Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tell Us a Story, Grandpa

Our grandfather was a war veteran. He fought for the North during the War Between the States. My twin sister and I had since the age of 5 spent All Hollow’s Eve at his home. All 14 of his grandchildren would attend these parties.

We would play games, eat sweets and have the best time of our lives. These evening were made extra special for we were allowed to stay up way passed our bedtimes.

Tired from all the excitement at the end of the evening we would gather around Grandpa as he sat rocking and smoked his favorite pipe. A hush would fall over the room as we waited in anticipation. He knew what was expected but he always acted like he didn’t have a clue.

Soon voices would ring out urging, “Tell us a ghost story Grandpa. Tell us an exciting one!”

Grandpa would raise his eyebrows and tilt his head. “Well you all know I don’t believe in ghosts but when I was your age my parents did tell me some pretty scary stories.”

“Then tell us one--pleasssse.”

“I’m not sure your folks would appreciate me scaring you all.”

This banter would continue for awhile, us begging and Grandpa making excuses but we all knew that he would relent eventually for every Hallowe’en he told us a ghost story.

After we had all settled down and were sitting still, Grandpa started to talk in a quiet tone. We leaned forward so we would not miss a word.

“I guess since you are all older now it is about time I told you a true ghost story.” We nodded solemnly in unison agreeing that we were certainly old enough.

The firelight in the room shined almost as brightly as Grandpa’s eyes. Before he said another word my cousin Billy--always the doubter--stated, “What makes this story true, Grandpa?”

Grandpa put his large hand on Billy’s head gently and smiled, “Because I really saw this ghost.”

Several of us gasped for Grandpa had never said before he had actually seen a ghost.

The White Ghost

It was one night while I was on picket duty. I was out in the open but there was a thicket of trees near where I stood.

It was dark and in the middle of the night when I first saw the ghost, glowing white standing at the edge of the woods.

I didn’t think anything of it at first--you tend to see strange things in the army. Seeing a little thing like a ghost didn’t bother me.

After awhile the ghost just disappeared. This did make me pause since it had vanished right before my eyes.

A brief span of time passed then it appeared again--but this time it was closer.

Several of my cousins shrieked. Grandpa nodded, “I must admit this frightened me too.”

The ghost just vanished once more. It then proceeded to appear and disappear several more times--each time it came closer to where I stood. I was now more nervous.

Hearing this, I felt shivers run up and down my back.

Grandpa continued. I wanted to run but I was on duty and couldn’t leave my post. I had to stand there and watch this ghost come closer and closer each time it appeared.

I started to imagine all kinds of terrible things...

I calmed down by convincing myself that it must be a rebel soldier in disguise. After all, the enemy--Johnny Reb-- was always trying to trick us.

I now became afraid that if this imaginary soldier came close enough to me that he would run me right through with his bayonet.

We all jumped as Grandpa acted this action out.

He then said, “I could feel the sharpness of this point and the pain that would ensue.”

The next time it appeared this white apparition was now just a few feet in front of me. “I raised my gun and fired not caring if the noise roused the entire camp.”

Within moments an officer was standing before me demanding to know what had happened. How could I tell him that I had shot a ghost? He wouldn’t believe me.

Billy shook his head no. “I wouldn’t have.”

Well he didn’t believe me, he ordered another soldier to stand with me at the post until morning.

As dawn broke I spotted a large white form. I went over to inspect it and discovered I had shot a fat cow. It was white on one side and dark red on the other.

In the dark when she turned her red side to me I couldn’t see her but when she turned her white side to me--well she didn’t look like a cow.

I guess she was just wandering the wood eating the grass. But she sure did scare me. 

Billy always practical asked, “What did you do with her? Did you have to pay for her?”

“Nope, the army was grateful for the meat. I can tell you eating that good beefsteak I was downright happy that I saw that ghost.” 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Creepy Horton Mine

This haunting was discovered by Frank who is an experienced mine explorer. He has explored over 100 abandoned mines in the west. He recommends that the inexperienced should not do what he does because often these mines are falling apart and dangerous.

But what he experienced in two of his latest explorations goes beyond this usual danger--for he encountered something otherworldly. He captures both these events on the two videos below.

In the summer of 2013 Frank was exploring the Victorine Mine in an isolated mountain area of Nevada with his video camera when he spotted a Bore Hole outside this mine. He then explored the bottom of the mountain and found the lower mine that this hole leads to.

The tunnel he discovered is the the Horton Mine. He spotted water coming out of the entrance to this mine but since it was running and not stagnant he felt it would be safe to enter this tunnel.

As he walked through the entrance or what he refers to as the portal of this mine he felt this space was odd.

Becoming overwhelmed he felt that he was being watched. As he moved further into the tunnel he felt cold spots and a strong sense of creepiness.

He films several 40-pound chains hanging from this mine’s ceiling. His camera records one of these chains further down the tunnel from him swinging in a wide arch from side to side. Other chains in front of this one are swinging as well.

He expresses that he feels a negative presence.

Knowing this type of chain normally does not move even when a man brushes passed them Frank understandably freaks out and returns to the entrance and leaves.

Here is the short video, which is 3 and a half minutes. It shows these chains moving.

A Return Visit

A year later in 2014 Frank decides to visit the Horton Mine once more. He is curious to see if something else will happen.

In this video he first films the area outside of the Horton Mine then he enters the tunnel. He has found out more about the mine’s history and shares it as he walks further back into the shaft.

He notes once more that this tunnel has a very strong creepy feel to it. He feels as if something is warning him to leave.

The Horton mine was used in the late 1970s and early 1980s as an ore pass. Ore was dropped down the 900-foot Bore Hole from the Victorine Mine on top of the mountain.

It was then conveyed on a Shute that dumped it into motorized tramcars that carried it out. So Horton was used as a transport shaft. This operation by-passed having to carry this ore the long distance down this steep mountain.

As Frank moves further back into this tunnel he films a strange mist and he begins to hear the dripping water that feeds the small stream at his feet.

He reaches the back of the tunnel where he sees the water pouring down from the Bore Hole. As he explains how the operation worked faint voices can be heard talking above the sound of the running water and his voice.

He does not note this so I wonder if he heard what I heard. Faintly at the 6:20 mark and then they get louder at the 6:35 mark.

After he films the machinery and explains how it all worked he walks back down the tunnel toward the entrance. At this point his video camera records sounds that frighten him--these begin at about the 7:46 mark-- to the point where he panics and quickly runs out of the shaft.

He feels a sudden blast of cold air as he hears these ghostly sounds.

They are clearly recorded. There is the distinct sound of people talking and machinery moving--then a two-alarm sounds.

Frank states he will never go back in the Horton Mine.

One has to wonder if the running water and minerals in this mine contribute to this haunting.

This second video shows his return visit in 2014. It is slightly longer--8 and a-half minutes--but hearing the ghostly sounds at the end make the wait worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dead Man’s Curve

There are several versions of this tale told across America. This account is from the east coast.

An hour before the clock had struck twelve and now it was January 1, 1952. The three young couples were in a festive mood for they had been drinking.

One husband, Bill Gardner volunteered to drive the others home since he had not been drinking except for a few campaign sips to toast the New Year.

The road ahead of their car was deserted but Bill became concerned when he saw another car appear--seemingly out of nowhere. It was traveling straight down the middle of the road.

Bill was worried it was going to hit them head on but in the nick of time he was able to cut sharply to the right. As he hit a curve his car crashed down a steep embankment.

Bill climbed out of his car amidst the dust and smoke. He was bleeding but he managed to inspect the condition of his passengers. They were all pinned in the car. They were hurt but still alive.

He started to climb up the hill to get help. As he reached the highway he saw a man standing near the edge looking down.

The man approached him and stated his name was Benjamin Prudden from New Haven. He offered to give Bill a ride to the hospital.

Just before Bill fainted he heard the man say he would send an ambulance back for his friends.

Several weeks later, after Bill had recovered from the accident he went in search of Ben to thank him for saving his life and his friend’s lives. With inquires he was told a family by the name of Prudden lived in Derby.

He borrowed a car since his was totaled and drove there. He asked at a shop where he could find a Benjamin Prudden. He received some odd looks but the shopkeeper offered to show him.

They got in the shopkeepers car and Bill was surprised to see him drive into the town’s cemetery. He was led to a tombstone with this inscription on it:

“Here Lies Benjamin Prudden, 1846-1906”

Bill inquired if there might be another man by the same name, he was told no. The shopkeeper was not surprised by his story about the stranger who helped him in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

He was the 3rd person that had claimed to see Benjamin Prudden since he had died 45 years before. The shopkeeper mentioned that Ben had lost his life on the same curve Bill’s car had veered off of.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas Tree Ghost Ship

From 1898 to 1912 Herman Schuenemann was the Captain of the wooden schooner Rouse Simmons. 

Captain Schuenemann was considered as much a part of Chicago’s Christmas as Santa Claus because his ship was better known as the “Christmas Tree Ship.”

He every November would set sail on Lake Michigan from Thompson with a full cargo of spruces, pines and balsams piled high.

As Schuenemann reached his destination--Chicago he would steer the Rouse Simmons down the Chicago River and up to the Clark Street Bridge were thousands of waving Chicagoans would wait in anticipation.

Once the ship had docked, people swarmed onboard to choose a Christmas tree. They cost 50 cents or a dollar.

“Chicago’s Yuletide season began when the Christmas Tree Ship arrived with evergreens lashed to her masts and rigging… Her skipper would welcome throngs of Chicagoans aboard as soon as the ship’s moorings were secure. Whole families would hurry to the dock to get the pick of the crop. Many wandered on deck to watch the Captain’s daughter, Elsie, weave pine branches into wreaths, which were also for sale.”

         --Reminiscences of Phil Sanders when he was a boy.

Herman Scheuenemann and his brother August before him-- from 1876-to 1898-- always made sure no one left without a tree. Both brothers gave away hundreds of trees to needy families, churches and orphanages.

August was carrying a load of trees to Chicago when his ship went down in 1898 in one of Lake Michigan’s fierce November gales. His brother, Herman made another trip just two weeks later determined Chicago would have its Christmas trees that year.

Unfortunately, fourteen years later Herman would suffer the same fate.

Bad Omens

Lake sailors as well as ocean sailors are a superstitious lot--they have to be. Generations of “old salts” pass down that a sailor needs to be aware of everything that happens on and around their ships.

Captain Herman Schuenemann
in middle with two crew members.
Captain Schuenemann was a competent and cautious sailor but for some reason he ignored a significant number of ominous warnings in November of 1912.

He was planning to sail from Thompson, Michigan on a Friday with a large cargo of trees despite severe storm warnings. His crew was nervous for there was an obvious storm brewing and the captain wanted to start their journey on a Friday.

Sailors considered it extremely unlucky to begin a voyage on a Friday. In the 1800s the British Navy was so annoyed by this superstition they purposefully launched a new ship called HMS Friday on a Friday.

Needless to say this ship and its crew were never seen again.

Captain Charles Nelson, Herman’s partner who had been a lake captain for 50 years tried to persuade Herman to delay but he could not convince him. The captain didn’t want to take the risk of being iced into the harbor and having his ship dashed against the docks by gale-force winds.

Schuenemann then ignored several more bad omens. Just before the schooner left the harbor several sailors watched in horror as droves of rats fled the ship. This was believed to be a sign a ship was in imminent danger.

Three crew members afraid now left the Rouse Simmons forfeiting their pay. This left just 13 crewmembers on the ship. Sailing with thirteen crewmembers was considered to be as dangerous as starting a voyage on a Friday.

Ships at the time nailed a horseshoe to the side of their vessels for good luck. Just as on land it was considered bad luck if these horseshoes where hung upside down--all the luck would run out.

As the Rouse Simmons set sail, the horseshoe that was hung on its side was loosened by strong winds. It was now hanging upside down on a single nail.

The Storm

Captain Schuenemann left the harbor on November 22nd and sailed right into the now infamous Big Storm of 1912.

The temperature immediately dropped from 40 degrees to below freezing.  Rain turned to snow and ice, which coated the ships’ rigging, sails and spars--and the Christmas trees that were on deck.

The next day witnesses in Kewaunee, Wisconsin saw the Rouse Simmons pass flying distress signals. They wondered why the ship with its tattered sails did not just stop but instead sailed into a blinding snowstorm.

“The Two Rivers Life Saving Crew was informed of the ships’ distress signals and set out in search of the schooner but it was never found.”

                   --From an article in the Chronicle of Two Rivers

Wreck of Rouse Simmons
This mystery was not solved until 1971 when the wreck of the Rouse Simmons was found at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Its wheel was missing so the experts concluded that the ships enormous cargo of Christmas trees had basically turned into ice blocks on deck, which then slid into the wheel leaving the captain unable to control the ships’ course.

Phantom Bells and a Ghost Ship

One popular sailor superstition is that when a ship’s bells are heard ringing of their own accord, as in a storm, this foretells death.

In the days after the Rouse Simmons was lost several people near Two Rivers, Wisconsin reported hearing phantom bells and phantom cries in the wind.

A ghost ship has also been seen through the years. It is often spotted on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gliding in the waters near Two Rivers. People report as they watch-- it just vanishes into a mist.

Exempts from Haunted Christmas by Mary Beth Crain

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Christmas Angel

Roger in 1952 and the
The young man in this story receives a unique Christmas gift.

My parents abandoned me at the age of 4 and my grandparents placed me in an orphanage. By my eleventh birthday I was seen as a chronic runaway.

It was Christmas Eve and my school let out early. As I exited the gate instead of getting on the bus I just kept walking. By the time it became dark I was tired, cold and afraid.

I had not eaten all day but my first concern was the police. If they found me and returned me to the orphanage I would be beaten.

With no alternative I just kept walking. I entered a park and sat on a wooden bench that was in the shadows hoping not to be seen.

It was now very cold and I started to shiver. 

“Well, hello young man.” A voice came out of the quiet that surrounded me.

I jumped almost falling off the bench. My heart was racing. I could feel its beat against my neck.

I looked up and saw an old woman standing behind me. She watched me with piercing brown eyes.

“You look cold.”

“I am cold, real cold.”

She approached and wrapped her shawl around my shoulders.

I asked, “But ain’t you gonna be cold now?”

“I’ll be okay. Is there anything else you need?”

“I sure could use some food.”

She started down the sidewalk. “Follow me.”

As she stopped under a streetlamp she held out her hand to me.

“Here, you take this letter and give it to a store owner.”

I looked at her outstretched hand but didn’t see anything. I looked up her. “There is nothing in your hand.”

She shrugged and firmly stated, “Roger reach out and take what is in my hand.”

Slowly I reached out and pretended to take something. She nodded her approval.

“Now close your finger and thumb and hold on tightly.”

I did as she instructed as if I was grasping the letter.

“Take it to any store owner.”

“What do I say to them?”


“But what store do I go to?”

She smiled, “It doesn’t matter.”

I walked out of the park. I came to a store where a woman stood behind the counter. I entered the shop and stopped directly in front of her.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” I looked down at my shoes.

She reached out and touched my hand. I opened my tightly closed fingers. She drew back and smiled as she looked down at her own hand.

She then walked to the back of the store. I slowly inched toward the front of the store afraid she was calling the police.

As I reached the door she called out my name. I whirled around and saw a paper plate in her hand.

“Roger here is something for you to eat.”

“How did you know my name?”

“It was on the paper.”

“But there is no paper.”

She just smiled and indicated with her hand that I should eat. I cleaned that plate quickly and I drank two Coca Colas.

“Are you full?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Then it is time for you to go.”

As I turned to leave she touched my shoulder. She held out her hand. “Here, you almost forgot your letter.”

Again, saying nothing, I closed my finger and thumb tightly as if taking something from her.

I walked back to the park. When I arrived the old woman was sitting on the park bench.

“Did you eat?’

“Yes Ma’am, I drank two Coca Colas.”


I looked at her and asked, “How do you get the magic?”

“Its not magic.”

“But how does everyone know my name?”

“It was written in the letter.”

“Can I keep the letter so I can be magic too?”

She reached out and opened my firmly closed fingers. She took whatever it was I was holding and tucked it in her apron pocket.

She looked at me steadily. “Would you help someone if they were hungry?”

Yes, Ma’am.”

“Would you help someone if they were hurt, cold or scared?”

“Yes, Ma’am, I would be their friend.”

She smiled at me. “Roger, you are a very lucky little boy. You will never need the letter.”

She stood up, kissed me on the forehead removed her shawl from my shoulders and walked down the sidewalk.

I watched as she disappeared into the darkness.

Roger is an author and storyteller today.