Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ep. 384 - Boston Common

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Moment in Oddity - The Green Mist of Chino Hills (Suggested by: Robert Kruse)

Supposedly, if one drives down Peyton Dr to where it dead ends into Woodview Road in Chino Hills, and then makes a right turn and then a quick left, they will come upon a very dark wooded area. There is a road through that area that curves back and forth as the darkness pulls the car deeper into the woods. There is a locked gate and security camera at the end of the road. It is in this area where people for years would claim to see the mysterious green mist. Teenagers challenged each other to brave the drive as they shared stories of urban legends. There were stories of satanic cults meeting up on the hill and making animal sacrifices. There were rumors of a government missile launch site. While those stories are fun, the latter is the closest one to the truth. A company named Aerojet was located on the property. They were a defense contractor during the Vietnam War. They didn't have any missiles on site, but they did build and test land mines. The tests involved using human cadavers to see how much damage the land mines would do and tamper them down so that they would maim rather than kill. They also tested gases by exploding them and occasionally when those gases mixed with the fog in the area, it would appear as a green mist. The mystery of the green mist might be solved, but the story behind it, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - German Instrument of Surrender Signed

In the month of May, on the 7th, in 1945, the German Instrument of Surrender was signed. This was the legal document that ended World War II in Europe and killed the Nazi Party. The first version of this was signed in a small red brick schoolhouse in Reims, Germany by General Alfred Jodl. The document called for the unconditional surrender of all German fighting forces and was witnessed by American, Russian, British and French ranking officers. General Jodl asked for a 48-hour grace period and this was granted, but Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, informed Jodl that he would be held personally responsible for any deviation from the terms of the surrender. A more formal signing was held the following day, May 8th, in Berlin. This required three members of the German High Command to sign the agreement. Western Allies consider May 8th, 1945 Victory in Europe Day, while the Russians, who wouldn't recognize the earlier Instrument of Surrender because it wasn't in Berlin, consider May 9th, 1945 as Victory Day.

Boston Common 

Boston is one of the oldest cities in America and full of history. One center of this history is the Boston Common, which is considered America's oldest park. The Common has been around for well over 350 years and has been witness to some of the most important moments in American history from public hangings to wars to victories to protests to public mourning and so much more. Nearly every war since the city was established has had a connection to this central heart of Boston. So much emotion is wrapped up here, it's not surprising that strange experiences are reported all over the Common. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Boston Common.

When considering the age of cities in America, we calculate based on European settlement, but not only is this a fallacy when it comes to human civilization here, but anything connected to the land needs to be known to truly understand hauntings or spiritual activity. The first European to settle in the Boston area was a man named William Blackstone. He arrived in 1628. Many Native American tribes were already there. The state of Massachusetts takes its name from one of those tribes. Other tribes include Ponkapoag, Wampanoag, Naumkeag, Narraganset and the Nipmuc People who descended from the Algonquian and were known as the "fresh water people." And that is what this area provided, fresh water. So it was very desirable for settlers and shortly after Blackstone arrived in this plain that the Native Americans called Shawmut, the Puritans arrived. Blackstone had been living in a small house, at peace with his indigineous neighbors, and he soon felt crowded out by the Puritans even though he had actually invited them. He eventually left and moved west deeper into the woods. The Puritans changed the name Shawmut to Boston, in honor of an old Lincolnshire English city.

The Puritans bought Blackstone's land and laid it out as a common and this is one of the most famous commons in America today. The idea of having a common had come over with the Puritans. On royal and manor lands, acreage would be set aside for the townspeople to use. This particular common stretched from the tidal marshes of Back Bay to Beacon Hill and was initially used as grazing land since it was mostly grassy with very few trees. That original common had three ponds and four hills, but only one of those hills and one of the ponds is still there today. So the first use for this common was as grazing land, but eventually a military training field was set up here. New rules were set forth in regards to littering as such, "Stones out of ye bordering lots or any entrails of beast or fowls or garbage, or carrion, or dead dogs or cats, or any other dead beast or stinking thing." Apparently they had an issue with people throwing dead stuff away in open lands? City charters through the years have continued to protect this land.

What is unusual about these rules forbidding dead stuff in the Boston Common is the fact that this was a place for public hangings. A diverse group of people were hanged here. There were the thieves, pirates and murderers, but also Native Americans, religious dissenters (people who weren't Puritans) and, of course, witches. Military activity started with fights in 1745 between colonists and Native Americans. When the colonists repealed the Stamp Act in 1766, a party broke out on the Common. Less than two years later, British Redcoats set up a camp in the Common as tensions began to rise between the British and the colonists.  The Colonial militia mustered for the American Revolution in the Common and this would be an encampment for years with trenches being built. After one victory from nearby, General Washington gathered with his victorious troops to celebrate and once the Revolution was done, a bonfire celebration was held to celebrate the surrender at Yorktown. Not only would Washington be there, but also John Adams and General Lafayette. 

John Hancock helped to improve the Common by planting a row of elm trees on Beacon Street, near where he lived. An area called The Mall would follow that was also lined with trees and used as a promenade where couples would walk and people could enjoy tea with each other. BTW, at this point, cows were still grazing on the Common. In the 1830s, a new order was passed to stop that activity, which I'm sure the people strolling around appreciated. A handmade iron fence was set up around the Common. The Frog Pond was turned into a fountain lake, which had previously been mostly a mud pond. The Civil War brought anti-slavery protests to what had become the city square and recruitment for the war also occurred here. When the Civil War ended, a celebration happened here too. And when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the city of Boston publicly mourned here. Victory gardens would be built during World War I and the iron fencing would disappear when World War II started because it was needed for the war effort. The more recent era has hosted tennis matches, baseball games, speeches, protests and even the first Papal Mass in North America.

The Friends of the Public Garden and Common was formed in 1975 to help protect the Common. The Common has many statues and monuments that have been added to it through the years. The Brewer Fountain was installed in 1868. Boston merchant Gardner Brewer bought the fountain, which was designed by Paul Lienard with statues by Mathurin Moreau, at the Paris Exposition of 1867 and brought it back to Boston. The statues feature the figures of Galatea, Amphitrite, Acis and Poseidon. The Boston Massacre Memorial was placed in 1888 and features a bronze figure breaking the chains of tyranny. This was designed by Robert Kraus and depicts Crispus Attucks, who was the first to be killed at the Boston Massacre in front of the Old State House on March 5, 1770. In 1913, the Blackstone Memorial Tablet was added to honor the man who originally owned the land and the people of Boston who own the Common. It was designed by R. Clipston and includes an inscription taken from the words of four of the founders of Boston.

The Lafayette Memorial, that was designed by John F. Paramino, was added in 1924 and commemorated the centennial of Lafayette's visit to the Common in 1824. The Father of the American Navy, Commodore John Barry, has a monument that was designed by John F. Paramino that was erected in 1949. The Park Street Mall was renamed as Liberty Mall in 1917 to honor "Our Soldiers and Sailors in the Great War." The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry, which was the first free black regiment in the Union Army, is honored with the Shaw Memorial. This was named in honor of their leader Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who was killed, along with 32 of the infantry on July 19, 1863 during an assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. The memorial was designed by Augustus St. Gaudens and Charles F. McKim and placed in 1897. 

There are statues representing Learning, Industry and Religion in Parkman Plaza, designed by Adio DiBiccari and Arcangelo Cascieri. A Declaration of Independence Plaque was added in 1925. The Flagstaff, which is a 37 foot high pole made from one tree, has stood on the Common for over 150 years and had once been the only place people could smoke, so they nicknamed it "Smokers Circle." This is atop Flagstaff Hill, which kids love to sled down. The Holmes Path is named for Oliver Wendell Holmes. A Civil War memorial designed by Martin Milmore called Soldiers and Sailors Monument was added in 1877. There is a fountain with an angel carved on it near Arlington Street and many people like to rest near the fountain. Some of them have claimed to see the spirits of two women wearing Victorian era clothing, walking in a hurry near the fountain. No one knows who these spirits might belong to, but some speculate that they died in an accident nearby.

A Great Elm had once stood here and it was used for hangings in the seventeenth century. A storm in 1876 destroyed it, but its former use may have left behind some spiritual residue. And even if the story about the elm is just pure legend, there is no doubt that a gallows was eventually erected in the Common and executions occurred here for 150 years. The Puritans came here seeking freedom from religious persecution and the great irony of that was that they themselves didn't offer that kind of freedom. If you were a Quaker, you were a heathen. And while our former reviews of witch hangings in our nation's past has revealed that nearly none of those hanged for being a witch were really witches, they still should have been afforded religious freedom if they were not harming anyone. The Puritans didn't just persecute, they put people to death. One of those people was Mary Dyer. 

Mary Dyer had been a Quaker who lived in Rhode Island. Rhode Island was a haven for Quakers and the original colony had been established by Roger Williams after the Puritans had banished him for his beliefs. Dyer was not only a practicing Quaker, but she was an evangelist for the denomination, always seeking to bring people in and helping out fellow Quakers. Boston was her favorite place to visit to support fellow Quakers and evangelize. Obviously, the Puritans were not crazy about this. And that is putting it mildly because the Puritans had threatened to hang Dyer if she kept coming to Boston. And one day in October of 1659, they arrested her. Two other non-Puritan men were also arrested. All three were sentenced to hang. The two men were hanged first, but right before Dyer was set to have a noose around her neck, the governor commuted her sentence. Apparently, Dyer's son had pleaded her case before the governor.

That would be the end of this story had it not been for Mary Dyer's calling to preach her beliefs. She just couldn't leave Boston alone. When she was arrested a second time, the judge made a bargain with her. Leave Boston and promise to never come back and you are free to go. Dyer more than likely told him where he could put his bargain and she was sentenced to hang for a second time. And this time it stuck. Her body was buried in an unmarked grave on the Common. As a form of repentance, perhaps, the people of Boston have memorialized Mary Dyer with a bronze statue in front of the Massachusetts State House where she has a view of the park where she was unjustly put to death. The wailing of a woman is sometimes heard near the statue and in the area of the Common nearby. This wailing woman has also been seen as a full-bodied apparition wearing colonial garb walking through the Common. Dyer is sometimes thought to be an anniversary ghost, appearing every 25 years to a certain troubled young person and inspiring them to live a noble life. One such man had been a drunkard and what soon came to be known as the White Witch of the Common appeared to him and whatever she said to him, he never revealed to anyone, but he never touched a drop of liquor again and went on to have a very successful life. Many people believe Mary Dyer is that spirit.

Dyer was only one of perhaps hundreds hanged on the Common. Ann Hibbens was hanged for witchcraft in 1656, but even before her there was Margaret Jones who was hanged in 1648. Ann "Goody" Glover was hanged in 1688 for witchcraft. She had come over from Ireland and spoke mostly Gaelic. She was a strong-willed Catholic and so didn't get along with the Puritans. She washed laundry for her neighbor John Goodwin and one day she got into a fight with his teen-aged daughter. We imagine some Gaelic curse words were hurled and next thing you know, four Goodwin kids are accusing Goody Glover of bewitching them. When Goody couldn't recite the Lord's Prayer in English in the way the Puritans said it, she was sentenced to hang. 

People have claimed for decades to see the shadowy images of people hanging from trees and apparitions wandering where the Great Elm had once stood. And we wonder something else. If the elm had indeed been used to hang people, is that why it was taken out by the storm and afterwards, Bostonians clamored to the Common and tore the tree apart to have a souvenir of the former landmark. Could there be energy attached to those fragments that they then took home with them? We'll never know, but if your family has passed down some parts of the Great Elm and something is knocking around your house, let us know.

Another area of the Common that is reputed to be haunted is the cemetery that is here. No oldest park in America would be complete without one, after all. The Central Burying Ground is here. This cemetery is located on Boylston Street between Tremont and Charles Street and was founded in 1756. Members of the Sprague family are buried here. Father Samuel was a rebel who participated in the Boston Tea Party and fought during the Revolutionary War and his son Charles was one of America's earliest poets.  Composer William Billings, who wrote Chester, is buried here. And the Famous painter Gilbert Stuart is buried here. He made the most well known portraits of George and Martha Washington. That one of George you see all the time on the dollar bill. There is also Caleb Davis who was a Revolutionary patriot and many British soldiers were buried here, particularly after the Battle of Bunker Hill. 

Sam Baltrusis writes in his "Ghost of Boston: Haunts of the Hub" book, "While the nearby Granary Burial Ground earns top billing thanks to its Freedom Trail-friendly names, including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and even Mother Goose, the Boston Common's lesser-known Central Burying Ground has something the other graveyards don't: ghosts." And Diane found this to be true after the Ghost and Gravestones Tour took her into three cemeteries in Boston and never shared one ghost story about any of them. While being in these utterly cool cemeteries at night was amazing, it was disappointing to not have one ghost story. Shadowy figures are often seen near the trees in the graveyard. People claim to have been poked or felt something brush their shoulders or even been grabbed by something they couldn't see. 

One such violent encounter happened to dentist Dr. Matt Rutger. He was in the cemetery on a rainy afternoon in the 1970s and he had bent down to look at a gravestone carving. He felt a violent yank on his collar and spun around. No one was there and he was so spooked, he quickly made his way to the gate. As he ran along, he noticed a red-haired girl with sunken cheekbones and a mud-splattered gray dress standing in the rear corner of the cemetery. She was staring at him intently. He started running faster and as he turned to face the gate, he saw her standing there. He buzzed past her quickly and headed down Boylston Street and suddenly felt something reach into his coat pocket and the next thing he knew, his keys were dangling mid-air in front of his face and then dropped. Rutger had always considered himself a skeptic since he was a medical professional, but his beliefs were profoundly changed that day. Adam Berry considers the Central Burying Ground to be one of the most haunted places he has visited.

There is also a mass grave and here is where some of our haunting issues start because this was not the original burial for the hundreds of bones re-interred here. These bones were originally in an adjacent area to the burial ground and were found in early 1895 when the city started building the nation's first underground trolley station known today as the Boylston Green Line Stop. Initially 100 bodies were unearthed. Bostonians came by in the hundreds to watch the gruesome affair of unearthing bodies. As further excavations continued, more and more bodies were discovered. There was never a clear count of bodies, but some historians claim that there could have been at least a thousand. The bones were moved to the new mass grave in the Central Burying Ground, but they had been disturbed nonetheless.

The Boylston Station was constructed in 1895 and this makes it the oldest rapid transport platform in America. The grand opening was in 1897 and it has been in use since. An old street car that was painted bright orange is on display on a side track. There are many abandoned tunnels down here, which makes for a very eerie setting. Trolley conductors claim to see the apparition of a British soldier down in one of the tunnels. He is in his full red-coat uniform and usually points his musket at the trains before dissolving into thin air. Some believe he is residual. It's so common of an occurrence that veteran conductors will send new recruits on this route to get a kick out of watching them slam on the brakes. People believe this spirit is connected to those disturbed bones from the station's early construction.

Located in the center of the Boston Common is the Parkman Bandstand. This is named for Dr. George Parkman who had a lovely brownstone facing the Common at 33 Beacon Street. Parkman had come from a prominent family in Boston and he had enjoyed a successful medical career. When he retired, he decided to buy buildings and rent them out as a landlord and he would lend money to people. One person he lent money to was a Harvard professor named John White Webster. Webster had asked for $400 and never made any attempt to repay the debt. So Parkman decide to pay him a visit at his Harvard laboratory and he was never seen alive again. Missing persons fliers were placed everywhere, but there was no sign of Parkman. All eyes were on Webster and he was eventually arrested and there was a sensational trial. Webster confessed and the torso of Parkman was found in a tea chest. As for the rest of Parkman, well, this is where the story gets really interesting.

Webster claimed that he killed Parkman in self-defense. The landlord and former doctor had come at him in a threatening way, demanding his money. Webster grabbed his heavy walking stick and clubbed Parkman. He said it only took the one blow to knock the man to the pavement and he didn't move after that. Webster chopped the body into pieces and then threw the remains into the privvy. This was the mid-1800s, so he wasn't flushing the body parts, just hiding them where no one would want to look. The torso wouldn't fit and that is why it was in the chest. There did appear to have been an attempt to burn the bones in a furnace. The case was so sensational that Charles Dickens became fascinated by it and even looked into it. Webster was hanged for his crime on August 30, 1850. 

The haunting connected to this is a strange one. And maybe it wasn't a haunting at all, but we don't believe in coincidences. On the anniversary of his death 150 years later, the Parkman House had a bad issue with plumbing. The toilet to be exact. A cistern broke on the third floor toilet and the tank overflowed. Water gushed everywhere and completely ruined the interior of the historic house. The director for the Parkman House figured that Dr. Parkman had come to pay a visit.

The Boston Common is a must-see for anyone visiting Boston. There is a little bit of everything represented in Boston's history here. And to have ghosts on top of that, just makes the place that more special. Is the Boston Common haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Ep. 383 - The Ghost Town of Bannack

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Moment in Oddity - Exeter Cathedral Clock (Suggested by: Jenny Raines)

Most of you are probably familiar with the nursery rhyme, Hickory Dickory Dock. The rhyme was first published in 1744 in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book. But the rhyme probably goes back to Tudor times and is connected to the magnificent Exeter Cathedral and its Astronomical Clock. The clock was built to help keep the schedule of prayer. There are also features that indicate the phase of the moon and the date. As a matter of fact, the main dial is a working model of the solar system as that was understood in the 14th and 15th centuries, with the earth in the center represented by a golden ball and a moon circling around it with a sun circling outside both. The door below the clock had a hole cut into it somewhere between 1598 and 1621. This was to give a cat access. It seems that animal fat was used to lubricate the mechanisms of the clock and this attracted mice. So the church used cats to get rid of the vermin. So here you have, "The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, the mouse ran down. Hickory, dickory, dock." There is no mention of a cat, but its pretty clear what we have going on here. It is not definitive that the rhyme is connected to the Exeter Cathedral Clock, but if it is, that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree

In the month of April, on the 21st, in 1973, the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" tops the pop charts and creates a powerful symbol. The song was written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown and sung by Tony Orlando and Dawn. The song is about a man who has spent three years in prison and is coming home to his girl and wants her to leave a sign that she welcomes him back. The idea of tying a yellow ribbon around an oak tree did not take root at that time, but it would serve as inspiration for Penelope Laingen who was the wife of U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Tehran. She bedecked their Maryland home with yellow ribbons in 1981 during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Penelope said of the symbol, "It just came to me. To give people something to do, rather than throw dog food at Iranians. I said, ‘Why don’t they tie a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree.’ That’s how it started." People across America tied yellow ribbons around their trees and other things. And after 444 days, the hostages did come home.

The Ghost Town of Bannack

Bannack, Montana was a wild gold mining town with no sheriff to keep the peace until Henry Plummer came along and he turned out to be the worst criminal of them all. Brothels dotted the streets, as did saloons and within its first fourteen months of existence, seven people had been executed. The life of the town was short lived and unlike its sister cities of Helena and Virginia City, Bannack became a ghost town. The state government maintains the property and they have chosen to keep it in its dilapidated state. And perhaps that is why it seems that some ghosts are frozen in time here. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the ghost town of Bannack!

The name Pike's Peakers came along early in the Colorado Gold Rush and was first used in the Missouri Stateman in November of 1858. The term was used to describe the gold hungry Georgia miners, politicians, bloomer girls, stampeders, Cherokee Indians, Kansas territory town builders, promoters and other assortment of characters that arrived along the Front Range of the Rockies. The title became a sort of brand used on a variety of wares from guns to shovels and picks to clothing to boots and even food. It was Pike's Peak or Bust for these dreamers. And for many it was bust. John White was a man looking for a new boom and he found it in what would eventually become Montana. He and other Colorado Pike's Peakers traveled north and on July 28, 1862, White found gold at Grasshopper Creek. Two years after that, President Abraham Lincoln would establish the Montana territory. White would go bust in a very bad way shortly after his discovery. He was murdered in 1864 and the killer was never found.

Other strikes would be found in Alder Gulch, which would become Virginia City, and Last Chance Gulch, which would become Helena. But Bannack would be the first boomtown in the area and by the Spring of 1863, there were nearly 3,000 people in the town. It was named after the local Bannock Native American tribe. The post office was established in November of 1863, making Bannack an official city and while that sounds very civilized, Bannack was anything but civilized. The growth was so fast, that local government couldn't keep order and there was no sheriff either.  There were no federal marshals either, just a judge, Chief Justice Sidney Edgerton, and he was basically powerless. Fortunately, word of people being killed over mine claims in other towns got the miners serious about protecting their claims and they formed a Miners Court to handle disputes. The laws were simple and absolute and kept problems at bay.

