Sunday, May 14, 2017

Some Old Ways Still Work: Insect Trap Bottle

I remember the first time I saw a jar like this one.....

My mother and I had taken an exceptionally rare (how exceptionally rare?  well, it was only just this once) weekend trip out of town.  We scrimped and saved and had just barely enough money but not one red cent extra.  We were going to go see Vicksburg.  The plan was to tour one historical house (we could, after all, afford the tickets for only one), go to a museum, wander around some flea markets, and visit a quilt shop.  We even carried food with us (along with an electric kettle and a toaster oven)  to avoid spending on buying meals.  It was a Bavencher!  (You can find the definition for this wonderful word, invented by my family, in this post: What Makes Things Special?)

I fail to recall just why but most of the historic Vicksburg homes were shuttered that long ago October weekend, so our choice was limited.  We hadn't researched ahead of our journey anyway (no internet back then) so, out of the few that were open, we randomly chose the house with the name that appealed to us most:  McRaven.  It sounded interesting somehow.  And with that simple choice, our jaunt took a surprising twist.  We had no idea whatsoever that we had just elected to visit "the most haunted house in Mississippi."  Yeah. And the tour guide didn't bother to mention it either.....until after a visit to one particular bedroom.

Mother and I were fascinated by the historical information that the guide was sharing, and we loved looking at all the details.  After all, McRaven has fixtures and furnishings from three distinct eras that have remained largely unchanged; the house is considered a time capsule of sorts.  We were listening with utterly rapt attention when "it" happened:  first I jumped visibly and then, a split second later, so did Mother.  We stayed quiet so as not to interrupt the tour or bother other guests but I looked her and she looked at me, eyes wide.  We had both felt it.  We confirmed it in whispers to one another as the lecture for that room ended:  an icy cold hand had touched each of us on the lower back.  Honestly, when I recall, I can still feel the shock of it and I can tell you precisely where the hand touched (on my right side, just below the waistband of my jeans--a right hand, the heel of the palm to the right, thumb facing downward). 

The tour guide had noticed our reaction.  She took us quietly to one side and explained that there was a ghost in the room--a woman named Mary Elizabeth who had died in childbirth.  Mother and I related our experience with the icy touch, and the tour guide confirmed that it was the ghost's habit to touch some women who were sensitive to such things.  We checked with one another later at the motel:  I could feel a specifically cold place on Mother's skin, just as she could feel the same on mine, while the flesh surrounding it was normally warm.  That icy spot lingered for about six weeks afterward.

(Yes, I am a Christian, as was my mother, so I do not seek out the paranormal.  However, this not my first experience with a haunting nor was it the last.  I do not know why it has been my lot to experience such things.  I believe that there is much in the world that we cannot explain and we will not know the answers until we are in eternity.  In any case, I digress.....)

The point is that in the living room at McRaven, we saw an unusual glass jar prominently displayed on a table.  It was open at the top and at the bottom but had what looked like a well inside.  We were on tenterhooks until the question session so we could ask the tour guide about it.  It was, she said, an insect trap.  If you put something sticky-sweet and a tot of vinegar in the well, the insects would be lured in but, due to the slanted sides of the bottle, could not find their way out again and they would die. 

Afterward I was still so fascinated that I searched flea markets for years to find just such a jar.  And I did:  a lovely one, beautifully etched satin glass, that I purchased for pennies.  But it was an original and it was very old, so it had much greater monetary value than I had paid for it--thus I felt that I really couldn't  justify keeping it merely because I desperately wanted to do so.  I listed it for sale.  I regretted it immediately but too late.  Then a friend who had heard the story gave me a reproduction jar (very, very much larger than my earlier original) that she had found at a tag sale.  I kept it as a lovely (albeit inconveniently huge) memento.  It was only a couple of months ago that I actually began to wonder whether the trap could possibly be of use for its original purpose.

As a cost-cutting measure, I've been experimenting with vastly reducing my use of central heat and air.  Our ancestors did without such after all, so why shouldn't I?  Well, this means keeping windows open rather a lot, and some of my screens have seen better days.....thus, a whole host of annoying little fliers found their way into my kitchen.  I didn't want to spray poison where I prepare food.  Nothing else I could do seemed to deter them.  They were too tiny and too fast to swat.  That's when I remembered the insect trap.  Would it work?  Could it work?  Yes, amazingly, it does.  In a matter of hours, there were zero bugs flitting around my sink.

I didn't realize how many hundreds of insects it had dealt with until I cleaned out the jar a few days later.  Amazing. 

Yesterday, the bugs turned up again--I really must remember Not to turn on the light over the sink at night when the kitchen window is open.  Insect trap to the rescue!  I got some grape jam out of the fridge; I found some super-annuated raspberry vinegar at the back of the pantry; and I set up the trap again.  The bugs love it until it kills them.

Old days.  Old ways.  Our ancestors were clever.
I prefer a bug-less kitchen.
And I'd rather be in a house without ghosts, too.
Life is good.

If you wanna go try to make a visit with Mary Elizabeth's ghost or if you just wanna read more about it from a safe distance, here's a link to the website for McRaven:

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