Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Searcy State Mental Hospital

Circe was the first book I ever wrote and I got a publishing deal for the book.  However, the publisher forgot about Circe and it was shuffled around and buried and I had gotten to the point where I thought it would never see the light of day.  Circe is a dark book and I thought maybe that was for the best.  However, yesterday my editor contacted me and said they were planning on publishing it soon.  Yay!  So in order to celebrate, I thought I'd bring back an old post on the hospital that inspired me to write Circe.

Searcy is one of my favorite haunted places. I did my internship here a very long time ago and I fell in love with it's history and it's white chipped walls. Everything about this old hospital spoke to me. It was even more remarkable because most of those who worked there and lived there every day were oblivious to it's history. I found this hospital so fascinating that I wrote I book about it which will be coming out this April.

Searcy State Hospital is located in Mt. Vernon Alabama. Prior to being a state hospital the old hospital has along and dark history that is very difficult to find, but easy to see upon casual observation. The hospital is encased in long, chipped, white walls that seem as old as anything in the United States. From outside these walls, you can see a battered watchtower that gives testament to the fact that the hospital is in the same location as a 300 year old fort. The fort bears witness to American history and was originally a Spanish fort. It switched hands during the Louisiana Purchase and became a US fort. After the US took possession of the fort it was converted to a military arsenal and became known as the Mount Vernon Arsenal.

The Arsenal switched hands again several times and was taken by the Confederates during the civil war only to be passed back over the United States again in 1862. From 1887 to 1894, The Arsenal became a Barracks and was used as a prison for the captured Apache people. The most famous of the Apache people to be held in these barracks was Geronimo. The infamous Aaron Burr was also held at this secluded prison at some point.

In 1900 the Barracks were transformed once again and the prison became a mental hospital. Searcy hospital was built as the African American mental hospital in Alabama. Conditions in the hospital were beyond questionable and at one time there were over 2000 patients in the crowded hospital and all were seen by one psychiatrist. All patients were expected to work in the fields.

The hospital was desegregated in 1969, but it’s history is all around it. The hospital is still in used today, and although the residents live in new buildings, many tell stories of ghosts and devils that linger in the white walls and abandoned buildings that surround the new facilities. These stories are usually ignored, because the patients are crazy, but I’m not the only sane person who saw a few ghosts while they were working there.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I've Become a Ghost

I haven't been blogging lately.  I haven't been commenting lately and truth be known, I haven't even been able to leave my house much lately.  I am wrapped in ace bandages and stitched up and slightly delirious from too much lortab.  Life goes on without me and I just watch and smile and I imagine this must be what it feels like to be a ghost.  It really isn't that bad of a thing, except I have to rely on my husband to do my hair.  I look like the bride of Frankenstein. I have the hair and the bandages and the stitches.  It's too bad it isn't Halloween.

Anyhow,  I will be blogging again and writing again once I'm back on my feet and have left the land of the dead.  I'm just apologizing for my absence in the world of blogs and I can't wait to catch up when I'm better and find the ghost stories I've missed while I've been trapped in my own personal fog.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Limits of Paranormal Belief

"Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside the range of normal or scientific explanation or that indicates phenomena that are understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure."

I write about ghosts and hauntings and I obviously have a strong interests in ghosts and hauntings.  When I began writing true ghost stories in my blog a little over a year ago,  I was mostly interested in the folklore and the ghost stories themselves.  Oddly,  I had given little thought to the theory or reality behind the stories.  I just loved the stories.  I had a few paranormal experiences myself involving hauntings, but I had no opinion whatsoever on the world of the paranormal outside of the ghostly.  Over the last year,  I have met so many other people that are interested in the paranormal and otherworldly that I've had to question my belief in all paranormal things.  Of course, the world of the paranormal is incredibly broad and includes ghosts, UFOs, cryptology, esp, witchcraft, faith and spiritual healing and many other topics.

