Author: Meredith Deeley

5 Reasons to Donate to The Wren’s Nest

 

 

 

It’s #GivingTuesday. Started in 2012, this is a day when we are encouraged to support philanthropic organizations in our communities. There are lots of great options in the Atlanta area, but we urge you to consider donating to The Wren’s Nest. And here are five reasons why you should:

1. You’ll be supporting awesome storytellers

The Wren’s Nest has hosted professional storytellers for weekly storytelling, field trips, and other special events for over 35 years. Your donation will go towards paying these storytellers for their services so they can continue to share their talent, their craft, and their stories with our audiences.

 

 

2. You’ll be supporting the preservation of Brer Rabbit

In case you didn’t know, let me tell you: Brer Rabbit is awesome! He’s tricky and clever, using his wits to beat his bigger, stronger enemies. He’s also the predecessor of many other beloved animal characters like Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Winnie the Pooh. Most importantly, he is a central figure in African, Native American, and African American folklore with lessons to teach us all. With the announcement of (warranted) redesign of Splash Mountain, a popular entry point for many to Brer Rabbit’s stories, the need to preserve his legacy is greater than ever. Your donation will help ensure our beloved trickster has a home and that future generations can also enjoy his tales. 

3. You’ll be supporting the preservation of historic architecture

The Wren’s Nest is a rare physical link to Atlanta’s past. The house was originally a farmhouse built in 1870. The Harris family did some major renovations and turned it into a prime example of the Queen Anne Victorian style house, with fish scale shingles and gingerbread on the front porch. Your donation will help restore and maintain this beautiful, historic home.

4. You’ll be supporting our programs

If you’ve enjoyed a virtual or in-person tour of the house, the Scribes programs, Jazz Matters concerts in our backyard, our online book talks, a ghost-hunting experience at the museum, or weekly storytelling (in-person or virtually), we need your help to keep them going. Your donation will support these programs as well as the expansion of our programming offerings, making the stories and the house more accessible to everyone.

5. You’ll be supporting the launch of our exciting new initiative: Next Nest

We recently announced the launch of our new initiative: Next Nest. Next Nest looks to shift our approach from getting people to come to the West End to hear stories with us, to sharing stories from the West End in new and different ways, with the whole world. Your donation will help us make this vision a reality.

 

Whatever the reason, we encourage you to donate today. Donations can be made on our website, specifically to our GAGives GivingTuesday fundraiser, or by mailing a check to:

The Wren’s Nest
1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd SW
Atlanta, GA 30310

And on behalf of The Wren’s Nest Team: thank you!

A Haunting Report

The results are in!

This past September and October, The Wren’s Nest welcomed back the Southeastern Institute of Paranormal Research to lead participants in ghost-hunting experiences. With the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from inviting participants to the house, we conducted the investigations over Zoom. One advantage of this was that we had participants from all over, including Kentucky, Illinois, and Ontario!

Today we have the results from all the sessions to share with you.

The team used the following equipment during the investigations: Digital Voice Recorders, IR Cameras, Various EMF Meters, Various Temperature Sensors, and Various ITC (Inter-Transcommunication) Devices. From this equipment, the team found the following:

  • Digital photographs yielded no positive results.
  • Video footage yielded no positive results.
  • Audio recordings yielded several positive results.

For the audio recordings, we highly recommend you listen to them with headphones on for the best results. Here are the positive audio recordings the team found:

September 19th Session

“Can you wave? NO” – We began the investigation in the East Parlor. Mandy and Ryann were seated on the floor with the SLS Camera. The SLS Camera utilizes and Infrared light sensor together with a monochrome CMOS sensor that is used to “map” spirit forms within any given space.

Our first instance of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) on this night occurred as Mandy and Ryann were monitoring the SLS Camera and noticed a figure sitting in the parlor chair by the fireplace.

Mandy asks “Can you wave to us?” A male voice can be heard saying “No”.

“Extra” – A Digital Voice Recorder (DVR) was left in the “Sisters Room”. The team was moving from upstairs to the basement. We can be heard in the background as a voice says something like “Extra”.

“You Know What?” – As the team was seated in the dining room, a female voice can be heard saying “you know what?”

October 16th Session

“Why?” – An ITC device known as “Cindy Lou Boo”, a talking teddy bear, was left in Joel Chandler Harris’ bedroom. The bear asks “Can you finish this?” and proceeds to knock “Shave and a Hair Cut, 2 bits! However before getting to the “2 bits”, Cindy Lou asks the spirits at the WN “Can you finish this?” A whispering voice can be heard asking “Why?”.

“Yes” – Cindy Lou asks “Do you know what time it is?” A whispering voice can be heard saying “yes”.

October 23rd Session

“I Told You” – As the team was leaving the sister’s room, a strong female voice can be heard saying “I told you!”.

October 30th Session

“Hey Buddy” – As Doug and I [Denise] were waiting in the parlor for the investigation to begin (Meredith was sharing about the history of the house and the Harris family), Doug twisted and I heard his back crack. I conveyed to Doug that it sounded like it hurt.

Doug said “All you have to do is keep your feet still and just twist.”

A male EVP can be heard talking over Doug and myself that says “Hey Buddy” and then some unintelligible words before Doug can once again be heard saying “keep your feet still and just twist”.

“Maybe” – While we were in the family room conducting an EVP session, I asked “Do you like Seafood”? A faint woman’s voice can be heard just before I ask “Do you like Fish?”. She seems to answer with the word “Maybe”.

Note: Shortly after this I [Denise] sensed a woman spirit who showed me a beautiful goldfish pond. I felt that visiting the pond on a beautiful day was a happy memory for her. I asked Jim about gardens on the property and he explained that there were many as the property was once “Snap Bean Farm”.

Read the team’s full report, including anomalies they encountered during the investigations here:

SIPR Investigation Report Wren’s Nest Sept. Oct. 2020

Seems we can definitively say, once again, that The Wren’s Nest is a haunted house.

What is it about the Wren’s Nest?

Today’s blog post was written by our new Managing Director, Dean Baker. We are thrilled to have Dean as part of our team!

I have always had an interest in the past, knowing what has come before and how it still informs and shapes the present. During my life, this interest has taken different forms in working to help share, uncover and preserve the past. Growing up outside of Saint Paul, I was fascinated by the interconnected buildings on the Skyway System, a project that considered and connected historic buildings in a new and different way. This interest connecting the past in different ways has shown through in efforts as the Urban Designer in Roswell and Planning Director in Woodstock where we introduced new ways to recognize the story of the past,  while developing the future. This was followed by over a decade at the State Historic Preservation Office, where I helped preserve hundreds of buildings, mostly train depots, while getting to learn the broad history of Georgia. Later, about the same time I first came on the board at The Wren’s Nest, I was able to take on a couple of projects that helped to share more of Atlanta’s Civil Rights Movement story. One was teaching at the Georgia State University Honors College where I got to work closely with one of the main instigators of the Atlanta Student Movement and Civil Rights leader Lonnie King in helping to start the Herndon Human Rights Initiative. I continue to work with a number of classes at Georgia State to research and share more of the story of the Atlanta Student Movement. The other project was working with Central Atlanta Progress and Portman Holdings to list Peachtree Center on the National Register of Historic Places. This was groundbreaking preservation work and one that connects all of the pieces of modern Atlanta history, a story that really begins about the time The Wren’s Nest represents.  

When I started working full-time at The Wren’s Nest, not too long ago, I reached out to our board members and friends of the Nest to ask their advice. The most memorable response was a very long period of deep laughter, followed by, “I guess I should say congratulations!” I’m not going to name the particular board member, but the response was both encouraging and a reality check. While this place of joy has certainly not been as filled with laughter as it should be, especially recently as we await the opportunity to freely open our doors to our friends and neighbors we have been missing. Like the Harris family when they left Savannah for Atlanta in 1876 to escape the yellow fever epidemic, this unusual time also reminds us what is truly important and that whatever plans we may have made, we can only operate within the world we find ourselves in at the present.

I have long been a fan of the story of Atlanta, a city created through something of an accident of geography and time. The Wren’s Nest represents one of these true Atlanta stories of people coming together to create a special place that allowed them to be released from previous social and class restrictions. In our case, it can be best summed up as “when country comes to town.” Joel Chandler Harris was undoubtedly a product of his rural upbringing in Eatonton, and he was able to create a home within this city that was connected while being a place apart.

The idea of The Wren’s Nest as a retreat from an overwhelming world that is too often difficult to understand continues to be an appealing one. We are now coming back to the concept of The Wren’s Nest existing as a state of mind, one that can now easily reach people all over the world, while still also being an integral piece of our neighborhood and city. We will continue to offer all of our programming virtually, even when we are finally able to welcome visitors back into our beloved home. This place for storytelling needs to become what it will be next, and that is the challenge we are facing today.

What is the Next Nest?

The Wren’s Nest has long been a place filled with joy, family, friends, conversations, life, happy memories, warm feelings, and an ongoing love of stories. Today, we find ourselves unable to welcome our friends and family in the ways we are used to, and we are working on finding different ways to help bring more happiness, joy, and stories to those who love The Wren’s Nest and everything it has long stood for in our changing and often chaotic world.

The Wren’s Nest has always been an oasis in the ever-growing Atlanta that surrounds us. We want to make sure we can provide a place that is focused on the foundational stories from many cultures that have made their way to Atlanta. This is not just an academic approach, but one that shows the constant threads that connect us to where we began, long before anyone arrived in Atlanta, and how these stories will continue on long after we have gone.

The Next Nest looks to shift our approach from getting people to come to the West End to hear stories with us, to sharing stories from the West End in new and different ways, with the whole world.

In order to become what we will need to be next, we are going to have to change how we do things. The first change is focused on our programming. We will have three distinct programming seasons each year that will include panel discussions, author talks, virtual and physical exhibits that will now be shared in other ways to spread our stories across the world, without giving up our Southern accent. As an ongoing effort, we begin programming focused on children with a series of storybook readings and we will, of course, continue to highlight our outstanding storytellers, finding new ways to highlight and share their talents. This is an opportunity for us to experiment with how and where we share our programs and stories.  

While we will be reaching out with our programming starting in 2021, we also want to remember our roots in Atlanta. Our yard and amphitheater will continue to welcome our neighbors, but now we are more conscious of crowd size and social distance. This holiday season, we are getting ready to test how we will welcome visitors, to determine how we can operate safely as possible going forward. We seek to safely welcome visitors once again for our authentic Atlanta experience, but now we will require reservations and masks so that we can help keep everyone safe. Please watch out for notification on these events coming very soon.

As we move forward into our changing world, looking to become the Next Nest, we will need to open ourselves up to new ideas and experiences. To continue bringing more joy and happiness to the world, we will need to rely on those who have loved and helped us in the past, while we seek new people with new and different ideas to share, that will help us get to where we need to be next. I hope you will join us on this journey as we seek out what our Next Nest will become.

Please let us know your thoughts for what is to come for The Wren’s Nest. As we go forward in our new world, we will need all the help we can get in creating our Next Nest. I can be reached at dean@wrensnest.org.

Veterans in the Harris Family

Happy Veterans Day! Today is a national holiday dedicated to thanking all those who have served our country, both in times of peace and in times of war. We are grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed and are currently sacrificing so much to protect us.

This includes members of Joel Chandler Harris’s family.

A number of Harris family members served in the military during their lifetime. Their family tree includes veterans of both WWI and WWII as well as veterans of the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps. Some were related by marriage while others were his direct descendants.

Harris’s second eldest son, Lucien, had a family line that was seems to have been particularly active in the armed services. Of his three sons, two became Navy fliers during WWI: Andrew Stewart (“Stewart”) and Joel Chandler Harris III (“Chandler”). In fact, while conducting our research for the Interactive Harris Family Tree, we were fortunate enough to discover both of their service cards (pictured above) via Ancestry.com.

Continuing this family trend, Lucien Jr. (the third of Lucien’s sons) had two sons who went on to join the military. The first, Lucien III, followed in his uncles’ footsteps and also joined the Navy Aviation unit, becoming a cadet at the Citadel in South Carolina when he was 19 years old. Lucien III also paid tribute to his family’s history by taking his oath of allegiance on December 9, 1942 – his great-grandfather’s birthday (pictured to the left in an article from The Atlanta Constitution acquired via Newspapers.com).

Lucien III’s brother, James Robin Harris also served. J. Robin Harris, a former state legislator for Georgia, was a WWII veteran. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received four battle stars as well as a combat infantry badge for his service.

We spend a lot of time at The Wren’s Nest focusing on Joel Chandler Harris’s contributions. Specifically to history, culture, and literature. However, we are glad to be reminded during this research of his family’s other contributions. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the Harris family members who were/are veterans or of their accomplishments both in and out of the military. We salute their efforts to keep our country safe, even during historic conflicts like WWI and WWII.

And we thank all the veterans for their service.

Trick-or-Treat Joel Chandler Harris Style

If I told you The Wren’s Nest was the home of a famous trickster, who would you guess I’m talking about?

Chances are, you would guess Brer Rabbit. And yes, the museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of this notorious, furry and beloved trickster hero. But that’s not who I mean.

Instead, what if I told you I was talking about Joel Chandler Harris?

That’s right! Just like the rabbit he wrote about, Harris was a notorious prankster with his family and friends. One of his favorite audiences for these pranks? The people riding the street-car with him during his daily commute. As a writer and associate editor for the Atlanta Constitution, Harris took the street-car from his house in West End to the newspaper’s office in downtown Atlanta every day. Specifically, he took the 8:30 AM car every day.

In her biography of Harris, The Life and Letters of Joel Chandler Harris, Julia Collier Harris detailed one of these pranks in which Harris made use of some discarded glass doll’s eyes to play a joke on a little girl and her up-tight grandmother. 

This seemed like a fittingly silly but potentially frightening trick to share with you before Halloween – in case you happen to have glass doll’s eyes laying around and are looking to spook someone.

Here is the full account:

“Once on his way to take the car father picked up a pair of blue-glass eyes which had fallen out of a doll’s head, and absent-mindedly put them in his pocket. Sitting in front of him on this particular trip was a sedate elderly woman and her little granddaughter. Father knew the lady only by sight and as one who stood greatly upon her dignity and at once the impish idea occurred to him to try the effect of the glass eyes on the little girl who peered at him from time to time over her grandmother’s shoulder. So he closed his own eyes, and after a fashion held the doll’s eyes in place with the muscles of his eyelids. When next the little one peeped at him, she was startled to see a pair of glassy optics where before she had only noticed the mild blue eyes of a stout, placid gentleman.

 “In alarm she whispered to her grandmother, ‘Gran’-ma, that man’s got the funniest eyes!’

“‘Sh! Sh! Child, don’t comment on people,’ warned her grandmother.

“But before long the lady herself shot a well-bred glance in father’s direction. There was nothing unusual  to be seen. In a few moments the glass eyes were readjusted, just in time to meet the little girl’s second stare with a particularly uncanny glitter. Again she whispered excitedly: –

“‘Gran’ma, I tell you that man has got somethin’ awful the matter with his eyes.’

“‘Why, child,’ replied the astonished lady, ‘you must be crazy. What are you talking about?’

“And when she could safely do so, she again glanced at father only to see a perfectly normal individual, looking dreamily out of the window. This comedy kept up for several minutes, until the lady began to suspect from the demeanor of the regular 8:30 West-Enders that she was being made the victim of a joke. Upon which she haughtily arose from her seat and casting as disdainful look in the direction of the offender left the car with her bewildered little charge in her train.” 

The Life and Letters of Joel Chandler Harris, pages 245-247

It’s no wonder Harris felt an affinity for the tricky rabbit!

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