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. 

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. 

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 NJ 

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.org 

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 ‘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! 

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: ‘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. 

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

Publications 

  • 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). 

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);  physics researcher and activist for women in higher education (I wrote a blog post about her once.)  
  • Arthur Conan Doyle; writer of Sherlock Holmes books and medical doctor 
  • 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 researcher 
  • Andrew Lang (past president); poet, novelist, literary critic, collector of folklore and fairy tales 
  • John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (past president); winner of Nobel Prize in Physics 
  • 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.) 

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. 

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. 

Sources 

“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

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

Introduction

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

Sources

Ghost Research Society Website 

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

“Bachelor Grove Cemetery,” Wikipedia 

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, “No, 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.


Sources

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! 👻☃️🎅

Featured Photo by Stéphane Mingot on Unsplash

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 👻

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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. 👽 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. 👽 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 fiancée 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: “All 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. 👻 Have you heard about the “THE 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. 👻 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 fiancée 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. 👻 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. 💀 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). 💀 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. 💀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. 💀 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. 💀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. ▪️ 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. ▪️ 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. ▪️ 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? 👻👽🕳

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From the Newspaper Archives: More Midwest Monsters

Today I share three more Midwest monsters from the newspaper archives. As we saw in the last post, old newspapers have an interesting and witty way of investigating the supernatural. It always makes for some fun reading, especially when the current news is stressful. Enjoy the following stories and say safe, my friends!

Michigan’s Bigfoot is Good for Business (Michigan)

During the summer of 1964, the “Sister Lakes Monster” (or “Monster of the Sister Lakes”), also called “The Dewey Monster,” terrorized Michigan. The 10-foot monster weighed more than 500 pounds with long black/brown hair (the description of the monster changed article to article). He ran on his hind legs and was notably aggressive. These sightings occurred near Dewey Lake in Dowagiac, Michigan and close neighbor Sister Lakes, Michigan.

The monster made national news and soon the region was a hot spot for curiosity seekers and monster hunters. Local business capitalized on the busy summer. Drugstores sold “monster kits” for $7.95. Items included: “a wooden mallet, a net, a baseball bat, an arrow, a squirt gun and a flashlight.” Gas stations sold “getaway gas,” which helped cars easily escape the monster or possibly reach to the nearest drive-in quickly for a Monster Burger.

Source: “‘Monster’ Drawing Tourists.” The Star Press, Muncie, Indiana, 14 Jun 1964, p. 1.

Is Michigan’s Bigfoot at it Again? (Monroe, Michigan)

The “Monster of Sister Lakes,” which caused a flurry in this area last summer, has apparently packed his bags (or whatever monsters pack) and headed to Monroe, Mich.

– The News-Palladium (August 1965)

Mrs. George Owens (age 38) and daughter Christine Van Acker (age 17) were attacked by a monster, believed to be “The Monster of The Sister Lakes” of the summer prior, on August 13th, 1965. According to my calculations this was Friday the 13th!

A 7-foot, 400-pound monster with hair “like quills,” jumped onto the side of the car and grabbed Christine’s head through the open window. The monster slammed Christine’s head onto the door until she was unconscious. Christine luckily survived but suffered a black eye. This was not the first sighting of the monster, there were 16 other sightings that summer. Search parties were created to track down this monster.

The mother and daughter took two lie detector tests. They passed the first test, taken for a radio show, but failed the polygraph test given to them by the police department. The police deemed it a hoax, but the mother and daughter stood firmly behind their story.

Sources: The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan, 17 Aug 1965, Tue, p. 9 // The South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Indiana, 24 Aug 1965, Tue, p. 3.

Momo, the Shapeshifting Speedy Monster (Illinois & Beyond)

Two days ago Momo the mysterious monster was black, hairy, orange-eyed, pumpkin-headed, reeking of sulphur and skulking around the hills of Missouri. Now, he has grown several feet, acquired extra toes, learned to swim fast and cavorts about Illinois.

When a 1972 article from The Indianapolis News starts like this, you keep reading. You had me at pumpkin-head!

The Momo monster, according to the article, was first sighted by an 11-year-old boy in Louisiana on July 11th. Then the article, which was published on a Friday (July 28th), stated the monster was spotted on Wednesday night in Louisiana by an elderly women. At this point, the monster was 7 feet tall with black hair and an awful smell. Minutes later, the monster was spotted in Creve Couer, Illinois, now gray and with 3 more feet added to his height. Instead of thinking that maybe this monster was two separate monsters, the article put forth the theory that the monster swam 120 miles up the Mississippi River in mere minutes.

On July 27th, the monster was spotted in East Peoria by “two reliable citizens.” The monster had “gray U-shaped ears, a red mouth with sharp teeth, thumbs with long second joints, and ‘looked like a cross between an ape and a cave man’.” So, this monster was fast and a shapeshifter.

Those who report seeing the Momo monster have to take a breathalyzer test, the article stated.

Source: The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis, Indiana, 28 Jul 1972, p. 4.

Featured Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

From the Newspaper Archives: Hoosier Monsters

One of my favorite activities as of late is browsing the newspaper archives with a cup of tea or a pint of pumpkin beer (depends how my day was). My most recent rabbit hole was reports of monsters in Indiana, which eventually opened up to surrounding states. Two pints of beer later, I realized I had a couple blog posts. Today, I will start with historic reports of monsters in Indiana.

In a prior post, I shared casual internet research I had done on monsters in the Midwest. The newspaper archives add another interesting, sometimes witty, layer to this topic. Hope you enjoy these historical tidbits as much as I did!

The Mill Race Monster (Columbus, Indiana)

I discussed the Mill Race Monster in the prior blog post and #humpdayhaunts (on Instagram). I will quote my past post to catch you up.

In the 1970s, Columbus, Indiana was tormented by a large, green, and bipedal monster (described by some as amphibious). The monster was tied to Mill Race Park, a park with lush forests, winding rivers, and two lakes. On November 1, 1974, two different groups of teenagers spotted the large beast. The second sighting was by far the scariest. Two young women spotted the monster while sitting in their car at night. The monster ran over and started banging on their windshield, leaving a thick mucus on the glass. They were able to turn on the car and drive away.  There were other sightings reported and many enthusiastic monster hunters headed to the park with baseball bats and guns. The city eventually closed the park to the public at night.

I thought I was done with the monster, but he reappeared during my monster search. I came across an article with the title “Monster-ous Thing At Columbus Is Green, Hairy And Scares Cats,” which on its own is pure gold.

As stated above, there were multiple sightings of the creature. On November 8 at around 9:00 a.m., the city’s dog catcher Rick Duckworth (and John Brown) went to the park to rescue two cats from a tree. While trying to figure out the best way to get the cats down, the men spotted the monster about 200 feet away. Duckworth moved towards the monster, but it ran quickly into the forest.

The cats, when put back down on solid ground, ran off. Duckworth told the paper: “They were really scared.” Duckworth also told the paper he would use his tranquilizer, the same one he uses to catch dogs, to take down the monster if he witnessed it again.

The paper also shared a theory on the identity of the “monster”: “Police and a dogcatcher believe the monster is a man wearing green blankets and a green mask enjoying a frolic in balmy Indian summer weather and by the light of the harvest moon.”

Source: The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, Indiana, 09 Nov 1974 (pg. 1).

The Square Lake Monster (Portland, Indiana)

Five youths had their fishing trip at Portland, Indiana’s Hollow Block Lake cut short when a square-shaped monster with the scream of a banshee emerged from the water. The monster, half the size of a car, came from the water like a submarine. The police found the youths trustworthy, especially since this was not the first monster sighting at the lake; this was the third sighting in two years.

Some theorized this monster was the same monster that appeared earlier that summer in Lynn, Indiana (about 30 miles south of Portland). Some believed the “monster of Craig’s Well,” as it was named, moved to Portland after too many curiosity seekers came to visit the well.

I would love to see how the monster got from the well to the lake!

Sources: Muncie Evening Press, Muncie, Indiana, 04 Aug 1960 (pg. 2) // The Commercial-Mail, Columbia City, Indiana, 05 Aug 1960, Fri (pg. 4) // The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, Indiana, 05 Aug 1960, Fri (pg. 5).

Snake Monster? (Indianapolis, Indiana)

In 1946, Indiana received an increase in monster sightings, including giant snakes. Window shoppers in Indianapolis reported a giant snake in the side walk grates. Police started poking the beast with their guns, but “The snake didn’t budge. It was a novelty ash tray with a stuffed snake on it.” Mystery solved!

Source: “Stories of Monsters Spreading in Indiana,” Linton Daily Citizen, Linton, Indiana, 13 Aug 1946, Tue (pg. 1).

Monster Captured (Lebanon, Indiana)

In the same year (1946), tales of a monster that lived in a gravel pit, cried like a baby, and killed livestock spread throughout Lebanon, Indiana. The monster met its demise in September of 1946. Harry McClain and his assistant Roy Graham shot the monster with a rifle after a 15-mile chase through the woods. According the McClain, “It was definitely a black panther.” The Vidette-Messenger of Porter County reported on the hunt:

“We chased him out on the tip end of a big tree and he fell in a creek after Roy shot him.” The mud was so sticky and the water so deep, McClaln added, that It was” impossible to recover the body of the panther. “He’s probably floated Into the next county by now,” McClaln said. 

McClain assured the people of Lebanon that they were no longer in danger: “If anything else shows up to scare people, it’ll just be imagination.” He also said, since there had been many monster sightings in Indiana, that he would start out again if there was an emergency.

Sources: “Stories of Monsters Spreading in Indiana,” Linton Daily Citizen, Linton, Indiana, 13 Aug 1946, Tue (pg. 1) // “Hunter ‘Slays’ Monster; Corpus Delecti Missing,” Vidette-Messenger of Porter County, Valparaiso, Indiana, 05 Sep 1946 (pg. 4)

The Monster as Big as a Jail (Indianapolis, Indiana)

There were multiple monster sightings in a field near the Castleton neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana in 1965. The monster was described as very large. One witness said, “It was big, about as large as the Marion County Jail.” The monster was black and made sounds like screeching tires.

Source: “Monster is as Big as Jail, 3 Report,” The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis, Indiana, 02 Oct 1965, Sat (pg. 2).


In my next post, I will talk about the Monster of Monroe, Michigan and other interesting monsters from the Midwest.

Featured Photo by Eric Fleming on Unsplash

Using Commonplace Books to Study (Save?) Halloween

This Halloween will definitely be interesting as we create new traditions in response to COVID-19. What is great about Halloween is that it has always adapted to societal challenges and in impactful (and sometimes questionable) ways. Did you know that haunted houses have roots in the Great Depression? Instead of lamenting the fact that some traditions might be put on hold (i.e. trick-or-treating), let us celebrate the fact that this Halloween’s adaptations may inspire new traditions and activities.

With that said, I have an exercise that will (1) aid in exploring the history of Halloween, (2) help with inspiring new traditions for your own family in quarantine, and (3) introduce you to a new hobby. I am asking you to start a Halloween commonplace book.

What is a commonplace book? I explain more in the next section, but commonplaces books “serve as a means of storing information, so that it may be retrieved and used by the compiler, often in his or her own work” (Harvard University Library). I sometimes describe them as DIY textbooks with one reader in mind: you.

Now, before you are scared off (Boo!), commonplace books are accessible to everyone. You simply need the desire to learn. You will not be tested on the material. There will be no final paper! You are simply researching and documenting for the sake of learning.

You can start a commonplace book on any topic, but today I challenge my spooky friends to study Halloween. By looking back you might feel rejuvenated in a time when everything seems “on pause.” History reveals, though, that nothing is really dormant.

In the following post I briefly introduce the topic, explain how to start one, and list general tips, topics, and resources to get you going. Also, please check back to this post at a later date. I will update it with more information and resources as it comes up.

What is a Commonplace Book?

The commonplace book, not be confused with a journal, organizes information by topic (rather than by date) so that it can be easily accessed at a later date. This information includes research notes, clippings from newspapers, printed articles, collected quotes, readings notes, images/photographs, drawings, and more. Think of it as a repository.

These do not need to be beautifully designed and handwritten. Organized chaos is welcome here! So don’t feel pressured to make everything look neat. This book is meant for the individual’s learning.

I have always loved learning new things and have found commonplace books an effective tool in archiving that information just in case my memory fails me. We all absorb so much information each day, especially due to social media. Why not take time to learn something new and really sit with it? Commonplace books give me the opportunity to (slow down and) document and reflect on topics I am passionate about. In some ways, it is an act of self-care.

I have written about this topic at length before. I have covered the history (with pictures!), addressed how tech-savvy people can use commonplace books, and given so many tips on starting and maintaining your own. If you would like a detailed introduction, check out these two posts:

Starting Your Commonplace Book

I am going to explain how to start a physical commonplace book, but you can definitely make a digital version. I just prefer the “paper and pen break” from technology. Again, I have written about this topic at length, so check out those blog posts linked above. They even include photographs of commonplace books as examples.

  1. Find a notebook. You can use whatever type of notebook you like. I prefer sturdy, beautifully decorated notebooks. Picking out my next commonplace book is always a fun experience. I have a commonplace book for each subject. For example, I have a commonplace book just for spooky topics. You might have one strictly for Halloween, another for Literature, Occult History, Witchcraft, whatever!
  2. Create a Table of Contents. Save a couple of pages in the beginning for the Table of Contents. You will be adding entries as you go.
  3. Number your pages. You can number all the pages at once or you can number as you go. When you start a new entry, you will put the title and page number on the Table of Contents page.
  4. Start archiving! Sometimes I start an entry with a topic in mind. Sometimes I watch a show or find an article I want to take notes on. Sometimes my entries are just entire articles printed and pasted into my book for future reference (with all the citation information of course). I take my book along to paranormal conferences to take notes. The possibilities are endless, really.

This commonplace book will explore the topic of Halloween. What is it all about? What are its origins? How has it changed over time? Through the study of Halloween, you might feel inspired to create new ways or bring back old ways of celebrating the holiday (safely!). For example, by researching vintage postcards, you might feel inspired to design your own and send them to friends. And, Halloween has a long history of games you can bring into your own home as well. Maybe adding entries to this very commonplace book will be a new tradition.

An Example of a Table of Contents Page
An Example of an Entry

General Tips

Here are some general tips. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments. I will address them in this section as well.

  • Your note-taking style will be as unique as you. My notes are truly inspired by my work in academia. I use lots of bulleted lists, highlighting, and tables. I sometimes create sidebars and text boxes (like a textbook). That’s just me though! Take notes in a way that works for you.
  • Make sure to write down where you get your sources. Do not worry! You do not need to follow the citation style taught in school. Just make sure to write as much information as possible so that you can find it again (if necessary).
  • Get creative if you want! I usually just fill my book with text. Sometimes I feel especially inspired and will add flourishes on my page with stamps, stickers, and colored pencils.

Possible Topics and Resources

Here are some possible topics to start with.

  • Origins of the Jack-o’-lantern
  • Origins of Trick-or-Treating
  • Interesting Halloween Festivals Across the United States
  • The History of the Haunted House
  • Halloween Postcards

Here are some possible resources to start with.


If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below. This is a “living” blog post and I will update it if something comes up (a question, new resource I come across, etc.). Don’t hesitate to ask questions! I love talking about commonplace books. 👻

Featured Photo by Andyone on Unsplash

Interview with Leigh Paynter, Author of the The Pine Barrens’ Devil

Leigh Paynter provided me a copy of her book, The Pine Barrens’ Devil, to review. I enjoyed the book so much that I asked Leigh for an interview and I am thrilled she agreed. The Pine Barrens’ Devil is a collection of stories about the Jersey Devil, each set in a different time period. In Leigh’s book, the Jersey Devil is an intelligent, seductive, and manipulative being able to pinpoint and use the insecurities, desires, fears, and misdirections of his human prey as an opportunity to pounce. The devil, in this book, does not pull humans apart with his teeth or claws, but with psychological mind play.

The Jersey Devil is not the only central character of the book, but it is also the vast, confusing forest. The forest is a living being that seems to suck in the human visitors of each story. Get lost in the woods and you might find yourself trapped in another dimension, like a mouse in the Jersey Devil’s cage. After reading each story, you might find yourself reaching out for something tangible (a wall, a chair, your dog) to ensure you were not absorbed into the Pine Barrens as well.

The book, less than 150 pages, is a quick and spooky read, perfect for a stormy night or while sitting outside on a cool autumn evening. You could read it while camping but, after reading the book, I recommend you “Stay out of the forest!” (My Favorite Murder). With digital and print format under five dollars, this book is a spooky bargain.

I was excited to learn more about Leigh’s book and writing process. Enjoy the interview below and then check out the book for yourself!

For those unfamiliar with New Jersey, could you explain what the Pine Barrens is (and is like) and your experiences with the area? 

The Pine Barrens is 1.1 million acres of relatively untouched pine and cedar forest that stretches across the middle of New Jersey. The soil is sandy, so it’s not good for farming, but the water, despite being brown in color, is chemically pure. The U.S government describes it as being like glacial ice water.

Having grown up near the Pine Barrens, it can be scary because it’s very easy to get lost in it if you are not following the river. Adding to the creepiness are several abandoned colonial and mid-1800 era villages.

My favorite location is Batsto Village. It’s an old ironworks village from pre-Revolutionary times that has most of the original buildings still standing and is beautiful during the fall.

Who is the Jersey Devil? And, how much does the Jersey Devil permeate the culture of New Jersey? Your life?

Most South Jerseyans grew up hearing about the Jersey Devil. The professional hockey team is even named “The New Jersey Devils.” The legend says in the 1700s the Jersey Devil was born a beautiful boy to a Mrs. Leeds, who didn’t want to have a 13th child. She cursed him during childbirth. Shortly after he was born, he started to turn from a chubby, blue-eyed baby into a demon who flew out the chimney and into the Pine Barrens.

The stories of missing livestock, strange tracks, odd noises and bizarre creature sightings all direct back to the mysterious Jersey Devil. There have been multiple newspaper articles written about the Jersey Devil, a few movies and books, and a diner called Lucille’s Country Cooking that has a wooden statue of the Jersey Devil outside.

My younger brother and I loved being scared and we would seek out books on cryptids and monsters at the library when we were kids. We both experienced night terrors and I started using those nightmares as inspiration for campfire stories.

In your stories, the Jersey Devil is sort of a chess player and the humans that wander into his woods are his pawns. What made you portray the Jersey Devil in such a way? 

My mother first told me the legend of the Jersey Devil and perhaps because of the way she told it – she sounded so sad when she said his mother didn’t want him – I always grew up seeing the Jersey Devil as a sympathetic character and more man than creature.

As a kid, I loved Washington Irving’s stories The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, and I gravitated to the idea that the protagonists were not heroes, but flawed people.

While writing The Pine Barrens’ Devil, I used real people who had been in the subject of national news as inspiration. I’ve always been curious about what people are truly capable of – is evil something that will inevitably come out or does it take an experience, an opportunity, or a test to reveal itself?

What inspired you to write these stories? And, since each story is set in a different time period, what type of research did you do? How much were you inspired by Jersey Devil folklore? 

I first started telling these stories as a middle school-aged kid to entertain my little brother. Chapter Four I created in high school. They were always oral stories, but my brother asked me back in 2012 to write them down for him. He died in 2014 after a long battle with veteran’s PTSD.

Translating an oral campfire story into a written story required a lot more work, so these are not exactly as my brother would remember them. I needed to build out the characters and provide more detail for someone not familiar with New Jersey or the legend.

Being from New Jersey, I know that New Jerseyans would be very insulted if I did not accurately portray the history and geography of the state. I spent a whole year gathering research on what actually was around during certain time periods: what the towns’ original names were under British rule, dates of certain historical events, and how tall trees in the Pine Barrens could grow, for example.

I did change the original legend, because I learned that Benjamin Franklin may have made up the whole story to tarnish the reputation of Titan Leeds, a rival publisher. The strange sightings also predate Benjamin Franklin and the legend.

This is your first book (right?), could you share the experience of writing your first book for those that may be interested in doing so in the future? 

I never intended to be an author. This was a gift to honor my late brother, Jared. The whole process took two years, but mostly because I needed to do so much research on New Jersey’s history.

I wanted to keep it short for a first book, so it’s novella length – just slightly longer than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

For new writers, I highly recommend hiring a freelance professional editor. I hired two through Reedsy – the first was an editor from Simon & Schuster, who gave me an editorial assessment. Then after I made revisions, I hired a second editor from Penguin Random House to copy edit and proofread. I also hired a digital artist, who I discovered on Instagram to do my book’s cover art.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I saw an opportunity to get my book out right away by self-publishing through Amazon and hopefully reach people bored sheltering in place. Amazon has a user-friendly platform and you’re able to make changes and market on the website and Kindle. Amazon also did a great job on paperback publishing.

I set up a website to help further promote my book, but since the pandemic shut down many events this year such as cryptid and horror cons and Halloween book readings, the best help has been to find influencers that can introduce the book to a bigger audience.


If you are not already, follow Leigh on Instagram at @tainted_candy. Leigh also has a website: leighpaynter.com.

You can purchase the book on Amazon in both Kindle ($2.99) and print ($4.99) format.