Church Street Cemetery Revisited

What’s a fun activity to do in October in Mobile? Why, visit an old cemetery, of course! I contacted our friend Elizabeth Parker, author of several books on the ghosts of Mobile, and she was more than happy to join us for a few hours in the Church Street Graveyard.

Church Street Graveyard

Kathryn and I entered the graveyard well before mid-day. We arrived almost an hour early and checked to be sure the gate wasn’t locked. Satisfied that our group would have unfettered access, we dashed away to grab takeout from a nearby restaurant. Something about that first glimpse into the cemetery seemed “off.” We were in too much of a hurry to ponder it deeply, but the initial feeling I got was of too much light. Was it something with the trees?

Elizabeth was the first to arrive after we returned with lunch. She pointed out what Kat and I had initially noticed but were too rushed to put our finger on. One of the cemetery’s tallest and most beautiful trees had been cut back to the trunk. There was virtually no shade left to speak of on the side of the graveyard nearest to Washington Avenue. The area appeared starkly bright. Perhaps this year’s storms caused the tree’s branches to dangle or break off. Or maybe time simply caught up to the old sentinel.

The oak that was severely cut back appeared in Kat’s 2014 photo of the cemetery. Our friend Susan spotted something odd in that picture back then and pointed it out to us. Unusual lighting conditions and a tombstone angled in just the right way resulted in what appeared to be an apparition of a nun observing our group from a distance. The picture caused a bit of controversy on Elizabeth’s web page as most people are skeptical — and rightfully so — of photographs taken in this digital age. There was no monkey business involved with the picture, and Elizabeth did return to confirm the presence of the tombstone as the likely source of the “ghost.” Still it remains a favorite in our collection of photos.

tree comparison collage
The oak tree appearing in the 2014 picture shown on the left is the same one appearing on the right, severely cut back to nothing but eight or nine feet of trunk.

Elizabeth’s friend Muriel joined us, and the group would spend some time unwinding over lunch in the cool of the shade. A few of our guests saw the event posted on Mobile.org, while others heard about us through homeschool circles on social media. We met a homeschool family new to the area from Texas and had a great time hanging out with Amanda and her boys.

As we sat under the trees, Muriel paused mid sentence. Did any of us smell smoke? We got quiet and turned our attention to the breeze. Ever so faintly, the flowery smell of flavored pipe tobacco settled on us… and then it was gone. The cemetery walls were quite some distance away, and there were no visitors smoking in the graveyard that day. None that we could see, at least.

There was diversity among us, and that’s one of the things we celebrated. Our group included one who claimed little sensitivity to the paranormal but with willingness to learn to be more open, several with varying degrees of active sensitivity and “gifts,” at least one medium, and myself. I enjoy learning the legends of an area, find mysteries irresistible, respect others when they share their experiences, but adopt a “Just Say No” stance when it comes to interaction with spirits. I’m a skeptic, then? Not exactly.

During my childhood I had quite a few unsettling experiences. Most of them happened at night. Once I understood that nothing dangerous ever came to pass, I was able to cope and not live in abject fear. But morning was often a welcome sight. A final experience in adolescence left me fearful for days. At that point I choose to close off as much as possible. I didn’t need to fully understand the things I experienced to know I didn’t want them encouraged to follow me around.

Tuning in strongly to the natural world helps block out input that seems to have no natural source. It’s akin to filtering out an annoying noise in the next room by focusing on something else, like ignoring a toddler who’s throwing a temper tantrum by stepping around him and leaving, or getting used to a yucky smell in the air by doing something productive. Would it be possible to tune back in and pick up things that others don’t notice? Probably. A few in our group sensed entities passing around us from time to time. Other than the pipe tobacco, I was willfully oblivious. My nose still hasn’t gotten the memo.

Our discussion ranged from haunted houses and land, to the history of the Church Street Graveyard, to opinions on paranormal television, books, and the use of investigative equipment. Amanda shared her family’s experiences in Texas with active hauntings in a new house. It’s not always the dwelling. Sometimes the land holds on to the past. Elizabeth told of things that happened to her during childhood and adolescence. They were eerily similar to incidents a couple of us in the group went through as children. We felt validated, if you will, that there are others who “get it.” Muriel recounted things she’d experienced in the Church Street Graveyard on prior visits.

Butterfly in Church Street Graveyard
Kathryn captured this beautiful creature among the tombstones

The teens made the rounds with the EMF meter, and one of our guests worked with the dousing rods. Several interesting “hits” registered on the EMF near the graves on the south side of the cemetery. Outside influence from utilities were reasonably ruled out as there are no power lines passing over or under the cemetery in the area where the spikes were recorded. What does pass under the cemetery walls and out into the streets? Most likely, bodies of the dearly departed.

Elizabeth shared the low-down on funerals in Mobile during the time of yellow fever epidemics. Decorum gave way to a need to bury the bodies post haste lest word make it down to the docks that Mobile was contagious. If that were to happen, the port would have to be closed and commerce would shut down until quarantine was lifted. To avoid losing money, you just don’t report the illnesses and hope no one notices the stream of people in and out of the graveyard.

Bodies were interred rather hastily, some of them on the outskirts of the cemetery proper — and many of those in unmarked graves. Did those who chose the current-day boundaries for the graveyard know where all the dead rested? Don’t count on it.

We had hoped to record EVP’s near where the EMF spikes occurred, or where the dousing rods showed something interesting. Unfortunately, the digital recorder experienced an unexplainable battery drain. What was fully charged earlier in the day was now on zero… dead as a door nail, if you’ll pardon the pun. Disappointing but not surprising.

Current theory on ghosts relies on the concept of energy transfer to explain the phenomena of hauntings. If we are energetic beings, and energy is not lost but simply transferred to the environment on our death, are ghosts or spirits a form of energy themselves? Can they successfully manipulate temperature and electromagnetic fields so that electronic equipment registers their activity? As with most theories, we may never know for sure.

As I sat with our friends, both old and new, I again pondered the makeup of the group and what had brought us here. What we learned about one another came out naturally and without judgment. Christians and Wiccans came together and bonded over an interest in the paranormal, ghosts, and curiosity about the world in general.

What would our friends think of us? I’m sure quite a few of my family’s church-going acquaintances do not approve of our ghostly interests. And no doubt the Wiccan members’ friends might have been sympathetic at their having to spend time with some of those “church people.” I completely get that.

But we did something at the cemetery that was more important than talking about ghosts, comparing experiences, or learning a little history. We were honest with each other, and we respected one another. We set aside the things that divided us, and we were friends. And that, folks, is worth all the ghost stories in the world.

Elizabeth Parker autograph

© 2015-2017 Our Lives in Stories


A great big “Thank you!” to Elizabeth and Muriel for joining our group at the cemetery and sharing your knowledge and experiences with the paranormal. To all our guests, we are happy to have spent time together and hope to meet you all again soon.

If you love to read firsthand accounts of hauntings and ghosts, check out Elizabeth’s books – Mobile Ghosts: Alabama’s Haunted Port City, Mobile Ghosts II: The Waterline, and Haunted Mobile: Apparitions of the Azalea City. Mobile Ghosts I and II are out of print. Bienville Books in downtown Mobile can sometimes get their hands on a few copies and may have Haunted Mobile in stock. The books can also be found online through sites such as Amazon.

Advertisements

Saturday Road Trip: Biloxi

Kat and I took a ride to Biloxi today. We picked up volunteer applications for Beauvoir. In 2012 we helped with their Christmas festival. She was Santa’s assistant, and I was an antebellum lady in period costume. I hope we will find opportunities to return.

I’ve made periodic trips to Beauvoir with family since my grandparents took me on our first Mississippi Gulf Coast road trip in the late 1970’s. Four or five of us would pile into Granny’s bright green Gran Torino and head west out of Mobile to Biloxi. Those were the good ol’ days.

Granny wasn’t a fan of air conditioning, or interstates, or breaking the speed limit. We’d roll down all four windows on that big old car, head down Highway 90, and usually make it to Biloxi with plenty of time to spare before lunch. One summer we’d visit Eight Flags and Marine Life, the next Beauvoir. The first two places are long gone; the last still endures, though much changed by Hurricane Katrina. Lots of fond memories made on those trips.

I’ve about got Kat convinced to take up historical reenacting. My forte is the 1800’s. Her options are far broader than mine as she is also able to do the Early 20th Century and WWII eras very well.  I have a lead on a reenactment with a new program in early October related to Alabama history. Crossing my fingers that one works out. Stay tuned. 🙂

We did not have time to tour the grounds at Beauvoir today as Kat and I had another errand to run before evening. We did briefly consider buying a bag or two of feed for the goats. But we weren’t exactly comfortable arriving at our next destination covered in goat slobber. Next time, definitely.

After leaving Beauvoir, Kat and I stopped at a costume shop we’d heard about a couple years ago. At that time, I was having trouble finding exactly what I wanted locally to complement my costume for an Old Mobile ghost/urban legend. An employee of one of the more popular franchise party supply stores quietly suggested we try a place in Biloxi called Josette’s. We should have gone over then and there. Somehow the trip got put off a couple years.

Josette’s is located in the neighborhood just north of Hwy 90 where it meets the I-110 in Biloxi. We weren’t sure what to expect. I’d looked at their website, but photographs cannot capture the scale of the place nor even begin to describe a small portion of what it holds.

Josettes

By all means, check out Josette’s if you are costume shopping on the northern Gulf Coast. The staff are very nice, and the building is HUGE. I felt like we were in the Disney Haunted House or the Navidson home from House of Leaves. Every time we turned a corner the place seemed to grow. If you can dream up a costume or concept, they’ve probably got it at Josette’s.

© 2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories

Church Street: Things That Go “Bump” in the Day

Church Street Cemetery

Do you like ghost stories, mysterious photographs, sharing opinions about the paranormal? Enjoy the company of those who do?

Join us Tuesday, October 17 at 11:30 AM at one of Mobile’s most haunted locations, the Church Street Cemetery, for spooky fun with local writer Elizabeth Parker. Elizabeth is the author of Mobile Ghosts, Mobile Ghosts II, and Haunted Mobile.

We will begin our day dining al fresco with each other and the ghosts, so bring a sack lunch. Elizabeth will share some of her most memorable experiences and favorite spooky photographs. Bring your own photos and stories to share, too.

Discussion will include popular ghost hunting equipment and the types of “evidence” produced by each.  If you have EMF meters, dousing rods, cameras (cell phone or DSLR), digital recorders, etc., feel free to bring them. We will do our own investigation in the cemetery after lunch.

All who are interested are welcome to join us. Feel free to share with your friends. RSVP is not required.

Tuesday, October 24 is our rain date in case of inclement weather on the 17th.

Photograph courtesy of Kathryn Lynn, taken October 2014, Church Street Cemetery, Mobile, Alabama. Can you spot the “apparition?”

©2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories

Lessons From Grandmother’s House

Setting the stage… chocolate-2385326_1920

Sam visits Nee today to cut grass and spies her stash of peppermints.


Sam: Nee, can I get a few of those mints to take home?

Nee: Sure! There’s a Ziploc bag in the drawer.

Sam: I just want a few mints.

Nee drops handfuls into Ziploc Number One.

Nee: Would you like some chocolate candy?

Sam has been picking out the ones Nee doesn’t care for to leave her preferred varieties behind.

Nee reaches indiscriminately into the candy dish and drops chocolates by the handful into Ziploc Number Two.

Nee: Would you like some ham? Let me get you some of that to take home, too.


A simple request for a few peppermints nets Sam two baggies full of candy and premium deli lunch meat. How much better the world would be if we were as thoughtful and caring to one another as a Godly mother & grandmother is to her family.

Lord, may we learn to cultivate a giving spirit and leave stinginess and greed behind.

Proverbs 11:25 – A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

©2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories

Ups and Downs

This week is only half gone. Highs and lows.

On the low side

Bad weather… Boo

Meds with side effects… Yawn

Shuffled Schedules… Sigh

On the high side

Freshly-baked cookies… with no one guarding them

Long visits to catch up with dear friends… and their dogsUps and Downs 2

Timely encouragement from the Word of God

Ups and Downs_Psalm 37_16

©2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories

Monday’s Shopping Adventures: The Stowaway Cat and the Brat

shopping-cart-1275480_960_720My family and facebook friends are aware of the knack my daughter and I have for stumbling into the strangest situations while shopping. Actually all we have to do is leave the house and high-jinks follow. It is a gift inherited from my father. Today’s shopping trip was no exception.

Kat and I had to pick up medicine from the pharmacy, a few household items, and some groceries. Luckily there is a dollar store next door to the pharmacy. I can get cleaning and paper products cheaper there than at the grocery store, and avoid the super-store mega retailer we all love to hate.

First stop, meds. Those are in hand, and I’m waiting to ask James the pharmacist a question. Normally there are at least two staff working in the back at all times, but we only see James filling prescriptions. Lunch, perhaps?

In just a second, Deann the pharmacy tech pops her head in the drive-up window from outside. She announces that she must open the hood on the customer’s car that is sitting in the drive-up. Car trouble? Nope. The customer “heard a cat” when she stopped her car at the window.

