Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mexico: La Pascualita or The Corpse Bride

"Is she a mummy or just a dummy?"

This is a legend that has persisted in Chihuahua, Mexico for 86 years. People from all over the world have come to this town to see a mannequin that stands in the front window of a bridal shop.

Pascuala Esparza
Pascuala Esparza, who owned this shop, had a beautiful young daughter. Tragically, she died on her wedding day from a Black Widow bite.

Soon after this death, Esparza’s shop displayed a new mannequin in the shop’s window. It wasn’t long before the residents of Chihuahua began to be concerned.

It was noted this mannequin held an uncanny resemblance to Esparza’s daughter. Even more disturbing the form had a life-like appearance. The face has wide expressive eyes with a fresh blushed skin tone. The hands, in particular, looked real with nails on the fingers and lifelines on the palms.

The mannequin.
The locals began to refer to the form as La Pascualita meaning little Pascuala or “her daughter.”

The hair on this form also appeared real.

Rumors began that this form was actually the preserved or embalmed corpse of Esparza’s daughter. Many of the local residents now looked upon Pascuala Esparaza with stern disapproval.

This grieving mother flabbergasted by these rumors tried to deny them, but no one would listen. By this time rumors began to be spread that there was something even stranger about this mannequin.

People passing by the shop claimed the form eerily followed them with its eyes. Others in the shop mentioned the mannequin’s eyes appeared to follow their every move.

Employees at the shop stated that often when they returned to work in the morning they found the mannequin had changed positions in the window.

One wild rumor stated that a French magician smitten by the beauty of the mannequin fell in love. It was said he approached the window at night, where he brought the form back to life, and then he would take her “out on the town.”

Even today, some still believe this mannequin is a real human corpse. This belief was given credence when a more recent employee, Sonia Burciaga who is tasked with changing the bridal gowns on this form stated she doesn’t like touching it.

She mentioned that the figure even has varicose veins on its legs.

A taxi driver who often brings tourists to the shop to see this mannequin in downtown Chihuahua states that he has seen this form change positions as he circles the shop in his car.

Other witnesses still report seeing it watch them or change positions.

Some believe this figure is a saint and they leave offerings for it at the shop.

In recent years, several people disturbed about this story—state there is no way a corpse could be preserved in this state for so long--an obvious point. 

With research one discovers this mannequin is made of wax—which accounts for its life-like appearance.

Keep in mind this story is a “legend.” Legends are told for entertainment, they spice life up.

Logically, no one would buy a wedding gown that had been displayed on an embalmed corpse. But this bridal shop has gotten a lot of free publicity over the years.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Raising the Dead

John Dehner takes
the part of the
One classic legend from Utah inspired Rod Serling to write one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes—Mr. Garrity and the Graves.

A stranger appeared in Alta, Utah in the mid 1860s. Alta today is a ski resort * but then it was little more than a muddy hole amidst the Wasatch Mountains.

This silver boomtown east of Salt Lake City was made up of a handful of fake storefronts, miner’s tents and several whiskey establishments.

Alta's main road.
The stranger stood in the middle of the main road one early morning patiently waiting to attract attention.

This didn’t take long for the tall slender man was dressed in biblical robes with a long beard to match. Once a crowd had gathered the stranger then gestured toward Rustler Mountain where the town’s cemetery lay.

This cemetery mostly held those who had died through violent acts and diseases common to the time.

Several locals asked him what was his business. He smiled and made an offer. He offered to raise the dead.

As the crowd leaned in he continued. He promised to bring back their loved ones, all those who had been taken too soon. Waves of delight swept through his now rapt audience.

If there were any who were skeptical about the stranger’s claims of being able to perform Lazarus-like miracles, they did not voice their concerns.

Many who heard this offer thought fondly on their lost son or daughter, mother or father, friend or lover.

The stranger told the crowd with modesty and patience that he was willing to wait to nightfall for their reply. As he walked away many in the group had already made up their minds.

Who wouldn’t want to welcome back a lost loved one? Or would they?

Doubts slowly took hold. The awkwardness of their loved ones returning began to dawn on them.

I am married again—to a younger wife, her house has been turned into a brothel, I don’t want to give back the money I inherited, we sold Uncle’s claim.

It became apparent that this was about the worst idea anyone had ever heard. The complications involved were insurmountable.

That evening a committee was sent to the cemetery to thank the stranger for his nice offer but they had decided to decline.

The stranger shook his head and stated that it was too late. He walked into the cemetery. The group panicked by his action quickly dug into their pockets and came up with over $2500 in silver and coins.

They asked the stranger would he leave if they paid him. He looked from one anxious face to another and nodded. He took the money, stuffed into his pack and then rode away.

The dead of Alta were left in peace.

Rod Serling’s version of this story first aired in 1964. He stayed true to the story with a few exceptions.

Scene from Mr. Garrity and the Graves.
He made the town, Happiness, Arizona, the stranger, as he enters the town, brings a dog back to life after he hits and kills it with his wagon, he then promises to raise over 128 dead people.

When the townsfolk realize the folly of his offer they pay him off one by one. The stranger played by the actor, John Dehner leaves Happiness a wealthy man.

Serling with his usual panache leaves the viewer with an extra surprise at the end. Here is a short snippet from this episode. It shows the surprise ending.

Emma Silver Mine and the eity, 1875.

*  The silver boom in Alta started in 1865, the town grew to 8,000 residents by 1872 but due to water in the mines and the expense of smelting the town was deserted by 1880.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Cripple Creek’s Imperial Hotel

Cripple Creek, 1894 two years
before fires.
In 1890, Bob Womack discovered gold in poverty gulch * in southern Colorado. Almost overnight the town of Cripple Creek sprang up. Hotels, theatres and saloons catered to the miners needs—taking their hard-earned gold.

*  Ironically, Womack died in poverty.

At its peak Cripple Creek had 25,000 residents and during this boom the mines yielded 600 million dollars. Today the area between Cripple Creek and Victor is still actively mined.

Two fires devastated the town in 1896. The result was 6 deaths, 2 million dollars in damage and 5,000 people left homeless.

During the reconstruction of the town The Collins Hotel opened its doors. At the turn of the century it was renamed The New Collins Hotel.

The hotel was renamed once more in 1905. The new owner was an Englishman by the name of George Long. The hotel was now known as the Imperial.

Imperial Hotel
The story goes Long left England because his “deafness” was an embarrassment to his aristocratic family. He also married his first cousin Ursula, which guaranteed his family shunned him.

George and his wife had 2 children a daughter and a son. Long was an architect, painter and loved his scotch whiskey a little too much. He also loved his new hotel and it flourished under his guidance.

He and his family lived in an apartment that was near the hotel’s lobby. After the boom ended the Long family remained hoping for the best.

As Long’s daughter became older it was apparent she suffered from a mental disability—probably a result of the couple being first cousins. When she had “fits” the family would lock her in their apartment.

In the 1930s, after a heated argument with her father this girl followed him to the top of the basement stairs. She took an iron frying pan and hit him over the head, killing him. She then was placed in a mental hospital.

In a tamer version of how George Long died it is stated he accidentally fell down the rickety basement stairs on his way to a coal chute.

Long’s widow sold the Imperial Hotel to Stephen Mackin in 1946. Mackin and his family lived in the same apartment that the Longs used. This space later was used for the Red Rooster Bar.

Mackin and his family endeavored to bring “theatre” back to Cripple Creek—by 1953 the Imperial was producing turn of the century melodramas.

The director of this theatre and several actors reported seeing George Long’s ghost. Several of the kitchen staff also encountered his ghost. In the early 1980s one actor, Pat Sawyer saw Long.

One afternoon, while in the theatre he saw George standing behind the bar. Sawyer described him as a well-dressed bald man, with a monk like turf of hair surrounding his head.

This matched descriptions given of George Long.

Mackin while he owned the hotel downplayed this haunting—not wanting what he characterized as “the attention of strange folks” coming into the hotel to do investigations.

Imperial Hotel
In 1992 gambling came to Cripple Creek, Mackin sold the Imperial. The new owners renovated the hotel—restoring it to its Victorian beauty. The hotel now has new French wallpaper, crystal chandeliers and antique furnishings.

It also has a new restaurant and a casino. It was renamed Imperial Casino Hotel.

Richard L. Duwe was employed at the hotel from 1994 to 1997. He states most employees who worked the night and graveyard shifts encountered George Long’s ghost.

This activity mostly centers on the casino’s slot machines. After the casino closed one night a security camera caught a slot machine spilling all its coins out.

These machines have two fail-safes so this cannot happen. The Colorado gaming commission determined that the machine caught on video was working fine. It appears George doesn’t like gambling in his beloved hotel.

On another occasion, Duwe heard a slot machine being used, coins being fed into it, after the casino was closed.

Thinking a patron had been left behind he and several others searched the slots but found no one in the room and not one machine had their light on—indicating it had been played recently.

In one secure room where the rolled coins are stored, Duwe heard a knock and then extremely loud slams on the two sets of entry doors. He searched but no was at the door or in the hall. Duwe then announced out loud, “Knock it off, George.”

This is a trick the employees have learned to use to stop George’s impish behavior.

George and Ursula Long's bed
Room 43.
Recently, people have seen George’s ghost wandering the hotel’s hallways. Rooms 39 and 42 are active. He is known to open and shut doors and turn on the bathroom facets.

When people go to turn this water off they hit their legs on an open drawer in the bathroom that Long’s ghost opens to bar their entry.

Cripple Creek today is sometimes called "Creepy Creek" because there are so many ghost stories told about the town.

Excerpts from Jeff Belanger’s book entitled, World’s Most Haunted Places.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dash: American Ghost Ship

In the early 19th century Britain and France were fighting the Napoleonic Wars. Despite President Thomas Jefferson and then-President James Madison’s efforts to keep neutral-- America found itself right in the middle of this conflict.

British impressment of Americans into service.
British and French trade restrictions disrupted American business, which had a devastating impact on our shipping industry and country.

These two country's privateers and military vessels blocked our ports and harassed American ships. The British took this a step further when they began to use impressment to steal American men and goods into their service.

President Madison’s response was to impose the economic Embargo Act of 1807. It mainly kept American ships bottled up in harbors along the East Coast.

This Embargo backfired for since it restricted our ships from trading for needed goods—it hurt the American people even more.

Also, ironically, this embargo didn’t stop the British harassment, which further damaged the American economy. The end result was President Madison declared war against Great Britain in 1812.

Privateering during the War of 1812.
During the War of 1812, the U.S. used government-licensed private armed vessels, known as privateers. These ships were not part of the American navy. Their task was to detain, seize, and take enemy vessels, their crews, and their goods. They then would bring these men into U.S. ports for prosecution.

So privateers were in part sanctioned pirate ships.

One such ship was a topsail schooner called Dash. It was built in 1813 in Freeport, Maine.

Dash was a half model or what is called a Hawk nest. This meant she had 16 guns and another ten fake “Quaker” wooden ones to fool the enemy.

She was built for speed and eventually was re-rigged with a unique sail to increase her already impressive speed.

The Dash was able to break Portland’s blockade three times in 1813, with a cargo of lumber for trade. She returned from the West Indies, having traded for coffee and sugar cane.

In September of 1814, she was commissioned as a privateer. She was re-armed with more guns and more men—mostly from Freeport. This vessel was able to capture fourteen enemy ships—all without one single injury to her crew.

In January of 1815, she left port with another privateer, the Chamberlain. She pulled ahead but ran into a heavy gale. The Chamberlain turned back but the Dash continued.

She was never heard from again. It is not known what happened to her, but some speculate that her captain underestimated her speed and ran her aground on the treacherous shoals of the Georges Banks.

Within months of the Dash’s disappearance, fishermen in Casco Bay swore they saw this ship bearing down on them through a mist. As this ship turned and headed for Freeport, they clearly saw the words “Dash—Freeport” written on her bow.

Over the years, these sightings continued, at one point they even increased. Fishermen and other boaters reported that this schooner seemed to appear out of nowhere—always in a fog.

Foggy Casco Bay
Witnesses noted that despite the fact there wasn’t any breeze this did not prevent this sailing ship from moving quickly.

As more sightings of this ship were noted, a legend began to be circulated about Dash. It states that when a descendant of one of Dash’s sixty crewmembers dies this ship returns to bear these loved ones on their final journey.

One impressive witness sighting occurred in the 1940s, during WWll. A U.S. naval ship and Coast Guard boats that were protecting Casco Bay saw an unusual sight one foggy afternoon.

A blip was noticed on their radar screens. These vessels headed for the spot. As the sirens went off and all men reported to their stations, they were surprised to see a 19th century sailing schooner.

It was cruising along the channel headed for Freeport. By the time they reached this old ship, it had disappeared.

This sighting has been written about several times and has gone down as one of the most bizarre occurrences on the East Coast during the war.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Two ghosts have been seen at this art museum when a portrait of them was on display in this building.

Cleveland Museum of Art
1916 Building
The Cleveland Museum of Art opened its doors in 1916. It has been expanded and renovated over the years. It sits in northeastern Ohio in in the town of Cleveland. It is by the city’s Wade Lagoon and Fine Arts Park.

Claude Monet, the forefather of French Impressionism had a distinct appearance while alive. His salt and pepper beard and favorite bowler hats made him easily recognizable.

When this Cleveland art museum installed a show in 2011 entitled: Painting the Modern Garden, Monet to Matisse, staff at the museum saw Monet’s ghost.

Monet's Water Lilies displayed in museum.
Jeffrey Strean, the museum’s director of design and architecture saw Monet standing on a balcony overlooking the space used for this new show. Monet stood and watched directly above where a vintage photo of him was being hung.

Ghost or Monet look-alike.
In a gallery located in the original space in the museum known as the 1916 Building, one of the original directors of the museum has been seen.

William Milliken
William Mathewson Milliken has been seen wandering through this space. He began work in the museum in 1919 and by 1930 he became the museum’s second director. In all, he worked at the museum for 38 years. He retired in 1958 and passed away in 1978.

Under his guidance the museum gained an international reputation.

He is seen wearing his favorite tweed jacket with elbow patches. He appears to clutch a folder under one arm. It was not until the staff went through the museum’s photograph collection that this connection was made.
Renovated haunted gallery at museum.
In this gallery, night watchmen report their flashlights malfunction. When they enter the room their lights extinguish, once they leave the room their lights turn back on.

During one renovation workmen wearing hardhats reported something similar. The lights on their hats would go out in this gallery only to turn back on once they left the room.

Jean-Gabriel du Theil
at signing of
Treaty of Vienna.
Another haunting involves an oil portrait entitled, Portrait of Jean-Gabriel du Theil at the Signing of the Treaty of Vienna done by Jacques André Joseph Arel. The ghost of Jean-Gabriel du Theil has been seen observing his image.

Water leaks and electrical shorts plagued the corner where their picture once hung. When this oil painting was put in storage the issues stopped.

The above stories where first written down by Carolyn Ivanye the museums protection services operations manager.

Wade Lagoon above and more renovated space below.
This museum celebrates its Centennial anniversary this year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Cursed Laughing Buddha

A middle-aged couple, the Lamberts were on a cruise ship headed for Asia in 1928. Their first stop was Japan. Mrs. Lambert fell in love with an old statuette in one Kobe junk shop window. The couple was pleasantly surprised to discover it was priced reasonably.

Kobe Japan 1920s
The shopkeeper told them that it was a Laughing Buddha or Ho-tei. It was the Japanese god for good luck, especially for travelers. But by the end of their voyage the Lamberts would discover this would not be true for them.

The shopkeeper told them that Ho-tei had been a Buddhist monk in the 6th century who spent his life helping the poor and caring for children. He later was made a god.

Two ivory Laughing Buddhas.
The Lamberts admired the finely carved statue. It was old, made of creamy ivory and was of a half-naked fat man sitting on a cushion. They discovered a small ivory plugged hole at the bottom.

The statue had the figure of a child clinging to its back. The shop owner told them that many Laughing Buddhas had “children” on their backs.

This was because of a legend that stated Ho-tei had once carried a child to safety across a flooded river. 

The couple happily bought the statue and went on their way. Back on the ship Marie Lambert wrapped the statue carefully and placed it in one of her suitcases.

Soon after the couple began to be plagued by fevers and toothaches. At two separate ports in Australia, Marie and then her husband C. J. sought out dentists to ease their pain—but once ashore their pain was mysteriously gone.

Once back onboard their toothaches resumed. Marie pulled out the statue one evening to show a fellow traveller who admired the fine workmanship.

He had lived in Japan, and he told them that St. Christopher, which is used by westerners as a good luck charm and for travel protection, might have originated from Ho-tei.

On their way back to their home in London the Lambert's stopped in the states to visit Marie’s mother. This woman also admired the ivory statuette. Marie then gave it to her as a gift.

But within hours her mother suffered a toothache and she gave the statue back to the couple stating it had not brought her good luck.

This is when the couple made the connection between their toothaches and the old statue. Each time the statue had been in their cabin onboard ship they had become ill but when the suitcase it was in had been removed to the ship’s storage they had recovered.

While they had been ashore in Australia—they had been away from this suitcase so their toothaches had disappeared.

On board another ship headed for London, Marie wanted to throw the statue overboard but C. J. stopped her stating that they best not for all their teeth might rot.

Home in London, the couple took the statue to an Asian antique dealer. Admiring the statue he offered to pay them more than what they had paid but they refused stating they just wanted to get rid of the statue—but were afraid to destroy it.

After hearing the Lambert’s stories of painful toothaches and fevers this man called in an old Japanese friend.

The two examined the statue and discovered the plugged hole on the base. Several days later this dealer requested the Lambert's stop by his store at their convenience.

As they entered his store they noticed the Ho-tei had a place of honor on one counter. In fact, it looked like a shrine. There were lit joss sticks in front of it.

Laughing Buddha Shrine
He told the couple what his friend had told him. This Ho-tei was probably used as a temple god. The two men had discovered a small medallion inside the statue.

These medallions where placed in Laughing Buddha statues in order to give them a “soul.” This meant this statue just needed to be treated with reverence.

He pointed out the shrine. He then bowed down. He told the skeptical couple with proper care this statue would no longer be a threat.