Writer Devon Glenn loosens the bodice of history with a modern ghost story set in Victorian Cape May, New Jersey.
I'm writing a ghost story called Black Wave. In the heyday of Cape May, NJ, New England's first seaside resort, Virginia Crossing is the most popular Spiritualist medium in town. With her rare psychic ability, Virginia believes she can never be surprised by life until the day Rahas arrives from India in 1893 on a goodwill tour and introduces Yoga to wealthy tourists on a spiritual retreat at nearby hotel. While the other ladies are trying to look attractive in their corsets while bending into limited poses on the lawn, Virginia and Rahas share a vision in which they meet and fall in love. But Victorian society isn't ready for a love like theirs. Rahas is forced back to India and when Virginia dies in a Nor' Easter in 1962, she barely notices. She continues to work as a medium, only from the other side.
Generations later, Virginia's old manor is now the Black Wave - a B&B that's run by Burt, a retiree, and his lovely second wife, Joan, who works for the local arts commission. Burt and Joan have a toddler , Emily, whose ability to see spirits goes unnoticed in an inn, where strangers pass in and out on a regular basis. But Emily's secret starts to unravel when the family hires a massage therapist who can see what Emily sees. While her family tries to protect Emily from what's haunting her, the massage therapist, now a family friend, opens her eyes to a world unseen and encourages her to embrace it. Only then does Emily wonder why Virginia is still in the house.
I started my research with an interview Craig McManus, psychic medium and author of the Ghosts of Cape May, a series of non-fiction books about the spirits lurking in Cape May's historical buildings. I also did a brief interview with Stefanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: Yoga In America, a scholarly look at how yoga came to the States in the 19th century and evolved into a cultural phenomenon. To finish the book, I need to look further into Cape May and the history of Spiritualism and Hinduism in the 19th century, as well as hire an editor, a copyeditor and an illustrator for the cover art. I'm hoping to have the book written in time for Halloween, October 31st, 2011. If this project goes through, I'll be renaming Virginia after my grandmother, Dar (short for Darthilda). She always hated her name, and joked that she'd give $1,000 to anyone who named their child after her. But I can't think of anyone who would make a better medium for my story - my grandma made friends wherever she went.
VIDEO CREDITS: Stills taken from "Shock Troops of Disaster: The Story of the New England Hurricane," by the U.S. Work Projects Administration. Excerpt of "Black Swan" from "The Medium," a spooky chamber opera written in 1947 by Gian Carlo Menotti, with a capella arrangement and vocals by Devon Glenn.
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