Saturday, March 30, 2019

Haunted Pickfair, Part l

Pickford, Fairbanks wedding.

When Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. met, they fell madly in love, but there was one snag, they both were married. This meant their courtship had to be done in secrecy for they were both silent-screen film stars at the time.

Mary Pickford became a stage actress at the age of five. She grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. As a teen, she conquered Broadway and then Hollywood as “America’s Sweetheart” on the silver screen. Pickford was beloved for both her beauty and charm.

Mary Pickford
In just one year, 1909, she performed in 40 short silent films for D.W. Griffith’s Biograph Company. She often betrayed very young girls even though by this time she was an adult.

Pickford not only was a stage and film actress she also produced films and wrote screenplays. She co-founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Sr., whom she married in 1920.

The two film stars became Hollywood’s first super couple—adored by fans and the film industry elite.

Fairbanks born in Denver, Colorado, starred on Broadway and then made his first film with D.W. Griffith in 1915. He later produced and directed several of the movies in which he starred.

Fairbanks as Robin Hood
He became known for a swashbuckler, physically demanding roles, such as Robin Hood and Zorro—where he is credited for inventing the slashed “Z” for the character. Over his twenty-year film career, he also starred in many comedies—he had great comedic timing.

Fairbanks purchased a large mansion in Beverly Hills, originally a hunting lodge from Lee A. Phillips. He bought this 16-acre property, in 1919 before Pickford’s divorce from her first husband was finalized.

Fairbanks and Pickford had the architect Wallace Neff renovate the estate. It took five years.

Their home now was four stories with twenty-five rooms. Stables, tennis courts, servant quarters, a large guest wing and garages surrounded this Tudor style mansion.

It even had Beverly Hill’s first in-ground pool.

It wasn’t long before the press dubbed the newlyweds new home Pickfair—a play on both their names.

Their estate became legendary for the parties that Pickford and Fairbanks hosted. Life Magazine stated that Pickfair was “a gathering place only slightly less important than the White House . . . but much more fun.”

Besides all of Hollywood’s stars, their guest list included: George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, H. G. Wells, Lord Mountbatten, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt, Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Edison, Arthur Conan Doyle, the King of Queen of Siam . . . This is just a brief sampling.

The two actors only starred in one film together, The Taming of the Shrew in 1929, nine years after they married.

With the advent of talking pictures, both Pickford’s and Fairbank’s acting careers declined. The two stars were intensely jealous lovers and with rumors swirling about Fairbanks' womanizing and Pickford's drinking they separated in 1933 and then divorced in 1936.

Mary lived at Pickfair with her third husband Buddy Rodgers until her death in 1979. Douglas retired from acting in 1936, he died of a heart attack in 1939.

In Haunted Pickfair, Part ll here information is shared about the ghost seen at this estate for many years.

Here is a short video about Pickford and Fairbanks.

Haunted Pickfair, Part ll

In Part I, I share information about Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s illustrious silent film careers and the Beverly Hills mansion they made their own.

Pickford and Fairbanks
At the time Fairbanks and Pickford purchased this large estate located in San Ysidro Canyon in Beverly Hills, California they both knew that the 16-acre property had a reputation, people believed it was haunted.

They had heard the stories that a ghost resided in the home’s attic. Annoying banging sounds and disembodied footsteps were reported.

In 1920, they married and moved into the mansion that the press nicknamed “Pickfair.”

Pickfair in the 1920s
Twelve years later, in 1932, Fairbanks, stated the following during an interview.

“I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe Pickfair is haunted, though Mary is sure of it; I’m sure there is some explanation if we could find it, of the sounds we hear there.”

Mary, unlike her husband, was firmly convinced that Pickfair was haunted. She often spoke to friends about the home’s ghost.

Besides loud noises, an apparition was also seen at Pickfair. In 1935, a columnist, Lee Frank interviewed Mary about the ghost.

