Friday, February 22, 2013

Graveyard Guardians

This week I finished reading a new book, Melba Goodwyn's Chasing Graveyard Ghosts.  Although my personal beliefs don't always mesh with what is discussed in the book, it really is a very interesting and important read for anyone wishing to know more about cemeteries and cemetery investigation.  One section in particular that really caught my attention was the subject of graveyard guardians.

According to the author, nearly all cemeteries have a graveyard guardian, or soul, whose only purpose is protecting the cemetery and those who lie therein from not just human visitors, but possibly, inhuman and spiritual ones as well.  The legend largely comes from England, where it was believed that these graveyard guardians were given special powers to protect the dead in their care from the Devil and other evil forces. Throughout most of Europe, the name Ankou is given to describe these guardians.

This tradition carried over into the New World where these cemetery guardians are real people, and they are denoted by being the very first burial in a cemetery.  Luckily, there is generally no shortage of deaths in a community to act as the graveyard guardian, but there have been cases where legend states that a person was interred ALIVE in a rural cemetery to act as its guardian.

On a similar note, graveyard guardians don't necessarily have to be human beings.  Throughout my own research, I had become familiar with the concept of sightings of black dogs in cemeteries.  These dogs were generally associated with southern cemeteries, and were described by witnesses in much the same way as the Black Shuck-type stories:  the dogs were HUGE, with red eyes, and seeing one was a sure portent of doom.  Therefore, it didn't surprise me to read in Chasing Graveyard Ghosts that black dogs were sometimes buried alive in cemeteries to act as a guardian.

Whether human or canine, the graveyard guardian will stop at nothing to protect those in its care, and many people have been scared away by sinister disembodied voices telling them to get out, fleeting and shadowy apparitions, sentient orbs and plasma lights, and even sonic booms!  When seen in orb form, these guardians will manifest in colorful ways, showing up as yellow, green, blue, and most often, red.
HPIR conducts an exaggerated plasma light experiment.  

HPIR doesn't do a ton of cemetery investigations for reasons that will be discussed in a later blog, but we have done a few in our early days that have provided some such examples of possible graveyard guardian encounters.  And of course, research for the haunted places featured on this blog have also provided plenty of examples!

Black Dogs
*Back in 2007, HPIR explored a medium-sized cemetery, which I believe was largely Catholic.  During our time there, we broke into several small groups and each group began seeing a black shadowy form flitting about the cemetery, yet it was always too dark and just out of sight to make a positive ID...until the shadowy form actually ran up to one group of investigators and began licking them.  Turns out it was a jet black Labrador puppy.  He stayed for a few minutes, possibly seeing that we were of no threat, then disappeared back to wherever he came from.

Plasma Lights and Orbs
*Kelly Cemetery near Ironton was brought to our attention by a citizen who shared some pictures of plasma lights with us and while we didn't catch any ourselves, we did have some strange experiences over our several visits.  Plasma lights are sometimes referred to as supercharged orbs that show up on camera as swirls of neon light.  It's important to note that plasma lights are very, very, very easily faked with any type of light source, and many times simply just misinterpreted false positives of street lights, car lights, etc.  A quick check of your photo's EXIF data will show if your shutter speed was long enough to have produced such a picture.

Disembodied Voices, Etc.
*Elmwood Cemetery in Wayne County, WV is believed by locals to be haunted by Milton Ferguson, the first person buried at the cemetery, which began as the Ferguson family plot.  However, Milton seems to "welcome" visitors to his family's section, as opposed to scaring them away!  There is another, undisclosed cemetery in Wayne County.  HPIR was called into this cemetery because a frightening, headless apparition was scaring staff away at night.  Was this a graveyard guardian?

*Woodlawn Cemetery in Mercer County is notorious for a disembodied voice telling visitors to the oldest section of the burial ground to "leave."

*Very rarely will a graveyard guardian appear as a living, flesh and blood human being.  A mysterious man who disappears has been seen at least twice (once by me) at the Greenbottom Cemetery in Cabell County.

This is just a VERY small sampling and Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State has many additional cemeteries listed.  In many cases, I've added the name of the first person said to be buried within.  Keep that in mind if you run into any potential "graveyard guardians" during your own research!

Some great false positive photos, several showing "plasma lights," by HPIR founder Melissa Stanley can be found HERE!

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