Friday, November 30, 2012

Kids vs. Ghosts

I love Cracked.com, so when I came across this article on ghosts, I was ecstatic!  What is scarier?  A kid...or a ghost?  Hehe, I found the source for this entry awhile back, so I "schedule posted" it for this Friday, as part of my Friday Night Funnies series.  Little did I know that right after posting this, we'd go on an investigation where our contact person, we learned, was more terrified of living children than she was of the suspected ghosts that pervaded her place of employment.  So...in a small way, this post is dedicated to her!

Check out this awesome graphic, then click the link below to read the rest of the article...and Happy Friday, ya'all!



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mountain Octopus?

The following newspaper article is from the Huntington Advertiser, dated January 11, 1946:

2 OCTOPUS-LIKE CREATURES TAKEN FROM STATE STREAM

THOMAS, W. Va., Jan. 11 (AP)---Thomas school authorities were startled, to say the least, when a group of youths marched to classes bearing what they believe to be two octopuses taken from the turbulent Blackwater River.

To add to the surprise, the youngsters said there were at least eight others in the swift flowing mountain stream in which ordinary fish find the going rough at time.

Stelman W. Harper, principal of the Thomas grade and high school, and members of his staff searched all available biological text books and after comparison of the specimens with the description of octopuses, agreed that the boys had made an unusual discovery.

One supposed octopus was taken from a miniature lake created by the Fairfax Electric Company power dam here, Harper said, adding that the water is warm the year around due to discharges from the plant's turbines.

The other was found some distance below the dam.

Harper said the boys shot the creatures with a small rifle while playing along the banks of the stream.

They told him that they shot a third, weighing about 15 pounds, but threw it back into the water thinking it was not an unusual catch.

A hurried call was placed with fish experts at Davis and Elkins College and Elkins in an effort to clear up the discovery.

Harper reported that specimens preserved at the school had tentacles about two and a half feet long.

He added that he had "no idea" how the creatures got into the stream, he expressed doubt they could have been placed there by a returned veteran from the South Pacific.

Harper explained that it would have been almost impossible for anyone to have shipped them into the community without arousing curiosity, due to their size.

The first supposed octopus was brought to the school yesterday by James Largent, a 12-year-old student.  The second was proudly carried in by Philip Lamont, James Lamont, and Kenneth Liller.

The curious photo above showing one of the creatures (by some accounts there were 3 that originally survived) was found in the back of the Fall 2002 edition of Goldenseal Magazine, and comes courtesy  of photographer Jim Costa.  I had just recently discovered this edition for myself, and it was the first I had heard of these "mountain octopi," so of course, I had to look up the newspaper article above, lol.  And, I will be the first to admit that upon hearing the "Mountain Octopus" caption listed in the magazine, my sophomoric mind immediately went to a DIFFERENT type of mountain squid, as seen below:



Still, I found the whole concept intriguing, and was pleasantly surprised to see some information on the subject online.  Most of what I was able to find was simply a re-telling of the January, 1946 incident at Blackwater River, but it seems that the tri-state is actually a hotbed of sightings of these mountain octopi!

On Christmas Eve, 1933, two men named Robert Trice and R.M. Sanders were fishing in the Kanawha River outside of Charleston, WV when they pulled a 3 foot long octopus-like creature out.  Mark Hall later exposed this incident as a hoax, but other incidents dot the area as well.

In 1955, a similar creature was spotted in a creek in Grafton, WV and in 1959, a specimen was found in the Licking River in Kentucky.  These creatures have also been seen in the Ohio River, notably in Cincinatti and in Louisville, Ky.  The most recent sightings come from 1999, and a 2006 incident in Ohio State Park.

In some of the sightings, the creature is already dead, but in several, most notably the Blackwater River incident, the specimens were seen alive, which has led to many different theories about what these creatures are, and why they are here in this area, so far inland.

The obvious explanation for more recent sightings tends to be released marine pets that are either dead, or no longer wanted.  In fact, this was shown to be the cause in a couple of cases of these freshwater octopi found in locations outside the tri-state area, but they don't account for earlier sightings in which pets of this nature would have been more difficult to come by.  In this category, we can also go ahead and add in deliberate hoax, which, as shown above, has happened in the past.

However, others theorize that these might actually be octopi that have come mainland and gotten lost.  Towards the end of an octopus' life, it goes through a senile phase called senescence, and can become lost and disoriented.  Proponents of this theory do not, however, offer up a satisfactory reason as to how a saltwater creature can live for so long in fresh water, lol.

So that leaves one final theory....the theory that the mountain octopus is a new species:  The Freshwater Cephalopod!  I do find it interesting that this species does seem to be concentrated on one particular geographic location, as opposed to all over the United States, and WV IS known for its creepy cryptozoology, claiming other such oddities as Mothman, Sheepsquatch, and the similar creature, the Hoult River Monster .

Whatever this creature may be, it has truly earned its place in West Virginia's Weird History!

Further information can be found in:

Mysterious Creatures N-Z by George Eberhart
Hidden Animals

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Theresa's Top 5 Links for November

I haven't done a Theresa's Top 5 Links in a long time...but I've got a few new sites that I'd like to share with everyone.  It's getting harder and harder to find stuff that I haven't posted about before, but I'm pretty confident that these are new-to-me sites that are well worth a visit!  Please enjoy!

1. Fiona Broome's Lab--this site doesn't have a ton of content, but it does have some interesting articles and experiments for those interested in ghost research.  Fiona is more known for her ghost hunting site, Hollow Hill, but runs a number of different sites, including this one, which is described as being her notes on fringe and extreme paranormal research.

2. West Virginia Urban Legends--this site is just getting its start, but its got some cool information on WV weirdness...and they also have a FB fan page where I've noticed that they've graciously shared a link to Theresa's Haunted History!  I'm keeping an eye on this site; there is a lot of great potential here.

3. Cabell County Doors to the Past--Okay, I'm not sure if this one has been posted or not before, so I guess I lied in my opening paragraph, lol.  But seriously, this is a great site for Cabell County history and I've used it in my research several times.

4. Ghosts on Cracked.com--a humorous look at ghosts from one of my favorite websites!  May not be appropriate for young children...and may be NSFW!

5. Supernatural Connections--sort of like a paranormal FB...well, MySpace, lol.  Forums, places to share videos, blogs, and photos, and much more.  Kinda slow right now, so come join and connect with me!

Do YOU have any recommend websites or articles for Theresa's Haunted History?  If show, share them below in the comments, or come LIKE Theresa's Haunted History on Facebook!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Thankful...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope you are not plagued with any "poultrygeists" this holiday season...get it?  Poultrygeists?  Hehehehe....anyway, I thought I'd try something new this year.  There are so many things I am thankful for in my life, especially my family and friends, but I wanted to share some of the things that I'm thankful for concerning the paranormal field!  Since Thanksgiving is on November 22nd this year, here's a list of 22 ghostly things I'm thankful for...in no particular order!  What are YOU thankful for this year? 

One thing I'm NOT thankful for is the lack of a good turkey ghost photo!


1. My extensive library of both paranormal books AND local history...has saved me so much time and money by being able to do a lot of preliminary research at home, on my own schedule.

2. My mom and my boyfriend, Aaron, who I can always count on to watch Luke when I have an investigation or event to attend.

3. Ancestry.com.  Again, a great resource that allows me to do so much preliminary research at home.  It is well worth the subscription price.

4. The opportunity to investigate the Whipple Company Store, a very historic and very haunted location that allows only a few select groups in each year.  The entire group walked away with and awe and reverence for the building, as well as some excellent evidence!

5. The James Casto Local History room at the Cabell County Library.  This is another great resource we have right in our community, and I've literally spent hours upon hours there this year.

6. The research staff at the above-mentioned library, lol.  They're always willing to lend a hand when the microfiche machine goes on the fritz!

7. My team, HPIR!  I honestly could not ask to investigate with a better group of people.  Everyone is dedicated, serious, and willing to work hard at everything we do.  We also have a blast together, and I count each and every member as some of my closest friends.

8. I especially am grateful for HPIR founder, Melissa, who took me on as a member over 6 years ago, and has allowed me to explore and hone my interests in history through my position as Historic Research Manager, and as a tour guide.

9. I'm grateful to everyone who comes out to our tours!  HPIR has established a hugely successful tour business and will continue to develop new and exciting opportunities for the community.  We couldn't have done it without all the support.

10.  Along those same lines, I want to thank our host of volunteers who help us portray characters, act as back guides and/or security, and who let us enter their homes and discuss their history.  I'd like to thank everyone who gives us stories and information, and allows us to come into their locations to investigate, continually giving us new material for our tours.  We love our volunteers!

11. I'm thankful that HPIR has been able to take on an active role in assisting with Team Toni events.  While the circumstances of the organization are tragic, this is an excellent cause to get behind, and I'm proud to support it in anyway I can.

12. I'm thankful to all the other teams out there who have supported us and stood by us.  There are some awesome teams out there, and their dedication and professionalism in this field makes all the not-so-good teams out there seem obsolete.  I'd like to especially make a shout out to Chandal and Nicky of NVSO who are there when we need them!

13. Our clients, each and every one of them.  These people let us into their homes and businesses, and give us a trust that cannot be bought.  We love you all and will always be there when you need us!

14. The opportunity to work for television, despite my fear of actually appearing on camera in person.  It was a wonderful experience, and pushed me to expand my own research techniques in ways that paid off immensely. I learned a lot about how certain types of shows are produced, and while its left me a tad jaded, its not an experience I'd trade in for anything.

15. Even though it sounds cheesy, I'm thankful that we live in an era where people interested in this field can share ideas and information without (a lot) of ridicule, lol.  This field is still a long way away from acceptance as a legitimate science, but there is a general acceptance from the public that cannot be beat.  Even if someone thinks its silly, 9 times out of 10 they've got a story about an experience they can't explain...and if you ask in the right way, they're more than happy to share it with you.

16. I'm thankful for the amount of information available for those interested in this field.  There are wonderful free resources for the Kindle, wonderful FREE documentaries found in many places, and many wonderful books and websites that are accessible to all.  This is one field where you can NEVER stop learning new things, no matter what.  Take advantage of the large network of resources available.

17. The area where I live.  It is filled with plenty of haunted history! 

18. All of my FaceBook page fans.  I love sharing little things that I don't necessarily want to blog about, but its also a great way to keep track of new entries for Theresa's Haunted History.

19. The fact that out of 100s of investigations, we've never really encountered anything that I'd personally classify as really negative or dangerous.

20. The WVGhosts website.  Although its gone pretty stagnant this year, its still one of my number one resources for local ghost-lore.

21. Not having to work at a job I hate from sun-up to sundown anymore!  This year has been excellent to my mental AND physical health, and has allowed me to take a more active role in my paranormal research.  Not to mention, I've had much more time with my son...who is also my future ghost hunter.

22.  Lastly, but certainly not least...I am so thankful to everyone reading this blog right now!  Fans of this blog are the reason why I keep doing what I'm doing, which is trying to provide the most accurate and complete resources for  alleged haunted locations in our area.  I've also tried to really expand the site to attract people from outside the area with book reviews, photo analysis, and articles.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.  This is for you guys!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nostradamus and the 2012 Presidential Election

A few days ago I made a trip to the local Goodwill to check out the books.  As a collector of paranormal literature, I tend to go ahead and buy ANYTHING that even remotely applies to the paranormal that I find there.  For less than a dollar, I see it as a good investment in my personal library, lol.  Anyway, on this trip, I picked up a 1985 book by Erika Cheetham, called The Further Prophecies of Nostradamus:  1985 and Beyond.  It's a follow-up to an earlier work by the same author.

The first section of the book is sort of a combination of the author's own background and how she got involved in decoding Nostradamus, as well as a short history on Nostradamus himself.  I read through this part, and basically lost interest.  However, before I stuck the book on the shelf and totally forgot about it, I flipped through some of the "prophesy pages."  I know I was working on little sleep, but one passage in particular jumped out at me and immediately my brain went into that "what if" mode...

Here's the original quatrain:

De l'Orient viendra la coeur Punique
Facher Hadrie et les hoirs Romulides
Accompagne de la classe Libyque
Temples Mellites et proches isles vuides.

And here's the author's transcription into English:

From the [Middle?] East will come the African heart to trouble Hadrie and the heirs of Romulus.  Accompanied by the Libyan fleet, the temples of Malta and nearby islands shall be deserted.

Not only does the author translate the quatrains, but she also makes a stab at interpreting them, and while not much is said about this particular one, it was theorized in context with some other quatrains to mean that WW III would probably start around 1986 in the middle east, with Qaddafi being a major player.

Of course, I was 3 years old in 1986, so I looked at this quatrain with the perspective of the 21st century, and since the election JUST happened, is still fresh and relevant in my overworked brain.  Immediately, my AP English classes kicked in and I wanted to extrapolate the passage, despite the fact that Nostradamus not only wrote in his own "code" of sorts, but also, his words have been loosely translated and interpreted, opening his meaning up to all sorts of different perspectives.  Still, this is what I think it means...

I think that the African heart is Barack Obama.  Obviously, he is African American, and his father hails from Kenya.  Although he's not "middle eastern," there are people who will bet their first born child that he is a Muslim...which so many in this country just automatically associate with the Middle East.  The heirs of Romulus in this case is Romney.  An heir of Romulus would be someone from Rome, or someone Rome-born, which can be expressed grammatically as Rome ne (masculine) or Rome nee (feminine).  Rome-ne can be loosely interpreted as Romney.  I won't get too much into the second part of the quatrain, but the major issues going on with the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and one can easily read enough into this information to make it relevant.

On the other hand, one can read into this information and find arguments to make it fit a variety of scenarios.  When I told my sister about my "revelations," she automatically threw back a rebuttal that I was experiencing the Barnum Effect, lol.  The Barnum Effect is properly known as the Forer Effect, named for Bertram Forer, who studied the effect in 1948 through a series of personality tests given to his students.  The name Barnum Effect comes from the circus man's "something for everyone" slogan.

The Barnum Effect, or Forer Effect basically states that individuals will attribute very broad generalizations about character to their own individual characteristics, and is why an individual can read ANY sign's horoscope and find things in there that apply specifically to them, lol.  However, in psychology usage...and to an extent, "paranormal" usage, this term really does apply to things like personal characteristics and experiences, and even though I read into what I thought was relevant with this quatrain, it wasn't about ME, lol.  Therefore, I prefer the term apophenia, which I think may or may not be more accurate within this usage.  Apophenia, which will be discussed more in a later post, is basically seeing meaning where there is no meaning.  Technically, this definition used in general context doesn't really fit either, but its a great explanation for the 3:33 and 11:11 phenomena, lol. 

Looking for more Nostradamus Prophecy?  Check out my article on the Gangnam Style Apocalypse!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Was it a Ghost Seen in Barboursville?


While doing some research on a completely different topic, once again I ran into an interesting newspaper article that something in me told me to save.  In fact, its such a small story, located several pages into the publication, that I'm not entirely sure what about it caused me to stop the microfiche reader and take a look.  But, I did, and here's the tale:

From the Huntington Advertiser, September 6, 1945:

Chief Deputy Sheriff One Dunfee reported today that the and aides were unable to find a body along the Chesapeake &  Ohio Railway Co. right-of-way near Barboursville after a freight train engineer had dropped a note to station employees of Barboursville saying that his engine "probably struck a man" just west of that town.  

Tracks and adjacent territory for several miles were searched by the deputies.  A later check-up with residents of the area failed to reveal anyone missing under unusual circumstances.

At first thought, one would assume that there is a logical explanation for this episode.  It is very likely that the engineer is mistaken.  Perhaps the train came close to hitting someone, but that someone made it to safety without major (or any) injury.  It's also likely that perhaps fatigue or other circumstance led him to misidentifying a deer, a tree, or even a simple mirage.

However, I'm a paranormal researcher...and as logical as I try to be, there's always going to be the side of me that WANTS this to be paranormal, lol.  There are so many ghost stories that are linked with the railways and train disasters, and one common theme that has come up in WV ghost-lore many times is the tale of a phantom pedestrian being hit.  Perhaps the most famous of these cases is actually Screaming Jenny from the Harpers Ferry area, who is seen running down the tracks, screaming, as she finds herself engulfed in flames. More than one engineer has claimed to have hit this fiery apparition.

Could there be a chance that this engineer DID hit someone...but that someone was a ghost?  This idea has intrigued me so much, that I'm trying to methodically research if anyone has been hit and killed by a train in that area, perhaps on the anniversary of when this event was reported.  And that is where I need YOUR help loyal readers!  If you have any information, even if its just legends that have been passed down, I'd love to hear them!  I'd love to hear if anyone else has seen or reported a possible pedestrian struck in this area, or if anyone knows of any actual deaths that happened.  I did search the next few weeks' worth of papers, and there was no mention of a body ever turning up, nor any further mention of the case at all....

...but it does bring up another interesting aspect.  If this WAS an actual person that was hit, and a body not found, could that have sparked a new haunting, as an unknown person searches for his own closure to his own death?  Contact me at theresarhps@yahoo.com if you have any information on this subject, and I'll update if I find anything of note.

Photo is of a train near Barboursville in 1955.  Property of the Doors to the Past website, Barry Huffstutler

Monday, November 12, 2012

Theresa's Horror Movie Challenge Wrap-Up

I thought that I was going to go out with a bang during my last week and a half of October...but alas, I went out with a whimper.  Tours, parties, and other Halloween related activities just didn't leave much room for movies...and left me too tired in the evenings to crank up the Netflix without passing out before the opening credits ceased to roll.

However, I did manage to cram in ONE last horror film for the month of October, and this one seriously was horrific.

I'm a HUGE fan of Rifftrax, so any time the cinema at the Huntington Mall shows a live simulcast of a "riffing," Aaron and I try to go.  This round was the epic classic Birdemic: Shock and Terror. This is actually a fairly new film,  produced in 2008, but the graphics look like something out a middle school film class's "C" file.  The acting isn't any better, nor is the storyline, which features a very astute argument against global warming, lol.  Not even the Rifftrax guys could make this one bearable and the pooping (or spitting--couldn't tell) of acid by the birds was disgusting.  At least...the popcorn was good!

It was a sad end to a sad challenge, but I managed to crank out a total of 9 films that I probably would not have bothered to see otherwise...except of course, for Sinister, lol.  Aside from Sinister, I'm going with the Inn Keepers as being my top choice for this year's challenge!

Want MORE scary movie suggestions from Theresa?  Follow Theresa's Haunted History on FaceBook for recommendations and news on what to watch...and what to avoid!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Funny-Haunted House Pictures

Halloween might be officially over for the year, but as I've said numerous times...its ALWAYS Halloween season in MY house!  To keep the "spirit" alive, I wanted to post a Friday Night Funnies featuring a collection of the most hilarious Halloween photos I've ever seen.

These photos are candid reaction shots to a particular scare found in the Nightmares Fear Factory of Niagra Falls...a hugely popular haunted house attraction.  The website Funny or Die has posted a collection of the top 30 reactions, as found on the attraction's Flickr page.  Click on the link to see the entire collection, but to get you started, here's MY favorites! 

I love the bravery of the young gentleman, shielding the three ladies he's with, despite what horrors are thrown at him, face first!  Unfortunately, the chick in pink doesn't seem to care, lol:



Here's an example of TRUE friendship:






You know this guy wet himself:





Funny or Die--30 Pictures of People Freaking Out at a Haunted House



Hotel Morgan: Haunted or Not?

Construction of the Hotel Morgan
The idea of the Historic Clarion Hotel Morgan being one of WV's premiere haunted hotels was first introduced to me several years ago.  A psychic and paranormal conference was to be held at the hotel in February 2009. Organizers of the conference claimed the hotel was actually haunted...and as part of the festivities a ghost hunt of the venue  was to be offered.  However, when I started to do some research on the hotel, I found a rebuttal article by owner, Richard Brant.

Brant claimed that since his family purchased the hotel in 1999, he had never heard of any stories of a haunting, did not believe it to be haunted, and would eventually ask conference organizers to remove any indication of such.  Conference organizer and local student, Anthony Atha, claimed that the information about the hotel being haunted came from a guest of the hotel who had had a paranormal experience there.  Details are sketchy as to WHAT that experience entailed, but other websites claim that Room 314 of the hotel is haunted by a little girl who drowned in the bathtub.  As of this date, I have not confirmed nor denied the death of a little girl...

But, death IS a part of hotel life, and many paranormal researchers are quick to point out the high statistics of paranormal activity reported at hotels, where people are constantly coming and going, leaving their residual imprint.  And of course, people die at hotels, far away from home.  Such scenarios are a recipe in ghost-lore for creating a haunting, especially when they involve a location with so much history.

The Hotel Morgan, located at 127 High Street opened on October 16, 1925, after four years of construction.  It was named, on the insistence of the local historic society, for Zackquill Morgan.  Zackquill Morgan was not only the son of WV's first white settler, Morgan Morgan, but founded the town of Morgantown before his death on January 1, 1795.

When it originally opened, the hotel was a place of splendor, featuring red satin upholstery, crystal chandeliers, and an opulent ballroom where many of the town's social functions took place.  The Hotel Morgan hosted many notable names, including Eleanor Roosevelt in 1934 and President Harry Truman in 1954.  With the addition of the adjoining Warner Theater (also believed to be haunted) in 1931, Hotel Morgan was THE place to stay.

However, time would take its toll on the elegant establishment, and it became more of a motel than a hotel.  The rooms were tiny and decorated in an outdated 70s scheme, featuring a color scheme of pink and green.  Business was down, so the hotel catered to WVU dorm overflow and post-football game party-goers.  That was until a man named R. Ted Brant purchased the hotel in 1999 and began a costly renovation to restore it to its former glory.

Unfortunately, Ted Brant would pass away in 2000 before fully seeing his project come to fruition, but his wife and son took over and finished the major historic rehabilitation project...and still continue to improve the hotel, combining technology and modern amenities with the original 1920s charm and elegance.  They also changed the color scheme, opting for a Mountaineer blue and gold decor.  It officially opened in 2000, on its 75th birthday, as the Historic Clarion Hotel Morgan.

But that leaves the question of whether or not this location is actually "haunted."  I personally haven't seen anyone publish any ghost tales from this location, and the only indication of its paranormal past is a refuted claim of a second hand personal experience and a likelihood based on similar locations.  Therefore, I'm not ready to call this location haunted--at least in the traditional sense.  Rather, I think years of people leaving their mark on the location and all the historic events that have taken place within its walls will forever live on.  Those who are in-tune and who can look past the obstacles of modern day will undoubtedly be able to pick up on those energies.  Book your stay and see what glimpses of the past YOU uncover!

An audio tour of historic downtown Morgantown is available at the hotel desk, featuring the many locations, including the hotel, that were added to the National Register of Historic Places under the Downtown Morgantown historic district.

Additional information for this blog was found in a August 20, 2001 Charleston Daily Mail article by Danny Forinash.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Haunted Bathrooms

November 19th marks a very unique day.  All over the globe, people will be celebrating World Toilet Day on that date.  In honor of the holiday, I wanted to share with everyone an interesting facet of study for those in the paranormal investigation field.  Please enjoy!

When investigating claims of a haunting, researchers will often note that these supposedly haunted locations will often have something in common---no matter how widespread over the area the alleged paranormal activity occurs, there seems to be a heart of the haunting, or a focal point where things are the most active.

A haunted building's focal point, or "heart" can be just about anywhere, but statistically it tends to be a location central and accessible from all parts of the building, and a location that sees regular traffic from the living inhabitants of the home or business.  Therefore, while its not usually THOUGHT of as a heart of the haunting, a BATHROOM tends to follow this set criteria, and while perhaps not the most well-known or discussed place for a focal point, reports of bathrooms being haunted are certainly not uncommon.

So...why are bathrooms so haunted?

Well, we've first got to take a look at the many things that are associated with bathrooms that can be mistaken for paranormal activity.  I promise, I will try to leave the sillier, more "obvious" things such as phantom and/or demonic odors and hellacious moaning sounds for the more sophomoric authors on the subject, lol.  But those things aside, there are some major issues in bathrooms that mimic paranormal activity, and the first is a toilet that seems to flush itself by unseen hands.

I do a lot of witness/client interviews for my investigation team, HPIR, and I've seen the issue of the haunted, self-flushing toilet come up numerous times.  In fact, we also have a popular story that we tell on our ghost tours involving a lonely spirit who leaves his own home and makes his presence known to the neighbors in a similar way.  The concept of the creepy toilet is so common and so widely believed to be paranormal, that I actually keep a folder articles on the phenomena printed out and ready to stick in our client education packets that we give out.  But if its not the sign of a ghostly presence, what the heck is making a normal, otherwise working toilet flush itself?

I am not a plumber, so for the best explanation for why this happens, please see any number of great articles online, including the one I will be quoting:  eHow's Why Do Toilets Flush by Themselves, written by Steven Stymes.   According to the article:

The toilet's tank refills with water not because the toilet's handle has been touched but because the tank has a leak somewhere, which allows water to escape from the tank. When the water level drops below a certain point inside a toilet's tank, the toilet will detect the drop in the water level and will take action to replace the lost water. Because phantom flushing comes from toilet tank leaks, you will hear phantom flushing from the toilet periodically until you find the leak and take action to correct it.

So basically, you have a leak somewhere, and the toilet is trying to regulate its water levels.  These levels can also be disrupted when there's a break or issue with a water main or other pipe...and I've even seen this become an issue in buildings located near fire hydrants, especially when those fire hydrants are in use.  Luckily, the article cited above has some ways to diagnose and correct the problem of a phantom toilet flush caused by a leak or similar situation.
But toilets aren't the only plumbing issues that can and will fool even the most die-hard investigators.  There's also a widespread issue with faucets turning themselves on.  These faucets don't just spurt out water for no reason, the knobs can actually be seen eerily turning from the OFF to the ON position.  As unnerving as that may sound, once again, there is a very common, natural explanation that doesn't involve a ghostly presence.  If you're a fan of SyFy's Ghost Hunters, you'll see that the Roto-Rooter boys-turned-ghost investigators have debunked this one, but if you haven't in short here's one explanation of what happens: 

When there's a build up of pressure on the tap, it can press against the screw and cause it to pop, turning on the faucet by itself.  This usually is more often seen in older faucets, especially those over 40 years old, and usually only happens with the hot water tap.  A loose seal can also be a huge problem with a quick and easy fix....a cheap metal washer replacement.  However, when in doubt, it might be a good idea to consult a plumber, for either toilet or faucet issues, just to rule out a bigger problem...and to save yourself expensive damage that may be incurred from attempting a fix on your own, lol.

Those are the two major things that cause false positives to paranormal activity, but there are a host of other things to take into consideration depending on what type of activity is being experienced.  Electrical disturbances could simply be electrical problems.  Weird noises could be pipes knocking around, and doors that open or close on their own accord could be explained away in numerous ways.  After all of these factors are ruled out, that leaves us with the question of how and why would a BATHROOM be haunted?

According to one website, an average person will spend about 3 years of his/her life in the bathroom...and that's a pretty big chunk of time to leave a lasting impression in a location.  It's not just the time itself, however, that is responsible for these imprints...its also the range of emotions that accompany some of the many uses of a standard bathroom.  The bathroom is where you excitedly primp for a first date, or other big occasion, spending hours making sure you look just right.

The bathroom is often where we go in the home for a little privacy, and where we can lock ourselves in and have a good cry under the disguise of a running shower when needed.  Unfortunately, the bathroom is often chosen as a location for those suffering from depression and other emotional ailments to end their own lives...or at least make that attempt.

The bathroom is also where we go when we are sick.  I know I've had some illnesses where the bathroom became my best friend...and a place where I wished I would just cease to exist--anything to be free of the barrage of a stomach flu.  But the bathroom is also where I keep first aid supplies...so its the first place I run to take care of minor cuts and things of that nature.  And, unlike those who CHOOSE to end their lives in the restroom, there are those who unfortunately do end their lives, from accidents or illnesses, taking their final breaths in their own bathroom.

In short, there's a lot of emotions popping around in a bathroom, and a lot of chances for human emotions to actually imprint here, but the architecture of a bathroom may also lend something to the haunting.  By popular theory, running water acts as an energy source for paranormal activity, and you've definitely got that there.  If you're into the feng shui set of mind, bathrooms are usually not very 'open,' lol.  Not all restrooms have any type of window, and most have only one way in, and one way out, trapping that energy we talked about earlier.  The presence of mirrors doesn't help out here, as all it does is serve to help bounce that energy around, instead of letting it flow freely out.  Those same mirrors can also add a huge touch of superstition, as they are regarded in the metaphysical world as being a portal between our reality and that of the paranormal.  And, in fact, many ghostly reports of haunted bathrooms do deal with apparitions being seen in the mirror (NOT talking about Bloody Mary, Candy Man, or Biggie Smalls, here) or messages being scrawled in the condensation of the mirror after a hot shower.

Now, the messages and hand prints in the steam can sometimes be explained away by previous prints and writings, only showing up with the help of the steam, but what about the apparitions?  Could mirrors really be a portal?  In Victorian times, all the mirrors in a home were covered with a black cloth when a person died, so that their spirit wouldn't become trapped in the mirror, but how many people do that today?

One last thing to consider when we discuss haunted bathrooms is of course, our level of vulnerability.  Many activities that take place in the bathroom require one to be fully or partially nude, or in a position where there's no quick escape route should something be seen or heard, lol.  While there is a popular psychic that makes it very clear that ghosts will not bother you while you're in the bathroom or silently peek at you showering or dressing, I have a hard time believing that to be true of ALL ghosts, based on the many reports of seemingly legitimate activity experienced in these locations.  Just because one's physical body dies, does not mean that all their earthly characteristics die with it....if someone was a jerk in life, or didn't respect boundaries, can we be sure that's gonna change?  Rather, I think that our position of vulnerability does offer us some measure of awareness, as we're letting our guard down, symbolically and uh...physically, lol.

So, when investigating a location, see what claims are being made about the bathroom, and proceed with your investigation and recreation of events as you would any other spot in the building...just make sure that ALL on site are aware of any cameras that may be set up there!

Looking for haunted restrooms here in the tri-state?

Bobby Mackey's in Wilder, Kentucky is known as Hell's Gate, and supposedly, both the mens' and womens' restrooms are haunted.  The mens' room is the site of an alleged attack on a non-believer who badmouthed two of the resident spirits.  These spirits threw a trashcan at the man and otherwise, beat him up fairly badly, as the claims go (from a very drunken man, and his drunken witnesses, lol).  The ladies' room is where an apparition of a cowboy was spotted in a mirror.  Unfortunately for our purposes, HPIR pretty well explained this one, as the mirror in question was positioned in such a way that it was reflecting into the bar (there were no doors) so anyone in a cowboy hat walking past the entrance could have easily shown up.

For a little closer to home, the Keith-Albee Theater features not one, but TWO haunted ladies' rooms.  HPIR's investigation results, as well as my personal experience in the upstairs restroom are available on this site at:  Keith Albee.

*Photo of the ghost-in-toilet was found on the UNcyclopedia site, on an article from UNnews about the White House bathrooms being haunted.*