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The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light

Legend of the Gathers

The Legend

For all the wondrous stories learned in school, all the famous men and women found in history books, there are other tales hidden in the margins. Mysteries believed too strange to be true. Impossible! Legends whispered in the dark. Passed down from generation to generation. Folktales told to children that never make it into any classroom, but which are part of the very fabric of a place and its people.

This is one such story. One such legend.

Edison and Light Bulb Graphic
Edison and Light Bulb Graphic courtesy Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park

You may have heard told about the young inventor Thomas Edison who received a patent for his incandescent lamps on October 21st 1879. You may have even heard that Edison received a second patent in 1880 after he changed the filament to bamboo allowing his lamps to burn much, much longer. Or how, one night, he transformed an entire street into a spectacle of light. 

Phantom Boy Blowing Glass Bubble
Illustration of Phantom Boy Blowing Glass Bubble from The Legend of the Gathers Picture Book courtesy Erin Nowak

But have you heard the story of what happened next? Nearly a year to the day after that first patent was granted. Of a boy some believe was merely an apparition, a ghost. The boy who made it possible for those bamboo filaments to burn bright, for the light to spread around the globe, one magnificent bulb at a time.

Have you heard The Legend of the Gathers? Those phantom folk who are said to return each year during The Days of Incandescence in search of something. Or perhaps simply to make sure the light has found its way into the world?

Incandescent Lamp and Other Inventions by Thomas Edison courtesy Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park
Thomas Edison's Lab in Menlo Park circa 1880 Illustration courtesy Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park

Blurring The Lines

It should be noted that, while Thomas Edison was a very real person, The Legend of the Gathers is not a true tale, but a fictional supernatural story inspired by the mysterious boy who blew the first glass bubble at the Corning factory and forever changed the fate of the glass company and the small town. 

It should also be noted that Mr. Edison had no awareness whatsoever of the legend as it did not evolve until long after he shared the last of his many inventions with the world.

The Books

Legends are often tinged by a hint of truth without being fact themselves. They are typically fantastical embellishments of something that may or may not have actually happened.

We decided to explore local legend about The Gathers, those phantom folk said to appear each October during The Days of Incandescence, by sharing the tale in the form of a book that could be read and enjoyed. But make no mistake, The Legend is a very tall tale, sparked by a very real moment in time. A moment that changed everything.  

Legend of the Gathers
Illustration from The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light picture book, art by Erin Nowak

LOTG ChapbookThe Chapbook

The special chapbook The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light tells the story of that day in 1880 and of the mysterious shop assistant who forever changed the fate of one small town.

Legend has it, that shop assistant was one of The Gathers, phantom folk who appear each year during The Days of Incandescence to help get the light out into the world.

A hand-stitched chapbook was published in very limited quantities and is available to order for $10. 

The Legend of the Gathers Picture Book Cover
The Legend of the Gathers Picture Book courtesy Erin Nowak

Illustrated Picture Book 

The world used to be a much darker place. Before electric lights found their way onto every street. Into every home.

But that was about to change.Light was about to find its way out into the world . . .

When young inventor Thomas Edison sends someone to the small town of Corning, NY to see if the glass company can make special containers for his incandescent lamps, no one expects a mysterious boy to blow that first glass bubble.

Strange lights begin showing up all over town—and strangers, too, who have a glow, a shimmery shine, strolling the streets in silence. Phantom folk called The Gathers. 

Young Jacklyn Styles, or Jack as she’s known around town, and the pug Fetch, are the first to see them. Soon the girl and her four-legged friend discover there’s more mystery to the boy than anyone knows.

This is their story. It’s your story, too.

Soon you’ll be able to get your very own copy of the beautifully illustrated picture book The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light? Keep watch for news on the upcoming release date happening in the Fall of 2020.

Illustrator Erin Nowak
Illustrator Erin Nowak

About The Artist

Erin Nowak

Interested in telling stories and drawing the images for them since she could pick up a pencil, artist Erin Nowak was always drawing and doodling in elementary school. She got more serious about painting and drawing in junior high school, and had a high school art teacher who strongly encouraged her to pursue a career in visual art. Today, Erin balances a career in graphic design, motherhood, and illustration. 

Erin Nowak illustrates and makes art to communicate and connect with others, to bring life to her stories and to those of other writers, and to express herself. “I feel I have been given a unique ability,” she says, “to shine light into areas of stories and life that others may not see at first. 

Erin has always loved to escape into art, stories, and books. So, for her, making art and illustrating is also a very healing experience. She illustrates and makes art to communicate and to connect with others, to bring life to her own stories and to those of other writers, and to express herself. 

“I feel I have been given a unique ability,” she says, “to shine light into areas of stories and life that others may not see at first.” 

As an illustrator and visual artist, Erin always faces the potential challenge of not being able to get the image on paper exactly as she envisions it, though she enjoys being challenged in such a way. Her favorite thing about illustrating is finding the parts of a book's narrative that are not told by the text and bringing those to the story. 

“I enjoy illustrating children and human characters, especially how they interact with the world around them. I love nature and color, so I am drawn to creating rich settings both real and fantastical for my characters to inhabit. For this reason, I often view setting as its own unique character in my work.”

In The Legend of the Gathers Erin masterfully creates a world that is dark, yet light-filled in keeping with the tone of The Days of Incandescence and, in so doing, beautifully blends the two into a unique and essential character to the overall story. 

 

Lafayette Wattles
Author Lafayette Wattles

About The Author

Lafayette Wattles

Ever since he was a teen, Lafayette Wattles has had a soft spot for misfits and people who just don’t seem to fit in. People who seem to exist outside what might be perceived as normal. Maybe it’s because he sees things in them that other people sometimes overlook. To Lafayette, that is what writing is all about. Having an opportunity to show another side of something, or someone. 

Maybe that’s why working on The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light was so much fun for him as it gave him the chance to learn about a real historic event, one that in many ways changed the world, but also gave him a chance to create a fictional story and explore an even bigger theme in the process. 

Lafayette’s first supernatural picture book, The Legend of the Gathers is about a young girl named Jack and a pug named Fetch who are the first to sense The Gathers, phantom folk who don’t seem to be part of everyday life, but who have something special to offer. 

Loosely inspired by Corning Flint Glass Works' role in making the glass containers for Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamps and a mysterious shop boy who blew the first glass bubble, The Legend of the Gathers is a story about glass which is an indelible part of Corning's rich history and culture.

"The Legend" is also a story about light!

Not just with the bulbs, but with the way folks treat each other. And the light you can find in positive things. In happy things. Doing a kindness for someone else is you sharing the light. Being an inspiration or a source of joy, that’s you being the light. It’s about making someone’s day a little brighter somehow. As far as Lafayette is concerned, that's the sort of light worth sharing.

Photo Credit: Two photos above courtesy Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park


THE DAYS OF INCANDESCENCE

A Cooperative Event Partnership between the Steuben County CVB, Corning's Gaffer District, the Gaffer District Business Association, and Urban Corning.