Monday, October 31, 2011

Guyandotte Methodist Church Cemetery

Not to give away too much information...but with Halloween today, and our tour season about to come to a close, I thought I'd give everyone a chance to experience some of the haunted history of the Guyandotte Methodist Church Cemetery!

In 1804, the prominent and wealthy Holderby family donated a parcel of land in downtown Guyandotte to be used as a church, a graveyard, and a school.  We have no record of the school ever being built, and the original church is now gone, but what we DO have still remaining is the Guyandotte Methodist Church of the oldest public burial grounds in Cabell County.

Visitors to the cemetery will notice a distinct lack of tombstones to indicate over 200 years of burial.  However, this parcel of land survived not only the 1861 Raid and Burning of Guyandotte, but also the floods of 1913 and 1937, and nearly 100 years of vandalism and neglect.  When taking that into consideration, we're extremely lucky to have what markers we DO have, whether or not they are in their actual correct location.  Today, the cemetery is maintained by the Park Board, who has graciously allowed HPIR to hold an annual tour in September.

HPIR has uncovered many fascinating stories about the lives of those interred in the cemetery.  Here is just a sampling of two of their stories:

Eleanore LeTulle
Eleanore LeTulle came to America with her husband, Victor LeTulle, from the Normandy area of France.  In the 1820s, they settled in the new community of Guyandotte, and ran a grocery business out of their home.  When Eleanor died in 1836, Victor buried her in the Methodist Church graveyard, erecting a fine, and elaborate stone marker in her honor.

Three years later, Victor married his second wife, Nancy Forgey, and built her a house on what is now Guyan Street.  Together, they too ran a baking and grocery business out of the home, all the while taking care of their rapidly growing family.

When Victor passed away in 1853 of pneumonia, he was buried beside Eleanore in the church graveyard.  Nancy continued to live in the home, which still stands today along the flood wall.  When it was Nancy's time to go, her children buried her in the new Spring Hill Cemetery, which was now the popular place to be buried.  Nancy's surviving children, who had never met Eleanore, disinterred their father from his slumber in Guyandotte, and re-buried him along side their mother, Nancy Forgey LeTulle, in Spring Hill.

This action was enough to rouse the spirit of Eleanore LeTulle.  It is said that Eleanore's apparition has been seen walking through the cemetery, down the street to Victor's home, and even IN the home itself, looking for her lost love.

Anthony Lawson
Anthony Lawson was born in England, on Halloween, in the year 1788.  At the time of his death in 1849, he was living in what is now Logan County, West Virginia.  During a return trip from Pennsylvania, where he was conducting business, Anthony Lawson took ill along the Ohio, and passed away here in Guyandotte.

However, it is theorized that Anthony Lawson's body was disinterred, and taken back home to Logan County by his son.  A major clue to this is the inscription on his tombstone, which reads "Sacred to the Memory of."  Generally, when this is seen on a tombstone, it denotes that it is simply a memorial...and that the body is NOT there.  This is seen often on the graves of persons who have died at sea, or have otherwise died in a situation where the body has been lost elsewhere. 

Another clue that Anthony Lawson may not be around is the grave is the only one in the whole cemetery surrounded by an iron fence.  It is also under a large concrete slab that obscures the bottom part of the tombstone's inscription.  These two devices were added in the early 1940s because at that time, the grave of Anthony Lawson was caving in, and becoming a safety hazard.  Although...some believe that these devices were actually put in place not to keep people from getting in..but to keep something from getting OUT!

Anthony is the only person, however, in his family, to meet with mysterious circumstance.  Two years prior to his death, his wife, Ann, was murdered by two of her own slaves.  His grandson had the unfortunate luck to have found himself in the town of Guyandotte waiting on his boat to Pennsylvania the night the Confederates raided the town.  He was taken prisoner, but escaped with his life when it was proven that he was simply in town for business.

In any event, we have discovered over the years of leading various tours that whether Anthony Lawson is at his grave or not, SOMETHING likes to mess with visitors' cameras.  Many people report that their cameras will turn off and not turn back on until they leave the graveyard...only after trying to photograph Lawson's grave.  Others can get their cameras working, but report weird streaks or balls of light, shadows, and other strange flaws on the image.  Is this caused by an influx of natural EM fields, messing with the camera...or Anthony Lawson trying to say hello?  Take a tour and find out for yourself!

The annual cemetery tour takes place each September in conjunction with SwineFest.  The cemetery is also a stop on other tours, but only features a small sampling of the stories.  For more information, see our tour website below!

Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours

Photography by Melissa Stanley, HPIR Founder/President

Happy Halloween from Vienna!

It's that time again...the most wonderful time of year:  Halloween!  Here's a funny story to start the morning off right!

Tall Tale from Vienna Graveyard

Chris Cross, a tourist in Vienna, is going passed Vienna's Zentralfriedhof graveyard on October 31st.  All of a sudden he hears some music.  No one is around, so he starts searching for the source.  Chris finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827. Then he realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward! Puzzled, he leaves the graveyard and persuades Tim Burr, a friend, to return with him.

By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backward. Curious, the men agree to consult a music scholar.

When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backward. The expert notices that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed, the 9th, then the 7th, then the 5th.  By the next day the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backward.

Just then the graveyard's caretaker ambles up to the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.

"Oh, it's nothing to worry about" says the caretaker. "He's just decomposing!"


*The cartoon I recently found (August 2013) is from FaceBook.  It was posted with no mention as to where its from or who created it, so if its your property, lemme know and I'll give credit where credit is due!  And yes, I realize that its a different composer than what is in the joke itself, but it was too good to pass up!*

Ghost Found on Guyandotte Ghost Tours?

We had another successful round of tours this past weekend!  Despite the rain on Friday, we still had a fair number of people, but a clear, brisk Saturday brought them out in droves!  A big thank you to everyone who came out and supported HPIR this year!  We do these tours because we're proud of the history of our small town of Guyandotte...and what better way to teach history than through a good ghost story?

Perhaps through a good ghost photo?

The photo above was submitted by a family who attended my first  tour of the evening on Saturday.  It was taken at the Patterson House, where a spirit dubbed Harry has been said to make his presence known.  According to the family submitting the photo, visible in the window is what appears to be a young boy.  I DO see what can be called a young boy's face, complete with bangs, an ear, a nose, and the eyes and chin.  Unfortunately, despite having a second photo taken seconds before for comparison, I cannot completely rule out pareidolia.  However...I'll let YOU decide what you see (or don't) see in the photograph!  ; )

Also, if you missed this past weekend's tours, its not too late!  This coming weekend will bring the Guyandotte Civil War Days' tours.  My favorite ghost is a Civil War era ghost, and you're sure to meet one or two on this interactive tour.  For more info, see the link below!

Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

10 Quick and Easy Steps for Picture Analysis!

With Halloween almost here, I've seen an influx of "fake" ghost pictures!  Here's a quick few tips to automatically rule out the obvious fakes!  These techniques are fairly low-tech and easy to master.

1. Ask for the full, unedited picture.  I will not analyze a photo that has been cropped, or has been lightened, enhanced, or even has had the questionable anomaly circled or otherwise marked. 

2. Always ask for the ORIGINAL...never a copy.  The original contains EXIF data, that can provide essential facts, such as when it was taken, what type of camera was used, and if its been edited in any way.  EXIF data can also give you a shutter speed, which is important because a long shutter speed can cause objects to take on a ghostly transparency...if you've seen our Haunted and Historic Guyandotte "ghost photos," that is how they were created!  Melissa, HPIR President, has written an excellent article on EXIF data.

3. If the photo is a film shot, whenever possible, get the negative!

4. Take note how the photo is set up.  Does the apparition or anomaly seem to be the center or focus?  Does the intended subject seem too far out of the middle, or out of focus?    Why was the photo taken, and by whom?

5. Look for environmental clues to verify back stories.  Are there visible signs of precipitation?  What season is it?  Is there any indication, such as a clock or the sun's position, that can narrow time?

6. Watch for shiny surfaces, light sources, and similar objects.  Look for ashtrays, or other signs of smoking or candle burning.  Be leery of TV ghosts and ghosts taken through a window!

7. Notice pixelation...does the area around the apparition seem fuzzy, pixelated, or otherwise just doesn't match up with the rest of the photo? How about any shadows? Do they match up with the position of the light source?

8. If the photo is taken at night, ask if a daytime, or lit up shot is available.  Also ask for comparison shots of the entire area whenever possible, especially when the image was taken in someone's home.

9. Memorize the iPhone's Ghost Capture images!  (As seen in the photo above)

10. Read this article by Scientific America:  5 Ways to Spot a Fake Photo

You may not be an expert, but you should feel a little more comfortable with spotting fake photos.  With assistance in spotting photos that appear ghostly, but have natural (non-faked) explanations, please see one of the many excellent false-positive photo galleries out there, including this one by the Louisville Ghost Hunters!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Wheeling's Main Street Bridge

The town of Wheeling, among other attributes, boasts the longest single span stone bridge in the United States.  The famous bridge:  The Main Street Bridge, constructed between 1890 and 1892.  Some sources say that bridge was constructed to replace an earlier bridge, one built in the 1840s.  I cannot find any reliable supporting sources for that, so if you have any info, please send it to me.  I suspect that this may be a confusion with the historic suspension bridge, which WAS completed in the late 1840s.

In any event, the building or re-building in the late1800s was quite a spectacle for the townspeople.  In an effort to enforce safety, a sign was erected which read "Danger! No one is allowed to loaf on this bridge by order of the Board of Public Works."  Pat Weir, the city's watchman, was giving the task of policing the bridge, and dealt with more than one smart-alec who insisted that they were loafing on their own free will, and not by order of the Board of Public Works, thus, it was okay for them to be there.

Whatever diligence was taken to ensure safety unfortunately couldn't prevent at least one fatal accident from occurring.  Dominick Carey, a contractor from the Paige, Carey & Co. of New York apparently fell from the bridge while heavy stones were being moved.  It has been theorized that the scaffolding gave way, and Carey fell into the icy Wheeling Creek, which feeds the Ohio River, being swept away.  

Carey's body was never found, but that doesn't mean he was never heard from again...Witnesses say they encounter the apparition of the unlucky contractor on the bridge, as well as another possible spirit. 

Allegedly, either the new bridge or the bridge it supposedly replaced, saw another tragic accident.  A gentleman leading a team of horses across the bridge stopped to fix a loosened hitch.  When he dismounted, he spooked his own horses, and they trampled him to death.  Witnesses have reported being approached by a man who asks "Have you seen my horses?"

Bridge History
Info on above Photo

The Wizard of Wizard Clip

The following historic ghost story from the hills of West Virginia is a transcription of a West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly article, written in January of 1904 by W.S. Laidley.  It is part of my attempt to preserve the history and the folklore of our Appalachian culture:

From the "Eastern Pan-Handle" we take the following ancient ghost story.

A town was laid out by John Smith in 1794, a town on his lands, then in Berkeley county, since in Jefferson, then in Virginia, now West Virginia. This was by Act of 1798 made a town by the name of "Smithfield" with John Packett, Moses Smith, John Smith, Jacob Rees, and Joseph and John Grantham, Trustees.

It has since been known as "Middleway" and it is located about five miles west of Leetown, and has about eight hundred inhabitants.

The earliest record of the story was written by Rev. Demetius A. Galletzen, whose memoirs were prepared in 1797, and about the same time, Mrs. Annella McSherry, wrote letters containing about the same facts, and since then there have been other papers written, all giving about the same facts, and the further fact that for fifty years the original name of the place was lost and it was only known as "Wizzard's Clipp," shows that the people there had no doubt of the facts related. The story gathered from the various publications is as follows:

Adam Livingston, becoming dissatisfied with his residence in Lancaster county, Penn., determined to remove to the State of Virginia, and carried his purpose into effect by the purchase of a house and lot in Smithfield, Va., and seventy acres contiguous thereto. This was about the year 1790. He had the reputation of being an honest and industrious farmer, of fair intelligence, and brought with him his wife and a family of three sons and four daughters, of whom Eve and Catherine are the only daughters and John and Henry the only sons who are referred to in any of these memoirs. Livingston continued to reside there without attracting any particular notice, until 1794, when a stranger, of middle age and of respectable appearance, made a visit to the place and was received as a boarder in his house. In a few days after the arrival of this traveler he was taken sick and as his illness became more threatening he called Livingston to his bedside, informed him that he was a Catholic, and inquired of him if there was not a priest somewhere in his neighborhood whose services he could procure, should his malady prove fatal, which he had reason to then fear it would. Livingston, who was an intensely bigoted member of the Lutheran church, very gruffly replied to him "that he knew of no priest in that neighborhood, and if there was one, he should never pass the threshold of his door.' The dying man repeated his entreaties for the spiritual aid of a Catholic priest, but Livingston was inexorable and refused to countenance his request. The stranger died, his name being unknown to his host, and there being nothing among his papers to throw any light upon his history.

On the night of his death Livingston employed a man by the name of Jacob Foster to sit up with the corpse. But so soon as the candles were lighted in the chamber of the dead, after giving a weak and flickering light, they went out and the room was left in darkness. They were relighted several times, supposing it to result from some remedial defect in the cradle, but with the same result. Livingston then brought two candles into the room which he had been using in his own family room, which were about one-third burnt down and which he knew to be good. But so soon as they were placed in the room with the corpse they became immediately extinguished. This so alarmed Foster that he abandoned his vigils and left the house. Fifty years ago the grave of the stranger could be distinctly pointed out.

On the night succeeding the burial the peace of Livingston was much disturbed by the apparent sound of horses galloping round his house. He frequently rose during the night - which was a beautiful moon-light night - to satisfy his mind. While he could distinctly hear the tramp of steeds, he could see nothing to assure him that it was anything more than a figment of his own imagination. In about a week afterward his barn was burnt and his cattle all died, the crockeryware in his house, without any visible agency, was thrown upon the floor and broken; his money disappeared; the heads of his turkeys and chickens dropped off; and chunks of burning wood would leap from the fireplace several feet out into the floor, endangering the building unless promptly replaced. Soon the annoyances, which were then destroying his peace, assumed a new form. The sound of a. large pair of shears could be distinctly heard in his house, clipping in the form of half moons and other curious figures, his blankets, sheets and counterpanes, boots and shoes, clothing, etc. This was all in one night, but the operation of clipping continued for upwards of three months, a small portion of it only being done at a time, but the inexorable shears never being silent twenty-four hours at a time. By this time the news of these strange proceedings was spread through the country for thirty miles around, and attracted in an especial manner the curiosity of the citizens of Smithfield. An old Presbyterian lady of Martinsburg, hearing of the clipping that was going on at Livingston's to satisfy her curiosity, she went to Livingston's house. Before entering the door she took from her head her new silk cap, wrapped it up in her silk handkerchief and put it in her pocket to save it from being clipped. After awhile she stepped out again to go home, and having drawn the handkerchief out of her pocket and opened it, found the cap cut in narrow ribbons.

Many other phenomena are stated and testified to by many witnesses. The long continuance of this mysterious clipping had now aroused the country for many miles around. Three daring and adventurous young men from Winchester came to Smithfield declaring their utter unbelief in the reports and offered to sleep in the house all night and to face the devil himself, if he were the author of these doings. But as soon as they became comfortably seated in the house, a large stone was seen to proceed from the fireplace and to whirl around the floor with great velocity, when they took to their heels and made their escape.

The condition of poor Livingston had become deplorable, he had lost much rest, and his imagination was so worked upon by his nocturnal visitor that his health began visibly to fail. He applied to three professed conjurers, but their incantations were all in vain. Shortly after this Livingston had a dream. He thought he was climbing a high mountain and had great difficulty in the ascent. He had to labor hard, catching at roots and bushes, and moving forward slowly by their aid. Reaching the summit, he saw an imposing personage, "dressed in robes," as he described it. After contemplating for some time the person in view, he heard a voice saying: "This is the man who can relieve you." His wife heard him groaning in his sleep and she waked him, thereupon he communicated to her his dream and said he did not know of any minister who wore robes, but he would make inquiry in the morning. The result of the inquiries led him to visit an Episcopal minister, who then resided in Winchester, but he derived little satisfaction from this visit, and returned home much disappointed. He was then advised to see the MeSherry family, who were Roman Catholics, and who resided in a very fine estate called "Releivement," about on mile each of Leetown, at which place the priest was often in the habit of stopping while discharging his spiritual functions in that neighborhood. Late in the evening of the same day Mrs. MeSherry saw a man coming to her home, she met him at the gate when he told her he wanted "to see the priest." She informed him that the priest was not at her house, but there would be church in Shepherdstown the following Sunday, when he would have an opportunity of seeing him. Mr. and Mrs. McSherry, in company with Mr. Minghini, went to church on the appointed day, and there they saw the man who had inquired for the priest, and who proved to be Livingston. As the priest appeared at the altar, dressed in commicles, Livingston seemed to be perfectly overcome. He wept bitterly, and exclaimed loud enough to be heard by the small congregation: "This is the very man I saw in my dream; he is the one that the voice told me would relieve me from my troubles." When the service was over, he promptly called on the priest and told him his sad story; but the priest, the Rev. Dennis Cahill, laughed at him and told him it must be some of his neighbors who were plaguing him, and that he must go home and keep a strict watch for them. Richard McSherry and Joseph Minghini, who were present at the interview, were much moved by the old man's tears and tried to comfort him. After much urgent persuasion. Father Cahill accompanied by Mr. McSherry and Mr. Minghini, agreed to visit Livingston's house and to inquire into the strange transactions which he had related. They found his story corroborated not only by the family, but by most of the people with whom they conversed in Smithfield. Father Cahill resorted to the remedy of sprinkling the house with holy writer, which did not, however, expel the troublesome visitor from the house, but it was followed by a deposit of the money, which had previously been taken away, on the doorsill. The strange clipping still continuing after that time it was determined by Father Cahill to have mass celebrated in the house, which was done, and Livingston was relieved from all annoyances of his ghostly visitor. From that time until he left Virginia he had frequent communications with the Spiritual world, and many facts are related where those communications were realized in a striking manner; but as these throw no light upon the simple historical fact which it is the purpose of this article to elucidate no further reference need be made to them.

Article courtesy of the WV Archives Division of Culture and History

Alum Creek's Most Haunted Cemetery

In the past few years, a new ghost story has started making its rounds on the internet...the location is listed as Alum Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.  However, there IS no Alum Creek Baptist!  There are several possible locations, such as Alum Creek's Independent Baptist Church, that may fit the bill, but I think the most likely candidate is the Forks of Coal Missionary Baptist Church at Alum Creek.

The Forks of Coal Missionary Baptist church was founded in 1832, according to the Alum Creek Wikipedia, and sits below an historic cemetery...the Forks of Coal Community Cemetery.  It is this cemetery where numerous witnesses have encountered an older gentleman wandering the cemetery grounds.  The gentleman, who is often mistaken for a visiting mourner, seems confused and disoriented.  When the witness approaches the gentleman to offer assistance, the man disappears before his/her eyes.

If you have any additional information on this haunting, or the history of the church and cemetery, please drop me a line at  Thanks!

Find-A-Grave Listing for Cemetery

Photo above property of Robert Fitch, Find-A-Grave Contributor

Update:  On November15, 2011, I was out driving around and happened across this cemetery.  It is a fairly large cemetery, with a wide date range of tombstones.  The cemetery itself is laid out quite goes up the hill from the church, in sort of a bowl, or horseshoe pattern, but then after you reach the top, slopes steeply back down towards a ravine.  There's even one section where a set of stairs have been built to help visitors safely navigate the decline to the graves scattered below.

The phantom man very well could be a...well, phantom....but one cannot dismiss the possibility of him being a real person.  There are houses behind the ravine and to the side of the cemetery.  It is possible that this is a living man, confused as to why people are in the cemetery when they shouldn't necessarily be...and then seemingly disappears by taking a few steps and being blocked by the crest of the hill, lol. The cemetery does give off a somewhat creepy vibe, and while I was visiting, had another visitor pull up beside me and sit behind the church steps, which was unsettling to say the least, lol.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wyoming County Courthouse...Will She Unlock her Secrets?

The Wyoming County Courthouse, built in 1916 and located in Pineville, WV, has a long and tragic past.  At least two deaths have ocurred in relation to the courthouse, but the strangest of all is the case of Virgil Cook.

On January 18, 1935 Circuit Clerk Virgil A. Cook died at the courthouse after drinking carbolic acid.  Cook was a well-liked individual, and would often be the recipient of little treats and goodies on his, baked goods, etc.  However, it was found that his cause of death was due to drinking from a Mason jar of carbolic acid that was also found on his desk.  There is still controversy as to whether the death was accidental, a suicide...or if foul play was involved.  The official death record does list the death as a suicide, but it is believed that Mr. Cook thought he was drinking from a Mason jar of moonshine, with no intentions of killing himself.  (Virgil Cook's Death Record)

In any event, several popular ghost story sites claim that Virgil Cook is the one who haunts the courthouse, but I've yet to find any information on just HOW he's haunting it--whether people are seeing full-bodied apparitions, shadows, etc.

Luckily, West Virginia Paranormal, Inc. is on the case!  On October 29, 2011, in conjunction with Pineville's Autumn Fest, the group will be taking part in a two hour paranormal study of the courthouse.  Perhaps within a few weeks, we'll be able to make an update!

Update October 2012:  Better late than never!  The results of WV Paranormal, Inc. have finally been published in an October 22nd edition of the Wyoming County Report, as reported by Mary Catherine Brooks!  READ IT HERE.

Colorful History of the Courthouse

Friday Night Funny...Uncle Joe

Happy Friday!  Anyone got any Halloween-themed plans for this evening?  I'll be checking out the Dark Moon Sanctuary Haunted House tonight, which is sponsored by the Kanawha Players!  More on that tomorrow, but please enjoy this wonderful cartoon to put you in the mood for some silly spookiness!

Wheeling's Tunnel Green

I'm on a Wheeling kick this week! 

In 1857, the Hempfield Railroad built a tunnel for their railway, but by 1861, the tunnel right of way was purchased by B & O Railroad.  It was rebuilt between 1904 and 1905, and as many believe, it was built directly under the small Hempfield Cemetery where many bodies were never removed for the construction.

The tunnel has also seen its fair share of deaths.  It is believed that in the early 1900s, a young man was killed by a passing train as he tried to walk the tracks through the tunnel, and another young man, an immigrant, was robbed and killed in the tunnel.

The tunnel was slated for demolition in 1980, but the city of Wheeling stepped in, and took over the tunnel, turning it into a popular pedestrian track along the Rails to Trails project line.  This act not only preserved the tunnel for future generations to enjoy as a hiking/walking path, but possibly preserved the ghosts as well...

Over the years, people have seen a number of spooky things within the tunnel.  They see the apparition of the young immigrant man floating above where the tracks once were.  His bloodied hand rises to cover his badly beaten face, as if fending off his attacker even in death.

Other apparitions are seen hanging from the ceiling of the tunnel, and even dripping a sort of "slime."  It is believed that these are the apparitions of those still buried above the tunnel, rotting and decaying and leaving their mark within the tunnel.

Still, others have seen shadowy forms at the end of the tunnel, that disappear only when approached.  Phantom sounds, such as muffled voices and banging are also heard within the tunnel.  So...the next time you're in Wheeling, cut through the Tunnel Green, as the locals call it (formerly known as the Hempfield Tunnel) on your way to Yesterday' may just see a ghost or two!

Update:  I recently read from another source that the small Hempfield Cemetery may actually be Peninsula Cemetery, or one of its reincarnations over the years.  A woman in a black cape has allegedly been seen at this tunnel, matching the description of the one seen at the Peninsula Cemetery.  Please see my entry on Peninsula Cemtery for more information, and if you have any information to clear this up, please let me know!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yesterday's Draught House and Stage

Since 2006, Yesterday's Draught House and Stage has been serving up live music and drinks to the people of Wheeling...and possibly hosting a family of ghosts.  Yesterday's, which occupies a 4 story building built over 100 years ago, proudly displays on their website the idea that the venue may be haunted by three sisters who died in a fire, over 100 years ago.  The website has a newspaper clipping to support this belief:

In 1908, the building that now houses Yesterday's was owned by a millinery operated by Mrs. J.S. Gavin.  Around 3:30am on the morning of Tuesday, August 11th, 1908, a gas leak caused a fire in the building.  Gavin's three daughters, Clara (27), Mamie (29), and Margaret (21), were asleep on the third floor and suffocated to death before they could get out.  Four of Gavin's sons, plus two servant girls, escaped serious injury by jumping out 3rd story windows.  Mrs. Gavin herself was gravely injured, and was not expected to survive the ordeal.

If traveling through Wheeling, stop in after 7pm for music and a variety of....spirits.

Photo above from the Yesterday's Website

Monday, October 17, 2011

Historic State Theater in Pt. Pleasant

The Historic State Theater in Pt. Pleasant came to our attention during the 2007 Mothman Festival.  The theater, which was hosting several Mothman movies and documentaries for the festival, was being rented by a lovely family who wished to get the building listed on the National Register, and restore it to its former glory.

Upon meeting this family, we were invited to come down to the theater and check it out, as there had been some strange activity occurring lately.  As myself and another investigator stood in the back, waiting for the current showing to come to an end, we both caught a glimpse of the same thing...a shadowy image of a person walking past the ladies' restroom.  Apparently, this HAD been one of the issues that were popping up in the theater, which dated back to the early 1940s.  We set up an investigation, and within a month, we were back at the theater in full force, ready to find out the truth.

We arrived early, and quickly explored the outer grounds.  The theater, which stands in the middle of downtown Pt. Pleasant, was unusually close to the site of the Silver Bridge disaster of 1967.  In fact, we would later learn through an extensive interview (on file in Theresa's personal archives) that the theater and the attached hardware store next door, did play a vital role in the disaster.  The hardware store's basement, due to it being literally at "ground zero" of the disaster, was used as a temporary morgue for the bodies that were being pulled out of the river.  Interestingly as well...during the investigation, the side of the theater that shares the wall with the hardware store had consistently much higher EMF readings, and much colder temperature readings, including one seat in the back which maintained an even colder reading consistently.

Another noted phenomenon was the alleged nightly visit from the first owner of the theater, one Mr. Ross Philson.  Witnesses claim that nearly every night at 8:45pm, Mr. Philson could be seen walking down one aisle of the theater, and up the other side, making his nightly rounds.  We set up a makeshift laser grid, and sat in perfect silence...but unfortunately, Mr. Philson did not make himself known that night.  However, SOMEONE did, as a light in the projection booth turned itself on and back off, and I (Theresa) felt a cold, hard pressure on my back, as if someone touched me, right outside of an upstairs office.

The movement of stage curtains was also activity that was reported, and even observed slightly during our investigation.  Unfortunately, we were not able to prove this to be of a paranormal nature because of the likelihood that the theater's close proximity to the river, and thus the fact that the area is located on a minor fault line, were the root of natural causes.

In any event, the investigation was a lot of fun, and the family in charge of the building at the time were some of the sweetest, most caring people you'd ever meet.  Unfortunately, we've lost contact over the years, and it appears as though despite being open for certain sporadic events, especially during the Mothman Festival, the theater is back to largely sitting empty and unused.

Photo property of HPIR President, Melissa Stanley

HPIR Investigation of the State Theater

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wyoming's Most Haunted Church

Prior to 1868, many church services in Cheyenne were held at either private residences, or in local school houses.  However, due to increasing population and demand, Joseph W. Cook began construction of the St.  Mark's Episcopal Church.

What started as a temporary clapboard structure soon turned into plans for a large gothic cathedral, based on churches in England...and funded by an increasingly wealthy congregration of cattle barons and railroad men.  By 1886, the foundation for the present church was started.  It was based on a design for the Stoke Poges Church in England, complete with its own bell tower.

The rector at the time, Dr. Rafter, hired two young Swedish stonemasons to complete the job, as no one with the type of training and skills necessary could be found locally.  After the foundation for the tower was laid and partially built, Dr. Rafter stopped by to check on how things were going.  Instead of the two men he hired, he only found one of the men at work, and apparently very agitated and nervous-acting.  The next day, NO one showed up for work, and the two masons were not heard from again.

With the two masons gone, there was no one left to finish the job properly, so a roof was slapped onto what was already built, and the budding bell tower was turned into a study room for the rector.  No one could understand why the two men disappeared without notice, especially since they had done such a nice job on the tower thus far.

It wasn't too long until odd happenings began in the rector's study room.  The sounds of banging and muffled voices emanated from inside the walls.  After awhile, it became so bad, that the room was sealed up.  It was opened later, however, to install a pipe organ.

By 1927, it was decided that, after all these years, the bell tower should and would be finished.  However, workmen were quickly starting to be frightened away by the sounds of hammering, muffled voices, and other noises coming from the walls themselves.  Many refused to work on the tower, fearing it was haunted, or even cursed.  In an effort to appease the workmen, and possibly even the potential spirit that resided within, the rector at the time, Father Bennett, decided to have the workmen build the ghost its own room.

This room was complete with chandelier and inlaid wooden floors.  It is accessible, but only by an 85 foot spiral staircase that starts in the basement, and leads up to its location, right  under the 11 carillon bells.  Since the construction of the room, things seemed to have calmed down a bit.

However, in 1966, an extremely old man confessed to a Father Todd that he was one of the young Swedish masons hired over 80 years ago.  He confessed that the other man that was hired fell to his death during the construction of the tower.  The surviving man panicked...he thought he would be blamed for the friend's death.  In an effort to hide the evidence, the dead man's body was buried in a wall, and cemented over.  Now, an identify for the ghost could finally be found.  But...that's not the end of the tale...

In 1979, the bell tower was opened for tours, many of which catered to the curious and paranormally minded population.  It was that year that as part of a Halloween promotion by a local radio station, that an area psychic was brought in.  The psychic had multiple experiences, and came to the conclusion that the young Swedish immigrant wasn't the only ghost in the tower; Dr. Rafter also remained in his beloved  study room.

Today, no tours are given of the tower, or of the "Ghost Room."  The current clergy believe that the resident ghosts are happiest when they are not being disturbed, and are quietly enjoying the room built just for them.

The photo above and the bulk of information came from the Haunted Houses website

The Emmitt House Restaurant of Waverly, Ohio

Photo by Melissa Stanley
Waverly, Ohio, situated right along the Ohio-Erie Canal in the Scioto Valley, is home to a popular restaurant/bar.  However, patrons are more likely to encounter spirits of another sort...

Built in 1861 by James Emmitt, the Emmitt House opened as a popular hotel and restaurant for travelers and workmen along the Ohio-Erie Canal.  James Emmitt, believed to be the area's first millionaire, hired a man named Madison Hemmings to work on the hotel's construction.  According to a popular debate, it is believed that Hemmings was actually the illegitimate son of Thomas Jefferson.

Today, the hotel rooms stand empty or used for storage, but the bottom floor of the three-storied (plus basement and attic) former hotel is still a popular restaurant facility.  And...after many experiences by staff and patrons alike, it has now become a popular ghost hunting destination as well.

There are many different stories about the Emmitt House restaurant and its colorful past.  For many years, it operated as a gentleman's club, barring women completely from within its upper walls.  It is also rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad, a fact supported by the many bricked over hidden rooms and other maze-like features of the sprawling basement.

There are also no less than three ghosts said to make their final home here.  The first is obviously Mr. Emmitt himself, who is seen throughout the building.  However, he is often "smelled" more than he is seen...witnesses claim to smell his cigar smoke around, despite the fact that no one in the building is smoking at the time.  This phenomena is so widely accepted, that visitors routinely leave fine cigars out on the bar for Mr. Emmitt to smoke.

Other apparitions include those of an older woman who is seen cleaning up, when no one is supposed to be in the building.  When Chris Woodyard, psychic and author of the Haunted Ohio series visited, she saw a woman, dressed in early 1900s attire in one of the restrooms.  Possibly the same woman?  In addition to the lady, two children from what is believed to be the Harper family, are seen playing and running throughout the building, and several former slaves are seen or heard in the basement area.

During Chris Woodyard's visit, she also had an encounter with a threatening young man in the attic (more on that later), a teenage boy in Room 29, and someone experiencing lung difficulties on the third floor.

Huntington Paranormal Investigations and Research investigated this location in 2007, and had an extremely interesting night of activity.  During this time, we experienced the crashing of dishes in the kitchen, only to find nothing disturbed, and everything neatly put away.  We also experienced our most watched YouTube video of the little girl singing Old Susanna! over our walkie-talkies (we do realize this is most likely bleed through from a nearby source, and NOT an example of paranormal activity, but it is funny, and pretty darn cute). I did have one personal experience during our walk through that no one experienced--I saw a young man standing behind the bar, mopping the bar with a white towel.  When I ran over to snap a picture, he dissipated before my eyes.  However, it was that evening that I also had one of my personal worst experiences.

After the investigation, I had a long drive ahead of me.  I had to stay on the phone with either my boyfriend, or my fellow investigators the entire time, because my head was hurting so bad I could hardly stand it.  Up until this point, I had never had a migraine before, but I would assume this was what was happening.  I got home in the wee hours of the morning, and fell right to sleep.  I slept a full 18 hours without waking up once the entire time.  I've never crashed this bad after an investigation before, but figured I was probably just trying to catch up on my sleep, and shake off the migraine.

The only strange part is that I woke up remember a series of really lucid dreams about the Emmitt House in its days of being a hotel.  I remember being in one of the rooms on the third floor.  It was sparsely furnished, but I remember sitting in a wooden chair near the radiator.  I was being "guarded" by a young, dark haired gentleman.  I remember being scared, and feeling like this young man would not let me leave...I didn't feel like he personally had, or was going to, hurt me, but that he was put in charge of making me stay put in this room.

For the next couple of weeks, the usually mundane and sporadic activity in my own house seemed to increase exponentially.  The actual day after the investigation (after I finally woke up), I had an incident in my own kitchen that mirrored the crashing we heard at the restaurant.  I was in my room, home alone, when I heard a crash.  I ran into the kitchen to find that all the pots and pans we had in the cabinet were now scattered all over the kitchen floor.

After a time, the activity in my home died back down, but then I had another weird set of things happen in direct correlation with the Emmitt House investigation.  Our video of the little girl singing over our walkie-talkies was released to the public, via our website.  Since it was cute and funny, I uploaded it to several different message boards that I was a part of, including the old KAPS board.

When the first video was sent, I was still perusing that message board when I happened to feel a little sting on my wrist.  I looked down at it, and there were three scratch marks, almost like a cat.  They were fresh, and had small droplets of blood clinging to them.  I put it out of my mind, because I thought I must have simply scratched it on something laying around my computer desk, or some other mundane explanation...after all, I did have a cat, and maybe the scratches were just old ones that I didn't realize I had, and became irritated.

That was until the second time it happened, lol.  Once again, I uploaded and shared the video of the little girl singing.  While it was actually posting, I went to go take a shower.  As soon as the water hit my chest, I felt another sting.  I got out of the shower immediately, cleaned the steam off the bathroom mirror, and saw three identical scratch marks on my chest.  If I would have done these myself, I would have had to use my left hand to mimic the direction they were in...and since I'm right handed, I wasn't too sure how likely a possibility that was...I certainly didn't consciously do this act, but still clung to the skeptical point of view.

It wasn't until it happened a third time that I decided to ask for some intervening help in this matter.  Whatever may or may not have followed me, or got stirred up by this investigation, is now gone...or at least behaving itself.  While doing research for this post, I was quite surprised to see Chris's encounter with a menacing young man in the attic.  Could this have possibly been the same man I saw in my dreams?

Update January 2014:  Around 8:30pm Monday, January 6th, a call came in reporting a fire at the Emmitt House Restaurant.  As of this writing, the fire has spread to surrounding buildings and the whole area is shut down was firefighters deal with freezing temperatures.  The building is expected to be a total loss.

The Walkie-Talkie Video

Huntington Paranormal Investigation of the Emmitt House, including the infamous video!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ghosts of West Virginia

Ghosts of West Virginia, by Geoffrey Foster

I stumbled across this book on Amazon, and had put it on the Wish List and out of mind, until I came across Geoffrey Foster again, this time through a paranormal investigation team website.  Foster's team, Huntington Paranormal Research Society, and MY team, Huntington Paranormal Investigations and Research, have similar names, and thus, I was intrigued.  I purchased the book, hoping to gain more knowledge of another area team, and see if we have had any similar experiences at various Huntington locales.

The book itself doesn't really mention the investigation team or recent investigations, but it does chronicle some ghost hunting exploits of the author and his close friends, many of which either occured at his own residences or Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys.  These exploits and paranormal tales of a personal nature make up the first half of the book, while the second half is a state-wide index of haunted hot spots, with a brief description of each.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, as most tales of paranormal activity are for me...especially when they happen in a region I'm extremely familiar with!  However, as a paranormal investigator, I did find myself cringing a little throughout the book.  Orbs are mentioned HEAVILY as being evidence of paranormal activity, and there's a lot of misinformation in the book, namely concerning the history of the Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys and a weird couple of historical date snafus (it mentions that Charleston's Sunrise, aka MacCorkle Mansion, was built in the mid 17th century.  That would put the year around 1650, two hundred years before we became a state and HAD a governor to build a mansion...and about 100 years before any real white settlers had even SEEN the area, lol).  And although there wasn't any mention of the author himself drinking, or partaking in similar activities during an investigation, there was mention of it being done by others in the book...again, a cringe-worthy moment or two.

As for the index of haunted locations, it is far from a comprehensive list, but does hit some fairly well known, and easily accessible places open to the public.  Again, however, there are some date issues, and no additional information---its basically a word for word copy of the descriptions set out by popular West Virginia hauntings websites that tend to get recycled over and over.

Nevertheless, it was a fun book and a quick read...perfect for this time of year!

More Book Reviews

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mrs. Sayre and the Ghost Pilot

There's not a whole lot of information out there on this photo, so an update may be in order if I find any additional information.  As of right now, here's a brief recap of description given on other ghost that apparently has been taken word for word from an original (and unknown to me) source, plus a few additional facts that I managed to scrounge up!

On a warm day in 1987, Mrs. Sayre and a group of friends visited the Fleet Air Arm Station's Museum, located in Somerset, England.  This particular museum showcases artifacts from the flying arm of the Royal Navy.  Four exhibit halls are home to over 90 aircraft, 2 million records, and 30,000 additional artifacts.

During her visit, Mrs. Sayre was allowed to pose inside a helicopter and have her picture taken.  This particular helicopter was used in the 1982 Falklands War, a small conflict between the British and Argentine over the Falkland Islands.  It is undetermined as to whether the original pilot of the aircraft pictured was killed in duty or not.  Also, as I'm not up to date on my helicopter histories, I couldn't tell you what type of helicopter it is, but can say that the Westland Wasp was a popular helicopter used by the British during this conflict.

In any event, the photo above shows what many clearly see as a gentleman wearing a white shirt, seated beside Mrs. Sayre.  It doesn't appear that he is wearing a uniform of any type, especially not those worn by the British Royal Navy during this time period, with maybe the exception of the anti-flash gear.

According to internet sources, the Society for Psychical Research did interview Mrs. Sayre.  She claimed that no one was in the cockpit with her when the photo was taken.  She also claimed that although it was a warm day, she remembered being unusually cold while sitting in the helicopter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ghost Adventures Drinking Game

*Warning:  Adult Language*

 In year's previous, I've brought, for your enjoyment, the Ghost Hunters Drinking Game.  That was before THESE guys hit the paranormal TV circuit.  As Halloween quickly approaches, and weekend-long marathons abound, this is the perfect activity for any party...or lonely night.  Please, drink responsibly!

This is honestly the greatest thing EVER.  Lovingly borrowed from the blog, Common Bonds of Disinterest and Ennui:

1. Drink whenever you see a mustachioed local.
The preamble portion of the show (prior to the night vision Blair Witch extravaganza they call “lockdown") involves talking to a bunch of locals, usually dudes, usually mildly to moderately grizzled, usually admitting they're creeped out about the abandoned asylum/arms factory/lighthouse. Drink to their facial hair.

2. Drink whenever there's an old newspaper clipping.
Because everyone knows ghosts fucking love microfiche.

3. Drink whenever you see a man ring.
Zak is partial to the occasional bold accessory, cuz every ghost's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man. Feel free to alter this as you see fit -- necklace on black cord, offensive belt buckle, anything with a Celtic cross on it, etc.

4. Drink whenever they say static night vision camera.
Static night vision camera, also known as a camera on a tripod they pointed at a hallway and left rolling because ghosts fucking love unattended electronics.

5. Drink whenever they say orb.
Known to you or I as dust and gnats, Zak and crew meticulously document any illuminated particle in their field of vision because a ghost is a ghost, no matter how small.

6. Drink whenever Zak says demon or demonic.
Demonic. Demonic. Put your ghosts all over my body.

7. Drink whenever there's an EMF spike.
Because ghosts are "known to be made up of electromagnetic energy." Because A) ghosts exist, duh, and B) nothing else in the universe will register on an EMF detector besides a ghost. Also, ghosts fucking love the song "Unbelievable."

8. Drink whenever the equipment malfunctions.
The cameras routinely go dark on this show, and it's definitely paranormal and not at all because these guys aren't very good with cameras.

9. Drink whenever they present incredibly dubious visual evidence of ghosts.
This is reserved for the slow-mo video or photograph with an arrow pointing to literally nothing.

10. Drink whenever Zak taunts a ghost.
Zak seems to operate with the assumption that all ghost interactions can best be resolved by a Jersey Shore style club brawl.

11. Chug through E.V.P. replays.
The investigators rely heavily on "electronic voice phenomenon," the secret ghost messages found in white noise. When the investigators capture an E.V.P., they will replay the sound bite a few times with a caption. Do not put your beer down until they've stopped looping the ghost whispering his message (usually something like "murder," which usually sounds more like "pudding," or Aaron tripping over something, or wind, or nothing.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Palis...a Foot-licking Vampire Demon

Yes, you read that correctly.  Today's entry into the ABCs of the Paranormal involves a foot licking demon/vampire thing that I thought you all might be interested in hearing about!  I haven't been able to find a lot on this particular critter, but nearly identical accounts can be found in both A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol and Dinah Mack, and Rosemary Guiley's Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters.

Summarized from the two aforementioned sources:

From Persian-Islamic lore, this is a vampiric demon who attacks at night and kills by licking the soles of its victims' feet, in the process, draining them all of their blood. The palis, which is not very smart, can be thwarted through the use of salt, but also can be easily tricked. There's a popular legend about two men traveling through the desert who managed to trick the beast. When they went to sleep, they lied down with their feet touching the other's...sole to sole. The beast came upon them in the night, but it could find no soles to lick. In frustration it cried out something along the lines of traveling 1033 valleys and never having met a man with two heads, lol.

I would suggest to anyone wishing to do internet research on this topic to be cautious of wording used and any links that may come up.  I did manage to find many people NAMED Palis, a few random companies, and a French commune among "other things." Also, apparently, Palis is a Sanskrit related language, and can also be used to define a group of dances that are performed in order to call up the demons harassing the ill and make them leave.

The Death Coach

The Death Coach, also known as the Coach-a-bower or Coshta-Bower, is a staple in Irish folklore.  It is a large, black horse drawn hearse, pulled by six black stallions.  In some tellings of the story, these stallions have no head.

The driver of the Death Coach is known as the Dullahan.  The Dullahan, a normal man in every other way, lacks one very defining characteristic--his head.  Most often, this headless apparition carries his decapitated head, or leaves it lying beside him on the seat.  Witnesses to the ghastly visage agree that the head has the texture of moldy cheese, and features a sinister, grinning mouth.

Like the Banshee of Irish folklore, the Death Coach is seen as a death omen.  If the phantom coach is seen or heard on one's property, it will continue to harass the family until the inevitable death of one of the members shortly after. One variant of the story says that if you open the front door of the home to the Death Coach, a basin of blood will be thrown in your face.

The legend of the Death Coach has migrated into all areas of the British Isles, and in various parts of the United States.  Numerous stories can be found from New York, WV, and of course, on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh, where it makes regular stops to collect the souls of the dead.

More Info

Photo by atsouza

Monday, October 3, 2011

Black Eyed Kids

The first account of the Black Eyed Kids first hit the internet on January 16th, 1998, when journalist, Brian Bethel, describe his encounter with two strange pre-teens.  The two teens approached his vehicle, wanting a ride.  The two boys, who were otherwise dressed normally and appeared normal, gave off a sense of danger, and dread.  As Bethel refused to give the boys a ride, they became more and more insistent, and Bethel was able to distinguish that they both had jet-black pupils, no iris, just the entire eye black.

And thus, the legend of the Black Eyed Kids was born.

Although still largely attributed to being an urban legend, scores of "sightings" have since been reported to various paranormal websites and forums.  Each of these experiences, as far fetched as they may be, report very similar elements.

In each case, the kid, or kids (they often travel in pairs) appears to be between the ages of 12-18.   In each case, the BEK approached the witness either at the witness's home or vehicle, asking for entry.  When entry is denied, they grow increasingly persistent, while the witness is growing increasingly afraid.  In all cases, these kids are described as being very intelligent, articulate, confident and, well...creepy.  These kids are said to almost exude a sense of foreboding, fear, and anxiety.  They appear to be dressed in normal, contemporary clothing, but the eyes are always described as being completely black.  Allegedly, Portland, Oregon had several reports from run-ins with the BEKs and the Creepy Cleveland has reported a sighting in Northern Ohio.

No one knows who or what the BEKs are, or where they came from, but Rosemary Ellen Guiley has recently put forth a theory that these beings are the offspring of a djinn and human parent.  The insistence to enter a witness's home or car, however, is reminiscent of vampire lore, and some even believe the BEKs to be some type of alien or alien hybrid.  Legend goes that anyone who does admit the children into his/her car or home will surely wind up dead,  but apparently no one has ever fallen to the BEKs' requests...or at least, no one ALIVE has!

I've never had a personal encounter with a BEK, and honestly, when the phenomena was first reported, it seemed like the ONLY reports were coming in from one man's personal experiences, and I just thought that it was a fictional creation or a misidentification.  I still don't know exactly what to believe, and thought that the BEKs follow a similar story line as the Slender Man.  We KNOW Slenderman started as a fictional character, but afterwards reports started coming in from all over and from fairly honest people that hey had actually seen this entity!  The same started happening with the BEKs, and years after those initial reports, it seems like the BEKs have recently found a new generation to terrorize.  Therefore, I think as time goes on, we're gonna start seeing a LOT more of these stories popping up in paranormal circles.

Whatever these black eyed kids may turn out to be, its interesting to point out that there are several disorders that give the appearance of a black eye, or lack of a colored iris.  The cause of these can be anything from genetic, to induced by injury:

Mydriasis is otherwise known as a blown pupil and is where the pupil stays fully dilated, giving it the look of drowning out the iris.  Head injury, eye injury, and even sexual arousal can all cause varying forms of mydriasis.

Aniridia is an absence of the iris usually caused by a genetic defect, but can also occur due to injury.  Again, the lack of an iris give the eye a black look as the pupil is the more prominent feature.

Scleral Melanocytosis affects mainly Asian children, and includes black or gray spots in the sclera.  Similarly, Nevus of Ota is almost like a birthmark that can affect the sclera, causing a small spot, or a nearly full darkening of the white of the eye and everything in between (see picture).  There are some other pigmentation disorders, including melanoma, that can have a similar affect, but these seem to be the more popular issues.

Nevus of Ota

Here is a list of other diseases and disorders affecting the sclera, some of which can cause a blackish appearance in extreme cases, but its important to note that most eye doctors swear that they've never seen a case where the actual sclera (the white part of the eye) has turned completely black, especially in the case of an otherwise healthy, "unmarked" child.  They are, however, quick to point out that this look is easily achieved through the use of widely available contact lenses, as seen below:

Black contacts-Source


Top Photo property of Barry Napier

Zener Cards--An Alphabet of the Paranormal

In the early 1930s, the famed parapsychologist J.B. Rhine and a colleague, Karl Zener were using  a standard deck of playing cards as a method of testing for both clairvoyance and telepathy.  However, there were a couple of problems with this system...not only did a subject have to correctly name both the suit AND the number on the card, but it seemed as if people were more apt to pick their favorite suit, rather than truly put their clairvoyant skills to the test.

To combat these problems, Zener designed a new deck of cards to be used.  This deck, consisting of five symbols, totaled 25 cards--five cards each for the five different "suits."  The new symbols consisted of a circle, a cross, three wavy lines, a square, and a star.

 However, even this system was not without its issue.  Early Zener cards were printed on very thin paper, which allowed the test subject to see the symbol through the card.  Also, even though the symbols were designed to be emotionally neutral, the star and/or cross are sometimes linked to religious symbolism, possibly tainting results.

Nevertheless, the Zener Card Method is still standard in preliminary ESP studies.  According to the Null Hypothesis, the average person will have a 20% success rate, scoring one correct answer per 5.  Rhine also discovered what he called the Decline Effect---success rates were higher during the first few times a person went through the test.  After that, results became progressively worse with each additional attempt at the test.

To ensure the most accurate test results, it is recommended that the test subject and the person conducting the test have some type of barrier put between them, to ensure that the cards cannot be seen, and that no visual clues are being given.  An objective third party, or videotape session can also improve integrity and ensure that no audio clues are given.  In addition, to prevent the possibility of "card counting," the subject should not be told whether the answer given was correct or incorrect.

Zener cards can be easily purchased online, or made yourself, for your own experiments.  There are also online tests available based on the Zener Card Method, which I've linked to below. 

Zener Card Test