Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Haunted RMS Rhone

Part of RMA Rhone wreck.
The RMS Rhone today lies wrecked beneath the sea near Salt Island, a part of the British Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean.

The English Royal Mail Packet Company had the RMS Rhone, a mail carrier and passenger ship built in 1865. She was 30 feet long and 40 feet wide and was considered the most modern and fastest in this company’s fleet.

But just two years into making trips from England to the Caribbean--tragedy struck. In late October of 1867, the Rhone ran into trouble in the Caribbean. The ship hit a storm *—but it was well past hurricane season so the ship’s captain, Robert Wooley was unconcerned.

* Passengers from another smaller ship, the Conway were transferred at the onset of this storm to the Rhone because she was considered unsinkable. The Conway then was lost in the rear of the storm with all hands onboard.

As the Rhone passed the island of Tortola, the Captain felt they were just heading into an early winter storm.

When the skies became gray and the storm hit, the Captain laid anchor and kept his ship full steam ahead. This was a standard maneuver to offset the storms power and keep his ship in position.

When this storm suddenly cleared and the sky turned blue Captain Wooley realized his mistake. His ship was sitting directly in the eye of a hurricane. This storm turned out to be a powerful Category 5.

It is estimated the Rhone had between 300 and 500 passengers and crew onboard. Many of the passengers became hysterical as the storm battered the ship. Captain Wooley had the passengers lashed or tied to their bunks to prevent injury—this proved to be a tragic decision.

When the anchor cable snapped the Captain attempted to head for the open sea. But as his ship sailed between Dead Chest Cay and Salt Island the hurricane’s eye passed by them and his ship was at the mercy of raging waves and zero visibility.

A giant wave hit the Rhone suddenly and washed the Captain overboard. The ship was then tossed into a series of rocky outcrops off Salt Island known as Black Rock.

As the ship smashed into these rocks, seawater rushed in and filled the hot boiler room, the result was a massive explosion that ripped the Rhone in two.

Last known photo of Rhone.
The stern where most of the passengers were still lashed to their beds sank quickly. This back end sank upright so 4 people were able to climb the masks that were still above water and wait for rescue. The aft drifted a short distance away and sank at a 90-degree angle.

Of the people on board, 23 survived, only one being a passenger.

Today the stern lies 30 feet below the water while the bow is deeper at 80 feet.

In 1967, the area that contains this shipwreck was turned into the Caribbean’s only Marine National Park. The Rhone shipwreck has become the area’s most popular place to scuba dive.

This wreck was featured in the film The Deep, which starred Jaqueline Bisset.

Over the years many divers have come forward to state the area inside the hull of this wreck is haunted.

Several divers have reported having their shoulders tugged. When they turned around no one has been close enough to touch them.

Other divers report hearing strange sounds within the hull. These noises are described as “groans and screams.” Professional divers have stated they have never before heard anything like this underwater.

Photo: Gareth Richards
This haunting was highlighted on the National Geographic Channel series entitled, Is it Real?

Here is a video of the wreck.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mt. Greylock’s Old Coot

Town of North Adams seen
from Mt. Greylock.
This ghost story gained traction after the North Adams' Transcript newspaper published it under the headline, Ghost on the Thunderbolt in 1939. 

This story is one that is still shared today. It takes place in the Berkshires located on the border of western Massachusetts.

It is believed that during cold snowy winters on Mt. Greylock, a ghost known as Old Coot is seen wondering the base of Bellows Pipe Trail.

Williams Saunders, a farmer in North Adams, Massachusetts left his wife and children in 1861, to fight for the Union army during the Civil War.

A year later, Saunders’s wife Belle received a letter informing her that her husband had been “gravely wounded.” Belle waited for weeks that then turned into months, but nothing more was heard about her husband’s condition.

Unable to run the farm by herself she hired a local man, Milton Clifford, to help her run the place. Two years passed and there was still no word, Belle assumed her husband was dead.

She then married Milton Clifford. He was a good provider and treated her children as if they were his own.

