by Camela Thompson
Domestic violence has been plastered all over the news with a big focus on the NFL's disciplinary actions. Before the video of Ray Rice pummeling his future wife in an elevator was made available to the public, the outcry was at a dull roar. After the video, people were rabid. While I think the recent outrage has led to more public awareness - which is always a good thing - it's sad that it took a video to spur people into action. When people turned on the victim for her to decision to stay in the relationship, I was angry - not with her, although I feel afraid for the child - but with the people verbally bashing her. The hope that the NFL roast was a signifying landmark in a shift away from victim blaming was dampened.
A History Of Blame
I was reading a very well written article by Rebecca Onion, and it went into great depth about the "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" column in the Ladies' Home Journal. The advice being doled out by the experts was shocking. Throughout the 1950's - the heyday of the quintessential American housewife - there were were examples of women writing in because their husbands had hit them - even in front of their children. Overwhelmingly, the psychologist's advice was to stop doing things to anger the husband. The magazine's focus was about educating women in the skills necessary to keep their husband happy (cooking, cleaning, and sewing, of course!). The experts consulted advised focusing on these skill sets and drawing together lists in the morning of chores, prioritizing the husband's demands to avoid irritating him.
It wasn't a unique perspective for that time. Watch clips of The Honeymooners on Youtube as the live studio audience laughs along to Ralph threatening to punch his wife so hard she's sent into orbit because she neglects to provide him with a hot meal.
Alice: "You seem to have forgotten that I am a woman."
Ralph: "I forgot that you're woman? How could I? You're always yappin'!"
"Aline-et-Valcour T1-P112" by Anonymous - 1795 edition of Aline and Valcour by Marquis de Sade. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aline-et-Valcour_T1-P112.jpeg#mediaviewer/File:Aline-et-Valcour_T1-P112.jpeg
I asked my grandmother if she knew of people abusing their spouses when she was young. She grew up in a small logging community, and everyone knew everyone else's business (supposedly). It surprised me when she said she couldn't remember one story. At first she argued that people were less violent, and then she remembered a man who murdered his family. The abuse was still happening. It was just hidden.
My police officer friend has seen a change in willingness for people to become involved. Neighbors are less likely to turn up the volume on their television to drown out the sounds of violence and more likely to pick up their phone. I have seen a shift in how open people are about discussing the topic. When stories are heavily featured in the news, there is open discussion. At work, our Fantasy Football team debated what to do with Adrian Peterson after hearing the allegations of child abuse. People had frank discussions about spanking and physical violence. It was a far cry from the days when my grandmother was shooed from a room at the age of thirteen so the adults could talk about someone who was "in a family way."
Supporting The Victim
I hear people ask, "Why did s/he stay with him?" whenever there is a case of domestic violence on the news. People are so quick to point to the victim and say, "S/he could leave if s/he wants to."
If it were as simple as getting hit once and then using that interaction to decide whether to stay or leave, the question might be valid. Unfortunately, things are not that simple. If a relationship started out as overtly abusive, more people would leave. Instead, it's a slow build that could start with years of humiliation, isolation, and ridicule. The abuser tells the victim they are worthless, stupid, ugly, and will never find someone else. When a person tells you these things enough times, you start to believe them. Reality gets warped, and confidence goes out the window. The physical violence could happen years into the relationship. After being groomed and manipulated into believing they are worthless, that first slap happens, or maybe he or she gets grabbed so hard there are marks the next day. And of course the reason they get hit is also the victim's fault in the eyes of the abuser. "I love you, but you shouldn't make me so angry."
I have seen this happen with beautiful, vibrant friends. They stay with someone who isolates them and devalues them, and they begin to believe it. They lose sight of who they are because they are so busy changing to make their emotionally or physically abusive partner happy. Which ultimately fails.
"Why would she stay with him?" is just another way of saying "It's her fault because she stayed." We're still blaming the victim. We need to stop.
Let's keep that anger focused on the abuser. If enough people band together and shout at the top of their lungs that abuse is wrong, maybe the victims will see they don't deserve that kind of treatment. Maybe a kind friend will encourage them at the right moment, and they will find the courage to leave. Instead of disparaging the victim, let's focus on harsher legal penalties for abusers. Let's focus on shunning the @$$hole who raised their hand to their partner.
