Category Archives: ghosthunting

Hell’s Gates, Texas

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.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

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.

Ohio Haunted Tour

Five of the Top Haunted Spots in Ohio

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.

ohio-state-reformatoryThe 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.

If you want to go on a ghost hunt, check out the possibilities here. For a less intense but fun experience, we recommend you join a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater.

marietta-castleThe 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.

Author John Kachuba
Author John Kachuba

About the author:  John Kachuba is 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.

Want to read more about haunted hotels and ghostly places in Ohio? Get your own copies of John’s books  Ghosthunting Ohio and Ghosthunting Ohio – On The Road Again

Theater Superstitions and Traditions

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”

MacbethNever 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.

L'Aura Hladik
L’Aura Hladik

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 author: L’Aura Hladik Hoffman is the author of Ghosthunting New Jersey and Ghosthunting New York City. She is also the Founder and Director of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society.

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.

Photo credits
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

Mattie’s House of Mirrors—Downtown Denver

Ghostly Activities in Mattie’s House of Mirrors

House of MirrorsKailyn Lamb, author of Ghosthunting Coloradolooks 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.

The Stanley Hotel in Denver

Stanley Hotel Ranked as One of the Most-Haunted Buildings in the United States

Stanley HotelWhen 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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 4.57.11 PMAnother 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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 4.58.32 PMThe 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.

Ghosthunting-ColoradoMuch 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.

Photo credits:
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

 

Spotlight on Ghosts: Fort McHenry

Paranormal Activities Reported at Fort McHenry

Ft McHenryJust 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.

Ft McHenryA 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

Ft McHenryNumerous 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.

Ghosthunting Maryland
Ghosthunting Maryland

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.

Photo credits:
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

 

Ghosthunting Colorado

Ghosthunting Colorado—The Latest Book in the Popular America’s Haunted Road Trip Series

Ghosthunting-ColoradoWelcome to colorful Colorado, home of ghostly hotels, city parks, and, of course, some of the best mountain viewing around.

Author Kailyn Lamb looks at locations throughout the state and dives headfirst into the history behind the ghosts and what has made them stay.

The eyes of paranormal enthusiasts have long been on the Centennial State due to the fame that Stephen King’s The Shining brought to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The Stanley, however, is not the only haunted hotel in Colorado. Multiple inns and hotels (some of them brothels) in Denver alone have histories as sites of deaths that make their victims decide to stay in their beloved rooms forever.

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; she devours horror movies, Stephen King novels, and ghost stories as often as she can. Kailyn lives in Denver, CO.

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.

Benson Hotel Portand

Five Spiritual Apparitions Reported at the Benson Hotel in Portland

Benson HotelWhile most purportedly haunted locations in the Portland area are home to a single ghost or type of haunting, the Benson Hotel reportedly houses five spiritual apparitions, each similar in description and related activity.

People have reported numerous ghosts in the Benson Hotel, and many guests check in hoping to meet one of them face-to-face. Paranormal experiences have occurred throughout, with ghosts seen wearing anything from formal attire to lumberjack clothing. An employee was setting the tables for a banquet when the ghost of Benson entered the room and then just as quickly exited into the wine storage area, vanishing before her eyes. Shaken, she nervously finished her job as quickly as possible, glancing over her shoulder to make sure she was still alone in the room.

Other employees claim to have seen the ghost of Benson in one of the meeting areas, standing quietly and attentively in the back of the room as an important meeting commenced.

Is the Ghost of Jimi Hendrix Experience Drummer John Ronald “Mitch” Mitchell Haunting the Benson Hotel?

Another popular ghost at the Benson Hotel is that of a young boy, around the age of 3 or 4, who witnesses describe as thin and with short, light brown hair. Some local psychics have said that it is the ghost of Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer John Ronald “Mitch” Mitchell, who died at the Benson Hotel in 2008. Mitchell was a famous child actor in England before embarking on a career in rock and roll, and the psychics believe he remains at the Benson as the child version of himself. While anything may be possible in the afterlife, this does beg the question as to why this young boy has been seen at the hotel for decades whereas Mitchell died in 2008.

