It’s 72 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside right now. In a mere fifteen hours, it will be 16 degrees. Wow, what a drop! I insulated my outside faucets because I won’t be watering for a few days, though by Wednesday, it will probably be warm enough to give my lawn a rinsing.

It will be good to have a break. Too often, standing out there watering, staring at all that green, I find myself thinking that grass is like hair for the ground. And just like hair, it needs periodic trimming and conditioning, shampooing and rinsing (mowing and fertilizing, watering). As you can see, not a whole lot goes on in my head when I am taking care of my new lawn.

On the other hand, when I am out and about, too much goes on in my head. For example, I’ve been seeing Santa Claus decorations, and for some reason, I have taken a dislike to the mythical old gent. (St. Nicholas may or may not be a myth, but the obese, red-garbed, bearded gent who harnesses wild animals to take him around the world in a single evening sure is.)

I think this dislike started around the time of that Polar Express movie. Here’s a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but he’s taken to the North Pole, meets elves and sees a huge Christmas present manufacturing system, and then it still takes a huge leap of faith before he believes in SC. Why? It should have been obvious from the beginning that something was going on. Then, when he gets older, he’s rather smug about still believing. Um. If you know something for a fact, if you’ve seen with your own eyes, then it’s not believing. It’s knowing. And how can he feel superior to those who didn’t go on the Polar Express, who had only their own mundane experiences to go by? As you can see, that ridiculous movie still brings out the curmudgeon in me.

Although I’m not particularly religious, religious decorations don’t bother me at all, mostly because they are an intrinsic part of the Christmas story, beginning a couple thousand years before the bearded guy was ever thought of). Mostly, though, the decorations that speak to me are the seasonal ones. As in seasons. Holly. Wreaths. Trees. Cranberries. Snow. The snow part is decoration, you understand; I’m not particularly fond of white Christmases. I’m surprised more people aren’t leery of snow at Christmas. Obviously, snow makes travel difficult, and so many people do travel at that time of year.

Not that any of this matters. It’s just my curmudgeonly side coming to the fore.

And speaking of being curmudgeonly — apparently, I use the phrase “this matters” (as in none of this matters) rather frequently because almost every day now my grammar check tries to tell me I should be writing “these matters.”

Bah, humbug!


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.


In my wanderings through the internet, I came across one of those ubiquitous articles trashing the USA, written from the perspective of people from other countries. I don’t know why I even looked at it since I don’t appreciate such articles, mostly because they don’t reflect my life at all. What people hate about us are so often the policies enacted by politicians without regard to any of us — neither those of us living here, nor those living elsewhere. And if it’s not those policies that earn us such disregard, it’s the international corporations that destroy us as much as anyone else. (Why such corporations are considered to be American, I don’t know. Maybe because it’s easier to talk about how horrible the people in the USA are then point the finger at themselves?)

What stuns me is how much contempt people have for us while at the same time they have their hand out for the USA taxpayer’s money. (I read somewhere once that the United States should declare itself a third world country, that way some of our foreign aid could go to fix our own problems.) As for why we are handing out money — I don’t understand that, either. For example, we send money to China, yet we borrow money from China so that we can send it to them. Even more absurd, the people we send aid to hate us just as much as everyone else. And most absurd of all, so many of those same people want to move here so they can change this country to be just like theirs.

But none of that was in the article I mentioned above. It was more about cultural expectations and assumptions. Some people found it shocking that each of the states and each section of each state has its own particular culture and history and lifestyle. Others found the level of patriotism a bit over the top. Others were appalled at both the level of fitness in the country as well as the level of obesity. Some were shocked by the huge open spaces while others were stunned by the reality of the big cities, as if they’d assumed New York and Chicago were sets created as backdrops for various movies, even though neither are in the top ten of the largest cities worldwide. Some people thought the number of stores ridiculous, even though some areas (such as where I live) have very few stores. Some people were shocked that contrary to the hype, we generally are a friendly bunch. And on and on and on.

To me, this article wasn’t about the terribleness of the United States, but about the ignorance of the people who made these assumptions. A few minutes spent with Google, for example, can tell people that New York is real, and as large as it is, other cities in other countries are so much more populous.

Also, a brief look at statistics can show why assumptions of any kind regarding the USA are ridiculous, especially for those who are looking for some sort of uniformity throughout the country. Although the corner of Colorado where I live is approximately the size of the Netherlands, only about 100,000 people live here compared to the 17.4 million living in Holland, and yet this area is part of the same country that includes unwieldy cities such as New York, Chicago, and Seattle. And that’s not all. The USA and Europe are roughly the same size, though there are twice as many people living in Europe as live in the USA and 45 times more countries in Europe than in the USA. (45 European Countries vs. 1 USA country.)

So, what have I learned from all this other than that assumptions are simply assumptions and not fact? That’s easy. Stay away from articles purporting to tell me how terrible we in the USA are.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Forty Days and Forty Nights

For someone who is supposed to be in isolation, I have a rather active social life, at least I did today. I got one phone call from a friend, made a call to wish another friend happy birthday, got a few emails, and spoke to a few people out in the wilds of my neighborhood. Whew! That’s more socializing than I do when I’m not isolating myself!

It was such a nice afternoon, still and warm, that several people were out and about when I went for a short walk. When I stopped to talk, I made sure I was far away from them, at least twenty feet, so both parties were protected. Tomorrow will be a bit chillier, then the next two days will be warm again. After that, I’ll be out of isolation, but I’m sure it will feel more isolating than these past days because the temperature will drop, and we’ll all be isolating ourselves in the coziness of our homes.

It is interesting, though, that in the computer age, isolation feels a lot less like isolation than it did when quarantines were first created in the 14th century. I paused here to check the internet, and actually, I’m wrong about the isolating factor of quarantines. The practice of quarantine started during plague times. To keep the plague from spreading to Venice and other coastal cities, ships were required to sit at anchor for forty days before landing. So back then, people were quarantined en masse. No isolation for them. They certainly didn’t need computers and such to make them feel less alone.

Quarantine today is a matter of fourteen days, not forty, so I’m not sure the practice can still be called a quarantine since the word comes from the Italian phrase quaranta giorni, which means 40 days. I wonder if they knew that’s how long it would take the plaque to remove itself from the ships, or if it was a biblical thing since Noah endured 40 days and 40 nights of rain, and Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. (So why weren’t the ships kept at anchor for quaranta giorni e quaranta notti? Or maybe they were, and like everything else, over time the phrase was shortened to make it less unwieldy.)

Whatever the meaning of quarantine, and despite my rather social time of isolation, I’m glad I don’t have to be alone for forty days and forty nights. Not that the addition of “nights” matters — I’m always alone at night. And anyway, technically I’m self-isolating rather than quarantining since no one is keeping me at home but me, and I can go and do wherever I want as long I stay far away from people. Which tends to be my inclination anyway.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Dona Nobis Pacem

I joined the peace bloggers in 2012. And every November 4th since then, I have blogged for — and about — peace.

This year’s theme is “Courageous Peace in a Time of Great Change.” I believe in personal peace, in finding peace within ourselves no matter what happens to provoke us into chaos. In fact, I think personal peace is the only peace attainable because it’s the only sort of peace we have any control of. Wanting world peace is a cliché, a coward’s way of putting evading responsibility and putting the onus on others, and those others generally use “peace” as a club to beat the unpeaceful into submission. But taking responsibility for oneself and finding personal peace? That takes courage. Eschewing the outrage so prevalent today? That, too, takes courage. And finding peace in a time of great change? That takes the most courage of all.

I have been folding a senbazuru, which is 1,000 origami cranes, in my effort to find my own peace, a sort of mindfoldness. (As of today, I have folded 992 cranes.) Traditionally, the crane has been a symbol of success and good fortune, and supposedly, if you had the patience and commitment to fold l000 paper cranes, your wish would come true. (It’s no wonder that one of the first books about origami, published in Japan in the late 1700s, was entitled, How to Fold 1000 Cranes.)

In the last century, however, the crane became a symbol of peace because of one girl, Sadako Sasaski, a victim of Hiroshima. Dying of leukemia, she started folding a senbazuru in the hopes of getting well. When she realized she wouldn’t finish the task before she died, she switched her focus to peace. Legend has it that on her deathbed, she held one of her cranes and murmured, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”

Today is the annual Blog Blast for Peace, a time for finding the courage to write peace on our own wings as we go about our busy lives.

Dona nobis pacem.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Macabre Musings

Some people celebrate Halloween for religious reasons. For many, it’s the night before All Saints Day, a Christian holiday, and a day of remembering the dead, both the saintly and the not so saintly. For Wiccans, it’s a sacred day, one of the few high holy days in their religion. (And some people, like Jehovah’s witnesses, refrain from celebrating Halloween for religious reasons.)

Some people celebrate Halloween for the fun — dressing up, parties, trick-or-treating, as well as the subconscious ritualizing of ancient fears.

Some people, like me, tend to ignore the day because it is generally a time of getting together with friends and family, and I’ve mostly given up any group socialization for the time being.

Whatever the reason for celebration, certain decorations are de rigueur — pumpkins, ghosts, black cats, skeletons. None of those things have ever bothered me, except for the time I went to a fundraiser around Halloween, and a local mortuary was advertising their services. That was fine, but I did think the cartoonish renderings of skulls and gravestones and dancing skeletons decorating their booth was in poor taste.

For the first time in my life, though, I saw a Halloween decoration so macabre that it really creeped me out — an 11-foot unicorn skeleton archway in front of a neighbor’s house. Unicorns are linked to such traits as purity, freedom, gentleness, innocence, divinity, magic, fun, positive thoughts, and most of all, life. A dead unicorn seems to be the opposite of all that, though come to think of it, the unicorn looks more like a three-dimensional x-ray than a dead creature.

Although I lost interest in unicorns long before they became a rainbow-colored fad, the skeleton seems inappropriate, sort of like decorating one’s house with the skeleton of a teddy bear or even a deceased pet. And since the rainbow unicorn also has connections to the LGBT community as well the princess culture for little girls, it makes the unicorn skeleton even more bizarrely inappropriate.

Such a decoration really makes no difference to my life (except for the creep factor), so I suppose I should count myself lucky that the only problem I am currently having is with a macabre Halloween decoration.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Malls Near and Far

A couple of friends are currently living in Bangkok. She’s Thai by birth, and he’s from various places in the USA, and somehow they ended up here in this town, where I met them. Now that she has end-stage cancer, she wanted to go home where she was most comfortable, so I haven’t seen them in months. I do hear from them periodically, however, partly because I am looking after their house and partly so he can touch base with his home country. At least that’s my theory.

She’s mostly housebound now, which works okay over there, since they have restaurants and food carts spread throughout the city, rather than clustered in specific areas as in this country. Even better, all those food outlets deliver.

What really caught my attention in the last email they sent were the photos of a mall they visited — a real treat for them since she hasn’t been able to get out except to doctors and hospitals.

The mall they went to is huge. Make that HUGE. The 26th largest mall in the world. 300+ stores. Parking for 5,000 vehicles. There are more people working in that mall than live in this entire town. And when you add in visitors, there are probably more people in that place on a given day than in the entire southeastern quadrant of Colorado.

When I stayed with my father, there was a mall I visited occasionally, and that only had 114 stores. Combine that with the mall closest to where Jeff and I lived in western Colorado, which had only 100 stores, and you’d still come up short.

I can no longer conceive of so many stores in one place. In this town, I’d bet there are only a couple of dozen stores all told, and that includes thrift stores, dollar stores, convenience stores, and pot shops.

The last time I was in a real mall was many years ago when I lived in Denver — Cinderella City. It was something special back then, the first mall west of the Mississippi and supposedly the biggest mall under one roof. With 250 stores, it still falls short of the mall in Bangkok. It’s gone now — it seems as if it made history again at its end because it was one of the first malls to go obsolete.

(I’d forgotten, but I once had a store in Cinderella City, not on the main floor, but in the “Alley” where there were a bunch of boutiques. A friend and I sold clothes we designed as well as various hand-crafted gifts. My main claim to fame was a macramé pinafore with a halter-style top that I made, envisioning it as something to slip on over other clothes to dress them up, but a stripper bought it to use in her act. How did I forget that? Maybe because even though it makes a great story, it was merely a blip in my life.)

I’m sure there are many malls within a couple of hours from here in the major cities along the front range, but I have no real desire to visit any of them. I don’t particularly like to window shop and I certainly don’t need — or want — to buy anything. (I look at the images of all those container ships off the coast of the USA waiting to be unloaded, and I wonder what they could possibly contain that people want in such quantities. Almost anything I need is in this country already. And if it’s not, I probably could do without it.)

Still, it’s interesting to think of such places and imagine a different world from the one in which I live.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times

A Murder of Crows

The basic story for the museum mystery event “A Murder of Crows” was laid out here: Wow! What a Story! So there’s no reason for me to tell the tale again except to say a stolen peace pipe was supposed to be cleansed to prevent an eventual World War; instead, the Crows ended up dead, the pipe disappeared, and fourteen years later, World War I began.

Major Players:

Mrs. Lottie Gardner: When Circuit Judge Ewell suggested that Lottie build a hotel, she hesitated, not wanting to pay high interest rates. But Judge Ewell promised to find her low interest rates, she built the hotel, and lived happily ever after. Until the Murder of the Crows, that is.

Abigail Crow: When Abigail woke up dead, she found that her husband had disappeared and now she’s wandering the Gardner House looking for him so they can be together once again.

Circuit Judge Ewell: He has traveled extensively through the region and stayed at the Gardner House many times, but because he was instrumental in getting the hotel built, he wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize his favorite hotel. Or would he?

Sheriff The sheriff is used to cowboy hijinks, crimes of passion (both anger and love), and drunken brawls, so when the Crows are so senselessly murdered, he is at a loss, though he is determined to get his man. Or woman.

Bright Raven: Bright Raven could be a suspect, but since she was planning on cleansing the sacred pipe in the interests of world peace, how likely is it that she would murder innocent people?

Major Suspects:

Jennie Wren: Jennie is a chambermaid who wasn’t assigned to clean Room Number 5, so the sheriff is mystified to find her fingerprint in the room. Jennie claims the woman who was supposed to clean the room said it was haunted even before Abigail was killed, so Jennie changed places with her. Is this the truth or did Jennie do the dastardly deed? But as far as anyone knows, Jennie has never been out of town.

Nell Starling: A reporter from Pueblo, Nell is in town to write about the races and any other events of interest, but could that simply be an excuse to come to town and commit the murders? But there is no indication she has ever been in town before, and no record of her staying at the Gardner House.

Selina Heron: A gypsy fortuneteller and self-proclaimed seer, Selina promises to find out who killed the Crows. She says the cards will tell her or perhaps Abigail herself will come to her in a vision. But is this just a lie to keep people from looking at her more closely? After all, as a gypsy, she does travel all over. Yet she denies ever staying at the hotel because she can always camp down by the river with the rest of her people.

Professor Crane: A well-known medicine man and purveyor of snake oil, the professor has been in town and stayed at the Gardner House many times. He had plenty of opportunity to meet with the mysterious traveler who had passed on the sacred pipe, and plenty of opportunities to hide the pipe in the hotel. He didn’t show up in town until after the Crows checked in, so perhaps he tried to reclaim the pipe anyway. He denies being the killer, but can he be trusted to tell the truth? After all, he is, at heart, a snake oil salesman.

Thomas Finch: A Sherlock Holmes wannabe, Thomas is in town detecting whatever he can in an effort to make a name for himself as a master detective. He thought there would be plenty of nefarious behavior at the races, though he didn’t manage to detect any, so the murders seemed a lucky break for him. Unless, of course, he did the deed to give himself a high-profile case.

Clarence Hawk: Clarence appears to be a simple beet digger, though he has traveled some—at least 25 miles to the nearest town—and he has enough book learning and native intelligence to be able to know what he had (if in fact, he did have the sacred pipe before it was hidden). But would he kill? He’s not telling.

Karen Kingfisher: This candy shop lady is more than she seems. She’s an avid student of tribal lore, so if a sacred pipe had come her way, she would have done anything to keep it in her possession, maybe even kill. But as far as anyone knows, she’s never been out of town since she stays close in case of a candy emergency.

