Ghosts in the News: Oct 2017

[This article originally appeared at HollowHill.com.]

‘Tis the season… for news about ghosts and haunted places.

It’s an interesting way to look at haunted places.

Oh, I doubt many (perhaps most) assumptions about New Orleans’ LaLaurie Mansion. I’m not sure it’s especially haunted. (Several residents said it’s not.) Also, some of the legends don’t fit the owners’ real history.

But, the original LaLaurie Mansion was certainly the site of traumatic events and a horrible (and fatal) fire. So, some ghosts may linger.

In the Seattle Times article, like the following quote from Colin Dickey, author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places. (I’m reading that book, right now. It’s not what I’d expected. Lots of history. Lots of folklore. All of it connected to famous – and infamous – haunts.

Here’s the quote I like:

“Ghost stories in many ways are a way for us to approach our own history,” Dickey said, “and our own history is complicated.”

I’m going to think about that. At first glance, I’ll admit that most serious ghost investigators are not simple, take-life-as-it-comes people. Most are unusually bright, well-read, and interested in a wide range of topics.

The related podcast is thought-provoking. Though I disagree with Dickey on some points, he has some fresh views worth considering: https://apnews.com/afs:Content:1446410075/Episode-23:-What-haunted-houses-tell-us-about-ourselves

What interested me are the 28% who said they have lived in a haunted home. (I’m in that group. I’ve lived in two that might be haunted, plus a third that was absolutely bizarre.)

I may try a survey like that, myself, to see how many people pursue ghost hunting because they’re already familiar with life in a haunted house.

  • Next, this may not be the world’s only haunted canal boat ride – and I’m not sure if it’s genuinely spooky – but if I were around Richmond, Virginia, I’d happily spend $2 for the experience: Haunted canal boat rides in Richmond.
  • After that, reading the latest ghost-related articles, I realized I’ve never questioned the word “boo!” Maybe I should have.

Fortunately, Mental Floss may have an answer. In their article, Why Do Ghosts Say ‘Boo’?, they report:

“…the word had a slightly different shade of meaning a few hundred years ago: Boo (or, in the olden days, bo or bu) was not used to frighten others but to assert your presence.”

And later, in that same article, explain a more recent use of the word:

“And by 1738, Gilbert Crokatt was writing in Presbyterian Eloquence Display’d that, ‘Boo is a Word that’s used in the North of Scotland to frighten crying children.’ “

  • And then there’s the video filmed earlier this month (Oct 2017) inside a Cork City (Ireland) school. It’s been viewed over 7 million times.

I laughed out loud at one point. No, this isn’t what a real haunting looks like, though it’s entertaining.

But, a Today.com article offers an explanation for the school’s haunted reputation:

“‘The school is built on a site known as Green Gallows,’ Wolfe said. ‘In the 19th century, criminals were hanged here. We only found that out on Monday. The pub nearby is actually called the Gallows.'”

A leading Irish education site calls it Gallows Green, but – no matter what the name – it’s adequate reason for ghosts at the school.

They’re just unlikely to manifest in such preposterous ways.

Those are the ghost-related articles that interested me today. I’m sure there will be more as Halloween approaches.

Ghostly News and a CT Ley Line – 10 Oct 2016

[This article originally appeared at HollowHill.com]

October is here. And, as usual, the media is featuring articles that show a profound misunderstanding of what ghost hunters do.

I’m rather irked reading the insults in “Study links poor understanding of the physical world to religious and paranormal beliefs.”

Tarring all religions and paranormal beliefs with the same brush, the article –  based on a study by Marjaana Lindeman and Annika Svedholm-Häkkinen of the University of Helsinki – claims:

“The results showed that religious and paranormal (supernatural) beliefs correlated with all variables that were included: low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena…”

That list continues, but I think you get the point.

And, I know quite a few highly educated priests and professors who’d disagree with that correlation.

Oh, I’m not disputing the study results, just the sampling they used or the methods, or both.

It’s typical of the bias we deal with as researchers.

But, for every annoying article like that one, I find several news stories that intrigue me.

I started with an article about a haunted site in Pennsylvania. Then, I found a news article about a Connecticut ghost investigation. After that, I started connecting the dots – literally. In the explanation that follows, you’ll see how I use news stories and maps to find even more interesting places to investigate.

First, there’s the Casino Theater in Vandergrift, PA (USA). It’s opening for an investigation. The site’s history sounds like it’s worth a visit.

I’m always interested in haunted theaters. An unusually high percentage of theaters have ghost stories, and very obliging ghosts.

I mention them in my article, What Makes a Great Haunted Research Site.

  • Theater ghosts often respond well to direction (just as actors do).
  • Backstage, almost every theatre has at least one haunted dressing room… with a juicy story.
  • And, almost every theater has a ghost that supposedly sits or stands in the dark, near the back of the theater. In some cases, a cigarette may be involved, as well as visible wisps of smoke, or a smoky aroma.

If you’re in the Vandergrift area, learn more at this article: Casino Theater paranormal investigation attracts believers, skeptics.

Then there’s the Dr. Ashbel Woodward House Museum in Franklin, Connecticut. It used to be the home of a medical practice. Today, it’s a historical site.

A news story describes a recent investigation at the site. I’m not sure it’s very haunted, but it has the features I look for in a historical site that’s likely to have ghosts of some kind.

If you’re near Connecticut, here’s the article: Ghost hunters look for paranormal activity at Franklin museum.

About 15 minutes away, a “My Ghost Story” episode was filmed at 3 Boswell Avenue in nearby Norwich (CT). Apparently, some ghosts still linger. (The segment was “The Grim Rapper” from “I Am Full of Madness” that aired 14 May 2011.)  You can read about it in TV show will explore ‘haunted’ home that drove man from Norwich.

If you want to see the Norwich site, remember it’s a private residence. Be discreet and respectful of their privacy.

Exploring ley lines

The proximity of those two haunted locations makes it easy to draw a line between the two sites. In fact, any time I see two paranormal sites – especially haunted sites – near each other, I draw a line that connects them.

Then, I extend that line in both directions, and see where it leads me.

After reading about those two Connecticut haunts, I was eager to get to work. I’ve never been to Norwich, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but my “gut feeling” told me I’d find some great haunted places, nearby.

First, using Google Maps, I constructed a line from 3 Boswell Avenue to the Dr. Ashbell Woodward House Museum.

Then, I checked a few local landmarks that were on or near that line.

Immediately, I was drawn to Norwich’s Colonial Cemetery. That cemetery is closed, but the information online looks fascinating.

With three interesting haunts along one line, I knew I’d find more. So, I kept researching odd places close to the line.

Almost instantly, I found Norwich State Psychiatric Hospital, aka, Norwich State Hospital for the Insane. Several ghost hunters reported it as a terrifying place to investigate… when they could visit it.

As of 2016, this dangerous site – with demolished buildings and collapsed tunnels – is strictly off-limits and unsafe.





In addition, Norwich State Hospital looks like it’s over a mile away from the line.

Many researchers limit their ley lines widths to 12 feet. Others talk about lines as wide as 15 miles.

A few researchers insist that extreme weather, emerging fault lines, and other natural issues suggest that ley lines may be expanding, too.

Personally, I vary the width of the line with the location. That’s part common sense and part “gut feeling.”

In New Orleans’ French Quarter, the lines can be just a few feet wide. In other areas, I’ll expand them a few miles at the very most. My goal is to keep my lines as narrow and focused as possible.

So, I’m iffy about including Norwich State Hospital. If I had more time, I’d look for more ghost reports on or near the line. I’d judge the line width based on how many sites are nearby.

I might try some line variations, using the hospital as a starting point. That site’s ghost stories are certainly lurid.

But, at the moment, I’m not sure. And, I’m working on my next book. So, I’ll leave this ley line for others to explore and refine.

Nevertheless, this shows you how I use news stories and maps – plus some online research – to find and evaluate other sites that could be haunted.

Ghosts in the News – 9 Oct 2016

[This article originally appeared at HollowHill.com]

‘Tis the season to learn about ghosts… in the news, at least.

Every October, I like to study news reports for ghost stories I didn’t know about. Every year, I find a few surprises.

Of course, October is “prime time” for ghost hunters. We discover nearby haunts that are new to us. That gives us a fresh list of sites investigate during the rest of the year.

Apparently, this October may be your last chance to enjoy the Ghost Walk at White Hall (Kentucky, USA). See “Ghosts and Goodbyes… White Hall’s Final Act.”

What got my attention was this:

It tells the story of a trusted slave Clay accused of murdering two of his children. The woman was taken to court and a jury of 12 slave owners found her innocent. Still believing she had poisoned his two children, Clay sold Emily down south.

That story is a very close match for the tale told at The Myrtles Plantation. (My research showed that no child died from poisoning at that site.)

Now, I’m wondering if the poisoning story is an old, urban legend that floats from one famous haunted site to another.

(The Myrtles is definitely haunted… just not by the two children of the story. According to genealogical records, they grew up and lived full lives.)

I’m also interested in Old Fort Niagara’s “Haunted Fortress,” in New York state. That one includes stories – some of them first-person – of ghostly encounters at the site.

Other communities – including Greenfield, Ohio’s “Old Burying Ground” Ghost Walk  and Columbus, Texas’ “Live Oaks and Dead Folks” Tour (not sure if that’s still active) – have featured similar “ghost walks” with living history.

Those kinds of events can spark more intense hauntings, so I recommend them. Check your community calendar for costumed, historical ghost walks at local haunts.

They can be entertaining, and many of these October events are fundraisers for worthy causes.

Just remember: the people you think you see in costume…? Some of them may be ghosts. Historical re-enactments and ghost walks can be “prime time” for apparitions, too.

Ghostly News – 22 Jan 2016

[This article originally appeared at HollowHill.com]

Ghosts are in the headlines again, ranging from new discoveries to well-loved folklore.

First, for those who love creepy “haunted doll” stories, this is an interesting overview of the subject:

In Honor of ‘The Boy’, an Unsettling History of Haunted Dolls in Movies

19 Jan 2016, by Emily Gaudette

“The trailer for The Boy teaches you a lot about a movie theater audience. Some people squirm, some laugh, some look like they’re being tickled with razor blades. Haunted dolls freak people out. This is presumably why people make movies about them.

“Historically, audience have reacted to haunted dolls with a bemused, concerned ‘Oh God!’ because the trope is both funny and disturbing. While the haunted dolls of horror cinema began as effective twists on childish images — in 1963, Talky Tina’s debut on The Twilight Zone stunned viewers — they now occupy a different space in the horror canon. What was once shocking is now laughably cliche, and making a haunted doll feel unique, not to mention scary, is a difficult feat.”

Read more at Inverse.com…

Next, for fans of classic ghost stories and haunted lore, the “Great Shippe” is a well-documented tale.

The Great ‘ghost’ Shippe sets its mysterious sights on New Haven

21 Jan 2016, Fox61

NEW HAVEN–One of the oldest tales in the history of Connecticut’s former colonies is that of the Great Shippe.

It set sail in January 1647 with hopes of a bountiful journey, but its return ended up being much more mysterious than expected.”

Learn more in a video presentation at Fox61.com…

Speaking of ghost stories, I think everyone’s heard some variation of the “ghostly hitchhiker” story. We laugh at it, but — in Japan — it might not be so funny.

Taxi drivers in tsunami disaster zone report ‘ghost passengers’

22 Jan 2016, by Julian Ryall, Tokyo

Taxi drivers working in towns in north-east Japan that were devastated in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami are reporting picking up “ghost passengers”.
At least seven drivers in the coastal town of Ishinomaki, where nearly 6,000 people died after it was battered by tsunami more than 30 feet high, claimed to have encountered phantom fares.

Read more at Telegraph.co.uk…

I’ve investigated at the old hospital in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (USA), and it’s definitely an eerie place. My “gut feeling” is that the grounds are as haunted as the building interior. The site may have many unmarked graves, with related gruesome and tragic tales.

You can explore it yourself, as the following article explains.

Explore Old South Pittsburg Hospital in a Ghost Hunt

16 Jan 2016, Examiner.com

“Folks that enjoy the paranormal activity of old hospitals may have heard of one of the most haunted locations in Tennessee. Located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee the Old South Pittsburg Hospital opened its doors in 1959, and quietly closed in 1998 making way to a larger facility in Jasper, Tennessee. Ghost Hunts USA will be hosting a few ghost hunting overnight events in January and February 2016…

“The history of the land the hospital is built on may contribute to the haunting. During the Civil War, many soldiers from the Union and the Confederate are buried in the city cemetery. Early in the 1920’s there was a tragic fire to a plantation that once stood on the property. During the chaos on that night, seven children lost their lives to the fire…”

Read more at Examiner.com/AXS Entertainment…

Finally, for those seeking new TV shows documenting ghost hunts, several have been announced. The following is just one of them.

Paranormal Lockdown: New Series With Ghost-Hunting Stars Groff and Weidman

15 Jan 2016, by Cindy McLennan

“Destination America’s six-part series PARANORMAL LOCKDOWN, hosted by paranormal all-star Nick Groff and co-hosted by seasoned ghost hunter Katrina Weidman, follows the two as they confine themselves in America’s most terrifying places for an unprecedented 72 hours straight. Living at haunted locations, many of which have never before been seen on television, some being investigated for the first time ever, Groff and Weidman believe that the longer they stay, the more the spirits will communicate with them and the more information they can gather about the unknown.”

Read more at TVSeriesFinale.com…

My thoughts: while 72 hours in a haunted house sounds impressive, I’m pretty sure many Ghost Hunters episodes actually cover nearly as much time. It’s just edited to fit in a one-hour time slot.

Nevertheless, 72 hours straight… I can see benefits and liabilities there.

Yes, if there are any spirits at the site, they may feel more comfortable emerging, once they get used to the investigating team.

However, the lack of sleep – good, normal, sound sleep – could make investigators hypersensitive, or even lead to hallucinations. So, that reduces the reliability of their reactions… but it can also provide extra thrills for the audience.

The show’s credibility will rest on the producer’s decisions, as well as the expertise of the investigators.

 

Mental Illnesses Redefined: First UFOs, Next Ghosts?

[This article originally appeared at HollowHill.com]

A news story caught my attention today. There’s a movement to reclassify encounters with UFOs as “normal,” in psychiatric terms. I’m not sure how serious this movement is, but it’s worth noting.

Those of us who encounter paranormal phenomenon often preface our stories by saying, “I know how crazy this sounds, but…” I do it myself, because – frankly – I wouldn’t believe half of what I talk about, except that it’s my story and I know that it’s true. (For the record: I believe in ghost phenomena, but I don’t believe all ghost stories.)

However, by including disclaimers when we report our true ghost encounters, we may be doing our community a disservice.

As recently as the late 19th century, most people took ghosts and other paranormal phenomena seriously.

During the 20th century, spirituality–including the belief in spirits–turned almost a full 360 degrees.

At first, most people believed, but then some became skeptics… sometimes very vocal skeptics. Others lost their faith in everything mystical, magical, and spiritual.

But, by the late 20th century, spirituality was on the rebound, from earth-based religions to new and mainstream beliefs, to ghost studies.

It’s important to maintain that forward-moving momentum. Let’s continue to remove lingering, 20th century stigma from the belief in paranormal phenomena.

Let’s avoid putting our encounters in a “crazy” context, and state what we experience without disclaimers.

Thanks in part to websites and TV shows, one in three people believe in ghosts, and one in every two people believe in extrasensory perception (ESP). That makes us fairly “normal” in society’s trends.

Spirituality–including a belief in spirits–is growing. Let’s be part of that by sharing our true stories without disclaimers, apologies or embarrassment.

————————————————————————-

Here’s the press release that sparked my comments:

Exoconsciousness and Psychopathology: A Psychiatric Reclassification of UFO Extraterrestrial Experiences

Phoenix, Arizona (December 12, 2007)—Rebecca Hardcastle is presenting a paper on Exoconsciousness and Psychopathology at the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, Karl Jaspers Society of North America, on Saturday, December 29, 2007, at the Marriott Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.

In the legacy of John Mack, Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School, Hardcastle advocates for a reclassification of the UFO extraterrestrial experience from pathological to normal. She bases this reclassification on 1.) the experience of quantum consciousness and 2.) the culture of contact evident in mainstream media coverage of UFOs such as Presidential Candidate, Dennis Kucinich’s, sighting and former Governor of Arizona, Fife Symington’s, press conference calling for full disclosure of UFO related military and government information.

Hardcastle created the concept of Exoconsciousness to describe the extraterrestrial origins, dimensions, and abilities of human consciousness. She maintains, “Consciousness is our most precious natural resource.”

According to Hardcastle, “mental illnesses are a by-product of the individual’s ability to function in culture and community. As culture transforms with information, such as disclosure of extraterrestrial visitation, new communities and belief systems form. These changes in culture generate possibilities for redefining experiences, such as UFO extraterrestrial contact, as normal.

Further information is available at http://www.exoconsciousness. com