BEAR LODGE, a ghost story about late-capitalism

Before Bear Lodge, I’d never actually taken an Uber. Part of the reason was circumstantial – I’ve never been much of a traveler – but I’d also made a promise to Dr. Safar, my old colleague at the community college. Dr. Safar emigrated with his wife from Syria ten years ago after she accepted a cardiology residency at Mercy Hospital. He was an anthropologist in Syria but in Pittsburgh, for a time, he was a taxi-driver. “Cliché, I know,” he told me once during our smoke break. “But that’s what a lot of us did when we first arrived. And I’d do it again if I had to. The firm took care of me. You should always take a taxi, Kate, not one of those internet cars. Much better for the drivers.” He stopped driving a taxi when he and wife had saved enough to move across the river and eventually he became my office mate at Wallace Community College, sharing the sunless warren of desks reserved for adjunct instructors.

Despite his wife’s profession, Dr. Safar was an unapologetic smoker and we spent most afternoons together at an uncomfortable concrete picnic table between the faculty parking lot and the administration building, killing time. Because the college paid us by the course – and quite poorly at that – we resented spending the long stretches of time between our 8am classes and 3pm classes in our office and rotated between the picnic tables and our small cafeteria. Without a hint of irony, Dr. Safar suggested the time outdoors would be “good for our health, Kate, with the fresh air,” and, weather permitting, we stuck to our routine. He’s gone now. His wife jumped at the chance to take a senior surgical position in Canada after the election, and I guess I don’t blame her.

Continue reading “BEAR LODGE, a ghost story about late-capitalism”


Pick 5: Excerpts from a Century-Old Seance

In honor of Halloween, here are 5 excerpts from a series of seances performed in 1906 by a Mrs. Smead at the behest of Dr. James Hyslop, an investigator from the American Society for Psychical Research. Dr. Hyslop found Mrs. Smead to be a credible psychic, not only owing to the quality of her performance but also her refusal to accept any “pecuniary reward” for her services. Although the fate of Mrs. Smead is unknown, Dr. Hyslop died in 1920 at the age of 65, and purportedly continued to communicate to his loyal secretary through mediums and spirit writing, most often with the morose complaint, “I find it difficult to assume that I am dead.”

These excerpts are well paired with Shannon Taggart’s photographs of New York’s Lily Dale community, the former center of the Spiritualist movement.