Minor Suspects:

Although the sheriff has pinpointed a few major suspects, he’s the first one to admit anyone could have committed the crime, even the most unlikely folks, such as the preacher, the school marm, and even his own deputy, so he intends to interview as many people as he can. Including you.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times

Wow! What a Story!

Thanks to suggestions from blog readers and offline friends, I finally wrote the mystery for the museum. I still have to list the characters and their movements and motivations on the fateful night, but for the most part, it’s finished. It sounds like a synopsis for a truly interesting novel. This is what I have so far:


It is late July, 1899, on the cusp of a new century. William McKinley is president of the United States of America. The United States, until now uninterested in expansion, has begun to assert itself and has officially become a world power. The first automobiles appear on the roads and the first traffic fatality will occur in a few weeks. Electricity is beginning to light the country.

Locally, horse racing is an important event, and people come from all over Colorado and Kansas to race and watch and bet. Gypsies camp down by the river. The Gardner House hotel is celebrating its seventh anniversary. Cowboys, as always, let off steam and try to shoot out the oil-lit street lights in front of the hotel.

Regionally, there is unrest among the Cheyenne, both the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne. The Medicine Hat Bundle, which included a ceremonial pipe and a buffalo horn, was the most sacred possession of the Northern Cheyenne, but in the 1870s, after a tribal dispute with the Keeper of the Sacred Medicine Hat Bundle, the pipe disappeared.

And oh, yes — a flock of crows is called a “murder of crows.”

This Story

Despite the rapid growth of southeast Colorado and the diverse people living there, it’s become a fairly safe place to live.

Until the murder of the Crows.

The Crows were drummers (traveling salespeople). John sold men’s haberdashery, and Abigail sold women’s unmentionables. When they arrived at the Gardener House, they found only one room still available because of all the activity in town. Instead of staying in room #3, which they considered lucky, the Crows reluctantly checked into room #5. Things were fine the first night, but on the second night, Abigail wakes to hear someone in the room. She starts to call out, but a figure descends on her like an immense black bird with wings outstretched. She feels terrible pain, then nothing. When she wakes again, she is dead.

The intruder is desperate. Two weeks ago, the intruder met a fellow traveler who was dying. The traveler gave the intruder a bundle containing an old peace pipe, and requested that it be delivered to a Cheyenne woman called Bright Raven in southeastern Colorado no later than midnight on July 28th or the world would burn in a terrible world war. The intruder promised, but during the journey, the intruder sensed the power of the pipe and figured there was money to be made from such an artifact. Because of the ill fortune that followed the intruder after accepting the pipe, the intruder stashed the bundle under the floorboards in the closet of room #5 in the Gardner House where the intruder was staying, until better plans could be made. But the intruder could find no one who would pay big money for an unlucky pipe of dubious origin. Ill fortune continued to follow the intruder. In desperation, remembering the July 28 deadline, the intruder, disguised in a voluminous black cape, returned to the hotel shortly before midnight on that date to retrieve the item.

It was bad luck room #5 was occupied. Bad luck that the woman occupant awoke. Bad luck that when the intruder swooped down on the woman, the knife the intruder had been using to pry up the floorboard in hand, the woman died. Bad luck that the husband awoke. Bad luck that the cowboys chose that very moment to shoot out the street lights. Bad luck that the intruder had to escape without the artifact.

During the investigation that followed the murders, the artifact was retrieved but in the confusion, the sacred pipe disappeared again. Bright Raven never received the pipe, never got to perform the cleansing ritual she’d needed to do to remove the taint.

Exactly fifteen years later, on July 28, 1914, a shot rang out.

And World War I began.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times

Family Lore

I’m reading a book about Roosevelt’s Island in New York. It was named Roosevelt’s Island in 1973. Before that, it was Welfare Island. And before that, it was Blackwell’s Island. Although it has a sad and appalling history as a place to house the unwanted — criminals, sick people, mentally ill folks, people who were lost and didn’t speak enough English to explain where they wanted to go — I have a personal interest because a woman who might be my great-grandmother was once incarcerated there.

