Jefe's House

On the Road

Bachelors Grove Cemetery EVP session – 3/14/15

by on Mar.29, 2015, under On the Road, The Truth Is In Here, Theatre

This posting is a promised addendum to my 3/14/15 visit to Bachelors Grove Cemetery, a brief stopover during my Amtrak Writers Residency trip across the US. To read about my witch encounter and see my Bachelors Grove Cemetery slideshow read the full entry here.

Now for the audio I recorded live from my P-SB7 spirit box at the Fulton family grave. As usual I have slowed it down but maintained the original pitch, boosted the volume and applied a little noise reduction. I stress again, as I’ve done here in the past and in my Washington Post story on this subject, that I remain agnostic about the existence of ghosts, and also view the spirit box as a form of surrealist art; an aural version of the old Exquisite Corpse game created by the Surrealists. That said, a transcript and my interpretation follow:

“Mom, it’s dark.”   Chilling. Although it sounds like a child it’s certainly older than an infant so perhaps it’s one of the other spirits said to haunt Bachelors Grove Woods.  Buried here is Marcia May Fulton, born and died 1914, daughter of Bertrand Fulton and Kathryn Vogt. As you can see, lots of visitors leave toys for her.

“What is this for?” I love that this is said just as I’m bringing the camera closer to the grave. Seems a reference to either my camera or the spirit box.

“O Indian.”  Awkward phrasing for sure, and not sure what it might mean but it’s so clear I’ve kept it. According to, “Evidence of Native American occupation in the area of Midlothian abounds…The Potawatomi were the last Native American occupants of the area. The Old Indian Boundary Line crosses to the southeast of the village.”  Maybe the voice is saying Old Indian instead of O Indian.  Or perhaps it’s a clairvoyant prediction of the Ute I was to encounter a few days later during a seance in Glenwood Springs, CO.

“Fulton.”  This is the Fulton family grave.

“A photograph.”  She’s answering the second voice above who asked, ‘What is this for?’

“Marcia.” Again, the infant buried here is Marcia Fulton.   What’s strange is that her name isn’t visible anywhere on this partially destroyed gravesite, so I sat there wondering as I recorded this what might be her name. It’s as though the voice is reading my mind. Only after getting back to a computer was I able to look up and learn her name.

“Dead people.”


“It’s bad here.”



“Listen.”  We’re trying, friend. Keep ‘em coming.


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The Ghost of August Wilson

by on Mar.25, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

20150323_220621Amtrak Residency
Day 12

This morning while hurtling across western Pennsylvania I enjoyed my final Amtrak breakfast.  I sat next to a uniformed Amtrak police officer en route to a meeting at our final stop on the Capitol Limited, Washington, DC. From there I’ll take a two-hour ride  to Philadelphia on the Amtrak Acela Express and be home in time for dinner.

Across from us sat two elderly women from Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The officer had spent 26 years on the Chicago police force before retiring into a much less stressful “second career” working for Amtrak.


Old round house; Martinsburg, WV station

After a few minutes of instinctively probing their names, destinations, life stories, I sprung it on them that I’m a resident writer and a playwright. At that, the officer sat up and went on at length about his son, now 18, who’s been acting and working at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre for several years. As one father watching another, I could see his pride in his eyes and hear the underlying boastfulness — his change of energy when he spoke of his boy.  He went on to tell me that his son also recently placed highly in a rigorous August Wilson monologue contest in Chicago.

My jaw dropped. I told him this was the third time in as many days that August Wilson had come up.  I consider myself a studied fan of his work, and I’m sometimes fortunate to even teach his work to my college students.  Wilson first popped up on this trip when I met trucker Mark, whose unique family history stretched from Africa to Europe to New Orleans to Seattle, through World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  He and his brother are working on a screenplay about a particularly moving family vacation experience from their childhoods.  I joked that his family sounds like something from an August Wilson play, and surprisingly he wasn’t familiar with him.  I made him promise to read The Piano Lesson and to look up Wilson’s life and family history because he’d surely become a fan.


Harpers Ferry, WV train station.

The second Wilson encounter occurred a day later when I met retired micro-brewers Don and Wendy, fellow Chicago theatre lovers who were excited to be seeing Wilson’s Two Trains Running soon at the Goodman Theatre as the centerpiece of its citywide August Wilson Celebration.

