Category Archives: Gothic

Summer Peregrinations: Joan Bennett and Sherlock Holmes

Last week, Yang and I made one of our periodic visits to Joan Bennett’s final resting spot in Lyme, Ct.  We had planned to try to clear up any overgrowth as well as pay our respects, but, fortunately, the caretakers had mown the cemetery and Alixandra Lindberg (on a brave February visit) had put things on the grave stone in order.  In fact, I can’t praise Alixandra  enough for the fabulous job she did on Joan’s headstone.  You can see that clearly in this picture.  A tip of one of my many hats to you, Alixandra (I have about 136 of them!).  There was an old Christmas wreath at the grave, but we didn’t remove it because we didn’t know if a family member had left it. Doing so felt intrusive.
The cemetery is a small one, but it’s pretty. We even saw some Phoebes flitting about – birds not girls.  Across the road used to be a riding stable, now closed, sadly.  I used to think Joan would have liked that location, given her experience as a rider – except for  the Gilda Grey incident.
All we really needed to do was clip some overhanging grass with scissors and brush away some dirt.  Yang did the clipping and I did the brushing.  Here’s photographic evidence of me with a brush, anyway.  By the way, Yang made that gorgeous blue blouse I’m wearing.  There’s little he can’t do!

 

We didn’t just go to see Joan – that’s a two hour ride for a twenty-minute visit.  Afterwards, we went to the nearby town of Essex and had lunch at the Griswold Inn:  socially distancing of course.  We also wore our masks – except when we were eating. Then we drove to fairly nearby  Gillette Castle, built by William Gillette at the turn into the twentieth century.  Gillette was a famous Sherlock Holmes  for his day.  Kind of an early twentieth-century Benjamin, er, Benedict Cumberbund, um, bach – you know whom I mean!  Fortunately, there were few people around, so we hiked the extensive wooded grounds, avoided poison ivy,  and saw many Bluebirds!  Gorgeous! We also strolled around the outside of the castle and enjoyed the gardens and the extraordinary views of the Connecticut River below.  Just for fun, we had taken the car ferry across the river to get to the castle.  The ride was under ten minutes, but hey, nice river views. Even nicer views from the terrace of the castle.  Imagine waking up every morning to these images.

So, it was a lovely expedition and a lovely way to spend the day.  You may not see us wearing our masks in the pictures, but that’s only because we took them when no one else was around at all!  We also picked places to go where infectious incidents were low, as well as a time of day and day of the week when most people would not be visiting.  No dangerous interchanges!  So, I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour and adventure.

The Marvelous Marble of the Barre Cemetery

I hadn’t had a chance to do up a blog of this wonderful, remarkable cemetery in Barre, VT before,  which Yang and I visited three years ago in the Fall.  What makes the spot so unique?  Well, this town in Vermont is famous for its marble quarrying and this local product is beautifully worked to produce the most creative, unique monuments.  Many of these take on unique forms to honor the life work or interests of those they honor in death.
Thus,  you can find a musician with this apt memorial.  I wonder what instrument this person played?

 

 

 

 

Appropriately, this man was a sculptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re a fan of Dr.  Who, don’t blink. Otherwise,  you could be pursued by those pesky stone aliens by car or plane.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fukuda family chose to celebrate their Japanese heritage with this rendition of a Japanese house.

This man seems to be dreaming of or lovingly guided by the spirit of his late wife, though her wafting out of cigarette smoke probably wouldn’t please the Surgeon General.

There are also some startlingly unique works of funerary art, such as the following:

 

 

 

The blocks
The pyramids

 

 

 

 

The open book, as in his life was  an. . . all in French.

And there were more traditional statues, equally beautiful. There was the Pieta.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the traditional weeping women.

 

 

 

 

 

I particularly love the detail you can see in this closeup shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we can never forget the angels and urns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also striking columns

  

 

and mausoleums
and reliefs:

 

All were lovely to see on a clear Vermont Sunday morning, with the fall colors tinting the trees in gorgeous contrast to the blue skies and white wisps of clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures at Tower Hill

Last Sunday, I managed to take a day off from working on novel #4 to join my two buddies MaryLynn Saul and Judy Jeon-Chapman for a lovely nature walk.  Judy suggested that we visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in  Boylston, Ma – one of my favorite places. We also met Judy’s friend, the bubbly Christina, along the way – who shared a lovely picture of the four of us with me.  In addition to wonderful plants and flowers, the Garden also has intriguing wind sculptures integrated into the greenery (amongst other colors). You can see one example behind MaryLynn and Judy here.
I also couldn’t help photographing some flowers that intrigued me, though there are too many to record.  But I do love the blue color of these lovely blossoms.  Are they large Forget-Me-Nots?  I’d love to have them in my garden.  I think they like shade.  I was also delighted to see these brilliantly scarlet flowers.  I had posted photos I’d seen of similar flowers when on a bike ride once, in hopes of getting an identification.  Several of my friends pronounced them Cardinal Flowers, and the card underneath these confirmed that i.d.  Problem solved!

 

The Gardens also possess a lovely wooded trail, filled with artfully placed sculpture that make you feel as if you had wandered into a Renaissance pastoral play or novel.  Here’s Cupid, ready to fire off his arrows to spark the typical green- world love tangles. The glorius rays of the sun glint through the leaves, but will not burn us
An ancient Greek warrior peers out at us from the lost past, before this return to the Golden Age when honey and acorns dropped from trees.
Enjoy the ruins in which to recline and play your pipes or sigh away the hours in languid otium.

Gracefully sculpted urns are always conducive to pastoral ease – especially if they might hold delectable libation – and I’m not talking Moxie here.
My fellow mystery readers and writers might look at this picture and question, “What’s this?!  What are they looking at?! Trouble in paradise?  A murdered corpse discovered in the woods?”  Sorry, mystery lovers.  It was just a sign about fairies in the woods.  If it makes you feel better, maybe they’re referring to traditional Medieval and Renaissance Fairies.  Like this!
We also found this lovely rotunda with the words “Peace” inscribed on it.  I thought it would be hilariously ironic for MaryLynn and I to stand under the word and pretend to strangle each other – she and Judy decided otherwise.  Not everyone shares the Healy sense of humor. So, here you have a nice picture of MaryLynn and I before the structure, me holding the dahlias that Judy had purchased from the Dahlia Show that day. They actually go with my blouse.

 

 

All images,  from author’s collection except:

1.the header from Christine Yen

2) the public domain image of the deamon fairy from:  https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/fantasies-evil-spirits-faeries-medieval-imagination-007445

Definitely, Don’t Blink! Evergreen Cemetery Portland, Maine

So, at last I have a moment to finally post a blog on the Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine.  According to the cemetery’s web site, Evergreen was created in 1854, designed by Charles H. Howe, in the rural landscape style initiated in this country at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  Yang and I went to Evergreen twice on our trip. The first time was on  a beautiful sunny and breezy Friday afternoon.  This was the visit where got the most pictures.  I was not disappointed by the greenery or the Romantic/Gothic sculptures atop the graves. 
Here we have some beautiful reliefs. One of my favorite reliefs was this dove, ancient with a a touch of bright orange lichen. We saw other statuary painted even more with this orange, as well as the more expected dark or pale green.  There were also these more modern doves, sculpted in bronze and gracefully merged into the granite memorial, along a twining bronze vine.  Lovely!

 

 

 

 

 

You can tell that these are the graves of seafaring people.  They don’t call it Portland for nothing!  The first photo shows a relief of an anchor and the second of a mast on the waves.  This second seems worn down and weathered more than the first.  Yang and I had a bit of a time trying to discern exactly what it was at first.  Dr. Physicist was the first to figure it out!  What would my Dad from the Navy say?
There were also some neat mausoleums!  These two are in graceful classical style.

