Friday, June 29, 2012

A Photographic Journey Through The Haunted North Side of Mackinac Island

My family has been in Northern Michigan for close to 200 years.  There is even a story about my great, great grandfather proposing to my great, great grandmother on the steps of  The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.   That is why my family always feels connected to Mackinac Island.   As I toured the island a few days ago, I thought about my family and the history of the island.   Mackinac Island is considered to be the most haunted place in Michigan.   There are ghosts hiding behind every shadowy corner of this island.   The entire North portion of the island is said to be haunted.   The North portion of the island was the site of  a violent battle during the war of 1812.  During this battle, the English killed 75 Native Americans and since that time tourists and residents have reported seeing the phantoms of these Native Men hiding in the trees on the North side of the island.

While touring the North side of Mackinac Island, I looked for these ghosts amongst the stunning natural beauty of the island.   While looking for ghosts, I found the a wonderful collection of cairns along the shore line that augmented the natural beauty and created and atmosphere of mystery.  Cairns are stacks of stones that are were commonly used in prehistory. In modern times, cairns are usually used as landmarks, but in ancient times they were used for ceremonial, astonomical, and directional purposes .I also found the decaying remains of an old hotel called the Silver Birches.  The old house was turned into a hotel and eventually left to ruin.  The remains of the hotel cast a truely haunting shadow over the North shore of the island.  I haven't heard any ghost stories associated with the old hotel, but its ghostly appearance makes it worth a photograph or two.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Newton-Allaire House Revisited

When I was a child, ghosts were very real to me.  I knew they shouldn't be.  I knew what my mother told me.  She told me that ghosts were not real, but every time I traveled to the family house in Cheboygan, Michigan, I felt that they were real because I felt them in the house. It is because of this house and because of my grandmother, who lived in the house, that my fascination with ghosts and haunted places grew into what it is today.  The most haunted place I have ever visited is my family home, the Newton-Allaire house in Cheboygan, Michigan. This house has been in my family for almost 150 years. As long as I have been alive, it has been the residence of my grandmother and my great-aunt.  Several years ago they both departed the home leaving it empty. The house itself is a beautiful 8 bedroom Victorian within walking distance of the down town. My grandmother spent much of her life painstakingly restoring the house so that it is as historically accurate as possible.   When she was alive, she spoke of the house as a person and loved it as if it were her child.
This seems appropriate to me, because the house has always seemed alive and the house has always been alive with ghost stories. My father once told me that there was a spot in the house that turned ice cold at midnight. At night, the house is filled with odd noises and bizarre lights. One of the last times I stayed there, I was awoken int he middle night to find my night table shaking and what sounded like a train passed through my room. My mom says she awoke one morning to find a ghost holding her hand. The same trip that I awoke to the loud noises, I had travelled to a wedding as well. My wedding clothes were carefully nestled at the bottom of my suite case. I never used them during my stay at the house and I never touched them, however after I left, my family found them laid out in an unused room. They were laid out like someone was going to wear them.

When I was little several sets of family photos came back from the house filled with white blobs. My parents, reluctant to believe in ghosts, tossed the photos and blamed it on bad photography, but I always knew the house was filled with the ghosts of our family. The house was alive with them and I think that is why I never wanted to leave. I still miss it and I often hope the ghosts aren't too lonely.  I am leaving on Sunday to journey back to the old house.  The last time we visited, it had been empty so long that the ghosts seemed to have gone with the people.  It was quiet and all haunting activity was gone.  I'm hoping this time, I'll catch a glimpse of the house as it was when I was a girl.  I'm taking my little bag of ghost hunting tools and I'll be staying in the room with the most haunting activity.  Whether or not I find ghosts, I know I'll find my family there and that it will be a wonderful trip that I've been looking forward to for a very long time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Pudwudgies of Mounds State Park

I am preparing for another rode trip in my brand new caravan.  The caravan provides for a new realm of ghostly travel and for my first overnight in our white lady, we'll be staying in Mounds State Park in Indiana.   Mounds State Park is most known for its archaeological significance.  The park features 10 different structures that were sculpted into the Earth by Native Americans.  These 10 ceremonial mounds were constructed by the prehistoric Adena culture and were later used by the Hopewell Native Americans.  The largest and most impressive of the mounds is called the "Great Mound" and was built around 160 BC.

It is not surprising that a place that is so rich in history should have a long tradition of oral folklore associated with it.   The folklore associated with Mounds State Park is more than just oral history, sighting of the legendary beings that haunt this state park persist to this day.   Creature from Native America Folklore called pudwudgies are seen on a regular basis around this site.  Pudwudgies are 2 or 3 ft high with large noses, fingers, and ears.  They are grey and are sometimes said to glow.  They are dangerous creatures that can transform into animals and are said to enjoy mischief and destruction and sometimes have been known to lure people to their deaths. 

