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.
April Slaughter Encounters Ghost at Millermore House
The 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.”
I 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.
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.
John Kachuba shares with us his story about the ghost at Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton.
Sometimes, while I was working on Ghosthunting Ohio, I wondered if maybe the spirits were helping me out; real ghostwriters, as it were. The story of Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton is an example of what I mean.
My wife, Mary, and I had been in Eaton in the spring to investigate Fort St. Clair, a historic site said to be haunted by the ghosts of several Kentucky militiamen killed there by Miami Indians in 1792. After visiting the battlefield site, we drove back through downtown Eaton and spotted the colorful umbrellas shading the tables on the sidewalk outside Taffy’s. The shop had an interesting Victorian feel to it, so we stopped in.
It was a Sunday afternoon and we were the only customers. I chatted with the server and told her why we were in town. She was interested in the project and, as I left, I gave her one of my business cards, Ghosthunting Ohio printed prominently across it. We drove back to Athens and forgot all about Taffy’s.
Three weeks later a woman identifying herself as Nancy Peters, owner of Taffy’s, left a message for me on my answering machine. She had found my card by the cash register when she was cleaning and assumed I wanted to talk to her about the ghost at Taffy’s!
Of course, I would have wanted to talk with her had I known there was a ghost there (okay, I can’t always find them), so I called her back. Nancy was excited to have someone to talk to about her story. “I would never have believed such a thing could happen to me,” she said. She told me that she and her husband, Tony, bought the old Victorian building that now serves as both Taffy’s and their home in 1992, although they did not open the coffee shop until 1999.
The part of the building that is now the coffee shop was formerly a jewelry store. You can still see the place where the jeweler’s heavy safe crashed through the floor when Nancy and Tony started their renovations. The owner of the jewelry store had died under “unusual circumstances,” and his body was discovered on the floor behind the jewelry counter.
Before they opened Taffy’s the old store was part of the Peterses’ home, and it was in that section that the hauntings occurred. While both Nancy and Tony experienced the same events, they never experienced them together. Strange things would happen only when one or the other was alone in the house.
One day while Nancy was upstairs, she heard the sounds of her stepson’s electric guitar. “I knew I was alone in the house, so that really scared me, hearing this loud guitar strumming. I went downstairs, but there was no one there. Worse, the guitar wasn’t even plugged in. It couldn’t have played, but it did,” Nancy said. “That was pretty scary, but nothing like the voice that came out from the wall.”
Nancy said that a voice she clearly identified as being that of a male came from high up on the wall and called, “Max!” the name of her dog. “It scared the dog a lot,” she said. “There was no one there and yet there was this voice calling him. It was kind of a gravelly voice, definitely a man’s voice, maybe an old man.”
Tony also heard the voice, but at a different time. “It was about this time that I thought maybe I should get the house blessed. I have a friend who is a Catholic priest and I thought about asking him to do it.”
“Did you go through with it?” I asked.
“No. Instead, I started talking to the ghost for a few days, telling it that it was scaring me and my family and asking it to please move on.”
It Takes Courage to Talk to a Ghost
It takes some courage to talk to a ghost and try to make your peace with it, so that you and your resident ghost can “live” together in harmony, but professional ghostbusters will tell you that the idea of living in harmony with a ghost is not a good one. A ghost, they say, needs to move on, whether it is a good ghost or a bad ghost. It simply no longer belongs on earth and needs to find its way to its own realm.
Nancy doesn’t feel that the ghost is threatening in any way and, in fact, the activity at Ta=y’s has quieted down. “But you still feel a sadness in your heart, like something’s still hanging around,” she said.
Nancy told me that the owner of another old building nearby was also experiencing similar phenomena, and she wondered aloud if perhaps they could be connected—maybe the same ghost visiting both places. I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was possible. Just think of how many places Elvis has been spotted in.
Ghosts are often stirred up when the places they used to know in life are altered or renovated. Such activity seems to make them nervous (assuming ghosts can be nervous) and anxious. Some researchers say that the resulting paranormal activity is the ghost’s way of showing its displeasure with the changes in its familiar environment. Maybe this is what was going on at Taffy’s.
