The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Twelve — The Ghost and Mary Pepper

Every so often, we hear of ghosts helping the living. It’s rarer still when a living person has the chance to help a ghost.

Mary Pepper was an orphan living in Liverpool in the 1880s. At seven years old, she was on her own, living in the cellar of an abandoned building. Like many other street waifs of the Victorian era, Mary scavenged the streets for anything of value – lumps of coal that had fallen from carts, coins dropped from the pockets or purses of those more fortunate. She would beg for day-old bread from the Dow Street bakery. Sometimes she would hang around the door of the candy shop, hoping for a few hard candies or bits of toffee from Mr. Mallard, the owner. That was a real treat.

Even in her poverty, Mary found beauty on the rough streets. On Christmas Eve, 1887, she was following a robin as it hopped down Crosshall Street. The bird’s red breast was a cheerful spot of color against the snow. Mary’s reverie was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a ghost.

Mary knew the man was a spirit. For one thing, she’d seen ghosts all her life. For another, this man was completely devoid of color – he was stark white, from the top hat perched on his white hair to the tips of his polished boots. And for a third, she recognized him. It was Henry Silver, who had died in the 1860s.

The ghost stared at her with shocking-pink eyes, the only part of him with any color at all. It reached out for her with bony pale hands, groaning as if in distress. It staggered through the snow, leaving no footprints. Mary just sighed. He’d scared the robin away.

“Aren’t you afraid of me?” the ghost demanded.

“No. You’re nothing – just a sad ghost,” Mary replied calmly.

“I’m not nothing!” Silver retorted. “I’m an evil spirit!”

Mary just wandered away, unimpressed. Perhaps she could spot the robin once more.

Silver followed Mary down Crosshall Street. Trying to scare her, he swooped through her several times. He followed her home to the dank cellar where she lived, and squeezed through a hole in the wall. Finally, seeing that Mary could not be spooked, he told his story.

During his life, Henry Silver had a curious, unpleasant hobby. He would plant fake love letters that led to quarrels between couples, often making them break up as a result. One of these pranks backfired terribly when a young woman, thinking she’d been deceived by her lover, threw herself into the Mersey River and drowned. She happened to be a Gypsy, and here’s when Silver’s penchant for mischief caught up with him. A relative of the girl came to see him and placed a Gypsy curse on him. Because of his cold-hearted tricks, the old woman cursed him to be cold forever. Despite his doctor’s best efforts, Silver soon died of hypothermia … in summer.

Silver cried out to Mary that he longed to feel warmth once more – the cozy fireside, the glow of love – as he wept for his loss. Mary snapped, “Then go into St. John’s Church and ask for forgiveness.”

“I can’t – I’m too proud!” Silver argued. Mary finally talked him into it, and led him to the church herself. Silver squared his shoulders, and walked into the church.

He was in there for quite some time. Mary waited for him patiently outside. She felt a bit responsible for the poor sad ghost. When he came out, Silver was a changed man … literally. His color had returned; now he sported a black top hat and a brown suit, and his cheeks were a healthy, rosy pink. He gave Mary a hug, and said, “Thank you, little one.” Then he disappeared.

The ghost’s gratitude wasn’t just lip service. Several years later, when she was fifteen, Mary was adopted, and later emigrated to America. There, she married a rich oil tycoon and, presumably, lived happily ever after.

And we’ve come to Christmas Eve — how about that! If you’ve enjoyed these ghost stories, and want more, tune in to Ron’s Amazing Stories (www.ronsamazingstories.com) for the monthly segment “Ghost Stories With Sylvia”, or seek out Days of the Dead, coming in 2021, at amazon.com or bookshop.org. While you’re browsing the Web, take a peek at http://www.weirddarkness.com. If Darren Marlar left any cookies and milk out for Santa, you have my permission to take a couple. (And if he left schnapps out for Krampus, you just bring that right back here to me.) Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Eleven — The Hitchhiking Ghost

Advances in military technology during the Civil War led, naturally, to advances in medicine and surgery. Military units couldn’t travel with entire hospitals, so surgeons went to the battlefields, and set up field hospitals for the care of the wounded. The surgeons did the best they could for the men under their care, and these makeshift camps were better than nothing.

Deering J. Roberts, a Confederate surgeon, was charged with setting up a temporary hospital after the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. When he arrived with his hospital steward, he went to work finding suitable buildings to set up as hospitals. One such building was an old wagon shop, two stories high, with plenty of windows for good lighting. Roberts set his team to preparing this building and two others to house wounded soldiers.

The Battle of Franklin turned out to be one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. It lasted only five hours, but the Confederate assault was bigger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The Confederates lost 1,750 men that day, and 3,800 were wounded.

Roberts was a talented, caring surgeon who did his best for the men entrusted to him. His policy was not to amputate a limb without the patient’s consent.

One soldier, wounded in the battle, adamantly refused amputation, even though the bones of his arm had been shattered by a Minie ball, and the wound was already badly infected. Roberts took pity on the terrified soldier, and accepted his decision not to amputate, although privately he described wounds left by Minie balls as “both remarkable and frightening.” Roberts later wrote in his journal that the soldier suffered not only from his grievously wounded arm, but also “nostalgia and despondency.” The man had but one wish: to walk home in time for Christmas.

Unfortunately, the soldier didn’t achieve his goal. He died at the hospital December 23, 1864.

Apparently, though, he hasn’t given up on getting home for Christmas. Travelers on the highway outside of Franklin have reported appearances of the hitchhiking ghost of a Confederate soldier. Maybe one of these years he’ll make it home.

We’re creeping up on Christmas … let’s go see what the Weird Darkness Weirdos are up to! http://www.weirddarkness.com

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Ten — Music on the Mountain

Henry Dealman was the professor of music and art at Mount St. Mary’s University in the late 19th century. Every Christmas Eve he would give an organ concert in the church on campus, playing for hours. People came from miles around to hear the glorious music.

Henry’s son, Larry, had learned to play the flute at a very young age, and was as accomplished a musician as his father. For several years, father and son played together on Christmas Eve to delight their audience. But one year, the two had a vicious argument, and come Christmas, Larry refused to play with his father. (Apparently, the feeling was mutual.)

In 1882, several years after their last performance together, Henry passed away. Any chance the men had to reconcile was lost. Larry was wracked by guilt over his selfish behavior of the past few years, realizing he’d missed the opportunity to make music with his father. Larry began to play at the Christmas Eve concerts once more, now with his father’s successor at the college. After the concert ended, Larry would climb the mountain to the college cemetery. Standing at his father’s grave, he would play Christmas songs, sharing them once again with his father. He continued this tradition every year until he himself passed away.

The Christmas after Larry’s death, people swore they heard flute music drifting down from the cemetery just before Midnight Mass. People began coming to the college on Christmas Eve from as far away as Baltimore to enjoy the ghostly tunes. Now every Christmas Eve, around midnight, the sweet lilting sounds of a flute still echo on campus, wafting down from the graveyard.

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Eight — Solstice Bread

I love celebrating the Winter Solstice, which usually falls on December 21. That’s tomorrow, so put your 2020-acquired baking skills to good use and whip up a batch of this gorgeous sunny bread. Note: the first two pictures are from the recipe I got out of the newspaper, which called for Nutella as the filling. For Solstice, I’m going to use apricot jam for the filling, as that just reminds me of sunlight and warmth.

You’ll need: 3 or 4 cans of crescent roll dough, at room temperature; 2/3 c Nutella (or apricot jam); 1 1/2 t cinnamon; 1/2 c mini chocolate chips; 1/4 c powdered sugar; 1 T milk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the Nutella and cinnamon (or just plop some apricot jam in a bowl and stir it to get it to spreadiness. You could also probably sprinkle some cinnamon into the apricot jam, because why not?).

Form each can of crescent roll dough into a ball. Place on a lightly-floured board and roll into a circle. (If dough shrinks up, let rest 15 minutes.)

Place one dough circle on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently spread one-third (or one-half, if using three dough circles) of the chocolate mixture over the dough, going up to 1/2 inch of the edge; sprinkle with one-third (or one-half) of the chocolate chips. Place another dough round on top, and repeat the process. End with a dough circle on top.

Now comes the fun part. Put a small glass in the middle, and make cuts all around the edges of the dough. It helps to make four cuts at east, west, north, and south, then cut each of those in half, and each of THOSE in half, until you have sixteen sections.

Saturnalia2

Remove the glass. Take two sections that are next to each other and twist away from each other two times, then pinch ends to seal. Repeat with remaining pairs of triangles.

Saturnalia3It will look really cool when you’re done, I promise. Here’s the one I made today:

Saturnalia1The directions say to bake for 40 minutes, but this was smelling and looking done at 30 minutes, so keep a good eye on it. When it’s done, make drizzle frosting with the powdered sugar and milk, and slather it on there so it looks pretty. And you’re done!

Saturnalia4I made this one for a holiday get-together. This one had the Nutella in it, and it was magnificent. I can’t wait to make one for Solstice with apricot filling. If you’re lucky, I’ll even share!

I’ve got another present for you today! Nick Sarlo, of Shadow Hunters, is doing a storytime over on YouTube. Visit him at https://www.youtube.com/c/ShadowHuntersYouTubeSeries to find out which stories he’ll share from Spirits of Christmas.

And you should definitely head on over to http://www.weirddarkness.com, just to poke around over there and see what the Weird Darkness weirdos are up to today.

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Seven — Frozen Charlottes

I’ll be the first to admit that dolls, especially antique dolls, can be really unnerving. But there is a certain Victorian-era doll that has a backstory that takes creepiness to the next level.

These dolls were made from one piece of unglazed porcelain, rather than the usual bisque limbs and cloth bodies of fancy dolls of that era. They were pure white, with only a tiny bit of color in their eyes, lips, cheeks, and hair. They were originally made in Germany in 1850. Since they were made of porcelain, without any cloth parts or stuffing, they were first marketed as children’s bath toys. But their minimal coloring and immovable limbs soon inspired another interpretation.

In 1843, the poet Seba Smith wrote a poem titled “Young Charlotte”. It was first published in the Rover, a Maine newspaper, on December 28, 1843, with the gruesome title “A Corpse Going To A Ball”. The ballad was based on the true story of a young woman who had frozen to death while riding with her boyfriend one New Year’s Eve, an incident reported in the New York Observer in 1840.

The poem was a cautionary tale about the dangers of vanity. Charlotte was a fashion-conscious, flighty young thing. She lived with her family in the mountains, with no close neighbors, so she didn’t have much opportunity to socialize. So when she was invited to a New Year’s Eve party with her sweetheart, she jumped at the chance to show off her new silk gown, made to the latest fashion, a low-cut number which displayed her bare shoulders.

She climbed into the open sleigh and settled herself for the ride to the party. Her mother tried to talk Charlotte into putting on a cloak, but the young lady refused. After all, no one would be able to admire her lovely, fashionable gown if she was covered up with a cloak.

The fifteen-mile ride to the party was a cold, bitter journey. The night was frigid, and the wind whipped around the seats of the open sleigh. Several times, Charlotte’s beau offered her the use of the warm bearskin robe he kept in the back of the sleigh. Each time, Charlotte refused … as her voice grew fainter.

As they neared the party, the boyfriend slowed the horse. He was concerned, as he hadn’t heard a sound from Charlotte for the past half hour. At last they reached the house where the party was being held. The boyfriend brought the sleigh to a stop, and reached for Charlotte’s hand to help her down.

Her hand was icy cold. During the ride to the party, she had frozen solid.

The small porcelain dolls, with their immovable white limbs, soon became known as Frozen Charlottes. The dolls cost one penny, and they were ridiculously popular. Many were even sold with their own miniature coffin and shroud. That’s something you’re not likely to find in Barbie’s townhouse.

I wonder what’s going on with Weird Darkness today? I’ll bet Darren Marlar has something wonderfully gruesome cooked up for you guys today. Let’s go and see. http://www.weirddarkness.com

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Six — Lights Out!

Welcome to the Dead of Winter! Today we’re going to revisit a couple of Lights Out episodes from years past. Curl up by the Christmas tree, turn on the tree lights, have a cup of something warm and lovely handy, and let’s go … Lights Out.

Lights Out #66: Christmas 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvAANf27Eb4&t=4s

Lights Out #52: Christmas 2017 — The Roving Skeleton of Boston Bay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1o74O6A-aw&t=27s

Lights Out #51: Plymouth Courthouse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZY-ntKexJk

Lights Out #32: Christmas 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alg6AOjuQvE&t=6s

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Five — Forbidden Love

Ah, young love. How often it can go awry … Magdalena was a beautiful girl of fifteen or sixteen years. A parishioner of San Juan Capistrano, she fell in love with a young man named Teofilo. He was a talented artist who painted the wall frescoes, decorating the newly completed Great Stone Church at the mission.

Magdalena’s father forbade her to see Teofilo, as he was not of the same social standing. But love finds a way, and the girl regularly slipped out to see her beloved. One day, though, her father caught the young couple together.

Magdalena’s father made her confess to the priest at the mission. As part of her punishment, she was required to walk to the front of the congregation holding a lit candle of penitence, so everyone would know her shame. The day set for her public penance was December 8, 1812 … but God had other plans that day.

That was the day a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck southern California. Magdalena came to the Great Stone Church for early morning Mass. Chastened by the friars, Magdalena dutifully held her lit candle as she walked up the aisle. She lost her footing as the earth shook underneath her, but still she kept the candle in her trembling hands. The bell tower swayed for a heart-stopping moment, then crashed onto the church. In a few horrible seconds, forty people were buried alive. It took months to clear away the rubble and find the bodies. Among the dead was Magdalena, still clutching a candle in her cold hand.

According to local lore, Magdalena can be seen looking out a window in the Great Stone Church, on nights when a half-moon lights the sky.

You can find more creepy content over at http://www.weirddarkness.com. It’s there! Go find it!

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Four — Io Saturnalia!

Saturnalia was one of the best parties of ancient Rome. Starting on December 17 and going through December 23, slaves would be waited on by their masters, people would give gifts, public banquets made everybody happy, and it was generally a non-stop party for those days. It was seen as a time when everyone was free — slaves, freedmen, plebians, and nobility alike. People gave gag gifts, or small pottery or wax figurines called sigillaria. And did I mention the feasting?

Since Saturnalia starts tomorrow, I’d suggest you get out your best plates and goblets, and have yourself a Roman feast. Candied or dried fruit would be appropriate as appetizers, along with nuts, cheese, olives, and sausage rolls. Roast pork or chicken would make a great Roman main course. Gild the lily with a fruit-based sauce for the meat. Don’t forget the bread — the Romans loved their bread (you could use pita). And the best part of a Saturnalia feast? Dessert, of course! Gingersnaps, pfeffernusse, any spiced cookie would be a perfect ending to your Saturnalia spread. And for Jupiter’s sake, drink wine with the meal!

If you’re feeling squirrely, you could whip up this gorgeous pear pudding, from a recipe by Apicius:

Pear Pudding (Patina di Piris)

3 pears

1/4 t black pepper

1/4 t ground cumin

2 t honey

1 T sweet sherry (to replicate the Roman sweet wine called passum)

2 t fish sauce (I know, gross, but this is the Roman garum, and they put it in EVERYTHING. It really just adds a kick of savory to the dish.)

1 t oil

1 egg

Peel, quarter, and core pears. Place in saucepan, cover with water, and simmer until tender, about ten minutes.

Puree two pears until smooth and return to saucepan. Chop remaining pear coarsely and add to pureed pears. Add pepper, cumin, honey, sherry, fish sauce and oil to pears. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until warm.

Beat egg and add 3 t of hot pear mixture, whisking between additions, to temper. Then stir egg mixture into pear puree and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Makes two servings.

Scoot on over to http://www.weirddarkness.com for more spooky tales of Christmas.

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Three — The Birth of Nero

Nero is one of the Roman emperors that even non-Classics nerds recognize. He’s best known for denying he set the fire that burned for six days in 64 AD and destroyed two-thirds of Rome. (He blamed the Christians.) Four years later, while facing his execution, Nero committed suicide.

He wasn’t buried in Augustus’ mausoleum, the resting place of other members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Instead, he was buried in the family tomb of his ancestors, the Ahenobarbi, on the Pincian Hill. Legend has it that a massive walnut tree grew near his grave, and flocks of ravens came to roost in it.

Superstitious Romans claimed that Nero’s soul was trapped on earth, pinned by the tree and guarded by the spooky ravens. They also claimed that Nero’s evil soul had attracted a bunch of demons who infested the area. Apparently, Nero was still partying in the afterlife — only now his dinner companions were demons. Over the centuries, people living in the area reported feelings of terror, mysterious injuries, possessions, and inexplicable killings. In 1099, the Christian population asked the Pope to do something about the creepy tree, the demons, and Nero’s ghost.

Pope Pascal II retreated for three days of fasting and prayer. It’s said he was visited by the Virgin Mary, who told him how to settle the situation. The Pope ordered the tree cut down, and Nero’s tomb destroyed. The human remains found in the tomb were burned and thrown into the Tiber River. To consecrate the ground, a church was built on the site and dedicated to Mary. In 1472, Pope Sixtus V rebuilt the church and named it Santa Maria del Popolo (from the Latin populus, people, because it was the people who had demanded the demons be removed).

It’s said Nero’s ghost still wanders the Piazza del Popolo at night, scaring unwary tourists. The emperor had his own run-ins with ghosts during his life. He tried really hard to kill his mother, Agrippina. He tried drowning her in a collapsible boat, but she swam to safety. He had her bedroom ceiling rigged to collapse on top of her, but that failed to kill her. Finally, he stopped messing around and had one of his guards just stab her. After Agrippina’s death, her ghost came back to haunt him. Nero tried to conjure her spirit with the help of necromancers and magicians, to beg her to leave him alone, but no — she haunted him for the rest of his life.

Hmm … I wonder what’s going on over at http://www.weirddarkness today? You should go see. (I hear they’ve got cookies.)

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Two — Today I Learned …

Twin sisters Lorraine and Levinia Christmas decided on the spur of the moment to deliver presents to one another’s houses on Christmas Eve 1994. The country road between their villages in Norfolk, England was treacherously icy and the 31-year-old sisters were involved in a head-on crash — with each other. (From Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Eye-popping Oddities)

What’s going on over at Weird Darkness today? Go check it out! You! Yes, you! Go on! Shoo!

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day One — Christmas Monsters

Boy, 2020 has been a year, hasn’t it? Monsters would feel right at home here, I think. Let’s meet one of them.

Okay, here’s a weird one for you.

What do you get when you cross a horse’s skull, a bedsheet, and a book of Dr. Seuss?

Well, the Welsh get Mari Lwyd.

MariLwyd

Mari Lwyd is definitely what you’d call a party animal. The “Gray Mare” is a bedazzled horse’s skull that’s carried around on a pole, the bearer being hidden under a white sheet. Mari Lwyd and her entourage go from house to house (or from pub to pub, because booze) singing Christmas carols and being generally rowdy. When Mari Lwyd shows up at the door, her posse and the folks inside have an insult contest in rhyme — a “yo mamma” fight brought to you by Dr. Seuss. No matter who wins, Mari Lwyd is invited into the house (or the pub, because BOOZE). The theory is that she is so disturbing that evil spirits are freaked out just by looking at her, and vacate the premises.

In Celtic Britain, the horse was a symbol of power and fertility. White or gray horses were thought to have the power to cross between this world and the next. So the Gray Mare, dressed in white with ribbons and spangles decorating her skull, returns from the Underworld at the turning of the year. She brings luck to any place she enters, in keeping with the Christmas spirit.

And the monstrous fun coninues! Ask a Mortician is here to school you on some of my favorite monsters of Christmas. Yay! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdX3BqF1s9Y&t=8s 

For more Christmas monsters, check out Spirits of Christmas, available online at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon, and at http://www.bookshop.org. When you order from Bookshop, you’re supporting independent bookstores — Bookshop puts all the profit into a kitty, and divvies it up at the end of the month between small bookstores. So they all benefit when you buy there.

The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas is being brought to you with the help of Weird Darkness, your home for, well, weirdness! Go check out the podcast at http://www.weirddarkness.com. And tell Darren Marlar I said hey.

2021 is Coming — Are You Ready?

We’re nearly through 2020, thank goodness! Let’s enjoy 2021 with a ghost story for every month. I’ve put together a calendar for you guys, which you can order by contacting me via Facebook Messenger, or by using the Contact Me button at the top of this page. Price is $12, which includes the cost of shipping it to you. These stories are taken from Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories, coming to you in 2021. (I should point out, though, that there is an extra bonus story in the calendar that will NOT be included in the book.) This is just a taste of the ghostie goodness in store for you when the book is published. For now, though, enjoy the tales that will take you through the year. I promise to keep you entertained, no matter what 2021 brings!

A Early Christmas Present!

Hey there! I’ve got an early Christmas present for you guys! My friend Nick Sarlo, of Shadow Hunters, is presenting a holiday special on the Shadow Hunters YouTube channel. You know that line from the Christmas carol, “There’ll be scary ghost stories”? Well, Nick’s making your scary dreams come true! On Sundays, December 6, 13, and 20, Nick will be sharing spooky tales of the season. (And rumor has it that he’ll be reading a couple stories from Spirits of Christmas, so that’ll be fun!) Tune in to https://www.youtube.com/c/ShadowHuntersYouTubeSeries to be entertained by the chill of winter.

This Is Cool …

I just discovered that the Museum of Science and Industry is doing live virtual tours of the U-505. Explore life on the vessel straight from your living room—making it an accessible experience for all. Discover this interactive online tour in a small group or dive solo. The first tour kicks off on December 5 but more dates will be added. Capacity is limited so register today!

And if you want a haunting U-505 experience, take a listen to my exploration of the submarine, in this episode of Lights Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WztPON1GSk&t=2s

Bookshop Black Friday Sale!

Starting now through Monday, Bookshop is offering FREE SHIPPING on all orders placed through our website with standard mail. No special code needed. It’s the perfect opportunity to shop for everyone on your list and support independent bookstores at the same time! The savings go through Cyber Monday, so spend a few minutes this weekend browsing for Christmas presents.

And speaking of Christmas, did you know that Bookshop will wrap your presents for you? They’re now offering gift wrapping with cards and custom messages for purchases on Bookshop, which will make shipping your presents fast and easy this holiday season. Just select “this is a gift” during checkout.

‘Tis the season to curl up with a good book, so support local bookstores without even leaving the house! https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=Sylvia+Shults

Flies in a Bottle of Brandy

Around last Thanksgiving, I wrote here about my relative Silas Soule. In case you missed last year’s post, here’s a quick refresher. Captain Silas Soule was descended (and so am I) from George Soule, who came over on the Mayflower. The Soule family moved from Maine to Kansas in the late 1850s, and became one of the founding families of Lawrence, Kansas. His family was active in the Underground Railroad. In 1860, Silas went to Pike’s Peak to get in on the Colorado Gold Rush. When the Civil War started, Silas enlisted, and was named lieutenant of the Colorado 1st Regiment Volunteer Infantry. He rose quickly through the ranks to become a well-respected officer.

Silas fought at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico, which stopped the Confederate invasion of the West. Colonel John Chivington promoted Silas to captain, and posted him to Fort Lyon along the Santa Fe Trail.

In September 1864, Silas was part of the Smoky Hill peace talks with leaders of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. This experience made him realize how deeply important it was to keep peace between whites and natives.

In late November, the 3rd Regiment, with a battalion of the 1st, arrived at Fort Lyon, and Colonel Chivington announced that these forces, along with the other soldiers at the fort, were going to massacre the Cheyenne and Arapaho camped at Sand Creek. Silas got wind of this, and he was having none of it. He went to the room where the officers were having their meeting, and told them that “any man who would take part in the murders was a low lived cowardly son of a bitch.”

Silas’s protests didn’t do any good, and on November 29, 1864, Chivington led the attack on the Sand Creek Camp. All Silas could to was refuse to fire, and he wouldn’t let his company attack the Indians either. Chivington was later tried for the massacre, and Silas testified at his commanding officer’s court-martial in January 1865.

In April 1865, Silas married Hersa Coberly and they settled in Denver, but their happiness was short-lived. On April 23, 1865, Silas was gunned down on the street. His murderers were never brought to justice.

Silas Soule is still revered by the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe for his friendship towards them. I’m so jazzed to be related to this guy.

And Silas was quite the party animal, too. Makes me wish I could have gone drinking with him. While he was posted at Fort Lyon, he devised a scheme so he and his buddies could have a little fun. And the exploit was written up in none other than Harper’s Weekly:

    One night Lieutenant Clark, Lieutenant Soulé and Captain Wilson were very dry.  A most stringent order against the introduction of any ardent into camp being just then most rigorously executed, they had been discussing the ways and means of procuring something ”hot,” when Soulé cried out, “I’ve got it! You, Clark, are very sick-you must go to bed- you have got cramps- you must be covered up-you must have some brandy immediately!” In a moment Clark was very sick abed, covered with all the blankets at command, and Soulé was off in breathless haste to the hospital steward for brandy.  There he met the conscientious objections of the steward by the most earnest representations of the urgency of the case.  He could wait for no surgeon’s order-Lieutenant Clark might die! In a moment he was again with the “boys” flourishing a bottle of brandy in the air in triumph, and a jolly time they had drinking it.  But what was one bottle to them after a fortnight’s total abstinence? They were still dry!  Before the bottle was quite empty Soulé snatched it out of the hands of Clark, held it up to the light, eying it critically, took one more swig, and then said, “Now, boys, for another bottle!”  Raising the window curtain, it was but the work of a moment to catch a hundred flies and put them in the bottle containing a spoonful of brandy remaining.  Rushing back to the hospital steward in as breathless haste as before-this time holding up the bottle containing a spoonful of brandy and an equal amount of flies- cried out, “See there! Is that the kind of brandy you dispense to a sick man here?” With as many apologies as Soulé would wait to listen to, the poor steward handed him another bottleful of brandy, with which he returned to his comrades. The noise which soon issued from Lieutenant Clark’s quarters attracted attention, and a good many other officers took a taste of the second bottle.  Even the Colonel himself felt inclined to indulge; but as he never drinks, he punished himself by smoking a cigar.” — From Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Feb 1865, Vol. 30, p 399, 400

So this Thanksgiving, I’m going to give thanks for all my relatives — for George Soule, who came over on the Mayflower 400 years ago, and for Silas, who refused to be ordered to do something he knew was wrong. And Silas, I’ll have a glass of honey whiskey in your honor. I hope you’ll join me.

Silas Stillwell Soule. My kinda guy.

Lights Out: Queen of Heaven Cemetery

Get ready for another episode of Lights Out! This time we’re visiting Queen of Heaven Cemetery, right across the street from Mount Carmel in the Chicago suburbs.

Lights Out #92: Queen of Heaven Cemetery. On December 1, 1958, one of the worst tragedies in Chicago’s history took the lives of 93 children and three nuns. The fire at Our Lady of the Angels grade school is still remembered today as one of the darkest days of Chicago’s past. Join me for a visit to the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, a memorial to those lost in the fire. https://youtu.be/FR6p5l5yQcY

Today I Learned …

Bob Ross, the painter with the famously frizzy hair, didn’t come by his ‘do naturally. It was a perm. Before his painting show took off, Ross was quite poor, and at that time, it cost less for him to get his hair permed than to get it cut. By the time he was making big bucks from the show and could afford a nicer haircut, his “look” had become familiar to his audience, and the show’s producers made Ross continue to get his hair permed rather than cut.