Saturday, November 30, 2013

Confused Ghosts

Not all ghosts seem to realize they are dead. Several friends and acquaintances have told me stories that indicate that the spirit they encountered didn’t know they were dead. 

In Corrales, a small village located in the north valley near Albuquerque this type of encounter has happened more than once.

One confused ghost that appears in Corrales is a Civil War soldier. 

A resident of this village told me that as he walked along the back fence of his property--he spotted a young man dressed in an old fashioned Civil War uniform come out of his neighbor's old shed. This soldier then approached him.

This young man who appeared to be dazed asked the man, “Where am I?” The property owner then discovered this young man didn’t seem to know the date or even the year. 

Before he could offer his assistance, this soldier just walked off and then disappeared.

Months later, one of his neighbors told him that he most likely encountered this same soldier-- who didn’t seem to know he was out of place and time. He then discovered his daughter had talked to this ghost as well. 

All three of these encounters happened in broad daylight.

Seeing a Civil War soldier was startling but not surprising to these two men because there were battles fought in Albuquerque and the surrounding areas during this war.

This type of ghost encounter is frustrating. One has to wonder why this poor soul seemed to be stuck in a state of limbo. 

A similar story, to these two encounters, happened to two sisters when they went to visit their mother’s grave.

As they were leaving, they noticed a man walking between the gravestones. When they reached the road where their car was parked, the man caught up to them. 

The cemeteries’ groundskeeper drove past and waved to the two women. He didn’t seem to notice the man.

The man then turned to them and asked for help. He explained to them, “people all day had been acting like they didn’t even see him.” He stated that he had woken up in the graveyard that morning and that his friend must have left him there.

The man became more and more agitated as he talked to the two sisters. Now nervous, they moved quickly toward their car. 

They both looked back briefly and were stunned to see the man was nowhere in sight. Now scared, they wondered how he could just disappear so quickly in such a vast open space.

As they drove off, they both realized they had just seen a ghost. To this day, they still wonder about his confusion.

The Nevada City's Exchange Hotel

Nevada City, California first became a town during the Gold Rush years. 

The first “easterners” to come to the area built a cabin along Deer Creek. They staked a claim in 1849, just a year after the find at nearby Sutter’s Mill, which started the California Gold Rush. 

The town’s first name was Deer Creek Diggins.

By 1850, it was decided that the town needed an official name. The name “Nevada” was chosen--Nevada is Spanish for snow-covered--because it had been a particularly snowy winter.

Through the 1850s and 60s Nevada grew in prominence. It became a county seat in 1851 for the new state of California. At its peak, Nevada had 10,000 residents. 

But unlike most boom mining towns Nevada stayed lawful, in part because of the town’s leadership. 

This was also in part due to a caste system that was put in place. The town’s working miners lived in Grass Valley nearby while the prosperous mine owners resided in Nevada.

The town went through one more name change in 1864. The western part of Utah Territory was formed into the new state of Nevada. So the word “city” was added to distinguish between the two.

Nevada City Mine 1866

At one time, the stamp mills that surrounded Green Valley and Nevada City crushed ore from the underground mines 24/7 in search of gold. The last mines in the area were closed in the 1950s.

Ophir Quartz Mill 1866
Grass Valley
The town’s first hotel, saloon, stagecoach stop, and mail center were known as Bicknell’s Block. The original building burnt down but it was rebuilt. 

This building eventually became the Nevada Exchange Hotel. In 1977, this hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered the oldest continuously operated hotel west of the Rockies.

In 1985, the entire downtown area of Nevada City was registered as a national historic landmark. 

This small town’s charm and beauty make it a tourist attraction today. It has many buildings that reflect Victorian, Colonial, Greek Revival, and California Gothic architecture.

One attraction for ghost hunters is the National Exchange Hotel, just like the town this hotel has an interesting history. This structure is haunted.

One female ghost is seen in the hotel’s bar area and restroom. She was murdered in the hotel. It seems she owed a man some money--unfortunately, she refused to pay him. One night he broke into Room 48 and hid in the closet. When the lady returned, he slit her throat. She haunts this room as well.

Known as just "National Hotel" today.
Another ghost seen at the National is that of a little girl named Elizabeth. It is believed she died of a childhood illness--most likely mumps. She stayed in a room on the third floor, while at the hotel. 

Many guests have felt her presence in Room 78. Strange knocking noises are heard. Elizabeth is seen playing in the 3rd-floor hallways. She is seen riding a tricycle and skipping rope.

Yet another ghost at the National is that of a man. He is described as wearing black pants, a white shirt, and a black vest. He is seen walking up a staircase. Witnesses who have followed him mention they saw his profile clearly, but then he just vanished.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Survival Tips When Ghost Hunting

People I have ghost hunted with over the years sometimes have had a physical reaction during an investigation. Some investigators are more sensitive to negative energy than others. Investigators react in a variety of different ways when they encounter this dark energy.

Personally, I know when this type of energy is around because I feel a strong vibration at the back of my skull--this vibration often then travels to my neck making it almost stiff.

Other common reactions that occur include:

Losing focus--becoming disoriented or in a more mild form just becoming distracted.

Feelings of light-headedness or even becoming dizzy--I have been around a few investigators that have even fainted.

A very common reaction is becoming nauseated. I have observed many people literally having to leave a building or space because of this reaction.

As I mentioned above I first feel negative or dark energy on my skull. Many investigators have complained of a feeling of strong pressure on their heads.

Another common reaction is a feeling or sense of oppression or negativity that takes over the investigator’s emotions.

The reactions listed above occur without explainable causes. These reactions are not unique to female investigators--I have seen many males react in the same way.

During investigations a person never knows what they may encounter--this holds true even in places that they have investigated in the past. This uncertainty is one reason experienced investigators emphasize that fact that people should not ghost hunt if:

They have been drinking.

They have a negative attitude.

Or they are not feeling well…

These factors make an investigator more venerable to a negative energy being able to impact them.

Even if an investigator is healthy, alert and positive and ready to investigate there still are a few more steps that can be taken for protection.

Michelle Belanger’s book, The Ghost Hunters Survival Guide: Protection Techniques for Encounters With The Paranormal is a good place to start. Belanger shares how to use “grounding” and “centering” exercises that investigators can do to feel better or protect themselves from future negative physical reactions while investigating.

Her book covers these two methods in detail so I recommend people read it. For this post I will just briefly cover these methods.

Grounding involves shedding unwanted energy.

Centering is when a person protects his or her own energy from “spilling out” where it then can be impacted by negative energy.

Belanger recommends after an investigation people should:

Take a cleansing bath or shower to flush out any negative energy they might have picked up.

Call on a “higher power” to assist and guide them through a cleansing process. This can be based in religious beliefs or not.

Seek a renewed sense of balance and peace within. One method I use is meditation.

Before an investigation, a person can use a variety of methods to arm and protect themselves from negative physical reactions. In other posts I have addressed several possibilities: using White Light Protection, or saying a group pray before and after an investigation.

According to Belanger people can build up resistance to negative energy over a period of time. I have found this to be true.

Belanger recommends:

Set up mental barriers to shield yourself.

People can do this by using “guided visualizations” were they focus upon a barrier that doesn’t allow any negative energy to enter their personal space. This is what White Light Protection essentially does.

If this is too abstract think of this method as--a wall of bricks, or light or a force field that can be buillt around yourself to keep negative energy from entering your personal space.

These exercises should be used with milder reactions--if the investigator experiences disorientation or becomes physically ill fellow investigators should remove them immediately from the environment. This is why people should always ghost hunt with others present. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Ghost of Annie Russell

Annie Russell was born in Liverpool, England, in 1864. Her family then moved to Canada when Annie was a child. She first appeared on stage at the age of 8 in a Montreal Academy of Music production. 

By 1881, at age 17, she was the lead actress in a very successful production of Esmeralda on the New York stage.

By the late 19th Century her career had taken off. Russell performed in over 60 productions on Broadway, and London’s West End. But she was plagued by illness throughout most of her adult life, so her career had many gaps.

In 1905, she originated the title role in George Bernard Shaw’s play Major Barbara in London. In 1908, she appeared with Robert Drovet in The Stronger Sex. In 1910, she appeared in the Twelfth Night. Just to name a few.

Annie reluctantly retired in 1928, and moved to Winter Gardens, Florida.

A friend encouraged her to teach at Rollins College. In 1932, at the age of 67, she was invited to star in this college's first theatre production--Robert Browning’s’ In A Balcony. 

Russell then formed two theatre companies on campus and spent the next four years acting in and directing several plays.

The Rollins College Mediterranean-style theatre is named after Annie Russell. It has been over 70 years since she died in 1936, but many feel she haunts this theatre. College alumni, students, and faculty all have encountered her ghost.

It seems she still takes an active interest in the productions that are performed. She is even known to “mother,” and encourage young aspiring actors that perform at the theatre.

One example of her friendly presence occurred in 1978. Late one night, a young actress curled up on the theatre’s green room sofa and fell asleep. She awakened the next morning to find a blanket had been tucked around her. A chair had also been placed against the couch as a barrier so she wouldn’t roll off the couch. The night before, this chair had been across the room.

When this actress inquired who had tucked her in, she discovered that she was the only one in the theatre. Many feel this was the kind handiwork of Annie.

Over the years, witnesses have seen and heard Russell’s ghost. She is seen wearing a Victorian floor-length lavender gown. 

Two theatre majors encountered her separately but on the same evening. The first student saw an old lady in a lavender gown walk by her in a corridor outside the main theatre. Wandering at her strange clothes and thinking the lady was lost, she asked if she could help. Russell did not respond but just stared at her.

Later another student was painting stage scenery when she looked up at the balcony. She saw the same old lady wearing lavender, staring down at her. No one else saw this oddly dressed lady even though many people were in the theatre that evening.

Annie in 1931
Annie often gives young actors encouragement. Many have stated that after they performed, they felt a light pat of approval from an unseen hand on their back. 

One young actress that was rehearsing on stage alone heard one person clapping after she finished her scene. She was surprised because she thought she was the only one in the theatre. She leaped off the stage and searched but discovered she was indeed alone.

It is believed Russell watches many of the productions performed at the theatre. She even has a favorite seat. It is located in the third row of the balcony. 

The bottom of this seat is often seen down when no one is sitting in it. One professor at the college told a newspaper reporter that his dog went to Russell’s place in the balcony and sat near it, looking up expectantly.

A stagehand states that Annie saved his life. He was standing on a tall ladder, adjusting a stage light when he felt something tug at his pants leg. Seeing no one, he ignored it. Again he felt a tug. Thinking he imagined it, he moved up a rung. His hand then touched a live wire, and he fell.

One of his co-workers rushed to call an ambulance. But when he made the call, he was informed that someone else had already called. 

The emergency crew got to the theatre within minutes of the accident. Because of this, they were able to save the man’s life. Many feel that Annie made the initial call frustrated; the man was ignoring her warning.

Russell often shows her approval, or disapproval of productions being performed. There is a door 15 feet up on the back wall of the stage. People state this was Annie’s old dressing room. This door is kept closed--and today there is no easy access to this area, but during performances, it is often seen open. One theatre professor helping to move a prop backstage, during one performance, spotted this door open and heard the sound of a xylophone being played.

This photo was taken during an investigation.
Peace River Ghost Tracker
Russell is known to move a rocking chair in a corner dressing room and make thud noises when she approves. She is also known to smash or break stage props when she doesn’t approve.

One classic superstition that surrounds Annie’s ghost is if she makes an appearance early Wednesday morning--between midnight and one-- before a new play, musical, etc., opens, it means the play will be a great success. 

But if she doesn’t appear, it means the performance will fail, and even worse, something terrible will happen to the actors involved. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Haunted Mercer House

Millions of readers enjoyed John Berendt’s non-fiction book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil published in 1994. 

This book tells the story of a Savannah, Georgia resident Jim Williams. Williams was a successful antique dealer, and he restored over fifty of Savannah’s historic buildings.

The Mercer house was built by Johnny Mercer’s * great-grandfather, General Hugh Mercer. But the general never lived in the home because the Civil War interrupted. After the war, he sold the house.

The red brick house eventually landed in the hands of Jim Williams. He spent two years restoring it and then moved in. Williams, who was an Air Force veteran, was gay but he never publically came out. 

In fact, he went out of his way to create the illusion that he was a man’s man. The Mercer House was adorned with hunting items, etc. even though Williams did not hunt.

Jim Williams in
front of
Mercer House

Williams was known for the elaborate Christmas parties he held each year. People from all over would attend. He was the perfect host, but he was a controlling perfectionist who always kept himself at a distance. 

Williams had made exorbitant amounts of money by selling antiques--many of them fake.

Berendt’s book and the subsequent film made Williams famous--actually infamous. Williams died before the book was published, but he became notorious in Savannah when he had a fight with “his young lover,” Danny Hansford ** and allegedly shot and killed him in May of 1981.

The 21-year-old Hansford was a “high maintenance” hustler who was not ashamed to be kept by Williams. Williams paid all his expenses and bought him a car. He was tried not once but four times, over eight years, for Hansford’s murder. 

He claimed self-defense stating Hansford had pulled a gun on him.

In his first two trails he was found guilty--his lawyers successfully appealed them both. The third trial ended in a hung jury, and in his fourth trial--that was moved to Augusta--the jury acquitted him within two hours. It was believed that several witnesses were paid off.

What really happened remains a mystery. One judge who tried him, George Oliver stated, "He believed Jim Williams had shot Hansford in cold blood." He then added, “Hansford was trouble with a capital “T” and that sometimes, people just need killing.”

In 1989, Jim Williams was set free. He managed to throw one last gala Christmas party before he died a month later at the age of 59. There are several accounts of how he died. The general consensus is he probably died from AIDS-related pneumonia. 

Some even speculate Hansford finally got his “revenge.” Williams body was found near the spot where he might have been shot if Hansford had successfully used his gun.

In the years after Hansford’s death, Williams was told that Hansford’s spirit did not rest easy. He enlisted the help of a Voodoo practitioner who tried to “persuade Hansford to forgive Williams.” This person told Williams that Danny's spirit was angry and needed to be appeased. He ignored this warning.

Danny Hansford's grave
Even today it is stated that Danny Hansford haunts the area around where he was buried. Several EVP’s have been recorded at his gravesite.

Williams had encountered ghostly activity before-- one of the houses he restored on St. Julian Street was haunted. This activity was so persistent that he could not get carpenters to work on the house. He called in a priest to perform an exorcism. 

Williams personally heard unexplained footsteps and loud crashes. Today this home still has activity and is included in a Savannah ghost tour.

A few years after Williams died people started to gather at the Mercer House on the anniversary of when he held his Christmas parties. These witnesses have reported seeing the home “ablaze with lights.” They also have heard “sounds of revelers” inside the house. There were no parties in the area when this activity was observed.

It is stated that Williams ghost is seen wandering around another property that he helped to preserve.

Today the Mercer home is open for limited tours. The house still has furniture and art that belonged to Jim Williams.

* Johnny Mercer was a successful American singer-songwriter who co-founded Capitol Records. He wrote the song lyrics for Moon River.

** At the time of Danny's death, most news reports listed him as an employee of Williams.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Legends that Surround Proveglia Part ll

Photo: Ransom Riggs

In Part l of this post I discussed the darker history of Proveglia Island located in the lagoon near the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy and why it is most likely haunted. In part, this history has resulted in several traditional legends being connected to the island for centuries. But in more recent years several television shows have sensationalized the island’s story into almost mythical proportions.

These stories have gotten so out of hand tourists are no longer allowed to visit Proveglia. Another result is the locals these days deny the islands history *--the only thing they mention is that in the 1960s the island was used as an “elderly home.” Actually these residents were indigents or homeless. In 1968 this institution was closed and it was the last time the island was inhabited.

It is true that the island in the 20th century housed a mental institution. A traditional legend recounts the story of a “mad” doctor at this hospital who tortured his patients with the hopes of becoming famous. More recently, it has been stated he performed lobotomies using crude tools, such as, hand drills, chisels and hammers. It is also stated this doctor went insane when the spirits of the patients he killed started to haunt him. He then climbed the islands’ bell tower and jumped. He did not die but as he lay on the ground a white mist engulfed him and choked him to death.

This mad doctor’s ghost is said to still haunt the island--specifically the bell tower.

Photo: Ransom Riggs
One part of the traditional legend is that the mental patients who were confined on Proveglia often reported hearing what they felt were the spirits of plague victims moaning and screaming at night. This was brushed off until staff members also heard these strange sounds. The islands’ bell tower, which is the only section that still stands of an old church, is also heard ringing at night.

As mentioned in Part l of this post--hundreds of thousands of plague victims died on the island and were hastily buried. This story is dark enough but recent myths have exaggerated it. It is stated that the ashes of the plague victims who were burned still cover the island’s ground. This is not true.

Vineyards grow on the island today and one writer even stated that these human ashes help the grapes to grow. Taking this legend to the next level it was mentioned that it should make people think twice before drinking wine made from these grapes. The more traditional lore just states that the islands food supply was once grown near some of these graves.

Photo: Ransom Riggs
A recent legend is that fishermen do not fish near the island afraid they will catch “human bones” in their nets. In reality modern day fisherman fish the beautiful teal waters near the island-- their nets can be seen flung off one of the islands’ canal docks

The Venetian government today owns Proveglia but at one point it was in the hands of a private owner. Another recent story states that one family who intended to buy the island as a holiday home decided to visit. But it is stated they left in the middle of the night. They would not talk about why they left in such a hurry but their daughter had to have fourteen stitches on her face.

People who have had the opportunity to visit the island state that there is a strong air of sadness. The recent legend ramps this up and states that evil lurks in every corner. One group of visitors supposedly upon entering the old hospital heard a loud voice order them “to get out.”

Another story is that a group of psychics upon visiting the island announced that the activity they felt was so dark they would never return. Similar stories circulate about people who have snuck on the island--they state they will never return.

Photo: Ransom Riggs

As a result many Venetians believe these myths so it is actually hard to find local boat owners that are willing to travel to the island--this is especially true with the ban that has been put in place.

Many feel the island is haunted--after all it experienced incredible human suffering but this real activity is low key in comparison to the legends that are told.

* The bars that covered the mental hospital's windows can still be found stacked on the ground near this rotting building.