Pickford mentioned she heard the attic ghost on three different occasions; in each encounter, it became louder.

“I am a sound sleeper, but I could not sleep under these noises which sounded like the tramping of heavy feet. I sat up in bed and addressed myself to the ghost.”

‘I wouldn’t treat you this way,’ I said; ‘It isn’t ladylike. I don’t expect you to treat me in this manner.

Pickford then said, “The noises ceased.”

She made the point that she was not the only one who heard the noises. Douglas also heard them. She never herself saw the ghost but a staff member and a visiting friend did.

“One day our cook, a practical, unemotional Swedish woman, ran out of the kitchen in terror, brandishing a knife, she declared she was pursuing a strange, dark woman whom she had seen in the kitchen.”

Later a friend of hers, an author, who stayed at Pickfair, came downstairs with strange news.

She asked Mary, “Have you had your second floor changed?”

I told her yes, we had. She then explained,

I just saw a strange tall, dark woman in the hallway up there. She was looking at the alcove up there. Her eyes wandered about in a puzzled way as she looked from side to side, as if to say—something has changed here. At first, I thought she was Theresa, your maid; then I saw she was a stranger. I went to speak to her. She vanished.”

Pickford went on to muse that the ghost probably at one time had lived in the house. She stayed because she liked it or maybe because “Some great joy or sorrow had befallen her there.”

Years later, an elderly man approached Mary in New York City and asked her for the location of Pickfair, she told him, he then asked is that near the old Philips house—that place was haunted.

She replied, “It IS the old Phillips house.”

As mentioned in Part l here she and Douglas had bought the house from Lee A. Phillips.

One final note:

Pia Zodora
Pia Zodora, and her husband bought Pickfair in 1988. They promised to maintain the property but instead in 1990 they had it demolished. Originally, in response to the public outcries that this historical house should not have been torn down, Zodora stated it had termites, therefore, it was necessary.

She told a different story in 2012 when she appeared on, “Celebrity Ghost Stories.”

She states that there was a female ghost in the attic that she claimed had an affair with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Both she and her children saw this ghost, dressed in 1920s attire. It would enter the children’s bedrooms at night and laugh while standing at the end of their beds, which frightened them.

One night as they all slept together in Zodora’s bedroom the ghost appeared once more. They all ran out of the home as the ghost followed them laughing.

She mentioned she brought in an exorcist to get rid of the ghost but it did not work. She then defended her and her husband’s decision by stating that they had no choice—tearing down the house was the only way to get rid of this entity.

The story she told on this show indicated the ghost had died in the home.

None of her claims about this ghost have been proven. Zodora quietly sold the estate in 2011, before her television appearance.

She probably did see a ghost, but from what is known, the ghost she encountered lived and died years before Pickford and Fairbanks owned the home.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Oregon’s Sumpter Valley Dredge

Sumpter Valley Dredge
Largest abandoned dredge in the U.S.

In 1862 gold was discovered in this valley nestled in the Elkhorn Mountain Range. Between 1912 and 1954, dredges were used to extract rock and dirt from the riverbank and then this machine would separate the gold from the sediment. *  This dredge ran 24/7 with one exception--when it broke down.

When this happened, especially in the middle of the night, things got scary.

Large Gear
In 1918, Chris Rowe while greasing the dredge’s gears was sucked in and crushed to death. Years later, when the second of the three dredges was brought in to replace the first, the gears from the first one were transferred to the new machine.

Rowe’s ghost, who had been spotted by a workman in the hull of the first machine was said to follow the old gears into the new mechanism, for his ghost was now seen in this new dredge.

In the 1940s, a mechanic named Joe Bush worked on the dredge. He was the second man who was killed while working on this machine.

His ghost is the one connected to most stories told today about the haunted third dredge.

Workman in the Sumpter Valley in the 1940s and 50s state that Joe’s ghost would move their tools and eat their forgotten lunches. If the lights flickered, his spirit was always blamed.

Most disturbing of all was the fact that his wet, bare footprints were often spotted on the dredge’s various decks.

All this activity, according to old-timers Wes Dickison and Norm Hansen, who worked on the dredge in the 40s and 50s, caused such a ruckus that men refused to work at Sumpter.

They state the scariest times were when the dredge would break down at night—then the lights would go out.

Two men made up the night crew. One would have to leave to inform the boss, the Dredge master, while the other one—usually the junior crewmember—had to stay behind to keep an eye on the machine.

Most of the time, this is when Joe Bush’s ghost was heard and seen.

* This operation extracted 4 million dollars in gold.

The dredge was restored in 1995.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have preserved this area as a heritage site. Tours of the Sumpter dredge are given in the spring and through the fall.

Park Rangers tell stories about Joe Bush’s ghost over a nightly campfire. Some have even spotted his spirit.

One female visitor went pale upon hearing these stories. During her tour earlier in the day she had spotted Joe— it dawned on her she had seen his ghost in one of the dredge’s upper windows.

Here is a video about this dredge.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Can Dogs See Ghosts?

Ocean Path Trail
Many pet owners agree dogs seem to sense impending danger. There are numerous accounts of how pets have warned their masters and saved them from harm.

There is an interesting discussion on the American Kennel Club site, here as to whether dogs have a “sixth sense.” This article presents compelling evidence that dogs might see things beyond the natural world.

Dogs like most animals use their gut feelings in order to survive. They know something doesn’t feel right and they act upon it quickly unlike their human companions who often stop and analyze situations.

Dogs have sharper senses than humans. Their hearing is keener and they have a wider field of vision. They also see clearer at dawn and dusk.

So can dogs sense or see ghosts? It remains a mystery but their actions often lead their owners to believe they are seeing something unusual, which they themselves cannot see.

The following account was first published in an article on Psychology Today.

 A university professor owned a house high on a bluff that overlooked the ocean. His family pet was a Labrador retriever named Lambda. The professor often took the lab on walks down the various paths that led to the sandy beach.

He would unleash Lambda and watch, as his dog would run ahead to scout out the most interesting vegetation along these trails. Needless to say, Lambda enjoyed these walks immensely with one exception.

If the professor chose the path closest to his home his dog always resisted especially when they reached midpoint along this trail. Lambda would freeze, growl strangely and then whimper. He would stare intently at one bush each time.

The lab would not move past this spot until the professor firmly took his collar and dragged him further down the path. This consistent resistance perplexed the professor until he was told about the body that had been found along this path several years before he moved to the neighborhood.

A student had been found dead in the exact spot where Lambda always froze. It was not known if the death had been an accident or foul play.

The professor felt that this accounted for his dog’s odd behavior. He became convinced that Lambda was seeing this young man’s ghost.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Patsy Cline’s Spirit

Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline’s singing career was on the rise in the spring of 1963 when the small plane she was on crashed into a secluded West Tennessee forest near Camden.

She and three male companions * were heading home after a benefit concert they had given in Ohio. They were just a half hour from their destination when a storm hit causing their plane to crash.

Six years before, Cline’s performance on television of Walkin After Midnight had made her one of the first Country singers to crossover into mainstream popularity.

In 1961, she was in a car crash that almost took her life while she was working on recording Sweet Dreams. This song garnered her even more recognition and admiration. She followed this with her successes, I Fall To Pieces, Crazy and She Got You. All hits on the Country as well as the Pop charts.

At the moment of her passing the world lost a great talent. Belied by Cline’s small frame, her voice resonated with warmth, power, and emotions that have not been matched since.

Decades after her death her albums continue to top the charts. Today, a new generation of music lovers listens to her songs with awe.

People who have visited the crash site state that the quiet trees that surround the boulder that marks the place is deceiving, for most leave with an uneasy sense of something unnatural. Adjectives used to describe the area include: strange, odd and chilling.

One woman who took her dog with her down the steep path that leads to the ravine noted that her pet began to whine and would not go near the boulder that is inscribed:

*  “On this site March 5, 1963, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Randy Hughes lost their lives.” Hughes was Cline’s manager.

The crash sites' inscribed boulder.

The Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium, known as the “Muni” is another place where witnesses state they have encountered Cline’s ghost. She performed here on several occasions.

Backstage at Shreveport
Her apparition has been seen and heard moving backstage between the dressing rooms and the corridor. Witnesses state they have heard her voice as if she is warming up for a performance.

Here is an example of Cline’s sultry voice—I Fall To Pieces.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Mystery of Silver Heels

Mount Silver Heels
Located off Highway 9 near Alma, Colorado once stood a thriving mountain mining camp called Buckskin Joe.

Buckskin Joe
Courtesy of Historical Society
of Colorado.
In 1859, Joseph Higgenbottom *, an eccentric prospector established Buckskin Joe. Word spread fast about the discovery of gold in this camp and by 1861 it hosted 2,000 residents with several saloons, gambling halls, and even a traveling minstrel show.

One bright and sunny day the stagecoach brought a beautiful dance hall girl who became the talk of the camp.

Her real name is long lost, but the miners who showered her with admiration and gifts called her “Silver Heels” for the fancy heeled shoes she wore during her nightly dance performances.

After a few performances word got out that Silver Heels planned to move on. A desperate contingent of men approached her and begged her to stay, and to their relief, she agreed.

But little did she know her happy dancing days were about to end. In the Winter of 1861, an outbreak of smallpox hit the camp. The town leaders sent to Denver for nurses, but they never arrived.

The town was overwhelmed with the sick and dying. Silver Heels could be found traveling from cabin to cabin tending to the sick and caring for their families. She even helped bury the dead.

By the spring of 1862, the worst of this disease was over.

Those miners who remained wanted to show their gratitude to the merciful dancehall girl, but she seemed to have vanished. A group of miners searched the surrounding mountains when it was established she had not left Buckskin Joe by either horse or stage.

As the months passed the mystery of her disappearance deepened. The rumors began to fly. Had she contracted smallpox herself and died? Or maybe she had survived but now found herself with a pox-scarred face, so she was too ashamed to be seen.

As it turned out these rumors were not far from the truth for in the summer of 1862, a ghostly female figure began to appear in the camp’s cemetery.

Buckskin Joe Cemetery

She was seen wandering among the tombstones wearing a heavy black veil. The figure always carried flowers, which she would place on several graves. Was she still comforting those whom she had lost?

The old cemetery is the only part of the Buckskin Joe camp that still remains today. Silver Heels’ ghost has been seen for well over a century and a half in this cemetery. When witnesses approach her, they report her figure seems to just blow away on the wind.

Mount Silver Heels
After her disappearance the miners named one of the surrounding mountains-- Silver Heels, to honor her.

* Higgenbottom traded his claim, which later produced most of the 16 million in gold mined in the camp, for a revolver and a few other items and left the area.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

April Fool’s Prank Results in Haunting

Many enjoy a good April fool’s joke, but not many know the origins of this day.

Many historians attribute this tradition to France. In1582, France changed to the Gregorian calendar—this switched the New Year day from April 1st to January 1st.

News traveled slow back then so some still celebrated the New Year on April 1st.

Part of this day’s celebrations was to play pranks or jokes on others. People that fell for these jokes were called “fish” because “fish are easy to catch.” Paper fish were tacked to their backs marking them as gullible.

Some people today still refer to people that are easily fooled as fish.

Jonathan Swift
Over a century later, Jonathan Swift the author of Gulliver’s Travels managed to pull off a classic April Fool’s prank. Swift pretended to be an astrologer by the name of Isaac Bickerstaff he then published several predictions.

His most successful prediction, published in January of 1708, stated that a well-known astrologer and almanac maker—John Partridge—would die of a raging fever on March 29th. Swift then reinforced his prank by circulating a rumor anonymously that Partridge had indeed died. *

The result was for months Partridge was kept awake at night by mourning fans outside his door. Then on March 30th, he opened his door to a man that informed him he was there to make his funeral arrangements. This joke continued because for the rest of his life Partridge had to insist he was not dead.

The following is a short excerpt from a letter Swift published anonymously about Partridge's death to reinforce his prank:

“I saw him accidentally once or twice about ten days before he died, and observed he began very much to droop and languish, though I hear his friends did not seem to apprehend him in danger. . .”

You can read the entire letter here.

John Partridge
Seven years later, Partridge did die on March 30th. While alive he never discovered it was Swift who was behind this joke but after he died one account claims, he got revenge.

It states that Partridge’s ghost visited Swift every April Fool’s Day.

* Swift enjoyed this prank immensely because he felt Partridge was a quack since he dared to make predictions. Partridge wrote a public statement that he was not dead but Swift countered it with—Partridge could not have written it because who would dare to make a joke about death.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Haunted Melrose Hotel

The Ghost Adventures team investigated this old hotel located in Grand Junction, Colorado recently. This episode is due to air tomorrow, Saturday, March 16th.

The Ponsford family built the Melrose with their own hands in 1908. It stayed in this family until 1994. After this is when strange things began to happen.

The ghosts in this hotel seem to target men.

The building has plenty of history that leaves little doubt it is haunted. A murder occurred in Room 15, and there is evidence the previous owners practiced satanic rituals in the building.

Marcus Bebb-Jones previous owner
and his wife whom he murdered.
The previous owner brutally murdered his wife in the hotel. It appears one of the female ghosts that is seen is this unfortunate woman.

The present owner who has renovated both the interior and exterior of the hotel found jars of blood and bones in the basement, which leads her to believe vicious energy has been conjured.

The starkest activity occurs in the basement, an entity has physically attacked people in this room. Another member of the staff was possessed while in this area.

Present hotel staff feels members of the Ponsford family also haunt the hotel. These entities seem to be more benign.

The current manager of the Melrose lives in the hotel. He states he saw the ghost of a woman that resembles a Ponsford family member. He claims the activity has picked up since the fall of 2018.

He has also witnessed doors opening and closing on their own, and he went to the hospital recently when he woke up covered in bruises.

By far although what frightened him the most was when he saw a figure in his mirror that wasn’t in the room with him.

Melrose Hotel today.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

An Unwelcome Roommate

The following is a scary first person account:

When I was a sophomore in college my roommates, and I decided to move off campus. Within walking distance of our university was a once affluent neighborhood with large colonial brick homes.

A friend of mine knew the owner of one of these homes. He was looking to rent out the last remaining floor with living room and kitchen privileges.

Feeling excited and grown up, three of my friends and myself moved in. A week later we encountered an elderly women who lived next door. We stood around bored as she reminisced about how grand the neighborhood had once been—without a lot of noisy students in residence.

As we turned to leave, she caught our attention with her last statement. “” Where you live no one seems to stay very long.”

I was the first of the roommates to encounter what was to become a series of creepy incidents. I was standing washing our dinner dishes when I caught sight of a male figure out of the corner of my eye.

I turned around, but I was alone in the kitchen. I then heard heavy footsteps heading down the hallway but when I followed no one was in the living room. Perplexed, I remembered there were no men in the house that evening.

One of my roommates came down one morning to announce that she had not gotten any sleep. She felt a cat jump up on her bed several times during the night. It then wandered around her room.

She never saw this cat. No one in the home owned a pet. We looked around for a couple of hours but never found a stray cat.

The week before Spring Break my sister came to visit. She fell down the stairs as we watched from the living room in horror. She told us someone had pushed her, but we were the only ones in the house at the time.

A month later we were eating popcorn and watching a movie when my roommates’ laptop disappeared. She had placed it on the coffee table in front of where we sat but when the lights came on it was gone. We searched but never found it until several weeks later when it appeared in the exact same spot where we had last seen it.

By this time we were all spooked. We agreed that at the end of the semester we were moving out. But two of my roommates left within two weeks of the laptop incident.

So there were only two of us left during finals week. This is when the creepiest incident occurred. I awoke one morning to find all the boxes I had packed stacked one on top of another all the way to the ceiling and the heavy bedside table was three feet away from where it normally sat.

I ran to my roommate, but before I could describe the chaos in my room, she asked me if I had heard the footsteps during the night. I hadn’t. She told me she had heard me go to bed and an hour later she heard footsteps climb the stairs—they then entered my room. She didn’t hear them leave my room.

No one was in the house but us. The other tenets were away on vacation. Two days later we both moved out.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Traces of Ghosts Who Rode the Rails

When the Great Depression hit America in the 1930s, more than a million men and women were forced to seek food and work—thousands of miles from their homes.

Riding the rails.
The only way they could afford this travel was by hopping a freight train, illegally. In just one year, it is estimated that 6,500 hoboes, as they were called, were killed in accidents or by railroad “bulls.”

These bulls were the brutal guards hired by the railroad companies to make sure no one but paying customers rode on their trains.

Many people who became famous later rode the rails. Including the Novelist Louis L’Amour, TV host Art Linkletter, Oil billionaire H. L. Hunt, the Journalist Eric Sevareid and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

Hopping a freight
Because the bulls were always on the lookout, hoboes were forced to hide near the tracks. As the trains picked up speed and past them, they had to run, then grab hold and jump in the moving boxcars.

Unfortunately, sometimes they missed, which resulted in lost limbs or lost lives.

When the hoboes reached their destinations, they had to jump off the moving trains before the bulls could arrest them. If caught they were often beaten, some so severely they died.

In the small town of Attalla, Alabama, several rail lines met. During the Great Depression, thousands of hoboes traveled through this area.

Mountains around Gadsden and Attalla
Riding the rails was dangerous enough but south of the Attalla rail yards the area was even more treacherous. For this community is surrounded by mountains and down the tracks are steep grades—which meant some hoboes plummeted to their deaths.

Today, passenger trains no longer travel through Attalla, and the freight trains are disappearing as well but the ghosts they brought still linger. For decades strange sightings on the south section of the tracks have been shared.

Countless ghostly figures in worn clothing, carrying knapsacks are seen strolling along the tracks.

Even more dramatic is that strange lights are seen in the surrounding mountains when these figures appear.

Two hoboes walking the tracks after being released by "bull."

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Urban Legend Gone Viral

Living in New Mexico and knowing a little bit about hauntings I was surprised to read on several sites that an abandoned school in the small town of Artesia was considered one of the most haunted places in my state. 

Atoka School

It is a classic, frightening ghost story so I will share it here.

Atoka School, built in 1949, has sat abandoned for many years. It seems this building has a long history of creepiness. Beginning with the school and then later several businesses that occupied this building--all appeared to have been driven out by a dark evil entity.

In fact, the report claims that whatever was going on was so scary that all of the tenets of the old school left quickly or “overnight” without giving any logical reason as to why.

By the 1970s the school’s scary backstory was so well known that teens would Legend Trip the site, often just driving by too scared to go in. Others who dared reported hearing: groans, footsteps and even snarls.

Hence the legend grew, the old school must be haunted.

Recently, the ArtesiaDaily Press while listing places in their town that are truly haunted took a more logical approach to the rumors that surround the Atoka School.

They noted that one group who visited the site in the 1990s, upon hearing the footsteps determined it was just “a goat,” and an entity that flashed by them was a “barn owl.”

This would explain why witnesses who were brave enough to visit the school would sometimes state the dark entity they believed lived in the old school flew out of the walls at them.

Regardless, it provides an entertaining scare.