Friday, December 11, 2020

A Christmas Carol: An Enduring Holiday Ghost Story

 by Joy Neighbors

Charles Dickens

It is one of the most enduring holiday classics in the world. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was written unintentionally, in 1843. In it, the main character Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser with his time, money, and emotions, is visited by his former business partner, Jacob Marley, a kindred spirit who paves the way for visitations from three ghosts: Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. After hearing each ghost’s proclamations, Scrooge is transformed into a man with a heart who makes “mankind” his business.



Originally titled An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man's Child, Dickens set out to write about the brutal conditions of child labor. Children as young as five worked 16 hours a day, six days a week in some of the most horrific and appalling jobs available. Since children worked for next to nothing – sometimes only room and board – this was what was available to them.


Of course, Dickens understood what their lives were like. He had to go to work at the age of twelve when his father was sent to London’s Debtors Prison. To help make ends meet, Dickens worked at a boot-blacking factory. This gave him "deep personal and social outrage,” which influenced his life, and his writing.



Children, and the poor in general, were not treated as human beings but more as a necessary resource utilized to do the work no one else would. Humane treatment was not considered mandatory in order to elicit the work demanded. The poor lived in squalid conditions, half-starved, with no chance to change their circumstances. They were happy to get what they could to keep their  family alive and together.



After several attempts to write the treatise, Dickens realized that instead of lecturing, what he needed was a good story to catch people’s interest. In less than six weeks, he had written a tale that he intended to act as “a Sledge hammer (that) has come down with twenty times the force—twenty thousand times the force” causing readers to consider more modern ideas about industry, and the worker. Dickens wanted employers to acknowledge workers as fellow human beings with the same rights as their employer; food, shelter, an education, and a chance to lift themselves up out of poverty.


But Dickens also wanted to highlight societal changes that were taking place with the holiday and show that even the poor had a right to enjoy the season with family and friends.


The new way to celebrate the old festival was with Christmas carols sung by carolers going from house to house in exchange for a warm drink and food.


The Christmas tree was becoming a new tradition; something for the family to cut, decorate and gather around. The Christmas holiday began to  focus on family companionship, dancing and games along with seasonal food and drink. By the mid-1800's, this was the accepted way to celebrate Christmastide.


Even ghost stories were becoming part of the tradition. Dickens included ghosts in several of his writings due to his interest in the unknown and spiritualism. Since his teenage years, Dickens had read penny magazines about murders and ghosts. He said that he delighted in scaring himself and hoped the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol would succeed in doing the same to the reader, bringing about a transformation that would haunt his readers “pleasantly.”


 Ghost of Christmas Past

From the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past when Scrooge is transported back to his teenage years and first love, the reader begins to identify with the miser in ways not expected.



Ghost of Christmas Present

The Ghost of Christmas Present introduces feelings of generosity, happiness and well-being, showing Scrooge how he has morally failed mankind, and shaming him into grief at what he has said and done.






Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be
But it is The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come with connotations of Death and the Grim Reaper that makes Scrooge willing to change his greedy and malevolent ways. He realizes that he does not wish to end up like his former business partner; alone and forgotten in death.

By suggesting that Scrooge has the power to change the unknown, he is given hope, and the possibility of forgiveness if he is willing to change.


According to British philosopher Gilbert Keith Chesterton, in writing A Christmas Carol, Dickens managed to transform Christmas from a sacred holiday into a family feast. Dickens hoped to influence changes in the lives of the rich and poor by encouraging “practical benevolence” throughout Victorian society.


A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was first published on December 19, 1843, and all copies had been sold by Christmas Eve. By the end of 1844, thirteen editions of the novella had been printed and sold. Dickens had hit on a topic that Victorians were ready to confront.

It was reported that after Dickens did a reading of his novella (one of 127 performances) on Christmas Eve 1867, a factory owner decided to close his business for Christmas Day so his workers could be at home with their families. And just like Scrooge, each worker’s family received a turkey for their dinner.


Scrooge and Bob Cratchit

A Christmas Carol has never been out of print for the past 177 years. It is the second most read book, next to the Bible. Although, the tale tells of life during the Victorian era, the story continues to touch our hearts with the hope of peace, prosperity and goodwill toward our fellow men and women. And continuing, generation after generation.


~ Joy


Friday, November 13, 2020

Cemetery Stones Missing for Decades Have Been Found


It all started with a walk. Four years ago, Virginia senator Richard Stuart and his wife Lisa were out for a stroll along the Potomac River when he noticed something concerning: a headstone lying along the bank.


The Stuarts found another, and then another until the senator realized the piece of land he had just purchased had gravestones strewn across it. It didn’t take long for historians to track down where the stones had come from – Columbian Harmony Cemetery, an African American burial ground upriver in Washington, D.C.


The cemetery was opened in 1859 after the smaller Harmoneon Cemetery, founded in 1828 as the region’s first burial society for free Blacks, had reached capacity. Columbian Harmony Cemetery encompassed 17 acres and soon purchased 18 more. From 1892 - 1919, this was the most utilized black cemetery in Washington. In fact, in 1885, one-third of D.C’s African American residents were buried here, and by the turnoff the century more than 10,000 graves were located in the cemetery.


The Columbian Harmony Society, which owned the cemetery, decided to purchase 45 acres near Landover, Maryland in 1929. There were no grave relocations, only new burials at the new cemetery. 

Then in 1957, real estate investor/developer, Louis N. Bell made an offer to purchase Columbian Harmony Cemetery and meld it into his 107-acre Forest Lawn Cemetery. 


After much negotiations and a name change to the National Harmony Memorial Park, the relocation of around 37,000 African American graves began in May 1960. The relatives of those buried at Columbian Harmony were contacted for permission to exhume and move their loved one. It took more than 100 workers six months to exhume, place remains in new coffins and move them to Forest Lawn for reburial.


But the relocation agreement did not include moving headstones, monuments
or memorials. Those relocated were buried without identification. The existing grave memorials were removed and sold as scrap. For the next half-century, no one would know what became of the original markers.

In 1967, Bell sold the old cemetery grounds to the city for development. It wasn’t until 1976, when a metro station was being built on the former cemetery site that workers unearthed five coffins and numerous remains. 


More remains were discovered in 1979 when a parking lot was being constructed; not all of the bodies had been exhumed in the cemetery’s move in 1960. Thanks to Virginia historians, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Senator Stuart, a nonprofit group is working to place these rediscovered markers on the appropriate graves at Harmony Memorial Park. Markers that cannot be retrieved will become part of a memorial located along the Potomac River.


Those buried here include:

• Elizabeth Keckly (1818-1907), former slave, and seamstress to Mary Todd Lincoln 


• James Wormley (1819–1884), hotel owner and the only African American present when President Lincoln died


Lucy Addison (1861–1937), educator and principal


• John F. Cook Jr. (1833-1910), a well-known businessman from one of DC's most wealthy black families. 


Mary Ann Shadd (1823–1893), anti-slavery activist, and the first black woman publisher in North America 

• And more than 400 of Black Civil War veterans who served in the Union Army including two Medal of Honor recipients


It should be remembered that Columbine Harmony Cemetery was not the only African American cemetery to be relocated during the 20th century. At least five more large Black graveyards were eliminated - all in the name of development.

~ Joy


Friday, November 6, 2020

Remembering Those Who Serve

It all began with Armistice Day, a day set aside to remember those who died during the First World War. November 11 became the legal holiday in 1938, and after the end of World War Two, the name was changed to Veterans Day – a day set aside to honor all veterans of the armed forces.


It was President Dwight Eisenhower who signed the bill in 1953 proclaiming November 11 as Veteran’s Day. Emporia Kansas resident Alvin J. King had contacted his congressman and requested the day be set aside to honor all veterans from all wars and conflicts. The first national observance occurred in 1954.

This year, Veterans Day will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, and the 30th anniversary of the end of the Panama Invasion, and the beginning of Desert Shield.

Veterans Day is celebrated each year with parades, dedications and speeches. Here are just a few scheduled for this year.


 The National Veterans Day Ceremony held at Arlington Cemetery begins with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It continues with an event at the Memorial
Amphitheatre. These events are free and open to the public.


New York’s Veterans Day Parade, the country’s largest celebration for veterans, will be held as scheduled in New York City. An entire week of festivities and socially distant events including a Veterans Day Motorcade, a motorcycle ride and wreath-laying ceremonies. The Veterans Day Salute will be broadcast on WABC and live streamed on


The “Founding City” of Veterans Day, Emporia Kansas, will host a multi-day event. The All Veterans Tribute will run during the month of November and include a veteran art exhibit, a Freedom Fest Run and memorial services.




The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) has announced that the annual ceremony at The Wall will not be held this year. They will however hold a virtual ceremony on November 11 at 1pm ET. You can attend through Facebook or on the VVMF website


Other cities and town around the country will celebrate the day, or the weekend before or after, with civil war encampments, military vehicle displays, and rousing speeches and performances.

For a more comprehensive list visit


Today, more than 1 million active-duty personnel are serving in the United States military. More than 800,00 make up the reserved forces. And there are more than 24.9 million veterans living in the US.


Take time Wednesday to honor and remember those who fight to protect our country. Happy Veterans Day!

~ Joy

Friday, October 16, 2020


It’s October and that means time for the annual A Grave Interest haunting posts. Take a few moments and we'll stroll though some of the hotels that aren't normally talked about when it comes to hauntings ... and discover guests who refuse to check out.


In 1847, the Crutchfield family built a lodging house four stories tall across the
street from where the new railroad would be built. Thomas Crutchfield later became mayor of Chattanooga and his hotel prospered until the Civil War. During the war, brother William  Crutchfield, a Unionist, turned the hotel into a hospital for wounded soldiers - both Confederate and Union.  In early 1867, the inn’s lobby  was flooded when the Tennessee River rose 57-feet. In September of that year, the inn burned to the ground.


Fifty-four years later on New Year’s Day 1872, John Read opened The Read House on the site. It was destined to be a hotel of luxury with “terrazzo floors inlaid with marble, indoor paneling of quarter-sawed walnut, carved and gilded woodwork, mirrors recessed in massive arches and a lobby beautifully defined by its soaring columns.”

But the following year, the hotel was again flooded by rising river waters. And in

1875, the hotel served as a hospital for those suffering with yellow fever. A fourth story was added in 1886 and more renovations occurred in 1890.
By 1925 more rooms were needed so a new more modern brick structure was built on the site. Soaring up ten stories,  it remains one of the most popular hotels in the city - for the living, and the dead.

A number of famous people have stayed at The Read House during the past century including comedian Bob Hope, singer and actor Bing Crosby, Oprah Winfrey and gangster Al Capone. Capone spent time in Room 311 during his federal trial for tax evasion. Bars were placed on the windows and remained there until a 2004 renovation. He never reported an encounter with a ghost.

It was 1927 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when Annalisa Netherly
checked into Room 311. There are several variations of the story of what happened to Annalisa. In one tale, she is a young married woman arriving with her husband. Annalisa Netherly was fashionable, pretty and flirtatious and as a lark, had accompanied her husband on a business trip. It is said that her husband returned to Room 311 unexpectedly and discovered his wife entertaining another man. Later, as she soaked in the bathtub, her husband came in and slit her throat leaving her to die. 

In another version, Annalisa was a local prostitute who had taken a client up to Room 311. In a jealous rage, he nearly severed her head from her body as she bathed in the clawfoot tub.

And of course there’s the homage paid to unrequited love. In this tale Annalisa’s advances were spurned by the man of her dreams so she checks into Room 311 and kills herself. (This one seems a bit of a stretch due to the amount of strength needed to come close to cutting her head off ... but it makes a good story.) 

For almost a century, guests have reported seeing shadows flit across the room,
covers moving on the bed, or being touched while sleeping. Some have said the room feels so oppressive, they couldn’t spend the night in it while others reportedly hear water running in the bathroom or lights that flicker on and off. It is said that Annalisa does not like men to be in the room, especially those who smoke.

Guests have also seen spirits in the lobby and dining room. Some say an older man looks like owner John Read. Others have felt misery and despair they attribute to those long-ago soldiers and hospital residents. Ghost soldiers have been seen roaming the fourth floor searching for something ...

Today, Room 311 has been  renovated back to the 1920s and the way it looked

at that time complete with a clawfoot tub, old light switches and an old phone. There are no modern conveniences like a television, radio, coffee maker or hair dryer. Room 311 is available for guests to spend one of five overnight stays each year, but only during the month of October. While this year is booked, mark your calendar for a spirited autumn stay in 2021. You might even check the dates for 2027 and celebrate a century of haunting with Annalisa.

The Haunted Room 311 package includes exclusive overnight accommodations in Room 311, complimentary valet parking, an in-room decanter of "Bathtub Gin," two Annalisa Cocktails at the Bar & Billiards Room, $100 dining credit at the hotel's Bridgeman's Chophouse restaurant and $40 in-room breakfast service - providing you make it through the night ...

If you’d prefer to see it in the light of day, you can take a complimentary tour of
the room based on availability. Call or email for more details.
The Read House
107 West MLK Blvd
Nashville, TN

Happy hauntings!
~ Joy

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Haunted Brown Hotel - Louisville, Kentucky

It’s October and that means time for the annual A Grave Interest haunting posts. Take a few moments and we'll stroll though some of the hotels that aren't normally talked about when it comes to hauntings ... and discover guests who refuse to check out.


The Brown Hotel
It was 1923, during the Roaring Twenties, when The Brown Hotel was built. It was the place to be seen if you were someone in politics or society. There were sixteen floors with more than 600 guest rooms along with ball rooms, meeting rooms, restaurants and bars on the premises. 


Owner  James  Graham Brown resided in the hotel on the 15th floor in the Penthouse. More than 4-million dollars was spent during the 10 month construction of the hotel, and the English Renaissance opulence was derigger with crystal chandeliers and a soaring two story lobby with a wrap around balcony, Palladian-style windows,  Bottocino limestone floors, hand-painted coffered ceilings and mahogany furniture. The  former Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Lloyd George was the hotel’s first registered guest.

Dinner  dances were popular during the 20’s and The Brown was the place to  go with more than 1200 people attending in an evening. 

It was here in 1926 that the infamous “Hot Brown” was created by Chef Fred Schmidt. It is said that Schmidt wanted to serve something different to late night dancers so he did a riff on the traditional ham and and egg breakfast. Instead he took roast turkey and bacon served it on a piece of bread and smothered it with Mornay sauce before broiling it until the bread turned crisp and the sauce began to brown.

Then came the Great Depression and with it hard times for The Brown Hotel.

Employees worked during 1931 without wages just to keep the doors open. The Great Flood of 1937 flowed into the first floor of the hotel. But the hotel rebounded during the 1940s. With Fort Knox located south of the city, an influx of servicemen passing through stayed here on route to war assignments during WWII.

When  Brown died in 1969, the hotel began a death spiral.  It was closed in 1971 and sold to the Jefferson County Public School system as a home for its Board of Education.
 Several hotel chains have owned the structure since the 1980s but in 2006, 1859 Historic Hotels purchased the building and renovated it back to its 1920s splendor.

But as with most historic hotels, this one is haunted. Rumor has it that  James
Graham  Brown decided to stay on after his death. Although the  fifteenth floor is not open to guests, employees and staff have reported seeing footprints appear in the dust on the floor while they were there. Guests occupying rooms under the penthouse on the fourteenth floor report being awakened by the sounds of heavy furniture being moved about upstairs. The elevators are known to stop randomly on the 15th floor although no one gets on or off.


Others have reported the smell of cigar smoke lingering in the air throughout the hotel although it is designated “no smoking.” Employees have spotted Brown standing on the second floor Mezzanine watching guests. If he is approached, he steps behind a column and disappears. Cold spots are common on the Mezzanine. It's said he really “comes to life” during the weeks in April before the Kentucky Derby.

Today the hotel once again welcomes guests with the aura of a by-gone era and is known world-wide for its Southern hospitality.  For more information visit

The Brown Hotel is located at the corner of Fourth and Broadway in Louisville, Kentucky.

Happy October Hauntings!

~ Joy