Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Avondale Mine Disaster...and Abigail

The Avondale Mine Rescue from Explore PA credit: Harper's Weekly

On September 6, 1869, the Avondale mines, located in Plymouth Township of Luzerne county, erupted in a huge bloom of flames. Not a miner in the shaft that day escaped alive; even two rescuers died from the noxious gas produced by the inferno.

The Avondale Mine Disaster claimed 108 lives, and spurred the State to enact early mine safety laws in 1870. Better late than never, hey?

Stories of gurgling, moaning sounds and lights attributed to the spirits trying to find their way out of the mine persist to this day. One writer told us that there's always a cold, sucking draft from the covered mine entrance, now just a crack between rocks. The Northeast PA Paranormal gang undertook an investigation of the charred remains of the pit over a century later, and not too surprisingly, they came up with some spooks.

Oddly enough, they didn't find the restless spirits of trapped miners, but a dysfunctional family of three that couldn't cross over to the other side.

Using psychics to get the tale, NEPA found that in the late 19th century, a girl named Abigail got in a family way. She left home to have her child and spare her folks the stigma of having a daughter that was pregnant out of wedlock, a strong taboo of the era. Abigail had a daughter, Rosalyn, and took up with a man named Henry.

Henry was a cruel and domineering dude, and finally Abigail couldn't take any more of his abuse. She poisoned him at a picnic near the mine. But her choice of murder weapons was a bit ill-advised; the toxin didn't act quickly enough to drop Henry on the spot. He realized what had happened, and his final act on earth was to murder Abigail and Rosie.

The ghost hunters did some homework in the archives, and found the eerie tale to be entirely plausible. NEPA returned and found their forlorn spirits still roaming the Avondale site, and discovered that Henry, still the bully, told the girls' souls they couldn't cross over - they'd both go straight to hell if they did, one for bearing a love child, and the other, well, for being the love child.

Armed with the paranormal facts, the NEPA team tried to talk the lost women to the light, competing with blood red skies and a cursing Henry. Finally, a thunderstorm struck the area, and in its' aftermath, everything was calm. Mission accomplished! It's an interesting tale complete with EVPs, posted in three parts by NEPA.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Inn At Jim Thorpe

inn at jim thorpe
Inn at Jim Thorpe from Travel Hero

The Inn at Jim Thorpe in Carbon County is a New Orleans style hotel that dates back to 1849, when the ritzy New American Hotel was erected on the ashes of the burned out White Swan Hotel, built in 1833. It became the Inn in 1988.

And like most old hotels, some of its' guest checked in but never bothered to check out. There are various paranormal activities associated with many of the rooms, from shadow figures to upturned chairs, objects on the move, cold spots, and being able to catch a whiff of smoke, a remnant of the White Swan days.

It's thought that 310 is haunted by a nurse that's still tending to her patient and gets annoyed when people get into the same bed where presumably her spectral patient lies. Her icy grip has been felt by guests by the bed and her white figure seen there. Another spook was spotted there, too, a tall man with slicked back hair.

Room 211 has a problem with the TV going on and off by itself. Men are especially targeted - items disappear then reappear in different spots. One man left his boots by the door, and awoke to find them in the hallway outside. Towels are found shoved in the toilet. Cigar and cigarette smoke is smelled when no one is around, and the noises of laughing children are heard when there are no children around.

Room 315 has chairs that are turned upside down. Down the hall at Room 303, there are unexplainable shadows and orbs. In Room 203, a guest claimed that a ghost put his cell phone in the refrigerator.

A faceless lady in Victorian attire has disappeared into closed doors. Guests have supposedly seen many spirit shadows in the downstairs foyer and lobby, and have orb and mist photographs to bolster their claims. The Innkeeper has even set up a little disclaimer about spooks in the house.

Not too surprisingly, spook seekers from coast-to-coast visit the Inn. It host ghost hunter weekends for the curious. Paranormal societies can't get enough of the Inn. Hey, the help will gladly put you up in a haunted room if you request one.

One of our readers stopped in, and reports "Both myself and my parents stayed at the Inn and experienced shadow figures and knocking within the room at different locations. Neat place. NEPA ghost hunters got some great EVP evidence."

So if you want to visit the Jim Thorpe jail and see if you can spot the Molly Maguire handprint, this is the perfect place to spend the night. You'll get two haunts with one stone.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spooks of the Curve

horseshoe curve
Horseshoe Curve by Grif Teller from PennsyRR

Hey, everyone knows that the Blair County tracks that make up the famous Horseshoe Curve is one of the best-known spots in Pennsylvania.

Cosidered one of the marvels of 19th century engineering, the Horseshoe Curve was designed by Edgar Thompson and built by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Later, it was used by the Penn Central and Conrail.

It's now owned by Norfolk Southern Railway, and used by Amtrak's renown flyer, the Pennsylvanian. It's located in the Kittanning Gap at the summit of the Allegheny Mountains, 5 miles west of Altoona.

The Curve has been in nearly continuous use since 1854. It was heavily guarded by Union forces during the Civil War, and it was still considered so strategic to the nation's RR system that the Nazis tried to sabotage it in Operation Pastorius during World War II.

The Curve is a National Historic Landmark, and Altoona's minor league baseball team, the Curve, is named after it.

It was built by the brawn of Irish laborers from Counties Cork, Mayo and Antrim who lived in camps along the way. They worked with picks and shovels to cut away the front of a mountain and chisel out a ledge on which they could lay the tracks.

And one of the Eire workcrew is the basis for the Curve's spook story.

A lovely colleen and her laborer beau were hoping to get their start in the Promised Land by the earnings, slim as they may have been, brought in by digging out the railbed for the Horseshoe Curve. She waited faithfully for him every night after work - and still does.

On the Altoona side of the tunnel, it's said that sometimes at midnight you can spy the beautiful young Irish girl's ghost, dressed in white and standing sadly by a stone wall. She's awaiting her man, but he'll never return. He lost his life in a barroom brawl after a hard day's toil building the Curve.

Look for a nearby stand of spruce, and if she's out, that's where she'll be.

But the most famous tale is a few miles below the Curve, at Sugar Run's Bennington Curve.

On February 18, 1947, the Pennsylvania RR's Red Arrow train jumped the tracks on a steep downhill run around Bennington Curve. Eleven of fourteen cars derailed; several tumbled down an 100' embankment. 24 people died in that wreck and another 131 were injured.

It's said that if you park by the Gallitzen tunnel at night (about a mile from the wreck), flash your headlights three times and then shut off the engine, you'll hear voices talking and laughing, coming nearer to you, and then you'll see the shadows of the dead approach. Apparently they've bonded since their sudden deaths.

The Red Arrow crashed into another train in 1951, too. That wreck killed eight and hurt 63, and was said to be caused by an engineer that was blind in one eye and missed a signal, but none of those souls has decided to hang around.

The Curve and its' ghostly crowd is written up in Haunted Pennsylvania by Patty Wilson & Mark Nesbitt.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Uptown Leprechaun


Hey, all spooks aren't scary ghouls trying to suck the life out of us poor mortals. Indeed, some are quite the opposite, watching over us while we inhabit the material plane. This is a piece of Pittsburgh lore told to H&H by Anabell K., a niece of the little lass in the tale.

During the late 1920's, there was an Irish family that lived on Watson Street in the City's Uptown section, just up the road from Mercy Hospital and Duquesne University. They had five girls and a boy jammed into a small house, and three of the sisters shared a bed in one of the rooms, common enough sleeping arrangements for the era.

While cleaning the bedroom one day, one of the girls moved the bed from its' usual place. Whenever she tried to push it back to its original spot, a little man dressed in green appeared from nowhere and would push it away again. The tug-of-war with the trundle went on for awhile, until the lass at last gave in and left the bed where the little man had put it.

The girl's father came up to check on the job and asked the girl why her bed was moved. She told him that the little man put it there and that's where she was going to leave it. The dad shrugged and let it be; you don't win many arguments with a colleen.

That night, while the three girls were sleeping, the heavy plaster and lathe ceiling collapsed in a heap – right where the bed used to be. Did a protective spirit from Eire watch over the girls, or was it just the luck of the Irish?

We think it was a wee bit of both.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spooks of State

white house ghosts
Haunted America Tours

Hey, the White House has been burned down, gutted for remodeling, been the scene of death, and is home to some very famous and powerful people and their often-times dysfunctional families. In other words, it's a perfect spot for spook sightings.

The most famous ghost, and the one most often seen, is Honest Abe, who departed this vale tragically and with work left undone. It seems like all the overnight visitors want to stay in the Lincoln bedroom. A few were sorry they made that choice.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was staying in the Lincoln Room on the second floor when she heard a late night knock on the door. She opened it, saw Abe's ghost, stove-pipe hat and all - and promptly fainted.

Winston Churchill just stepped out of the tub and was heading naked towards bed with his famous cigar between his teeth when Abe showed up. They looked at one another, and Lincoln disappeared. It's hard to tell who shocked whom the most that night.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Grace Coolidge (Mrs. Cal), Jackie Kennedy, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lady Byrd Johnson, Maureen Reagan, Carl Sandburg, and numerous staffers all either saw Lincoln or sensed his presence. And he's not a stay-at-home spook. He's been spotted all over the White House, and even around his Springfield, Illinois, grave site.

A bodyguard to Benjamin Harrison had to pull night duty trying to protect the president from mysterious footsteps he heard in the hall. Harrison was convinced they belonged to Lincoln pacing the hallway.

Little Willie, Abe's son who died while living in the White House, was often seen by Mary Todd Lincoln, his mom, and others through the U.S. Grant administration. It was thought that he crossed over to join his parents then, although LBJ's daughter Lynda was alleged to have felt his presence one night in the 1960's. Soooo...

Mrs. Lincoln started another tale when she said she heard Old Hickory, Andrew Jackson, hollering and swearing up a storm in his former office, the Rose Bedroom (often called the Queen's Suite). Others have heard laughter coming from the room. He's still supposed to haunt the old canopy bed, although he manifests himself more as a cold spot than as an actual apparition, which is no doubt a relief to the White House maid.

An original occupant frequents the East Room. Abigail Adams was the inaugural First Lady to move in to the White House, which wasn't quite up to snuff at the time. The only room in the White House that wasn't dank and humid then was the East Room, and that's where Abigail would hang the presidential laundry.

Maybe someone should have told her when her hubby John's term was over; she's still spotted in the room occasionally, carrying an armful of damp clothes to dry. You'd think a helpful psychic would at least point her in the direction of a DC laundromat.

The best tale, though, may be the sighting of Dolley Madison. She loved gardening, and planted the famous White House Rose Garden. Ellen Wilson (others swear it was Woodrow's second wife, Edith), wasn't a fan, and decided to take out the roses for her own arrangement. As the laborers approached with their shovels, ready to dig out the thorny beauties, Dolley's misty image appeared to the work gang.

Actually, she did more than show up; she scolded the workers and warned them not to harm a stem in her garden. They dropped their tools and fled at Olympic speed from the wraith's wrath. Needless to say, the Rose Garden remains in place to this day, and Dolley is sometimes seen there, just enjoying her roses.

Hey, you don't even have to be a Yankee to join the spooky scene. The ghost of Anne Surratt has been seen beating on the doors of the White House every July 7th, the date her mother, Mary Surratt, was hung for her part in the Lincoln assassination in 1865.

And there's a story of a British soldier who died on the grounds in 1814 when the White House was burned during the War of 1812. People see his spirit wandering the front lawn, torch in hand, hoping to finish off the Brit arson job on the White House. The redcoat has also been seen on the second floor, where it's alleged he once tried to set a bed on fire with his torch.

Heck, you don't even have to be a person. The White House basement is supposed to be home to the Demon Cat, who only shows in times of national disaster, like the Stock Market Crash of 1920 or JFK's assassination. The Demon starts out as a black kitten, but as you approach it, the cat becomes larger and more menacing, growing absolutely Puma-esque. Let's hope no one spots that kitty for a long while.

The White House has had many seances held there, dating from the time of Mary Todd Lincoln. Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton have been quoted on odd happenings in the White House, and both are alleged to have held seances while living there.

Laura Bush and Michelle Obama have seemed to resist the urge to dabble with the supernatural, though the current First Lady still has lots of time to break out the ouija board.

Even a no-nonsense, show-me Missourian like Harry S. Truman was a believer. It's said that he wrote to his wife Bess: "I sit here in this old house, all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway. At 4 o'clock I was awakened by three distinct knocks on my bedroom door. No one there. Damned place is haunted, sure as shootin'!"

We'll take his word for it.