Friday, July 23, 2010

Haunted Hollywood


Stage 28 is said to be haunted by the ghost of none other than the original Phantom of the Opera, Lon Chaney. A man wearing a black cape has been seen many times, by workers on the stage and by visitors. He has been seen on the catwalks, and security guards have experienced the frightening phenomena of lights turning off and on, and doors opening and closing, late at night. Chaney died of throat cancer in 1930, just five years after creating his legendary Phantom on the silver screen. He has also been seen at a bus stop where, in his less-affluent days, he used to wait for the bus.


On November 15, 1927, director/producer Thomas H. Ince died suddenly and mysteriously after attending a birthday party (his own!) on board the Oneida, a private yacht owned by newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. What happened on the yacht may never be know; Ince's death was formally listed as natural causes, but  rumors soon started - and never subsided - that Ince, then still alive, had been carried off the yacht with a bullet wound in his head. The rumor mill cranked up, with stories swirling that Hearst, maniacally jealous of his much-younger mistress and sometime actress, Marion Davies, had deliberately invited Charlie Chaplin on the cruise in order to watch the two of them together. Catching them in a compromising position, Hearst attempted to shoot Chaplin, but missed and fatally wounded Ince. The producer's body was cremated, effectively preventing any further investigations as to the true cause of death. Ince's funeral took place on November 21. Hearst was not among those present.

In 1918, Ince had built film production studios that still stand (Culver Studios).  Perhaps because of his untimely death, the lot is still a very busy place when the living have gone home for the day. It's not only Ince's ghost who haunts the premises. A woman has been seen on the third floor on occasion, leaving coldness after her. Employees have seen other strange figures around the lot at night.

Thomas Ince has been seen in the administration building, walking upstairs to what, in his time, was his private screening room. In 1988, when renovations were performed, Ince made his disapproval known.

During the renovations, two men were working  in Stage 1-2-3 when they looked up at the catwalks to see a man wearing a strange hat watching them. He frowned at them, then walked through the wall, when the men spoke to him. Later, other workers saw a similar (or the same) figure on Stage 2-3-4. The ghost  informed them, “I don’t like what you’re doing to my studio”. He made the same exit as before.


Paramount is located next door to Hollywood Memorial Park, where many of its former stars are buried. Stages 29 - 32 are the closest to the cemetery; ghosts clad in the fashions of the '30s and '40s are seen there.  The most active are Stages 31 and 32, where footsteps are heard and equipment turns off and on with no visible cause.  
  Certain entrances to the lot are walk-in. One such is Lemon Grove, very close to Hollywood Memorial Park. The ghosts from the cemetery use this gate to gain access to the lot. Some of the ghosts are only heads thrust through the wall separating the studio from the cemetery. Some stroll right through the gate, such as the ghost of the legendary Rudolph Valentino. 

Guards don't care to work night shift at the Lemon Grove gate. Uninvited, unannounced visitors have formed a habit of entering after dark, leaving the guards confused. One guard refused to work night shift at the gate after following a strange man to a corner of the wall between the studio and the cemetery. The man promptly vanished through the wall. 

The Hart building, one of the oldest on the studio lot, is also said to be the most haunted. Windows and doors open and close; people feel the sensation of being tapped on the shoulder; lights turn on and off. A truly frightening occurrence is that experienced by an executive of a company based in the building. When washing his hands in the bathroom one day, he glanced at his reflection in the mirror and saw that his eyes were glowing red. He promptly ran to his office and asked his secretary to look at his eyes. She sat him in a chair, looked at his eyes, then screamed in horror and ran for the door. When the executive attempted to follow her, he felt hands on his shoulders, forcing him to remain in the chair.

He escaped, finally, and the company moved out of the building the same day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Old Slave House

************WARNING! This house is off-limits to the public. DO NOT attempt to enter it.******

Construction of the well-known Hickory Hill House began in 1833 on the orders of John Hart Crenshaw, an extremely wealthy man who made his fortune in the salt mines of Illinois. He was the owner of thousands of acres of land, three salt furnaces, and a sawmill.

