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September 2, 2007

Glowing Tomb
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:26 PM * 149 comments

So there I was in South Street Cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, having my own personal Buffy moment.

Nine-thirty pm tonight. It’s dark. Doyle is there with me, no one else is around. I’m wearing a black leather jacket and clutching an extinguished MagLite. Half-moon just rising behind me. I’m looking across a small pond and one of the tombstones over there is, no-kidding, glowing. Just like the book promised.

Rewind to a few days ago. I was down in Littleton,* New Hampshire, running a few errands. Littleton has a lot of fine things in it. There’s the Littleton Diner, for example. There’s a statue of Pollyanna on the library lawn. There’s a wreath made of human hair in the historical society museum. While waiting for the movie (there’s a movie theater!) to start (Stardust, if you must know) we hung out in The Village Bookstore. My favoritest bookstore in the state. And there I found Curious New England: The Unconventional Traveler’s Guide to Eccentric Destinations by Joseph A. Citro and Diane E. Foulds. What could I do? That’s the sort of book you just have to own.

So today we drove down to Manchester in order to put elder-son Brendan on the plane back to Pittsburgh, PA, for his final year of grad school at CMU. To beguile the tedium of the journey we’d brought along Curious New England, and Doyle read aloud from it.

One of the entries begins:

Glow Stone

People in Portsmouth have a mystery among them—a baffling phenonemon that may be unique to this New England city. It seems that a light can reliably be seen in the South Street cemetery. It’s not a floating orb, a luminescent specter, or the lantern of a ghostly caretaker making his eternal rounds. It is, in fact, a glowing tombstone. Three nearly identical markers stand in a row—but only the middle one lights up. Locals have been aware of it for ten or fifteen years, many have seen it for themselves, but no one can explain it. It’s visible only at night and weather conditions seem to have little to do with it. No matter if the air is foggy or clear, it shines. Photos show it glowing amidst its darkened neighbors—a subtle luminescence, but undoubtedly there….

Well. After dropping Brendan off at the airport, and going by the Cinemagic 12 in Merrimack where we played The Game (that is, seeing the very next movie showing that we hadn’t already seen), yielding a showing of The Invasion (yet another make of Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers), checking into our favorite Manchester motel (the EconoLodge by the Queen City Bridge (exit 4 on I-293), built in a 19th c. shoe factory, and having supper at Tinker’s seafood restaurant (paper plates, styrofoam bowls, plastic knives and forks, and entirely wonderful food), on Rt. 3 north of town, left us with nothing much to do by 7:30 pm. So the thought instantly came to me, “Why not drive to Portsmouth and look for the glowing tombstone?

The guidebook says:

Location: South Street Cemetery is in downtown Portsmouth, not far from the river approximately where South Street, Sagamore Street, and Miller Avenue intersect. Take the South Street entrance to the cemetery and walk down the descending path to the pond (on your right). Look across the pond. The stone is in the middle of three old, squarish stones in a row. Its shine can be seen from at least two hundred yards away.

More practically, take your best route to I-95. New Hampshire has the shortest seacoast of any US state with a seacoast, and I-95 runs along that coast. Get off at Exit 3, and take Rt. 33 east. 33 turns into South Street. The cemetery is at the intersection of South St. and Rt. 1-A. To the north of South Street, 1-A is called Miller Street. To the south of the intersection 1-A is called Sagamore Avenue. Just past the intersection with 1-A there are a couple of good parking areas where you can pull off the road to the right. The entrance to the cemetery is a block past the intersection with 1-A, opposite Richards Avenue.

The gate was open. Doyle and I walked past the sign that said “Closed 6:30 PM” and in. The path, the descending path, runs straight ahead from the gate. Ahead and down we went. At the bottom of the slope it was pretty dark, but there was lots of sky glow from Portsmouth and from the streetlights along Miller and Sagamore. At our closest point of approach to that pond, on the right … along a line perpendicular to that path we were walking on … by golly, there it was.

Greenish white. Not changing based on passing cars or changing traffic signals. Glowing against the hillside behind it. The tombstones on either side dark. Woo. Spooky.

Doyle didn’t want to try to skirt the pond and go overland in the dark to get closer. We walked back to the car and drove back to Manchester (through Exeter, famous for its own UFO sighting in the early ‘sixties). And here we are, back in that motel. Blogging it.

Hurrah for free high-speed wireless internet in the rooms!


* Fifty-five miles south of where I live, site of the nearest stop light (in the USA —I’m not that familiar with the closest Canadian stoplights) to my house.
[UPDATE: Curious New England and Joseph A. Citro]
Comments on Glowing Tomb:
#1 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 12:43 AM:

With my skeptickal hat on, the first thing that it occurs to me to wonder is what the tombstone is made of. You could get that effect from a stone made mostly of radioluminescent mineral, with a small amount of something radioactive...

#2 ::: jere7my ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:09 AM:

Nifty! I'll have to check that out next time I visit my mom. I saw something similar while looking out my bedroom window at Greenridge Cemetery in Saratoga Springs, where one gravestone among dozens blazed with a bright yellow-orange light. It turned out to have a mundane explanation (hint: the gravestone faced west), but at the time it was quite startling. I took a picture.

#3 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:18 AM:

I feel somehow let down here ... no vampires? Evil slayers? Ninjas? Priests?!? Inquiring minds want to know!

#4 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:21 AM:

I'm really really amused at the Google ads: Lighted Bocce Sets! Glow Sticks! Glow and Battery Lighted Novelties! Best of all, Light Up Ice Cubes!

I'll take a martini, rocks.

#5 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:13 AM:

Maybe the author of the book hangs out behind the tombstone with a lantern on Saturday nights...

Fifty-five miles south of where I live, site of the nearest stop light

So, I'm guessing that being an EMT and living in BFE, you have the longest commute evah? Now I don't feel so bad about my 20 (slow, urban) miles.

#6 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:32 AM:

Yes, I know I should avoid the urge, but I just have to say it. If Doyle is there surely it's an Angel moment, not a Buffy one?

My apologies to the name's owner.

#7 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:44 AM:

Oh, good; I wasn't the only one who thought that.

#8 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:49 AM:

Are you sure that wasn't in Innsmouth?

#9 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 07:47 AM:

Ooooo...that sounds kinda neat. I'll have to check that out now that I live here in NE. :) Thanks for sharing this with us.


(Also, I had the same reaction as Elise and Aquila, but then common sense told me it must be Jim Macdonald posting this--I read this first through the LJ feed and it doesn't post who posts.)

