Friday, October 23, 2009

The Villisca slaughter

Villisca, Iowa, 1912.

On Sunday, June 9, sisters Lena and Ina Stillinger left for church. Rather than following their original plan to spend the day and the night with their grandmother, they were invited by their friend Katherine Moore to come home with her and spend the night there. The Moores, along with Lena and Ina Stillinger, attended the Children's Day Exercise that Sunday; afterwards, they left for the Moores' house, arriving between 9:45 and 10:00.

The next morning, June 10, the Moores' next-door neighbor, Mary Peckham, realized that she hadn't seen any of the family outside doing the morning chores, and that the house was unusually quiet. Sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., she knocked on the door, then tried to open it when there was no answer.

The door was locked from the inside. Mary called Josiah Moore's brother Ross.

When Ross arrived, he looked in a bedroom window, then began knocking and shouting, in the hopes of waking one or more of the occupants. He then searched through his keys and found one that fit the lock. Ross entered the house and opened the door to the bedroom off the parlor. 12-year-old Lena and 8-year-old Ina were lying dead on the bed, skulls crushed, and the bedding was stained with blood.

Ross Moore returned to the porch, where Mary Peckham was waiting, and told her to call the sheriff. Hank Horton, the City Marshall, soon arrived, and found the bodies of the Moore family upstairs. Josiah Moore and his wife Sarah, and their four children - Herman, Katherina, Boyd, and Paul - had all been murdered in the same way as the Stillingers downstairs. Josiah and Sarah were 43 and 39, respectively. The children were 11, 9, 7, and 5 years old. The murder weapon is assumed to have been an axe that was found at the scene (it had belonged to Josiah Moore). The murders are believed to have taken place between midnight and 5 a.m., which was the hour when neighbor Mary Peckham first entered her own yard.

Villisca is a small town, and news spread fast. Curious residents came to - and into- the house, effectively contaminating the crime scene. As many as one hundred people may have entered the house to see the bodies before the National Guard sealed off the area. In 1912, fingerprinting was still in the early stages, and DNA testing, of course, was decades in the future. The murderer of the Moore family and the Stillinger sisters was never found.

In the early 1930s, the house was rented by a young couple, Homer and Bonnie Ritner. Bonnie was pregnant with her first child at the time. It wasn't long before Bonnie began hearing noises at night, then awakening to see a man - with an axe - standing at the foot of the bed. When their doctor informed Homer that Bonnie's increasing hysteria could cause a miscarriage, Homer took to sitting in a chair at the foot of the bed at night, while Bonnie slept. It wasn't long before Homer, too, began to hear noises; eventually, he heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. Finally, the couple moved out.

Decades later, the house was rented by a couple with two daughters. The father of the family was a trucker, which meant that he was often absent from the house. When he was away, his daughters often awoke at night to hear other children sobbing. Sometimes, their dresser drawers were ransacked, and the clothing in them was scattered around the room. The girls told their parents of these events, but the parents could not believe it - until the night when their father was sharpening a knife in the kitchen. The knife shot from his hand, then stabbed him in the palm.

The family left the house that same night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ida Lupino's ghost story

Ida Lupino was a popular actress of Hollywood's Golden Era who branched out into directing at a time when few women were directors. She became the only person ever to direct AND star in an episode of The Twilight Zone (the name of the episode is "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine").

Ida was raised in London, where her parents, Stanley and Connie, were popular stage performers. When her parents were performing, Ida was cared for by her paternal grandmother.

One evening, when Ida was a child, the phone rang. Her parents were performing; grandmother asked Ida to answer the phone, as her hands were full. Ida picked up the phone and heard her father's friend Andrew speaking. Andrew said in a monotone: "Stanley... I must speak with Stanley... It's very important..." Ida said hello to "Uncle Andy", as she called him, and explained that her parents were performing that night. Andrew, however, continued to state that he had to speak with Stanley.

Ida's grandmother, confused by what she was hearing from Ida, took the phone and, after listening for a moment, asked, "Andrew, are you ill?" Then she made a sound of exasperation and explained that the call had been cut off. She contacted the operator to ask what number had just called them - and the operator said that no calls had been made to their number in more than an hour.

That night, Ida was allowed to stay up until her parents returned from the theater. When her grandmother told them what had happened earlier, Connie Lupino fell into a chair, looking as if she were going to faint. Her father, white-faced, insisted that Andrew could not have called that evening.

"He did," her grandmother persisted, "and I think you should call him back. He didn't sound well."

Finally her father said, "Mom... Andrew is dead. He hanged himself three days ago."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe

The death of Edgar Allan Poe is still unsolved, and something that the author himself might have liked to write about (as he did in his short story "The Mystery of Marie Roget").

In 1849, Poe took a trip to New York. When he left the residence of a friend, he accidentally took his friend's walking stick, leaving his own behind. On his train journey back to his home in Virgina, Poe vanished. Days later, he was found in a Baltimore saloon, in very bad condition. A journalist friend took him to the hospital, where he died later. Nobody has ever been able to determine why Poe vanished, where he had been, or what caused his death. One of the riddles of his disappearance is that, when he resurfaced in Baltimore, he was wearing a suit of clothes that didn't belong to him - but he still had his friend's walking stick.

Poe was never lucid long enough to explain what had happened to him, though in a rare bout of clarity, he stated that "the best thing my friends could do, would be to blow my brains out with a pistol." His last words were typical of his short, impoverished, tortured life: "Lord, help my poor soul."

Poe has not rested easily in the city of his death. His ghost - or, at least, the ghost of a man in dark clothing - has been seen in the streets near his old residence. The spirit also can be seen in the cemetery in which Poe was buried (and later, reburied in grand style). Another place frequented by the author is the Horse You Came in on Saloon.

2009 is the bicentennial of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, and the city of Baltimore is offering many events to commemorate one of its best-known citizens.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the planet’s most haunted locations – not surprisingly, given the number of people who have been executed there. The headless ghost of Anne Boleyn (buried in St. Peter ad Vincula chapel near the site of her execution) has been seen floating around the grounds of the Tower, sometimes carrying her head. In 1864, a sentry challenged what he thought was a woman approaching him; when she made no response, he thrust at her with his bayonet.

The bayonet passed right through the figure.

The sentry was charged with sleeping on duty, after he was found unconscious following the encounter with the ghost. He was only saved from a court martial when others reported that they had had same experience.

Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for only nine days, was executed at – and haunts – the Tower. Her spirit has been seen on the battlements.

The Bloody Tower was haunted by the ghosts of two little boys, thought to have been the two princes who were smothered (possibly on the orders of Richard III) in their room in 1483. The two figures, wearing nightshirts, were seen standing hand-in-hand before vanishing.

Another victim of Henry VIII met a gruesome death on Tower Green. The 70-year-old Countess of Salisbury was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head on it. She attempted to run from the executioner, who followed her, hacking her with his axe until she was dead. A ghostly reenactment of this scene has been witnessed by visitors to the Tower, while the shadow of an axe falls over the green.

Sir Walter Raleigh has been seen strolling the grounds; unlike most prisoners, he had the freedom to move around the Tower.

The tortured screams of Guy Fawkes sometimes ring through the area.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Okay, folks, here we go. It's now the month of Halloween, the month that (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway) was just made for spookiness, eerie nights, hot drinks by a fire, and scaring the hell out of yourself. I've been pretty lax in my postings recently (and by the way, the previous post was simply to claim my blog at one of those sites that pay you to blog), and I do apologize for it.

I'll be adding more soon - today, I hope - and I plan to continue adding as much as I can.


The unknown resides opposite the strict plant.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Haunted hotels

With Halloween approaching, what better time for those in the United States to get yourself a REAL haunt by staying at a haunted hotel?

Autumn is the perfect time, in my opinion, to try out a new haunt. Dry leaves rustle outside the windows; the air is sharp and scented with wood smoke; the full moon highlights increasingly bare branches.

With haunted lodging so popular, and advertised so well, chances are excellent that there's a place near you where you can take a weekend break or a longer vacation. Haunted hotels are all over the U.S., and you should be able to find one within your affordability range. Some of the larger hotels also offer ghost tours as part of their services (though not all tours are included in the price of your stay).

This link will provide you with information on hotels, prices, locations, and best of all, ghost stories from the hotels!

Enjoy your frightful night.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Haunted Mansion

This is my favorite ride at Disneyland. It's not the scariest haunted attraction I've ever visited, but it's very enjoyable, and I like the fact that you can ride through it, rather than walking.

Persistent rumor had it that the Haunted Mansion used to be so scary that a guest suffered a heart attack brought on by fright, and the ride was closed for some time while workers changed it. In reality, the opening of the Mansion was delayed by the death of Walt Disney in 1966. There have never been any fright-induced heart attacks in the ride.

As befits a haunted attraction, another rumor states that the Mansion really is haunted. The story is that a woman wanted to scatter her the ashes of her little boy in the ride, because he loved it so much. When permission was refused, she did it anyway. Guests have reported seeing a little boy crying near the exit.

The ghost of an adult man has also been seen, actually riding in one of the "Doom Buggies", like the hitchhiking ghosts near the end of the ride.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Haunted real estate

Yes, you can buy your very own haunted house - if you don't mind the fact that it's always "on", so to speak, and highly unpredictable in the phenomena that may occur.

It can be difficult for realtors to sell houses in which crimes have occurred, as well as those reputed to be haunted. Especially if the haunting occurs as the result of the crime.

Some states require the seller to disclose a haunting; there was a case in New York, in 1991, when potential purchasers were able to back out of the deal upon learning that the property they planned to buy was reportedly haunted.

