Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Princeton WV's Haunted Mercer County Courthouse

Mercer County Courthouse. Photo taken by Theresa R.
The Mercer County Courthouse in Princeton, WV is an imposing, limestone structure built by architect Alex Mahood in the Art Deco design.  Construction began in 1930 and the courthouse was officially opened for business in August 1931, making it Mercer County's sixth official courthouse building since the 1860s!

When the courthouse was first built, an interesting feature of the 4-story central area was that the jail was located on the top floor, yet the holding cells were located in the structure's basement.  The jail is no longer operational as a jail, but the staircase connecting the two areas has subsequently been named one of the most haunted areas of the courthouse.  But, it seems like the rest of the courthouse is pretty active, too!

Numerous employees, from all branches of employment related to the courthouse, have reported similar issues for years.  It seems as if anyone working past normal business hours is never truly alone...

The entire courthouse is plagued with sightings of shadow beings, phantom voices, and apparitions of people who allegedly disappear right before one's eyes as they are approached.  In one eye-witness sighting, Sheriff Department's Senior Deputy Wardell Wilborn was working in the sheriff's office right at shift change.  Right after the man he was relieving left, he saw an apparition walk by on the other side of the room.  Thinking it was the other deputy returning to retrieve a forgotten item, he investigated and found no one was there.  Wilborn went as far as calling the other man's phone to see if he was still in the building---he wasn't; he was already safely at home.

In another incident, a member of the janitorial staff was cleaning up in one of the courtrooms when he began hearing voices, when he should have been the only one there.  Leaving the room, he banged his knee, and heard one of the phantom voices comment on his clumsiness!

Because reports of unexplained activity were so widespread, the paranormal investigation group Signs of Ghosts, led by Princeton native, Mark Painter, investigated in 2010.  The group captured some compelling evidence, including several EVPs.  You can read more about their investigation in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph article, linked below!

National Register Application
Is Mercer's Courthouse Haunted? Bluefield Daily Telegraph Article

Friday, May 23, 2014

Freaky Flowers

Photo by Todd Terwilliger

There's just something about skulls and roses that seems to go together, and they're two elements that creepy artists, metal bands, and tattoo aficionados all over the world have been drawing inspiration from for years.  But what happens with life imitates art?  You end up with the rosa calvaria, or "Death Rose."  This photo above, as shared multiple times on social media sites, is often found with the accompanying description:

"The Death Rose (Rosa calvaria) is a rare and mysterious plant species.  Beautiful when blooming, the buds form skull like faces when wilting.  Biologists still don't understand how the Death Rose forms these shocking designs as they are impossible to grow in lab experiments."

Perhaps they are impossible to grow in lab experiments, because there is NO SUCH THING AS THE ROSA CALVARIA! 

Research into this photograph reveals nothing about this species in any type of scientific journal or plant databases.  In fact, most of the information is simply given as a cut and paste of the blurb above.  So if there is no such thing as a rosa calvaria, what the heck is this thing?

The photograph was taken by photographer Todd Terwilliger and posted to his Flickr account back in June of 2010.  According to the description, this was taken in the garden by Notre Dame.  In fact, a similar photo of the same flower around the same time was taken by a Flickr user named Shawna, which shows the flower just slightly more opened up.

And, as cool as the image is, its nothing more than a wonderful example of pareidolia in the wilting pattern of a normal rose.  Pareidolia (or matrixing to you Ghost Hunters fans) is simply our mind trying to make sense out of random patterns.  We're designed to visually try to put together random stimuli into an organized and known image, most often, a face.  And...in this case, a skeletal face is what seemingly pops out to most people!  However, according to one Tumblr user who analyzed the photo using error-level analysis software, the image seems to have had some digital manipulation to help it along the way.  Since this is an art photograph, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a certain level of digital enhancement and photo editing, but I honestly do not believe that the actual skeletal face was significantly  augmented...especially after seeing Shawna's very similar photo.

But don't be sad...even if this photograph isn't what it seems to be, there are plenty of other creepy and scientifically recognized plants out there with similar attributes!  Check out the seed pods of a snapdragon plant!  Those definitely resemble little, creepy alien skulls!

