#31SpookyStories: October 2021 ReadingΒ Challenge

For the past few years many committed to reading 13 or 31 spooky short stories during the month of October. This challenge is not only doable, but it is accessible as I provide free resources. I find this tradition an excellent way to introduce yourself to new writers, folklore, genres, and more.

What makes this year especially spooky is my new co-host: Sian Ellis! Sian was kind enough to design spooky progress sheets. They are an easy and fun way to keep track of your stories, whether you are doing 13 or 31 stories this October.

There’s not wrong or right way to complete this challenge. When choosing the next story for this challenge, I usually grab one of my favorite short story anthologies and randomly pick a story. I usually read nonfiction pieces and I never go a challenge without reading M.R. James. Your reading style, interests, and availability may be different than mine, so I gave the challenge additional options:

  • You might read from one anthology/story collection or multiple anthologies/story collections.
  • You might double, triple, or quadtrouple stories on slow days or makeup days. Heck, you could read 31 stories in one week. I find I read most my stories on the weekend.
  • You might choose to read fiction and/or nonfiction spooky stories.
  • You might not have time for 31 stories, so let’s swap the numbers around and make it 13.
  • You might choose to participate with your children (I sprinkled in some children’s books below).

Make this challenge your own. I look forward to seeing what you do with it and what stories you recommend! πŸ‘»

Join the Fun on Instagram

Some challenge readers (me included) will be sharing on social media. Follow me (@notebookofghosts) for reading templates, my daily reads, available anthologies from some of my favorite online sellers, and more! 

We’ll be using the hashtag #31SpookyStories!

Documenting Your Reads

There are many ways to keep track of your stories, whether privately in a notebook or publicly on social media. This year spooky artist Sian Ellis was kind enough to create printable progress sheets for both challenges.

And, what better way to save your page than with one of Sian’s bookmarks (though you’ll find yourself putting multiple items in your cart). Make sure to follow my cohost Sian on Instagram (@thisissianellis)!

If you would like to share your reads on social media, here are some ways:

  • Post your daily reads (story, story writer, book title, and book editors) on Twitter or in your Instagram stories. Instagram users: I made you templates. Just check my highlights! You might also create your only highlight to archive your daily reads!
  • Share a picture of your book piles periodically.
  • Share your method for picking stories.
  • Write down and share your favorite stories.

Recommendations for Fiction

(That aren’t already in the Free Section)

Recommendations for Nonfiction

Free Stories

Below are links to some anthologies online. I haven’t read all of these, so I’m sorry for the lame ones! Please note: Most of these links take you to Project Gutenberg, which gives you multiple formats to read it in. HTML is best for reading on your computer. You can also send it to your Kindle (I use this email method). 

Keep Notes in a Commonplace Book

Commonplace books are an excellent tool for writing down your favorite quotes and excerpts! To learn more about commonplace books, read this post (and this post). To learn more about keeping a Halloween commonplace book, read this post.

I look forward to reading along with you. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below!

Happy Reading!

Some Haunted Trees in the United States

According to folklore, people are advised to touch wood when threatened by evil. What should one do when the wood itself is the source of evil? Hopefully, we won’t have to find out (Knock on wood! Sorry.). For now, we can explore haunted trees from the safety of our own computers.Β 

In this post, I explore haunted trees throughout the United States. 

The Devil’s Tree (New Jersey) 

A lone oak tree in Somersot County, New Jersey is believed to be cursed and is linked to the KKK and/or a homicidal farmer. 

Whatever the origin story, the tree should be avoided. If you speak ill of the tree, you may face dangerous consequences (such as car accident). If you get too close to the tree, you may be chased away by a black Ford pickup truck.Β 

The tree is warm to touch even during the winter and the ground near it cannot hold snow. 

The tree still stands with a chain fence wrapped around its trunk to protect it from ongoing vandalism. You have to be pretty bold to vandalize that tree. 

Sources: Wikipedia, Weird NJΒ 

The Trunkless Tree (Iowa) 

According to internet lore, a strange supernatural phenomenon occurs at Campbell Cemetery in Bertram, Iowa. If you visit the cemetery at night and turn off your headlights, you might be able to witness what looks like a tree floating in the air without a trunk. 

Source: HauntedPlaces.orgΒ 

The Oak Tree (California) 

A giant oak tree provides shade for old stone ruins outside Beaumont, California, serving as a local hangout for teenagers. Rumors have circulated for many years that the place is haunted and was once home to a witch. People have allegedly heard voices and seen apparitions. 

In July of 2011, the body of Christine Kunstmann (age 44) was found in a shallow grave under the tree. In 2015, the case was finally solved and three individuals were arrested for murder. 

Sources: HauntedPlaces.org, LA Times, The Sun, CBS Los Angeles

The Fairchild Oak Tree (Florida) 

In Ormond Beach, Florida’s Bulow Creek State Park sits a 400-year-old oak tree called The Fairchild Oak (of the botanist’s namesake). Two deaths are associated with the tree, allegedly. James Ormond II, who lived close by, was found dead under the tree (case of death unknown). The second death was the suicide of Norman Harwood over mounting debts. People have supposedly seen the apparition of man who causes onlookers to feel overwhelming sadness. 

