Showing posts with label song. Show all posts
Showing posts with label song. Show all posts

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Legend of La Llorona

Old Spanish song about La Llorona

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own

She weeps when the sun is murky red
She wails when the moon is old
She cries for her babies, still and dead,
Who drowned in the water cold

She seeks her children day and night,
Wandering, lost, and cold
She weeps and moans in dark and light,
A tortured, restless soul

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own

In another post, I talked about how children in New Mexico are very familiar with the La Llorona story. La Llorona is New Mexico’s most famous ghost. 

If you visit anywhere along the Rio Grande river in my state, you will encounter New Mexicans who will gladly relate their version of La Llorona. This story is told in other parts of the country, but the following story is one often told in New Mexico.

In the early 1700s, there was a young woman named Maria who lived in a small village along the Rio Grande. 

As Maria matured, she began to attract much attention in the village because she was lovely. Her family was impoverished, so her mother encouraged Maria to marry one of the local men. 

Maria with the firm self-belief that her beauty would someday attract a wealthy man refused.

One day a handsome young man rode into the village. He was the son of a rancher in Mexico. He wore tailored clothes and rode a well-groomed horse with a fancy saddle—all the signs of a man of wealth.

Maria started to follow him around, she tried to catch his eye, but he only noticed the better dressed young girls in the village. At night he would play his guitar for the locals, many young ladies swooned at his golden voice. Maria was sure her heart would break.

Then one day as Maria shopped the young rancher stopped near her. Maria blushed with embarrassment because she wore an old dirty, tattered dress. 

But her blush caught his eye, and for the first time, he noticed how beautiful she was. He began to court Maria. 

Within a short time, he had paid Maria’s father a large dowry so he could marry her. Knowing his family would not accept his marriage to a woman from a lower class—the couple settled along the Rio Grande.

Over the next several years Maria’s husband worked as a merchant along the El Camino Real, and Maria bore him three children. But as the years passed Maria and her wealthy husband grew apart. 

He spent less and less time at home, and he showed no interest in their children. Maria began to suspect that he was seeing another woman while he was away.

Maria’s suspicions were confirmed when she spotted her husband riding in a buggy with a beautiful young woman by his side. Her heart was broken. 

She exploded in a jealous rage. Distraught she thought that if only she did not have the children, her husband would love her once more. 

Rio Grand River
In a rage, she dragged her children one by one to the river and held their heads under the water until they drowned.

Her senses lost to reality; she approached her husband and told him what she had done for him. Horrified he ordered her out of his life. 

Numb she wandered the streets of the village for several days crying for her children. The villagers started to call her La Llorona—meaning the wailing woman.

Maria realized she had lost everything dear to her, so she went down to the river and cried for her children. 

She then flung herself into the river. Her body was never found. 

Another view of Rio Grande
People in New Mexico still see a woman dressed all in white walking along paths near water. They hear Maria’s desperate cries for her children and then she slowly fades away.

Many believe she is condemned to wander, weeping and searching for her children. Others believe that she is a harbinger of death—if you see her someone will die.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Deadly Game of Hide and Seek

This classic ghost story has been immortalized in film, short stories, and in a famous song and poem.

It is known under various names. The Lost Bride, Bride and Go Seek and in England as The Mistletoe Bough or The Mistletoe Bride.

This story was first published in 1809 in Germany in an article entitled The Melancholy Occurrence, which tells the tale of a bride who goes missing on her wedding day.

Samuel Rogers’ poem entitled Ginevra, published in 1823, also tells the moving story of how a bride disappears on her wedding day only to be found years later.

“Full fifty years were past, and all was forgot . . .
The mouldering chest was noticed . . .
‘Why not remove it from its lurking place . . .’
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton . . .”

The full text of this poem can be found here.

Roger’s poem inspired Thomas Bayly to write the lyrics for a ballad song entitled, The Mistletoe Bough, music composed by Sir Henry Bishop, in the 1830s. Here is a part of this song.

“They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away . . .
At length, an old chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle—
They raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!”

The entire song lyrics can be read here. A popular version of this ballad is shared below.

