A Mysterious Halloween Antiques Story
I was taught the art of "conjuring up" antiques by two Pennsylvania antique dealers, Mike and Craig. They don't just hop into a van and hope to come across a great piece on a buying trip. They picture a specific object in their mind. Maybe, a William & Mary Period (1690-1725) lowboy with turnip shaped feet and teardrop shaped drawer pulls. Perhaps, a mid-western blown sugar bowl in valuable cobalt glass. They imagine the shape, the color, the condition, even the place where they'll find such an item, and how much it will cost. It's always a bargain, of course. Mike and Craig are optimistic conjurers. The crazy thing about conjuring is, it works. It's almost scary, how well. Perhaps, imagining things before they happen just heightens senses-makes us better aware. Perhaps, it's something more. One year ago, I was involved in a scary incident when my buddy Craig came up for a visit. I tell it to you as a lesson. One should take care not to delve into mysterious things on Halloween night.
As is his kind custom, Craig gave me a gift when he arrived at our 150 year old house/antique shop. The book, Voices of the Civil War- Gettysburg is of special interest to Craig because it features an "ambrotype" he owns. Ambrotypes are the second generation of photograph introduced in 1851. Craig's ambro is pictured on page 149. The small photograph of three children was the only clue to a dead Union soldier's identity found after the battle of Gettysburg. Stripped near naked, the dead man's hand was still clutching the ambrotype when they came upon him. Feeling sorry for this young soldier, and for his unknown family, the photo was reproduced. Copies were circulated. Four months later, the mother of the children, the widow of the late, Amos Humiston, 154th-New York, recognized it as the one she had sent him. It's a chilly tale. As most true stories having to do with war are.
The chilliest moment, however, was to occur about ten minutes later. After Craig, showed me the book, and told me the story about the the photo, he said, "Let's scrounge around in your attic!" It's a dusty dark place with a long ascending stairway and old things scattered about. My friend wanted to conjure himself up a great antique. He walked into a small room with a low ceiling. I believe somebody lived in that queer room at one time as there was furniture arranged in it as quarters. Craig, picked a book bound in leather, blew some dust off it an opened it up. The exact page he opened contained one of the copies of the Amos Humiston ambrotype. I looked at that photo, those three lonely children, and wondered as to why it had come out of the dark on such a strange Halloween night. Perhaps, it was coincidence. Perhaps it was something more.