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July 24, 2014
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Reading, writing and a rhythm stick

The audience joined in while the Saakumu Dance Troupe performed in Monticello, NY.


I was stunned this week to hear one of my pals exclaim that there was “nothing to do around here.” I know that most of us have grown weary of winter, and the weather tends to keep us inside—but nothing to do? Hardly.

I scanned my schedule and made several suggestions, but while she had to admit that there were events of interest on my list, when push came to shove, she simply did not want to go out. “Fine,” I replied, “but I’m hitting the road.”

The Monticello Performing Arts Booster Club ( monticelloschools.net ) offered a perfect opportunity for something different this week, in the form of “Sounds of Africa,” led by award-winning “Master Drummer” Bernard Woma and the Saakumu Dance Troupe, arriving in the Catskills from Ghana, West Africa. Their music ranges from “spiritual, ceremonial, recreational genres to contemporary African dance forms.” Woma has performed with artists Maya Angelou and Yo Yo Ma, and has appeared at Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, with the New York Philharmonic and for the likes of Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II. Oh, and for a SRO crowd in Monticello, NY.

Woma was recently honored as the cultural resource person for President Barack Obama’s family while they visited Ghana. Considered one of West Africa’s “cultural treasures,” his resume is extensive as both a dynamic artist and educator, lifting students’ spirits while sharing a rich history of music and dance.

The Eugene D. Nesin Theatre was packed with people stomping their feet, clapping their hands and dancing in the aisles. While one friend stayed home, I attended with another, and we were invigorated by the spirit of this (IMHO) amazing troupe, which had already performed its whirlwind program twice that day, before hitting the streets of Monticello and heading off to Buffalo to spread more joy.

Variety being the operative word this week and with “nothing to do,” I headed a bit west—to the Sunshine Hall Free Library ( rcls.org/eld/friends.html ) in Eldred, NY for a bit of light reading. The bill of fare for the afternoon showcased Port Jervis’ “Ghost Detective” Michael J. Worden—who is, by day, a real-life police officer and in the off hours, a man who hunts for “things that go bump in the night.”

Worden regaled the attentive crowd with personal anecdotes, sharing stories of local hauntings, peppered with helpful hints for the would-be ghost hunter in all of us. His book “Ghost Detective” and website ( paranormalpolice.com ) are designed for both the novice and avid enthusiast.

What separates Worden’s book from the plethora of TV shows on the subject is that he focuses his attention on local legend, scouring the Upper Delaware Valley for proof of life after death. Working closely with paranormal investigator, researcher and author Linda Zimmerman ( ghostinvestigator.com ) and psychic Lisa Ann ( psychiclisaann.com ), the intrepid trio sometimes “go the distance” but most often can be found close to home, digging up long-buried tales that sometimes send a chill up the spine, and other times fizzle out as a natural phenomena or just plain hooey.

“This book has been a work in progress for some time now,” the author said. “I did not want to write a book of just ghost stories or chronicles of investigations, or how to use electronic magnetic field (EMF) detectors. Believe me, you do not need a manual to learn how to use those tools.”

I was a bit perplexed to see chapter headings like “Tools of the Trade,” “Personal Experiences as Valid Evidence” and “Electronic Voice Phenomenon,” in light of this statement, but chalked it up to the author’s desire to cover a lot of ground within the confines of this 122-page tome.

Graveyards, private homes and huge institutions are all covered in the book, and what I found most interesting was the aspect that there is so much to “investigate” right in our own backyard. Sisu Books ( info@sisubooks.com ), located in Sparrowbush, NY, has published “Ghost Detective” as its first title in print. It should prove interesting to keep an eye on them (and Detective Worden) as they continue to explore, expose and entertain.