Sunday, November 26, 2023

Local author signing event at Fountain Bookstore

I had so much fun and loved chatting with everyone. Annie was the perfect author-companion. Thanks to all who came out on a misty day! 📚☔️

Monday, November 13, 2023

Hanover Book Expo 2023

Last Saturday was the Hanover Book Expo at the VFW. There were more than 40 of Virginia's authors in attendance who were discussing, signing, and selling our latest books. 

Here I am pictured with author Luis Gil Armendariz. We had tables next to one another. 

The Expo is a not-for-profit community event presented by the Hanover Writers Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. The Hanover Book Festival began in 2006 as a project to promote reading. 

For more details and news about next year's schedule, visit:

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Arcadia Publishing Discount Code

I'm collaborating with Arcadia Publishing and they have generously offered 10% off the entire order (Limited to one use per customer).

You could buy all the Poe books from The History Press and save 10% on all!

Use code: SHARON9

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Seven Pines, Cedars, Hemlocks and one GHOST in the Graveyard

The American Civil War was the bloodiest war in our nation's history. Over 600,000 died, more than World War I and World War II combined and a soldier was 13 times more likely to die in the Civil War than in the Vietnam War. (1)

Growing up in an area surrounded by reminders of war, it was common to hear about ghost sightings of Union and Confederate soldiers still wandering the fields and fighting their battles. Visitors throughout Virginia have reported feeling the presence of those who lost their lives during battles. Many of the mortally wounded were hastily buried in makeshift graves on the battlefield and others perished from illness and disease. 

I grew up nine miles from Seven Pines National Cemetery, which is currently 1.9 acres and is surrounded by a brick wall. The cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Like other national cemeteries, the markers are in orderly rows, the grass is well maintained, and the mood is serious. These places reflect the belief that these are hallowed grounds where veterans’ sacrifices should be honored. 

Like so many national cemeteries that were nearby or within battlefields, Seven Pines National Cemetery was established in 1866 mostly for interments of the Union soldiers who had been quickly buried without traditional fanfare. The brick-and-stone superintendent’s lodge, designed by U.S. Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, was built at the southeast corner of the site in 1874. The front of the building is hidden by trees but when walking up toward the steps to the front door entrance, visitors will notice the tablet with the Gettysburg Address, which is a distinctive feature of the national cemetery landscape. 

With hasty burials and the time that had passed, many of the soldiers’ remains were not able to be identified. In this cemetery, 1,216 interments are listed as unknown, which adds to the solemn feel. There are only 141 known dead. The name of the cemetery is derived from seven pine trees that were planted along the inside of the cemetery wall in 1869. A 1938 article notes that along with pine trees, there are seven cedars, seven hemlocks, and there is just one Ghost

To tell the story of how a Ghost came to Seven Pines National Cemetery, we must start in Irwin, Pennsylvania, where parents Samuel and Mary had been married for a decade and were welcoming the birth of another child to a family with brothers and sisters. The year was 1843. President John Tyler was the nation’s tenth President, becoming the first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency after the death of his predecessor, President William Henry Harrison. That year, Edgar Allan Poe's Gothic fiction, "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Charles Dickens’ ghostly tale, "A Christmas Carol," were first published. Samuel and Mary’s baby, John, was born into a world that differed from the famous writers and politicians who traveled and read widely. John did not attend school but helped his father with farming; and by 17, he was listed as a farmer on the 1860 US Census. The next year, men were being recruited to join the Union Army and John, at the age of 18, mustered into service in Harrisonburg, Pennsylvania on December 11, 1861. 

He served in the 103 Volunteer Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, which included 105 men. The infantry advanced on Manassas and were then ordered to the Peninsula. The soldiers were involved in a skirmish at Yorktown, the Battle of Williamsburg, a skirmish at Fair-Oaks, and The Battle of Fair Oaks which is also known as the Battle of Seven Pines. The 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment lost three officers and 50 enlisted men who were killed or mortally wounded, and one officer and 352 enlisted men to disease during the Civil War. Approximately two-thirds of all the deaths of soldiers were caused by infectious diseases including pneumonia, dysentery, malaria, and typhoid fever. 

Seven Pines National Cemetery was included in a Ripley’s believe-it-or-not cartoon because of John Ghost’s name. 
The Seven Pines Cemetery got into Ripley’s believe-it-or-not cartoon…because it has a real ghost in it—Jno. Ghost, of Pennsylvania. 
John Ghost died of typhoid fever at White Oak Swamp on June 17, 1862. His remains were moved to Seven Pines National Cemetery, only 1.6 miles from where he died. 
Most of the regiment was captured on April 20, 1864. Thirty died in Confederate prisons. Only eleven men remained to be mustered out. 
John Ghost was a real person. In fact, his mother Mary Ghost, filed for a Civil War pension on June 28, 1880, after the deaths of her son and her husband. The family had been Germans who immigrated to America. With confusion, misunderstanding, and illiteracy, surnames were improperly spelled frequently. John Ghost’s ancestor, Kraffgoss became Kraft Ghost. Today, descendants use the last name Coast.