Even though things are not as frightening at Taffy’s as they were before, Nancy said that, “Without a doubt, his spirit is still around. It has been a life-changing experience for me, because it was real.”
Who knows if the ghost will make itself known again? Since the Peterses decided not to contact the priest after all, it may only be a matter of time before voices are speaking from the walls again.
About the author: John Kachuba is the award-winning author of twelve books and numerous articles, short stories and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing awarded by The Thurber House and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries. John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities and libraries and on podcasts, radio and TV.
April Slaughter reports about something dark and sinister lurking in Hell’s Gates, Texas
A small piece of land in northwest Texas near the Lubbock Cemetery has earned a reputation over the past three decades for being an area rife with paranormal activity—resulting from years of reported accidental deaths, suicides, murder, and even Satanic worship.
A wooded area littered with biking and hiking trails, the area has become known as Hell’s Gates. In recent years, it has attracted many people interested in practicing occult rituals. The occurrences of séances and various other attempts at contacting the dead have led many to believe that paranormal activity was summoned to Hell’s Gates rather than having originated here.
Locals and ghosthunters alike have dozens of stories they are more than willing to share with anyone interested in hearing them. Legend has it that a young woman was once hanged from the train trestle that runs through the property, and that she can be heard crying in the night. Some believe they have captured her apparition in photographs during their investigations of Hell’s Gates, often looking as though she were hanging from a rope or simply floating in mid-air just below the trestle. While there is no official record of her existence or death here, her alleged presence continues to attract the curious.
Psychics have often reported the impression of something dark and sinister lurking about the area, angry and defiant, not at all welcoming of nighttime visitors and investigators looking to capture evidence of its existence. Equipment failure is fairly common due to odd battery drainages and rare malfunctions that are often associated with paranormal activity. The area’s atmosphere is said to change almost instantly from calm and serene in the daylight to uncomfortable and frightening at night. While many are attracted to Hell’s Gates when the sun goes down, not many attempt to stick around to see the sun come up.
April Slaughter explores more scary tales in 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.
Fort Meigs State Memorial is located across the Maumee River south of Toldeo. Throughout the year, various events are held at Fort Meigs, including a lantern-lit Garrison Ghostwalk in October. For more information visit the website.
At the Rider’s Inn in Painsville, owner Elaine Crane and the spirit of Mistress Suzanne invite you to stay awhile in one of the inn’s 10 antiques-furnished guest rooms. Rider’s Inn hosts “taleful” candlelit dinners with ghost stories and a guest psychic every October. You can book your haunted stay here.
In addition to being haunted, the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe is America’s oldest, continuously operating theater. The theater offers ghost storytelling and a haunted tour,plus quality entertainment. Visit their website to find out what’s playing. The theater is located in Chillicothe’s historic district, where you can find interesting shops and restaurants within walking distance.
The Ohio State Reformatory is a chilling and thoroughly haunted old prison as well as the site for the filming of The Shawshank Redemption. For a fee, you can join a tour regularly scheduled in the warmer months. On select dates in September and October, the building is home to the Paranormal Penitentiary, where you can join the Slayers of the Damned.
The Castle of Marietta is one of the best examples of Gothic Revival-style architecture in Ohio, and, of course, it is haunted! The Castle, now on the National Register of Historic Places, offers tours and events on select days.
In October,a guided lantern tour of The Castle is offered to hear—and maybe even experience—the ghostly apparitions, sounds, and strange occurrences that are on record to have impacted the staff, volunteers, and guests of The Castle in the past. The 2016 date for the tour is October 28th.
About the author: John Kachubais the award-winning author of 12 books and numerous articles, short stories, and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing, given by The Thurber House, and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest, and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries. John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities, and libraries and on podcasts, radio, and TV.
Theaters are rich sources for paranormal phenomena. Before you venture into a theater to start hunting, it’s important to know a bit about theater traditions, superstitions, and folklore. L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York City, shares with us one of ten theater superstitions.
Never say “Macbeth”
Never say “Macbeth” in a theater. It’s traditional to avoid uttering the word “Macbeth” inside a theater. Actors, stagehands, and theater patrons refer to the play as “that Scottish play,” and they call its leading-lady character “Lady M.” If one does say “Macbeth” inside a theater, he must promptly exit the theater, spin three times counterclockwise, spit, swear, and then knock on the theater door and ask to be let back in. If that “undoing” ritual is not conducted, the curse of Macbeth will bring bad luck, leading to accidents on set and catastrophes in the lives of the performers and staff. Granted, Macbeth has more swordfights than most other plays, which in itself increases the chance of accidents. However, there are many stories of theater personnel thinking the superstition was silly and subsequently suffering the consequences with minor accidents and bad luck.
There are various theories about the Macbeth curse. Some say that the lines Shakespeare wrote for the three witches are actual incantations, and that therefore each performance of the play casts forth spells and curses. Others believe Macbeth is cursed because, being a crowd-pleasing production, theater owners would stage it as a last-ditch effort to save a struggling theater. Sadly, within weeks of the play’s performance, the troubled theater would be out of business anyway; thus The Tragedy of Macbeth became a “kiss of death” production.
In her book Ghosthunting New York City, L’Aura Hladik visits more than 30 legendary haunted places, all of which are open to the public—so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.
About the series: America’s Haunted Road Trip is a one-of-a-kind series of haunted travel guides. Each book profiles 30 haunted places that are open to the public. The author visits each place, from inns and museums to cemeteries and theaters, interviewing people who live and work there. Also included are travel instructions, maps, and an appendix of many more places that the reader can visit.
Photograph of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, based on an 1888 production, Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection.
By Window & Grove (photographer) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Kailyn Lamb, author of Ghosthunting Colorado, looks at locations throughout the state and dives headfirst into the history behind the ghosts and what has made them stay. Join her investigation of Mattie’s House of Mirrors.
One of the busiest bars in the lower downtown area of Denver was once home to one of the city’s more popular brothels, Mattie’s House of Mirrors. The House of Mirrors was built in 1889 by Jennie Rogers, whose primary objective was to compete with the brothel owned by Mattie Silks. When the building first opened, it was located on Holladay Street; in the late 1880s to early 1890s, the street would later be called Market Street. In 1894, before Rogers opened for business, brothel owners were shaking in their boots due to the murders of three prostitutes on Market Street, which became known as Strangler’s Row as a result.
In Mattie’s, Mirrors Covered the Walls
Silks took over the business in 1910. Once she was in control of the building, she converted the lower floor into a respectable restaurant. The building gained its name the “House of Mirrors” because any and all space was covered in mirrors. The upstairs of the building was a little less family friendly than the restaurant.
The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society (RMPRS) investigated the building in 2000 due to the alleged activity reported there. While there are plenty of rumors about people who have died in the building, the RMPRS could only find the record for the death of one woman, Ella Wellington. She was at one point an owner of the building; however, in addition to that, she may have also been an accountant or working girl for the location. RMPRS could not determine the cause of her death.
Some of the reports of ghostly activity come from the room in which Wellington died, but the activity is not limited to that room. Some activities that have been reported are the piano playing by itself, the elevator moving between floors when it has not been called, and the smell of smoke in the bathrooms. Several people have also reported hearing parties when no one is in the building. Several staff members refuse to go to the upstairs area of Mattie’s alone. During this investigation, the researchers were able to pick up what sounded like a conversation between two voices in a corner. The recorded conversation can be found on the RMPRS website.
The building now houses a bar called LoDo’s. It is no longer covered in mirrors, but a plaque can be seen on the front of the building commemorating Mattie Silks and her House of Mirrors.
