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ADC – After-Death Communication

The hugely popular  movie, “Ghost” with Demi Moore, was a big success because millions of people yearn to connect for one last time with a loved one who has passed on.   I happen to be one of those persons and I want to tell you more about the topic of After-Death Communication.

Husband and wife team  Bill and Judy Guggenheim have been studying After-Death Communication (ADC)  since 1988 and have established a foundation to do their work. They assert that we indeed are contacted by the dead regularly but fail to notice the communication.  Their book, Hello from Heaven,  is divided into chapters based on the type of interactions we may have.  You may feel their touch,  catch a whiff of their scent, get a split-second full or partial appearance.  They  appear in our dreams or they  send us butterflies when there should be none around or they  send us a rainbow.  There are 23 chapters in this book so there are many, many ways we may be  contacted.

When I was given their book,  Hello from Heaven,  what  I innately believed was confirmed.   My son Robert drops by every so often.   I feel him lean over me.  Sometimes I hear his voice say hello .   When his Funeral Mass ended and we left the church on that very gray and cloudy day, someone shouted, “Look up, look up!”   People were pointing and calling to one another.  “Look up!  Look up!” Everyone was taking cell phone photos, so I would have the picture and never forget the sight on that day.  There over the cross of the church steeple was a hazy oval-shaped sun (my son had a beautiful oval face) and under it was an inverted rainbow.  His big colorful smile, told me he was all right.  The grief I had been feeling vanished and a joyful calm washed over me.  He is in a good place, I thought.   I was given the gift of peace and a beautiful farewell; something I never got to do, having been informed of the motorcycle accident and death by the police.  I had a photographer enlarge the photo for me and I called it Robert’s smile.

One of the chapters in the Guggenheim’s book was about telephones and dreams.  My best friend Debbie’s mother passed away and she was taking it very badly until one night shortly after the burial.  She was asleep and she clearly heard the telephone ringing.  It rang so loudly she reached over to answer.  The voice said, “Debbie, it’s Mom. I just wanted to tell you I just love my new place.  It’s beautiful.”  Debbie answered, “I’m so glad,” and hung up.   When she woke up that next morning she could not remember if it was a dream, and if the phone really rang and she answered.   All she knew for sure was that she was filled with a peace that she did not have before that night.  She felt somehow her mother was telling her that she was all right.

The Guggenheims speak of receiving pennies from heaven, visits from birds (especially cardinals) and even animals, finding mementos from them in the most unlikely places.

My tiny family was in Aruba enjoying the sand and surf last spring.  We were there with my beautiful 10 month old grand-daughter.  If you are a grandmother you know that when you are invited to vacation with your children and grandchildren, you’re the built in babysitter.

My husband and I didn’t mind.  My petite Natalie was a lovely baby and she took two hour-long naps a day, so it was not hard.  In fact, we just loved minding her on the beach or at the pool.

One night my daughter and her husband went on a twilight cruise and we took Natalie to dinner.  We were given a rather long rectangular table and my husband and I sat across from each other and Natalie was on the end.

Once our meal came she was grabbing at the food and half went on the ground and half in her mouth. On the ground she had quite a menagerie of birds, big and small, surrounding her high chair, and eating her scraps.  One large black bird with beady yellow eyes arrived when we sat down.  It decided to sit across from the baby at the other end of the table.  This bird sat and twittered and whistled but did not make a move to eat anything on the table or on the patio floor.  We wondered just how long he would hold out before he would start picking at all the crumbs just as the other birds were doing.

Chatting like mad, this black bird did not move from his seat on the backrest of the chair until we finished our meal, paid the check and put Natalie in the stroller.  Then it hit me.  It was Natalie’s uncle Robert who had come for a visit.

Not many people get to see a visual manifestation of a ghost as Whoopie Goldberg did in the movie.  Nor do many people get to experience the intense meeting Demi Moore had when her husband came back for a visit at the very end.  However, I do believe that the Guggenheims got it right when they say our loved ones visit all the time, we just don’t  realize it.

Your Italian Roots May Go Places You’ve Never Dreamed Of

If asked, the average Italian American’s knowledge of their roots is sketchy at best.  “I know my relatives came from Sicily.”  “We came from the north of Italy, not the south. “ “I think it was an island off of Naples called Prodgida (Procida).”

If one were to inquire as to when Italians first started settling in American, the details get even more imprecise or should I just say incorrect.  “They first came over during the Industrial Revolution.  “At the turn of the century (meaning 1900.)” After the first World War.”  “After the second World War.” “ Around the same time as the Irish.”  Most of them settled in either Chicago, New York City and New Jersey.  No one ever says  Alabama or Michigan or South Carolina.

If students of Italian American history were to begin their studies in the 1800s , they would miss the mark by a couple of centuries and miss out on fascinating historical details.   Few Italian-American have heard of Lt. and Mrs. Albiano Lupo.  They landed in Virginia in 1619, and purchased 400 acres of land to farm.  I wonder if they would qualify for the DAR.  Probably not.

The first mass migration of Italians (300 people) were from Piedmont (Piemonte) and they settled in New York in 1657. Okay, that’s in the north east, but did you know the entire center of the United States was controlled by an Italian from around Naples in the1600s?

Enrico Tonti, often referred to as Henri de Tonty, together with La Salle brazed the trails of the Midwest (Alfonso Tonti, one of the founders of what is now Detroit, was his younger brother).  In 1682, La Salle then left Tonti with the mission to built a ship to navigate the Great Lakes and control the entire Mississippi Valley.   LaSalle gave him a land grant about thirty-five miles from the mouth of the Arkansas River.  Tonti built forts and trading posts up and down the Mississippi River and in Arkansas his permanent settlement served as a midpoint station for travelers and traders between the Illinois country and the Gulf of Mexico.  A monument was not erected to Tonti, who died of yellow fever in Old Mobile, Alabama until 1904.  Quite a gap of time there.

Yes, Italians have been in the United States a long time and Arkansas is the last place people connect with Italians even though there are a number of towns named for Enrico Tonti- Tontitown, Tontiville just to name two.

Arkansas has seen its share of Italian migration, beginning in the mid-1800s.  At that time an arrangement was made with Prince Ruspoli, mayor or Rome, for Italians to come farm 10,000 acres of a Chicot County plantation on the Mississippi called Sunnyside Plantation. The immigrants and their families were given twelve and a half acres of land with housing and were indentured farm workers.  The land, houses and passages to America were to be repaid over a twenty-one year period. Five hundred Italian families arrived initially and one hundred arrived each year after that.

The Italians found that the area was plagued by floods and malaria and the houses barely livable, many lacking pumps for water.   Many were not even acquainted with farming practices and duped into coming.  Others were given plots in swamplands.  Deaths from the unsanitary conditions and disease claimed an inordinate number of lives.  Those who remained healthy found that the crops were flooded out often and they had  worked an entire year for nothing.  Making matters worse was the fact that everything the farmers needed or wanted had to be bought at the company store at an exorbitant price.  Farm workers were bound to the plantation under the penalty of imprisonment nor could they purchase what they need elsewhere.   The farm workers were fined for the slightest infraction, adding to their debt.  When they tried to complain, they were fined again.  It was not long before that the colony of Italians was desperate, realizing they would never be free.

Thanks to a Jesuit priest their complaints were heard but not resolved until 1907 when the United States government charged the company with breaking the debt and peonage laws.  The immigrants dispersed to other areas along the Mississippi.

An excellent novel depicting life on the Sunnyside Plantation was written by Mary Bucci Bush.  This story details the life of Serafin and Amalia Pascala and their family on the Arkansas farm.  It tells of the hardships they and their countrymen dealt with on a daily basis, having to work long hours and barely subsisting on field greens because of lack of money to purchase food, clothing and the barest necessities.  It also demonstrates the role African Americans played, helping the newcomers adjust to the hard realities they faced, realities that the black farmers lived with for a couple of centuries.

Our Italian roots can take us to Detroit, Michigan founded by Alphonse Tonti.   It may take us to South Carolina to Elias Prileaus (Priuli), the founder of the Hugenot Church in South Carolina, or maybe to  the sixteen glass workers who settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1622.  How about Georgia where Captain Benjamin Taliafero commanded a rifle company during the Revolutionary War?  Many Taliaferos converted their names to Tolliver and if your name is Green, you may find out with a little digging that the original settler in the new world was really Verdi.  Remember Woody Woodpecker’s creator Walter Lantz?  His name was really Lanza…

Ancient Indigenous People

Apache, Cherokee, Sioux, Iroquois, Blackfoot.  As Americans we have been exposed to the names of the indigenous peoples of the United States.  We may not know all the names, since there were hundreds of tribes, but we certainly acknowledge they were in America first.   I wonder how many Italian-Americans have ever heard of the Native Italic tribes.

The Etruscans may come to mind, and if they took a tour of Rome they may have been exposed to the Sabines through a famous statue called “The Rape of the Sabines.”  However there were many, many more, such as the Oscans , Ligure (15 tribes), the  Apuli (3 tribes), the  Secani, Ancient Greek tribes, Samnitics (7 tribes)  and even the Celts (7 tribes ). These are just some of the ancient peoples of Italy.

Italy has been inhabited by modern day humans for 43,000 years and gene studies show multiple layers of migration from Syria, Central Asia,  Northern Europe, Macedonia and Greece. Many were blond and blue-eyed.  They were hunter-gatherers until agriculture was developed 8,000 years ago. These dwellers were dispersed over North-Central Italy.   Around 1500 B. C. other groups from the Arabian Peninsula and Illyria (Albania) brought a wide range of skins shades and physical types, hair color, and Indo-European languages into central and southern Italy.  Of course they mixed with the natives.   The diverse physical appearance of the Italian reflects these ancient tribes as well as all the barbaric hoards that came after the fall of Rome, such as the Goths, the Huns, the Franks, the Lombards (to name a few).

I am an example myself of this melting pot which is Italy. My DNA analysis only tells me about my most recent past.   I’m Jewish, Finnish, Spanish, Greco-Roman (largest segment) and Middle Eastern (second largest segment.)  I wasn’t surprised about the last two.  The Turks invaded the Bari area so regularly that if you wanted to insult someone, you would call him a Turk.   I was surprised there were no traces of Celtic or Germanic genes.  Having all my genetic information was interesting but I was curious however about my heritage that dates back to the Italic tribes.

When you start exploring the Italic tribes, there is one constant—no consensus on just about everything.  There is so little remaining of these tribes that it is difficult for archeologists pin point information with total accuracy.

I’ll begin with the land of my ancestors, Puglia.  The Apuli came across the Adriatic Sea from Illyria (Albania) around 800 B.C.   They were farmers and herdsmen and brought their animals with them.   There were three tribes.  The Messapic lived in the Brindisi area.   It is believed that that the tiny conical houses found in Alberobello were built by the Messapic.    Next were the Dauni  who lived around Foggia and lastly were the Peucezi.  Knowing that my family comes from the province of Bari, I now believe I have some Peucezi blood in me, even if minute.

These three groups lived independently but were attacked regularly by the Samnites, another primeval group of people living in the south-central part of Italy called the Samnium around 600 BC. The origin of the Samnite is not clear.  It is believed they are derived from both the Oscans and Sabine peoples of Campania and Latium.

They lived in the mountains, spoke an Indo-European language called Oscan, and were sheep herders, warriors.  The Samnites and Romans fought on the same side in the Second Punic War against Carthage.   They were great military strategists but once their usefulness to the Romans ceased to exist, the Samnites and the Romans began to battle each other for supremacy.  This group of people was comprised of seven tribes and Rome had great difficulty subjugating.  Pontius Pilate is believed to have been of Samnite heritage.

A religious group with many Gods, the Sabines go back a very long way.  They lived in the central Apennine Mountains around the Rieti area.  In 750 BC the Latins (Romans) and the Sabines fought for control of the Lazio area.  The abduction of the Sabine women by the Romans (a ploy to vanquish the Sabines) is immortalized in sculpture and in art.  A battle in which Sabine women entered the center of the conflict to make peace hangs in the Louvre and is entitled“ The Intervention of the Sabine Women.”  Pablo Picasso also had his own rendition of the Sabines.

Two indigenous peoples that date back over a thousand years are the Etruscans who lived between the Arno and Tiber rivers and west along the Apennines, and the Sicani of Sicily.  These people spoke their own languages that were not derived from the Indo-European languages such as: Greek, Celtic, Romance, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Armenian, Indo-Iranian.  DNA samples from Etruscan tombs suggest that these people did not transfer to Italy from another place, whereas the Sicani are believed to have migrated from Spain’s Catalonia region.  The Secani were extinguished by the Carthaginians at around 1000 BC.

According to the Greeks, the Etruscans came from Lydia in the Aegean Sea.  There is much debate over the origin of the Etruscans. What is known is that it was a highly advanced civilization, contributing to Italy drainage and irrigation systems, architecture (use of the arch and vault), metal working, art, ceramics and were an expert seafaring society.   They traded actively with the Greeks, had their own alphabet and used family names for purpose of identification.

Two very fierce groups in ancient Italy were the Ligures in northwest Italy near the mouth of the Arno River, and the Venetics.  The Venetics were ancient Celtic peoples who spoke Veniti, traded in amber, bred horses and were believed to have been rough, strong and bold people.    The lived in the Venice, Padua and Verona area and intermarried with the common Celts on the western border.

The Celts populated the area around Milan.  The Celts of Italy are described as having very strong bones and were brawny people who were impervious to heat and cold.  Some were very tall, red-headed and fair skinned while others were had a ruddy complexion.  They were very fond of arguing and had deep resounding voices.  The women were as large and sinewy as the men and fought as bravely as their male counterparts when in battle.

In conclusion, when Italian Americans observe see themselves in the mirror and see red, black, brown hair there is an infinite amount of possibilities where this hair came from.  If they are lanky and broad they could have had Celtic or Germanic descendants.  If they are green-eyed, gray or blue eyed, the Lombards, Normans, Germans could have been responsible.  If they are fair, stocky and average height, maybe there was a Samnite in his family tree.  The tiny, small boned southerners could have been Apulians.  Lastly, the if you are swarthy with black curly hair the prospects lean toward people from the Arabian peninsula.  Get a DNA analysis, you will be surprised what you learn about your family tree.

Outside the Strongbox

Going through my mother’s things after she died was an often painful process.  Evidence of my immediate family’s history such as photographs, baptismal certificates, passports, honor roll records, college awards could be so nostalgic that the tears would start rolling down my cheeks before I had gotten past the first line.

At the bottom of the metal box where these treasures were stored was an envelope discolored with age that I had never seen before.   I knew it had to predate my birth, perhaps even my mother’s birth.   I tried to gingerly pull the sheets out but my fingers managed to crumble the corner into bits.  Not wishing to do more damage, I sacrificed the envelope and cut it opened with a pair of scissors.

Just like all Americans, my family came from another country.  They came from Italy.  Most people associate the port of entry for Italian immigrants to be Manhattan’s Ellis Island.  Few people realize that New Orleans was another hub for immigrants of all nationalities, especially the Italians.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, immigration was driven by war, poverty, social and economic oppression.   America was not only the land of opportunity; people from the Old World were attracted to the democratic system of government with its freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

One reason for Italian immigration that is often not acknowledged is disease.   The poor of Northern Italy, especially Lombardy and the Veneto, were plagued by pellagra, which is a deficiency in niacin. This problem was caused by a diet consisting mainly of polenta (corn meal).  Inhabitants of this region with scare resources to buy a variety of food needed for good nutrition (meat, fruits, vegetables and grains) developed pellagra which caused blindness, severe dermatitis, neurological impairments and even lunacy.

The bane of existence in Southern Italy was malaria, a mosquito born disease which led to high swinging fevers, complications to the brain and liver, coma and death.  Both diseases are curable if caught early enough.  However, medicine in the 19th century was not the medicine of today.  So many poor Italians were forced to leave the country they loved for a new land in an effort to find employment.  There, hard work would translate into a higher standard of living and provide a healthy life for themselves and their children.

As I mentioned, when we think of the immigration of Italians and others, we automatically think of Ellis Island. However the facility was not built until 1892.  Prior waves of Italian immigrants and others landed on the Battery where a New York State Immigration station was located from 1855 to 1892.

Everyone knows someone who came through the port of New York and most people have heard that when the immigrants arrived, Italians included, they were examined for physical and mental illness, as well as communicable diseases.  If the ailment was easily curable they were sent to the hospital in the complex. Otherwise they were deported.

Besides providing their name, country and town of origin, parents’ names, list of any children and occupation, the Immigration and Naturalization officers had to know the marital status of the individual.

Unaccompanied women could not disembark unless there was a father or husband with proof in hand to claim them.  If they were unmarried, but had a fiancé ready and willing to marry them on the spot, they could disembark.  Brides could be married in a religious ceremony or have a civil ceremony.

The waiting fiancé would make arrangements in advance with The St. Raphael Society for Italian Immigrants and a priest would be waiting with the groom to claim the bride.  Witnesses also had to be produced.  My great-grandparents marriage licenses were in that strong box as were two others from my grandfather’s first wives.  These documents came from New Orleans.  So it appears that the menfolk of my family originally came through the south of the United States.

Below is an example of a marriage certificate completed by the St. Raphael Society for Italian Immigrant when grandpa married for the second time.   Paolo Ferretti of Brebbia (Lombard town near Milan) and his bride Rosa Porrini also originally from Brebbia were both married on November 1, 1914.  This certificate enabled the happy couple to go on their way.  See below.

Nicola Eschino and Francheschina Mastropaolo from the province of Molise, were married on Ellis Island on March 8, 1903. My grandmother was an Eschino.)  On this document you will see that the great-grandfather Eschino resided in Rotterdam, NY, and the bride’s residence was listed as Ellis Island.  Grandpa Eschino married his first wife in New Orleans at the tender age of fifteen.

In the 19th century before Ellis Island, the Port of New Orleans was the major port of entry for immigrants, particularly Italian immigrants. This hub was created because of the opportunity for employment.  Massive amounts of Caribbean goods as well as American goods (citrus, rice, sugar, cotton) were exported to Europe.

Italians from Sicily were the first to come to the Port of New Orleans.  In 1751 Jesuit missionaries brought sugar to Louisana.  Of all the people in Europe, it was the Sicilians who had the most experience growing cane and citrus.  They had been working the sugar cane fields of Sicily for 350 years.  The rich land that existed centuries ago was now infertile.  Consequently, these farm workers knew how to get the land to produce.   Using their Italian techniques on the rich American soil produced sugar cane and citrus harvests that could only be dreamed of in Italy.  The Sicilian worker was a priced employee.  As the decades passed  L’Italo-Americano Labor Bureau was opened on Poydras Street in New Orleans.

This is a flyer from the 1860-70s that has survived.   It extolls the virtues of the Italian in general, not just the farm worker.

Another reason Italians, not just Sicilians, came to America through the port of New Orleans was the cost.  It was the least expensive way to come to America.

With the advent of Clipper ships, these swift and enormous ships were filled with agricultural products bound for Europe.  In England, Naples and other ports rather than sending the boats back to New Orleans empty, they sold space for a nominal fee.  There were no beds, no food, no plumbing.  If the passenger survived the trip, he could come to America for next to nothing.

Throughout the years, my mother never mentioned her immigration experience with us.  The only thing I knew was she arrived in one of the worst snow storms to hit New York of the early twentieth century and that her father had been living in America since he was a boy.   In order to piece together the family’s history I would have to look outside the strong box.

I decided to take a trip to New Orleans, taking with me copies the certificates of the grandfathers’ first marriages, which were executed in Louisiana.

The first place I started was the Central Grocery Store on Decatur Street.  This market was mentioned to me so often.  “You have to eat a Muffleta sandwich,” they said.  “The store has been there forever.”  So to the Central Grocery I went and yes, I ate  one of their Muffaleta sandwiches.  If you were raised in the New York tri-state area, especially where there is a large concentration to Italian-Americans, this market held no suprises.

Perhaps for Americans from the southern and western parts of the United States visiting this establishment would find the products in the store exotic but, believe me, there was nothing there that I had not seen or eaten my entire life.  The Muffaleta was like our “Blimpie” sandwiches with lots of Italian cold cuts between the bread.

I did get to talk to the proprietor and showed him the marriage certificates, but none of the names were recognizable.  Nor did the phonebook carry those names.  The Italian-American Museum also had no leads for  the surnames Sciancalepore and De Judicibus.

I decided that a more in depth exploration would have to be undertaken, perhaps when I retire and have more time this will be my priority.  Until then, the documents all went back into the strong box.

The First Nationwide Radio Broadcast


Have been boasting of Hoboken’s Firsts lately.  In 1921 Hoboken’s Erie Lackawanna Terminal was the location of the first nationwide radio broadcast.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The stunningly beautiful terminal opened in 1907 and was designed by architect Kenneth M. Murchison.  It has a Tiffany glass ceiling that is 50 feet high and walls of limestone, iron and bronze.  The main level is decorated with Greek Revival designs.  Last but not least is the spectacular double staircase with ornate cast iron balustrades.  The exterior has a copper roof and a high clock tower.

It is the clock tower that figures in the story of the first broadcast.  The heavy weight match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier was advertised as the boxing match of the century.  The problem was how to get the fight transmitted across the county.

A hastily assembled outdoor arena was built on a farm in Jersey City, New Jersey, not far from New York City.  More than 80,000 fans came to see the fight in person on July 2, 1921, producing boxing’s first million-dollar gate.    But the big news for many was the radio broadcast of the fight.

Originally an aerial tower was proposed on a site in Jersey City but was squashed because of it’s cost.  The Hoboken town fathers and the Erie Lackawanna Railroad men came to the rescue.  Aerial wires were strung between from the railroad station’s towers and Ma Bell used the telephone system to hook  up to microphone at  ringside..

And the rest is history.  The Dempsey-Carpentier match was heard from coast to coast thanks to Hoboken.  Dempsey knocked Carpentier out in the second round.

There is so much know about Hoboken.

Heaven, Hell and Hoboken – a great summer read is a must!  Get it on Amazon before your next trip.  You will not be disappointed.

Who knew?

Who knew that so many firsts came out of Hoboken, NJ, a town directly across the Hudson River from New York City?  You might remember it was the setting for the film “On the Waterfront.”  What you probably do not know is that the very first Kindergarten in the U.S. was started in Hoboken.

Hoboken was a very German town in the mid-ninteenth century and although a public school system existed, many Germans sent their children to the Hoboken Academy on Fifth and Willow Avenue.  On February 11, 1861, the board of education decided to include a kindergarten in the school’s curriculum.  This kindergarten was based on  a system of education that existed in Germany.  Seventy-seven children between the ages of 4 and 6 were enrolled.  They learned math, reading, science using toys, music,  play, and singing.

Dr. Adolf Douai, a social reformer and professor of music,  was the school’s first principal.

It was such a success, the public schools included a grade called Kindergarten.

Who knew?

Get Heaven, Hell and Hoboken through Amazon or B&N and learn what happened to “Kindergarten” when anti-German sentiment reared its ugly head with the outbreak of WWI.

First Detective Series by Poe

Hoboken is known for many things and there are approximately 100 firsts that can be credited to Hoboken.  Some are engineering feats, others are sports feats.  First baseball game was played Hoboken.  However did you know that in the literary world, the first Dectective Series in the US came out of Hoboken and was written by Edgar Allen Poe?

It seems that in the 8140s Poe wrote 3 murder and mayhew short stories using the dectective C August Dupin.  One story, the Mystery of Marie Roget was actually a murder that took place in Hoboken.

Working in John Anderson’s Tabacco Shop  the beautiful victim, a 21 year-old cigar girl, was known for her beauty.  She went missing on July 25th 1841.  Her dead body was found a few days later.

Poe was so intrigued by the news account he wrote the Mystery of Marie Roget.  He changed the setting to Paris, changed the victim’s name, had her body found in the Seine and used the detective Dupin to solve the mystery.  Who would have thunk it?

Hoboken – it’s more than the gentrified town across the Hudson from Manhattan

HEAVEN, HELL AND HOBOKEN, – through Amazon, B&N and Idea Press.