Ghosts, Baseball, and Great Horned Owls

Although my blog doesn’t cover guns, politics or religion, the current news that doesn’t involve a geological catastrophe seems to deal with one of those three. So, I will tackle some other things.

Haunted Boston Ghost Tours

This fall I built on my six years as a docent for Boston By Foot to become a tour guide for Haunted Boston. While both organizations incorporate history, their tours go in different directions. Boston By Foot focuses on history, art, and architecture based on fact. Haunted Boston, as the name implies, offers ghost tours.

Central Burying Ground, Boston Common, Haunted Boston, ghosts, gravestones, walking tour, tour guideGiven that Boston was founded in 1630, history pops up everywhere you look. It also informs what happened in the city, whether it’s architectural styles or residents who continue to stick around after their demise. That means our ghosts pull history into their stories.

I give my first tour for Haunted Boston on Friday, October 12 at 7:30 pm. I have learned the script, I have a lantern to light the way, and I bought a black coat so I’m ready to go. We meet on Boylston Street by the fence to the Central Burying Ground. If you want to come along on this tour, get your tickets at Haunted Boston. I would love to have you come along and I’ll do my best to put a few chills down your spine.

Upcoming Tour Schedule

Here’s my upcoming schedule of Haunted Boston walking tours:

  • Friday, October 12 at 7:30 pm
  • Tuesday, October 30 at 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, November 17 at 7:30 pm

I’m also giving a Dark Side of Boston tour for Boston By Foot on November 2 at 6 pm.  We meet at the corner of Cross Street and Hanover Street and tickets are available from Boston By Foot for $13. Or you can just show up and pay cash ($15). Either way, I’ll be happy to see you.

The Owl Came Calling

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, Audubon Society, owl calls

Great Horned Owl
Courtesy of the Audubon Society

Two nights ago, we woke up to the sound of an owl hooting outside our bedroom window. The bird had a very distinctive call that repeated over and over. And over. And over. He was still at it when I eventually dropped back off.

This morning our neighbor from the next street over said the owl hooted outside her window last night. I imitated the call and she said, “Yup, that’s him.” So, I looked up owl calls and found out that our visitor is a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). The Audubon Society provides a great resource for identifying bird calls.

The Stones vs Billy Joel

Owl calls are very different from one another. If you can remember the call, you can identify the bird. A Great Horned Owl cry is as different from a Screech Owl as the Rolling Stones are from Billy Joel.

If you ever wake up to a Screech Owl (Megascops asio) in your yard, you’ll think a soul of the damned is right outside and looking to get in. They even look pretty spooky. If you don’t know what made that sound, it may take you a while to get back to sleep.

I wish I had been able to see our Great Horned Owl as they are large and impressive birds but it was night and cloudy and very dark. Hoo-hoo.

The Red Sox in the ALDS

Tonight, the Red Sox play the Yankees at Fenway Park in the first game of the American League Division Series. I have to admit that I just don’t get this wild card thing. The Sox took first place in the American League East (108-54) fair and square, ending the season eight full games ahead of the Yankees.

Red Sox, Division Champions 2018, 108 games, Boston, Fenway ParkSo, why play them again? What’s the point, except for everyone involved to make more money by stretching the post-season play almost to Thanksgiving? Oh, wait…

But, then, I also think we need robot umpires at home plate. TV pitch boxes show us how many times the umps get it wrong—and it’s way too often. Bad calls can and have changed the entire course of a game. Go ahead, put the umpire behind the plate, but let the robo-umpire overrule a bad call. It’s only fair to the teams.

Tradition vs Accuracy

My husband disagrees with me because he’s a baseball purist and a traditionalist. I think if tradition doesn’t serve the game well, then toss it out the window and put in something better.

We have already seen that allowing managers to challenge how plays are called has practically eliminated the “neighborhood play.” That call used to happen pretty frequently when the second basemen caught a ball somewhere “in the neighborhood” of the base without actually touching it. He would then fire to first for the double play.

Major League Baseball, neighborhood play, second base, double play

Somewhere in the neighborhood of second base

A Game of Precision

But if he didn’t touch the bag, the runner should not have been called out. Baseball is a game of precision and a fraction of a second can matter in whether a runner is safe or out. Now Major League Baseball has outlawed the neighborhood play. Should a team try making an out without touching the base, the offensive manager will challenge the call and win. Some commentators think this is a bad change because it puts the second baseman at greater risk of being injured by a slide. I think it’s more important for the game to be scored accurately. That means it’s better for the game overall.

I would love to find a pithy phrase that would tie these three subjects together but I can’t. The late Jonathan Winters could have done it brilliantly but I will just say that ghosts, baseball, and Great Horned Owls are just what’s going on in my life right now.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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