Madeleine Thornburton was always considered odd.  Children in her school said, “She’s a creep. Stay away from her or something bad will happen to you!”

The teachers agreed. Even they spent only the time necessary with her—nothing more; nothing less.

“It’s not her fault,” her mother, Emma, would say.

On this day, Principal Latimar called an all-too-familiar meeting about Madeleine.

                Emma Thornburton walked into his office, held up her hand and said, “Madeleine has been through a lot with her father’s passing. She is a sensitive, kind child. Why can’t you let her be?”

 “She’s threatened Charlie Banks.”

“She wouldn’t!”

“Well, she told her teacher Charlie choked a young dog.”

“And what did the teacher do?”

“The teacher asked Charlie. He said he hadn’t, and Madeleine was lying.”

“And you believed Charlie?”

“Mrs. Thornburton, she told a group of her classmates she owned an invisible horse named Dru, fairies lived in the woods behind your home, and her best friend is a ghost named Lacy. These are just three examples of her lying. So, yes, the teacher believed Charlie.”

“So why am I here?”

“Madeleine told Charlie he would be punished for hurting the puppy. Next thing you know, Charlie took a tumble off the slide and broke his arm.”

“That’s not Madeleine’s fault!”

“Charlie said she made it happen.”

“How? Charlie outweighs Madeleine by at least twenty pounds. He could have fought her off!”

“She told Charlie he broke his arm because he hurt one of God’s innocent creatures. So her ghost-friend Lacy pushed him. Now all the children are going to the teacher telling her Madeleine says they will be punished, too, for not telling the truth about Charlie and the puppy. We can’t have this kind of behavior. It’s affecting her entire class.”

Emma Thornburton nodded. “I understand. I’ll take care of it.”

“You best. Otherwise, Madeleine will be suspended until you get her some mental help.”

Emma Thornburton sighed. “Thank you, Principal Latimar.”

Shame, frustration and despair overwhelmed Emma as she left his office. When she felt this kind of despair, which was often with Madeleine’s antics, she shopped.

Emma looked at her watch. “Thank goodness they are keeping Madeleine in school today. I have an hour.”

Emma jumped into her silver Toyota Camry and took off—maybe a little too fast.

She returned just as the bell rang. She smiled as she looked in the rearview mirror at her new prize: a small, stone statue of a regal cat. “It will be perfect in my backyard!”

She watched Madeleine coming toward the car and groaned.

“There she is, alone and talking to someone who isn’t there. What is wrong with my child?”

Madeleine settled into the backseat.

Emma said, “I met with Principal Latimar today.”

Madeleine’s rosy pink cheeks turned white. “You know about Charlie?”

“Yes. And I know you are scaring the entire class.”

“He hurt that puppy, Mama! I saw him.”

“No one else did. They think you made it up. I think you made it up, too.”

“I didn’t!”

“Did you push Charlie off the slide?”

“No!”

“How did he fall? And why did he blame you?”

“He was being punished for hurting the puppy,” Madeleine whispered.

“Really?”

“Yes! God punishes those who hurt the innocent!”

“Really, Madeleine? You know that’s not the way the world works. Otherwise, the person who left your dad on the side of the road to die would have been found and punished. That didn’t happen, did it?”

“Maybe it did. But daddy wasn’t like a puppy.”

“No! He was better.”

“Yes, Mama,” Madeleine whispered.

“You must stop telling all these tales. You MUST!”

“They aren’t tales Mama. They are the truth!”

“THAT’S ENOUGH! I don’t want to hear another thing about fairies and ghost friends, do you hear me? You won’t mention any of these things at school. Do you understand?”

“But people need to know Mama! People need to stop hurting the little ones! That’s what God wants!”

“I told you. There is no God. Your dad would still be here if there was.”

Madeleine looked at her hands.

“You aren’t allowed to go into the woods anymore.”

“Why not! My friends won’t understand if I don’t visit them!”

“You are making up all these so-called friends Madeleine! Stop it. Now. Do you want to end up in the loony bin like your Aunt Della? DO YOU?”

“No ma’am,” Madeleine murmured.

“And you must stop telling your classmates they are going to be punished.”

“But they need to know. If they are sorry then they won’t be!” Madeleine crossed her arms and burrowed into the seatback. She looked to her right.

“Oh, Mama. This statue is beautiful! It looks real.”

“It’s not.”

Madeleine touched the cold stone. “I think it could be real.”

She leaned forward and pulled on the back of the passenger seat. “Can I name it?”

“Do you promise to stay out of the woods?”

“Yes.”

“Then you can name it.”

Madeleine looked deep into the lifeless eyes. She turned to her mother. “The cat wants to be named Fantasia.”

“As if you need to be reminded of any fantasy thinking,” Emma answered.

“Please. It’s what it wants.”

“It’s what you want. Right?”

Madeleine studied her pink and white sneakers.

“Madeleine you must be responsible. It is you who want to name this cat. Right?”

“I guess so.”

“That’s a start. You can name it Fantasia.”

Madeleine smiled and petted the stone. “I know you are pleased, Fantasia,” she whispered in the stone cat’s ear.

Emma took the concrete statue to the garden and placed it on a bench overlooking the pond.

The cat stared straight ahead, seeing something Madeleine only wished she could.

She sat next to the statue. “Do you see a better life out there somewhere?”

The cat continued to gaze into the distance.

Madeleine threw her arms around the cat. “I wish you were real. You look so wise. Maybe you could tell me how to make Mama understand. Maybe you’d help her believe there is a God.”

Madeleine forgot about venturing into the woods. On the days when loneliness threatened to engulf her in everlasting darkness, she spent hours with the stone cat who stared at the horizon.

Many days Madeleine tried to follow its gaze. All she saw were the trees. Trees that surrounded the home and housed her friends.

“They are not imaginary,” Madeleine said to the cat. “They miss me. I miss them, too. But I have you now. So it’s not so bad.”

The cool of autumn gave way to winter’s icy breath.  

In spite of the cold, Madeleine visited Fantasia every day.

“Put on your coat!” Emma would scream as she scurried for the door after finishing her homework.

Day after day Emma Thornburton watched her odd child through the kitchen window. Worry and anger turned to despair. She’s getting worse. Now she’s obsessed with the cat. She’ll never be normal. It’s time to ask for help.

Emma made Madeleine’s favorite dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. She watched her small child eat. Tears filled her eyes. This may be the last time I get to spend a dinner with her.

Emma straightened her back in determination. “We’re going for a ride tomorrow.”

“Where?”

“We are going to visit Aunt Della.”

Madeleine’s eyes grew wide. “I don’t want to go.”

“You are going. And to be honest, it is time for you to stay a little while in the same place. I can’t help you. Maybe someone else can turn you into a normal child.”

“NO!” Madeleine cried.

“Yes!” Her mother answered. “And say your goodbyes to the cat. It won’t be here when you come home.”

Madeleine burst into tears and ran from the house. She threw her arms around the cat, put her head on its cold stone shoulder and sobbed. “She can’t take you away! What will I do without you?”

For a moment, just for a moment, Madeleine thought she felt warmth through the stone. She touched the shoulder again. It was cold.

Madeleine dangled her legs from the bench swinging them back and forth in a scissor-like motion. She stopped moving.

“I know! We will go into the woods. My friends will know what to do. Then you’ll be safe!”

Madeleine waited for the house to go dark. She tiptoed to the kitchen. “I’ll need something to eat.”

At eight Madeleine’s cooking skills were limited. She pushed a spindle-backed, pine chair from the table to the cabinet. She inched the cabinet door open and grabbed a jar of peanut butter. She pulled the white bread from the breadbox and made herself two sandwiches. She stuck them in her small backpack. “There.”

She put on her heaviest coat and winter boots over the thermals, jeans and sweater she’d worn to bed. She grabbed her mother’s fleece-lined leather gloves.

“She’ll take me away for sure when I get back. But Fantasia is worth it!”

Madeleine held her breath. She pulled the latch on the door, opening it inch by inch to avoid the loud squeal. One squeak escaped. Madeleine held her breath and listened.

