Friday, June 15, 2012

Mexican Ghost Story: La Planchada


La Planchada in spanish means “ironed lady”. This is a well known ghost legend in Mexico. It is a story of a ghostly nurse who is seen in hospitals in central Mexico in urban areas. This nurse is seen wearing an old-fashioned nurses uniform. There are several versions of this story. The following is one that has been told many times. This story is connected to the Hospital Juarez located in Mexico City.

An example of 1930's
nurses' uniform.
In the 1930s a nurse by the name of Eulalia worked at the hospital. She always wore very clean, crisp ironed uniforms. She was a very good nurse and her patients where lucky to be under her care. But this changed when a nice young handsome doctor joined the hospital’s staff. Eulalia and this doctor started to see each other socially. It was not long before Eulalia fell in love and the two were engaged.

Shortly after they became engaged the doctor left to attend a medical seminar. To Eulalia’s surprise and concern he did not return the following week. Then another week passed and the doctor still did not return. Eulalia was beside herself with worry. She felt that something bad must have happened. It wasn’t until several weeks had passed that the hospital got word from the doctor—it seems he had met a woman in the town that hosted the seminar and the two had wed.

Heart-broken, Eulalia lapsed until a deep state of depression. She was so distracted by her sorrow that her work suffered. She started to neglect the patients that were under her care. One night one of her patients died as a direct result of her neglect. Realizing her terrible error, Eulalia became ill herself. Not having the will to fight for her own life she died in the hospital where she worked.

After her death, strange things started to occur. Patients, nurses, and doctors started to see a nurse in the emergency room area. Some stories state that she appears to glow and floats instead of walks through the hospital corridors. Other witnesses state she appears to walk normally. But in all of these reports it is stated her footsteps are not heard. Hospital staff started to call this ghostly nurse, “La Planchada” because she always appears wearing a clean, freshly pressed uniform.

The reports from patients are the most intriguing. This ghostly nurse not only appears but cares for patients in the emergency area of the hospital. * It is often reported that at night when some of the hospital staff neglect their patients this nurse cares for them instead. In the morning these patients are well enough to be moved to less intensive care rooms. When asked how they are feeling they reply, “a nurse came in and healed me.”

It is stated that Eulalia returns as a spirit nurse because of a sense of guilt. It seems she is forever doomed to pay for her mistake in life. As mentioned above, there are several versions of this story. In one version it is stated that the nurse was a cruel person who treated her patients badly so when she died her punishment was to take care of patients for eternity. In another version Eulalia was never actually engaged to the young doctor, this version states he rejects her interest in him and marries a woman he is engaged to. She then takes her disappointment out on her patients. The result is several of them die.

Regardless of the story—several hospitals in Mexico lay claim to her ghost. There are many witnesses who state they have seen her or have been under her care at night.

*  It is sometimes stated that she specifically takes care of patients that stay in the room where she died.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Stocksbridge Haunting


The story of this haunting is one of the scariest I have ever heard …

It took place in the north of England in Yorkshire in the late 1980s. The witnesses that described what happened were very reliable. Two of these witnesses were constables connected to the local police station who did not believe that ghosts exist. What they saw and heard changed their minds.

Many feel that when environments undergo change, such as renovations, it stirs up paranormal activity. This is what most likely happened in the fall of 1987 when construction was started on the A616 bypass near Stocksbridge. It quickly became apparent that someone or something was not happy about this change.

On September 8, 1987 two big burly security guards hired by the McAlpine Construction Company to watch the construction materials overnight were making their usual rounds. Both these men had been hired for their size in hopes that it would deter others from stealing company property. At 12:30 a.m. one of these men called their boss, Mick Lee, in a frantic state. He told Lee what they had seen and heard.

The two security guards driving a Land Rover had stopped their vehicle in surprise when they spotted a group of children playing near the half completed bridge. They parked and watched these children skipping about. They noticed these children were wearing clothing from an earlier era and the guards wondered at the fact they were out playing so late at night in an area where there where few homes nearby.

The two men then drove their rover closer to where they had seen the children. Confused, they got out because the children where nowhere to be seen. As they inspected the area they were stunned to find there were no footprints in the mud. Lee concerned about the man’s “confused state of panic” rushed to the site. The guards then told him what they had seen next.

Driving back along Pearoyd Lane they saw a large, dark monk standing atop the unfinished bridge. They told Lee that as their headlights swept the figure it just disappeared. After this, something took hold of their heavy Land Rover and shook it violently like it was just a child's toy while they sat in it. Lee believing the two men, called the local Police. 

The constable who took the call, PC Dick Ellis, laughed at Lees' concerns and told him that he should call a priest instead because it didn’t sound like a matter for the police.

But to PC Ellis’s surprise a priest called him the following afternoon to request he send someone to help him with two security guards at the church. The vicar explained that these two men were insisting an exorcism be performed at the Stocksbridge bypass site. He told Ellis that he was very concerned about the men’s “state of distress.”

At this point the police had no choice but to investigate the guards story. PC Dick Ellis and Special Constable John Beet found themselves later that evening chuckling as they drove toward the site. Both were very skeptical about what they felt was a false report. They both found the two securities guards “state of panic” very amusing.

The evening of September 11, 1987 was warm so Ellis and Beet had their car windows down as they sat surveying the construction site. It wasn’t long before they saw something moving on the bridge. Both men left the car to investigate. They found a piece of tarp flapping around in the wind. When they returned to the car both men decided they would give it a few more minutes and then leave for the night.

In the next moment an odd sensation overtook Ellis. He turned very cold and was unable to speak. He finally turned to Beet and asked if he had felt anything. When Beet looked confused by his question he explained that he had felt as if someone had walked over his grave.

 Startled Ellis turned his head quickly feeling a presence at his side. Shocked he saw a dark torso pushed right through the cars' window. Ellis noted the cloak the figure wore had a v shaped piece of cloth running down its chest. Terrified, Ellis saw the apparition pass right through his elbow that rested upon the window frame.

Within seconds this apparition disappeared and reappeared on Beet’s side of the car. Beet screamed as again the figure pressed closely against his door. As Ellis quickly stepped out of the car the figure vanished once more. He circled the car and checked underneath but nothing was there. Puzzled he found no footprints in the mud except for his own and Beets.

Ellis got back in the car and turned the ignition key but nothing happened. He tried again but the car would not start. On his third attempt the car started. Ellis drove back toward where the construction material was stored and stopped to radio their location to the station. Suddenly, there was a very loud bang on the back of the car. Later, Ellis reported it sounded like a baseball bat or pick axe handle was being used to hit the car.

Beet at this point was frozen to his seat. Ellis climbed out of the car once more. Again he found nothing-- he didn’t see or hear anything. As Ellis jumped back in the car it was struck again violently. The loud sound vibrated but curiously the car didn’t move with the impact. As the car was hit once more Ellis started the car and floored the accelerator.

Back at the station both men were visably shaken up as they told their shocked colleagues what had happened. In their written reports both Ellis and Beet describe feelings of “intense fear”.

“It was not that which one has when you are about to encounter danger—but worse, it was the kind where you have absolutely no control over… a feeling of dread.”

Many sightings of phantom children have been reported around this area over the years. At the time the two security guards spotted them other construction workers that were being housed in trailers on site reported hearing children near the construction area late at night.

It is known that the area where the bypass was built, over a hundred years ago, was once used by a monastery, which farmed the land in the vicinity. One legend, states that a monk at this monastery went to work elsewhere. This was not allowed, so when this monk died the other monks refused to bury him in consecrated ground. They felt he should not have defied the rules.

As for the ghost children it is stated in the past children were used to work in the areas "pits” or coal mines. One theory is that their was a mining disaster that killed many of these children.

Here is a video produced by the British television series, Strange But True? that re-enacts this story. Other witness accounts are included. This story is told in the first 12 minutes of this show. It is followed by a story about people who believe they have been saved by guardian angels.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Digital Voice Recorders and Ghost Hunting


One question I am asked a lot is “What digital voice recorder is best to use when trying to capture EVP’s?” 

Any basic recorder will capture EVP’s—this even includes analog recorders. But if you want a good quality recording a digital recorder is your best bet. 

The Constantino’s were asked this question at a conference I attended. Their response was basically that any recorder works. But they suggested the use of digital recorders as well.

The reason that ghost hunters should use digital recorders over analog recorders is simple—analog recorders often pick up their own internal workings so the sound quality of the recordings you capture on this type of equipment often is contaminated. 

Having said this I do have a more traditional recorder app on my phone called “Tape Machine”. There have been times when I have used this app when I didn’t have a digital hand held recorder handy—and I have picked up some good recordings on it.

Here is the link for the Tape Machine App.

Another type of voice recorder you should avoid using is a “voice activated” one. The reason for this is because since they don’t turn on until noise occurs they miss the first few seconds of the occurrence. Considering EVP’s are often short in duration this can mean not picking up an important part.

Even though most recorders will pick up EVP’s I do have some suggestions if you intend on sharing these recordings. 

A must is to have a handheld voice recorder that has a computer interface. A digital voice recorder that has a UBS port allows the user to upload their recordings to a computer. This is important because this provides a way to save parts of recordings to a CD as opposed to keeping them on a recorder that will be erased and reused. 

But I have to admit here that the Class A EVP’s I have captured I tend to keep on the original recorder as well—so I have proof I have not enhanced them in some way.

Another reason a UBS port is handy is because it allows the user to upload interesting recordings they capture onto a computer so they can put them into a program like Audacity or WordPad.  

A sound editor allows the user to clip out parts of their recording without keeping hours of recordings that have nothing of interest on them. Sound editors also allow the user to turn the volume up etc., which helps the investigator determine what is actually being said.

Two good digital voice recorders on the market are Sony and Olympus. 

The investigator can’t go wrong using these two brands—they come in a variety of models. Look for ones that have buttons, for off/on, volume etc. that can be easily found and seen in the dark. 

The more expensive models have backlit displays. I have worked with investigators that use Tascams *—they have come down in price over the years. They used to be around $300 but these days you can find a good one for around $150.00. 

One downside to Tascams is you can only listen to them, live or playback, with headphones. On the other hand, if you have the headphones on during the time a ghost speaks or makes noise you can hear it in real time or as it happens. Tascams have very good sound quality.

Here is the link for Sweetwater. This company has a nice selection of Tascams and other high end recorders.

*  The Tascams I am referring to are handheld ones—not the big soundboards used in recording studios.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Haunted Skirrid Mountain Inn


The Skirrid Inn is one of the most haunted structures in South Wales. It is located in Abergavenny and was originally built in the 12th century as a hostelry. Over the hundreds of years this building has stood it has seen more than its fair share of violence. This violence focused around a large number of executions by hanging that took place within the Inn’s walls. Today the Skirrid is one of the oldest pubs in Britain.

During the reign of King James the II, who was a catholic, the local townsfolk supported the Protestant Duke of Monmouth in his failed rebellion. The king sent Judge Jeffries to hang these rebels for their disloyalty. Over one hundred locals were hanged from a beam beneath the Skirrid Inn staircase.

The Skirrid Inn was also used as the local courthouse. The local land owner, Squire Arnold presided over these hearings. Arnold was a particularly cruel man and he dispensed swift punishment to over 180 highwaymen, robbers, thieves, cheats—and anyone else who dared to cross him. All who came before him were hanged.

The trails were held on the second floor—these condemned prisoners spent their last few hours in a cell that was halfway up the stairs. From this location the condemned men as they waited to die could hear the pub’s merry patrons below. Today the area that was used as the cell is a storage room. The beam that was used to hang the prisoners from is still located at the top of the stairwell. People can still see the marks left on it from the many ropes that were used.

The stone building that is the Skirrid Mountain Inn still has many original floors, walls, window frames and of course the beams that were used as gallows. The atmosphere in the inn is described as eerie at best. It seems the building keeps the memories of the last breaths of hundreds of souls. So it is no surprise the structure is haunted.

One of the scariest reports has happened to guests and pub patrons alike. They state that welts on their necks, like rope burns have appeared. Many recount how they felt their breathing was restricted as if they were being choked. One apparition that has been seen over the years is John Crowther. He was one of the many thieves who were hanged in the inn for stealing sheep. It is said that his ghost is friendly and good company. Besides Crowther’s ghost other criminals have been spotted as well as a hangman. In the Skirrid pub, where locals still stop in for a pint, items are often misplaced, and unseen hands move glasses along the bar.

One recent guest who stayed in Room 1 upstairs –had a very frightening experience in the room’s bathroom. This area near the wall was where Arnold and his magistrates once sat in judgment on their countless prisoners. This female guest was taking a bath when unseen hands pushed her under the water and held her down. Her screams were heard throughout the inn, “he is trying to kill me.” In Room 2 also upstairs other guests have been touched by what they describe as a malevolent presence. Many have had their ears tweaked.

The present manager of the Skirrid Inn does not believe in ghosts but he admits that something is not quite right about the building. His four-year old grandson did encounter one of the inn’s ghosts. He and his wife had not mentioned anything about the inn’s ghostly history to their grandson since he is so young. But one day he approached his grandpa stating he needed to pee. The manager pointed out one of the inn’s restrooms and told him to use it. Surprised he saw his grandson return within seconds. He asked the boy why he had not used the restroom, his grandson told him quickly, “The man in the long dress won’t let me through the door.”

The Skirrid Mountain Inn is in Llanvidhangel Crucorney, a small village just five miles north of the center of Abergavenny.