Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Decorations Forever: Calling Me From The Grave

January 3, 1930-September 1, 2009

Forest Green Park Cemeteries & Mausoleums
Morganville, New Jersey
Grave 34D: Row E, Grave 10
(Volunteer post on Find-A-Grave)

When I reflect on my adventures of  family research, I find that my ancestors who have passed over centuries, decades and  recently have reached out to me from the grave.  For some it may be spooky or mystical, and for others it may just be coincidence. I find it comforting to have my ancestors who may or may not have known me, wanting to tell me something I may not have known before.
There are many signs given as I travel and meet people.  The clues are there, you just have to be willing to hear.  Months before I went to find my cousin Christine G. Culley, who loved halloween, had been in my psyche.   I searched and I searched and tried to call and was met by, "The number you have reached has been disconnected."  Little did I know she was living when I searched for her, but somehow when she passed the need to find her became even stronger.
As a genealogist, I am not only led by the paper trail, and the stories of those who may know, but by the Spirit of the individual that I am seeking.  They come to me at night.  They come to me while I am awake.  I am open to this communication of my ancestors, as they are the ones who guide me through my journey. 

     In June of 2010, I went to New York for a family research trip to find out more about my mother, Betty Mae Peters life growing up in Sugar Hill.  I also went with the  purpose of finding and visiting my mother's first cousin, Christine G. Culley, who is the only child of Violet Jones & Wendell P. Culley, a trumpet player who played with various musicians and singers such as Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday.

     I arrived at my cousins home in Harlem [Where she lived since her birth] and was met by a locked door to the seven story apartment building.  There was a man sweeping just inside the building.  It is then, that the gentleman revealed to me that Christine Culley had passed away 9 months prior to my arrival, and that there were two large trucks that took her belongings. I realized that it was going to take me some time to find out who handled her affairs, and receive more information on who Christine Culley was.  

     Within a few months, I was able to make a connection with the executor (Karen) of her estate, thanks to the owner of the apartment.  Since that time, Karen and I have kept in touch, as she has become most helpful to me and the history of Christine & her family.

     As time goes by, I have a deeper knowing of who Christine has become to me.  I have found so much information about her.  I sense her spirit when I look at her artwork that she painted.  She never married, she was a recluse, she was on the verge of being a hoarder of books and some really cool items.  I wish to this day that I would have found her before she passed, so I could have held her hand as she was suffering from the pain of cancer.  I hate that the family did not realize that she was sick and that she was dying.  We just did not know. There is so much more to learn and there is so much more to tell...and I am sure in time that as her Spirit reaches from the grave...she will speak.

(Portion of an email sent to me by Karen) 
August 31, 2010
She loved all holidays -- but Halloween was an esp. fav of hers, and I'm sure much of that was connected with its spiritual associations.  She frequently joked about still having the decorations up all over apt. -- it became a running joke with us, and why I felt (unconventional Bohemian that she is) it would please her to have the headstone read "Halloween decorations forever" (although I didn't discuss the headstone with her since the brief discussion I precipitated on the subject upset her...but I had to get some idea of her wishes).
 Chris had vaguely indicated she would like a priest (the local parish ended up graciously giving her a FULL high mass, even bringing in an organist and singer who performed one of her favs and mine, Schubert's Ave Maria-- 3 of the nuns closest to her and I were her pall bearers; I also half-teased if she'd also like a wicha service and she'd brightened:  "THAT would be nice, too!" but we feared her befriended nuns would be scandalized, LOL) -- and that she wanted to be buried "somewhere with a lot of nature and green" (not much to go on, LOL) -- but it was indeed comforting to see all the trees and wild geese strutting around the grounds out there when the day came.

A few of the 200 photos sent to me of Christine's apartment

Wendell Culley's trumpet in the background

My Cousin Christine will always be remembered on Halloween...and I am hoping that one of these days I will get the opportunity to visit her grave site....Maybe on a not too distance Halloween.

Please Follow these other blogs participating in the Blogs Hallow Eve.-Share-Comment-Have fun… Happy All Hallow’s Eve. Katandra —> Ramona—> Taylor Fulcher—> Marla Crews—> Skye Knizley—> Mellie Miller—> Alexia Purdy—>


  1. I do believe I adore this most eccentric, eclectic, enigmatic soul of an ancestor you possess. Awesome entry. I love it! ~Kat.

    1. Kat,

      I have one just a little more eccentric than Christine. Her Auntie My Great Auntie Katherine was a medium and I believe that she may have passed down some of her genes to her.

  2. It is too bad you didn't find her earlier, but I hope you can piece together her whole story.

    1. It really is unfortunate that I did not have the opportunity to find Christine until recently. I believe over time, I will find more info about her. Thank you for coming by.

  3. Even though you are sad that family could not be with Christine in her final days, you have done a wonderful job of starting to piece together the story of her life. I call such people in my own family tree my "orphan relatives" - the ones who left no descendants to tell their stories.

    Family historians are storytellers after all, and you have a great start on this one.


    1. Thank you Dee! I hope to tell more of the stories of my ancestors.