No movement in the house.

She ran for the tool shed.

Madeleine wrestled a wheel barrow free from its spot by the door. She struggled to keep it upright and set its wheel on the path. She made her way to the stone bench.

Madeleine put her tiny arms around the cat and lifted. “Oomph.” Too heavy.

She searched the darkness. She spotted an old board leaning on the back fence.

Madeleine dragged it over and placed it between the bench and the wheelbarrow. She managed to scoot the cat onto the board. Gravity did the rest. 

“There!”

Madeleine guided the pushcart unsteadily toward the woods. My woods, she thought.

She came to an old White Oak. She smiled up at the tree.

“Oh, I’ve missed you.” She threw her arms around it.

“You’ll be safe here, Fantasia. The oak will make sure of it. I’ll visit when I can.”

Madeleine turned to leave.

A tall, bronze man stood in front of her.

“Hello, Madeleine.”

“Oh. Hello. You scared me!”

The man smiled.

“You aren’t one of those bad men who hurt animals and children, are you?”

“No.” White wings opened from his sides and spread wider than the oak tree.

“How beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

“I guess you must be an angel?”

“Yes. I am.”

“Why are you here now? I’ve never seen you before.”

“Well, I’m your guardian angel.  I’m here to take you home.”

“I can get home by myself. It’s that way.” Madeleine pointed down the path she travelled.

“Not that home. Your home in Heaven.”

“Now?”

“Yes. You see, you were only supposed to be on this earth a short time.”

“How come?”

“Well, God made you special. He made you to see things others cannot. He gave you a protective spirit—even though you are so young. You have been brave. Ridiculed and punished for telling the truth. Yet you gave a voice to many of God’s small creatures.”

Madeleine looked around her. Snow Rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and even a red fox peeked out from behind the White Oak. She smiled.

“God wants you to come to heaven now and help with his creatures there.”

“Oh, ok. But what about Fantasia?” Madeleine looked into the wheelbarrow. It was empty. “Fantasia!” Madeleine cried, tears spilling down her cheeks.

“Madeleine,” the Angel said.

She looked up at his kind face.

“I am Fantasia.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Yes. All those days of your life where you were hurt by others, where you felt completely isolated and alone and thought the darkness would swallow you, I was there.”

“I knew you were real!”

“You are loved, Madeleine. Let’s go home.”

The Angel held out his hand.

Madeleine tentatively took hold of it. She nodded.

The sky glowed a brilliant blue as they shot like stars into the dark canopy.

A small child’s boot tracks and the unmistakable footprints of a large cat remained.

 

Emma Thornburton searched for Madeleine. She found the footprints at the tree. And nothing else. She searched the woods every day for over a year.

Guilt overtook Emma. It crushed her. She could not stop reliving the last words she said to Madeleine. She eventually checked herself into the asylum where she would have put her child. She died there. Some say of a broken heart; others say of a guilty one.

It is said that even today, when there is a heavy snow and the moon is high, a child’s laughter is heard at the old oak tree. And if you listen closely you will hear the soothing sound of a purr. A purr that touches the heart and heals the mind. And on those cold, bitter days, a small set of boot prints and cat paws appear as if invisible beings are walking. They stop at the old oak tree, then disappear as if they never were. Just like Madeleine and her cat.

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I love Jefferson, Texas. It is steeped in Texas history, sits on Caddo Lake (truly a swamp), and offers a wealth of ideas for my writing. It is a spooky and beautiful location. Jefferson is said to be the most haunted town in East Texas—maybe all of Texas.

There are several sites, including The Grove and The Jefferson Hotel, with documented hauntings.The Excelsior House Hotel is also said to be visited by spirits, although the owners of the hotel, The Excelsior Foundation and the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club, do not encourage such a reputation. They believe it detracts from the history. I only know the spooky rumors do not affect my opinion of the hotel.

The Excelsior House was built in the 1850s, and has been in continuous operation since, making it the oldest hotel in East Texas according to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Excelsior is built on property once owned by a steamboat captain named William Perry. This land was a gift from the City of Jefferson in 1846 as a thank you For Perry’s hard work to keep the Big Cypress Bayou navigable.