This brings me to my main question.   As people who are interested in the paranormal, where do we draw the line?  As paranormal enthusiasts do we believe in everything paranormal or just one or two things?  I think that line is different for all paranormal enthusiasts.  I also find the line is completely variable.   I've known people who believe in aliens but think ghosts are ridiculous or who believe in ghosts but think Bigfoot is nonsense.    I know people that love ghost stories but think magic and witchcraft is foolishness.    I found this chart on wikipedia.  This survey questioned people as to whether or not they believe in certain areas of the paranormal:
Farha-Steward  Poll  Results for Belief/ Disbelief in Paranormal Topics (Don't Believe is Not on  Chart)

                                                              Believe         Not Sure
astrology                                                  17%        26 %                
channeling                                                  10%           29%
clairvoyance and prophecy                         24 %          33%
communication with the dead                     16 %           29%
demonic possession                                  40%             28%
ESP                                                         28%             39%
extraterrestrials visited Earth in the past     17%             34%
ghosts/spirits of the dead                          39%             27%
haunted houses                                        40%             25%
psychic/spiritual healing                            56%             26%
reincarnation                                            15%             28%
telepathy                                                  24%             34%
witches                                                     26%             19%

Other surveys by different organizations at different times have found very similar results. A 2001 Gallup Poll found that the general public embraced the following: 54% of people believed in psychic/spiritual healing, 42% believed in haunted houses, 41% believed in satanic possession, 36% in telepathy, 25% in reincarnation, and 15% in channeling.   So, it seems that almost half of the population believes in ghosts, hauntings, and faith healings. Almost 65% of those surveyed, either believed in or were open to the possibility of hauntings being real.  However, very few people embrace the notion of aliens having visiting the earth and clairvoyance. 

Lately, I've been drawn to magic and witchcraft as a paranormal endeavor.  As a good Catholic girl,  I was brought up to believe this is evil, so I can't practice it.  But I've enjoyed reading about it and learning about its history.  This is something most people do not believe in within the paranormal realm.   This week I did an experiment, just to see what happens.  I cast a spell.  Of course,  I chose one that called to St. Rafael, St. Michael, and St Gabriel.  This seemed natural to me as Catholics pray to the saints and ask for their intervention often enough.  The spell called for me to light some candles and make three wishes.  One impossible wish, on wish for love, and one wish for business and ask the above angels to help obtain said wishes.  I did so.  Interestingly, the candle for the impossible wish (I wished that Japan would have a speedy and painless recovery) went out almost immediately.  The others burned through the night.  The other two wishes were for my husband (love) and for my next novel to be published by one of the two editors that are currently reviewing it (business).    If it works, I may put a check by believing in magic, if not,  I'll still stay in the not sure column. 

So I ask my readers, where do your paranormal leanings go?  Do you draw the line somewhere or does every aspect of the paranormal interest you?  Are there things you believe in and other things your find ridiculous?    I noticed the survey did not include Cryptids.  I would like to know where interest in cryptids would stand on this survey.  I've been reading  the blog Gummerfan's  Monster HQ lately
http://gummerfansmonsterhunterhq.blogspot.com/ and his articles on cryptids are interesting.  I wonder if that is a lesser believed in area of the paranormal?  So let me know where you stand and where your limits of the paranormal begin and end.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chickamauga Battlefield in Pictures

Today I went to Chickamauga Battlefield.  It was a beautiful day and the sun bathed the battlefield in a gentle light that lent itself well to photography.  The second most bloody battle in the Civil War was fought at this battlefield just South of Chattanooga. Thirty-five thousand soldiers died on these grounds.  I have written about the many ghosts of this second most haunted battlefield  in the country before and I will go into more detail about the hauntings and the green eyed beast that lives on Snodgrass Hill in my new book, Haunted Chattanooga.   But here area few pictures I took today.  Chickamauga is a stunningly beautiful military park buried in enormous monuments that serve as tombstones for the hundreds of dead from each state that fell in this battle.  I didn't expect in to be so lovely and I took far more pictures than I can put in the book.

