Ghost Dance

Wovoka (aka Jack Wilson)

Wovoka (aka Jack Wilson)

A Paiute shaman named Wovoka (aka Jack Wilson) came down with a high fever in 1888. While he was delirious, he had a vision that would keep him front and center on the stage of American History for the next few years. His soul was transported to a higher plain, which was the spirit home of all the Indian ancestors of all the tribes that had been killed by the white man. The animals the tribes hunted were there too. The white men were conspicuously absent.

Early in 1899 he had a second revelation during a total



eclipse of the sun. All those dead ancestors and all the animals were coming back. The white man would be swallowed by the earth. God was angry because he had sent his son to bring blessings to the world and the white man had killed him. God planned to give the Indians a fresh start in a Euro-Free planet if Wovoka would teach all the tribes a variation of the traditional Paiute Round Dance. Video available here.

 A Northern Paiute shaman, Wodziwob (Grey Hair) had made similar prophesies in the 1870’s, although he limited the Indian Renaissance to his tribe and didn’t include the Christian

"Bullet Proof" Ghost Dance shirt.

“Bullet Proof” Ghost Dance shirt.

crucifixion element.  Unlike Wodziwob, Wovoka was well acquainted with Christian theology. The Golden Rule was an essential element of his prophesies. He urged his followers to live impeccable lives, refrain from drinking alcohol, and to make no trouble for the white man.

What is truly amazing is how quickly the Ghost Dance religion spread through so many tribes and across so much geography by word of mouth. Wovoka’s prophesy became a pan-Indian movement without him leaving Paiute lands even once.

Ghost Dance Shirt

Ghost Dance Shirt

Like most large scale religious movements, believers modified the details to suit their purposes. The Lakota added a militaristic element. They can hardly be blamed for that. Their messianic leader, Crazy Horse, had been bayonetted by a military guard while resisting arrest in 1877. They were forcibly held on reservations and were dependent on rations from the U.S. government that came irregularly when they came at all.

Aftermath of Wounded Knee Massacre.

Aftermath of Wounded Knee Massacre.

Hundreds of Lakota gathered on South Dakota Reservations to try and dance the white man away. They wore what appeared to be war paint, and “bullet proof” Ghost Shirts while they danced all night in circles. The white population including the local Indian Agent were certain there would be an uprising and asked the Army to suppress it.

 The order went out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation. He was killed in the attempt on

Mass Grave for Lakota  massacred at Wounded Knee

Mass Grave for Lakota massacred at Wounded Knee

December 15, 1890.

When Chief Big Foot heard of Sitting Bull’s death, he tried to head off disaster by seeking protection at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The army intercepted his band on December 28 and brought them to the edge of the Wounded Knee to camp, where things quickly went wrong.

During the process of disarming the Lakota (according to one version of events), a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote refused to give up his rifle. A scuffle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the

Wovoka's grave

Wovoka’s grave

7th Cavalry’s opening fire indiscriminately from all sides. The Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking soldiers, who quickly suppressed their fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen hunted them down. When the smoke cleared and the shooting stopped, approximately 300 Sioux were dead.

The Southern Cheyenne continued Ghost Dances in Oklahoma until Wovoka himself sent word that they should stop. He told a delegation he was tired of so many visitors and they should return home and tell their people to stop dancing. Wovoka (aka Jack Wilson) died in 1932 and was buried on Paiute land. People still leave flowers on his grave.

Mysticism is an important element of any story that deals with Native America, whether those stories happened a hundred years ago, or yesterday, or even a hundred years in the future. In my fiction that mysticism takes the form of Magic Realism. If you are interested in seeing my approach to Magic Realism, check out my free short story collection Southwest Gothic Tales, my Kindle single, “Messages”, and my first novel, Owl Dreams. My second novel, Magic Popsicle Sticks, is in the capable hands of Pen-L Publishing, and will be available later this year.

Museum of the Mummies–Guanajuato

Me posed beside a monument in a Guanajuato  cemetery.

Me posed beside a monument in a Guanajuato cemetery.

I like graveyards. There’s a funeral or at least a burial scene in practically everything I’ve written. I’ve visited famous cemeteries all over the world, including: the St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the Highgate Cemetery in London, and, of course, the Pyramids of Egypt. I like the mysticism, and the elaborate tombstones, and the rituals that are part religion and part performance art.

