Monday, October 20, 2014

DEAD BUT NOT GONE by Kathleen Rice Adams

Dead but Not Gone

By Kathleen Rice Adams

Every year at Halloween, people dredge up every ghost story, spooky campfire tale, and urban legend they can find. Something draws humans to the supernatural, the unexplained, and the patently creepy, even though most of us fervently hope we’ll never experience the phenomena in person.

Ghost stories are nothing new. Neither are ghosts. In fact, quite a few of America’s most famous…and notorious…former citizens reportedly still inhabit their favorite “haunts” a century or more after their corporeal forms left the building.

Abigail Adams
John and Abigail Adams not only left their mark on history as the second President and First Lady, but also as the first residents of the White House. The presidential mansion was still under construction when the couple moved out after John’s single term as President, but Abigail—a tidy, down-to-earth woman—reportedly lingers yet. During the Adams’s tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Abigail hung her wash in the East Room because she found that to be the driest, warmest place on the property. During the Taft administration, the East Room became a popular spot for hosting receptions. That’s when the President, guests, and staff began reporting a ghostly Mrs. Adams, clad in a mop cap and lace shawl, sauntering through with armloads of spectral laundry. To this day, guests sometimes report a soapy fragrance in the room.

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton
The third Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr is best known for the duel in which he killed Alexander Hamilton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Although Burr was acquitted of murder in the incident, both he and Hamilton appear to have been so scarred by the bitter political rivalry that haunted them during life that they stuck around after death to do a bit of haunting of their own. The owners, staff, and guests at a New York restaurant located in what once was Burr’s carriage house have attributed flying dishes and moving chairs to Burr’s unseen hand. Similar poltergeist activity has been reported in the Greenwich Village house in which Hamilton died.

Benjamin Franklin
Possibly one of the most brilliant intellects ever to roam the planet, Founding Father, writer, inventor, philosopher, and scientist Benjamin Franklin was more than a bit eccentric. Among his favorite earthly haunts during life was the library of the Philosophical Society he helped found in Philadelphia. After Franklin’s death, the society erected a statue to his memory. Perhaps they shouldn’t have bothered. Reports of his “free spirit” roaming the halls are legion. Less common, but no less credible, are sightings of the statue dancing through the Philly streets.

Andrew Jackson
The seventh President of the U.S., Andrew Jackson could be boisterous, argumentative, and temperamental. (While in office, he beat a would-be assassin to the ground on the steps of the Capitol building.) Old Hickory died in June 1845, but as large a presence as he was in life, nobody should have expected him to leave and be done with it. He didn’t. In 1865, Mary Todd Lincoln reported confronting a “cantankerous” ghost she insisted was Jackson’s swearing and stomping about the second-floor Rose Room, which had served as Jackson’s bedroom. Stomping, cursing, and loud laughter occasionally echo in the space even today, earning the Rose Room a reputation as the most haunted location in a structure with more than its share of resident ghosts.

Jesse James
One of the most notorious outlaws in the American West, Jesse James’s motives remain the subject of debate. Perhaps the American imagination’s unwillingness to let James go is the reason he hasn’t gone. Since the day he died more than 130 years ago, folks have reported unearthly goings-on at the Kearney, Missouri, farm where James grew up. Now a museum, the property is subject to doors opening and slamming all by themselves without setting off security alarms. Lights move inside and outside the buildings, and on foggy mornings, the pounding of hooves, muffled shouts, and gunfire can be heard in the nearby woods.

Enigmatic third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson embodied the clash between American ideals and the reality of the American experience. In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal,” yet he owned slaves and was outspoken in his belief that Negroes were an inferior race. Today, phantom footsteps and happy, if mysterious, humming and whistling at Jefferson’s home, Monticello, are attributed to his presence. Mary Todd Lincoln (who seemed prone to ghost sightings), reported seeing Jefferson in the Yellow Oval Room at the White House. In addition, hauntingly beautiful violin music sometimes emerges from the Oval Office while it is unoccupied. Jefferson was fond of playing the violin while relaxing in the room.

Marie Laveau
The truth about Marie Laveau is so buried in legend as to be indecipherable. Born a free woman of color, she’s often called the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, but it’s more likely she was a devout Catholic who embraced some African and Creole traditions in her role as a healer. Regardless where she stood on the mystical, Laveau was a beautiful, wealthy woman who remains a source of fascination more than 130 years after her death at the age of 98. People visiting her grave to seek a variety of intercessions have reported seeing the gauzy form of a woman wearing a tignon (a turban women of color were required to wear). The same figure has been seen at the New Orleans house where Laveau’s cottage once stood.