Sources: DaytonaBeach.com, Only In Your State

Whispering Tree (Philadelphia) 

In 1893, newspapers reported the legend of “The Whispering Tree” in Pittsburgh, a maple tree which sat at the edge of a stream.

Murmuring would come from the tree at night, especially at midnight on Halloween. Local teenagers visited the tree for thrills, believing it was the site of a murder. A local attorney, J.H. Maxwell, was sick of all the tree gossip so he took matters into his own hands and chopped down the tree with an ax. 

The fallen tree’s rings revealed it was over 150 years old. Upon further inspection, Maxwell also found 70 (yes 70) old-fashioned bullets at about the height of five feet. 

He also found two hollowed streaks which served as a type of runway for stream water, which traveled up one streak and down the other. It was concluded that the water was making the whispering noises. 

The cause of the bullets? We will never know. 

Source: Chicago Tribune via The Clarke County Democrat, Grove Hill, Alabama, 02 Nov 1893 (pg. 2)

Spirit of Her Daughter (New York) 

An elm tree in Prospect Park of Brooklyn is marked by a silver plaque reading “Nellie.” Nellie Howard died in the 1800s while on a European tour. 

Her father was a member of the firm Howard, Sanger & Co., and she was a notable figure in social circles. As a child she enjoyed drives through the park and always admired the tall elm tree, constantly commenting on its beauty. During her illness, she reminisced about the elm tree and her last words were about spending time under its branches. 

After her death, her mother was drawn to the elm tree and later became convinced her daughter’s spirit lived in the tree. It should be of note that the mother is “not a Pantheist, neither is she a follower of any of the ‘crank’ creeds which have of late set the social world a-wobbling […]” (haha). 

Source: Lake Superior Citizen, Ironwood, Michigan, 21 Jul 1894, Sat  (pg. 3)

The Haunted Apple Tree (Massachusetts) 

Legend tells of a haunted apple tree in Douglass, Massachusetts. The story goes that a traveling salesman stopped to rest under a tree in an apple orchard. Someone, believed to be the property’s farmer, brutally murdered the salesman. He was found under the tree with a gash in his neck. The farmer later moved away because he was followed by the spirit of his victim. 

Locals report seeing a man standing under the apple tree, one hand on his neck and the other hand reaching out for help. His cries can be heard a mile away. The apple tree he was killed under only produces apples with streaks of red, like blood. 

Source: The Cheyenne Sunbeam, Cheyenne, Oklahoma, 05 Oct 1900 (pg. 2) 

Featured Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Paranormal Research Groups: Society for Psychical Research

In this series, I will be “sharing my notes” on various paranormal research groups. Each post will usually include key facts, a brief introduction, notable cases, and an introduction to a notable member. Feel free to jot down notes in your commonplace book.

Founding Date: 1882
Location: London, England
Research Focus: all forms of paranormal cognition (examples: clairvoyance, telepathy); paranormal action (examples: poltergeist, teleportation); altered states of consciousness (examples: hypnotic trance, near-death experiences); physic sensitivity or mediumship; life after death 
Research Methods and Tools: scientific research; randomized studies, psychology, empirical studies, conceptional studies, laboratory experiments

Introduction – The Beginning

The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in 1882 for the “purpose of investigating mesmeric, psychical and β€˜spiritualist’ phenomena in a purely scientific spirit” (SPR). This came at a time when science was challenging religious worldviews and the spiritualist movement opened many to paranormal possibilities. Think seances and ectoplasm!Β 

Before the official SPR, there was the “Sidgwick group,” which was an informal group of upper class individuals interested in researching Spiritualism’s claims. The key figures in the beginning were all Fellows at Trinity College at Cambridge: Henry Sidgwick, Frederic W.H. Myers, and Edmund Gurney. Henry also married Eleanor Balfour of the Balfour family, a prominent Scottish family (fancy, fancy). Eventually this group merged with others pursuing similar work, including other scientific thinkers and spiritualists, to form the SPR. 

With a group full of prominent and educated people, it is no surprise they attracted people like Arthur Conan Doyle, William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and more.  By 1900, the group had published over 11,000 pages of research (Guiley) and, in 1885, they helped found the American Society for Psychical Research. 

Ok, let’s get to the drama. 

By 1887, many spiritualists had left the group. You see, when an organization’s research cannot prove life after death and is revealing many mediums are frauds, spiritualist members wonder what the heck they are doing there. 

A very notorious exit was Arthur Conan Doyle. He wrote a letter of resignation after medium William Hope was called a fraud in the organization’s publication by member Theodore Besterman. While he thought Theodore Besterman was reaching, this published report was indicative of his larger issue with SPR research: β€˜assertions of the opponents of Spiritualism are at once accepted on their face value without the slightest attempt at discriminate examination’ (Cambridge University Special Collections). Many members followed Doyle. 

The organization, despite internal tension, still remains the leader of psychical research.Β 

To read an in-depth history, I recommend visiting their About page. 


  • Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (began in 1882)
  • Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (began in 1884),
  • Paranormal Review (began in 1996; later replaced by Magazine of the Society for Psychical Research)
  • Psi Encyclopedia (This is a fun online resource).Β 

Notable Members

With such a long and rich history, it is no surprise the SPR has quite the roster. 

  • Henry Sidgwick (founding member, past president); utilitarian philosopher and economist
  • Frederic W.H. Myers (founding member, past president); poet, classicist, philologist
  • Edmund Gurney (founding member); psychologist and parapsychologist
  • Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick (past president);Β  physics researcher and activist for women in higher education (I wrote a blog post about her once.)Β Β 
  • Arthur Conan Doyle; writer of Sherlock Holmes books and medical doctorΒ 
  • William James (past president); philosopher and psychologist
  • Sigmund Freud; neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis
  • Carl Jung (honorary member); psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, founder of analytical psychology
  • Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge (past president); physicist, writer, and psychical researcherΒ 
  • Andrew Lang (past president); poet, novelist, literary critic, collector of folklore and fairy talesΒ 
  • John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (past president); winner of Nobel Prize in PhysicsΒ 
  • Harry Price; physic researcher, author, established the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (Harry Price established this competing laboratory after leaving SPR. He left SPR due to research conflicts.)Β 

Notable Cases 

The following cases are notable cases involving hauntings and poltergeist phenomena. They have done some interesting experiments in other areas of inquiry. For time purposes, I will not cover them but recommend you investigate if interested.  

Borley Rectory (1900s). This famous haunted house in England was first investigated by Harry Price (he lived there from 1937 to 1939). His findings were discredited by SPR members. From what I gathered, the SPR thought they should have investigated and not Harry Price (he was not a member). After Price’s death in 1948, three members of SPR investigated his findings: Eric Dingwall, Kathleen M. Goldney, and Trevor H. Hall. They accused Price of fraudulent activity in their book The Haunting of Borley Rectory. Some SPR members did not necessarily agree with the “Borley Report” as they called it, but it seems most of SPR supported it. Paul Tabori (psychical researcher) and Peter Underwood (parapsychologist) defended Price as well.Β 

Enfield Poltergeist (1977-79).This famous poltergeist case inspired the film Conjuring 2. SPR investigators Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair attributed the the activity to childhood pranks but asserted that some of the paranormal phenomena was genuine. 


“Borley Rectory,” Wikipedia

“Challenging Challenger: The Fallout between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Society for Psychical Research,” Cambridge University Library Special Collections.

“Enfield Poltergeist,” Wikipedia

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts on File, 1992. 

“Our History,” Society for Psychical Research Website.Β 

Psi Encyclopedia. 

“Society for Psychical Research,” Wikipedia.

Paranormal Research Groups: The Ghost Research Society

In this series, I will be “sharing my notes” on various paranormal research groups. Each post will usually include key facts, a brief introduction, notable cases, and an introduction to a notable member. Feel free to jot down notes in your commonplace book. Today we start with The Ghost Research Society.

Founding Date: Late 1970s
Location: Oak Lawn, Illinois
Research Focus: ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, survival after death
Research Methods and Tools: tape recorders, still cameras, video cameras, psychics


The Ghost Research Society was founded in 1970s Chicago by Martin V. Riccardo, a hypnotherapist and founder of the Vampire Studies information clearinghouse. This lay organization’s initial name was Ghost Tracker’s Club, but was changed in 1981. The following year, Dale Kaczmarek (see more below) became president. Kaczmarek also served as the editor of the society’s journal The Ghost Tracker’s Newsletter (back issues are available for purchase on their website).

Though their research focus is Chicago and northern Indiana, their membership is international. If you ever visit Chicago, you might even take one of their ghost tours!

They usually investigate private residences, oftentimes involving individuals with a Roman Catholic background. They have studied how the Catholic faith influences witnesses’ perceptions of paranormal experiences.

The Ghost Research Society has one of the largest collections of spirit photography and is experienced in analyzing them via computer technology.

Notable Cases

The Ghost Research Society investigated Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, located in the suburbs of Chicago. Burials in the cemetery possibly began around the early 1800s. Workers killed working on the Illinois and Michigan Canal are said to be buried there. Further, it is rumored to have been a dumping ground for the Chicago crime families of the 1920/30s. So, already some interesting folklore. Paranormal legends and alleged activity include:

  • A White Lady carries around a baby on the full moon. 
  • The ghost of a farmer and his plow have been seen. He allegedly died in a farming accident. 
  • A phantom farmhouse seems to float, shrinking in size as visitors approach it. 
  • A black dog has been reported near the entrance, disappearing when visitors approach him.

You can read about the history of the cemetery and the Ghost Research Society’s investigation here. A notable piece of evidence from their investigation is a photograph of the cemetery’s “weeping woman,” often called “the girl on the gravestone” (You can see the image here. I wasn’t sure about copyright.). The Ghost Research Society describes the photo’s history on their website:

After the film was processed, it was discovered that on one frame there was the unmistakable image of a strange woman sitting on a checkerboard tombstone in an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century, full-length dress.  She had long brown hair and was staring off in the distance in profile.  On closer examination, parts of her body are semi-transparent, especially her head and legs.  Everyone on the team was stunned with this revelation as it seemed to coincide with the electromagnetic deviations team members were experiencing at the time.  It is one of the clearest images this author has ever seen to date! It was taken by Jude Huff-Felz.

For a list of other research sites, along with detailed descriptions of their research experiences, click here.

Notable Member: Dale Kaczmarek

You cannot talk about the Ghost Research Society without talking about longtime president Dale Kaczmarek (born 1952), as he greatly influences their theories and methodologies. Below is a brief bulleted summary of his paranormal theories and practices. 

  • He has a twofold definition of ghosts, which falls into two categories: ghosts and apparitions.  Ghosts include disembodied spirits of deceased people and “phantom replays” (Guiley 184). Ghosts have no recognizable forms, but manifest as sounds, smells, and sensations. Phantom replays “are lingering vibrations of events in certain locations that can be sensed by certain persons under as yet unknown conditions” (Guiley 184). On the other hand, apparitions are recognizable and lifelike. They take the form of humans, animals, or objects. 
  • Poltergeists are not non-physical entities, but rather “psychic explosions” of human agents. Usually these agents are females (adolescent to late teen). 
  • 90 percent of the spirit photographs analyzed by the Ghost Research Society have natural explanations. 

Up Next: Society of Psychical Research


Ghost Research Society Website 

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts on File, 1992. 

“Bachelor Grove Cemetery,” Wikipedia 

My Other Website: It Was Not a Ghost

Have y’all checked out my new website: It Was Not a Ghost? (Don’t worry, Notebook of Ghosts is not going anywhere.)

When looking for ghost stories in the newspaper archives, I would come across ghost stories that ended up being something else entirely. It was not a ghost! It was a robe, paint, moonshine, an odd reflection, a youthful prankster, the wind, and more!

I gathered these (sometimes humorous) stories about non-ghosts and created a new site in addition to this one. I will update the website every other Friday. I posted last Friday (three times actually) and will post next Friday. Head on over and see what you missed!

And, I’m on Twitter (again).

Thanks for the continued support! πŸ‘»πŸ–€

Featured Photo by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

The Ghost of Amer Green

CW: Lynching, Murder, Kidnapping 

It was brought to my attention there may be factual errors in this post. Thus, this post is under review and I will inform you of updates in the near future.

Amer Green was the first and only man lynched in Carroll County, Indiana on October 21, 1887. While in custody as a suspect for the alleged abduction and murder of Luella Mabbitt, Green was dragged from the jail by an angry mob and lynched seven miles away. This sensationalized case did not end when Luella’s sister identified a body in the Wabash River as Luella. Many sightings of Luella made headlines, causing some to question whether or not they killed an innocent man.

This is a story about a missing woman, a community’s demand for justice, and a haunted school.

The Crime

On August 6, 1886, Luella Mabbitt’s parents watched as she got into a buggy with Amer Green, and his friend William Walker, at their home in Wildcat, Indiana. This was not unusual as Luella (age 23) was dating Amer Green (age 34), but Luella’s father Peter Mabbitt knew something was wrong when she never returned home. He accused the men of kidnapping his daughter.

Both Amer and William denied having any part in her disappearance to authorities. Amer Green fled town. William was tried and found not guilty as his whereabouts were corroborated by Luella’s own sister Cynthia, whom he married the following year (Murder by Gaslight). Rumors began to fly that Luella was alive and well, and possibly married to Amer in Texas. Some believed she was dead.

When a decomposed body was found in the Wabash River on February 6th of 1887, the family had differing opinions on whether or not it was Luella. Dental records led investigators to believe it was Luella (Kriebel). Amer Green was obtained by authorities in Fort Worth, Texas on July 15, 1887. He was arrested along with his brother William Green, who was wanted for another murder.

Amer was set to stand trial, but community members could not wait for law and order.

The Punishment

On October 21, 1887, a mob broke into the jail where Amer was held in Delphi, Indiana. Although he screamed his innocence, the mob dragged him to an area known as Walnut Grove and lynched him. Amer Green would never sit trial.

His obituary in The Tribune (October 27, 1887) briefly touched on his last moments.

He said that Luella Mabbitt was in Fort Worth, Texas, living with a friend named Samuel Paine, and would return at the proper time. The story was disbelieved. The sudden determination to lynch Green was brought through fear that justice would not be done him, as the first indictment had been found defective. Green held throughout that he would have the girl at the trial when all would be explained.

According to a short article in The Indianapolis News (November 1887), the planned lynching was public knowledge:

Governor Gray has received a personal letter from a republican of Carroll county, in which he says that nearly everybody there, including Sheriff Van Gundy, knew that a mob was being organized to lynch Amer Green, and that many citizens, who otherwise would have been down town that night, purposely stayed at their homes, so that they could not be suspected of complicity in the outrage.

Sheriff Van Gundy was publicly reprimanded in a letter in the Indianapolis Journal by Governor Issac P. Gray on the morning of October 24, 1887. He believed the sheriff exhibited a lack of precaution. Along with the issue of not using lawful means to sentence and persecute Amer, there was another issue entirely.

The newspapers of the time gave differing opinions on whether or not Amer Green had committed a crime and whether or not Luella Mabbitt was even dead. Reports circulated of a heavily-veiled woman who arrived by train to Delphi, Indiana from Forth Worth, Texas the night following the lynching. She inquired about a trunk, but left empty handed. When the trunk finally arrived, the community waited patiently for the woman, believed to be Luella Mabbit, to collect her trunk. She never returned.

In 1898, Reverend Daniel Parker of Flora, Indiana (near Delphi) reported seeing Luella Mabbitt in Mexico. The reverend was familiar with the family and had visited their home often. He claimed to see Luella Mabbitt in Mexico, alive, married to wealth, and living quite well. Several locals believed Reverend Parker and that an innocent man was lynched (Logansport Pharos-Tribune).

While the story remains a mystery, the sensationalism of the story has left the names Luella Mabbitt and Amer Green all over the newspaper archives.

The Ghost

“The walnut tree, before then a large and thrifty one, never bore foliage after the lynching, and stood a bleak and lonesome reminder of the tragedy.” – The Chronicle, Scottsburg, IN

Trustee Jesse Martin of Jackson township put Amer Green back in the press in 1901 when he began taking bids for the erection of a new school in Walnut Grove. The reason for this new school? The current school was in close proximity to Amer Green’s lynching tree…and his ghost.

At the time, the tree was most likely in bad shape. According to a newspaper clipping I came across from 1898, the tree was blown over in a windstorm. It seems the school was next to fall.

Source: Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, 14 Nov 1898, p. 2

Teachers and students reported seeing the ghost of Amer Green and hearing odd sounds on school grounds. The ghost attached to the tree would become a nuisance to school trustees, who eventually had to deal with scared children (and parents). The Daily Notes of Pennsylvania provided substantial details of the children’s experiences. Two quotes stood out:

  • “When little Johnny Jones and his sister Sue, for instance, came screaming home to their mother and told her of seeing a man swinging by the neck to a tree […] and that the hanging man amused himself by making ugly faces at them.”
  • “Sometimes the ghost varied his appearance, and instead of hanging from the tree, would be seen strolling along the road, his head very much on one side, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, and an expression of indescribable agony on his face.”

The fate of the school would eventually be decided when attendance became slim and when distinguished and trusted Dr. Budford Karns saw a man hanging in that very tree on his way home. He was reliable and the trustees took notice. A new school was eventually built.

Why does Amer Green’s ghost still haunt Walnut Grove? Is it some divine punishment for a murder? Or, on the other hand, will he not rest until he is proven innocent? We may never know what happened to Luella Mabbitt, and Indiana will always be haunted by the lynching of Amer Green.


“Amer Green.” Indiana GenWeb Project

“Amer Green’s Crime.” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, 5 Jan 1898, p.19.

“Green’s Uneasy Ghost.” The Daily Notes, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, 21 Aug 1901, p. 3.

“Indiana Idea of ‘Historic’.” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, 14 Nov 1898, Mon, p. 2. 

“Is Luella Mabbitt Alive?” The Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana, 25 Oct 1887, p. 1.

“It Run Them Out: Reputed Ghost of ‘Amer Green Receive Official Recognition.” The Columbus Republican. Columbus, Indiana, 27 Jun 1901, Thu, p. 1. 

Kriebel, Bob. “Counterfeiter Eluded Justice.” Journal and Courier, Lafayette, Indiana, 16 Apr 2000, Sun, p. 13.

Marshall County Independent, Plymouth, Indiana, 14 Jan 1898, Fri, p. 5. 

“The Amer Green Lynching.” The Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana, 24 Oct 1887, Mon, p. 5. 

“The Amer Green Lynching.” The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis, Indiana, 22 Nov 1887, Tue, p.1. 

The Chronicle, Scottsburg, Indiana, 4 Jul 1901, Thu, p. 2. 

“The Mabbitt Mystery.” Murder by Gaslight, 12 May 2018. 

Rocchio, Pasquale. “Amer Green Achieved ‘Dubious’ Distinction in Carroll County.” The Kokomo Tribune, Kokomo, Indiana, 29 Aug 1974, Thu, p. 10.

“School Abandoned.” The Richmond Item, Richmond, Indiana, 26 Jun 1901, Wed, p. 7.

