Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Haunted Travels Take Me to the Greater Columbus Antique Mall

Photo from Yelp
Several times I've brought up the issue of serendipity in my ghost research and my uncanny ability to always just be in the right place at the right time.  My research has always been so significantly aided by strange coincidences...so much in fact that I sometimes truly believe that there are forces at work influencing me in order to have their stories told.  The circumstances under which I became acquainted with the Greater Columbus Antique Mall is just another example of this crazy journey my life has taken me on.

When Aaron told me he was going to Columbus to do some work on a friend's gaming system and to attend a retro-gaming convention, I had no intentions of tagging along.  I had previous commitments here and figured that there wouldn't be much to keep me entertained in regards to the gaming theme of the trip.  But...Aaron lured me away with the prospect of visiting one of my favorite used bookstores, Half-Price Books, so I gave in and agreed to the trip.  Even though we had a full day planned, while I was waiting for Aaron to come pick me me up Saturday morning, I did a quick online search for haunted places in Columbus.

The first location that jumped out at me was the Greater Columbus Antique Mall, located on S. High Street. Aaron showed up before I started reading about the history of the location and why it was believed to be haunted, but I made a mental note of what street it was on, since Aaron DID say he wanted to hit some local antique stores while in the area.

Saturday didn't go exactly as planned, and we didn't really have the time to cram in everything that Aaron had envisioned.  After spending the early part of the afternoon at the convention and working on his friend's arcade machine, we decided we'd try to hit up one bookstore, and then we'd all go out to eat together, including our friend's wife and two kids.  His wife suggested an awesomely unique bookstore called the Book Loft that was nearby.  It wasn't the cheap, used bookstore that I had planned on, but that didn't matter since this place was the coolest place I have ever seen!  Spanning a full city block, the Book Loft was 32 rooms crammed with books and related merchandise, all housed in a pre-Civil War era building in German Village, which over the years served as a saloon, general store, and nickelodeon theater.  I picked up a few ghost DVDs and books, including a book on Haunted Columbus.

Photo from The Book Loft Homepage

We drove down there with our friend, and met his wife and kids there.  From there, we took separate cars on to our next stop...the Ohio Deli and Restaurant, which was featured on Man Vs. Food.  Our friend's wife had printed us out the directions to the restaurant, which was a blessing because when Aaron typed the address in the GPS, it wasn't there!  Still, we managed to get lost, since Mapquest didn't take into account that the road we were supposed to take in the opposite direction was a one-way street.  In our turned around state, we actually accidentally passed a large, creepy school, which I wasn't surprised to see featured in my new Haunted Columbus book as being built on the site of the former county poorhouse....because ya know...that stuff just happens to me.

Photo from Trip Advisor
Finally making it to the road we needed to be on, I was thrilled to see that the restaurant was on the same road as the haunted antique store!  We passed it, and I made Aaron promise to return after we ate.  Unfortunately, the store was already closed for the day, but we did get out to take some photographs, and of course, as soon as we got home, I started digging a little deeper into the legends of the building.

Most of what I found online was from several years ago, so this is definitely a location that I'd like to look into a little deeper, including an in-person visit, but I did find out that the building was built in 1889 as a private residence.  It served as two different funeral homes throughout the 1920s and 1930s, then did a stint as the Elks Lodge #37 throughout the 1940s-1970s.  In 1979, Pat and Fred Altevogt turned it into an antique mall.  Today, the store boasts anywhere up to 70 vendors...and probably just as many ghosts!

As we sometimes see with antique stores, as stock comes and goes, so does the nature of the paranormal activity.  Still, it seems like there are some ghosts that stick around no matter what.  According to one news interview, it all began when Pat gave a tour of the store to a woman who was apparently psychically sensitive.  This woman saw a man in the basement area who she was shocked to discover was the same man shown in a photograph that hung in Pat's office...a photo showing a former employee in front of the building during its tenure as a funeral parlor.  This man, who is described as wearing a brown suit and having a handle-bar mustache, has shown himself to many other visitors over the years, and is said to have been an embalmer in the 1920s.

There is also a woman seen wearing a Civil War era yellow gown and a rather sinister fellow in a black cape, whose apparition actually caused an employee to quit on the spot.  Security alarms pick up the sounds of glass breaking, thumping, and cups rolling around so often that the owners don't even bother to check anymore.

