Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Terrifying Tales: Mary Shaw and Her Dolls

“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. 
She had no children, only dolls,
If you see her in your dreams, 
Make sure you never scream . . .
For she’ll rip your tongue out at the seam.”

The poem above was shared in a film entitled Dead Silence. This poem is based upon an old ghost story that was told in Ravens Fair for generations.

It was told to children to keep them in line, but some claim that there is some truth to the story. Regardless, it has evolved into a terrifying tale to tell at Halloween.

Is the curse that Mary Shaw placed real?

Outside of Ravens Fair, there is an old theatre—the Guignol—that sits near Lost Lake. It was 1941, and Mary Shaw was performing her ventriloquist show on stage.

A boy in the audience, Michael Ashen made fun of Mary. He called her a fraud and stated he could see her lips moving as the dummy talked. The audience then laughed.

Several weeks later, Michael went missing. The townspeople and the Ashen family became convinced that Mary had something to do with his disappearance.

A group of men, including Michael's family, and locals, challenged Mary one night. What had she done with Michael?

She screamed her innocence when they would not believe her claims that she had nothing to do with it. They grabbed her, cut out her tongue, and left her to bleed to death.

The local mortician noticed Mary had several odd requests in her will, but he followed them. 

She requested her dolls, which she called “her children” should be buried with her, and she stipulated her body was to be made up to look like a doll.

Several days after Mary was buried the killings began.

Each man who was involved in her murder was visited by one of the dolls. They were found dead, with their tongues ripped out.

Mary’s ghost then began to visit the wives and children of these men. As the years passed, their children’s children were visited. All were found in mid-scream with their tongues ripped out—dead.

The residents of Ravens Fair, still refuse to utter Mary Shaw’s name. For they are terrified Mary and “her children” are waiting in their grave for their next victim.

This begins a series of stories on Seeks Ghosts under the Terrifying Tales title that will be shared
between now and Halloween.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Magpie Mine

This mine is known for being both cursed and haunted.

Magpie Mine
The Magpie mine is located in the Peak District of Derbyshire. It is just south of the village of Sheldon.

The mine is shut down today, but many visitors come to see it on the weekends. It is a well-preserved example of the lead mining industry history in the district.

The Magpie was mined for 300 years. Trouble came to the district in the 1820s and 30s when a dispute occurred over one vein of lead.

Miners from the nearby mines, Maypitt, and Red Soil would periodically break through on each other’s workings. When this happened, one side would light a fire underground to smoke the others out.

Tragically, in 1833, a fire lit by the Magpie miners caused 3 Red Soil miners to die.

These Magpie miners were then tried and acquitted of the charge of murder because of “lack of intent” and “conflicting evidence.”

It is said the three widows of the Red Soil miners bitter about this verdict placed a curse on the Magpie mine.

Many felt this curse took hold for after this trial for murder, floods, and fire plagued the Magpie. In 1880, the Magpie Mining Company even changed its name in an attempt to rid the mine of this curse.

Magpie Mine on limestone uplands.
In 1835, the mine plagued by floods and people’s belief in this curse was closed down. It reopened in 1839 and continued to produce lead until its final closing in 1954.

A side story to the curse is the fact that after the three Red Soil miners lost their lives the Magpie gained a reputation as being haunted—supposedly by these three unfortunate men.

One well-documented encounter with this activity occurred in 1946.

A survey team working in the Magpie spotted a man holding a candle further down the shaft. This figure vanished as they watched it.

Later this team took a photograph that shows a ghostly figure standing on top of a deep pool of water.

New Orleans’ Place d’ Armes Hotel

Place d' Armes Hotel

This old hotel is located in the heart of the French Quarter in Jackson Square. It is made up of 8 townhomes with 85 rooms that all surround a pretty courtyard with lovely magnolia and crepe myrtle trees.

This courtyard also has a pool and a lovely fountain.

The Place d’ Armes was built in 1725 and is an excellent example of 18th-century architecture. The guests that stay here enjoy beautiful views of the Quarter, including St. Louis Cathedral.

The hotel is named, Place d’ Armes for it is where the military was stationed in the Quarter, so it became known as a “place of arms.”

The site where the hotel sits was once a school in New Orleans. In the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788, most of this school was destroyed, killing the school’s headmaster and several students.

The ghosts that haunt the buildings are said to be victims of this fire. Many claim they still roam the halls of this hotel.

Guests report hearing the sound of footsteps, voices, and laughter is often heard above their rooms. Furniture is moved around in unoccupied rooms and music without an identifiable source is reported.

Two apparitions that interact with the guests include a young girl and an old man. The young girl, seen dressed in old-fashioned clothes, asks guests where her grandmother is and then vanishes into thin air.

