Elva Zona Heaster’s Ghostly Testimony

Greenbrier Ghost

Late October is a great time for ghost hunting… and not just on Halloween.

October 20th is also the wedding anniversary of Elva Zona Heaster and her murdering husband, “Trout” Shue.

If I were to investigate her grave (or his), I’d be there on October 20th. Anniversaries usually trigger extra ghostly activity. And, when the wedding soon led to murder… well, that improves the odds of an eerie graveside investigation.

Elva Zona “Zonie” Heaster is one of the few documented, ghostly detectives. According to her mother – and the jury at Trout’s trial – Elva solved her own murder.

elva zona heaster
Possible photo of Elva (may have been taken after her murder)

Elva was born in 1873 at Greenbrier, West Virginia (USA) to Jacob Hedges Heaster (1847 – 1917) and his wife, Mary Jane Robinson (1849 – 1916).

Elva was one of nine children in the family, and the elder of two girls. (Elva’s sister Lennie was born seven years after Elva.)

Elva was also one of the county’s most beautiful young women.

Her first boyfriend was Albert Carr. (He later married – twice – and named his daughters Elva and Zona. So, it seems like he never quite got over Elva Zona Heaster.)

Elva may have married George Woldridge. They had a baby boy in November 1895. The child may have died or been raised by someone else. The records aren’t clear about the baby’s fate, if George was Elva’s husband, or what happened to George.

A year later, Elva fell in love with Erasmus Stribbling “Trout” Shue, who’d been born in 1861 in Augusta, Virginia. (His parents were Jacob and Elizah Shue.)

elva and husband
Elva Zona Heaster and Trout Shue, in happier times

Evidence suggests that “Trout” was a heart breaker – and perhaps a wife-murderer – even before he arrived in town and courted Elva.

Trout had already been married to Allis (or Allie) Estilline Cutlip, Lucy A. Tritt, Ellen Estilline Cutlip, and Annie Williams. (Ellen and Allis may have been one person. Like many records of that time, spelling errors are commonplace.)

His first marriage (to Allis) ended in divorce, with cruelty cited.

His second wife (Lucy) died suddenly, hit on the head “by a falling brick.”

It seems as if most of Trout’s neighbors believed he’d killed Lucy, but they had no proof.

The other one or two wives… I haven’t found records for either of them, yet.

So, Elva was Trout’s fourth or fifth wife. (Apparently, his goal was to marry seven women.)

Trout was described as a drifter, and worked as a blacksmith near Elva’s home.

The couple married on October 20th, 1896, about a year after Elva’s baby (with George Woldridge) had been born.

From the start, it appears that Elva’s mother was uneasy about the ever-so-charming Mr. Shue.  In fact, some accounts say that Mrs. Heaster hated Trout on sight.

Then, on January 23rd, 1897 – shortly after the couple had been married just three months – Trout sent a boy to the Shue house on an errand. The boy found Elva, dead at the foot of the stairs.

By the time the doctor arrived, Trout had already brought Elva upstairs to her bed, wrapped her neck in a bright-colored scarf, and generally prepared the body for burial.

(The reference to the scarf, and the odd, flat appearance of Elva’s hair, face, and neck, suggest that the photo – near the top of this article – was taken after she’d died. Postmortem photos were common in some regions, as a memento of the deceased.)

Because Trout seemed so distraught at his wife’s death, the doctor did only a cursory examination. He decided that Elva had fainted and fallen down the stairs to her death.

(Only later were questions raised about the blood near her body, and the possibility that she was pregnant when she was killed.)

Elva was buried in an unmarked grave at Soule Chapel cemetery.

About a month after Elva’s death, over a period of four nights, her spirit appeared to her mother, Mrs. Heaster.

Elva’s mother said that Elva looked like she was “flesh and blood,” not a ghost.

Elva explained to her mother that Trout had killed her. To confirm that she spoke the truth, Elva told her mother several things that her mother could not have known at the time . And, to demonstrate that Trout had broken her neck, Elva (the ghost) rotated her head in a full circle.

Elva’s mother visited the sites Elva had named, and verified the details that Elva had shared. Everything confirmed that Elva’s spirit really had visited her mother.

So, Mrs. Heaster went to the county prosecutor and convinced him to open Elva’s grave for an autopsy.

As expected, it turned out that Elva’s neck was broken, but her windpipe had been crushed as well. She hadn’t been the victim of a fall.

