Sunday, January 31, 2016

Phantom Canyon

Phantom Canyon Road
In the 1890s, a narrow gauge railroad line twisted its way through a 30-mile trek near Cripple Creek, Florence and Canon City in Colorado. This line serviced over 500 gold mines in the area and at one time was one of the busiest in the country.

Today this old line is a part of a road known as The Gold Belt Scenic Drive.

This road slowly gains elevation-- from 5,500 feet to 9,500 feet. It follows the same path as the railroad did—and is mostly unpaved.
Phantom Canyon Road
The traveler within 30 miles passes through two hand-hewn railroad tunnels that were meticulously chiseled out of the dense mountainous terrain by miners making room for the booming gold industry.

Eight Mile Creek
This route also affords spectacular views of mountain meadows, Ponderosa Pine forests, pinyon-juniper and cholla cactus. At the end are high desert grasslands.

A shorter stretch of this scenic byway is known as Eight Mile Creek. This part of the road winds through canyons that rise and drop over 4,000 feet which hems the traveler in.

It was along this stretch of the railroad track, where the engineers on this line excelled at navigating sharp, narrow turns and steep unguarded drop-offs. 

It was here one railroad crew in the early 1890s witnessed something they never forgot.

On a night run, this crew was headed toward Cripple Creek when they spotted a man walking alongside the tracks.

He wore a prison uniform with his number clearly visible on his back.

The engineer, once the train reached Cripple Creek, reported this sighting to the nearby Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City.

To his shock, he was informed that the prisoner he and his crew had seen had been executed a few days before.

This story was told so often that by the 20th century this canyon had been renamed, Phantom Canyon.

Higher tunnel located on this road.
This story served the locals well for it attracted a stronger tourist trade to the area, after most of the mines played out.

Phantom Canyon Road is approximately a one-hour drive from Colorado Springs. It is located between the cities of Florence and Victor. This road can be accessed from Highway 115 to the south and 67 to the north.

Trestle near Eight
Mile Creek.
Warning: If you go in search of this ghost, be advised, this road is a treacherous drive even during the day, so it is not recommended for people who are not used to driving mountainous roads, especially at night.

Various views of the road.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Haunted Rickshaw

“May no ill dreams disturb my rest,
Nor powers of Darkness me molest.”

                                    --Evening Hymn

A young Rudyard Kipling.
Many of Rudyard Kipling’s stories are set in India. This is not surprising for he spend his early childhood in Bombay and later was a newspaper reporter in Lahore.

Kipling’s stories often center on the relationships between men and women. He was a misogynist, for his male characters, often in the military, blame women for their own and others shortcomings and misfortunes.

Considering the above statement it goes without saying that Kipling’s stories are told from the male’s point of view.

But despite this, it should be mentioned that both men and women enjoy reading his stories.

Cover of collection
published in 1888
in India.
A favorite short story, The Phantom Rickshaw was originally published in 1885 in a military Christmas annual. In the 1890s it was published again in several popular collections.

Like many of his stories this tale has a male narrator and includes a phantom or ghost. When the reader begins this story they should not give up for it starts out slow but it quickly builds once the narrator begins his self-serving tale of woe.

The story then firmly grips the reader and takes them on an ever quickening ride that spirals into an inevitable end. For this reason Rickshaw is sometimes compared to Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, which is shared here.

The story begins with Jack Pansey, the main character who is found under the care of a doctor. He appears to be suffering from delusions caused by overwork—which Jack most adamantly denies.

He retells his story to convince his doctor of the true cause.

Three years earlier, while sailing back to India from extended leave, Jack-- a British Indian official-- meets an officer’s wife, the golden-haired Mrs. Agnes Keith-Wessington from Bombay. The two fall in love and start a torrid affair.

But by the spring Jack’s interest begins to wan. In Kipling’s words, his passion quickly dies, "his fire of straw burnt itself out to a pitiful end.” So he goes about freeing himself from her.

He is callus and brutal in the way he informs Agnes that he is tired of their relationship. He basically tells her he can’t stand her. He tells the doctor, “I was sick of her presence, tired of her company, and weary of the sound of her voice.”

Their future encounters are even worse.

However, Agnes doesn't take the hint and refuses to believe they can’t live happily ever after. Jack meets and falls in love with a younger woman, Kitty Mannering but the spurned Mrs. Wessington continues to appear in his life--always insisting their parting was all just a "hideous mistake."

Kitty and Jack become engaged and Agnes now distraught, dies of a “broken heart,” as many women in Victorian stories were wont to do.

At first Jack is relieved at this news—for by this time he hates her.

But as they say: all's fair in love and war. There are many more twists and turns before this story ends. Read it and enjoy.

Rickshaws in Colonial India
The complete text of The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Tales—1st edition, in a nice format, can be read at the Internet Archive.

The following is a classic radio show that highlights this Kipling story. It takes some dramatic license with the original tale but is well worth the listener’s time.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thetford Priory

Thetford Priory as it once was.
Founded by Roger Bigold the 1st Earl of Norfolk in the 1100s this priory today is in ruins. On this site, several witnesses have seen what appears to be the ghosts of black-robed cluni monks.

In 1937, terrified witnesses heard the sounds of monks reading, chanting and singing in Latin.

In 1992, scared teenagers hanging out at this old priory heard the clinking of keys before they watched an apparition of a monk run straight past them.

However, the most famous sighting occurred in 1987. Christian Jensen-Romer and three of his friends watched through an archway as a monk descended some stairs. When they approached, the monk and the stairs they were no longer there.

Christian Jensen-Romer
This group of male teens, Jensen-Romer was 18 at the time, were driving through the town of Thetford in Norfolk on their way to a wargames meeting.

The call of nature interrupted their trip. As they looked for a loo or restroom they stumbled upon the ruins at the end of one lane. A sign informed them that they were at “Thetford Priory, a victim of Henry Vllls’ “Dissolution of the Monasteries” in the mid 16th century.

It was a warm August night around 8:30 p.m. They found a secluded spot behind a bush to relieve themselves, as they turned to leave they looked at the ruins one last time.

Archway in ruins.
All four spotted a figure that at first, they thought was playing a joke. This figure was peering at them from an upper window. Then the group saw this figure through an archway below. It was wearing a black sheet that billowed behind it as it walked down a staircase.

The group charged forward toward the figure. Jensen-Romer remembers running up a few steps only to then slam his head against the side flint wall. In the dark, the teens quickly realized there was no staircase in the archway. The dark figure had disappeared as well.

A feeling of coldness enveloped the group and two of the teens became nauseous and threw-up. As they left the priory, they eerily got the sense the stone walls were somehow rebuilding themselves around them.

Thetford Priory
As they ran to their car it felt as if the ground beneath their feet turned to wet sand and they all stated their legs became unsteady. All four afterward wrote down what they saw in the archway.

Their accounts differed in the description of the figure, but they all agreed it appeared to be a “black-robed figure that appeared to be a monk.” They also agreed that what they saw was more than just a product of their fear.

Christian Jensen-Romer who later became a writer and Parapsychologist states this experience changed how he looks at the world. He understands why people claim to see ghosts.

He is not certain what they saw that night—but all four men today state they did see something that was “real.”

In a program entitled, Ripples in Time met with these four witnesses 10 years later at the priory. Three are scientists, and one is a psychologist today. They recount what they saw in detail on this video.

Another witness to this phenomenon, Margaret and her daughter are residents of Thetford. One warm summer’s day as they sat on a bench near the ruins they saw a monk.

He had his head bent and his arms were tucked in his habit. He glided by oblivious to their presence. Margaret followed this figure around one wall only to find no one.

She admits she has never gone near the ruins since.

One pamphlet in the town tells stories of people trying to speak to this monk only to see the figure vanish in front of their eyes instead.

Several of these encounters point to the fact that this might be a Residual haunting but the four male teen’s experience seems to be more a time slip.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Galveston’s St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum

Galveston today.
On September 7, 1900, a hurricane quietly entered the Gulf of Mexico. By the next day, this storm brought in winds of 150 mph, which hit the Galveston barrier island destroying the town of the same name.

This hurricane known as The Great Storm is the deadliest * natural disaster to hit American soil. 3,600 homes were destroyed, and more than 10,000 men, women, and children lost their lives.

* Historians consider it worse than Katrina because of the number of fatalities.

At this time, Galveston, a bustling port town was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in Texas. The future was bright for its 36,000 residents.

After 9:00 p.m. on September 8th all this prosperity would be gone.

Among the dead where 10 nuns and 90 of 93 children at St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum located on beachfront property situated outside the town.

St. May's Orphan Asylum--building on right girl's dorm.
These nuns were apart of the Sisters of Charity that had established a Catholic infirmary in Galveston.

The orphans under their charge were mostly children that lost their parents to Yellow Fever—so eventually the orphanage connected to the hospital was moved outside of town to avoid this disease.

Sister Elizabeth Ryan was in Galveston on the morning the hurricane hit collecting supplies. Mother Gabriel tried to convince her to stay at the hospital until the storm passed but she refused for her supplies included food for that day’s supper at the orphanage.

What Sister Elizabeth didn’t know is that there would be no more suppers at St. Mary’s.

During the afternoon the winds and rains increased, the tide rose higher, waves crashed onto the beach sending floodwaters ashore.

St. Mary’s consisted of two large dormitories with balconies that faced the gulf. Both buildings sat behind a row of sand dunes that were supported by Salt Cedar trees.

The tides began to erode these dunes, one orphan who survived stated later he watched as the dunes eroded, “as if they were made of flour.”

When the floodwaters reached the dorms, the nuns gathered all the children into the girl’s dormitory for it was newer and the stronger of the two buildings.

At first, they stayed in the first-floor chapel, the nuns had the boys and girls sing a French hymn Queen of the Waves, which fishermen sang during storms—to keep the group calm.

Nuns and children at St. Mary's.

But as the water rose they moved the group to the second floor where each nun tied clotheslines to their waist and then attached 6 to 8 orphans to them with it.

Several of the older boys went up to the roof. The children terrified now watched as the boy’s dorm was lifted off its foundations and washed away.

A ship that was being tossed in the storm hit their dorm--it lifted their building up, the floor fell out from beneath their feet, and the roof crashed down trapping them in the water.

One survivor,
Will Murner
aged 13.
Only 3 orphan boys survived, William Murney, Frank Madera, and Albert Campbell. Two of these boys were carried away by the water, and both later woke in a tree. They clung to this tree for a day before a small boat from town rescued them.

Several of the nun’s bodies were found later with children still attached via the clotheslines. One of the surviving boys witnessed a nun reassure two small children, “I will never let go.” She was found with both children still firmly grasped within her arms.

The nuns and children were buried where they were found.

Sisters found with children
tied to them.
Some of the damage.
On this terrible day, when the wind and gulf waters met at 6:00 p.m. the town was flooded—whole blocks were washed away within minutes.

At 7:30 p.m., a tidal wave struck the south shore, it reached 15 to 20 feet.

In 1994, on the anniversary of The Great Storm Texas placed a historical marker at the section of the seawall, built after the storm, where St. Mary’s once stood. Descendants of the survivors attended, and an all sang, Queen of the Waves.

Marker for orphanage
above seawall
Today, many believe that the spirits of small orphan victims haunt two structures where St. Mary’s once stood.

Employees at the Seawall Walmart have reported: misplaced toys, missing pallets of toy inventory, phantom children’s laughter and cries for help.

Seawall and Walmart nearby.
One former employee recalls the time she heard a little girl calling for her mother. She went to find the lost child to help. She searched the toy department calling out but received no response.

Other’s hearing this child’s cries, both employees and customers joined in the search but the child was never found, the sobs eventually stopped.

Ten years ago this store was considered the most haunted spot on the island. Several news stories highlighted it.

Hotel Galvez
The Hotel Galvez was built, in 1911 on the beach where St. Mary’s once stood. This hotel known as Queen of the Gulf has hosted U.S. presidents and celebrities as well as the ghosts of several small children.

Over the years many guests have reported poltergeist activity including doors opening and closing and lights turning on and off by themselves. Several witnesses have seen glimpses of the orphans that linger.

Today, Galvestonians often see a figure dressed in an old-fashioned nun’s habit walking along the shore.

Here is a local news report about the anniversary, the storm and St. Mary’s.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Haunted Calculator?

This past fall—2015-- an American couple became engaged. It was after this that their desktop calculator began to act strangely.

Was this calculator celebrating their engagement? One article written in England seems to thinks so.

Soon after Fran Lussier proposed to his girlfriend, she was at home alone one afternoon when she noticed something strange. Their desktop calculator turned on without assistance and printed out a “diamond symbol” on its tape.

Lussier’s fiancé was surprised, to say the least. She told Fran what she had seen, and the evidence was clear for there was the tape rolled off the machine with the diamond on it.

The couple then sat down and tried to replicate this diamond by using the calculator’s keypad but they couldn’t.

The couple flabbergasted could not come up with a reasonable explanation of what was happening. Was this machine haunted?

In the following days, the calculator printed out 5 more diamond symbols on its own.

After this, the couple was getting ready to go out when Lussier’s fiancé sat down at the desk were the calculator is placed to put on her shoes. The machine began to print.

The fiancé asked the machine to print one more diamond, which it did without hesitation.

This time, Lussier pulled out his phone to record the activity. As seen in the video below the couple proceeds to talk to and coax the calculator.

At first, the calculator does not respond, the couple then asks if it will print once more if they turn the camera off. The fiancé tells it they have turned the camera off.

But Lussier continues to record—at which point the calculator begins to print. The couple jumps backs and screams, and then they laugh. The printer produced another diamond.

This proves the old adage: Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. So did this actually happen?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher, Part V

Bargeman discovers corpse
of infant.
Just day’s before Amelia dumped the carpetbag containing Doris Marmon and Harry Simmons’ bodies into the Thames a bargeman had fished a package out of the river near this spot. It contained the body of an infant girl, Helena Fry.

The small Reading police force discovered a faintly legible address and the name “Mrs. Thomas” on the brown parcel paper that the baby was wrapped within.

This address was a former residence of Amelia Dyers.

The police then put Amelia under surveillance but they worried she would just disappear, so they arranged a meeting with her with a decoy—a young mother looking for adoptive services.

On April 3, 1896, the police arrived at her home while Amelia waited for this decoy. They smelled the decay of death but found no bodies.

They did find many distraught letters from mothers inquiring about their children, mounds of baby clothes and many more pawn receipts. They also found telegrams describing adoption arrangements and newspaper ads.

Pulling the carpetbag out.
Amelia was arrested on April 4th for the murders of Doris Marmon and Harry Simmons. The Thames was searched, and 2 more bodies were found. Each child had been strangled with white seamstress tape.

Amelia told the police callously "that was how you could tell it was one of hers.”

Eleven days after Eveline Marmon watched tearfully as Amelia boarded a train with her daughter the police called her in to identify a small body.

On May 22nd, Amelia pleaded guilty to the murder of Doris Marmon.

She used an insanity defense –offering her stays in mental institutions as proof-- but since the prosecution argued these stays coincided with her efforts to avoid the authorities and that they were short-lived, her defense was not believed.

Dyer sentenced to death.
The jury took 4 and half minutes at the Old Bailey to find Amelia Dyer guilty. On June 10, 1896, she was hanged at Newgate Prison. When asked if she had anything to say she said nothing.

Her loathsome actions along with other baby farm killers of the time that were hanged-- Margaret Waters, Annie Walters, and Amelia Sach to name a few-- did eventually led to welfare and other social reforms being instated.

Even though Amelia Dyer is Britain's most prolific serial killer her crimes were mostly forgotten until recent years when her records where placed online by the National Archives.

It is estimated that Amelia over her, 30-year career as a baby farmer was responsible for the deaths of over 400 infants.

Amelia's Ghost

Often prisons are haunted and Newgate which once stood just inside London is no exception to this rule. This structure built by the Romans was torn down in 1910 to make room for the Central Criminal Courts.

The original Roman gate, Newgate Prison before
it was demolished and prisoners being hanged
on the gallows.

Dead Man's Walk
On the side of the wall were Newgate once was is a narrow pathway that still exists today. It initially led from the prison to the quicklime pits where executed prisoners were buried.

It is not surprising since this pathway also was used to take condemned prisoners from their cells to the gallows that it was dubbed, “Dead Man’s Walk.”

A young warden, a Mr. Scott, at the time Amelia Dyer was hanged—later became Newgate’s chief warden.

He often told one grim tale of the prison being haunted.

Amelia Dyer after her arrest.
He was present at the hanging of Amelia Dyer in June of 1896. As Amelia was taken to the scaffold, she stopped and looked at Mr. Scott. She then said in a low voice, “I’ll meet you again, sir.”

Not long before Newgate was closed down, several wardens including Mr. Scott were gathered together, with a bottle of whiskey, to celebrate the end of their employment at the prison.

The room they stood within was next to the Women’s Felon Yard. A door, with a window in it, looked out over this yard.

As one fellow raised his glass for a toast, Scott became aware that someone was watching him. He then heard the words in his head, “I’ll meet you again someday, sir.”

He looked out the door’s window and saw the unmistakable face of Amelia Dyer. She looked at Scott for a moment and then left.

Scott rushed to the door and opened it but nothing was there except for a woman’s handkerchief that floated to the ground and landed at his feet.

There were no female prisoners in Newgate at this time—there had not been any for several years.

One photograph that was taken of Mr. Scott outside the prison’s execution shed has a distinct image of Amelia’s face peering over his shoulder.

Execution Shed
Some witnesses claim to have seen Amelia's ghost in Dead Man's Walk recently. Several ghosts have been spotted along this pathway.

In Part l of Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher illegitimate babies are left out in the cold and baby farming begins.

Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher, Part lV

Amelia Dyer
By 1890, Amelia seeking higher profits had started targeting the babies of the more affluent for this would increase her wealth. She now received £50-80 one-off fees. Some speculate that she took this additional risk for she felt that she would not be able to baby farm much longer without being caught.

In this year she arranged to take into her care the illegitimate baby of a governess. This young woman had fallen in love with the young master of the house she worked in—she became pregnant.

She saw one of Amelia’s adverts and moved in with the older woman to hide her condition, Amelia then was able to gain her trust. She convinced the governess to leave her baby in her care.

But the governess returned to visit her baby months later. She quickly became suspicious because the infant she was handed was not hers—it did not have a birthmark on its hip like her baby.

This young woman informed the authorities but Amelia managed to stall them by sending them on wild goose chases—she told the police the couple that adopted the baby moved here-- no they moved there.

Amelia moved to several towns after this but the governess continued to pursue her.

Feeling pressured and in a panic, she fell into another depression, she then drank two bottles of Mother’s Friend laudanum in a suicide attempt. But she survived. This overdose would have killed most people but her extended use of this opiate had given her a cushion.

She was placed in an asylum once more but when she was released she quickly went back to farming and murder.

Amelia had one last breakdown in 1893. She by this time was an expert at feigning insanity—after all she had watched her mother’s spiral into madness. She made repeated statements such as, “The birds were telling me to do it.”

All of her asylum placements were timed to avoid capture by the authorities.

When she was released from Wells Mental asylum in Somerset she quickly recovered. She then landed in a workhouse where she managed to lure an older widow, Jane Smith to a supposed better life—helping unwanted babies.

Workhouse in Somerset.

She told Jane to call her “Mother” and she called Jane “Granny Smith” in order to create an illusion of a mother-daughter relationship in front of prospective clients.

It wasn't long before Granny Smith realized she was just a servant who had to care for all the babies that Amelia brought to their home.

In fact, so many babies arrived and left that Granny Smith could not even learn their names. The neighbors began to notice 6 infants arriving every day.

It was during this period in 1896, that Eveline Marmon responded to Amelia’s advertisement for a nice home in the country.

White edging tape on corset.
After Amelia took possession of Doris she wrapped white edging tape around her neck, making a strangling knot. But the female baby did not die immediately.

Amelia admitted later that she enjoyed watching the tape around little Doris’ neck—but alas it was soon over with. She then took the clothes Eveline had given her and pawned them—she used the money to pay her rent.

The following day, April 1, 1896 Amelia accepted another baby, a one year old boy named Harry Simmons. She was out of tape so she retrieved the tape from Doris’ corpse to strangle Harry.

The next day she put both bodies in a carpetbag weighted with bricks and threw them into the River Thames at a secluded spot at Caversham Lock—but a witness passing by spotted her.

In Part V of Amelia Dyer:Britain’s Baby Butcher suspicions lead to Amelia’s downfall and her ghost is seen in an historic place.

Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher, Part lll

This baby farmer who starved her infant charges to death for profit over almost 30 years came under the suspicion of the authorities several times.

When Dyer suspected the police were onto her, she would use insane asylums to hide. The first time she did this she worked in one as an attendant.

Wells Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Somerset.

Amelia also avoided the authorities by moving a lot and using several aliases--three were, Thomas, Smith and Harding. She plied her trade as far afield as Liverpool and Plymouth.

Three years after Amelia's first husband died she remarried William Dyer, a brewers laborer from Bristol. They had two children, Mary Ann aka Polly and William Samuel.

She eventually left Dyer when he lost his job. Amelia now strapped for cash decided to change the way she baby farmed.

Instead of her babies dying of neglect and starvation she now murdered them as soon as they were born or shortly after she adopted them. This immediately increased her profits.

She suffocated the babies she helped to deliver.  

She would smother them as soon as they came out—not allowing them to turn blue which would indicate they had taken their first breath. She did this so they would look like stillbirths so the death certificates “were all above board.”

She strangled other babies that came to her after birth—tying a white tape around their necks twice, and then knotting the ends tightly.

When her daughter Polly asked her why all the babies disappeared she told her that she was an “angel maker.” She stated she was “sending them to Jesus because he wants them more than their mothers.”

By this point, Amelia had a real taste for killing. She felt she had a God-like power to watch her unfortunate victims “peacefully die.”

Amelia successfully avoided the police until the late 1870s, by this time over 100 babies had died or been murdered under her care.

Each time the authorities came close she would panic, break down, try to commit suicide and then feign insanity, which guaranteed a placement in a mental asylum.

After her releases, she would go right back to baby farming.

But in 1879, a doctor became suspicious at the number of times he had been called in to certify children’s deaths that were under Amelia’s care.

Inquests for each infant were held in Somerset and the authorities had no doubt these infants had died of neglect and opium overdoses but there was one problem-- they could not prove it.

So despite their suspicions, Amelia received only a 6-month sentence of hard labor instead of being hanged.

Amelia was an emotional wreck during the time she spent in jail. But as soon as she was released, she continued farming. Now she became determined to leave no evidence that would lead to her being captured again.

She had cause to worry for by 1884 British society was taking a dim view of baby farms that showed signs of neglect or abuse—more people began to report their suspicions.

The first Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act was passed in 1889--mostly due to efforts by Benjamin Waugh.

Amelia, to cover her tracks, stopped bringing in coroners to write death certificates and instead just started to murder the babies under her care quickly.

She would keep their corpses until they decomposed so it would be harder to identify them. She wrapped them in brown parcel paper and then tied it with string. She then dumped these bodies into the River Thames.

She buried others in the yards of homes where she lived.

Caversham Lock with the footbridge
known as "The clappers" is where
Amelia disposed of her infant
Amelia’s long-term laudanum use did actually affect her mental state—she now often was completely detached from reality.

Her murders and profits increased. Witnesses reported seeing 6 infants going into her home daily—she was also often seen leaving with brown packages.

In Part lV, of Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher a concerned mother comes forward which leads to more trouble for Amelia.