Friday, November 28, 2014

Feng Shui Burials

In the 21st century, burial is not as easy as it once was. We now have end of life tours, end of life planning professionals, tailor-made funerals; In fact, there is an end of life revolution occurring throughout the U.S. as Baby Boomers bury parents, and grow older themselves. One topic that caught my attention recently concerned larger cemeteries offering feng shui burials to their Chinese immigrant families.

Feng shui is “a Chinese system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (qi), and whose favorable or unfavorable effects are taken into account when siting and designing buildings.” – Oxford Dictionary

Feng Shui for the Bedroom
Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) became popular in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia during the 1990s as people sought ways to live lives more in balance with nature. By using certain techniques and methods to affect the flow of positive chi (energy) in their living spaces, work places and burial sites, feng shui is said to promote balance, prosperity and harmony for those who reside there.

Ancient Egyptian Burials
Death and burial traditions are common in all societies. Feng shui has been used for thousands of years in burial traditions. Ancient Egyptians understood the importance of man being in harmony with nature, both during life, and after. And archaeologists have discovered elaborate temples and tombs that adhered to these basic harmonious principles.

The Chinese believe that there is a connection between ancestors and their descendants, even after death; that they continue to share a comparable wavelength. In other words, if the burial of a relative is not considered auspicious and certain requirements are not adhered to, negative frequencies could be passed down to family members and future generations.

Burial Feng Shui
A feng shui burial is made up of many components. Since the body must remain intact, burial is the option most often taken.
The first thing to consider is the location and direction of the grave. When practicing feng shui, certain directions are considered more auspicious than others. Also the direction the body is pointing and the location of the tombstone are believed to be important. And the day on which to hold the funeral must be calculated by a feng shui master.

Here are just a few feng shui practices that apply to a grave’s physical arrangement.

1) Green grass is encouraged to grow on family members graves so relatives water, fertilize and weed around the plots and tombstones.

2) Feng Shui discourages burying a loved one near a tree because the roots can interfere with the coffin. Trees are not allowed to be planted on graves either.

3) Cemetery gates must not pass over any graves because this is considered bad luck and could lead to legal entanglements for the family.

4) It is also bad luck to step on a grave so walkways are constructed in Chinese burial grounds.

5) The dirt on top of a grave should never be allowed to become concave because water will pool there and could cause complications to the grave, and the health of the family.

Graves in Arcs
6) Grave sites should be arranged in arcs instead of in straight rows.

7) A Feng Shui master should calculate the correct angle at which to bury the body, and also the day on which the funeral should be held.

Rose Hills Cemetery
There are numerous cemeteries in the U.S. that are putting the rules of Feng Shui into practice by developing feng shui “neighborhoods.” Most of these are located in California and include Rose Hills Cemetery in Whitter, Fairhaven Cemetery in Santa Ana, Santa Rosa Memorial Park in Santa Rosa, and Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Others are located in Chicago, Pennsylvania and New York.

Cemetery Feng Shui
As interest in feng shui grows, we can expect to see more cemeteries embracing some of these principles. And to be honest, anything that promotes peace, harmony and balance, even after death, sounds appealing enough to consider – just to be on the “safe” side.

~ Joy

Friday, November 21, 2014

140 Years of The Women's Christian Temperance Union

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is celebrating 140 years as a national organization this month. Founded in 1874, it is the oldest volunteer, non-sectarian women’s organization in continuous operation in the world.

The main thrust of the original WCTU was to seek social reform in a non-violent, Christian manner. The women were determined to create a sober and chaste world by promoting abstinence, purity and Christian values. Within three months members had driven hard liquor out of 250 communities; the Temperance Movement was on its way.

Francis Willard
In 1879 Francis Willard, the group’s second president, took office and began to galvanize the WCTU to take a stand against social issues of the day. The group’s slogan, “For God and Home and Native Land” stated their priorities. Willard began to seek moral and humanitarian reforms along with temperance.

Temperance Group
The WCTU spoke out for abolishing alcohol, enforcing an eight-hour work day, paying a living wage, supporting abstinence and purity legislation, campaigning for national prohibition, providing better schools and education, and encouraging women to become involved in the fight for women’s rights, and the suffrage movement.

Francis Willard
Willard led the group for 19 years, focusing on these morale reforms across the country. During that time, it became the largest and most influential women’s group of the 19th century. Willard understood the empowerment women would gain if they won the right to vote and lobbied around the country for fair and equal treatment. In 1891 she became president to the World WCTU. She died in 1898 at the age of 58.

