Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why is Petersburg so Paranormal? (Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area online tour stop)

Thank you to Michelle for having me stop on her blog for my new book, Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area’s online book tour. I am going to talk about ghosts and why certain places are more haunted than others.

Good question. Why do some places have paranormal activity and others, nothing, or dead zone. Dead zone is defined as a dead spot, or a period or place with no activity or excitement. That would fit a place with no paranormal activity at all. Some places are not haunted, no matter how historical or old, or even new spots. Like the old house in Petersburg from the 1700s in a chapter in Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area. A paranormal group was asked by a real estate agent to prove it was. Obviously sales f a haunted house are worth more than people think. The group tried twice, and got nothing. Nada. Zip. Proving if you think you’re going into paranormal investigating for the excitement due to a TV show or whatever, many times there may end up nothing. Not even one little EVP (electronic voice phenomenon).

And yet, Petersburg has many haunted buildings and spots, particularly in the Old Towne Petersburg section. I honestly think it gives Williamsburg a run for its money in the most haunted area of Virginia. Not only there, but in the nearby cities of Colonial Heights and Hopewell, Prince George and Dinwiddie counties, and Chester of Chesterfield County, all interconnected with Petersburg, particularly due to the Civil War.

Going as far back as the 1600s, with the Citie of Henricus, the second English settlement after Jamestown, Peter Jones Trading Post where things could be delivered to the city of Petersburg, and plantations of many well-known families began. There is the 1700s, where Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia visited Dodson’s Tavern, following Burr’s infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton and battles by ship of the shores where Henricus is today. On July 16, 1816, fire consumed nearly two-thirds of Petersburg, a collection of wooden warehouses and homes along the Appomattox River. Brick buildings replaces many of these. How many died in that fire that still roam the newer buildings?

Edgar Allan Poe and his bride, Virginia Clemm, had their honeymoon here. They stayed on the second floor of Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House, because Hiram was a friend of Poe’s and offered it to them. There is a legend connected to the building, that end of January, she can be seen looking from a window from that floor. All I know, neither she nor Poe answered me on my ghost box the day I investigated both the second and third floor. As for the face on the window pane that was not there to my own eyes, but showed up in my photo and you can se in the book, many young men looked like that. The former owner believed it was Poe. I don’t think so. What do you think? Do you think Poe haunts that buildings as others he has done?

Last of all, there is the Siege, where the Northern Army surrounded the city and bombarded it with cannon balls, and many stayed during that time. The Peter Jones Trading Post became a jail, not only for captured Union soldiers, but Confederate soldiers who did something illegal. Many front of buildings did not survived and were replaced. One that possibly may be the only original store front and still stands today. This was the servants’ quarters of the Friend House before it became a poultry market. People died here during this time. There was buildings that were Civil War hospitals (like the third floor of Hiram Haines). An Underground Railroad for runaway slaves. Slave auction at one end of Old Street. Last battlefield battle fought at what is the Petersburg Battlefield Park today, before Lee and his troops went to Sailor’s Creek, followed by Northern troops.

So much reason for the paranormal to exist in this area. The ground is saturated with it. What do you think?

Leave a comment on Michelle Hamilton’s blog, with your name and email, to be entered in the whole blog tour’s giveaway; which would be a signed copy of Pamela K. Kinney’s new release, Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area that will be sent to the winner.  The winner will be drawn after the last blog stop on October 5th. The email will enable me to contact the winner, so do leave your name and email.

Pamela K. Kinney

Journey to worlds of fantasy, beyond the stars, and into the vortex of terror with the written word of Pamela K. Kinney.

Excerpt from Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area:
Poe’s Honeymoon Suite on the Second Floor
I walked into the sitting room of the suite and dropped my bag of paranormal investigating equipment and my purse on the old-fashioned couch. Two matching chairs stood on each side of the couch and an old-fashioned chest of drawers stood between the two windows that looked down onto the street, where you could see the Siege
Museum. A fireplace loomed behind the couch and, across the room, a table stood against the wall. In the other room I found a bed; however, I doubted it was the original bed Poe and his bride shared. Back in the sitting room, I took note of a female mannequin, wearing skimpy underwear and a wedding veil, perched on the ledge of the window, and she appeared to be staring out. An old-fashioned typewriter with a pair of disembodied hands on the keys nestled against the far wall just behind her dangling feet.
The horror writer in me expected them to begin typing at any minute.

I took some pictures with my camera, then employed my pendulum to see if anyone or anything was there and asked if they would swing it back and forth.
Not moving my arm or hand—as I told them, they had to do it—the pendulum went immediately into a heavy swing. After I thanked them and asked them to stop, it came to a standstill. Did that mean Poe and Virginia were there? Or could it be the first owner, Richard Rambaut, the man the psychic sensed? Maybe Hiram himself or even someone else?

Next, I took out the recorder, turned it on, and began an EVP session.
Nothing was noted from the regular EVP session on the second floor when I listened to it later at home, except when I knocked on the table and asked, “Can you do a knock like that?” I did not hear it live when I was present in the house; but on the recording, I heard two knocks exactly like mine, lighter and from elsewhere in the room.
When I used the ghost box for a session, I got interesting results. I’d asked
if Edgar Allan Poe or his wife Virginia were in the room with me; I didn’t receive an answer. Maybe they had been so happy honeymooning here, they felt no reason to return to the building to haunt it. And to be honest, I did not sense Poe at all that day.
“Is there anyone else with me?” I asked.
A man’s voice came across the ghost box. “Yes.”
“Richard Rambaut, are you here?”
“Can you speak in French to me, Richard, to prove it is you.”
“Why are you haunting this building? Can you tell me?”
Either he knew why and did not want to tell me, or he really had no idea why. Maybe, since he’d committed suicide, this caused the doors to the other side to remain closed to him.
I asked, “Can you give me the date of your death?”
There was an answer, but too low to hear. I asked for the date of the spirit’s death again and I heard a partial, “18—”
Then I heard a partial word, sounding like “threat…” The rest cut off or the spirit couldn’t get the balance of it out.
Was this still Richard? Perhaps another spirit? Had he been threatened, or was he threatening me?
I asked if the spirit that had said the name Derek, down in the Rue Morgue, was on the second floor with me. I got an answer to this question with “Yes.”
Who was Derek? I wanted to know, but received no answer.
I asked if Haines was there. Again, I received no answer.
I asked what the spirits thought of Jeff, who now owned the building, or any of the workers downstairs. Nothing.
Then another word popped out. “Fort.” Civil War maybe? I asked, but no one answered me. Maybe this was from a Confederate soldier who had been hospitalized in the building during the Siege.
I left the room to snap more pictures and a “Hello” came out from my box that I’d left with the recorder hear it until I listened to the recording at home. When I drew closer to the room a few minutes later, I heard a man’s voice loud and clear, “Hello!”
I called out, “Hello?”
No one answered me. It was on my recording, but it did not sound as if it came from my ghost box. Had one of the spirits missed me? Richard?
The Derek person?
I used my EMF meter, hoping the ghosts would register on the dial as well, but nothing happened. Finally, after a few more pictures shot in the sitting room (one of the photos of the fireplace had a shadow in it, and yet no shadows were in the picture before or afterwards), I grabbed my flashlight, EMF meter, recorder, and ghost box, and slung the camera around my neck.

Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area Book Blurb:
Travel to Petersburg, and the rest of the Tri-Cities area of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Prince George, Dinwiddie, and the nearby areas of Ettrick-Matoaca and Chester to discover what spirits, monsters, UFOs, and legends await the unwary. Find out why the War Between the States is still being fought at Petersburg Battlefield. Why the lady in blue might be still haunting the rooms at Westover Plantation. What the phantoms at Peter Jones Trading Post will do to keep from being photographed. Learn about runaway slaves still hiding on the top floor above the Blue Willow Tea Room. Figure out why the ghostly soldiers enter Centre Hill Mansion January 24th, only to leave again. What phantoms share the Hiram Haines Coffee Shop and Ale House with the living? Is the Goatman still stalking young lovers? Meet the ghosts of Violet Bank Museum that are still greeting guests at the house. All this and many more, haunt these cities and counties. The dead refuse to give up their undead residency.

Pamela K. Kinney’s Bio:
Author of Haunted Richmond, Haunted Richmond II, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales, and Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown & Other Haunted Locations, Pamela K. Kinney has written fiction that enables her readers to journey to worlds of fantasy, go beyond the stars, and dive into the vortex of terror.  One of her stories proved heart-stopping enough to be runner up for 2013 WSFA Small Press Award.  As Sapphire Phelan, she also writes bestselling paranormal romance with dark heroes and heroines with bite!

Where to buy Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Release

I am proud to announce the release of my second book "My Heart is in the Cause": The Civil Diaries of Private James A. Meyers, 45th PA Volunteers.  Follow James A. Meyers from Fredericksburg, VA in the winter of 1862 to the final days of the Civil War.  From Fredericksburg, VA to Vicksburg, MS, to Washington, DC., the diaries of James A. Meyers gives readers a personal view of the Civil War.

 Available now on Amazon

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Haunted Plantations of the South

A heartbroken young woman waits for her lover to return from the Civil War...150 years after the guns fell silent. Laughter and music is heard emanating from the ballroom...of a ruined mansion. Whispers are heard coming long deserted slave cabins. These are the type of ghostly activity that are reported on plantations throughout the American South and form the basis of Richard Southall's book Haunted Plantations of the South.  Southall takes the reader through a tour of the haunted south focusing on the plantations that formed the backbone of the antebellum South. Naturally the majority of the stories focused on the damage wrought by the Civil War and the horrors of slavery. Southall divided the book by state and each plantation is given a few pages summarizing the history and ghostly activity to be found. I particularly liked the focus on the history of the site, because without knowing the history of the site the paranormal activity is not going to make much sense. Southall admits that he can not guarantee the veracity of all the stories and that's fine because this book highlights the rich folk tradition of the South. From well known sites such as Myrtles Plantation and Oak Alley to relatively unknown sites, Haunted Plantations of the South is an excellent introduction the spooky South.
4 out 5 stars