By 1859, this song in England was so beloved it was shared in most households at Christmastime. Many knew the heart-wrenching lyrics “by heart.”

This story was retold in two short stories: The Old Oak Chest by Susan E. Wallace in 1887 and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes by Henry James in 1868.

The story was also made into a silent film in 1904 by Percy Stow; this short film has since been restored and is below. Two other movies based upon this story were made in 1923 and 1926.

Percy Stow film
This story has been told for over 2 centuries now. Various versions of this myth have circulated in America. A simplified version was retold in the early 1970s.

Alfred Hitchcock produced his own version of this story in 1948 in his film entitled Rope. In his film the main character, Brandon Shaw hides the body of a murdered son in a chest.

However, most versions of this story are similar so here is the English version -- The Mistletoe Bough.

A young bride was married to Lord Lovell at Christmastime. After the ceremony, she suggested they play a game of Hide and Seek, which the younger members of the wedding party could enjoy as well.

The young bride was picked as the first person to hide. No one suspected as she went off this would be the last they would see of her.

Her husband, father and the wedding guests searched and searched, but she was not found. The wedding guests eventually had to leave, many assured the family as they parted that surely the bride must have just fallen asleep in her hiding place.

The groom, father and the servants continued to search late into the night and the next day but their efforts were unrewarded for the young bride was not found.

The days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months then years, but the bride’s disappearance remained a mystery. Lord Lovell grew old, and the story was now legendary.

The family home was eventually sold, and several years later the home’s attic was emptied. Amongst the old paintings and furniture, there was an old oak chest that appeared to be locked.

The lid was pried open and inside was a skeleton dressed in a wedding gown-- it was holding a withered wedding bouquet. At last, the bride was found.

Chest opened.

Bramshill House
Many stately homes * in England over the years have claimed to be the location for this chest. They include: Bramshill House and Marwell House both in Hampshire. Castle Horneck in Cornwall, Basildon Grotto in Berskhire, Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, Exton Hall in Rutland, Brockdish Hall in Norfolk and Bawdrip Rectory in Somerset.

* Some of these homes lay in ruins today.

A number of these homes also lay claim to the ghost of the unfortunate bride that is said to haunt their grounds. She is seen wearing her wedding gown.

Here is a recording of the song, The Mistletoe Bough.

The following is the restored silent version of the 1904 film version of this story. It is short.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jacob Dibert's Dream

One of my favorite ballads that Allison Krauss sings is a song entitled, Jacob’s Dream. This song is based upon a very tragic true story known as The Lost Boys of the Alleghenies

One aspect of this dark tale is a strange dream one man, Jacob Dibert experienced. Another peculiar part of this tale is the haunting that many people have witnessed since.

A family by the name of Cox lived in Spruce Hollow in Bedford County on Blue Knob Mountain. Blue Knob is in the Allegheny Mountains located in Pennsylvania. 

Samuel and Susannah Cox had two young sons, George 7 and Joseph 5. They lived in a cabin on a small farm. Samuel spent his days farming and hunting. Susannah tended to their children and helped with the farm work.

In the early spring of 1856 Samuel told his wife and children during breakfast that he was going hunting for a squirrel. His oldest son George asked if he and his brother could tag along. 

The boys collected squirrel tails, and their father’s hunt meant more for their collection. Samuel told the boys that the weather was too damp and foggy for them. The boys then excused themselves from doing their chores in the barn.

Samuel returned at lunchtime. Susannah busy with her work realized she hadn’t seen the boys since breakfast, so she asked Samuel to call them in. 

When the boys didn’t respond to his summons, Samuel went down to the barn to fetch them. But he quickly discovered that the boys were not on the farm. Samuel told Susannah they probably had followed him that morning excited to collect more tails.

The couple now concerned searched for the boys but as the hours passed, they became desperate. Their throats became sore from calling the boy’s names. 

Samuel went to a neighboring farm to send for more help. As the church bells rang in the small village of Pavia the word spread quickly that two boys were lost on Blue Knob. 

By late afternoon hundreds of men gathered with coats and lanterns to assist in the search. The boys were not found, but through the first night, hopes remained high since the weather was warm for April.

By the next day, over one thousand people were searching for George and Joseph some from as far away as Maryland. But the searchers made one terrible mistake. They all assumed the boys had not crossed Bob's creek. Its waters were swollen with the spring runoff, so it was believed the boys had stayed on the near or west side. 

The search continued for the next ten days, but the boys were not found. At their wit’s end, the Cox’s even enlisted the help of a dowser and witch, but neither could help.

The searchers became frustrated and tired. It wasn’t long before rumors began to spread. One story was the Cox’s had actually killed their sons. Acting out of ignorance people tore the floorboards in the small Cox cabin up, and they dug up the ground that surrounded the small farm, but nothing was found. 

Other ignorant rumors spread that foreigners, Catholics or Masons must have kidnapped the boys.

Jacob Dibert
One man, Jacob Dibert who lived twelve miles from the Cox’s had not joined the search because he was injured. One night he had a weird dream about a place on the Blue Knob that he had never seen before. 

He woke up in a cold sweat and told his wife, Sarah, about this vision. She knew the place because it was by her childhood home near the Cox’s farm but the couple agreed not to mention this dream knowing people would suspect Jacob of witchcraft.

But when Jacob had the same dream for two more nights, the couple decided to visit Sarah’s brother, Harrison Whysong who still lived on the family farm. Jacob told his brother-in-law about his dream.

I dreamed I joined the search party, but I wandered off from the rest. I came to a creek and crossed it. I followed a small path, and I saw a dead, bloated deer. Then I spotted a little boy’s shoe and further up was two streams that came together at a junction. I saw the two boys they had taken shelter in the hollow of an old birch tree. I knew they were dead.

Whysong like his sister immediately recognized the place that Jacob described. He volunteered to walk there. 

He came across a dead tree that made a natural bridge that allowed him to cross the creek without getting wet. He then saw the dead, bloated deer and a small shoe sticking out of some leaves, he picked it up. Further down the path, he saw the familiar junction of the two streams. He walked to the other side of a dead birch tree and froze. 

There in the hollow of the tree George sat propped up, his brother lay on the ground with his head resting in George’s lap, both were dead. It had been two weeks since the boys were lost.

Old and new markers at the grave.

Ignorance gripped the region once more, and Whysong and Dibert were accused of having something to do with the boy’s deaths. The two men were cleared of these charges. 

George and Joseph were buried together in one grave located at Mount Union Cemetery in the small community of Lovely at the base of Spruce Hollow. The Cox family for years after held a picnic near the site where the boys were found. Whysong would often attend these and tell Jacob’s Dream to the group. 

On the 50th anniversary of the boy’s deaths, a monument was built on the spot to commemorate the boy’s memory. This original monument was then moved to Mount Union. A new statue was placed on Blue Knob Mountain, but it was moved to a place that is easier to walk to. 

At least this is the reason given as to why it was not placed near the spot where the boys were found. Some feel that it is the haunting that caused this move. For years, people who visited the area where the old birch tree stood experienced some strange occurrences. 

Many witnesses heard laughter in the area. Others heard footsteps around the original monument. More recently, voices and steps have been recorded in the area. Some who have experienced this have refused to return to the spot. 

Photographs taken have reflected mists that swirl and lights that dance across these pictures.

Jacob Dibert’s dream could not have saved the boys. It was determined the boys died two days before they were found which meant Jacob's first dream occurred on the night they died. He and his wife always felt that God sent this dream vision to him. 

This story is doubly heart-breaking because if the searchers had just crossed Bob's Creek, they most likely would have found the boys alive. 

Samuel and Savannah lived the rest of their lives in Spruce Hollow, they had more children and their descendants still live in the area. Samuel and Savannah are buried near the boys at Mount Union. 

Jacob Dibert served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He died of dysentery at Point of Rocks in Virginia in 1864. 

He passed his "second sight" to his son Issac Dibert who in 1887 dreamed about the location of a woman from Pavia, Cidney Griffin, who had become lost in an area known as Cedar Swamps. The searchers had not been able to find her, but Issac after his dream was able to lead them to her. She was found alive.

Here is Allison Krauss’ ballad, Jacob’s Dream:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Ghost of Helena Blunden

Helena’s ghost is famous as the “Ghost of the Old Irish Linen Mill.” She died in the spring of 1912 in a tragic fall. There are many people who feel that her spirit haunts the linen mill where she worked. Today the employees at the printing company that is based out of this Belfast mill have reported many eerie and unusual encounters with Helena’s ghost.

Helena Blunden was born in 1816 in Ireland, shortly after her family moved to England where she grew up. When she was 16 years old her family moved back to Ireland. They settled in a small house in the old market area of Belfast. Her uncles arranged for her to work at a linen mill near their new home.

Helena was a hard-worker and had a cheerful personality. She quickly became popular among her mill co-workers. Helena loved to recite poetry and plays while working. She also was a very good dancer. Her favorite occupation was singing songs that were popular in London music halls at that time.

Helena worked a 60-hour workweek, Monday through Saturday. She kept her spirits up with the thought that one day she would work as an entertainer upon the stage. He father encouraged her aspirations but her mother frowned upon her eldest daughter’s ambitions. Her fellow mill workers especially appreciated Helena’s talents because her efforts to entertain them by reciting, dancing, and singing broke up the monotony.

The mill that Helena worked for was new and struggling so they went out of their way to impress. It was their double damask linen tablecloths that were used in the fancy first class dining room on the Titanic. The mill workers in order to finish special orders for their employers often worked on Sundays. It was on one such Sunday in April of 1912 that Helena was working to help finish a special order for Argentina.

Helena was especially excited that Sunday for she was to attend a concert at the Grand Opera house that evening. In anticipation she sang while she worked. At 2:00 p.m. Helena realized that her work would not be done by 6:00 p.m. Concerned, she realized that there would not be much time between finishing her work and going to the concert. She kept her shoes on so she would be ready to leave as soon as her work was done.

In April the mill’s temperature would start to rise. In the spinning room on the top floor where Helena worked the heat was often intolerable. This heat resulted in condensation forming on the walls and floors. An older mill worker, Margaret Maxwell, who could no longer do her usual work in the flax house, was assigned in the afternoons to wipe and mop the moisture off the mill's walls and stairs. Margaret was a tough woman who in her youth had brawled with both women and men in the street.

Margaret defied anyone who dared to walk on her floors as she mopped. She frightened the younger workers in the mill and she had taken an immediate dislike to Helena’s optimism. She was often heard deriding Helena’s songs. The two women had clashed on more than one occasion.

On that Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Helena finally finished her work and headed down the flight of stairs joyfully, she didn’t see the mop that Margaret had left on the steps. Margaret listened to Helena’s shriek and watched as she tripped and fell over the bannister and down to the ground floor. When Margaret approached Helena was dead.

A printing company is housed in the mill’s pure Flax House today. One of the companies’ workers, Paul McAvoy, started to hear thumps, boxes moving, doors opening with no one entering, and footsteps on the building’s wooden floors. 

At first, McAvoy did not think much about it but then the ghost touched him. One Sunday morning as he ran the press he heard what he thought was a co-worker entering the pressroom. He didn't look up from his work until he felt someone tap him on his right shoulder four times. Startled he realized no one was in the room with him.

Since, he has heard a female voice call his name, especially in the mill’s basement. When he and fellow workers investigate no one is there or outside. McAvoy feels the ghost is a woman because her voice is feminine and she walks softly on the mill’s wooden floors. He has stated that this ghost does not frighten him. Many feel this spirit is Helena Blunden.

One eerie occurrence that happens on a regular basis involves the printing company's lights and radios. Each evening as the company is closed down for the day the lights and radios are all turned off but inevitably the next morning the lights are on and the radios are blaring as the first employee enters. 

The sightings of Helena's ghost are so frequent a web camera was placed in the building and left on for 24 hours, seven days a week, for over a year. During this time Helena’s apparition was spotted between eight to twelve times a month.

One final note: a linen bundle was discovered by accident that contained a 100-year old recording with a newspaper review of Helena Blunden’s singing talent. The recording is Helena singing “Pie Jesu”, it was made in January of 1912 just three months before her tragic death.

Here is a link to the recording: