Sunday, October 23, 2016

MURDER IN BOSTON! A Gift for Storytellers!

I have been a little under the weather the last couple weeks 
with a bad cold, allergies, and a sinus infection. This is an updated 
version of a blog post from November 2013. I hope you enjoy it.

See the house at left? It is #8 Walnut Street on Beacon Hill in Boston. It was built in 1811 and has now been converted to condominiums but there was a time when it was a private home—a private home that belonged to a very distinguished man. This is a story most fiction writers could not conceive!

I have been doing research on a few curious stories with the intention of coming up with a new story for my Beacon Hill Chronicles series. I'll talk more about that in another blog but this is such a fascinating find that I'm quite mesmerized. In my Beacon Hill books there is an ex-cop named Joe Quinn who writes a blog called Beantown's Dark Side about strange tales from his experience as a Boston cop. Ever since I found out about this story Joe has been bugging me—as only a character can bug you—to let him write about this. First of all this house is just around the corner from GrammyLou's gorgeous but haunted townhouse on Mount Vernon Street. But if you think the stories associated with GrammyLou's are creepy, #8 Walnut Street may have her's beat.
Newspaper illustration of the Parkman murder
In the early nineteenth century #8 Walnut was the home of Dr. George Parkman (we can only guess if he was an ancestor of Dr. Kendrick Parkman who was murdered in the 2ndBeacon Hill Chronicle.) Dr. Parkman was from a very distinguished family and was a respected psychiatrist. He was particularly interested in the humane treatment of people who were then diagnosed as lunatics and he traveled to Europe to meet with physicians there who were developing new ways of working with these unfortunate people.
Reward poster
Upon returning to Boston, Dr. Parkman was involved in the founding of a new hospital called he McLean Lunatic Asylum. It became one of the most distinguished psychiatric hospitals in this country and is now called McLean Psychiatric. Destiny Starlight, the bumbling ghost-hunter from The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed wound up there. However, though Dr.Parkman helped raise the funds to build the hospital, he was passed over by the committee when they appointed the first head psychiatrist. Bitter and angry at being snubbed, Dr. Parkman abandoned psychiatry and became a landlord known all over Boston for his curious combination of generosity and parsimony. Residents of Beacon Hill were quite accustomed to seeing his lean, gaunt figure making daily rounds to collect debts and rents.
Parkman's remains recovered, one thigh was stuffed inside the chest cavity
On November 23, 1849 Dr. Parkman set off as usual on his route. He stopped by the grocers to place an order for Thanksgiving and asked the grocer to hold a head of lettuce for him which he would collect on his return home to take for his wife's lunch. His wife, whom he had lunched with every day for 33 years, loved lettuce. But Dr. Parkman never returned.
Harvard Medical College
When the family contacted the police they immediately began their search. Police officer Derastus Clapp was told tat the last known sighting of Parkman was when he entered Harvard Medical School, ostensibly to visit a fellow physician and professor of chemistry, Dr. John Webster, who owed him money. Webster denied ever seeing him.

The family, in extreme distress, offered a $3000 reward for information leading to discovery of his whereabouts. This was quite alluring to many people, including a man named Ephraim Littlefield, who worked as a janitor at Harvard and earned extra money by procuring cadavers for those interested in having a cadaver procured. Over the Thanksgiving break, while the buildings at Harvard were virtually empty, Littlefield set to work and, after considerable effort, discovered the remains of a man's pelvis and thigh in the bottom of a privy near Dr. Webster's laboratory.
This is the first case in American history in which dental records were part of the evidence.
The remainder of the story is lurid in the extreme. Eventually more body parts were discovered including the torso with one thigh stuffed inside of it, part of the jaw, and assorted other parts. Neither hand, nor the rest of the skull, was ever found. Gruesome details are included in the trial's transcript including the fact that the poor, recently widowed Mrs. Parkman was able to identify the body by the—ahem—manly remains of her husband's pelvis.
Harvard Musical Society as it appears today.
Webster spent the evening of the murder here with friends.
Dr. Webster was arrested and tried. It was the most sensational trial of its era and the first one in which the testimony of dentists was accepted for identification. The expert witness or the prosecution was Oliver Wendell Holmes and Fanny Appleton Longfellow (wife of Henry Wadsworth) documented much of it in letters. Even Charles Dickens, when visiting from England, visited the scene of the crime. Eventually, Dr. Webster was arrested and hanged.

