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 that hem 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 on road.
This story served the locals well for it attracted a stronger tourist industry 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 people who are not used to driving mountainous roads attempt this stretch at night.


Various views of 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 afterwards 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.”

Below 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 where 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.


Here is the video of the four men, 10 years later, as they return to the Thetford Priory.

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 located 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, fierce 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. They were washed away and woke later 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 damage.
On this terrible day, when the wind and gulf waters met at 6:00 p.m. the town was completely flooded—whole blocks were washed away within minutes.

At 7:30 p.m. the main 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 and the cries 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.



The following video shows Galveston before and after this Category 4 hurricane.