Tag Archives: Boston

Rumble at the Goodwill Book Sale

Later in my life, when I’m asked to reflect back on my time in Boston, I’ll remember exactly two things:

  1. The T was always late.
  2. People in Boston are ready to throw down anywhere at any time.

I see more arguments on an average day in Boston than I’d see in an entire year in the Midwest. Some of these altercations can be chalked up to population density (in the city center) or meth use (in my neighborhood). But others seem to spring from something embedded in the culture. What would earn you a silent grimace in Michigan lands you in a profanity-laced screaming contest in Massachusetts.

That’s not to say the Midwest is perfect, because God (and recent voting results) knows it’s not. But people there are, on the whole, less likely to become homicidally enraged because someone gave money to a homeless person outside Tedeschi.

 

But I digress. Sort of.

Let me tell you about a fight I saw at Goodwill. Continue reading

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Uncanny Erratic: The Spooky Majesty of Agassiz Rock

1870s stereoview, Little Agassiz Rock

“Something weird happened here”–I wish there was a single word to describe that feeling, or a simple explanation of where it comes from. The scientific part of me wants to chalk it up to an eerie atmosphere combined with the unrivaled ability of the human imagination to spew spooky bullshit. The paranormal enthusiast part of me, meanwhile, wants to hide under the covers and spin theories about undocumented slaughters in antediluvian ages.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at some cool rocks.

Continue reading

From Witch City to Ghost Town

Patrick Dougherty, Sticksworks, Salem, Massachusetts

After the tourists leave, Salem’s witch shops try to make ends meet

(This feature article was originally written for a class. The names of people and places have been changed by request–I have no desire to piss off a witch!)

It’s the beginning of November, and Essex Street stands abandoned.

Three weeks ago, the pedestrian mall in downtown Salem was so crowded, it seemed half the world had converged on a single spot. The street’s paving bricks were obscured by the crush. Its t-shirt carts nearly foundered amid a flood of goths, New Agers, and drag queens. Like a black-and-orange beacon, the approach of Halloween had drawn together hundreds of refugees from the fringes of society. Their houses were in Newton, Beverly, or a dozen other suburbs scattered across the country. But during the month of October, Salem was their home. Continue reading

Back Bay Books: The 2015 Boston Book Festival

BBF

This post is the very definition of “long-overdue”–the 2015 BBF took place on October 24th, which scientific sources inform me was three and a half weeks ago. Never mind. I’m in grad school, so it’s a minor miracle when I’m able to post at all.

I went to the Boston Book Festival chiefly to get a feel for the small-press literary scene in Massachusetts. To that end, I bought a fat stack of local literary journals. Behold!

haul

Whether owning said journals will lead to future publishing success is anyone’s guess. When I lived in Michigan, I wound up publishing pieces with outfits based in Albany and Canada, so, you know. There’s not really a correlation between where you live and which periodicals accept you.

Anywho, here’s some other stuff I saw: Continue reading

The Witch Trails Revisted: Descendants of Giles Corey

Eighty-one-year-old Giles Corey was an accused witch, the only victim of the Salem witch hysteria to have been pressed to death. For two days, his tormentors piled heavy stones on top of his supine body, demanding that he confess to consorting with the devil. Corey wasn’t an idiot, though–he knew a confession wouldn’t save him. Each time he was commanded to enter a plea, his response was: “More weight!” Apart from that, he was silent, despite the extreme pain caused by this form of torture. So, yeah: it’s safe to say that Giles Corey was kind of a bad-ass.

Giles Corey memorial, Salem

This is his memorial in downtown Salem. The first thing you probably noticed is all the pennies–it’s some kind of Massachusetts thing. I’ve seen coins stacked on grave markers in Boston, too. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be an offering, a request for protection, or a general symbol of well wishes. Regardless, Giles Corey’s memorial had more pennies than anyone else’s.

It also had this:

Dear Great Grandpa Corey

Call me a sap, but this made me cry the most macho of macho tears. I’m not religious. I don’t believe that Giles Corey is up in heaven, looking down on his memorial and thinking, “Man, nice flowers.” But there’s something sweet and humanizing about the gesture, nevertheless. The dead aren’t truly gone until they’re forgotten, and it’s nice to know that–at least in the hearts of his descendants–Giles Corey lives on.

Tales from the Charnel House: A Return to King’s Burying Ground

King's Burying Ground, Boston

I promised myself I’d give the graveyards a rest after this post. And this one. And this one. But something happened to me at King’s Burying Ground this past weekend that was so exciting, I’m still shaking. Anyway, I’m entitled to post about spooky stuff all I want–it’s Halloween month, damn it!

It was Saturday night, and some friends of mine were in town. I was giving them a tour of Boston’s historic Freedom Trail. King’s Burying Ground–which, as you’ll recall, is Boston’s oldest cemetery–is situated toward the beginning of said trail, and we were walking past it when I noticed something strange.

It was a man. He was strolling idly behind the locked cemetery gates. And he was dressed as a ghost. Continue reading

“The Thing on the Doorstep”: Lovecraft at the Salem Theatre Company

The Thing on the Doorstep, H.P. Lovecraft - 1920's Halloween costume

I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Thing on the Doorstep.” It’s not one of Lovecraft’s most recognized stories, nor is it one of his most critically acclaimed. It doesn’t feature Cthulhu, or ghouls, or the far-reaching cosmic terror that marks more famous works like “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Dunwich Horror.” What it does have, though, is a prominent female character–the only one found in any of Lovecraft’s fiction, unless you count Keziah Mason. (Okay, “The Curse of Yig” has a female protagonist, and “Medusa’s Coil” features a female baddie–but those were ghostwritten for Zealia Bishop.)

I don’t know if old H.P. hated women so much as he didn’t know what to do with them. The guy wasn’t exactly getting laid on the regular. Whatever the reason, Asenath Waite was the only woman he wrote.

The Thing on the Doorstep, H.P. Lovecraft

And what a woman. Asenath is not only a certified genius, she’s also forceful, strong-willed, and relentlessly menacing. Having seduced the bright but naive Edward Pickman Derby, she lures him into a marriage that shocks Arkham society. Poor, besotted Edward soon realizes that his bride only wants him for his body–literally. Asenath has the ability to exchange her soul with that of another, and it isn’t long before she’s slipping into her husband’s skin for extended jaunts into cursed, subterranean vaults. Edward, meanwhile, is repeatedly locked inside his wife’s form, helpless to keep her from trafficking with nameless horrors. Eventually, he fears, Asenath will make the switch permanent.

Continue reading