Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thailand: The Ghost of Mae Nak


This is by far the most beloved and well-known ghost story in Thailand. Because of the Thai traditional belief about spirits this story is considered by many to be true. Mae Nak’s story has been the subject of film, T.V. and opera productions. It has all the elements of a classic tragic love story. The story takes place during the reign of King Rama IV one hundred fifty years ago in the mid nineteenth century.

Mae Nak was a beautiful young woman who lived with her husband, Tid Mak, in the Phra Khanong district in Bangkok. The couple lived near the Mahabut temple. Just as these two lovers found out they were expecting their first child, Mak is called to fight in a war in northern Thailand. Tragically, Nak dies in childbirth along with her baby son. As the two are buried, Tid Mak fighting so far from his village does not hear of their cruel fate even when he finally returns home.

Returned from war Tid Mak is greeted by the ghosts of his wife and baby son. They appear solid so he is unaware that they are not real. Several neighbors try to tell Mak that his wife and son died and were buried. They try to warn him that he is living with ghosts but he does not listen to them. These neighbors for their efforts, meet the wrath of Mae Nak’s ghost who condemns each of them to a grisly death.

Tid Mak does eventually discover the truth by accident. One day as Mae Nak makes a meal she drops a lemon that falls between the floorboards of the raised house.  Startled, Mak sees his wife’s arm extend and go right through the floorboard as if it were not there. Mak runs from the house in terror. Mae Nak follows him but he takes refuge in the Mahabut temple where she being a ghost cannot enter.

Nak grief-stricken at the loss of her husband becomes enraged. She turns against the villagers of Phra khanong, terrorizing them. A monk is finally able to capture and entrap her within an earthen pot. He then flings this pot into a nearby river. All is well until a couple of fishermen catch this pot in their net. Curious, they unwittingly open the pot letting the vengeful spirit of Mae Nak loose. She once again terrorizes the villagers and Tid Mak along with his new girlfriend.

This time it is a young monk who stops Nak’s ghost by binding a piece of her exhumed skull within his waistband. The story ends with Tid Mak becoming a monk and living happily with his new family. But as it turned out this was not the end of Mae Nak’s ghost. Over the years many Thai have encountered her ghost and there are even recent reports of her activity.

Mae Nak's Shrine
Today the Wad Mahabut temple, built in 1762, is a popular tourist destination, for it was here where Tid Mak took refuge from his wife’s ghost. Nearby is a shrine that is dedicated to Mae Nak. Today the Mahabut temple is located in Suan Luang district because of a boundary change. The people of Phra Khanong are fighting for the boundary to be switched back so they can once again lay claim to the temple. Another interesting tidbit about this story is the young monk’s waistband that held the bone of Mae Nak’s skull supposedly still exists today. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Maine: The Witches Curse


The following story is part truth and part legend. 

Many tourists have visited Bucksport Cemetery because of a supposed curse. The man who was the victim of this curse actually lived and died in Maine. Colonel Jonathan Buck fought in the American Revolutionary War. He formed the Fifth Colonial Regiment. 

Later he founded “Buckstown”, which became known as Bucksport, Maine. He died in 1879 but not before, according to legend his mistress cursed him. Some state there is visual proof even today that this curse lives on.

The Bucksport curse was first mentioned in an article in The Cambridge City Tribune written by J. O. Whittamore in 1899.

As the story goes Colonel Buck had a mistress by the name of Ida Black. * The two were happy until Ida’s looks began to fade. At which point the Colonel found himself a new younger mistress. During the mid 1800's Maine was in the grips of Witchcraft hysteria. Buck decided to use this to his own advantage.

In order to dispose of Ida he accused her of being a witch. Buck was believed because he was a leading citizen of the community. Ida was found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to burn at the stake. 

It is said as she burned she placed a curse upon the Colonel. She warned that she would haunt his grave. As the crowd and Colonel Buck watched she proclaimed that she would “dance upon his grave” at his death.

When Jonathan Buck died in 1875 evidence of Ida Black’s curse was noted. Shortly after the colonel’s death a “bloody leg print” appeared upon his large grave monument. 

Many people over the years have tried to remove it but it always reappears. Descendants of Colonel Buck have even replaced the stone twice but the bloody print always returns. Reports state that the print always appears more pronounced on the anniversary of the Colonel’s death.

Some state this story is true, others state that it was actually just a fabrication of J. O. Whittamore’s imagination. Regardless, this legend has persisted for over one hundred years. Tourists still flock to see the Colonel’s large stone monument in Bucksport Cemetery. ** The print is still very much in evidence in recent photos.

* I have not found any evidence that an Ida Black lived in Bucksport. But as with most good legends this story has elements of truth, which keeps it alive.

** Bucksport Cemetery is located off Maine Street/ Highway 1 in Hancock County, Maine. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Errol Flynn: Haunted Mulholland Farm


Errol Flynn was born in Tasmania and grew up in Australia. He did not like school and had a strained relationship with his mother. He left home at an early age and took odd jobs. Ironically, he had his best luck as a “slave trader” in New Guinea.

Flynn by the age of 25 was in Hollywood. Within months he was cast as the star of the first great pirate epic, “Captain Blood.” Flynn became a popular action star and romantic lead as he adroitly made his way through a series of classic swashbuckler films including: Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Don Juan, and what is considered his best, The Adventures of Robin Hood.

In 1941 at the age of 33 Flynn built his dream home high above the glitzy Beverly Hills homes that were owned by the most famous stars of the time. He bought eleven and half acres on top of a ravine off what was at that time a dusty dirt road named Mulholland Drive. 

He built a two-story colonial style ranch house. The grounds also included a pool, tennis court, barn and even a casino. He called his home “Mulholland Farm”. His personal name for his home was "playhouse".

The publicity that surrounded Flynn was rarely about his films. He routinely made headlines for his carousing and mischief, which included fistfights, paternity suits and a legendary story about him and Raoul Walsh snatching the body of John Barrymore. *

Flynn was known about town as a “wicked” ladies-man. His girlfriends made up an imposing list of starlets and stars of the time. 

True to his bad boy image, Flynn had secret passageways installed with peepholes and two-way mirrors at the farm so he could spy on his lady friends as they ** changed into their bathing suits or used the shower in the bathroom. 

The parties he threw were the scandalous talk of Hollywood. They included “live dance bands, nude divers, fencing exhibitions, and plenty of girls.”

The phrase “in like Flynn” was a crude double entendre used to describe Flynn’s success in getting women into bed. ***

One year after Flynn built Mulholland Farm in 1942 two young girls accused him of statutory rape. His rape trial lasted a month and made front page newspaper headlines all over the country. During this time the phrase “in like Flynn” which had once flattered now made him the brunt of many cruel jokes.

Flynn was acquitted of the rape charges but his credibility as an artist was lost. Finding the damage was irreversible Flynn at one point even considered suicide. 

Within a short ten years Flynn fled the U.S. owing half a million in back taxes and alimony to two ex-wives. To ease his pain he started to drink and use drugs. He continued to work as an actor in Europe but he never regained his early success. He died in Vancouver B.C. in 1959 of a massive heart attack at the relatively young age of 50.

After Flynn’s death Stuart Hamblen, who was one of America’s first singing cowboys on the radio purchased Mulholland Farm. 

Over the twenty years he owned the farm several unusual occurrences were reported. 

When singer-song writer Ricky Nelson, who was a big fan of Flynn, bought the farm in 1980 the activity became even more pronounced. Nelson’s daughter Tracy experienced several unexplained events.

Tracy often felt a presence in the house. One night when she arrived home late from work she spotted a male figure standing in the dining room. She thought it was her father until she realized that his car was not in the driveway. Another time she thought buglars had broken into the house. She heard people throwing things at the walls and breaking chairs and glass as she hid in her bedroom. 

Surprised the next morning she found everything untouched except for one room which had been locked from the inside. When she spoke to her father about what she felt and heard he replied, “Oh, that’s only Errol.” Tracy moved out of the house after this. 

Months later her father called her and described that he and his girlfriend had heard the same smashing of glass and furniture in the same room--they too had thought that someone had broken into the house. When they inspected the area only the door was locked from the inside, nothing else had been touched. 

After her father died in a plane crash Tracy stated that she felt all the unexplained activity at Mulholland was Flynn’s ghost trying to warn them of an impending disaster.

Tracy's brother Gunnar also had an experience with Flynn's ghost. He saw Flynn's reflection in one of the mirrors in the home. 

Character actor Harv Presnell (he sang the song "Mariah" in Paint Your Wagon) was married to one of Stuart Hamblen's daughters. He and several Hamblen family members encountered Flynn's ghost. The Hamblen children and their friends felt the Casino building was haunted and would not enter it. 

The Hamblens and Nelsons agreed that most of the activity in the house centered around the wing of the house where the den was. In this wing both the first and second floors were active. This area was where Errol spent most of his time when he lived at the farm.

David Niven and Olivia de Havilland both were close to Flynn when he was alive. Both stated that after his death they felt his presence near them. Niven even mentioned that he and Flynn conversed after Flynn's death. He stated that Flynn helped steer his career in the 1960s. Flynn was restless in life and it appears his spirit remained active after death.

In 1988 Flynn’s notorious farm was torn down after a group of homeless squatters set a fire that burned part of the house down. Another home stands in its place and is owned by Justin Timberlake today.

*  Some researchers do not believe that Flynn and Walsh could have actually snatched the body of Barrymore and taken it to Mulholland Farm where they supposedly propped it up in Flynn’s favorite chair, drink in hand. Others state the two were just crazy enough to do it.

** Flynn’s two-way mirrors were an “open secret”. As for his female visitors, most knew about his wicked ways and wanted his attention. But it still leaves one to wonder how many of these women were unknowing victims of this voyeurism.

One biography about Flynn speculates that his behavior was a result of the fact his mother instilled in him at an early age that sex was sinful, and that his genitals were nasty. She was known to beat him. At the same time she flirted with her various boyfriends openly, craving their attention. This sent a confusing mixed message to her young son.

*** Some debate the phrase “in like Flynn” would have been too risqué for the 1940s but it was actually the phrases double meaning that allowed it to become apart of the common vernacular of the time.

I place this video here because it has images of Mulholland Farm--it reflects Flynn's movie persona not his real life...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Arizona Ghost: Red Feather


Arizona is a land of beautiful canyons. In one northern canyon surrounded by the Navajo Nation resides a female ghost that has haunted the area for 150 years. The Navajo’s believe that the deceased come back as either animal or human spirits. One such spirit lingers because she was from two worlds, neither of which accepted her when she was alive. Her tragic story starts with her mother and father.

John Martin was not a likable man. He was a white trader who one late afternoon accepted a young Navajo girl as payment for gunpowder and whiskey. Martin married the young Indian and built a house for them to live in. It was a unique structure for it mixed the traditional eight-sided Navajo Hogan with a more traditional European style. This house remains standing today but it is in ruins.

In 1870 John Martin’s young bride gave birth to a healthy baby girl. It was a long labor and unfortunately the mother died soon after her daughter was born. John named the baby Anna and then quickly forgot about her. Anna grew into a beautiful young woman. She had her mothers’ dark eyes and hair. She also had red highlights in her hair that were her fathers.

Growing up at a white mans trading post Anna tried to ignore her cruel father. She preferred being called “Red Feather” and she always wore traditional Navajo clothes. Her father’s white friends shunned her so she spent most of her days in isolation. One early summer day she decided to run away.

She made her way to her mothers’ Navajo village. Disappointed she found that she was also considered an outcast in the Indian world. From the day she arrived she was forced to work and eat alone. The only place she felt at peace was in a canyon the Navajo’s called “Spirit Canyon”. This canyon was adorned with magic drawings * therefore it was considered a sacred place by the Navajos.

Red Feather took comfort in looking upon the many drawings that her ancestors had left upon the windswept walls and rocks. One wall depicted a story of a young warrior who endeavored to join the spirit world. The pictures showed how he took his life to achieve this by leaping off a cliff to join the spirits. Red Feather was drawn to this scene every time she entered the canyon.

Some state her fascination with this scene inspired Red Feather to join the young warrior. Having no desire to remain in a world that had no place for her Red Feather in the spring of 1887 tragically leapt to her death off a canyon cliff. Shortly after this the Navajos started to see a strange vision of a young maiden in and around Spirit Canyon. This apparition looked just like Red Feather.

Over the years Red Feather has been seen numerous times. This story could have followed the path of most legends if it were not for the fact that there are many corroborated sightings of Red Feather by witnesses. The dates and witness names, including recent sightings have been recorded. Here are just three of these reports.

“When I was a little girl I often went out to Spirit Canyon—which is a sacred place for the Indian people. One morning while in the canyon just after sunrise I saw a woman standing on the edge. She was wearing traditional clothes; she looked like you could see right through her. I couldn’t see her face because it looked like it was all black. Then she was gone—just like that---and I couldn’t believe it. I was really scared, and after that I never went out there again.”

                                      Sarah Najiua, Navajo Native American

“We like to hike a lot, my husband and I. We take a tent and a little food and camp out for a couple of days. We were out in the Painted Desert. We found this great canyon with Petroglyphs on the walls. We decided to camp the night there. We had a pretty good fire going, I felt kind of funny all of a sudden. I looked up and there was this thing, this woman or girl, she was kind of glowing. Her face I couldn’t see. It was glowing all white. I’ve never seen anything like it then she just faded away, vanished. It scared the living daylights out of both of us."

                                               Debra Pennington

“We were on vacation with the grandchildren, we like to take the back roads a lot. We really feel you see much more that way—especially with the kids. We’d been to the National Monument north of Window Rock—on (Highway) 191 headed back down to the Petrified Forest. I saw a strange girl walking on the side of the road—dressed in Indian clothes. I’m not sure what it was but something made me stop. I looked at her and she just vanished. I am not the kind of person that believes in this weird stuff. I wouldn’t of believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. She just disappeared."

                                                 Howard Coleman


* These “magic drawings” are Petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are rock cravings done by prehistoric people. They are found all over the world.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Ghost of Minnie Quay


There are many stories of hauntings that are a direct result of two lovers being torn apart cruelly. One ghost legend that fits this category has been told in Michigan for several generations. This story is told in the “thumb” region of Michigan in the small town of Forester near Lake Huron.

In the 1800s Forester, Michigan was a thriving logging community. It was the main port of call for ships that carried lumber throughout the Great Lakes. James and Mary Ann Quay built a tavern along the lake. They became a prominent family in the area. They had a daughter and son. Their daughter, Minnie, at the age of fifteen was considered the local beauty.

The Forester townsfolk looked down upon the seamen that the bustling shipping industry brought to the area. 

Minnie at the age of sixteen had the misfortune to fall in love with a young sailor who visited her families’ tavern. When the people in the town found out the two lovers were meeting in secret it caused a scandal. Minnie’s parents forbid her from seeing the young man again. But a tragic turn of events made their censure unnecessary.

In the spring of 1876 Minnie was heartbroken because she was not allowed to even wave goodbye to her lover as his ship left the Forester port. Within days the tragic news reached the town that his ship had lost its battle with a recent gale and was at the bottom of the lake. There were no survivors. Minnie was inconsolable.

Left alone to watch her younger brother one late afternoon in April, Minnie waited for him to fall asleep. In a daze she walked toward town. Several people waved to her as she passed by the Tanner House but she did not acknowledge their greeting. 

This group watched in stunned surprise as she walked onto the pier and flung herself into the cold churning water below. Attempts where made to save her but it was too late. Her body was buried in the Forester Cemetery. Afterwards, the locals stated that she was now at peace because she had joined her lover.

But sightings of her ghost since her death seem to reflect a much more restless spirit. In fact, one common sighting of her involves people seeing her along the shoreline waist-deep in water. She is heard moaning and witnesses state she beckons to them. The legend states that she wants help in the search for her lover. In one real-life twist, one young female witness after spotting her apparition did drown herself in the lake.

Nothing but pylons are left of the long pier that once adorned the Forester port. But witnesses have seen Minnie’s ghost in this area where she took her own life. 

Her ghost has also been seen near her home, the tavern her parents owned. It is long abandoned but still stands. Descriptions of her always note she appears to be very sad. Today locals and tourists intrigued by her story leave gifts on her gravesite. Some state her ghost has been seen near this area as well.

Here is a song about Minnie’s story.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Australia: The Vengeful Ghost


Over forty years ago a young innocent teenage girl was walking along the road near Jenny Dixon Beach in Australia. She had gotten off work late and was making her way home when five unscrupulous young men forced her into their car. 

She was brutally beaten, gang raped and then thrown out of the car. Left for dead at Jenny Dixon Beach she was taken to a local hospital. She survived just long enough for her father to reassure her that those responsible would be punished.

This crime was sensationalized in newspaper headlines in the 1970s but the five ruthless young friends who were suspected of this heinous crime were never arrested or convicted. Evidence to prove their guilt was never substantiated. It is said that because of this the victims’ spirit has never been able to rest in peace.

Shortly after her death it is said her spirit became active. In a bizarre twist to this tale her ghost is said to seek revenge. The first of the five friends that were suspected complained that a ghost was hounding him, it is said he hung himself. 

Later that same year, the second friend was involved in a car accident. As he lay dying he stated that he had swerved off the road to avoid hitting a female figure that appeared out of nowhere. Other witnesses at the scene stated they had not see this figure.

The third friend also took his own life. Before his death he told people that a ghostly apparition was tormenting him. He drove his car off a cliff. 

The fourth friend stated he had picked up a female hitchhiker but as he neared Noraville Road the girl just disappeared. It is said that no one believed his story but afterwards he slowly went mad. While driving on the Pacific Highway he drove his car off an embankment, yet another suicide.

The fifth friend also complained of being tortured by a ghost. It is said he moved away from the area and was working for a circus. But the ghost followed him. He stated that he was living in a continual nightmare where this spirit hounded him both day and night.

Just as this story started to die down in the papers other witnesses started to see this ghost as well. One police report mentions a physician who was vacationing in the area and was not aware of the ghostly tale. He picked up a young female hitchhiker walking near the beach. In the police report he states that this girl just disappeared as his car neared Noreville Road. It is said he went into shock when told about the local ghost. 

Over the forty years since the girl’s tragic death there have been over fifty sightings of her ghost. The local police have a growing stack of reports given by witnesses to this phenomenon. The police have even witnessed it firsthand. Two officers early one morning picked up a young female hitchhiker alongside the road. She disappeared as they approached Norah Head Cemetery. What is interesting is how similar all these reports are.

One male witness that saw the ghost forty years ago recounts how the girl would only get in the backseat of his car. He vividly remembers how he tried to engage her in conversation but she would not speak. As he neared the cemetery he glanced in his rear view mirror and was shocked to see she was no longer in his car.

Recent witness accounts from both locals and tourists are very similar to this man’s account. The girl is always offered a ride as she walks along the roads near the beach in the Central Coast area. She always insists upon sitting in the backseat and she never talks. She always disappears as the car she is in nears the Norah Head Cemetery. 

Two other strange consistencies in these reports are that a lit cigarette is often found in the seat after she disappears and that her grave at Norah Head appears to be “disturbed” each time she appears.

Some state the reason she still haunts the area is because she is waiting to take her final revenge on the fifth ruthless boy who took her innocence and life.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Ghost of Sarah Henry


“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
                                                Patrick Henry

When Patrick Henry gave this his most famous speech on March 23, 1775 * he was still grief-stricken because his beloved wife Sarah Henry had died the month before. 

Sarah and Patrick were childhood sweethearts. They married when Patrick was eighteen and Sarah was sixteen. It was this connection that would bring Patrick the most joy and most sorrow in his life. 

The tragedy that surrounded Sarah’s last few years has resulted in a haunting that has lasted over two centuries.

When Patrick married he was already a “failed merchant” but Sarah’s dowry included a 600-acre farm, a house, and six slaves. So the two young newlyweds became planters. But in three years time a fire destroyed the Henry’s plantation. 

Patrick again became a merchant but for a second time he failed as a businessman. 

He then studied law in 1766 and this time he succeeded. His legal career took off and the now prosperous lawyer bought one of the largest mansions in colonial America, Scotchtown, a 10,000-acre plantation located in Ashland, Virginia for his family.  **

Just months after the Henrys moved in Sarah gave birth to their sixth child, a son. Shortly after this she started to exhibit signs of a mental illness, her condition worsened steadily and resulted in her death in 1775 just four years later. 

Few records of Sarah’s condition survived but some believe she suffered from “puerperal psychosis” which is a mental illness that often occurs after childbirth. It was during this time that Patrick had to make a difficult decision.

He viewed a public hospital in Williamsburg and was so horrified at what he saw he decided to keep his wife at Scotchtown where he could make sure Sarah received the attention she needed. 

In the last year of her life Sarah’s condition worsened to the point where the family decided to keep her confined in two of the basement rooms at Scotchtown. It is said during this period she exhibited a “strange antipathy” toward her family. 

A servant was first assigned to monitor her behavior but when she started to inflict bodily harm upon herself a special “straight-dress” similar to today’s straightjacket was used to restrain her.

Patrick remained loyal to his wife to the end. He made attempts to keep his wife’s condition secret. He even used a secret stairway in the back hall of Scotchtown when visiting his wife in the basement. 

But despite his discretion word spread quickly around the large plantation about the mistress’s condition. In colonial American people who suffered from mental illnesses where misunderstood. People didn't view it as an illness but rather being possessed by “evil spirits.” 

This is probably the main reason Patrick tried to keep Sarah’s illness secret. But as word spread across the plantation many servants, slaves, and workers refused to come near the mansion let alone enter it.

When Sarah died in February of 1775 she was buried in an unmarked grave on the plantation. It was a custom at the time to bury people with mental illness in secret. This again was connected to the belief that the mentally ill where possessed by demons. 

To this day the location of Sarah’s final resting place is not known. In 1777 when Patrick Henry was elected the first governor *** of Virginia he sold Scotchtown because it held too many bad memories for him. But it seems Sarah’s ghost remained.

A lot of strange things have occurred at Scotchtown over the years. The house itself for many years was abandoned and allowed to slowly deteriorate. During this time many neighbors saw lights at the windows, which looked like candlelight. 

A female ghost was seen by a group of children and adults wearing a long flowing white dress floating along the back of the house. This same spirit was seen making its way from the basement of the house to one of the outer buildings that housed the servants.

Patrick Henry’s great-great-great granddaughter felt the house was haunted and would not stay overnight. Mary Adams as a child lived at Scotchtown from 1933 to 1940 she heard unusual noises frequently. 

She and a group of her young friends saw a woman in a long, white gown inside the house, the figure disappeared in front of them. She and others heard chains being dragged across the attic floor.

In 1958 the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities purchased and restored Scotchtown

Since, a cradle used by the Henrys that is kept on the first floor has moved on its own. A tea caddy and the top of a teapot were moved while the house was empty. A candle that dates from the Henrys time in the home was moved during the night when the house was closed. 

The door to the basement is never locked but sometimes it will not open. Witnesses state it is like someone is holding it on the other side.

In recent times more strange activity has been witnessed. 

On Halloween night in 1990 a policeman took a report from a neighbor who witnessed a candle light in the window after the mansion had been closed for the day. This female witness reported that as she entered the grounds the candlelight disappeared but that she then saw a transparent figure of a woman walk past one window holding a candle. 

The police are often called to the estate because the alarm system and motion detectors are set off without explanation.

During tours of the house, visitors have also experienced strange activity. One docent took her group into the room directly above the basement rooms where Sarah was confined. As she told the visitors about Sarah’s last tragic years they all heard a loud shrill scream coming from the rooms below. The group scattered quickly. 

Visitors have also reported feeling as if someone is watching them or standing behind them while they are in the basement.

A portrait of Joseph Shelton, Shelton was Sarah’s maiden name, hangs at Scotchtown. Many people have reported that the eyes of this man seem to follow them while they are in the room. In the attic strange swarms of wasps and flies have collected at one window.

Another odd phenomenon at Scotchtown is connected to the two basement rooms were Sarah died. 

Ever since the mansion was renovated there have been attempts made to paint the walls in this area. Professional painters have been hired, top quality paint has been used but regardless the paint will not adhere to the walls. It is stated the paint literally “burns” off the walls and there is no scientific reason for why this occurs. So even today the walls in these two rooms are dreary and in need of fresh paint.

*  Patrick Henry’s speech helped move America toward American independence.



**  Scotchtown was originally built in 1719 and is a one-story house that is 80 feet long and 40 feet wide. It has eight rooms on the main floor and eight rooms in the basement. It also has a large attic.

***  Patrick Henry served 5 terms as governor of Virginia. He remarried in 1776 to Dorothea Dandridge. Between his two marriages he had seventeen children. Large families were common because many children died of illness. Six of Patrick Henry’s children died before him.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Did a Ghost, a Moth or an Angel save Queen Victoria’s Train?


This story was told for years as a tale of a ghostly figure or moth that saved a train in the late 1800s from a fatal disaster. 

A swollen stream had washed out a bridge and its tracks just before a British express train would have headed over it. 

It is still not known today whether it was a ghostly flagman, a moth or a guardian angel that saved the train from continuing on its path that fateful night over 200 years ago.

Late one night an express train made its way to London. This particular train had a very famous passenger, Queen Victoria was on board. 

It was a dark, foggy night as the train’s engineer looked out on the tracks pierced by the strong light of the train’s headlamp. * Startled he spied a figure standing in the middle of the tracks seemingly waving him off. He quickly grabbed the brake bringing the train to a grinding abrupt halt.

The engineer and several of his fellow workers climbed down from the cab to inspect the tracks. In the dense fog they found no trace of the ghostly figure the engineer had spotted. 

Hearing rushing water ahead the engineer decided to explore further. To his horror he discovered that the bridge the train would have crossed had been washed out. The middle section had collapsed completely into the icy rushing water below. If he had not stopped the train when he did it would have plunged off the bridge.

It was not until the rails and bridge were repaired that the train was able to make its way to London. This and the fact that the engineer did not come up with a plausible explanation for what he had seen until after he reached London allowed the myth of the ghostly figure to be spread. 

This resulted in the belief a “ghostly figure or flagman” had saved the lives of the passengers and crew.

Once the train was in the London station the engineer discovered a large dead moth at the base of the engine’s headlamp. On impulse, he wet the wings of the moth and pasted it onto the glass of the lamp. He climbed back into the cab and observed the light. He then saw the “ ghostly flagman” in the beam. 

He believed what had happened was the moth had flown into the beam and flapped its wings just minutes before the train was due to reach the bridge. In the fog it had appeared to him to be a ghostly figure waving its arms. But by the time the engineer came up with this explanation the tale of the ghostly figure had already taken hold.

The third explanation for what happened that night was supplied by Queen Victoria and then by Reverend Billy Graham years later. Queen Victoria after hearing about the strange events that night stated before she left the station:

“I’m sure it was no accident. It was God’s way of protecting us.”

Reverend Billy Graham in his book "Angels", published in 1975, recounts the story of the London express train and Queen Victoria’s belief. 

He agreed since the train was saved just minutes before it reached the collapsed bridge that it was the work of a guardian angel sent by God to protect the people on the train. I find this reason just as plausible as the engineer's moth theory. 

Many people feel what happened that night was more than just a coincidence.

* In the course of doing research for this post I found a very entertaining exchange between train enthusiasts pertaining to this subject. These posters where arguing over if a train headlight at that time would have been strong enough to cast light in order for the engineer to even have seen a “ghostly figure”, especially through fog.

One British poster pointed out that the fog would have acted as a good “reflector” and no matter how strong the lamp used the moth could have been seen. 

But all of this is moot if one believes the guardian angel theory—if this angel wanted to be seen, it would have been seen regardless of what form it took or the available light.