Friday, July 25, 2008

Mount Saint Mary's saintly spooks

Basilica of Mother Seton from Virtual Tourist

We're on the last lap of our spook-seeking trip outside the state, and we're making our final stop at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There's something about Catholic schools that spirits just love.

In 1805, a circuit-riding priest named John DuBois was on the road between Frederick and Emmitsburg. He saw a light on a mountain and, thinking it was a farmhouse, rode toward it.

Father DuBois couldn't find the house, and laid his weary bod down and went to sleep. When he woke, he saw a breathtaking vista of rolling hills and fields. He decided to stay there and build a church and a school.

The school, founded in 1809 because of a vision of a ghostly light, was Mount Saint Mary's.

If you stand in the quad facing Brute Hall, you're right in the center of spook central. You may bump into the ghost of the Rev. Simon Brute, an early president of the college who died in 1839.

Legend has it that Father Brute still strolls the campus wearing long black robes. He's been seen following groups of students. Father Brute usually just smiles and nods when acknowledged by the living.

Glance up at the second floor and you'll see the window of Room 252. Once a year, the spirit of Father Brute shares that dorm room with the lucky resident. But the rest of the time...

There's a tale of a priest who lived in Room 252 about 30 years ago. One night the priest straightened his room, stepped out for a few minutes, then returned to find everything — bedclothes, furniture, books and papers — in total disarray. The priest discovered that his lights and TV flashed on and off at random times. He moved out.

Another priest took the room. But when his pet cat began hissing at odd times and scurrying under the bed to hide, he also took a powder.

Room 252 remained empty for years. In 1997, three students moved in. They noticed odd occurrences like a falling mirror and a self-flushing toilet. The TV changed channels by itself. School workmen later put in a bookshelf. Glasses and books fall off the shelves for no reason in the middle of the night. The unknown poltergeist of Room 252 is still around to this day.

One of our visitors posted that "Brute (and Terrace as a whole) is definitely haunted. One of my roommates was watching TV (with the remote on the table) and watched as the menu flashed onto the TV and the settings were changed before him."

"My other roommate and I have both experienced multiple encounters in the restroom adjacent to our room, mainly past 2 AM. We both have been in there, and have been the only ones in there, and the stalls all close at once (it's a loud sound you cannot mistake it). I've also heard whispers and whistling inside closed door bathrooms only to find them empty."

The post went on: "One of my better encounters occurred down the hall in Dubois, where the hot bed of activity mainly occurs. Friends have reported flushed toilets, shades being pulled up and down, etc. etc. I was going there to get my keys from there which I had left the night before and was about to knock on the door. I heard voices coming from their side of the suite so I figured they must be in there."

"The voices were unmistakeably clear and could not be discounted as just wind or anything else. I kept banging telling them to open and the voices stopped. Then, as I turned around to leave, who walks down the hall but my friends. They said no one was in the room and when they opened the door the TV and music was off. I gladly took my keys and left."

Adjacent to Brute Hall, McCaffrey Hall is another high-spirited building. A slave named Leander who worked for the college in the mid-1800s lived on the first floor of the hall. He was accused of stealing and as punishment, his left hand was cut off and buried in the quad.

Eventually, Leander was freed and stayed on at the college as a workman. When he died, he was buried in the school's cemetery.

Residents of McCaffrey report seeing a severed hand scuttering about, or hearing fingers scratching on dorm windows. They believe that it's the ghostly hand of Leander trying to find its way back to the rest of his body.

One of the college's more famous ghosts is a nameless Civil War soldier who promised his beloved that he would think of her while he was gone. The pair looked to the heavens and vowed to gaze upon the same star every evening.

The soldier was killed in battle and was buried face down in an old well. Now his spirit, people say, roams Mount Saint Mary's campus, tapping startled folks on their shoulders and pleading with them to "turn me over." He wants to see the star.

Larry is another famous St. Mary's legend. His father, the school music director Larry Dielman Sr., wanted him to be a musician like himself, but junior had a tin ear and became a grocer. In the late 1800s, his father died.

The next Christmas, Larry took his flute and went to the cemetery at Mount St. Mary’s to play one of his father’s pieces, “When the Glory Lit the Midnight Air” (or, according to some, "Adestes Fideles", which his dad played for the students every Christmas morning). It came out of his instrument beautifully. He found he could finally make music, if only at his father's graveside.

The town folk joined him and Larry would lead the people up to the cemetery each Christmas to play the flute. In the 1920s Larry died. Locals say that if you listen carefully on Christmas, you can still hear the spectral strains of flute music floating from the cemetery. Then the music is gone, not to be heard again until the next Yuletide.

