Walpurgis Night – The Other Halloween

Moon in trees - haunted WalpurgisMany ghost hunters think Halloween is the only night when “the veil is thinner between the worlds.”

That’s not true.

The last night of April can be equally spooky. In fact, I think it’s one of ghost hunting’s most overlooked opportunities.

April 30th is sometimes called Walpurgis Night. (That’s the English translation of the German and Dutch holiday, Walpurgisnacht.)

It is exactly six months from Halloween, and it can be just as good for ghost hunting.

April 30th Festivals

The last night of April is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, also spelled Walburga and Waltpurde (c. 710 -779), who was born in Devonshire, England.

During Walpurga’s childhood, she was educated by the nuns at Wimborne Abbey in Dorset. (Sites around Wimborne have many ghost stories. Knowlton Church may be one of the most famous; see my “for further reading” links, below.)

Walpurga traveled to Francia (now (now Württemberg and Franconia) with two of her brothers. There, they worked with Saint Boniface, her mother’s brother. Eventually, Walpurga became an abbess and, when she died, she was buried at Heidenheim. Later, her remains were moved to Eichstätt, in Bavaria.

This festival is known by many other names — especially Beltane — and celebrated in a variety of ways, from the May pole to the Padstow Hobby Horse (‘Obby ‘Oss).

Walpurgisnacht in Heidelberg
Walpurgisnacht celebration in Germany, photo courtesy Andreas Fink

In Germany, it’s still Walpurgisnacht, and widely celebrated. (In folklore, it’s also called Hexennacht, or “Witches’ Night.”)

In Sweden, the celebration is Valborgsmässoafton, the Festival of St. Radegund of the Oats. In Finland, it’s Vappu. Other events include the Roman festival of Flora.

April 30th in History

Whether by plan or by coincidence, many significant events occurred on April 3oth.

  • Christopher Columbus received his commission to explore starting April 30th.
  • It’s the day George Washington took his first oath of office as American President.
  • The Louisiana Purchase took place on April 30th .
  • On the last day of April, 1937, Filipino men voted to grant suffrage to women in their country.
  • April 30th was also the day the Viet Nam war ended, Virgin Radio first broadcast, and American automaker Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

April 30th to May 1st

Offenham - May Pole danceMay 1st, also known as May Day, is a holiday in many countries around the world.

Among some, it’s known as International Workers’ Day or Labour Day. For many years in France, May Day was the only holiday of the year when employers must allow employees the day off.

So, in countries celebrating May 1st as a workers’ holiday, the night before is ideal for ghost hunting; you won’t need to go to work the following day.

Ley Lines and More trivia

The night between April 30th and May 1st is when bonfires lit on the peaks of the St. Michael’s Mount line — one of the best-known ley lines in the world — formed a line pointing directly towards the May Day sunrise.

(I’d spend Walpurgis Night at — and investigate — any of those peaks that are open to overnight visitors. At the very least, those sites should retain residual paranormal energy.)

And, if you want a somewhat ghoulish cast to the day, look to the Czech Republic’s čarodějnice traditions, and Germany’s Brocken Spectre celebrations.

In other words, the days (and nights) of April 30th and May 1 st have a deep significance almost everywhere around the world… and it’s been that way for millennia.

Many ghost hunters — including me — look forward to Walpurgis night as “the other Halloween.”

Ghost Hunting around Walpurgis Night

Ghost hunting at the end of April can be as eerie and powerful as Halloween.

In fact, sometimes it’s better, because we’re not dealing with as many crowds and party goers looking for a “good scare” at haunted sites.

For example, Salem (Massachusetts) can be practically a ghost town (pun intended) on the night of April 30th.

Around April 30th, I’ve seen a higher number of shadowy figures — definitely not living people — at Salem’s Howard Street Cemetery.

When the weather is good, that’s an active late afternoon (and night) at Gilson Road Cemetery, in Nashua, NH, too.

In London, England, watch the windows of the Tower buildings, after dark. I don’t think those fleeting, whitish figures are always guards.

