Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chapter Seven: What Happened on this blog yesterday morning is SCARY and VERY unnerving

By Claudia Ricci

I'm still not sure what happened today. I am still trying to piece together how my blog went bananas and started behaving like a Ouija board.

After it was all over, I told my husband -- who witnessed everything -- that it was, without a doubt, definitely THE STRANGEST THING that I have ever ever experienced in almost five years of blogging.

And yes, part of me is convinced that Antonie -- or maybe it was Renata -- was somehow trying to communicate with me from...maybe from the great beyond? I know how crazy this sounds, I do. But you have to experience what happened the way I did, and then maybe you will see.

OK, so here are the facts: I posted Chapter Six of "Castenata" at about 8 or 9 in the morning, here on MyStoryLives. I posted separately on the 'nun" novel that I am calling Castenata -- Castenata tells the story of a nun, Sister Renata, who way back in 1883 was falsely accused of murdering her cousin Antonie.

Renata was sentenced to hang and as far as we know, she did hang. I haven't written the hanging chapter, not yet, but I've written almost everything else. I wrote the bulk of this "novel" ( Castenata) way back in 1995, working in part at two writer's colonies in California. Oddly enough, each of these writer's colonies, Montalvo, and Djerassi, are situated only miles from where Sister Renata's convent was located.

OK, back to today's blog.

After I posted, I clicked as I always do onto "View Blog" to look at MyStoryLives. I noticed something very odd. The title of the blog, My Story Lives, had disappeared. Instead of the title, there was this weird-looking string of gobbledygook letters; some of the symbols weren't even from the English alphabet. They looked like something you'd see in, say, Serbia or Albania or God knows where. And at the end of the string was the at symbol, @ -- suggesting it was perhaps some kind of address?

Øç,ÇÞJJO òùÁÉÓÚÝádfkljeéó^^Â@...

"Wow, that's odd," I said to myself, and clicked into my blogger "Settings" to restore the title.

That's when the second weird thing happened.

The blog title, My Story Lives, was EXACTLY the way it was supposed to be in my Settings. But how could this be, I wondered? How could the title be correct inside the blog settings but end up LOOKING LIKE SUCH A WEIRD STRING OF LETTERS on the blog itself?

I called my husband Richard in to see. He was working in his study, writing his own book on health care reform legislation. I showed him the discrepancy in the blog and he agreed that it was very strange.

"I've been blogging every single day since 2006 and nothing like this has ever ever happened," I said.

"Yeah, well, it's probably some hacker, honey," he mumbled, returning to his own writing project in his study.

Sure enough, when I tried to sign into my gmail account (the one that controls this blog), my password wouldn't work.

So I changed the password, and went back into the MyStoryLives site, and fixed the title.

Everything was alright. My blog title, My Story Lives, was back.

Or so I thought. I got busy doing something with one of the other blogs that make up this new writing project, Sister Mysteries, I have going (part of the Albany Times Union's Writing in Motion project). Seven writers are committed to finishing their books by year's end, and this deadline has sent me into a tizzy of writing.

OK, so there I was, busy writing. After I finished, I went back to MyStoryLives just to have a peek, to make sure everything was in order.

My title was GONE AGAIN. And there again was that same string of foreign-looking symbols, the same gobbledygook as before:

æ,EOIUdoejewr;kJØ ç,ÇÞJJO òùÁÉÓÚÝádfkljeéó^^Â@...

"What the ....what the ????" And why the @ at the end?

I was thoroughly mystified. Had a hacker broken into my account a second time? How could he/she have gotten ahold of my new password so quickly?

That's when things started to go haywire. I tried repeatedly to restore the blog's title, but I couldn't. I typed MY STORY LIVES over and over again, and all I got on the outside of the blog was this same gobbledygook, over and over again, always with the @ sign at the end:

æ,EOIUdoejewr;kJØ ç,ÇÞJJO òùÁÉÓÚÝádfkljeéó^^Â@...

I called to my husband. "Rich, you gotta come here and see this, it's so, so weird," I said. He did; he peered over my shoulder.

"I can't fix my blog title, it's just gone," I said. "No matter what I type on the blog, it comes up this silly gobbledygook."

"Wow," he said. "Somebody must be screwing around big-time with your blog."

"I'll say. This has never ever happened before."

"So why don't you try this: try typing in a different title, just to see if it works," he said.

So I did. With him standing there, and without thinking too much about what I was writing, I typed these words into the title box, "Are You Sister Renata Writing From Beyond the Grave?"

I hit the save button and went to view the blogsite, and where the gobbledygook had been, in the same place that the blog title usually sat, was just this:


two ii's? what the hell? Was somebody RESPONDING to me? I was starting to get angry. Or maybe it was nervous.

Then I typed, "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?" Maybe I could appeal to the hacker to cut it out and leave my blog alone!

What came up on the screen was:


I blinked. I blinked. y? What was this? WHO was this? What the hell was going on here?

I sat there staring at the screen. Suddenly I felt like I was sitting in front of a Ouija board communicating with some spirit. I had a Ouija board as a kid but I never did figure out how to use it. And I have never ever thought of myself having any psychic powers. Nor do I really want to have any.

But now, sitting there, I was faced with this question: was someone out there ANSWERING ME?

I went back into blogger and typed another question. "Who are you, please show me a sign."

I hit save and went to the blog and this is what came up:


I sat there trembling. C? What the hell was C supposed to be? I mean, it's the first letter of my name so maybe somebody was trying to be funny.

I called my husband in, and showed him. He shook his head. "I don't have any idea what is going on, honey," he said. "I would if I were you just change my password again. Start over."

I sat there. My heart was racing. My hands and arms felt that funny trembly feeling.

I decided to try writing one more time.

Slowly, I typed in one more question: "Are you Antonie, Writing From Beyond the Grave?"

I hit SAVE. I went to "View Blog," and lo and behold, THERE IN GIANT LETTERS, I read the words that I had just typed.

The title of the blog had become "Are you Antonie, Writing From Beyond the Grave?"

"Rich," I screamed, "You have to see what just happened."

He came in. He studied the blog title. "Well that's awfully weird," he said.

"What the hell is going on here?" I whispered. "This is so so strange. Is somebody screwing with my head or what?"

I decided to shut the blog down entirely, and reboot the computer.

And when I turned the computer on again, I was unable to sign into my gmail account at all. I had to file a report on-line and wait an hour or so until Google sent me a link to another email account, thereby enabling me to change the password.

OK. So now you've heard my strange blog story. Maybe you are thinking, this woman is just nuts. This woman needs a life that isn't connected to writing or blogs or the internet. Or stories about dead nuns. Or stories about people who consult psychics who are ex-nuns.

Maybe you are right. Maybe it's all just crazy.

But one thing is certain: after five years of blogging thousands and thousands and thousands of times, in a very calm and rational and straightforward way, I have never once had a day like this. EVER. EVER.

I have no idea if it's a hacker, or if, something ELSE is going on.

And so, now, I am shutting down my computer for the rest of the day. I am going to go brine my turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. I have a dozen people coming here in less than 24 hours and I need to focus.

I have a whole lot of cooking to do.

And I have a whole lot of thinking to do too.

“Chapter Seven” is taken from Sister Mysteries, an on-line book that is part of the Albany Times Union's Writing In Motion project. The project features seven writers committed to completing writing projects by the end of the year. Sister Mysteries contains within it a novel called Castenata -- a time-travel murder mystery featuring a nun, Sister Renata, who in 1883 was falsely accused of murdering her cousin Antonie. Renata's version of the story is contained within her diaries on the Castenata site.

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