This one is modern with a lovely carved dove and beautiful stained glass.  Like the mausoleums above, it maintains a sense of stillness, grace, and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my favorite part to put on display, the one that give Dr. Whovians nightmares!  The angels and other figures. There were quite a number of grieving young women, young women pointing  souls victoriously upward to salvation, and – of course – angels.  Here are some of the most interesting.
A woman stands proudly for victory of the soul over grief and death, reaching into the blue and rising up with the ascent of the powerful tree behind her.

 

 

 

 

This victorious female incarnation of the soul bring us back to the seafaring nature of the Portland.  She holds an anchor, not to weigh her down but to assert the integrity of the sailing family whose life she honors and whose life after death she raises.

 

 

Another grieving female leans on a cross, perhaps embodying the soul’s dependence on Christ’s sacrifice on the holy cross.  Does she grieve for her own death, those she leaves behind, the stains on her soul, or for the death of her Savior?  I’ll also call your attention to the brilliant orange lichen encrusting the carven figure.  It lends beauty, but the lichen is also a life form that thrives on the monument to death, eating away at it to survive.  Dust to dust or dead stone to plant life?

 

 

As a writer, I find this angel especially interesting, for it is a writer, too!  Is it improving on Milton, telling the REAL story of our Paradise lost?  Is it recording the history of the family interred around the monument?  Do we need to climb up on the monument to see what’s actually written there – not advisable!

 

Then, here are a few gravestones I found interesting.  A globe, some Celtic crosses, an urn – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also some ponds to the rear of the cemetery that back up to a woody nature trail.  On the second day, we had the good fortune to see this guy in one of the ponds!

Wouldn’t all the maples in this graveyard look gorgeous in autumn’s colorful splendor?  I’ve got to make it back here then!

 

Edson Cemetery Takes the Bronze

Some people head for the Edson Cemetery in Lowell because they want to visit Jack Keruac’s grave.  Me, I’m more interested in visiting my own late  family’s digs – so to speak.  Something else that has always fascinated me about this graveyard are the two bronze (or bronze-coated) statues that dominate the landscape.  Ever since I was a kid, when my parents brought me here, I always insisted in checking out the statues of Passaconaway and the giant elk honoring the B.P.O.E.
The day Yang and I took these pictures  was really sunny, We found that when we were shooting straight up at the sky, the colors tended to wash out or the darks and lights formed too severe a contrast to capture detail.  So, my apologies for those photos that look washed out.  You can perceive more detail if you click on the photo to see a larger version of your computer or iPad screen.

 

The story behind Passaconaway is especially interesting.  He was a Sachem of the Penacook tribe in the 16th and 17th centuries who united the Wamesit and Pawtucket tribes in a protective league against the Mohawks, whose territory extended from Western, Mass.  His organization of tribes  drew on a democratic order that later influenced the establishment of English settlements.  He kept peaceful terms with the  Europeans immigrants, allowing the them to settle in what is now Chelmsford and Billerica.  In fact these immigrants admired his wisdom, honor, and good governance.  After his death, sadly, the Europeans proved aggressive and greedy, driving off their predecessors from their rightful lands (Kelley).  At least the names Wamesit and Pawtucket remain in circulation in the Merrimack Valley area, as well as other First Nation names. According to marie Donovan, the statue was commissioned by the Improved Order of Red Men in 1899, but had not been kept up over since 1967. I can well remember the changes in its appearacne over the years that I lived in Lowell.  In the twenty-first century, the organization turned to “Fred Hein and his students in the metal-fabrication shop at Greater Lowell Technical High School” to do repairs and return the statue to its glory (Donovan).

The Elks Rest Statue is also a monument that intrigued me as a child.  I have seen it refurbished over the years, but have not been able to find any background material on the statue other than that it honors deceased members of the B.P.O.E.  If anyone could add something, like when it was created and by whom, I’d love to hear.  I could incorporate the info into this blog – giving you credit of course!

