Tuesday Open Thread ~ Spooky Spector Special
“Tis the night—the night
Of the grave's delight,
And the warlocks are at their play;
Ye think that without,
The wild winds shout,
But no, it is they—it is they!”
~ Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Halloween: A Romaunt
I’ve always enjoyed a good ghost story. Especially haunted houses. I mean what could be more scary than ghosts roaming the hallways and rooms of the place where you and your family sleep? How about the “real-life" story of the old LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans? A haunted house that has such a creepy story, the American Horror Story used the LaLaurie Mansion as a spooky backdrop for one of their storylines.
Built in 1831 for Marie Delphine LaLaurie and her third husband, the French-native Dr. Louis LaLaurie, Madame Delphine became forever known as the notorious mistress who chained and tortured her slaves in the basement. Today her cruel behavior might be described as a result of an unknown mental affliction, but at that time, witchcraft was rumored to be responsible for the abuse she inflicted on both her slaves and her own daughters, along with the “mysterious” deaths of her two previous husbands.
When a fire in 1834 set the LaLaurie Mansion ablaze, revealing the shocking living conditions of her slaves who were being starved and beaten, Madame Delphine and her family fled New Orleans where they eventually settled down in Spain. Soon after the fire, the New Orleans press seized onto the story detailing the horrors inside that house while depicting Madame Delphine as a wicked sorceress who practiced the dark art of voodoo.
Two centuries later, the iconic Mansion remains a part of New Orleans lurid past, where the spirits of the slaves who lived there endlessly roam. At one time the house was converted into an all-girls school where students often reported experiencing bizarre and random physical assaults. When a development company transformed the house into upscale apartments, tenants complained of the same kind paranormal activity the students had experienced, in addition to the suspicious death of a gentleman who had ties to the original family. Today, the LaLaurie Mansion still stands as a source of curiosity and reports of paranormal activity.
Another source of ghost stories are the battlefields of some of our bloodiest conflicts. Unlike houses though, there’s nothing ordinary about battlefields. Anyone who has stood on the ridge overlooking the field of Pickett’s charge will tell you that. Ghostly or otherwise, Gettysburg is a place with a lot of powerful stories.
The battle at Devil's Den is one of those places. Lying at an angle between Plum Run and a small tributary branch, Devil’s Den is less than 100 feet below Little Round Top. With boulders over 20 feet high in places and a narrow marshy foot path below, there was good reason it was known as the Slaughter Pen. Of the 8,000 soldiers engaged in that battle on July 2, 1863, Confederate General John Bell Hood and Union General David Bell Birney’s collectively sustained almost 2,600 in casualties. Afterwards the bodies of soldiers were strewn among the boulders covering the entire area in that confined space.
A creek running between Little Round Top and Devil’s Den ran red with blood and became known as Bloody Run. When the heavy rains flooded the creek on July 3, 1863, wounded men unlucky enough to have not been taken to the hospital drowned where they lay. The following morning, medics found hogs all over the field in Devil’s Den eating the faces and limbs off of the soldiers left there overnight.
Perhaps because of the events that took place there, Devil’s Den has had its share of reports from people who have seen ghostly soldiers roaming across the battlefield. A frequent sighting is that of a disheveled man, barefoot and wearing shabby clothes and a floppy hat, who gives directions to tourists looking to get to Devil’s Den. He points over in that direction and says, “That’s the place you’re looking for”. Another sighting is of a Union Soldier who stands at attention beside a cannon holding the reigns to horse that isn’t there. But not all sightings are of soldiers, some people have reported seeing a women dressed in mourning who kneels on the ground digging through the dirt looking for something. While I don’t know a lot about paranormal activity, having been on the field at Gettysburg myself imagining the horror that the soldiers experienced there, I understand why their spirits might still be there.
One 5-ounce box small ball-shaped chocolates, such as malted milk balls
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of fine salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 small tube white cake decorating gel
- Position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Separate the chocolate candy balls into larger and smaller balls. The larger balls will make up the spider bodies and the smaller balls the heads.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Cream the sugar and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg and mix until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and mix until creamy, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add half of the flour mixture. Beat on medium until incorporated, then turn the speed down to low again and add the rest of the flour mixture. Beat on medium until incorporated.
- Roll the dough by hand into 1-inch balls, place about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cookies are light golden brown and have spread to about 2 inches wide, about 16 minutes. The cookies are done when they smell very peanut buttery and the tops feel dry and slightly firm when pressed with fingers.
- Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Remove from the heat and let cool briefly so that it is slightly thickened but still pipe-able.
- When the cookies are done, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack. Immediately push 2 chocolate candies directly into each hot cookie, putting a smaller chocolate ball toward the edge of the cookie and a larger chocolate ball directly behind it in the center of the cookie.
- When the melted chocolate has thickened slightly, put it into a plastic bag and cut a small hole in the corner to create a piping bag. Pipe 8 legs on each cookie, starting from the point where the 2 chocolate candies meet. Pipe the front 4 legs so that they curve up toward the head and the back 4 legs so that they curve backward beyond the body. Reserve the remaining chocolate in the piping bag for the pupils of the eyes.
- To make eyes, pipe two 1/4-inch circles on the "heads" of each spider with the cake decorating gel. Pipe a tiny dot of the reserved melted chocolate in the center of each to make the pupils.
Cook’s Note: When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)