Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Recipe for a Subterranean Haunting: The Basilica Cistern and the Whaley House

Water plays a very important role in the level of activity on a haunted site. It essentially acts as a conduit through which spirit energy flows. Electric fields are able to affect water in the world of science and there may be some connection to the paranormal realm. "Water, being dipolar, can be partly aligned by an electric field and this may be easily shown by the movement of a stream of water by an electrostatic source." The video below shows a quick example of this phenomenon:

Although a bit complicated to explain, water's molecular structure allows its hydrogen bonds to bend and become disrupted. Electrostatic energy is the "influencer" in this example, but electromagnetic fields in general may work in much the same way because separate static fields can occur within electromagnetism. Taken a little further, the presence of EMFs have the ability increase the melting point, evaporation rate, and dissolution rate of oxygen - thus altering water's physical structure. 

When water is "influenced" by the presence of ghosts, several of these traits may occur. As is already well known by paranormal investigators, ghosts emit electromagnetic fields. This is how their instruments are able to detect them. In the same vein, ghost activity can be increased by increasing the level of electromagnetism in the atmosphere. This is how EMF pumps function. Is there some sort of phenomenon that water possesses which helps increase ghost manifestation?

In the video below, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson from Ghost Hunters briefly discuss three elements that they have found to be prevalent on haunted locations. The elements are almost a "recipe" for paranormal activity:    

The cover photo for this article was taken inside the Yerebatan Sarnici, also known as the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey. It is an amazing structure that dates back to the 6th century:

"One of the magnificent ancient buildings of İstanbul is the Basilica Cistern located in the southwest of Hagia Sofia. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” among the public because of the underground marble columns. As there used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern, it is also called Basilica Cistern. The cistern is 140 m long, and 70 m wide, and covers a rectangular area as a giant structure. Accessible with 52-step staircase, the Cistern shelters 336 columns, each of which is 9 m high. Erected at 4.80 m intervals from one another the columns are composed of 12 rows, each has 28 columns."

The purpose of building this massive project was to ensure that water was available to the empire should it come under enemy attack.
If you would like to take a quick tour of the cisterns, check out this video below:

As you can see from the video, a walk around this ancient site reveals its spooky nature with shadowy lighting and dark waters. The geological material inside this structure makes it ripe for paranormal activity. The water potentially acts as a conduit for ghosts, as it extends throughout the entire structure. The pillars are made from marble and its composition also may give rise to paranormal possibilities:

"Marble is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to the heat and pressure of metamorphism. It is composed primarily of the mineral calcite (CaCO3) and usually contains other minerals, such as clay minerals, micas, quartz, pyrite, iron oxides, and graphite. Under the conditions of metamorphism, the calcite in the limestone recrystallizes to form a rock that is a mass of interlocking calcite crystals." -

Within the Basilica Cistern there is a "recipe," which is very much like the one Jay and Grant talked about in the video. The geology of this underground structure works in tandem with the water in the cistern to create a habitat or home for ghosts. Many people get creeped out when they visit this marvel in Turkey and there have been reports of ghost sightings in the underground chamber, but nothing officially documented. 

So... are these ghosts merely the figment of wild imaginations? Let's journey over to California back in the United States and see if another cistern can help shed some light on this question.

The Whaley House

In 1857 a man named Thomas Whaley had a dream. He wanted to build a brick house that would stand apart from any other in the San Diego area. "Whaley boasted, 'My new house, when completed, will be the handsomest, most comfortable and convenient place in town or within 150 miles of here.'" He made his own bricks and he had found the perfect plot of land to construct it. There was one problem, though. A tragedy had occurred on this piece of land to which Thomas witnessed firsthand. From this incident spawned the tale of Yankee Jim Robinson. 

"Yankee Jim was given a Catholic baptism to save his mortal soul, after which the 6'4" newly christened Santiago Robinson was hauled up onto a buckboard wagon and a thick, coarse rope was placed about his neck. The wagon pulled out from under his feet and dropped him within inches of the ground; in fact, Jim was so much taller than the average fellow that the toes of his boots were scraping the dirt. A handsome mustachioed young man from New York (Thomas Whaley) stood in the crowd observing Yankee Jim slowly strangle to death. And the rest, as they say, is history."

Thomas was not a man given to superstition. He was, though, a man who saw an opportunity to buy a nice chunk of land. Brushing aside the local folklore, Thomas moved forward with his dream project. Building the house right on top of the spot where many men had been hanged, the wraith of Yankee Jim became just the first of many ghosts that continue to haunt the now Whaley House Museum. There are reports of hauntings in this house - especially from each of the family members in the photo above. Alex Matsuo shares her experience below:

This house has always had an amazing amount of paranormal activity, but the discovery of a cistern by archaeologists may put a new twist on its hauntings. It is located adjacent the museum and served as a water source for the family. Inside of it over 72,000 artifacts have been found. But it isn't the artifacts that are the most interesting part:

"The cistern played a role in the dark history of the Whaley House. Violet Whaley, Thomas Whaley's second eldest daughter, attempted to commit suicide in late July of 1885 by throwing herself into the well. Violet was rescued; but she eventually shot and killed herself three weeks later."

Here the cistern serves as a source of tragedy as well. Although there have been no connections made to the underground water source, I challenge to think how much of an impact it may have on the site. The artifacts have been dated as far back as the 19th century and with so many of them, there must be a rich history tied to them. And we already know that rich history = paranormal activity.

It is uncertain when the well was active how much "influence" it may have had on the Whaley House's ghost activity, but here again the "recipe" for strong hauntings exist. As far as I have researched, the Basilica Cistern has no recorded tragedies tied to its underground water source and perhaps may be why ghosts have never been documented. 

Can geology and water alone have an impact on paranormal activity or does their need to be a tragic event tied to the location to, in a sense, make the "dough rise?"

What are your thoughts or experiences with this type of haunting?

I'd love to hear about it in the comment box below or anywhere you find this article posted and... thank you!! 

Works Cited:

Photo courtesy of Rob Hurson - Flickr

Photo courtesy

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Are You a Paranormal Writer Looking to Grow Your Audience?

Paranormal Insights is currently seeking writers who have a deep interest in the paranormal and the unexplained. If you write a blog, have published a book or if you currently or have written for a paranormal publication, I'd love to hear from you.

For over three years now I have been researching and writing articles that are meant to give readers a different "insight" into the paranormal realm. There are many, many websites out there that document haunted locations all over the world. Some go a bit further by doing their own investigations or by offering up their thoughts of what they have seen, read or researched. Paranormal Insights has continued to try to be different from those sites through unique perspectives and insightful connections. Anyone seeking to write for this website should please keep this in mind.

Paranormal Insights has always been a once a month publication. This will allow you to hold your article as the default one for about 30 days. The average viewer traffic is approximately 500 page views a week. This site may move to bi-weekly articles, depending on article submission levels.

There are certain criteria that must be met for your work to be accepted. Ultimately the discretion is mine and I will always be forthcoming for any reasons of acceptance/denial. Some of the requirements are listed below. This list is not exhaustive, but serves as a general guideline for submission:
  • No where in your article will profane language, derogatory comments, slandering, or any unprofessional wording be accepted.
  • No inappropriate content will be accepted. This includes sexual, gender, racial or cultural slander. Your article should respect people of all cultures and religious beliefs.
  • Keep in mind that much of the material on Paranormal Insights is purposely written from a Christian perspective and, though you do not need to be a Christian, you should be comfortable with this fact.
  • If you use material from another writer, you must quote directly and provide a link to their page or source. Plagiarism is absolutely banned and your article will be checked.
  • Your article is not a tool for spamming. Any promotion of yourself or your writing is subject to my scrutiny. You are encouraged to promote yourself, but please do so mindfully and professionally. If spamming if suspected, your article(s) will be removed from the site.
  • It will not cost you any money to post on Paranormal Insights. That said, I cannot pay you for your articles either. Any agreements made will be on a free exchange basis. You will, of course, hold all intellectual rights for your submissions.
If you would like to further discuss the criteria for submission or submit an article for approval, please drop me a line @

Thank you very much and I look for to our communication... of what's on the other side of the veil!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Are Lunatic Asylums So Haunted?

Photo courtesy Craig Sunter - Flickr
Understanding the paranormal realm is really only a matter of understanding history. Some of the most haunted places in the world are this way because of their rich history. When a catastrophic event occurs it leaves an enduring imprint on the atmosphere. If it is a repetitive, residual haunting then the event will live out over and over again until eventually the energy diffuses away into the environment. If the traumatic event is supported by an intelligent haunting, namely an active spirit keeps the momentum of the event going on and on and on, perhaps forever. It is an intelligent haunting that keeps insane asylums so haunted because the hospital's residents continuously fuel the paranormal activity. But, with the case of the mentally disturbed, the hauntings take on a whole new dimension.

In this article we will explore that "new dimension" in an attempt to better understand why places like the Trans-Allegheny Asylum are so wrought with paranormal activity. The intelligent hauntings that inhabit these buildings have a very unique perspective on the spirit world that gives them a very powerful "insight."

Paranormal Perception

As was just mentioned, the events that have unfolded on a certain geographic spot set the stage for paranormal activity. But there is another driving force that fuels both residual and intelligent hauntings - human psychology. 

If a ghost is inhabiting an old building or home, this tends to happen because there is unfinished business or the spirit has not been able to cross over the veil. The reasons behind this can vary greatly. Perhaps someone did them wrong in life and now they are seeking revenge. Maybe that grumpy old man was so filled with hatred when he was alive that in death he remains stuck in his own personal hell. Sometimes regret keeps a spirit here, as he or she continuously tries to make up for their mistakes in life long after they have passed. The ghosts of children tend to exist because they are afraid to go to the light.

With insane asylums, the dynamic can be very different. Here psychological perception is the important element. People who are emotionally or mentally unstable do not perceive the living world as most people do. And you can be sure, that in death, they do not perceive the spirit world in the same way you or I might.

Even in the best run asylums this factor will play into the intensity of its ghosts but, with locations like the Trans-Allegheny Asylum, the instances of patient abuse and mental instability function together like a giant REM pod for ghost activity. Let's take a look at a couple asylums and see how this manifests.

Alton Mental Health Hospital

Opened in 1916 this building was designed to take on the new responsibility of the state of Illinois to care and treat the public insane. By 1921 Alton had 757 patients with 117 employees which, over the next 30 years, would grow to a population of 2,100. These are impressive numbers, except there is one problem with this many people. The building was designed with a capacity of 1,084. Alton State Hospital, as it is called today, is still open but is used for forensics studies.

Courtesy of rootsweb.ancestry.
Overcrowding was almost the norm in hospitals for the mentally insane. These patients could in no way have been given the respect that anyone else would receive if they had been admitted to a hospital for medical treatment. Handled like animals in a cage, they were most likely perceived as ignorant of what was happening to them. Packing them in like sardines, these patients became the guinea pigs of procedures that we would now view as atrocious. Back then, it was cutting edge science.

Hydrotherapy was introduced in 1924 for what was believed to be an effective treatment for diagnoses of insomnia, suicidal tendencies, and those with aggressive behaviors. 

"Continuous baths were the most effective when held in a quiet room with little light and audio stimulation, thus allowing the patient to relax and possibly even fall asleep. Bath temperatures typically ranged from 92°F to 97°F, so as not to cause injury to the patients.... Cold water was used to treat patients diagnosed with manic-depressive psychoses, and those showing signs of "[e]xcitement and increased motor activity." Application of cold water slowed down blood flow to the brain, decreasing mental and physical activity. The temperature for a cold pack ranged between 48°F and 70°F."¹

In cases of patient abuse, you can draw your conclusions. Bath waters may have been too hot or too freezing cold. Hydrotherapy was used as long as overnight and may have been administered for extensive periods of time, creating hypothermia or physical shock. Since the mentally insane may not have been treated like regular patients, their agony would have been overlooked as just being part of the procedure. In the Alton Mental Health Hospital over 65,000 hours of hydrotherapy treatment could be given in one year.

In the 1940's Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) began to be utilized as a better way of treating patients. Interestingly, this form of treatment is still used [t]oday...[and] is administered to an estimated 100,000 people a year, primarily in general hospital psychiatric units and in psychiatric hospitals.  It is generally used in treating patients with severe depression, acute mania, and certain schizophrenic syndromes. ECT is also used with some suicidal patients, who cannot wait for antidepressant medication to take effect."

"ECT treatment is generally administered in the morning, before breakfast. Prior to the actual treatment, the patient is given general anesthesia and a muscle relaxant.  Electrodes are then attached to the patients scalp and an electric current is applied which causes a brief convulsion. Minutes later, the patient awakens confused and without memory of events surrounding the treatment. This treatment is usually repeated three times a week for approximately one month. The number of treatments varies from six to twelve."²

Sometimes certain anti-convulsive drugs were used to try and keep the intense seizures under control during the procedure. Poisonous plants like curare were administered to inhibit acetylcholine receptors at the neuromuscular junction. If this was given in too strong of a dose, it would result in asphyxiation because the diaphragm would go into paralysis. 

Also administered were lobotomies. When this procedure was in its infancy, a hole was cut into the skull and ethanol was injected to calm patients and curtail their hallucinations. In the 1940's a device called a leucotome was invented which plunged through the skull a loop of wire that, when turned in a circular motion, created a lesion and thus separated parts of the frontal lobe from the brain.

Overcrowding became a motivation for doctors to find ways of calming their patients to lessen the chaos in the hospital. 

"That's exactly what happens in the 1962 novel and 1975 film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' in which Randall Patrick McMurphy, a rambunctious but sane man living in a mental hospital, is given a lobotomy that leaves him mute and vacant-minded."³

All three of these procedures were documented as attempts to help the mentally insane, but through the eyes of the paranormal - what did it really do?

Patients were subjected to inhumane treatments that would have left a painful and negative imprint on the atmosphere. The sheer fear and panic associated with these events would create the most intense hauntings that can be found anywhere. Take into consideration as well that the materials many of the buildings were constructed primarily of limestone, and you now add in a veritable sponge for the effects of these potential atrocities.  

Kuhn Memorial State Hospital

This hospital, established in 1832, has both a very long history and the intense procedures used on the mentally insane. Located in Vicksburg City, Mississippi, it was initially built in response to a smallpox outbreak. It also served as a hospital to serve the wounded in the Civil War. It was taken over by the state in 1871. By 1954 a local named Lee Kuhn left a $400,000 estate to the hospital when, as a result, new buildings were constructed and added to the campus. However, by 1989, funding ran out to keep it going and it closed down. It now sits as a skeleton of memories and paranormal activity on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Still today the hospital continues to have intense traumatic activity that you can read about in this article: Ghost Hunters Find Dead Body

In the video below the members of Ghost Asylum visit the Kuhn State Memorial Hospital. In this 3-minute snippet you will see that they capture a decent amount of evidence that shows why insane asylums are so haunted.

Here as well the patients were subjected to extreme procedures like hydrotherapy, ECT, and lobotomies. Even now the tormented and trapped spirits in insane asylums continue to seek out the help they needed in life and now in the afterlife. This too is another reason why these hospitals are some of the most haunted locations in the world. The "new dimension" for them is simply a continuation of the torment they suffered that shaped the perception of their world. The concepts of life and death are blurred. One runs into the other and back again. Al they can do now is scream out for help. This is what one investigation team discovered when they entered into the Kuhn State Memorial Hospital with the Clarion-Ledger news team in tow.

"...there was one particularly weird thing — a little too weird for me [reporter Therese Apel] to believe. In the embalming room, a table with a drain is in the middle, covered in thick, sandy dust. As we left that room, I was the last one out. Someone had drawn a tic-tac-toe board in the dust to see if anything paranormal would make the next move.

When we came back to the embalming room about a half an hour later, the tic-tac-toe board was untouched, but written backwards in the dust was the word 'help'."

Works Cited



³   Ghost Asylum


Saturday, March 18, 2017

New Orleans and the Spirits of the Dead

Belief in the paranormal is a purely subjective experience. There are many people who spend their entire lives proclaiming that ghosts do not exist and anything that has to do with the paranormal is just a bunch of gibberish. And it may very well be true that they never do see a ghost, hear a disembodied voice, feel the cold chills of a nearby presence or watch an object move without any scientific explanation. And that is fine.

However, folks like myself have a very different perspective. We have experienced all of those paranormal activities and more. Our dealings with the spirit world encapsulate things that may not be seen nor fully understood. Having an openness to ghosts and all of their activity seems to be key to the real experience. Here is where the Big Easy sets the standard. In New Orleans life is more laid back, people take time to live in the present moment, and... they keep tabs on what's going on with their dead.

In this article we'll explore a couple different avenues that this Creole French city gives reverence to their deceased and how it has had a direct impact on the paranormal activity there.

Who Will the Men Marry?

The earliest records we have of the Big Easy date back to the early 1700's. At that time New Orleans was becoming a French settlement, having folks who arrived from both Europe and Africa. As the town began to take shape, many of the men were looking for women who they could either marry or simply have flings with whenever they wanted. In response, the king of France sent over what were to be known as "casket girls."

These ladies came across the Atlantic by ship, having only a few belongings with them - enough that might just fit inside a small casket. "[Y]oung society women were imported from France with the promise of marrying a proper New Orleans gentleman.... But they didn't know that the men who awaited them were far from proper, and not at all gentle."¹ Once in the colony, the women had to fight to restore their honor. I would imagine that for some, this became impossible. Perhaps a few of them even met with domestic abuse, or worse yet, untimely deaths. At one point rumors of the "casket girls" being vampires spread throughout the colony:

"...these girls endured a long and arduous journey across the Atlantic. At best, they were pale and gaunt from traveling below-deck much of the time. At worst, they were deathly ill. A nasty case of tuberculosis could cause a girl to cough up blood – hence the vampire link?"²

Although there does not seem to be any mentions of how the dead were treated during this time period, this activity by the new colonists had begun to set the stage for the environment that New Orleans is today. I mention these ladies as well because of the obvious rhetoric choice of the word "casket."

The hauntings that permeate the streets of New Orleans are believed to be tied to the restless spirits of thousands of the deceased. They continue to roam the city for reasons that may not yet be understood. Perhaps one of the biggest explanations for paranormal activity lies in the fact that most people have a very open mind and deep reverence for those who have passed on. The culture of the Big Easy is very conducive to the fact that its residents still treat the dead as important parts of their lives.

Since the environment is laid back, living in the moment and giving attention to the spirits keeps them hanging around. Think about your daily life. Do the people you know and associate with take the time to recognize the possibility that perhaps their deceased relatives are still hanging out with them? Here in the United States our lifestyles tend to be very busy, as we move from one task to the next, many times multitasking. If the spirits are not being given any attention, why would they want to hang around? Would you?

The Haunted Mortuary

Today the Haunted Mortuary is best known for being a haunted house attraction that brings in thousands of scared patrons each year. Originally this Victorian mansion on was built in 1872 by Mary Slattery. Generations later the property was eventually purchased by the McMahon Undertaking Company who transformed it into one of the most beautiful properties on Canal Street. Their business of taking care of the deceased grew rapidly and become very successful. It is reported that over 20,000 bodies were processed through here. 

"PJ McMahon and Sons was a full-service funeral home. There was an autopsy room and an embalming room. There was a crematorium onsite, cold storage for the dead, casket storage, casket sales and a flower sales facility. The property was designed to anticipate and take care of every aspect of the funeral business."³

In the video below you will learn about the Haunted Mortuary, its history, and some of the intense paranormal activity that has been occurring on the property over the past 100 years:

In the video you heard about some of the activity that makes this site so amazing. 

  • "A phantom woman in white was often seen on the top floor crying for her husband who had long since passed on."³ Her apparition has been seen in the home since the 1930's.
  • Statues have been seen moving by several different people and there usually has been more than one witness.
  • An old man in blue pajamas was seen by paranormal investigators.
  • "Legends told of a tall well-dressed man who appears when he believes people are disrespecting the cemeteries that lie beyond the walls of the home, admonishing the offenders to silence."³
  • "A former mortician was often seen by employees, continuing his bloody work in the bowels of the basement. Footsteps and whispering voices supposedly carried throughout the building when no one was there. Tales traveled far and wide of poltergeist activity, of pieces of furniture moving on their own, while shocked eyewitnesses stared in disbelief."³
  • Children are very common in the mortuary. You learned about Daniel and Agnes Elizabeth who love to play tricks and make appearances to visitors and workers. The EVPs of "Talk to me" and "Stop, Daniel" are perhaps the clearest I have ever heard. You can even hear the personalities of these child ghosts in their voices. On Haunted Mortuary's MySpace page they have the infamous image of one of these children. Here's the link:

Another paranormal aspect of the mortuary is mentioned by the medium that paid a visit. He or she stated that there are many spirits that come and go through the house because they are transient ghosts. That means that they pass through the property, but do not necessarily continue to linger, as they are heading to another destination. This happens because there are cemeteries surrounding the property - with as many as one million souls buried in them. This leads us to a wonderful, yet sometimes controversial practice by the locals in New Orleans with their treatment of the dead.

The Jazz Funeral

The jazz funeral is essentially a two-part celebration of a deceased family member. They begin with a march from the church, home or funeral home and travel through town to the cemetery. Music is played along the way. Jazz is one of the common genres used; however, families may choose whatever style they prefer. Generally the songs are hymns and somber dirges meant to focus on the grieving aspect of death. Those who follow the band just for the sound of the music are called the second line.

Once the deceased member has made it to the cemetery and the body has been entombed or the hearse leaves the premises, then the music changes into songs of celebration. Oftentimes spiritual music is played in swinging fashion while everyone dances to classics like "When the Saints Go Marching In."

This custom of the dead dates back almost four centuries to the African kingdom of Dahomey and the spiritual practices of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. The ceremony in this continent is extremely elaborate:

"When the breath has departed from the body there is the usual outburst of exaggerated grief, with loud cries, lamentations, and frenzied gestures, and the eldest son of the deceased, or the brother, if there be no son, at once sends for a babalawo, to ascertain if the deceased died from natural causes, or through the machinations of witches." 

Once the babalawo arrives, he consults an oracle to determine the cause of death and to see if witchcraft is tied to the deceased or any members of his/her family. After this there are a myriad of ceremonies performed and a death feast is prepared. If you would like to read about this ceremony in more detail, please visit this link.

Final Thoughts

When cultures like the Yoruba people perform their elaborate customs and locals in New Orleans perform ceremonies like the jazz funeral, it can give a sense of permanence for spirits. Not only will the deceased watch all of the celebrations in their honor, but they also know that long after death, they will still be remembered and honored. This attention will keep spirits around and would certainly explain why it is that the Big Easy is such a haunted place.

The history of New Orleans goes back centuries and it this deep past that will also contribute to the amount of paranormal activity. History shapes the ghost activity of the present moment and so, the more history a site has to draw upon, the greater the activity. The Haunted Mortuary is a great example of this -as there are hundreds of different paranormal occurrences on its grounds. There are many, many other locations that will attest to this fact as well.

Perhaps you have visited one of these haunted locations. What were your experiences there and what do you think about them? 

I encourage you to share your story of haunted New Orleans in the comment box below or anywhere on social media that you find this article! 

Works Cited:





Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ghosts of the Underground Railroad

During the mid to late 1800's the United States was locked into a slavery system which was the result of years of bringing black men , women, and children, for the most part, from the continent of Africa. Eighty percent of them came from the countries of Congo, Zaire, Angola, Namibia, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. Over time the life of a slave in many parts of the South became so unbearable that escape was considered as a very promising option to flee their oppressive lives. This escape was given a very unique term:  

"The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad. It got its name because its activities had to be carried out in secret, using darkness or disguise, and because railway terms were used by those involved with system to describe how it worked. Various routes were lines, stopping places were called stations, those who aided along the way were conductors and their charges were known as packages or freight. The network of routes extended through 14 Northern states and “the promised land” of Canada–beyond the reach of fugitive-slave hunters. Those who most actively assisted slaves to escape by way of the “railroad” were members of the free black community (including former slaves like Harriet Tubman), Northern abolitionists, philanthropists and church leaders like Quaker Thomas Garrett. Harriet Beecher Stowe, famous for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, gained firsthand knowledge of the plight of fugitive slaves through contacts with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio."¹ 

In this article you will take a journey across three states discovering the haunted locations of underground sites that played a role in the freedom of slaves. The paranormal activity associated with these runaway stations is some of the most intense documented. Perhaps the only sites with more vivid ghost activity would be Civil War sites. But hey, this too all of this happened during America's most challenging time in history. The impact of the slave trade still affects us today - both in the physical and spiritual worlds!

Dayton, Ohio Area 

Just south and east of the city of Dayton lie several towns that are considered to be the most haunted in the state. This area has a long and rich history with colonization dating back to the late 1700's. Prior to this time period, which goes all the way back to 1,000 B.C., the Hopewell, Adena, and the Fort Ancient People Native American tribes inhabited the land. 

In 1796 English settlers came to the now Waynesville area to clear out 30,000 acres of land, lead by an engineer named Samuel Heighway. The village was built up with log cabins, a central public square, ornamental trees, fishponds, and long winding paths to enjoy the beauty of the area. Waynesville was named after "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a Brigadier General from the Revolutionary War. Today it is known as the "Antique Capital of the Midwest."

Recently construction crews were replacing the water main under Main Street and discovered a series of tunnels that had previously been unknown. The entire southern half of the state of Ohio is a labyrinth of underground passageways that were designed to help with slave liberation. 

 “The tunnel that was discovered on the north end of Main Street was not one we have researched, but the section opened is nearly identical to one in another tunnel. Both have stone walls and floors and, in some sections, have domed brick ceilings.... The WURC (Waynesville’s Underground Railroad Committee) group has not been able to determine who made the tunnels or when they were made, but it is obvious they are very old. As Waynesville was once a favorable stop for escaping slaves using the Underground Railroad, the WURC group is trying to determine if the tunnels were possibly used by UGRR (UnderGround RailRoad) conductors or slaves.”²  

This spiderweb of subterranean human transport may be a strong contributor to the paranormal activity of many of Waynesville's local houses and businesses. The most notorious is the Hammel House. Originally this site was a series of apartments that really didn't have any reported activity...until the year 1980. The ghosts of this now bed and breakfast have for some reason come alive - perhaps in the wake of new construction.

The Hammel House has five rooms in it and each one has had its share of paranormal activity. Visitors have reported black shadow figures that roam throughout the bed and breakfast: 

"One of those reports came from a man who stayed in Room #3. He had the inn completely to himself and so he was shocked when he was awakened by the noise of a loud party. He flew into the hallway to yell at the partygoers. It was completely silent in the hallway. He checked downstairs and saw no one. When he awoke the next morning, he saw a shadow figure floating in his room and then watched as it passed through the wall into Room #2."³

Stories of room #4 are explained in the video below. Note also that the Hammel House has a ghost cat that still wanders the premises, engaging with its visitors by jumping on the bed or rubbing against their legs:

One of the most unique paranormal experiences that has been documented are disembodied voices coming from the basement:

"On at least two occasions, [a woman's son who worked at the Hammel House] heard what sounded like an unseen girl crying in the basement. His co-worker also reported a similar occurrence, claiming that she had heard a young girl ask her to 'hurry up,' and had witnessed glasses sliding off of tables, seemingly without explanation."

It is common to hear children's voices in the subterranean levels of these sites because the young slaves transported in the tunnels were often filled with fear and had no idea what their fate may be inside the Underground Railroad or when they managed to step out of that safe environment. I can imagine mothers pushing their children in the small of the backs, hushing them so as not to be detected by anyone looking for them. The intensity of this environment would surely cause residual hauntings in the tunnels and basements.

In the video below, Project Paranormal Investigation team visits a house in Bellbrook, Ohio that was along the Underground Railroad lines due north of Waynesville (see map above). Check out the amazing and diverse EVPs that they capture inside the home:

Wedgwood Inn - Bucks County, PA.

Traveling a good distance north and east of the Dayton, Ohio area we find ourselves a little closer to the final destination for many of the Underground Railroad slaves - the Canadian border. Here in New Hope, Pennsylvania that lies in between Philadelphia and New York city, we find yet another region that helped to contribute to the Underground Railroad.

"In Pennsylvania, Bucks County was a hub for the movement, which locally spread from Bristol to Yardley and up to New Hope. Those communities are along the Delaware River and Delaware Canal, along which fugitive slaves used to travel on barges and as travel guides...."

It is here as well that the famous Harriet Tubman who helped about 300 slaves escape to the Northern "freedom." After she had escaped, she eventually moved to the Philadelphia area and created the Underground Railroad hub that was central to all of the communities in and around the Bucks County area. Since then an extensive series of underground tunnels has been discovered that is tied to many of the homes and businesses in the area. And, yes, most of them are haunted.

The Wedgwood Inn boasts of such paranormal claims. It is nestled in a 300-year-old village that has a history as unusual as its name. There is no second "e" in its name, as one would expect, because it "is named after the Englishman Josiah Wedgwood who invented the famous Wedgwood blue bone china." Josiah was not only a skilled potter, but he had a very keen interest as an abolitionist. He invested large amounts of money to the cause and became a shareholder "in the Sierra Leone Company, which provided a colony for the habitation of enslaved people who had been made free."

Among the possible ghosts that are said to inhabit the home are the famous Aaron Burr, the third vice-president of the United States who is notorious for his pistol duel with Alexander Hamilton.   

"[Another] ghost is said to haunt the [Wedgwood] Inn, that of a the 12-year-old Sarah, an escaped slave who is only ever seen by other children. The inn’s owners and Bucks County tourist guides spread the legend that Sarah appears to other girls her age to tell them her story." 

Here the residual haunting of children comes into play much like in the Hammel House. One could certainly expect that anyone who would be most affected by the evils of slavery and the fear of escape would be children. The ghosts of the Underground Railroad, no matter where the stations may be, reflect this common thread.

Another ghost, Joseph Pickett, is also claimed to have been seen not only around the Wedgwood Inn, but also in various places throughout New Hope. Joseph was a well-known artist who died in 1918. There doesn't seem to be any connection to the Underground Railroad with Joseph's ghost, but it is fascinating that his entity has such a strong and frequent presence in the area.

Enos Sanatorium

Located in the river town of Alton, Illinois, the Enos Apartments were very different from the simple housing rooms they are today. Located on Third Street it remains best known for its function as an Underground Railroad during the late 1800's. It was designed by Nathaniel Hanson, a strong abolitionist, in 1857. "Hanson built his home precisely to accommodate [the abolitionist] cause. Built on a high bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River, the cupola atop it was visible from afar. Nighttime lanterns inside the cupola reportedly alerted slave runners across the river if the coast was clear or if threats prevented crossing":

"According to the stories, Hanson, who was a wealthy farm implement manufacturer, was closely involved with the abolitionist movement in Alton. When work began on his home...he asked that tunnels be added to the basement of the house so that runaways could be hidden there in safety. The tunnels, although bricked off at the end, still extend from the lower basement of the house and outward under Third Street. The foundation of the structure is fifteen feet below the level of street and there are numerous rooms and narrow passageways carved into the limestone." 

The then Nathaniel Hanson Mansion was later purchased in 1911 by Dr. W.H. Enos who converted it into a tuberculosis sanatorium. A fourth floor and an adjoining nurses home was built onto the building shortly after its purchase. There are claims that the ghosts of some of the patients of this horrible disease still wander the halls inside what is now an apartment building. 

"According to Troy Taylor and Len Adams [both historians and ghost tour leaders for Alton], many apartment residents have reported strange odors, sounds of footsteps, flushing toilets, and even sounds of people screaming. Many other residents have decided to find a new apartment elsewhere for the same reasons."

If you ever get a chance to do a ghost tour in Alton, you have to visit the tunnels underneath the Enos Apartments. They are the most active perhaps of any Underground Railroad site in the country. Nearly everyone who enters into them has a personal experience. For some, the energy coming from these tunnels are so intense that they refuse to go inside and skip this part of the tour. People have been scratched, touched, and even heard disembodied voices. I, of course, am fascinated with the presence of limestone in these tunnels which, combined with the possibility that slaves may have died here, creates an intense environment for residual and intelligent hauntings.

Upstairs above the tunnels, there are many stories about very strange poltergeist activity. Objects disappear and reappear days later in another place. Doors open and close by themselves. Shadow figures have been seen as well. 

I'd like to wrap up this article on the Ghosts of the Underground Railroad by sharing one final story from the Enos Apartments documented on Troy Taylor's website Alton Hauntings:

"[Troy]...spoke to a young woman who moved into an apartment in the mansion and she had an unusual tale to tell. She said that she had moved into the house about three weeks before and during the entire time, she had all sorts of problems with her upstairs neighbor. He walked around, banged things, and even moved furniture in the middle of the night. One night, she and a friend had come home late and once again heard the sounds of banging and thumping and heavy-soled shoes walking back and forth. This went on for an hour or so and finally she couldn’t take it anymore and she decided to go upstairs and to tell him to quiet down. She marched to the upstairs apartment door and banged on it heavily with her fist. As she did so, the door silently swung open to reveal a dark and empty apartment behind it. No one was there. The place was empty and besides there being no sign that anyone had been walking around just minutes before, there was no furniture in the apartment either. When she inquired about the tenant the following day, she was told that the place had been empty during the entire three weeks that she had been living there!" 

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³  (Hammel House)