paranormal

Ghost Stories from 7 Haunted Libraries Around the World

April 7 through 13 is National Library Week in the US, and we’re honoring the occasion by bringing you ghost stories from haunted libraries all around the world! Much like the iconic library scene in the movie Ghostbusters, these literary atheneums are stacked with creepy ghosts, shadow figures, and paranormal activity. Not only do we love tales of the paranormal, we also think circulation of some library appreciation is long overdue, so please check out these 7 haunted libraries around the world before we reference another bad library pun!

7) STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA - MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Dating back to 1854, there’s no surprise that Melbourne’s State Library of Victoria has more than a few resident ghosts. The Arts section of the library is reportedly home to the ghost of a former librarian named Grace. Said to be a benevolent elderly spirit, she continues to keep an eye on the place and make sure that a more confronting spectre, who roams the southern end of the closed Arts stack, stays in his place. The Music room is frequented by a nattily-dressed mustachioed ghost who is known to leave music books out of place after he is finished perusing them. The ghost stories of the State Library are so numerous that many clairvoyants have been brought in, and Melbourne’s Haunted Bookshop owner Drew Stinton is keen to get the building included on the city’s tour of haunted locales. - From The Paperblanks Blog

6) COMBERMERE ABBEY LIBRARY - CHESHIRE, ENGLAND

The library at Combermere Abbey, near Cheshire, England, is said to be haunted. The ghost is rumored to be Lord Combermere himself, who died in 1891 after being run over by a horse-drawn carriage. After members of the Abbey staff reported possible ghost sightings and other paranormal activity, a photographer set up a camera in the library. The camera's shutter was left open for one hour.

The staff could claim no involvement with the photo-taking, as they were all at Lord Combermere's funeral, which took place four miles from his home. And yet, when the plate was developed, a ghostly image appeared, seated in the Lord's favorite chair.

To the modern eye, the photo may well appear to be a simple double exposure. But many people at the time were convinced that a ghost had been captured on film. - From Ranker

5) PEORIA PUBLIC LIBRARY - PEORIA, ILLINOIS

Long before the Peoria Public Library was ever built in Peoria, IL, a house stood on its site. In the 1830s, a Mrs. Gray owned the home, but fell upon hard times and could not pay her mortgage. The bank foreclosed, and she was forced to leave. But before she did, Mrs. Gray is said to have put a curse on the propertyand anyone who would ever own it. Whether it was her curse or just coincidental bad luck, each subsequent owner experienced a sinking of their fortunes.

The library was built in 1894 on land that was once part of Mrs. Gray's estate. That's when truly creepy things began to happen. Each of the first three library directors suffered mysterious deaths. The original library was torn down in 1966 and replaced with a new structure, but the eerie occurrences continued. Staff have reported hearing ghostly voices calling out their names, and feeling the temperature drop to chilling degrees. Some also claim to have seen the ghostly figure of one of the dead library directors. - From Ranker

4) THE AFRICANA LIBRARY - KIMBERLY, SOUTH AFRICA

The Africana Library in Kimberly, South Africa is said to be haunted by the spirit of a man who once worked there. The library was built in 1882, but it wasn't until the early 1900s that the city was able to hire a credentialed librarian. His name was Bertrand Dyer, and while he was qualified for the prestigious position, he soon began to engage in a type of fraud. He would place orders for books, but inflate the price list presented to the city for payment. Dyer pocketed the extra cash.

But his scam was discovered, and Dyer was so ashamed that he decided to commit suicide. He took cyanide, but it did not have the immediate desired effect. He suffered in great pain for three days before succumbing in the library where he worked.

The library is now a museum, and visitors have reported seeing the ghost of a man in Edwardian attire, floating up and down the halls of the building. Some have observed him rearranging books on their shelves. Others claim that if they are having trouble locating a particular book, Dyer will help out by knocking it off the shelf. - From Ranker

3) BELLWOOD ELEMENTARY LIBRARY - BELLWOOD, NEBRASKA

Why is it that one of the creepiest-sounding apparitions appears at the library with the most innocent patrons? Bellwood School District was founded in Bellwood, Nebraska in 1880. Students at the elementary school need to walk quietly through its library stacks, so as not to disturb the ghost of a severely burned woman who reportedly haunts the building, often seen staring out of windows in anger or despair. The library seems to be the site of other paranormal activity too, including scary noises, unexplained sudden cold spots, and the sound of jingling keys. At night, hopefully after all the elementary children are safe at home, ghostly figures have been witnessed patrolling the halls around the library. While the reasons behind the Bellwood Elementary hauntings have not been uncovered, there are reportedly some records from Bellwood’s past that document concerns over the use of coal-burning stoves in the building. Could this historical detail offer an explanation about the ghost of the burned woman? - Lindsay Merkel

2) PHOENIXVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY - PHOENIXVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

In the community of Phoenixville, the Phoenixville Public Library is a facility with a rich and notoriously haunted history. The library first came into existence in 1896 as a small collection of books donated to the Phoenixville School District. In 1901, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated funds to purchase a plot and construct the public library building. A children’s section of the library was added to the basement in the 1920s, and the following decades saw continual increases in the library’s collection and facility.

Although there is little information available about why or how the Phoenixville Public Library became haunted, it has been so for as long as anyone can remember. Several apparitions have been reported over the years, both by employees and library patrons. The original librarian, an old woman in ghostly form, is reported to reside in the library’s attic. A little girl is believed to haunt the children’s library in the basement, and sometimes the elevator leading down to it. And the specter of an old man and his dog have been sighted, inexplicably strolling through the library shelves.

One employee, who worked at Phoenixville Library for 17 years, witnessed several examples of paranormal activity during his tenure, including how, after he had carefully pushed in the library’s chairs at closing time, they were found scattered all around the Carnegie Room the following morning. Rocking chairs have also been spotted rocking with no one in them, cold spots have been felt, doors were heard shutting on their own, and fleeting figures have been glimpsed.

Phoenixville Public Library has been the site of several paranormal investigations, and teams have reported lots of unexplained equipment malfunctions during filming; one team member who was attempting to film a “mockumentary” project on site even alleged that he dropped something in the attic, which disappeared and was never seen again! When the Chester County Paranormal Research Society spent the night in the library, a night surveillance camera reportedly to caught a book flying off a shelf.

Having personally visited this library many times, I never experienced any paranormal activity while inside, but I can say that there is something eerie behind the calm, quiet atmosphere - much the proverbial feeling of “being watched,” even if no one was nearby. Maybe it’s only because I’m aware of the library’s haunted history that I conjured up these spooky feelings, but I still always expected to turn and see something otherworldly around every bookshelf, from the adult room to the children’s basement to the stairwell. The legend of Phoenixville Library’s ghosts is a strong one!

For an up-close investigation of the haunted Phoenixville Public Library, check out an episode of para-reality show “SCARED!” below that was filmed in the library in 2009. - Lindsay Merkel

1) WILLARD LIBRARY - EVANSVILLE, INDIANA

What exactly is going on at Willard Library? Judging by pictures snapped on multiple “ghost cams” throughout the building, Willard Library looks to be some kind of paranormal portal into the spiritual dimension. The library’s history is rather benign, having begun its legacy as a private donation library from Willard Carpenter and incorporated to the city of Evansville in 1881. The building, resembling a Victorian Gothic structure, was first begun in 1876, but a depressed economy halted its progress, leaving the foundation unfinished until 1882. It is home to a vast range of genealogy and local history special collections, and also to the ghost of the famous Grey Lady.

 The Grey Lady, Willard Library’s most well-known apparition, roams the stacks quietly, aptly wearing a gray dress and veil. Her identity is not certain, but according to legend she may be Louise Carpenter, Willard’s daughter who was allegedly unhappy when he died and left most of his estate to the library; her haunting of the library is her revenge for an eternal grudge against her father. However, the Grey Lady has never been reported to be a malevolent presence, so this tale may not hold true, but she has been reported as a near constant presence! She was first spotted by a custodian in 1931, and since then has racked up hundreds to thousands of reports of ghostly activity. She makes her presence known through sightings, moving around books, turning lights and faucets on and off, touching people and creating cold spots, and also emitting the strong scent of musky perfume. Some of the documented run-ins with the Grey Lady include:

  • Psychics visiting the library in 2007 say they were able to verify that a ghost has been there, and paranormal investigative groups have brought in equipment designed to locate it.

  • Several library employees have reported seeing the ghost, including Margaret Maier, Children’s Librarian, and Helen Kamm, Library Assistant.

  • During a visit to the library, lecturers from the University of Southern Indiana say they saw the ghost peering into water.

  • Policemen responding to a security alarm at the library spotted two ghosts in an upstairs window of the library.

  • A library patron reported an encounter with the Grey Lady in the library elevator, and a local weathercaster also reported an encounter with the spirit.

Though it has been almost a decade since the Grey Lady apparition has actually been seen, when an assistant children’s librarian saw her in a basement hallway in 2010, paranormal happenings continue to occur throughout the building – and they don’t all appear to be the work of the Grey Lady.

Since 1999, Willard Library has been running ghost cams throughout the building, continually filming different areas and streaming online for at-home ghost hunters to search for onscreen ghosts. While some captures could be explained away as misidentified objects, sunlight or shadows, or even real people walking through the rooms, other images are creepy and puzzling. From misty figures to shadow specters to something that looks oddly like a wolf head on a suit of armor, the paranormal happenings at Willard Library are famous, mysterious, and plentiful!

See some of the creepiest camera images below, and click HERE to check out the Willard webcams for yourself. - Lindsay Merkel

Another Grey Lady sighting?

A shadow figure appears to descend the stairs.

Check out the lower left corner… is it a library patron or a ghostly visitor?

What. Is. It.

An amorphous light appears in the dark library.

What exactly is this child seeing?

Some people have speculated this is a black backpack… others believe it to be something more sinister.

Again… is this a real library patron, or a ghost child caught on camera?

Although we narrowed down our blog to these 7 spooky libraries, there are no shortage of haunted libraries across the globe! Do you have any library ghost stories of your own? Share with us in the comments!

VIDEO: 18 Ghost Sightings Caught on Snapchat

Snapchat is a messaging app lets users easily talk with friends, check out ‘Live Stories’ from all over the world, and read up on recent news. But is it also the latest, greatest way to ghost hunt?

In the following compilation video, 18 people allege to have caught some sort of ghostly activity on screen while using Snapchat. While it’s possible that some of the “ghosts” on camera are the results of technical glitches, not every clip can be as easily explained away, making for at least a bit of head-scratching footage! (… especially clip #10… what kind of nightmare is that?!)

From invisible faces detected by filters to strange activity and creepy figures, is the Snapchat app really a low tech social media ghost meter?

Well, the Snapchat logo IS a cartoon ghost, so……

Check out the video “18 Ghost Sightings Caught on Snapchat” from Chills below:

NEWS: Chapman University 2018 Survey Shows Paranormal Beliefs Are on the Rise

For the last 5 years, Chapman University in California has conducted a battery of surveys focusing on in-depth examinations of American fears. Their research studies a range of topics, from government, health and environmental matters, to disaster preparedness, personal anxieties, and paranormal beliefs.

In 2018, their most recent survey revealed that government corruption is currently the primary fear that concerns Americans. However, the survey also revealed that fears and beliefs in the paranormal have been gradually rising over the past few years! Take a look below at the breakdown of the paranormal study, directly from Chapman University:

Paranormal America 2018 Chapman University Survey of American Fears

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 5 (2018) includes a battery of items on paranormal beliefs ranging from belief in aliens and psychic powers to Bigfoot and haunted houses.

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Paranormal Beliefs

Currently the most common paranormal belief in the United States is that places can be haunted by spirits (57.7%), followed closely by the belief that ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis once existed (56.9%). More than two out of five Americans (41.4%) believe that that aliens visited Earth in our ancient past and more than a third believe aliens are visiting now (35.1%). Of the items we asked about, Americans are the most skeptical about fortune tellers, with only approximately 17.2% believing that others can see the future.

The Prevalence of Paranormal Beliefs

Paranormal beliefs have become the norm in the United States, if we examine how many such beliefs a person holds. Using the seven paranormal items included on the Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 5 (2018), we find that only about a fourth of Americans (24.1%) do not hold any of the seven beliefs. What this means is that more than ¾ of Americans believe in at least one paranormal phenomenon.

All Paranormal Beliefs are On the Rise

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears has included the same set of questions about paranormal beliefs on three waves of the survey. What is striking is how rapidly such beliefs are rising.

Belief in six of the seven paranormal items increased between 2017 and 2018, the only exception being the belief that fortune tellers and psychics can foresee the future. All seven items have risen in levels of belief since 2016. For example, Americans are fourteen percent more likely to believe that aliens once visited the earth than they were in 2016. Americans have become seven percent more likely to believe in Bigfoot in only two years.

Given that our survey includes a margin for error of +/- 3%, we should note that some of these changes maybe be slightly bigger or smaller than presented. However, the major pattern is clear – American is becoming more paranormal.

What do you think is responsible for this increase in paranormal fears and beliefs? Share with us in the comments!

Written Confession: Ghost Cat Caught on Camera in Arkansas

The following written confession + video was submitted via social media:

“My wife and three kids and I were in vacation last weekend in Eureka Springs Arkansas. We had to go visit the Crescent Hotel and do the ghost tour. Long story short, I caught a pic of what can only be described as a ghost cat. It was a ‘live’ pic on my iPhone. When playing the short clip that the live pics take you can actually see the ‘ghost’ run down some steps and appears to jump onto the arm of a sofa. It’s the craziest thing ever!“

Written Confession: Shapeshifter or Fae Figure in Kansas City?

The following written confession was posted on Reddit:

“I had the strangest experience a few weeks back at my local seven eleven early in the morning . I and my fiancé are both in our car headed to 7-11 to get the usual prerequisites that the morning requires .. caffeine, donut, etc ..

We pull into the parking lot and park in the front of the store and we are about to get out when we look to the car next to us . The driver is normal enough , your average looking twenty something Caucasian female but sitting next to her was something quite odd . It was a male , caucasian , glasses on looking for the most part like everyone else . Except for one major difference. He had short goat like horns coming out of his head . They were grey and fat at the base and got thinner as they got farther from the base . It looked like a baby goats maybe , just nubs but still obviously hornlike protrusions.

We quickly turn our heads to verify with each other if we saw the same thing , a moment later and instead of a horned man sitting there I see a large collie dog mix .. The woman driving mind you seems oblivious to all this and is doing her makeup in her visor mirror ..

Baffled we simply pull back out go home and take the day off of work . We spent the day napping and in between naps tried to figure out what we had seen .

Either way it was nuts , the middle of Kansas City , busy parking lot and we see this very odd thing that everyone around us is obviously unable to pick up on.”

5 Historical Figures Who Saw Their Doppelgänger... And Then Died

Have you ever come face to face with your doppelgänger? Would you want to?

These days the term “doppelgänger” is used to describe two different people who look unusually alike. The internet practically abounds with photos of identical-looking celebrities, people who’ve discovered their so-called doppelgänger in old artworks, and complete strangers who look like they could be long-lost twins. It’s actually eerie how closely most of these people resemble each other. But the original meaning of “doppelgänger” is even eerier.

When translated from German, the word “doppelgänger” literally means “doubler walker” or “double goer,” describing not a lookalike but the ghostly counterpart of a living person… and meeting one’s doppelgänger was never a good thing. Doppelgänger apparitions were sinister occurrences, bringing with them bad omens and evil intentions. In traditional folklore, they are known to impersonate the person they resemble, plant negative and confusing ideas into others’ minds, and signal some kind of impending doom for their earthly counterpart. These demonic doubles are seen as harbingers of illness, tragedy, and death.

While many explanations of the doppelgänger phenomenon have been offered - including supernatural manifestations, electrical glitches of the brain, and mental illness - what is known for sure is that the “double walkers” bring bad news for those who see them, as recorded by a number of spooky historical accounts.

In ascending order of creepiness and tragedy, here are five such accounts of figures in history who had the misfortune to encounter their doppelgänger… and then died:

#5: Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great was the formidable and longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning from 1762 until 1796. Though Catherine took the throne by way of a coup that overthrew her own husband and usurped power from her son, who was rightfully the throne’s next heir, her extended rule became known as the Golden Age of Russia. 

Shortly before her reign came to an end, something unexpected took to Catherine’s throne, literally - the creepy double of Catherine herself. 

According to the account, Catherine was in her bedroom when some troubled servants came to tell her they had just seen the Empress entering the throne room, even though she had been lying in her bed at the exact same moment. The Empress went directly to the room to investigate the servants’ claims. Once there, Catherine encountered a second version of herself, seated calmly on the throne. Ever formidable, the real Catherine ordered her guards to fire on the spectral queen. Presumably, the bullets had no effect and her doppelgänger disappeared with no further recurrences, but not long after this event, Catherine the Great collapsed and suffered a stroke. Within hours she became comatose, and by the evening following the stroke, her reign permanently ended. 

#4: Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth the First ruled England from late 1558 to early 1603. The daughter of Henry VIII and the beheaded Anne Boleyn, she was the last of the Tudor monarchs to assume the throne. Queen Elizabeth is often referred to as “The Virgin Queen,” as she defied convention by refusing to marry or bear an heir. Her long reign, known as the Elizabethan era, was not without controversy, but did see a flourishing of English drama (through no less than the works of William Shakespeare) and successful seafaring exploits (such as Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world), among many other successes.

Though Elizabeth I achieved a long reign, death still sought her out, and allegedly gave her a preview of its coming by way of a dead doppelgänger. According to history, Elizabeth was said to have encountered her own person lying in state like a corpse in her chambers. The doppelgänger was described as “pallid, shivered, and wan,” and though Elizabeth was level-headed and not prone to fantasies, she seemed to know this strange sight meant something ill-fated was in store. Only a few days later, Queen Elizabeth I, aged 69 and monarch of 44 years, was dead in actuality. 

#3: Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets, composing such pieces as “To a Skylark” and “Ode to the West Wind.” Unfortunately Shelley never truly saw fame during his lifetime, and was most typically known for being husband to Mary Shelley, the author of the famously known horror novel, Frankenstein.

Percy Shelley had a short life marked by tragedy and turmoil. As a child he was tormented by his schoolmates. As a young adult, Shelley eloped with his first wife whom he later abandoned, and who was also later found dead in a lake, drowned and pregnant. He had several other failed love affairs before marrying Mary Shelley (and is suspected of some afterward as well). Both he and Mary lost three of their four children together, and Mary’s sister Fanny committed suicide. 

With a life marked by such sad events, it’s no wonder that, shortly before he died, Percy confessed to Mary that he had many times seen his doppelgänger, a harbinger of bad luck for him and those in his circle. On one such occasion, Percy was strolling on the terrace of his house when he came eerily face to face with his double, who spoke to him, asking, “How long do you mean to be content?” In a strangely similar sighting, Percy’s friend Jane Williams also seems to have encountered Percy’s spectral twin on the terrace, where she claims to have seen him pass by the window several times, but when she went out to him, Percy had disappeared. Jane received the shock of her life when she soon realized that the real Percy was not at home at all.

In one of the final instances of Percy’s encounters with his doppelgänger, he claimed to have seen himself on a beach, pointing out at the sea. Not long afterward, Percy was drowned in a sailing accident in 1812, at the ripe old age of 29.

#2: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, serving as the country’s leader through its bloodiest conflict on its own soil, the American Civil War. He is also remembered for abolishing slavey, modernizing the U.S. economy, and preserving the Union. Not as widely known is that Lincoln had an interest in spiritualism and the supernatural.

Having lost two children at young ages, Lincoln’s wife Mary frequently invited mediums to the White House to hold seances, some of which were attended by Lincoln himself. Though he seemed to contend that most mediums were hucksters, Lincoln did believe in the power of dreams to predict the future. He even had an alarmingly accurate dream (unbeknownst to him, of course) in which he walked through several rooms of the White House to the sound of crying, before discovering a dead shrouded body lying in state. Dream-Lincoln asked a nearby soldier to whom the body belonged; the soldier replied it was the President, murdered by an assassin.

Lincoln also encountered what he believed to be another ill omen regarding his fate, when he glimpsed his deathly pale doppelgänger looking at him from a mirror. One of Lincoln’s associates, Noah Brooks, recounted the story the president allegedly told to him on November 9, 1864. Brooks's version of the tale, using Lincoln’s words as best as he remembered them, described the following events:

“It was just after my election in 1860, when the news had been coming in thick and fast all day and there had been a great "hurrah, boys," so that I was well tired out, and went home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau with a swinging glass upon it (and here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate the position), and looking in that glass I saw myself reflected nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again, I saw it a second time, plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler — say five shades — than the other. I got up, and the thing melted away, and I went off, and in the excitement of the hour forgot all about it — nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang as if something uncomfortable had happened. When I went home again that night I told my wife about it, and a few days afterward I made the experiment again, when (with a laugh), sure enough! the thing came back again; but I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was somewhat worried about it. She thought it was a "sign" that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term.”

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Critics of the story of Lincoln’s deathly doppelgänger argue that his double image was nothing more than a defect in an old mirror. While that theory is a possibility, the fatalistic Lincoln and his wife Mary believed it was a sign of bad things to come, and fate  proved them right. Sadly, we all know how Lincoln’s life story ends, when he was shot in the head and killed by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, three months into his second presidential term. 

#1: Guy de Maupassant 

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Celebrated French author Guy de Maupassant, who lived and wrote in the second half of the 19th century, is considered to be the father of the modern short story. Though he did write several novels, including Bel Ami, his short stories totaled over 300, and quite a number of them featured themes of the supernatural and paranormal. 