Jamaica Inn, England, sign
photo courtesy MilborneOne

It should be a good night to stay at the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall, England, too.

On the other hand, Tudor World (formerly Falstaff Experience, when I investigated it) is such an intensely haunted site, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to be there at Walpurgis. (Any other night…? Yes, but only if you have nerves of steel. It’s one of the weirdest haunts I’ve ever witnessed.)

And in general, around late April, fewer ghost hunting teams converge on the best haunted sites.

All in all, Walpurgis night may not have the popular, modern traditions of Halloween, but it has a very powerful foundation in history, folklore, and a wide range of spiritual traditions.

It’s not a solstice or equinox, but — in spite of that or perhaps because of that — Walpurgisnacht, like Halloween, deserves special attention.

What’s behind the mystique of Halloween and Walpurgis night? No one knows, for sure. However, both are supposed to be nights when the spirits can enter our world.

That makes April 30th as important as Halloween for ghost hunting.

Busy on April 30th?

When May Day falls mid-week, I add investigations at the nearest weekend, too.

I’m not certain that these kinds of festivals — Halloween and Walpurgis night — are “on-off” switches. I think the spectral energy intensifies and then wanes, for a few days on either side of the celebrated dates.

However, I might be wrong; we really don’t know why those two dates were set aside with ghostly connotations. (And why didn’t ancient people simply merge the festivals with the respective equinoxes so close to them? It’s an interesting question.)

Add April 30th to your ghost hunting schedule. I think you’ll be glad you did.

For further Reading

Also, for those who want more confidence in the ancient roots of April 30th, I recommend Goddess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint, by Pamela C. Berger.

Her book references a variety of grain-related festivals celebrated at the end of April, similar to the harvest festivals of Halloween or Samhain, in the northern hemisphere.

ghosts

If you have ghost hunting insights related to Walpurgis, I hope you’ll share them in comments, below.

And, if you investigate Jamaica Inn or Tudor World, especially around Walpurgis, I’d like to know how intense it was.

I’m also very interested in any hauntings in or near the former site of Wimborne Abbey. I haven’t visited it, yet, and it intrigues me.

Most Haunted: The Slaughter House, Liverpool

“Most Haunted” is back, and Season 19’s third episode will air on UKTV’s Really channel (Friday, 28 Apr 2017, 10 PM).

haunted Slaughter House, Liverpool
photo courtesy: User Rept0n1x at Wikimedia Commons

This episode was filmed at The Slaughter House in Liverpool, England. (Actual filming was September 2016.)

The haunted Slaughter House Pub is one of many famous ghostly sites in Liverpool. It’s also the city’s oldest pub.

(The pub’s name gives me the creeps. I’m not sure I’d choose it as a place to relax and forget the troubles of the day. But, it has a great reputation and is popular with tourists as well as local residents.)

According to the Paranormal Database, the Slaughter House’s ghosts include two spirits who live in the cellar, and sometimes appear near the bar.

However, other reports suggest even more entities at the site.

Was it a slaughterhouse?

The obvious question is: Was the haunted Slaughter House really a slaughterhouse?

According to researcher Tom Slemen, the answer is no. It was never an “abbatoir” as some were called. (Other terms included “fleshers” and “flesh markets.”)

Mr. Slemen lists several previous owners and businesses at the Fenwick Street location.

I checked his research, and confirmed his results.

For example, I had no trouble finding Peter Edwards in the 1827 Liverpool city directory, with an office where the Slaughter House is, today. (His residence was 11 Portland Street. His office was 15 Fenwick Street.)

Peter Edwards - Slaughter House - 1827

However, I’m not sure if Mr. Slemen studied anything before the late 18th century. (Generally, I like to go back at least to the 16th century, and as far back as the 14th – or earlier – if I can.)

Liverpool directories didn’t exist in earlier times, so it’s not an easy task.

So, Mr. Slemen’s initial study may not reflect the whole story. In fact, Alex of Auld City tours says the Slaughter House site was an abbatoir.

Until I can study this further, I’m reluctant to say it was never an abbatoir.

