Friday, January 30, 2015

6 Cute and Spooky Tattoos

It's not a well known fact, but I do have quite a few tattoos...and a handful of those tattoos are spooky/Halloween-y in nature.  However, I don't have any GHOST tattoos!  For several years I've seriously pondered correcting that little oversight, but before I invest the money in a new piece of body art portraying such an important part of my life, I want to make sure I choose the best representation.  I lean toward the cutesy stuff, but prefer very simple lines.  Here are a few of the cute examples I found while browsing---I still haven't found THE ONE yet, but these are too cool not to share!


I'm definitely digging the graveyard scene!

From Pinterest


Boo. Boo y'all, boo.  Look at his little ghost arms tucked behind his back!  He looks like he got caught with his phantom hand in the ethereal cookie jar.

Source


I love the little heart and the sweet expression on this guy's face, but he's a tad too Klannish looking for my tastes.

Source

OMG! The sunglasses are killing me!  They call him the Ghost Bro, lol. 

Source

I like this little guy, but I'd probably pick a different phrase (or no phrase).  Plus, Hilary Duff has this tattoo...is that weird?

Source



How cute is the face on this little guy?!  I'm not necessarily digging the dotted outline, though. 

From Pinterest
So there ya have it---six adorable little ghost tattoos!  I didn't find one that was perfect for me, but I had a fun time browsing through plenty of examples and I hope you enjoyed it, too.  Feel free to share this list with your friends, and be sure to check out my blog post on Chicago's Old Town Tatu, America's most famous haunted tattoo parlour.  Stay spooky!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Houston's Haunted Zoo

Ever since I wrote the blog post on the phantom lioness of the Cincinnati Zoo, I've been intrigued with the idea of haunted zoos.   You wouldn't believe how many zoos throughout the United States have ghost stories attached to them, but none seem as mysterious as the haunting of the Houston Zoo.

The Houston Zoo is located on the grounds of Hermann Park, and has been at this location since 1922 after the need for a larger facility to house additional animals was decided upon.  With this new location came a new employee:  Hans Nagel.  It is believed that Nagel was born in Germany in 1892.  As the son of a military officer, he was sent at a young age to Officer Training School.  However, the military life was not in the cards for Nagel; he went AWOL and literally jumped off a ship, only to be rescued by an animal collector working with Hagenback Gardens.  Nagel had found his calling and quickly learned the animal training trade.

His journey to America and specifically to Texas is a shady one, but the important this is, he made it and was quickly given employment with the Houston Zoo.  Nagel was a showman; his lion-taming feats, among other amazing shows, were constantly featured in newsreels and publications of the day, bringing in numerous guests to the now-thriving zoo.

Before long, Nagel was made head keeper/director of the facility, and it was a job he took very seriously.  He was known to patrol the grounds of the zoo with his 9mm Luger pistol, keeping it safe from intruders...and the occasional rogue animal.  The city of Houston once awarded Nagel a gold medal for shooting to death a Bengal tiger that was attacking one of the zoo officials.  The city also awarded Nagel a commissions as a special police for the zoo.

That distinction was pulled from Nagel in 1929 by Mayor Walter Monteith on the recommendation of the City Park Commission over issues that Nagel was abusing his authority.  But, a lack of title wasn't going to stop Nagel from protecting his beloved zoo.  Unfortunately, six bullets would.

Hans is on the left
On a Monday afternoon in November of 1941, a police officer patrolling the area of the zoo noticed Nagel hiding in some bushes, spying on a car of teenagers.  The officer asked the teens if they knew they were being watched, which was an obvious 'no.'  The officer then attempted to handcuff Nagel and bring him to the station to discuss the matter of jurisdiction.  At this point, things get a little sketchy.  Nagel apparently resisted arrest, and the officer claims he went for that famous Luger pistol he always kept at his side.  Before he could reach the pistol, the officer shot Nagel six times, killing him.  The officer was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

Those six bullets may have stopped Nagel's body, but even they couldn't stop his spirit.  Many believe he is still keeping a watchful eye over his zoo.  Unexplained occurrences have been noted in the Denton A. Cooley Animal Hospital, but the majority of ghostly activity is associated with the Commissary building.  The Commissary is where all the food for the animals is stored and prepared.  Staff reporting to work in the building between 5 and 6 am have reported hearing voices and seeing the shadowy figure of a man walking around.  The ghost stories are such an integral part of the zoo's history that they are extensively covered in the zoo's official blog.  Further, amateur ghost hunters on staff at the zoo routinely take turns spending the night in the building in hopes of collecting evidence of Nagel's presence.  So far, a couple of really good EVPs have been caught (which can be heard on the link below) but I personally think they sound like a woman's voice.

But why would Hans choose the haunt the Commissary, a building that wasn't even built at the time of his death?  Zoo staff believe they have solved that mystery; according to police reports, Nagel was shot "about 300 feet from the Outer Belt Road and on a gravel road leading West to East."  When they compared old maps of the zoo, they found that this area coincides with the current location of the Commissary building.