If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, there are resources you can call on. Here are just a few of the national organizations:
Your local police department will typically also provide a list of local resources. As an example, here is a link to the Seattle Police Department page:
Because I don't have permission to post Anne Rice's image
and I understand she has an affinity for felines,
I'll just grace my page with this handsome fellow: Moon.
There are many writers I look up to for various reasons, but my admiration of Anne Rice does not follow my traditional list of character development, plot originality, and scene arc. I do praise her writing, particularly concerning her intricate vampire mythology. However, the reason I am such a fan is because of her Social Media and public relations activity. The woman is brilliant when it comes to branding and navigating sticky situations.
If you are an author, follow Anne Rice on Facebook. There. I've even linked it here to make it easy for you. Most of her posts are commentary on movies or books, responses to reviews, a small percentage of announcements about upcoming releases, and articles she finds interesting or funny. She does have an assistant, and while they do call out when the post is from him, I suspect some material sneaks onto the page from him under her name. How could someone with so many public engagements and books in the works post so consistently online without help? I've been following her for a while, and the content has always been current.
A lot of the activities I listed above seem pretty standard. Many authors link to articles, but in Anne Rice's case, the articles are rarely about her. The majority of linked content is about things she has found that interest her or thanking a reader for bringing something to her attention. In these cases, it is clear she read her fan's recommended article and offers some input of her own. She also comments on other authors. Recently, Ms. Rice posted a lovely salute to Charlaine Harris as the True Blood series aired its last episode. I read it and thought, "Wow. This author has class."
I have heard again and again that Anne Rice does her best to personally write back fans. This amazes me when I consider the number of fans that adore her work. Anne Rice encourages reader interaction and sets a great standard for advertising to readers. Some people argue one advertisement should take place for every three personal interactions. I think the ratio should be closer to eight or higher personal interactions per one advertisement. Social media is a place to build relationships, not push a book. I find that the majority of Anne Rice's posts are on interesting and engaging topics, which is why I recommend other authors follow her.
Do you have an author you look up to on Social Media or because of the brand they present? What do you think about advertising on Social Media?
"What kind of dog is it?" It's the question we usually get from people grinning down at our dog. It's not a rude question, and I frankly don't know how to answer it. The mix of breeds that resulted in a seventeen pound dog with rabbit soft hair on her head, ears, and sides and pig coarse hair in a boa around her neck and mohawk down her spine are a bit of a mystery. Her ears are big enough to pick up on the smallest of sounds, she is longer than she is tall, and has a jaunty tail curled over her back and to the right - just the perfect twist to act as a frame to her leash. My nephew feels she stepped off of the big screen of Ice Age - pointing to her and saying, "Scrat!" - although she is obsessed with a ball and not an acorn. She'll eat anything, is fierce despite her size, and has murderous tendencies toward squirrels. She's definitely a dog, but maybe there's a little bit of goat, lion, and a twist of squirrel for irony.
Annie stealing carrots. She isn't nearly as stealthy as she thinks.
Whatever the mix, she is a wonderful blend of playful, mischievous, determined, and love bug. She is smart enough to know that Lance is her play toy and I am her snuggle friend. Originally, she was going to be Lance's running buddy. That was squashed when it was discovered she only likes running if there is a chance of murdering a squirrel (she is always on leash, so that won't happen unless one decides to face off with her in our yard). Despite her homicidal tendencies with small and furry or feathered, she loves kids. If a child is laughing down the block, her ears flatten and she belly crawls toward the source with a wagging tail. She isn't a fan of other dogs, unless she is. We keep our distance because Annie is fickle and it's hard to know which way she will go.
She's really good at helping and loves to insert herself into every situation. Putting on shoes for instance. I bet you never imagined that tying shoelaces was easier with a dog trying to stand on your hands. Painting takes an abstract turn when the dog who insisted on sitting on your lap pounces on the canvas. Going to the bathroom is more fun with a dog trying to crash into the room or wrapping around your ankles if you forgot to shut the door. It's not creepy to hear the shower curtain rustle when you're taking a shower and look over to see two giant eyes peeking in. She has learned to curl up next to my legs while I'm working, but she is very good at letting me know when it's time to take a laptop break.
A subtle hint that it's break time
Annie came into our life when we went to a "Last Chance" adoption fair. Most of the dogs were at the end of their time at the pound, and Annie had been kept a couple extra days in the hopes someone would adopt her. To think such a sweet dog was nearly euthanized breaks my heart. Her previous owner inherited her when her original owners moved and couldn't find a house that allowed dogs. He didn't want her and kept her locked in the back yard in Eastern Washington. She was dumped at the pound because she dug too many holes. I'm surprised our little dog, who loves burrowing under blankets because she gets cold easily, made it in the harsh climate. I think all of us caught a lucky streak the day we brought her home.
Annie's first day with us in 2010 after the adoption fair
by Camela Thompson
My family doesn't do anything in moderation, and that includes doling out life’s lessons. This was the cornerstone of my fear of driving. I didn't even want to learn how. Swimming lessons consisted of being grabbed by an elbow and a knee, then tossed into the deep end like a human Frisbee. I still think my dad was trying to practice retroactive birth control, but that’s another story. I wasn't one of those 16-year-olds who couldn’t wait to go to the DMV on their birthday - I was physically drug to my mom’s mini-van at the age of 17 for lessons.
After weeks of nerve-racking practice with my grandfather, my mom decided it was time for me to have a driving lesson with my brothers in the car. I've been called an old soul. That’s probably because you have to grow up quickly when the adult in the situation consistently makes decisions that defy common sense.
“Mom, do you really think that’s a good idea?”
“Yeah sure. You've been driving a couple weeks now and we’ll take them on the freeway. It’ll be fun!” She paused to throw soccer balls and baseball gear out of the back seats. “Boys! Get in the car!”
My brothers ran out of the house and into the cramped garage. Colin, the middle child, was fourteen and a natural at anything that involved hand-eye coordination. He would make an excellent driver one day, judging from the video games we played in arcades and at home. Judging by those same video games, I was about to lead them all to an inevitable death after soaring through a median in a ball of twisted metal and fire.
“Get in the van, Cam. We can’t get by you.” My mom pushed me through the passenger door. The driver’s door was against the wall of the garage so minor acrobatics were required any time someone wanted to drive. I did not want to drive.
The van’s side door slid open as I crawled over the passenger side seat and squeezed behind the steering wheel.
“I want to sit in the way back!” Colin's voice had been shrill since birth and wouldn't deepen for at least another year. He was five-foot-two in his pumped up high tops. The girls still fell all over him because of his charismatic personality. Being his older sister, I didn't get it.
“Why?” Keenan asked.
“I think I can get all three seat-belts on. You get the middle. You’ll only have two seat belts.” Colin and Keenan threw elbows and shoved each other as they scrambled to get in the back. Keenan was taller, even at the age of 10, and nearly gave Colin a black eye trying to hurtle over the middle seat.
“Boys! Cool it! Keenan can sit in the back and use three seat belts.“ Mom was buckling her own, testing the latch a couple of times before settling in.
“It was my idea!” Colin nearly squealed.
“Yeah, well you’ve lived longer.” Mom laughed and slapped my shoulder to make sure I’d noticed her hilarious joke. When she saw me glowering at her she rolled her eyes. “Lighten up. Let’s go!”
I started the van and very slowly backed out of our garage. We lived at the bottom of a cinder block “paved” driveway. After a 40-point-turn and endless jokes about how much my driving ability resembled Austin Powers, I finally got us up to the road. My knuckles were stark white.
“Are you going to go?” Mom asked.
“Just give me a minute." There was no one on the roadway. If I had trusted myself, I would have backed down the driveway. The fear of driving off a ledge or into a tree kept with my foot wedged against the brake.
“I’m growing old here!” That was Colin. Of course.
After checking each way three more times, I clenched my teeth and gently eased onto the accelerator. Looking from the speedometer to the road and back again, I got the van up to the speed limit. Colin made a crack about my new nervous tick. Finally, I was left to twitch my eyes between the road and the little orange dial in peace. This made me nervous. The electric whir of windows rolling down sent me over the edge. “What’s happening?” I wasn't willing to take my eyes off the road with a pedestrian jogging up ahead of me.
“Don’t worry about it.” Mom sounded bored.
I took a deep breath.
“SAVE YOURSELF! JUMP IN THE BUSHES!” Colin shrieked at the top of his high capacity lungs. I sat up straight, trying not to swerve and clip the dazed jogger. I glanced in the rear view mirror. Colin leaned towards the other window after spotting a bicyclist. “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”
Younger brothers worship older brothers until they learn better, and Keenan hadn't. He joined in, and they spent the next several miles screaming at pedestrians like a couple of psychos. Even when there wasn't anyone roadside, they carried on like I was driving off a ravine. Did my mom worry about the distraction and tell them to stop? No. She was too busy trying not to wet her pants from laughter.
I started to get used to the noise by the time I turned onto the freeway, barreling along at a hefty 55 mph. Keenan and Colin alternated between telling me I was too slow and that I was going to crash into something. My eyelid twitched at a steady interval. My death grip on the steering wheel made my hands numb.
“Cami! This is our exit! Get over now!” Mom yelled.
“YES! Now now now now!!!” Mom kept yelling
I swerved into the exit lane and suddenly there was... silence. In any other family, silence was good. I knew nothing good was happening. I chanced a look in the rear view mirror and could see nothing, save the grill of an enormous semi.
“Go Faster! Go Faster!” Mom was screaming.
“You told me to change lanes!” I whined, nearly in tears.
“GO FASTER!” Mom yelled again and jammed her fist into my thigh, forcing me to kick the accelerator.
The van careened down the exit and I pulled off to the side of the road. My head rested on the horn of the steering wheel as I attempted to stop hyperventilating. When I pulled back onto the road, the car was eerily silent.
In a way, I should thank my brothers. The next time we were all in the car, they picked up their screaming and yelling again. My tolerance level built up and I passed my driver’s test with flying colors. Over ten years later, I was the designated driver for a car load of shouting, drunk men. When they screamed at me to turn left, I calmly replied, “That’s an irrigation ditch, you idiots.”
Without my years of training, I might have totaled the car.
Do you have any harrowing survival tales from your youth?
Champ knows better than anyone that car rides can be awkward.
My husband is fond of telling people, "The first time I met Champ, Camela had a list of rules for meeting him. There were weeks of instructions on what to do and what not to do. When it came to her family, she just drove me over there with no notice at all."
He isn't lying. Champ has special needs. And quirks. And imaginary demons chasing him. It isn't easy being Champ, and it certainly wasn't easy being our (Champ and I were a package deal) roommate in college. In addition to holding a grudge that would put a Hatfield or a McCoy to shame, Champ acted as though murderous thieves were coming for our food stash and it was his solemn duty to demolish it single handedly. I purchased many replacement loaves of bread, was stunned that he figured out how to open the fridge, and nearly cried when he destroyed the baby locks. With genius comes insanity. Champ was the mastermind behind butter thefts (he had a glorious coat), and made enemies by refusing to be friends with anyone other than myself. He was never mean, but he trusted only me.
My family always had at least one dog. I trained them, showed a few, and one even visited nursing homes and schools. They were happy, stable animals that did well in crowds and around other animals. When I met people with a skittish dog, I assumed that they had done something wrong. The most reasonable explanation was that the dog had been abused. It never occurred to me that a dog could start out in life a little off.
Champ was never abused, unless you count leaving him in a cool car with the windows down while I went into a store (he would). I adopted him from the pound at nine weeks old. I was able to confirm that the whole litter was weird. Their mother was brought in feral and warmed up to humans again after being adopted. Some of the puppies had a harder time adjusting after spending their first weeks following their mother's skittish lead.
In the past, I would get embarrassed because I needed to step in when people wanted to pet him and let them know he just wanted to be left alone. The rare times he did something naughty (other than trashing the kitchen), a harsh word could send him groveling, which looked suspiciously similar to a cower. I tried socializing him as a puppy, forcing him around people. I tried training classes and behavior conditioning and prozac. Years and years were spent trying to find a way to communicate to my crazy boy that the world was not out to get him. A trainer wouldn't listen as I yelled at her to stay back in an agility class and he flung himself from an A-frame, falling several feet and limping to lean against my legs for comfort. It was the tipping point. I finally realized what Champ was trying to tell me all along. He would never be a people "person." My introvert was who he was and I could either continue torturing us both, or just accept him as he was.
Champ would not be left behind on the beach. If the raft was good enough for me,
it was good enough for him. The raft promptly sank from someone's toenail gouges.
Despite - or maybe in a funny way because of - the numerous times destroying kitchens, stealing food, and shunning humans, Champ has been my once in a lifetime four footed buddy. He is the most loyal animal I have ever had the honor of being owned by. I didn't intend to get a dog. My ex-boyfriend talked me into going to two humane societies. I had made it to the very last cage of the very last kennel when a little dirty puppy walked up to the fence and raised his paw. He snuggled into my arms and rubbed his face against my neck. Volunteers gawked and I later found out it was because the puppies shrank from human contact. When I got home and he saw my roommate, Champ shoved himself under a couch.
My old man - enjoying the lake
Champ doesn't get into much mischief anymore. He has been in my life for twelve and a half years. His eyes are clouded with cataracts, he is a cancer survivor, is on meds for atypical Cushing's disease, and only wants to walk around the block at a very leisurely pace. Champ doesn't have much time left, but he still enjoys life. He insists on searching the neighborhood for apples, loves car rides, and has calmed down around people despite growing deaf and blind. He's not outgoing, but he stopped hiding years ago and he has never so much as snapped despite his desire to just be left alone. He also mercilessly bosses around my husband, which is his right.
When I first met Lance, I told him Champ was in my life first. If they couldn't get along, the dog would win out. I didn't need to worry. Champ chose Lance, too. Seven years ago, on the first night he met my future husband, Champ fell asleep with his head resting on his feet.
Leave a comment to discuss your once in a lifetime furry friend. Do you agree that the hardest won friends are the best?
Follow Camela Thompson on Twitter.
My grandparents had decided to take me to Denny's for a double celebration: my high school graduation and my birthday. We tend to be uncomfortable in upscale restaurants. Our family can afford to indulge, but a combination of introversion, frugality, and personal preferences lead to eating out at down-to-earth establishments. I think over attentive wait staff make us nervous. The first time I went to a really fancy restaurant and had a gentleman offer his arm to escort me to the bathroom, I thought I was going to fall over (frankly, it struck me as a little creepy). We prefer to get our food, tuck in, and eat in peace until uncomfortably full and then sit and talk.
Two-thirds of the way into my Grand Slam I had hit the wall and was slowing down. I caught my grandmother's impish smile as she turned to my grandfather, patting his arm with her hand. "Bill, do you remember Runwald's house? They had the gas station that was shut down to expand I-90."
Grandpa sat up a little straighter; his eyes had a glint to them. "Oh, yes. The haunted house."
I carefully set my fork on my plate and stared at my grandfather. "Come again?"
"Not far from here actually. Their house was really haunted."
I sat blinking dumbly for several seconds. I had always looked up to my grandfather and was proud of inheriting his perfectionism and a fondness for logic. Ghosts didn't fit into the picture I held of his inner mental workings. They had to be testing my newly graduated adult status with some kind of joke. "You're kidding, right?"
My grandmother shook her head. "There was even an article in the paper. In the 50's and 60's there was a parapsychology department at the university. They brought in a bunch of equipment and ran tests."
"They got the house for a cheap price from an architect. He sold it because something was scaring his German shepherd. After the family moved in, they started noticing odd things. Sometimes they would see an apparition, but they couldn't make out anything beyond arms, legs, a head, and old fashioned clothes. There weren't any details to its appearance." Grandpa settled back in his vinyl seat and steepled his hands. Next he rubbed the big joints of his thumbs together - a cue that he is settling into a story. "Ridge called me up one night and said the ghost was active and would I like to come see it. I went up to his house. At first, there wasn't much to see, but as one of us was lining up a shot on the table, a couple of the balls started rolling on their own. The ghost was curious, like it was trying to figure out how things worked. It would lock doors, turn on faucets, and play with the pool table, rolling or shoving balls from one end to the other"
"What?" Reality was getting turned on its head. Ghosts didn't exist, yet someone I trusted was painting quite a different picture. It made me uncomfortable and squirm in my seat. I had no reason to doubt my grandfather. His stories were about things he had lived through. He wasn't prone to exaggeration or spinning fiction. It just wasn't his style.
"They just rolled on their own."
