Moment in Oddity - Giant Skeletons Found in Lake Okeechobee
We have a lot of lakes in Florida. There are so many in the county in which I live, that it is actually called Lake County. Some of the lakes here are pretty big with Lake Okeechobee being the largest. It's the one you see when looking at a map of Florida and you see what looks like a hole in the side of a well...I won't say, but we all know what the shape of Florida looks like *ahem*. Indigenous cultures flocked to the area around Lake Okeechobee and many of them are thought to have been very advanced, building canals and causeways. There are even legends here that claim that some of these tribes were giants. It's easy to laugh off a legend, until bones are found. Settlers in the early 1800s claimed to have seen thousands of massive skulls bobbing on the surface of the south end of Lake Okeechobee. They described it as looking "like a field of pumpkins." No formal investigation must have been done at the time, but things would be different when a drought that started in 2006 receded the water level of Lake Okeechobee. The black muck revealed thousands of human skeletons. The Anthropology Department of Florida Atlantic University started digging up the bones and artifacts as quickly as they could. What they found was startling. This was a cemetery with two levels. The lower level had small-boned indigenous skeletons that were typical of the Native peoples of Central America and the Amazon Basin. The upper level contained the bones of a very tall people. The bones were larger and belonged to people measuring over seven feet in height. Their skulls were massive and many had intentional deformations. An article that I read about this stated, "Whether or not they were of mixed human-extraterrestrial humanoid ancestry has not been determined and of course, is a matter of conjecture." There are those who believe that these giants descended from the Paracus People of Peru and were wiped out by a devastating hurricane. Giants living in southern Florida, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - First Drive-in Theater Opens
In the month of June, on the 6th, in 1933, the first drive-in theater opened in Camden, New Jersey. I love drive-in theaters. They are the perfect place for watching a good scary movie and how fitting that the first would open with the start of the summer season. I have the newspaper ad here and it reads, "Opens tonight 8:30, Drive-in near Central Airport, 2 miles from Camden Bridge. Sit in your car and enjoy talkies. World's finest automobile movie theater. Individual driveways three times the length of your car. 25 cents per car and for each person. Family admission $1. Three shows nightly: 8:30; 10; 11:30." The original term for drive-in theaters was park-in theaters and Richard Hollingshead who was a sales manager at Whiz Auto Products received the first patent. He got the idea when he watched his mother struggle to get comfortable in her theater chair and he thought that people would be more comfortable in their cars. He used his driveway to experiment and mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and pinned a screen to some trees with a radio behind the screen for sound. His initial investment was $30,000 and he opened his first drive-in in the Pennsauken Township district of Camden, NJ were he lived. The film he showed was the 1932 British Fox comedy “Wives Beware” starring Adolphe Menjou. There were no in-car speakers back then. There were just three speakers mounted near the screen, making it a little difficult to hear, especially at the back of the theater and one can only imagine what the neighbors thought. I'd love to know, do you have a drive-in theater near you somewhere. They are unfortunately a dying breed. We have the Silver Moon Drive-In here in Lakeland, Florida.
Haunted Cemeteries 13
There are various types of cemeteries all around the world. There are those that are huge with grand sculptures and palatial mausoleums. Others are boring with flat stones and markers and fake flowers. Still others seem abandoned to the elements and time. The one thing they all hold in common is that they are a testament to humanity. We lived and we died. And hopefully, somebody cared. Sometimes these cemeteries are haunted. On this episode, we'll explore graveyards in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Georgia. Join me for Haunted Cemeteries 13!
I do care. It's what makes me a taphophile and I know many of you are too. By reading the names on headstones, we remember, we care. I used to wonder why a cemetery would be haunted. Why hang out with the dead when you can spook the living? I never considered that I love cemeteries in life, so why wouldn't I in death? Perhaps that is why there are spirits in graveyards. There are other reasons too. There was a time when a "sinner" couldn't be buried in hallowed ground. This always perplexed me. Aren't we all sinners? Perhaps it's this irony that causes a spirit to be at unrest. Or there are claims that an improper burial could cause hauntings. Many wartime mass graves are thought to be haunted because they are so impersonal. And then there is the business of unfinished business. Can a spirit be rooted to their body as a kind of homebase from which they come and go to finish up what they need to complete before moving on to whatever is next? And let's not forget the residual ghost that carves out the same path in the cemetery, over and over. It never ceases to amaze me that every time I think I have finished up these haunted cemeteries episodes that a bunch of new ones come along. And we have several to explore here!
St. Mary's Cemetery in Salem/Peabody
St. Mary's Cemetery is located on Route 114 at 226 North Street near Salem in Peabody, Massachusetts. The gate is stone and wrought iron with the name "St. Mary's Cemetery" formed in the wrought iron. The cemetery is attached to St. Thomas Church and was founded as a Catholic cemetery in 1849.Inside the cemetery is a bronze bust sculpture of Reverend John J. Gray that was sculpted by Samuel J. Kitson. Gray had been that pastor of St. James Catholic Church in Salem and was founder of St. John's Church in Peabody. US Congressman George Joseph Bates is buried here. He was a member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives from 1918 to 1924, and served as mayor of Salem from 1924 to 1937. In 1937, he became a US Congressman and was re-elected, serving 12 years until he was killed in 1949 in a plane crash. Also buried here is Peacetime Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, Patrick Francis Bresnahan.
The forest that lies down the hill from the cemetery gives people a really uneasy feeling. Faint white lights move about in the forest and into the cemetery. But that isn't the main haunting here. There is a female spirit clad in gray that has been seen as a full-bodied apparition here. Tour guide Sarah-Frankie Carter has seen her on multiple occasions. The first time was a few years ago around 3am. She and some friends had been walking by the cemetery when they noticed what looked like a large white trash bag caught up in a tree. The bag seemed to dislodge itself and float down towards them. They soon realized that it wasn't a bag, but a spirit and she was glowing. And it wasn't just floating at them. It was crawling down the tree and then it started running at them. The women ran out of the cemetery completely terrified. Ms. Carter returned some time later with a psychic friend who saw the female apparition. The psychic said that she appeared to be around twenty-years-old and she had died at that young age. Another encounter was with a skeptical friend who claimed that he didn't believe in ghosts. He went into the cemetery with Ms. Carter and they ran into the female apparition. He must have started believing because he quickly ran out and would not go back to the cemetery.
Gilson Road Cemetery
Gilson Road Cemetery is in Nashua, New Hampshire. The town of Nashua was originally part of a tract of land known as Dunstable that was established at the confluence of the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers. The Dunstable part that was in New Hampshire was renamed Nashua in 1836. The name means "beautiful stream with a pebbly bottom" in the Nashuway tribe's language of Penacook. The town became a textile town, starting originally with fur trading and eventually developing textile and cotton mills. After World War I, the city fell into decline as the textile industry changed and moved, but high tech revitalized it. Gilson Road is home to a cemetery of the same name and this graveyard has a big reputation for being haunted.
Gilson Road Cemetery is a little knock-about, rural graveyard. It is isolated and hard to find because a stone wall shields the cemetery from view. The history behind the cemetery has been lost to time, but most people agree that it probably started as a family plot dating back to colonial times. The stone wall is thought to have been built to mark the border of a farm. The farmhouse there is said to have burned down and that the victims of the fire were buried in the cemetery. A later house that was built on the property also burned down with the people killed in this fire being buried in the graveyard. It was decided to just leave the property as a cemetery as the luck here for homesteading was no good and so many people were already buried on the land. Could this be a reason why visitors experience EMF anomalies, cold spots, record EVP and see apparitions? Another legend claims that two Native American groups clashed here. The battle was very bloody.
One apparition that is famously seen here has been named Betty. The urban legend that goes with her claims that if you walk farther up Gilson Road heading to the northwest and shout, “Betty Gilson, I have your baby,” her ghost will appear. She is seen wearing colonial era garb and is around thirty-years-old. There are some witnesses who claim that her apparition appears without any prompting and some people have nearly driven off the road when she appears in the middle of it. Others claim that she hides behind a tree that you will only see her peeking around the tree. Sometimes, just her hand is seen grasping a tree. She's not the only spirit seen on the road though. A little boy was killed on the road and his spirit is seen darting across it.
One paranormal group investigating the cemetery claimed to see shadowy figures moving through the woods behind the cemetery. Mysterious fogs and strange lights are also seen in the wooded area on clear nights. The apparition of a male Native American was seen in the back left corner. This group also claims that the burials of the Lawrence family seem to be the most active with orbs repeatedly showing up in pictures. And perhaps it is a member of this family that is our woman in white here. This lady is seen wearing a flowing white gown as she traipses through the gravestones.
There is something angry here too. Disembodied voices are sometimes heard and many times this voice is threatening. There have been times when people have felt almost as though something is pushing back against them at the entrance gate. And a really strange claim is that the back corner where the Native American apparition has been seen seems to disappear at night, along with some of the headstones there. (Maybe it's just really dark?) And there is a hole in one headstone that appears and disappears - don't know what that is all about.
Another person claimed that as he was driving by the cemetery, he saw a man dressed in clothes dated to the late 1800s. He was just sitting on the stone wall and watched the man as he drove by. They locked eyes and the man who saw the spirit said, "It was one of the scariest things I ever saw. I was just driving by not thinking about anything, just listening to the radio, something just caught my eye so I looked over at the cemetery and there he was. There was no way the man could have walked, or even ran that fast to not be seen by the time I drove back. Paranormal is not something I believe in but I have to be honest, this really freaked me out!
Page Jackson Cemetery in Sanford, Florida
The Page Jackson Cemetery located in Sanford, Florida is in need of a lot of love. Nature has been taking back this historic cemetery that has burials belonging to many of Sanford's pioneers. Old oaks are laden thickly with Spanish Moss, thick brush makes certain areas impenetrable and many family plots are surrounded by old, iron fences in need of repair. It is part of the Evergreen Municipal Cemetery that is basically five cemeteries that form an arterial network of graves. Page Jackson is the only one that is maintained by volunteers rather than the city or a church and that is why it has fallen into disrepair. Some of the graves have sunken in as much as two feet and many burials have only the original rusted out metal markers from the mortuary to mark where they are located.
The town of Sanford is great and I've done the ghost tour there, which is excellent. It starts in a homebrewing shop because the owner of that establishment, also runs the tour. Sanford was laid out by General Henry Sanford who bought twelve thousand acres of land near Lake Monroe and founded the town in 1870. It was officially incorporated in 1877. The cemetery was established around that time and was named for the gravedigger William Page-Jackson who allowed many people to bury their dead for free for many years. He had been a farmer who had land adjacent to the cemetery and worked digging the graves. The graveyard had originally been called the Odd Fellows Cemetery, but they changed the name to honor him. They figured they should honor him with something. Many of those dead were black and this was Sanford's first black cemetery.
*Rabbit Hole: Slaves died by the thousands of course with the mortality of black children being unbelievably high. The mortality rate for black children on the South Carolina and Georgia coastal rice plantations was around 90% before the age of 16. On more interior cotton plantations, one in three children died before reaching adulthood. Obviously, for decades POC were segregated in every way and this was very true in cemeteries. Many times they wouldn't even be buried in a special section, they had to be buried in a completely separate graveyard. And these fell in to ruin and neglect, so many are unknown today. Many of these graveyards would be on the plantation property on land not used for growing. Very occasionally, a slave might be buried in the family plot of the owner. Researcher Elsie Clews Parsons wrote of the cemeteries, "They were hidden away in remote spots among trees and underbrush. In the middle of some fields are islands of large trees the owners preferred not to make arable, because of the exhaustive work of clearing it. Old graves are now in among these trees and surrounding underbrush." Headstones were a rarity and if they were used, they were fashioned from wood and paint was used to mark them. Sometimes a wooden staff that was ornately carved would be used or iron pipe, sometimes the type used for the railroad. Natural things were used too like large shells or plants. A favorite choice of plant was the Yucca as its prickly nature might help fend off evil spirits in the cemetery. A tree could symbolize that life could continue after death.
Most of the burials happened at night, since that was when work was no longer done and it made it possible for slaves to attend from other plantations. There would be prayers and singing and they were really big affairs continuing into the wee hours of the morning. Much of what I read claimed that POC were buried with their head to the west and this would be so that the dead person would not have to turn around when Gabriel blew his trumpet in the east or they would be buried facing Africa. I imagine much of this was based on spiritual beliefs of the individual. Offerings were left or brought later and could include knives, tomato cans, spoons, cups, saucers, clocks, cigar boxes, medicine bottles and even false teeth. It was thought that the dead could use these things in the afterlife. And this was a key difference between white and black cemeteries. Death was idealized by the whites who chose favorable and parklike locations, while death was not denied by the blacks and random burial was the norm and there were not things like family plots.
So the slaves definitely had a belief in an afterlife and they did believe in hauntings. One reason why a plantation might be haunted by a former slave is that the individual was not buried where they had wanted to be buried. Folklore tells of a story of a slave who begged to not be buried in the graveyard of his cruel master. His dying request was ignored and it was said that his spirit haunted the plantation in retribution.*
This is a cemetery I had not heard of before here in Florida and so I was quite surprised to read claims that this is considered one of the top ten haunted cemeteries in Florida. Backpackerverse actually has it at number ten on their list. I've been to three of these cemeteries, so I have some visiting to do! People have had many unexplained experiences here. They describe feeling cold spots and feeling very uneasy. There have also been shadow figures and strange noises. One person who has heard those strange noises is Kevin Young who bought a house adjacent to the cemetery. He initially didn't even know it was there because of all the brush. He was outside one night when he saw a greenish glowing light moving through the brush and heard hollow-sounding moans. He ran inside his house, but that would not be the last of the light or sounds. He claims to hear them regularly.
The spirit of a young boy named Neal is said to be here. Kissimmee Paranormal Investigators have been to the cemetery many times and one night they took the author of "Ghosthunting Florida," Dave Lapham for an investigation one night. They heard some rustling in some bushes and then a faint happy whistle. Dave was told that this was Neal. One of the women named Kim told him that she first met Neal a few years before and that he had presented as a shadow that eventually stepped out to reveal a Tom Sawyer-like boy who was barefoot. He seems friendly. Kim also claims that there is a spirit named Annie that she has spoken with several times. She was a girl who passed away in her teens in 1911. She had been attending a picnic near the cemetery and the next thing she knew was being buried in the cemetery. She appears as a red-haired spirit and occasionally is heard singing. Both see and Neal have been caught on EVP a few times, so they are not just the imaginings of psychics apparently. And a phantom horse has been heard and seen riding in Page Jackson.
Pinewood Cemetery in Daytona Beach, Florida
Kelly and I visited this cemetery a few months ago when we went to check out a haunted location in Daytona Beach that we shared on a BonusCast. We wanted to see where the members of the family who owned the haunted Victorian house we toured, were buried. The cemetery is right in the middle of this old downtown area, right across from the Boot Hill Bar. The bar caters to bikers and it was really loud while we were there. I was trying to record video, but I really couldn't use it because of the noise from music and yelling. So needless to say, I imagine spirits have a hard time resting here. Although I will say, those bikers have been instrumental in saving the cemetery and they have raised $90,000 for its upkeep. We had no idea at the time that the cemetery was supposedly haunted, but it's number nine on the Backpackerverse list.
There are many graves here that are terraced and lots of beautiful funerary art and mausoleums. The walls and arches are made of coquina and everything is very white, making it practically glow in the sun. The first burial was in 1877 for the daughter of a John Smith, Alena Beatrice, who had passed away from small pox as a teenager. He called the cemetery Memento and ironically, it had been a piece of land he had already set aside for Alena that she would receive upon her marriage. In the early 1900s, the Pinewood Cemetery Corporation took over the cemetery, but the company was wiped out by the Great Depression and the graveyard fell into disrepair. Burials continued up to the 1970s. One of those burials was in 1979 for a man named Albert Kingston who left money in a trust for the upkeep of the cemetery. One of the peculiar burials here says John H. Abraham and Wife. I mean, come on! The wife doesn't get her name on the tombstone? He was buried in 1927 and she followed two years later. Thankfully Find-A-Grave found her in census records and her name was Eliza. One of the mausoleums has a bricked in door that I would imagine was more of a door or gate, but vandalism took a toll. Schon Rawlings Adler is buried here and some teens broke into the vault one night and threw his decayed body into the street. They had a party in his crypt until the cops came and ran them off. The skull of Adler was never found and some say they have seen a headless spirit roaming the streets that might be him. Eighteen Confederate soldiers are buried here too.
One of the spirits that reputedly walks the grounds is Alena. After all, this was her land and she loved it. The first sighting of her happened in the 1920s and she has been seen ever since. Most often, she appears on the anniversary of her death, April 15th. Her apparition is seen wearing a lone white gown, so I guess she would be out Lady in White here. There are also the spirits of a man who is described as a "giant of a man" and a woman who is described as a "tiny wisp." They are together in death as they were in life. This couple is Slim and Bonnie. Bonnie had worked at a saloon in Daytona Beach called the Brass Rail Saloon. She would carry a little bar stool around with her since she was a little under five feet tall to make her a little taller. Slim on the other hand stood nearly seven feet tall. He would stop in at the saloon in the evenings after working all day at the livery stable. He fell in love with Bonnie at first sight, but he was shy. She managed to pull him out of his shell and the two became a couple. Slim started saving his money so they could marry. He was walking Bonnie home one night and since he had drank several beers, he had the courage to ask her to marry him and she said yes. Unfortunately, it was never to be. Slim was riding home after dropping Bonnie off and he hit his head against a tree while riding his horse. The fall from the horse broke his neck. He was buried in Pinewood Cemetery and Bonnie was devastated. She tried to go on, but a couple weeks later, Bonnie's boss found her hanging in her home, the stool she carried everywhere, kicked over under her feet. She too was buried in Pinewood and the couple seem to have found each other in the afterlife. Their apparitions have been seen, videotaped and caught in pictures.
The largest burial belongs to a Daytona Beach pioneer named Charles Burgoyne. He came to the area in 1896 and really turned the area into a tourist destination. He passed away in 1916 and a giant cross made from coquina blocks marks his final resting place. His wife was very sad about her loss and she would go to his grave every day, dressed all in black for 28 years. A spirit described as a shadowy figure dressed in black is seen at the Burgoyne plot, usually sitting down.
The McCoy burial plot is the most active. And if you've ever heard the statement, "Is that the real McCoy?" then you know a little something about the boys buried here. Bill and Ben McCoy were brothers who built luxury vessels. By the 1920s, their kind of boats were falling out of fashion and they needed another way to make money. Along comes Prohibition and these brothers became rum rummers bringing rum up from the Bahamas to New York City's speakeasies. They made a ton of money and Bill got a reputation for honesty. Many rum runners watered down their booze to up profits, but Bill refused to do that. Thus came along the saying, "the real McCoy." The Coast Guard finally caught up to the McCoys and ended their business. Bill spent nine months in a New Jersey jail. He died in 1948 from a heart attack and ptomaine poisoning and his brother survived him by many more years. I had heard that both were buried here, but another account claims that Bill's asses were spread at sea and only his brother is buried in the cemetery. Sounds are heard at the plot that include laughter, breaking glass, singing and the scent of cigarette smoke is smelled. But there is a bar across the street and Bill was supposedly a teetotaler. Many orbs have been caught in photos at this plot.
Riverview Cemetery in Canton
Riverview Cemetery is located in the city of Canton, Georgia. It was established in 1844 after Judge Joseph Donaldson donated a plot of land for burial. This was not land that was unfamiliar with graves. There were Native Americans already buried here and one of them is thought to have been a Cherokee chief, although his name has been lost to history. His plot is marked with a stack of granite rocks. And he apparently is one of our ghosts here. Strange golden orbs show up in pictures of the grave on such a regular basis, that it's hard to just discount them as bugs. One man who walked in the cemetery nightly with his dog said that everytime they were near this particular spot, his dog would go nuts with barking.
An even stranger set of stories occurred on Halloween night several years ago. A special ghost tour was being offered in the cemetery and everyone on the tour witnessed the apparition of a horsedrawn hearse sitting at the back of the old church there. There were glass panels on either side, which revealed a dark coffin inside.Dark colored horses were hitched to it and their harnesses were decorated with plumes of black feathers. The tour goers all thought that it had been rented for the event, until it was no longer there. The tour company said they had not rented a hearse for the event either.