 

 

 

History of Passaconaway: Michael Kelley, Tewksbury Town Crier, 12/02/2017.http://homenewshere.com/tewksbury_town_crier/news/article_e16632ee-9dbd-11e9-b94c-2b88e245c7a4.html#tncms-source=article-nav-prev
Statue Refurbishment:  Marie Donovan, “Refurbished statue of Chief Passaconaway rededicated Sunday in Lowell”  The Lowell Sun. 5/20/2011.  http://www.lowellsun.com/rss/ci_18103578

 

An Autumn Stroll in Crystal Lake Cemetery

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As autumn slips into winter, I thought it would be nice to share some images from the Crystal Lake Cemetery when the season was just beginning and color was gradually flashing into the foliage.  One Friday afternoon, Yang and I took a drive out to the cemetery for a walk and some photos, just as the sun was starting its creep into the other hemisphere.  The view across Crystal Lake beautifully gleamed with  setting sunlight. You could also see the windmills and classroom buildings at Wachusett Community College, glowing pink along with the clouds.

 

Most of the trees were still green, but there were several beautiful trees that asserted their flaming orange glory in the vanguard of seasonal change.  You might see one tree peeping from behind the out buildings.  While another slender being rose and asserted itself amongst more imposing or darker trees with its delicate blending of yellow into orange flame  from above a traditional New England stone wall.

 

I love the way this tree stands out amidst the graves:
And how about this tree tossing it’s flaming foliage against the gorgeously pure, soft blue of a fall afternoon?

Notice that flash of fire behind the weather-worn statue of the little girl atop a child’s grave.
And  there I go, with a pair of jeans that color coordinate with the tree I’m walking past.

 

So, what’s Yang pointing to here?  Must be one of thebeautiful tombstones in this small but wonderfully located cemetery.

 

 

 

I love this shot of the stones complimented by the colorful foliage across the pond. But there are some more unique stones to appreciate.

 

 

 

Consider this beautifully done Celtic Cross, for instance:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, there is this intriguing piece where the rock appears to be only partially hewn into a monument to the Lord family.

 

 

 

Particularly interesting is this enormous tree that almost seems to engulf a family’s several tombstones.  I wonder if they had any idea how much it would expand when they first planted the enormous (I think) maple.  It’s a little hard to distinguish the leaves.  Well, this tree expanded way beyond what you might expect.  If you check out the photo below, you will see that one of the graves has been devoured by the tree.  There’s a Lovecraft story in there somewhere – or maybe just a Lucy poem by Wordsworth.  Let’s hope the latter.

 

 

 

I’m especially caught up with this stone image of a woman raised up against the autumn sky, gently darkening blue, swirled with cloud white, her lineaments shadowed by approaching dusk.  Haunting.  Lovely and haunting.

 

 

So, our visit ends and we will head off before it’s too dark and have a cozy dinner at a pub in Leominster.  We may not have had a lot of foliage this autumn, but we were able to enjoy some splashes of beauty!

 

 

Charles Island: Haunting and Serene

The ground may be covered with snow right now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Yang and I had an autumn day at the beach.  Of course, it was kind of a gothic day at the beach because we were visiting one of the famous Five Ruins of Connecticut, The Aquinas Retreat at Charles Island.
We hadn’t planned on starting the grand tour, but our love of ruins has already taken us to two of the locations in the set. I  posted our earlier visit to Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, CT. So, that Sunday afternoon, we trekked down to Milford, CT to finally get the chance to travel the tombolo out across the bay to

the island.  This trip had been on our agenda for years, but getting to the island is no easy feat – not because of  reefs, pirates, or sea monsters, though.  The ocean only subsides from the tombolo  during low tide and this land path  is only dry and clear enough when the moon and sun exert their strongest gravitational pull.  On top of that, colonies of egrets and cranes nest on the island from April until September, so the Wildlife Service has deemed Charles Island off limits during that time.
There’s a legend about the island holding  Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure, but the treasure we found were beautiful ocean scenes and fun walking and exploring the edges of the island that has a circumference of a bout a mile.  The going could be a bit rocky and uneven when you start out counterclockwise, but you get to enjoy the gorgeous ocean bay as much as do the lounging cormorants.