One guest who was in Portland on business checked into a room on the seventh floor of the Benson Hotel. She was in bed and growing weary of the movie on television, so she turned off the set and checked her cell phone one last time for any messages from her family before turning in. Then, when she rolled over, she came face-to-face with a little boy who stood at the side of her bed. She estimated the child to be about 3 years old, and as a mother with a son the same age, her instinct was to reach out to him. She touched his arm, and for a moment it felt solid and warm. She recalled thinking that the little boy could not possibly be a ghost because he was not cold, and from all that she had seen on television, ghosts were cold. As she thought about this and watched the little boy, he unexpectedly jumped at her face, assuming a scary expression. Startled, but not really frightened, she covered her head for a moment, thinking the boy might be simply playing a game with her. When she peeked out from the covers, the boy was still there. Again she touched him, and again he quickly made a scary face. This time the guest carefully positioned the blanket in front of her face so she would not have to see the boy again and, after a few minutes, assumed he was gone. Then she felt movement on the blankets at the bottom of the bed. Spooked by what she had just experienced, she did not look to see what the movement was.

Benson hotel 1When she checked out of the hotel the next morning, the woman asked the desk clerk if anyone else had ever described anything like she had experienced the night before. She was not surprised to hear that others had seen the little boy, although the desk clerk told her that most of those sightings had occurred on the 12th floor.

Some Benson Hotel Ghosts are Friendly and Helpful

Although they have a sense of humor, some of the Benson Hotel ghosts are friendly and helpful. Another guest, one with a disability, was having difficulty getting into bed one night when a porter appeared in front of her and gently assisted her into bed. When she turned to thank him for his kindness, however, he vanished before her eyes. No one has been able to describe well what the porter looks like, perhaps because he helps and vanishes so quickly, but he is known to assist guests in rooms when they need a helping hand.

Ghosthunting Oregon
Ghosthunting Oregon

The Lady in White is another helpful ghost. When she is not checking on guests, she wanders the floors and admires the decor. The Lady in Blue is the ghost of a middle-aged woman who has been seen wearing a turquoise dress and bright red rings. She is a different form of apparition than the others, however, and people have reported seeing her only as a reflection in a lobby mirror looking back at them.

If you are looking for a beautiful and mysterious place to spend a night or two in the Portland area, check into the Benson Hotel, which has everything and more that you would expect from a fine luxury hotel. The rooms are not inexpensive, but they are not grossly overpriced either. Spend some time in the gym, enjoy dinner at the London Grill, and relax in your room with a few friendly ghosts.

Donna Stewart’s book Ghosthunting Oregon covers more than 30 haunted places throughout the Beaver State, all of them open to the public.

Molly Brown House Museum

Molly Brown House Museum—A Story Not Soaked in Gore

A story by Kailyn Lamb,  the author of the next book in the America’s Haunted Roadtrip Series  Ghosthunting Colorado

Molly Brown MuseumNot all haunted spaces have their stories soaked in gore, violence, and death. The Molly Brown House Museum, which is possibly haunted by its namesake, provides a good example of this.

Margaret “Molly” Brown did many notable things in her life—the most famous of which was surviving the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912. Arguably one of Colorado’s most beloved celebrities, she left her mark on the Mile High City in many ways. Better known for her unofficial nickname, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” she inspired both a musical and later a film starting Debbie Reynolds in the ’60s. According to one of the Molly Brown House Museum’s tour guides, Catherine Trumpis, the fiery and passionate woman never went by Molly in her lifetime, just Margaret or Maggie. Impressions she left on the world go beyond her sense of spirit, her activism, and the tragedy of the Titanic. Her house, now a historic landmark and museum, may hold her ghost as well.

She was born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal, Missouri, in 1867. She would later wed James Joseph “J.J.” Brown in 1886. Margaret was 19 when they were married, and J.J. was 32. They had two children while living in Leadville, Lawrence and Catherine. They purchased the house for $30,000, the equivalent today of about $833,300.

Once the Browns had settled into their new home in Capitol Hill, Margaret started throwing parties to take part in the higher society that Denver offered. Allegedly, J.J. did not approve of these parties and would spend all his time during them in his study smoking cigars.

Although no one has been allowed to smoke in any area of the house for several years, guests of the museum’s daily tours have noticed the odor of cigars, specifically on the second floor where J.J.’s study was. It should also be noted that while J.J. and Margaret’s mother, Johanna Collins Tobin, enjoyed smoking, Margaret herself did not, saying it smoked up the house and that she did not like the smell. In 1910, she converted J.J.’s smoking parlor where he entertained guests into a library.