According to family lore, our family comes by its insanity naturally — we inherited it. My great-grandfather was a scientist and inventor. He worked with Edison and other renowned scientists of the day, perhaps even Tesla. He invented the postmarking machine and foolishly sold the patent to get funds to invent a subway sweeper that never caught on. The people who supposedly did him a favor by buying the patent, became very rich because that postmarking machine was used continuously until the digital age made it obsolete. This otherwise intelligent man — my grandfather — had been married twice. One wife he threw down the stairs. The other he consigned to the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

The asylum was supposed to be a state-of-the-art facility, with patients classified as to their illness, rather than all thrown in together, the violent and harmless alike. The Asylum was also supposed to be moral, treating the patients like humans rather than like depraved animals. This humane mental institution never materialized. Instead, the asylum was a dreadful place that journalist Nellie Bly described as a “human rat trap.” Even worse, since convicts from the nearby penitentiary were used as guards and attendants, the patients were “abandoned to the tender mercies of thieves and prostitutes.”

No one knows which of my great-grandfather’s wives is my great-grandmother, but even if she weren’t the one committed (especially since there’s a chance he had her committed for his own reasons rather than her mental state), the insanity could come from dear old great-grandfather himself because there seems to be a portion of insanity in incarcerating one woman and tossing another down the stairs

His son, an embezzler who never quite measured up to his father, went to prison for a while and died an alcoholic at 96.

My father kept himself on a tight rein to keep from turning into his father, which was an imbalance of a different sort, and caused all sorts of problems, especially with his oldest children.

My older brother seemed to have inherited all the family craziness — he was a brilliant inventor and electronic genius at the age of twelve, and then he succumbed to the same devils that had tormented his progenitors.

For all I know, I might have inherited some of these problems, but I have more of the Polish placidity of my mother’s family than the German genius and volatility of my father’s family. And besides, it seems to be a sort of insanity that is passed down from father to son.

Not that any of this makes any difference. All those people are gone now, and nothing can change anything that happened, but I do sometimes think of my great-grandfather and his wives and wonder what happened to the poor woman who was sent to Blackwell’s Island.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Murder Mystery Proposal

I submitted a proposal to the museum today for the murder mystery they’ve planned for the end of October.

The first mystery I created was based on a Clue game, so all the character’s names were colors. Various comments and suggestions from people gave me the idea of bird names. The victims could be a couple surnamed “Crow,” and the event could be called “A Murder of Crows.” Not everyone knows that a group of crows is not a flock but a murder, but that shouldn’t make any difference to the game.

Crows have nothing in particular to do with this area, though this part of Colorado is a good site for birding. (Except when it comes to me. Out of the 400 species that have been sighted, I’ve seen only a dozen or so.) Because of a lack any historical connection to crows, my proposal was just a first draft to get things going. Still, the museum director seemed to like the idea.

One of the characters could be a woman reporter, whose name could be Brenda Starling or more probably, Nellie Starling since Brenda Starr wasn’t created until the forties and Nellie Bly was active during the historical time of this event.

I’d also like one of the victims to be a ghost, roaming around looking for either her husband, their killer, or both.

And there’s a local medicine man who would make a good huckster.

My job is done for a while. The next steps need to come from other people, such as signing up people to play various characters and finding out noteworthy local events from that time. And I need help figuring out the visual clues, though I have a hunch that will be left to me.

I did have visual clues the first time, such as a photo of a man with a saloon girl he claimed never to have met, but since the museum is rather large for such a small town, I think clues like that got lost. This time, I figure we can put a silhouette of a crow by any clue, photographic or otherwise, to give people a hint.

I’d like to use fingerprints somehow. It’s possible I could just put a photo of a fingerprint by the crime scene and then simply tell people who it belonged to, though the person would deny committing the crime. Another possibility is to give all the characters a photo of a fingerprint they can hand out so people can check who the fingerprint belongs to, but the logistics of doing that seem a bit too complicated.

What makes this sort of game hard to create is that it has to be enigmatic yet logical, as do all mysteries. It also needs to be convoluted yet easy enough to solve so that even kids can play.

Until the museum folks gather some of the information I need, I don’t really have to do anything else to put it all together. Except think, of course. It always helps me to play out various scenarios in my head before I lay them out on a page.

A big thank you to everyone who gave me suggestions for this project. It certainly makes it easy for me to come up with a proposal when all I have to do is collate other people’s ideas!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator