Monthly Archives: October 2015

John Dillinger Lives

 

Ghost of notorious gangster has been seen outside the Biograph Theater

Biograph TheaterJohn Dillinger Lives – Not the flesh-and-blood gangster, of course, but his ghost, who has been seen outside the place where Dillinger drew his last breath—the Biograph Theater on North Lincoln Avenue.

By the time Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents on July 22, 1934, he had become Public Enemy No. 1, his notorious exploits ballyhooed in newspapers across the country on an almost daily basis. While much of the American public viewed Dillinger as something of a modern-day Robin Hood, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had issued a “shoot to kill” order on the gangster as well as a $10,000 reward. Each of the five states in which Dillinger and his gang had robbed banks also offered $10,000 rewards.

In July 1934, Chicago police detective Martin Zarkovich approached Melvin Purvis, director of the Chicago office of the FBI and told him that he could deliver Dillinger. Zarkovich had a friend named Anna Sage, a whorehouse madam who was facing deportation to her native Romania, who he said could set up Dillinger if the FBI would halt her deportation proceedings.

John_Dillinger_full_mug_shotThe deal was struck. The evening of July 22 was a warm one. John Dillinger wore a lightweight coat with a white shirt, gray pants, canvas shoes, and his usual straw boater as he entered the Biograph Theater with his most recent girlfriend, Polly Hamilton Keele. Anna Sage, who wore a brilliant orange dress, accompanied the couple. The banner hanging below the Biograph’s illuminated marquee advertised that the theater was “cooled by refrigeration” so that its patrons could watch Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy, in comfort.

While the movie played, Purvis positioned his men in the streets outside the theater. He was nervous, chain-smoking cigarettes as he waited for the theatergoers to exit. At about 10:30, the house lights came up and the theater began to empty. As the crowd filed out, Purvis saw Anna Sage’s distinctive orange dress—the means by which they agreed to identify her, and thus, Dillinger—among the crowd. He signaled to his agents and the police to move in.

Dillinger stepped off the curb, just before the alley that ran alongside the theater. Alerted by something, he suddenly stopped and whirled around, apparently reaching for a gun hidden beneath his coat. The agents opened fire. Three bullets struck him. Dillinger staggered a few steps then fell to the pavement dead.

John KachubaThere are stories of people seeing a shadowy figure of a man running on the sidewalk, or heading for the alley. He runs, then staggers, then falls and disappears, almost as if reenacting the shooting over and over again. There are some who say the man killed at the Biograph Theater that night was not really John Dillinger, but that the FBI, embarrassed by the Little Bohemia debacle, could not admit yet another mistake and so covered up the truth. We may never know the truth, but what we do know is that a man was shot and killed that night and that his ghost relives that agony still.

In his book Ghosthunting Illinois, John Kachuba explores the scariest spots in the Prairie State.  He visited thirty-two legendary haunted places, all of which are open to the public – so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.

Photo credits:
Biograph Theater © John Kachuba
John Dillinger: © By FBI [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oaklea Mansion

Oaklea Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Winnsboro, TX

 

Oaklea MansionThe colonial-style home was originally built in 1903 by Mr. Marcus Dewitt Carlock, Sr. He was a successful attorney who had been involved in many political ventures, and often entertained the politically elite of the time. The Carlock home was recorded as a Texas Historical Landmark in 1966; a marker bearing a brief history of the house is proudly displayed beside the front door.

Current owner Norma Wilkinson was born and raised in Winnsboro, and knew the Carlock family prior to purchasing the home in 1996. Norma and her husband live in the home, but have also opened it to guests as the Oaklea Mansion Bed & Breakfast.

Many visitors to the mansion and its grounds have reported strange experiences during their stay, and paranormal teams have also investigated the home, finding that legitimate activity was indeed occurring there.

 

The author of Ghosthunting Texas, April Slaughter visited the Oaklea Mansion with her husband and stayed in the “English Rose” room, which was richly decorated in floral décor and had access to the balcony. After a few hours’ sleep, April’s husband Allen was jolted awake by the feeling of a hand gripping his left ankle. He sat up in bed and saw no one there, but maintains that someone or something had touched him. He waited for awhile, but sleep ultimately found him again and the remainder of the night was uneventfully peaceful.

Norma treated April and Allen to an elegant breakfast the next morning while they discussed their experiences from the night before. April and Allen wholeheartedly believed that they were not the only guests of the Oaklea Mansion. It is a lovely mansion and no real surprise if a member of the Carlock family regularly comes back to check on the home they once owned

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything — including ghosts! For more haunted stories check out April Slaughter’s book Ghosthunting Texas

 

The Ghost of Edgar Allan Poe

PoeHouse-BaltimoreLocated just eight blocks from where Edgar Allan Poe is buried at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground is, ironically, one of the many houses the author lived in over the course of his life. It was not, however, his home at the time he died in Baltimore in 1849 at the age of forty, as many people assume—possibly because of all the paranormal phenomena that have occurred at the site.

The author dwelled in this small, unassuming brick townhouse for just a couple of years, from March 1831 to October 1833, with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her children, Henry and Virginia (whom he married in 1835, when she was thirteen and he was twenty-seven).

His stay there followed his discharge from the United States Military Academy at West Point and preceded his move to Richmond, Virginia, to work as a staff writer and critic for the Southern Literary Messenger, a periodical devoted largely to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and reviews. While living in the Baltimore home, the author lived and wrote—possibly creating as many as a dozen published stories and poems—in a little top-floor room with a pitched ceiling.

In the early 1930s, the city of Baltimore planned to demolish the house as part of an urban clear-cutting campaign and to extend the almost tastelessly named “Poe Homes” housing project onto the site. The Edgar Allan Poe Society managed to obtain the property and opened it to the public in 1949.

Exhibits at the little museum include a lock of Poe’s hair; some china that once belonged to his guardian, John Allan; a reproduction of the portrait Poe painted of Virginia after she died in 1847;  a reprint of the 1849 obituary from the October 24, 1849 edition of the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper; and Poe’s original announcement  about the creation of The Stylus, a literary magazine that never got off the ground.

Strange phenomena people have reported at the site include the sensation of someone tapping them on the shoulders, mysterious muttering voices, lights moving around in the house when no one was in it, inexplicable cold spots, windows flying open or slamming shut—and, in at least one case, a window falling out of its frame and smashing onto the floor.

Some people have, predictably, also claimed to see the ghost of Poe in this house—and perhaps part of his spirit does remain behind there residually, or visits periodically during its rounds to the many other sites where people have seen it. What even more people have claimed to see or otherwise sense, however, is a specter that many have described as a heavyset, middle-aged woman. Who she might be, however—and whether or not she has any connection to Poe—remains unclear, and further investigation would seem to be in order.

More haunted tales connected to Edgar Allen Poe are found in Ghosthunting Maryland by Michael Varhola.

Copyrights: By Midnightdreary (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ectoplasmic Ghosts

 

Rosemary Ellen Guiley talks to us about the Ectoplasmic Ghost phenomena

Rosemary Ellen GuileyMany haunted locations have albums of photographs taken on premises by visitors. Some of them show cloudy mists that weave around the objects in the photos. The mists may look like fog or smog, or uneven layers and streams of smoke. Ghost enthusiasts call this phenomenon ectoplasm or “ecto” for short. When it shows up in a photograph, they say, it reveals a ghost or spirit. Is ecto really paranormal or a case of mistaken identity?

Whether or not ectoplasm is a genuine substance, belief in it persists, perhaps due in part to the popularity of the 1982 film Ghostbusters. The origins of ectoplasm date to the nineteenth century when Spiritualism and séances were all the rage. The word was coined in 1894 by a French researcher, Charles Richet, who combined two Greek words, ektos and plasma, to mean “exteriorized substance.” Richet used it to describe a weird third arm that oozed out of the noses, mouths, ears, and other body orifices of mediums during trance states. Supposedly, ectoplasm was used by spirits to materialize bodies in the physical world.

Ectoplasm was warm to the touch and smelly. It ranged in texture, such as dough, rubber, cotton, muslin, gauze, and froth. It would come out in shapeless masses, or form into ghostly hands and feet, as well as other parts of a spirit “body.” Sometimes ectoplasm seemed more like a vapor or smoke.

Sometimes the “ecto” turned out to be soap, gelatin or egg white

From its beginnings, ectoplasm was controversial, and was uncovered as fraudulent in some cases. Sometimes the “ecto” turned out to be nothing more than soap, gelatin, and egg white. Researchers tested mediums by forcing them to drink blueberry juice or dyes, in case they had secreted cotton or linen in their stomachs to regurgitate. Other mediums performed séances in the nude to prove that they were not faking it. Research of ectoplasm ended for the most part by the mid-twentieth century with the jury out on whether or not it is a genuine spirit manifestation.

The latest twist of ecto has emerged in photography, especially images taken with digital cameras in haunted locations. Those white mists usually have a natural explanation; the camera has captured humid moisture in the air that is invisible to the human eye but is illuminated by a camera flash. Sometimes cigarette smoke is the culprit. Nearly invisible wisps of smoke can linger in the air long after a cigarette has been extinguished.

So, most ecto or ghost mist photos probably have natural explanations. Some photos, however, do defy explanation, keeping the debate going and the intrigue high.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley is the author of Ghosthunting Pennsylvania is a renowned expert on paranormal, visionary, and spiritual topics.