Welcome to our little blog. Turn out the lights, pull up a chair, light a candle and join us in the Haunted Heartland!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Samhain!

The end of October has arrived.

The air is crisp again. Green has turned to red and gold as the hand of autumn begins to make itself seen upon the mountains. Many leaves are scattered to the ground crunching underfoot as they are trod upon. Pumpkins are wearing faces. Black cats, scarecrows, ghosts and cornstalks stand watch in front yards. Halloween is here and I am ready.

The past month is a busy one for people like me. I often laugh and say October is like Christmas retail season around the haunted office. Many people call and email with spooky stories, unusual photographs and questions about the paranormal. This past month was filled with library presentations, book festivals, haunted cemetery walks and haunted history walks and I loved every minute of it!

The 2 cemetery walks I held in Massillon Ohio in mid October went very well. One night we had a bit of rain but it did little to dampen the 60 some souls who attended on those 2 nights.
I always enjoy the stroll by lantern light and cannot wait to go back next year!

Twilight in the Potters Field of Massillon Cemetery

The Civil War Memorial

We had several people who captured EVPS in the area of the soldiers memorial on our walk. The statue was unveiled in 1876 and is in honor of the fallen Vets.

The cemetery office building as seen on October 11th.  There are always questions asked about this structure. Is it vacant? How old is it? Is it haunted? Find out when you come and do the walk with us next year. (tease tease)
I cannot wait to return to the cemetery in 2012!

The Haunted America presentation with the Tuscarawas County Public Library was a blast. 220 souls attended and I had a great time presenting this new slideshow on haunted locations across the nation. Lemp Mansion, Area 51, Salem, Mansfield Reformatory,Winchester Mansion, and the Trans Allegheny Luntatic Asylum to name a few. It was nice to see old friends and meet new ones as well. Very cool!

The West Virginia Book Festival was held in Charleston, WV at the Civic Center. This was a first time event for me and I enjoyed meeting all who stopped by our booth.

I enjoyed hearing the spooky tales people shared with me and hope to see you on one of our haunts!

I greatly enjoyed leading haunted history walks in Ohio and West Virginia this year. Hard to believe I have been doing this since 2003! The weather was good on the walks and many people brought cameras , tape recorders and camcorders as well.  Local Cleveland news and Metromix covered out walking tours in Canal Fulton. There were kind enough to send us some photos.

Signing some books on the Haunted History Walk of Canal Fulton Ohio

                                                    Instructing dowsing at the cemetery in Ohio

I was invited to film a show in Macedonia Ohio on Cable CHANNEL 9 called Teen Focus and had a great time. The hosts had wonderful questions and the entire program can be seen here
The hosts are local students and did a fantastic job!

                                                      MORE ON HALLOWEEN
Halloween is a holiday filled with mystery, ancient meanings and best of all....candy!
I remember dressing up as a kid and try to carry the tradition on as much as I can every October... to the chagrin of my teenage kids. This year I dressed as a evil Catholic school girl.

Here are my kiddies a few years ago at a Halloween costume contest in Ohio. Mason is a spooky Confederate and Sage is the girl "thing" from the movie The Ring.  Needless to say, Sage took First Place!


The origination of Halloween is veiled in mystery and lore. Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced: sow-in). As the festival of Beltaine (another Celtic festival) celebrates the return of lush vegetation to the earth, the birth of animals and the fullness of life, Samhain celebrates the end of these things. Samhain was and is the recognition of the other half of the eternal cycle of life. After the last harvest had been gathered in and before the onset of the harsh cold of winter the people of the Celtic lands marked this time with observations that have been carried forward into our own time and across the sea into the mountains of Appalachia.

It was at Samhain time when livestock was slaughtered and the meat was preserved for winter use. Even today, on family farms in America it is the first of November that marks the time after which hogs are slaughtered. It also marks the beginning of hunting season.