Naturally, it is always a challenge to know how to write about a story as sensational as this one was, but Joe Quinn keeps telling me he thinks we should give it a go. Discussions are ongoing.

The Crazy Old Lady's Secret, which tells this story, 
is now available in digital or paperback from Amazon.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Roland Yeoman's Don't Buy My Book Blog Tour #AuthorLove

“Conversation is the duel of insecurity, curiosity, and the yearning to belong.”
– Samuel McCord

“Man is a riddle; his words masked evasions.”
– Meilori Shinseen, Empress of a shadow alien race and new bride of McCord

Isn’t Kathleen gracious to let me sneak into her blog to talk of my new book?

Thank her for this kindness by commenting down below, will you?
But what is this about not buying my book?

How many things have you bought over the phone from tele-solicitors? Yeah, me, too.
Rest easy. No arm-twisting from me. But aren’t those the words of every used car salesman?

Words. They are spoken to disguise in these times, not to reveal. Nature teaches us we survive by camouflage not by standing out.

Novels these days contain anywhere from 50% to 70% dialogue. Why is that do you believe? Let’s think on it, shall we?

There is internal dialogue and external dialogue. A good novel juxtapositions the two to provide tension and mood.

Dialogue increases pace and gives the narrative a sense of immediacy.
It provides texture and depth and provides a deeper insight into the characters.
The reader is able to interpret the kind of people they are through their dialogue and therefore determine what sort of personalities they possess.
Readers want to know about the traits and behavior of your characters. They want to know what makes them tick.
Good dialogue does just that.

Don’t be put off by my Steampunk genre. The characters, their hurts, their hopes, their struggles are what captivates us no matter what genre we read.
Sure, my book is a bit like PENNY DREADFUL meets JULES VERNE and H. G. WELLS.
A frightened young princess Victoria is kidnapped by cruel, bigoted Sidhe. A disgraced Texas Ranger braves eternal damnation by trying to rescue her, driven by the guilt of seeing his sister killed in front of his very eyes and being helpless to stop it.
Political Intrigue, famous figures from history tainted by a rare blood disorder.
Thirty year old Samuel Clemens learning what it means to be more than just a skilled writer but be one who sees through the eyes of the hurting.
A good man drawn to marry an immortal bad woman, not by her otherworldly beauty, but by the haunted loneliness he sees in her slanted eyes.
The immortal empress, unable to unleash the monster within in front of her loving husband, slowly becoming better because of it.
By them, we get to know a few of my cast of characters as they stroll to the Louvre in 1867:

Benjamin Franklin walked beside me, his calculating eyes peering at me through glasses he no longer needed. They were not bifocals, simply plain glass. He wore a furred hat, much as he had when he first visited France to bolster the image of the backwoodsman sage.

