For the next few posts, I am going to explore ghost stories in my home state: Indiana.
In Indianapolis during the 1960s, the Beck family was allegedly terrorized by a poltergeist that threw glass, knocked on the walls, and left “mysterious bat-like bites.” The family living on North Delaware Street included Renate Beck (in her 30s), her daughter Linda (in her teens), and her mother Lina Gemmecke (in her 60s).
The start date of the activity differs from source to source, but it began in March 1962 when a glass was thrown by an invisible source. In a later incident, the grandmother (Gemmecke) got up from a chair and a glass was mysteriously thrown across the room, hitting the wall right above the chair she had just been sitting in. Members of the family also reported bite marks appearing on their skin, a rarity for poltergeists. Damage to the house included feathers torn out of pillows, pictures ripped from frames, broken glass, and dents in the walls from thrown objects.
Dr. William Roll, a researcher of poltergeist phenomena, stayed with the family from March 16-22 and documented the case in a chapter of his 1972 book, The Poltergeist. He was also accompanied by clinical psychologist, Dr. David Blumenthal. Below are some interesting passages about his experience.
Concerning the bites…
Concerning the knocks…
A poltergeist’s origins can be attributed to various factors. The unseen spirits receive power from human drama and/or children entering their teens. In this case, we have a 13-year-old daughter. We also have reported tension (by neighbors) between Renate and her mother. Poltergeists can also be hoaxes and many thought Gemmecke was behind this one.
On March 26th, the police were called to the Becks’ by neighbors. There, they found Gemmecke lying on the floor semiconscious. When she regained consciousness, she threw an ashtray across the room and flipped over a piano bench. The cops witnessed the whole thing. She was taken to the hospital for diabetic shock and then taken to jail overnight for disorderly conduct. Gemmecke returned to her home in Germany to avoid punishment. This incident made many question the validity of the Becks’ stories.
What really happened during March of 1962? Did high emotions create a noisy spirit with a biting problem? Was it a prank or cry for attention? We’ll never know. The activity, like a glass thrown across the room, came and went.
Bonus! Here’s a newspaper clipping from the Indianapolis Star (March 14, 1962) about the poltergeist on North Delaware Street and his new friend, a Scottish Terrier.
Marimen, Mark and James Willis. Weird Indiana: Your Travel Guide to Indiana’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2008.
This happened to a family friend of mine. I like this story a lot, because although it does involve ghosts, it makes me fear them less.
This story takes place some time ago. The family friend was one of the little girls in the story, now a grown woman with kids of her own.
My friend was a little girl when her father died unexpectedly due to illness. Her mother was a waitress, and now a widow with two young girls. It was getting close to Christmas, and the mother knew she was not going to be able to buy presents this year for her girls. The family had suffered so much recently, and it broke the mother’s heart to know Christmas was going to be especially lonely. The mother decided to head out of town with her kids to spend the holidays with relatives.
Children in long car rides can get very cranky. The girls complained that they were hungry and tired of being in the car, so the mother decided to pull over at a diner. She only had enough money to buy food for her kids. When the waitress came over to take their order, she insisted on bringing the mother coffee and a dinner “on the house”. “You look so tired, ma’am, some coffee and a hot meal will do you some good. It’s on the house”, the waitress explained with a warm smile. As they were getting ready to leave, an older man approached the family. From under his arm he handed a wrapped package to each girl, saying only “Merry Christmas”. The girls tore into the packages as soon as they were in the car again, each girl had a beautiful porcelain doll. The mother was astonished at the kindness of the people here. She decided when they drove back through this town on their return trip, they would pay this diner another visit. She wrote down the exact address and location of the diner, and the family hit the road again.
After the holidays, the family attempted to return to the diner. All that was there was a vacant lot. Confused, and thinking she must have written down the wrong address, the mother pulled into the gas station around the corner and asked the attendant about the diner. The attendant shook his head and said “That place burned down years ago”, the mother turned to leave, very confused. “You know, though”, the attendant spoke hesitantly “you are not the first person to come to my gas station, insisting you had been there since it burned down”.
