Homeschool History: Tyranny and Revolt

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Let’s share brains.  Be my GoodReads friends.

Crisman Richards shares an essay exploring deep history of Tyranny and Revolution in these United States by way of Netflix and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

Download this episode.

Written and Produced by Crisman | Richards. Theme music and engineering by Graham Richards (BMI). Music by G Koop and O-man featuring Whitton, Jerome Rodgers, and the Mastrs. 

Featuring J.S. Bach Prelude and Fugue #9 in E Major and #11 in F Major from the Well-tempered Clavier.  Performed by Graham Richards.

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Additional Sources:

Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society Under the Tudors and Stuarts.  Keith Wrightson, Yale University.

The Tudors

Blackadder

Tell it Slant

Obama’s Rhetoric: Manipulating Your Trust (@BreakingtheSet)

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Understanding Obamacare

Say hello on Twitter @CrismanRichards

Say hello on Twitter @CrismanRichards

Understanding the Affordable Care Act is a breeze once you consider the policies of the Obama Administration as a whole.

Written and produced by Crisman Richards. Theme music and engineering by Graham Richards (BMI). Music by G Koop & O-man (RM Moods & Colors, BMI) featuring Lauren Avery and Sayknowledge.

Download this episode.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Add us to your Stitcher Favorites Playlist.

Download G Koop & O-man Mixtape.

Want to grease the wheels on our mini-van?  Check out our IndieGoGo campaign for jingles, essay collections, merchandise, and production credits.  We don’t need Hollywood.  We need you.

The Crisman Show Podcast: Coots

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Comedian Sarah Crisman offers political commentary and pop culture essays punctuated by instrumental hip-hop.

Written and produced by Sarah Crisman. Theme music and engineering by Graham Richards (BMI). Music by G Koop and O-man (RM Moods and Colors, BMI) featuring Taylor Eigsti. For licensing information contact Rob@gkoop.com or visit GKoopandOman.com.

For more stories, podcasts, and video episodes visit crismanshow.com.

Special thanks to Dr Bethany Poston.

Shattered Reflection 

A parallel interpretation of Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” music video with events unfolding in my own life.  

 Since moving to California, I find myself listening to a lot of Katy Perry.  For years I have followed her career with a fascination generally reserved for mirrors and her majesty, the Queen.  I miss my best friend, Bethany, and I don’t really have any California girl friends yet.  I wind up alone quite a bit, inflicting dance parties on my step-dogs in an effort to girl up my new home.  Do you know how frustrating it is to live in San Francisco without your Gays?  They don’t come around every day, you know.  Spectacular friendships like that take time to cultivate.  On top of which,the cross-country move triggered my debilitating social anxiety disorder.  What I’m trying to say is I spend more time at home watching Katy Perry videos than I do going out around people.  I am developing a keen understanding of California culture.  I see myself in her miniature films, in particular, “Wide Awake.”

After going through the looking glass, Katy arrives before an eerie labyrinth.  Reflecting on my own life, I look at the gothic maze and see my emotional transition to California.  Beyond the dark walls lies a sunlit hill.  As soon as she enters, the walls begin closing in on her — only, rather than be crushed, Katy draws on her inner-strength and summons the same kind of golden pyrotechnics we saw in her “Firework” video and that I have seen in dreams and meditation for years.  Sparks shoot from her hands and her heart, specifically.  Imagery I’ve seen dance across my fantasies for years — brilliant flames igniting from my own hands and heart..  The walls retreat.  This, my friends, is what a panic attack feels like.  In fact, if it weren’t for my daily devotion to meditation and Katy Perry, I would be in a constant state of panic.

The walls part, revealing Katy as her Former Self — Kiddie Perry, if you will.  Kiddie Perry helps guide her grown-up self through her perilous voyage — and even helps save her with a commanding stomp. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia.

While trapped in a mirror of paparazzi, Katy’s fantasy world begins to crumble behind her.  She pushes through the glass in time but is left debilitated, confined to a wheelchair and unable to defend herself.  Kiddie Perry steps up in swift defense, abolishing the critical minotaurs standing in her way.  Katy wakes up and they make a run for the end of the labyrinth.  The walls peel away to reveal a dazzle of sunlight now chasing the darkness to reveal a lush green landscape not unlike the valley I live in today.

The Katies Perry high five and share a hug.  True to many meditations, Katy’s guide places a keepsake in her doppelganger’s hand as they part ways.  In this case, a butterfly signifying her innocence and bravery.  The gift is meant to impart the wisdom of the journey together.  To remember how far you have come and what you learned along the way.  It is a souvenir of possibility.

The final scene pans out from the butterfly in Katy’s open hand.  She is back in her dressing room, this time backstage before a show.  Here we have an internal representation of the most powerful moment from her documentary, Part of Me.  Her marriage to Russell Brand fell to pieces over the course of this film.  It is gut-wrenching, especially considering we love Russell Brand as much as we love Katy Perry.  There is a reason Royals shouldn’t split.  Katy is weeping in her makeup chair and removes her wedding ring.  At this point in the 3D movie theater, Bethany and I humiliate my son with our emotional display.  We cannot keep it together.  But my younger self, Katy Perry, can.  Thousands of Brazilians are waiting to see her.  She pulls it together and is lifted on stage.  The arena fills with love.

When I feel defeated and frightened, I listen to Katy Perry.  I remember her strength.  I remember my own.  I pull it together and lift myself to the stage.

The Crisman Show Podcast: Silent Applause

Comedian Sarah Crisman offers political commentary, audio essays, and interviews laced with Bay Area hip-hop.

This week, Crisman sits down with Oakland producers G Koop, O-man, and Anthony Caruso — masterminds to all the sounds heard on this program.

Written and Produced by Sarah Crisman
Produced and Engineered by Graham Richards

Recorded at Blanketfort Studios, California. Themes by Graham Richards (BMI). Other music by G Koop & O-man, ©2012 RM Moods & Colors (BMI), “Lige”, “Juice” featuring Blush, Foreign Legion, DJ Toure, DJ Platurn; “Guitar Jam” featuring Jerome Rodgers. Kim Manning, and The Mastrs. For licensing information, contact Rob@gkoop.com.

For more visit gkoopandoman.com

 

Jack Benny

Jack Benny

“Silent Applause”

The sound of my little sister’s breath deepens.  She always fall asleep before me.  The chow chow next door barks again.  I think about the creepy image of a little girl staring saucer eyed into the darkness and shut my eyes tight.  I roll over toward the drafty window as the wind swirls through the tall pine trees surrounding our street.  I reach my arm between the bed and the wall and grab the handle to the pink boom box my Mom gave me for my 8th birthday.  The plastic scrapes along the wall, knocking a bit of plaster loose.  My sister lets out a tiny snore.  I hold still then carefully pull the radio under my Strawberry Shortcake pillow.  My fingers navigate the dial in the darkness.  I make sure the volume is at zero before clicking the power on.

Bringing the sound up a single notch, Diana Ross sings a muffled melody through the pillow to my waiting ears.  I imagine myself on stage with the Supremes.  The station cuts to commercial.  I edge the dial through the static along less satisfying channels and long distance dedications.  I know every station by ear. Oldies. Classic Rock. Love songs.  Jazz. Pausing on a big band at the edge of the dial, I remember it is Sunday and immediately flip the switch to AM.  More static.  I turn the volume down and ease the knob silently to the general vicinity of WBBM.  AM stations are better for Golden Age programming as they operate on the preferred wavelength of World War II veterans and odd, insomniac children.

Talk radio and Tejano crackle by as I nimbly hone in along one edge of my fingertip to the other.  My deft ears are rewarded with trumpeting fanfare as the voice of Don Wilson announces: “The Jack Benny Program!”

Applause.

I close my eyes and listen to the great miser’s familiar quips and the space between every laugh.  Jack Benny’s poignant pause.  The longer his silence between subdued jokes, the louder the audience laughs.  I am tickled by Mr Benny’s indignant banter with Fred Allen and wonder what the audience got to see that I cannot.  Something is terribly funny.  Even Mary Livingston is breaking through her lines — and she’s married to him!  Jack lets out an exasperated “Now cut that out!”

My own laugh escapes into the darkness.  I broke.  I slap my hand over my mouth and listen to my sister mutter incoherently and turn over under her quilt.  I mute the radio until I am sure she is fully asleep.  A car rolls into the gravel driveway next door and I bring the show up to an audible yet undisturbing level, just in time for a Lucky Strike cigarette spot.  I close my eyes and drift off to sleep to the smooth sophistication of 1947 advertising.

Jack Benny grew up in Chicagoland, only an hour away from where I was growing up.  We were both on the skirts of the Second City.  I wonder if he longed for the city as much as I did, ever searching the horizon for the towering skyline.  Jack Benny’s Chicago was shorter than mine.  The city taught him vaudeville.  I learned improvisation.  We gravitated to the stage.  My great grandfather was a vaudevillian in those days.  I wonder if they ever met and if Dr Clutterhouse was as mean to Jack Benny as he had been to me.  The historical overlap inspired me to one day write my own vaudevillian character, Dr Clusterfuck.

Jack Benny’s sidekick, Rochester is my favorite character; played by an astute, seemingly flustered Eddie Anderson.  Unlike many black supporting characters of the time, Rochester was a regular member of the fictional household of Benny — and actually black. Benny treated Rochester as a partner rather than hired domestic, writing Anderson’s character to subtly transcend racial stereotype.  This conscientious equal treatment on the show is clear during World War II episodes when Benny pays frequent tribute to the diversity of Americans drafted into military service.

After the war, when the depths of Nazi racism and hatred were seen, Benny made a conscious effort to remove the stereotypical aspects of the Rochester character. In 1948, it became apparent to Benny how much times had evolved when a 1941 script for “The Jack Benny Program” was re-used for the show one week. The script included mention of several African-American stereotypes— for example, a reference to Rochester carrying a razor— and prompted a number of listeners to send in angry letters protesting the stereotypes. Thereafter, Benny insisted that his writers make sure that no racial jokes or references be heard on his show. Benny also often gave key guest-star appearances to African-American performers such as Louis Armstrong and The Ink Spots.

I would have never pursued a life in radio had it not been for Jack Benny.  Though we were not alive at the same time, we followed a parallel path.  In one episode he talks about his first live performance playing violin on Market and Taylor, less than two miles from where I first stepped on to a San Francisco stage.  Jack Benny’s influence over my ear remains in tact thanks to Netflix, Spotify, and Stitcher radio.  You’d be hard pressed to know what year it is if you passed through my mind today.  I have my show.  I have my stage.  Now all I need is my Rochester.

The Crisman Show Podcast: Petionnaire

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We’ve evolved to a properly written program.  Inspired by these new surroundings and my voracious news-addiction, I am putting my writing chops to the test to bring you a fresh, thoughtful program every week.  Graham is by my side with G Koop & O-man providing musical accompaniment to rival The Roots.  As always, I promise to make every episode better than the last.  Thank you for listening.  Here is this week’s audio essay for your eyeball reading pleasure.

 

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Nerd Lady Awry: SF Sketchfest 2013

Every laugh lead to this moment.  For 12 years, the deepest nerds in the comedy industry have gathered in San Francisco for the mother of comedy festivals, SF Sketchfest — a triumph of talent and endearing crowds standing in applause for days on end.  Three weeks into my new life in the promised land, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a troupe of enthusiastic volunteers, smiling maniacally as Kenneth on 30 Rock.  I just love comedy so much.

SF Sketchfest welcomes seasoned veterans and bright-eyed rubes like myself in a playful bond united by the joy of laughter — Pure laughter filling 26 venues across our Beloved San Francisco.  Between green room hospitality and directing fan traffic, my own laughter laced into a fraction of these programs.  I stepped into my element in service to my heroes.

My first assignment:  Drew Carey Presents The Midnight Show at Eureka Theater.  When given the chance I believe it important to communicate a champion’s influence over one’s life in the least sociopathic way possible.  I have personally thanked President Obama for inspiring me to great things and Stevie Wonder for existing.  Drew Carey is no exception.  When Drew Carey first appeared on Johnny Carson, his stand up set made me laugh until Orange Fanta came out my nose.  The other girls at the slumber party found this hilarious.  They weren’t even paying attention to the television.  I made them laugh because Drew Carey made me laugh.  In that moment I experienced the surprising cycle of being tickled and getting a laugh.  Simultaneous horror and delight.  I was hooked.  21 years later I stood over a box of empty beer bottles thanking Drew Carey for sparking me into life in comedy.  He thanked me earnestly and told me the toilet in the green room wasn’t flushing.

The California Academy of Sciences proved to be an overwhelming rush of energy as hundreds of Nerdists descended upon Golden Gate Park in a swirling mass of Tig enthusiasts and Proop Kittens.  I confess I find it a challenge keeping my shit together around Greg Proops.  His esoterism is as close to religion as I care venture.  Though we met last year in Hollywood, I still broke into a full-on, immediate ass sweat the moment he appeared vampire-like at my side.  Serendipitously, I was in the middle of a wildly animated discussion with SF Sketchfest founder, Janet Varney, when the Smartest Man in the World popped up out of nowhere.  When I told Janet my story, she said they built Sketchfest for me.  Our kindred passion and determination born of a deep commitment to the art of live comedy had lead us to this very moment.  It was this precise moment that Greg Proops materialized at my side.  Flop sweat.  Startling hug.  Comics, in general, are not a huggy-bunch.  But there I was enveloped in Greg Proops.  He remembered me from numerous fan Tweets, my email two days earlier, and excessive reminders detailing the first time we met.  Poor Mr Proops labored graciously under the tyranny of my affection as I stood in silent panic until he asked me the way to the Green Room.  Follow Janet, I said.

The remainder of my evening was a roving blur of jellyfish and happy fans attending podcast tapings and all star stand up sets in various corners of the world class museum.  I carried one other thank you note tucked into my lady business jacket.  A fart joke on fancy paper scrawled addressed to Chris Hardwick, the leader of the Nerdist world himself.  After fulfilling my volunteer responsibilities and wandering star-eyed through the aquarium, I caught his stand up set in the Piazza then nipped to the Green Room to say goodnight to my Lovely Lady Crush, Janet.  As I passed through the security checkpoint I saw Mr Hardwick in nearby conversation and immediately pretended to check my phone.  Really I was curving the alarming spike in my heart rate, wiping my clammy palms against my skirt and ironing out the fine stationery now subtly shaped by my breasts.  As he broke in my direction, I slipped right into his line of sight.

“I wrote you a fan letter.”  I said, presenting the ivory card in the least creepy way I could muster.

“You did?” He said with a satisfying amount of genuine surprise.

“Yes, well, your work has shaped my career; so, thanks.”

“I’m going to read the shit out of this!”

I introduced myself and took no more of his time.

“I’ll see you around.”  I said and fucked off into the night, thus marking myself as a wee blip on the Nerdist radar.

“Yes,” he said.  “I will see you around.”

Two days later I was at Cobb’s Comedy Club.  The next message to deliver was simple:  “Pete Holmes, you bring such joy to my life!”  That was it.  I will be happy to one day get lost in hours of bawdy enlightenment with the host of You Made It Weird — but not today.  Today, he must simply know he brings me joy, specifically.  Pete was my favorite 2012 discovery thanks to Comedy Central shows like TJ Miller’s Mash Up and John Oliver’s New York Stand Up.  The hours I spent listening to his podcast inspired my New Year Resolution: Be playful, be joyful.  I also meditate a lot more than I did before I became a bonafide Weirdo.  It works.  I am playful.  I am joyful.  And Pete Holmes gave me a hug.

Nothing short of Conan O’Brien himself could have improved my final night of Sketchfest.   Armed with coffee and a jar of fresh lavender from my “Calm the Fuck Down” garden, I returned to the Eureka to serve the current regime of my ultimate comedy dream job: Conan’s Writers.  Josh Comers and Laurie Kilmartin joined Write Now! with Jimmy Pardo — a panel game show hosted by gentleman responsible for warming up Conan’s studio audience and one of the most influential podcasts drifting through the ether.  Simply meeting Pardo and super producer Matt Belknap would have left me with enough revenge bliss to make my ex-boyfriend wild with a lifetime of professional jealousy (at least in my imagination).  Instead, I left elated.  I had not anticipated so much face time with Mr Pardo, nor did I shirk my responsibility at quick-witted banter.  Never Not Funny taught me how to handle party conversation — and boy, was our conversation a party!  His was the first podcast I followed in earnest.  I thanked them for teaching me the importance of Yes, And-ing in repartee.  I surprised myself.  I made them laugh.

Audio Essay: Discovering My Pennington Pedigree

Artwork by Graham Richards

We hope you are enjoying our recent blitz of audio essays.  Each week, Graham and I collaborate on a new enhanced story for your viewing/reading/listening pleasure.  This week, I wrote and recorded the essay, then Graham wrote music, etched the picture above, and transformed all the bits and pieces together to fit on your favorite reading device.  We are navigating new territory, and we appreciate your continued feedback.  Thank you for encouraging us by sharing our stories with your friends.

Download “Discovering My Pennington Pedigree” as ePub (iBooks).

Pre-order your digital copy of our enhanced storybook with your $10 Kickstarter Pledge.

Thank you for listening!

I always wanted to be English.  Alas, I was born in Chicago and reluctantly raised in Texas.  My American childhood was spent living in an imaginary version of Great Britain.  Fueled primarily by an early obsession with Robin Hood and The Black Adder, homeschool enabled my Anglophile curiosity to go unchecked for years.  Armed with a library card and mild social anxiety, I pieced together a colorful history of the slapstick Motherland so happily abandoned by our forefathers.

Our basement was musty enough to emulate a dusty old castle.  My sister and I would fashion courtier bustle’s out of sleeping bags and if our brother got in the way, we’d keep him captive under the pool table until he agreed to answer to his serf name, Baldrick.  Once my loyal subjects were in order, I would go outside to Sherwood Forest, climb up a tree with a book between my teeth, and carefully avoid other children until dinner.

I spent the whole of my education attending any school that offered even a single course in British culture, making me as fickle with majors as Henry VIII was with his wives.  I studied theater for Shakespeare, Literature for Austen, and History for the Tudors.  Though I was of legal drinking age, I holed up in my room for a solid week to devour the first four Harry Potter books.  Today my mind is consumed by genealogical research of my Pennington heritage.  I seek to better understand the influential role my family had in English history as the lords of Muncaster Castle.

In 1208, the wildly unpopular King John granted Alan de Penitone 23,000 acres of prime English countryside.  I can’t help but wonder what Sir Alan did to curry such favor with the sworn enemy of Robin Hood.   During the War of the Roses in 1464, King Henry VI sought refuge at Muncaster.  Sir John Pennington was rewarded for offering sanctuary with the gift of the King’s drinking bowl, known today as the Luck of Muncaster.  According to legend, the Penningtons will lord over Muncaster as long as the bowl remains unbroken.

Audio Essay: Feena Quayle & the Buggane

Begin the Buggane! Artwork by Graham Richards

Graham wrote this week’s audio essay, and his darling mother, Janet Richards was kind enough to lend her authentic Manx charm.  Please enjoy this original faery tale — it is the perfect bedtime story!  If you would like to learn more about our enhanced eBook, Uncle Ogre and Great Aunt Ghost, please visit our Kickstarter campaign and listen to our first audio essay, Tom Fool and the Ill-Fated Lovers.  Thank you for listening, sharing, and enabling our wild imaginations.  

Feena Quayle & the Buggane

Narrated by Janet Richards
Written, produced, and with music by Graham Richards

A reader’s guide to Manx vocabulary :

Buggane – a type of ogre native to the Island
Bonnag – Manx cake
Them Ones, Themselves – the fairy folk

Once lived an old woman in Laxey called Feena Quayle, and there wasn’t a word goin’ a-speakin against her in all. Her cooking was the bes’ in all the Island, and all were in agreement about that!

Well Old Feena Quayle kept her garden in and about the house, and some said it was magic, even tended by Themselves.

On her way to Doolish one day for market, she passed her neighbor Ned Faragher, a miller to his trade. “What’s doin’ on ya, Feena?” asked Ned.

“Off to market I am, “ replied Feena. “And how’s the world usin’ you, Masthar?”

“Fair to middlin,” said Ned, “Fair to middlin. But tis a rumor goin’ that the auld Buggane from Snaefel is off and about and stirrin’ up trouble, tramplin’ gardens and puffin’ smook down folks chimleys.”

“Let me catch him at his tricks and I’ll larn him, the great brute” said Feena.

“Deed, and do ya say so?”

“Aye, but sooner he pass my house clean by, oh the neck of him!” said Feena.

That night soon after bed, Mr. Faragher opened his eyes and saw the great vicious Buggane in his yard digging up turnips for dinner. The beast was covered with a thick black mane, it had two great tusks, and its eyes were the color of burning torches. The Buggane saw he had been spotted and roared towards Mr. Faragher, who screamed and begged for his life.

“Don’t eat me, Mr. Buggane, sir, and I’ll show thee round a house with better turnips than you’d ever had.”

The Buggane agreed, and Mr. Faragher, under cover of darkness, showed the beastie to Feena Quayle’s garden.

“Off with ya, then,” said the Buggane, and Mr. Faragher ran home full fetch with his torchlight out in front of him.

In the morning old Feena Quayle came out of her house to see her garden trodden upon and her prize turnips eaten. She shouted into the mist, “Who’s eaten my turnips?! I’ll be up with him for that!”

And with that, she tromped off to the kitchen and began cooking. She baked and baked all day long and at the end of the day she had five big lovely bonnags, each the size of a wagon wheel. All of them but one were full of currants and dried fruit and spices and sugar and were delicious as could be.

All of them but one. This last bonnag did not have currants and fruit; rather it contained herringbones and pepper. And there were no spices but instead rotten eggs, and instead of sugar it was salt.

Each night Feena left a bonnag in her garden by her trodden turnips, careful to place it far away from the creme and honey she routinely left out for Them Ones. And each morning, the bonnag was gone, stolen by the Buggane. On the fifth night, she left out the rotten, peppery, salt-laden bonnag and lay cute peeping out her window watching for the villain to arrive.

An hour after dark the Buggane arrived with his belly rumbling and his big red eyes gleaming out of the darkness. He chuckled to himself, “I’ve put a sight on that old woman’s bonnag, and there’s nothing she can do about it!” And with that he scooped up the giant bonnag and bit it in half.

Steam began to come out of the great beast’s ears, and tears began streaming down his cheeks. The herring bones got wedged between his great fangs and he yowled in surprise. The pepper made him sneeze and cough and his great tongue swelled up twice its size. The stench of the rotten eggs overwhelmed him and the salt pickled his cheeks, and he just didn’t know what to do but stomp and tramp around and huff and puff in misery.

“Lesson larned, then Beastie!” cackled Feena, “Good shuttance, and the back of my hand to ya!” And the Buggane raced away in search of relief.

Word spread of how Old Feena Quayle tricked the Buggane, and the tale is still told between folks at the Shore Hotel when there is a drop between them. But to the last of it, Ned Faragher never enjoyed Old Feena Quayle’s cooking again, for she looked at him with too much knowledge in her eyes and in her wry smile. Poor Ned was always afraid of what he may find in his dinner, and if it’s a lie I’ve told then it’s a lie I’ve heard.

Audio Essay: Tom Fool and the Ill-Fated Lovers


Crisman | Richards

Audio Essay:  Tom Fool and the Ill-Fated Lovers

Written and Narrated by Sarah Crisman

Music and Engineering by Graham Richards

Music performed by Dave Richards and Graham Richards

Muncaster Castle has been home to my family, the Penningtons for over 800 years — three generations live there today, along with numerous ghosts.  Muncaster is believed to be one of England’s most haunted buildings.  Paranormal researchers have spent over 20 years studying centuries-worth of unexplained events.  Many eerie happenings are attributed to the most famous castle ghost, Tom Fool, usually heard walking the halls and sneaking up close behind visitors.

Known in life as Thomas Skelton, the last Fool of the Pennington family, Thomas’ 16th century misdeeds were far darker than a few bumps in the night.  Two of the Muncaster ghosts knew Tom Fool in life and death:  Richard, a lovestruck, headless carpenter (reportedly seen wandering the grounds), and my headstrong, weeping ancestor Helwise Pennington — now believed to be the Grey Lady drifting through the halls of Muncaster.  They are known in English folklore as the Ill-Fated Lovers.

Thomas Skelton served faithfully as steward to the lord of Muncaster and as tutor to the Pennington children.  He is said to have known Shakespeare —  even rumoured to be the inspiration for King Lear’s Fool.

In the 2008 documentary Castle Ghosts of England, presenter Robert Hardy explains: “In Muncaster’s long story, there is no more malevolent character to judge by events than Thomas Skelton.”

In 1585, a scandal broke when the castle lord’s fiery daughter, Helwise, fell in love with the village carpenter, Richard.  The rebellious affair would not go undiscovered.  On May Day, Helwise donned a country hoodie and stole away to the May Pole dance in nearby Ravenglass.  When she patently refused to dance with a cocky villager and chose instead the modest carpenter, the lovers were quickly given away.  The jilted villagers followed the couple to Muncaster, where they discovered Helwise was the Lady Pennington and thusly engaged to their hunting buddy, Sir Ferdinand Hoddleston of Millum Castle.  Knowing full well Sir Ferdinand’s pride and considerable artillery, they set off for Millum Castle to tattle on Helwise, thus sealing the fate of her illicit lover.

The disappointed Sir Ferdinand refused to rest until his rival was abolished.  He rode to Muncaster and found a smug Tom Fool laughing about misguiding a traveler off to the treacherous quicksands of the River Esk.  Thomas rose to the occasion, as he believed Richard had weezened sheckels from his pile of shillings.

According to Castle Ghosts of England, Thomas lured Richard to the castle under the pretense of meeting his adorable Helwise.  Once there, he poured a heavy cider until Richard was insensibly drunk.  Thomas used the carpenter’s own tools — a hammer and broad chisel — to hack off the carpenter’s head.

“He’ll not find where I’ve hidden his head so easy he did my shillings.”  said Tom Fool.  H
elwise’ fate was published in 1824 among the Remains of John Briggs:

“Her heart was cold, and no human power could warm it.  The noisy mirth of the hall, she could hear unmoved — the mazy intricacies of the festive dance could not reanimate her — the glowing beauties of the summer landscape were gloomy and dull as December.  She resolved to seclude herself from the giddy world, and brood over her own sorrows in a nunnery.  She therefore retired to the Benedictine Convent of Maiden Castle — the ruins of which are still visible behind the higher end of Soulby Fell; where she passed her few remaining days in piety and silent solitude.”

Thomas Skelton drown in the River Esk around 1600.

To learn more about Muncaster Castle and help bring these ghost stories to life, please consider supporting our Kickstarter Campaign.