Thursday, November 10, 2016

And the Boston Globe "Good Life" cover on "Haunted Boston"

Boston Globe story on my book, "Haunted Boston"

Are these Boston spots haunted?
OCTOBER 28, 2016

Let’s all take a seat around the campfire (metaphorical, if you will). It’s time for some ghost stories.
The Boston area is known for its abundant history, culture, and innovation. But centuries also leave behind ghosts, bizarre legends, and events that simply defy explanation. Terrifying, baffling, even amusing, they are woven into the tapestry of local history.
Here are some dark and spooky stories from around the Hub and its environs, culled from this writer’s book, “Haunted Boston: Famous Phantoms, Sinister Sites, and Lingering Legends.”
Scared? You should be.

Fort Warren
The wife of a captured Confederate soldier, the infamous “lady in black,” is believed to haunt this historic fort on Georges Island where both she and her husband were felled in a botched escape attempt. Her willowy specter, dressed in the garish gown she was hanged in, has purportedly been seen flitting around with a lantern, has tapped shoulders, and yelled threats to those entering the dungeon. Her ghost is said to have choked one horrified sentinel. Perhaps the darkest detail? She was the one who accidentally shot her husband while trying to free him — and was summarily hanged for being a traitor.

Boston Common
Today, it is a destination that teems with sunbathers, tourists, historical reenactors, and food carts — but Boston Common has quite a grisly past. Established in 1634, it was the site of public executions for more than 175 years. Puritan settlers regularly hanged those believed to be sinful; today, it is said that the ghosts of their victims can be seen dangling from the trees, accompanied by the eerie sound of creaking rope. Some have also reported spotting a weeping woman in colonial dress, believed to be Quaker martyr Mary Dyer, who was strung up by the neck in 1660 — reflecting the hypocrisy of the Puritans who came to America in search of religious freedom.

Cocoanut Grove
It has gone down in history as one of the deadliest nightclub fires: In November 1942, flames consumed the Cocoanut Grove lounge, killing 492 people and injuring dozens more. Today, all that remains is a memorial plaque in Bay Village. But its victims are said to linger: Shadowy souls in burned clothing have been seen aimlessly wandering the area and the nearby Revere Hotel. Meanwhile, exotic dance instructor Wendy Reardon, who previously had a studio adjacent to the site, has on several occasions videotaped glowing shapes that appear to be moving right along with her – the spirits of Cocoanut Grove patrons, perhaps, who haven’t yet tired of dancing?

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Boston is replete with cemeteries, the final resting places of some of the country’s founding fathers and mothers, to soldiers, to the forgotten men and women who shaped the evolving city. And while a few frightful stories surround all of them, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End is considered to be the spookiest. Perhaps that’s because its dead have so often been robbed of their slumber. Grave diggers and vandals did their work over the years, while torrential rains exposed coffin lids. Gravestones were ripped out of the ground to be used as roof tiles, in foundations and road improvement projects, and, in one grotesque instance, as a baking plate by a cook. Visitors to Copp’s Hill over the decades have reported apparitions of little girls, shadows cast by no discernible beings, as well as orbs, streaks, and blurs. It seems some may not rest as comfortably as others.

The Old Manse of Concord
It was the one-time home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as a gathering place for some of the most famous literary minds of the mid-1800s, including Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And, some say, a few lesser-knowns congregate there as well. Hawthorne himself wrote of what he believed to be the ghost of a pastor who could be heard sighing deeply and who would brashly sweep through the middle of company. There was also a servant maid who he could hear banging around the kitchen “at deepest midnight.” More contemporary visitors have claimed to see a lady in Victorian dress sitting in one of the Manse’s windows. Others say they’ve heard loud raps and taps without origin, and, like something out of a James Wan film, books alighting off shelves and flying across rooms.

The Bridgewater Triangle
This swath of land stretching roughly from Abington to Freetown to Rehoboth has allegedly been the setting for a plethora of creepy, strange, frightening, and unexplained phenomena. Those have included sightings of ghosts of sinister little boys, Bigfoot, UFOs, enormous snakes, raptors with 12-foot wingspans, mythical humanoid creatures, phantom hitchhikers and truckers with otherworldly road rage. Much like its namesake Bermuda Triangle, it is quite a confounding place.

Gloucester’s Dogtown
t was meant to be a prosperous settlement in a burgeoning fishing town. But after the Cape Ann population was decimated by the Revolutionary War, it soon devolved into a haven for the destitute, homeless, outcasts, and others who shunned (or, in turn, were shunned by) society. Stories began to circulate about witches who hexed, murdered, and used dark arts to steal goods from passing carts. By 1830, Dogtown was abandoned, its houses and streets lost to nature; today, the 3,600-acre expanse is preserved by the nonprofit Essex National Heritage area. But many believe that its motley assortment of inhabitants never truly left — there have been reports of disturbing sounds such as beating drums, wailing women, and the howling of dogs and wolves. Adding another layer of the bizarre, the area is punctuated by giant boulders carved with inspirational sayings: “Be on time,” “Use your head,” and “Study.” They are the result of a Great Depression work program — but seem to hark back to the settlement’s less-fortunate inhabitants.

Taryn Plumb can be reached at She is the author of “Haunted Boston: Famous Phantoms, Sinister Sites, and Lingering Legends,” published by Globe Pequot Press.

Original story link

November/December Artscope: Transformative Art

Aaron T. Stephan: Inventive and Inspired
November/December 2016

Taryn Plumb

It’s 7 p.m. You’re out for a night on the town. You grow a little wary when you reach your destination — a waterfront warehouse that you enter along with 19 other guests through an old rusted door. Your hosts guide you to an uncomfortably small, harshly-lit room where impersonal Muzak is playing.
You make awkward conversation — and wait.
Suddenly, your hosts dramatically lift the ceiling and push down one of the walls of the stifling room, and in front of you is a welcoming clearing replete with grass, trees, stumps and several picnic baskets.
This was the opening installment of the performance art piece “Inside, Outside, Above, Below,” presented by Portland artist Aaron T. Stephan and his partner Lauren Fensterstock.
It is indicative of Stephan’s desire to not only create art, but art that is immersive and transcends traditional confines, creating dialogues and starting conversations.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

My book is out!!

My first book, "Haunted Boston," is now available. It's available at all major retailers. Want a signed copy? Visit the book's Facebook page here. And please provide reviews and feedback!

Boston Globe story: When life hands you a 10th...

10th child puts ‘9 Lazy Kidz’ brand in a pickle

By Taryn Plumb
Globe Correspondent

When’s the big day?” “Is it a boy or a girl?” “Do you have any names picked out?”
This is the typical flurry of questions that follow the announcement: “We’re having a baby!”
But for Martin and Michelle Ervin of Hull, the reaction was a little different.
Although they did receive congratulations, one of the first follow-up questions was: “Well, what about the brand?”
That’s because for the past several years, the couple has been building up a family business, playfully called 9 Lazy Kidz, that features gourmet, all-natural hot sauces — a planned line of nine in total, each one named for, and based on the personalities of, the Ervins’ nine children.
So a 10th child — although an exciting and welcome addition to the family — has created quite the business quandary.
“This started out as a hobby,” said Ervin, director of operations for the Boston law firm Prince Lobel Tye LLP. “I did it as a platform to share stories about my kids. I enjoy it; the kids enjoy it. What’s exciting for us now is the new baby, how that impacts the brand, and building momentum around the brand. To me, it’s a great story.”
Helping them in that quest for brand identity, the family will be the subject of a case study at Bentley University this fall. Because they don’t want students to be influenced before the project begins, professors have asked that the specific details be kept confidential.
However, as Ervin explained, it will be a comprehensive process, with students “doing everything” related to the brand, “soup to nuts, top to bottom.”
Speaking of which, an introduction is in order. The “kidz” range in age from 25-year-old Aisha (pronounced “Asia”) to infant Reign Prince Ervin, born on June 22, at a healthy 10 pounds, 5 ounces. In between (and in descending order) are Tiara, Ramon, Martin Jr., Skye, Myles, Quintin, Malik, and Chance.
So far, the family has released four hot sauces based around them — “Aisha’s Entitlement,” “Chance’s Ugh Garlic Sauce,” “Q’s Spicy Mango Sauce,” and “Skye’s Sweet Apple Heat.” Although the couple aren’t doing much to promote or evolve the brand, the sauces can still be purchased online, at Ervin estimates that they’ve sold about 7,000 so far, at local retailers, fairs, festivals, and events, as well as through their website.
The upcoming Bentley case study isn’t the first time the family has sought help wrangling the brand. Last year, they took part in the Ad Club’s Brand-a-thon, during which they were paired up with Salem, N.H.-based marketing agency 36 Creative.
Over a 72-hour weekend, the firm strategized and ended up suggesting a change to the name “Nine Lazy Kids” (no numeral or “z”), simplifying the busy colorful labels, and switching the design scheme from actual photos of the children on their namesake sauce to more timeless illustrations.
“There was so much playfulness that they lost some of that established feel, that feeling of trust and honesty,” said Trent Sanders, managing partner of 36 Creative. He reflected that “their family is just amazing — there’s some system to the madness.”
Considering the recent developments — and expansion — in the family, the Ervins haven’t yet put those suggestions into practice. They’re waiting on the Bentley research to make their next strategic move.
As for Sanders’s thoughts on changing the name altogether? “It is tempting to ask the question,” he said, suggesting that, in lieu of a name change, the story behind the brand can be told differently. “It’s all about telling the story and how you do it as a brand.”
In the meantime, Ervin has taken more than a month off from work, allowing his wife to focus her full attention on the baby, while he’s temporarily assumed the day-to-day duties of the seven “kidz” still at home (wake-up calls, chores, food preparation, chauffeuring).
“I’m enjoying being a dad for the time that I have. I’m trying to make the most out of it,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate that I get to be part of these 10 kids’ lives.”
And what about the possibility of 11 Lazy Kidz?
Ervin answered without hesitation: “This is definitely the last. There will be no 11th. I don’t think I have it in me.”
He quickly added with a laugh: “And Michelle doesn’t either.”

Original story link

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Housing Quandary on Nantucket

Alleviating Nantucket's Housing Crunch
IQP team works with island group to create incentives for affordable housing

September 6, 2016

Many of us have a certain image of Nantucket (as it has been beatifically portrayed in many a movie and the affable 90s sitcom “Wings”): Independently wealthy; a haven for seekers of a simpler life; quaint artisan shops, yachts and fishing boats bobbing just off its shores.
While there’s no doubt the small island just 30 miles off of Cape Cod is stunningly beautiful, thrumming with tourism, and a desirable attraction for the well-to-do, it isn’t without its socio-economic issues.
In fact, because housing prices on Nantucket are six times the median on the nearby mainland, about half the people who call it their full-time home struggle to afford housing.
It’s a major problem for the island,” says Dominic Golding, associate teaching professor and director of the Nantucket Project Center. “There’s a major shortage of housing, and the housing that is available is extremely expensive.”
But with some help from WPI, it’s a challenge the island is (at least a little bit) more equipped to tackle.
Based on extensive research by an IQP team, Housing Nantucket, an island nonprofit, has been able to secure certification as a Community Development Corporation (CDC). That ultimately opens it up to receive support from the state Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program; it is now able to offer $150,000 in state tax credits to financial backers, provided it can fundraise at least $300,000 a year.
Essentially, as Golding explained, it’s a “carrot” to potential donors.
Any money raised through the CITC program will go directly toward building and maintaining affordable rental units on the island.
Housing Nantucket, which has been around since 1994, serves year-round residents who earn between 50 and 150 percent of the Area Median Income. According to the agency, homeownership is “prohibitive” to about 90 percent of year-round residents.
As Golding explained, it has a significant impact on the island’s economy: Although 10,000 to 12,000 people live there throughout the year, that swells to about 60,000 in the summer with the influx of tourists and part-time residents. That increase equals more available jobs--but few affordable (or available) places for workers to live.
Every person I talked to during my trip to Nantucket agreed that housing has been, and still is, a very important topic that needs to be addressed and soon,” says Nhi Phan ’17, a biomedical engineering major who worked on the project. “I'm looking forward to seeing how Housing Nantucket is going to push forward in the coming years and how this project has helped them do so.”
Over a 14-week period last year, Phan and two fellow students spent time on and off the island researching its housing situation as part of their IQP. That process involved learning about the CDC certification process, querying locals and community leaders, and interviewing other Massachusetts CDCs about their roles in their own communities, their outreach efforts, and their operations. The project culminated with an assessment of Housing Nantucket’s services and community involvement, along with an outline on how to apply for CITCs, as well as proposed recommendations to help secure CDC status.
What surprised me most was learning that housing is truly prohibitive to the majority of Nantucket residents,” says Elizabeth Beasley ’17, an actuarial mathematics major who also worked on the project. “Housing prices on Nantucket are extremely high, as one might expect, but there isn’t a range of low cost alternatives. So the work that Housing Nantucket does to provide affordable housing options is vitally important.”
Ultimately, the project was beneficial not just for the residents, but for her and her fellow students--specifically by illustrating how great an impact an IQP can have on a community.
I'm glad that I had this opportunity to learn not only how to coordinate as a team, but also to contribute to something much bigger than just one term project,” she says, noting the exposure to real-word problems that can be tackled with theory, practice and “great team work. I'll carry these lessons with me as I start my career, and remember that the work I do will impact not just a community, but real people.”

- By Taryn Plumb

Original story link

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sept/Oct Artscope: Tim Rollins and K.O.S. Come Home

Unbound in Portland

The Kids are Jammin’
by Taryn Plumb

When Tim Rollins arrived in the Bronx as a 26-year-old in the early ‘80s, it was, as he describes, “on fire” — literally, of course, due to the conflagrations that consumed the borough for an entire decade, but also culturally. It was an electric, inspiring and frightening backdrop for what would ultimately become his life’s work.
After growing up in rural Maine and attending the University of Maine in Augusta, he was recruited to “the toughest ghetto in America,” as he described it, to develop a curriculum fusing art, reading and writing for “at risk” youth.
What eventually resulted was the group “Kids of Survival” (K.O.S.), which over time morphed into a traveling workshop that has produced art for prestigious museums and exhibits all over the world. This fall, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. are bringing their unique and inspiring perspective, process and story to the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in two special ways.
The first: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — a 13’ x 34’ work acquired by the PMA that will find a permanent home in the museum’s Selma Wolf Black Great Hall — will ultimately serve as a welcome for all visitors as they enter. The second: “Unbound: Tim Rollins and K.O.S.,” a special exhibition composed of works inspired by classic literature, poetry and music.

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