3MollyBrownContemporaryHouse50PCMollyBrownHouseMuseumA big reason Margaret was able to convert J.J.’s parlor was because the couple had separated in 1909. The couple never formally divorced due to their religion, but they never reconciled either. After Margaret separated from J.J., she began to travel the world. Aside from her house on Pennsylvania Street in Denver, she had homes in Lakewood, Colorado, and Newport, Rhode Island, and an apartment in New York City. She was in Cairo, Egypt, with her daughter during one of her many trips abroad when she received a telegram from her son, Larry, saying her first grandchild was very ill. She decided to head back to the United States on the first vessel on which she could obtain passage: the Titanic.

Most know the background of the sinking of the Titanic, and some even know Margaret’s role aboard it, as a result of James Cameron’s 1997 film, in which actress Kathy Bates played this chapter’s heroine. When Margaret discovered the chaos above deck while the ship was sinking on April 14, 1912, she immediately took control. She began ushering people onto lifeboats and, according to Trumpis, did not get on one herself until forced by some of the ship’s crewmen.

Some accounts say that as people in the lifeboats watched the Titanic crack and finally sink, several passengers jumped from the sinking ship into the frozen waters below. Where accounts differ is whether or not Margaret had the men rowing her lifeboat go to help those people. While there is no record of whether Margaret was able to save any people in the water, many attribute the “unsinkable” part of her nickname to her brave attempt. Once the ship had sunk and the survivors were picked up by RMS Carpathia, Margaret was put in charge of the survivors’ committee on the trip back to New York. She was picked for several reasons: People were able to relate to her spiritually as a Catholic in their time of grief, and she was fluent in English, German, Russian, and French. Upon her return to New York, reporters asked why she did not sink with the Titanic, and Margaret is reported to have answered, “Hell, I’m unsinkable.” The rest, as they say, is history.

In the Absence of Violence, the Molly Brown House Museum has Acquired the Ghost of a Fiery, Strong Woman

Margaret’s amazing story continues from there. She volunteered as a nurse with the Red Cross in 1917 during World War I, which earned her a French Legion of Honor medal. One of the other notable things that she did in her life was to help create a juvenile court system in Colorado. She also ran for a seat in the senate three times, all before women had the right to vote, and she was one of the first women to do so, with a campaign that promoted domestic rights for women and children. She also acted on the stage in London and Paris.

3MollyBrownContemporaryHouse10PCMollyBrownHouseMuseumDuring tours of the Molly Brown House Museum, guests can walk through almost the entire home, with the exception of the third floor, where she used to throw parties. Several of the hauntings, though, actually occur on the second floor of the house, including the aforementioned cigar smoke smell from J.J.’s study. Another common episode involves a rocking chair that sits in what used to be Margaret’s room, which several people claim to have seen rocking back and forth of its own accord. Daily tours take place approximately every 30 minutes during the museum’s operating hours. The museum also hosts special exhibits pertaining to Margaret’s history, as well as special Halloween tours—called Victorian Horrors—and other holiday events. Guests of tours have also claimed to see apparitions that looked exactly like portraits of Margaret that are found throughout the house. One guest even claims that the ghost of Margaret kindly, albeit silently, pointed her in the direction of the bathroom.

There have been independent psychics who have visited the museum who claim that Mrs. Brown’s mother, Johanna Tobin, roams the second floor, that J.J. smokes cigars in the back hallway, and that a maid is dusting the library shelves.

Ghosthunting-ColoradoIn the absence of violence, the Molly Brown House Museum has acquired the ghost of a fiery, strong woman—and maybe the occasional sign of disapproval from her husband. But her presence does beg the question of what makes her stay. Maybe she feels as if her work of fighting for the rights of others is not yet over. More than likely, of course, we will never know.

About the author: Kailyn Lamb looks at locations throughout the state and dives head first into the history behind the ghosts and what makes 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.
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Music Hath Charms to Soothe the Savage Beast

Do Spirits Haunt Cincinnati Music Hall ?

Cincinnati Music HallIf music can, indeed, calm the hearts of wild animals, might it not also calm the restless spirits of those who have died and wander the earth as ghosts? John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio cannot think of any better place to find the answer to that question than at Cincinnati Music Hall.

Built in 1878, the redbrick Victorian Gothic structure rises majestically on the corner of 14th and Elm streets. Central Parkway runs parallel to the rear of the building now, but when Music Hall first opened its doors, that thoroughfare was actually the Miami Canal. Designed by a local architectural firm, the edifice is eccentric, with its garrets, turrets, gables, insets, nooks, broken surfaces and planes, and ornate rose window. Some witty Cincinnatians have dubbed the style “Sauerbraten Byzantine.”

The building is located upon the site where the tin-roofed wooden Sangerhalle once stood, a hall built by a German immigrant singing society, the Saengerbund, for its May Festivals. But there is also a more somber atmosphere associated with other former occupants of the site. The present Music Hall rests upon the foundations of the 1844 Orphan Asylum. Before that, it was the Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum with its Pest House, a section for the indigent with contagious diseases. A potter’s field also occupied the site, the final resting place for suicides and strangers, the indigent and homeless of Cincinnati, as well as those who died in the Pest House. These unfortunates were buried without the benefit of coffins; they were simply bundled up and dropped into the earth. Over the years, there have been many renovations to Music Hall and human bones have often been unearthed during construction.

Cincinnati Music HallThe famous Cincinnati journalist Lafcadio Hearn wrote about one such discovery in the October 22, 1876, edition of the Cincinnati Commercial:

“This rich yellow soil, fat with the human flesh and bone and brain it has devoured, is being disemboweled by a hundred spades and forced to exhibit its ghastly secrets to the sun…you will behold small Golgothas—mingled with piles of skulls, loose vertebrae, fibulas, tibias and the great curving bones of the thigh…All are yellow, like the cannibal clay which denuded them of their fleshly masks…Bone after bone…is turned over with a scientific application of kicks…dirty fingers are poked into empty eyesockets…ribs crack in pitiful remonstrance to reckless feet; and tobacco juice is carelessly squirted among the decaying skulls…by night there come medical students to steal the poor skulls.”

Hearn reported that the dead began to make themselves known to the living just shortly after these macabre discoveries were made. Shadowy figures roamed the halls at night, and ghostly dancers were seen in the ballroom on the second floor. One exhibitor at a business fair in Music Hall saw a young, pale woman in old-fashioned clothing standing by his booth. As he approached her, he felt a sudden rush of cold air as the figure became transparent then disappeared. Hearn wrote: “The tall woman had been sepulchered under the yellow clay below the planking upon which he stood; and the worms had formed the wedding-rings of Death about her fingers half a century before.”

Half a dozen skeletons were unearthed by workers in 1927, placed in a cement crypt and reburied, only to be discovered again during a renovation in 1969. The bones were placed inside another concrete box and reburied—and uncovered in 1988 for the third time when the shaft for the concert hall’s freight elevator was deepened. It seems the dead at Music Hall simply cannot rest in peace. Pieces, yes, but peace? No.

When my wife, Mary, and I lived in the Cincinnati area, we attended several performances of various kinds at Music Hall, but that was before we had ever heard the ghost stories, and we had never been behind the scenes. We were lucky enough, however, on a recent Valentine’s Day, to have a tour of Music Hall led by Marie Gallagher, a volunteer there for 25 years. It was a public tour, and we were joined by approximately two dozen people who were interested in seeing the grand old building. We gathered in the Main Foyer, with its checkerboard marble floor and graceful columns.

Cincinnati Music HallMarie knew every nook and cranny of Music Hall and regaled us with tales and anecdotes about some of the famous people who had performed there—John Philip Sousa, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifitz, Maria Callas, Andres Segovia, Luciano Pavarotti, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan; the list is endless.

The heart and soul of Music Hall is the 3,630-seat Springer Auditorium. Marie led us up into the gallery where we could look down at the burgundy colored seats and the stage. Even though larger than most concert halls, the acoustics in Springer Auditorium are said to be the best in the country, if not the world. Ed Vignale, Jr., Music Hall’s facilities engineer, told me in a later conversation that a person standing in the gallery of the empty auditorium could hear someone speaking from behind the stage as though he or she were only 20 feet away from the listener. Could it be that such perfect acoustics are the explanation for some of the ghostly sounds heard at Music Hall?