Note: English history goes much further back than modern records. Also, hauntings like the Slaughter House’s usually indicate a lengthy, turbulent past.

So, I cast a wide research net, and don’t rule out anything until I’ve triple-checked it.

If you’d like to dig further into history, see my preliminary notes about the Slaughter House site: Haunted History: The Slaughter House, Liverpool.

The Slaughter House’s Ghost Stories

Reports at the pub include the sound of a little boy ghost, hair being moved by invisible fingers, other poltergeist activity, and the sound of glasses clinking when no one is nearby.

The best description of the Slaughter House’s ghosts appeared in a 2004 article, quoted at YO! Liverpool.

Here’s some of that article:

[from the cellar] …We decide to go walkabout. On the “evil” stairs leading out, the ghostometer begins to sound uncomfortable and Billy claims he feels a presence but nothing too strong and certainly not malevolent.

We proceed to the top floor and it’s here, at the top of the stairwell, that Billy first detects something.

“The impression that I get here is that there was some kind of self destruction that somebody committed suicide. Somebody died in this area but it must have been some time ago. It was a man who hanged himself here.”

The ghostometer duly goes slightly bonkers emitting a fluctuating whine like that of the dentist’s drill. We head a little more quickly back downstairs where, back in the bar, it’s thought that it might be a good idea if Billy went back down in the cellar, alone this time, so as not to be distracted.

Billy, for some reason, doesn’t agree.

Minutes later Joe and I are perched on stools downstairs and after a brief surf with the divining rods – this area of the city apparently being awash with ley lines which convey psychic power – Billy has placed the ghostometer at the centre of the low stage at the far end of the room.

He then retreats to another stool on the far side where he sits occasionally stroking his chin apparently preoccupied in thought.

No words are spoken. The only sound is the warble of the ghostometer in mild distress.

Ten minutes later Billy springs up and walks over. “I’ve just been having a conversation,” he says calmly and then points at the stage.

“It’s a guy sitting over there. He says his name’s is Walter Langton. He worked here in the 1800s. He’s very rude and bad tempered and he says he wants to do me harm. I’ve told him he can’t. He chooses to be here. He also knows that we are here and he wants us to go. But I don’t feel intimidated.”

Billy then says that there is another presence on the stage. It’s a middle-aged woman dressed in grubby smock and bonnet. She’s possibly from the 19th century and called Meg or Mary. She’s unaware of us but is apparently looking for her son.

” He was crushed to death here,” adds Billy simply.

Needless to say neither Joe or I have seen or heard anything – it is, unfortunately, the drawback of the medium’s trade that concrete proof is hard to produce.

Nevertheless there’s an unnerving feeling that we’re not alone and there’s relief in finding the stairwell behind the bar – and not adjacent to Walter’s alleged spot at corner of the stage – to return to a curious Adam and co upstairs.

Walter Langton Research

Because Liverpool was a very active port in the 1800s, it’s difficult to pinpoint just one likely person.

Walter Langton might have worked at the site briefly, waiting for a ship to sail, or immediately after he arrived in England from Canada or the United States.

I found a Walter Langton, born around 1863 in Plymouth (England), who was part of the crew of a ship that docked regularly in Liverpool.

Casting a wider net, using “sound alikes” such as Langdon and Longton, I found a large array of Walters arriving and leaving on ships at the port.

A Walter Longton appeared in the 1871 census for Liverpool. He was a student and the son of a farmer. He was born around 1860. I have no further info about him.

My “gut feeling” is that the Slaughter House’s Walter Langton may have been a transient.

(For more history like this — strictly for hard core ghost researchers — see my related article, Haunted History: The Slaughter House, Liverpool.)

Other investigations

Here’s one YouTube video of an informal seance (glass on a table) at the Slaughter House:

MOST HAUNTED

I’m eager to see what Yvette and her team encounter during their “Most Haunted” investigation.

And, next time I’m in Liverpool, I might investigate the Slaughter House, too. Its ghost stories sound credible and interesting.

