The War of 1812 prompted the United States to build a long line of forts along the East Coast for national security. Built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Fort Macon was designed to protect Beaufort Harbor, a deepwater ocean port. The fort is five-sided, built of brick and stone, and quite striking. Twenty-six vaulted rooms called casements make up the substantial fort, with walls that are almost 5 feet thick.
The fort became active in 1834; at the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederacy of North Carolina wrestled the port away from Union soldiers. The fort was recovered by Union soldiers in 1862 and served as a federal prison for both civil and military prisoners from 1867 to 1876. Fort Macon was officially closed in 1903. The state of North Carolina purchased the fort from the federal government in 1923 and turned it into a state park. It was reactivated for a brief period during World War II as a coastal defense base.
Visually appealing, the fort and surrounding park lie on one of North Carolina’s most beautiful barrier islands. The park is fully restored and open to the public. Besides the fort, there are areas for fishing and swimming, nature trails to hike, a refreshment stand, and beautiful scenery on land and sea to enjoy, which makes the fort and the park one of the most visited parks in the state, reportedly receiving more than 1 million visitors each year.
In 1862, Union forces attacked the fort, and even though the Confederate soldiers were completely surrounded, they refused to surrender. The fort was besieged by heavy gunfire for 11 hours straight, and cannon fire struck the fort more than 500 times. By the next day, the fort was under such strain that the commander, Colonel White, was forced to surrender. While the fort had been able to easily withstand gunfire, cannons quickly penetrated the barriers.
Some reports state that Civil War ghosts haunt the fort, including Confederate soldiers who keep watch for approaching Union soldiers. Others state that the ghosts are former prisoners. Witnesses report seeing soldiers strolling outside the fort and items moving within several rooms inside the fort. There are also sounds of footsteps, gunfire, and men speaking in low voices.
The fort is beautiful in its own way, and the five-sided shape is intriguing. Exhibits and displays include the fort’s powder magazines, counterfire rooms with cannons, and furnace and bake ovens. Some quarters have been restored to show how soldiers and officers lived there.
While touring Fort Macon, I didn’t experience any paranormal activity. It was a gorgeous day when we visited the area, and everyone there was enjoying the beautiful weather. Some of the techniques used in ghosthunting include checking for increased solar activity, which has been reported by many paranormal researchers to cause an increase in paranormal activity, as spirits need an energy source in order to appear. When the sun has a solar storm or is releasing solar flares, radioactive particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere, which charges the geomagnetic fields. Ghosts can then access this energy, which allows them to be more active on the earth plane. Moon phases have also been studied, and certain phases, including the full moon cycle, often produce more ghost sightings and paranormal activity.
During my visit, the geomagnetic field was quiet, and solar storms were low. I was also there during a low lunar cycle. I didn’t detect any paranormal activity to note other than the usual energy imprints I pick up any time I’m near a battlefield. This doesn’t mean that the fort is not haunted; it just means that I didn’t encounter any activity during my visit. As with any paranormal investigations, it often takes time and repeated visits to a location under the right conditions to find proof of ghostly activity. Locals and visitors continue to report ghostly experiences while visiting, and I hope to return again to investigate further.
Helen Pattskyn, author ofGhosthunting Michigan, tells us about the supposedly paranormal activity happening at Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
If people like Lynn from Main Street Antiques and Pat from the Battle Alley Arcade are right, then the more pieces of old furniture or old building materials you have around, the greater your chances are of having ghosts—assuming you believe in ghosts. Many of the other people I’ve spoken to in the course of writing this book have also said they have noticed how paranormal activity seemed to increase when they brought antiques into their businesses. So it stands to reason that a place like Dearborn’s Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum, which is nothing but antiques and old homes, would be teeming with paranormal activity. And according to a lot of people, it is.
Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum is a legacy left to us by the museum’s namesake, automotive giant Henry Ford. Ford’s passion for preserving American history and culture led him to amass, preserve, and exhibit more than 90 acres’ worth of historically significant Americana, including large exhibits like Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, in addition to several historic homes, including the Firestone Farm, which was originally constructed in 1828 in Columbiana, Ohio. Other permanent exhibits include John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, the chair Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in, and the bus made famous by Rosa Parks. The folks who run Greenfield Village are more interested in traditional history than in paranormal activity, but several places around the village are reputed to be haunted, including the Firestone Farm, the Dagget Farm, William Ford Barn, and the Wright Brothers’ home—at least according to former employees of the Village.
On the Firestone Farm, it is said that one can hear Sally Firestone walking around upstairs. Her bedroom is said to be particularly active; sometimes she can even be seen peering out the window.
Former employees have reported they would find the drapes pulled back and furniture out of place in the room. Equine specters are said to stamp their hooves in the William Ford Barn; in the Wright Brothers’ family home, people claim to have seen Katherine Wright, the famous pair’s younger sister. At the Dagget Farm, some people have claimed to catch a whiff of pipe smoke, particularly in the autumn months. Most of the Village’s supposedly paranormal activity happens at night, and management tends to be closed-mouthed about it. But if you ask around discreetly, you might be able to get some of the employees to tell you a ghost story or two.
More information on Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum is available here.
The Wright House: By Andrew Balet [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
The Thomas Edison Laboratoy: By Swampyank [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Kailyn Lamb, author of Ghosthunting Colorado investigated reports about paranormal activities going on at the Oxford Hotel. Here is what she found out.
