Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mine Spirits: Knockers

Many miners in the 19th century both in the United Kingdom and America believed in the existence of helpful mine spirits.

This folklore began in Cornwall, England where miners believed in spirits that lived and worked in mines, especially tin mines, these spirits were called Knockers. 

They were considered to be friendly and helpful, they could also be mischievous but they were not evil or malicious like the German Kobold mine spirits. They sometimes stole miner’s unattended tools and food. 

Knockers went by many names: Buccas, Knackers, Nickers, Nuggies, and Spriggans. In American these mine spirits were known as tommyknockers.

Cornish Miner
Knockers were so named because of the knocking sounds they make in mine shafts as they work. 

In Cornwall, they were considered to be the ghosts of Jews who worked in the mines. Some stories state that these Jews were sent by the Romans to work in the mines as a form of punishment—for the death of Christ. It is said because of this knockers cannot tolerate the sign of the cross, so miners avoided making anything with a cross or an X. 

According to the legend, knockers were very industrious—they were seen working through the night. They are most often associated with rich lodes of ore; thus, miners would pay close attention to where they heard these supernatural knockings. 

Miners reported hearing laughter and footsteps and sometimes they reported seeing them. They were most often described as very small in stature and wearing tiny versions of standard miner’s garb. Miners recounted seeing them working alongside the living.

They were known to help miners in trouble. It is stated that whistling offended knockers so miners believed it to be unlucky to whistle in mines. It was also believed that miners should leave food offerings for knockers so they would not cause trouble. Miners were known to carry extra food in their lunch pails.

In American mines, tommyknockers behaved similarly to their Cornish counterparts. Though a few were attributed with traits more similar to the vicious German Kobolds. 

In the late 19th Century, the Mamie R. Mine, in Cripple Creek, Colorado, was supposedly haunted by malicious tommyknockers that lured miners and then proceeded to jump up and down on beams until they collapsed upon the men. 

These tommyknockers were also blamed for snapping cables and for premature blasts; they were heard snickering at the miners as they did their evil deeds. In another post I write more about this Cripple Creek story.

Cornish miners during the California Gold Rush of 1848 were much sought after. They were often referred to as “Cousin Jacks.” This is because mine owners would ask their workers if they knew of other miners that were willing to work. These miners would reply, “”Well me cousin Jack over in Cornwall will come, if ye can pay the boat ride…” 

The Cousin Jacks were notorious for losing tools as they were diving out of shafts just before they collapsed. They always credited their knocker friends for saving them and refused to go back to work until assured by the management that the knockers were already back working. 

Belief in knockers lasted well into the 20th century. When one large mine was closed in 1956, the owners sealed the entrance, several generations of Cousin Jacks circulated a petition calling on the mine owners to free the knockers so they could move on to other mines. The owners complied.

Throughout the southwest, including other mines in Colorado, friendlier tommyknockers were described as protective and helpful. Miners in general viewed these supernatural companions with fondness, and told many stories about them—miners were known to make room for them at the bar at the end of their shifts. 

Tommyknocker stories were frequently written about in local newspapers. While doing research on western mines and miners; I often find references to tommyknockers.

Today these spirits are believed to haunt abandoned mines.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Bodie Curse


Today Bodie, California is one of the few ghost towns in America to be preserved in “a state of decay” as a State Historic Park, and a designated National Historic site. Located in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Bodie hosts over 200,000 visitors a year, mostly in the summer since the dirt road that leads to Bodie is often covered in deep snow in the winter months. 

Ten years after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill which led to the Gold Rush of 1849; W. S. Bodey and three other prospectors, discovered another rich strike of gold on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The four men agreed to keep their discovery a secret. Bodey perished in a blizzard in November of 1859 so he never saw the boomtown that was named after him. A sign painter’s error is attributed to the town’s name being spelled Bodie instead of Bodey.

With competition from two silver strikes, one being the Comstock Lode under Virginia City, it was several years before people took note of Bodie. By 1868 only two companies had built stamp mills in Bodie and both of them had failed. In 1876, a profitable deposit of gold bearing ore was discovered, overnight Bodie became a Wild West boomtown. By 1879 Bodie had a population between 5000-7000, and around 2000 buildings and nine stamp mines. These mines produced gold valued at 34 million dollars.

Unfortunately, Bodie became known for more than it’s gold. One young girl upon hearing her family was moving to Bodie reportedly prayed: “Goodbye God, we are going to Bodie.” A good description of the town’s rowdiness was published in 1925:

“Besides the business and professional men, mine-operators, miners, etc. there were hundreds of saloon-keepers, hundreds of gamblers, hundreds of prostitutes….Bad men—desperate, violent characters from everywhere, who lived by gambling, gun-fighting, stage robbing, and other questionable means. The ‘Bad Men of Bodie’ was a current phrase of the time throughout the west. So in its day, Bodie was more widely known for its lawlessness than for its riches.”

Bodie’s fame was short-lived; by 1910 only 698 people remained. The mines for the most part had played out, in 1913 the main mine closed and in 1917 the railroad was abandoned. The last mine officially closed in 1942, due to an order by the War Production Board to shut down all nonessential gold mines in the United States. This same year Bodie’s post office closed. As early as 1915 Bodie was labeled a ghost town. Despite this in 1920, 120 people still lived in Bodie.

In 1932 a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district. In 1943 one of the town’s few remaining citizens, Martin Gianetttoni, became its caretaker. He protected the town from vandalism. In 1962 Bodie became a State Historic Park—it was named California’s official gold rush town. A total of 170 buildings remain today. The interiors of these buildings remain as they were left, the reason for this being there was no moving companies available so people took only what they could pack into their cars or carry with them. Today, a store’s shelves are still stocked with goods etc.

One of the original homes on Green Street in Bodie is the Cain house. J.S. Cain was one of the first settlers in Bodie, he built his home in 1873; he brought his wife and a beautiful Chinese maid to assist her to Bodie. Almost immediately the men of the town started wondering about his relationship with this maid, his wife hearing the rumors insisted he dismiss her. The story goes that after she was let go she hung herself that very night in her room in the Cain house.

Since Bodie was declared a state park the Cain house has been used as quarters for the park rangers that work there. Several of them have seen and felt this Chinese maid. She is reported to like children better than adults. Cold spots are felt, doors have been slammed and she is known to wake people out of sleep by sitting on them. Employees who have seen and felt this maid refuse to stay in the house.

Park employees and visitors alike have seen lights flash on and off in long-deserted buildings. The sounds of distant music and boisterous conversation have been heard within abandoned Bodie households. And people passing by the old mine shaft have sworn they have heard chains rattling and men grunting within.

Another Bodie spirit has been seen at the town’s cemetery. A male visitor spotted a little girl playing and giggling with an unseen entity. This “Angel of Bodie” as she is known-- was the three-year old daughter of Albert and Fanny Myers who died in 1897—she was supposedly killed when she accidently hit her head on a miner’s pick ax. On top of her grave sits a marble craving of an angel child. Skeptics state that the child seen was just playing with this statue. But the witness stated that the child was running around—being chased apparently.

"The  Bodie Curse” has the most documented stories. This legend was described in a television documentary entitled “Beyond 2000.”

“Bodie’s inhabitants were hardy stock, fiercely possessive of what they had built in this barren desert, and it is said that the long-dead spirits want to ensure that what they left behind remains intact. According to legend, anyone who removes anything--large or small--from the town is cursed with a string of bad luck. Misfortune and tragedy are heaped upon the victim until the stolen item is returned. Some claim that the ghosts of Bodie patrol the crumbling ruins to guard against thieves.”

The museum’s gift shop in Bodie displays an album of letters from people who believe they are cursed. One letter was sent in 1992, the writer had taken a nail from Bodie, he states, “Life since then has been a steady downward slide. It’s possible that all the unpleasant events of the past nine months are a coincidence, but just in case the Bodie curse is real I am returning the nail.” Another letter, from 1994, is addressed:

“Dear Bodie Spirits:

I am SORRY! One year ago around the 4th of July I visited the Ghost Town. I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting. This trip was different; I collected some items here and there and brought them home. I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had ‘bad luck.’ I started to think about the car accident, the loss of my job, my continuing illness and the other bad things that have ‘haunted’ me for the past year since my visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but… Please find enclosed the collectables I ‘just couldn’t live without,’ and ask the spirits to see my regret.”

This letter was signed, “One with a very guilty conscience.”

On another television series in 2000 entitled “Beyond Bizarre,” a German man retells his uncle’s experience:

“My uncle removed a small bottle from Bodie, two days later he had a car accident on the Autobahn. The next day his son took the bottle to school to show classmates and on the way home had a bicycle accident.” The man stated, “Yes, I do believe in the curse of Bodie.”

According to park rangers at Bodie they receive souvenirs sent in unmarked boxes all the time. Most are accompanied with notes from people stating they hope their luck will change. Skeptics state that this legend is kept alive in order to protect the town from pillagers. Either way this curse does help to preserve Bodie.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ghost Hunting: Keep a Written Log

Keeping a written log during an investigation is as important as using EMF meters, cameras, digital voice recorders etc. 

This written record can be as simple as a checklist or it can be a more elaborate narrative of everything that occurs during a ghost investigation. 

Below is a sample list of possible items to include. Note my team often uses a digital voice recorder—to create a voice log--- for this purpose instead, so our hands are free to do other things.

Note location and investigators present
Always note the time
Note all equipment used
For EVP sessions note time started and ended, note all extraneous noise
Note the location and then where specifically you are, bedroom, staircase etc.
Note who is in the area or room
Note all baseline readings
List all electrical items in area, whether they are on or off, plugged in or not
Note where all power sources are located
Note water locations
Note any fluctuations on meters, time occurred and any temperature changes, time occurred etc.
List all equipment used and where
Map showing where cameras, digital recorders were placed
Note if area or building is occupied presently or empty
List of any phenomena that was heard, seen, etc., also note who saw or heard it
Note anything unusual
List any investigator’s personal experiences
List of items debunked
List of items not able to debunk, if any
Notes on team members and who they where paired with and where they investigated
Trigger objects used, if any
Locations and time when still photos were taken
Note any battery drain
Note any odors
Note any items moved
Note any extraneous noise in area investigating

Also include these items:

Include history of location and activity that has occurred
Note if clients were present
Map or floor plan of area
Note the moon phase
Note sunspot activity
Note weather conditions
Note temperature
Note barometric pressure
If any, note seismic activity
Note altitude
Again-- always note the time for everything…

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Ghosts of La Maison LaLaurie


In the French Quarter in New Orleans on the corner of Royal Street and Governor Nicholls Street stands a mansion that for 150 years has been considered the most haunted location in The Quarter. This area like most of the French Quarter survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

This story is about the infamous original owner of the mansion. Delphine Macarty was born in 1775 to parents whom were prominent members of New Orleans’ white Creole community. 

Delphine’s cousin was the mayor of the city from 1815 till 1820. Delphine’s first husband was a Spanish officer. When he died Delphine married a prominent banker, merchant, lawyer, and legislator. When he died she remarried for a third time. She had five children from her first two marriages.

Lenard LaLaurie, her third husband was a physician who was much younger than she. In 1872 Delphine built a three-story mansion on Royal Street. Like most people in their social class the Lalaurie’s owned slaves. When the mansion was built slave quarters were attached to the main house. Delphine, her husband, and two of her daughters moved in.

In public Delphine appeared to be polite to black people and she expressed concern for the health and welfare of her slaves. But her slaves’ “singularly haggard and wretched appearance belied this fact.” Rumors that she mistreated her slaves became widespread. 

As a result of this a local lawyer was dispatched to her home to warn her that there were laws relevant to the upkeep of slaves.

A neighbor witnessed, a young black slave girl fall to her death from the roof of the mansion while attempting to escape Delphine’s whip-wielding punishment. 

This incident led to an investigation of the LaLauries in which they were found guilty of illegal cruelty and forced to forfeit nine of their slaves. But these nine slaves were bought back by a relative of the LaLauries and returned to Royal Street.

The abuse continued. She kept her cook chained to the stove and her daughters were beaten when they attempted to sneak food to the slaves. On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in the mansion. 

As reported by the New Orleans Bee, a local newspaper, bystanders responding to the fire attempted to enter the slave quarters to make sure everyone was evacuated. The LaLaurie’s refused to hand over the keys so the rescuers broke down the door. The Bee reported what they found, “seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated…suspended by the neck, with limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other,” they had apparently been imprisoned there for several months in order to prolong their suffering.

Judge Jean-Francois Canonge, a witness, recounted what he saw, “a nigress…wearing an iron collar,” and “an old negro woman who had received a very deep wound on her head,” when found, "she was too weak to walk." 

Canonge tried to talk to Dr. LaLaurie about the slaves condition but LaLaurie insolently replied, “that some people had better stay home rather than come to other’s houses to dictate laws and meddle with other people’s business.”

It was claimed the cook set the fire deliberately to draw attention to the plight of the slaves. Once the story of the tortured slaves became widely known, a mob descended upon the LaLaurie mansion. By the time a sheriff and his officers were able to disperse the crowd the Royal Street property had sustained major damage, “with scarcely any thing left remaining, but the walls.” 

To add insult to injury the tortured slaves were taken to a local jail, where they were made available for public viewing. The Bee reported by April 12th up to 4000 people had seen the tortured slaves, “to convince themselves of their suffering.”

Two other local papers reported that two of the slaves died. It was also disclosed that the mansions yard was dug up and two bodies were found, one being the body of a young child. 

The LaLauries fled fearing for their lives. It is believed they sailed for Paris. The circumstances of how Delphine LaLaurie died are unknown. 

Years later, in New Orleans, in St. Louis Cemetery #1 an old cracked copper plate was discovered in ally #4. The inscription on the plate reads, “Madame LaLaurie, née Marie Delphine Macarty, décédée à Paris, le 7 Décembre, 1842, à l'âge de 67” translated this means—Madame LaLaurie, born Marie Delphine Marcarty, died in Paris, December 7, 1842, at the age of 67.

Since the mid 1940’s many exaggerated myths have been told and written about Delphine’s treatment of her slaves. These attempts at embellishment are grotesque considering that the truth, alone, is unconscionable. 

After the LaLaurie’s left New Orleans the mansion at Royal Street stood empty for over forty years. Around 1888 it was restored, over the following decades it was used as a public high school, a music conservatory, a tenement, a refuse for young delinquents, a bar, a furniture store, and today it is luxury apartments. 

At one point actor Nicholas Cage owned the mansion, his wife and children refused to sleep under its roof.

Since the late 1880’s there have been numerous reports that the mansion is haunted. The activity became so bad when it was an Italian tenement house that all the residents moved out. The furniture company was driven out as well. In recent years footsteps and disembodied voices have been heard.

One witness whose friends lived in the mansion had two compelling experiences while at Royal Street. 

The first happened as she stood on an interior balcony overlooking the courtyard. This courtyard was where the bodies were found. She was confused when she heard children laughing, and running across the brick path below because she saw no one.

Her second encounter happened when she was helping her friends move out. She was packing books in a part of the house that was rarely used. She felt the room grow cold, a light turned on in an adjourning room, and a vaporous male figure appeared at the door. His head, shoulders, and waist were solid but he had no visible legs. His white shirt had a ruffle at the neck; he had long slicked hair with a trim beard. He looked at her with a questioning glance, tilted his head and vanished. Horrified she ran from the room. 

Her friends told her that they had also seen a male figure in this area of the mansion. A smell of pipe or cigar smoke always lingered after he disappeared. The owners believed he was Dr. Leonard LaLaurie, Delphine’s husband.

During a restoration of a downstairs fireplace a rolled up charcoal portrait of Delphine was found. After this discovery strange activity began to occur in the room. 

Tools and paintbrushes disappeared and a drop cloth was found bundled up in the fireplace grate by the morning work crew. 

One worker saw a misty “grey lady” standing at the foot of his ladder. After feeling a tug on his trouser leg, the man looked down into a set of creepy, glaring eyes. As he watched, the grey mist disappeared. The man left the house quickly. Some say this was Delphine showing her disapproval of the renovation.

Friday, July 22, 2011

San Francisco’s Lost and Unclaimed Dead

This is a story that is not often told about San Francisco even though it caused a heated controversy for years. San Francisco is considered one of the most beautiful cities in America, but its human history is filled with tragedy. 

The city sits on a peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate strait, and the San Francisco Bay. The city itself is laid out over a grid of 40 majestic hills, reaching heights of nearly 1,000 feet. This landscape is breathtaking but San Francisco's geography creates a shortage of land.
Colma's first cemetery
In 1849 the California Gold Rush brought hundreds of thousands of people into San Francisco with them came disease leading to a high death rate. Twenty-six cemeteries were established and most were filled quickly. In the late 1880’s cemetery owners started looking for other property to bury their dead. The south end of Colma, an area near San Francisco, was chosen because there was easy access by carriage, streetcar and train to this location.

In the late 1890’s California passed State Penal Code 294 prohibiting burials anywhere except established cemeteries. A mere ten years later, on March 26, 1900, the city of San Francisco passed an ordinance that there were to be no more burials allowed, as the land was too valuable to be wasted on the dead, it should be used for the living. 

Removing Cemetery
After several years of debate on January 14, 1914, eviction notices were sent out to all cemeteries, but one, to remove their bodies and monuments. Colma inherited hundreds of thousands of bodies. Most of these remains went into mass graves, as there were no relatives to pay the $10.00 for removal. It took nine and a half years to complete the excavation; people today say that not all the bodies were actually moved for it would have taken the workers much longer than this to complete the task.

Map of San Francisco's Cemeteries
The exact numbers of souls moved or not moved is not known because the records of many who were buried were destroyed in the fires that resulted from the Great Earthquake of April 18, 1906. There are twenty-seven sites around San Francisco today that were once used as cemeteries. Three of these sites, because of the lack of records, are suspected to have bodies that were not removed. 

The first was Golden Gate Park Cemetery. Today it is the Lincoln Park Golf Course. It is estimated that there are still 11,000 bodies, originally from a pauper's field, all indigent, that still remain beneath the Legion of Honor Museum. 

The second was the Russian Hill Cemetery. It was actively used from 1848-1853 it is reported that thirty to forty graves remain at the summits today. 

The third is St. Michael’s Cemetery. Originally located on Nebraska Street in 1867, which today is the southwest corner of San Bruno Avenue and 21st Street. Again, it is suspected not all the bodies were moved because the records on how many people were buried there were lost or not kept.

Today what used to be Fort Mason and the Presidio have a standing warning that if people in the area dig up old graves they should immediately call 911. The Presidio and Alcatraz are known to be haunted. But with all the lost and unclaimed dead that still remain under San Francisco it is no surprise there are hauntings all around the city. I will discuss just two of these locations—there are many more.

Bell Tower
The San Francisco Arts Institute was built in 1925 on the north slope of Russian Hill upon the grounds that once were a mission cemetery. The institute has always experienced strange nocturnal activities. A night watchman and student, Bill Morehouse, who was living in the bell tower was a witness to this activity. 

One night he heard the street level doors he had locked open and close. He then listened frozen in fear as footsteps slowly ascended three sets of stairs. The door to his room opened and closed, he saw no one enter. Incidents similar to this occurred many times after this but every time he investigated there was never anyone there and no sign as to the cause.

Over the years a variety of manifestations including eerie flickering lights and power tools mysteriously turning on and off were reported by Haywood King and Wally Hedrick who worked at the institute. 

For a while, it was felt that this activity had finally settled down. But in 1968 the bell tower was renovated. 

A series of near fatal accidents were blamed on the resident ghosts. Some of the construction workers quit the site because it scared them. In recent years the school has kept the bell tower closed. They state it is unsafe but many feel that the real reason is that the San Francisco Art Institutes’ ghosts do not want people in their tower.

Yerba Buena Cemetery
Perhaps the most haunted location in San Francisco is City Hall. This building sits on land that used to be Yerba Buena Cemetery--1850 to 1871—the cities largest cemetery. At the time many of San Francisco’s smaller graveyards located in the Telegraph Hill, North Beach, and Russian Hill neighborhoods, were moved to Yerba Buena because there were complaints about how unsightly and unsanitary these smaller graveyards were. When Yerba Buena Cemetery was moved later to Colma, the work was done sloppily.