Most Haunted Season 19 - 2017“Most Haunted” airs on UKTV’s Really channel every Friday ( #FrightDay ) at 10 PM. See their current schedule at the Really channel website.

In the US, you can watch via streaming UKTV (special US selections) on Roku.

Or, you can catch past episodes online, at https://uktvplay.uktv.co.uk/shows/most-haunted/watch-online/?video=5325442486001

Haunted History: The Slaughter House, Liverpool

history of the slaughter house, liverpoolIf you’re a ghost hunter interested in the history of the Slaughter House, here are notes from my off-site research.

(If you’re looking for Slaughter House ghost stories, see my related article, Most Haunted: The Slaughter House, Liverpool.)

The following history might connect to ghosts in and near Liverpool’s Slaughter House.

First, I researched Jane Ellison. She was a previous owner of the Slaughter House site. I’m not sure those notes are useful.

Then, I studied old maps — and business directories — looking for local clues. That historical information may be very helpful for future investigations at the Slaughter House.

Jane Ellison

Using Tom Slemen’s list of historical owners of the haunted Slaughter House site, I researched early owner Jane Ellison.

For some reason, Jane’s name seems to “light up” for me. (When I use that expression, it means the item seemed to hold my attention more than it should. That’s when I go looking for something odd to explain it.)

Jane Ellison #1

Here’s one interesting Jane Ellison, but I don’t know if she had any connection to the history of the Slaughter House.

This Jane Ellison was born about 7 March 1820 as a “female bastard” child of James Ellison, a laborer (from the nearby borough of Knowsley), and a woman whose name might be Margaret, but I can’t quite read it.

Here’s part of the court record:

court record Jane Ellison Liverpool

However, Ellison isn’t an unusual name in England.

This document does tell us that, in the early 1800s, at least one Liverpool-area Ellison caused some drama. He didn’t show up at court when charged as Jane’s father.

That’s a big red flag, if this Jane Ellison was connected with the history of the Slaughter House.

Also, in the 1766 directory, I found only one Ellison actually in Liverpool. (He was David Ellison, a watch maker on Ranelagh Street, not far from the Slaughter House site.)

So, maybe “Ellison” wasn’t a popular surname in the area, until much later.

Jane Ellison #2

Next, I found a burial record for “Jane, daughter of Jane Ellison,” who was buried 4 Oct 1819 in Liverpool.

The oddity there is that she’s just the “Jane, daughter of Jane Ellison,” without a father listed. Other entries on the same page list the mother and father of each deceased person.

Here’s the burial record:

Jane Ellison burial record 1819 Liverpool

Below, you can read the detail.

Burial record Jane Ellison Liverpool 1819

That record shows:

  • She lived on Dale Street. (It was just around the corner from Fenwick Street, where the Slaughter House is.)
  • She’s noted as a “spinster.”

So, there are two red flags connected with the name “Jane Ellison.” One was an illegitimate child, Jane Ellison, who was born in 1820.

The second (but lesser anomaly) was another Jane Ellison who appears to be a single parent, and – in 1819 – she buried a child named Jane Ellison.

In my research, I always note those kinds of anomalies. At least half the time, if they’re connected to a haunted site, their stories will be related to that site’s ghostly energy.

(Additional — but less unusual — Jane Ellison notes are at the foot of this article.)

Next, I looked at Liverpool maps and city directories. If I were investigating at the Slaughter House, I’d definitely study the maps in greater detail. I’m sure more clues are hidden in the history of the neighborhood.

MAP STUDY

If you’re researching the haunted Slaughter House’s history, here’s how the immediate area looked in 1766 Gore’s Liverpool Directory. (That directory is available, online.)

Slaughter House area Liverpool - 1766

Here’s a transparent overlay of the current Slaughter House site (courtesy Google Maps), on that 1766 map.

Overlay Google Maps and 1766 Liverpool

So, if you’re studying what was where in the late 18th century, the green arrow, on the map below, points to the current Slaughter House site.

