Friday, October 9, 2020

National Handbag Day & The Haunted Purse

Katherine: October's here, one of my favorite months. Happy National Handbag Day! I'm celebrating with everyone. It was a most memorable National Handbag Day when I opened my Purse-onality Purse Museum of Women's History in Bayside. That launched a fabulous fashion history icon, and a mystery to match, Kat Out of the Bag. For this year I'm featuring vintage handbags. See my gorgeous, vintage Judith Leiber clutch. Satin material is so soft to the touch and it's classic shape, with a delicate gold chain. Look at how small though! Not even room for your cell. Look at that dazzling clasp though. It shines in the light like a lighthouse. All you need is a gentle push down on it to open, and push together the top two sides to close again.

Amber: I love October too with the fall colors, cute sweaters to wear, and oh those scents and tastes from the kitchen. Apple cider is one of my favorites. And with the longer evenings my thoughts turn to hauntings and tales of mystery.

Katherine: Vintage and mystery go together . . . .

Amber:  Like the mystery I discovered about the note in the vintage 1920's bag donated to the Purse Museum.

Katherine: That's why I wanted you to meet my new friend Libby Dawson. Of all places, I met her at a vintage purse store. She's in college too. I told her about you and that you're managing the museum gift shop between your classes.

Amber: Hi Libby. Vintage purses can be pretty cool. Did you find anything you liked there?

Libby:  Hi, Amber—it’s great to meet another college gal! And I’m so happy to be here at the Purse-onality Purse Museum. This place is amazing! Yes, Amber, the vintage purse shop had some very cool stuff. I didn’t buy anything, though. I was looking for something very specific: a purse like one I used to own. I don’t know if Katherine told you, but I used to have a purse that was haunted. I got rid of it a while back because keeping it got to be too painful, but sometimes I really miss it. I’d love to have a non-haunted version of it.

Katherine: Purses do reflect the personalities of their owners, and their histories are so fascinating, they can fill a museum! Can you describe what the purse looks like? What first attracted you to it?

Libby:  Honestly, Katherine, it was love at first sight. I was at a thrift store, and the second I laid eyes on it, I was like, “I am not leaving here without that purse. Even if I have to use the last of my grocery money to pay for it!” It was obviously decades old. A little raggedy (like me). But, oh, was it cute! Faded blue denim, with studs and rhinestones and embroidered hearts on the front. The back had these two big patch pockets, which made it look like the butt part of a pair of jeans. And it was huge. I actually used it as a book bag for school.

Amber: Wow! Love it! What made you first realize you purse was haunted? Where were you? Did it scare you?

Libby:  Believe it or not, the weirdness started that day at the thrift store, while I was in the checkout line! The purse had been totally empty when I’d first picked it up. But while I was waiting in line, I found a half-empty bottle of perfume inside. A little while later, an old photo of a girl turned up. And the magic tricks didn’t stop there. Over the next few weeks, stuff I put inside the purse would disappear and later reappear—like my homework, for instance. After a while, I just couldn’t deny the truth: something mystical was going on. But was I scared? Not really. It was more like, “I have a supernatural purse? How cool is that!”

Amber: Did you think you were going crazy?

Libby:  Not crazy so much as careless. I was like, “Why am I suddenly losing things?” It was actually a relief to find out the purse was doing it. And after a while, my stuff stopped going missing. It was like now that the purse had my attention, we could move on to other things. To the real agenda. I started finding strange items in the purse, and eventually I realized they were clues to a twenty-year-old mystery that I was supposed to solve.

Amber: Did you have any friends or family who you could go to for help? Or did you have to figure out what to do by yourself?

Libby:  The only person I felt comfortable telling about the purse was my best friend, Toni. The only problem was, Toni was a total non-believer in anything paranormal. It took me a while to convince her I had a supernatural purse. In fact, I really can’t take the credit for convincing her. The purse did that, in a very powerful way. Once she accepted the truth, she was just as determined as I was to get to the bottom of things. 

Amber: Were you ever in contact with a ghost before? Do you think the purse was waiting there just for you?

Libby:  This was my very first paranormal experience. And, yes—I do think the purse was waiting just for me. It wanted my help, and I was perfectly willing to give it. I just didn’t realize how dangerous digging up the past would be. I mean, I almost got killed—in a really horrible way! But as dreadful as the experience was, a whole lot of good came out of it, too. In the end, the purse changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. By the way, if you ever want to read my story, check out The Haunted Purse by Kimberly Baer. Kim was so intrigued by what I went through that she actually wrote a book about it! 

Amber: Oh no! So glad you're here safe to tell the story. I want to read that book. Are you a mystery fan now? Or have you sworn off?

Libby:  I’m happy to guess the mystery meat in the cafeteria. I’m fine with trying to figure out who just sent me an anonymous text message. As for dark, dangerous mysteries that could get a person killed—I think I’ll pass, thank you!

Amber: How's your life now with college? I'm liking my classes. I was interested in being a Librarian, but I'm liking my business classes too. What are your favorite classes? 

Libby:  A librarian? Wow. Wouldn’t it be awesome to work in a place where you were surrounded by books? I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, ha ha, so I’m taking lots of intro classes for my first semester. My favorite is Intro to Sociology, though I’m taking it mainly because it’s a pre-req for this course called Paranormal Studies, which I want to take next semester. ParaStud (that’s what the cool kids call it) is all about examining supernatural folklore from different cultures. There’s even a field trip to a supposedly haunted house. Some people sign up thinking it’s a basket-weaving-type course, but I’ve heard that the professor really makes you work. You do a lot of critical thinking, and you debate the existence of ghosts, Big Foot, telekinesis—all that stuff. How can I not take that course, considering my own brush with the paranormal? 

Amber: Awesome. When you're scared, how do you give yourself the courage you need?

Libby:  If you’d asked me that a few years ago, I’d have said I’m a strong person, so I have no trouble finding courage within myself. I got self-sufficient at a pretty young age. See, I didn’t have the best childhood. I was born to an unwed teen mom who didn’t give a crap about me. She always… she just… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get choked up like this. I guess the hurt never really goes away. Ugh. It’s okay—I’m fine. Anyway, my mother eventually moved in with her boyfriend, so I was living totally on my own in an inner city apartment. I developed courage because I had to. I felt like I had nobody to count on but myself. Turns out that’s not a good way to live. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my haunted purse experience is that you can’t do everything on your own. You need other people—everybody does. So now when I’m feeling really scared or worried, I don’t just rely on myself. I reach out to my friends. I’m always amazed by how much better they make me feel.

Amber: From all you've said, I want to read all about your story. Can't wait to read The Haunted Purse by Kimberly Baer. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when tracking clues to a mystery?

Libby:  Don’t give up. Just keep at it. I got to the point where I didn’t think I’d ever solve the mystery of the haunted purse, and then boom! Just like that, everything fell into place.

Katherine: Libby thanks so much for joining us to celebrate National Handbag Day. You've certainly added intrigue to our holiday with your book The Haunted Purse by Kimberly Baer. And to all our readers, what are you carrying for Handbag day? I hope it's got room for a good paperback or kindle/nook book.

Libby:  Is it all right if I look around the museum for a while?

Amber:  I'll show you around. It looks like Katherine is already absorbed in your book.

Blurb for The Haunted Purse:

That old denim purse Libby Dawson bought at the thrift store isn’t your run-of-the-mill teenage tote. It’s a bag of secrets, imbued with supernatural powers. Strange items keep turning up inside, clues to a decades-old mystery only Libby can solve.

Filled with apprehension and yet intrigued by the mounting pile of evidence, Libby digs for the truth. And eventually finds it. But the story of the purse is darker than she imagined—and its next horrific chapter is going to be all about her.

Excerpt from The Haunted Purse:

“Do you think we should tell my mom about the purse?” asked Toni.

“No,” I said. I wasn’t ready to trust an adult. Not even Toni’s mom, nice as she was. “Your mom is like you,” I added. “Practical. It would take a long time to convince her there’s something supernatural going on.”

We went back to watching the purse. There was a moment when I thought I saw it twitch, but that might have been my imagination.

“You could always get rid of it,” Toni said. “You know, donate it back to the thrift store.”

I considered that. “I could. But I don’t want to—not yet, anyway. This purse is the coolest thing I’ve ever owned. I want to find out more about it. I want to see what it does next.”

She moved her eyes from the purse long enough to glance at me. “Aren’t you afraid it’ll crawl into your bed some night and strangle you with its straps?”

“No. I think it’s trying to get my attention. It’s trying to tell me something.”

“Like what?”

I didn’t have a clue.

Author Bio:

Kimberly Baer is an author and professional editor who was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a town marginally famous for having endured three major floods. She even lived there during one of them. She currently resides in Virginia, where she enjoys power-walking on days when it’s not too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy, or too windy. If forced to stay inside, she’s likely to end up binge-watching one of her favorite TV shows: Gilmore Girls, Breaking Bad, Friends, or The Office.

Kim’s first story, written at age six, was about a baby chick that hatched out of a little girl’s Easter egg after somehow surviving the hard-boiling process. Her recent focus has been on writing middle-grade and young adult fiction.  

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