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August 08, 2011

Necon, Lizzie, and Steampunk Salem


by Heather

I’m recently back from a crazy business-family trip. It started out with Necon—Northeastern Writer’s Conference, in Bristol, Rhode Island, and ended in Salem, Mass.

 First off, Necon is belovedly crazy. Where else can you enroll in the Fussball or Dart Olympics? Beyond the Saugie Roast and Author Roast and zany fun stuff, there are fantastic opportunities, like watching comic and book cover artists work (Matthew Dow Smith, now working on Dr. Who, created a likeness of me as a superhero!) If you’ve a mind to go, write to [email protected]

Lizzie There’s an added benefit—it’s just a twenty minute drive to the Lizzie Borden house. A group of us—Brent Chapman, Lisa Morton, Dennis Cummins, my Dennis and myself—met Corrine De Winter and four of my five offspring at Lizzie’s. Lee Ann, the charming owner, has restored the house to its 1890s appearance, down to a replica of the couch where Andrew Borden lay when he took his “twenty-one whacks.”  In reality, a hatchet was the suspected murder weapon, and Andrew Borden received eleven whacks (one so violent it knocked his eyes from its socket) and Lizzie’s step-mother received eighteen or nineteen (hard to tell when inspecting a crushed skull).

 The house is beautiful, and beautifully kept. An exceptional guide, Will, took us through, and a medium was called in. I’m not at all sure about the medium; a table rocks beneath your fingers (a little table!) and she’s convinced that Andrew was pedophile. Most of this was contrary to what the guide had told us. (He gave us facts, just facts; we had to plague him to give us his opinions)

It’s fun, and, unless you have true strength of heart, spooky. I don’t believe that Lizzie is haunting that house. She hated it. If she’s a ghost, she wouldn’t be haunting a place she loathed in life. But, hey, Mr. and Mrs. Borden could be hanging around. God knows, they fit the criteria for violent deaths.

Shayne_and_I_lizzies We’re up late, of course. And it’s a strange house. The front staircase leads to the girls’ side, and the back staircase leads to Mr. and Mrs. Borden’s rooms. (And to the attic, where we stuck Brent, and my sons Derek and Shayne) While Dennis and I had the “murder” room again, my daughter Chynna wanted me with her and her sister Bryee—on the other side of the house. By 4 AM, I knew I wasn’t going to make it any longer and went up to bed--on the other side of the house.

The place was dark, with only Dennis Cummins still awake, in the front parlor, watching DVDs. I went down the back stairs, through the kitchen and murder parlor, and up the front stairs to the murder bedroom for my computer. Did Mr. Borden reach out and grab me? No. But my footsteps were moving pretty darned fast. Among the perfect Victorian décor, Lee Ann has a number of headless dressmaker dummies in period clothing—a few with actual Borden garments. There is nothing in that house that scares me like those mannequins! I ran by them—moving like a bat out of hell.

Then, on to Worcester, where we had a great time visiting family and playing candlepin bowling, Higgins_Armory heading off to Higgins Armory, and visiting O’Connor’s, a super Irish pub where O'Conner's they make the best shalalie sticks known to man .

Then, Salem. I have a book coming out on August 30th that brings the Krewe of Hunters to Salem when a boy is accused of having—you guessed it—axed his family to death. I’ve always loved Salem. There were a few new museums since I was there last, many seeking to explain the truth behind the witchcraft craze, a few dedicated to pure horror fun and fest, a terrific pirate museum, the House of the Seven Gables (by the way, the gables were gone for a while and then put back!) Ghost tours, witch tours, and vampire tours. What’s not to like? This year, my daughter got it into her head that we had to do the Segway tour, and so we did. Not without misgiving—I was sure I would end the day as road kill. But it turned out to be a lot of fun—and we had a cool, knowledgeable guide.

And now . . . a few of my old favorite shops have started adding steampunk pieces! Go figure—the Witch_house,_Salem wiccans of Salem getting into steampunk. (Population 40,000, and about 4,000 practicing wiccans.) Laurie Cabot—official witch of Salem since the seventies—has added pieces by her daughter to her wares, and she had me at the first hat. I bought it, of course, and some jewelry. At the Fool’s Mansion on Essex Street they’ve got some nice pieces too. Right when I’m heading into a series called Steampunk Annie. Hey, convenient, or what?