My friend says this really happened to her family as a child. I have even seen the doll she received from the man (she has kept it all of these years).
For the next few posts, I am going to explore ghost stories in my home state: Indiana.
Besides its nearness to Chicago and its beauty, its spiritual power, there is between the Dune country and the city a more than sentimental bond — a family tie. To see the Dunes destroyed would be for Chicago the sacrilegious sin which is not forgiven. – Alice Mable Gray
At the top of Indiana and bounded by Lake Michigan is Indiana Dunes State Park. The rolling sands are a destination for Hoosiers during the summer, and also the home of a spirit called Diana.
In the early 20th century, a mysterious woman moved to the Dunes for solitude. She was seen skinny dipping in the waters of Lake Michigan. She was also known as an avid hunter. Locals called her “Diana” after the Roman goddess of the hunt and nature.
In more recent times, people have reported seeing a naked spectral woman running along the shore and disappearing into the water. They say it’s the ghost of Diana.
Diana was actually a woman named Alice Mable Gray, who was originally from Chicago. She was well-educated, cultured, and a feminist. She loved nature and searched for a simpler life. According to an article in the Chesterton Tribune:
Gray was a highly educated, soft spoken and cordial woman who had a deep love for the Indiana Dunes. At the age of 16, she enrolled in the University of Chicago, where she studied mathematics, astronomy, Greek and Latin and where she was named a Phi Beta Kappa honor society member.
Upon her graduation, she studied in Germany, at the University of Gottinger, where she was introduced to a movement called Wandervogel, or Birds of Passing. This movement was said to be a “walking commune,” as it involved young people giving up their material possessions to live off the land in nature.
She worked in Chicago after her return as a literary magazine editor, but was not satisfied with city life. In 1915, she moved to the Dunes for a different environment. The Dunes was a popular area for writers and artists, but Gray lived there all year round in an old hut (even during the bitter winters). Gray spent her days writing about the Dunes, giving children tours, and studying wildlife. Unfortunately, the media liked to interrupt her solitude and also take liberties with the subject matter.
Sadly, by contrast, several newspapermen writing about her took great liberty with their subject matter. They turned Gray into a mythical figure of sorts, referring to her as “Diana,” writing flowery accounts about her life in the dunes, and focusing more often than not on the fact she was seen — at least once — swimming nude. She was described in the varying accounts as a “bronze goddess,” a “water nymph”, and an “ideallyic gal” who often roamed the dunes naked.
According to the Chicago Tribune, she wrote an article for the newspaper about a day she
spent out in civilization. She watched a movie, took a stroll, and had a fancy meal in a restaurant. Gray, like a true naturalist, lamented the millions spent on the pier, but the lack of funds to preserve the Dunes. She concluded the article by saying “silence and darkness out there are what I love. I must go back to them at once.”
She would appear in the news again, but for more controversial reasons. Around 1920, she became associated with a man named Paul Wilson, a man that was allegedly hot-tempered. No one knows for sure if they married, but they lived together. In 1922 they got “wrapped up in a Prohibition-era mysterious homicide” (Chicago Tribune). Wilson got in a brawl with another man and was shot in the foot. Gray somehow fractured her skull, an injury that sent her to the hospital.
Gray was out of the news until her death in 1925. She died of uremic poisoning. Some versions say she died in Wilson’s arms, and that she asked him to cremate her body and spread her ashes over Mount Tom. She allegedly said to Wilson, “I love the great silent darkness up there; the silence that lives in the noise of winds and water, the darkness that finds itself in the fleeting, eternal waves of those reaches of sand; the only reality of life for me is there.” The Chicago Tribune said it was too costly.
I had the privilege of writing for Dirge Magazine!
I talk about ectoplasm, the white stuff that leaked out of mediums during seances. I specifically explore how this otherworldly substance baffled the men of science and medicine, and how it was created by the sly women of Spiritualism.
I learned a lot from the editors of Dirge writing this piece. I hope you enjoy it!
A couple days ago, I read an article about the clay body parts buried with Ancient Italians. Then, I got to thinking about the grand Terracotta Army and then that Six Feet Under episode with the guy buried with comics books. What are the things we carry in the afterlife and why? To protect us in the next world? To keep our personal keepsakes out of the hands of others? Because we cannot bear to live die without it?
Eventually this led to thoughts on what I’d want to be buried with. My copy of Dracula. Wine. A photo of my cat, Diamond Joe. Pizza.
The following people were buried with odd and/or meaningful objects, from Doritos to swords.
Reuben John Smith (a practical man from Massachusetts) “selected a new recliner chair of upholstered russet leather and was interred in a sitting position, with a checkerboard on his lap” (FindaGrave). He was buried in a warm coat with a key to his tomb in his second pocket.
Arch West (marketing executive for Frito-Lay) was responsible for the development of Doritos. His family sprinkled Doritos in his open grave before his burial.
Princess Diana was buried with rosary beads she received from Mother Teresa.
Humphrey Bogart (actor) was buried with a whistle inscribed with “If you need anything, just whistle.” It was placed there by his 4th wife Lauren Bacall and was a line from the film To Have and To Have Not, a movie they both starred in.
Sandra Ilene West (socialite) was buried sitting in the driver’s seat of her her 1964 Ferrari 330 America wearing her favorite lace nightgown.
John Jacobs (attorney) was buried with his cell phone. His wife pays the bill monthly, and the number is even etched on his gravestone for anyone interested in leaving a voicemail.
Frank Sinatra (singer) was buried with a flask full of Jack Daniels and a pack of Camel cigarettes.
Bela Lugosi (actor) was buried in the Dracula cape he wore in the 1931 film.
Roald Dahl (writer) was buried with chocolate, a bottle of Burgundy, snooker cues, pencils, and a power saw.
Harry Houdini‘s (magician) coffin was a specially designed solid bronze model with a hermetically sealed inner liner that he had used underwater in his act” (Smithsonian).
David Kime‘s (burger lover) funeral procession stopped at his favorite food place, Burger King and everyone got a hamburger for the road. Even David got a burger, which was placed on his coffin before being lowered.
Bob Marley (musician) was allegedly buried with his guitar and some weed.
William Wise (Civil War Confederate Major) was buried with his horse, favorite hunting dog, and a sword. He was convinced he was going to hell and wanted to track down and kill Satan.
On Halloween this year, I decided to take the day off from work. I drove to Attica, IN in hopes of acquiring a black long-haired cat from a shelter. I found out the cat was very afraid of dogs (I have two), so I decided to drive to the nearby town of Williamsport, IN and see some graves.
Turning onto Cemetery Road (Oh, to have that address!), I found two cemeteries: the older Hillside Cemetery and the more modern Highland Cemetery (located on the other side the railroad tracks). I walked towards the oldest graves possible, of course.
This cemetery is surrounded by woods and some memorials along the edge sit on a ravine. The Hartz family plot is one of them.
This year an alleged ghost photo taken at the Stanley Hotel by tourist Henry Yau went viral and, with programs such as Photoshop, people questioned its authenticity. Kevin Sampron of the SPIRIT Paranormal investigation team of Denver argues the photo is indeed the real deal and there is in fact another figure in the image. Kenny Biddle, researcher and podcaster at Geeks and Ghosts, believes the figure (and the second figure) is simply a glitch made from the panoramic feature of the iPhone used to capture the ghost:
Panoramic images are not taken in the same fraction of a second as a normal images are. They take several seconds, which would allow Yau to start taking his panoramic image at one end of the room, and another guest or two to hit the halfway point down the stairs, turn the corner, and begin the second set of stairs to the floor as Yau ends his panoramic image on the other side of the room.
With new technologies comes new ways of capturing paranormal phenomenon, but also new ways of faking it or mistakenly believing you did. In the following post, I share six interesting examples from history. Do you think they are real or fake?
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
In September of 1936, a photographer from Country Life magazine captured the famous Brown Lady of Ryanham Hall in Norfolk, England. The Brown Lady is allegedly the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686–1726). She was the second wife of Charles Townshend, a very angry man who, after finding out about his wife’s affair with Lord Wharton, locked her away in a room. She eventually died of small pox (or under mysterious circumstances). The story has multiple versions.
The photographer, Captain Hubert C. Provand, captured what seemed to be a spirit descending the main staircase. Harry Price, famous paranormal investigator (most famous case: Borley Rectory), believed the negative was never tampered with and only collusion between Provand and his assistant would make this photo a hoax. Skeptics suggest the photogenic spectral was created by applying grease to the lens, double exposure, a woman wearing a white sheet, or a Virgin Mary statue.
The Cottingley Fairies
In 1917, two young cousins named Elsie Wright (16) and Frances Griffiths (9) took photographs of frolicking fairies. The photographs were so convincing that they caught the attention of Arthur Conan Doyle, spiritualist and author. General public perception was mixed. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Elsie and Frances admitted the photos were fake. They used images from a popular children’s book and cardboard cutouts. Both women still claim to have seen fairies.
The famous “Surgeon’s Photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster (1934) was taken by a London gynecologist Robert Kenneth Wilson and published in the Daily Mail. This was the first photograph that captured the monster’s head and neck. According to Wikipedia, this photograph was part of an elaborate (revenge) hoax.
The creature was reportedly a toy submarine built by Christian Spurling, the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell. Wetherell had been publicly ridiculed by his employer, the Daily Mail, after he found “Nessie footprints” which turned out to be a hoax. To get revenge on the Mail, Wetherell perpetrated his hoax with co-conspirators Spurling (sculpture specialist), Ian Wetherell (his son, who bought the material for the fake), and Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent).The toy submarine was bought from F. W. Woolworths, and its head and neck were made from wood putty. After testing it in a local pond the group went to Loch Ness, where Ian Wetherell took the photos near the Altsaigh Tea House. When they heard a water bailiff approaching, Duke Wetherell sank the model with his foot and it is “presumably still somewhere in Loch Ness.” Chambers gave the photographic plates to Wilson, a friend of his who enjoyed “a good practical joke.”
Eventually the fake photograph ended up in the Daily Mail. Many argue that this hoax does not disprove the monster’s existence. People still claim to have captured the monster through satellite images and video.
William Mumler’s Photo of Mary Todd Lincoln (and Abraham)
American William Mumler worked as an jewelry engraver, but enjoyed photography on the side. In 1861, he noticed that a transparent young girl was floating beside him in a self portrait. He believed it was a technical glitch, but friends pointed out the girl looked like his cousin. She died 12 years earlier. Spiritualists caught wind of the photograph and soon William Mumler because a photography sensation, taking pictures of those who lost their loved ones in the Civil War.
Mumler had many critics including showman P.T. Barnum, who claimed that Mumler was taking advantage of those grieving. Barnum even spoke out against Mumler when he was on trial for fraud. People argued that Mumler went as far as breaking into people’s houses to steal pictures of their loved ones. The photographs were simply a product of double exposure. Mumler was acquitted, but his career was never as successful. He still had one believer, Mary Todd Lincoln. Mumler captured her deceased husband, President Abraham Lincoln (see above). Mumler claimed he didn’t know she was a Lincoln when the photograph was taken.
That UFO Photo from that X-Files Poster
In the fourth season of X-Files, production made a slight set change. The iconic “I Want to Believe” poster was updated with a different, but similar image. The first poster was the subject of an intellectual property lawsuit, since X-Files mistakenly used a UFO photograph taken by Billy Meier without permission. Billy Meier is a Swiss man known for producing photographs of UFOS and providing evidence of extraterrestrial life. He also claims to have contact with extraterrestrials called the Plejaren, which come from the planet Erra and fly around in “beamships.”
His photographs display shiny metal discs flying across the Swiss countryside. Did he want to believe like Mulder or is he a liar? Regardless, it would have made a great X-Files episode.
The Wem Ghost Girl
During a fire at Wem Town Hall in 1995, a man named Tony O’Rahilly took photos and captured a young girl, but no one recalled a young girl being in the building. Town members believed it was Jane Churn, a young girl who died in a fire in 1677. It’s been debated whether the picture was doctored or real, but a postcard from 1922 with the same girl revealed it was most likely a hoax. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Happy Halloween! I cannot give you candy via the internet, but I can give you 31 ghosts. Hope you don’t run into any evil spirits while celebrating. Stay safe, folks!
Petni/Shakchunni (Bengali folklore): Female spirits that died unmarried and want marriage in the afterlife. They may possess rich women to fulfill this desire.
Churel (South Asian folklore): A female spirit that died during childbirth, sometimes because she was neglected by family. This ghost seeks out male relatives and drains them of their blood, semen, and virility. (Source)
Imori (Japanese folklore): The ghosts of warriors that have been transformed into geckos. They hide in ruins and attack tresspassers.
Vântoase (Romanian folklore): Female ghosts living in the forest with the ability to control the wind, causing dust storms. They also attack children.
Penchapechi (Bengali folklore): A ghost in the form of an owl that follows lost travelers until they are alone and vulnerable. Then, he strikes and consumes the traveler.
Zashiki Warashi (Japanese folklore): House spirits that appear as 5-year-olds or 6-year-olds wearing traditional clothes. They cause mischief around the house, but bring its inhabitants luck.
El Silbon (Venezuelan folklore): The ghost of a male spirit that killed his father (one legend says it was because his father came back empty from a hunt). He attacks drunk men on their way home, drinking the alcohol out of their stomachs through their belly buttons. He is known for his whistling.
The Knights of Alleberg (Swedish folklore): The ghosts of 12 soldiers that died during the Battle of Alleberg (1389). They are trapped inside a mountain, waiting for a new war. Legend says if they fight in this new war and save their country, they will finally go to Heaven.
Shui Gui (Chinese folklore): The spirits of people who have drowned and inhabit the water where it happened. They drag victims into the water so to possess them.
Screaming Skulls (English folklore): Screaming skulls are ghosts in/attached to human skulls that haunt a location, most commonly places in England. Most often, these spirits seem to be attached to their homes and will exhibit poltergeist or ghostly behavior when removed. Read more on this past blog post.
Ridgeway Ghost (Wisconsin folklore): This ghost of two combined spirits of brothers who died in a bar fight in the 1840s. The ghost appears in many forms: headless horseman, man carrying a whip, domestic animals, a young woman, or an old woman. The ghost haunts a along a 25-mile stretch of road in Wisconsin.
Jack-In-Irons (English folklore): A ghost that haunts the roads of Yorkshire, England. He is covered in chains (which is actually a less common image in folklore than pop culture might suggest). He jumps out into the road and scares travelers.
Faceless Gray Man of Pawleys Island (South Carolina folkore): The gray apparition of a faceless man that appears before hurricanes. He was last seen before Hurricane Matthew in 2016, allegedly.
The Black Dog of Newgate Prison (English Folklore): A black dog appeared before executions at this past London prison for over 400 years. According to legend, a scholar was brought to this jail in 1596 on allegations of witchcraft. Before given a fair trial, he was killed and eaten by starving prisoners. Shortly after the dog appeared.
Greenbriar Ghost (West Virginia folklore): The ghost of Elva Zona Heaster Shue led her mother to evidence proving her husband killed her, which was later used during the trial. Read the fascinating story on mental_floss.
Vardøger (Scandinavian folklore): The appearance of a person before their actual arrival. According to Wikipedia: “Stories typically include instances that are nearly déjà vu in substance, but in reverse, where a spirit with the subject’s footsteps, voice, scent, or appearance and overall demeanor precedes them in a location or activity, resulting in witnesses believing they’ve seen or heard the actual person before the person physically arrives. This bears a subtle difference from a doppelgänger, with a less sinister connotation. It has been likened to being a phantom double, or form of bilocation.”
Aka Manto (Japanese urban legend): A spirit that haunts public bathrooms and asks visitors if they want red or blue toilet paper. If you choose red: you will be cut until you clothes are stained red. If you choose blue: you will be chocked until your face turns blue.
Nishi (Bengali folklore): A nocturnal spirit that lures victims into secluded areas with the familiar voice of a loved one. The victims disappear and no one knows what happens to them.
Radiant Boys (English and German Folklore): The spirits of boys that were murdered by their mothers. The sight of a radiant boy foretells bad luck or death.
Vetala (Indian folklore): A spirit that haunts cemeteries and inhabits corpses. They also love to play tricks.
Wild Hunt (European folklore): A spectral hunting party that appears at night. If you see this spectral procession, you may be transported to a foreign land or the underworld. Or, you may die.
Demon Cat (American folklore): A large spectral black cat that haunts the basement tunnels of Washington, DC government buildings. It’s appears before elections and national tragedies. Read more on this past blog post.
Kyokotsu (Japanese folklore): Skeletal spirits that pop out of wells to scare people. These are the spirits of people who died after falling in a well or had their remains thrown into one.
Mechho Bhoot (Bengali folklore): A ghost who loves fish. He lives near ponds and lakes, urging nighttime fisherman to give him fish. If they refuse, he may threaten harm. He also likes to steal fish from kitchens.
Diao si gui (Chinese folklore): Spirits of those who died from hanging (murder, suicide, execution).
Kerakera onna (Japanese folklore): The ghost of an enormous, middle-aged woman dressed in a brightly colored robe and covered with make-up. She appears in the the alleys of the red-light district and scares men with her crackling laugh.
The old Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois is home to a ghost named “Old Book.” Old Book (1878 – 1910) was a popular patient at the hospital, who served as the hospital’s gravedigger during his time there. After the burial services of each patient, it is said that Old Book leaned against an old elm tree and cried for the deceased. When he died, hundreds of patients, doctors, and staff members came to the funeral. When staff members were lowering his casket, they commented that it felt empty. Suddenly, a crying sound came from the old elm tree, making the funeral guests turn and look. Many claimed to see Old Book, leaning against the tree. They checked the casket to make sure he was indeed there, and when they went to open the lid…the crying stopped. He was still in his coffin. After the funeral, the elm tree began to die. Several groundskeepers tried to remove the dead tree with no luck. Eventually, the tree was struck by lightning and removed.
Church Grim (Swedish and Finnish Folklore): The Church (or Kirk) Grim is attached to a particular church and oversees the welfare of the churchyard. They might also appear in forms of other animals, though dog is most common. They are the spirits of those first buried in a church’s cemetery. Oftentimes a dog was sacrificed and buried when building a new church and accompanying cemetery, so that he could serve as a Grim in the afterlife (intsead a human soul).
Although it’s always spooky on Notebook of Ghosts, I thought I might share some links on history specific to Halloween. I looked through my favorite websites and created a short list for Halloween Weekend reading. Enjoy!
“Halloween provides a cavalcade of whimsical scares for children and adults alike, but nothing chills the bones quite as much as the piles of candy corn left at the bottom of pumpkins and pillowcases across America.”
“Timothy wasn’t killed by a maniac getting children to unknowingly participate in a game of Russian Roulette with cyanide-tainted candy. He was killed by his father, Ronald, in an equally tragic and pathetic attempt at some good, old-fashioned insurance fraud.”
“We all know that Hallowe’en, as a festival, is not an invention of the trick-or-treating Americans but it is far older than many people realise. Its origin can be seen in the ancient festival of Samhain, a celebration which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter.”
“Some call it Mischief Night, others Cabbage Night but the night before Halloween, with its long history of pranks escalating into chaos and destruction, is perhaps best known as Devil’s Night. Halloween tricks are nothing new, but Devil’s Night in Detroit has historically brought out some of the worst vandalism and arson.”