Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Historical Markers: State Violence Incites Rioting


On July 20th, 1877, striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh successfully stopped trains from leaving the freight yard in the Strip District. The sheriff was called upon to clear the tracks by railroad officials, anxious to regain control of their lines. Already, many local police and militia had joined the crowd of friends and neighbors in support of the strike. Knowing that local militiamen would not use force against their own community, the sheriff requested assistance from the Philadelphia militia. 

Philadelphia's troops had just returned home from service in the Reconstruction South. Tired, hungry and missing their families, these men were sent to Pittsburgh to defend the interests of businessmen who were losing money for every hour their trains stood idle. As the crowd showered the troops with insults and stones, the Philadelphia militia opened fire. The massacre ignited a full-scale riot, which left dozens dead and countless wounded. 

The Great Strike of 1877 is thought to mark the first use of federal troops to defend a corporation's "right to run a profitable business." These action have since set a precedent for state violence against labor movements and legislation that favors the rights of corporations over the safety and well being of working families.

21st Street, Pittsburgh, PA

Historical Markers: Vandergrift


Hailed by historian Ida
Tarbell as America's "most
important industrial 
town" with homes owned
by the workers. Founded
1895 by Geo. G. McMurtry,
president, Apollo Iron &
Steel Co. Named for Capt.
Jacob J. Vandergrift and 
designed by the firm of
Frederick Law Olmsted.

Vandergrift, PA.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Ghost Story...

...of a different sort. I really don't keep the fact that I have had a myriad of jobs a secret. My predominate work now is with a tour company here in Pittsburgh, where I guide my guests throughout the city and visit various paranormal hot spots, finally finishing up in the cemetery of the Trinity Cathedral, which goes all the way back to 1795 (technically even further, since it was a Native burial mound prior to that.) In the cemetery, we finish up the evening with an abbreviated haunting investigation.

I could tell before the day even began that tonight was going to be different. Due to various factors out of my control, the tour was scheduled to begin an hour later than normal, so that instead of finishing at 11 p.m., it would instead be midnight. Tonight was also a full moon.

I saw the beginnings of my group were plenty early, and was surprised to find not one, but two separate paranormal investigation groups represented. Each one focused on differing methods, the first group more scientific with plenty of gear, and the second more intuitive, with someone who was an em-path, or sensitive (someone who can sense spirits more easily.)

The tour ran fairly normally, with the group laughing at the jokes, learning some of Pittsburgh's history, and hearing the ghost stories. The only thing I had to keep a watch on was the Sensitive, who I could regularly see tearing up, cringing like she was in pain. I quietly approached her about it, and she said that it was perfectly normal for her, that it only mean "they were paying attention tonight."

Finally, the night finished at the cemetery. After breaking out the dowsing rods for the group, the first paranormal team swung into action, deploying an impressive array of electronic gear. Most of these devices (cameras, voice recorders, even spirit boxes) I had seen before, but tonight was my first time seeing a MEL-meter. This is a device that creates a small electromagnetic field, and then sounds an alarm if that field is interrupted. The device also measures sharp swings in temperature (on a balmy July night, this was not a problem)

The devices were deployed, that one particular meter close to the cemetery fence. As soon as we opened up for contacting any residual beings with the dowsing rods, the MEL-meter began to go off. There was no one near it within a space of 15 feet, well beyond the range of the device. Simultaneously, all of the dowsing rods on the group began to swing in the direction the meter was, and another member of the group said that he "thought he might have captured some orbs" on camera.  After all that, I made sure that no one temporal or otherwise, followed me home.

The most poignant moment for me had come much earlier on in the tour. I quietly approached one of the guests, as he wasn't looking too well, and needed to sit down when I stopped for a story. He explained to me that he had cancer, and that he was feeling pretty weak. I then told him "I understand completely, my father just finished up a round of chemo. If you don't mind me asking, what type do you have?"

He responded "Liver with mets." This meant it was Stage 4, the same as my father. He continued: "I just had six months of chemo, and it didn't do anything for me. I got an appointment for a scan, and then he'll see what I can do. I might be seeing you all again next year on the other side, haunting you guys."

"Well..." I said after processing exactly what I had said for a moment "I hope to see you next year...but I expect that it will be right about where you are right now, walking on the tour. You are doing absolutely great for what has been going on. Keep fighting, okay?"

To that he smiled and said: "I have a little girl. I'm not giving up yet."

So to that end, I have this: a ghost story I don't want to see happen. Good luck, my new friend. Keep fighting.