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White Mountains Shadow

12/04/03 12:00AM By Joe Citro
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(Host) Commentator Joe Citro has a suggestion for a new holiday tradition.

(Citro) With December up and running, it might be fun to revive that old English tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas.

For New Englanders, a good place to start is with Charles Jordan's book, Tales Told in the Shadows of the White Mountains. It is a mind-boggling collection of oddities that includes eccentrics, monsters, madmen, murder. . . and more than a few ghosts, spirits. . . and Spiritualists.

Because White Mountain shadows sometimes extend into Vermont, you'll find a few Green Mountain mysteries stirred into the brew. For example, there's the story of the cursed Brunswick Springs. And the strange sad saga of Edward Norton, a driven miner who spent his life digging for gold on Mount Monadnock -- unsuccessfully.

But mostly the collection treats northern New Hampshire, and no one but Charles Jordan could have written it. As editor of Northern New Hampshire Magazine, the Colebrook Chronicle, and the Lancaster Herald, Mr. Jordan is perfectly positioned to keep on top of all the weirdly wonderful tales to come out of that historic and haunted region.

There are hundreds of examples I could give from Mr. Jordan's medley of backcountry hermits, lost villages, religious eccentricities -- even "The Celebrated Human Calf" - complete with photo -- said to have been born in Lunenburg, Vermont in 1913.

An especially unusual tale caught my attention, and it's brief enough to pass along. It occurred during the early days of the Civil War. The phenomenon was witnessed along the Connecticut River from Titus Hill in Colebrook to nearby Columbia. A scattering of twenty-one people went on record as seeing an inexplicable vision in the overcast sky. As thick clouds slowly parted, observers stared up in wonder as a great silent battle took place far above their heads. They saw hundreds of men, horses, and guns locked in celestial combat.

To this day the sight has never been explained. Was it a peculiar weather anomaly? A shared mystical vision? Or maybe the ghosts of the blue and the gray, taking their conflict into the hereafter?

Good questions, I'd say, to ponder around the hearth at Christmastime.

Tales Told in the Shadows of the White Mountains is unfailingly entertaining and informative - not to mention fully illustrated.

It combines a journalist's eye with a storyteller's art. Charles Jordan paints vivid pictures of the vast, mysterious New Hampshire North Country, with all its closeted skeletons, scandalous secrets, eccentric characters, and supernatural inhabitants.

As a student of New England's darker side, there has been a long-neglected space on my library shelf: The one reserved for New Hampshire ghosts. Mr. Jordan's book fills it very nicely.

This is Joe Citro, wishing you all a spirited Christmas.

Joe Citro lives and writes in Burlington. His latest novel is Deus-X: The Reality Conspiracy.
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