Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Taunton State Hospital

“The Devil himself is still here . . .”

This hospital was built on a 154-acre farm along the Mill River in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1854.

State Lunatic Hospital
The hospital initially named, State Lunatic Hospital, was designed to treat the mentally ill. It followed a plan developed by Thomas Kirkbride. He insisted the mentally ill should be treated with care and compassion.

So this hospital was built with a large campus, recreational rooms, and comfortable bedrooms. It allowed patients to be exposed to sunlight and fresh air.

All this looked good on paper, but what this hospital was for many years-- like most mental asylums in the U.S. at one time—was a place to throw away a portion of humanity that no one wanted to be bothered by.

According to a local legend the fact that thousands of mental patients suffered here have made it one of America’s most haunted.

Click to enlarge
Some people believe the ghosts that linger are a result of the more violent patients kept at Taunton. One such patient was an infamous serial killer, Jane Toppan.

Toppan raised by a crazy relative, became a nurse. She used her patients as guinea pigs. She dosed them with a combination of drugs, which basically poisoned them.

She took a sick perverse pleasure in watching them die. It is said it aroused her. She would crawl into to bed with her victims and hold them as they slipped away. Among her victims were her foster sister, and husband.

Other lore states this hospital is haunted because of an even darker history. It is said that some of the staff at the hospital—including doctors and nurses, were involved in a satanic cult.

Stories are told of patients being used in experiments and offered up as sacrifices to appease the Devil.

It is said this happened regularly. These staff members would escort patients to the hospital basement, where they performed these rituals. 

Other staff found strange markings and blood covering the basement walls. One employee states when he went down to discover what was going on, he couldn’t get past the last stair step.

He said overwhelming feelings of pain and suffering hit him. He quit his job the same day. Years later, he still finds it difficult to talk about.

Whether one believes these stories or not, there is documented evidence that patients began to refuse to go down in the basement with staff. When they refused, they were punished.

Even today, people claim that this area is icy cold, even in summer.

Another area of that appears to have paranormal activity is in the woods that surround the old hospital.

Witnesses claim to have heard moans and cries for help. Unexplained banging sounds are heard. Others have seen strange lights and felt icy cold drafts among these trees.

A cemetery that sits within the hospital grounds is also considered haunted. This haunting began when a patient one night, escaped his room and too tired to go on, hid in this cemetery.

As he crouched near a tombstone, he felt a cold grip squeezing his shoulder. Thinking he had been discovered, he stood up holding his arms high only to find no one there. A minute later, he heard a voice whisper in his ear, “Leave.”

Terrified, this man returned to his hospital bed. Later he discovered a large bruise on his shoulder, where he had felt the hand.

Chair by moonlight
in the bedroom.
Over the years, patients and staff have spotted several ghosts in the hospital. A typical sighting is that of a man wearing white on the third floor.

He is seen walking along the corridor. Witnesses state his form fades in and out or just vanishes.

Even more creepy, he is seen slowly crawling along the wall. A shadow or his full form is seen, as well, striding across the hall in an apparent rage. 

More recent residents of the hospital state they have seen this figure in the corner of their bedrooms watching them.

His head appears in shadow or is faceless. This form disappears when the lights are turned on. Some speculate this is the Devil waiting for the next victim to be sacrificed.

Other activity reported at the hospital is lights turning on and off, doors slamming, and cold spots.

This hospital has been in continuous use since it opened in the mid-1800s. Most of the older building has burned down, collapsed or been torn down. In the 1990s, the hospital and surrounding area were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old abandoned buildings
The more modern buildings on the property still provides services for the mentally ill.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tasmania’s Haunted Bridge

Richmond, Australia’s claim to fame is its old beautiful stone bridge in the center of town. This bridge is the oldest of its kind still in use today. It was built between 1823 and 1825.

Located in southern Tasmania, this bridge traverses the Coal River. It was initially needed to link military and convict traffic between the colony of Hobart Town and the penal settlement.

In 1837, the Richmond Bridge needed repairs. Convict labor from the nearby Port Arthur penal colony was used. These convicts endured unbearable conditions as this work was done.

Their overseer was another convict by the name of George Grover, who was placed in prison for the crime of stealing. Grover was known as a “flagellator” for he was tasked with flogging other convicts.

Grover relished his role as overseer and abused his power. He gained a reputation as being a cruel taskmaster. He whipped and beat men he perceived as not working hard enough.

His mistreatment eventually was avenged. On a March morning in 1837, four convicts found him on the bridge “drunk on the job.” They set upon him, beat him, and threw him off the bridge.

Later he was found barely alive on the rocks of the riverbank 30 feet below. He died of internal bleeding.
Richmond Bridge
Ever since his death in 1837, George Grover’s ghost has been seen. He is one of three ghosts seen on this bridge. He is observed pacing the length of the bridge as he did in life.

In more dramatic accounts of this haunting, it is stated witnesses have seen his ghost in the trees west of the bridge, watching people as they crossed the bridge. At other times people have said they could sense his anger, he obviously is upset he was murdered.

He is described as a dark silhouette without discernable facial features that sometimes stalks people as they cross the bridge.

Another ghost seen on the Richmond Bridge is a large, black or white spirit dog. This apparition is known as “Grover’s Dog.” This ghost is seen only after dark.

Lone females and children who have crossed the bridge at night claim they have seen this dog. Local lore states this ghost dog is friendly. Several females have said they were accompanied across the bridge by this dog only to have it disappear once they reached the other side.

Yet another male ghost seen on the bridge is another male convict. It is believed this man weary of the hard labor he was tasked with committed suicide by jumping off the bridge during Grover’s time.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Dead Guy

Ghosts come in all shapes and sizes. Some emit positive energy others more negative. I am drawn to stories about darker energies. This might be because these stories are not as common.

Dr. Rita Louise in her book entitled, Dark Angels talks about various, angels, entities, and ghosts she has encountered in her life.

One such encounter happened while she was still a child. Her family of 10, including seven siblings, lived in an old Victorian house built in 1898.

This drafty house had four floors, including a basement. This basement was the one space in the home that Louise was always uncomfortable in.

The family all agreed that a ghost resided in the basement. They dubbed this dark energy the “dead guy.” But other than naming it, they never talked about it.

Louise frightened, avoided going down into the basement. 

But the family’s extra refrigerator and freezer were kept in this dark, dusty room so if she happened to be in the kitchen when her mother was preparing a family meal, she often was the one volunteered by her older siblings to go down and fetch a needed item.

The author recounts her mad dashes to turn on lights and rush around corners to retrieve the needed item. 

She then would race back upstairs to get through the basement door before it slammed shut.

Unfortunately, this door often mysteriously locked behind her, leaving her in the basement for extra minutes, as she pounded on it to escape to the safety of the kitchen.

Then there was the dreaded evil laugh she would hear behind her as she tried to pry the door open. 

This scary scenario played over and over each time she was sent to the basement.

Her mother was the only one in the family that the dead guy never seemed to faze. 

She would spend hours in the basement doing laundry. Louise would see the dead guy standing near where her mother hung the clothes to dry—but her mother appeared to be able to ignore his presence.

Years later, at a family reunion, the siblings finally openly talked about their own encounters with this ghost. They all agreed he lurked near where their mother always hung the clothes. 

Their descriptions of what he looked like always matched.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Glimpse of Lace Trim

Lace made at Broadlands
In 1827, Nunn's Lace Factory * was opened on the Isle of Wight. The factory was placed in Staples, Newport, a remote location, to keep its machinery that made fine French Blonde lace from prying eyes.

Pink silk lace dress
Queen Victoria wore
This factory located in what is Broadlands House today was one of the largest employers on the Island. The factory made a profit for some years. Queen Victoria and other ladies of the court were among its customers.

The lace it produced was as fine as a spider web and expensive but when tastes in fashion changed the factory lost business. By 1870, William Henry Nunn retired and having no son to leave the factory to, the business closed.

This left 200 men, women, boys and girls without a means of support.

In 1880 the old factory was used by a charitable establishment for 40 “poor spinsters and widow ladies who had fallen on hard times.” This charity also trained young working class girls as servants to be placed in positions around Newport.

Tragically one of these girls was killed at Broadlands in a fire in January of 1904. Alice Barton was 14 years old when she was left alone in the matron’s sitting room. She stood on a fender near the fireplace to reach some papers when an ember from the fire dropped on her dress.

The fabric on her dress quickly ignited. Alice suffered severe burns and she died.

The charity closed in the 1930s and in 1949 Broadlands was bought by England’s Ministry of Labour.

Broadlands House today.
Ghosts do not always appear at opportune times. Linzi Mathews would agree with this statement. In 1982, Linzi worked for the Department of Health and Social Security at Broadlands House.

One afternoon as she sat on the toilet in the first floor ladies room she saw a foot appear at the bottom of the door. But the door that enclosed her stall went all the way to the floor. It was if someone was walking right through it.

The small foot was wearing an old-fashioned shoe, pointed, grey in color and decorated with buttons. Above the shoe she could see a lace-trimmed petticoat.

She sat frozen too scared to open the door and see what was on the other side. Seconds later, she watched as the shoe vanished. Gathering her wits she opened the door but no one else was in the room despite the fact she still felt a presence.

When Linzi mentioned this encounter to her coworkers she was told that the Broadlands ghost had been seen, heard and even smelled over the years.

A strong odor of toast often accompanied appearances by this ghost. Staff members told her they often heard footsteps in the upper empty rooms late in the afternoon.

Knocking sounds and furniture being moved about was also heard on the top landing of the Broadlands House.

So who was the ghost that Linzi saw? Some feel it was Alice Barton who died in the fire, or maybe it was another distressed young women fallen on hard times that stayed at the house.

Linzi still wonders if the lace trim she saw was made at Broadlands when it was the 1800s Isle of Wight lace factory.

Traverse warp
* J. Brown and George Freeman invented the lace making machinery—known as a traverse warp, they agreed to take a banker’s son—W. H. Nunn on as a partner with his father’s support who was a Nottingham banker.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Another Ghost Story by Saki

In another post I share a synopsis of The Open Window a short ghost story written by H.H. Munro aka Saki in the early 1900s. This review can be found here.

Saki was born in Akyab, Burma (Myanmar) in 1870. When he was two years old, a runaway cow along an English lane killed his mother. He was then left in the hands of his grandmother and two strict aunts.

In 1893, Saki joined the Indian Imperial Police, following in his father’s footsteps but within two years he returned to England suffering from failing health.

He then became a journalist and began to publish books in 1900. Saki was killed by a sniper’s bullet in November of 1916 during the First World War.

Another story Saki wrote is entitled Laura. It reflects his ability to show the ironic side of life.

The story begins with two friends talking. Laura has come to visit her friend Amanda in the country. It quickly becomes apparent that she does not like Amanda’s husband, Egbert.

Egbert had criticized her for letting the collie puppies out so they could go for a run. Laura confesses that she has been “petty and mean” as revenge for Egbert’s fuss, she confesses she messed with two of his favorite things in life—his hens and his garden.

In a not too subtle offhand manner Saki also lets the reader know that Laura is about to die—from something never mentioned.

Laura muses with her friend that for her pettiness she might be reincarnated as a lower life form—an animal—specifically an otter.

What happens next reflects Saki’s ability to tell tales with a sense of fun but also with a macabre twist on life. Can Laura continue her revenge even after death?

The story Laura can be found in a collection of short ghost stories presented by Rex Collins entitled Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories.

Or it can read it online here.

Here is an audio version of the story.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Haunted Powder House

This story is a well-known New England ghost folktale.

Powder House
An old windmill called the Powder House is located in Somerville, Massachusetts in Tufts Park in Powder House Square.

It was built in the early 1700s and was used during the Revolutionary War to store gunpowder—hence its name. It was isolated from the general population so it was ideal for keeping explosives.

Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, confiscated the powder being stored in the mill by American rebels. Later when the Americans laid siege to Boston they used the building once more to store their powder.

This old mill, the tower still stands today, has been the site of a haunting for decades. But it is not a ghost from the Revolutionary War era that lingers. Instead, it is the ghost of an angry father.

Before the war a poor farmer used the windmill as a secret place to meet his beloved. He was in love with a wealthy man’s daughter and the couple knew the father would strongly disapprove of their relationship.

For a time they managed to keep their rendezvous secret but idle gossip finally reached the father. He had become suspicious when he noticed his daughter was spending many nights at the mill but now he knew why.

He devised a plan to surprise the lovers at the windmill to embarrass and punish them. But his plan backfired when the couple watched him approach one night.

The daughter convinced her young farmer to hide as she climbed into the mill’s loft. As she did this the movement from her dress caught her father’s eye.

He stormed into the mill and groped about as his eyes adjusted to the dark. He cursed everything around him.

His daughter backed off from the stairs hoping to evade her father. But she tripped on a loose floorboard. She threw out her arm and grasped a rope in an attempt to steady her fall.

The weight of her body tugged on this rope and it set the mill’s fan blades in motion. She heard her father cry out in agony. She rushed down the stairs as her lover left his hiding place.

The young couple found the father writhing about upon the floor. When the blades started he had been standing on one of the millstones. The sudden jerk had thrown him down.

His arm was caught between the grinding surfaces and crushed to a pulp.

The two lovers picked him up and carried him home. He had the best medical care possible but he did not live long. Before he died he saw how foolish his behavior had been and he gave his permission to his daughter to marry the farmer.

She however, delayed her wedding day for months filled with guilt and regret over her father’s death. It is said she never went near the mill again—especially after she heard her father’s ghost was there.

Somerville Powder House today.
Despite his change of heart the father’s spirit appears to linger at the site of his accident. On windy nights the locals state a man’s angry curses can still be heard coming from the tower.

Even more eerie, in more recent times people report seeing a blue light or spark dancing about inside the old mill.