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I don’t know what impulse possessed me to buy a copy of “The Myrtles Plantation: The True Story of America’s Most Haunted House,” by former owner Frances Kermeen (Warner Books; 2005).
It’s not my usual nonfiction fare. But over a week I managed to finish it (in various stages of undress and with a variety of midnight snacks). All 62 chapters, plus Prologue, Epilogue, and schematics.
Among the ghosts who wander in and out of its pages are two ante-bellum kids who peek in at windows, a lady dressed in black who waltzes in the French bedroom, a Confederate soldier who camps out in the Green Room (during May and June), and a one-eared, green-turbaned slave with candle who was once tortured by her master — “before she killed his wife and daughters with a poisoned cake.”
Ms Kermeen, who put up with these Southern diehards for ten annoying years before calling it quits (following the untimely and/or mysterious deaths of three friends and her dog, and the betrayal of her spooked-out husband, leading to divorce) includes in her paperback telling two real-life gay neighbors, and snide remarks about the uppity, status-conscious denizens of the Louisiana KKK county where the Myrtles Plantation is located.
Do I believe in Civil War ghosts? What can I say for $6.99 ($9.99 Canadian), the price of admission to Ms Kermeen’s twilight zone. Anything’s possible. Heaven knows there are enough people — straight, gay, polymorphous perverse — who believe in UFOs, alien abduction, the Loch Ness Monster (no relation to Fred Phelps) and ESP.
I have a lesbian friend — ‘Lady Sybil’ — who is herself a New Age guru and a medium in touch with those who roam the Great Beyond. Sybil claims that gay men, “because they are genetically ‘sensitive’ make the best psychics — unless they’re into leather or the gym.”
Years ago she invited me to sit in on her private circle of clairvoyants, ESP students, and would-be mediums. The format was predictable: hymns, an uplift sermon, Spirit World messages, followed by the requisite love offering on the way out.
“May I step into your aura?” was the permission request asked of me when it was my turn to receive a one-on-one message from the dearly departed. “Yes, yes,” said I, pleased that some relative on my maternal and/or paternal side still had my mundane interests at heart. “You will receive a lavender-scented letter in the mail,” the medium counseled me. “Do you know someone named Bruce? I get a last name beginning with the letter D. Darling? An ex-roommate perhaps?”
Over the next several weeks I received more messages of questionable accusation from Mr. D, who I was then convinced was probably a private eye, a sixth cousin obviously gay, not too swift.
There were two memorable lights-out seances, I witnessed. During the first tiny cascades of pink lights winked joyfully overhead. During the second — a session with a spirit trumpet — I helped things out a bit, herewith shamefacedly admitting for the first time to a living soul that I cheated.
That sitting there were a dozen present. The aluminum trumpet was placed dead center in our circle — hopefully to be raised by unseen spirit hands and spoken through by ethereal voices. On impulse — bored with the wait — I reached out and moved the trumpet.
When the lights came on somebody gasped. “Oh, my God. It moved!” Lady Sybil whispered, “You look white as a sheet — and beat red at the seams.” I never went back.