As the oldest hotel in Denver, the Oxford Hotel’s history is rooted in luxury. Built in 1891 during the peak of the silver rush, the hotel was fitted with gas heating and an elevator and even had its own power plant to enable these luxuries.
The building was designed by Frank E. Edbrooke, who, coincidentally, designed the Brown Palace, Denver’s second oldest hotel and the Oxford’s prime competition for the most haunted hotel in Denver. The hotel is five stories high and contains several reputedly haunted locations.
One of the first haunted locations presents a little bit of a novelty. Located off the main lobby and down some stairs on a lower floor is a women’s restroom, but when the hotel was originally built, this area was the barbershop. Some of the activity here is fairly “typical,” such as doors locking by themselves and faucets turning on of their own accord. What makes this restroom a little more unique is that the ghost who resides there is apparently a peeping tom who has frightened several women trying to use the facilities. Undoubtedly, this puts the hotel in a slight predicament, as there are not many women who would appreciate a desk clerk telling them that the person startling them in the bathroom is a ghost or a figment of their imagination.
The next room that sees ghostly activity is the Cruise Room. It now houses Denver’s first post-Prohibition bar, which opened the day after passage of the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition in December 1933.
As far as paranormal activity goes, it is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of an old man who comes to the bar to order a beer. Bartenders and patrons alike have witnessed the man drink his beer and continuously mutter about getting presents to children. When the man leaves and the bartender goes to pick up his empty glass, however, he always finds it full again. He is supposedly the ghost of a mailman who was going to deliver Christmas presents to children in Central City in the early 1900s, but he never arrived, and people assumed he had stolen the gifts. His partially frozen and decomposed body, however, was found in Central City with the presents still with him near the end of winter.
One of the more mystifying and scary areas of the Oxford Hotel is its attic. It used to be a hot spot for ghost tours but now the hotel uses it for storage, and customers are no longer allowed into it. Some say it is one of the more eerie of the haunted locations in the building, and it has been the subject of paranormal investigations in which people claim to have recorded voices. Some employees will not go up into the attic alone because of the creepy vibes they get there. There have also been reports of objects stored there moving by themselves and the distinct sounds of footsteps behind people when it is obvious no one else is there.
The last of the haunted locations in the Oxford Hotel is room 320. About half of the stories about it say that a woman named Florence Richardson was staying in the hotel with her husband one night in 1898 when she decided to kill him and then turn the gun on herself.
Guest have reported waking up to an apparition of a male figure at the foot of the bed yelling about corrupting his wife. Reportedly this has caused several of the men to leave the room, and in turn the hotel, immediately. Other accounts report the bathroom light turning on and off very quickly and feeling a depression in the bed next to the guest as if someone were lying down.
Room 320 has been called the Murder Room and is one of the most requested in the hotel. Like the attic, it has also had many paranormal investigators visit it.
The hotel currently no longer advertises itself as a haunted hotel and has stopped giving haunted tours, although CBS did rate it as one of the top haunted tours in 2012. The hotel may no longer present itself as a haunted getaway, but customers still flock to room 320 and the rest of the site, hoping to catch a glimpse of past lodgers who never left.
Back in the nineteenth century a young man named Enos Kay lived along Egypt Pike in Ross County. Enos was an honest, hard-working young man who had become the envy of the county since he won the affections of Alvira, the local beauty.
It took several years of scrimping and saving for Enos to get together enough money for a wedding worthy of his beloved Alvira. But at last he had the money, and soon wedding arrangements were under way. The wedding clothes were being fashioned, and everything was going well for the young couple until the fateful day in 1869 when they decided to attend a church picnic.
A mysterious stranger, a man none of the churchgoers had ever seen, showed up at the church picnic that day. It was even unclear what the man called himself; some of the picnickers thought his name was Smith, while others thought it was Johnston, or maybe Brown. One thing they all agreed upon was that the man clearly had eyes for the beautiful Alvira. Throughout the day, the stranger did his best to woo the girl while meek and hapless Enos simply stood by and watched.
It wasn’t long before rumors began to circulate that Alvira had been seen walking hand in hand with the handsome stranger, rumors that Enos simply dismissed as idle chatter. How could the love of his life, the woman who had promised her love to him, be with another man? Impossible. But when Enos heard a few days later that the man had climbed through Alvira’s bedroom window at night and proposed to her, and that she had accepted and run off with the man, he was stunned.
Enos immediately ran to his fiancée’s house, where he discovered, much to his grief, that Alvira had, indeed, jilted him and was gone forever. Enos let out a heart-breaking cry and swore that he would forever haunt happy lovers until Judgment Day. Then, he walked out to Timmons Bridge, the local lovers’ lane, and hanged himself from the rafters.
Not long after Enos’s body was committed to the ground came the frightening stories of lovers being terrorized at the bridge by some unseen force. Couples reported an invisible force attacking their buggies, shaking them violently, and spooking the horses. Some couples said that the malevolent force ripped open the tops of the buggies, revealing the demonic face of Enos Kay peering down at them.
Encounters with the ghost of Enos Kay are reported to this day. Apparently, he will not bother lone motorists passing over the bridge, or a parked couple who are arguing instead of kissing. True to his oath, the ghost claws and scratches at the parked cars of those couples who are expressing their ardor. Some of these “couples interruptus” recall seeing the ghost’s devilish grin through the steamed car windows. The moral here might be, Get a room!
Kailyn Lamb, author of Ghosthunting Colorado, shares with us the story behind Buffalo Bill and his last resting place.
Buffalo Bill and his famous Wild West show brought a dying breed of frontiersmen back into the limelight. William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody had already garnered a certain amount of fame before pulling this show together and, although it has been nearly 100 years since his death in 1917, controversy still surrounds his burial site on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado. Many argue that he wanted to be buried in Cody, Wyoming, and so his restless spirit may wander this Colorado mountain near his grave.
Buffalo Bill was born in Le Claire, Iowa, on February 26, 1846. He went by many names during his lifetime. His family called him Will; his friends, Billy. During his military career he went by Bill, and he was fondly known as the Colonel in the Wild West show. As a child in Iowa, he played with the American Indians from the area until his family moved to Kansas when he was 8. His father died of scarlet fever when he was 11, and Bill began taking on jobs to support his family, working as a messenger, cattle herder, and wagon train driver at one time or another. As a wagon driver, he crossed the Great Plains on multiple occasions.
Some accounts say that Bill ran away at 13 to join the gold rush in Colorado and also became a fur trapper. By the age of 14, in 1860, he was riding for the Pony Express in Julesburg, Colorado. The Pony Express was a mail service formed during the gold rush, the same year Bill joined, that used horsemen to carry mail from Missouri to California. It was a dangerous job and several riders were killed by Indians. Two years after joining the Pony Express, Bill joined the Seventh Kansas Cavalry and fought for two years in the Civil War on the side of the Union. He returned to the West when he was 18 and spent some time scouting for the Army, where he earned the nickname Buffalo Bill.
Upon his return, Bill learned that most of his family had died from illness, and he took care of his remaining sisters thereafter. By the age of 21 he was the chief buffalo hunter and scout for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, feeding more than 1,200 workers with his kills. As his reputation began to grow, so did the rumors of his adventures. Some accounts say that he killed about 11 buffalo per day, or around 4,000 in a year (Bill himself said the number was 4,280). Others noted that he participated in several Indian expeditions but was never harmed. Congress awarded him the Medal of Honor for acts of bravery after helping to defeat the Cheyenne at Summit Springs, Colorado, in 1869.
The same year he was awarded the medal, Buffalo Bill became the subject of dime novels written by Ned Buntline, and legends about him often came from these stories. Taking advantage of his newfound fame, Bill created the Wild West show at the age of 27. At this time, he was married with a son and daughter, and his son died from scarlet fever in 1876. Shortly after his son’s death, Bill was called to fight the Cheyenne in Nebraska and killed the tribe’s chief, Yellow Hand, during the fight. This very real battle caused a boom in attendance at his Wild West show.
Despite his numerous battles with the Indians, Bill was friends with many of them, and to them he was Pahaska, which means “long hair.” Some, such as his friend Sitting Bull, were part of the Wild West show, and when Sitting Bull left the show years later, Bill gave him one of the ponies that could perform tricks. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show had staged battles with the Indians, stagecoaches, horses, and even a few buffalo. While some say that the large numbers of buffalo killed by Bill helped lead to their near extinction, he helped to revive their population through his show, protecting his herd and breeding them to bring their numbers back up.
Annie Oakley later became part of the show, and Bill became known as an advocate for women’s rights—female performers like her received pay comparable to that of their male counterparts. As the show gained fame, it would even tour parts of Europe, and Queen Victoria of England was reportedly a big fan of it, with the Wild West performing during her Golden Jubilee in 1887.
Once the show had become successful, Bill built a home for his family in Cedar Mountain, Wyoming, a city subsequently named Cody after him. The Wild West show continued running for 30 years, but, near the end of his life, Bill was nonetheless running out of money. While staying with his sister in Denver, Bill made a deal with the devil to keep the show running: He took a loan from his friend, Harry Tammen, who was the co-owner of The Denver Post. Unfortunately, taking the money came with a price, as Tammen now owned the rights to the show and to the name Buffalo Bill. Tammen’s version of the show, Sells Floto Circus, was a mere shadow of Bill’s popular one, which caused him to lose more money. Bill reportedly demanded that Tammen forgive the debt and give him back the show or else Bill would shoot him. There is no record of whether this is true, but allegedly Bill’s debt was forgiven. Many, however, claim the stress of this episode hastened his death. He died in his sister’s home on January 10, 1917.
Colorado’s legislature passed a resolution that his body would sit in the capitol’s rotunda until January 14 for viewing, and it is estimated that some 25,000 people came to see it. He would not be buried until June 3, 1917, however, nearly six months after his funeral, and another 20,000 made their way up the mountain to see his grave. “In Memoriam. Colonel William Frederick Cody. ‘Buffalo Bill.’ Noted scout, and Indian Fighter. Born February 26, 1856, Scott County, Iowa. Died January 10, 1917, Denver, Colorado,” his gravestone reads. Below that it says “At rest here by his request.”
This is where the controversy comes in, and many people question whether he truly wanted to be buried in Colorado. Shortly after announcing Bill’s death, his sister also stated that he had requested to be buried on Lookout Mountain, a choice that was affirmed by his wife and by the priest who performed last rites for him. This sparked outrage in both Cody, Wyoming, and in North Platte, Nebraska. While North Platte had less of a claim, many people thought Bill would like to be buried there, as it was the site of his first Wild West show. Many residents of Cody, on the other hand, had more of a basis for their fury, and some of them said they had heard Bill himself say multiple times that he would like to be buried in their city. They also said that Bill had written a letter stating his wishes to his sister in 1902 and again, several years later, in his will. Goldie Griffen, a performer in the Wild West show and friend of Bill’s, later recorded audio in 1972, four years before she died, saying Bill wished to be buried on Lookout Mountain.
Colorado’s fear that residents of Cody would steal Bill’s body were high enough that members of the National Guard were present during his open-casket viewing and subsequently at his grave. Later, when Bill’s wife died in 1921, she was buried next to him, and their bodies were covered with a layer of concrete, forever making Lookout Mountain their final resting place. The state’s fears may have been justified, as there was a $10,000 reward for the body of Buffalo Bill. Some argue that the reason for the change in location was the cost of shipping the body to Wyoming and, because his sister paid the funeral costs, some argue that she had a right to choose his burial site. Others still argue that Tammen bribed Bill’s sister into choosing Lookout Mountain.
Both Wyoming and Nebraska have since honored Bill in their own way. The citizens of Cody commissioned a bronze statue that was put on display in 1924, and in 1928 they opened the Cody Memorial Museum. North Platte held a two-day reenactment of the famous Battle of Summit Springs in June 1917, and later that year the town voted to create Cody Park on land that included the area where the first Wild West show had been held.
In 1921, Colorado built the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum in Golden, near his gravesite. People have reported seeing Bill in the gift shop of the museum and seeing things flying off the shelves or moving. A less reported story relates to the death of a tourist visiting the museum. Allegedly, this woman fell and died, and her ghost can be seen on the mountainside. However, just as people in Cody claim that Bill should have been buried there, they likewise say their museum could be haunted by him as well, and some have reported feeling a presence in the building and museum artifacts coming off the walls. One has to wonder if both places can be haunted by the same man, or if these competing claims simply emanate from urban legends borne from the controversy over Buffalo Bill’s final resting place.
L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York brings us a ghostly story from the Brooklyn Inn. Do you think it is haunted?
The Brooklyn Inn is a tasteful and cozy bar nestled on the corner of Hoyt and Bergen Streets in Brooklyn. The building dates back to the late nineteenth century. In 1957, its owners received a Certificate of Occupancy for a bar and restaurant on the first floor along with one apartment on each of the two upper floors. When the bar changed ownership again in May 2007, rumors spread on various blogs that the Brooklyn Inn would soon close down or, worse, become a bistro. Jason Furlani, manager of the Brooklyn Inn, set the record straight in a blog response, and thankfully this bar, a place of refuge for many loyal patrons, is still in operation. In 2008, the building was seen on the CW Network show Gossip Girl in an episode which appeared to mirror the events surrounding the change of ownership in 2007.
This is a bar, plain and simple. The former kitchen, as small as it was, has been removed to make space for a couple of tables and chairs for those who like to sit and enjoy their drinks when there is no room at the bar. I visited the Brooklyn Inn in 2009 and met with Kevin Bohl, one of the bartenders, whom I have known since my high school days. Kevin works at the Brooklyn Inn three nights a week.
One spring night in 2008, when Kevin had been pouring drinks at the Brooklyn Inn for three years, Kevin encountered a spirit of the paranormal kind. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary as Kevin worked his shift. “It was around 11 p.m. and the bar was packed,” he said. I should note that, at this time, the space just beyond the bar was still a kitchen. Kevin always kept a keen eye on that area while tending bar, as patrons sometimes got a little too comfortable, eased their way around the corner of the bar, and ended up blocking the kitchen door. On this night in 2008, Kevin noticed a silhouetted figure standing in the kitchen just beyond the doorway. He did a double-take, trying to focus on who or what he was seeing. It appeared to be a man approximately five feet ten inches tall, wearing a long coat and a fedora hat. Kevin rushed about seven feet to the end of the bar to ask the gentleman to move to the front of the bar, but by the time he reached the spot, the man was gone. “I was dumbfounded. I was so cognizant of that space and the need to keep it clear. Yet I couldn’t find the guy I just saw. Like I said, the bar was packed; I thought someone had to have seen him,” Kevin explained. Of course, upon surveying the patrons in that immediate area, Kevin found that none of them had seen the “Fedora Man.”
About a year later, one of the other bartenders, Tom Vaught, witnessed this same silhouetted figure in the same doorway. Tom said the figure appeared to be leaning against the doorframe and staring out towards the bar. Just as with Kevin, once Tom reached the doorway to ask the gentleman to step away, he was gone. At first, Kevin told no one what he had seen. He was both shocked and somewhat relieved when Tom confided in him about having seen Fedora Man. They compared notes and arrived at the conclusion that they both had seen the same thing.
During my visit to the Brooklyn Inn, I took several pictures of the doorway area from both sides. Although I did not capture any apparition on my digital camera, I did notice the unsettling coolness of the air at the doorway as compared to other areas of the former kitchen and the bar. I looked behind the bar near this doorway to see if there was a refrigerator or ice machine that would account for the cooler temperature, but I saw neither.
A couple of my photos do have some orbs in them, and as much as I would love to definitively call them paranormal manifestations, I simply cannot. The ban on smoking in New York City bars has reduced the number of false positives inherent in ghost photography. However, at this site there is a dust factor to consider: because the main entrance door is opened and closed so frequently, airborne particulates are bound to appear in digital pictures.
I met with Lauren Macaulay, a bartender employed at the Brooklyn Inn for over nine years. She pointed out the gorgeous hand-carved woodwork which was imported from Germany and dates back to 1870. Lauren showed me how the panels on the lower half of the wall can be removed, revealing old wallpaper behind the wooden façade. I asked Lauren if she has ever seen Fedora Man, and she said, “No.” She added that on several occasions she has felt uncomfortable, as if she were being observed by some ghostly presence. This feeling had come over her on occasions when the bar was busy and also when it was quiet.
Kevin confirmed that he had experienced a similar feeling, but only after hours. He described how he would close the bar at 4 a.m., then curl up in the corner with a book and a beer, hoping to unwind a bit before heading home. Instead, he would be overcome with an unnerving feeling. Rather than relaxing and winding down from his shift, he became anxious. The feeling would become unbearable, and he would lock up and leave for the night.
I inspected the basement of the Brooklyn Inn and did not capture any EVP or temperature differences indicative of paranormal activity. Usually I do not like basements, but this one did not bother me. I felt more “energy” in the bar area and in the former kitchen area. I carefully reviewed all my audio recordings of my interviews to determine if any other voices chimed in with answers or thoughts. Since there was so much background noise (the bar had been open for business while I was there), I used software to visually review the recordings to document the voice paths for Kevin, Lauren, and me, as well as the overall background noise.
Lauren mentioned one other strange thing that had happened while she was tending bar. On a slow night with very few customers, she noticed at the far end of the bar a full glass of Guinness sitting on the bar and a woman’s sweater on the bar stool. At first she thought nothing of it, figuring the other bartender on duty had served a customer who might now be in the ladies’ room. A while later, the glass was still full and the sweater was still on the bar stool, so Lauren asked the other bartender what happened to that patron. The other bartender thought Lauren was the one who had served up the stout. By closing time, the drink and the sweater were still there. No one ever came to claim the sweater, and the bartender poured the beer down the drain. “It still bugs me to this day,” Lauren said. “How did that beer get to the bar? Why was the sweater there? The place wasn’t crowded at all. I can account for each person there, but not that one.” At this point in our conversation, Lauren showed me her arms. Merely retelling the experience had brought out goosebumps.
Could Fedora Man be the inspector who certified the building for occupancy back in 1957? That would explain his hat and coat and his need to inspect the place. It is also interesting that he has appeared both before and after the renovation of the kitchen area. I suggest you visit the Brooklyn Inn, belly up to the bar—toward the end by the former kitchen—and have yourself a drink. Better yet, order two drinks in case the owner of the sweater returns and wants her Guinness.
In today’s post, John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Illinois, tells us about the 1915 sinking of the Eastland in the Chicago River.
One of the most tragic maritime disasters in U.S. history did not occur on the storm-tossed seas of the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, nor was it the result of monstrous icebergs, killer storms, or enemy torpedoes. No, there was nothing dramatic in the death of the steamer Eastland except that it slowly rolled onto its side on the Chicago River, in the heart of that city, in plain view of thousands of people, killing at least 844 passengers and wiping out 22 entire families. The disaster occurred in water no more than 20 feet deep and only a few feet away from dry land.
Today, these unfortunate victims haunt the stretch of the Chicago River between the Clark and La Salle Street bridges. Witnesses have seen faces peering up at them from the watery depths of the river and have heard unexplainable screams and cries emanating from it. And it could be that the ghosts of the Eastland roam even farther into the city.
Saturday, July 24, 1915, dawned as a partly cloudy day in Chicago. The Eastland was one of the newer ships gathered at the docks that day. Rumors had circulated among the steamship lines that the Eastland was top-heavy and less than stable, but those thoughts were disregarded as passengers began to stream aboard at 6:40 a.m. Only 1 minute later, the ship began to list starboard, toward the docks.
As more passengers crowded onboard, the Eastland began to list to the port side, where many people had congregated to watch the other ships boarding. The ship continued to sway back and forth, some of the passengers joking about it as loose objects slid along the deck. Water began entering the Eastland on the lower port side. The gangplank had been removed from the overcrowded ship, which now held more than 2,500 passengers. The crew began to worry and started to move some of the passengers to the starboard side. Water continued to enter the ship from below.
Passengers below deck began climbing out of gangways and windows on the starboard side as the ship continued to lean toward port. The passengers panicked. The ship continued to list dangerously to port. Before the eyes of hundreds of horrified spectators on nearby streets and docks, the Eastland slowly rolled over onto its port side.
Many passengers were pitched into the Chicago River, where, encumbered by suits and long dresses, they were pulled below the water. Many more were trapped below, where they drowned. Some were killed by the thick smoke that filled the ship when some of its machinery exploded. Lucky survivors managed to climb onto the hull of the ship, while others were pulled from the river by rescuers in boats and even by onlookers who jumped into the water to save the floundering passengers. Others struggled to stay afloat and clung to whatever floating debris they could find.
Policemen, firemen, and other rescuers climbed onto the hull of the Eastland, where they cut holes in the metal plate to bring up the survivors and the dead. Screams echoed all around them from the river and those trapped below deck. They worked frantically to free those inside, but the screams gradually diminished even as they worked. By 8 a.m. all the survivors had been rescued, but 844 bodies were pulled from the ship and the river. The Second Regiment Armory on Washington Boulevard was pressed into service as a temporary morgue.
The original armory building was incorporated into what became Harpo Studios, which produced the Oprah Winfrey Show. It is said that the ghosts of the Eastland victims are not at peace in the building. According to Chicago ghosthunter Dale Kaczmarek, one common apparition is the Lady in Gray, the shadowy figure of a woman in a long, flowing dress and ornate hat who is seen drifting through the halls. Supposedly, her image has even been captured on the building’s security monitors. In addition to the Lady in Gray, studio employees and security guards have reported hearing crying, the laughter of children, and old-time music. The footsteps of crowds of invisible people are heard going up and down the lobby staircase, accompanied by opening and slamming doors.
Another location that ghosts of the Eastland are rumored to haunt is Excalibur, a nightclub housed in the Romanesque-style brick building originally constructed for the Chicago Historical Society in 1892. Some people think that Eastland victims were also brought to the Historical Society, as well as the armory.
In 1997, a segment of the television show Sightings was filmed at Excalibur, featuring host Tim White, a local ghosthunter, and a psychic. The psychic heard a child’s voice say, “Stop and watch me.” Excalibur employees have heard small voices, like children, crying and have seen a little girl looking over the railing in the club’s Dome Room. Adult figures have been seen in the club, as well, including a white-tuxedoed figure and a bluish-colored shape that floats up the stairs.
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery sits between Stark Street to the north and Morrison Street to the south. It is the oldest cemetery in the Portland area and the largest one managed by regional government. It covers more than 30 acres and is home to more than 25,000 gravesites. As a result of negligent maintenance and record keeping over the years, those buried within 10,000 of the sites are unknown. Oftentimes no one documented the paupers when they were interred.
If there was ever a cemetery that was ripe for hauntings, it would be Lone Fir. It has unmarked graves of insane asylum patients, a notorious murderess, graves lost in the shuffle of combining other cemeteries with Lone Fir, and possibly even graves that have not yet been discovered.
The first official burial at Lone Fir was in 1846, when Emmon Stephens was buried on a plot of land that once belonged to his neighbor, a gentleman by the name of Seldon Murray. A decade later, Murray sold Stephens’s gravesite and the adjacent 10 acres to Colburn Barrell with the stipulation that his friend’s grave be tended to. Barrell agreed and kept his word. Not long after this transfer of property, the cemetery was born.
Barrell owned a steamboat on the Willamette River called the Gazelle. In 1856 the Gazelle exploded near Oregon City and killed Barrell’s business partner, Crawford Dobbins, as well as a passenger. The 10 acres that were purchased from Seldon Murray would now be known as Mount Crawford Cemetery, after Barrell’s deceased business partner, who was interred there along with the passenger.
By 1866, Barrell added 20 acres to the cemetery and sold burial plots for $10 each. Later that same year, Barrell realized that the upkeep of a cemetery was more work than he could handle, and he offered to sell Mount Crawford to the city of Portland, which quickly declined. So Barrell sold the cemetery to a group of private investors for a tidy sum of money instead. Those investors immediately renamed the cemetery Lone Fir in honor of the single, lone fir tree that stood at the location.
But the investors had no practical idea of how to maintain a cemetery. Lone Fir fell into a sad state of disrepair. By the late 1920s, the gravesites, thousands of them unknown, were hidden beneath prickly mounds of blackberry vines and other invasive species. A few stone markers were still there, but the majority of the wooden markers had succumbed to rot or one of the many fires that swept through the area.
In 1928, Multnomah County took over control and maintenance of Lone Fir and, in 1947, paved over a large part of the cemetery and built an office on the site. Sadly, the portion paved over was the burial site for many Chinese immigrants; these remains were removed the following year and are said to have been sent back to China. In 2004 more graves were discovered beneath the office site. It was not until 2007 that the office building was removed and more Chinese immigrant remains were found. That same year Lone Fir was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the cemetery is in the capable and caring hands of Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery, which has brought new interest and vitality to it and removed the stigma often associated with such places. This organization has made Lone Fir a fun learning experience for visitors of all ages with tours, concerts to raise funds for headstones that have been vandalized, plays, scavenger hunts, and even Scrabble tournaments. It also runs a family-friendly Halloween event called Graveyard Goodies that it describes as a “trick-or-treating party featuring some of Lone Fir Cemetery’s most prominent ghosts.” The ghosts are actors, and visitors of all ages converse with the prominent residents, doctors, and laborers whose names have been lost or were never known. There is no need to go door-to-door for candy because the “ghosts” hand it out—and they even give autographs.
Anyone who knows a bit about the city’s sordid history will surely recognize a name or two at the cemetery—and even if they do not, chances are they will want to research a few after visiting Lone Fir. People from every walk of life—the famous, the insane, the freed slaves, the leaders in science—can be found at Lone Fir.
A white obelisk honors Dr. James C. Hawthorne, who was in charge of an insane asylum in the 1800s. Dr. Hawthorne genuinely cared for his patients, even when their families had long forgotten about them. Many times a family would not bother to claim the body of the deceased, so Dr. Hawthorne buried more than 130 of his patients at Lone Fir at his own expense. It is not known exactly where the former patients are buried, but it is speculated that they were interred in what is called Block 14 in the southwest corner of the cemetery. Block 14 is also the site of unmarked graves of numerous Chinese railroad workers.
Another notable resident of Lone Fir is Charity Lamb, who murdered her husband in 1854. Nathaniel Lamb sat at the dinner table as he usually did, entertaining his children with animated stories, when Charity quietly stepped up behind him and brought an ax down against the back of his head. Twice. Even more amazing is that Nathaniel lived for two weeks before he gave up the ghost and succumbed to the ax wounds. Charity Lamb was the first woman to be convicted of murder in the Oregon Territory. She did not receive the death penalty but was instead sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor at the Oregon State Penitentiary in 1854. A decade later, she was transferred to Dr. Hawthorne’s insane asylum, where she died in 1879. And so she ended up near Dr. Hawthorne in life and in death.
Not much is known about Michael Mitchell, a dancer in Portland who froze to death on the steps of his boardinghouse. Some say he was intoxicated and not allowed inside while under the influence. But what a shock it must have been for other boarders to emerge from the house the next morning to find him frozen and stiff on the front stoop!
Not long ago, a gentleman and his friend decided to check out Lone Fir after dark. Walking along the roadside, the pair explored the cemetery, looking at names on the headstones, when one man looked up and saw a figure standing about 50 yards away from them. He called out to the figure but received no response. His first thought was that someone had seen them and was trying to frighten them. So they walked toward the figure, playing along with the spooky prank.
As they approached, the figure seemed to jerk its head upward to the sky, just staring, and they realized that they might not be dealing with a joke after all. The figure was obscured by the trees, but as they cautiously moved closer, they could make out the face of an elderly man with a long beard, wearing a white shirt and black pants. They shouted hello, and in response, the man violently jerked his head toward them, opened his mouth, and screamed. The men say the figure’s eyes were blank as it continued to stare at them before letting go with another loud scream. After seeing the man’s weird eyes and hearing the second scream, the two of them left the cemetery in a hurry and have never been back.
No one else I spoke with reported anything nearly so frightening, and most described seeing misty figures walking across the cemetery during the daytime as well as after dark. Visitors repeatedly see a younger woman in a red dress who seems to be happily strolling through the grounds, oblivious to anyone around her.
My visit to Lone Fir was during the daytime and, due to rain, not as long as I would have liked. Unfortunately, I did not spot the woman in the red dress or the zombie-like specter that the men saw. Occasionally I felt as though I was being watched, but not to the point that it caused me any concern or fear. After all, I was a guest in the home of those who are buried there, and I expected to be watched.
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is beautiful, even in the rain. The stately obelisks and headstones with photographs are almost breathtaking. You can feel a connection with some who are interred there because many headstones contain more information than any I have ever seen.
One in particular that I was fascinated with was the headstone for James B. and Elizabeth Stephens, who were early pioneers in the area. James B. Stephens’s father was Emmon Stephens, the first man buried on the property.
Theirs is not your normal headstone. The images of Mr. and Mrs. Stephens are carved into the headstone in a realistic style. On the back of the marker is a stone that, to me, was touching.
“Here we lie by consent after 57 years, two months, two days sojourning on earth awaiting nature’s immutable laws to return us to the elements of which we were formed,” the inscription reads.
You can’t pass up the Soldier’s Monument, which memorializes the Indian Wars, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, and Spanish-American War. It was constructed in 1903 with $3,500 in community donations and is a beautiful, stately memorial that stands strong and proud to this day.
When people ask me if Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is haunted, I have to answer, “How could it not be?” With its tragedies and thousands of forgotten graves, lost ghosts likely wander the cemetery. And whether visitors want to participate in an event or hope to catch a glimpse of a ghost, they will leave with a new knowledge of the people who were essential in making Portland the city it is today, so it is definitely worth a trip. When you find yourself in Portland, you can stop by and judge for yourself.
Peering into the mysterious and ominously beautiful depths of Jacob’s Well, it is almost hard to believe that it is not haunted. Native Indians certainly held this natural artesian spring, which rises up through a limestone tube from the unmeasured depths of the underworld, to be sacred and inhabited by elemental spirits of the land. Beyond its appearance and hallowed nature, however, it is also the site of numerous drownings, and there are those who believe the ghosts of those who have perished at this spot continue to haunt it.
Jacob’s Well, the mouth of the spring that forms the headwaters of aptly named Cypress Creek northwest of the village of Wimberley, has traditionally served as a swimming hole for locals living on the adjacent properties. Today it is a natural area that is open to the public and still a popular swimming spot—albeit one that is closed for several months a year so that it can recover from the environmental damage inflicted by people who use it.
While the spring coming up through Jacob’s Well remains a significant source of water for people living in the area, its flow is by no means as profound as it once was. In 1924, for example, so much water surged up through the spring that it shot 6 feet into the air and its discharge was measured at 170 gallons per second. Today, however, as the result of development in the region and the heavy burden placed on the local aquifers, the flow of water from its depths manifests itself only as a faint ripple on the surface of the pool. It has even stopped flowing twice in the past couple of decades, the first times it has done so in recorded history, first in 2000 and then again in 2008. In an attempt to help protect the viability of the spring, Hays County purchased 50 acres of land around Jacob’s Well, and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association subsequently transferred an additional 31 acres from the natural area to the county.
At its mouth, Jacob’s Well is 12 feet in diameter and descends vertically for about 30 feet, at which point it disappears into the darkness of the limestone caverns from which it issues. Thereafter it descends at an angle through a series of four silted chambers separated by narrow passageways to a depth of about 120 feet. The first two chambers are relatively safe and manageable for trained divers, but the next two are increasingly dangerous, with hazards that include loose debris in both and a dead end in one that can be confused with the exit tunnel and led one diver to become trapped and killed in 1983. After the fourth chamber, the cavern becomes a tunnel that continues for about 4,300 feet (e.g., more than 0.8 mile). At least one large secondary trunk splits off from this main passageway and extends for about another 1,000 feet.
Many divers have been drawn to explore and map these water-filled subterranean tunnels, but, because many of them do not have the necessary experience or equipment and the area is inherently hazardous, at least nine of them have died here since the 1970s.
“This is the horror story side of it,” Don Dibble, a dive shop owner with more than four decades of diving experience, said in a 2001 interview with writer Louie Bond. “Jacob’s Well definitely has a national reputation of being one of the most dangerous places to dive.”
“Dibble has pulled most of the victims’ remains out of Jacob’s Well himself, and he nearly lost his own life in a 1979 recovery dive,” Bond wrote. “Dibble was attempting to retrieve the remains of two young divers . . . when he became trapped, buried past his waist in the sliding gravel lining the bottom of the well’s third chamber. Just as he ran out of air, Dibble was rescued by other divers but suffered a ruptured stomach during his rapid, unconscious ascent.”
Dibble tried to block access to the entrance of the third chamber by constructing a grate made from rebar and quickset concrete in early 1980. Six months later, however, he discovered not just that the barrier had been removed but that the well-equipped people who did so had taken the time to taunt him.
“You can’t keep us out,” they wrote on a plastic board that they left behind for him. Perhaps not. But, in the case of some of them, inexperience, bad luck, the guardian spirits of the spring, or some combination of those things have ensured that they did not leave.
“We were not looking for human remains,” Dan Misiaszek of the San Marcos Area Recovery Team wrote in his account of a 2000 foray into the perilous fourth chamber. “I first noticed one femur bone, then a second, and as I descended into the keyhole-shaped tunnel, I could see a heavily corroded scuba tank and wetsuit. It was obvious we had stumbled upon some human remains . . . The tank was still attached to a [wet suit] with weight belt.” Nearby he found a human skull and, farther on, evidence pointing to the identity of the person who had suffered a terrifying death there, alone and in the impenetrable darkness that would have been imposed by the disturbed silt.
Ironically, it is the reduced force of the spring that has in recent times allowed people to dive into it; prior to the 1970s, the flow of water would have largely prevented them from doing so. People using makeshift gear attempted to descend into the spring in the 1930s, for example, but the deepest they were able to go was about 25 feet. None of them is reported to have been killed. It is almost as if a reduction of the striking site’s inherent power has led to a proportionate increase in its lethality.
“It’s a very mysterious place, a place of constant sensation,” said author Stephen Harrigan, who wrote an acclaimed 1984 novel titled Jacob’s Well that explores the death of a diver at the site.
I can only agree with Harrigan. Staring into Jacob’s Well when I visited the site in early September 2014 was like looking into an eye that was the window to the soul of the Texas Hill Country itself. After a point, it was hard not to blink or look away, and I half expected to see the shadows of the dead or elemental spirits of the land swimming up toward me from the primordial depths. That they reside there is something I do not doubt.
One spot that travelers might want to visit along the Devil’s Backbone—a haunted highway in the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio—is the Devil’s Backbone Tavern, a watering hole located on the site of an old Indian campground and what was once a stagecoach stop. It is patronized by ranchers, bikers, and locals (including the late paranormal author Bert Wall). It’s even the subject of a song. The “Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern” was written by musician Todd Snider after he spent a summer in the 1980s performing there on Friday nights.
Devil’s Backbone Tavern is not generally open at times when I am conducting paranormal investigation along the haunted highway, but I have stopped there for a beer and chatted about the history of the establishment and paranormal phenomena people have experienced there. Tavern staff, in fact, readily acknowledge that it is haunted and are generally happy to talk about its resident spirits, as I was pleased to discover when my wife and I stopped there with some friends in September 2014.
We ordered beers and then explored the small taproom, large dancehall, and primitive restroom facilities while chatting with the bartender, Lincoln, about some of the things she and others have experienced at the tavern. She pointed out a number of interesting details to us, including a protrusion shaped like a devil’s face in the rock of the wall above the fireplace, signs acknowledging the presence of ghosts, and some pictures of deceased patrons—one framed photo once flew off the wall and struck the wife of the person shown in it when she was complaining about him! She also said that the jukebox sometimes turns on by itself and, what’s more, starts playing songs people were just talking about.
Other staff and regulars are similarly open about things they have experienced at the tavern, which include hearing disembodied footsteps and female bar staff feeling invisible hands touching
“It felt a little spooky last night,” bartender Melaine Walker posted to the “Devil’s Backbone Tavern (Ir)Regulars” Facebook page in November 2014. “I opened the doors because it was so muggy and the next thing I saw was this weird fog swirling around in the bar. Creepy when you’re all alone! It was swirling above the shuffleboard, came up behind me and over my head as I was cleaning it.” She went on to say she thought it might have been the spirit of her deceased father, who had frequented the tavern.
“I actually have a picture of that kind of fog,” Lila McCall responded about something she experienced at the tavern around 2008. “It’s a distinct human shape.”
There is no guarantee that you will experience any of these things if you visit the Devil’s Backbone Tavern, but there is a chance that you will—and, at the least, you can enjoy a cold one and chat about the ghosts whom many believe to be present there.