Saturday, February 20, 2010

Your ghost stories

Anyone out there want to send in your experiences? Feel free! I might edit the stories, of course, and I reserve the right to print them should the occasion arise.

Go for it!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Banff Springs Hotel

The staff of the hotel will tell you that it isn't haunted. Others will tell you differently.

One of the ghosts seen at the hotel is that of a bride. There are two stories about her untimely death; in one version, she was walking down the staircase when her train caught fire from one of the candles on the stairs. In her panic to put out the flames, she fell down the stairs and broke her neck. In the other version, she tripped over her train, causing the neck-breaking fall. She has been seen dancing alone in the hotel ballroom.

A bellhop called Sam has been seen still doing his rounds, helping (living) guests with keys and performing other services.

A similarly helpful ghostly bartender tells guests when they've had enough to drink.

A headless piper still plays his bagpipes (how?).

One of the rooms was the site of a murder - either of a little girl or of a whole family, depending on the story you hear. It had to be walled up due to the fact that a child's fingerprints appeared on the mirror every time it was cleaned.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The word "chickamauga" comes from the Cherokee language; it means "river of death".

This is a highly appropriate name for a field where more than 34,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed on September 19 - 20, 1863. It's now a park, but the events of 1863 linger on.

After the battle finally ground to a halt, many of the soldiers' wives took lanterns and searched through the night for their loved ones. The bodies left on the battlefield weren't buried for two months; given the state of the corpses by that time, they were simply buried three to four in a grave, usually in shallow graves. To this day, it's not unusual for one of the soldiers' bodies to be found in the park; it's a giant graveyard, with no map telling where the bodies are.

Civil War reenacters frequently come to Chickamauga, acting out one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles. One group, camping overnight in the park, met up with another group; the first group sat around the second group's campfire, trading stories, then returned to their own camp to get some sleep. The following day, no trace was to be found of the second group - no food, no tents, no sign of a campfire.

Visitors and rangers alike have experience paranormal phenomena. The spirits of the dead appear with ghastly wounds. Hoofbeats and footsteps are heard. Sounds of moaning, and of sobbing women (the soldiers' wives, most likely) echo through the area. A headless horseman has been seen. Mist swirls through the field.

The "River of Death" continued to act thirty years later, when troops of men were stationed at Chickamauga for training prior to being shipped down south to fight in the Spanish-American War. Many of them fell ill and died.

These days, the park is also a spot where people have been murdered, or where murder victims have been taken and dumped; the soldiers of 1863 aren't the only ones whose remains have been found here. One memorable story concerns a man whose wife and her lover attempted to murder him. He managed to escape, though badly wounded, and ran screaming through the park before a ranger found him. The two would-be murderers were still chasing him, each of them armed with a knife.

Several photos showing inexplicable images have been taken at Chickamauga - misty forms, strange shadows, and so forth.

The park is open daily - and at night, I'm sure it's even more open, but be sure to get permission, if you feel like braving the nighttime atmosphere.

Monday, February 8, 2010


The island of Poveglia is located in the Venice Lagoon, between Venice proper and the island of Lido.

The story - a good one, but of dubious (at best) authenticity, is that during the Great Plague, Venice's fast-dying victims were put on Poveglia. Even those who weren't dead, but considered to already have the plague, were dragged out of their homes and forced to the island, where they were thrown into plague pits with the dead. A cloud of smoke usually however over the island, from the bonfires built to burn the corpses.

In 1922, so the story goes, someone got the bright idea to build a psychiatric hospital on the island. The doctor in charge was a sadist who liked to "experiment" on the patients. The patients, by the way, reported hearing strange noises and seeing the ghosts of rotting bodies, but these complaints were put down to mental illness. The doctor in charge continued his little hobbies on the patients.

Finally, the doctor himself fell from a high tower in the hospital, and was choked to death by a strange fog that forced itself into his mouth.

Poveglia is regarded as one of the ten most haunted places on earth. It is off-limits to tourists.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A haunted house that really is haunted!

A menacing voice warns visitors to "Get out!" of a certain fifth-floor room.

A woman, bleeding from her slashed wrists, screams out, "Help me!"

The scent of cooking food wafts down the hall from a long-disused kitchen.

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky was once a famed hospital for victims of the early-20th-century "White Death", better known as tuberculosis. Regarded as one of the best sanatoria in the country, the treatment methods in those pre-antibiotic days are horrifying to modern readers. Fresh air was thought to be beneficial for tuberculosis sufferers, so the patients were put into large rooms with the windows wide open, even in the dead of winter, to "clear" the germs from their lungs. One last-resort treatment is one that must have been pure agony for the patients. A balloon was inserted into the lungs and inflated. This "treatment" often involved the removal of one or more ribs, to inflate the lungs even further, and almost invariably resulted in the death of the patient.

The sanatorium had a "Body Chute", a secret passage that the staff used to remove the bodies of those patients who had died. Realizing the the sight of corpses being carted out of the sanatorium on a daily basis would have a demoralizing effect on the rest of the patients, they devised a way to take them out in secret, unseen by the residents. This passage was also used by the staff to enter the sanatorium in inclement weather.

As with so many "hospitals" of its kind, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium eventually closed with the onset of newer and more effective (not to mention far more humane) treatments for tuberculosis. The imposing, rather scary-looking building fell into disrepair.

Now, the premises are used as - surprise! - a haunted-house attraction, with the novel twist that this is one place that has its own ghosts, not those dreamed up by a creative team. Room 502 is said to be the most haunted room; the fifth floor is where patients with mental illnesses were kept, and it continues to be the most atmospheric and disturbing of the building. In 1928, a nurse in her late twenties hanged herself in this room. Rumor has it that she had had an affair with a married doctor on the staff, and became pregnant. Rather than face the social ostracism of being pregnant and unmarried, she chose suicide. This is the room where the words "Get out!" are frequently heard.

In 1932, another suicide occurred when a nurse threw herself off the roof patio.

So far, it seems that most of the ghosts are not those you would expect - not the patients, who underwent tortures in their search for a cure, but the specters of the despairing nurses (and, perhaps, an orderly, for whom there is no background story). The fifth floor, though, seems to have absorbed the insanity of its erstwhile residents; could that be why the pregnant nurse of 1928 chose to hang herself there?

Now, the curious can have a good look at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. The current owners have put in a lot of hard work to clean up the place; carting off garbage, removing dangerous asbestos, laying new floors. They offer 4-hour and 8-hour "ghost hunts" to the intrepid. The Waverly Hills website contains all the details, including some of the hospital's history, and photos that may or may not show some of the disembodied residents.

WARNING: The sanatorium is private property. Nobody is allowed on the grounds without a reservation. The "ghost tours" are ONLY for those 18 years of age and older. See the website for further information.