Image had been important to him all his life and undeath. What was important to the revenant now? Did he even know?
He said, “I tried to drain your wife of blood, turning her into a revenant like myself. I betrayed your trust, freeing your wife’s enemy, Empress Theodora. Yet, you have not struck me down but shown me mercy. Why?”
There were times you told your enemy the truth, and times you told him a truth. I decided to go for the latter option. “You were the only founding father who had a hand in all four of the documents that birthed America from the Bill of Rights to the treaty signed here in Paris that ended the war with England. You managed to forge a two-pronged Congress that was democratic yet balanced out the needs of the larger states.”
Franklin frowned, “You dissemble, sir.”
“And you are an object lesson to young Nicola Tesla here that even great inventors can lose their way … and their souls. Besides, it is for Meilori to avenge herself upon you not me.”
The breeze blew from behind Nicola, and his nostrils flared at the scent of the boy’s blood pulsing in his veins, and I said low. “But feed upon an innocent again ….”
“You told me I would become a grunting animal, bereft of intellect.”
“And so you would.”
“You promised to kill me should that happen.”
“But I didn’t say when. I might keep you in a cage with a trough full of blood for a month … or a year to make an example of you to my other enemies.”
He paled which was hard for a revenant to do. “But your promise ….”
“Would be kept … eventually.”
“You are a hard man, sir.”
“You have no idea.”
He eyed me stonily. “Abigail Adams hates you but does not fear you. She errs.”
“In what way?”
“She does not realize it is herself she hates for what she has become, and she should fear you very much. I do.”
He turned and strode to the Louvre alone. I sighed. He probably did most things alone. All who remembered him as a human were long dead. When living, he worked hard to always have like thinkers around him from his Junto to his apprentices. Now, he was alone and most like would always be … until the final death took him.
Nicola tugged on my sleeve. “But Captain, I thought he was a great man.”
“He was and could be again.”
I started as I felt the feather-touch of Meilori’s finger-tips stroke my cheek. “How you have lived so long in a vicious world and yet remained a romantic is a mystery to me, Beloved.”
Lucanus, the Greek physician who only a few knew was “Saint” Luke, muttered, “You are a fool.”
I looked after the shrinking form of Franklin. “There’s a lot of that going around.”

At the end of this novel is a complete short story given to you free as Lagniappe. Following that is a Readers’ Discussion Section for Book Clubs.
And it is only 99 cents! Ignore the name of my book tour and take a chance on my book, will you?
Step aboard the Xanadu, the first Air/Steamship, as it sails over 1867 Paris. You won’t be disappointed.

Roland Yeomans was born in Detroit, Michigan. But his last memories of that city are hub-caps and kneecaps since, at the age of seven, he followed the free food when his parents moved to Lafayette, Louisiana. The hitch-hiking after their speeding car from state to state was a real adventure. Once in Louisiana, Roland learned strange new ways of pronouncing David and Richard when they were last names. And it was not a pleasant sight when he pronounced Comeaux for the first time.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Master’s degree in Psychology. He has been a teacher, counselor, book store owner, and even a pirate since he once worked at a tax preparation firm.

So far he has written thirty-four books. You can find Roland at his web page: or at his private table in Meilori’s. The web page is safer to visit. But if you insist on visiting Meilori’s, bring a friend who runs slower than you.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Revisiting The Danvers State Insane Asylum

One of the things I love most about writing is weaving bits of history, folklore, legends, and mysteries into my work. I think it brings a feel of authenticity to my writing and it always provides me with a lot of entertainment. For pure color there is no setting more rich and mysterious than The Danvers State Insane Asylum in Hathorne, Massachusetts, a section of Danvers.
The Danvers State Hospital Main Building
  Built in 1874 as The Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, the building was vast and modeled on the design of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, the supervisor of the Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Kirkbride was a progressive and compassionate man who believed that light, beautiful surroundings, and proximity to nature were critical to healing. Seen from the air, the building looked rather like a bird with outstretched wings. The idea was to offset sections of the building to allow for more windows, more light, and privacy.
Original Drawing
At the time of its construction the understanding of treatment for the mentally ill was fairly primitive. Doctors talked about balancing the senses but some of the treatments were mystifying by today's standards. Danvers proved to be an above average treatment center. In 1889 a training program for nurses was added and in 1895 a pathological research laboratory opened.
Abandoned Private Room
The hospital evolved over the years and finally closed in 1994. It quickly became a mecca for urban explorers and photographers. In 2007 it burned to the ground in a fire so enormous that it could be seen 17 miles away in Boston.
One of the many Common Rooms.
Glass blocks provided light without a view.
In 1988, newly arrived in Massachusetts, I took a temporary job in the hospital, at that time called Danvers State. I worked in one of the outbuildings in a ward for adolescent men teaching history and literature. It was always an experience to drive up that long, winding drive through the trees, into the shadow of the great main building, most of which was closed by then. Since my shift began in the early afternoon and ran into evening, it was usually dark when I left. I will never forget the sense of mystery and a little bit of terror that accompanied those rides. On the rare occasions when I had to go to the main building for a meeting or to pick up paperwork, my knees never seemed to work exactly right.
Locked rooms for solitary confinement
In my novel, Depraved Heart, one of the scenes is set in a dayroom in the main building. As a girl Rachel visited her mother—the beautiful but mad Rosalind. I found writing those scenes to be very evocative and, because I had not only a sense of the setting, but of the people who once inhabited it, words seemed to spill onto the page without my agency—but the scene turned out great.
Windows overlooking windows
In my soon-to-be-released, Ghost of a Dancer By Moonlight, Cleo meets her love interest, a photographer when he hires her to write the narrative to a book of photographs of the abandoned hospital.
Entrance to the main lobby
Much of the mystery of old hospitals like this is letting our imaginations run amok wondering about the people who were once confined there. The scariest place in all the world is the inside of the human head and people who are tormented by demons cannot help but terrify us. There but for the grace of God and all that.
Abandoned ward room
When I look at pictures like these, part of me just sees the sadness of a beautiful building left to ruin. But another part sees terror and torment, hears screams buried in the walls. I am glad I got to see the Danvers State Hospital before it burned and I hope I never have to go into a place like that again.
One of several cemeteries
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

