Saturday, June 17, 2017

Haunted Tuberculosis Hospitals

Tuberculosis is an often fatal disease that has existed for centuries. Sanatoria were built in the early 20th century to combat the illness with fresh air and rest. Victims who died within their walls still inhabit the halls and haunt anyone who cares to visit.

In this article we'll walk through the science behind the disease along with some of the controversial procedures used in search for a cure. We will then explore haunted locations that are inhabited by ghosts which are a direct result of this plague and its procedures. I will also share my personal experiences with evidence that was gathered in a local sanatorium.

A Little Bit of History..First

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been around for almost all of known human history. It is an infection of the lungs and it is in this perfectly warm and moist environment where pathogens, bacteria that cause disease, love to grow. This is why tuberculosis, or TB, has been such a detrimental ailment for humans who require lungs to breathe. It is in this exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen in the bloodstream that leaves humans extremely vulnerable to TB.

The bacteria responsible for this frequent epidemic has its origins perhaps 150,000,000 years ago when the genus Mycobacteriummay have originated. It is believed by certain colleagues "that an early progenitor of M. tuberculosis was present in East Africa as early as 3 million years ago, and they suggest that it may have infected early hominids at that time.... Analysis based on the known mutation rate of M. tuberculosis indicates that much of the present diversity among these strains originated between 250 and 1,000 years ago" (Daniel 1863). The photo on the left will give you a visual idea of what this pathogen looks like magnified. 

The three minute video below will give you a better idea of how TB works on the lungs. It will reveal what type of torment patients will have experienced when they were alive and the disease was active in their system. This torment sets the foundation for why this type of distress can create such intense hauntings:

The Deadly Symptoms and Their Effects

Now that you have an idea of what tuberculosis does to the human lungs (assuming you watched the video), we can take a look at why sanatoria tend to be very active with paranormal events. The lungs essentially become calcified and the patient will, over time, slowly suffocate to death. This, in my opinion, is a horrible way to die, as I imagine most of you would agree. I believe anyone who did cross over the spirit veil in this way, may still linger in this physical plane of existence - confused or angry about having to die so unjustly.

If this reasoning isn't strong enough to be believed, then let us take a look at how tuberculosis was treated in its extreme forms. These techniques were desperate attempts to do something for the patient. These practices would have created intense psychic energy because the a few of the procedures might be considered a form of torture. Some patients did not recover from these surgeries. In the paranormal world, when an event causes large amounts of psychic energy to be created, the effects can linger for hundreds of years.

Pneumothorax and Thoracoplasty

There were three types of therapies developed during this time for treatment of Tuberculosis:

  • Pneumothorax.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 "Between the 1930s and 1950s, approximately one third of patients with pulmonary TB underwent collapse therapy. Collapse therapies include: pneumothorax, phrenic paralysis, and thoracoplasties. It was thought that collapsing part of the lung would give the lung a rest and a chance to repair itself, and also that collapse would cut off the oxygen supply to TB bacteria in the lung and thereby kill them."¹                                                                                                                                              
  • Phrenic Paralysis.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     From what I have been able to research, this is a procedure that paralyzes the diaphragm so the patient can breathe easier. It is also tied in with the phrenic nerve that stems from the spinal cord.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Thoracoplasty.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "Thoracoplasty refers to the surgical removal of several rib bones from the chest wall in order to collapse a lung. In the time that this surgery was commonplace, the average patient required the removal of 7-8 ribs. Most surgeons preferred to remove only 2-3 ribs at a time and thus patients had to endure several procedures before the entire thoracoplasty was finished. "²

The First Sanatorium

Asheville, North Carolina is the city accredited with having the first tuberculosis hospital. The area itself is known to have a history of being a place to come to for natural healing. The American Indians, who predate records going back as far as 1795, were known to use this area as a neutral ground for their sick. The main reason behind this move was that the climate in Asheville is ideal for patient recovery. Many physicians moved to this area and set up practices. Soon this city became known as a health retreat.

During the 1880's through the 1930s, Asheville rose in prominence as a haven for treating tuberculosis. The initial residences for this foremost fatal disease consisted of boarding houses scattered throughout the town. The one pictured above was run by the very famous Dr. Carroll, who not only prescribed a vigorous rest and exercise program, but also was involved with the then modern technique of electroshock therapy. In the realm of literary history, F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife died here in a fire during the period when she was writing her novel, Caesar's Things. She was waiting for electroshock therapy when the fire engulfed her in flames.

Over time, the epidemic of tuberculosis began to overrun these small residences and so larger buildings needed to be constructed to house the tens of thousands of patients. Since there was no cure, these sites had to function, in a sense, as hotels. Asheville, North Carolina built its St. Joseph sanatorium in response to this demand. Another monstrous building was erected in Louisville, Kentucky and it has become the most haunted sanatorium in the country.

Recognized As the Most Haunted

Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in Louisville, Kentucky, was first constructed in 1910 as a two-story wooden site and built on the highest hill in Jefferson County. As was common in many parts of the country, tuberculosis was rampant at that time and so the original building could not house all of the patients. A new building was erected in 1924 and opened soon afterward in 1926.

There was not a cure for this epidemic in the early 20th century, so the only treatment for patients was rest, fresh air, and sunshine. This was believed by most doctors to be the remedy to at least lessen the extreme symptoms.

Once the cure, an antibiotic named Streptomycin, was discovered in 1943, then recovery went very quickly. Before this discovery, though, it is reported that up to 64,000 people had died in Waverly - 10,000 dying of TB in just the first year. Such massive death will cause a definite amount of paranormal activity simply from the sheer number of people crossing over the veil between life and death. But this is not the only reason Waverly is the most haunted sanatorium in America.

Woodhaven Geriatric Sanatorium

After the cure for TB was administered and patients got better and went back into society, the Waverly Hills building was turned into a home for the elderly. The conditions here were abhorrent and would, without a doubt, leave many strong residual hauntings locked within its walls. Many of the residents had to endure the torture of extreme shock therapies. Here is an account of the environment in further detail:

"Visitors of Woodhaven reported that there was pee and cockroaches everywhere, patients had to lie in wet beds and in their own feces and that no staff cared about their well-being. The patients went crazy because they were stripped of their clothes, tied to chairs and locked in their rooms for hours upon hours. The staff neglected to keep good watch on the elderly patients and let them fall off of their wheelchairs and severely hurt themselves because, 'They were going to die anyways'."³

My Experiences With a Hometown Site

Molly Stark Hospital is located outside of Louisville, Ohio and it has always had some sort of mysterious draw for me. When I was younger this place was shrouded in whispers, not just about some of the tenants who stayed here near the end of its closing, but more so about the paranormal activity that some claim have happened on these grounds.

I started investigating this location about 8 years ago. I wasn't sure exactly what I would find, if anything, but my passion for the paranormal trumped any doubt. My nephew, who was 13 at the time, was curious about what I was planning to do. He had never been on an investigation before, so he asked if he could go along. Little did we know then that the same passion would begin inside of him and still burns brightly today.

Our Results

Since that first investigation, we have done 3 other visits. Surprisingly, we have gotten some amazing results. Perhaps it may be easier to disseminate each one if I list them as follows:

Voices were heard coming from inside a ventilation shaft leading out of the southwest wing of the building.
A female voice was captured saying about 3 words that emanated from the smaller building adjacent the Molly Stark main hospital.
Inside the basement, foot steps were heard coming down the far staircase. The hairs on my arms stood on end as my body physically reacted to the entities approaching me.
An orb was captured in one of the balcony terraces which we discovered, by doing further research, is a hot spot for the presence of these light anomalies. At least 2 other different investigators who have visited the site have captured on digital film the same paranormal activity in the exact same spot.
A friend of my nephew brought his dog on an investigation. At one spot on the back side of the main hospital, his dog began barking and prancing toward the building, sensing something. We were able to rule out any wild animals that may have been present. We are uncertain what his dog was able to pick up with heightened canine senses. We think it may have been the presence of an entity.

Concluding Thoughts

Tuberculosis is a nasty bacterial infection. I am certain it was very scary to live back when my father was a child, knowing that if you happened to inhale the air around someone who was infected, you would catch TB and perhaps a death sentence. As a side note, my father did catch a minor form of it, and to this day he still feels the effect of this disease.

In the paranormal world, sites that have experienced great tragedies or have been locations of repeated negative energy, tend to be very active for decades, even centuries. This would definitely be the case for sanatoria.

In Asheville, the sites remain active today because this city is essentially the birthplace of sanatoria. Any of the new extreme treatments would have been performed here first, since the top doctors at the time flocked to this city. As a result, patients who endured the agonies of having a lung collapsed and all of its complications, would still have their psychic energies embedded in the atmosphere and surrounding walls.

Waverly Hills really speaks for itself. The sheer number of patients, exceeding 60,000, along with the severe abuse suffered by the elderly on the same grounds, will create long-term enduring paranormal activity.

The Molly Stark Hospital is rather quiet in comparison, but even this site proved to be quite active as well. I suppose that if a large group of people were gathered together for a long period of time, and they knew they would eventually die, then perhaps that factor in and of itself would create an environment that spirits would revisit time and time again.

Works Cited:




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 ─░stanbul 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: