Monday, December 30, 2013

Can Animals Return as Ghosts?

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You’ve nothing to worry about there.”

Alf Wright
James Herriot
The above quote is a response given by the late British author, and veterinarian James Herriot, when he addressed the question of whether or not animals have souls, and could experience an afterlife.

His response was received with appreciation from people all over the world. Herriot was one of the first well-known animal lovers to address this topic.

If you believe the above, then the possibility exists that some animals do indeed return in ghostly form.

A popular post on this blog is about “Ghost Cats” and the intriguing video my group caught of a “possible” ghost cat. I received many positive responses to this post through email and in person.

This topic is close to many people’s hearts.

Numerous witnesses over the years have seen what they feel are deceased pets come back to visit.

A good book about this topic is Ghostly Animals of America written by Patricia Edwards Clyne.

Many people have seen the ghosts of animals over the years--not all of them former pets. The following story is an unusual one.

There is a busy intersection in Cook County in a suburb of Chicago. Until recently, this intersection did not have a traffic light. The speed limit in the area is 45 mph, but cars often drive through this intersection going 50 mph plus.

Drivers especially at night, have trouble seeing this intersection because there is a rise, which blocks their view until they actually cross it.

A riding stable is located near this intersection. This stable has extensive wooded riding paths, and one of these paths crosses this intersection.

Unfortunately, because of this dangerous intersection, more than one rider has been injured or killed at dusk or at night, when a car has hit them while they crossed this road. Several horses have been killed in these accidents, as well.

Drivers along this road have reported seeing a strange phenomenon. They see what appears to be a “smoke grey silhouette of a horse and rider.” Neither figure has distinguishable features. They are most often seen right in the middle of the road.

This strange duo is seen at night, crossing the intersection. Some have reported that they saw this horse and rider appear in front of their cars suddenly, but as they slowed down, this “silhouette” just faded away.

Other grisly reports state that drivers have actually seen one of these accidents, reenacted in this intersection. These accounts include witnesses seeing a rider being thrown from their saddle, and then just disappear. Others state they actually saw a fallen horse dragged by a car until it came to a complete stop. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Ghost of Ambrose Small

Ambrose Small, a millionaire Canadian theatre producer, disappeared in 1919 without a trace. This crime at the time was touted in international newspapers as the “Crime of the Century.” 

His disappearance is considered one of Canada’s great mysteries for this case has never been solved.

Just the day after Small sold his theatre chain for 1.7 million dollars, he was seen leaving--The Grand Opera House in downtown Toronto, Ontario after a night performance. He was then seen buying a newspaper and was never seen again.

Toronto Grand Opera House
Last place, Small was seen.

A $50,000 reward was offered, and the police conducted an extensive search--literally for years afterward-- but no valuable leads were ever discovered. Small was declared legally dead in 1923 but the case was not officially closed until 1960.

People are still fascinated by this case, and several books have been written about it.  

Yet another mystery is connected to Ambrose Small for it is said he still watches over--haunts-- his favorite theatre, The New Grand Opera House located in London, Ontario that he opened in 1901. 

Today this theatre is called The Grand Theatre.

Just a month after his disappearance a night watchman at the New Grand Opera House reported seeing a ghost that looked like Mr. Small.

Ever since there have been countless sightings of Ambrose Small in this theatre. Small’s apparition has been seen by cast, crew, and theatre patrons. He is often seen in his favorite balcony box sitting in his favorite seat.

Even when his ghost is not seen, the seat on this chair is observed going down when he arrives and popping back up when he leaves. It is said he never misses an opening night.

He is also often spotted walking the theatre's catwalks. Phantom footsteps have been heard for years around the theatre.

A ladies man in life--Small is said to still be partial to the ladies. Several actresses that have performed at the theatre over the years state that they heard their name whispered in their ear and have felt something messing with the hem of their gowns.

Actors have even reported seeing him floating above the heads of the audience during performances.

The following are two famous sightings of Ambrose Small's ghost:

In 1927, comedian Beatrice Lillie saw Small's ghost beckon to her during a performance. It is said as she moved toward him, a prop chandelier crashed down, almost hitting her.

In the summer of 1957, a teenager Jay Campbell who later was to become a local television meteorologist and his girlfriend, saw a figure climbing a ladder off stage. "It really didn't look like a person, but from the waist up, it had the form of a person."

The theatre's electrical equipment often malfunctions. These occurrences are always blamed on Small. 

But Small is considered a benevolent ghost, and he performed an excellent service for the theatre in 1977, which many appreciate. At this time, the theatre was undergoing an extensive renovation.

A backhoe that was being used to knock down a wall came to close to the theatre’s historic west wall arch mural. This painting, if destroyed, could not be replaced. 

It is said this machine stalled without cause just seconds before this wall came crashing down. It is felt Small stopped this machine. To this day, the theatre displays the two remaining bricks that kept this arch in place.

The Grand Theatre Arch
Recently, people in various parts of the theatre have heard an unexplained “hissing sound.” The source of this sound has yet to be discovered. Some feel it must be Ambrose Small just making his presence known.

This link is to an interesting 7-8 minute video on youtube that has witness descriptions of many of the encounters with Ambrose Small’s ghost at The Grand Theatre.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ohio’s Gore Orphanage

When aficionados of ghost stories in Ohio get together there is one story that is always mentioned--the legend of Gore’s Orphanage. This story takes place in Vermillion, Ohio. It is often listed in the top ten most popular ghost stories in Ohio.

As mentioned the story of Gore’s Orphanage is only a “legend” but at the end of this post I will share the true story of why this area might possibly be haunted.

This legend starts with a tragic fire. It is stated that a man by the name of Gore ran an orphanage in the 1800s. He didn’t particularly like children and it is stated he often abused the chargers that were entrusted to his care.

In one version of this tale Gore wanting to collect “insurance money” decides to set the orphanage on fire. He callously stands by and watches all the orphans perish in the fire.

Other tales state that it was a “disgruntled employee” of Gores who actually set the fire in order to exact revenge on his former boss. Or it is stated that the culprit was a “crazy neighbor” who was tired of all the children’s noise.

Yet another reason sometimes told is more benign in nature. It is stated that an orphan actually knocked a lantern over which set the barn on fire. Then the flames quickly spread to the orphanage’s main building.

All these versions mention that all the orphans perished in this fire.

It is stated that the neighboring townsfolk not wanting a reminder of this terrible tragedy razed the remaining burnt shells of the buildings leaving only the corner foundations.

But this tragedy was not so easily forgotten for soon after the fire the locals started whispering that at night strange activity occurred near the site where the fire occurred.

Some reported seeing the ghostly shapes of the dead children playing in the woods.

Other tales included more dramatic sightings. Witnesses stated they saw these poor orphans still on fire running and screaming for help.

Yet other sightings included tales of bright lights that were seen bobbing and weaving through the trees. Many felt these lights must be these children’s spirits.

One darker tale started to be circulated. A tall dark ominous figure was seen standing near one of the corner foundations. It was believed this figure was probably the person that was responsible for setting the orphanage on fire.

Many witnesses over the years have seen activity in this area but not for the reasons listed above.

The Gore Orphanage never existed. A road in the area is called “Gore Orphanage Road” because of two other reasons. Early surveyors named the road after a “gore” which is a word they use to denote a wedge-shaped piece of land.

Later the word “Orphanage” was added when the Orphanage of Light and Hope took ownership of the property in 1903.

Gatepost at Old Swift Mansion

A man by the name of Joseph Swift purchased the land in 1817 and over the next 20 years he built a mansion named after him. He sold this beloved mansion for financial reasons in 1874 to Nicolas and Harriet Kellogg Wilbur. Tragically, four of their great-grandchildren died in the home from diphtheria.

It was at the height of the Spiritualism movement and the Wilburs overcome with grief tried to communicate with their deceased great-grandchildren by holding a series of séances at the mansion.

In 1895 the Wilbur family sold the mansion to the Sutton family, 7 years later they sold the property to the Rev. John Sprunger in 1903 to be used as part of the Orphanage of Light and Hope that he and his wife founded.

Location of Swift Mansion
Photo: JoshH21
This orphanage closed down in 1916 and the old Swift Mansion left abandoned burnt to the ground in 1923.

It was at this time that the rumors about the hauntings started to be reported.

So children did die on the property but from diphtheria not a fire. Are the more benign ghost sighting that are seen in the area near where the Swift Mansion once stood --actually these four great-grandchildren instead?

In 1992 the old Swift mansion site and 1500 acres of the Vermillion River Valley were purchased by the Lorain County Metro Parks.

Swift Mansion

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Cooking Ghost

Ellicott City Historic District

In 2010, Ellicott City, a small town in Maryland, was noted as one of the best places in America to live by MONEY magazine. 

This city is a part of the Baltimore-Washington metro area in Howard County. Ellicott City is also considered one of the most haunted small towns on the East Coast.

Edward Parson Hayden, the first county clerk in Ellicott City, built what is known as Hayden House or Oak Lawn in the 1800s. He lived in this home with his wife and six children. He died in 1850.

His home in more recent years has been used to house the Howard County Board of Education and then the District Court. In the 1980s a county law library was added.

Early on, strange stories about Oak Lawn started to circulate. These stories reached a fever pitch in the 1970s when the home housed the district court and the Howard County Office of Parole and Probation.

Oak Lawn
Clerks and secretaries reported that the lights in the building would turn on and off by themselves. A coffee pot would often heat up by itself even when it was not plugged in. These witnesses also reported they heard footsteps in the part of the home that was not in use.

Several workers saw a rocking chair move without cause, and one staff member who arrived early to work one morning reported seeing a man through a glass pane at the front door. When she entered the home, she searched thoroughly, but no one but herself was inside.

The oddest experiences surround phantom food smells. Besides the coffee pot acting strange, many workers smelled the aroma of soup or bacon and eggs at all hours of the day and night. What confused them was that there were no cooking appliances in the building at this time.

Because of these persistent smells, the workers dubbed this active ghost at Oak Lawn “The Cooking Ghost.”

One employee who often stayed late to work noted that this ghost made its presence known in a variety of other ways. He saw cloth napkins fold and unfold on their own right in front of him.

He reported that one night as he worked on the second floor, he saw a “white haze” out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to get a better look, he saw a dense misty ball of vapor floating in mid-air. He stated it wasn't too dense for he saw what was behind it. He watched as it then vanished into thin air.

One witness who currently works at the Court House states he sees “weird things” all the time. A hot plate turns on by itself--again even when the dial is turned to off and the unit is unplugged.

One of his female co-workers saw the ghost of a female walk by her and then walk right through the wall that leads to the law library.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Ghost of Sonja Henie

“I want to do with skates what Fred Astaire is doing with dancing (in the movies).”
                                                           --Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie was born in Kistiania--now known as Oslo, Norway. She skated in her first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 at the young age of eleven. She went on to receive gold medals for figure skating in 1928, 1932, and 1936.

Sonja Henie was the world’s first figure skating superstar.

Retiring from competition in 1936 Henie moved to the United States where she became a film star. Most of the films she performed in were tailor-made to highlight her skating ability. 

Sonja also toured in her own ice show called, Hollywood Ice Revue. By the 1940s she had hung up her skates and stopped touring. Sonja officially retired in 1960.

She was married three times. Her one regret in life was she not able to have children. In 1969, Henie died from complications due to leukemia at the age of fifty-seven. Her third husband, Niels Onstad at her request left their considerable art collection in a public trust. *
Sonja Henie and Neils Onstad

At the height of her fame, Henie had her dream home designed by Paul Williams and built in 1937. 

This old-style 3-story elegant Hollywood mansion is located across the street from Sunset Boulevard. It sits on 5 acres and has a sweeping circular drive, grand staircase, swimming pool, and tennis courts.

One unique item Henie had built in the home was an ice rink upstairs in the home’s attic.

In the early 1970s, singer-actress Connie Stevens bought this home from Onstad. He stated at the time that the house was built for children. 

She paid only $250,000, which was a low-price for this elegant Hollywood mansion. She moved in with her two daughters that she had with her ex-husband Eddie Fisher.

Connie Stevens lived in the home for many years. ** 

She has occasionally rented it out, and it was used in the Mike Nichols’ film, Postcards From the Edge. 

Over the years, both Stevens and her daughters' experienced encounters with what they feel is Sonja Henie’s ghost.

Connie's story was highlighted in one season finale on Biography’s Celebrity Ghost Stories.

Most of the strange activity that occurs is centered in the attic room, where Henie’s rink was. The Stevens' family often hears loud footsteps and music coming from this area, as well as Windows being slammed shut.

Items on a dressing table, in one bedroom in the home, were found missing or moved. Stevens awoke one night to see Henie’s ghost standing near her bed. The activity has continued to this day.

Stevens stated that the lights turn on in the attic whenever someone new is in the home.

Neils Onstad never told his wife about her leukemia diagnosis, he instead told her that her “tiredness” was from anemia. 

Some state this is a possible reason why Sonja Henie haunts her beloved home. Others point out that it was the presence of Stevens’ daughters that kept her in the house.

* Sonja Henie had an estate worth over a hundred million dollars at her death, part of this fortune she inherited from her Norwegian father’s fur trade business, part of it she earned. Neils Onstad was a Billionaire shipping magnate when they married.

** In 1992 Stevens put the home on the market to sell.

Here is a link to the Biography Channel video, The Haunting of Connie Stevens. This is the best picture quality one I could find. The "Long Island Medium" does a reading of the house.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ghost Trains

There are many stories of sightings of ghost or phantom trains. They are not unique to just one country or region. These sightings all have taken on folklore status. Here are just a few well-known ghost train stories.

Stockholm, Sweden has a phantom subway train that is called the Silverpilen or Silver Arrow. So many stories are told that it has become an Urban Legend.

This phantom train is said to stop at random stations. It is seen either completely empty or with ghostly passengers inside. A warning is given never to board it or you will end up at “Kymilinge”--the station of the dead. This is a real subway station that is abandoned.

Actually, Silverpilen was a “real” experimental subway train. It was used in test runs during rush hour. People considered it an eerie sight for it had no graffiti or advertisements displayed. It was rarely used and was retired in 1996.

It has gained a frightening reputation and to this day it is said it haunts subway workers in abandoned tunnels.

The Canadian St. Louis Ghost Train better known as the St. Louis Light is seen along an old abandoned rail line that runs between Prince Albert and the small village community of St. Louis, Saskatchewan. Today all that remains of the tracks is a gravel road.

This phantom train has been seen for many generations. Its light appears at twilight or at night. It is always seen at a distance.

Two legends for the reason this light appears are:

It is actually the ghost of a man holding a lamp that was struck by a train and killed or…

The light seen is a phantom train.

In more recent years two students were able to duplicate this phenomenon. Their efforts discounted the sightings of this phantom train.They stated it was just a “diffraction of distant vehicle lights.” They won an award for their efforts. 

But if this light was seen before the invention of cars--one has to wonder if this is the real reason. Here is a link to an article that mentions sightings of this ghost train.

Engine that pulled Lincoln's
funeral train.
In America, the most famous phantom train is seen on a regular basis. This ghost steam engine travels between Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Illinois--passing 180 cities each April. It is seen around the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s death.

Lincoln is not seen but his flag draped coffin is seen guarded by ghostly Union soldiers.

This phantom train is seen emerging from a thick black fog towing several dark cars. It supposedly stops watches and clocks in the surrounding areas it passes. It is said that as it arrives people feel the air become heavier and colder.

This train it appears never reaches it final destination--Springfield.

In Ireland a famous phantom train sighting occurred along the line from Clones in the north to Armagh in the west. This line no longer runs.

In the summer of 1924, two men were sitting alone on a platform bench waiting for a train. When suddenly they heard several voices in the train station behind them. Besides hushed voices they heard a series of moans and groans.

Curious, one arose to peak into the station window. He was surprised to see a deserted room that held benches and a long table but no people.

As this man returned to the bench where his companion sat they both heard the sound of a train approaching the station. They moved to the tracks to look down the line in anticipation.

The sound of this approaching train became louder and louder. As it passed where they stood they heard a loud scream. They jumped back startled. They then heard a defeating train whistle blow.

Despite these sounds they never actually saw a train.

Minutes later when the signalman came out on the platform the two men questioned him. He had not heard the train go by.

He then told them that just the year before a man had jumped in front of a train. He had been brought into the station’s waiting room but he was seriously injured and nothing could be done for him. The signalman pointed to the long table inside and stated, “He died right there on that table.”