Friday, August 30, 2013

The Ghosts of Point Lookout Part ll

The Point Lookout Lighthouse located at the southern tip of Point Lookout in Scotland, Maryland is considered a hot spot of paranormal activity. 

Because of treacherous storms in the area, many shipwrecks occurred in the years before 1827. 

Congress finally took note and ordered a small beacon light be built to protect passing ships. This lighthouse was completed in 1830. It originally had one and a half stories.

After the Civil War, this lighthouse was expanded when a fog bell tower was built, and porches were added on the front and back of the building. In 1888 water erosion threatened the lighthouse. A wood and steel bulwark was constructed to protect its cement foundation. 

Today the building is much closer to the shoreline because of this continued erosion. By 1930, the lighthouse was enlarged to its present size. Hot and cold running water was installed, and the house was split into two apartments.

In 1939 the station was transferred to the United States Coast Guard. But civilian keepers remained to maintain the light. In 1965, an offshore steel tower replaced the Point Lookout Lighthouse. The state of Maryland leased the buildings to the Navy in 2002, but by 2006 the state of Maryland took control. 

Today the Point Lookout Preservation Society holds occasional open houses during the day. This society allows paranormal groups in to do investigations of the lighthouse for a nominal $50.00 fee. This is a good idea--other preservation societies should take note.

The first lighthouse keeper to be assigned to Point Lookout in the early 1830s died within months of arriving. His daughter Ann Davis took over his duties. She remained the keeper until her death in the lantern room while performing her daily tasks. It is said she haunts this building. 

A famous photograph was taken that shows her ghost standing at the head of the stairs wearing a white blouse and light blue skirt.

Many of the ghostly sightings at the lighthouse are that of Confederate and Union soldiers. The reason for this is because a Civil War prison camp and hospital were near the tower. 

One witness, Gerald Sword stayed by himself in the lighthouse in 1970. He heard doors being slammed closed, moans, and the sound of men snoring, as well as objects crashing to the floor. When he inspected the area, nothing was amiss. He also felt cold spots.

Many witnesses have seen a Union soldier guarding the steps of the light. 

Laura Berg--the Secretary of State for Maryland in the 1980s lived in the Point Lookout Lighthouse with her husband in the 1970s. 

One night while lying in bed, she heard footsteps outside her bedroom door. They were heavy as if the person were wearing boots. This sound ended as mysteriously as it began. The couple continued to hear footsteps in the hall at night.

The Bergs also heard other noises. They often awoke to strange smells in the house. 

One night Berg awakened to see six strange lights over her head. She bolted upright and smelled the odor of smoke coming from the first floor. She ran downstairs and discovered the heater had caught fire. The flames were extinguished quickly. Berg feels that it was the ghosts that alerted her to this danger.

Nancy Stallings, a medium with the Maryland Committee for Psychical Research, is standing in the middle of one of the lighthouse’s’ bedrooms above. A soldier appears in the photo to the right of Nancy. This soldier was not seen by any of the participants.

Many EVP’s have been recorded in this lighthouse over the years. One group picked up 24 distinct voices recorded in various places around the house. An EVP captured a voice stating: “Fire if they get too close to you.“ It is believed this is the voice of a Union soldier guarding the prisoners in the camp. 

Another EVP picked up in the lighthouse basement is that of shutters slamming in the wind. There was no wind the day this was recorded, and the shutters had been removed years before.

Here is a must see link that has many EVP’s that have been recorded at Point Lookout Lighthouse. Just click on the word or words in the boxes under the “Sound” category, and they will take you to the recording. The second one, entitled “drums” is impressive.

The following is a link to The Ghosts of Point Lookout Part l where I share stories about ghosts from a Civil War hospital and Confederate prisoner of war camp.

The Ghosts of Point Lookout Part l

“Death opens unknown doors.”
                                --John Masefield

Point Lookout has made more than one witness a believer in the paranormal. 

Today, Point Lookout is a Maryland State Park. It is located on a gloomy isolated peninsula that looks out on the Chesapeake Bay to the east and the Potomac River to the west. 

This patch of ground has seen over 350 years of human suffering. It is here that people were massacred, imprisoned, shot, tortured, and starved to death. Add to these tragedies shipwrecks, fire, famine, disease, and war, and it is no wonder this peninsula is considered very haunted.

For thousands of years, the native Yaocominco Indians lived in this area. The first Europeans colonized the area in 1612. In 1648, the local natives massacred many of these early settlers. 

This settlement, established in 1630, was called St. Mary City and became Maryland’s capital. Catholics seeking religion freedom initially populated this area. However, later Protestants moving in turned against the Catholics--eventually banning the Catholic mass. The original families were then driven out of the area, and the capital was moved to Annapolis.

So many shipwrecks occurred that in 1827 Congress ordered a small beacon light built on the peninsula’s point. Seamen also drowned off the Point, its beaches becoming makeshift graves. 

This lighthouse’s history and hauntings will be discussed in Part ll of this post. 

The early history of Washington D.C.’s is tied to Point Lookout. In the early 19th century the point became a popular tourist destination. Hundreds visited and stayed in its beach cottages in the summertime. 

For the Washington elite who came to escape the heat, they stayed in an elegant resort hotel called the Fenwick Inn. This inn tragically caught fire and burned down in 1878.

During the War of 1812 is when Point Lookout earned its name. The peninsula was used to spot British Ships.

During the Civil War, Point Lookout experienced the most human suffering. At this time there was a Union hospital located on the Point called Hammond. Today its buildings shaped like a spoke of a wheel are long gone. 

For every one soldier that died here because of war wounds, another two or more died of diseases, such as, dysentery, smallpox, typhoid fever, and Malaria. It is stated the casualty toll rose from 200,000 to 600,000 because of these illnesses. This hospital closed in 1864. 

Before the war, this the peninsula was used as a refuge for runaway slaves.

Point Lookout also housed the largest Confederate prisoner of war camp. Camp Hoffman was built initially for 10,000 prisoners but it is said 50,000 plus soldiers were actually kept here. 

They were placed in open air tattered tents--left to mosquito infestations in the summer and the freezing cold of winter. An imaginary line or trench surrounded this 24 acre camp with the orders that if any prisoners crossed this line, they were to be shot. Many were shot. But the camp’s isolation made escape virtually impossible.

The Confederate prisoners at this camp called it “ Lee’s Miserables.”  They were packed in like sardines. Starvation and disease ran rampant through the area. So many prisoners died--an estimated 4,000-- they were initially all buried in a mass grave. 

Later these bodies were disturbed when they were placed in the “Confederate Cemetery” on the peninsula. 

Today, many witnesses as they drive past this cemetery are startled to see a still, silent Confederate soldier sitting in the backseat of their cars.

A smallpox outbreak on the Point forced the Federalists to establish a separate area for infectious disease. It is in this area that another frequent ghost sighting occurs. 

A man is seen wearing Civil War era clothing moving across the road at dusk away from where the smallpox unit was located. This gaunt ghost is seen moving very quickly--almost leaping.

Witnesses state he reeks of a distinct odor of mildew and gunpowder. His clothes are homespun and ragged. 

Most feel he is a Confederate prisoner who feigned illness, hoping to escape. But his plan appears not to have succeeded for he is repeatedly seen crossing this road. He is not aware of the people who see him, so this haunting is probably residual in nature.

Photo: Dolores Monet
Yet another ghost that has been seen many times is that of an elderly woman. This woman is known to have conversations with the living. She is always seen looking for something. 

In 1977, Donnie Hammett a ranger on the island reported an encounter with this female ghost. It was early spring, and there were not many people visiting the island yet. Hammett was working on the Potomac River side of the peninsula.

He spotted an elderly woman looking for something near the beach. Hammett approached her and asked if she needed help. Immediately he noticed his presence seemed to annoy her. 

She told him gruffly that she was looking for a gravestone. He said to her that the nearby Taylor Cemetery had all but disappeared--swallowed up by nature. She shrugged her shoulders and walked on. 

When Hammett left shortly after this, he was surprised to see that his car was the only one in the parking lot. Later, he discovered that many others had seen this female ghost. She is spotted always looking for her own grave. 

Hammett has also seen the residual leaping ghost mentioned above.

EVP’s picked recorded the peninsula include-- the sounds of an Indian massacre, shipwrecked seaman shouting and the sounds of captive soldiers. 

Campers, including rangers on the peninsula, have seen a variety of ghosts in the woods at night. One witness, a Civil War re-enactor, bent down to pick up something when he heard glass shatter and a bullet whiz by his head. When he inspected the area, the windowpane was intact, and there was no sign of a bullet.

In my next post entitled, The Ghosts of Point Lookout Part ll I share information about the haunted lighthouse on this peninsula. It, by far, is the most haunted spot on the Point.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Scotland’s Scariest Road

A fifteen-mile stretch of the A75 road, located in the south of Scotland between Annan in Dumfriesshire and Gretna Green is considered very haunted--it is often called the Ghost Road. 

Over the past fifty years literally hundreds of weird sightings and unexplained accidents have been reported in this area. These reports are so numerous I will share just three of these stories here. Multiple witnesses have experienced what these three accounts describe.

Donna Maxwell in July of 2000 was driving back from her mother’s home around 10:00 p.m. Maxwell stated it was a calm night with good clear visibility. So she was surprised as a man appeared directly in front of her car out of nowhere. He then just stopped and stood in the middle of the road. 

Donna traveling at 55mph had to slam on her brakes. She was so concerned that her car hit this man she went to the Annan police station.

The police then searched the road but they did not find the man’s body. Since Maxwell’s encounter several witnesses have reported seeing this man standing in the road looking at cars. Maxwell who does not believe in paranormal activity admits that she no longer will drive this road at night--she takes the bypass instead. 

An Annan police sergeant, Graham Young became so concerned about these sightings scaring people that he put out a description of this man: “He is in his late 30’s wearing a red jumper and black trousers.” This sergeant grew up in Annan and he takes it in stride that this road is haunted.

Another recent sighting of an old lady dressed in Victorian clothing took place many years after the same ghost was seen in the exact same spot. 

Margaret Ching and her fiancé John were driving from the West Midlands to Gretna on the eve of their wedding. As they approached Domock a mist suddenly appeared in the middle of the road, this is when they spotted the old lady. Their description matched exactly an account that had been told by another witness, Jim Carlyle 26 years before.

Ching stated that she could not see this lady’s face but she appeared quickly and she and her fiancé felt they were about to hit her. Instead to their amazement their car drove right through her. When this happened they both felt a strong chill. They looked back but the lady was gone. 

They reported it was a clear night with no fog or mists. This couple was so shaken up they had to sit in their car for a while before they drove on. Carlyle as a young man had seen this same ghost with his girlfriend when she appeared out of a mist. He slammed on his brakes but his car went right through her.

By far the most compelling encounter along the A75 occurred in 1962. Two brothers Dereck and Norman Ferguson were returning home to Annan from a vacation. 

They stopped for gas around midnight in the town of Dumfries. As they headed down the deserted A75 suddenly a large white bird flew toward their windshield. Dereck who was driving swerved the car to avoid this collision. But this bird didn’t hit their car it vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

A short time later the brothers spotted a strange old lady rushing down the middle of the road waving her arms erratically. Dereck again went into a panic thinking their car was about to hit this lady. At the last moment she just vanished. After this things got even weirder.

A strange succession of figures including: large cats, wild looking dogs, birds and vague shaped human figures appeared rapidly all seeming to hurl themselves at the young mens' car. Dereck spent the next minutes wildly zigzagging in an attempt to avoid crashing into these figures but they all disappeared before impact. 

During this time the temperature dropped drastically in the car. But the brother’s now very afraid were drenched in sweat.

As Dereck continued to drive he felt some unseen force start to control his hands. This force took over the steering wheel. He found it more and more difficult to turn the wheel. 

Now suffocating the brother’s rolled down their windows to get some fresh air. They heard an eerie scream and then a high-pitched laugh accompanied by crackling noises. Dereck felt as if something was trying to force them off the road.

Finally, Dereck managed to drive the car to the side of the road but as soon as he stopped the car it started to shake violently. He jumped out only to find everything calm and quiet. As he got back in the car it once again started to rock and shake. Both brothers heard a loud ghostly laugh. They then heard what sounded like multiple fists striking the car.

Realizing they needed to leave Dereck started to slowly continue down the road. Unearthly figures lined both sides as they drove on. 

The brother’s were relieved to see the headlights of a large truck heading toward them. But their relief was short lived as Derek felt something take control of the steering wheel once again. Their car was headed directly for the truck. Dereck found he could not slow down or swerve. Just as the two vehicles were about to crash this truck vanished as well.

Exhausted the two brothers did finally make it home. They were shocked to discover that all these events happened within 30 minutes. 

After this experience the brothers discovered that this section of the A75 had been used at one time for witchcraft. Other witnesses on this stretch of road have also seen this large phantom truck heading for their car then it just vanishes.

When the Scottish Office announced that they intended to improve this stretch of the A75 recently, many locals gathered in protest. They stated they were afraid this work might “unleash the already angry spirits”.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Phantom of Blackwall Tunnel

There have been many ghosts spotted and even photographed along the River Thames in London in recent years. The Thames is pronounced “tems” which rhymes with “gems”. I have shared several stories of ghostly hitchhikers on this blog. The Phantom seen at the Blackwall Tunnel is said to be a hitchhiker. There are two Blackwall Tunnels that run under the River Thames between the boroughs of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets. Stories about this strange hitchhiker started to surface in the early 1970s.

Today, the Blackwall Tunnel is apart of the A102 road. The original tunnel was built in 1897 to improve commerce and trade in London’s East End. By the 1930s this one tunnel could no longer handle the traffic demands. 

Plans were made for a second tunnel to be built but World War ll delayed this process. It was not until 1967 a second tunnel was completed. Both tunnels originally supported a mixture of foot, cycle, and vehicular traffic. Today the tunnels are no longer open to pedestrian or other non-vehicular traffic. In recent years there have been plans to build a third tunnel but they have been tabled.

Greenwich Peninsula 1910

The stories of this phantom hitchhiker in this tunnel have varied over the years. Some accounts name this ghost as a female others state it is a male. Some stories state this phantom is picked up at the south entrance of the north tunnel. Other accounts state this hitchhiker is picked up in the tunnel itself. This is unusual since there is no longer foot traffic allowed. All accounts mention that it is a Good Samaritan on a motorcycle that gives this ghost a ride.

The hitchhiker climbs on the back of the motorcycle and asks to be taken to Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. In all accounts, before the motorcyclist exists the tunnel on the northern bank of the river, the passenger has disappeared. In one account this Good Samaritan feeling the hitchhiker had fallen off desperately searches but finds no trace. In shades of the traditional worldwide hitchhiker stories, this person visits the address in Leigh-on-Sea that was given to him and is told that his passenger actually died years before.

The reason given for this ghostly hitchhiker who is described as always wearing biker’s leathers is said to be the result of a 1960 motorcycle accident. This cyclist died just outside the tunnel. It was after this that people started reporting picking up this unworldly hitchhiker. A letter published in the Fortean Times * in 1994 supports the fact this accident happened. A reader recounts an incident in 1960 while he was staying in Blackwall Lane, near the tunnel.

He, his father-in-law and his wife all heard an accident outside. When they went outside to investigate they found out a motorcyclist had been killed. One week later he and his wife heard at 2:00 a.m. the sound of the same accident. But this time when they went out to investigate there were no signs of an accident or anything that explained what they had heard. It seems the sounds of this accident also haunt the Blackwall Tunnel.

Gateway Southern Entrance
Photo: Danny Robinson
Southern Portal

*  The Fortean Times is a good resource for anyone interested in a wide variety of paranormal topics.

Here is a link to a video of cars driving through the Blackwall Tunnel--it starts at southern entrance gateway. These tunnels travel a long distance underground.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Haunted Jesse James Farm

It is said that the James farm in Kearney, Missouri where the notorious outlaw Jesse James grew up is haunted. Jesse James’ parents moved from Kentucky to Kearney in 1842. 

His father was a Baptist minister who wanted his boys to be well educated. However, during a trip to the California gold fields he died leaving his sons without a father, Jesse was just 3 years old. 

His mother, Zerelda lived on this farm for the rest of her life, through three marriages and eight children. 

At the time of the Civil War in 1863, the James’ farm was brutally attacked by Union soldiers. Shortly afterward Jesse age 16 and his older brother Frank became Confederate guerilla soldiers, riding with William Quantrill and “Bloody Bill” Anderson.

Quantrill’s Raiders as they later became known operated out of Missouri. They ambushed Union patrols and supply convoys. They seized the mail and occasionally struck towns on the Kansas-Missouri border. Their primary focus though was against the local pro-Union civilians-- which they tried to drive out of the territory. 

At the end of the Civil War the James brothers, Jesse and Frank, were now officially outlaws. They began to attack trains, banks, and stagecoaches that were controlled by the Northern side, which had instated brutal control to the Missouri legislation.

Jesse and Frank
From 1860 to 1882, the James gang was the most feared band of outlaws in America. Responsible for 20 bank and train robberies they murdered countless individuals that stood in their way. They stole an estimated $200,000. Despite their ruthlessness, they became folk heroes to some. They literally became “legends in their own time.” 

The local citizens of Kearney kept quiet when they were home on the farm during this time. Clay County where the farm is located was in a part of Missouri called "Little Dixie," the entire state was 75% southern sympathizers. 

Both Jesse and Frank were devoted husbands and fathers who spent a lot of time with their families. They were not modern Robin Hoods though, for they kept the money they stole.

Jesse James Dime Novel
In 1869, the gang robbed a bank in Gallatin, Missouri. Jesse shot the banker through the heart feeling he was responsible for the callous murder of Bloody Bill Anderson. 

The James Gang lost some public favor after this. Local newspapers started to call for the capture of “this blood thirty gang.” 

Frustrated at how the locals protected them, Governor Crittenden had the railroad place an enormous price on the James brother’s heads. 

Pinkerton detectives hired by several bankers raided the James farm in 1875 thinking the older brothers were there. They threw a bomb in the window, killing Jesse and Frank’s younger half-brother, Archie as their mother watched. She lost part of her right arm and hand during this struggle.

In one bank robbery, several members of the gang were killed. After this, the Youngers, a part of their group, were sent to prison for 25 years. 

In 1882, the brothers planned one last robbery with Charley and Bob Ford. They did not know these brothers intended to betray them for the hefty price on their heads. 

On the morning they were to commit this robbery Jesse ate breakfast with the Ford’s, he then placed his gun on one of the farmhouse beds and stopped to straighten a picture that hung on the wall. 

Bob Ford shot Jesse in the back of the head. He died instantly and was buried in the side yard of the James’ farmhouse. His remains were later moved to the family plot at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kearney.

James Farm 
The locals did not appreciate what the Ford brothers had done. Bob Ford, who was pardoned by Governor Crittenden was driven out of Missouri known as the coward who had shot Jesse. He traveled around in a Wild West show ironically about the James gang. 

He was shot and killed in Creede, Colorado in 1892. His older brother Charley stayed in Missouri but was shunned. He committed suicide ten years after his brother was murdered.

Frank James gave himself up after Jesse was killed. He was tried several times, but there never was enough evidence to convict him. He lived peacefully for the rest of his life at the farm. In later years he charged tourists money to give them a tour of the place.

The James farm and house has been considered haunted for over 100 years. Located off James Road in Kearney, Missouri the farm is a museum today. Employees at this farm still report odd occurrences. 

After the museum closes for the night many have spotted lights going on and off in the farmhouse. Others report that doors have slammed shut in front of them without cause.

Several witnesses have reported hearing horse hooves stomping outside on foggy nights. When investigated nothing has been found. 

Others have reported hearing whispered conversations inside the house when no one is there. Some have even heard the bomb going off or cries and gunshots as if a Civil War battle is happening outside. 

Many staff at the museum today will not go into the house alone. They state that they feel an unnatural intense presence in the home that scares them.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Great Lakes Ghost Ship: Edmund Fitzgerald

It has been almost 40 years since the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the largest ship on the Great lakes in the 1970s, gave up its battle against ferocious seas and slipped beneath Lake Superior’s cold tumultuous surface. 

Edmund Fitzgerald

On November 9, 1975, a storm was brewing as the Fitzgerald left Duluth, Minnesota, bound for the Zug Island docks in Detroit, Michigan. 

But without today's more precise GPS tracking systems she was unable to pinpoint her position, *which put her in harm’s way.

The freighter, Arthur M. Anderson was 15 miles behind her when the two crews radioed each other about the brutal gale-force winds. 

Within minutes the captain of the Fitzgerald, Ernest McSorley radioed that his ship was damaged and had a list--it was taking on water. 

McSorley requested the Anderson be its radio eyes for the rest of the trip to Whitefish Bay. The last radio communication from the Fitzgerald came at 7:10 p.m., just nine miles short of safety. McSorley stated:

“One of the worst seas I have ever seen. We are holding our own.”

Five minutes later the Anderson’s radar lost the Fitzgerald. 

All 29 crew members perished when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. No remains were ever recovered. 

Rogue waves or what are known as the "Three Sisters" ** -- massive 90 ft. waves-- are believed to have sunk the Fitzgerald. 

Ten years after the Fitzgerald sank, it was spotted once more on Lake Superior by a commercial vessel. This crew stated that they saw this large ship on a foggy night. 

They reported a "strange eerie atmosphere" at the time they spotted this ghost ship. The Edmund Fitzgerald remains at the bottom of this lake--500 feet down in two pieces.

* Ships that ply their trade on the Great Lakes today have better communication systems. Now there is radio reception on all sections of these lakes. 

With cellphones and digital satellites-- weather forecasts are given in real-time. The Fitzgerald might have survived if this kind of technology had been available in 1975. 

But many seasoned sailors point out that despite this technology the lakes' mighty wind and water can still, sink ships.

** The phenomenon known as Three Sisters is a series of waves that have been known to hit Lake Superior. Three large waves form, the second wave hits the ship's deck before the first wave clears. The third incoming wave adds to the two accumulated backwashes and suddenly overloads the ship's deck with tons of water.

In 1976, one of my all-time favorite singers, Gordon Lightfoot, immortalized the Fitzgerald in his ballad, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Knight Ghost of Castle Bardi

Castle Bardi overlooks the scenic Emilia-Romagna valley in northern Italy. This castle built in the 900s is one of Italy’s medieval treasures. It sits on a jutting outcrop of red jasper. Castle Bardi is known for its Romero and Juliet tragic love story. It is because of this tragedy that many feel the castle is haunted.

Castle Bardi or Landi Castle

The daughter of the lord of Castle Bardi a young woman by the name of Soleste was in love with the captain of the knights, Moroello. Moroello went off to fight in a long battle. Legend states Soleste ever hopeful for her lovers' return would spend many hours perched high atop the castle fortress--her gaze locked on the distant horizon. One day overjoyed she spotted riders galloping back from the battlefield.

But her joy did not last long for when these riders drew near she saw that they wore the enemies’ colors. Overcome with grief at the thought that Moroello was dead Soleste now filled with despair jumped to her death. But this tale does not end here. It has yet another sad twist.

For the riders that Soleste had spotted were Moroello and his men returned. They had donned their enemies’ colors in order to brag of their victory. Tragically, Morello found Soleste’s dead body on the ground. When he realized what he had done he killed himself.

Ever since this time, there have been reports that Moroello’s ghost wanders the castle grounds searching for his lost love. The following is a picture that was taken by a parapsychologist in one of the castle’s rooms. It is believed to be Moroello’s ghost.

Click to enlarge

Castle Bardi or Landi Castle--Landi was the family’s surname during Roman times-- has a torture chamber which is near the castle’s old kitchen. Some joke this was to keep the cooks in line. It is said this area is very active. Today the castle is a popular tourist destination--it hosts weddings and several shops.