Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hocking Hills Haunted Horrors

Moonville Train Tunnel from Haunted Hocking

Hey, H&H decided to take the easy way out of posting today. While surfing the web, we came across a great website called Haunted Hocking, kept by the Hocking Hills Investigative Team (HITS).

Hocking Hills is a 200 mile ride west from Pittsburgh, located south of Columbus, Ohio. And judging by its eerie tales, it's well worth a weekend jaunt. Some Hocking Hills haunts are:

* Ash Cave Lady: She's a shadowy apparition dressed in 1920's attire that likes to follow tourists as they wend their way along the trail.

* Ash Cave Lights: These are green and yellow orbs that have been reported floating around the cave.

* Athens Asylum: We don't know if this former sanitarium dating back to post Civil War days is spooked out or not, but its' old bones were featured on Fox Family Channel's television show Scariest Places on Earth.

* Conkle's Hollow: William Conkle was the first to settle in his neck of the woods, and fell so in love with the place that he just couldn't leave, even in death. It is said his spirit still roams his hollow that bears his name, decked out in 18th century gear. His friendly spirit watches over visitors, but he'll turn mean if you plan any harm to his woodlands.

* Georgian Manor: What's a spook site without its very own haunted B&B?

* Hope Furnace: The spirit of a watchman who had fallen into the fiery furnace and burned to death over a hundred and forty years ago has been seen carrying an orange lantern while he ambles over the Hope Furnace, as if walking on air where old building roofs once connected to the furnace.

* Lavender Lady: It is said that as a local woman was crossing a RR trestle, she was struck and killed by a train. Legend has it that her ghost still walks the area under the bridge, where her broken body landed after the accident. The scent of her lavender perfume still lingers.

* Moonville Brakie: A RR brakeman took a nap while waiting for his train to take on supplies, and helped his rest with a little taste of likker. Well, the train pulled out without him, and in his haste to climb aboard, he fell under the cars and met his doom. The ghost of the man is said to be seen stumbling down the tracks inside the Moonville tunnel with lantern in hand, eternally trying to catch the train before it leaves the station.

* Old Man's Cave: Richard Roe went out to get some water for himself and his hounds one winter day at the turn of the 19th century, and found the stream frozen. All he had with him was a bucket and his musket, so he tried to break the ice with the butt of his weapon. It went off, and he fatally shot himself. Local lore claims that those camping at the park campground have heard the baying of Roe's hunting dogs on full moon nights, crying for their master to return.

There's a couple of more stories on the Haunted Hocking site, plus the HITS investigations. Stop by, you'll enjoy the tales.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Palace Theater Ghost

Palace Theater - 1920's from Wikipedia

H&H felt a bit artsy today, and where better to scratch that itch than at the Great White Way?

We pointed the jalopy towards Manhattan and the Palace Theater. It can be found in the heart of Broadway, between 46th & 47th Streets, near Times Square, at 1564 Broadway.

The structure is kinda blah now, dwarfed by the Marriott Marquis hotel built in the 1980s on one side and a commercial building on the other. Indeed, the theater is practically invisible behind a tidal wave of huge billboards, tucked under the skyscrapers surrounding it, and only its marquee is easily visible from the street. But it is magnificent inside, fully restored to its 1913 classical splendor, and can handle 1,784 patrons.

The Palace opened on March 24, 1913, as a vaudeville showcase. It was built by promoter Mark Beck, who called the finished theater, "the Valhalla of vaudeville."

After a shaky start, the popularity of the theatre skyrocketed after Sarah Bernhard was booked to perform there, putting it on the show biz map. From 1915-1930, all the top stars, including Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Helen Keller, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Harry Houdini and Fanny Brice tread its boards, among many other top rank show-stoppers.

And not just the biggies showed up. Lesser acts from across the country shared the dream to "play the Palace" in Times Square. Jugglers, comedians, dancers of all stripes and even animal acts would do their thing on the sidewalk in front of the Palace, hoping to catch the eye of a promoter or booking agent.

Radio, movies, and the Great Depression took their toll on the genre, though. In 1931, despite high powered acts such as Kate Smith, Burns and Allen, Sophie Tucker and William Demarest, the theater owners saw the writing on the wall, and the Palace became a movie house.

In the 1950s, an attempt to revive live entertainment was made, and stars like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland were booked, but it wasn't enough to pay the bills. It looked like curtains for the old vaudeville house.

