Monday, December 23, 2013

Devilish Doings In Tyler, Texas

In a little 1950's ranch-style, unremarkable suburban house in Tyler, Texas, there occurred one of the most famous instances of poltergeist activity in the world.

In 1965, a gentleman named L. Howard Beaird moved his wife, Johnnie (everyone just called her by the name of "John") and their teenage son, Andy, to the little home in Tyler after Howard and John both retired, having worked together for 32 years at the same company. Almost immediately upon moving in and until the family fled the house 3 years later, some of the most strange and horrifying events imaginable began to make their lives a horror.

One of the reasons Howard decided it was time to retire was because John began exhibiting signs of having mental issues. Previously, she had thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Howard and Andy, going to a nearby park to walk, going shopping together, taking weekend trips, but gradually she began pulling away, preferring to eat alone, not wanting to go anywhere. Howard thought maybe a change of scenery to a different town, a different home, would be good for her and so shortly before their last day of work, he purchased the house in Tyler and spent several weekends getting it ready for them to make it their home.

After the move though, John got worse. She began getting up at 5:00 every morning and eating breakfast at a nearby cafe. The house had a small workshop in the back yard which Howard had turned into an office for his part-time business of making rubber stamps and John wouldn't return home until she knew Andy had gone to school and Howard would be out of the house in his little office. In the evenings, she would take a cab to various restaurants around town and not return until after dark. She would then go straight to the bedroom and shut the door, refusing to come out. She said people were spying on her, watching her every move. When Howard told her that wasn't true, she became convinced he was the leader of the group watching her and forbade him to come into the bedroom. Howard began sleeping with little Andy in his room. 

John began smoking, something she had never done before. She began chain smoking and leaving lit cigarettes on furniture and in the bed. Howard told her she had to stop smoking, but she wouldn't. Radio's and clocks in the house began to quit working and upon inspection, Howard found that John had removed the inner workings and hidden packs of cigarettes and matches in them. Even though she could easily get more during her morning and evening trips around town, she hid hundreds of packs of cigarettes and lighters under sinks, behind books, taped to the bottom of drawers, under her mattress, above closet shelves, literally all over and around the house.

Howard and Andy were scared John would set the house on fire with one of her careless cigarettes, but she didn't allow them to be around her so John was sent to live with her sister in a different town since she was also retired and could be with her 24 hours a day. That's when things got interesting.  Even though John was now living with her sister, Howard continued to sleep in Andy's room because once John came back home for a visit and found that he had slept in the master bedroom and had thrown a fit and stormed out.

One night in July, 1965, Howard and Andy went to bed and as soon as the bedside lamp was turned off, hundreds of June bugs began flying into the room hitting them in the face and head. They came with such force that it stung when they hit and the ones that missed smashed against the wall behind the bed and splattered. Some hit the metal window blinds with a loud thwack, leaving their insides splashed across the white slats. When Howard managed to turn the light back on, the flying bugs stopped. Andy was screaming in fright, but Howard told him the bugs must have come in through a hole in the wire window screen and he would fix it in the morning. As soon as he turned off the light, the bugs, hundreds and hundreds, began hitting them again. Once more, when Howard turned on the light, the flying bugs simply stopped. No bugs were flying, none were crawling around; they were all dead. Howard and Andy slept with the lights on that night.

The next morning, there were so many dead bugs in the bedroom, Howard had to use a shop vac to get them all. They found that not only were there thousands of dead June bugs, most of them were dry and brittle, like they had been dead for weeks. They also found the bugs were only in the bedroom and nowhere else.

All was quiet for several days and then the voices started. At first, there would be an unidentified voice quietly speaking in a different room, but when Howard or Andy went to investigate, nobody would be there. They could not hear the voices clearly enough to understand what they were saying. This went on for several weeks until one night the bugs came back exactly as before. It was close to September then, long past June bug season, but there they were, again in the thousands and again only in the bedroom shared by Howard and Andy. After that night, the voices became louder. They seemed to resonate from the walls and could be identified as 7 different people known to the family. Sometimes what they said made sense, sometimes it was just gibberish. The problem was that all 7 of the people who were speaking had been dead for several years.

Objects in the house began to be moved. When Andy was at school and John was at her sister's house, Howard would come back inside the house from his shop in the back yard and find the kitchen chairs sitting atop the table or his lounge chair in the living room would be moved to the other side of the room; numerous pictures would have fallen from the walls or the TV and all the radios would be turned on. One time the refrigerator was moved from the kitchen into the bedroom on the other side of the house. One night, the bugs didn't return, but after laying down, Howard felt something moving against his arm. When he turned on the light and pulled back the bed covers, there were dozens of slimy slugs crawling around. They started inspecting the bed every night before crawling in.

One would think a rational person would get out of the house with all of that going on, but Howard had sunk all of the family's savings into the house when they bought it and the housing market was in a downturn. He didn't feel like they could afford to lose their investment so he and Andy stayed. John would sometimes come back for a few days, but for the most part, she stayed away. Kind of. Eventually, another voice joined the original seven - John's. Howard would often have long back and forth conversations with John. He knew for sure it was her because she talked about things, sometimes intimate things, only the two of them would know.  Yet when he called his sister-in-law's home phone, John would be there and her sister would confirm she had been there all day.

Howard told about one particular December night. "It was a Saturday and Andy and I went to bed about 10:30. Something that sounded exactly like fingers drummed lightly on the bed. Although we were under the covers, we could feel whatever it was tugging at the sheets, actually trying to jerk the covers off of us! We would turn on the light and the tugging would stop. There were no bugs that night, but when the lights were off, both Andy and I could feel something on our arms that seemed like small flying bugs bouncing up and down, sort of like gnats will do. We would slap at them, but there was absolutely nothing there. We would turn on the lights and see nothing. We sprayed the air everywhere with insect spray, but it did no good. It felt exactly like someone grabbing the hair on your arms with the thumb and forefinger, not actually pulling very hard at first, but later jerking the hair hard enough to hurt.

While we were laying in the bed with the light on, my work shoes weighing possibly two pounds each, flew right over our heads and landed on the other side of the bed! Andy's house shoes got up from the floor and flung themselves against the blinds. My clothes, which were hanging in the closet with the door closed, got out of there somehow without the door being opened and flew across the room. Finally we turned off the lights again and heard a strange sound we could not identify. It was under the bed and sounded like rollers being turned rapidly with the fingers, but the bed wasn't on rollers. Suddenly, something hit the blinds like a bullet! We turned on the light and found that the handle from the gas jet under the bed had unscrewed itself, and both the bolt and the handle had flung themselves against the blinds. Then the bed started moving away from the wall. We would roll it back again only to have it do the same thing over and over. That was the last thing we could stand that night. It was almost 2 A.M. Sunday. I told Andy to put on his clothes. We went to a motel to spend the rest of the night.

As we were walking down the driveway, after closing and locking the door, a handkerchief still folded hit me in the back of the head. Just as we got in the car, another handkerchief I had left on the bedside table hit me in the back after I had closed the car doors. By the time we arrived at the motel, we were so weary we both fell right asleep and nothing else happened that night." 


For almost 3 years Howard and Andy had endured this nightmare. Then one night, the bugs came back. This time, they were not June bugs, but rather the little crawly bugs that pull themselves into a ball when disturbed. In the south, they are called "pill bugs" and are a favorite for little children to play with. Once again, there were thousands and thousands of them flying through the air slamming into Howard and Andy, the bed, the walls and the window blinds with a force like they had been shot out of a cannon. Upon inspection, the bugs had been dead for so long they would fall apart in the hand like a brittle little shell. The frightening thing - pill bugs move slowly, have no wings and cannot fly or jump.

The next day, Howard returned to the house from his shop and smelled it full of gas. He found the gas line to the kitchen stove had been unscrewed. Things had taken a decided turn to the dangerous side. Depressed housing market or not, this proved to be the final straw as Howard decided to sell. It took a while as word had leaked to the real estate agents about what was happening inside the little house and often, people who came to check it out commented they felt uncomfortable inside it. Howard had to drop the price even lower until finally, even though he lost all of the money they had put into it, he accepted an offer from a young family.

Howard and Andy moved to another house in the Tyler area. John joined them and soon seemed to get better. They now both sleep in the master bedroom and have resumed their lives as a married couple. John says she doesn't really know anything about what happened back then and Howard states they are just scary memories now. Andy graduated high school, attended barber college and is said to be working in a salon giving good haircuts to people somewhere in Texas. There has been no paranormal activity at their new house. The family who purchased their former home has mostly refused to comment, stating that paranormal activity is the devil's doings. They stated they have staunch Christian beliefs and have not experienced anything "of a devilish nature" while living in the house. They do admit there have been a few unsettling things happen which they do not understand and have no explanation for, but refuse to give details. They say they have complete trust and faith in their God to protect them.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Faces

Back when man had to hunt to put meat on the table, there was a man doing just that in the heavily wooded mountains of the American West. After a long day of luckless hunting, he found himself in the middle of the forest as the sun began to set. The trees were so thick he had lost his bearings so he decided to head in one direction until he was clear of the forest and could see exactly where he was at.

After several hours and now in the dark of night, he came upon a cabin in a small clearing. Knowing how dangerous it was to stumble around the woods in the dark, he decided to see if he could spend the night with the cabin's occupants. He approached slowly, calling out, "Hello the cabin" as was the custom to ensure he wouldn't be shot. Nobody answered his calling. The woods were eerily quiet as he stepped up onto the small porch and started to knock. He noticed the door was slightly ajar and since there was still no answer to his calls, the hunter decided the cabin was either abandoned or the owner was gone for a while. He decided to spend the night and if the owner came back in the morning, he would just explain the circumstances. With that, he pulled out a slice of jerky for his supper and lay down on the straw bed he had seen by the light of the full moon just before it disappeared behind the clouds.

Laying there in the dark, he thought he heard a slight rustling sound so he lit a match to see what it was. He figured it was just a mouse, but didn't see anything scurrying along the base of the walls. Lighting a second match, the hunter was surprised to see the walls adorned with a number of portraits, all painted in exquisite detail, and every one of them appeared to be staring down at him as he sat on the little bed against the wall. The odd thing about the paintings was that all of the faces were twisted into looks of hatred and malice. In the dying glow of the match, it seemed as though he could feel hatred directed toward him. He wondered what kind of person would create these fearful works of art. With a great effort, the hunter turned over toward the wall away from those hateful faces and eventually fell into a troubled, restless sleep.

The next morning, the hunter awoke to bright sunlight. He turned over and looking up, he discovered the cabin had no portraits, only windows.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Did He Live Before?

Vosges region of France
Marc Liblin, a shy, young boy of 6 years, was busy growing up in the town of his birth, a small village in the foothills of the Vosges in eastern France, when he began having odd dreams. He told his parents that in his dreams, a professor would come and teach him physics and an unknown language. He began speaking in this odd language which nobody in his village had ever heard. Over the course of several months, he began conversing in the words of the unknown language more than the French he had been taught since birth and told people it was his "native" language.

Kids can be cruel, especially to someone not exactly like them, so they made fun of little Marc, physically picking on him, calling him a dunce and weird. He began staying at home more, rarely going out to play. His friends were the books his parents brought home from the library. His schoolwork was not exceptional, but certainly within the normal so he passed each grade with his teachers totally confused as to why he insisted on speaking this foreign language far more than French. People from nearby towns began hearing about this odd boy. Most considered it a passing phase of a youngster who possessed an over-active imagination, but the phase didn't go away.

Marc completed his schooling, but couldn't acquire a job of substance as he continued speaking mostly in a language only he understood. As an adult, he earned money by doing odd jobs here and there and from the occasional handout, living a meager life on the fringes of normal society with few friends and no prospects. 

When Marc was 33, two language professors from the University of Rennes heard about this odd fellow who insisted on speaking a language of gibberish. Intrigued, they located Marc and interviewed him. Rather than the mentally unstable drunk they expected to find, Marc impressed them with his demeanor and his educated manor of speaking. They were totally unaware of the language he spoke so easy and naturally, but it was clear to them it was not gibberish at all. It had a rhythm to it with intonations and inflections which sounded like other languages they were familiar with. For the next 2 years, they fed the strange words and sounds Marc spoke into the database of a giant university computer which ran special programs used to decipher and translate speech into one of the world's known languages. After the 2 years was up, it became apparent their work had been in vain; the computer and every language expert they asked was stumped.

In a last ditch effort, the professors decided to ask the sailors who frequented the harbor bars in Rennes to see if any of them had ever heard this language during their world travels to exotic and out-of-the-way places. After several weeks with no luck, just before giving up, they had Marc speak in his language in another bar to a bunch of Tunisian sailors. The barkeeper, a retired Navy man, interrupted Marc, saying he had heard this tongue before on a very remote Polynesian island. And not only did he recognize the language, he knew a lady who speaks it. The lady, Meretuini Make, was divorced from an army officer and lived in a small cottage in the suburbs.

Rapa Iti
The professors quickly arranged a meeting. All three arrived at her door several days later and when Meretuini opened it, Marc addressed her in his language. Marc's life changed right then and there when she answered him right away in the old Rapa language of her homeland. Only 400 native islanders on Rapa Iti, one of the most remote and almost unknown islands in the world, spoke the language which Marc and Meretuini were excitedly and laughingly talking to each other in.

Not unexpectedly, Marc and Meretuini quickly struck up a friendship. They visited each other often and the friendship turned into love. Marc, a person who had rarely been away from his little village in the French countryside and had never been outside of Europe, married Meretuini and they moved to her little native island. There they settled into a quiet, loving and satisfied life, raising 4 children in a small community in the mountains. Marc became a teacher and taught physics to the native children. He was considered an excellent teacher and his students loved him. He also learned all he could about Rapa Iti; the oral history, the language, and the people. He wrote thousands and thousands of pages of documentation, preserving important stories and history and decoding the Rapa language. 

Marc, Meretuini and 1 of their 4 children
Unfortunately, not all of the natives felt toward him the same way his friends, neighbors and students felt. The mayor, a man known to distrust and not want outsiders on the island, discovered Marc did not have a college degree. He tried to have him fired as a teacher, but the community rose up in defense of Marc and so it was decided he would be reclassified as an Auxiliary Teacher rather than a full teacher. This meant Marc had to repay part of the salary he had been paid over the years. The repayment caused him and his family a lot of financial hardship and he had to take extra jobs to make ends meet. It bothered him that this prevented him from working on his Rapa Iti documentation.

With his documentation work still unfinished, Marc passed away due to cancer at the age of 50 on May 26, 1998. He never tried to financially capitalize on his story, indeed, he seemed to want nothing more than to be left alone to be with his family and to document all he could of "his" island. When he passed, he left behind his wife, Meretuini, the only person who had ever understood him away from the island, their four children, a large, unfinished body of documentation work, and an unsolved, very strange tale.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eternal Guests at The Crescent Hotel

The front entrance of the Crescent Hotel
Designed by the famed architect Isaac L. Taylor, the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas opened in 1886, but the building has gone through a number of owners and different uses during its life. Unable to financially sustain itself as a hotel, the business was closed and the building was empty for several years until it re-opened in 1908 as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. The school proved to be a failure as well and closed its doors in 1924. Once again the building was abandoned until it was repaired and opened as a junior college in 1930. The junior college was a failure as well and classes were suspended in 1934. Several years later, it was leased, repaired and used as a summer hotel until a new owner, Norman Baker, purchased the building and turned it into a hospital and health resort. The basement was turned into a morgue.


Baker, a flamboyant maverick of a man who had no lack of self-confidence, had made several million dollars with a couple of his inventions, but he didn't consider himself just an inventor, he considered himself a doctor of the highest order. The fact that he was a high school drop-out, former vaudeville magician and had absolutely no medical training was, in his eyes, a trivial matter. He came to Arkansas because he had been ran out of Iowa for practicing medicine without a license, but he claimed organized medicine had conspired against him because he had found cures for a number of ailments, including cancer.

For several years, sick and dying people were treated in the Baker hospital with Baker's cure which consisted of a "magic elixir" painfully delivered via large needles 5 - 7 times every day. Eventually, after much suffering and numerous deaths, Baker's magic elixir was found by chemists to consist only of spring water, watermelon seed, brown corn silk, carbolic acid and a healthy dose of alcohol.  He was convicted of using the mail to defraud and sentenced to prison for 4 years. The Baker Hospital closed its doors and the pain, anguish and death within the walls of the building mercifully came to an end.  

Front entry door
The building sat forlorn and empty until 1946 when new owners took it over and began restoring the old girl back to her former grandeur as a hotel. The workers were horrified to find dozens of human bodies secreted away in various places. Although never proven, rumors persist that workers also found jars containing preserved body parts stashed away in closets. There were stories while the building sat vacant of noises, of human moans, and sightings of people who walked through walls or simply vanished, but the rumors were dismissed as alcoholic hallucinations by the derelicts who took refuge in the building at night or simply ghost stories told by teenage boys. 

Room 218
Michael
After reopening as an upscale hotel, the ghostly stories continued, but now they were told by regular, upstanding citizens who had nothing to gain by telling such tales. Numerous times, guests in Room 218 would come downstairs to the front desk demanding to be moved to another room because of "a screaming noise" or an unexplained light which bounced around the room. Upon investigation, the hotel management found that during the initial construction in 1886, a worker named Michael had fallen to his death from the top of the building where he had been installing stonework. Where he landed and instantly died was now the floor of room 218. In current times, guests often report the lights coming on or going off for no reason. The television will be turned on in the middle of the night when the rooms mortal occupants are asleep. This may happen several times, but if you will say in a firm voice, "Michael, stop it! I'm trying to sleep so stop bothering me!" then it will not happen for the rest of the night. Michael seems to like women. Female guests have reported being awakened in the night by someone lightly brushing their arm or cheek, but upon opening their eyes, nobody is there and the touch vanishes.

Room 419
Theodora
Room 419 is known as Theodora's room. Records are a bit confusing as to whether Theodora was a cancer patient or a hospital worker. It has been speculated she was a nurse who became stricken with cancer while employed at the hospital and then became a patient until she died in room 419. Guest report jewelry being moved, sometimes going from on top of the desk into a drawer. Both men and women report being lightly touched while laying in bed asleep. There have also been voices and unexplained noises captured by tape recorders left running at night in the empty room.


Room 424
Guests and staff have told of a nurse dressed in white who is seen pushing a hospital bed down the 4th floor hallway who vanishes as she turns into room 424. Guests staying in that room report the locked door opening and then slamming shut with no one around it. Voices are also heard and male guests have complained of being awakened at night by unseen hands roughly pushing them out of bed. Perhaps the patient in room 424 was female and the protective nurse doesn't appreciate a man in her patient's bed!

Lobby of the Crescent Hotle






In the lobby area, guests and hotel employees both have reported witnessing a man in an old-fashioned suit pacing back and forth. Upon being spoken to, he will look at you, but will not respond. Not verbally anyway. He turns away and vanishes as he walks into a wall.

Rocking chairs on the Crescent Hotel balcony

A young female student who lived at the Crescent when it was a college has apparently never left. Records indicate she either fell or was pushed off the balcony to her death. Late night visitors on the balcony tell of hearing an eerie fading female scream. And even on nights when there is no breeze, one of the balcony's rocking chairs will sometimes be seen gently rocking back and forth even as the others sit perfectly still.





Stairs where the lady in white has been seen
Lady in white
The misty figure of a lady in white is sometimes seen coming down the stairs. She's appears to be as real and human as any other living person, but then you will notice she seems to be gliding down the stairs rather than walking down them. Look closely and you will see she stays a few inches above the ground. As she passes, you will not feel the warmness of a human body, but a cloud of coldness. And as you turn to look, she will have vanished.

Suspected young girl
who pokes people

Not all patients treated here were adults. There were children with cancer too and they, like the grownups, suffered and did not survive. There is one playful little girl who likes to laugh and play tricks on the unsuspecting. Her name or her story is not known, but her child's laughter is often heard. She likes to gently poke people or tug on earlobes. If you feel someone touch you and hear a little girl laughing, don't bother to turn around - someone may be there, but you will not see them.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is an old, quaint, tourist town with a well deserved reputation as a destination for an interesting 3-day weekend or longer. And the Crescent Hotel is well deserving of its reputation. Reserve a room and stay for a night or two - if you have the courage. It's not suggested you do it alone though.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Haunted Mammoth Hotel

If at all possible, a trip to Yellowstone National Park should be in your plans. Don't plan to get through it in just a few hours or even a day or two. Stay a week or more because that's the minimum required just to see all the jaw-dropping wonders there is to see. There's good reason this park was nicknamed "Wonderland" by early visitors. Some of those visitors were so taken by Wonderland, they never left.

One of the few lodging accommodations inside the park is the storied Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Originally built in 1883, it was remodeled and enlarged a number of times to meet demand. In 1936, the original hotel structure was demolished and rebuilt except for the north wing which had been built in 1911. To say that unexplained things frequently happen in the hotel is a bit of an understatement.

Doors to rooms will often refuse to open and even the hotel staff cannot budge the "stuck" doors. A few minutes later, the door will open with no problem. This phenomena happens so often the cleaning staff has learned to simply go to the next room and upon finishing that room, return to the skipped room whose door now easily opens. 

One young housekeeper was in the process of cleaning a room when she went into the hall to retrieve clean towels. As soon as she was out of the room, the door slammed shut! When the door wouldn't re-open, she went into the adjoining room which had a connecting door and used her master key to get into the closed room. She found a heavy wooden dresser in the room had been moved and was blocking the door. There had been no one else in the room with the maid and there was no way anyone could have gotten in and moved the dresser in the few seconds she had been locked out. She ran to her supervisor who was on the same floor at the end of the hall and the two of them came back to the room within 2 minutes. Upon arrival, they found the door was standing open and the dresser back where it was supposed to be 6 feet away. The housekeeper swore she wasn't lying and abruptly handed her name tag to the supervisor and quit. At first, the supervisor was suspicious, but then she noticed deep scratches on the floor showing the path traveled by the heavy dresser from across the room to the door and back.

Furniture is often moved around in the storage room also. Extra beds, tables, chairs and supplies are kept in a storage room to replace any items that may get broken in the hotel. Maintenance personnel have frequently reported chairs that were once stacked against one wall will be stacked against the other wall from one entry time to the next. Once, the head maintenance supervisor had retrieved a box of light bulbs for his men to replace several which had burned out. He locked the door when he left. He received a call on his walkie-talkie for some other item almost immediately so he turned back, opened the locked door and found something was on the other side. He pushed it open to find an unopened case of toilet paper had been pushed against the door. The cases of toilet paper are kept against the far wall in the back and there is only the one door through which to enter.

The wide, usually quiet hallway on the 4th floor of the hotel where,
sometimes, a little girl's laughter and running feet can be heard.
Long-time employee's of the hotel say these unexplained matter are rather unsettling, but they have never felt threatened. The feeling is more like their resident spirit is simply mischievous and likes to play jokes. Workers and guests have reported hearing what sounds like a little girl's laughter when there are no children around. They also have heard little footsteps running in deserted hallways. Several psychics have said they felt the ghost is a very young girl whose name is Emily. There is a grave of a young girl in the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery a few yards from the hotel. Emily Sievert was the youngest daughter of Chaplain H. A. Sievert of the 9th U.S. Calvary. She died in 1903 just shy of her 2nd birthday. Perhaps this is the hotel's ghost. Perhaps little Emily is forever happy playing jokes in the hotel, teasing staff and guests alike.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wolf Girl of Texas

Back in the mid-1830's when the land was still wild and the people mostly were too, John Dent and Will Marlo, became fur trapping partners in the backwoods of Georgia along the Chickamauga River. Wild game was plentiful and for several years things went smoothly. Then, in the spring of 1840, an argument broke out over the division of their winter catch. Like a lot of arguments between men, it was mostly because of a woman. And when this one was over, one man would find eternal rest 6 feet under the dirt in Boot Hill and the other would flee to Texas. And that's when, according to the legend, fact indeed proved stranger than fiction.

While trapping near the cabin of a mountain man, John fell in love with the man's beautiful young daughter, Mollie. Fortunately for John, Mollie had fallen in love with him too, and the two became engaged to be married. When John and Will began their partnership, they made a pact to jointly sell the pelts they trapped and divide the money equally. But with marriage on the horizon, John wanted to take half the pelts and sell them himself since he was sure he could get more selling them separately.


After a bitter and loud quarrel, Will relented and did things John's way. Soon after though, Will began telling everyone in town that he had been cheated. This continued for a few weeks until a kill-or-be-killed fight occurred and John stabbed to death his old partner.  Because of the stories Will had been telling, public opinion was against him and one day when he discovered the sheriff was coming to arrest him for murder, a hanging offense, there was nothing for John to do but flee the country. Before leaving, however, he managed to see his love and tell her he was going to find a place where they could be together and that he would return to take her away.


A full year passed and people lost interest in the matter. During all this time though, every morning and every evening, Mollie could be seen up on the mountain outside her father's cabin, silently looking off into the distance. Not once, as far as anyone knew, did she hear from her murderer lover. Then, a little after sundown on April 13, 1841, as she did every day, the mountain girl went to the barn to milk the cow. After she had been gone an unusually long time, her father decided to investigate. He found the cow not milked and in the empty pail, a Bowie knife with dried blood around the hilt. The distinctive deer antler handle made it easy to identify as the knife with which John Dent had killed Will Marlo.


In the dark, Mollie's father searched and called for her, but he found no trace. The next morning, after summoning a number of surrounding mountaineers and a few towns people, the search began again. They found the tracks of a man and a woman leading to the Chickamauga River. On the bank, under the overhang of a leaning tree, they found a freshly driven stob to which, evidently, a small canoe had been recently tied. Mollie was gone without a word of explanation and without a moment's preparation. All she took with her were the clothes on her back.


Six months later, a letter arrived at the mountain man's lonely cabin. It was postmarked Galveston, Texas and read: "The Devil has a river in Texas that is all his own and it is made only for those who are grown. Yours with love, Mollie." 


Devil's River
The people of Georgia were not familiar with the rivers of Texas. The mountain man and his neighbors merely considered that somewhere in Texas, John Dent had to himself a river on which to trap. Even in Texas itself, few folks knew anything about Devil's River, far to the west of San Antonio. Along it's banks was the small colony of Dolores, sparsely populated with mostly Mexicans. It was the last outpost of the settlements.

John and his bride settled by Dolores, but like the lone wolf he was, he built a small log cabin miles away from the town. Within a year, the colony had been abandoned. Indians killed most of the settlers, some went back to Mexico. All the rest, 14 adults and 3 children, headed east one day for more civilized territory in San Antonio. They stopped to camp for the night next to an unnamed lake near what is now Carrizo Springs. Before retiring, one woman went down to the water's edge to wash some clothes. Soon after she left the camp, the others were startled by her screams of "Por Dios!" (My God!). Though her fellow travelers rushed immediately toward the water's edge, they arrived only to see the swishing tail of a huge alligator disappearing beneath the lake's dark surface. Unable to recover the woman's body, the other settlers erected a cross at the site in her memory. 



Shocked and upset, the group finally bedded down. Several times during that long, black night though, they were awakened by the same scream ringing out again and again, "Por Dios!" There was no mistaking her voice. Before the sun rose the next morning, the group got up, packed and hurriedly left. The small party was doomed, however, for just after sunrise, a roving band of Comanches attacked and killed all of them except for 2 of the children, whom they took away as captive slaves, and one old woman who had managed to hide herself behind a fallen log. It was she who managed to get to a small settlement a few miles away and told the sad, ghastly tale. Ever after, the lake has been known as Espantosa, ("horrible" or "wretched") and even today is considered haunted.  

A day's ride west of the site of Dolores, three Mexican families, who, like John, had an agreement with the Indians, raised goats in the Pecos Canyon. One night in late August, 1842, during a thunderous rain storm, a man on a horse rode up to one of the ranches. He told the Mexican rancher and his wife that he was camped on Devil's River not far from Lake Espantosa. He said his wife was giving birth to a baby and they desperately needed help. Knowing the stories of Espantosa, the rancher was reluctant to go there, especially at night. The man kept pleading until the wife agreed they would go and told her husband to saddle up their burrows. The little party of 3, with the anxious man leading the way, had not gone far when a bolt of lightning struck from the sky killing the poor man instantly. At this, the Mexican refused to go onward in the storm and especially in the dark. From the description of his camp site given by the man, the rancher found the location the next day. There, under a large oak tree, lay the woman dead. Indications pointed to the fact that she had died giving birth to a child, but no baby was found. Tracks around the tree made the rancher suspect wolves had devoured the infant.

In the pocket of the dead woman's dress the helpful Mexicans found a letter. After burying the poor woman, they took the letter with them to show the first person they might encounter who could read English. A few months later, a white man did come along and read the letter. It was written a few weeks before her death by Mollie Dent and addressed to her father. It served to identify her and her husband, John Dent.

Ten years had passed when a young boy living at San Felipe Springs told of seeing a pack of wolves attacking a herd of goats and with them was a creature, long hair half covering its features, that looked like a naked girl. Some cowboys passing through the settlement heard the story and quizzed the boy, but they seemed more interested in getting his description of what a naked girl looked like than in getting information about the strange creature he reported. The boy was accused of making up the crazy tale, but the story spread among the surrounding settlers.

A little over a year later, a Mexican woman at San Felipe declared she had seen two big wolves and a naked girl eating a freshly killed goat. She said as soon as they saw her, all three ran. The naked girl ran on all-fours at first, but then rose up and ran on two feet, keeping up with the wolves. The Indians also reported seeing barefoot human tracks mixed among wolf tracks in the sandy places along the river.

The few people in the Devil's River country began to keep a sharp lookout for the girl. They remembered the disappearance of poor Mollie Dent's infant amid wolf tracks. The men told of how female wolves carry their young by the scruff of the neck without injuring them. Perhaps, they said, some female wolf had lost her own young and had carried the new-born to her den and raised it. Being confronted with unmistakable evidence of a human being reared by and running wild with wolves, a hunt was soon organized to capture the Wolf Girl, as she had now come to be called. 

On the third day of the hunt, two riders found the girl in a side canyon. She was with a big, black wolf and both of them ran at the sight of the men. The wolf and the girl became separated when she dodged into a crevice in the rocks. Here, the men cornered her. She cowered at first, but as the men reached for her, she spat and hissed like a wildcat and began to fight, biting and clawing. While the men were tying her, she began to emit pitiful, frightful, unearthly sounds described as resembling both the scream of a woman and the howl of a wolf, but being neither. As she was howling this awful scream, the big wolf whom she had been separated from suddenly appeared, rushing at her captors. The men's lives were saved when one of them saw it before it could get close enough to use it's powerful jaws. He managed to shoot it with his pistol, but though the animal had been shot, it continued trying to get to the men, dragging itself forward, snarling and snapping its jaws. It took 2 more bullets into the body and another in the head before the light of life left its coal black eyes. When she saw her companion lying dead in the dirt, the girl fell into a silent faint.

After she was securely tied, the men closely examined the creature. She had a full head of long, tangled, dirty hair which had obviously never seen scissors, and very hairy arms and legs. Her hands and arms were muscled in an extraordinary manner, but not ill proportioned. Other features showed she was a normally formed human female.


In the area where the settler's cabin with the
potato bin stood
The Wolf Girl was taken to the nearest ranch and placed, unbound, in a sturdy room used to store potatoes. After she revived, the rancher's wife offered her clothes, food, and water, but the girl would only cower in the corner, hissing and howling in such a threatening manner that no one dared come near her. Finally, the door was tightly fastened and she was left alone for the night.

Shortly after darkness fell, the girl began howling her unearthly screams. The sounds traveled through the logs and far into the surrounding brush. They were quickly answered by the deep howls of wolves. The wolves seemed to answer from all sides, near and far. The ranchers, who had heard wolf howls all their lives, had never heard anything like this. It seemed to them that every wolf in the world was gathering around. It was easy to tell the wolves were getting nearer and nearer, their doom-like howling getting louder and ever closer. The wolves then began to howl in unison, a chorus of ferocity and darkness and lost hopes such as no man had ever heard. Then they would be silent as if waiting for an answer, and the wild, captured creature would let forth with her unearthly scream, a voice neither of woman or beast.


After a short time, the great pack rushed the ranch, attacking goats, cows, and horses. The noises brought the men out into the night, yelling and shooting at the dark shadows. A few minutes later, the men heard the girl emit her scream once more, and the wolves vanished into the darkness.


After gathering themselves, the thoroughly shaken men went to the little potato bin. Somehow, the Wolf Girl had managed to wrench off the cross board which held the door closed and made her escape. It was supposed she rejoined the wolves since no howls were heard the rest of the night. The next day, no tracks of the girl could be found except for a few leading away from the potato bin and for a long time afterwards, the sight of a wolf in that area was exceedingly rare.


For six years, nothing more was heard of the Wolf Girl of Devil's River. Then, in the spring of 1859, a trio of men passing through on their way to the gold fields of California, told of seeing a long-haired naked girl on the banks of the Rio Grande River, far above the mouth of Devil's River. She seemed to be playing with two wolf pups, but before the men could get close enough to get a good look, the girl jumped up and with a pup under each arm, ran into the dense brush faster than any horse could follow. Their story was met with stares and silence, but the residents knew it could have been no other than the wild Wolf Girl. 


As far as is known, the girl was never seen by man again. For a number of years, the Indians told of occasionally still seeing human footprints mixed with wolves' far out in the wilds. The newcomers passed it off as just stupid tales told by the Indians and the few surviving old-timers never said anything different. But they knew.




Friday, October 18, 2013

A Place Called Dismal

Being the lover of odd and strange along the highways and byways of America, I couldn't resist checking out a place named Devil Swamp in Louisiana's Terrebonne Parish west of New Orleans. While driving down a dirt road running beside Devil Swamp, I came upon an old lady slowly walking with the help of a crooked stick she was using as a cane. I stopped beside her and found she was going to the wake of an old friend. I offered her a ride and she gratefully accepted.

As we began to talk, she told me she was a voodoo priestess who had lived deep in the swamp her whole life. I asked her if she knew any stories of the swamp. I figured with a name like Devil Swamp, there had to be some interesting ones and surely she would know them. She told me swamp stories should stay in the swamp, but because I had showed kindness to her, she would tell me of a place in the middle of Devil Swamp called Dismal, a place where even the locals don't go.  It's not on any map and now, so many years later, even most of the Devil Swamp dwellers don't know the story of Dismal; they just know it's a place of strange sounds and strange sightings, not a place to be when the sun goes down. But she knows the story of Dismal because her grandfather, who had been a noted voodoo priest, had told her. This is the story she told me.

In  yesterday years, long ago when voodoo magic was still very much a  recognized religion and practiced openly rather than in secret locations down dark alleyways and deep in the swamps like it is now, a young man by the name of Remy lived on the outer edge of Devil Swamp. Like all the other "swamp rats," Remy had no money, but he was a good hard-working boy from a good family. Remy had fallen in love with Bethany, the youngest daughter of nearby neighbors. Bethany had been flattered by the attention Remy paid her and soon, his affections were returned. They were deeply in love and planned to be married in the spring.

A few weeks before the wedding though, Bethany fell ill. No matter what herbs, chants and spells the local voodoo priest administered, Bethany became weaker by the day, wasting away right before her family and Remy's eyes. In desperation, her family emptied every penny they had saved in the cookie jar and sent for a doctor from New Orleans to save her. In spite of his every effort, Bethany continued her downward spiral and eventually the good doctor determined there was nothing left to do. He prescribed morphine to lessen the pain until the end came.

Hearing the news, Remy refused to leave her side, knowing she could go at any moment. He slept in a chair in her room, his arm extended to lay his fingers on her arm. He sat on the side of her bed holding her hand through the long days, hoping against hope she would get better. The morphine deadened the pain alright, but she was so drugged she didn't recognize Remy even as he stroked her forehead and caressed her hair. 

On the very day they had planned to wed, Bethany awoke, still ill and very weak, but her eyes clear and her mind sharp. Remy took her in his arms and held her close as they talked about the life they would have together someday. He continued to hold her even after she had closed her eyes and taken her last breath. She was buried in a small cemetery on a plot of high ground surrounded by swamp lilies in the middle of Devil Swamp. 