"Nooooooooooo." I looked at my grandmother. Had Grandpa lost his mind?
"I talked to their neighbor, Mrs. Brewer, and she said she watched some kind of mist settle over part of their fence. All the vines died where it sat and nothing grew back."
Grandma had lost her mind, too. I was determined to find a rational explanation. "Maybe the pool table was at a slant?"
"No way." Grandpa shook his head. "The balls rolled one way and then another. If it was slanted, more than one or two balls would have rolled and they wouldn't have turned around and gone in the other direction." He was an engineer, always tinkering, fixing, building - he would have figured out if something was strange about the construction of the table.
"What else happened?" My voice was nearly a whisper and I was leaning forward in my seat. I noticed that I was resting the edge of my hand in a pool of syrup and I spent several seconds scrubbing with a napkin, spreading the stickiness around. Focusing on something else helped lessen my anxiety.
"It locked their daughter in a bathroom and moved a beer fridge that weighed over a hundred pounds. One time it locked the bathroom and turned on the faucet." Grandpa bounced his fingertips together. "They had to take the door off its hinges to turn the water off."
"I remember it would settle over a table at a party and the food would turn grey." Grandma made a face and I knew she was thinking of the wasted food. She takes packets of condiments from restaurants and stuffs her purse with free napkins. She'd rather risk food poison than throw out food. That habit had haunted us all more than once. "One night it got in the car with their daughter and followed her to the bowling alley. She just looked in the rear view mirror and there it was."
I picked my hands off the table and clutched at my chest. "Holy crap."
Grandpa shifted in his seat. "The university cut open the pool balls to see whether or not there were magnets and recorded activity. Supposedly they tracked it down to a board in the washroom."
Grandma's voice was perky when she said, "I always heard it was on an Indian burial ground."
The rest of my food had cooled and congealed in a mixture of syrup and fat. The back of my hand still had napkin fibers stuck to it. My grandfather was calmly paying the bill as grandma powdered her nose and snapped her compact shut. My grandpa asked, "Do you want to finish your food?"
"Do you want to go see the house?"
"No thank you."
Leave a comment below and tell us about your ghost story.
Follow Camela Thompson on Twitter @CamelaThompson
“What are the rules I need to know?” I had talked my husband into going to the Washelli Cemetery so I could do a little book research. He was a good sport about it, and I was relying on him as the subject matter expert. My family isn't big on funerals; many people include a clause in their wills forbidding it. They flat out avoid graveyards.
My husband stopped between plots, shifted the camera bag to his other side, and looked back at me. “What do you mean?”
“What should I not do?” I was standing with a cell phone in one hand and my DLSR camera around my neck. With my feet firmly planted on the path winding around the cemetery, I stood looking at the graves as though a hand would burst through the ground and grab me by the ankles. I had no idea what the do's and don'ts were. Yes, I am one of those people who likes bullet points and checklists. I was a little disappointed when I didn't find a list of rules at the cemetery entrance or their website.
“My aunt told me not to stand on the graves once.”
I wanted to laugh. The grass was peppered with headstones at staggered angles, packed so closely that I couldn't see how people could be laying underground without overlapping. It occurred to me that perhaps the stone covered the head – which would make sense etymologically. Duh. “Where am I supposed to stand?”
Lance shrugged and started taking long strides up the hill. I stepped on the grass, walked up two plots, and yelped when I realized I had stepped onto a grave. I tried traveling laterally for a while, taking giant steps to avoid walking on someone. I looked up and Lance was standing in the distance with his hands on his hips, head cocked to one side. I muttered something angry and tried to move faster, catching up to him as he moved to the next headstone.
“Some of these are really old. I think these people were married.”
The couple died in the 1920's, a few years apart, and one was buried close enough to a tree that the headstone was partially obscured. A light grey marker was near by and covered in needles. I brushed the needles off with my fingers and frowned. The grave was for a baby with the same last name buried fifteen years before the couple. Their child.
“That's sad,” I said.
Lance nodded and started walking off. I had to trot to catch up, doing a weird stagger and hop to avoid offending anyone. After looking at the grass more closely, I decided to relax a little bit about where I was stepping. “They use a riding lawnmower.”
“And a weed wacker around the headstone edges.”