T'on Ma by Magnolia Belle #AuthorLove

Magnolia Belle is a very interesting writer with unique stories, 
settings and characters. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

T'on Ma 
by Magnolia Belle

T'on Ma is set in Texas during the 1850s, when Lana Cooper meets Two Hawks, a young Kiowa warrior, who gives her the name T'on Ma, Kiowa for Water Woman.

Lt. Liam O'Connell is a West Point graduate assigned to Ft. Worth. On a scouting mission, he meets the Cooper family. One look at Lana and he knows that he must pursue her.

Through adventure, captivity, betrayal, marriage, and death, these three lives intertwine as Lana tries to find her way between two men who she loves. Her choices cost them all.

This ebook is free, and is the first in a three part series: "T'on Ma," "Kuy Syan Joshua," and "Little Wolf Ranch".
Two Hawks watched the crawling Apache and, as soon as the man was in range, took careful aim with his bow, letting an arrow fly.  It found its target, sending the man leaping into the air, only to fall back down, dead.  At the sight of their fallen comrade, the rest of the band rose to their feet or rode on horses over the nearby hill.  Screams and taunts filled the air as bullets whined past the four desperate people or thudded dully into the dead animal. 
“What are you singing?” Lana asked Two Hawks as she lay on her stomach next to him.
“My death song.”
She whipped her head around, looking frightened.  “Your death song?  It’s really that bad, then.”
He only nodded as he took aim at a warrior. 
“I got one!” Lana crowed.  No one said anything.  They were all too busy. 
They fought for only fifteen minutes before her brother, Nathan, looked over at Lana.  “We’re almost out of powder.  Enough for two, maybe three rounds.”
Lana closed her eyes.  Now what?  She told Two Hawks the news.  He only had a few arrows left as well.
Lana reached for his hand.  “Don’t let them take me.  Please.” 
He nodded, his jaws clenching.
She turned to her brother.  “I won’t be taken alive.  Ceŋtas Yi will see to it.”
“Lana?” Nathan stared horrified at her.  “No!”
“Oh, yes, Nathan.  They might kill you and Ceŋtas Yi, but they will have a fate much worse for Christina and me.  Rape will probably be the least of it.”
Lana took careful aim with her last bullet, blinking back tears, and then fired.  Her target went down.  Two Hawks shot the last of his arrows and, not waiting to see how they landed, pulled her to him, holding her close as he lay partially on top of her.  It was time.
“Kiss?” he asked as he looked into her beautiful, trusting eyes.  She nodded and offered her lips. 
“I love you, Ceŋtas Yi.”  She touched his dark hair, his handsome face in a gesture of farewell.  “Thank you for this.”
“T’on Ma, wait for me.  I’ll be right behind you.  Then we can go to our new life together.”
“I’ll wait.”  She paused to take one last look at his eyes.  “Be quick,” she whispered. 
As he kissed her with longing and love and sorrow, he pulled his long knife out of its sheath.  He could feel her lips trembling against his as she rolled slightly away from him, offering him her breast.  Apache war cries filled their ears.  This would be last thing they heard.  He raised his arm straight up, the knife’s blade glinting relentlessly in the sun.

Short Bio:
I started writing in 2005 and have published nine novels to date. My favorite genre is historical fiction. Characters become very real to me, and I often find myself not writing, but rather taking dictation as they tell me their stories. That's also why I tend to write in series of novels. Those characters are a gabby bunch!  website:
Buy Links



Saturday, October 08, 2016

How I Found Halcyon Beach

I am the first to admit that I am an eavesdropper and am in no way apologetic about it. Some of my best stories have come from eavesdropping including the one I am about to tell you. This week I put the final touches on the third story in my Halcyon Beach Chronicles series. This one will be Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight. I sent it off to early readers, one of whom has already read it, and gave it a big thumbs up. I love my Halcyon Beach stories because they are a little sexier than most of my stuff. Ghosts are sexy anyway—all that unrequited longing.

These stories are different than my other series stories because there is no central character or characters that occurs in each story. There are secondary characters—Darby McMahon, the artist/bartender/busybody, and the four Geezers. I love the Geezers, four older men, three of whom are retired, and one—Turtle—who still operates a tattoo parlor.  

No, the main character in these stories is Halcyon Beach. The town itself is the star. Halcyon Beach is a rundown, amusement park beach town on the Massachusetts coast that was once quite elegant with a grand ballroom and fabulous hotels. But now it is pretty shabby. In the off-season, post Labor Day, they roll up the carpets and few businesses stay open. Artists come to take advantage of cheap winter rentals. The only businesses open are the Snuggle Inn and Pub, owned by Old Fitz Connolly, an aging wise guy from Dorchester who originally used it for money laundering, and Dave's Drive-Thru, a combination gas station, convenience, and liquor store.

In all the stories a young woman arrives in town—Layla in the first one, Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter, Fleur in the second, Ghost of a Lighthouse in Autumn, and now Cleo—and begins listening to all the tales of ghosts that the Geezers spin in their daily Happy Hour at the Pub. Eventually, the ghosts enter their lives, always with disturbing results.

I am not a big fan of fantastical creatures. I have little interest in vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. (with the exception of those created by JK Rowling—I love her characters.) But I do like ghosts. Ghosts are just like people except everything about them is more poignant and intense. My favorite part of these stories, though, is Halcyon Beach, my imaginary beach town.
Do I see Geezers on the porch?

This all started about 15 years ago when I was driving back from Maine one winter day. On this particular cold, cloudy afternoon I took the coastal route 1A. There are several beach towns lining this route—Salisbury Beach and Hampton Beach in particular. They were shut up tight and I was hoping for something, anything, to be open because I was famished.

I finally discovered a little luncheonette/deli and went in for something to eat. I had intended to get something to go but there were only a few people in the place and there were windows along the back with a great view of the ocean. So I stayed. As I waited for my food, I could not help but notice four older men sitting at a table together, drinking coffee. Maybe because I had a father who had a bunch of old geezer buddies he hung out with, I have a particular affection for crotchety old men. My dad would have fit right in with these guys.
This was my model for Fleur's cottage

This is the path leading through the dunes to Abe's house
Their conversation was loud—most old men are pretty loud, I have discovered—and uncensored. I kept my eyes on the ocean but I had an absolutely wonderful time listening to them. All four of them were locals who at one time had local businesses—restaurants or entertainment. They talked very openly about people they remembered and associated gossip and scandals, about how they once planned to sell out and move to Florida, but never got around to it. It was very enlightening and the seed began to grow.

When I started my first Halcyon Beach story I took a ride back up the coast stopping in various beach towns to take the pictures I'm including here. I keep them on my desktop as I write and I think about those four guys—my own Geezers.

Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight should be out for Halloween. I hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time by Samreen Ahsan #AuthorLove

Welcome Samreen Ahsan, author of the very popular A Prayer Series
about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts. 
This is the first book in her new series.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time 
by Samreen Ahsan

All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

She is standing in my courtyard. Everything in nature surrounds her—hugs her and is dazzled by her…including me.

Beautiful flowers of every hue and aroma are grown in this majestic garden. My eyes are burning; I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and awed by the colorful oasis. Never have I been so close to nature, to growing things. Her alchemy drives me mad.

She’s gifted me with all the colors, but I painted her with darkness.

As much as I crave feeling the sunlight and the flowers against my skin, I want her touch too. I am cursed and doomed to never experience the beauty of the natural world, for all eternity.

She watches me with extreme hatred in her eyes—her gaze throwing fireballs at me. She doesn’t know I’m already burning, but since she despises me so much, I can’t even dare to come close to her. I want to end this tortuous distance between us—but I was the one who created this hatred in her.

She was a beautiful tender rose—I stole her fragrance, crushed her petals and burned her in hell. If I knew the fire with which I was conflagrating her would come to engulf me—I swear I wouldn’t have done it. Her spell is too strong for me not to fall; her curse is too mighty for me to run away.

Her deadly yet magical existence haunts me, excites me and has thrown me into a pit of deep lust. She is my prisoner, but she doesn’t realize that I’m the one who’s already submitted to her slavery, when I first touched her.

Despite being her captor, I am still her captive.

She walks toward me, enthralling me with her grace and beauty, altering and accelerating my heartbeat. She has the power to throw me into hell as well as show me heaven. I’ve never been able to understand her witchcraft. I was warned to stay away from her sorcery—she was born and cursed with it—yet my heart kept running after her.

Now…there’s nothing left for me to survive on. She has my heart and my soul. Why is she here? What does she want from me now? Perhaps she wants to cut my heart from my body…just to see if it’s beating for her or not.

The distance between us closes and I lean my back against the giant tree trunk—the same tree where I tried to write her fate. She is holding my sword—my only weapon of protection—but it doesn’t matter now. She wants my life for her eternal peace—I will give it to her.

Her steel-grey eyes are much stronger than any armor or shield I’m wearing. She doesn’t need my sword to kill me…all she needs to do is place her hand on my heart. I will be undone…forever.

Praises for the Book:
"At the outset, I'd like to say I just love the premise of this book and think it would make an awesome movie; producers and film makers please check out this interesting novel." - Kristin Ravelle (Author of The Everlasting Spell)

"This book was hard to turn away from once you start reading it, it's that good. It should be made into a movie or tv series 5-Stars!" - Country Girl Bookaholic Book Blog

"It's impossible you will not love Once Upon A [Stolen] Time. 5-stars!" - Tine's Review Book Blog

"Author's style is magical in itself as she sets the past and present onto a direct collision course. 5-stars!" - Tome Tender Book Blog

"This book is amazing!!! This is the first Fantasy novel I've read in a while and I loved it." - ‎NerdGirlLola's Review

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today's modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US:
Amazon Canada:
Amazon UK:
Amazon Australia:
Amazon India:

Twitter: @SamAuthorCanada

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Beautiful Thacher Island: Anne's Eyes