After this third mention during the final morning of my coast-to-coast ride, I started thinking about the obvious Wilson connections to my overall experience — Pittsburgh, criss-crossing tracks as metaphor for scattering people, the Great Migration, post-Civil War Pullman porter jobs as both opportunity and brick wall, and with its workers centered chiefly in Chicago, John Brown’s Raid and Storer College in Harpers Ferry which I wrote about my first day, August Wilson’s “20th century cycle” of plays presented in their entirety at the Kennedy Center in DC where I was headed to this very morning, his fascination with ghosts and hauntings as metaphors and for fractured histories and excuses for families to briefly unite, like those metaphors and excuses which permeated my trip.

Was August Wilson trying to tell me something, urging me perhaps to see beyond the steel and wheels to a deeper cultural, almost spiritual phenomenon trains symbolize in US history? Why not look his works?, I thought.

Trains serve as a powerful metaphor in Two Trains Running and The Piano Lesson in particular; the latter is also full of fiery railroad spirits (“the ghosts of the Yellow Dog!” aka the Yazoo Delta Railway) not unlike Harpers Ferry’s Screaming Jenny whom I looked for on the first day of my trip.   Perhaps railroad cook Doaker, the de facto family patriarch in The Piano Lesson, gives us a clue about my encounters with Wilson on my round trip across the country:

“Now, I’ll tell you something about the railroad. What I done learned after twenty-seven years. See, you got North. You got West. You look over here you got South. Over there you got East. Now, you can start from anywhere. Don’t care where you at. You got to go one of them four ways. And whichever way you decide to go they got a railroad that will take you there. Now, that’s something simple. You think anybody would be able to understand that. But you’d be surprised how many people trying to go North get on a train going West.  They think the train’s supposed to go where they going rather than where it’s going. Now, why people going? Their sister’s sick. They leaving before they kill somebody . . . and they sitting across from somebody who’s leaving to keep from getting killed. They leaving cause they can’t get satisfied. They going to meet someone. I wish I had a dollar for every time that someone wasn’t at the station to meet him. I done seen that a lot. In between the time they sent the telegram and the time the person get there…they done forgot all about them. They got so many trains out there they have a hard time keeping them from running into each other. Got trains going every whichaway. Got people on all of them. Somebody going where somebody just left. If everybody stay in one place I believe this would be a better world. Now what I done learned after twenty-seen years of railroading is this . . . if the train stays on the track . . . it’s going to get where it’s going. It might not be where you going. If it ain’t, then all you got to do is sit and wait cause the train’s coming back to get you. The train don’t never stop. It’ll come back every time.”

Railroad as metaphor for life. Thank you, Mr. Wilson. Next stop, home.




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One More Day To Gravy

by on Mar.24, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 11

20150323_13090920150323_085531Kali gnashed her teeth
Scraping across the sky
We scattered in her sweat
Leaped across its rivers
Looking for hard cover
Relishing the dance
Wiping out





Where’s Letter Man when you need him?

A chilly, snowy, slushy day in the Windy City. Awoke to falling snow and a forecast that had increased to 3 to 6 inches.

Another 10-mile run along Lake Michigan was out of the question so I ran 10 miles on a treadmill in my hotel’s fitness room. That might seem like a desperate act but after a 2 and half days of being sedentary on a train I had to sweat out some toxins and burn off the crazy.

20150323_130641I then had a scrumptious lunch at the nearby Berghoff Restaurant, a local landmark that’s been serving German-American cuisine since 1898. I particularly dug the beet salad and homemade potato chips with my chicken cutlet sandwich and their own signature root beer to wash it all down.

Later I  stayed cozy in my hotel lounge writing all afternoon and keeping an eye on’s train status map. Would the Capitol Limited leave on time at 6:40pm on this wintry spring day or would I be checking in for another night?

Great news, it was on time. I’ll be in DC tomorrow afternoon, then home to Philly.