This tour usually doesn't have jump scares, but they changed it up for Halloween. One of the guides was sitting and waiting for the group to come by when he heard his cue to get into position: the girl role playing the gravedigger walked near him. When he heard her footsteps, he got into position. But no group came and he didn't see the gravedigger. He waited several minutes. Still no group. He stood up and walked over to where he had heard the gravedigger and there was no one there. He was positive that he must have heard disembodied footsteps. That theory was solidified when he was later pushed down by something he could not see.
A tour guide saw a spirit while giving a tour one day. She noticed a young man about her height standing off to the side of the group when she was telling them about a certain plot. He was wearing a long-sleeved shirt without buttons or fasteners of any kind, a vest and drawstring pants. The outfit was definitely from another time, but she just thought that maybe he was someone on the tour she hadn't noticed before. When they arrived at the next spot she wanted to share, he was gone.
It is my understanding that only one plot here has a statue and it is this burial where most of the paranormal activity takes place. This generally involves people being touched. A young lady in a wheelchair was there with her mother and they both were touched by something they could not see. Another time, a woman was on the tour with her young daughter and when they got to this plot, the little girl said "baby." The mother and guide asked her what she saw and she said she saw a baby sitting there. The burial is a grave for an 11 month old baby girl at this plot. The statue at this plot is said to roam the cemetery at night and there are people who claim that they have seen it shift from foot to foot.
Other spirits seen in this cemetery include a tall man dressed in dark clothing, ghost animals, a trapper, a red-headed man wearing overalls a white shirt and tie, a woman who weeps at a grave towards the back of the graveyard and shadow figures.
Old Sheldon's Churchyard (Suggested by NestorGirl)
Haphazard is the term I would use here and that is because this is a ruin. The Old Sheldon Prince William's Parish Church in Yemassee, South Carolina, had once stood here and it had the customary churchyard attached to it. All that is left are red brick walls and columns and gravestones that lean or are sunken with a few above ground crypts. The church was built between 1745 and 1755. It was burned down by the British during the Revolutionary War in 1779 and was rebuilt in 1826. The church was again burned down in 1865, this time by the Federal Army under General Sherman during the Civil War. Although a letter in 1866 written by Miton Leverett stated that “Sheldon Church not burnt. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired.” The tearing up was to use the materials inside the church to rebuild homes burnt by Genral Sherman. The name Old Sheldon was taken from the ancestral home of the Bull family who had come over from Warwickshire in England. One can tell from the ruins that this was once a large and beautiful church with a flair towards medieval/castle-like structure.
There are graves scattered throughout the ruins. And there are ghosts here too. Our lady in white here is actually dressed in brown, in an outfit that looks like it dates to the time of the pilgrims. She is seen most often standing over the grave of an infant. While many people feel a sense of peace at this location, it is near this infant's grave that many are struck with a great sense of sorrow. Disembodied footsteps are heard here as well and there are those that have seen strange, flashing lights.
Be sure to include a stop at the Carolina Cider Company. This roadside shop is close to the ruins and offers a huge variety of ciders, fresh pies, jams, pickles and more.
Silver Cliff Cemetery in Silver Cliff, Colorado
And finally, we have Silver Cliff Cemetery in Colorado and is owned and operated by the town of Silver Cliff and was founded in the early 1880s. Silver Cliff was once the third most populous town in Colorado, right behind Denver and Leadville. It was incorporated in 1879 and got its start as a silver mining town. The big mine here was called the Geyser Mine and it did well until eastern stock manipulators came in and several unscrupulous stock promoters managed to bankrupt two of the mining companies who owned the mine. It never turned a profit after that even though it was one of the deepest mines in Colorado.
The gate to the cemetery is just a simple metal arch with the name formed in metal. The land is treeless and pretty barren with mostly scrub grass and there are two sections, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. It is famous for the Silver Cliff Lights, which look similar to blue lantern lights or bright white spheres. They are seen bouncing among the tombstones. They were first seen by a group of miners who were taking a shortcut through the cemetery. They got lost, but saw the lights and found their way. Word spread and people came from all around to see them. The lights were featured in the August 1969 National Geographic Magazine, Volume 136, No. 2. We sometimes get things called Swamp Lights here or Wildfire, also known as Will-o-the-Wisp and that is what people think this may be.
Lots of great stories here and that is what makes cemeteries so interesting. The stories in the stones. Are there spirits moving around among those stones? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!