Friday, September 16, 2016

A Business Obituary - TearDrop Memories

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the closing of the best “mourning arts” retail store in the known galaxy. My friend Greg Cristiano is retiring and closing his New Hope, Pennsylvania store doors forever. I am reposting his self-penned obituary here on The Cemetery Traveler. Good luck Greg, feel better, and thank you for many years of enlightenment!- Ed Snyder


TearDrop Memory Post Mortem Gallery Shop Closing - A Business Obituary

TearDrop Memories NorthFork Pet Antiques, a long-time New Hope tradition is closing its Post Mortem Gallery on Mechanic Street. R.I.P.  A major tourist destination in town for more than a decade, owner Greg@TDM is closing down his one of a kind retail shop, due to major health issues. His museum-worthy treasures and historically-based traveling talks will remain available on his four websites (linked below).

Detail of Victorian mourning artwork (TDM collection)

A Business Obituary

Queen Victoria mourning pin (TDM collection)
TearDrop Memories has been a leading organizer of in-town events. It’s resume includes the Almost Art Show, Liberty Festival, High Heel Drag Race, Liberty Pole, Monroe Crossing, National Honey Bee Day, Coryells Ferry Militia, New Hope Meter Angels and Colonial Christmas. As advisor to the New Hope Chamber of Commerce, Greg fought hard for New Hope businesses and against the town’s repressive regulations. In the style of the Late Captain Bob Gerenser, Greg remained one of the town’s last curmudgeons, NRA and Tea Party Conservative.


Greg Cristiano holding court in Teardrop Memories
Many will miss Historian Greg’s cheeky greeting, “Can I be of any help or make up a story?” A line that while eliciting smiles, really exemplified the store’s main talent, storytelling. “I never wanted to be a cashier, as most of today’s wannabee antique stores are. I wanted my customers (friends) to feel the same passion for the past as I do,” said he. A shop crowded with everything from antique coffins, Victorian bird cages, real gothic Georgian mourning jewelry, ancient hair art memorials, early medical tools and antiquarian books, became a wealth of material for his epic tales. The shop’s motto “Nothing with a barcode or ‘Made in China’ label” was rarely equaled in Town. This unusual shop and his reenactments of both Revolutionary War Rebellion hero Capt. John Fries and a 19th century Victorian Undertaker, drew visitors to New Hope from around the world.

Post-mortem portrait (TDM collection)

Survived by his 4 websites and traveling talks, the B&M Post Mortem Gallery; TearDrop Memories will close in October [2016]. Gone but not forgotten, Memento Mori!

TearDrop Memories NorthFork Pet Antiques
http://www.NorthForkPets.com/ 
http://teardropmemories.com/
http://www.MaidensMemoirs.com/ 
http://www.WeSpeakAntique.com/
 

BIO
http://WeSpeakAntique.com/aboutus.html
Email
info@WeSpeakAntique.com
Phone
(215) 862-3401
12 West Mechanic St. 1C
New Hope Pa. 18938
We Speak Antique You Tube
http://www.youtube.com/user/WeSpeakAntique?feature=mhum 
Member
Greater New Hope Chamber Of Commerce
http://www.visitnewhope.com/
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce
http://www.uschamber.com/

Sunday, September 11, 2016

So when you die ...


So when you die, will you waft gently to immortal life, or will it be like moving to a new house or apartment? I would assume the latter, and specifically, to an apartment. It takes you a few weeks to get used to the new layout (and months to get used to the new fridge). The door lock keys don’t work properly, of course, but who would you call to report that anyway? Nothing is where you think it should be. It’s like driving an American-made car all your life and then you rent a Subaru – all the same stuff is there, just in slightly wrong places.

I’m sure its disorienting to wake up dead. One moment you’re say, having sex, the next moment you’re dead (this actually happened to someone I know). Are you out of body watching the scene or does everything just go dark? And then, as Woody Allen said, “when you’re dead, it’s hard to find the light switch.

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When you come to, do you know where you are? Are there signs? Writer Neil Gaiman wrote  (in his book, Coraline): "It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be."

