Song Portrait #17: Mary Hawkins


Mary Hawkins is based on a ghost story from my home state of Illinois.  I actually wrote another song about this legend in the late 90s.  I was still in the infancy of my songwriting and it has long since been dumped from my repertoire.  Last October I was invited to participate in a ghost themed songwriting challenge hosted by Songwriters in Seattle.  I knew it was time to take another stab at telling this haunting tale.

This story takes place in Pemberton Hall, the dormitory I lived in my freshman year at Eastern Illinois University.  Opened in 1909, it is the oldest women’s residence hall in Illinois.   The building, particularly the third floor, is known for being haunted.  Generations of residents have reported doors locking themselves, strange scraping noises, and objects and furniture being moved.  It is believed that these mysterious occurrences can be attributed to Mary Hawkins, a young woman who worked as a Dorm Mother around 1917.   Late one night one of the residents, unable to fall asleep, went up to the music room on the 4th floor to play the piano.  It was there that she was brutally raped, beaten, and left for dead by a man believed to be the building’s custodian.  Mary managed to crawl down the stairs to the third floor.  She tried to get the attention of the sleeping residents as she dragged herself down the hallway of the third floor.  She was not able to make enough noise to get anyone’s attention until she reached the final door at the end of the hall.  It was the door belonging to Mary Hawkins.  When Mary opened the door she was horrified to find the girl’s battered, lifeless body strewn in front of her.

Prior to this incident, Mary had been known as a cheerful woman.  After that night everything changed.  She became depressed and paranoid.  She felt that it had been her job to protect the girls in the dormitory.  She never forgave herself.  She ended up going mad and was committed to a mental institution nearby.  She ultimately committed suicide.  After Mary’s death the strange occurrences started and have never stopped.

Did I see any of this?  Nope.  I lived on the first floor in an addition that was added on in the 1960s.   But I do feel haunted by this building nonetheless.   My Pemberton Hall sounds like Tori Amos’ “Under The Pink” and it smells like peach schnapps and whiskey.  It feels like glory and confusion of being in love for the first time.  It is lonely.  It is as vast and confusing as having your whole life ahead of you and endless choices…. a blessing and a curse.

For more on this legend check out Prairie Ghosts.

Song Portrait #16: Covfefe


This song wrote itself when I was making up words that rhyme with “covfefe”.  I do not want to make light of what is going on, but it really is too scary to deal with in a way that does not involve humor.  It is not just scary, it is absurd.  Maybe it is my Gen-Xer self speaking (yes, I still buy CDs and magazines) – but part of me still clings on to the idea that the internet is for things like finding recipes, watching porn, seeing pictures of who your ex is dating.  In other words: Twitter and Facebook are not legit places for political discourse.  The idea that a president communicates regarding policy via Twitter is ridiculous.  The idea that the president communicates stupid rants, hateful tactless comments, makes jokes about nukes, and antagonizes (other) ruthless dictators is simply UNREAL.  He also does this without proofreading.  The worksheets my fifth graders turn in have better spelling and grammar than our president uses. It is so unreal I almost have to laugh – it’s like I am watching a Sci-Fi movie.  But I’m not.

I used to go to protests.  At the beginning of the Iraq war I went to many. Did it make a difference?  Not really.  History will show that there was a large movement against it and I guess that is good enough for me.  I don’t see the point now.  Maybe it is because I am older and more jaded, but during the George W. administration I could also see merit to the side of the argument I did not agree with.  Making a statement was worth my time and energy. With the Trump other “other side” is just idiocy and insanity and I do not see the point in debating idiocy and insanity.

So that is where I’m at.  I am isolated my bubble of “I’m going to fight this horrible regign by being kind and a good mom and a good teacher”.  Excuse me while I enjoy another glass of chardoneffe and then scream into a pillow.