Monday, May 27, 2019

Titanic: A North Atlantic Haunting

Lost souls from the R.M.S. Titanic are said to haunt graveyards and artifacts *, but what is less talked about are victims of this tragedy haunt the North Atlantic Sea where this large passenger ship sank.

In the frigid early morning hours of April 15, 1912, four days into her crossing, the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg mid-Atlantic and sank taking 1,518 lives with her.

The Titanic sinking.

Crew members on the CS Minia
pulling a deceased victim form
the sea.
For two months after the Titanic sank, ocean liners continued to encounter the victims’ corpses floating on the surface. Eventually, only 333 bodies were recovered.

Because many of the bodies of the deceased passengers were never found, they remain in this watery grave. 

Some believe this created restless souls that make their presence known.

Witnesses on vessels that have visited or just passed near where the Titanic sank, over the years, have confirmed unusual activity that no one has been able to explain.

At night, there are many reports of lights seen dancing along the surface of the water near the site. Others report, they saw, what they describe as “glowing orbs” above and below the waterline.

Deep sea vessel exploring Titanic.
Ship radios tend to go haywire near this area. Static overtakes them. 

Deep-sea vessels have received mysterious S.O.S signals near the wreckage none have been able to trace the source for these radio waves.

One of the most unusual incidents happened in 1977. Leonard Bishop, a second officer on the S.S. Winterhaven, gave one passenger a tour of the ship, as they crossed the Atlantic.

Bishop couldn’t pinpoint why, but he found this soft-spoken British passenger, odd. This passenger did pay close attention to even the smallest details Bishop shared.

Captain Edward J. Smith
Later that year, a colleague of Bishop’s showed him an old photograph. Bishop told his associate, “I know that man, I gave him a tour of the ship.” 

His colleague laughed at him and said, “That’s impossible. This is Captain Edward Smith, he was the captain of the Titanic.”

    In another post, I share information about the haunted Titanic exhibit.

Bodies no longer remain but many victim's shoes
surround the wreckage 12,600 feet down.

Underwater hauntings are not as rare as some may think. Three of my most popular posts are about this topic---

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Schoolhouse

A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's', "The Birds."

In an iconic scene in the Alfred Hitchcock’s 1962 film, The Birds terrorized school children run away from their schoolhouse as crows chase and attack them.

The ominous building used in this scene, located in Bodega, California, was actually used as a schoolhouse for 86 years.

The Birds cast and crew, all felt there was something strange about this old building—several even refused to re-enter the old Potter Schoolhouse where they were filming in one of the classrooms. They felt something unseen had watched them.

As it turns out, their gut feelings were right. For this building is haunted by a variety of ghosts.

Bodega was a thriving mill town in 1873 when this school was constructed out of virgin redwood and named after Samuel Potter who donated the land. The school had two classrooms downstairs and a big community hall upstairs.

But as the years passed, the lumber mills closed down, and by 1959, the school closed.

Hitchcock rented the property in 1961, from a private owner who was about to have the abandoned school dismantled so he could sell its’ lumber for profit.

Potter schoolhouse today.
In 1966, Tom and Mary Taylor, both teachers bought the 6000-square–foot building, for $10,500. They and their children spent the next two years restoring the old school.

Today, the classrooms are a guest suite and a second family room. Upstairs is another living room, dining room, and bedrooms.

Leah Taylor, their daughter, states that as soon as they began work, the family experienced weird and frightening activity.

Leah Taylor in one classroom. She had crows
stenciled along the wall. Notice the film posters.
The first morning they spent in the house, they were all in sleeping bags on the second floor, when the whole family heard someone scream, ”it’s Sunday Morning.”

Over the months and years, they continued to hear strange sounds.

Sometimes it was a large group of people all talking at once. Other times, it is a crowd of people who sounded as if they were enjoying a rowdy party.

Renovated room.
The family also heard the sounds of children’s footsteps and laughter.

The Taylor's nicknamed one of the younger ghosts “Tricky Tom” for this spirit would stick its wet finger in their ears.

Leah Taylor and her husband, Rick Williams still live in the home. They both have seen apparitions.

She mentions that most of the spirits remind of her of “heat shimmering off the hot pavement in the summer.” They move quickly across the rooms, diminishing in size.

The ghost of a woman, dressed in Victorian clothing, has been photographed in the home.

Clavin Keithly stands in the
center with students, outside
A tourist taking pictures in front of the house captured the image of a man standing at one of the second story windows. The man in this picture looks just like Calvin Keithly, who was a teacher at the school in the early 1900s.

Taylor recounts one sighting that startled her. She spotted the apparition of a small girl levitating in the doorway that leads to the kitchen. This child offered her a resounding, “Hi.”

Taylor does open her home for special events, but the tourists that approach the house regularly often overwhelm her and her husband. Her son does not want to live in the home because of this.

They have had to build a fence around the property and they rarely go out in their front yard--to avoid tourist's questions.

The Office of Scientific Investigations and Research declared the Potter Schoolhouse an official haunted place in 1997.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Unquiet Grave

The Unquiet Grave *, a traditional English folksong, from 1916, is the forerunner to Alan Schwartz story, “Cold as Clay”. This story can be found in his first book, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

This song and story are similar. Both highlight two lovers separated by death. But in the traditional song the woman dies, in Schwartz’s story, the man dies.

In both versions, the dead lover comes back as a ghost.

*  Other variations of this ballad include William and Margaret and Scarborough Fair.

The Unquiet Grave

Cold blows the wind to my true love,

And gently drops the rain,
I never had but one sweetheart,
And greenwood she lies slain.

I'll do as much for my sweetheart

As any young man many;
I'll sit and mourn all on her grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.

When the twelvemonth and one day was past,

The ghost began to speak;
Why sittest here all on my grave,
And will not let me sleep?

There's one thing that I want, sweetheart,
There's one thing that I crave,
And that is a kiss from your lilly-white lips
Then I'll go from your grave.

My breast is cold as clay,

My breath smells earthly strong;
And if you kiss my cold clay lips,
Your days they won't be long.

Go fetch me water from the desert,

And blood from out of a stone;
Go fetch me milk from a fair maid's breast
That a young man never had known.

O down in yonder grove sweetheart,

Where you and I would walk,
The first flower that ever I saw
Is withered to a stalk.

The stalk is wither'd and dry, sweetheart,

And the flower will never return;
And since I lost my own sweetheart,
What can I do but mourn?

When shall we meet again, sweetheart,

When shall we meet again?
When the oaken leaves that fall from the trees
Are green and spring up again.

Here is one version of The Unquiet Grave song.

Whereas the song picks up the story after the true love has died, in Alvin Schwartz’s tale, Cold as Clay the backstory for this tragedy is described.

A farmer’s daughter is denied her love and sent to live with relatives. Her male lover dies of a broken heart. The farmer regrets his mistake and cannot tell his daughter her lover has died.

Her lover appears to bring her home. She goes with him, not knowing he is a ghost.

Here is Schwartz’s version.

Poem: Haunting My Husband

I discovered this poem recently, in an online workshop that focuses upon “Haunting Poetry.”

Toni Clark wrote this delightful and surprising poem.

I love poems that manage to keep the reader guessing. This one does that and more.

This is one the reader can savor as it unfolds---

Haunting My Husband

Nothing much has changed.
He looks right through me,
doesn’t hear a word
I say, forgets all
my instructions: where
we keep the strainer,
how to fold the sheets.

I trail him room to room,
like our old hound dog,
waiting for welcome-
come here, old girl-
careful to walk
around furniture
I now could well pass
through, wondering
what trick to try next

He may lift his head,
as though sensing
a barometric shift,
a thickening of air,
but it’s always nothing.
He shrugs, carries
his empty cup to the sink.
I still wrap myself
around him, rubbing
my cheek against his
stubby morning face,
can almost feel
the scrape of whiskers.

And sometimes at night,
dazed by dream, he still
reaches out to me,
before I resolve
into my true form:
a lingering memory.

I’d rattle dishes,
flick lights on and off,
whoosh past his ear
if I thought there were
a ghost of a chance
he’d notice.

Surprise-- this poem is told from the point of view of a wife’s ghost. The entire poem masterfully hints at this in both subtle and not so subtle ways.

Clark’s imagery often drops satirical hints, “looks right through me,” and “lingering memory.”

Her ghost finds delight in what she can do without a physical body. But she misses the old comfortable ways—moving carefully around the furniture.

Toni Clark
Clark’s poem also reflects the relationship this couple shares.

Humorously, her husband exasperates her as much in death as he did while she lived.

The imagery Clark uses conveys how much they miss each other—he reaches out for her, she rubs herself against him as he sleeps.

Finally, this wife admits even if she tries to get her husbands’ attention with traditional scare tactics, rattling and whooshing, she will not have “a ghost of a chance” --- nice use of humor and irony.