Many thanks to Amtrak staff Carlos Aguilar, Myles, Greg and Carl for ensuring a delicious dinner and smooth ride. My dining partners were a Harvard-bound young man from South Sudan, raised in Israel, here studying international law (“Freedom is expensive. You have to fight for it.” His casual remark rang in my ears the rest of the night.), and Cara, a retiree on her way to Florida to pick up a Winnegabo and drive it back to Michigan. She’s also working on a children’s book about a haunted house. Ghosts and hauntings abounded on this trip, but also I’m flabbergasted by the number of writers I’ve met. The Amtrak rails are lousy with us. Even in the 21st century it still clearly holds a romantic, literary appeal.

FullSizeRenderTo top off my evening, my always inventive 4-year-old son back in Philly changed into his alter-ego, “Gravy,” who graces us with his presence sometimes, complete with sunglasses and a plastic whistle shaped like a mouth that he keeps clenched in his front teeth, usually recounting that he’s just flown in from a trip to England.  #futureactor #futureprivateye #nexteltonjohn

Speaking of alter-egos, a free bonus: me singing and playing the ultimate train song 7 or 8 years ago under an assumed name (that of my great-grandfather). Hope you like it.  #howmuchilovetrains #caseyjones #mississippijohnhurt

Thank you, Amtrak, for a once in a lifetime experience. I am grateful to be among the 24.

Uploaded on Nov 20, 2008

Sung by Witcher Ferguson (Jeffrey Stanley). Based on the classic American folk ballad originally written by Wallace Saunders, my recording is largely inspired by the Mississippi John Hurt version although I’ve borrowed verses from other versions to create a more complete narrative.



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Chicago Blues

by on Mar.23, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 10
20150321_173559Got up with the rooster crow — or in Amtrakspeak the ear-blasting 6am breakfast call — to see off the Warren-Powells who hopped off in Osceola, IA at 7:40am. I then wrote until an early lunchtime (the last meal aboard my beloved California Zephyr before it concluded its run in Chicago) during which I met a pair of retired micro-brewers, Wendy and Don Littlefield. The better half is completing her first novel, a murder mystery that I look forward to reading.  They also hipped me to Philly Inquirer food writer Craig LaBan, whom I should have known about as I’m now a Philadelphian, but I didn’t. Now I do. We also talked about our shared appreciation for August Wilson and the fact that they’ll be seeing Two Trains Running in Chicago soon. This was the second time on this trip that August Wilson came up.


The train station in Galesburg, IL, historically an important railroad town, boasts and antique Pullman car…

I spent my final few hours aboard the Zephyr writing while passing through mile after mile of moist, flat, cloudy, Illinois corn stubble to arrive in a brisk Chicago.

Aside from the morbidly obese, self-important, selfish fellow passenger who rudely bulldozed through me in the narrow sleeper car hallway with a Sense of Entitlement like I’ve never seen as I disembarked in Chicago, only to then stand around on the platform in no particular hurry with no apparent place to rush off to while waiting for his own luggage to brought to him by a redcap,  this has been an incredible trip, and one for which I’m grateful to Amtrak and Zephyr staff members like MarkKaren and Joyce.

A week ago it was unseasonably warm in the mid-60s in Chi-town but not so today. The sky threatened snow and the forecast called for 1 to 3 inches. It didn’t deter me from seeing David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette at the Steppenwolf, a must-go theatre every time I’m in Chicago.


… and a Burlington 4-6-4 Hudson steam engine.

I concluded the evening with a repeat visit to Miller’s Pub on the corner of West Adams and Lake Shore Drive near my hotel. Try the pastrami Rueben with a Dewar’s on the rocks. Heaven.

The California Zephyr leg of my journey is now complete, but I’m not quite home to my South Philly loved ones just yet. Two more days of writing time to go.


Pulling into Chicago’s Union Station. Rear view from the last car.

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Deja Vu

by on Mar.22, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 9


20150321_083007Haven’t I been here before? Woke up this morning shooting across Utah and worked on LITTLE ROCK for a couple of hours before finally succumbing to the call of hot breakfast and coffee wafting from the dining car. There I met a high school senior named Kira who’s interested in pursuing an acting or singing career, and also Jane, returning home from a yoga retreat.
20150321_084611In Glenwood Springs, CO the Warren-Powell family boarded my train on their way back home to Iowa and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon and part of the evening playing trivia with them and talking ghosts.

