Friday, November 23, 2018

Ghostly Songs and Tales...

Hey there!

So yes, I'm catching up on blogposts, a couple of them being from Halloween. As many of you know, I pretty much live for Halloween (old news to those that have been following me for a while) and am often very busy during the month of October. This year (2018) was no different.

One event that I was part of this year was a concert event put together by my friend Chuck Owston, featuring multiple musicians. The theme was Songs that Go Bump in the Night (consisting of dark and ghost tales and murder ballads) and took place at the North Versailles Public Library in North Versailles, PA.
It was a fun night (even though I started coming down with a cold shortly after I went on) and the songs I performed with Chuck included Three Pale Queens (based on Arthurian legend), Skellig (a Loreena McKennitt cover), She Waits Upon the Shore (a Chuck Owston original), and Pretty Polly (an Appalachian murder ballad).

 Chuck and I performing She Waits Upon the Shore

Photos of the evening in North Versailles:

Another event I took part in (and ran) was the Bonfire Stories at the Neville House, an 18th century historic site in Bridgeville, PA. Due to the weather, we had to move it indoors and make it more of a candlelight stories night, but it all still worked out. I had great fun telling stories of old and the night made episode 12 of Inside the Labyrinth.

Photos from the Bonfire Stories night:

Starting to prep the Stillhouse where the stories took place
my storytelling chair!

We still got a bit of a bonfire going and it did hold out despite the rather wet weather.

and the room temperature for the event was 66 can't make this stuff up...

the awesome people that came to sit in on some ghost tales

So that was a small part of my October and I will be working on getting caught up on my October postings (I know, epic fail here) in the next few days (no, I really will). There are also only two more episodes left until the Christmas themed "Ghosts of Christmas Past" episodes (yes, more haunted history), which will commemorate an ancient tradition of telling ghost stories during this holiday season.
And last but not least, Episode 15 of Inside the Labyrinth dropped at 7pm tonight (all episodes from here on out with drop at 7pm on a Friday. I will have the episode along with photos taken at the event posted here as well.
Hope everyone is having a safe and fun Thanksgiving weekend!


Thank you for reading! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
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Friday, November 9, 2018


Well hello! After a brief break from blogging and podcasting, I'm back at it. And I am returning with an interview! I met Kara Gordon at Fort Henry Days during Labor Day Weekend when Wayward Companions and I were performing throughout the weekend. I got a chance to catch Kara's lecture on 18th century clothing and it excited me when she got to the myth busting part. 
As I've stated before, I absolutely love myth busting and when I come across fellow myth busters, my heart leaps with pure joy. 
Kara has been sewing since she was a child and even had a chance to work in Colonial Williamsburg, so I am really excited to feature her. I hope you enjoy this very insightful interview! :)

TA: So first, tell us a little about yourself and how you developed an interest in period costuming and attire.

KG: I think I first started to be interested in sewing and historic clothing when I was about nine or ten. My mom taught me how to sew, after teaching herself first, and I was immediately hooked. I loved making dolls and then dressing them. I found this awesome book at the library, just called “The Doll Book” that went through each era of history and provided patterns for a doll’s whole wardrobe. It was like finding buried treasure, and I still have that book (that I bought, I didn’t steal the library copy!). At that point, dolls’ clothing was so much easier than real clothing; being a kid, I of course didn’t have the money to buy a lot of fabric and I liked being able to experiment and sometimes fail miserably without anyone else knowing! Later on, as a teenager, I joined a folk dance group that did performances of different historic and ethnic dances. That gave me a reason to start sewing things for myself and other real people. I realized that even though it’s fun to make tiny things, it’s even more fun when you get to actually wear what you make! When I decided to go to college for history, I got more into serious research and added that aspect to my sewing. By the time I got to earning my master’s degree in public history, I was even able to convince my professors to let me focus my projects and classwork on clothing. I think some of them thought I was a little strange, but I’ve been so lucky to be able to focus on what I love. Last summer, I even got a chance to intern in Colonial Williamsburg’s Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop, sewing and interpreting to the public. It truly was a dream come true.

TA: Which era or eras tend to be your favorite and why?

KG: I have a special love for end of the eighteenth century. It somehow feels like home for me. Especially 1775-1785. The 1780s bear some resemblance to the 1980s actually, big curly hair, exaggerated lines. But really the garments themselves are pretty simple. I truly love focusing on everyday clothing, the kind of clothes that the ordinary woman would get up and put on to go about her day. Eighteenth century clothing is so practical, every piece fits together like a puzzle and serves a specific purpose. I love that.

TA: I love that you also make the observation of the similarities between late 18th century clothing and the styles of the 1980s! Especially if you look at 80s metal culture. If you look at many of the metal bands from that era, there is almost always at least one member of a band that seems to have a sort of half done 18th century outfit or sometimes the entire band is wearing outfits that are at least cut in a way that resembles mens and womens clothing of the later 18th century. And yes, the hair and makeup (worn by women and yes, sometimes men) also share similarities. I also plan to do a future podcast episode on the similarities between heavy metal and music of the Baroque era and the 18th century. In fact, when I perform with Wayward Companions, yes I do use a lot of my classical/opera training, but there are also some pieces that do call for me to tap into my "rock voice" a little more (and I perform 18th century music with the same energy I would a rock or metal show).
One myth I like to bust is the assumption that everyone was all buttoned up and prim and proper. For instance, the late 18th century did have a form of what we would today refer to as club dancing (they called it "free dancing") and like the 80s metal scene, the late 18th century had their own version of a "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" culture until it was more reigned in during the Victorian era (though even that era had its rebels too). I can go on and on about all that, along with reiterating that there really isn't a whole lot new under the sun.
But with that said, what would you say are some of the greatest misconceptions that people tend to have about period attire? Men's and women's clothing.

KG: This one may provoke a teeny bit of a rant, so I apologize! People tend to assume so much about period clothing, simply because it is very different from what we wear now, which is largely a result of the truly historic rebellion of everything to do with the past that took place in the late twentieth century. One of the biggest things people tend to assume is that historic clothing is uncomfortable. Really, though, it is just a matter of what you are used to. After spending a summer in 18th century clothing, I am every bit as comfortable in it as I am in modern clothing. Except for when doing things that 18th century women never had to think about doing, like riding in cars. They didn’t even dream of such a thing so their clothing wasn’t made for it, but it was perfectly made for the things they did have to do. Though the layers may look hot, it actually regulates your body temperature better to have a base layer in a breathable fabric like linen, and then have other light layers on top that cover your skin rather than letting it bake. And it truly is almost a universal idea today that corsets or anything like them are torture devices, but this simply isn’t true. If you have been uncomfortable in a corset before, it probably didn’t fit you or you didn’t give it enough time to get used to it. I’m pretty sure that someone who had never worn shoes before would find them uncomfortable at first too, but that doesn’t mean that most of us would give them up and the protection and support that they provide. In many ways, I have actually found it very nice to have my clothing anchored to me, and not just sliding and pulling on me all day like modern clothing does. 
The other assumption I hear a lot is that women’s clothing is ridiculously restrictive while men get away with more comfortable attire. Certainly in the 18th century that is not true at all. Men’s clothing of the time was cut so that it shaped the body and its stance just as much as a pair of stays does for a woman. And I honestly don’t know how men wear breeches. I’ll take my petticoats any day!
The thing is, all of these assumptions imply that people in the past were not as smart as we are, and that can be a dangerous kind of arrogance when it causes us to dismiss the important things that the past teaches us. Studying and wearing historic clothing is a reminder that we need to try to understand before judging. There, rant over.

TA: Hey, it's all good. As you can see, I definitely have my share of rants too! What people also need to consider is that if more restrictive clothing was worn, it was typically by someone of the wealthier class that didn't need (or want) to work and were more interested in being fashionable than practical.
As for attire, it tends to be a challenge for those brand new to living history and reenacting. Is there any advice or sources you would recommend to a person starting out?

KG: Coming up with a complete wardrobe just so you can participate in an event can be extremely daunting, especially when clothing isn’t your main interest, but you have to have it to participate in other things. My advice is to go slowly and don’t be afraid to spend the time making things right the first time, even though, yes, the fabric is expensive and it may take you a while. If you aren’t into sewing, try to buy or borrow some pieces second-hand from someone who knows what they are doing to start. But also, don’t be afraid to try making some things yourself. It’s not as hard as you might think and saves a lot of money. Some really good books and patterns have come out recently that combine the basics of what you need to know so new living historians aren’t overwhelmed all at once! The best by far for women is “Whatever Shall I Wear?” by Mara Riley. This book is amazing. If you are a woman and can only buy one book, get this one. Blogs and other online sites can also be tremendously helpful too. You can find instructions for things like petticoats and shifts without having to buy any patterns. If you are going for patterns though, the best come from Larkin and Smith. They are amazing and you won’t regret the extra money. Sources for menswear are a little trickier, because not as many people have focused on writing guides for that yet. Though a little outdated, “Tidings from the Eighteenth Century” is a good place to start, along with the shirt guide from Larkin and Smith. There are also some really helpful Facebook groups that connect you to real people who have serious skills. It’s always overwhelming jumping into a new hobby, but there are definitely more places to go for information now then there ever has been.

TA: Are there any events that you will be participating in over the next year or any links to your work that you would like to share? Plug away. :)

KG: I’m actually not sure what events I will be attending this year. I never really seem to be able to plan that far in advance! Fort Henry Days is always a definitely though, since it’s right in my backyard! I’m also not as good as I should be at sharing my work. I’ve been meaning to start a blog but it always seems to get pushed to the back burner. I am on Instagram though, @kara_therese_939, and would love a follow!
Thanks so much, Tiffany, for having me on your blog. I look forward to seeing you around at other events.


Thank you for reading! Go on a five day journey through time with me and receive a song or mystical story each day!
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Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Haunting: "The Deacon" (Depreciation Lands Museum, Allison Park, PA)

So even with Halloween over I had to squeeze in one last post!

Those of you that keep up with my endeavors over the last couple years have likely read of my many adventures in the world of living history. One place I have done quite a bit with is the Depreciation Lands Museum in Allison Park, PA.

Over the years, living history and reenacting has become a great part of my life, being interwoven into my musical and writing endeavors. Of course, I love history and learning of those that came before us, for we can learn much from our predecessors. And oftentimes, what we may uncover can be surprising and even might oppose what we are typically told.
In addition to discovering new uncharted territory in the realm of those that came before us, I also have been able to explore more options when it comes to my fictional, non-fiction, and songwriting. I was also given opportunity to explore its haunted history. You see, along with being a haven for folks wishing for a journey into the past and walk into a world not their own, the museum is also home to a specter known as The Deacon.

Now the story of The Deacon dates back to 1973 when an old, deserted church not at all far from the museum was being fixed up after Hampton Township bought the property. Workers claimed to see sightings of a tall old man dressed in a long black coat and dark trousers appear briefly before vanishing into the air. The man appeared as someone from another era, perhaps 18th century. He appeared so often that workers decided to officially name him. Thus, he was christened The Deacon.

Now those who might be having second thoughts of visiting the Depreciation Lands Museum due to risks of encountering a malevolent spirit, never fear. Those claim to have encountered The Deacon speak of him being rather helpful, even seeming to be glad about having the church fixed up, even if it is merely for show. While this ghost has never spoken to ones he appears to, his actions seem to confirm that he harbors no ill will toward any of the living.
His first known time helping someone who was working on restoring the church was when a woman was attempting to replace one of the windows. As she struggled with squaring up the frames for a snug fit, she saw The Deacon watching her out of the corner of her eye. Whenever she turned to face him, he vanished.
Exasperated and frustrated over her disappearing spectator, she stated, "Don't just stand there. The least you can do is help me out!"
Right after that, her knife was able to cut into the wood perfectly, allowing the window to slide right into place.

Other incidents involve a young man standing on a ladder painting the frame around the stairwell. Eyewitnesses say that his ladder slipped about halfway off the wall, only to pop back up and save him from what might other wise have been a fatal fall. Those present believe that The Deacon was the one responsible for saving the young worker.
Despite his helpfulness though, he can be on the gruff side. There is also a report of how an electrician stormed out frustrated when the light switch he turned on kept getting turned off. And yes, no other live human was in the room with him. But overall, The Deacon seems to be an overall friendly spectator willing to step in and help out those working to preserve his building.

The Depreciation Lands Museum is open to the public between the months of May and October. While their 2018 season has ended, there are still some events taking place throughout the winter and early spring, so check their calendar to see what they've got going on. :)

Ghosts Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by Beth E. Trapani and Charles J. Adams III
Pensylvania Haunts & History: 


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:

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