In 1863, after the war had ended a tired, bearded stranger wearing a Union uniform stepped off the train in North Adams. He headed home only to find his wife standing outside happily in the arms of another man. He heard his children call this man, “daddy.”

Heartbroken, William Saunders retreated to the nearby woods of Mt. Greylock. He built himself a small rustic shack along the Thunderbolt Trail. He lived there for years, occasionally going into town for supplies.

He took odd jobs on farms in the area including his own. It was said that he was so changed in appearance his wife and children did not recognize him.

The locals nicknamed Saunders, Old Coot.

One mid-January morning hunters found Saunder’s lying in his shack dead. They searched his papers and found his true identity. This group of men was the first to see Old Coot’s ghost.

They watched in amazement as a dark shadow left Saunder’s body and then dart through the woods.

Bellows Pipe Trail 
Ever since, other witnesses, hikers, skiers, and bikers, have seen "Old Coot" on the base of Bellows Pipe Trail. He is spotted in January, the month he died. He also is sometimes seen as late as March.

He is described as an old bedraggled man that walks bent over.

When this story was published in the Transcript in mid-January, in the 1930s, some believed it was just to generate interest in an upcoming downhill ski championship *—regardless this publicity made it one of Massachusetts’ most enduring ghost legends.

One photo Transcript
published of Old Coot.
Supposedly, on two separate occasions, Saunders’s ghost has been photographed. The Transcript newspaper published both these photos.

So are they faked? I will leave it up to the reader to decide. The following brief video below highlights both photos.

* At 3,491 feet, Mt. Greylock is Massachusetts’ highest peak.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Ghosts of Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel
Owned by the St. Clair or Sinclair family since 1446 Rosslyn Chapel located in Midlothian, Scotland is surrounded by many myths and mysteries.

The most famous legend connected to Rosslyn involves the Knights Templar * and their quest for the Holy Grail—which was the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper.

Knight Templar
Drawn by
One myth states this chalice is supposedly hidden somewhere within the chapel.

* The Knights Templar known for their prowess in battle and finances were a Christian military order that played an integral part in the early Crusades. However in 1307, rumors about the order’s secret rituals spread which led to their eventual downfall.

Templars burn at stake.
Philip lV of France deeply in financial debt to the Templars conveniently accused them of heresy and fraud and burned several of their leaders at the stake.

The Rosslyn Chapel was built in the 15th century for the Prince of Orkney, Sir William St. Clair. He most likely was involved in the Order of the Knights Templar.

The chapel is known for its mysterious and intricate carvings that have stumped historians for generations. They reflect biblical, masonic, pagan and Knights Templar themes.

Some of these carvings are out of time and place—they were carved in the chapel 200 years before Columbus discovered America. They depict items only found in the New World-- American cactus and Indian sweet corn or maize.

Corn or Maize carvings.
Apprentice Pillar
One legend states an Apprentice who was a stonemason was murdered in the chapel. This young man is said to have carved a beautiful pillar while his master was away in Rome looking for inspiration. When his master returned, he found the post surpassed his own skill. In a jealous rage, he then killed the Apprentice.  

When the Prince of Orkney died he was buried in the chapel—after this, all male members of the St. Clair family were buried in vaults below the chapel, without coffins but instead in full knight regalia until the 1700s.

In the crypt located below the chapel, visitors for years have experienced a mysterious dark wind without an apparent source.

Chapel Crypt
Another legend states when a descendant of the Prince of Orkney dies the whole chapel appears to be on fire. Sir Walter Scott wrote about this phenomenon in his narrative poem Lay of the Last Minstrel.

The Chapel altars were smashed during the Reformation in 1592—since it was a Catholic church-- the chapel was then left to ruin until the 18th century. In 1736, the ceiling and floors were restored which saved it from complete decay. In 1861, the architect David Bryce was commissioned to restore Rosslyn.

Today the chapel is widely known because of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. But it has been famous for longer than this—partly because of the ghosts seen at the chapel.

There have been numerous sightings of phantom monks in and around the chapel.

One curator witnessed a ghostly monk praying at an altar in the crypt. This monk was seen surrounded by four guardian knights.