 

Then there are the ruins of the Aquinas Retreat Center.  Not many extensive ruins  to find.  Built in 1929 by the Dominican Fathers as a lay retreat, it was abandoned by 1938.  Perhaps storms or difficult access for supplies undermined its success. At this point, there are barely the scraps of stone and mortar outlines left to some out buildings and small towers.

There was also one lovely archway. I wonder if this structure could be the remains of an entrance to a chapel or shrine.

 

This space must have been a wonderful location for contemplation and communing with God through nature amidst the calls of wild birds, the surge of waves, and the rush of wind.

We also saw some nice smaller birds on the island.  Yang got a great shot of an Eastern Kingbird.

And while I was watching birds, Yang was watching me!

It was such a lovely, warm and sunny fall afternoon.  There were families and young and old couples, also making the circuit of the island, but never so many you’d feel crowded – and the cormorants didn’t seem to mind.

Say, what do you think of this place for setting a mystery novel?  In the 1860s, there was resort here.  Maybe Jessica and James need a vacation, or Liz needs a retreat – Naagh, no shopping!

Tarrying Awhile at Hearthstone Castle

I’m heading back to school this week. So before work gets too hot and heavy, I want to post a blog on one of the wonderful short trips Yang and I took when  we went away for two days.  The first day was a visit to NYC to explore Central Park and have a yummy tea at Alice’s Teacup – another blog on that later!  The second day, as we made our way back from where we’d stayed  in Milford, brought us to Danbury’s Tarrywile Park and the Hearthstone Castle.  If you click here, there’s a wonderful history on this link about the castle.

We walked up a fairly short, but decidedly steep, wooded path to be greeted with this sight.  What a pity that the castle has been defaced and let go into such disrepair.  Still, it was deliciously eerie, with the afternoon sunlight rising in a clearing amidst the trees.  Note the turrets with sharp field stones acting as the crenellation.  There in front was the portico where the wealthy would arrive in their carriages to be dropped off at the door for a summer weekend in the country or a formal dinner or ball.  They must have had a ballroom! And here I am walking quite determinedly up to get a closer view, braving  assault from ticks and poison ivy.

 

 

 

We took some neat shots of the ruins, so you could see the sky pouring blue through a window in the back wall out to you from a smashed window or a broken wall  in front of you.  Unfortunately, the sun was so bright  that it washed the blue right out of most of these shots.   I love the gorgeous turret here and wonder what kind of round rooms were inside on each floor.  The view must have been a delight. A great place to sit with your tea and a good book.  Perhaps a Scarlet Tanager or Rosebreasted Grosbeak might fly by, even perch on the ledge?  Looking through the smashed windows, where the boards had been pried away, you could also see the brick that lined or insulated the interior where the material covering the interior walls had been stripped away.  I couldn’t help recalling the marvelous ruined abbeys I’d seen on my trip to England – sky gleaming blue through soaring arches and graceful architecture.  Of course, this ruin is on a much smaller scale – and more jagged than the medieval constructions.  Still, doesn’t the setting lend itself to a novel?  Hmm, maybe that’s what I’m working out in my mind here.

 

 

 

Here’s a neat farewell shot of the ruin.  I’m not sure if Yang or I took it.  I would love to go back in the fall, when the leaves turn gorgeous!  You should make a visit, too.  And remember that the park has lots of inviting hiking trails.  Yeah, I think this place has to make it into a novel.  It’s just so Thornfield or Manderly!

P.S.  A tip of one of my many hats to Robert Johnson for putting me wise to this site.

 

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery Part 2

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 I promised you a second post on our adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, so here it is!  This blog will concentrate on the unique statuary gracing the cemetery.  However, to begin, I want to revisit two of the monuments I showed you last time out.  I’ve done some additional research and discovered intriguing background on them.
First is this beauty.  I wrote about it as a penitent soul being ministered by an angel.  However, I found out that it has an intriguing back story.  A mill girl had saved up a considerable sum over the years, planning for a special monument to be erected upon her death, which came to pass in 1886, after a long life.  For various reasons, her plans weren’t implemented until some after her burial.  Finally, when everything came together for the tomb stone to be created, there was $8000 available (lots of dough back then!),  and those left in charge employed Daniel Chester French (creator of the Minute Man Monument) to create this work of art (Chris Camire).

 

This monument to the Bonney family has been the subject of all kinds of crazy stories about witches and hauntings.  However, the truth  is that it is just a remarkable monument to the Bonney family (“Mysterious Witch Bonney”).  It was created by Frank Elwell, the director of the Sculpture Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He titled the monument “New Life”(Camire), no references to witchcraft at all!  The tomb honors Clara Bonney, who died relatively young in 1894, as well as other members of her family (Camire) – which kind precludes the monument housing the remains of anyone executed in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s as some like to claim.  I’m just saying . . .
Maybe the most remarkable monument, definitely the most well known, is this gorgeous recumbent lion. Called the Ayer Lion it memorializes James Ayer, a business man so prominent that he has a major street named after him in the city.  The face is so powerfully expressive you almost forget it’s not a human.  The lion is made of the finest Italian marble and was created in Italy, by Price Joy (“The Ayer Lion,” Lowell Cemetery).

 

 

 

I don’t have any  back stories on the following statuary, but I think their beauty speaks for itself.  I did note that books and publishing seemed popular, with two monuments taking the forms of volumes.   I believe this one on the right  honors two publishing partners.   I also found the one below that showed the “open volume” of one man’s life, resting steadfast on a rock.

 

 

 

 

 

And below, is a closeup of the text of his life.

There were also some funky, creative shapes.  I love the intertwining of initials here with what could be some form of a Celtic cross.

 

I can’t even begin to tell you what this thing is supposed to be – but it does have a kind of Lovecraftian flavor,  does it not?  Speaking of Lovecraft, there were some people taking pictures of a wonderfully goth-coutured wedding party.  The groom had perfect H.P.  hair, glasses, and suit!  We exchanged conspiratorial smiles as Yang and I drove by!

 

Of course there were also plenty of  angels, women ready to guide you to the unknown, and wise matrons. Something that gave many of these statues a wonderfully eerie quality was that, as Yang noted, they hadn’t been cleaned, so they frequently were aged with wear from the elements.  This woman bearing a cross is a particularly good example.  Is she coming to get me or guide me?  Her blurred features make her seem unnervingly not quite human and her motives ambivalent.
Others could be put in unique settings like atop a tall monument or caged within the marble barriers of something like a spire.  I see the woman above as a symbol of the heaven to which we all aspire above us. Holding a victory wreath, she implies if we reach her we can achieve the victory of salvation.   Perhaps she is a guide waiting in a liminal space to lead us ever upward.  Still, what about the woman encased in marble.  Does she need to be kept in to protect us?  Don’t blink!

 

 

Uh oh!  Hope that Whovian reference wasn’t too unnerving!  Here’s a picture of the victory lady in closeup to comfort you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what better way to end an October visit to a Romantic cemetery than with an autumn moon in a pure blue October sky?  Keats would surely approve.

Below are the web sites where I found the background information not evident from just looking at the monuments.  Check them out for more information and photos:

Chris Camire.  “What a Site!  The Lowell Cemetery Celebrates Its 175th Anniversary and ‘The Serenity of Nature.'” The Lowell Sun. 16 June 2016.  http://www.lowellsun.com/lifestyles/ci_30022685/what-site

“The History of the Ayer Lion”  Lowell Cemetery. 2015.  http://www.lowellcemetery.com/

“The Mysterious Witch Bonney.” Atlas Obscura.  2017. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mysterious-witch-bonney