A feud about the land gives rise to wicked laughter at the Witch’s Castle in Oregon.
Folklore, legends, and ghost stories abound regarding the Witch’s Castle.
As with so many purportedly haunted locations in the Portland area, one must carefully sift through the lore in order to filter out the truths. Even then, it is sometimes difficult to paint a completely accurate portrait, and one is left with a dramatic narrative at best. But this is also what makes traveling to haunted locations so intriguing. Visitors are left to decide whether their own experiences and senses reflect paranormal activity. But what most ghost-hunting travelers do know is that they should expect the unexpected.
What is left is the eerie shell—roofless and covered with moss, clinging ivy, and graffiti. It has been called the Witch’s Castle for decades and has a reputation throughout the state of Oregon of being haunted. It is all that scary movies are made of—an odd, out-of-place structure; a bloody tale of former tenants; and the haunting of the land on which it resides.
One of the most accepted stories about the Witch’s Castle is that of an ongoing ghostly feud on the land that gives rise to wicked laughter, sinister whispers, screams of terror, and angry specters—phenomena that give many a hiker second thoughts about venturing down the trails after dark. Many have also claimed to see dark figures darting between the trees and behind the shrubbery and in and out of the old stone structure.
There have been reports of bright, glowing lights encircling the building before disappearing into the woods and even a few reports of full-bodied apparitions of young women and children. People I spoke with who have experienced what they feel is paranormal activity at the Witch’s Castle, however, do not stray from their accounts, and
I tend to believe them and that this consistency points to the spirits of the Balch family haunting their old homestead. I can assure you that, after dark, each noise, whether it is the falling of a leaf or the crack of a twig, is amplified around the Witch’s Castle. So whether the old stone building is haunted or not, it is not the most comfortable place to be when the sun goes down. I didn’t see a ghost during my visit, but that doesn’t mean they do not reside there—only that I was not in the right place at the right time. And, as we all know, history never dies.
If you enjoyed the story of the Witch’s Castle, check out Ghosthunting Oregon, a book by Donna Stewart in which shecovers more than 30 haunted places throughout the Beaver State, all of them open to the public.
John McSorley arrived in New York City from Liverpool in 1851 on the ship Colonist. In 1854 he opened a saloon at 15 East Seventh Street, naming it The Old House at Home. It was a place for Irish immigrant workingmen to feel at home while enjoying a beer with some cheese and crackers. By 1908 a storm had ripped the original sign down, and it was replaced with a new sign bearing a new name: McSorley’s Old Time Ale House. Later on, the word Time was removed from the name, and to this day the establishment is called McSorley’s Old Ale House.
In 1910, at the age of 83, John McSorley died in his apartment above the bar. His son Bill took over the business. By 1936, two years before his death, Bill sold the bar to its first non-McSorley owner, Daniel O’Connell. Only a year later, in 1939, O’Connell died, leaving the bar to his daughter, Dorothy O’Connell Kirwan. Dorothy promised her father she would not allow women in the bar, and she kept that promise. She appointed her husband, Harry Kirwan, as the manager. Dorothy entered the bar only on Sundays, after closing time. Eventually, ownership was passed along to the Kirwans’ son, Danny.
The next owner of McSorley’s was Matthew Maher. He and Harry Kirwin had met by chance when Harry was visiting Ireland in 1964. Harry’s car broke down, and along came Matthew Maher to save the day. In return, Harry promised Maher a job if he ever came to New York City. Later that year, Matthew Maher began his employment at McSorley’s as a waiter and bartender. Maher was promoted to night manager of the bar, and in 1977 he purchased the bar from Danny Kirwan.
McSorley’s has been the subject of a stage play, of poetry by e.e. cummings, and of artwork by John Sloan. Its list of notable guests ranges from Abraham Lincoln to Woody Guthrie and John Lennon. The very chair Lincoln sat in is up above the bar, in fact; a few feet away hangs one of the original “Wanted” posters for John Wilkes Booth. Amazingly, the first time women were allowed in McSorley’s was in 1969, following a lawsuit, although a ladies’ restroom was not installed until 1990. Today, McSorley’s is the fourth oldest bar in New York City. (The oldest is the Bridge Café, another entry in this book; it is believed to have opened in 1794.)
