Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wright-Patterson's Spirits In The Sky

The Arnold House

Hey, military dudes are usually pretty solid citizens. Their training precludes them from flights of fancy, lest they let loose the dogs of war on the wrong target.

But Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, Ohio, claims to be home to a handful of wraiths, reported and confirmed by base personnel.

Spook Central is the old base hospital and pediatric clinic, known as Building 219. The three brick story structure, now offices, has a famous boy spirit, a blond lad that looks like he's maybe 10 years old. He's both been seen and heard playing in the premises, sometimes creating quite a disturbance in his youthful exuberance.

Other Building 219 spook stories go back to the 1990's, when the shadows of some older gents were spotted roaming the halls.

The staff even nicknamed one of the mists Harvey, after a doctor that committed suicide in the building. He was said to visit his old haunt every day. The tale was covered in a 1996 piece carried by the Wright-Patterson AFB's Skywrighter magazine.

The sightings are usually made on the third floor, which was once home to the OR, or in the cellar, which had been used as a morgue.

The workers say that you can see through the spirits, but they're solid enough that you can determine their sex and age. Man, those military reports are thorough!

Yet others claim to have seen the spook of an elderly woman in Building 70, a warehouse and shipping facility. She's described as average build and weight, wearing a white shirt with a ruffle at the neck, and a blue polyester dress. She was said to look like a three-D hologram by one of the folk that saw her.

Also reported were the sounds of crates being dragged across the floor and metal objects falling off of shelves. There have been stories told of voices calling out employees' names, along with footsteps, shadow figures, and soft glowing lights.

And then there's the Arnold House (Building 8, if you're keeping score), the oldest structure on the base. It's the former home of General Henry "Hap" Arnold, built in 1841 as a farm family's homestead. Rumors abound of strange voices and footsteps heard from within when it's deserted, along with the sound of children giggling.

Some claim that the ghost of the former General has been seen in his old digs. Investigators say there may be five spooks haunting Hap's house.

Let's not forget that there have also been stories of alien corpses being kept on base along with their trashed saucers in the infamous Hangar 18, but we'll leave that tale for the UFO bloggers.

The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) checked out the reports of unexplained phenomena at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the Sci Fi Channel show Ghost Hunters, and called it one of their most successful investigations ever. The program aired last year, and had some great paranormal action in it.

And if you're wondering why the prim and proper Air Force would let a gang of spook hunters on base, the reasoning was simple. The show has an audience of 3 million people between the ages of 18 and 34, “which is the Air Force’s target recruiting audience,” according to a spokesman. At least that's one mystery solved.

After all, who better to recruit for the fly boys than a spirit in the sky?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Duffy's Cut - Near Closure?

Duffy's Cut

Hey, you may remember that we ran a couple of articles on Duffy's Cut, where the ghosties of Irish railroad laborers were spooking the living in search of a proper burial.

Well, after years of often frustrating work, Doctors Bill and Frank Watson of Immaculata University may have finally found their bones, buried in an eastern PA hillside. Here's the discovery, as reported by the BBC.

The Duffy's Cut Project has been archived by the gang, and here's the tale to date, as told on their web site.

St. Patrick would be proud of the work the good docs and their team have done. They hope eventually to ID some of the remains, send them back to the Old Sod for burial, and put their souls to rest at long last.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Frenchie the Friendly Ghost

Club Charles website

The Club Charles (Club Chuck to its regulars) has been a North Charles Street magnet for the Baltimore night crowd since 1941. It features bordello–red lighting, art deco wall murals of hell (supposedly painted by WPA artists during the depression), a Rock-Ola juke box, waitresses flying overhead on trapezes...and a house spook named Frenchie.

Edouard André "Frenchie" Neyt was born near Paris in 1925. It's reputed that during the Nazi occupation of his homeland, he served as a spy, ratting out the Nazis to the resistance. After the war, he crossed the pond to Baltimore and began a life-long career as a waiter.

For years, he roomed in an apartment above the current Club Charles, known as the Wigwam (advertising "Grub and Fire Water") when Neyt lived there. When he wasn't charming women, he was playing jokes on people.

Frenchie died in his room in 1979, reportedly from acute alcoholism. Though gone and buried, many believe the spirit of the fun-loving, diminutive (5'3") Frenchman lives on at the Club Charles.

Club owner Joy Martin says she sees Frenchie so often, always dressed in his black-and-white waiter's outfit, that she's ready to put him on the payroll.

He rearranges bottles at the bar. Frenchie likes to juggle glasses, too, right in front of the customers, who watch them float through air and eventually settle on the floor, unbroken. He'll pour himself a drink from the bar's beer taps. Frenchie has even called the staff on a pay phone that doesn't take incoming calls.

A tale related by the Baltimore City Paper: For years, a group of cops and cab drivers met to deal some cards. When Frenchie came back from work, he'd head straight for the table and playfully harass the poker posse, rubbing their hair or trying to sit in their laps.

The games continued after Frenchie died, but he enjoyed them too much to miss because of a little inconvenience like death. Now, late at night, about the time when Frenchie would usually returned to the club, some of the players reported feeling their hair being ruffled. One cop, trying to concentrate on the cards instead of Frenchie's little games, pulled out his pistol and fired a shot in the air.

"Damn it, Frenchie!" he yelled. "Leave us alone!"

The little guy doesn't just put on incorporate shows; he's been spotted by the staff, too. Bartenders report seeing a small, older gentleman in black trousers and white shirt, Frenchie to a tee, standing at the top of the stairs leading to the upper bar. He disappears after a while, probably on his way to make more mischief.

If you want to catch up a little more on Frenchie's antics, they're related in Ed Okonowicz's book, Baltimore Ghosts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Zodiac

Hey, North Charles Street has a couple of joints that jump - and not just because of the current customers. The Club Charles and Zodiac Restaurant are side by side establishments, owned by Joy Martin, and both boast of spooks mingling with their night-time crowd.

The Club has Frenchie, an old waiter who we'll get to next week, and the recently shuttered Zodiac doesn't claim a serial killer, but possibly a murder victim, former owner Emil McKim.

Employees of the Zodiac report seeing a dapper gent dressed in a Roarin' Twenties white seersucker or linen suit sitting at Table 3 (others say Table 13, a more appropriate choice, we think.)

Sometimes the man is accompanied by a small white dog, and is often spotted with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Waiters have even tried to give him a menu, only to have him vanish.

And he is most assuredly not a friendly spirit. The staff claims that they often feel like they're being watched, and sometimes find themselves inexplicably filled with a sense of dread. Workers add that they've been pushed down the cellar stairs by an invisible entity; owner Joy Martin suffered a broken wrist when she got the McKim shove.

His face will sometimes pop up in the mens' room mirror, sending customers scurrying back to their table with wet hands, uncombed hair, and a burning desire to find another eatery. People also claim to have heard a mysterious voice at the restaurant telling them to "Get out!"

When the Ghost Hunters of Baltimore visited the Zodiac, one of them said an unseen hand tried to push her across the room and out the door. The Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association has an album filled with snaps of the Zodiac wraith.

Much of the eerieness centers on a flight of rickety steps that leads to a jumbled third-floor storage room; many workers are afraid to go up there. And given his antics on the basement stairs, who can blame them?

Who is Emil McKim and why doesn't he rest in peace? An elderly local resident said that during Prohibition, the restaurant was a speakeasy run by McKim. He hung himself in the basement (or third floor apartment; no one's quite sure) after his wife left him.

But just maybe he didn't kill himself. Other rumors speculate (among other possibilities; after all, it was a speakeasy during the gangster era) that his wife was fooling around and she and her lover boy decided three was a crowd, so they staged McKim's suicide. And he's now hanging around, trying to get the true tale told.

At any rate, the restaurant is closed now, and we understand it's currently being used as a performance space. And who better to kick off the festivities than Emil McKim? Whether a suicide or murder victim, his sad spirit is sure to be a show-stopper.

(Next - we're hanging out in Baltimore one more week. We'll visit the next-door Club Charles for a drink and meet-up with Frenchie.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower from Weird New Jersey Magazine

Alpine Borough in Bergen County is one of the least likely spook spots in New Jersey. It's tied with Miami Beach for the number one spot on Forbes Magazine's "Most Expensive ZIP Codes 2007" list, with a median home sale price of $3.4 million. Alpine was known for years as the "Hamptons of New Jersey," and has a well deserved reputation for ritz.

And Rio Vista, the home of Devil's Tower, is considered one of its upscale communities, located in the southern section of the neighborhood, overlooking the Hudson River, and including the Alpine Lookout. But ghosts don't adhere to the trickle-down theory.

Rio Vista started as the estate of Cuban sugar baron Manuel Rionda. It was the biggest property in the Palisades, with a mansion above the cliffs where the Alpine Outlook now sits.

In 1910, he began work on a tower that would allow his wife Harriet to see New York City from Rio Vista. Legend has it that Harriet was climbing the Tower to check out its progress, but instead of seeing the Big Apple, she spied Manny with another woman.

She took the steps to the top of the edifice and then leaped to her death, heartbroken over being a spurned woman.

It's said that after her death eerie things became everyday occurrences at the Tower. Manny stopped work on the Tower - after all, there wasn't any more Harriet to impress - and closed the underground tunnel that led to it, fearing that his wife had returned from the dead for revenge. But the locals claim the spookiness continues.

Passer-bys have reported that it feels like someone has taken control of their car while near the Tower, resulting in many accidents around the vicinity of the tower and even a death.

Yet another account states that the Tower was used as a temple for devil worship early in the 1900's. Supposedly after many unspecified horrific events plagued the town, the locals murdered and burned the satanists in their Gothic stone digs. But they were a tad late - the Beelzebub posse had already managed to conjure up a few spooks to haunt the Tower.

It became a popular destination for partying teens in the ’70s and kids who had been inside reported encountering gusts of icy wind on calm nights, and claimed that you can see shadows in the windows of the tower.

It's most enduring urban legend is that if you drive around the Tower three times backwards (or maybe six, depends on who's telling the tale), stop and turn off your headlights, the ghost of Harriet (or her misty form) is supposed to appear. If you walk around it backwards the same number of times, Old Scratch himself is supposed to appear. Toss a coin...

A place of that repute isn't very well tolerated in the posh 'burbs, but it's alleged that all attempts to raze the Tower have resulted in the inexplicable deaths of several of the workmen. So it still stands, even though it's now sealed up as tight as Fort Knox to keep out the hoi-polloi, party boys, and graffiti artists.

Sadly, the truth is a bit more prosaic. In reality, Harriet Rionda died of natural causes in 1922, surviving her alleged suicide by twelve years, and was interred in a nearby mausoleum (it's still there, in the Tower's shadow, along with a chapel) until 1943, when Manny died and their remains were interred at Brookside Cemetery, in Englewood.

And the Tower was finished - in fact, Rionda, it was said, delighted in taking guests up to the top of his Clock Tower (its real function) for the stunning view across the Hudson.

The estate gradually reverted to woodlands, was taken over by the state for back taxes, and later sub-divided into 197 lots, becoming the current high-end Rio Vista community during the eighties.

But hey, pick the reality you choose. There are enough spooky encounters at this site not only to rate a visit - how often do you get a chance for a face-to-face with Satan? - but to also merit a mention in the book Weird U.S., by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, the People's Bible of the offbeat.