Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ghost of Galloway


Harding University, a Christian college located in Searcy, Arkansas was originally founded as a Methodist Episcopal women’s college called Galloway. This story started when Galloway Women’s College was at its peak. During this time it was considered one of the finest educational institutions in the south. Young ladies who attended the college in the late 1800s and early 1900s were taught a curriculum that included homemaking and secretarial training. The school was also known for its music and art curriculum.

Sometime before 1934 a sweet young student by the name of Gertrude, was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft sending shock waves through the school. Galloway was small so most of the students and staff knew her. How Gertrude ended up in the shaft is still a mystery. Reports at the time stated that late one November evening while most of the school’s residents slept Gertrude returned from town with her date after attending a small party. Her date bid her farewell at her dorm and Gertrude entered the hall and climbed the stairs to her room.

At this juncture the story gets fuzzy but it was reported that a blood-curdling scream awakened many girls in the hall at which point chaos took command of the dorm. One young witness saw a huge, dark form hurdle by where she was standing and disappear down the stairs. A hysterical housemother finally calmed everyone down enough to call the police who found Gertrude at the bottom of the elevator shaft dead.

Her death came as a major blow to the normally peaceful college. Legend states that Gertrude’s fellow students insisted she be buried in the pretty, frilly white gown she wore her last night alive. The police never found the supposed killer so her death was deemed an accident. This ruling unfortunately did not save the college’s reputation. Many parents withdrew their daughters and the school began to falter financially.

Several years after Gertrude’s death a freshman woke up at midnight and walked down the hall to get a drink of water. There was a full moon so she had no trouble seeing her way, as she passed the partially boarded elevator shaft she peered through a crack. She stifled a scream and barely managed to return to her room. Feeling faint she woke up her roommate. She told her, “I could see her in the moonlight, sitting there in a white evening gown, combing her platinum-blonde hair.” She then dropped to the floor in a faint.

Her roommate mustered her nerve and went down the hall to take a look. Another student awakened by her movements found her plastered against the wall across from the elevator shaft. She gasped and finally managed to say, “She-she-walked right through the wall to the first floor. She was too terrified to say anything else. The Dean of Women was called and in an effort to reassure the scared girls she peered down into the depth of the shaft. “Why there’s nothing down there, except an old comb someone dropped.”

Soon after this the Galloway Women’s College closed its doors for the last time. Years later the original building was torn down. Many of its old bricks were used in the construction of what is now Harding Universities’ Music building, which is located 300 yards from the original site. Some of these original bricks were also used to make a path that leads from the old site to the new building.

Today it is along this path that several students have been stopped dead in their tracks by the sight of a young woman, dressed in a white lace gown, sweeping by them. This apparition is seen following the path back and forth from the old site to the music building. Several students making a recording in the music building late one night picked up footsteps when no one else was in the building. Gertrude or Gertie Sue as the students and staff fondly call her is often seen at Harding today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Ghost of Theodosia Burr Alston


Theodosia Burr or Theo as she was called was Aaron Burr’s only daughter. Burr a powerful political figure in the early 1800s was a doting parent. He made sure Theo was educated beyond what most young ladies of the time were offered. She was allowed to study music, languages, philosophy, and politics. Theo was also charming and very beautiful. When her mother passed away from cancer Theo was more than prepared to take over as her father’s hostess at Richmond Hall the family home in Albany.

Powerful figures of the time as well as hopeful young suitors attended the dinners that Theo hosted. Theo had her pick of eligible bachelors but to everyone’s surprise Theo married Joseph Alston a southern gentlemen who had inherited his families’ wealth. Alston came from a very different world from the high society that Theo was used to. Burr unlike most was very pleased with his daughter’s choice. In particular he admired Alston’s political ambitions.

Theo and Alston on their way south to the Carolina Lowcountry in February of 1801 stopped to see Aaron Burr inaugurated as Thomas Jefferson’s vice president. Joseph Alston had attended Princeton and passed the bar at the age of twenty but he didn’t practice law. 

Part of his inheritance was a large rice plantation called “The Oaks” in South Carolina. This is where he brought Theo after they were married. Theo helped manage The Oaks and several other properties Alston owned but the hot humid southern climate did not agree with her. Though she loved her husband she missed her father and the beauty of the Hudson River Valley.

The distress she felt being separated from her father increased as he became embroiled in two political scandals. The first involved a bitter political rivalry he had with Alexander Hamilton which resulted in a duel in which Burr killed him in 1804. Burr was arrested for murder but later was acquitted. Theo rushed to be at her father’s side during this time. The second scandal revolved around some shady land schemes Burr was involved in. Burr left for Europe in a self-imposed exile.

Theo’s health was already in frail condition when she gave birth to a son in 1802 it was a rough delivery and Theo never managed to completely recover. Joseph and Theo named their son Aaron Burr Alston they were very devoted parents making sure their son had the best of everything. Theo often wrote letters to her father about her son's progress, this and news about her husbands’ political successes kept Burr interested. He often replied to her letters with political advice for his son-in-law.

It was during this period that Theo’s life brightened but then another tragedy struck. Theo and her husband each summer would move to their summer home “The Castle” on Dubordieu Beach in order to escape the rice plantations’ oppressive heat and swamps. Early in the summer of 1812 two weeks after they arrived young Aaron now ten years old and already ill with tropical fever (malaria) died. Theo was inconsolable.

Burr heard of his grandson’s death as he returned to New York. He encouraged Theo to visit him over the holidays. Theo desperately wanted to but her husband, now governor of South Carolina, felt the trip would be too dangerous. He was concerned about her frail health and the fact that American was again at war with Britain (War of 1812). There were also rumors that pirates were active off the Carolina Outer Banks. Despite these dangers Theo won out and Joseph reluctantly wrote her a letter to the British Navy requesting safe passage.

