Tag Archives: ghosts

Spotlight on Chokoloskee

Dave Lapham, author of Ghosthunting Florida, puts the spotlight on the tiny village of Chokoloskee.

Nestled deep in the Everglades among the Ten Thousand Islands along the southwestern Gulf coast of Florida is the tiny village of Chokoloskee. It is at the end of the road—literally. You can’t get any farther south except by boat. And at the end of the one main road in Chokoloskee is the Smallwood General Store, sitting on stilts, the waters of the Gulf lapping against its pilings as they have for over a hundred years. It was here on the shore next to Smallwood’s that Ed Watson met his demise in 1910.

Ed Watson had come to the area several years before and was farming very successfully on forty acres a few miles south on the Chatham River. He was a quiet, angry man who kept to himself, but was often in trouble with the law because of his violent temper. He had many enemies in the neighborhood.

Because he was so standoffish, he was cloaked in mystery. No one knew much about him. Folks wondered how he was able to do so well with his farm in such a hostile environment, until disemboweled bodies began showing up in the waters around Watson’s farm.

Someone finally figured out that he had been hiring migrant workers and then killing them instead of paying them, disposing of their bodies by burying them on his farm or feeding them to the alligators.

The local sheriff formed a posse and proceeded to Watson’s place to arrest him. Watson wasn’t home, but the posse found a mass grave with dozen of bodies and body parts. Back at Smallwood’s, the posse waited for Watson to show up. Because of the gruesomeness of the apparent murders, they dispensed with normal legal proceedings and shot him dead as soon as he appeared.

Many of the locals think Smallwood’s is haunted by Ed Watson and that it’s not safe to go among the pilings under the store. Maybe  that’s true, but there is no doubt that Watson’s old place is filled with the ghosts of his murder victims. Many people have tried to make a go of the farm, but very little ever grew there after Watson died, and everyone has been overwhelmed by the ghosts. After many years, an old woman moved into Watson’s house. She, too, encountered the phantoms, and one night, while trying to fend them off with a lighted knot torch, burned the place to the ground. Since then, snakes and vegetation have reclaimed the farm and the house.

Ed Watson may or may not be around, but the ghosts of his many victims still certainly occupy that forty acres on the Chatham River a few miles south of the Smallwood General Store in Chokoloskee.

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

Visiting the Abraham Lincoln historic sites in Springfield, Illinois

John B. Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Illinois recommends a visit to these three Abraham Lincoln historic sites in Springfield, Illinois. The sites are said to be haunted. And what better place for a ghosthunter to lay his or her weary head than at the haunted and beautiful Inn at 835?

Abraham Lincoln Home 
426 South Seventh Street, Springfield, IL 62701

Abraham Lincoln home SpringfieldThe Lincoln Home looks exactly as the Lincolns left it when they departed Springfield in 1861, heading for Washington, D.C. Period furnishings recreate the everyday life of the family. Several blocks of reconstructed buildings surround the house, giving the visitor the sense of stepping back in time to Lincoln’s day.

Opening hours : 8:30am-5:00pm, daily, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day, when the park is closed. For more information visit the website.

Abraham Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery
1441 Monument Avenue, Springfield, IL 62702

SpringfieldOak Ridge Cemetery is located at the end of Monument Avenue. It’s easy to find since there is plenty of street signage marking the way. It’s impossible to miss the tomb once you’ve entered Oak Ridge. Follow the signs to the parking lot and walk a hundred yards or so to the tomb.

The tomb is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. For more information about the tomb and Oak Ridge Cemetery visit the website.

Old State Capitol
Fifth and Adams Streets, Springfield, IL 62701

state-capitol-springfieldThe Old State Capitol is easily accessed from either Fifth or Sixth Street. Its red dome is a distinctive landmark. An underground parking garage is below the capitol.

After touring the capitol building, it’s a short walk to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices and the Illinois State Historical Library. For opening hours and more information visit the website of the Old State Capitol.

Where to stay when visiting the Abraham Lincoln historic sites in Springfield, Illinois?

The Inn at 835
835 South Second Street, Springfield, IL 62704

inn-at-835-springfieldWhat better place for a ghosthunter to lay his or her weary head than at the haunted and beautiful Inn at 835? It’s conveniently located in the center of the city, close to many other historic sites, some of them haunted. Innkeeper Court Conn can direct you.

For more information and reservations visit their website.

 

 

Visitors Report Apparitions at Abraham Lincoln House

Abraham Lincoln home SpringfieldWhen self-taught lawyer Abraham Lincoln rode his horse into Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, all his meager belongings were packed into two saddlebags. Five years later, the rising young attorney married Mary Todd, a well-educated woman from a prominent Kentucky family, and in 1844 the Lincolns paid $1,500 for a Greek-Revival cottage at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets. For the next 17 years, the house—considerably enlarged by Lincoln— sheltered the growing family. Three of his four children were born there, and one of them, Edward, died in the house at the age of 4.