As the mines boomed, the city grew and was named the county seat of Beaverhead County. Eventually, there were 10,000 people in town with three hotels, a brewery, a restaurant, three blacksmith shops, two meat markets, three bakeries, four saloons and a billiards hall. By 1881 though, the gold rush was over and people started leaving, including town founder Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, who had been the town's doctor. As the population declined, nearby Dillon became the new county seat. The town closed down officially in 1940 as the mines closed for good and then it sat abandoned. Courts ordered the mining company to put the area up for auction in 1954, but even before that a group of people from Western Montana began work to refurbish and stabilize buildings. The site became a National Historic Site in 1961 and is today the Bannack State Park.

There are 60 structures still standing, ranging from simple log cabins to brick and frame structures. Most of these sites can be visited and the visitor's center offers a self-guided tour brochure. None of them is renovated, so paint is peeling and there is no furniture in most buildings. The town seems almost frozen in time and that may be why some spirits remain here. One of those spirits is said to be the former sheriff Henry Plummer. Plummer walked into town shortly after it was founded. He was handsome and charismatic and easily won over friends because they didn't know his background. He was the son of a sea captain and had been an east coast transplant, first arriving in Nevada City where he worked in a bakery and then was elected sheriff and fell in love with another man's wife. He killed the husband in a duel and was sent to San Quentin Prison to serve a ten year sentence.The people of Nevada City petitioned to have him released as they felt it was self-defense. So Plummer was out in six months.

And back into a life of crime. He joined a gang and they robbed stage coaches. Then he headed for Bannack in 1863. The people of Bannack had no idea that Plummer had murdered someone and been a thief when he walked into town. He showed up well-dressed and charmed everyone. They were so charmed that The Miner’s Court elected him to sheriff. What they didn't know was that Plummer still had some unsavory friends, about 25 of them who were river pirates, villains, outlaws and Civil War deserters. This gang called themselves The Innocents and they terrorized people traveling between the gold mining camps. They not only robbed many of them, but they also murdered 102 people. The miners weren't idiots and they eventually figured out that their sheriff was a bad guy and they formed a posse they called the Montana Vigilantes. Over the next forty-two days, the Vigilantes rounded up 24 of the gang members, along with Henry Plummer himself. They hanged all of them, including Plummer, on the gallows hill just above Bannack. There is still a gallows in town, but it is not the original as vandals destroyed that. It is in the original location, which could be seen from the death row cell in the jail. That cell had a 12 inch by 8 inch window. The jail itself was built from 10-inch logs and supposedly never suffered a jail break.

Plummer was buried in a box in Hangman's Gulch. His grave was robbed twice. During the second grave robbing, Plummer's head was taken and kept in the back of one of the saloons. Which incidentally, burned to the ground eventually. Could it have been Plummer's spirit? The ghost of Henry Plummer has been seen wandering around the ghost town. Some say that the story of his gang was a lie and that Plummer was wrongfully accused and now he wants to avenge his name. The Skinner Saloon, which dates to 1862, had been his favorite hangout and that is where his spirit is most seen. Inside this rustic wood building, one can find the original carved wood long bar. He's also seen at Chrismans’ Store.

Chrismans’ Store

One of the reasons Plummer might be haunting this location is that he had offices in the back of the building. The building housed a general store. This was a central gathering space as miners were in there to get supplies, not only for gold digging, but also groceries. Men did the shopping in town and gathered in front of the fireplace to discuss news, politics and gossip - because we know men do that too. There is more than just Plummer's ghost here. There are also spirits that gather as though they are discussing the town news in the afterlife. Judith of Ghosts, Poltergeists and Hauntings took a picture that seems to show a group of misty apparitions grouped around a piece of furniture. A man whose great-grandfather ran a mercantile in Bannack in 1869, used to work at the visitor center. He feels that there are spirits in the ghost town.

Roe House

There is a house in town that had belonged to William Roe. He built it in 1866 and it was the first woodframe house in Bannack. Fielding L. Graves later owned the house and he is known for being the inventor of the electric dredge and first bucket dredge.

Bessette House or Crying Baby House

This Besette House had belonged to Abed “Amity” Bessette. He had been a member of the Montana Vigilantes who stopped the murderous practices of Plummer’s gang. He spent his entire life in Bannack, raising sheep and he also owned the Bank Exchange Saloon and the Hotel Meade. He died in Bannack in 1919. He allowed his house to be used as a hospital where people could be quarantined during deadly epidemics from typhoid, diphtheria and other killer diseases. Fourteen infants died during a small pox epidemic in the 1880s. Many children lost their lives in this house to various diseases. When Zak and the Ghost Adventures crew were filming inside the house with a park ranger, all of them hear two knocks. Greg Burchfield took a picture of his kids in the attic of the house and when he developed the picture, there appeared to be two small orbs next to his kids in the picture.

Methodist Church

The old Methodist Church here is in pretty good condition and looks exactly the way one would expect an old wooden church in a ghost town to look like. The building was built in 1877 and the congregation was headed by William Wesley Orsdel, whom everyone called Brother Van. The church is still used for community events like live speaker events and concerts. The interior is a large open rectangular room with wooden bench seats in rows. A person was taking pictures in the Methodist Church and caught a weird anomaly that looks like a ghostly figure sitting in a chair.

Schoolhouse and Masonic Building

The schoolhouse still has an antique merry-go-round in front of it. Inside, the blackboards hold the rules for teachers back in 1915.
1. You will not marry
2. You will not keep company with men
3. You must be home between 8pm and 6am
4. You may not loiter at the Ice Cream Store
5. You may not travel outside city milits without permission
6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
7. You may not smoke cigarettes
8. You may not dress in bright colors
9. You may not dye your hair
10. You must wear at least two petticoats
11. Your dress may not be any shorter than 2 inches above your ankle
12. You must keep the school room neat and clean. Sweep the floor at least once a day and scrub the floor at least once a week. Start the fire by 7am, so the room will be warm by 8am.

The upper floor of the schoolhouse was home to the Masonic Lodge in town. There are still artifacts and furniture up there.  

Hotel Meade

Hotel Meade is a two story, red brick building that was first built to serve as the first Beaverhead County Courthouse in 1875. Bannack was the county seat at that time, but once things started slowing down, the nearby town of Dillon became the county seat. That would be in 1881 and the courthouse was no longer needed, so the building sat abandoned. In 1890, Dr. John Singleton Mead bought the building. He decided that with some remodeling that he could turn the old courthouse into a hotel. And the Hotel Meade was born and soon became the hub for Bannack's society. The hotel hosted all of the town's major events and receptions. And it did this with flair serving everything on fine china over expensive white linens. Dr. Mead had added onto the back of the building, a new huge kitchen, a dining room with tables that could seat up to six people and living quarters. The hotel would cycle through being opened and closed based on whether the mines were open or closed. When the town shut down in the 1940s, so did the hotel.

The disembodied sounds of children are heard here. This could be for a couple of reasons. First, the hotel sometimes served as a hospital and children would have died here. The other reason is that Bannack came under Native American attack and some of the children were hidden in the safes here. Perhaps something residual was left behind. Cold spots are felt throughout the building. Some people believe that Dr. Mead is still here since he loved the hotel so much. Greg Burchfield was investigating the hotel in 2005. He went up to the second floor with a recorder and immediately felt a presence near him and there was a cold spot. He asked, "Are you a little chicken?" The accented voice of what sounded like a teenager responded.

The most well known and sighted apparition at this location belongs to Dorothy Dunn. The local paper read, "A most deplorable accident occurred at Bannack late last week, when Miss Dorothy Dunn, a popular young girl of that place, was drowned. Miss Dunn, in company with her sister, Fern Dunn, and a friend, Ruth Wornick, had gone to wade in an old pond near the old upper gold dredge boat. In some manner, the girls got in deep water and before they could realize it, they were in over their heads. Smith Paddock, a 10-year-old boy, happened to be passing near the place and seeing the girls floundering in the water, he ran to their rescue and managed to save two of them. By the time he had managed to get Miss Dorothy from the water, she was beyond help." The body of the young girl was carried through the streets and taken to the Hotel Meade. 

It did not take long for Dorothy to make her first appearance to her best friend, Ruth. The ghost of Dorothy has been seen multiple times over the past 100 years and she is always wearing a long blue dress. She is usually seen on the second floor of the former hotel and she sometimes tries to talk to people, but no sound comes from her mouth. This type of thing is usually reported by children. One seven-year-old said that she could see Dorothy's mouth moving, but could hear no sounds and that it scared her. The apparition sometimes looks out on the street from a second story window too. 

Francisco Ferreyra told Zak about an experience he had at the hotel. He was visiting with a couple of friends and they had been up on the second floor. As they started down the stairs, Francisco heard clearly the voice of a little girl say, "Hi, Daddy." He turned around and then felt something he could not see, pushing him. He felt that it was a harmful push, meant to send him down the stairs. He would have fallen had he not been holding the rail. Things continued to be strange for him at home. The following morning he came into his kitchen and found his little boy running around as if he was playing with someone. Someone Francisco couldn't see. Francisco also developed long scratches on his back. In the pictures, Diane could clearly see two long scratches on each of his lats making a V shape going down. He regretted visiting the ghost town.

Personal Experience on Haunted Houses website from 2005: 

"Tom and I visited Bannack and the Hotel Meade during a working vacation on a crisp August morning. I was wearing a heavy coat and hat with gloves, because it was nippy outside. The Park Ranger told us that the Hotel Mead was haunted, so I went on alone because Tom said he wanted to get some other photos and would catch up with me. The heavy front wooden door opens inward. Upon entering the front door, one finds the lobby/reception area, with a curving, once elegant staircase which winds up to the second floor where the guest rooms were located. Looking straight ahead is the large dining room, with a side room off the wide hallway. Other rooms where food was prepared and the kitchen also are found off this main hallway. I walked alone around the spooky downstairs, trying to imagine how grand it once was, waiting for husband Tom to join me. No one else who was living was in the building with me. I thought I’d be polite and quietly talk to whomever unseen entity was there, as I verbally admired the various rooms, as if I was visiting as a guest, talking to the host.

While studying the various dining rooms, kitchen area, etc., here and there one sees glimpses of fine flooring, wallpaper and other evidence of how beautiful this hotel was in its heyday. The main staircase in the front lobby area has lovely wood carving on the rails and had at one time fancy steps, which must have been inviting for tired travelers. During this tour of the downstairs, I didn’t feel a presence, but then again I usually don’t. While the downstairs was cold, so was the outside and I was warmly dressed. So if there were cold spots, I didn’t notice them. After taking a look around the very quiet, still, chilly downstairs, I decided to see where my better half went, as there was something too spooky about going up to the second floor alone. There was something about the shadowy staircase leading up to the second floor from the kitchen that made me decide not to go there just yet. I turned into the main hallway and walked through the lobby toward the large front door of the building which I had left open.

When I was about 50 yards from the door in the main lobby, the heavy wooden door suddenly was pushed hard from the inside with a hard slam. I jumped and let out a yelp of surprise! There was no wind outside, and the only explanation was that an unseen presence wanted to let me know that I wasn’t as alone as I thought on the first floor, and wanted to see me jump for chuckles! As I have limited psychic ability, entities who had wanted to say hi to me in past adventures, got my attention through physical means. Or perhaps this entity wasn’t pleased that I didn’t come up to the second floor for a visit, or maybe upset that I left the door open in the first place! I apologized verbally for leaving the door open, and made a hasty exit. I did go back to this hotel with husband Tom to have a living escort this time as we explored the hotel together, the second floor as well, about 30 minutes later. Tom took some pictures with his digital camera which capture the atmosphere of this building on both floors."

Debbie from Canada on Legends of America website, "About 12 years ago, my husband, mother-in-law, daughter, and I went on a road trip from southwest Saskatchewan to Montana. We love visiting Montana – so much to see and do. After a long day of driving, I was finally able to convince my husband to make the detour to see Bannack. I am an avid fan of American ghost towns. After a leisurely stroll down the main road of Bannack – going into buildings that were accessible to tourists, and looking into windows of buildings that were not accessible; my daughter and I decided to sit on the front steps of the Meade Hotel while we waited for my husband and mother-in-law. After about 10 minutes, I got up and stood next to the front door and said to my daughter “I wonder if we are allowed to go into this building?” The front door immediately groaned and creaked open – all the way to welcome us in. I was stunned. I went in and closed the door firmly behind us and waited for about five minutes to see if the door was not latched properly and would open on its own, or if there were a breeze (there was no breeze that hot day). It did not open by itself while I was there. A short while later, a couple opened the door and walked in. I am convinced that someone unseen welcomed my daughter and me into this fantastic-looking old hotel. I would love to go back and take pictures – who knows what I may find!"

Bannack is a cool ghost town because it has resisted commercialism, while maintaining the buildings. Does it still serve as harbor for its former residents. Are these buildings haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

HGB Ep. 382 - Haunted Cemeteries 18 and Cremation

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Moment in Oddity - Lost Lake Hole (Suggested by: Jeannie Nolan)

Williamette National Forest has a very bizarre phenomenon that occurs there that has been called the Lost Lake Hole. This is a hole in the forest that fills up with water from streams that drain into it during the winter. The weird phenomenon happens in the spring when the hole suddenly drains all of its water. It's like the floor of the lake drops out and all the water just disappears. Pictures taken while this happens show what looks like a big hole surrounded by waterfalls as the water just flows down and away. And nobody knows where it goes. Scientists have blamed the region's volcanic landscape, that is porous, for absorbing the water. That hardly seems like it could absorb that much water, but others believe that there is also some kind of lava tube under the hole and that is where much of the water drains. This fills up the underground water supply, which eventually feeds into the springs and the process starts again. We still wonder why the water doesn't just drain all the time. That seems to be the greater mystery and this lost lake, certainly is odd!   

This Month in History - Rita Moreno Wins First Oscar For Hispanic Woman

In the month of April, on the 9th, in 1962, Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno becomes the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar. Moreno was born in Puerto Rico in 1931 and her family eventually migrated to New York. She got her first acting gig on Broadway when she was only 13 years old. She later got a supporting role in the movie "The King and I," which she cherished because she felt as though this was outside of all the stereotypical roles she had been placed in before, particularly in Westerns. She would land the role of a lifetime in 1961's film remake of the musical "West Side Story." She would play Anita, a Puerto Rican immigrant who is good friend's with Maria who is the sister of her boyfriend. Other actors in the film like Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer didn't sing their own songs, but Moreno did and she gives a very memorable performance as she sings the song "America." West Side Story won ten Oscars including Best Picture and, of course, Moreno's Best Supporting Actress. As part of her acceptance speech she said, "I can't believe it. Good Lord! I leave you with that." She later went on to win a Tony Award in 1975 and during the 1970s, she appeared on The Electric Show. And for those of you my age, we remember "Hey you guys!" very fondly. She won an Emmy for her work on the Muppet Show. She is one of the few actors to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.

Haunted Cemeteries 18

Glass Coffin story from The Jersey Journal, March 29, 1883.

Why would a spirit hang around their grave? We recall that we had a listener named Maya write us a few months back and she had wondered if cemeteries were haunted because spirits were guarding their bodies, particularly from grave robbers. And we had wondered if maybe some spirits were hanging around because that is where their family would come to visit them. We may never know why a cemetery is haunted, but there are plenty to investigate to try to find out why. On this episode we have The Lost Cemetery of Infants from Texas, Citizens Cemetery in Arizona, 100 Steps Cemetery and Stepp Cemetery in Indiana and Erie Street Cemetery in Ohio. We also will be discussing cremation and a haunted crematory! Join us for Haunted Cemeteries 18!

The Lost Cemetery of Infants (Suggested by: Scott Booker)

The Lost Cemetery of Infants is found in Doug Russell Park, located at 801 West Mitchell Street in Arlington, Texas. Most cemeteries have a nursery area that has been reserved for the burial of children and babies, but this entire cemetery is dedicated to them. Reverend James Tony Upchurch created the Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls in 1894 as an attempt to help pregnant girls transition back into regular society. The Reverend was forward thinking at the time because most places, especially churches, would turn these young women away. The girls would be taught a viable trade like sewing, typing, printing, doing laundry, and they only had to follow a couple of rules. They had to attend church and they had certain chores they were assigned. They also had to raise their babies for a year and then give them up for adoption. The Institute grew over the years, covering 40 acres and eventually transitioned into an orphanage. It was after the Reverend passed in 1950 that things started to go downhill. By the 1960s, all the buildings on the property had been torn down and the land sold off. But one thing remained, a plot of land where babies that had been stillborn or died from sickness had been buried. Most markers are flat to the ground and contain only a first name or a number after infant if they had been too young to have been named. We're not sure why this simple little lost cemetery is haunted, but people claim to be touched as though someone is stroking their hair and shadow figures are seen sometimes darting between the trees and disembodied voices of children are heard.

Citizens Cemetery in Flagstaff (Suggested and researched by: Susan Johnson of Freaky Flagstaff Foottours, she joined us on Ep. 275)

Greenwood Cemetery sat at the foot of Mars Hill and it was decided to move the bodies to a new cemetery, Flagstaff’s Citizen Cemetery, which was established in 1891. Unfortunately, only forty of the sixty-four bodies made the trip, so there are probably still the remains of twenty-four people under Thorpe Park, which took the place of Greenwood Cemetery. The story goes that Greenwood Cemetery was the final stop for many of the outlaws and gunslingers of the late 1800s and the town’s hanging tree was conveniently located nearby. Percival Lowell was the town’s father and one has to wonder whether his decision to build his Observatory atop of Mars Hill had anything to do with the town father’s decision to move the cemetery some two miles south east to its current location. The cemetery covers 40 acres and has one-lane roads and rolling hills dotted with trees, giving it a beautiful and peaceful feel, even though Northern Arizona University’s north campus is literally across the street. When one enters the wrought iron gates it is like being transported into a quieter world far apart from the hustle and bustle of present-day Flagstaff.  Burials are still conducted there today and the cemetery is open to the public during daylight hours.

A visitor familiar with Northern Arizona history would recognize a number of the names of old Pioneer families that are interred here.  Platt Cline, long-time editor of the town paper, and his wife are buried in the southernmost section of the cemetery, close to the Sechrists (town doctor in the early-mid 1900s) and the Pollocks (extremely wealthy businessman involved in banking, cattle and real estate.) Interestingly, most of the headstones in the cemetery face east, as was customary in the nineteenth and twentieth century. There were a few exceptions, Platt Cline being one of them. He said he wanted his stone to face north toward the majestic San Francisco Peaks, who’s beauty bought him west and kept him in Flagstaff his adult life. Other names that would be familiar to locals are the Midgleys, Switzers, Hochderffers, Doneys, Pulliams, Mannings and Whipples. 

There are several gravesites in Citizens that are truly historic, some to the area and one in particular to the world at large. On June 30,1956 the worst disaster in aviation history to that date occurred. 128 souls were lost when a TWA Super Constellation and a United DC-7 collided over the Grand Canyon, most likely due to the pilots of both planes wanting to give their passengers a thrilling peek at the great gorge north of Flagstaff.  Commercial air travel was relatively new in the 50s and the air liners competed vigorously to show the public the pleasures and safety of flying. Both flights had departed Los Angeles International Airport that Saturday morning with TWA Flight 2 heading for Kansas City Downtown Airport, 31 minutes behind schedule and 70 souls aboard. United Flight 718 departed three minutes later, heading for Chicago’s Midway Airport carrying 58.  Both planes headed east at designated altitudes and flight routes, but this was in the years before air traffic control was in place. To put the procedure very simply: When commercial airlines departed most major airports they were in controlled air space and in communication with the tower directing all local air traffic. However, very shortly they would leave that space and when that occurred a United pilot would be calling United’s control tower (located perhaps 1000 miles away) or ground operator and that person there would call TWA’s ground operator or tower and relay the message/request—which then was relayed back to the United operator and to the pilot who initiated it. So you already have this major delay in communication and then throw in limited use of radar. On top of that, the main rule in the air was “seen and be seen” rules rather than “see and avoid.”

The two flights collided over the Grand Canyon at approximately 10:30 am with the United’s DC-10 left wing clipping the stabilizer of the TWA plane, shearing it off along with part of the rear fuselage and sending it straight down into the canyon at more than 450 mph. United flight 718 was mortally wounded from the collision as well, with a mangled left wing and engine, and dropped into the canyon in a deadly left spiral, landing miles apart from the TWA plane. Sadly, there were few identifiable remains. Retrieving what was left was difficult and treacherous work and the Swiss Air Rescue were called in to help. On July 9, 1956 a mass funeral was held for the victims of TWA Flight 2 at the Canyon; 66 of the 70 passengers remains from that flight were flown to Flagstaff and buried in a mass grave in Citizen’s Cemetery. An interesting aside to this story is that the investigation into the collision of these two planes over the Grand Canyon is credited with the creation of the FAA and with millions of dollars being invested into updating the airlines industry.

There have been no hauntings at the mass grave in the cemetery, but there have been hauntings reported in the Canyon near the crash sites by Park Rangers. One such report from Ranger KJ Glover when she camped between Chuar and Temple Buttes one night she heard the low murmuring of voices outside her tent.  When she looked outside she saw a line of people—more than 12—in dresses and suits walking up the trail and talking amongst themselves as though nothing was amiss. Glover also reported they were followed by several Native Americans, speaking in a language she could not understand.  When she got out of her tent to investigate there was no one there! (Haunted Hikes by Andrea Lankford) “A Journey Into the Haunted” also tells of sightings between the two crash sites, with people dressed in “city attire” being seen as well as people wandering about confused and crying. Again, when checked further, no living beings are detected. 

Another gravesite of interest is that of Thelma Marie Walkup and her four children: Daniel, age 10; Rose, age 8: John age 5; and baby Elizabeth, just 19 months. What first catches one’s attention is that the date of death for all five of the Walkups buried here is the same-- July 22, 1937. Reminds us of the burial for the Moore Family in Villisca. Here is the story behind the Walkup murders. It was just another lovely summers day that Thursday when JD Walkup, chairman of the Coconino County Supervisors and man about town, kissed his wife and children goodbye and headed to Phoenix for another of his many meetings. JD also either offered or was recruited to take several of the college women who were headed to Phoenix for a regional softball tournament with him. This would not have been unreasonable as there was no Interstate 17 in 1937 and the trip to the state capital would have been a good 5-6 hours, one-way. 

The Walkup children were seen playing outside until late afternoon in their yard. Marie Walkup had called the family physician the day before, complaining of a chronic stomach ailment and expressing worry that the children may have contracted it this time. Dr. Fronske later said Marie sounded anxious and over-wrought; he tried to reassure her during the call. Later Thursday night, at approximately 10:20, Marie again called the doctor’s house. This time Fronske was not at home but he’d left his son Robert in charge of taking any messages from his patients or other callers. Robert grabbed a pencil and wrote down Marie Walkup’s missive to his father:  Tell him to come by early tomorrow morning—and be sure to tell him not tonight but tomorrow. The night of the 22nd was a full moon and was the perfect evening for four young people to take a midnight hike through the forests around the golf club/country club just north of town. Ed Conrad, 29 and the oldest of the group, had trespassed through the stark yet majestic area many times before and had never seen anyone else about. 

Years later a groundskeeper was hired to live on site but in 1937 it was an ideal place to roam through, flask in hand, especially under a full moon. As the group rounded the 4th hole they stopped; silhouetted in the moonlight they could see the outline of a car parked on the access road that separated the golf course from Colton’s Ranch.  The night was still and silent and Ed realized there was no motor running. The group slowly approached the vehicle and saw that the driver’s side door was open but no one was in the car. One of the young women went around the back of the car to take a peek but let out a shriek when she saw a foot lying by the tire. Ed quickly joined her and discovered the body of a woman, dressed in a flimsy robe and nightgown, lying dead with a hole torn through her chest. An old army rifle was lying next to her lifeless body and her right foot was shoeless.

The group ran back to their own car and headed into town to notify the officials. Ed Conrad dropped his fellow trespassers off before alerting the sheriff, then he returned with two deputies to the scene of the tragedy. Both of the Deputies, Deputies Francis and Willis, recognized the Walkup car as they approached it in the darkness; after all, Flagstaff only had a population of 5000 in 1937 and JD Walkup was well-known in town. As they got out to investigate they found the woman just as Conrad had reported. There was no doubt in either Deputies’ mind, that woman was Marie Walkup. Willis stayed with Conrad at the scene while Francis headed back into town—a coroner’s jury would have to be convened as soon as possible. After he arrived at the office Deputy Francis notified the county coroner as well as the county health official, then called for reinforcements to man the office.

The three men, Francis, Coroner Miller and Dr. Schermann, met at the Sheriff’s office and prepared to drive the 4 miles north to the Country Club—but first they had a stop to make. Francis knew JD Walkup was scheduled to be in Phoenix that weekend—he had even given a ride to some of the women ball players. If Marie was lying dead outside the family car up at the golf course who was with the four Walkup children? The Walkup house was only blocks away from the Sheriff’s office so the caravan made a stop outside the spacious house sitting on a corner lot on Leroux St.  The house was quiet when the three approached it around 1 am and they walked through the gate and up the three steps to the front door. Tacked to door was a folded piece of paper, addressed to Dr. Fronske. Inside an empty milk bottle just outside the front door was another piece of paper. The men unfurled the stationary and read the words: No milk today.  One of the three decided to call Dr. Fronske at that point while the other two tried the front door—it was unlocked so they stepped inside the residence. 

The house was neat and tidy inside and very, very quiet. The two went to the back of the downstairs to a downstairs bedroom and opened the door. Inside the room was a toddler’s crib and a regular sized bed. Going to the crib first they discovered little Elizabeth. She was neat and clean and had bed covers pulled up to her chin. However, as the men bent closer, they saw she was not breathing nor even stirring. Pulling back her little covers they discovered ugly welts around her neck—Elizabeth, also known as Phoebe to her family, was dead. All the Walkup children were discovered deceased and it was later reported they had been killed by their mother, who stabbed them with an ice pick before strangling them. Several notes were left by Marie, including one addressed to her mother and sister, detailing how she wished the burial services to be conducted. All five of the Walkups are buried in a double plot in Citizens Cemetery, with the children side by side in one plot, directly east of their mother in the adjoining one.

There are several unexplained sightings connected to the Walkup Murders. Many people have seen the spirit of a small girl, kicking a ball about in the front yard of the old Walkup house. A resident of the home, who’s own daughter spent her early years in the house, said she would ask her dad about “those kids” who she’d find standing around her bed, looking down at her, some mornings. Another haunting that Susan thinks may be related to the Walkup murders is the sighting of a woman on the side of a road wearing evening attire and looking for a ride. Much like Resurrection Mary, the young woman appears in distress and is often cold, leaving the motorist to offer her a coat or blanket. At some point in the ride, as the driver is taking her to a destination, he looks over and find the young woman has vanished. Later, the coat or blanket is found draped over the gates of Citizens Cemetery.  Some reports of where the woman is first seen and picked up from are actually very close to the old Walkup house.

Several years ago Susan spoke to the groundskeeper about the cemetery and asked if he’d heard of any hauntings. He laughed a bit and said he always found it a peaceful place, even when he had to work late and was at the office well past nightfall. While the gates close at dusk, many times over the decades students have either accepted a dare or taken an adventure and trespassed through the grounds at night. There have been reports of blinking lights that disappear when approached, music that turns on and off and other unearthly noises that generally scare them to death. Susan said, "I was sitting by the Walkup grave in 2018 as part of a fundraiser for the Pioneer Historical Society, as there are no known living relatives of the family buried there. While sitting for several hours, awaiting any visitors, I noticed that all my senses (especially smell) became highly acute at times—almost like waves of energy that came through. It was quite odd—I may have had the experience before but it’s not a usual one. I never thought I’d say this but I was quite happy to call it a day when the fund-raising tour was over!"

100 Steps or Cloverland Cemetery (Suggested by: James Allen)

What seems like a beautiful cemetery with an unusually long stairway, becomes quite creepy once you hear the following account shared on November 20, 1892, in The Indianapolis Journal: "The citizens of Posey Township, of this county, are greatly stirred up over a ghastly discovery made at the Carpenter Cemetery, one-half mile south of Cloverdale, yesterday afternoon. About two years ago George West, a wealthy farmer of that place, buried his daughter, Miss Emma. She died of an ordinary disease and nothing to cause any fear of her grave being molested was apprehended. Recently Mr. West bought a lot in the cemetery and yesterday engaged assistance to help him remove his daughter’s remains to the new grounds. When the coffin was reached all present were startled to find it upside-down in the hole and the corpse missing."

The Cloverland Cemetery or what is also known as the 100 Steps Cemetery is located about halfway between Brazil and Terre Haute on US 40, about a half mile south of Cloverland. The cemetery faces west on a hill overlooking North County Road 675 West and was established in the mid 1860s. The 100 Steps Cemetery acquired its nickname because there is a large staircase that visitors need to climb to get to the top of the cemetery. The original stairway became half-buried and started to crumble, so a new one was built to replace it. There is a legend connected to this stairway, of course. It is said that if someone counts the stairs as they climb them on a moonless night at midnight, they will count 100 steps going up, but a different number when coming back down. Another legend connected to the stairway claims that once a person climbs the stairs, if they turn around and look down, they will see the ghost of the first caretaker of the cemetery and he will reveal a sinister vision of how the person will die. To find out if the vision is true, the person needs to count the stairs going down and if the count is the same as going up, then the vision is not true. A mismatched count means the vision will come true. Anybody trying to get down the stairs by not actually walking on them, will feel a force push them back onto the stairs and a red hand-print will develop on their body. There is also a tale about a resurrectionist or body snatcher in 1892, doing his work in this cemetery.

Stepp Cemetery (Also suggested by: James Allen)

Stepp Cemetery is a very small graveyard located in Martinsville, Indiana. There are only 25 graves here, the oldest belonging to Isaac Heartstock who was a veteran of the War of 1812 and he died in 1851. Ten graves of the Hacker Family are here. Sir Malcolm Dunbar Hacker and his wife Ann had eight children, four of them dying before reaching the age of twelve. There is also the headstone for Baby Lester here who died shortly after being born. In the 1950s, this small plot of land became a hangout for teenagers. That is when the ghost stories started about this place. Strange noises were heard and disembodied voices moved on the air. And the most famous ghost here started making appearances. This would be the woman in black and she would regularly appear sitting on a tree stump near Baby Lester's grave. She would be holding a ghostly baby in her arms. That stump soon was nicknamed the Warlock's Chair. Another spirit said to be here belongs to a young girl that was murdered and had her body dumped nearby. She wanders around the tombstones, perhaps looking for her killer.

Erie Street Cemetery in Cleveland

Erie Street Cemetery is located right across from Progressive Field at 2254 E 9th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the city of Cleveland's oldest cemetery and was founded in 1826 as the Erie Street Cemetery because that was the name of the street there at that time. Today, that street is known as East 9th Street. The cemetery was more on the outskirts of town, but eventually as the city grew, development encroached and soon bodies were being removed in the early 1900s. Some bodies were sent to Lake View Cemetery and others to Highland Park Cemetery. The Pioneer's Memorial Association was founded soon after to save the cemetery and that is why this cemetery is across from a ball field. The use of pioneer in the name is fitting as many of Cleveland's pioneers are buried here. This includes Lorenzo Carter who was the first permanent white settler in Cleveland. Cleveland's first mayor, John W. Willey, is buried here too. There could be as many as 18,000 burials here. 

Many victims of the 1850 Griffith Steamship Fire are buried here. This tragedy took place on Lake Erie. The ship was the steamer G.P. Griffith and it caught fire at 3am on June 17, 1850. The steamer was close to land, so people on board were not too worried. However, about a half mile from shore, the steamer hit a sandbar and got stuck. There were 326 on board and only thirty would survive. These were those who jumped into the lake and swam for shore and this group included only one woman and no children. All other women and children on board died. One hundred fifty-four bodies were recovered.

Another burial here is for Joc-O-Sot and the headstone is cracked with a legend about how this came to happen. Joc-O-Sot was also known as Walking Bear and he was Chief of the Mesquakie, a tribe from Iowa. Joc-O-Sot took part in the Black Hawk War and when that ended, he went east to hunt and met a man named Dan Marble there. Marble had a theater troupe that traveled internationally and he invited Joc-O-Sot to join the troupe. He joined them in traveling to England where he met Queen Victoria and came under her favor. He stayed with the troupe until he became ill and he was so sick, he decided he needed to return home. If death was going to take him, he wanted to be in his ancestral land. Unfortunately, he only made it as far as Cleveland where he had some friends. One of those friends paid for his burial at Erie Street Cemetery. Soon thereafter, a crack developed across his tombstone and people claim that Joc-O-Sot's spirit cracked it because he was saddened that he had not been buried at home. Some claim that this spirit has even traveled over to Progressive Field and haunts that location too. 

That's not the only legend connected to the crack though. Another story claims that people were hexed by Chief Thunderwater and these hexed souls cracked Joc-O-Sot's headstone. Not sure why they would lash out at that stone. There are several other ghost stories connected to the graveyard. Some think it is because so many bodies were disturbed when they were moved to other cemeteries. There are many unmarked graves too and that may have left some souls disturbed. There is the spirit of a Woman in White here. She wears a long white dress and is usually seen standing near the gothic gates of the cemetery and beckoning to cars and people passing by.

Cremation

Some cemeteries have their own crematorium on the premises. One of my favorite cemeteries in Colorado is Fairmount Cemetery and it has its own crematorium. I remember hearing a story on a tour there that several decades ago, the screening apparatus malfunctioned and the smoke got out into the air. They had no idea it was broken until a woman called them to tell them that it was broken and the reason why she knew was because she had survived Auchwitz and she would never forget that smell. It was a sobering story. The history of cremation is a long one. The practice of burning bodies goes back to ancient times with the first evidence of this dating to 17,000 years ago with the Mungo Lady, whose partially cremated remains were found at Lake Mungo in Australia. There were signs that it was a practice in the early Stone Age, around 3000 B.C. Archaeologists have also found indications of cremation in western Russia among the Slavic people through various decorative pottery urns that have been unearthed. The Bronze Age, 2500 to 1000 B.C., saw cremation moving into the British Isles and into what is now Spain and Portugal. Specialized cemeteries for cremains were developed in Italy, northern Europe and Hungary at this time.

Not every civilization during those early times were okay with cremation. Egyptians banned it as they thought it impossible for the soul to transmigrate if cremated. Throughout history, it has been banned due to cultural prohibitions or religious ones. The Jewish religion and Christianity forbade cremation, particularly because they believed in a bodily resurrection for everyone. And Muslims as well forbid the practice. Other religious beliefs readily accepted cremation. These included Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Other cultures embraced it with flair. Take the Vikings for example. The Vikings had some of the coolest burial rites. These rights were fashioned around their pagan beliefs. After a Viking died, they would enter an afterlife with multiple realms, so it was very important that the funeral send-off was done right. In Norse mythology, two of these realms were known as Valhalla and Helheim. Valhalla was a place for fallen warriors and Helheim was for Viking people who had died due to a dishonorable death. To die in bed because of laziness or old age was not considered brave. The most common send-off was via cremation. Christianity later made inhumation the course of burial, but for a long time, cremation was the way to go for a Viking. With cremation the body was burned at temperatures so hot that flesh and bone would turn to ash. This ash could then be scattered, buried or sailed out to sea. Generally, a funeral pyre would be built because that was the only way to get temperatures high enough for complete cremation. In some cases, the pyre was built on a boat and sent out to sea burning with the Viking's belongings on board. This was reserved for the wealthy or great Viking warriors.

Cremation became a very popular Grecian burial custom during the Mycenaean Age. The reason for this is that the Greeks wanted a quick way to dispose of people killed during battles and they believed it was healthier. By Homer's time in 800 B.C., it was nearly the only form of burial practiced. The Romans followed the Greeks and eventually an official decree had to be issued in the mid 5th Century stating that bodies could not be cremated within the city of Rome. Cremated remains were put inside elaborate urns and stored in columbarium-like buildings. Since this had been so popular with the Romans, early Christians considered cremation a pagan ritual and forbade it. This resulted in earth burial becoming more prominent during Constantine's rule in 400 A.D. This would remain for 1500 years.

During the Victorian Era, cremation would undergo a change as people sought better methods for cremating the body. Funeral pyres just weren't a convenient method. It would be at a world exposition of all places that modern cremation would be birthed. This would be the 1873 Vienna Exposition. The motto for this event was culture and education and was the first expo to offer an international forum for scientists. Over seven million people visited the expo. One of the displays at the expo was a cremation chamber developed by Professor Brunetti of Italy. Yep, it would be the Italians and this really is no surprise because they make the best stone oven pizza around! 

The idea of making a crematory was introduced in 1869 to the Medical International Congress of Florence by Professors Coletti and Castiglioni. Professor Paolo Gorini of Lodi and Professor Lodovico Brunetti of Padua published reports in 1873 and then a model of Brunetti's cremating apparatus was made and displayed with the ashes it made at the Vienna Expo. This would start modern cremation practices, particularly because Sir Henry Thompson, 1st Baronet, a surgeon and Physician to Queen Victoria, saw the crematory and became its biggest proponent in England. He and some colleagues founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874. The first crematories in Europe were built in 1878 in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany, but America had already beat them. Dr. Julius LeMoyne had built the first North American crematory in 1876 in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania could change its state motto to "Home of Cremation" because the second crematory in America would also be built in the state in Lancaster in 1884. Many members of clergy and medical professionals would start forming cremation societies to promote the health benefits of cremation. Crematories started to be built across America and by 1900, there were 20 crematories in places like Buffalo, New York, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Los Angeles. Dr. Hugo Erichsen would found the Cremation Association of America in 1913, and there would be a recorded 10,000 cremations that year. The numbers of crematories has continued to increase and cremation is more popular than ever. It is believed that over half of the deaths in North America are handled with cremation today. There are over 2,000 crematories in the United States. Australia got into the cremation game in 1901.

In our modern era, a cremator is used to cremate bodies. A cremator houses furnaces that can heat up to temperatures between 1,600 and 1,800 degrees. This high temperature is needed to ensure disintegration of the corpse. A cremator uses oil, natural gas and propane as fuel. Coal and coke were used until the early 1960s. The chamber where the coffin is placed is called a retort and is lined with heat-resistant refractory bricks that have a special design. The outer layer is usually something like mineral wool, then a layer of calcium silicate and two layers of fire bricks. These bricks are regularly replaced. The coffin enters the retort via a charger, which is a motorized trolley. This needs to happen quickly to retain heat. Full cremation is usually completed in three hours depending on weight.

Coffins that are used for cremations include wooden or cardboard boxes and in places like Britain, a regular coffin is used, but it must be combustible. Rental caskets are used quite often during a service and then the body is removed for cremation. A cremulator is used to further grind the remains down into a finer texture before they are given to relatives or loved ones or placed in a columbarium.

*Fun Fact: Did you know that you can cremate a body without fire? This is done via Alkaline hydrolysis, which is technically known as resomation. The body is placed in a steel chamber and then potassium  hydroxide and water are added. The temperature in the chamber reaches around 350 degrees and 145 pounds of pressure are added. The body is reduced to bones in about three hours and the bones are crushed into a white powder. This was developed in Europe in the 1990s to get rid of the bodies of cows infected with mad cow disease. Florida was one of the first states to legalize resomation. This all sounds great when it comes to the environment, but I have one question. What happens to the liquid from this process? You know, coffin juice. This coffin cocktail would be water, chemicals, acids and soaps from body fat. It's actually just dumped down the drain and disposed of through a waste water treatment process.*

Ashes weigh anywhere between one pound to eight pounds. There are no laws about keeping cremains, but there are some in regards to spreading of remains. For example, California requires cremains spread at sea to be quite a distance from shore and the Golden Gate Bridge doesn't allow dumping of remains from it. Cremains can be kept at home in urns or mixed into paint to make paintings. There are places that will turn ashes into reefs or diamonds. A variety of jewelry can hold cremains. And there is even a company that will shoot you into orbit inside a lipstick case sized holder. The possibilities are endless.

We couldn't share all that about cremation and not share a story about a haunted crematory. This is from the Daily Commercial Herald, September 20, 1888:

We love our cemeteries, especially if they have ghost stories connected to them. Are any of these cemeteries really haunted? How about that crematory? That is for you to decide!
 

Show Notes:

“Mountain Town” by Platt Cline

“Who Lies Beneath” booklet from cemetery tour/fundraiser by Northern Az. Pioneer’s Historical Society.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

HGB Ep. 381 - Tri-County Truck Stop

 Our sponsor for this episode is Wooga's June's Journey: The Lost Diaries Podcast. Check it out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast and anywhere you listen to podcasts!

Moment in Oddity - Two Kings Eat Themselves to Death

Have you heard of the two kings who ate themselves to death? Many are aware that there was a time when kings had official food tasters. These poor people were not there to make sure the food tasted good, they were tasting the food to make sure it wasn't poisoned. But what to do when the food isn't technically poisoned and yet could kill the king? King Henry I of England found out. This man absolutely loved sea lamprey. First thing you need to know about these fish is that they are tough enough to have survived four extinction events. They are also known as the Vampire Fish. They feed in the ocean by latching onto other fish and sucking their blood and other bodily fluids. They need to be cleaned really well before eating and even then, we wouldn't risk it. But King Henry didn't care. He stuffed himself full of sea lamprey one night in 1135 and soon was dead from food poisoning. Our other unlucky king was King Adolf Frederick who ruled Sweden in the 18th century. This guy didn't know when to stop when he was eating fine food. On February 12, 1771, he ate a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring, cabbage soup and slammed it down with some champagne. Then came dessert, which was semla. This rich dessert is a bun filled with hot milk and marzipan, which is a mixture of ground almonds and sugar. King Frederick had 14 servings of that and his intestines said no sir! He apparently died a very painful death. Two kings eating themselves to death, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Beer Flows Again

In the month of April, on the 7th, in 1933, beer was sold again in 19 of the 48 states and the District of Columbia. This was the day that beer flowed again! And for that, Kelly and I are grateful because we have become quite the craft beer connoisseurs. But there was a time when no alcohol flowed in America because of Prohibition. This banning of alcohol had lasted thirteen years, but President Roosevelt had made a campaign promise to get rid of Prohibition and after he was elected, he did just that on March 22, 1933. And at one minute after midnight on April 7th  train whistles, sirens and fire alarms went off across the East Coast signaling that 3.2% beer could be made, sold and consumed. As a matter of fact, Pabst Brewing Co. was one of the first to fire up their brewery again and employees and onlookers cheered as they loaded cases and barrels of beer onto trucks. In some cities, crowds gathered outside bars, twelve deep. Two cases of beer were delivered to the White House aboard a truck that had a sign on the outside reading, "President Roosevelt, the first real beer is yours."

Tri-County Truck Stop

Route 66 was once known as the "Main Street of America" and is still affectionately referred to as the Mother Road. It's hard to believe this highway was once thriving with a host of businesses because now many of those businesses are closed and abandoned. One of these locations was The Diamonds, which started as a fruit stand, then became a restaurant and eventually a truck stop named the Tri-County Truck Stop that also had rooms to rent. The location is now closed and abandoned except for on certain nights when ghost hunts are offered. Many claim that this is the most haunted truck stop in the Midwest and perhaps even in the country. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of The Diamonds!

Hey Kelly, get your kicks on... (That was written by Marine Captain Bobby Troupe and first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946.) Route 66 winds its way through eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. It is fitting that we are featuring a stop along Route 66 in the month of April because it was in this month that two businessmen came up with the idea of naming the new route from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66. John T. Woodruff was from Springfield, Missouri and Cy Avery was from Oklahoma and so Springfield has been recognized as the birthplace of the infamous Mother Road. Route 66 would officially be established on November 11, 1926. When the highway was finished, it covered 2,448 miles. This was not only an original highway in the U.S. Highway System, it was the path to a better life for many people as they migrated west during the Dust Bowl. This also helped people living in rural areas to get their crops to market. And since the road was mostly flat, much of the commerce via trucks preferred to travel it. Life was good for business along Route 66, but by 1985 it was removed from the Highway System. Parts have been designated a National Scenic Byway and in 2026, Route 66 will celebrate its centennial. 

There are literally hundreds of ghost stories connected to Route 66 and many books have been published featuring those. For example, the town of Quapaw in Oklahoma is the first town you will hit when driving out of Kansas into Oklahoma. This city is known as America's Hay Capital and has spook lights that have been seen, particularly by truckers driving at night and that has lead to some claiming that this stretch of Route 66 is cursed. That's not the only ghost light along Route 66. The Joplin ghost light is seen near the Missouri-Oklahoma border. Truckers claim to see this ball of light on clear nights and it seems to dance on the horizon. The light has been seen for decades and cars have been parking along Oklahoma's East 50 Road to get the best glimpse of the ghosts light since the 1960s.

Along this road in Missouri, The Diamonds was founded. The Diamonds was located in Villa Ridge Missouri about 40 miles west of St. Louis, right off of Hwy 44. Villa Ridge was founded in 1889 with the establishment of a post office. The name is pretty simple. There is a ridge nearby and villa means town. The Diamonds started as a fruit and veggie stand that eventually became a restaurant owned by Spencer Groof, a young law student with big dreams. The name for the restaurant came from its design, a baseball diamond. This would become the Eating Place and the Meeting Place with over 75 employees and the nickname "The Old Reliable Eating Place." There were three U-shaped lunch counters serving up great American fare like hamburgers and pot roast. Groof owned the property across the street as well and he put in a Phillips 66 gasoline station and twenty-five cabins that he rented overnight. The Diamonds was open 24 hours and business was great, serving over a million people a year, until 1948 when a fire destroyed the building. This did not deter Groof. He rebuilt with an art deco architectural style and the place did even better with lots of celebrities stopping in for the food. These celebrities included Al Capone, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. The Interstate System caused Route 66 to get less and less traffic and once it was decommissioned, The Diamonds decided they needed to move and they did so two miles east in 1967.

Another restaurant moved in called the Tri-County Restaurant and Truck Stop in 1970. Truckers were still using Route 66 and they were the main customers until other truck stops were built along the Interstate and pulled them away. Since the truck stop was 24 hours, it started attracting late night eaters like the bar crowd who would show up in the wee hours of the morning for food. To make more money, the truck stop decided to renovate the second floor into hotel rooms and offered overnight rentals and showers. The takers were mainly women plying sex and random hitchhikers. This crowd brought crime and violence with them. In September of 2006, the truck stop closed its doors for good.

The location hasn't been left abandoned though. Paranormal investigators have been visiting since then and they have found plenty of evidence to back-up the stories that employees and patrons had been sharing for years. There were claims that objects like salt and pepper shakers would levitate and sometimes even move from one table to another. The appliances in the kitchen would turn themselves on and off. People were touched by things that they couldn't see. And sometimes they would see those things that touched them in the form of shadow figures or full-bodied apparitions. There were claims of weird sounds and disembodied voices. Probably the weirdest and maybe even most horrifying claim is that children have claimed to see a bloody monster on the stairs. Some have even described that this monster, which is more than likely a man, has a knife and that it climbs the stairs to the second floor where there is a woman that it stabs and kills. We're not sure why this has only been witnessed by children, but how horrible. And blood was actually found on the wall after the children reported the sighting.

A full-bodied apparition of a man would be seen in the dining room area wearing khaki pants and a checkered shirt and a shadow figure has climbed up the stairs from the basement and gone into the kitchen area.  Another spirit has been named George and he likes to get friendly with the ladies by stroking their arms or patting them on the back, which we hope is just the back and not the backside.  Most former employees claim that the basement and second floor are the places with the most activity and were to be avoided as much as possible.

The investigative group Paranormal Task Force were the first group to investigate the truck stop. They did so back in August of 2006 and it didn't take long for them to realize that they were not the only ones in the building. A coffee pot flew across the room and crashed to the floor. Greg Myers, the President of the group, said, "On the first night, we were setting up a camera on the second floor. I was holding a door shut, and something was trying to open it from the other side—we were actually fighting back and forth." That wasn't the only thing thrown at the group. A light bulb was thrown at them as well. Greg asked aloud if the group was welcome and a bunch of pots and pans banged and rattled and they caught this on audio that you can hear at their website: https://www.paranormaltaskforce.com/tricounty_evp.html They also managed to capture on video a blue phosphorescent anomaly and they saw a full-bodied apparition of a man wearing a flannel shirt in the men's bathroom. They have a bunch of EVP that they have captured inside the truck stop. One of the best features a very loud and clear Class A EVP saying "Help, save me."

Activity continued throughout the night for the Paranormal Task Force and they reported many similar experiences as the former employees. The investigators heard disembodied voices and whispers and they were touched by the spirits. There was a loud banging noise like a door being slammed shut three times. That number three makes this even more unnerving. There were multiple EMF spikes and anomalies. And that spirit that has been seen in the dining room with the khaki pants was seen in the men's bathroom by an investigator. This was actually the brother of the owner and he claimed that he heard a dragging or growling noise in the hallway as he stood at the urinal. A translucent male apparition wearing a red flannel shirt and khaki pants walked in and then disappeared. He was so shocked by what he was seeing, he didn't even notice that he had turned and was peeing on the floor. 

An investigator also managed to capture a white mist in a photograph while in a downstairs bathroom. Investigators on the second floor watched a piece of paper turn itself over. Cold spots were felt throughout the building. The nasty smell of decaying flesh would happen occasionally on the second floor. The investigators felt like they were being watched wherever they went. Their equipment would be turned off and then turned back on randomly. And two pennies dated 1957 and 1969 were tossed on the floor while some investigators were conducting an EVP session on the second floor.

Dan Terry sent me his book "Missouri Shadows" and in it, he details his experience joining the Paranormal Task Force on this initial investigation. Before going, he interviewed a former employee and she told him that something would watch her every time she went down into the basement. Once when she was in the restroom, something prevented her from opening the door. she also would hear growling in the basement. She also had her hair pulled so hard that it unraveled her braid. Dan experienced much of what we described in this first investigation. The group returned a few weeks later and a really terrifying thing happened. An old knife on the floor was thrown at them. Now that would be enough to get me to leave. The group returned again and witnessed an orb cross the room and disappear into a wall. When investigators asked the spirits to make themselves known, the pipes started to rattle. A rock was thrown against a back wall too. Dan saw a shadow figure and when he blocked its path, it passed right over his head. He reported that a psychic claimed that a woman was murdered in the basement, killing her unborn child and that she, the child and the murderer were all down in the basement. 

An investigator named Tim told Dan that he had been slapped and shoved so hard that he would've fallen over if he hadn't been up against a wall. Dan also shared the story of a man named Stephen. His brother Kevin was hired to do security after the truck stop closed and he lived in a trailer on the property. Both Stephen and Kevin had worked at the truck stop in the 1980s and 1990s. They had experienced George the ghost in the bathroom while working there. One night, Kevin invited Stephen to come over because he felt there was another ghost at the truck stop other than George and this one was violent. Stephen said he wasn't afraid and he marched inside. They heard a voice yell, "Get out!" Stephen ran downstairs because he thought someone was down there. He found no one. Then he went upstairs and opened a door. Immediately after he pushed it open, the door pushed back against him. He forced the door open again and it slammed against him. He left, but did return later and his brother asked him to lock the back door. Stephen again heard a loud voice yell, "Get out!" and he was done visiting the place. 

Dan was told by another worker named Tina of a time when she was stocking cans in the pantry, putting everything in a certain order. She got called away for a minute. When she returned, the cans were all mixed up. The ghosts would play with the buffet according to Tina. They left the hot food alone, but moved the cold stuff all around. Tina never went to the bathroom alone and she hated the basement. She once went down there for a smoke and some fellow employees locked the door. She pounded on the door and something grabbed her arm and squeezed. She never went into the basement again. Another employee named Daniel witnessed a child's ball bounce down the stairs and he heard a child's laughter. He thought it belonged to a little girl. There was no child upstairs.

The strangest claim is that a black panther has been seen in the basement. Where this could have come from, nobody knows and we aren't sure if black panthers would have even been in this area. Maybe someone had kept one there at one time? Outside of the truck stop and down the road a bit, people claim to pick up a hitchhiker who asks to be taken to the truck stop and then he disappears. And people who live near the former truck stop claim that spirit activity spills over to their houses.

Stephen Wagner wrote "The Phantom of the Truck Stop" for Liveabout.com, "The life of a long-haul trucker is a difficult one. Long, tedious hours on the road, away from family for days or even weeks at a time. As Mike L. explains, they also witness many weird and incredible things on their interstate travels. Yet Mike was not prepared for what he experienced one summer night at a tiny truck stop in the middle of nowhere... hardly the place where one would expect a ghost - if that's what it was. This is Mike's story....

I am an over-the-road truck driver and I drive across all of the lower-48 states. I see some unusual things from time to time, but nothing compares to what I encountered in Palestine, Arkansas in mid-June of 2011.

I was on a long haul from Detroit, Michigan to Houston, Texas. This was day three of my trip and I was beginning to run out of driving hours for the day. I noticed a truck stop/gas station on the side of I-40, pulled off and decided to call it a night. I was running ahead of schedule, so I was going to have myself a long, fourteen-hour break instead of the usual ten.

THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

Off the bat, I didn't like the area but had no other choice. The bathrooms were unkempt and had enough graffiti on the walls to classify itself as an inner-city truck stop, even though I was practically in the middle of nowhere. It was also a small shop, with parking for only a dozen trucks. After washing up, I purchased a new work knife, some hot food and headed out to my truck.

I sat in the captain's chair and listened to the radio while I ate my dinner with the windows down, letting in the dry wind. The Mississippi River had just begun flooding, but there hadn't been any rain in over a week. The surrounding area was beginning to look like Nevada more than Arkansas.

I finished my meal and cleaned up a bit. I slid out of the seat and onto the pavement as a gust of warm wind hit me. I strolled over to the dumpster, tossed my garbage inside and began slowly walking back to my truck. I fished out a filterless cigarette and leaned against the bug-splattered side of my truck and lit it with my lighter. I enjoyed the smoke as I watched the sun set below the horizon. A few more trucks had backed into spots. I spotted one guy walking out of the store with a bottle of beer in his hand, looking around nervously as he quickly strode over to his truck. The life of a trucker. Something interesting and new every day. Risking his job over one, lousy beer.

I climbed back into the cab of the truck, dropped back into the sleeper berth, changed into a pair of pajamas and lay down to get some rest. I didn't bother setting an alarm. I felt sleep creep over me and accepted it as I drifted off into dreamworld.

JOLTED AWAKE

I awoke with the cab of the truck rocking violently, knocking the bottle of water I had placed on my "nightstand" over onto the floor. I sat straight up, fully awake and pressed the button on the truck's radio/alarm. It was shortly after three in the morning. I reached down and grabbed the bottle of water that had fallen, twisted the cap off and took a few deep gulps before wondering what had rocked my truck so violently. Then I remembered: the wind. I settled back down, got my heart rate back below a hundred and lay my head down on the pillow. The truck rocked again, knocking my ashtray over that I had set in the cup holder and once again tossing my water bottle onto the floor.

I flipped on the overhead light, slid on my shoes and grabbed another cigarette from my pack. I opened the curtains, sat in the captain's chair and shut off the sleeper light. I opened the door and noticed that it had cooled down considerably. I shut off the truck, pocketed the keys and climbed down onto the pavement to look around.

At this time of night, the truck stop only had lights around the gasoline pumps, and their light could not reach the truck parking area. I looked around a moment, lit my cigarette... and then noticed something. The wind had stopped blowing. I wondered what had caused my truck to rock so violently. Earthquake maybe? I knew that a few had been reported around Memphis, and I was probably close enough to have felt a tremor, but that rocking motion did not feel like an earthquake. It felt like the wind hitting the side of my truck with a strong gust.

THE APPARITION

Curiously and cautiously, I walked around the front of my truck to the passenger side and looked down the length of my trailer. I noticed movement. Low to the ground, about four feet. Not fast. I used my keys to unlock the passenger-side door, jumped up and grabbed my large flashlight from an overhead storage compartment. I climbed back down and closed and locked the door.

I clicked on the light and shined it down the side of my trailer. There was a young girl standing off into the field about ten feet behind my truck, but when I looked harder, she wasn't there.

Well, like I said earlier, truck drivers see something new every day. This was certainly new. I began to walk toward the rear of my truck, scanning the field with my flashlight for any trace of the girl I had just seen. When I reached the back, there was no trace. It must have been a trick of the eyes. Heck, I haven't even fully awakened yet. I glanced over my shoulder. There were no cars at the pumps and the clerk definitely hadn't noticed me.

I felt "the call of the wild" coming on and didn't feel much like walking into the store wearing my pajamas. I was in the middle of nowhere and no one could see me, so I figured no harm, no foul. I stood at the rear of the trailer and did my business, looking around for that girl again (also hoping that she wasn't hiding behind something and watching me do this).

TOYED WITH

I put everything away and walked to the driver's side of my truck toward the cab. I took the last couple of puffs off my cigarette and flung it into the parking lot, used my keys to unlock the truck and popped the door open. Just as I planted my foot on the fairing, I heard a distinct giggle. A girl's giggle. I stepped back down and shined the flashlight around. Nothing.

"This is getting kind of creepy," I said aloud.

"He heard me," a small girl's voice answered back.

I jumped backward away from my truck. The voice had come from inside the cab! Something was wrong. I had the entire truck locked up while I was walking around. There was no way that someone could have gotten in without breaking a window. Steeling myself for what was going to be an uncomfortable encounter at the least, I took a step up on the fairing and leaned my head into the truck.

"Is anyone in here?" I asked. I hit the switch to turn on the sleeper berth light. I climbed in. I put a knee on the seat and peered into the sleeper berth.

"Goodnight," a soft voice said, which seemed to emanate from all around me. I flinched as I heard the word and felt a cold chill run through my body. I slid off the seat and stood up in the cab, bumping my temple off the overhead storage bins. I looked around the sleeper. No one was there.

SOMETHING... INHUMAN

I turned around and shuffled into the cab to close the door when I saw the young girl standing outside my truck on the pavement, looking up at me with lifeless eyes. Those eyes, you see, weren't meant for a person. They were designed for a predator, and all of a sudden I felt like prey.

I reached forward and slammed the door shut and flicked the lock. I quickly decided that I was not staying here for the rest of the night. I turned the key and heard my truck's motor rumble to life, along with the familiar, annoying buzzing that was my air-pressure gauge telling me that I didn't have enough air to release the brakes. I took a furtive glance out the window, and there she stood - still as a tree, looking up at me and smiling. I didn't want to get any closer to the window until I was ready to get my truck moving. This was wrong, and I didn't want any part of this.

That "girl" wasn't human, at least not anymore she wasn't. It was almost as if she was something so inhuman that it would take the form of a human. It's hard for me to explain and I feel sick just thinking about it. I heard the siren shut off and hit the valves to supply air to my brake system. As the system began to air up, the siren came on again.

Screw this, I thought to myself. I have enough to get out of here. I disengaged the clutch, ground the truck into gear and roared out of the parking lot like the devil himself was behind me... which, for all I knew, he was.

I looked in my side mirror as I was about to start turning right and saw the girl washed in the red and amber glow of my running lights. She was smiling at me and waving. I flew through my gears as quickly as they would let me as I got back onto the interstate.

THE KNIFE AND THE POSTCARD

I drove for about forty-five minutes, repeatedly hitting the switch to turn on my interior lights to look around the cab and the sleeper before finally spotting a larger truck stop at the next exit. After backing into one of the few remaining spots left, I shut off my lights and turned on the sleeper berth light as I walked into the back. Then paused.

At the store, I had bought a souvenir. Nothing fancy, just a postcard with a picture of Arkansas on it. I also had bought a new knife. I had never even taken the knife out of the box and remembered putting the postcard into a drawer for safekeeping. The point of the blade had been driven directly into the spot on I-40 where I had originally stopped for the night! The blade had been driven in deep, pegging the postcard to my nightstand!

It took me several minutes just to work the knife loose enough to withdraw it from the nightstand. Thankfully, when I turned the postcard over, no message had been left for me.

To this day I do not know what I saw. I hear other truckers talk of strange things that they see on the interstates, U.S. highways, and state routes, but I've never mentioned my experience. I've always felt that just by mentioning her, I'd walk back out to my truck and there she would be, sitting on my bunk and waiting for me.

I threw that postcard away and tossed the knife into a dumpster. I got another postcard from Arkansas, just to keep the collection going. I've got 36 so far."

We don't know if this was a true story, but it sure was a good one! We imagine the possibilities for haunted truck stops are numerous being that they are such a transient place and some not-so-nice things can happen at them. The Tri-County Truck Stop sits on a property that had a long and good history, but there are definitely some strange things happening there now. Is the truck stop haunted? That is for you to decide!