Crenshaw's interest in earning ever more money would come at a terrible price to many citizens of Illinois. Though a free state in those days before the Civil War, three Illinois counties (Gallatin, Hardin, and the appropriately named Saline) allowed Southern slaves to be leased from their "owners" to work in the brutal environment of the salt mines. The work was almost impossible to endure, but with salt being the important commodity that it was, the owners needed labor - so they got it for free.

Crenshaw, unfortunately, was not the only mine owner who kidnapped runaway slaves and free blacks, forcing them to work in his mine. He also sold free blacks into slavery in the South - men, women, and children. Those who really were runaway slaves could also be turned in for a reward. As far as Crenshaw and his ilk were concerned, it was a win-win situation. It's said that Crenshaw hired several men to keep an eye out for escaped slaves, to help his human trade.
Hickory Hill is a three-story house with a view of the Saline River. The style is Classic Greek. The interior was decorated with original artwork from Europe. The first two floors of the house have fireplaces in each of the thirteen rooms.

Behind closed doors, however - upstairs and underground - the neighbors had no idea what the house contained. There may once have been a tunnel connecting the basement to the Saline River, a nighttime sending and receiving point for slaves. The back of the house had another passageway big enough to hold a wagon. Vehicles could thus enter the house itself, unloading slaves so that nobody outside could see what was happening.
The third floor of Hickory Hill contains the now-infamous attic, reached by a flight of stairs. Several tiny cells, with barely enough room for an adult to turn around, can still be seen today, though some have been removed. A corridor connecting the cells runs from one end of the attic to the other. The only ventilation was provided by windows at the ends of the attic; in summer, the heat was stifling. These windows also gave the room the only light it received. The slaves were chained in their cells. One man, with a very slightly larger cell, was kept in the attic for the sole purpose of fathering children - more slaves for the mines; more money from children sold to the South.

In 1842, matters began to turn sour for Crenshaw. He was brought up on charges of kidnapping a free black woman and her children. One of his sawmills burned down (arson?) and the value of his other holdings decreased. Many civil court actions were brought against him, while salt deposits were found in other states that were more profitable than his once-rich mines. In addition, Crenshaw was also attacked by a slave, who cut off one of his legs. Crenshaw survived the attack, but most of the slaves were sold afterward and operations came to an end.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Crenshaw sold Hickory Hill and moved to a new farm, closer to the oddly-named Equality. He died on December 4, 1871 and was buried in Hickory Hill Cemetery, near his former home.

In 1906, Hickory Hill - already well-known as a haunted house - was bought by the Sisk family. The locals called it the “Old Slave House”. In the 1920s, visitors began to drop by. They arrived at all hours of the day and night, asking for a tour of the house; the locals had the tendency to share their rumors about the house with visitors, who then headed out to experience the local haunting. In 1930, the owners began to charge admission to the house; 5 cents for children, 10 for adults.

The visitors reported strange occurrences. They heard strange noises, especially in the attic, such as cries, whimpers, and chains rattling . Many people who visited the slave quarters claimed that they had uncomfortable feelings, such as extreme fear and sadness, and the feeling that someone was watching them. Physical sensations were also experienced, such as chills, being touched, and feeling someone brushing by them.

Not surprisingly, once these stories spread, the number of visitors increased. Rumor had it that no one could spend a whole night in the badly haunted attic. Those who tried, ran full-speed out of the attic and the house well before the night ended. Then-owner George Sisk ended the practice when a fire started one night from a lantern that was knocked over.
In 1978, however, Sisk granted permission for a Harrisburg reporter, David Rodgers, to spend the night in the attic. Rodgers was doing a Halloween show for a local TV station - and, somehow, made it through the night in the attic, alone. (On a previous occasion, some Vietnam veterans had attempted to stay there overnight, but ran in terror from the apparitions.) Rodgers heard many unidentifiable noises; later, when listening to the tape he recorded, he heard voices that had not been audible to him during the night.

Once again, this house is private property. Absolutely no trespassing is allowed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sao Paulo

Another tale from south of the Equator...

The city council building (an ugly, modern structure) in Sao Paulo is said to be haunted. The meeting rooms have seen the manifestations of women in wedding gowns, who have appeared in broad daylight. Strange sounds have been heard in the hallways; people have entered the elevator and vanished; doors have locked by themselves.

One of the councilmen was mysteriously locked into his office, unable to open the door. He heard voices speaking a language he didn't understand.

The story is, the building site is a place where slaves were once tortured. But what of the women in the wedding gowns?

Monday, July 19, 2010

A highway ghost

Residents of Reheboth, near Route 44, tend to get very nervous at the mention of a redheaded ghost along the highway.

Nobody knows the name of the ghost, what may have happened to him, or why he still haunts this stretch of road. Numerous sightings have been reported by thoroughly terrified drivers.

This ghost is one of many "vanishing hitchhikers" who have been reported in cultures worldwide. When a driver stops, he enters the car, only to vanish somewhere down the road. A haunting laugh is then heard, sometimes coming from the radio. Sometimes, he doesn't wait for the driver to stop; he simply appears in the moving car, frightening the driver half to death. He also makes himself seen in the middle of the road, where many a driver has been convinced that they have run over him. When the unlucky driver gets out of the car and checks, however, he is nowhere to be seen. A young woman had a memorable experience when - or so she thought - she ran right into him, standing in the middle of the highway. She stopped to help, only to find an empty road, and to hear mocking laughter from the nearby woods. She drove on, only to have the same incident occur again. This time, rather than leaving her car, she rolled down the window to examine the highway. The laugh occurred again, this time right outside her car.

She left at high speed.

A few years later (both incidents occurred in the early 1980s) a young couple broke down on Route 44. The woman stayed in the car while her boyfriend went in search of a pay phone. The man spotted a redheaded man sitting by the side of the road, and asked where the nearest phone was. The stranger didn't reply with words, only with a laugh. The man took a closer look at the stranger, and noticed that his eyes were cloudy and lacking pupils. The man hurried back to his car, checking nervously over his shoulder. The stranger had vanished, but the laughter continued, all the way back to the car. When he finally arrived, his girlfriend was hysterical. She explained that she had turned on the radio, but a voice had come through the broadcast program, calling her by name. Laughter followed, along with personal taunts, until her boyfriend arrived.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Asheville, haunted city

It seems that the good (and not so good) people of Asheville, North Carolina, enjoy their city so much, they never want to leave.


The ghost of City Hall is a man who - surprise! - committed suicide
after the Crash of '29. He waits in line at the snack bar, then disappears suddenly. He may also be the entity that ransacks offices at night, leaving a mess for the employees when they arrive at work.

Richmond Hill Inn, a bed and breakfast, was built in 1889. The ghost (perhaps that of the builder, Richmond Pearson) was a man wearing a suit from a bygone era, wandering the hallways during the night, as reported by guests. Zelda Fitzgerald, who died in a fire at Asheville's Highland Hospital, was also seen - in the F. Scott Fitzgerald room. On a hair-raising note, the house burned down in 2009; the cause was arson.

On May 29th, 1835, two men, James Sneed and James Henry, were hanged for the crime of stealing a horse. They maintained their innocence to the end. What was a field in 1835, is now an area close to the modern-day intersection of Merrimon and Broadway Avenues. The two men were buried not far from the old gallows. Even today, strange sounds are heard in the vicinity, such as a trap door opening, and the sounds of horses trotting along.

Highland Park was once the site of Highland Hospital, a psychiatric institution and Zelda Fitzgerald's last home. She was one of the nine people who died in the fire that burned it to the ground in 1948. Screams are heard, and the ghosts of those who died in the fire have been seen walking near the area.

Two women were beaten to death on Waneta Street in the 1920s, in a still-unsolved murder case. The ghost of the murderer has been seen walking along the street with an object that appears to be a pipe or a stick.