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Escape From Uncle Sam's Island

Famous for containing some of the most violent and destructive prisoners in American History, Alcatraz Island juts out of the dark waters of San Francisco Bay. Bleakly surrounded by sharp currents and sharks, prisoners were kept in line with the grim reality that escape was near impossible. No refuge could be found on the grim rock of Alcatraz Island.

Men, like Al Capone, were cycled into the island and forced to live in imprisonment. Their crimes were heinous enough to secure them into this almost impenetrable prison. Most of the men who tried to escape were swiftly returned, or ended up dead. Those who managed to sneak their way past the guards would be swept away by the sea, and they would never be seen again.

It was not surprising that these prisoners toed the line and tested the odds, due to their lengthy histories in running against the law and risking everything.

There was a long history in attempted escapes from Alcatraz. In 1938, three men murdered a guard before they were shot down. Three years later, other prisoners attempted to filed down the bars of their cells to flee, but eventually surrendered their efforts. It was a constant desire to flee that ran through the men. Alcatraz gave men a raw desperation that they needed to escape, no matter the risk. They would attack guards with flimsy tools or they would plunge into the icy waters, willing to face the sharks.

Generations of prisoners would fumble with their attempts to escape, but it took until 1962 for true success.

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Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin managed to pull off the most devious caper on June 11th. As bank robbers, they had been sentenced to serve their time at Alcatraz by the American justice system. However, they managed to use their clever wit to break their way out of the supposedly impenetrable walls, and possibly survive.

There were three key elements to their success. The first, was in order to escape the prison itself, they had to carve a tunnel out of the wall of their cell with sharpened spoons. Due to the darkness of the prison and the music hour that was often hosted, they were able to effectively hide their efforts from the guards. This tunnel led up to a vent, allowing for their escape into the night.

Disguising their vanishing was the second part. Each of the three men stole human hair from the barbershop in the prison, and used papier-mache to create dummies. Paired with the hair, the dummies were positioned on their bunks, allowing to throw suspicion off for a short period and giving them a head start.

The final, and arguably the most important, element of their plan had been using fifty stolen raincoats to devise a functioning life raft. This feat of engineering allowed the men to survive the waters and make it to land.

This was the first known successful escape from the prison. If you hadn’t heard about the escape and the high survival odds of these three men, don’t worry. Alcatraz prison, along with the FBI, worked hard to cover their plight and claimed that the bodies of the men had been swept into the sea.

Alcatraz was a dominating force, a hulking dark creation of cells and hard rock. Men were confronted with the cold reality that there was no relief to their situation. Their wild personalities had to die in order for their survival.  Alcatraz, however, was a force that rose against these men and smothered their behaviours.

The story of Morris and the Anglin brothers might have vanished entirely, if it hadn’t been for a letter written to the San Francisco police department. John Anglin claimed that he was the only member of the trio currently alive, and that he would turn himself in if he would receive medical care for his cancer.

This letter went under rigorous testing for DNA and fingerprints, and results reportedly returned as inconclusive. Perhaps it was a hoax written by local boys, or a tourist inspired by the true history of the island.

Or, it was the attempt to solidify the truth of their escape, and their survival.

I’d like to imagine that this was in fact an honest letter written by the hand of John Anglin. In recent years, plenty have attempted to swim from Alcatraz Island to the shores of San Francisco, eager to fight against the swift currents and small sharks that roam the waters. While these swimmers are not escaped convicts, it does serve to defend the very real possibility that it is in fact, not impossible.  


Interested in one of the most daring swims of your life? Check out this article by Graham Little on it.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Nancy Drew: Patron Saint of Stubborn Women

Nancy Drew: Patron Saint of Stubborn Women

It’s locked.

The Children Behind Anne Shirley

When you think of Canada, it doesn’t take long for your mind to wander to the red-haired girl with the famous puffed sleeves. Her books are still wildly popular in bookstores today, and she is a constant attraction for Japanese tourists.

Anne-with-an-E Shirley managed to steal the hearts of Canadians everywhere upon publication, and she grew in popularity over the decades. It was never much of a mystery as to why Canadians took to her so quickly. She was optimistic. She was thoughtful. She was loving, and in return she was so easy to love. We cherish her as part of a childhood that Canadians seem to universally share. Her book is a beloved staple.

Even during the war years, her upbeat tale managed to inspire. Poland managed to have the story translated during the war, and she snuck her way into school curriculums globally over the decades. Like the classic Cinderella story, she transformed her flaws into her most beloved attributes. Everyone fell madly in love with her charming speeches, as well as her fiery nature.

The tragic orphan had certainly managed to find her happy ending at Green Gables, while also inspiring several sequels, a beloved mini series in 1985, and even a Japanese anime, furthering her reach across the globe. Anne Shirley was such a staple that even the Canadian tourism industry capitalized off of her story, transforming Prince Edward Island into a landscape of Anne Shirley. One cannot visit the island without stopping by and exploring Green Gables, the home where the author Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up.

Canadians love talking about Anne Shirley and the impact the series had on their own lives. Traces of her can be found in the Canadian landscape. Still lakes, bright beneath the sun. Long sweeping fields of golden hay. Cherry blossoms, in particular, hold a treasured connection to the story and character.

What the country shrinks from, however, is the long legacy of home children, the inspiration behind Anne of Green Gables. Originally plucked from a newspaper advertisement, Montgomery had been inspired by the tale of a girl named Ellen, adopted by an elderly couple when they had originally sent for a boy to take up a role on their farm.

Even from this optimistic portrayal of the adoption and happy-ever-after for the girl, there is a bleakness that lingers. Fate had chosen Ellen to find her way to this home, when so many of the home children were abused and lost, left to work like slaves in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. One wonders what happened to the sought for boy and how his story turned out. Another question leads to the girl’s experiences before she arrived to Canada, safely secured in the hold of two siblings willing to let her remain in their family, despite her gender.

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The mission for Home Children brought few happy-ever-afters, and instead scattered children across the globe.

Poverty had been a common element to life in the UK. Workhouses and their legacies terrorized the lower classes, casting a long shadow of abuse. These workhouses had been designed to fix poverty. Those who could not manage on their own would be taken into the hulking buildings and reduced to numbers. Women and men were separated, and children went off to their own section. The working conditions were overwhelmingly desperate, and the prisoners of the workhouses suffered, trying to work long hours on a low-calorie diet.

Home Children was the child migration scheme that took root in 1869, directing 100,000 children towards countries like Canada and Australia. They suffered extreme hardships and had no social security network to protect them, and were overworked by the settlers of early Canada.

The original intention was to liberate children from crushing poverty and to provide brand new opportunities that they ordinarily wouldn’t find in the UK. In exchange for their labor, they would be provided with shelter and food. However, instead of being adopted into families, children often discovered that they were simply workers-in-training, and separated from the rest of the children living in the area. Tasked with work, they often suffered under the demands.

When we look at Anne of Green Gables, we often fail to see the darkness present in the text. Her comments about her past spent looking after young children and acting as the working child often slip by. She frequently experiences despair, having her own father figure die near the end of the first novel, and in later sequels watches her friend die from consumption and suffers herself a miscarriage. Grief and despair linger in the background of her bright enthusiasm, but we ignore it.

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In the most recent adaptation, Anne With An E took to Netflix and brought with it a nearly faithful adaptation. However, by layering in impressive twists to the original plot, they manage to reinvent the story. The formula is all the same— a red-haired orphan girl adopted by the elderly Cuthberts, and growing up over a string of adventures. It seems simple enough, but there is a brilliance that is added to the rehearsed formula.

The writers brought forward the darkness that loomed in the backdrop of the original source material. While Home Children and their legacy remain absent from the television adaption, flashes of previous trauma flicker across the screen, and the story introduces dangerous characters willing to inflict harm. In the second episode, viewers witness a man attempting to abduct children from the train station, and how close Anne is from being whisked away and never seen again. There is something startling in the casual aspect of the scene as audiences finally acknowledge the perils Anne finds herself engaged with.