My mother and I visited McSorley’s Ale House in January 2010. The bar is within walking distance of Cooper University, which I am sure the students there greatly appreciate. The swinging wooden doors with their oval windows are worn along the edges from 156 years of use. Sawdust is strewn over the floor, and a coal-burning potbellied stove keeps the place warm and inviting.
I met with a bartender known as Pepe who has bartended at McSorley’s since 1973. At first I thought it odd to see a black plastic garbage bag suspended at his waist under his apron, but I soon realized how much sense it made as waterproofing, or beer proofing, for his trousers. Pepe’s real name is Steven Zwaryczuk. He’s not fazed by the reports of ghosts and other paranormal activity at McSorley’s. In fact, he laughingly pointed out two regular customers, Brian and Mark, as the most paranormal things to happen to him. Brian has been coming to McSorley’s since the early 1980s, when he was in the eighth grade. Back then, he said, he was the same height as he is now and weighed only about 20 pounds less. Mark was at the end of the bar where Mini, the cat, was curled up in the corner. I asked Pepe, “Was there ever a time when you were completely ‘creeped out’ by being here?” Without missing a beat, he pointed to Brian and replied: “Nothing has ever creeped me out, except him!”
Mark chimed in that a friend of his who once rented the apartment above the bar would occasionally hear tables and chairs moving, as well as distant voices, long after the bar was closed for the night. Pepe was kind enough to bring owner Matthew Maher down to the bar so I could interview him. Although Matthew has been living and working in New York City since 1964, he’s maintained a sweet Irish brogue. I asked him, “Have you had any ghostly experiences while working here?” and he chuckled and said, “Have ya got a year to spare?” Well, that certainly got my attention. Maher told me that McSorley’s is famous for always having at least one feline “on staff” at the bar. One night after closing, Maher was cleaning the kitchen. He returned to the bar area and saw the cat at the end of the bar purring and nuzzling up against an unseen hand that was petting it. According to Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg, tour guide for Ghosts of New York, whenever a cat is seen in the window of McSorley’s, Harry Houdini is present as the spirit inside the cat. Why Houdini, you ask? Dr. Schoenberg claims that the set of handcuffs secured to the footrail of the bar once belonged to Houdini.
Maher also pointed out the print depicting McSorley’s that hangs behind the bar. He said that when a local artist presented the print to him, Maher immediately commented, “Very nice! You even included one of the McSorley’s cats.” The artist, appearing confused, stood back and carefully examined the print. He told Maher that he never painted the cat and had no idea how it ended up in the finished print. The cat’s body is facing the entrance of McSorley’s, but its head is turned, looking over its shoulder toward the rear of the dining area. According to Ted Andrews in his book Animal Speak, cats represent mystery, magic, independence, and nighttime. In ancient Egypt, the cat was revered and usually represented the goddess Bast. Cats have been associated with witches as their “familiars.” In this respect, it is believed that the cat embodies the spirit of a former witch who crossed the line and did something worthy of punishment. That punishment is to incarnate as a cat and serve the needs of another witch for nine lives before being allowed to incarnate once more as a human. It’s interesting to note that cats are typically feminine in their energies and connections. McSorley’s did not allow women in the bar until 1970, yet the cats have been present all along.
Brian pointed out to me a dust-covered gas lamp that hangs in McSorley’s. On it are several turkey wishbones, also covered with dust. McSorley’s tradition calls for a soldier leaving for war to place a wishbone on the lamp, then remove it when he returns. Brian thinks this tradition started with World War I; other sources claim it started with the Civil War. Other than a soldier leaving or reclaiming his wishbone, no one is allowed to touch the gas lamp, not even to clean it. Brian said that the dusty wishbones still on the lamp serve as a memorial of sorts for the soldiers who placed them there before leaving for war and never returned.
I doubt Houdini is hanging around McSorley’s as a cat. However, the disembodied noises, the unseen admirer seen petting the cat on the bar, and the lengthy history of notable guests at the establishment certainly lend credence to assertions that the place is haunted. Personally, I did not capture any evidence of paranormal happenings. Rather, my mother and I were captured by the mouthwatering aroma of the burgers that landed on the table by the front window for a young couple having lunch. The motto of McSorley’s is “Be Good or Be Gone.” Apparently, someone is being good for an indefinite amount of time, as they’re not yet gone. Keep this in mind if you visit McSorley’s, and order an extra round of “light & dark” beer when you belly up to the bar.
Patti Starr, author of Ghosthunting Kentucky, investigates the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Join her on her adventure!
When I first got the call from Theresa, a former employee at Buffalo Trace, inviting us to investigate the distillery, I remembered that I had a student, Bobbie Vereeke, whose husband also worked there. Bobbie told me that her husband knew about the ghosts that haunt several of the buildings on the property. While she was a student in my ghosthunter course, Bobbie shared with me her unusual talent for automatic writing, in which a spirit takes control of her hand and writes out messages. I knew she would be a great asset to the investigation because she used that method to communicate with the spirits.
I organized a group of 40 ghosthunters from my organization to investigate the distillery. When we arrived on the property, we drove through the entrance into a beautiful, natural, and rustic setting. It wasn’t hard to imagine herds of buffalos grazing along the traces that lay before us as we circled around to the back of the original main house to the company parking lot below.
When we met our tour guide, she asked us if we wanted to know the history first or did we want to wait until after the investigation. I like to go into an investigation without being briefed about the place beforehand so that if a name or event is revealed to us, we will not be influenced by it until it is later validated through reliable sources. We opted not to get the history until after our investigation and went forth with our ghosthunt.
The guide led us up to the main house, called Stony Point Mansion, because that was where so many of the employees had experienced unexplainable and illogical activity. With our cameras, camcorders, audio recorders, and EMF meters in hand, we started our investigation, moving down the hall towards the back of the house. My EMF meter started to register a disturbance by beeping and flashing a red light. I wanted to electric dowse with the EMF meter, so I asked the invisible entity to stop making the meter go off by backing away. The meter came to an abrupt stop. I thanked the spirit and asked it if it would answer my questions by making the meter beep for “yes” and remain quiet for “no.” It beeped once to agree. This is a method I call electric dowsing. The tour guide was delighted to see this result. I asked if the spirit was a female, and the meter remained silent.
I asked if it was a male, and the meter immediately beeped twice for “yes.” Several gasps came from the group. I continued to ask yes and no questions in order to find out as much as I could about this personality that was coming through for us. When the session was over, I asked our guide if she had any idea who we might be communicating with. She replied, “All of the information that was validated through the meter matches that of a former president by the name of Colonel Blanton. When Blanton was 16 years old, he started to work at the distillery; by the time he was 24, he became president of the whiskey plant. His leadership allowed the company to survive the Great Depression, the Great Flood of 1937, and World War II. His love for people and the company inspired him to build a clubhouse so that employees could have a place for social and community functions. All the employees wanted to work hard and please Colonel Blanton.”
We left the first floor of the mansion and descended into the basement to see what else our instruments would reveal. This time, Bobbie Vereeke felt a strange urge to go into one of the back offices. She sat down at the desk with pen and pad and went into a mild trance so she could give in to the movement of her hand. Soon the writing began. It was amazing to see the words start to appear across her pad. After the session was over, she revealed that she had been in communications with a lady named Anna, a former employee of Colonel Blanton. She wanted to make sure all was well at the distillery. Her job had been to keep the place clean, “spic-and-span” were the words Bobbie wrote, and to keep the Colonel happy. Anna’s words read, “I worked here. I don’t have anywhere else to go. He was a great man, and I just want to please him.”
We left the basement and headed for another building, known as the Riverside house, opposite the boiler room. This house was built in 1792 and is the oldest recorded building still standing in Franklin County. The house is being renovated, but, at the time of our investigation, it was in a deteriorated condition. We were not allowed to go inside for fear of injury, so we stood at the doorway and took pictures of the shabby structure’s interior.
As we backed away from the house, I looked up and saw a face looking down at us from the second floor. I pointed my camera and took a shot but was not able to capture the face in the photo. Another member of my group took a shot and got a faint outline that appeared to be someone looking back at us. It was a good piece of evidence in the camera, but it just didn’t show up once we printed it out on paper.
It has been more than eight years since I did that investigation at Buffalo Trace, so I thought I would call to see if any of the employees were still experiencing any ghostly activity. After introducing myself and explaining the reason for my call, I was routed to Angela Traver, the public relations manager. Angela was attentive; once I asked her if she had experienced any type of paranormal activity, she was gracious enough to share her story with me.
Angela’s office is located in the sunroom of Stony Point Mansion. It was a wintry morning, still dark, when she arrived at her office. Soon after entering the room, she sat her computer case on the floor beside her desk so that she could remove her coat and scarf. As she bent down, she saw a tall, dark figure pass by on her right side. She jerked round and quickly reached for the light switch to see who else was in the room. Once the light was turned on, she could see that the room lay quiet before her with no sign of a dark figure. She recalled, “Knowing that Colonel Blanton was a tall thin man, and the fact that he died in this same room, made me think that maybe he was still making his rounds in the manor. I was okay with that thought and proceeded to get ready for the day’s business.”
On the last leg of our investigation, we entered the Buffalo Trace Gift Shop. The sales staff gathered around to tell us about the weird experiences they had had while working in the shop. Most of them agreed that the most common occurrence was the sound of footsteps above the gift shop. It sounded as if three or four men were walking around wearing heavy boots. The area above the shop was a storage space. No one was assigned to that area unless they were adding more items to storage. Sometimes, the employees would hear the sounds of objects being dragged across the floor. They said that sometimes it sounded as if the items in storage were being rearranged, even though there was no one on the second floor at that time.
Our group was anxious to get started upstairs. As we ascended the stairs, we were met with a blanket of hot, still air that took my breath away. It was roasting up there. I didn’t know how long we could last in such heat, so we started immediately gathering evidence. Bobbie held her notebook in her hand, and I took pictures as I recorded my requests of the spirits to speak. My husband, Chuck, took a picture of me just as I asked the spirits to come to me, and he captured the image of a spirit orb hovering over me. I glanced over at Bobbie and saw that she was starting to write. I went over to where she was standing and looked over her shoulder to see what information she was getting. It was hard to make out some of the words, but she later translated them for us. This is what she wrote: “Must be careful here. We know that it is hot, but you need to spend time . . . .” and the message stopped. Then it started back up again: “Four of us are here for work. The big man came to see us daily. He wants to make sure things are done right.” There was another break in the writing and then she continued again: “John, Amos, Fred, and Ralph.” Another pause: “There are secrets in this building. You can find them, but you must look carefully. I found them long ago and protected them. The stone walls are built to hide . . . .” There, the communication stopped.
By this time most of us were about to pass out from the heat. I knew it would not be good for any of us to remain there any longer, so we concluded our investigation and returned to the gift shop below. It was a super experience for all of us. The best part was hearing all the stories and experiences of the employees that helped validate the data that we collected while investigating the distillery.
Colonel Blanton passed away in 1959, after spending more than 55 years doing what he loved best, in the home he loved the most. During his time at the distillery, he went from being office boy to company president, and he was credited with preserving and enhancing one of Kentucky’s historic landmarks. It seems as though the Colonel has made Buffalo Trace Distillery a paranormal landmark as well.
Nestled deep in the Everglades among the Ten Thousand Islands along the southwestern Gulf coast of Florida is the tiny village of Chokoloskee. It is at the end of the road—literally. You can’t get any farther south except by boat. And at the end of the one main road in Chokoloskee is the Smallwood General Store, sitting on stilts, the waters of the Gulf lapping against its pilings as they have for over a hundred years. It was here on the shore next to Smallwood’s that Ed Watson met his demise in 1910.
Ed Watson had come to the area several years before and was farming very successfully on forty acres a few miles south on the Chatham River. He was a quiet, angry man who kept to himself, but was often in trouble with the law because of his violent temper. He had many enemies in the neighborhood.
Because he was so standoffish, he was cloaked in mystery. No one knew much about him. Folks wondered how he was able to do so well with his farm in such a hostile environment, until disemboweled bodies began showing up in the waters around Watson’s farm.
Someone finally figured out that he had been hiring migrant workers and then killing them instead of paying them, disposing of their bodies by burying them on his farm or feeding them to the alligators.
The local sheriff formed a posse and proceeded to Watson’s place to arrest him. Watson wasn’t home, but the posse found a mass grave with dozen of bodies and body parts. Back at Smallwood’s, the posse waited for Watson to show up. Because of the gruesomeness of the apparent murders, they dispensed with normal legal proceedings and shot him dead as soon as he appeared.
Many of the locals think Smallwood’s is haunted by Ed Watson and that it’s not safe to go among the pilings under the store. Maybe that’s true, but there is no doubt that Watson’s old place is filled with the ghosts of his murder victims. Many people have tried to make a go of the farm, but very little ever grew there after Watson died, and everyone has been overwhelmed by the ghosts. After many years, an old woman moved into Watson’s house. She, too, encountered the phantoms, and one night, while trying to fend them off with a lighted knot torch, burned the place to the ground. Since then, snakes and vegetation have reclaimed the farm and the house.