I’m not sure what the “Dry Bn” was, or if that’s what the map says. But, I’d look at the history of the area where Fenwick Street (circled in red) intersected with Moore Street and — on the 1766 map — what’s indicated as Castle hill.

I’d also look at what was on Castle Street, in or close to the same building.

Fenwick Street and the Slaughter House 1766

In 1766, these were businesses on or near Fenwick Street:

1766 directory of businesses at or near the Slaughter House

“Peter Carson, dancing-master” caught my attention. From my previous research involving dancing-masters, he’s likely to have a colorful history. (But, to be fair, “dancing-master” didn’t always indicate something other than dancing lessons.)

Other directory notes

Surveying the area, I have an uneasy feeling about nearby Castle Street, where a “cabinetmaker and toyman” business was mentioned. Perhaps something there was connected to the Slaughter House’s ghost stories.

And, Thomas Banner was an innkeeper at the Golden Fleece on nearby Dale Street. It was a long street, so that may not be near the Slaughter House site. It simply caught my attention as I was studying the area. (Also on that street, an inn called the Golden Lion. Interesting juxtaposition of names, particularly if they were near one another.)

Note: Every “Golden Fleece” I’ve researched has had more ghost stories than average. One usually involves a man chasing a woman as she fled for her life. Some of those tales ended more happily than others.

If you find more useful history related to the Slaughter House ghosts, let me know in comments, below.

Slaughter House photo courtesy Rodhullandemu

divider

Additional notes about jane ellison

I’m including the following notes about Jane Ellison of Liverpool, for dedicated researchers who may find them useful. At this point, these Jane Ellisons don’t necessarily connect to the history of the Slaughter House or its ghosts.

Jane Ellison #3

This is not unusual; I’m including it in case it’s pertinent, later.

A Jane Ellison, age 75, was buried on 24 Jan 1838. (Born around 1763.) She died in the workhouse.

Aside from living to a grand old age (for that era), and the sadness of dying in a workhouse on a cold January day, there’s nothing of note in this. But, she could have been the surviving Jane Ellison #2 (above).

Jane Ellison died 1838 Liverpool workhouse

Jane Ellison #4

I’m not sure this has anything to do with the Slaughter House, either, but I found the “Will of Jane Ellison, Spinster” in Liverpool. (Reading it requires a fee, and I’m not that interested… yet.)

Note: If she is related to history of the Slaughter House, I’d read that will. Wills and probate records sometimes include the oddest details that can shed light on paranormal activity.

Jane Ellison #5

Here’s the marriage record of another Jane Ellison. Nothing odd here, but it may be useful, later.

Marriage: 26 Oct 1871 St Michael in the Hamlet, Aigburth, Lancs. (in Liverpool)
Joseph Craven – 25 Mariner Bachelor of St James Place
Jane Ellison – 22 Spinster of Collins St
Groom’s Father: William Craven, Builder
Bride’s Father: John Ellison, Labourer
Witness: Thomas Craven; Mary Ann Ellison

Most Haunted UK – It’s Back!

Most Haunted Season 19 - 2017Yvette Fielding is back with Season 19 of “Most Haunted.”

From the first episode (at the Abbey House Museum), it looks like she’s keeping the show authentic, with genuine frights.

Yes, she still startles easily. And shrieks.

But, she also resumes her composure quickly, and follows-up with an immediate second look at what might have caused whatever-it-was.

I respect her for that. (No matter how long you’ve been investigating paranormal sites, there’s always something new to startle you.)

“Most Haunted” airs on Fridays at 10 PM in the UK. (It’s on Really, also available through the UKTV channel on Roku and other US streaming services.)

I’ll be watching the second episode tonight. The location is likely to be the stables at Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire, England.

For background on the site, see Project Reveal – http://www.project-reveal.com/wentworth-ghosts/4540123959

I’m most interested in Wentworth’s “Black Shuck” legends. I have no idea whether the “Most Haunted” team will encounter one of those sinister creatures.

Weird, Scary & UnusualI wrote about the Black Shuck in Armchair Reader: Weird, Scary, and Unusual. (That book is out of print, but you can still find inexpensive, used copies at Amazon.)

The word “shuck” may come from the word “scucca,” meaning “demon.” Or, it might be from a local term, “shucky,” meaning shaggy or hairy. (See Black Shuck at Wikipedia.)

My research also connected the sinister Shuck to real dogs and to the English Civil War (1642 – 1651).

The Black Shuck appears in the truly eerie Cabell family legends (basis of Conan Doyle’s “Hound of the Baskervilles” story) in the town of Cromer, in Norfolk, England. That story had an English Civil War connection.

Thomas Wentworth 1641 Earl StraffordLikewise, the Yorkshire Wentworth family (in this new “Most Haunted” episode) faced tragedy during the Civil War.

For example, Thomas Wentworth, the 1st Earl of Strafford — shown at left, with one of his dogs — was impeached under the reign of Charles I, and executed in 1641 at Tower Hill.

(When King Charles I was beheaded several years later, he said his own death was a form of penance, because he’d allowed the execution of Wentworth.)

So, the Wentworth family history was turbulent. It’s the kind of story that often leads to hauntings. Any location associated with the Wentworths is a good site for ghost investigations.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure why these “shuck” stories seem consistently connected with the English Civil War. That will require more research.

However, similar spectral hounds have been sighted regularly:

  • Near Blythburgh’s Holy Trinity Church (also called Cathedral of the Marshes),
  • Along Shuck Lane in Overstrand (Norfolk), though some claim that was a hoax. (My research uncovered reports long after the 1820 “hoax” story. So, I’d take that location seriously.)
  • And — through the 20th century — especially Coltishall Bridge, just north of Norwich.

You can read more about Black Shucks at On the trail of Black Shuck, at In:Sights, and many articles at Shuckland.

Is the Black Shuck a ghost, or from the fae world, or something else altogether? I’m undecided.

Whatever it is, it’s disturbing. I’m not sure I’d ever want to see one. According to legend, anyone seeing a Black Shuck will soon die. (However, since there are reports by those who’ve seen a Shuck recently, I’m not sure I’d take the curse seriously. I’d just prefer not to test it, myself.)

I’ll be watching “Most Haunted” tonight (Season 19, Ep. 2) to see what Yvette & her team discover. Early reports suggest the ghost of Thomas Wentworth himself.

(Unable to watch on UKTV? Catch up on recent “Most Haunted” episodes at https://uktvplay.uktv.co.uk/shows/most-haunted/watch-online/?video=5325442486001 )

Also, if you’re a fan of shows like the Haunted Collector, they’re available on UKTV’s “Really” channel, too. (This week, the Haunted Collector has been airing at midnight in England, which is late afternoon or early evening in the U.S. See the schedule at the Really Channel website.)

And yes, the hashtag for this is #FrightDay (because it sounds like “Friday,” when new “Most Haunted” episodes air). I like that.

More Americans Believe in Ghosts, Not Fewer

Full moon - ghostly sceneA decade ago, most scholars claimed that about 50% of Americans believed in ghosts or related paranormal phenomena.

Since then, those numbers may have increased. Here’s the news story:

MSU Professor: Belief in Ghosts and Other Paranormal is Strong – KEYC

“Studies indicate that 75% of Americans believe in at least one of the supernatural phenomenon surveyed, and while scholars over the last century have been predicting that believes in things such as ghosts and hauntings would dissipate as a result of the increasing efficacy of science, technology, and education. That’s just not proven true at all,” said Sociology Professor, Dennis Waskul.

Read more …

I wonder if the recent focus on “fake news” makes people less confident about supposedly reliable resources.

Left to trust their own instincts, perhaps some people realize that ghosts might be real, after all.

One intense encounter — or even an eerie experience — may be all it takes to tilt the scales from “skeptic” to “believer.”

ghostbat

Also in the news: Syfy may have cancelled Ghost Hunters, but other ghost-related shows continue to feature lesser-known haunts.

It’s smart to know what will be featured on TV, if you want to investigate a site before the energy is diluted by a fresh stream of eager, aspiring ghost hunters.

Here’s a former Ohio school that sounds interesting.

Haunted old Butler County school to be featured on national TV – Hamilton Journal News

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:27:04 GMT

Hamilton Journal News – Haunted old Butler County school to be featured on national TV. Poasttown Elementary, a former Madison Twp. school building that is now the home of Darrell and Brenda Whisman, will be featured on…
Read more …

Of course, I still recommend your own local research, to find unexplored haunts with powerful ghostly energy.

Houmas House Ghosts (and The Bachelor TV Show)

A recent episode of the American TV series, The Bachelor, was filmed at Houmas House in Louisiana.

Ghost orbs at Houmas House (Louisiana)
Orbs hover at historic (and haunted) Houmas House, LA (This is my own photo, during my stay at the site.)

Many people have written to me, asking if that house is really “one of Louisiana’s most haunted houses.”

The answer is: yes, Houmas House is very haunted. More than most Louisiana “haunted” houses, and perhaps more than most houses in America.

In fact, I once recorded a lengthy podcast about Houmas House. I need to update before restoring it, online.

Until I do, this article should answer most questions.

Houmas House’s ghosts don’t bear much resemblance to the way they were presented in The Bachelor.

In fact, I strongly object to how Houmas House — and its spirits — were portrayed in that show.

My husband and I had the honor of spending a night inside Houmas House, thanks to the hospitality of its owner, Kevin Kelly.

He knew that I would thoroughly investigate the house, unsupervised. He also knew that I’d write a blunt and honest review of what I did (and didn’t) find there.

He put no limits on what I could explore, day or night. He was a superb host, and — after a tour to show us what was where, and explain some of the house’s history — he let us wander around the house & its grounds.

I was impressed.

Houmas House is haunted for many reasons

I believe the house is truly haunted, and the energy comes from multiple sources.

First, there’s the history of the house. That includes its connection to the creation of what’s often called the Confederate flag, from the War between the States.

The house has also been the scene of several tragedies, including the loss of a family cemetery that was washed away in the early 20th century.

Then, there’s the energy that’s been brought to the house by the public. I believe that public perception can energize otherwise dormant spiritual energy. (It’s sort of like the Law of Attraction. If you believe a place is creepy and haunted, maybe your beliefs & energy contribute to it.)

The movie “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” left Houmas House with a lasting connection to ghosts, madness, and gruesome events.

Yes, that movie was filmed at Houmas House. If you saw The Bachelor episode, you may recognize the style of the staircase in the following movie trailer.

Next, I believe Houmas House contains a larger-than-average collection of haunted objects.

From quirky artwork to antique “vampire hunter” kits, to some of Anne Rice’s furniture, objects at Houmas House provide an energy mix you won’t find in many other haunts, anywhere in the world.

The other structures — small cabins, etc., that may (or may not) still be on the property — also provide reasons why the site is haunted. They have their own stories to tell. And, their energy lingers.

And finally, the location of Houmas House — near a large body of water, and where it’s placed on the road, in energy (or feng shui) terms — makes it a prime location for paranormal reports.

Some of the house’s eeriness can be attributed to infrasound from the nearby water. However, even if I discount the “creepy feeling” that seems to drift through Houmas House from time to time, infrasound can’t explain everything odd I experienced at the site.

During my visit to Houmas House, I saw several ghosts, mostly during the day.

The tall man at the front gate

In broad daylight on a sunny day, I saw a ghostly figure at the front gates. Another guest saw him, as well. We were up on the “widow’s walk” viewing deck at the top of the house.

The figure looked like a distinctive, slim, very tall man, pacing back and forth as if waiting for someone.

When I mentioned him to Kevin Kelly, he showed me an old photo. The dark-skinned man in the picture was an exact match for the slightly translucent person I’d seen at the front gates.

I had no doubt that it was the same person.

And, since I think I was the first person to report seeing that ghost, there’s no way Kevin was prepared to provide supporting evidence. (In fact, he had to go looking for the photo. When I confirmed what I’d seen, I think Kevin was more surprised than I was.)

The little girl on the stairs

Visitors and construction workers (making repairs and renovations) have reported a little girl on the house’s distinctive spiral staircase.

Kevin showed me one photo that I didn’t think was credible. But, I’ve heard and read other reports of the figure, and those were believable.

During my visit, I sensed something on the stairs, but I can’t claim that I saw a convincing apparition.

The ghost in the Bette Davis room

I believe that I saw a reflection of a reflection of a little girl in the room where actress Bette Davis had slept during the filming of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

The reflection appeared on the glass front of a clock in that room.

I turned to see who was behind me. That’s when I saw the reflection of a little girl across the room. She was very small, no more than about five years old… maybe slightly older, if she was particularly petite.

She was there… and then she was gone. All I can tell you is that I had the idea that one of her arms was injured or even deformed. It’s as if she was concealing it.

As I recall, I saw her in a mirror in that room. But, I’ll need to find my notes (and my old photos from that visit) to confirm that.

Kevin didn’t seem to think that Bette Davis experienced anything unusual when she slept in that room.

However, any ghost with an ounce of sense would stay far away from Ms. Davis. She was known for being strong-willed and sharp-tongued. She would not willingly share her room with a ghost.

Those are the ghosts I clearly recall from my visit to Houmas House. (My husband and I slept soundly in a guest room on the top floor of the house. If that floor was haunted, the ghosts didn’t disturb me that night.)

The Bachelor TV show… and poor production decisions

The Houmas House episode of The Bachelor was embarrassing to watch.

From the start, I was skeptical when the ghostly little girl was given a name, “May.”

Perhaps someone has successfully documented the ghost’s identity, but the Houmas House website doesn’t suggest that.

Then, the doll that they showed in the glass case did not seem to fit the correct time period. (Also, the staging with “Boo” outside, saying that someone had disturbed the doll… it seemed added as an after-thought. It didn’t make much sense.)

When Houmas House’s lights suddenly went out, and then when the chandelier seemed to crash (almost) to the floor, I was ready to stop watching the show.

Those kinds of things don’t happen in most truly haunted houses. Most of the time, they’re staged for silly movies and TV shows.

My biggest complaint was related to the Ouija board scene.

Yes, the letters had been painted white. That doesn’t make the board any less dangerous.

There is no way I’d allow anyone to use a Ouija board at a haunted site, unless everyone involved knew exactly what the risks might be.

(I’m not saying that Ouija boards are inherently evil. My personal issue with Ouija boards is that too many people use them for “fun,” not realizing that some divination tools open doors. Once a door is opened, an unprotected person can be at risk.)

Ouija board issues

In the following YouTube video (actually, an audio with video added later), John Zaffis talks about his experiences with Zozo and Ouija boards.

(I’ve known John Zaffis for about 20 years, and I respect him. He’s very different from how he was portrayed on the Haunted Collector TV show. If I’d ever considered accepting a role on a ghost-related TV show… well, after seeing how they edited John, there’s no way I’d put my reputation in the hands of TV producers.)

Also, in this video, that silliness about Aleister Crowley using the Sun symbol as something evil, and other text & images added to the video…? Ignore them. I’m including this video only for John’s description of the Zozo phenomenon.

And, since I mentioned the weird, strange, and possibly haunted objects at Houmas House, here’s a video of John Zaffis sharing his views on that topic.

I don’t agree with him on all points, but I definitely defer to his greater experience in the field of dangerous haunted objects, and demon-like entities.

Houmas House is worth visiting

Despite my skepticism and irritation with how Houmas House was portrayed on The Bachelor, the site is definitely worth visiting.

That’s not just because you might encounter a ghost in broad daylight.

It’s also because the house is magnificent, it has a fascinating history, and it represents an era (and architecture) you rarely see so well-preserved, anywhere in the South.

[When I find my old notes & photos related to Houmas House’s ghosts, I’ll add them at this website. For now, this summary should explain why I believe the house is haunted… and why you shouldn’t judge it by what was shown on The Bachelor.]

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.