New Hampshire

Standing in Honor of Those Forgotten

When you go searching for strange and spooky things, sometimes you find something sad and beautiful instead.

While wandering around Portsmouth NH, Lucinda and I found a statue that led us to something we never have expected to see on an urban downtown street.

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Between a hair salon and a marketing company there stands a memorial to the dead and long forgotten. This stop on the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail is the site of a long ignored “Negro Burying Ground.”

The plaque says in part: “In Colonial Portsmouth, segregation applied in death as in life.” City officials approved a burying ground for African-Americans at the edge of town. “By 1831, houses were built over the site.”

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In 2003, during a building project, contractors unearthed crumbling wooden coffins full of human remains. There may be as many as 200 graves.

The building project stopped and a new project was started in its place – a memorial to those too long forgotten.

“This is not black history,” the plaque says. “This is our shared history.”

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The memorial includes sculptures, historical information, and art tiles designed by Portsmouth schoolchildren. Inscribed on the figures are the words of a poem by Jerome Meadows:

“I stand for the Ancestors Here and Beyond
I stand for those who feel anger
I stand for those who were taken from their loved ones
I stand for those who suffered the middle passage
I stand for those who survived upon these shores
I stand for those who pay homage to this ground
I stand for those who find dignity in these bones.”

Jerome Meadows, artist and sculptor

For more on the history, planning and preservation of the site visit the Portsmouth African Burying Ground website.

New Hampshire

Adrift on the Ruins of History in New Castle

The ruins of history lie all around us. Sometimes we build over them, sometimes we forget them, and sometimes we don’t.

On the island of New Castle, New Hampshire, the ruins of a colonial fort guard the Pisquatua River at its outlet to the Atlantic Ocean. Across the river, through the mist, you can see the coast of Maine.

Originally called “Fort William and Mary” or simply “The Castle,” it was renamed “Constitution” after the Revolutionary war. It stayed in active duty until after World War II.

Now its ruins are guarded by a chain link fence and an overgrown tangle of foliage. In sympathy with the dying structure, the grass remains brown and autumnal even in the height of summer.

Following the fence, we found a gate and a sign. The gate was open, the sign told us to stay on the blue line, all other areas were off-limits. There was a good reason for this. The fort cuts right through the middle of an active Coast Guard base, effectively splitting the present in two.

Walking the line brought us to a forbidding gate with portcullis raised. We walked through it into the heart of the fort.

To our left was a sentry room. Once it was certainly the resting place of soldiers, now darkness and spiders are its only tenants.

Following the wall we found a stairway. Nature is slowly reclaiming it, sending up battalions of weeds to recapture land  stolen by human hands and stacked into unlikely towers.

At the top, we found a ghostly view and a room with a platform that might once have supported a large gun of some sort. What battles were fought here?

Downstairs again, Lucinda explored a passage through the wall. Its sharp corners were probably meant to slow invading forces, allowing the defenders to pick them off one by one as they emerged to the level of the ground.

Everywhere we looked history rose like mist from the stones of the place, making us wonder if ghosts still stand sentry duty along her tumbling walls.


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Maine

Day and Night People at the Unattended Carnival

In Maine in the summer, there’s a carnival or country fair pretty much every weekend. Blank fields sprout tents like mushrooms. Rides land like flying saucers overnight.

Even in daylight, there’s something creepy about an unattended carnival.

The rides seem to be drowsing, like big cats, ready to spring to life at any moment. You get the sense that a misplaced step, a magic word, will set the whole thing in motion.

You are almost certainly being watched. The carnies go about their work quietly, but you can see them moving among the machines. At least, you hope it’s them.

On the Carousel, Lucinda found a horse that was just her size. I tried not to imagine the giant rooster coming to life. It would be angry after all those years running in circles for children.

In darkness, the carnival takes on a new life. But it’s an artificial one, called into motion by calliope music and blinking lights. It will die when they do.

The games and the rides all call to you, saying isn’t this jolly, isn’t this fun. Don’t worry, everything is fine. No need to think. You can stay here as long as you like. Stay forever. We don’t mind.

But perhaps the strangest thing about an unattended carnival, is the people you may meet there.

 

Maine

Hidden Treasures on the Road Less Traveled

If we stay in one place too long, Lucinda gets restless and wants to go adventuring. So yesterday, as the sun sunk over the horizon, painting the treetops gold, we packed up and got in the car.

We drove down roads we’ve never traveled and found that treasures were hidden there. They always are, if you’re eyes are open.

First we found a little cemetery, on the sharp curve of a country road. Tucked away between the woods and fields, it crept up on us. In fact, we drove past it at first and turned back.

Many of the graves were overgrown, hidden in the treeline or overwhelmed by lillies. And the light. The light was glorious.

We kept driving, going nowhere in particular. I purposefully turned left where I would normally turn right, plunging us into the unknown.

We hadn’t gone far when I spotted a sign. It said “covered bridge 2.8 miles.” Of course we had to go.

We found the bridge laid over a bubbling stream on a dirt road. A nearby monument told us it was the Robyville Bridge, the oldest surviving example of a Long Truss system used in a Maine covered bridge. A single glance told us it was creepy.

Alongside the bridge we found simple picnic area, where we rested before moving on.

Before we left, we stopped to take a photo of a nearby barn, abandoned to the fading sun and the ravages of Maine Winters.

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Maryland · Uncategorized

Drowning in History on the Streets of Ellicott City

There are places that punch a hole through time and leave an echoing gap where past and present face each other.

Historic Ellicott City, Maryland is one of those places.

Walking the streets there, it’s hard to remember what year it is, and who you are, and that there’s a world outside this valley.

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A year ago, most of the downtown was under water. An unprecedented rainfall caused a flash flood that decimated businesses in the deep valley on the shores of the Patapsco River.

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Many of those businesses have recovered, and new ones have taken the place of those that wouldn’t or couldn’t come back. Most of the city is as beautiful as ever.

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Walking around with Lucinda, it was possible to forget that the world had ended and been reborn here.

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But as night crept down the hill, it got easier to imagine the city underwater, mud and silt blanketing everything, cold, darkness filling buildings and cars and lungs.

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I think Lucinda might have stayed there forever if I let her. She even attempted to make some friends with the locals.

Creepy Lucinda meets some dolls in a window.

But welcoming as historic Ellicot City was, we had our beds to go back to, and more adventures to look forward to in the morning.

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Rhode Island

What I Never Thought to See

A look through painted eyes

I’m a traveler. I’ve been across the country and around the world. But traveling with Lucinda is a whole new experience.

Usually as a tourist I’m on the lookout for the pretty and amusing, the interesting and inspiring.

I never thought to look for the bizarre and the oddly beautiful, the strange and the spooky until I found Lucinda.

Now I see it everywhere.

It was always there – ignored, waiting to be seen. Kind of like Lucinda really.

Take for example my stroll through West Warwick, Rhode Island last week. I might have focused only on the setting sun or been disgusted by the seemingly endless collection of mini-bottles discarded along the sidewalks.

But with Lucinda, I noticed this old house with it’s overgrown lawn.

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And because my eyes were open I also spotted this neglected cemetery with houses all around it:

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And that discovery led us down a road we might not have taken. There we found another cemetery that was much bigger and better cared for.

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Where, with the markers of the dead all around her, Lucinda posed for one of my favorite pictures:

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While you’re out traveling the world, keep your eyes open. And remember, to keep an eye on Lucinda.

Follow our travels on Instagram @creepylucinda