Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Angry Man in the Powhatan Courthouse

The old Powhatan Courthouse
The Powhatan, Arkansas courthouse, built in 1885, is a majestic building sitting on a hill overlooking the county it once served. The original courthouse on this site was built in 1873, but it burned to the ground and had to be rebuilt. In a little park next to the courthouse is the original jail. The building now houses a county museum and is part of the Powhatan Historic State Park, but the visitor's brochures don't tell you there is something very strange happening here; something unexplained; something sinister.

After years of whispers and rumors of ghosts being seen, unexplained moans and screams coming from the walls and mysterious lights in the locked building late at night, a well-respected group of paranormal investigators were invited to dispel the stories. What they experienced though was far from what the town's officials had hoped for.

Right after getting set up for the evening, one of the psychics claimed to have encountered the spirit of a young boy playing in a corner of the courtroom. The spirit told her he was sad because he had been murdered and that he stayed at the courthouse because that is where the man who killed him went on trial. He then said he was scared and broke off contact.

Several of the psychics reported unseen hands grabbing them the way a child trying to get an adult's attention would do. They heard muffled noises in almost every room, but when they went into the rooms to investigate, the noises completely stopped and no source could be found.

The most frightening encounter of the night happened in the belfry. One of the female investigators had climbed up the narrow, rickety stairs to see if there was anything up there. She asked out loud, "Is anyone here?" Suddenly she was attacked by an unknown, unseen entity. She began to have trouble breathing and felt as if there was an invisible hand closing around her throat! At the same time this was happening, she felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and heaviness, like a huge amount of grief had been suddenly cast upon her. She managed to run from the belfry and down the stairs to the courtroom where there were other people. As soon as she left the belfry, the feelings started to subside and she could breath again. The next morning, she and others found a bruise on her neck right where the invisible hands seemed to be attempting to choke the life out of her.

Later that night, with a video camera recording, several investigators heard heavy footsteps on one of the staircases. When they arrived at the foot of the stairs, the footsteps stopped. Several minutes went by and they were about to leave when the footsteps began again. As the investigators began climbing the stairs, they suddenly heard the high-pitched scream of a woman! They ran up the stairs to investigate the source of the scream, but after thoroughly searching the upper floor, nothing was found that could have made the heavy footsteps and no one that could have issued the blood-curdling scream.

Nothing else happened the rest of the night, but a follow-up session was planned. The 2nd night of investigation occurred two months later and just like before, there was no lack of paranormal activity. The first spirit that made contact was a black female who said she was going to stay at the courthouse with her brother until he moved on. According to her, he had been a young man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman and an angry mob of men had abducted him by overpowering the jail guard and had hung him from an oak tree. Although none of the psychics were from the area and knew nothing of the detailed history of the courthouse, later investigation into dusty records revealed that a young freed slave by the name of Andrew Springer had worked as a sharecropper after the civil war and had indeed been arrested for rape in an adjoining county and brought to the Powhatan jail for trial by that county's authorities who had been trying to keep him out of the hands of vigilantes. The vigilantes had taken him out and hung him from a nearby oak tree. The oak tree still stands today a few yards from the courthouse. The female spirit who claimed to have been Andrew's sister had died in the jail. Records indicated that after the lynching, she had attempted to kill several of the men who were suspected of being in the lynch mob. She had been arrested and had died of an unknown illness while awaiting trial.

The belfry where Andrew's spirit lives
Two of the psychics decided to investigate the belfry where the female psychic had been physically harmed during the first investigation. Almost immediately upon climbing the stairs the air became extremely dry and there was a high amount of energy that could be felt. It was almost as if a charge from a lightning strike was in the room. Then the temperature went up until both men were dripping with sweat. After a few minutes, the spirit communicated via a knocking sound and by moving metal rods held by the psychics. The spirit claimed to be Andrew and he did not approve of the psychics being in "his house." He admitted it was he who had attacked the female psychic the last time as he especially hated women because it was a woman who had falsely accused him of rape and had thus condemned him to a horrible death by beating and hanging. The Andrew spirit suddenly told them to leave or he would hurt them. One of the men then felt like there were fire ants crawling on him and furiously biting all over his body. Both men were by this time exhausted as they felt the spirit had been sucking their energy. They both were so unnerved by the encounter, more so than any they had ever experienced before, that they decided to beat a hasty retreat immediately. As soon as they had left the room and started down the stairs, everything returned to normal. They all packed up and left the building shortly afterwards.

Is the old Powhatan courthouse haunted? Those who don't believe in spirits hanging around after physical death will say no. Others will be unsure. But for a few psychic investigators who were brave enough to spend several long, dark nights there, the answer is an unequivocal yes.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Haunted Crypt

Barbados is an island located on the easternmost edge of the West Indies and the site of what some claim to be one of the greatest mysteries of the nineteenth century.

The Chase Crypt
In 1808 the wealthy Chase family acquired a crypt in which to inter their dead relatives. Already eighty years old, the vault was built semi-underground and hewn out of the compacted coral that makes up much of the island’s foundations. Despite its age, the crypt had only housed a single occupant; Thomasina Goddard.
The head of the Chase family, Colonel Thomas Chase, decided not to disturb Goddard and she was not moved to another vault. She was soon saved from her lonely rest when the young Mary-Anne Maria Chase joined her in the vault in a lead-lined coffin. Several more members of the Chase family, including 2 babies and a grandmother known for her saintly conduct during life, were laid to rest in the vault over the next several years. Four years almost to the day after Mary-Anne's funeral, the vault was re-opened to allow her sister Dorcas' entry. The unfortunate Chase family suffered another death when Thomas himself passed away barely a month after Dorcas.
It was upon this reopening of the vault that the legend began. It was found that Dorcas' coffin had moved from its original position so that it now rested against the far wall "standing on end, with its head downward." Blaming vandals or thieves, the funeral party replaced the coffin and six strong men slid the heavy marble slab back over the entrance and left.
From then on, every time the vault was opened to allow the submission of another of the Chase's relatives the vault's contents would be in disarray, all except the two baby's coffins and the grandmother's. This included Thomas Chase's heavy casket which, according to records, took eight men to lift. Four times over the following years the marble slab was muscled aside and the sun's light would illuminate the coffins in morbid disarray.

Finally, the strange activities attracted attention from the island's officials and inhabitants who attended the next Chase internment in great numbers. The governor’s wife was present and writes: "In my husband's presence, every part of the floor was sounded to ascertain that no subterranean passage or entrance was concealed. It was found to be perfectly firm and solid; no crack was even apparent. The walls, when examined, proved to be perfectly secure. No fracture was visible, and the sides, together with the roof and flooring, presented a structure so solid as if formed of entire slabs of stone. The displaced coffins were rearranged in proper order, the new tenant of that dreary abode was deposited, and when the mourners retired with the funeral procession, the floor was covered with fine white sand in the presence of Lord Combermere and the assembled crowd. The door was maneuvered into its closed position and, with the utmost care, the new mortar was laid on so as to secure it. When the masons had completed their task, the Governor made several impressions in the mixture with his own seal and many of those attending added various private marks in the wet mortar.”

Eight months later, rather than waiting for the next Chase to die, the vault was ordered to be opened once again. The Governor and a party of men assembled at the crypt. The cemented seals were found to be intact and no evidence of tampering could be found until, upon reopening the crypt, once again except for the two baby's and grandmother's coffins, the contents were discovered to be in disarray. Some of the heavy coffins were upended and on top of others. Mary-Anna’s had come to rest against the left wall; a small chunk had been chipped off a corner from the violence of its journey. One coffin was found resting on the 4th step, its head pointing upwards toward the crypt's opening. The lid of another coffin had been partially forced open and from that opening projected the shriveled right arm of the corpse it contained. The arm was pointing toward the ceiling of the crypt. Several of the men recognized the coffin as one holding a member of the family who had committed suicide. The floor's sandy coating was undisturbed and no sign of flooding or earthquake was apparent.

Nathan Lucas, another eyewitness, described the event: "...I examined the walls, the arch, and every part of the Vault, and found every part old and similar; and a mason in my presence struck every part of the bottom with his hammer, and all was solid. I confess myself at a loss to account for the movements of these leaden coffins. Thieves certainly had no hand in it and as for any practical wit or hoax, too many were requisite to be trusted with the secret for it to remain unknown; and as for natives having anything to do with it, their superstitious fear of the dead and everything belonging to them precludes any idea of the kind. All I know is that it happened and that I was an eye-witness of the fact."

After this incident church officials decided to move the bodies to other burial sites in the Christ Church Parish cemetery and the Chase vault was left empty. It was once again sealed with the marble slab which was cemented closed. Visitors to the cemetery sometimes report strange sounds which seem to come from the Chase crypt, comparing it to someone moaning or crying, but church officials say it's nothing more than the wind. The crypt has never been opened again and still stands vacant beside the little church in Oistins on the island’s southern coast.