Sources:

Official Houston Zoo Blog

Houston Chronicle article by Craig Hlavaty

Houston Museum District


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review for Haunted Lewisburg West Virginia

Title: Haunted Lewisburg West Virginia
Authors: Nancy Richmond, Tammy Workman, and Misty Murray Walkup
Published: 2011
Amazon Info
Also available on Kindle!

Haunted Lewisburg is an awesome collection of ten haunted locations in Lewisburg, WV.  This historic town, voted the Coolest Small Town in America in 2011, may not cover many square miles, but its definitely packed with plenty of haunted buildings, cemeteries, and even streets.

This is actually the second book from the authors that I've read; back in 2012 I read and reviewed Ghosts of Greenbrier County which focused on the whole county where Lewisburg is located.  I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and was not disappointed with this one either.  In fact...I think I may like it even better!  Like Ghosts of Greenbrier County, Haunted Lewisburg was well-written and accentuated with beautiful, full-page color photos of the haunted locations.  However, while Ghosts of Greenbrier featured a variety of stories, both personal and public, Haunted Lewisburg really focused on ten locations that are easily accessible to the public, but also to paranormal investigators.  In fact, in some cases, the results of paranormal investigations of these locations are included.

I was also surprised that even though there are a few overlaps in locations between the two books, there wasn't an issue of repeated, copy-and-paste information that I've seen with other local authors.  Haunted Lewisburg really fleshed out the information behind these locations, and provided plenty of updated information on the hauntings.  My only problem was that this book was too short!

If you're looking for a quick read and are interested in the ghostly folklore of West Virginia, pick this book up today! It is another must-have for any tri-state paranormal investigator as well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Jiangshi

From The World of Chinese: A Chinese Ghost Primer
I recently watched a really awesome documentary on Netflix called Doc of the Dead.  This film is an excellent look at the evolution of the zombie film, and the effect of such on popular culture.  Early in the film, people off the street are being interviewed about their thoughts on zombies and a young Chinese couple share some interesting cultural information about zombies that...hop.

The creature in question is called a Jiangshi, a word that literally translates to stiff corpse.  The corpse is so stiff that it cannot bend its legs and walk like you and me.  Instead, with its legs locked rigidly and its arms straight out in front of it, it furiously HOPS after its victims, not stopping until it has succeeded in sucking the victim's life force dry!

Sometimes referred to as a vampire and sometimes referred to as a zombie, but always described as a reanimated corpse, the Jiangshi was first mentioned by Ji Xiaolan of the Qing Dynasty.  It is believed that the Jiangshi legends originated with a folk belief concerning the burial of those who died many miles from their ancestral homes.  If proper transportation could not be afforded by the family to bring the body home, they could hire a Taoist priest who could teach the reanimated corpse to HOP its way home under the cover of night.  Supposedly, this myth has some historic ties as many young people in one of China's many provinces would leave to work elsewhere.  If they died away from home, their bodies were carried back in a bamboo contraption carried by two men; as the body was carried along the route, the bamboo would flex, and it would appear as if the body were hopping up and down by itself.

You can spot a Jiangshi by its furry greenish white moldy skin, and its penchant for wearing the traditional garb of a Qing Dynasty official. Also present is the mystical tag attached to the creature's forehead. And, if heaven forbid you actually find yourself being pursued by one, there are a host of ways to scare it off, including swords made of peach wood, the blood of a black dog and your garden-variety broom, among others!

Source: Wikipedia




Monday, January 26, 2015

Kith Haven Wheelchair Ghost


Today's ghost photo is sometimes referred to as either the Wheelchair Ghost or the Nursing Home Ghost.  It first appeared a couple of years ago on About.com's Paranormal Photos page and according to the person submitting it, it was taken on November 23, 2012 in the basement of the Kith Haven Assisted Living Facility in Flint, Michigan.

Allegedly, an employee working in the basement actually saw the apparition with her own eyes, and the ethereal gentleman was kind enough to stay put long enough for her to grab her cell phone and take a picture.  Unfortunately for the paranormal world, this is another image that is just too good to be true.  It is simply one in a long list of spooky photographs created with the help of a cell phone application that adds in a fake ghost image to one's own pictures.                                                                                                     


This particular ghost app is the Ghost Cam, published by Nightinart and is available for Android phones and devices.  The awesome website, Bust That Ghost, which is working on a comprehensive database of ghost app images has provided the image and app information.                                                                                                                     
Obviously, this image pulled from the menu of the Ghost Cam app is pretty proof-positive that the image was fraudulently created...but seriously, just the description that accompanied the photo on About.com is enough to cause serious doubt: 

"This photo was sent to my friend and co-worker. He received it from his ex-wife. Her cousin took it. She said she was working in the basement of the home and was walking quickly between rooms when she noticed something from the corner of her eye.  She stepped back and it was right there---and stayed there---while she took the photo with her phone! She was amazed to see the image in the center of the hall---could not believe it was real!"

So, you've got the photo being shared by someone who is three times removed from the actual photographer and the revelation that a cell phone camera was used.  I'm guessing this case follows the same pattern as so many other ghost app images---someone was playing a prank on someone else and sent them the altered photo with a bogus story.  That person, in turn, shares it with all of his/her friends who share it with their friends, each time adding a little more to the back story and not realizing that this was a simple joke.






Sunday, January 25, 2015

Faces of Waverly Hills


I've posted this video before on Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page, but I thought it deserved a more permanent homage here on the blog.  The first time I saw this video, I completely fell in love with it.  As you all know, I am obviously drawn to the historic research aspect of paranormal investigation.  In addition to the history, I'm drawn to the human element behind the hauntings.  In each case, no matter how small or how big, I think we need to get to know the people behind a suspected haunting, give them the respect and recognition they deserve, and honor their memories.  So much bad is associated with Waverly Hills--this video does an excellent job showing the role the institution played in so many peoples' lives, including happier times.


This video was posted to Youtube on March 2, 2014 by kingzimage.  In the description, he notes that these photos are from a period between 1922 and 2008.  The photos and video came from a variety of sources, from internet research, to family photos from the Mattingly's, and even footage taken by the Youtube user himself.  The music is 'Any Other Name' from American Beauty

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Aunt Pratt's Haunted Portrait--Shirley Plantation

Aunt 'Pratt'
Okay, so Haunted and Cursed Paintings Week on the blog hasn't gone as planned!  I've not felt well this week and with my boyfriend being out of town for work all week, I've been too busy with my son to really get much accomplished. But, here's another spooky painting to keep the ball rolling!

Shirley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia has a long, long history.  The plantation itself began in 1613 with Edward Hill I, and by 1638, it was a working farm with homestead.  However, in 1723, construction began on the Great House, a brick structure that would replace the old home and become the residence of Edward Hill I's great-granddaughter, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth married Robert Carter and the palatial home was completed by 1738.  Today, the home is still in the Hill-Carter family and is the oldest family owned business in the United States.  It was spared destruction during the Civil War by being turned into a field hospital for both Union and Confederate troops, and many of the deceased soldiers were buried in the plantation's cemetery.

With such a long history, especially one including involvement as a Civil War hospital, you'd expect the house and property to pick up a few ghost stories.  However, contrary to what one may think, the prevalent ghost tale of Shirley Plantation is NOT connected with the Civil War!  Rather, it has to do with a certain painting.

Elizabeth had a sister named Martha Hill (known to the family as Aunt Pratt) who left for England to study.  While there, she met and married a man named Hugh Gifford (also called Griffin or Griffith in various sources). She never came back to the United States to live, and died in England some years later.  Before she left, though, she left a signed portrait of herself in her second story bedroom.


By 1858, the current generation of Hill-Carters living in the home decided to remodel, and removed Aunt
Pratt's portrait to the attic.  Immediately, the family began to be plagued with horrible sounds coming from the attic each night.  The sound of shuffling and rummaging through boxes was overshadowed by severe knocking that progressively got worse. Whenever the family would investigate the source of the noises, they'd find nothing out of place in the attic.  They finally realized that Aunt Pratt, who was long deceased, was unhappy about being relegated to the attic space and wanted to return to her bedroom on the second floor.  There she remained happily until the outbreak of the Civil War, where once again she was sent to the attic.  With the home being used as a hospital and valuables being packed up out of sight, Aunt Pratt understandably kept pretty quiet and as a reward upon the end of the war, the family moved her portrait to a place of honor on the first floor.

Aunt Pratt was okay with that position for awhile, but soon longed for her own personal space and the knocking and rocking once again returned, only to stop when she was returned to her rightful spot on the second floor.  And, for over 100 years, there she stayed, with the family passing down the tales of Aunt Pratt's ghostly portrait to each new generation.

In 1974, the painting was taken to New York City for a special display in Rockefeller Center on haunted and cursed items.  Aunt Pratt made it quite clear that she was unhappy with the arrangement and her portrait began to rock and shake violently, being witnessed by many spectators.  One of those spectators was an NBC reporter on his way to lunch who happened to catch video footage of the painting rocking back and forth.  The painting would rock so violently that it was soon removed from the display and put into a locked box in storage.  Workers at the storage facility reported hearing banging and crying noises coming from the box and weren't really all that shocked to see that the painting had somehow escaped from the box and seemed to be trying to head for the door.

It was shipped back to Virginia, but before returning home to Shirley Plantation, the portrait was sent to Linden Galleries---Aunt Pratt had rocked herself so hard that she had damaged her own portrait's frame and it needed to be fixed.  She must have been pleased with the treatment received at Linden because workers there reported hearing the sounds of bells ringing in the vicinity of the painting.  Today, Aunt Pratt is right where she wants to be, and tours of Shirley Plantation are available to provide a glimpse of her.  Tour guides have been known to tell visitors not to block Aunt Pratt's view of the outdoors, and once or twice her spirit has been seen peering out the window.

Shirley Plantation Website

Article by Stacey Graham




Monday, January 19, 2015

The Japanese Suicide Girl Painting

Welcome to Day 2 of Haunted/Cursed Paintings Week!  The next 'painting'  has been floating around the internet for years and has recently made a comeback.  According to popular legend, it was a self-portrait painted by a young Japanese girl named Sonee, who then scanned the image and uploaded onto the web.  She then committed suicide.

After it was posted to a Korean forum, many members of the site claimed that the picture had eerie powers.  Some said that if you stared into the piercing blue eyes of the subject for more than five minutes, you too would go mad and commit suicide.  Others believed that if you stared at it long enough, the girl's ghost would appear and sometimes kill you, making it look like a suicide.  In another version of the tall tale, it is stated that the portrait changes as you gaze at it.  The melancholy young girl's mouth turns to an evil smirk, her brows furrow, and her eyes darken.  A dark mist then envelopes her petite frame.

Pretty cool urban legend, right?  And that's all that it is--an urban legend.

This artwork is actually by a Thai artist named Robert Chang and is of his original character creation, Princess Ruu, created for a screenplay he was working on called Tellurian Sky.  According to Chang, Princess Ruu is the only heir to the throne and is forced into a position of power at an early age, doomed never to have the chance of being with her true love.  This portrait, which was actually created using a computer program called Corel Painter, is supposed to be her last casual portrait before taking power.

Robert Chang's website

Urban Legends Online

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Man Proposes, God Disposes

Welcome to Theme Week on Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State!  For the next seven days, I'll be blogging only about one specific topic...and the topic for January is Haunted and Cursed Paintings!  Throughout the week, you'll be reading about some pretty strange works of art---some that have enjoyed a long infamy for their spooky attributes, and some that are lesser known.  I even hope to bring you at least one haunted painting from here in the tri-state.  Hope you enjoy this week's collection of creepy, and don't forget to follow me on Facebook for a few extra haunted/cursed painting articles.


Man Proposes, God Disposes (1864) by Edwin Landseer

On 19 May 1845, Sir John Franklin led two ships carrying a total of 129 men on a doomed expedition.  The goal was to chart a Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic, a vital component for British trade.  The crew left with only three years worth of supplies, so when 1848 came and went with no word, several rescue missions were employed.  The disappearance of the Franklin expedition was a complete mystery until 1854 when a rescue mission led by John Rae discovered some disturbing information.  A local Inuit tribe he spoke to claims to have found items from the expedition as well as the bones of the deceased crew.  Disturbingly, some of the bones seemed to have the tell-tale signs of cannibalism.

Ten years later, this grisly end to what was supposed to be a crowning achievement in British expansion inspired artist Edwin Landseer to paint his infamous Man Proposes, God Disposes, showing his interpretation of the fate of the expedition. At the time, the painting wasn't exactly held in high regard in polite Victorian society.  However, it captured the attention of the wealthy Thomas Holloway.                                                                                                        
Holloway was the founder of Royal Holloway, an institution of higher learning for women.  The school officially opened on 30 June1886 with the main building on campus being the Founder's Building.  Housed within that building is the Picture Gallery, where the Landseer painting has hung for over 100 years.  It is one of 77 paintings acquired by Holloway over a period of three years, between 1880 and 1883, before the college opened.  He paid a hefty price, 6,615 pounds for it at Christie's auction, which was a record at the time. Apparently after Holloway's death in 1883, a collection of newspaper articles concerning the doomed expedition was found among his personal affects, leading many to believe he might have been a bit obsessed by the subject. 
By Mark Tollerman

In 1900, Royal Holloway became part of the University of London, but it wouldn't be until about 20-30 years later that the first inkling of a curse associated with this painting started to surface.  As the need for space increased, it was discovered that the Picture Gallery offered a wonderful venue for exams.  However, many believed that it was bad luck to sit near, or in front of Man Proposes, God Disposes.  To sit near the painting surely meant that the student was doomed to fail her exam.   

Men were finally admitted to Royal Holloway beginning with post-graduates in 1945 and undergraduates following 20 years later in 1965, and presumably it was during this post-male invasion of the school where many of the urban legends first began.  According to an article from 1984, sometime during the 1970s a popular tradition concerning the painting got its start.  A student assigned to take his exam near the painting flat out refused to participate until the creepy work of art was covered.  In a panic, the registrar grabbed the only thing big enough to cover it---a Union Jack flag.  Since then, the painting is always covered prior to exams with the Union Jack.

Therefore, the next part of the urban legend doesn't really make a lot of sense...

Some students believe that in the 1980s, the painting actually caused a student of unknown gender to commit suicide after gazing into it.  Allegedly, the student wrote "The polar bears made me do it," on his or her exam sheet (or in a diary, in some versions of the story) before committing the act in any number of ways.  But if the painting had been covered up, as it had during every exam season since the 1970s, how did the student even see it?  Did they mean 1880s, or did someone forget the Union Jack one year?  Obviously, the school has no records of any student committing suicide in connection to the painting, but that hasn't stopped class after class from taking a little extra precaution!


Sources:
Davis, Eleanor.  'Grisly 'Cursed' Painting's Story Recalled After Ship Discovery,' 7 October 2014.

MacCulloch, Laura. 'The Haunted Painting of Fabled Franklin Ship Discovered in Canadian Arctic,' 11 September 2014.

Wikipedia Article


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Safety--Winter Investigations

We've been pretty lucky here in my part of West Virginia, so far.  The temperature has only really plummeted over these past  two weeks and we haven't had any significant snowfalls, either.  But, I'm sure all that and more will be hitting us over the next couple of months as it has in many other areas of the country!

So what is a paranormal investigator to do?  Last week over on the National Paranormal Society Facebook page, the question was posed of what to bring to an investigation when weather, especially winter weather, threatens the health and safety of your team. Snow, ice, high winds and low temperatures all can lead to their own problems on an investigation and need to be addressed.  I thought my response there was adequate, but felt like this was an important topic to discuss and expand upon.

BEFORE THE INVESTIGATION
If you have an investigation planned during the winter months, keep an eye on the forecast.  If the forecast predicts severe winter weather, decide as a team (or make the executive decision as a lead investigator/founder) whether or not the investigation is really worth it.  Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this investigation strictly for fun, or is there a client needing help?
2. If this investigation is at a pay-to-play location, what is their inclement weather policy? Can the investigation be rescheduled or canceled with full/partial refund?
3. How far away is the investigation location? Is the route to the location generally safe during severe weather, or do curvy, hilly roads, heavy traffic or other obstacles make the route unsafe?
4. If there is a client needing help, can they reschedule for another day? Can you provide assistance over the phone or through email? If they are some distance away from you, is there a team closer by that can assist?
5. Is the investigation indoors or outdoors?  If indoors, does the location have heat?

If for any reason you do not feel comfortable, listen to your gut!  Your safety and the safety of your team are the most important things; you can't help others if you're in danger or injured yourself!  Since weather can be so unpredictable for many areas in the winter, a lot of teams lighten their caseload considerably...but that doesn't mean they cannot still make a contribution to the paranormal field.

The slower winter months are great for in-depth research of upcoming cases, studying, reading and taking classes.  There are tons of great FREE online courses in a variety of subjects that are of interest and benefit to paranormal investigators.  This is also a great time to catch up on evidence review, reach out to potential new clients, network with other investigators, write a blog or an article, and many other things that can be done within the safety and warmth of one's own home.

But sometimes, we just gotta go ahead with the investigation!  Maybe its a location we've been looking forward to forever, or a client desperately needs help...or the weather just doesn't seem like its going to be that bad, but then later it gets worse.  What are some things you can do and bring to keep yourself safe and warm through an investigation that is simply cold, to one that turns into a blizzardy mess?

CLOTHING  
From theathiker.com

1. Dress in layers! Layers provide extra warmth through air trapped in between and should you get too warm, its always easy to peel off those extra layers.  Invest in a good pair of 'long underwear.'
2. Don't forget the hat, scarf, mittens/gloves, and earmuffs!  Definitely don't forget a good pair of warm socks. Keep as much of your body covered as possible.
3. Make sure you wear a good pair of water-resistant shoes/boots with a strong, non-skid sole.  Even if you're investigating a toasty warm private residence, there might still be slippery patches of ice on the walkway.
4. Hand, foot and body warmers are cheap and provide excellent warmth for chilly investigations.
5. You might consider adding a bright, neon colored accessory, such as a hat just in case you get stranded outside in the snow and need to be visible!

WHAT TO PACK 
1. First aid kit, especially handy for slips on the ice. Make sure it includes items to specifically address these types of injuries in addition to its normal contents.
2. Extra handwarmers!
3. Emergency or wool blankets
4. High energy snacks, such as protein bars and plenty of extra water
5. Poncho, to help stay dry
6. Fully charged cell phone
7. Cash (in case you find yourself stuck at a country gas station that doesn't accept plastic)
8. A bag of salt to help melt ice around walkways

WINTERIZING THE VEHICLE
If you're going to be out traveling in winter weather to an investigation, whether its several hours away or just a few minutes away, its nice to have a vehicle that you know can hold up to whatever life throws at you.  My ideal winter vehicle here in Appalachia would be a 4 wheel drive vehicle with snow tires and/or chains. Also consider:

1. Check the tire pressure, fluids, etc. before your trip and make sure you have a winterized windshield wiper fluid.
2. Jumper cables and/or a battery starter, since cold weather can often wreak havoc on a car's battery.
3. The necessary tools needed to pull a vehicle out of a ditch, such as a tow rope.
4. Gravel/sand/kitty litter and a shovel in case you get stuck
5. Car emergency kit, with flares and a small fire extinguisher
6. Map, in case the usual route is shut down or blocked
7. Always tell someone outside the team where you're going, when you're expected back, and what route you plan on taking.
8. A can of Fix-a-Flat or spare tire/jack.



OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
1. You might want to bring a small space-heater to a particularly cold investigation.  However, if you're going to bring a space heater indoors, please use it responsibly.  Make sure its set up far enough away from any walls or any other objects and NEVER leave it unattended, even for a moment.

2. I do not advise using fire to keep warm, even at an outdoor location, unless it is a life or death emergency. If it comes to that, use general fire safety, never leave the flame unattended, and make sure it is put out completely when you leave.

3. Beware of weather and seasonal related false positives:
*Carbon monoxide poisoning has symptoms that some people mistake for paranormal activity and is more likely in the winter when people are running their heaters.
*Rodents and other animals seeking shelter from the elements may take up residence in walls, attics and basements.  This can result in scratching, other noises, and strange smells.
*Howling winds can cause strange noises, and can seep in through doors, windows, roofs, chimneys and wall cracks, causing hard to track drafts. 
*Falling temperatures during the night combined with the sun raising them in the day can cause building materials to expand and contract, making plenty of noises. 
*Breath is likely to show up in photos and may be mistaken for mists, ectoplasm, etc.

Always use common sense and keep safety a top priority!  Right now, we want to investigate ghosts...not become one!
                                                                                                                                                                                          




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: Haunted Stuff

Title--Haunted Stuff: Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls, & Other Creepy Collectibles
Author--Stacey Graham
Published--2014 by Llewellyn Publications

Even with the series finale of Haunted Collector well past us, America still seems to have a passion for haunted, creepy, and cursed objects!  If you're one of those people, or simply love a collection of ghost stories, then this book is a great choice.

Starting out with a primer on the best places to obtain 'haunted' items, the author then goes into the collection of stories from haunted and cursed objects of every size and shape.  Obviously, there's a chapter on dolls and England's famed Screaming Skulls, but you'll also find tales of cursed boats, spooky snow globes, and photographs where the subjects' lips move as if in silent speech.

If you're looking for a hardcore scientific tome with groundbreaking theories as to how and why certain objects literally retain a piece of their former owners, this might not be the best choice.  However, if you're looking for a simple explanation of why we THINK objects may carry attachments, followed by plenty of awesome examples, then definitely check it out.  I am already familiar with many of the stories mentioned in here, but there were a couple that were completely new to me and all of them were concise and to the point, maintaining a pleasant balance between facts and entertainment.

I especially appreciated the Appendix, which was a collection of how are ancestors and those in other parts of the world dealt with their ghost problems through architecture, nature, and well...some pretty interesting improvisation!  The writing was decent enough, although it wasn't completely free of small editing errors.  The author seems adequately  knowledgeable on the subject, citing over 20 years of paranormal investigation experience, and was able to add her own voice to the writing style. Overall, a really fun and quick read to chase away the winter blues!



Monday, January 5, 2015

Mill Point Federal Prison and the Bigfoot

It's really easy for me to get distracted!  I started this blog post off with the intention of a simple piece on the most likely places in West Virginia to spot a Bigfoot, but then I fell in love with the history of the Mill Point Federal Prison Camp and one thing led to another....

Although all that remains today are some stone foundations and steps and a handful of historical signs, the Mill Point Federal Prison Camp in Pocahontas County, WV was once a thriving minimum security federal prison complex built at the edge of the Cranberry Wilderness.  It opened in 1938 and lasted until 1959, housing a large variety of low-level offenders, including moonshiners and WWII conscientious objectors.  One such famous prisoner was novelist Howard Fast, who wrote his acclaimed book, Spartacus while serving a brief sentence for refusing to testify against friends to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1950.

The camp was a work camp; men worked in a variety of industries including logging, masonry, and the building of Route 39 between Marlinton and Richwood.  Since so many of the 'conscientious objectors' and similar prisoners were college-educated, they worked with the illiterate inmates in the prison's education system, which also offered vocational skills to help them adjust to life outside the prison.

Surprisingly, there were relatively few escape attempts at Mill Point.  The prison was not guarded by barb-wire fencing and heavily armed guards. Rather, the only thing that kept the inmates locked away were a series of white posts around the perimeter of the complex, connected with a cable that could easily be stepped over.  20 individuals dared to step over that cable and escape into the surrounding Cranberry Wilderness.  Most were caught easily as they stumbled out of the woods, tired, hungry, lost, and eaten alive by insects, turning themselves in.

However, since the late 1930s there have been little-discussed rumors about the real reason behind so few escape attempts.  It is said that since the camp's earliest days as a tent city housing inmate work crews working on Route 39, the woods surrounding Mill Point were known as "The Haunted Woods."  But, it wasn't ghosts or goblins that were stalking the wilderness.  Inmates were kept in check by the screaming of what many believe to be Bigfoot!  Many believe that prisoners refused to take advantage of easily accessible means of escape because they feared what awaited them in the woods surrounding the prison.

After the prison shut down in 1959, the buildings were torn down and nature has largely taken back the area. That hasn't stopped the rumors about the Bigfoot, though.  The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has compiled seven separate reports of Bigfoot encounters in Pocahontas County since 1969.  In April of 2005, the area was the site of an authorized expedition by the organization, and a second investigation was conducted in October of 2006. An actual sighting of a Bigfoot creature, strange stick formations, and other data led researchers to the conclusion that Pocahontas County is still a hotbed of Bigfoot activity.

If you'd like to visit the area of the Mill Point Federal Prison and possibly spot a Bigfoot, there are hiking trails in the area.  You can access the trail that leads to the old prison site by going about a half-mile from the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center.

Sources:

Traveling 219
Whispers of Mill Point Prison
The Liberty Digest
Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ghost Cakes

I absolutely love the blog, Cake Wrecks!  I have been following her for years and laughing until my insides hurt at all the photos of 'professional' cakes gone horribly, terribly wrong.  Amid the chaos, each Sunday is dedicated to beautifully awesome cakes that have gone absolutely right!

It's those Sunday Sweets, plus the fact that its one of HPIR's member's birthdays today (Happy Birthday, Kelly!) that inspired today's blog.  Up until a few years ago, my mom always ordered me a ghost/graveyard birthday cake and was always embarrassed to order from the Halloween section of the catalog in December. I had some nice cakes over the years, but I wish I would have had some of THESE!

Found on Tumblr, lisaslocket

Asweetcake.com



Found on Pinterest

And...the cream of the crop!  This next one was baked and decorated by HPIR's own founder and president, Melissa Stanley, in celebration of HPIR's 8th anniversary!



Saturday, January 3, 2015

CT's Haunted Sterling Opera House

From Electronic Valley
Located in Derby, the Sterling Opera House was the first building from Connecticut to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Named for piano manufacturer Charles Sterling, the opera house opened for business on April 2, 1889.  Over the years, many notable performers and performances took place at the Sterling, including my personal favorite, Harry Houdini!

Unfortunately, the last official performance of the Sterling was in 1945.  After that, the lower levels of the building were used as city hall offices, a police substation, small jail, and even a fire station.  Since the 1960s, the structure has largely sat empty, waiting to be restored through grants and hard work to its original glory.  While it waits, its racked up quite a lot of interest through its reputation as being haunted!

From Electronic Valley
Numerous investigation teams have had an opportunity to explore the paranormal claims of the Sterling, including TAPS, who shot an episode of Ghost Hunters there that aired in April of 2011.  Some of the claims that have been made have been shadow figures, finding a child's handprints in the dust, EVPs of children's voices, and even a photograph that allegedly shows a Victorian-era woman and child.

It is theorized that any number of people may actually haunt the old Opera House, but many believe that the most likely suspects are Charles Sterling, who died two years before the building was completed and a young boy they call 'Andy.'  Visitors leave balls and toys for Andy throughout the building, and its been said that he likes to move them around when no one is looking.

There's also a certain chair in the middle balcony beside a pole that garners a lot of attention...Even 'Maggie,' the official dog of the TAPS team, was drawn to this specific chair.  Wherever in the building she was let loose, she always made her way back to that chair, said to be occupied by an unknown ghostly woman.  Is this the woman that was allegedly photographed?  Is she Andy's mother?  As restorations are still being planned, the location is still accepting investigators to try to uncover the mysteries of the Sterling Opera House.

Sources and More Info:

Damned Connecticut
Haunted Hovel
Wikipedia
Save Our Sterling
Electronic Valley


Friday, January 2, 2015

The Blue Lady of KY's Seelbach Hilton

Seelbach, 1907
The story of the Seelbach Hotel dates back to 1869 when Bavarian brothers, Otto and Louis Seelbach came to America to learn the hotel business.  It wasn't until 1903 that they would begin construction on their hotel.  At a cost of $990,000, the Seelbach opened in May of 1905 as the city's only fireproof hotel.  It was so well received that almost immediately, a 154-room addition would begin, being completed in 1907.

Over the years, the hotel changed hands several times, but remained a center of opulence in Louisville, Kentucky.  It was a favorite hangout for organized crime leaders, and was even frequented by author F. Scott Fitzgerald while he was stationed at Camp Taylor.  So impressed with the hotel, Fitzgerald used the Grand Ballroom as a backdrop for the wedding in The Great Gatsby.

Unfortunately, life at the Seelbach wasn't so happy for everyone.  While there are numerous ghost stories attached with the hotel, ranging from an older woman wearing ragged clothing in Otto Cafe to a man seen looking out the window of an 8th floor room, the most famous of the spectral guests is hands down The Blue Lady.

Thanks to some detective work done in 1992 by Alex Hunt, it is widely accepted that The Blue Lady is the ghost of Patricia Wilson.  Born in 1911, Patricia Wilson had just moved to Louisville from Oklahoma in 1936.  She and her husband of four years had recently separated, but decided to try and work things out.  They agreed to meet at the Seelbach to talk, but unfortunately, Mr. Wilson never made it.  He died in a car crash on the way to the hotel.  Patricia was devastated and several days later, on July 15, she was found dead at the bottom of a service elevator shaft.  She had a fractured skull, broken left knee cap, broken right tibia, and broken fibula.  It is unknown whether it was a suicide or accident.  Some even say it may have been murder. She was buried in Louisville's Evergreen Cemetery.

Patricia and the rest of the ghostly gang make their presence known by disembodied footsteps, phantom perfume smells, and cold spots throughout the hotel, especially on the 8th floor.  However, Patricia seemed especially active throughout the 1980s when she was spotted numerous times.

She was seen on the 8th floor and the mezzanine area of the hotel, near the elevator, as well as several other places around the hotel.  Her apparition was always described as wearing a blue dress and having long, black hair.

Sources:
The Seelbach Hilton: A Centennial Salute to Louisville's Grand Hotel by Larry Johnson
Haunted Rooms
Find-a-Grave
The Secret Life of the Seelbach Hotel

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Eve Ghost of Westminster Bridge

One of the most famous 'ghost' photos of 2014 was one that would come to be called The Parliament Ghost.  It was taken in London on New Year's Eve (31 December 2013) by professional photographer named  Jules Annan.  Across the Thames River are the buildings of Parliament, and to the right of the photograph is Westminster Bridge.

Noted in the foreground is the transparent image of a figure wearing a red coat, jeans, and boots, looking out over the water. While many say this appears to be a young man, I think from the tight jeans, the more shapely figure, and the fur-lined boots that its actually a girl.  Annan, who is associated with the company ConcertPhotography.co.uk, posted the strange image to Youtube, asking for help in finding out what the figure was and the story was subsequently picked up the UK publication, Mirror, where it was noted that Annan was seeking the help of paranormal investigators, including Lee Roberts, owner of Haunted UK Events.
Close up of figure

According to Annan, the photograph was taken with a 24-70 lens handleld camera leaning on a wall.  Further specs include:  ISO 400  APP 22  Speed 25.  Annan claims that this photograph cannot possibly be the result of double exposure OR of a long exposure.  However, much of the paranormal AND photography world disagrees, noting that the way the light streaks down is indicative of a long exposure and a tripod.  It would seem that someone simply wandered into the shot, paused a moment to look out over the river, then walked out of the shot again.  It is a technique often employed in art photography...and its something that happens accidentally quite often.

However, without actually having the original photo from which to extract the EXIF data, it is hard to prove without a doubt that a long exposure is the reason for this photograph.  What we CAN do, however, is take a look at the history and the hauntings behind the Westminster Bridge!

The current Westminster Bridge was opened in 1862.  Although it replaced an earlier bridge that was built around 1750, the history of a crossing at this location goes all the way back to Roman times, when people would ford the river at low tide on that spot.  And, over the years, the bridge has come to take on quite a haunted reputation!  In one story, a phantom barge can be seen coming down the river on misty Autumn mornings.  It will pass under the bridge, but it never does emerge on the other side.

Another tale involves the suicide of a young woman who jumped to her death from a ferry traveling between Greenwich and Westminster.  In 1933, a man named Elliot O'Donnell recorded his brush with the spectral woman.  While traveling on the same ferry one summer, he noticed a young woman wearing a black veil over her face.  Just as the barge was about to go under the Westminster Bridge, the young lady ran and leapt off the boat.  Elliot jumped in after her, but after coming up empty-handed, was pulled back aboard by the other passenger.  The captain later told him that he was the third person to have seen the woman and gone after her.  He went on to further explain that she was a real young woman who took her life on that very boat in the very same spot some time ago.

Photo by Tom Arthur
Interestingly, another ghost has been seen in the vicinity of the bridge on New Year's Eve!  It is believed that if you stand on the bridge on December 31st, as Big Ben strikes the midnight hour, you can look eastward and see a man in a black top hat plunge himself into the icy waters of the Thames.  It is believed that this gentleman is none other than Jack the Ripper, who took his own life in 1888, ended a reign of terror.

Obviously, this apparition, with the modern attire, doesn't appear to be the ghost of either the lady in mourning or the potential Ripper...so given that she IS a ghost, who could she be?  In recent years, there have been several deaths including a homeless pedestrian from Romania who was hit and killed during a collision with a taxi and a bus in late 2012.  A young Russian student was also killed when she was struck by a taxi, but her death didn't occur until May of 2014.  Was this photographer lucky enough to catch a glimpse into the spirit world...or just unlucky enough to catch a glimpse of a pedestrian walking in front of his shot?

Sources:

Mirror article                                                                                                                               
 Haunted London by James Clark