Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Rhine Research Center

Whenever I think of parapsychology, images from Ghostbusters leap to mind.  I see Ray and Igon telling the dean about their research right before they lose tenure and are asked to leave the University.  The truth about parapsychology as a field can be found at the Rhine Research Center.  The Rhine Research Center was founded as part of Duke University by Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine and Dr. Louisa Rhine.   The Rhine Research Center  is located in Durham North Carolina and stands at the forefront of gathering scientific evidence to prove that such things as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis, and survival of consciousness (hauntings, ghosts, and  mediumship) are real.  The Rhine Institutes says their goal is to, "aims to improve the human condition by creating a scientific understanding of those abilities and sensitivities that appear to transcend the ordinary limits of space and time."

Rhine was founded in the 1930's and began with all the type of studies a fan of Ghostbusters might imagine such as ESP card tests.   According to The Rhine Research Center's website, however, they have moved beyond such studies.  Their website says:

"ESP cards and dice games have long since been replaced by modern techniques that allow more subtle measurements of psi, such as by looking at the physiological changes or bioenergy characteristics of psychics and healers, or by measuring the telepathic awareness of emotional targets in a simulated dream-like situation. Efforts are made to detect clues that come directly from the psi experiencers themselves, whether they are healers, intuitives, or simply ordinary people who have these extraordinary experiences."

The Rhine Institute is interesting to me because they study the paranormal using the scientific method and publish their findings in peer reviewed journals.  One of my fellow bloggers, Courtney Mroch of Haunt Jaunts, had an interesting post a while back questioning whether any ghost hunter could really call themselves a professional or say they had any credentials.  Her argument was that the world of the paranormal seems to be run by people without professional degrees or credentials and that there is no way to verify who is truly a professional or not without such things.  I agreed with her, but I think places like the Rhine Institute offer a challenge to that notion.  If the paranormal can be studied and proved in a scientific manner by people with doctorates and credentials from a university like Duke in parapsychology,  perhaps there can be professional and credentialed ghost hunters.  They just may not necessarily be the ones on TV.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Haunting of Halcyon House

Halcyon House is one of the most prominent and historical houses in the Georgetown area.  It sits beside the Potomac with a quiet, historic beauty that invites ghost stories and its history doesn't disappoint.  Halcyon House was built by Benjamin Stoddert, the first secretary of the US Navy.   The house was well known by society and was said to serve as a social hub for the politicians of the time.    Stoddert died in 1818 and the house changed hands many times.  It eventually became a stop on the underground railroad.  Its basement was connected via underground tunnels to other stops along the railway and an untold number of slaves seeking freedom passed through the subterranean portions of the historic, Georgetown house.   Many slaves also died seeking their freedom in this house.  The trip through the underground railroad was perilous and many say that the slaves that died in Halcyon House still remain there.   Their ghosts still cry out for freedom from their subterranean lair.  The tunnels beneath the house have been walled up, but the ghosts remain.

In the 1930's, a man named Alber Adsit Clemens bought Halcyon house. Clemons was a cousin of Mark Twain and changed  Halcyon House drastically. Clemons was more than a little bit mad and he came to believe that as long as he kept building on the Halcyon House, he would never die.  He added rooms, doors to nowhere, pointless staircases, and useless halls.  He added new apartments, a crypt, and a coach house.  After Clemons died, the haunting activity increased.   Residents of Halcyon house since this time have described many ghostly encounters.  They have described being levitated above their beds at night, seeing phantom women, hearing strange noises, objects moving on their own, and seeing the ghost of Benjamin Stoddert and Alber Clemens. 

