Tag Archives: haunted

Spooky Devil’s Backbone Tavern

In today’s post, Michael O. Varhola, author of Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, shares with us his experiences when visiting the spooky Devil’s Backbone Tavern.

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 Backbon Tavern

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
their hair.

“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.

 

Haunted Buffalo Trace Distillery

Patti Starr, author of Ghosthunting Kentucky,  investigates the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Join her on her adventure!

Patti Starr
Patti Starr

When I first got the call from Theresa, a former employee at Buffalo Trace, inviting us to investigate the distillery, I remembered that I had a student, Bobbie Vereeke, whose husband also worked there. Bobbie told me that her husband knew about the ghosts that haunt several of the buildings on the property. While she was a student in my ghosthunter course, Bobbie shared with me her unusual talent for automatic writing, in which a spirit takes control of her hand and writes out messages. I knew she would be a great asset to the investigation because she used that method to communicate with the spirits.

I organized a group of 40 ghosthunters from my organization to investigate the distillery. When we arrived on the property, we drove through the entrance into a beautiful, natural, and rustic setting. It wasn’t hard to imagine herds of buffalos grazing along the traces that lay before us as we circled around to the back of the original main house to the company parking lot below.

When we met our tour guide, she asked us if we wanted to know the history first or did we want to wait until after the investigation. I like to go into an investigation without being briefed about the place beforehand so that if a name or event is revealed to us, we will not be influenced by it until it is later validated through reliable sources. We opted not to get the history until after our investigation and went forth with our ghosthunt.

The guide led us up to the main house, called Stony Point Mansion, because that was where so many of the employees had experienced unexplainable and illogical activity. With our cameras, camcorders, audio recorders, and EMF meters in hand, we started our investigation, moving down the hall towards the back of the house. My EMF meter started to register a disturbance by beeping and flashing a red light. I wanted to electric dowse with the EMF meter, so I asked the invisible entity to stop making the meter go off by backing away. The meter came to an abrupt stop. I thanked the spirit and asked it if it would answer my questions by making the meter beep for “yes” and remain quiet for “no.” It beeped once to agree. This is a method I call electric dowsing. The tour guide was delighted to see this result. I asked if the spirit was a female, and the meter remained silent.

I asked if it was a male, and the meter immediately beeped twice for “yes.” Several gasps came from the group. I continued to ask yes and no questions in order to find out as much as I could about this personality that was coming through for us. When the session was over, I asked our guide if she had any idea who we might be communicating with. She replied, “All of the information that was validated through the meter matches that of a former president by the name of Colonel Blanton. When Blanton was 16 years old, he started to work at the distillery; by the time he was 24, he became president of the whiskey plant. His leadership allowed the company to survive the Great Depression, the Great Flood of 1937, and World War II. His love for people and the company inspired him to build a clubhouse so that employees could have a place for social and community functions. All the employees wanted to work hard and please Colonel Blanton.”

We left the first floor of the mansion and descended into the basement to see what else our instruments would reveal. This time, Bobbie Vereeke felt a strange urge to go into one of the back offices. She sat down at the desk with pen and pad and went into a mild trance so she could give in to the movement of her hand. Soon the writing began. It was amazing to see the words start to appear across her pad. After the session was over, she revealed that she had been in communications with a lady named Anna, a former employee of Colonel Blanton. She wanted to make sure all was well at the distillery. Her job had been to keep the place clean, “spic-and-span” were the words Bobbie wrote, and to keep the Colonel happy. Anna’s words read, “I worked here. I don’t have anywhere else to go. He was a great man, and I just want to please him.”

We left the basement and headed for another building, known as the Riverside house, opposite the boiler room. This house was built in 1792 and is the oldest recorded building still standing in Franklin County. The house is being renovated, but, at the time of our investigation, it was in a deteriorated condition. We were not allowed to go inside for fear of injury, so we stood at the doorway and took pictures of the shabby structure’s interior.

As we backed away from the house, I looked up and saw a face looking down at us from the second floor. I pointed my camera and took a shot but was not able to capture the face in the photo. Another member of my group took a shot and got a faint outline that appeared to be someone looking back at us. It was a good piece of evidence in the camera, but it just didn’t show up once we printed it out on paper.

It has been more than eight years since I did that investigation at Buffalo Trace, so I thought I would call to see if any of the employees were still experiencing any ghostly activity. After introducing myself and explaining the reason for my call, I was routed to Angela Traver, the public relations manager. Angela was attentive; once I asked her if she had experienced any type of paranormal activity, she was gracious enough to share her story with me.

Angela’s office is located in the sunroom of Stony Point Mansion. It was a wintry morning, still dark, when she arrived at her office. Soon after entering the room, she sat her computer case on the floor beside her desk so that she could remove her coat and scarf. As she bent down, she saw a tall, dark figure pass by on her right side. She jerked round and quickly reached for the light switch to see who else was in the room. Once the light was turned on, she could see that the room lay quiet before her with no sign of a dark figure. She recalled, “Knowing that Colonel Blanton was a tall thin man, and the fact that he died in this same room, made me think that maybe he was still making  his rounds in the manor. I was okay with that thought and proceeded to get ready for the day’s business.”

On the last leg of our investigation, we entered the Buffalo Trace Gift Shop. The sales staff gathered around to tell us about the weird experiences they had had while working in the shop. Most of them agreed that the most common occurrence was the sound of footsteps above the gift shop. It sounded as if three or four men were walking around wearing heavy boots. The area above the shop was a storage space. No one was assigned to that area unless they were adding more items to storage. Sometimes, the employees would hear the sounds of objects being dragged across the floor. They said that sometimes it sounded as if the items in storage were being rearranged, even though there was no one on the second floor at that time.

Our group was anxious to get started upstairs. As we ascended the stairs, we were met with a blanket of hot, still air that took my  breath away. It was roasting up there. I didn’t know how long we could last in such heat, so we started immediately gathering evidence. Bobbie held her notebook in her hand, and I took pictures as I recorded my requests of the spirits to speak. My husband, Chuck, took a picture of me just as I asked the spirits to come to me, and he captured the image of a spirit orb hovering over me. I glanced over at Bobbie and saw that she was starting to write. I went over to where she was standing and looked over her shoulder to see what information she was getting. It was hard to make out some of the words, but she later translated them for us. This is what she wrote: “Must be careful here. We know that it is hot, but you need to spend time . . . .” and the message stopped. Then it started back up again: “Four of us are here for work. The big man came to see us daily. He wants to make sure things are done right.” There was another break in the writing and then she continued again: “John, Amos, Fred, and Ralph.” Another pause: “There are secrets in this building. You can find them, but you must look carefully. I found them long ago and protected them. The stone walls are built to hide . . . .” There, the communication stopped.

By this time most of us were about to pass out from the heat. I knew it would not be good for any of us to remain there any longer, so we concluded our investigation and returned to the gift shop below. It was a super experience for all of us. The best part was hearing all the stories and experiences of the employees that helped validate the data that we collected while investigating the distillery.

Colonel Blanton passed away in 1959, after spending more than 55 years doing what he loved best, in the home he loved the most. During his time at the distillery, he went from being office boy to company president, and he was credited with preserving and enhancing one of Kentucky’s historic landmarks. It seems as though the Colonel has made Buffalo Trace Distillery a paranormal landmark as well.

The Story of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney

In today’s post, Michael J. Varhola, coauthor of Ghosthunting Maryland, shares with us the story of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney.

Coast Cutter TaneyInnumerable vessels have passed through Baltimore harbor over the more than three centuries that the city has served as one of the most important ports in North America. Some of these have come to stay for good and, like historic buildings, have been restored and made ready for visitors at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Also like historic buildings, a great many of them—all storied vessels and in several cases veterans of combat in foreign seas or other harrowing action—have ghost stories associated with them. And many of them, even those that are not “officially” occupied by ghosts, participate in “haunted ship” events around Halloween.

Launched in 1936, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney is notable as being the last ship afloat that fought at Pearl Harbor during the surprise Japanese attack on Hawaii in 1941. That alone would warrant it having a few ghosts aboard, but its period of active service continued for many more years, and the vessel was not decommissioned until 1986. USCGC Taney also served as a command ship at the Battle of Okinawa and as a fleet escort in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during World War II, interdicted enemy supplies during the Vietnam War, patrolled in support of drug interdiction and fisheries protection, and joined in the search for lost aviator Amelia Earhart.

In chatting with people who work around the Inner Harbor, we learned that after USS Constellation, USCGC Taney is the local vessel with the greatest reputation for being haunted. Many staff of the vessel and visitors alike—especially those participating in overnight programs—have reported constantly  catching movement out of the corners of their eyes when aboard and seeing spectral forms gliding across its decks and past its open hatchways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

People Report Various Paranormal Phenomena at Piney Point Lighthouse

Today, Michael O. Varhola, author of Ghosthunting Maryland, reports on his visit to the Piney Point Lighthouse.

Pine Point LighthouseLocated along the banks of the lower Potomac River near its approach to the Chesapeake Bay in St. Mary’s County, Piney Point Lighthouse is a conical stone tower with a detached keeper’s house that became operational in 1836. It has sometimes been called the “Lighthouse of Presidents” because of the several U.S. presidents—including James Monroe, Franklin Pierce, Theodore Roosevelt—who fished and relaxed on or near its grounds during vacations from the White House. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1964 and it and the keeper’s house were subsequently incorporated into a little historic complex that includes an adjacent building containing the Potomac River Maritime Exhibit.

Over the years, people have reported various sorts of paranormal phenomena at the place, and, while somewhat off the beaten track, it has received some attention from ghosthunters (e.g., the D.C. Hauntings paranormal group conducted an investigation at the site but declined to share their results). Workers at the site have reported numerous strange phenomena, including hearing people speak to them when no one else was present.

When I visited the site, I took numerous pictures both inside and outside the lighthouse and walked around the exterior of the tower with my microcassette recorder to see whether I could capture any EVPs. While a subsequent review of my tape did not reveal anything definite, something strange happened while I was recording it: As I walked around the tower, it suddenly struck me that something I couldn’t see was touching and raising up the hair on the back of my hand!

About the author: Michael Varhola is a writer who has authored or coauthored 34 books and games—including the swords-and-sorcery novel Swords of Kos: Necropolis and two fantasy writers guides. He has also published more than 120 games and related publications. He is the founder of the game company Skirmisher Publishing LLC, editor in chief of d-Infinity game magazine, and editor of the America’s Haunted Road Trip series of ghosthunting travel guides. He has edited, published, or written for numerous publications, including The New York Times. He also has an active online presence, notably through Facebook and a variety of other blogs, forums, and sites. He lives in the Texas Hill Country.

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.

Lumber Baron Inn

The Lumber Baron Inn in Denver Doesn’t Shy Away from its Haunted Past

Lumber Baron InnLike many hotels, the Lumber Baron provides guests with a comfortable place to stay, as well as a venue for weddings and other events. What the hotel also has is a whole collection of mystery dinners. Tickets for the annual mystery dinner season can be found on the inn’s website.

The eponymous lumber baron was John Mouat, a Scottish immigrant who built the mansion after acquiring his fortune in the lumber industry in the 1890s. After the Mouats, the house was passed down to different families before being converted into separate apartments. This is where the horrors of the so-called mystery mansion come in.

By 1970 the mansion had been converted into individual apartments. One 17-year-old from Golden, Colorado, named Cara Lee Knoche, started living in the building in September of that year. She had previously dropped out of high school. On October 12, 1970, both Knoche and Marianne Weaver, a high school friend of hers, were found dead in Knoche’s apartment. Knoche had been raped and then strangled to death. She was found naked and shoved under the bed with a knife underneath her.

There were signs that she struggled with her attacker and tried to protect herself. Weaver, on the other hand, was found lying on top of the bed with a shot to the head. The police suspect she may have walked in on the murder, in turn to be murdered herself.

The two girls are often thought of as the cause of any paranormal activity that happens in the building. Apparitions of young women have been seen, and the sound of footsteps has been heard. In one case the image of Weaver was thought to be seen in the reflection of a mirror photographed at the inn. In the Valentine Suite, which is where the girls were murdered, some guests have said that they felt something hovering near them. Both images and recordings of cats have been made in the Valentine Suite, even though there was no cat on the premises at the time. Some psychics who have investigated the building claim to have contacted the two women. While they did supposedly go into detail about their deaths, there was unfortunately no information about the killer.

On the other hand, some of the paranormal activity is unrelated to Knoche and Weaver. Some claim that Mouat may still haunt the building. Cold spots have been felt throughout the building, and the house creaks and groans despite heavy renovation. There is also the figure of a woman in Victorian clothing that can be seen on the stairwell. Some also claim it is her shadow you see in the mirror above the fireplace in the front parlor. Some people have also claimed to see a tall woman in a blue dress from the ’20s. Additionally they can smell the cigarette smoke she leaves behind, despite a no-smoking policy in the building. The owner claimed a teenage ghost would greet him in the basement every day as well.

After the murders in the ’70s, the building began to crumble. The next owners, Julie and Walter Keller, found the building in the ’90s and decided to restore it. Their job was not an easy one, as the building was so dilapidated it had been condemned by the city, but it is now considered one of the best examples of original Queen Anne architecture in Denver. The Kellers did not shy away from the paranormal aspect of their hotel and hosted paranormal investigations there on many occasions. But despite booming business, they placed the Mystery Mansion back on the market in June 2014. It sold in April 2016 for $1.7 million to Elaine and Joel Bryant, who will continue to operate it as a bed-and-breakfast.

In her book Ghosthunting ColoradoKailyn Lamb looks at locations throughout the state and dives headfirst into the history behind the ghosts and what has made them stay. Join her in investigating the history of some of Colorado’s most haunted locations, and you might find more than gold in those hills.

Photo credit: Kailyn Lamb

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