“So I don't have to be so careful?” I stopped to take a few pictures of a grave covered in symbols.
“If they saw the way you were moving around, they'd either laugh or realize you were doing your best. Probably laugh.” Fair enough.
We were quiet, pointing out graves that had interesting symbols or a spot reserved next to a spouse for someone who either had yet to pass away or had moved on in life and was buried somewhere else. We both mused about that and I may have said, “Well, it says 'til death do us part' right? So the obligation ends there, I suppose.” That earned me a smirk and a head shake. We both spent time doing math, trying to figure out if people had passed away during a war.
The Washelli Cemetery has been in operation since 1885. We had picked the older part of the cemetery, only stumbling on the younger graves at the very end. It was harder to walk by headstones with wilting flowers or picture memorials that were elaborate. I felt sad standing over one in particular. The young age and the amount of text on the stone gave me a bad feeling about how his life had ended. Unfortunately, I wasn't wrong.
With the genres I tend to write about, I'm sure it wasn't my last time in a cemetery. I feel more confident about how to respectfully get the photographs and information I need to write a scene, but I'm not sure I'll ever be comfortable walking around unless the cemetery has been out of commission for a period of time. Several decades make it easier to casually wonder what their lives were like without growing too macabre. I'm rather squeamish for someone who writes about murder mysteries and horror, but I like those scenes on paper rather than real life.
Have you done research in a cemetery? What kind of best practices would you pass on to a fellow researcher?
Follow Camela Thompson on Twitter: @CamelaThompson
While the vast majority of the crowd were fun loving and harmless, there were a couple of people who were aroused by the attention. These two or three people are the reason why we need indecent exposure laws in place. One guy even did jumping jacks to show himself off. There were children in the crowd. It was completely inappropriate. Bodies are a natural thing and if parents don't want to shield their kids from a bunch of naked bikers, that's their choice. When someone decides to be lewd, it completely changes the dynamic.
That went out the window when I heard the scrape of a stool and the light thunk that accompanied her sitting in the seat. The noise of the swinging rope continued, with no evidence of a rope hanging from the beams overhead.
What I have described was not the first incident or the last. After twenty-five years of silence, I finally turned to one of my grandparents at a family function and asked, "Have either of you noticed anything strange in the basement?"
The question elicited an ensemble of awkward smiles. My cousins admitted that they hadn't felt comfortable in the basement for over twenty years, only running down to use the bathroom in a pinch or retrieve something for my grandmother. My grandparents had been sleeping in the downstairs bedroom and admitted that sometimes objects would turn up in a different place than they were set down, and a shadow would stir at the edge of their vision. My brother and I are logical and argued that the breakers could be grounded improperly or some such science that would lead to high electromagnetic fields (known as EMF by the pros we watched on Ghost Hunters). This could explain feelings of discomfort and perhaps hallucinations, but not objects moving.
Since we aired the creepy stories surrounding the basement, we jokingly refer to it as "Fred." We adopted the Protestant based belief that giving it too much attention might lend it power, so best to not talk about Fred, especially in the house. In accordance with our unspoken understanding, when something strange happened, it was allowed a watery smile and a mention at a restaurant after a drink or two.
We all lived in a strange accordance, but my five-year-old nephew has shaken things up. He was sitting at breakfast recently with my mom and told her he didn't like the basement. My mom asked, "Why?"
"There's a little girl who lives there. She was buried in a box there," he points to the back of the house, "by the bad men."
All adults in the room dropped their forks and stared, horrified. Creeped out. There is something profoundly disturbing about a small child speaking about gruesome things. My mom and I gave the familiar nervous laugh and we surmised (hoped?) that he had seen something bad on television - snuck a peek at something he wasn't meant to see. We also reflected on the fact that he was the first to think it was a she.
A few days later, my brother interrupted my mom while she was sitting on the couch with her feet up, working on her laptop.
"Did you walk into the room and then walk back out?"
"No." Mom points to her raised feet.
"Are you sure?"
My brother squinted an eye and grimaced. "Huh."
We haven't called in the ghost busters because "Fred" is inconsistent in its appearances, which is fine by us. Children and adolescents have grown up in the house without stirring up additional activity. Maybe if we continue to turn our heads and refuse to speak out loud, we will be left alone a little longer.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.