Halloween is the traditional time for ghost stories, whether they're true or ... well, let's just say embellished. Here at the Log, our tradition is to share spooky tales of the unexplained as well as the explainable. In past years, we've had the saga of the haunted garbage disposal, the tale of the phantom horse, the out-of-body birthing experience, the hole in the attic and the case of the unseen door. Now it's your turn ...
OK, I admit that I'm a little late to the Halloween party. Blame it on Baltimore: I've been covering the New Horizons in Science symposium, sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing - and I've been so busy that I almost had to put off my plan to visit the grave of Edgar Allen Poe, Baltimore's local boy made mournful (see below).
So I'm leaving it to you to set the proper mood for the spooky season. To get into the spirit, you can check out Archaeology magazine's exploration of Halloween's Celtic roots, a documentary on the "British UFO Files" and this saga of a serious ghost-hunter. If you're on the skeptical side, you'll enjoy these scientific disproofs of the supernatural, this survey of ghost-hunting history amd a professor's Halloween reality check.
Do you have a tale of the unexplained? Or a spooky experience that turned out to have a perfectly natural explanation? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Update for 10:50 p.m. ET (7:50 p.m. PT) Oct. 31: While I pondered, weak and weary, over the map to Poe's monument in the Westminster Graveyard ... I finally decided to take a walk and see what I could see of the landmark.
Fortunately, I didn't get to the cemetery upon a midnight dreary, but upon a 9 o'clock cheery. A Halloween graveyard party was winding up, and I was able to slip through the wrought-iron gate to take in the festivities.
In one corner, a masked, red-caped woman was reading from Poe's "Masque of the Red Death." More than a dozen listeners, some in costume, spread out in the grass, amid the gravestones. Some lounged cross-legged on the tops of the burial vaults, as if they were taking in a summer concert rather than a fall spookfest.
In another corner, an actor playing the part of a Revolutionary War officer perched gargoylishly on a monument in the darkness, explained the ins and outs of the Continental Army to bystanders.
In the middle, tourgoers trooped through the catacombs of Westminster Hall, stopping by real-life crypts and graves. One epitaph, written by a husband for his late wife in 1813, exclaimed: "Her death was as calm and resigned as her life was pure and virtuous!"
And in the northwest corner, the Poe family's marble monument was illuminated by spotlights. Someone placed a fresh bouquet of roses on the stone ledge as a tribute, but somehow the withered flowers left behind from past visits seemed more fitting for the occasion.
Strangely enough, the atmosphere at the Halloween tour wasn't gloomy or macabre at all, but surprisingly lighthearted. But then again, who can feel gloomy when you're in the presence of teenage trick-or-treaters dressed like winged sprites, Japanese schoolgirls and good-looking Goths? It was the most pleasant cemetery I've ever been in.
Halloween at the Poe gravesite comes just once a year, but you can visit the monument any day until dusk. Guided tours of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground are occasionally organized by the Mysterious Maryland Tour Co.