Lizzie's_grave_and_heather Anyway, I’ll be heading back again next year. I get to be a special guest at Necon, the family’s in the Worcester area, and I’ll always love Salem. (Years ago, did a Séance at the House of the Seven Gables for a book called The Séance. Okay, so the book took place in Florida! Have to admit, it was super cool doing a promo piece at the House of the Seven Gables. I don’t think that Nathaniel Hawthorne was hanging around—he hated his association with the “hanging” witch judge!)

 September 23-25, I’ll head back p to see blog sisters—Brunonia has created a TLC panel and I’m delighted to be part of it. A few TLC bloggers are special guests, so it'll be wonderful.

Yeah, Salem! Go, Steampunk wiccans! 



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Here's my question, Heather: when one has tall, tough, muscular sons at one's beck and call, not to mention a husband, must one wander through haunted houses, at night, ALONE?

If this were a movie, we'd all be in the audience yelling, "Heather! Call for back-up!"

A sleep-over at Lizzie's house!!! Heather, you are so brave! I would never do that! Aaaaaaahhhh!!!!1

I was born in Salem and lived near the House of Seven Gables for awhile. I thought all of my Salem ancestors were French until recently. I learned that one of them, my umptieth great-grandfather, Philippe L'Anglois, left home on the Isle of Jersey as a teenager. He settled in Salem, changed his name to Philip English, and married Mary Hollingworth "the boss's daughter." They built a house at the corner of Essex and English Streets right where I lived 300 years later.

Philip and Mary were arrested and charged with witchcraft but escaped to New York. They didn't return to Salem until the witch trials were over and things had calmed down a bit.

Looking back on my family history, especially the parts in Salem and Marblehead, I get kind of spooked (sorry) about it all. Just the idea that I'd felt so rooted to that spot. I'd always felt watched there like nowhere else, except the area near Boston Common where Philip and Mary were held prisoner.

Not having known this piece of family history for so long, believing that all my family in Salem came more recently from Quebec and Nova Scotia/Ireland and a few from Russia was startling really. It didn't fit the family myth, but it explains so much weirdness and attachment to place. And if the Dutch settlers in New York hadn't taken Philip and Mary in? Ouch. No Reine.

OK, this might be the best part: Mary's mother, Elinor Story Hollingworth (who had also been accused of witchcraft), owned operated the Blue Anchor Tavern in Salem. LIke so brilliant . . . my greateenth-grandmother ran a bar and gave birth to my greateenthy-grandmother Mary there -- two freaking blocks from where I lived!

No wait - this is the best part: One of Mary and Philip's daughters married a son of Judge Freakin' Hathorn. Because of this, Philip never spoke to her again. And guess whose great-grandfather Judge Hathorne was. Nathaniel Hawthorne's! His son, who married Philip and Mary's daughter, was Nathaniel's grandfather. That is cool and creepy.

No, no - this is the freakin' best: When Mary and Philip were held prisoner in Boston, the jailer would let them out during the day as long as they pronmised to come back to jail at night! Hah! They were out visiting friends in Boston, and one of them says, "Hey kids, why don't you escape to New York? The Dutch will hide you. They hate all this witch hanging stuff." So heck yeh, and off they go!

Thanks for the trip, Heather.

I always have this mental image about places like this:

"WOW! This is amazing. The Lizzie Borden House! This is where it actually happened, this is where the legend was born, this is where---"

(Spectral Voice Coming from the Walls) GET OUT!

"Too bad I can't stay, but...."

The pub, what kind of sticks? That wouldn't be shillelagh, would it? Otherwise, what is a shelalie stick? Is this some kind of drink, potato side dish, or snack? Confused.

I'm with Harley. Not in a million years, Heather. You're braver than I am!

Even the Three Muskateers have gone steampunk. I think it's here to stay.

Karen in Ohio,they're corned beef hash in pastry. Yum. Wash it down with a pint.

okay, i know i'm the last one on the block to not know this, and I'm too lazy to look it up, so . . . what exactly is steam punk?

For a really good explaination of steampunk along with fantastic pictures, go to Jen (cakewrecks.com) other blog site, Epbot. It's Victorian and gears and gadgets, goggles, and just really fantastical and fun.