Theo said her last goodbye to her husband while they waited in a warm warehouse in Georgetown near the wharf where she was to embark. She boarded the schooner “Patriot” in December of 1812 anticipating the six-day trip north. Joseph having pressing business regretted that he could not make the voyage with her. The Patriot never made it to New York her disappearance remains a mystery.

The Patriot did encounter a British ship her second day out but Joseph’s letter worked for the British let her continue. That night a strong winter gale swept Cape Hatteras known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Some speculate the Patriot was lost in this storm. There is also evidence that the Patriot might have been a victim of pirates or “wreckers”—people who plunder a ship after it has foundered near or close to shore.

In 1833 an Alabama newspaper reported that a local resident who was a confessed pirate admitted that he had participated in the plunder and murder of all on board the Patriot at Nags Head. 

Fifteen years later another former pirate “Old Frank” Burdick confessed a similar story on his deathbed. His horrifying tale included a description of how he had held the plank as a pretty woman in a white dress walked it and plunged to her death all the while begging someone send word to her husband and father. Burdick stated they then plundered the ship and abandoned her under full sail. He also stated he saw a portrait of a woman in white in the main cabin.

Further evidence came to light in Nags Head to support the above stories when an ill patient too poor to pay her doctor offered instead a portrait her husband’s family had given her as a gift. When the doctor questioned her possession of the portrait she admitted to him that her in-laws were wreckers and that they had plundered a ship they found abandoned with her sails fully set with no one aboard after a winter gale. 

She stated that her relatives had found a woman’s belongings strewn about the main cabin and amidst this they had found the portrait. It is not known if Theo left Georgetown with a portrait—it did not surface until after her husband Joseph Alston had died--but many feel this was a possibility for the portrait could have been intended as a gift for her father. Years after the doctor was given the portrait a descendant of the Burr’s came forward and immediately identified it as a picture of Theo.

Whatever her fate, Theo’s uneasy spirit appears to still roam some of the locations where she was most happy and sad in life.  Her ghost has been spotted in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. She is seen pacing back and forth in her long cloak near the warehouse in Georgetown Harbor where she bid a fond farewell to her husband before she boarded the Patriot. 

Others have seen her walking slowly along the strand near the Alston’s summer home The Castle at Dubordieu Beach, her head bent in sorrow. Others have described seeing her on foggy nights floating above the waves at Huntington Beach—once called Theaville in her honor.

Her spirit is also seen walking the paths and descending the rice island steps near her husband’s plantation the Oaks. Today this plantation combined with three other rice plantations make up what is called Brookgreen Garden. This spot is a popular tourist attraction.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Pony Express and Haunted Hollenberg Station


The Pony Express was one of the most daring enterprises undertaken in the frontier west. It was in existence for only a short 18 months but the story of the men who road in this fast relay race across eight states reflects the true American spirit. 

In 1860 the railroad and telegraph didn’t extend further west then St. Joseph, Missouri. Mail leaving St. Joseph traveled laboriously by stagecoach and wagon—it would take upwards of three weeks to a month for a letter to reach California.

The Pony Express provided a unique solution to this problem. In April of 1860 an advertisement appeared in California requesting:

“Young, skinny, wiry, fellows not over the age of 18, Must be expert riders, will to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

One hundred and eighty-three men were hired none weighing over 125 pounds. They ranged in age from 11 years to 45 years old—most were in their early twenties. They were paid 25 dollars a week to ride 75 to 100 miles at which point another rider would take over. 

Half headed west from Missouri the other half headed east from California. The company-- Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express-- that the riders worked for procured 400 horses. These horses were mostly mustangs, pintos, thoroughbreds, and Morgans. They were placed at over 100 stations along the Pony Express route. Lightweight saddles were used but these horses carried 165 pounds and traveled at an average speed of 10 miles per hour.

Two Riders: Bill Richardson and Johnny Frye

Each rider would receive a fresh horse every 10-15 miles. As the riders approached these stations they would yell loudly to signal the station—so they could switch horses quickly. Every detail was carefully thought out--ferryboats were placed at the rivers so the riders could cross quickly. Once the riders reached Sacramento the mail was placed on a steamer for the short trip down river to San Francisco.

Each rider had a special saddlebag called a mochilla. The mochilla was thrown over the saddle and the rider would sit on it to hold it in place. Each corner of the mochilla had a padlocked cantina, or pocket, where the letters and packages were placed. The mochilla could carry 20 pounds. In addition these horses carried the weight of a water sack and the rider's revolver.

The Pony Express was indeed “express.” The mail now could reach California within ten days. This feat was not done without danger. As these riders relayed 2,000 miles across Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California they faced the threat of Indian attack, rough terrain and bad weather. 

By far the most dangerous leg of the journey was through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The riders had to know the trails well especially in winter when the snowdrifts would pile up. Many of the Pony Express riders didn’t survive these hazards.

The Pony Express initially charged $5.00 per 1/2 ounce but this rate later did decrease to $1.00 per 1/2 ounce. For the time this was a lot of money. 

The most famous Pony Express rider was 15 year-old William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The fastest Pony Express delivery took only 7 days and 17 hours when the riders carried President Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Address to California. In its short existence these riders delivered around 35,000 pieces of mail over 65,000 miles and only lost one mochilla of mail.

Several factors contributed to the demise of the Pony Express. First, the completion of the Pacific Telegraph Line allowed easterners to communicate with westerners within minutes. Next, the companies’ failure to secure an exclusive million dollar government mail contract forced them into bankruptcy. These two factors plus the outbreak of the Civil War all contributed to the end of the Pony Express in October of 1861.

After this most of the 100 plus Pony Express stations fell into ruin. One station that did survive was the Hollenberg Station in Kansas. This is due to the efforts of the residents in Hanover, Kansas who raised the money to preserve it. 

In 1857 Gerat H. Hollenberg and his wife Sofia established a way station for travelers on the Oregon and California Trails, from 1860 to 1861 they operated one of the larger Pony Express stations.

The Hollenberg Station now has a museum and visitor center and is a state park, staff and visitors alike have reported seeing the ghosts of several Pony Express Riders during the summer months. 