William Perry, realizing the need for a hotel in this rowdy part of town, constructed the Irving House. Today, this is the oldest part of the hotel, forming the northwest portion of the Excelsior. The southwest section was added sometime between the end of the Civil War and 1872.

The Big Cypress Bayou once allowed riverboat traffic to reach Jefferson from both New Orleans and St. Louis, via the Mississippi and Red Rivers. Its main export was cotton, which was brought in from towns as far away as Dallas and sold to commercial merchants.  During this time, Jefferson was a bustling port town. It was also known as one of the most violent towns in Texas. Many deaths occurred here.

The most notable was of Diamond Bessie, or Bessie Moore, aka Annie Stone. Diamond Bessie was dubbed as such because she sported large diamond rings wherever she went.   She met a tragic end in January of 1877.

Diamond Bessie and Abe Rothschild came to Jefferson a few days earlier. They registered at the Brooks House as "A. Munroe and wife, “although most accounts say they never married.

Their short, two-year relationship was tumultuous. It is rumored Rothschild forced Diamond Bessie to prostitute herself so he had money for alcohol. It all ended when Abe and Bessie took a picnic lunch across the bridge at Cypress Bayou, walking away from town along the Marshall road. Abe returned without Diamond Bessie, saying she had gone into the bayou to visit friends.

Bessie was found a week later with a bullet to her head. Abraham Rothschild was charged with the murder and, after three trials, acquitted. Many people felt it was an injustice for Rothschild to be found not guilty. It was written up in the newspapers as a miscarriage of justice.

(As a side note: The townspeople paid for Diamond Bessie’s burial. To this day, her grave can be seen in the Oakwood Cemetery in Jefferson.)

This tragic tale is a familiar one when it comes to hauntings. There are differing accounts about Diamond Bessie staying at the Excelsior Hotel. Yet, it is rumored that she is one of the phantoms which haunt it. There are also reports of a headless man sited in the corridors, a woman in black gripping a child to keep it close, phantom cigar smoke and perfume-like smells, and top covers being torn away from sleeping guests.

While at least three rooms are allegedly haunted, the most haunted one is said to be the Jay Gould Room. A simple Google search will tell you the rocking chair in this room is said to rock on its own, and the door will slam shut on its own.

Maybe the most notable eyewitness account is from film Director, Steven Spielberg. He was in Jefferson during the 1970s, filming his movie Sugarland Express. According to rumor, Spielberg stayed in the Jay Gould room where he tossed his briefcase on a chair, only to have it fly right back at him. In the early morning hours, a small boy awakened the director, asking if he was ready for breakfast. Spielberg awoke his crew and checked out of the hotel.

(An interesting note: Spielberg wrote and produced the film Poltergeist soon after his visit to the Excelsior House Hotel.)

If you get a chance to visit Jefferson. I recommend you check out The Excelsior House Hotel. The history alone is worth the visit. If you run into an apparition, well, maybe it’s a bonus…Or not.

Sources:

My publisher, sponsor of Author Masterminds and Readers and Writers Book Club, is gifting $408.69 worth of bonuses to encourage readers to try award-winning Ravens Cove. Bonuses include a free Ravens Cove eBook and the Works of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven Edition. Here’s where you’ll find the details: https://buff.ly/2qxQxXK.

 

 

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The following story is courtesy of Ghost Report at http://ghostreport.net/ . Find other interesting sightings and information about the paranormal at this link. One of the best I’ve found.

The following article brings many questions to mind: Are there really portals to our world? If so, how did they come to be? Why are they here? How do we protect ourselves against an unseen and undetectable threat?

 The Blue Hole Of New Jersey – The Devil’s Puddle

There are many strange and haunted places in the United States. However, most of them don’t involve bottomless portals to Hell. The “Blue Hole” of New Jersey seems to do just that.

The Blue Hole is a nearly perfect circle of water, deep in the Pine Barrens of Winslow, NJ. The water is strangely clear blue, unlike the murky waters of it’s surrounding counterparts. It is said that fish do not swim in the water and that there are no signs of life inside of what many call “The Devil’s Puddle”. The water also seems to maintain an unusually low temperature, even in the warmest months. When standing near the Blue Hole, it is said to be eerily quiet, with no signs of life at all. Not in the

water, or around it.

 

For many years, parents have kept their children away from the small body of water. Many believe that the Blue hole is a bottomless pit. Some people even claim that the Devil himself uses the water hole, as his personal portal to Hell. Some also claim that the hole is home to another kind of devil. This Pine Barrens area is closely associated with the infamous Jersey Devil, and many say that the Blue Hole is home to the mysterious creature. The Jersey devil has been terrorizing people for over 200 years in the Pine Barren area, although evidence for its existence is scarce. Some locals have claimed to see the creature crawling out of the hole, on occasion. The fear of locals is not unfounded. It seems that many who chose to swim in the small body of water, never made it back out. Many bodies have been pulled out of the unusually still water, with scratches on their backs and lower legs. This makes sense, when you hear other reports from swimmers who claim to have felt cold hands clawing at their legs, pulling them down.

 

Unexplained whirlpools have been witnessed inside of the circular body of water, which defy explanation. One occasion, a man was pulled from the water, with scratches on his legs and black empty holes where his eyes once were. Some have attributed this to some type of ritual or occult activity. others say that it’s just the Devil’s handy work. No matter which legend you choose to believe, it seems as though some type of paranormal activity may be happening at this remote body of water.

 

You are welcome to find out yourself, if you are ever in the Pine Barrens area. Just follow the paths through the forest and you will soon find yourself at one of the most mysterious places on earth. However, I wouldn’t recommend going for a swim. The water is always cold. And there may be even colder hands, waiting beneath the surface.

 

Until Next Time,

 

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Once there were two men, Truth and Lies. They both professed love for a woman named Wisdom and both asked for her hand in marriage.

Lies said to Wisdom. “You are the most desirable woman in the world. You can have anyone your heart desires. Yet only I can give you all the earth’s treasures and more. Choose me!”

Truth listened to Lies, looked to Wisdom and smiled. “You are indeed the most sought-after prize on this earth. I cannot offer you what Lies can. I can only promise to seek your counsel before I act on any decision, never forget you are in my life and to treat you as the rare jewel you are.”

Wisdom turned kind eyes from Lies to Truth. She said, “You both have much to offer. I must consider before I make my decision.”

Wisdom retreated to her sanctuary.

Lies spat, “What have you to offer Wisdom?  You are ridiculed, ignored by humans, all but extinct.  You are ugly and poor.”

Truth turned his earnest eyes on Lies and smiled.

Lies continued, “I have been called an angel of light.  I can deceive even the smartest human being. I have destroyed royalty, holy men, judges and peasants.  I have put them to death while they begged to live forever.”

Truth replied, “All you say appears correct.  Yet you have destroyed no one.  They chose to follow your false promises—a decision which led to their ruin. You do not have the power to put even a blade of grass to death.”

“Even so, Wisdom would be a fool to choose you.”

“Wisdom is never a fool,” Truth replied.

“No sane woman would choose you, Truth. Your way is one of hardship and ridicule. People would sneer at her because she chose the way of  Truth instead of the way of this world.

“No, Wisdom will choose me. I can offer her comfort. She will never want for anything in this life. In return, I will have Wisdom and rule this world.”

“We shall see, Lies. We shall see.”

Wisdom returned. “I have considered both of your arguments.”

She took Lies hands in hers and said, “You have been with me for more years than Truth. And I have been loyal to you. You have courted me relentlessly. You have promised me freedom from financial worries. You have offered me all I can imagine or think of in this world which would give me an abundant life. I cannot understand why I’ve held back my affections from you.”

“I knew you would choose me! Tell Truth to leave!” Lies said.

Wisdom held up her hand. She turned to Truth. “You offer me a life of trials with no guarantees for happiness. You offer me a life of challenge and possible danger. Yet you offer me more than Lies has in all of these years.”

“What? How?” Lies demanded.