Truly terrifying snapdragon seed pods

And if you're more into horror from an olfactory point of view, the corpse flower (in addition to looking like it could suck your body dry of your soul) gives off the odor of rotting flesh in order to attract insects to pollinate it.  This particular beauty is the very large variety of corpse flower known as the Amorphophallus Titanum.  (Yes. You read that right. PHALLUS.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another Strange Dream

Earlier this month I posted a really weird dream I had that ended with thousands of jellyfish raining down from the sky! The other night, I had another weird dream where stuff was falling from the sky.  This time, it was a little scarier.

I was staying at this place that looked like maybe a factory of some sort.  It had warehouse facilities, and there was a train track that went through the grounds.  I was sitting around a campfire in a small grassy area with a bunch of other people when I looked up and saw a shooting star!  I was just thinking, "oh, how pretty!" when I saw another one...and another one!

What had turned into one shooting star was now a full-blown meteor shower, but I noticed that burning debris was actually starting to fall from the sky.  I reached out and caught a piece that was wafting down and was shocked to see that it was a little plastic tag...the kind that hold the price tag on clothes at the store.  Then, the debris started getting bigger, and was landing on the ground still in flames, so I ran under what looked like a really long carport with the others.

As pieces of burning debris started falling more and more, we saw that the fall was largely made up of intact plastic baby bottles, and other large plastic things that should have been melted.  Then, off in the distance, we saw a big explosion that lit the sky up as bright as day...a brightness that didn't go away.

I remember bracing myself for the blast wave, which came but did no damage to the facility where I was staying.  After that, the falling debris stopped and everything was dead still.  The area still had electricity and no one was hurt...yet the former darkness of night was still as bright as a sunny afternoon.  At that point, I went into survival mode.

I knew I needed to get out of the city area and luckily, I had my car with me.  I went to get my car and was planning out a map to the nearest grocery store to stock up on supplies.  At that point, my point of view in the dream started to get wonky.  I kept switching back and forth between a first person point of view for different characters and a third person point of view watching the action from above.

Several people decided to go with me, including some friends and we piled in the car.  The last thing I remember before waking up was looking for supplies in my glove box and giving a man who chose to stay put a knife/multi-tool that I found in there.

The first dream I mentioned was pretty random, but I think I know the stimulus behind this second dream.  Several days ago, I was THRILLED to catch a glimpse of the meteor that streaked over Southern, WV. After my excited report of the incident on Facebook, I saw where many others had heard the sonic boom from the event, a few had seen it, and it was possibly the same meteorite that landed shortly thereafter in Tennessee. As I was reading and researching the other reports, I read an article that an upcoming meteor shower on May 23rd had the possibility to become a meteor STORM.

This alarmed me, because one of my greatest fears is being wiped out by a meteorite hit. In fact, in another dream several months back, I dreamed that I was just watching a beautiful full moon one night when a meteorite SMASHED into it, causing the upper part to start crumbling and falling into our atmosphere.  For months, I couldn't look at the full moon without being terrified that my vision was going to come true.

I've always had really weird, vivid apocalyptic dreams, so I've signed up with the National Dream Center to help me log them and keep track.  Plus, if one of these things does come true on some level, I can prove I predicted it, hehe!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus, Columbus

By WarthPhoto.com, via TheThirstyMuse.com
I'm taking a day trip to Columbus, Ohio over Memorial Day weekend, so obviously, I'm busy adding as many haunted locations as possible to the itinerary!  In order to kill two birds with one stone, I've chosen a haunted restaurant at which to dine!

The Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus is an institution on Columbus' High Street.  The building was erected in 1897 as Bott Brothers' Buffet and Billiards, a tavern and gentleman's saloon that sold cigars as well.

On a cold February evening in 1909, Colonel Randolph Pritchard, known to all as a womanizer, sat in the candlelit tavern.  He was summoned to the door and what he found there would change his life forever; in fact, it would END his life.  A woman was waiting for him, and as he approached her, she revealed a knife that she used to stab the Colonel over and over again.