Many people share my fascination. Otherwise they wouldn’t spend so much time and energy—not to mention money—on funerals and crypts, and all the fantastic graveyard art, especially in the old world cemeteries. Burial is not so much a way of disposing of the dead as it is a last right of passage, out of this world into the next—the

Museum of the Mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico

Museum of the Mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico

final act of the dearly departed after which everything will be different because they are no longer be around.

Every culture has burial and funeral customs. Some of them are solemn and some of them are just plain weird, but everybody has them—even New Age agnostics—and on a very basic level they are all the same. Whether we bury our loved ones under a twenty ton slab of granite or we scatter their ashes on the Appalachian

Standing room only in the Museum of the Mummies

Standing room only in the Museum of the Mummies

Trail, we do something that is meaningful to us, and (we hope) will be meaningful to the loved ones whether they actually know about it or not.

When I learned about the Museo de las Mommias in Guanajuato Mexico I thought: “This is right up my alley.” I thought Mexican mummies must be the product of some ancient Central American pre-Columbian culture. They had pyramids didn’t they? So maybe pyramid cultures came equipped with mummy technology.

Ignacia Aguilar (who may have been buried alive)

Ignacia Aguilar (who may have been buried alive)

Imagine my surprise. The Guanajuato mummies weren’t the product of an elaborate embalming routine. They were people who were buried in crypts roughly between the years of 1830 and 1958. Most of them died in a cholera outbreak in 1833.

In 1865 the city imposed a local tax for burials. A family could pay a one time fee of 170 pesos and be done with it. If they didn’t have 170 pesos to spare they could elect to pay the city a 50 pesos per year. If they neglected to pay, for any reason, the deadbeat dead were removed from the crypts

Fetal Mummy--advertised as the world's smallest

Fetus Mummy–advertised as the world’s smallest

and stored in a warehouse. Most of the bodies had disintegrated, but about 2% of them had mummified naturally.

The cemetery workers started charging Mexican tourists a small fee to come and view the natural mummies. Bits and pieces of the bodies were taken by tourists as souvenirs. Over the years, the warehouse became a popular destination and eventually the warehouse was turned into a museum.

 In 1958 the tax law was changed and no more bodies were disinterred but by then the museum was going strong. It gained popularity in 1970 with the release of a movie, Santo Versus the Mummies of Guanajuato, starring the popular masked wrestler Rodolfo Guzmán guanajuato.jaramilloHuerta.

The mummies were the inspiration for the short story, “The Next in Line” by Ray Bradbury. In the introduction to his collection, The Stories of Ray Bradbury, the author wrote: “The experience so wounded and terrified me, I could hardly wait to flee Mexico. I had nightmares about dying and having to remain in the halls of the dead with those propped and wired bodies. In order to purge my terror, instantly, I wrote ‘The Next in Line.’ One of the few times that an experience yielded results almost on the spot.”

The mummies have gone on tour in the United States and have been shown in The Detroit Science Center in 2009, The West End Dallas Market in 2011, and The Natural Science

Mummy dressed in modern clothing

Mummy dressed in modern clothing

Center of Greensboro in 2012. The collection includes a fetal mummy (advertised as the world’s smallest) and the mummy of Ignacia Aguilar (who may have been buried alive). Most of the mummies are naked. A few are wearing socks (with shoes and without). Some are fully dressed in what appears to be fairly modern clothing.

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. You can read my fiction and make the comparison yourself. Major scenes in Owl Dreams take place in a cemetery. There are cemetery / burial scenes in Magic Popsicle Sticks and Trial Separation (to be released soon by Pen-L Publishing), and the streets are literally littered with the dead in the Kindle short, “Messages”.


Vikings in Oklahoma? The Heavener Runestone


Before it was enclosed.

Before it was enclosed.

In 1832 a Choctaw Hunting party discovered a rock engraved with mystical symbols on Poteau Mountain. It wasn’t hard to find. This stone was twelve feet tall, ten feet wide and sixteen inches thick. It had eight angular figures chiseled into the surface about eye level. Those symbols had to mean something, and since the Choctaw didn’t know what that might be, they quickly left the area.

White hunting parties also ran across the stone from time to time. Most of them dismissed it as an Indian Rock, but in 1923 an Oklahoma school teacher named C.F. Kemmerer decided to investigate. He wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institute in Philadelphia with a sketched representation of the symbols and asked if it was worth pursuing. He was told the symbols were a mix of Scandinavian and Gothic runes. No one came to look at the rock and the best translation they could offer was, gjomedat. No real translation at all.

Gloria Stewart Farley

Gloria Stewart Farley

In 1928, Kemmerer took 12 year old Gloria Stewart (daughter of a Heavener physician and a librarian) to see the stone. It made such a strong impression that she recalled the inscription 20 years later when she read about the discovery of the Kensington Runestone in Minnesota, believed to pre date Columbus by a century. She was living in Ohio by that time, married to Reverend J. Ray Farley, but she was inspired to send a copy of the symbols—as C.F. Kemmerer did—to the Smithsonian Institute. The Curator of the department of archeology replied. He told her of Kemmerer’s earlier communication and suggested that whoever chiseled the runes followed Scandinavian grammar.

When Gloria Stewart Farley moved back to Heavener, Oklahoma in 1950, she set

Heavener Runes

Heavener Runes

about doing her own research on the “Heavener Runestone”. She exchanged information with a number of interested parties, including: science fiction author, Frederick Pohl, cryptographer Alf Monge, and architect, Richard Nielson.

Frederick Pohl consulted a number of academic rune experts, none of whom believed the runes were an authentic pre-Nielson-Farley_Glome_Dale_2.29690536_stdColumbian message. A number of complicating factors were cited: (1) The grammar was confusing. (2) The second and the eighth rune are Scandinavian but the other runes are from a Gothic alphabet. (3) There is a small slash stroke next to the runic M that may be a ninth rune. (4) Rune writing was sometimes read right to left instead of left to right. (5) The eight rune is reversed.

All this confusion has led to a number of interpretations. Read right to left, it could be

The Runestone is enclosed in a protective house today.

The Runestone is enclosed in a protective house today.

translated “The Seven Demons”. Read left to right, it could be a simple date (1,000 A.D.), or a land claim (Glomedal—Glome’s valley), or another message that defies comprehension (gjomedat, gjnomedal).

In her book, In Plain Sight, Gloria Farley took the position that the stone was a Viking Land Claim dating around 650 A.D. She was instrumental in having a state park (now under local control) built around the stone in 1970 based on this “Official Position”. In 2011, the park lost its status as a state facility due to budget cuts and is now operated by the city of Heavener.

Recently, academic Lee Woodward (Doctor of Ministry) has developed a new theory. He believes the Heavener Runestone is a secret monument to the French Explorer LaSalle who may have been killed by the Spanish near

Dr. Lee Woodward's enhanced picture

Dr. Lee Woodward’s enhanced picture

present day Heavener, Oklahoma, during his 1686-1687 expedition.  A member of that expedition James Hiens was known for leaving arcane messages in runes that would not alert military adversaries. Woodward enhanced pictures of the runes to bring out features no one else has noticed, including: James Hiens initials, directional markers, and barely visible maps to where La Salle was murdered. He also found a drawing of a cat and has a linguistic explanation of how that image fits with his theory.

It’s safe to say that no one can speak with any unassailable authority about the origins of the Heavener Runestone. It’s a mystery, one of the things that make the state of Oklahoma a very interesting place to live—Perfect for a fiction writer.

Check out my Oklahoma fiction, loaded with Native American mysticism and written from a distinctive Oklahoma point of view: Owl Dreams, Messages, Southwest Gothic Tales (Free Download), and Magic Popsicle Sticks (Coming Soon). You can also find my stories in anthologies available on Amazon, here.

Spiritualist Church / Visit 2 (A Message)

DSC01737On my second meeting at the Central Spiritualist Church, I received a message from a dead relative. In my typical skeptical—some might say devious—manner, I had laid the groundwork. I told the pastor my mother’s name. I expected to hear that name recited back to me, or at least hinted at when the spiritual communication part of the service rolled around. It didn’t go that way.

The atmosphere inside the little frame house didn’t change from the first meeting to the second. The congregation did. There were some repeat attendees, but most of the

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

people there were new to me. The minister, Juanita Oyer, knew most of them by name. It was a small group, ten mostly middle aged people, eight women and two men including me.

For a religion based on ghosts, the church is not a scary place. The religion is based on nine principals, two of which set it apart from more orthodox Christian churches: (4) We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death, (5) We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.

The purpose of the “contact” portion of the service is to provide evidence that our departed loved ones survive “in spirit.” This evidence comes in the second half of the DSC01745service, when the pastor delivers messages from the other side.

Juanita Oyer makes firm eye contact with one person after another while she says something like, “I have someone here in a long black dress. I think her name begins with the letter L.” If she sees a spark of recognition she pursues the connection: “Something in your life is about to change—a career, money—something involving your name written on a contract . . .” She follows a line of thought until it runs dry and then she, “lets this spirit go.”

Many of the “spirits” in the room are repeat guests. “Genevieve is back again.”  Many of them attended the church in its salad days. They drop in with advice for continuing members who knew them in life. Most of the spirit visitors, like most members of the congregation are women.

The pastor looked at me several times during the communication part of the service IMG_0057but she never made a connection. She had fallen on her way to church, and wasn’t strong enough to maintain contact.

“I’ll have to stop right now,” she said. “Susan, would you like to try and bring someone through?”

In the early part of the service, we introduced ourselves. I didn’t remember anyone’s name (as usual), but Susan did. She sat in a chair in front of the congregation and had a message for everybody the pastor had missed. She had a different style. More direct, more specific,

Indian Spirit Guide

Indian Spirit Guide

more like Patrick Jane on The Mentalist.

One woman in the front row had a message from an unnamed spirit who wanted to tell her, “something about a man.”

“Does that sound right?” Susan asked.

It did.

“This might be one of your spirit guides,” Susan told her. “She has five words for you: Kick him to the curb.”

Susan asked my permission to focus on a spirit who was there for me.

“I think this is an aunt,” she said. “Someone who was important when you were a child.”

I only had one aunt. I know that sounds strange but my extended family was badly broken. She made reference to my lonely childhood. That was partially true. I had friends but no siblings.

She said, “Your aunt wants you to connect with more people.” I’m presuming she meant people who are still alive. My dead aunt had me pegged as an introvert. Not the kind of message I found convincing but it was a start.

th-1Susan continued: “You have a Native American spirit guide.”

According to spiritualists we all have spirits who stay close to us. They give us premonitions, keep us safe, whisper advice in our ears. Differences in language don’t seem to be a barrier. For some reason many of the spirit guides are Indians. Susan told me mine wore a feathered headdress—most Indian spirit guides apparently do that—and he was, “a giant of a man.”

I was intrigued if not convinced. I write fiction loaded with Native American mysticism. Maybe my muse is a giant Plains Indian Ghost.

My paranormal fiction-writing friends are missing out by not visiting the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City. It’s likely to be closing soon. Juanita Oyer is retiring and according to her, “Oklahoma hasn’t been very fertile ground for spiritualism.” Services begin at 2:30 p.m. on the first and third Sunday every month—for as long as the pastor is willing to continue. The address is 2348 NW 36th St.

Here are some links you might find interesting:

My Books: Owl Dreams / Southwest Gothic Tales (Free) / Messages / Publisher’s June Sale.

Spiritualist videos:

 Adrian Conan Doyle about his father’s belief in spiritualism.

Carol Lynne defines spiritualism.

Do spirits guide us—Carol Lynne.

Validation / John Edward.

The nine principles of spiritualism.


Allan Houser

th-1Every Oklahoman is familiar with Allan Houser’s sculpture, even if they don’t know his name. A picture of Sacred Rain Arrow is on our license plate. As Long as the Waters Flow is in the south plaza our state capitol grounds. He has pieces in our airport, in several of our art museums and on the campus of Oklahoma University in Norman.

 The rest of world also knows Houser’s art. His work is included in the permanent collections of over 70 museums across the United States, Europe and the Far East. His career spanned six decades, and his influence can be seen in contemporary, modern sculpture and graphic art. Among his other honors, Allan Houser was the first Native American to receive the National Medal of Arts.

Pretty impressive for the child of two people who spent their early lives in prison.

Houser’s father, Sam, was Geronimo’s first cousin. He was a very young man when the Apache wars ended. In 1886, members of his tribe—Chiricahua Warm Springs Apaches—were loaded into cattle cars and shipped from the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona to the swampy lands of the American southeast. Sam was among the women and children jailed at the Castillo de San Marcos th-2in St. Augustine, Florida. Allan’s mother, Blossom, was born in the prison camp at the Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama where surviving members of the tribe were sent in 1887.

 About 300 captive Chiricahuas were eventually sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where they were held for another 23 years. Allan was the first member of his family born out of captivity shortly after the Apaches were released in 1914.

Mountain Spirit Dancer

Mountain Spirit Dancer

His birth name wasn’t Houser. Back then it was Haozous (loosely translated: the sound of going away). If Allan Houser were a protagonist in a magic realism novel we’d call that symbolism.

When the Apaches were released from Ft. Sill, most of them went to the Mescalero reservation in New Mexico. Eighty-one adults, including Sam and Blossom Haozous accepted land allotments around Apache and Lawton Oklahoma.

It seemed Allan Houser was destined to become an Oklahoma farmer during one of the worst droughts of the 20th century. But in 1934 he noticed a magazine ad for an art school in Santa Fe (The Dorothy Dunn School) and applied. Allan excelled at drawing and painting and became the school’s most famous student. By 1939 his work was exhibited

Allan Houser's sculpture garden

Allan Houser’s sculpture garden

in San Francisco, Washington D. C., and Chicago.

In 1947 Haskell Institute in Lawrence Kansas solicited applicants to do a commissioned marble sculpture honoring former students who died in WWII. Even though he had never done a full size sculpture before and had never worked in marble, Allan managed to persuade the jury to give him the commission.

 Comrade in Mourning was the result. It became the iconic Native American Sculpture of its day and launched Allan Houser’s career.

 Native America always plays an important role in my fiction (Owl Dreams,

Sculpture Garden / Houser

Sculpture Garden / Houser

Messages, Southwest Gothic Tales). That makes me a natural fan of Allan Houser. His life would fit seamlessly between the covers of a magic realism novel—A member of a generationally imprisoned minority becomes a world famous artist. In Houser’s case the story is magic but it’s also true.

Allan Houser’s art can be found in collections all over the world, and starting May 1. 2014, some selected works will be exhibited on the roof of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Everyone who can should go and see it.


Pen and Keyboard Writers / Edmond

Not tasty, but it's refreshing.
Not tasty, but it’s refreshing.

When I first tried my hand at writing fiction, I started with a novel. A lot of people make that mistake. I began with a compelling idea, and wrote about it until I ran out of things to say. When I stopped I had a 190,000 words that spent most of their time going nowhere.  I had spent not one minute learning the craft of writing. I’ve still got that novel. Every now and then I take it out and weigh it to remind myself how far a writer can go wrong before he tries something new.

The Pistol That Nearly Killed MeWriter-agent-editor Terry Burns told me what I should do. He told a lot of people while he was lecturing a room full of would be writers at the annual OWFI conference. He said writers should perfect their skills on short fiction.

I had no idea how to write short fiction. But then come to think of it I had no idea how to write a novel either and short fiction had one compelling advantage over novels. They didn’t take so long to write.

Ten years later I have 45 short stories published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. I’ve won some some pretty respectable prizes: Grand Prize 80th annual Writers Digest Competition, Third prize 2011 Lorian Hemingway contest, OWFI Creme de la Creme winner in 2012, Storyteller Magazine’s Peoples Choice Award.

I’ve published a free standing short collection of stories, Southwest Gothic Tales available free on smash words, a Max Avalon single, Messages and a Novel, Owl Dreams, which is based on a character developed in a series of short stories. Pen-L Publishing has two more of my novels in the editing process. They both started off as pieces of short fiction.

Thank you Terry Burns.

On Saturday, April 12, I’m speaking to the Pen and Keyboard Writers of Edmond about writing short fiction and short fiction contests. For those who can’t attend and those who lose their handout, I am going to list a number of useful links here.

Duotrope is a site that offers a weekly newsletter which keeps writers in touch with new markets, old markets that are opening and closing, and contests. If you only have one link at your disposal, this is the one it should be. In the last two years, I have had 40 short stories published  in magazines and anthologies. At least 30 of these have come from Duotrope. This is a subscription site, but it is well worth the $50 per year it costs.

Just a Contestand Freelance Writersare two contest sites that charge no money and offer a wide variety of links to contest websites. They are great for this purpose but if you are looking for markets for short fiction they are not the place to go.


Winning stories
Winning stories

Writers Digest and Lorian Hemingway  have well known and well respected contests. I’ve had good experiences with both these sites and actually received a personal letter from Lorian Hemingway.

Writers of the Future is a contest site where many science fiction and fantasy writers have gotten their start. The contest is free. You can enter stories up to 17,000 words long, but you must be an amateur writer.

OWFI offers an annual contest for its members. The cost is exceptionally low and the prizes are worthwhile. I’ve been a winner, a loser, and a judge in this contest. If you are a regional writer you should be a member.

Frontier Tales is an on line magazine of Western Fiction. If your story is published it automatically is eligible for a “The Best Of” contest. Winners in the past have been published in The Best of Frontier Tales anthologies. The site is operated by Duke Pennell, my publisher, and yes, one of my stories won a “Best of” contest.

The Storyteller Magazine is a writers magazine that includes contests but is also a market. Regina Williams is the editor. I have to say she is the friendliest, most open editor I have ever met. She publishes the magazine quarterly, and each issue is loaded with 40 or more stories. Regina will give new writers a chance where many other editors will not.