In other sightings, witnesses have come forward to state they saw monks dressed in grey or black both inside and outside the chapel at night.

Other curators have reported hearing strange sounds when there is no one around.

A group of actors rehearsing for a play at the chapel in 2006 had one cast member claim to see a strange “fairy-like“ entity roaming the grounds and another actor stated he saw a ghostly figure in the chapel.

The year before another actor rehearsing a play inside the chapel heard a child’s voice in the crypt. He shouted down, “I am locking up.” However, when he went down, there was no one there.

Recently odd lights have been witnessed in the chapel.

Kannard's photo.
Here is a photograph and the enlargement that Brian Kannard took in the Rosslyn Chapel. The English paper The Telegraph published it in 2007. Kannard states he does not know if it is a ghost or not.

Enlargement of what he captured.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Olivas Adobe Family Ghosts

Located south of Ventura, California near Highway 101 is an adobe home built by Don Raymundo Olivas in 1841.

Ranch house at Rancho San Miguel.
Olivas was given 2,250 acres from a land grant by the Mexican Governor, Juan Bautista Alvarado in appreciation for his service in the Mexican Army.

He called his new home Rancho San Miguel. In 1849 he had a second story built onto his home-- making it a one of a kind in the region. He and his wife, Teodora had 21 children.

Teodora Olivas
Being the wealthiest cattle rancher in Alta, Don Raymundo held fiestas at his home that often lasted 3 to 4 days. But this attracted undue attention, the result was bandits rounded the family up and held them captive as they looked for valuables.

In one version of this story, it is stated Don Raymundo sent a servant with a box containing gold coins worth upwards of $75,000. This servant buried it while Don Raymundo stalled.

Unfortunately, when this servant returned the robbers killed him, before finding out the location, so to this day no one has ever found where this gold is hidden.

When Don Raymundo died in 1879, his land was parceled off to his heirs. By 1899, the property was no longer owned by the family.

Max Fleischaman

Front view of Olivas Adobe.
In 1927, Max Fleischman—of the yeast and butter fame—bought the ranch house and restored it. When he died in 1972 he gifted the property to the city of Ventura.

The Olivas Adobe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The home is run as a museum today and tours are offered on the weekends.

Employees, volunteers and visitors all feel the old home is haunted.

The most active ghost is a female known as the Lady in Black. Many feel this spirit dressed in black mourning is the ghost of Don Raymundo’s wife, Teodora.

Numerous witnesses have spotted her ghost over the years. She is often seen pacing back and forth. She is active both day and night. She is spotted in various rooms and on the upper porch at the rear of the house. Witnesses have watched as she disappeared in mid-stride.

It is stated she wrings her hands nervously—a throwback to the time she and her family were held captive by bandits. It is said they ruthlessly ripped her earrings out.

Nicolas Olivas
Another ghost seen is that of a man with a beard. His face * is seen hovering outside a second story window. It resembles, Nicolas Olivas, Don Raymundo’s eldest son.

This ghost is spotted looking in at the room that once was the “Children’s Room.” This window is 16 feet above the ground and has no ledge or balcony attached to it. Some speculate he is looking for his finger—chopped off by the bandits.

The ghost of a little girl has also been seen in the home--it is believed she was Nicolas' daughter, Rebecca. On one Halloween over 100 people witnessed her at the same time.

Rebecca Olivas 
* In 2004, Richard Senate the manager of Olivas Adobe who is a ghost hunter captured this bearded face angrily peering into this window on his digital camera.

The Lady in Black has also been seen gazing out of this same window onto the courtyard below. She has startled more than one visitor.

Volunteers at the museum report hearing footsteps going up the stairs and on the floorboards above. When these sounds are investigated no one is ever found.

Other activity includes rocking chairs in the home moving on their own and the dolls in the Children's Room have been moved around overnight when the home is closed.

The following 5-minute video is Richard Senate talking about the ghosts that have been captured in EVPs and photos in the Olivas Adobe. 

Here is another more recent video Senate did about this haunting.