Featured Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash (not actual schoolhouse discussed)

Santa Claude, A Hoosier Hero & Ghost

Claude Herbert, having just returned home from the Spanish-American War, desperately needed a job to care for his newly-widowed mother. Luckily, the Havens and Geddes Department Store was in need of a Santa Claus. Located on Fifth and Wabash in Terre Haute, Indiana, the store was the largest department store in Indiana and took up the entire block.

The Hero

On December 19, 1898, just a few days after being hired, veteran Claude Herbert (aged 18) found himself in the middle of a raging fire. He, along with about thirty children, were in the basement of the building when a incandescent light bulb exploded in a display window. The fire quickly spread.

Claude, while still in character, was successful in leading many children outside to safety. Stories differ on how many times Claude went back into the building, but witnesses can agree on his heroic deeds. According to one account, Claude ran back into the building after a mother screamed that her three-year-old child, Nettie Welch, was still in the building. Claude found the child in Santa’s Chair and carried her out to the safety of her mother.

After saving the children, Herbert shed his Santa Claus suit before going back into the inferno to save trapped sales clerks. On his second to last trip, a bystander shouted to Claude, “Come out, come out.” Claude responded, β€œNo, I’m going back. There’s plenty of time […] and maybe there’s someone down there.” Those he went to rescue in that final attempt had fled from another exit. He, a new employee unfamiliar with the store’s layout, was unable to find this exit before being overtaken by the flames.

Fellow soldiers of Claude’s regiment worked to find Claude in the rubble. What remained of this hero was buried in Highland Lawn Cemetery.

Three other people perished in the fire: firefighter John Osterloo, volunteer firefighter Henry Nehf, and store clerk Katie Maloney. The building was completely demolished (about $2 million in property damage) and other buildings were affected as well.

The Ghost

Visitors of the cemetery have reported seeing orbs around the Herbert family mausoleum, sometimes catching this supernatural phenomenon on camera. Is Claude continuing to protect the people of Terre Haute? I think so.


Bennett, Mark. “Fountain honoring sacrifice by life-saving Santa may return to site of his heroism.” The Tribune Star, 26 Dec 2012.

Hood, Ashley. Haunted Terre Haute. Haunted America, 2019.

Huntington Weekly Herald, Huntington, Indiana, 23 Dec 1898, p. 8.

Featured Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

Christmas #humpdayhaunts

December at Notebook of Ghosts is sure to be a spooky one! Along with my Patreon site, I have some blog posts planned for this blog. If you would like additional spooky content, I recommend following me on Instagram (notebookofghosts). Every Wednesday, I share haunted history in a series called #humpdayhaunts. This month will be everything CHRISTMAS.

I thought I might gather up past Christmas #humpdayhaunts for your “First Week of December” enjoyment.

Merry Christmas! πŸ‘»β˜ƒοΈπŸŽ…

Featured Photo by StΓ©phane Mingot on Unsplash

#25SpookyStories: A 2020 Christmas Reading Challenge

Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood. – Jerome K. Jerome, Told After Supper (1891)

The following post is a recycled and polished version of the challenge from last year. I have added some more books and free readings. I will continue to update the post with readings I come across.

Christmas is a time for ghost stories. It’s true! The tradition of telling ghost stories around Christmas time probably came before the holiday itself and definitely before the commercialized version of today.  The origins, as Kat Eschner writes, are “about darker, older, more fundamental things: winter, death, rebirth, and the rapt connection between a teller and his or her audience. But they’re packaged in the cozy trappings of the holiday.” The tradition never really made it over to America (Puritans ruin the party again), but ghost stories around Christmas were especially popular in 19th Century British books, periodicals, homes, and theatres. In 2017, Ghostland author Colin Dickey made a call to resurrect the tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas, so I’m challenging y’all to read 25 ghost (or just scary) stories this Christmas season (or 12). Maybe you’ll read them in your comfy chair with hot chocolate or wassail. Maybe you’ll read the stories aloud around the fire with family and friends (via Zoom of course). Whatever you need to do to bring this tradition back to life and hopefully start a new spooky tradition in your home. (To learn more, please check out the two articles below that ground this tradition in interesting historical research.)

If you participated in #31SpookyStories, it is basically the same thing. You’ll read 25 spooky short stories each day this December until Christmas. Or, if you are busy (or preoccupied/stressed because 2020), you can choose to read 12 stories instead.

Below I have provided some books and FREE sites where you can find some spooky Christmas stories (I’ll continue to update this list throughout December). Feel free to read whatever spooky stories you want, Christmas-themed and otherwise.

Your reading style and availability may be different than mine, so I gave the challenge additional options:

  • You might read from one anthology/story collection or multiple anthologies/story collections.
  • You might double, triple, or quadtrouple stories on slow days or makeup days. Hell, you could read 25 (or 12) stories in one week.
  • You might choose to read fiction and/or nonfiction spooky stories.

The goal of this? To have fun, resurrect an old tradition, and to introduce yourself to new writers. Below are some ways to join the fun on social media, some sources on the history on the tradition, and possible stories to read.

