Thursday, October 21, 2021

HGB Ep. 407 - Haunted Cemeteries 20

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Moment in Oddity - Hemlock Water-Dropwort Causes Death Grin

Hemlock Water-Dropwort is a plant that grows wild across the island of Sardinia. Sardinia is a mystical place with over 800 graves that were reputedly built for giants, although many archaeologists just claim they were for ceremonial purposes or regular human burials. When it came to death, the Sardinians conducted death rituals and they incorporated the Hemlock Water-Dropwort in those. The plant, which is related to carrots, is highly poisonous and causes intoxication followed by death. And that death leads to a creepy broad smile being frozen on the face. Probably similar to the grin of the Joker in Batman comics. It is believed that this served as the inspiration for the Greek poet Homer's description of Odysseus' having a Sardonic smile. Modern day scientists hope to use the properties of the plant to do the opposite and actually relax muscles, rather than contract them. A plant that leaves behind a grinning corpse, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Peking's Summer Palace Destroyed

In the month of October, on the 18th, in 1860, Peking's Summer Palace was destroyed. The Manchu emperors built the summer residence in the 18th century. The Old Summer Palace was called Yuanming Yuan, which means "Gardens of Perfect Brightness." This had been the pinnacle of Chinese imperial garden and palace design. In 1860, the Second Opium War was under way and a small group of British troopers were sent to meet with Prince Yi under a flag of truce. This was to negotiate the Qing surrender. However, there was no surrender. The men were tortured and imprisoned and 20 were killed. James Bruce, who was the British High Commissioner to China, ordered that the Summer Palace be destroyed. It took three days worth of burning and 4,000 soldiers to destroy the palace, which they had looted of its precious artworks before. The palace was rebuilt in the 1870s and destroyed again in 1900. The Chinese Communists rebuilt it in the 1950s.

Haunted Cemeteries 20

We like to think of cemeteries as open-air museums. They not only represent the culture and beliefs of an area, but they serve as a historical record of who has lived in the region. For many people, the only record we have of their life is their headstone. They are so important and should be considered, even when making the choice to be cremated. Cemeteries are important as well because many still harbor the spirits of those who have left this plane of existence. On this haunted cemeteries episode we are going to explore cemeteries in Missouri, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Montreal!

Let's first examine the historical use of stone in American cemeteries. Slate was one of the earliest stones used and they are seen throughout New England. The use of slate started in 1650 and continued through to 1900. These stones are gray and fairly thin as compared to other stone headstones and they withstand the affects of acid rain. Brownstone, a type of sandstone, came into common use in 1650 also, particularly in Connecticut where brownstone quarries were located. This proved to be a bad choice because they weathered horribly. This was no longer used after 1890. Marble came into use in 1780 and the most prized variety was white with a satin finish. Limestone was also used at this time and is darker in color, appearing gray. They were both used through 1930 and are easily weathered. Granite started being used in 1860 and is still used today. This was a perfect choice for headstones because granite is one of the strongest materials on the planet. Granite comes in a variety of colors, but mostly gray. 

Old Baptist Cemetery

Old Baptist Cemetery is located in Hannibal, Missouri at Section and Sumner Streets. The cemetery was officially platted in 1844, but burials were taking place here well before in the early 1830s. This is the oldest cemetery in Hannibal that still remains. An old city cemetery was here before, but long ago was built over. They moved everybody, at least that is what they claim, but bones are still found where apartments were built over the former cemetery. The Old Baptist Cemetery was made famous by Mark Twain who included it in some of his writings.

 Early pioneers of the area are buried here, along with Civil War soldiers. By 2002, the cemetery was in sorry shape and an effort was made to revitalize and restore it. Frank Salter who headed up the effort said, "Imagine a cemetery bigger than a football field with a lot of stones - none of which are perfect. They're all tilted or broken or fallen over, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them. Our hope is to fix what we can on a slow basis and try to keep it in the forefront of people's thoughts. We want to preserve what's left of the cemetery before any more is lost to obscurity. Just raising historical consciousness is kind of the grand goal." 

Mark Twain's father had originally been buried here, but was moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery to be next to Twain's mother. Notable burials include mostly people related to more well known people. There is Jenny Hatch who was the wife of William M. Hatch, whose son, William Henry Hatch, became a well-known Congressman. John and Emily Garth were the grandparents of John Garth, who built the Garth Woodside Mansion we mentioned in the Haunted Hannibal episode. Celia Stone was the first wife of the Rev. Barton Stone, one of the founders of the Disciples of Christ (Christian) Church. Col. Stephen Lee built and operated a large distillery in Hannibal's early days.

The head of Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours, Lisa Marks, claims that many guests on the tour have encountered paranormal activity at the cemetery. She writes on her website, "What is remarkable to me is when I hear dozens of people tell me what they see, and their stories all match -- after so many people say that there's a 5-year-old-girl playing peek-a-boo in the northwest corner of the cemetery, you can't help but become a believer! There's also a man near the west fence line, very tall, dark, wearing a long overcoat; a Civil War soldier who is wearing his hat; a man named Edward in the northeast part of the cemetery who isn't hostile, but not particularly friendly, either (he kinda wants to be left alone). I have lost count of how many people that have taken our tour, people who are 'sensitive' to paranormal activity, that have told me there are more than twenty spirits at Old Baptist Cemetery at any given time."

Dean Hill Cemetery (Suggested by: Zach Frerichs)

Dean Hill Revolutionary Cemetery is also know to locals as The Rev and is located at 304 Caswell Road in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It was established in 1791. It’s unknown whether it’s soldiers or more sinister entities that haunt the place, but there are rumors of satanic practices and eerie feelings coming over its visitors. Some have heard loud screams at night. Local tales say a man was killed and burned along this road, and a teenage girl died nearby when her car hit a tree. No trespassing signs are posted in the woods around the property; the area is patrolled by police. Zach told us that people claim to see the apparitions of eyeless soldiers who are screaming and that there is a portal to hell here.

This was posted on the Internet in 2017, "I lived on Dean Hill for a few years with an ex boyfriend in school. We took many trips to the Rev(walking distance) but the one that conjures up goosebumps for me is the last time.... it was Fall of 2004 and they had been building on that road during the year, so there was a lot of activity in the cemetery and reports of kids goofing off. A small group of six of us decided that we would respectfully poke around to see if anything else had been moved or damaged. It was always very upsetting to us that people were so disrespectful of the cemetery. This was people's resting place for all eternity! We always did our best to be respectful, no cameras, no electronics, nothing with a magnetic field as not to disturb or agitate the dead. We even walked this time, candles in hand, as the last time we went, my car stalled completely and refused to turn on(a brand new vehicle), even though in daylight the next morning, absolutely nothing was wrong with it and it started up no problem. That night was so quiet, no wind, no drums, no screams, no footsteps... just still silence. There was a tall thin grave marker in the front of the cemetery, and her name was the same as mine, only spelled Rebekah. You could barely make it out, but she was young when she died and she had children. We sat, forming a horseshoe around her stone and slowly started talking to her. We asked that she say hello and that we meant no harm, but wanted her to make an appearance. We were pretty hopeful about this kind of connection; we had all been part of many a seance in the years prior, some in that cemetery, and we took it seriously. As we held hands, you could feel the electricity moving between us and after a few minutes, you could feel the wind pick up and ground beneath us almost vibrating. And then it happened. The coldest, iciest pair of hands I've ever felt rested gently on my shoulders. Thinking it was one of our friends, I looked above me, expecting to see them laughing. Instead, I saw her. I froze in absolute terror, realizing she was touching me... and I could *feel* her. She was pale white, almost grey, and completely see-through. When I think back I remember that I could see tree branches showing behind her chest as I looked up at her. She was young. She must have been pretty when she was alive, her face half covered in long, tangled ringlets of hair. But her eyes..... were empty sockets of black nothingness.... that's what I remember most. She was see through except for her eyes. Solid black voids... Then she opened her mouth slowly, as if to say something to me. I FREAKED out and jumped up, my candle falling out of my lap, screaming. My friends had no idea what had happened, and I could hear them calling to me as I ran alone, back down Caswell. I heard a haunting, low laughing following behind me; gently, almost cajoling. My shoulders were freezing the whole way down the road until I made it to Dean Hill, absolutely breathless and still yelling. My friends reported to me afterwards that they couldn't see me in the dark running, but they could see a thin, white wisp trailing behind me, similar in fashion to if I were wearing a cape. That was 13 years ago and I can still feel her bony, cold fingers digging into my skin. I never went back."

Pinewoods Cemetery (Suggested by: Mandi Schumacher)

Pinewoods Cemetery is also known as Forest Park Cemetery and is located in Troy, New York. It is believed that the cemetery was loosely founded in 1856. Officially, it was established by wealthy businessmen in 1897. They designed it as a large park and while it was very attractive with trails and lots of trees, the cemetery went bankrupt in 1914. Before that happened, the businessmen built a receiving tomb of granite with a copper ceiling. Inside were catacombs where bodies could be stored during the winter months when it was too cold to dig graves. Another company bought the tomb and surrounding land and sold off portions of the land that are today part of a golf course at the Country Club of Troy. The cemetery went bankrupt again and was left abandoned. A man named William Christian watched over the 1,000 graves until his death in the 1960s.

There are many legends connected to this cemetery and people believe it is haunted because some burials were grave robbed and one winter, a few bodies were left in the receiving tomb and never given a proper burial. The cemetery is not open to the public, but people have been inside over the years and claim to have felt their hair get pulled or been scratched. They also claim to have seen strange orbs and heard disembodied voices. Cellphone batteries have died inexplicably. One of the legends is about the statue of an angel that has no head. The statue of the headless angel is about ten feet tall and stands in front of a cross and is found just off of one of the walking paths. Boys who would wander into the cemetery at night when it had been open claimed to witness blood coming from the eyes of the angel. It so freaked them out that they decided to cut the head off the statue and they threw it into the woods. Legend claims that the statue still bleeds from its neck. This blood could possibly be moss that grows on the statue after it has been humid. 

The sounds of children laughing have been heard in the cemetery and there is apparently the apparition of a friendly soldier here. The legend behind this spirit claims that his name is Harold Hubbard and that he was a veteran of World War I. He had been depressed and was having troubles in his family. Harold went on a date with a girl and was walking home in the wee hours of the morning on November 11, 1916. He arrived at the cemetery and decided to end his life there by shooting himself in the head. Now people claim to see Harold walking among the graves. He would occassionally appear to people having mental anguish and he would bring them comforting thoughts. He seems to exude positive energy in the afterlife. There are those who say that if you go to the gates of the cemetery, which have been dubbed the Gates of Hell, and say the name Harold three times, he will appear to you and say hello.

Martha's Chapel Cemetery (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

The reputation of this cemetery starts with it being at the end of a road called Demon's Road. The actual name of the road is Bowden Road. Martha’s Chapel is seven miles southwest of Huntsville, Texas. Catholicism was the prevalent religion in Texas in the 1800s due to the Spanish and Mexican influence. The Rev. Moses Speer came to Texas in about 1837, to convert souls to the Methodist faith. He traveled from town to town and home to home and won many souls. This was the beginning of the Texas Mission and William Robinson, who was a devout Methodist, gave 30 acres to the cause to build a church, school and cemetery. This was called the William Robinson Settlement and this was the first church in the county. While Reverend Speers was at the settlement, he became sick and passed away. He would be the first person buried in the new cemetery in 1840. The church would take on the name Trinity Church in 1843. A new church was built about 10 years later and this one became a barn. Eventually, the site was named Martha's Chapel after one of the first church members who was buried in the cemetery, Martha Palmer. All that remains of the settlement is the cemetery, which holds the bodies of many early pioneers to the area.

That's the official history, but legends have clung to this land and there are claims of a curse. The Native Americans in the area claimed that something sinister had happened here. It was believed that blood had soaked the land, all the way down to the bedrock. Supernatural activity occurs all along Demon Road and on into the cemetery. There are tales of creatures and spirits. One of those spirits belongs to what appears to be a young boy riding on a tricycle. He reportedly has glowing eyes and people claim that he disappears into a strange fog if you try to go near him. There are other times when he will just stop his tricycle and stare at a person in an unnerving way. Total nightmare fuel. This has spawned tales about the young boy being able to read a life and if he finds that the observer is wanting in some way, he will later visit them at night in their bedroom and suffocate them to death. Then he drags the soul to hell. The boy and his tricycle usually appear on New Moon nights, so stay away from the cemetery during that time of the moon phase.

In 2001, a man named Bob and his buddy decided to pay a visit to Demon Road. They drove from Houston and parked by the graveyard. Bob's buddy had fallen asleep, so Bob left him to his dreams and got out of the car with his camera. Bob wandered among the tombstones, taking pictures and reading epitaphs. After a few minutes, he felt the ground shake below him and then clumps of soil started pushing up and then there was a hand. It grabbed his pant leg and as Bob reached down to make it let go, the hand clasped his wrist and started pulling him down to the ground. Bob started to scream and his friend appeared next to him and starts stomping on the hand and pulls Bob away. The run to the car with Bob in the lead. He gets to the car and is startled to see that his friend is still asleep in the car. Then who was that person that helped him? He turned and saw that he was all alone. Bob jumps in the car, fires it up and speeds out of the cemetery. After a couple of minutes, he looks over at his friend who hasn't stirred at all. He shakes his leg and realizes that his friend is dead. He had a heart attack on the ride down. 

That story is creepy enough, but in 2010, there was another one that was even worse. Apparently, spirits from this cemetery will follow you home. A woman visited the cemetery with her husband and some friends. They were visiting the grave of a friend. A bizarre man came into the cemetery and started wandering around. They took their leave. A few days later, the woman was getting into the shower and when she turned to close the curtain, she saw the strange man in the doorway. He then faded away as though he were made from fog. And this spirit isn't the only dangerous entity at the cemetery. There is an evil creature here that is described as being pale white with lizard-like skin and a mouth full of sharp teeth. The face is featureless and the thing crawls on all fours. It usually hides in the bushes. People claim that it is some kind of skinwalker. 

Those are some far-fetched stories, but there are people who claim to see apparitions wandering among the tombstones and people have trouble getting their cars to start. Visitors even sometimes find hand prints on their cars that were not there before. And in 2018, a Google Maps Street View caused quite a stir. The view features the fenceline of Martha Chapel Cemetery and there is sunlight coming through the trees. There is a tree prominently in the center of the view and upon closer inspection, there appears to be a little girl peeking from behind the tree. Even creepier is the tall black figure in the distance past her shoulder that seems to be wearing a long cloak.

Here is the link to see the pictures:

Mount Royal Cemetery

Mount Royal Cemetery is located in Montreal, Canada and is said to be one of the most haunted locations there. This is located high up on the slopes of Mount Royal and was established in 1847. The Protestant St. Lawrence Burial Ground had been the first cemetery here, but it was full. And it was in the middle of town. Europe had started moving cemeteries outside of city limits and Montreal decided to follow that trend when establishing Mount Royal. It was officially opened in 1852 and covered 165 acres. At first, only people of Protestant denominations were allowed to be buried here, but over time the burial ground was opened to all faiths and races. The first person buried here was Reverend Squire and that occurred on October 19th 1852. He had been to the Ottawa Hotel to visit a man dying of cholera and he himself caught the dreaded disease and it killed him.

Other people who were buried here include  six victims of the Titanic's sinking. One of those victims was Charles Melville Hays who was the President of the Grand Trunk Railway. He wouldn't be buried until a month after the tragedy. Hays was found floating in the water and was identified by the watch he wore. He was transported by train from Halifax to Montreal. There are 459 graves from those who died in war, 276 from World War I and 183 from World War II. There is a nursery for the children, many of whom died from contagious diseases. Montreal Mayor John Easton Mills died from typhus in 1847 after caring for several Irish refugees who were carrying it and is buried here as is Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott, who died from brain cancer in 1892. There is an area called the Montreal Sailors' Institute Lot with the bodies of 550 sailors buried here since 1890. Most drowned and there is a commemorative plaque.

The cemetery was designated a National Historic Site in 2002 and features beautiful monuments and statues and lush gardens. There are over 200,000 bodies buried in the cemetery. But there are even more bodies in this area because there are several cemeteries nearby, including a Catholic one and two smaller Jewish ones. Mount Royal is said to be the haunted one. One of the legends here claims that shadowy figures roam the graveyard after sunset. These shadows seem to almost flicker in the cemetery. A former Westmount High School student once related a scary experience he had after visiting the cemetery. He wrote, “I wish to remain anonymous, so I created this email account which I will delete within a day or two.  I used to live in Montreal and I did have a spirit follow me home once after a walk on the Mount Royal Cemetery. I was in a college at the time and with a friend.  I didn’t know it until that night when I was alone and woken up by a male figure quietly saying my name.  I promptly told it to go away without even realizing how quickly I was responding and turned on my other side. By the time I realized that I had just seen and heard something abnormal, it left but within a second I was drenched in sweat from fear. I got the strength to turn on the light after a few seconds and saw nothing. I never had an event take place afterwards.  NO I WAS NOT HALF ASLEEP AND IMAGINING IT. I can say for certain I was woken up by this spirit.”

The apparition of an Algonquin warrior has been seen near the cliffs overlooking the Camillien Houde Lookout. This is the best known ghost here and the most mysterious. First Nations burial sites had been found on Mount Royal and some indigineous graves had been found on the mountain with the bodies in the fetal position. Was this cemetery platted over those ancient graves? There are those who claim that rituals have been carried out in the cemetery and someone claimed to see a circle of candles floating. And another person claimed to see a massive white dog in the cemetery. Paranormal investigators like to hunt in the cemetery. They claim to have captured disembodied voices, a girl giggling, the sound of wood creaking like a coffin opening. They also claim to have seen fairies.

With all these crazy experiences going on here, its not hard to understand why they say this is a City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living. And really, all these cemeteries are cities of the dead. Are they home to ghosts? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

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