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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Villisca Ax Murder House

Villisca, Iowa was a close community in Iowa but everything changed on June 10, 1912 when the bodies of eight people were discovered. The Josiah B. Moore family and two overnight guests were founded murdered in their beds. Over 90 years later, the murders still remain unsolved.

What happened? All is known is that Sarah and Josiah B. Moore, their four kids Herman, Catherine, Boyd and Paul and two of their two friends Lena and Ina Stillinger walked home after a children's program at their Presbyterian Church at around 9:30 pm. The next day, a concerned neighbor Mary Peckham noticed the family was strangely quiet most of the day. She didn't see Moore leave for work. Sarah wasn't cooking breakfast or doing chores. No sounds of their children running and playing. She examined the house, looking for signs of life prior to calling Josiah B.'s brother, Ross.

When he arrived, he unlocked the door with his set of keys and along with Mary, began searching for the family. When he discovered the bodies of Ina and Lena, he told Mary to call the Sheriff. The rest of the Moore family were found upstairs brutally murdered, all their skulls were crushed by an ax that was later found.

The news spread fast and it has been said that hundreds of people wandered the house before the Villisca National Guard arrived to regain control of the crime scene but not before they touched everything, stared at the bodies and taking souvenirs. As a result, all potential evidence was either contaminated or destroyed.

There were many suspects. Frank F Jones was a prominent resident of Villisca and a senator. Josiah B. Moore worked for Jones until he opened his own company in 1908. Jones was considered one of the most powerful people in Villisca. He was a man who didn't like to be "defeated" and was upset when Moore left his company and took the John Deere franchise with him. There were also rumors that Moore was having an affair with Jones' daughter-in-law, but nothing was ever proven. However, it was motive to Jones and his son Albert. William Mansfield was believed to have been hired by Jones' to carry out the murders. He was arrested and later released after payroll records showed he was in Illinois at the time of the murders.

Revered George Kelly was a traveling salesman who supposedly confessed to the crime on a train heading back to Macedonia, Iowa. He claimed the reason for killing them derived from a vision telling him to "slay and slay utterly". He was arrested on unrelated charges and eventually was sent to a mentally hospital. His obsession with the murders and numerous letters sent to law enforcement made him appear as a viable suspect. However, after two trials, he was acquitted.

There was a common belief a serial killer may have been responsible for the murders and Andy Sawyer was number one suspect tied to this theory. He was a transient fingered by his boss on a railroad crew as knowing too much about the crime. Sawyer was also know to sleep and have conversations with his ax. He was brought in for questioning but was released when records showed he was in Osceola, Iowas on the night when the murders took place.

The house had many owners over the years. Darwin and Martha Linn had purchased the house in an effort to preserve and save it from being razed. They restored the house, turning it in to a museum. As much as the Josiah B. Moore family home became a part of American crime history, it also has a place in ghost legend.

Ever since the house was opened to overnight visitors, ghost enthusiasts have flocked to it, seeking the strange and the unusual. They witnessed the sounds of children’s voices when no children were present. Others have experienced falling lamps, feeling of heaviness, sounds of dripping blood, moving objects, banging sounds and a child’s laughter.

There are those who lived in the house who say they never experienced anything paranormal. No ghosts at all were believed to be inhabiting the dwelling until 1999 when Nebraska ghost hunters labeled it "Haunted". Some believe the house gained it's status after the Sixth Sense gained popularity.

So, is it really haunted? Spend $10 to tour the house during the day or $400 to spend a night there with a group of friends or family and find out for yourself.

Source: 

Prairie Ghosts

P.R.I.S.M. - Villisca Ax Murder House

Villisca: Living with a Mystery

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dick Duck Cemetery

Many cemeteries have their own "rock star" that draws in visitors and Dick Duck is no different. Dick Duck Cemetery in Catoosa, Oklahoma was already being used as a cemetery when Richard "Dick" Duck donated it in the early 1830s. However, people don't come to see Richard. It's a different "Duck" that lures them in.

