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El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

April Slaughter, author of Ghosthunting Texas, shares with us the tale of El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

We’re all familiar with the legend of Sleepy Hollow and the terrifying headless horseman who stalked the local community in the story, but did you know that Texas has a headless horseman of its own?

The legend of El Muerto, or the “Dead One,” stretches back to the days of cattle rustlers and outlaws, dirt trails and cowboy fights. While some believe him to be merely a product of myth, there are those who claim he might have actually existed.

In 1850, one of the most famous of all Texas Rangers—Bigfoot Wallace—allegedly captured a Mexican outlaw simply known as Vidal, who had been raiding ranches and stealing cattle and horses. Texas Rangers had long been working to keep the incidents of theft at a minimum, but outlaws continued to sweep across the south. Rangers had done everything they could to send a clear message that thievery would not be tolerated, but their efforts had been largely unsuccessful.

Bigfoot Wallace reportedly executed Vidal upon his capture, tied his decapitated head and sombrero to the saddle horn of a wild mustang, secured his body in the animal’s saddle, and sent the horse out to roam the plains. Cowboys began to see the horse and its unfortunate rider aimlessly wandering through the hills and became so afraid that they shot at it with their guns. Over time, El Muerto became an omen of bad things to come and was credited in stories of the misfortunes of others. Once the horse had been cornered in present-day Uvalde, Texas, the body of the one-time rustler was finally laid to rest. This, however, would not be the last time El Muerto was seen. Stories began to spread like wildfire that he was still riding in the hills and among the ranches he had once stolen from.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

The legend of the headless horseman of Texas is still alive and well today, as many ranchers and travelers throughout west Texas have reported seeing the ghostly apparition on clear and moonlit evenings; a large and foreboding presence, seemingly destined to an eternity of riding headless through the plains on a wild mustang.

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything—including ghosts! In her book Ghosthunting Texas, April Slaughter explores more than 50 spooky sites.

About the author: As an active paranormal researcher for nearly 20 years, April Slaughter has delved into almost every facet of the unknown, from spirits and psychic phenomena to UFOs, Cryptozoology, and more. She is one of America’s leading researchers into the study of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC), and is the first to introduce her personal experiences with Induced After Death Communication (IADC) to the paranormal field.

She began her journalism career in 2006, writing and working for TAPS Paramagazine—published by the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters. In 2008, she cofounded The Paranormal Source, Inc., a nonprofit research and education corporation.

Lumber Baron Inn

The Lumber Baron Inn in Denver Doesn’t Shy Away from its Haunted Past

Lumber Baron InnLike many hotels, the Lumber Baron provides guests with a comfortable place to stay, as well as a venue for weddings and other events. What the hotel also has is a whole collection of mystery dinners. Tickets for the annual mystery dinner season can be found on the inn’s website.

The eponymous lumber baron was John Mouat, a Scottish immigrant who built the mansion after acquiring his fortune in the lumber industry in the 1890s. After the Mouats, the house was passed down to different families before being converted into separate apartments. This is where the horrors of the so-called mystery mansion come in.

By 1970 the mansion had been converted into individual apartments. One 17-year-old from Golden, Colorado, named Cara Lee Knoche, started living in the building in September of that year. She had previously dropped out of high school. On October 12, 1970, both Knoche and Marianne Weaver, a high school friend of hers, were found dead in Knoche’s apartment. Knoche had been raped and then strangled to death. She was found naked and shoved under the bed with a knife underneath her.

There were signs that she struggled with her attacker and tried to protect herself. Weaver, on the other hand, was found lying on top of the bed with a shot to the head. The police suspect she may have walked in on the murder, in turn to be murdered herself.

The two girls are often thought of as the cause of any paranormal activity that happens in the building. Apparitions of young women have been seen, and the sound of footsteps has been heard. In one case the image of Weaver was thought to be seen in the reflection of a mirror photographed at the inn. In the Valentine Suite, which is where the girls were murdered, some guests have said that they felt something hovering near them. Both images and recordings of cats have been made in the Valentine Suite, even though there was no cat on the premises at the time. Some psychics who have investigated the building claim to have contacted the two women. While they did supposedly go into detail about their deaths, there was unfortunately no information about the killer.

On the other hand, some of the paranormal activity is unrelated to Knoche and Weaver. Some claim that Mouat may still haunt the building. Cold spots have been felt throughout the building, and the house creaks and groans despite heavy renovation. There is also the figure of a woman in Victorian clothing that can be seen on the stairwell. Some also claim it is her shadow you see in the mirror above the fireplace in the front parlor. Some people have also claimed to see a tall woman in a blue dress from the ’20s. Additionally they can smell the cigarette smoke she leaves behind, despite a no-smoking policy in the building. The owner claimed a teenage ghost would greet him in the basement every day as well.

After the murders in the ’70s, the building began to crumble. The next owners, Julie and Walter Keller, found the building in the ’90s and decided to restore it. Their job was not an easy one, as the building was so dilapidated it had been condemned by the city, but it is now considered one of the best examples of original Queen Anne architecture in Denver. The Kellers did not shy away from the paranormal aspect of their hotel and hosted paranormal investigations there on many occasions. But despite booming business, they placed the Mystery Mansion back on the market in June 2014. It sold in April 2016 for $1.7 million to Elaine and Joel Bryant, who will continue to operate it as a bed-and-breakfast.

In her book Ghosthunting ColoradoKailyn Lamb looks at locations throughout the state and dives headfirst into the history behind the ghosts and what has made them stay. Join her in investigating the history of some of Colorado’s most haunted locations, and you might find more than gold in those hills.

Photo credit: Kailyn Lamb

Druid Ridge Cemetery Maryland

Druid Ridge Cemetery and the Ghost of Marburg Monument

Druid Ridge CemeteryPeople have reported experiencing various paranormal phenomena— including sensing a spiritual presence, seeing apparitions, and capturing mists and orbs in photographs—at Druid Ridge Cemetery. One of the monuments often mentioned is the Marburg family mausoleum, in front of which is a bronze figure of Icarus.

The base of this statue is fitted with a plaque dedicating it to Theodore Marburg Jr. and mentioning his service with the British Royal Flying Corps during World War I. The plaque also includes some rather strange verbiage about the need for an American presence in Europe. It also indicates that Theodore was born in 1893 and died in 1922, begging the question of how he might have died not during the war but four years after it ended.

A brief review of Theodore’s life during and after the war would certainly suggest he was an almost classically tormented soul, and it was not hard to believe he might haunt the final resting place of his remains. When the Great War began, Theodore was a student at Oxford  in England; in an effort to help stop the German advance across Europe, he joined the British Royal Flying Corps—despite the fact that Americans were prohibited from serving in foreign military organizations and that his father was a career diplomat and a friend of former President William Howard Taft.

In 1916, Theodore’s plane crashed during a frontline mission and, as a result of the injuries he sustained, he had to have his left leg amputated. During his convalescence, he met and married a Belgian baroness who was a divorcée, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, and had a background that was, suffice it to say, a bit questionable.

Not much about the couple’s life together is known, but two years later, when Theodore became a partner in a cattle ranch in New Mexico, the baroness refused to go with him. In an exception to the norms of the era, he claimed abandonment and they were divorced shortly thereafter.

marburg-monumentIn early January 1922, Theodore was married again, this time to a woman 10 years his junior. She was not with him at his ranch, either, when he put an automatic pistol to his head seven weeks later and shot himself. It took him a week to die, during which the doctors had to remove his eyes. His wife arrived from Baltimore after he had expired.

There is a lot that is not known about the mounting tragedies that afflicted Theodore in life, but it is not too hard to imagine that his tormented spirit might still linger on our own sphere after his earthly troubles had been brought to an end. But, as it turns out, a number of the other Marburgs have weird stories, as well, and it is easy to conceive of any number of them lingering on as ghosts.

These include Theodore Marburg Sr., a man who cultivated a reputation as a peacemaker but urged the United States to enter World War I, and his sister, an increasingly desperate spinster who at one point unsuccessfully offered a European tour guide $200,000 to marry her (he declined, opting for her niece instead). Any of them—maybe all of them—might be among the spirits that continue to linger among the sepulchres and monuments of Druid Ridge Cemetery.

For more haunted tales, check out Ghosthunting Maryland by Michael J. Varhola.

Photo Credits
Druid Ridge Cemetery, Clotho Statue: By Coolcatevan9 (Own work) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Marburg Monument: Michael J. Varhola

Haunted Hiking Trails

In today’s post, America’s Haunted Road Trip reader Emma Mills shares with us a list of seven hiking trails in Colorado that she believes are haunted.

Let’s face it: The paranormal scares us, yet we cannot help but be intrigued by it. If you love walking or hiking, tread carefully, for the ground you walk on may be cursed. Here is a list of haunted hiking trails in Colorado, a state known for its stunning natural beauty and, now, spooky stories to tell.

Thornton-Woodglenn Park
Thornton-Woodglenn Park has a playground and bathroom facilities toward the back of the grounds. In the 1980s, a group of teenagers played a prank on two of their friends, locking them up in the bathroom. The two apparently died in a fire. On windy days, visitors to the park hear screams of a boy asking for help.

Grand Lake
grand-lake-coThe battle between Ute and Cheyenne Native Americans had terrible consequences. The spirits of Ute women and children who perished in the waters of the lake when their rafts capsized still roam the area in search of their families.

Sand Creek
The Sand Creek Massacres or the Massacre of Cheyenne Indians is the gruesome killing and mutilation of 70 to 163 Native Americans, mostly women and children. Their bodies were left unburied and their spirits haunt the area to this day.

Central City
haunted hiking trailsWhen in Colorado, do not miss the old mining town in Central City near Denver. Old buildings still stand, including an opera house and theater. The spirits of some inhabitants have never left, and they continue to haunt the city. One pair of ghosts is an old miner and his wife who whisper to each other at the local bar on their wedding anniversary.

Helen Hunt Falls
helen-hunt-falls-coBe careful when hiking along Cheyenne Canyon in Colorado Springs. The spirit of Helen Hunt, who died at the falls, haunts the area to this day. Every year, at least one life is lost here, and hikers report hearing eerie voices at night near the waterfalls.

Fort Morgan Nature Trails
Watch out for the River Witch, who killed herself the 1900s after being mistreated by the townspeople in Nature Trails, Riverside Park. She continues to haunt these trails, looking for revenge.

Horse Thief Canyon
At the Colorado National Monument, you can see an apparition of a woman dressed in white roaming the canyon’s walls. She was accidentally trampled to death by a horse smuggler.

Have you hiked these trails? Do you think that they are haunted? If you liked Emma’s story you can visit her website for more haunted tales.

If you plan on visiting Colorado, check out Ghosthunting Colorado to learn more about 30 of the state’s most haunted locations. And watch out for ghostly hitchhikers!

Photo Credits
Grand Lake: Wikipedia user Jay Erikson [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Helen Hunt Falls: By Beverlytaz (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Central City: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsHaunt

Croke-Patterson Mansion

Kailyn Lamb, author of Ghosthunting Colorado, takes us on a tour of the Croke-Patterson Mansion in Denver.

Denver’s Croke-Patterson Mansion: A Long History of Paranormal Activities

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-10-17-38-amThomas B. Croke was a teacher from Wisconsin who came to Denver and made his fortune as a businessman. From the beginning, Croke-Patterson Mansion had a reputation. A basic Internet search on the house brings up several websites that tell a “legendary” tale of how Croke was not able to spend even one day in his new home because something felt wrong about it. Real estate records reveal, however, that Croke lived in the house for six months, and the real culprit for his vacating the mansion was more likely the crash of the silver market. In addition, Croke’s wife passed away before the home’s completion, leaving him a widower as well as a single parent. Croke’s parents also joined him in the house, but his mother died shortly after moving in. Records and letters show that Croke later traded the house for land that was owned by Thomas Patterson.

Patterson was a US Senator for the state of Colorado, who had previously served in the United States House of Representatives. Patterson was also the owner of the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado’s first newspaper. He lived in the house with his wife, Katherine, and daughters Mary and Margaret. Patterson also had a son, James, who had committed suicide in California before the family moved into the house. Mary died of chronic illness in 1894; after the death of his wife in 1902, Patterson deeded the house to his daughter Margaret and her husband, Richard C. Campbell. Patterson lived in the house a total of 23 years, until his death in July 1916. The Campbells continued to live in the mansion until 1924, the longest any single family ever did. The Campbells sold the house to the Louise Realty Company.

Before becoming home to another family, the mansion changed hands and functions several times. However, the next family to live in the Croke-Patterson Mansion is frequently skipped over in online accounts of its history.

Hauntings Continue at the Croke-Patterson Mansion in Denver

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-10-04-07-amDr. Archer Sudan purchased and moved into the house in 1947. His wife, Tulleen, who was a nurse, accompanied him. They had a son, Archer Jr., who did not live with them in the mansion, as he was old enough to live on his own at the time. Although Tulleen was said to be happy and social, she committed suicide in one of the bathrooms of the house in 1950 using cyanogas, a powerful pesticide. It was rumored that the reason behind her suicide was that she had a miscarriage. What is most surprising about these residents being excluded from most written histories of the house is that it is the supposed ghost of Tulleen Sudan that permeates most of the tales. A woman who lost her baby, looking longingly out the third-floor window; the sounds of a crying baby when no one is in the house; and the supposed burial of a baby in the basement are among the accounts related to her. There is also a rumor that the baby was murdered. Tulleen, however, was 47 when she died, past the age of healthy childbearing, and there is no record of a child being born in the house. Some people who have entered the house even claim that they begin to feel as if they cannot breathe when walking up the stairs to the third floor. Cyanogas creates cyanide when combined with moisture, effectively suffocating anyone close enough to be exposed to the gas. Supposedly, Tulleen used a bathtub full of water, creating the cyanide to kill herself. Dr. Sudan continued to live in the house until 1958. After he and his second wife moved out of the house, Archer Jr. moved into the mansion, serving as landlord for the separate apartments his father had created upon moving in. Records show it was sold in October 1972.

Many of the stories of apparitions point to Tulleen’s spirit having never left the house after her death. But there is more to the story of the mansion. History major Mary Rae and her husband became the next owners in April 1973, saving it from demolition and later helping to make it a historic landmark.

In the late ’70s, the building was renovated to become an office space. Construction workers would leave for the night, only to come back the next day and find all their previous day’s work undone. Suspecting that people, and not ghosts, were behind it, workers put a fence around the building, and when that did not work they brought in a guard, who quit after one night. Next, guard dogs were brought in to protect the work site. There are multiple accounts of what happened next, but they all agree on one thing: One of the dogs jumped from a tower window in the building on the first night and died of his injuries within several days. According to other versions of the story, another one was also mortally injured on the second night. The other guard dog was found in the basement in a catatonic state, in which he remained for the rest of his life.

Despite these setbacks, the office space was eventually completed, but the hauntings did not stop, and employees would hear typewriters and other office supplies being used when there was no one around. Many tied this to Thomas Patterson, saying that some scandal or story had not made it into the paper, so a departed Patterson was going to do it himself.

One person, who owned the building in 1998, claims to have seen ghosts and witnessed household items move on their own. One resident of the building in 2004 claims to have seen apparitions of a maid who would go up and down the stairs, with only her upper body and torso visible and her legs seeming to dissipate.

There is also a story of the ghost of Katherine Patterson helping a pregnant resident roll over. Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society (RMPRS) has worked with the current and previous owners of the building, such as Dr. Douglas Ikeler and his wife, Melodee. Bryan  Bonner of RMPRS says that he heard the story of the pregnant woman firsthand from Melodee, who lived in the mansion with her husband for 10 years. Bonner added that, including the owners he has personally worked with, anyone who has been in contact with the mansion for long periods of time seems to start to “lose it.” He used Tulleen Sudan as a prime example.

RMPRS also did a radio show out of the mansion during one of the periods it was vacant. Its members decided they were going to stay the night there for the show. One of the sound engineers stayed in the basement. According to Bonner, he came back upstairs immediately, saying there was a man standing in the corner. They searched the mansion but could not find a man. Bonner added, however, that it was the same corner of the basement where the catatonic dog was found, and it was the same corner in which the Ikelers’ daughters had previously claimed to have seen a man standing by their toys.

Now Patterson Bed-and-Breakfast Guests Can Decide for Themselves Whether the Croke-Patterson Mansion is Still Haunted

Croke-Patterson MansionThe house remained vacant for a while before its most current owner, Brian Higgins, and his business partner at the time, Travis McAfoos, purchased the building in hopes of turning it into a bed-and-breakfast. Higgins decided to film the renovations on the building, documenting his own “hauntings” and mishaps that occurred while the work was in progress.

After an 18-month renovation, the mansion was reopened in August 2012 as the Patterson Bed and Breakfast. Since then, it landed on CBS’s top 10 bed-and-breakfasts list in July 2014. With nine themed rooms and accommodations such as large flat-screen TVs, Higgins has worked hard to erase the stigma surrounding the Croke-Patterson Mansion. He renovated it for the modern world but kept some of the historical Victorian-era design, such as the mansion’s famed stained-glass windows. For the cost of spending a night there, paranormal enthusiasts can decide for themselves whether the mansion is still haunted.

Photo credits
Croke-Patterson Mansion, street view: By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Croke-Patterson Mansion closeup and tower: Kailyn Lamb

Seul Choix Lighthouse One of the Scariest Places on Earth

Helen Pattskyn shares with us the story of Seul Choix Lighthouse which she describes as one of the scariest places on earth.

Seul ChoixAlthough I’ve lived all my life in a state where more than 100 lighthouses dot the coastline, I had never actually visited one before venturing to Seul Choix Point, my first stop in the Upper Peninsula. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there. The Point’s 100-year-old lighthouse is reportedly one of the most haunted places in Michigan and was even featured on an episode of Fox Family’s Scariest Places on Earth. Even coming straight from spending a relatively quiet night alone at the haunted Blue Pelican Inn, I was feeling some trepidation as I approached my next destination. The battered blue sign telling me that Seul Choix’s historic lighthouse lay only 2 miles ahead did little to allay the feeling—neither did the slow drive up an old dirt road.

Seul Choix Point is a narrow, rocky stretch of land that juts out from Lake Michigan’s northern shore into Seul Choix Bay, about a two-hour drive east of St. Ignace. The bay received its name, which means “only choice,” in the 1800s when a group of French fur traders took shelter there during a violent storm that threatened to capsize their small vessel. The bay was their “only choice” for safe refuge along the dangerous stretch of coast, which is known for its rocky shoreline and high waves.

Those same waves make Seul Choix Bay a popular destination for surfers. I found a group of young men out enjoying the waves and warm early autumn weather the day I visited the Point, and I took a few minutes to talk to them. They didn’t know anything about any ghosts at the lighthouse; they were just out to get in a few more days of lake surfing before the weather turned cold.

The Michigan State Congress commissioned the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse in 1886, but it took six years for it to become operational—I think sometimes we forget how much work went into building construction a century ago. The entire complex, which consists of the 79-foot light tower, family quarters, a steam fog signal and boiler house, stable, and a number of other buildings, wasn’t completed until 1895. Additional living quarters were added in 1925. Back then, the Seul Choix Lighthouse was the only guiding light for ships along a 100-mile stretch of treacherous coastline. The nearest towns are Gulliver—whose Historical Society, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), oversees the upkeep of the lighthouse—and Manistique, a popular destination for boaters, campers, and hikers.

I arrived at the end of the long dirt road to find a well-kept yard, brown brick house, and classic white light tower. Maybe it was the sunny weather, but I didn’t feel as if I’d just pulled up in front of one of the “scariest places on earth.” Wondering what I was really going to find, I headed over to the gift shop. Rather than asking about ghosts, my first question was, “How do you pronounce the name of this place?”

