Dark Realms Magazine - Issue 12
Ghosts: True Tales of Spirits that Haunt the Night
We have all heard ghost stories—ghastly tales of spectral manifestations of people long dead and phantom wanderers who haunt the shores of night. But are ghosts merely unfounded figments of superstitious lore, or do they actually exist?
Whether ghosts are truly restless spirits who have returned from beyond the grave to haunt the world of the living, or merely psychic reflections of the past, the presence of these supernatural entities has been seen and felt by a vast array of credible witnesses, and many documented cases seem to offer undeniable evidence of their existence.
In more superstitious times, murderers were hanged at unmarked crossroads so that their ghosts could not find their way back to town. Many of these wayward spirits were believed to haunt the forests and roads in the dead of night. Ghosts were also said to be unable to cross running water unless invited by a living person, so criminals were often buried far from town, beyond a river or stream.
Those deserving of a proper resting place were buried in the consecrated or hallowed ground of churchyards, however graves belonging to those who had committed suicide were relegated to the North side of the churchyard, where their graves, and shame, were concealed in shadow.
Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve as it was called, was the night of the year when spirits of the dead were believed to rise from their graves and wander the earth in search of salvation.
It is easy to dismiss many primitive beliefs as the inventions of uneducated minds during extremely superstitious times, however despite the lack of scientific proof, the belief in ghosts still flourishes in the modern day.
Are ghosts really the souls of the dead who have returned to the world of the living? Ghosts are often said to appear after a person has died suddenly and left some unfinished business in the physical world. The presence of ghosts is usually felt the strongest by family members and loved ones, and numerous cases report of ghosts returning from the spirit world to convey a final message, either to reveal some hidden truth, or to right a wrong.
Many people believe that ghosts are merely psychic remnants of the past, or an unexplained energy that manifests itself in the physical world as an apparition. Parapsychologists, or people who study the phenomena of ghosts from a scientific standpoint, believe that the presence of a spirit can be detected by measuring sudden changes in room temperature or electro-magnetic fields, and that spectral manifestations are comprised of a physical matter known as ectoplasm. In some cases, ghosts have been photographed, appearing as obscure vaporous forms and eerie translucent lights.
POLTERGEISTS AND HAUNTINGS
Though not generally associated with sightings of any spectral apparitions, poltergeists (The German term for "noisy spirit") are reported to be responsible for all sorts of mischievous activities, such as moving, hiding and even breaking household items. In many cases, these unseen spirits are believed to be responsible for hurling objects such as glasses and plates across rooms, and activating electrical appliances such as doorbells, telephones, lamps, radios and TVs. Most reports of poltergeist activity seem to center around children and young teens, and for this reason, poltergeists are believed to feed off the energy of the living.
Hauntings are described as areas where apparitions have been sighted over a period of time. Ghosts are often reported to dwell in old mansions and ancient castles, and theories suggest that these spirits of the dead are reluctant to leave their beloved lifetime homes. But not all hauntings are confined to structures such as houses, churches and castles. Many ghosts are said to haunt the cemeteries in which their bodies lie buried, or even the location of their own demise. Phantom soldiers are often seen wandering the sites of age-old battlefields, and ghostly apparitions have been reported along highways near the scene of a fateful accident. Many of these specters seem to be reenacting the events that led to their own untimely death.
Phantoms and specters are not merely relegated to roam the land. Throughout the centuries there have been numerous reports of ghosts haunting the high seas. Every sea captain has heard the tales of a spectral 17th century sailing ship named The Flying Dutchman that is said to appear out of the ocean mists and vanish without a trace. The ship was lost in a tropical storm in 1680, and legend tells that its captain and crew are cursed to sail the seas until Judgement Day. Over the past three hundred years, the phantom ship has been sighted numerous times, drifting along steadily, despite the lack of wind in its sails.
The British ocean liner, The Queen Mary has its share of ghosts as well, including the apparition of a young crewman who was crushed to death in a horrible accident below deck, and the ghost of a construction worker who is rumored to have been accidentally sealed within the hulls of the ship. The U.S. Frigate Constellation is said to harbor many restless spirits as well. This original flagship of the American fleet is believed to be haunted by its long dead captain, Thomas Truxtun and a sailor whom he condemned to death and executed for falling asleep on watch.
SPIRITS OF FOLKLORE
Every culture known to man has their own tales of ghosts, apparitions and restless spirits that haunt the night. Many of these specters are described as harbingers of death who warn of imminent doom, and in some instances, even ferry their victims beyond the threshold of the mortal realms.
The Ankou was one such spirit that was said to roam the British countryside at night searching for souls to claim. Described as an eyeless man carrying a sword or scythe who drove a cart drawn by steeds black as shadow, the Ankou was believed to be the restless spirit of Caine who was cursed to eternally wander the earth as Death's emissary.
Villagers hurried indoors and bolted their doors and shutters when they heard the Ankou's creaking cart draw near at night, fearing that he might be coming to claim them. A doppleganger, also known as a double or fetch, is a spirit that enters the world of the living to deliver death to its chosen victim. The doppleganger is said to assume the human form of those whose lives they come to claim.
In Ireland, legends tell of a ghostly maiden known as the banshee whose mournful cry is said to foretell of woe and death. Described as a pale young woman wrapped in a silken shroud, the banshee is believed to be an omen of doom to all who gaze upon her.
In Norse tales, the utburd was the ghost of a sickly infant that was left to die in the cold. These invisible ghosts could appear in the form of a white owl or a shadowy hound as they sought revenge from those who had abandoned them or trod upon their unmarked grave. The utburd's wrath was brutal, merciless and most often fatal.
In Slavic folklore, the navky were the ghosts of young children who had died unbaptized or at their mother's hands. These restless spirits were said to appear as infants or black birds that roosted in the branches of trees at night, hungering for revenge from those who let them die nameless. The navky wailed and cried from dusk till dawn, begging for baptism from passersby and luring unwary travelers astray.
TRUE GHOST STORIES
Many ghostly tales can be dismissed as works of fiction or primitive lore, however there are numerous accounts of hauntings and apparitions that come from very credible sources. Based on witness accounts, the following thirteen ghost stories are documented as true and unexplained cases of the paranormal.
Several motorists driving through the outskirts of Chicago have reported seeing the ghostly visage of a beautiful young woman in a white gown walking along Archer road which leads to Resurrection Cemetery. Legend tells that she was killed in an automobile accident while returning from a dance, and that her body is buried in the cemetery. Taxicab drivers who have witnessed the spectral vision report that the girl has vanished when they stopped to offer her a ride.
In 1976, Police Sergeant Pat Homer was dispatched to Resurrection Cemetery to investigate reports of a girl in a white dress that was locked inside the graveyard. When he arrived at the scene, Homer found that two solid bronze bars of the cemetery gates were pulled apart and scorch marks in the form of handprints had been left on the rails. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the bent bars and ghostly imprints cold not have been hoaxed.
On August 23rd, 1980, Sam Meranto and his wife Julie witnessed the phantom hitch-hiker while driving. The couple saw a young girl wearing a party dress and carrying her shoes slowly walking alone through the fog. Suddenly the air became ice cold, and both Sam and his wife were overwrought with a feeling of intense sadness. They passed the spectral girl and immediately turned around but she had vanished without a trace.
THE LADY IN WHITE
This phantom wanderer haunts the area around Connecticut's Union Cemetery. Motorists have reported seeing a pale woman in a flowing white gown who appears before their cars with her arms outstretched. In one instance, the ghostly form passed right through the car as it drove along, leaving the driver with a sensation of sadness.
A utility worker named Glenn Pennell encountered the spectral Lady in White while driving past the cemetery en route to repairing three power transformers that had blown out down the road. Pennell, who was accompanied by a police officer at the time, reported that the ghostly white form of a woman appeared out of nowhere in front of his vehicle. The officer yelled a warning, but Pennell could not stop his car before it hit the woman, sending her reeling into the darkness. When the two men got out of the car to investigate, they found no trace of the woman.
THE GHOSTS OF BLUEBELL HILL
This countryside roadway in England is haunted by the apparition of a young woman who terrifies motorists by walking in front of their cars, then disappearing into the night. Drivers have contacted the local police, convinced that they had hit someone, but no traces of accidents are ever found. Others have reported being terrorized by a hideous old hag who hurls herself onto cars and peers into windows only to vanish within a few seconds.
THE PHANTOM LADY OF THE LAKE
The Old Coldwood Lodge in upstate New York is home to the ghost of a woman who was murdered nearly a century ago. In 1906 Grace Brown was drowned in Big Moose Lake by her lover who was later convicted for the murder and sentenced to death. In 1988, a group of Coldwood Lodge employees witnessed the ghostly apparition of a woman in a silken white dress standing on the balcony of the staff lodge, overlooking the lake. After a few moments, the specter began to fade and then vanished into the night.
Later that same year, Linda Lee Macken and her best friend Bridget McMahon were sitting near the edge of the lake one autumn evening when the two witnessed an unusual mist moving along the surface of the water. As the two sat mesmerized, a ribbon of gray smoke arose from the mist and took on the appearance of a young woman shrouded in a white gown standing on the water. Both women reported being overcome with a feeling of sorrow. The next day, Linda Lee saw a photo of Grace Brown and instantly recognized her as the phantom lady of the lake.
THE PHANTOM BRIDE
Over the years, the apparition of a young woman wearing a bridal gown has been reported by several witnesses in the Nob Hill area of San Francisco. During the twilit hours of dusk and dawn the phantom bride has been sighted walking very quickly past an old apartment building on California Street and is said to pass right through other pedestrians. Local residents believe the the girl to be the ghost of Flora Somerton, a young debutante who mysteriously vanished one night in 1876. Flora's parents wanted her to marry a promising suitor, but the girl refused and presumably ran away. Fifty years later, Flora's body was found several states away, still wearing her wedding gown.
THE CURSE OF LEMP MANSION
Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri is said to be home to the Lemp family curse. After Local entrepreneur Charles Lemp shot himself in the head, three of his ancestors followed suit and ended their own lives inside the mansion and legend tells that their ghosts now wander its haunted halls.
One specter that has been seen on several occasions is known as the Lavender Lady and is believed to be the ghost of Lillian Lemp, who always wore the color lavender. Another apparition that has been sighted in the mansion is a stately gentleman, dressed entirely in black. Visitors to the mansion have also reported electric lights flickering, doors slamming shut, and lit candles that extinguish themselves when the air is deathly still.
The White House is said to harbor many restless spirits as well as psychic imprints of past historic events, but the most famous specter to haunt its halls is the ghost of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's ghost has been witnessed on numerous occasions over the past century, and visiting dignitaries who have spent the night in the Lincoln bedroom have reported hearing strange voices and knocking at the door, only to find no one there. President Lincoln's ghost has also made his presence known at Ford's Theatre, the site of his tragic assassination.
THE GHOST OF ANNE BOLEYN
As the second wife of King HenryVIII, Anne Boleyn reigned as queen of England during the 16th century, until she was arrested for treason. She was held in the Tower of London until she was unjustly convicted and beheaded for her crime. Over the past four-hundred and fifty years, numerous witnesses have reported seeing Anne Boleyn's ghost at Hampton Court and wandering the parapet of Windsor Castle. The phantom queen, dressed in an elegant gown is said to walk through solid stone walls. One case on record comes from a guard at the Tower of London who reportedly witnessed the queen's headless spirit roaming the tower corridors before the man fainted from the ghastly sight.
This stately manor in Vicksburg, Mississippi lies 44 miles west of Jackson, on the haunted banks of the Mississippi River. During a military siege in 1863, the house was commandeered for use as a field hospital and cemetery. Captain McPherson, a union officer murdered by Southern sympathizers is said to make his spectral presence known in the manor home.
McPherson's ghost first appeared to his commanding officer, Colonel Wilson, who was awakened one night by the dead man's ghastly apparition. Over the past century, visitors to the house have felt an eerie sensation of being watched and have reported doors slamming shut, a piano playing by itself, and various other apparitions of Civil War soldiers.
Another former occupant of the house, Mary Elizabeth Howard died at the age of 14, and her spirit has been witnessed on several occasions by the current owner
THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE
This area of canyons, deep in the heart of Texas, is said to be a vast haunted wilderness filled with restless spirits.
Bert Wall was working late one cold evening at his ranch home when his dog began barking. Wall glanced over his shoulder to see the ghostly figure of a Spanish monk standing on the porch outside his bay window, staring in at him. Wall sat transfixed by the eerie specter for several minutes until the apparition slowly faded away.
Lynn Gentry, a fellow rancher, was in his bunkhouse one evening when the still of the night was interrupted by a sudden thundering of horses' hooves. Gentry stepped outside to investigate, only to be met by a phantom regiment of Confederate soldiers riding by on horseback. The soldiers stormed past the bunkhouse, raising a cloud of dust, then vanished into the dead of night.
John Miers, a local hunter, was returning home through the woods at sundown when he heard the rustle of footsteps behind him. Miers stopped in his tracks and felt the sensation of being watched. When he turned and looked back he saw an Indian standing behind him. Though the temperature was only twenty degrees, the Indian wore no shirt. As Miers began to walk away, the Indian walked beside him at a distance of several feet, matching the hunter step for step. Finally Miers stopped and began to walk toward his silent pursuer, but after a few steps, the Indian vanished.
THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE
The city of St. Augustine, Florida is home to several ghostly sightings, but none more intriguing than the haunted lighthouse on the outskirts of town. The playful ghost of a young girl killed during a construction accident is said to reside within the lighthouse. Throughout the years, visitors to the lighthouse have heard footsteps and a child singing as well as witnessing doors and windows open and lights come on when no living soul was present.
Ghosts often appear to their loved ones in dreams to impart a final sentiment or piece of vital information. Such was the case of the 14th century writer Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. At the time of his death in 1321, the only known manuscript for his greatest work was left unfinished, and no other draft was known to exist. But Dante's spirit would not know rest until his masterpiece was complete.
Dante's ghost, dressed in blazing white garments, appeared to his son Jacopo in a dream and told him that he had indeed finished writing The Divine Comedy. The apparition then proceeded to reveal the resting place of the missing pages. When Jacopo awoke, he entered his father's chambers and discovered the missing papers, stashed away in a hidden compartment, exactly where his father's ghost said they would be found.
TESTIMONY FROM BEYOND
The mysterious case of the murder of Teresita Basa seems to offer irrefutable evidence that ghosts can return to the realm of the living. On February 21st, 1977 Ms. Basa, an immigrant from the Philippines, was found murdered in her Chicago apartment. Her body had been repeatedly stabbed then set on fire, but despite the brutal nature of the crime, the police had no suspects in the killing until the case took a turn into the realm of the supernatural.
Dr. José Chua and his wife worked with Teresita Basa at Edgewater Hospital. One night Dr. Chua noticed his wife had entered into a trance-like state. Mrs. Chua began speaking in a Philippine dialect, claiming to be the ghost of Teresita Basa. The spirit accused a hospital orderly by the name of Allen Showery of her murder. Mrs. Chua emerged from the trance, unable to explain what had come over her. The couple was understandably apprehensive to report the incident to anyone for fear that they might become suspects in the case. But over the next few nights, Mrs. Chua lapsed into similar spells in which Teresita's spirit revealed that her murderer had also stolen her jewelry and given her pearl ring to his girlfriend.
Doctor Chua and his wife eventually went to the police and related their ghostly tale to detectives Joseph Stachula and Lee Epplen. The detectives were skeptical at first, however when they investigated Allen Showery's home, they found Teresita's missing jewelry, and later discovered the pearl ring Showery had given to his girlfriend. Allen Showery confessed to the murder and was convicted for his crimes, but he may never have been caught had not the ghost of his victim returned to avenge her own death.
There are many mysteries beyond the comprehension of the mortal mind, but perhaps none more intriguing than the concept of life after death. What does await us all beyond the grave? Will we slumber in peaceful oblivion for all eternity or ascend to a higher plane of existence? Or will we return to the physical world as spectral shadows of our former selves to wander restlessly among the living and haunt our earthly domains? Perhaps in our lifetime we will find a definitive way to make contact with those who have passed over to the other side. Perhaps they are already reaching out to make contact with us.