The Most Haunted Bridge in America… Sachs Bridge

The Sachs Bridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the most haunted bridge in America! The Civil War Confederate retreat bridge exit went south over the Marsh Creek using the bridge to get home to the Confederate southern states. The bridge and creek provided water, shelter from the rain and was a make-shift hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg. Hundreds of men died on or near the bridge after being wounded during the July 3-4, 1863 battle between the North and South. That dramatic loss of life could account for the structure being haunted. However, three Confederate soldiers also dressed up as Union army and were caught as traitors. It’s hard to know if they were spies or deserters but they were hung from the wooden support beams and it is said their ghosts remain there.

The bridge was constructed as a truss covered bridge, inexpensive but ok for light travel. On July 1, 1863 two brigades of Union soldiers crossed the bridge heading town the inevitable battle. It was used again by Robert E. Lee’s army retreating over the bridge and heading South after the Union defeated the Confederates during the Battle of Gettysburg. The ability to provide water for all of the soldiers was also important so the Marsh Creek under the bridge was a strategic location.

 A few years back, William R. Forstchen and I visited the Gettysburg battlefield where I had the opportunity to interview him. As we sat in the equally haunted Farnsworth House eating our game pie Bill told me of the Sachs bridge ghost stories and promised to bring my family to visit it later that night. The interview is vividly descriptive of what we experienced first-hand at midnight. The energy was that of the horrors of all wars and the horrific loss of life. I felt their inevitable questions about the insanity of brother fighting against brother and civil war within a nation. Mostly, I sensed the energetic cries of pain from the wounds both physical and mental from all soldiers who crossed the Sachs Bridge as I walked alone across the bridge in the dark. Our group sent healing energy and prayers.

Guest Blog by William R. Forstchen, Ph.D. 
New York Times Bestselling Author 

There are two sites in Pennsylvania that everyone must put on their “Bucket List”. . .Gettysburg and just off the battlefield national Park, the  Sachs Bridge, Gettysburg. As Joshua Chamberlain, who received the Medal of Honor for his gallant stand on the second day of the battle, said of that storied field, “it is the vision place of souls.” But there is another vision place just a few minutes from the battlefield. Sachs Bridge.

If you drive from the center of town southward, you’ll pass straight through the middle of ground where Pickett’s division charged towards their doomed “high water mark.” Head down another mile to where Emmitsburg road comes to an intersection at the “Peach Orchard, where Union general Dan Sickles men fell by the thousands, and turn right. Go about a mile or two, slow down, cross over a concrete bridge and you will see Sachs Covered Bridge on your left.

Best to pull in and stop there at night because you are about to enter one of the most haunted spots in America. During the day it is a picturesque place, a covered bridge built in 1852, a good spot to take the family, kids love playing around inside it. But once darkness falls, leave the kids home or back at the motel because you might very well enter the Twilight Zone.

During the Battle of Gettysburg, thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers were carried back to the small stream under the bridge, temporarily turning it into a vast hospital area. The day after the battle, it poured buckets of rain while Robert E. Lee’s shattered army prepared to evacuate the stricken field and retreat back towards Maryland and Virginia. Every wagon they could lay their hands on, most all springless, were loaded up for the agonizing journey home. As the night of July 4th fell, thousands of wounded were evacuated, across the Sachs Bridge. Eyewitness accounts told how the bridge floor was soon soaked in blood from wounded and dying men.

Their hellish night still echoes nearly a 160 years later. The first time I went there, I had heard the stories, wanted to check it out, I got out of the car, several people were hanging around with cameras and what could be called “ghost hunting” equipment. A Gettysburg police officer came up causing parking concern, but instead he got out of his car, was friendly enough and asked if I had seen anything that evening. That was interesting coming from a policeman. He then said we were okay visiting the site but “just be careful,” and he wasn’t talking about falling into the creek. He was talking about spirits of the dead.

He told us a few stories of his own encounters including one where he was crossing the concrete bridge next to Sachs Bridge and it was glowing red. He thought it was on fire, he punched his lights on and started to call the fire department, but as he raced up to the west end of the bridge he saw. . . a red pulsing glow inside, but no flame and suddenly it just winked off. He cancelled the call to the fire department, and said that talking later with a couple of firemen they said that he wasn’t the first to call in that the bridge was burning but there was no flame and then the glow just “winked out.”

Well the challenge was on. I actually do believe in ghosts but not the type that would make a bridge look like it was on fire. And then it started. I guess I would say it was a feeling of dread, of sadness, of loss, but also that my presence was not alone.

It is hard to describe. I have felt a strange connection to that long distant struggle since I was a child of five. Growing up I read voraciously, played with my huge army of Civil War soldiers and in my backyard lead charge after charge with my neighbor and first and still best friend Nora D’Ecclesis. Maybe I was therefore “attuned” to that place.

And then it happened. I turned around to snap a flash photo which instantly came up on the screen. I was saying it to those lost souls in the bridge as well. The image revealed a coiling cloud of something smoke like behind me and the feeling of a sad painful death and dying surrounded me.

I’ve been back at least half a dozen times since, the last time with Nora Lee in tow. We went at midnight and well Nora will tell her story. What I find now at that bridge is sadness, infinite sadness. Thousands of men, many of them still boys, torn, bleeding dying at they took that journey from the field of lost glory. If they lived but another hour, or died abed seventy years hence, that night stayed with them and in turn they left something of themselves there as well.

Sach’s Bridge … “it is the vision place of souls.”

Margherita Pizza

The Hygge of Italian cuisine centers around family, food and old fashioned fun… it’s the pizza party! The making and eating of pizza is a group social activity all over the world. The pizza itself is made fresh with the hands of the pizza chef or Pizzaiolo/Pizzaioli, the ingredients arranged with respect for traditional artistic placement of tomatoes, cheese,  olive oil and basil. The first pizza was probably white with just and oil and cheese on top of the crust, but Columbus brought back tomatoes from the new world and the rest is love for this wonderful food. Let’s explore the history of the Margherita pizza which comes from the area of Naples, Italy.

The Italian unification bringing together the city states into the Kingdom of Italy, or the Risorgimento was promoted under the King Umberto I who was married to Queen Margherita of Savoy. Margherita was a popular Queen Consort and so she suggested a tour of the cities during the unification campaign in 1889. In advance of the King and Queen traveling to Naples the Queen requested traditional Italian food and asked the Chef for pizza. Chef Raffaele Esposito  arranged for a special meal in honor of the unification and made a marvelous pizza with the toppings of tomato (red) mozzarella ( white) and basil ( green) to reflect and honor the colors of Unified Italy! Chef named it Margherita Pizza which continues to this day in any country where those toppings and style market a Margherita pizza. It’s only fair to say many towns, villages mountain peaks and art museums where also named for the Queen… not so much for her husband as Umberto was assassinated in 1900. They managed to produce a son and heirs who carried on the royal government until the Italian Republic was formed in 1946.

In Italy… An interview with Gina…

I could smell “home” but where was it coming from?  Although I was just aimlessly walking around Rome’s back streets after touring the Vatican, there it was, less than fifty feet away a pizza storefront!  It smelled just like my mother’s made from scratch Neapolitan heritage pizza!  Using my broken Italian, somehow, I was able to order a Margherita pizza and a drink.  Excitedly I walked to the counter to get the treats.  To my surprise, the large paper plate held a generous square piece of pizza which the counter person weighed.  He told me the grams, as the pie was sold by weight, and added the beverage and gave me total Lire cost.  Biting the crisp crust was so reminiscent of my mother’s pie.  However, the mozzarella seemed milkier and just stretched around my mouth swirling around the delectable sauce with tomato chunks perfectly seasoned with fresh basil.  The crust, airy like clouds.  Blowing to cool the sizzling hot square, a definite must before taking the initial heavenly bite.  The savory morsel conjectured visions of ancestors luxuriously reclining on their patrician eating furniture in the atriums of their Pompeiian homes.  What a fabulous way to “break bread” with friends—a delectable/delicious over the top upgrade truly fit for the ancient Roman Senate and People, SPQR.  

In America… Margherita Pizza in New Jersey…

Much to my surprise my dear cousin, Ernest Trunzo was starting his career as a Pizzaiolo in our home state of New Jersey. I was returning from living in L.A. California craving a pizza and hoagie that tasted more like home. He made the Marguerita pizza better than any I have tasted around the world. “Ernie” was loved by all and generous as the owner of an Italian hoagie/pizza shop because anyone who needed or wanted great food could find it. We teased him that maybe he would allow Sophia Loren to be his pizzaiola near his ovens but he did it his way and mostly by himself. Raising my glass of Chianti, Ernie, forever in our hearts and loved dearly by all passed last year may he rest in peace. I dedicate this blog to Ernest E. Trunzo as one spectacular human being. 

Anachronism: The Handshake

An anachronism is a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned. In Medieval Europe the Knights would shake hands to dislodge weapons being carried in the clothing. It was not uncommon to find daggers falling out in the process. In 5th Century BC in Greece it was simply a way to show no weapons in the hand and that men came in peace. The right hand was always used as more hygienic as the cultural and religions restrictions dictated.

Many cultures were horrified by a strong grip handshake, but not in America. After the 19th Century American men were taught the handshake needed to be firm to indicate enthusiasm that they were really pleased to be meeting the guy on the other end of the shake. The left hand was never held in the left pocket according to the etiquette of that era. The American female seldom engaged in the handshake until the gals entered corporate American mid to late 20th Century and then only to lightly touch so as not to cause pain to the women. In fact, the Girl Scouts taught that girls should shake with their left hands and raise the right hand in the Girl Scout sign, it was explained to them that the left hand was closer to the heart.

Perhaps, during the current COVID 19 pandemic it is time to eradicate the handshake as something that served its purpose but no longer does and in fact transmits disease. My mindfulness practice has served me well for almost three decades. I was reflecting last night on the benefits as I completed my new book on mindfulness. It seems I have been training as a mindful meditator my entire life for a lifestyle that includes so many techniques for quality and quantity of life but three stand out during these days of the 2020 pandemic virus:

  1. The use of the namaste greeting at ten feet without touching but sending energetic love and compassion as the best way to greet people.
  2. During zazen  let the itch on the nose  come and go without scratching it or touching our faces.
  3. Mindfulness style includes intense cleanliness and single tasking.

“Taylor Ham” Eggs & Cheese

In 1856 John Taylor of NJ developed a new sandwich food which he called “Taylor’s Prepared Ham.” It is a tasty if not amazingly healthy breakfast meat by today’s standards. Taylor Ham was a hit and seen in many homes for breakfast as well as for lunch with eggs and cheese. After many years of great success and many sales, other competitors started to duplicate or imitate his process making an equally delicious treat. This continued until food labeling regulations required that it must be designated and properly labelled as a pork roll product similar to the new competitors. The Food and Drug act of 1906 created the requirements but litigation in 1910 ruled that words like pork roll could not be trademarked, so Taylor obeyed the law. IMG_7544

My dad used to put it on the grill in an attempt to diminish the fat content. The added grilled flavor has kept my interest focused on this Holiday breakfast treat. In 2016, NJ Assemblyman Tim Eustace presented an act making ‘Taylor Ham and Egg’ the NJ State Sandwich. President Obama got into the mix at a Rutgers University speech, saying he would settle the Taylor Ham or pork roll debate in his final year in office then smiled and said no way… not even the president would not enter this controversy! LOL

Social media occasionally puts up the question whether it is pork roll or Taylor Ham — and now I am going to answer that as a Northern New Jersey gal, which is where it all began. It is colloquially called Taylor Ham in my home and hometown because after almost 175 years of tradition and respect for the founder.  Keep in mind much the same way we all say may I have a coke, when we enter a NJ diner, that colloquialism exists because Coke was the first, Xerox was the first and many times we say xerox it to mean run a copy and Taylor Ham was most definitely first. One final note I eat all brands of pork roll!

-Northern New Jersey Gal Nora D’Ecclesis

Hygge

To be in the present and enjoy the moment is the intention. Danish Hygge (Hew-Guh) offers a path toward the comfort and joy of staying in the present which is a way of life in Danish culture. Hygge is a serene retreat into enjoying the simplicity of a cozy and warm environment devoid of the autopilot rushing so common in most cultures.

In Copenhagen, where most of the population joyfully ride their bikes to work and social events, there are bike paths everywhere. During the snow days the bikes paths are plowed first! The major commerce is spread out over the many kilometers of the waterfront city to avoid traffic congestion. The harbor is peacefully shared by their neighboring country, Sweden. The Danes think of themselves as the happiest on earth and with reason when one explores how to Hygge. 16 hours of darkness a day in the winter and cold temperatures create the perfect environment to come in out of the cold to a warm cozy tradition.

Hygge started in Norway around the 19th Century but strongly caught on in Denmark becoming entrinsically entwined with their cultural goals. It has recently become a popular word in the British and American lexicons.

Taking time throughout the day to go into a state of relaxation, rest, calm and happiness reminds our body that there is more than one way to be. The goal is to turn the momentum in the other direction away from stress. Hygge makes calm our baseline, the norm to which the body should always return.  It also pumps up seratonin and norepinehrine. The simplicity of the Hygge activity is what makes it even more wonderful and it doesn’t invlove any of the usual materialistic purchases of similar practices.

Hygge, in a word, is mindfulness, being in the present… living a life of being open and and in a state of equanimity. Hygge is… a safe haven of enjoying the simple things in life with either alone time or socializing. It’s a daily experience during all seasons. In the winter it is the time to come in out of the cold, snuggle with your warm puppy in the sherpa blankets and settle in with friends and family to enjoy the well being of the moment. The shared glass of wine or tea with viennoiserie pastries and the flickering of the candles in subdued yellow tones set the mood. The additional warming slippers and fireplace heat omits the mental disquietude and allows for the comfortable socialization of respectful conversation.

