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?"