28 July 2013

Ghosts Part V

A geocaching friend related his story after reading one of my ghost posts.  Here's the background on the house his wife grew up in in Nyack, New York.  The full story can be found on his site at Kavanagh Transit Systems.  Please take a moment to visit, it's worth the read:

"This story deals with the house that my wife, Cynthia, spent her teen years in. The house is situated on the Hudson River at the bottom of a dead end street. It was/is a 5000 sqft Victorian house with 3 levels plus a full basement and Attic. Cynthia's parents, Helen and George Ackley, bought the house in the late 1960's. At the time the big Victorian sat vacant and was in disrepair. Neighbor kids told them as the moved in that the house was haunted. It wasn't until later that the Ackley's found the truth. The Ghosts and the Ackley's live at peace with each other. There was never an intentional scare to any of the Ackley's or their visitors.

Nyack sits approximately 20 miles north of New York City on the West bank of the Hudson. Many people of the area know about the haunting of this house. As a matter-of-fact, the Hudson Valley is known for many haunted places. Just straight across the river lays Tarrytown. Just outside of Tarrytown is the legendary Sleepy Hollow. This was made famous by the Washington Irving's Halloween tale of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Many of Irving's tales are based on legends of the lower Hudson Valley.

The Legend of the Nyack House made print in the Reader's Digest by a article submitted by Helen Ackley herself in the May 1977 edition. She told of various instances about the ghosts making their presence known to the family. Here are a few tales:
One ghost would wake my wife up every morning for school by shaking her bed. When spring break came, my wife made a loud announcement before going to sleep that it was spring break, there was no school and she wanted to sleep in. Her bed did NOT shake the next morning. A few of the grandchildren received 'gifts' from the ghost in the form of baby rings. All of sudden they just appeared.

My wife received a gift of a small silver sugar tong.

My wife's older brother's wife received coins.

While painting the living room Helen saw one of the ghost looking in approval of the color. She always got the feeling that the ghost liked the renovation they had done on the house.

I had two personal experiences with the ghosts. They both happened soon after I moved in with my future wife Cynthia and occurred about one month apart.

The first happened on Christmas eve. I was home alone due to various activities. I was playing Christmas elf in the living room putting gifts together. It was totally quiet in the house. After a while I kept hearing a muffled conversation coming from the dining room around the wall. I would get up and walk over, and nobody was there. I felt like I was being watched. I had purposely turned on every light in the surrounding rooms. I was getting nervous. Then my future Brother-In-Law suddenly pounded on the door making me jump out of my skin, and the talking stopped.

The second incident happened in our bedroom on the third floor. It was a clear dark night, Cyn had already fallen asleep and I was drifting. Then I heard the bedroom door creak, and the floor boards squeak. My back was to the edge of the bed. Suddenly the edge of the bed by my mid-section depressed down, and I felt something lean against me. I went literally stone stiff! I was speechless and could hardly move. I was able to twist my neck around enough to see a womanly figure in a soft dress through the moonlight from the bay windows. I felt like she was looking straight at me. After about minute, the presence got up and walked back out of the room. I finally relaxed enough to shake my wife out of sound sleep acting like a toddler who just had a nightmare.
Later I reflected on the incident. I believe the ghosts were checking me out because they knew my wife and her ex-husband. They probably wanted to see if I was a "good" person for her. It was the women that used to shake Cyn's bed every morning to go to high school. After that episode no other sightings occurred. I did get the impression that they did "approve" of me, and my wife and I were married about 18 months later.

In 1989/90 taxes started going out of control so Helen decided it was time to sell the house and move to Florida or Texas. This lead into a big court case featured on the next page."

24 July 2013

Ghosts Part IV

A couple of weeks ago (11 July), my fiancée (sic) and I attended the “Downtown Haunted History” tour put on in Salem by Spirit Expeditions.  It was a roughly two hour walking tour of downtown Salem and included historical information and discussions of Salem’s Masonic history as well as creepy, ghosty and other grisly stuff.  I loved the history part, learning to spot historical landmarks, Masonic symbolism, the Salem underground tunnels (Chinatown, which tunnels are unfortunately off limits to the public), and the brutal history of Salem’s two serial killers, Jerome Brudos  and Richard Marquette.  We visited the site of the old “hanging grounds” and saw the spot near City Hall where multiple bodies were dumped in Pringle Creek over the years (along with a bazillion spiders, which creep my sweetie out, gotta remember that).  We heard the story of Joe Drake, a black man hanged from the gallows of the Marion County Courthouse in 1885 for murder, despite the fact that Joe was drinking beer in the same tavern as the judge and prosecuting attorney at the time of the murder.  Joe supposedly hangs out (pun intended) at the courthouse, pinching and scratching people.  We heard the story of “ghost lights,” a fixture in theaters supposed to have originated in Ford’s Theater  the night Abraham Lincoln was shot.  Lincoln, we were told, was deathly afraid of the dark, and a janitor saw Lincoln’s “ghost” at the theater that night as he lay dying across the street.  The man didn’t want Lincoln to be afraid, so he lit a candle and placed it on the stage.  Tradition holds that a theater is supposed to have a light (at the Grand Theater in Salem,  it’s just a floor lamp) on stage whenever a performance isn’t being held will not be haunted.  According to our guide, the Elsinore Theater does not have a ghost light, and is notoriously haunted, though we were not allowed to go in that theater last night.

We stopped at a few places on the tour where we were invited to conduct “investigations.”  We used a variety of instruments, most of which measure electricity and magnetism in various ways. One of the lower tech methods was what are called “dowsing rods.”  Two copper wires (coat hangers) are bent into the shape of an “L” and held out parallel in front of you.  Supposedly, the “ghost” can manipulate the rods to answer basic questions: yes, no, directions, etc..  As I found it nearly impossible to isolate the rods from the movement of my hands and the light, intermittent breeze, I didn’t think my rods did anything unexplained.  It didn’t help that I felt like an idiot asking questions of a “ghost,” and therefore didn’t do it much.

It was a fun tour, and worth the $23 I paid on Groupon for us to go.  I’d like to do the Portland Shanghai tunnel tour, too, but while I enjoyed the history, I didn’t see anything vaguely resembling ghosts, or much of anyone else (though it’s easy to forget the world around me when I’m with my Honey!).

How about you?  Do you have a ghost story?  First person accounts only, please, but if you know someone who has a first person account, feel free to put them in touch with me at Steve@spencersb.com.  

20 July 2013

Ghosts Part III

Today's story is related by one of my closest friends.  Comment below or click the contact me link to send me your stories, first person accounts only, please.

"This was my first encounter with something that I could not explain.

First, a bit of background. We were living in Germany: Augsburg, in the state of Bavaria, to be specific. I was assigned to the US Army hospital there, working in the emergency room. The buildings in our kaserne mostly dated back to WWII. Our kaserne had been the base of Luftwaffe flak troops, tasked primarily with protecting the Messerschmitt plant there.
About every six weeks or so, hospital staff of my rank ( E-5 at the time ) were assigned to "Charge of Quarters" ( CQ ) duty, which consisted of spending the night in the foyer of the main barracks building, and doing periodic security checks in that building, the men's barracks, and the adjoining women's barracks. Both were four stories high, and the men's side also included the basement arms room.
 The basement entrance was a heavy, barred jail door, secured with a padlock and chain. An L-shaped stairway led down to the basement, which was a segment of the tunnel system that had once run beneath the whole compound, and was rumored to also connect to tunnels to the other three kasernes in town. The other units in the complex had all sealed off their own segments of the underground passage. Ours was very long, it seemed, and it was lined with sealed-off doors. At the very end of our tunnel was the armored door of our arms room. Taped on it was a log-in sheet, which was to be checked and initialed hourly all through the night.
Going into the tunnel was an unnerving experience. We had no idea what was behind all of the sealed doors, but all too frequently, as the CQ walked down the corridor, the walls on both sides of the passage would start pounding like drums. It would usually continue until the now shaky CQ got back up to the top of the stairs. I never heard the pounding from the main floor unless I had just returned from a security check. It wasn't just me, either; most of us, after a while, decided to risk disciplinary action by signing the sheet for the whole night either at the beginning or end of our shift. This was a real risk, as our First Sergeant at the time, a former Hitler Youth member, had a habit of turning up at odd hours to check on us.
On the fourth floor of the women's barracks, there had been rumors of odd happenings. Several of the women had been awakened in the night by the sensations of someone climbing into bed with them. When they turned their lights on, they were alone. Several women living on that floor had made suicide attempts. ( One of them attacked me with a knife when we went to pick her up in the ambulance. ) Others had seen shadowy apparitions, including a set of disembodied glowing eyes hovering in the air outside the fourth floor windows.
One very cold winter night, I was on CQ, and was making a security check with another soldier, a lab tech. As we ascended the stairs to the fourth floor, we were both pushed backwards down the stairs by something that we could not see. The stairwell lights were on, but whatever pushed us wasn't visible. We made a hasty decision to go to the chapel and discuss the episode further.
As we sat in the chapel and collected ourselves ( somewhat ), we realized that two of our friends and coworkers, who were both working in the E.R. that night, would be going back to their rooms on that floor after their shift ended at 2300. We decided that we had to tell them, and walked across the parking lot to find them.
After they had cleared out some of the patients, we got them away from the others and told them our story. They sat there, expressionless, as we told the tale. They then looked at each other, and simultaneously said, "Thank God - I thought I was going crazy". We then started talking about what to do.
Of the four of us, I was the only non-Catholic, and wasn't really a believer at the time. One of the women had been involved with something similar back in the US, and detailed a procedure for "sealing" the building against evil spirits. It involved going to every entrance that we could find, and reading scripture together while anointing the entrance with Holy Water. Being a good Irish Catholic type, she carried a small bottle of Holy Water in her purse. So, we waited for the shift to end, to go try the process.
By the time they were ready to go, I had managed to talk myself into believing that I had imagined it. As we walked away from the E.R., I was joking and not taking it seriously. When we turned the corner and the women's building came into view, I looked up at the fourth floor windows, and felt an ice-cold bolt of energy hit me in the forehead. I panicked and ran for the chapel. It took all three of them to drag me back and get started.
The next couple of hours were a cross between uneventful and comical, as many staff members with whom we worked were coming back in various states of inebriation. We played it as cool as possible, waiting for people to move on before we went on to the next entrance. It was a long process, working our way up all four floors.
On the fourth floor, there was a large open area, with individual room doors on two sides. After "sealing" all of the doors, I noticed a trap door into the ceiling at the far end. We decided that we should do that one, also.
We read scripture, and my friend with the Holy Water had to flick the bottle up to reach the door. When the water contacted the door, all four of us were knocked onto our backs.
We said nervous goodbyes, and I went back to the CQ room and spent the rest of the night trembling.  I decided to report the incident officially to my Commanding Officer when I was relieved from CQ. I even called my wife and told her that I would probably be in the psychiatric ward later, if she wanted to come see me.
When the CO came in, I told him the story. He sat there, impassively, tapping a pencil on his desk, as I went through my report. After I had finished, he sat for a moment, and said " I know that the First Sergeant refuses to inspect that floor, but won't tell me why. I think I'm going to close that area and move the women to other rooms." I was dismissed.
He was as good as his word. Within the week, the fourth floor was padlocked.
Several years later, I contacted the woman with the Holy Water. She said that she had no memory of the incident. Did she block it out? Did I imagine the whole thing? I don't think so.
I didn't start trying to walk as a proper Christian for several more years, but that night made it abundantly clear to me that the spirit world was real.
As an afterthought, it turned out that all the women who attempted suicide from that floor had been practicing some form of witchcraft in their rooms."

17 July 2013

Ghosts Part II

The house was built in 1923 by the embalmer at City View Cemetery, and passed to his son, also an embalmer, on his death.  It was sold in the 50s or 60s to a family who owned it as a rental, and later to my source, who also uses it as rental property.  Sometime in the 1970s, it spent some time as a care home.  Four different, unrelated tenants, who apparently had no connection or contact with each other, report similar occurrences, but only one put them in writing, and thus qualifies as a first-person account by my rules.  The letter was written upon move out by way of explanation for a broken lease. Part of the letter goes as follows (I’ve tried to keep spelling and punctuation faithful to the original):
“[my wife], the children, several friends, and family members, and myself all experienced some very strange things while we lived there.  It has come to the point where none of us felt safe living in the home.  I don’t usually say this type of thing to people, but it is my belief as well as the belief of many others that the house has several spirits inhabiting it that are not at rest.
There are at least two upstairs: One is a female that likes to cause distress and picks on people.  She is not BAD but is a great nuisance and pushed [my wife] down the stairs once as well as threw a knife out of the bathroom window at a friend of ours coming over for her birthday party;  We were unable to identify the other spirit upstairs but it is sad and tries to stay away from people. 
On the first level there is an older man that is somewhat crotchety.  He doesn’t cause harm but he does slam door and cupboards and isn’t partial to cats.  In the basement we have identified 5 spirits: two male and 3 small spirits.  One of the males likes to look out the windows at the street.  He will pull the curtains down if the windows are covered and scares animals if they sit in front of his windows.  The other male grieves horribly for his death and has a tendency to throw tantrums.  During these tantrums, he breaks things such as the water heater and causes scratches and things in the wood.  The three little ones like to play on the stairs and behind them.  They will also sometimes make you feel like you are going to fall for no apparent reason when you are going down the stairs…. 
We have also experienced being woken up in the middle of the night to a loud, single verse of “Deck the Halls.”  This happened twice in the same night although none of us have anything that plays that song.”

I don’t know what to make of any of this, particularly the knife thrown from the bathroom window.  What do you think?

16 July 2013

Ghosts: Part I

I don’t believe in ghosts.

Truthfully, I don’t know, but I know I haven’t found the “evidence” I’ve encountered to be very persuasive. But knowing, in some cases quite well, people who have had such experiences, people who are not the type prone to making stuff up, gives me pause.  So I decided to pursue a few “first-person” stories, related by the people that experienced them.  I’ll share them over a series of posts.

Everyone in Raleigh knew where the haunted house was.  Actually, there was supposed to be another one, and that one was supposed to be a castle, at that, but the old white house was still the stuff of legend and lore.  I have no idea how long it stood empty at the top of the hill across the street from an elementary school, but as long as I could remember.  And I’d never paid much attention to it until the summer of 2004, when I started geocaching.

My favorite geocaches were always the ones that took me to interesting places and told me something about them I never knew.  So that’s the kind of thing I liked to set up myself.  Thus it was that my second (I think) hide was called “Cheerfield Farm.”  The house had burned to the ground several years earlier, but the unkempt footprint still marked the site unmistakably.  I never could determine the exact ownership of the property, but no one seemed to mind a few visitors, and the rusty old swings nearby still attracted a few.  In order to do the back story for the cache page, I set out to find out the history of the old joint.  I had a lot more difficulty than I expected.

Virtually the only references I could find to the old place were ghost stories.  The type of things you’d expect: hauntings of sad little children that once lived there.  Glowing “energy orbs” in misty, poorly-focused photographs that look suspiciously like water droplets on spider webs a half inch from the camera lens.  But the children tie-in worked well because the home really had been a children’s home.  I finally found a newspaper article from the early 1920s from when the place opened.  It was a “TB” home: not for kids that had tuberculosis, but for kids that were susceptible to it: “sickly” kids, back when the prescribed treatment for such was isolation in the country.  That’s all I was ever able to find, and the cache box lasted a few years before seekers encountered complaints, I think from just a grumpy neighbor who didn’t like the foot traffic 1,000 feet from his fence line, and I archived it.

But I never put any stock in the ghost stories.  I have a very concrete view of reality.  This is not to say I discount the existence of an unseen world; on the contrary, I believe strongly.  I am a Bible-believing Christian, and the scriptures speak clearly and unmistakably of the existence of a dimension (for lack of a better term) that is not normally visible to ours.  But the idea that the spirits of actual people, who once were alive but are now physically dead, actually hang around geographic locations on Earth: well, in that, I have no confidence.

The Bible itself is not entirely absent of such references, however. There are primarily two instances of formerly living human beings making cameo appearances. I’ll deal with the second another time.
Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36 all refer to an event in the ministry of Jesus commonly known as the Transfiguration.  Peter , James (one of the sons of Zebedee)  and John (not the other son of Zebedee)  accompany Jesus up an unnamed mountain, where He becomes bright as a shining light (see the shekinah glory of God ).  While He is radiant, two Old Testament prophets, known to the disciples (though how is not specified) to be Moses and Elijah, appear beside and converse with Jesus.  As there were no photographs of Moses and/or Elijah, it may be assumed that the knowledge of their identity was supernaturally revealed to Peter, James, and John.  But in any event, the narrative makes it clear that these were actual manifestations of formerly living persons, not angels or visions.  “Ghosts,” if you will.

She was driving near Tigard.  Nothing unusual, no unusual weather, no indication that anything was amiss.  As such things always happen, suddenly, out of nowhere, in the blink of an eye, she struck a pedestrian!!  He rolled up the windshield, his face clearly visible striking the glass.  She (of course) screamed and slammed on the brakes!  “Oh my gosh, I’ve killed someone!” she thought, getting out of the car.  You guessed it.  No pedestrian lying in the road, no broken windshield, no blood, no nothing.  Just a white, wooden cross beside the road where someone had presumably been killed some time before. 

He was standing at the end of a hallway in an old hospital building in New Mexico.  Standing at the end of the hallway was the quintessential cowboy, his cowboy-booted bowed legs supporting a strong upper body, great big hat, thumbs tucked into the waistband of his pants, everything you’d expect a real, old fashioned cowpoke to look like.  Except he wasn’t there.  He was just a black outline, a hole in the air, a gap cut out of reality.  These types of “ghosts” are called “shadow people,” and are not generally known to be active or violent.  They just sort of stand there.  Or stand not-there, I guess, would be a better way to put it.

How about you?  Do you have a ghost story?  First person accounts only, please, but if you know someone who has a first person account, feel free to put them in touch with me at Steve@spencersb.com.