Thursday, January 26, 2012

Baby Monitor Hauntings

Baby monitors are often depicted as portals to the other worldly.  In films such as Insidious,  they pick up the voices of the ghosts haunting their house.  In movies like Signs,  they pick up Alien voices as the aliens plan an invasion.   Baby monitors are natural receivers and many believe they pick up more than the sweet voices of the babies they are designed to monitor.

Last night I tucked my baby in early.  I turned on the baby monitor and in my exhaustion, I fell asleep beside him.   I didn't notice my husband come home late.  He didn't notice the monitor was still on.  He sat down in the den next to the other end of the monitor and began working on his dictations.   Suddenly, the baby monitor exploded in a cacophony of noise and chaos.  He turned it off, but it got me thinking  about baby monitors.

A quick search of the Internet will reveal thousands of stories of hauntings and baby monitors.  In one single forum, I found hundreds of stories of people who heard ghosts through a baby's monitor.  Phantom voices drift over the monitors and video baby monitors expose strange black fogs wandering through nurseries.  One woman described hearing her dead father-in-laws voice over the monitor.  He was softly comforting her weeping baby.   Many stories are like this. They hear the ghost comforting weeping babies or see the ghosts hovering over the baby's crib.

Most theorists believe that baby monitors act in the same way EVP recorders do.  EVPs or electronic voice phenomena are voices picked up over recording devices.  Phantom voices that aren't heard  with the naked ear are recorded and heard on playback.   Those who believe, think that baby monitors receive in the same way other EVPs are recorded.  EVPs are heard on the receiving end of the baby monitor.   The voices of ghosts can be heard the same way audio playback reveals EVPs.

Other theorists believe that children and animals are more open to the spirit world.  Animals and young children can see and feel ghosts in the ways that adults can not.  According to these theories, baby nurseries would draw ghosts who want to interact with the living.  Most of the stories about nurseries and ghosts are pleasant.  People hear the ghosts of loved ones whispering to the babies.   It is away for the deceased to interact with their family when they are gone.

So it is possible that the baby monitor beside my son's bassinet picked up something unworldly. Maybe my mother-in-law came to sing to her grandson or my father-in-law came by to whisper to him in French.   Perhaps when my son looks behind me and laughs at the darkness over my shoulder he is seeing the friendly face of someone who has gone before us.   Of course, there is no way to be sure and much of this could just be attributed to electronic glitches that quickly resolve.   Either way, I'm bringing my baby monitor with me on my next over night at a haunted hotel. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Pact with The Devil

This story came to me by way of people I know.  It is a story with a loop.  It looped back to a story I have blogged about before. It was a true story about a young man involved with Satanism who ended up hurting his family.  I am not going to say any names here to protect the confidentiality of those involved, but I couldn't help but write about it.  The story was too sad and seemed like it needed to be told.

Some time ago, on a Friday 13th,  a man walked into his living room with his wife and daughter.  He shot himself.   This was devastating for his family in every way imaginable.  It was tragic and wrong.   The man had been depressed and his behavior had been increasingly more erratic since his father has passed away two years earlier, but no one had imagined he would hurt himself. 

In time, the family moved on.  Wounds healed, but were never forgotten.  Sorrow remained part of life.  One day, the wife was told a story about her husband.  She found out that he had been best friends with an infamous Satanist.  A Satanist that had ended up committing terrible atrocities.  This made the wife remember a story her husband had told her.  Her husband has told her that when he was a teen he had loved a girl more than anything.  Sadly, she hadn't even know he existed.   He told his wife he made a pact.  He had made a pact that he would give something up is he could just have this girl.  The wife hadn't asked for details about who the pact was with, but the man had said he had made the pact on Friday the 13th.   The pact was made and the man got the girl.   She dated him and for a while it seemed worthwhile.   Ten years later, his father died on Friday the 13th.  After that, the man was never the same.  He steadily became worse and worse until his suicide on the same day.

It is now the wife's belief that the pact the man made was with the devil.   It could be argued that the devil gave him what he wanted in exchange for his father's life and his own soul.   That is certainly an aura that hangs around the case.  It could also be said that the man attributed his father's death to the devil and thus was driven mad by his own belief.   Either way, it was that pact that lead to his decline and demise and the story will haunt his family.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mylings: The Ghosts of Lost Children

The Myling is a Scandinavian ghost.   It is the ghost of an unbaptized child that is seeking solace.  The old Catholics used to say that unbaptized children couldn't be buried in holy ground and couldn't find solace in heaven.  This belief seems to have given birth to the folklore that the Myling springs from.   The Myling is the spirit of an unbaptized child that is trying to find a living soul to bring it to hollowed ground.  The usually hunt for their victims amongst those who wander in the woods.  Their faces are the name for terror in the dark places of old forests.

