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.  

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