For many centuries throughout Celtic Europe it was believed that the souls of the dead returned at Samhain to visit their old homes and families. It was customary to welcome them in, to once again warm themselves by the hearth fire and share in the family meal. The family would prepare a meal consisting of traditional foods that were always eaten at Samhain for good luck. In Ireland this would have consisted of colcannon which is a mixture of potatoes and cabbage or kale, brown bread and porridge made from the grain harvest. A place was set at the table for each family member and visitor present as usual. But, at Samhain one more place was always laid. This was for the visiting spirits. The extra plate was filled with food just as those of the living participants in the feast. The meal shared with the spirits was known as the "dumb supper" and is still a part of both the European Celtic and Appalachian celebration of Halloween in many families.

Samhain was a natural time for the living to ask advice of the spirit world since the spirits were traveling about the earth at this time. Many customs and games came about as a result of attempts to divine the future with the help of the departed spirits. One old custom is to place two nuts in the embers of a fire, naming one after yourself and one after your sweetheart. If one of the nuts pops and jumps from the fire the match is ill fated. If both of the nuts stay near each other in the fire and burn to ashes, the match is true love. A custom that is still very common in Ireland today is to serve a special fruit cake called a barmbrack. Inside the cake there are charms such as a button for bachelorhood, a thimble for spinsterhood, a coin for wealth and a small horseshoe for good luck. Whoever gets one of the charms is destined for the next year to be blessed by whatever the charm signifies. Since Samhain is the beginning of the dark season of winter, the twilight time of the year, and the Celtic way of reckoning time begins with the onset of darkness, Samhain was considered in many regions of the Celtic world to be the true beginning of the year. Thus, whatever could be divined on this night was fated to be until Samhain came round again. The consuming of special foods for luck during the coming year was an important part of Samhain and later on was transferred to our modern custom of eating special foods on New Year's Day.

The true meaning of Samhain never has been based on Satan, evil spirits or wickedness in any form. In the modern western world, where infant mortality is low and death is confined largely to the sterile environment of hospitals, we have little exposure to the end of life. This was not so in the world of our remote ancestors nor even in the world of our grandparents. Humans have always had difficulty facing death and the Samhain traditions that have been passed down through the centuries were how the Celts did so. It is an affirmation that life and death walk hand in hand.

wanes and the dying light of the shorter days is brightened by the warm glowing fire in the hearth, let us remember the true spirit of Halloween. Let us remember and cherish those that have walked this earth before us.

                                                       Happy Samhain

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum ghosthunts in 2011

Call me crazy.

Why would anyone want to walk and roam the halls of the 2nd largest stone cut building in the world with the lights out?

We rented out the entire old hospital in Weston West Virginia for two nights in 2011. It was called the Weston State Hospital in 1913 but has now reverted back to the original name: the Trans - Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  Each night, we packed in ghosthunters, skeptics and wanna believers who all admired the architecture, history and ghost stories. Most hoped something of the paranormal sort would happen, and to some, it did!

Darrin and Danielle did not expect to have it happen to them but it did. It occurred on a day time tour! Darrin and Danielle both felt as if "something" moved thru them when they took the history tour at TALA before our private ghosthunt there on Friday the 13th of May 2011. It happened at the same time and caught them both off guard.

Why investigate this building? Come on! Looking at the history alone, one can almost imagine what kind of energy has been left behind here. Lobotomies, electro shock therapies, insulin therapy, and cold water immersion? The list goes on and on.

The hospital structure was begun in 1858 using prison labor and eventually the help of European stone masons. Construction was halted during the American Civil War for almost a year. The final stage was completed in 1881 but patients had already begun arriving in 1864. The first patients were several housewives from Ohio. Hmmm....

Some of the faces carved by irish immigrants on the wall outside the Civil War section

The hospital was originally built to house about 250 and ended up blowing that number away by 1950 with around 2400 taking up residence. The hospitals original grounds were 666 acres. Yes.... 666..  The hospital had its own dairy farm, gas well, water supply and its very own cemetery. It was all intended to make the hospital self sufficient and it pretty much did.

The famous clock tower. One side does not have a clock face so workers could not look up and see what time it was while they were hard at work!

The hospital building commands your attention.
It was designed by the renowned architect Richard Andrews following the Kirkbride plan, which called for long rambling wings arranged in a staggered formation, assuring that each of the connecting structures received an abundance of therapeutic sunlight and fresh air. The Kirkbride plan influenced the construction of over 300 similar facilities throughout North America. Other Kirkbride buildings include the Athens Lunatic Asylum in Athens Ohio, Columbus State Hospital, Danville (PA) State Hospital and the Maryland State Hospital for the Insane to name a few.

                                                       Weston State Hospital aka TALA

On our July 16th 2011 hunt at TALA, one participant was thrilled to get her first "ghost voice" or EVP on tape. Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP  can be captured on audio tape, which means video recorders and voice recorders. She emailed me this:

" I've not gotten through my pictures yet, but I started listening to my audio (not all the way through all of them yet either). My FIRST recording, where I had walked in on a group doing a light session in the children's ward, I got something that literally made me go "Ho-Lee Shit!" (pardon my .... not french).  During the session the guy who was asking questions was talking.  Over that, you hear a male (sounded about 20 years old) say "Go away. Please leave me alone".  The recording was no one in the group!"
Needless to say, this was just one of the many EVPs captured on our ghosthunt at the old hospital.

One of the paranormally active areas in the hospital. Children's voices have been recorded here when no kids are present. People have placed toys and balls in this room as trigger objects.

The Medical Center building
This is the location of the Morgue

Inside the morgue area

We look forward to more investigations in this grand old building in 2012.

But in the mean time, swing by their website or stop over and do a day tour.
You'd be crazy not to.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Camp Chase Cemetery and the Gray Lady

Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus Ohio

Another bleary day in March and I find myself staring out my office window wondering about odd things as I typically do. Go figure.

My thoughts drift to some of my favorite cemeteries that I love to walk through. This leaves me wishing for warmer weather of course! As I look through some Ohio cemetery photographs, I wonder about some of the entities that are said to haunt these locations. There are many stories of ladies in white, women in black and gray ladies as well that dot the very fabric of ghostly strorytelling. Some border on fact, not fiction as everyday people have caught glimpses of these specter like visions as they walk the silent cities of the dead.

The Lady in Gray has been seen on many occasions. She walks the stoic rows of stones at one of Ohio's two Confederate soldier cemeteries, Camp Chase. Camp Chase was a prison during the America Civil War and was home to thousands of Confederate soldiers, and even some civilian prisoners of war. The cemetery is located at 2900 Sullivant Avenue, on Columbus's west side. The Gray Lady we are referring to is  Louisiana Rainsburgh Briggs. At least that is what some people say her name is. She never interacts with other visitors and tends to disappear before your very eyes. She weeps quietly over the grave of one Benjamin F. Allen, a private in the 50th Tennessee Regiment, Company D. 
 His date of birth was Jan. 30, 1842.

                       His date of death was on Sep. 15, 1864.

   Today people see fresh flowers placed on the grave of Benjamin Allen on a regular basis. Also, there are several stories about people hearing sobbing or crying while visiting Camp Chase.  Once during a Civil War memorial, many participants heard the crying, followed by a huge gust of wind that blew over tables and tents. Many believe it was The Lady In Gray.


Some claim to see shadowy figures that walk among the graves....

In May of 1861 a Union military training ground was established here under the name Camp Jackson. Two months later in July, the first prisoners were admitted. The name had been changed to honor President Lincoln's Secretary of State (and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Hamilton County native Salmon P. Chase.

The prison population grew rapidly. Small Pox epidemics, dysentery and poor sanitary conditions claimed thousands of men.
 By 1863 there were 8,000 men incarcerated behind the high, staked walls of the Camp.

Why would a cemetery be haunted??
Overcrowding forced two to three men to share single occupancy bunks, and led to severe shortages in food and medicine and general health care. Clothing and blankets were scarce. The men were malnourished and low in morale making them susceptible to disease. In the February of 1863 alone, 499 men died from smallpox. My own 3 great grandfather is said to have been one of these men who perished. No grave exists for him at the cemetery. Many people believe that there are unmarked braves that exist at this cemetery. I believe that as well. And I am speaking from personal experience as I have used dowsing rods to locate unmarked graves on several occasions at this site. I have also come across newspaper articles stating that local medical schools would visit the cemetery and remove bodies so that they could be studied...and they did this at night and before laws were enacted protecting the dead.

When you walk the lines of gray stone markers, take a moment to read the names and dates as you stroll past. Each one has a story, each one had a family, a life, goals and dreams. All were cut down early and probably by disease, starvation or wounds received in battle. If you are quiet...and a bit observant, you may also see a melancholy figure in gray bending over gracefully to place a flower at a grave.

If you visit
Private Allen's grave is number 233 out of 2,260.
All Confederate soldiers or southern in their sympathies.

Camp Chase is open daily from 8AM-5PM
Do not visit after dark!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cemeteries in the Snow

Cemeteries in the Snow?

Okay, call me a taphophile if you must, but I REALLY love photographing stones and statuary in the snow. Most people I "used" to know only went to cemeteries when they had to. You know, funerals and to maybe place flowers at Memorial Day or special days such as birthdays etc.. The people I know now spend a great deal of time in cemeteries walking, having lunch, studying genealogy, taking tours , and also practicing photography.

Whoa. Let's back up a bit.
What's a "TAPHOPHILE" you ask?
Taphophilia is a passion for and the enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile. Taphophilia involves epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths. I love it all! All except the gravestone rubbing because it can actually hurt the stone and affect its appearance after awhile.

Epitaphs can be funny as well as advice laden.
Here are a couple:

Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime
Dean Martin

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,

To digg the dust encloased heare!

Blest be the man that spares thes stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.
William Shakespeare

I have been a fan of cemeteries and I'm not really sure where that came from? My earliest memories of actually spending any amount of time in a cemetery was when my parents would haul all of us to remote Webster County WV cemeteries to clean stones and place flowers. Having lunch on a blanket was a typical event during those afternoon treks as many southerners have done and still do.

My love of cemeteries entered into my professional life in 2005 and  leading cemetery tours seemed a natural addition to leading ghost hunts and haunted tours. I loved grabbing my candle lantern, donning my civil war era cape and leading people into the dark shadows among stones and the somewhat eerie crypts.

I have led nighttime tours of cemeteries since 2005. Cemeteries I have done professional tours at include:

Massillon Cemetery (Massillon OH)
Akron Cemetery (Akron Ohio)
Seville Cemetery (Seville OH)
Gnadenhutten Cemetery (Gnadenhutten OH)
Summersville M.E South.Cemetery (Summersville WV)
Pioneer Cemetery (Canal Fulton OH)
Schoenbrunn Village cemetery (Tuscarawas County OH)

But getting back to cemeteries in the snow...
Cemeteries in winter take on a whole new feeling. It's a fresh and clean landscape. Gone is the grass and the muddy car tracks and in it's place lies a crisp white coat of snowy pureness.

Snow on the hillside cemetery

  Photo by Renee Deal, Summersville WV 2010

One of the reasons I love cemeteries in the winter is because of photos like this.
Statue's tell stories and they are made all the more poignant when dusted with snow.

Angel draped in white snow

Cemetery in Canton Ohio

The symbolism of the two hands clasped represents a union of sorts, marriage or a couple who were partners in life. Stone's tell stories!

While winter is still upon us, take time to venture out to a local cemetery. Grab your camera, some hot chocolate to go, and head off into the fresh snow.

You may be surprised at some of the beautiful sights you will come across!

(or is it??)