Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mingo Man is WV Penitentiary's First Prisoner of 1910

Photo from Find-a-Grave contributor,
Brenda Hatfield
Today marks the 108th anniversary of the day Tilden Browning was taken to the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville. Tilden Browning, a man from Mingo County, WV, has the distinction of being the first new prisoner brought to the penitentiary in 1910. Here is his story, as found in the January 19th, 1910 edition of the Point Pleasant Register, available on the Chronicling America website:

Tilden Browning, a one year man from Mingo county, arrived at the Moundsville penitentiary yesterday morning. Browning has the distinction of being the first convict to arrive at the prison in 1910. The sheriff of Mingo county accompanied the prisoner to the prison where he was at once placed in the hospital.

Browning was to have been brought to the pen during the latter part of 1909 but was given a respite by Gov. Glasscock. When his sentence was finally decided upon, he had contracted a serious illness, and as the penitentiary officials are not accustomed to send guards to such remote counties for one convict, Warden Matthews negotiated with the sheriff, resulting that latter accompanying the man to the prison. Mingo county officials have no accommodation for sick prisoners, and it was deemed necessary to save his life that he be brought to prison hospital. -Wheeling Telegraph.

Tilden Browning's life was indeed saved. After his release from the penitentiary, he went home to Verner, WV. He passed away on October 22, 1953 from what was believed to be gastric complications. He is buried in the Browning Cemetery. 

I will be returning to the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville later this year, and am busy compiling additional research on one of my favorite historic locations in the Mountain State! Some articles will be strictly historic, while others will definitely highlight the paranormal aspects of this super haunted prison! Keep an eye out for future blogs and a future page set aside solely for Moundsville research! 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Haunted History of Maryland's Landon House: Guest Blog #3

From Wikipedia
Theresa's Note: Today is another absolutely fascinating guest blog! I met the author, Jen, several years ago at a local festival and I'm thrilled she has decided to share these ghost stories with us! These stories are from the historic Landon/Stancioff House, located in Urbana, MD. The home has a looong history. Among other historical facts of note, at various times the house was used as a silk mill, a private residence, several educational institutions, and a field hospital during the Civil War. After reading this collection of experiences from Jen's husband and mother-in-law, I'm inclined to believe that this location may be Maryland's most haunted location! As always, please enjoy this wonderful guest submission. A huge THANK YOU goes to Jen and her family for sharing these wonderful tales with us!

Jen writes:

These stories come from my husband, Dave, and his mom and pertain to the Landon House in Urbana, MD circa the early 1980's. Dave remembers hearing about a few of these right after they happened, but most of the stories were told to him later in life by my mother-in-law. He says he doesn’t remember anything that happened to him directly, outside of the last story. The women of the family were the focus for most of the hauntings as the men were usually at work when they happened.

Dave's biological father was the caretaker of the Landon House for half a year in 1982 when Dave was 5 years old. Dave, his parents, and his siblings lived in the updated left side of the house. The right side was kept original to the time period of the mansion’s heyday, with most of the original furnishings, or historic replicas, decorating it. The incidents didn’t start out small and escalate like you hear from a lot of hauntings. They started strong and stayed that way until the family left six months later.

Cherry Tobacco
Every once in a while, there was a strong smell of cherry tobacco. No one in the family smoked a pipe. The owners said that the previous owner had smoked cherry tobacco and had died in the house.

The Attic
Dave’s aunt and uncle had been living with the family prior, so naturally moved to the sprawling Landon House with them. They originally chose to stay in the attic, but soon moved to the basement as they were hearing inexplicable cannon fire from their attic room.

The Man in the Basement
The basement seemed to be worse than the attic. One day, his mom heard his aunt screaming for her from the basement. When she opened the door, the aunt ran past her, white as a ghost. She said that she couldn’t get out of the basement because there was a man blocking the door.

Footsteps on Tape
Dave’s mom wanted to see if she could record some of the noises they were hearing, so she put a blank tape into a tape player to start recording while she and the aunt took the kids to the mall. When they got back, they checked the tape. About midway through, there was the sound of walking throughout the hallway. No one had been home during that time.

Confederate Sighting
This one’s a bit short, but apparently Dave’s uncle saw a Confederate soldier run across the front yard.

They’re Heeeeeere
The kids were outside trying to climb the rope to the treehouse. Their mom went to the basement to talk to their aunt. She was down there for maybe three minutes and came back to the kitchen to find all of the cabinets open. The kids were still outside and no one else was in the house besides the two ladies.

The Dresses
There was a costume party being held in the house and Dave’s mom and aunt found a couple of dresses in a trunk in the basement. After the party, neither woman returned their dresses. Dave’s aunt kept hearing a voice telling her to put the dress back. His mom had put her dress in a box with one of the kid’s basketballs, and the basketball started bouncing on its own. They both put their dresses back into the basement trunk. His aunt and uncle were done and moved out of the house shortly afterwards.

Kick in the Butt
One of the family’s guests was laughing at an old portrait on the wall because he thought the man’s hair looked ridiculous. As he said so out loud, he felt someone kick him in the behind. He ran out of the house and never came back.

The Lady
Incidentally, living in that house is what made my husband interested in the paranormal. He says he doesn’t remember this, but his mom claims she heard him talking to someone when he was in his room playing by himself. Take that with a grain of salt, though. Kids at that age tend to talk to themselves when they’re playing. However, Dave’s mom also tells a story about Dave coming downstairs and telling his parents that there was a lady in his room. Maybe this is who he was talking to?

Soap Moving
There was an old claw foot bathtub in the upstairs bathroom. Dave’s mom was taking a bath and closed her eyes for a moment. She heard a “skreeeeech” and when she opened her eyes, the metal soap dish was on the other side of the bathtub. She was understandably upset and very sternly told whoever moved it that she was going to close her eyes, and that thing had better be back where it belonged when she opened them. She closed her eyes again, and heard the “skreeeeech”. When she peeked, the soap dish was back on the other side. No word on whether she took quick showers after that. But she did tell the ghost off for peeking at her in the bath.

After all of this, the family had a priest come and exorcise the house. For some reason, he had a psychic with him. In the basement, the psychic said “something bad happened down here”. Dave’s mom pointed to the shackles on the wall like they hadn’t already figured that out. Dave’s parents owned a used toy store at the time, so they took the kids there to stay overnight while the exorcism was taking place at Landon. On their way back home early the next morning, the family stopped at the local convenience store across the street from the house and two of the employees joked that they weren’t invited to the party. Apparently, after the priest and his assistant had left the night before, there were the unmistakable sounds of a party, complete with loud music and all of the lights in the house turning on and off. Dave’s aunt and uncle had already moved out by this point. Unless the priest had an impromptu dance party, there was no one in the house. Dave’s family moved out soon after this incident.

As both Dave and his mom have pointed out, the experiences of the family sound like a classic 1980's horror movie and can be a little hard to swallow. I asked about the cherry tobacco and he said that there was something about the former owners in one of the Frederick County ghost books. Not only did I possibly find some answers as to what they experienced, but I’m a little creeped out that several of the hauntings they claim to have gone through have also happened to other tenants.

There is a book called “Ghosts and Legends of Frederick County” that talks about the previous owners. The book was written in 1979 by Timothy L. Cannon and Nancy F. Whitmore. I pulled out my copy to check for Landon House stories and I got chills when I read this excerpt on page 17"

“In 1862, Landon served briefly as the headquarters of General J.E.B. Stuart, until overtaken by northern troops.  During this time, Stuart was accompanied by a Colonel Luke Tiernan Brien, his chief of staff. Brien, a native of Frederick County, liked the area so much that almost 20 years after the war he and his wife purchased 180 acres of rich farm land surrounding Landon, calling their estate Tyrone.

Since the deaths of the Briens in the early 1900’s, there are those who say that Landon is haunted. Porch rockers move for no explainable reason, and on occasion an old man has been seen walking in the basement.

Recently, while in the basement, the grown son of the present owner and a friend were frightened by the appearance of the upper torso and head of an old man floating about.

The old man is believed to be the ghost of Colonel Brien.

However, Mrs. Brien is usually the more visible of the two. Children are often tucked into bed and when questioned, they insist that an old woman wearing a shawl was in their room.”


Does this mean that Dave’s lady friend was the ghostly Mrs. Brien and Mr. Brien was angry that Dave’s aunt had taken over the basement?

There was also an article in our local paper that tells the same story of the ghostly woman tucking the kids in. Katherine Marks of the Frederick News-Post wrote in a 1998 article that a woman in white was known for tucking in the children and/or bringing them milk. 

That's a whole lotta activity! Since Dave and his family's time in the house, it has changed owners several times. It became a popular wedding venue and for a time, even offered ghost tours to the public! The house has been written about in numerous books and articles, and may even be home to some additional sightings not experienced by Dave's family! Jen writes that one of the more popular contemporary tales involves ghost dogs. While in residence at the home, Dave and his mother noted that there was a living hound named Ollie on site, but no ghostly ones! Once again, thank you so much Jen!

Further Resources:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Photo Fright Bite: Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthplace

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Today is a day to reflect on the words of Dr. King, and a day to remember how his message of peace and equality is still being fought for today. However, I'd like to take a brief moment from the serious tone of the day to share a fun photo!

The photo on the left was submitted to the Angels and Ghosts website by a contributor named Miya and became that site's Ghost Photo of the Month for February 2006.

It depicts the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and seems to show a strange, unexplained light anomaly in front of the home where King spent the first 12 years of his life.

The home, located 501 Auburn Avenue in Atlanta Georgia, was originally built in 1895. In 1909, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church bought the property and moved his family in. Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, along with his wife, Jennie Celeste, raised their young daughter, Alberta Christine, in the home.

On November 25, 1926, Alberta Christine married Michael Luther King. She and her new husband continued to live in the family home, raising three children there, including Martin Luther King, Jr., originally named Michael Luther King, who was born in 1929. The family stayed in the home until the deaths of both Williams and his wife.

Today, the home is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Guided tours are available of the home, free of charge, and from what I can tell there are no ghost stories or paranormal activity associated with the home itself, despite several documented deaths occurring in the house. At least, there are no published reports of a haunting.  So, what could this anomaly be? Is it simply a camera malfunction? A reflection? Or did the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. reach out to a visiting family?

Theresa's Note: It honestly looks like this photo was taken through glass, lol. Either that, or its a photo of an older glossy photo. There's just a lot going on here...and I don't think its paranormal.
More Info:
Angels and Ghosts
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park

Spooky YouTube Subscriptions, Volume 3

Volume One
Volume Two

It's a new year and time for a new installment of YouTube recommendations! And although I've said it in the previous two volumes, I seriously cannot get enough of YouTube.  With many sites, especially ones made up of content submitted by such a variety of people, you're going to have to sift through the garbage and find the gems---but there are plenty of gems to be found. YouTube is a great resource for paranormal investigators, researchers, and enthusiasts. It is a huge repository of lectures, documentaries, investigation footage, how-to videos and so much more. My goal is to help you find some of those gems without getting too deep into the muck.

1. Ancestry---This is the YouTube channel for the popular There are lots of FREE videos offering tips on using the site and genealogy research in general. Genealogy is an important part of paranormal research and can provide vital historic clues to support or debunk an alleged haunting.

2. Mysterious WV---Well researched mini-documentaries covering West Virginia's unsolved murders.

3. WV Archives and History---If you cannot make it to one of the awesome, live lectures offered by the WV State Archives, you can find it here! There is a wide array of topics covering all aspects of West Virginia history and genealogy research. There are even a few lectures devoted to paranormal topics!

4. Peter Cardwell---Do you remember the History Channel's Haunted History of... series? That is one of my all-time favorite shows, and this YouTube user has uploaded quite a few full episodes.

5. Mothership Productions---A channel featuring tons of full-length lectures from various UFO conferences.

6. ParanormalZoneTV---Web series about all things spooky and paranormal.

7. ProfParanormal---This is the official channel of parapsychologist, Lloyd Auerbach.

8. Real Ghost Stories Online---This is pretty self-explanatory!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hugh Bragg's Execution at the Moundsville Penitentiary

Prior to 1899, any prisoner charged with the death penalty in West Virginia was put to death, typically by hanging, by the county in which the crime occurred. It was the responsibility of the sheriff's department in each county to maintain the gallows and perform the executions. 

However, that all changed with the media spectacle that was the John Morgan hanging in Ripley, WV. On December 16, 1897, John Morgan was hanged for murdering three members of the Pfost-Greene Family. It is estimated that over 6000 men, women, and even children were present at the hanging. That's a LOT of people...and a lot of people were outraged at the fact that so many citizens chose to make a spectacle out of seeing the death of a fellow human being.  Legislation was soon passed that would make any execution open only to a few select individuals. More importantly, it took the responsibility from the individual counties and placed it with the state. Beginning in 1899, all state executions would be performed at the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville.

Between 1899 and 1959, 94 prisoners were executed at the WV State Penitentiary. In August of 1899, Shep Caldwell, convicted of murdering his mistress, was the first to hang. In 1959, Elmer Bruner was the last to die, being electrocuted in the state's electric chair. And sometime in between, there was Hugh Bragg.  The following is from the May 1st, 1920 edition of the Wheeling Intelligencer

Story of the Crime Shows That There Was No Excuse and No Object

Four tall, clean-cut men stood in the throng in the death chamber at the state penitentiary at Moundsville at 5:30 o'clock Friday afternoon and saw Hugh Bragg, a legless cripple, pay the full penalty for the wanton murder of Sheriff John Dennis Morton, of Webster County, West Virginia, which took place on January 12, 1920. 

Grim and determined were these men in appearance and there were in their eyes expressions that seemed in holding with the 'eye for an eye' injunction.

They were the four brothers of the murdered sheriff, namely W.E. Morton, sheriff of Nicolas County, and George R. Martin, Pearl P. Morton, and Kennedy H. Morton.

They came to see the law of the civilized world claim for its own one who had violated it grossly and who had been sentenced to die for his crime.

Story of the Crime
Hugh Bragg paid the full penalty for killing Sheriff Morton at exactly 5:30 o'clock. The execution was successful in the fact that Bragg's neck was dislocated by the drop. He lived twelve minutes and 55 seconds after the fall through the aperture in the gallows.

Sheriff W.E. Morton, in speaking of the murder of his brother, John Dennis Morton, said: "I cannot feel the least pity for Bragg.  My brother was a kind and considerate man. Bragg had bought an auto with a forged check.  My brother caught him on the street at Cowan and told him to come along.

"Bragg accompanied my brother for a few steps and then asked to be allowed to send to his sister's house for some clothes."

Shot in the Back
"Dennis turned around to send a small boy to get the clothes and like a flash Bragg shot him in the back.  There was no motive, as Bragg was crippled and wore two artificial limbs and could not get away.  And my brother was trying to do him a favor at the time.

"The crippled man then stumped up to the second story of his home, keeping people away with his revolver.  There he secured a Winchester rifle and took up his station at an open window.

"Uncle Ed. Bobbet, a relative of the dead man, slipped up the stairs behind Bragg and the latter turned with his Winchester.  The cartridge jammed and Bobbet floored him.  As it was, Bobbet took an awful chance.

Gloried in His Crime
"Bragg then asked, 'Did I kill Dennis.' When told that he had, he exclaimed, 'Well, I am ____________ glad I did. That's just what I aimed to do.'"

Bragg was tried and sentenced to die on March 30th, last, but received a reprieve of thirty days.  Of late he has occupied himself operating a typewriting machine in his cell.  He has professed repentance and sorrow for his crime and claimed that reading the "Lives of the James Boys" had fostered in him a desire to emulate these murderous thieves of history, whom dime novel authors have thrown a halo around.

At 5 o'clock Friday afternoon the waiting room at the penitentiary was filled with a small throng awaiting the execution.

From Scene of Crime
Riley Cox, D.T. Callahan and Emery Rose, all relatives of the murdered man were present, with the four brothers, together with Dr. R. A. Ashworth and Dr. O.P. Wilson.  Several newspaper men were also present.

Supper was being served to the inmates of the prison and, as is usual, the penitentiary bad was rendering music.

Suddenly, the strains of "Nearer, My God, to Thee," swelled in the air.  What the thoughts of the condemned man were, at that time, as the grand old hymn rose out in full volume, is not known, but each one in the waiting room looked nervously at someone else.

Suddenly Warden J.Z. Terrell appeared in the door and said: 'Gentlemen, you will please form in line and any one that has fire arms on his person will leave them in the office."

Morton's Tombstone from Find-a-Grave contributor,
Sharon Bowers Curry

Took Off Their Guns
Two herculean deputies who were at the prison on business, plunged their hands under their coats and four heavy calibered revolvers were placed on the desk.

Slowly the crowd went through the circular entrance cage and when the last one had entered the steel bound courtyard, the procession was formed.  Guards looked down from their stations high on the walls and though everyone in that little moving throng knew that hundreds of eyes were looking on from the cell houses, not a sound came from these places.

Bragg had been taken from his death cell and removed to a small apartment adjoining the platform of the scaffold. Two of his brothers, Ike and Jim Bragg, had visited him earlier in the day but did not wait for the execution.

Ministers Present
Rev. H.G. Gaunt, the chaplain of the prison, was with him just before his removal from the cell, as were Rev. C. G. Slater and Arch-Deacon B.M. Spurr.  

When called to accompany the guards Bragg had just finished two letters, one to Mrs. Nellie Payne, an aunt, and the other to Miss Hazel Payne, a niece.  They were neatly typewritten and were left lying on the bed in the death cell.

It was stated by Warden Terrell that the young man exhibited the greatest composure while being taken from his cell and being bound, preparatory to his execution.

He made no offer to make any statement on the scaffold and as he did not, was not asked to, as it was decided by the officials, not to prolong the horror of the affair any longer than was necessary.

Grewsome [sic] Scene
The crowd, upon being ushered into the death chamber, stood before a raised platform, which was shrouded with a black, baize curtain.  An electric light globe could be seen through the cloth and the sound of men shuffling about and murmuring was heard.

It reminded one of a horrible movie show.

Suddenly the curtain was whisked aside. 

On the trap with its head shrouded in a black cap, arms and legs tightly strapped, stood a figure, the knot in the rope about its neck twisting its head awry.

The ministers, several guards and the warden stood near the figure.

The warden stepped to the front and said:

"Gentlemen, this is Huge Bragg, to be executed for the murder of Sheriff John Morton Dennis, of Webster County!"

Dr. Spurr then offered a brief prayer.  The warden then reached out and pressed a button.  There was an interval of about two seconds and the doomed man took a long breath, as a drowning man clutches at a straw, and the flimsy cap was drawn in against his mouth.

J.D. Morton 
Was Sudden Shock
The spectators had steeled themselves but the sudden drop of the platform and the fall of the body startled all.

There were no twitchings of the limbs, merely several convulsive movements of the chest.  The physicians applied stethoscopes to Bragg's heard and in 11 minutes and 55 seconds he was pronounced dead.

The body was then taken down and removed in an ambulance for burial.

Bragg lost his two lower limbs some years ago while working as a brakeman on the B. & O. railroad.  it is stated that he got drunk, failed to apply brakes on the train and the cars ran away down a hill.

In the ensuring wreck he sustained injuries that necessitated amputation of his lower limbs. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Infamous Its a Small World Photo

Sorry for the weird sizing of the image below, but I wanted to make sure it was big enough for you to not only read the text, but to SEE the image of the 'hanging.' 

As you can see, this is the infamous ghost photo taken from Disneyland's It's a Small World ride. Now, to many people, this ride was already super creepy. According to Undercover Tourist, the version found at Disneyland dates back to 1964 when it premiered at the World's Fair under the name Children of the World. It contains at least 240 animatronics and a soundtrack that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head. 

That many weird, moving dolls would be a nightmare to all you pediophobic people out there---those with a fear of dolls. But, it gets even scarier. I've heard that the ride legitimately malfunctions quite often, resulting in riders having to be evacuated. That doesn't surprise me given the age of the ride and amount of trips it takes daily. 

However, some aspects of the It's a Small World mythology are less believable.  Apparently there are a LOT of conspiracy theories out there about the dolls coming to life, riders and staff members going missing, and general creepiness experienced by visitors to the attraction. No doubt most of these are pure fiction, just like this photo below.

The photo and accompanying story were uploaded in August of 2012 to the IMGUR site. However, the poster states that the photo is from a 1999 trip to the park.  During what appeared to be a normal malfunction, the poster and her family were escorted off the ride. Her mother decided to take the opportunity to use up the last of the roll of film in her camera. Upon exiting the attraction, the family noticed that there was an ambulance and police cruiser parked outside.

It is theorized that the photo captured from the ride shows either a suicide or accidental death by hanging. Some say the victim is one of the Disney cast members, and others believe it to be the body of a child. 

Based on the size of the 'body,' I would automatically rule out the possibility of it being a cast member. And, honestly, as creepy as a story it makes, I don't think its a real person at all. I think it is one of the animatronic dolls. It is about the same size, for one thing, but another clue is its position. When one hangs himself, either on purpose or by accident, the arms and legs generally don't assume that position. The toes don't appear to be pointing down, as gravity would cause a real person's feet to react. Gravity would also not allow the arms to be slightly raised like that, either.

So is the original poster lying? Is the photo a fake? Did an unrelated accident occur that day to cause them to have to evacuate the ride? I cannot answer those questions, but I can confidently say that I don't believe this photo is either paranormal OR evidence of a deceased person. But, I'm curious to know what YOU think! Read the story below and then hop on over to Facebook and let me know what YOU think!

Stay Spooky.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Boo! A Bonus Friday Funny

Today is a double dose of funny! I saw this posted over on the Scioto County Paranormal Facebook page, and thought it was too cute to wait a week. So, here's your second Friday Funny. Enjoy!