Children are heard playing with toy cars upstairs in the attic, and have even been known to talk to one of the vendors who rents space there.  Orbs have been seen by the naked eye going through doors, a back room smells of death, and one upstairs room in particular is avoided by some patrons due to a feeling of being choked.  My favorite story is about a long wooden bench where several people have heard the sounds of elderly women gossiping.  Near that bench, around an old vending machine, there has been the scent of Italian food.

Over the years several paranormal teams have investigated the building and at least one group got an interesting video.  Someday in near future I hope to return to Columbus and get a chance to fully explore this location for myself!

The Lantern 
Forgotten Ohio/The Other Paper
Ohio Exploration Society

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: Trucker Ghost Stories

Photo from Amazon
Title: Trucker Ghost Stories and Other True Tales of Haunted Highways
Author: various; edited by Annie Wilder
Published: 2012 by TOR
Amazon Info

Truck drivers see a lot of crazy stuff while out zig-zagging across our country at all hours of night.  Some of that crazy stuff might even be paranormal...

In her third book, Annie Wilder has compiled a diverse selection of some of these crazy, paranormal encounters experienced by truck drivers.  Divided into four sections covering everything from ghost sightings,  UFO/alien encounters and even time slips, there are plenty of stories to keep you awake at night!  While some stories seem to be of a local legend variety, others are of a very personal nature, and more than a couple of truckers have had their lives saved by a ghostly intervention.

Years ago, I had read an encounter that a trucker posted online concerning a very weird road in Eastern West Virginia that was straight out of a Twilight Zone episode.  I was pleasantly surprised to this little slice of West Virginia paranormal lore included, especially since I've recently searched for that story to no avail.  However, I was kinda disappointed that not more tales from the Mountain State made the cut...I thought for sure that the tales of the WV Turnpike would be included, or the tale of the mysterious young man near the Jane Lew exit who committed suicide by stepping out in front of a truck and who is still trying to get home.

Nonetheless, this is a very interesting compendium of  ghost tales from the open road, and not all submissions come directly from the truck drivers themselves, making it an even more diverse selection of ghostly Americana.  With dozens of stories, each of varying lengths, this is the perfect book to pick up and read a little at a time...but I liked it so much I finished it in two sittings!

More Book Reviews from Theresa

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Do I Believe in Ghosts?

Do I believe in ghosts?  It's a question I get asked quite a lot, from clients, friends, and from the occasional media source.  Being a paranormal investigator who spends quite a bit of time not only investigating claims of paranormal activity, but researching and writing extensively about local legends, it might seem obvious what the answer is; people just assume that of course I believe in ghosts.  Why else would I be wasting my time with such "silly pursuits?"

Of course, some people may have a slightly different perspective and accuse a skeptical approach to ruling out things that are NOT paranormal as meaning that I DON'T believe in ghosts, and have set out on a mission to debunk everyone's claims with cold-hard, unyielding science facts, lol.

To me, the answer actually lies somewhere in between.  Years ago someone taught me the phrase "playing Switzerland" as a means of describing someone who doesn't take sides, and at the risk of playing Switzerland again, my answer to the ghosts or no ghosts is definitely neutral.

I believe in something.

Since recorded history people across all cultures have had run-ins with what we'd classify as "ghosts."  Obviously, these people are experiencing something...something that doesn't just have one cookie-cutter explanation.  Therefore, I do believe in "ghosts" as a cultural phenomena.  I believe that the experience itself is very real.  The debate lies in the idea of just what exactly is being experienced and what is causing it.

I'm not really sure what causes ghost sightings and paranormal experiences, but I can attest that there isn't just one explanation that covers the gamut. This is where a good solid foundation in studying history, folklore, and even sociology, as well as the "hard sciences" comes in to play.  I'm skeptical, but I'm very open-minded and love the idea of ghosts being intelligent, human entities that can interact with us.  I'm also fascinated with ghosts as being residual stimuli that has somehow imprinted itself on our environment, much like a video tape. Whatever the cause or causes may be, I do think that one day we'll have at least SOME of the answers, and what we call "ghosts" will be explained through a yet to be discovered natural phenomena...after all, how long did it take before people accepted that the earth was round?

