Saturday, November 12, 2011

Flinderation Tunnel

Flinderation Tunnel from Facebook

There's an old, out-of-commission railroad line that passes beneath the Flinderation Tunnel near Salem, West Virginia. Officially known as the Brandy Gap Tunnel, it's located just off Flinderation Road and hence its local moniker. The 1,086' long tube was built in the 1850s as part of a main line of the B&O/CSX system.

It's sited about an hour away from the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, and in fact they were featured together on the same Ghost Hunters episode in 2009. The asylum is well known as one of West Virginia's hottest paranormal spots. Flinderation's claim to spooked out fame begins with a three-man track gang working in the tunnel, sometime in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

While the gandy dancers were doing their thing, a train roared through the narrow tunnel, its engineer unaware that there was any work going on inside. One man managed to escape the speeding train, but the other pair were mangled and killed by the Iron Horse.

The train itself derailed, and there are conflicting tales as to why. One story says it was because the track work wasn't completed; another says that it tipped off the tracks while dragging a worker's body under its wheels. No one has found any published verification of the train wreck story, but it was long ago and far from any large towns. Beside, a train derailment and a couple of railroaders accidentally shuffling off this mortal coil wouldn't have been big news during that era.

Another tale equally as gruesome claims that the tunnel was a regular gathering point of the KKK in the early 1900s. Not only did the klansmen meet there, but they used the dark tunnel as a lynching spot to create a little extra terror while performing their horrific deeds.

To add to the eerie mix, Travel Channel's Ghost Stories said that a cemetery once existed atop the tunnel. The show claimed that some of the coffins fell through the roof of the tunnel, and that a disinterred body may have once been lodged between the tunnel's roof and the cemetery above.

As you might imagine, Flinderation's karma took quite a hit because of these events, and the tunnel has the paranormal lore to back its hard luck history.

People claim to have heard phantom train whistles and have seen a ghost train (or at least its lights) rumble through the tunnel, along with the sound of metal scraping against metal. The spirits of a young boy and girl, giggling and laughing, have been seen and heard. Voices saying "Help me" and "Quit pushing" have been reported by paranormal investigators, apparently remnants of the long-ago derailment.

Other sounds such as deep grumbles, sobbing and screaming are heard as common occurrences and been captured by EVPs. Unexplained lights, bodiless footsteps, orbs and mists have been both sighted and photographed.

Flinderation Tunnel was officially closed and the tracks were torn out in the nineties. It was out of service for some time prior to then because of the decline of railroad traffic in general and, it's said, because the tunnel's dark tales made it a track that railroaders religiously wanted to avoid. Today, like so many other abandoned rail lines, it's a recreational run, part of the eastern end of the North Bend Rail Trail.

So you can lace up your Nikes, hop on your bike, or jump on your horse (it's also an equestrian trail) to check out the legends of Flinderation Tunnel. When you get inside, your creep-o-meter will red line. It's pitch black once you're a few feet in (and flashlight batteries are said to die inside), its path is muddy and treacherous, and water drips through the ceiling while the splashes echo noisily off the walls. Or is that a decomposing body falling through the roof...?

Heck, if you dig the chills and eerie ambiance of Flinderation Tunnel, you can "like" its Facebook page. Even apparitions know how to get out the word with social tools nowadays. And ain't that spooky?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homestead Carnegie Library

Homestead Library from Library Journal

Built in 1898, the Carnegie Library of Homestead - actually, it's located in Munhall - was designed by Alden & Harlow and constructed by William Miller & Sons, both well known artisans from Pittsburgh, at a cost of $250,000.

This library was Carnegie's gift to the workers and families of the nearby Homestead Steel Works. It was small consolation for a community torn asunder by the bloody Homestead Strike of 1892. Many didn't even want to accept the building, though it eventually became a well-used neighborhood gathering spot with its books, pool, gym and music hall.

It didn't take long for some bad mojo to strike. Robert Peebles "was found dead in eight feet of water" in the pool on November 28th, 1899, "under mysterious circumstances" according to the Homestead Messenger. No one has claimed to see his spirit hovering, but there are plenty of other eerie experiences connected to the complex.

Books fly off the stacks and switch positions on the library shelves for no apparent reason, and doors open and close without any human intervention. Loud disembodied voices have been reported (no doubt drawing a frown and a "shhhh" from the not-easily-spooked librarians). The ghosts of old steel hands, still dressed in their sooty mill outfits, wander about the structure.

The library isn't the only hot spot for the unexplained. The housekeeper claimed to have seen a shadow moving in the back steps of the old music hall in the library; shadow figures of both sexes are regularly sighted in the building. The voices of ladies giggling in the basement locker room have been heard, and by no less than the Syfy Channel's "Ghost Hunters" squad.

The TAPS team visited the library in May of this year, and in September aired an episode from Homestead including Carnegie's building. And they confirmed most of the above phenomena to be active during their midnight expedition.

So if you ever stop by to grab a book or catch a show in the music hall, remember that the old steelworker standing nearby may not be on break from pumpin' iron and sweating steel, but an ethereal reminder of Homestead's misty past.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mood Music

Ready to get your Halloween spook on? See if these tunes help get you in the mood:

Boris Pickett & the Crypt Kickers do "The Monster Mash":

John Zacherle, the Cool Ghoul, and "Dinner With Dracula":

Michael Jackson's "Thriller":

Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" from "The Exorcist":

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween: Popes and Druids, oh my...

Most folk know that Halloween has morphed from the the old Irish festival of Samhain, which was the night when the world of the dead intersected with that of the living. To keep the spirits from roaming the earth (and to keep themselves from wandering into the otherworld) the farmers would gather around a bonfire, some dressed in masks and costumes, in an effort to get through the night with their ancestors by hook or crook.

But what many don't know is that the holiday thrived and survived thanks to the papal theory that "if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em."

In the middle ages when the economy was agrarian, pagan harvest rites like Samhain continued unabated no matter how much the Church tried to squelch them. All focused on the dead; after all, it was tied into the season when the earth's bounty began dying.

Surprisingly, it's thought by many that the All Hallows (Saints) holiday, the church's effort to co-opt the pagan rites, wasn't first aimed at the Irish, but the Romans.

In the early seventh century, the Romans celebrated the Feast of the Lemures, which featured rituals such as bean offerings to the dead, walking around in circles at midnight, banging brass pots and asking your departed relatives to stay wherever they were. And it culminated on May 13th, not the end of October.  

Pope Boniface IV decided to usurp the pagan's dead day with a Christian holiday, and declared an All Martyrs day on the same date. It seemed to work; after a century or so, Popes Gregory III & IV decided to try the same trick and moved the holiday to November 1st, not only to counteract Samhain but several other autumn pagan rituals common in Northern Europe. They renamed it All Hallows Day. (It was actually celebrated at the same time, as the Church holiday began at sundown.)

Our most recognizable Halloween custom sprang from the church-sponsored holiday. Catholic dogma taught of a nether world for the dead called purgatory, a not-so-pleasant half-way house on the way to heaven. And since the souls there couldn't do much to advance their cause, their fast track to the Pearly Gate was greased through prayers from the living.

So a custom sprang up called "souling." Beggars would door knock for sweets - a fruit cookie of sorts called a "soul cake" - and in exchange for the pastry promised to pray for departed souls. That practice morphed into today's trick or treating.

The church also introduced the association of witches with the holiday. They weren't really part of the culture until the witch hunts of the Middle Ages, although their familiars seem to have a long history of causing panic. The black cats were especially dreaded by the superstitious because all that could be seen of them at night were their seemingly disembodied glowing eyes.

But many of the customs remain from the old days as the church couldn't entirely dig out the pagan roots of Halloween.  Skeletons were used from the beginning, some even being propped up on window sills to keep the dead at bay. Ghosts and the undead, of course, were the reason d 'etre of the pagan rites. Costumes and masks were worn by the Druids and their followers. And the jack-o-lantern was handed down through Irish folklore.

So there it is. Halloween is a tangled weave of Christian and pagan ritual and belief. Still, it's kinda hard to imagine that a bag of candy and Freddy Krueger was what the Vatican and Druids had in mind all those centuries ago. C' est la vie.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Couch Potato Halloween

Another quick PSA - TV Tango has a listing of all the October Halloween shows being aired during the 2011 Devil's Night season by the major networks & cable biggies. So if the weather outside gets frightful, you can get your ghoul on in front of the tube. It's pretty inclusive, ranging from Freddy to Charlie Brown.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pittsburgh Things That Go Bump In The Night

Today's post will be a PSA for my Pittsburgh area homeys as the Steel City prepares for its annual descent into Halloween gore, featuring fright-nights and the Three Rivers' favorite undead, zombies.

First, the Post-Gazette covers all the fright night haunts in the region from Hundred Acres Mansion to the Demon House in Faith Cotter's article "Spreading Fear."

The Tribune Review posts its mansions of mayhem, too, including some that are gently haunted for the kiddies and a movie schedule in its piece "Scary Season." It also has an older story by Michael Machosky called "Pittsburgh's Obsession With The Undead" that gives a neat little background on "Zombietown, USA."

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Zombie Fest, which will be held at Market Square on Saturday, October 8th, featuring bands and fun events like the brain-eating contest. It starts at noon; after all, zombies need their beauty sleep.

Hey, hometown pride runs deeper than the sports teams in da 'Burg. In some circles, George Romero is held in higher esteem than Hines Ward and Mario Lemieux. So wave your freak flag proudly, Tri-State spook fans. It's your season to screech.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jersey City School Spirits

New Jersey State University Tower

New Jersey City University opened in 1929 as the New Jersey State Normal School at Jersey City. The school evolved into a Teachers College in 1935, Jersey City State College in 1958, and an accredited liberal arts institution in 1968. In 1998, it became a university. And no matter what name it's known by, the school has some spooky lore.

There are some typical tales. Vodra Hall, a dorm located in the middle of campus, is the alleged site of unexplained laughter and music (at least it has happy spooks). And the old Science Center, now replaced and used by Hudson County CC, has a legend that claims an elevator workman was electrocuted on the second floor, and ever since the elevator often stops there whether or not the button is pushed.

But the primo paranormal spot is a gothic tower and theatre that are part of the oldest building on campus, the equally gothic Hepburn Hall (the structures are so associated with the school that its teams are known as the Gothics), which opened in 1930.

Hepburn Hall, the only school building used during the first 25 years of NJCU's existence, houses administrative offices, classrooms and the Margaret Williams Theater.

Opened in 1931 as an addition to Hepburn, the theatre was originally designed as a combination auditorium and gym like you see in most high schools. In 1968 it was renovated for use solely as a theatre and named after long-time faculty member Margaret Williams. She must have been pleased; it's said she's never left the building.

The classroom closest to the theater (Room 220) and under the Tower is always cold. Students have reported odd sounds coming from the attic and backstage of the theatre. The actual theatre sometimes has a spotlight that turns on and tracks an unseen phantom performance; some claim to hear songs and music coming from an empty stage.

But the most popular lore is the sighting of Margaret William's ghost floating through the halls. She's been reported seen in various rooms and the theatre. It's said that at night, you can sometimes see Williams peering down at you from the Tower. She haunted the theatre area during life, and looks like she's still comfortable there in death.

If you want to check out NJCU a little more, its lore is part of the popular Weird New Jersey series by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SUNY Plattsburgh

MacDonough Hall from School Designs

SUNY Plattsburgh started its days as the Plattsburgh Normal and Training School when it opened its doors in 1890 as a two-year teaching and nursing institution in Clinton County. It joined the state university system in 1948.

Now you'd think after a dozen decades that this bastion of academia would do its duty and graduate a few ghoulish stories to spread around campus. But we could only come up with two haunted halls, and one may be in paranormal remission.

That would be the old Normal School building, the oldest structure on campus. As chronicled by Cheri Farnsworth in Haunted Northern New York, a turn-of-the-century schoolmarm sent one of her students to the basement to find out why the heat wasn't on. He found the answer hanging from the ceiling in the person of the janitor.

Cheri changed that a little later in her Big Book of New York Ghost Stories after some extra newspaper research. Just a few particulars were altered: in 1917, janitor John Blanchard did kill himself by inhaling gas because he was despondent over his wife's recent death.

Regardless of the year or method, the janitor reportedly didn't leave the Normal School after his departure from this vale of tears. Blanchard was often seen during the ensuing years walking the halls and checking the roof, just as if he were performing his everyday rounds.

The Normal School burned completely to ashes on January 26th, 1929, and it took more than three years to replace the original structure, built on the bones of the old. In 1955, it was renamed after Plattsburgh's longest tenured leader, George Hawkins, who was the school's principal (similar to president) when it was rebuilt.

Did Blanchard finally find the light home after the fire? Probably - he hasn't been seen since, although some still sense his presence.

But don't fear. There's still a dorm around that's full of unexplained phenomena and spooks, MacDonough Hall, the oldest resident hall on campus.

In 1948, work on the dorm, named in honor of General Thomas MacDonough, who led his troops to victory over the British in the Battle of Plattsburgh that capped the War of 1812, began. The field behind MacDonough Hall was used as a public hanging grounds for the nearby Arsenal, which was destroyed by a British raid on July 30th, 1813.

When workers began their site excavations, they found two old tombstones (some say remains were discovered, too) of a woman and a child, both believed to be among the oldest settlers in the area. The stones were moved to the roadway to be picked up and the digging went on. But the next morning, the markers couldn't be found. To this day, their disappearance has never been solved.

Hanging grounds? Disturbed graveyards? Hey, no good can come of a location like that, and MacDonough has its share of tales to tell.

Students have seen flickering on/off lights, heard piano music coming from an empty lobby and eerie children's laughter and crying echoing through the hallways. Some have seen grotesque images reflected from mirrors and windows, and heard the screams of a woman. One student reported being smothered in bed as her name was being called, supposedly verified by her roomie. A paranormal team went through the building, and got an EVP of a woman whispering to them in the attic.

One legend, reported on Shadowlands and some other sites, is that the basement of MacDonough Hall was once the morgue for the old city hospital. That's one bit of lore we can debunk. MacDonough opened in 1951 as a dormitory and has never been used as anything but a residence since then.

The morgue story has its roots in the web of underground passages beneath the building. They're not sinister. The "catacombs," as they're sometimes known, are used as maintenance tunnels, and back in the good ol' days of the Cold War also served as the school's bomb shelters in case the Russki Bear decided to drop the big one. And Plattsburgh was a primo target then; the nearby Air Force base was Top Ten on the hit list.

In fact, the base is supposed to be a haven to quite a few spooks itself, but we'll save that post for another day.

If you want to know a little more about Plattsburgh's haunted halls, open a copy of Haunted Northern New York or the Big Book of New York Ghost Stories by Cheri (Ravai) Farnsworth. Or enroll; your choice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kenyon College

Old Kenyon

Bishop Philander Chase established Kenyon College on a hilltop overlooking central Ohio's Kokosing River Valley in 1825. The first permanent building, Old Kenyon, went up a couple of years later. The Gambier, Knox County institution has evolved into a highly regarded liberal arts school.

But hey, with almost two centuries of existence, you know the school has more attached to it than a long list of distinguished alums (which it most certainly boasts). It's considered one of the more heavily haunted sites in the state. It starts when you enter the campus.

The southern campus gates on the school's Main Path are said to have been built over a Hellmouth, or portal to Lucifer's lair. One shouldn't walk between the pillars when the bells in the Church of the Holy Spirit are chiming at midnight, unless looking for a one-way ticket to perdition. That's why they're known by the students as the "Gates of Hell."

Others warn to never look into the trees shading the gravelly Middle Path. Because of their shape, they're considered "pitchfork trees." We're not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds sufficiently sinister enough that we sure as heck don't plan to find out. Superstitious Kenyon students who pass between the old gates always tap one as they pass, apparently to keep themselves grounded in the material world.

Once you're safely on campus, there's hardly a building that doesn't have a tale connected with it.

Bailey House: There are reports of footsteps in an empty building, cold spots and a sense of presence.

Caples Hall: The ghost of a student who died in a plunge down an elevator shaft allegedly still holds a grudge against girls in Caples Hall. The most popular story is that the guy, returning unexpectedly from a party, found his girl with another fella. This led to a pretty nasty argument, and she barricaded her door with a bureau while the angry beau either fell or was pushed down the shaft, presumably by the other guy.

(Another version has the guy staying overnight with his girlfriend, and when groggily leaving in the morning, stepped through the elevator doors without noticing that there was no elevator car and fell to his death. We like the first tale better; it explains the spooks' campaign against females.)

The gal involved later felt icy hands covering her face as she slept and found her door blocked by her dresser on different occasions. The jilted lover's transparent spook has been reportedly seen leaning against female students' furniture, and sometimes pushes dressers against dorm room doors in a ghostly reenactment of his last night on this mortal coil. The spirit actually tries to physically harm females in the hall, according to the lore, accused once of smothering a girl with her pillow.

The events all take place on the eighth floor.This is supposedly based on an actual incident that happened at Caple, although we suspect the details have become fairly well muddled over time.

Church of the Holy Spirit: The 19th century chapel is thought to be cursed. There are scorch marks by the windows (although no record of a fire exists) but they run down instead of up, meaning the flame that caused them burnt downwards. That defies physics, but it is the right direction if you're headed to Hades. It seems fitting. The church is alleged to sit over the pits of Hell, yet another gateway to Old Scratch's realm.

There are also reports of a priest's ghost, a pitch-black shape seen under the choir loft. Years ago, the father was said to have gone loco and locked himself in the office of the Church. The legend is that he hung himself in the belltower and is now condemned to haunt the church forever as his eternal punishment.

The DKE Pledge: In 1905 Stuart Pierson was killed while pledging the DKEs when he was struck by a train on a trestle over the Kokosing River during his initiation. Every year on the accident's anniversary date of October 28th, Stu's ghost is said to gaze forlornly out of a window as the trains pass. In fact, whoever's living his former room in Old Kenyon vacates it that day for Stuart to reclaim.

Pierson's shadow now has to watch Schwinns whizzing by instead of locomotives as his fateful railroad line has been replaced by a bike trail. Stuart is active during the rest of the year, too. He opens and closes windows on the top floor and his footsteps can be heard treading across the roof through the ceiling.

Those with a more skeptical bend suspect that the Stu story is just a way for the DKE brothers to spook the pledges. They hold a ceremony with a processional carrying a coffin to the trestle, followed by various readings while dressed in frat regalia on the anniversary of "Stewie's" death. Nothing like a little pomp and circumstance.

One positive came from Stu's untimely demise, which is a documented event. For the first time, the Greek community began to examine the question of fraternity hazing, although it would take decades to finally tone down the practice.

The Hill Theater: It's located inside the Shaffer Speech Center, which was supposedly built on site of a drunk driving accident that killed two students. Night staff routinely find the ghost light (a theatrical night light) unscrewed on the Hill stage. Although they turn it back on and lock the building, they often find it unscrewed again on their next visit. The stage curtains are also often found mysteriously open after having been closed following the evening rehearsals.

Guards have also allegedly reported seeing the spirit of a student who fell to his death from the catwalk. The sound of his body repeatedly thumping against the backstage is said to echo through the theater.

Kokosing (Bishop's) House: The Kokosing House, also known as the Bishop's House, was built in 1864 by Bishop Gregory Thurston Bedell. Residents and guests have reported organ music, doors which had been closed standing open, strange noises in the front room, creaking floors, footsteps and banging windows. The resident ghost, a female, has been seen on the house balcony and stairwell, although nobody is quite sure who she is.

Leonard Hall: Room thirteen (where else?) is supposedly haunted. Residents report creaking sounds and a sense a presence. A guard once claimed to have seen a figure in a ball cap that disappeared in front of him.

Lewis Hall: A freshman who hanged himself in the attic (which has since been boarded up) turns lights on and off, randomly flushes toilets, and disturbs students by knocking on their doors. Kinda hard to tell the difference between a flesh-and-blood frosh from a spook, judging by that phenomena.

Manning Hall: A student who died of leukemia before she could attend classes keeps herself busy waiting for her first day of courses to arrive. She rearranges furniture and student belongings in her old dorm room, 108, as if still preparing herself for the upcoming school year.

Mather Hall: The basement of this dorm is supposed to have trap doors that lead down to the Gateway to Hell (the third one on campus, by our count). It's said that if they're opened a Satanic altar will appear along with a flaming stairway leading to Satan's sin bin.

Norton Hall: A student who committed suicide in his dorm room roams the hall's corridors. The female spirit is said to be a night stalker of sorts. She noisily paces the dorm late at night when most of the living students are asleep, or at least trying to sleep. Why? Because she was an insomniac in real life who walked the halls when she couldn't sleep.

Old Kenyon: On February 27th, 1949, nine students were killed in a blaze that consumed the school's oldest building, dating to 1827. It was rebuilt the following year, and tales of the victim's spirits began almost immediately after it reopened. The shadows of the unfortunate nine were reported gliding down the halls, visible only from the knees up because the foundation of the new dorm was higher than the one of the former building. Some students claimed to see the transparent legs of the ghosts hanging through the ceiling of a lower floor.

More eerily, night cries of "Get me out of here!" are heard, along with "Wake up, fire!" ringing through the halls, accompanied by the violent shaking of closed doors. It's also been said that 1949 yearbooks are sometimes found open to the page with the names of the nine victims.

There's also a little contrarian history involved. Some claim that the ghosts are actually nine women who died in the fire while staying over at Old Kenyon with their boyfriends after a Sophomore dance. The school administration never conceded the possibility that girls were in the all-male dorm. But it's said that at night you can hear a group of women singing around Old Kenyon.

Rosse Hall: There's a portrait of Lady Rosse, a supporter of Bishop Chase, in the hall foyer ("Lady Jane King"). It's said the picture's eyes will follow you around, and if you stare at the portrait too long, you'll be cursed.

Shaffer Pool/Bolton Dance Studio: This building used to be the  home of the Kenyon swimming pool. According to legend, a swimmer using the high dive board bounced his head off the glass ceiling (the original pool was called "The Greenhouse" because of that feature), broke his neck, splashed into the pool and drowned.

There is no record of that sort of event ever happening, but there sure are a lot of spooky tales that make it seem possible. When the old pool was still used (it's since moved to a modern athletic complex), swimmers sometimes heard a voice calling out for help or lifeguards would hear someone thrashing in the water, only to find the pool empty. Conversational voices have been heard, too.

The Dance Studio has been plagued by the unexplained as well. Wet footprints lead into the old locker room area or to walls where they dead end. Splashing and springboard sounds are heard by dancers in the studio, and a small white face with wet, slicked back hair has been reported peeking out through a window at passersby.

A school tradition has the old pool, which was located in the current Shaffer basement (it's now a boiler room) visited annually by the swim team before their championship meet. By candlelight, the team goes down the spiral staircase and gathers around one of the seniors, who tells the story of "The Greenhouse Ghost" to get the squad in the mood to do-or-die in the upcoming meet.

It's been said that the ghost moved to the new pool, though that's unconfirmed. That's a lot of spectral swimming for our water wraith.

Wertheimer Fieldhouse: A jogging ghost has been reported by the night guards, unseen but heard running around the track. There are also claims of music coming from the storage area, apparently as the track spook winds down after his workout. The spirit may not even have a Kenyon connection. The fieldhouse was part of an old off-site Navy installation and was donated to the college. It was transported to Kenyon, so maybe the jogger came along for the ride.

With all these tales, we still probably haven't done justice to Kenyon's haunted history. Tim Shutt, a professor well known for his ghost tours, which he conducts in a top hat and waistcoat, is the man to find when you're on campus. He knows where all the skeletons are hidden.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Davis & Elkins College

Elkins in Randolph County, West Virginia is a scenic Appalachian retreat and home to Davis & Elkins College. The liberal arts college owns the former summer estates and social gathering places of early 20th century senators Henry Davis and Stephen Elkins. The mansions offer a magnificent vista of the mountains, located high atop "Haunted Hill."

Graceland was built by railroader Henry Gassaway Davis and his wife, and was completed in 1893. Originally called Mingo Moor, Davis switched gears and named the house in honor of his beloved youngest daughter, Grace.

The home was bought by the West Virginia Presbyterian Education Fund in 1941 and presented to the college. Graceland was used as a men's residence hall until 1970 and then was closed until the early 1990's. It became the on-campus Graceland Inn, which opened its doors in 1996.

It's a popular lodge, restaurant and meeting center. But hey, watch who you're talking to - not all the guests are newly registered.

Graceland is thought to house the spirit of Grace (who else?). She's said to be the source of the unidentified sounds and sense of presence that fills the estate; some have even claimed to have caught a glimpse of her. Her supernatural aura was said to be strong enough to stop a prom being held in the building.

In 2008, paranormal investigator Chris Fleming led a troop of students on a ghost hunting expedition of Graceland. He got an alleged EVP from Henry Davis, saying hello, identifying himself, and then asking the group to leave. The gang even got a fuzzy photo of the good senator's shadow. Fleming also ran across Katie, apparently an old servant, who instructed the group to move on to the kitchen. When they got there, the gas burners turned on by themselves.

But the mansion's star spook is a former servant who, as the tale goes, was beaten to death for some transgression and buried under the dirt floor of Graceland's basement. People have reported seeing his face looking out the top window of the building.

Halliehurst, built in 1891 by Senator Stephen Elkins, was donated to the college in 1924 by the senator's wife and the mansion's namesake, Hallie Davis Elkins. When the College first opened, Halliehurst was a female dorm and has since been an administrative center for the school. Apparently, it's still Hallie's home, too.

Hallie's ghost has been seen looking out the window of her bedroom on the second floor, which is now the Admissions Office. Some say they've spotted her running up and down the stairs. Others claim that they felt a shove when they were on the steps or balcony.

Others say that they've seen and heard a small knot of children laughing and playing on the porch and even seen a giggling girl standing on the stairway and then disappearing.

Fleming visited Halliehurst the same night he toured Graceland. He said he made contact with children on the second floor, whose laughter was caught on EVP. In the servants wing of the mansion, Fleming said he felt the presence of a ghost and tried to make contact with no luck. But there is supposedly a photo that depicts the ghostly face of a young woman in a kitchen window of Halliehurst.

While the locals are of divided opinion regarding the going-ons at the houses on Haunted Hill, they don't exactly shush the rumors away; some are even supported by staff reports. And both mansions are the sites of Haunted Halloween parties, ghost tours and other spookily themed events, reminders yet of the century old Davis-Elkin legacy. It's kinda nice that the old bones still have an interest in the College named for their families after all these years.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grenville Hotel

The Grenville Hotel & Restaurant

The plush Grenville Hotel at Bay Head, New Jersey, is a Grande Dame of local seaside hotels, dating back to 1890. It was built on Barnegat Island by Wycoff Applegate, who also built the Bay Head Yacht Club.

In 1922, the hotel was sold to Nellie Georgette who renamed it "The Georgette." In 1945, it was sold to the Grenville Corporation and became "The Grenville Arms." Later it was christened "The Grenville" after The Arms was destroyed in a fire.

Since 1956, the title has switched hands three times; the hotel now belongs to Harry and Renee Typaldos, owners since 2003. It's the kind of place that people like to return to every year for their summer vacation, right on the shore.

Most of the guests like to tan, splash around, and enjoy a week-long romp in the sun and sand. But others come away with stories of the hotel's more permanent guests, its spooks.

Now, the Typaldos say they've never seen anything supernatural occur in their hotel, but they do admit it's an old building with a lot of tradition and history, and have a generally laissez-faire attitude toward the whole ghost thingie.

But check with their employees, and the stories come gushing out. They've heard the sound of footsteps and moving furniture in empty rooms, and people walking down hallways when they're alone. The sense of presence while they work is also a well known phenomena at the hotel.

One popular report is of the sound of children, playing and laughing, in the lobby and the hallways, usually at night. One employee claimed to have seen the ghostly kids in the lobby.

Guests have verified what the staff has seen and heard, adding their own tales. Some visitors claimed to see apparitions of people dressed in dark nineteenth century outfits walking through their rooms or down the hall. Others have said that they've seen an impression form on their beds as if someone were laying there.

Lookin' for a little sun in the summer? Try a trip to the Grenville - you may be surprised at who you meet.

(Readers - sorry; we've been on a bit of a hiatus. This is our weekend blog, and spring has finally sprung. We promise to get back in the swing of things after fending off our spring fever - H&H)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Westminster Burying Grounds

westminster burying ground
Westminster Hall & Burying Ground
image from Welcome to Baltimore

The Westminster Presbyterian Western Burial Ground, located in Baltimore, Maryland on Fayette and Greene Streets, was purchased in 1786 (it had been part of John Howard's peach orchard), and became the final resting place for the elite of the region.

A church was built directly atop the burial grounds in 1852. The web history has it that a local law required cemeteries in the city proper to physically connect with an adjoining church, but it actually was raised to provide a growing western Baltimore population with a place to worship.

property being tight, the structure was plopped in the middle of the boneyard, straddling gravestones and burial vaults to create a hybrid catacomb system between its supporting arches and under its floor.

But the church membership crested and by the 1920's, the flock eventually moved away into the 'burbs, leaving the historic graveyard deserted, in disrepair and vandalized for decades.

In 1970, the U of Maryland got hold of the land, and in 1981, the Westminster Preservation Trust began to manage the property and are in the ongoing process of restoring it. Thanks to their work, the church (now Westminster Hall) and cemetery are again open to the public from dawn to dusk.

The graveyard now holds the plots of deceased plain folk, assorted hoi-polloi, eight congressmen, five mayors, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans, a small army of generals, and local celebs like Edgar Allen Poe, all who found Westminster to be their last stop.

And not very many of them seem to resting in peace.

Cemetery visitors have reported hearing bodiless voices, footsteps and screams, feeling the grip of invisible icy hands, sniffing inexplicable stenches and encountering cold spots.

There are numerous alleged sightings of spirits and dark misty figures roaming the grounds, often looking more lost than the living. Ghost hunters have captured EVPs and photos of the dearly departed in orb/shadow form. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

One suspected cause of the eeriness is the church itself. Because it was thrown up in the middle of the graveyard (it's said that the cemetery's brick paths were used as a foundation), there are some tombs that are now inaccessible to visitors. And boy, there's nothing more cranky (or noisy) than a lonesome, forgotten spook.

Another is the movement of graves during the building of the church. A whole section of Revolutionary War soldiers thought lost was later discovered under one of the walkways, and other bodies were likewise shuffled around or just plain lost.

God only knows how many plots were covered or moved because of the church; it was said that kids could be seen playing with skulls in the graveyard.

Davidge Hall provided another source of potential spookiness. It is the oldest medical school building in the US, dating back a couple of centuries, and was where bodies were dissected by the students. It was also built on property carved from John Howard's farm, so guess where the cadavers came from?

Digging up bodies for anatomical studies became commonplace. The midnight raids, though, so upset the locals that they once hung a student grave-robber that they had caught in the ghoulish act. Vandals and thieves were also a constant problem. They left the bodies intact, but stripped off anything of value, like jewelry.

Add to that macabre mix tales of people buried alive, although for what reason we never did discover, and you have a perfect storm for spooks. Neglected, abused, dissected, relocated, built over,'s no wonder there are so many reports of Westminster apparitions.

There are several haunts that are renowned at Westminster. One is the "screaming skull of Cambridge" of a long-ago murdered minister.

It's said to screech 24/7 - and the lore is that when they planted the clergyman, they gagged his skull's yap and covered it in cement in an effort to shut him up. It usually works, but woe to anyone that hears the scream; it's supposed to drive you insane.

Another often-sighted spirit is that of a nameless, elderly, white-haired spirit, seen walking slowly between the rows of tombstones as if in search of a particular marker.

There's also lore of an insane woman's ghost haunting the catacombs. She was considered so raving mad that she was buried in her strait jacket. Her crazed laughter is supposed to echo through the catacombs, and her presence has reportedly followed folk through the graveyard.

And don't disrespect a grave; the shadow of an old groundskeeper may show up and start chasing you with a shovel. The ghost is said to act as if he's under the influence, as he was most of his time on earth, and will swear up a storm while shooing you out of his cemetery.

The second-most famous spirit is that of 16 year old Lucia Watson Taylor, who died back in 1816. She's been seen many times kneeling by her own grave and praying, a long haired lass dressed in a loose white dress.

But the main man at Westminster is America's Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. EAP died on October 7, 1849 on the sidewalks of Baltimore, and was buried in Westminster Church Cemetery.

He only died once, but he has two graves at Westminster. His original marker is near the back of the cemetery and is a headstone with an engraved raven. He actually went quite a while without a stone; his memorial was shattered in a train accident on the way to Baltimore.

The second is a monument added in 1875 after Western Female HS teacher Sarah Sigourney Rice and Baltimore school children waged a "Pennies for Poe" campaign to build a proper memorial. It's where he's actually buried now.

In commemoration of their success (George Childs actually covered half the cost, but hey...), it's a tradition for visitors to leave a penny at his grave site even today.

Everyone knows the story of Poe's birthday visitor, and he's not a spook. But did you know that Poe himself makes the rounds at Westminster every so often?

He's been seen in the grave yard, mostly around his birthday but also at other times throughout the year. Poe is reported to be dressed in black, wearing a waistcoat, broad brimmed fedora, and a scarf covering his face.

Edgar Allen carries a walking cane topped with a silver cat's head, and has even talked to some of the people who have seen him. Poe's also been reported in the catacombs.

Hey, Westminster Burying Grounds is beaucoup popular. Beside ghost and Halloween tours, it's been featured on "Sightings - The Ghost Report," and episodes of "Creepy Canada" and "Scariest Places on Earth."

And you can't beat the price of a visit - it's free, except for the penny you have to leave for Edgar Allen Poe.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Piney Bottom's Headless Hitch Hiker

from Scary Halloween Costumes

Piney Bottom is near Harts, in Lincoln county, West Virginia, a little south of Huntington and located at the mouth of Big Harts Creek.

According to Wikipedia, the town was named for Stephen Hart (Heart), an Indian fighter and early settler who lived at the mouth of the creek. Originally, the town was named "Heart's Creek," then later "Hart" and more recently "Harts."

The Big Harts Creek runs along the Guyandotte River; there's also Little Harts Creek nearby and at least one sizable offshoot, the West Fork. The quiet hollow these streams flow through is known locally as Piney Bottom. And it's home to one of the state's eerier legends.

In the 1800s, there were several sightings of a headless man dressed in black walking the area, especially by the first creek flowing through the bottoms. Another version claims that a ghostly carriage manned by the headless ghost would give people rides.

H&H tends to discount that tale; you have to be awfully tired of traveling via the shoe leather express to jump aboard a spook wagon being driven by a headless apparition.

While a scary sight, the headless dude was harmless. But there's a more chilling second act to the lore.

Folk riding their horses through the hollow reported that a headless black beast, part man, part critter, would jump on the back of their steed to hitch a ride. The monstrosity would wrap its arms around the rider in a death grip (what else?), scaring him and the poor horse witless, hanging on from the first creek to the ford of the next stream.

Now no one knows who or what the creature is, although some suspect that it's just another form of the ghost in black - after all, it's headless, and hops aboard at the same spot that the spirit man haunts. But that link has never been proven.

And it probably never will. With the advent of the auto, the ghost in black reports have dwindled to nothing; maybe cars scare him. But if you're curious, strap a saddle on a horse and take a slow trot through Piney Bottom. Let H&H know how the ride went.

The story is told in "Haunted West Virginia: Ghosts & Strange Phenomena of the Mountain State" by Patty A. Wilson, a noted regional paranormal writer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oak Hill Cottage

Oak Hill Cottage from Mansfield Tourism

Oak Hill was built by John Robinson in 1847 on a hill overlooking the town of Mansfield, Ohio, close by the railroad he had helped to build. Robinson and his family lived at Oak Hill until 1861, and five of his twelve children were born there.

Dr. Johannes Aten Jones bought the Gothic Revival home in 1864 at the urging of his bride, Frances. Author Louis Bromfield played at Oak Hill Cottage as a child and wrote about the house in his 1924 novel "The Green Bay Tree," calling it "Shane’s Castle."

The property was divided and sold in 1923 after the eldest Jones daughter, Ida, died. Leile, another of the Jones' daughters, moved back into the house in 1947, and sold the cottage and its contents to the Richland County Historical Society in 1965.

Now it's a museum, open for tours and sightseeing - and there are more things in Oak Hill Cottage than meet the eye.

First, there are the usual sensory phenomena. Visitors claim to feel a stifling presence of someone watching them, some even suffering panic attacks, and other oddities, such as the lights on the chandelier flickering on and off. And that's just the starting point.

One ghost reported is that of an elderly female, wearing period clothing, most often seen on the main stairway. If you spot her, never fear - she's said to be friendly and seems happy to see visitors admiring her home; she may even welcome you. It's supposed that she's Frances Jones, who truly loved the cottage.

She's also been seen fluffing the pillows and dusting in the cottage rooms, still a neat housekeeper after all these years (some say it's an old maid still doing her duty, but we prefer to agree with those who think it's Frances, keeping her pride and joy homestead up to snuff).

Other spooks are more site specific.

A back stairway leads a small landing, one which is reportedly frequented by the spirit of a young boy dressed in white stockings and knee pants. He's thought to be the shadow of one of the Robinson's sons who died in the home and spent his days playing on the landing.

In the basement, the apparition of an old man haunts the furnace area, and he has a bad vibe. No one can quite identify him, but it's no wonder he's ornery, being stuck in the cellar for all eternity.

Stop in if you get the chance. The house has a great history, and you may get to take in more than the furniture and art. You may be lucky enough to meet an old inhabitant or two.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

U at Albany Haunts

University at Albany - Normal College Days

Hey, when your looking for ghosties, colleges are always a good place to start. Most have a long history and a tradition of both long-time employees who can't seem to leave their schools and students who have met a messy end. New York's University at Albany is no exception.

It dates back to 1844, and since has grown to a major research center with 18,000 students scattered over several city campuses, with a tradition of gently spooked buildings. Its alleged haunts include:

-- The Humanities Building mostly reports, via the evening work staff, eerie night noises - things dropping to the floor, slamming doors, bodiless footsteps and other assorted sounds. There are also unsubstantiated reports of a ghostly nun sighted in the hall.

-- Mahican Hall (located at the Indian Quad, how appropriate!) is said to be spooked by the apparition of girl that walks the corridors late at night. She's a relatively recent addition to Albany's lore, first being reported in the mid-nineties.

-- The Performing Arts Center features the shadow of an electrician who died in the building when some wires he was working on shorted. He's more of a presence than actual spook, and his sense has been reported by actors, especially during rehearsals.

-- Pierce Hall, part of downtown Albany's Alumni Quad, was built in 1935 as a women's dorm and basically unchanged since then, also hosts a specter girl that endlessly paces the building.

The U may not exactly be a hotbed of howling ghouls, but hey - get off campus and take a trip through Albany; you'll find a who's who of spookdom in the state capitol.

The Education Building sports the spirit of a workman who was buried alive in concrete in the basement, called the Dungeon; Sage College's Fine Arts Building is home to a collection of specters; and the Capitol Building tour includes the ghost of a custodian who died in a fire; there are several other tales of the unexplained floating all around the town.

Detractors may mockingly call the upstate city smAlbany (everyplace can't be the Big Apple), but it's big-time when it comes to spooky lore.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cycles And Spooks...

Ron Kirkpatrick Customs

Hey, H&H is used to presenting spooky lore to his readers; this week, he's going to turn the tables and let a reader present his eerie story to the fans.

Ron Kirkpatrick of East Brady is a talented and hard-working customizer; he operates his own shop, Ron Kirkpatrick Customs, on 3rd Street. His company specializes in bike work and does vehicle customizing, too. He wrote H&H and related this tale:

His shop was originally built in 1927 as a Quaker State station. The previous owner sold the shop to Kirkpatrick after he had a ghost sighting and refused to ever set foot in the building again. Despite the tale, Ron plunked down the cash and set up business.

Kirkpatrick poked into the history of the structure a bit, and found out that a pair of people had died there, including the original owner, because of work-related accidents. That in itself isn't all that unusual, considering the shop dates back to the Roaring Twenties.

But the old owner's tale picked up some credence when Kirkpatrick's security system taped pictures of orbs on a daily basis and suffered from unexplained electrical glitches, one of the trademarks of visitors from the other side.

Adding another log to the fire were the reports from his staff, who claimed to witness two misty old men in the garage and "seeing other stuff flying around."

Intrigued, he had a local ghost-hunting crew investigate the place. They captured an EVP of a voice that said their names before their equipment malfunctioned.

Do the spirits of two men who left home for work and never returned now consider the shop their new home? Well, Kirkpatrick will leave it up to you; he has an open invitation for the curious to stop by his place, at 504 3rd Street on Route 68, to see for themselves.

Better yet, bring your ride. The shop spooks will keep you entertained while Kirkpatrick turns your wheels into a work of street art (flames or haunted theme, your choice).

Ron sent us pictures taken by his security cam; here's one orb shot:


Sunday, March 20, 2011

North Bend State Park

Tunnel 19 (Silver Run) photo from Outdoor Travels

North Bend State Park, in Ritchie County, West Virginia, is named for the horseshoe curve of the North Fork of the Hughes River. The park features fishing streams, a 305 acre lake, hiking trails, and critters galore. And it sports a trio of West Virginny wraiths.

The first is from an old wildcatter's tale. Back at the turn of the century, the parkland was still private property and the site of several oil wells. One of the rigs, pumping near the current Jug Handle Campground, blew up, ripping one of the roughnecks to bits. His brother workers gathered up his remains and buried the unfortunate soul - except for his head, which they never found.

A small dirt lane known as Park Road was serviced by a turn-of-the-century jitney driver, who rode the well workers to and from their jobs. One day he felt a bounce while driving his wagon, and looked back to see who was bumming a free ride. It was the bloody figure of a headless man, who we assume was looking for a lift back home. Good luck with that, although he must have made it to wherever he wanted to go, as he's not been seen since.

Then there's the sad saga of blind Ed Koons, who lived near what is now the park entrance. Not only was he sightless, but married to a true shrew, with the mother-in-law also sharing the crib. Aye carumba! Life was not very kind to Ed, and having had his fill, he tossed a rope over a tree, slipped his head in the noose and hung himself.

According to local legend, Ed Koon is still hanging around. To this day, people have reported seeing his body dangling from that tree, outlined by their headlights. Park pedestrians have claimed that they've seen his spook on the gravel path leading to the lodge, near the spot of his sad ending.

Teens parking near the park entrance - it's a local lover's lane - reported hearing pounding on their vehicles, and when they got out to see what was up, all they found were handprints on their car. Most suspect that the prints belong to Koon, probably frustrated that others have the kind of relationship with their girls that he never enjoyed in life (or maybe he's just being ornery, who knows?)

Today, the state park is known for its 72 miles of rail trails, a series of old railroad beds and tunnels that are now used for hiking and biking. It's Tunnel 19 (the Silver Run Tunnel), where Ritchie County's most popular ghost is said to roam.

First, a little cemetery lore. There's an old graveyard at the top of the hill by the tunnel entrance. It was the final stop for workers who lost their lives building the tunnel, and is supposed to be a very active paranormal spot. But that's not the headliner.

A "Lady In White" has been seen in the tunnel, going back to railroad days and continuing into the present. The tunnel itself has cold spots and is claimed to look illuminated inside without any light source. Her story, in brief:

A woman in a white gown had ridden the train to Silver Run to meet her fiancee and get married. She disappeared after leaving the train; no one had ever heard of her whereabouts since. None of the locals actually knew, or at least remembered, who she was, but vague recollections of a fatal fall from the train platform, jilted brides and foul play were roiled once again from the dusty past.

It was widely assumed that she was the alleged lady in white.

In the 1940's, the skeleton of a woman, still dressed in white shreds, was found stuffed in the chimney of a long deserted house on the outskirts of town, and that seemed to answer their questions. The remains were given a proper church burial, and after that, she seemed at peace and the lady in white faded into legend.

Or did she? Bikers going through the Silver Run tunnel occasionally report hearing a train whistle and seeing white orbs. And some locals say that on a half-moon night, sometimes the filmy figure of a lady in white can be seen gliding along the old railbed by the Silver Run tunnel...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tamarack Swamp


Tamarack Swamp photo from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Tamarack Swamp is located near Corry in Warren County on its PA side and stretches north to Clymer, New York. It was originally a logging and gas drilling area; now it seems to mostly be the home of high school keggers, frackers searching for gas that the original drillers left behind, and insect-chomping Venus Flytrap plants. But it's also the origin of the legend of George. Here's the story...

There's a ribbon of a lane that winds through the swamp. One day two school buses tried to pass one another in opposite directions. The road was too narrow, and the vehicles bumped and splashed into the Tamarack. According to local lore, several-to-many of the kiddies lost their lives in the accident.

After the crash, one the drivers - yep, George - returned to the scene of the fatal wreck, and filled with remorse, hanged himself off one of the three bridges that spanned the road.

Legend has it that if you drive over the northernmost bridge and chant "GEORGE, GEORGE, GEORGE," you'll hear thrashing under the bridge from the driver's tormented spirit. It's also claimed that you'll hear the voices of small children out in the swamp and your car will be covered with their little handprints. To make the adventure even dicier, cars were said to stall on the bridge, making them easy prey for George.

A popular game among the area youth is to dare one other to get out of the car, run down the dark road, and make it back to the car before George tears them to pieces. In fact, the footrace with George is pretty much the only game in town now. The state closed that trail and the bridges to vehicles, making it accessible only to foot traffic like hikers and swamp scientists.

Some people reported that the rusting hulks of the buses still remain, but what they saw are actually the remnants of a couple of old campers parked out in the swamp. There's also an unsubstantiated tale alleging that a small town once existed there, but sank in the swamp. That tale claimed that apparitions and the sounds of former residents float throughout the bog.

One of our visitors, Morgana, who grew up in the area, provided us with the basis for George's story. "I did hear the tale and lore of a school bus that wrecked on the bridge leading into the swamp from the Clymer side near Caflisch Lumber Company. The driver, as the story goes, was found hanging from the bridge.

She added more logs to the fire, too, writing that "...I recall as a child hearing the stories of the reddish orange glowing apparition that held his head in his hand. I also heard the tale that the water under the second (and now collapsed) bridge didn't have a bottom and if you stared at it long enough you'd fall in," and H&H would assume resurface floating in the China Sea.

Other suggest that the glow could be from the phosphorus content of the swamp, and the bottomless water could be the quicksand pools or bogs. On the other hand...

Another thing that remains unexplained is the UFO sightings reported by swamp visitors. The Tamarack appears to be an intergalactic tourist trap, too.

So if you're around the state parkland, stop by and see if George is under his bridge or if a UFO is hovering. Maybe a headless orange blob will come callin', or you'll be lured by the depths of the swamp. And hey, if not, maybe you'll at least get to see a swamp mosquito or two become a snack for the Tamarack flora.

(And thanks for the comments. It's a wild and wet area, but still popular and well-used by the locals, many of whom have memories of adventures there dating back to childhood, George or no.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Point Lookout Park

Point Lookout - Civil War POW Camp
image from Southern Maryland On Line

Point Lookout is a Maryland state park at the southern tip of St. Mary's County, resting on a peninsula formed by the confluence of Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. It began as part of St. Michael's Manor, one of three manors owned by Leonard Calvert, the first Governor of the Maryland colony. The site also features an old lighthouse; hence its name.

The peaceful park has a not-so-peaceful past. Native Americans raided its early settlers, the Redcoats and Colonials had several skirmishes there, and it was a hospital and huge POW camp during the Civil War.

It housed over 50,000 reb prisoners over the span of the war's duration, sometimes holding 20,000 prisoners at a time in a fifty acre tent city. There are large, mainly Civil War era grave sites, some of which are now underwater. It's also been the scene of many shipwrecks over the centuries.

There are Confederate spooks galore. One had its picture taken in 1970 during a seance in the lighthouse, casually leaning against the wall sporting a sash and sword. Another has been spotted running across the road from the old infirmary site, reliving his escape attempt.

Visitors report apparitions of gray-suited soldiers that suddenly appear in front of their vehicles and then disappear. Some have seen a southern soldier sitting in the back seat of their car, disappearing when they passed the Confederate cemetery near the park entrance.

Tourists have noted ghostly sightings throughout the park. One road apparently has a legion of troops marching on it; no one has ever seen them, but dogs will stop and growl, hackles up, quite often when by the lane. A general officer is said to haunt the fort proper; his faint voice is often heard and sometimes his shadowy figure has been seen. There are also the obligatory orb pictures.

One famous tale recounts an old lady trudging by the picnic area by the shore, looking lost. A bypasser saw her and asked if she needed any help; he thought she may have dropped something. She replied no, but did the man know where the Taylor Cemetery might be? He didn't.

The Good Samaritan mentioned his encounter to a park ranger in passing, and found out that the Taylor Family Cemetery (the Taylor's owned the property that the lighthouse was built on) had been near where the lady was seen, though it's exact location has been lost to the mists of time.

Some snooping found that one of the folks buried in the now gone graveyard was Elizabeth Taylor. Over the years, someone had stolen her headstone; the grave marker was later found in a local hotel by a Point Lookout ranger. It's thought by some that Elizabeth won't find her final rest until the stone is replaced over her remains. Others believe she's looking for the graves of her children.

But there's no question that the park's spook central is the Point Lookout Lighthouse. It was built in 1830 and expanded in 1883 to allow room for a second lightkeeper and the families. The lighthouse was manned and functioning until the Navy purchased it in 1965, and an automated light tower was placed offshore. Its final keeper left the structure in 1981.

It still stands, and is unlocked for the public occasionally by special request or for its annual open house. (The building is being rehabbed, so it may become more accessible in the near future.) Not surprisingly, much of the unexplained paranormal activity happened after the lighthouse was decommissioned by the Navy, although there were several tales passed on by the lighthouse tenders.

There are lots of reports of the usual ghostly phenomena. They include snoring in the kitchen, voices heard both inside and outside of the lighthouse, cold spots, pungent odors, footsteps, orbs, glimpses of ghostly forms, the sounds of happy singing coming from the stairwell and conversations being held in empty rooms.

Famed ghost hunter Dr. Hans Holzer checked out the place in the eighties. He and his team recorded 24 different voices in the building, both male and female, taped saying things like "Fire if they get too close to you," apparently by an old Union guard suspecting rebel skulduggery, and "Let us not take objection to what they are doing," which must have lessened some of the angst felt by the investigators poking into the realm of the undead.

One voice was believed to be that of Ann Davis, wife of the first keeper, who said "this is my home." Her spirit is said to have been seen standing at the top of the stairs in a white blouse and long blue skirt. And she's far from the only apparition to call the lighthouse home.

Beside Ms. Davis and the Confederate dandy, two transparent figures were sighted in the basement. The ghostly figure of a young man peeking into the lighthouse window has been spotted. The spirit of a silver-haired woman in a gray dress identified as "Rue" has been reported in the attic and on the grounds.

This final tale is the most eerie. A park ranger that lived in the lighthouse (its current use) heard pounding on his door during a severe storm. He opened the door and a man floated inside before disappearing. He shared his weird encounter with the other park rangers, and a little investigating began.

It didn't take long to figure out what happened. An 1878 newspaper article noted that a body had washed ashore after the steamer Express capsized. The crewman matched the ranger's description to a tee. He was Second Mate J. Heaney, who was buried on the beach near the spot where his body was discovered.

He's become a harbinger of sorts. Heaney is said to sometimes appear on the beach in a soaked uniform before a major storm hits the area.

Do the rangers buy into the spooked out stories? It's reported that they at least keep track of the park's strange sightings and reports, and conduct a ghost tour each October. After all, they're never exactly sure who - or what - they'll bump into at Point Lookout Park.

Friday, February 25, 2011

South Park Spooks

Corvette Tunnel from Bridges of Allegheny County

South Park in Allegheny County covers 2,013 acres, spreading across the South Hills municipalities of Bethel Park and South Park. It has a host of activities and its trails, pool, rink, and golf course draw visitors by the carload.

It's also a popular place to cruise - H&H spent half his teenaged life loafing there - and when the sun goes down, the spirits come out. There are three particularly enduring eerie tales that are woven into the Park's lore.

One involves the old Sulli-Nesta ("Sully's") pool. It operated until 1977 as a segregated black swimming area, when it was finally filled in after the main Corrigan Drive pool became integrated. At least two people drowned there and the barn hops outside the pool often ended with post-dance brawls. Now it's best noted as the site for the Hundred Acres Manor Haunted House during the Halloween season.

Staffers and visitors there are treated to several spirits. Among several sightings, there are two noted reports.

One employee saw a figure running across the room and gave it chase. When he caught up to him, he realized that it was sunk up to its' ankles in the floor, as if it was running in shallow water. Then the figure disappeared.

The most renown spook is an elderly gent who worked in the old pool's pumphouse. He's been spotted by guests as they came out of the haunted maze.

In the old days, that spot was the edge of the pool where he used to sit during his lunch break. Woman are particularly uneasy around him. They feel him watching their every move and sometimes the sensations are so intense they won't work the area alone.

The sightings are mostly in the summer, maybe because that's when the pool was open, or maybe because the commercial haunts mask the activity of the real ghosts. There are also sounds of doors opening and closing, unexplainable animal-like noises, and voices heard in conversation.

Corvette Tunnel on Piney Fork Road is another spooked out place. Depending who you ask, it's either just under or sharing the infamous Green Man's Tunnel. This spot is haunted by the spirit of a girl that shuffled off this mortal coil when she slammed her 'Vette into another car while drag racing.

If you drive through at the stroke of midnight, it's said that you can hear her screams, screeching tires, racing motors, and see the headlights of the Corvette.

There's also a small creek running alongside the tunnel. Its tale is that a man killed his wife and disposed of her body by chopping it up and tossing it in that creek. If you're walking through the tunnel, the story goes that her invisible spirit clutches at your legs, begging for help.

Finally, its most famed legend involves the Green Man's Tunnel. A hideously scarred green man is reputed to pop up and frighten the romance out of young couples; the tale is based loosely on the real life experiences of Ray Robinson. H&H has the full tale here; it deserved its own post.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jenny Jump Park/Shades Of Death Road

Jenny Jump Park's Ghost Lake from NJ State Parks

Jenny Jump State Forest is located in New Jersey's Warren County along the rolling terrain of the Jenny Jump Mountain Range. Vistas of the Highlands and the Kittatinny Mountains - which has its own set of eerie legends - to the west, and scenic views of the Great Meadows in the east await the visitor who climbs the narrow path leading to the top of the peak.

Rocky outcroppings and boulders line the trail, evidence of the great glaciers that once covered the site. There are 14 miles of trail, scenic views galore, hunting and fishing lands...and the spirit of Jenny, the lore of Ghost Lake, and the legends of neighboring Shades of Death Road and Lenape Lane.

The namesake's story has it that Jenny was a nine year old girl from back in the settler days who lived in a small white house below a cliff. One day the child was picking berries on the rocks above when an Indian surprised her.

In fear she cried to her father below for help. He responded, "Jump, Jenny Jump!" The child leaped from the cliff to her death (it's unsaid, but we assume poppa was below and tried to catch her. Oooops.)

Her small figure, it's claimed, can still be seen wandering around the cliff. She's been described differently; some say she's a little girl in white that skips along the trail, while others describe her as being in a dark blue dress with white sleeves and light hair.

Ghost Lake was created in the early 1900's when two men dammed a creek that ran through the narrow valley between houses they had just built. They came up with the lake's name because of the wraithlike vapors they saw rising off it in the early mornings, and called the vale Haunted Hollow; both are part of the park.

Visitors report that no matter what time of night they visit the lake, the sky above it always seems as bright as twilight. Several have sighted ghosts in the area, especially in a deserted (and now demolished) old cabin across the lake from Shades of Death Road. The spooks are supposedly the victims of long ago murders.

As far as the lake itself, one legend says that the early settlers killed the Indians and threw them into the lake. This seems pretty unlikely, considering that the lake doesn't date back that far in time.

A more likely tale says that the mists are the ghosts of Indians floating up the mountain from an old burial ground beneath the waters. Nearby is a cave known as the Fairy Hole, a Lenape site that may have held religious significance to the Native Americans. Now it's sacred to teen party crowds and graffiti taggers.

Then we have Shades of Death Road which runs along the border of the park by the lake. Why the name? Well, pick your poison; no one really knows the origin.

Some say it's named for the guys murdered in the Ghost Lake cabin. Other theories cite malarial swamps, murderdous highwaymen who were hung along the road, a long history of killings and suicides, attacks by wild animals, or fatal car accidents that happened along the dark, twisty lane at night. The area has its own mythology.

A popular saga of urban mythology involves Lenape Lane, an unpaved private road that is little more than a driveway to some homes that ends at a farm house.

People report that the area is always chilly, gives one a sense of foreboding, and there are claims of seeing apparitions on it.

Legend also has it that nighttime visitors to Lenape Lane can sometimes spot an orb of white light (other versions of the story claim the orbs are the headlights of a phantom car) that appears near the end of the road and chases cars back out to Shades Of Death. There's also the tale of the eerie red light.

The red light is from a reflector nailed in a tree in the middle of the lane, meant to warn drivers that the road bears right. Legend says that if you circle around the tree and drive down the road again at midnight and see the red light shine in the mirror, the driver will die.

Our guess is that the legend was started and spread by the homeowners on Lenape Lane, who have had it up to here with the kids laying rubber up and down their narrow lane at all hours of the night.

Another bit of lore tells of a bridge over the Flatbrook River on Old Mine Road off of the Shades of Death. If drivers stop after midnight with their high beams on and honk their horns three times, they'll be greeted by the ghosts of two youngsters who were run over while playing on the road.

The bridge is no longer accessible by car; a new span has been built next to it. You can still get to the spooked-out bridge on foot. Maybe if you have a good set of flashlights and a vuvuzela, you can still coax the spirits out to visit...

The most enduring legend from Shades of Death Road is that of the Native American spirit guide who takes the shape of a deer and appears along the road at night. If drivers don't avoid him as he crosses the road and crash into the phantom whitetail, they will soon get into a serious accident with a real deer.

A local threw cold water on the legends, writing us that "Bootlegger's started all the spooky tales to keep people away from the area and their stills in the 1920's; it's that simple. Quite a few farmers hung themselves along that road, but more hung or shot themselves on Alphano Road, which runs parallel to Shades on the other side of the valley. I was raised there and never saw a Ghost. I saw lots of spirits though, of the liquid kind."

Our suggestion is to take a day trip to Ghost Lake if you're into communing with the spirits. While the Shades of Death lore is appealing, it's beyond old to the homeowners, with the noise and stolen street signs making their lives spooky. And most people think the combination of its name and unlit, tree-lined back road make-up are the genesis of its tales.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The James Wolfe Sculpture Trail/Johnstown Inclined Plane

Johnstown Inclined Plane
(photo from the Johnstown Area Heritage Association)

Built in 1891, the Johnstown Inclined Plane was constructed as a "lifesaver" after the Johnstown Flood of 1889, meant to carry people from the river valley to the safety of the heights above in an emergency while getting workers to and from the Cambria Iron Works and Rolling Hills mine.

It served its purpose well during the 1936 Flood when it carried 4,000 men, women and children to safety atop Yoder Hill when flood waters again submerged the City.

In over 80 years of operation the Inclined Plane Railway has carried over 40 million passengers and countless vehicles. The Guinness Book of Records rates it as "The steepest vehicular inclined plane in the world."

One of its highlights is the James Wolfe Sculpture Trail. This popular hiking trail winds past the Incline and along the Stony Brook River.

The 1-1/2 mile long trail climbs 500' along the hillside between the top and bottom of the Plane. Spaced along the way are eight steel sculptures created by sculptor James Wolfe.

On July 10, 1902, 112 miners lost their lives in an explosion in the Cambria Iron Company's nearby Rolling Mills mine. People have claimed to see apparitions of phantom miners walking the James Wolfe Sculpture trail that leads up to the mine entrance.

There have been sightings of a lone miner on the trail who disappears as you approach him, and of a pair of miners holding their lunch buckets at the base of the Johnstown Inclined Plane, still waiting for their ride. The spook of a young boy has been reportedly seen there, too.

The sightings date back even further. It's alleged that there was an Indian burial ground near the top of the Plane, and floating lights have been seen dancing around the Native American's final resting place.

So if you get to visit J-Town and ride the Plane to its impressive observation deck, keep your eyes peeled. You may see more below you than the Stony Brook river valley.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Washington Square Park

Hangman's Elm - photo by Srosenstock for Wikipedia Commons

Washington Square Park is among the elite of New York City's 1,900 public greens. The ten-acre site, which also serves as the quad of NYU, is a landmark in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village, and a magnet for marchers, the fashionable and the bohemian.

But when the park was dedicated in 1826, its pedigree wasn't all Joe Cool. Its foundations are an old Native American burial grounds, and like many NYC parks, Washington Square was built over a potters field of the graves first of the unwanted and unknown, and later the victims of the yellow fever epidemic of the early 1800s.

It was also the scene of weekend festivities in the mid-eighteenth century, when it was an execution grounds. The crowds would turn out and picnic while the criminals of the era were hung from the elms in the morning and tossed into a common grave in the afternoon.

A legend passed on in many tourist guides says that the large tree at the northwest corner of the park, honored with a plaque specifying it as the "Hangman's Elm," was the old hanging tree.

Unfortunately for the legend, said tree is located on the other side of the now-diverted Minetta Creek, then the dividing line for the execution grounds, and apparently stood in the back garden of a private house during the necktie party days.

Later, it was thought that the park area was used as a formal cemetery, with tombstones and all, for the dearly departed huddled masses. All in all, it's estimated that 15-20,000 bodies lay under the park's greenery and landmark fountain and arch.

So hey, no surprise that the park has become somewhat famous for reports of apparitions walking around the park during the bewitching hours. Some speculate that the spooks are from the poorly buried Potter Field remains, searching for their bones that have been broken and scattered from their shallow graves.

Other stories say that ghostly figures still sway in the breeze from the sturdy branches of the Hangman's Elm late at night (hey, maybe they did hang people in backyards).

The most famous is the ghost of Rose Butler, the last woman hung in Washington Square in 1820. A maid accused of torching her master's house, she was executed for a fire that later investigations showed to be almost surely started accidentally. Her spirit has been seen swinging from the Elm on stormy nights - when else?

Ghost hunters have photos of orbs galore populating the park.

In justice, the karma of the place may be the source of its lore. New says said that “the place just feels haunted.” So one night, after an afternoon of watching street theatre and sipping Starbucks while playing chess, hang out til the midnight hour. Then you'll discover if the spooks are real or not...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ricketts Glen State Park

Tuscarora Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park
(photo by Dave Pidgeon of Compass Points)

Ricketts Glen is a National Natural Landmark known for its old-growth forest and many waterfalls along Kitchen Creek. It's carved out of five townships in three counties: Sugarloaf in Columbia County, Fairmount and Ross in Luzerne County, and Colley and Davidson in Sullivan County. The burg of Ricketts, 30 miles west of Scranton on the Sullivan County border, has been a ghost town since 1920.

The park area was once home to the Susquehannocks - who had their own local tales of evil spirits lurking on the nearby Sheshequin Path - and later Lenape and Shawnee before being pretty much cleared of Native Americans after the French & Indian War and Revolution.

It was named after Civil War Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts, whose family bought the land a generation earlier. The ex-officer ran a hotel and over time either owned or controlled 80,000+ acres of land in this area through his lumber companies, which clear-cut nearly all the property (and, in fact, the state still allows controlled lumbering in the park). His family sold 10,000 acres to the state after his death, and PA opened the park in 1944.

There are a couple of spooky tales associated with the isolated area. Here's the better known local lore:

First is the legend of the "ghost tree." During the lumber boom days, a boy was cutting down a tree when it toppled on him, causing his death. A sapling sprouted where the boy died, and grew into a white tree that has never produced a single leaf, even to this day. It's also said that nothing will grow near the ghost tree.

Lake Jean's story is a bit spookier. A boy fell through the ice, and his parents, watching from a shore side cabin, rushed to his rescue. They too cracked the ice and dropped into the frigid lake; all three drowned. Since then, it's been said that strange lights appear over the lake, and that the faces of the family can be seen in its waters.

Locals also claim to hear voices in the wind. There is no cemetery in the area; many think the voices are the laments of all the restless spirits that were never properly laid to rest, dating from the Native-American to lumberjack days.

So hey, if you're ever visiting Pennsylvania's great northeast, take in Ricketts Glen State Park. It's a beautiful site, brimming with history, meandering trails, waterfalls, scenic spots...and a smidgeon of spookiness.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

George Rogers Clark Park

Fort at George Rogers Clark Park

OK, first, let's not get lost. This isn't the national park in Indiana or the City park in Louisville, but a local park in Clark County, Ohio, by Springfield. Still, it's an impressive little area; they pack a lot of attractions into its 250 acres.

This is where the Shawnee village of Peckuwe (Piquia) and a small British stockade stood until Colonel George Rogers Clark drove the combined Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, and Wyandot tribes out of Clark County on August 8th, 1780.

The Battle of Peckuwe was the largest action of the American Revolution west of the Allegheny Mountains. Standing beside the local Miami, the other tribes had been pushed out of Pennsylvania by the white settlers and were trying to draw a line in the sand in Ohio.

Beside fishing, picnicking and other outdoor goodies, the park features the George Rogers Clark Memorial and the Davidson Interpretive Center, which gives a history of the battle and the era. The Hertzler Museum is there, too; more on that later. In 1980, a triangular fort and blockhouse, modeled after the larger one in the village, were built. There's a lotta Ohio history on display there.

Of course, shades of the big battle's participants have been reported; Indians, colonial soldiers, and even ol' George himself have been sighted roaming the fields. Hey, the spirit of frontiersman Dan'l Boone, a long time foe of the Shawnee and active in Ohio Valley campaigning against them, is supposed to be a ghostly park visitor.

The star spook attraction may or may not be the Hertzler House. Daniel Hertzler, whose land the park sits on, built the home in 1854 for his wife and ten children, and was killed there in 1867 by robbers looking for the banker's rumored cache of cash.

It's now a museum and supposed to be haunted by Hertzler, whose murderers were never captured. The legend is that a face can be seen peeking out the window from the road.

It's believed by conspiracy theorists that tour guides avoid talking about the lore for fear that people will stop visiting the park. Others say the guides avoid the topic because it's hogwash and they don't want blamed for noisy ghost hunters nebbing through the neighbor's windows at night in search of ectoplasm. Both sound plausible enough.

If you ever get to visit the park, there are exhibits aplenty to learn the Ohio Valley's colonial history. And if you're lucky, you may even get to see some of the folk who made that history at the same time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

McConnell's Mill State Park

McConnell's Mill from The Allegheny Front

Located in Lawrence County, McConnell's Mill State Park's 2,546 acres are claimed to be one of Pennsylvania's more heavily haunted areas. It's home to sheer cliffs and the swiftly flowing Slippery Rock Creek, and many outdoor enthusiasts have lost their lives rappelling or riding the white water.

And if sudden death isn't enough to ramp up some bad juju, there are also some long time spirits associated with the park.

One is a worker who was killed when the machinery at McConnell's Mill (a grist mill that was in operation from 1852-1928) acted up. He still walks the same path to and from work as he did when he was alive, more or less a century ago.

It's claimed that if you get there at the right time, you can see him walk along the path with his lunch bucket, go into the mill, turn the lights on, and then scream as he relives that fateful day.

There's also the tale of caretaker Moses Whorton, who died at the turn of the century and still patrols MM, chasing poorly-behaving visitors away from the parkland he loved and protected during his life. A freed slave, he lived in the park in a cottage by the mill, back when Thomas McConnell still owned the land.

He stayed there for three decades, beginning in 1880, and it was the only home he knew since he was 20. It's said that if he's needed, a honk of a car horn by the old mill will bring him back.

It doesn't eeven take that much sometimes, said Butler County story-teller Jim Clements, who told Susan Seibel of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette " the dead of night, a honk of a car horn will summon Whorton. But the horn of one car was broken, so one of the boys rolled down a window and yelled, "Honk!" into the dark, causing his companions to dissolve with laughter. Their laughter caught in their throats, though, as a gray figure materialized and walked toward the car from the direction of where the miller's house once stood, the boys said. The figure hoisted a club or bat, ready to defend the mill once more."

"That was enough for the boys," Clements said. "The driver slammed the car into gear and made a frantic escape."

Another bit of lore involves a young girl who died in an accident at the McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge (built in 1874) by the mill. If you park on the bridge, turn off your lights and honk your car horn three times, her vision will appear in your rear view mirror. When you turn around to see her, she's gone. (BTW, H&H strongly recommends against sitting in the middle of a covered bridge at night with the lights off, unless you're looking to join the restless departed).

Hell's Hollow - what a great name - is the site of a long ago kiln built near a small waterfall, and is also said to host some spirit visitors.

However, bummer though it may be, it appears that all of the old park's tales are mere urban legends. A variety of paranormal hunters have dragged their recorders and vids into the woodlands and returned with nary an orb.

But hey, if you're ever stomping through McConnell's Mill and spot Moses, the old mill hand, or a little girl in your rear view mirror, give us yell. One reader has said she has gotten orb photos from the mill. So maybe these stories aren't entirely folk legends...