Trout was charged with murder. On July 11th, 1897, he was sentenced to life in prison, where he died of an unknown epidemic on March 11th, 1900.

Elva’s mother’s story never wavered. She always insisted that her daughter’s ghost had appeared to her, and revealed the murder.

The story is so odd, I believe her.

Where is Trout Shue buried?

His body is in an unmarked grave near West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. (That retired prison is open for tours, as well as overnight investigations.)

If you’d like to investigate the prison cemetery, it’s part of Whitegate Cemetery. You’ll find it along Tom’s Run, about 3/4 of a mile from the main route into Moundsville on Fourth Street.

Where is Elva Zona Heaster Shue buried?

To investigate Zona’s grave, go to Soule Chapel Methodist Cemetery. It’s in Meadow Bluff, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, off the old Kanawha Turnpike. (I recommend checking other parts of that cemetery, as well. She’s probably in the family plot, but – since the grave was unmarked for more than 80 years – it’s not her guaranteed location.)

The Man Who Wanted Seven WivesMore reading and resources

For the full story, read The Man Who Wanted Seven Wives – The Greenbrier Ghost and the Famous Murder Mystery of 1897. That book presents the most thorough account of the entire story.

Haunted HomelandOr, if you’d like to read more about the Greenbrier Ghost and others, I recommend Haunted Homeland: A Definitive Collection of North American Ghost Stories.

The writing style is colorful and the stories are well-researched.

Winchester Mystery House – Another Room?

The headline says “New room found at San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House,” and the article explains, “The home’s preservation team recently opened the new room, which is an attic space that has been boarded up since Sarah Winchester died in 1922.”

But, as another article – Winchester Mystery House Pries Open Creepy Attic Room Boarded Up In 1922 – explains…

But notably, Sarah’s attic isn’t being presented in its original location — instead, its items have been spirited away to another location on the grounds. “We have relocated the ‘attic’ to the central courtyard,” a representative from the Mystery House wrote on Facebook. “

In a typical “haunted” house, if the furnishings aren’t in the original room, I’ve lost at least half my interest.

New room at Winchester Mystery HouseOh, I’m certain that objects can hold ghostly energy

But, my past investigations  suggested that an equal amount of energy (or more) is in the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room.

Maybe that energy was absorbed from the objects. I don’t know. But, I am sure that a sealed room with its objects is likely to be more haunted than just those objects, placed in a courtyard.

To be fair, the attic room may have been unsafe or impractical to open to the public. So, moving the objects might have been the best option.

And, it probably goes without saying: the Winchester house is far from a “typical” haunted house. Its history was bizarre from the beginning.

Looking at the photo, above… all I needed to see were the old portrait and the doll. Those are two typical signals that the room is likely to have anomalies.

(I’m assuming that doll is composition and was actually in the room when it was opened. Several “haunted” sites have added dolls as props, to seem creepier. Know your doll history, so you’ll spot dolls that don’t fit the time period.)

With or without the “new room,” the Winchester Mystery House is one of America’s most enduring – and important – haunts.

For years, psychics and mediums have been sure that some of the house’s most haunted rooms were still hidden, or at least sealed. That’s confirmed by a room like this.

The Winchester Mystery House also provided evidence supporting the idea that ghostly activity – particularly poltergeists – seem to correlate with the presence of water. I think Colin Wilson was one of the first to mention that.

For about 10 years, when I heard a poltergeist report, I asked about the proximity to water. In over 95% of credible reports, water was within three feet of the activity: bars, kitchens, or bathrooms. Usually, the distance was closer to one foot.

Or, unexplained water appeared on surfaces, immediately following the activity. That’s been reported at the Winchester house.

Here’s a 10-minute video about the Winchester Mystery House, filmed by the “Weird US” guys.

If you’re interested in the history of the Winchester house, I recommend the half-hour documentary narrated by actress Lilian Gish, Mrs. Winchester’s House. That 1963 film is very stylish and captures the eerie mood of the site.

I’m thousands of miles from the Winchester Mystery House, so – for now – I’m unlikely to investigate at the house.

If you visit the house and can report on the activity around the new attic-related display, let me know in comments, below.

Ghostly News and a CT Ley Line – 10 Oct 2016

October is here, and so are articles that show a profound misunderstanding of what ghost hunters do.

I’m rather irked reading the insults in “Study links poor understanding of the physical world to religious and paranormal beliefs.”

Tarring all religions and paranormal beliefs with the same brush, the article –  based on a study by Marjaana Lindeman and Annika Svedholm-Häkkinen of the University of Helsinki – claims:

“The results showed that religious and paranormal (supernatural) beliefs correlated with all variables that were included: low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena…”

That list continues, but I think you get the point.

And, I know quite a few highly educated priests and professors who’d disagree with that correlation.

Oh, I’m not disputing the study results, just the sampling they used or the methods, or both.

It’s typical of the bias we deal with as researchers.

But, for every annoying article like that one, I find several news stories that intrigue me.

I started with an article about a haunted site in Pennsylvania. Then, I found a news article about a Connecticut ghost investigation. After that, I started connecting the dots – literally. In the explanation that follows, you’ll see how I use news stories and maps to find even more interesting places to investigate.

ghostbat

theatre curtainFirst, there’s the Casino Theater in Vandergrift, PA (USA). It’s opening for an investigation. The site’s history sounds like it’s worth a visit.

I’m always interested in haunted theaters. An unusually high percentage of theaters have ghost stories, and very obliging ghosts.

I mention them in my article, What Makes a Great Haunted Research Site.

  • Theater ghosts often respond well to direction (just as actors do).
  • Backstage, almost every theatre has at least one haunted dressing room… with a juicy story.
  • And, almost every theater has a ghost that supposedly sits or stands in the dark, near the back of the theater. In some cases, a cigarette may be involved, as well as visible wisps of smoke, or a smoky aroma.

If you’re in the Vandergrift area, learn more at this article: Casino Theater paranormal investigation attracts believers, skeptics.

ghostbat

Then there’s the Dr. Ashbel Woodward House Museum in Franklin, Connecticut. It used to be the home of a medical practice. Today, it’s a historical site.

A news story describes a recent investigation at the site. I’m not sure it’s very haunted, but it has the features I look for in a historical site that’s likely to have ghosts of some kind.

If you’re near Connecticut, here’s the article: Ghost hunters look for paranormal activity at Franklin museum.

About 15 minutes away, a “My Ghost Story” episode was filmed at 3 Boswell Avenue in nearby Norwich (CT). Apparently, some ghosts still linger. (The segment was “The Grim Rapper” from “I Am Full of Madness” that aired 14 May 2011.)  You can read about it in TV show will explore ‘haunted’ home that drove man from Norwich.

If you want to see the Norwich site, remember it’s a private residence. Be discreet and respectful of their privacy.

ghostbat

Exploring ley lines

The proximity of those two haunted locations makes it easy to draw a line between the two sites. In fact, any time I see two paranormal sites – especially haunted sites – near each other, I draw a line that connects them.

Then, I extend that line in both directions, and see where it leads me.

After reading about those two Connecticut haunts, I was eager to get to work. I’ve never been to Norwich, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but my “gut feeling” told me I’d find some great haunted places, nearby.

First, using Google Maps, I constructed a line from 3 Boswell Avenue to the Dr. Ashbell Woodward House Museum.

Then, I checked a few local landmarks that were on or near that line.

Immediately, I was drawn to Norwich’s Colonial Cemetery. That cemetery is closed, but the information online looks fascinating.

With three interesting haunts along one line, I knew I’d find more. So, I kept researching odd places close to the line.

Almost instantly, I found Norwich State Psychiatric Hospital, aka, Norwich State Hospital for the Insane. Several ghost hunters reported it as a terrifying place to investigate… when they could visit it.

As of 2016, this dangerous site – with demolished buildings and collapsed tunnels – is strictly off-limits and unsafe.





In addition, Norwich State Hospital looks like it’s over a mile away from the line.

Many researchers limit their ley lines widths to 12 feet. Others talk about lines as wide as 15 miles.

A few researchers insist that extreme weather, emerging fault lines, and other natural issues suggest that ley lines may be expanding, too.

Personally, I vary the width of the line with the location. That’s part common sense and part “gut feeling.”

In New Orleans’ French Quarter, the lines can be just a few feet wide. In other areas, I’ll expand them a few miles at the very most. My goal is to keep my lines as narrow and focused as possible.

So, I’m iffy about including Norwich State Hospital. If I had more time, I’d look for more ghost reports on or near the line. I’d judge the line width based on how many sites are nearby.

I might try some line variations, using the hospital as a starting point. That site’s ghost stories are certainly lurid.

But, at the moment, I’m not sure. And, I’m working on my next book. So, I’ll leave this ley line for others to explore and refine.

Nevertheless, this shows you how I use news stories and maps – plus some online research – to find and evaluate other sites that could be haunted.

Ghosts in the News – 9 Oct 2016

‘Tis the season to learn about ghosts… in the news, at least.

Every October, I like to study news reports for ghost stories I didn’t know about. Every year, I find a few surprises.

Of course, October is “prime time” for ghost hunters. We discover nearby haunts that are new to us. That gives us a fresh list of sites investigate during the rest of the year.

Apparently, this October may be your last chance to enjoy the Ghost Walk at White Hall (Kentucky, USA). See “Ghosts and Goodbyes… White Hall’s Final Act.”

What got my attention was this:

It tells the story of a trusted slave Clay accused of murdering two of his children. The woman was taken to court and a jury of 12 slave owners found her innocent. Still believing she had poisoned his two children, Clay sold Emily down south.

The Myrtles Plantation, Louisiana, USA
The Myrtles Plantation – famous and haunted.

That story is a very close match for the tale told at The Myrtles Plantation. (My research showed that no child died from poisoning at that site.)

Now, I’m wondering if the poisoning story is an old, urban legend that floats from one famous haunted site to another.

(The Myrtles is definitely haunted… just not by the two children of the story. According to genealogical records, they grew up and lived full lives.)

I’m also interested in Old Fort Niagara’s “Haunted Fortress,” in New York state. That one includes stories — some of them first-person — of ghostly encounters at the site.

Other communities — including Greenfield, Ohio’s “Old Burying Ground” Ghost Walk  and Columbus, Texas’ “Live Oaks and Dead Folks” Tour (not sure if that’s still active) — have featured similar “ghost walks” with living history.

Those kinds of events can spark more intense hauntings, so I recommend them. Check your community calendar for costumed, historical ghost walks at local haunts.

They can be entertaining, and many of these October events are fundraisers for worthy causes.

Just remember: the people you think you see in costume…? Some of them may be ghosts. Historical re-enactments and ghost walks can be “prime time” for apparitions, too.

Ghostly News – 22 Jan 2016

Ghosts are in the headlines again, ranging from new discoveries to well-loved folklore.

First, for those who love creepy “haunted doll” stories, this is an interesting overview of the subject:

In Honor of ‘The Boy’, an Unsettling History of Haunted Dolls in Movies

19 Jan 2016, by Emily Gaudette

“The trailer for The Boy teaches you a lot about a movie theater audience. Some people squirm, some laugh, some look like they’re being tickled with razor blades. Haunted dolls freak people out. This is presumably why people make movies about them.

“Historically, audience have reacted to haunted dolls with a bemused, concerned ‘Oh God!’ because the trope is both funny and disturbing. While the haunted dolls of horror cinema began as effective twists on childish images — in 1963, Talky Tina’s debut on The Twilight Zone stunned viewers — they now occupy a different space in the horror canon. What was once shocking is now laughably cliche, and making a haunted doll feel unique, not to mention scary, is a difficult feat.”

Read more at Inverse.com…

Next, for fans of classic ghost stories and haunted lore, the “Great Shippe” is a well-documented tale.

The Great ‘ghost’ Shippe sets its mysterious sights on New Haven

21 Jan 2016, Fox61

NEW HAVEN–One of the oldest tales in the history of Connecticut’s former colonies is that of the Great Shippe.

It set sail in January 1647 with hopes of a bountiful journey, but its return ended up being much more mysterious than expected.”

Learn more in a video presentation at Fox61.com…

Speaking of ghost stories, I think everyone’s heard some variation of the “ghostly hitchhiker” story. We laugh at it, but — in Japan — it might not be so funny.

Taxi drivers in tsunami disaster zone report ‘ghost passengers’

22 Jan 2016, by Julian Ryall, Tokyo

Taxi drivers working in towns in north-east Japan that were devastated in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami are reporting picking up “ghost passengers”.
At least seven drivers in the coastal town of Ishinomaki, where nearly 6,000 people died after it was battered by tsunami more than 30 feet high, claimed to have encountered phantom fares.

Read more at Telegraph.co.uk…

I’ve investigated at the old hospital in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (USA), and it’s definitely an eerie place. My “gut feeling” is that the grounds are as haunted as the building interior. The site may have many unmarked graves, with related gruesome and tragic tales.

You can explore it yourself, as the following article explains.

Explore Old South Pittsburg Hospital in a Ghost Hunt

16 Jan 2016, Examiner.com

“Folks that enjoy the paranormal activity of old hospitals may have heard of one of the most haunted locations in Tennessee. Located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee the Old South Pittsburg Hospital opened its doors in 1959, and quietly closed in 1998 making way to a larger facility in Jasper, Tennessee. Ghost Hunts USA will be hosting a few ghost hunting overnight events in January and February 2016…

“The history of the land the hospital is built on may contribute to the haunting. During the Civil War, many soldiers from the Union and the Confederate are buried in the city cemetery. Early in the 1920’s there was a tragic fire to a plantation that once stood on the property. During the chaos on that night, seven children lost their lives to the fire…”

Read more at Examiner.com/AXS Entertainment…

Finally, for those seeking new TV shows documenting ghost hunts, several have been announced. The following is just one of them.

Paranormal Lockdown: New Series With Ghost-Hunting Stars Groff and Weidman

15 Jan 2016, by Cindy McLennan

“Destination America’s six-part series PARANORMAL LOCKDOWN, hosted by paranormal all-star Nick Groff and co-hosted by seasoned ghost hunter Katrina Weidman, follows the two as they confine themselves in America’s most terrifying places for an unprecedented 72 hours straight. Living at haunted locations, many of which have never before been seen on television, some being investigated for the first time ever, Groff and Weidman believe that the longer they stay, the more the spirits will communicate with them and the more information they can gather about the unknown.”

Read more at TVSeriesFinale.com…

My thoughts: while 72 hours in a haunted house sounds impressive, I’m pretty sure many Ghost Hunters episodes actually cover nearly as much time. It’s just edited to fit in a one-hour time slot.

Nevertheless, 72 hours straight… I can see benefits and liabilities there.

Yes, if there are any spirits at the site, they may feel more comfortable emerging, once they get used to the investigating team.

However, the lack of sleep — good, normal, sound sleep — could make investigators hypersensitive, or even lead to hallucinations. So, that reduces the reliability of their reactions… but it can also provide extra thrills for the audience.

The show’s credibility will rest on the producer’s decisions, as well as the expertise of the investigators.

That’s the news for now. If you have thoughts about any of these stories, share them in comments, below.

Salem Witch Hangings, Proctor’s Ledge, and Gallows Hill

The mystery has been solved. Gallows Hill Park in Salem, Massachusetts, isn’t where the accused “witches” were hanged. The real location was nearby Proctor’s Ledge.

I’ve been waiting for this announcement since October 2008.  Despite my ley line map that seems to point to Gallows Hill Park, I’ve suspected that the real 17th century crimes took place a block or two away.

Of course, I’m chagrined that my ley line map is no longer as straightforward and tidy as it had been, before this discovery. However, I’d rather have the truth… and a genuine history to work with, for future Salem investigations.

Meanwhile, the media describe Proctor’s Ledge as “in back of a Walgreens.”

Technically, that’s true. However, the neighborhood is mostly residential, with a Walgreens store & pharmacy at the foot of the hill.

If you investigate around Proctor’s Ledge, remember that much of the surrounding area is private property.

In addition, I’m not sure you need to hike into the slightly wooded area to conduct ghost research. A quiet stroll around the neighborhood — not disturbing the residents — may provide the paranormal experience you’re looking for. (See my story, below.)

More news reports

My story

Since Halloween (Samhain) eve in 2008, I’ve been waiting for this announcement. That’s when psychic Gavin Cromwell — not related to me, as far as I know* — and I wandered around the neighborhood between Salem’s Essex Street, Boston Street, and Gallows Hill Park. [Map link]

Earlier that afternoon, we’d filmed a TV segment at Salem’s “Witch House.” Then, we’d left the film crew to pack up their gear and probably find their way to one of Salem’s many wonderful cafes, pubs, and restaurants.

Instead of relaxing over a hearty meal, Gavin and I wanted to be part of Salem’s annual Samhain celebration.The circle and ceremony at Gallows Hill Park is legendary. That evening, it was open to the public, and — as usual — attracted a very large crowd. (That year, it was hosted by the Temple of the Nine Wells.)

With nothing else to do before the gathering, Gavin and I went for a walk.

In other words — and for the benefit of skeptics — we had no audience. It was just the two of us. No audience. No cameras. Gavin had no reason to invent stories to impress anyone; I already knew he was psychic.

On that late afternoon in October 2008, Gavin and I hiked up and down the residential streets near Gallows Hill Park. Gavin felt drawn to that neighborhood, not the more famous landmark just a block (or so) away.

I’d love to claim that I was the one who first suggested that the Proctor’s Ledge area was the real gallows site.

I didn’t.

In fact, Gavin not only announced it first, he seemed absolutely confident it was where some of the accused “witches” had been hung.

After that, we walked back and forth around the area he focused on. As usual, we bounced our psychic impressions off one another, fine-tuning the history we sensed.

By the time we noticed others arriving at the nearby park, both of us were convinced that some (not necessarily all) of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials had been executed at that location.

And then we went to the Samhain celebration.

(Note: We agreed that something else — something not very nice — had happened at Gallows Hill Park, not just in the 17th century, but later, as well. So, that park is worth investigating if you’re in the area.)

Proctor’s Ledge video

The following video was filmed in 2012 and posted at YouTube by thedevilshopyard. It’s a good way to see what the ledge actually looks like, if you hike into the wooded area.

As you can see, the site is close to at least one busy street. So, especially if you’re hoping to investigate after dark, make sure you have permission. Neighbors and passing cars will notice flashlights, and call the police.

(And, if the site is open to the public and you explore that area, be prepared for poison ivy and very uneven ground.)


* I’m a descendant of several families that lived in Salem village during the 17th and 18th centuries, including the Cromwells and the Webbs. I was not able to trace Gavin’s family tree, but his Cromwell ancestors stayed in the U.K. Mine emigrated to America. So, though Gavin and I might be related through a mutual ancestor back in the 1400s or so, I’m probably more closely related to tens of thousands of other people in England and Ireland, as well as the United States and Canada.

Sites – Legal and Illegal

video camera warning to ghost hunters
photo courtesy of Jason Antony and FreeImages.com

In the past, ghost hunters could discreetly slip into haunted sites that weren’t clearly open to the public. If it was public property — or abandoned — and it wasn’t posted, some investigators thought, “Why not?”

I’ve always advised against investigating sites that aren’t clearly open to the public for ghost research.

For example, in New England, Danvers (MA) State Hospital site has been notorious for trespassing, vandalism, and arrests of well-meaning ghost enthusiasts.

It’s one of many locations with eerie reputations, and vigilant security or police patrols.

Like many other locations in isolated spots, it’s easy for police to observe trespassers from a distance. Ghost hunters are at risk as soon as they drive up the road or driveway, or turn on their flashlights. Quite literally, they shed light on their own crimes.

Today, surveillance cameras and other devices — similar to the tools we use in our research — make trespassing even more risky.

The following December 2015 story —  from KUTV (Utah, USA) — is a good example of what can happen if you break the law.

‘Haunted’ Property Owner Asks Trespassers to Keep Out

(KUTV)In Northern Utah, authorities are looking to the public in help finding a few people they want to talk to after vandalism was discovered at a former Catholic retreat believed to be haunted. The pictures are clear, taken from surveillance video a new property owner installed in recent weeks… Despite multiple signs posted on the property – “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out”, threatening fines and jail time for violators, individuals are still coming through the area… In some publications and online sites, the area has been described as a good ghost hunting location, a fun place to take a date and get a thrill, but authorities say this is no laughing matter. (Emphasis added.)

[Click here to read the rest of the article at KUTV’s website.]

That particular location — St. Anne’s, in Logan Canyon — is mentioned at many websites, including credible YouTube videos, as a reliable place to find ghosts. You can even find St. Anne’s ghost story at otherwise-trustworthy websites like the Weird US site.

This is why you must investigate site accessibility, even before you decide if a location might be haunted enough to explore.

If you don’t, or if you choose to risk getting caught, the quality of surveillance footage — day or night — can be good enough to convict you.

Don’t expect to see warning signs.

Don’t waste your time looking for the cameras, either. They can be tiny or well-concealed in hollowed-out tree branches or fence posts.

Ghost hunting might not be as popular as it once was, but modern surveillance equipment has become inexpensive and easy to use. Many locations are using it to detect trespassers, and fine them for vandalism they might be responsible for.

In the case of the Utah ghost hunters, that’s a $10,000 door that someone had kicked in.

(Really, if you’re facing a jury and trying to explain that, yes, you did trespass, but no, you didn’t damage anything, do you expect them to believe you? Is ghost hunting worth that risk?)

Trespassing can be a felony in some American communities. Jail time can be as much as a year, and fines can be as high as $4,000 per person, at the discretion of the judge.

If you’re an American convicted of a felony, you can be denied your right to vote in the U.S. You can also be denied travel to some other countries, including Canada and parts of Europe. If an employer or landlord runs a background check on you, a felony conviction looks very bad.

Since my earliest articles at Yankee Haunts (mid-1990s) and HollowHill.com, I’ve always focused on haunted locations people can investigate, with permission. Nearly all sites I talk about — at websites, on TV and radio, and in books — are open to the public.

What happened to the kids who were caught in Utah could happen to anyone. Don’t take that chance.

If you’re not sure whether a location is open to the public for ghost investigations:

  • Visit the location and look for signs, or ask the staff (if any) about restrictions.
  • Ask the reference librarian at the local public library, or check with the regional historical society.
  • Stop at the local visitors’ center or chamber of commerce, and verify the location and the hours it’s open to the public.

Of course, I always recommend visiting each haunted site during the daytime, to evaluate it for research and plan your investigation.

But, if that’s not possible, be sure to confirm when the location is open to the public for ghost hunting, and if any fees, rules, or limits apply.

Or, limit your ghost hunting to daytime hours, as well as ghost tours, public ghost hunting events, and ghost vigils.

Haunted Cemeteries – Look for Connections

Here’s an interesting pattern I’ve noticed when I’m investigating haunted cemeteries: Where I find one member of a family with a gravestone that seems to stand out, there’s usually another one (or more), not necessarily in the same family plot.

And, when two or more related gravestones (or graves) hold my interest, there’s usually a story to be told.

For example, the memorial of Capt. Bird Holland is a classic example of the respect given to fallen soldiers in the War Between the States. This tribute stands out because the inscription is so ornate.

However — for me, as a paranormal researcher — something more than that seemed odd. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Memorial to Capt. Bird HollandCaptain Holland was a widower at the time of his death. His wife, Matilda Rust Holland, preceded him in 1858, after only one year of marriage. Her apparent grave is unusual, for another reason: Only leaves fill the space beneath the horizontal stone. (I’ve indicated that space with a red rectangle.) The leaves are inside some ornate ironwork. I assume her body is there, under the ground, but it is an unusual grave design.

Open area at Matilda Rust Holland's grave marker.Recently, my research into the Holland family uncovered an interesting history. Bird Holland may have fathered as many as three sons — Milton, William, and James — by a second woman named Matilda Holland. She was a slave on Bird’s father’s plantation.

During or shortly before the 1850s, Bird purchased freedom for those three sons (but not their brother, Toby, who may have had a different father) and sent the them to school in Ohio.

In the Civil War, Bird, fought on the side of the Confederacy. His son, Milton, was a Union soldier and led the troops in a battle at Petersburg, Virginia. Both men were heroes.

You can read more of the story here: Milton Holland, born August 1st, 1844, and in the book Texas Cemeteries by Bill Harvey. (If I’d had that information when I was researching in Austin, Texas, I might have had better EVP results.)

My point is: When you see one unusual gravestone, keep it in mind as you continue your research. When you find a second, related grave that seems “odd,” it may be time for historical research to improve your investigation results.

Frankly, I’d love to ask Matilda Rust Holland how she felt about her husband’s sons. And, I’d be interested in how Bird felt about his son Milton’s heroism — being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor — for his valor during the war.

Damaged Gravestones and Neglected Graves

When ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries, I always look for damaged gravestones. Sometimes the person named on them is indignant or grief-stricken over what’s happened. The grave was his or her final resting place, and it’s been neglected or even vandalized. There’s no excuse for that.

The following photos show the kinds of damage I’ve seen — and investigated, successfully — in haunted cemeteries.

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Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows the kinds of pictures that will be here.

Damaged graves

For more information about cemetery research, read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Every Gravestone Tells a Story

In my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, I list signs and symbols to look for on or near gravestones. The artwork and inscriptions can tell a story.

The following photos show a range of graves with interesting features.

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Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows the kinds of pictures that will be here.

Unexpected materials in gravestones

Left to right: Wooden grave marker (TX), iron headstone (Henniker, NH), zine monument designed to look like granite (Nashua, NH).

Note: When I’m selecting graves to investigate, I’m always interested in expensive and ornate grave markers that have been neglected or even damaged. That’s usually an individual or family with wealth and power, and something changed so the grave hasn’t been maintained.