The young lady behind the counter laughed. It’s a question she gets a lot. “The easiest way I know to pronounce it is Sis-shaw,” she told me. After getting that cleared up, I explained that I was writing a book about haunted places in Michigan and wondered if she’d ever seen or heard anything unusual in the lighthouse. “Not personally,” she said. Although several guests and other staff members told her they’d heard music, “like an old phonograph recording,” playing in the lighthouse. She said that some people also report that electronic devices, like the digital camera I was carrying, stop working. “The batteries just die for no reason,” she said.

I definitely hoped that wouldn’t become a problem. Of course, I always carry extra batteries, just in case.

“If you really want some good stories, it’s my mom you should talk to,” she went on. “You can find her over at the lightkeeper’s quarters.”

I thanked her for her time and headed on over. The first thing that struck me when I walked into the house was how small the front parlor was. Yet at times in the lighthouse’s history, not only did the lightkeeper and his family live there, but his assistant and his family resided in the small dwelling too. That’s four adults and as many as six children. The lightkeeper’s home has been fully restored and is decorated with beautiful antique furniture—and seems about as far from scary as I could imagine a place to be.

I quickly found Linda, the volunteer I was seeking, sitting in what had probably been a formal dining room. She looked up from her book and greeted me with a warm smile. As soon as I explained the reason for my visit, Linda invited me to have a seat with her so she could tell me about Captain Joseph Willie Townsend, the lighthouse’s primary ghostly resident. She described him as a bit of a prankster, but not a ghost she or any of the other staff had ever been afraid of.

“He was originally from Bristol, England,” she said. “Captain Townsend lived here from 1901 until he died of consumption in one of the upstairs bedrooms in 1910.” Consumption is an old-fashioned term for tuberculosis. “Because he died in winter when the ground was too frozen to dig a grave, the Captain couldn’t be buried straightaway, and his body had to be stored in the basement for several months.” Some of the paranormal investigators who have visited Seul Choix believe that might be why the captain’s spirit remains “trapped” at the lighthouse.

Linda had her own ideas. She told me that the hauntings didn’t really start until a couple of original pieces of furniture were brought up from storage, when the lighthouse was last restored in the 1990s. One of the pieces in question is the kitchen table.

seul-choix2“In England,” Linda went on, “you set a table correctly by putting the knife and spoon on the left and the forks on the right.” That’s the opposite of the way we set a table here in the United States. “The Captain doesn’t seem to like it when we set the table American style. We always find the silverware reversed, even though no one’s been in the kitchen!” She laughed.

Like the other rooms, the kitchen is roped off so that visitors can look but not touch.

Numerous guests and most of the staff have smelled cigar smoke throughout the living quarters, even though no smoking is allowed in the building, and often there isn’t anyone else around. Linda told me that, despite his health problems, Captain Townsend was a heavy cigar smoker, and it seems that, even in death, he enjoys a good cigar.

In the mornings several volunteers have found a “crescent-shaped imprint” on the bedspread in the room they’re pretty sure was the Captain’s. “It looks like someone sat down right on the bed,” Linda said. Some volunteers and visitors have reported seeing a man watching them from one of the windows, about halfway up the light tower—but no one was in the tower at the time.

Probably the eeriest of Linda’s stories was one a guest told her. A woman was visiting the lighthouse sometime last year, and when she pulled in, she noticed a man wearing a heavy blue coat, walking across the yard to the lighthouse. Being friendly, she waved; he ignored her, but she didn’t think that much of it. Like me, she went to the gift shop first, then went over to the lighthouse, looked around, and headed on her way. When she got home, the woman started doing some research on the lighthouse’s history and realized that the man she’d seen in the yard was Captain Townsend! She contacted the lighthouse staff to tell them of her unusual encounter.

“Several people have seen a man wandering the grounds before,” Linda told me, “but this was the first time someone positively identified the Captain, even though they didn’t know who it was at the time.”

I have to admit, hearing that gave me goose bumps!

seul-choix4In addition to Captain Townsend roaming the grounds, rearranging silverware, and ignoring no-smoking signs, volunteers have also found toys strewn all over the floor of the “children’s bedroom” upstairs. Nothing had been out of place the night before, and, by all accounts, the lightkeeper’s quarters had been locked up all night. Linda told me that she thinks the children’s room might be haunted by the spirits of two of the little  girls who grew up in the lighthouse. Although they grew up and moved away, both had recently passed on—and it was just about the time they died that the children’s room became “active.”

I thanked Linda for her time and went to have a look around for myself. Even though I had been told that a number of guests reported feeling the Captain’s presence on the staircase, I didn’t feel anything unusual. My camera continued to work too. I didn’t smell cigar smoke or hear music. Even so, I appreciate antique furniture, so I enjoyed walking around the small house. And I appreciated the staff’s sense of humor when I found the plastic Halloween skeleton hanging in an upstairs bedroom closet! I admit that it got me. I jumped.

When I came back downstairs, Linda let me step into the living room, which is normally roped off, so I could get a better picture of the antique organ, where the portraits of past lightkeepers are on display. She also invited me to climb the tower.

The lighthouse at Seul Choix is a working light station and one of the few where visitors are allowed to climb the tower. Of course, no one lives in the lightkeeper’s quarters today; the station is automated. A hundred years ago, however, the light was fueled by oil, which had to be carried by hand up to the light at the top of the 79-foot tower. Every two hours, the lightkeeper or his assistant hauled two heavy metal buckets up a very narrow spiral staircase.

Because I’d never been to a lighthouse before, I decided to go ahead and make the climb—despite my horrible fear of heights. As I climbed the narrow metal stairs, I marveled at how a man twice my size had made the same trip four or five times a night, carrying heavy buckets filled with oil. I stopped at the midway point to catch my breath and enjoy the view from one of the windows—and got the distinct feeling that I was being watched. But no one else was in the tower with me. Of course, it might have been my imagination; I’d spent the last 40 minutes listening to ghost stories. Although my nerves threatened to get the better of me (because of the height, not the ghosts), I made it to the top. The view of the lake was spectacular. That alone made the drive worthwhile.

The tower and lightkeeper’s quarters are open to visitors from Memorial Day through mid-October. Guests are asked to make a small donation that goes to the Gulliver Historical Society to keep the lighthouse running. In addition to the lighthouse and gift shop, Seul Choix Point has a beautiful public beach, where I stopped to enjoy my lunch and take more pictures before getting back on the road toward Marquette and the Landmark Inn.

In Ghosthunting Michigan, Helen Pattskyn takes readers along as she explores some of her home state’s most haunted locations. Get your copy here.

Photo credits
All black and white photos: Helen Pattskyn
All color photos: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Belcourt Castle

Belcourt CastleBelcourt Castle was built between 1891 and 1894 for Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont as a summer home. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who used Louis XIII’s hunting lodge at Versailles as the model. Belmont’s wife, Alva Vanderbilt, added to the original structure with examples of English, Italian, and German architecture. From 1933 to 1955, Belcourt (as it was originally called) passed through several owners and saw more neglect than restoration. The property was purchased in 1956 by the Tinney family of Cumberland, Rhode Island. The Tinneys conducted massive renovations to the whole building and made it a showplace for their extensive collection of antiques.

Harle Tinney is the last surviving member of the family since her husband’s death in 2006. Mrs. Tinney believes that the ghosts of Belcourt Castle are spirits who are attached to certain items that her late husband, Donald, and his parents brought into the house. One of those items is a small, wooden statue of a monk.

Monk Statue at Belcourt Castle Believed to be Haunted

When the statue first came into the Tinneys’ possession, they placed it on display at their previous home. That was the first time they caught sight of the shadowy figure who seems to be linked to the wooden monk. Two weeks after the statue was brought to Belcourt Castle, the dark figure was spotted again. Since then it has been seen no fewer than five times and always within the vicinity of the statue. Donald and Harle Tinney saw the ghost in the Great Hall when the statue was displayed there on a stand by the door to the ladies’ room. At first, they both thought the figure was Donald’s father. However, as the figure opened the door to the restroom the couple could clearly see it was not Mr. Tinney. What also struck them was the fact that the door, which always creaked loudly, emitted no sound. Donald and Harle found no one in the small room when they checked.

The wooden monk is now kept in the Chapel Room on the first floor. It was moved there after a psychic told the Tinneys that the entity attached to the little monk wanted it placed there. That hasn’t stopped the dark shadow from making an appearance from time to time. The most recent sighting was on July 7, 2007, at seven o’clock in the evening. Belcourt Castle was playing host to a wedding when Harle Tinney saw what she thought was a guest heading in the wrong direction. She moved after the figure as it went into the foyer, but as she reached the spot she found no one there.

Bloodcurdling Screams from Inside the Ballroom of Belcourt Castle

belcourt-castle1

The Gothic Ballroom located on the second floor has had its share of unsettling moments as well. One night in the mid-1990s, Harle Tinney heard three bloodcurdling screams while standing in the middle of the darkened ballroom. Her two dogs reacted to the screaming, but they were far too afraid to enter the room. There is an impressive collection of knights’ armor on exhibit in this room. The suits of armor are all excellent reproductions, except for one helmet that is known to be authentic and does show a battle scar. It is believed the knight who once wore the helmet haunts the armor and what Harle Tinney heard that evening were his death screams.

The late Donald Tinney once heard the sound of a party in progress in the ballroom. It was late in the evening and the house was very still. When he went to investigate the phantom gathering, the family cat came along with him. It seemed to be well aware of the music and chatter. The cat started growling and the fur on its back and tail stood up when the two of them reached the ballroom. The sound then faded away into nothingness as Donald Tinney opened the doors to the room. This ghostly encounter is believed to have been a trace haunting of a happier moment in the home’s history, possibly from the Gilded Age.

belcourt-castle2In 1996 a woman who was a guest at a private party being held on the first floor came upstairs to use the ladies’ room that is located in Ruth Tinney’s (Donald’s mother’s) old bedroom. Most of the room is roped off, leaving only the bathroom accessible to the public. As the guest entered the room she noticed there was a lady sitting at Ruth Tinney’s desk. The guest addressed the lady and informed her that no one was allowed behind the ropes. The mysterious lady ignored the woman and her warning. Unnerved by this, the guest went to alert security of the intrusion. A guard was standing close by and lost no time getting to the bedroom. The lady was gone without a trace. No one could have left the room without being seen and there was no place for anyone to hide. When Harle Tinney heard the guest’s description of the lady it was a perfect match for her late mother-in-law. That day was also the one-year anniversary of  Ruth Tinney’s death. Twice in 2010, the bedspread on Ruth Tinney’s bed was seen to be disturbed. A young Englishwoman taking a tour of Belcourt Castle told Harle Tinney that she had witnessed the bedspread move as if someone was getting up off the bed. In July of that same year, Harle Tinney took a couple on a tour of the house; while they were in the bedroom, she mentioned her late mother-in-law. The bedspread, as if on cue, flew right off the bed and landed several feet away on the floor. All Harle Tinney could do was say, “Hi, Mom!”

belcourt-castle3I spoke with Ken and Dave DeCosta, the father and son co-founders of the Rhode Island Society for the Examination of Unusual Phenomena (R.I.S.E.U.P.). Their paranormal team has been allowed into Belcourt Castle to conduct investigations and public ghost hunts. They told me that they have not seen or caught any of the ghosts on camera, but they have recorded examples of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) throughout the property. Ken and Dave told me the EVPs that were recorded seem to be of a personal nature, so out of respect for the Tinney family they have declined to give me any further details on what the spirit voices said. The most interesting moment caught by R.I.S.E.U.P. on video was a session involving two electromagnetic field (EMF) meters. A member of the team asked if any spirit present could make the lights flash on one of the meters. After the lights on one of the meters flashed on and off, they asked if the spirit could do the same with the other EMF meter lying nearby on the same table. That meter’s lights flashed on and off while the first meter’s lights stayed off. The team continued asking the spirit to please go back and forth between the two meters and the lights flashed on and off as requested. All cell phones were switched off and no other electromagnetic interference could be found within the room.

To explore the scariest spots in Southern New England, check out Ghosthunting Southern New England by Andrew Lake.

Photo credits
Drawing Belcourt Castle: Public Domain
Ballroom Belcourt Castle: Public Doman
Knight armor: Andrew Lake
Outside picture of Belcourt Castle: Stilfehler at wikivoyage shared [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Spotlight on Michigan’s Ada Witch

Helen Pattskyn, author of Ghosthunting Michigan, shares with us the tale of Michigan’s
Ada Witch.

Ghosthunting Michigan
Ghosthunting Michigan

The Ada Witch is perhaps one of western Michigan’s most famous ghosts. It is unclear how the title “witch” got attached to her name—or even what her true name might be—but that’s what locals call the adulterous specter who is believed to haunt Findlay Cemetery and Honeycreek Road in Ada Township. Ada is a small community, located a little more than 10 miles east of Grand Rapids and first settled in 1821. It was in those early years that many believe the so-called “witch” met her tragic end, an end she may have brought upon herself.

One website dedicated exclusively to the legend of the Ada Witch claims that she died in the year 1868. It is impossible to verify that date, however, as neither the woman’s name nor the actual whereabouts of her grave are known for certain. We can only speculate.

The story says that the woman known as the Ada Witch was having an extramarital affair and would meet secretly with her lover in the marshes outside of town, near what is now Honeycreek Road. When her husband became suspicious of her late-night comings and goings, he followed her and caught her in the arms of her lover. In a jealous rage, the husband murdered first his wife and then the other man. During the struggle with his wife’s lover, the husband was also fatally wounded and died a short while later. Perhaps that’s why some people report not only seeing a mysterious ghostly woman wandering the area, but also a pair of ghostly men—maybe the men are the Ada Witch’s husband and her lover.

The woman is believed to be buried in Findlay Cemetery, but nothing is noted in the stories about where either of the two men might have been interred. Although no one can prove that the gravestone is hers, locals believe that a broken old headstone near the back of Findlay Cemetery is that of the legendary Ada Witch. Visitors often light candles or leave trinkets for her there.

Helen PattskynSeveral paranormal investigators have been to the cemetery and believe that it is indeed haunted. There is evidence in the form of orb photos and other unusual phenomena that have been caught on film and on digital cameras. Of course, just as there are many people who believe the story is true, there are just as many who think the Ada Witch is little more than an urban legend.

In her book Ghosthunting Michigan, author Helen Pattskyn explores 30 of the scariest spots in the Wolverine State, all of which are open to the public—so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.

Millermore House Dallas

April Slaughter Encounters Ghost at Millermore House

MillermoreThe Miller cabin and Millermore house sit among 25 additional historic structures in the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park. My husband and I cannot resist a good ghost story, and after I had learned about the experiences of others at Millermore, Allen and I were eager to visit.

Our attention was immediately drawn to Millermore as soon as it came into view. It’s a majestic and beautiful home located close to the park’s entrance.

For as long as Millermore has been in the Dallas Heritage Village, there have been stories of apparitions moving about in almost every area of the house. The odd movement of inexplicable lights on the top floor has also often been reported.

Several paranormal teams have conducted investigations at Millermore in hopes of capturing the various phenomena, and many believe the ghosts of several children may be playing on the property. EVP recordings captured children’s laughter when no children were in or near the home. Many paranormal investigative teams have been allowed onto the property to see if they could capture anything anomalous on film, but the Village and its staff never participate in the investigations. They believe it is important not to sway their visitors one way or another.

I spoke to a volunteer at the Village who has been assisting on the property for more than 13 years; on the day we arrived to walk through the historic home, she was conducting the visitor tour. It was obvious that she thoroughly enjoyed her volunteer time relaying information to guests eager to learn more. At one point during the tour, a young woman asked the volunteer if she believed the home was haunted. “I’ve often heard strange noises,” she answered. “This is an old house and the floor creaks a lot. I don’t know if it is anything paranormal. I just carry about my business and try not to pay too much attention.”

millermore-house-interiorI was particularly intrigued when we reached the upstairs level and stood in the large open breezeway running through the center of the house. There are several shadowbox frames showcasing intricately woven human hairpieces hanging on the wall, collected by a family in the Dallas Metroplex. While not historically tied to the house itself, they are beautiful yet eerie, ornate artifacts that made me uneasy. I wasn’t sure what they were at first glance, and upon closer inspection I realized that I had never seen anything like them before.

As I stood there staring at the unusual pieces, I felt the distinct sensation of someone brushing my hair away from the back of my neck. Allen hadn’t been near me, as he was busy wandering around the bedrooms taking pictures, and the remainder of the group had already moved on down the hallway. I stood there doing my best to keep still, hoping the experience would repeat itself, but it didn’t. My initial uneasy feeling soon melted away.

The tour guide gathered our group in the hallway where she pointed out a small day bed situated just below a window at the rear of the house. She explained that it was a piece originally owned by William Miller and that he often enjoyed an afternoon nap there, cooled by the breezes that flowed through. When we had first ascended the staircase, the quilt lay neatly atop the bed, as though the bed had just been made. After spending approximately 20 minutes upstairs, we all made our way back to the staircase and past the day bed. I noticed that in the middle of the bed, a slight yet noticeable impression had been made in the quilt as if someone had been sitting on it. I made no mention of it at the time, hoping someone else would point it out and validate my thoughts. But no one else seemed to notice, and we all shuffled back down the stairs to the main floor.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

My experiences at Millermore impressed me, as I had constantly been aware of the movements of the people in the tour group and yet, something unseen had approached me. I believe without a doubt that someone wanted us
to notice that they were there. While I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the other visitors individually, I had the sense that they, too, felt a spiritual presence in the house. They walked through the home with quiet reverence and continually looked backward as if they were expecting to see a spirit from the past walking along behind them.

As we descended the steps of the front porch, I turned around to take another look at the house. I wondered who had touched my hair and if that person had been the same individual who sat on the day bed. I felt a reverence for the history of the house, for the work that went into both building and preserving it, and for the family that may still call it home.

April Slaughter explores more scary tales from the Lone Star State in her book Ghosthunting Texas. Join her from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the travel guide and her ghostly resources.

Marfa Lights Unexplained for Decades

The Mystery of the Texas Marfa Lights

Marfa lights
Marfa lights observation deck

In the 1950s, reports of a strange phenomenon occurring in Presidio County began to attract a lot of attention. Strange balls of various colored light appeared at night—sometimes moving erratically or hovering completely still in the air. Witnesses have often reported that these balls of light appear in pairs or even larger numbers and can be seen ranging from a matter of seconds to hours before finally disappearing.

The Marfa Lights, also known as the Marfa Ghost Lights, have never appeared in the daytime and seem to be a strictly nocturnal phenomenon. No clear explanation has ever been provided, but many believe the lights to be a manifestation of spirit activity and contend that they are indeed a paranormal occurrence. Skeptics often attribute the phenomenon to passing vehicles or lights from nearby homesteads or changes in atmospheric conditions, but the strange and unpredictable pattern of movements make it difficult to say one way or another.

The lights appear randomly in the nighttime hours, and they occur year-round. They are not easily approached, however, as they appear above private property. They are often seen at varying distances and have been captured over the years in both still photography and video footage. Some visitors contend that upon witnessing the Marfa Lights, they have had profoundly personal spiritual experiences and do not believe they should simply be dismissed as a scientific mystery.

april-slaughterWhatever the explanation may be behind the Marfa Lights, they continue to attract curious onlookers and visitors from all over the state of Texas. A fascinating display of color and movement, the Marfa Lights may indeed be something purely environmental, but what if they’re not? Perhaps the ghosts of Presidio County often gather together in an attempt to make themselves known in the late-night hours. We may never know what the lights truly are, but as long as they continue to appear we are sure to be continually mystified by them.

April Slaughter explores more scary tales from the Lone Star State in her book Ghosthunting Texas. Join her from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the travel guide and her ghostly resources.