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Thank you for joining me. I started this Blogsite to talk about the writers who have inspired me, about books, writing in general and about the monsters and urban legends that keep our imaginations fertile. I hope you will enjoy what I have to share.

You can get additional information about my books at debbieboek.com

All of my books are available at amazon.com

Whether you enjoy an exciting medieval romance or a supernatural thriller, I believe you will find something to entertain you and I hope you check them out.

The Spirit Phone

Any Supernatural fans out there? If so, you may remember the episode where the Winchesters went to the Edison museum to check out the “Ghost Phone”. It turned out that the ghost phone was not the actual culprit for what was going on, but it has intrigued me ever since and I thought I would see if it was a real thing, and lo and behold, it is, sort of.

Technically, it is not real because no blueprints or prototype were ever found. However, in October of 1920, Thomas Alva Edison told a reporter at American Magazine that he had been working on a “spirit phone” for quite some time. He was trying to find a way to communicate with “personalities which have left this earth”.  

That announcement created quite a stir and became a national craze. World War I had just ended and it was time of great spiritualism, people wanted to believe in it so they could talk to those they’d lost.

Edison was 84 years old when he died in 1931. At that time, he already had 1,093 patents in his name, 389 for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 141 for storage batteries and 34 for the telephone.

The spirit phone was not actually that farfetched of an idea. Edison had already invented the phonograph, which in itself could produce the voices of the deceased, as did his invention of the motion picture camera.

In addition to that, in the prior twenty years there had been a slew of new inventions from many different inventors that people had not even conceived of in the nineteenth century.

For example, in 1901 the vacuum cleaner was invented, 1905 windscreen wipers, 1907 electric washing machine, 1911 stenotype machine, 1913 brassiere, 1920 hairdryer and submachine gun and in 1927 the videophone was invented.

Although, Edison was ridiculed frequently early in his career, once he made his visions a reality, he instead became a national hero.

Edison did encounter some serious mishaps along the way. He designed a fluoroscope, which uses x-rays to take radiographs, and that fundamental design is still in use today.

Clarence Dally was Edison’s assistant and made himself a guinea pig for the project. He was exposed to a poisonous dose of radiation and died of injuries related to that exposure. Edison completely abandoned his project after that incident.

But, let’s get back to the spirit phone, one version of the story about it involves a rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Apparently, there was an issue over which of them were the greater inventor and when Edison heard that Tesla was working on a way to contact the dead, he came up with a prototype of the spirit phone.

According to the book, Edison vs. Tesla: The Battle Over Their Last Invention, Edison invited mediums and scientists over to observe his experiment with his prototype, however, no ghosts were willing to participate, and the guests left disappointed.

My favorite explanation about the Spirit Phone is Edison’s response to the New York Times in 1926, “I really had nothing to tell him, but I hated to disappoint him so I thought up this story about communicating with spirits, but it was all a joke.”

Whether or not Thomas Alva Edison truly did try to find a way to communicate with the dead is of minor consequence considering all of the other amazing things that he did accomplish in his life. And who knows, he may very well be up there right now, trying to find a way to communicate with us humans.

I’m currently working on the next novel in the Devereaux Chronicles and, although there is no actual “ghost phone” available, I’m finding some interesting and unpleasant ways to show how spirits do make contact.

Thanks for joining me and I hope you stay tuned for that.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.com

A MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought you might enjoy some fun facts about the origins of our current Christmas traditions, many of which go back to medieval times.

The word Christmas is from the old English term, Cristes Maesse, which means Christ’s Mass because the day itself was marked by three masses.  The words, Cristes Maesse, were modified over the centuries and in the 16th or 17th century, the word Christmas first appeared.

The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome on December 25 of the year 336.

The actual date of Jesus’ birth was not recorded in the gospels or any other early Christian writings. Although the holiday itself was intended as a celebration of his birth, there seem to be different thoughts as to why the celebration is held on December 25.

Early Christian writers suggested that the date of the winter solstice was chosen for the Christmas celebrations because this is the day that the sun reversed the direction of its cycle from south to north, connecting the birth of Jesus to the ‘rebirth’ of the sun.