One phenomenon that is experienced both day and night are witness reports of hearing thundering hooves approach the station and then shouts are heard. Several witnesses have seen these riders and report they wear old- fashioned clothes and chaps.

Within the station cold spots are commonly reported. Strange sounds are heard and one specific report is of an apparition of a young rider who still has arrows protruding from his back. He is seen in one of the station bedrooms lying on the floor bleeding and in apparent agony. 

Another spirit that haunts the station is the owner, Gerat Hollenberg. It is stated he likes to rearrange items. He also has been known to hide various items.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ghost Ship: S.S. Kamloops


Early in December of 1927 the steamship S.S. Kamloops was seen for the last time intact with her crew alive and well. 

She was traveling on the last leg of her journey from Montreal to Port Arthur now known as Thunder Bay. She entered Lake Superior through the Sault St. Marie canal—she passed through the Soo Locks on December 4th destined for Fort William. Tragically, this was to be the last journey for the Kamloops.

The Kamloops was following the steamer Quedoc on December 5th when a massive storm hit Lake Superior. Both were making steady headway through this heavy north gale in fog and sub-freezing temperatures on the night of the 6th when the captain of the Quedoc suddenly saw a black mass loom up before his ship, he turned to avoid it while sounding a danger signal to warn the Kamloops. 

Because of poor visibility, it was not known if the Kamloops heard the signal in time and was able to make the turn. The Quedoc made it to Fort William, but the Kamloops would never arrive.

As the storm grew fiercer that night many ships were stranded on various parts of the lake. At first, hope was kept alive when several ships at different ports reported seeing the Kamloops but by December 12th all ships had been accounted for except the Kamloops. 

At this point the search for her started in earnest. Efforts where made until December 26th when fading hopes and the ice and winter weather made it impossible to continue the search.

This was not the first time in the Kamloops' history that she had shipped cargo so late in the season, on two other occasions in her short career she had been trapped by the ice in St. Mary’s river pushed by her owner to make one last run. 

In December of 1927 she was carrying a load of expensive papermaking machinery that her owner—the Canada Steamship Line expected her to deliver before the lake iced in. But this time her luck ran out—her entire crew—including two women were never again seen alive.

This tragedy was made worse when in the spring of 1928 fishermen discovered the remains of several of the crew that had managed to make it to shore on the island of Amygdaloid. It is believed that these surviving crewmembers died of exposure for this island offers very little shelter and the winds the night of December 6th had reached 62 miles an hour and the temperature had dipped 9 degrees below zero. 

Also in 192, the crew would not have had a radio and this was before searches were done by air, all these factors combined doomed the crew from the start.

For fifty years the disappearance of the S.S. Kamloops remained a mystery so she was classified as a ghost ship; various witnesses saw her decks, port, and starboard sides covered in ice and frost even in the summer months along the lake during this period.

The Kamloops was unusual in that she was a small steamship only 250 feet in length. She also had four distinct tall king posts—each rigged with a 5-ton derrick used to load and unload the freight she carried. 

So in August of 1977 when divers found a sunken ship northwest of Isle Royale resting on its starboard side 260 feet down there was no doubt it was the Kamloops.

Lake Superior is known for its rough weather—its waters are very cold year round. The surface temperature rarely reaches above 55 degrees Fahrenheit; below 50 feet divers experience 34-37 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of these frigid conditions the wreck of the Kamloops has been preserved even though it has been 84 years since she sank. 

The cargo that once was so important is still in almost perfect condition in her hold. Divers have seen: wire fencing, high top shoes, candy lifesavers, and crates of Honey Bee Molasses.

The Kamloops also holds well-preserved human remains. Because of the frigid temperatures no fish are found at this depth. 

One story often told by divers is of a body seen in the engine room they call “Grandpa” or “Whitey.” Witnesses have said that he floats or follows quietly behind them as they explore the engine room. Some divers state that their movements have caused currents that make this happen, others state that Grandpa seems to have a will of his own. 

Regardless, his appearance has scared more than one diver in this compartment. His skin is described as very pale or white and divers have seen his wedding ring on his left hand. 

The cause of the sinking of the S.S. Kamloops remains a mystery.

The Kamloops is one of twelve ships and smaller vessels in the area around the Isle of Royale that have been claimed by Lake Superiors’ powerful storms. The National Park Service protects all these shipwrecks as cultural treasures.

A side note: dives to the Kamloops are not advised because she is located at an extreme depth so the danger of decompression is high. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rudolph Valentino’s Ghost and Cursed Ring


“What the average man calls death; I believe to be merely the beginning of life itself. We simply live beyond the shell. We emerge from out of its narrow confines like a chrysalis. Why call it death? Or, if we give it the name death, why surround it with dark fears and sick imaginings? I am not afraid of the unknown.”
                                                             --Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino was the most popular film star of the 1920s silent era. Millions of women idolized him as America’s first sex symbol. 

He was born in 1895 to a French mother and an Italian father. He grew up in Italy. When he immigrated to New York his godfather helped him get his first job. He was a taxi dancer, which was a person who danced with a variety of partners in a café for ten cents a dance. 

Valentino being an above average dancer began to perform for New York society. Later it was Valentino who introduced the Argentine Tango to America when he performed it in his first film “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in 1921.

Valentino once said, “Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas upon which the women paint their dreams.” On screen Valentino was known for his deep penetrating gaze, in real life Valentino was never lucky in his marriages or love affairs. 

He left New York and followed his godfather to San Francisco because he had become infatuated with a married New York socialite by the name of Blanca de Saulles. 

During her divorce trail he testified on her behalf. Her husband, a prominent businessman was not pleased so he had Valentino arrested on vice charges—it was never made clear what vice Valentino was guilty of-- his record was wiped clean of these charges in the 1920s. Blanca went on to shoot her ex-husband; Valentino wishing to avoid further scandal left New York.

When Valentino first started acting he was in a string of b-rated movies. It was during this time his mother died and he fell in love with a small time actress by the name of Jean Acker. Acker was a lesbian but Valentino was not aware of this so he proposed. Acker accepted thinking it might be a good way to avoid scandal in her own life. 

But on their wedding night Acker locked Valentino out so their marriage was never consummated. Valentino still not understanding begged for Acker’s forgiveness “for whatever he had done.” He moved on when he discovered the truth. It is the shortest marriage in Hollywood history it lasted only six hours.


Valentino worked with an artistic director by the name of Natacha Rambova while filming “Camille.” The two fell in love and moved into together. Valentino obtained a divorce from Acker. It was during this time (1921) that he was cast in his most famous role, “The Sheik." 

To Valentino’s chagrin this role became the image that most people associated him with. Tragically, just a short five years later while promoting the sequel to this film, “Son of Sheik” he became ill, collapsed and died at the age of 31.

Valentino married Rambova in 1923 but their relationship was doomed--one reason being because each movie they starred in together flopped. In fact, their collaboration efforts made Valentino box office poison for a while. The papers at the time always blamed Rambova for these failures. 

Another contentious issue for the couple was Valentino desperately wanted children and Rambova didn’t. The marriage finally was over when Rambova had an affair with her cameraman. Valentino despondent contemplated suicide. The two divorced in 1926.

Valentino’s life became reckless after this, he carried on affairs with several women at the same time and he took unnecessary risks. More than once he almost killed himself in car accidents and when he became ill he refused to see a doctor. While promoting “Son of Sheik” Valentino was so ill he was transferred to a hospital in New York. 

The doctors discovered he had bleeding ulcers. They performed an operation, which they deemed a success but a few days later Valentino took a turn for the worse and died from an infection caused by the surgery.

Unlucky in love, Valentino also in a way considered himself unlucky in the roles he played. Some of his most successful films he resented because of the reputation it gave him. 

In fact, during the time he was promoting “Son of Sheik” a writer at the Chicago Tribune wrote an editorial blaming Rudolph Valentino for causing the “effeminization of the American male.” This editorial called him a “pink powder puff.” 

Valentino’s response to this was to challenge the writer to a boxing match. The writer of the piece refused but the paper did send another writer whom they considered “a ringer.” Valentino beat him easily. This was during the time he was in great pain from bleeding ulcers. 

In his final hours he asked his doctors, "and now do I act like a pink powder puff?" His doctors told him he had more courage than most men.

Valentino’s business manager George Ullman arranged to have a public viewing of Valentino’s body in New York. 80,000 hysterical women showed up almost causing a riot, Ullman had to abandon his idea. 

When Valentino’s body was carried by train to Los Angeles for a second funeral several distraught women committed suicide. At the time of his death Valentino was 3 million dollars in debt—so there was no money to handle his estate or his burial. 

A friend, June Mathis owned several crypts in Hollywood Forever Cemetery so she offered to loan one to Valentino. His body still lies in this crypt because soon after his death the depression hit so plans to raise funds to pay for a memorial for his final resting place were set aside.

Valentino’s ghost is often seen in places that he had connections to while alive. Many witnesses have spotted him at his Beverly Hills mansion, Falcon’s Lair. 

Soon after his death an overnight guest saw doors open and close. Rudy and Brownie Valentino’s Great Danes didn’t react to this. Harry Carey in subsequent years owned the mansion. He reported encountering Valentino’s ghost in his old bedroom and Carey saw Valentino petting an imaginary horse in the mansion’s stables. 

Valentino while alive had kept a most beloved horse in this stable. The actress Millicent Rodgers also reported seeing Valentino while staying at Falcon’s Lair. Witnesses have seen what appears to be Valentino standing at a window staring at people below.

Valentino has made appearances at Valentino Place, which was a speakeasy that he often visited. He has been spotted at his beach house in Oxnard, where he stayed while filming “The Sheik.” He is seen pacing the veranda. 

Valentino also haunts suite 210 at the Santa Maria Inn. Guests feel a weight on the bed and hear odd sounds. At Paramount Studios he is seen walking through the front gate, and walking through walls.

One young actress had an unusual encounter with his ghost while filming a scene. She reported that she felt a person get into bed with her. She felt an amorous body press up against hers and she felt someone’s breath on her neck. When she turned she recognized Valentino and then supposedly fainted.

A Cursed Ring

A side note to the Valentino story is about a legend of a silver ring that he bought that is cursed. 

The jeweler he bought it from told him that all the former owners of the ring had bad luck. He wore the ring while making “The Young Rajah” which flopped so badly he did not work for two years. Freaked out Valentino didn’t wear the ring again until he went on his promotional tour of the “Son of Sheik.” Within two weeks of wearing it he died.

The ring was passed on to the actress Pola Negri who was dating Valentino when he died. Immediately her health failed which almost ended her film career. She gave the ring to a singer named Russ Columbo, who had an uncanny resemblance to Valentino. 

Columbo died in a mysterious shooting accident that is unsolved to this day. Columbo’s cousin then gave the ring to Columbo’s friend, Joe Casino, who knew the backstory of the ring but he threw caution to the wind and wore the ring and was run over by a truck. 

More recently, a young actor wore the ring while performing in a screen test for a film about Valentino’s life, ten days after the screen test he died at the age of 21 from a rare blood disease.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chelsea Hotel: Nadia’s Severed Hand

In the 1920s the Chelsea Hotel was still at its peak even though the theatre district had moved uptown to Herald Square. At this point the 23rd street neighborhood was getting a little rundown. This story is about a family who lived in a large suite of rooms at the Chelsea. 

Nadia was their spoiled daughter who grew up with the Chelsea’s artistic influence around her. So it was no surprise when she became a painter—her delicate work was done in the Japanese style on sheets of the finest silk cut from bolts of cloth that her father, a successful silk merchant, would bring home from his warehouse.

Nadia still in her teens met and married a handsome playwright and songwriter who sold his songs along old Tin Pan Alley on 27th Street. The newlyweds struggled with finances moving from one rooming house to another. Nadia discovered early on that her husband loved the drink too much, he managed to avoid serving in the war but he rarely found work. Nadia tried to sale her paintings but when even this failed, the young couple that already had two children found themselves in dire circumstances.

Nadia’s father made her a deal if she agreed to do all the housework she and her family could move back in with her parents at the Chelsea. Nadia didn’t like the idea but her husband convinced her to accept. She quickly regretted her decision because she found herself doing all the cleaning, cooking and washing for her large extended family. Her husband’s drinking worsened and he was no longer able to bring in the few dollars he had in the past. To top the situation off her mother was incontinent and had to have her undergarments washed out by hand on a regular basis.

Nadia’s father viewed her marriage with displeasure--he had originally been against her choice of husband so he decided to teach her a lesson –he refused to give her any money. A religious man he felt she must reap what she had sewn. Already stretched to the limit with work Nadia was forced to take in piecework to make ends meet. Despite this Nadia was able to snatch a few minutes each day for her intricate art.

Unfortunately, even her art could not console her. As the years passed she became more and more bitter and disillusioned. She found her hands could no longer translate her ideas onto the canvas. All the washing, cleaning and needlework had left her hands calloused and knotted. Her joints felt stiff and sore. Her skin, which once had been creamy smooth was now coarse and reddened. One day as she viewed her hands with distaste Nadia started to even resent them. She felt a deep anguish as she cried out, “I’m working my fingers to the bone.”

Still in her early twenties Nadia started to manifest signs of a mental illness. At one point she was hospitalized in a facility on Long Island for a nervous disorder and hysteria. She insisted something was wrong with her hands but her doctors found no evidence of this. Her father not willing to continue paying out money for her care and finding her “loss” to the upkeep of the household too great brought her home. Soon Nadia was back at work but her problems returned.

One night as her children slept, her husband passed out on the floor from his latest binge. Nadia bent over a wash tub scrubbing out her mothers soiled undergarments,  stiffly moved off her knees so she could approach a canvas she had been working on. In her mind it was to be her masterpiece—it was a scene of cranes cavorting in the Bethesda Fountain. She picked up a brush with great effort and added some final strokes. She stepped back to survey her work.

Not liking what she saw she became enraged and grabbed a pair of industrial shears she used to cut the silk fabric she used, she proceeded to slash the canvas to shreds. She then placed her right wrist between the blades and fell upon the handles with all her weight—severing her delicate hand.

The pain seared through her, it became unbearable. Screaming in agony Nadia gave up—she rushed to the window, threw open the French doors, and flung herself over the balcony. She continued to scream as she fell five floors to her death. 

Since her suicide Nadia returns to the Chelsea on moonless nights to haunt the hotel. She is seen hovering outside peoples’ balconies. It is said she waves her bloody stump, but it appears that she cannot enter the Chelsea. Some say this is the retribution she must pay for taking her own life.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Haunted Lover’s Lane


This story takes place in Canada in 1833 when a man by the name of Otto Ives bought the Hermitage farm in Ancaster, Ontario. Ives brought his wife and niece to this well developed farm with 250 cultivated acres so that he could provide for his family and servants. Ives’ niece was very beautiful so it wasn’t long before she caught the eye of a local coachman. Their story started the “Legend of Lovers’ Lane.”

Once the Ives were established at the Hermitage, several eligible suitors approached hoping to catch the nieces’ fancy but she turned them all away. Only one man caught her attention, a servant at the Ives’s farm by the name of William Black. She and Black started to court in secret, they would meet in secluded areas of the farm hoping to keep a distance from prying eyes and family chaperones.

The two formed a deep bond of love and started to make plans for their future together. Unfortunately, tradition and fate stepped in…

William, like all of the servants at the Hermitage really admired and respected Ives as an employer, feeling uncomfortable for deceiving him Black decided to tell Ives the truth. One late winter evening Black sat down in the Ives’ family parlor with his employer, he asked respectfully for Ottos' nieces hand in marriage. Ives exploded at the young man’s request. He turned red in the face at this impertinent request and told Black to, “Get out.”

The idea of a servant marrying a woman of station in the 1800s was considered preposterous. William left the Ives’ parlor that night a broken man.

The following morning Ives waited for the carriage that was to take him into town. When it didn’t come he was surprised because William was never late. Ives knew he had hurt the boy’s feelings the night before but that didn’t change the fact that Black was still in his employ. Ives walked down to the carriage house and swung the door open. The carriage was inside untouched. Impatient Ives let his eyes adjust to the dim light inside. It was at this point he saw William’s lifeless body swinging from the rafters.

Otto shook his head in disbelief; he had known many good men who had given their lives in battle so the fact that Black had taken his own life voluntarily didn’t move him. He cut the boy’s body down letting it drop into a manure cart below. He took the cart and body to what is today the corner of Sulphur Spring’s Road and Lover’s Lane—named for this legend—and buried William Black along with the cart.

Ever since, there have been numerous reports along lover’s lane of a man walking back and forth from the grave to were the carriage house once stood. He is also seen walking along the winding roads of Sulphur Springs and around the lands that surround the Hermitage. The house itself burnt down in 1934. It is said William is looking for his lost love.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority owns the Hermitage today and they do not allow trespassing. There is however a night ghost tour of the Hermitage offered.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tailypo, Teeny Tiny, and The Satin Dress


In the 1970s one classic ghost story was published in two very different versions both in the form of children’s picture books. The first written by Joanna C. Galdone entitled “The Tailypo” is one of the most terrifying ghost stories for children ever published. 

To this day mothers and teachers’ alike will not read or tell this story to younger children who are easily frightened. The premise of the story is that a man who lives in a swamp tries to kill a critter he spots but he only manages to chop off its tail. He takes this tail home, cooks it and eats it.

What happens next—when the critter comes to demand its’ tail back is presented so subtlety by the author that it creeps up on you, in fact Joanna Galdone crafted this story so well it has given countless children nightmares. 

“Tailypo! Tailypo!  Where is my tailypo? Tailypo! I’m coming for my tailypo.” The critter gets closer and closer to the man’s shack until its’ two ears appear at the foot of his bed…

Part of the “terror” it inspires I think is because the critter even takes revenge on the man’s pack of hound dogs—this scene is left to the imagination of the reader, which makes it even more intense. 

If you have older children this is a must read ghost story for Halloween.

The second version of this traditional story—but very different in tone and feeling—is a children’s picture book by Paul Goldone entitled “The Teeny Tiny Woman.” 

This story follows a teeny tiny woman through her teeny tiny world. She goes to a graveyard and finds a teeny tiny bone just perfect for her soup—so she takes it home. 

Teeny tiny ghosts observe her as she takes it and then follow her home. “Where is my bone? I want my bone?” 

Their demands become louder and louder as the story progresses until frustrated the teeny tiny woman gives the bone back. 

This is essentially the same story as Tailypo but with a much more innocent, humorous twist. This book is perfect for young children at Halloween—they like to repeat the teeny tiny ghosts’ demands and then find the lurking ghost or ghosts on each page.

The two children’s stories above represent how American ghost stories--a rich oral tradition-- evolve. I often find other basic ghost stories in various forms being told in different regions of the United States.

 Another example of this is the one about a person being “dared” to go alone into a graveyard and leave evidence, such as a knife stuck in a grave, to prove they were there. I will give examples of this story here.

The classic version of the Tailypo, Teeny Tiny story is one sometimes-entitled “The Satin Dress.” This version is a lot darker and creepier in nature but is not as scary as Tailypo. This version has been around a lot longer. 

It is about a young woman who works in a factory in New York and has very little money. She is invited to a fancy dress party but has no money to buy an appropriate dress or the material to make one. A coworker suggests she rent one for the evening.

At a nearby pawnshop she finds a beautiful pink satin gown with matching accessories. She is able to rent the ensemble for a reasonable fee. 

The night of the party she puts the dress on and looks at her glowing reflection in her bathroom mirror. As she turns away she thinks she hears a strange ghostly whisper: “Give me back my dress.” 

Afraid she looks around, finding nothing she feels it must just be that she is excited about the coming evening.

When she arrives at the dance her card quickly fills up. She enjoys the evening as each of her partners adeptly guides her round the dance floor. 

Halfway through the dance to her chagrin she starts to feel light-headed and even nauseous. As one partner leads her out she again hears the ghostly whisper in her ear: “Give me back my dress.”

She tries to ignore the voice and her sick feeling but as she looks into the face of her present partner she knows she must leave quickly. She makes an excuse and some how makes her way outside. 

The fresh air makes her feel worse. She summons a cab to take her home and when she arrives home she staggers up the steps to her flat.

As she enters her apartment she barely makes it to her bedroom door before she hears the ghostly whisper for a third time: “Give me back my dress. You have stolen my dress.”

 Feeling faint the young woman falls upon her bed. Again she hears the voice in her ear: “I want it back.”

She is found the next day dead still wearing the pink dress. 

The autopsy report later stated she died from embalming fluid poisoning which had entered her pores. The police found the pawnshop receipt for the dress and questioned the owner. 

He sheepishly admitted that the pink dress that had killed the young woman had been removed from the body of a dead girl just before her casket was nailed shut and buried.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Mexico Ghosts: Chaco Canyon


Chaco Canyon is located in the northwestern corner of New Mexico on the San Juan Basin near Four Corners. For four hundred years from AD 850 to 1250 Chaco Canyon was a major urban center for the prehistoric Anasazi Indians. Chaco was remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial stone buildings, engineering projects, astronomy, artistic achievements, and distinctive architecture. The Chaco Pueblos were the cultural and spiritual center for the San Juan Basin.

Chaco Canyon also was the hub for trade and administration for the surrounding 75 pueblos and settlements, which were linked by 400 roads, some as long as 250 miles, to the canyon. The canyon’s bottomland was used for crops which were supported by a sophisticated irrigation system of reservoirs, canals, ditches, and diversion walls that channeled water from rains and the swift flowing river that nourished life in the now dry canyon. Chaco Canyon was unlike anything before or since—considering it was at its peak during Europe’s Dark Ages.

By 1000 AD there were as many as 6,000 people living in some 400 settlements and towns (pueblos) in and around Chaco. The most interesting include: Fajada Butte, which was considered sacred by the Anasazi. They created an astronomical observatory, now known as Sun Dagger, and left behind mysterious etchings on stones at the site.

Pueblo Bonito, one of the “Great Houses” is a five-story, eight-hundred-room cliff dwelling built around 900 AD on the canyon's north wall. It contains thirty-seven kivas and is situated to take advantage of solar energy. It is estimated that it took 60 million pieces of hand trimmed and carefully fitted sandstone to build its walls. This was all done without metal tools or precision instruments. Many of these walls still stand which is a tribute to its skilled builders.

The partial excavated Una Vida has one hundred rooms and eight kivas. Chetro Ketl located four hundred yards from Pueblo Bonito has five hundred rooms and sixteen kivas it has an unusual E-shape and its rear wall is 1,000 feet long. Casa Riconada one of the great kivas, located opposite Pueblo Bonito was used for worship and magical initiation. This perfectly round structure is sixty-six feet in diameter and fourteen feet deep. Its uniform wall niches provided storage for religious and ceremonial objects.

Psychics consider Chaco Canyon to be one of the centers of Harmonic Convergence on the planet.

The word kiva means, “world below.” A kiva is a subterranean circular room with a fire pit in the center that the Pueblo Indians used as a place of refuse. It was a safe place “where the sipapu” meets the sky”—where the past meets the future. The smaller kivas were used as “living rooms” they were the focal point for the clans where they met to discuss community business, smoke, stay cool in summer and warm in winter, while relaxing. They were also used as holy places at certain times of the year. Women were not allowed in the kivas except to bring food and observe some of the ceremonies.

A “sipapu” is a Hopi word that refers to a small shallow hole in the floor of the kiva; it symbolizes a portal used by the Indian’s ancestors to enter this world and to remind the living of their origin earth. So kivas were the place Anasazi’s made contact with the spirits of their ancestors that inhabit the underworlds.

Chaco Cultural National Historic Park has seventy-five ancient structures and it spans 35,000 acres. The Chaco Anasazi’s were maize farmers not warriors. Among the ruins it is rare to find spearheads or arrowheads. Anasazi craftsmen processed turquoise brought from distant mines into exquisite necklaces, bracelets, and pendants.

It is not known for sure why the Anasazi’s abandoned Chaco Canyon but the widely held belief is that natural climatic changes were the cause. A drought plagued the region from 1130 to 1180. Another possible reason is the area essentially became deforested which meant the residents had to walk many miles to obtain firewood in the mountains. There are also many signs the soil became over-cultivated. Continuous irrigation over the centuries without any form of soil enrichment caused the land to choke with alkali. By the 1200s these great stone pueblos lay deserted.

The Anasazi’s didn’t disappear like some cultures, they instead moved from Chaco further into New Mexico, west to Arizona and north into Colorado. All 20 of the Pueblos in New Mexico today have Native Americans that are descended from the Anasazi. The Hopi Native Americans also have ancestors from Chaco. The Navajo Indians in New Mexico and Arizona have ceremonies, place names, and stories that reflect that the some Anasazi from Chaco must have assimilated into their culture as well.

The Pueblo people, the Hopis, and the Navajo’s do not consider Chaco Canyon “abandoned.” They believe instead that the spirits of their ancestors still inhabit Chaco. For years they fought to convince the National Park Service to stop excavating and preserving Chaco Canyon. They feel Chaco being the home of their ancestors is sacred ground. Their stance is that “Chaco’s houses, rocks, trees, and spirits should be allowed to go back to the earth.” In the past the Park Service’s attempts at preservation stopped this natural sacred process.

Today the region’s Native Americans have won for now the Park Service understands and have ceased their attempts to keep Chaco as it once was. In fact they have backfilled or “reburied rooms” to show their respect for these Native American beliefs.

Within the canyon visitors and employees have seen the apparition of a strange “naked spirit.” He is described as very tall, wearing no clothes and he is seen emerging from the sipapu, the sacred holes in the ground in the ceremonial kivas at Chaco. These sightings fit with what the Native Americans already know—for this giant figure is entering from the other side. This phantom is also seen bathed in a blue light and dripping with moisture. Once a park ranger even tried to arrest this spirit for indecent exposure only to see this giant man disappear into thin air. The Hopi’s believe this figure is “genius loci,” a spirit that feeds off the energies of mother earth. Other spirits of the Anasazi people are sensed in the canyon as well.

There are many places at Chaco today where tourists cannot enter. One is Fajada Butte, which is closed to all access. It is considered too fragile. The great kivas also are off limits. But many people camp in Chaco and quite a few have picked up interesting EVP’s around the canyon. Note: many of these are in the various Anasazi languages—Tewa, Tiwa, Keresan, Zuni, and Hopi. 

One young man who visited Chaco recently experienced something rather unique. He was camping in Chaco when at sunset he heard ceremonial chanting coming from what appeared to be one of the ruins in the cliff dwellings. He grabbed his camera and headed for the sound. As he approached he saw a very short statured man with a broad head standing to the side of one remaining wall. When he tried to take pictures his camera batteries went dead. He ran back to retrieve his video camera but when he returned the sounds and apparition where no longer there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sir Francis Bacon’s Ghost Chicken


Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, and a pioneer of modern scientific thought. Bacon was one of the first to theorize that snow might preserve meat. While conducting an experiment to proof his theory he contracted pneumonia in April of 1626 and died.

Bacon attended Cambridge University and Gray’s Inn where he studied law. He became a member of parliament in 1584. However, Elizabeth didn’t favor him so his career did not take off until James I came into power in 1603. He was knighted in this same year and was appointed to several posts culminating, like his father before him, with keeper of the great seal.

However, Bacon’s real interest lay in science. Bacon went against the standard belief at the time, he disagreed with Aristotle’s’ idea that scientific truth could be reached if “sufficiently clever men discussed a subject long enough, the truth would eventually be discovered.” Bacon argued that truth required evidence from the real world. He published his ideas initially in a book entitled “Novum Organum” in 1620.

Bacon political career continued to rise when he was appointed lord chancellor in 1618, the most powerful position in England. In 1621 he was created viscount St. Albans. But his fortune turned shortly after when parliament charged him with bribery. He admitted his guilt and was fined and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was banished from court and even though the king pardoned him this ended his public life.

After this he continued to write and in 1626 as stated above he tested his theory of “the preservative and insulating properties of snow.”

While living in Pond Square, Highgate Bacon and his good friend Dr. Winterbourne bought a chicken and slaughtered and plucked it. It was a winter morning and bitterly cold—they proceeded to stuff the chicken carcass with snow. Bacon caught a severe chill as a result of his efforts. He was taken to a nearby house and placed in a damp bed where he died a short time later.

Since then there have been frequent reports of the ghost of a white bird, which resembles a plucked chicken, seen racing around Pond Square in frenzied circles all the while flapping its wings. Air raid wardens patrolling Highgate during World War ll saw this ghostly chicken on many occasions. One man actually tried to bag it but the bird disappeared into a brick wall. In 1943 a witness, Terence Long, late one night while crossing the square heard a sound of horse hooves accompanied by the rumble of carriage wheels. Then suddenly he heard a loud shriek and this plucked chicken appeared before him, it raced frantically around and then vanished.

In the 1960s a motorist was stranded in the square when his car broke down. He encountered the same apparition. Then in the 1970s a couple’s passionate tryst was interrupted when the chicken dropped from above and landed next to them. In recent years this featherless chicken has not been seen. Maybe its restless spirit has finally moved on. After all its’ life was given for a noble cause.

Cynics often point to this classic ghost legend as proof that ghosts do not exist. What I find humorous about this is it is a ghost legend meant to be entertaining. If cynics want to make a point they should stick to "True Hauntings."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guardian Spirit: The Protected English Husband


This story happened in London, England in 1913. A vicar was leaving his church when an agitated lady approached him and told him a seriously ill man was nearby. 

She requested he accompany her because this man was very concerned for the state of his soul and needed a man of God. 

The clergyman went with her to a waiting taxicab, and the two were driven to a large stately house in Montpelier Square. The lady thanked him and stayed in the cab.

The vicar climbed the stairs to the door and knocked loudly. When the butler answered he confirmed that the man whom the lady had named did indeed live at the house. When the vicar explained the purpose for his visit the butler stated that his master was in good health and was not in need of a priest’s services. 

The vicar confused looked round for the lady who had accompanied him but she and the taxi were gone. The owner of the house appeared at the door and invited the confused vicar inside. 

The owner told him that his appearance was strange but fortunate because he had been troubled lately about the state of his soul and had been planning to visit the vicar’s church. The vicar listened as the owner of the house unburdened his conscience. The owner escorted him to the door stating he would attend the vicar’s church service the next day.

But the next morning the man failed to appear at either service so the concerned vicar returned to the house to check on the man. 

He again was met at the door by the butler who told him that his master had suddenly dropped dead just minutes after the vicar had left the previous evening. 

He was led to the room where the man’s body lay. As the vicar finished praying for the man’s soul he noticed a large portrait of the lady who had brought him to the house hanging on the wall.

When the butler returned he asked who the lady was. The butler told him that she was the master’s wife whom had died fifteen years earlier.

This story has been told in many variations since.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where is Poe’s Ghost?


It appears Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost is one of the most prolific in history. If it is believed he haunts practically everywhere he lived, visited or breathed. The challenge here is to sort through these various claims and figure out which have merit. 

I do believe in the old adage: “seeing is believing” so I searched for witness accounts describing encounters with Poe’s ghost.

While alive Poe was a troubled genius who suffered from melancholia which today is referred to as depression. His life, which was mirrored in his poems and short stories reflect the tragedies he experienced. Poe was a heavy drinker and only lived for forty years.

Poe lost his parents before the age of three. He was raised by an indifferent guardian, John Allan, who disowned him while he was at the University of Virginia because of his drinking and irresponsible gambling. Poe tragically never could live up to Allan's expectations. When Allan died he left Poe out of his will, which in effect put Poe into poverty for many years. 

He married his 13-year old cousin Virginia who died at a young age of tuberculosis. Virginia was Poe's one true love so this loss left him devastated. The result-- his drinking worsened and his behavior became more erratic.

Poe’s real life informed his character’s lives. Almost all his work reflects the dark aspects of human nature. His characters often spiraled into madness triggered by love “The Raven” or hate “Tell-Tale Heart.” His work reflects an obsession with death because of his own losses. 

He wrote one of his most horrifying tales “Berenice” after Virginia’s death. In contrast, his story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” defined what a good psychological thriller--detective story-- should be. His prose literally turned the short story genre into an art form and he, of course, is also considered the father of modern horror fiction.

Ironically, the two literary genres Poe is best known for mysteries and horror; are also reflected in how he died. Poe was found in a Baltimore gutter nearly unconscious, he was passing through on his way to visit his fiancée's family. He was taken to a hospital where he died four days later. While in the hospital he babbled incoherently and shook uncontrollably. When the doctors offered him liquor he refused it for he had stopped drinking.

The cause of his death remains a mystery. Many theories have been put forth including: arsenic, alcoholism, pneumonia, rabies, or drugs.

One theory that I find intriguing is that Poe was a victim of “Cooping.” Cooping was done on election days in the 1800s, it entailed gangs of men who would kidnap their male victims off the streets and confine them in small containers similar to chicken coops. These men would beat their victims and force them to drink to the point where they lost their senses, and then they would put them in various clothes, take them to the polls and force them to vote many times. 

This might have happened to Poe because he was found near a fourth ward poll in the gutter on an election day and he was not wearing his own clothes instead he had a cheap suit and hat on. It is also known he was not drinking at the time but he was taken to the hospital in an obvious inebriated state.

Poe was buried originally in Old Western Burial Grounds in an unmarked grave in 1874—when a gravestone was finally placed it had a carved raven upon it. Later the Westminster Presbyterian Church was built over part of this cemetery. So some graves are now only accessible via the catacombs under the church. These catacombs are very haunted—several people committed suicide in them between 1890 and 1920. 

Even though Poe’s grave was moved from this area to a part of the cemetery that is above ground several witnesses have seen his ghost in these catacombs.


His ghost has also been seen in the hallways of the hospital where he died. He has been spotted on the street near the house in Baltimore where he once lived. The house itself is haunted but by most accounts not by Poe but by his grandmother.

In Fells Point there is a bar by the name of “The Horse You Came in On” it was supposedly one of Poe’s favorite places to drink. Poe’s ghost is considered a troublemaker here. The chandelier swings by itself and the owner and employees alike have seen the cash register open and close without cause. Many witnesses claim that if a patron denies the presence of Poe’s ghost their bar stool is pulled out from under them and beer bottles drop to the floor. Regulars at the Horse, which is the oldest continuously running bar in North America (established in 1775) verify these stories.

If believed Poe’s ghost haunts several other places--Fort Monroe is one place that has eyewitness accounts. Once Poe’s guardian disowned him he could not afford to stay at the University of Virginia so he joined the army—he is said to haunt Fort Monroe where he was stationed. He was not happy while he was in the army but he did write a collection of verse, entitled Al Aaraaf in 1829. At Monroe his ghost has been seen writing while sitting at a desk.