On February 11, 1861, the Lincolns left Springfield by train, headed for Washington, D.C., where Lincoln would be sworn in as the 16th President of the United States. He never again saw his Springfield home, but in 1865 his somber funeral cortege passed by the house, decked out in black-and-white bunting, as it made its way to Oak Ridge Cemetery, where the murdered president was laid to rest.

Visitors to the Lincoln Home in Springfield Report Seeing a Tall, Thin Apparition with a Little Boy

Since then, some visitors to the Lincoln home have reported seeing a tall, thin apparition with a little boy, perhaps Abe and little Edward. Most visitors who experience a paranormal event in the house, however, say that it is the ghost of Mary Todd Lincoln who lingers there, in the place where she lived the happiest years of her adult life.

Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to events that some might call supernatural. He once related such an event to a few friends, one of them being Noah Brooks. After Lincoln’s assassination, Brooks told the story to the readers of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, recounting the story “as nearly as possible in his own words”:

“It was just after my election in 1860. . . I was well tired out, and went home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau, with a swinging glass upon it—[and here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate the position]—and, looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a  little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again I saw it a second time—plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all about it—nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as though something uncomfortable had happened. When I went home I told my wife about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when [with a laugh], sure enough, the thing came again; but I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried about it somewhat. She thought it was ‘a sign’ that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term.”

That mirror is not in the Springfield house and is lost to history, as are many of the personal items owned by the Lincolns during that time. Lincoln sold most of his furniture when he moved to Washington, and a good portion of it ended up with owners in Chicago, where it was destroyed in the 1871 fire that almost obliterated that city.

Abraham Lincoln home SpringfieldThe park employees are reticent to speak about the ghosts. However, Shirlie Laughlin, an employee at the Abraham Lincoln Home, told of her experiences there in a 1998 interview with a reporter from Arlington Heights’s Daily Herald:

“I was rearranging the furniture in Mary Todd Lincoln’s bedroom not long ago, trying to decide whether to move a small chair into another room. Something—someone—kept touching me on the shoulder. I kept looking around, but no one was there. I left that chair right where it was.”

Shirlie also reported seeing the rocker in the parlor move and said that she could feel “wind rushing down the hall,” despite the fact that all the windows in the house are kept tightly shut.

Perhaps if someone can persuade the National Park Service to have a more open mind about the world of the paranormal, we will be able to determine whether it is old Abe, Mary, Edward, or all three who haunt the Lincoln home. Until that time, visitors to the home will just have to try to figure out the mystery for themselves.

El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

April Slaughter, author of Ghosthunting Texas, shares with us the tale of El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

We’re all familiar with the legend of Sleepy Hollow and the terrifying headless horseman who stalked the local community in the story, but did you know that Texas has a headless horseman of its own?

The legend of El Muerto, or the “Dead One,” stretches back to the days of cattle rustlers and outlaws, dirt trails and cowboy fights. While some believe him to be merely a product of myth, there are those who claim he might have actually existed.

In 1850, one of the most famous of all Texas Rangers—Bigfoot Wallace—allegedly captured a Mexican outlaw simply known as Vidal, who had been raiding ranches and stealing cattle and horses. Texas Rangers had long been working to keep the incidents of theft at a minimum, but outlaws continued to sweep across the south. Rangers had done everything they could to send a clear message that thievery would not be tolerated, but their efforts had been largely unsuccessful.

Bigfoot Wallace reportedly executed Vidal upon his capture, tied his decapitated head and sombrero to the saddle horn of a wild mustang, secured his body in the animal’s saddle, and sent the horse out to roam the plains. Cowboys began to see the horse and its unfortunate rider aimlessly wandering through the hills and became so afraid that they shot at it with their guns. Over time, El Muerto became an omen of bad things to come and was credited in stories of the misfortunes of others. Once the horse had been cornered in present-day Uvalde, Texas, the body of the one-time rustler was finally laid to rest. This, however, would not be the last time El Muerto was seen. Stories began to spread like wildfire that he was still riding in the hills and among the ranches he had once stolen from.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

The legend of the headless horseman of Texas is still alive and well today, as many ranchers and travelers throughout west Texas have reported seeing the ghostly apparition on clear and moonlit evenings; a large and foreboding presence, seemingly destined to an eternity of riding headless through the plains on a wild mustang.

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything—including ghosts! In her book Ghosthunting Texas, April Slaughter explores more than 50 spooky sites.

About the author: As an active paranormal researcher for nearly 20 years, April Slaughter has delved into almost every facet of the unknown, from spirits and psychic phenomena to UFOs, Cryptozoology, and more. She is one of America’s leading researchers into the study of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC), and is the first to introduce her personal experiences with Induced After Death Communication (IADC) to the paranormal field.

She began her journalism career in 2006, writing and working for TAPS Paramagazine—published by the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters. In 2008, she cofounded The Paranormal Source, Inc., a nonprofit research and education corporation.

Druid Ridge Cemetery Maryland

Druid Ridge Cemetery and the Ghost of Marburg Monument

Druid Ridge CemeteryPeople have reported experiencing various paranormal phenomena— including sensing a spiritual presence, seeing apparitions, and capturing mists and orbs in photographs—at Druid Ridge Cemetery. One of the monuments often mentioned is the Marburg family mausoleum, in front of which is a bronze figure of Icarus.

The base of this statue is fitted with a plaque dedicating it to Theodore Marburg Jr. and mentioning his service with the British Royal Flying Corps during World War I. The plaque also includes some rather strange verbiage about the need for an American presence in Europe. It also indicates that Theodore was born in 1893 and died in 1922, begging the question of how he might have died not during the war but four years after it ended.

A brief review of Theodore’s life during and after the war would certainly suggest he was an almost classically tormented soul, and it was not hard to believe he might haunt the final resting place of his remains. When the Great War began, Theodore was a student at Oxford  in England; in an effort to help stop the German advance across Europe, he joined the British Royal Flying Corps—despite the fact that Americans were prohibited from serving in foreign military organizations and that his father was a career diplomat and a friend of former President William Howard Taft.

In 1916, Theodore’s plane crashed during a frontline mission and, as a result of the injuries he sustained, he had to have his left leg amputated. During his convalescence, he met and married a Belgian baroness who was a divorcée, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, and had a background that was, suffice it to say, a bit questionable.

Not much about the couple’s life together is known, but two years later, when Theodore became a partner in a cattle ranch in New Mexico, the baroness refused to go with him. In an exception to the norms of the era, he claimed abandonment and they were divorced shortly thereafter.

marburg-monumentIn early January 1922, Theodore was married again, this time to a woman 10 years his junior. She was not with him at his ranch, either, when he put an automatic pistol to his head seven weeks later and shot himself. It took him a week to die, during which the doctors had to remove his eyes. His wife arrived from Baltimore after he had expired.

There is a lot that is not known about the mounting tragedies that afflicted Theodore in life, but it is not too hard to imagine that his tormented spirit might still linger on our own sphere after his earthly troubles had been brought to an end. But, as it turns out, a number of the other Marburgs have weird stories, as well, and it is easy to conceive of any number of them lingering on as ghosts.

These include Theodore Marburg Sr., a man who cultivated a reputation as a peacemaker but urged the United States to enter World War I, and his sister, an increasingly desperate spinster who at one point unsuccessfully offered a European tour guide $200,000 to marry her (he declined, opting for her niece instead). Any of them—maybe all of them—might be among the spirits that continue to linger among the sepulchres and monuments of Druid Ridge Cemetery.

For more haunted tales, check out Ghosthunting Maryland by Michael J. Varhola.

Photo Credits
Druid Ridge Cemetery, Clotho Statue: By Coolcatevan9 (Own work) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Marburg Monument: Michael J. Varhola

Seul Choix Lighthouse One of the Scariest Places on Earth

Helen Pattskyn shares with us the story of Seul Choix Lighthouse which she describes as one of the scariest places on earth.

Seul ChoixAlthough I’ve lived all my life in a state where more than 100 lighthouses dot the coastline, I had never actually visited one before venturing to Seul Choix Point, my first stop in the Upper Peninsula. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there. The Point’s 100-year-old lighthouse is reportedly one of the most haunted places in Michigan and was even featured on an episode of Fox Family’s Scariest Places on Earth. Even coming straight from spending a relatively quiet night alone at the haunted Blue Pelican Inn, I was feeling some trepidation as I approached my next destination. The battered blue sign telling me that Seul Choix’s historic lighthouse lay only 2 miles ahead did little to allay the feeling—neither did the slow drive up an old dirt road.

Seul Choix Point is a narrow, rocky stretch of land that juts out from Lake Michigan’s northern shore into Seul Choix Bay, about a two-hour drive east of St. Ignace. The bay received its name, which means “only choice,” in the 1800s when a group of French fur traders took shelter there during a violent storm that threatened to capsize their small vessel. The bay was their “only choice” for safe refuge along the dangerous stretch of coast, which is known for its rocky shoreline and high waves.

Those same waves make Seul Choix Bay a popular destination for surfers. I found a group of young men out enjoying the waves and warm early autumn weather the day I visited the Point, and I took a few minutes to talk to them. They didn’t know anything about any ghosts at the lighthouse; they were just out to get in a few more days of lake surfing before the weather turned cold.

The Michigan State Congress commissioned the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse in 1886, but it took six years for it to become operational—I think sometimes we forget how much work went into building construction a century ago. The entire complex, which consists of the 79-foot light tower, family quarters, a steam fog signal and boiler house, stable, and a number of other buildings, wasn’t completed until 1895. Additional living quarters were added in 1925. Back then, the Seul Choix Lighthouse was the only guiding light for ships along a 100-mile stretch of treacherous coastline. The nearest towns are Gulliver—whose Historical Society, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), oversees the upkeep of the lighthouse—and Manistique, a popular destination for boaters, campers, and hikers.

I arrived at the end of the long dirt road to find a well-kept yard, brown brick house, and classic white light tower. Maybe it was the sunny weather, but I didn’t feel as if I’d just pulled up in front of one of the “scariest places on earth.” Wondering what I was really going to find, I headed over to the gift shop. Rather than asking about ghosts, my first question was, “How do you pronounce the name of this place?”

The young lady behind the counter laughed. It’s a question she gets a lot. “The easiest way I know to pronounce it is Sis-shaw,” she told me. After getting that cleared up, I explained that I was writing a book about haunted places in Michigan and wondered if she’d ever seen or heard anything unusual in the lighthouse. “Not personally,” she said. Although several guests and other staff members told her they’d heard music, “like an old phonograph recording,” playing in the lighthouse. She said that some people also report that electronic devices, like the digital camera I was carrying, stop working. “The batteries just die for no reason,” she said.

I definitely hoped that wouldn’t become a problem. Of course, I always carry extra batteries, just in case.

“If you really want some good stories, it’s my mom you should talk to,” she went on. “You can find her over at the lightkeeper’s quarters.”

I thanked her for her time and headed on over. The first thing that struck me when I walked into the house was how small the front parlor was. Yet at times in the lighthouse’s history, not only did the lightkeeper and his family live there, but his assistant and his family resided in the small dwelling too. That’s four adults and as many as six children. The lightkeeper’s home has been fully restored and is decorated with beautiful antique furniture—and seems about as far from scary as I could imagine a place to be.

I quickly found Linda, the volunteer I was seeking, sitting in what had probably been a formal dining room. She looked up from her book and greeted me with a warm smile. As soon as I explained the reason for my visit, Linda invited me to have a seat with her so she could tell me about Captain Joseph Willie Townsend, the lighthouse’s primary ghostly resident. She described him as a bit of a prankster, but not a ghost she or any of the other staff had ever been afraid of.

“He was originally from Bristol, England,” she said. “Captain Townsend lived here from 1901 until he died of consumption in one of the upstairs bedrooms in 1910.” Consumption is an old-fashioned term for tuberculosis. “Because he died in winter when the ground was too frozen to dig a grave, the Captain couldn’t be buried straightaway, and his body had to be stored in the basement for several months.” Some of the paranormal investigators who have visited Seul Choix believe that might be why the captain’s spirit remains “trapped” at the lighthouse.

Linda had her own ideas. She told me that the hauntings didn’t really start until a couple of original pieces of furniture were brought up from storage, when the lighthouse was last restored in the 1990s. One of the pieces in question is the kitchen table.

seul-choix2“In England,” Linda went on, “you set a table correctly by putting the knife and spoon on the left and the forks on the right.” That’s the opposite of the way we set a table here in the United States. “The Captain doesn’t seem to like it when we set the table American style. We always find the silverware reversed, even though no one’s been in the kitchen!” She laughed.

Like the other rooms, the kitchen is roped off so that visitors can look but not touch.

Numerous guests and most of the staff have smelled cigar smoke throughout the living quarters, even though no smoking is allowed in the building, and often there isn’t anyone else around. Linda told me that, despite his health problems, Captain Townsend was a heavy cigar smoker, and it seems that, even in death, he enjoys a good cigar.

In the mornings several volunteers have found a “crescent-shaped imprint” on the bedspread in the room they’re pretty sure was the Captain’s. “It looks like someone sat down right on the bed,” Linda said. Some volunteers and visitors have reported seeing a man watching them from one of the windows, about halfway up the light tower—but no one was in the tower at the time.

Probably the eeriest of Linda’s stories was one a guest told her. A woman was visiting the lighthouse sometime last year, and when she pulled in, she noticed a man wearing a heavy blue coat, walking across the yard to the lighthouse. Being friendly, she waved; he ignored her, but she didn’t think that much of it. Like me, she went to the gift shop first, then went over to the lighthouse, looked around, and headed on her way. When she got home, the woman started doing some research on the lighthouse’s history and realized that the man she’d seen in the yard was Captain Townsend! She contacted the lighthouse staff to tell them of her unusual encounter.

“Several people have seen a man wandering the grounds before,” Linda told me, “but this was the first time someone positively identified the Captain, even though they didn’t know who it was at the time.”

I have to admit, hearing that gave me goose bumps!

seul-choix4In addition to Captain Townsend roaming the grounds, rearranging silverware, and ignoring no-smoking signs, volunteers have also found toys strewn all over the floor of the “children’s bedroom” upstairs. Nothing had been out of place the night before, and, by all accounts, the lightkeeper’s quarters had been locked up all night. Linda told me that she thinks the children’s room might be haunted by the spirits of two of the little  girls who grew up in the lighthouse. Although they grew up and moved away, both had recently passed on—and it was just about the time they died that the children’s room became “active.”

I thanked Linda for her time and went to have a look around for myself. Even though I had been told that a number of guests reported feeling the Captain’s presence on the staircase, I didn’t feel anything unusual. My camera continued to work too. I didn’t smell cigar smoke or hear music. Even so, I appreciate antique furniture, so I enjoyed walking around the small house. And I appreciated the staff’s sense of humor when I found the plastic Halloween skeleton hanging in an upstairs bedroom closet! I admit that it got me. I jumped.

When I came back downstairs, Linda let me step into the living room, which is normally roped off, so I could get a better picture of the antique organ, where the portraits of past lightkeepers are on display. She also invited me to climb the tower.

The lighthouse at Seul Choix is a working light station and one of the few where visitors are allowed to climb the tower. Of course, no one lives in the lightkeeper’s quarters today; the station is automated. A hundred years ago, however, the light was fueled by oil, which had to be carried by hand up to the light at the top of the 79-foot tower. Every two hours, the lightkeeper or his assistant hauled two heavy metal buckets up a very narrow spiral staircase.

Because I’d never been to a lighthouse before, I decided to go ahead and make the climb—despite my horrible fear of heights. As I climbed the narrow metal stairs, I marveled at how a man twice my size had made the same trip four or five times a night, carrying heavy buckets filled with oil. I stopped at the midway point to catch my breath and enjoy the view from one of the windows—and got the distinct feeling that I was being watched. But no one else was in the tower with me. Of course, it might have been my imagination; I’d spent the last 40 minutes listening to ghost stories. Although my nerves threatened to get the better of me (because of the height, not the ghosts), I made it to the top. The view of the lake was spectacular. That alone made the drive worthwhile.

The tower and lightkeeper’s quarters are open to visitors from Memorial Day through mid-October. Guests are asked to make a small donation that goes to the Gulliver Historical Society to keep the lighthouse running. In addition to the lighthouse and gift shop, Seul Choix Point has a beautiful public beach, where I stopped to enjoy my lunch and take more pictures before getting back on the road toward Marquette and the Landmark Inn.

In Ghosthunting Michigan, Helen Pattskyn takes readers along as she explores some of her home state’s most haunted locations. Get your copy here.

Photo credits
All black and white photos: Helen Pattskyn
All color photos: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Belcourt Castle

Belcourt CastleBelcourt Castle was built between 1891 and 1894 for Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont as a summer home. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who used Louis XIII’s hunting lodge at Versailles as the model. Belmont’s wife, Alva Vanderbilt, added to the original structure with examples of English, Italian, and German architecture. From 1933 to 1955, Belcourt (as it was originally called) passed through several owners and saw more neglect than restoration. The property was purchased in 1956 by the Tinney family of Cumberland, Rhode Island. The Tinneys conducted massive renovations to the whole building and made it a showplace for their extensive collection of antiques.

Harle Tinney is the last surviving member of the family since her husband’s death in 2006. Mrs. Tinney believes that the ghosts of Belcourt Castle are spirits who are attached to certain items that her late husband, Donald, and his parents brought into the house. One of those items is a small, wooden statue of a monk.

Monk Statue at Belcourt Castle Believed to be Haunted

When the statue first came into the Tinneys’ possession, they placed it on display at their previous home. That was the first time they caught sight of the shadowy figure who seems to be linked to the wooden monk. Two weeks after the statue was brought to Belcourt Castle, the dark figure was spotted again. Since then it has been seen no fewer than five times and always within the vicinity of the statue. Donald and Harle Tinney saw the ghost in the Great Hall when the statue was displayed there on a stand by the door to the ladies’ room. At first, they both thought the figure was Donald’s father. However, as the figure opened the door to the restroom the couple could clearly see it was not Mr. Tinney. What also struck them was the fact that the door, which always creaked loudly, emitted no sound. Donald and Harle found no one in the small room when they checked.

The wooden monk is now kept in the Chapel Room on the first floor. It was moved there after a psychic told the Tinneys that the entity attached to the little monk wanted it placed there. That hasn’t stopped the dark shadow from making an appearance from time to time. The most recent sighting was on July 7, 2007, at seven o’clock in the evening. Belcourt Castle was playing host to a wedding when Harle Tinney saw what she thought was a guest heading in the wrong direction. She moved after the figure as it went into the foyer, but as she reached the spot she found no one there.

Bloodcurdling Screams from Inside the Ballroom of Belcourt Castle

belcourt-castle1

The Gothic Ballroom located on the second floor has had its share of unsettling moments as well. One night in the mid-1990s, Harle Tinney heard three bloodcurdling screams while standing in the middle of the darkened ballroom. Her two dogs reacted to the screaming, but they were far too afraid to enter the room. There is an impressive collection of knights’ armor on exhibit in this room. The suits of armor are all excellent reproductions, except for one helmet that is known to be authentic and does show a battle scar. It is believed the knight who once wore the helmet haunts the armor and what Harle Tinney heard that evening were his death screams.

The late Donald Tinney once heard the sound of a party in progress in the ballroom. It was late in the evening and the house was very still. When he went to investigate the phantom gathering, the family cat came along with him. It seemed to be well aware of the music and chatter. The cat started growling and the fur on its back and tail stood up when the two of them reached the ballroom. The sound then faded away into nothingness as Donald Tinney opened the doors to the room. This ghostly encounter is believed to have been a trace haunting of a happier moment in the home’s history, possibly from the Gilded Age.

belcourt-castle2In 1996 a woman who was a guest at a private party being held on the first floor came upstairs to use the ladies’ room that is located in Ruth Tinney’s (Donald’s mother’s) old bedroom. Most of the room is roped off, leaving only the bathroom accessible to the public. As the guest entered the room she noticed there was a lady sitting at Ruth Tinney’s desk. The guest addressed the lady and informed her that no one was allowed behind the ropes. The mysterious lady ignored the woman and her warning. Unnerved by this, the guest went to alert security of the intrusion. A guard was standing close by and lost no time getting to the bedroom. The lady was gone without a trace. No one could have left the room without being seen and there was no place for anyone to hide. When Harle Tinney heard the guest’s description of the lady it was a perfect match for her late mother-in-law. That day was also the one-year anniversary of  Ruth Tinney’s death. Twice in 2010, the bedspread on Ruth Tinney’s bed was seen to be disturbed. A young Englishwoman taking a tour of Belcourt Castle told Harle Tinney that she had witnessed the bedspread move as if someone was getting up off the bed. In July of that same year, Harle Tinney took a couple on a tour of the house; while they were in the bedroom, she mentioned her late mother-in-law. The bedspread, as if on cue, flew right off the bed and landed several feet away on the floor. All Harle Tinney could do was say, “Hi, Mom!”

belcourt-castle3I spoke with Ken and Dave DeCosta, the father and son co-founders of the Rhode Island Society for the Examination of Unusual Phenomena (R.I.S.E.U.P.). Their paranormal team has been allowed into Belcourt Castle to conduct investigations and public ghost hunts. They told me that they have not seen or caught any of the ghosts on camera, but they have recorded examples of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) throughout the property. Ken and Dave told me the EVPs that were recorded seem to be of a personal nature, so out of respect for the Tinney family they have declined to give me any further details on what the spirit voices said. The most interesting moment caught by R.I.S.E.U.P. on video was a session involving two electromagnetic field (EMF) meters. A member of the team asked if any spirit present could make the lights flash on one of the meters. After the lights on one of the meters flashed on and off, they asked if the spirit could do the same with the other EMF meter lying nearby on the same table. That meter’s lights flashed on and off while the first meter’s lights stayed off. The team continued asking the spirit to please go back and forth between the two meters and the lights flashed on and off as requested. All cell phones were switched off and no other electromagnetic interference could be found within the room.

To explore the scariest spots in Southern New England, check out Ghosthunting Southern New England by Andrew Lake.

Photo credits
Drawing Belcourt Castle: Public Domain
Ballroom Belcourt Castle: Public Doman
Knight armor: Andrew Lake
Outside picture of Belcourt Castle: Stilfehler at wikivoyage shared [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Spotlight on Michigan’s Ada Witch

Helen Pattskyn, author of Ghosthunting Michigan, shares with us the tale of Michigan’s
Ada Witch.

Ghosthunting Michigan
Ghosthunting Michigan

The Ada Witch is perhaps one of western Michigan’s most famous ghosts. It is unclear how the title “witch” got attached to her name—or even what her true name might be—but that’s what locals call the adulterous specter who is believed to haunt Findlay Cemetery and Honeycreek Road in Ada Township. Ada is a small community, located a little more than 10 miles east of Grand Rapids and first settled in 1821. It was in those early years that many believe the so-called “witch” met her tragic end, an end she may have brought upon herself.

One website dedicated exclusively to the legend of the Ada Witch claims that she died in the year 1868. It is impossible to verify that date, however, as neither the woman’s name nor the actual whereabouts of her grave are known for certain. We can only speculate.

The story says that the woman known as the Ada Witch was having an extramarital affair and would meet secretly with her lover in the marshes outside of town, near what is now Honeycreek Road. When her husband became suspicious of her late-night comings and goings, he followed her and caught her in the arms of her lover. In a jealous rage, the husband murdered first his wife and then the other man. During the struggle with his wife’s lover, the husband was also fatally wounded and died a short while later. Perhaps that’s why some people report not only seeing a mysterious ghostly woman wandering the area, but also a pair of ghostly men—maybe the men are the Ada Witch’s husband and her lover.

The woman is believed to be buried in Findlay Cemetery, but nothing is noted in the stories about where either of the two men might have been interred. Although no one can prove that the gravestone is hers, locals believe that a broken old headstone near the back of Findlay Cemetery is that of the legendary Ada Witch. Visitors often light candles or leave trinkets for her there.

Helen PattskynSeveral paranormal investigators have been to the cemetery and believe that it is indeed haunted. There is evidence in the form of orb photos and other unusual phenomena that have been caught on film and on digital cameras. Of course, just as there are many people who believe the story is true, there are just as many who think the Ada Witch is little more than an urban legend.

In her book Ghosthunting Michigan, author Helen Pattskyn explores 30 of the scariest spots in the Wolverine State, all of which are open to the public—so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.

Millermore House Dallas

April Slaughter Encounters Ghost at Millermore House

MillermoreThe Miller cabin and Millermore house sit among 25 additional historic structures in the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park. My husband and I cannot resist a good ghost story, and after I had learned about the experiences of others at Millermore, Allen and I were eager to visit.

Our attention was immediately drawn to Millermore as soon as it came into view. It’s a majestic and beautiful home located close to the park’s entrance.

For as long as Millermore has been in the Dallas Heritage Village, there have been stories of apparitions moving about in almost every area of the house. The odd movement of inexplicable lights on the top floor has also often been reported.

Several paranormal teams have conducted investigations at Millermore in hopes of capturing the various phenomena, and many believe the ghosts of several children may be playing on the property. EVP recordings captured children’s laughter when no children were in or near the home. Many paranormal investigative teams have been allowed onto the property to see if they could capture anything anomalous on film, but the Village and its staff never participate in the investigations. They believe it is important not to sway their visitors one way or another.

I spoke to a volunteer at the Village who has been assisting on the property for more than 13 years; on the day we arrived to walk through the historic home, she was conducting the visitor tour. It was obvious that she thoroughly enjoyed her volunteer time relaying information to guests eager to learn more. At one point during the tour, a young woman asked the volunteer if she believed the home was haunted. “I’ve often heard strange noises,” she answered. “This is an old house and the floor creaks a lot. I don’t know if it is anything paranormal. I just carry about my business and try not to pay too much attention.”

millermore-house-interiorI was particularly intrigued when we reached the upstairs level and stood in the large open breezeway running through the center of the house. There are several shadowbox frames showcasing intricately woven human hairpieces hanging on the wall, collected by a family in the Dallas Metroplex. While not historically tied to the house itself, they are beautiful yet eerie, ornate artifacts that made me uneasy. I wasn’t sure what they were at first glance, and upon closer inspection I realized that I had never seen anything like them before.

As I stood there staring at the unusual pieces, I felt the distinct sensation of someone brushing my hair away from the back of my neck. Allen hadn’t been near me, as he was busy wandering around the bedrooms taking pictures, and the remainder of the group had already moved on down the hallway. I stood there doing my best to keep still, hoping the experience would repeat itself, but it didn’t. My initial uneasy feeling soon melted away.

The tour guide gathered our group in the hallway where she pointed out a small day bed situated just below a window at the rear of the house. She explained that it was a piece originally owned by William Miller and that he often enjoyed an afternoon nap there, cooled by the breezes that flowed through. When we had first ascended the staircase, the quilt lay neatly atop the bed, as though the bed had just been made. After spending approximately 20 minutes upstairs, we all made our way back to the staircase and past the day bed. I noticed that in the middle of the bed, a slight yet noticeable impression had been made in the quilt as if someone had been sitting on it. I made no mention of it at the time, hoping someone else would point it out and validate my thoughts. But no one else seemed to notice, and we all shuffled back down the stairs to the main floor.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

My experiences at Millermore impressed me, as I had constantly been aware of the movements of the people in the tour group and yet, something unseen had approached me. I believe without a doubt that someone wanted us
to notice that they were there. While I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the other visitors individually, I had the sense that they, too, felt a spiritual presence in the house. They walked through the home with quiet reverence and continually looked backward as if they were expecting to see a spirit from the past walking along behind them.

As we descended the steps of the front porch, I turned around to take another look at the house. I wondered who had touched my hair and if that person had been the same individual who sat on the day bed. I felt a reverence for the history of the house, for the work that went into both building and preserving it, and for the family that may still call it home.

April Slaughter explores more scary tales from the Lone Star State in her book Ghosthunting Texas. Join her from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the travel guide and her ghostly resources.

The Ghost of Taffy’s Main Street Coffee

Spirits Are Helping Out Author

John Kachuba shares with us his story about the ghost at Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton.

