Locating a Dead Body with Betty Bolté (and #Giveaway)

Today, please help me welcome Betty Bolté back to Preternatura. Betty’s latest book is Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, a collection of historical fiction tales based on the lives of 19 girls living in the 1800s in America. These stories were inspired by the fact that each of these girls have a landmark dedicated to them in America as a result of their efforts. It’s a really cool story premise! And she’s giving away a copy to a commenter today.
Betty lives on a farm in Tennessee with her husband, three cats, and two dogs, and tons of books. She is also the author of several nonfiction books and is currently pimping her historical romance trilogy (her words, not mine!–SJ). In the works is a contemporary paranormal romantic women’s fiction novel set in a haunted plantation home in Tennessee. By day, she works as a consulting technical editor supporting NASA’s Space Launch System Program. You can learn more about her at her website, on Facebook, on Goodreads or follow her on Twitter (@BettyBolte) or Pinterest. Betty’s also a member of my local (Birmingham) RWA chapter, so give her a warm welcome…and comment to win the giveaway. Read on for details. 
ABOUT HOMETOWN HEROINES: True Stories of Bravery, Daring and Adventure:  Did you know that girls and young women made a difference in America’s history? During the 1800s, many girls helped America grow bigger and better, yet are missing from many history books. Virginia Reed, at 12, survived the trek to California with the Donner Party. Joanna Troutman, at 17, created the first Texas flag. Belle Boyd risked her life to spy for the Rebels during the Civil War. Grace Bedell wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln that changed the way he faced the nation. Kate Shelley, at 15, crawled across a high trestle in a ferocious thunderstorm to stop the next train from falling through a washed-out bridge. A young teacher, Minnie Freeman led her 17 students to safety through the blinding snow of the Blizzard of 1888. These are just a few of the 19 inspiring true stories of 19th-century American girls who touched the hearts of their hometowns. You can remember them today by visiting their historical markers, monuments, exhibits, and parks, or by reading their poems, and singing their songs.

And now, let’s hear from Betty…

Behind the Curtain: Locating a Dead Body
Recently, I journeyed to the Rattle and Snap Plantation (visit here) located outside of Columbia, Tennessee. My purpose was research, as I’m writing a story set in a haunted plantation in Tennessee. I needed to find a plausible location in the home for a woman to have been buried alive by another woman, as a nod to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado and similar tales.
Rattle and Snap is currently owned by Dr. Michael and Bobbi Kaslow, and they are working to continue the museum quality restoration of the property and its exhibits. They are doing a stellar job of it, too! Bobbi proved a delightful storyteller as well as historian of the 1840s plantation’s original owners, George and Sally Polk, along with the subsequent owners.
Bobbi gave a quick history lesson on the back porch in comfortable chairs. She regaled the group of us with the origins of the land grant that eventually included the Rattle and Snap plantation. Her brief lesson included the story of how William Polk, George’s father, played a game of chance with his brother-in-law who happened to be the governor of North Carolina. The game of Rattle and Snap seems to have involved beans that were shaken (rattled) then tossed with a “snap” of the wrist, perhaps something like a dice game, though the specific rules apparently have been lost to history.
The house’s main entrance showcases an impressive 10 columns, which indicate the wealth of the Polks because the cost of the columns equaled what the rest of the L-shaped house cost ($42,000 in the 1840s, or approximately $2.2 million today). Bobbi told us the columns are hollow and how during the Civil War the Polks decided to safeguard their silver tea service by tying it to their youngest, smallest son, crawling out on a beam above the porch, lowering him into the “fourth column” to deposit the prize, and then pulled him back out. She pointed out the cutout place about two feet from the floor of the porch on one of the front columns, from when the Polks apparently retrieved the silver after the war ended. At least, she determined that the tea service is no longer there.
But recall that I went searching for a plausible place for a woman to have been buried alive during the Civil War. What if the two sisters who are squabbling over a handsome Confederate soldier decide to hide their silver tea service in the column? And what if the rope that the one sister is holding, despite help from said soldier, slips from her grasp and they cannot save her other sister who is now trapped in the hollow column? And what if the guilty sister sees her chance to win the squabble over the soldier and runs away with said soldier to Kentucky and never tells anyone of the accident? Imagine the horror and terror the trapped sister would experience since the plantation sets well off the road and nobody would find her. Ever. It gives me chills to put myself inside that dark column with the lady, but it also means that she’d have a reason to haunt the plantation house and my main character, a present-day lady struggling with her own familial challenges. Don’t you agree?

I love finding out little known facts and occurrences that I can include in my stories to give them authenticity. Even more fun is combining present-day supernatural happenings with historical details. For more about my trip to Rattle and Snap, please visit my blog where I talk more about the exterior. For more pictures, please visit here. I’ll post at my blog more about the interior of the plantation shortly, though I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside. (Sadly. The rooms and furnishings were beautiful!) I may have to go back to see the interior again for, um, research.
Do you enjoy tales of the past juxtaposed with tales of today? Why or why not?
Thanks, Betty!
Leave a comment to be entered for your chance to win a copy of Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring and Adventure.

19 thoughts on “Locating a Dead Body with Betty Bolté (and #Giveaway)

  1. That scenarios gives me the willies, Betty. How horrid it would be to slowly die in that way! I can imagine she’d be one angry ghost. As an aside, I had a disreputable great, great uncle who refused to be conscripted for the Cause. He dug a hole in the side of his well and would lower himself down into it every time the soldiers came looking for recruits. He managed to avoid the draft that way. I guess they were all creative back then. Although, he would have been in trouble if someone had pulled up the bucket!
    Great story idea! It should be wonderful as are all of your books!!!

    • Thanks, Cheryl! It’s amazing what folks come up with when deeply motivated, isn’t it? I’d never think of digging a hole inside the well wall. I may have to steal that for a future story… Hmmm.

    • Feel free Betty. Although the rest of the family, especially the ones who were at Gettysburg and Chickmauga wouldn’t speak to him. It was kind of amusing listening to their kids and grandkids argue about it. I think the saying is true – Every Southern family has at least one skeleton in the closet.

    • Sounds like the fighting between family members didn’t end with the war. Interesting perspective. Btw, I love going to Gettysburg. Such a profoundly moving place. A couple years ago I went to the Jenny Wade house and that was fabulous. Talk about ghosts. Wow.

  2. I can’t imagine being stuck in a column. Family squabbles over property and money have created much chaos through the years. BTW, I bought your book for my niece. I think she will love it.

    • Thanks, Liz! I agree, family squabbles indeed have caused a great deal of angst and grief throughout time. Trying to understand those dynamics provides a great deal of fodder for novels, too. I hope your niece does enjoy the book!

    • Fascinating insight, Kai. I believe you’re not alone in being uncomfortable in small spaces. Does that suggest something about having been buried, at all, in a previous life? Something to ponder. Thanks for stopping in!

  3. Fascinating storyline! Being buried alive is horrifying, but it definitely makes for a great story. Thanks for sharing your research journey to Tennessee.

  4. I agree that stories can reach too far to try to entertain. I’ve also seen real-life news articles that seemed unbelievable, though happened. Perhaps part of the issue in fiction is that the author didn’t quite set up the motivation or method for the act, and thus it becomes unbelievable. Good point!

  5. I love the hiding the silver story! Not really excited about being buried alive, that gives me the creeps, to be honest. Brrr… History can indeed be stranger than fiction!

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