Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Paging ... Ghost Hunters

Rule #22 – Question everything.

     When you think of “history”, what comes to mind? Old, musty, dusty textbooks? A bunch of facts that might get you a gig on “Jeopardy”? Ben Stein as Ferris Buehler’s teacher? (“Anyone? Anyone?”) Stories of old folks long, long ago and stuff they did? 
     Both Edmund Burke and George Santayana have versions of the quote about those not learning from history being bound to repeat it. I have always enjoyed learning about the past, more for curiosity about life in the past than for the political ramifications. Those who went before us still have much to tell. They also have unusual ways of communicating their lives with us. Some souls witnessed great events. Some were tormented while alive. Some souls haven’t left us yet and still make their presence know in specific spots. 
     While visiting Nashville, Tennessee, recently, I decided to check out some of the local history in Downtown Nashville. No, not just the stories you hear about, I wanted some of the back stories, too. A ghost walk was in order. 
     I met the costumed guide across the street from the Hermitage Hotel. And what an impressive hotel it is! The hotel boasts five-star luxury for all of its guests. Walking into the lobby takes you back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in décor, complete with marble flooring, stained-glass skylights, and traditional furniture. The rooms at the Hermitage have a similar décor, but with all the modern conveniences.
Entrance to the Hermitage Hotel
     But… if you stay in room 910 - which is a combined new room between 910 and 912 -you may wake to the sound of the crying infant who died in room 912. You may also hear his mother try to soothe the crying. If you stay in room 813, you may just encounter the “Lady in White”, who never left the room. When you venture anywhere on the first two floors - even in the OakBar - be mindful of your company manners. There is the spirit of a woman in Southern Belle attire who greets many an unsuspecting guest.
Look up and you may see someone...
     Our next stop on the ghost walk was the Tennessee State House and grounds. Since we were walking after dark, the State House itself was closed up for the day. But… as we stood outside of the building, I learned about the building’s architect, William Strickland, and the running feud he had with the Capitol Commissioner, Samuel Morgan, as the building was under construction. Both men were intense rivals, and at times, they even came to blows over the decisions to be made. Both men did respect each other, and when they passed away, they were both buried at the Capitol. Since they regularly opposed each other, they were buried on opposite sides of the building. Rumor has it that they still argue, to this day. If you are really quiet, you can hear them still inside the building, bickering over a building issue.
Tennessee State Capitol Building at night
     Outside on the grounds of the Capitol building, I walked past many statues of honored Tennesseans. Sergeant Alvin York is memorialized on the grounds, along with President James K. Polk. President Andrew Jackson’s statue is the same equestrian pose that is in Jackson Square in New Orleans. I did not feel like I was “alone” when viewing these works of art, either. Plus, it is said, that Rachel Jackson, the President’s Lady, keeps watch over Tennessee from the top tower of the Capitol. President Polk and his wife were buried at another location. But ever since their graves were moved to the Capitol grounds - it is said- they are not happy and make their presence known.
Statue of Sgt. Alvin York and ? (check out the orbs)

Statue of General Andrew Jackson and ? (more orbs)
Is the President's Lady keeping watch over Nashville from the tower?
     Our party walked only a few blocks east to St. Mary’s Church. This was the site of a great deal of spirit activity up until 1969. That was the year when workers discovered the remains of Bishop Richard P. Miles in the basement of the building. He was buried properly and all spirit activity ceased.
St. Mary's Church in downtown Nashville
    Next stop on the tour was the old Rainbow Room building at Printer’s Alley. The Rainbow Room started out as an exotic dance club. David “Skull” Schulman turned it into a country bar in the 1990’s.  So many country singers jammed at the Rainbow Room, that Skull Schulman became known as the Mayor of Printer’s Alley. One night, as Skull was closing the place down, robbers got into the building. They shot and killed Skull in his own place. The perpetrators were caught and dealt with, but the Rainbow Room closed down. The club next door rented the closed out space for a while, to use as storage. But… none of the employees wanted to go into the storage area at night. There was still a big, blood stain on the carpet from where Skull bled out. Many locals don’t think he ever really left the building.
Door to what was the Rainbow Room 
Blues Club next door who rented storage space - then gave it back
     Last stop on the tour was Ryman Auditorium. This building has a long and storied history, and is steeped in musical folklore. Rumor has it that Captain Thomas Ryman, the builder, is still there. He will occasionally make himself known to maintenance workers. He still wants the Auditorium to sparkle. You might run into the Man in Grey, who many think is a person who attended the Confederate Soldier’s Reunion in 1897. There’s also a story about how, as Bill Anderson was performing a Hank Williams song, Hank’s spirit became a critic and “caused” a blackout just during that song. Many country music stars are reported to still grace the Mother Church of Country Music. If you are really quiet, you may even hear them.
     The tour I took is part of the regular Ghosts of Nashville walking tour. This organization has many types of tours to offer a visitor. For you who may be planning a trip to Tennessee’s capital, make sure you stop by and visit “everyone” in town. You may catch a glimpse of folks you just didn’t expect to see. What else can they tell us about events in our history?

Maybe if we just believe… and listen….
Who is in that mist in the tower... really?
For reference information, check out:

Ghosts of the Prairie – Ryman Auditorium
 Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee – St. Mary’s Church

Printer’s Alley

Hermitage Hotel ghosts

Hermitage Hotel ghosts

To visit the spirits yourself:

Nashville Ghost Tours main website

All photos by Marge McGugan and may not be reused or copied without permission.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Goin' Country - the second part after the first part

Rule # 28 – An author must continue to learn - and I'm still learning.

     Well, folks, if the Ryman Auditorium is the Mother Church of Country Music, the newer Grand Ole’ Opry House is the National Basilica.
     After spending the day at the Ryman Auditorium, we headed over just outside the city limits to Opryland, USA. The land site is home to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the new Grand Ole’ Opry House and Opry Mills Mall all in one place.  The mall is on land where the Opryland Amusement Park used to stand. The amusement park closed for good on December 31, 1997.  The Opryland Hotel is a visitor destination of its own. I’ll tackle that tour another time. 
     But enough talk about the other buildings on the Opryland site. Let’s look at the Grand Ole’ Opry House and the fantastic concert we saw live and in person. 
     Parking is easy at 2804 Opryland Dr. It is a short walk to the main plaza where you are greeted by some over-sized guitars. There’s plenty of picture taking that goes on at the plaza, so be careful where you walk. Lots of folks get their pictures photo-bombed by accident (we think).
Welcome to the Grad Ole' Opry House!

     The structure of the new Opry House is imposing, like a massive church would be. We walk in… and onto a red carpet. There are shops inside the Opry House. We could even get ourselves an adult beverage before the show if we wanted. The Opry can be toured during the daytime, but we didn’t get a chance to tour the backstage area. We arrive in plenty of time to find our seats in the balcony.
Opry House from Opry Plaza
     Now comparing the layout between the new Opry House and the old Ryman… well, they are similar. Both have a proscenium stage, both have a center microphone area, both have a wide balcony seating area, and both have seats set up like church pews. But the new Opry House boasts three closed circuit screens set up high on the wall – one on the stage and two on the wing sides. The only television cameras are the few that are directly on the stage. No matter where you sit in the new Opry House, you have a great view of the concert.
Balcony seating in the new Opry House - rows of pews

      The night we visited was a WSM Grand Ole’ Opry show night, broadcast on Sirius XM radio. And, yes ma’m, the program host had a place stage right with his own microphone and spot light. Cameras were on him as he chatted up a storm between acts. He and Ricky Skaggs had some fun after his Kentucky Thunder played center stage.
Opry Host

Look to the far left of the stage to see the Opry program host

     Remember how I told you about the Ryman curse? Well, you would think that moving to the new Opry House the curse would disappear. The curse itself is gone, I’m sure, but I wonder if some of the Opry cast member got that memo. See, the stage at the new Opry has a dark wood floor. Right at center stage – right where the lead singer’s microphone is – sets a big circle of lighter Ryman Auditorium wood. That’s right, folks. The curse of the Ryman could have come to the new Opry with the stage boards. It was funny to see some of the lead singers walk around the circle and sing at other mikes. Then there were the daring Diamond Rio guys who snuck into the center circle any chance they got – tempting fate.
Diamond Rio members got their eyes on the center circle

     We had a chance to see two young country up-and-comers make their Opry debut. They both stood center stage, in the circle, and wowed the audience with their songs. Diamond Rio had us standing and clapping along with their music. When Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder performed, folks were dancing in the aisle. Sam Palladio, from the TV show “Nashville”, performed with his folks backstage rooting him on. Most of these singers are not just a bunch of pretty faces either. Boy, they can sing!
Aoifa O'Donovan
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
Sam Palladio on the big screen

     One of the funnier moments in the concert was “Whispering” Bill Anderson and his songs. He has a great sense of humor and puts in all to music. He also shared some of his “almost” songs, like “The Only Good Years of our Marriage were the Tires on our Car”. Check out his “Wherever She Is” number, done just like we saw it at the Opry. Guess this fellow has had himself some love troubles. He can make you laugh about it, though.

     Josh Turner provided us with some great music and the most poignant moment I’ve seen anywhere. Josh told the audience that he was contacted by the parents of an autistic fellow who only communicates through music. Josh Turner’s music reaches this fellow the most. Then, Josh brought him on stage and started a duet with him. It ended up being a solo, since the autistic fellow started belting out Josh’s song full volume and on key. Josh just stood back and smiled big. The rest of us were teary eyed or flat out crying. It was one of those moments you remember all your life. That fellow was so excited to be on stage with his idol.

Josh Turner and his band
Josh Turner and his special guest

     Come to find out after we were finished at the Opry, that my late grandfather listened to the original Grand Ole’ Opry radio program way back in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Every Sunday evening he sat by the big Philco (it did get smaller as the years went on) and listened to his show. My aunt said he did this all by himself, since no one else really enjoyed the show the way he did. Now she wishes she talked to him more about it. I wish she did, too, since I didn’t even know he liked country music.

     Once the show was over, we all rode our post-concert high back to the hotel room. The Opry concert ended with “Y’all come back now, hear?” Sure will and soon, folks. Sure will.