#10 ::: Lazygal ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 07:50 AM:

How can you mention Littleton (one of *my* favorite towns, too) without mentioning Chutters? And The Village Bookstore has gone downhill in the past few years - although St. J's finally got one again, which sort of makes up for it.

#11 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 07:54 AM:

OK, I've already thought about a tasteful rocket- or dragon-shaped tombstone, but I'm going to direct my estate to establish a small fund to pay for annually coating the monument in luminescent paint.

#12 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 09:06 AM:

One of my more adrenaline-soaked Alpha moments this year was at the cemetery. We had a good-sized group sitting there in the dark, and I glanced at one of the tombstones, which looked menacing in my peripheral vision. "Nope, that's just a weird shape for a stone," I thought, and then it moved again. Luckily, I realized it was someone leaning on the tombstone before shouting about an attacking gargoyle.
That was pretty close to when someone decided flash photography would be a good idea. My eyes will never be the same.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Ah, yes, Chutter's General Store. Home of the world's longest candy counter. They built that when they bought out the karate studio that used to be in the back of the building and extended the store into the whole space. They have a little place built near the front of the store where you can stand if you want to get a photo of the entire length of the candy counter. It really is quite impressive. Alas, the movie theater across the street won't let you bring in outside candy. (That movie theater, BTW, is fireproof, following the disastrous fire that leveled the entire block.) The theater did, however, host two world premieres, so that's a good thing. (They don't have the largest screen in the North Country, though. The largest screen is at the Rialto in Lancaster.)

#14 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 11:13 AM:

I'm just intrigued to see that Mr Macdonald refers to her as 'Doyle'. It reminds me of the story about the famous (and famously reserved) climber Bill Tilman. According to his long-time climbing companion, Eric Shipton, the following conversation happened one evening in a tent in the Himalayas:

SHIPTON: I say, we've been climbing together for more than twelve years now. How would it be if you called me 'Eric' and I called you 'Bill'?

TILMAN: (after a thoughtful pause) No, I think 'Shipton' and 'Tilman' will do fine, thank you.

As for the glow, it could be phosphorescence from decaying vegetation - moss, perhaps - but it's difficult to see why it should be on one tombstone only, or why it should have persisted for so long.

Or if the stone's slightly more polished than its neighbours, it could be reflecting light that they aren't.

Logically, it's either reflected light, or it's originating from the tombstone... interesting. More research is needed.

#15 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Littleton is also home to the Littleton Coin Company. I don't know how great a coin dealer they really are, but back in the 1970s and 1980s they had a lot of inexpensive cool items they'd advertise to kids to try to get them into coin collecting - 19th-century ceramic Thai gambling tokens, silver Ottoman coins, small change from the Roman Empire and Lydia, etc. Probably overpriced, but for $5, who cares? I still have all of them.

As for the tombstones, I'm thinking phosphorescent lichen, but that's just a wild guess.

#16 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Bruce @8 --

I think it's closer to Arkham.

#17 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Bruce at 8, Claude at 16: just down the road from Dunwich, across the Miskatonic Bridge?

Somewhere, the shade of Lovecraft is smiling...

#18 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 12:57 PM:

ajay #14: It reminds me of the way Fox Mulder even made his parents call him Mulder.

#19 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:07 PM:

I saw the same book on a table at Geri Sullivan's house yesterday. I started thinking I should get one, then remembered she gave us one as a housewarming present two years ago.

Did you try shining the light on a spot on the tombstone, then turning it off, to see if it made a temporary bright spot?

#20 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:33 PM:

With no information to go on, I wonder if the stone is drawing up a phosphorescent substance from the soil, like saltpeter growing on walls.

#21 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Spectrophotometric analysis of the light would probably give a lot of useful information.

I'm startled that my Googling doesn't turn up any references to this phenomenon apart from this blog. Hasn't anyone investigated this and posted about it, either a serious examination or a "look -- ectoplasm!" piece from the Weekly World Enquirer?

#22 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:01 PM:

It always amazes me when you people refuse to consider the simplest of scientific explanations for phenomena like this.

Obviously one of our more libertarian minded Founding Fathers is buried here. The light is generated by energy harnessed from the poor man spinning in his grave.

*sheesh*

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Lance @ #22, maybe not a Founding Father or Mother of the US, anyway; of something else, perhaps?

Who's buried in the luminescent tomb?

#24 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Dammit, for proper effect that should have been typed as Something Else.

#25 ::: Scott D-S ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Actually, this is very easily explained. It's one of those quaint New England things, where place names get shortened by locals to confuse the tourist trade.

The town is really called Little Hangleton

Knowing that, a greenish glowing tombstone isn't really a big deal...

#26 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Google is my friend!

A newspaper article mentions the glowing tombstone at the end. But a directory of haunted places does not.

#27 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Could the stone be made of a phosphorescent mineral?

#28 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Lots of speculation, no investigation. Feh. I live on the other side of the continent, and have no car, or I'd go look. There are indeed plenty of tests that could be made....

#29 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 05:48 PM:

I think Connie H. hit on the explanation:

>OK, I've already thought about a tasteful rocket- or dragon-shaped tombstone, but I'm going to direct my estate to establish a small fund to pay for annually coating the monument in luminescent paint.

#30 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 06:36 PM:

Or perhaps it's a stone with a lot of zinc sulfide particles. I like Kip W's experiment proposed in #19.

Maybe the gravestone was cast with fiber optics and it's transmitting light from the network of caverns below (caverns being invariably home to luminescent fungi, as we know from D&D).

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 07:44 PM:

When do you expect the Great Old Ones to emerge? Will moving the New Hampshire primary arouse them from their slumbers?

#32 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 08:05 PM:

Are there any natural minerals that phosphoresce to this extent, after exposure to the visible/UV light of natural sunlight (rather than to UV from a lamp)?

#33 ::: Mike Berry ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 08:57 PM:

I grew up in Portsmouth. It's a weird, but very hospitable town. (Newburyport, just down the turnpike, is reputedly the model for Innsmouth.)

The glowing tombstone wasn't part of the local folklore when I was growing up, and South Street Cemetery is only three blocks from my parents' house. But I did have a genuine UFO encounter in nearby Rye. From an introduction I wrote a few years back for "The Campfire Collection":

One warm night in the early Eighties, my friends Tom, Ken and I were riding along the beach road in my parents' big, red Plymouth Satellite, staving off boredom with conversation and beer. We stopped at Odiorne Point State Park, just over the town border in Rye, a favorite late-night hang-out. We climbed a small hill that overlooked the parking lot and some service buildings. We sat and talked about the things that interest college students during their summer breaks.

At some point, Tom grabbed my arm and whispered, "What's that?"

"What?" I said.

"That light!"

I looked. There was a big, bright, white light just above the roof of the bath house. Presumably it had been placed there so no one would trip on the stairs in the dark.

I said, "That's the light over the bath house. What's your problem?"

And then the light suddenly dimmed to half its intensity -- and moved.

We certainly knew that mysterious light at Odiorne Point was Not Right. It moved in spooky silence, without even the whisper of any motor. It dipped and weaved at angles not likely for any kind of aircraft with which I am familiar. It was not a weather balloon. It was not swamp gas.

The light hovered over the bath house for a few minutes, then zigged and zagged through the air until it was out over the dark water, where it was joined by two other glowing, silent objects. Ken, Tom and I watched open-mouthed as these lights flew out to sea and then disappeared from view. We ran for the car.

From a restaurant pay phone, Ken called Pease Air Force Base in nearby Newington and asked if they had received any reports of strange lights in the sky. They claimed not to know what the hell we were talking about. (Although of course they would say that, wouldn't they?)

I have no explanation for what we saw that night. That's why I am confident in saying that it was an Unidentified Flying Object. It was definitely something that flew and that could not be recognized.

#34 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 10:12 PM:

Aren't there various molds and mosses that produce bioluminescence? Or am I confusing life with Dungeons & Dragons again?

("Debbie, your cleric has been raised to the 8th level. I think it's time you learn how to REALLY cast spells.")

#35 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 10:51 PM:

The reason I didn't shine a light on the tombstone to see if it made a difference is because we were still quite far away -- on the other side of the pond -- and Doyle wasn't willing to go cross-country in the dark. I too wondered whether -- while the glow was visible at 200 yards -- whether it would be visible at 20 feet.

We thought about lichen or other bioluminescence. It's a lot too even for that, and it would be really obvious by daylight. A mineral that fluoresces in response to radioactive material is possible -- New Hampshire in general is radioactive (the granite produces lots of radon). My best guess is that it's a slab of rock that has a lot of quartz crystals or mica and it was cut so that they've formed corner reflectors, and what we're seeing is reflected sky glow.

I did find one link to the glowing gravestone last night when I was writing this post, but you have to misspell 'cemetery' as 'cemetary." (You'll also notice that the location is wrong.)

Meanwhile, more Haunted Portsmouth (including a number of entries from South Street Cemetery).

#36 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 11:38 PM:

I live in Massachusetts not too far from there. Now you've got me wanting to go up there and take a look.

(I had no idea Newburyport was the model for Innsmouth; it's even closer to here and I was just there watching a friend morris dance.)

#37 ::: Marith ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 11:58 PM:

Jer37my @ #2, that is a nifty picture. I would have been distinctly unsettled on first seeing that in RL.

How long has phosphorescent paint been available commercially?

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Portsmouth is just an hour by road north of Boston.

Looking for glowing tombstones isn't the only thing to do in town, either. (Did you know that they have USS Albacore up on pylons for public display?)

USS Albacore is in Albacore Park, beside RT 1 Bypass. (Get off I-95 at the Portsmouth Circle. (Back before there were Interstates, the Portsmouth Circle was a rotary where US 1 (The Old Boston Post Road, the main road up the East Coast) met New Hampshire 16 (the road up the eastern boundary of the state, up into the White Mountains). Head north. Pretty soon (just past Maplewood), you'll see USS Albacore on the left (west side of road).

The Portsmouth Circle is famous for having the closest liquor store to Maine. Maine alcohol control board agents allegedly hang out in a van in the parking lot of the motel across the street watching with binoculars for people with Maine license plates coming out of the liquor store and heading back to Maine. They radio back and as soon as the person crosses the bridge he or she gets nailed for the Maine liquor tax. (Or so I have heard.)

USS Albacore has the "Albacore hull," which was at the time a radical re-thinking of submarine design. It was optimized for submerged speed.

#39 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 01:02 AM:

#36: Back in Lovecraft's day Newburyport was very different from the resort it is now. Rising housing prices and yuppification have forced all of the Deep Ones out. (They're now in Seabrook and Amesbury.)

#40 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 03:30 AM:

What's the date on the tombstone? Maybe it was placed during the period of radium-mania.

#41 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 03:35 AM:

Another idea would be to pick up a UV source and point that at the stone. Edmunds scientific has a UV LED keychain for a few bucks. Works great on scorpions.

Does it glow all night? Or only for a period after sundown?

#42 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 04:55 AM:

Lots of speculation, no investigation. Feh. I live on the other side of the continent, and have no car, or I'd go look. There are indeed plenty of tests that could be made....

Oooh! Fluorosphere Road Trip! Can we? Please?

#43 ::: joel hanes ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:13 AM:

I've seen a big phosphorescent stripe running through the Canadian shield rock in SW Ontario's Quetico Park, and phosphorescent lichen there and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

#44 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:27 AM:

Marith #37 How long has phosphorescent paint been available commercially?

Sung Dynasty China

#45 ::: Audrey Estock ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:55 AM:

Joel @ 21: Hasn't anyone investigated this and posted about it, either a serious examination or a "look -- ectoplasm!" piece from the Weekly World Enquirer?

I'd say not. I grew up in Dover, NH, which is about a 20-25 minute drive to Portsmouth (though for the brief time I actually LIVED in Portsmouth my parents had me continue commuting to Dover for school. That lasted a whole month, for some crazy reason).

But besides living in Dover for over ten years and Portsmouth for a good five months I've never even HEARD of this tombstone. Nor has anyone in my family. Or any of their friends that they've asked.

It's probably not something widely known about, and that book is probably the only reason people still go to look for it.

On another note, I wish I was still living in Dover, now. This is going to annoy me for a while.

#46 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 08:07 AM:

Jon H @ #40: you mean like this?

#47 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 08:25 AM:

#42 Ajay: Oooh, I'm in! Can we make a writing lab out of it?

Fluorosphere Expeditions
Chapter 1: Secrets of the Glowing Tomb

#49 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:33 AM:

47: Oooh, I'm in! Can we make a writing lab out of it?

Fluorosphere Expeditions
Chapter 1: Secrets of the Glowing Tomb

Good idea. I'll sort out the transport, you bring the Xopher Snacks.

#50 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:45 AM:

For the Fluorosphere Quest of the Glowing Grave, here's what we'll need:

Minimum two people with those little walkie-talkie things. Helpful if at least one is knowledgeable about rocks.

Each person carries a whistle and at least two flashlights (one white lens, one red or blue lens).

Sticks of chalk.

Compasses.

Whistles.

Notepads and pens.

Portable UV and IR sources.

Large scales USCGS survey map.

(GPS is helpful.)

(Laser pointer is helpful.)

(Camera on tripod with decent optics and a time-lapse option useful.)

Pick a night with decent weather. First, scout out the ground during daylight. Then return just after sunset but before moonrise. Locate the tombstone from the usual viewing position on the path, across the pond. Then one person skirts the pond and finds the tombstone there. Person who stays on the path keeps the laser pointer. Use the radios and the laser pointer to locate the exact tombstone (assuming that it isn't obviously glowing from close up).

(Note: as a magician I am naturally suspicious of any phenomenon that must be viewed from a certain distance or a certain angle.)

Once the tomb is located by the person who went cross-country, mark it with the chalk so that it can be reliably found again during daylight.

Then: Place one of the white-lensed flashlights against the stone, turn it on and wait a bit (guard your night vision while you're doing this!). See if there's a noticeable more-brightly -glowing spot where the flashlight touched it. Repeat with the IR and UV sources.

The person on the path makes a mark on the path with chalk, and takes a compass bearing on the stone. The person at the stone takes a compass bearing back to the person on the path (sighting on that person's color-lensed flashlight).

Next day, return during daylight to examine the tombstone. Note when it was erected and who's buried there. Note location of tomb on map. Hit the library and research everything.

A query to the authors of the guidebook asking "When and how did you first learn of this?" might be helpful.

Note: at least one of the on-line guides to Haunted New England urges caution in the South Street Cemetery after dark since homeless persons apparently camp there.

#51 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:58 AM:

You could also contact TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society); I think they're based out of NY somewhere. They've got the "Ghost Hunters" show on the Sci-Fi Channel and they are very professional. They usually go around debunking haunted houses but I bet they could figure out what is making this tombstone glow.

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 10:20 AM:

What fun is that when we could have a Road Trip?

I already have the radios, compasses, and whistles....

#53 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 10:35 AM:

What's the purpose of testing with an IR source? I can't think of any way that would produce visible light. (Unless it's a really powerful IR source, of course, but you probably don't want to do that.)

Some kind of spectrometer shouldn't be too hard to borrow. Getting the spectral pattern could be very useful.

#54 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 10:35 AM:

James D. Macdonald (50):
I can see it now, the Jim Macdonald Paranormal Investigation Go Kit™ — what, you don't have one already packed and by the door? [Insert photo of Jim's hallway, crowded to capacity with racks of color-coded go kits, enough so that the colors get interesting (quickly now, grab the puce colored bag, column 4 row 6!)].
Hmmm. I shouldn't comment, I'm only missing the UV light source, and the USGS 7.5 quad for the area (but I can print an equivalent one). I even have a choice of whistles, from English Bobby, to modern shepherd's, to various pennywhistles in D D' A and oh, yeah, a safety whistle on each of the compass lanyards,
GPS - check (waterproof even), Laser pointer, red flashlight, a couple of GMRS/FRS radios, multiple ranger compasses with sighting mirrors, check.
I can't leave Marlborough MA until 6pm this evening, need to be back by 2:45 tomorrow afternoon. The moon doesn't rise until 11:30 tonight.
I am puzzled why you think we'll need to take the back bearing, though.

#55 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 10:55 AM:

I'd like to take a back-bearing in order to check the accuracy of the original bearing.

Reason for the IR source: it was part of the universal invisible-ink detection setup the USG used during WWII to find invisible ink in suspected documents. The basic idea is to add energy in various parts of the spectrum to see what happens.

I can imagine an object that glows in response to heat.

#56 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 11:10 AM:

While I don't know of natural minerals that glow under IR, and IR isn't in the standard mineral ID tool kit, I have a little plastic IR indicator patch for checking remote controls.
OK, I'll go with a back-bearing just in case of very localized magnetic anomalies.
Most everything pyroluminesces (sp?) under enough heat.
Hmm, I just found my portable UV source, cheap so just long-wave.

#57 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 11:20 AM:

We're not just looking for natural minerals.

#58 ::: wolfa ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 11:34 AM:

When you all go visit Portsmouth, try either The Friendly Toast, for diner-ish food (I had a lovely gingerbread waffle with pomegranate sauce) or The Green Monkey, for pricey-ish food.

I can no longer recommend the goat cheese truffles at the Mainely Gourmet, because the last three times I got them, they were mouldy. But when they're not, they're absolutely delicious.

#59 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 12:07 PM:

James @ 57: You mean you're looking for a glow of no natural origin?

#60 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 12:17 PM:

They have a glowing tombstone in the Breckenridge, Colorado Cemetery as well. We used to go look at when we were in high school.

I suspect that it was available for customers to order through funeral homes at one point.

#61 ::: John Houghton proposes to shine some light ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Road Trip!
This far out, the weather may be iffy, but Saturday evening, Sept 8th, 2007 with a revisit during the day on Sunday the 9th (fits well with a trip I'm taking to Maine, so it works for me) we should be able to guage the weather for a go/nogo on the morning of the 7th. I'll be starting from Marlborough, MA. Close to the full moon, so lighting (darking?) should be good. I've got nearly everything on Jim's list.
Any takers? Or are some things better left to the Elder Ones?

#62 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Now available from the Zwingle Funeral Corporation of America - the D-50 Atomatic Nuclear Grave Marker!
The D-50 Atomatic is manufactured using modern atomic technology, developed by the AEC. With an Atomatic, your loved one can rest in peace - peace through superior firepower! Each Atomatic contains not less than six ounces of radioactive Thorium, giving it a soft white radiance that will set your plot apart from the rest.

The Atomatic is not available to customers outside the U.S.
WARNING: the Surgeon General of the United States advises that radioactive tombstones have been linked to outbreaks of Atom Zombie Men.

#63 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 12:44 PM:

61: I'd go, but I'm otherwise engaged and in the wrong continent anyway. But well done.
And if we see a post from you on this thread in about five days that just says:

"No! They're breaking down the door! Their horrible forms surround me..."

...well, then, I guess we'll all feel a little guilty.

#64 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 01:04 PM:

#61, John Houghton, If memory serves, the 11 is the New Moon (not the full moon).

#65 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Ajay #63: I'm torn between checking flights from Denver* and letting the bait intrepid explorers go first.

* Because as soon as I start checking flights, I'm 80% committed to go, which leads to following conversation:
"So, honey, this thing came up for the weekend, I gotta fly outta town. No, it's not for work. Errr, no, it's not a con either. Well there's this glowing tombstone in New England..."

#66 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 01:19 PM:

If it glows from up close, you might also try setting up an enclosure around the stone to eliminate the possibility of reflected light. Doesn't have to be elaborate--draping it with an opaque cloth would do so long as there's room to get one's head under without letting in outside light.

#67 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 01:35 PM:

65: if you're in Denver, you and Michelle can check out the one in Breckinridge. (see comment 60)

#68 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Steve #64:

Correct. The full moon was last weekend-ish. My Google Moon Tool tells me that it's 3rd quarter 43% of full.

#69 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 02:13 PM:

ajay @ 63

"No! They're breaking down the door! Their horrible forms surround me..."

Ahem. "Even as I write this, they're breaking down the door!" For some reason, it's important to explicitly note that one is transcribing as such things occur.

And woe betide the minions of darkness that break down Mr. Macdonald's door. 'Cause you know he's got a kit for that eventuality, too. ("With your free hand, rip the insulating tape from the proton pack contacts...")

#70 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 02:14 PM:

John Houton @ 56, I think I get it. The test patch is a really-long-term phosphor, and it's exposed to light to "charge" it. IR does something to trigger the emission. I don't know enough about stimulated emission of radiation to figure out how that works.

#71 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 02:43 PM:

I meant to say new moon. I know that the new moon is on the 11th. I looked at the sky last night and saw that the moon was about last quarter.
So what do I type? I type full.
Sigh.
Joel, that's pretty much how it works, you have to leave it out in the light before using it. Is there a rule about not fluorescing at a shorter wavelength than the energy that you receive?

#72 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Jim @50: Personally, I wouldn't dream of going on a Lovecraftian tomb expedition without my Webley service revolver, 40 feet of good hempen rope, a carboy or two of carbolic acid, and a change of jodhpurs.

Also, take note of any strange old books that may be lying around in the caretaker's cottage. They might come in handy.

#73 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Fluorescence is always at a longer wavelength. You can put a certain amount of energy in, kick some electrons up a level, then they'll fall back down and emit light. Since some energy is lost as heat, the light has less energy, and a longer wavelength.
If you homogenize green leaves, like spinach, and shine a bright bullet lamp on the test tube, you can see green light shining through to the other side, and red light shining on the side with the light. It's a nifty trick.

#74 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Alas, the 8th and 9th Doyle and I will be at the Farthing Party in Montreal.

Other Boston-area Fluorons interested?

#75 ::: Zarquon the Mysterious ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Fhcre-frperg zrffntr gb zl sryybj nyvraf ng gur fhcre-frperg* onfr uvqqra jvgu gur tybjvat gbzofgbar:

Nyy vf xabja, be ng yrnfg fhfcrpgrq. Cercner gb syrr** orsber gur Znxvat Yvtug rkcrqvgvba neevirf. Ynfg bar bhg ghea bhg gur tenirfgbar.

Nygreangviryl, neenatr irel vagrerfgvat pbairagvbaf va gur Abegurnfgrea Havgrq Fgngrf sbe rirel jrrxraq orgjrra abj naq gur svefg fabjfgbezf.

-----
* Ybfg zl fhcre-frperg gurfnhehf. Bhg bs flabalzf sbe fhcre-frperg. Fbeel.
** Lbh qb unir lbhe whzc ontf ernql, qba'g lbh?

#76 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Remember, Friend, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
But now I've got this freakish glow --
I think you ought to take it slow.

#77 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 04:40 PM:

ajay @ 62

The D-50 is old hat these days. Who wants to use thorium? You can find that in rocks! The happening thing is the D-70, using authentic radioactive waste from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. This is genuine high-level waste from breeder reactors used to create plutonium for atom bombs! Be the first on your block to glow blue from Čerenkov radiation!

#78 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:21 PM:

John, IIRC there are some multi-photon systems possible -- the first kicks the system into a metastable excited state; the second boosts it to a still higher excited state, and then the system drops back down, emitting a photon with the combined energy. But the absorption probabilities are usually pretty lousy. I'm very rusty on this stuff, and it's possible that there are newer materials that do this kind of thing better than I remember.

#79 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:33 PM:

I'd potentially be in for the road trip.

#80 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Oh, hang on, no I wouldn't. Sorry.

#81 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Zarquon @ 75

Yeah, right.

#82 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Joel @ 78: Plants do exactly this, all the time: add up two 650nm photons to get the potential you need to rip the hydrogen atoms off a water molecule... (if memory serves it's four photons per oxygen molecule generated).

#83 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 08:03 PM:

Amateur rockhound speaking up here.

First thing to do would be to establish what the tombstone's made of and *where ambient light is coming from*.

Certain minerals flouresce in response to UV light, which I believe was mentioned upthread. If there's any fluorescent lights within line of sight of the tombstone, that would be a very simple and plausible explanation. Most flourescent lights have a UV component to them ... some types more than others. This could be a street light, a sign on a building, a security light on a nearby building ... anything like that. Doesn't have to be bright, just line of sight. Once your eyes are adapted to the dark even a very dim, distant light might cause the tombstone to appear to glow when it is contrasted with the others around it ... If it's only glowing during certain atmospheric conditions it may even be "glowing" from the effect of light from city lights reflecting off clouds or an inversion layer.

If the tombstone is made of a different type of rock than all the others around it (or is even a similar type of rock but comes from a different quarry) that'd be enough of an explanation.

Simple test to verify this? Take a battery operated black light along. If it lights up like a spotlight and the tombstones around don't, bingo.

Of course, I prefer the explanation of spinning founding fathers. Or ghosts. *grins*

#84 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 08:23 PM:
Be the first on your block to glow blue from Čerenkov radiation!

Wouldn't you have to be underwater? (Much harder to exceed the speed of light in air, and all that.)

Hmm, that would make for an interesting pool party... "Even as I write this, Gunderson is being dragged into the deep end by their corpselight limbs."

#85 ::: Bob W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:27 PM:

The key point is fluorescence vs. phosphorescence and the fact that a persisting glow such as that of the tombstone is an example of the latter, not the former.

After Googling around a bit to jog the recollections from my undergraduate "bluffing your way through solid state physics" courses, here's the basic notion.

Some part of the material of the tombstone consists of impure and imperfect crystals of a phosphorescent material like zinc sulfide. During the day, sunlight photos boost electrons in the ZnS from their base energy state up into the conduction energy band. Rather than falling back to the base state quickly, as they would in fluorescence, the excited electrons emit some of their energy in the form of phonons (thermal excitation of the crystalline lattice) and fall into an intermediate energy state knows as the "impurity" energy band. Those electrons are more or less stuck in that excited state because there are no allowed quantum transitions from the energy they're at to the base energy. As time goes by more sunlight photons are absorbed into the crystal and transformed into potential energy of excited electrons in the impurity band and thermal energy or phonons.

The impurity energy band, by the way, is associated with anomalies in the theoretically uniform electric field of the crystal. These are caused not only by impurity atoms in the lattice (Cd in the place of a Zn, Se in the place of an S, random oxygen atoms, etc.) but also by structural irregularities, places in the crystal where the spacing between atoms deviates from the regular distances found in a theoretical perfect crystal.

Anyway, given that the electrons can get trapped in the impurity band due to emission of phonons, or thermal excitation of the lattice, you could probably guess that at any given time some number of those trapped electrons will gain enough energy from random phonons to make it back into the conduction band. Once in the conduction band the electrons can make a single quantum transition to the ground state and emit a photon. When it's dark and the rate of phonon-electron recombinations exceeds the rate of reflection and refraction of photons from the mineral, the mineral glows due to phosphorescence.

Since the energy that has to be added to an impurity band electron can be on the order of the energy of a near IR photon, a near infrared lamp can provide a sufficiently high rate of excitation to produce enough phosphorescence to be visible to the human eye, i.e. can make invisible ink glow enough to be read.

Because phosphorescence in minerals in the absence of an IR light source is a thermal effect, it is likely that phosphorescence of a tombstone would persist far longer in the cold than in a warm place and thus be more noticeable in New Hampshire or higher elevations of Colorado than in warmer parts of the US.

The expedition to actually see this effect in action, particularly to see if using an IR source can brighten the phosphorescent glow as one would expect if this model is the correct description of this phenomenon.

#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:46 PM:

It pays to advertise on Making Light! Since this post has been up a copy of Curious New England sold on Amazon (linked above). Formerly there were five copies available; now there are four.

(Oh -- using the Search Inside the Book feature and the key words "Glow Stone" you can read the entire entry.)

#87 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:52 PM:

I found two reports on Randi's site where glowing tombstones turned out to be highly-polished and reflecting non-obvious light.

#88 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 10:27 PM:

Careful, friends.

It might be a Rockoid.

#89 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 10:28 PM:

lila @ 46: precisely.

#90 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 12:16 AM:

Marilee @ 87: No offense intended, but those reports seem more like theories in need of some disprovable hypotheses than solid cases for reflections as the cause of the glowing tombstones.

Stuff like this makes me take the explanations of phenomena by members of skeptic organizations with a grain of salt.

#92 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 01:05 AM:

The Metz link did not work on my computer-- froze Firefox several times, and Googling didn't get me anywhere but the parent site, which made things worse. Thank you for the list, though. I feel more connected to the fluorosphere expedition into the eldritch.

#93 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 01:18 AM:

John Houghton:

[Insert photo of Jim's hallway, crowded to capacity with racks of color-coded go kits, enough so that the colors get interesting (quickly now, grab the puce colored bag, column 4 row 6!)].

This sounds like the opening for a rousing good comedy-adventure. The heroine and hero have a huge collection of go kits--but have lost the color chart, so while each kit is professionally perfect for some sort of emergency, they're never sure it will be for this emergency. Sort of like McGiver on Nyquil...

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers):

Are you sure that wasn't in Innsmouth?

And wouldn't you hate to be the guy hired to do publicity by the Innsmouth Town Council.

The happening thing is the D-70, using authentic radioactive waste from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The Purex site at Hanford is surrounded by wire fencing. It's not rabbit proof. If you look around the area at night you'll see glowing pellets of rabbit poo. And no, I'm not organizing a field trip so you can see it.

#94 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 01:25 AM:

hired to do publicity by the Innsmouth Town Council...

Don't miss the Seafood Festival!

#95 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Bob W. @ 85:

The impurity energy band, by the way, is associated with anomalies in the theoretically uniform electric field of the crystal. These are caused not only by [...] but also by structural irregularities, places in the crystal where the spacing between atoms deviates from the regular distances found in a theoretical perfect crystal.

You mean, places in the crystal with unnatural, eldritch spacings and irrational angles, beyond the theories of science?!?

"Even as I write this, Lockton, who had thought himself finally safe in a crystal defect, is decaying from his metastable state, while emitting a photon of about 580 nm..."

#96 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 03:24 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 93
And no, I'm not organizing a field trip so you can see it.

No problem. I live about 200 miles downstream from there, and, from what I hear, it's coming to see me.


James D. Macdonald @ 94
Don't miss the Seafood Festival!

Just don't ask for fried calamari appetizers.

#97 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 08:56 AM:

mds @ #84:

The first time I encountered Čerenkov radiation, it was in air.

(This was in Simon Hawke's neo-pulp Time Wars series - the first time in each volume that our heroes let loose with the disintegrator rayguns, there would always be a parenthetical note that the blue colour of the rays was due to Cerenkov radiation. He never bothered to explain what 'Cerenkov radiation' was, though, so until I hit high school physics I always thought he'd just made it up.)

#98 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 09:10 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 96:

Just don't ask for fried calamari appetizers.

At the Innsmouth Seafood Festival, I think it's more important to avoid becoming a fried appetizer for calamari...


Bruce E. Durocher II @ 93:

The heroine and hero have a huge collection of go kits--but have lost the color chart, so while each kit is professionally perfect for some sort of emergency, they're never sure it will be for this emergency.

This needs to become a new Foglio project. "So, you're going 'handle' the cannibals with water wings?"


Paul A. @ 97:

The first time I encountered Čerenkov radiation, it was in air.

Fortunately, your parachute deployed correctly.
And yes, cosmic rays and the like will do the trick in air, but this is not at the level of neighborhood entertainment Čerenkov radiation.


Wim L. @ 95:

"Even as I write this,...

Full marks.

#99 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 09:24 AM:

Bruce @ 93: The Purex site at Hanford is surrounded by wire fencing. It's not rabbit proof. If you look around the area at night you'll see glowing pellets of rabbit poo. And no, I'm not organizing a field trip so you can see it.

This sounds remarkably similar to Fred Small's story-and-song "Hot Frogs on the Loose". The newspaper article having reported that the frogs had escaped the "frog fencing":

"'[...] The fugitive amphibians --'" (pause for audience reaction) "Tom Paxton said it best: 'Some folks you don't have to satirize, you just quote 'em.'"

Zack @ 82: Yes, photosynthesis is a multi-photon process, but it involves storing the energy by a rather complicated series of low-energy chemical transformations of multiple molecules. I was thinking more in terms of storing the energy within a single system.

#100 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 09:30 AM:

Innsmouth: A Trip You'll Never Forget
Your Friends Won't Believe The Time You Had!
Escape From The Mundane at Historical Innsmouth!

I'm not sure if the Innsmouth Aquarium would be a great place to take the kids or not. Would there be deep-sea fishing?

#101 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Diatryma @100:
I'm not sure if the Innsmouth Aquarium would be a great place to take the kids or not. Would there be deep-sea fishing?

Of course it's a great place to take the kids. There's no bait shop.

#102 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 11:04 AM:

Years ago, I had the idea for a new children's cartoon show: "Cthulhu and Friends".

It would feature a new cast of super-heroes every week.

#103 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 11:17 AM:

:) It's Breckenridge not Breckinridge...the difference is a matter of pride...the town was going to be Breckinridge then the guy joined the confederates. So it's Breckenridge.

But as for the glowing tombstone. As a kid in highschool we'd go look but the guy who lives behind the cemetery is a nut job. So we would have to climb over the fence instead of walk through the back. He's not the caretaker though.

I'm not sure why it glowed but for those worried about radiation...remember: A little radiation was good for you.

Goverment propaganda at it's best. I wish I could remember the date on the stone.

http://www.whale.to/a/cantwell9.html

#104 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 11:20 AM:

#100: Get a Look at Innsmouth!

(See you all at the Three Jolly Luck Fish Bar...)

Actually, I am now starting to think of a new crossover. Script by Compton Mackenzie from an original novel by HP Lovecraft - it's

Ichor Galore!

Wartime rationing is hard for the inhabitants of the Hebridean island of Little Todday. And no restriction hits harder than the shortage of whisky. One moonless night, old Hamish MacRoon rows out to the skerry and returns with a boatload of whisky in salt-stained crates. The islanders rejoice - but where did he get it? And what has he promised in return?

#105 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 11:52 AM:

The Sea-Coast of Innismouth

I will arise and go now, and go to Innismouth
And a small altar make there, of bones and bodies built;
Nine gravestones will I have there, a gibbet facing south,
And live alone but for those I've killed.

And I shall have no peace there, for They come creeping slow,
Creeping from the veils of the morning to where the raven caws;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon an eerie glow,
And evening full of the Deep Ones' claws.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement sgrey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 11:55 AM:

For Innismouth read Innsmouth. Sigh.

#107 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 12:14 PM:

the Innsmouth Seafood Festival

In real life it's called "Yankee Homecoming"*; and I'm a little surprised that Newburyport hasn't taken advantage of the Lovecraft connections. There must be at least some fans willing to take tours off Plum Island to look for Devil Reef.

*"home" remains ambiguous to those not of The Blood of Dagon

#108 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 12:15 PM:

abi @ 105, I thought it was a deliberate pun. Worked for me, anyway.

#109 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 12:19 PM:

Caroline @108
What I found fun is that I did not rewrite the third stanza at all.

#110 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 12:43 PM:

109: that is a bit disturbing, to be honest. I've gone one better and not changed this at all.

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant fins the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie,
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

#111 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Guys, while this weekend won't work for a road trip, I'm not on duty or at a con on the 15th or the 16th of this month.

Anyone want to go check this out?

Heck, anyone want to try to get a non-fiction magazine article out of it?

#112 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 08:21 PM:

#75 "Zarquon the Mysterious"

Thanks a lot. Now I have to put all the words I don't recognise as English from the H P Lovecraft canon into Rot13. It was bad enough doing it for Doc Smith.

More generally, an interesting thing I noticed is that even translating "glowing tombstone" into British English* still pulls up lots of US examples but only about two in the UK.

* "glowing gravestone" or "shining gravestone"

#113 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Darn it, now I'm going to have to keep reading this thread to find out when y'all are converging on Portsmouth.

I need to go down to NH to pick up some rum for the holidays anyway.

(Why pay sales tax when you can have plausible deniability?)

#114 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 10:03 PM:

The prospective tomb raiders should probably check with the area geocacher tribes to find out how touchy local law enforcement is about people sneaking about like that.

#115 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 10:56 PM:

abi: Have you, in the end, no shame?

No?

Good. I got force-fed Yeats until I ran to Shaw for mercy; nice to see him getting taken off on, especially in something that looks it shouldn't support a takeoff -- parodying "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" doesn't seem like it would have the same impact.

#116 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Wow, there's actually an English use of the word "polypus"? Rather cool.

(On rec.arts.sf.composition I got into a discussion of whether "octopus" could pluralize as "octopi". I went looking for the Latin word for "octopus". It appears they had a word "polypus" which covered both octopuses and squid. This changed my long-standing opposition to the word "octopi", since if "poly-" "-pous" can be reanalyzed as "polyp-" "-us, i" [which is in fact what the Romans did] there's no real reason that "octo-" "-pous" can't do the same.)

#117 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 04:06 AM:

David #116 : the plural of octopus would be octopi if octopus was a regular second-declension Latin noun like locus or deus. But it isn't. Octopus is a Greek word (oktopous, eight-footed) borrowed into Latin, and the plural in Latin is the same as in Greek, octopodes. So a good plural in English is octopods, but there's no reason at all not to anglicize it and say octopuses (but not octopusses or octopussies).

#118 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 04:47 AM:

I suspect that "polypi" is Tennyson finding a plural of "polyp" that is a bit easier to rhyme and sounds better. In other words, he's talking about corals, not squid. Coral polyps do sort of live in cells and filter feed. Although they don't have fins. Well, whatever. Tennyson wasn't that good with hard science - he thought railway trains ran in grooves. ("Locksley Hall")

#119 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 06:01 AM:

CHip @115:
I love that poem, but I do think it needs a little kick from time to time.

parodying "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" doesn't seem like it would have the same impact.

You can't parody it by keeping its portentious tone, certainly, so Cthulhu rewrites are out. How about this?

Striding and striding along the red carpet
The publicist cannot hear the designer;
Things fall apart; the specification cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the news,
The bloggers speculate, and everywhere
The customs of the press conference are lost;
The spokesmen lack all conviction, while the insiders
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the iPod announcement is at hand.
The iPod announcement! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of 1984
Troubles my sight: somewhere in Los Altos
A device with touch screen and new proportions
Memory as vast and limitless as the sun,
Is showing onscreen, while all about it
Flash quotes of the breathless Apple publicists.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twelve months of hush-hush development
Were brought to market by a production schedule
And what smooth gadget, its moment come round at last,
Sloches towards the market to be born?

#120 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 10:45 AM:

abi: both parodies are brilliant! (I wish grad schools encouraged English majors to try such things from time to time, just to lighten the load a little.)

This may be as good a place as any to note that the September issue of Discover has an article they call "Rise of the Jellyfish: Meet Our Planet's Next Masters", which includes a bunch of really cool photos.

#121 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 11:36 AM:

ajay #118: If what railroads run on is hard science, I think I'm ready for the even-harder level.

#122 ::: SI ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 01:14 PM:

abi: F*ckin' BRILLIANT.

The best bit is you didn't have to change the last verse.

#123 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 01:39 PM:

To Portsmouth, to Portsmouth, it is a haunted town
And there we will solve a mystery, with a Scooby snack gobbled-down
An eerie glowing tombstone, a villain unmaskèd:
"I would have succeeded, but for those meddling kids!"

#124 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ #93: see also the about-to-be-closed Savannah River Ecology Lab (located near the Savannah River Site). The turtles there get quite a reaction from a geiger counter.

#125 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 01:24 AM:

John Stanning@117: There is no attested use of the word "octopus" in Roman times, and you will not find the word in your Lewis and Short. The word was coined in modern scientific Latin, if memory serves in the 18th century. The classical word was, as I said earlier, "polypus" -- there's a passage in Pliny the Elder about the two different kinds of polypi, the ones with eight limbs only and the ones with two extra larger feeding limbs. (What we today of course would call octopuses and squid.)

And yes, "polypus" was in fact a regular second declension noun.

I have nothing at all against the English plural "octopuses" and in fact use it myself. My point is that I can't object to the plural "octopi" anymore, since if "polypus" was second declension, there's no reason why "octopus" can't be too.

ajay@118: As you note, coral don't have fins. I see no reason to think that Tennyson wasn't in fact referring to octopuses and squid.

#126 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 10:16 AM:

James D. Macdonald (111):
Unfortunately my truck is going into the body shop on Monday, and I can't guarantee that it'll be done by Saturday (it's supposed to be, but...). A future weekend perhaps? Oct 6th or 13th are both dark-of-the-moon.

#127 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 11:32 PM:

I have suddenly realized that, contrary to my prior belief that I didn't care what was done with my body after I die (though having my skeleton made into a medical aid would be a hoot), I really, really need to have a marker stone made out of phosphorescent material.

Don't you agree that would be cool? Messing with later generations' heads...

#128 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2007, 12:08 AM:

B., I'm having mine cremated and thrown into the closest ocean.

#129 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Alas, the two 'glowing tombstones' within striking distance (Emporia, KS and Leeton, MO have been proven to be refraction artifacts.

I wish I could go up to New England for the investigation. Can't afford now, and I'm making extra money on weekends at our local Renaissance Festival. Double alas.

Have fun if you do it, and report back!

#130 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2007, 02:15 AM:

" I really, really need to have a marker stone made out of phosphorescent material."

i think it would be interesting to make the marker out of something pervaded by luminous material, but with a thin layer of non-luminous coating that would weather away in a decade or three.

That way over time, the luminous material would start to show through, probably not uniformly either but depending on weathering patterns. Dim streaks would likely appear first, which would brighten, and expand, with darker spots where dirt collects.

#131 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Marilee @ 128, why would you bother to get a marker stone to begin with, if you were just going to have it cremated and thrown in the ocean?

#132 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2007, 06:51 PM:

mds, I was replying to this part of the post: "didn't care what was done with my body after I die."

#133 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2007, 05:57 PM:

#130 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2007, 02:15 AM:

[snip]

i think it would be interesting to make the marker out of something pervaded by luminous material, but with a thin layer of non-luminous coating that would weather away in a decade or three.

Not only that, but it weathering away in a decade or three would allow for forgetfulness, and really mess with people's heads - I love it!

#134 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2007, 07:46 PM:

B. Durbin @127:
Well, if you don't care about your body's disposition, you could have a marker created at the site of your death instead. Subtle luminosity wouldn't be very noticeable in a hospital, but it could add a lot of interest to a bedroom or a busy intersection.

#135 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2007, 09:10 PM:

James D. MacDonald @ 111: I'd be interested in taking a trip to the Glowing Tomb and attempting to disprove the null hypothesis that the headstone in question is no more phosphorescent than its neighbours. The 15th or 16th of September would work for me, as would any number of other dates.

#136 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 06:02 AM:

So, what's the current status here? Haven't heard anything in a while, and I'm still curious.

#137 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 01:28 PM:

I'm back from Viable Paradise, but I'm on call about every-other-day all this month (and next weekend I'll be down in Pennsylvania).

Who is up for an expedition? Let's pick a date and a time and just do it.

#138 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 01:45 PM:

I'm tentatively up for one.

#139 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 03:31 PM:

We should probably plan an expedition off-site. No point in advertising to everyone the exact date-and-time we'll be there.

I'm yog @ sff.net (take out the spaces).

#140 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2008, 04:00 PM:

More ghosts of South Street Cemetery here.

#142 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 06:21 PM:

I live in Leeton. And yes it does glow.

#143 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2009, 11:26 AM:

I was born and raised in Portsmouth, have seen the gravestone in question - yes, it glows, but when you get up close to it, it is not glowing anymore. I've stood right in front of it at night and in the daytime. It's the same material as the stones on either side and it doesn't matter if it's a clear night, a foggy night, whatever - it always glows at night. The stones on either side do not glow at all.

#144 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 11:07 PM:

So, did the Glowing Tombstone Investigation ever take place, and if so, what were the conclusions? I was reading Making Light only very spottily back in 2007 and missed this.

#145 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2010, 11:55 PM:

Alas, no, we never did get an expedition together.

#146 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2010, 11:40 AM:

Alas that I'm a thousand miles away, and not likely to get closer any time soon, or I'd be thrilled to join an Expotition to the N/o/r/t/h/ /P/o/l/e/ Glowing Tombstone.

#147 ::: John G ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2011, 01:26 PM:

I lived in Portsmouth in the late 1970's and saw the glowing gravestone both times I visited it. I think the glow was the result of the stone it was made from. What I am not sure of is if it was phosphorescent or if the stone was just so much whiter than the surrounding stones that it appeared to glow. I know the glow tended to fade as you approached it and was barely perceptibale when standing next to it. I am not a believer in the supernatural, but I can definitly confirm that the gravestone was there and appeared to glow.

#148 ::: Holly ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2013, 07:23 PM:

I saw it when I lived there in the 80's... it is creepy and inexplicable.

#149 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2013, 07:55 PM:

Welcome, Holly -- take a look around and see if any of the other threads interest you! We're an odd bunch....

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