Deann checks underneath the car first. Nothing out of the ordinary there. She pops the hood and there sits a fuzzy gray kitten in no mood to meet someone new. Deann plucks the frightened feline off the car’s frame. She is hissed at and scratched for her trouble. The customer is now the proud owner of a little cat with her own tale to tell, no pun intended.

My question to the pharmacist asked and answered, Kat and I proceed to the dollar store. All seems peaceful for a hot August day. Not crowded. Fans whirring at the front and back. We split up to do our shopping.

I’m in the back of the store searching for Soft Scrub when I hear cursing — a lot of cursing. Personal standards of the average person having degraded over the years, it’s not unusual to hear “colorful” language in public. But there’s something weird about this. The voice is too, well, juvenile. In about half a second, I am staring at the source of the obscenities.

Flying around the corner and almost barreling into my cart is a potty-mouthed kid who looks to be no more than five years old. He is still fleeing from someone at top speed, careening around corners and sprinting up and down aisles, spouting profanity all the while. Judging by his favorite curse word, I’d say a female was at the top of his hate list.

My first thought was to suppress the desire to reach out and pinch his little head off. He undoubtedly hears that verbal sewage spewed at home and has grown up thinking that’s how normal people communicate their frustrations. Suspecting the subject of his rage is his mother, I give him room to fly around me and proceed with shopping.

Almost immediately the situation becomes a little clearer, if not somewhat amusing. His mother evidently grew tired of his disobedience. She sought reinforcements.

From the front of the store comes a bellowing female voice, raspy with age, lifelong cigarette smoking and Lord only knows what else.

“Boy… this is your GRANDMOTHER. Get your butt to the car… NOW!!”

This is repeated a couple of times before the little miscreant obliges and peace once again settles on the dollar store. My sympathies lie with the public school teacher whose classroom will be graced with his presence in a few short days.

As Kat and I finished our shopping and approached the cash registers, the employees were discussing their experiences with less than stellar customers. We added a few of our own stories to the mix. Apparently Walmart is not the only retailer with shoppers fit for the looney bin. Anybody looking for an adventure on a smaller scale need only hang out at their local dollar store.

©2015-2017 Our Lives in Stories

The Littlest Laundry Helper

Feeling a bit better today, I decided to catch up on laundry. Pausing in front of the washing machine, I felt a slight tickle on the top of my foot. I looked down and noticed what appeared to be a small brown leaf between my toes and ankle. A gentle swish of my foot shook the “leaf” off onto the floor. More careful observation showed that the “leaf” wiggled… a lot!

Helping me with laundry today was one of the newest additions to the gecko colony that lives in the walls of our house. I scooped the little fellow up and let him ride on the end of a bright yellow flyswatter. (No, I did not swat him. He rather liked it there.) He was safer off the ground where he would not get stepped on. I set the flyswatter on top of the dryer and resumed my work.

Opening the lid on the washer revealed a large, bright green grasshopper staring back at me. Nope, nope, nope… Oh, the joys of a laundry room with outdoor access!

SLAM went the lid. I grabbed the baby gecko, bright yellow fly swatter and all, and ran for help. Reptiles and amphibians I will tolerate, or at least attempt to catch and release. Bugs are another matter entirely.

Sam’s opinion is the polar opposite of my own. He takes care of the insect kingdom and all things arachnid. But don’t count on him for assistance with lizards or geckos or snakes. Sam relocated Mr. Grasshopper to the back yard while keeping one eye on me and my flyswatter friend.

Once laundry was started I had to figure out something to do with the little laundry helper. I couldn’t let him fall into the paws of the Hogwarts sisters. That would mean certain doom.

Littlest Laundry Helper
Left: The Littlest Laundry Helper. Right: The Hogwarts Sisters – Dobby (top) & Hermione (bottom)

Dobby and Hermione have made a very big dent in the local gecko population. No amount of reasoning can convince them of the helpfulness of the little critters. I try to explain how the geckos in residence help control the bug population. But I just don’t think I’m getting through to the girls.

I set the tiny gecko on the floor in a small space between the dryer and a storage shelf. Even the wily felines couldn’t reach him there. He grudgingly let go of the fly swatter and pattered a few steps away.

I did several loads of laundry this afternoon and caught a glimpse of the little fellow several times. He changed color from dark brown on the concrete floor– to nearly white on the linoleum — and then back to dark brown again. I hope his camouflage serves him well and he grows up to be one of the three- or four-inch adults that feast on bugs outside our back door. But don’t tell Sam I said that.

©2015 – 2017 Our Lives in Stories