Ed Watson may or may not be around, but the ghosts of his many victims still certainly occupy that forty acres on the Chatham River a few miles south of the Smallwood General Store in Chokoloskee.
In his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham visits more than 30 legendary haunted places in the Sunshine State, all of which are open to the public so visitors can test their own ghost hunting skills.
Today, Michael O. Varhola, author of Ghosthunting Maryland, reports on his visit to the Piney Point Lighthouse.
Located along the banks of the lower Potomac River near its approach to the Chesapeake Bay in St. Mary’s County, Piney Point Lighthouse is a conical stone tower with a detached keeper’s house that became operational in 1836. It has sometimes been called the “Lighthouse of Presidents” because of the several U.S. presidents—including James Monroe, Franklin Pierce, Theodore Roosevelt—who fished and relaxed on or near its grounds during vacations from the White House. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1964 and it and the keeper’s house were subsequently incorporated into a little historic complex that includes an adjacent building containing the Potomac River Maritime Exhibit.
Over the years, people have reported various sorts of paranormal phenomena at the place, and, while somewhat off the beaten track, it has received some attention from ghosthunters (e.g., the D.C. Hauntings paranormal group conducted an investigation at the site but declined to share their results). Workers at the site have reported numerous strange phenomena, including hearing people speak to them when no one else was present.
When I visited the site, I took numerous pictures both inside and outside the lighthouse and walked around the exterior of the tower with my microcassette recorder to see whether I could capture any EVPs. While a subsequent review of my tape did not reveal anything definite, something strange happened while I was recording it: As I walked around the tower, it suddenly struck me that something I couldn’t see was touching and raising up the hair on the back of my hand!
About the author: Michael Varhola is a writer who has authored or coauthored 34 books and games—including the swords-and-sorcery novel Swords of Kos: Necropolis and two fantasy writers guides. He has also published more than 120 games and related publications. He is the founder of the game company Skirmisher Publishing LLC, editor in chief of d-Infinity game magazine, and editor of the America’s Haunted Road Trip series of ghosthunting travel guides. He has edited, published, or written for numerous publications, including The New York Times. He also has an active online presence, notably through Facebook and a variety of other blogs, forums, and sites. He lives in the Texas Hill Country.
Cedar Key is a really cool place. Old Crackers say that Cedar Key is like Key West was fifty years ago. I don’t know, but I do know that, although I really love Key West, I’m always enchanted by Cedar Key, where Sue and I go often to rejuvenate. No laptops. No cell phones. We don’t even watch TV when we’re there. Just the two of us on a laidback island where time doesn’t mean much, and what is happening in Washington or Wall Street doesn’t have much relevance.
My friend Rosemary Norman and her husband feel the same way. Maybe we should have a “Pencil Head” thing like Key West enthusiasts have their “Parrot Head,” since not so long ago Cedar Key was a major producer of pencils. Anyway, Rosemary, who is the founder of West Florida Ghost Researchers and an unusually sensitive person, has been to Cedar Key so many times and has had so many experiences, that she deserves to be named “Chief Ticonderoga.”
On her first visit to Cedar Key—she and her husband had just discovered the island—Rosemary woke early on Sunday morning and decided to go for a walk. The weather was balmy with a gentle breeze blowing off the Gulf. Few people were about, and she was enjoying the morning. She walked down Second Street intending to turn right on A Street and walk around the pier. As she strolled along, she saw an attractive couple seated at a table across the street at the Island Hotel. The woman was wearing a beautiful, lavender dress and hat, the man a suit with a high celluloid collar. Both were nicely attired, but Rosemary thought it odd that their clothes looked as if they were from the Gay Nineties. Oh well, perhaps they were here dressed for a period event.
She waved to the couple. The lady smiled at her and raised her tea cup. Rosemary went on. After swinging around the pier, she decided that she’d go back up Second Street and down Third Street just to see the sights.
This time as she passed the Island Hotel, she saw no one. There was no table in front or any room for one, only dirt and broken concrete. Curious, she crossed the street and went into the hotel. No breakfast was being served; the dining room was closed. The receptionist sat half asleep at the desk. There was no activity at all. It was then that she realized she’d seen ghosts.
Rosemary and her husband have been back many times, and she has yet to see the lady in lavender. Still, she has always been satisfied. The island is so haunted, she has no problem running into spirits.
In his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham visits more than 30 legendary haunted places in the Sunshine State, all of which are open to the public so visitors can test their own ghost hunting skills.
One of the monuments at Druid Ridge Cemetery at which people have reported experiencing various paranormal phenomena—including sensing a spiritual presence, seeing apparitions, and capturing mists and orbs in photographs—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., which mentions his service with the British Royal Flying Corps during World War I and 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 a mere four years after it ended.
Investigation after our return from the site revealed the strange, convoluted, almost gothic history of the Marburg family in general and the macabre events surrounding the death of Theodore in particular. 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, and in the furor to 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 while flying 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 divorcee and the mother of a 3-year-old girl. The baroness also 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.
In early January 1922, Theodore was married again, this time to a woman 10 years his junior. She was not with him at his ranch 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 were 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 sepulchers and monuments of Druid Ridge Cemetery.
The Navarre building, which is now a museum, used to house a brothel. Its location directly across the street from one of Denver’s most prestigious hotels caused some problems for businessmen who did not want to be seen going from one place to the other. Tunnels underneath the buildings helped to solve that problem.
Bar brawls and loose women are indelibly part of the history of the Old West, and Denver, once established, had its red-light district too. Some of these brothels became connected to expensive hotels via an intricate underground tunnel system that was built beneath the Mile High City, as its wealthy citizens did not want to be seen coming and going from such establishments. Rumor has it that these passageways were put to further use during Prohibition, and many businesses used them to transport liquor and sometimes trade it with brothels.
Kailyn Lamb, author of Ghosthunting Colorado, shares with us the story of one of these brothels, The Navarre.
The Navarre was originally built as a school for girls in 1880 and was called the Brinker Collegiate Institute. While originally it served only women, it soon became a coed institution. After the death of the school’s namesake in 1889, the building was sold and reopened as Hotel Richelieu, a more infamous type of establishment. Here, gentlemen could dine with ladies of the night, either publicly or in more private areas of the building.
There was a potential pool of clients just across the street at the Brown Palace Hotel, but business did not take off quite as quickly as the owners of the Richelieu might have hoped. As noted, to be seen coming to and from the Richelieu from the Brown was not ideal for a gentleman, so the idea for the tunnel system was born. The first tunnel connecting the basement of the Brown to the Hotel Richelieu was constructed around 1892. Later, a whole system of tunnels would spread underneath Denver, connecting other hotels—and even the government buildings of the city—to the whorehouses.
Today, buildings can tap into the tunnels for hot or cold air, an unlikely heating and cooling system that is sold by the city of Denver. Bryan Bonner and Matthew Baxter of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society (RMPRS) said that, due to movement of air, the tunnels can make a plethora of ghostlike sounds. They also said that, unfortunately, some of the tunnels are too dangerous to enter, and many have been closed down or sealed.
With the help of the tunnels, the Richelieu became the second-best brothel in the city, after Mattie’s House of Mirrors—which, incidentally, is also considered to be haunted.
Many of the ghosts believed to reside in the building (now called The Navarre), predominantly on the second floor, are said to be those of the working girls. Bonner said that on one of RMPRS’s ghost tours, a guest allegedly saw someone pull back a curtain while the group was standing in front of The Navarre. He said it was unlikely anyone was working in the building at the time, as it is now the home of the American Museum of Western Art—the Anschutz Collection. As all of the RMPRS tours are done at night and after business hours for the museum, only security personnel should have been in the building and, according to Bonner, they never leave their posts. His theory is that the mysterious figure who pulled back the curtain may have been the ghost of a working girl.
The building continued to be used as a brothel until the early 1900s, when it became home to a different kind of discouraged business: gambling. In fact, the building’s current name, The Navarre, came about after the building was lost in a card game. The new owner named the building for a French king. One of the building’s ghost stories is that of a man who was not gambling well one night and decided to pull his gun and shoot himself in the chest for everyone to see. It is said that visitors can hear him wandering the halls on the lower floor.
After the city began clearing out gambling halls and brothels, the building became a fine restaurant and eventually a top jazz club in the city. It was purchased in 1997 by the Anschutz Corporation. Regardless of who owns it, however, the RMPRS leaders say it is a good idea to keep an eye on The Navarre, as it currently seems to have a lot of ghostly activity happening inside.
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.
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.
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.
Several 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.