“Truth has offered me life. He will tell me when I am making a decision leading to my downfall instead of my growth. He will give me strength to make the right decision when I am tempted by lies to take the easy way out. He will help me to continue to be a pure example to others. He has given me purpose and a partnership. So, Lies, I choose Truth.”

“So be it—for now. I will be back to ask again after you’ve gone through need and pain. Then, we shall see who you choose!”

Truth said to Lies, “Wisdom has made her choice. You see, Lies, Wisdom has always been mine; without her I am nothing and without me she is only a lie.”

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Overtoun Bridge has been dubbed ‘The Dog Suicide Bridge by some. It is an innocuous looking structure. One that seems like many in Europe.

Local researchers estimate more than 300 dogs have sailed off the Overtoun bridge; tabloid reports say it's 600. At least 50 dogs are said to have died.

Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge have an extensive, and interesting history. None of which, though, seem to lend the bridge to becoming a paranormal phenomenon.


The History of Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge

In 1859 a retired lawyer named James White bought Overtoun Farm with the purpose of building a mansion there. It was to be his retreat in the country. He first acquired 900 acres, then increased his land to 2,000 acres. White hired the architect James Smith (father of the murder suspect Madeleine Smith) to design and construct a house. Overtoun House was built between 1860 and 1863, though Smith, the architect, died before work was completed. The house was completed through one of Smith’s partners. White's family began living in the mansion in 1862.

James White owned the property for 22 years. In 1884 he died. His son John moved to the estate in 1891 after the death of James’s wife died. John White wanted expanded the property further, by coming to an agreement with a local pastor, Reverend Dixon Swan, the heir to the adjacent Garshake Farm lands. Under the deal, John White laid out the West Drive and its lodge. The eastern and western sides of the estate were split by a waterfall on the Overtoun Burn. To connect the two sides, a road was built and the Overtoun Bridge erected.

For reasons this author doesn’t understand, John White took the additional surname of Campbell, and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Overtoun in 1893. Since he died childless in 1908, he was succeeded by his nephew Dr Douglas White, a London-based general practitioner. John’s wife, Lady Overtoun, continued to live in the house until 1931. When it was left vacant, Dr White, who seldom visited Scotland, gave the house to the people of Dumbarton in 1938.

During the Second World War Overtoun was turned into a convalescent home for injured soldiers and locals. The house remained mainly isolated, and it was not damaged during the war.

In 1947 Overtoun was turned into a maternity hospital. A fire destroyed part of the house in 1948, although there were no deaths, and the hospital remained in operation until 1 September 1970. In 1975 the British government decided to use the house as a base for its Quality of Life Experiment. From 1978 to 1980, a religious group, the Spire Fellowship, utilized the home, and from 1981 to 1994, the estate was used by a group named Youth with a Mission.

The house fell into abandonment soon after Youth with a Mission left the area, but in 2001 Pastor Bob Hill from Fort Worth, Texas, leased the property from West Dunbartonshire Council to use as a Christian center for Scottish youth. The house was used in the 2012 film Cloud Atlas, where it doubled for the house of Vyvyan Ayrs in the 1936 segment, and Aurora House in the 2012 segment. Regeneration, which was partially filmed in Overtoun House, is a 1997 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Pat Barker. The house was also used in Caro Emerald's 2013 video for I belong to You.

In October 1994 a man killed his baby son by throwing him from Overtoun Bridge. As far as I can tell, this is the only reported tragic death associated with this bridge.

Since 2005 there have been a number of media reports of dogs making what appeared to be a suicidal leap from it. This was attributed to supernatural influence, or explained by the dogs being attracted by scents then losing balance on the sloping parapet of the bridge.

Looking for a ‘rational’ explanation, some say the Mink and other animals living near or under the bridge are the reason for the dogs taking this dangerous, possibly lethal plunge. Others say there haven’t been any Mink in the area for years.

No one has been able to come up with a concrete reason for why dogs are jumping.

All I know is, if I lived near Overtoun Bridge, I would avoid walking my dogs anywhere near it. I would hope anyone else would do the same.

Source: Wikipedia

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