Along with cold spots being felt, smoke-like apparitions have been seen at City Hall. One tour guide, Rob Spoor, experienced this phenomena first hand one evening. He had finished taking his group around when he realized he had left his binder of ghost stories behind. He re-entered a room to retrieve it and came face to face with one of these smoky apparitions. 

On another occasion while Spoor was speaking to several guests he felt a poke on his back. Thinking it was someone trying to pass he stepped aside only to realize no one was there. Spoor tells stories of people on his ghost tours that walk in skeptics and leave believers. He states the reason there is a lot of activity at City Hall is because the land it sits upon has a history of disturbed spirits.

People who work at City Hall have also had encounters with ghosts. They hear doors and cabinets slamming shut, they have seen lights turning on and off without logical explanation. Several of these employees have seen dark shadows roaming the hallways while they were working alone in the building at night.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Ghosts and Legends of Highway 666


Growing up in New Mexico I have heard many stories about a lonely stretch of highway near Gallup within view of Shiprock called Highway 666. 

Many people over the years have been killed in accidents along this road. Christians feel the three 6’s represents what they refer to as the “Number of the Beast.” Because of the random number assigned to this highway it became known as the “Devil’s Highway” this name is part of the urban legend that surrounds it.




The Native Americans that live in the area call the ancient eroded volcano of Shiprock Tse Bi dahi meaning “Rock with Wings” this came from an ancient myth that tells how the rock was once a great bird that transported the ancestors of the Navajo to the land were they now live in northwestern New Mexico.

The Indians in this area believe in people who have the ability to transform into various animals. These people are called skinwalkers. A general term for this is shapeshifting. 

The Native Americans in the area believe that skinwalkers exist on Highway 666. They sometimes appear suddenly in front of oncoming traffic. Sometimes these skinwalkers appear to warn them not to continue down the road. They believe if they don’t take heed an evil shaman will appear and attempt to take their life in order to capture their soul.

This highway is also considered to be very haunted. For years, despite it majestic scenery many travelers have gone out of their way to avoid driving this road, especially after dark.

It is said a pale spirit of a young girl appears by the side of the road wearing a white gown. Her expression is one of great sadness which prompts the concern of individuals who have spotted her alone on this desolate desert road. 

She sometimes appears as a hitchhiker, and when people have stopped she disappears. Others describe her as running right into the road in front of their cars and just as they are braking or about to hit her, she vanishes.

One urban legend that surrounds Highway 666 is about a ghost vehicle that is referred to by the name of “Satin’s Sedan.” This dark apparition appears after sunset, on nights when there is a full moon. It charges it’s innocent victim’s cars driving them right off the road. 

Another ghost vehicle is described as a semi truck driven by a crazed man who also tries to drive people off the road. Witness descriptions state their cars have either over heated or they have had a flat tire that forces them to pull over. Stranded on the side of the road, they claim this fast moving truck has intentionally aimed for them. Several have had their cars hit by this angry driver.

These two black vehicles are also seen when their headlights are spotted in drivers’ rear-view mirrors. They start to tail gate their intended victims, and then hit them repeatedly from behind.

Another urban legend is about ghost dogs. These vicious, threatening dogs are called the “Hounds of Hell.” Witnesses have seen them run so fast that they can keep up with cars regardless of how fast they are traveling. 

It is claimed these dogs have caused many accidents. They are said to have razor-sharp teeth that have shredded many car tires. There are also claims that they jump right into cars mauling the individuals inside.

Yet another urban legend connected to Highway 666 is people disappearing without explanation. Several times people’s cars have been found with no trace of the owner. 

Some disappear for long periods of time and then they suddenly reappear hours or days later. The people who have stated this has happened to them mention they were not aware they were gone so they have no recollection of what happened to them during their absence. 

A similar phenomena connected to this road is people who have stated that it took them a lot longer to travel it then they expected. They also are not able to explain this loss of time.

Parts of the original Highway 666 crossed Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. But it is the stretch near Gallup, New Mexico, within sight of Shiprock; that has experienced most of this strange phenomenon. 

Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, fulfilled one of his campaign promises when he was first elected. He changed the name of Highway 666 to U.S. Route 491. 

He also spent thousands of dollars to improve the road. Since the name change people say the road no longer lures the evil spirits it once did. The improvement to the road itself has cut down the number of accidents that occur.

A side note to this is when people found out the highway’s name was to be changed every “Highway 666” sign was stolen—several of them were later sold on eBay.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ghost Radar and EVP Questions

Recently several people have asked me how to get responses while using the Ghost Radar App. There is no tried and true formula that dictates what questions should be asked during investigations. But there are several things you can do to elicit responses from ghosts or spirits.

Always do background research so that when you do an EVP session with your Ghost Radar you can ask more meaningful questions. 

Also interview witnesses; this information helps to establish a connection to the ghosts or spirits that might be present. With this background knowledge you can then ask questions that are more specific.

In one store my group often investigates we know there is a resident sheriff. We know this protective spirit has been seen many times over the years standing or crouching in the loft above the store’s main room. His expression is not frightening but one rather of intense concentration—he appears to be keeping a careful eye on everything. 

One of my members a former policewomen visited the store several times before our most recent investigation—she made a point of mentioning she had something in common with the sheriff.

The night of the investigation she brought several trigger objects with her—her badge, tobacco etc. She climbed up in the loft where the sheriff is seen and was talking to other investigators below. 

At one point she was deciding out loud where she should place or “move” some of the objects. Below we were getting hits on our ghost radar, the word “dangerous” etc. 

Right after this one of our digital recorders picked up a deep, distinct male voice in the room agreeing where she should move the items right after her discussion with us about where to move the objects. 

I feel we got this clear response because she had already established a connection with this spirit. She was able to do this because of the research we had done about the location.

When asking EVP questions remember to keep them simple and to the point. For instant, ask questions that can be answered in one of two words. 

Ghosts have trouble communicating with spoken language so they most likely will make their presence known through a variety of ways, i.e., touch, feelings you get, cold spots, etc. 

If they do respond with spoken words it will only be a one to three word response or short phrase. 

This is why Ghost Radar is so effective, ghosts can use this app to generate a lot more words—this app makes it much easier for them to communicate with us. This is very useful because one thing I have learned is ghosts do want to communicate with the living.

As I mentioned in another post make sure you are using your Ghost Radar in an area that has activity. For instance, mine will state words in my home but they are random—my home is not active.  

On the other hand when I use it at an active location the words it comes up with are normally connected to something we have said or they are related to that specific location.

Happy Ghost Hunting!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Mexico Ghosts: Dawson

Today Dawson, New Mexico is a ghost town. Dawson is located in the northern part of the state just 17 miles northeast of Cimarron. It was once a bustling mining town with 9000 residents. 

Unlike most mining towns in the west Dawson’s tragedies didn’t result from shootouts or Indian raids instead Dawson was the site for two of the worst coal mining accidents in American history. 
Opera House

In 1906 the Phelps Dodge Corporation bought the Dawson mines. This company was determined to make Dawson a modern city. 

In its heyday the town was a booming community that included a company Mercantile Department Store, a modern hospital, a theater, a swimming pool, bowling ally, baseball park, pool hall, golf course, lodge hall, and even a opera house. There were churches, two elementary schools, and a large high school whose teams won state championships. The company also built a steam-powered electric plant; that not only served Dawson but several nearby towns in New Mexico and Colorado.

Immigrant miners from Italy, China, Poland, Germany, Britain, Finland, Sweden, and Mexico all came to work in Dawson’s mines. 

Coal mining was a dangerous business—in the best of conditions miners worked in squalid, hot, dark holes permeated with black dust. Even if the miners could escape the constant dangers of cave-ins and explosions, their life expectancy was sharply reduced by “black lung” and other effects of the sooty mine air. Accidents happened on a fairly regular basis and the town’s cemetery began to fill slowly.

Phelps Dodge’s Stag Canyon Mine No. 2 was praised for being “the highest achievement in modern equipment and safety appliances that exists in the world.” On October 20, 1913 the New Mexico Inspector of Mines reported that Stag Canyon Mine No. 2 was totally free of traces of gas, and in splendid general condition. Two days later Dawson suffered its worst catastrophe on Wednesday October 22, 1913.

284 miners reported to work at Stag Canyon No. 2 on the 22nd. Minutes after three p.m. the mine was rocked by a huge explosion that sent a shaft of fire 100 feet out of the tunnel's mouth shaking homes in Dawson two miles away. Only 23 of the 286 men working in the mine were found alive. In addition, falling boulders in the shaft killed two of the rescuers. 

It was later determined that the explosion was caused by a dynamite charge set off while the mine was in general operation, igniting coal dust. This was in direct violation of mining safety laws.

Over the next two weeks, all of the recovered miners were buried in the town’s cemetery. Each grave was marked with a simple iron cross. This mining disaster was the second worst of the century.

Dawson’s luck turned slowly for the worse. Safety measures were heavily increased and in 1918 the mine reached its peak production of over four million tons of coal. But on February 8, 1923 just ten years after the first disaster another one struck Stag Canyon Mine No. 1. A mine train jumped the track, it slammed into the supporting timbers at the mouth of the tunnel; this ignited coal dust in the mine. There were 123 men in the mine at the time.

Many women who had lost their husbands in the first disaster waited anxiously for their sons to appear from the dense cloud of dust and smoke. Only two miners, who had been in an isolated section of the mine, walked out the next morning, all the rest had perished. The cemetery was extended and more metal crosses were placed. Most of these grave markers list no name—for the bodies were difficult to identify.

Dawson thrived as a mining town for the next thirty years. But as the railroads converted to diesel-electric locomotives, and homes converted to natural gas for heating it was clear that coal was the fuel of the past. 

There was a brief resurgence of mining during World War ll but on April 30, 1950 the Dawson mine was shut down, Phelps Dodge sold the whole town, buildings and all to a salvage company in Phoenix.

All that is left of Dawson today is a few privately owned buildings and the cemetery which is on the National Register of Historic Places. So many where buried in this cemetery they had to extend it up the hill. White iron crosses are the only memory of the town’s tragic past. 

Soon after the first disaster frightening stories started to spread through Dawson. People heard wails and moans coming from the cemetery at night. Others passing the cemetery gates after sunset reported seeing strange human like figures walking through the darkness. These forms vanished the moment anyone tried to approach.

There are several written reports that the citizenry of Dawson felt their cemetery was haunted. Today the iron gate to the burial ground still stands with metal letters spelling “DAWSON.” 

Many people have reported feeling strange cold spots near certain graves on otherwise very hot days. These cold spots and other strange stories of male voices whispering words of warning and danger have been reported. 

At night the cemetery is more active. People still hear full-throated moans and see human-shaped patches of fog drifting through the area. These forms dissipate into the night air leaving no trace. The men that lost their lives so abruptly, over a hundred years ago, are still restless.

My group paid our respects at this cemetery when we returned to northern New Mexico to do a follow-up investigation at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Gold Diggin’ Dead Suitor

James had two goals in life one to strike a rich vein of gold and the other to find a bride. He hadn’t had any luck finding gold but he knew a wealthy lady would solve both his problems. 

His eastern manners pegged him as tenderfoot and the fact that he had brought a bag of fool’s gold to town claiming he had made a strike had not improved his reputation. After that, the townsfolk and miners claimed he was a fool and a coward. But this did not deter him from courting every wealthy lady including some who were already taken.

Word of James’s gold-diggin’ ways got around and none of the eligible ladies would have anything to do with him. As it turns out he never had luck finding gold or a bride, in the winter of “49 his lifeless body was found at the bottom of a steep cliff. 

Some speculated that he had courted one to many ‘spoken for’ ladies. Others joked about whether it was the fall or his fear that had killed him. He was buried in the weed patch the town called a cemetery. Everyone promptly forgot about him.

This normally would have been the end of James except for several odd events. Two days after he was buried James’ remains where found in the local saloon lying in bed next to a well to do lady entertainer he had courted. The sheriff assuming that some local pranksters had gone too far, calmed the hysterical singer down and took James back to the cemetery.

When the sheriff questioned the townsfolk and miners no one seemed to know anything about it. 

But all the locals enjoyed the story and had a good laugh. Three days later the body of James was found at the bank. He was propped against the vault; he held a love note for the banker’s daughter in his hand. At this point he was not a pretty sight. The sheriff, the only one not enjoying the situation, removed the corpse for a second time and buried it as deeply as possible and piled heavy stones on top.

More time passed. Next James’ body was discovered sitting on the front porch of the local judges’ home, clutched in his hand were wilted wildflowers and a note addressed to the judges’ eldest daughter. Again the sheriff reburied him. 

He then was found sitting in the carriage of the town’s wealthy widow holding a box of sweets and a note addressed to her. The sheriff was now tired and angry. 

James' body visited several more local prosperous businessmen’s daughters with love letters and bouquets of dried up wildflowers. 

Disgusted the sheriff hired a local boy to watch the grave.

One night the boy roused the sheriff in a panic. “He came out of his grave and started pickin’ flowers. It was James, I swear!” The boy was hysterical and wouldn’t calm down until the sheriff agreed to follow him to the graveyard. Once there the sheriff saw for himself that the earth at James’ grave was disturbed.

The next morning the sheriff found the rotting corpse at the home of his own sweetheart, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. This was the last straw. "I have had enough of this tomfoolery," the sheriff declared. "If you won’t stay put then I am going to help you stay put."

After the sheriff’s declaration the townsfolk never encountered the courtin’ corpse again but several years later a pair of grave robbers dug up a large coffin. It was covered in fool’s gold and when they opened the lid there were two skeletons. On the arm of one they recognized the jewelry of the town’s wealthy spinster who had died just a short while after James. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mark Twain’s Ghost Story

While doing research about Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain I discovered this little tidbit from a diary that held personal recollections of what happened during a performance given by Mark Twain.

Mark Twain embarked upon a lecture tour in the winter of 1884-85 with his friend George W. Cable. Cable was an American novelist known for his realistic portrayals of Creole life in his native Louisiana. 

This tour lasted for four months; it included cities from New England to the Mississippi River, and from Kentucky into Canada.

An audience gathered on a Saturday afternoon on January 24, 1885 in the Grand Opera House on Sixth Street in Minneapolis to listen to this famous creator of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn share some of these two character’s adventures on stage.

Saturday not being a school day, the very large audience included many children. The author of this account, a young boy at the time, wrote this story years later, for he was present and sat not too far from the footlights. 

As the long program of readings by Mark Twain and George W. Cable was drawing to a close the young audience waited eagerly to hear the final number, the “Ghost Story” by Mark Twain. The author in his diary admits that he had no recollection of this program except for this last part-- which furnished an unforgettable climax.

He remembered that as Mark Twain came out on the stage there was a hush of expectancy broken only by his somber voice relating the story of an old woman who had died and was laid to rest in her coffin. 

The mourners had put coppers on her eyelids to hold them shut. Night had come and her old man had gone to bed, but he kept thinking about those coppers. Temptation overcame him so he crept cautiously in, stole the coppers, and went back to bed shivering with fright.

The wind whistled through the cracks and knotholes---the audience gasped as Mark Twain supplied the sound effects in a blood-curdling manner. Then the old woman’s ghost appeared wailing,  “Who’s got my money? I want my money.” 

Again Twain moaned and mimicked the whistling wind. And then he again stated the woman’s words—“Who’s got my money? I want my money.” 

Twain proceeded to do this four more times moaning, whistling the wind and restating the woman’s question and demand each time the wind becoming more and more terrifying…then his voice finally became almost a whisper.

He stopped—he held a breathless silence for about two seconds. Then Twain slowly approached the footlights, crouching as he came, his hands outstretched, fingers like hooked claws. The young boy heard a crash as Twain stomped both feet, threw up his hands and yelled, “BOO” at the top of his lungs. 

The author points out the effect that this had on the audience should be left to the imagination, for the shock was sufficient to leave the audience without power to observe or describe what took place. Everyone seemed to bounce or jump from his or her seats and a chorus of screams filled the air.

In another post I discuss jump stories. Imagine my delight to discover that Mark Twain had shared a traditional ghost jump story with his audience. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to Review Paranormal Evidence

This is the part of ghost investigations that television shows tend to gloss over.  Reviewing evidence takes time and can be tedious. But keep in mind that the efforts you put in after the investigation sometimes present an amazing and worthwhile reward. 

Over time, I have discovered a variety of ways to make this review process less painful.

First and foremost assign every member of your team tasks connected to the post investigation review. This is a firm expectation in my group, if I have an investigator that is not willing to help—they are asked to move on. 

Including everyone in this process-- allows us to complete the task faster and allows us to follow-through with our client in a timely fashion.

Spreading the work: each member listens to our digital voice recordings—this is not a simple task—because you often have to listen to sections several times before determining what is there. 

During investigations my group makes sure to turn digital voice recorders—we keep running for longer periods-- on and off periodically so that afterwards they are in smaller manageable sections when we listen to them.

Note: Invest in a good pair of headphones—they are worth it. I train all my members to use Audacity so they can put possible EVP clips on our group's list serve so everyone can listen and give their input when we meet later. 

With EVP’s I discourage my members from enhancing them beyond just turning up the volume.

I always send cameras, still and video, home with my investigators so each member can help review photographic evidence as well. We also share these photos on our list serve so that the entire group has the opportunity to have time to look at them and give their feedback at our follow-up meeting. 

When reviewing our DVR recordings, I and other team members often copy sections and pass them on for others to see. Then we all come together, as mentioned, in a post investigative meeting to discuss any evidence we may have captured. These group discussions are fun and interesting so my members come prepared to share.  

I train my members to keep a pad and pencil near them while they review recordings, photos, and videos, etc. 

With photos we try not to enlarge them or zoom in—this often causes anomalies that actually were not captured. With video evidence we watch it in original context. I train my members to listen and watch recordings and videos in several short sessions as opposed to all at once. 

Everyone takes notes, putting down the time etc. so they can go back and find specific sections to review easily. For a discussion of what we do and do not consider photographic evidence read my post entitled Ghost Photography.

When my group comes together we discuss if what one person sees or hears is what others see and hear. 

This process of debunking allows us to eliminate items that we cannot agree upon—every member at one point or another has needed to learn to let go of a piece of evidence that others debunk. 

At other times, this group process confirms that we have truly captured something interesting.

It takes teamwork and a lot of effort to determine if something is indeed paranormal. But like I mentioned above when evidence is found it makes all the time and effort worthwhile.

This process is especially useful if you have a large group of investigators. On the other hand with a smaller group it is easier to communicate before and after investigations.

Happy Ghost Hunting!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day of the Dead

Within the Mexican culture there are extensive beliefs in ghosts. These beliefs are based upon Mexico’s diverse past. 

Many of the ancient Maya and Aztec beliefs survived and evolved, along with the beliefs introduced by the Spanish colonists that came later. The modern “Day of the Dead” observance includes elements from both these pre-Colombian beliefs and Christian elements. Mexican literature and films include many stories of ghosts interacting with the living.


The Day of the Dead, in Spanish, El Dia de los Muetos, is a holiday celebrated in Mexico as well as by Hispanics living in the United States and Canada.


The South Valley community in my hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico, celebrates Dia de los Muetos; one highlight is a wonderful Marigold Parade and Festival. I must mention that everyone in our community participates, not just Americans of Mexican heritage.

Families remember their deceased loved ones and honor them by building ofrendas—altars—were sugar skulls are placed, along with offerings of pan de muertos. 

Sugar skulls are traditional Mexican folk art used to decorate, they are also handed out during the festivities. Pan de muerto is a lightly sweetened bread that is placed upon the altars. Some of the dough is formed into bone-like shapes to decorate the top of the loaves.

These celebrations give everyone an opportunity to honor their dead by offering remembrances. Included in this celebration are blessings, poetry, and traditional foods. There is also an art market and a costume contest.


Click to enlarge
The traditional celebration focuses upon family and friends gathering to remember family members who have died. Family members visit the graves of their loved ones where people communicate with the souls of the departed-- private altars are often built containing the deceased' favorite foods and beverages. 

Photos and other memorabilia are placed upon this altar. 

Due to the fact that the Day of the Dead occurs near Halloween, traditionally November 1st and 2nd causes some confusion, these two events have little in common. This ritual is not scary or gruesome. It is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans remember their loved ones.