Saturday, January 30, 2010

Poe: Gone In Body, But Not In Spirit...

Edgar Allen Poe image from Wikipedia

-- Baltimore Streets: There have been sightings reported of a ghost of a man dressed in black that wanders the streets of the old section of Baltimore, thought to be Poe, still haunting the byways he roamed when he was alive.

-- Fort Monroe: Poe enlisted in the Army in 1827, under the name Edgar A. Perry, and was stationed at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia as an artilleryman. He ended his tour by finding a replacement to serve out the remaining time. Poe did receive an appointment to West Point; he was drummed out.

People claim to have seen his ghost writing away at a desk; he penned some minor poetry collections while on base.

-- Poe’s Grave: He's buried at the Old Western Burial Ground. Westminster Hall was built over the part of the cemetery, so some of the boneyard is now a catacomb

People have claimed to have seen Poe’s ghost by his grave and in the catacombs. There are cold spots, sounds of footsteps, disembodied whisperings and some visitors have felt the touch of unseen hands in the catacombs.

The biggest mystery is the Man In Black who left a tribute of cognac and roses for Poe on the evening of January 19th, the author's birthday. The ritual, which began in 1949 and been repeated without fail ever since, came to a halt this year. That may be a greater puzzle than the ghost.

-- The Old Stone House Edgar Allen Poe Museum: Located in Richmond, Virginia, the Poe showcase is spread over several buildings, each featuring displays from various stages of his life.

The most famous spook in the museum is "The Shadow," a dark and indistinguishable figure, which has been captured on photographs. Many people speculate that the manifestation is Poe, returning to a place that is familiar to him.

-- Washington College Hospital: The Baltimore hospital where he died in 1849, it's been said that Poe's ghost has been seen roaming its hallways.

-- Eutaw House: There are a myriad of eerie tales concerning the old Centre County, Pennsylvania, Inn. One is that Poe stopped by, fell in love with a local girl, and was spurned. A spook that physically resembles him has been spotted there, although the local lore seems to associate the apparition with a ghost family haunting its halls. Still, it is right by Poe Valley, and a desk has the initials EAP carved in it, so hey...

-- Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum: The house where Poe lived with his grandmother, Maria Poe, and cousin, Virginia Clemm (who he eventually married), is on North Amity Street in Baltimore.

People have reported mysterious cold spots, eerie lights flitting from floor to floor, doors and windows that open and shut by themselves, heard spectral voices, felt unseen hands touch them, and have seen the specter of a heavyset, gray haired woman dressed in nineteenth century clothing, thought to be grandma. Oddly, there have been no alleged sightings of Poe there.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Leigh Master - The Ghost Of Furnace Hill

Sam's view of the inside of an old iron furnace
(image from Rabbityama of Virtual Tourist)

Leigh Master was born in Stockport in Lancashire, England in 1717. After his wife, Katherine Hoskins, died, he left Albion and set up shop near Westminster, in Maryland's Carroll County in 1765. Master had told his buds that he was coming "to the new country to make his fortune," and boy, was he right.

He put together an iron business at Furnace Hill, and soon became a big-shot mine operator, foundry master, and property owner, with 6,000 acres of land holdings, running the eighteenth century equivalent of an integrated steel mill. At first, he had the locals do the backbreaking work, but quickly switched over to cheaper slave labor.

Master worked his slaves hard and was swift to punish those he considered slackers, delivering beatings to them in the basement of his mansion. Some of the unfortunates didn't survive his not-so-tender ministrations, and their bodies were said to be buried in the cellar.

He became a rich dude - his furnaces produced quite high quality iron - but to the locals, Master was not a man they respected, but feared. He was also a bit eccentric (some say bonkers); it was claimed that he would ride in the woods around Furnace Hill at night wrapped in a white sheet and yelling gibberish, scaring the bejabbers out of the poor souls who ran across him during his evening jaunts.

In 1786, he ran for the Maryland legislature. But it's hard to convince people who are afraid of you to cast their vote in your favor; he was thumped and never ran for office again. The fact that he was a suspected Loyalist during the Revolution didn't earn him many points, either. Master was tried for high treason in 1781, but apparently beat the rap.

He died at the age of 80 in 1796. And then the spook stories began, spread through the region by generations of word-of-mouth folk tales.

Legend has it that he fell for his Black servant girl, but another slave, Sam, owned her heart. The lore continues that the outraged Master had Sam killed and thrown into the fiery iron furnace to cover the dastardly deed (other versions say he had Sam bound and tossed into the flames alive), and then bricked up the woman in a fireplace while she was still alive. His Green-Eyed Monster was a particularly horrific beast.

During 1930 renovations of his old home, called Avondale, a downstairs furnace was opened and a skeleton was discovered. Some unverified reports even say that a baby's bones were found, supposedly of Master's child, which would put another truly ugly twist on the tale. While it didn't absolutely prove the crime, try telling that to the locals.

There are stories of the house being haunted by both Master and the slaves he dispatched in the basement. The manse became an inn, the Avonlea Bed and Breakfast, but the spirits apparently remained. One of our readers wrote in to say that the legends are more than just old tales:

"I have personally witnessed haunting in the home, as well as heard the chilling accounts of haunting by the family. The daughter (of the B&B owners) would see Leigh Master before she would go to bed, her mother saw a young girl playing upstairs, and everyone who lived or stayed there has witnessed unexplainable noises. Lights would go off in the main house in rooms in which no electricity is ran. All the tools that were hung on the walls of the barn would be removed and laying all over the grounds. Another fun fact for Master's home, is that later, well after his death, a train derailed and the car went into a pond on the property. The people that were in the RR car were trapped and died. So Avonlea is haunted not only by Leigh Master himself, but his murdered slaves and possibly by those that drowned in the RR accident."

And the manse isn't the spookiest spot. Master is better known for haunting the woodlands around Furnace Hill. The are tales of his spirit walking through the arbor towards his old mansion, but the best stories concern Master a'gallop through the trees.

Shortly after his death, neighbors reported seeing Master riding on a fire-snorting gray steed, seeking penance and crying for mercy while accompanied by the sound of rattling chains.

Sometimes, he was spotted on his stallion alone, and at other times pursued by three glowing imp-like figures carrying lanterns. Either way, the woods quickly gained a ghostly reputation and by nightfall became empty of people (living ones, anyway), who had no intention of meeting up with "The Ghost of Furnace Hill."

Hey, even his final rest was eerie. When Master died, he was buried on his property. It was said that Mother Earth herself didn't want him, and his body rose to the surface three times over the intervening decades.

His remains were transferred to consecrated ground at the Church of the Ascension Burial Grounds in 1876, and placed in a stone box under a tree. But he still doesn't rest easily; the top slab cracked, as if the earth was still trying to reject him, and legend has it that when it was replaced, it cracked again.

After his death, Master's heirs sold the property; his home and the ruins of his furnace are all that remain...oh, and a spook or two, just to remind us of the bad ol' days of yore.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Woods House

Andrew Woods House
Andrew Woods House

The Woods house at 271 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg was built in the early-to-late 1830s, and was the home and workshop of carriage builder/repairman Andrew Woods.

In 1997, Mark Nesbitt's Ghosts of Gettysburg Tour gang bought it to use as its HQ. So it must have some spooks, right?

Yep, it does, though oddly there are no overt Civil War manifestations, other than a voice or two in the attic and some residual energy in the cellar. It's thought that it served, as did most of the town's buildings, as a field hospital and snipers nest. There are the customary orbs, shapeless blobs, and doors that open or shut for no good reason.

Namesake Andrew Woods is still around, and is said to have helped workmen who were renovating the building by opening doors for them when their hands were full. (Must be part of the union contract.)

Psychic Karyol Kirkpatrick found some other former residents' spirits in the house, too. Research seems to point to James Dobbins as one of the spooks. The son of a preacher, he still talks a good religious game from the afterlife and likes to slam doors.

Another pair are thought to be Mary Kitzmiller and her son William, who died at an early age in the house. It's said that Mary calls out for her surviving son, Charles, and that young William can be heard shooting marbles upstairs.

There's a woman spook in dark clothing who seems loco, but was actually as crazy as a fox. She had a mission as a secret courier, and acted loony so that no one paid her any mind, allowing her to pull off her double-agent act.

The wraiths of two little girls, Emily and her friend, play tag in the attic, and you can hear their voices. There's enough going on that the staff has taken to calling it the "Ghost House." The Ghost gang has closed off the upper floors, but claim there's enough active spookiness on the ground level to keep the customers happy.

Mark Nesbitt gave away the building's secrets in his book Ghosts of Gettysburg IV, and the Woods house is a stop on a couple of the local Gettysburg ghost tours.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The R&R Station

The R&R Station

Westmoreland County's The R&R Station is a popular restaurant, bar, and B&B located on West Main Street in downtown Mt. Pleasant. It was built in 1883, when the town was a layover for passengers of the B&O and Pennsy RR lines. It still is the preferred residence for some permanent guests - at last count, it hosted 15 different ghosts.

The first floor boasts of the spirits of a little boy, a little girl, and a milkman. The second floor lays claim to a Victorian lady, two former owners, one of whom is supposed to be John Polonosky, who owned the building a century ago when it was the East End Hotel, the Groper, and the Top Hat Man (Robert) and Sarah.

On the third floor, we have the Mob Boss, the Snitch, the Insane Daughter, and two children playing in the hallway. It's also where infamous Room 15 is, the alleged portal that various spirits use to travel between planes. In addition, there have been sightings reported from the lower level of the R&R, where the bar is located.

The ghostly group collectively has kicked, pinched, and torn the sheets from unsuspecting customers. People in the building have heard bouncing balls upstairs, footsteps when the building was empty, seen objects disappear just to reappear later, and flying pots and pans.

The owners thought they were losing their minds amidst all this eerie activity, and contacted the Paranormal Researchers Organization, which assured them their sanity was fine. PRO captured orb photographs and recorded voices, and said they couldn't explain the things going on at the R & R rationally.

The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society took a look, too. They snapped some photos that they claim are of Polonsky.

Now that they know that their establishment is haunted, the relieved owners have sent tapes to movie producers resulting in a docudrama/DVD "The Haunted R&R Station," sponsored nights with psychics and PRO, gotten reams of newspaper coverage, and offer dinner followed by a ghost tour. In fact, their web site contains a lengthy list of links to its spooked-out history.

Who said a six pack or three of spooks is bad for business?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Philadelphia Experiment


Hey, we thought we'd start the New Year off by dusting off an old chestnut, the Philadelphia Experiment.

We've all seen the movie. The tale was based on alleged happenings in 1943, when the Navy did some electronic and Einsteinian unified force field tinkering with the USS Eldridge and ended up teleporting it (or sailing invisibly) to Norfolk and frying the crew upon arrival.

The vessel, as the plot-line goes, had all kinds of interesting and history-altering stops during its famous lost day of time-traveling. So what really happened?

Well, first the USS Eldridge wasn't involved; it was in the Carribean at the time on its shake-down cruise, according to log entries. But an experiment called Operation Rainbow was tried on the USS Engstrom, which was in dock then.

The Royal Navy came up with a degaussing system, like you use on your PC, that made ships undetectable to magnetic torpedoes and mines. The Americans were trying to achieve the same effect, and that was the grand experiment underway.

And the technique does work against magnetically controlled devices, based on readily available science, not Star Trek technology. It's still used today, though it doesn't deflect light or sound. The procedure doesn't affect the crew at all, and it definitely doesn't make the ship invisible or send it from Point A to Point B in the flash of an eye, as much as the Pentagon wished it would.

So how did they show up in Norfolk so soon, with that eerie lost day? Easy - they sailed the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. It took less than a day to cover the 200 miles or so of water. The route was hush-hush then to prevent the Germans from targeting it, and it was only open to naval vessels during the war.

Interestingly, three great science fiction authors - Isaac Azimov, Robert Heinlein, & L. Sprague deCamp - were supposed to be working at the shipyard at the time of the Philadelphia Experiment. It sure sounds like one of their tales.

At any rate, this is one story that seems to have nothing to do with multiverses and the gray zone between science and spookiness. Physics is stranger than fiction.

(Wikipedia has a comprehensive account of the whole Philadelphia Experiment affair. But hey, here's the alternate history as provided by the 1984 movie.)