34 states require the disclosure of any facts that might cause the property to be devalued. The hardest homes to sell are those in which a murder has taken place, and even worse if more than one murder occurred. The homes of suicides are almost as difficult to sell, and haunted homes rank third on the list.

There are, though, those who really do want to live in a haunted house; those who do, are in luck, because a quick Internet search turns up several sites dedicated to helping those find a haunted property. Happy h(a)unting!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Tower of London

The Queen's House

Arbella Stuart's ghost may haunt The Queen's House on Tower Green.

The Governor of the Tower from 1994 to 2006 who lived in The Queen's House tells of some strange occurences at night.

Arbella Stuart married William Seymour (tne nephew of Lady Jane Grey) in 1610, without the permission of King James I. Both Arbella and William were heirs to the throne; King James regarded this marriage as a threat, and subjected Arbella to house arrest in Lambeth. William was imprisoned in the Tower.

Arbella escaped house arrest and planned to free William so that the two could flee to France. William did indeed escape the Tower, but he missed their meeting. Arbella sailed for France alone, but she was recognized and sent back to England - now, it was her turn to experience the Tower. William, the luckier of the two, escaped to France, never to see his wife again. Arbella died in 1615, in what is now The Queen’s House.

Major General Geoffrey Field, Governor of the Tower of London from 1994-2006, lived with his family in the Queen's House. He told this story:

"Soon after we’d arrived in 1994, my wife Janice was making up the bed in the Lennox room when she felt a violent push in her back which propelled her right out of the room!

"No one had warned us that the house was haunted – but we then discovered that every resident has experienced something strange in that room!

"The story goes that the ghost is that of Arbella Stuart, a cousin of James I, who was imprisoned and then possibly murdered in that bedroom.

"Several women who slept there since have reported waking in terror the middle of the night feeling they were being strangled, so just in case we made it a house rule not to give unaccompanied female guests the Lennox room."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Down Under

Here are a few tales from south of the Equator:

Brisbane City Hall claims three ghosts. One is that of a workman who died in the building in the 1930s, while installing the elevator. He now rides the elevator, maybe eternally. Another is a woman in period clothing; she is seen on or near the main staircase.

The third ghost is probably the most disturbing. He was an American sailor who entered into a deadly fight with another sailor, over a local woman. The Red Cross Tea Room is his "home"; occasionally, people can hear sounds of an argument, a knife being unsheathed, and then the horrible noise as the sailor is murdered.

The historic Newstead House, built in 1846, stands on the banks of the Brisbane River. Strange sounds, such as doors opening and closing, and footsteps, are heard. It is believed that of a woman, likely a maid who once worked in the house, is the primary presence. She has a habit of moving items to different locations in the house.

Parliament House also has three ghosts. One died by suicide (shooting) in the Speakers Room; another died in Parliament House in 1879. The third goes through his daily routine, as he did in life.

Now closed, Boggo Road Gaol is haunted by Ernest Austin, who was hanged here for murder in 1913. There was only one official report of the sightings after his execution, by a guard who stated that he saw a strange form one night. Not surprisingly, the ghost of Ernest Austin was usually seen around the area where the gallows once stood.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Englishman Edward Teach, much better known as Blackbeard, was a widely feared pirate of the 18th century. In accordance with his nickname, he had a long, black beard that fell to his waist; he adorned it with black ribbons. He had a way of drinking rum after setting fire to it with gunpowder. Along with his habit of putting slow-burning fuses in his hair, the general effect was memorable and frightening.

Blackbeard achieved his piracy in part because, rather than sailing under the skull and crossbones, he would approach trade ships flying a flag of a friendly country. Only at the last minute (in the hard-to-see conditions of dawn or dusk) would he hoist the pirate flag. Once, when Blackbeard demanded that a prisoner hand over a diamond ring, the man refused. Blackbeard then cut off the finger holding the ring. He once used his many ships to blockade the port of Charleston, South Carolina, then took several prominent citizens as hostages until ransom was paid.

In November of 1718, Blackbeard held a rowdy party at Teach's Hole, off Ocracoke Island (North Carolina). The party lasted long enough for local citizens to inform Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia. Spotswood sent two sloops to Ocracoke to capture Blackbeard; they were commanded by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy.

On November 21, 1718, Blackbeard's final battle began. He sailed his ship, the Adventure, into a narrow channel, luring one of Maynard's ships onto a sand bar when it attempted to follow. Blackbeard fired his cannons at the second ship, killing several men on board. Maynard ordered the rest of the men, temporarily hidden by the dense smoke, below decks in an attempt to make the pirates believe they were victorious. It worked; the pirates boarded the ship and Maynard and his men attacked.

In the climax of the wild battle, the two leaders, Blackbeard and Maynard, came face to face. Each man fired a shot at the other. Blackbeard's missed, but Maynard hit his target. Blackbeard swung his cutlass and removed Maynard's sword blade close to the hilt. As Blackbeard readied himself to kill Maynard with his next swing, one of Maynard's men came up behind Blackbeard and cut his throat. Not surprisingly, Blackbeard's attempted death blow missed, only skinning Maynard's knuckles. Now suffering from a gunshot wound and a slit throat, Blackbeard continued to fight, blood spurting from his neck. Maynard and several of his men now attacked Blackbeard at once; after five gunshots and approximately twenty sword injuries, Blackbeard fell dead.

In the gruesome aftermath, Blackbeard's head was severed from his body. The head was hung from the ship's bowsprit; the body was thrown overboard. When the body hit the water, the head in the bowsprit began to shout, "Come on, Edward!" Blackbeard's headless body swam around the ship three times before sinking.

Blackbeard's ghost still haunts Teach's Hole, searching for the head that adorned Maynard's bowsprit. Sometimes the ghost is seen floating on the water; sometimes, glowing, it swims underwater around Teach's Hole. Sometimes a ghost light is seen on the Pamlico Sound side of the island; the light is accompanied by the sound of Blackbeard bellowing, "Where is my head?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leap Castle, Ireland

Leap Castle, in Ireland's County Offaly, is hundreds of years old, as any self-respecting haunted castle should be.

During the 16th century, it was owned by the powerful O'Carroll family; when the chieftain died in 1532, brother fought brother to become leader. One brother was a priest, and as he held mass for his family one day, his brother broke into the chapel and ran the priest through with his sword. The priest died on the altar. This tragedy was just one in the brutal history of the castle, which passed from the O'Carrolls to the Darbys, an English family, in 1659.

An oubliette (a type of dungeon; the word comes from the French verb "oublier", which means "to forget") was found just off the chapel much later. Anyone unlucky enough to be punished in the oubliette would never come out again. They fell about eight feet onto a spike, if they were relatively lucky. If not, they were left to starve to death in the small room, with a tiny window affording a view of the freedom so close to them. Around the year 1900, workmen came to clear out the oubliette; they found an enormous pile of skeletons, which filled three carts as they were taken away. The workmen also found a pocket watch from the 1840s, but no one knows how it came to be there.

Leap Castle's reputation was so sinister that the locals avoided it by night. After the castle had been badly damaged by fire, it was sealed off and the gates locked, as if anyone in the neighborhood would have attempted vandalism. It remained in this condition for more than 70 years, during which time people reported seeing certain windows light up, though knowing nobody (living) could be inside.

Late in the 19th century, Jonathan and Mildred Darby occupied the castle with their family. Mildred Darby was interested in magic, and her little hobby awoke one of the spirits of the castle, an elemental spirit. An elemental is a spirit that never occupied human form; Elliott O'Donnell referred to it as a sort of nature spirit. Elementals are among the most frightening of ghostly phenomena. In 1909, Mildred wrote an article for the Journal Occult Review, giving an account of what had happened to her: "I was standing in the gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder. The thing was about the size of a sheep. Thin, gaunting, shadowy... its face was human, to be more accurate inhuman. The lust in its eyes which seemed half decomposed in black cavities stared into mine. The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse."

In the 1970s, the castle's Australian owner brought a white witch brought all the way from Mexico to perform an exorcism. The witch spent a good amount of time in the chapel, known as the "bloody chapel". Later, she told the owner that the spirits wanted to stay in the castle, but that their negative energy was gone.

In the 1990s the castle was sold again. When restoration began, the owner suffered a broken kneecap. A year later, when he was standing on a ladder, it moved backwards, and he hurriedly jumped off, breaking his ankle.

Now? Nothing particularly bad has occurred lately, but you never know.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A haunted bar

From the outside, Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, Kentucky, looks like any other example of boring, ugly architecture. However, paranormal activity in and around the place has brought psychic after psychic, and an exorcist, to the bar, in an attempt to lay the ghosts that are, apparently, out to harm the living. It has been said that the building is one of the most haunted locations in the United States.

The original building was constructed in the 1850s, as a slaughterhouse. The only tangible remnant of the first structure is a well in the basement; this is where blood from slaughtered animals was drained. At the beginning of the 1890s, the slaughterhouse was closed, but the story is that the basement was used by Devil worshippers who sacrificed animals, then threw the corpses into the well. In 1896, the fun came to an end when a murder trial rocked the area. Thousands of people milled around the courthouse, unable to get in, while others (who actually bought tickets to the trial) enjoyed the show indoors.

The trial concerned the savage murder of Pearl Bryan, from Greencastle, Indiana. 22-year-old Pearl was very popular and a member of a good family. She was also pregnant. Her lover (introduced to her by her cousin, William Wood) was Scott Jackson, a student at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in nearby Cincinnati. Unknown to both Pearl and Wood, Jackson was said to be member of the Devil worshippers meeting in the old slaughterhouse. Jackson soon became intimate with Pearl; when she became pregnant, she went to her cousin for help. Wood told Jackson of this turn of events, and Jackson made arrangements for Pearl to travel to Cincinnati for an abortion.

On February 1, 1896, Pearl (now five months pregnant) told her parents she was going to Indianapolis. In reality, she had arranged to meet Jackson and his roommate, Alonzo Walling, in Cincinnati. Her parents would never see her again.

Jackson first tried to induce an abortion with chemicals, such as cocaine (which was found in Pearl's system when an autopsy was performed). He then tried dental tools, to no avail. Pearl was now bleeding and very frightened, but still pregnant. They traveled to an out-of-the-way place near Fort Thomas, Kentucky, where the two men had better luck with the dental instruments when they used them to murder Pearl by decapitating her. Later examination by a doctor determined that Pearl was still alive when her head was cut off; this conclusion was reached due to blood discovered on the bottoms of some of the leaves at the murder scene.

Pearl’s headless body was discovered less than two miles from the former slaughterhouse; she was identified by her shoes. During the trial, Walling testified that Jackson had first had the idea to dismember Pearl and throw the parts of her body into the sewers of Cincinnati. As it was, only her head was taken. Her long hair was later found in Jackson’s room.

Pearl’s head was never found; the story is that it was used for a ritual at the former slaughterhouse, then thrown into the well. Jackson and Walling were found guilty and sentenced to death. Charges had been brought against Wood, but were dropped when he agreed to testify against Jackson and Walling. Some reports stated that Jackson and Walling were offered life sentences if they would tell the authorities where Pearl’s head was. They refused, and were hanged behind the Newport courthouse on March 21, 1897.

Rumors got out that Jackson and Walling feared "Satan’s wrath" if they gave away the location of Pearl’s head. A reporter commented after the hanging that as the noose was put around Walling's neck, he threatened to come back and haunt the place. The same reporter also claimed that a curse seemed to have befallen many of the people involved with the case, with many of them experiencing various misfortunes and dying tragically.

The slaughterhouse was torn down some years later, and a roadhouse was built on the site. During the Roaring '20s, it was a speakeasy. Stories are told of many murders occurring on the premises during that time. Given the fact that the place was a den of alcohol and gambling, both illegal, the murders were never reported, and the bodies taken elsewhere; this meant that all the murders went unsolved.

Prohibition ended in 1933, and the building was bought by E.A. ("Buck") Brady. He operated a tavern/casino, the Primrose. Once news of the thriving business reached Cincinnati mobsters, they attempted to muscle in on it. Brady resisted all their attempts. The mobsters then began to vandalize the place, as well as harassing and even beating up customers outside. Eventually, a shooting occurred, in August of 1946. Brady was charged with the attempted murder of Albert "Red" Masterson (another crook), but he was released later. Buck then sold his business to the hoods. Almost twenty years after the shooting, in September of 1965, Brady committed suicide.

The building now became another nightclub, the Latin Quarter. During the 1950s, another ghost joined the ranks. Johanna, the daughter of the club's owner, fell in love with a singer performing in the club and (shades of Pearl Bryan!) became pregnant. Her father, outraged, had his mob buddies kill the singer. Johanna tried to murder her father with poison, then killed herself. Her body was found, of course, in the basement. The autopsy report stated that she was five months pregnant, just like Pearl.

In early 1978, the building was purchased by Bobby and Janet Mackey; they planned to make it into a country bar. Mackey, a singer, was well-known in the area. The bar became a popular hangout quickly.

The first employee hired to work at the new bar was caretaker/handyman Carl Lawson. Not only did he work in the building, he also lived there. His apartment was located upstairs. Lawson was also the first to report strange happenings in the building. "I’d...make sure that everything was turned off. Then I’d come back down hours later and the bar lights would be on. The front doors would be unlocked... The jukebox would be playing the ‘Anniversary Waltz’ even though I’d unplugged it and the power was turned off," Lawson said in an interview.

Lawson also saw the ghost of an angry-looking man behind the bar; he was the only person present who saw it. Not long after this, Lawson came into contact with a ghost named Johanna. Lawson could see and hear Johanna, and the two of them carried on conversations, which led to the idea that Lawson had started talking to himself.

Lawson came to the realization that the basement was the center of the paranormal activity; more precisely, the location of the well. Lawson was aware of the stories surrounding the history of the site. He decided to bless the well with holy water, in an attempt to calm the place. The plan backfired, and the activity, rather than decreasing, increased. Other employees, as well as some customers, now began to experience the phenomena. Items moved with no visible cause; voices were heard. Bobby Mackey, not a believer in ghosts, worried that the stories would drive away existing and potential customers. However, soon his wife had experiences of her own.

Janet, when in the basement, smelled an overpowering scent of roses (the scent that always manifested itself when Johanna was near). An invisible force seized Janet around the waist, lifted her, and threw her down. She ran to the stairs, only to encounter a strong force that was trying to push her down the steps. A voice began screaming, "Get out!"

Janet was five months pregnant at the time.

Writer Doug Hensley overcame the initial resistance of customers and staff alike to investigate the ghostly happenings. He soon had thirty affidavits testifying to the paranormal activity in the club. One story concerned a headless ghost wearing clothing from the 19th century; this ghost had been seen by several people, all of whom gave the same description of her. Hensley dug through historical records and old newspapers, finding the forgotten stories of Pearl Bryan and Buck Brady. (Brady's ghost has also been seen on the premises.) Hensley wrote a book containing these stories, and he has taken part in several investigations. An attempt, in 1994, to exorcise the place had as much effect as Carl Lawson's holy water.

The club is still open, still popular, and still haunted.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle is famous for more than one reason. One is that it was the setting of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Duncan's Hall commemorates the murder of King Duncan by Macbeth, even though the murder actually occurred near Elgin.

The Bowes-Lyon family owns Glamis. Princess Margaret was born in the castle; King Malcolm of Scotland died in it (from battle-inflicted wounds). Legend has it that a secret chamber still exists somewhere in the castle. It's thought to be located deep in the walls of the crypt, to your left as you face towards the two small windows at the end of the room.

One famous story of the castle chamber concerns the Earl of Strathmore, who decided to play a game of cards. He ordered his servants to play with him, but since it was a Sunday, they refused. The Earl then shouted, "I'd play with the Devil himself if he were here!"

A knock sounded at the door immediately; when the Earl shouted, "Enter!" the Devil walked in. Soon, terrible sounds began to come from the room. When a servant bent to look through the keyhole, a light or a flame (depending on the version of the story) blasted out of the opening. Since that time, hundreds of years ago, the Devil and the Earl have been playing cards constantly.

Another story is that the chamber holds the bones of Scottish clansmen who arrived at the castle one night, seeking refuge. The lord of Glamis brought them to the chamber, then had it sealed off, leaving the men inside to starve to death.

A ghost in armor was once seen by a woman who was a guest at the castle. Unable to sleep one night, she had a candle lit, but a wave of cold air blew it out. The woman saw an enormous man wearing armor. It appeared to be trying to find the way into her little girl's room, and finally, it discovered the door and entered. The girl began to scream in terror. Her mother ran into the room, only to find her alone, and sobbing that a giant had been leaning over her bed.

Another guest, who was staying in the Blue Room, woke when a hand brushed her cheek. She opened her eyes and saw the ghostly face of a bearded man above her. She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, the face had disappeared.

A feeling of deep sadness is felt in the chapel, and knocking sounds are sometimes heard. A Gray Lady has been seen kneeling at the altar. More than 400 years ago, this ghost - then the very much alive Janet Douglas - married the 6th Lord of Glamis. Lord Glamis died in 1528. Lady Janet's brother was the stepfather of King James V, who hated his stepfather and anyone named Douglas. The luckless Lady Janet, after her husband's death, was left unprotected, and King James confiscated Glamis Castle when he accused Lady Janet of witchcraft. Not only that, he accused her of brewing potions with the intent of murdering him. Nobody believed it, but Lady Janet and her son John thrown into the dungeon of Edinburgh Castle. King James held court in Glamis Castle from 1537 to 1542. Knowing that Lady Janet's reputation was spotless, the King decided to force her servants to give false evidence by using torture. Her family and servants were stretched on the rack until the King had the "evidence" he needed. John, then 16, was forced to watch, then was tortured himself. The King secured his conviction against Lady Janet; she and John were sentenced to death. On July 17, 1537, Lady Janet Glamis - by now almost blind from spending so much time in the dungeon - was burned alive at Edinburgh Castle. John, now the 7th Lord of Glamis, was released from prison after the death of King James V, and Parliament restored Glamis to him. When he returned to the castle, though, he discovered that the late King had looted it. After Lady Janet's execution, the ghost of the Gray Lady began appearing at the castle. She is seen in the chapel, and in the clock tower.

Another ghost is that of a woman with no tongue, who is seen running across the castle grounds at midnight pawing at her mouth.

Glamis even has a vampire! She is believed to have been a servant who was caught sucking blood from a hapless victim. Legend has it she was walled up alive in a secret chamber (maybe the same secret chamber of which so many other stories are told?), and is still waiting to be freed.

In the 1700s a rumor began to spread of a room containing a secret so horrible that only the Lords of Glamis, their heirs and the steward of the castle were allowed to see it. Once, some guests at the castle decided to look for the room. They hung towels from every window of the castle, then went outside to see one window without a towel. They never did find the room, and nobody else has, either. (Another story states that, after hanging towels from all the windows, the guests went outside only to find that several windows were lacking towels.)

Paranormal activity includes screams, banging noises, covers being torn from beds at night, and doors that, though locked and bolted, open mysteriously.

Glamis Castle is a tourist attraction - and even a wedding venue. Take a look at their website for more information.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Alcatraz is one of the most famous prisons in the United States. Al Capone was an inmate here, along with George "Machine-Gun" Kelly. Its isolated location, on an island in San Francisco Bay, helped to keep the prisoners behind bars.

In 1847 the United States military put the island to use. They established a fort, then in 1854, the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast was built. In 1859, the first (military) prisoners were sent to the fort. In 1861, Confederate prisoners began to arrive. Some were soldiers; some merely sympathized with the South. The fort was much smaller in those days, and the men were kept in the guardhouse basement, lying on a stone floor with no heat or running water - and nothing in the form of a latrine. Lice were rampant, and diseases spread easily. The stereotypical prison punishments - being chained to an iron ball, subsisting on bread and water - were common.

In 1904, the prison was updated. The stockade wall was extended; several new buildings were constructed. Surprisingly, the earthquake of 1906 didn't damage any of the buildings, so prisoners from the hard-hit mainland jail were brought to the island as a temporary measure.

In those days, though the rules were strict, the facility was, by and large, minimum-security. Quite a few of the inmates had jobs working for the military families living on the island, and some even took care of officers' children. Some took advantage of the low security to attempt escape, but of those who tried, some had to be rescued, while the rest drowned in the bay.

In 1933, Alcatraz was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to become a model for an "escape-proof" prison. James A. Johnston became the warden. He created rules and regulations for Alcatraz and hired the best men available to work in it. Soon, the appearance of the prison had undergone a dramatic change. Gun towers were built, barbed wire encircled the premises; the cellblock was constructed on the old fort. Inside, the locks were electric, and tear gas could be sprayed from the ceilings. In addition, housing was built for the guards' families and the former lighthouse keeper's residence became the quarters of the new warden.

The worst inmates from prisons around the country were now being sent to "the Rock". Among these were Capone; Kelly; Robert Stroud (the "Birdman" of Alcatraz); Floyd Hamilton (one-time driver for Bonnie and Clyde), and Alvin ("Creepy") Karpis.

It was in August of 1934 that Capone arrived at the prison. Prior to this, he had been an inmate in a federal prison in Atlanta, enjoying special benefits. Alcatraz, though, was an entirely different matter. Johnston recognize Capone quickly, and when speaking to him for the first time, simply issued a prison number.

The "Strip Cell", also called the "Oriental", was used for punishment. It had no toilet and no sink. A hole in the floor, which could be flushed from outside the cell, was used for human waste. Inmates undergoing punishment were put naked in the cell, and received only small portions of food. It had the usual bars, with an opening through which food was passed, but it also had a solid steel door, which left the inmate in blackness. Inmates were usually confined to the cell for a day or two. The only furnishing was a straw mattress, which was removed in the morning. The prisoners dreaded this punishment, which was used only in extreme cases.

Another kind of cell was known as the "Hole". These were found on the bottom tier of the cells, and again, were feared by the prisoners. The mattresses were taken in the mornings and the prisoners received bread and water, with a regular meal every three days. There were the same steel doors, but a (dim) lightbulb hung from the ceiling. Up to 19 days were spent in here, creating a form of psychological torture for the inmates.

When an inmate was forced into the "hole", he was almost always beaten by the guards. D Block contained four such "holes", and the screams of the inmates were heard clearly by the other prisoners in the block. When this happened, the other inmates would make loud noise, which was then heard in the B and C blocks, who would also create a ruckus. Men who spent time in the "hole" often ended up in the prison hospital; some had their health damaged by lying naked on the concrete floor. Some died in the "hole". (Al Capone once went the full 19 days for attempting to bribe a guard.)

In front of A Block there was a staircase leading to a steel door, which in turn led to corridors going to the gun ports from bygone times. Two rooms in this area, which was underground, were used as dungeons. Prisoners who were thrown, naked, into the dungeons were chained to the walls before being locked in; no matter how loudly they screamed, nobody could hear them in the main building. There was no toilet, only a bucket - and it was emptied only once a week. Rations were two cups of water and a piece of bread daily, with (as in the "holes") a larger meal every three days. The wall chains forced them to stand twelve hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. At night, they were provided with a blanket.

In just one year - 1937, only a few years after the prison opened - 14 prisoners went insane, such as Rube Persful. Persful, once a gangster who robbed banks on the side, worked in a workshop at the prison. One day, resting his left hand on a piece of wood, he took a hatchet and, laughing, started to chop off his fingers. He then implored a guard to do the same to his right hand. It may be that the number of breakdowns at the "Rock" was higher than at any other federal prison.

In May 1946, Bernard Coy, Joe Cretzer, Marvin Hubbard, Sam Shockley, Miran Thompson, and Clarence Carnes took several guards hostage in an attempt to escape. By the end of the attempt, three of the guards were dead and others had been wounded. Two of the guards had been brutally murdered in cells 402 and 403; these cells were later renumbered to C-102 and C-104. The U.S. Marines stormed the island and used heavy weaponry in an assault on the block. The inmates, even knowing that resistance was futile, decided to fight. The warden (not knowing how many were involved in the uprising) called for additional help from other organizations, so that eventually, he received aid not only from the Marines, but from the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, the Army, many guards from nearby prisons, and several police units had been brought in.

Finally, after two days, Cretzer, Coy and Hubbard attempted to take refuge from the gunfire in a utility corridor, only to be killed by bullets and metal fragments from other explosives. The other three, hoping that no one could identify them as being part of the proceedings, went back to their cells. Thompson and Shockley went to the gas chamber at San Quentin; and Carnes was sentenced to life plus 99 years (in consideration of the fact that he had helped some of the hostages when they were wounded).

On March 23, 1963, now falling into disrepair due in large part to the corrosive salt water and air, Alcatraz was closed. Almost ten years later, in 1972, an act of Congress created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Alcatraz, now a tourist attraction, opened to the general public in the autumn of 1973.

Ghosts and unexplained phenomena

When Alcatraz was still a prison, quite a few guards experienced odd occurrences between 1946 and 1963. Strange, unexplained smells were noticed; sounds of sobbing were heard; even specters were seen. Civilians on the island said that they sometimes saw the ghosts of prisoners and soldiers. Warden Johnston, a very down-to-earth man, once heard sobbing as he took a group of guests on a tour of the prison. He believed that the sobbing came from the inside of the dungeon walls. Then, an icy cold draft of air was felt by the group.

One night in 1976, a guard heard strange noises behind a steel door in Block C. This door, funnily enough, is the one leading to the utility corridor where the three inmates were shot to death in the 1946 escape attempt. The guard opened the door and sent the beam of his flashlight down the corridor. Seeing nothing, he closed the door... and the noises began again. He opened the door a second time. He saw nothing. He shut the door again and left.

An employee was walking in front of A Block when she heard a scream coming from the bottom of the stairs. She ran without checking the source of the noise. stated Only the day before another employee heard men's voices in the hospital ward. When he investigated, he found the ward empty.

Cell 14D, one of the infamous "holes", has a very creepy atmosphere. One guide stated that it's always cold, so much that a jacket is necessary if anyone wants to spend more than a few minutes in it. When Alcatraz was still a prison, many guards mentioned frightening occurrences near all of the "holes", but especially, 14D.

In the mid-1940s, an inmate was put in this "hole". The guard later stated that soon after the door was locked, the man began to scream. He shrieked that something was in there with him, something with "glowing eyes". He continued to scream well into the night. Then there was silence. The next day, the inmate was found dead in his cell. His face was frozen in a look of horror, and his throat showed clear marks, made by two hands. The autopsy reported that the cause of death was strangulation, but not self-inflicted. There was a belief that one of the guards had done it, out of an inability to handle any more of the man's screaming. However, some officers believed that the killer was the ghost of a former inmate. On the day after the mysterious death, the guards were doing the regular head count when they noticed one extra person in the lineup. The extra man was the recently-deceased inmate. As the guards stared, he vanished.

Alcatraz is still open to tours by the public - including the legendary, infamous Cell 14D.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A haunted house in New Orleans

This is a truly gruesome story; be warned!

In 1832, Dr. Louis Lalaurie moved into a three-story mansion at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans with his wife, Delphine. Madame Lalaurie was a very popular hostess and diligent in attending to the needs of her guests. She was a woman of good business sense, handling the family's finances, and was admired for her beauty and elegance.

Below the gorgeous surface, however, the not-so-good Madame was a monster. These were the days of slavery, and the Lalauries had many. Madame Lalaurie chained the cook to the kitchen fireplace - and the cook was one of the luckier ones. All the servants in the house were slaves, and people began to notice a rather high turnover. It wasn't as if the slaves could just walk off the job; if they left - in other words, if they ran away - they were simply returned to their "owners" and treated that much worse for having attempted to escape. Yet the slaves just... vanished. And were replaced. Strange, since the cost of buying a slave was rather high.

One day, one of the neighbors heard a scream from the Lalaurie house. Madame was chasing her personal maid, who was just a child, with a whip. The girl ran to the roof of the house then jumped, dying on the ground below. The same neighbor saw the girl being buried in the yard later.

At that time, New Orleans law prevented cruelty to slaves; the authorities came to investigate Madame's actions, based on what the neighbor had seen, and took the slaves, later auctioning them. Madame Lalaurie then talked some of her relatives into buying them, and reselling them to her.

In April of 1834, the can of worms was finally opened when a fire broke out in the kitchen. Some said later that it was set by the cook. After it was extinguished, the fire fighters broke through a door in the attic and discovered what Madame had been doing in her spare time. There were more than a dozen slaves, male and female, chained to the wall. Some had been strapped to crude operating tables. Some locked in dog cages. Body parts were scattered everywhere. Torture instruments were piled on a shelf. The New Orleans Bee stated that all the victims were naked and were either strapped to the tables or chained to the wall. Some of the women's abdomens had been cut open and their intestines wrapped around their waists. One woman's mouth had been filled with animal excrement before her lips were sewn shut.
As for the men, some had had their fingernails torn off, some had had their eyes gouged out, and some had lost their genitals. One man, shackled, had had a hole drilled into his head, from which a stick protruded. The stick had been used to “stir” his brain. Mouths had been pinned shut; hands had been sewn to different areas of the body. Nobody knows how many slaves were discovered in the torture chamber, but most were dead. Some of those who still lived included a woman whose arms and legs had been amputated. Another was in a small cage, all of her limbs broken and then reset at odd angles.

When the news broke, most believed that it was Madame Lalaurie alone who had committed the crimes and that her husband, though knowing of her "activities", allowed them to continue. A mob gathered around the house, but the Madame had another trick up her sleeve. She simply got into her carriage, horses and coachman at the ready, and ordered him to drive. The crowd was so surprised, it split around her. None of the Lalauries was ever seen again.

After the mutilated slaves had been taken away, the house was vandalized by the enraged mob. For years, it stayed vacant, slowly decaying. There were many reports of agonized screams from the empty house at night, and apparitions appearing in various areas. There were even rumors that homeless people who attempted to stay in the house disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

In 1837, the house was put on the market. The man who bought it regretted his decision so much that he left three months later. He heard weird noises at night and soon left. Attempts at leasing the place were unsuccessful; the tenants stayed, at most, a few days.

Late in the 19th century, rumors abounded concerning the death of Jules Vignie, who belonged to a wealthy New Orleans family. He had lived secretly in the house from late in the 1880s until his death in 1892. His body was found in the mansion, lying on a cot, surrounded by filth, when other rooms contained antiques and other valuables. A bag with several hundred dollars was found near his body, and thousands of dollars were hidden in his mattress.

In the late 1890’s, a wave of immigration occurred. The house was purchased and converted into apartments to deal with the increasing population. Many strange events occured. One tenant was attacked by a naked black man in chains, who then vanished. Some had animals slaughtered in the house. Children were attacked by a whip-wielding ghost. Shrouded figures were seen. One mother was terrified to see a woman in evening dress bending over her sleeping baby. There were also the nightly concerts of screaming and moaning. Once the stories of the hauntings spread, no tenant would live there.

Now, the house is an apartment building, once again. Not long ago, the owners were remodeling when they found several graves under the floor in the back of the house. Officials, when called to investigate, believed that this was the infamous Madame Lalaurie’s private graveyard. This was the solution to the puzzle that had baffled her contemporaries: Where had the slaves gone? The Madame had simply pulled up floorboards and buried the bodies underneath.

No wonder the place was haunted.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ghostly lodging

For those who like a slightly different vacation, there are plenty of places out there, from bed and breakfasts to castle hotels, that offer a ghost (or ghosts) along with the regular amenities. Tea and coffee maker, complimentary bottle of wine, chocolates, hot tub, full breakfast, ghostly activity free of charge.

Lodging owners in the United States and Great Britain are eager to let potential clients know about the ghosts they have. The Travel Channel spotlights various haunted locations across the States, and a few in Britain, dramatizing the stories behind the hauntings. (Not all the hauntings shown on the Travel Channel concern places that are now used for lodging, however.)

Think of it as a different kind of adrenaline sport. Most sports people like to collapse in bed at the end of the day, pleasantly exhausted. Ghost tourists know that they aren't likely to get a good night's sleep... and they're prepared for it. Sometimes the activity is just a feeling that they aren't alone in the room. Sometimes spirits manifest themselves. It can be the apparition of a young child, an anxious mother, a wounded soldier. Sometimes the ghost, or ghosts, won't want anyone in that particular room; sometimes the guest(s) will return to find the sheets rumpled, or their clothing scattered around the room, or something missing. Lights may turn off and on; doors may open and close with no one near them.

Some of these places ask their guests to write down their experiences, if any. Not all guests will encounter paranormal activity; those who do will not always experience the same thing.

Anyone out there who would like me to blog about their haunted bed and breakfast/guest house/hotel/other lodging is more than welcome to contact me here!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Grey Ghost

Now permanently docked in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary has had a fascinating, and deeply haunted, history. Eighteen years after the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, construction began in Scotland on a luxury liner that was even bigger, as well as being faster. The Great Depression put a halt to the building activity for some years; finally, the completed ship made its (successful) maiden voyage on May 27, 1936.

For the next three years, the elite traveled the new liner. Such guests as Greta Garbo, David Niven, Mary Pickford, and the Gershwin brothers graced the ship. The liner held the record for the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic.

Upon the outbreak of World War II in 1939, luxury travel came to an end. The large, powerful Queen Mary became a troopship. Painted grey, she came to be known as “The Grey Ghost” - a very prophetic title indeed. By the end of the war, the ship had carried almost a million troops and had sailed more than half a million miles.

After the war, the ship was renovated, and in July of 1947, started weekly across the Atlantic once again. By the early 1960s, with the increasing popularity of air travel, the ship started cruises to warmer climates such as the Bahamas. Lacking the modern amenities of the more modern ships, she was taken out of service in 1967.
That year, the ship was sold for $3.45 million to the city of Long Beach, California, to be used as a maritime museum and hotel. On December 9, 1967 she sailed to Long Beach, there to remain.

Word is that there may be as many as 150 ghosts in this floating hotel. At least 49 deaths have been reported in more than half a century.

The first-class swimming pool, closed for decades, is the site of female apparitions wearing swimming suits from the 1930s. Wet footprints going from the deck to the changing rooms have been seen. One little spirit is that of a young girl with a teddy bear. A live ghost webcam has been set up here.

Another little girl, named Jackie, has been seen and heard around the second-class pool. She drowned in the pool years ago, and has never left the area.

In the Queen’s Salon, formerly the first-class lounge, a young woman wearing a white evening gown has been seen dancing alone in one corner of the room.

Many first-class staterooms experience paranomal activity. A tall dark-haired man wearing a 1930s suit; water running; lights clicking on in the dead of night; phones ringing with no one on the other end of the line.

Stateroom B340 has had so much activity that it is not rented now. The faucets are said to turn on by themselves, and bedding has been yanked off the beds.

One famous ghost is believed to be that of John Pedder. He was a fireman in the engine room who was crushed by "Door 13". During a drill, he apparently tried once too often to jump back and forth through the doorway before the door closed (this, evidently, was common practice among crew members), but the door was faster. His ghost has been seen, still wearing the blue coveralls, walking down the area known as "Shaft Alley" and disappearing at the fatal door.

During World War II, the Queen Mary once accidently collided with one of her escort ships; the other ship sank. Screams can be heard at times in the bow of the ship where she rammed into the escort.

A server once saw three guests walking towards her along the hallway leading from the deck. She checked the reservation book for a party of three, but when she looked up, she saw only two people. She asked the guests if they would like to wait for their friend before being seated, but the guests said there were only two in their party. The server also claimed that the faucets in the women's bathroom nearby turn on and off by themselves.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ghosts of the White House

I dug around a little (no pun intended) and found mention of more than the ghosts of the Lincoln family haunting the white house. Many more, as a matter of fact.

At the North Portico (the front entrance), Anne Surratt's ghost has been seen hammering at the doors, begging for her mother to be released. Mary Surratt was accused of participating in a conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in the hysterical aftermath of the first presidential assassination. She was convicted, and executed in 1865. Every July 7, the anniversary of Mary's hanging, marks another appearance by Anne's ghost. Mary lived in an apartment building on H Street; for years after her death, subsequent tenants reported hearing moaning and sobs.

An unfriendly ghost, that of a British soldier who is said to be one of the members of Britain's attempt, in 1814, to burn the White House, is said to walk in front of the house at night. He always has a flaming torch in one hand.

Dorothea Paine ("Dolley") Madison, wife of President James Madison, appeared in a fit of pique in the Rose Garden when Woodrow Wilson was President. The garden was established by Dolley a hundred years before, but Wilson's wife Ellen wanted to have it dug up. Workmen claimed that the ghost of Dolley Madison appeared and prevented them from doing the work. No one else has ever tried to change, much less eliminate, the garden.

Reports state that William Henry Harrison's ghost can be heard digging around in the attic - though how anyone knows it's the ghost of Harrison simply by hearing him, is unexplained.

A Demon Cat is said to haunt the basement - or the basement of the U.S. Capitol Building, depending on which version you read. When the cat appears, a major disaster is likely to occur soon. A White House guard claimed he saw it a week before the 1929 stock market crash; it was also seen just before the assassination of JFK.

Abigail Adams (wife of John Adams) has been seen hanging laundry in the East Room. When she lived in White House, this was the best room for this purpose. Even now, she can be seen hurrying towards the East Room, holding her arms out as if she is carrying laundry. The East Room is also the room in which Abraham Lincoln's body lay in state.

Winston Churchill refused to sleep in Lincoln's former bedroom after seeing the ghost of Lincoln himself. One embarrassing night, Churchill (still staying in the Lincoln Room) took a long bath, drinking a glass Scotch and smoking one of his trademark cigars. Still smoking, he got out of the bath and went into the bedroom, naked. He saw Lincoln standing by the fireplace and leaning on the mantle. They looked at one another for a long moment while the apparition slowly disappeared. (It seems that the fireplace held some sort of significance for Lincoln; Maureen Reagan and her husband, Dennis, saw his translucent figure next to it.)

Andrew Jackson is said to haunt his old canopy bed in the Rose Room. A strange cold spot and the sound of laughter issuing from the bed have been reported. His ghost laughs, swears, and yells.

