Archive for Dave Lapham

MARY HASTINGS Part One

Posted in Afterlife, Entities, Ghosts, Paranormal, Saturdays, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Mary Hastings pulled off the highway and stopped to check her dad’s mailbox before heading up the drive to the house. He’d been dead two weeks, but he was still getting mail. Even her mother, who’d died two years before, received an occasional piece of junk mail. Sure enough the mailbox was full, and none of it was for Mary. Laying the stack of mostly advertisements on the passenger’s seat, she closed her door and drove on.

As she continued up the orange tree-lined road to the house, now hers, she felt a warmth which made her smile, even after thirty years. She had grown up among these groves, swum in the lake, learned to drive dodging around citrus trees, received her first kiss by the water tower, enjoyed birthdays and holidays with her friends and a loving family. But she also felt a sadness. Her parents, her grandparents, her brother, Will, killed in Vietnam, were all gone, all now buried along with her great grandparents in the little family cemetery on the north side of the lake. Only she and her younger brother, Travis, remained.

She was thankful that the place had remained in the Hastings family. Mary had chosen to go off to college up north. At the time she wanted to get away from this place, this backward way of life, this boring little town of Lake Wales where nothing ever happened. The big excitement was a Friday night high school football game or a Saturday night movie. So she had elected to attend the University of Virginia, one of the biggest party schools in the country, and the home, more or less, of Edgar Allen Poe. She wasn’t a big party girl, but UVA did sound exciting, and academic standards there were high.

But that was a long time ago. She had majored in English Literature and had gone on to get her PhD. A series of teaching jobs at several universities followed, and suddenly it was thirty years later. Mary retired when her dad died, and now she was coming home for good.

In the meantime Travis had remained in Lake Wales and had taken over managing the groves just as his father, his grandfather, and his great grandfather had done. And he had harbored no ill feelings toward his sister because she’d chosen to do other things. As far as Travis was concerned, he’d always said, “No problem, Sis. When you get ready to retire, come on back. There’ll always be a place for you.”

In fact, there was. Travis and their father made sure that Mary was taken care of. At Travis’s request, their dad had willed her the family house and the adjacent five acres on the lake. The property was beautiful, covered with old live oaks, a well-maintained beach, and a large pavilion for family gatherings and parties. And the house. The two-story house was too large for Mary, five bedrooms, an expansive kitchen and adjoining dining room, and a wide, screened porch surrounding all four sides, but she loved it.

Approaching the house and seeing no cars there, she drove on to the family cemetery above the lake. It was a pristine spot. Her dad and grandfather had wisely kept the trees around the shoreline, so that anywhere a person might sit, he would feel the tranquility that only a forest and a lake can provide. The cemetery sat back several yards off the water on high ground. Enclosed by a filigreed wrought-iron fence, it was spacious, large enough to hold many more graves. Mary walked to her parents’ resting places and bent down to pat the fresh mound of earth covering her father.

Will was buried on the other side of her mother. Mary smiled down at Will’s grave and sighed. Even after forty-five years, she pictured him in minute detail, his brown eyes, strong jaw, his big grin, even the cow lick on the crown of his head. She had idolized her big brother. He’d taught her how to drive, how to smoke, how to drink, how to fend off unwanted attentions from the boys. When she was a girl he was always there to protect her. She loved her little brother, Travis, but Will was her hero. He’d been such a terrific young man. What a waste.

Does anyone like my stories or am I whistling in the wind? Let me know what you think. I’d appreciate it.

GHOST HUNTERS FACE NEW PHENOMENA

Posted in Afterlife, Ghost Hunting, Ghosts, Hauntings, Investigating, Paranormal, St. Augustine, Updates, Wednesdays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Got out of Dodge this week. I’m holed up in the Best Western in New Smyrna, writing. Let me know who won the election. I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal recently. (I take the Journal because it actually has news and not tons of advertisements, and I pay less for it than the Orlando Sentinel.) Anyway, the article. It was written by Matthew Dalton, who wrote about Steve Parsons, a ghost hunter in Wales.

Mr. Parsons has 35 years experience and uses high-tech equipment with a big “dose of skepticism.” His problem is that he feels we’ve been taken over by “TV cameras and tabloid headlines.” There are so many “ghost shows” on TV that paranormal investigating has become entertainment and, according to Mr. Parsons, the “trend has spawned hundreds of amateur ‘ghost clubs’ whose members head out on weekends to scare up a few spirits.”

He points out that as a result of the television exposure there are now about 500 ghost “clubs” in Britain. Ten years ago only some 15 existed. And although many of these groups use the latest technology, many also use worthless gadgets that have flooded the market.

The sad thing is that often TV “investigations” are nothing more than show. I’ve talked to several very competent ghost hunters who’ve been involved with some of them in the U.S., and they agree that in many cases the presentations have nothing to do with reality. Events are often staged for entertainment value and have little to do with serious research.

And due to the popularity of ghost hunting, sites in Britain as well as in the United States that used to allow groups access now either charge or don’t let anyone in at all. Mr. Parsons gave an example of the Carew Castle in Wales, which purportedly houses the non-human ghost of a Barbary ape. The Castle used to charge paranormal groups $240 for investigations; it now charges $560.

We see that here in Florida. The Spanish Military Hospital in St. Augustine, which is listed in my Ghosthunting Florida, became overwhelmed with requests from paranormal groups. It now doesn’t let in any groups. Instead, they conduct in-house investigations and allow individuals to tag along for a price.

The reason I bring this up is because when I read the article, I began thinking about our situation in Florida. How many groups do we now have in the state? Forty? Fifty? I don’t know. I do know that I can count at least 20 I’ve come in contact with. I believe that the majority of the groups I’ve encountered are serious ghost hunters who either desire to help people understand unexplained activity in their homes and businesses or who want to further paranormal science. But how many groups are out there with their flashlights, digital cameras, audio recorders, and K2s banging around cemeteries, historical sites, and abandoned buildings just trying to scare up a little excitement? I would venture quite a few.

And then there are sites to investigate. Mr. Parsons reports that requests for investigations of both homes and businesses in Britain have significantly dropped off because people would rather have “Most Haunted” or “Ghost Adventures” in to do a TV show. I don’t think we have that problem here, but I do think we’re running out of places to investigate. How many times has the Italian Club in Ybor City been investigated? How about Ripley’s in St. Augustine or the Lake Worth Playhouse?

So why am I rambling on about this? I guess I want to emphasize how important it is to be as professional as possible during investigations. And how vital it is to do them for the right reasons, not because it’s more fun to hunt ghosts than to bar hop on Saturday night. We are interested in the paranormal because we believe in an afterlife and that the veil between our life and the next is very thin. So, think about it the next time you’re out on an investigation. Why are you there?

BUCK WARREN Part 2

Posted in Afterlife, Demons, Entities, Ghost Hunting, Ghosts, Hauntings, Paranormal, Saturdays, Stories, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by Dave Lapham

No one would go with him, and we couldn’t actually see Crazy Crickbaum’s grave from the gateway. I wanted to make sure Buck didn’t cheat, so I rode around to the other side of the cemetery where I had a perfect view. Sure enough, just after I got off my bike and settled in to watch, there was Buck Warren marching boldly up to the grave of Henry Crickbaum.

Buck stood at the foot of the grave, arms crossed, feet spread apart. I was actually impressed. We hadn’t made any arrangements for him to pick up something from the area to prove he’d been there, but he bent down and grasped an old vase of dead flowers. Then he straightened and stood staring at the headstone.

He had been standing there motionless for about three minutes when a luminescent, chartreuse mist oozed out of the grave and formed a funnel, like a small tornado. As the mass rose, the top of it changed into a human-like torso with an indescribable, fiendish-looking head. Piercing eyes, shark-like teeth, the most evil-looking thing I’d ever seen. I was terrified. I almost vomited.

But Buck. Buck was magnificent. He dropped the flower vase, picked up a fallen tree branch, and swiped at the monster, who darted out of the way. As the beast closed in on him, Buck realized that his defense was useless and backed up, then turned and ran. The demon came after him. Buck looked back, tripped, and fell. The awful creature now hovered over him. I screamed, and the demon looked towards me with his fiery eyes, even though I was a hundred yards away. In that instant Buck leaped up and raced toward the entrance, faster than I’d ever seen him run on the football field. The demon turned to follow him for several yards, stopped, and then vanished from sight.

I jumped on my bike and raced back to the entrance. Panting, I slid to a stop and dropped my bike. Buck was sitting on the ground leaning against one of the arches. His hair was snow white—and he was crying. Everyone else stood there in petrified silence, not knowing exactly what had happened to him or what to say. I looked at Buck and related exactly what I had seen. Well, Buck became a hero, a true legend of Washington Junior High School.

But he was forever changed. He no longer bullied anyone, and even though he was as aggressive on the football field as ever, he treated everyone kindly. He’d hit a runner with a jarring, teeth-rattling tackle—and then help the guy up. Buck and I became good friends and remained so, even though I moved to Cedar Rapids, a hundred miles away.

Several years later, Buck and I joined the Marines and went to Vietnam in the same unit. On Halloween, 1966, our company was overrun by a North Vietnamese battalion. Buck Warren died that night saving our company and me.

Buck was buried in the Ottumwa Cemetery not far from Henry Crickbaum’s grave. The demon there has never been seen again to this day.

THE MOORISH HOUSE ON CHARLOTTE STREET

Posted in Afterlife, Ghost Hunting, Ghosts, Paranormal, Saturdays, St. Augustine, Stories with tags , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by Dave Lapham

Night descended on the Moorish house on Charlotte Street. Sara stood on the cobblestones in front of the loggia, the recessed portico common in Mediterranean-style homes, absorbing the three-plus centuries of this house. She felt happy in spite of the descending evening and the ominous feeling cast by the huge, old oak bearded with Spanish moss swaying in the cold, January breeze. Empty and forbidding the house might seem to others. To Sara it was the fulfillment of a dream. She and Matt were closing on it in the morning. It would finally be theirs—well, theirs and the bank’s. A gust of icy breeze tousled her hair and she pulled the collar of her coat up higher, wrapping her arms around herself.

She stood admiring the Moorish-style architecture, the horseshoe arches, the geometric and arabesque shapes, the complex designs of the tile borders, the intricate, latticed privacy screen covering the balcony above the loggia. It reminded her of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. She imagined the exotic eyes of Arab harem beauties gazing down upon her.

Suddenly, she saw movement. A face in the window to the left of the balcony? Maybe she was imagining things. It was deathly quiet. When the sun went down, St. Augustine rolled up its streets. No one was about, especially in this residential area south of the Plaza on this cold evening.

There it was again. Movement in the second floor window. Just a glimpse. Less than half a second. But she did see something—or someone. She shivered and turned to leave, but just as quickly froze.

Music, the sound of a classical guitar, came from inside the house. It sounded like someone playing in the main room just inside the loggia. Whoever the guitarist, he played exquisitely. She tried to remember the piece; it was vaguely familiar. Baroque, perhaps Molino? Whatever. It was melancholy, haunting, beautiful, and she knew she had heard it before. She hesitantly walked to the loggia and peered in the window. The room was empty. Not one piece of furniture. Nothing—and no one. She turned and hurried out to the street, climbed into her Miata, and drove home, the music still in her head.

When Matt arrived from the hospital a little after eight, Sara was sitting on the couch plucking the strings of her guitar. He parked himself beside her and leaned back.

She stopped playing and smiled. “How was your day, sweetheart? Anything hot in the ER?”

“Kinda slow, actually. No major emergencies. How about you? What’s that you’re playing?”

Sara began strumming her guitar again. “I don’t really know. I’m trying to remember something.”

Matt watched as she played. She was enthralling, he thought. He loved her passion for the guitar and for medicine. He loved her black hair, her brown eyes. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. They had grown up together, been high school sweethearts, gone to college and medical school together. He had never considered marrying anyone else. Now they were doctors, working together in the Flagler Hospital Emergency Room. Matt couldn’t have been more content. He listened to her play for several minutes and finally sat up. “Hey, let’s have some supper, Mrs. Segovia,” and he walked into the kitchen.

Precisely at ten the next morning, Sara and Matt stepped out of their apartment to go to the closing. They purposely hadn’t scheduled any other appointments for the day so they could focus on the house. The closing went quickly. The last occupants, an English couple, had left it to a son who had never even seen the place. Apparently, he just wanted to get rid of it. And both her dad and her Uncle Bill had helped them with a healthy down payment. By eleven-thirty, keys in hand, they were hurrying down Charlotte Street!

Sara had been steeped in the lore of St. Augustine and of her family by her father, a history professor at Flagler College. She knew everything about the house. One of her ancestors, Gabriel Zamora, had come from a Moorish background in Granada. He had been driven out of Spain in 1612 by the Spanish Inquisition and had sailed to St. Augustine, where he had become a successful rancher. When the British wrested Florida from Spain in 1763, Zamora’s heirs remained, and Antonio Zamora built this house in 1793. To be continued…

FEATHERS

Posted in Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by Dave Lapham

     My mother died a few years ago in May, two weeks short of her ninety-fifth birthday.  She was living at the time with my sister in Cambridge.  She had been doing poorly for weeks but seemed to be hanging on, as though she wasn’t quite ready to die. She was all but comatose, eating and drinking almost nothing, but still clinging to life. Maybe Mom just wanted to say goodbye to my brother and me; neither of us had seen her for three months.

     I called my brother, and the next morning we were both on our way to Boston. We met in Baggage Claim at Logan and took “The T” together out to Porter Square. Ten minutes later we quietly entered Mom’s bedroom. I was shocked to see her. Mom had always been a hardy, robust woman. She walked up to ten miles a day and had more energy and stamina than an ox, but here on her bed lay a tiny, lifeless, wizened creature not much bigger than a doll. My eyes filled with tears.

     The three of us stood around her bed. “Ma. Ma,” we shouted; she was almost deaf. “We’re here, Tom, Dave, Diane.  We’re all here, Ma.”  She was so still. We couldn’t even tell if she was breathing. But then her eyes opened slightly, and her parched lips stretched into the faintest of smiles. She had heard us.

     We spent the next three days planted in her bedroom reminiscing with her, talking to her as if she were awake and fully functioning, instead of dying. On Friday Tom and I both had to leave. We went into Mom’s room one last time, kissed her, told her we loved her, and said that it was okay for her to go. Half an hour later as Tom and I were saying goodbye to each other at the airport, Diane called; Mom had just passed away.

     Two weeks later we returned with our families for a celebration of her life and a wonderful family reunion. Mom wanted to be cremated and have her ashes strewn over our flowers, so that’s what we did.  I brought my portion of her ashes home with me and scattered some of them over my rose bush, one of her favorite flowers, but I held back some of the ashes, thinking perhaps that I might  sprinkle other flowers with them.  I knew she’d enjoy that.

     Later that month I was planting a Chickasaw plum tree in my backyard. It was warm and sunny, not even a hint of a breeze stirred, a typical Florida summer day. I was almost finished digging the hole when I was shocked to see hundreds and hundreds of tiny, bright-white feathers, no bigger than a little fingernail, scattered in a ten-foot circle around me. Ma, I thought. She was there. I ran quickly into the house, grabbed the remaining ashes, and ran back outside putting them into the hole. Then, I turned around to pick up the tree.  When I turned back again—the feathers were gone!

     A storm blew the tree down last year, but Ma is still there. I’ve since planted more flowers in her spot, and it is a very happy place.