Halcyon House is currently owned by a sculpture who has put a great deal of time and effort into restoring Halcyon House and making it  beautiful.   He has had the house on the market for several years now and the beginning asking price for this beautiful building was 30 million.   The price has dropped.  Halcyon House was for sale for 19.5 million in April of 2010.   Although the house is for sale, it is far from empty.  The current owners still rent it out as a venue for special events and parties and is a common location for weddings so ghost stories still drift out of the house like a steady fog.  The ghost stories are so many they can't all be listed.  Phantom cries are a common noise in the old house as are the sounds of objects moving.   John Alexander wrote a book on the haunts of Washington D.C. and in it he said that Halcyon House was the most haunted house in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Archetypes of Hauntings

The more I read about hauntings and discuss hauntings the more I have come to believe that hauntings fall into very similar categories and types.  I am open to disagreement on this subject, but it seems  to me that no matter where you are in the world most hauntings fall into one of several categories.  In psychology I am not much of a Jungian.  I tend to be a cognitive behaviorist, but when I read about folklore and even when I hear ghost stories that are true ghost stories, I hear patterns in them that correspond a little with Jung's archetypes.  Carl Jung was an early psychologist who believed  in something called a collective unconscious.  He believed all people drew their thoughts from a similar source and this accounted for why people from every different culture had myths and stories that were very similar without ever having known each other.  For example; most cultures have a dragon myth and a Cinderella story. He also believed we all had universal symbols that we use to interpret the world.  Jung's main archetypes included the Great Mother, the wise old man, the child, the beautiful woman, the devil, the trickster, the scarecrow, and the shadow. These archetypes symbolize core desires within us. I think many of the hauntings I've explored fall into similar archetypes as these and I'm going to break down and explain some of these hauntings.

The White Lady Ghost Story:  These are some of the most common ghost stories.  There are also green lady and grey lady ghost stories that follow the similar pattern of a beautiful young woman, often betrayed or hurt in love, who somehow dies and leaves a tragic ghost behind.  This would fit into Jung's beautiful woman archetype.

Poltergeists:  Poltergeist literally means noisy ghost.   It is a haunting that causes much commotion.  Objects move and break and are thrown about.  Many people now believe that poltergeist hauntings are somehow connected to one person.  This person is usually an adolescent going through great turmoil.  Some believe it is the adolescent themselves who is causing the haunting.   This type of haunting conforms to Jung's trickster archetype.  The haunting is caused by one person who is causing a lot of commotion.  Loki would love it.

The Crying Child:  I've seen a lot of this type of haunting around bridges.  Almost every town in Alabama has a cry baby hollow ghost story.  I've also seen weeping children in houses and buildings.  Usually, the child has a sad story and their crying ghost is the lingering remnant of their tragedy.  This conforms to Jung's child archetype.

Demons:   I don't hear these ghost stories often but when I do they are the most horrifying and terrifying ghost stories.  I've had several people tell me stories about being tormented by a hostile spirit of some kind who is clearly malevolent and will often work to cause bodily harm against the person they are tormenting.  This conforms to Jung's devil archetype.

The Guardian Ghost:  I've heard many stories about helpful ghosts.  These ghosts usually begin as a classic haunting but when trouble arises they are quick to help.  These ghosts would fit the great mother archetype.

The Classic Haunting:  The classic haunting is the most typical ghost story.  Someone has died in a house or building a piece of them remains.  They are usually attached to the building itself and have some connection to the location for some reason or another.  These hauntings would fit into Jung's shadow archetype.  They are the opposite of the rational self.  They are the unexplainable things that connect us to the other side and chaos.

I'm not entirely sure why haunting types seem to fit so neatly into the Jungian archetypes.  Jung himself would argue that this is just more proof of his theoretical collective unconscious and his belief that ghosts represent some part of our core desires.  I'm not to sure about that.  Maybe  there is something that connects us all in life and in death and draws us to similar stories and places, but I think it more the part of what makes us human than some outside consciousness.  I would tend to believe his theories on core desires would come closer to the truth in this matter.   Whatever the cause,  it is fun to look at ghost stories like this.  I may not agree with Jung much but his way of looking at the world certainly hits home in many instances.

