Sunday, September 30, 2018

Haunted Monongahela: the Monongahela Witch and the Emerald Mansion

Hey hey!

Happy first day of Halloween to you all! I will be your dark hostess throughout October. :)

photo credit: Rowen Poole

For a full month, we will be having all kinds of spooky fun, both on the blog and the podcast. I hope you are as excited as I am and I can't wait to take you into the darkest regions of the earth where no man dare enter (or something like that).

Anyway, we are kicking things off with some lore that's fairly local to where I am. See the thing is that it's sometimes the smaller towns that have the richest history, and that includes haunted history. One such town is one hidden among the Steel City (Pittsburgh, PA), just along the Monongahela River.

It is the town of Monongahela.

Now those of you that have been following me on social media know that in addition to all else I do, I am involved in the reenacting community. One place I have done quite a bit at is the Depreciation Lands Museum in AllisonPark (this place has its own benevolent ghost called The Deacon which I will be covering later this month).
Now every Halloween, the museum puts on their Lantern Tours with an ever changing theme. A couple years ago, the theme was a dramatized reenacting of the witch trial of real life 17th century accused 'witch', Mary Bliss Parsons. And as a side note, what has two thumbs and got to portray Mary Bliss Parsons?

Yep, that's right.


Now as I was reading over the script for and doing research, I came across another interesting figure (who was also portrayed in this event). This other figure that caught my attention was Mary or "Moll" Derry, also known as the Fortune Teller of the Revolution and/or The Witch of Monongahela.

According to a brief description in a sample from Thomas White's book, Witches of Pennsylvania: Occult History and Lore (a book that I definitely recommend adding to your fall reading list), Derry was born in Germany during the year 1760. During the Revolutionary War, she moved to America with her husband, who was a Hessian soldier.
After the war ended, they moved to Fayette County in the 1790s. It is said that Derry lived in Georges Township until passing away from old age in 1843 (which would have made her 83 at the time of her death).

Throughout her lifetime, Derry was said to have told fortunes, removed hexes, and cured ailments. There is even a story of how she tried to help a young woman with a warning of an abusive fiance. Unfortunately, the young woman did not listen and was later found dead.

While Derry did much in using her abilities to help those around her, she was also said to have a vengeful side, and abandon all hope all ye that dared cross her. There are many stories of curses and affliction place upon individuals that angered Derry, from farmers having their livestock mysteriously perish, to men that tormented her having their lives cut short by hanging.
Either way, her reputation as "the most well-known witch of the western side of the [Pennsylvania] state" made her a legend long before her earthly life came to an end.
Many find it rather curious as to how Derry managed to slip beneath the radar of being brought to justice as a witch. Some suggest that perhaps people feared crossing her just that much. But as someone whose pet subject (or one of my pet subjects) happens to be the witch hunts and trials, I have done a lot of careful research on it over the years, and like many other events in history, witch hunts and trials weren't nearly as cut and dry as they are often portrayed and there are many, MANY inaccuracies put out there in entertainment and the media (yes, I'm throwing a little shade at you, American Horror Story: Coven). But American Horror Story isn't alone in my shade throwing, for most Hollywood productions and videos making the rounds on social media (throwing more shade at outlets like Buzzfeed and least I think that's what it's called) seem to enjoy spewing garbage, seemingly for the sake of shock value and making modern folk feel good about themselves because as messed up as we are, "at least we're not like THOSE people!" But I digress. That's for another blogpost. These October postings are for fun.

But anyway, like many other parts of history, the witch hunts and trials are yet another giant, mysterious labyrinth with many different and unexpected twists and turns. And speaking of twists and turns, who doesn't love a haunted house? Especially one said to have a haunted tale behind it.
Well, I have something for you. Demon House - also know as Emerald Mansion.

Now bear in mind that I am not entirely sure of whether this is the real history behind it or if this is a fabrication simply part of the haunt. But either way it's a cool story, and one to maul over as you await your turn to enter into the old McCue Mansion.

I can say that I did experience Demon House a couple years ago, and I will say that it does deliver.

As for the story told behind it, the story goes a little something like this:

The mansion has over 138 years of haunted history and the land on which it sits was once used as a burial ground (possibly Native American but also might have been used by the Spanish). There is also a story about a mysterious woman by the name of Carla, who owned a title on the land in the mid-late 1800s. Supposedly, she was not bothered by the land's history as burial grounds. It is said that she even asked to keep some of the bones of the exhumed bodies.

Carla was said to be a healer and a witch by some, and many sought out her cures for a variety of ailments. In 1894, she mysteriously vanished, as did some of her patients. When the sheriff and his deputies conducted a search of the house, four members of the search party entered the mansion only to never be seen again.
The house remained empty until 2004, when it was purchased by the owners and operators of the haunted attraction, Demon House.

Now, the current owners of Demon House have stated in a couple interviews that there definitely is an energy about the area. So perhaps one of these days it would be interesting to sit down with them and see just how much of the story stems from truth.

Either way, the moral of the story is...always keep your eyes open, for sometimes the smallest towns have the most interesting history and legends.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Halloween Inside the Labyrinth as there are many more to come.

Til the next one, pleasant dreams...

Sample of Witches of Pennsylvania: 

Demon House Legend: 

Mary Bliss Parsons:


Thank you for reading! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
Begin your journey here:

ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/


Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village (Avella, PA)

Hey there!

So about two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of performing with my Wayward Companions bandmate, Tom Crytzer at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village for their 48th Annual Covered Bridge Festival.
Most of my period music gigs tend to fall into the mid-late 18th century eras, but for this one, they wanted us to be more along the lines of mid 19th century/Civil War. Since most of my period clothing is 18th century (I also have a few Edwardian and some early-mid 20th century pieces), I had to borrow a mid 19th century dress. Thankfully, I'm in the Pittsburgh Historical Costume Society and therefore know many many people with all sorts of period clothing. So after a few rehearsals, Tom and I were set.

So on the morning of September 15, I set out to meet Tom at an in between place.

The drive was very scenic and gorgeous, as was the Rockshelter and historic village upon our arrival. We played in an old church in the village, as a sort of 'musical exhibit' to visitors. So the performances were continuous as visitors entered the church.

Inside the church before visitors arrived

I was also able to get a quick shot of the cabin house out the window

It was quite busy that Saturday, with Tom and I playing almost constantly. But we were able to take a little break (my voice also needed a little rest!) and take in some of the scenery. The first stop was the log house.

 Inside the log house

 Maria, a Meadowcroft history interpreter who was stationed in the log house

Next up was the schoolhouse. I was looking forward to seeing this as I have been schoolmarm many times at the Depreciation Lands Museum.

 the Meadowcroft historic village schoolhouse

 the teacher's desk

 a creepy antique doll in the schoolhouse, that I of course had to get a photo of

 schoolmarm Maddie (one schoolmarm to another!)

As the first day of the festival drew to a close, my voice was almost ready to give out. Thankfully, the site gave us free ice cream, which was very much welcomed by my tired throat.

 Tom Crytzer in his 19th century clothing

me in mid 19th century mode

The following day (Sunday and the last day of the festival), Tom and I were back in the church, playing music for visitors venturing in to the church. Both days we had some great crowds come in that seemed to enjoy what we were doing.
Sunday was pretty steady, though not as busy as Saturday was, so there was a little more time to sight see.

the blacksmith's shop

 a beautiful covered bridge

I really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to perform at this event. Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village is a great place and I definitely recommend visiting. The history behind how it came to be is also pretty fascinating. It is also run by the Heinz History Center, and you can check them out at their website:


Thank you for reading! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
Begin your journey here:

ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Take 5 with Historical Fiction and Horror Author, William P. Robertson

TA: First, for those not yet familiar with your work, tell a little about yourself.

WR: After I graduated from Mansfield University in Pennsylvania with a BS in English, I spent several years teaching in public schools. It was then that I wrote a lot of dark poetry. Ha! Ha! Now, that I've started my own house painting business and concentrate more on my writing, I'm in a much better place. I also get to use the BS part of my college degree a lot more! When I'm not working, I enjoy taking photos of spooky McKean County where I live and trout fishing in the wild mountain streams of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

TA: Who were some of your earliest influennces?

WR: My earliest writing influences include Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, and Jim Morrison of the Doors. It was Morrison's lyrics that unlocked the power of words for me. His imagery was and is amazing! I've always enjoyed Hemingway's journalistic writing style because it makes his historical fiction novels fun to read. I tried to adopt some of his narrative economy into my own work. From Poe, on the other hand, I learned how to create an eerie atmosphere in my horror stories by piling on sensory details. From these three authors, I've created my own unique brand of storytelling that has sold over 13,000 books over the years.

TA: Which came first for you; horror or history?

WR: History came first for me because my dad was big into military history. We used to mold lead soldiers together when I was a small boy and then paint them in the authentic uniforms of a certain war.  We especially loved the American Revolution and made big armies of Redcoats and colonials that included infantry, cavalry, riflemen, and artillery. After our armies were all finished, we had a grand review of them and then pitched them into battle using rubber tipped darts to shoot each other's soldiers down. What a great way to teach a child history!

 TA: Do you see a difference between how history was taught while you were growing up vs. now, and is there anything you hope readers will gain from your stories?

WR: Today, history is being watered down and made more politically correct. In my day, we learned the true facts. I think it's wrong that Southern Civil War monuments have been vilified and ripped down.They (Unions and Confederates) were all Americans who fought for what they believed in. Southern heritage shouldn't be destroyed or swept under the rug. We can still learn a lot from it both good and bad. If you gloss over the horrors of history, you're bound to repeat them!
Through my writing, I'm trying to preserve the folklore and history of Western Pennsylvania. Being a former teacher, I want my readers to learn something every time they read one of my books. I always go overboard on researching and editing to create as accurate a story as possible.

TA: And finally, the time for shameless self promotion. What are some current projects or new releases coming up? Plug away!

WR: My 40th book will soon be released! Titled LOST, it's a collection of dark poetry and photos. I'm also working on a "greatest hits" collection of my horror stories. I call it FEAR IS FOREVER. It's almost ready to send to the publisher!
For more information about my writing, please visit and All my books are for sale on my William P. Robertson author page. 

Thanks, Tiffany, for giving me the opportunity to discuss my work!


Thank you for reading! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
Begin your journey here:

ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/


Inside the Labyrinth, ep 6: Researching a Persona

In this final episode for September (before we go into the Halloween episodes!), I get into the basics of researching a persona for those new to the living history and reenactment community. Now I am coming from a female's perspective, but the basic principles generally apply across the board (though I would like to one day have a male reenactor/interpreter on for an episode to perhaps get that perspective as well).

I also give a couple shout outs at the beginning of this episode:
to two of my friends in the Pittsburgh Historical Costume Society, Sally Knuckles and Laura Mason Lockard (who is also in Wayward Companions and Pittsburgh Historical Music Society with me) and to Jess of Penny River Costumes (I'm wearing her Time Traveler shirt in this episode).

Check out her store!

And also as promised, here are the list of questions that a new interpreter/reenactor must ask themself while building their persona and research.

Who am I?
Where was I born? What year? How old am I?
How did I get to this place?
How do I spend most of my time?
What did I have for breakfast?
How did I learn my skills?
What problems/challenges am I facing now?
What have I accomplished?
What are my goals?
What is my social status?

Enjoy, hope you find this useful and see you in October for some Halloween/Samhain fun!

Thank you for watching! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
Begin your journey here:

ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Inside the Labyrinth, bonus episode: Traditional Soap Making!

This bonus episode covers the traditional soap making day at the Neville House this past Sunday.
After this, we will have one more episode for September and then it is a full month of Halloween!

Here are some photos of the event!


Thank you for watching! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
Begin your journey here:

ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/


Monday, September 24, 2018

Inside the Labyrinth, ep 5: Interview with Elizabeth Huxford

In episode 5, we are back at Fort Henry Days and in conversation with Elizabeth Huxford, discussing some Native American culture (particularly the Shawnee), along with touching on how Europeans or other non Natives were integrated into tribes.

Thank you for watching! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!

Begin your journey here:



ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/





Friday, September 21, 2018

Fort Henry Days at Oglebay Park (Wheeling, WV)

Labor Day Weekend brought another weekend of music and history when Wayward Companions and I traveled to Fort Henry Days in Wheeling, WV for a gig. I left ahead of everyone on late Friday afternoon and met up with my camping friends. For some 18th century style camping, of course.

Not too far away from us was the Gallowglass tent. Their music could be heard across the park as they were jamming into the night. I went over to say hello and before long, there was a nice group of us drinking Irish malt and Scottish whiskey while singing a bunch of traditional tunes and talking into the night (it was a gorgeous night too!).

 I believe it was 2am before the last couple of us finally retreated to our tents!

Despite the very late night, I was actually able to get up early and jog as I love to do at these things. The scenery is always beautiful.

It is also nice to look around at the campsite first thing in the morning. :)

At the Claus and Truax Jackware tent!

So Saturday was a very busy day for me, between getting footage and photos for the blog and social media, interviews for the podcast and then performing the first set of the weekend with Wayward Companions. I barely had time to sit down!

One of the first events of the morning was the dancing, with music provided by the Irish folk band, Gallowglass.

 Gallowglass providing music for the dancing. Which I ended up getting pulled into. It's all good, though. I'm not shy and I'm a trained dancer. :D

After that, I had my first interview of the weekend. I was introduced by Diane Coughlan of Gallowglass to historian Joe Roxby and after his lecture, he ended up being interviewed on Inside the Labyrinth, discussing a lot of the early history of the Wheeling, WV area.

 Joe Roxby gives his lecture on the early American frontier

After Joe Roxby, Mike Petersen - dulcimer and concertina player of Gallowglass - was my next victim in being interviewed for the podcast (interview links will be posted at the end). We had a very fun and fascinating discussion about the history behind a lot of the traditional music typically performed by Celtic and Irish music groups. Gallowglass also performed musical demonstrations throughout the day.

 Random selfie of me with my parasol that I bought from The Mountain Forge at the French Creek Heritage Festival in Cochranton, PA.

After that, I did two more interviews. One with Medicine Woman and Herbalist, Tre Megown, followed by Elizabeth Huxford on Native American customs, particularly the Shawnee tribe and their particular customs (because we really need to dispel the myth that all Native American tribes were the same and held all the same beliefs...they were not and did not).

thank you Diane Coughlan for capturing these photos of me interviewing the lovely and fascinating Tre Megown
After the last two interviews, I had about an hour to kill before the first Wayward Companion set and my bandmates were arriving (they were roughing it up in hotel accommodations). Then we performed our first set under the pavilion.

thank you again to Diane for capturing these photos of the performance!

 the crowd in the pavillion

After our performance and the reenactment, it was dinner time. I went to the dining hall with my camping friends. Fort Henry Days provides a great dinner, and it is especially nice when you sit outside with the fort and reenactment scene as a backdrop.

 who wouldn't want to eat with this as a view?? :)

After dinner, it was time for me to get ready for the second Wayward Companion performance for the weekend, which was their evening tavern.

 I was the first one in the tavern

 setting up!

 a very dark picture after the tavern got going

There was also a brief thunderstorm during the tavern and it was a really cool experience being inside the tavern, playing period music by candlelight while that was happening!

The following morning, I was so tired that I could not bring myself to get up and jog, or even go for a walk. So instead I just slept for as long as possible before I had to get up and get ready for the last day of Fort Henry Days and the final performance of Wayward Companions!

We played for a very nice and attentive audience, and then Kara Gordan was on, giving an interesting and informative talk on 18th century men and women's clothing. There wasn't enough time to have an on camera talk with her, but I would love to have her back on here as she is definitely someone I and many others would consider an expert on historical clothing. Plus she reiterates something I've been saying since I've started this whole living history and reenacting thing:

Stays (some might group them in with corsets) are NOT THAT BAD. In fact, I sing, dance, and do all kinds of activities in mine in all sorts of weather conditions. And I still have yet to even remotely need the mythical fainting couch.

 Kara giving her lecture on clothing

After that it was on to the Ladies Tea, which is always very enjoyable.

 With the hot weather, though, I wasn't much in the mood for a hot beverage, so I mostly sipped on a chilled Ginger Switchel which was the bomb. I am seeking out the recipe as I type this so I can make it.
One interesting fact about the ginger switchel, is that it is the 18th century's answer to Gatorade. If you were feeling faint and needed electrolytes, this was your beverage of choice.

 18th century Gatorade

 chilled lemon balm tea, which was also quite good

other video footage I got of Fort Henry Days weekend, which includes my friends at the Mountain Forge!

One of my last stops was saying hi to the very beautiful ladies of Applegate's School of Needlework. The photos alone should imply why I loved stopping by their tent! I'm all about the sewing and the spinning. :)

Applegate's School of Needlework is part f the Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation. And upon visiting their website, I definitely plan to visit (all links will be at the end of this post)!

Me at the end when I was very spent and no longer looking or feeling very fresh
a few books on display by author Alan Fitzpatrick

But of course I couldn't leave without a purchase from one of my favorite sutlers, The Mountain Forge. :)

I ended up adding to my hand fan collection and also buying a hussef/sewing kit. I typically sew up my own hussefs, but this was too adorable to pass up. :)

After the last reenactment, it was time to start heading out. So I changed into 21st century clothes, helped take down the tents, and then Paul, Sarah and I went to this really great BBQ place within the Oglebay ski lodge.

Fort Henry Days 2018 was a great event. It was my second year there and I look forward to next year. :)

And check out the following links:


Elizabeth Huxford

Beaver Country Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation

The Mountain Forge (they are in the process of making adjustments on their website):

And finally, links to the interviews (Elizabeth Huxford will be up on September 25):

Thank you for reading! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
Begin your journey here:

ANTIQUITY & ILLUSION SHOP: https://antiquityillusion.bigcartelcom/