Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: Haunted Louisville 2

Title--Haunted Louisville: Beyond Downtown.  More History and Hauntings from the Derby City
Author--Robert W. Parker
Published--by Whitechapel Press, 2010
Amazon Purchase Information

I've just finished reading Robert Parker's Haunted Louisville 2, and was delighted with the history and the hauntings packed within this slender volume.  Parker, otherwise known as "Mr. Ghost Walker," is the creator and tour guide of a popular ghost tour in downtown Louisville.  Through this line of work, he's been able to collect a massive collection of stories and experiences about the Derby City's many, many ghosts!

Eighteen chapters cover eighteen different haunted locations throughout Louisville and beyond, including John E's Restaurant, the Brown Hotel, Dillon's Steakhouse, and Louisville Gardens, just to name a few.  Each chapter offers a brief, yet concise history of the location in question and an overview of its hauntings, supported by interviews with eyewitnesses and often, with a hands-on approach.  Parker, assisted by several friends in the paranormal field, doesn't just write about the ghosts---he actually goes out and searches for them through on-site investigations.  This format of not just relaying old information found elsewhere, but actually getting out in the field and conducting interviews and doing hands-on investigations, sets this book apart from so many other collections of regional hauntings. 

It really was a fun and quick read, and for the most part, very well written.  There were a few very minor editing errors, but nothing that would detract from the actual content of the book, which was quite interesting! I'm trying to familiarize myself more with the haunted history of the Bluegrass State, and books like this one make it much easier to find well documented stories and the added bonus of up-to-date recent sightings.  My only issue was the fact that there were a handful of locations featured in this book that were outside of Louisville and the immediate area.  Still, I am very impressed and have definitely added the first book in this series, Haunted Louisville, to my wishlist!

*Are you going to be in the Louisville area?  Consider taking a tour with Mr. Ghost Walker's Louisville Ghost Walks!*

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Haunted Ivy House Inn of Casper, Wyoming


With a name like Casper, you'd expect the town to have at least one good haunted location!  While there are several other haunted places around the area, today's location I've chosen in the former Ivy House Inn, located on South Ash Street.

The home was originally built in 1916, and construction officially concluded in the 1940 with the addition of the wonderful, grand porches.  Many sources out there say that the home was built by Mr. and Mrs. W. Frank White, but I've found that not to be the case.  However, the White Family did play a major role in the history of the home, and as you'll see a little later on, are the prime candidates for the hauntings!

Rhea Eliza Porter was born on March 10, 1902. She and Willis Frank White were married in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 15, 1929, and as you might have guessed from that location, were Mormons. The White Family lived in various locations throughout Casper and Cheyenne during the 1930s and 1940s, but settled into their final home on South Ash Street between 1944 and 1945.  Here it is rumored that the Whites hosted Mormon missionaries over the years.  Together, the couple are listed in the 1940 census as having three children: Dale, Joe, and Charmaine.  Frank may have also had at least one daughter, if not more children, from a previous relationship.

It is said that Rhea ruled the home with all the strictness that her Mormon upbringing afforded her.  She refused to allow drinking and smoking in her home and forbade any other type of immoral activity as well.  After Frank passed away in 1957, Rhea continued to live in the home until her own death on May 15 1995 (her wedding anniversary) at the age of 93.  The following year, the home was purchased by Tom and Kathy Johnson, who immediately began the task of renovating the large private residence into a cozy bed and breakfast.

Almost immediately, strange activity began.  Tom was working with a power drill when it suddenly stopped.  He turned around and saw that the cord had not only been unplugged, but it was floating mid-air, as if someone was holding it up before letting it fall! Another time, a hammer mysteriously just disappeared.  In paranormal research, we often associate an upswing in paranormal activity with any type of renovations, but the strangeness didn't stop even after the Ivy House Inn opened for business.

The main entity seems to be that of Mrs. White.  A female form has been seen walking down the hallway, a ghostly female face has been spotted in not just mirrors and windows but caught in photographs as well.  Guests often report a knocking at their door at night, only to find no one there when they answer.  Phantom smells are also quite common--especially those of chocolate baking and vintage cold remedies.

