Seriously? Edgar Allan Poe Wrote Limericks? Seriously?

PoeLivesIt might be a bit premature for me to tell this story. However, this weekend saw birthday celebrations for Edgar Allan Poe from Richmond, Virginia, all the way to Sydney, Australia (and I’m sure there were more elsewhere). So it seems fitting that I tell this story now.

Last summer, I was enjoying a beer and some alone time at a local bar. (No, we don’t call them “saloons” here in Oklahoma.) I was joined by a stranger, one wearing a heavy coat and hat — which is an odd thing to wear during an Oklahoma summer. I think the temperature was somewhere in the upper 90s. But he wasn’t sweating, so I guess he was just used to someplace very warm.

Taking the stool next to mine, the gentlemen introduced himself as “Barton Lawrence Zachery Bubb.” He spelled that last name for me. Instead of commenting on the heat, Mr. Bubb asked if I knew anything about literature — specifically, American literature of the 1800s. That was a warning sign because, yeah, I teach exactly that subject at this town’s university. But I wanted to see where this was heading, so I told him that indeed I do know one or two things about American literature of the 1800s.

That’s when Mr. Bubb retrieved a wooden box he had placed on the far stool and slid it towards me. He let me look inside, cautioning me to take care with the yellowed, curling pages within. I saw right away that it was a handwritten manuscript of short poems. Five lines a piece. An a-a-b-b-a rhyme scheme with the “b” lines shorter than the others. That distinctive “There once was a man from Nantucket” rhythm, which I’ve since learned is called amphibrachic.

Sample Poe Limerick“Are all of them limericks?” I ventured.

“100 limericks,” said the man. “Exactly 100.” He looked around the bar a moment before lowering his voice. “But not just limericks, my friend. These are the lost limericks—of Edgar Allan Poe.”

To be sure, I was skeptical. Perhaps not skeptical enough, though, because after another beer or two, I wound up purchasing that collection of limericks at a considerable cost. No, I wasn’t convinced then and there that they had been penned by Edgar Allan Poe. Instead, my thinking was: what if I can find proof that they actually had been penned by Edgar Allan Poe? That just might be a literature professor’s ticket out of Oklahoma.

Another warning sign appeared when Barton Lawrence Zachery Bubb lifted a contract out of that heavy coat to ensure that I would pay for the manuscript in a timely fashion. It wasn’t the contract itself that worried me. It was his signature. In my mind’s eye, I realized that his initials are this:

B.L.Z. Bubb.

It has a devilish ring to it, no?

As it turns out, I’ve never been able to determine if the limericks were actually written by Poe himself. All I know is that they deal with Poe’s works, his life, and other subjects that might have been of interest to the great author. This uncertainty of authorship isn’t preventing me from publishing the collection — I’ll let readers decide for themselves. Watch for The Lost Limericks of Edgar Allan Poe to be published by Brom Bones Books in just a few months.

In fact, the official release date will be April 1, 2018.

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A Ghost Report from the Madison Journal on March 28, 1914

51W+qO+32TL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_By 1914, newspapers were moving away from hand-drawn illustrations and toward photographs. Ghost reports with illustrations had been rare all along, but I managed to include one for each chapter in the paperback version of Spectral Edition.

Here’s an example of one of the latest illustrated articles I found. It concerns two boys in Arizona who encounter the ghost of a man who mistakenly thought he could outwit a bear.

1914-03-28 p7 Madison Journal [Tallulah, Louisianna]

 

This article appears in the “Haunted Grounds and Waters” chapter of Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports from U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. Featuring close to 150 of the scariest, strangest, funniest, and most intriguing ghost reports from my collection of over 300, the book is available at Amazon in the U.S. or Amazon in the U.K.

Each Wednesday at the Merry Ghost Hunter, I post another authentic ghost report.

A Ghost Report from the New Enterprise on September 26, 1901

51W+qO+32TL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I put the dates 1865-1917 on the Spectral Edition project because this span of years exhibited a wave of open-mindedness about the reality of ghosts. This view could have a significant impact, too, as shown by the Indiana community discussed in the article below.

Students stopped coming to school on the belief that their schoolhouse was haunted by Amer Green, a murderer who had been lynched on the campus. The ghostly manifestations were confirmed by the teachers. The end result was that the schoolhouse was demolished — and a new one erected in a different location.

1901-09-26 p6 The New Enterprise [Madison, Florida]

This article appears in the “Haunted Buildings Other than Houses” chapter of Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports from U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. Featuring close to 150 of the scariest, strangest, funniest, and most intriguing ghost reports from my collection of over 300, the book is available at Amazon in the U.S. or Amazon in the U.K.

Each Wednesday at the Merry Ghost Hunter, I post another authentic ghost report.

Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “A Burden that Burns”

the-v-filesThe year was 1902. The great ghost hunter Vera Van Slyke found herself a bit bored. She decided to run an advertisement in newspapers across the U.S., offering “Help for the Haunted.”

Before long, she and her assistant were in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. (That spelling of Pittsburgh is historically accurate for 1902, by the way.) They had been hired — at considerable recompense — to solve a mystery involving a series of fires that was preventing millionaire J. Horace Ritchie from building his telephone factory. These fires appeared to spring from no visible hand, and Vera discovered that they had a history much longer than Mr. Ritchie would have imagined.