Sometimes, while I was working on Ghosthunting Ohio, I wondered if maybe the spirits were helping me out; real ghostwriters, as it were. The story of Taffy’s Main Street Coffee in Eaton is an example of what I mean.

taffysMy wife, Mary, and I had been in Eaton in the spring to investigate Fort St. Clair, a historic site said to be haunted by the ghosts of several Kentucky militiamen killed there by Miami Indians in 1792. After visiting the battlefield site, we drove back through downtown Eaton and spotted the colorful umbrellas shading the tables on the sidewalk outside Taffy’s. The shop had an interesting Victorian feel to it, so we stopped in.

It was a Sunday afternoon and we were the only customers. I chatted with the server and told her why we were in town. She was interested in the project and, as I left, I gave her one of my business cards, Ghosthunting Ohio printed prominently across it. We drove back to Athens and forgot all about Taffy’s.

Three weeks later a woman identifying herself as Nancy Peters, owner of Taffy’s, left a message for me on my answering machine. She had found my card by the cash register when she was cleaning and assumed I wanted to talk to her about the ghost at Taffy’s!

Of course, I would have wanted to talk with her had I known there was a ghost there (okay, I can’t always find them), so I called her back. Nancy was excited to have someone to talk to about her story. “I would never have believed such a thing could happen to me,” she said. She told me that she and her husband, Tony, bought the old  Victorian building that now serves as both Taffy’s and their home in 1992, although they did not open the coffee shop until 1999.

The part of the building that is now the coffee shop was formerly a jewelry store. You can still see the place where the jeweler’s heavy safe crashed through the floor when Nancy and Tony started their renovations. The owner of the jewelry store had died under “unusual circumstances,” and his body was discovered on the floor behind the jewelry counter.

Before they opened Taffy’s the old store was part of the Peterses’ home, and it was in that section that the hauntings occurred. While both Nancy and Tony experienced the same events, they  never experienced them together. Strange things would happen only when one or the other was alone in the house.

One day while Nancy was upstairs, she heard the sounds of her stepson’s electric guitar. “I knew I was alone in the house, so that really scared me, hearing this loud guitar strumming. I went downstairs, but there was no one there. Worse, the guitar wasn’t even plugged in. It couldn’t have played, but it did,” Nancy said. “That was pretty scary, but nothing like the voice that came out from the wall.”

Nancy said that a voice she clearly identified as being that of a male came from high up on the wall and called, “Max!” the name of her dog. “It scared the dog a lot,” she said. “There was no one there and yet there was this voice calling him. It was kind of a gravelly voice, definitely a man’s voice, maybe an old man.”

Tony also heard the voice, but at a different time. “It was about this time that I thought maybe I should get the house blessed. I have a friend who is a Catholic priest and I thought about asking him to do it.”
“Did you go through with it?” I asked.
“No. Instead, I started talking to the ghost for a few days, telling it that it was scaring me and my family and asking it to please move on.”

It Takes Courage to Talk to a Ghost

It takes some courage to talk to a ghost and try to make your peace with it, so that you and your resident ghost can “live” together in harmony, but professional ghostbusters will tell you that the idea of living in harmony with a ghost is not a good one. A ghost, they say, needs to move on, whether it is a good ghost or a bad ghost. It simply no longer belongs on earth and needs to find its way to its own realm.

Nancy doesn’t feel that the ghost is threatening in any way and, in fact, the activity at Ta=y’s has quieted down. “But you still feel a sadness in your heart, like something’s still hanging around,” she said.

Nancy told me that the owner of another old building nearby was also experiencing similar phenomena, and she wondered aloud if perhaps they could be connected—maybe the same ghost visiting both places. I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was possible. Just think of how many places Elvis has been spotted in.

Ghosts are often stirred up when the places they used to know in life are altered or renovated. Such activity seems to make them nervous (assuming ghosts can be nervous) and anxious. Some researchers say that the resulting paranormal activity is the ghost’s way of showing its displeasure with the changes in its familiar environment. Maybe this is what was going on at Taffy’s.

Even though things are not as frightening at Taffy’s as they were before, Nancy said that, “Without a doubt, his spirit is still around. It has been a life-changing experience for me, because it was real.”

Who knows if the ghost will make itself known again? Since the Peterses decided not to contact the priest after all, it may only be a matter of time before voices are speaking from the walls again.

Author John Kachuba
Author John Kachuba

About the author:  John Kachuba is the award-winning author of twelve books and numerous articles, short stories and poems. Among his awards are the Thurber Treat Prize for humor writing awarded by The Thurber House and First Place in the Dogwood Fiction Contest. John teaches Creative Writing at Ohio University, Antioch University Midwest and the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries. John frequently speaks on paranormal and metaphysical topics and is a regular speaker at conferences, universities and libraries and on podcasts, radio and TV.

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