The Myling is also known as utburd, which means "that which is taken outside."  Mylings are most often the ghosts of children that were taken to the forest to die.  Like Hansel and Gretel in the old fairy tale, Mylings were drug into the forest and left to starve in the dark.  They grew lost and angry and often suffered terrible deaths.  They were unwanted and unbaptized.  The ghosts of such children are angry and large and they are said to grow larger as the unfortunate soul they have latched onto comes closer to the graveyard.  The myling attacks wanders and grabs onto their backs.  They force the wanderer to take them to a cemetery where the myling might find peace.  However, they grow so heavy as the wanderer approaches the graveyard that the wanderer often can't continue carrying the myling or sinks into the soil.  If the wanderer can't get the myling to its goal, the myling devours the wanderer.  The myling is considered to be one of the most terrifying ghosts in Scandinavian folklore.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Unlucky History of Friday the 13th

This post has become an annual tradition for me.   Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will recognize this post from past Friday the 13ths. I like Friday the 13th and this is my way of celebrating the 13th and its long history.  Friday the 13ths is considered the most unlucky day of the year. Most people aren't entirely sure where this bad luck comes from, but fear of Friday the 13th can affect as many as 1 in 4 people. The fear of Friday the 13th is known as triskaidekaphobia.

"It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

So where does this fear that can cripple a nation come from? There really seems to be no consensus on the origin of Friday the 13th. Everyone has a story, but most of them are different. The fear comes from an unknown source. Here's a look at a few of the Friday the 13th origin stories I've found.

One folklorist traces the origins back to Norse mythology. There were 12 gods who had a dinner party in Valhalla. A 13th guest, Loki, was uninvited. Always the trickster, Loki tricked the god of darkness, Hoder, into shooting Balder, the god of joy. Balder died and darkness descended on the earth. Joy was lost to man and from then on 13 was considered unlucky.

In 1307, on October 13, 1307, King Phillip IV of France ordered every member of the order of the Knights Templar executed on charges of high treason and heresy. King Phillip owed the Templar's a good deal of money and they had amassed an enormous amount of wealth on their crusades. It is thought that the order was actually to strip the Templar's of their wealth. The Templar's were tortured horribly and forced to confess to crimes they didn't commit. They all died, but as the grandmaster died he cursed King Phillip and the day making Friday the 13th unlucky for future generations to come.

Many believe the fear comes from the number 13 itself. According to numerologist, the number 12 is associated with completeness. There are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles, 12 Olympian gods, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 hours in the clock, 12 labors of Hercules. The list goes on and on. The addition of the 13 ruins perfection is utterly bad and unlucky. In many stories, the 13th guest is always a bad sign. Think Judas at the last supper and Loki in the above story. It is the number 13 that lends the curse to Friday the 13th. Combine that with the unlucky Friday, when Jesus was crucifies and Adam tempted Eve and you have a recipe for an unlucky day.

It is clear there are many reasons to fear the dreaded Friday the 13th, but for me Friday the 13ths have always been lucky. So have a happy Friday the 13th, watch one of the 12 million Friday the 13th movies (I like the one in space), and wish me luck on my lucky day

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Ghosts of Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island is a narrow island in the East River of New York City. The island, now filled with towering high rise housing complexes, was once largely secluded from the rest of the city. Originally called Blackwell island, the island belonged to the Blackwell family for most of the 18th century and part of the 19th until it was bought by the state of New York as a location for charitable and corrective hospitals.

The first such institution established on the island was a prison which was the source of much scandal. It was built in 1825. The second institution established on the island was The New York Lunatic Asylum that was used from 1837-1894 whose buildings included the Octagon which still stands today. Over 1700 patients were housed in this asylum, twice the suggested occupancy, and these patients were supervised by convicts from the neighboring prison. Charles Dickens was one of the more famous people to have visited this asylum and he described it as horrible and "very painful." A famous reporter, Nellie Bly, disguised herself as an inpatient and spent time in the asylum as well and she described the asylum a "human rat trap."

In addition to the horrible asylum and prison that marred Blackwell island, the island was also the site of a Smallpox Hospital, which housed small pox patients from 1856 until 1886. The intense suffering that went on in this building added to it's ruined state have built numerous rumors about it's ghostly activity. The ruined hospital is now known as the Renwick Ruin and is brightly lit at night giving it a ghostly glow that only adds to stories.

These two facilities are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Blackwell, later turned Welfare, later turned Roosevelt Island's dark history, but these facilities ruins are the most notoriously haunted. The Octagon has been renovated and turned into an apartment building. The residents of the building have reported numerous unexplainable incidents. Ghost hunters have taken pictures of ghosts lurking in the hallways of this building and even the pets refuse to walk up the stairs of this once "human rat-trap"

I have been lucky enough to stay with my aunt several times in her lovely apartment on Roosevelt Island. She lives in one the large high rises that have consumed the once forlorn landscape of this island. She reports that she felt ill at ease when she visited the octagon and that it's atmosphere conveyed a sense of old sorrow. It is easy to forget, however, that the island was once filled with such mass suffering and sorrow. The island's atmosphere has been completely changed, but the ruins of the old hospital remain, reminding visitors that it wasn't so long ago that the island belonged to the tortured souls of the dying, the mad, the forgotten, and the imprisoned. To learn more about Roosevelt Island please visit:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Indian Burial Grounds

Today I welcome blogger Emily Matthews, who examines the lore associated with hauntings and Native American burial grounds and hauntings from a skeptics perspective:

It’s the stuff of legend. Do you have a poltergeist in your house? It was probably built over a Native American burial site. The legend goes that by disturbing the souls of the dead, a veritable Pandora’s Box is opened, ushering forth the angry spirits of Chippewa shamans, Cherokees soldiers, and Iroquois chiefs, back for revenge. But where did this legend come from? Why does it persist, and why does it continue to frighten us?

The origins of the “Indian burial ground” legend come from sightings of Native American ghosts near areas rumored, or even proven, to be the final resting place of a local tribe. Such areas can be an old farmhouse in a Midwestern town or even a multimillion-dollar mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

In fact, the remains of the dead were blamed for the vacancy of the Hollywood mansion on Solar Drive, and a murder was rumored to have occurred there. It was deemed uninhabitable after squatters, drug dealers, and thrill-seeking teenagers ravaged the place. But, in the case of the house, the existence of Native American graves was unproven, and it becomes a perfect example of the power and potency of the lore.

Strange occurrences are attributed to burial grounds automatically, without even needing to research the history of the area. It doesn’t take a master’s degree in anthropology to see that this stems from our fascination with a mystical and highly spiritual culture and religion perceived of the American Indian. Instead of the body resting and the soul rising, the soul lingers, especially when disturbed.

So, why does this legend still capture our imagination and frighten us today? Even a skeptic can be spooked by visiting one of the many burial grounds in the United States at dark. Thousands are drawn, for example, to a suburb in Long Island, New York to see the actual house featured in the movie The Amityville Horror. The house, purported to be built over Native American remains, was the place of the horrific murder of six people. Even after the murders, strange noises and footsteps, foul odors, and foreign substances were reported when new owners took over.

Although the experiences of the new owners were dismissed as false, the site still brings visitors hoping for a paranormal experience. These visitors are drawn the experience of the supernatural; something abnormal and other-worldly. Perhaps they are there to confront not only the fear of death, but the possibility of life after the death, and the power that a bodiless spirit could retain.
Whatever the reason, the legend of the Native American burial ground still fascinates us today. We seem to be drawn to the power and possibility of life after death as well as the potential the “spirit world” has to disrupt our own lives. Perhaps we are also drawn to the mystical religion of the Native Americans that seems both foreign and palpable. Regardless, there are many legends and ghost stories to explore and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kwaidan: Japanese Ghost Stories

It was a good Christmas for me this last year.   I was under the weather, recovering from surgery, but my family filled my stocking with enough haunting books to keep my spirits up.  The first book I got was from my baby sister, Rose.   It is a collection of Japanese ghost stories by Lafcadio Hearn.    The book is absolutely beautiful, filled with Japanese depictions of ghosts and monsters from folklore in rare color.  Just flipping through the book is a visual journey into the dark world of Japanese folklore and it is a beautiful one.   The stories are very different from American ghost stories.  The book is called Kwaidan, which is translated as meaning ghost story.

My favorite story was a story of a Rokuorkubi.  According to Wikipedia,  Rokourkubi "look like normal human being by day, but at night they gain the ability to stretch their necks to great lengths. They can also change their faces to those of terrifying oni to better scare mortals."   The depiction of Rokuorkubi in Hearn's book is an original translation and is different from Wikipedia's depiction and a little more terrifying.   The story in the book tells of a wandering priest who was once a Samurai.  He is sleeping in a forest known to be haunted by horrible ghosts and demons when a kind man comes upon him  He was taken in by the kind man and given a bed only to wake up in the middle of the night to find the bodies of the residents of the house lying on the floor in front o his room without a their heads.  At first, he assumes some dreadful spirit has killed everyone and taken their heads, but upon careful examination he discovers that the bodies are the bodies of Rokuro-Kubi.  The heads of the Rokuro-Kubi had separated from their bodies to do evil in the night.  The Samari hides the bodies from the heads and battles the Rokuro-Kubi only to have one of them attach itself to his sleeve.   He is almost executed because people assume the head is a souvenir he has taken of a someone he has slaughtered, but at the last minute a wise judge sees the markings on the neck of the Rokuo-Kubi and knows the demon for what it is. 

This is just one of the tales gathered by Hearn who was a translator and scholar of Japanese folklore from the turn of the last century.  Although the book I was given was subtitled Japanese Ghost Stories,  I have seen the book in other places called, Kwaidan, Stories: Studies of  Strange Things. Other stories include tales of murdered birds that haunt the murderer and a young woman who makes her betrothed wait for her after death.  They are a beautiful glimpse into another world of death and I enjoyed them all.  This book was made into a Japanese film in 1965 which I am definitely going to try to see.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Ghosts of Chichen Itza and The 2012 Apocalypse

It is now officially 2012 and much has been made about this year.  Many books, blogs, and papers have been written about the Mayan prophecies regarding 2012 and the end of the world.  Many believe that, according to the Mayan prophecies, the world will end on December 21, 2012.   This is special fun for me since this is the day before my birthday.   It is also the solstice.   I love Mayan history and have been lucky enough to travel to some old Mayan ruins and talk to some Mayan people about their history and mythology.  Since today marks the beginning of the end,  I thought it would be an excellent time to revisit my trip to Chichen Itza.   During this trip, our amazing guide spoke to us about the 2012 prophecies and about the ghosts that haunt these awe inspiring ruins.

Chichen Itza  is one of the most monumental of a series of Mayan ruins in the Yucatan area. My fascination with the Mayan culture began with my trip to Chichen Itza. We were lead through the sprawling ruins of the fallen city by an amazingly knowledgeable Mayan guide that explained to us that Mayan history came in phases and that the ruins were in layers depending on their period of origin. There were the Olmec, Toltec, and Classical Mayan phases, none of which were surviving when the first Europeans set foot on the shores of the New World.

One of the most fascinating things our guide explained to us about the Mayans had to do with the 2012 prophecy. At the time we travelled, the 2012 prophecy was far less well known. Our guide told us that the Mayan calender was cyclical and that the Mayan's believed that the world was born and died many times. He talked about the last apocalypse. He said that it was an apocalypse of water and that the earth was covered in a great flood. He said that when that age, the age of water, was brought to an end by the flood a new age was born, an age of fire. We are now in the age of fire. In 2012 our age of fire will end in fire and an age of ether will be born. The end of the world will also be the beginning of a new world.  This is interesting to me because so much is said of the end of the world in 2012 and so few people discuss the possibility of a rebirth.   The Mayans viewed death as a rebirth and ends as a new beginning.  So, if their calender ends and something does happen in December it seems probable it may be something wonderful.  The end to the bad things and the world of fire that has come before and the birth of a new age could be something very positive.

The history of Chichen Itza itself is bathed in blood. The Mayan's were deeply religious and believed that it was a great honor to die for the gods. In the Popul Vuh, the Mayan Bible, the Mayan's lay out their faith in sometimes tedious details. Their faith was deep and long and they were willing to die for it. In fact, some of the best athletes that competed in the famous ball courts were sacrificed. The Mayan's didn't fear death and see sacrifice with dread and horror. They saw death as a passage to the next world. Chichen Itza was the site of mass sacra fices.  Chichen Itza may have also died in violence. Some archaeological evidence shows that in 1221 a great civil war may have contributed to the disappearance of Mayan Culture in the great cities at the time. By the time the Europeans saw Chichen Itza, it was already a ghost city.

What is most interesting about the ghosts that are said to wander these old ruins is that it is not the great pyramids that are haunted. The places where the sacrifices went on and where the stone was stained with blood remain quiet. It is the old observatory that is said to be haunted by the specters of old priests and Mayan men. Many tourists and guides have described seeing specters wandering this site. The Mayans were brilliant astronomers and were able to compute the circumference of the earth long before Europeans. They mapped the stars and predicted astrological events so perfectly that we can still count on their astrological predictions to come true. The observatory was in many ways the most important place to them as their religion was deeply connected to the movement of the stars. It therefore seems appropriate that it is this place that the ghosts cling too. The ghosts of the sacrificed have gone to the embrace of the gods, but those that searched for knowledge in the light of the stars are still lingering, searching for answers in the night sky.