Stanley Hotel Ranked as One of the Most-Haunted Buildings in the United States
When writing a book on haunted locations in the state of Colorado, the Stanley Hotel simply cannot be overlooked. It was ranked as one of the most-haunted buildings in the United States by Denver’s KUSA/9News in September 2014 and is widely regarded as the most haunted place in Colorado. The hotel does not shy away from its haunted reputation and, in fact, thrives under the idea. Guests can even participate in haunted tours of the building and grounds with a guide named Scary Mary. The hotel is also host to numerous horror film festivals throughout the year.
Stanley Hotel Best Known for Stephen King’s The Shining
Another story that makes the hotel so popular involves Stephen King’s The Shining. King was inspired to write this popular novel, which was published in 1977, after staying in the hotel. Later, in 1980, Stanley Kubrick was so enthralled by the novel that he made it into the popular movie of the same title. It is regarded as one of the best horror movies of all time, and the Stanley Hotel plays the film on loop, 24 hours a day, on channel 42. This movie, however, was not filmed on location at the Stanley Hotel because of a lack of necessary lighting and power, according to Kubrick. Supposedly King did not like Kubrick’s film and felt that it ignored many of the themes in his book. According to tours at the hotel, King supervised a made-for-TV version of The Shining that was shot at the Stanley and aired in 1997. One of the more noticeable differences between the book and the movie is the giant hedge/maze. King’s version had giant hedge animals that moved and taunted characters, while Kubrick’s movie had an eerie maze.
In 2009, the hotel celebrated 100 years of wowing the nation as a successful haunted hotel. No one is sure when the haunts in question began. Several different apparitions and instances of paranormal activity have been reported throughout the building, especially in the lobby. The ghost of Stanley himself, as one might expect, has ostensibly been seen throughout the building. Additionally, his wife, Flora, who was a professional pianist, is thought to be the unseen player that tickles the keys later at night in the Music Room (although some report that it is not Flora but her husband who plays the ghostly tunes).
Lots of Paranormal Activity Reported on the Fourth Floor of the Stanley Hotel
The fourth floor of the hotel is another location where paranormal activity is often reported. Dunraven, the wealthy man from whom Stanley bought the land, is reportedly seen in room 407, accompanied by the smell of his tobacco pipe. It is strange that Dunraven’s ghost should appear here, however, as he never stayed in the hotel and had left the country before it was even built. The lights also seem to have a mind of their own in the room, and there have been reports of a ghostly face looking out the window when the room is not occupied. According to an online video tour of the hotel led by Scary Mary, the fourth floor was originally a cavernous attic and was one of the few locations where children were permitted. People have said they can hear the sound of children laughing and running through the halls, especially in room 418. Some have reported the sound of bouncing balls, and others still have reported the feeling of being tucked in at night, a duty given to the children’s nannies. There is a closet that notoriously opens and closes on its own in room 401, and in room 428 people report hearing footsteps on the roof and their furniture being moved around. There is also said to be a friendly ghost called the Cowboy in that room, whose apparition tends to stand near one of the corners of the foot of the bed.
Photos taken of the hotel have been known to depict orbs or even ghostly silhouettes. One area of the hotel, a stairwell, creates a sort of vortex of activity in images, and photos of that area often show greenish orbs. Sometimes, the more human-shaped ghosts that appear in photos are seen in rooms or areas where guests are not allowed or are not staying in at the time.
Stanley Hotel Not Shy About its Reputation
The hotel does not shy away from its reputation as the most haunted hotel in Colorado. As a matter of fact, in addition to daily historical tours, the hotel also gives daily haunted tours. Its website lists several tour packages, including a historical/paranormal combo tour, a nighttime ghost tour, and a five-hour ghosthunt through the most haunted areas of the hotel. All of the tours require advance booking and have separate costs. According to one article, the Stanley earns more than $1 million on tours alone. It also has a “haunted photo gallery” that includes spoof ghost photos of different locations in the hotel. Its online store includes items that pay homage to The Shining with oozing, bloodlike lettering spelling out “REDRUM.” There is even an annual horror film festival there, dubbed the Stanley Film Festival, that was founded in 2013.
Much of the hotel’s fame is due to the success of King’s book and Kubrick’s film. Are the ghosts just there to play along, or is the Stanley Hotel really as haunted as they say? The best way to find out is to visit it yourself.
Ghosthunting Colorado is the latest book in the popular America’s Haunted Road Trip Series. The guide covers 30 haunted locations in Colorado. Each site includes a combination of history, haunted lore and phenomena, and practical visitation information.
About the author: Kailyn Lamb holds a degree in journalism from Mississippi State University. She has always had a fascination with otherworldly things, and she devours horror movies, Stephen King novels, and ghost stories as often as she can. Kailyn lives in Denver, CO.
Bryan Bonner/Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society
By Rominator (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Bruce Vittetoe (Lobby Piano Uploaded by xnatedawgx) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Just across the Inner Harbor is Fort McHenry, the object of the battle immortalized in Francis Scott Key’s The Star-Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem. A symbol of freedom when it prevented British invasion during the War of 1812, the fort came to represent oppression to many pro-South Marylanders when the Federal government occupied it and used it to help maintain its grip over the local area during the Civil War.
With such history and passions associated with Fort McHenry, it should not be too surprising that it has also long had a reputation for being one of the most haunted sites in a very haunted city. Over the years, all sorts of paranormal activities have been reported at Fort McHenry, including sightings of spectral figures on its earthen ramparts, disembodied voices, footsteps in empty areas, spots of unnatural cold, and furniture that levitates and otherwise moves around. Some investigators have even postulated that the fort’s shape—that of a five-pointed star—has some occult significance and might play a role in the preponderance of supernatural events that have occurred here.
A number of specific ghost stories have also been associated with the site and recounted in numerous articles, television shows, and Internet postings. One of these involves the ghost of U.S. Army Lieutenant Levi Clagett, who, along with some of his men, was killed when a bomb burst not in the air but in their gun emplacement. Numerous people have seen both a spectral figure and a man dressed in a uniform appropriate to the period, walking along the top of the star point sometimes known as “Clagett’s Bastion” at times when no costumed people were present in the fort.
Another named ghost associated with the site is that of Private John Drew, a soldier who was reportedly confined in one of the fort’s cells after he was caught sleeping while on guard duty and who, in shame, killed himself. His specter has been seen both in his cell and on the ramparts where he walked his last post, forever trying to correct the mistake that ended his military career and his life.
Some of the most dramatic paranormal events at the fort involve attacks on people by what has been variously described as a woman, a white figure, and an invisible entity that has reportedly done such things as push some people down stairs and knock others unconscious. Some believe this spirit is that of the wife of a noncommissioned officer assigned to the fort whose children died during an epidemic in the 1820s.
One ghosthunting group that recently visited the site is the Maryland Tri-State Paranormal. Founder Ana Bruder told me that while they were there, her friend Laura suddenly said, “I feel like I am being watched.” Ana, who is sensitive to the presence of spirits, turned and saw the ghost of a uniformed soldier staring at her friend, just one of several spirits she detected while at the site.
Managers of Fort McHenry Decline to Comment on Supernatural Phenomena Reported by Visitors
Numerous other ghost stories and episodes of paranormal activity have also been associated with the site. Many of the accounts of ghostly activity at Fort McHenry were originally reported by park rangers assigned to the site, and that remained the case up until a couple of decades ago. Today, however, in what they say is an effort to keep the site from being regarded as a “haunted fort” and to instead emphasize the non-supernatural history of the National Monument and Historic Shrine, the managers of Fort McHenry decline to directly comment on phenomena that are still regularly reported by visitors.
Potential ghosthunters should also expect to have anything they ask to do at the site be curtailed by red tape. A favored tactic at Fort McHenry is to require application of a “special use permit” for anything its managers don’t really want people to do—the major exception to this being, it would seem, historic reenactment, for which the site has become a virtual playground. The important thing to remember is that the site is public property and that very little of what is involved in most investigations should actually require any sort of permission anyway.
For more haunted stories from the Old Line State, check out Ghosthunting Maryland by Michael J. Varhola and Michael H. Varhola.
By Balou46 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Natalie Litofsky (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Junglerot56 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFt M