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: https://myspace.com/hauntedmortuary/photos?


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:


https://www.loc.gov/item/2010630059/

¹  http://vampirediaries.wikia.com/wiki/The_Annual_Casket_Girls_Festival

²  http://gonola.com/2011/08/09/casket-girls-of-new-orleans-founding-matriarchs-or-vampire-smugglers.html

³  http://www.hauntedmortuary.com/history.html

⁴  http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/yor/yor10.htm

http://www.prairieghosts.com/nohistory3.html

http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/multicultural/multiculturaltraditions/jazzfuneral.html

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!" 


Works Cited:


¹ http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/underground-railroad

http://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/Underground_Railroad_Hauntings

² http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/local/tunnels-may-have-helped-slaves/ON0wJVLwMzbFzX8UwDv9cO/

³ http://historygoesbump.blogspot.com/2016/12/hgb-ep-172-haunted-waynesville.html

https://friendshomemuseum.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/ghostly-secrets-of-waynesville-pt-1/

https://youtu.be/Yoqcbe3Gz4c  (Hammel House)

⁴ https://storiesfromtheplayground.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/waynesville-host-to-visitors-past-present/

⁵ https://buckscountyintime.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/underground-railroad-the-channel-to-freedom/

http://pennsylvaniaparanormal.tumblr.com/post/156455167598/wedgwood-inn-the-wedgwood-inn-bed-and-breakfast-in

http://www.allstays.com/Haunted/pa_newhope_wedgwood.htm

http://www.wedgwoodinn.com/

⁶ http://abolition.e2bn.org/people_33.html

http://www.altonhauntings.com/enos.html

http://www.distilledhistory.com/tag/enos-sanatorium/

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Haunted Russia: Khovrinskaya Hospital and the Kremlin


Happy New Year and welcome to the 2017 Paranormal Insights blog!! If you are a subscriber to our email list, then you will already be familiar with this month's haunted location. If you don't already receive our progressive newsletter, I invite you to check us out here: http://eepurl.com/cnpImX

Russia is a massive country that covers over six million square miles. One would think that a area so large would definitely have paranormal activity in it. And you would be correct. The obvious challenge with doing investigations in Russia is its extreme weather. Temperatures have been documented to have fallen as low as 90 degrees below zero. With such an intense cold, it would be difficult to gather paranormal information from equipment, but not impossible. From my research there are very few investigators who have taken up the gauntlet and documented paranormal activity with equipment. There are, however, no lack of ghost stories. 

In this article we'll explore a couple of the most haunted sites in Russia. The history of this country has been defined by its powerful leaders, developing into the nation it is today under Vladimir Putin. These same leaders have also shaped and influenced much of the paranormal activity of the area. Their many times turbulent and bloody past have left energy imprints on the atmosphere. And so, naturally, this leads to many reports of residual hauntings - as the ghosts of Russia's past linger on in its hallways and on its beautifully-built sites.


Khovrinskaya Zabroshennaya Bolnitsa


The opening photo above is the Khovrinskaya Hospital located in Moscow, Russia. Usually when a massive structure like this one becomes haunted, it is the result of an intense history of medical procedures, patient treatment or traumatic events. This site, located in the Hovrino District of Moscow, is a bit different.



Construction of the building began in 1981 and it was intended to be one of the greatest feats of the Soviet Union. It is believed that its design is replicated after the familiar biohazard symbol and it could treat as many as 1300 patients at a time. Abruptly, though, its construction was halted in 1985. 

There are a couple possibilities as what actually happened. One of these is that the architects made a mistake when they built this massive structure on top of land that is saturated with underground water. The weight of the buildings are slowly sinking into the ground. 


The other explanation is simply that the funding ran out. Judging from the size of the complex, it would take an incredible amount of money to build this hospital. The details are a bit sketch, but we do know the Russian economy collapsed in 1991 under the leader at that time, Mikhail Gorbachev. In light of this economic disaster, it would certainly seem feasible that a project like this one would never see completion.

Because a building of this stature was essentially left abandoned, this opened up the doors for locals to try and take advantage of the site. Various members of the homeless community and other vagabonds broke in and set up home. Many of them over time ended up dying within the labyrinth's walls. It is believed that nearly 1500 souls may be trapped inside due to deaths from suicide, accident or murder. 




Darker forces are at work at Khovrinskaya which may have spawned intense paranormal activity. Members of a local satanic cult held their meetings in the hospital and performed both human and animal sacrifices. Symbols and slogans of their society are painted on the walls throughout the complex. It is claimed that in 1990 the Russian government, who may have known about the activity for some time, burst in the building with armored troops and bombed out the hospital of its inhabitants. As a result, the bottom-most levels are flooded out from the underground water that pushed up through the foundation. This site remains shrouded in a very strange paranormal mystery, as numerous dark spirits are said to roam Khovrinskaya's halls.


Check out this quick video of Khovrinskaya's past:




The Seat of Government Power


Twenty-five minutes south of Khovrinskaya Hospital lies the infamous Kremlin. This site is a series of beautiful architectures which were first constructed back in 1147 A.D. "when the Grand Duke of Kiev, Yuri Dolgoruky, built a a wooden fort at the point where the Neglina and Moskva Rivers converge."¹ It is this location in Russia, which has evidence of human activity as far back as 500 A.D., that the beginnings of intense paranormal activity has its roots. 

In 1326 the Russian Orthodox church moved its location from Vladimir to the Kremlin area, uniting both the church and state under the large red stars. In this same 14th century, Ivan the Great did some major renovations to the Kremlin. He introduced stone to the buildings and under his reign he coordinated "the construction of the magnificent Cathedrals of the Assumption, the Annunciation and the Archangel, and the uniquely Russian Terem Palace, the royal residence. The addition of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower completed Sobornaya Square, and added to the imposing effect of the Kremlin skyline."¹

Peter the Great (as an interesting side note was 6' 8") moved the central government to St. Petersburg in the 18th century, but did build the Kremlin Arsenal. After the Revolution of 1917, the Kremlin regained its authority as the seat of the Russian government and continues to exist as such today.


The Ghostly Rulers


The Russian approach to the paranormal is very similar to many other societies throughout the world:


"People in Russia become ghosts much the same way they do in other cultures; they’ve died violently by murder or suicide or died too young. The Russian Orthodox Church believes that the spirit remains on earth for about forty days after death. Many people believe that a person whose life ends abruptly must remain a ghost until that natural life span is up. Some may stay around much longer."³



Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) was one of the first leaders to make his impact on the Russian paranormal world and the ghostly activity in the Kremlin. Although he did have some positive accomplishments like creating close ties with England and the construction of St. Basil's Cathedral, history better knows him for his "terrible" deeds. 

The two incidents that happened on the grounds of the Kremlin were when he "[b]eat his pregnant daughter-in-law for wearing immodest clothing, possibly leading to a miscarriage. He and his eldest son then engaged in an argument and Ivan struck him in the head with a staff, killing him."² His cruelty became renowned throughout the kingdom as he was held responsible for creating peasant serfdom and for executing and exiling certain boyars (high-ranking aristocrats directly under the prince) whom he felt were in conspiracy to him. 

It is believed that after his death, his ghost still roams the halls of the Kremlin buildings, mourning his many sins. His ghost has been seen inside the bell tower with his name and footsteps have been heard as well. Several czars throughout history have encountered Ivan's ghost, including the last one - Nicholas II. Anytime his ghost appears, it is a portension of disaster. 

Ivan the Terrible is not the only Russian leader to find himself trapped in the physical realm. One of the most perplexing ghost cases happened with Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), the head of the Russian government from 1917 to 1924. His political theory of Leninism made his life and writings a sort of gospel within the Russian communities. He is considered to be one of the most influential and significant figures of the 20th century. Despite his many accomplishments, it is not his legacy that creates the ghostly hauntings within the Kremlin grounds. Rather, the events surrounding his mysterious illness and eventual death are what set the stage for some very unusual paranormal activity.

Lenin's physical downturn began in 1921 when he was diagnosed with sound sensitivity, insomnia, and headaches. The following year he suffered two strokes which temporarily left him unable to speak and paralyzed the right side of his body. His third stroke also immobilized his right side, but this time it left him diagnosed with Wernicke's aphasia - an illness that robs the individual of their ability to understand written or spoken language:

"Persons with Wernicke’s aphasia can produce many words and they often speak using grammatically correct sentences with normal rate and prosody. However, often what they say doesn’t make a lot of sense or they pepper their sentences with non-existent or irrelevant words. They may fail to realize that they are using the wrong words or using a non-existent word and often they are not fully aware that what they say doesn’t make sense."    

You might ask, "what does all of this medical jargon have to do with the paranormal?" Well, that would be a good question. 

Something very strange seems to have happened to Lenin while suffering from his multiple strokes and laying in recovery at his mansion Gorki Leninskie. His ghost was seen on multiple occasions in more than one place. In 1923 his apparition was seen in the Kremlin. This same Lenin was also reported to be in Moscow, although he physically wasn't there. The reports state that he was seen walking very quickly. The problem with these reports is that Lenin was very sick at the time, could not even walk at all, and was in bed at the Gorki. Add in the fact that he wasn't even dead. 

The final ghost sighting of him was observed by several people, affirming the fact with more than one set of eyes. Lenin died three months afterwards.

Is it possible that something happened to Lenin when his brain went haywire from the three strokes that allowed his spirit to leave his body before the point of death? If so, how might this be possible?

Or, is all of this just the figment of certain active imaginations within Russian society? Might their strong admiration for their leader have created these sightings? 

The power of Russia's leaders throughout history have had a significant impact on its people. So too have these leaders made the same kind of impact on the paranormal world.  

Works Cited:


http://national-paranormal-society.org/haunted-russia/

http://hybridtechcar.com/5-interesting-abandoned-buildings-moscow/

http://discussiya.com/2011/06/13/khovrinskaya-abandoned-hospital/

https://in.rbth.com/arts/travel/2013/11/25/haunted_and_supernatural_moscow_31117

https://m.vk.com/club21294378

¹ http://www.moscow.info/kremlin/short-history.aspx

² https://therussianblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/how-terrible-was-ivan-the-terrible/

³ http://www.paranormal-encounters.com/wp/russian-ghosts-superstitions/

⁴ https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-resources/wernickes-aphasia/

http://www.moscow.info/suburbs/gorki-leninskie.aspx

Friday, December 16, 2016

Oh There's No Place Like a Haunted Home for the Holidays...



Christmas is filled with many songs that celebrate the season. My personal favorite is the children's version of Canon in D famously performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. But, as the title of this post suggests, there is more to Christmas than just the joy of Christ's birth. There is also the warmth felt by family as they gather together to create enduring memories in the house of the chosen host. Or, maybe your holidays are tainted with family strife and conflict, overshadowing the joy of the holiday season. Whatever may be your story, and I do hope it is the former, nearly every home has its history. And it is these events that open up the doors to the paranormal world and may even bring a little haunting to your Christmas dinner table.



In this article I wanted to bring you, the reader, home to where I live in St. Louis, Missouri and open up a few of the front doors that lead into some of this area's most haunted locations. Come along...let's step aboard the Christmas sleigh and drop inside for a very haunted holiday season!!






The Dependahl House



The first stop on our sleigh ride through St. Louis takes us to the smaller suburb of Manchester, Missouri. Here in this once small farming community, covering five square miles, live about 18,000 people. Among those inhabitants, at the intersection of Henry Avenue and Andersohn Drive, sits the Dependahl House.

This two-story home was once a big farmhouse that still today hosts some very strong paranormal activity.

"The main ghosts that haunt it are the two E-- brothers.... There was an evil one and a sad or depressed one, and the depressed one hung himself in the historical house across the street... he had hanged himself in the front window."

It is said that the depressed brother was broken up over a love affair. The story of his life was discovered in a series of photographs in a history book of the area. The hanged man has been observed on numerous occasions, still haunting the property. The brother's full-body apparition has been seen standing at the foot of a bed, just staring at one of the tenants and startling the crap out of him. The second brother was standing next to him with an evil look on his face. He is claimed to be the most active in the house. The depressed brother's head has also been seen floating in a bedroom of the Dependahl house:

"I woke up one night and saw just his little head, right by the light switch, in my room. He was looking at me.... He had a sad look to him. And he had that short, black hair; really short, and parted on the side. Very distinct-looking hair."

The paranormal activity of the two brothers is just the beginning of what is happening on the property. Outside in the yard voices have been heard on more than one occasion:

"...we heard this evil laugh in the yard. It was not even a normal voice; it was like hahahaHAHAHAHA! It was just too weird of a laugh...."

In one of the rooms facing west, on the side of the house facing Andersohn Drive, there have been claims of a woman bellowing a blood-curdling scream:

"It's usually in the dead of winter when it's cold out and it's quiet. It sounded like it was coming from another dimension, not this world."


There are also reports of a cat that has been seen outside the home. This calico is said to have died in the barn out back during one of the rougher winters. Tenants have seen this cat wandering around the premises and one in particular watched the animal walk right through a closed garage door. The mysterious calico has even made its way into the screaming woman's room as well, scratching at the rug at night.

There is one final story coming from the Dependahl house that runs its roots back to the Civil War era:

"In the rear of the house is an old smokehouse, which had a noose and a trapdoor inside and appeared to be untouched when [the] family moved in.... Legend had it a black man was held and later hanged inside, allegedly for raping a schoolteacher...." 


The Mottin House

If you hop back onto our winter chariot, we'll travel a bit further north in St. Louis to area known as Florissant. On the 100 block of Rue St. Catherine the Mottin House stands as an historic ghost story embedded in the roadside trees. The paranormal activity in the home is very reminiscent of the images we might have about Christmas.

One family that lived in the house reports seeing a figure standing in the second floor window. The mother had loaded up the kids to take them to school one morning and while she was backing out, she looked back upstairs for some reason. Perhaps her mind picked up that someone was staring at her from a distance. (Ever heard of scopaesthesia?):

"She saw this figure standing in the window, an older woman with a funny little bonnet-type of hat, cap. So [the mother] went back into the house, and of course, there was no one there."

This same woman has been seen by more than family in the house's history. "Gretchen Crank, an office manager, is the down-to-earth subject of the 'old woman in the window' story. She and her husband, Nelson, purchased the home in 1977 and restored it to its 1905 splendor, when it was built by Felix Mottin, a house builder."

Their story happened in 1978 or 1979. They too, like the other family, were backing out of the driveway and looked back towards the house. On the second floor Gretchen saw a woman leaning out of the window and looking toward the driveway. The apparition looked at Gretchen and realized she had been seen in the window. In response, the apparition moved back inside. Gretchen, afraid that there was someone in the house, pulled back into the driveway, ran into the back yard, and grabbed a baseball bat off the porch. She did a sweep of the home, but found no one. The lady in the window is believed to be Agatha Mottin, Felix's wife.


The Mottin House is also notorious for its paranormal smells. In particular, there is the scent of burning candles that can be detected at the foot of the living room stairs. Is it Agatha lighting up a source of Christmas cheer? Might she have been setting the holiday dinner table back in 1915 when she and Felix were raising their 9 children together? Could the lingering smell be a moment in time captured when Felix blew out the last candle, shuffling the children off to bed so that Santa Claus could come?


"You can smell it right at the bottom of the stairs, you can smell it going up the stairs and it gets stronger, like there something burning upstairs.... It's like a candle, like right after you've blown it out...."


The St. Ann Poltergeist


We have one last stop on our Christmas journey through the city of St. Louis and this house has a very unique history. It is located in the suburb of St. Ann and the origins of this haunting begins with couple named Hank and Ina. The year is 1974. The couple were married in 1968 in the Lutheran Church in Bel Nor, just around the corner from the famous 1949 Exorcist house. After the wedding, they purchased a plot of land in St. Charles county. On the property was an old dilapidated barn who some locals believed was haunted. Hank eventually tore it down and sold the property. After it was sold, Hank's health began to take a massive decline:

"Problems with his eyes was soon followed by accelerated diabetes. He developed leg problems, heart problems, and was soon being treated for acute depression.... Fearing he might soon become 'a burden' to Ina, he shot himself on Labor Day (1974) with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson."  

At the time of Hank's suicide, he and Ina were living in a house in Bridgeton. Before they bought this house with the land sale money, they had considered buying a different house in St. Ann. At the time the St. Ann house was not available, but ironically, after Hank's death, it did hit the market again. Ina went ahead and sold the Bridgeton property and bought the St. Ann home. 


When she first moved in, the house was relatively quiet. That is, there was no paranormal activity at all. Then, right around the first anniversary of Hank's death, things began to change dramatically. Ina began hearing someone walking around in the attic and contacted her children one night in a full-blown panic. They came over to their mother's house, but did not find anyone. This happened on multiple occasions, but no strangers were ever upstairs.

In the photo to the left you can see an extension that runs from the main house of to the left and connects into the garage. When Hank and Ina first looked at the house to purchase it, it was decided that this would be the area for his private work den. The room originally was intended to be a sun room and so it was not wired for any electricity. It is in this section of the house where the poltergeist activity began.

One of the most mysterious phenomenon of the room was its consistently cold temperatures. Spirits are known to extract heat energy from the environment and we understand this as being "cold spots." Hank's den exhibited these "cold spots" on a daily basis:

"...no feasible explanation could be given how when in the high heat of August (with temperatures pressing near 100 degrees), why this particular room would continually feel “ice cold.” A faintness-like dizziness seemed to come over anyone who remained in this room for an extended period of time. In the adjacent garage, garden tools which Hank had once owned and used kept falling off their hooks and wall mounts. Shovels, rakes, hedge clippers and other items could be heard on a semi-regular basis falling loudly onto the garage floor. This would usually occur in the middle of the night, shortly before bedtime."

There was also a disembodied male voice that could be heard coming from the walls. Creaks, knocks, and pops were continuously heard by Ina in the house on Little Flower Lane over the next three years. Finally, in 1978, something happened that caused her to sell the property. She never told anyone what it was that drove her over the edge.

Have a Haunted Jolly Christmas


The city of St Louis is full of little suburbs and towns that are laden with paranormal activity. The Lemp Mansion and the Exorcist house are two of the most famous. I hope that as you have taken this little "sleigh ride" journey with me through some of my neighborhoods that you have gotten a good paranormal taste for some of the lesser-known hauntings in my area. 

I am always looking to create articles about haunted locations throughout the world that have not gotten Internet coverage. If you think your neck of the woods falls in this category, and if you would like to share some of your town's story, I'd love to hear from you. Just drop me a line @ ghosttracker423@gmail.com. 

Thank you so much!! Have a blessed and wonderful holiday season!!

Works Cited

http://www.excelentebruja.com.ar/seccion3.htm

Courtaway, Robbi. Spirits of St. Louis: A Ghostly Guide to the Mound City's Unearthly Activities. October 1999.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Haunted Wampanoag Sites in Plymouth, Massachusetts: Thanksgiving Redefined


In all of our United States history books we have been taught that the first Thanksgiving which took place in 1621 at Plymouth Rock was one of communal celebration between the Pilgrims and local Native Americans. Unfortunately the accuracy of historical events can be a bit skewed, deviating from the truth to make events seem more public relations-friendly. In the context of our traditional three day feast, Abraham Lincoln thought up the scenario pictured above as a way of showing a desire to cooperate with those peoples already living here in North America. But there is another side to the story: 

"You’ve probably heard the story of how Squanto assisted in their planting of corn? So this was their first successful harvest and they were celebrating that harvest and planning a day of their own thanksgiving. And it’s kind of like what some of the Arab nations do when they celebrate by shooting guns in the air. So this is what was going on over there at Plymouth. They were shooting guns and canons as a celebration, which alerted us because we didn’t know who they were shooting at. So Massasoit [the Wampanoag chief] gathered up some 90 warriors and showed up at Plymouth prepared to engage, if that was what was happening, if they were taking any of our people. They didn’t know. It was a fact-finding mission.....In those days, the English really needed to rely on us and, yes, they were polite as best they could be, but they regarded us as savages nonetheless.... You can see throughout their journals that they were always nervous and, unfortunately, when they were nervous they were very aggressive."

I wanted to highlight this little known perspective on American history because it gives us a side of a very popular holiday tradition in our culture we do not read about in textbooks. Please understand that in no way do I wish to demean the "spirit" of Thanksgiving or to assert that I am an authority of history. The other cultural perspectives are fascinating and should be given any merit they deserve. Despite the story presented by the Wampanoag people, many Native Americans today do treat this cultural event as a positive celebration and agree with the implied spirit of cooperation.



In this article you will discover haunted sites in the Plymouth, Massachusetts area that will continue to redefine your perspective on the Thanksgiving holiday. The Wampanoag people not only offer a rich history of culture and traditions, but they also have a past that is shrouded in the paranormal. What I hope to reveal to you are paranormal connections to the celebration of Thanksgiving that go far beyond the simple feast of 1621. The haunted sites, attributed to the Wampanoag tribes, are ones you may have heard of; however, you may not have made their direct connection with our November celebration or the Pilgrims who survived the dangerous journey.

Journey Across the Sea  


The 23 Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1621 and with them they brought the microorganisms of their native country, England. By the grace of God they made it to North America and were determined to settle and raise their families. The problem was they needed help to maintain survival. Here is where the Wampanoag Indians stepped up and showed them how to plant and grow corn. This honorable gesture on their part opened their people up to something they could never have anticipated - disease.


As a result of exposure, the Wapanoag people have suffered several different epidemics - each one wiping out a huge part of their population. The first, which came in three waves over four years, was in 1614 and is believed to be caused by a bacterial infection called leptospirosis or the 7-day fever. This disease, caused by infected rats, took a population of 12,000 and reduced it all the way down to 2,000. These mass epidemics created massive burial grounds on the Massachusetts mainland. 

The Wampanoag were also inhabitants of nearby Nantucket Island, 40 miles southeast of Plymouth rock. Here is where our paranormal journey begins.

At the island's high point, the Wampanoag population reached almost 3,000. After the Pilgrims migrated to the area and over a century later, the Wampanoag tribe had gone completely extinct from the Nantucket Island. At one point in history, right at the start of the Revolutionary War, 222 members of this tribe -then only numbering 358 - had died of a devastating epidemic. This time around the cause was blamed on viruses and bacteria that the Pilgrims had brought with them. Here, southeast of Plymouth on Nantucket Island, the Miacomet burial grounds were dug for these victims. This island remains very haunted to this day because of this sacred ground.

Since Nantucket is such a small island, there are very few paranormal investigation groups that pay a visit. There is one local team, the Nantucket Paranormal Group, that has been documenting paranormal experiences since November 2006. Over the past decade the Miacomet burial ground has gathered some attention from their investigations:

  • Since whaling was a popular trade in the 1800's, there have been reports of seeing a deceased captain haunting Nantucket Island. 
  • There is a story, shrouded in folklore, that tells of a little girl who met an untimely death. She is believed to still haunt the island. 
  • Ray Sylvia, Jr. is the founder of NPG and it is his own great-grandmother who has gained the reputation on Nantucket as the "Centennial." She lived to be 102 years-old and there are claims by other family members that they have seen her walking the island. 
"We saw something in a house in Sconset....It was 11 or 11:30 at night, about 20 degrees out. In the master bedroom we heard what sounded like a little girl's voice playing in the front lawn. Of course, there was nobody out there... We couldn't find a rational explanation for that one." - Ray Sylvia


Since it was literally freezing cold outside, the voice they heard had to be from a residual haunting. With over 200 Wampanoags being buried in such a small area in an even shorter time frame, this opens up huge opportunities for these types of hauntings. I have yet to find an investigation team, or individual for that matter, who has experienced paranormal activity from the deceased Native Americans. But, I believe, there has to be a massive prevalence of this activity.

To give you a little context for my reasoning, let's look at Civil War cemetery sites. I peronally have experienced soldiers running from behind trees and tombstones, curious of anyone who enters their cemetery. I invite you to check out one of my earlier posts on my experiences in Alton, Illinois at this link: 

http://ghosttracker423.blogspot.com/2014/04/civil-war-cemetaries-hot-zones-of.html

The residual hauntings in the Alton National Cemetery are rather intense and have left quite an impact on both my wife and myself. And so it really is no stretch of the imagination to suspect that the Miacomet burial grounds may very well be just as haunted. Anytime there is a major traumatic experience with individuals or groups of people, residual hauntings tend to be created. Since there is ghostly documentation of little girls on the island, the children may have been more strongly impacted by the epidemics. 


Freetown State Forest


The paranormal activity on nearby Nantucket Island is quite fascinating, but there's an area even closer site that is even more baffling. Freetown-Fall River State Forest is about 30 miles southwest of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It too is the burial site of Pocasset Wampanoag Native Americans, but this forest has phenomenal activity and folklore that goes off the charts. 



The wooded area cover 5,441 acres and is notorious for its scenery and nearly 50 miles of unpaved road. It is a hotspot for hikers, cyclists, fishermen, and hunters. It also has perhaps the most diverse paranormal activity known anywhere.

"The forest sits squarely within the infamous 'Bridgewater Triangle,' a 200 square mile area within southeastern Massachusetts that is the epicenter of a mind boggling array of inexplicable bizarre phenomena reported since colonial times, including strange creatures, Bigfoot, UFOs, ghosts, specters, ominous black helicopters, mysterious orbs of light, strange disappearances, giant snakes, poltergeist activity, and cattle mutilations, to name but a few."

Check out this 4 minute video to learn even more about this geographic area:




Thanksgiving Thoughts


The events at Plymouth Rock that occurred almost 400 years ago have forever changed American society. All of us are familiar with the Pilgrims who came to this country, but how much do you know about the other half of the Thanksgiving table? The Wampanoag people have a different perspective on our holiday and their culture has a very deep and rich tie to the paranormal.

The activity on Nantucket Island was brought about by epidemics, created naturally and brought over by the fleeing Europeans. The unrest their deaths has caused created a series of hauntings on the island, documented by the Nantucket Paranormal Group.

But what is surprising about the Wampanoag Native Americans is how strong and diverse the paranormal attributes are to their culture. The Bridgewater Triangle is certainly comparable to an Area 51 and the claims and legends coming from this huge forest seem almost unbelievable. One of my favorite claims from this area is documented on the website
 Mysterious Universe:

"The forest is said to be home to a race of diminutive humanoid creatures known as Pukwedgies, which have long been known by the native Wampanoag tribe. These creatures are described as being troll-like beasts around 2 to 3 feet in height and with smooth, hairy grey skin that is said to glow on occasion. The Pukwedgies have a notorious reputation for mischief and mayhem, and are said to intentionally startle people, throw rocks or sand in their faces, push or shove them, kidnap them, hurl them from cliffs, wrestle with them or even attack them with knives or spears.... Although this may seem at first glance as nothing more than spooky folklore, there are numerous visitors to the forest who have claimed to have seen such creatures, and the mischievous beasts have been blamed as the cause of the unusual number of people who have supposedly fallen from cliffs to their deaths in the area."

Works Cited:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-was-on-the-menu-at-the-first-thanksgiving-511554/?no-ist

http://www.ack.net/island091307.html

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/11/23/what-really-happened-first-thanksgiving-wampanoag-side-tale-and-whats-done-today-145807

http://www.nha.org/pdfs/otherislanders/1aWamp1o2.pdf

http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/

http://www.ack.net/Paranormal103008.html

http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/06/the-cursed-forest-of-massachusetts/