Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Demon of Brownsville Road

Bob Cranmer, a former Allegheny County Commissioner, bought in 1988, what he thought would be his family’s dream home . . .

Grand Oaks Manor
This house, just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was huge, in good shape for its age, and the right price.

But the family quickly regretted this purchase.

During the walk-through as Bob, his wife, Lesa, and their four children inspected their new home they found their youngest son sitting on the staircase crying hysterically.

They never discovered why.

Bob Cranmer
At first, odd activity like faucets, radios, and lights turning off and on, didn’t bother Bob. He brushed it off--it must be just old plumbing and wiring.

But then other strange things began to happen.

Members of the family began to wake up with unexplained scratch and bite marks on their legs. At night they heard loud pounding on the walls.

Mysterious footsteps where heard in the hallway and members of the family were either tripped or pushed by invisible hands.

The family began to avoid one room in the house, known as the Blue Room, because of a shadowy, dark figure that they had seen and sensed was evil. This figure was always accompanied by a “rotting smell.”

Blue Room
Members of the family began to wear crosses for protection. These often would be found bent, broken in two, and some were flung across the room.

Bob did research about the history of the home and discovered it had a violent past.

The property it sat upon was the site of a 1700 massacre. Native Americans had killed a group of white settlers.

In 1909, the builder of the home had become so disturbed by what he felt was a haunting in the area that he “cursed the house.”

In the 1920s and 30s, a doctor rented a room in the home. It was believed he performed hundreds of abortions in this space.

By 2003, this evil presence drove Bob’s wife and two of his sons into temporary insanity. All three spent time in psychiatric wards.

After living in the home for 18 years, in 2006, the family decided to fight back.

Bob spent months reading Bible verses out loud each night despite the fact bite and scratch marks continued to appear on his body.

He brought in a demonologist, who felt the activity centered in one closet in the home. When a wall was torn down in this area, items belonging to previous owners, plus Bob’s family were discovered.

They all had scribbling on the back, with hateful mean things written about each object’s owner.

Cranmer's Book
A local priest then performed an exorcism.

Bob, who still lives at Grand Oaks, feels this worked, for there has been no further demonic activity in the home.

In his book, The Demon of Brownsville Road, Bob shares more details about this story.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Burial of Octavia Spencer

Blue Ridge Mountains
Here is an Appalachian ghost story. Various versions are shared depending upon whether it is told in Virginia, Tennessee, or Kentucky.

Sadly, Octavia Spencer died of a mysterious illness, after giving birth, in the 1890s.

Her son died within days of being born, and Octavia went into a deep depression. Her family and friends were unable to help her, so a doctor was called in.

By the time this man arrived, he found Octavio in a dream-like state, similar to a coma. Frustrated the doctor was unable to determine what was happening.

Within hours his patient appeared to stop breathing, and the mourning family following the hill custom quickly arranged to bury Octavia that same day, on the top of the mountain.

Several days later, the doctor found himself treating several patients that exhibited the same symptoms as Octavia’s.

They all had lapsed into a deep dream-like state. Their breathing turned shallow as well.

But within a day they all began to wake up. In shock, it dawned on the doctor that he had made a terrible mistake. He immediately demanded that Octavia’s body be exhumed.

When her coffin was opened, it became apparent that she had died of asphyxiation.

To everyone’s horror, there were signs Octavia had struggled before her death. They found scratch marks on the lid. She had tried to escape.

Her body was then reburied in the family plot in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Mountain Grave
For over a century, witnesses have claimed there is unusual activity near Octavia’s grave.

Many locals have reported hearing hysterical cries at night. Others who are brave enough to go near her grave state they have heard scratching sounds on the old, rustic, wood cross that marks the spot.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sally Townsend's Ghost

Raynham Hall located in Oyster Bay, New York was the home of the Townsend family during the American Revolutionary War. 

During this war, Americans were either Patriots—those who wanted independence from Great Britain, or Loyalists those who remained loyal to King George and wanted to stay an English Colony. 

Samuel Townsend was a Patriot and one of his older sons Robert was a participant in a Patriot intelligence group called the Culper Spy Ring.

Most of the Americans who lived in Oyster Bay were Loyalists, so the Townsends were in the minority. 

After the Patriot’s defeat at the Battle of Long Island, to add insult to injury, Samuel Townsend was forced to quarter in his home two of his enemies Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe and Major Andre both British officers who commanded an elite unit of American Loyalists called the Queen’s Rangers. 

Samuel Townsend told his children to treat the officers with respect. One of Samuel’s daughters Sally Townsend enjoyed the company of these two British soldiers. Despite her father’s protests she continued to associate with them. She eventually fell in love with John Graves Simcoe, and he returned her affection. 

Sally Townsend

Raynham Hall is a museum today, it contains what is considered the oldest Valentine preserved in American History. John gave this valentine, dated February 14, 1779, to Sally.

During this time the Culper Spy Ring was supplying needed information about British plans and troop movements to George Washington. Simcoe, in turn, was using Raynham Hall as a drop off location for British intelligence

Sally reading one evening in the Hall’s living room stayed hidden while one of these notes was placed in a container in the room. She read the note—it confirmed intelligence that Major Andre had been working on--Benedict Arnold, the commander of West Point, would accept a bribe to betray the Patriots by offering to surrender the fort and his troops to the British.
Sally, knowing this information would harm her country was torn between her feelings of love for Simcoe and her loyalty for America. She knew she must betray one or the other. Finally, heartbroken she informed her father of this plot.

This information was passed on to Benjamin Tallmadge, who had organized the Culper Spy Ring. Major Andre was found, on him, he held the plans for the fortification of West Point that Arnold, following through with his betrayal, had given him.

Self-portrait Major Andre drew
the night before he was executed.

He was hanged for a spy since he was caught out of uniform. Andre was well liked by all, so his death was mourned. Sally’s brother Robert regretted it deeply. 

On a monument the Americans erected to Andre’s memory there is a quote from George Washington. “He was more unfortunate than criminal an accomplished man and a gallant soldier.”

The choice Sally made allowed West Point to be saved from British control. This helped the Patriots win the war. Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for Sally Townsend. 

When John found out about her part, he vowed to avenge Andre’s death and left Oyster Bay never to return. He later married and was made a Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. 
Raymond Hall

Sally lived the rest of her life at Raynham Hall. It is said she thought of John every day of her life. She died a spinster at the age of 82. Among her remaining possessions was the valentine that John gave her.

The ghost of Major Andre supposedly visited Sally at Raynham Hall to tell her he forgave her betrayal of him. 

But Sally was never able to forgive herself for betraying, John, the only love of her life. 

Today there is a female ghost that haunts Raynham Hall--Sally Townsend. Her bedroom, known as the west room, is always colder than the rest of the house. 

Tour guides mention that they have to wear a sweater when they are in her bedroom. Many people avoid the room altogether stating they always feel someone is behind them. Others report they feel conflicted emotions upon entering the room.

Sally Townsend is a true unsung hero of the American Revolution because she chose her country over her love.

The Legend of La Llorona

Old Spanish song about La Llorona

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own

She weeps when the sun is murky red
She wails when the moon is old
She cries for her babies, still and dead,
Who drowned in the water cold

She seeks her children day and night,
Wandering, lost, and cold
She weeps and moans in dark and light,
A tortured, restless soul

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own

In another post, I talked about how children in New Mexico are very familiar with the La Llorona story. La Llorona is New Mexico’s most famous ghost. 

If you visit anywhere along the Rio Grande river in my state, you will encounter New Mexicans who will gladly relate their version of La Llorona. This story is told in other parts of the country, but the following story is one often told in New Mexico.

In the early 1700s, there was a young woman named Maria who lived in a small village along the Rio Grande. 

As Maria matured, she began to attract much attention in the village because she was lovely. Her family was impoverished, so her mother encouraged Maria to marry one of the local men. 

Maria with the firm self-belief that her beauty would someday attract a wealthy man refused.

One day a handsome young man rode into the village. He was the son of a rancher in Mexico. He wore tailored clothes and rode a well-groomed horse with a fancy saddle—all the signs of a man of wealth.

Maria started to follow him around, she tried to catch his eye, but he only noticed the better dressed young girls in the village. At night he would play his guitar for the locals, many young ladies swooned at his golden voice. Maria was sure her heart would break.

Then one day as Maria shopped the young rancher stopped near her. Maria blushed with embarrassment because she wore an old dirty, tattered dress. 

But her blush caught his eye, and for the first time, he noticed how beautiful she was. He began to court Maria. 

Within a short time, he had paid Maria’s father a large dowry so he could marry her. Knowing his family would not accept his marriage to a woman from a lower class—the couple settled along the Rio Grande.

Over the next several years Maria’s husband worked as a merchant along the El Camino Real, and Maria bore him three children. But as the years passed Maria and her wealthy husband grew apart. 

He spent less and less time at home, and he showed no interest in their children. Maria began to suspect that he was seeing another woman while he was away.

Maria’s suspicions were confirmed when she spotted her husband riding in a buggy with a beautiful young woman by his side. Her heart was broken. 

She exploded in a jealous rage. Distraught she thought that if only she did not have the children, her husband would love her once more. 

Rio Grand River
In a rage, she dragged her children one by one to the river and held their heads under the water until they drowned.

Her senses lost to reality; she approached her husband and told him what she had done for him. Horrified he ordered her out of his life. 

Numb she wandered the streets of the village for several days crying for her children. The villagers started to call her La Llorona—meaning the wailing woman.

Maria realized she had lost everything dear to her, so she went down to the river and cried for her children. 

She then flung herself into the river. Her body was never found. 

Another view of Rio Grande
People in New Mexico still see a woman dressed all in white walking along paths near water. They hear Maria’s desperate cries for her children and then she slowly fades away.

Many believe she is condemned to wander, weeping and searching for her children. Others believe that she is a harbinger of death—if you see her someone will die.