Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tower of London Ghosts

The Tower of London has stood for over 900 years. It is considered the most haunted spot in Britain. 

The tower’s history includes beheadings, murders, torture, and hangings. It has served as a prison for several nobles.

The first ghost to be spotted at the tower was that of Thomas A. Beckett. While an inner curtain wall was being constructed it is said Beckett appeared to show his disfavor. 

Legend states he reduced this wall to rubble with one single stroke from his cross. In order to appease Beckett’s ghost, Henry II named a chapel after the archbishop. This worked for the construction proceeded without another incident.

Two of the most tragic ghosts seen at the tower are of the two young princes, Edward V age 12 and Richard Duke of York age 10. 

These two were murdered in 1843. No one knows for sure who ordered their murder but some feel it was the Duke of Gloucestershire who was crowned Richard the III after their deaths. 

In the late 15th century two guards saw these two princes in the Bloody Tower. * They still wore the white nightshirts that they were last seen in. They were observed gliding down the stairs and then standing hand in hand. They then just faded back into the stones of the Bloody Tower. 

In 1674 the skeletal remains of these two young men were discovered in a chest—they were then given a proper burial.

The most active ghost at the tower is Henry VIII's second wife Queen Anne Boleyn. 

After she gave birth to a stillborn son, Henry accused Boleyn of infidelity. She was taken to the Tower Green and beheaded on May 19, 1536. 

Anne’s ghost appears by the Queen’s House near where she was executed. She has been seen leading a procession of Lords and Ladies down the aisle at the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula. She is spotted floating down to where she was buried under the chapel’s altar. Her headless body has also been seen walking through the tower’s corridors.

Sir Walter Raleigh was also imprisoned and executed at the tower by order of James I. While imprisoned in the tower he occupied two comfortable rooms, which can be seen on a tour of the tower today. 

People who have witnessed his ghost state he looks just like his portrait that hangs in the tower.

Henry VIII had the Countess of Salisbury imprisoned in the tower for treason. The story of her execution is by far the most grisly. 

It is said the countess who was high-spirited refused to place her head upon the chopping block and instead ran. Her executioner pursued her with his ax. He hacked her to death as she ran. 

Her ghost has been seen reliving this gruesome experience. An ax has also been seen falling at the scene where she died.

At one time a menagerie of royal animals was kept at the tower. This collection of animals included: bears, lions, leopards, birds, monkeys, and an elephant. 

At midnight in January of 1815, a sentry saw a bear emerge from a doorway. He lunged at it with his bayonet, which passed right through the apparition. This sentry was found dead- it was said he died of fright.

The oldest part of the tower is called the Salt Tower. It is said to be the most haunted area of the entire tower complex. 

It seems dogs will not enter this ancient building. After one Yeoman Warden** was struck by an unseen force—guards for years afterward would not enter this area after dark.

In 1864 a soldier whose post was to guard the Queen’s House saw an apparition so real he charged the intruder with his bayonet only to see his blade go right through the figure. 

He was found unconscious and tried for neglect of duty. Two witnesses came forward to corroborate his story so he was acquitted.

Another ghost that is seen at the Tower of London is Lady Jane Grey but I will leave this story for another post…

* The Bloody Tower was originally called the Garden Tower and was a royal home.

** Yeoman Wardens today are former soldiers who give tours of the Tower of London, they are known as Beefeaters, they live at the tower. Below is a video of one of these tours—warning these tours are very funny but they are not politically correct.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Haitian Zombies

Recently the news has made reference to zombies in connection to several heinous crimes that have been committed in the US. This is not a post about ghosts but I think it might be of interest considering the recent news stories. 

Zombies in pop culture are portrayed as the “living dead”. Most cultures state they are fictionalized monsters. But in Haiti most people believe in zombies. In fact, Haitian voodoo witchdoctors create them. *

In popular films, such as, “Night of the Living Dead” and “Zombieland” zombies are portrayed as dead, rotting humans that come back to life and shuffle around murdering the innocent. 

It is a given that these monsters are not real. 

But the idea for zombies didn’t originate in classic literature, like Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster, but rather from religious voodoo Haitian tradition.

