Author: Mason Winfield

Mason Winfield

The founder of New York’s original “supernatural tourism” company Haunted History Ghost Walks, Inc., Mason Winfield studied English and Classics at Denison University and earned a master’s degree at Boston College. In his 13 years as a teacher/department chair at The Gow School (South Wales, N.Y.), he won a 50K cross-country ski marathon and was ranked among the Buffalo area’s top ten tennis players. A specialist in upstate supernatural folklore and an award-winning fiction writer, Mason has written or edited 11 books, including the regional sensation Shadows of the Western Door (1997) and Iroquois Supernatural (Inner Traditions International/Bear & Company, 2011). A lecturer whose talks have been sponsored by Poets & Writers, New York Council for the Humanities, “The Big Read,” and the National Endowment for the Arts, Mason is also a spoken word artist who has appeared at City of Night, Buffalo; Rochester Fringe Festival; and Piccolo Spoletto Festival (Charleston, S.C.).

The last day of of January is the date of a powerful festival for ancient Europe. I wonder if Imbolc may be in many Americans’ blood, and if we need to take a time-out to feel it. Most world societies have focused on solar points – solstices and equinoxes – for their sacred days. Christmas, for instance, is a Winter Solstice event. Easter is associated with the Spring equinox. It may be a testament to the intrigue of the Celtic mind that Celtic people picked for their festivals what are called “cross-quarter days,” halfway between the four solar highlights. The…

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Some of the lasting friendships of my life – as well as some of the solidest life-lessons – have come through the sport of tennis. The local game has lost a great ambassador. Charlie Garfinkel, the greatest racket sports man Buffalo has ever had, left us late last year, at 82. Oft-nicknamed, “The Gar,” Charlie was a career-long Buffalo Public Schools teacher who won significant titles in tennis, squash, and racketball. As the longtime columnist for the Buffalo News, Charlie was the voice of Buffalo-area tennis. I watched many of his matches when I was a kid getting started with…

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Be these juggling fiends no more believed, That palter with us in a double sense, That keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it to our hope. Shakespeare, MacBeth Wide right! Van Miller We come to the end of another NFL regular season with, hopefully, plenty of football life beyond it for the Buffalo Bills. I love this team, these coaches, this front office, and these owners. Things look bright for any team that has that quarterback! Still, not once have the Bills won football’s ultimate prize. And fate/refereeing has not been kind to the Bills so…

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Either I mistake your shape and making quite, Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite Call’d Robin Goodfellow… William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Halloween for most of us is just a seasonal event. Many people enjoy the chance to don costumes and prance about. We probably all enjoy the intriguing imagery of the occult, supernatural, and paranormal presented to us in every form, including horror-film marathons and seasonally-themed beer posters on the walls of pubs.  For Europe’s “First Nations,” the Celtic cultures, the date of Halloween was the prime holy day in the year. It was not…

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The Halloween season is here, and for most of a month the imagery of things and beings supernatural and paranormal will besiege us in every medium. It shows us that the dark side of the psyche needs a vent – and that the imagery related is simply tantalizing. The universal supernatural being of legend is the ghost. So common is this figure, usually that of a late human, that we sense its appearance in story may be something innate to humanity. The Golden Age Greeks had ghost stories. The Romans had ghost stories. The ancient Chinese had ghost stories. Rain…

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August 16, 1814 Fort Erie, ONT “Shew the damn Yankees no quarter!” Lieutenant Colonel William Drummond It was after three in the morning of August 16. The British-Canadian assault upon the American-held Fort Erie was underway, but the crucial coordination that the Empire’s General, Sir Gordon Drummond, had been banking on had failed. Sir Gordon had launched four groups of men into action. Two had hurled themselves against the star-shaped, earth-and-stone Fort itself, coming in from the north and northeast. The other two – one a feint – had targeted the center of the long protective dirt wall connecting the…

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The Yankee Lighthouse The Siege of Fort Erie, Part 3 August 15/16, 1814 Fort Erie, ONT So far it had been an unusual two week siege. The besieger of a fort is typically the invader to the land. The holder of a fort is most often the one who is cut off and short-rationed. At Fort Erie in August of 1814, it was  just about the other way around. The Americans who held the Fort were well-enough supplied. They could not be completely surrounded because of that earthen wall they had built from the Fort to the riverside. It was…

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Ghengis Khan and his Mongols were good at siege warfare during their heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries. When a Mongol army drew up outside a walled city, it set up a white tent for all to see. This signified that no one would be harmed if the city surrendered and bowed to Mongol will. They only had a day to think about it, though. On the next morning, a red tent was displayed. That meant that if the city surrendered before nightfall, only the warriors would be killed. On the third day, the tent erected was black, and…

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Two of the most desperate, sensational battles I’ve heard of in history took place at Fort Erie during the late summer and early fall of 1814. The Siege of Fort Erie and the September sortie that followed it were so prodigious that they seem to belong more to works of fiction than history. Despite the fairly recent three-year round of commemorations, these events and the 1812 war as a whole are largely forgotten except by historians, which seems a tragedy, especially in Western New York. This was the Niagara’s war. While largely a bash-and-dash affair involving creeks, lakeshores, and coasts,…

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St. Patrick’s Day is here, and thoughts run to all things Irish. Other aspects of Celtic tradition have crossed the Atlantic as well and thrived remarkably on the Niagara Frontier. This seems the occasion to summarize the local supernatural connection.  First of all, who were/are the Celts? “Most Northwest Europeans” is the simple answer. Most of pre-Roman Europe was populated by cultures who displayed signs of a shared Celtic identity. Though today seven nations tend to consider themselves Celtic, including the Welsh and French, the stereotypical Celts for most of us are the Irish and the Scottish. In the U.S.…

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