cuba these days.  But I was curious all the same.

Some years ago, I read an interesting novel by Michael Palin (yes, that Michael Palin, the one from Monty Python) called Hemingway’s Chair.  In the story, a mousy postal worker with a fascination for all things Hemingway learns that Papa’s fishing chair is about to be sold at auction and he schemes for ways to make the chair his own.

And so, having left the others browsing for souvenirs and trinkets, it was with curious interest that I climbed aboard the Pilar with hopes of snapping a photo of Hemingway’s chair.  And there it was.  Right on the stern of the boat.  But it was unlike any fishing chair I’d ever seen.  It was made of highly polished wood and sat low with a beam that jutted forward from the seat parallel to the deck with a footrest at the end, so that if you were sitting in the chair, your legs would stick straight out in front of you.  As I puzzled over the unexpected style and how best to capture it with my trusty phone, a couple boarded the boat and the wife plunked herself down into the chair and began mugging for her husband’s camera.  Seriously?!

Annoyed, I took myself below deck, if only to escape the rampant dumb-assitude.  There, in the dimly lit cabin, I found something I liked even better than the fishing chair.  There was a vintage desk complete with typewriter and chair.  I know.  It’s not Hemingway’s typewriter.  But it was cool.  Plus, I thought it was the perfect illustration for one of my favorite Hemingway quotes: Write drunk.  Edit sober. 

So I snapped four pictures in fairly rapid succession.  I hurried, figuring Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum  would undoubtedly be down any second.  I had to use a flash in the murkiness of the room and I couldn’t actually see what I was getting, but I hoped that at least one photo would be good enough to post with the quote.

It was not until later when I wanted to choose the best shot that I saw something interesting.  I’ve arranged the photos in the exact order in which I took them.  In the first and second frames nothing seems out of the ordinary.  In the third you begin to see a hazy little anomaly to the left of the typewriter.  The anomaly is clearer in the fourth photo.

What is it?  I don’t know. Like I said before, I’m not really a huge believer in the whole ghostie thing.  But I’ve lived long enough to know that there are some things you simply can’t explain.

Saturday Night Serenade–Werewolves of London

Mr. R. and I are enjoying a quiet night at home this week.  The photo is from a party we attended last Saturday night.  Who doesn’t love to dress up in costume and hang out with great friends?

wpid-20151017_233042.jpegWe’re only a week away from Halloween.  There are so many good spooky songs that celebrate the season.  Next week I’ll probably post two, because I can’t decide between them.

Tonight’s serenade features the late, great Warren Zevon.  I maintain that Kid Rock, who I enjoy, ripped off this song for his All Summer Long, even though he says it’s Sweet Home Alabama.

Werewolves of London is such a cool song with a perfect piano riff as the hook.  Feel free to howl along.  Have a wonderful Saturday night!

October Story Two

Here’s a second October story.  Copied and pasted from an old post, it describes a time I visited the Riddle House at the South Florida Fairgrounds.  It was not my first visit, but it was the first time I went with a mind to look for ghosts.  I’ve said it before, I’m not really a ‘ghostie’ kind of person.  However, after having some personal experiences I still can’t explain, I’ve become somewhat more open-minded about certain things.  More on that in another October story. 

I should mention that I have visited the Riddle House several times since the time described in this post and I haven’t had any more odd experiences.  But this was weird.  See what you think.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  On the closing weekend of the South Florida Fair, I was thrilled to find out that Mr. R. and I had been given free tickets.  I’m not much of a rider of fair rides, but I love to walk along smelling the fair food, checking out the livestock (one day I will have chickens), and of course, I needed the annual hand-dipped corndog with loads of mustard.  But none of those were the main reason I was excited.

Situated at the fairgrounds is an area called Yesteryear Village, a collection of historic buildings, houses, barns, and artifacts dating from 1875 to 1945, comprising a “history park.”  Some of of the buildings and artifacts been moved to the fairgrounds from their original locations, while other structures and items are reproductions.

One of those original historic buildings is the Riddle House, an early 20th century farmhouse, and it was the object of my attention that day.  The house was built shortly after 1900 in downtown West Palm Beach on the edge of the Woodlawn Cemetery.  At the time it was known as the “Gatekeeper’s Cottage” and it was used as a funeral parlor.

There are various stories of tragedies that happened in relation to the home. According to news reports, a cemetery worker was killed at the house during an argument with a local man.  Some years later a man called Karl Riddle became city manager and he and his family moved into the home.  During the time the Riddles lived in the house, an employee hanged himself in the attic.  Over the years, there have been stories of strange and unexplained happenings and it is said that the Riddle family finally left because they found it too frightening to stay.  After the Riddles moved out, several business attempted to operate in the house but none ever remained very long, some blaming unexplained experiences for their departure.

Much later the house was known for a time as Dobbs House, a women’s dorm at Palm Beach Atlantic College, before being condemned by the city in 1980 and slated for demolition due to disrepair.   A Riddle relative wanted to preserve the historical value of the building and had it moved to Yesteryear Village where it was restored and is now occasionally open for tours.

It’s open for tours, for example, during the South Florida Fair, which brings me back to where we started.  I had heard the rumors about the Riddle House.  I also know that some paranormal television shows have been there to investigate, the most famous of which was the team from Ghost Adventures, which I consider one of the least reputable of that lot.

But I was excited to have the chance to check out the house for myself.  I made sure my camera battery was fully charged and as Mr. R. and I approached the house, I began snapping pictures.  We walked into the house and toured the first and second floors.  The rooms were roped off so that you could only peer inside the from the doorways.  I found the house charming, neatly restored and decorated with period furnishings, decorations, examples of clothing and accessories, and home fashions.  I took pictures in every room open to the public.  Notably off-limits was the attic.  I overheard some other guests touring the home talking about the hauntings and I had the feeling that the docents were absolutely over hearing about ghosts.

When we got home I loaded the pictures on my computer.  At first I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary and to be honest, I really didn’t expect that I would.

HOWEVER, these are the first three pictures I took as we walked up to the house.  Notice the right window upstairs.  In the first two pictures, it looks as though someone is lifting up the corner of the curtain to peek outside.  You don’t see that in the third picture.

We didn’t notice this while we were there.  It was only after we were home looking at the pictures that we saw the difference.  The obvious logical explanation is that someone is up there looking out the window.  EXCEPT that the room is roped off.  We looked into that room from the doorway.  The window is all the way across the room on the opposite wall.  You can’t get to the window without crossing the rope.  And there is a lady just in the hallway to make sure you don’t do that.

So…I don’t know.  It makes a decent October story.  There are still a couple more…

Saturday Night Serenade–Witchcraft

I’m in a Halloween-y sort of mood.  There are quite a few songs that fit the bill.  But tonight I’m going all retro.

Precious few have ever been as cool as Frank Sinatra.  Even if you’ve heard all the stories about how he was ‘connected’.  Or maybe in spite of them.  I can never look at him and not think about Johnny Fontane from The Godfather.

There was one about the time he paid a guy $50 to punch writer Dominick Dunne, a fact oddly mentioned in Dunne’s obituary.  The man apologized beforehand.  “It’s not the money.  I’m afraid not to.”

Frank Sinatra cool............Happy Friday.:

Another story tells about the time a valet brought his car around.  “What’s the biggest tip you ever got?” he asked the young man.  “$100,” he answered.  Frank gave him $200 and asked who gave him the $100.  “You did, sir.  Last week,” was the reply.

But back to Halloween.  Here’s Frank Sinatra singing Witchcraft, a perfect song for an October Saturday night.  You might even take the one you love and foxtrot to this smooth classic.  Happy Saturday night!

October Story One

I’m rerunning my October stories to get in the Halloween spirit.  Okay, bad pun, but when else can I tell some of my favorites?  I hope you enjoy.

October has always been my favorite month.  One reason is that my birthday’s in October.   I’ve always loved Halloween, too.  Spooky stories are fun.  My family has our own family ghost story, passed down through the years.  It involves a woman named Della Barnes, a distant relative who was born in 1874.

According to family legend, Della was was a beautiful young woman who was married to a doctor.  While he was busy out healing the sick of western Kentucky, she was reportedly at home having an affair with an ardent suitor.  When her doctor husband discovered the truth, he surgically removed several fingers from both of her hands, the better to make her unattractive to other men.  The story goes on to say that when she died several years later, he had a statue of her erected at her grave in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah.  The statue, it is said, originally featured Della’s hands completely intact, but after several days, the exact fingers she was missing mysteriously dropped off, and continued to do so after repeated attempts to repair them.

della barnes

These were stories my grandmother told us, and they were backed up by our visits to the cemetery where we saw for ourselves the statue of Della complete with missing fingers.  By the time I saw it, vandals had also dripped red paint down the front of her dress, for effect, I suppose.

I took this photo from Google Images because I couldn’t find any of ours from back in the day.  Sadly, the last time my brother visited the cemetery, the statue had been broken in half and lay in ruins, again the work of vandals.

The truth was somewhat disappointing.  According to the original obituary from 1887, Della Barnes died from an accidental morphine overdose at the age of 22.  (If I’m disappointed, think about poor Della.)  She was never married, and thus never had a romantic fling with a mysterious stranger.  And, as far as anyone knows, she had all her digits at the time of her death.

Regardless of the circumstances of her death or her physical condition at the time, there are local reports of people seeing the ghost of Della Barnes walking the paths of Oak Grove Cemetery on moonlit nights.  She’s probably looking for the little shits who broke her statue.

While ghostie stuff is not necessarily my bag, baby, stay tuned.  I just might have another little spine-chiller up my sleeve before Halloween.

Shameless Book Plug

Cover for Rannigan's Redemption Part 1 Resisting risk FINALIt’s only every once in a while that I allow my worlds to collide like this, but I’m in promotion mode.  Plus it’s my birthday, so we’ll just call it my gift to me.  The following is copied and pasted from my author blog, Luke & Bella.

I am beyond thrilled to present the cover for my new spicy contemporary romance, Rannigan’s Redemption Part 1: Resisting Risk.  It’s the first book of a trilogy about the complicated relationship between Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan and Maggie Flynn, a young lawyer fresh out of law school.

Most of the action takes place in New York City.  There is crisp dialogue, exciting courtroom drama, and, of course, sexy romance.

I’m hoping that Michael and Maggie become favorite characters you’ll want to return to again and again.  Here’s a sneak peek at the book description.

     Brilliant Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan has his life arranged exactly the way he likes it. As a founding partner at the law firm of Murphy, Rannigan, & Metheny, he can let his underlings do the legwork on the high profile defense cases his exclusive 50th floor division handles. He prefers to simply breeze in and do what he does best: dazzle juries and charm the press.
His private life is well-ordered, too. Michael doesn’t have the time or the patience for relationships. Instead, he has a contact list of hot blondes who meet his needs at any given moment, whether it’s a date to a gallery opening or awards show. Or he just wants to get laid.
Some people would call him shallow. But they’re just envious.
Maggie Flynn has her life mapped out as well. After she graduates from law school she plans to take a job with the Prosecutor’s Office where she interned. But when she attends a job fair and meets Michael Rannigan, her plans change. She’s studied his cases, even heard him speak once. He’s smart and sexy and she can’t resist interviewing with him.
Michael hires Maggie and has her assigned to his elite 50th floor team. He knows smart when he sees it. He also sees the spark in her eyes. She wants him. And having her nearby strokes his ego. It’s not like anything will come of it, she’s so far from his type. But there’s something unsettling about Mary Margaret Flynn, like she can see through his bullshit in a way no one else ever bothered to do.
Maggie realizes that her crush on Michael is all but hopeless. He’s a self-absorbed womanizer. But beneath that cool exterior, she’s seen the man he can be and she’s sure that love can bring that out. In the meantime, she’s content to work with him.
What would happen if they ever crossed that line?

The release date is December 8, 2015.  Rannigan’s Redemption Part 1: Resisting Risk is now available for pre-order at these fine retailers.





A Birthday Celebration. Or A Warning?


I love October.  The days are shorter and cooler.  The leaves change from plain old green to brilliant autumn colors.  In places where there are seasons, anyway.  Here in South Florida, we get fall color when the Methodist church sells pumpkins out front all month.

Halloween comes in October.  Who doesn’t love dressing up and going out.  As a kid, I went for candy.  These days I’m in search of something more along the lines of adult beverages.  The more the better.

Speaking of Halloween, I guess it’s time to rerun some of my ghost stories.  They’re odd but true.

October 14 is a special day.  I’ve loved it since I was a kid.  It happens to be my birthday.  If you were reading this blog last year, you’ll know that I was freaking the heck out. It was the number, you see.

If you weren’t along for the ride back then, I’m not going to dig up the archives for you.  It was not my finest moment.

But not this year.  I’m not going to fret.  I’ve just decided I’m gonna rock this bitch like I own the place.

Happy-Birthday-King2I want to give a celebratory shout-out to my twin over at The Aging Sub who shares the same birthday.  Be sure to go over there and wish her a Happy Birthday.

I’m pretty sure Libras are the best.  🙂