Charyl Says

Then and Now

I’ve always found side-by-side comparisons of the past and the present intriguing. It sets the mind to contemplating time, history, and how we energetically imprint ourselves on our surroundings.  I could spend hours exploring sites like What Was There and have even attempted a few of my own “then and now” photographic representations.  Perhaps I’m biased, but this is one of my favorites: a house on the west side of Pana (Illinois) that has been in my family for over 100 years.  I spent my teenage years in this house and my parents still live there.  My grandfather is one of the boys sitting in the front; he was 94 when he passed away in 2010.  The picture on the left was taken in 1918 and the right in 2015 (click to enlarge):


Surnames associated: Denbow, Johnson, Jones, Castle, Mack, Tarvin, Beebe, Wolf, and Todd.


Another Day. Another Storm.
November 28, 2013, 8:30 pm
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(Please be sure to watch the video at the bottom of this post.)

Since childhood I’ve had a fascination with thunderstorms–especially those involving tornadic activity.  Growing up in the Midwest–and living for several years on the Atlantic Coast of Florida and in Texas (among other places)–I’ve experienced my fair share of these storms.  I know that a large thunderstorm in late Fall isn’t exactly what a person should expect to happen in this area of the country–but happen it did–on Sunday, November 17 of 2013.

It swept through a handful of states; Illinois being the hardest hit with the towns of Washington and Gifford experiencing devastating damage (to help, please visit this site: ).  Though a small tornado was confirmed (see the Weather Service’s picture below)–thankfully, other than a row of downed power lines and some outlying damage to cars and roofs–the small town I’m currently living in (Pana) received mostly minor cosmetic and tree-related damage.


Around noon the wind began to pick, kicking the Fall leaves upward into a frenzy.  The clouds raced by low overhead.  A scattering of rain fell from an ominously-dark sky.  There was word that a large tornado had flattened a town minutes before, just a couple of counties north.  Watches turned into warnings.  And then the eerie wail of the city’s tornado siren echoed off the houses and shot down the deserted streets.


I sprinted across the backyard to the garage to retrieve my teenage son, grabbed my special needs daughter, my purse, and all the pets I could find and secured them safely in the basement.  But there is something about a storm… something that draws you in and dares you to stay and watch.  I decided to leave everyone underground and sneak back upstairs for a few moments.

I stood at the front door–video rolling–and waited.  I didn’t capture an actual tornado, but you can see from the drastic change in the wind and rain the moment a funnel either passed over or very close by.  It may not look like much–but according to the Weather Service these winds were around 110 mph–and were strong enough to snap and knock over a half-mile of power-lines poles a couple of blocks away:


The winds were blowing parallel for most of the video, but at the end they suddenly shifted, coming directly at me.  It was enough to knock me backward into the house and slam the outside door in my face (no laughing at my reaction!).   I immediately shut the inside door and ran to the basement (nearly tripping over and yelling at one of the cats that had happened to sneak back upstairs).  This is partly because being suddenly thrown backward startled me—and partly over concern about the safety of the kids in the basement–but really, it was more than that.  This may sound like I’m a subscriber to animism, but every time I’ve experienced a storm–particularly hurricanes and those containing tornadic activity–there is a sense of an intelligent force; as if nature gathers its energy into an ominous, thinking beast capable of guiding itself across the landscape.  It felt like I had been watching a monster for several minutes–and at the moment the wind shifted, it turned and noticed me, charging with an almost supernatural ferocity.

For 25 years (since childhood) I’ve had variations of lucid dreams wherein I’m standing outside the house watching a storm.  Without warning, a funnel dips down from the sky directly across the street, heading right for me (and anyone else I happened to be with–which changes from dream to dream).  In the dreams, I always just barely make it underground before the swirling mass hits, destroying the house above me. In the video when the wind turned, there was an overwhelming sense that something was about to drop from the sky in front of me; that the monster from my dreams had noticed me.

Looking back I wish I had stood my ground, pushed off my instinct, and faced it.  The house was fine after all was said and done, and if I had continued to film, I may have captured the huge limb that snapped off the tree out front and covered the front lawn seconds after I shut the door.  But it is what it is.  Another day, another storm.

***As a side note… I got a call from my mother right as the storm was hitting that day.  My father was having chest pains and she had taken him to the hospital.  Most of the E.R. staff was in the basement!  They checked him out, but could find no explanation for what caused the pains.  Talk about an odd day!

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Coal Creek Cemetery

Recently my small brood and I decided to have a local mini-adventure.  There aren’t many truly adventure-worthy (and free) spots in this area of the state–but if one looks hard enough, places can be found; for us that place was Coal Creek Cemetery (AKA Mount Cemetery) a few miles outside of Pana, Illinois.  Only a couple of miles away from my deceased grandfather’s farm in rural Central Illinois, it had been childhood since I had last visited this cemetery.

A short, country drive toward the Rhodes-France Scout Reservation/Camp brought us to this cemetery.  (Click Here for a map.)  Once we arrived at the sign denoting the cemetery’s presence, we parked and began walking.  It was about a mile walk (one-way) on a grassy path between fields on a cool, but clear Fall afternoon.  The path gave way to woods which brought us to the cemetery, neatly tucked into a hidden treeline.  Even though the cemetery was overgrown with dried prairie grass, it was a beautiful place.  Old, discolored stones peeked up from the tufts of grass.  The late afternoon sun filtered through trees that were ablaze with orange and red leaves.  It wasn’t a huge cemetery–but fairly large as old rural cemeteries go.  Situated on a wooded bluff and hidden from the world, it gave off a magical feel.   I’m unsure if there are any paranormal stories associated with this graveyard (other than ones proliferated by nearby Boy Scouts sitting around campfires and teenagers out trying to find a secluded night-time spot)–but I sensed nothing untoward here.  In fact, it felt quite peaceful.   The last burial seems to have taken place in 1914, but most of the stones contain dates from throughout the 1800’s (including some war veterans).

While those buried here all seem to be ordinary folk and the stones are modest, a visit to this cemetery is a good way to get out and do something interesting, connect with the local past, get some exercise, and see some beautiful natural scenery.  Remember to be respectful of those buried here.  For more information about the burials and location visit: