Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Tale Of A Wedding Dress

When I was in my early 20's I was in a band where we liked to dress and used imagery to express our selves. We were considered goth but at the time goth was not a term used to describe a music genre. I was influenced by the silent films I saw and I decided that for our first show at the On Broadway where we played with groups with names like "Beast" "Black Dolls" and "Fade To Black" I was not going to wear your typical black clothing but appear in a long white dress and look like the gothic images of ghosts and female vampires I saw in those old horror movies. So being new to San Francisco I decided to shop for an old dress in the Haight area. At that time thrift and vintage stores had more affordable items. You could find something unique on a budget and it would last you for years if you did not end up selling it or giving it away. I came across a store called Ardvarks. While going through racks of long dresses, I pulled out a faded white crepe dress that looked like it was from the Victorian period. It looked barely worn and in good shape except one flaw. It had dried blood stains on it. I wondered why such a garment that looked like it was out of a gothic novel was doing hanging among old prom dresses and colorful bridesmaids outfits so I decided to ask a store employee. The guy who worked there merely shrugged at my question and told me that it was found in an attic of a Victorian house and that was all he knew. I decided it would look striking on stage so I paid 12 dollars for it and took it home.

Like many dresses from that period it was a very small size but as I have always been on the thin side, I had no problem fitting into it. I felt so feminine and regal when I put it on while I was getting ready to go on stage except for one problem. I was freezing in it and I felt an icy cold presence around me that I couldn't shake off. Being a thin crepe dress and my tendency to get cold, I should have expected it. Except this was no ordinary type of cold. It felt like a cold presence walking around me. Several friends and my band mates noticed this and remarked on it. They were not the type of individuals who sensed these things right away (with the exception of my sister and my friend Sara.) but they felt this one keenly and it gave them the creeps. It ended up that I only wore the dress twice. Once for a photo session and once for the show I bought it for. But that is not where the story ends. Like many items I rarely wear, it ended up in my closet in a box. But the ice cold presence did not go away. It would walk by me when I least expected it and at night my room mate and I heard soft knocks and what sounded like a slight tapping. At times it went on for a while and finally my room mate requested I give the dress away. How she connected the noise with the dress, I don't know but she was very adamant that it was the cause of the disturbance and the interesting part was that she was right. I knew I was never going to wear it again so I was not bothered much about giving it up. I sold it to a vintage store who was thrilled to have such a beautiful time piece in their collection. After this the cold presence was no longer felt and the knocks stopped too. I often thought about who wore this dress and what really happened. Did she die before she became a bride? Was there a terrible accident? I will never know the answer to those questions. But it does make me wonder how many other mysteries in Old San Francisco remain unsolved. Their stories are important and if I was investigating them more closely as I am doing now, I would go back and try to find out more.

May their souls be at peace during the season of light. We will tell more stories tonight on the air.

Photo of me when I was with a group called Children Of Night in 1982 wearing the famous wedding dress by Bob Shattuck.

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