If ghosts do haunt historic places, they may view ghost hunters of Melissa Barba’s ilk with the same distaste long-time celebrities feel for paparazzi. Two or three centuries into the job of haunting, a new generation comes hunting with intrusive paraphernalia: flashlights, cameras, camcorders and voice recorders. So, if you follow Barba’s instructions in this week’s feature, “If There Be Spirits, Now’s the Time to Find Them,” don’t be surprised if the ghosts of Point Lookout, William Paca House and Jefferson Patterson Park are uncooperative if not downright irritable.
Haunted as historic places may be, you don’t need to go far — in time or place — to find ghosts. They’re rising up from the earth, clinging to trees and shrubbery, blowing in the wind. Visit most any neighborhood in Chesapeake Country or across America, and you find them. Expressive celebrants of the holy day and holiday of Halloween have hung ghosts, skeletons and the popular roll of dead or undead characters in their yards and driveways.
This year, a neighbor on Fairhaven Road has bedecked a long drive and front yard with gauzy orange bows as well as white plastic bag ghosts à la friendly Casper. Morning and night, it calls to me. I have driven in for a closer look.
For I appreciate such efforts, in every form. Even huge spiders, giant illuminated pumpkins and inflated Frankensteins are okay by me this time of year.
’Tis, afterall, the season.
As Mother Nature’s children fall and flee our world, human natures long to pierce the mystery. Ghosts seem to be calling to us from the nether world. Or is it we calling them?
Whoever’s calling who, the meeting of the worlds of the living and dead is a celebrated tradition this time of year. Its timing is rooted in sky as well as earth, balanced on a nice celestial ellipsis midway between the autumnal equinox, Sept. 22, and winter solstice, Dec. 21.
The celebration goes by many names. Samhain was the sacred festival of Celts and Druids. Hallowe’en, our festival, is the evening, or e’en, of the Nov. 1 Christian feast All Saints Day, honoring the good souls who’ve gone to heaven. November 2, the following day, is All Souls Day, honoring the not-so-good dead earning their way into heaven. In Mexico, the same day is the celebrated Day of the Dead, which has icons scarier than ours, including calaveras, effigies of human skulls often made of sugar.
The Day of the Dead, I’m told, is ideally feted in cemeteries where your living and dead families get together for a high-spirited reunion.
My most recent family are buried in Illinois and St. Louis, and earlier generations I don’t know where, so my Day of the Dead celebrating won’t take me to their resting places this year. In plenty of fine Chesapeake County cemeteries, historic St. James Parish in Lothian for one, I could meet up with old friends. Other dear ones lie not so far away in Arlington National Cemetery.
But if ghosts are real, do I need to travel to find them? Won’t any so motivated find me? Maybe our own ghosts are the spirits that give us goose bumps this time of year.
Ghosts are not the whole story, even this time of year. In this week’s paper, you’ll encounter superhuman and well as supernatural phenomena.
The Volvo Ocean Race, now nearly three-quarters of the 6,500 nautical miles from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa, returns to this week’s paper, introduced by Steve Carr, who’s chronicled three earlier races in our pages.
Here, too, you’ll meet near-superhuman Al DeCesaris, the Annapolitan who biked cross country last year and is now running the whole East Coast to help find a cure for his niece and other kids suffering Sturge-Weber syndrome.
Read on for these and all your favorite Bay Weekly features.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; email@example.com