ghosts

Connecticut Phantom Crash, 1997

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I have spent a fairly long time on a fairly ancient laptop, as far as laptops go- the machine I had been running was over a decade old. It finally died outright, for all intents, this weekend and I bought a tablet/2-in-1. The machine itself works much, much better so hopefully I will be able to blog more consistently now (and I do mean actually be able-it was taking me close to half an hour to write three or four paragraphs). I am trying to figure out the battery patterns on this machine, though. I’ve never seen a computer that decides when or if it’s going to charge and I don’t know if it’s a battery issue or if this is deliberate.

 

I will admit that this is a very vague story, but one that I really wish was better developed online (even if it were to be truly folkloric).

The development of new technology will eventually become reflected in the folklore of the era. So we start  with phantom armies, and move into phantom carriages, trains, cars. Therefore it’s really only natural and probably a matter of waiting for the development of ghost planes and phantom crashes.

One of these crashes is claimed to have taken place in Westbrook, Connecticut in 1997. There were witnesses to the crash-though the reports were admittedly odd. Eyewitness claims stated that there were no waves kicked up from the plane, let alone wreckage. However rescue crews were sent out and nothing was ever found of the supposedly downed plane.

The crash report is vague and sounds suspiciously like at best a misidentification and at worst an outright fabrication. However this is not the only case like this on the books in the United States. Reports of phantom plane crashes in various forms ranging from distress calls and sounds to full visual sightings may date as far back as 1955-and may become more common as aircraft and air travel become that much more ingrained in culture.

List of phantom crashes

Open Thread-Ghosts of Christmases Past

I try to touch on ghosts and hauntings at least once every Christmas week-let’s just say that I’m trying to get in touch with my inner Victoriana.

Have you ever had anything creepy happen to you around the holidays?

My most vivid horror/creepy memory related to Christmas was something that I did to myself. I take full responsibility for this one, and I’m not even going to attempt to suggest that it was supernatural, because I know full well that it wasn’t.

I am of the generation where one of my first, fundamental brushes with horror where the goddess forsaken pictures in The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books (books, which by the way, where a high demand item in my elementary library).  If you’re not of a certain age, or if you’re one of ‘those’  people that is completely fine with the changed illustrations-let me tell you one thing: we scared ourselves @#$%less, we loved every minute of it, and we ended up fine. I can promise you that I ended up with a BA with honors, graduated with honors, a Masters with honors, and full time steady employment with a heavy drive towards charity work. We were not ruined by pictures of heads floating on severed spines.

Illustrations, Gammell, Book layout and cover, Scholastic. Blogger does not claim ownership of images.

Illustrations, Gammell, Book layout and cover, Scholastic. Blogger does not claim ownership of images.

Trust me, we all. loved. these. books. with a passion that only preteens can muster and rivaled only by our desire to consume as many Goosebumps short novels as we could. And maybe Christopher Pike.

Anyway, I remember that there was one Christmas where for whatever reason I had convinced my parents that I was sleeping downstairs. It might have just amounted to dude, I’m sleeping downstairs, deal with. The house that I grew up in certainly had its creepy aspects but the living room with its giant windows was generally pretty benign-unless it was after dark, you were alone, and you were living off of a solid diet of those books. The inside illustrations didn’t get any tamer than that cover.

It wasn’t Christmas Eve, but it was close enough that we watched one of those Hallmark Channel style Christmas movie (I believe it was the Christmas Box) and while I’m sure that the adult me would probably find it sickeningly oversentimental, there was something about the story that creeped out kid me. So I’m laying there on the couch with this creepy Christmas movie, these books, and knowing that even though there was no reason that I couldn’t go upstairs to bed I was stubborn enough to sleep in the Hall of Shadows that the living room would become once my parents went upstairs.

I eventually fell asleep, straight into nightmares-but even then I had a parasomnia so it took me awhile to catch on that not everyone has continual nightmares every night. So nightmares weren’t exactly anything for me to comment on. Except that in an almost comical combination of factors, my dad got up and turned the lights on, the snowplow came by, and for whatever reason the musical Christmas lights turned themselves on at the same time. I woke up out of a nightmare of heads floating around on severed spines to this blaze of lights and rumbling and O Come, All Ye Faithful.