Haunted Plantation of the South by Richard Southall (Llewellyn Publications, 2015)
Available now on Amazon

Sunday, August 9, 2015

On Sale in the US

The July issue of Psychic News is now on sale in the US.  The issue features author Leslie Price's interview of me where I discuss my book "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House.  On sale now in Barnes & Noble in the magazine section.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Barnes & Noble Civil War Day

Last Saturday my local Barnes & Noble (Central Park, Fredericksburg, VA) held a Civil War Living History Event.  I love Barnes & Noble on a regular day, but to add a Civil War event into the mix I was over the moon and blocked Saturday off on my calendar.  The event lived up to my anticipation.

At the door shoppers where greeted by a Confederate soldier from the 8th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  This set the tone for the event as shoppers knew that they were in for something special.

A solider from the 8th VA standing guard, a subtle way to deter shoplifters.

Since the event was held at a bookstore, Barnes & Noble had local Civil War authors on hand for a book signing.  Historian Chris Mackowski signed copies of his latest releases in the Emerging Civil War series from Savas Beatie, LLC (publisher of the ebook edition of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House).  I was thrilled to pick up an autographed copy of "Fight Like the Devil": The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.

Also on hand signing books was Eileen Kern Goodman author of the novel Storm Over Fauqier: The Foreboding Tempest: 1860-1861.  I am looking forward to reading this novel which is based on real people and events.

Authors Chris Mackowski and Eileen Kern Goodman at Barnes & Noble Central Park.

The event was more than just a book signing though, as Civil War living historians demonstrated period toys and parlor games, music, and dance (performed by the Civil War Dance Ensemble of Spotsylvania .  Members of the 8th VA Ladies' Aid Society where also on hand to show shoppers how Southern women carried for their loved ones in the army.

A member of the 8th VA receiving assistance from the Ladies' Aid Society, or inquiring on the price of the Nook.

For those curious about all those layers a Civil War lady wore, Miss Frances Allshouse presented "The Layered Lady" clothing demonstration.

Miss Allshouse showing visitors her chemise, corset, and corset shocking!  Where are my smelling salts?

Propriety has been restored as Miss Allshouse is now properly dressed.

I enjoyed the event and thought that there was a lot to keep shoppers engaged.  This was a well planned event and I hope Barnes & Noble Central Park does another Civil War Day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


This past weekend I had a whirlwind trip to Springfield, IL for my book signing at the Lincoln Home NHS.  Leaving Ruther Glen on Thursday evening I arrived in Springfield, IL early Friday evening.  The only hiccup during the drive was getting stuck at a rest stop in Indiana for 25 minutes during a ferocious thunderstorm.  After checking into the hotel, my parents and I rushed out to the Lincoln tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery.  Unfortunately, the tomb had already closed.  

The next morning we arrived bright and early back at Oak Ridge Cemetery and was able to tour the tomb.  Since 2011 every time I visit the tomb I bring flowers for Abraham and Mary Lincoln and was allowed to lay the flowers in front of President Lincoln's cenotaph.  There were already several arrangements commemorating the anniversaries of the passing of Tad and Mary Lincoln on July 15th (Tad) and July 16th (Mary).  President Lincoln in buried in the burial room near the massive marble cenotaph and is protected from grave robbers by several tons of concrete and steel.  Mary Lincoln and three of her sons (Eddie, Willie, and Tad) and also entombed in the burial room in a wall crypt across from the President's.

President Lincoln's cenotaph in the burial room.  The flowers that I left are the small bouquets on the floor.  

Leaving the flowers for the Lincolns.

After leaving the tomb, it was time to head to the Lincoln Home NHS for my book signing.  I had a wonderful time.  It was wonderful to talk to visitors from around the country and the world and sign copies of my book.  

The staff at Eastern National provided me a lovely table for the book signing and even gave me gift bag!

Dave Mull made me feel welcomed at the Lincoln Home NHS.

Signing copies of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House

Mary Lincoln (aka Pam Brown) even stopped by during my event!  Pam Brown is the premier Mary Lincoln living history presenter in the US.  Her programs at the Lincoln Home as part of the summer History Comes Alive is a must see!

It was a memorable weekend.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Signing: Lincoln Home NHS

I am very pleased to announce that I will be holding a book signing of I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears: Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House at the Lincoln Home NHS in Springfield, IL on Saturday, July 18, 2015.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site
426 S 7th Street
Springfield, IL 62701

The book signing will start at 10:00 AM and last throughout the day.

Lincoln Home NHS

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Book Review: Shadows of War

Shadows of War: Prelude to the First Memorial Day by Janice Sweet McEllen tells the true story of the origins of Memorial Day at the end of the Civil War.  In August 1862, best friends Sophie Keller and Emma Hunter are looking forward to their first day at school in the small town of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.  Little could they imagine that by the end of the day their lives would be changed forever.  The girls arrive at school to find that their teacher has been moved by President Lincoln's call for more volunteers and intends to form a company.  Sophie is shocked when her older brother announces that he plans to enlist to fight for the Union.  With a mixture of pride and sadness, Sophie sees her brother and classmates march off to war.  Now left behind, the women of Boalsburg tend to their farms and support the war effort by forming a Soldiers Aid Society.  Though spared from the dangers of the battlefield, the war is still brought to home to Sophie through the letters sent to her from her brother.  As the causalities on the battlefield mount, Sophie is forced to confront the realities of war.  In the midst of grief, Sophie and Emma plant the seeds that would evolve into Memorial Day.

A charming story of family, friendship, and community.  The story stands out for its accurate portrayal of village life in the North during the Civil War.  Largely spared from the clash of armies, Northern civilians were still exposed to the hardships of war through the absence of their young men.  For the lucky families, their solider came back at the end of the conflict.  Those left behind on the home front where surrounded by the grief experienced by the families of those whose solider would not be coming back home.  These themes are touchingly presented in Shadows of War.  Highly recommend for middle-grade to adult readers.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

To order Shadows of War visit Amazon 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lincoln Train Museum

Yesterday, I celebrated the 4th of July in Gettysburg, PA doing a book signing at the Lincoln Train Museum.  I had a great time meeting new friends and spending more time with fellow author (and a Licensed Battlefield Guide!) Linda Clark.

Author Linda Clark and me both celebrated the day in festive attire at the Lincoln Train Museum.
(I will be reviewing Linda's books in following blog posts.)

Unable to attend, but still want to get an autographed copy of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House?  Don't despair, signed copies are on sale now at the Lincoln Train Museum in Gettysburg, PA.

The Lincoln Train Museum

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Psychic News Magazine

On sale now in the UK (coming soon to Barnes & Noble in the US) is the July 2015 issue of Psychic News Magazine featuring Leslie Price's article on Abraham Lincoln and Spiritualism and my interview about "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House

Psychic News Magazine

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Latest Review

Author Pamela K. Kinney's review of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House on I Smell Sheep.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Fall of Richmond

Last weekend I had the pleasure to be part of an historic event in Richmond commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Fall of Richmond and Emancipation.  Part of what made the event special was that we were actually re enacting the events hour by hour on the actual days in which they took place.  Even the weather was cooperating and was eerily similar to the weather 150 years ago.  As part of the commemoration the National Park Service designed a Civil War flash mob with  Civil War re enactors gathered at historically significant locations.  For the weekend I played a southern Unionist based on Elizabeth Van Lew.  It was a fun role to play, but at times not easy as at times it was intense dealing with the hostility of the pro-Confederate characters.  I am a person who does not usually like confrontation and at times after engaging in an intense "argument" with the other re enactors I would find myself shaking like a leaf.  I admire the bravery of Elizabeth Van Lew and the Richmond Unionists for following the dictates of their conscience in a less than welcoming atmosphere.

I was so thrilled to be wearing a new dress for the event.  Since Elizabeth Van Lew came from a wealthy family, I decided to wear a silk taffeta dress, also I wanted to look my best for the arrival of the Union Army.  (Photograph courtesy of  Lynn Hamilton)

For the first day I was placed in Capitol Square in front of the Virginia State Capitol, a gorgeous location.  It was no longer 2015, but April 2, 1865, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis had just received a note from General Robert E. Lee while sitting in his pew at St. Paul's Episcopal Church that the Army of Northern Virginia could no longer hold onto Petersburg, VA and that the army was now in retreat leaving Richmond vulnerable.  Realizing that the Confederacy could no longer hold onto the Confederate capital, Davis and the Confederate government evacuated the city.  I was accompanied with Rebecca Turner who played an Irish factory worker and Marc Ramsey who played an Confederate officer.  Capitol Square is a gorgeous location with lovely gardens, a beautiful water fountain, and the historic Virginia Washington Monument.  I would address visitors passing by, informing them that I was very excited that the Confederate government was evacuating, how I hated the Confederacy and slavery, and how I helped operate a spy ring in Richmond.  The response from the public was amazing, many were excited to engage in a first person conversation and would talk with me for several minutes.  I expected a few people to be pro-Confederate and against "my" position and activities.  Surprisingly, practically everyone I encountered at this site voiced their approval and admiration.  Comments about how "brave I was" and a few "God bless you" where the typically response.  I was even interviewed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, though for the interview I did break out of character for the moment.

Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch here

Talking to the public with the Virginia State Capitol in the background.  (Photograph taken by James H. Wallace courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch)

To see more images taken by the Richmond Times-Dispatch visit 

Trying to over hear any news about the evacuation of Richmond, but the crowd of spectators was to large.  (Photo courtesy of Richmond National Battlefield Park)

In the evening I participated in illumination tour conducted by the National Park Service.  On the evening of April 2, 1865, evacuating Confederate military officials set fire to munitions, tobacco, and anything else that could supply the Union Army.  Unfortunately, strong winds coming from the James River quickly spread the fire into the commercial district burning nearly 800 buildings and 20 blocks.  With the Confederate government fleeing the city, social order quickly broke and looting occurred.  To commemorate these dramatic events the National Park Service held a special tour with re enactors stationed at important locations connected to the fire and looting.  I was placed in Capitol Square with with Ann Andrus (a poor refugee), Cheryl Dale-Hodges (nurse), Laurel Scott, Debbie Phillips, and Adrienne Robertson (elite women).  The night was beautiful with a stunning, gibbous moon.  As it got darker, projectors illuminated the State Court of Appeals building with flames.  Being a Unionist, I did not find any sympathy with the assembled ladies and I have to admit I got more fire and brimstone as the night went along.  I loudly declared that while I hated the war, I hated slavery more and that I regarding the burning of Richmond as God's purification of the sins of slavery.  From the crowd I occasionally received a hiss or a loud cheer.  We had a special guest during the night as Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and his family took the tour.

As a Unionist I am not mourning the end of the Confederacy in Richmond.  (Photo courtesy of Michael Hamilton)

The ladies of the illumination tour.  (Photo courtesy of Richmond National Battlefield Park)

Governor Terry McAuliffe listening to our presentation.  (Photo courtesy of Richmond National Battlefield Park)    

The next day commemorated the arrival of Union forces in Richmond on April 3, 1865.  Symbolically one of the first units to enter the former Confederate capitol were members of the United States Colored Troops.  Upon the Union's arrival in Richmond, Union authorities started to bring law and order back to city with Union troops helping to put out the fires, stopped the looting, and offering rations to starving civilians.  As a Unionist, I welcomed the Union troops stationed to guard the White House of the Confederacy.  The crowds where a little thin due to it being Good Friday, but one of my dreams has always been to re enact at the White House of the Confederacy.  I even had a curious experience.  While standing by the front steps I began to smell pipe/cigar smoke.  I quickly looked around, as I was in a no smoking zone--but there was no one around smoking.  It remained me of the scents I used to smell at the Whaley House.  Who knows, perhaps I was smelling the phantom scents of a Confederate official or a Union officer.

Outside of the White House of the Confederacy with Bonnie Johnson.  I am talking with Robert Gilbert direct descendant of Constance Cary for more about Constance read my earlier post  (Photo courtesy of Hillary Turner)

Another image outside the White House of the Confederacy with Adrienne Roberston.  (Photo courtesy of Charles LeCount)

On Saturday, the last day of the commemoration I returned to the Capitol Square where a procession of USCT's commemorated the arrival of Union troops on April 3, 1865.  Naturally, as a Unionist I was overjoyed to see Union soldiers marching down the streets of Richmond and brought flowers to give to the soldiers.  Following the procession, there was a ceremony on the steps of the capitol commemorating the 150th anniversary of Emancipation in Richmond.  The event concluded with an afternoon of living history, speakers, and historic displays.

Handing flowers to Union soldiers.  (Photo taken by Joe Mahoney courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch)

 This image was reprinted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday!  (Photo taken by Joe Mahoney courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Read the article here

This was a once and a lifetime event and it was such an honor to participate.  

With Tom Karow and Marc Ramsey.  (Photo courtesy of Michael Hamilton)

Of course, how can you turn up the chance to pose on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol?  (Photo courtesy of Adrienne Robertson)


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Ancient Aliens" to cover Civil War

When History's Ancient Aliens returns on April 10, the new season will premiere with "Aliens and the Civil War."  According the official episode description on "The Civil War nearly destroyed the great experiment known as the United States of America, but it is possible that the preservation of the republic was influenced by extraterrestrial beings?  Abraham Lincoln described strange visions and premonitions that occur before pivotal moments in his presidency.  Union officer Ambrose Bierce wrote about mysterious disappearances and inter-dimensional travel.  And a ghostly image of George Washington was witnessed by hundreds of soldiers at Gettysburg--prompting an official investigation.  Is it possible that extraterrestrials were present during the Civil War?  If so, were they simply passive observers waiting to see if our fragile democracy could survive this test?  Or did they take an active roll in order to preserve the Union?"

     (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

I am looking forward to watching the episode when it airs, as the show has been one of my favorite guilty pleasures since the first special aired in 2009.  I am especially curious how the show deals with the numerous visions President Abraham Lincoln had, a topic I discuss in depth in my book "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House.  

I will be following this episode closely and will share my thoughts here after the show airs on April 10, 2015.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

In March 2015 I achieved a personal goal when "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears" was approved by the National Park Service to be sold at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, IL. Here is the image of me mailing the books to Springfield--of course I had to blink in the only picture taken!

John Wilkes Booth 150th

On April 26, 1865, John Wilkes Booth the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln died at the Garret Farm outside of the town of Port Royal, Caroline County, VA.  In April 2015, Port Royal and Caroline County are commemorating the death of Booth and the capture of his co-conspirator David Herold and as part of the event I will be signing copies of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House at the Port Royal Museum of American History on April 25, 2015.

