Friday, January 15, 2016

The Outlaw Frank James and Haunted Crematories

Cemeteries are always a default location when investigators want to explore the paranormal realm. Generally it is here that the dead make their final stop before crossing over the spiritual veil to what lies on the other side. Historical figures like Frank and Jesse James impacted the landscape of death not just with their actions in life, but also the approach to their own deaths. The photo above shows Jesse and Frank involved in the hanging of a man named Solomon. Solomon lived to tell his story, but many did not. The brothers learned a little something themselves about the process of dying: 

     "Old news stories claim [Frank] James decided years before his death to be cremated because he was troubled by rumors that his brother's [Jesse's] brain had been stolen and used for medical experiments." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Frank chose to be burnt to ashes to avoid the humiliation of being turned into a lab rat. The process of burning a deceased body, coming from a different perspective, has been a source of controversy for some people because there is the belief that the corpse is not honorably respected when the person has not been properly buried fully intact. In the case of Frank James, his concerns were from bandits and so cremation seemed to be the better choice. 

But what about common folks today? Does the process of cremation create residual or intelligent hauntings on the crematory grounds because of the possibility of dishonor? Or are hauntings solely determined by the details surrounding the point of death, thereby suggesting that the means of burial is not so significant? 

A look at a couple crematories throughout the United States might provide answers to these questions.

A Brief History of Crematories

For quite some time now I have driven past the Missouri Crematory and its adjacent Columbarium and wondered what exactly is the story of these two buildings. So, I did a little research.... 

The process of cremation prior to the Industrial Revolution was performed outdoors and were known as the familiar funeral pyre. Bodies were burned with firewood and sometimes coal, but with the modernizing of society this process became viewed as barbaric and so a new method of incineration needed to be created. In England, during the 1870's, the regenerative furnace was brought forth as the solution and in 1874 a radical politician named Charles Wentworth Dilke was perhaps the first to use the furnace for cremation. He burned the corpse of his dead wife in it. This first cremation would spark a new tradition and very quickly established the Cremation Society in January of that year.

Here in the United States the first crematory was built in 1876 in Washington County, Pennsylvania by a man named Dr. Julius LeMoyne. He established this site because he believed that the decomposing bodies of those buried were infiltrating and contaminating the ground water.

 "[H]e felt the decay would leach into the soil and run-off into the water sources... [and] it was extremely likely that those who died of certain diseases were infecting others by way of local water sources." (

Cremated bodies were placed inside of urns, but some family members did not necessarily want the remains to be in their homes. Thus the rise of the Columbarium. These beautifully ornate buildings or architectural constructs serve as the home for millions of cremated bodies. Most are built out of granite, as this stone has great longevity to weather time. It is also a wonderful conductor of paranormal activity because granite has crystal particulates all throughout its structure. The urn chambers are usually stacked one on top of another and formed into lengthy rows.
I have visited a couple columbariums in my years of investigating (Missouri and Canton, Ohio to name two) and have never encountered or documented any paranormal activity, despite the fact that the surrounding granite will fuel spirit interactions. Thus far I have not been able to find through my own research any evidence linking residual or intelligent hauntings to these sites.

In the photo shoot of this columbarium in St. Louis I did capture what I would consider to be brain matrixing, but perhaps to the untrained eye a woman's face might be seen peering over the window ledge at me. No one is inside the building and the doors are securely locked.

Columbariums were first built by the Romans and eventually introduced into the various churches throughout the world. The Catholic and Protestant faiths now have many of these cremation mausoleums attached to their cemeteries, but at one time they were prohibited. For the Catholic Church, it wasn't until Pope Paul VI lifted the ban in 1963 that cremation began to be an accepted form of burial. There are many other instances of churches and their members becoming active participants in crematories. One such site lies in Kansas City, Missouri. 

A Tale of Two Suicides

Elmwood Cemetery is located at 4900 Truman Road in Kansas City, Missouri and has its share of reported hauntings. One of the most controversial claims is that the spirit of an Episcopal priest still wanders the halls and balcony of the St. Mary's Church, nearby this cemetery. 

Father Henry David Jardine is credited with overseeing the relocation and construction of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, which was established in 1857. In 1887 the new St. Mary's Church was opened, with Father Jardine in charge if its finances and construction. The final project went $65,000 over budget. He served the church as a rector from 1879-1886. His tenure as a rector came to an abrupt halt after a local journalist accused him of "misuse of church funds, drug use and immoral behavior with young church girls." The accusation led to his removal from the church.

Shortly afterwards, "Father Jardine was found dead in St. Louis with a crucifix and a chloroform rag. Many parishioners believed the death to be a suicide with the chloroform. Others believed it to be accidental as Father Jardine used the drug to calm facial muscle spasms." (The Examiner) His defrocking from the church meant that he was not permitted to be buried on church grounds. He instead was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery where there are claims that his confused and frustrated ghost can be seen walking the grounds still today. Father Jardine was never cremated, but the circumstances surrounding his death have created residual hauntings in two locations.

Elmwood Cemetery - Photo courtesy John Jackson
A man who was cremated and has ties to the Elmwood Cemetery was a gentleman named George William Shaw. The story has it that George walked into the cemetery office in 1936 and paid for a burial plot for himself. He stated that he had saved up the money and didn't want to lose it. Two days after his purchase, George walked into the cemetery, slung a rope over an elm tree and hung himself to death. He was cremated in the nearby crematory and his ashes were scattered under the very elm tree he hung himself, all done according to the wishes he had written down. His spirit is also claimed to haunt Elmwood, as his footsteps have been heard wandering around the suicide tree. Once again, the circumstances surrounding death have created a residual haunting and not the process of cremation.

What Can We Deduce?

Frank James was cremated in the Missouri Crematory (as far as it might be known) and his ashes were kept in the columbarium next door for a brief period of time. "According to records kept at the building the cremated remains... were turned over to Jesse E. James, outlaw Jesse James' oldest son and a nephew of the deceased." (Post-Dispatch) Frank's remains were then taken back to his wife Anne, where she held them in a bank vault until her death in 1944. She was also cremated with both of their remains being buried in a plot near Independence, Missouri.

As far as I have researched there have yet to be any claims of residual or intelligent hauntings in any of the crematories or columbariums that have been mentioned in this article. I myself have never experienced any hauntings as well with the locations I have investigated here in Missouri and in Ohio. My initial response to the two questions would be that the cremation process somehow prevents spirits from haunting crematories unless the death of the body happens where the ashes are kept - as in the case of George Shaw. And then I came across this video....

I must admit that the evidence the Dead Explorer team encountered is very convincing and has caused me to reevaluate the possibility that crematories can be haunted not just with residual entities, but intelligent ones as well.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can comment in the box below or please feel free to type in your ideas on any of the social media sites you find this article and thank you!

Works Cited

Holleman, Joe. "Outlaw Frank James Met His Final Fate in St. Louis." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 3, 2015.