Trying to summon help, the Colonel stumbled toward the doorway of the tavern and fell, bleeding to death in the snow.  His attacker, who many believe was a spurned lover, made her escape in a waiting coach, leaving no trace except for two dainty footprints in the snow.  The time of the murder was 10:05 p.m....a time that would be forever ingrained in the memory of those in the city, as the restaurant's large outdoor clock mysterious stopped, its hands frozen in time marking the hour of the Colonel's death.

Years later, building on that story, the tavern was renamed The Clock.  Today, it's known as The Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus, offering an upscale array of American cuisine and over a dozen specialty brews. And, while most people probably come for the food and the spirits...I'm going for the uh, spirits, lol.

As the legends go, the restaurant is haunted by both the Colonel AND his murderer.  The Colonel is seen manifesting as a brilliant ball of light throughout the facility.  But, his killer makes her presence known in a slightly more subtle way.  On snowy February evenings, especially on the anniversary of the stabbing, patrons and staff alike have observed two dainty little footprints appearing in the snow before their very eyes!  These phantom footprints fade as mysteriously as they appear, proof that the young woman is doomed to never leave the site of her greatest sin.  She was never caught, and her identity is not known, but many believe that she died the night of the murder, possibly freezing to death out in the winter storm that tore through the city that evening.

I personally haven't had much luck finding ANY historical evidence to support these claims, and several websites that cover the story claim that its just a nice legend...and a good back story to explain why the clock was broken and to draw in customers.  I'll let ya know what I find out in my travels!

Happy Haunting!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dead Jockey Declared Belmont Winner

California Chrome, by Barbara D. Livingston
Yesterday, the racehorse, California Chrome, made history!  After winning the Kentucky Derby several weeks ago, California Chrome returned to the track on Saturday, May 17th and won the Preakness Stakes!  This puts him in the running for the Triple Crown!  If Chrome can take first place in the Belmont Stakes on June 7th, he'll be only one of 12 horses EVER to be be named a Triple Crown winner, and the first to take the honor since 1978. 

But, as announced today, there may be a problem.  In both Kentucky and in Maryland, where the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes are held respectively, horses are allowed to wear nasal strips to help with breathing, with California Chrome did in both races.  However, New York, where the Belmont Stakes will be held, does not allow such devices.  Whether trainers and owners of California Chrome will get special permission to race the horse with the nasal strips, or choose to sit the race out remains unknown at this point.

So, while we all sit and wait to see what happens, I wanted to bring you a VERY interesting anecdote from the Belmont racetrack...the same track where the final leg of the Triple Crown will be held in June!

No idea why the date on this is February, lol.

On June 4, 1923 Frank Hayes was riding a 20-1 outsider named Sweet Kiss, owned by Miss A.M. Frayling.  Hayes wasn't a jockey.  Normally a trainer, Hayes had to undergo a rigorous regime to make weight requirements in hopes of gaining his first win in this new position.  But, it worked, and excitement was high as Sweet Kiss crossed the finish line ahead of all the other horses!

But after crossing the finish line, Frank, who was not described as a young man by any means, slumped forward and fell, just as Miss Frayling was walking over to congratulate him.  To the horror of all who witnessed it, Frank Hayes was dead in his saddle.

It is believed that Hayes passed away somewhere in the middle of the race of a heart attack brought on by the combined excitement of taking the lead and abuse he put his body through trying to make weight requirements. As an act of respect, the post-race weigh-in was suspended and Frank Hayes, despite his non-living status, was named the winning jockey. 

He was buried three days later in his colorful racing silks.  To date, he is the only jockey to win a race deceased.  As for the winning horse, Sweet Kiss became known as "Sweet Kiss of Death," for the rest of its life.  This year's Belmont Stakes will be held on the 91st anniversary of Hayes' burial at St. Agnes Cemetery in Syracuse, NY.  Will you be watching?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Buffalo Trace Distillery

From BourbonBuzz.com
Frankfort, Kentucky is home to one of the country's oldest distilleries.  It may also be home to one of the country's most HAUNTED distilleries!

Since 1787, there has been a working distillery of some type on the current Buffalo Trace property.  What once started as a small operation has now blossomed into 119 acres and 114 buildings of sweet, Kentucky bourbon goodness!

In 1857, Daniel Swigert built the first modern distillery on the site, which was purchased in 1870 by Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr.   Taylor christened the operation, O.F.C., or "Old Fire Copper," in honor of his preferred method of whisky manufacture.  Taylor only owned the distillery for about eight years, when George T. Stagg purchased it in 1878 and continued the series of modern improvements initiated by Taylor.  Under these improvements was the construction of an additional warehouse, Warehouse C, in 1885, which still stands today.

Unfortunately, a lightning strike and resulting fire wiped out the main distillery in 1882, but Stagg quickly rebuilt and in 1904, the name of the distillery was changed to the George T. Stagg Distillery. An interesting piece of the history of the distillery involves how it survived Prohibition.  It was granted one of only FOUR permits to continue to produce and sell whiskey...for medicinal purposes, allowing the company to stay afloat until the amendment was repealed.

 The year 1992 saw the facility's purchase by the Sazerac Company out of New Orleans, and under their care, the distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It became the Buffalo Trace Distillery during the summer of 1999, in order to honor an old buffalo trail that cut through the property in the 1700s.

Col. Blanton

With a long history such as that, no wonder the distillery has attracted numerous spirits....not including those aging in barrels in the warehouses!  The most prolific haunter of the bunch is Colonel Albert Blanton.  Blanton joined the distillery as an office boy in 1897 and by early 1900s had been named president.  Blanton passed away in the company mansion, Stony Point, in 1959.  His apparition is seen there, but also elsewhere around the property.  Other manifestations include unexplained noises, cold spots and phantom footsteps in Warehouse C.

These claims attracted the attention of TAPS, so  Season 7, episode 23 featured an investigation of the distillery.  They were not disappointed!

Both the mansion and Warehouse C proved to be active, with Jason and Grant both getting their bottoms pinched by an unseen hand, Tango and Steve being attacked by a shadowy figure, and plenty of strange, unexplained noises.

If you'd like to try to experience the ghosts of Buffalo Trace for yourself, ghost tours are held Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7pm. These tours are complimentary, but registration is required.  A product sampling is included in the tour, so all participants MUST be 21 years of age or older to participate.  Check the link down below for information on how to reserve your tour.

Buffalo Trace Tour Information

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ghost in a Wheelchair

I recently joined a few new paranormal-themed Facebook groups and LIKED a few new pages...and was surprised to see the photo above being shared over and over as a possibly paranormal photo!  It's definitely creepy, and arguably, even a little sad.  However, its not what it appears to be...

The earliest date that I remember seeing this photo was in 2012.  That May, a Brazilian website claimed that the photo was taken at an Argentinian Hospital near Rosario.  A staff member of the Clemente Alvarez Emergency Hospital going by the name of Diego took the photo and promptly posted it on Facebook.
Allegedly, multiple staff members, including doctors, nurses and cleaning staff, all had seen the wheelchair move down the hall on its own.

Several months later, in September, the same Brazilian website posted a photo of ANOTHER Argentinian ghost sighting.  Enzo Guillermo used his cell phone to capture an image of a woman sitting on a bench in the Plazoleta de los Immigrantes, in the city of Lules.  Locals claimed that the area was home to strange, paranormal noises observed in the early morning hours, and a woman had recently passed away in the park.

Hopefully you can spot the obvious similarities of the figures in both photos.  It looks like this particular ghost is traveling all over Argentina!  Or...there could be a much simpler explanation.  The two photos from South America are a hoax.

In July of 2012, a controversy arose when the group Ghosts of New England Research Society (G.O.N.E.R.S.) posted ANOTHER photo of the seated woman, seen below. Shortly after, they were called out, and posted a retraction stating that another group had claimed the image of the woman was copyrighted to a photo THEY took in 1991...and that they were trying to sue a popular smart phone application called Ghost Cam for copyright infringement.