But in the 1960s the Palace Theater was renovated, and it reopened as a true theater in 1966, hosting musicals. The opener was "Sweet Charity," and it just recently finished a long run of the stage edition of "Legally Blonde." And that's cool, because the aura of the old acts still remain, and they again have an audience.

And we're not talking about septuagenarian hoofers on the oldies circuit - we're talking the 100 or so ghosts that are supposed to haunt the Palace Theater.

There are said to be a couple of spooks in the orchestra pit. One is a white-gowned cellist who still plucks her ghostly strings, and who was spotted, accorded to industry lore, by actress Andrea McArdle when she was performing "Beauty and the Beast" at the Palace in 1999.

Another phenomena from the band's seating area is the phantom pianist. The Steinway starts to play, while the keys can be seen dancing up and down. The only thing missing is someone on the bench!

The Palace is home to a pair of spectral kids who are still reliving their theater days. A sad-looking little girl who looks down from the balcony has been reported, along with a boy who rolls toy trucks on the landing behind the mezzanine.

Sightings have been claimed of a man in a brown suit who walks quickly past the office doors at night, no doubt a worried manager counting the house to this day. Who knows - maybe it's Mark Beck, keeping an eye on his house.

There's also the presence of George, a former manager that hung himself by the "fly door." It's reported that when you pass the spot where he ended it all, you can smell the burning cigarettes he used to chain smoke.

And, of course, we have one of the Theater's most famous spooks, Judy Garland herself. Apparently, she never made it over the rainbow.

Her eternal hang-out is near a door that was built especially for her at the rear of the orchestra, used for her private entrances and exits onstage. It's said that she can be seen peeking out the door before vanishing. She's still crowd-conscious after all these years.

One ghost you hope to never see is the spirit of a vaudeville acrobat who, according to Palace legend, fell and broke his neck. He's Louis Borsalino, better known as the infamous "Palace Ghost."

The story is that in the 1950's, a well known high wire act of the era, "The Four Casting Pearls," had a gig at the Palace . But tragedy struck when tight rope walker Louis Borsalino, who was performing without a net, fell to his death to the floor below.

Stagehands say that when the theater is empty, Borsalino's apparition can be seen swinging from the rafters. He lets out a blood-curdling scream, then re-enacts his nose dive. With any luck, you don't catch a glimpse of his ghost; those who do are rumored to die shortly thereafter.

But did he really meet his Maker at the Palace?

The real story, as written in the New York Times, reported that Borsalino was only injured when he fell 18 feet during his performance on August 28, 1935, before a crowd of 800. But hey, though the story of his death is a little more dramatic, the Times article doesn't rule him out of haunting the site of his greatest professional flop.

Some believe that the restless spirit of Louis Borsalino is still embarrassed because he fell in such a famous venue, and will keep on trying to wow the crowd and finish the act to restore his rep, even in death. No luck yet, but we hope he'll keep on plugging away until he reaches the other side.

The show must go on at the Palace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fort Delaware Demons

Fort Delaware from Coast Defense Study Group

Pea Patch Island is the home of Fort Delaware, a Union fortress dating back to 1859. In the middle of the Delaware River between New Jersey and Delaware, it was built to protect the ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington. The Fort was an imposing structure, boasting 32-foot high walls of granite, some parts up to 30 feet thick, gun emplacements, and a moat.

It seemed pretty well placed, too, once the Civil War broke out. But the rebs never mosied into that part of the North. So in 1862, construction began on a complex outside the fort to house 10,000 prisoners. It was switching modes, from a garrison to a POW camp.

After the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, there were almost 13,000 prisoners held at Fort Delaware. Overall, 32,000 troops, officers and political prisoners were held at the Fort during the Civil War period. By April 1864, hundreds had died from malaria and dysentery. By the end of the war, 3,200 inmates had left Fort Delaware in a pine box.

There is no official tally of escape attempts from the Fort. Union reports show a total of 273 escapes; there may have been up to 1,000 attempts. Prisoners who tried to swim to freedom were often overwhelmed by the strong tidal currents of the Delaware River. Most didn't make it.

Legend has it that one man even skated to freedom from the Fort. The Delaware River had frozen over, and Union soldiers were ice-skating. The guards decided it would be a chuckle to watch some Southern boys, strangers to ice, try to skate. According to local legend, one gray coat acted as if he couldn't skate, and repeatedly fell down, each time a little closer to shore. Finally, he got close enough to land to make a break for freedom.

It continued to be used as a coastal defense during the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. In 1951, the outdated Fort became a state park, was polished up a bit, and opened to the public.

But for many decades, the old Fort was home to its many unhappy spirits, and they lingered even though Fort Delaware shut down.

One of the better known spooks is the Kitchen Ghost. The officer’s kitchen at the Fort is a functional 1800’s kitchen, including an 1862 cast iron stove and oven. During the summer, the cookery is staffed and used as an exhibit for the public.

It features a large food pantry, and this is where the Kitchen Ghost seems to spend most of her time. She likes to hide things from the workers, such as ingredients to a dish they are making. TKG takes the spices from the work table and puts then back where they belong, in the pantry.

The Kitchen Ghost also likes to utter aloud the name of people whom walk into the pantry. She's also told people to get out. After all, it's her domain.

For all the pranks she's pulled on the visitors and staff, she's only appeared once. There were a handful of women cooking away when suddenly a woman whom none of them knew appeared, checking out the food on the stove and the table. She gave the surprised cooks a small grin, turned around, and walked through the wall.

Legend has another well-known spirit roaming the bowels of Fort Delaware, Confederate General James Jay Archer. As an officer, Archer was given plushy quarters, relatively speaking, and he had the run of the fort. He had promised Fort commander General Albin Schoepf that he wouldn't try to escape in exchange for his freedom of movement.

The prisoners naturally greatly outnumbered the guards, and Archer couldn't resist going back on his word. He came up with an escape plan, but it was found out. Schoepf, bitterly disappointed by Archer's broken promise (after all, a gentleman's word and all that...), sentenced him to solitary confinement in a windowless powder magazine.

Archer was released from his captivity during a prisoner exchange, and he was on death's doorstep from his time in solitary. He died shortly thereafter in Richmond. Visitors and fort employees have reported seeing a bearded man in a gray uniform in the area where Archer was imprisoned. Maybe his spook is still ruing his corporal decision to go back on his oath as an officer and a gentleman.

There's a grisly tale told of a 9-year old drummer boy who tried to trick his way out of the Fort. He planned to escape by hiding in a coffin. The work detail of rebels were in on the deal, and meant to let him out when they reached the cemetery across the river in New Jersey. As fate would have it, the work detail was switched at the last minute. He was buried alive. His forlorn spirit is still tethered to Fort Delaware.

Another spook is up to no good at the Fort's closed-off (to the tourists) stairwell. The steps are located in the Endicott section of the Fort, and the staff occasionally have call to climb them - if the Stairwell Spook lets them. They report that someone was trying to push or pull them down the stairs by tugging their clothes, or would send a flock of birds down the stairs in full flutter to try to knock them down the staircase. We think we'll wait for an elevator, thank you.

There are reports of a second kitchen ghost, but this one is more interested in sewing than cooking. In one of the old officer’s kitchens, there is now a laundry area set up. Staffers show visitors how laundry was done in the 1800s and let them try their hand at the nineteenth century laundromat.

The room is spooked by a friendly enough woman's spirit. She threads needles, and also collects loose buttons and strings them together. Some think she's the Kitchen Ghost in a different haunt, but this ghost seems a lot friendlier to us, and we call her the Seamstress Spook.

In the officer’s quarters inside the Fort, there's allegedly a ghost of a child that roams the second floor, and a lady-in-waiting.

The boy spook tugs on the back of people’s clothing and his laughter has been heard echoing from within the Fort. In the same officer’s quarters there's the ghost of a lady. She'll tap on a person's shoulder or take them by the hand, as if to lead them on a tour of the rooms.

There have also been accounts of books falling and swinging crystals from the rooms, but no one knows if it's the little boy at play or the lady killing time. Some think the spooks may be a mother and son act.

And hey, that's just a handful of the Fort's many reported apparitions. Here's a few more:

*People have heard moaning and the sounds of clanging chains coming from the dungeons.

*There have been sightings by boaters passing the Fort at night, claiming that there are lights on when there is no one on the island and the generator is shut down. There are also occasional sightings of someone standing on the top of the fort when it's empty, apparently pulling eternal guard duty.

*Confederate soldiers have been spotted under the ramparts and on the parade grounds.

*In one of the powder magazines, staff and visitors have heard someone swearing old oaths (no *F* bombs, we guess) when no one else is around.