Continue reading “Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “A Burden that Burns””

That Year-End Look Back and Look Forward Thing that People Do

Back - Brom Bones LogoIt’s that time when one looks back at what was accomplished over the year ending and then meditatively places a finger to one’s chin while turning to plans for the year coming.

Certainly the most noteworthy of my accomplishments of 2017 was finishing Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports in U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. I recently recorded an interview about this book with Patrick Keller from his Big Séance podcast, and you can listen to that here.

Continue reading “That Year-End Look Back and Look Forward Thing that People Do”

A Ghost Report from the Democratic Press on June 22, 1871

51W+qO+32TL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A house proves to be uninhabitable for a Pittsburgh family. The ghostly manifestations they witness there include a dark, shadowy cloud that transforms into the shape of a woman. If some trick were behind the haunting, even a fearless dog isn’t able to sniff it out.

The skeptical, even mocking, tone that appears at the end of this article is widespread in the earliest of the ghost reports I’ve collected. However, that tone becomes replaced with a more open-minded one as the years progress.1871-06-22 p1 The Democratic Press [Ravenna, Ohio]

This article appears in the “Haunted Houses with Ghosts Unknown” chapter of Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports from U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. Featuring close to 150 of the scariest, strangest, funniest, and most intriguing ghost reports from my collection of over 300, the book is available at Amazon in the U.S. or Amazon in the U.K.

Each Wednesday at the Merry Ghost Hunter, I post another authentic ghost report.

 

A Ghost Report from the Evening World on July 10, 1888

51W+qO+32TL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Publishing ghost reports came with some risk, since a house with a reputation for being haunted became very difficult to rent or sell. As I say in the Introduction to Spectral Edition book, reporting on a haunted site “raised the question of newspapers being complicit with libel” in regard to damaging business for real estate agencies.

This becomes evident in this article — beside the tragic events that explain why a house on Chicago’s Langley Avenue earned a reputation for sheltering phantoms.

1888-07-10 p3 Evening World [New York, New York]

This article appears in the “Haunted Houses with Backstories” chapter of Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports from U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. Featuring close to 150 of the scariest, strangest, funniest, and most intriguing ghost reports from my collection of over 300, the book is available at Amazon in the U.S. or Amazon in the U.K.

Each Wednesday at the Merry Ghost Hunter, I post another authentic ghost report.

A Ghost Report from the Daily Madisonian on January 22, 1844

51W+qO+32TL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This is the very earliest ghost report in my collection. There might be earlier ones out there, but I don’t know about them.

The first line is interesting. The reporter says that, to many, the notion of a house being haunted had become “extinct.” As I discuss in the Introduction to my book version of Spectral Edition, few publications in the first half of the 1800s supported a belief in ghosts. In the U.S., it seems that the Civil War opened a door — if not for believing in ghosts — then for such belief to be addressed in newspapers.

1844-01-22 p2 Daily Madisonian [Washington DC]

This article is quoted in the Introduction of Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports from U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. Featuring close to 150 of the scariest, strangest, funniest, and most intriguing ghost reports from my collection of over 300, the book is available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon in the U.S. or Amazon in the U.K.

Each Wednesday, I post another authentic ghost report here at the Merry Ghost Hunter.

A Ghost Report from the Barbour County Index on July 22, 1908

Perhaps the downside to keeping an open mind about ghosts is that a supernatural explanation might be believed when perfectly natural events are occurring. For instance, citizens of Jacksonville, New Jersey, kept far away from a house where “weird music” and “other strange sounds” were heard. They had assumed it was haunted.

A trio of ghost hunters investigated. As the headline makes clear, it wasn’t a ghost.

This article appears in the “Natural Explanations” chapter of Spectral Edition: Ghost Reports from U.S. Newspapers, 1865-1917. Featuring close to 150 of the scariest, strangest, funniest, and most intriguing ghost reports from my collection of over 300, the book is available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon in the U.S. or Amazon in the U.K.

Each Wednesday, I post another authentic ghost report here at the Merry Ghost Hunter.

Another Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery: “Dark and Dirty Corners”

the-v-filesWhen I inherited the manuscripts that make up Help for the Haunted: A Decade of Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries, 1899-1909, I assumed they were probably works of imaginative fiction that my great-grandaunt had written.

But then I started discovering real people named in them. Houdini was easy to spot, but there are less famous real people named, too. And the case titled “Dark and Dirty Corners” features Stickney House, a very real, very unusual house that still stands on the outskirts of Chicago. The stories about it being haunted continue to be told.

In “Dark and Dirty Corners,” Vera and Lucille travel to the prairie town where that house with rounded corners sits. They learn about Mrs. Stickney, one of the area’s first white settlers, and the death of her son there. These seem to be the spirits lingering in the house. But Mrs. Stickney was a headstrong and defiant woman, so her ghost is particularly difficult to exorcise.

Then again, Mrs. Stickney never had to a contend with the likes of Vera Van Slyke.

Learn more about Stickney House and the theories of why it had been built with rounded corners in this month’s FREE ghostly mystery, “Dark and Dirty Corners.” There’s a link to it in .pdf, .epub, and .mobi/Kindle formats on the Complimentary Haunting page.

Stickney House (2)