Seventh Edition - White Ladies
My Dear Victorian Ghost Children:
How y’all holding up? The pandemic is grinding on but here in San Francisco city leaders are back to squabbling about stupid shit like how long we can keep a ferris wheel, so seems like nature is healing itself. Also I think we can get our hair done again?
It’s Black History Month and I’m unprepared, surprise! I’m slowly learning the importance of a content calendar and, um, STICKING TO IT but I do have some interesting stuff to share about African American graveyards. I’m currently taking part in a book club about this from The Collective for Radical Death Studies and holy shit it is EYE OPENING. Like many things, the way a culture treats the dead can tell you what it thinks about the living. We talked about this in the post about City Cemetery - the public burial ground in San Francisco where the working class, poor, and ethnic minorities were laid to rest, and then FORGOTTEN AND BUILT OVER. It’s a lesson in whose history matters, and whose is worth protecting and preserving.
I’m also researching Mary Ellen Pleasant, one of the founders of San Francisco. An African American woman, she arrived here in 1850 and passed as white. She built an empire in real estate and services, and revealed herself to be black after the Civil War. She was an abolitionist, a civil rights pioneer, a magnate, and self-made mystery. Her ghost is said to haunt the site of her former mansion, and all kinds of crazy tales have been circulated about her: she was a voodoo queen, a witch, a murderer, a madam. I’ll be pulling on these threads to get to the bottom of her ghost story over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that.
Of course, let us not forget that Valentine's Day was last week. That holiday lends itself surprisingly well to this content because so many ghosts are jilted lovers. Like, every fucking white lady ghost in the world is someone who was betrayed by a man, or whose lover died, or who threw herself to her death rather than marry someone she didn’t love. It’s GHOST CANON, and I have just the post for you guys!! It’s only the second one I wrote for HLAS, but it’s very entertaining. Welcome to the world of the WHITE LADIES!
It turns out phantom white ladies are a whole thing
Have you heard of The White Lady of Stow Lake or La Llorona? Even if you hadn’t heard those particular stories, you’ve definitely heard of some other floating white female ghost in a tattered gown. It’s pretty standard fare for ghost stories everywhere, across a lot of cultures.
If you have HBO, you gotta queue this one up. It’s a series, so it will take up a lot of time that you can’t use to do fun stuff like travel or go to bars. It’s based on a Stephen King novel, which I didn’t read and everyone says is terrible, but the show is AMAZING. It’s creepy and weird and suspenseful. It’s also full of dread, which is like, my favorite feature in ANYTHING. The acting is great and you become attached to the characters quickly. Anyway - check this out on your long February nights.
HBO's The Outsider Isn’t Perfect—But It Will Definitely Freak You Out »
Check out this presentation from the California Historical Society to learn more about how Black Americans helped to create this San Francisco.
Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th Century African American History »
The African Burial Ground in New York City was discovered in the 1990s, during construction on a federal building. Around 400 people were buried on this plot of land in the 1600 and 1700s. Excavation of the site uncovered valuable information about the everyday lives of enslaved men and women at this time - and yes, they were enslaved, IN NEW YORK. The site is now a dedicated memorial, and I encourage you to check it out online! It’s fascinating what they learned and the research that went into constructing the memorial.
NPR Audio: The Story of a Memorial: The African Burial Ground in New York »
Have you been to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas?? It’s INCREDIBLE. I’ve been at least three times and I’d be happy to go a fourth. There’s so much information there, and the exhibits are VERY well done. One of them is a presentation of the bricks from the wall upon which the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened, ALLEGEDLY. I’ve heard stories that both the bricks are haunted AND the original site in Chicago is haunted. IDK if they are really cursed or haunted, but his exhibit is definitely tacky as fuck (I’m not mad about it!) - this is a MOB museum, after all.
The Haunting of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre »