By Elsie Walker
As the 2016 race for the United States presidency comes to the home stretch, many people look at the polls as a prediction of who will win. Superstition has it that instead perhaps they should be looking at the baking skills of the perspective first persons for an answer.
Superstitions, both light-hearted and dark, are well-known to a woman book reviewers have dubbed the Queen of Superstition, horror author Carlotta Holton of Chester, author of “Salem Pact,” “Touching the Dead” and “Grave Matters.” She knows a bit about ghost stories, too. Recently, Holton talked about the presidential superstitions she’ll be sharing on local radio and what she will be sharing in talks on ghostly topics at local venues.
As a guest on WRNJ radio. Holton said she’ll share several presidential superstitions. The first has to do with having a daughter. If a candidate has a daughter, superstition says the chances of election are very good.
“Facts on record prove them right for the most part,” she says. “The history of candidates without daughters isn’t encouraging. For the past 80 years, 12 presidents, nearly consecutively, raised only daughters,” said Holton. However, that superstition doesn’t help in this year’s race. “In this year’s election we have a dead heat: Hillary has Chelsea and Donald has Ivanka and Tiffany.”
There is another superstition, which depends upon on how good the prospective first spouses are at creating tasty treats. Started by Gerald Ford, the idea is that the election would be won by the candidate whose wife won the Family Circle magazine’s baking contest. Past winners included Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.
“One glitch, however, occurred when Cindy McCain’s white and dark chocolate cookies beat out Michelle Obama’s recipe,” she says. “Yet Obama won the job. Is it possible the winner can be predicted by who wins the bakeoff? Could the election really be determined in a kitchen, not a voter’s booth, with Melania Trump’s sugar cookies with sour cream vs. Bill Clinton’s chocolate chip delights? It’s worth noting that the contest no longer focuses on first ladies: it’s been renamed, ‘The Presidential Cookie Poll,’” said Holton.
However, not all superstitions associated with the presidency foretell someone’s happy future. Holton shared that there is the Tecumseh curse, which said that presidents elected in a year ending in 0 would die. The curse is named for Tecumseh who led the Shawnee in the Battle of Tippecanoe in which Harrison and his force prevailed. When Harrison ran for president years later, his slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” The Tecumseh curse held true for presidents from William Henry Harrison to Kennedy.
Switching focuses to Halloween, the holiday season and their ghosts and superstitions, Holton will be giving a variety of presentations at local public libraries.
On Tue., Oct. 18, at 7 p.m, she’ll be presenting “East Coast Ghosts” at the Bound Brook Library.
“I’ll be taking audiences on a guided tour of “East Coast Ghosts” from Salem, Massachusetts to Virginia and the Carolinas. The presentation focuses on ghost tours, superstitions and legends which continue to haunt these historic sites,” Holton shared.
“A Dickens Haunted Christmas” will be the topic on Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. at the Manville Public Library and again on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Jefferson Public Library.
“This will be fun as I will be presenting the four elements which encouraged Dickens to write ghost stories every Christmas in the form of characters wearing appropriate hats,” said Holton. “These include the frightening Nanny Weller (aka Mercy) whose ghost stories simultaneously terrified and delighted Dickens as a child, Catherine Hogarth Dickens who was familiar with the general influence of séances and the supernatural so prevalent during the Victorian times and her husband’s practices of hypnotism on her, Ellen Terner, mistress of Dickens who was with him during the tragic Staplehurst train derailment which affected Dickens to the day he died; and finally a member of the Ghost Club of London, which Dickens was a founding member of and which still exists today.”
In addition to her library projects, the author is available to do readings at private parties.
Currently, the author is working on a new anthology of short stories, following in the vein of her previous works which focus on tales of superstition with a psychological twist.
“These will draw on tales from faraway places such as Prague and the landscape of what is probably the creepiest place – within the human mind. Woven through the tales are themes involving stolen children, unwitting oedipal relationships, birth deformities, plant paranoia,” said Holton. She noted that it usually takes about two years for a book to come to fruition. Since she is also working on a non-fiction piece, the new anthology may take longer.
Reflecting on Halloween, the Queen of Superstition was asked to share a superstition she follows, since she admittedly grew up in a rather superstitious family.
She said, “I grew up observing the notion of touching the dead who were laid out in the funeral parlor. I was taught to touch the dead to bid them Godspeed and then at home touch the stove to leave death there. When I stayed in Borthwick Castle, outside of Edinborough I met a family of Scots who practiced the same notion, adding if they didn’t touch the body, they could be haunted.”
When asked why she follows superstitions, she replied, “just in case.”
Holton has a website: www.holtonhorrorandmore.com and her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.