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

Hellcatraz

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

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.)