One such story, called Le Horla, tells the tale of a man afflicted by an invisible spirit that he unwittingly invited into his home. Gradually the spirit haunts him with increasing ferocity as he begins to lose his mind, and he takes drastic measures, by way of suicide, to rid himself of his tormentor. What makes Le Horla even creepier is that Guy de Maupassant is said to have written the story with the help of his own doppelgänger. 

Guy’s interactions with his doppelgänger were reported as frequent and personal, with Guy sometimes meeting with his double every day. As the account goes, Guy and his doppelgänger conversed with one another during their visits, and Guy began writing Le Horla at the dictation of his eerie twin. Of the strange event, French doctor and psychologist Dr. Paul Sollier wrote:

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“Maupassant had a vivid hallucination one afternoon and told his friend of it that evening. Working at his desk in his office, where his servant had orders never to enter while he was writing, he seemed to hear his door open. He turned and was not a little surprised when he himself [Maupassant’s double] entered, and came to sit in front of him, head in hand, and began to dictate everything he wrote on the occasion. When he had finished and stood up, the hallucination disappeared.  The result was the short story Le Horla.”

Maupassant himself confirmed his recurring encounters with his doppelgänger, saying, “Every other time I come home, I see my double. I open my door, and I see him sitting in my arm-chair. I know it for a hallucination, even while experiencing it. Curious! If I didn’t have a little common sense, I’d be afraid.”

Maupassant had reason to believe his sightings of his spectral double were hallucinations, as a long battle with syphilis had left his mental state slowly deteriorating. As time went on he became increasingly unpredictable and paranoid, even becoming obsessed with the idea that flies were eating away his brain. After writing Le Horla in 1887, Guy’s disease-induced madness culminated in a suicide attempt and admission to an asylum in 1892. In 1893, the disease took his life entirely. 

Whether the presence of Guy’s doppelgänger was of a supernatural nature or whether it was the visual and auditory hallucination of a sick man is not a point that can be proven on either side, but the story of his other self is nonetheless disturbing.  At best or at worst, Maupassant was either visited repeatedly by a paranormal apparition of death, or spent his time alone talking to an empty room and writing with a companion who didn’t even exist. It‘s not immediately obvious which of these scenarios would be the best and which the worst. What is obvious is how closely Le Horla, his doppelgänger-inspired tale, comes to resemble an autobiographical work, capturing Guy de Maupassant’s final battles with his own demons, be they metaphorical or supernatural ones. 

What’s the spookiest doppelgänger story you’ve ever heard? Share it with us in the comments! For a modern doppelgänger tale, check out The Confessionals Episode 117: Gorilla Man, Doppelgangers, and Demons, Oh My!

Written Confession: The Scotland Goblins

The following written confession was submitted via email:

“Last summer me and two friends went camping in the Knapdale Forest in Argyle and Bute area of Scotland it’s very mountainous and covered in dense Forests and woodlands/Creeks and Caves.

We would camp for several days in the summer weather permitting but this long weekend break was very warm we found a perfect place to pitch the tents in some tree cover from the sun keeping the temperature down inside the tent.

After a good days fishing and cooking our evening meal my friend Matt went to bed while me and John had a chat and drank a Budlight it didn’t get dark until around 10:20pm in the evening at around 9:00pm me and John heard a strange noise coming from in the woods loud enough to be heard over the small waterfall and creek.

We don’t have any large predators in Scotland anymore sadly only Deer/Birds/Beaver none of which it was made this noise and to our knowledge nobody else was around we trekked 3 miles from the main road to get here! 

We always wear dark clothes in the woods and dark paint or camouflage even while fishing, we followed the noise up over the ridge down a small hill and over a stream like body of water the noise was getting loud but it sounded like two people speaking or disagreeing maybe two lost tourists from somewhere in Europe was my guess until we sneaked over the ridge crawling on our stomach trying not to be seen.

As we looked down on to the creek I can only describe what I seen as two Goblins around 2/3ft tall dark grey/black skin with a similar face to a human just a few big wrinkles like a Pug, both of them had large stones in their hands and pointing into the trees, looked like they were arguing about letting an animal they were hunting get away which could only be small Vermin squirrels I’d guess! 

They then walked away from us into the trees after the argument you could hear them talking and laughing as they disappeared. 

The next day we told Matt he said he heard voices earlier that day close to the camp but never thought anything of it we took a walk back with Matt and found a cave like structure 6ft wide in the ground I can only guess that’s where they came from.

I’ll be returning this summer in June hopefully they will be around the area again.”

4 Serial Killers Who Left Their Ghosts Behind Them

History is marred by countless accounts of murderers who committed heinous acts and gruesome killings. Arguably some of the darkest crimes were the work of repeating offenders - serial killers who left their stain on the world over and over again with each horrifying act. Some of these criminals were caught and tried for their crimes, while others remained anonymous and at large. Among them all, there also seems to be a number of killers who continue their reign of terror, even after their own deaths.

As if these murderers weren’t already scary enough, here are 4 serial killers who died and left their ghosts behind:

1) JACK THE RIPPER

Jack the Ripper is possibly the most infamous serial killer of all time. In 1888, he gruesomely killed five women in England. He was also the first serial killer to taunt the press by sending them letters, creating a worldwide media frenzy and becoming the first “modern” serial killer. Adding to his terrifying legacy is the fact that he was never successfully identified, let alone caught, so his crimes are also shrouded with mystery as well as brutality.  Despite his undetermined identity, the ghost of Jack the Ripper is believed to haunt several locations in London, including the sight of his second murder - 29 Hamburg Street- and a pub where patrons have reported seeing a “ghastly old man in Victorian clothing.” It was in this same pub where his victim Annie Chapman was drinking before Jack the Ripper savagely killed her. 

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Jack the Ripper’s five victims also haunt London on their own. On the street where Mary Anne Nichols had her throat and abdomen slit, people report hearing horrible gasping noises and an argument between an unseen man and woman, along with seeing her body lying in the street. The ghost of Elizabeth Stride has been heard crying for help, and the apparition of Catherine Eddowes has been spotted multiple times. Another victim, Mary Kelly, was witnessed speaking to people in the street hours after she had already been murdered. 

2) TED BUNDY

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In the 1970s, Ted Bundy killed at least 30 women across seven states, though his murder tally is suspected to be much higher. He was executed for his crimes in 1989, but allegedly his ghost has lingered. A decade after he died, a prison guard divulged to a reporter that several guards claimed to have come across the ghost of Ted Bundy casually sitting on the electric chair - and creepily smiling his signature smirk. If anyone tried to approach him, he would disappear. At one point the sightings were occurring so often, the prison warden couldn’t find anyone willing to enter the execution chamber alone. Bundy also began popping up in prison cells, housing units, and his holding cell on death row. Once his ghost even spoke to guards, boasting  “Well, I beat all of you, didn’t I?” According to an inmate, Bundy’s ghostly visage appears as a blue-white mist, but is so detailed it’s impossible to deny that the likeness is Bundy. And he’s always, always smiling. 

In recent years there have also been reports of ghostly activity in Ted Bundy’s childhood home, including dressers falling over, drawers opening on their own, and words being mysteriously scrawled in the dust, but no one has yet identified the ghost as Bundy himself. 

3) JEFFREY DAHMER

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Between 1978 and 1991, Jeffery Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal, killed and consumed 17 men. For his horrific crimes, he was sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment, but was beaten to death by another prisoner in 1994.

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Since his death, Dahmer’s childhood home in Bath, Ohio - and the place he committed his first killing - has been the site of haunted activity. The ghost of Dahmer and several other spirits (perhaps victims?) have allegedly been seen inside the house, but the most significant activity has come in the form of EVPs. Known as one of the best places in world to capture EVPs, it’s been reported that ghost hunters have rented out the house for as much as $10,000 a night in search of Dahmer’s ghostly voice.

In the video below, one such ghost hunter shares numerous EVPs that he captured on the property, including words and phrases that sound eerily like “can’t breathe,” “run,” “stop the bleeding,” and more. 

4) JOHN WAYNE GACY

The disturbed John Wayne Gacy abused and murdered at least 33 men and boys between 1972 and 1978. Because of his penchant for dressing as “Pogo the Clown,” Gacy has become known as the Clown Killer. All of his known murders were committed at his ranch house, 8213 W. Summerdale Avenue in Chicago, where he buried over two dozen bodies in a crawl space and several more in the backyard. Although the original Gacy home was razed during the police search for so many bodies, different owners of the house that was later built on the property allegedly reported screams in the night and bloody apparitions. For several years after Gacy’s house came down, no plant life would grow on the lot, although supposedly there was no logical explanation for the yard to remain barren. The lack of vegetation on only that spot confused the neighbors, and people began to believe it was some kind of mark on the property, left behind by Gacy’s evil works. While none of these strange events is attributed directly to the ghost of Gacy, his terrible legacy was still a hulking specter, even forcing new homeowners to change the house’s street number in an effort to distance it from Gacy’s presence.

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Gacy’s presence also led to a terrifying paranormal-type encounter for one of our interview guests. During the last two years of Gacy’s, our guest James spoke with Gacy one-on-one multiples times, as he gained insight into the mind of a serial killer. When the time came for Gacy to be put to death, James chose not to oblige a last request from the murderer. Two weeks after the execution, he awoke to find the ghost of Gacy in his room, staring and snarling at him. The full account of James’ ghostly encounter and the time he spent with John Wayne Gacy can be heard on Episode 116: Serial Killer John Gacy - Life After Death.

Have the evil works of these serial killers left them restless in the afterlife? Is their dark legacy so strong that they are still hunting for victims? Their own lives may over, but these serial killers are continuing to instill fear even from beyond the grave.

Have you heard of any other serial killers who have manifested in ghostly form? Tell us about it in the comments!

Documentary “Paranormal Bigfoot” Makes Its Online Debut

It’s finally here! The anticipated documentary, Paranormal Bigfoot, is now available for viewing!

Created by Bilco Productions, “Paranormal Bigfoot is an investigation into a segment of the Sasquatch community that believe there is more to this enigmatic creature than a simple animal. An uncomfortable and divisive topic for those desirous of representing themselves as scientifically credible. Yet the question remains, can scientific process be claimed until even the strangest of evidence is accounted for?”

Along with notable Bigfoot community figures like Bob Gimlin, Stan Gordon, and Ron Morehead, The Confessionals Podcast host Tony Merkel can also be seen in this new documentary!

Last year Tony was interviewed about the possibility of a connection between paranormal Bigfoot, biblical fallen angels, and the Nephilim, a intriguing premise based on historical evidence from extra canonical texts. The finished film featuring Tony’s interview (and much more!) can be rented or purchased with Amazon Prime.

Click HERE to check it out now!

(If the documentary is not available for streaming in your country, click HERE to contact Bilco Productions about obtaining a DVD version.)

Thank you to Bilco Productions for the opportunity to be involved in Paranormal Bigfoot!