G.O.N.E.R.S photo on left, Original 1991 photo on right

That original 1991 photo is the infamous and widely know (albeit controversial) "Madonna of Bachelor's Grove" photo!  In August of 1991, members of the Ghost Research Society were on site at the small Bachelor's Grove Cemetery near Midlothian, Illinois. This cemetery has had a long reputation of being haunted.  Strange lights, unexplained sounds, and even full-bodied apparitions have all been observed there.  There is some confusion as to who exactly took the photograph, but its largely attributed to GRS member, Mari Huff, who was shooting with high-speed infrared film.  Here's the photo again:

I'm not sure whatever happened with the lawsuit, but I couldn't find this particular image on the updated Ghost Cam 2 app, and no new forgeries seem to have popped up since 2012.  But, as the recent activity on social media has shown, even older, previously debunked photos can come back to fool people.

Eskimo Exorcism

So, at first glance, this image is pretty frightening.  A creepy, wild haired creature with too many mouths filled with too many razor sharp teeth has captured a young child and is holding him with its oversized hands.  When you read the caption, it gets even more alarming!

The title of this image is "Working to Beat the Devil."  The caption states "Eskimo Medicine Man, Alaska, Exorcising Evil Spirits from a Sick Boy."

The original photograph was taken some time between 1900 and 1930 and was in a personal collection until Mrs. W. Chapin Huntington gifted it in 1951 to the Library of Congress' Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection.  Today, its considered to be in the public domain, and numerous dealers are selling postcard reprints of the image on eBay.

I've seen this photo pop up a few times on various websites and Facebook groups and was struck by the unique subject matter, but also by the fact that this image was so similar to another that I had featured awhile back called the Hami!  The Hami, or the Most Dangerous Thing, was a photograph featuring a member of the Koskimo tribe of British Columbia wearing the ceremonial costume depicting a spirit known for abducting young men. That photo was part of a very famous study by the photographer Edward S. Curtis around 1914.  I was positive that this photograph must also be a part of that series.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything to tie The Eskimo Exorcism to Curtis, nor any photographer for that matter....but I did find some fascinating information about the subject matter from the book, My Life with the Eskimo, by Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

According to Stefansson, the Mackenzie Eskimo tribe believed that disease was caused by one of two things; 1. The victim's soul was stolen, causing chills, shivering, and lassitude.  Or...2. A bad shaman has sent a spirit, or tuurngait, to possess the victim, making him ill in any number of ways.  Tuurngaits were neither naturally bad nor good, but simply did the bidding of those who summoned them.

Allegedly, sickness was quite easily remedied if it were just a simple soul stealing; all you needed to do was find the soul and reunite it with the body.  However, ridding a spirit from a person was a completely different matter, and the only thing that could offer relief was an exorcism.

To complete the exorcism, the shaman, or Angakuit, would engage in chanting, drum beating, ventriloquism, conjuring acts, and even the observance of taboos by family members of the victim or even complete strangers.  For example, a shaman would tell the mother of the victim that she was not allowed to change her socks until the sickness of the child was cured.  If she broke that rule, the child would remain ill.  And, apparently from the looks of this photograph, strange and frighteningly comical costumes also played a vital role in the practice until more and more tribes converted to Christianity and the old ways were slowly phased out, to be remembered through eBay and FB shares!

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Weird Dream with a Fortean Twist

Today's blog is a little different than what I normally post.  Today, I'm going to share some details about a dream I had last night, and offer anyone who is brave enough to try to interpret it down in the comments below!  It does have a Fortean phenomena thrown in, making it especially strange, even for me.  I look forward to any theories anyone may have!

So, in my dream I am dating this older guy who is some type of famous movie producer/director.  One night we're just hanging out in his car in the parking lot of a strip mall.  A really nice, fancy, red sports car pulls up next to us and before it stops, my boyfriend tells me that its some guy he knows.  This man is a famous basketball player in the NBA and apparently begs my boyfriend for a role in one of his movies every time he sees him.

Sure enough, he gets out of his car and comes over to talk to us, hinting at first, then flat out asking for a role in an upcoming film.  He even offers as a bargaining ploy that if he is given a role in the film, he'll sign up for one of my art classes (I guess I'm an art teacher in this world, lol). While my boyfriend is trying to find a way to tactfully say no, I tell the guy that I teach classes every day and it makes no difference to me whether he's there or not, but if he really wants to "play ball" (apparently I'm also really good at really bad puns in my dreams) I'll trade him a role in the film if he lets ME play in an NBA game.

This guy is totally speechless at my request and tries to tell me that he has no control over something like that.  I tell him he'll find a way to work it out, and then we all decide to drive down the road somewhere, lol.  However, there is a train track that runs right down the center of the strip mall parking lot and around the edge of it and right then, a train starts coming through.  I remember telling my boyfriend that I must have died in a past life from a train accident because I was terrified of trains.  At one point, we're so close to the track in our car that I'm afraid the train is going to hit us.  The train goes by, but right behind it, there is a very small train, with only two cars, separate from the normal train...and guess who is in it?  Our basketball player!  He was taking his own personal train vehicle to wherever we were going to meet up.

We decide the best route is to simply follow him, and drive directly on the train tracks, which takes us under this tunnel that leads to a draw bridge.  There's an issue with the bridge, so everyone on the train has to get out and wait in this weird little built-in train station within the tunnel, including us, since we followed the track and are now stuck. There's some seating in the form of restaurant booths on one side, then what looks like stadium bleachers on the other.  I opted to go sit and wait at the top of the bleachers.

It turns out that the bridge cannot be fixed, so we all have to be airlifted out.  Everyone there was taken to a state park campground. Waiting for me there was my real-life son and somewhere along the way, my boyfriend reverted back to my real life boyfriend, lol.  We're hanging out at this park, which looks eerily like my backyard with some cabins in it when I get bored and approach some kids who are playing some kind of game.  One kid throws a ball or something up in the air, and right after it comes down, this weird stuff starts falling from the sky.  I thought this kid was playing some kind of joke...and then I thought it must be something normal...at first, the objects looked like leaves and flower petals.  But, I noticed the clouds had a weird pinkish color to them and the stuff raining out of them was NOT flower petals.

It was raining jellyfish!  Lots and lots of jellyfish! Oh, and a few mushrooms thrown in for good measure.  I'm literally covered in jellyfish and they're all in my hair.  I'm afraid they're going to sting me, so I rush into the main cabin area where others are seeking safety from the rain.  My boyfriend is in there and tries to help me brush the jellyfish out of my hair, and they fall into a big pile.  As I'm staring at this huge pile of jellyfish and mushrooms that just fell out of my hair and are still raining down outside, my first thought is that we have to document it!  I grab my phone so I can take some pictures, but I can't get it to work.  The phone looks like its broken, but then I realized that it wasn't my phone.  I start looking for my phone, but can't find it anywhere, nor can I find the owner of the one I'm holding...and that's when I woke up and it was all over.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review for True Ghosts 3

Title: True Ghosts 3--Even MORE Chilling Tales from the Vaults of FATE Magazine
Edited by: David Godwin
Published by Llewellyn Publications, 2011

I have always been a huge fan of FATE and one of my favorite features of the magazine has always been the large section devoted to reader submissions.  In each edition since its inception in 1948, FATE  has published the real life experiences of everyday people on a variety of paranormal topics.  True Ghosts 3 is another installment in a larger collection showcasing the best of those submissions.

The stories are organized into various chapters, each with a different theme:

Ghostly Apparitions
Messages from the Dead
Dream Visitations
Near-Death and Out of Body Experiences
Haunted Places
Spirits Helping the Living
Animal Spirits
Ghost Encounters of Children and Child Ghosts
Phantom Vehicles and Buildings
Vortexes, Time Slips, and Portals
Spirit Guides and Angels
Poltergeist Activity

Each story is unique in voice and depth, and at 323 pages, the book is packed with them.  I even found one tale from Huntington, WV that I'll be doing more research on!  Obviously some tales are better written and some are more believable than others, but all are interesting as a glimpse into the experiences of people from a variety of walks of life dealing with the same thing.  Where applicable, longer and more scholarly articles from professional researchers/writers supplement the personal stories, adding an extra element to the work.  It's a wonderful and easy to read book, perfect for those who want ghost stories written in a narrative style, but who don't mind a teeny bit of journalistic perspective as well. The format also makes this the perfect traveling book---many stories are less than a page in length.  Read one or read a few while you have a few extra minutes, and you can easily pick it back up or skip around to suit your interests.  Definitely recommended!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Harriet Beecher Stowe: Author, Abolitionist, Spiritualist

From Wikipedia
It's the beginning of a new month, yet the end of a chapter in Haunted History.  After several years of collecting tales from around the United States, this haunted location from Connecticut completes the first round of my Haunted America page!  Don't be too sad, though...I've already started on Round 2.  But first, here's a tale all the way from Hartford, Connecticut.

Everyone knows Harriet Beecher Stowe as the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but few know that she was a devout Spiritualist as well.  It is these spiritual beliefs and practices that perhaps left their mark on one of several homes throughout the East that bear her name.

Today, the house is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center of Hartford, Connecticut.  Built in 1871 for attorney and politician Franklin Chamberlain and his wife Mary, Stowe and her husband Calvin E. Stowe moved in around 1873.  This would be the home where Stowe would spend the last 23 years of her life, before passing away in 1896.

After her death, the home changed hands several times until it was purchased in 1924 by Katharine Seymour Day, who was the grand-niece of Harriet.  Katharine was an artist and a preservationist and worked hard over the 40 years she lived in the home to preserve it and turn it into a museum dedicated to the history of the family.

Volunteers and staff at the museum have long reported strange occurrences throughout the home. Footsteps are heard throughout the home, particularly in the dining room area.  In the parlor, the window shades flapped up and down on their own accord.  And, it the old carriage house, which is now a gift shop and visitor center, a bearded apparition has been seen.  In response to these claims, TV's Ghost Hunters investigated the house during their sixth season and unfortunately weren't able to substantiate much.  The bearded apparition sightings were "debunked" as a trick of light, but an EVP recording resulted in what sounded like checkers moving on a checkerboard when no one was in the home.

One of the theories as to why the home is so active is a direct correlation to Harriet's interests in Spiritualism.  Allegedly, this interest began with a trip to see her brother, Henry Beecher.  Henry hypnotized Harriet in 1843, leading her to believe that she had visited a spiritual land.  After that, she sought out the guidance of various mediums, going so far as hosting regular seances in her Hartford home.

But why was so Harriet so fascinated with Spiritualism?  There really isn't any one answer, but there are a few circumstances that undoubtedly led her to this path, beginning with the strict, Calvinist ideals of her preacher father, to which she and her brother, Henry, rebelled. Secondly, Spiritualism was in fashion with the times, especially with those of a progressive view of the world and politics as a means of scientifically explaining the spirit world.  And finally, it was simply because Harriet was no stranger to tragedy, and possibly sought out Spiritualism as a means of keeping in touch with loved ones who passed on.

Harriet was married to her father's employee, Calvin Stowe, in 1836, shortly after the death of Calvin's first wife, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth and Harriet had been friends and was affected by her death same as Calvin.  Throughout their marriage, until his death in 1886, Calvin was a sickly, hypochondriac who often claimed to regularly see the ghost of his first wife.

The couple had seven children, several dying before their time.  In 1849, while living in Cincinnati, their son Samuel died of the cholera epidemic that hit the city.  In 1857, another son, Henry, drowned in the Connecticut River.  This death was theorized to really send Harriet deep into the world of Spiritualism, as she was worried that the teenager had not made his peace with God before his unexpected passing.  Another son, Frederick, simply disappeared in 1870. 

Whatever the reasons for the activity in Harriet's Connecticut home, it is still said that the home IS haunted.  Each October, the museum hosts special ghost hunting tours called The Spirits at Stowe's Tour, where equipment is provided for visitors to try to capture their own evidence of the afterlife.

Links of Interest:
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Website
Find-a-Grave--Biography and Burial Information
Harriet Beecher Stowe and Spiritualism by Al Benson, Jr.