Sunday, December 4, 2016

Poor Ellen Smith, Haunted by the Grue, and Others

A fine and fun bunch of diverse geocaches I turned up in Winston-Salem yesterday, I can tell you. Everything from an unexpected venture into subterranean darkness; to a couple of healthy trail hikes; to navigating over bodies of water via rocks, logs, and pipes; to finding the site of a Victorian-era murder; to ascending trees. That right there is seriously good geocaching. Ms. B. and friend Beth had gotten together for a day of crafting in Winston, so my plan was to spend the day caching and then meet up with Terry, Beth, and Ms. B. for wine and dinner in the evening. The plan proved perfect.

The most enjoyable cache of the day was surely one called "Haunted by the Grue" (GC6AYAY) which took me to a restaurant near where my brother used to live. To my surprise, I found that the building had been constructed over Silas Creek, which flows beneath it, and the cache itself lay somewhere down below. The hint on the cache page gave me an idea of where I'd need to look, but I made the mistake of going underneath the building on the wrong side of the river. Once I determined my error, rather than take the long way around by clambering back up to ground level, I found a handy-dandy pipe to cross — only slightly precarious — and then managed to lay eyes on the cache readily. This is one of those that may not be for the claustrophobic or those who fear dank, dark spaces and/or subterranean monsters.
Handy-dandy bridge across Peters Creek
Although the cache itself was hidden in traditional manner, "Poor Ellen Smith" (GC6BV1C) took me to the reputed scene of a murder back in Victorian days, the story of which goes roughly as follows: Ellen Smith was a young woman who worked at the Zinzendorf Hotel (which itself had a brief, tragic history) and became enamored of a reckless, hard-drinking, pistol-carrying rake named Peter DeGraff, who may have also worked at the hotel. During their relationship, DeGraff may have fathered a child with her. Predictably, things went south for them, and at one or the other's request, Ellen went to meet DeGraff in the woods behind the hotel (now the site of the cache). DeGraff shot her at close range with his pistol and left her there to die. At first, the authorities did little to apprehend him, until he was reportedly seen in the woods, attempting to bring Ellen back. Supposedly, he was heard to exclaim "Ellen, if you are in heaven, arise. If you are in hell, remain there." DeGraff was eventually captured and sentenced to be hanged. He protested that he was innocent until the end, yet as he went to the gallows, he proclaimed, "I stand here today to receive my just reward. I again say to the people here, beware of bad women and whiskey. Don't put your hands on cards, bad women, and dice. Hear my dying words."
The famous Walking Tree of Dahomey

The hotel Zinzendorf was a massive, four-story wooden structure, completed and opened in early 1892, only to burn to the ground later that same year.

More information about Ellen Smith and Peter DeGraff may be found at "Murder by Gaslight." There is also a recording on the site of a folk song about the murder by Estil C. Ball.

Horror of horrors, at one cache, I lost my pen, which resulted in me having to scratch my initials in the log book of the next with a mud-covered stick. However, on returning to the previous cache, I found not only my original pen but another stuck in the mud along Silas Creek, so, as that pen still worked, I not only came out to the better, I avoided a lifelong loss-of-writing-pen trauma. At another cache, I found what I'm certain must be the famous Walking Tree of Dahomey, pictured above left. And while strolling along a roadway near Winston-Salem State University, I happened upon a single reindeer antler lying in the gutter, the ghastly remains of some hideous crime, almost certainly the work of a grandma, driven by vengeance after Rudolph's merciless mowing down of one of her aged compadres.
Someone call the fire department, please.

The last cache of the day found me up a tree. Not all that high up a tree, but somehow at an angle that made it difficult to twist around that I might lower myself gracefully back to earth. While I pondered my situation, I sat in the limbs typing out my cache notes and online log, all the while watching the sun go down and wondering whether I might ought to call the fire department to rescue me. After some time and effort, I managed to extricate my foot from the branches that were causing my dilemma, and with a stylistic flourish, I dropped to the ground, only to catch my arm on the limb that had caused my foot to hang, abrading my forearm sufficiently to elicit a very minor naughty word. But as my friend Robgso says, "No blood, no fun," so this little bloodletting just meant that the fun was flowing.

The only damper on the day was discovering that some useless piece of shit masquerading as a human being got hold of my bank card information and had been attempting to make a significant number of purchases between here and Durham. Fortunately, the bank caught things pretty quickly, and I'll get the missing money back. I'll be without a bank card for a few days. But it's been scam-and-theft central lately, and I'm of a mind that setting these motherfuckers on fire is way too good for them. May they burn for extended periods, no ifs, ands, or buts.

May your holidays be merry and scam-and-theft free. Don't fall out of any trees.
Reindeer got run over by a grandma.

No comments: