“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.
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 …
A recent episode of the American TV series, The Bachelor, was filmed at Houmas House in Louisiana.
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.”
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.]
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 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.)
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.
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.)
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.
Oh, 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.
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.
First, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.”
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.
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…”
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.”
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.
The mystery may have been solved. According to recent research, Gallows Hill Park in Salem, Massachusetts, isn’t where the accused “witches” were hanged. It seems that the real location might have been nearby Proctor’s Ledge.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
(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.)
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.
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.
Captain 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.
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.
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.