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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Ghosts

 Monarch Butterfly

 A Ghost Story?


My friend remembers the day that they brought up the Edmund Fitzgerald's bell.

She witnessed it herself.


For her, the story immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot's unforgettable song was a personal story. Having grown up in Duluth, she remembers the terrible storm, and the terrible fear that she felt when she—she was he at the time—heard that the Fitz had gone down.

Her best friend's father worked the Lakes, and she that knew he was out at the time. When she first heard the terrible news on the radio, she immediately jumped onto her bike and rode straight to her friend's house.

Her friend was able to confirm that, no, his father was not on the Fitz and, so far as they knew, had ridden out the storm just fine, as indeed later proved to be the case.

In the welter of speculation that followed, she can remember hearing the old Great Lakes sailors who knew freighters and knew the Fitz discussing the matter. They all agreed on what had caused the wreck: the ship was too long. "She broke right in half," they said.

When, decades later, the Fitz's final resting place was located on Superior's cold floor, they were proved correct.


My friend was present, 20 years later, for the raising of the ship's bell.

“There are two things that I remember about that day,” she told me recently.

A small flotilla of private boats had gone out with the rescue ship to witness the historic event. My friend was on one of them.

When the raised bell first broke surface, it rang.

For the first time in 20 years, it rang.

Once, it rang.


We discuss the ethics of taking things from shipwrecks. We agree that, in general, one shouldn't. Wrecks belong to the sea-gods, and to the dead: they, and what they contain, should be held sacrosanct.

But those who brought up the Fitz's bell did what one should do in such circumstances: they replaced it.

A gift for a gift, the ancestors always said.


“You said you remember two things about that day,” I remind my friend. “What was the second?”

There's a pause.

“There was a butterfly on the boat that day,” she says.

We're both silent as we consider the implications of this. Superior is a huge lake, with winds to match. One just doesn't see butterflies out over Superior.

I think of all those stories that liken butterflies to souls. I think of the monarch butterflies of late Summer and early Autumn, like fluttering little pieces of Samhain come early. I think of how they return to their Wintering grounds in Mexico every year around Día de los Muertos, and are thought of by folks thereabouts as the homecoming spirits of the dead.

“Was it a monarch butterfly?” I ask after a few moments.

“Of course,” she says.


Down the long years, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, but there's just one that everyone remembers.

They remember because of the song.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    He was an amazing songwriter and singer. Such emotion.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    It really has become a folksong in its own right: truly an impressive achievement.
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    The first song my husband ever introduced me to was "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". RIP Gordon Lightfoot.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ghost in the Cellar

As kids in early 60s Steeltown, we had a whole repertory of backyard games. My favorite was Ghost in the Cellar.

Children's games often have a soupçon of ritual to them—most are circular, the game's intent being to regenerate itself by starting over again—Ghost in the Cellar being the most ritualized of them all. It had all the elements of good ritual: a story, archetypal characters, catharsis, a felicitous combination of the scripted and the spontaneous, and, best of all, a ritualized dialogue that had to be repeated with absolute precision every time.

Dramatis Personae: The Mother. The Children. The Ghost.

Story: In the course of play, the Children get dirty. (Here there was lots of room for fun improvisation. As we got older, the "dirt" became less physical and more behavioral.) The Mother calls the Children in for supper, but is dismayed to see how dirty they've gotten.

Mother: Go down to the cellar and wash your hands!

The Children go down into the (imaginary) cellar—it never occurred to us to play the game using a real one—but there they encounter the Ghost.

Ghost: [Shrieks]

The Children run back to the Mother, screaming.

Children: There's a ghost! A ghost in the cellar!

The Mother assures them that there is no ghost—here she would improvise creatively about laundry hanging up to dry—and sends them back down to the cellar. Three times—the ritual number—this happens. The third time, the Mother agrees to accompany the Children to the cellar. There, sure enough, they encounter the Ghost.

You've got to hand it to the Mother. Does she run away screaming? No. Instead, she confronts the Ghost (which, I'm told, is exactly what one should do in such situations).

Mother: What do you want?

Ghost: A match.

Mother: What for?

Ghost: To light my pipe.

Mother: What for?

Ghost: To kill you!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
My Psychic Life:  The Hotel Vendome

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What Paranormal Investigators Should Know...

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  • M.T. Noah
    M.T. Noah says #
    Exactly. I can't count how many times some person on one of those shows gets all aggressive (baiting a non-bodied person) and the
  • Gerrie
    Gerrie says #
    Right on Catt! I always love watching these shows, if only to yell at their stupidity. But yes, I think Amy Allen on the Dead File


Title: Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Sounds like it would make good source material for the Geist roleplaying game; formerly by White Wolf, now by Onyx Path. I'll try

Posted by on in GoodWitch v BadWitch
Good Witch vs. Bad Witch: Spooks

I have a spirit in my bedroom and I have recorded him once on my voice recorder playing with the voice recorder and then he said "oops" and I feel him in my room and I believe he has been shutting the voice recorder off at night as I have it on a setting that it only records if it hears a voice or noise. I go to bed fine but when I wake up I have bruises all over my legs and I don't know  what to do. I don't want to send him away without knowing who he is but he won't tell me. And I wake up with some really bad bruises. What can I do?

Spooked in Seattle

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  • John Reder
    John Reder says #
    The commonality between these two viewpoints seems to be that the situation can be handled by the individual with somewhat simplis
The Lemuria: Folk Magic and Ghosts in Ancient Rome

One of the reasons I was so deeply attracted to Religio Romana was the attention that is given to the Dead and the Ancestors. In February, the end of the traditional Roman religious year, the month is spent paying our dues to those powers higher than us that perhaps we've neglected either knowingly or unknowingly. This shows up with the observation of the Parentalia and the Feralia within it, both to recognize the Lares, the God/Spirits of our more spiritually-developed Ancestors and Heroes, and the Manes, the Spirits of our Beloved Dead and, in my personal tradition, the Spirits of the Unclaimed Dead.

The month of May, a month of purification and possibly named after the Maiores (Ancestors), also has an ancient festival in it focusing on the Dead. But this time it is not for the Manes, the “good” Dead, those who had been given proper rites in burial and were offered cultus by their families, but the Lemures, the angry, restless Dead.

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