Harry Truman once wrote in a letter to his wife: "At 4 o'clock I was awakened by three distinct knocks on my bedroom door. No one there. Damned place is haunted, sure as shootin'!"

Friday, July 3, 2009

Haunted Investigations

Okay, a little lecture here.

We all know of that weird house in the neighborhood, or at least, somewhere in town, that's haunted. Everyone knows someone who had a strange experience there. Maybe somebody died in it. Maybe a murder was committed there.

It's always in rotten shape, yard overgrown with weeds, windows broken, trash everywhere. And everybody, sooner or later, gets the bright idea to go in there - maybe to have a seance, maybe to party down. Maybe they want to just sit in the house and see what happens.

These houses are private property, and you may well find yourself attempting to explain to some very solid police officers that you weren't doing anything wrong. Even if you do get permission to be on the property, please keep in mind that old houses can be very dangerous. Floors can be rotted, beams can fall, and there is likely to be window glass everywhere.

Don't forget the rats, either.

Yeah, it sounds like a good, spooky evening/night, but if you want a safe thrill - without rats, broken glass, mildew, the stench of urine, or a stiff fine - either go to an animated "haunted" house, or take a ghost tour.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Headless ghosts. Even a staunch ghost-hunter might think twice about looking for one of these.

One of the most popular ghost stories in that line is the story of the Headless Horseman of upstate New York, who rides the night looking for his head - and if you're unlucky enough to be out when he is, he might just take yours.

Washington Irving gave the Horseman lasting fame in his short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"; he adapted it from a Revolutionary War legend. The legend states that a Hessian (i.e., a German mercenary), fighting for the British, literally lost his head in battle when a cannonball blew it right off his body. Since that time, he searches for his lost head.

The headless ghost of a woman haunted a house in England, occasionally entering an unwary sleeper's bedroom and waking him or her with an icy hand on the forehead. Eventually, one person had the courage to follow her; she led him to a cellar, pointed to a certain spot, and vanished. When the area was examined, treasure was discovered.

The ghost continued to haunt the house, however, until someone else followed her. She revealed more treasure, and after this incident, she never reappeared.

Elliott O'Donnell wrote of a man who experienced the eerie sounds of footsteps behind him as he walked alone down a deserted country road one moonlit night. Eventually, he saw something - not a form, not a strange vapor, but a shadow. Only a shadow; no body. The shadow approached him rapidly; he drew aside as it passed and saw that it was the shadow of a well-built man with no head. He felt a rush of extreme cold as the thing passed him.

Anne Boleyn sometimes walks the Tower of London, carrying her head. Sometimes she rides to her former home in a carriage drawn by headless horses, driven by a headless coachman; her head is in her lap. The First Earl of Holland has been seen in his former house in London, also with his head in his hands. (His house - Holland House - is now a youth hostel.)

Monday, June 29, 2009


Sometimes, a ghost brings good news - and not just the kind of good news that Scrooge received from his three ghosts.

There are stories of treasure - silver and, better yet, gold coins being found as a result of a ghost's appearance. There is one such story of a family in England, who received an unexpected guest when remodeling their home. The father of the family, hearing a noise one night, went downstairs to investigate. Through a hole that they had made in a wall, he discovered a man staring at him. When asked who he was, the man gave his name, along with the startling information, "I was murdered in this house more than 400 years ago."

The ghost explained that, in life, he had been a tradesman, and had been murdered for a store of gold coins, which were still hidden in the basement of the house. He promised to return the next night, and vanished.

The following night, true to his word, the ghost appeared and guided the family, along with some friends, to the hidden gold in the basement, after receiving their promise that they would turn the money over to his descendants. The family, though the ghost had allowed them to keep ten gold coins for their trouble, kept only one, and gave the rest to the ghost's descendants.

Looking for some gold?

You don't have to dig for it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Abraham Lincoln and the supernatural

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, and the first to be assassinated. He lived a deeply sad life - the death of his mother, the death of his first fiancee, Ann Rutledge, a turbulent marriage to Mary Todd, and the deaths of two of his children (another child, Thomas, died in 1871). Lincoln often sat by his son Willie's crypt, crying for hours. Mary Lincoln's method of coping was to immerse herself in seances, much like Sarah Winchester in years to come, attempting to communicate with her deceased sons.

Early in the year 1865, Lincoln spoke of a dream he had had: "About ten days ago I retired very late...I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a deathlike stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs.

"There, the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room. No living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed alone...I was puzzled and alarmed.

"Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face covered, others weeping pitifully.

"'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers. 'The President,' was his answer. 'He was killed by an assassin.'"

The outburst of grief at this news was so loud that Lincoln awoke. On April 14, with the Civil War finally at an end, he was attending a play at Ford's Theatre when he was shot in the back of the head by actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was carried to a nearby boarding house, where he died at 7:22 a.m., April 15, 1865.

The grief surrounding this first presidential assassination was overwhelming; people wept openly in the streets. Lincoln, who had not been a very popular president, suddenly became a hero and a martyr to millions.

After lying in state in the East Room, as in his dream, Lincoln's body was put on a train to Springfield, Illinois. According to popular legend, on the anniversary of this sad trip, two ghost trains are seen slowly traveling between Washington, D.C. and Illinois. The first train contains a military band (sometimes reported as a band of skeletons) playing a funeral dirge. A second steam engine follows it, pulling a flatbed car with Lincoln's coffin resting on it. They never do arrive in Springfield.

A curious twist of fate involves Lincoln's oldest son, Robert. Late in 1864 or early in 1865, Robert was standing on the platform of a railway station as a train pulled in. Robert was somehow swept off his feet and found himself falling into the gap between the train and the platform; had he fallen, he would have been crushed. A stranger on the platform seized his collar and pulled him to safety.

Robert turned to thank the man, and recognized him: He was Edwin Booth, a very popular actor, whose far-less-successful brother was John Wilkes Booth. Edwin had no idea that he had saved the President's son until Robert sent him a heartfelt letter of gratitude later. After the assassination, Edwin took comfort in the fact that he had been able to save one of the Lincolns.

When Ulysses S. Grant was president, one of the household staff claimed to have seen Willie and talked to him.

Calvin Coolidge's wife Grace Coolidge was the first person to report seeing Abraham Lincoln's ghost. She claimed to have seen him standing at a window in the Oval Office, hands behind his back, looking across the Potomac River.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, the country first experienced the Great Depression, and then, World War II. Lincoln's ghost was seen more often at this time.

During the war, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was a guest at the White House. One night, she was awakened by a knock on her door. When she opened the door, she was confronted by the figure of President Lincoln standing in the hallway. The queen fainted; when she came to, she was lying across the threshold, alone - the ghost was gone.

Once, Mary Eben, Eleanor Roosevelt's secretary, found Lincoln's ghost in the northwest bedroom, sitting on the bed. He was pulling on his boots. The secretary screamed and ran, bursting in on Mrs. Roosevelt and shouting, "He's up there, pulling on his boots!"

"Who is?" Mrs. Roosevelt asked.

"Mr. Lincoln!" was the reply.

Other staff members of the FDR administration said they'd seen Lincoln lying on his bed occasionally, in the afternoons.

During the Truman administration, his daughter Margaret, who slept in that area of the White House, often heard knocks on her door late at night. She never found anyone when she investigated. She told her father, who thought the noises must be caused by the floors settling; he then had the White House rebuilt entirely. It was the best decision he could have made - the chief architect told Truman that the building had been in danger of collapsing. Was Lincoln's ghost trying to warn the Trumans of the danger?

No reports of Lincoln's ghost have been made in recent times... but given his haunted life and death, one may occur at any time.

Lincoln's son Robert, the only one who lived to adulthood, sat by his father's bedside and watched him die. In 1881, working for President Garfield's administration, Robert witnessed Charles Guiteau shoot Garfield, who died weeks later. In 1901, Robert was invited to the Pan-American Exposition. It was here that Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley.

Robert became convinced that he was a curse; he was afraid to associate with any other President, due to these deaths. However, he did allow himself to meet with then-President Harding, in 1922, to unveil the Lincoln Memorial.

Harding died in office the following year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A ghostly dream

In London, towards the end of the 17th century, a murder was solved by a friend of the victim - through a series of dreams.

From An Historical, Physiological, and Psychological Treatise of Spirits, quoted in The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams (1865, v.2, ed.. Frank Seafield), by John Beaumont.

Stockden's Murder

Six dreams, dreamt late Dec. 1695-Jan.1696, by Elizabeth Greenwood.

The opening states: "Mr William Smithies, curate of St Giles's, Cripplegate, an. 1698, published an account of the robbery and murder of John Stockden, victualler in Grub Street, within the said parish, and of the discovery of the murderers by several dreams of Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Greenwood, a neighbour of the said Stockden; an abstract of which account I give you as follows..."

"Mr. Stockden was robbed and murdered by three men, in his own house, on the 23rd of December, 1695, about midnight. A little after the murder there came a woman into the street, and said she believed one Maynard to be one of the murderers, because she was informed he was full of money, both silver and gold; upon which there was a warrant taken against him, but he could not be found.

"Soon after this, Stockden appeared to Elizabeth Greenwood in a dream, and showed her a house in Thomas Street, near 'The George,' and told her that one of the murderers lived there. She went the next morning, and took one Mary Buggas, an honest woman, who lived near her, to go with her to the place to which her dream directed, and asking for Maynard, was informed that he lodged there, but was gone abroad.

"After that, Stockden appeared again to Mrs. Greenwood, and then representing Maynard's face, with a flat mole on the side of his nose (whom she had never seen), signified to her that a wire-drawer must take him [Maynard], and that he should be carried to Newgate in a coach.

"Upon inquiry, they found that one of that trade who was his great intimate, and who, for a reward of ten pounds, promised him on his taking, undertook it, and effected it. He sent to Maynard to meet him upon extraordinary business at a public house near Hockley in the Hole, where he played with him till a constable came, who apprehended him before a magistrate, who committed him to Newgate, and he was carried thither in a coach.

"Maynard, being in prison, confessed the horrid fact, and discovered his accomplices, who were one Marsh, Bevel, and Mercer, and said that Marsh was the setter on, being a near neighbour to Stockden, who knew he was well furnished with money and plate; and although Marsh was not present at the robbery, yet he met to have a share of the booty. Marsh, knowing or suspecting that Maynard had discovered him, left his habitation.

"Stockden appeared soon after to Mrs. Greenwood, and seemed by his countenance to be displeased. He carried her to a house in Old Street, where she had never been, and showed her a pair of stairs, and told her that one of the men lodged there; and the next morning she took Mary Buggas with her to the house, according to the direction of the dream, where she asked a woman if one Marsh did not live there? To which the woman replied that he often came thither. This Marsh was taken soon in another place.

"After this, Mrs. Greenwood dreamed that Stockden carried her over the bridge, up the Borough, and into a yard, where she saw Bevel, the first criminal (whom she had never seen before), and his wife.

"Upon her relating this dream, it was believed that this was one of the prison yards, and thereupon she went with Mrs. Footman (who was Stockden's kinswoman and his housekeeper, and was gagged in the house when he was murdered) to the Marshalsea, where they inquired for Bevel, and were informed that he was lately brought thither for coining, and that he was taken near the Bankside, according to a dream which Mrs. Greenwood had before of his being there. They desired to see him, and when he came, he said to Mrs. Footman, 'Do you know me?' She replied, 'I do not.' Whereupon he went from them.

"Mrs. Greenwood then told Mrs. Footman that she was sure of his being the man whom she saw in her sleep. They then went into the cellar, where Mrs. Greenwood saw a lusty woman, and privately said to Mrs. Footman, 'That's Bevel's wife whom I saw in my sleep.' They desired that Bevel might come to them, and first put on his periwig, which was not on the time before. The lusty woman said, 'Why should you speak to my husband again, since you said you did not know him?'

"He came a second time, and said, 'Do you know me now?' Mrs. Footman replied, 'No;' but it proceeded from a sudden fear that some mischief might be done to her, who had very narrowly escaped death from him when she was gagged; and as soon as she was out of the cellar, she told Mrs. Greenwood that she then remembered him to be the man. They went soon after to the Clerk of the Peace, and procured his removal to Newgate, where he confessed the fact, and said, 'To the grief of my heart, I killed him.'

"Mrs. Greenwood did not dream anything concerning Mercer, who was a party concerned, but would not consent to the murder of Stockden, and preserved Mrs. Footman's life; nor has there been any discovery of him since, but he is escaped, and the three others were hanged.

"After the murderers were taken, Mrs. Greenwood dreamt that Stockden came to her in the street, and said, 'Elizabeth, I thank thee; the God of Heaven reward thee for what thou hast done!' Since which she has been at quiet from those frights which had so much tormented her, and caused an alteration considerable in her countenance."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gettysburg ghosts

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, in 1863. Ghosts - on the battlefield and in various buildings - have been reported for decades.

Gettysburg College - or as it was then called, Pennsylvania College - is one of the haunted buildings. During the war, there were only three buildings forming the college; there were only about one hundred students at the time. The campus served as a field hospital during and after the battle.

Pennsylvania Hall, built in 1837, is one of the worst haunted of the college buildings. The Confederates seized it during the battle for use as a lookout point and hospital. Robert E. Lee himself used the cupola as a lookout point to watch the battle.

The field hospital, with its wounded and maimed soldiers, may be the most haunted area. There was no anesthesia in those days; antiseptic surgery was still in the future; bullet wounds were often treated by amputation. The area outside the operating rooms was used to put the soldiers who couldn't be saved. They were left there to die.

One night, two administrators were working on the fourth floor. As they left work, they boarded the elevator and pushed the button for the first floor. The elevator moved down, past the first floor, coming to a stop in the basement. The doors opened, and the administrators saw a sight they had never imagined they would see.

1863 had come to vivid, gory life in the basement. The walls were spattered with blood. Wounded soldiers were sprawled on the floor, with doctors attending to them. To add to the eerie effect, the whole scene was silent.

The administrators pushed the elevator button frantically, trying to close the doors and leave the scene. Just before the doors closed, though, one of the orderlies looked up and directly at them, as if he were asking for help.

After this ordeal, whenever either of the administrators had to work at night, they took the stairs.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

William Terriss

Good-looking actor William Terriss (born William Lewin) was a very popular stage figure of Victorian England. He was noted for his portrayals of heroes, which earned him the nickname of "Breezy Bill". He was popular offstage as well, being noted for his generosity, especially towards fellow actors. One night, he arrived at the theatre dripping wet, as his contemporary, Ellen Terry, recalled. He shrugged off the usual jokes ("Is it raining, Terriss?"). It was only later that everyone learned he had dived into the Thames to rescue a child in danger.

Terriss would, eventually, have enormous cause to regret his generosity towards Richard Archer Price. Terriss had helped Price to find work as a struggling young actor, but Price's alcohol problems and mental illness made him difficult to deal with. Eventually, Terriss had Price fired, though he continued to send Price money (through the Actors' Benevolent Fund) and tried to help him to find work elsewhere.

On December 16, 1897, now desperate and out of money, but impossible to work with, Price caught up with Terriss at the door to the Adelphi Theatre, which Terriss was unlocking. Price stabbed Terriss in the back, and as Terriss turned towards him, stabbed him in the side and again in the back. Actress Jessie Millward, Terriss' leading lady and lover, heard the commotion and opened the door from the inside, when Terriss fell against her. His last words were whispered to Millward: "I will come back." He was buried in London's Brompton Cemetery.

Price was caught instantly, telling the police, "I did it for revenge. He had kept me out of employment for ten years, and I had either to die in the street or kill him." Price was found guilty of murder, he was also found to be insane. He died at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in 1936, frequently writing and acting in his own plays, performed for the amusement of thrill-seekers who enjoyed visiting psychiatric hospitals.

True to his word, Terriss has indeed come back, and stayed. His ghost has been seen at the Adelphi, as well as making frequent appearances at the Covent Garden tube station. (Terriss was murdered ten years before the tube station opened; he used to buy goods from a bakery that stood on that spot, hence his tendency to revisit the area.) In 1955, ticket collector Jack Hayden saw the ghost of Terriss, wearing an opera cloak and gloves, holding a cane, and "with a very, very sad face and sunken cheeks"; the specter was seen walking the platform or climbing the spiral staircase. Once, the ghost entered the former cafeteria through a closed door. He stood, wordless and unmoving, before leaving through the same closed door; the employees were thunderstruck.

In distinct contrast to the kindly nature of Terriss during his lifetime, his ghost is often a frightening one. The spirit made itself known for what may have been the first time in a dressing room at the Adelphi in 1928, when a young actress known only as "June" was trying to sleep before a performance. First, the couch underneath her began to shake. When she investigated, she found nothing. The couch continued to shake, and then she saw a greenish mist. Her arms were clutched tightly by unseen fingers. A sound of two knocks ended the supernatural display.

Later, June found that her dressing room was once used by Jessie Millward. Terriss, during his life, was in the habit of knocking twice on her door with his walking stick as he passed it.

June's arms were bruised for several days.

Several Adelphi employees witnessed Terriss' last appearance at the theatre, in 1950. He tended to appear (as with June's experience) from a green mist, frightening spectators. The last sighting of the ghost in the Covent Garden Station occurred in 1972, but staff members still hear footsteps and whispering in the station.

Monday, June 8, 2009

No. 50, Berkeley Square

In times past, the 18th-century house at No. 50, Berkeley Square, was known as "the most haunted house in London". A certain upstairs room had an evil reputation; it was said that nobody could spend a night in it without dying of fear or going incurably insane.

The ghosts of No. 50 are found throughout the house. The ghost of a young woman has been seen clinging to the outside of a window, screaming for help; evidently, a woman named Adeline fell from that same window in an attempt to escape her uncle, whose intentions were, to say the least, dishonorable.

Another ghost is seen upstairs. She sobs and wrings her hands. This little girl met her death at the hands of a truly sadistic servant, who either tortured or frightened her to death.

The worst ghost is the one that haunts the sinister upstairs room. One rumor has it that a previous tenant kept his insane brother in the room, only feeding him through the door due to his extremely violent nature. The ghost of this brother is said to haunt the room, as well as other areas of the house. Some reports state that the ghost is a sort of shapeless mass; others, that it is the figure of a man with his mouth gaping open. All agree that it is a horrifying sight.

In the 1870s, neighbors reported hearing loud sounds coming from the house - bells ringing, windows opening, furniture being move. When anyone investigated, the house was quiet and peaceful.

At one point in the house's history, a maid was given the haunted room as her bedroom. Not long after everyone had gone to bed, her screams sent the entire household running to her room. She was found lying on the floor, eyes bulging, and died the following day at St. George's Hospital. She could only say that what she had seen was "horrible".

30-year-old Sir Robert Warboys accepted a wager of 100 guineas that he would not be able to spend the night alone in the room. A bell was set up so that he could ring for help, if needed. The rest of the party remained in the drawing room while Sir Robert occupied the haunted room, armed with his pistol. The agreement was that Sir Robert would ring twice if he needed help.

Shortly before 2 o'clock in the morning, a faint ring of the bell was quickly followed by a loud peal. The others ran upstairs to the room, hearing a gunshot ring out. When they entered the room, Sir Robert was lying across the bed, dead, with a terrified expression on his face.

In 1872, Lord Lyttleton slept in the haunted room, with two shotguns for company. He claimed that something leaped at him from the dark, so he fired one of the guns at it. The ghost disappeared.

In the 1880s, the house's reputation still as active as ever, two sailors decided to spend the night in it, after drinking all their money. The house, not surprisingly, was empty at the time. The two of them broke in, and having found the downstairs to be unlivable, went upstairs to find a place to sleep. Of course, they settled on the haunted room.

Later that night, the two men heard the sound of bare feet mounting the stairs. There was something very sinister about the sound. The two of them watched as the footsteps approached the room, then the door opened and a horrifying specter entered. One of the sailors dodged around it and ran. Running pell-mell down the street, he cannoned into a policeman, and dragged him back to the house.

They found the body of the other sailor impaled on the railings in front of the house, underneath the window of the haunted room.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the house was owned by a man who hired an elderly couple to take care of it. They were never allowed to enter the haunted room. Every six months, the man would visit the house, lock the couple in the basement, and spend hours in the room.

No. 50 is now occupied by antiquarian booksellers. Depending on the reports you read, either no strange occurrences have happened, or a cleaning woman saw a brownish mist in one room, while an employee had his glasses snatched off his face and thrown across the room. It is said that in the 1950s, the police gave notice that the top floor of the house, which was "unsound", was not to be used for anything - not even storage. The notice is still in effect.

As an eerie footnote, one of the streets leading to Berkeley Square is Bruton Street - once the residence of the murderous Metyards (see A London Ghost).

Friday, June 5, 2009

A London Ghost

From the Newgate Calender:


Executed at Tyburn, 19th of July, 1768, for the Cruel Murders of Parish Apprentices

SARAH METYARD was a milliner, and the daughter her assistant, in Bruton Street, Hanover Square, London. In the year 1758 the mother had five apprentice girls bound to her from different parish workhouses, among whom were Anne Naylor and her sister. Anne Naylor, being of a sickly constitution, was not able to do so much work as the other apprentices about the same age, and therefore she became the more immediate object of the fury of the barbarous women, whose repeated acts of cruelty at length occasioned the unhappy girl to abscond. Being brought back, she was confined in an upper apartment, and allowed each day no other sustenance than a small piece of bread and a little water.

Seizing an opportunity of escaping from her confinement, unperceived she got into the street, and ran to a milk-carrier, whom she begged to protect her, saying that if she returned she must certainly perish, through the want of food and severe treatment she daily received. Being soon missed, she was followed by the younger Metyard, who seized her by the neck, forced her into the house, and threw her upon the bed in the room where she had been confined, and she was then seized by the old woman, who held her down while the daughter beat her with the handle of a broom in a most cruel manner.

They afterwards put her into a back room on the second storey, tied a cord round her waist, and her hands behind her, and fastened her to the door in such a manner that it was impossible for her either to sit or lie down. She was compelled to remain in this situation for three successive days; but they permitted her to go to bed at the usual hours at night. Having received no kind of nutriment for three days and two nights, her strength was so exhausted that, being unable to walk upstairs, she crept to the garret, where she lay on her hands and feet.

While she remained tied up on the second floor the other apprentices were ordered to work in an adjoining apartment, that they might be deterred from disobedience by being witnesses to the unhappy girl's sufferings; but they were enjoined, on the penalty of being subjected to equal severity, against affording her any kind of relief.

On the fourth day she faltered in speech, and presently afterwards expired. The other girls, seeing the whole weight of her body supported by the strings which confined her to the door, were greatly alarmed, and called out: "Miss Sally! Miss Sally! Nanny does not move." The daughter then came upstairs, saying: "If she does not move, I will make her move"; and then beat the deceased on the head with the heel of a shoe.

Perceiving no signs of life, she called to her mother, who came upstairs and ordered the strings that confined the deceased to be cut; she then laid the body across her lap and directed one of the apprentices where to find a bottle with some hartshorn drops.

When the child had brought the drops, she and the other girls were ordered to go downstairs; and the mother and daughter, being convinced that the object of their barbarity was dead, conveyed the body into the garret . They related to the other apprentices that Nanny had been in a fit, but was perfectly recovered, adding that she was locked into the garret lest she should again run away; and, in order to give an air of plausibililty to their tale, at noon the daughter carried a plate of meat upstairs, saying it was for Nanny's dinner.

They locked the body of the deceased in a box on the fourth day after the murder, and, having left the garret door open and the street door on the jar, one of the apprentices was told to call Nanny down to dinner, and to tell her that, if she promised to behave well in future, she would be no longer confined. Upon the return of the child, she said Nanny was not above-stairs; and after a great parade of searching every part of the house they reflected upon her as being of an intractable disposition and pretended she had run away.

The sister of the deceased, who was apprenticed to the same inhuman mistress, mentioned to a lodger in the house that she was persuaded her sister was dead; observing that it was not probable she had gone away, since parts of her apparel still remained in the garret. The suspicions of this girl coming to the knowledge of the inhuman wretches, they, with a view of preventing a discovery, cruelly murdered her, and secreted the body.

The body of Anne remained in the box two months, during which time the garret door was kept locked, lest the offensive smell shouild lead to a discovery. The stench became so powerful that they judged it prudent to remove the remains of the unhappy victim of their barbarity; and therefore, on the evening of the 25th of December, they cut the body in pieces, and tied the head and trunk up in one cloth and the limbs in another, excepting one hand, a finger belonging to which had been amputated before death, and that they resolved to burn.

When the apprentices had gone to bed, the old woman put the hand into the fire, saying: "The fire tells no tales." She intended to consume the entire remains of the unfortunate girl by fire but, afraid that the smell would give rise to suspicion, changed that design, and took the bundles to the gully-hole in Chick Lane and endeavoured to throw the parts of the mangled corpse over the wall into the common sewer; but being unable to effect that, she left them among the mud and water that was collected before the grate of the sewer.

Some pieces of the body were discovered about twelve o'clock by the watchman, and he mentioned the circumstance to the constable of the night. The constable applied to one of the overseers of the parish, by whose direction the parts of the body were collected and taken to the watchhouse. On the following day the matter was communicated to Mr Umfreville, the coroner, who examined the pieces found by the watchman; but he supposed them to be parts of a corpse taken from a churchyard for the use of some surgeon, and declined to summon a jury.

Four years elapsed before the discovery of these horrid murders, which at length happened in the following manner. Continual disagreements prevailed between the mother and daughter; and, though the latter had now arrived at the age of maturity, she was often beaten, and otherwise treated with severity. Thus provoked, she sometimes threatened to destroy herself, and at others to give information against her mother as a murderer.

At last information concerning the affair was given to the overseers of Tottenham parish, and mother and daughter were committed to the Gatehouse. At the ensuing Old Bailey sessions they were both sentenced to be executed on the following Monday, and then to be conveyed to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.

The mother, being in a fit when she was put into the cart, lay at her length till she came to the place of execution, when she was raised up, and means were used for her recovery, but without effect, so that she departed this life in a state of insensibility. From the time of leaving Newgate to the moment of her death the daughter wept incessantly.

After hanging the usual time the bodies were conveyed in a hearse to Surgeons' Hall, where they were exposed to the curiosity of the public, and then dissected. (end)

After what was left of Anne Naylor was thrown into the sewer grate, people reported a figure dressed in white moving around the area. The hauntings continued even after the double executions of the hideous Metyard pair, on into the twentieth century, by which time Chick Lane had been renamed West Street. Some of the older buildings were torn down and new buildings constructed on the sites, yet the eerie occurrences remained. Anne Naylor's spirit, still not at rest, is sometimes heard screaming by passengers on the platform at the Farringdon station of the London Underground.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Newgate Prison

If any place should be haunted, a prison is a likely candidate. Newgate, dating to Roman times, was torn down in 1901 to create room for the Central Criminal Court. Newgate was said to be haunted by a Black Dog, of which the first written mention is dated 1596, though it was known in folklore long before that time. An indistinct, yet horrifying, shape was seen to crawl along the wall (also dating to Roman times) that once separated the prison from Amen Court. On the side of the wall where Newgate once stood, a narrow pathway led from the prison to quicklime pits, where the bodies of the executed were buried. Not surprisingly, it was dubbed "Dead Man's Walk".

A Mr. Scott, once Chief Warder of Newgate, had a grim story to tell of a haunting in the prison. He was one of those present at the hanging of Amelia Dyer on June 10, 1896. Mrs. Dyer was a "baby farmer", a woman who offered to take care of children born out of wedlock so that their mothers could escape disgrace. A fee was involved for this "service", and Dyer insisted on full payment up front. She then murdered the babies entrusted to her care; she avoided detection (despite many close calls) for many years before her crimes caught up to her.

As Mrs. Dyer was taken to the scaffold, she looked at Mr. Scott and said in a low voice, "I'll meet you again, sir."

Not long before Newgate was closed permanently, several of the warders gathered to share a bottle of whiskey, celebrating the end of their employment in the prison. The room where they held the little party was next to the Women Felons Yard. A door, with a window in it, led to the yard. Scott became aware that someone was watching him, and the words "Meet you again some day, sir," echoed through his head.

He looked towards the door, and saw Mrs. Dyer's unmistakable face in the window. She looked at Scott for a moment, then left. Scott quickly opened the door, and saw nothing... except a woman's handkerchief, which floated to the ground at his feet.

There were no female prisoners at the prison at that time, and there had been none for several years.

When Scott was photographed outside the execution shed, Mrs. Dyer's face appeared over his shoulder in the print.