6 Images of Ghost Monks Caught on Camera

The Confessionals Episode 112: Demons in the Desert features a scary encounter with a ghost monk. While it is a unique sighting, others have also witnessed strange apparitions of monks! Take a look at 6 photos of alleged ghost monks that tourists, a ghost hunter, and a photographer managed to catch on camera:

1) In October 2018, a couple reportedly discovered the face of a demonic monk in one of their photos taken in an old slaughterhouse cellar in Nottinghamshire. The building, which is abandoned, was a stop on the Ghost Hunts UK tour in which the couple was taking part. Allegedly, seven monks were burned to death on that spot in the 1500s.

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2) In August 2018, a woman exploring Tintern Abbey says she captured the ghost of a monk standing outside the abbey at night. Tintern Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in 1131. When the Black Death swept through in the 1340s, many monks succumbed to the disease. 

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3) In January 2018, a father visiting Eynsford Castle in Kent claimed to have photographed the specter of a monk outside on a ruined staircase. Though the figure appears to be very solid, the man says he remembers nothing standing on the stairs when he snapped the photo. Eynsford Castle dates back to medieval times, and according to local lore, one of the families who once owned the castle had a son who left them to become a monk. 

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4) In October 2016, a ghost hunter claimed to have caught an image of the famous Black Ghoul Monk. She believes the photo, taken at 30 East Drive in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, shows the monk’s robed arm clutching a rosary. The home is the site of one of Europe's most powerful alleged hauntings which began in the 1960s, when the Pritchard family moved in and began to be tormented by the Black Monk. The spot where the shadowy photo was taken is purportedly where the Black Monk is often seen, and also where the Pritchards’ daughter Diana was violently dragged by an invisible hand that left fingerprints on her throat. 

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5) In February 2009, a woman who had visited Valle Crucis Abbey in Llangollen was looking at her photos after the trip, and was shocked to see an unknown face staring out of the ruins. The abbey was founded in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, who was buried in the abbey upon his death in 1236. Shortly thereafter, the structure was badly damaged by a fire. 

6) In 1963, a photograph dubbed “The Spectre of Newby Church” was taken in the Church of Christ the Consoler, on the grounds of Newby Hall in North Yorkshire. It shows a spooky image of a transparent, cloaked figure with a distorted white face standing at the church altar. Some have speculated that the photo captured the spirit of a 16th-century monk wearing a white shroud over his face, possibly masking a disfigurement or leprosy. But others contend that the photo is a hoax, either perpetrated by someone in costume or through the manipulation of superimposed photo images. The church itself does not date from the 16th century, having been built between 1871 and 1875 in memory of one Frederick Vyner, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1870. 

Which photo do you think is the most convincing evidence of ghost monks?

New Horror Movie to be Filmed Aboard the Haunted Queen Mary

It’s either creative genius or a paranormal disaster in the making - a new horror movie is underway and being filmed onboard the famously haunted ocean liner RMS Queen Mary!

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The Hollywood Reporter has announced that the new scary flick will focus on two photographers and their young son, who come aboard the Queen Mary and soon become ensnared in the ship’s paranormal past. The movie’s synopsis reads: “As the terror unfolds around the family they begin to realize there is more to this sumptuous ocean liner than meets the eye: its remarkable legacy masking violent secrets. As Erin and Patrick uncover the haunted layers that the vast ship contains, it becomes increasingly clear that there is only one way out for them — to go even deeper.”

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After the film’s script spent several years tucked away without a suitable production crew to bring it back to life (ironic pun kind of intended), the upcoming movie now has a bevy of paranormal movie specialists to execute the project (wonder where are all these death puns are coming from...?). Taking the helm as producer will be Gary Shore, who busted box offices in 2014 with the movie Dracula Untold. The film will also be produced by Nigel Sinclair and Nicholas Ferrall of White Horse Pictures, which gave us The Woman in Black, and Brett Tomberlin of Imagination Design Works, the team that created 2018’s creepy Winchester movie.  

While the RMS Queen Mary has been the subject of many documentaries, shows, and stories, the film The Queen Mary will be the first horror movie shot onboard the actual real-life ship. Will the on-site location provide the perfect spooky backdrop for the film’s plot? Or is shooting a horror movie on an already haunted location just tempting fate (and Queen Mary’s spirits) to sink the film?

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Known as one of the most haunted places in the world since it became permanently docked, RMS Queen Mary has a long history of hauntings. During her 83-year existence, the Queen Mary made 1,001 trans-Atlantic crossings, which were reportedly accompanied by 49 recorded deaths and a collision with another vessel that resulted in 239 deaths. Other lore claims that a murder took place in one of the ship’s cabins, a crew member was crushed to death by a watertight door, a woman dressed in all-white dances by herself in one of the luxury suites, and several apparitions of adults and children in old-timey garb sometimes wander the decks. Now functioning as a hotel Long Beach, California, the creepy Queen Mary certainly seems like a perfect set location to capture the spirit of fear!

But cast and crew should be wary that the film doesn’t join Hollywood’s list of “cursed” movies - a number of classic flicks (many of them horror-related) that have been marked by disaster or ghostly activity (or both). Spooky films like Poltergeist, The Omen, The Crow, and others were plagued by murder and death, serious illness and injury, hauntings, and more during and after their filming. Setting the production of a horror movie inside the real haunted RMS Queen Mary may be an exact recipe for one such disaster (or ghostly activity, or both)!

Only time will tell if The Queen Mary horror movie will ride the wave of success, or if a curse from the ship’s spirits will leave it dead in the water (that’s the last of the ghost ship puns, I swear). Will you be lining up for a ticket when The Queen Mary arrives in theaters?!

Cursed Movies According to Slapped Ham

Cursed Movies According to Slapped Ham

TGIF, amiright? If you’re staying in and surfing through Netflix for a movie on this Friday night, you may want to skip these haunted titles. According to Slapped Ham, these 10 films are cursed movies that still haunt the cast and crew. Were they all affected by supernatural forces, or just really, really unlucky? Watch and found out, if you dare!

For those who are not able to watch the video, here is the list of cursed titles for you to check out later!

10. The Passion of the Christ 

9. The Wizard of Oz

8. Superman 

7. Poltergeist 

6. Rosemary’s Baby

5. The Crow

4. The Exorcist

3. The Conqueror 

2. The Addict 

1. The Omen

Were you surprised to see any of these titles on the list? Which cursed flick are you tempted to watch now?

Opera Ghosts: Echoes of the Rhoads Opera House Fire

On the corner of South Washington Street and East Philadelphia Avenue in Boyertown, Pennsylvania is a red brick building. Three stories tall and largely unadorned, it doesn’t stand out from its neighbors, blending in to blocks of similarly-styled buildings without a second glance. Small shops rotate through the ground floor, while apartment dwellers come and go through its top two tiers. Except for a commemorative plaque hung on the front of the building, one would never know that on this particular site, 171 people died in a single night. 

The Rhoads Opera House in ruins.

Although the history of deadly disasters in the United States seems to widely overlook this small-town horror, Boyertown itself has never forgotten the shocking tragedy that was the Rhoads Opera House Fire

The Rhoads Opera House Fire

On the evening of January 13, 1908, over 300 theatergoers and 50 actors gathered at the Rhoads Opera House for the opening night of a production called “The Scottish Reformation.” The term “opera house” was a bit of a misnomer, as the theater only comprised the second floor of the commercial Rhoads building in which it was located. Though the venue was in fact small compared to its grand name, the play was eagerly attended by the hundreds, and featured the latest slide projection technology and dramatic staging effects. Through an unintended tragedy of errors, it was this new technology that served as the catalyst for the catastrophe to come.

The Rhoads commercial building before the fire.

While the rapt audience waited for the play’s third act to begin, an inexperienced projectionist with only two days of training mistakenly turned a wrong valve on the projector, which then hissed and startled a few theatergoers seated nearby. Hearing commotion in the audience, several actors raised the curtain to see what was the matter. When they did, they tipped over a kerosene lamp that had been set on the stage for extra lighting. The overturned lamp immediately started a small fire, but theater personnel quickly responded to tamp down the flames. With the fire nearly extinguished, some of the men in the front row decided to move another kerosene tank, kept under the stage, that fueled the theater’s footlights… as a safety precaution.  The decision proved deadly when the tank’s framework broke, dumping the tank of kerosene across the stage and igniting the small fire into an inferno.

In seconds, the stage became a virtual tinderbox. Its curtains burst into flames, quickly followed by the wainscoting of the 12-foot ceiling, until the entire auditorium was engulfed in “waves” of fire.  Frantic audience members scrambled towards the main exit, only to find themselves trapped inside when the panicked crush of people tried pushing against doors that opened inward. Although the second floor contained two window fire escapes, they were unmarked and located three feet off the ground, nearly unidentifiable amidst the chaos. Chairs, debris, and bodies made the auditorium a maze of obstacles that blocked exits and cost precious time getting to safety. When one of the main exit doors was finally broken open, some victims were trampled to death as the crowd stampeded forward, while others fell to their deaths down the building’s staircase. Still others jumped from windows to the ground below, and not everyone survived the attempt. But most of all, trapped theatergoers burned alive. While many people did manage to escape outside, nearly 200 men, women, and children perished while the fire raged. 

After the fire.

Smoking rubble after the fire.

Hours later, when the very literal smoke finally cleared, the full scale of the fiery tragedy was revealed. With a death toll of 171 people - 170 who attended the play and one firefighter - the little community of Boyertown had shockingly lost one-tenth of its population. In a few cases, entire families - husbands, wives, children - had died in the opera house blaze. Two-thirds of the dead victims were women and children, leading some to surmise that the men in attendance had abandoned them to fend for safety by themselves. When rescue workers entered the burned-out building, they discovered bodies piled six feet deep at the top of the stairway, where the surging crowd had bottlenecked and trapped themselves inside. Because of the overwhelming number of bodies, three makeshift morgues had to be set up in surrounding buildings, while the remaining town worked to identify the victims and cope with the sudden, shocking loss of life.

“Main entrance of Opera House after fire Boyertown, PA, Jan. 08”

Another angle of the fire’s aftermath.

A line of residents looking for loved ones among the bodies of the fire victims.

In the days that followed the disaster, 15,000 people converged on Boyertown to attend dozens upon dozens of funerals. The renowned Boyertown Burial Casket Company, which was to become one of the largest casket manufacturers in the world, was hard pressed to meet the sudden demand for its products and its gravediggers, and had also lost a few of its own workers who had attended that doomed performance of “The Scottish Reformation.” In an unfunny twist of fate, those workers had unknowingly crafted the coffins they would be buried in. Over 100 new graves were dug in Boyertown’s already large Fairview Cemetery, including a common grave for 25 victims whose remains were so badly charred they could not be individually identified. While the town mourned in earnest, the theater fire made headlines across the country, and spurred new legislation for fire safety laws in Pennsylvania. There seemed to be no one in the town who had not been in some way affected by the Rhoads Opera House Fire.

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An enhanced version of the photo above: “Victims of Opera House fire Boyertown PA Jan, 08”.

Thousands gather in Boyertown after the fire to identify loved ones and attend funerals.

“Preparing for the burial Opera House fire victims Boyertown PA Jan. 13, 08.” More and more graves being added to Fairview Cemetery.

OPERA GHOSTS

Even after 111 years, traces of the tragedy have always remained. To many in the local area, Boyertown is considered one of the most haunted small towns in America. Between its historic buildings dating back to the 1700s, the looming specter of the Boyertown Burial Casket Company (which operated until 1988), and the imposing Fairview Cemetery with its approximately 7,000 graves, there is little doubt that the town is home to all kinds of paranormal activity. There is also no doubt that a significant amount of that paranormal activity has been attributed to the horrific theater tragedy that claimed so many lives. From nearly the very night of the deathly fire, the Rhoads Opera House ghost stories began. 

”Ruins of the Opera House Boyertown PA Jan, 08”.

”Digging the grave for the unidentified after Opera House Fire, Boyertown, PA Jan 13, 08”.

Following the fire, while the ruins of the building still smoked, police were called to the scene to remove an elderly man from the wreckage. He told the responding officers that his dead wife’s ghost had called him to that specific spot on the site, to talk to her a final time.  

Workers attempt to remove and identify bodies after the Boyertown theater fire.

Officers were further called out to the ruins on multiple occasions, for weeks following the event, because residents and passersby claimed they could hear screams and cries coming from inside the building’s hull. A woman who lived nearby also claimed that spirits of the dead victims had taken over her house, though details of her paranormal experiences have not emerged. 

The Boyertown theater fire making headlines.

”Scene at the temporary morgue after Opera House fire Boyertown PA Jan 08”.

The sound of on-site screaming has continued to recur, for years, along with investigations of moaning and strange noises coming from inside Fairview Cemetery. Although the remnants of the Rhoads Opera House building were torn down and rebuilt a few years after the fire, the haunting experiences live on. A present-day resident who lived across the street from the old Opera House shared, “I’ve lived here my entire life and have heard so many ghost stories about the building. One old resident of the apartments there swore that every year around the same time a woman dressed in fine clothes would walk through the apartment, proclaiming to be late for the play.” Still another resident reported that, when the new building housed a dance studio sometime after the fire, the younger girls refused to use one of the dance rooms because it was “full of ghosts.” Even the area surrounding the fire site bears invisible traces of tragedy, with some believing that the victims who were placed in the makeshift morgues never truly left. 

A covered body is removed from a second story window.

“After Opera House Fire Jan 13, 08. Boyertown PA” - a devastating look at the victims laid out in temporary morgues.

Thousands attend funerals for the Rhoads Opera House Victims in Fairview Cemetery.

An artist captures the scene as victims of the Rhoads Opera House fire are taken to Fairview Cemetery for burial.

The Mansion House Hotel in the early 1900s.

Present-day Durango’s Saloon.

The most notoriously haunted of these morgues is probably Durango’s Saloon, a present-day bar located one block from the fire site, in what was formerly the Mansion House Hotel. It was in the basement of the Mansion House Hotel where rescue workers laid out corpses pulled from the Opera House rubble. Today, Durango’s Saloon still seems to be rife with paranormal activity, from shadowy figures glimpsed out the corners of eyes, to items being moved or pushed over, to strange mists appearing in photographs. The bar’s owner once even found himself locked in his walk-in freezer when its large, heavy door inexplicably slammed closed behind him. When local paranormal investigator Scott Wiley conducted his own investigation in Durango’s Saloon, he reportedly captured some compelling EVPs during his three nights in the bar. During one session Wiley asked aloud, “Who’s there?” and says he caught the whispery but distinct reply of “Binder.” Research of the area uncovered that a Henry Binder was in fact the proprietor of the old Mansion House Hotel in the early 1900s - until he was killed in the Rhoads Opera House fire. Binder’s body was buried up the street in Fairview Cemetery, but his spirit, it seems, lingered behind.

With the horror of the Opera House fire impacting so many people, for so many years, there is probably no shortage of those who can share a ghostly story about the theater fire, or about haunted Boyertown itself. I have a few stories of my own.

My haunted Boyertown house

Part of Fairview Cemetery today.

Listeners of The Confessionals may recall the very early Episode 3: “Hatman and Ghostly Interactions”, where I shared with Tony a number of spooky and paranormal occurrences that I experienced while living in several different homes. The home where I had the majority of my eerie experiences was an old Victorian, built in 1900, located on the same road as the Opera House fire site (0.4 miles away to be exact). In even closer proximity was the huge, somber Fairview Cemetery, barely 400 feet away and visible from the house. My elementary school bus stop was actually directly in front of the cemetery entrance... not exactly the most inviting of places to hang around when you are 5-to-10-years old! I remember walking through the cemetery on some occasions and being confounded by the sight of old, ornate gravestones marking the burial places of children who were my own age and even younger - how could they have lost their lives so early?

My elementary school bus stop.

Though I was too little at the time to be familiar with Boyertown’s history, the ghostly impression that Victorian house left on me has drawn me to learn more about the home, hoping to uncover a possible reason behind what, to me, was its pervading sense of spookiness, punctuated by unexplained events and fearful feelings. One experience in particular, which gives Episode 3 its name, was the very brief but distinct sighting of a hatted shadow figure watching me from a doorway. Though the glimpse was quick, the figure was clear: a featureless shadow man, bearing the silhouette of a tail coat, higher collar, and top hat. He never appeared again, but I have always wondered about what I saw. That wonder has led to my amateur research uncovering a tenuous but tangible connection between my old home and the Rhoads Opera House Fire. 

The doorway (left) in my old home where I glimpsed a shadow figure in a tail coat and top hat. At that time the doorway did not have any attached doors; these were added by a later owner.

Through archived newspaper articles, I recently discovered that a man named Leon E. Mayer lived in the same house that I did, in at least the late 1930s and early 1940s. Further records revealed that at around 15 years of age, Mr. Mayer lost both his father and his sister in the 1908 disaster. Dr. Charles Eugene Mayer and his 18-year-old daughter Gwendolyn were in attendance at “The Scottish Reformation” when the fire broke out. According to a Reading Eagle article published on the 100th anniversary of the fire, “Mayer fought off smoke and flames to reach his wife and carry her to safety outside the building. Then, he went back in to rescue his daughter. It’s not known whether Mayer found his daughter amid the smoke and flames, but neither made it out.” After their deaths, Dr. Mayer and Gwendolyn were buried in Fairview Cemetery. 

Dr. Charles Mayer. March 18, 1863 - January 13, 1908.

Gwendolyn Mayer. September 30, 1889 - January 13, 1908.

As of yet, I haven’t found the key detail that I’d like to know - who lived in my creepy old house at the time of fire? - but this little revelation about the Mayer family is still intriguing. Leon Mayer and his family, like so many families in Boyertown in 1908, suffered a tragic loss that would forever be attached to those left behind with their grief. Did Leon Mayer carry a piece of his grief with him while he resided in the home where I used to live? Did it manifest in the strange activity that I experienced? Was it his likeness that appeared in shadow form in my living room doorway? Or does the figure date back even further - was it is an echo of Dr. Charles Mayer, lost to the Opera House fire just down the road? I can’t say with any certainty whether Leon Mayer moved in to my former home well after the fire, or if it was his family home where he had once also lived with his father and sister; I can only speculate and theorize while I continue to dig into small-town history. But even if my paranormal experiences in the Boyertown house are not at all related to the the former Mayer family residents, there is still the fact that the town lost a tenth of its inhabitants in the Rhoads Opera House Fire, and touched nearly every family with its devastation. There is a strong possibility that whoever did live in my home in 1908 bore their own personal connection to the fire, and, perhaps, left a residual force behind them.

Again - this is pure speculation based on a few thinly related facts. But one other thing that stands out to me now is the appearance of that shadow figure in the doorway. Reports from the night of January 13, 1908 recorded that Boyertown’s theatergoers were “dressed in their Sunday best.” “Sunday best,” for a man in the early 1900s, was unquestionably a tail coat, collar, and top hat… a uncanny match for the shadow man who appeared in my circa 1900 home, only blocks away from the Rhoads Opera House.

With only the few historical facts I’ve found so far and my own experiences to consider, I can’t help but wonder…

THE LEGACY OF THE RHOADS OPERA HOUSE FIRE

While looking into my previous home’s history, I found one other story that caught my attention, not only because it further involves the Mayer family, but because it also reveals how quickly after the Boyertown fire its ghostly legacy seems to have begun. The story comes from Dr. Charles Mayer’s own grandson - not from Leon Mayer, but the child of his younger son - and was published on his blog in 2012. In it he recounts how his father woke on the night of the fire to the sound of the hall clock. Strangely, he says, the clock chimed not 12, but 13 times. The next morning, he was confronted with the terrible truth that his father, Dr. Mayer, and sister Gwendolyn would not be coming home again.

A current view of the site of the Rhoads Opera House fire.

Although details in the full story differ from other records (something to be expected as more and more years separate us from the original inciting event), it is clear that the tragedy of 1908 is still leaving its mark. Generations later, families are still affected by who was lost, and a town is forever different because of what transpired. Today the site of the Rhoads Opera House fire is occupied by offices, apartments, and a cozy secondhand bookshop. The fire and the death it brought are over one hundred years in the past. But for anyone who has heard the echoes of the screams from the Boyertown building on the corner of Philadelphia Avenue and Washington Street, the dead may not be altogether gone.

The plaque on the former site of the Rhoads Opera House - “Dedicated to the 171 people who perished within these walls in the tragic fire of January 13, 1908”.

“To the Memory of The Unidentified in the Boyertown Catastrophe Jan. 13, 1908.”

“Rhoads Opera House Fire: A disastrous fire destroyed the theater that stood at Philadelphia Ave. & Washington St. on Jan. 13, 1908. It claimed 170 victims, many buried here, due to overcrowding, poorly designed and unmarked exits, and inadequate fire escapes. The tragedy prompted the Pa. General Assembly to enact fire safety laws and improve construction and inspection standards, making public buildings safer and influencing similar legislation in other states.”

For more information about Boyertown and its haunted history, contact the Boyertown Area Historical Society. To hear my own haunted experiences of Boyertown and other homes in Pennsylvania, listen to The Confessionals Podcast Episode 3: Hatman and Ghostly Interactions on your favorite podcatcher.

Short Story Hour: “Christmas Lights”

Christmas Lights

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It was the first Christmas in our new house. We’d only moved in a week before, but I wanted it to feel like home. What better way than making a festive, cozy holiday atmosphere? So after I unpacked the everyday items, and arranged some furniture, I decided to tackle the Christmas decorations.

As I was winding a string of small twinkle lights around the tree, my daughter watched me intently. Since the first night in the house, she hadn’t wanted to leave my side. I knew she was still getting used to the place, and thought some holiday cheer would help her feel more at ease. At three years old, I really hoped this season she was finally at an age to enjoy all the holiday trimmings. 

So after I finished wrapping the tree in lights, I plugged them in and said, “Ta da! What do you think of the Christmas tree, honey?”

To my surprise, my daughter backed up, wide-eyed, and started shaking her head back and forth.

I was a bit perplexed, looking over at the little red lights that blinked on and off across the branches. “Don’t you like it?” I asked.

She kept shaking her head. “No. No no no.” She even started tearing up. 

Still confused, I took her hands and asked her what was wrong. “Why don’t you like the tree? Are the lights too bright? Should we add some ornaments?”

She replied tearfully. “No. Don’t like it. Looks like the lights in my room. I don’t like them.” Then she cried even harder.

I didn’t understand her; her room was still mostly bare, an old un-decorated room at the back of the house. I hadn’t put any lights up there yet. But I figured, three-year-olds are fickle! She’d probably love the tree tomorrow, when she was in a different mood. “Okay, sweetie,” I said, and turned off the red lights. “We don’t have to finish the tree today.” 

She calmed down after that, but wanted to hold my hand for nearly the rest of the day, peering at the tree every so often like it was some big green monster.

After more unpacking, decorating, and making dinner, I was exhausted come nighttime. I had added more twinkle lights to the mantle and bannister, and with each new strand my daughter had gotten more and more upset. I really didn’t know what to make of her reaction, but I knew we could both use a good night’s sleep. For the past six nights she had cried to sleep in my bed with me. Tonight she had to stay in her room. 

After getting ready for bed, I took her to her room, nearly dragging her the last few feet. She was almost inconsolable, holding me tightly and crying, “No, don’t like the lights!” I was exasperated but she wasn’t going down easy, so I held her on her bed, gently rocking her back and forth. “Okay, sweetie, it’s fine. We’ll take care of the lights tomorrow. I’ll stay right here until you fall asleep.” 

Still she cried, and whispered, “No, no lights,” over and over. I kept rocking and patting her, until we both started settling, getting sleepy....

It must have been a few hours later, I came awake, still holding my daughter on her bed. It was alarmingly dark. I realized groggily I’d fallen asleep in her room, then tried to remember why I’d woken.

Then I heard the sound. 

A creak, low but long, like a hinge turning slowly. 

I stared into the room. It was too dark to see much, but after a pause, I heard another creak. It sounded too close to be the room door. But maybe...the closet door? Was it... opening? 

There came one more creak. Silence. Then, a shuffle.

Step. Shuffle. Step. 

Stop.

Still asleep, my daughter started to  whimper.

Fighting a rising panic, I stared hard into the room, trying to see anything in the darkness. 

 Darkness until.... a sudden glow of lights. Small, red lights, inside the closet. Red, flashing. Then gone. 

I had imagined it, hadn’t I? But then.

Shuffle. Step. Step. Step. 

Stop. Silence. 

I choked on my scream when the lights came back. 

A set of red lights. Glittery, hard, cold.

At the foot of the bed. Like the little red bulbs on the Christmas tree. Except not like the Christmas tree.

Because the red lights didn’t twinkle.

They blinked.

Two red Christmas lights, but not Christmas lights at all. 

They were eyes.

It was the first and the last Christmas in our new house.

Ugly Holiday Sweaters for a Crypto-Paranormal Christmas!

It’s the holiday season! That means it’s time again for spreading Christmas cheer and breaking out the old holiday traditions: decorations, gifts, festive music (on every single radio station), family togetherness...

And ugly sweaters.

That’s right - the month of December is also the perfect time to pull out your hideous knitwear and proudly parade it in public, all in the spirit of Christmas! This year, TODAY, Friday December 21, 2018, marks National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.

Whether you’re attending the annual office Christmas party, braving crowds of shoppers at every store, or curling up in front of the fire with a gallon of eggnog, make the scene picture-perfect by being as badly dressed as possible! For all of you fellow paranormal and cryptozoological enthusiasts, check out some of these truly terrible designs to inspire your ugly Christmas sweater collection:

Merry Krampus

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You better watch out. You’ll probably cry. And if you pout, you’re going to die - Krampus Clause is co

min’ to town.

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The only thing worse than this ugly Krampus sweater is paying $69.00 for this ugly Krampus sweater.

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Does it make the sweater more or less ugly if it comes in vest form? Probably both.

A Very Cryptid Christmas

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He sees you when you’re sleeping because he’s big enough to look into your bedroom windows.

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This is actually pretty tame as far as ugly Christmas sweaters go, but the sweater model just looks so majestic.

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“Yeti, eat a candy cane.”

“Why?!”

“Because you turn into an angry badly dressed abominable snowman when you’re hungry….”

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“….Better?”

Better!”

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If you’re not sure whether your holiday yeti sweater is ugly enough, make it battery-operated and remove all doubt.

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Holidays are all fun and games until someone gets impaled by a unicorn.

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I don’t really want to have a hairy anything, thank you.

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Every time a bell rings, a Mothman gets its wings.

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Some kids want Santa to bring them a pony for Christmas. Other kids just want a legendary Scottish plesiosaur.

Yuletide UFOs

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The alien invasion comes bearing gifts. And polka dots. So many polka dots.

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Don’t go into the light!

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Santa is out there.

Paranormal Pop Culture Christmas

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Mix a little redrum with your eggnog for a festive holiday drink.

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The perfect cardigan for your office Christmas party or casual Fridays at Ghostbusters Headquarters.

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Better not feed this Gremlin sweater after midnight, or it’ll turn into an even uglier sweater.

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Nothing screams Christmas cheer like a possessed homicidal doll.

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On the Eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, more shadow monsters in a new Season 3. (Seriously, when is Season 3 coming out?!)

Just Plain Creepy

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Have yourself a creepy little Christmas.

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Zombie Santa is going to need a little more than milk and cookies when he lumbers down your chimney.

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I don’t know if this is paranormal or just really weird, but it is an actual nightmare before Christmas.

Scary, merry Christmas, everyone! Which ugly sweater will you be wearing this year?

Written Confession: A Navajo Woman Shares Stories of the Skinwalkers

The following written confession was submitted via email, also following the release of Episode 95: The Roof Walker.

“This happened a long time ago.  I am not fluent in English, but I do my best.

 I'm Navajo women from the Four Corners area, and I grew up as a traditional Navajo.  This means my family conducted Navajo traditional ceremonies and we had lot of  ceremonies, and it was always healing ceremony and lot of prayers.  My grandpa, my dad's father was a medicine man.

 I live west of Shiprock, NM and the mountains are 15 miles on west and south of our home.    We had no trees around our house and I would describe it desert, and only big structure 3 miles east of our home is a big Shiprock Rock.  

My parents enrolled me, my young sister and my older brother in boarding schools at Nenahnezad, NM.  We went home on weekdays, but sometimes we stayed in the dormitory.  At home we had no running water and electricity and we lived in a small 2 room house.  There were two bump beds and one big bed, and kitchen table, cabinets and wood stove in the middle of the house.  The front door is facing east and divided room in the middle of the house.  There was three windows on east, south and west side.  The middle door is blocked because my cousins and her boyfriend lived on the north side.  We lived on the south side.  

My father and brothers started building new house it was about 100 yard south of the old house.  When skinwalker came we lived in the old house. Eight of us lived in that house including my parents.  Sometimes, I stayed with my grandmother.   I don't exactly remember my age, and looking at one of my younger sister age, she was about 4 years old, so this was 1978 and I was 13 years old.

This was on a weekend, we went to bed and light were out.  I was on bottom bump bed and my 11 year old sister was on top bump.  I can hear everyone dozing off.  I could not sleep, and I got up, and my sister help me get the splinter out of my right hand.  She hold the flash light for me.  

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I hear the dogs barking.  They were chasing something and we listened,  they chased it behind the house and it jumped to the edge of the roof on south side of the house.  My bed is southwest of the room and the creature was climbing on top.  We turned off the flash light and my sister went under cover.  I slowly got up and I went across the room to wake up my parents.  I turned on the flash light, shined it in their face so they can wake up.  that did not help, and they said, it's a cat.  I'm I went back to my bed and went under the cover and listen.  By this time I heard it climbing and it was scratching the window as it climbed to the roof.  When it climbed, I can hear it breathing, and scratching the walls and windows, and when when it got on top, It sound like a person walking from south to north, round and round.  The dogs were barking and running around the house as it walked back and forth, and at one time it stopped.  He was not moving and suddenly, he   hit one of the dogs with a long 2" diameter pole.  My sister threw that pole on the roof a day before.  When the dog was hit, he was hurt.  I can hear that pole when it was thrown at the dog.  I laid in bed listening to the foot steps.  The foot steps is not a dog or a cat, it was a human, heavy person walking with two legs.  I fell asleep as I listened to the heavy steps.

The next morning, and I check the area.  There were weird foot prints, we tried to tell my parents but they just brushed it off.  No one paid attention to us.  The prints were not too clear because the ground was too hard. Since no one listens we didn't bother.  

Within four days my cousin passed away, she was 25 years old.  She is the one that lived on the north side of the house.   Before she pass on, on Sunday afternoon, she mentioned a bad headache, that was the last time I heard her talking about the pain.  In the afternoon, we went back to boarding school and by Wednesday Or Thursday my uncle came with the bad news.  She passed away after two or three day.  That was the hardest and saddest thing to take as a kid.  After she passed on, my family brought in a medicine man and he conducted a ceremony.    And he said, TWO OF YOU KNOW ABOUT IT.  Everyone looked at me and my sister.  We never repeated our story to the medicine man.  He said, "it's a man in a bear skin, and I saw he was on the roof of the house.  When it walk on the roof he was using a white powder and blew it over her.  He walked round and round and round and he blew some kind of power on everyone to put you all to a deep sleep.  He had a helper, it was a hummingbird, he did the lookout thru a peep hole.  He blew this white power on her and that is how she passed away.   Then he explained, I see lights, The light traveling toward our house.  It was like a bright flash light, not a spot light.  The medicine man says, tat is it, it is that light.  He conducted the prayers and chanted songs.  He prayed using sacred words, words I never heard.  He takes out the fire ashes and arrow heads to ward off the evil skinwalker.  After singing and praying for several hours, the light disappeared.

 At the time I did not fully understand what he meant, white powder.  Later my grandma tells me, that white powder is crushed human bone, and they get this from the graveyard.  She did not tell me much .

I asked my grandma too many questions, but sometimes, she told me, don't ask, you are not old enough to know.  My grandma always told us to close the curtains, and she said, skinwalker might be watching us close all the curtains.   Or she said, close all the curtains we don't want to see ghost. 

Another time, we had a ceremony in a hogan (one room and round house).  It was after midnight and my father was singing, and I heard the dogs barking close behind him.  I could not hear the songs, instead I heard the dogs.  My brother goes out and checked, they did not see anything. The next morning, I walked to the spot behind the hogan and  I saw a big spot on the ground, someone sat behind him and walked toward south west  The same foot prints, the one I seen before, and these prints had clear markings.  It was a human hand prints in the middle and bear claw around it.    My grandma yells at me not to follow the prints and leave it and my dad reassured me not to worry.  He said, we prayed all night and we will not let it get to us.   I am young and I wanted to know why, it keep coming only at night.  I yelled so loud to it, "why don't you come in day time and tell us what you want.  Don't hide behind that skin!

After a year the new house was finish and we moved in.  My youngest sister was about four or five years old.  Every evening I had to warm up the house.  Before we start the fire, I always take out the ashes and we took it out to a big 100 gallons barrel.  The barrel was set about 60 yard southeast of the new house.   

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One evening when the sun was setting I had to do my chores. My youngest sister was helping me.  We put the ashes in the bucket and we walked out to the big barrel. It was getting dark and I could not see too far.  When we got closer to the barrel, I saw a big bear out in front of us.  We threw the bucket on the ground and we ran back to the house.  My sister is crying and screaming, Bear! Bear!  We got inside and shut the door.  Everyone is inside, cleaning the kitchen and not one person paid attention.  My sister was crying and ran to my mother.   She had night mares, she jumped and cries, Bear Bear Bear!  I noticed the dogs barking and always chasing someone outside.  She does not remember, and she never talks bout it.    Maybe a ceremony was done for her.

Then years went by, I did not live in that house and I moved to Arizona.  My parents lived in this new house, but there was no electricity and running water.  They used the white gas light at night.  The house is expanded to two story, and three bedrooms on the top floor and one bathroom.  The kitcheN, dining room and living rooms, and one restroom are at the bottom floor.   Two entrances from the east and bottom floor has 2 large windows on west side.  

My youngest sister is born in 1987 and she was about 6 years old when she saw a skinwalker.  This was 1993, her and    My youngest my young cousin are the same age.  They hang out together everyday.  

One evening they took a bath in the bottom floor bathroom, and using a white gas lantern.  They walked out of the restroom with the towels and holding the light, turned southwest of the room and they saw a goat looking at them.  This thing was standing behind the west window and looking straight at them.  They stopped and stood looking face to face with the This creature.  The face was an old man and it was wearing a goat skin, like a hoodie over his head and it had two horns.  They screamed and threw the white gas lantern on the floor no they ran to the kitchen.  My mothers runs out to see.  My sister and cousin were frightened and explained what they saw.  

They did not close the window curtains like my grandmother said.  The curtain is closed after they saw the strange skinwalker.  

I asked my sister about what she saw, she said, it was a man in a goat skin.  He was covered with the goat skin over his head, and two horns above his head.  He face was covered with some light and dark color.  He had big eyes and it did not blink, it had a strange look in his eyes, he had human eyes.  

When I was a kid my elderly cousin told me, I know how to witch people.  He was a scariest person to be around.  My brother saw him put some kind of powder on my mother.  He was standing behind her and blew it on her.  Within one hour, she started having pain on her back.  We had to take her to IHS clinic and then to a medicine man.   

Another day, My parents sent my older brother and I to drive to town to get food.  Town is 35 miles away and on way home, we saw that old man on the road.  We picked him up and I smelled alcohol on him.  He was too drunk.  He sat on passenger side and he starts talking about how he witch people.  He was trying to show us how he used his witch craft.  My brother turned up the radio and I looked away from him.  My brother tells him, we don't want to know . He passed always when I was in high school.  

Today,  when someone says skin walker, my response to that,  "Who would still practice it".  I think it died down because skin walkers was practice by the elder Navajos and they could speak in Navajo and they know how to sing in Navajo and chant.  Today over 50% Navajos did not speak Navajo, they don't know how to sing or chant in Navajo.”

Written Confession: Another Roof Walker Encounter?

The following written confession was submitted via email following the release of Episode 95: The Roof Walker.

“I was listening to episode 95 roof walker with kasey. She didn’t mention what city/town in Texas she was from. I had an situation where “something” ran across my roof. Never found out what it was but I am also from a town in Texas near the Mexican border where Santa clause wears shorts and has an accent . . .

Initially my heart dropped bc her story sounded familiar to mine. I lived in El Paso Texas with my older sister when I was around 17-18 years old. She worked 12 hour nights so I was home alone often. We lived in a 1 story ranch, behind it was a large drainage ditch and to the left was an alley. One night my boyfriend and I heard what sounded like a person take a couple of running steps and then jump off the roof. It shook my kitchen light. I was so freaked out! I thought it could be a weirdo off the alley or ditch. My boyfriend wanted to go outside and check but instead I called the cops and they didn’t find anything. Weirdly, my boyfriend thought it was a dog or cat, there’s no way foot steps that heavy were a random animal. They sounded adult weight or heavier. I believe it was after that incident that I heard someone turning the handle to my back door, I looked out but didn’t see anything. It’s possible it could have been some trouble makers messing around but it sure did scare me . . .”

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New York's Spooky Island of the Dead

New York City is home to many famous places: Broadway. Times Square. Central Park. The Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building. Wherever you are in the world, you've probably heard of these big-name attractions, located only in The Big Apple.

What you probably haven’t heard about are the 1,000,000 bodies located just offshore.

Yes, bodies. On Hart Island, a small plot of land in the Long Island Sound, approximately one million people are buried in a potter’s field. The lonely island has a long, eerie history that stretches into the present... where the freshly dead are still buried in open graves.

Hart Island, New York.

Hart Island, New York.

Hart Island satellite image.

Hart Island satellite image.

Hart Island’s history began during the Civil War, when the island - only a mile long and a quarter mile wide - was used as a prisoner-of-war camp. Over 3,000 Confederate soldiers were held there for four months in 1865; 235 of them died and were buried there, marking the island’s beginning as a massive gravesite.

Over the following decades, Hart Island became a place to isolate outcasts of society. In 1870, the island was used to quarantine patients during a yellow fever epidemic. In the late 19th century, it was the site of a women's lunatic asylum. Well into the 20th century, the facilities also functioned as a tuberculosis hospital, a workhouse for delinquent boys, a prison again, and a drug rehabilitation center. The island was even briefly a missile base - all the while amassing the bodies of men, women, and children in its public potter's field.

Hart Island burial, 1890.

Hart Island burial, 1890.

Along with the Civil War soldiers buried there, the dead of Hart Island are primarily the remains of the destitute, the unidentified, and the stillborn; even dismembered body parts have been disposed of in the mass graves. Called “City Cemetery,” the graves of Hart Island make up the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. On a weekly basis, the bodies, in plain pine boxes, are stacked three high and 25 across in trenches. The process, carried out by inmates of nearby Rikers Island prison, is unceremonious, straightforward, and stoic.

For a long time, the burial sites were even reused: after 25 to 50 years of being buried (long enough to sufficiently decay) new bodies were interred on top of the old, crumbling ones. In 1977, vandals started a fire on Hart Island that destroyed most of its burial records to date, sadly eliminating the only remaining proof of existence for many of the deceased.

Also adding to its grim history are the deaths of four teenagers who drowned when they attempted to sneak onto the island. Only one body was ever found, washed up on the Hart Island shore.

Women's lunatic asylum on Hart Island.

Women's lunatic asylum on Hart Island.

Even though burials continue to occur each week, access to eerie Hart Island is very restricted. The public can only venture to the island by boat, once a month, and can go no further than a memorial and waiting gazebo at the dock. For those who have family buried on the island, a monthly visit is permitted to the burial site, but they must be accompanied by a member of the Department of Corrections. No public photographs are allowed, and paperwork to visit must be filed well in advance. Part of the restriction is a safety issue, as Hart Island is now a ruin of abandoned buildings from its previous incarnations. Among the structures are rusted hospital beds, old documents, discarded shoes, and empty caskets, creepy remnants of the island's long history. But it could be supposed that the restriction is also to ensure that the island graveyard, where so many unclaimed and unwanted have been laid to uneasy rest, stays out of the public eye. 

Mass graves, 1992.

Mass graves, 1992.

Despite its spooky history and mass corpses, a formal paranormal investigation has never been conducted on Hart Island. It is the belief of paranormal investigators that souls of the dead are undoubtedly trapped on the island, as witnesses and inmates who have been there have reported hearing the whispering of voices - many of them children - and the feeling of being watched. Hart Island has even made it onto lists of the nation’s “Most Haunted Islands.” But with so much difficulty accessing the site, it may never really be known how many of the dead still “live” on Hart Island.

Bones eroding from the earth on Hart Island.

Bones eroding from the earth on Hart Island.

Recently, however, it has been made known that the Hart Island dead are rising, in a very literal sense! After enduring years of storms, Hart Island is eroding. As the shoreline deteriorates, skeletons in the mass graves are being unearthed. Some of the bones are collected and reburied as they wash down the beaches, but still others are carried out to open ocean. Miranda Hunt of the Hart Island Project has revealed, “Entire skeletons are sort of falling out of the hill onto the beach, and then they're washed away with the tide.” The problem is so significant that the area of erosion has even become known as "bones beach." The rising skeleton situation has been ongoing since the 1990s, but only lately have efforts been made to stabilize the surfacing bones. The city is finally in the process of repairing the damage, but those repairs aren't scheduled to begin until sometime in 2019, giving ample time for many more displaced remains to simply wash away.

With its creepy past and gloomy present, it’s no wonder that Hart Island is not usually mentioned along with New York City’s famous landmarks. Indeed, there are actually a number of eerie New York islands that are kept quiet from the public, including similarly spooky North Brother Island - the strip of land where Typhoid Mary met her demise and New York saw its biggest loss-of-life disaster prior to 9/11. After over a century and a half of death and more than one million corpses, Hart Island is well-deserving of the title, “Island of the Dead.”

For more stories, facts, and photos of Hart Island, check out "Buried from the Public: Hart Island, New York" on Sometimes Interesting.

Hart Island burial trench.

Hart Island burial trench.

Our Trip to Alcatraz, America's Most Haunted Prison

Picture it: San Francisco, 2017. I was three months pregnant with our first child, Tony’s beard was at its zenith, and we were vacationing in Frisco for our ten year wedding anniversary! It was probably only our third vacation ever in the last decade, so every day we were checking multiple places off of our “must see” list. Our trip would certainly not have been complete without an excursion to a very famous and historical landmark - Alcatraz, one of America’s most haunted prisons.

A Brief History of Alcatraz Penitentiary

Known as “The Rock”, Alcatraz Penitentiary has a long, chilling history, which seems to echo through its dilapidated buildings as tales of Alcatraz’s hauntings continue to this day. 

Originally built as a military fortress in the 1850s, Alcatraz was converted into a military prison in 1868. Situated one-and-a-quarter miles offshore in the San Francisco Bay, the island’s steep, rocky topography and location in shark-infested waters made it an ideal place to confine violent criminals. The first fortress-prison was demolished in 1909, and a new prison was rebuilt in its place by the prison’s own inmates. After the prison fell into disrepair in the 1920s, it was again closed, restructured, and reopened in 1933, this time as a federal prison claiming to be “escape-proof.” Alcatraz continued to function as a prison for dangerous federal criminals until it was closed by Robert F. Kennedy in 1963, due to the huge financial cost it required to keep it in operation. A few years later, in 1969, a group of Native Americans claimed the island, and held it in occupation for two years, before being forced out by federal marshals in 1971. Finally, in 1972, the island prison was added to the new Golden Gate Recreation Area, and officially opened for tourists and the public.

The Haunted History of Alcatraz

At any given time, approximately 250 dangerous prisoners were housed on Alcatraz, including gangsters Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly, crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, and murderer Robert Stroud, “The Birdman of Alcatraz” - just to name a few of the criminals from the prison’s bloody history. The reasons Alcatraz earned its title as the most haunted prison in America are many. Some of the creepy occurrences contributing to Alactraz's haunted legacy are as follows:

  • Statistics: During its years of operation, there were 14 escape attempts from Alcatraz, involving 36 men. Twenty-three of the men were caught, 6 were shot dead, 2 were confirmed drowned, and the remaining 5 were thought to have drowned, either in the bay or swept out to sea. (The government's official position is that no one has successfully escaped from The Rock; however, conspiracy theories abound about three men, Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers, surviving their escape attempt, never to be recaptured. You can check out this fascinating story here!) In addition, Alcatraz saw 8 murders by inmates, 5 prisoner suicides, and 15 deaths by natural causes or illnesses. (Want more Alcatraz facts? Go here!)
  • Psychological and physical trauma: The treatment and punishment of prisoners was reported to have resulted in psychological and physical trauma for some of the inmates, a number of whom were driven insane before their time on The Rock was concluded. Some of these treatments and punishment included:

 - The Spanish Dungeon: Located underneath Cellblock A are cells is known as “the Spanish Dungeon.” Reportedly used during Alcatraz’s military prison era, the dungeon cells were used for the more “unmanageable inmates,” who would be taken below and chained to the bars of the dungeon, allegedly without clothes and food on some occasions.

- The single Strip Cell: Feared by inmates, the Strip Cell was a steel-encased cell with no sink or toilet where unruly prisoners would be locked, without clothes, in total darkness. Offenders were usually placed in the freezing cell for 1 to 2 days at a time.

- The Hole Cells: The Hole cells were similar types of cells, where prisoners were isolated from others and provided with only the bare minimum to survive- bread, water, a low wattage light bulb- for sometimes up to 19 days. 

  • Cell 14D: Cell Block D is the most famously haunted cell block. In 14D, one of “the Hole” cells, a prisoner in the 1940s once spent the night screaming that a creature with red glowing eyes was killing him. In the morning, the inmate was found dead by strangulation, and no person was ever discovered to be responsible for his death. 
  • The Battle of Alcatraz: From May 2 to May 4, 1946, inmates attempted to take over the prison. The 3-day fight and standoff resulted in the deaths of 2 corrections officers and 3 inmates, and the injury of 11 officers and 1 inmate. Two convicts who participated in the takeover were later executed (at San Quentin) for their roles in the officers’ death. (You can read more about the frightening Battle of Alcatraz here.)

These events are only a number of potential causes of paranormal activity stemming from Alcatraz's long history. The book Ghosts of Alcatraz by Kathryn Vercillo shares an introductory history and many haunting experiences that have taken place on the island. One excerpt from the book reads:

"Not too far away, just off Cell Block C, is the Utility Corridor where three prisoners who attempted to escape (Coy, Cretzer, and Hubbard) were ultimately captured and grenaded to their deaths. In this same corridor, a welded shut door muffles the eerie sounds of the spirits on this cellblock . . . A guard who was watching the area at night heard odd noises coming from behind the door. It sounded as though something was knocking around in the corridor down there, but when the guard opened the door, he saw nothing that could possibly be making the sounds. He closed the door and was going to continue on his security rounds, but as soon as the door shut behind him, the noises started up again. Thinking that someone must be in there playing some sort of joke on him, the guard opened the door again and looked around the area extensively. He never found the source of the noise. When he closed the door again, the noises again resumed . . . Since that time, this area has been blocked off and that particular door has been welded shut."

In the many decades that have passed since the 1850s, strange events and encounters on the island have never ceased to be reported. From whispering in the cells, to ghostly figures, to sounds of clanging bars and doors shutting, to disappearing smoke, to cold spots and areas where visitors are suddenly overcome with emotion, there are no shortage of ghosts lingering in Alcatraz. 

Our Alcatraz Experience

I'll answer the big question first - no, we didn't encounter any otherworldly activity on Alcatraz! However, our trip to Alcatraz Island was an experience not to be missed (although we almost did miss it!) - and we're glad we had the opportunity to go!

Alcatraz, as one of the most important "must see" items on our trip agenda, was the first big attraction we intended to visit while in San Francisco. But, when we showed up at the ticket office bright and early on the first morning of vacation, those plans hit a bit of a snag: tickets to Alcatraz were already sold out, for the entire summer. With daily tours leaving every 30 minutes, every day, we were dumbfounded that there was nothing available - even considering the landmark's popularity - for the next two months! 

Trying not to cry at this disappointing news (which is the natural reaction to any kind of news when you're pregnant) I jumped on my Smartphone and started searching the Alcatraz Cruise website. We couldn't come all the way to San Francisco and not make it to the "main event" of the trip, right?! Lo and behold, the site came through for us: there were two tour tickets available online, for two days later - the only openings for the entire week! The tickets were promptly loaded into the virtual cart (thank you, pervasive consumer-based technology), and we returned to the pier later that week for our boat ride to Alcatraz. And, lesson learned: always pre-order tickets for popular national attractions before flying across the country to visit them.

Even in June, the ride to and from Alcatraz across the San Francisco Bay was freezing. The wind whipped hard enough to take your breath away, the waves were choppy, and fog rolled in and out across the horizon. From the mainland, Alcatraz looks comparatively close to shore, but after crossing the channel, it's difficult to imagine how a prisoner could actually survive a swim from the prison to dry land. (Lookin' at you, Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers... in whichever undisclosed country you're hiding out in.)

If you're looking for a creepy island where you can enjoy ghostly horrors of the past — and who doesn't look for that in a vacation? - Alcatraz is the place to visit! It’s remote, eerie, and desolate, even with hoards of tourists stomping around. There is a quote, often attributed to Mark Twain, that says, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." After visiting San Fran in the summer, we can both can attest to the truth of this statement; temperatures that week didn’t rise about the low 60s, and it was colder still on Alcatraz, surrounded by water and wind. The chill was everywhere, and the surrounding bay and sky alternated between blue and slate gray throughout the afternoon. Alcatraz is not a cheery place, to say the least.

We opted to skip a guided tour, although looking back I think it would have added even more to our experience by expounding on the island’s history. But since we both hate crowds and love abandoned places, we explored the eerie sights on our own, most notably:

  • The ruined buildings: Many of the island’s residence buildings are in ruins, some having been demolished and some destroyed by fires in 1970. It was interesting to note, though, (in a "Yikes, I hoped they always locked the doors" kind of way) how women and children - the families of Alcatraz’s guards - had lived only steps away from some of the country’s most dangerous criminals. 
  • The morgue: This wasn’t the large, laboratory-style morgue fabricated in Michael Bay’s movie, “The Rock.” (Although I won’t lie, that would have been cool too.) Alcatraz’s actual morgue is tucked away on the far end of the complex, housed in the entrance of an old Civil War tunnel. Despite its small size and the crowds around it, it was still a creepy place, with the mortuary slab still in place and the vaults shrouded in the darkness at the back of the room. Not a place you’d want to hang out in after dark. Or in broad daylight. Or at any time at all, really.
  • The cellhouses: Speaking of places you wouldn’t want to hang out in after dark... The cellhouses, the centers for the main horrors and hauntings comprising Alcatraz’s history and lore, were disturbing. Granted, decay and disuse have done them no favors, but they are still scary places. Cramped, stark, and with no exposure to direct sunlight, the cells were bleak sad cubicles. The buildings were also long and shadowy, ideal places for things that like to come out in the dark - and I don’t mean the Tooth Fairy (cue eerie musical riff). If not for the presence of so many people milling about, I think the overall atmosphere of the place would have felt much more ominous and agitated. My heart goes out to any lonely guard assigned to patrol Alcatraz at night; may he have nerves of steel and carry a big stick.

Although we didn't witness any ghostly activity, experiencing Alcatraz was well worth it, both for its storied history and for its potential to encounter the paranormal.  If you have the chance to see it, we recommend the experience! ...Just maybe call ahead for tickets. Please enjoy some of our touristy pictures of Alcatraz below, and stay tuned for a future blog post about our visit to Eastern State Penitentiary! (Because for some reason, we keep ending up at haunted prisons.)

And now I'm going to watch "The Rock."

Have you visited any famous haunted locations? Share with us in the comments!

Written Confession: A Life of Paranormal Incidences

The following Confession was shared via email:

Thought I'd let you know that I have had many "paranormal" things happen through out my life. It is a family trait and to me it is just normal life. Something needs to be truly remarkable to make it memorable.

My mother has had many psychic incidences during her life. One just happened to save my life when I was a toddler. 

We lived on an isolated farm that belonged to my father's parents, who also lived there but in another house. My father worked away. 

One day I began to choke. My mother couldn't fix it and didn't know what to do. It must of been quite bad because she grabbed me and rushed out to find my grandmother. When she was outside the garden gate she heard a voice in her head say words to the effect of "turn the child upside down". Which she did and whatever was stuck in my throat dislodged and I recovered. 

One time my when my eldest daughter was about 11 she woke up with a slight fever and felt unwell so I kept her home from school. An hour or so later I get a phone call from the school. They were concerned for my child, wanting to know if I'd taken her home. She had been seen at school that morning but vanished and they were very concerned. I told them she had not been to school and was home sick but they insisted she had been there. That evening there was an event on at the school that my daughter's class was involved in and because she had recovered we went to it. As we arrived one of her friends rushed up to her asking why she had vanished from school that morning. This other kid was adamant that my daughter had been there. This confirmed it to me that the school phone call had been valid.  I know of a phenomenon called "bi-location" and put the incident down to a case of this. I told my daughter that's what it was, no big deal. 

I have many stories, many more are forgotten. I've seen odd lights in the sky, had many out of body / astral events and encounters. Had a dark entity come into a house I was living in. (I'd never believed in them before or been scared like that).

I've had so many dreams that later came true. When I was young I was able to see what people where thinking, I could see thoughts forming. One very famous person - example happened when I was 15 and it bothered me so much it put me off ever wanting that to happen again. It was a member of the British royal family who'd just had a baby. 

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