I refused to sleep downstairs for close to two years after that.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

There are some films that I’ve seen over and over again but have somehow managed to go unreviewed.

House on Haunted Hill is one of the few movies that I think that every horror fan needs to see. I don’t necessarily think that it’s Vincent Price’s best work, but I think that there’s something about it that makes it memborable. I also think that this is the version that informs dozens of movies-stylistically, there are multiple films that reflect the atmosphere of this piece.

Ultimately a story of revenge, House on Haunted Hill is the tale of a group of strangers locked in a notoriously haunted house. If they make it through the night, their host Frederick Loren (Price) will give them $10,000 for their time. If they do not make it out alive, the rest of the group will split that individual’s cash. Everyone in the group has their own motives for being there, ranging from the psychologist trying to prove the effects of hysteria to sheer greed. The last surviving member of the family owning the property is among the party-goers.

The film interweaves interpersonal tension with supernatural elements- though one of the strengths of the film is that it’s an exceptionally fine line between the two. By the end of the film, some of the most effective scares are the ones that are manufactored for the party.

Later versions of House on Haunted Hill play up the supernatural elements of the piece, but House on Haunted Hill (1959) stays pretty close within the bounds of human interaction. I actually think that’s my favorite part of this film.

Knitters and crafters- remember to enter Horrific Knit’s giveaway!

6 months ago- The Curse of Tippecanoe

Haunted Western New York- Matilda (Penn Yan)

This is the regional breakdown of New York State from a Utica/Cooperstown perspective.

-Albany and its surrounding cities is the Capitol region.

-Anything about 50 miles north of Utica is the North Country

– The Syracuse/Utica/Norwich corridor (Route 8, essentially) is Central New York

-Binghamton and neighbors is Southern Tier

-Western New York starts somewhere between Oswego and Rochester

-The Island is Long Island

-Downstate is Hudson and lower

-There are few specific zones like the Finger Lakes and 1000 Islands

This will obviously vary from person to person, but that’s the general regional zone description I grew up with. For this blog the most extreme point east I’m probably going to work with is Cooperstown, because that’s not far off of center of the state even if it’s not culturally Western New York. Definitely anything west of Syracuse or Rochester.

Moving along, Pen Yan boasts that it is home to a particular urban legend that has gained notoriety over the years. The Lakeview Cemetary houses the Gillette family plot, where Matilda and Francis Gillette were laid to rest in the late 19th century.

The story goes that the relationship was not the most peaceful and Francis is said to have stated that he would be glad to see Matilda gone as she lay on her deathbed. Her response is said to be that she would never leave him alone, even if it meant returning from the other side to do so.

According to legend, an odd situation developed after Francis was laid to rest several years later. The family tombstone developed an oddly milky appearance- a blemish said to look exactly like Matilda. No matter how the stone was cleaned, the spot remained hovering over Francis’ grave. Depending on source the stone has been replaced or sandblasted, always with the same profile showing up on the tombstone.

This appears to be primarily be an oral legend, only appearing on websites relating to local history or very recent publications on the same.

6 months ago-Haunted Western New York-The White Lady of Durand-Eastman Park

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Haunted Western New York- Walking the Rails (Canandaigua)

I have covered haunted train lore at least twice in this blog. I like train stories. I like trains, period. Amtrak is my favored form of transportation.

While I didn’t grow up in a region of the state that could be comfortably called Western New York (though I still fully intend on walking through the darker side of that region too), I did grow up next to old tracks. I have a draw to trains.

In the first half of the 19th century Eliza O’Brien made a name for herself in the Canandaigua area with her rather, shall we say, firm stance on the opposite sex. O’Brien was not known for her interest in men- to the extent that she went out of her way to preach the sins of the male of the species to any woman who would listen. They claim that this is due at least in part by being strongly slighted during or right before the Civil War.