When I first moved to Massachusetts, one of the first things I did was buy several books about the area lighthouses. Of all the lighthouses that dot the New England coast the ones I found most fascinating were the Twin Lights of Thacher Island, known locally as Anne's Eyes. Though the 54 acre island on which the Twin Lights are situated belong to the town of Rockport, they are visible from Gloucester's Back Shore and Good Harbor Beach. They are also the background for this blog and they have quite a history.
North Tower in the foreground, South Tower and Cottages in the background
In 1605 Samuel de Champlain wrote about the island and 10 years later John Smith dubbed the three islands along Cape Ann the Turk's Heads. Thacher Island was named for Anthony Thacher, who, in 1635, was traveling from Ipswich to Marblehead when a terrible storm rose. The ship rounded Cape Ann and its sails were shredded so the captain put in to Sandy Bay, but the anchor did not hold and the ship was swept out to sea. Anthony and his wife were washed ashore on Thacher Island. All five of their children were lost along with his cousin, his cousin's wife, and all eight of their children. The body of one of the children was washed ashore and is buried there to this day. Thacher and his wife survived and the colonial government, out of pity, gave him the island which he named Thacher's Woe.
Keeper and Assistant Keeper Cottages as they appear today.
The family never occupied the island and sold it some 80 years later to a man from Gloucester who used it to pasture cattle. In the early 1700s shipping magnate John Hancock petitioned the Colony to build a series of lighthouses along the Massachusetts coast and 2 lighthouses were built on Thacher Island. The first set of towers were only 40 feet in height and the first lighthouse keeper was assigned to the station by Alexander Hamilton. In 1861 two new towers were built. These were 125 feet high, made of granite with a brick interior and beautiful wrought iron spiral staircases. Fresnel lenses were added and the lights could now be seen from 22 miles away. Also, houses were built for the keepers and assistant keepers. There was a whistle house and wooden ramps with rails going to both towers to facilitate moving supplies between the towers and up from the dock.
The same cottages in the early 1900s.
There are a lot of legends that surround these towers. Probably the most famous is that of Maria Bray, the wife of lighthouse keeper Alexander Bray. A few days before Christmas in 1864, Alexander decided to take his assistant keeper to the mainland for medical treatment. A freak snowstorm blew in and he could not return. Maria, alone except for a 12 year old nephew staying with them, knew if she did not keep both lights lit her husband would never find his way back to the island. For three days and nights she and her nephew traveled back and forth between the two lighthouses—a quarter mile trip—hauling oil, climbing the 157 steps, polishing glass, and trimming wicks. Each light had to be tended every 4 hours. Her husband made his way home after three days thanks to her incredible work.
An early Keeper with his wife and children.
As many as five families of keepers lived on the island at one time.
The lighthouses now belong to the Coast Guard. The South Tower is fully automated and run with solar power. The North Tower has a light burning 24 hours a day but does not act as a navigation guide. When I first visited the island in the early 1990s a family of goats had moved into the North Tower and the entire island was a refuge for Black-Back Gulls and terns. They were so aggressive, protecting their nests, that we had to carry poles to ward them off.
Early Keepers raised their own livestock and kept their own gardens.
I climbed the North Tower and it is an experience I will never forget. The view was spectacular. A couple years later I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in the Assistant Keeper's Cottage with a group of other artists who had rented it for a retreat. We spent the entire weekend wandering the island, painting and drawing, and just reveling in the absolute beauty of the place.
At one time there was a Keeper's cottage for the North Tower but that is now gone.
In 1967 the island was host to a notorious guest. Mafioso Joseph “The Animal” Barboza was held there as part of the Federal Witness Protection Program.
I took this photograph out of a window in the North Tower, looking at the South Tower.
Notice the abundance of guano on the windowsill.
Perhaps the most amazing story about Anne's Eyes was told to me by Gloucester fisherman and my dear friend, Mark S. Williams. One of the lesser known things about the twin lighthouses is that they have been carefully constructed on an axis that can be used for navigation. If a ship approaches from the north and brings itself around to align the two lights to appear as one, that trajectory will bring the boat straight to Gloucester's Outer Harbor.
Today visitors arrive by kayak, motor boats, sailboats, and more.
Mark told me that he was returning from Nova Scotia bringing back his newly purchased boat, F/V Black Sheep, when he lost navigation. It was night and, while he knew he did not have far to go, he was sailing blind. He was mightily relieved when he spotted the twin lights of Thacher Island ahead and, remembering the old axis on which they were built, he maneuvered his boat into position and sailed right up to where he could see Eastern Point Light, round Dog Bar Breakwater, and bring his new boat home.
South Tower lens room. The original Fresnel lens is now in the Cape Ann Museum
Today Thacher Island is managed by the Thacher Island Association out of Rockport. They sponsor events throughout the summer. Check their calendar for visitor's information, transportation, and other news. There are also two web cams--one from the South Tower and one from the Keeper's house. Thacher Island will always be one of the most special places in the world to me and I highly recommend a visit there.
Sunrise reflected on rock
Thanks for reading.