Tuesday, October 18, 2016

...a change in plans & armchair dark tourism...

“Life is what happens to us
while we are making other plans.”
~Allen Saunders

 I’ve been commuting on the train for over ten years. I sit on the top deck in the very back of the car in the very back of the train so that I can sit alone and so I don’t get bumped by commuters with large backpacks.  I love the train. I can get a great deal of work accomplished while riding; and, I can do a great deal of reading! Mostly, I love what I see along the way.
I’ve often laughed and said that extreme commuting is not for wimps. While driving the last stretch home in 2008, I was hit by a semi. My car was totaled; I walked away practically unscratched. Thanks Saturn!

But last Wednesday, I slipped. I lost my balance which I do somewhat often with Meniere’s disease. This time, unfortunately, it was close to the stairs. In open-toe shoes, I fell down about five metal steps with sharp ridges (for better traction but not so great for bare skin). My ankle is sprained and my large right toe is beyond wonky. I’m a squeamish girl so I really cannot go into detail. Let’s just say I’m not going to be a foot model after it heals; and, it’s probably not going to hill for a few months. I’ll also note that I’ll get to save on nail polish. Ugh.

After a visit to the emergency room and opting not to take the pain medicine because it would make it so that I could not drive or would require a shot (and isn’t a tetanus shot enough for one day!?!), I drove home and proceeded to elevate and ice for the next 70 hours. I had big plans last weekend: Halloween haunts and a harvest festival at a local farm. Instead, I was stuck on the sofa.

This really is the season that I over-plan. Why do all the fun spooky events have to be shoved into one month?!? We can be spooky all year long but by midnight on Halloween many people want to forget the holiday ever existed.

Recently when I visited the Shirley Plantation, there were visitors in the gift shop asking about the plantation being haunted. Ghost tourism is on the rise but again, it is somewhat limited to October. In the cover story of Cooperative Living magazine (October 2015), it reads, “History-rich Virginia ranks at the top of the National Register of Haunted Locations’ ‘haunted places’ list, with over 170 sites claiming ghostly happenings. History and reality TV ghost shows have boosted ‘ghost tourism’ in the Commonwealth”.  The Shirley associate responded to the inquiring guests that only a portrait was haunted; however, as noted in the Cooperative Living magazine, “In October 2014 Shirley began partnering with nearby Berkeley and Edgewood Plantations for reservation-required ‘Haunting Tales and Tours’ [which] emphasizes ghost stories and mourning rituals” (October 2015). I am bummed that I am going to miss that tour but I purchased the book Haunted Plantations of Virginia while at the Shirley Plantation so hopefully that will give me a good amount of spooky reading.

Since I’ve been grounded (hmm, we could actually unpack that word a bit here), I’ve been reading and perhaps being an armchair (or rather sofa) dark tourism tourist. Several sources recommended Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey, which it turns out that I love-love-love this book! There’s an entire chapter dedicated to Richmond, VA. I just finished Chapter Nine: Melancholy Contemplation Moundsville, WV about the story of the Greenbrier Ghost, which my mother and I visited on the way to the Crescent Hotel this summer.

I’m halfway in and really like how the author approaches the idea of how the places mentioned in the book are truly haunted. In a footnote, Dickey elaborates, “…usage of the word ‘haunting’ predates its associations with ghosts by several centuries, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and it’s not until Shakespeare that ghosts also begin to haunt” (5).

I’m attracted to haunted locations with or without experiencing the ghosts; I’m there for the story!

Ghostland is divided into four sections: 1. The Unhomely (houses and mansions); 2. After Hours (bars, restaurants, hotels, and brothels); 3. Civic-Minded Spirits (prisons and asylums, graveyards and cemeteries, a park); and, 4. Useless Memory (cities and towns.)  Once I’ve finished reading the text, I’ll write a full review.
In the meantime, I’m going to work on embracing the slowing down and enjoying of the season, even if it is a blink in time.

Works Cited
"Boo! Virginia Is Very Rich in Haunted Environs." Cooperative Living. Cooperative Living Magazine, Oct. 2015. www.co-opliving.com/coopliving/issues/. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 2009. Print.
Dickey, Colin. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places. New York: Viking, 2016. Print.


  1. Sounds like a good way to spend your recuperation time. If you're interested, I have Ghosts of Virginia, volumes I, Ii, Iii, IV, and ViI (makes me wonder why I don't have volumes V and VI?), Ghosts of Fredericksburg, and Civil War Ghosrs of Virginia. You are welcome to borrow them.

  2. Sorry to hear about awful experience,I hope your on the mend now with your toe.

  3. UGH! is right!!! Hey, maybe the Universe it telling you that you need to take a time out? Maybe sit outside and enjoy the season at home with your hubster?

    I feel your commuting pain -- I feel down the stairs coming off the express bus. I promptly landed right in a hole and broke my big toe. That's my darling "arthritic toe" I talk about. It stinks. Commuting can be a real contact sport, I tell you.

    Sending you lots and lots and lots of love and healing energy.

  4. So sorry this put a damper on your Halloween. You did give me a good idea for my blog with your ghost stories.

  5. Yikes! That's terrible! :( I'm glad you're enjoying the reading (sounds fascinating!) even if the circumstances aren't so great.
    Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  6. I'm so sorry for your injuries! I hope you heal quickly.