The painting above is by an artist named Renee Gandy.  This paintings name is Shadow Archetype.  You can find her work at  Her work is also available on Etsy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Cemetery in the Snow

It rarely snows in the South.  It snows so rarely that all of life seems to freeze when the first snow flake hits the ground.  School stops, work stops, the stores are quiet.  The snow casts a strange silence in the South and I couldn't help but wonder what the cemetery would look like draped in quiet white.   So I went to Huntsville's most famous cemetery to take pictures and explore a little in the snow.  Maple Hill Cemetery is the oldest and largest cemetery in Alabama.  It was begun on two acres of land and those acres were sold to the city for 200 dollars.  The cemetery has grown to over a hundred acres.  Its oldest grave stone is from1812 and it is of a little girl. Like many cemeteries, Maple Hill Cemetery boasts many ghosts.  Its long history and many stories stretch as far as the imagination. Ghosts and stories hide behind the tombstones like shadows waiting to spring out.  

The most famous ghost said to live in the cemetery is Sally Carter.  She is Huntsville, Alabama's most famous ghost and she is best  known for haunting the carter mansion.   After her grave was moved away from the carter mansion, her ghost has also been seen in Maple Hill cemetery where her grave now resides.  Sally Carter was an unfortunate young woman  who died of an unexpected illness while staying at the mansion.  Her ghost has been seen numerous times at the mansion and at the cemetery.

One of the crypts at Maple Hill Cemetery is also home to the ghost of an elderly lady.  Her body rests in one of the large above ground crypts in the cemetery.  According to legend,  in life the woman loved sitting on the front porch in her rocking chair.  She loved it so much her beloved chair was placed in the crypt with her after she died.  People say that if you push your ear up to the door of the crypt you can hear her chair gently rocking inside the crypt.  I tried this and heard nothing but the wind, but the story is wonderful none the less.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Ghosts of Antarctica

 Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest, and highest continent in the world.   It is also the loneliest continent in the world.  The very whisper of its name brings to mind images of desolate snow covered landscapes and abandoned, snow covered towns wrapped in silence and ice.   When I was young and wild,  I dreamt of travelling to Antarctica and seeing its vast, white, emptiness.   Those were the days when I did crazy things, like climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I never thought of ghosts back then, but it is no surprise that Antarctica is haunted.  Any continent that has a mountain range called the ghost range must be haunted.  The ghost range are very high mountains, but are called the ghost range because they have never actually been seen by people.  They are hidden beneath 4m of ice that never melts so all that can be seen of them is ice.

There are many ghost stories lingering in the frigid cold of this continent.  Ross Island is one of the many icy islands that surrounds Antarctica and is considered a continuation of the continent.  McMurdo Station is a United States base on Ross island.  One visitor to this base, commented that as soon as she entered the base, she knew something was wrong.  She could feel the wrongness in her toes.   She isn't the only one who feels this wrongness, because Ross Island is considered by many to be thick with ghosts.  In 1979,  an Air New Zealand flight crashed into Ross Island killing 257 people.  The plane crashed into Mount Erebus.  Those who visit Ross Island have described ghostly encounters of all sorts. Visitors to the base have heard ghostly footsteps and  voices in the lonely darkness.  The ghosts of the victims wander this island.

Scott's Hut at Cape Evans is also said to be haunted and visitors there have also said to have had paranormal encounters.  During the winter of 1911, 25 men of the Terra Nova shore party lived in the hut. From here Scott and his men set out on their deadly journey to the South Pole.  One visitor commented that just stepping into the hut made him feel uneasy.  The ghosts of the ill fated explorers are still said to linger there, leaving an uncomfortable feeling behind them.  This hut is now abandoned, but the ghosts remain.  There is a cross nearby the hut.  This cross was built  in memory of the three members of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party who died not to far from the hut.  It is possible that these ghosts haunt the hut as well.  The Hut seemed to call to ill fated explorers and the images of this hut serve as a reminder of all who have died trying to conquer this brutal continent.

There are many other ghosts lingering in Antarctica.  Abandoned huts and deserted whaling stations serve as reminders of those who have lived and died in the ice.  There are so many stories I could do several posts on them and maybe I will.  As I sit drinking my hot cocoa and looking out on the winter wonder land that Alabama has become, I can't help but think of the snowy ghosts of Antarctica and dream of some day travelling to meet them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Haunting of Snow Hill Inn

If I were a rich woman,  I would have bought this house.  Snow Hill Inn is located in Snow Hill, Maryland and until very recently it was for sale.   The Inn at Snow Hill has been many things.  Its been a post office, a doctor's office, an apartment building, and an inn.  It is a beautiful colonial style house surrounded by trees and painted a cheerful yellow.  It is picturesque and welcoming.  It is perfectly pretty and utterly haunted.

The Snow Hill Inn was built in  1835.  In 1870, the town doctor bought the house and converted it into his home and office.  The doctor was a good doctor and was well known for his bedside manner and gregarious nature.  The doctor was beloved, but his son was never happy.  Many believe that his son was upset because he was failing pharmacy school. On December 14, 1904, the young man slit his own throat.  He left a note behind, but his throat was slit three times and this is a very improbably and uncommon way for someone to end their own life and some believe that the young man may have been the victim of foul play.

Whatever his cause of death,  the day after the young man died the house keeper at the house in Snow Hill reported hearing  groans and the sound of someone falling.   Since that time numerous people have lived in and stayed at the house in Snow Hill.   Innkeepers, guests, owners, renters, and many others have all described being haunted by the ghost of the young man.   They have reported lights going on and off on their own, shaking beds, opening and closing doors, seeing ghosts in mirrors, and seeing the ghost standing right in front of them.   The list of paranormal encounters in the Snow Hill Inn goes on and on.   Paranormal investigators have stayed at the inn and confirmed the haunting is real and one psychic says that she spoke with the ghost and he was the young man who did kill himself.  

It is a shame someone bought the house, because I was going to put it on Christmas list for next year.  I would have liked to meet the ghost of Snow Hill Inn.  To learn more about this lovely haunting you can read an article on the haunt at .

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Should We Fear Ghosts?

The long history of ghosts and ghost stories is deeply rooted in horror and fear.   From such classic horror stories as The Haunting to the ghost lore that saturates folklore ghost stories are given a malevolent quality.  They are told around the campfire to scare children and they are brought out at Halloween to add to the spooky quality of the holiday.   Ghosts are supposed to be scary.  Almost every ghostly movie made capitalizes on this fear of ghosts.  From The Grudge to The House on Haunted Hill to  Thirteen Ghosts, ghosts are almost always scary and bad.

As I begin researching my second book, I have to wonder why ghosts have become associated with fear and terror.  Almost all of the people I interview who have had encounters with ghosts describe them as harmless and sometimes even beneficial.   The ghosts are scary in the same way bugs are scary.  They don't harm anyone, but they are scary because we have learned to fear them.  They are scary because they are unknown or just creepy, but I haven't encountered many true ghost stories in which the ghost itself is malevolent.   In fact, most of the really true scary supernatural stories I've gathered seem to be more drive by malevolent, nonghost spirits or demons.  They don't seem to be connected to a deceased person, but rather to some other kind of hostile entity.

 Many of the true ghost stories I've read step beyond being just neutral and are actually benevolent.  I heard one story in which the ghost protected a home owner from a burglar and another in which a ghost protected their child from a fall.  It seems to me that ghosts are like living people,  they can be good, neutral, and occasionally bad.  So why do we naturally fear them so much?  Should we fear ghosts at all?  I've spoke with people who say they've lived in haunted houses for years and never had any problems, just odd occurrences.  My family has a house that has been filled with odd, ghostly occurrences for the better part of a century and it has never bothered anyone.  It does keep you up at night, but it is never scary.  So why are we so naturally afraid of ghosts?  Is it a fear of the unknown or a fear of death or some cross between the two and will there be a point when that fear fades?  I've never really been afraid of ghosts, so I can't entirely answer these questions on my own, but I believe that ghosts shouldn't be feared unless they've been shown to be malevolent.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Cathedral of Learning

 Last year I went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a writer's conference.  While I was there,  I met a young writer who had a passion for ghosts and ghost stories.  She was working on a young adult novel about a ghost hunter.   I was lucky enough to  have her give me a tour of her home town, where she had gone to school.   The first place the young woman took me was an amazing building called the Cathedral of Learning.   The Cathedral of Learning is the second tallest educational building in the world.  It towers above the landscape around it casting a long elegant shadow over the rest of the University of  Pittsburgh.  The architecture is all Gothic revival style so as you step into this tall building, you feel like you are stepping into a medieval Cathedral.   It is truly a Cathedral of Learning.

The Cathedral of Learning was begun in 1926 by Chancellor Bowman and community contributions helped him realize his dream.  The 42 story building contains classrooms, libraries, and a common room.   The most famous rooms in the cathedral are the nationality rooms.  These are a series of rooms on the second floor that have been decorated with historic pieces from numerous cultures so that each room looks like a room from the culture it represents.  According to my guide, it was one of these rooms that was haunted.

The Early American room  looks the part.  It is filled with historic pieces and has been decorated to look like it stepped out of time.   It is a shadowy room that feels haunted.   It isn't just the decor.   Many visitors to the Early American room have described having paranormal experiences.  The stories began 30 years ago, after  a woman donated several of her grandmother's items for the space.   The items had belonged to Martha Jane Poe, a relative of Edgar Allen Poe.  Many of the paranormal events described in the room seem to revolve around Martha Jane's wedding quilt.  One janitor described finding hand prints on the quilt when he was alone there at night.   Other visitors have seen doors open and close on their own and seen objects shift on their own. The baby cradle has been seen to rock when the room is empty and visitors that have spent the night in the room have reported feeling a cold spot.

According to Gretchen McKay of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette,  there are innumerable reports of ghostly activity in this old room and it may be that Martha Jane's ghost still stays with her things.  I didn't have any ghostly experiences in the Cathedral of Learning, but the building's decor certainly gives the building a chilling feel.  I know I would hate to be in the Early America Room alone after dark.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Look Back at 2010

It is now officially 2011 and a new year has begun.   New Years day is traditionally a day to make resolutions and plans for a better year, it is also a time to look back.  I did a lot of blogging last year and it is interesting to me which of my posts were the most successful.   The posts I spend the most time on and love the most usually aren't always the ones that others love the most.  However,  I'm hoping to fine tune my blog a little next year and write more posts like the ones that were the most popular last year.  So which of my posts were the most popular last year?  Here's a look back at my top four most popular posts:

1.  The Ghost Town of Pripyat:   This was a post done on one the abandon cities after the Chernobyl incident.   I had to do a lot of research on this post because I hadn't ever traveled to Pripyat.   This was by far and away my most popular blog post gaining almost 18,000 hits since I've posted it.

2.   The Ouija Board:  Good or Bad:   I think this post sparked a lot of discussion.  Almost everyone has passionate feelings on the Ouija Board and a lot of readers commented with their own Ouija Board stories.  It think the Ouija Board topic is always popular do to the emotion and fear that surrounds it.

3.  Green Orbs and the Meaning of Colored Orbs:   Again,  this topic sparked a lot of discussion and drew a lot of readers.   People have strong feelings about orb.  Some feeling they are just mistakes in photography others feel they are strong representations of the paranormal.  This post was very popular and I loved hearing every one's opinion on the matter.  This is one of those posts where I learned a lot from the comments.  I could probably do a second post based just on the comments from this post.

4.  Ghost Hunting at the South Pittsburgh Hospital:  This post was an amazing one for me because I actually got to go ghost hunting with the team from Southern Ghosts and Courtney Mroch from Haunt Jaunts.  This was so much fun and so educational that I didn't think I could ever top this post.  I'm putting a chapter on this haunted location in my Haunted Chattanooga Book.

So what have I learned from these  blogs?  I've learned that although haunted places will always be some of the most fascinating paranormal posts in the world if they are really engaging, there is nothing like a good discussion from time to time.  So for 2011, I plan on doing a haunted place and a discussion every week with the occassional ghostly potporri for color, like my beloved book reviews.  These will never be my most popular posts, but they are my favorite to do!  

So Happy New year to all and may 2011 bring joy and peace!