Robert E. Lee
Considered one of the most brilliant military tacticians in history, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led vastly outnumbered Rebel forces to a number of significant victories over better-equipped Union troops. Exhausted by the war and heartsick about the conflict’s toll on his beloved Virginia, Lee lived for only five years after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. At his death, it appears he regressed to happier times and returned to his family’s home in Alexandria, Virginia. There, the spirit of a young boy about four years old is thought to be Lee’s. Much like the general in his childhood, the boy is mischievous: He rings doorbells, moves objects, and giggles in the hallways. Occasionally he is seen romping on the lawn with a ghostly black dog and the specters of two young girls who are thought to be his sisters.

Abraham Lincoln
Possibly the most often-sighted ghost in the U.S. is reputed to be the sixteenth President. It seems only fitting that Abraham Lincoln would return from the Beyond, as he was a firm believer in the supernatural. Lincoln’s presidency during a pivotal point in American history and his tragic assassination seem to have bound him to the White House for good. Among those who’ve reported post-mortem encounters with Honest Abe are Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower; First Ladies Grace Coolidge, Jacquie Kennedy and Ladybird Johnson; presidential children Susan Ford and Maureen Reagan; Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who, in a tremendous breach of international protocol, encountered Lincoln fresh from the bath, nude). Lincoln makes his presence known in the Lincoln Bedroom, the Oval Office, the Rose Room, and the East Room, where his body lay in state. Lincoln’s ghost also has been reported in Springfield, Illinois—near his grave, walking the streets around the original courthouse, and wandering through his former home.

Dolley Madison
Wife of fourth U.S. President James Madison, Dolley Madison often is applauded for her social grace and elegant taste. The White House Rose Garden was her proudest accomplishment. Evidently, she continues to maintain a proprietary interest in horticulture. When First Lady Edith Wilson directed the staff to dig up the roses, a “very angry” apparition that looked a lot like Dolley chased them from their work. The project was abandoned. Others have reported detecting the scent of roses in several of Dolley’s favorite rooms.

Can you tell I’m fascinated by ghosts? When the opportunity to contribute to the Prairie Rose Publications anthology Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico, Vol.2 came along, I knew exactly what kind of Halloween creepiness my story would include.

“Family Tradition”

A failed bank robber and a phony psychic find their soulmates after she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts.

Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. Carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist has masqueraded as a gypsy spiritualist for so long she’s started to believe her own spiel. When she accidentally summons a pair of real ghosts, dishonesty may not be the best policy…but it’s all they’ve got.

She had no choice but to play out the con. “What question weighs your mind?”

“I’ve suffered a recent…setback.” A soft chuckle rippled across the space between them. “Ask your spirits how to remedy that.”

“The future is a vast, open plain. Without more to go on—”

“If you’re legit, they’ll know what I mean.”

As if maintaining the ruse weren’t difficult enough. She stalled for time with more deep breaths. “My guide wishes to know your name, so he may call upon the proper advisors.”

Silence expanded to fill the tent before he spoke. “Hawkins. Tombstone Hawkins.”

Her eyes snapped open. Finally, a chance to regain control of the dodge. “It’s not wise to mock the spirits.”

“Ain’t mocking nobody. That’s my given name.”

“Sounds like you should be contacting the Beyond yourself instead of inconveniencing me.”

The smirk she’d noticed earlier broadened into a full-fledged sneer brimming with sarcasm. “Please go on. I ain’t seen an act this entertaining since I was knee-high to a toad—and that’s been a mighty long while.”

The sparkle in dark eyes, the broad shoulders hunched over the chair, the amusement stretching his lips all spoke of a man for whom a rough-edged kind of charm came naturally. If pressed, she would admit this saddle tramp’s raw masculinity could enchant a less worldly woman. Cleaned up, he might even be attractive.

Too bad he was such an insufferable clod.

Directing her gaze to the crystal ball, she lowered her voice into the singsong rhythm that never failed to lull gullible marks into a trance of their own. “Spirits, Tombstone—” A giggle bubbled upward. She cleared her throat. “Tomb—” She nearly choked trying to catch a snort. Damn the man’s name anyway. “Mr. Hawkins seeks—”

His flattened hand crashed down on hers, practically pressing her palm through the tapestry. She glanced up.

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About Kathleen Rice Adams

A Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks…even Kathleen’s good guys wear black hats. Find her online at:

CONTEST!! Kathleen will be giving away a digital copy of the Halloween anthology, COWBOYS, CREATURES, AND CALICO, Volume 2 to someone who comments. Be sure to include your email address in your comment for a chance to win.


Sarah J. McNeal said...

Kathleen, how wonderful to have you on The Romance Room blog. I always enjoy your quirky sense of humor that spills out into your stories.
I only heard of 2 of the ghosts you mentioned: Abe Lincoln and Marie Trebeau (I think I just misspelled her name). The White House seems to be teaming with ghosts. I don't think I would want to live there. I might like being haunted by Thomas Jefferson though. I'd love to hear him play his violin.
This is a wild premise to the story you wrote for the anthology. Love the name, Tombstone. These two characters are wild and crazy. You are ingenious. Loved the excerpt. It ended too soon...naturally.
All wonderful things to your corner of the universe, Kathleen.

Unknown said...

Hi Kathleen,
I love your humor, and of course, I love ghost stories.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I never knew there was so much activity in the White House. Awesome! Happy Halloween to you.

Unknown said...

Sarah, thank you so much for inviting me into your lovely parlor. I always enjoy visiting with you and The Romance Room peeps. :-)

I was struck by the number of spirits Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to have seen. The two I mentioned her are only a couple of the herd. From what I've read, the poor woman was neurotic, if not downright unbalanced -- and that was before her husband was assassinated, which I'm sure would unbalance anyone.

I'm not sure what to make of the White House's hauntings. Perhaps, after reaching the pinnacle of power and renown, some people just have trouble letting go...

Unknown said...

Connie, thank you for your kind words. I always kinda hate to see Halloween end, because I enjoy the ghost stories, too! :-D

Unknown said...

Kristy, I've always been surprised by the amount of paranormal activity rumored to occur in the White House. It seems like everyone who's ever lived there returns to visit at least a time or two after they've shuffled off this mortal coil. What's up with that?

Kirsten Lynn said...

I often think it's more a case of "this world can't let go of them" then "they can't let go of this world."

Loved the post and all the stories!

Unknown said...

Rustler, I think you're right, especially in Lincoln's case. We should let that poor man rest in peace. Didn't he have a rough enough life without his admirers pestering him in the Afterlife?

Meg said...

WOW!! I had no idea about some of these hauntings. Must be why I want to visit the White House. And Monticello! One of these days... great stuff, KRA!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Meg! I'd love to visit the White House and Monticello, too. Now those are some ghosts I wouldn't mind running into face to face. Can you just imagine meeting a President up-close...even if he wasn't exactly solid anymore? :-)

Alison E. Bruce said...

The way Abe Lincoln shows up in multiple places reminds me of one theory about ghosts, or some ghost-like apparitions. They aren't the souls of the departed but a psychic recording left where those people made a big impression.

Rain Trueax said...

Thanks for sharing such fascinating ghost stories, most of which I'd never heard.

Cheryl Pierson said...

This is just amazing, Kathleen. I never knew all these notables had ghosts running around, either! I am just not sure I'd want to live in the White House with all that spiritual activity going on there! LOL I do believe in ghosts...I do believe in ghosts...(I REALLY DO).

Love your story in CCC#2--I always love your writing and the way your humor shines through.


Unknown said...

Ali, that's a good point. I've heard that theory, too, and it seems a logical explanation for some of the non-threatening presences. What I wonder, though, is how does that theory jive with the whatevers that allegedly cause trouble. Where do poltergeists come from?

Unknown said...

You're welcome, Rain. :-) This kind of thing feeds my research addiction. Now if someone would just put fences across those dang rabbit holes... :-|

Unknown said...

Thanks for the compliment, Cheryl. I blame my admittedly quirky sense of humor on my parents. No one could've been nurtured by those two without turning out twisted. ;-) (No matter what I said as a teenager, I had great parents.)

As for ghosts... I think Tombstone's a believer now, too. :-D

Of all the couples I've written so far, I'd love to revisit Tombstone and Pansy and Laredo and Prudence down the road. Put them all together in the same room and see what happens. Considering the way everything those boys touch goes sideways, I'm not sure any of us would survive.