Friday, January 21, 2011

McCausland Manor

Today marks the anniversary of Gen. McCausland's death.  McCausland, the second to last surviving Confederate general passed from this life on January 21, 1927.  He died in his sleep at his beloved mansion.  McCausland was 91 years old.

Photo by Theresa Racer
This 19 room sandstone structure along old route 35 was built in 1885 from native materials.  It was built by Jesse Lewis, a local black teamster, and designed by Gen. "Tiger" John McCausland.  Interesting features include an actual elevator, dumbwaiter, and fireplaces in every room that each emptied into a common ash pit in the basement.  The 18 inch thick walls are continuous, as the two stories and basement all share the same floor plan.  Wiring is exposed since drilling through the thick sandstone walls would be unfeasible.  McCausland named the home "Grape Hill" because of the abundance of wild grapes in the area. 

McCausland was born in St. Louis in 1836, and came to Mason County to live with his uncle after the death of his parents.  He attended nearby Buffalo Academy, and then later went on to the Virginia Military Institute.  At the onset of the Civil War, he offered his engineering services to the Confederacy.

After the controversial burning of Chambersburg, McCausland was run out of Mason County.  He eventually ended up in Europe to escape those who felt as if he should be indicted for war crimes for his actions.  He returned in 1867 after family friend, Ulysses S. Grant, in a sense pardoned him.  He married Charlotte in 1878, had four children, then settled back in the Mason County area where he built his grand home.

Alexander McCausland, John's Son. Source: WV History on View

It is rumored that the home was funded by gold looted at Chambersburg, but in reality, it came from a combination of money inherited in St. Louis from his parents' estate, and cheap labor. It is also rumored that the home was built in such a way that McCausland could be on the lookout for anyone that entered the property.  While cleared of any war crimes, he still never signed an oath of allegiance, and thus was paranoid that someone would come after him.

McCausland died in 1927, the second to last living Confederate general.  The property is still in the family, and is listed as a National Register site.  Visitors to the home have reported feelings of being watched, and not being alone.  Phantom footsteps have also been reported.  Are these signs that Gen. McCausland is still in his beloved home, on the look out for Union supporters...or just a product of the high EMF coming from the unshielded wiring?  You decide.

The home had been in the Causland Family for many years, and has recently be acquired by the WV Department of Transportation.  As always, please seek permission before entering the property.

Friday Night Funnies 1-21-11

It's still morning, but since I'm sitting here at work, getting ready to go on floor, I thought I'd take a minute to bring you the latest installment of Friday Night Funnies!  For new readers to the blog, Friday Night Funnies is a chance to share a little paranormal humor.  Jokes, hilarious photos and videos, comic strips, and the occasional "LOLcat" may make an appearance here!

This week will be a comic strip entitled "Alcaspazz Prison."  Alcaspazz comes to us from Entities-R-Us, and was written by Terri J. Garofalo.  Enjoy!

Lights and Lizards over Beckley

Around 1997-2002 my grandma lived on Bluestone Rd. in the Bluestone subdivision, located in Beckley. Her house was the very last one on the road, atop a steep hill. However, the road continued on into a dirt/gravel path into the woods.

I'm not dreadfully familiar with the area, but apparently it used to be a coal/lumber "short cut" back before the subdivision was built. It's still fairly active, being used mainly as a party spot.
My grandma's patio doors faced towards the hill, so she had a fairly decent view of the night sky, the hill, and part of the road leading up the hill.

I used to spend the majority of my summers with my grandma, so both of us got used to the way the lights of the cars coming down off the hill looked liked, and more importantly what they sounded liked.

After she had been in the house for a year or so, my grandma started making references to things that just didn't make a whole lot of sense to the rest of the family. She'd nonchalantly mention the "UFOs" over the hill. Sometimes she'd just refer to them as "them" or the "lights."

Despite the fact that my grandma had always been an extremely no-nonsense person, and was still in perfect health at this point, we began to wonder if alzheimer's wasn't starting to set in. At the very least...we just thought she was seeing the cars going up and down the hill and was frightened about being up there all alone.  My grandfather had passed away in September of 1997, after living in the home for only a short time.

Summer came around again, so once more I went up there to stay for a few weeks. We were getting ready for bed, and my grandma was going around the house locking all the doors and shutting all the curtains. When she got to the dining room where the patio doors were, she yelled at me to come quickly. I dashed in there and saw that she was pointing outside.

I'm not sure if I would call it a UFO or what...but there was definitely some strange balls of light bouncing around the hill. There were about five of them, and they kinda just lined themselves up in a row, then moved to make a circle formation.

I'm still not exactly sure what they were. They could have been searchlights, but were much too bright for flashlights. It was summer, so it could have been ball lightening I suppose...but what are the chances of her seeing ball lightening in the same spot on numerous occassions?

My grandma didn't make any other claims to see anything until that following January. One evening my mom called to check in on her. My grandma answered after about 7 rings, screamed into the phone that there was an alligator on her porch, then hung up. Hehehe, my mom tried calling back, but there was no answer. In a panic she called my uncle who was already en route after my grandma had called him to report the alligator, lol.

My uncle gets to the house and in below freezing weather finds my grandma standing on her front porch in her nightgown holding a broom. At her feet was a box. I seriously think my uncle was ready to take her to the nursing home that night, or otherwise have her committed.

However, when he lifted the box, he found this HUGE lizard-like creature. My grandma had said she captured it because she knew no one would have believed her, lol. My uncle's friend is a DNR person, so he agreed to come check this thing out and see what it was. He said it was a Hellbender, a very large amphibian, but it was, like, 3 times normal size.  Most likely it awoke from its "hibernation" early and was out seeking warmth and food.  There are no creeks or bodies of water near this area, so we're still not entirely sure where it came from.  Hehehe, however, that became another thing to tease my grandma about. We kept telling her the "aliens" left it there.

In 2002 I was dating a guy who was extremely interested in UFOs and I had told him about my grandma's claims of the lights. Apparently he had researched WV sightings and that particular area of Beckley was what some believers had deemed a UFO highway.

Weirdness at the Wine Cellars

Photo by Theresa Racer
Prior to the Civil War, the state of West Virginia proved to be a profitable location for wine making.  In 1860, Tom Friend took advantage of this opportunity, and started a vineyard on land reported to have once been owned by George Washington, off of what is today Dutch Hollow Road in Dunbar.

The wine was produced right on the property, and three wine cellars were constructed out of stone mountain to cool and age the wine.  The wine was then taken to Charleston by ox cart, where it was then transported to Cincinnati by way of steamboat.  The vineyards were first populated by the Catawba grapes, but it was soon afterward discovered that this particular variety did poorly in the climate, and was quickly replaced with Concords and Seedlings.

In three short years (six by some accounts, those same accounts stating that the wine cellars were actually carved out in 1855), the Civil War had put a damper on wine production in this part of the state.  The cost of labor became too high to turn a profit, and the vineyard was shut down and abandoned.  By 1870, ALL vineyards in the Kanawha County area were facing stiff competition from vineyards in Virginia and Ohio, and by 1904, only one vineyard, located in the Northern part of the state, was listed as operational.

However, even though it is fact that the wine making industry took a turn for the worse throughout the state of West Virginia, there is another theory as to why the Dutch Hollow Wine Cellars were in operation for such a short period of time.  It is believed that they were instrumental in use as part of the Underground Railroad.  This theory is further supported by the fact that the nearby town of Institute has a strong history of abolitionist ties and African-American history. 

The only thing that remains of this brief period in history are the three interconnected wine cellars.  In 1970, the site, which was on property owned by the Robert Given family, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  At that time, the wine cellars had been abandoned for over 100 years, and were largely grown up with weeds and brush.  Although no pictures exist of the original wine cellars, it is believed that they had never been altered from their original state.

The cellars were restored in 1981 and today, the area is now a county park. Further restorations were performed by Paul Marshall, a local architect, in 1997.  These restorations may have stirred up memories from the cellars' past.  Perhaps it is because of some undocumented event in the unknown history of the cellars' use following the Civil War, but the area is reported to be haunted.  Visitors to the cellars often report anomalies on their film, cold spots, mists, and feelings of unease.

Building on this atmosphere, the First Baptist Church of Dunbar would hold a "Haunted Hollow" attraction each Halloween season.  In 2000, the city of Dunbar, which owns the park, was sued by two Wiccan residents over the issue of separation of church and state.  The judge found in favor of the city, but afterward, they did place a disclaimer up at the attraction saying that the church's views did not necessarily represent those of the city.

Update-November 2010:  I spoke with a visitor to the wine cellars who actually does have a set of two digital photographs from the cellars that shows a full bodied apparition anomaly, outlined against the stone.  I have not seen the photos personally, but the first is said to show a woman appearing to be holding a baby or small child, accompanied by another small child to her side.  The follow-up photo taken moments later again captures the image of the woman, in a different pose, but the child is missing.  If you have any stories or pictures of a similar nature, I'd LOVE to hear them!

Update-May 2014: After visiting this year's Vandalia Festival in Charleston, we decided to stop at the park and let my son run around and play at the playground area while I walked over to the wine cellars alone. Out of all the times I've been there, this was the first time I had actually experienced those feelings of unease that so many others have claimed is indicative of a haunting at the location.  This was broad daylight.  My son and boyfriend were at the nearby park, as were a bunch of other people having a family reunion at the shelters.  An employee was on a riding lawn mower a short distance away and several families and couples were taking the connecting walking path into the woods.  In spite of all this activity, or maybe because of it, I kinda had a moment of freaking out.  As I walked into the middle room, the water dripping from the ceiling sounded exactly like footsteps echoing behind me.  For a fleeting moment I had an overwhelming fear that I wasn't alone and that someone was going to slam the door (this was the only room that still had some semblance of a door attached) and I was just far enough away that no one would hear me scream.  I don't know what was scarier...feeling like someone was going to lock me in there alone, in the dark (the modern, makeshift door didn't reach the top of the entryway, so plenty of sunshine would have still shone in) or the feeling that someone was in there with me and was going to hurt me.  I felt both of these fears simultaneously, and as quickly as I felt them come on, they left again.

Abandoned Property Leads to Legends and More!

A 100+ year old farmhouse sits in the bend of one of Putnam County's darker, more dangerous roads.  Uninhabited for many years, this house became a source of legend for many a young person out legend tripping.

When I was in middle school, a friend was telling my mom and I about the location and its many tales.  According to anecdotal evidence, this home was once used by local kids dabbling in the occult and Satanism.  Because of these activities, not only the house, but the road running in front of it, is said to be haunted.

In one particularly disturbing tale, an acquaintance was traveling the road late at night, and as he approached the home, he saw something in the road.  It was a little girl, no more than five years old, wearing a blue dress.  He swerved to miss her and ended up crashing his car, completely totalling it against the rocky outcropping.

My mom, ever the skeptic, decided we'd go drive by the location and see what would happen.  As we drove past the house, the perfectly clear evening produced a large ball of fog.  The fog literally came up from the hill where the house was located, paused in front of the car, and did not dissipate until we (my friend and myself) started screaming for my mom to get the hell out of there, lol. The fog was dense, and only covered about a foot square area.  It hung fairly low to the ground---about the height of a small child.

Several years after that, my grandma came to visit and we got to talking about ghosts...and decided to take her out to the location to see if that same fog would emerge.  It didn't...but in its place were the strangest lights I have ever seen.  You could see the headlights of our car making a specific pattern as they hit and bounced off the cliff on the opposite side of the road.  However, these lights...which I kid you not, were shaped like SHOE PRINTS...came flying up over the embankment where the home was, across the road in front of our car, and up the cliff on the other side and into the woods.  There was a line of about 10 or 12 of these cartoon-y shoe print shapes.

Flash forward to another several years past that, and my mom, an educational diagnostician, was testing a student at one of the local schools.  Somehow, they started talking about ghostly legends, and this student told my mom another interesting tale from the immediate area.

The student's family lived nearby this particular home, but also another old home, where an elderly couple resided.  The family would often look in on the couple, and bring them food and supplies.  One day, they went to check on them, and the husband was not there.  The wife kept repeating that he was gone...out in the woods...with them.  Thinking the statement odd, but figuring he was just out, the family waited a few days and came back to check on them again.  This time, they found the woman to be missing.  The incident was reported, but neither the man nor woman were ever seen again.

Witch's Grave at Mannington

Located in Marion County, the small community of Mannington hosts one of WV's most popular urban legends:  The Witch's Grave at Highland Cemetery.

Highland Cemetery and its chapel sit off a rural road deep in Marion County.  Abandoned for years, the chapel itself has its own legends.   Locals tell of a Satanic cult that used the chapel for worship.  Visitors and thrill seekers to the chapel noted a stark absence of crosses and Christian iconography throughout the chapel, in addition to a sense of creepiness and unease.  An attendance bulletin board is rumored to read the same number as the number of people in the visiting party, changed with each new group by unseen, and possibly, unhuman hands.

Perhaps the abandoned chapel became a hub of alleged Satanic activity due to a much older urban legend surrounding one of the interred citizens of the cemetery.   Highland Cemetery is reported to be the final resting spot of Fairmont's most famous witch.

The lady in question goes by many variations of name.  Zelda, Sarah Jane,  Serlinda Jane, and simply, the Witch of Highland, are among the many variations.  Her tombstone, however, reads something to the affect of Serilda Jane Whetzel, date of death: May 29th, 1909.

Legend states that Ms. Whetzel's tombstone is upside down, and contains the imagery of a staircase descending down into the fiery mouth of a demon.  Although buried in what was a Christian burial ground, Ms. Whetzel had her tombstone faced away from the rest of the flock in obvious defiance.  The witch herself, along with a gentleman, often referred to as a warlock, have been seen in the vicinty of the grave, and quickly disappear when approached.

Although seemingly unbelievable, there is a grain of truth in these stories.  The tombstone itself  IS quite strange.  Firstly, it DOES face away from the rest of the stones in the cemetery.  However, it is obvious that the tombstone has been knocked down, and replaced in a new position.  According to locals, any attempt to restore the stone to its original position is met with opposition from local vandals, quick to undo the work.

Secondly, there is a staircase motif carved on Ms. Whetzel's tomb.  Generally, staircases in tombstone symbolism represent the passage into Heaven.  These are often accompanied by weeping willow trees in the background, symbolizing mourning.  Due to stone weathering and a slightly off-kilter perspective, it DOES give the illusion that the staircase is not ascending into Heaven, but DESCENDING into something not as pleasant!  Today, services are once again being held in the small chapel, so please be respectful and obey all laws if visiting the cemetery.

The video above comes from YouTube user cemeterytan and shows an excellent collection of images from the cemetery and chapel, including close-ups of the "Witch's Grave".

Ghost Girl of Wem Town Hall

The town of Wem, located in Shropshire, England, is a small market town with roots going back to the 1200s.

On November 19, 1995, the town hall caught fire.  This wasn't the first major fire in the town's history, however.  In 1677, a fire started on nearly the exact same location as where the town hall now stands, destroying much of the town's old timber houses.

 Over 60 firefighters battled the blaze, and were able to save much of the historic exterior including a plaque commemorating the 1677 fire, but unfortunately, the inside of the building was completely gutted.  Townspeople gathered around to watch the blaze, but soon the intense heat and out of control flames caused the crowds to be pushed back.

The photo in question was taken by Tony O'Rahilly from across the street.  The photo was taken with a telescopic lens, using 200mm black and white film.  When the film was developed, the image of a young girl wearing what appears to be a bonnet showed up in the doorway to the building.  Knowing that no one could survive the intensity of the flames, and that everyone was reported to be out of the building at the time, O'Rahilly submitted the photo to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, who in turn, sent it to be analyzed by photo expert and former president of the Royal Photographic Society, Dr. Vernon Harrison.

After examining the negative and the photo itself, Dr. Harrison concluded that there was no tampering involved.  However, he felt that the image of the little girl is simply the result of simulcra; O'Rahilly had managed to snap a photo at just the right time to cause an optical illusion from the smoke and flames.

Still, many people believe that the photo is genuine, and that the building has a history of being haunted.  The 1677 fire was believed to have been started by a 14 year old girl named Jane Churm, who accidentally either dropped a lit candle, or caught a thatched ceiling aflame with a candle.  The 1677 fire burned so intensely, that the church bells partially melted, resulting in them having to be re-cast.

In the 1995 fire, fire investigators ruled out arson, but could not come up with an explanation for the blaze.  Some believe that the fire was started by none other than Jane Churm.  Others feel that Jane Churm showed up to protect the building, or express remorse for her part in the original fire.

The town hall WAS rebuilt, at a cost of nearly $3.6 million U.S.  However, budget cuts ten years later caused an uproar over the fate of the historic building.  The town hall was closed in favor of public opinion that the town pool should receive the funding instead.

Fate of the Town Hall

UPDATE May 2010:
This photo has been proven to be a hoax!  The girl's image appears to be identical to the image found on an old postcard, printed by a local paper.  Please see the SUN's website for full story and photo!

Here's the comparison photo:

Bear Hollow Tales


Title: Bear Hollow Tales
Author: Forrest Alford
Published by Wythe-North Publishing, 2010

On a recent quest for the perfect Carnevale mask, I stopped in a local bookstore to browse, and happily stumbled upon Forrest Alford's Bear Hollow Tales, a follow-up to his first book on local legends, ghost tales, and other supernatural goodies taking place along the Cabell-Mason County line!  After reviewing Strange But True on the original Theresa's Haunted History, I received a guestbook signature from Alford's daughter, informing me that there were other books.  Greatly excited, I perused area stores, without luck, so I was overjoyed to find this one nearly by accident.

As with the first book, I was not disappointed!  Once again, Alford takes us on a journey through some lively tales, some passed along to him by friends, neighbors, and family...and others that were experienced first hand.  In this volume, readers will hear tales of the familiar blue lights, but also be treated to apparitions, UFOs, and even some mysterious beasts. 

I love Alford's books because they tell tales from a REAL person's perspective.  You won't find these stories mentioned on popular haunted places websites, but you'll find them preserved here for future generations!  As an Historical Research Manager for one of WV's largest paranormal teams, I cannot stress the importance of preserving folklore of our great state, and these books have become a treasured part of my personal library.

That said, I do have one small issue...and that has to do with the religious overtones of the book.  It seems as if its implied that most witnesses are of a reliable sort because they are "good Christians."  That phrase pops up over and over again throughout the text, along with the theme of becoming saved before death.  I understand and respect the author's personal views, but that aspect may dissuade a few readers away from the rest of the book.  If you can look past that aspect, I think you'll be pleasantly pleased.

Book Review for Alford's first book, Strange But True

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pt. Pleasant's River Museum

Now sporting a jaunty red coat of paint, the Pt. Pleasant River Museum officially opened in May of 2004.  It is home to a large collection of archives and artifacts, showcasing the river industry and its impact on the Kanawha and Ohio Valley.  Interactive displays, videos, a freshwater aquarium and more are just some of the great exhibits you'll find.

You might also find a ghost or two...

The River Museum is housed in a three story brick structure, which many locals still refer to as the "Old Nease" building.  Built around 1854, the building served as the grocery and mercantile business for local, Robert Mitchell.  Mitchell had been in the Pt. Pleasant mercantile business since at least 1852, and catered to both locals and the river traffic that would dock down from the store.

Around 1906, the HG Nease Company was issued a charter to open a grocery business in Pt. Pleasant.  HG Nease, another local who had previously served as principal at Pt. Pleasant High School, and four other men,including J.S. Spencer of Lowe Hotel fame, comprised the stockholders issued this charter.

The Nease Company would be the last entity to run a mercantile business from the building.  In the 1940s, the building was used by another local establishment simply as storage.  Recent years had left the building nearly derelict, when in 1990, the firm of Hartley, Hartley, and Hartley donated the building to the city of Pt. Pleasant for the establishment of a river museum.  After much hard work, the museum finally opened, nearly 15 years later.  

Originally, the land the building was built upon was a popular spot for both the Native tribes, but also served as a battleground during the late 1700s.  Across the street, Tu-Endie-Wei State Park stands as a testament to the  frontiersmen and natives who lost their lives at the Battle of Pt. Pleasant.

With such a long history, and with such a collection of antique artifacts, some directly connected with the Silver Bridge Disaster, its only natural to assume the building may pick up a ghost or two.  The most often witnessed event is simply movement caught out of the corner of one's eye, as if someone is in the building with you.  However, a few witnesses have reported seeing a more substantial anomaly...the apparition of a worker wearing white coveralls.  It is rumored that a previous worker in the building's history matches the description of the man seen.

Huntington's Haunted State Hospital

Now known as the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital (named for Dr. Mildred Mitchell Bateman and dedicated October 2, 1999), the massive psychiatric hospital on Norway Avenue began life in 1897 as the Home for Incurables.  It would later be simply known as Huntington State Hospital.

In the 1950s, the hospital was under deep scrutiny for its overcrowding, under staffing, and lack of sanitary, modern equipment and facilities.  Patients were segregated only by gender, and never by diagnosis.  Two staff members were assigned to up to 80 patients at a time, and the children's ward was accessible only by a steep, twisting metal ladder.  Resources were lacking, and patients had to share only a few washbasins between them.

 However, nothing could prepare the hospital for the devastation that it would come to on November 26, 1952.  That night around 7pm, fire broke out in the basement of Ward Four, which housed women and children.  The fire burned for two hours before it was contained, and many of the children had to be carried by hand down the steep, twisted ladder. 

When the fire was finally extinguished, many of the patients gathered in the kitchen, which was housed in a separate building.  The staff had tripped the locks so that the patients could flee on their own, yet 14 souls were still lost that night.  9 women and 5 girls under the age of 14 perished in the fire, which led to further outcry for funding for the hospital.

Today, it is these unfortunate souls lost in the fire, plus many others who spent their last, pitiful days in the hospital's darker history, who are still believed to walk its halls.  Many reports of apparitions come directly from staff members, including a man who is seen walking into room 306, a woman wearing distinct red shoes seen walking towards where the former morgue was kept, and the shadowy figure of someone hanging and swinging in the same spot where a patient took his life in the same manner.  Shadowy figures have also been seen in the present kitchen area, and doors are known to slam shut on their own accord.

The hospital sits directly across from Springhill Cemetery, and it is believed that the cemetery is also haunted by the unfortunate souls of those who passed away at the hospital, unclaimed by family members, only to be buried in the pauper section of the cemetery.  

Recent Photo Gallery from the Herald-Dispatch of the 1952 fire

The Creepiness Surrounding Camden Park

Camden Park officially opened in 1903 as a picnic and recreation area along the Camden Interstate Railway streetcar line.  The rail line, owned and operated by Sen. Johnson Newlon Camden of Parkersburg,  ran between Huntington and Ashland.

Camden got the idea that a picnic area would draw additional patronage to the rail line, and thus, Camden Park was born.  By 1907, the park's first real ride was installed--the historic carousel, and by 1910, the number of rides had grown to seven, plus a community swimming pool.  That year, Col. E.G. Via was hired to manage the facility.

Six years later, Via purchased the park from the streetcar company, and continued to operate it until his death in 1946.  That year, the park was up to nine rides, and was purchased by John Boylin, Sr.
Boylin owned and managed the park until 1980, and made many improvements and additions.  In 1958, the Big Dipper, one of the only wooden coasters left of its kind, was installed.  That was also the year the Cabaret Room, which hosted dances and band performances burned to the ground, replaced a year later by the roller rink.

Unfortunately, the group of Virginia investors who took control of the park in 1980 let the park run into disrepair.  The park was poorly managed, and the investors owed a lot of money, much of it to the Boylin family, who still owned the land.  In 1995, the John Boylin, Jr., along with his wife and son, take over management of the park and begin to help clean things up.  Today, the park is run by Jack Boylin, grandson of John Boylin, Sr.

Over the years, the park has picked up the reputation for being haunted.  Located within the park property is an Adena Indian burial mound, which has never been excavated.  The mound is the only one left of its kind in the area, and is the third largest in the state.  Because of the location of the park, it is rumored to be haunted by Native American spirits.  One witness reports seeing the apparition of one Native American chasing the apparition of another, while carrying a knife.  A reader to my site, unfamiliar with the park's haunted history or presence of an Adena Mound, recently confided that SHE too had seen the vision of a Native American, and was simply told she must be imagining things.

The Big Dipper also has had its share of reported apparitions.  A woman's figure is sometimes reported seated in the last car of the wooden coaster.

Milton's Morris Memorial

*There has been such an influx of trespassers to this property during the spring of 2014 that security cameras have been installed and people ARE being arrested.  Please, please, please do not trespass! Trespassing is illegal and inherently dangerous and trespassing in the name of "ghost hunting" reflects poorly on the paranormal research community as a whole and makes it that much harder for legitimate groups who follow the rules to be allowed access to (and to even TALK about) some wonderfully historic locations.  Once again, Theresa's Haunted History DOES NOT condone trespassing in any form.  Please don't let your quest for a cheap thrill ruin it for the rest of us.*

In 1928, Walter T. Morris, an unmarried farmer in the Milton area, had a life-changing experience.  His beloved niece was diagnosed with infantile paralysis...otherwise known as polio.  For many months, the family was emotionally exhausted.  However, proper care allowed Morris' niece a chance at a normal life.

So impressed with her medical care, and recognizing a need for such in the Cabell County area, Morris deeded his 200 acre farm in 1930 for use as a facility for crippled children.  At first, the Morris home was used to treat a handful of patients, until construction on the sandstone structure of today was begun in 1936.
Hundreds of children received care at this state of the art facility, complete with auditorium, full service kitchen, and even a school staffed by the Cabell County Board of Education.  However, when Salk discovered the polio vaccine in 1955, the hospital was no longer needed.  In 1958, John and Rose Green took ownership and opened up a nursing and convalescence home on site.

Today, the building is largely abandoned, and its fate sits in limbo.  Possibly, the fate is not ALL that sits in limbo at this massive structure.  The hospital is widely known to be haunted...a reputation it seemingly acquired during its time as a nursing home.  Former staff members report eerie feelings and paranormal activity in the basement, the chapel, and the south wing in particular.  Shadows have been seen out of the corner of one's eye, and apparitions of patients (or former patients) vanish in hallways.

UPDATE: April 2012  We've recently heard that the local police are really cracking down on alleged trespassers, including those who visit the property during daylight hours.  Several months ago, I noticed that No Trespassing signs are now posted at the entrance to the property.  Theresa's Haunted History and its affiliates do not condone trespassing; please respect all posted laws and obtain permission before visiting this location.

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe!

The Poe Toaster has been done; several years ago the "true" identity of this annual visitor to Poe's grave was revealed, and today makes the second year in a row that the Poe Toaster failed to make an appearance.  So, instead of another story on this strange and upsetting course of events, I will instead be honoring Poe's 202nd birthday with my favorite poem, Annabelle Lee.  I think its quite haunting enough for this website...

Annabelle Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me
Yes! that was the reason
(as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we
Of many far wiser than we
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Supernatural Superstitions!

As a paranormal investigator, I like to think of myself as being scientifically-minded. I strive to maintain a logical, objective stance on all things paranormal.  But, I'm also a West Virginia mountain girl! My family, who settled in the Irish Mountain area of Hinton, WV, came from a long-line of Scot-Irish, German, and Cherokee heritage. Ghost stories and superstitions made up a huge part of their lives and a huge part of their belief system. As the years go by, I'm trying to document as many of the old ghost stories and spooky superstitions that have been passed down to me since I was a small child. Here are a few of my favorite superstitions related to spooks and spirits.

*A person born with a caul over his face will have the gift of second sight, and be able to see and converse with spirits and ghosts.  My maternal grandfather was born with such a caul.

*The seventh son of a seventh son will also have increased psychic abilities and be able to converse with spirits.

*A person who never meets their twin will have psychic abilities.  My father, while not claiming to be psychic in any sense, had a twin sister who died as a baby.

*When a candle starts to flicker and there is no breeze or draft present, a spirit is near.  If the flame should turn blue or abruptly flare up, the spirit is strong...and very near.  If a candle lit during a religious ceremony unexpectedly blows out, an evil spirit is near.

*Never rock an empty rocking chair; you're inviting ghosts in.

*If you WOULD happen to encounter a ghost or spirit, ask the spirit "In the name of the Lord, what is it that you want?"  They have to tell you why they are there.

*Since animals can see ghosts and spirits, removing the inner eyelid from a dog and wearing it like a contact lens will give the wearer this ability as well.  For a more humane (and less disgusting) method, simply crouch down behind a dog, and look between its ears to see what it sees.

*If you hear your name being called and no living person is around, DO NOT answer!  It's a spirit with bad intentions.

*However, if you hear your name being called while you're asleep, it means you slipped too far into unconsciousness and too close to death.  The angels were calling you back.

*When someone dies, all mirrors and reflective surfaces must be covered with black cloth so that the person's spirit does not become trapped in those items.

*The funeral procession must take a different route home from the one they took to the cemetery so that the ghost of the deceased cannot follow them. 

*A bird in the house is an omen of an upcoming death. And speaking of death omens, West Virginia has a very strange story of a death omen foretelling the assassination of President McKinley.

So that's a VERY short list of superstitions that can be found throughout West Virginia and Appalachia! If you know of any others that deserve to be on this list, hop on over to Theresa's Haunted History Facebook and let me know!

*Updated January 2018*

Legends Surround the Z.D. Ramsdell House

On January 22, HPIR will be conducting its second investigation of the famous Z.D. Ramsdell House, in Ceredo, WV.  Please read on to hear the history of this fascinating home, long believed to be haunted by the spirits of soldiers and slaves alike!

UPDATE:  The investigation has been completed, and evidence has been obtained.  Give us YOUR thoughts on this interesting EVP that was captured in what was once used as the home's labor and delivery room!  HPIR Ramsdell 2011 Investigation
The town of Ceredo was founded in 1857 by Eli Thayer, a strong abolitionist who was determined to prove that a town could be prosperous without the use of slave labor.  The following year, he personally invited another abolitionist from Abingdon, Massachusetts (near Boston), Zopher Deane Ramsdell, to join him.

Z.D. Ramsdell was a businessman who soon settled in the area and opened a boot and shoe factory.  In 1858, Ramsdell completed his home at 1108 B Street, Ceredo, a lot he purchased from the Thomas Jordan family.  This brick building was the first of its kind in Ceredo, and was built by Mr. Denney Shine, a mason with the Chase Brothers Contractors. The home was built atop a mound, rumored to be an Adena Indian burial mound, and also contained a "hidden" basement.

According to local legend, this hidden basement was used as part of the Underground Railroad.  Slaves would be sheltered there before being ferried out during the night across the Ohio River into Lawrence County, Ohio.  (In fact, during our first investigation, we did find several access panels in the floors to a crawl space, plenty big enough for several people to take shelter in.)

During the outbreak of the Civil War, Ramsdell enlisted with the Union Army as a member of the Quarter Master Corp in the Fifth Regiment Virginia Volunteer Infantry, seeing action in the Burning of Guyandotte.  He was later promoted to Captain.  After the war, he returned to Ceredo, where he was appointed as a special agent of the post office, elected to the WV State Senate (1869-1870) and sat on the board of commissioners for the Ceredo Independent School District.  He was also instrumental in writing legislation establishing the area's first "free schools" for ex-slaves.

Ramsdell lived in the home until his death from consumption (now known as tuberculosis) in 1886, and the home remained in the family until 1977.  By 1982, the city had appointed a Historical Landmark Commission and together with the American Legion, restored the building.  Visitors to today's museum may notice a big steel "S" on the side of the house, supporting a bar that stabilizes the structure.

Due to its involvement with the Underground Railroad and its location atop an Adena Mound, many ghost stories arise from the Ramsdell Home, and men seem to be most susceptible to the activity. Poltergeist activity such as doors opening and closing and lights switching on and off on their own accord are commonplace.  In addition, it is rumored that you can hear the moans of slaves and chains rattling in the "hidden" basement.  Through our multiple investigations of this location, we feel pretty strongly that any sign of chains rattling is probably most likely blamed on the massive train yard that sits behind the property.  Apparitions of slaves have also been seen, as it is rumored that there are several who are buried on the property.  Several Civil War veteran's graves were also said to have been located on the property.

As more and more investigations are conducted on a more regular basis, it is now believed that the spirits of the Ramsdell family, and possibly several men and women who worked for them, are just as, if not more, prevalent in the home than the original activity reported online during the web's infancy.

Please email me for more info on the Ramsdell family genealogy, the slaves on the Lawrence Co. side known to assist those fleeing Virginia, and additional info on the house itself!  I've compiled quite a bit of historical information, which I have shortened here for the sake of brevity.  Please also see HPIR's website for information on our first investigation of the home, which took place in 2009!

*Note:  We've investigated this location for a third time in 2012.  Unfortunately, no evidence of note was captured, but we had a wonderful time!*

Monday, January 17, 2011

Backseat Ghost Driver!

On March 22, 1959, Jim Chinnery accompanied his wife Mabel to a local Ipswich area cemetery.  Jim waited dutifully in the couple's car as Mabel paid a brief visit to her mother's grave.  Her mother, who had died the previous year, had once told Jim that she would "forever be at his side."

Not something most son-in-laws want to hear, this eternal promise was probably NOT on Jim's mind on the sunny, early Spring day, but perhaps it was.  Mabel had brought along her camera in order to take a few photographs of her mother's tombstone, and with one picture left on the roll, playfully snapped a photo of her smiling husband as he waited patiently for her return to the car.

Shortly after, the couple had the roll of film developed at their local drugstore.  When the prints were returned, they were shocked to see that Jim was not alone in the car; the very solid image of Mabel's mother was seated firmly behind him on the passenger's side!  Mabel's mother had often accompanied the family on drives, and now could clearly be seen sitting in her usual position, with the sun reflecting off her glasses.

A local newspaper, the Sunday Pictorial (which became the Sunday Mirror in 1963) obtained the photo and the negative and ran the story.  As part of the feature, the paper had a photography expert examine the photo.  The expert ruled out tampering, and also ruled out double exposure.  However, many websites that feature this photo as a Top 10 Ghost Photo fail to mention the second part of the analysis...the expert stated that he believed the anomaly was created by a trick of light.  In his own words:  "The woman's scarf seems to follow the line of the back of the car.  As light shines in through different windows of the car it can create odd patterns."

In 2006, the late producer Ivan Howlett filmed a French television documentary featuring the photo.  Unfortunately, research into the photo turned up little supporting evidence as Mabel's maiden name is unknown, thus making tracking down her mother's name and mother's site of burial nearly impossible.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Vardoger: A Norwegian Doubles Phenomenon Explained

Have you ever heard the term, 'vardoger?'  

Quite literally, the term "vardoger" is a Norwegian word defined as "a premonitory sound or sight of a person before he arrives."

Vardogers are a class of paranormal "doubles," a class that includes doppelgangers, crisis apparitions, and bilocation.  In fact, it is believed that the vardoger is simply an example of bilocation. 

Those who experience a vardoger "haunting" generally describe the phenomena in an almost identical manner.  Generally, the witnesses are at a location, most often home, waiting for a friend or loved one to arrive.  About 15 minutes to a half hour before the scheduled time of the person's arrival, the witness will hear the sounds associated with that person coming home.  They will hear a car in the driveway, hear doors opening and closing, and even the footsteps in the entry way.  Rarely, the actual car or the form of the person will be seen in solid form, indistinguishable from a real person.

My family went through its own period of vardoger hauntings in the late 1990s/early 2000s, especially concerning the arrival home of myself or my sister.  In one specific textbook example, my mom and I were in the bedroom, waiting for my sister to come home from work.  We heard the garage door open, a car door open then close, the garage door being lowered, and then the kitchen door being opened and closed.  The dogs rushed out of the room towards the kitchen to greet my sister, and after calling to my sister where we mother quickly followed, only to find that no one was there.  No car was in the garage.  After precisely 15 minutes, my sister did indeed arrive home, none the wiser to what had just occured.

It is theorized that in these vardoger cases, the spirit of the person, eager to arrive, does in fact leave the body to arrive early.  And, although in a similar paranormal class, vardogers are distinctly different from the more widely known concept of a doppelganger.  In classic doppelganger cases, the person himself often sees his own image.  The doppelganger seems as flesh and blood as a real human, identical in every way save for one or two slightly different details to the "host."  It is considered extremely unlucky, and even is seen as a death omen in some cultures, to see your own doppelganger.  Vardogers, on the other hand, are benign and not associated with luck, good or bad.

Lincoln photo above from Chris Capps' site, Unexplainable.Net

Freddy Jackson's Last Photo

In early 1919, the RAF squadron based outside of Cranwell was slated to be disbanded.  To mark the occasion, the group of over 200 men and women who had survived the war and served aboard the HMS Daedalus, posed in uniform outside on a runway at the base.  It was a somber occasion, as two days earlier, one of their own had passed away.  Freddy Jackson, a flight mechanic, had accidentally walked into the propeller of a plane about to take off and was killed instantly.  His funeral was held the day the photo was taken.

The photo in question was an official RAF photo.  When developed, a copy was posted to the squadron's bulletin board with a sign-up sheet for squadron members to order their own copy.  Apparently, members did see the face, and immediately recognized it as their fallen comrade.

However, it wasn't until 1975 that the photo gained any popularity.  Sir Robert Victor Goddard, a retired Air Marshall with an interest in the paranormal who was present when the photo was taken, published the photo, which clearly shows a man standing behind another.  This person is out of place, not wearing a hat like anyone else in the photo, and identified by many members of the squadron as being Freddy Jackson.  Those who knew Jackson believe that he may or may not have been aware that he was dead, but either way, felt the need to be included in the photograph!

This is one of those photos that really does seem too good to be true and is passed around the net over and over again, being touted as a great example of an authentic ghost photograph.  In fact, even some more skeptical members of the paranormal community relent and admit that this very well could be a genuine example of paranormal photography.

But is it REALLY?

Inspired by an assignment in my online Paranormal Photography class, I decided to take a closer look at this photo and do some research that for whatever reason, I had failed to include when I initially posted this blog.    Obviously, the first step was to find out a little more about Freddy Jackson himself.  Well, this was a FAIL.

I did find an individual named "Morgan" on the Ghost-Mysteries forum claiming to have found historical evidence that there WAS a man named Freddy Jackson who was killed by walking into the propeller of a Sopwith Camel, just several days before his transport maintenance company disbanded in 1918---not 1919.    This information was obtained by meticulous research and calls placed to various agencies, with help from a "Mary" at the Cranwell RAF archives.  Being a meticulous researcher myself, I wanted some additional verification in the form of primary documentation...not just someone's word on a message board.

Unfortunately, its difficult to get that primary documentation from another continent from nearly 100 years ago without putting forth a lot of time and money...and not even being guaranteed results.  So, I did the next best thing; I consulted the Find-a-Grave website!  What I found was that there were close to a dozen men with the last name Jackson that died in 1918-19 who possibly could have been our Freddy...but weren't.  I found Fredericks, and Freds, and even a host of Alfreds.  I REALLY thought I had a hit with 2nd Lt. Charles Frederick Stephen Jackson of the 207th Training Depot Station, RAF.  He was the only military personnel I found who was in the Royal Air Force, but unfortunately, although Cranwell did later become a training depot, Charles was never stationed there....and clearly has written on his tombstone that he died in a flying accident.

2nd Lt. C.F.S. Jackson's Grave, by Geoffrey Gillon

I would like to clarify that just because I couldn't find a strong documentation on this individual doesn't mean he didn't exist, especially if we can take the word of Morgan.  And with that, I moved onto the next face of research...why was this photo not in public scrutiny until 1975?  I can't answer that with any certainty, but a short background on the man behind bringing it to the public eye, Robert Victor Goddard, is in order.

The very same "paranormal interest" that caused him to share this photo might also work against his credibility to some people.  That is because Sir Robert Victor Goddard is somewhat of a controversial figure himself after claiming that he flew "through time," in 1935.  Sir Goddard's time traveling exploits have been chronicled and critiqued at length already, and I suggest this article by the BS Historian, which discusses how certain elements of Goddard's story could not be corroborated...and offers up a rational explanation as to what happened to him.

Again, playing Devil's Advocate here...even if we can push aside the "back-story" of this photograph and how it came to be displayed to the public, we are still left with a photograph that does appear to contain the ghostly image of a man peeking out from behind another.  The fact that the face is so out of place, is not wearing a hat like all the others, and has sort of a wispy, ethereal quality to it, does merit some analysis.  Unfortunately, I can't really give you that at this point, lol.

The actual image is EXTREMELY hard to see in the "original" photo, and only becomes really apparent with the circular insert.  It does appear, however, that there is not enough space behind the living RAF personnel to accommodate another living human, and that a photographer would have noticed if someone who was supposed to be in the shot was not positioned clearly.

The biggest problem with this photo's authenticity is the same issue that comes up with most of these classic, historic ghost photos...and that's the fact that since everyone associated with the photo is deceased, no one can be interviewed and the negative is generally lost to history.

So as of this date (July 2013) I'm going to classify this photo as unknown.  I'd really LIKE for it to be paranormal, but obviously, I have my reservations....hopefully the wonderful knowledge that I hope to gleam from this paranormal photography class will give me additional insights into analyzing this intriguing photograph!

Huntington's Keith Albee Theater

Construction on 4th Avenue's Keith Albee Theater began in 1926 when A.B. Hyman consulted architect Thomas Lamb for plans to build a magnificent vaudeville theater for the people of Huntington. With the introduction of the the "talkie" "The Jazz Singer" in 1927, plans had to be tweaked, and the original budget of $250,000 was exhausted quickly.

The rococo style theater named for the Keith Albee vaudeville chain opened May 7, 1928 with vocalist Rae Samuels, several vaudeville acts, and a screening of "Good Morning Judge" with Reginald Denny.  Opening day admission was 50 cents a person, and all 3000 original seats were filled.

Still in private operation despite financial difficulties, the 1937 flood, and various changes in the entertainment industry, the Keith Albee has also picked up the reputation of being one of the most haunted locations in the tri-state area.  There have been a few verifable deaths in the building.  Down in the basement, two electricians were electrocuted, and a maintenance man died in the modern projection room.  There are also rumors that a homeless man taking shelter in the basement froze to death one winter under the stage area.

In fact, the areas of the deaths ARE reported to be some of the "hot spots" in the theater.  Movement and shadows are often seen in the projection room where the maintenance man has died, and the basement, and its legends of the tunnel system have long been the source of ghostlore.

However, the most famous ghost in the theater is no doubt the Lady in Red.  The Lady in Red is seen in the mezzanine level ladies' room.  A mirrored parlour leading into the restroom is said to be her favorite locale, but she has also been seen wandering around the rest of the mezzanine.  She is described as wearing a 1940s style red fancy dress and high heeled shoes.  Another Keith Albee ghost tends to stay in the area of the basement level ladies' room.  Visitors to this restroom often report the feelings of someone watching them, and following them down the stairs into the restroom.  Unlike the Lady in Red, this resident ethereal is heard and felt, rather than seen.

HPIR investigated this location in the fall of 2007.  Please click the link to see our investigation results!

UPDATE July 1, 2011:  The Keith-Albee sign was damaged in an early June storm.  Please click on the link below for the story, and how you can assist with restoration efforts.

Keith Albee Sign Damaged

Ghosts of the Frederick Hotel, Huntington

The Frederick Hotel was designed to be a showplace of opulence, issuing the Huntington area into the modern age.  Ground was broken on March 1905, and construction officially started on June 22nd. 

Opening to the public on November 12th, 1906, the hotel remained the premier place to stay until it closed in 1973.  Built at a cost of $400,000 and furnished with the finest pieces available at an additional $100,000, it was definitely one of the most expensive hotels in the area.  In 1907, rates ran $2.50 to $4.00 a day for a room.  Notables such as Richard Nixon, Liberace, and Bob Hope all stayed at the hotel, as well as those coming to town to perform at the Keith Albee across the street.

Along with some famous names came some infamous as well, as rumors of organized crime came to the Frederick.  Some believe that the rumored tunnel system of Huntington was used to ferry criminals and bootleg liquor around the city.  Other rumors have a tunnel between the two buildings acting as a pathway for the Keith Albee performers.  Unfortunately, despite adamant testimonials, there is no evidence of a tunnel connecting the Keith Albee and the Frederick Building.

There are, however, plenty of ghost stories attached to the building!  The building, which now houses various offices and retail stores, has a wide variety of paranormal activity reported.  Two children are said to be haunting the restaurant area, which during the early 60s served as the hotel's private men's club.  The jangling of keys, footsteps, whispering voices, and even bloodcurdling screaming have been observed.  There are even stories that have surfaced of a former resident of the hotel claiming that his room was haunted, and that the ghosts would keep him up at night arguing.

The most active areas do appear to be the restaurant area, and the sixth floor...a floor that renters quickly move back out of.  With such a varied history and so many different experiences, this former grand hotel is still today a plethora of paranormal potential.

Guyandotte's Lady in Black

As a tour guide with Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours, I am expected to dress in period attire.  My favorite character to portray during these tours has become our local mascot, The Lady in Black.  Here is her story.

From Huntington Quarterly Magazine:
"Guyandotte Inhabited by Ghost"

Perhaps the earliest published local account of the supernatural is contained in the Huntington Advertiser for September 23, 1905 in an article titled "Guyandotte Inhabited by Ghost." At the time, Guyandotte, then nearly a century old, was a sleepy little river town located two to three miles east of Huntington.

The article reports that for the past few nights, Guyandotte residents "have been considerably worked up over the persistent and mysterious appearance of a ghost dressed in the black habit of a woman in mourning."

The story states that the ghost "frequents North Bridge and Short Streets where the shade is the thickest and the gloom and stillness give to the surroundings the appearance of a most desirable stop...selected by goblins and spirits to prowl."

The ghost is described as having "the appearance of a woman dressed in the deepest shade of black," and when pedestrians are passing along the above named streets, she walks up behind and keeps pace with them whether they walk fast or slow or, if they stop, she also will stop. It adds that the spirit continues this pace until the pedestrians reach better-lighted streets when she disappears. Most Guyandotte women avoided the area after several had encountered "the mysterious personage."

Several nights before, as a man was on his way home and was walking along one of the haunted streets, "the lady in black approached him from behind," says the story. It adds that the man thought it was someone wishing for him to stop, so he waited for her, but when she got close to him she also stopped. He tried to speak to her but she did not utter a word and kept her distance from him. He then resumed walking with the ghost following behind him. He walked faster and she followed. Then he stopped and so did she. At about this time, he began to get cold chills up his back and he tried to think of a way to escape from theapparition but it was useless. Finally he started to run for home and looking back, he found the woman pursuer close behind him. When he arrived within a block of his home, "the report goes that the neighbors were awakened by the loud yells in a masculine voice calling to his wife to open the door for him."

Whether the ghost of "the lady in black" ever reappeared to stalk desolate Guyandotte streets is not known.

The Appalachian Death Crowns

One of the more intriguing legends of this region has its roots possibly in Welsh folklore, and has traveled West into Missouri and Indiana, and beyond...this is the "Death Crown,"  also referred to as the Feather Crown or Angel Crown.

Back when feather pillows were the norm in Appalachian households, it was not uncommon to find a hardened mass of feathers whose quills had turned inward and locked together forming a disc, or crown, in the pillow of the gravely ill, or recently deceased.  Finding such an artifact in the pillow of someone ill was a sure sign that the person would die within the next three days, but it was a comforting symbol when found in the pillow of the recently deceased.

Finding a crown in a person's pillow meant that the person has gone to Heaven.  The phenomenon was reserved for the deceased faithful, and those who had been saved before death.  Most of these tightly wound crowns measure in at about 2-3 inches in diameter by 1 to 1.5 inches thick, but some are much larger.

While it is argued that a bedridden person's head could cause the feathers to matte together, the faithful maintain that it is a sign from the angels that their loved one is now with God, and no scientific explanation has been brought forth that can sway these deep rooted beliefs.

Many families in this area still have boxes of Death Crowns pulled from their ancestors' pillows, and many of those have made their way into museums.  The world's largest collection of Death Crowns can be found at the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, TN, but there are many smaller collections in museums all over the area, as far away as Indiana, where the Lawrence County Museum of History has several on display.

Australia's Ghost Baby

The ghost baby upon the grave is another one of those photos that is repeatedly posted around the net as being one of the top examples of ghost photography out there...and its meager description is posted nearly word for word on each one of these sites.

However, a little digging has paid off, and a few details have been added for your reading pleasure!

On April 26, 1945, 17 year old Joyce Elizabeth Andrews passed away.  Joyce, born on August 4, 1928, was interred in Queensland, Australia's Ma Ma Creek Anglican Cemetery.  She was interred along with her brother, Sgt. Cecil H. Andrews of the RAAF, who had died in 1942.  Joyce's parents were John William Andrews and Mary Elizabeth Colquhoun.

Sometime between 1946 and 1947, Joyce's mother visited the cemetery and snapped a photo of her children's shared tombstone and plot.  Mrs. Mary Andrews, upon having the film developed, notice an intriguing anomaly on the photograph---there was an infant girl sitting happily on the grave, staring right towards the camera!

Several theories have cropped up as to what may have caused the ghostly little girl.  One theory involves the idea that the apparition is a manifestation of Joyce herself as a baby.  Mrs. Andrews denied this theory, believing that it is NOT an image of her daughter.  She also denied the most plausible explanation of the image being caused by double exposure.  Mrs. Andrews claimed that she did not recognize this child at all, and therefore, would have been no one she would have taken a photo of.  Further, there were no children or babies present at the cemetery that could have mistakenly gotten into THIS shot or any others on the roll of film.  At least...there were no LIVING children present.

Intrigued by the decades old mystery, it is said that Australian paranormal expert, Tony Healy, most known for his work in cryptozoology, visited the site in the 1990s.  Healy claimed to have found the graves of two infant females near the Andrews grave, and thus, it is largely believed that the apparition is the soul of one of these babies, playing happily on a nearby grave.  As I am not familiar with the layout of the cemetery, I have no idea which two graves Mr. Healy is referring to.  However, THIS WEBSITE about the cemetery has full inscriptions, and can be searched by either first-name alphabetical, or "position" in cemetery.  I found a handful of infant and toddler girls (and boys) buried in the cemetery, and there is a stone dedicated to two different babies of the Litfin Family who died in 1953 and 1954.  There is no name or gender listed on this stone, as it appears the infants were stillborn.  From the website, it does appear that this tombstone is located very close to Joyce's...but would not have been there when the photograph was taken.

Further, the tombstone in the background appears to belong to Arthur Robson, who died in 1937 and his wife, Mary Jane, who died in 1948.  I cannot tell from the original photo if the date of death is filled out for Mary Jane, but if it IS, then that could possibly indicate that the photo was taken later than originally believed--post 1948.  In my opinion, it does appear that the date of Mary Jane's death is already inscribed onto the stone.  A photo of the Robson stone can be found on the website mentioned above for your own analysis.  There are slightly similar stones in the cemetery, so take it with a grain of salt.

Personally...I'm going to go with the double exposure theory.  For I the only one seeing what appears to be an ARM coming out from under the child?  It appears that the image is a partial image of a person in white sleeves holding the child. 

Further, I think its very plausible that a photo of someone holding a child could have gotten on this roll of film.  Since there is speculation as to when the photo was taken (either 1946 or 1947 or even later) I think that a likely scenario was that the photo was taken, and the film forgotten and not developed until some time later.  During that time, anyone could have gotten ahold of the camera.

Actually, until researching this photo, I would have confidently said that I believed the story was completely fictional...something that was made up to explain a weird photo then passed along over and over with the popularity of the internet.  However, I did manage to FIND an updated photo of the tombstone in question, plus vital statistics on Joyce and her brother.  So...even though there's still a chance that the story is fictional, made up to go along with an old double exposure photo found in someone's attic, the people are real-the places are real!

The Apollo Theater

One of the original goals of the former Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State website was to provide readers with an ACCURATE and well-researched depository of haunted locations throughout West Virginia and beyond.  While the site is going through some transitions, new additions to that list will be posted here! 

The Apollo Theater was built in downtown Martinsburg in 1913.  A collaboration between local architect Chapman E. Kent and nationally known Reginald Geare, the theater broke ground in April of that year and officially opened on January 19th, 1914.   The Apollo is distinctly different from other theaters of the time period in the fact that although vaudeville shows were performed there regularly, the theater was specifically built in order to host the new motion picture craze sweeping the nation.

The first round of expansion and alterations came in 1920, and were overseen by Geare himself. Further improvements came in 1927, as the theater transitioned itself from the era of silent films into the era of the "talkies" by installing a sound system.  Today, the theater hosts mainly stage productions.
It may also host a ghost...

During the 1920s, the theater was managed by a man by the name of Charlie.  Many believe Charlie still sticks around.  Visitors and actors alike often report smelling the strong scent of cigar smoke right before performances, especially during the autumn season.

Strangely, though, Charlie doesn't seem to be confined to the theater.  A woman renting a nearby apartment noticed one day that while looking out the window, she could see the image of a man outside.  The man was wearing a fedora pulled down low over his eyes, and had his jacket collar pulled up.  Although the man was hunched over, she could still plainly see that he was smoking a cigar.  Thinking that he was an actor from the Apollo's latest production, she was astonished to see him disappear before her eyes...prompting her to seek the advice of a local ghost hunter.  She was informed that she had just witnessed the ghost of "Charlie," who in life, loved to stretch his legs by taking a quick stroll around the block from his beloved theater.