Snodgrass Hill:  Where Old Green Eyes Lurks in the Shadows!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dead Man's Bridge

Ditto's Landing used to be a thriving port town.  It is now a ghost town.  It really isn't even that.  It has vanished completely.  In 1807 James Ditto started to ferry people across the Tennessee River from what is now Ditto's Landing.  This business grew and by 1827, the town of Whitesburg was born as a thriving port town.  Hundreds of tons of cotton went through Whitesburg every year.  They went up and down the river.   By 1907, the town was dead.  It was killed by trains and faster modes of transportation.  What is left at Ditto's Landing isn't much. It is still a pretty place.  The old Whitesburg Bridge still stands gracing the landscape.

The Whitesburg Bridge has had more than its share of tragedy.  In 1916 David Owen ran for the office of Judge.  He ran against Judge Lawler.   By some strange circumstances,   David Owen met Judge Lawler on the Whitesburg Bridge and shot him.  This would be the first of a series of strange deaths on the now quiet bridge.  The Sheriff then shot himself on the bridge.  His son shot himself on the bridge and a well known Lawyer shot himself on the bridge.  For whatever reason, the bridge seems cursed by death.

Today, you wouldn't have known that the bridge was haunted.  It was a quiet day and fisherman dangled their lines into the serene water beneath the bridge.   At night, they say the ghosts of the men who died at this bridge still walk.  You can hear their screams in the dark and a few fishermen even claim to have seen the ghosts of dead man's bridge.  Even in daylight, I caught a few peculiarities on film while photographing the bridge.  Strange lights appeared in many of my photographs.  The picture below shows my son standing next to one of a dozen strange lights I photographed on the bridge.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ghost of the Lynched

The Madison County Courthouse looks new.  It is the center of downtown Huntsville, Alabama and it is known for its interesting architecture and murals.  The structure that stands there today isn't more than forty years old.   Its uniquely modern architecture and style dates it, but it was not the first court house to stand in down town Huntsville.  Madison County dates back to the early 1800s and four courthouses have stood in the location where the current courthouse resides.  The County courthouse holds many ghosts, but the most famous ghost that still lingers in the courthouse is the ghost of Horace Maples.  

Horace Maples was lynched in front of the Madison County Courthouse in 1904.  He was a black man and the mob that lynched him was brutal and ruthless.   They beat him bloody and hung him from a tree.  They cut off his finger and in the night while he dangled, bleeding and helpless, he was shot three times.  The proceeding court cases and controversies made national news and I found numerous clips about the trials of those who were in the lynch mob in the New York Times.   Apparently, Madison County did not want to prosecute those that lynched poor Horace Maples.  Racism was deeply entrenched in Alabama culture and the locals didn't see it as a crime.   In order for the court case to carry on, the federal military and state militia had to be called in to keep the peace.  Nineteen members of the lynch mob were indicted for the killing of Horace Maples and this became a landmark case showing people throughout the South that lynching was a crime, no matter what the race of the victim.

Those who have stayed in the Madison County Courthouse lock up have described seeing men enter and leave through walls.  Ghostly figures have been seen throughout the courthouse accompanied by the usual strange noises, orbs, and odd lights.   It is hard to name all the ghosts that linger in the courthouse as many sad figures have passed in and out of its doors throughout its history, but Horace's ghost is the most frequently seen.   He forever lingers in the place of his tragic death. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Demon in the Dark

Last year at this time I was hard at work on Haunted North Alabama.    I did numerous interviews with people to try to get interesting ghost stories.   I got one of my favorite stories from a young woman who lived in Huntsville.  I couldn't post it on my blog at the time because I had to save it for the book, but this story had a deep impact on me.  The young woman who told me the story just wanted to be heard.  Most people didn't believe her when she told them her story, so she had stopped talking about it.  Her husband believed her only because he was there, but he didn't like talking about it.

The young woman told me they had just purchased their dream house.  It was everything she ever wanted, but from the beginning the house was just wrong.  Even as she unpacked, doors opened and closed.  Things moved around.   She was so happy to be in the new house, she ignored these things because she loved the house, but one door in particular kept opening every time she closed it.

Time passed and her husband worked the night shift so she ended up alone in the house all the time.   At first, there were noises.   The noises grew and sometimes light bulbs would explode when the light was turned off.   The young woman called an electrician and the electrician explained there was no way light bulbs could just explode with no current.  The young woman became afraid of the house.  One long night, she heard something in the spare room and went to explore.  As she walked into the room, she saw a dark shape curled up on the floor.  Just as she saw it, the light bulb exploded and the room was bathed in darkness.   The young women went to spend the night with her parents.    The young woman changed her entire life she was so afraid.  She only stayed at home when her husband was there.   One night, her husband heard the noises too.   He got up to investigate and found every light in the house turned on and the television on.  He couldn't explain it, but when he crawled back into bed the noises began again.  He described the noises as sounding like there was a party in their living room.   After that night, he agreed that they had to leave the house. 

Things got worse for the young woman.   She began having nightmares and she woke up with claw marks on her back.   She had three long, deep gashes running the length of her back.  There was no way she could have done this to herself.  Every morning she woke up with more injuries.  Finally, they were able to move.   they left the house and the haunting ended, but the young woman said she still was afraid to sleep.  She was still afraid to be alone.  The demon that had haunted her in that house had left her with scars that went deeper than the flesh. 

I went to find the young woman's old house after the interview and I found the house had fallen into disrepair.  It was a plain little house with nothing to distinguish it from the houses next to it.  The windows were broken and covered with cardboard and although there were cars in the driveway no one answered the door.   None of the neighbors would comment on the new or past residents of the house.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest Blogger Lisa Shoreland Discusses Biltmore Estate's Haunted History

I am excited to welcome guest blogger, Lisa Shoreland, to my blog.  I love writers and am always happy to have new writers on my blog, but I like this guest post more than usual because I believe Lisa has to be psychic.  She has written an amazing post about Biltmore mansion in North Carolina and I am packing to leave for North Carolina tomorrow!   I'm hoping to bring back some wonderful pictures to add to this post.

The Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate is a picture of beauty and opulence: Its 175,000 square feet and 250 rooms feature some of the finest art and architecture, and it rests against the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, N.C. It was built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt as his family’s primary residence. Many decades after its original inhabitants died, they still seem to call it home.

George Vanderbilt built the estate after becoming enamored with the local scenery and climate. Although he set out to build a summer home, he devoted much of his time and resources to the estate, building it to be self-sufficient, with its own livestock and dairy farms, a church, and a forestry school. He and his wife, Edith, welcomed a daughter, Cordelia, during their time at the estate.

Haunted Past

In 1914, George died of complications from an appendectomy. Devastated from her husband’s death, Edith took to sitting by the marble fireplace in the library each night and holding conversations with her dear departed. The servants thought the woman was going crazy.

Years later, staff at the Biltmore Estate say that they can still hear the whispered voice of Edith talking to her husband late at night. Some report seeing the two of them together, sitting and laughing by the fireplace.

Others report seeing George himself in the second floor oak sitting room or the Billiard room. He is usually seen sitting or smoking his pipe, but others say they just feel his presence.

Other Happenings

Sightings and strange happenings aren’t limited to the house or to George and Edith. Reports of haunted behavior at the Biltmore Estate have been widely varied over the years.

Some employees report hearing strange noises, such as disembodied footsteps, laughter, or screaming. Others say they have felt like they were being watched. Visitors to the Pool Room have also reported strange noises, such as splashing and swimming when no one is present. There have also been tales of a lady wearing black floating just below the water’s surface.

Finally, visitors have often reported seeing the apparition of a headless orange cat running through the estate, especially between the Gardens and the Bass Pond.

Want to see if you can catch any of these strange sightings? There are haunted tours of Biltmore Village and downtown Asheville. Or you can pay to visit the Biltmore Estate during the day and see if you get lucky!

Lisa Shoreland works for   http://www.gocollege.com/financial-aid/scholarships/types/academic-scholarships.html  .  You can learn more about her at this link.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Death's Dream Kingdom Book Trailer.

I have the day off today and I am an absolute master in the art of procrastination.  I have a deadline next month and two chapters of Haunted Chattanooga left to write.  I have another book due to my publisher and a trip next week to plan, so I spent my day working on a book trailer for Death's Dream Kingdom, which will be coming out in ebook format in May and print in November.   I'm actually going to pay someone to do a real trailer, so I'm not entirely sure why I wasted my morning doing this.  I guess I just love doing something I shouldn't.  So here is the trailer I made for my book which will have a limited ebook release in May!  Let me know if you like it.  I have no skill at these things so feedback will be used and appreciated.


Monday, March 7, 2011

The North Port Ghost

My favorite ghost stories are the ones told to me by people.  I always like to think of ghost stories as the last oral traditions.  These days there a very few stories that are told around the table or camp fire like they used to before television and the Internet.  Ghost stories and urban legends are the last stories the cling to these old traditions and sometimes ghost stories and urban legends can become almost one.  Some friends of mine shared one their favorite stories from their college days with me over dinner this way.  The story was told to me two very different ways.  This is the risk of oral traditions.  They often are told very differently by each person telling them.

The first person who shared this story with me told me that the North Port Ghost was a real story.  He said that if you drive down a lonely road in rural Alabama you will come to a spot where many people have seen The North Port Ghost.    If you slow down,  you might see her wandering the road alone.   According to legend,  the North Port Ghost is the wife of a Confederate soldier.  She wanders the night searching for her husband.   He never came home from the war and she has never stopped looking for him.  Even in death, her lonely specter can be seen all dressed in white waiting for the return of a many who is long go.   She is a classic white lady, forever looking for love that will never come.

The second story I heard was much less fun but still interesting.  She said the North Port Ghost was a snipe hunt.   She claimed upper classman sent Freshmen into the country and told them to drive slowly down a hill while flashing their blinkers.  If this is done properly, the light will catch off a lamp post giving the affect of a ghost and scaring the crap out of the Freshman. 

According to Shadowlands Haunted Place Index,  The North Port Ghost was once commonly seen.   He was the ghost of a fallen confederate soldier who used to roam the area.   The ghost is not seen anymore and has disintegrated into a tourist attraction because the area has become over developed and is no longer rural.

So,  I love my oral traditions and I love this story because it is one that is told again and again, but the true story has been lost somewhere in the telling.  It has become a prank and a joke told to scare college students, but I like to believe the first story is true and that urbanization has driven the ghost away.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee

Tennessee has some of the best ghost stories I have ever heard.  As an Alabama girl,  I'm often jealous of the state just North of me.  It is so rich in folklore and ghostly tales that it makes the rest of us look poor.  The Belle Witch alone could and has filled entire books with her witchly horror.This is why I was thrilled to read Christopher K. Coleman's Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.   There are a lot of books about the ghosts of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley.   This book stood apart to me in the way it was laid out.  As a paranormal explorer, I love to travel to and visit the locations I read about in books.  Some collections of ghost stories make this almost impossible to do.  They don't give detailed locations so there is no way to find the haunted location and visit it yourself.  This deficit in so many books makes me sad.  Coleman gives addresses and locations for every haunted spot he describes making this a paranormal tourist's dream.

Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee is more than a guidebook, however.  It is also a fun collection of folklore and Southern superstition.   My favorite chapter is called Mountain Witches.  It traces the origins of Tennessee's mountain witches back to Celtic lands and into the mountains of Tennessee.  It lists many old charms to be used as protections against enchantment.  These might include putting a dime in your shoe, laying a broom across the threshold of your home, and spreading salt around your home.   The book also explores the numerous mysterious monsters and beasties that wander Tennessee.   It discusses my favorite beastie, old green eyes, and many other mysterious creatures.   Ghost and Haunts of Tennessee is a fun collection of ghosts and folklore for any Southerner, especially those of us who live close enough to go find some of Coleman's haunts.