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Tag Archives: Grace Brown

Documentaries and Murder, What’s Not to Like?

It’s either Wrist to Forehead Sunday or Sunday Cinema, and I choose the latter.

We started out with A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake, a documentary about the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gilette in 1906.  Steven got it for me at the Herkimer County Historical Society a couple of years ago.  I love local history.

The fellow that wrote this was one of the commentators.

I could not find a photo from the actual DVD, so I include one of some of the source material. I have this plus a couple other books about the case.  I am hoping to acquire Chester Gilette’s diary sometime.  I checked it out of Basloe Library in Hekimer once and read it, but I think it would be a good addition to my collection.

After Elegy, I was in the mood for another documentary, so I suggested the only other one we have on DVD, Curse of the Blair Witch (1999), which is one of the extra features on the Blair Witch Project DVD.  We did not go on to watch The Blair Witch Project, as we usually do, because Steven was not in the Halloween mood (as I almost always am).

I’m going to start saving sticks that fall off the trees in my yard and tie them together in figures for Halloween decorations.

Yes, every time I watch The Blair Witch Project, I say, “Why don’t they just follow the stream?”  I still find it entertaining, and I admire the alternate narrative technique.

We continued the documentary theme of the day with a couple episodes of Snapped, which Steven fixed us some yummy BLTs on Heidelberg Bread, made right here in Herkimer, NY.  I do loves me some Snapped on a Sunday.

 

 

It wouldn’t be Sunday without at least one episode.

Steven was more in the mood for a movie, so I suggested Laura (1944), one of my perennial favorites.  It is a break from documentaries, but I felt in the mood to see it again.  Vincent Price as a suave leading man type, Judith Anderson as one of my favorite characters, a stylish noir.  I’m enjoying it.

One of my favorite couples.

And now I have missed a portion of the movie while making this blog post.  No matter.  It is one we pop in often, and blog posts must be made.  Happy Sunday, everyone.

 

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Putter, Post, Repeat

I pause in my Sunday gyrations to make a blog post, or at least to begin a blog post.  I may do other things between paragraphs and make no apology for doing so.  We’ll see.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this space before, but I often have what I call a putter and post kind of a day.  I putter around the house, I post a status on Facebook, I putter some more, go back to Facebook, etc. It is a pleasant way to spend a day off, and sometimes I even get a few things done.

Today I have gotten a few things done.  I grocery shopped.  I stopped at Honey Brook Hobbies and Sweet Temptations in hopes of writing an article about them for Mohawk Valley Living magazine.  I did the dishes. I made a pepperoni and cream cheese roll-up, just because.  I chopped up radishes and carrots for this week’s lunches.  I am in the midst of making a batch of Chex Party Mix (in the oven with real butter, as God intended).  And I paused to check up on my Facebook friends.  I like Facebook.

And that was when I stopped composing this post and did a few other things, as threatened in the first paragraph.  I did not accomplish anything more of note, but I am anxious to get on to the sweats on, bra off, movie watching portion of the day.  That is, get back to it, since in fact my sweats are on, my bra is off and A Place in the Sun is playing on the DVD player.

Last night we watched A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake, a DVD Steven got for me from the Herkimer County Historical Society.  It is about the real life case that inspired the novel that A Place in the Sun is based on,  An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.  The case was, as local readers no doubt know, the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gilette.  Gilette stayed in the 1834 Jail here in Herkimer, while he was tried and convicted in the Herkimer County Court House; both of those buildings are located on the Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners, which I have mentioned numerous times in this blog.

I would like to write a longer blog post about A North Woods Elegy.  Perhaps in a subsequent blog post, because if I don’t get this posted soon, today might turn into Wrist to Forehead Sunday.  And we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?

 

Only Through the Door of the Jail

It is well known (by people who know me) that I am a big fan of Herkimer’s 1834 Jail.  When Steven noticed tours would be available this past Monday, I was delighted.  I was even more delighted when we realized that Steven would also be available to participate.  The tours were in conjunction with a talk by Craig Brandon taking place across the street in the Herkimer County Courthouse.

Brandon wrote Murder in the Adirondacks, about the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette in Moose Lake.  Gillette was housed in the jail and tried in the courthouse.  Brandon recently revised the book, adding new photos and information. I’m hoping Steven buys me a copy for my birthday.

Some people, when they have seen an historic site or other attraction, are done. I, on the other hand, am not that way, especially when it is something you can’t go to just any old time.  The 1834 Jail is in that category.  The Jail is an easy walk from our house, on Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners where Main Street meets Church Street.  We thought we had left in plenty of time, but people were already gathering in front of the jail when we arrived.  The door was open, so we went in.  We could hear voices upstairs.

Other people soon followed us in.  One lady noticed a place to sign in, but there was no pen.

“You can borrow my pen,” I said.  It was actually one of Steven’s pens.  He buys these cheap ballpoint pens to take to work, in case he hands one to a customer and doesn’t get it back.  That was a good thing, since I didn’t get it back.  Almost everybody wanted to sign in.

“Oh, look, there are the gallows they strung me up on,”  I said, pointing into the next room.  It was the replica of the Galloping Gallows, which were used to hang Roxalana Druse, who killed her husband in Warren County.  Herkimer B.O.C.E.S. built the replica for Herkimer County Historical Society when they presented the play Roxy at Ilion Little Theatre last September.  I played Roxy.  (In case anybody did not see the play and was concerned, they did not show me being strung up.  The audience was shown the gallows, but the actual execution took place offstage.)

Soon the group who had enjoyed the first tour came downstairs with their tour guide, Jim Greiner, who wrote Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse.  Jim is a dynamic speaker and very knowledgeable about the jail and Herkimer County history.  Steven and I attended a talk he gave about his book, and I have taken a tour of the jail with him.  He greeted us new arrivals  as “Chester Gillette fans.”

“And Roxalana Druse fans,” I said, although truth be known I am a Gillette/Brown aficionado as well.

I must end my blog post here, at the beginning of our tour.  I have a rehearsal tonight for Much Ado About Nothing, and I’m not quite ready for it.  I hope to see you all on Lame Post Friday.

 

Herkimer Ghosts

I love ghost stories any time of year, but I find they are easiest to come by at Halloween. Last week on Oct. 30, Steven and I heard not one but four ghost stories, one each at Herkimer NY’s Historic Four Corners.

The event, sponsored by Herkimer Now, began at 6:30.m. We put Tabby on the leash and walked from our house. It had been raining earlier in the day and was still misting a little as we set out. Tabby seemed OK with it (she usually doesn’t like to be rained on), so we persevered. We could see a small crowd gathered around the courthouse steps as we approached. A lady dressed in an old-fashioned dress with a hoop skirt and a shawl stood on the steps.

I thought she looked familiar. When she greeted Tabby as Super Dog, I remembered her from the first Superhero Sprint. It was Tina Cirelli, a member of Herkimer Now. I also remembered her from the Main Street Walks that Herkimer Now sponsored last year.

Kathy Penree welcomed everyone and introduced the first storyteller, the ghost of Grace Brown. I think most people in the area have heard of Grace Brown. She was murdered by her boyfriend, Chester Gilette, who was tried in the courtroom on whose steps the ghost now stood. At least, she assured us she was a ghost. I must say she looked pretty good for someone who had been conked on the head, drowned and been dead for over a hundred years.

Herkimer Now had said on their Facebook page that the stories were not meant to be historically accurate but were for entertainment purposes. The Ghost of Grace Brown was certainly entertaining. I always pictured Grace Brown as a quieter, more self-effacing person. That would have made a boring story. This was fun, and she pretty much got the facts of the case right.

Next we all walked across the street to the 1834 Jail where Jim Greiner told us the story of a serial killer from the 1920s. Jim Greiner, as you may remember, wrote a book about Roxalana Druse, who killed her husband and was subsequently hanged at the very jail we stood in front of. I’ve heard Jim speak before and taken tours of the jail led by him. He is a dynamic speaker.

I confess I missed part of the story, because Tabby was pulling quite insistently on her leash. I thought she might have to poop, so we moved a discreet distance away. As we went I recognized the police officer who was standing nearby as one of my new friends from Coffee and Conversation with a Cop. We said a quiet hello.

I was sorry to have missed any part of Jim’s story. Perhaps I’ll get another chance to hear him tell it, or maybe he’ll write a book about it then give a talk about the book at the Herkimer County Historical Society. but I digress.

Next we went to the Herkimer Reformed Church, which is surrounded by an intriguing-looking graveyard. Kaylynn Iglesias from Ilion told the story of the Weeping Widow of Herkimer, which she said she had first heard as a little girl. We’ve seen Kaylynn in a few plays at Ilion Little Theatre. She is a talented actress and an excellent storyteller. By the end of the story many of us were making plans to walk by the cemetery Halloween night and listen for the ghost.

Anthony Brindisi, mayor of Herkimer, awaited us in front of the Historical Society for the final tale of the evening. He told us how the Suiter Building, as it is called, was built by Dr. A. Walter Suiter, who acted as medical examiner for some of Herkimer’s prominent murder trials.

The mayor led us down Court Street where we could see the back of the building. Some archaeologists had been digging back there, he told us, but they had mysteriously disappeared. He was going on to say nobody knew why they had left and he hoped they came back, when a few of the kids in the crowd exclaimed that they saw somebody.

“What? Who?” the mayor asked.

“That guy!”

Then we all heard a very scary noise. I never saw anybody (or any THING!), but others did. I think one lady got a picture. I hope she posts it on Herkimer Now’s Facebook page.

Steven and I were so happy we had walked down for the program. It was great fun. I sought out Kathy Penree and told her I would love to be one of the storytellers next year. Steven could do it with me. Maybe we could be Roxalana Druse and her murdered husband.

Herkimer Now, who sponsored the event, is an organization whose aim is to revitalize Herkimer, beginning with Main Street. In addition to the storytelling, they sponsored trick or treating on Main Street and a party at the VFW on Halloween night. They also have plans for Christmas. To keep informed on future events, visit their website, www.herkimernow.org, and Like their Facebook page.