Sunday, October 28, 2012

10 Halloween Superstitions

Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures. Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how or why they came into being. Friday the 13th always brings out superstitions and rituals to thwart them.

And then there's Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits. They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Here's a list of ten superstitions that seem to apply specifically to Halloween.

1) If a candle goes out on its own on Halloween, it is thought a ghost has come to call.

2) A burning candle inside of a Jack-o-lantern on Halloween keeps evil spirits at bay.

3) You invite bad luck into your home if you allow a fire to burn out on Halloween.

4) A person born on Halloween can both see and talk to spirits.

5) Seeing a spider on Halloween could be the spirit of a dead loved one who is watching you.

6) If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don't look back because it could be the dead following.

7) Don't look at your shadow in moonlight on Halloween night. Otherwise, you will die within a short period of time.

8) If a bat flies around a house three times, it is a death omen.

9) Ringing a bell on Halloween will scare evil spirits away.

10) A bat that enters a home may have been let in by a ghost.

Do you have any superstitions that apply to Halloween?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Most Haunted Cities in America

With the approach of Halloween, it's natural for thoughts to occasionally dwell on ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. For the second of my three Halloween blogs, I'm talking about America's most haunted cities.

There are several lists of the most haunted cities in the United States, most of them basically naming the same cities in varying order. Here's one list of 10 cities that recently came to my attention.

10) Portland, Oregon: Portland has a reputation for being the most haunted city in the Pacific Northwest. It's a city of many haunts, both seasonal tourist attractions and historical happenings where the participants refuse to leave. One of the most famous…or more accurately, infamous…historical haunts are the Shanghai Tunnels. We've all heard the expression of someone being Shanghaied, meaning to be abducted. This is where it originated. In the Victorian era (around the 1870s), ship captains would put into Portland on the Columbia River looking for fresh crew members. Local middlemen would drug pub goers, dropped the bodies through trapdoors into the tunnels below where they were held captive until they could be carted to the waterfront and sold to the captain for $50/each. These ships were quite often headed for China, thus the term being Shanghaied. Many of these drugged unfortunates died while being held in the tunnels. Today, the Shanghai Tunnels have several ghosts, some menacing and others apparently confused.

9) San Francisco, California: A city of many haunted locations and happenings. One of the most interesting is Alcatraz. The island was a military prison during the Civil War. It was used off and on by many different groups to house various prisoners from that time until 1933 when it was officially turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and used as a maximum security prison for the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its prison doors for good. Over the one hundred plus years that the island housed prisoners of all types, many died in cruel and terrible ways. Those spirits still inhabit Alcatraz. Even today as part of the National Park system, tourists taking one of the park ranger guided tours report seeing and hearing strange things that can't be explained.

8) Chicago, Illinois: Chicago was the center of gangland activity during Prohibition, including the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Many gangsters of the era used Chicago as a body dumping ground. There were also six thousand Confederate soldiers and sailors buried during the Civil War at Oak Woods Cemetery which has ongoing paranormal activity. Chicago's most famous ghost is Resurrection Mary named for Resurrection Cemetery. She was killed by a hit and run driver on the street in front of the cemetery and now is often seen hitch hiking along that street.

7) Charleston, South Carolina: The downtown area known as The Battery was a protective artillery installation during the Civil War. The area is known for its ghost stories. The Battery Carriage House Inn is the city's famous haunted hotel where visitors often see strange happenings. The inn's two most famous ghosts are the gentleman ghost and the headless torso. The gentleman ghost is thought to be a young man whose family owned the house in the early 1900s and, for reasons unknown, jumped off the roof and killed himself. The headless torso is believed to be military from the Civil War. There is no evidence that he intends any harm, but guests have felt threatened when he has suddenly materialized in their room.

6) St. Augustine, Florida: The nation's oldest city and the first permanently occupied European settlement on our shores, dating back to its founding in 1565. Castillo de San Marcos is a star-shaped fort and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in a city filled with unexplained phenomenon. The construction of The Old Fort began in 1672 and took twenty-three years to build. Many strange sightings, including a Spanish soldier, have been reported. It is not uncommon for individuals to capture on film strange lights, orbs, rods, spheres, and even distinct apparitions composed of strange mists.

5) San Antonio, Texas: The home of the Alamo is regarded as the most haunted city in Texas. Prior to the Battle of the Alamo, the ground was a cemetery between 1724 and 1793. It's estimated that about one thousand people were buried during those years. On the morning of March 6, 1836, following the thirteen day Battle of the Alamo, one thousand six hundred Mexican shoulders lay dead along with the approximately one hundred forty-five defenders of the old mission. The remaining buildings at the Alamo as well as the surrounding area is one of the most haunted places in the nation. Tales of ghostly sightings have been reported for almost two centuries.

4) New Orleans, Louisiana: With a history of voodoo and slavery in its past, it's no wonder that New Orleans is considered a very haunted city. Its most famous ghost is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #1, considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country. New Orleans is well below sea level, so the dead are buried in above ground tombs or vaults resembling small architectural buildings. Located on the edge of the haunted French Quarter, this oldest still in service cemetery has been the setting for many Haunted New Orleans movies such as Easy Rider, Interview With The Vampire, and Johnny Handsome. But its biggest draw is the tomb of Marie Laveau.

3) Salem, Massachusetts: This site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s certainly makes the list of haunted cities. Gallows Hill is believed to be haunted by the spirits of the nineteen women accused of being witches who were hanged there. It also shouldn't be surprising that Salem has one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the country for people of all ages.

2) Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: The Civil War battle at Gettysburg resulted in fifty-one thousand casualties. It is believed that nearly all forty miles of the Gettysburg battlefields have paranormal activity. Many of the ghosts show up in photos, including the ghost of Robert E. Lee. In July 1863, Gettysburg's living population was out numbered twenty to one by the dead.

1) Savannah, Georgia: Savannah was named "America's Most Haunted City" in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology. The city was home to a Revolutionary War battleground and also the site of the Civil War capture of General Sherman. Savannah offers several different haunted tours and is also famous as the location of the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that all of these cities offer ghost tours. Have any of you ever had first hand experience with hauntings or taken a ghost tour?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

America's Haunted Hotels

Are you looking for that Halloween thrill that's real rather than manufactured? A true haunted hotel for a night away from home? We have many haunted hotels and inns from which to choose. Here's a sampling (in no particular order) of 20 spooky destinations to spend the night. Or longer…if you're brave enough. Just make sure your stay doesn't become permanent.

The Myrtles Plantation—St. Francisville, Louisiana
Built approximately 1796, this former home is considered one of the most haunted homes in the U.S. with one murder and several natural deaths. The Plantation now has 11 guest rooms.

Hotel del Coronado—Coronado, California (San Diego)
Opened in 1888 and a National Historic Landmark since 1977, the Hotel del Coronado is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, who died there. This is one of my favorite hotels and has also been used as a location in many movies and television shows, probably the most well-known being SOME LIKE IT HOT starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.

Marrero's Guest Mansion—Key West, Florida
Built in 1889 by Francisco Marrero for his bride, the 13 guest room Victorian home is rumored to still be haunted by her ghost.

Stanley Hotel—Estes Park, Colorado
First opened in 1909, this hotel is most famous these days as the inspiration for Stephen King's THE SHINING.

Queen Anne Hotel—San Francisco, California
This B&B in San Francisco's Pacific Heights area is said to be haunted by the spirit of Mary Lake who was the Head Mistress of the school that used to be located inside the building.

Manresa Castle—Port Townsend, Washington
A former 30 room private residence is haunted by 2 ghosts, including a former guest who was stood up by her lover and subsequently jumped to her death from the hotel.

Driskill Hotel—Austin, Texas
Originally built in 1886 for cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the Austin landmark hosts travelers today in addition to the spirit of Jesse Driskill.

The Lemp Mansion—St. Louis, Missouri
This hotel offers paranormal tours complete with appetizers and a drink. Several members of the Lemp family died under various circumstances including more than one suicide.

Hawthorne Hotel—Salem, Massachusetts
The town that was the site of the Salem Witch Trials would certainly lend itself to hauntings and Halloween visitors. Guests of the hotel reported hearing eerie sounds in the stairwells and feeling ill at ease while staying there.

Green Mountain Inn—Stowe, Vermont
Boots Berry died in a fall from the roof. His ghost has been seen standing in room 1840, where he was born.

Buxton Inn—Granville, Ohio
The ghost of Orrin Granger, who built the Buxton Inn, has been seen wandering the halls. The ghost of Bonnie Bounell, a former innkeeper, is said to hang out in room 9.

1866 Crescent Hotel & Spa—Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The deceased who are still residing at the hotel include a stonemason, a cancer patient, a cat and a man in a white suit. A new ghost, a dancer, was recently spotted at the hotel.

Beverly Hills Inn—Atlanta, Georgia
This property is said to be haunted by the souls of 3 women. An investigation in 2007 recorded voices whispering "Get out."

Hotel Queen Mary—Long Beach, California
With its history as both a luxury cruise ship and a troop transport ship during World War II, the Queen Mary is reportedly haunted by many spirits. One of them is a young girl who broke her neck sliding down one of the ship's banisters. She can be seen today hanging out by the swimming pool.

Gettysburg Hotel—Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Ghosts dance in the ballroom and the ghost of a Union soldier strolls through the halls. The nearby Gettysburg Civil War battle field is considered by many to be the most haunted place in the country.

Congress Plaza Hotel—Chicago, Illinois
Built in 1893 for visitors to the Chicago World's Fair, the hotel is reputedly one of Al Capone's hideouts. Members of a rival gang did a drive by shooting attempt on his life while he was staying there. The hotel is said to be haunted by a young boy, possibly an innocent victim of that shooting.

The Battery Carriage House Inn—Charleston, South Carolina
Many guests have reported seeing the torso of a decapitated confederate soldier floating through the Inn.

1859 Historic National Hotel—Jamestown, California
Located in the Sierra foothills in the heart of the California gold rush country, the hotel is said to be haunted by a woman whose fiancé was shot by a drunk on the hotel premises. She is said to have died of a broken heart while wearing her wedding dress and has been giving hotel guests an uncomfortable feeling ever since.

Burn Brae Mansion—Glen Spy, New York
The former home of the third president of the Singer Sewing Machine company offers ghost tours.

Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn—Mountain City, Tennessee
The haunting spirit at this Inn apparently has a sweet tooth. The smell of baking cookies wafts through the Inn in the wee hours of the morning.

The Colonial Inn—Concord, Massachusetts
This 24 room Inn was established in 1716. Room 24, located in the oldest part of the Inn, was reportedly used as an emergency hospital during the Revolutionary War and that is where guests have reported odd happenings.

There are, of course, many more reportedly haunted hotels and inns in the United States. This is just a sampling. Do you have any haunted hotels in your city? I have been to six of the hotels on this list and of those the Hotel del Coronado is definitely my favorite.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Blurb:  Dani Foreman is determined to expose the secrets of the mysterious Third Floor club in order to secure her career as an investigative reporter. Problem? So far, many have tried but none have been able to gain access to the private club. An encounter with the sexy bartender might just be her way inside the club to discover the truth behind the rumors of orgies among the rich and powerful.

Mitch Sinclair is a man of many secrets, including owning the Third Floor, an exclusive sex club. He doesn't know who Dani is, but he does know she is not what she claims. His need to protect the secrets of Third Floor runs deep and very personal. But his attraction to Dani is strong and he must decide whether to trust her or compromise the single most important thing in his life?

And that's the crux of the character's problems and conflict in the fifth book in my Encounter series, THIRD FLOOR ENCOUNTER, scheduled for release on Friday, October 12, 2012, from The Wilder Roses (the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance at The Wild Rose Press).

I found this an interesting book to write. From the day I started putting the storyline together, I included the rumors about the Third Floor private club and speculation that it was a sex club. But it took me a while to decide if that would end up being the truth and if so, what type of sex club and who were the members? And another decision about the storyline if Third Floor did end up being a sex club would be the problem of the man who owned the private club—the hero of the story. How would that impact his good guy/hero status? Why a sex club rather than a gambling club or just a high end private club serving drinks and food and maybe having a dance floor? And if it did end up being a sex club, to what purpose? And what would it say about the heroine if she became involved with a man who owned a sex club? At some point in time she would discover the truth. Then what?

How to reconcile all of that? Be able to show the hero is still the good guy and worthy of her love even though he purposely deceived her about his true identity and several other things. Provide a valid reason for her to accept that he owns a sex club, a reason that will allow her to retain her integrity when she is presented with a viable reason for not doing an investigative report on Third Floor and exposing it as a sex club.

What factor could make all of that okay?

Following is an Adult excerpt from THIRD FLOOR ENCOUNTER, an erotic romance by Samantha Gentry. Available Friday, October 12, from The Wilder Roses (the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance at The Wild Rose Press.

Adult Excerpt (first kiss):

Mitch continued to hold Dani's hand as they walked next door. Her hand felt good in his, very comfortable and relaxed. He unlocked the front door and stepped aside so she could enter.

Three steps inside and she came to an abrupt halt then whirled around to face him. "Oh, my God! This isn't an apartment building, it's a house!"

Her sudden stop caught him off guard. He bumped into her, knocking her off balance. He grabbed her in his arms, catching her before she fell. He pulled her body tightly to him, her face close. Her firm breasts pressed against his chest. He felt each breath she drew, her ragged breathing matching his. His cock responded to her body heat, twitching to life and rising to the occasion. Taking it slow…testing the situation…taking the time to figure out specifically why she had invaded his territory. It all went by the wayside in a heated moment of unbridled lust.

His mouth came down hard on hers, an involuntary reaction he couldn't have prevented even if he wanted to. After a brief moment of surprised hesitation, she fully responded with an earthy sensuality that nearly knocked his socks off. She felt good in his arms, the contours of her body fitting with his as if they were made to be together. He aggressively thrust his tongue between her lips. Exploring, tasting and teasing. At that moment, he had only one thing on his mind—spending the night engaged in hot sex with the delicious Dani Foreman.

She had grabbed his attention, captured his interest, and stimulated his libido all in one fell swoop. His common sense and instincts told him to back off, put it on hold, keep his pants zipped, leave it alone. If he hadn't been inside his own home, his instincts would be telling him to turn and run. But his desires vetoed his concerns. He wasn't even sure exactly what specifically concerned him.

Information on my other Encounter books available on my website: