Magnolia Florida, long gone and almost forgotten

“Magnolia, Florida was a thriving river port town in southern Wakulla County, Florida (until 1843, Leon County, Florida), established in the 1820s and is classified as an “extinct city” by the State Library and Archives of Florida. All that remains of the city is the rundown cemetery – the last known burial was in 1859.[1] The cemetery is on land now owned by the St. Joe Paper Company. The town was located near the small city of St. Marks, Florida.” – Wikipedia

People Playing Croquet in Magnolia – Florida Memory Project photo

When I was little, the old-timers in Tallahassee, Florida spoke of the extinct town of Magnolia, south of town on the St. Marks River, that developers once hoped would be a port city for cotton and other products.

There was nothing left of the town but a small cemetery that local ghost enthusiasts claimed was haunted. If you live in Tallahassee now and have been around for a while, you might recall that between 1963 and 1977, Elizabeth F. Smith captured the spirit of the area in her publication “The Magnolia Monthly” out of Crawfordville, Florida.

Magnolia–not to be confused with Magnolia Springs in Florida’s Clay county–was well-planned, but failed because the Railroad needed for its survival bypassed it and went to St. Marks instead. The town was founded by the Ladd family which you can learn more about here.

The remains of that railroad came up for sale when I was younger, and I thought then that it would make a nice tourist attraction. Never happened, for better or worse, though it might have improved the financial status of Wakulla County.

But my fascination for the town, the river, and the slash pine forests owned by the paper company stayed with me. I mention the town in my short story “Sweetbay Magnolia” in my new short story collection Widely Scattered Ghosts. In fact, the grandmother in the story had a house in Magnolia and the sweetbay magnolia in her back yard reminds her of old days and old loves.

As always, it’s the real places that get my attention.

–Malcolm

All that remains of the town. Florida Memory Project photo.

 

 

 

I’ve seen ghosts from both sides now

When I was a kid, I read every psychic book I could get my hands on. Some were secular, some were based on religions where mystics were still honored, and others were spiritual in a much different sense than what I saw at church. Somewhere I read that if a person read what I was reading, they’d open themselves up to ghosts and other spirits, precognitive dreams, and waking visions. Well, all that was true enough.

Early on, I noticed a big difference between real shamans, witches, psychics, and mystics and the way all of these folks were portrayed by the organized church all the way back to the inquisition and such purges as the Cathar Crusade (1209-1229). The church saw these folks as heretics and, strangely, as devil worshippers, even though Satan was, more or less, a Jewish/Christian concept and had nothing to do with the spiritual people in the church’s gunsights. Yet, it served the church’s needs to paint everyone who was different as evil incarnate, a point of view that got picked up by Hollywood’s occult movie producers and writers. I’m always on the warpath when it comes to books and movies that turn ghosts, mystics, shamans, and witches into whatever untrue nastiness the writer or producer can imagine and then proceed to kill them in order to save humanity.

In “real life,” it’s still somewhat dangerous to speak out against these lies. Yes, every once in a while, somebody will say so and so is a witch and then look at me awaiting a wink and a nod of agreement. My response is, “So what?” This throws people for a loop, but they usually will tell me that so and so and so worships the devil. “She doesn’t believe in the devil,” I say. “Well, maybe not,” they respond. Okay, that conversation never goes anywhere good and it tends to get me shunned by a lot of people who think maybe I need to be watched carefully.

Fortunately, most people who read ghost stories–or even that phony occult crap–don’t think the authors are practitioners. And, we’re not. I’m not a conjurer, witch, or shaman. I don’t have an altar in my house covered with herbs, candles, pictures, and other arcane supplies. That’s all in my imagination. What I believe an author should do is tell the stories truly. That is, we can tell stories that fit what actual conjurers, witches, and shamans say and do rather than giving them the powers of, say, Voldemort out of the Harry Potter series along a boatload of evil motives.

Magical realism has given me a genre that works because it shows readers the everyday reality they’re used to seeing and then adds conjurers, witches, and shamans in their “natural habitats” rather than in some highly charged occult setting. My “Florida Folk Magic” series of novels is an example of this. On Monday, my publisher Thomas-Jacob will release Widely Scattered Ghosts,” my new collection of ghost stories. Most of these have something in common with my personal experiences, though my imagination may have strayed a bit.

When compared to the ghosts of horror/occult authors, these stories are very gentle even though you will find sadness and confusion in them along with a bit of humor. They’re not for kids. No, it’s not because of devil worship and gore, but from the psychological themes. Above all, I wanted the stories to be as true as fiction allows, and those of you who’ve tolerated this blog for years will know that I believe fiction is allowed to portray realities that facts cannot touch.

–Malcolm

Coming February 18th:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Willing Spirits’ – Look, it’s free for three days

What a better way to kick off 2016: a free ghost story. My Kindle short story “Willing Spirits” is free on Amazon January 2-4, 2016.

willingspiritskindlecoverPicture this: you’re a high school student living in a drafty old house in St. Louis during a winter snow story. The power goes out. You light a candle in hopes that its feeble, flickering light will be enough. You have a book report to finish and it’s due tomorrow.

The author of the book is dead. She used to be famous, a spirit from another time and place who came to St. Louis years ago to be contacted by Ouija board and trance to give readings and write a few critically acclaimed books that swept the country by storm.

Now there’s a ghostly presence in your cold bedroom. It doesn’t take you long to figure out why she is or that her help may be a mixed blessing.

I hope you enjoy the book.

–Malcolm

ouijabboardP.S. The St. Louis ghost in this short story is real. To learn more about Patience Worth, click here. If you know where to look, you can drive by the house where she appeared to medium Pearl Curran. Now, perhaps, she has returned–if you believe ghost stories.

 

Stories where we live

from the archives. . .

“One of the best things about folklore and fairy tales is that the best fantasy is what you find right around the corner, in this world. That’s where the old stuff came from.” — Terri Windling

Ivan Bilibin's illustration of the Russian fairy tale about Vasilisa the Beautiful
Ivan Bilibin’s illustration of the Russian fairy tale about Vasilisa the Beautiful

For American audiences, the most famous fairy tales, including those brought to the screen by Disney and others, all came from somewhere else. Such is the power of books and film.

Of course, once upon a time, the more famous stories we know were once local yarns from real places. In fact, many places got their names from something that once happened there with people who were well known at the time. To those who knew the origin of the name, a river or forest or mountain pass was more than water, trees and rocks. It was all that, plus what happened–and, what might happen again.

Almost all places have stories associated with them. You can find some of the more notorious and/or most interesting by running Google searches with such phrases as “Florida ghost stories,” “Glacier Park legends,” and “Illinois haunted places.” The people who live in a town or county often grow up hearing multiple versions of these stories along with others that never get into books, newspapers or websites.

We tell stories to each other almost every day. Sometimes, this is pure gossip. At other times, it’s neighborhood news with a bit of opinion thrown into it.

Storytelling is a very natural pastime even without a front porch or a campfire. We share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other. When that which we’re sharing is larger than life, or stranger than normal, it begins turning into a legend associated with the place where we live.

When we camped pine forests, we told and re-told the tall tales about what happened there "years ago."
When we camped pine forests, we told and re-told the tall tales about what happened there “years ago.”

As a writer of contemporary fantasy, I always love weaving local ghost stories and legends into my work. For one thing, those stories are just as much a part of a place as are the rivers, mountains and towns. Also, they have a lot of flavor in them whether it’s pure local color or an amusing or frightening tale that could have happened anywhere.

Our stories are stronger, I think, when we consider the legends and tall tales connected to a place as part of our research. Almost every town has a haunted house, cemetery, or lover’s lane. If you live there, you know about it already. If you don’t, it’s not too hard to track down through ghost hunter and haunted websites.

Plus, for those of us who love blurring the line between fiction and reality, ghost stories about the places where we’ve set our short stories and novels add a nice touch of mystery.

Malcolm

99seeker

The e-book edition of “The Seeker” is also on sale at Smashwords and OminiLit

It’s really spooky: ‘Moonlight and Ghosts’

I’m happy to announce my really spooky short story “Moonlight and Ghosts” was published today by Vanilla Heart Publishing in an e-book format.

Publisher’s Description: On a moonlit night, Randy’s intuition is drawing him back to an abandoned psychiatric hospital where he once worked. He and his friend, Alice, have heard the ghost hunters’ claims the building is haunted, filled with strange lights, apparitions and the voices of former patients calling for help. The Forgotten point Randy and Alice to a crime in progress… and there’s not much time to save the victim.

That abandoned building…

There used to be an abandoned psychiatric hospital and developmental center near the house where I grew up. Before it was converted from a secondary hospital for use by the state department of mental health, I visited patients there–and it all seemed normal enough. It closed for a variety of reasons, including lack of funding and ended up sitting as an abandoned and often vandalized building for over two decades.

During this time, it became a magnet for ghost hunters. The more I looked at the pictures on line, the more my imagination started tinkering with an idea for a story. Like the main character in the story, I once worked as a unit manager at a center for the developmentally disabled. Fortunately, I never worked in this building. But what if I had and what if I went back on a moonlit night and found several ghosts waiting for me with an emergency message?  Hmmm…

I hope you like it!

Price: 99 cents on Kindle, and in multiple formats, on Smashwords.

Watch the Book Video on YouTube

Read the beginning on Amazon (use “look inside”) or on Smashwords (use “view sample) for free.

Malcolm