Wash and slice plums, removing pits. Combine plum slices, lemon juice, and St. Germain in a shaker. Muddle until plums have released most of their juice. Strain into a champagne flute with simple syrup. Top with bubbles.
For Thyme Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
6-8 large sprigs of thyme
Place water and sugar in saucepan over medium heat. Heat and stir occasionally until bubbling and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add thyme. Let steep for 1 hour. Drain and pour in container. Store in fridge for up to 30 days.
With Independence Day around the corner, Nick & Cait decided to it was a good time to talk about ghosts of the Revolutionary War. First, Cait tells of the frozen hell the patriots stationed at Jockey Hollow had to endure (in some cases, for eternity). Then Nick shares stories of Fort Ticonderoga, its spectres, and the most unlikely partnership in the revolutionary army. Cait finishes us up with special drink, a favorite of renowned patriot Ethan Allen, The Stone Fence.
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Don’t have access to ginger vodka? Sub in your favorite unflavored vodka and ginger simple syrup (you can use our simple syrup recipe, just simmer chunks of ginger in the water until it reaches the desired strength of taste, remove ginger chunks, then add sugar and complete recipe).
In the 1700’s a slight woman and her baby, whom she was never seen without, arrived in the community of Frisco on Hatteras Island, North Carolina. The woman, known as Cora, built a crude hut outside of town in the woods and mostly kept to herself. Her distance, both physically and socially, from the other villagers served as a catalyst for rumors to quickly form and circulate about her possibly bastard child. The Salem Witch Trials still on the mind of the American settlers, it didn’t take long for gossip about Cora to turn towards sorcery and witchcraft.
Stories persisted that a cow she touched dried up and quit producing milk days later. A child that taunted and made faces at her suddenly became ill and died. And Cora always seemed to have an abundance of fish, even as the local fishermen were unable to catch any themselves.
The rumors might have stayed just that were it not for the arrival of the ship Susan G. and her captain, Eli Blood. Hailing from Salem, Massachusetts, Blood considered himself a student of New England tradition, a defender of the people, and, of course, a witch hunter. He immediately set himself to ingratiating himself to the townspeople and working his way in with the local hobnobbers and gossip hounds.
Of course, after hearing of the town’s troubles and of the suspicious Cora outside of town, Blood determined that she had to be the witch responsible for it all. The deal became particularly sealed when the body of a local man was found washed up on shore. His face was frozen in an expression of terror, his hands were clasped together as if he were praying, and the number 666 was carved into his forehead. Most damning of all was a collection of small footprints around the body that headed off into the woods towards Cora’s hut.
This development emboldened Captain Blood. He became sure that Cora was a witch and set out to prove it. He gathered an angry mob and marched to Cora’s hut, smashing their way inside and taking Cora and her baby prisoner. Out to prove her guilt, Blood pulled out his knife and performed the first test. As he suspected, her hair would not cut, announcing, “her hair was stronger than wire rope”. Next, Cora’s hands and feet were bound, but she floated in water regardless. In his final test, Blood filled a ceremonial witch hunter bowl with water, and placed a drop of blood each from himself and three other men into the water. He then, “stirred the water and blood vigorously, mixing it into a froth” and had the other men confirm what he saw in the bowl: the faces of Cora and the devil.
Blood and his men tied Cora and her baby to an old oak tree and began gathering firewood to place around the base. It was about this time that some of the townspeople, led by local captain Thomas Smith began to protest that Cora should be taken to the mainland and tried in a proper court of law.
An argument ensued. Blood tried to light the fire himself, but Smith grabbed his arm, keeping his torch from the pyre. Blood shook loose from Smith’s grasp, determined to burn his witch, when suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree.
As the smoke cleared and the ringing of ears subsided, the people found that Cora and her baby had vanished. The ropes still hung wrapped around the tree and the kindling sat at the base completely untouched. The trunk of the tree had been ripped open by the lightning, leaving a large, smoldering, heart-shaped hole. And where Cora and her baby had been tied to the tree were left letters burnt into the wood: C-O-R-A.
The Cora Tree still exists even to this day, and the word CORA is still visible on the trunk of the great tree. The tree stands on Hatteras Island in the middle of Snug Harbor Drive in Frisco, quite literally as the road splits in two to go around it on either side.
Regarding the tree itself, it has been attributed as being both a Southern Live Oak and a Water Oak. Southern Live Oaks generally reach maturity around 70 years old, and so long as a carving on the tree is done after maturity the carving will remain for the tree’s lifespan. There are examples of Southern Live Oaks in America over 900 years old,. Water Oaks, on the other hand generally only live 100-150 years, and usually start to decay before the century mark. No known core sample has ever been taken of the tree, but in 2009 LG Research reportedly estimated the Cora Tree at around 500 years old based on its circumference.
Interestingly, the CORA carving has a lot of similarities to the CRO carving on Roanoke Island and the CROATOAN carving from Fort Raleigh. All three carvings sit about 5 feet off the ground, all are about 4 inches tall, and all share a similar lettering design. Also, artifacts discovered near Frisco matched artifacts in the other locations, suggesting the items were even cast from the same die.
Neither the captains nor the Susan G. show up in any historical record, and the name Cora wasn’t common in America until the mid-1800’s, after the publishing of The Last of The Mohicans. Kora-with-a-K was a common name in 1700’s Germany, so the prospect of Cora being an immigrant, unfamiliar with the common language if the nearby village would easily explain much of her behavior.
In fact, the details of the event change wildly depending on the attitude of the storyteller. Those looking to condemn Cora tend to embellish the witchy aspects of the story. It’s not uncommon for the story to mention the baby transforming into a black, green-eyed car and running away into the woods before the lightning strike.
Retellings by more sympathetic orators tend to make note of Blood having a boastful and egotistical personality, and the suspiciousness of his crew as they stayed away from town and placed themselves in positions to help sell the more sordid details of Blood’s story. It’s also of note that this North Carolinian tale has the hot-headed Massachusetts man be the one thirsty for blood while the cooler-headed, hospitality focused Southerners were trying to push for civility and proper legal procedure.
Whatever the case, the tree still exists, and the CORA carving is visible to this day, even in photographs, a living reminder that mystery and wonder still exist in our world.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s fire, there’s the McDonald siblings. In this episode, Nick and Cait have turned their eyes to stories of supernatural smoke and fire this week, as we visit a fiery poltergeist (feuergeist?) in Illinois and a witch’s tree in North Carolina that refused to burn down. All this, plus smokey beverages and feet discussions!
Here’s a project that connects with me on all levels. Of course, I love spooky stuff and horror movie scares, and a huge part of what I love to do as a theatre director and designer is take what is normally thought of as a “movie special effect” and make it work in the nuts & bolts practical world. There’s a real satisfaction when the proper combination of tech and timing makes, say, an actor move independently of their shadow, or a person appear in different parts of the room too quickly to be human.
So this project by Instructables user gocivici is right up the center of my alley. He’s fitted an old cathode-ray TV with a Raspberry Pi and a mini-camera, and using face -recognition software has created a television that turns itself on, waits for the viewer to look away, and then places a spooky image behind them when they look back. Watch this:
It really is genius, and being Instructables, the how-to for creating your own is included on the site. It takes some Raspberry Pi programming and electrical engineering, but from what I see the instructions are very complete and should be manageable if taken slowly and carefully by anyone with a creative itch to scratch. I hope to see this (as well as some creative variations) in every Halloween haunted house by next fall!