Monday, July 22, 2013

Come Find Me...

Saturday morning I headed south for my monthly meeting of the Sisters in Crime writer's group.  There being no Brothers in Crime to take me on, these nice ladies adopted my meager talents and I stand out like a pink light bulb in the corner chair at each gathering.  But we talk about the business of writing as much as characters and crime, marketing and knowing your market.

For example, dead people.  You can't do much in this mystery market if you don't have a corpse or 12 hanging around some city, mansion, distant planet, etc.

Especially when the dead talk back.  They've been sitting in the room of their demise for many years and just would like to be acknowledged. And there are people on THIS side who want to help.  Folks like the Albany Paranormal Research Society who are searching for, and perhaps finding, people who have moved on from this plane of existence to oh, your closet, say.

These good ladies do not have a TV show or a cable station to fall back on.  They are not part of the Scooby gang, and they have not yet found out that the town lawyer is dressing up as a poltergeist to frighten people from a house so he can...whatever...

Nope.  These folks, all volunteer, just ask questions.  People call them, thinking perhaps the Ghostbusters car will pull up in front of their home and Bill Murray and company will jump out, and vacuum up ectoplasm, and your troubles with it.  Sometimes your "haunt" is a TV set, or too many electric things running. Sometimes the ghost will fold  your laundry.  Frankly, I think that ghost should be left alone, and if he has time, I'd like him to mow my lawn.

But one spirit these intrepid ghost hunters have contacted has a name that history knows well. General Ulysses S. Grant.

In a house in Saratoga up my way, the hunters conversed with the good General and President.  Grant and family visited the area many times before settling in Mt. McGregor at (what is now) exit 16 of the Northway.  The General was dying, and he was racing time to complete his memoirs and secure his family's financial future after being swindled by the Bernie Madoff's of his age.  He moved from New York City to the small cottage on Mt. McGregor in the summer of 1885.  But Grant had been in the area before, and he stayed here:

That's the Batcheller Mansion Inn, and there are stories that Mr. Grant remains there, even asking our ghost busters to "Come Find Me".  While I am no expert in these things, I'm hoping the General liked it here at the Batcheller home enough that part of his spirit remains. Up on that mountain, despite the lovely cottage and weather and his family, Grant was in fairly constant pain and communication was tough as he worked with staff to check facts and relive certain battles.

The General finally succumbed to cancer on July 23, 1885.  The funeral was huge, and the general was laid to rest in his massive mausoleum in New York City, which was refurbished a few years back (the mausoleum, not NYC).  Here was the last great hero of the Civil War, the man who stopped Southern Secession, and kept Lincoln's policy of "let 'em up easy", though he was thwarted in Congress by more radical elements.  He was not perfect, but he attained such a stature that Confederate generals acted as pall bearers.

His memoirs are considered some of the best ever done, and his family was saved financially.  The cottage was closed for 5 years after the General's death, but has been open for tours since. In the main rooms it remains 1885.  

The General is sitting in his favorite chair in the above picture.  Here is the chair:

He met and conversed, as well as he could, from Union Privates to Mark Twain.  He would take a final ride out to the Overlook:

I think the white areas may have been more green back then.  And the Northway wasn't quite a going concern, but the place where the President stayed did have its own train.  Where you see the marker and the man having lunch is where a pavilion stood and the General was wheeled in there.  His helpers brought him back, and he went to bed, and died soon after.  

I try and get up there every year, and since the date is so close to the actual date of Grant's death (July 23) the funeral oration is given on the Sunday before.

More and more now I am drawn here, just to sit, and think of him in that chair writing his story for his family and history.  Actually, General, you are easy to find, I feel you when I'm at the cottage, and I feel your urgency to get the story done, tell the tales.

My doctors remained stunned that I work on this level. I insist upon it.  For he is me:

I too have tales to tell, and must hurry to get them done. Come find me.

More vacation stories soon.

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