More than just part of the daily Dane cultural practice Hygge is the Dane identity… socialization, compassion, respect for all other practices and an awareness that taking that bike out in the morning is, in addition to the environmental benefits, a sound practice toward better quality and quantity of human life.

Watching a small group of millenials place a blanket down on the park lawn and pull out the Dane beer “pilsner” and cheese for a Hygge while the sun is out is a joy and comforting for the observer. An actual sunny day is rare with less than four hours of sun a day and a great deal of precipitation.

Imagine Hygge in Central Park on a sunny day or the Poconos in February. The joy of a cozy and comfortable conversation with people who respect the diversity of opinions and create a safe environment to simply stay in the moment. Hygge is a way of life in Denmark, the sharing of foods and drink and relaxing alone or in small groups. Light a candle, kick off your boots, build a fire in your wood burning stove and visualize our global neighbors in Copenhagen. 

Spiritual Portals is now available in audio format

audiobook_cover

In 2019 Blacktone Publishing purchased Spiritual Portals: A Historical Perspective, to produce an Audio Book. Spiritual Portals is professionally narrated by Award winning narrator for Blackstone, Ann Richardson. Also, Spiritual Portals won the New Apple Literary Award as the Solo Medalist in Spirituality and International Book Award for Best Cover.

IMG_5994

Click here to purchase Spiritual Portals in audio format

Atlantic City Airshow 2019

The Atlantic City Air Show and its 850,000 spectators joined us as we placed our beach towels in the sand. Sitting a few yards from the ocean and directly in front of the convention center, a structure that was once the home of the Miss America Pageant, we set up in the almost 100 degrees on a bright sunny day to enjoy a show dedicated “to those who serve”.  My mind went back to my youth when my mother told stories of a horse who jumped from the iconic steel pier also in view, but at that moment an amazing formation of Geico Skytypers came zooming in front of us with a beautiful presentation just above the horizon producing smoke in the shape of the American flag.

The show was in a word, spectacular. It included US Army Golden Knights Flag jumpers with the national anthem. Their landing was so soft and with such precision it seems more like a gentle dance. The USAF Thunderbirds were exceptional and I really never heard them until directly overhead. NJ ANG 177th F16 flyby so amazing it convinced me to attend their open house the next day in EHT. I enjoyed the colors, red, white and blue from the RAF Red Arrows who wear the seal of the Queen on their uniforms and honor their national colors. Planes that fly within yards of each other are exhilarating and created in me an appreciation for the pride and practice hours that go into the aerobatics and maneuvers. The Air Force personnel assigned hold focus on one spot as they fly. This is called, spot rowers. The altitude range for the performers ranged from 15,000 ft to 5,000 ft for the Tucano and Vampire Formation Pass.

Open House at the 177th proved to be equally fascinating during our groups guided tour under the direction of Vice Wing Commander Colonel Diana Brown and Colonel Derek Routt, Operations Group Commander and a former Thunderbird Pilot. Wing Commander Colonel Bradford Everman of the 177th provides combat-ready citizen airmen, aircraft and equipment in support of the USAF.

We were taken on the tarmac to view the jets about to return to the air show. It was an up close and personal look at the amazing men and women who fly these planes. Touching the wing and sitting in the simulators only enhanced the experience. The military precision of the 177th Flight Crew in preparation for take off included a walk down, called an FOD check for foreign objects dangerous on the runway. As we made our way to the next event we were shown the parachutes known as Caterpillar unit by the crew who keep them properly ready for use. They also allowed us to wear the same helmet and mask worn by the pilots for night vision capability.

It was a wonderful honor to meet many who serve and during a short interview in front of her jet, with Captain Janelle Baron, I asked the usual question of when she knew she wanted to be a pilot. Captain Baron was encouraged at age 14 by another female pilot who mentored her. Colonel Routt explained the pilots uniform and compression, he then diverted to offer some police officers bottles of water in the 100 degree heat. Colonel Brown explained night vision equipment and handed us all ear plugs for the magnificent Thunderbird take off. They are a team, a passionate, proud and precision team operating in unison from the ground crew to the pilots and with the patriotism of men and women who serve.

Did I hear someone say it was loud? That is the sound of freedom!

 

“International Book Awards” Award Winning Book Cover Design 2019

245_IBAwinnerwhitesmalljpeg

portals_cover

Award-Winning Finalist in the Best Cover Design:

Non-Fiction

category of the 2019 International Book Awards

This book provides an in depth view to techniques, methodology and most importantly the history of modalities selected to bring the reader toward a more spiritual existence without or in combination with faith-based religions. The spiritual component to our daily lives is always a transformative path intended to create change as a result of spiritual practice.

amazon.com/author/noradecclesis

https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Portals-Perspective-Nora-DEcclesis-ebook/dp/B07R7YDWDP/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=