The ghost of an old man has a beard. He also wears 18th-century clothing. He is said to nod at the guests politely and like the young ghost then just disappears.

People who have not experienced any of this paranormal activity for themselves still state the Place d’ Armes has a definite otherworldly feel to it.

For years it has been considered one of New Orleans “most haunted.” Many of the haunted tours through the Quarter include a stop at the Place d’ Armes.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bassa Villa: Pint Glasses Smashed

Yet another pub in England appears to be haunted.

Bassa Villa in Bridgnorth
The Bassa Villa pub in Shropshire, England caught on their CCTV-- security cameras--an unseen force hurling pint glasses off the bar’s shelves.

Unusual activity is something that new owner Nick Bevon is used to. He has worked in the pub for years and has experienced unexplained activity in the past.

While working alone he has had his wrist grabbed, while he was in the pub's cellar, and he has seen a mysterious figure walk across the bar—all the while wondering if it was just his imagination.

Bevon and many others have also heard strange noises in the pub’s cellar.

The most notable incident although happened last month-- in mid-August. Nick and his assistant manager entered the pub one morning to find smashed glass all over the floor.

Thinking someone had broken in the night before Nick checked the pub’s security cameras.

He was surprised to see glass pints falling from various bar shelves at 1:43 a.m. without any apparent assistance.

He checked the scene from several camera angles, but concluded no one was in the pub at the time these glasses fell.

A scene from the video footage.
Bevon states, “I do not believe in ghosts but I can’t see any other explanation for this.”

The activity in the pub is attributed to the mother of two children who drowned in the building. It is said she is the dark lady seen walking around the pub.

In the 1600s, when the pub was known as the Magpie House, these two children, Charlotte and William, drowned while playing hide and seek when the pub’s basement was flooded from the River Severn.

Bevon looking down the well.
However, Nick Bevon recently discovered an old well in the pub’s cellar—he thinks the children might have drowned in this well instead.

The following is some of the activity that Bassa Villa’s security camera’s caught last month.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Loss of Mark and Debby Constantino

Death is not a period but a comma in the story of life.

In happier times.
The paranormal community received startling and sad news this week. Mark and Debby Constantino who were featured several times doing EVPs on Ghost Adventures died in an apparent murder/suicide yesterday.

Debby filed for divorce earlier this month.

The two recently had arguments over money that ended in physical violence—in March Debby was arrested for scratching and slicing Mark’s arm open with a kitchen knife.

Mark and their daughter Raquel were arrested in August and charged with kidnapping Debby breaking her nose and strangling her.

The court let Raquel and Mark out on bond with the stipulation they stay away from Debby.

Yesterday, September 22, Mark went to the home where Debby lived in north Reno and shot and killed her male roommate and then kidnapped Debby.

Another female roommate alerted the police that Debby was missing.

The police went to Mark’s apartment in Sparks where he opened fire on them. They and the FBI spent several hours trying to coax Mark to surrender. When they entered the unit they discovered both Mark and Debby dead.

May both their souls rest in peace.

This is a horrific tragedy for everyone involved but as time passes I hope the Constantino’s will be remembered for the contributions they made to paranormal investigations.

I observed first hand how they conducted EVP sessions, which changed the way I do EVPs. I wrote a post about their unique method back in 2011, here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Storm

Since her husband’s death Sarah had wanted to move her three young children from the family farm into town. She delayed because the farm had meant so much to her husband.

A near tragedy changed her mind. With the spring rains came torrential floods. One storm in particular lasted 3 days. The winds threatened to blow the old house down.

The firewood was running out so Sarah sent her oldest son, Daniel to fetch more. She warned him as he donned his rain slicker to be very careful.

She watched from the front porch as Daniel made his way to the woodpile. He was trudging back to the house when a large branch from a dead sycamore tree snapped.

She screamed a warning but it was too late, this branch struck Daniel’s head knocking him off his feet. She ran to his side picked him up and carried him back to the house all the time calling his name—she received no response.

Daniel’s head was bleeding profusely and his face was pale. Sarah knew she must get help, but how? The farm was ten miles from the nearest town and high water had washed the bridge out.

Finding no solution, Sarah became frantic. The sounds of the wind outside were joined by a distinct knock on the front door. At first Sarah thought it was her imagination but as the knocks became more persistent she cautiously opened the door.

Two rain-soaked men stood in front of her. One was chubby and short the other was tall and lanky. Sarah managed to stutter that her son was injured and could they bring help.

The taller of the two quickly moved passed her and took off his hat. She recognized him as a visiting doctor by the name of Tucker who had been the guest of the local doctor three years before.

Relieved she quickly led him to where Daniel lay. He examined her son and concluded he needed an operation to save his life. His friend handed him a large black bag Sarah had not seen when they stood on the dark porch.

Dr. Tucker took Sarah’s arm gently and suggested she take the smaller children into the next room and get some rest. Sarah reluctantly complied and was surprised she was able to doze off.

When she awoke the operation was over. Doctor Tucker assured her there was nothing to worry about Daniel would be fine. Relieved, Sarah thanked him and invited the two men to dinner.

She went to the kitchen to see what she could prepare, when she returned the two men were gone.

After the storm had passed, Sarah went into town. She ran into the local doctor and told him how grateful that Doctor Tucker had happened by her farm.

Dr. Jones listened to her story with a puzzled expression. He hesitated and then told her she must be mistaken for Doctor Tucker had been killed in a train accident the year before.

This story has been told in many different forms—it is another gem that Ruth Ann Musick collected for her book Coffin Hollow.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Gray Lady of Camp Chase

Camp Chase Cemetery
This small two-acre cemetery, located in Columbus, Ohio, contains the graves of 2,269 Confederate soldiers. 

The men buried here did not die in battle but instead were imprisoned at Camp Chase during the Civil War.

Camp Chase was used initially to train Union volunteers with a few political and military prisoners kept on the site. 

With the onset of the war, and Union battle victories, Confederate officers began to be taken as prisoners of war.

Camp Chase, run by volunteers in 1862, at first was a lenient prison. Confederate officers could mail letters and receive gifts of food and money. The officers were even allowed to walk the streets of Columbus.

However, this changed when the federal government took over the management of the camp. All officer privileges were now eliminated—visitors and mail were banned.

The prison.
The living standards at the camp declined as more and more Confederate soldiers were imprisoned on the site. The prisoners who were now both officers and enlisted men, slept two to a bed and were provided little protection from the elements.

By 1863, there were 8,000 prisoners held at the camp, twice the number it was designed for. Many lived in tents.

The men weakened by the cold, and the meager rations began to succumb to diseases. In February of 1864 alone, over 400 men contracted smallpox and died.

At this point, Camp Chase's cemetery was established.

This photo was taken at the cemetery before 1902.
At the end of the war, the buildings at the camp were torn down. Some of the wood from these structures was used to make markers for the dead. Soon all that remained at the site was a stone wall, the rotting wood markers, and the bodies.

By 1896, the first memorial service honoring the dead was held at the site. This came about mostly through the efforts of a former Union officer, William H. Knauss--who wanted to foster the spirit of reconciliation-- he had been left for dead at Fredericksburg.

2007 Memorial Service
Hilltop Historical Society
Over the years, these memorial services have attracted thousands of visitors. They are held annually in June.

In June of 1902, the state of Ohio placed a granite memorial arch—built with funds given by the public. In 1906, Congress replaced the cemetery’s wooden markers with marble tombstones.

During the annual memorial services The United Daughters of the Confederacy pays tribute by placing flowers on the graves.

Arch placed in 1902.
Two graves at Camp Chase are given special attention, at other times of the year. Flowers are found placed on these two tombstones, this would not be considered unusual, except for the fact it is a ghost that does this.

No one knows for sure the identity of this spirit—called the Gray Lady. Some sources state her last name was Briggs.

She is seen putting fresh flowers on the graves of Benjamin Allen, as well as the tomb of an unknown soldier.

Several local and regional paranormal groups have investigated Camp Chase Cemetery—but the Gray Lady has eluded them.

Frederick “Freddy” Jones is one of the many who attends the memorial service regularly. He travels to Ohio in June, for his pizza business in Houston, Texas.

He believes in the Gray Lady for as a boy growing up in Columbus, he saw her.

At the age of fourteen he and several other boys were invited to a sleepover, just a few blocks from Camp Chase.

He and the rest of the group had heard stories about the Gray Lady. Late that night they snuck out and rode their bikes to the cemetery. The gate was locked so they climbed over the fence.

Freddy remembers that the tombstones glowed in the dark and that he was overwhelmed with an eerie feeling, as the group searched for Benjamin Allen’s grave. When they found it, there were no flowers on it.

Disappointed and sleepy, the group moved to leave, but they stopped when they heard what sounded like someone crying inside the cemetery—it was loud choking sobs.

They spotted a figure shrouded in the darkness, moving through the tombstones. It was a female, and she carried a bouquet of flowers.

Freddy remembers that every inch of her body was covered in clothes—with a high collar and long pleated skirts. She drew close enough that he saw glistening tears on her cheeks.

He watched as she floated, instead of walked, and was surprised he felt no fear. She then floated right through two trees.

She bent down at one grave and was mouthing words the boys could not hear—it appeared she was praying.

She placed the bouquet on top of the tombstone, and then turned and floated back the way she had come. She passed right through the iron fence that surrounded the cemetery and faded away.

None of the boys have ever forgotten this amazing sight. Their friendship was cemented that night because they shared this experience.

Freddy specifically states, he will never forget the wrenching sounds of the Gray Lady’s sobs.

The group always attends the annual Camp Chase memorial services.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Death of Ella Maude Cropsey

In November of 1901, the body of Ella Maude Cropsey was found floating in the Pasquotank River, she had been missing for six weeks.

Seven Pines
This river flowed passed her family’s home, Seven Pines, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Ella was nineteen at the time of her death. Her family called her Nell.

The Cropsey family moved to Elizabeth City in 1898 from Brooklyn, New York. The family had four children. Their lovely daughters, Nell and Olive called Ollie immediately attracted two local suitors.

Ollie dated a man by the name of Roy Crawford and Nell who was 16 at the time the family moved dated Jim Wilcox, the son of the local sheriff.

Nell Cropsey
Three years later, Nell who was anxious to marry and have a family of her own had become disenchanted with the relationship because Jim who was five years her senior had no interest in marriage.

Jim Wilcox
On the night of November 20, 1901 Jim showed up at the Cropsey house and requested to speak to Nell alone. Nell followed him out to the front porch as he shut the home’s front door.

Shortly after the two went outside Ollie heard a loud thump on the front porch but ignored it.

Jim Wilcox was the last person to see Nell alive. Later when he was arrested for her murder he stated that he had broken off the relationship with her—giving back a keepsake photo he kept of her-- and left her standing on the porch around 11:00 p.m. crying her eyes out.

When Ollie’s boyfriend, Roy Crawford left he claimed he saw no sign of Nell or Jim in the front yard.

The family did not suspect anything was amiss until later that night. They were awakened when they heard a neighbor call out that someone was “stealing their hogs” which they kept pinned in the backyard. When Mr. Cropsey investigated there were no pigs missing.

Ollie discovered Nell was not in her bedroom. It was late so the family called the police stating Nell had disappeared.

The porch.
Jim immediately came under suspicious since he was the last person to see Nell. He told the local chief of police that he had joined a friend at a bar for a beer after leaving Seven Pines. The sheriff stated his son had been home abed since midnight.

The chief did not believe him—one reason being the photo Wilcox claimed to return to Nell was not found.

Yet another reason, discovered later, was that an empty bottle of whiskey had been found on the riverbank near where the body was found. A local clerk stated he had sold a similar bottle to Wilcox on the day of the disappearance.

Wilcox was arrested and placed in jail.

In a strange twist, the family received an anonymous note a month later in December that stated a witness had seen Nell go to the back of the house to discover someone trying to steal the pigs—she was then knocked unconscious and the witness stated he saw this man put her in a boat and row away.

During the search for Nell a psychic got involved in the case and stated she had seen Nell’s body being thrown down a well. This information distracted the searchers for a while.

Pasquotank River
The day Nell’s body was pulled from the Pasquotank River a lynch mod headed for the jail that held Jim Wilcox, ironically it was Nell’s father, William Cropsey who prevented this.

When an autopsy was performed on the body it was discovered that Nell did not drown but rather died from a blow to her forehead. This injury indicated that she had been murdered.

The community ignored the “pig thief” story and instead Jim Wilcox was tried and convicted twice * for Nell’s murder. After serving 17 years of his sentence he was pardoned in 1920 by the state’s governor.

* In the first trial Wilcox was sentenced to death. There was an appeal and in his second trial he was sentenced to 30 years in 1902.

When he returned home he found himself ostracized by the community. He could not find work and began to drink. In 1934, he shot and killed himself.

To this day it is not known for certain who murdered Nell.

Published in New York Times
January of 1902
Click to enlarge

Nell is buried in the family plot in Brooklyn, New York. The Cropsey family left Elizabeth City after Wilcox’s trials. But tragedy continued to follow them.

Supposedly, Nell’s mother Mary Cropsey lost her mind and died in an asylum. her sister, Ollie became a recluse and one of Nell’s brothers, William Jr. committed suicide by ingesting poison in 1913.

In one bizarre twist, it is said Roy Crawford Ollie’s former suitor, also committed suicide in 1908. It was whispered at the time he did this out of guilt. He supposedly found Jim Wilcox standing over Nell’s body and helped him move the body to the river.

It appears Nell’s ghost has never left Elizabeth City. She is seen in her bedroom at Seven Pines wearing a white dress.

She also appears in the front parlor of the home. She is seen standing and looking out the window toward the front porch.

Witnesses have also stated they saw her ghost walking along the riverbank where her body was found.