Bluford "Blue" Duck (no relation to Richard) was born in Cherokee Nation and an outlaw who participated in stage hold-ups and rustlings. On the long list of famous outlaws, his name didn't rank high. However, stories have circulated that Blue not only knew female outlaw Belle Starr but had an affair with her prior to her marriage to Sam Starr. Only a single photograph is proof the two knew each other which may have helped him later on in his life. Also, Larry McMurty used Blue as inspiration for his book Lonesome Dove. 

Blue, also known by his Cherokee name Sha-con-gah Kaw-wan-nu, got drunk on the night of June 23, 1884 and was riding with William Christie in the Flint Districk of Cherokee Nation. They crossed paths with a farmer named Samuel Wyrick and for unknown reasons began firing his revolver at him. Then, reloaded and shot a nearby Native American boy who worked by Wyrick as he was attempting to get help. Then rode to the next farm over and shot and missed Wyrick's neighbor. Duck and Christie was later tracked down and arrested. Both were sentenced to hangby Judge Issac Parker on July 23, 1886 but with the help with Belle and his lawyer Thomas Marcum, Blue's was later changed to life in prison in 1886. He was transferred to Menard Penitentiary at Chester, Illinois on October 16, 1886. Christie was cleared of all charges. Nine years after his sentence, he became ill with consumption. President Grover Cleveland pardoned the outlaw on March 20, 1895, allowing him to spend his final month with his friends and family. On May 7, 1895, Bluford "Blue" Duck was laid to rest in Dick Duck Cemetery.

Many believe Blue along with the spirits of children haunts the cemetery. Visitors have spotted shadow figures of sizes throughout the property. Some have heard voices, speaking in Native American languages, and whispers and felt cold spots as well as the sensation of someone running their fingers through hair. The other spirits are believed to belong to kids who have "Half Breed" marked on their headstones who died between 1882 and 1883. Not much more is known about them. According to Find A Grave, there are a couple of adults with "Half Breed" on their headstones as well. I'm not sure it has any more significance than a reflection of the times they lived in. People have seen and heard these children spirits in the cemetery at night and have an overwhelming feeling of dread whenever they stood near their graves.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mandy the Doll

I’ve written about Robert the doll and the Island of Dolls in the past. Today’s entry is about one located in the Quesnel Museum in British Columbia, Canada. Mandy is an antique porcelain doll over 90 years old with a ripped body, cracked head and wearing dirty clothing and was supposedly made in Germany or England around 1910 or 1920. She was donated to the museum in 1991 by a lady named Mereanda. What makes her so unusual is the powers some say she possesses.

Her previous owner related to the museum all the strange things she is supposedly capable of. The donor would wake up to the sounds of a crying baby in the basement. Upon inspection, she found an open window and no baby. After Mandy was donated to the museum, the crying stopped. However, the museum staff and volunteers problems were just beginning. Lunches would mysteriously disappear from the refrigerator and be found in a drawer later. Objects such as pens, books and pictures would go missing. Some would turn up later. Others were never found. Footsteps were heard when no one was around.

When she first arrived at the museum, Mandy didn’t have a “permanent” place to call her own within the building. She sat facing the public entrance and provided fodder for visitors. Later, she was placed in a case alone in another part of the museum. Rumors stated she couldn’t be placed with any other dolls in fear she would harm them. Then again, she may not like being by herself either. After being locked in a room, staff found papers thrown all around the room as if she had a tantrum. She’s been known to “play” around with electrical equipment, causing them to malfunction. Visitors have claimed to feel uneasy or sad around her. Some say her eyes have a tendency to blink or follow people around the room. Her fingers and head move on their own as well.

If Mandy is as bad as some say, how did she become possessed in the first place? No one knows for certain. Although, there’s a possible legend. There is a story, which has the doll being trapped in a basement with a little girl. She died and supposedly her spirit became trapped within the doll. Many years after this allegedly happened the doll was found in the basement after someone heard a child crying. When they found it, the doll was crying tears of blood. Don’t believe there is any evidence to prove this story to be fact or fiction as of now. Either way, it doesn’t stop people from flocking to Quesnel Museum, hoping to see Mandy put on a show.

Source:

Roadtrippers

Quesnel Museum

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Snowball Mansion

Many flock to the Taj Mahal to lay eyes on one of the most grand romantic gestures a man could do for his wife. In 1877, John Wells Snowball, an English businessman, had a beautiful mansion built for his new bride Lucy Ann Knight, daughter of William Knight who founded Knights Landing. John made his fortune as a merchant (opening the first store in Knights Landing after a previous store burned down), gold miner in 1850, Associate Justice of the Court of Sessions and land investor, He married Lucy in 1853 and their fairy tale life began. Unfortunately, their blessed existence would meet with tragedy.

One night, Lucy discovered her child not breathing. It had died of unknown causes. Lucy fell into a deep depression. Despite living well into her 70s, she never recovered from the lost of her child. John died on February 6, 1906. The mansion remained in the Snowball family until 1944.

The Fuhring family converted the Snowball Mansion into a Bed & Breakfast. For $145, you stayed in one of three luxurious guest rooms each equipped with a private bath and fireplace. Enjoyed a gourmet breakfast and access to a private lake and gardens. However, in 2006, Snowball Mansion was in the center of a scandal. When the Fuhrings put the property on the market, the buyer turned out to be apart of a multi-million dollar real estate fraud scheme. There was a FBI investigation and the property fell in to decay for three years. Vandalism. Thefts. But hope was not lost. The Stevens Family bought the property in 2009 and revived it as a private home.

It is believed the mansion is haunted by the spirit of Lucy Snowball who aimlessly roams the hallways. Windows rattle from room to room. Cold chills. Even the lights turn on and off in the same manner. She has awakened visitors. One former B & B guest saw her walk through the wall where the door to the nursery once was. Some have even seen her attending to a phantom child.


Source: 

Sacramento Real Estate

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Perot Theater

I don't often get an opportunity to write about a haunted location in my hometown of Texarkana, Texas, but I'm happy to introduce you to The Perot Theater. Originally the Saenger Theatre, it was built in 1924 and was designed by Emil Weil. It came with a price tag of $300,000, taking 17 months to complete.

The Saenger officially opened its doors on November 18, 1924; the first production was “Foot Loose”, starring Margaret Anglin and William Faversham. Over a 15 year span, the grand Italian Renaissance building hosted many performers including John Drew Barrymore, Will Rogers, Annie Oakley and Douglas Fairbanks. The plays and silent movies attracted many patrons until 1931 when it was purchased by the Paramount-Public Corp and renamed as the “Paramount”.

It offered many premieres including  "Papa's Delicate Condition," with Jackie Gleason, "The Legend of Boggy Creek," and Charles Pierce's "Bootlegger." During World War II, Orson Welles radio broadcast on NBC for war bonds was on the stage of the Paramount. However, its success began to wane with the popularity of television, shopping centers and drive-in movies. The Paramount closed its doors in March 1977.

Some buildings would be left to deteriorate as time passed it by. This theater would get another chance to provide Texarkana with art and culture thanks to the community. In December 1977, the city announced plans to purchase the building and begin raising money to restore it. They managed to raise $1.2 million but it was H. Ross Perot and his family who helped them reach their goal with a $800,000 donation. Perot is known for being a successful Dallas businessman as well two-time presidential candidate, but he was born and raised in Texarkana. Every inch was restored and in November 1979 renamed The Perot Theatre in honor of the Perot family. It remains open to this day hosting plays, symphonies, concerts and musicals.

This historic National landmark may also host performers who have chosen not to ever leave. Some have seen people not realizing they are of the ghostly kind and followed them in to walls. Witnesses have heard applause, whispering voices reading through pages of scripts, phantom swishing sounds of costumes and footsteps, Some have experienced doors open on their own and feelings of being watched late at night. Some have seen the spirits of a little boy and girl playing hide-n-seek. One spirit believed to haunt the theater is that of a former employee named Mitch who was fond of pranks. The Perot hosts ghost tours every Halloween to raise funds for the theater.

Sources:

Texarkana Gazette

The Perot Theater - Ghost Tours

ArkLaTex Homepage

Monday, September 08, 2014

Corpse Roads

Corpse roads were a means of transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in parts of Europe. Many such roads have disappeared. In spirit lore, spirits, phantasms, wraiths, and fairies traveled the land along special routes. These such routes were believed to be straight and have something in common with ley lines. Mazes and labyrinths would hinder their movements. Spirits would fly along a direct course close to the ground. Any obstructions such as buildings, fences and walls were kept clear to avoid them. The roads would begin or end at cemeteries and thus believed to have similar characteristics to allow ghosts to thrive.

Corpses traveled along defined corpse roads to avoid their spirits returning to haunt the living. It was a widespread custom that the feet of the corpse be kept pointing away from the family home on its way to the cemetery. It was believed spirits could not cross running water. Often, corpses were taken over bridges in route to their burial.

Other beliefs include phantom lights. These lights were believed to be an omen of an impending death or sign of a soul leaving a body. Some believe crops will not grow where a corpse was carried across a field. Villagers in Manaton, England would carry a corpse around a cross three times until a vicar, irritated with the tradition, had the cross destroyed. On Dartmoor, the dead from remote moorland homesteads were taken along Lych Way to the Lydford Church. Some now see phantom monks in white and phantom funeral processions along this path.

Crossroads were seen as a place where the world and the underworld intersected. Because it was seen as a place of transition, it was believed to be occupied by special spirit guardians. Some thought the Devil could manifest at these intersections. Lore also states spirits such as suicides, hanged criminals, witches, outlaws, and gypsies could be bound at crossroads.

Corpse roads weren't strictly an European tradition. Such paths have been found in parts of China, Sweden, the Netherlands and Costa Rica.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summerwind Mansion

One of Wisconsin's most haunted places is located on the shores of West Bay Lake. A grand mansion known as Lamont Mansion and later Summerwind once stood on this piece of land but is now long gone. However, the ghost stories and legends still remains.

It was a fishing lodge before Robert P. Lamont converted it in to a mansion in 1916 to be a summer home for him and his family. He and his family remained on the property for 15 years before suddenly abandoning the home in the 1930s. Legend goes his maids informed Lamont of the property being haunted. He didn't believe them until one day while eating dessert with his wife in the kitchen when the basement door swung open and an apparition of a man appeared. The door slammed shut when Lamont pulled out a pistol and fired two shots. Then he fled the residence with his wife. After Lamont's death, the house was sold.

During the 1940s, the Keefer family purchased the mansion. They maintained the property but never lived in the home. There were no reported paranormal incidences at this time. In 1969, Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw bought the mansion and moved in with their four children. The family only remained at Summerwind for 6 months. During the process of trying to renovate the structure, they experienced paranormal activity from shadows, mumbled voices to a female apparition often seen floating back and forth near the dining room and windows and doors opening on their own.

Due to stress from doing renovations on their own (the Hinshaws were unable to obtain servicemen to do the work allegedly because of the paranormal activity) and the ghosts, Arnold had a mental breakdown and Ginger attempted suicide. He received treatment and she moved to Granton, Wisconsin to live with her parents. The property reverted back to Mrs. Keefer. Life began to get back to normal until Ginger's father announced he planned to convert the mansion in to a restaurant and an inn. This decision was made without knowledge of his daughter's experiences in the house.

Raymond Bober was a popcorn vendor and businessman who believed guests would be attracted to the scenic location on the lake. When he learned of its haunted status, he claimed he uncovered the identity of the spirit. Bober believed a man named Jonathan Carver, an 18th Century British explorer, was haunting the mansion in search of an old deed given to him by Sioux Indians that was supposedly in a box sealed in to the foundation. A deed that was never found. He published a book in 1979 called The Carver Effect about his communications with Caver through trances, dreams and Ouija board experiences.

After running in to similar problems as Ginger and Arnold, Bober plans to turn the mansion in to restaurant were eventually abandoned. The property reverted back to Mrs. Keefer once again. The house itself was completely abandoned in the 1980s. In  1986, three investors attempted to revive Summerwind but nature intervened. Lightning struck the mansion during a terrible storm in June 1988, burning it to the ground.

Was it haunted? We may never know if ghosts ever occupied Summerwind. Little of the house remains, but those who have made the journey through the woods believe it is. Summerwind is located on private property. I don't recommend you going there unless you obtain permission.

Sources: 

Summerwind Mansion History
 

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