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.

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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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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Unexpected materials in gravestones

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

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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.

 

Haunted Cemeteries – Watch Out for Metal

It would be simple to say, “avoid metal when ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries.”

Unfortunately, the metal issue is more complex. Like many things we encounter when ghost hunting, there are two (or more) sides to this topic.

An abundance of metal in a haunted Columbus (TX) cemetery.
This Columbus (TX) cemetery is lovely, and has an abundance of metal in it.

Metal can retain magnetic charge. That can happen for a variety of reasons, and it’s so common, you must do a baseline check of anything metal near your equipment. You’ll also look for things that might contain metal, including reinforced cement walls and some gravestones that have been mounted with metal supports (inside) or broken headstones repaired with metal.

One of the biggest surprises was when we were investigating a Northfield (NH, USA) cemetery and kept seeing strange, fleeting EMF spikes near the stone wall surrounding the cemetery.

We finally found some barbed wire that a tree had grown around — the wire was barely noticeable at dusk, but we found it on a follow-up visit in daylight (photo below) — and parts of it seemed to retain magnetic energy.

So, look carefully for any metal that might need a baseline check.

However, as I said, there’s another side to this: Metal might attract ghostly energy, as well. We’re still trying to figure this out, but — for now — I recommend looking for metal when you’re in a haunted cemetery. As long as you do baseline checks, so the metal doesn’t skew your EMF readings, you might benefit from nearby metal.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Metal — and I don’t mean just shiny, reflective metal — seems to increase the likelihood of orbs. As you can see in the photos, below, orbs show up around old, corroded and mossy metal.
  • We seem to record better EVP around metal in cemeteries. Is it acting like an antenna or an amplifier? I have no idea.
  • Then there’s what seems to happen to metal at some cemeteries. As some photos show, the metal — especially wrought iron — seems to get twisted. It’s unlikely anyone stood there and did that with their bare hands.

The twisting is difficult to explain. Initially, I figured the iron fences had been taken down at some point, and stacked, and some of the metal bent under the weight. Or, I thought a branch might have fallen and bent the metal on impact.

Those are reasonable explanations for some twisted cemetery fences, but that’s not enough to explain the volume of distortion I’ve seen in haunted cemeteries across the U.S. and Britain.

The following photos show some examples of metal to look for — and look out for — when you’re ghost hunting in cemeteries.

Click on any photo to see it larger.

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Metal in cemeteries

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To learn more about getting the most from haunted cemetery investigations, read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Haunted Cemeteries – Unmarked Graves

Unmarked graves can be among the most active areas in any cemetery.  However, they can be among the most difficult — and perhaps dangerous — to deal with.

Many unmarked graves reflect a sad story. Perhaps the family couldn’t afford a gravestone, or the marker was moved, lost, or stolen. In some cases, the graves contain multiple bodies, especially from times of war, or rampant and contagious disease when the bodies had to be put to rest quickly.

Others graves are unmarked for a reason: The deceased may have been a criminal, or despised by family and community.

It’s difficult to know. However, unmarked graves can be haunted by angry or even mean spirits. EVP from those gravesites can tell quite a story.

The following photos show examples of unmarked graves.

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Unmarked graves

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In three photos, you can see what to look for in some cemeteries: depressions in the ground. They’re easiest to spot when a natural feature — stacks of leaves or parched grass — define them.

Two photos show signs that indicate unmarked graves. They could be anywhere in the cemetery. (The metal marker is from City Cemetery in Columbus, Texas. It’s one of my favorite ghost hunting locations. The other is a marker at a cemetery in Austin, Texas. The bodies probably aren’t there. The marker is a memorial to the many soldiers who never returned, and are buried in unknown locations where the American Civil War (the War between the States) was fought.

One photo shows a large family plot at Arch Hill Cemetery in Northfield, NH (USA). That’s an odd plot because it’s well defined. The memorial indicates that the family was wealthy at one time. However, the size of the plot and the lack of markers to indicate others buried there… that’s odd.

I explain more about unmarked graves in my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Haunted Cemeteries and Damaged Crypts

Unlike broken and discarded headstones, severely damaged above-ground graves and crypts may not be as useful for paranormal research. Not if you’re looking for ghosts, anyway.

It seems to be one extreme or the other. Either the ghost shows up to complain whenever he (or she) realizes an audience is present… or the ghost has long abandoned the grave. Either he’s crossed over, or he’s followed the body (or selected pieces of it) to wherever it’s stored, now.

Click on any photo to see the larger version.

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Broken gravestones

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In my experience, many empty graves and open crypts attract something non-ghostly. For all I know, they’re aliens. I’m not really sure, and that’s not my research field, anyway.

I know that something seems to frequent those sites, and it’s not human. Never was, unless it’s the ghost of a completely emotionless sociopath.

I avoid whatever-it-is. Ovilus responses are weird. EMF can be even stranger. I haven’t tried EVP at those locations.  It’s not a ghost, so I’m not interested.

You may feel differently. Investigate at your own risk.

Above all, do not enter an open crypt. That’s trespassing, and the air inside could make you ill, at the very least.

According to local lore, bodies in crypts in New Orleans (and probably other very hot climates) decay to dust within a year. So, those warm-climate crypts are probably less risky than those in more northern locations. However, you still run the risk of inhaling dust from rat droppings and health-endangering bacteria and viruses.

Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries – Outside Graves

The following photos are related to research techniques described in my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

All of the following photos are from South Street cemetery in Portsmouth, NH (USA), and they’re within about 30 feet of the cemetery walls.

The “Where’s Waldo?” photos aren’t related to anyone actually named Waldo. The term references a children’s book, because it’s such a challenge to spot these kinds of headstones in wooded settings.

Note: Several years ago, after my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, was published, one of Mr. Mooney’s relatives contacted me. She planned to have the stone restored to the deceased’s grave.

Click any image to see it larger.

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

Graves outside cemetery walls

GhostHuntingCemeteries-200hThe hidden gravestone is in a directly in line with where the toe of my shoe points. Only the very tip of the stone (or perhaps a corner of it) is above the ground. It’s in the top 1/3 of the photo, and between two somewhat horizontal sticks.

For more book-related photos, see my Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries article.

To understand how these photos relate to ghost hunting, read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.
This edition is now out-of-print, but you can find it at many public libraries.

Paragenealogy

ParagenealogyParagenealogy, by Fiona Broome (work in progress)

My upcoming book, Paragenealogy, explains how to use historical records to correctly identify haunted places, uncover the roots of each site’s ghost stories, and sometimes help spirits with unfinished business.

Book ETA: 2016

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Summary

Paragenealogy is the study of history related to paranormal places and events.

That history is important.

For example, without historical documentation, hauntings become mere “ghost stories.”

With documented history, we can understand haunted places, faerie lore and alien tales.  We can predict recurring manifestations and gain insights to residual and active hauntings.

This research involves traditional genealogical resources as well as input from psychics and folklore. Since I started ghost research in the late 1970s, it’s how I’ve evaluated ghost stories and studied haunted places.

Now, it’s the subject of a book I’m working on.

Paragenealogists start with a broad study of the location, events, and personalities that may relate to a ghost or other paranormal encounter.

Through trial and error, that focus narrows. You’ll isolate credible factors that fit the reported activity, and look closely at those that conflict.

Paragenealogy is a precise study.  If you’re a fast learner, you can learn the basics within hours. However, I’ll be honest: The most accurate research and conclusions may require years of experience in both traditional genealogy and paranormal studies.

That said, anyone can learn the basics and make important discoveries.  If your home is haunted or you’d like to learn more about a paranormal location, you can use traditional genealogical resources. They can be time-consuming to use (especially if they’re not indexed), but most of them aren’t very complicated. A beginner can dig up a lot of important and useful information.

For example, census records and deeds will tell you about the people who’ve lived in a particular home.  Vital records, where available, will fill in details about an individual, so we can compare that information with what seems to present as a ghost.

Then, you can compare “ghost stories” with what you’ve learned. Does the reported ghost seems to match for a real person? Did he or she have a good reason to be at that location… and perhaps haunt it, later?

CASE STUDY: JAMES SHERAN (ca. 1827 – 1854)

James Sheran memorial marker
A memorial like this gives you a good start if the related grave seems haunted.

Let’s say you’re researching a haunting at the memorial for James Sheran. (Photo at right.) A quick search of the Internet will give you a little more information.

Further research leads to this information: “The graves located in this cemetery were moved when a lake was formed on the river they obviously were working for and during the gold rush.” That means his gravestone — and, I hope, his body — were moved from their original resting place. Some spirits don’t like that, and regularly return to the new grave to be sure it isn’t moved again.

However, many markers that say “in memory of…” are just that: markers, not gravestones.

Sheran’s death was sudden and tragic, according to this description, “They were digging or panning for gold along either the Calaveras or Mokelumne river when the wet bank caved in on his friend and this Mullaney carved the stone for his companion.”

  • Next, you’d search Calaveras County (CA, USA) death records for the 9th of December 1854. A death certificate may be the most important record for a ghost hunter. It will tell you a lot more about Mr. Sheran, including where he lived. (Online records aren’t as reliable as death records you can search — in person — at the state or county level.)
  • A memorial like that was fairly expensive. Either he was successful in the gold rush, or he was well-liked and had many friends who contributed to his memorial fund. (Probably the latter.) So, there could be more records about this James Sheran.
  • Note: You could take your search back to County Mayo (Ireland) records, but I don’t recommend it. The name “James Sheran” wasn’t unusual enough. Even in the United States, it may be a challenge to separate his records from other James Sherans, Sheerans, Sheehans, etc. of that same era.

However, with just the information from Mr. Sheran’s death certificate, you’ll know a lot more about him. Using those facts, you can decide if the ghostly manifestation seems to match him, or if the ghost may be someone else altogether. (In some communities, graves were several coffins deep. So, your ghost might be someone else in the same plot as Mr. Sheran and his impressive memorial.)

If you’re working with a psychic, or you’re able to use any ghost hunting device (like an EMF meter) with yes/no questions, you may find more pieces of the puzzle. Eventually, you may identify the ghost with certainty.

There’s a lot more to paragenealogy, but what I’ve explained, above, is a good, basic start. In many cases, you can unearth the truth within hours.

If you want to know the real story behind a haunting, and the ghosts’ actual identity and history, paragenealogy is where you’ll begin.

Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries

Cemetery - Image by suga_shackGhost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries is Fiona Broome’s original book about finding and evaluating the best haunted cemeteries, and locating the most active areas in them.

People pass by haunted cemeteries every day and don’t notice them. This book helps ghost hunters of all levels discover great haunted sites near their homes, schools, and businesses.

The early editions of Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries are now out of print. However, many public libraries own copies of it. And, some booksellers may still have the book in stock.

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Related to Chapter 4

Related to Chapter 5

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Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries - 3rd editionABOUT THE BOOK This book will be most interesting to two very different kinds of readers.

  • Beginners will learn how to find local haunted cemeteries that are free (and legal) to visit. New ghost hunters will discover the tips & tricks that professionals use to find the most haunted cemeteries — and the ghosts in them — quickly and easily. This book is a quick course in ghost hunting at haunted cemeteries, taking readers from absolute beginner to confident researcher in a short amount of time.
  • Professionals will probably skim the introductory materials and then discover Fiona’s best-kept secrets to identifying the most active, haunted cemeteries and the “hot spots” in them. Ms. Broome shares tips to locate “sinners’” graves at church and community cemeteries. She also explains two fast & easy ways to find some of the most active graves as soon as you walk through the cemetery gates. Whether you’re conducting your own research, training a team, or conducting a ghost-related event, you’ll find useful tips and tricks in this book.

To learn more about ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries, read the book. Ask your public library if they own a copy.  (You may also find used copies of this book, online.)