Harley, "Steampunk" involves a world where steam is used for power, usually Victorian era Britain, but working its way into the Old West in America, and incorporates elements of sci-fi or fantasy.

Think WILD WILD WEST (TV series), the "Mars" books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, , Doc Brown's Steam Engine (that replaced the DeLorean), etc.

How fabulous to have such a family history! I have the complete set of pages from the trials (heavy, heavy reading) and have been fascinated with the witch trials forever--as in, HOW THE HELL COULD IT HAVE HAPPENED? But Europe was in a frenzy, burning thousands in a day on the Continent and in Scotland, and hanging in England. Still! The real hero to me was John Proctor who said, "The girls will make devils of us all!" I can remember causing trouble when I was a kid for attention, but if I knew someone was going to hang, I would have stopped it. One theory is ergot in the wheat (like LSD) but I don't believe that only the girls would have been affected. You just want to go back and slap someone and say, "What the hell were you thinking?"

And yes, corned beef in delicate and delicious puff pastry. Several pubs I know spell the word differently on their menus, but the owner is from Dublin, so I guess it's about as Irish as a . . .
Irish car bomb! (Ever ordered in one in Dublin?)

Steampunk info:

By my writing friend Steve Metze: http://allthingswriting.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-is-steampunk.html

All about S.W.A.G. (Steampunk Writers and Artists Guild): http://steampunkwriters.ning.com/

(Is this a hijack? I hope not! I am only trying to be helpful.)

What a wonderful trip you had...I've been to Salem with you twice and loved it both times!!! Maybe I'll get to go up on the next trip!! The Lizzy Borden house, hmmm... might have need some liquid courage to sleep over with you there... Glad you're back in South Florida!

I saw a play about Lizzie Borden a couple of years ago......and it was incredibly boring. Dull as beans. Really, how could any writer not make hay with this story?? But there you go.

I get steampunk, and I get wiccan---but together--wow! Sounds like the ultimate contradiction in terms!

Your life is definitely not boring.

Heather, Reine, what outrageous stories -- more, more -- fill books and I'll read them. You also have me salivating for a culinary visit. Off to aqua-aerobics now, to work off the imagined feast.

Thanks for sharing, Heather. I went to Mass once, saw a Bruins/Panthers hockey game and took the train to Salem. It was fall and the weather cooperated - exactly as I expected Salem to be: cold, misty, spooky, and beautiful. I loved it. Though something you don't think about when looking from outside in...is how small the houses were with the tight stairwells and surprising nooks. We would love to see more pics.

Edi, thanks! Not sure how to get more pictures up!

Wow, what a great trip. Now if I could only get that little saying about Lizzie outta my head!
Wiccan-Steampunk, almost an oxymoron huh. But an interesting concept nonetheless.
It's these great history gathering trips that give you the inspiration to write wonderful stories we all enjoy. The fact that you always do it as a family is something I truly admire. And they so love and appreciate you. I quote Bree, "I'm one very lucky girl!" And you know what, she really is!
Keep em coming Heather, I love to escape in a great story. Especially a story with a bit of the paranormal in it.
Lizzie may or may not have killed her parents. But she did create history. She's inspired many the author, and possibly created two very confused ghosts!

Heather, no I've never had shillelagh sticks in Dublin. I can't make it past the steak and Guinness pie. It's too good there.

All you shillelagh sticks questioners: Shillelagh fighting sticks are made from super special hard blackthorne wood that grows near Shillelagh, the village. These sticks from Shillelagh are called Shillelagh sticks. Picky. Picky. Picky.

Shillelagh sticks, the yum yum food, the way I had it as a kid when at my grandmother Harrington's, was more like piggies-in-a-blanket. She'd wrap up Irish sausages in some Pillsbury crescent roll dough and bake. Also good, I hate to say.

Heather, you stop this right now. I am gaining weight just thinking about it!

That does sound good.

My future son-in-law likes Irish car bombs, but I've not tried one. My daughter made Irish car bomb cupcakes for him, though!

Okay, I must be the Designated Dummy du Jour: what the heck is an Irish Car Bomb?

It's a potentially lethal drink that has in it Bailey's Irish Cream, Guinness stout, and Jameson's Irish whiskey.

See where the name comes from?

3/4 pint Guinness® stout
1/2 shot Bailey's® Irish cream
1/2 shot Jameson® Irish whiskey

Add the Bailey's and Jameson to a shot glass, layering the Bailey's on the bottom. Pour the Guinness into a pint glass or beer mug 3/4 of the way full and let settle. Drop the shot glass into the Guinness and chug. If you don't drink it fast enough it will curdle and increasingly taste worse.

Heather, I thank you very much for writing about your experiences at the Lizzie Borden House, which saves ME from having to go there to experience it myself! No way! Your blog today was quite entertaining reading!

I don't know why the whole Borden family saga creeps me out so much - there are killings (spousal, and business partner, too, of all things) in my family history, which is why I am somewhat reluctant to do too much research on that side of the family. I'm not sure just how much I want to know, and I'm normally a very curious (read: NOSY)person.

And, Harley: thanks for your questions for Heather - I had the same ones, so I feel like I'm in good company!

fabulous blog, Heather - this sounds really exciting!!!! I agree with Harley though - where were your men folk when walking all alone through a dark house? And those mannequins??

Ah, well, the tall muscular sons were sound asleep, as was the husband, who I woke up when I went for the computer. Cranky. He sleeps by the place where Abby Bordon's murder took place without losing a wink. I slept there last year--but not until 5:00AM when it got light. Reine, my mom was from Dublin and Pillsbury dough seemed to substitute for a lot of things. And cinnamon and sugar and butter on toast were our "treats" with our tea half the time!
At Lizzie's house, the whole family was sick from rotten mutton.
Yuck! Those fish sticks we had every Friday suddenly sound good.

According to a friend of mine in East Anglia, a lot of the Salem immigrants came from an area in England where many of the families were known to carry a genetic disease that caused the patients to convulse and twitch: Huntington's chorea. This may well be the reason some "witches" appeared to be possessed by the devil.

Oh candlepin bowling. How I miss it. Does it exist anywhere outside New England?

Heather, I love making connections, even the tenuous kind. So here goes: My Harringtons from Clonakilty were of the "pudding" (sausage) variety, and my Troys from Dublin of the bakery variety.

I absolutely see where the question comes in--I loathe the movies in which the heroine goes alone out to the woods, or where a couple decide to split up and . . . Splat! No, I wasn't actually in any kind of a dangerous situation, other than that I might scare myself into serious heart problems. Everyone but the girls and Dennis Cummins had fallen to sleep!

Car bombs. I love Guinness (next to tea with whiskey, it's the cure all.) But a group of us came to do a car bomb together when we met. Even Dennis P, who doesn't drink at all, does a ritual car bomb. He can actually chug his, which is what you're supposed to do. Mine, the Bailey's gets all chunky cause I just can't down that much that fast!

Wow! This sounds like an absolutely amazing time. Hopefully I'll make it one of these years. Don't know how I'd make it through a night in a haunted house, but it would be fun to try. And I can totally and completely picture you running through the house in the middle of the night.
But the most fun is the comments. Where else can someone learn about shillelagh sticks and Irish Car Bombs, Steampunk and seances. Thanks for starting a conversation that is twisting and turning in interesting ways. And for sharing your great experiences so we can live vicariously through you.

Had a blast at Lizzie's with you, Heather, your family, and the Necon gang, as always. Lizzie Borden--as well as the house itself--is certainly unique. Get a bunch of paranormal writers to stay over, and the experience is quadrupled.

I'm so thrilled you're guest of honor next year at Necon...and, yes, we already have the house booked for post-Necon escapades! Your trip to Salem sounds fabulous...haven't been there in years but clearly another visit is in order!

Good blog..Its very interesting...I want to know, and I'm normally a very curious person...And they so love and appreciate you...good keep it up..

Skipper, I never met anyone outside of New England who ever heard of candlepin bowling. You'd think everyone would just love to roll that tiny ball down the lane and have it go straight through the set-up and not knock a one down. Y'know? Isn't that fun?

Heather, there's only one thing worse than Fishstick Fridays -- Fishstick Fridays with Campbell's Beans.

You have so much fun, Heather! Wish I was there. I can't wait to see which of these adventures end up in your next novels!

Sounds like a cool trip, Heather, and lots of vibes you can use in your books!

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