Port Royal Museum of History
April 25, 2015
Time: Throughout the day

For more information visit Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Capture of Lincoln's Assassin

Gettysburg Heritage Center

My second event in April 2015 will be at the Gettysburg Heritage Center where I will be signing copies of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House om April 18.  Come visit the Heritage Center to see the brand new displays and the hearse that transported President Lincoln's body from the Peterson House to the White House on April 15, 1865.

Gettysburg Heritage Center
Gettysburg, PA
Saturday, April 18, 2015 

Appomattox--The Long Road Home

April is going to be an amazing month, as few months were as jam-packed with history at April 1865 was.  There are going to be several events commemorating the events of April 1865 and I will be at several signing copies of "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House   

The first event will be on at Appomattox 150--The Long Road Home
April 10-12, 2015
Appomattox, VA

On Friday, April 10, at 1:50 P.M., I will be speaking in the author's tent.  I will be signing copies of my book throughout the weekend at my booth.  Be sure to stop by, as I will have an exciting announcement about my next book!

Appomattox--The Long Road Home

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: The Marriage Game: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

Though I try to keep this blog focused strictly on topics related to the American Civil War, I had to post my thoughts on this wonderful novel here.  I have had a fascination with Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudor period since I was a preteen.  Fueling my interest has been the wonderful books of historian Alison Weir who has written several acclaimed books of the Tudors and is now turning her talents into writing historical fiction.

The best novel about Queen Elizabeth I since Margaret George's "Elizabeth I," Alison Weir's The Marriage Game: A Novel of Elizabeth I transports the reader back to the tumultuous days of Elizabeth's reign when her hand in marriage was the biggest diplomatic bargaining chip in Europe. But there is major problem--the queen has no desire to marry. Haunted by her childhood in the court of her father King Henry VIII, Elizabeth swears that there will only be one mistress and no master in her reign. Hemmed in by cultural expectations that women, particular queens, must marry, Elizabeth will skillfully play "the marriage game" to the exasperation of her councilors. 

Though Elizabeth has no desire to marry, she falls deeply in love with her childhood friend Robert Dudley. The love store of Elizabeth and Robert play out in the pages of Alison Weir's novel in all of its complex dimensions. While Elizabeth and Robert loved each other deeply, the couple also knew how to hurt each other deeply. As both wanted more from the other than they were willing to give. 

This lush and gripping novel begins with Elizabeth's accession to the crown in 1558 to the defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588. Alison Weir is an acclaimed historian who has written extensively on the Tudors, and her knowledge on the period shines through every page. I was completely transported back to Elizabeth's court in all its glory and artifice.

Get the Marriage Game today on Amazon!

Visit Alison Weir website.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: The Widow Lincoln

(Image courtesy of Ford's Theatre)

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure to attend a performance of the play The Widow Lincoln at the historic Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.  The play was written by James Still and was directed by Stephen Rayne and follows Mary Lincoln during the difficult days following the death of her husband President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865.  The Widow Lincoln begins a series of theater productions and exhibits produced by Ford's Theatre as part of the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination.

Mary Lincoln played by Mary Bacon (Image courtesy of Ford's Theatre, photo taken by Carol Rosegg)

The setting for The Widow Lincoln could not have been more appropriate and with my seat being in the first row of the balcony next to the Presidential box where President Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth I could feel the history swirling around me.  Actress Mary Bacon is masterful as Mary Lincoln.  Playing the complex First Lady is a challenging role for any actress, but Mary Bacon fleshed out the personality of Mary Lincoln and never descended into caricature.  As a young lady Mary Lincoln was described by a friend as having the temperament of a spring day, all sunshine and smiles one moment quickly followed a rain of tears the next, a quality that Mary Bacon accurately portrayed in The Widow Lincoln.  Mary Bacon's performance is enhanced by James Still's lyrical dialogue.  James Still knows how to pull on the emotions of the audience.  The moment when Mary Lincoln removed her black velvet cloak to reveal her blood stained gown was dramatic and shocking.  It was like the audience had been transported back to April 1865.  

Mary Lincoln played by Mary Bacon (Image courtesy of Ford's Theatre, photo taken by Carol Rosegg) 

The Widow Lincoln opens in the dark dream world Mary Lincoln entered after the death of her husband.  Finding herself watching the shooting of her husband from the backstage of Ford's Theatre during the production of Our American Cousin.   Returning to the White House, Mary wakes from her dream, confronting the reality that her husband is dead.  Locked away from the outside world, Mary is comforted by her dressmaker and confidant Elizabeth Keckly, played by Caroline Clay.  Refusing to leave her bedroom to attend her husband's funeral Mary tests the patience of those around her in particular a young maid played by Brynn Tucker.  Though difficult at times, Mary Lincoln had an endearing personality, and was a very kind woman.  Qualities that Mary Bacon brought to her performance, particularly with Mary Lincoln's relationship with a young solider tasked with guarding her played by Melissa Graves.

 Mary Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckly played by Mary Bacon and Caroline Clay (Image courtesy of Ford's Theatre, photo taken by Carol Rosegg)
Mary Lincoln's grief is palpable and is beautifully portrayed by Mary Bacon.  Not only has Mary Lincoln lost the love of her life but she is now adrift in the world without her anchor and protector.  Throughout the play, Mary questions what is to become of her--a question that no one is able to answer.  The 19th-century was an unfair time for widows, particularly for women who had once been prominent based on the status of their husbands.  Since she was a young girl, Mary Lincoln had dreamed that she would be the wife of the president of the United States.  Through her marriage to Abraham Lincoln she achieved her goal--only to have her position and security in life to be stripped away in one heartbreaking moment.  The realization that she was no longer the First Lady Lincoln, but the Widow Lincoln was a devastating moment for Mary Lincoln.

Laura Keene and Mary Lincoln, played by Kimberly Schraf and Mary Bacon (Image courtesy of  Ford's Theatre, photo taken by Carol Rosegg)    

Unable to leave the White House, Mary Lincoln desperately searches for any sign of her husband.  Throughout the play she is visited by the visions of actress Laura Keene (Kimberly Schraf), Queen Victoria (Sarah Marshall), and Mammy Sally (Lynda Gravatt) who offer the grieving widow words of comfort.  In a search for answers, Mary Lincoln turns to her faith in Spiritualism a belief that Elizabeth Keckly encourages by bringing the Spiritualist medium Nettie Colburn, played by Gracie Terzian to the White House to hold a seance.  Though the medium tries she is unable to contact the spirit of President Lincoln.  Finally realizing that her husband is gone, Mary Lincoln leaves the White House to embark on her new life as the Widow Lincoln.

The Widow Lincoln is a haunting, beautiful production.  Words can not adequately describe the beauty and the power of the play.  It was chilling watching Mary in her dream world while her husband is being murdered.  The energy of Ford's Theatre and being next to the Presidential box was almost overwhelming.  This is an evening I will never forget.    

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

Readers of this blog know that I have been really excited about Leanna Renee Hieber's The Eterna Files.  Finally after several months of breathless anticipation the book was released this week by Tor Books.  Let me just say that the wait was worth it!  Full disclosure, I am proud to call Leanna a friend, but my feelings for the book are not distorted by my feelings for the author.  Leanna Renee Hieber is a masterful writer who is a pioneer of the gaslamp fantasy genre.

The Eterna Files begins on April 16, 1865 when a grieving Mary Lincoln summons Clara Templeton, a Spiritualist medium, and her guardian Senator Rupert Bishop to the White House.  President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated and his widow is in the first throes of grief.  The First Lady wants Clara to contact her husband's spirit so that Mary can say her goodbyes.  Overwhelmed by the grief surrounding her, the twelve-year-old medium declares that such a tragedy should never again befall the nation and that America's leaders deserve to be given immortality.  Out of tragedy the Eterna Commission is born.

Seventeen years pass, and the Eterna Commission, a collection of scientists, theorists, theologians, and paranormal researchers are on the brink of discovering immortality when tragedy strikes again.  In one mysterious afternoon the Eterna Commission's scientists are killed by a mysterious force.  It is left to Clara Templeton and her band of paranormal researchers to discover the cause of the scientists death and the whereabouts of their research files.

Across the Atlantic Ocean in Victorian England, police inspector Harold Spire is on the verge of breaking an body snatching ring with ties to the aristocracy when he is summoned to Buckingham Palace.  Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, has selected Spire to head a classified unit charged with protecting England's version of the Eterna Commission.  Despite America's best efforts to keep its research secret, England has learned about the States quest for immortality and wants to beat the Americans at their own game.  But there is a problem, the British scientists have all mysteriously disappeared around the same time that disaster struck their American rivals.  Spire is forced to abandon his investigation into the body snatching ring and given the unwanted task to protect the new Omega team reporting to the mysterious and flamboyant Lord Black, a powerful member of the House of Lords.  Rose Everhart, a gifted clerk who works covertly for Lord Black is assigned to be Spire's assistant.  The investigation into missing scientists begins to reveal disturbing connections to the body snatching ring and the mystery that befell the American team.

The Eterna Files is an intriguing tale of ghosts, spirits, the occult, politics, and espionage with complex and engaging characters.  Leanna Renee Hieber has brought the Victorian world to life in her novel.  The world in which her characters reside in is both romantic and terrifying.  The late nineteenth-century was on the precipice of immense change--a change that was both intoxicating and terrifying, which is reflected within the novel.  Leanna Renee Hieber knows her history and employs her knowledge well in her novel.  The Eterna Files simple crackles with the energy of the era, and is a haunting, lush, and intelligent fantasy.

The Eterna Files is the start of a new series by Leanna Renee Hieber and I can't wait to read the next installment as this novel ends on a terrifying cliffhanger.  This novel is simply amazing!

The Eterna Files on Amazon!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


On Sunday, my mom and I visited Maymont for the first time.  Maymont is a splendid Gilded Age mansion in Richmond.  The estate was the residence of industrialist James Dooley and his wife Sallie May Dooley.  The couple had no children and upon Sallie's death in 1925, Sallie donated the 100 acre estate and mansion to the city of Richmond.  Maymont has been open to the public since 1926.  On the day I visited the house was running a special tour called "Grandeur and Gossip in the Gilded Age" which played off of the popularity of the TV series "Downtown Abbey."  The tour focused on the similarities and differences of Maymont and its fictional counterpart.

 Maymont viewed from the modern walkway leading up to the mansion.  While in 1893, visitors would have disembarked from carriages under the covered entrance, today visitors first enter the house through the basement service entrance where tickets are purchased.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

With tickets in hand, Mom and I left the basement and followed the walkway under the covered entrance to Maymont's formal entrance.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Our lovely tour guide Evelyn welcomed us into Maymont.  In the foyer the portrait of James and Sallie Dooley grace the walls of their home.  The Dooleys first viewed the land that would become their home while the couple were out riding.  Sallie Dooley became enchanted with the view and asked her husband to buy the land and to build her a home there.  James Dooley purchased the land in 1889, the next year construction began on the mansion and Maymont was completed in 1893.  James Dooley named the mansion Maymont in honor of his wife Sallie May.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

James Dooley's library.  Born in Richmond on January 17, 1841 to Irish immigrants, James Dooley fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy.  After the war James Dooley became a lawyer, but would make his fortune as an industrialist.  Serving on several boards Dooley helped rebuild the war torn South.  James Dooley was a man of his times and was conservative in his politics and was aghast at the idea that women should be granted the right to vote--a sentiment that would divide his family.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's formal parlor.  Born in Lunenburg County, Virginia on July 23, 1846, Sallie May was the eighth of nine children born to an old and established Virginia family.  When she was seven years old her mother died, Sallie was then raised by her older, married sisters.  In 1869, Sallie May married James Dooley, at the time the marriage was scandalous as the bride had been raised an Episcopalian and the groom was Roman Catholic.  Writing to a family member after the ceremony, Sallie asked that the it be kept a secret that she had been married by a Catholic priest.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The formal dining room.  The Dooley's were know for their fine entertainments and this room saw many elegant dinners.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's card room on the second floor.  Maymont was at the center of Richmond high society and many parties and gatherings took place here.  Sallie Dooley was for her fine Southern hospitality.  Fond of playing cards, Sallie Dooley would invite her lady friends to an afternoon of cards in her card room where they would play the fashionable and popular game of Bridge.Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

 The staircase lead up to the third floor where the guest rooms and some servant quarters where located.  Even though the Dooleys where childless, the couple did come from large families and their nieces and nephews where frequent guests at Maymont.  During this tour we did not visit the third floor.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's study.  On the second floor, Sallie Dooley had two private rooms to dress and relax.  In this room, Sallie would answer her correspondence and entertain close friends.  Her husband also had two rooms where he could also dress and relax.  The dress is a reproduction of 1890s fashion.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's dressing room.  The room also featured a bed that Sallie could relax on before her next event.  In James Dooley's dressing room there is also a bed.  The rooms proved difficult to photograph as I was not allowed to use my camera's flash.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

James and Sallie Dooley's bathroom.  When Maymont was constructed it included ever modern convenience, gas and electricity and an elevator that connected the basement kitchen to the butler's pantry on the first floor.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

The master bedroom.  Sallie Dooley loved swans and decorated her bedroom in a swan motif.  At this time swan beds where at the height of fashion.  Photographs taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Sallie Dooley's personalized Louis Vuitton trunk.  The Dooleys spent six months at Maymont every year, then spent the remaining time traveling and at their summer home Swannanoa.  About 40% of the items on display belonged to the Dooleys.  To learn about Swannonoa visit:  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Following the guided tour, Mom and I went back to the basement where there is an excellent display on the servants who served the Dooleys and kept Maymont running.  The photographs above are the restored female servant quarters.  Unlike on the TV series "Downton Abbey," few servants lived full time at Maymont.  Most lived off the estate with their family in Richmond traveling daily to Maymont.  Unlike the servants on "Downton Abbey," the servants at Maymont where not close to the Dooley's in the way that Carson and Mrs. Hughes are.James and Sallie Dooley where born into a slave owning society and their parents owned slaves.  Reconstruction and the laws of the Jim Crow South prevented any close intimacies between the Dooleys and their help.  Photographs taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Reproduction of the servants uniforms.  While on duty female servants had to wear their uniform, they even had to wear their uniform even when they left Maymont if they were in the company of Sallie Dooley--a practice that the ladies found degrading.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

James Dooley's wine cellar.  Even during Prohibition, which came early to Virginia in 1916, James Dooley kept his wine cellar stocked at Maymont and Swannanoa.  Photograph taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Maymont's kitchen.  The servant display is fascinating and is supplemented with fascinating markers detailing the life of servants in Gilded Age Richmond.  Photographs taken by Michelle L. Hamilton.

Maymont is a fascinating location and I highly recommend visiting.  I will be returning, as the estate features different tours and events throughout the year.  For more information please visit: