Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Haunted Weapons

The supernatural is all around us. Ubiquitous, I suppose.

Last weekend, I spent my time not chasing ghosts, but hanging out with sword fighters. I kid you not. I have a passion for the supernatural and I have a passion for the martial arts, Eastern martial arts during high school and college, Western martial arts as a, well, kind of grown-up. I am lucky enough to belong to a group called The Chicago Swordplay Guild and every two years, we host the Western Martial Arts Workshop, where for about four days and as many nights, all participants can learn about wielding swords (long swords, broad swords, single swords, rapiers), spears, pole arms, knives, and other fun things, mostly from the Medieval and Renaissance periods, but some from more modern times. Two years ago I had a class on knife throwing. It was awesome!

At any event, because I work at the hospitality desk, I get to meet and talk to any number of sword-happy people, and this weekend they came from three different continents and a bunch of different countries. So I talked to folks from Alaska, Canada, Finland, Australia, German, England, and New Zealand. How's that for an international community? It's amazing how much I could learn about different histories and cultures in just short conversations.

But lest you think I have departed from my usual topic, here's the corker. One of our guests comes from something called the Oakeshott Institute (check them out at, an organization devoted to documenting the sword. Two years ago, one of their officers, who always comes to WMAW, brought along some of Oakeshott's display items, including an ancient bronze weapon that was recovered from the bottom of a lake. It dated back to very, very long-ago Greece, and like other attendees, I was allowed to pull on a pair of latex gloves and try it on for size.

I realize that I am studying an art that entails how to cut, thrust into, slash, dismember, and even disembowel another person. That's what sword fighting entails. However, picking up a real weapon that had been used, and there was no doubt in my mind once I touched it that it had been used, gave me a chill that took some time to shake off. I kept thinking, this sword has taken someone's life. This sword has blood on it...

I only mentioned the feeling I got to one or two other people at that time, but this past weekend, I brought it up with one of my instructors, and he said flatly, "That weapon was evil." He is not the sort of person who dips his toes much in my usual pond of interest, so I was surprised by that observation. He added, "That thing didn't kill just one person. It killed lots of people." Neither of us has any proof, but given the history and the provenance of the blade, I have no doubt he's right.

Next year, I get to go to the British Isles for an extended visit. Yes, we will tour castles, and yes, we will connect with some of our sword friends from that side of the ocean. Considering the long shadow an ancient Greek sword could cast -all the way to Wisconsin- I wonder what I'm going to run into there?

Check out the Chicago Swordplay Guild at
Check out my ghost stories at

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

Normally this space is reserved for special guests. Dead ones. But today I want to announce a new source for all things e-short story! It's called Echelon Press Shorts and is devoted to folks who like getting sweet snacks of fiction and nonfiction, as well as diving into complete novels and nonfiction books. Check it out here:

Echelon Press Shorts launches officially today, and to celebrate the grand opening, is offering free downloads from various authors during this launch week. You'll also get a chance to meet some of the writers, with Regan Black, Mark Vun Kannon, Mary Welk, and Michelle Sonnier being featured first.

If you really like reading, please feel free to join the party this month. And if you really like reading about ghosts, well, please feel free to check out the site and look for mine, Hunting Spirits! Check out everyone else's work, too. I know there are other horror and supernatural stories there because a bunch of us at this site like scaring the living daylights out of each other and also innocent passersby who wander into our clutches. Come by and visit today!

(Oh, regarding the picture: I couldn't find anything that showed a ghost making an announcement. Go figure.)

Next up: transient hauntings.