Haiti is a country with a strong voodoo and black magic tradition. The word “zombie” comes from a Creole word. The term zombie is used in Haiti to describe a person that has been brought back to life but is unable to speak and is controlled by a voodoo priest. 

Researchers have concluded that many Haitian voodoo witchdoctors use a portent mixture of drugs to exert control over their innocent victims. This is known as the “Zombification” process.

This process starts when a witchdoctor or as they are called in Haiti, “Bokors” choose a victim which they give a variety of drugs to that act as a powerful neurotoxin that causes the illusion of death. Their victim’s heart slows, their bodies become paralyzed, and their breathing becomes so shallow no one can detect it. 

What is horrifying about this process is the victims’ brain still functions normally. These Bokors do this so their victims will be pronounced dead.

These victims are alert and can hear their relatives weep as their body is placed in a coffin and the lid is nailed shut. They are in a state of confusion as their body that will not move is lowered into darkness. They scream silently for they cannot speak. 

The next thing they hear is a shovel digging at the dirt that lies above them. The lid is pried open and they see the local witchdoctor. Their body is removed from the coffin and their living nightmare continues.

They cannot resist as the Bokor gives them another portent mixture of drugs. These drugs are psychoactive in nature and sometimes render the victim completely incompetent. At best they take most of the victim’s memory away. The victim now wanders mindlessly following the Bokors’ commands. The Bokor then puts his victims to work in his sugar cane fields in order to increase his wealth.

The family and friends of these victims because of their deep rooted Haitian belief in voodoo do not protest. In fact, they shun and avoid their loved ones believing their souls have been stolen by the Bokor. Hence, these victims are doomed to a living hell.

Cases of this being done are well documented. In fact, there are numerous accounts of people being turned into mindless slaves by voodoo priests. 

One case involves a man who was pronounced dead, 18 years later he was discovered working in the fields and under the control of the local witchdoctor. The man in the photo, Clairvius Narcisse--was found by a family member who thought he had been dead all those years. **

So Haitian zombies are the victims not the victimizer.

Films like The Serpent and the Rainbow have highlighted the real zombies of Haiti. The Haitian people when asked if they believe in zombies always answer yes. Then they walk away in fear.

* People who still practice the voodoo religion in Haiti strongly deny these stories. They state they are Roman Catholic. They do admit though that their voodoo practices include rituals that allow them to communicate with the dead. They do this by going into a trance.

** His family buried him in 1962. In 1981 his sister screamed as she spotted him approaching her in a public market. It was thought Clairvius died in a hospital in 1962 complaining of strange sensations all over his body. He told his sister he heard everything as they buried him but he couldn't speak. 

After he was buried a voodoo priest came to his grave and removed his body from the coffin. He was beaten and tied up. The priest had his body taken to an area far from his home. 

He then was forced to work on a farm day and night with other semi-stupefied people. Over 200 witnesses confirmed he was Clairvius. His case received international attention. Cases like Narcisse's have been reported all over Haiti--even in recent years.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th: Black-eyed Kids

Dave Schrader of Darkness Radio shared stories about Black-eyed Kids on a local television station this morning. If you don’t know about this phenomenon read more about it, it is both fascinating and scary.

Here is the video of him telling stories about them today:

I listen to Schrader’s radio program on a regular basis. If you are not familiar with it check it out here:

It is some of the the best paranormal talk in the US.

The Haunted Hollywood Sign

This famous Hollywood landmark perched atop Mount Lee overlooking the Hollywood Hills was initially built in 1923 at the cost of $21,000. It was placed at this location to advertise a real estate development in Beachwood Canyon. 

Each original letter stood 50 feet high and 30 feet wide. The sign was illuminated by thousands of light bulbs. It was made out of wood and originally read “Hollywoodland.” The sign was meant to be temporary.

In 1939 maintenance on the sign was discontinued. In 1944 the original developers gave 455 acres to Los Angeles—this parcel included the sign. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce rebuilt the sign but did not replace the light bulbs or the last four letters because “Hollywood” was now synonymous with the movie industry. 
Sign in 1970s.

The sign was once again left to deteriorate until the late 1970s when a group of concerned citizens held a fundraiser. The original wooden sign was demolished, and a new structure with steel letters replaced it. *

The Hollywood sign is considered haunted because of one specific ghost that has been seen many times.

Millicent Lillian (Peg) Entwistle was born in Port Talbot, Wales in 1908 to English parents. At an early age, her mother died; her father moved her and her two brothers to New York. Peg had one goal--to become an actress. 

Tragically, her father was run over by a car and killed. Her two brothers went to live with their Uncle Harold in California. But Peg stayed in New York to pursue acting. 

At 17 she got her first job with a Boston repertory company. She then acted on Broadway and toured around the country. She became known as a comedienne.

In 1927 she married Rolland Keith Richey, a man who was ten years her senior. Shortly after their marriage, she was surprised to find that Robert Keith—her husband's stage name—had a six-year-old son from a previous marriage.** 

To Peg’s credit when she was in the process of divorcing Robert, she paid the back alimony he owed to his ex-wife which kept him out of jail.

In 1932 she was offered a part in the production The Mad Hopes” in Los Angeles. She received rave reviews; in fact, she received more attention than Billie Burke and Humphrey Bogart who starred in this play. 

Peg settled in Los Angeles. Finding only sporadic work, she eventually moved into her Uncle Harold’s bungalow in Beachwood Canyon for financial reasons.

Peg was overjoyed when RKO offered her the role of Hazel in the film “Thirteen Women” starring Irene Dunne. But the movie opened to poor reviews and when it was re-edited Peg’s part mostly landed on the cutting room floor. 

Upset by the critics’ reviews, Peg went into a depression. Shortly after this, RKO informed her that they were not going to renew her contract, which threw her into an even deeper depression.

In September of 1932 after a night of drinking, she told her uncle that she was meeting friends at a local drug store. Instead, she walked toward Mount Lee. She placed her coat and purse at the base of the letter “H” at the Hollywood sign and then climbed a maintenance ladder and jumped. She was only 24 years old.

Two days later a hiker discovered her coat and purse and then spotted her body. Wanting to remain anonymous he left her jacket and bag plus a suicide note he found on the steps of the local Hollywood police station. He left his own letter to tell them where her body was located. Peg’s suicide note:

“I am afraid I am a coward, I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.”

To discover her identity, the local police published a description of Peg and the contents of the note she left in the local papers and requested radio stations describe her and read the note on-air. Peg’s uncle came forward to claim her body.***

Many witnesses have seen Peg’s ghost in the vicinity of the Hollywood sign. Park Rangers and hikers over the years have reported seeing a young attractive blonde haired women wearing 1930s style clothing in Griffith Park. 

All these witnesses note that this ghost appears to be very sad. They often state when they approach her, she just disappears.

One evening as a couple was walking their dog along the Beachwood Canyon trail they noticed their dog was acting strangely. Instead of romping around on the path and in the brush like he usually did he began to whine and hang back by them. A woman wearing old-fashioned clothing appeared in front of them. 

This did not disturb the couple, because they were used to encountering weird dress in Hollywood. But they did take note the women appeared very dazed. Concerned she might be drunk, or on drugs, they turned to leave, but as they did so, they were shocked to see her just vanish. 

This couple had not heard about Peg’s ghost before this encounter.

One Park Ranger, John Arbogast, has seen Peg’s ghost several times. He states she appears late at night especially when it is foggy. 

Arbogast has reported that he often smells the scent of gardenias**** when she is around. He finds this odd because he always notices this scent in cold weather months never during the summer. 

Arbogast also describes how the motion sensor alarms that are in place at the sign,  ironically to prevent more suicides, go off when no one is around. He even states these sensors have indicated that someone is only five feet away from him—when he is the only one near the sign.

* Private donors paid $28,000 for each steel letter.

** Robert Keith’s son who was briefly Peg’s stepson started acting at the age of 3. He was to become a very famous actor. 

Brian Keith known for his good looks and husky voice starred in many films—The Rare Breed and Nevada Smith to name just two. He also had a successful television show—Family Affair

His family has something tragic in common with his former stepmom. He committed suicide in 1997 just ten weeks after his 27-year-old daughter, Daisy committed suicide.

*** A tragic postscript to Peg’s suicide is that shortly after her death a letter from the Hollywood Playhouse arrived at her uncle's home. It offered her a substantial role in which she would have played a woman that commits suicide.

**** Gardenias were known to be Peg’s signature scent.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ghost of Bugsy Siegel

One of the first hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada that remains today is the Flamingo Hotel. This hotel has a very famous ghost residing in its Presidential Suite. 

At 10:30 P.M. on June 20, 1947, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a well-known gangster was shot and killed at his girlfriend’s home in Beverly Hills, California.

Siegel rose from the poverty-ridden slums of Brooklyn, New York to become a famous racketeer. Ben, as he liked to be called, was tall, charming, athletic, and handsome. He had the gift of gab, was a sharp dresser and it was said his piercing blue eyes were fearless. From his early teens, Siegel was a successful criminal.

Mug Shot
Siegel was also the classic textbook sociopath. He took what he wanted without a thought for his victims. He was a master manipulator of people. 

He had a long history of robbery, rape, and murder. His fellow criminals dubbed him “Bugsy” because he was known to take jobs others wouldn’t take. He became the mob's most feared hit man. Bugsy is a fitting nickname because Siegel often would “go bugs” with anger if others crossed him.

Yet Siegel is not remembered for his crimes but for his extravagant lifestyle, which included many mob connections and Hollywood friends. * 

He is also remembered because he was one of the first to see the opportunity that Las Vegas, Nevada presented. ** 

Because of this his name is synonymous with gambling in Las Vegas. But it would be his association with this town that caused his death.

Siegel seeing Vegas’ potential convinced his mob and Hollywood friends to invest in a project that he assured them would result in quick profits. 

He started to build a hotel/casino called the “Flamingo.” The project turned into a “money pit,” costing over six million dollars. 

This drained his mob friends’ treasury dry. To add insult to injury his mob friends back east, including Meyer Lansky, learned that Siegel was skimming money from the building budget and putting it in numbered Swiss bank accounts.

The mob decided to put a “hit” out on Siegel. Lansky, who was a close friend of Siegel, because Bugsy had saved his neck on several occasions in the past, convinced the Syndicate to hold off. 

He convinced them that the Flamingo was going to be a moneymaker, so they would get their money back. At its first opening the Flamingo flopped, but
months later when Siegel reopened the hotel it was a success. 

But this did not save Siegal's life. To this day it is not known if the Syndicate fulfilled the hit contract they had out on Siegel, or if other enemies killed him. His murder was done mob style. *** 

The Syndicate did take over the Flamingo after Siegel’s death.

Las Vegas is no longer owned by the mob. The Hilton Corporation owns the Flamingo Hotel and Casino today. In 1997, the Flamingo celebrated its 50th anniversary. It is the fourth largest hotel in the world with more than 3,500 guest rooms. 

Siegel was not mentioned during the anniversary celebration. As one writer put it:

“…the lesson that the life of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel imparts on us: a killer with a good idea is, after all, just another bum.”

But the sightings of Siegel’s ghost indicates that he is pleased that his predictions for Las Vegas came true. 

Since his death, many witnesses have seen Siegel’s ghost at the Flamingo Hotel. For four years before his death in Beverly Hills, **** Bugsy lived in the Presidential Suite at the Flamingo. Guests that have stayed in this room have reported many strange encounters.

Moving cold spots are reported, and objects vanish or are moved around the suite. Witnesses have seen his apparition in the bathroom and near the suite’s pool table. 

It is reported that he appears to be happy and content to still be present. Some witnesses state he looks to be pleased about something. Maybe he is glad that Las Vegas turned out how he envisioned it.

* When Siegel moved west he looked up his old friend the actor George Raft. Some state that Raft’s film portrayals of gangsters were styled after Siegel. 

Siegel knew a lot of mob bosses in the east. When Siegel moved to Hollywood he brought the rackets with him. He took control of the extras union and threatened to shut down the film industry if actors and studio bosses didn’t pay him—they did.

** When Siegel first visited Nevada it was legal to gamble, and there were already small casinos downtown. The Flamingo Hotel was the first hotel built in the area that was to become known as the "Las Vegas Strip."

*** As Siegel sat in his girlfriends (Virginia Hill) house, reading the LA Times, nine shots came through a window. Two of them struck him in the head.

**** Siegel’s ghost has been seen at Hill's house as well. His apparition is seen “ducking for cover” as if dodging bullets.