Friday, April 30, 2010

Legend of the White Lady

White Lady's Castle - photo from Virtual Tourist by rdywenur (Chris)

At the turn of the century, Dr. Henry S. Durand owned a summer camp in Irondequoit, near Rochester, in New York's Monroe County. He and his friend George Eastman saw a need for a public park in the area and bought a number of farms around the Durand property.

They transferred the property parcel between the Genesee River and Irondequoit Bay to the people, and on May, 22, 1909, Durand Eastman Park was formally dedicated.

The park is a jewel, sporting a Lake Ontario shoreline, a Robert Trent Jones golf course, great trails, beaches, and about everything an urban boy could want to return to his outdoorsy roots - including a legendary "Lady In White."

The White Lady is well-known in local lore. The details of the legend are fuzzy and debated, but the main story is crystal clear - a man kills a girl, the mom searches unsuccessfully for her body, and finally dies, filled with pain. Then she returns from the grave to continue an eternal search, making sure to give any men she runs across a hard time on her daughter's behalf.

The story begins in the early-to-mid 1800s, when the White Lady and her daughter were said to have lived where the Durand Eastman Park now stands.

The mother was abused by her husband and he eventually split the scene, leaving her to raise her daughter alone. It also gave her quite the attitude regarding men, which carried over in her relationship with her girl (and into the afterlife).

At this point, the tale diverges a bit. One version said the teen daughter had a boyfriend that the mom disapproved of, and another claims that a neighboring farmer had been making lustful eyes at her.

The girl left the house one evening to take a walk on the beach with maybe her beau, or maybe alone. Either way, she never returned, perhaps killed by her lover boy after a spat (don't you hate it when your mother's right?) or raped and murdered by the jilted local.

The distraught mom reported her missing child to the local gendarmes, who did next to nothing about her claim (although her report is supposedly still on file; talk about your cold cases!). The White Lady took to searching the shoreline herself day after day, accompanied by her two albino German Shepherds, but they had no luck in discovering the girl's body.

Finally, overwhelmed by her grief, the mother threw herself off a cliff into Lake Ontario (or perhaps off a bridge into Durand Lake; other versions say she lived to be an old lady and died a natural death). Her dogs pined away for their mistress and shortly joined her in the netherlands.

A sad story indeed. And it's just beginning.

Legend relates that the White Lady and her two dogs rise from the foggy mists of the lake (Ontario, Durand, a pond, take your pick) at night and together they roam through Durand Eastman park, still searching for her missing daughter or any other woman in trouble.

Some isolate the Lady in White's haunting to a crumbled foundation on Lakeshore Boulevard, with a great view and reached by twenty stone steps leading from the road. The ruins are known as the "White Lady's Castle." They do in fact look like a castle's remains, made of stone with round turrets.

It's said to be the remnants of the White Lady's house or an old hotel, although local historians say that the stonework is what's left of an old Conservatory built over the bones of a former battery guarding Lake Ontario from the Canadians and their Brit buds.

The spirit is said to hateful toward males (little wonder) and pounces on men relentlessly, seeking her vengeance against the guys visiting the park for her daughter, especially when they're with a girl. Mother's instinct, hey?

She actively seeks out guys, supposedly searching vehicles for necking couples. The White Lady picked a good spot for her mission, too - her castle is party central for teens and a popular lover's lane. Many young couples have allegedly been scared witless during their smooch sessions after seeing a white apparition with two spectral dogs drift towards their car. And it doesn't pay to be brave.

There have been many reports of the White Lady chasing men into the lake, shaking their cars, scratching their faces, sending her dogs (oddly, most reports say they're Doberman's) after them, and generally raising havoc until they leave the park. She has reportedly never touched any females, although they've seen her and her dogs. They say she seems very peaceful, yet extremely sad. (The guys may argue the peaceful part).

It's also been claimed that the daughter's muffled cries and sobs can be heard near the Castle. But it's not the only place the White Lady and her pooches visit. The Lady in White has been spotted all over park, even on the golf course. Her misty form has even been allegedly photographed a couple of times.

Many consider her not to be a spiteful spook, but a guardian spirit (well, the girls, anyway).

It is said that if a gal suspects that her guy has been fooling around, one acid test of fidelity is to take him to the park. If he has been untrue, the White Lady will come a callin'. He'll be the only one able to see her, and she'll use her supernatural wiles to compel him to tell all about his cheatin' heart. Hey, who needs a big scene or Sodium Pentothal when the Lady in White is waiting in the wings?

There's an almost entirely different spin thrown on the tale by "Rochester - Off the Beaten Path" on the Virtual Tourist site. It goes like this:
In an age when the mentally ill were hidden away, she, the insane wife of the influential Dr. Durand, was cloistered in their vacation home on the lake. Abandoned and embarrassed by a philandering husband, she torched the house. The charred bodies of her nurse and orderly were found in the rubble (now known as The White Lady Castle) but Mrs. Durand had disappeared. Lady Durand roams the park, hunting unwitting young men who, she believes, take advantage of the young women who accompany them.

While there are multiple versions of the White lady legend, how many ghosts can claim to be the inspiration for a movie? Writer/director Frank LaLoggia is said to have created his 1988 supernatural thriller "The Lady in White' based on her lore.

Her legend is featured in many books, including Weird New York by Chris Gethard and Spooky New York by folklorist S.E. Schlosser.

The locals even get into the act, hosting a "Lady in White" candlelight Halloween Ghost Walk.

(While researching this post, H&H ran across nine other "Lady In White" legends based in New York alone. Geez, aren't there any ladies in black or red?)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Legend of Betty Knox

Dunbar Creek image from High Country Fish

Between Ohiopyle and Dunbar in Pennsylvania's Fayette County lies the Dunbar Mountains, and that's where Betty Knox and her legend originate.

Betty was born in 1842 on a farm at Kentuck Knob atop the Great Gorge of the Youghiogheny (now Ohiopyle State Park). Her mother died when she was three, and her father raised her as a son. She did all the hard work of a nineteenth century farmer, clearing, plowing, planting, weeding, and reaping. In between, she raised the cattle, cut the wood, drove the ox teams, and of course cooked the meals.

When she was seventeen, her father died, and she was left to her own devices. Betty, despite the hard work, had turned out to be a beautiful, flaxen-haired girl, and had no shortage of suitors, being lovely, single, and a property owner. But she spurned all the locals and lived a solitary life.

Knox earned her daily bread by hauling grain to Ferguson's Mill near Dunbar, powered by her oxen, and returned with flour, a day-long, twenty-five mile trek. In fact, she traveled such an undeviating route that she carved her own trail through the forest.

Where her journey crossed Dunbar creek is still known locally as Betty Knox Park, along with the fresh water spring that she lined with stone.

One evening in 1862, while on the way home from the mill, she found a badly wounded soldier, who told her he had deserted from the Union Army. Betty took the soldier home, hid him from the Army, and nursed his wounds. She became smitten by her soldier, but despite long months of Betty's TLC, he finally died. Knox, although heartbroken, returned to her routine.

Years later, Betty Knox, who had never missed a day of work in her life, suddenly quit showing up to collect the farmer's grain. Alarmed, the neighbors went to her home to see if she was sick, but the house was empty. Search parties swept the forest and retraced her trail, but found not a sign of her.

Theories concerning her disappearance abounded. Some claimed that wolves or a panther had attacked her, while others darkly speculated that a rejected lover had ambushed her, or perhaps a gang of thieves.

Others thought that she had never gotten over losing her soldier and plunged to her death in the Youghiogheny River. It may have been that she was just tired of her life in the woods, pulled up roots, and found a new home. To this day, no one really knows.

The following spring some children found the skeleton of an ox chained to a tree near Betty's spring; odd, because that very trail had been scoured by her search party without finding the ox, and also because Knox never used a chain on her animals. Still, that didn't explain what happened to Betty Knox.

But one thing is certain - Betty Knox is still around, at least in spirit.

Young couples out for a late night drive claim to hear the mournful lolling of oxen miles from the nearest farm. Park visitors report hearing her sobbing. Sportsmen tell of a pale feminine form that flickers through the trees before daylight. Others report seeing a woman leading an oxen team along the trail. And on some dark nights, the pained voice of a young man can be barely heard whispering "Betty Knox, Betty Knox."

(As a footnote, you may not have to worry about running into Betty's ghost. An enterprising local claimed to have captured it in a mason jar, and sold it on eBay for $2.51. Now there's a legend for you, and at a blue light price!)

If you're curious, Betty Knox Park is now part of the State Gamelands, located off Dunbar - Ohiopyle Road about three miles from Dunbar. Look for a Game Commission building on the right at a sharp curve. The gravel road to right of the shed (called "Betty Knox Road" but without any signage) will take you along Dunbar Creek to where Betty's oxen were found.

H&H rummaged through several sources for this post, but the best tale by far is told on the Connellsville Ghost Stories site.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fort Dix Demons

Walson Army Hospital - Fort Dix

Located in central New Jersey, Fort Dix is named for Major General John Adams Dix, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

It has been training soldiers since its founding in 1917, including H&H back in his Army days. In fact, more than three million men and women have passed through its gates since it was established as one of the original sixteen Army training camps built for World War I.

Today, the camp is a major training and mobilization center for the Army Reserve and National Guard after barely evading closure. Fort Dix also lies almost entirely within the Barrens of New Jersey, and we all know what that means.

There have been, as paranormal starters, many reported sightings of the Jersey Devil by soldiers during World War II, with a resurgence in the 1990s. Well, hey, that's to be expected; the Barrens is its hangout and the Devil is Jersey's unofficial state monster.

But Building 5418 at Fort Dix, the Walson Hospital in its heyday, is spook Central. The structure is a clinic now with its top five floors shuttered, but once hosted a psychiatric ward and its basement was the fort's morgue, a deadly duo of apparition generators.

Walson is without question the most active spot on the installation. Accounts of floating orbs, the opening and closing of doors and windows, lights going on and off, unexplained drops in temperature, sense of presence, furniture getting tossed around, electronics going haywire - pretty much the gamut of spectral trickery.

The top of the spectral food chain includes the sightings of orbs and ghostly visitors. The former morgue and psychiatric ward are usually where the eerie stories originate.

Most of the poltergeist-type activity happens on the seventh floor, the psych ward. That's also where the orbs appear, along with all the other ghostly going-ons.

The OB floor is another place where the dead don't rest. At one point, it's successful delivery rate was said to be just 60%, an embarrassment to even third world countries, and eventually Fort Dix's deliveries were handled by an off-base hospital.

There are regular stories of babies crying. It's also home to an eternal orderly. The OB floor is always said to be always freshly mopped. There is a mop and bucket propped in a corner that remain from its working days, and the floor seems wet, with foot prints across it, but the mop and bucket are bone dry - and have been for years.

The morgue is where the ghosties hang out. It's reported that you can feel and see the spirits in the basement, and that if you sit in the old gurney, ghostly hands will push you towards the body cooler. Brrrr! Another story involves the sounds of a grown man crying. People believe that a spirit watches the base at night through the morgue windows.

The hospital isn't the only place that's home to shadows. There's a couple of places near base housing units that have eerie reports, too.

Kennedy Court residents on Pemberton Road have reported glowing red eyes that peer at them from the nearby woods at night, and a trail that no wildlife or even sound crosses. Garden Terrace neighbors on Cedar Street tell of a teenage boy, dressed in jeans, a jacket, and red cap who can be spotted walking down the street...and then disappears right before your eyes.

But time may be running out for you to get in on the spectral fun at the hospital. The Army doesn't allow tours, and Walson, as we understand, is slated to be demolished with all its bad ju-ju. But last report, it still stands and lights still flicker, even without electricity...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fort Meigs

Fort Meigs photo from Grave Addictions

Fort Meigs is located in Perrysburg, Ohio, now a suburb of 17,000 souls outside of Toledo in Wood County.

The fort was built along the Maumee River by Brigadier General William Henry Harrison in 1813, who named it for the Governor of Ohio, Return Jonathan Meigs. The garrison was home for over 2,000 troops, made up of U.S. regulars and militiamen from Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

It was constructed to halt the advance of the redcoats after their victory at Detroit and protect northwest Ohio and Indiana during the War of 1812. Fort Meigs is the largest log fort ever built in America, covering ten acres with seven blockhouses and five gun emplacements.

British and Canadian troops, along with Native Americans under the command of Tecumseh, attacked the fort twice, in May of 1813 and again in July. The Americans repulsed both of the onslaughts, and the British retreated from the area for good after September's Battle of Lake Erie turned the tide of war against them.

Having defeated the British, Harrison transferred all but 100 men from Fort Meigs and dismantled the fort. The site was preserved by the Hayes family who purchased the land to use as cattle pasture. In 1840, William Henry Harrison returned to the site to hold a rally during his successful run for the Presidency.

In 1908 the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans, held a reunion in Toledo,. To commemorate their arrival and to honor the memory of the soldiers who served at Fort Meigs, a monument was erected on the site.

The fort was reconstructed by the Ohio Historical Society starting in 1965 and was opened in 1974, recreating the stockade as it was during 1813. It's now a 65 acre park.

There are four unmarked cemeteries in the vicinity of the fort. The first is located near the Pennsylvania monument in front of the fort. The second is on the western side of the fort where a weeping willow tree is planted. The third is located on the eastern side of the outside wall.

These are military plots, the western one called Kentucky Hill to commemorate the fallen soldiers of that state who died in Dudley's Massacre, and another dedicated to the Pennsylvania soldiers that died during the battles.

One hundred and fifty to three hundred soldiers stationed at Fort Meigs are entombed below its palisades, along with the Pennsylvania and Kentucky Militias. To this day historians still don't know the exact number of soldiers buried at the site, but it could well be over five hundred bodies.

A fourth grave site is an Indian burial ground near the river. The use of the location well predates the War of 1812, and there are prehistoric Indian mounds on the grounds.

Visitors, volunteers, and reenactors have seen the apparitions of both American soldiers and Native American warriors. Many have seen what they thought was a re-enactor in full dress who would appear and just as quickly vanish before their eyes.

A number of unexplained occurrences center on the eastern end of the fort, including phantom sentries and the ghostly visage of a small girl peering out the second story window of Blockhouse #3.

Strange auras, cold spots, lights turning on and off, the sound of muskets and cannons firing, and the music of drums and fifes have also been reported. Others have heard footsteps, seen orbs of blue light, and translucent human forms while staying at the fort overnight.

The fort has so many ghost stories that it hosts a Ghost Walk during the last two weeks of October, known as the Garrison Ghost Walk.

if you want to know more, the Fort's paranormal history is mentioned in Ghosthunting Ohio by John B. Kachuba and Haunted Ohio V: 200 years of Ghosts by Chris Woodyard.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Carlisle Barracks


The Carlisle barracks started out as a temporary encampment for Colonel John Stanwix's British troops in 1757. It was fought over in the Civil War, lost out to West Point for the honor of becoming the nation's military academy, shared some facilities with the Carlisle Indian School, and now hosts the Army's War College.

It's got quite a few tales associated with it from the past, from military encounters to the children of the Indian school. Here's its haunted history:

Ashburn Guest House: The spooks reported here are Charlie, a young Confederate soldier, and a Native American girl. The basement is said to be especially filled with spirits. It served as a morgue in its' past.

Bandstand: It's said that you can still hear the Carlisle Indian School band performing there on some summer evenings.

Coren Apartments: Once the teacher's housing for the Carlisle Indian School and now officer apartments, two ghosts are reported from here. One is the spirit of Lucy Pretty Eagle, a young Indian girl who was the first child to die at the school. Some people dispute that, and believe the ghost is that of an unnamed Indian girl who was a live-in maid for the teachers. Whichever tale you accept, Lucy has been reportedly seen on the grounds and in the cemetery.

The other spook is of Civil War era Brigadier General Philip St. George Cooke. His daughter married reb raider Jeb Stuart while he was assigned to Carlisle before the war, while he was still a Union officer. Stuart flipped sides and actually helped torch Carlisle the day before the Gettysburg battle. It's said that Cooke's ghost keeps tearing Stuart's portrait off the wall and shattering it. He still holds a grudge after all these years.

Flower Road Houses: The spirit of a lady in a green gown walks in and out of the houses. She may be the same woman seen in the Letort View Community Center.

Hessian Powder Magazine: Built in 1777 by Hessian POWs, the building is now a museum of military artifacts. But in its day, it served as not only a powder magazine, but guardhouse and later as a detention cell for Native Americans that didn't toe the line at Carlisle Indian School. It's said to also be haunted by the spirits of the Hessian prisoners that built it.

Letort View Community Center: The ghosts alleged to be roaming the Center are those of Jim Thorpe, a lady in a ball gown - maybe she's the Flower Road spook - and a farmer, along with several Native American spirits from the Indian School. The basement is alleged to be filled with ghosts.

They call it Purgatory because of all the spirits it hosts that are trapped between the here and the hereafter. In fact, one visitor claimed to see a lady spook down there, wielding a bloody butcher's knife!

Old Gym: The spirits reported here are those of Jim Thorpe, a young Native American boy, and a basketball team (well, where else would they haunt?)

Washington Hall Guest House: It's said that people have been awakened in the middle of the night by babies crying while sleeping in the Guest House.