Remy was beside himself with sorrow and would no longer even eat or drink unless begged by his mother. He stayed in his room in the back of their little tin shack for several weeks, day after day, grieving away. Then one bright, cloudless morning, Remy came out of his room and sat down at the kitchen table just as happy as he had ever been. At first his parents were elated, grateful to have their son back, but it slowly became apparent he no longer had a good grasp on reality. He believed his dear Bethany was still alive, having only gone away for a short time to visit relatives. He was going to find her, he said, and then she would come home with him and they would be married. His parents tried to talk to him, to get him to understand Bethany had gotten ill and was no longer alive, but Remy wouldn't have any of that kind of talk. In his mind, Bethany was simply away for a short time and he was going to find her and bring her home. 

For two weeks, Remy went out every day. From before sunrise to after sunset he walked the lonely roads, the walking trails, the game trails, calling out her name, over and over. He became convinced she was living somewhere in the swamp in one of the many abandoned fishing shacks. "I think she is sick, Mamma, very sick and very tired. She thinks she's going to die and she's so afraid, Mamma, and I've got to find her and bring her back. Death is coming for her and I have to find her so I can hide her from Death." With that said, Remy, his eyes filled with the insanity which gripped him, turned away from his desperate parents and ran straight into Devil Swamp.

For several weeks, his family and people in the community hunted the swamp for him, but other than a few fleeting glimpses through the trees and tall grass, he wasn't seen again. He was heard, however, plaintively calling out the name of his beloved Bethany, over and over and over. One could not imagine a more sorrowful, dismal sound.

Even after everyone else had given up, Remy's father would not stop trying to find him. He simply couldn't quit, not when people still reported hearing his son calling out. One evening at dusk, he was in his flat-bottomed skiff in the middle of Devil Swamp very near the little cemetery where Bethany lay in eternal sleep. Just before turning for home at the end of another long, frustrating day, he noticed  hundreds of firefly's blinking their lights while flying just over the dark waters. And then, across the wide pond, he saw his son stumble out of the cypress tree's in waist-deep water. "Bethany!" he exclaimed, "My love, I see your life light!" Perhaps in his maddened mind, he saw Bethany's spirit flickering like a hundred candles. Perhaps he imagined she was extending her hand, beckoning him to her. "Yes, Bethany, I'm coming my beloved!" he shouted.

His father cried out to him, but Remy was beyond hearing anyone or anything of this earth and as his father frantically paddled toward him, Remy rapidly waded toward the firefly's over the deep waters. The pond was wide and his father simply couldn't get to him before the brown waters covered Remy's head.

With help from other men in the little village along the edge of Devil Swamp, Remy's father found the lifeless body of his insane child the next day. They buried him next to Bethany.

Occasionally, people around Devil Swamp still claim to hear strange sounds coming from the middle part of the swamp; a sad, sorrowful sound like someone calling out a name they can't quiet make out. And a few very brave souls who remain in the middle of the swamp after the sun sets claim they sometimes see the phantoms of a young man and woman, reunited in death, floating across the dark waters surrounding the small cemetery now known as Dismal.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

 There was a man whose name was Frank. The last few years of his life he lived in a place called Serenity Acres. It was a nice place really, with soft white walls and soothing music playing 12 hours each and every day and the little pink pill the nurse gave Frank every evening let him sleep the other 12 hours. Sometimes he didn't even have the nightmare more than 3 or 4 times while he slept. This is the story of how he came to be a resident at Serenity Acres.

Dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. Dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. Frank was getting so tired of his wife hitting the wrong key on the piano. All day and late into the night his wife kept practicing the same song and kept hitting the wrong key at the exact same place. Over and over and over.

Frank and his wife Jean made their home on a tiny speck of an island just off the coast of Florida. He was the lighthouse keeper and he took his job very seriously. Without his continual cleaning and maintenance and repair work to keep the light shining, a ship would surely sail into the rocks submerged just off the end of the island. That wasn't going to happen, not while Frank was the keeper. They lived in the lighthouse and Jean kept the rooms clean and cooked Frank's meals and helped him walk the beach to keep it clean of debris.

Frank and Jean had been married for 13 years now. The first 10 years they had been happy except for the 2 miscarriages Jean had suffered. They had both wanted children, but after the second miscarriage, the doctor had advised them it would be best if Jean did not get pregnant again. And so Jean had begun to turn down Frank's advances. He wasn't happy about this, but he understood and he spent even more time working to keep the lighthouse in tip-top condition. 

About a year later, Jean decided she wanted to learn to play the piano. Frank supposed it was her way of filling in the time she now had since he was so devoted to his work. He had argued against it, knowing she didn't have a musical bone in her body, plus they couldn't really afford one, but Jean was adamant. Eventually, Frank gave up arguing about it and before he changed his mind, Jean bought a cheap, used model and had it brought to the lighthouse in a boat. The thing weighed a ton and even though the 2 strong men who brought it over lent a hand, Frank thought he was going to have a heart attack before getting it through the lighthouse door and into the living room. 

Before Frank had paid the 2 men and they had departed, Jean was already sitting at the piano practicing. She practiced and she practiced and she practiced. Always the same tune because, she said, she wanted to perfect that song before moving on to something else. At first, every note Jean played sounded off, but Frank ignored the awful sounds, hoping and sometimes even praying that with time and practice, she would get better.

It took months, but finally Frank was able to make out a melody - at least in most parts of the song she had been butchering for so long. But there was always that one passage she just couldn't get - dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. Every time, over and over, hour after hour - Dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. He begged her to start playing a different song, but Jean refused. "I'm going to practice until I get this one perfect," she said. "Remember, practice makes perfect!" Dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink.

Frank's job kept him in the lighthouse most of the time of course, and Frank felt trapped; no way to escape that infernal sour note! He tried putting wax in his ears, but he could still hear it. He went walking on the beach, but the island was so small he could still hear it even at the farthest end of land. Every night Jean stayed up into the wee hours practicing and she awoke early in the mornings to practice more. Frank went to bed hearing dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. He woke up hearing dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. He dreamed dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. Hour after interminable hour, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink.