One of the main elements to the first season was the harsh financial blow that the farm suffers, representing the dark difficulties of rural farming. The family running the farm depended on yearly success, and without it, things swiftly would go dark. This newly updated story provides insight to how crippling this devastation can be.

The only traces of Home Children can be found in the original inspiration for the novel, and that brings forward a shame. Having played a massive role in working in agricultural realms of Canada, they have been written out of history books. We fail to note our shortcomings in protecting and supporting these workers. Despite being children, they were shipped out for labour purposes only, and were lost from records over time. These children experienced limited agency and only found relief from the Home Children program during the Great Depression, when excess labour was no longer needed.

For now, their grim shadows can be found in the history behind Anne of Green Gables.

It is a fact that Canada fails to properly represent the Home Children. In 2009, the Minister of Immigration refused to apologize for the plight they underwent, and the suffering that they experienced at the hands of Canadians. Only a few token efforts were made to account for their presence, such as a plaque that can be found at the Home Children Memorial and Orphanage Building in Ottawa, a lone marker of the long history that sits in the shadows of elegant trees. A year after the Minister’s refusal to acknowledge the suffering of these labourers, the image of Home Children was printed into a postage stamp, rendered down in a plain piece of art.

As we fail to account for the labour that the country benefited from, the memory of these children suffocate under our silence.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore just to write bad poetry.

RECLAIM

Check out  https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/  for more information about this stunning collection!

Check out https://reclaimresist.weebly.com/ for more information about this stunning collection!

RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry addresses the need for women to regain control and autonomy over their own bodies, and acts as a platform to represent their struggles and backgrounds. In this first part to the two-part anthology series, readers will not be disappointed with the diverse body of writers, connecting to different cultures, orientations, and races.

Published in May 2019, this anthology features forty-seven female writers, building a community within fluid poems that spread smoothly out over the pages. Engaging by how the voices promote unity in their struggles and encounters, this impressive collection will linger on in the minds of readers.

Easily shifting the balance, writers snatch at their own bodies and examine the carcasses left behind by society. This impressive literary collection features a variety of excellent work, but in particular “Training Bras” by Wanda Deglane andFat Girls on Trains” by Djamilla Mercurio demand for swift attention. Their concepts and experiences of bodies are immediately relatable, grabbing at attention. Often, women become disconnected from power and control over their bodies, and these two poems bring forward a whirlpool of emotions and experiences.

Women have spent decades struggling to find a platform for their voices. Pulling together groups of like-minded individuals, they have brought forward countless issues of gender experiences, and fought to be heard. Even with historical groups lobbying together for change, certain voices were sidelined and left unheard.

This anthology helps move forward. How we navigate our own lives is often an isolating experience, but this community of women pulls together their own experiences, and knits together an entire voyage of individual voices. Readers will certainly be enriched by this collection of poetry and group of women.


If you are looking for a host of voices that linger over the pages, do not hesitate in picking up RECLAIM: An Anthology of Women Poetry today.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

A One-Star Yelp Review At Best

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 16th, 2018.


Historically, an inn has been seen as symbol of good will and hospitality. Lured in by the promise of a hot fire crackling away and hearty food, people flocked to these establishments for an opportunity to find rest and comfort. The Bender’s family Inn, however, operated an establishment of murderous intent, slitting the throats of visitors and burying the bodies in the nearby apple orchard.

1871 saw an unusual family settle down on the outskirts of Cherryvale, Illinois, right on a road that connected to two major cities in the area. The Benders were a clever family of four, taking advantage of the location and dressing their home up to entice potential visitors into staying for a night or two.

Photo courtesy of Arno Smit via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Arno Smit via Unsplash.com

The Benders helped to spice the local gossip mill, with the two men of the family both named John and the two women of the family both named Kate. Everyone had an opinion of the group, arguing if they were a family unit or two married couples. There was even a compelling argument that the women could have been witches involved in dark rituals steeped in sin and treachery. (Tragic that no one pegged the group for a bunch of murderers.)