Other members of the White family also seem to still be sticking around.  Two Siamese cats, believed to have belonged to Mrs. White, have been seen darting around the inn and one guest even reported that one of the cats jumped up in bed with her and slept, purring, at the foot of the bed all night long.  Mr. White tends to favor the parking area out back---a shadowy figure of a man has been seen in that area who likes to activate car alarms.  Mr. White has also been seen inside the house, particularly creeping out one guest who reported that a man's figure stood over the bed one night and stated "Isn't it funny how people get lost?"  One can only imagine what that phrase might be in reference to...

The lower level of the home is no stranger to weird occurrences, either.  Guests staying in one of two suites have claimed to have very vivid dreams of a young man who constantly paces back and forth between the sink and the closet area.  Could this be one of the White sons?

Before purchasing the home, Tom Johnson didn't believe in ghosts.  However, with all that activity, he quickly became a little more open to the idea.  In fact, he became a paranormal investigator!  He and his son, Eric, gave tours and held annual October events in the home to share the history and the haunts of the Ivy House.  They also held an annual party for Mrs. White and no less than nine official paranormal investigations were conducted.

Unfortunately, opportunities to explore the hauntings for yourself are now limited to non-existent.  In 2009, the Ivy House Inn was purchased by The Self-Help Center and converted into Turning Point, a transitional group home for female victims of domestic violence.

Legends of America: Haunted Ivy House Inn in Casper

Self Help Center Buys Ivy House--Casper Star Tribune


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Haunted House Urban Legend


The following story was posted by the Facebook page Creepy? or Not? in late March, 2015. 

    "Killer Turns Abandoned Home Into Haunted House, Uses Real Corpses As Props

    There is a serial killer in Gary, Indiana that is finally off the streets. But not before he could murder 11 people, hang their bodies on the walls and open his insanity to the public as a “Haunted House” attraction.

    The serial killer in custody is 34 year old Donald Vann, and police have been looking for him since 2005. According to police, 25 bodies had been found between 2005 – 2012 – all of the murders with one thing in common.

    All of the victims showed wounds with ‘crucifixion’ style markings in the hands and feet. They knew they had a serial killer on their hands. However, according to police, the killer seemed to have vanished. No bodies had been found for 2 years…. Until now.

    Gary, Indiana is known for their surplus of abandoned homes, 10,000 to be exact. Most of them too run down to give away. Vann decided to find an abandoned home to occupy and make his own.
    Authorities say Vann turned the basement of this abandoned house into a make shift morgue, collecting the bodies of his victims. In a video taped confession, Vann admitted he wanted to get caught. “I wanted to end this. But I wanted to make sure I’d be remembered.”

    Vann said he had planned the ‘Haunted House’ for the last 8 months. Prepping the bodies for display. He opened the home on October 18 and police were called immediately by terrified attendees.

    “When we entered the home, the smell was putrid. At first I thought the odor was like a stink bomb or something, ” said one attendee. “Then as we went through, he had bodies hanging up on crosses on the wall. It looked way too real. My husband went up close and touched it and said ‘Let’s get out of here! I think that’s real!’ At that point, the other people that were in there with us all ran out of the house screaming. It was absolute chaos!”

    Another eyewitness said that Vann just sat there in a chair at the door entrance while people ran out.

    “As we were all running out and screaming, he sat to the left of the door with a psychotic smirk on his face. He just had this blank stare, an emptiness in his eyes. I don’t know which was scarier, him or the dead people.”

    The police department reported receiving over 50 911 calls reporting the incident. Police showed up within minutes, and arrested Vann.

    The District Attorney’s office is hoping to charge Vann with the 11 murders in the home, as well as the 25 murders that occurred since 2005. According to police, he has already confessed to 17 out of those first 25."
Darren Vann
Sounds completely and utterly horrifying, right?  But...is it a TRUE story?  What makes this tale interesting is that it IS based on a grain of truth.   Research into the case reveals that Darren Deon Vann IS a real person from Gary, Indiana.  And, while he never turned any abandoned home into a haunted house attraction starring his victims, Vann is reported to have murdered at least seven women and hid their bodies in different abandoned properties in and around Gary, Indiana. 

So where does this fictionalized account of events come from? On October 23, 2014 the article above appeared on the BoomViral website.  BoomViral is an internet satire site, which explicitly states in its disclaimer that its stories are often completely fictional, or are fictionalized accounts based on true events.  This story falls into the latter category. It capitalized off an already sensational news story and turned it into a Halloween-themed read, just in time for the holiday.

The photo that was being used to illustrate this story comes from the iStock Getty Images webpage, and was uploaded by user 'andydidyk.' Over 40 tags were attached to this photo and others of the same building, including Kentucky, Indiana, AND Ohio, making exactly where this photo was taken difficult to ascertain, but it does NOT appear to be one of the homes where Vann's victims were found or where police were searching.  However, according to a member of the West Virginia Paranormal Group Facebook page, the home in question does have some history to it. It is believed to be located somewhere in Ohio and is allegedly haunted.  Loud noises and voices are said to be heard coming from the home, and some believe a ghostly figure can be seen in one of the windows.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day 2015 from Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State!  The Earth is our collective home and its the only one we've got at this point.  So, we need to take care of it!  We've all been inundated  with the slogan, "Reduce, re-use, recycle" as a reminder of the daily tips we implement to keep the Earth happy....but what specifically can paranormal investigators do today and throughout the year to help the planet?

1. Cemetery Clean-Up:  Do you have a favorite haunted and/or historic cemetery in your area that could use a little help?  Contact whomever is in charge and see what needs to be done!  You can pick up trash, mow/weed eat, plant flowers, and do some general sprucing up!  Don't attempt to clean or repair any tombstones, though, unless you have permission and have been properly trained on how to do so safely.

2. What about your favorite haunted building? Is there a historic haunted church, asylum, hospital, school, etc. nearby?  Again, ask the owner what needs to be done!  Perhaps there needs to be trash picked up around the grounds or inside---don't forget to recycle when possible!  Perhaps you can plant some flowers or even a few trees on the grounds as well! And, obviously, if you do an investigation, whether it be an indoor or outdoor event, leave the area better than you arrived.  Make sure all trash comes out with you.

3. Switch to rechargeable batteries!  Paranormal investigators go through a LOT of batteries.  Help keep some of that waste out of landfills by resolving to start your transition to rechargeables.  The Earth AND your budget will thank you. 

4. When going on investigations, carpool whenever possible with other members of your team.  Not only is this practical (some places have very limited parking and in most residential cases, you don't want to bombard your client with more vehicles than necessary) but its economical AND earth-friendly.

5. Stay hydrated---in style!  Forgo the old plastic water bottles during your investigations and invest in a fun, re-useable water bottle. Check websites such as Cafe Press to create custom bottles with your team logo or your own ghostly design.

These are just a few of the things I thought of, but I'd love to hear YOUR ideas as well!  Pop on over to Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page and let us know what you have done or plan on doing to celebrate Earth Day in a spooky way!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Giant Skeleton of Central City

Visitors and residents of Huntington's Central City neighborhood today might never realize that while driving down Thirteenth Street between Madison and Jackson Avenues, they are driving over the remains of one of the many lesser burial mounds that once dotted the landscape throughout the Ohio Valley.  What's even stranger is that the former burial mound held an interesting surprise---the skeleton of a giant!

The idea of a mound containing an extremely large skeleton came to my attention a few years back when a website devoted to the history of mounds and the mound builders posted a newspaper article from the Washington Post dated June 23, 1908. The article noted that a 7 foot tall skeleton was found, along with huge copper bracelets, in the Thirteenth Street mound. Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to head on over to the Cabell County Public Library and see what the local papers had to say.  There were several articles from both the Huntington Advertiser and the Huntington Dispatch, all with pretty much the same information.  Here's the transcription from the June 23, 1908 edition of the Huntington Dispatch:

REMAINS OF ANCIENT MOUND BUILDER DISCOVERED

Yesterday afternoon a most interesting find was made by workingmen engaged in removing the mound in Thirteenth street, between Madison and Jackson avenues, Central City. Some time ago the authorities decided to remove this obstruction from Thirteenth street, and for several days the work of leveling the mound has gone forward.  Yesterday when at a point twelve feet above the base of the mound, a huge skeleton was discovered. While it was impossible to determine the exact height of the skeleton, it is believed to be near an accurate estimate to state that the owner of the bones stood near seven feet in his moccasins.

That the remains are those of a person of distinction in his tribe is evidenced by the wealth of trinkets which were found in close proximity.  There were about the ankles of the prehistoric chieftain massive copper bracelets, while similar ornaments but of lighter patterns were found in the vicinity of the wrists. When the mold was burnished from the trinkets it was found that they were of the finest type of beaten copper and were in a perfect state of preservation.  Quantities of beads, arrow heads and stone hatchets were also discovered.  The copper bracelets are in the possession of J.V. Fetty, of Central City.

News of the discovery attracted hundreds of persons to the spot, and scores of relics were carried away by the curious.

The excavators have yet twelve feet to go before the base of the mound is reached, and other interesting discoveries are expected.

A curious and significant fact noticeable in connection with the work of removing the mound is that the entire structure is made up of surface soil, showing that the mound was erected by the process of gathering small quantities of surface soil from the adjacent bottoms.  The diameter of the mound at the base in 63 feet.

13th Street from Jackson Avenue looking toward Madison

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Undisclosed Business--Hurricane, WV


Growing up in Hurricane, I had no idea that there were so many haunted homes around the town...most notably the old McCallister/Umberger Mansion that used to stand where South Brooke subdivision is now located and of course the Rappold House off of Main Street.  Unfortunately, these two stories wouldn't come to my attention until well into my adulthood...but there was ONE ghost story that has been with me since we moved to Hurricane when I was three years old.

On a street corner sat a small white home that had been turned into a local business.  Every time we passed this building, I craned my neck to look out the car window and get a good view of this location.  I was looking for any sign of its resident ghost! The story that I always heard growing up was that a man had brutally killed his wife in the home, and that her ghost haunted a certain bedroom.  According to who was telling the story, or what mood they were in, the details would vary greatly. In some stories, the bedroom in which she died remained extremely cold all the time and the door to the bedroom would either refuse to remain shut...or would shut with great force, trapping anyone silly enough to actually go in there. Some would say that if you went into the room, you could still see the blood spatter on the walls, no matter how many coats of paint were used to cover it up.  And, of course, some would say that you could see the woman's ghost staring out the window of the house late at night.  There also seemed to have been some confusion as to exactly how the death took place---was she shot in the head, or did she suffer a blow to the head from an object such as an axe?

I am very lucky to be a member of the Upper Vandalia Historical Society and through it, several years ago I met the current owners of the building.  They were familiar with my blog and after a brief chat, they gave me permission to research and post about the house, given that I stuck to the facts, only. My research resulted in an all-too-common occurrence when it comes to researching urban legends and ghost stories---truth really is stranger than fiction!  To protect the owners of the property, the current occupants, and of course, the many friends and family of the victims still alive and living in this area, I'm choosing not to share the exact location of this building nor the names of those involved.  All information below is from a newspaper article found in the Huntington-Herald Dispatch, dated 20 December 1969.

A 31 year old woman was living in the neat little rental house on the corner with her two children--a ten year old daughter and a 13 year old son.  She and her 36 year old husband, married since 1955, had separated and he was apparently still living in Kanawha County.  However, on the night of December 18, 1969 he showed up at the house after the kids and several visiting family members had gone to bed. Police were called to the home around 11:30 pm that night and found evidence of what was quickly deemed a murder-suicide, which doesn't seem to have been investigated further.  What they found was the bodies of the husband and wife lying on the kitchen floor. Police chief J.W. Smith noted that a .32 caliber automatic was found lying beside the man's body.  The wife was shot once in the head and a second bullet had gone through her arm into her chest.  The man had been shot both in the head and the chest. When asked if there might have been a third party involved, police declined to comment.

After one mention in the local paper, the matter seemed to be dropped. The wife was buried near Falling Rock and no mention of the husband's final resting place was given. The memory of the terrible events, however, could not be completely erased, and live on through its urban legends.  Whether or not the house is actually haunted, however, I can't say.  I can, however, honestly say that I've never actually spoken with or found anyone who had an experience there, and it seems as if some vital elements to the ghost story, such as the room where it all happened, proved to be inaccurate. There was one former occupant of the house that I did manage to speak to a few years back, and according to her, there wasn't anything wrong felt with the property.

I don't feel comfortable sharing further details of this story to those who are just curious about it, but if you recognize this case and have pertinent information you'd like to share, please feel free to email me at theresarhps@yahoo.com. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Demon Chases Deer Hoax

This photo has been around since at least 2005, but it continues to pop up every few years, each time with a new 'location' and a new back story.  It has morphed from the Jersey Devil to a chupacabra, to a regular ol' demon...most recently being caught on a trail camera in Canada. But, as you can see, this is another one of those photos that is simply too good to be true.  The bottom photo is the original as it was posted on a hunting forum.  The 'demon' version was cropped and edited to give an appearance of night-vision.

Debunked.