*A visitor snapped a picture of a rebel soldier in the Fort's archway. There have been many orb photos taken in the Fort, sometimes with as many as eight auras at a time.

*Outside of the laundry area/officer’s kitchen, people have heard a harmonica being played. Maybe a soldier is still whiling away the time and amusing himself after all these years, or maybe he's trying to impress the Seamstress Spook.

*Disembodied voices have been heard in many areas of the Fort.

*And the only non Civil War sighting we've heard of: Local lore says that buccaneers used Pea Patch island back in the day. A park ranger reported that he saw a pirate, dressed in a green silk shirt and white silk pants, looking longingly out a window at the Fort towards the open sea. And no, we haven't the foggiest idea how a pirate ended up in a Civil War POW camp. Kinda eerie, hey?

The Fort's been written up in Civil War Ghosts at Fort Delaware by Ed Okonowicz and was featured in an episode of Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi Channel TV.

So if you want to get your spook on, take a visit to Fort Delaware. It's open five days a week during the summer, and on weekends and holidays during the early fall. And don't miss its ghost tours.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

East Stroudburg's Spooks

East Stroudsburg University from Waymarking

Hey, since we've taken a spin through a batch of Pennsylvania's haunted halls of higher ed, we thought we'd keep the stories coming with a visit to the Lehigh Valley and Monroe County's East Stroudburg University.

East Stroudsburg started out as a Normal School in 1893 and rose in the State College ranks. It became a Teacher's College in 1927, a College in 1960, and earned University status in 1983. It educates 2,200 students in 61 buildings spread out over a 213 acre campus.

There's a theory that many of local spooks here were victims of the 1955 floods when the remnants of two hurricanes roared over East Stroudsburg, killing over 70 people and creating a whole new generation of local spirits. Many of ghosts, both collegiate and townie, are mentioned in Charles Adams III and David Siebold's Pocono Ghosts, Legends And Lore.

The Fine And Performing Arts Center: There are a couple of interesting spooks in this building. One is an entity described as ice cold. It likes to deface or change name plaques and move objects in the auditorium. It's said the police have a log of all the mischief it's caused (in case they ever catch it in the act, we guess.) Many have reported hearing its' voice.

The other is Sarah, the Theatre Ghost. She hung herself from the light rigging in the Theatre sometime in the 1970s and generally is seen overhead in the grid. Of course, one of her favorite pranks is to unplug the spotlights, especially during shows. Sometimes she does the opposite. The student stagehands can't get lights to shut off, even when they unplug them. Sarah's been spotted on occasion, and will sometimes grab a student or cause technical glitches in shows or movies. She's considered harmless, if somewhat annoying.

Hawthorne Hall: The dorm has a variety of spooks to offer its' residents. One spook is that of a young child that fell to its' death down an elevator shaft. There's another ghost that haunts the fifth floor for reasons known only to it. We also have reports of an elevator spirit on the fourth floor that opens and closes the elevators every hour on the hour between midnight and 6AM. She may also be the white spook that visits the girls in their rooms on that floor. She likes to pop in when the girl's roomie is out and she's alone.

Kemp Library: The Library is haunted by a black cat's spook. How unlucky can you get? The ghostly gato likes to hang around the government documents section. There's also alleged to be the spirit of a nine year old boy in the 300 section (history, to non-librarians) of the library, though no one quite knows how or why he's there.

Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity House: This Analomink Street house is haunted by the ghost of a former owner who the frat guys call Mrs. Booth. Her ashes are supposedly buried under the fireplace where her apparition is often seen. She's most often described as a glowing figure in a dress. Mrs. Booth has also been spotted roaming the second and third floors.

Sigma Pi Fraternity House: There's two stories concerning the Sig Pi's spook, Margie. She was a maid at the turn of the century that was caught fooling around with her master. Her punishment wasn't all that terrible. Actually, it was kinda boring. She was banished to a small third floor room to live out her days. It was said she'd just rock the time away in her rocking chair. When she died, she was cremated and her ashes put in an urn and left in the room.

Construction workers later were in the house, and here's where the stories diverge a bit. One says they spilled the ashes and set off Margie. The other says they just sealed up the room. Either way, Margie was not pleased. She's been said to restlessly roam the house, and was even alleged to take possession of a frat brother's body one night. But she gave it back in the morning.

We'll take a look at the townie tales in a later post. For now, the ESU Warriors and weirdness are enough eerieness for one day.