The glory of living in the wild west was that this was the land of both opportunity and reinvention. It was also the perfect place to set up an elaborate business in killing unsuspecting visitors.

The one-star inn was small at best, located next to a flourishing apple orchard. Visitors might have been tempted by the rich smell of apple blossoms that hung from the trees in white clusters, making the inn seem harmless. Inside the inn the room had been cleverly arranged, with a front section hosting space for dining also serving as a general store. A canvas curtain divided the space, hiding the sleeping quarters behind it.

A chair was positioned directly against the curtain. It was referred to by the Benders as the best seat in the inn and they would encourage visitors to seat themselves upon it. Perhaps the visitors who took that seat were being kind and pretended that the odd stains upon the curtain were not there. They might have also been distracted by the younger Kate, who would often entertain them as they sat.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Both of the Johns would swap positions, taking turns standing behind the curtain with a hammer waiting for the chance to strike down hard the moment the guest relaxed and let their head brush against the curtain. Once the two Johns had made their move, Kate would attack, slitting their throats with a knife.

Bodies were handled with skill and dragged into a cellar. The family would wait for nightfall to bury their victims in the orchard. The elder John would often plow the soft earth of the orchard to disguise the shape of the freshly dug earth. Most bodies had been brutalized in their murder except the body of a young girl, found beneath her dead father. A fear spread quickly that she had been buried alive.

Perhaps if the internet had existed in the 1870s, reviews could have been given. Potential visitors would have been advised of the startling behaviors of their hosts or the curious sounds of moaning from beneath the floorboards.

While no one ever discovered if the Benders were biologically related, or pagan worshippers, it was quite clear that the entire family were terrible hospitality workers.

If your heart is truly set on staying at a murderous location, however, check out this link for some ‘safer’ suggestions.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Rideau McMadness

Ottawa is filled with plenty of buildings rumoured to be haunted. Visitors travel from far and wide to gaze upwards at the green roofs of Parliament, or to speculate about the supposed hauntings of some of the historic buildings downtown. Even the lengthy Rideau Canal draws tourism. In winter, it is transformed into one of the largest outdoor skating rinks. There are plenty of buildings scattered around Ottawa that attract plenty of attention, but one of the most infamous in the area is the Rideau Street McDonald’s.

Positioned by the Rideau Centre shopping mall and close to Parliament, it draws in high numbers of visitors daily. Because of low prices and having both a front and a back entrance, this particular McDonald’s location draws in steady attention.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Thompson via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Jenny Thompson via Adobe Stock

Everyone has heard of the Rideau Street McDonald’s. With perpetual visits from the police and recurring videos trending of brawls, it is legendary. One can hardly manage to complete four years attending an Ottawa university without watching the poorly filmed video of one particularly large fight, where a raccoon is pulled from a man’s jacket.

The popularity of this McDonalds location is primarily based off of its physical location. By sitting close to Parliament and other government buildings, it is also nestled close enough to the University of Ottawa, which attracts a high number of students. With student budgets, positioning in proximity to Rideau Centre and the Byward Market, this location is clearly very attractive to consumers.

You might notice, visiting the location, that classic music unexpectedly plays over the speakers. Perhaps management is attempting to psychologically tame the savage beasts with their choice of background music? Who knows. Despite this music, however, police officers visit this location daily to handle issues involving drug use and violence.

Violence is a staple of the Rideau McDonald’s experience. Dinner with a show is a key description of this location. Guests frequently verbally assault workers and begin physical brawls that are often caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube within hours. The wise visitors travel in groups, as chaos is a constant attribute to the Rideau McDonald’s location, and can quite swiftly pull any innocent bystander into the mix.

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Because of this aggressive reputation, the Rideau McDonald’s restaurant has changed their open 24 hours reputation and instead, has shifted into being open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Because of the constant need for police backup and numerous aggressive encounters within the store, they have also opted for hiring trained security. Safety has finally become a priority, after a lengthy history of assault and brutality on site.