At lunchtime I chatted with Mark, a trucker and entrepreneur with a fascinating family history including a father who fought in WW II, Korea and Vietnam. I turned him on to playwright August Wilson and strongly urged him to read The Piano Lesson before hiding in my room to write again for a few hours. 20150321_145446

Later in the day we again passed through the Moffat Tunnel at 9239 feet above sea level, the highest elevation of any Amtrak train. To refresh your memory, it’s a 10-minute ride through a mountain which crosses the Continental Divide. I went through it a few days ago on my way west.  I’m now back on the eastern side of it and hurtling toward home and my wife and son whom I miss dearly.

20150321_183746This will have been my longest single stretch on the train (2 nights, 3 days from San Francisco to Chicago) so when we made an extended stop in Denver early this evening I seized the opportunity to hop off and walk around Union Station for half an hour to keep my muscles from atrophying.


Leaving Denver

At dinner I chanced to share a table with one Jason Walsmith and his two adorable kids. Jason’s in a well-known Iowa folk and rock quintet called The Nadas who’ve played my home bases of Philly, New York City and a slew of other cities across the country. He gave me two of their CDs which I look forward to hearing when I’m back home in a few days. The Warren-Powells, also Iowans, were well aware of The Nadas and impressed that I’d dined with one of the lead singers.

Many thanks to the awesome Amtrak crew for keeping us all moving, fed and lubricated.


More writing, then snoozing.

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Please Look After This Bear

by on Mar.21, 2015, under On the Road, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 8
20150320_153251I have slingshotted around San Francisco and am now hurtling back toward the East Coast, back on the California Zephyr at 9:10am this morning to cross through now-familiar terrain but staying on the opposite side of the train as much as possible to take in a different view:


Donner Lake in Tahoe National Forest, named after the doomed Donner Party. It happened here.












IMG_7318At lunchtime I enjoyed chatting with Zachary Knighton, a northern California glass artist (Zookeeper Glass Wurx, Instagram: @zookeeperglass).  We had a high-flying conversation about my recent stay in Colorado.


We were soon joined by Bart, a former long distance runner from South Jersey who’d trained to be a Olympian long distance runner some 30 years ago, came to San Jose State University, never left, and was now a contented, retired realtor in his 60s who gave us a quick lesson on the housing market (The bank doesn’t own your house; a nameless investor in Saudi Arabia owns it. When you fall behind in your mortgage payments the bank doesn’t want to work with you because they can write off the value of your house as a business loss.  Truth? Conspiracy theory? You tell me).

When we stopped in Reno I quickly hopped off to shoot a man just to watch him die, heard the whistle blowing, hung my head and cried, got back on the train and rolled on eastward.

During the intervening hours I wrote, read, wrote, read and wrote. At dinner I had an intense conversation with a guy named Cory, a self-described “bean counter” from Chicago who set me straight on the true story of Marie Antoinette, not the satirical Marie Antoinette I’m going to see at the Steppenwolf Theatre when I get to Chicago. We also discussed William Powell, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, EM Forster and Graham Greene. By the time we cleared out I’m sure the waitress was more than ready for us to shut up and leave.

Next time I come this way it’ll definitely be with the family plus our camping and fishing gear. I’m glad I chose this route. My purpose was to select the part of the country with which I’m least familiar, and I’m so happy I did that.

Pitch black bedtime and
crossing through Nevada some-
where west of Elko.


My 4-year-old son slipped one of his stuffed animals in my luggage so I wouldn’t have to sleep alone at night. Paddington Bear has become my mascot and helps me find my room as they all look identical. Appropriate that my son chose a bear known for traveling.


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After the Gold Rush

by on Mar.20, 2015, under On the Road

20150318_164818Amtrak Residency
Days 6 and 7
3/18 and 3/19/15





20150318_124147Yesterday and today were mainly traveling days.  Up refreshed by 7:30am yesterday despite the previous night’s ghostly shenanigans, I worked on LITTLE ROCK for awhile before heading to the Hot Springs Pool for one last dip before skipping town.  I had lunch at Polanka, a hole in the wall run by two Polish women. The combo platter (pierogis, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage) and apple blintz for dessert put me right back in the East Village in Manhattan.  The train was delayed but it gave me time to explore the small railroad museum at the historic Glennwood Springs, CO train depot.  Who should surprise me at the train station but the Warren-Powells who knocked off early from their day of swimming to see me off.

IMG_7161Continuing westward on the California Zephyr, everyone in the observation car and I stood in slackjawed wonder as a bald eagle (my 2nd sighting this trip) flew alongside us just over the Colorado River. What a sendoff.  Next we snaked through De Beque Canyon, followed by Ruby Canyon which takes its name from the  red sandstone cliffs lining the canyon walls. As the sun set and Ruby Canyon turned black we crossed into Utah. I holed up in my room writing until bedtime.

IMG_7222Up this morning at 6:30am (now Pacific time) to write and we were in the middle of Nevada headed southwest to Reno. After Reno we made our last stop in Nevada, the town of Verdi, site of the first train robbery in the west in 1870.

IMG_7257In California we soon passed Donner Lake, named after the Donner Party, who were stranded during the winter of 1846-47. They resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Only 48 of the 87 members lived to tell about it.

At midday came Auburn, CA and Sutter’s Mill, the locus of the 1840s gold rush that swept this whole region. They don’t call ‘em the San Francisco 49ers for nothing.

The day was spent writing, writing, writing. Got off in Emeryville (San Francisco), CA around 5:30pm, the final stop on the California Zephyr. Touchdown! I’ve come all the way across the country and I’m spending the night with my old friend Nat and his family. We watched his son play a baseball game, had Mexican dinner at Padrecito and called it a night.  This wasn’t my first time in Frisco, and it’s a good thing because there’ll be no time for sightseeing or show-going. I must be back on the Zephyr headed eastward at 9:10am tomorrow morning.


San Francisco Bay




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Reach for the Sky

by on Mar.18, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 5
St. Patrick’s Day

IMG_7100IMG_7101Today I was up writing by 6:30am. I never heard from my enthusiastic train buddies from about an evening seance last night. I slept well and am sorry to report no supernatural activity. (I did hear from them later about doing the seance tonight. More below).




20150317_10133420150317_101432I stopped writing around 8:30am to go for a 10-mile run “up canyon” as they say in these here parts, into the White River National Forest.





20150317_112139I concluded by running directly to Glenwood Springs’ famed Yampah Vapor Caves, a natural steamy sauna in a small series of cavernous rooms just beneath street level. These are the only known natural vapor caves in North America; the rest are manmade.

The Utes were aware of these caves for hundreds of years before whitey showed up, and used them to heat their nearby above-ground sweat lodges. They even cut a hole into a hillside so that sick people could be lowered down into the caves to experience their healing powers. The experience of lying in a hot, dark, silent, steamy cave staring up at a cavernous ceiling with a faint smell of rotten eggs (that would be the sulfur content of the vapor) was surreal but soothing, especially after a long run.


Doc Holliday had a DDS from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia. He was partnered with Wyatt Earp and his brothers at the shootout at the OK Corral.


Kid Curry was part of the “Wild Bunch” that included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Next I drove a short distance from the hotel and hiked a half-mile uphill to visit Lynwood Cemetery, final resting place of gunslingers Doc Holliday and Kid Curry, before holing up in my room to write awhile before dinner.

It was then that I heard from the Warren-Powell family (Tammy, Rick, “Fallen Angel” Cody, Cameron, Madison and Claire). We met up for dinner at the Fiesta Guadalajara restaurant for Mexican food, which I now know goes great with scotch. We swapped more ghost stories (I swear this is the most haunted family I have ever encountered, even the youngest — and they love it).  The grandparents and I wrapped up dinner with a shot of Cuervo (hey, it was their idea so it would have been rude of me to decline) and drifted back to my place.

As soon as we entered my room the family all fanned out, whipped out tablets and smartphones and began snapping away at every square inch of the place. I told them not to bother as I had already done that and seen nothing unusual. The words were barely out of my mouth when Cameron interrupted. “You’ve got a little boy in the bathroom.”

Huh?  Sure enough on the pic he had just snapped we could make out what seemed to be the shadow of a small figure leaning halfway in the bathroom doorway, right where we were standing, yet it wasn’t anything visible to the naked eye.  Are you getting chills yet? I was. As soon as I get their photos I’ll add them here.

IMG_7141-001IMG_7142-001I pulled a small, round table, which seemed made for a seance, away from the wall. I sat down and made a homemade Ouija board hearkening back to my teenage days simply by writing the letters, numbers, and yes and no on a blank sheet of paper. For a planchette I used a credit card turned upside down. The raised letters give it a very small surface area. One corner of the credit card we designated the pointer. Cody and I sat down together first and didn’t have much luck. I stepped out and let Cameron take my place.   The planchette still wouldn’t budge, so then it was Cameron and me. That combination of partners got it moving.

We spoke to someone who referred to him/herself with initials A T who said he/she was a U T E (the original inhabitants of this area) aged 8 0.  I asked if it lived in the hotel and it said N O.  So what brought it here tonight?  Y O U.    Oh, so you heard my call at the top of the session to speak to someone friendly who felt like chatting? Y E S.  Where were you before that?  It tried spelling something but we couldn’t make out the answer.  Did we annoy you, are you angry that we summoned you?  N O.  Would you like to speak with us electrically?  Y E S.

I ran over and fired up the P-SB7 spirit box and aimed my camera at it to record the audio, just like the audience and I do at every conclusion of Boneyards while Madison took over for me at the Ouija board.  Moments later we all heard the spirit box shout “CHILD” just as A T handed the board over to a new presence.  I A M  LEE.   Your name is Lee?  Y E S.

Naturally the only conclusion we could draw is that this was the same little boy whom Cameron had photographed in the bathroom. At one point we asked where he was standing and he spelled B E H I N D  M A D I S O N, which would indeed put him in the bathroom doorway and next to me.  We asked Lee why he was in the hotel and he spelled out F A I M but we couldn’t get him to elaborate. Cody pointed out that faim in French means hunger or starvation.

Meanwhile the P-SB7 was really cooking. As soon as I’ve analyzed the raw video I’ll post it but for now I can tell you we also heard it shout out  “CAMERON” and “I’M HERE.”

The mood overall was positive. AT and Lee turned out to be cool, and as curious and eager as we were to communicate.  After we concluded the session Cameron snapped another photo and found in the mirror’s reflection the image of small boy hiding in the corner right near my bed peeking out at us from around the chest of drawers.  Great, I thought.  I have to sleep here tonight.

Cameron and Cody snapped a few other pix in my room and up and down the hallway. I told them to email all of them to me  but that I wouldn’t look at them until after I was safely on the train tomorrow.

I’ll admit I was a little wide-eyed and my hair stood on end for the next two hours after they left but it was nothing a little late night TV, especially South Park, didn’t cure. The ghosts must have enjoyed the shows, too, because they settled down and all was quiet for the night.  Nice folks, that Lee and AT. Ditto the Warren-Powell family.


Aspen in the distance.


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Crossing the Great Divide

by on Mar.17, 2015, under Film/TV, On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 4

Ron Pasko who runs the lounge car on the California Zephyr

Rod Pasko

I woke up about 6:30am to see a brilliant quarter moon hanging over dark Denver so close you wanted to eat it. I jumped down from my upper berth and commenced to working more on revisions to LITTLE ROCK.  By the time we pulled out of Denver the sun was up, and from here on out was where the finest viewing on the California Zephyr began.

The observation car was absolutely packed, a standing room only crowd, so I went downstairs to the snack lounge to visit my new friend (ever since I bought out all of his little bottles of Dewar’s last night) Rod Pasko who runs it. Rod took a screenwriting class years ago in college, is an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and is currently writing a fantasy novel that started as a character sketch for one of his gaming characters.  Good luck, Rod.

He also makes a mean Bloody Mary, and he hipped me to the fact that I could sit right there at one of his neglected dining tables that offer just as good a view on both sides of the train as the observation car upstairs, so I planted myself to write and inevitably snap a few pix.

A mellow hour and another Bloody Mary later the Warren-Powell family tramped into this Paradise and took over a table across the aisle from me.  They are two grandparents and four grandchildren, the eldest being 18 and wearing a Fallen Angel t-shirt.  They had gotten on last night in Osceola, IA and spent the night aboard the Zephyr like me. They were also getting off in Glenwood Springs to enjoy the “vapor caves” and outdoor hot springs pool the same as me, and they were doing it over spring break the same as me.  “Where you staying?” I asked.

“The Hot Springs Lodge.”

“I’m staying at the Hotel Colorado.”

“That place is haunted,” said Grandma Warren.

