Hi folks. Today's submission is going to be brief because I am totally 'under the weather.' I'm going to post a few 'oldies, but goodies'...hopefully I'll be back to full strength in a day or two. Thanks for reading...Lon
Spirits Remain At Brandy Station
The old Graffiti House in Brandy Station is pitch-black dark.
As I sit in a chair, my back to the wall, a man named Ron walks down a central hall quietly asking questions.
"Is there anyone here?"
"Are you a soldier?"
"Are you waiting for a train to take you to Richmond or to Washington?"
"Has Gen. Lee been here?"
"Were you wounded in the Battle of Brandy Station?"
Ron's voice fades as he goes into a far room here on the first floor. His questions turn into statements of reassurance.
"We are not here to harm you," he promises the surrounding darkness.
For several minutes there is an eerie quiet, broken only by the occasional creaking of floorboards from the second story above.
Then, still two rooms away, Ron coaxes whatever spirits that might be floating about in the darkness to manifest themselves in some way.
"If you are here, make your presence known to us," the weekend ghost-hunter says. "If you are here, touch one of us in some way."
For a few seconds there is absolute stillness and quiet and I sit smiling, thinking that this is all a lot of superstitious rot.
Then, suddenly, I feel something touch my back, between my shoulder blades, just below my neck. It begins almost as a muscular twitching and I instinctively reach around to try and scratch the spot.
Before I can get my hand up, however, the twitching sensation becomes more pronounced and now it is without question a tapping from without.
Now I am smiling no more. Now the hair is standing up on the back of my neck. Now I have a strange feeling that someone or some thing is there in that 4-inch space between my back and the 150-year-old interior wall of this old Civil War field hospital.
Then I hear a gentle thump on that wall, and I slowly turn to find that the large picture frame behind me is moving. It is the frame that is tapping me on the back.
But how can it be moving? There is no breeze, no heater stirring air on this cold moonless night. And there is no freight train rumbling down the adjoining railroad tracks that might make the wall vibrate.
But even a freight train wouldn't push a large picture frame 4 inches out from a stationary wall.
What is doing it?
You tell me, brother!
I spent more than four hours in the dark Saturday night as members of a ghost-hunting group that calls itself the Virginia Paranormal Institute inspected the Graffiti House for spirits.
The small sliver group, headed by Mark Taylor of Gaithersburg, Md., had been invited by Graffiti House caretaker Della Edrington and the Brandy Station Foundation, which owns the pre-Civil War structure.
Wounded soldiers--both Union and Confederate--convalesced here and many of their names remain scribbled in charcoal on plaster walls all over the house.
Although there is no official record, some of the wounded undoubtedly died here. And since Appomattox, there have been reports of spirits residing in this place--and the unmarked graveyard behind an abandoned and now dilapidated church just a few yards away.
If there are spirits here--as Edrington has often suspected--she wanted to confirm their presence. So she set up the investigation.
So, Saturday night Taylor (a real-estate broker), Ron Pipilo (a truck driver), Rick Allen (a mechanic) and Jackson "Jackie" Hicks (a business owner) showed up with all kinds of sophisticated ghost-detecting equipment to search for spirits.
Edrington was there and I was invited to attend and videotape the investigation for a TV documentary I am producing.
Little did I know that I would become part of the story!
a tap in the dark
About 7 p.m., all the lights were turned out and the hunt began.
My "incident" occurred about an hour into the event after, I suppose, whatever spirits in attendance had a chance to become accustomed to us.
After tapping me, however, whatever was there backed off, and it was at least another hour before the action picked up again.
Then, in a small upstairs bedroom, Allen reported that one of his instruments was getting an abnormal reading beside the name "Bowman" scribbled on the wall.
Hicks, who the group claims has a high sensitivity to the presence of spirits, volunteered to sit in a chair next to the name in an attempt to coax anything paranormal into action.
We stumbled quietly up the old stairs (there were no lights on all night), went into the little room and shut the door behind us. Then Hicks began asking any spirits present to manifest themselves.
"You can use my body," she says. "Just don't take too much of my energy."
Her pleas go unanswered for several minutes and then, in the middle of a sentence, they abruptly stop.
"I feel something putting pressure on my wrist!" she says quietly, trying hard to restrain her excitement.
"Yes, something is there! I feel it!"
Through the viewfinder of a video camera capable of recording in absolute darkness, I see Hicks eyes widen and the tension in her body build.
"It is moving up to my hand!" she says after a few moments. "It is like something is squeezing my hand!"
Allen, who has been getting abnormally high readings on one of his instruments near the name on the wall, turns his attention to the woman in the chair. He brings the instrument down to her hand and it goes wild, with lights blinking on and off at a furious pace.
"There is definitely activity here!" he says.
For perhaps 15 minutes Hicks feels the pressure and Allen's instruments note some kind of abnormal energy near her hand. The living beings present in the room --including me--are all filled with excitement.
Finally, Hicks feels she must free herself of whatever is touching her and she gets up. Edrington then sits down in the chair, to see if she can experience anything paranormal.
After several minutes, she says that although she sensed there was something present, she really didn't feel the hand and wrist squeezing that Hicks felt. Allen gets no abnormal readings near her.
"I suppose the spirits here are just used to me," Edrington, who works in the Graffiti House on a daily basis, says from her seat in the darkness.
Minutes later we are downstairs again. Taylor shows us a picture of what he feels is a blood stain he found on an old floor. The photo was taken under ultraviolet light and will be analyzed later.
Hicks is anxious and says she must go outside, that whatever touched her in the upstairs bedroom has drained much of her energy.
"They sometimes do that," she says of spirits.
I immediately think of Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in that scene from the movie "Ghost." Again, the hair stands up on the back of my neck.
keep the lights on
Are there ghosts in the Graffiti House?
According to Taylor, the evidence is still inconclusive. He will continue to analyze photographs, sound recordings and videotape before he and other members of the Virginia Paranormal Institute (the four aforementioned people) offer an educated guess.
As for me, well, I don't know what to believe.
But when that picture frame started tapping me on the back there in the dark, well
As the inimitable Barney Fife once said, "There are things out there that we just don't understand!"
That night when I went home, I slept with the lights on. - fredericksburg
Voices in the Closet?
In the late 1960s, a local man by the name of Reg lived in a house with some particularly chatty spirits. As he explained it to me, "I've had the goose bumps because I've not seen, but heard, ghosts talking in the house I grew up in on Blackmarsh Road."
"My grandmother, my grandfather, mother, and myself, have all had chance meetings with the supernatural beings on Blackmarsh Road, west of Purity Factories Ltd.," Reg said. His first encounter with the local ghosts took place in his family home when he was about nine years old, around the year 1968-69.
"I grew up there with my three sisters," Reg said. "Sometimes, due to limited space, I slept on the sofa in the living room. In the living room was a small stove and coat closet. I remember the chimney ran next to the closet."
It was this closet that was the focus of Reg's encounters with a pack of noisy ghosts.
"I remember so vividly being woken up between 3-4 a.m. every morning to the sounds of a group of people conversing in the closet," Reg said. "To the best of my knowledge, there were six or seven people. I could not pick out what they were saying, though at the moment I could hear them very clearly.
"This went on until we moved," he said. "I told my mother about this at the time it was happening but, of course, it was dismissed as a child's imagination until many years later."
Long after Reg had grown up and moved out of the property, his grandparents had moved into the same apartment.
"I was away working in Toronto," he said. "I was talking to my mom and we happened to start talking about the closet. She told me my grandmother was asleep one night when she, too, was roused from sleep by the sound of people talking in the living room. She went to check it out and she also heard many voices in the closet."
The grandmother was not one to let noisy spirits invade her closet.
"Being the strong-willed person that she was, she said the Lord's Prayer aloud," Reg said. "When she was finished, she said the voices stopped, never to be heard again."
The use of the Lord's Prayer or even the name of God is a familiar and recurring motif in Newfoundland ghost stories, and it is certainly one I have come across before in family stories.
According to Stith Thompson's "Motif Index of Folk Literature," this is something that occurs in many local stories and legends. It is so recognized as a part of traditional stories that it has been given folk motif number E443.5 - "Ghost laid by adjuring it to leave in the name of God."
Another Newfoundland story that is typical of tales in this genre is from Trinity, and involves a man by the name of Uncle Eli. Much to Uncle Eli's chagrin, some type of ghost kept blowing out the kerosene lamp while he and his family were trying to play cards.
But Uncle Eli was having none of the phantom's antics. He spoke up loudly and challenged the force responsible for blowing out the light.
"If you belong to God, go back to God," directed Uncle Eli. "If you belong to the devil, go back to the devil!"
After he said these words, Uncle Eli then lit the lamp a third time. That time it did not go out, and the family was able to finish their game in peace, with no more ghostly interruptions.
Realtors Not Welcomed In Haunted House
Since the Field family house was built on Broadway around 1900, five family members have died there. Apparently they found the home so comfortable, they never found a reason to leave.
For decades the house's denizens have encountered such strange occurrences as footsteps, laughter, moving objects, messages and a Halloween party gone awry.
"You just have to hang out at these places," said Terry Fisk, co-author of "Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations" "There's not a certain time or a pattern as far as what people can do to cause something to happen. It's usually just a matter of being in the right place at the right time."
According to the house's current guests, real estate brokers for ReMax Preferred, these random occurrences begin about 4 p.m.
"It's noises mostly," broker Barb Drolson said. "When we first came in and were taking wallpaper down, we could hear noises in the basement like furniture being moved back and forth."
When ReMax first moved into the house about four years ago, they hired someone to install the phone system. After he worked down in the basement for some time, he ran out of the house leaving his tools behind and never came back.
"When he came up, he told us, 'You know, you're not alone here,'" Drolson said. "He went down to our main office in Madison and said, 'I don't know what you're going to do, but I'm not going back there.'"
Around the same time, they hired contractors to remove wallpaper in one room and apply mudding. To their surprise, each morning the mudding would be strewn on the floor and scratches would appear on the walls.
"We also had a brand new fax machine that we couldn't get to work at the time, and they sent an engineer from the company," Drolson said. "He did a tracing on it that looked like a cardiogram, and they couldn't figure it out. He said it's the closest thing to white noise he's ever seen."
Drolson said they've also had the postage meter turn on and off, heard footsteps upstairs, heard the toilet flush and bathroom sink turn on, had radio stations change channels and emit a high-pitched screeching and experienced cold spots — most of which have happened with several people present.
"Initially we (felt threatened) and when I'm here by myself I keep the radio on so I don't hear the noises," she said. "When we first started my daughter was here, and I was out on appointments, and she heard noises in the basement. She got so freaked out that she sat with a store owner downtown until I got back."
Tom Bannen grew up in the house, which his great-grandfather built, and lived there from 1967 to 2003. Ever since he was a child, they've known who the hauntings can be attributed to.
"We know exactly who it is," Bannen said. "There's five people that died in that house and all five are members of my family. My great-grandfather, great-grandmother, great aunt, mother and father."
Bannen said they'd consistently hear footsteps and noises coming from inside a china cabinet in the living room. Bannen's daughter, Linda Bannen-Stilwell remembers her grandmother asking the noises from the cabinet to stop, and they always would.
"One thing that really scared me was right after my grandma had passed in the house," Bannen-Stilwell said. "The night that I walked in the house and found her, the light bulb popped and went out. Every week for the next month when I walked into a room the same thing would happen. Finally I said out loud, 'This is scaring me grams stop doing that.' And it never happened again."
When she was a young girl growing up in the house, Bannen-Stilwell said her cousin told her stories about the house that thoroughly freaked her out.
"It scared me so bad that I couldn't sleep in that house for a week," she said. "My grandma told me that all of the ghosts are family members that aren't going to hurt you, but protect you."
Other family members have attested that the ghosts have been friendly to them. That is, until ReMax moved in.
"Most of the stuff happened after ReMax bought it so I think they must have been kind of angry that we sold the place," Bannen said.
"I'm not surprised because my grandmother was insistent about keeping the house in the family, so I think she was upset that my aunt and dad sold it," Bannen-Stilwell added.
One morning all of the curtains were down and a curtain rod was leaning against the wall, Drolson said.
"When I was walking through, I could feel something behind me, and I turned around," she added. "Just when I did, the rod came crashing down behind me. Well I bolted out the door and nearly ran over the neighbor with my car."
In another instance, Drolson said two women were sitting in the house as she was walking through and a clock that hangs from chains attached to a railing struck her right in the face.
"Yeah, it's been interesting to say the least," she said.
Drolson has also experienced aromas in the home such as heavy cigar smoke and baking apple pie.
"They didn't share any with us, though," Drolson said with a laugh. "And we know at least one of the past occupants did smoke cigars."
Drolson said area residents know the house for infamously seeing its lights turn on at odd hours in the evening. The ReMax brokers are hoping the ghosts will "mellow out" since attorney George Field, Bannen's cousin, moved into the upstairs portion of the building. However, he's also experienced some strange things in the house.
"Every once in a while George finds stuff in there, which is strange, too," Bannen said. "For instance he found my grandmother and grandfather's brand new checkbook in the attic. The account was issued one week before my grandfather died, and the book was gone for all these years."
Bannen added that Field once went down to the basement of the house where he saw a mirror that had accumulated dust. The mirror quite simply said, "Get out."
"When I was in middle school, I'd have Halloween parties," Bannen-Stilwell said. "Grandma wasn't too keen on it because her father died on that day, but we had one anyway. Well one of the girls brought a Ouija board, and they had candles going and started doing it. I was too scared of that stuff so I was sitting in the hall with my grandma, and we heard them scream. According to the girls, all of a sudden the hand thing flew across the room and the lights flickered. That's when my grandma said, 'OK, no more of that in this house.'"
She added she has caught glimpses of people walking in the hallway and shadows of footsteps under a door, not to mention her grandmother's unique laugh.
"She was a Field, and the Field laugh is very distinctive — very loud — so you could hear it throughout the house," she said.
Though the ghost stories have been well-documented from personal experiences throughout the years, Drolson said it's mostly harmless and quite fun.
"I usually just come in and say, 'Hey, I'm here, and I got work to do so leave me alone unless you want to help.'"
NYC's Haunted Bars: Where The Party Never Ends
'I'm a rational person," says Ernest Lekaj, general manager of W. 23rd St.'s Star Lounge. "I'm a law student. But sometimes there are things that can't be explained."
The lounge - an offshoot of the Hamptons hot spot Star Room - winds through three rooms in the basement of the Chelsea Hotel.
The building has played host to many a famous resident and a handful of famous deaths. Sex Pistols rocker Sid Vicious allegedly stabbed girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in the bathroom of room 100 in 1978.
And it appears that some of those who have passed to the other side seem to want to stick around for a cocktail.
"A month ago, we came in and none of the lights worked," says the bar's owner, Charles Ferri. "Nothing. And we're like, What the hell happened here?"
A call to the hotel's front desk failed to explain the problem, and an electrician was summoned. After sawing through the ceiling, workers reached a tangle of wiring that had been rearranged.
"We had to cut the drywall to get to these wires, and they were switched," says Ferri. "How could anyone even get to these wires? It's still a mystery."
The incident prompted Ferri, a skeptic, to reexamine a string of odd happenings. Lights had routinely flicked on and off. Odd noises could sometimes be heard from the bar's back-room office, but ceased upon inspection. Once, the furniture in the locked lounge was rearranged overnight.
A visiting self-proclaimed psychic told Ferri that she sensed the presence of an older woman in the bar.
"She said, 'She's unhappy about something,'" says Ferri. "I'm not a believer in this stuff and I don't want to be, but something is just not right."
In any case, he says, any ghost haunting a bar can't be so bad. At least he or she has decided to spend a few days or hours of eternity somewhere festive.
"It seems they like the bar," says Ferri. "They just don't want anyone else to come. If they bought enough bottles, I would for sure let them have the space."
A number of Manhattan's historic taverns and rooming houses have played host to regulars living and dead. Here are the favorite haunts of the city's phantom party animals:
WHITE HORSE TAVERN
567 Hudson St., at W. 11th St
This West Village mainstay anchors its spot in New York lore as the place where poet Dylan Thomas spent his last drinking night on Earth.
After downing a lineup of 17 whiskies - some reports increase this number - the poet stumbled back to his room at the Chelsea Hotel. Accounts of his demise vary wildly, but it is generally thought that he died after being brought to St. Vincent's Hospital.
But if it is Thomas haunting the crowded burger-and-pint pub, he's not making himself a nuisance. "He's never a bother," says owner Eddie Brennan.
In fact, the ghost may have provided at least one worker with a few free drinks. A porter hired to carry kegs down to the basement often told Brennan he heard footsteps in the bar and found an empty beer glass and shot glass on Thomas' favorite table, near the radiator in the middle room.
"I would say, 'Tony, you're drinking the beer and you're drinking the shot and you're drinking too many of them,'" says Brennan. "But he would swear to me up and down."
129 Spring St.
The restaurant in this historic townhouse sits over a well where the bruised body of Elma Sands was uncovered in 1799.
"She was last seen with her fiancé, Levi Weeks," says Brett Watson, who researched the property for a ghost-themed scavenger hunt put together by his company, Watson Adventures. "They went up in this area for a sleigh ride, back when this was the Lispenard Meadows."
Weeks denied he had been with Sands at the time, and his trial became a sensation with a defense team that included Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The big-name lawyers did the trick, and Weeks was acquitted.
"Sometimes people have spotted a young woman who is in a dirty dress with moss and vines on it," says Watson. "They say it's the ghost of Elma Sands."
326 Spring St.
The building that houses the Ear Inn was constructed in 1817, and when the pub on the ground floor opened some time later, it quickly became a favorite spot for seafarers.
One known to stick around after closing is Mickey the Sailor, an apparition accused of goosing waitresses. He gets even more amorous with guests brave enough to stay overnight.
"Supposedly women who've lived upstairs above the bar say that the ghost has crawled into bed with them," says Watson.
"He's a sailor. Sailors are going to do what they're going to do."
"It's not a tale," says one of the current owners, Martin Sheridan. "It's a fact. Although lately it's been people who notice a little too much of their drink missing. They look around and start accusing their friends."
16 Bank St.
Built in 1844, the Waverly Inn is currently packed with celebs, not spirits, under the ownership of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
As recently as 1997, however, the inn boasted a spectral guest list - unseen customers who wouldn't have been very impressed by the truffled mac and cheese.
A fire that devastated the building in 1977 left the restaurant's smoking room, Room 16, unscathed. Hostess Maria Ennes was quoted at the time attributing the room's salvation to its resident spirit, saying: "It's where the ghost likes to be."
Apparently the top-hat-and-waistcoat-wearing phantom was fond of spooking waitresses by moving andirons in the fireplace and sometimes dampening the blazes.
"He was also accused of switching the keys on the computer for meatloaf and fried chicken," says Watson. "I think that would be a good excuse for the management to keep on hand."
Seattle's First Avenue Businesses Have Haunting Problems
There's one place in Seattle where it's Halloween every day.
At 1921 First Ave., businesses keep coming and going, but one thing stays the same -- the presence of ghosts unafraid of making their presence known.
These spirited die-hards have bid their share of goose-bumped humans a hasty adieu.
The latest casualty at 1921 was the hip eatery Starlite Lounge, which closed this year. What ultimately doomed the new restaurant was shaky management, say those in the industry. But rumor has it specters floating inside the stone and brick building -- once home to a bustling death business -- banged pots of disapproval to speed up moving day.
John David Crow wasn't a believer in spirits when he opened his restaurant, Fire & Ice, at 1921 First four years ago. One evening, Crow told me, a wire coat hanger straightened itself and balanced on a knob like a seesaw.
So, Crow called in a shaman, who walked around and was shocked. "There are 19 spirits in here," the shaman told him. "I see 19 faces looking down at us right now."
Before you knew it, Crow's restaurant closed, too.
Workers at a previous restaurant at the spot, Cafe Sophie, also reported strange occurrences. Once, after midnight, an electrician rewiring one of the chandeliers saw two men sitting at a table talking, but thought nothing of it. The men even got up and held the ladder as the electrician worked -- until a woman in a white linen dress entered the room and started arguing with them.
"The electrician suddenly realized that his 'helpers' were not of this world," according to an account in Margaret Read MacDonald's book "Ghost Stories from the Pacific Northwest."
Cooks later found the electrician "sitting on the curb muttering."
Seattle, of course, has its share of famous ghosts and ghost tales.
There's the girl with dark hair, swathed in a white light, said to haunt the Neptune Theater in the University District. A janitor saw her in the lobby and told her the theater was closed. Then he realized she was transparent -- and dropped his Coke.
The Harvard Exit cinema on Capitol Hill has a resident spook. So, too, did the 14-room mansion known as The Castle, in Georgetown. Two residents said they saw a derangedlooking woman clutching her throat as if she were being strangled.
Seattle's most famous market, Pike Place, has a host of otherworldly characters, including "The Fat Woman Ghost" -- the spirit of a barber who lulled customers to sleep to steal from them. The barber fell through a Market floor to her death -- or so the story goes.
1921 First Ave., though, is most unusual, because tenant after tenant has tried to make peace with its lingering dead, even as they've tried -- and failed -- to court the living.
But the back story of the location -- in the same block as Le Pichet cafe -- explains why spirits, if you believe in such things, keep hanging around.
In the early 1900s, E.R. Butterworth brought his thriving mortuary to the location. Inside the building, there was a showplace for funerals, a garage for hearses, a cremation oven and a vault for ashes. On the first floor were viewing rooms, sitting rooms and a chapel. Seattle's first hydraulic elevator carried mourners to the top floor to buy caskets.
"For twenty years, The Butterworth Building saw the city's deceased pass through its doors," MacDonald's collection of ghost stories says. "Then in 1923 the Butterworth family moved their firm to Capitol Hill -- but they seem to have left a few of their customers behind."
Over the years, a man watched in awe as work tools mysteriously danced in the air. A bartender saw wine bottles shoot from a bin. And a kitchen worker stacked plates and looked away, only to turn back and see them laid out like fallen dominoes.
A customer in a booth once complained to a waiter about a woman staring at him. The waiter looked back and said, "What woman?"
Employees from different businesses -- including Avenue One and Isadora's -- that have come and gone at the spot echo the feeling that they were being watched.
Monday, I peered inside the dark space. With its vacant bar chairs clustered in a dark corner and long shadows everywhere, it looked spooky -- but apparently not spooky enough to scare off yet another entrepreneurial spirit.
Ghosts be damned, says Patrick McAleese, an owner of Kells. He says his cousin will try his luck at 1921.
With a touch of Irish humor, he added: "I'm a little more concerned about the living than the dead."
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