Despite the alleged hauntings in nearby buildings like the Bytown museum or Chateau Laurier, the Rideau McDonald’s is somehow far more terrifying than a few ghosts. If you feel like you’ve missed out on the prime 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. experience, don’t worry. Plenty of wild incidents also occur throughout the day.


Leave us a comment if you’ve experienced a terrifying encounter at the Rideau McDonalds, or risked your life venturing into the bathroom down the hall.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Salem Witchy Tourism

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 31st, 2018.


In the early 90’s Wicca, a branch of Paganism, became officially recognized as a religion despite developing activity in the 1940’s. This acceptance of a religion that actively promotes the idea of witchcraft and rituals shows that society has developed quite a bit since the time of the Salem Witch trials.

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

The Salem witch trials were a horrifying time that was founded in hysteria and paranoia that spread throughout the community, spurring people to isolate suspicious members and accuse them of treachery and consorting with the devil. These accusations were particularly devastating because torture and a biased justice system followed, and ended with a death sentence. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, with a high number of the accused being women, but only 20 overall were executed.

Present day Salem has changed quite a bit since the days of the witch trials. Nearly 1500 local women have publically announced their status as witches, and have helped establish a strong witch tourism trend in the area. Storefronts publically announce fortune readings and a variety offer spellcasting. This tourism feeds off of the deliberate atmosphere that Salem has promoted, by hosting a variety of events like ghost tours and parades celebrating the dead. These events are popularized with the intent in gaining economic revenue, and sustaining the area.

Witchcraft has gained popularity due to the change in popular culture. People have grown up with television shows like Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as books like the Harry Potter series. Typically, witches are presented as positive members of their respective societies. The shift in trends pushed witchcraft into a popular light and in turn popularized Wicca.

However, with this tourism so fixated on the promotion of witchcraft as well as theatrical performances, the question of historic sensitivity comes to light. The Salem witch trials had represented massive torment within a community, but less attention is being focused on the historical sufferings that people faced and instead being put on celebrating Halloween inspired events to promote revenue streams.

It can be argued that this is an attempt to take and transform the brutality into something positive. The witches of Salem suffered because a powerful group of men occupied positions of power in the justice system. It can be powerful, retaking a brutal narrative and turning it into something positive that celebrates women. Women in Salem today no longer need to hide their identities and are able to commemorate these differences in lifestyle.

The Puritan church leaders must be rolling in their graves as women actively participate in their community based off of witchcraft and rituals. Salem witchcraft attracts a wide variety of tourists who want to participate in the customs and traditions, and also engage with the festive events that Salem hosts.

The power of the original Salem witches clearly lives on in Salem today, as generations later they are still remembered. If you’re interested in checking out some tourism related to these events, check out the official website for Salem.

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

What to Read in March 2019

March is the month of surprise snow storms, excessive Irish drinking, and some time to check out some magnificent books. If you’re pondering what your next great read will be, have no fear. We Voices keep up-to-date with both classics and the newest releases in the book world.


The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was the divine mind behind Beloved, the beautifully creepy story about a family and their life after abolished slavery, chronicling the experiences of a black woman named Sethe. Beloved focused on not just her days as a slave and her time living as a free woman, but also the mental trauma that she endured. Morrison infused Beloved with the heavy theme of infanticide, representing the true historical actions of many slave women.

Morrison was also the writer behind many other great books like The Bluest Eye and Paradise, and in February 2019, she came out with a brand new book, The Source of Self-Regard. As a collection of essays, speeches, and meditations, she evaluates social issues with keen awareness as well as giving insight to her work as a creator and artist.

If you’re interested in some deep reading to get you through the chaotic snow drifts of March, I strongly recommend giving Morrison a look.

Check out  Penguin Random House  for Morrison’s new book.

Check out Penguin Random House for Morrison’s new book.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

A possibly biased opinion, but Shirley Jackson was the foundation of modern Gothic literature. With her creepy inspiration, she published a massive collection of short stories along with five novels in her lifetime. Her most popular novels were The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but The Sundial was one of the most deviously clever novels.

What set this book apart from others was the thoroughly unlikeable cast of characters living in a grand house, driven mad with paranoia and potential prophecies of end times.

Jackson appreciated fine architecture. Her work is full of grand mansions that are overwhelming in physical details and personal histories. The Sundial revolved around the large mansion of the family, and turned into their prison as they began to fear the world ending, due to a supposed ghostly apparition claiming that the family would inherit the Earth in a year’s time.

Fearful of destruction, panic from the real world Cold War infused itself into the plot. The family retreats into this mansion like a bunker, preparing for world’s catastrophic events. They begin to burn their possessions to make room for necessities like first aid kits and rations, and slowly descend into madness.

Winter might seem like the end of the world, but you can at least take comfort in Jackson’s delightful dialogue and dramatic plot lines.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out  Penguin Books UK  for this great read.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out Penguin Books UK for this great read.

Looker: A Novel by Laura Sims

I always appreciate a fantastic debut novel, especially when it is so masterfully creepy.

Telling the story about a woman obsessed with her famous neighbour, Laura Sims describes a delicate boundary between admiration and obsession with a master touch. Living just houses away, there is no privacy to be found in this story. The narrator obsessed over not just the woman but her garbage and looks, adopting similar lipstick and clothing to become the woman.

The theme of stalking in literature has become immensely popular due to the Lifetime-turned-Netflix series You, and we have become much more aware of the privacy concerns. We’ve possibly all tried to cyber stalk an ex-partner online, or have been stalked by others, and we have grown startling used to cat-fishing. Looker is a new spin on the issue because it removes romantic obsession from the story, and infuses the desire for friendship and basic relationships.

Friendship is often an undervalued theme in literature, and Looker revealed the danger that can exist between two different people, without the inclusion of a sexual element.

An excellent contribution to the thriller genre, Sims manages to include jealousy and real world infertility struggles into her work. We should all be keenly anticipating her next novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out  Simon & Schuster  for this brilliant novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out Simon & Schuster for this brilliant novel.

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson

Famous for her poetry, Maggie Nelson draws inspiration from real events that impacted her own family when her Aunt Jane Mixer went missing and was found murdered in the 60s.

Her work The Red Parts had been written after her collection of poetry based on Jane, titled effectively as Jane. The poetry shed insight of true crime and the issues of inherited grief, and contained enough research that it became heavily valuable to detectives who picked up the case. She was communicating frequently with the lead detective, sharing her personal research and providing careful insight to certain elements of the case.

Due to limited resources at the time, Mixer had been a cold case before DNA had grown highly useful. With new technology and options available, her case was reopened and connected to two different DNA sources, allowing justice to be legally given.

The Red Parts is a personal examination on the experiences on living exposed. Mixer had originally been suspected to have been a victim of the Michigan Murders, but elements of her case had separated her from other bodies. Because of the mystery behind her disappearance and reappearance in a graveyard, her family suffered trauma and confusion. Death becomes more terrifying when a sister and daughter are found strangled on top of a grave, with her possessions pooled around her.

Nelson cleverly gave testimony as a stranger to her dead Aunt, but it shows how deeply Mixer’s murder impacted her own life, and her relationships with her family. An excellent nonfiction look into the corners of the true crime world, Nelson weaves poetic language into her prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to  Penguin Books UK  and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to Penguin Books UK and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Recently widowed Elise is sent to her husband’s country estate, and is tossed into a Gothic landscape filled with unsettling wooden figures that slowly multiply over the course of the book. Carrying on in the same vein of other excellent books like The Haunting of Hill House and Rebecca, this book is highly recommended to readers who love the feeling of anxiety twisting in their stomachs.

She’s recently released a new novel in the past year, and I highly recommend browsing through her work. She establishes historical scenery and fixates on proper representation of women as both victims and villains.

