After Sayeh and I had an intense year (we bought a house, moved, I changed jobs at work, I got about a thousand rejection letters for a novel, etc), we finally decided it was time for a vacation. After some research – which mostly consisted of me staring into the sky, asking myself ‘what would be cool?’ – we decided on a cruise to the Bahamas. One of the coolest things about the cruise was that it started in Baltimore.
By large, every aspect of our experience was fantastic. We had to spend a little money on some warm clothes, since they had an unseasonable cold snap, and it was -4 during the full day we were there. But, besides that, we had an excellent time. We discovered a gem in a pub called Tir Na Nog, where I ate a great deal of beef stew and drank a large quantity of Stella Artois Cidre (I kept waiting for the fairy king to show up, but he was strangely absent). We met two Baltimore police officers (both of whom were brand new and very shiny), who stopped for pictures with us, as well as a very tall man – with several gold teeth – in the Gap who made this observation while I was trying on a coat: “Man, you make that shit look goooood!”
One of the things I most wanted to do while were in Baltimore, was visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. For those inclined towards literature – and perhaps mildly inclined towards pretention – Poe’s grave is a bit of a Mecca. I stood before it, with my hand on Poe’s likeness rendered in Brass (I think it was brass), and spoke a few quiet words to him. I didn’t get an answer, but Poe probably gets a little tired of answering questions from pretentious shits who stand in front of blocks of marble and ask inane questions of the dead.
The highlight of the trip, without question, was the Haunted Pub Walk tour we went on. The event was run by Baltimore Ghost Tours, and was guided by a deeply interesting man named Craig. The main premise of the tour was that Craig led us through the Fell’s Point district of Baltimore, telling us ghost stories, and stopping every few blocks to go into a pub, have a proper drink, and listen to some more stories. It was very low key and all in fun – until we got haunted.
One of the final stops of the tour was the tomb of the Fell family, which also happened to be one of the most haunted places in Baltimore. Craig told us there were numerous anecdotal reports of a well-dressed man, in colonial era garb, walking the streets of Fell’s Point, and ending his stroll by walking through the fence that surrounds the Fell tomb. That man – the spirit – is believed to be William Fell, the founder of the Fell’s Point port.
As Craig was telling us the stories of the sightings of the ghost – including a heated argument, concerning lawful ownership, with the current occupant of Fell’s former home – a strange thing happened. A sudden wind popped up, pushing against our backs, hitting us so hard I could feel the pressure of it in my ears. It shook the tree above the grave in a rattling cacophony, causing leaves to rain down on us. A wind in a port town is not new, but when I looked up and down the street I saw flags above the door of every home; none of them were moving, save for the flag that was on the Fell home. I pointed this out to Craig, who only laughed and tipped me a wink.
Once we had finished the tour, we stopped in a bar called the Warf Rat, where Craig – by way of a finale – shoved a four inch straw into his nasal cavity. As we were saying our goodbyes, or staying at the bar to get drunk, another attendee, Rob, showed us all a picture he had taken of Craig in front of the Fell tomb. Beside Craig was a strange mist. If it was only in one picture, I could dismiss it as some bad photography. But it appeared in 3 or 4 pictures that Rob had taken. And even if Rob moved the camera to change the frame, the mist stayed beside Craig.
I am of the firm belief that we were visited by a ghost.
As a storyteller – well, I guess as a human with a bit of an imagination – I am constantly on the search for magic (how many people do you know who eat in a pub called ‘Tir Na Nog’ and hold out a faint hope that perhaps the name of the place will draw the Fey to their table). There have been a few times where I am found…something – some sense of a magic that perhaps, maybe, once upon a time existed. When I looked up at the flags hanging from the houses in Fell’s Point, illuminated by the orange glow from the street lamps, and saw that only one was waving, I felt that I was in the presence of magic (the unknown, the supernatural, call it what you want but it’s fucking magic).
The places where magic exists in the world are small, few and hard to find. But I think it is we, the storytellers, who are most likely to find it. And when we do, we bear a heavy responsibility to share it with everyone else, so they can feel it to.
Now, I feel like I have a story about a ghost and a fairy king coming on. Let’s get to work.
As always, thanks for reading.