Interestingly, Pudwudgies are said to be able to control the ghosts of those they have murdered.  Thus they can use their army of ghosts to create more mischief and cause more death.  Regular sitings of the Pudwudgies and their ghosts are reported at the Mound State Park and I can't wait to visit and see if I can catch a glimpse of these mischief makers myself.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ghosts from Around the Campfire

A  few days ago I did a post about St. Bernard's Preparatory School.  I had always heard that the school was haunted, but had never learned any specifics about the haunting.  My last post focused on photographs and relics, but today my son came back from St. Bernard's Summer Camp and he brought a variable cornucopia of ghost stories back with him as a little late Mother's Day present for his mom.   The camp counselor's at Camp Bernard's have collected and saved the folklore of the school and spread it to the campers as they settle into bed at night.  All of the camp counselors either are attending or have attended the boarding school so they know the ghosts that wander the halls of St. Bernard's School better than anyone.  Not only did the counselors tell tales, but the campers whispered of ghosts in the night and shared them with each other.

My favorite story is one a counselor told my son.  I have always heard it said that a phantom monk wanders the grounds of St. Bernard's in the night.  He drifts in the mist and comes with the fog.  According to Gabe's camp counselor, many years ago a monk became desperate with despair.  This monk hung himself in the library at St. Bernard's.  The ghost of this monk still wanders the library to this day.  The library is so haunted, the students once used it as a Halloween haunted house.  The counselor says that when he was alone in the library, he could almost feel the monk breathing on him.  It seems this monk is also the monk I had heard of before that wanders the grounds at night.

Other ghost stories flourished at the camp.  One story spoke of a little girl that leaped to her death from the top of the girl's dormitory.  The girl's ghost still lingers at the girl's dormitory watching the other girls as they sleep.  One story my son says is complete rubbish, but it made for good campfire fun so is worth telling.   This tale tells of a little boy who died in the boy's dormitory.  According to the rumors of the camp, this ghost is so hostile, he contributed to the death of a camper. 

My son knows that the last story is nonsense, but campfire ghost stories are the heart of any good camp and the stories that have a hint of the truth in them add a little real creepiness to the fun of the stories that were nonsense and made camp all the more fun.   In the end,  stories like these remind me of my favorite thing about ghost stories.  They remind me of the joy of story telling and the joy of the last oral traditions and folklore.   I thank all the counselors and campers that spread these stories and keep them alive in the smoke of the campfire.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Traveling Spirits and the Manassas Battlefield

The Battlefield at Mannassas National Park has seen more than its fair share of bloodshed.  On July 21,1861 it was the site of the First Battle of Bull Run and on August 28th- 30th it was the site of the Second Battle of Bull Run.  It was here that General Thomas Jackson gained his nickname stonewall Jackson.  It isn't surprising that a place like this would be considered haunted.  Such places usually carry a few ghost stories, but it is always fun to hear the ghost stories from those who have actually experienced them.

Last week I had a wonderful chat with a young man who had spent a considerable amount of time sneaking around the battle field at night and chasing shadowy ghosts through the dark corners of this old battlefield.  He had some particularly interesting stories about Manassas. One of his stories about a traveling ghost was particularly interesting to me.  Apparently, he spent some time ghost hunting by The Stone Bridge, which the Union retreated across after both battles.  On the Stone Bridge, the young man and his friends were able  catch several EVPs of cannon fire.   The young man was a musician and he also describes hearing traveling sounds as well.  As the sound traveled, he was able to describe a change in pitch and frequency. He indicated that he saw a shadow person when he was out one night and later he and his companions saw several shadow people.  This is consistent with other stories I have read about online.  He and his group were also able to capture a mist form walking by The Stone House, which was used as a hospital during both battles.

One of the most interesting things he described relates back to my fascination with multicultural perspectives on ghosts and hauntings.  Last summer, I interviewed a young man from Taiwan who told me that his mother would always make him go to the temple to cleanse away bad spirits whenever he went to a cemetery or a place that might contain spirits.  In his culture, it is believed that spirits can follow you home.   I always wonder why I don't gain more of a sense of that in Western beliefs and ghostlore traditions.   The young man I interviewed last week described such an incident happening within his group.  He said that following one of his group's visit to Mannasses, the young woman from his group brought something back with him.  Things in her house moved on their own and mirrors shattered.  Objects disappeared and relocated.  The haunting continued until she told the spirit to leave and then it vanished as quickly as it came.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Bones and Ghosts of St. Bernard's Prep School

 I went to St. Bernard's Abbey and Preparatory school today.  It is a truly beautiful place that is fun to wander and explore. From the strange little grotto in the back to the Gothic buildings that house the dormitories of St. Bernard's School, there is a sense of magic about the place.  According to shadowlands haunted place index, the school is haunted by the ghost of a little boy that watches students while they sleep and a phantom monk that can be seen floating in the mist. I haven't yet found any further evidence to support this write up, but there is a haunting beauty to the place that lends itself to a sense that there may be ghosts waiting behind corners and in shadows.  The church has a reliquary and the bones of the saints fill a glass case in the back lending their spirit to the place.  The tradition of collecting the bones of dead saints has always fascinated me.  In the middle ages, the popularity of relics lead to great pilgrimages and the stories of amazing miracles were attributed to the power of the dead remains of deceased saints.  The little reliquary at St. Bernard's was a beautiful reminder of old traditions and dead saints.  Here are a few pictures of St. Bernard's abbey and its lovely reliquary. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different.......

I have slowed down a little while I struggle to make my deadlines for my next book.  My next book is coming out July 22nd and I'm rushing to finish everything on time.  It has nothing to do with ghosts or hauntings and is completely different from anything I've ever done before.  The mock-up of the cover to the left is a sneak peak into the surreal world of The Twilight Saint. 

I'm also planning a return to my family house this month and Washington DC next month and I'll be driving to South Alabama to take photographs and do interviews for Haunted South Alabama next month as well.  With all this, my blogging may slow down a bit. I'm hoping I'll take some fabulous pictures along the way.  I'm also hoping to do some posts on my travel destinations.  Until then, I'll have a few more ghosts and curses to fill up the blog. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Island of the Dolls

There is an island just South of Mexico City called Xochimico. Xochimico is famous for its beautiful gardens, scenic canals, and ancient history. Thousands of tourists travel through the canals of this beautiful island to gaze in wonder at the hanging gardens of Mexico. Hidden deep in these canals, far away from the normal tourist routes is a swamp with that is thick with scraggly trees that are all hung heavy with with the broken and shattered remains of an army of dolls.

According to travelocity, it is the creepiest place on earth. Although I have never seen this island, I tend to agree. Fifty years ago, a little girl drown in the extensive canals that innervate the small island. At the time the island was occupied by a man named Don Julián Santana Barrera. Shortly after the little girl drowned, Barrera found a doll in the swampy waters of the isolated island. A few days later, he found another doll. Several days later he found another doll. Berrera became convinced that the dolls were a sign from the netherworld. He believed that the dolls were vessels that had been sent to keep the little girl company and prevent evil from seeping out through the swamp. Berrera took this message seriously and began to collect dolls from all over and hang dolls from the trees.

Berrera died mysteriously some time later and from that point the mystery grew. Many people said that the dolls had come to life and killed Berrera. Others insisted they had seen the dolls wandering the island at night. Some believe that the dolls have come to life to replace Berrera as the island's keeper. Whatever the case, the pictures of this location are terrifying. It is an island hung with decaying, glass eyed dolls that stare out vacantly at those that pass by in boats.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Robert the Evil Doll

My recent post about the evil doll, Annabelle got me thinking about dolls. It seems I am not the only one who is afraid of dolls and it also seems like there is a good reason. The association between dolls or poppets and witchcraft and evil goes back as long as there have been dolls. During the Salem witch trials, mere possession of one of these diabolical items was enough to earn you the title of witch. Dolls, throughout history, have been used in magic as symbolic ties to real people or supernatural entities. It is not surprising that books are filled with stories of cursed and evil dolls.

The most famous and diabolical of the cursed dolls is a doll named Robert. Robert was a gift to a young boy named Gene Otto. The doll was made of straw and was given to him by a maid. If the legend is true, the maid was angry at the Gene's family for dismissing her and the doll was actually a voodoo doll designed specifically to hurt Gene and is family. After the doll was given to Gene, the family began to notice that Gene had an unnatural attachment to the doll. Gene took it everywhere with him and spent many hours in his room alone conversing with the doll. Witnesses say that when they listened in on Gene they heard two voices speaking when Gene was alone in the room with his doll.

Time past and Robert's malevolence grew. Witnesses began to report seeing the doll moving from window to window. The Otto's claimed that they saw the doll move and heard him giggle. Often things in the house would turn up broken and when the Otto's confronted Gene about the incidences he would say, "Robert did it." Gene began having nightmares. One night the parents ran into his room and found Gene screaming. All of the furniture was overturned and Robert was standing over Gene. The doll collapsed when the Ottos walked in.

Time didn't seem to tarnish Gene's attachment to the doll and even as an adult he kept the doll with him. Gene remained in his family home with his doll after his parents died. Gene got married and Robert became a source of difficulties in the marriage and it ended. Finally, Gene tried to lock the doll in the attic, which is where Robert was found after Gene's death. Today, Robert lives in a Key West museum where he is reported to have continued his wicked works.