Join the Fun on Instagram

Some challenge readers (me included) will be sharing our daily reads on social media. Follow me (@notebookofghosts) for fun Story templates, my daily reads, available anthologies from some of my favorite online sellers, and more!

We’ll be using the hashtag #25SpookyStories!

Some History About the Tradition

Books You Might Purchase


FREE Reading List

Below are links to some anthologies online. I haven’t read all of these, so I’m sorry for the lame ones! πŸ™‚  Please note: Most of these links take you to Project Gutenberg, which gives you multiple formats to read it in. HTML is best for reading on your computer. You can also send it to your Kindle (I use this email method). 

Happy Reading!

Happy Halloween! My Top Five #humpdayhaunts

One my favorite ways to keep the Halloween spirit going all year long is through my Instagram series #humpdayhaunts. Every Wednesday (well, sometimes Thursday), I share haunted history. I always look forward to the opportunity to research a new haunting. In a chaotic world, it is indeed my constant!

I was recently looking through my archives and began reminiscing about past posts. I thought I might share some of my favorites in preparation for the Halloween weekend.

I hope you enjoy this spooky trip down memory lane. Have a hauntingly splendid Halloween!

-Ash πŸ‘»

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#humpdayhaunts is BACK!! Skinwalker Ranch lies southeast of Ballard, Utah with 480 acres full of #paranormal activity. The property has also been dubbed "UFO Ranch," because of the high number of #UFO sightings. This place is basically Fox Mulder's Disney World. πŸ‘½ There are a number of stories associated with the place, so let's get to it. (1) A family that lived on the property reported cattle mutilation. Some cows had no sign of injury or blood other than a hole "drilled" into the eye. Other cows had organs carefully removed. (2) The same family had issues with a wolf repeatedly killing their cattle, so they shot it…multiple times and on several occasions…with no luck. A bulletproof wolf folks! (3) There has been poltergeist activity including objects moving in the home, unpacked groceries being repacked into grocery bags, and disembodied voices in an unknown language. My guess is UFO ghosts, because fun. (4) The same family from before reported lethal blue orbs on the property. One night they saw the blue orbs floating on the property. They let 3 of their dogs loose to chase the orbs, and the orbs led the dogs further and further from the house. Eventually the owner heard dog yelps in the the distance, but did not go see what was wrong out of fear. The next day, they found 3 spots burned into the ground with a weird gooey substance in the center. It is believed to be the only thing that remains of the dogs. (5) There are a lot of weird animals on and near the property, including a very muscular hyena, giant sea snakes, and a mysterious squid. (6) There's a humanoid figure called The Dark One that peers into another dimension or something. (7) Crop circles of course! Do Do Do Do Do Doooooo [#xfiles theme song] (8) Wait there's more…BIGFOOT sightings. πŸ‘½ In 1996, the The National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) purchased the property. The NIDS was founded by Las Vegas hotel owner Robert Bigelow with "the purpose to research and advance serious study of various fringe science, and paranormal topics, most notably ufology" (Wikipedia). The same year Bigelow received the Pigasus Award from skeptic James Randi. (CONTINUED IN COMMENTS)

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And here's another #humpdayhaunts for #Halloween. Also check out my post from this morning! 🐰According to legend, a bus of convicts crashed in Fairfax County, VA in 1904. Convicts fled from the bus, but were quickly rounded up by police. All of them…except one. BOOOOO! 🐰 The people of Fairfax County started to notice skinned and half-eaten bunnies hanging in trees, specifically in the wooded area around (then-called) Fairfax Station Bridge. One Halloween night, some teenagers decided to hang out under the bridge. In the morning, they were found in the same condition as the bunnies, hanging from the bridge. Police and concerned citizens assumed this was the work of the escaped convict. The convict became known as The Bunny Man, because he ate bunnies and also killed his family on Easter Sunday (we got some creative legend makers in Virginia). OK so there's the legend. Wanna hear some factual creepy stuff? OK! 🐰 Fairfax County Archivist Brian Conley decided to do some research on this popular local legend. He found its beginnings in the 1970s. As reported in the Washington Post, Air Force Academy cadet Robert Bennett and his fiancΓ©e were sitting in their car on Guinea Road in Fairfax Co around midnight. A man appeared in a white suit and tall bunny ears wielding an axe. He yelled at the couple to get off his property, eventually throwing the axe through the front car window. Luckily the couple was not seriously injured. Two weeks later and a block away, the bunny dude was spotted by private security guard Paul Phillips on the front porch of a new, yet unoccupied house. Phillips began to talk to the bunny, which only angered him. Phillips reported to the Washington Post that the bunny said: β€œAll you people trespass around here. If you don’t get out of here, I’m going to bust you on the head.” He then began chopping at the porch. The police looked into these reports, but nothing substantial came out of the investigation. As you can tell, locals took these facts and ran. 🐰 Virginians of Fairfax are warned to stay away from the bridge tonight. At the stroke of midnight, they may face the same consequences as those teenagers (and bunnies).

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It's a whole week of #humpdayhaunts! I'll share a haunted place or legend each day this week, because #HALLOWEEN. πŸ‘» Have you heard about the β€œTHE SHIP OF DEATH” in Wyoming? About every 25 years or so, a phantom ship appears on the Platte River. Witnesses of the ghost ship report a thick fog and a ghost crew covered in frost. The unfortunate witness that pursues a closer look might see the corpse of a still-living loved one lying on the deck. Sometimes the crew is surrounding the person or the captain is motioning towards the loved one's body. This loved one always dies soon after. πŸ‘» 100 or so years ago, a trapper named Leon Webber saw the ghost ship (this is the first reported sighting). When he got closer to the ship, he saw his fiancΓ©e lying on the top deck. She died that same day. The next reported sighting was 25 years later (1887) when Gene Wilson, a cattleman, saw his wife lying on the ship's deck. She too died the same day. The last reported sighting was in 1903. Victor Hiebe was chopping firewood one autumn day at his residence along the river (or he was a lumberjack). He saw the fog and then the ship…and then the body of his good friend hanging from a noose. This friend had been convicted of murder, though Victor believed in his innocence. Victor last heard his friend escaped from prison. The same day of the sighting, Victor's friend was captured and put to death. πŸ‘» There have been no reported sightings since, but I recommend avoiding the Platte River on foggy days. . . . . . #halloween #scarystory #scarystories #fall #autumn #october #ghost #ghostship #ghosts #paranormal #supernatural #hauntedplaces #haunted #folkore #history #urbanlegend #Wyoming #scary #horror #writersofinstagram #spooky #paranormalactivity

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#humpdayhaunts | Next week I'm in New Orleans, so I'll be taking a break from #humpdayhaunts and #occultmondays. πŸ’€ Today, I'm sharing the story of The Black Carriage of Overton Landing (Missouri). "Overton Landing was a small, isolated farming community scattered along the bluffs and flats of the Missouri River near today's Interstate 70. As with many villages, everyone in Overton knew everyone else, helped out when needed, celebrated the harvest and passed along gossip" (Mary Collins Barlie). πŸ’€ One older couple did not fit in with the rest of the community. They lived in a wooden house off the ferry path, which they ran a tavern out of for weary travelers. Their business wasn't successful, because their reputation as being sour and cruel made travelers avoid it. πŸ’€One night they murdered a merchant with an iron poker and threw his body in the Missouri River. They, of course, kept his money and pricey belongings. They told the community they had inherited the money. With their new fortune, they bought new clothes (the old woman bought a black crepe gown), fixed up their tavern, and bought a fine black carriage. πŸ’€ Three years later, the old woman became ill. On her deathbed she rambled on about blood and an iron poker to neighbor women. She, about to die, asked her husband one last thing: to never remarry and finish his life alone. He promised. πŸ’€Well, he did not keep that promise and married a young woman in St. Louis. The night he brought her back home, neighbors made a ruckus outside his house. Holding torches and lanterns, they shouted loudly. The old man came outside and angrily screamed, "Get out or I'll…" He was interrupted by a carriage coming down the drive. The carriage was black with lanterns as red as blood. The carriage wheels and horse hooves did not make a sound. The crowd and the new young wife watched in silence as the old man looked inside. There sat a woman in a black crepe gown. The coachman convinced the old man to enter and shut the door. The old man and his deceased wife disappeared into the night. As recently as 2012, people have reported seeing a black carriage on the road. It is considered a bad omen so beware!

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Today's #humpdayhaunts comes from my signed copy of Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts (it's even signed by the ghost Jeffrey). This story comes from Gallatin, Tennessee. On September 23, 1880, Mrs. Lang sat on her front porch watching her children play. She was waiting impatiently for her husband, Mr. David Lang, to finish his farm work so they could go into town. He explained he had to check on the horses and then they would be off. He began walking across his wide pasture, when his name was called from a buggy on the nearby road. He looked up and waved to his friends. Mrs. Lang was watching the scene from the deck and watched as her husband VANISHED in thin air. One second he was waving, and the next second he wasn't there. β–ͺ️ His friends jumped from the buggy. The wife jumped from the porch with the kids following. They went to the spot of his disappearance. All that was left was grass crushed from David Lang's feet. Friends and family began a search. There were no sinkholes, crevices, wells, or large shrubs. People began digging on the spot he last stood. The well-digger even brought his equipment to dig a hole, but he soon hit limestone. Bloodhounds were brought out to search for his scent, only to whimper and turn away when they reached the spot of the disappearance. β–ͺ️ Friends and family stayed with the distraught family each night and each night they heard "Help me! Please somebody, help me.” They searched the darkness for the source of the cries, but they only seemed to come from that tainted spot. Each night the cries grew weaker and eventually they never heard from David Lang again. Mrs. Lang agreed to finally hold a funeral. β–ͺ️ The following spring, the mysterious spot was marked by nature with brown grass 15 feet in diameter, a perfect circle. What ever happened to Mr. David Lang? πŸ‘»πŸ‘½πŸ•³

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