Friday, November 3, 2023

History Talks- Ashland Museum

📚Join us NOV 7th for HISTORYTALKS with Dr. Sharon Pajka, literature professor and cemetery historian.
Dr. Pajka will discuss her book: Women Writers Buried in Virginia.
Free and open to the public! No reservations needed.
Info: or 804-368-7314
SunTrust Theater in Brock Commons, R-MC campus, 304 Henry St., Ashland.
📚Join us NOV 7th for HISTORYTALKS with Dr. Sharon Pajka, literature professor and cemetery historian.
Dr. Pajka will discuss her book: Women Writers Buried in Virginia.
Free and open to the public! No reservations needed.
Info: or 804-368-7314
SunTrust Theater in Brock Commons, R-MC campus, 304 Henry St., Ashland.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Cemeteries, Ghosts, and Newspapers Oh My! I'm going to have another book!

My third book, provisionally entitled *Haunted Cemeteries of Virginia,* was accepted for publication this morning by the Editorial Board of The History Press to be published in 2025. 

I'm extremely excited about sharing documented Virginia folklore AND newspaper reports of "ghosts" in cemeteries. These ghost stories recount historic tragedies, unjust parts of history, and even share comical tales of what happens when locals take a shortcut through sacred grounds. 

I've added two teasers of newspaper clippings below-- the Hollywood Cemetery ghost saga from 1870 (it's a rather sad story about a woman whose betrothed was killed in the Richmond Capitol Disaster); 

(Alexandria Gazette, June 15, 1870)
and, the Thornrose Cemetery ghost saga in 1952 that turned out to be a monkey! (which nods to the 1906 cold case of circus performer Eva Clark who performed in the Cole’s Brothers Circus that traveled through Staunton where she was murdered). 
(The Roanoke Times, Sep 21 1951)
Just another excuse to travel to so many Virginia cemeteries!

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

October Candlelight Tours at Old City Cemetery-- the best living history event!

This year was the 16th season of the Candlelight Tours at Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum; it was my first time attending after wanting to go for many years. I attended on October 21 and was on the 8:10 tour, which I think was the last tour of the night and the last tour of the season. 

It was also right after I packed up from holding a book signing event in
the cemetery, so the evening felt extra special.

 The sky was clear and the moon was bright in the sky as visitors were led by lantern light by our “Spirit Guide” through the cemetery to visit six vignettes of actual cemetery residents “from beyond the grave” to hear “their fascinating tales of life — and death.” 
The scene actors and spirit guides were phenomenal. The amount of work that went into this event showed in all the details-- a great script, skilled actors and performers as well as parking attendants (old cemeteries just are not equipped for the size of today’s vehicles or any vehicles!), those who placed hundreds of candlelight bags along the paths, to the ticket takers. 

It was everything that I wanted it to be and more! It was one of the best living history events that I've ever witnessed, which just makes me love Old City Cemetery even more. 

It’s one of my top 3 favorite cemeteries for a reason. Also, it is perfectly normal to have a list of favorite cemeteries. I was excited to see a women writer from my book represented on the tour, but I had not expected that she would be the guest speaker at a church celebration. 

Actress Makeda Payne brought Ms. Lizzie Chambers Hall to life! I wanted to cry and hug her! It was quite emotional, especially since she was portraying a woman writer who is not frequently showcased. 

That is one of the best parts of these candlelight tours- they are not about being spooky or merely spotlighting the who’s who from the cemetery; each year, different cemetery residents are featured after months of research. 

I appreciated that the interpretation of history included three examples of Black women who were interpreted through the lens of Black joy- these women's stories (including Lizzie Chambers Hall, Harriet Burton, Judy Rieves) were respected and celebrated. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the story of George Liskecomb Wilkinson who enlisted in the army and earned the rank of Sergeant in the Army Air Corps. Actor Russell Hill played George Wilkinson, which was extra special since Wilkinson had been the actor’s Boy Scout leader when he was young. 

Old City Cemetery even offered an accessible matinee tour during the day for those who were not able or interested in taking the nighttime tour. It was certainly dark! 

The tour brought our senses to life with the smell of apple pies (I believe these were actually fragrant apple candles or I missed out on tasty some pie!); I even went home with smoke from the bonfire in my hair. It was a magical night that I cannot imagine being topped.