I hope Neil continues writing cool stuff in his afterlife. Its awesome to think that only the dead will benefit from his genius from that time forward. Maybe that would be Heaven for his readers? I used to think that the only difference between Heaven and Hell is the type of music they play. Now, after recently moving from a house to an apartment, I think there may be more to it than that.

Wherever you land, you have no idea who your neighbors are. You say, “Hi. Just moved in.” You shake hands. I wonder if its politically correct to ask, “How long have you lived here?” Does time exist after you die? Is there night and day? Seasons? ATM machines? You can’t just Google this stuff anymore. Where do you get your hair cut now? I'm writing this mainly from a guy's perspective, but I realize the hair issue is much more complex for women. For all of you women out there, where will you get your hair colored, foiled, double-processed, or even just blown out? After life's fitful fever, she many not, actually, sleep so well.



Relative to your prior corporal address, trash collection is on a different day of the week - assuming there is such a thing as trash (and days, for that matter). Do we consume things in the afterlife? And what about grocery stores and a good auto mechanic? It’s always tough to start over with these things in a new locale. One thing is for certain, however - if there is a God, there will be no dentists in the afterlife. To my mind, this is the single greatest advantage to being dead – no more dealing with your teeth.

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But once you get used to your new environs, many things fall into place. Some that do not fall into place are the coins from your pocket when you get into your car. There is no longer a need for money after you die, although you will indeed have a car. In Heaven, you may once again have your long-lost favorite, perhaps that green ’67 Mustang 289 with the rust around the quarter-panels. The rust will still be there, unfortunately. The afterlife is not a miracle-cure, people. In Hell, you’ll drive a Yugo.

Why are all the electrical sockets in your new digs so loose that the plugs just want to fall out? Tough to properly adjust this weird cranky tub faucet to get the right temperature water in the tub – man, you think they would have at least cleaned that after the last people left. And where did they go…? Maybe this is Purgatory, or Limbo? No, wait, the Catholic Church did away with them, right? Was that like a marriage “annulment,” where the Church doesn’t actually cancel something, they just say that it never existed in the first place? I wonder if I can put in a request to have certain people annulled.

So if this is Purgatory, the congested parking situation is only temporary. If I go to through the hassle of acquiring a residential parking permit (good for a year), I might be moved to the next place tomorrow!


And who do you call to order a pizza? HOW do you call? Dying idiot that you are, you forgot to bring the cord to charge your iPhone. Where could you buy a new one? Can’t just go down to the lobby or the gift shop. Or can you? After a couple months, you’re used to your surroundings and it just becomes your normal mode of existence. It’s the opposite of economist Adam Smith’s free market adage, “adapt or die” – here, you just die and adapt. See you there - I'll save you a parking space!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ebeneezer Price, Colonial-era Gravestone Carver

My knowledge of eighteenth-century American headstone carvers is rather limited. What I do know has been gleaned from my relationship with the Association for Gravestone Studies. This organization publishes such scholarly information in their quarterly journal (see link at end). So when I personally happened upon evidence of such a headstone carver right before my eyes, I became immediately interested.

Pennington Presbyterian Church, Pennington, New Jersey.

Walking through the Presbyterian Church graveyard in Pennington, New Jersey, I noticed seven red sandstone grave markers all in a row – six large (standard-sized), and one small. Recognizing them as the oldest on the site, I thought perhaps they might have the old “angel-head” carving at top (I initially spotted them from behind). I walked around the thick (three inch) slabs with the roughly carved backs and, lo and behold, three of the large stones had angel heads carved at top, while two had a sunrise! I get rather excited to find these as they are quite uncommon outside New England. New Jersey cemeteries seems to be the southern cutoff point. Why is this?

Rear view of red sandstone grave markers

Well, New England was one of the first areas of the north American continent to be settled by Europeans and the first to become densely populated. Therefore, the oldest graveyards are there. The Puritanical flair of the headstone artisans and craftsmen is evident on early headstone carvings throughout that region. As time went on, populations grew and spread out from New England. Belief systems changed, different materials were used for grave markers, and this particular type of angel head was replaced with other symbolism (or none at all).

"Sunrise" symbolism

White marble became a popular choice as a replacement for red and brown sandstone, as Vermont and Philadelphia quarries boomed in the late 1700s. Angel heads appear on old marble stones too, but marble wears easily and detail is quickly lost. Sandstone retains detail better, but cracks more easily. Central and northern New Jersey’s sandstone quarries supplied the need for grave marker material from the end of the seventeenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Small headstone, perhaps a child's
While red sandstone grave markers can be found geographically south of central New Jersey, they are usually devoid of ornamentation (i.e., angel heads, flowers, and other designs). The reason is that Philadelphia-area stone carvers (from 1785 onward) usually did not exhibit the artistic flair, or skill, of their northern counterparts. Still, fanciful headstones from the northern and central New Jersey carvers found their way to cemeteries all over the east coast.

"E. Price" signature engraved at bottom of 1775 headstone

Ebeneezer Price

As I photographed the seven red sandstone markers in Pennington’s Presbyterian Church graveyard, I realized two things: one, they all marked graves of members of the same family, the Muirheids; and two, the markers were all signed by the same stone carver! This latter point is rather unusual in my experience.

“E. Price,” as you can see in this photo, stands for Ebeneezer Price, “New Jersey’s most prolific eighteenth century gravestone carver” (so described by Nonesteid and Veit in their fascinating 2011 publication, Carrying On the Stone Cutting Business.) FindaGrave.com describes Price as a “Master Craftsman, Folk Artist. One of the most skilled and prolific gravestone carvers in colonial America, Price's work began to appear in the burial grounds of northern New Jersey in 1757… 

Ebeneezer Price, this engraver from Elizabeth, New Jersey, was born in 1728 and created masterpieces such as those you see here from 1744 through 1787. These intricate soul effigy engravings, lettering, and other designs were amazingly done by his own hand and chisel. His style influenced many other stone carvers of his time.

Note "E. Price" engraving at bottom right

It happens to be well-documented that Price signed, or initialed his work, which was unusual in that industry, or craft. I found it interesting that during the Revolutionary War-era that Price was in business, he would barter for payment of a carved headstone. Barbara Schaffer’s 2013 Quilts, Gravestones, and Elusive Ancestors blog post, “Signed by Carvers,” reproduces a 1786 newspaper advertisement for Price’s engraving business. He would accept any of the following in exchange for an engraving job: “timber, stone, brick, boards, window-frames, doors, sashes, shutters, hinges, carting, labor.” The article shows further examples of Price’s intricate carvings of angels, flowers, and letters.

Seven Ebeneezer Price-engraved sandstone grave markers, Pennington, New Jersey

Ebeneezer Price’s workshop was in Elizabeth, New Jersey, but his engraved headstones – wonderful examples of early American folk art - traveled to such places as New York City, Long Island, the Carolinas, Georgia, and the Caribbean (ref.)


Price died in 1788 and is buried at the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

References and Further Reading:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pine Forest Pet Cemetery

What’s a vacation without a trip to a cemetery? If you’re a regular reader of The Cemetery Traveler, you know that I usually combine family trips to the Jersey shore with a stop at a couple graveyards. This past July was no exception.

Now, I don’t subject my family to my eccentricities – I usually sate my cemeterial desires early in the morning, before my wife and six-and-a-half year old daughter awaken. This July trip was no exception. During a few days’ vacation on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, I took an early-morning trip inland, through Manahawkin, up Route 70, to the little rural town of Warren Grove. The Internet told me there was a pet cemetery there. Truth be told, without the GPS in my smartphone, I never would have found this place. The Pine Forest Pet Cemetery is so far off the beaten path that my GPS couldn’t map the roads through the Pine Barrens (the Wharton National Forest) when I got within a mile of the place.

Gazebo at center of  the Pine Forest Pet Cemetery

I found it though. Very rural, quite large (as pet cemeteries go) - 26 acres, says their website. It is very well-cared for, and tastefully appointed. A small gazebo at center, with maybe a hundred graves spread out from there. The pine forest surrounds it on three sides. The mostly canine grave markers (there are some felines too) are arranged in rows and are mostly flush-to-the-ground memorial park style, perhaps indicative of buried cremains. There were a few monuments, of sorts - heartfelt things, small sculptures, handmade remembrances, small plaster statues of dogs with wings.

"Wishbone," the Hearing-Ear Dog
If you stop and read some of the headstone inscriptions, epitaphs, you’ll agree some are incredibly poignant. Witness the inscription on the “hearing-ear dog” headstone above. At the back of the cemetery is a special K-9 grave plot, reserved for police dogs who had served on the Stafford Township, New Jersey police force. I was surprised to see this ceramic badge on several of the grave markers.

This is the same type of medallion used for the death portraits we see on humans' grave stones.

Established in 1984, “This serene twenty-six acre tract of land is nestled in the forest zone of the protected Pine Barrens. It has been set aside to honor our departed pets that fill our hearts and minds with loving memories.” - from the Pine Forest Pet Cemetery website

"Born to Love, Trained to Serve, Loyal to the End"
 
“Pet Memorial Sunday” – September 11, 2016

If you are a pet owner – I caught myself there – “pet owner” sounds a bit crass to describe the humans involved in this memorialization of their animals. I should instead say “If you have an animal companion”…. or are just interested in the type of person who would go to the trouble of creating a permanent memorial to an animal, consider a visit to Pine Forest Pet Cemetery the second Sunday of September. You can witness their annual “Pet Memorial Sunday" - this year, it will be held on September 11, 2016. See their link for more detail.

"Heaven is a bit brighter now"

If you ever wonder what might possess someone to cremate and bury their pet, just read this grave marker above to "Patches" and "JJ." It certainly gave me a few new things to think about. The poem below, Rainbow Bridge, gave me a lot more to think about. I had never seen this before. Apparently, there is an entire WORLD of pet grief-and-loss out there. You can read the poem, then check out this website, “Quest for the Rainbow Bridge,” which describes its purpose, its origins, its meaning to those who have lost an animal loved one. The poem, The Rainbow Bridge, is reproduced on Pine Forest Pet Cemetery‘s website.


Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven lies the Rainbow Bridge.
When a beloved pet dies, it goes to the Rainbow Bridge.
It makes friends with other animals and frolics over rolling hills
And peaceful lush meadows of green. They are as healthy
And playful as we remember them in days gone by.

Together, the animals chase and play, but the day comes
When a pet will suddenly stop and look into the distance...
Bright eyes intent, eager body quivering.
Suddenly recognizing you, your pet bounds quickly
Across the green fields and into your embrace.
You celebrate in joyous reunion. You will never again separate.

Happy tears and kisses are warm and plentiful, your hands caress the face you missed.
You look into the loving eyes of your pet and know that you never really parted.
You realize that though out of sight, your love had been remembered.
You cross the Rainbow Bridge together.


Reference and Further Reading:
Pine Forest Pet Cemetery
Funeral and Memorial·
1285 Grays Rd
Warren Grove, NJ 08005
 609) 698-7600

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Historic Gatehouse Stabilization

Mount Moriah Cemetery gatehouse, Philadelphia, August, 2016

One of Philadelphia’s historic gems is off the beaten path. It is miles from the Liberty Bell historic district. However, visitors who appreciate American history would do well to make the trek to Mount Moriah Cemetery in southwest Philadelphia. After all, Betsy Ross is buried here.

Photo by Ken Smith, FOMMCI
The cemetery and its 1855 brownstone gatehouse have recently been recognized with official historic status, as you can see from this 2016 plaque. The problem is, Mount Moriah and its gatehouse had been left to crumble since the 1970s. The gatehouse is really nothing more than a façade at this point. The cemetery, by 2011, was an overgrown forest.

Since 2011, an all-volunteer organization, The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc., with help from thousands of volunteers from all walks of life, have been slowly but surely bringing the massive cemetery back from the brink. At a reputed 380 acres (ref.), it is the largest cemetery in the state of Pennsylvania. In 2011, it was no doubt the largest abandoned cemetery in the nation.

The iconic gatehouse, which sits at the original entrance to the cemetery, is of prime concern to the preservation and rejuvenation of the historic cemetery. A large portion of the structure was destroyed by fire decades ago and the walls have literally been tumbling down over the past two years. In 2011, this beautiful piece of architecture was covered with vines, hidden by trees, and filled with old car tires and other trash. One of the Friends board members remarked to me that the vines may have been the only thing holding the gatehouse together.

2012 photo of Mount Moriah Cemetery gatehouse, by Ed Snyder

In 2016, the Friends, in conjunction with the recently-formed Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation “...secured a $22,000 grant from the Mayor’s Fund to be used toward the rescue of the gatehouse.” The corporation found a contractor who could do the work for $32,500 and the Friends group led a fundraising effort to make up the shortfall.

Rear of gatehouse, looking toward Kingsessing Avenue

Work began on the stabilization of the gatehouse in the summer of 2016. The photos you see here with most of the final bracing in place, were made in August, 2016.

In 2016, the cemetery and its gatehouse became a recognized landmark by the American Institute of Architects; it is on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and has been deemed eligible for the National Register.

Mount Moriah gatehouse, c.1855

While the gatehouse may never be restored to architect Stephen Decatur Button’s original design, the original façade will be preserved. In future, this can perhaps be repurposed as a columbarium, a structure of vaults with recesses for urns containing cremated remains.
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For more information and/or to donate to Mount Moriah’s preservation, please see our website:

For up-to-the-minute (literally!) updates on the many ongoing restoration efforts, please see The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Facebook Group page.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Weird NJ as Catalyst for Cemetery Exploration

So here’s a short blog about my friends at Weird NJ, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman. Back in the spring of 2016, I had some of my cemetery photography on display at the annual Smithville Art Walk, in historic Smithville, New Jersey. (There’s a link at the end to a blog I posted about that.) Well, Weird NJ was also one of the exhibitors.

During the exhibitor set ups, I strolled over to their table to meet the guys. Extremely gracious and friendly, they knew me, as I’ve had a few items published in their books and magazine. They had all kinds of Weird NJ items to sell spread across two tables – T-shirts, their various books, about a dozen stacks of back issues of Weird NJ magazine, etc. We chatted a bit and then went our separate ways.

Mark Sceurman (L) and Mark Moran in Smithville
That afternoon, being a nerdy superfan, I had to purchase a copy of Weird NJ magazine and get the Marks to autograph it. Hey – everybody else was doing it! They were doing this quite graciously all day long - here's a photo of a young fan getting his photo taken with the Marks behind the Weird NJ table, on the green at the Smithville Art Walk.

As I waited my turn, a woman asked Mark Sceurman if he could direct her to any, um, sites, where she could see .... and he completed her sentence for her - "ghosts?" She nodded her agreement. He laughed and said something like, "We don't have any control over when they appear!" I thought that was pretty funny.

I picked out a back issue of Weird NJ with a cemetery statue on it, paid my five dollars, and asked the Marks if they would sign it. They did and Mark Moran added the speech bubble you see here: "I'm watching you Ed!"


The thought hit me when I was talking with them that Weird NJ magazine might very well have singlehandedly started the trends of cemetery photography and abandoned site exploration. Well, maybe they didn't actually start the trends, but Weird NJ created a forum for people's stories and photographs, so it certainly promoted and helped to broaden peoples' interest in these areas. Their “Cemetery Safari” sections have always intrigued me! The magazine began in 1989 and is published twice yearly. There is also a website for your on-line enjoyment.

References and Further Reading:

Monday, July 18, 2016

"Visitations" - by Comic Book Creator Scott Larson

Comic book creator Scott Larsen has a unique and interesting idea. It is one I would like to share with my Cemetery Traveler readers.

Back in the winter of 2015-16, I saw a few of Scott's posts on Instagram. They involved graphic art drawings of cemeteries, so I became intrigued. Scott’s comic book project, Visitations, was created and drawn by him, the writing shared with Len Strazewski. It is set in crime-ridden Victorian-era Chicago. Gracehill Cemetery, a fictitious Victorian graveyard in that city, plays a central role in Visitations. Scott has drawn his versions of actual monuments in actual Chicago cemeteries. Some of them come to life! It’s a fabulous idea. Other real Chicago locations are drawn into the story.

Issue #1 opens with a crime committed in Gracehill, Chicago’s oldest cemetery.

Scott tells me:
"Gracehill is a fictional cemetery based on Graceland and Rosehill cemeteries in Chicago. Both are resting places for many of the city of Chicago founders. Rosehill is in the neighborhood I grew up in and my Great Grandfather is buried there. I recently learned that my Great Great grandparents, who were immigrants from Sweden are buried in Graceland. Working on a genealogy project for my family I went to see their graves and was astounded by the monuments that were in the cemetery. Around this same time I was looking for a new project to work on. The characters, some of whom are based on the monuments, and the plot for the first issue came to me in a dream after I had visited and the story progressed from there."

Scott was gracious enough to send me some photos of himself with some of the monuments he has drawn for Visitations. Maybe my readers recognize some of them? For a good introduction to Visitations, let me quote from Scott’s Indiegogo fundraiser site:

What is Visitations?
"Visitations is a story of Chicago, as witnessed through the eyes of characters residing in the city's oldest cemetery. It's part historical fact, part fantasy horror, and part adventure. As the narrative unfolds, the history of Chicago unfolds as well. From the Great Fire of 1871 to the election of President Barack Obama, Visitations tells a tale of rebirth and the growth of a modern metropolis.

Meet Clayton Blackwood, magician and adventurer living in Chicago at the turn of the century. Blackwood and his ghostly group of friends believe they have successfully robbed crime boss Diamond Jim Colosimo of a cursed object. Little do they know they have the wrong talisman. When a mysterious stranger from Blackwood's past unleashes the horror they were trying to prevent throughout the city, this group of apparitions must leave the safe confines of the cemetery in which they reside and face their worst nightmares."

Scott Larson with one of the monuments he drew into his story

Earlier I mentioned Scott’s fundraising site on Indiegogo. What’s that all about? Issue #1 of Visitations was, for a limited time, available as a free download. A hard copy was also available (for $6, including shipping). However, Issue #2, due out at Halloween 2016, will be a bit more elusive. It’s creation was dependent upon Scott raising $3500 to cover the cost of publishing.

Crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo may not be such a novel concept in this day and age, but I have to give Scott Larson credit for making this work. People are typically not willing to give you money to fund a project unless they believe in what you’re doing. Scott successfully funded Issue #2 of Visitations this way. He met his $3500 goal.

Gothic architecture never looked so good!
Scott sent me a copy of Issue #1 and it was great fun reading. Its basically to introduce us to all the characters (check out the links at the end to learn more). Now, how would you cemetery enthusiasts out there like to be drawn into Scott’s next comic?! Scott offered, in his Indiegogo campaign, that for contributions over a certain amount (see link for details), he would draw you in as your choice of a cemetery monument or ghost in Issue #2! I donated some money to fund it, so with any luck, I’ll end up a ghost so that I may forever haunt my enemies (one of my secret desires).

Some of Scott's artwork from his Google+ site

Visitations Comic Book Issue 2 “The Great Balloon Disaster”
BE A CEMETERY RESIDENT THIS GOTHIC STEAMPUNK COMIC BOOK SERIES!

I ran a few questions by Scott for Cemetery Traveler readers:

How can someone purchase or download a copy of Issue #1 at this point?
"Anyone who would like to read a digital copy can contact me by email at visitationscomicbook@gmail.com. I'll send that person a PDF of the issue for FREE.
Print copies are currently SOLD OUT. There will be a second printing coming soon. A first print can still be found in 2 Chicago comic shops:
Graham Crackers Comics ( Chicago Loop location) 312-629-1810
Chicago Comics 773-528-1983
Supplies are limited and once they are gone there are no more."

How do you share the writing with Len Strazewski?
"Len is acting as a creative consultant so far. I'm doing the writing and he's helping with the dialogue. He has really helped with the development of the characters. When I took the story to him to get his opinion and he developed the backgrounds and origins for each on the spot (I had no clue what the histories were since the first story came from my unconsciousness). His favorite character is The Entertainer (the headless man) and Len has a story that he will be writing for him that has ties to present day Chicago."

Visitations comic book creator Scott Larson

I hope you will join Scott Larson in his Visitations adventure! Please follow Scott at these links: