Tag Archives: ghost hunting

Is Houdini’s Ghost Haunting McSorley’s Old Ale House?

L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting New York City, investigates McSorley’s Old Ale House. Does Houdini’s ghost create mayhem at the bar?

L’Aura Hladik

John McSorley arrived in New York City from Liverpool in 1851 on the ship Colonist. In 1854 he opened a saloon at 15 East Seventh Street, naming it The Old House at Home. It was a place for Irish immigrant workingmen to feel at home while enjoying a beer with some cheese and crackers. By 1908 a storm had ripped the original sign down, and it was replaced with a new sign bearing a new name: McSorley’s Old Time Ale House. Later on, the word Time was removed from the name, and to this day the establishment is called McSorley’s Old Ale House.

In 1910, at the age of 83, John McSorley died in his apartment above the bar. His son Bill took over the business. By 1936, two years before his death, Bill sold the bar to its first non-McSorley owner, Daniel O’Connell. Only a year later, in 1939, O’Connell died, leaving the bar to his daughter, Dorothy O’Connell Kirwan. Dorothy promised her father she would not allow women in the bar, and she kept that promise. She appointed her husband, Harry Kirwan, as the manager. Dorothy entered the bar only on Sundays, after closing time. Eventually, ownership was passed along to the Kirwans’ son, Danny.

The next owner of McSorley’s was Matthew Maher. He and Harry Kirwin had met by chance when Harry was visiting Ireland in 1964. Harry’s car broke down, and along came Matthew Maher to save the day. In return, Harry promised Maher a job if he ever came to New York City. Later that year, Matthew Maher began his employment at McSorley’s as a waiter and bartender. Maher was promoted to night manager of the bar, and in 1977 he purchased the bar from Danny Kirwan.

McSorley’s has been the subject of a stage play, of poetry by e.e. cummings, and of artwork by John Sloan. Its list of notable guests ranges from Abraham Lincoln to Woody Guthrie and John Lennon. The very chair Lincoln sat in is up above the bar, in fact; a few feet away hangs one of the original “Wanted” posters for John Wilkes Booth. Amazingly, the first time women were allowed in McSorley’s was in 1969, following a lawsuit, although a ladies’ restroom was not installed until 1990. Today, McSorley’s is the fourth oldest bar in New York City. (The oldest is the Bridge Café, another entry in this book; it is believed to have opened in 1794.)

My mother and I visited McSorley’s Ale House in January 2010. The bar is within walking distance of Cooper University, which I am sure the students there greatly appreciate. The swinging wooden doors with their oval windows are worn along the edges from 156 years of use. Sawdust is strewn over the floor, and a coal-burning potbellied stove keeps the place warm and inviting.

I met with a bartender known as Pepe who has bartended at McSorley’s since 1973. At first I thought it odd to see a black plastic garbage bag suspended at his waist under his apron, but I soon realized how much sense it made as waterproofing, or beer proofing, for his trousers. Pepe’s real name is Steven Zwaryczuk. He’s not fazed by the reports of ghosts and other paranormal activity at McSorley’s. In fact, he laughingly pointed out two regular customers, Brian and Mark, as the most paranormal things to happen to him. Brian has been coming to McSorley’s since the early 1980s, when he was in the eighth grade. Back then, he said, he was the same height as he is now and weighed only about 20 pounds less. Mark was at the end of the bar where Mini, the cat, was curled up in the corner. I asked Pepe, “Was there ever a time when you were completely ‘creeped out’ by being here?” Without missing a beat, he pointed to Brian and replied: “Nothing has ever creeped me out, except him!”

Mark chimed in that a friend of his who once rented the apartment above the bar would occasionally hear tables and chairs moving, as well as distant voices, long after the bar was closed for the night. Pepe was kind enough to bring owner Matthew Maher down to the bar so I could interview him. Although Matthew has been living and working in New York City since 1964, he’s maintained a sweet Irish brogue. I asked him, “Have you had any ghostly experiences while working here?” and he chuckled and said, “Have ya got a year to spare?” Well, that certainly got my attention. Maher told me that McSorley’s is famous for always having at least one feline “on staff” at the bar. One night after closing, Maher was cleaning the kitchen. He returned to the bar area and saw the cat at the end of the bar purring and nuzzling up against an unseen hand that was petting it. According to Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg, tour guide for Ghosts of New York, whenever a cat is seen in the window of McSorley’s, Harry Houdini is present as the spirit inside the cat. Why Houdini, you ask? Dr. Schoenberg claims that the set of handcuffs secured to the footrail of the bar once belonged to Houdini.

Maher also pointed out the print depicting McSorley’s that hangs behind the bar. He said that when a local artist presented the print to him, Maher immediately commented, “Very nice! You even included one of the McSorley’s cats.” The artist, appearing confused, stood back and carefully examined the print. He told Maher that he never painted the cat and had no idea how it ended up in the finished print. The cat’s body is facing the entrance of McSorley’s, but its head is turned, looking over its shoulder toward the rear of the dining area. According to Ted Andrews in his book Animal Speak, cats represent mystery, magic, independence, and nighttime. In ancient Egypt, the cat was revered and usually represented the goddess Bast. Cats have been associated with witches as their “familiars.” In this respect, it is believed that the cat embodies the spirit of a former witch who crossed the line and did something worthy of punishment. That punishment is to incarnate as a cat and serve the needs of another witch for nine lives before being allowed to incarnate once more as a human. It’s interesting to note that cats are typically feminine in their energies and connections. McSorley’s did not allow women in the bar until 1970, yet the cats have been present all along.

Brian pointed out to me a dust-covered gas lamp that hangs in McSorley’s. On it are several turkey wishbones, also covered with dust. McSorley’s tradition calls for a soldier leaving for war to place a wishbone on the lamp, then remove it when he returns. Brian thinks this tradition started with World War I; other sources claim it started with the Civil War. Other than a soldier leaving or reclaiming his wishbone, no one is allowed to touch the gas lamp, not even to clean it. Brian said that the dusty wishbones still on the lamp serve as a memorial of sorts for the soldiers who placed them there before leaving for war and never returned.

I doubt Houdini is hanging around McSorley’s as a cat. However, the disembodied noises, the unseen admirer seen petting the cat on the bar, and the lengthy history of notable guests at the establishment certainly lend credence to assertions that the place is haunted. Personally, I did not capture any evidence of paranormal happenings. Rather, my mother and I were captured by the mouthwatering aroma of the burgers that landed on the table by the front window for a young couple having lunch. The motto of McSorley’s is “Be Good or Be Gone.” Apparently, someone is being good for an indefinite amount of time, as they’re not yet gone. Keep this in mind if you visit McSorley’s, and order an extra round of “light & dark” beer when you belly up to the bar.

Spotlight on the Cedar Key Island Hotel

Dave Lapham, author of Ghosthunting Florida, puts the spotlight on the Island Hotel at Cedar Key.

Cedar Key is a really cool place. Old Crackers say that Cedar Key is like Key West was fifty years ago. I don’t know, but I do know that, although I really love Key West, I’m always enchanted by Cedar Key, where Sue and I go often to rejuvenate. No laptops. No cell phones. We don’t even watch TV when we’re there. Just the two of us on a laidback island where time doesn’t mean much, and what is happening in Washington or Wall Street doesn’t have much relevance.

My friend Rosemary Norman and her husband feel the same way. Maybe we should have a “Pencil Head” thing like Key West enthusiasts have their “Parrot Head,” since not so long ago Cedar Key was a major producer of pencils. Anyway, Rosemary, who is the founder of West Florida Ghost Researchers and an unusually sensitive person, has been to Cedar Key so many times and has had so many experiences, that she deserves to be named “Chief Ticonderoga.”

On her first visit to Cedar Key—she and her husband had just discovered the island—Rosemary woke early on Sunday morning and decided to go for a walk. The weather was balmy with a gentle breeze blowing off the Gulf. Few people were about, and she was enjoying the morning. She walked down Second Street intending to turn right on A Street and walk around the pier. As she strolled along, she saw an attractive couple seated at a table across the street at the Island Hotel. The woman was wearing a beautiful, lavender dress and hat, the man a suit with a high celluloid collar. Both were nicely attired, but Rosemary thought it odd that their clothes looked as if they were from the Gay Nineties. Oh well, perhaps they were here dressed for a period event.

She waved to the couple. The lady smiled at her and raised her tea cup. Rosemary went on. After swinging around the pier, she decided that she’d go back up Second Street and down Third Street just to see the sights.

This time as she passed the Island Hotel, she saw no one. There was no table in front or any room for one, only dirt and broken concrete. Curious, she crossed the street and went into the hotel. No breakfast was being served; the dining room was closed. The receptionist sat half asleep at the desk. There was no activity at all. It was then that she realized she’d seen ghosts.

Rosemary and her husband have been back many times, and she has yet to see the lady in lavender. Still, she has always been satisfied. The island is so haunted, she has no problem running into spirits.

In his book Ghosthunting Florida, author Dave Lapham visits more than 30 legendary haunted places in the Sunshine State, all of which are open to the public so visitors can test their own ghost hunting skills.

At Arnaud’s get a meal, a museum visit and a ghost story!

Arnaud As you step off Bourbon Street and round the corner to Arnaud’s, you instantly feel as if you have stepped back in time and are preparing to dine like a real Creole. Founded in 1918, a French wine salesman named Arnaud Cazena built the restaurant.

A variety of private dining rooms, as well as a museum filled with New Orleans memorabilia on the second floor, are inside. The museum includes elaborate Mardi Gras costumes worn by Count Arnaud and his daughter, Germaine Wells, who reigned as queen over 22 Mardi Gras balls, more than any other woman in the history of Carnival.

Ghost Sightings at Arnaud’s Restaurant

There have been hundreds of paranormal sightings at the restaurant, including a ghostly gentleman standing near the beveled glass windows, who has been seen by employees. At first the tuxedo-clad man is noticed standing alone. When approached, he immediately disappears. Most believe that it is Count Arnaud checking in on the restaurant.

Others report seeing a woman wearing a hat exiting the ladies’ room and crossing the hall, where she then walks into the wall and disappears. There have been so many reports of this sighting that investigations were held to determine the original structure and layout of the building. It was discovered that this area once had a staircase where the wall is now placed. The ghostly woman is simply walking to the stairs from the time when she was here; in her world, there is no wall there to block her entry. Some believe this ghost to be Germaine, the daughter of Arnaud, who still enjoys the restaurant as well. She reportedly also appears in the museum by her costumes and has been seen in her ghostly form at various Carnival balls each year.

Arnaud New OrleansBeyond the supernatural sightings reported by local diners, tourists, and waitstaff, Arnaud’s reports that even its CPA experienced a ghostly visitation in the restaurant when he was alone one evening conducting inventory. While he was working, he  noticed a strong drop in temperature in the room. As he felt the cold chill overtake him, he became aware of a presence standing behind him. Turning around, he found himself alone in the room. The CPA was in the Richelieu Bar at the time, which is one of the oldest standing structures in the restaurant, dating back to the late 1700s. In a building still standing for several centuries, there is the opportunity for a wide variety of hauntings over its incarnations. Over the years, so many different ghosts have been seen and felt at the restaurant that not all of them have been identified by name.

When dining at Arnaud’s, try the Oysters Bienville with shrimp, mushrooms, herbs, and seasonings in a white wine sauce; it’s elegantly delicious!

Join Kala Ambrose, author of Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead, your travel guide to the other side, as she takes you back to her roots to discover the Spirits of New Orleans.

The Wandering Ghosts of Nags Head

Nags HeadThe Outer Banks of North Carolina are incredibly haunted. With so many shipwrecks and people lost at sea, ghostly images are often seen walking along the shore. While the shifting sandbars and unpredictable currents caused the majority of shipwrecks along the coast, many others were caused by pirate attacks at sea. The legend of Nags Head reveals an entirely new threat to sailors, what some might describe as the darker side of the mother of invention.

According to local legend, wannabe sea pirates (landlubbers by day) wickedly designed their own special style of pirating. They would gather their horses, hang lanterns around the horses’ necks, and walk the horses up and down the dunes at night, attempting to lure ships into the area. The lights hanging from the horses’ necks led the merchant ships off course, as it appeared that the lights were coming from ships close to the shore. As the ships changed course and headed toward the lights, they ran aground on sandbars. The “land pirates” would then storm the ships and steal the cargo. The legends state that the coastal area where this occurred was named “Nags Head,” due to the reputation gained by the land pirates’ fast footwork with the horses and the lanterns. Others claim that the town was named by English settlers from a similar area in the Isles of Scilly off the English coast.

Nags Head was a popular vacation destination for local plantation owners who lived farther inland in North Carolina and sought to escape the oppressive heat, humidity, and threat of malaria from mosquitoes in the summer months. A resort called the Nags Head Hotel was built in the 1850s; 20 years later, the hotel, located near Jockey’s Ridge, literally sank beneath the shifting sands. Local legends state that the hotel remains intact 100 feet below the sand. The area cottages of that period still stand and are referred to as the “Unpainted Aristocracy.”

Ghosts often appear all along the shore of Nags Head. Some say they are the crews of the ships plundered by the land pirates, and others say that they are former guests of the hotel, looking for it below the sand.

Ghosthunting North Carolina
Ghosthunting North Carolina

A third theory for the ghostly appearances states that many of the historic cottages in the area had porches built onto their homes using lumber salvaged from shipwrecks that washed in from the coast. The ghosts connected to the lumber from these ships now remain near the homes. They are attached to the timbers from their ships and are still looking for the rest of their ships to wash up on the shores, along with their lost treasures and belongings.

Regardless of which ghosts are roaming the area, a visit to the Outer Banks and Nags Head provides many haunting opportunities.

Enjoy Ghosthunting North Carolina, by Kala Ambrose, from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the maps, ghosthunting travel guide, and other resources. Buckle up and get ready for the spookiest ride of your life.

Discover the Ghosts of the Mabel Tainter Theater

Mabel TainterThe Mabel Tainter Theater has been a center for the arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin, since it was built in 1889. Originally, the structure was created as a tribute to Mabel Tainter, a young woman from the area who loved theater and the arts. She died at the age of 19 in 1886, and her wealthy lumber baron parents decided to construct the theater as a memorial to her. No expenses were spared in the creation of the building. The best stone from the area was used to construct the exterior façade. The designs on the walls and ceilings were created by hand. Huge stained glass masterpieces and gorgeous marble stairs and floors decorate this beautiful building. The centerpiece of the theater is a gigantic pipe organ with 1,597 pipes in the 313-seat theater auditorium.

The theater has been in constant operation since its completion and dedication in 1890 and has seen countless employees and patrons walk through its doors. The building also contained the Menomonie Public Library until 1984, when it moved to a larger building. The only remnant of the library is the Reading Room within the theater building.

The Ghost Story

There are several places in the building where paranormal activity seems to occur. The first is the changing room area in the downstairs of the building. People have seen shadowy figures and heard phantom footsteps here. A paranormal group conducting an investigation in the building caught phantom voices on their audio recorders that they didn’t hear at the time the recordings were made. Sometimes, people in the changing rooms feel as if they are being watched or feel generally uncomfortable.

Another haunted area in the building is the theater’s auditorium, where the performances take place. Again, people see shadowy figures walking through this area, who, upon further investigation, simply disappear. The figures that appear most often are seen on the catwalks that tower over the top of the stage. People see figures on the catwalks and hear voices and footsteps coming from the catwalks despite there being no one there. Other times, while actors rehearse on the stage, they see people watching them from the seats. These figures vanish. Still other times, strange things happen with the sound boards, and the organ makes noise on its own.

