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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Until the gallery images are restored, here are some thumbnails of what you’ll see, later. Every (larger) image includes the kind of metal you should watch for, so you don’t get false EMF (magnetic) readings.

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.

Ghost Photos – False Anomaly Tests

The following are a few photos from more than six years’ tests, trying to fake convincing “ghost photos.” I tried to recreate circumstances I’d blamed for photos with orbs, apparent vortices, and so on.

All of these pictures were taken in low-light conditions. I always used the flash on my camera to try to highlight the deceptive object or issue. I wanted to create false anomalies.

The first group of photos are things that could look paranormal if you didn’t know what was in the picture. Half of the photos show a single piece of hair or a few strands of it. That could happen if a photographer has long hair (as I do) and doesn’t pin it back.

The other photos in this first group show camera straps. I used to think pictures of camera straps always showed both ends of the strap exiting the frame of the photo. Not true. Now I know the weird, textured shape can even seem suspended in front of the photographer.

Also, my camera strap is almost black. The reason it looks white is because the camera’s flash is very bright, and it highlights the camera strap.

About 90% of the “vortex” pictures I’ve seen were probably camera straps, or something like them. If you use a camera strap (recommended, especially in dark settings), be sure to loop it around your wrist or — if it’s a very long strap — over your arm or shoulder.

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Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows thumbnails of the kinds of pictures that were in my book.

Photos of hair and camera straps

The second group of photos (below) shows how difficult it is to create convincing, fake “ghost orbs.”

The first few pictures are flash photos taken on a densely foggy morning. Even the one with the white lines (a spiderweb) doesn’t show convincing-looking orbs.

Next, you can see some smoke photos. Unless your camera is sensitive to smoke, you’d need to be surrounded by smokers for smoke to be a significant issue.  Regular cigarette smoke barely showed up. When we tested clove cigarettes (a different density of smoke), that was slightly more convincing.

Incense looked anomalous in my photos. However, unless your team is using a sage smudge, or the client burns lots of incense at home, I’m not certain we need to be concerned about smoke.

I could not get chimney smoke to show up in photos. Unless weather conditions are “just so,” hot air — and woodsmoke — rise into the atmosphere. Smoke is not likely to descend and remain thick enough to be an issue.  However, smoke from a nearby campfire could be an issue.

The remaining photos show some random samples of test photos, trying to create lens flares and fake orbs. Insects, house lights, and even sparkly, reflective jewelry didn’t produce anything noteworthy.

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Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows thumbnails of the kinds of pictures that were in my book.

Attempts to create false orbs and anomalies

After years of study, using film and digital cameras, I finally had to admit that I’d been mistaken about false, ghostly anomalies.

  • Orbs are much harder to fake than I’d expected. Moisture, reflective surfaces, and even house lights rarely create convincing orbs. Most lens flares are too obvious to confuse with unexplained orbs, and lens flares are far more difficult to create in typical ghost hunting circumstances.
  • Camera straps can cause “vortex” images, even if one or two ends of the strap seem to vanish in the photo. Keep your camera strap wound around your wrist or arm.
  • Hair can cause weird looking lines and swirls, some of them dotted with an orb at the end. Wear a scarf if you’re taking ghost photos.
  • Cigarette smoke is very difficult to capture in a photo. We tried traditional cigarettes (it’s nearly invisible) and clove cigarettes (before the ban). Cloves gave better results, but still aren’t much to worry about.
  • Smoke from the right incense can appear ghostly. However, unless you’re using sage smudges at a site, I don’t think that’s an issue. Cone incense and incense on charcoal dispersed too quickly to photograph. Stick incense produced the best results, but it had to be waved right in front of the lens, even on a very still night.
  • Fog causes faint, repeating orbs. In hundreds of foggy photos, I saw nothing I’d confuse with a ghostly orb.
  • Jewelry, house lights, and spider webs don’t seem to create confusing images in photos.

Don’t take my word for it. That’s important. Run tests with your own cameras. Know how they respond to these kinds of issues. No two cameras have the same sensitivities.

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

Related information

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.

Ghosts of Gilson Road Cemetery

Gilson Road Cemetery is in Nashua, New Hampshire. It’s one of America’s most haunted cemeteries. Once an isolated and rural location, it’s  features apparitions, cold spots, compass and EMF anomalies, EVP, and visual anomalies that show up in photos and videos.

Blue flowers at Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NHGilson Road Cemetery is on Gilson Road, on the west side of Nashua, NH (USA).

Directions: From the south (Massachusetts), take Rte 3 (Daniel Webster Highway) to Exit 1 in NH (Spit Brook Road).

Turn left at the end of the exit ramp. Follow that road — despite how it weaves and how often the name changes — until you reach the T-style intersection at the end of it.

Then, turn right and look for the four corners intersection (convenience store and other retail) at Gilson Road.

Turn left onto Gilson Road and look for the gate and stone wall on the right, shielding the cemetery from view.

Ghost orb at Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NHGilson Road Cemetery probably started as a family cemetery in colonial times. According to legend, the stone wall enclosed a farmhouse. Then, the house burned and some of the fire victims were buried in a small plot near the charred remains of the house.

Another house was built on the site, but it burned to the ground, as well. Like the previous fire, its victims were buried close to the home.

After that, people gave up on the location and turned it into a rural cemetery.

Early records suggest that the Gilson Road area was the site of at least two large Native American battles. Nations from the north (Penobscots, among others) and from the south (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and beyond) met near Gilson Road and engaged in bloody warfare. This was before many contemporary records existed, so the stories are largely from oral tradition. Details aren’t clear.

Click here for a brief selection of photos from haunted Gilson Road Cemetery.

Also, at this website, I’ve written extensively about this remarkable cemetery. See the Sitemap, or look for more articles in this category.

Gilson Road Cemetery Photos

These are a sample of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken during my 15+ years’ research at Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NH (USA).

Hover your cursor over any photo to see a brief description. Click on it to see the photo larger, with additional information.

Tip: Move your cursor away from the enlarged photo so the additional information — not the navigation — is clearly visible.

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Gilson Rd Cemetery photos

 

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Ghosts of Salem, Massachusetts

Window at the Rebecca Nurse homestead, Danvers, MA (she was among the accused)Salem is haunted. Not just by the ghosts of the Salem Witch Trials, but by other troubled spirits as well.

I grew up not far from Salem.

So, I’m familiar with its ghosts… the ones people talk about, as well as they ones they don’t.

From 2008 through 2010, I researched on-site, discovering a wealth of hidden ghost stories related to Salem and the city’s famous Witch Trials.

(Of course, it helps that I’m descended from two 17th-century Salem families. I like to think I have additional resonance with the spirits of Salem.)

Three very narrow and straight ley lines connect 90% of the hauntings around Salem. They predict where strange things will happen, usually within a few yards.

In the future, I hope to write a book about this fascinating topic.

In the meantime, I’m happy to share some of my research with you.

More information:

Salem’s “Judges’ Line” locations – Energy lines (ley lines) that connect many of Salem’s most haunted sites.

Gallows Hill – So far, no one knows where the real “gallows hill” was, where the witches were hung and their bodies discarded. However, the namesake location is worth visiting (if only to say you’ve been there) and may offer some research opportunities.

Witch Hill (aka Whipple Hill) – One of the most infamous locations connected with apparent “witch” activity in Salem Village. It’s also one of the loveliest and eeriest sites for ghost hunting.

GhoStock 7 Report: Salem Inn – A brief summary of my 2009 investigation at one of Salem’s most charmingly haunted inns.

Book ETA: Unknown. Discussions have stalled with my publisher, and my contract prohibits me from writing this book for any other publishing house.

Gallows Hill – Salem, MA

Gallows Hill is among Salem’s most famous site related to the witch trials of 1692. However, no one is certain of its historic location.

Between colonial Salem (MA) homes.Today, a site called Gallows Hill rises above a children’s playground and sports field. It’s surrounded by single-family homes in a quiet residential neighborhood.

But, is it that the hill where “witches” were actually hung? Evidence is scant and unreliable.

Most researchers use Sydney Perley’s 1933 map of Salem, showing Gallows Hill near Pope and Proctor Streets, near an inlet from North River.

Upham’s 1866 map of Salem Village offers similar information, and was probably among Perley’s resources.

We can learn a lot from the land formations of 1692, and compare them with areas that have — and haven’t — been filled since then.

In addition, Welsh researcher Gavin Cromwell* and I conducted paranormal research at Halloween 2008. Our discoveries suggest at least one additional spiritually-charged location near the current Gallows Hill site.

The land beneath the hill seemed generally normal. Perhaps the regular Witch gatherings — especially the huge one at Samhain (Halloween) — have cleared the negative energy.

However, I’ve sensed something troubling in the shrubs and wooded areas between the hilltop and the land below. That may be from more recent incidents.

Graves at Salem's Old Burying Ground (MA)Researchers may never document the exact location of the hangings, or where most of the so-called witches’ bodies were buried. That includes the body of Giles Corey,** remembered for one of the Salem curses.

However, additional research may reveal locations where unmarked graves and landmarks connect us with Salem in 1692.

Since my own ancestors were in Salem during the Witch Trials, I’m especially interested in finding more about that era and the spirits that linger.

 …

*I’m confident that our experiences at Gallows Hill were genuine.

**Giles Corey’s first wife, Mary (1621 – 1684), is buried beneath a small stone at the Burying Point Cemetery, near the Witch Memorial. Her name appears as “Mary Corry” with a note that she was the wife of “Giles Corry.”

(Remember, spellings weren’t standardized until the 19th century. Many family names appear with various spellings on historic records and monuments.)