To see the pretty summer sky is poetry breathing life. The world outside books provide the optical pleasure that sparks up otherwise monotonous landscapes of everyday life. Indeed, it was such a beautiful morning that would make you forgive your persona non-grate with the love of mankind. It was a kind of jolly morning that made the whole world seem kin. So Tuco took a lovely jaunt in the beautiful historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse this morning. He went there alone in the bliss of solitude that always flashed upon his inward eye for creative inspiration. One casual glimpse at Tuco might give you an impression of an ordinary guy with beer-belly spending his evening time and Sundays in front of a TV set. Contrary to his embonpoint, avuncular physiognomy, Tuco is an artist, a poet, a thinker. He is, what Edgar Allam Poe would call without hesitation, an intellect with passion.
Tuco chose the Santa Barbara Country because its Spanish colonial architectural style reminds him of the familiar civic landscapes of his childhood hometown. The Courthouse, located at 1100 Anacapa Street, in downtown Santa Barbara, California, is famous for the Spanish Colonial Revival Style building designed by Charles Willard Moore and completed in 1929. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005 for its beautifully distinctive colonial-style respective of the Spanish cultural heritage harmoniously attributing to the aesthetic character and history of California.
While strolling around the Courthouse, Tuco’s eyes were suddenly fixed on a white doll attached to the palm tree. It was a tawdry but scary-looking doll that gave him the creep down on his spine. ‘Did someone who had a beef with the court’s decision put this voodoo doll here as a curse to the Courthouse?’ Trepidation for the unknown terror began to spring from his tactile sensory organs, making him momentarily delirious. He was becoming unsure of whether it was a wise decision to take a picture of the evil doll or even to come to the Courthouse. Was it an omen? ‘Oh, come on. Are you kidding me? It’s just a doll, more or less. No need to waste your energy on contriving meaning to the ugly voodoo doll.’ With this sudden forceful exercise of affirmation, Tuco wended his way toward the beautiful scenes of the earth, the sky, and the view of the world.
Tuco exclaimed, “How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature!” The sky was high and blue, the lawn was full and green, and his eyes filled with pleasure. Today was the end of his vacation, and he lamented about returning to work for livelihood. However, the beauty of the scenery made his otherwise grim and dreary Sunday lovely, and Tuco thought life was not supposed to be all that hard and unbearable.
Prologue: I wrote this post in March of this year upon reading an article about historic haunted places in the UK from a subscribed issue of ‘BBC History Revealed’. I wanted to contribute my knowledge about the Whaley Museum in Southern California in a letter to the editor. The new July issue arrived on my Kindle Fire this morning, and I saw my letter featuring therein. It was edited in the context, but only for the perfect perspicacity. The letter is, in fact, one of the fifth letters that have been so far published in the magazine.
Sometimes they either don’t know they are dead or wouldn’t accept it because of strong attachments to their once earthly abodes. You may think it’s a puerile imagining to believe in ghosts, but there are indeed more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy. As someone keen on supernatural phenomena happening in the background of our ordinary landscape of daily life, it gave me a fillip when I came upon an article from my subscribed history magazine the other day about the historical capital punishments going horribly awry as though to use the grisly scenes of capital punishment as a reminder of societal retribution for an eye-for- an eye. It also reminded me of a story of the condemned whose ordeal of execution was so unbearably painful that he is still roaming around at his execution site as though with eternal lingering attachment to his earthly life.
Here in Southern California, the story of James Robinson (aka Yankee Jim) who was executed for attempted grand larceny in San Diego in 1852, is something of haunted folklore that attracts tourists and ghost hunters alike. He was hanged on a gallows off the back of a wagon, but being a tall man with long legs, he resisted being killed by keeping his feet in the wagon but was at last pulled off. His body then swung like a pendulum until he strangled to death. And it was this very site of hanging that one Thomas Whaley, who happened to witness the execution himself, built his dream house where he and his family soon began to hear the unexpected phantom footsteps as if being made by the boots of a large man, walking noise, and the windows mysteriously unlatched and opened up. Lilian Whaley, the Whaleys’ youngest daughter living in the house until 1953 was certain that it was the ghost of Yankee Jim haunting their house. Now the Whaley House is the Whaley Museum, a California Historical Landmark located in Old Town, San Diego, California.
However, ‘Yankee Jim’ still lives there because although unseen, his presence is felt and heard by visitors and staff at the museum. Never malicious or naughty, the ghost of the hanged man is said to rather shyly manifest himself by footsteps, markings on the wall, or opening and closing of windows. So much so that the Whaley Museum, along with the Winchester Mystery House, is certified by the US Department of Commerce that it is genuinely haunted. So if you live in Southern California, it’s worth visiting the Museum and Jim. I think I may pay a visit. The address is 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110.
The sun’s bright, the sky bluest,
The air sweet, the breeze mildest,
The choir of nature gaily caroling
The wonder of the world it bears.
Addendum – Today in History
- 245 years ago today, the American Revolutionary War began with the battles of Lexington and Concord.
- 77 years ago today, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the abandonment of the Gold Standard and ordered the confiscation of privately owned gold coins.
- 69 years ago today, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, relieved of his Far East command by President Harry Truman, bade farewell in an address to Congress with a quotation from a ballad: “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”