It's this fascination and this quest for the answers that keeps me in this field through it all.  Of course, I love being able to help educate and empower people to not fear this unknown, but at the same time, my ultimate goal is to make that unknown KNOWN.  I don't try to prove or disprove a haunting...I strive to find the truth, no matter what it may be!

*This filler post has been brought to you by a very sleepy Theresa!*

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Bowyer House of Winfield

Photo of Shady Dell, Property of the Owner
I promised I'd get around to writing about the Headless Horseman of Winfield, aka, the Ghost of Winfield's Bowyer House, that was recently featured on SyFy's Haunted Collector with John Zaffis.  I just needed a little time to watch the show for myself, and really let it sink in.

Part of what I needed to let sink in was that honestly...I had NEVER heard of the legend of the Headless Horseman, even though I've lived in this area over 20 years and practically grew up in the backyard of this property, lol.  I really was bothered by the fact that despite my familiarity with the basic history of the home, I had never heard of this awesome story, so what would that say about me as a paranormal investigator?  As time went on, I started to feel a little better, and I'll tell you why as I get to those parts of the story, lol...the hard part is really just knowing where to begin, so I guess I'll start at the beginning...

The home in question was built around 1841 by Captain John Bowyer, who christened it Shady Dell. Bowyer was born April 26, 1794 near Lewisburg but moved to this area around 1835 after serving in the War of 1812.  He married Permelia Brown Crawford in 1828 and after she died in 1852, he married Elizabeth Smith in 1870.  He had several children, the most important to this story being Jerome Toledo, (J.T.) who was born on February 22, 1841.

Jerome was a college student in Ohio when the outbreak of the Civil War sent him home, although there doesn't appear to be any proof that he actually FOUGHT in the war.  We do know that he did study law under Winfield's first judge, Judge Hoge, as well as Captain H.C. Parsons.  He passed the bar in 1868 and practiced law all his life, as well as serving in a variety of political and social positions.  He also owned and operated coal mines just outside of Winfield.  These coal mines were operated for a number of years, and I have documentation that they were active in and around 1882 to at least 1889.  J.T. left no heirs when he died on January 30, 1910.  He is buried in the Winfield Town Cemetery, located on Rocky Step Road, in a three-person vault along with two of his siblings, Victoria Dudding and George.

Shady Dell sat empty for several decades, but has stayed in the family.  At one point the home was owned by Joseph Woodrum, a fifth-generation descendant of John Bowyer.  However, according to the Haunted Collector show, the current owner is Bill Woodrum.  From the show, it appears that Bill is undertaking a serious project...to get the home restored and turn it into a bed and breakfast.  Just recently, it also served as the shooting location for a small movie production about the death of Captain Thurmond, the soldier who was killed at the Hoge House and whose body was recently discovered and re-buried on the Hoge property.  (Side Note:  Luke and I were actually at the dis-interment!  My mom worked at the board office and was there one Saturday catching up some work before she retired to watch Luke.  She needed in the warehouse, but her key only worked from the OUTSIDE.  As she was out by the warehouse, she noticed a group of people standing outside, so she marched over to several she knew, called them out on it, then called me immediately.)

Anyway, several claims of paranormal activity were reported to Zaffis and his crew.  Hearing whispers and footsteps were common in the home and the parlor area where old portraits of the family were displayed gave off an uneasy feeling.  In a REALLY creepy report, it was said that a pool of blood and a trail of little blood droplets would appear on an interior staircase.  Zaffis theorized it was probably just rusty water, but it was pointed out that in some cultures, to see this phenomena was a death omen.  If given the opportunity to one day investigate this location, this would be the perfect scenario to try a technique that HPIR has been wanting to do...taking our use of UV lights a step further and actually using Luminol to trace possible blood evidence!

One of the portraits mentioned above was of an aunt who they named Lenora or Nonie and it was said the eyes creepily follow you, another aspect of the haunting that John seemed to automatically rule out as an optical illusion.  I think this woman is Lenora Bowyer Miller, born in 1870.  Perhaps somewhat related to this portrait was the personal experience of a family friend who was asleep in the parlor when he awoke to see an apparition of a woman while feeling pressure on his chest.  Oddly, I don't believe that Zaffis was as quick to "debunk" this sensation as he was some of the other reports, even though to most investigators this is a textbook example of the "Old Hag Syndrome," which is actually one of the most common ways that sleep paralysis with accompanying hypnagogia manifests.

Then obviously, the big story was that of the Headless Horseman.  Bill related that both his grandfather and his great grandfather told tales of a Headless Horseman, believed to be a Union soldier, who rode through a path running along the 24 acre property past the house.  As part of the collection of artifacts that the show asks all participants to gather beforehand, there WAS a military patch that, when examined, automatically gave off some weird readings on the EMF meter.

At one point during the investigation, two of the investigators rode horses down the "path" by the home and it was alluded that it dead ended at a cemetery, where the first grave they came to was the Bowyer/Dudding mausoleum, which holds the body of J.T. and two of his siblings.  This section was pretty misleading as the cemetery where this mausoleum is located is the Winfield Town Cemetery.  This cemetery actually used to be on the Bowyer property, but now is located some distance away.  George Bowyer donated the land to the town in 1893, and then in 1907 an additional 120 plots worth of land was donated by the family.  There is no way to get to it from the home without crossing over Rocky Step Road and going past several modern houses.  Now, I've stated that I, nor anyone I've met has ever heard of the Headless Horseman, but as kids growing up, my friends and I did have some legends about the Bowyer-Dudding Mausoleum.

The Bowyer Mausoleum is a large stone structure that is cemented closed, and then covered with an iron gate which is padlocked.  As kids, we hung out at the cemetery a LOT.  At the time, it was just a short walk through my friend's back fence and through a small field (there's now a subdivision in between).  We'd try to scare each other by doing a little trick called "Blue Baby" while sitting on the un-named Bower family baby's grave near the structure, but also by saying that the gate and the concrete was to keep the Bowyer's from getting out because they were vampires, lol.  We'd hide and knock on the stone trying to freak each other out, but obviously these were just kids' tricks and had no basis in fact.  However, the Haunted Collector had more luck here than we did, as the name of "Rosie" squeaked out over the walkie talkie while the investigators were standing in front of the crypt.

After the field investigation was complete, several historians were consulted for the show, including Cheryl Withrow of the Upper Vandalia Historical Society.  I am a member of this society and we had a meeting not long after this episode aired, and Cheryl shared her experiences working with the show.  And this is where I began to REALLY start to feel better about myself and my lack of knowledge about the Headless Horseman.  Cheryl told us that she kept telling the crew that she had never heard of this legend either.  They didn't seem to be interested in that fact, though.  What they WERE interested in, was emphasizing the fact that J.T. Bowyer owned coal mines after the Civil War.  In fact, Cheryl related that the staff told her what to say, and made her keep repeating the information.

That seemed a little odd to me when I saw it in the show, and it would all come together after the interview with the gentleman from the State Archives.  The military patch that gave off the weird readings earlier in the show was taken to him for analysis and it was revealed that it was a shoulder board patch for a Union staff lieutenant colonel.  I'm not sure how the connection was made, but it was brought up that such a gentleman in this position, named "Julian Garesh" served under  a man named Rosecrans and was beheaded during the battle of Stones River in Tennessee.  Rosecrans, obviously, was known as "Old Rosie," making the disembodied voice caught earlier make sense.  And this is where Cheryl's bit with the coal mines came in to play, too....

The historian stated that Rosecrans came to West Virginia to work in the coal mines after the war.  While not explicitly stated, I gather that the connection they were trying to make was that Rosecrans came to WINIFIELD to work for J.T.'s mines, and somehow, passed on a piece of his friend's uniform to the Bowyer family, prompting the slain man to haunt the Bowyer property.  After John removed the offending patch, the Headless Horseman ceased to make his nightly journey.

The Headless Horseman?
Only...there's a couple of problems I found with this scenario.  For one, just a minor issue, but the man named "Julian Garesh" in the show was actually named Julius Gareshe, a native of Cuba and a West Point graduate.  Eerily, he did have a prophecy concerning his death.  He was chief of staff with the rank of lieutenant colonel under General William Starke Rosecrans, which normally was not a position that saw battle.  He was told that it was his fate to die in his first battle...and that's exactly what happened in a very gruesome manner.  His head was shot off, yet his horse still rode back with his torso supporting a bloodied and spurting stump upright in the saddle.  As another side note, Julius' ghost is also said to haunt the actual battlefield on which he died, making him quite the busy spectre!

Secondly, General Rosecrans, from what I can gather, did not come to West Virginia after the war.  I did find a few blurbs that said he did work in the coal industry in what I believe is NORTHERN West Virginia before the war, but after the war, he basically fled west.  He was removed to Missouri after an unsuccessful show in the battles following Stones River, and then later moved to California.  It seems unlikely that he would end up in Winfield with J.T. Bowyer, and even less likely that it was him who brought a patch belonging to Julius out there.

After all that, you can see where I was hesitant to finally sit down and write out my thoughts on this particular location, lol.  It does seem like there are more questions than answers, and even though I wouldn't say any of this was fabricated, I do believe that certain facts were creatively presented to account for an old family legend that to my knowledge, never went beyond the family.  This is an old house, and its seen much life AND death in its many years, and I'd love to be able to investigate it for myself and be allowed to come to my own conclusions on the paranormal activity.  However, it seems like I might have to wait until the dream of a Bed and Breakfast is realized.

Where is the Bowyer House located:

I get this question a LOT and I've been hesitant to share this information, as I'm not sure how the owners would feel about it.  However, the property is fairly well blocked off and the family that owns the property does live adjacent to it, so I think the risk is minimal.  Still, please, please, please respect the No Trespassing signs.

The house is located on Winfield Avenue.  It is my understanding that the current Rt. 35-turned 817 that runs through Winfield is NOT the location of the former main road in the area, and that it originally followed this road, which is directly off Rocky Step Road.  Turn onto Rocky Step, then make the first right you come to (actually, its more of a straight stretch, as Rocky Step curves to the left at this intersection).  Follow that road all the way to the end.  The road dead ends at the property, which is cordoned off, and unfortunately during this time of year, you cannot see the home through the foliage.  This area is sometimes referred to historically as Little Hurricane Creek or Route 29.

Contacting the Owners:

I have tried to contact the current owner to no avail and I will not give out the contact information that I do have due to privacy concerns.  In the television show, the owner's full name is given; doing a search on this name will give you several options to try if you look hard enough *wink.*  Maybe you'll have better luck than me.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cleveland's House of Wills

I haven't done an Ohio feature for awhile, so when I found Cleveland's House of Wills in the January/February 2013 issue of TAPS ParaMagazine, I thought it would be a good fit.  This is a "lesser known haunt," which I cannot understand because this building is absolutely fascinating!

I had a little trouble putting all the pieces together on the history of this location, as there's some conflicting and confusing information about dates, but I think what I've compiled is pretty accurate...

The House of Wills, which stands at 2491 E. 55th Street in Cleveland, was originally built sometime around 1900-1905 and was designed by local architect, Frederick W. Striebinger.  It was built as the Gesangverein Hall, a German social club, who formerly met at another location nearby.  Later, the building and its several additions, would go on to house the Cleveland Hebrew Institute.  There is also reason to believe that the location  served as a hospital for Hungarian/Jewish immigrants and possibly as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

Where most of the confusing lies is when the building actually became the House of Wills funeral home. 

John Walker Wills was born around 1875 and was one of Cleveland's most prominent black entrepreneurs of the time period and ran a series of funeral homes with his partner under the name of Gee & Wills.  Around 1907, that partnership dissolved and the business became Wills & Sons.  Many sites list the fact that Wills owned the building as early as 1905, but other sources say that the business was actually housed at this address starting in 1942 and spanning until 2005.

During that time period, the location served as not only a lavish and desegregated funeral home, but also as a meeting place, even being used as a headquarters for Civil Rights Movement meetings, as Mr. Wills was quite active in the cause.  The building also served as Mr. Wills' home, until his death.  He died in an upstairs bedroom on April 23, 1971. He was 96 years old.  He is buried in the Lake View Cemetery.

The House of Wills stood abandoned between 2005 and 2010.  It was in a rough neighborhood, so the elements, as well as vandals, took their toll on the aging structure.  In 2006, a man was shot and bled to death on the front doorstep of the House of Wills, making him the last confirmed death at the address.  Then, in March of 2010, local artist Erich Freeman purchased the House of Wills in hopes of restoring it for the purpose of art shows and exhibitions.  It's during this time that the building hosted a number of paranormal investigation groups eager to seek out claims of the paranormal.

The House of Wills is home to reports of phantom footsteps, strange mists, and shadow people.  Visitors have claimed that a disembodied voice calls their name out to them.  In one incident, someone reported an energy vortex in the old casket room.  Others see a full-bodied apparition of a gentleman dressed in a suit...possibly the ghost of Mr. Wills himself.

Does Mr. Wills walk the halls of his former home and business?  Are the souls of those who died at the location when it was a hospital still roam its many floors?  Or...is it the spirits of the many people who made their final stop here before final burial? 

Scene Magazine Article

Fringe Paranormal Investigation

TONS of interior shots

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sylvia Browne Strikes Again

Years after the website Stop Sylvia Browne was created, the famous "psychic" has struck again with a prediction so wrong that not only has it torn apart the lives of those it affected, but has taken its place within mainstream media.

Obviously, I'm talking about the Amanda Berry Case.

Amanda Berry was just 16 years old when she went missing on April 21, 2003 in Cleveland, Ohio.  With no leads and the police believing that she was just a runaway, Berry's mother, Louwanna Miller, refused to give up hope.  In an effort to gain some type of information on her missing daughter, Louwanna appeared on a 2004 episode of The Montel Williams Show.  On most Wednesdays, Montel featured psychic Sylvia Browne, discussing current events and fielding questions from the audience.  When asked about her daughter, Amanda Berry, Louwanna Miller was told the following by Sylvia:

"She's not alive, honey."

But Amanda Berry WAS alive as this past Monday she was able to escape her captor(s) and with help from good Samaritan, Charles Ramsey, free herself and two other young women also being held in a Cleveland home.  Unfortunately, Louwanna Miller never got to see her daughter again; she passed away in 2006 from what family members called a broken heart.

This isn't the first time that Sylvia Browne has been DEAD WRONG on a prediction...and a prediction that anyone, even those NOT claiming psychic powers, had a 50/50 chance on.  In 2003, Sylvia told the father of another missing child, Shawn Hornbeck, that his son was also dead, and that his body would be found near "two jagged boulders."  Shawn Hornbeck was found, alive and well, in 2007.

Even here in West Virginia, we've had our taste of Sylvia's false predictions.  When the Sago Mine explosion occurred in January of 2006, Sylvia was scheduled to be on the Coast to Coast AM show that evening.  About an hour before Sylvia's appearance, a false news leak out of WV stated that all the miners in that tragedy had been found alive!  This "fact" was backed up by Sylvia Browne who claimed that she knew it all along, and was glad that her prediction had been validated.  However, shortly after her interview started, the correct report was released:  all but one miner was found deceased.  This led to quite a bit of back pedaling.

To play Devil's Advocate for just a minute...

I can't say that I have any psychic ability, but I've studied it and talked extensively to people who do claim to have such gifts, and its important to note that this is not something that can be turned on and off with a flip of a switch.  It is also not a gift that is very straight-forward.  Most people with differing degrees of psychic ability will tell you that they receive messages in very different ways, and these ways are largely open to interpretation.

It's possible that Sylvia Browne IS psychic, at least to some degree, but that she's just very, very bad at interpreting the data she receives.  Still, these are three VERY high profile cases in the mainstream media that she couldn't properly predict with a 50/50 chance.  Yet, she charges people $850 for a PHONE READING!  If that isn't capitalizing off of the grief of those suffering unimaginable loss, I don't know what else is.  Shame on you, Sylvia Browne.

UPDATE:  Sylvia has issued a statement on the issue, via her Facebook page, but does not apologize for the grief her prediction caused.  More info can be found at the website below:

The Inquisitr

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pep the Prison Pup of Eastern State Penitentiary

Construction of Pennsylvania's Eastern State Penitentiary began in 1822 and opened in 1829, serving inmates up until 1971.  Over the years, this literal textbook example of incarceration has housed many notorious and even famous inmates...some not even human!

According to legend, a black labrador retriever named Pep was sentenced to life without parole on August 12, 1924.  His crime?  Pep allegedly killed then Governor Gifford Pinchot's wife's favorite cat.  The governor used his executive powers to have Pep incarcerated for the murder and subjected to the same mugshot process as all the human inmates, even being given the prison number of C-2559.

It's an awesome story, but as many such fantastic tales, isn't exactly true.  The truth is...Pep WAS a bad dog, but he wasn't a cat murderer. 

During Governor Pinchot's first term as governor, he received Pep the puppy from the nephew of his wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot.  The nephew was a breeder of labradors and for awhile, Pep was a cherished member of the family.  But, like many of his breed, Pep had a nasty habit of chewing up furniture.  No amount of punishment could stop Pep from chewing up the cushions on the governor's outdoor sofa.  Unable to deal with Pep's bad behavior, the family decided that Pep had to go, but it seemed too cruel to euthanize him.

Luckily a trip to Maine inspired the Governor.  According the the governor's son, Pinchot observed therapy dogs used in prisons to boost the morale of the inmates.  Upon returning home, Pinchot discussed the idea with his friend Herbert Smith, who happened to be the warden of Eastern State Penitentiary.  Pep was then given to the prison as a gift and the famous mugshot was taken as either a publicity stunt, or a joke.

Pep lived at Eastern State for the rest of his life.  By some accounts, he was "transferred" to Graterford Prison when it was built in 1929, but other sources believe that he simply accompanied the prison work crew back and forth during its construction and that he died in the early 1930s at ESP, where he was buried somewhere on the grounds.

So how did the story spread about Pep's crimes?  From papers archived at Grey Towers National Historic site, the governor's former home, it is largely implied from the governor's son that the stories were made up by a newspaper reporter with a sense of humor looking for an interesting story to boost readership. And where there's one legend, there's bound to be more.

In the paranormal field, Eastern State Penitentiary is largely noted as being one of the most haunted locations in the United States.  Many groups, including those from popular television series, have caught evidence and had personal experiences involving the former inmates of the prison.  Since Pep is such an integral part of the prison's history, some believe HIS spirit is still roaming the halls of the place where he was loved and cherished by guards and inmates alike.  Visitors have claimed to have heard the jangling of dog tags and even the howl of a dog echoing through the metal cells.

Today, you can own a little piece of Pep's history.  The Eastern State Penitentiary website and gift shop sells some memorabilia has Pep's mugshot photo on a T-shirt, mousepad, and coffee cup.  You can also pick up a set of dog tags in Pep's name, and this cute little plush Pep doll!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Occupational Hazard

I'm not scared of most of the "horrors" associated with being a ghost hunter.  I'm comfortable sitting alone in the dark.  I've seen enough ghosts to not even be fazed by a full body apparition anymore.  Demonic possession?  Eh.

But...what I AM scared of just happens to be an occupational hazard of this line of work, and I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone.  I have arachnophobia. And while its just a mild case under most circumstances, there's just something about an alleged haunted location that makes me feel like every itch and every breeze just has to be a wolf spider and her babies crawling all over my body.  The next time I have this sensation, I will think of this photo and I will laugh until I pee a little!  Honestly, I have no idea what it is about this, but it literally makes me chuckle aloud, lol.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Photo Credit: Kezdaman via Flickr

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Michael Jackson's Ghost

On Monday, Michael Jackson once again was the focus of media attention as the Wrongful Death trial against concert promoter AEG got underway.  Just a day into the trial the defense team is already warning that this trial will be bringing to light some very dark secrets concerning the life of the King of Pop.  So while most of the world's attention is focused on the trial, those in the paranormal community are taking note of ANOTHER Michael Jackson incident in the news...

LaToya Jackson is claiming that Michael Jackson's ghost has returned to the family's childhood home in Encino!

The Jackson's moved into the home in 1969 when the Jackson 5 signed with the Motown record label, and Michael lived there until he bought his Neverland Ranch in the 1980s.  Today, Michael's mother, Katherine, is living in the home with Michael's three children.

LaToya has claimed on Good Day New York that she and a security guard have both heard Jackson's spirit tap-dancing throughout the same part of the house, namely his former bedroom, where Jackson used to practice such moves two hours each Sunday.  LaToya has also claimed that she feels a presence in the house, and that the family dogs have been known to stand at Michael's former bedroom and bark for no reason.

One can't help but notice how much of a coincidence it is that these claims fall on the eve of such an important trial.  Is Michael really trying to communicate from beyond the grave?

Anyway, with such as big star being taken before his time, this isn't the first time that Michael Jackson's ghost has been reported.  A video shot at the Neverland Ranch for CNN shows a shadowy figure walking in the background.  While skeptics claim that this is a staff member's shadow from an unsecured location, some hardcore fans believe that this figure IS Michael Jackson's ghost.