Modern (and successful) takes on the Gothic genre are incredibly rare, but Laura Purcell managed to successfully transform the element by including brand new material like wooden mannequin dolls. With a dead cow left on the doorstep of the country estate and unreliable narrators, this is a brilliant read that you will fly through. You’ll be pondering over the true villain for days afterwards.

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up  Penguin Random House .

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up Penguin Random House.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Is anything more haunting than a postwar mansion slowly crumbling away?

Sarah Waters spins a haunting tale about the Hundreds Hall, a once impressive and massive estate that is now falling to pieces. The garden is overwhelmed with weeds and the house is becoming a challenge to maintain with limited income by the Lady of the house and her two grown children. Doctor Faraday becomes quite close to the family of Hundred Hall, and begins to pry apart the ghostly secrets within the walls.

This book is definitely the opposite of a classic ghost story. Waters uses this novel to reveal the historical downfall of the entire class system post war, with the infusion of a possible ghost running around. With delightful atmosphere and lengthy dialogue sections, this book is fairly lengthy, but a perfect read to get you through the month of March.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, you will adore the tense and unreliable narration, and the vivid characters springing to life across the pages. Waters has written many great novels that focus on different areas of history, but this is one of her most vividly researched pieces.

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at  Penguin Random House Canada .

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at Penguin Random House Canada.


Don’t be a victim during the final stretch of winter’s cold, icy grip. Set yourself up with either some fictional tales of ghosts or brilliantly written accounts of true crime, and find yourself a comfortable place to hermit.

Any books catch your attention lately? Let me know @rahel_taller.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Bytown Museum Hauntings and Disturbances

This post was originally published on SPINE Online, October 10th, 2018.


Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash.com

Rattling doors and crying porcelain dolls are the stuff that ghost stories are made of. Ottawa as a city is a fantastic area filled with activity and heritage. However, one of Ottawa’s most unique attributes is its long history of ghosts. With so many heritage buildings located in the city, it isn’t strange to consider their morbid history. The Bytown museum, located next to the similarly haunted Chateau Laurier, is rumored to be haunted by Duncan McNab, a previous supply manager.

Despite being dead for over 150 years, his spirit remains active within the museum. The Bytown museum is known for cold spots and the peculiar sound of footsteps that persistently follow workers and visitors.

Originally designed to act as a storehouse for supplies, it eventually underwent a drastic transformation in the 1950s, turning into a museum that would host the history of the Ottawa area and the Rideau Canal. However, despite any alterations that the building underwent, ghosts seemed to cling to the building. The Bytown Museum has gained notoriety for its haunting, bringing in a host of paranormal experts and even the local haunted walks of Ottawa, all seeking to unveil the secrets of the building.

The Bytown Museum is famous for more than just cold spots and the sound of footsteps, though. Porcelain dolls have often appeared to be crying, items move freely of their own accord, and strange experiences with orbs of light that flash in rooms. Rumors say that the museum isn’t haunted by a single ghost, but at least two, due to an encounter with Lieutenant-Colonel John By having controlled a computer within the building, bring up his name again and again on a document. By was an engineer who supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal and the founding of Ottawa (originally known as Bytown).

However, an argument can be made that the ghosts are neither McNab or By, but rather the hundreds of Irish workers who died during construction of the canal. With little ceremony and burial rituals, bodies had often been disposed of freely. Not until 2004 was a plaque commemorated to mark their passing. Irish workers had taken jobs digging the canal due to the limitations they faced during their time, and they suffered from illness, exhaustion, and hunger while working on the canal. Death rates were high and it wouldn’t be unlikely for a spirit or two to be restless still. The Bytown museum is perched beside the canal and could play host to the Irish. As Tony O’Loughlin said, canal workers were “despised in life and forgotten in death”.

Who knows what or who is behind the disturbances in the Bytown Museum. It could be a disgruntled previous worker as a manager, or it could be dozens of restless souls, rattling at the doors and stomping across the rooms.

Check out the museum here: https://bytownmuseum.com/

Photo courtesy of Steinar Engeland via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Steinar Engeland via Unsplash.com


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

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