“I hear them when I’m on duty alone at night,” says Kitty Love, who has been part of the private police force at Music Hall for 21 years. “Footsteps, doors slamming, and music playing, and I know I was the only one in the building.”

Kitty has heard the footsteps and slamming doors in the stage area of Springer Auditorium and in other parts of the building’s south side, the side that was built over the cemetery.

As our tour group stood in the gallery of the auditorium, gazing out at the magnificent 1,500-pound crystal chandelier suspended from the dome ceiling and its Arthur Thompson oil painting, “Allegory of the Arts,” I thought of what Kitty had said and took a few pictures with my digital camera. (Later, when I download the images to my computer, I will find three beautiful but unexplainable orbs floating in the otherwise clear air above the gallery.)

Marie continued to lead us on the tour—the enormous backstage area with its vertiginous catwalks barely distinguishable in the darkness high above us, the massive workshop where stage sets and props are built, the costume room with its many rows of outfits of every description hung around and above us like an enormous dry cleaner, the dressing rooms that resembled high school locker rooms, and the more luxuriously appointed dressing rooms of the stars.

When the tour concluded back in the Main Foyer, Marie took us aside privately and brought us back into an office area. In this section was a freight elevator, the very elevator beneath which a small casket of bones from the old cemetery was uncovered.

“I haven’t seen or heard anything unusual in Music Hall and I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Marie, “but this is where a security guard said he heard strange music. He was so impressed by what he heard, he wrote it all down.”

She handed me a file folder containing a photocopy of security guard John G. Engst’s handwritten account of what he experienced on February 22, 1987. In it he tells how he was escorting three caterers from a party held in Music Hall’s Corbett Tower down to the first floor in the elevator. It was about 12:30 a.m. As they descended, the three women asked him if he heard music. He said he did not, but they asked him again when they reached the first floor and this time he said he had heard it. The women told John they had heard the same music when they went up to Corbett Tower a few hours earlier but didn’t think much of it then.

After the women loaded their truck and drove away, John went back to the elevator. The music, sounding something like a music box, continued to play a tune that John thought he recognized as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” John stopped the elevator at different levels to see if the music would still be audible. It was. He wrote, “It was as beautiful as ever, but I’m getting more bewildered.”

Author John Kachuba
Author John Kachuba

John checked all the areas outside the elevator at the various levels but could not find any source for the music. He was so frightened and awed by his experiences that he wrote, “For nearly two weeks I could not approach the elevator shaft on the first floor late at night without my whole body tingling.”

In the final analysis, however, the experience was an affirming, life-altering one for John Engst. He wrote: “The experience is now all positive and will be forever, I now believe. I pray more intensely, don’t fear death and am glad to have had this profound experience.”

Kitty Love has heard similar ghostly music at Music Hall but in different locations from the freight elevator. “You hear music playing somewhere late at night when you know no one is there, but when you get there, you find it coming from some other place. You go to that place and then you hear it coming from yet another place.”

Ed Vignale said a musical greeting card had been found at the bottom of the elevator shaft, but that didn’t convince Engst that there was a rational explanation for the music he heard. Maybe John is right. Those greeting cards don’t usually last very long nor do they play continuously. Once opened they play only a few seconds before they must be closed and reopened to play again. Could a card have been heard continuously for several hours? And what about the ethereal music Kitty heard in other parts of Music Hall? Are there ghosts roaming Music Hall?

Even though Ed Vignale said that he has never seen nor heard spirits in the 34 years he has worked at Music Hall, he admits that some people have told him of seeing men and women dressed in late-19th-century clothing walking through the halls of the building. Other people have said that sometimes an extra unknown “cast member” may appear in an operatic production or that unusual looking figures may appear among the audience.

“There is definitely something strange going on here,” Ed said. “In all the time I’ve worked here, I’ve only seen two mice and one rat in the building, very unusual for a building of this size and age.” Ed went on to say that during a 1967 production at Music Hall called wild Animal Cargo, two baby snakes, a python and boa constrictor, somehow disappeared and were never found. The show left town without them and Music Hall was left with a unique system of rodent extermination.

How long do those snakes live anyway? One can only hope that, if they are still alive, those creatures have long ago been tamed by the musical charms of Cincinnati Music Hall’s resident spirits.

Copyrights: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons