I traveled to New Orleans this past week for work. What did I do with my free time? Visited cemeteries and haunted locations, of course. A common thread I found on my guided tours of New Orleans was a disdain for Nicolas Cage.
Here’s how the story goes (according to local lore/rumor/facts)…
Nicolas Cage loves New Orleans (who wouldn’t; it’s a great city). He also loves the occult. He purchased two cursed properties in New Orleans (2007): LaLaurie Mansion and the historic Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel. He purchased the LaLaurie Mansion, because he figured “it would be a good place in which to write the great American horror novel.” In 2009, he lost the properties to foreclosure. They were worth $6.8 million.
Rumor says he was having nightmares after purchasing/losing (it’s unclear) these cursed properties and sought advice from a psychic/medium. He was informed to buy a grave as close to famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau as possible. This is very difficult, you see. She is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1, which is completely packed. Nicolas Cage had money and was able to convince the diocese to make room for his nine-foot-tall white pyramid. His name is not on the future memorial, but it has the Latin phrase “Omni Ab Uno,” which translates to “Everything From One.” What does this all mean? There are theories.
Cage was able to keep his memorial, as I was told on a tour, because the IRS cannot take cemetery plots. The tomb, for good reason, pissed off a lot of people in New Orleans. Many accuse him of having bodies moved to make room for his pyramid. Fans have left lipstick kisses on his tomb, so not everyone is a hater.
Local lore says “the curse” not only caused Cage to lose his New Orleans properties, but also caused the downfall of his career. Though, some could argue that happened way before the curse. I was also told on a tour that his tomb (not even the tallest in the cemetery) was struck by lightning. Was Cage cursed? Or does he make poor life choices?
You are walking in the woods alone. You come across a circle of mushrooms or a barren circle surrounded by lush greenery. Do you step into the circle? Might seem innocent enough, but lore recommends turning around and heading back home.
Listen, I’m not a wilderness woman. I cannot tell you which poisonous plants and wildlife to avoid, but I can tell you what supernatural spaces and forest demons to avoid when camping. So, get your pen ready…
Fairy Rings (also called Fairy Circles, Elf Circles, Elf Rings, or Pixie Rings) are circles of mushrooms that appear in forestland and grassland.
Various cultures attribute fairy rings to supernatural beings: witches, fairies, elves, demons etc. These circles form a space for magical beings to gather, dance, or protect. Any non-magical human who enters the circle will face consequences. Some (somewhat) scary consequences include:
If you enter the ring, you will be forced to dance to exhaustion or madness (English and Celtic folklore).
If any livestock crosses the fungi boundary, the milk they produce will be sour. That’s where the devil keeps his milk churn, after all (Dutch folklore).
If you dance in a fairy circle, you might enter a time warp. You see, fairies live at a different pace. You may leave the circle thinking it has been minutes, but it has actually been days or weeks (“Rhys at the Fairy-Dance”).
Not all fairy rings are bad. Some happy consequences include:
If you grow crops around such circles and have cattle feed nearby, you will increase fertility and fortune (Welsh folklore).
What creates these rings? Austrian folklore says the fire of a dragon, but there are some natural explanations.
A fairy ring is formed when a mushroom spore falls in the right spot and grows a mycelium (“vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony”) and then spreads tubular threads called hyphae underground. The mushroom caps grow on the edge of the network. Basically, the formation absorbs and pushes the nutrients outwards. When the nutrients are exhausted, the center dies and leaves the ring. The rings can grow up to 33 feet in diameter.
Circles Without Vegetation
During my research, I came across the phenomenon of barren circles in nature. In these cases, I never heard the word “fairy circle” uttered. Nevertheless, I am going to discuss them (I’m the blog boss).
Devil’s Tramping Ground (North Carolina)
In Bear Creek, North Carolina there is a 120-year-old legend concerning a barren circle of forest ground created by the devil’s tramping. Animals refuse to enter the circle; plants will not grow. If you leave an object in the circle overnight, no matter its weight, it will be thrown from the circle by the next morning. The devil needs room to dance!
Journalist John William Harden (1903–1985) wrote of the spot:
Chatham natives say… that the Devil goes there to walk in circles as he thinks up new means of causing trouble for humanity. There, sometimes during the dark of night, the Majesty of the Underworld of Evil silently tramps around that bare circle– thinking, plotting, and planning against good, and in behalf of wrong. I have heard that boy scouts spent the night there and woke up with their tents a few miles away. There were also some guys who tried to stay up the whole night there. 2 men attempted to stay up all night, but were lulled to sleep by a soft voice.
Would you be brave enough for a campout? In recent years, a journalist (and his two dogs) stayed the night in a tent right in the middle of the circle. He went there to disprove the old legend, but ended up hearing footsteps circle his tent. Other overnight campers reported strange shadowy figures staring at them from the treeline.
Is there a natural explanation for this barren circle? Could heavy traffic and bonfires be the culprit? Soil scientist Rich Hayes, who has run several tests of the site, says it may not be that easy: “The fact that there are written accounts going back hundreds of years about this spot being barren of vegetation makes me think something else is going on here besides people camping and burning big fires.” He argues soil tests do not give any reasons why plants cannot grow there. The mystery continues!
Hoia-Baciu Forest (Transylvania region of Romania)
Hoia-Baciu is called the “Bermuda Triangle of of Transylvania” and was named after a shepherd who disappeared in the forest with a flock of 200 sheep. The Clearing, where trees abruptly stop and surround a barren oval, is by far the creepiest part of the forest. In 1968, a military technician captured a photo of an alleged UFO flying above the clearing and received international attention. The Clearing, according to The Independent, “attracts Romanian witches, sword-wielding Americans, and people who try to cleanse the forest of evil through the medium of yoga.” I have no natural explanation for you concerning this circle, so maybe hold off on your yoga retreat.
The forest itself is home to ghosts. People have also reported losing track of time, electronic devices failing, and random “ectoplasms” floating in the air. One legend says a five-year-old girl was lost in the forest and returned years later, unchanged and wearing the same clothes.
Fairy Circles of Namibia
There are mushroom fairy circles and there are these fairy circles: circles created by mysterious grass formations. Until recently, this phenomenon only occurred in the grasslands of the Namib desert of southern Africa. These circular patches can range in size from 7 to 49 feet, dotting the red desert surface like chicken pox.
Folklore says these circles are the footsteps of the gods or poisoned patches caused by dragon breath. These circles are believed to hold spiritual powers.
There are two competing scientific theories behind these circles. One theory is that termites are clearing the area around their nests, creating the circles. Another theory is that plants are competing for water. There was a detailed article about the scientific journey to explain these circles printed in The Atlantic last month. I recommend giving it a read.
Stay out of the forest and don’t walk into fairy circles!
According to Ovid, the month of May was named for the ancestors (maiores) and on May 9th, 11th, and 13th, the Romans celebrated the festival Lemuria (or Lemuralia). The term Lemuria is connected to lemures: “angry or overlooked spirits, who could cause trouble for the living” (AshLI).† The festival sought to appease these spirits through offerings. Ovid describes one type of offering ritual, or exorcism, performed at midnight in Book V of Fasti.
He who remembers ancient rites, and fears the gods,
Rises (no fetters binding his two feet)
And makes the sign with thumb and closed fingers,
Lest an insubstantial shade meets him in the silence.
After cleansing his hands in spring water,
He turns and first taking some black beans,
Throws them with averted face: saying, while throwing:
‘With these beans I throw I redeem me and mine.’
He says this nine times without looking back: the shade
Is thought to gather the beans, and follow behind, unseen.
Why Beans? According to scholar Robert Schilling, “This food was considered a powerful attraction for the Lemures, for in archaic times beans constituted a food par excellence.” So in preparation for Wednesday, stock up on some beans!
† Not to be confused with manes: “ghosts [that] were members of the natural, and ever-increasing band of dead ancestors and close relatives, who functioned as guiding and protective forces in Roman daily life.” They were celebrated in another festival in February called the Parentalia (AshLI).
I recently finished The Monk by Matthew Lewis and was drawn to the Bleeding Nun character. This ghost of a sinful, murderous, and heartbroken nun walked the halls of a castle, wailing and praying. Her spirit was only put to rest when her bones were found and given a proper burial. “That’s it,” I thought, “I need more ghost nuns.”
I started scouring the internet and my books for ghosts nuns throughout history. I noticed I had covered this topic in an old commonplace book, which was hidden away in my closet. Obviously, this topic has always haunted me.
The following are ghosts of nuns (except one) that still walk the earth today, each with their own interesting backstory. Grab your rosary and holy water. Let’s do this…
The Faceless Nun of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (Terre Haute, Indiana)
A faceless nun haunts the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana. According to legend, there was a nun who worked there with great skills in painting portraits. She believed the face was the most important part, so she always saved it for last. One day, she decided to start a self portrait. Before she could start the face, she died of an unknown sickness. Since then, a faceless nun has been seen walking around Foley Hall and its courtyard.
One day a Sister heard crying coming from the room that held the unfinished portrait. The Sister went inside the room and found a nun crying in front of the painting. She approached the nun so to comfort her. The crying nun turned around and instead of a face, there was only darkness. DARKNESS.
The Nun with Roses (Würzburg, Germany)
An abbey in Würzburg, Germany has a scandalous history (the best ones do). Maria Renata Von Mossau was a nun accused of mixing herbs into food so she could bewitch other nuns. After the nuns exhibited odd behavior, Maria was caught and sentenced in court. They decapitated her and burned her to ashes, which were then scattered. The ghost of a nun believed to be Maria has been seen walking down the halls. The ghost picks petals off a bouquet of roses, leaving a trail of petals behind her.
The Headless Nun of French Fort Cove (Miramichi, New Brunswick)
In the 18th century, a nun named Sister Marie Inconnue was beheaded (Inconnue is French for “unknown”). There are two legends behind this: (1) a “mad trapper” cut off her head and ran into the woods, or (2) two sailors decapitated her when she refused to give the location of buried treasure. Her head was never found and she now walks around looking for it. The ghost has even asked late night visitors for help finding her head. Other versions say she actually walks around holding her head.
The Famous Ghost Nun of Borley Rectory (Essex, England)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before (you probably have). The Borley Rectory is was the most haunted house in England (it was demolished in 1944). The house was the subject of a very famous Harry Price investigation.
The house was constructed in 1862 by Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull near the Borley Church. The location was the site of a previous rectory that burned down in 1841. The property already had a ghost nun, which locals saw walking the grounds. Legend says that a nun and monk fell in love and were planning to marry. They were caught and executed: the monk was beheaded and the nun was buried alive in the cellar walls.
The Bull family witnessed a phantom nun walking the grounds on several occasions. Henry even went to talk to the nun, but she disappeared. They also reported a phantom carriage driven by two headless horsemen.
The Bull family left and the rectory sat vacant until October 1928. Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved in and the paranormal activity started soon after. Smith’s wife reported finding a woman’s skull in a cupboard. They also reported bells ringing, phantom lights, phantom carriages, and unexplained footsteps. The Smiths got the Daily Mirror and Society for Physical Research involved and this is where Harry Price came into this very spooky picture.
In 1929, the Smith family left and Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster and his wife Marianne moved in, along with their daughter Adelaide. The Foyster family reported frightful activities just as the families before them: bells ringing, rocks thrown by disembodied hands, windows breaking, and vanishing household items. On one occasion, Adelaide was locked in a room. She was also attacked on another occasion. The wife reported being thrown from her bed, slapped, and almost suffocated by an unseen presence. Mysterious writing also appeared on the walls (see below).
Price believed the writing on the wall was written by a Catholic woman, most likely the nun of local legend. In 1935, the Foyster family moved out and Harry Price moved in. Time for some old fashioned ghost research!
Price recruited some students and observers to help with the research and they began to uncover the nun’s backstory (allegedly). The investigation involved some insightful spirit communication:
During a sitting with a planchette, an alleged spirit named Marie Lairre related that she had been a nun in France but had left her convent to marry Henry Waldegrave, a member of a wealthy family whose manor home once stood on the site of Borley Rectory. There, her husband had strangled her and had buried her remains in the cellar. (Prairie Ghosts)
Five months later, another spirit said the house would burn down that night, revealing proof that the nun was murdered. The house did not burn down that night, but rather 11 months later when an oil lamp was knocked over. Harry Price investigated the cellar and found bones that belonged to a woman: the nun he believed. She was given a proper burial in the small village of Liston a few miles away.
If you are not familiar with the history of the Borley Rectory: read this (I’ll wait). FYI: many people consider this a hoax, but have your fun.
The Nun of Saint Anne’s (aka Pine Glen Cove, Utah)
This property is located deep in the Cache National Forest and Logan Canyon. The site was a private retreat for rich businessmen (from 1910 to the 1950s), until it was donated to the Roman Catholic Diocese. It was used later as a summer camp for children and then eventually ended up in private ownership.
The property is dripping with folklore and is a popular destination for legend trippers. One legend tells of a pregnant nun secretly giving birth on the property and then drowning her newborn in the the property’s pool. Distraught with what she did, she ended her own life. Visitors say you can see the nun looking down into the pool. They even may have caught her image on an episode of Ghost Adventures.
Other paranormal activity on the property include hellhounds, along with rumors of satanic worship (of course).
I’m going to go off track a bit, because the property also has modern frights. In October of 1997, 38 teenagers visited the property around 4:30 AM. Three security guards were hired to watch the private property, which was a popular destination for those hoping to get a scare. The teenagers were confronted by the three security guards with loaded guns and knives. The guards tied up two groups of the teenagers, one in the empty pool and the other group in a cabin. The teens were verbally harassed (threats of violence, racial slurs) and sexually harassed for three hours until cops arrived (which were called by the security guards). The group in the cabin was tied together by their necks and told that any sudden movement would set off explosives. The three security guards pleaded guilty and accepted a plea bargain. Just a reminder that humans will always be scarier than ghosts.
The Nuns of Black Mass (Montpelier Hill & Stewards House, Ireland)
Around 1725, William Conolly (famous Irish politician) built a hunting lodge on Montpelier Hill. Builders supposedly disrupted a cairn while building (maybe even using some of its stones to build the lodge). Shortly after construction, the roof blew off. Revengeful spirits, obviously.
In the 1730s, the Hell Fire Club used the lodge for their gatherings. What is the Hell Fire Club you ask?
The club was founded in 1735 by Richard Parsons, a known dabbler in black magic. The members met at locations across Dublin and were known for their amoral behaviour and debauchery involving alcohol and sex. The secrecy surrounding the club members led to speculation that they were Satanists and Devil-worshipers. The president of the club was named ‘The King of Hell’ and dressed like Satan, with horns, wings and hooves. The members were said to set a place at each meeting for the Devil, in the hope that he’d attend. They were also said to hold black masses in the lodge during which cats – and even servants – were sacrificed. Some say the building was deliberately set on fire in order to enhance its hellish atmosphere. (Source)
At some point the lodge was damaged in a fire and the Hell Fire Club moved to the nearby Stewards House, which seemed to absorb most of their occult energy. According to legend, a giant black cat haunts the area. Could it be a cat that had been sacrificed by the club?
Two nuns, Blessed Margaret and Holy Mary, also haunt the area. Well, they may be women dressed as nuns. Nevertheless, these two women are believed to have participated in the black masses at Montpelier Hill. They can be seen walking the grounds today.
The Bleeding Nun of Wymering Manor (Portsmouth, England)
The Wymering Manor dates back to 1042 with King Edward the Confessor as the first recorded owner (though the current structure dates back to the 16th century). It is no surprise that a house with so much history is filled with so many ghosts. There have been reports of a ghost nun on the top of the stairs near the attic bedroom. She stares down the staircase, hands dripping with blood. One occupant of the house, Mr. Leonard Metcalf, reported occasionally seeing a choir of nuns walking across the manor’s hall at midnight and chanting.
Bonus: Haunted Railroad Tracks (San Antonio, Texas)
OK. This is a bonus entry, because the ghost is not a nun. But, there’s a nun involved. Stick with me (it is a sweet ghost story).
There are haunted railroad tracks in San Antonio, Texas with various legends and versions of such legends. One story grabbed my attention. In the 1930s or 40s, a nun was driving a school bus of sleeping children after a school trip. The bus stalled in the railroad tracks. The nun saw a train coming down the tracks in the distance. She tried desperately to get the bus started again, doing so not to wake the children. The train hit the bus, killing all the children. The nun survived after having flown through the windshield.
The nun returned to the scene after the accident full of guilt and with thoughts of suicide. She parked her car on the tracks and waited for a moving train. Before a train could hit her car, she felt something pushing the back of her car. Eventually the invisible force moved the car completely off the tracks. Bewildered, the nun exited the car and checked the back of the car. She saw tiny hand prints on the trunk. Grateful that her schoolchildren had saved her, she devoted her life to helping other children. She chose to live and open a school for orphans.
If you visit the tracks today and park your car on the tracks, you will be pushed over by the caring ghost children. Some people even put baby powder on the trunk to capture the hand prints.
When I was young (maybe 12ish), I wrote down everything concerning the occult in a black-paged notebook with Gelly Roll pens. I kept a dictionary in the back with all the new terms I learned. I wrote down every haunted location, glued every ghost photo, and copied down interesting quotes on the occult into my small spiral notebook. While the library provided me a plethora of literature on all things spooky, I spent most hours doing internet research. I read online forums, About.com, and many sites hosted by Angelfire. Angelfire launched 22 years ago and (at least when I was using it) provided users free web-hosting. These websites were a wild 90s ride with crazy backgrounds, colorful fonts, annoying banner ads, guestbooks, visit counters, and much more.
(insert dial up noise)
I was mostly intrigued by websites about haunted places in Indiana (my home state). I would fill my notebook with places I hoped to explore someday. Although I could not drive yet, I could visit these haunted locations from the comfort of my father’s computer chair. Further, I was happy to know there were other people out there just as weird as me.
Many friends tell me that they too loved these sites and would visit these haunted locations with their friends on weekend nights. There is not much else to do in Indiana when you are a teenager, after all. You cannot help but think that teenagers had a hand in creating and circulating some of the legends on these websites.
When the weather is warmer, I plan on visiting some of these haunted locations. 12-year-old me will be very pleased.
Below are some more screenshots of my favorite Indiana-specific websites. These websites are still online today. I recommend proceeding with caution, because some of these websites have pop-ups and you never know about viruses (or whatever).
For the past few weeks, I have been sharing my favorite stories from these Angelfire sites on my Instagram as part of #humpdayhaunts. I have posted them below for your reading pleasure. Please excuse any errors as I am usually typing these with my dumb thumbs.
In Bag of Bones, Stephen King writes “The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” In this case I share today, the disembodied muse was very much invited, through means of the Ouija board. This is the story of the spirit Patience Worth and her earthly transcriber Pearl Lenore Curran.
I came across this story on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. You can watch the episode here (the Patience Worth segment is at the 23:39 mark). Anyway, onto the story…
Many of the sources I came across portrayed Pearl Lenore Curran (1883-1937) as a rather basic woman with less than average intelligence. While she never fulfilled her dreams of becoming a singer, this housewife began her journey into stardom on July 8, 1913 when she received a message through the Ouija board.
Many moons ago I lived. Again I come—Patience Worth my name.
From that point on, Pearl began to receive words, messages, and prose from beyond. At first she had to use the Ouija board, but soon the words would appear without the use of ritual.
Together, Patience and Pearl wrote several novels (The Sorry Tale, Telka, Hope Trueblood, The Pot Upon the Wheel, Samuel Wheaton, An Elisebethan Mask), short stories, and poems. Their work received positive reviews. As Smithsonian Magazine writes:
“Patience Worth[’s] messages out of the darkness never sink to the commonplace level, but always show high intelligence and sometimes are even tipped with the flame of genius,” said the New York Times, echoing other newspaper reviews across the country.
While many found the literature of Pearl and Patience remarkable, other literary critics and scientists thought it was unimaginative and/or a fraud. Several psychologists and scientific researchers studied the phenomenon. Was Pearl smarter than she was putting off? Who was really writing this material? Is there life after death?
While I could go on all day about this, there are already two excellent articles (below) that go into great detail about Patience and Pearl. I have also included some works by Pearl and Patience (maybe you can decide their literary worth). I recommend reading/browsing through them and writing notes in your own commonplace book!
I’d like to, though, finish with the death of Pearl Curran. It is a very curious story. The last (documented) communication with Pearl was November 25, 1937. Pearl told her friend Dotsie:
Oh Dotsie, Patience has just shown me the end of the road and you will have to carry on as best you can.
I was recently invited to a friend’s home on a Wine Wednesday to share some ghost stories . She thought a live version of my #humpdayhaunts series (on Instagram) would pair well with wine.
This was my first time being a “guest speaker” on a paranormal subject, so I was very anxious! I decided to narrow down my subject to Indiana ghost stories. I also used the opportunity to find new material. For a few nights, I put aside time to fill my commonplace book with Hoosier folklore.
The night of the event, I came equipped with homemade bookmarks, zines on Haunted Indiana bridges, my commonplace book, and pictures for my “presentation.” I thought if I bored them to death, I could at least send them home with some goods.
I shared about five ghost stories with two focused on mausoleums (because I love a haunted mausoleum). Funny enough, both haunted mausoleums are located in Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, IN (which I’ve added to my cemetery bucket list).
Well, I’ll get to it…
So, there was a wealthy businessman named Martin Sheets who lived in Terre Haute in the 1900s. Martin had an intense fear of being buried alive. He had a reoccurring dream that he was unable to move or scream when the doctor pronounced him dead, and he then regained consciousness in a coffin deep in the dirt. Luckily, Martin had some money to insure this did not happen.
Martin first had a coffin custom made with latches on the inside, so he could easily open his coffin. To make sure he didn’t have the pressure of dirt on his coffin lid, he had a mausoleum built. Lastly, he had a phone installed in the mausoleum that could make calls to the cemetery’s main office. Imagine getting that call: “Hi, y’all. It’s Martin. Can you come get me? I seem to have been buried alive.”
In 1910, Marin died and was placed in his mausoleum. The phone connected to the cemetery office until they got a new phone system, but they did keep the phone connected and active (it was in his will and paid for after all).
Several years later, Martin’s wife passed. She was found dead in her home, clutching her telephone tightly. Family members assumed she was calling for help. They held a funeral and prepared her to join her deceased husband in the mausoleum.
When cemetery workers went to place her coffin in the mausoleum, nothing seemed unusual or out of place…except that the phone was off the hook and hanging from the wall…
Did Martin call his wife from beyond the grave?
Heinl Mausoleum and Stiffy Green
In 1920, an elderly man named John Heinl passed away. The citizens of Terre Haute liked him very much, but his dog loved him the most. Wherever John went, so did the dog. Everyone in town called the dog “Stiffy Green,” because he had green eyes and walked with a stiff leg.
When John died, he was placed in a mausoleum and Stiffy Green was placed with a friend. The mournful dog would run away often and was always found on the steps of his deceased owner’s mausoleum. Eventually, everyone decided it would be best if Stiffy Green just became a cemetery dog.
Stiffy spent the end of his days in the cemetery and, when he passed away, was stuffed and placed next to the tomb of his owner.
Several months after Stiffy Green’s death, the cemetery caretaker heard a dog barking on the way to his car. He instantly recognized it as Stiffy Green’s bark and it was coming from the direction of John’s mausoleum. People also reported seeing the figure of an old man strolling the cemetery with a small phantom bulldog following along.
Both stories are some fun Indiana folklore. Please note there are multiple versions of each story and some details have been proven false over time. But, I’m not here to ruin a perfectly good story.
This past week, I have been filling my commonplace book with eclipse folklore, my favorite #FolkloreThursday tweets, creepy dolls, and some new ghost stories. I had an especially fun time writing about The Stone-Throwing Devil of Great Island, New Hampshire.
George Walton, a wealthy landowner, and his family were tormented by an invisible force from May to August in 1682.
One Sunday night in May (about 10 PM), the Walton household heard loud pounding on their roof. George and several others went outside to investigate, only finding that the fence gate was taken off its hinges. Then, they were pelted by stones thrown by an unseen source. After running back inside, they witnessed rocks being thrown at the window and falling through the ceiling. This went on for several hours.
The next day, servants noticed there were many objects missing from the house. During their investigation, they found some of the household objects in the yard and other odd places. Stones also continued to drop from the ceiling and down the chimney. A black cat was seen in the orchard and everyone started to speculate it could be witchcraft.
That night the stone throwing continued. A hand was even seen thrusting out from a hall window and dropping stones on the porch.
Then, on June 28th, the stone throwing got intense. During supper, rocks fell onto the family while they ate. The dining table was smashed into pieces.
The rock throwing continued and sometimes stones were up to 30 pounds! George Walton was pelted by so many stones that he suffered from chronic pain the rest of his life.
The witch suspected of this aggressive behavior? It was an elderly neighbor woman that lost land during a feud with George Walton. After he took her land, she was heard saying he would “never enjoy that piece of Ground.” George and company believed this was clearly a curse.
So, George Walton though he’d fight witchcraft with witchcraft. With the guidance of a witch expert, George decided to cast a spell on his neighbor. This involved boiling urine and crooked pins in a pot. Before the pot could boil, though, a rock fell from the ceiling and knocked the pot’s contents all over the floor. He tried it again; more spilled urine. Then the handles fell off and the pot split into pieces.
The stone throwing continued.
George ended up lodging a complaint against his neighbor with the council in Portsmouth. The council’s decision is unknown. We do know George was hit by rocks on the way to the hearing.
This story is documented by various sources, including a first-hand account by a Richard Chamberlain, which you can read HERE.
During my research, I learned the term lithoboly or a mysterious hail or rain of stones that pelt victims and property and is usually caused by witchcraft or demons. I added the term to my glossary page for future reference. Side note: you might keep a glossary in the back of your commonplace book.
Source: Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. 1992.
Commonplace book exercise for this week: Find a historical account of someone allegedly attacked by witchcraft. Maybe you might find some accounts on archive.org? Like the story I shared above? You might read and write about The Bell Witch.
I have been thoroughly engrossed with the 1980 book Indiana Folklore: A Reader from Indiana University Press (edited by Linda Dégh). In this book, I came across the most suspenseful ghost story and just had to share it.
Three teenage boys stumbled across a haunted house on their way to another friend’s house. The boys began poking fun at each other, saying the other two were not brave enough to go inside. Eventually, after the teasing had died down, they agreed to spend the night in the haunted house together. The next night, the boys packed a lantern, bed-rolls, soft drinks, and a riffle and walked towards the house.
While making themselves (somewhat) comfortable in the haunted house, they heard a noise downstairs. The sound was a loud scratching noise, like something was being dragged across a cement floor.
The teenagers headed downstairs with their rifle and lantern. They heard the noise coming from the furthest corner of the room. The boy with the lantern turned his light towards the sound and saw a coffin, standing and scooting itself unassisted across the floor. The coffin kept getting closer and closer. And closer. The coffin after some time was three feet away from the boys. One of the boys decided to stop this scary coffin.
Can you guess how he stopped the coffin?
Well, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a Smith Brothers cough drop and took it; and he stopped that COFFINfor the time being, so the boys were saved.
Get it? 🙂
Italics are direct quotes (because I didn’t want to ruin the pun) and the story was shared in the chapter “The Walking Coffin” by William M. Clements. // Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash
Today I wanted to share another piece of Indiana folklore: the chain on the tombstone.
In Bonds Chapel Cemetery (Orange County, Indiana) sits a gravestone that reads “Floyd E. Pruett, 1894-1920.” On the side of the stone is the ghostly appearance of a chain. Many argue the chain developed over time and the number of links continue to grow in number. The chain has been the topic of speculation for quite some time.
Folklore scholar William M. Clements interviewed Terry, an “expert” on this tombstone, in 1968. Terry explained the tombstone’s unusual appearance.
Well, the tombstone itself isn’t unusual. I mean, it’s a small tombstone; but when you get up close, you can see what appears to be a chain. And small links of a chain look maybe engraved in the tombstone to form a cross […] sometimes there’ll be seven or eight; sometimes there’ll be up to fifteen or sixteen. And, well nobody knows why it changes. Some people think maybe it’s the weather and something in the stone itself; and other people just think it’s psy…(whistle) supernatural. (from Indiana Folklore: A Reader, 1980)
A chain, huh? According to S.E. Schlosser (Spooky Indiana, 2012), legend says Pruett died by a cursed chain. He had killed his wife with a logger chain (he was a logger) and, before her dying breathe, she put a curse on her husband. A few days later, a chain broke loose from a timber wagon, whipped in the air, and snapped the man’s neck. Some legends say it was the same chain he used to kills his wife. If you touch the chain today, you will be killed by a chain. This is just one of many versions of the story, though.
For example, a more romantic version has been posted on hauntedplaces.org. A user writes:
He was killed in battle, and his girlfriend stood across the road, watching his burial from afar. Some say her ghost to this day still awaits his return. The chain is said to grow [edited from groe] one link longer every year, symbolizing her growing love for him, and it is said to glow at night. An apparition in a black dress can be seen standing on the other side of the road.
But, Clements interviewed a grocer who remembered Pruett died from tuberculosis, and that the mysterious chain was probably the result of a rusty chain that had come in contact with the stone in the quarry. Another informant gave a similar explanation for the chain mark and Pruett’s death.
Clements concluded that “a legend has been created among the youth of several southern Indiana counties in order to explain a physical phenomenon as well as to provide a supernatural ‘thrill’ as an escape from boredom” (264).
Pruett most definitely died of usual circumstances and was unfortunately given an unusual gravestone. How did the story start? I don’t know. It is interesting to see the various explanations for the chain, from the believable to the wild. But, let us remember to see past the legend and acknowledge he is a person.
Want to hear more locals (of the past) tell their version of the story? Read more here.