Tales of Coles County – Unsolved Murder of John Mason

A reading from the new edition of my book Tales of Coles County, Illinois, released in October 2020!

In part three: Hidden History, I examine events some believe are better left unremembered. What is the history of Coles County’s ghost towns? What were some of its most infamous murders? What happened in the Tornado of 1917? Never-before published information about Mattoon’s battle with Prohibition and even a local chapter of the KKK is inside.

Pre-order and use the code COLES2020 to receive a 10% discount off the cover price! The window for pre-orders will be open until September 30, 2020, at which time you will receive a notification of when your copy will ship. Shipments are expected in early October when the book is officially released.

Pre-order Tales of Coles County, Illinois today and save!

Tales of Coles County – Lafayette Avenue Ghost

A reading from the new edition of my book Tales of Coles County, Illinois, released in October 2020!

In Part 2: Legends and Lore, I reveal over a dozen hidden stories from the from the area’s past and present, including ghost stories, folk tales, and other legends and lore. When did a poltergeist terrorize one rural family in Pleasant Grove Township? What is the real story behind the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon”? Why do they call one stretch of road “Dead Man’s Curve”? The answers to these questions and more can be found in this definitive volume.

Pre-order and use the code COLES2020 to receive a 10% discount off the cover price! The window for pre-orders will be open until September 30, 2020, at which time you will receive a notification of when your copy will ship. Shipments are expected in early October when the book is officially released.

Pre-order Tales of Coles County, Illinois today and save!

Reflections from Washington, DC on the Occasion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Passing

It’s strange how you can get caught up in historic events on an otherwise normal evening. Last night, my wife an I just happened to go down to Washington, DC for dinner and a tour. We ate at Hawk ‘n’ Dove pub on Pennsylvania Ave SE, then we walked down to Starbucks where we waited for the tour guide to show up. Signs of the times were everywhere: people wearing face masks and sitting outside bars on hastily erected tables on the sidewalks. Black Lives Matter signs and professions of support hung in the Starbucks’ window.

We were still waiting around 8pm; Kayla was on the phone with her cousin when I saw an article from NPR on Facebook reporting Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) had died. I didn’t believe it at first because every year there are fake articles about Ginsburg’s death or impending death. It fit too well–the kind of fake news story designed to sew outrage and divide people in an already contentious election year. But it was true.

U.S. Capitol Building the Night of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death in Washington, DC
Flag flies at half-staff outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, with a view toward the capitol.

When the tour guide showed up, he mentioned the news. He was visibly upset, more so by the political implications of Ginsburg’s death. The tour took us past the Supreme Court building, where a crowd was quickly gathering as news spread. Flags were already half-staff at the Supreme Court and capitol building. The vigil was quiet at first, with people paying their respects by laying flowers and lighting candles.

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Pied Piper’s Old Ice Cream Stand

Pied Piper's Old Ice Cream Stand
Pied Piper’s old fashioned ice cream stand, at 3168 State Route 28 in Old Forge, New York, across the street from Enchanted Forest Water Safari, is known for their flavor “Adirondack Black Bear.” The Adirondack Mountains have been a vacation destination for over a century.

This picturesque region is home to 102 towns and villages and approximately 132,000 people. Seven to ten million tourists flock to this area annually to enjoy hunting, camping, boating, and fishing in the summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter, and to see the beautiful autumn colors in the fall.

Tales of Coles County – The Old Miller’s Tale

A reading from the new edition of my book Tales of Coles County, Illinois, to be released in October 2020! First published in 2004, Tales of Coles County takes an entertaining look at local history through vivid historical fiction. When four students from Eastern Illinois University are stranded during a violent storm, they seek shelter with an elderly couple who give them more than they bargain for. After one night, the four will never look at Coles County the same way. With each story, they learn more about the place they’ve come to call home. The Second Battle of the Ambraw, the Charleston Riot of 1864, the Coles County Poor Farm, events surrounding the Airtight Bridge Murder, and the Blair Hall Fire of 2004, all are told.

Pre-order and use the code COLES2020 to receive a 10% discount off the cover price! The window for pre-orders will be open until September 30, 2020, at which time you will receive a notification of when your copy will ship. Shipments are expected in early October when the book is officially released.

Pre-order Tales of Coles County, Illinois today and save!

Human Fates

The Schoellkopf Memorial Well in Forest Lawn Cemetery, 1411 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York, commemorates Paul A. Schoellkopf, Jr. (1917-2000). It is ringed by delicately-carved bronze, neoclassical figures dancing in a circle. The Schoellkopfs are a legendary Buffalo family dating back several generations to Jacob F. Schoellkopf, whose mastery of hydroelectric power on the Niagara River made him a fortune and led to the creation of the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. Paul Schoellkopf, Jr. served on the boards of several prominent corporations, as well as the Buffalo Sabres ice hockey team.

Paul A. Schoellkopf, Jr. (1917-2000)

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park in Summersville, West Virginia

This Civil War battle was crucial to ending Confederate influence in western Virginia and securing its independence as a new state.

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The Battle of Carnifex Ferry was fought on September 10, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William Rosecrans and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd in Nicholas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory and resulted in approximately 188 total casualties.

After defeating an isolated Union regiment at the Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes on August 26, 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd and his 2,000-man brigade withdrew a few miles south and fortified their camp at Carnifex Ferry. Meanwhile, Union Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, camped at Clarksburg, Virginia (today, West Virginia) sought to end this Confederate threat in the Kanawha Valley.

Nearly two weeks after the defeat at Kessler’s Cross Lanes, Rosecrans marched three brigades, totaling approximately 5,000 men, to Carnifex Ferry. Despite being at a numerical disadvantage, Floyd, a former Governor of Virginia and former U.S. Secretary of War, repulsed numerous attempts to storm the defensive works for over four hours. At around 7pm, Rosecrans called off the assault, but his cannon still menaced the defenders. Floyd decided he couldn’t hold the ferry without reinforcements, so he withdrew the next morning.

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Victorian Ghosts Roam Wilmington's Bellamy Mansion

This majestic mansion and gardens offers some guests a glimpse into the beyond for their price of admission.

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Built for a prominent North Carolina slaveholder and his family, the Bellamy Mansion on Market Street in Wilmington’s Historic District is a majestic relic of a bygone era. Today, you can tour the mansion and nearby servant quarters, and purchase souvenirs in the former carriage house. For a few unsuspecting guests, however, this glimpse at a bygone era is a little too real. It’s said some members of the Bellamy family never left.

Designed by Wilmington architect James F. Post in 1859, this 22-room Greek Revival and Italianate-style mansion took nearly two years to build. It was completed in 1861, just as North and South were embroiled in civil war. Dr. John Dillard Bellamy (1817-1896) commissioned the home for his large family and their closest servants and slaves. Dr. Bellamy was an ardent secessionist who owned over one hundred slaves throughout North Carolina.

In early 1865, the family fled Wilmington during an outbreak of yellow fever, but wouldn’t return until the fall because the Union Army had occupied the city and were using their mansion as a headquarters. Union General Joseph Roswell Hawley wasn’t keen on returning the property to an unabashed rebel. He wrote, “having for four years been making his bed, he now must lie on it for awhile.”

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