Watching over the Grotto is a statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native born American to be sainted. She's dressed in a floor length cloak and bonnet, holding a Bible in one hand and rosary beads in another. She moved to Emmitsburg in 1809 at Father DuBois' invitation to establish the nation's first parochial school.

The ghost of Mother Seton, dressed in her nun's habit, still frequents the halls and grounds of the college.

Her spirit has often often spotted walking beside a man who looks like a doctor, carrying his black bag. Some say that her vision appeared to wounded soldiers during the Civil War, when the school was used as a hospital, and that she created a synergy with the doctor to heal the injured troops. Others believe that the man she's with is her father, who was a physician.

Saints and spooks are a Catholic tradition, and one that Mount St. Mary's carries on to this day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wheeling Wraiths

Wheeling from Wikipedia

Hey, we figured what the heck, as long as we're on the road, why not head on down to the West Virginia panhandle and see what spooks Wheeling may have to offer. Quite a few, as it ends up.

The Hempfield RR Tunnel, known to the locals as Tunnel Green (it's now a pedestrian tunnel), has murder written all over its walls. One spook has been reported by countless passersbys. It's the spirit of a young immigrant worker who was robbed and killed by an acquaintance.

He floats above the train tracks, seen with his mouth agape in a frozen scream and covering his face with a bloodied hand, still trying to fend off his attacker.

There have been reports of ghosts hanging from the roof of the tunnel, dripping slime, along with shadowy figures in the distance that disappear when approached. There was said to be an old cemetery on top of the hill that the tunnel bored through. The remains of the graves are still above the tunnel, and the spirits can't rest.

Both the Hempfield and Sixteenth Street cemeteries were sold to the RR; we're not sure which one, if either, the tunnel crosses. The bodies were reburied at a handful of other cemeteries, but who can say that all the remains were recovered?

It's also said to be haunted by a man from the early 1900's who was killed by a train in the Tunnel Green.

The Peninsula Cemetery is sometimes referred to as Foundry Cemetery, because it's near an abandoned WW2 armament factory. Visitors at the boneyard report they have seen the spook of a woman wearing a black cape, in the old southwestern part of the city of the dead. She stands guard at her own grave, as if protecting it from some impending danger.

And she may have good reason. The Peninsula Cemetery was first opened on May 2, 1842, and many bodies in the upper part of the graveyard date back to its opening. They were removed from the old Sixteenth Street Cemetery, which had the misfortune of being sold to become a RR right-of-way, and reburied there.

Maybe she just doesn't feel like picking up her old bones and moving yet again.

The tombstone of Richard Moxley, who died at 64 in 1855 and was laid to rest at Penisula, reads thus:

"Stop Stranger as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so must you be
Prepare for death and follow me."

Eerie but accurate parting words, no?

In downtown Wheeling, the Main Street Bridge is allegedly haunted by a gent who was trampled to death by his own team of horses, after he spooked them by jumping down from his wagon to repair a loosened hitch. He's been seen on the bridge, asking if anyone has seen his horses. He probably wants to shoot the dang critters!

Another bridge ghost is of a local contractor. While building the bridge in the late 1840's, he was checking out the scaffolding that his workcrew used. He was walking it to make sure it was in good condition. It wasn't.

The structure collapsed, and he was carried away by the powerful currents of the Ohio below. His body was never found, but his spirit is still there for everyone to see.

Then there's the spooky mansion at Elm Hill now called Monument Place because of its prominent twenty foot statue of the Goddess of Liberty, dedicated to Henry Clay.

In 1798, Moses Shepherd built his stone manse on the site of the old Fort Shepherd, which was burned to the ground by Indians. The home was known through the years as the Shepherd Mansion and the Stone House before it became Monument Place.

It's a National Historic Landmark, right on the National Road, which was diverted at quite some bother and expense to pass by the home's front gates by Clay after some politicking by Shepherd and his wife. He also received a lucrative contract to build much of the road and its bridges in the area. It's no wonder they honored Clay on the estate grounds. He helped pay its bills.

It's said the ghost of the previous "lady of the house," perhaps the renowned local character Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger, Clay's sweet-talker, is a regular visitor. The spectral lady has been spotted in different rooms by the cleaning staff during the last several years.

They also report hearing music and dancing from the second floor ballroom. No word on who these midnight revelers may be.

None of the early residents of Monument Place roamed far from home. The earthly remains of Moses Shepherd, Louis Cruger and Lydia Shepherd Cruger all lie in the Old Stone Cemetery, once part of the estate, which dates back to the days of Fort Henry.

There are also stories of nighttime hauntings at the Capitol Music Hall. The Hall opened in 1928, and has hosted movies, C&W acts, radio broadcasts, and groups as disparate as the Symphony and the Jamboree. It's closed now, and the City is working on a way to get its' spooks some flesh and blood company before they're razed back to the great beyond.

Almost heaven - and it may be as close as these spooks get to the real thing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cleveland's Castles

Franklin Castle from Forgotten Ohio

OK, we're gonna continue our road trip this weekend, taking a little jaunt to the shores of Lake Erie to check out a couple of Cleveland's haunted castles.

Franklin Castle, in Cleveland, Ohio, was built in 1865 by Hannes Tiedemann off of Franklin Avenue. Tragic deaths began to curse the family in 1881 when his 15-year-old daughter Emma succumbed to diabetes. Not long after that his aged mom died.

During the next three years Tiedemann would bury three more children, giving rise to speculation that there was more to the deaths than meets the eye. Hmmmm.

Over the next several years, he did extensive work on the castle by adding secret passages, concealed rooms, and hidden doors inside while adorning the outside with gargoyles and turrets. (During Prohibition, a new tunnel was supposedly constructed that ran from the grounds all the way out to Lake Erie to shelter bootlegging operations, so old Hannes didn't do all the dirty work.)

Some say his building frenzy was just his way of taking his wife's mind off the recent death of her daughter. Others maintain that the rooms and passages were designed so that Tiedemann could do his evil on the QT, murdering his niece and even his own daughter, Emma, among others, without being found out.

And some believe that Mrs. Tiedemann herself had the passages created so that she could sneak past her violent and overbearing husband undetected.

The house subsequently belonged to a German brewer and the German Socialist Party (rumored to be Nazis that spied on the activities on Lake Erie from the house), who were alleged to have machine-gunned some traitors to the Fatherland in the home.

Strange occurrences have plagued all of the residents. Voices, eerie organ music, shaking light fixtures, and many apparitions have been reported. There are rumors of an axe murder in the front tower room, the victim sometimes being seen standing in the window.

A servant girl was supposedly killed in her quarters on her wedding day for refusing Tiedemann's advances. He's said to have shot his mistress Rachel for wanting to marry another man. Her gasping for breath and death rattle can be heard in one of the rooms. Geez, he didn't get into wedding festivities very well, did he?

The secret passageways around the ballroom are said to be where Tiedemann hung his illegitimate daughter Karen. Her ghost is the star of the castle, usually spotted on the third floor in "the cold room," named because it stays ten degrees colder than the rest of the house.

Karen, according to legend, lost her life in a fight between her father and her boyfriend. She and her beau were supposedly hung from a rafter to make the deaths look like suicide. Karen was just a teen at the time, and her ghost is described as a tall, thin woman dressed in black, often seen by the locals.

The Romano's bought the house in 1968 and reportedly had encounters with wraiths that were so frightening they even attempted an exorcism. They called in a Catholic priest for help, but he allegedly refused to bless the house because of the overwhelming evil he felt when he stepped inside its doors.

In 1975, the owner at the time went searching for the secret passageways, and he found more than he bargained for. He uncovered a pile of old human bones. Another of the rooms was found to hold at least a dozen baby skeletons.

Today, Franklin Castle is managed by Charles Milsap, who has announced plans to turn the property into the Franklin Castle Club. Although he began offering memberships, little work has been done to restore the Gothic mansion. In fact, "The Most Haunted House in Ohio" is rumored to be on the sheriff's sale list for unpaid back taxes.

It's probably better to let sleeping spooks lie.

Squires Castle from Prairie Ghosts

Squire's Castle is located in Willoughby Hills in northeast Ohio. It was built by Feargus B.Squire in the 1890's. He was a beaucoup wealthy man and one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. Squire had a grand estate in Cleveland but always wanted a home in the country.

Late in the 1890's, Squire purchased 525 acres of land near Cleveland, planning to build that summer estate for himself, his wife and daughter. A few years after buying the property, a gatehouse went up.

It had three floors plus a basement, in which avid hunter Squire designed an private trophy room for the skins and heads of the beasts he had shot. It would serve as their summer home until a righteous manor could be built.

There is an urban legend about the cottage claiming that it's haunted by a ghostly woman carrying a red lantern who walks the building at night. She's supposed to be the shade of Rebecca Squire, Feargus' wife. She hated the old pile of stones, much preferring to remain in the city with its bright lights.

In her restless state, she developed insomnia whenever she stayed at the cottage and would sleeplessly pace about the house at night, carrying a small red lantern to light her way through the gloomy halls.

On one fateful night, Mrs. Squire wandered into the trophy room of the house, a place that she usually avoided. No one really knows what happened next, but it's thought that Mrs. Squire became frightened of something in the room. Perhaps the mounted animals spooked her in the dim light.

Whatever the reason, she began screaming in terror and in her haste to escape the room, she tripped and fell back down the steps. She was discovered dead a short time later, the victim of a broken neck.

A cool tale, though not close to being wholly factual. The family actually sold the castle in 1920 and Mrs. Squire didn't depart this vale of tears until 1929. She died of a stroke, not a broken neck. Oooops!

Nevertheless, there are still reports of hauntings and red lights floating through the cottage and grounds at night. And it's believed that to this day, she is doomed to roam the halls and rooms of the castle she so despised carrying her lantern and spookily screaming in her anguish.

Oddly, her apparition is often seen on the second floor - which no longer exists, having been razed years ago. And she can't haunt the trophy room in the basement. It was filled in with cement to both keep the rowdies out and to help stabilize the remnants of the cottage. But that's OK - Rebecca never liked the place anyhow.

If you want to find out if the tale is so, Cleveland runs the ramshackle property as part of its Metropark system. Give it a visit, and watch your step. It's covered in graffiti, and the insides are pretty well gutted. It's even spookier now!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Paltz - Haunted Library and more...

Village of New Paltz

Hey, we're taking another trip outside the friendly confines of Pennsylvania today to visit the village of New Paltz, about 35 miles northeast of Milford in Ulster County, New York. It seems there's been a spook thumbing through its ghost books, according to the New York Times:

New Paltz Journal
The Librarians Call It an Anomaly (It Wasn’t Rattling Chains)

April 20, 2008

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — It appeared as a meandering shadow in the Elting Memorial Library, pausing on the wide plank floors in front of a bookcase with titles like “A Gathering of Ghosts” and “Still Among the Living.”

Was it was a spirit looking for something to read in the middle of the night? Or was it, as some killjoys suggest, just a spider?

A surveillance tape picked up the image about a week before Halloween, and the mystery has deepened rather than dissipated with time. The video, called “Ghost in the New Paltz Library,” has been viewed on YouTube by some 4,385 people so far, while library employees and patrons continue to debate the possibilities and recount the coincidences.

Not only was it almost Halloween. Not only did the “anomaly,” as the library officially calls the shadow, appear in the oldest part of the building, where the shelves are filled with ghost stories.

But the library had erected a temporary altar, or ofrenda, used in celebrating the Day of the Dead in Mexico. “Some people say that since we had an ofrenda here, maybe that conjured up some spirits,” said John A. Giralico, the library director.

For a while, the story of the enigmatic shadow stayed among the stacks. Some library workers came down on the side of a spider that somehow slipped under the dome and, at such close range, might appear blurry. Others argued for a ghost or at least some unexplained electrical energy.

“It’s definitely not a spider because you can see right through it,” said Avery Jenkins, a library volunteer. “If it was a solid object like a spider, there’d at least be a dot you couldn’t see through. I just think some people don’t want to believe.”

Carol Johnson, coordinator of the library’s local history and genealogy section, the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, unearthed information about two deaths that occurred in the Main Street house, where the library took up residence in 1920.

Oscar C. Hasbrouck, who owned the home, died there in 1899 of what was then called consumption. Charles V. Auchmoody, a boarder in the house, died in 1908 after suffering “a stroke of paralysis.”

New Paltz was founded in 1678 by 12 Huguenot families who had fled religious persecution in France, and may be home to other spirits.

Every Halloween, Historic Huguenot Street, a nonprofit group, gives a haunted house tour of its National Historic Landmark District and its seven original stone houses, the earliest built in 1705, and burial ground.

The tour director says that every home there is haunted.

At the Abraham Hasbrouck House, the ghost of a man dressed in colonial garb with an axe has been sighted going through the yard, according to locals. He wanders around the outside of the house with his dog, the pair leaving nary a foot or paw print in their wake.

The man then enters the house by going through the door and quickly reappears in a window, holding his axe above what is believed to be a sleeping and apparently unsuspecting occupant.

The house door features witches' marks, customarily etched on the hardware to ward off evil spirits. Doesn't seem to be doing much good, though.

A word of warning - another source says the axman wears a black cape and tall silk hat with a black hound trailing him, and was spotted at the Freer House. So keep your eyes open at both spots. We're not sure if there are a lotta mad hatchet spooks running around New Paltz or exactly who's spooking who on Haunted Huguenot Street. Hey, it's more fun that way!

The spook of Elizabeth Hasbrouck is said to haunt the nearby Jean Hasbrouck House (The Huguenot Museum.) Yah, there were quite a few Hasbroucks back in the day. Still are, it seems.

Then there's the Deyo House, which is considered the most haunted house on Huguenot Street. The portrait of Gertrude Deyo, a young girl of about 20 who died of tuberculosis in the 1840s, used to hang on the second floor of the house with her parents’ portraits.

During a makeover of the house a few years ago, her parents’ portraits were moved to the first floor, leaving Gertrude's behind. Her portrait mysteriously fell on several occasions and was discovered on the other side of the hallway flipped over.

Her picture was brought downstairs to rejoin her parents' paintings, and has hung happily ever after, so we're told.

A couple of lady apparitions have been reported in the Locust Tree Inn. One is supposed to be the shadow of Dina DuBois Elting. And speaking of DuBois, the DuBois Fort - it still has gun ports, though it's said they were never used in anger - has a wraith or two.

One is the headless ghost of a woman in a brown dress. Maybe she's the one who had the run-in with the Abraham Hasbrouck House axman. She shares the grounds with the resident "ghost in a nightgown" spectre, who roams around the Fort at night.

Another DuBois - lotta them, too - bit of lore is the suicide of Annie Dubois in the 1931. Following the death of Hugo Freer, her dreamboat who died of appendicitis, Annie went AWOL. She was found at the bottom of a well that still stands on Huguenot Street, at the Bevier-Elting House.

Her ghost has been reported, wearing a white nightgown, with long, dark hair. She holds her hands close to her, looking out towards the driveway, and makes a sobbing noise.

The Old French Church, known now as the Crispell Memorial, burial grounds, and other homes all have a tale to tell, too.

A reader adds that "The New Paltz Cinema, a small movie theater that's about 100 years old, is also haunted by a little girl. Employees have heard her laughing and playing."

And as an extra treat, New Paltz is right across the lake from the Mohonk Mountain House, a 265-room castle that was used as a backdrop in Stephen King novels "Thinner" and "The Shining."

So if you're getting tired of the same old spooks, jump in the car and head towards Poughkeepsie and the Hudson Valley. You'll run into New Paltz and all the spirits you can handle.

The perp on tape.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hotel Bethlehem

hotel bethlehem
Hotel Bethlehem

Bethlehem's first house was built on this site in 1741, to be later replaced by the Eagle Hotel in 1823. In 1922, Charles Schwab, president of Bethlehem Steel, decided he wanted more modern digs to live in and the Hotel Bethlehem was born. It even had running water!

But it came with more than hot and cold water. Over the years, people have reported being tapped on the shoulder by the unseen, bodiless voices have called out employee's names, there are reported cold spots, and even sightings of unplugged vacuum cleaners gliding across the rugs (we wish we had one of those haunting our carpets!)

The Bethlehem was built over the site of the old Eagle Hotel, which was demolished to clear land. The bricks and mortar may be gone, but the Eagle's legacy lingers; the guests and staff seem to have found a permanent home in its replacement building.

The oldest spook is Mrs. Brong, the wife of an innkeeper dating back to the Eagle Hotel days. She's been spotted in the kitchen and the restaurant. They know it's her because she's barefoot, just as she liked to be in her flesh and blood days.

One famous spook that never checked out is that of actress and songbird of the 1890s, May Yohe. She grew up in the hotel that her grandfather once owned, and has been reported on the third floor gazing out a window, singing, playing the piano in the lobby, and in the exercise room reliving her childhood.

Francis "Daddy" Thomas, who lived in the hotel during colonial times, is another ghost that likes to play pranks on the staff in the boiler room. In fact, one engineer refuses to work in the area.But he's a friendly guy who used to be early Bethlehem's welcome wagon to visitors.

There's also a woman dressed in Victorian garb that appears in the kitchen and floats out to the dining room, only to disappear. Ghosts of children have been reported playing throughout the Hotel, and another has been seen on the mezzanine - maybe a young May Yohe?

Some guests have requested room transfers because of the spectral shenanigans in the building. In room 932, for example, a couple saw a spook standing by the bed in his boxer shorts and undershirt. Another time, guests saw a man at their bed, and he wanted to know what they were doing in his room. EVPs recorded the voice of a spirit named Mary. Paranormal phenomena is commonplace; we particularly like the wallpaper changing color. The hotel has decided to tap into this history, and offers a "Room With A Boo" package for this spooky suite.

One set of potential spirits they won't discuss is that of the five elderly guests who died in a fire there in 1989, caused by a faulty iron cord.

They haven't been heard from, so apparently they crossed over peacefully. But it doesn't look like they could convince the other hotel spooks to join them on their journey towards the light.