The Roman celebration of Saturnalia, in honor of Saturn the Harvest God, and the Scandinavian festival of Yule and other Pagan festivals centered on the Winter Solstice and were celebrated on or around this date. As Northern Europe was the last part of the continent to embrace Christianity, the pagan traditions of old had a big influence on the Christian Christmas celebrations.

Christmas plays or “disguisings” which depicted biblical stories were popular. The majority of the population was illiterate and the Church used these plays to educate the masses about the stories in the bible. Over time the plays became elaborate rituals in and of themselves. To add to the importance of Christmas masses visual images were added, such as displaying a crib in the church to represent the place where Jesus was born.  

Christmas Feasts
Turkey was not introduced until after the Americas were discovered in the 15th century. In medieval times the most common dinner choice was the Christmas goose, but roast swan, pheasant and peacocks were also popular.

If you really wanted to make an impression on your guests, a wild boar would be sacrificed, apparently there was nothing more impressive than a boar’s head presented on a silver platter with an apple stuffed in its mouth. If you could not afford a Yule boar, a pie in the shape of a pig was a common alternative.

The wealthy spared no expense for their grand Christmas feasts. In 1213, just one order for England’s King John’s Christmas feast included: 24 hogshead of wine; 200 head of pork; 1,000 hens; 500 lbs of wax; 50 lbs of pepper; 2 lbs of saffron; 100 lbs of almonds and, of course, the 10,000 salt eels.

Mince Pies were originally baked in rectangular cases to represent the infant Jesus’ crib and the addition of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was meant to symbolize the gifts bestowed by the three wise men. These pies were not very large and it was widely believed to be lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas. However, as the name suggests, mince pies were originally made of a variety of shredded meat along with spices and fruit. It was only as recently as the Victorian era that the recipe was amended to include only spices and fruit.

The tree was an important symbol in various pagan cultures. Evergreens, which in ancient Rome were thought to have special powers and were used for decoration, symbolized the promised return of life in the spring and came to symbolize eternal life for Christians. The Vikings hung fir and ash trees with war trophies for good luck.

Christmas tree in a medieval chapel taken in lower austria

The tradition of Christmas carols goes back to the 13th century and the reason that they go door to door is actually a result of carols being banned in churches in medieval times. Many carolers took the word carol literally (to sing and dance in a circle) which meant that the more serious Christmas masses were being ruined and so the Church decided to send the carol singers outside.

Wassail comes from an Anglo-Saxon greeting waes-hael which means “be in good health”. The word became synonymous with the hot mulled apple cider distributed during Yuletide. The drink was made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar.

Carolers would take their wassail bowl door-to-door, offering a drink and song in exchange for gifts (and yes, sometimes they did receive actual figgy pudding).

Although gift giving at Christmas was temporarily banned by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages due to its suspected pagan origins, it was soon popular again as the festive season in the Middle Ages became a time of excess dominated by a great feast, gifts for rich and poor and general indulgence in eating, drinking, dancing and singing.

Christmas has traditionally been seen as a time of reversal of fortunes, where the rich provide gifts for the poor. In medieval times, the gift was generally money and it was provided in a hollow clay pot with a slit in the top which had to be smashed for the money to be taken out. These small clay pots were nicknamed “piggies” and thus became the first version of the piggy banks we use today.

I can’t end this post before sharing some of the more unusual medieval traditions that I discovered.

Yule Mumming from Scandinavia

From Christmas Eve until the Twelfth Night, young men in northern parts of Europe would go about in the middle of the night scaring people in the streets or in their farms. They would be wearing frightening masks and would be “disguised according to the old fashion of the devil.” The young yule mummers would try to scare people by pretending to act like ghosts, trolls or other strange creatures. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Yule Goat began to appear and would make children shake and quiver and strike them with a kind of “panic fear.”

Soule in France
A popular Christmas past-time in medieval France was the game of soule, which would happen once a year between neighboring villages. The game had many regional variations but was based on a very simple principle: two opposing teams would compete for possession of a large block of wood or a moss-filled leather ball, called the eteuf or pelote.

It was propelled by being punched with the fist, kicked, or struck with curved sticks. In the course of these encounters with dozens of participants involved, all blows were allowed, which explained the large number of resulting injuries and even fatalities. Does that sound a bit like football to anyone other than me?

There is so much more that I would love to share but this already longer than it should be, so I’ll finish it up with the Christmas trolls from Iceland, which may very well be where Santa’s elves originated from or, possibly, the elf on the shelf.

 In medieval Iceland, during the Christmas period, daylight would last only 4 to 5 hours, making for long, cold nights. It was also a time of danger, when evil creatures would wander the land. Icelandic sagas relate tales of strange events that happened during the Yule festival.

One farmer invited his neighbors to his Christmas feast, only to have several ghosts arrive, who would shake the mud off their clothes and spray the other guests with it and those who tried to stop them would fall sick and die.

By the later Middle Ages the stories and beliefs about Huldufólk (hidden people) were very common, and elves began to be associated with Christmas, they were said to be able to take over a person’s house and would hold wild parties, which I assume explains the messes they would find the next morning.

Whatever traditions that you and yours share, I wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas. Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next year.

Debbie
debbieboek.com

THE JOURNEY FROM SAMHAIN TO HALLOWEEN

Happy Halloween! Here we are, almost at the end of October already, and I know many of you must be wondering how this holiday actually came about. The good news for you is that I am going to talk about that very subject today.

It all started with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in or sah-ween). It was the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals, taking place at midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice and was usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1.

At Samhain, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to humankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshippers; it was a time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes. Sacrifices and reparations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities.  

During this time, hearth fires were left to burn out while the harvest was gathered. After the harvesting was complete, celebrants joined the Druid priests to light a community fire, cattle were sacrificed and participants took a flame from the communal fire back to their own home to relight the hearth.

Because the Celts believed that the barrier between worlds was breachable during Samhain, offerings were left outside villages and fields. Tricks and pranks were often played but were blamed on fairies and spirits.

It was expected that ancestors might cross over during this time, as well, and Celts would dress as animals and monsters so that fairies were not tempted to kidnap them. Carved turnips called jack-o-lanterns began to appear, attached by strings to sticks and embedded with coal. Later Irish tradition switched them to pumpkins.

And, of course, there was the dumb supper. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth during Samhain and, for the dumb supper, the celebrants invited their ancestors to join in, giving the families a chance to interact with the spirits until they left following dinner.

Children would play games to entertain the dead while the adults would update the dead on the past year’s news. That night, doors and windows might be left open for the dead to come in and eat cakes that had been left for them.

So, how did this ancient pagan celebration become what we know today as Halloween? As Christianity gained a foothold in pagan communities, church leaders attempted to reframe Samhain as a Christian celebration.

In the 9th century, Pope Gregory declared it as All Saint’s Day on November 1, that day was for honoring every Christian saint. All Souls’ Day would follow on November 2 when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead.

However, neither holiday did away with the pagan aspects of the celebration. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil, and they continued to appease those spirits by setting out gifts of food and drink.

All Hallow’s eve subsequently became Hallow Evening which then led to Hallowe’en. Many supernatural creatures became associated with All Hallows. In Ireland, fairies were numbered among the legendary creatures who roamed on Halloween. In old England, cakes were made for the wandering souls, and people went “a’ soulin'” for these “soul cakes.”

Halloween, a time of magic, also became a day of divination, with a host of magical beliefs: for instance, if a person holds a mirror on Halloween and walks backward down the stairs to the basement, the face that appears in the mirror will be their next lover. If I do try that, and don’t break my neck in the process, I’ll let you know what I saw. Particularly if it turns out to be Russell Crowe.

The modern-day Halloween traditions of wearing costumes and roaming door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with witches, fairies and demons. Offerings of food and drink were meant to placate them.

As time wore on, people began dressing like the scary creatures that they had been trying to appease and would perform antics in exchange for food and drink. That practice was called mumming and eventually evolved into trick or treating.

Even some of the most mundane customs derive from Samhain. Bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins, as well as the spiced cider of the day, all began with the original harvest holiday of Samhain.

Who doesn’t get a little chill along their spine when they hear a strange noise on a dark, spooky Halloween night? Somehow, I think those old customs are hard-wired in our brains, because I know of no other night all year long when I most expect one of those ghosts or ghouls to cross through the veil and appear before me. How about you?

Happy Halloween and thanks for joining me.

Debbie
debbieboek.com

Revisiting Scotland

In honor of the one year anniversary of my Scotland trip, I thought I would repost last years article about it. I truly love that country and can’t wait to go back again.

I’ve attached a couple more photos that weren’t in the original article which you can see here.

Glasgow – so glad I didn’t rent a car and try to drive myself.
Glasgow
A Scots Toast
Edinburgh
Hollyrood Castle – Edinburgh

Some of my pictures show dreary, rainy skies but I didn’t want you think that is how it was my entire trip. The Edinburgh picture and the Hollyrood Castle pictures were taken the same afternoon. That’s how quickly the weather would change and suddenly become sunny and beautiful.

Thank for joining me on my trip down memory lane. It was the trip of a lifetime and I hope to get there again soon.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.com

LET’S GET MEDIEVAL

I usually share blogs about other writers or about creatures that fuel a writer’s imagination, but I’m going to do something different today. As you know I’ve written a series of supernatural thrillers, but that type of novel is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.

In case you were not aware of it, I began my writing career with two historical romance novels and I’m going to tell you a little a bit about the first one that was published, If Not For The Knight.

The story takes place in Northern England and begins in 1066, after William the Conqueror defeated Harold Godwinson and became the King of England, as well as of Normandy.

The original inspiration for my novel was a movie called The Warlord, which starred Charlton Heston, Rosemary Forsythe and Richard Boone. The movie is premised on a particular right that feudal lords were entitled to with subordinate women on their wedding nights, which was called Droit du seigneur or ‘Lord’s right’.

Although my story is nothing like The Warlord, it was the reason that I began doing the research that I did. I found that the time of the Norman conquest was filled with its own drama and I was able to incorporate some of what really happened into the imaginary world of my novel.

Those times were turbulent and King William used his knights to viciously put down any rebellions, even going so far as to imprison his own his half-brother, Odo. As part of his efforts to secure England, William ordered many castles built, including the Tower of London. Those fortifications allowed the Normans to retreat in safety when rebellions threatened.

The main character in If Not For the Knight is a Calder Wyndym, one of the King’s knights. He is tasked to build one of those castles in a small Saxon village. While doing so, he falls in love with a young Saxon woman and creates an even deeper rift between the Normans and her fellow villagers, who are still reeling from the violent overthrow of their country.

It is a historical romance novel but, along with the romance, there is a substantial amount of drama, intrigue, danger and, of course, a few battles. This book was originally published in 2005 but I recently republished it.

I will be releasing the sequel, When the Knight Falls, in October 2019 so I wanted to bring the re-release of If Not For The Knight to people’s attention, in case they hadn’t ever read it or, if they did when it first came out in 2005, to give them time reacquaint themselves with the characters before the sequel is released.

Thanks for joining me and I hope you get a chance to check out If Not For The Knight.

Debbie
debbieboek.com
debbieboek.blog

GHOSTFACERS

As a follow up to last month’s post, I wanted to share my ghost-face photos with you. In case you missed my blog from June, I did a post on some books that I’d read about cases investigated by the demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren.

In one of the books they explained that if you take a photo of a gravestone, you can sometimes see the face of the person buried there in the lichen on the stone. And I, of course, had to go to my local cemetery and check it out.

Can you see the face to the left upper side of the stone? To me it’s very obvious, but not everyone that I showed it to was able to see what I saw.

In this photo, I see a woman’s head in the upper part of the stone on the right, it looks almost like a cameo to me. For the stone on the left, I see the eyes, nose, mouth and chin of a man, do you?

After sharing my initial experience with my sister, she and I headed out to a different, and even older cemetery, to see what new faces we might find. We came across the above stone which, I believe, shows a man’s face very clearly. I hope you can make it out, as well.

This man’s face shows in the upper left-hand corner, his eyes and nose stand out the most to me. My sister and I came across many others, but it isn’t always easy to tell if you are really seeing something, or if you are making it up, a little like a rorschach inkblot.

Some faces, I could see when I first looked at the pictures, but when I went back, I could no longer locate a face. I was sure that I could see the face of a baby on poor Blanche’s stone but, now when I look at it, I can’t be sure what I’m seeing, if anything at all.

I only posted the photos, other than Blanche’s, that I thought the majority of viewers would be able to make out the faces on. I hope you can, and I would be very curious to hear your thoughts about this. If you take any photos of your own and are successful, please share them. I think it’s a very intriguing experiment.  

Thanks for joining me and keep on reading!

Debbie
debbieboek.com

Will the Real Annabelle Please Stand Up

It’s rare to scare yourself silly watching a creepy movie and then find out that it is based on a “true” story. I believe we all know at least some of the details of the Amityville Horror case but, who knew that A Haunting in Connecticut, Annabelle and The Conjuring, among others, are based on real cases that were investigated by the demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren?

I’ve recently discovered some books based the true accounts of their investigations. I’ve only read two of them so far, Ghost Hunters and Graveyard, but I found them delightfully creepy and very enjoyable.

Ed and Lorraine founded the New England Society of Psychic Research in 1952. The NESPR uses a variety of individuals in its investigations, including doctors, police officers, nurses and members of clergy, among others. Lorraine was a clairvoyant and medium who died on April 18, 2019. Ed was a self-taught demonologist who passed away August 23, 2006.

They investigated over ten thousand claims of hauntings or demonic possession over their careers and were among the first investigators in the Amityville case.

In the off chance that you are not familiar with it, on 11/13/74, Ronald Defeo, Jr. shot and killed his parents, two brothers and two sisters in Amityville, New York. He testified at his trial that he heard voices that told him to kill his family. The home was subsequently sold to the Lutz family who claimed that there was a demonic presence in it so violent that it eventually drove them out of their home.

Ghost Hunters has fourteen different “Case Files” where Ed and Lorraine discuss real cases that they investigated, including an interview about Amityville where they explain why they agree there was a demonic infestation in that house.

In honor of Annabelle Comes Home which is being released June 26, 2019 at a theater near you, I thought now would be a great time to introduce you to the Warrens and their experiences. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson will be reprising their roles as Ed and Lorraine in the movie.

Interestingly enough, the Annabelle doll on the left in the photo below, has already made an appearance in several Conjuring/Annabelle movies. However, the real Annabelle doll that was possessed was the Raggedy Ann in the photo.

I tried to find out why they used a different doll for the movies and came up with three potential answers: 1) Raggedy Ann did not look menacing enough and they wanted something more “horror movie dollish” or 2) plush doll heads can’t spin or 3) copyright issues because it was an original Raggedy Ann doll.

To be honest, I don’t think Raggedy Ann is quite so intimating as that other ghastly doll. Even if it wasn’t possessed, I don’t think I’d want it in my house.

Ghost Hunters was very interesting and educational. I even came across some ghostly fodder for future stories for my Devereaux Chronicle series. Even so, I actually enjoyed Graveyard more than Ghost Hunters. The stories contained in that book all center around reported hauntings in cemeteries. Many of the stories are focused on the Union Cemetery in Connecticut, but not all of them.

As far as I’m concerned, any story set in a cemetery after dark, with strange noises and ground fog swirling around, is a story worth reading.

I may even head to the local cemetery and try to get a photo of a ghost with one of Ed and Lorraine’s graveyard tricks. You’ll have to read the book to see how it’s done or, if I am successful, I’ll be sure to post the instructions along with my photos and the details of my encounters with any supernatural entities.

No need to worry – this will all be done in the light of day. No spooky cemeteries for me after dark. I do know my limitations.

Thanks for joining me and, if you like creepy, be sure to check out the books about the cases investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren. Or, at the very least, watch the movies.

Thanks for joining me and keep on reading.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.com