Eliza spent a great deal of her time on the railways in the region. Except that since railroads were staffed by men, she wouldn’t actually ride the train. She just wandered the tracks. Locals began to take her in and kept her relatively safe even if the rail crews had to grit their teeth when she came by. Eliza was buried in 1896- which means that she made it into her late nineties (even if it were through sheer stubborness). However, her love affair with the rails may not have ended just because she switched what side of the veil she was sitting on.

As late as the first World War, crews reported seeing an older woman in hoop skirts running along the tracks. O’Brien seems to have at least been partially helpful. It’s claimed that on at least one occasion, the interference that her spirit had with the engine kept the train moving so slowly that it prevented major accidents. In other cases she may have stolen a train outright; it’s claimed that the train took off without the engineer. Except for the old woman seen sitting in the car…

Interestingly, it has been suggested that she may have been seen as late as 1999. Yes, O’Brien is certainly stubborn.

See More

Haunted Rochester, pp. 110-112

Eliza O’Brien, spectre of the rails

6 months ago- dear mr oberon: i hate you

2 years ago- seeing green in my future / my first ‘bad’ skein

Lincoln’s Death Train

Lincoln’s assassination is one of the defining moments of American history. The story itself is tragic and captivates the American imagination. However, the assassination has had some…odd lingering effects on the public psyche.

The funeral train left Washington DC on April 21st, 1865. Made up of nine cars and 2 escort engines the train carried the bodies of Lincoln and his son William.  The train traveled to Springfield, Illinois where Lincoln was laid to rest. The train stopped to be laid in state in mulitple cities; however, oddly, the body was not viewed at all in the state of New Jersey. The procession did not move at faster than 20 mile an hour, and passed through 444 communities. The procession ended on May 3rd.

Between the years of 1865 and 1901, Lincoln’s casket was moved 17 times and opened 6. The train itself was destroyed by fire in 1911. Soon after the procession, the train took on another role in American culture- the train became one of the most identifable ghost trains. The train followed the route that it took during the procession, and was sometimes seen running without a crew.

It is said that the train still runs to this day. Every April, people report either seeing or hearing the train run along the route that the train originally took. In some versions of the story all time pieces stop at the moment that the train actually went through that town. Some variations on the legend suggest that the train has ‘collided’ with existing trains with no ill effects on the ‘real’ train.

Some stories claim that the legend started in the Hudson River Valley of New York (which is an area known for hauntings and legends within the American psyche). In this variation the train is silent. The train is manned by skeletons, who make up an honor band and honor guard.

While the ghost train with its skeletal crew may be strange enough, Lincoln may have forseen his own death. In 1860, he told his wife that he had seen a double of himself in the mirror. Mary Todd Lincoln warned him that it was a harbinger; years later, Lincoln reported having a nightmare that he had gone to the first level of the White House to find it decorated for the funeral of a president.

Lincoln’s Funeral

Lincoln Death Train

Lincoln’s Phantom Train

Lincoln’s Ghost Train

Lincoln’s Death Omens

Sunday Legends- Riding the Long Black Train

I was born in Newfoundland and every few years I get this…urge to start reading up on the island of my birth. I’ve been thinking off and on for years that I should go back, now that I’m old enough to remember more than fishing for cod fish with my dad and the few random moose.

One Saturday last summer I was poking around online and reading ONTDCreepy’s FFA. Chances are, if it’s Saturday night and I’m home that’s what I’m doing. Anyway, I was reading up on Newfoundland folklore and two things stuck out at me- we are an insanely superstitious bunch and we have a thing for trains.

It makes sense. Newfoundland isn’t exactly the best climate. And it’s sort of a wide-open, blank type place. Both train travel and death are common. I think I would be more surprised to find out that the culture wasn’t sort of…creepy (in the best way possible, no insult intended). I know people who have been there that are convinced that they’ve seen the ghost trains.

I think that it isn’t surprising that trains have such a rooted place in American folklore (and Canadian, for that matter). In fact, I think that trains have such a strong presence that it would be silly for me to even do my normal pop culture part of this column. Prior to the rise of the automobile, trains made transcontinental travel possible for a great number of people, and the amount of freight moved is staggering.

The legend of Casey Jones is still such a large part of American thought that children are taught it in elementary school. At the very least, I was taught it in 3rd grade. Casey Jones made it a life’s mission to ensure that his train would arrive on time, literally. While speeding towards the depot, he discovered a crash on the tracks. Forcing everyone else off the train he rode the engine straight into the disabled train and to his death.

The hell train is another common image. The train picks up riders, who may or may not be aware of the train’s destination. As the trip continues the riders becomes aware of the destination, if they weren’t aware before, and realize that they can’t leave. In some variations the Devil himself is the conductor and in others the rider has the ability to either convince or trick the conducter to either take him or her to heaven or let them off the train. A variant from the Twilight Zone suggests that the train just loops repeatedly as the train picks up more dead riders.

Train tracks are common in train lore. If you drive over train tracks, as long as you aren’t actually driving, pick your feet up so your soul doesn’t get trapped in the ties. It’s a fairly common motif for ghosts to be present at the site of crashes to push cars out off of the tracks to prevent more fatalities. Sometimes the ghosts simply wander the tracks they were killed on.

Frequently it’s the train itself that’s the ghost. One of the most common examples of ghost trains in American folklore is Lincoln’s death train, which was spotted moving along the viewing route Lincoln’s casket took. The presence of the trains are sometimes a harbinger and sometimes simply a marker of tragedy, such as a haunting of a crash.

More Reading

Railroad Folklore

Ghost Train

The Ward

I’m still not sure where I stand in relation to Carpenter’s films.

I’ve commented before in other reviews that his work creeps me out. He has a habit of using images that wander away from me, and then come roaring back 3 or 4 weeks later.

But I’m still not sure if I actually enjoy his films.

The Ward is an effective film. The plot is fairly formulatic for psychological horror. There’s nothing new under the sun. It doesn’t feel too forced though.

On the other hand, I feel like someone like Carpenter should be able to come up with psych horror that doesn’t echo at least four other films, and those are just the four I can think of without actually sitting down and thinking about it.

The score bothers me. It’s rare for me to notice the music in a film enough to comment on it, and it’s even rarer for me to openly dislike it. It’s too loud, or badly mixed. It’s just jarring and not in an atmospheric way.

I think that if you’re not familiar with psych horror or are a general fan of Carpenter, you’ll like the movie. Unfortunately I think I would like it more if it wasn’t Carpenter.

Haunted Western New York- The White Lady of Durand-Eastman Park (Rochester)

hauntedwesternnewyork

The detailing of Rochester’s white lady intrigues me- it’s both a horribly vague story, and one with very specific detailing.

The ghost is rumoured to haunt Durand-Eastman Park, near the Rochester-Irondequoit border. The legend states that one night the white lady’s daughter went missing and she began to search the area along with her two german shepards. By the end of the night it became apparent that her daughter was lost and in her grief she threw herself into Lake Ontario. Since that time, the white lady haunts the park where she searched.

The cause of her daughter’s disappearance varies from variation to variation; the reasoning ranges from rape and murder to simply having vanished with a strange man. Whatever the reasoning, the legend states that a man was the primary motivation-which the ghost seems aware of because the legend states that this white lady and her dogs has been known to attack men.

There’s two things that I find intriguing about this story: the dogs and the attacks. First, while ghost dogs are a fairly common element, it’s not all that common to hear about ghost animals as part of a wider haunting. Ghost animals tend to be a stand-alone element (my house has a ghost cat, I saw a demon dog with red eyes on the road, that sort of thing). Second, it’s not common to find a violent white lady. They may be a fairly sentient haunting in that they do seem to react to the environment, but aren’t normally aggressive.

Edit 5/1/2016, to address the dogs questioned in the comments:

It has been a few years since I posted this entry [though I am surprised that I have it up without sources], but here is a fuller version of the story involving the dogs. I’m not claiming that it’s the ‘real’ version, but that it does pre-date this entry: http://weirdus.com/states/new_york/local_legends/white_lady_castle/index.php