The most famous ghost to haunt the theater is said to be that of Mabel Tainter herself. The apparition of a woman in a white dress has often been seen floating through the building. These apparitions are seen most often on the second floor and in the women’s restrooms. The apparition who appears on the second floor seems to just float by eyewitnesses. The apparition who appears in the women’s restroom looks at herself in the mirror and will vanish.

Visiting the Mable Tainter Theater in Menomonie, Wisconsin

Twin Cities Haunted Handbook

The theater offers guided tours, including ghost tours. For tour times and showtimes, check the theater’s Website.

From downtown St. Paul, take I-94 East for about 57 miles into Wisconsin. Take Exit 41, the WI-25 exit towards Menomonie/Barron. Stay right at the fork to get onto North Broadway Street and follow that for about 2 miles. Turn left onto Main Street East and the theater will be on the left.

In Twin Cities Haunted Handbook, ghost hunters Jeff Morris, Garett Merk, and Dain Charbonneau explore all the best haunted locales Minneapolis has to offer, including Dead Man’s Pond, Memorial Pet Cemetery, Padelford Packet Boat Company, the Old Jail Bed and Breakfast, and St. Thomas College and the Legend of the 13 Graves.

The Vanderbilts Who Never Left Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate George Vanderbilt was 25 years old when he purchased the property in the late 1880s. In 1895, he officially opened the estate with an elaborate housewarming party for family and friends on Christmas Eve. The house was his dream for a country retreat where he could pursue his “passion for art, literature, and horticulture.” In 1898, he married Edith Dresser; after their honeymoon, they moved to the estate. Even after they moved in, work continued on the home.

Edith and George were very much in love, and it was said that they complemented each other very well. They had one daughter, Cornelia, who was born in the home, and it appears that they had an idyllic life, enjoying the best the world had to offer.

In 1914, George had an appendectomy and died from complications resulting from the surgery. Shortly after his death, servants in the home noticed that Edith began spending a lot of time in the library and that, while she was in the library, she was speaking out loud to George’s spirit. At first, they dismissed this act as a woman in grief over the death of her beloved husband. They assumed that after a period of time she would move on from her grief, after finishing her discussions of things that she had wished to say to George before his untimely death.

Instead, the opposite happened. Edith continued her daily conversations with George, and during this time servants in the home began to notice the presence of his spirit, mostly in the library and in his favorite sitting room on the second floor. According to the legends, many of the servants heard footsteps and then saw an apparition of George around the home.

The ghosts of Edith and George Vanderbilt continue to converse in the library of Biltmore Estate.

After Edith died, the legends continued, as the servants reported hearing the voices of both Edith and George now conversing in the library. Perhaps now that they were joined again in the afterlife, they were able to pick up where they left off and enjoy their time together in their treasured home. Reports continue today from staff and visitors who hear voices in the library and a few other rooms.

Ghosthunting North Carolina
Ghosthunting North Carolina

There are quite a few ghost stories about Biltmore, which some locals shared with me during my visit to Asheville. Several employees answered my questions, as well, as long as I agreed to keep their identities off the record. Officially, Biltmore does not discuss haunted or paranormal activity in the home or on the property. Also, photography is not allowed inside the home. The only spirits that they will officially discuss are the spirits of the wine made at the Biltmore winery.

For more haunted tales from the Tar Heel State, join Kala Ambrose, author of Ghosthunting North Carolina, as she explores each site, snooping around eerie rooms and dark corners.

Roseville Memorial Pet Cemetery

History of the Roseville Memorial Pet Cemetery

Roseville Memorial Pet CemeteryIn the early 1920s, a man sold off a few acres of his farm to a local veterinarian named Dr. Feist, who immediately turned the area into the first pet cemetery in Minnesota. It was originally called the Feist Pet Cemetery and was privately owned until the late 1980s, when it was donated to the local Humane Society and renamed Memorial Pet Cemetery.

Throughout its many years of existence, a vast variety of animals have been buried here—mostly dogs. The headstones themselves often mention what type of dog it was and include a touching epitaph. Dogs aren’t the only pets buried here, though. There are birds, hamsters, gerbils, cats, and even a horse. The horse’s grave is currently unmarked, and historic records as to its exact location have been lost. One woman even asked the current owner of the cemetery if it was okay if her ashes were buried with her pet dog. After searching through current laws and regulations, the owner agreed to allow it, and her cremated remains were buried with her beloved pet.

Today, there is no longer any room in the cemetery, and no new burials are being accepted.

Roseville Memorial Pet Cemetery Ghost Story

While you might expect a pet cemetery to be haunted by the spirits of the animals buried here, most of the ghost stories actually involve human entities. Every once in a while, people hear what sounds like the quiet barking of a dog or a rustling through the grass, but the dogs from the local neighborhood or resident squirrels could account for these phenomena.

The most often-reported ghost in the cemetery is that of a small boy, seen alone. Often the witnesses notice him in a particular place, but when they go off exploring and then turn back to look at the little boy, he has completely vanished. Other times, those who see this young boy say that he follows them around the cemetery at a safe distance and then suddenly disappears. Still others hear the voice of a small boy but don’t see him.

The other ghost within this cemetery is that of an old woman, seen kneeling in front of a dog’s gravestone. When she is approached, she fades away into nothingness.

Visiting the Roseville Memorial Pet Cemetery

It is best to explore this location during daylight hours. One reason for this is that the cemetery is in a neighborhood, and concerned residents may call the police if someone is walking through a pet cemetery in the middle of the night with a flashlight. Perhaps a more important reason to explore here during the day, though, is that all of the ghost stories have been reported during the day.

Twin Cities Haunted Handbook

Take I-35W North from downtown Minneapolis for about 4.5 miles to Exit 23B, the MN-36 East exit. Follow MN-36 East for 3 more miles before taking the Dale Street exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Dale Street and then take the first left after the highway onto Cope Avenue. The pet cemetery will be on your left.

In Twin Cities Haunted Handbook, ghost hunters Jeff Morris, Garett Merk, and Dain Charbonneau explore all the best haunted locales Minneapolis has to offer, including Dead Man’s Pond, Memorial Pet Cemetery, Padelford Packet Boat Company, the Old Jail Bed and Breakfast, and St. Thomas College and the Legend of the 13 Graves.

A Loving Legacy at the Cornstalk Hotel

The Cornstalk Hotel — A Story of Love and Ghosts
by Kala Ambrose

Cornstalk HotelThe Cornstalk Hotel was originally built as a home in 1816 for Judge Francois Xavier-Martin, who is best known in Louisiana as a former chief justice for the Supreme Court. The home was designed according to his wishes, but records show that several homes had previously been built on this property, beginning in 1730. Each of the previous homes had been destroyed by fire, most likely by the two Great Fires of New Orleans—the first that destroyed 90% of the French Quarter and the second that destroyed more than 200 buildings. The records of who owned the homes before Judge Martin are missing (some were destroyed by fire), but it is assumed by most historians that several families lived at this location over the decades.

A cast-iron fence resembling cornstalks

The tale of the haunted Cornstalk Hotel begins with a husband’s love for his wife. In 1834 Dr. Joseph Secondo Biamenti purchased the home for himself and his Iowa bride. He ordered a cast-iron fence to be installed around the property. In New Orleans, lovely homes with cast-iron balconies and fences are features found in great abundance on every corner of the city, so the chosen material on its own is not what has made the Cornstalk Hotel famous.

What causes this building to stand out in the French Quarter is that the cast-iron fence resembles cornstalks, as if one was looking out at a field of corn made completely from cast iron. Each column of the fence is anchored with a pumpkin. Climbing up each iron post are vines, leaves, and flowers, until you reach the top of the post, where cornstalks are partially open to display the kernels of corn inside.

The effect is whimsical, and the artisan must have worked long hours to shape iron into such delicate and intricate pieces, which include a butterfly landing on the front gate. The good doctor loved his wife dearly. Knowing that the swampy soil in New Orleans would never allow a field of corn to grow, he did the next best thing he could to bring an Iowa cornfield to his wife: He designed a unique fence that would remind her of home whenever she looked out the window.

Architecturally, the hotel is fascinating. It is listed in a multitude of travel guidebooks as a must-see location to photograph in the city. This hotel meets that list for other reasons, too, including the legends of ghosts haunting the building. Guests have reported hearing children laughing as their footsteps pitter-patter back and forth inside the house and outside.

There are also reports of hotel guests hearing the sounds of someone tapping on the window, only to find no one there when they pull back the curtain. They also report doors opening and closing in the middle of the night.

Cornstalk Hotel iron fence vibrates with energy

Cornstalks Hotel2At the hotel, I was psychically drawn to spend time outdoors rather than inside. The iron fence is quite captivating, and there is something almost electric about it. Iron was used in cemeteries, as it has a reputation of keeping spirits inside the area surrounded by iron or preventing them from entering an area surrounded by an iron fence, as ancient tales state that spirits are not able to cross over iron fences and gates.

This particular iron fence vibrated with an energy that I had not noticed elsewhere in the French Quarter. The fence emanated a blue hue, as if it was magnetized with an energy field. It had the look and feel of a spell, as if someone who knew what they were doing had magically placed a charm on the fence for purposes yet unknown.

As I tuned into the fence to determine what energy had been placed there, I followed the blue auric field and saw that it surrounded the property. Protective spells had been placed in this field to shield the hotel from any harm. The hotel certainly has a warm and welcoming feel about it. If you are standing in front of the fence from the street and want to see this blue energy field for yourself, you’ll find that the left side of the fence has the most energy, as if it wants to protect itself from energy coming from that direction. On the right side, the energy field is much more open and relaxed, appearing to not detect any harm coming from this side. This right side of the property is where the ghost boys are most often seen playing on the lawn.

As I continued to study the fence and the supernatural energy attached to it, I had the distinct feeling of being watched. I looked up at the hotel and saw a woman looking out at me from an upstairs window. I gave a friendly wave to her, thinking she was a guest, until I noticed that she was wearing a dark dress with a lace collar at the neck and had her hair pulled back into a tight bun. My first thought was that she was dressed in period clothing, perhaps for an event at the hotel. This thought soon vanished, however, for as I stood there looking at her, she disappeared into thin air, except for one of her hands, which remained there at the window for a few moments longer. She appeared to me as someone who was very protective and inquisitive about the comings and goings at the hotel.

Kala AmbroseMy encounter with the woman was very brief. She was quite a distance away, as I was outside near the fence looking up and she was upstairs inside the hotel, so there wasn’t a strong connection. The one thing I did feel strongly, however, was that she was not the wife of Dr. Biamenti. This woman appeared to be dressed more in the style of the late 1700s rather than the mid-1800s, when Dr. Biamenti and his wife lived in the home. Most likely she was an occupant of one of the previous homes that burned down.

About the author: Kala Ambrose is an award-winning author, national columnist, inspirational speaker, and host of the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Radio and TV Show. Kala Ambrose’s teachings are described as discerning, empowering, and inspiring. For more haunted tales from New Orleans, check out her book Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead. 

 

Ghosthunting Equipment for the Weekend Ghosthunter

Tips for the Weekend Ghosthunter from Helen Pattskyn

Helen PattskynProfessional ghosthunters, like the folks from Motor City Ghost Hunters, use some pretty sophisticated—and expensive—equipment. Chances are, that’s more of an investment than the average person wants to make. The good news is that the weekend ghosthunter can get by—and still get good results—with just a few ghosthunting tools.

A good-quality digital camera is an absolute must, and the greater the resolution (the more pixels) the better. I use the camera that I bought a couple of years ago for vacations. It has the added bonus of being small enough to fit easily in my purse. I use rechargeable batteries—but always carry a backup set (except for that one time at the Baldwin Theatre, the one time I needed them!). It is commonly reported that batteries die and electronics stop working in haunted places.

A second indispensable piece of equipment, according to everyone I spoke to, is a digital recorder. Most digital recorders are small and inexpensive. All of the ones I looked at had a record time of several hours.

Digital recorders are used to pick up EVPs, or electronic voice phenomena. Paranormal investigators frequently seem to record sounds and even voices on electronic devices, even when no sounds or voices were heard by the team members themselves during the investigation. Many paranormal teams post these recordings on their websites, allowing visitors to decide for themselves whether the “voices” caught on tape are real or just white noise.

A digital camera and digital recorder were the only pieces of equipment I took with me on my adventures around the state, and I really only used my digital recorder a few times. I left it on all night when I stayed at the Blue Pelican—but if anyone was there, they didn’t feel like talking to me.

About the EMF Device

Probably the next most popular ghosthunting device is an EMF detector, which is used to detect electromagnetic fields. The theory is that, where there are ghosts, the electromagnetic fields “spike.” Other things can cause electromagnetic fields to jump, too, such as outlets and major appliances. So you need to have an idea of what’s in the area before jumping to conclusions. Natural and man-made (not paranormal) electromagnetic fields can cause people to have that same “eerie feeling” so many people get when they believe there are spirits nearby. Bearing in mind that you get what you pay for, weekend ghosthunters can purchase a decent EMF meter for $30–$50 from most larger hardware stores. More expensive models start at $100.

Ghosthunting Michigan
Ghosthunting Michigan

A couple of the paranormal investigators I spoke to recommend using a 35mm camera, preferably loaded with black-and-white film, as a secondary source for ghostly images. If you’re going out with a friend, it might be interesting to compare images taken with a digital camera and the good old-fashioned way with film.

If you’re more serious—or as you become more serious—you can purchase additional equipment for your ghosthunting arsenal. Full-spectrum digital video cameras are popular, as are night vision or infrared camcorders.

It has been suggested to also document your adventures with pen and paper—or maybe start a ghosthunting journal or blog.

Helen Pattskyn is the author of Ghosthunting Michigan.

Haunted Holly Hotel

Historic Holly Hotel haunts staff and guests

Holly HotelThe historic Holly Hotel is said to be the single most haunted building in the state of Michigan. It has been written about in newspapers and magazines and has been featured on both local and national television. In 2009, it was the subject of an episode of the popular Travel Channel program The Most Terrifying Places in America. Numerous paranormal investigators have visited the Holly Hotel, including the Motor City Ghost Hunters, the Ghost Hunters of Southern Michigan, the Michigan Paranormal Research Association, and well-known parapsychologist Norman Gauthier, who concluded that the building was “loaded with spirits.”

Despite its name, the Holly Hotel is no longer an inn and does not accommodate overnight guests. However, the dining room remains a favorite spot for dinner, afternoon tea, and Sunday brunch. Dinner is served nightly, while a traditional Victorian-style high tea is served every day except for Sunday. The restaurant’s menu is an award-winning blend of traditional signature dishes, some of which have changed very little over the last century, and contemporary seasonal fare. In addition to being featured in magazines and on television for its ghosts, the Holly Hotel is known nationally for its fine cuisine.

The Holly Hotel suffered two major fires in its long history. The first occurred on January 19, 1913, and the second was 65 years later on January 19, 1878. Reports have it that both fires started at “exactly the same time, to the hour.”

Former owner most active ghost at Holly Hotel

In fact, the Holly Hotel has been the sighting of a number of apparitions over the years. One of the most frequently seen is believed to be the spirit of Nora Kane, a former hostess of the inn. Many guests claim to have seen her in the bar area and in the back hallway, which used to be the main entrance to the hotel.

The inn’s most famous ghost is probably former owner Mr. Hirst, who passed away in the 1920s, but who, many believe, has never let go of his hotel. He is reputed to be the most active—and most unhappy—when renovations have been made to the property. A myriad of other spirits are said to inhabit the 120-year-old building.

Helen Pattskyn visited the Holly Hotel and interviewed the staff and owner. Find out all about their ghostly tales in her book Ghosthunting Michigan.