One day a storm was coming in. The sky was dark, the wind began to blow and the waves began to grow. Frank asked Jean to stop playing until the storm passed as he had to concentrate to ensure the light was lit and bright so no ships would be in danger from the rocks. Jean said she couldn't stop now as she felt in her bones that she would soon get it right if she just kept practicing. She sat back down and started playing again. That's when Frank lost it.

A while later, Frank was sorry he had chopped up the piano with his ax. He could have sold it and gotten at least most of his money back for it. He wasn't sorry at all about Jean though. As soon as the storm had abated, Frank put on his rubber rain gear and dug a big hole behind the tool shed. He buried the pieces of Jean with the pieces of the piano because he figured that's what she would have wanted. After filling in the grave and stacking fireplace logs on top, Frank went to bed and had the best sleep he'd had in months. When he woke in the morning, he was refreshed and had so much energy! He spent most of the day cleaning away the blood from the floor and walls. When the water in his bucket turned red, he ambled down to the ocean where he exchanged it for another bucket of clean salt water. He whistled while he worked and he even took several breaks to leisurely walk the beach and listen to nothing but the waves washing ashore and the seagulls chattering as they rode the wind overhead. The seagulls didn't have a care in the world, and neither did Frank. 

When he finished the cleaning chore, he made a note in the lighthouse log book about the tragedy that had befallen Jean. Poor, poor Jean had been swept out to sea by a huge wave during the storm while she bravely walked on the beach with a lantern to ensure no ships came to harm. It was a terrible tragedy.

He then made himself a supper of lamb stew, his favorite meal and afterwards, he enjoyed a glass of brandy while smoking a fat brown cigar. He went to bed very contented, thoroughly enjoying the silence. 

In the middle of the dark night though, Frank was awakened by an all too familiar sound - dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. I must be dreaming Frank thought, because hearing that particular sound is now impossible. She's buried behind the tool shed! He jumped out of bed reaching for his ax. Damn! He must have left it in the tool shed yesterday. He grabbed a stick of firewood and slowly, carefully, crept into the living room.

He staggered when he saw the odd glowing green piano which stood again in it's old place. His mind began to crack when he noticed he could see through the piano to the table and chair directly behind it. The phantom piano was playing all by itself - dah-dah-dum-dah-plink, dah-dah-dum-dah-plink. Over and over it played. Suddenly, above that god-awful sound, Frank heard the strong, clear, unmistakable voice of Jean behind him. "Frank, I told you," it said, "I'm not going to quit until I've mastered this one. You should have listened to me."

Frightened though he was, Frank turned around and there on the stairs he saw the translucent white figure of his dead wife. And in her hands, she held his ax.

He began to scream as he ran out of the lighthouse. He ran to the pier and jumped in the island's boat and made it to the mainland, screaming all the way. The early morning beach walkers found him sitting there, facing toward the light house, unblinking eyes wide open, mouth grotesquely twisted in fear. And as the nice men in white coats led him into the back of the Serenity Acres van, he screamed and screamed.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Haunting In Yellowstone

The historic Roosevelt Arch, the north entrance to Yellowstone 
National Park. It was dedicated on April 24, 1903.
Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, but in a short-sighted budget move, the government allocated no funds for the upkeep, protection and management of the park. For the first 14 years of its existence, the park was seriously threatened by poachers killing the animals, people throwing rocks and broken tree limbs into the geysers and hot springs in a misguided attempt to stop them up, souvenir hunters broke off large pieces of the geysers and unauthorized developers set up camps for tourists next to hot springs where they built bath and laundry facilities along with toilet facilities located directly over the streams. 

Finally, Congress hired civilian superintendents to protect the land, but there were only a handful to oversee more than 2 million acres of park. In 1886, the park looked to the U.S. Army for help. The cavalry soldiers who came to Yellowstone made their headquarters at the foot of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Their campground was called Camp Sheridan, but after enduring 5 harsh winters in poorly constructed "temporary" buildings, a permanent post was built and named Fort Yellowstone. 


Simple headstones and wooden markers still stand over the graves
of civilian workers and family members of the soldiers.
By 1910, there were 324 soldiers stationed at Fort Yellowstone. In addition to the soldiers, there were officer's families (marriage was discouraged for enlisted men) and many civilian employees living in the fort. Most of the soldiers considered the assignment to be a good duty station as the work was varied and the scenery couldn't be beat. However, with the very hard winters, encounters with wild animals and the general hazardous duty of army life, deaths inevitably occurred.  Soldiers, wives, children and civilian employees alike were all buried in the nicely tended Fort Yellowstone Army Cemetery.

Congress eventually appropriated sufficient funds for civilian operation of the park and at sunset on July 4, 1916, an Army cannon located at the top of Capitol Hill was fired for the last time. The next day, the army left behind Yellowstone and their dearly departed friends and loved ones. The cemetery was left unattended and for the next year, the grass and weeds grew over the graves and the headstones and wooden markers faded in the winds and snows of winter. The dead didn't seem to mind. 


Even today, coffin-shaped sunken indention's in the ground can 
be found where the soldiers remains were removed.
The very next summer, however, some government official made the decision to move the army dead from Fort Yellowstone Cemetery to  the military cemetery at Custer's Battlefield in Montana. All remains of the soldiers were dug up, but the wives and children were left where they lay. 

An obviously very loved 5 year-old boy's grave. The inscription reads -
"Tis a little grave, but oh take care. Fond hopes are buried there."
That fall, reports started coming in; reports of something strange happening around the old Army Cemetery. Visitors who happened to find themselves  near the cemetery after the sun went down were hearing voices and the sounds of children crying, always coming from the direction of the fenced-in graveyard. Too many reports from too many strangers to dismiss out of hand and all of them saying basically the same thing - children crying, the sound of footsteps in the high grass when nobody could be seen and a feeling of deep sorrow and sadness overcoming those few brave enough to approach near the graves. It's been so for almost a hundred years now. 

The Park Service eventually began maintaining the cemetery; the weeds are kept cut back and an iron post fence was erected a few years ago. But sometimes, after the sun has set, people have reported the children are still crying and the voices are still calling out, calling for their fathers and husbands and friends who were taken away from them.
So many children and all destined to spend eternity without
a  daddy beside them.