I sat up, air-fived her across the aisle and told her I had hoped it would be given its age and allure (Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Taft and Al Capone made it a regular stop in the early 20th century; actor Tom Mix and the Unsinkable Molly Brown also stayed here; during WW II it was used as a US Naval hospital and a portion of the basement used as a morgue; gunslingers Doc Holliday and Kid Curry died in this town and is buried right up the road) and that I planned to try out my spirit box while I was there.  I was just about to launch into my rote explanation of a spirit box and that I’m past caring whether the voices are “real” or not and view it as a kind of a surrealist art form, when, without missing a beat Fallen Angel says, “I really want to get a P-SB7.”  My jaw dropped, as that’s the one I own. Not only did I not have to explain it to them, but they were all as into this stuff as I am. Synchronicity, baby.

IMG_6983Right away we began making plans to hold a Ouija session in my room during one of the two nights I’m here. We swapped many a spooky yarn while being awestruck by the views, all of us snapping away on our various devices in our own little corner of the Zephyr for the next two hours while Granddad Warren and I had Rod keep the Bloody Marys comin’. At one point we went through the 6 and half mile Moffat Tunnel, inside of a mountain, mind you, for a full 10 minutes, during which time we crossed the Continental Divide. I came out the other side feeling reborn, renewed, in a new place. You’ll probably accuse me of making a Freudian joke but sometimes a tunnel is just a tunnel. At 9239 feet above sea level it’s also the highest elevation of any Amtrak train.

When I hopped off in unseasonably warm and stunningly beautiful Glenwood Springs, CO I got picked up by the guy from Enterprise to take me to my rental car. I told him I was staying at the grand old Hotel Colorado and he had a similar reaction as the Warren-Powell clan. “It’s haunted.”

“Perfect. Which rooms?” I asked eagerly.  He looked a little surprised, named one and I thanked him for the tip.  Upon check-in I took the direct approach with the clerk. “I hear the place is haunted. What’s your take?”  She hesitated, unsure, I think, which answer I wanted to hear.

Hotel Colorado, Glennwood Springs, CO

Jeffrey Stanley, Hotel Colorado courtyard

I’m sure the last thing she wanted to do was have me switch hotels so I put her at ease. “Because if there’s a haunted room can I have it?”

She checked the system while explaining to me that there are, “if you believe in that stuff,” two haunted rooms. Sadly both are booked so she put me in a room next door to one of them.  Maybe I’ll get some bleed-through.  I’m already in e-touch with the Warren-Powell families staying in the Hot Springs Lodge next door and I hope to hold them to our plan.

Meanwhile I walked across the street to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, the world’s largest, which is fed with natural, hot mineral water. These springs were originally considered sacred healing places by the Ute natives. The experience was amazing. To my eyes it was like a giant, slow motion hot tub. Tiny tots and codgers alike all crept about in the soothing waters dazed with pleasure, half-smiles on all our faces.

I did try actual swimming a bit but it just wasn’t the scene for that. Even a backstroke felt out of place. Instead, people just bobbed slowly in place or stood on the sides going “aaaah,” if they said anything at all.  In my hotel room there’s a photo of Teddy Roosevelt digging the hot springs many decades ago and looking as shameless and egoless as the bathers I saw today, his hair and trademark mustache matted down such that he looked comical and almost unrecognizable.

I’m now in the courtyard of the Hotel Colorado writing and having a scotch while a jazz band plays softly in the grand lobby beside me.


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Bachelors Grove Cemetery Slideshow

by on Mar.15, 2015, under On the Road

Full story here on my visit to the US’ supposedly most haunted place in March, 2015.

The entrance to the cemetery path across the road and down a bit from the Rubio Woods parking lot.
Further along the path.
Further along the path.
Approaching the cemetery.
Approaching the cemetery.
Main entrance.
Main entrance.
Every tombstone had a flower on it, which was a lovely touch, done presumably by the cemetery's local caretakers.
As you can see, many of the tombstones are cracked and knocked over. It's a shame that people would consider desecrating a cemetery to be entertainment.
This grave was decorated not with flowers but little toys.
Now you see why. It's the grave of an unnamed infant.
An opening on the back side of the cemetery and a frozen pond.
Love their names.
Fitting name here as well.

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