Showing posts with label death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death. Show all posts

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Little Hands

First person account from the Reader’s digest:

When my mother was a teenager she lived in a haunted house. What is unusual about this is she never talked about it. She did tell me a story about an encounter with a ghost but it didn’t occur in her home.

A few houses down her street lived a family with two daughters. The younger of the two girls went to bed complaining of a terrible headache.

The family discovered this little girl dead the next morning. It was determined she had died of an aneurysm.

Overwhelmed with grief this family left town for a while after the funeral. They asked my uncle to take care of their pets.

My mother and father were dating at the time and they asked to go along. My mother really wanted to play the family’s grand piano and my father was studying to be a veterinarian.

As the trio entered the house the two men went to the basement to feed the pets, my mother headed straight for the piano. As she played she felt something brush her ankles. She continued to play thinking one of the cats must have escaped.

A few moments later she felt the soft brushes again. She looked under the piano but saw nothing. As she started to play again she felt two small hands grab each leg tightly.

She got and ran to the basement door. The two men responded quickly to her panicked call. When they arrived at the top of the stairs she explained what had happened.

Her uncle turned white. He told her a story the neighbor had told him at the funeral. The deceased daughter always played a game with her father as he played the piano.

She would crawl under the piano and grab his ankles and then push his feet up and down on the pedals.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

George Reeves’ Ghost

Reeves as Superman
In the 1950s the actor, George Reeves was best known for his portrayal of Superman in the television series, Adventures of Superman.

Reeves died at the age of 45, from a gunshot wound to the head. He was found dead in his bedroom at 1:59 a.m. on June 16, 1959 in his modest home in Los Angeles’ Benedict Canyon. It was just 3 days prior to his marriage to a young socialite.

The cops ruled his death a suicide but others felt it was an accident or even murder.

Home on Benedict Drive
Reeves was a personable and charming actor that was liked by most people who knew him. But it appears he had a darker side.

Those who support the theory he committed suicide point to the fact that by the late 1950s Reeves was having trouble finding work as an actor after his popular series ended. It appeared he was to be forever stereotyped as the caped crusader.

But this belief left out two other important aspects in Reeves life at the time of his death. He had just begun a career as a Hollywood television director and he had recently put his personal life in turmoil when he left his lover of several years—a woman 8 years his senior.

George Reeves with Toni Mannix
His mistress, Toni Mannix had bought the Benedict Canyon home for him. She became extremely jealous when Reeves dumped her for a younger woman, Lenore Lemmon who he intended to marry.

Mannix, a former showgirl, was married to Eddie Mannix, a former MGM vice president who was in good with the cops and had connections to organized crime. Hence, the speculations that Reeves’s death may have been a murder that the cops conveniently covered up.

Some believe Mannix or even Lemmon murdered Reeves.

Lenore Lemmon
To add to the confusion, Reeves state of mind at the time of his death was muddled. Lemmon told the cops one story—while other’s who attended a party she threw at the home—the night Reeves died-- conflicted with her account of what happened.

George Reeves’s death today still remains an unsolved mystery. But what happened after his death has been well documented over the years.

For over a decade, Toni Mannix had trouble selling the home on Benedict Drive. It quickly gained a reputation of being haunted by George Reeves.

People who believe the murder theory point to this reason as to why his spirit lingers.

One young couple that rented the home were entertaining guests one evening in the living room when all of them heard noises coming from upstairs.

They followed these sounds to Reeve’s ex-bedroom, where his body was found. The room that they always kept neat was in complete disarray. The bed linens had been torn off the bed and clothes were strewn across the floor.

When this group returned to the living room they discovered that all the drinks that they had left on the coffee table had been moved to the kitchen.

Later this couple found their German shepherd barking furiously at the door to this bedroom. They watched as he cowered and slinked away with his tail between his legs. When they opened the door they found the bed had been moved across the room.

Early one summer morning, around 3:00 a.m., they both saw Reeves ghost in his ex-bedroom. He was wearing his Superman costume. They moved out of the home that same morning.

After this, other renters claimed to hear a single gunshot in the middle of the night as well as smelling gunpowder in the Reeve’s bedroom.

The young couple was not the only witnesses to encounter Reeve’s apparition. A film crew and actors making a documentary about Reeves in the home also saw him standing in his full Superman attire in his old bedroom.

Reeves bedroom window.
At one point two sheriffs were called out to watch the Benedict Canyon home because there were so many complaints from neighbors. These reports included people hearing screaming, gunshots and seeing the lights go on and off in the home all in the middle of the night. The home was empty at the time.

These neighbors also reported seeing Reeves apparition standing on his front lawn.

Here is a brief video, hosted by Tony Curtis about George Reeve’s death and haunting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Olive Thomas: New Amsterdam Theatre, Part ll

Olive Thomas
In 1920, Olive Thomas a former Ziegfeld girl and a silent screen actress was on a second honeymoon in Paris with her husband Jack Pickford. The two had been out partying and drinking when they returned to the Hotel Ritz.

Olive in search of something to calm her nerves found in the suite’s bathroom a large blue flask that smelled like alcohol, she thought it was a sleeping draught that would help her. She drank it down. As this liquid flowed down her throat it burned.

She screamed waking her husband in the next room. Too hazy to understand, she had ingested the topical mercury bichloride that Jack was using to treat his chronic syphilis.

Jack tried to induce vomiting but this did not work. Olive was taken to the nearby Neuilly Hospital. In the hours that followed she had fits where she would gain consciousness briefly. She apologized to Jack, who stayed by her side, and then called for her mother.

The amount of toxic fluid she ingested shut down her kidneys and she tragically passed. Jack accompanied Olive’s body back to the U.S. Her funeral service was packed, it was held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City. She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in September of 1920.

Olive Thomas Pickford's
mausoleum at Woodlawn.

Rumors flew about her death, it was speculated that it was actually a suicide or murder—all untrue. While alive the couple had been dubbed, “the gayest, wildest brats who ever stirred the stardust of Broadway.”

After the scandal of her death, the Hollywood studios used Thomas, the Arbuckle scandal (1921), which I discuss here and the murder of William Desmond Taylor (1922) to instate “morality clauses” into actors’ contracts.

My favorite true ghost story author, Tom Ogden in his book Haunted Theaters retells several stories that indicate Olive Thomas’ spirit returned to haunt the New Amsterdam Theater shortly after her death.

Olive’s ghost often appears partly faded. She has been seen both backstage and in the lounges at the New Amsterdam. She is seen wearing her green beaded dress with the matching headband and sash.

Main stage
New Amsterdam
A workman at the theater in 1952 saw her ghost twice. He noticed the name “Olive” written across her sash. Both times this figure disappeared right in front of him as she held a large blue bottle in her hands.

He recognized her without this ID for he had worked at the theater as a young man during the time she was a Ziegfeld girl.

As many old buildings the New Amsterdam fell into massive disrepair over the years. One preservationist group tried to restore the building in the 1970s but failed. In 1979, the building was declared a New York City landmark.

In 1993, Disney bought the building and spent $35 million restoring it. The man in charge of this restoration, Dana Amendola began to receive reports from workmen that the building was haunted.

These reports did not surprise him for research he did on the history of the theater mentioned Olive, her tragic death and the fact her ghost lingers.

Several night watchmen told him that they had seen a glowing image of a beautiful young woman on the main stage. They also saw this apparition in the dressing rooms.

One watchman stated he captured this image within the beam of his flashlight. “The beads from her Follies dress, headpiece and sash sparkled in the glare.”

This man said this figure held a big blue flask. He challenged her. “Miss, stop, who are you? You shouldn’t be here.”

He said a demure smile formed on the woman’s lips. She then turned and drifted across the stage. He watched as she walked right through a solid outside wall.

Olive’s ghost when seen always carries this blue flask. The male witnesses said she often flirted with them. She whispered, "Hi fella and then would bat her eyes before disappearing."

She was also heard calling out, “Hey, how re doin’?” At other times night watchmen and workers found items moved without explanation.

Production of Aladdin at
After Disney re-opened the theater to the public, cast and crew have reported seeing Olive's ghost. She appears at night after audiences have left.

She has made the sets shake and she has caused all the lights to blown out in the upper floor offices. Her ghost tends to appear more often when changes are made.

She has also been seen on the Amsterdam’s rooftop floating near where the old glass dance floor used to be.

Two portraits of Olive hang in the theater. Today actors that perform in the various Disney productions often acknowledge Olive’s presence as they pass these two pictures. They stop and say, “Goodnight Olive” or they say, “Welcome Home.”

In Part l of Olive Thomas: New Amsterdam Theatre I talk about Olive’s scandalous time as a Ziegfeld girl and her marriage to Jack.

Here is a brief video with Dana Amendola talking about Olive's ghost at the New Amsterdam.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Telling the Bees

An odd death superstition involves bees. It originated in Europe and then was brought to America.

In the 19th century this custom spread from New England to the edge of the Appalachia. It involved people “telling the bees” when their beekeeper died. This superstition even included telling the bees when one of the keeper’s family members died.

It was believed if the bees were not told they would die or leave their hives in search of a new home.

This was an economic loss that family’s whom kept bees were not willing to risk for honey was a valuable commodity.

So these families went out of their way to protect their hives--which included the following customs.

When someone died a person was sent to inform the bees of this death. They would then drape the hive in black crepe. In some instances, funeral cake or wine was left out for the bees to enjoy.

Many families even pinned an “invitation” to the funeral on the hive.

This last custom came about because bees were known to invade funeral services if
Danville Bee
June 4, 1956
they were not told. These incidents are well documented. Here are just a few.

In 1894, during a funeral being held in a church the mourners noticed swarming bees. A pallbearer was stung on the neck and the undertaker was attacked viciously.

When the procession headed for the graveyard the bees followed. Many of the mourners left afraid they would also be stung.

Minneapolis Journal
July 6,1901
In 1901, a graveside service for a deceased Indiana child turned into a scene of panic when the mourners were attacked by thousands of bees as the coffin was lowered into the ground.

The grave could not be covered until that night when it was safer.

Margaret Culp’s funeral in 1916 was delayed when farmers scheduled to dig her grave where “stung severely” by bees.

The Washington Herald
August 9,1916
Honey-bee swarm.

At the turn of the century, during a funeral for Josh Simms in Kentucky flowers were placed on his grave as it was being covered. Mourners then watched as a huge swarm of bees landed on the gravesite.

They then stung many mourners who had remained behind.

All these funerals have something in common—the deceased was either a beekeeper or was a relative of one. The bees had not been told there was a death in the family—and when the hives were checked afterwards they were abandoned.

In 1858, the American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about this belief
John Greenleaf Whittier 
entitled, Telling the Bees. Here is just the last part of this poem.

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

Then I said to myself, “My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away.”

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:--
“Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”

Here is a link to the entire poem.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Victorian Death Customs and Superstitions, Part ll

There are many superstitions that surround death. During the Victorian Era many of these beliefs were off putting to say the least.

Victorian funeral procession.
Europeans and Americans during this era believed it was bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If one saw one approaching, it was recommended they turn around. If this could not be done it was said this person should hold on to a button until this funeral cortege passed.

If a clap of thunder was heard it meant the deceased had reached heaven or if a raindrop fell on a funeral procession it meant the departed would go to heaven.

If the deceased had led a good life, flowers would bloom on their grave, but if they had been evil only weeds would grow on their grave.

If a person smelled roses and there were none around, it meant someone was going to die.

If a person saw himself or herself in a dream, their death would surely follow. In another post the result of a dream like this that Abraham Lincoln had is shared.

If a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home is going to die. Or if a picture falls off the wall, someone close to them will die.

Never wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes.

If a person heard three knocks and no one is there, it usually meant someone close to them had died. This superstition is known as “the three knocks of death.”

A single snowdrop in a garden foretells death as well as the hoot of an owl. If a bird pecks at or crashes into a person’s window there has been a death.

Large drops of rain warned that there had just been a death.

If a person spills salt, they should throw a pinch over their shoulder, to prevent death.

If it rains on an open grave it means another family member will die within the year.

One should never speak ill of the dead because they will come back to haunt that person or at least bring them misfortune.

In Part l of Victorian DeathCustoms and Superstitions several odd customs connected to death are shared.