Tag Archives: vintage

Crescent Hotel 1886 Skeleton Room Key

Crescent Hotel 1886 Skeleton Room Key, The Big Seance

 

Recently I was in my classroom before school, when Carol, a colleague of mine, walked in and surprised me with a special gift. She handed me a vintage skeleton key, which is supposedly an original room key from the famous Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The hotel’s history goes all the way back to 1886 and has a dramatic and haunted history. One of the most talked about episodes of the Ghost Hunters is an episode from several years back, where they investigated the Crescent. (I know I’ll never forget seeing the very clear heat signature of a human form turn to look at the camera!)

I cannot verify the authenticity of the key, but I’m told that Elise Roenigk, current owner of the hotel, gave the key to my colleague’s sister. I’m now the proud owner of the mysterious key. 

 

Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, The Big Seance

 

I vacationed in Eureka Springs with my family years ago, and we drove by, admiring the absolutely beautiful Crescent Hotel perched high on a hill. I was not the paranerd then that I am now, but if I knew about its haunted history, I’d like to think I would have at least visited the lobby! But since I’ve never been a guest there, I’m not sure if there’s a story to these keys.

In a post from 2012, a blog online displays a picture of two keys that look nearly identical to mine, including the decorative plate engraved with “1886 Crescent Hotel”. In the blog post, they seem to mention that they bought the keys as souvenirs, but they also state that “they still use skeleton keys at the Crescent Hotel…” In the Crescent Hotel’s own blog, a post from September 2013 says the following about an upcoming Halloween event for that year: “This year will be especially interesting as this is the year the Crescent has worked very hard to restore the old morgue in the basement and in doing so has found some artifacts that might be useful during a séance. The items include several room keys that date back to the first time the building was used as a Hotel, as well as a front desk bell.”

So is my key one of several discovered recently in the morgue? Do they still use skeleton keys and I have a room key that could potentially still open a door? Does their gift shop sell cheap old skeleton keys from a local junk store after adding the engraved plate? I’m not sure.

If anyone has special Crescent Hotel knowledge, or if you can speak to the authenticity of this key, I’d love to hear from you! Either way, I think it’s kind of cool how it just fell into my lap. Thanks, Carol! 

 


Consider a Halloween Altar When Decorating For October!

Halloween altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

What kind of mood would you like to create?

For last year’s Halloween Altar and more information about them, visit A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations. I really tried to keep what I liked from last year and make some improvements. I’ve always wanted to time travel to the late 1800s and early 1900s to hang out with the Victorians, so in my eyes, my altar is meant to kick the atmosphere of Halloween spookiness up a notch… with a historical flair! The altar is really two surfaces in my dining room, the buffet (seen below) and the dining room table. The most noticeable additions are the two candelabras that I purchased at World Market. I LOVE THEM! If looking up close, you’ll realize their quality might not make them great for all year round, but perfect for this occasion! A special thanks goes out to Karen A. Dahlman for spotting them for me. She knew what I was looking for. With the added candles (which you KNOW I love), I decided to ditch the lamps and candle sticks that I used last year.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Something else that makes a big difference in the feel of the altar, is the addition of the Ashland brand artificial flowers from Michaels, which were 50% off.  You’ll notice there is also a vase of flowers on the dining room table. I really feel that it helps to balance out the presence of the skulls and my sitting skeleton. Some may say those things are borderline tacky… but maybe I’m borderline tacky. I love it! Halloween is such a mix of culture, traditions, and history. And now it’s mostly secular and just FUN! There are certainly “tackier” Halloween Altars out there. 

An especially nerdy addition to the altar, are pages from things like the Dennison Bogie Books and other magazines from the early 1900s. These are spread throughout the house, actually. I printed them in color on cream-colored card stock (and then trimmed them), so the yellowed antique look from the photos make them look vintage. Many of the pages I printed come from the 1920 issue and can be viewed in its entirety on PublicDomainReview.org. So it turns out my Halloween Altar can also be a history lesson.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

The woman framed above, as well as the gentleman framed on the opposite side of the buffet, were also 50% off at Michaels, and if you look closely while walking by, their images change from a stately appearance to a skeleton. The decorative leaves, which I used last year as well, are also from Michaels.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Like last year, I had a lot of fun searching for vintage photos and Halloween artwork. Most of the framed photos are from last year. I just printed them on paper and framed them in cheap frames that I picked up at both Walmart and Target, I believe. Several of the framed photos are placed in other areas in the house as well. The additional photos and artwork that I added this year include old photos of trick-or-treaters, costume parties, and just some flat-out bizarre and creepy moments captured in photographs. These were printed on the same cream-colored card stock that I mentioned earlier. For most of them, I trimmed around the photo, leaving a white (cream, actually) frame on the outside. Some of them I glued to black card stock backing to stand out.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Skeleton, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Will you give a Halloween Altar a try this year? 

What will yours look like? What mood will it set? Please contact me if you try one… or even if you find other interesting altars or decorations out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Verna Marie Owen (1895-1986), a Lexington Missouri Teacher

This post includes **Updated Information** below. 

Over my Thanksgiving break, I visited my Grandmother at her home for a while. Very often I get sucked into her many books on the history of Lexington, Missouri (my hometown), or even just the high school yearbooks of both her and my late Grandfather. Naturally, that is precisely what happened during this visit.

I was super excited to find a photo of Ms. Verna Marie Owen in both the 1954 and 1956 Lexington High School yearbooks (the same photo in both, and included below on the right.) You may remember me mentioning and including a photo of her several months back, in a post titled “Collecting Someone Else’s Memories”, where I shared many of the photos and pages from the five 1920s era Lexington High School yearbooks that I have collected. It is just one of my nerdy hobbies, even though I can’t seem to find any other yearbooks from that era. I believe that Verna Owen began teaching in Lexington for the 1927-1928 school year (see updated information below) (see the below left photo). I have the yearbook from that year as well as for the 1928-1929 school year. Both of these yearbooks were originally owned by Verna herself. Obviously, me now owning two of her yearbooks, along with my Lexington roots, and the fact that I am a teacher, has made me feel connected to her in some way. 

 

Verna Marie Owen
(1895 – 1986)

 

**Updated Information as of 12/2/13**

To prepare for this post, I did some genealogy research using FindAGrave and Ancestry. It made me a little sad to find very little information on this woman. Fortunately, Cathy Wallace, who is a great friend and Lexington resident who shares many of the same nerdy interests, went out of her way to fill in several blanks for us, including finding the obituary below. I told her I was going to have to give her the title of “senior reporter for BigSéance.com”. Thank you for the time and effort you put into helping us learn about and remember Miss Owen. Even though we’re unable to find an exact year of when she retired, she clearly had a long career in Lexington and touched many lives. I now have evidence of this, as people have left comments here and on the two Lexington community Facebook pages.  

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Her obituary from the July 30, 1986 issue of The Lexington News:

Verna Marie Owen, 90, of Lexington, died Friday, July 25 in the Urbana, MO Nursing Home. 

She was born September 18, 1895 in Lexington to John Martin Owen and Carolyn Sellman Owen. 

She was a member of the United Methodist Church, the Lafayette-Lexington DAR and past matron of the Eastern Star. She attended school at Missouri University, Central Missouri State College and the University of Boldar [sic], CO. She taught school in Lexington for 47 years. She was a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association and the National Retired Teachers Association. She was a lifelong resident of Lexington. 

Survivors include four nieces and eight nephews.

Services were held Tuesday, July 29 at the Walker-Nadler-Graff Chapel with Rev. Dan Sullivan officiating; burial was in Machpelah Cemetery. 

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Some other information we’ve been able to gather:

Both her and her parents (John Martin Owen and Caroline “Carrie” Whelan Owen) were born and raised in Lexington, and are all buried in Machpela cemetery, a Lexington cemetery that I’ve blogged about.

It blows my mind to learn that as early as the fall of 1915, at the age of 19 or 20, Miss Owen was teaching 34 pupils at the Elm Park country school outside of Lexington. Again, it’s unclear when exactly she retired from the Lexington School District, but in recent days, former students have recalled having her as a teacher as late as 1965. That is simply amazing. I can’t imagine being there to witness all of the growth and change that public education went through during those five decades!

During her long career in Lexington, she taught at least English and Social Studies to probably several junior/senior high grade levels, and for many years sponsored a “pen pals” program. According to the 1940 US census, at age 44 she was making a yearly teacher salary of $855.   

In recent days, former students have described her as being quiet, gentle, soft-spoken, sweet, and “one of my favorite teachers”. Alan talked of being paid to “porch” her newspaper for a few years in the 1970s each time it was delivered.  Lucia sent me the cutest story (I’m adding it to the comments below) of how she would leave Miss Owen flowers on her doorstep on May Day. 

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At the time of her death I was eight years old. I wonder if I ever knew her or if our paths ever crossed. Looking into her eyes, I just know she made a huge difference and was loved and respected by many. If anyone has more information, or if you’d like to add your memories of Miss Owen, or if you’re a family member, I’d love for you to contact me, or simply leave a comment.

 

You might also like: 

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

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Vintage: A Ghost Story (for the gay teen in your life)

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Do you know a young gay man or a teen in the LGBT community? Are they into ghost stories or spirit communication? Perhaps they’re just a general paranerd like most of us. If this young person fits into any of these categories, you really need to direct them to this book! 

 

From the author’s website

A lonely boy walking along a highway one autumn evening meets the boy of his dreams, a boy who happens to have died decades ago and haunts the road. Awkward crushes, both bitter and sweet, lead him to face youthful dreams and childish fears. With its cast of offbeat friends, antiques, and Ouija boards, Vintage is not your typical romance but does offer readers a memorable blend of dark humor, chills and love. 

A finalist for the Andre Norton Award and Gaylactic Spectrum Award!

 

I think his was the original cover of Vintage, which matches the one that is on my shelf.

I think this was the original cover of Vintage, which matches the one that is on my shelf.

I read this book when it was originally published in 2007. As a 29-year-old, I was just getting into reading and went through a year of doing it obsessively. I’m still obsessed with it, but back then I was reading a book a week and clearly trying to make up for lost time. Vintage: A Ghost Story, which fits into the category of young adult fiction, is the kind of book that I really wish existed when I was growing up in those awkward teen years. Growing up gay or coming out of the closet is sometimes very lonely, and it’s hard enough without having to pretend that movies, TV, and books apply to your life. When was the last time you saw a major motion picture focused on a gay love story? Exactly. Sometimes I wonder if I would have started reading years ago if this book and others like it were around just 10 or 15 years earlier. 

This book also found me in the very early stages of my developing paranormal interests and my “spiritual shift”. I remember I read it in the fall and enjoyed all its spooky elements, like the Ouija board, cemeteries, etc. Something else that stands out is that I had just started collecting old high school yearbooks from my home town of Lexington, Missouri at this time. Most of them are from the 1920s. Reading about a ghost boyfriend who died in an earlier time made going through that first yearbook very interesting.  

 

Thank you, Steve Berman!

 

Related Links: 

Book Notes on Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman (Literary Magpie)

Interview with Steve Berman (Reviews by Jessewave)

LGBTQ characters in YA fiction & LGBTQ YA Authors (Gay YA) 

 

 


Spirit Trumpets…

The vintage find that started my quest today!

The vintage find that started my quest today!

I had a very pleasant and interesting day today. The neighbors invited Joe and I out for an afternoon of antiquing. It’s an activity we’ve only recently learned to love. We accepted the invitation, grabbed some lunch, and set off for our first store. In a booth in the very back, something caught my eye instantly. It looked to be some kind of séance or spirit trumpet. A “spirit trumpet” was often used in the early days of séance and was meant for spirits to use for amplifying their voice. A spirit trumpet? In the middle of Missouri? We’re pretty far from Lily Dale (a place I would LOVE to visit one day)! What are the chances? I took a picture of it at the antique mall, and once we returned home I was on a quest to find more information on spirit trumpets and hopefully verify if it was one or not.

Spirit trumpets have changed over the years, and you can actually still buy a manufactured trumpet. Most of them are built in sections and collapse. The item I found did not collapse. It was soldered. See the photos for examples of spirit trumpets. 

Back to my quest. Someone suggested to me that it might be an “ear trumpet“, which I believe was used as an early form of hearing aid. This seemed to be a reasonable guess… but the one I found was so tall, and I couldn’t imagine jamming the end of this thing into my ear! Most of the photos of ear trumpets curved at the ear piece. 

Modern spirit trumpets, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

Modern spirit trumpets, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

Then I remembered that I follow Ron Nagy on Twitter. Ron is an author and expert on all things Lily Dale and spiritualism. I contacted him and he told me it looked to be one of the oldest river driver sound horns he’d ever seen. He also said that these horns were used as the first spirit trumpets before they began making them for the purposes of  séance. Cool! I googled several things but ended up finding an almost identical horn, apparently a “boat fog horn” online (see last photo below). A few of the fog horns even had the same little metal hoop where a chain would have been attached. 

Antique spirit trumpet, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

Antique spirit trumpet, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

I wish I knew if this fog horn had been used for spiritualist purposes. I suspect it probably never was, but I’m still considering going back on Monday to get it before it’s gone! 🙂 The quest to figure it all out was actually very fun and interesting! 

This is a "boat fog horn" that I found on e-bay. Pretty close, wouldn't you say? My antique find does not have the reed or mouth piece on top.

This is a “boat fog horn” that I found on ebay. Pretty close, wouldn’t you say? My antique find does not have the reed or mouth piece on top.

Related Posts:

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

Highlights from our 9/15/12 Séance (Big Séance)

 


More from the Old Yearbooks…

 

If you liked my last post, Collecting Someone Else’s Memories, then here are some more interesting photos from my collection of old yearbooks from Lexington, Missouri. 

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

Home Economics classes. From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

The “L Club”. From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

French Club. From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1925-1926 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1926-1927 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1926-1927 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1928-1929 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

 


Collecting Someone Else’s Memories…

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook

 

One of my many incredibly nerdy hobbies is collecting old school yearbooks from my hometown of Lexington, Missouri. It’s a sleepy small town now, but at one time around the turn of the 20th century, Lexington was booming and was the home of several colleges as well as several public school buildings. The oldest yearbook I own is from the  Lexington College for Young Women from 1910. Most of my other yearbooks are Lexington High School yearbooks from the 1920s that used to be named “The Final Hatch.” 

I love looking through them and dreaming about what my hometown was like then. And I try to imagine what life was like for the students. Did they go through some of the same drama and problems that my students experience? Was there bullying? What were the expectations? As a teacher, it is also very cool to see course descriptions and curriculum printed for several of the departments. That fascinates me. History! It’s also neat to see the advertisement pages in the back. Some of the businesses had 2-digit phone numbers, if they had a phone at all.

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook

 

And, of course, I wonder what it was like to be a teacher in those days. Several of my yearbooks were originally owned by Verna Owen (pictured below). The only thing I know about Verna is that she taught in Lexington for many years. The inside cover of one of them is even signed. And, from the writing on this page, we see that someone knew her as Aunt Verna. This tells me that I’m probably at least the third owner of this particular yearbook. Sometimes when going through them I thank Ms. Owen out loud for taking good care of her yearbooks so that I could enjoy them now. 

 

My 1928 yearbook belonged to and was signed by Verna M. Owen… She was a member of the faculty.

 

Many of the photos below are from one of the old high school buildings that no longer stands. I never got to see it in my lifetime. I sure wish I could go back in time and take a tour!

 

Part of the Freshman Class from 1921-1922.

 

From 1921-1922.

 

Teacher Training (for students) at Lexington High School 1922.

 

From 1926-1927.

 

Part of the Senior Class of 1925-1926.

 

From the 1922 yearbook. This building is no longer standing and was located where the Lexington Post Office is today.

 

The next building to serve as Lexington High School would later be where I attended middle school from the fourth through the eighth grade. It was a pretty large building that opened its doors to students in 1927. I have a lot of memories from this old building. I still dream about it often. Unfortunately, it no longer stands. A sad and strangely small-looking empty lot sits in its place.

 

Artist Conception of the “new” Jr./Sr. High School that opens the next year. This is from the 1926-1927 yearbook.

 

One of the very first pictures of the main corridor of the “new” building. From the 1927-1928 yearbook.

 

From the 1928-1929 yearbook. This was the second year in the “new” building. This would have been what I knew as the choir room when I was in middle school.

 

From 1924-1925.

 

From 1924-1925.

 

I was very sad when the building was torn down. I was away at college at the time, but my best friend took the picture below and sent it to me. Thanks to a group of high school students, I was able to purchase a brick from this building. It sits here on my desk. 

 

 

 


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