After Willard’s death, the group distanced itself from women’s issue and began again to target abstinence from alcohol. On January 16, 1919 prohibition was enacted with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. But on December 5, 1933 the so-called “Noble Experiment” ended when the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition.

WCTU Members in 1900
In its heyday, the WCTU had over 370,000 members between 1920 and 1930. With the repeal of Prohibition, enrollment went down and dropped about 100,000 members during the 1940s and 50s. By 1980 membership had dipped down to around 50,000 worldwide. In 2012, the latest year for membership figures, the group claims about 5,000 members still active.

During the past 140 years, the WCTU has played a part in establishing
a woman’s right to vote; stiffer penalties for crimes against women; shelters for abused women and children; promoting child welfare; encouraging physical education for women; creating uniform marriage and divorce laws; homes for wayward girls; founding of kindergartens, federal aid for education; creation of the National Board of Education; assistance in founding the PTA; equal pay for equal work; legal aid; labor’s right to organize; prison reform; promotion of nutrition, and the pure food and drug act.

The WCTU continues to operate today, standing up for social reform, and encouraging its members to sign a pledge of abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Throughout the years, the organization has also taken a stance against abortion, white slavery, and gay marriage. For more information visit the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s webpage.

~ Joy

Friday, November 7, 2014

The History of the Blue Star Memorial Highway

Veterans Day is next Tuesday so this seems like the perfect time to take a ramble down the Blue Star Memorial Highway.

The idea for a designated roadway began when the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs started a Blue Star Memorial Program in 1944. The group planted 8,000 dogwood trees along a 5½-mile stretch of U.S. 22 as a living tribute to the New Jersey veterans of WWII. The roadway was then designated as “Blue Star Drive."

The National Council of State Garden Clubs (now the National Garden Clubs, Inc.) liked the idea and in 1945 began the Blue Star Highway Program. The blue star was used because it was displayed on service flags to denote someone who was fighting in a war. These service banners were originally designed in 1917 to honor those serving in WWI, and were used again in WWII. The flags are still in active use today and can only be made by specific government license according to Department of Defense code.

The Blue Star Memorial Highway signs still look the same with a copper-colored background and the National Council of State Garden Clubs logo mounted on top. The blue star is prevalent on the sign, with the wording in gold leaf letters stating that this sign is “A tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America.” The plaque also designates what garden club sponsored it in cooperation with the state highway department of transportation.

The Blue Star Memorial Highway covers over 70,000 miles in the U.S. and can be found in 39 states including Alaska and Hawaii. Many signs still stand where they were dedicated almost 70 years ago.

The program expanded beyond highways to include Blue Star By-Way markers in 1981. These markers are used at civic and historical grounds, parks and gardens.

Then in 1996, a third marker was added – the Blue Star Memorial Marker. This plaque is identical to the original Blue Star Memorial Highway marker but does not have the word “highway” on it. This allows for the sign to be posted at national and veteran’s cemeteries, VA medical centers and hospitals, and other civic sites.

All three signs may be ordered from the National Garden Club’s website. For current rules, visit Guidelines for Blue Star Memorial Markers.

So the next time you pass a Blue Star sign, remember our men and women of the Armed Forces of America. 

Happy Veteran's Day!

~ Joy

Friday, October 10, 2014

October's Haunted Asylums - Anoka State Hospital, Anoka, Minnesota

It is that time of year again; time for our annual Haunted Series where we've explored things that go bump in the cemetery, the restaurant, the town … and this year the asylum! Join me each Friday in October as we cast an eye upon those buildings that were feared by the residents and avoid by everyone else ... those places that are now Haunted Asylums!

Anoka, Minnesota has an interesting claim to fame – It is believed to be the first city in the U.S. to hold a Halloween celebration in order to prevent locals from playing pranks or causing trouble around town. Since 1920, it has been known as the “Halloween Capital of the World.”

It is also home to one of the most haunted asylums in the country.

First State Asylum for the Insane
It began as the First State Asylum for the Insane. Built in 1898 in the cottage style, the hospital opened in March 1900 to admit patients from other state asylums that had become too crowded. The first 100 patients were males from St. Peter State Hospital and were considered to be “chronic incurables”- Men who had lost their minds due to heredity causes or environment.

A Numbered Grave
Residents were not to receive any type of treatment; this was the final stop for them until they died. And die they did. A total of 86 of the original patients were buried in numbered graves in the asylum cemetery.

Anoka State Asylum
In 1906, 115 women were also transferred to the asylum from St. Peter State Hospital. Then in 1909, state policy changed and the hospital was only allowed to admit female transfer patients. (The male patients were then sent to another asylum in the state.) But by 1925, another wing had been added to the building and the hospital became co-ed, admitting both women and men.

The name was changed to the Anokea State Asylum in 1919

Another name change occurred in 1937 when the institution was renamed Anoka State Hospital in an attempt to soften the image of the asylum. Although the name was kinder and gentler, treatment at the facility was not. Patients were subjected to medical experiments and suffered both mental and physical abuse.

Although the hospital provided care to the insane, cruelty and neglect were often reported during the 1930s through the 1950’s. Those deemed a threat to themselves or others were restrained with manacles and straitjackets. Others that were seen as less dangerous were left to wander the grounds and buildings.


From 1948 to 1967, the hospital also treated mentally ill patients with tuberculosis. Actual treatment of the mentally ill began in the 1940s but many times that treatment “progressed” to lobotomies, hydrotherapy, and electroshock therapy.

Gov Luther Youngdahl
Conditions became so bad in the Minnesota asylums that in 1948, Governor Luther Youngdahl took a reporter and photographer with him on Halloween to witness his stand against the cruelty being inflicted at the state’s seven asylums including Anoka. With a torch, Youngdahl burned piles of leather wrist straps and straitjackets in front of a nighttime crowd of over 1,000. The governor also began to allot more funding for the state’s hospitals and the care of the mentally ill.

Building on Complex
With the advancement of psychoactive drugs in the 1960s, the winding down of these asylums began. Anoka’s population went from 1,085 in 1960 to just under 500 by 1970. It was during the 1970s that the facility also began treatment of emotionally disturbed children and adolescents.

In 1985, the hospital underwent its final name change to the current Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center. The original hospital complex closed in 1999 and residents were transferred to a new facility located close by.

Aerial of the Complex
The buildings and property were then given to Anoka County to use for offices and to house the county workhouse. The remainder of the buildings were closed and boarded up.

With such a sordid past, it is no wonder that the Anoka State Hospital has been rumored to house phantom patients. Former employees have reported that while unusual occurrences happen throughout the buildings, the most paranormal activities are linked to the tunnels located below the buildings.These tunnels were used as a way of transferring patients from one building to another without risking escape.

Ironically, many patients believed these tunnels would lead them to freedom and so they tried to escape by going down into them. But after a few twists and turns, escapees realized that the tunnels were more of a maze than an escape route. Without an understanding of where each tunnel went and how they joined together, it was easy to get hopelessly lost in them. Several escapees became so disoriented and distraught that they took the only way out that they felt was left to them and hung themselves from heavy pipes suspended along the ceiling.

For years, employees would report hearing footsteps trudging through the tunnels, stopping, pausing; maybe a "former" inmate considering which way to go ... There were also reports of whispering and low voices in conversation, but the words were not understood. Could a past patient have been trying to warn those still using the tunnels of the dire consequences when you didn't know where the routes led? The sounds of voices, plaintive and pleading, seemed to follow those who made their ways from one building to another. At times a burst of laughter might be heard in the dark tunnels, along with odd, ominous noises. And many former employees reported cold spots that moved all too frequently throughout these dark catacombs.

The paranormal activities became so rampant that most employees refused to use the tunnels because they were just too eerie. Today, only maintenance and security are allowed in them.

While there may be other state hospitals that were far worse in the treatment of their patients, some of those who lived at Anoka have apparently not forgotten, or forgiven, their experiences under the guise of medical treatment.

Anoka County Board
Today, the county owns the buildings that made up the former insane asylum complex. Although the complex was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, it appears that time has past. The current buildings are in a state of extreme disrepair. It has cost the county $22,000 a year, per building, to preserve them. Now, the county spends about $5,000 for each structure, per year, with no money for unkeep allotted for 2015. 

Information released on September 30, 2014, indicated that the County Board hopes to use three of the buildings as locations to house homeless veterans. But with the condition of the buildings, it remains to be seen if the plan is feasible.  If not, the Anoka State Hospital would be slated for demolition in 2016.

And who’s to say whether the destruction of the facility will lay to rest those ghosts who remain there; only time will tell …

~ Joy