Calling pirates, explorers, and spooky ghost hunters! Bish Denham, author of The Bowl and the Stone, is here to tell us a frightening tale from the Caribbean.
"Thanks for letting me hang out on your blog, Fairday! Today we’re going to explore Annaberg which plays a small but important roll in my story, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands." ~ Bish Denham
St. John, in what is now the U.S. Virgin Islands, was first settled (colonized) by Denmark in 1717. St. Thomas had been settled in 1671. The Dutch were the first to settle St. Croix in 1642.
By 1728, just ten years after being settled, there were 87 plantations on the island. Annaberg, one of the largest plantations, was under cultivation by 1731. During the 1800s it became one of St. John’s largest sugar producers.
This picture was taken some time after 1933. The windmill was added between 1820-1830, prior to that a horse mill was used. You can just see the curved wall of the horse mill at the far left. All the buildings were built with the sweat and toil of slave labor.
In the 1950s, a family lived in the windmill. It had a roof and a wooden second floor built into it.
This is the factory building where the cane juice was boiled down to make molasses, sugar, and rum. Imagine the hillsides terraced and cultivated and being maintained by slaves. The wall on the right is part of the horse mill.
Only one of the large iron vats used for boiling the juice is left, as can be seen in the center of this picture.
This is where the fires were stoked under the iron vats. Imagine, in the heat of a tropical summer, having to work the fires all day long.
One of the things that brings a human face to the suffering, are these etchings of the walls of the dungeon. A real person, imprisoned for some offence, perhaps took a rock and scratched these drawings into the plaster. This one shows Annaberg as it once looked. There were second stories, made of wood. This one, harder to see, is of a sailing ship.
In my novel, The Bowl and the Stone, Sam and her best friend Nick, find a new etching which mysteriously disappears.
Here's excerpt from the book...
Here's excerpt from the book...
Nick and I study the drawings. It’s strange and eerie in the room. There’s the lingering sense of the breathing and heartbeats of slaves who had been locked away. The air is heavy with sorrow. We talk in whispers as if we’re in a church or library. I’m afraid, as if I’m about to disturb a sleeping monster.
Nick is studying other parts of the wall when I notice a bunch of scratches near the floor, in the darkest corner of the tiny room.
“Hey, Nick, come take a look at this.”
He squats down next to me.
Etched into the wall is a drawing.
“I’ve never seen this before,” I say.
“What is it?”
“A lot of people lying on the ground all lined up in rows.”
“Looky here.” Nick points. Bending over one of the bodies is the figure of a person carrying a bowl. “These drawings aren’t like the others. It’s not as detailed and the scratches are fresh. The plaster is white where it’s been scraped away. In the old drawings the lines are dark.”
The drawing is about a foot long and three to four inches tall. The people are nothing more than stick figures.
“What do you think it means?”
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About the Author
Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.
She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”
The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.
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