Tales of ghosts, superstitions, and such

Haunted In Military Time

life of the dead
She approached me shyly at my booth at the paranormal conference last weekend. “Strange things sometimes happen to me,” she said, “but I never feel as if I can tell anyone about them. I don’t think they would understand. I’ve never been to a conference like this one, where people talk about ghosts.”

I sensed that she had something she wanted to tell me, so I prompted her. “Do you want to tell me about one of those strange experiences?”

She jumped at the chance. Pulling her cell phone from her pocket, she said, “I like to walk in cemeteries. I’m not morbid, I just think they are beautiful.”

I was pleased to hear her say that, because I am a bit of a taphophile, myself (I love cemeteries). I believe, as did Marcus Tullius Cicero, that “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

She scrolled through the pictures on her phone until she found the photo she wanted to show me. It was a picture of a very simple headstone, obviously provided by the military.

Though there were weeds around the base that obscured part of the epitaph, parts of it were perfectly clear. The part of the engraving that I could see included these words: “Tony Starks Died March 11, 1919.”

The young woman gulped before continuing with her tale. Obviously, she was a bit disturbed by what she had experienced. “I was walking in a cemetery in Houston near Lockwood and Interstate 10,” she said. “I don’t remember the name of the cemetery, but I bet you can find out which one it was. That day, it was my lunch break and I just wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet of the cemetery.”

“I saw this headstone and took a picture. You can’t read the words because of the weeds, but it said that he was only twenty-six years old. I think it said he was a Captain, or something. Anyway, I felt so sad that he had died so young. Just as I took the picture, a clock somewhere chimed 1 o’clock. My lunch break was over. I don’t know why, but I had a sudden urge to salute this young soldier … and I did. Then, I went back to work.”

“Since that day,” she whispered, “every day at 1o’clock my cell phone time switches to Military Time. The clock on the phone displays 1300. I used to try to change it, but I decided just to leave it that way. Maybe he is trying to tell me something?”

Intrigued, I came home with the information from the tombstone and began to search to find more about the young soldier she had saluted. I’m always curious about the “back story.” Although I have found a little bit about him, it’s difficult to flesh out the young man’s history. You see, he was a young man “of color” — and significant life events weren’t always formally recorded for black people in his day.

He wasn’t a Captain. Private Tony Starks is buried in the “Evergreen Negro Cemetery” near several family members, although the Find A Grave records don’t calculate his relationship to them. I’m trying to rectify that. The cemetery itself is an interesting one. According to Find A, “The Evergreen Negro Cemetery is the third oldest African-American Cemetery in Houston. There are former slaves and World War I veterans buried in this cemetery. In 1960, 490 individuals, more or less, were removed by the City of Houston to expand Lockwood Drive from Sonora to Library Road. Re-interments were in other sections of the cemetery as well as at Eternity Park Cemetery, Oak Park Cemetery and Paradise Cemetery.” Hopefully, Tony Starks is still buried with his tombstone.

Born December 12, 1893, he was the son of Mose and Nancy (née Dudley) Starks (also recorded in historical as Starke, Starkes). From what I can find, he lived most of his life in Houston. His draft registration card in 1917 indicated that Tony Starks was a laborer, and he signed his name with an “X,” so he was illiterate.

His death certificate indicates that Private Tony Starks was in Company A. 434th Labor Battalion stationed at Camp Logan in Houston. The certificate records that he was married, though I have found no evidence of his wife’s name yet. The cause of death was “dilatation of the heart, acute.” The certificate doesn’t offer much more information than that.

Could Captain Tony Starks be trying to tell his visitor something? Perhaps he is thanking her for the respect she paid him. It’s doubtful that a young, illiterate, black laborer got a lot of respect in 1919 … even if he died while in service to his country.

Wake The Dead Show In Galveston. A Dash Beardsley Production.

This paranormal conference sounds like frightfully good fun! It’s billed as “a touch of paracon meets sci-fy, horror, and Hollywood mixed with a touch of rock and roll and family fun!” Wow! That’s a tall order, but I think Dash Beardsley, the creator of the Ghost Tours of Galveston can deliver. This is the first ever Wake The Dead Show on Saturday, September 6th, 2014 from 9am to 6pm at the Galveston Convention Center.

Dash Beardsley

The timing is nearly perfect for the ghostly tales told in Galveston on one of Dash’s tours. On September 6th, 1900 the citizens of Galveston went about their daily lives blissfully unaware that two days later their world would be torn asunder. On September 8th, a monster hurricane completely destroyed Galveston (which was at that time the 4th largest city in Texas). More than 6,000 people were killed … and their ghosts still walk The Strand. Take a Ghosts of Galveston tour, and perhaps you can meet one — 114 years later.

I am going to be there. If you love the paranormal and/or science fiction, you could come down to the island, too! The actor Eric Roberts is scheduled to be a special guest, as is Tom Wright and Jennifer Lynn Warren. There will be prominent paranormal investigators, screenwriters, speakers, and radio personalities. There will be booths for psychics and tarot readers to offer their services. There will be people like me (and my friend, the author Tui Snider) who will be offering our books for sale. Did I tell you I have a book? I do! It’s called Ghosts of Denton: The history of the mysteries in a small Texas town.

I’m in a quandary. I haven’t decided if I’m going to play “dress-up,” yet (Tui probably will!). I’d better decide soon!

I don’t know if it is too late to get the “VIP tickets.” If it isn’t, it should be darned well worth it! It includes

  • Friday night dinner: 4 course Mediterranean dinner at 7pm the night before the show
  • Friday night creep crawl: Pub crawl after dinner with Dash Beardsley along the Strand District with discounted cocktails at all pub stops and live entertainment by Fuzzy Side Up
  • 1 Wake the Dead Show t-shirt

Another benefit to going to this conference is that a percentage of proceeds will be made to the Galveston Food Bank. You can have fun and do a good deed at the same time. So, save the date, ghost zealots, music lovers, and star-struck people! Get down to Galveston and we will join Dash Beardsley to Wake The Dead! At the very least, we will rock the town.

It’s Always 9:11

digital clock

During a recent Ghosts of Denton tour, a young girl wanted to tell me a ghost story. She was bouncing up and down the whole tour waiting to get to tell me her tale. After the tour was over, I invited the other guests to remain, if they would like, so that this child could have an audience. Everyone stayed and they were glad they did! The girl was only about nine years old, and already had the makings of a good storyteller. Her story was short, sweet, and spine-tingling.

For the sake of her anonymity, I’ll call her “Danielle.”

“I’m named for my uncle,” Danielle told us. “But, I never met him. He was murdered when he was a teenager. I wasn’t born yet.”

Danielle explained that on the night her “Uncle Danny” was being attacked, he tried to call 911 for help. The call never went through, and the results were tragic.

“My Mom and Danny were very close,” she said. “After he was killed, my mother missed him so much that she dreamed about him all the time. Usually she dreamed about the night he was killed, and she dreamed she was trying to help him. Every time she had one of those dreams, she woke up all sweaty. Every time, when she looked at the clock beside her bed, it was flashing red numbers. It was always 9:11.”

“When I was born, my Mom named me for my uncle,” Danielle continued. She said her mother didn’t have the dreams quite so often after that. “But,” she said, “I think that Uncle Danny is trying to let me know that he is with me. Every day when I am in school I always just happen to look at the clock in the morning. It’s always 9:11.”