Friday, May 31, 2013

Phoenix Comicon 2013

What a great year for Phoenix Comicon! There were tons of guests that interested me.  The cast of Babylon 5 was there for their 20th anniversary. John Barrowman, of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Arrow fame was present. The cast of a new web series- Star Trek Continues came. (Grant Imahara of Mythbusters plays Sulu) There were Walking Dead panels, Farscape panels, Jewel Staite of Firefly, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig of the original Star Trek, Amanda Tapping from Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Sanctuary, Dean Cain from Lois and Clark, and what comicon would be complete without Wil Wheaton of Star Trek Next Generation, Stand By Me, Big Bang Theory, and Eureka. And that's JUST the TV/movie personalities.

 Nichelle Nichols, "Uhura"-  Star Trek
       Wil Wheaton

  Babylon 5, 20th anniversary panel

I went to Awesome Hour with Wil Wheaton, and he had my sides splitting. The show was basically his stand-up, followed by a Q&A session. It was supposed to be a PG-13 show, but it might have leaned a little on the R side. That's ok by me, though. My 13 year old blushed a few times, but the "spicy dick milk" story had us all laughing so hard, we may have ruptured organs.

The Babylon 5 panel was just fantastic. It was soooo nice to see the group back together. The tributes and shared memories of the cast members who have passed on was very touching. J Michael Straczynski told a great story about creating a fake storyline for G'Kar, wherein he undergoes a spontaneous sex change and ends up in bed with Lando. He remained committed to the prank up to and including having Andreas Katsulas fitted for prosthetic "narn boobs." I wish they had actually filmed some scenes. What a riot! Mira Furlan gave a moving speech about how the show was a blessing for her after she fled Yugoslavia. When she felt she had lost her home, the cast of Babylon 5 made her feel welcome. She talked about how the fans themselves really made her feel that America was now "home."
   Mira Furlan, "Delenn" talks about what B5 meant to her.

And then there was John Barrowman. That man is a bundle of energy. Hilarious, sexy energy. He got a phone number from a Marine, discussed his possible stripper names, and had the BEST photo ops.
Check them out. I don't know how someone stays that chipper after hugging hundreds of strangers. (and being picked up by them, butt squeezed by them, etc.) He's definitely a good sport about it.
   John Barrowman gets the crowd excited for photo ops.

There were great cosplayers- everything from Star Wars to Steampunk.

And a few surprises. :)

The only downside was the size of the crowd this year- bigger than ever. Holy insanity, Batman!
I haven't seen official numbers yet, but my friends and I were guessing it might have hit 60,000. (Edit- the numbers are out now, and it was 55, 331, so I wasn't too far off.)
This was the first time that there were lines to get into lines. But things went pretty smoothly, despite the crowd. Even a fire alarm on Sunday didn't cause nearly as much havoc as it could have. So kudos to the staff and volunteers. They had a huge mess to deal with and they managed it beautifully.

I had a great time, as always. Heck, I got to meet and talk with a personal "hero" of mine- Ed Edmunds from Making Monsters. If you haven't seen this show on Travel Channel, check it out. It's a great look into prop-making and haunted houses. (I love Halloween, so this is right up my alley)
  me with Marsha and Ed Edmunds, of Distortions Unlimited, and Making Monsters

I can't wait to see what Phoenix Comicon has up its sleeve for next year. This con just keeps getting better and better!

Check out my pics on Flickr!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Great Grandma, the Murderer?

I have recently been doing a lot of research into my family tree. I got a subscription to, I signed up with, and every tip I've gotten, I have followed up with my own personal research. What I have found has been more fascinating than I ever could have imagined.

It started with a few little finds, like- I thought my mother's side was heavily Irish, in fact, it is heavily Scottish, with just a little Irish thrown in for good measure. I discovered that my French ancestors on my father's side, left France because they were Huguenots, fleeing the persecution of them by the Catholics. Multiple ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, multiple ancestors were founders of towns, and many many more were simply farmers, working the land.

One revelation, however, was a bit more of a shock.

On my mother's side, one of my great-grandmothers had the maiden name of Taulbee.
So I began searching for her parents. I found them easily enough, and in fact, was able to trace the entire Taulbee line right back to the first couple to have come to America. There is no record of their actual immigration, so it is speculated that they came from England, because they settled in the English, Puritan colony of Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1600s. Their names were John and Dorothy Talby. (Some records suggest her maiden name may have been Rawlinson, but that is not certain) They were my 11th Great-Grandparents.

Dorothy Talby was hanged for murder in 1638.

"Whoa." "I'm sorry...what??"

I had to look this one up for myself. It is true. The Puritans of Boston kept detailed records not only of the hanging, but of the events leading up to it.

From the Journal of John Winthrop:
"Dorothy Talbye was hanged at Boston for murdering her own daughter, a child of three years old. She had been a member of the church of Salem, and of good esteem for godliness, etc; but falling at difference with her husband, through melancholy or spiritual delusions, she sometimes attempted to kill him, and her children, and herself, by refusing meat, saying it was so revealed to her, etc.
 ...the church cast her out. Whereupon she grew worse; so as the magistrate caused her to be whipped. Whereupon she was reformed for a time and carried herself more dutifully to her husband, etc; but soon after, she was so possessed with Satan that he persuaded break the neck of her own child that she might free it from future misery."
 To sum up, Dorothy gave birth to a daughter, which she named "Difficulty" in 1636. I think the name says a lot. It would appear that after Difficulty's birth, Mrs. Talby began to suffer from either post-partum depression or some type of delusional mental disorder. Whatever was actually wrong with her, we'll never know. But she begins to have episodes wherein she physically beats her husband, she often refuses to eat, and she becomes increasingly aggressive and potentially dangerous to her family.
The church was the authority in this time, and so it is they who "handle" the situation.
They excommunicate Dorothy in 1637, and order her to be temporarily chained to a post in the center of town. Eventually, she is sent back home, but her behavior becomes worse, not better.
 (What a shocker. Chaining mentally ill people doesn't work? What??)
When John Talby complains that she has become a danger to his life, she is sentenced to be publicly whipped. For a while, she seems better, but by 1638, her behavior is becoming strange again. She claims to have visions from God, and he instructs her to kill her child, and eventually she does so by breaking the toddler's neck.
When she is arrested, she confesses, but at her trial, she refuses to speak until the Governor threatens to press her to death if she does not enter her plea. (Pressing to death is a gruesome sentence that requires heavy stones to be laid onto the person until they are crushed. It is a long, and agonizing death, and the only person known to have suffered this fate was Giles Corey, who was accused of being a wizard in the Salem witch trials)
Dorothy confesses to avoid this horrific fate. She is sentenced to death by hanging. She begs the court to behead her instead, as she believes this death will be swifter and less painful. They deny her plea. She is hanged to death on December 6th, 1638.

Her husband, John is censured in the church in March of 1639, for "much pride, and unnaturalness, to his wife, who was lately executed for murdering her child.” (from a letter by Pastor, Hugh Peter) He later moves to Salem, and dies there in 1645. Three children survive- Anne, Stephen and John. Stephen is my ancestor, and he became the captain of a trading ketch, named the Adventurer.

Dorothy's case is very well publicized. She was the 3rd woman ever to be executed in the colonies. But her case is more famous than the first two because the records in those cases are lost, whereas Dorothy's is well documented. Oliver Wendell Holmes referenced the Talby case in his book Medical Essays. In Main Street, writer Nathaniel Hawthorne shows Dorothy Talby, "chained to a post at the corner of Prison Lane, with the hot sun blazing on her matronly face, and all for no other offence than lifting her hand against her husband."

When I first learned of all of this, I was shocked of course. I actually didn't want to tell my mother and my grandfather who their ancestor was. I was worried that they'd feel ashamed to have such an infamous murderer connected to our family. But then, I started to just feel very sorry for her. Poor Dorothy. In another time, in another place, she might have gotten help. At minimum, she would have simply gone to a mental hospital or jail for the rest of her life, instead of being hanged. Today, she might have seen a therapist before it ever got bad enough for her to end up killing her own child. And how much of her mental disorder was aggravated by her husband's ill-treatment of her, and by the church's misunderstanding of how to treat mentally ill persons? When you see her this way, what is there to be embarrassed of? Every family, if you search hard enough, will have some members with scandalous backgrounds. Its just a matter of odds. If you survey any large section of people, you are bound to find a criminal or two.Ours was just more well-known. The tragedy is that this is all she is known for. It would seem from John Winthrop's writings that for most of her life, she was considered an upstanding member of the community. No doubt she had good qualities.
To me, and my family, our ancestor will be Dorothy Talby- the unfortunate victim of misinformed Puritan doctrine. But to history, my great-grandmother will always be Dorothy Talby- murderer.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Rocking Chair

I'm sick. I went to Phoenix Comicon over the Memorial Day weekend, and I came back with a case of the "con crud." I feel like doing utterly nothing, so I am going to finish up with my ghost stories.

So, I told you about the "light." That was pretty weird, and unsettling to me at the time, but it didn't have an overtly aggressive quality. I mean, it just went back and forth. It didn't attack me. But this story was a bit more scary for me. This felt more threatening.

I was a teenager, and I worked weekends at a local restaurant. I had just come home from work, and it was early evening- maybe 6 or 7 pm, so the light was beginning to dim, but it was nowhere near full dark yet. I came home to an empty house. There was a note in the kitchen that informed me that my parents and siblings had gone to one of my sister's soccer games and they would be home in a few hours. There was food in the fridge.
So, I warmed myself up a plate, sat down on the living room couch, and started to eat. We had a little beagle puppy at the time. Cute little bugger, just showed up in our yard one day, no tags, underfed. We adopted him. He planted himself at my feet, hoping for some scraps. I turned on the tv. The dog and I were just relaxing and eating, watching a show.

The power went out.

It did that a lot, so my first thought was just, "Shoot, now I have to get up and go find some candles or something." I had time for just that one thought. In the next second, the rocking chair that sits on the front porch began slamming itself into the window frame. WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM!!!

It wasn't just knocking against it. It was slamming full force. It looked like someone was beating it against the window. Except there was no one out there. No animal either.

There was no wind. Nor had any wind ever caused the rocker to slam into the house that way before.

I was frozen with terror. This felt angry. This felt like something wanted not just my attention, but to frighten me. Well, it was working. The thing that scared me the most though, was the dog. The dog simply lost his mind when this happened. He cried in a way I had never heard before out of any animal. It was utter fear. The poor little baby was shaking and howling.

The slamming went on for maybe two minutes. I remained unable to move the entire time. I was transfixed by it. I kept looking for some reason this was happening. Some explanation. Then it just stopped.

The power came right back on.

It was over, and it never happened again.

In the picture, you can see the actual porch and rocker I am talking about.The water bottles were not there, and the rocker was moved right in front of the window. But everything else is the same.

I have no explanation for what happened. I did tell my parents about it, and they dismissed it as probably the wind or an animal knocked the rocker. I know that wasn't it. If an animal had knocked it, the slamming would not have continued in a steady, forceful way. It would have had maybe one or two loud slams, and then trailed off as it lost momentum. I suppose, in the right circumstances the wind could have done it. But I also vividly remember this event, and that I looked for wind. I looked for an animal, a person, some explanation. Everything outside, except the rocker was still. I don't believe it was wind. I believe that there is something in the house. I don't know if it is a ghost, or something else, but there are times when it seems to want to make itself known.

There are other things that have happened. I don't call those individual events "paranormal" because I think there are too many possible explanations to give them that label. But, when you take it all in, as a whole, it makes the possibility that there is some sort of haunting going on, seem more possible.
 For example:
Lights turn themselves on and off.
The radio would turn on whenever we went on vacation. We would come home to it blasting at full volume, on a station we never listened to.
One of my sisters woke me in the middle of the night to come with her downstairs, because she swore she had heard people talking loudly down in the library. No one was there.
 Another sister described seeing a man walking up the stairs. She followed him, but there was no one there.
She later dreamed about this same man, and believed he died in the house, very ill. She said in her dream, he was sweating and seemed very sick. She asked him to leave her alone because he was scaring her.
The previous owner of the house had described seeing an apparition once- a woman who walked through the entryway, into the library, and then disappeared.
I would routinely wake up and feel the bed shaking.
Since I moved out, my father remarried. His new wife and daughters are experiencing the lights turning themselves on and off as well. They routinely feel scared of the house for no real reason.

I feel I can't completely vouch for anyone else's story. Just like in court, I only have hearsay. And some of the more minor events that I witnessed could have other explanations. But when you stand back and look at all of it, it gives you both the heebies and the jeebies. I still feel nervous when I visit the house at night. I try to tell myself that the feeling is irrational, but that doesn't help. What I have experienced was also irrational. But it was real. I don't like the area in the backyard especially. I feel watched. Maybe I just remember the light that I saw there one night. Maybe there is something that watches from the field. I don't know. I just walk very quickly to my car when I leave my father's house. And I tell myself that everything has a rational explanation- except when it doesn't.

The Light that Walked at Midnight

It has been a while since I've put anything out here. Life got chaotic. Like, more so than normal. Anyway, I'm going to try to keep up with this. I'd like to at LEAST get something up per week. I would like to make writing a proper habit, and not just a sporadic one.

Anyway. I had mentioned in my first post, that I have had two paranormal experiences in my life, and I got some feedback that these are stories that should be shared. So, I'm going to attempt to tell one today.

To set the stage, I guess I should explain the house I grew up in and some things about me. Let's start with me. My attitude to "paranormal" stuff is that I want to be open-minded. That said, most "Ghost Hunter" crap on tv is full of nonsense. It shouldn't be labeled paranormal if there is a possible (and often much more likely) "normal" explanation for the phenomenon.
"Oooh...what was that knocking noise? It must be a ghost."
-Or could it be the pipes rattling because you just used the sink? I mean, your "ghost" does have a tricky habit of showing up right after you wash up...just saying.

You get the idea. The word paranormal simply means "other than normal." Something not understood. So when I say I have had experiences, this is true, but I don't hold out that they are necessarily "ghost stories." I don't know if it is ghosts, aliens, elementals or perfectly explainable happenings that I just simply don't currently HAVE an answer for. And to be perfectly honest- if there IS an explanation for what I saw, it would help me sleep at night. Sometimes just knowing that not ALL of these kinds of "ghost stories" are fake, really makes it hard to go back to sleep when you hear banging in the kitchen at 2 am. Know what I mean?

So on to the house.
 It is very old- well over 100 years. It was once two houses, and they were later moved together to make one bigger house. So it is big. It sits on a hill,and on about 15 acres of land. The back of the house faces a small yard that used to have two trees (my father later cut them down) and the yard butts up to a field which is probably around 5 acres long. The field ends in a small wood that comprises the rest of the acreage of the property. The above photo, is taken from the edge of the little yard, looking at the back of the house. And yes, I picked the "spookiest" looking shot I had. You're welcome. :)
 There is actually an additional reason I picked this photo. So let's get on to the real story, shall we?

Alright. I was graduating high school in June of 1995. I stayed up that night, making a gift for another friend. I really wanted to give this to her as a graduation present. it was a little book of silly poems I had written. I was trying to put it all together, and it was getting really late. Everyone else had gone to bed.

Just as I was finishing my project, the power went out. This was a frustrating, but not uncommon occurrence in this old house.  The power used to go out a lot. And when it did, that was when weird things happened. To this day, power outages make me nervous.
With nothing left to do, I crawled into my bed in the dark. My bed faced a window. In the above picture, this is the window you see on the top floor, first on the right side. That was my bedroom.
As I got into my bed, something caught my eye outside. It was a light, but it went by quickly and disappeared. I almost dismissed it and laid down without any further inspection, but then it came again. And again and again.

I always struggle to explain this part to people. This was not a "normal" light. It was intensely bright and white. Almost like the light that comes from a welding tool. It would come on, move to the right, and disappear. Then it would come back, move to the left and disappear again. With each movement, it trailed. It appeared to be a spot (ball? orb?) that moved back and forth, and the light from this spot streaked as it moved. Have you ever "written" your name with sparklers on the Fourth of July? It was like that. Also, the light was fairly large, and did not illuminate any other objects or seem to be casting any shadows.

So, on seeing this, I was confused. At first, I believed that what I was seeing must be high in the air. I assumed that maybe I was seeing some sort of airplane, albeit a strange one. It unnerved me, but I didn't think UFO, because there is an Air Force base nearby, and who knows what they could be flying. It made me really curious. This light was so strange. But as I stared at it, I started to realize that it in fact, did not seem to be up high. I started trying to figure out its position. I did this by sitting up and leaning back in the bed. I knew that if I laid back, I could see the sky, but when I sat forward the view of the sky would disappear and all that could be seen was the field and the yard behind the house. That was when I became frightened.

The light could not be seen when I laid back. It wasn't in the sky. By slowly sitting up until the light was visible again, I determined that the light was in a position in my window that meant that it must be fairly low to the ground. In fact, it was very close to the house. Go back and look at that picture now. You see the two trees? The light was moving back and forth in front of the tree in the middle of the shot- the one right in front of my window.

Now I felt threatened. Something was in my yard. Something that I could not identify was moving back and forth in front of my window. I racked my brain for an explanation. Streetlight or car headlight? No. Not the right type of light, and none had ever been seen in the yard before. There were no roads visible from that viewpoint. A person? That was the only plausible explanation I could think of, except, why would someone be pacing back and forth under my window in a very rural neighborhood, where no other houses are very close? And what are they carrying that is making that kind of light? If there was a person carrying a light, why did it not illuminate anything? I'd seen my sister in the backyard carrying a flashlight before. This did not look similar.

Nothing quite explained it. No insect makes a light that bright or large in this area. A vehicle was highly unlikely, as was a person. So what does that leave? I have still never figured that out.
I watched the light for about an hour. It continued pacing back and forth, streaking as it went. It looked like something being turned on and off. A device? Not a normal flashlight, in any event.
It just kept on going. Kept on pacing. I started getting really tired. It was about 1 am. The light hadn't changed its behavior. It hadn't gone away, but it didn't appear to be about to do anything else. Eventually I laid down and decided to try and sleep. In the morning, nothing looked unusual outside. No footprints, tracks, etc. Believe me, I looked.

So that was one of my paranormal experiences. I call it thus, because I have no explanation so far that makes sense. Was it a ghost? A UFO? I suppose it COULD have been. The point is, I don't know what it was. And unfortunately, that leaves it open to be something spooky. It certainly made ME feel nervous.

There were a number of weird things that happened when I lived in that house. I'll talk about my second experience in the next post, and I'll try to include some of the things that happened to others as well. I can only vouch for my own stories, though. But certainly, I've heard things from other family members that seem to suggest that maybe the house is haunted- if such things are possible. At minimum, our house was (is) unusual. Maybe there's something in the ground or the water that makes people hallucinate. Maybe it sits on an old burial ground. Maybe it has a weird electrical vibration that causes "paranormal" events. Maybe maybe maybe. Until I find out, though, it sure feels creepy.