Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Keeping A Promise

Some people have no honor and will break promises without a second thought. Other people will try to keep their promises, yet still fall short. But there are some who will go to great lengths to keep their promises. For some, even death cannot prevent them from fulfilling a sacred promise.

The Hardin House is a lovely old house built in 1838. It was the home of William Hardin, a prominent politician in the Pittsboro, North Carolina area. The house has always been known for its beautiful grounds, especially the manicured backyard which gently slopes down to a picturesque spring. It was here in the late spring of 1839 that a promise was made between two young lovers.

William Hardin's daughter, Helen, was to be wed in June to Philip Jones, a young, hard-working area planter who everyone said had a bright future ahead of him. Just a few weeks before their wedding day, the two lovers met one evening at the spring to discuss their wedding plans. The night was warm, the air was filled with the sweet smell of flowers and the moon was full in the starlit sky. Philip waited beside the cool water until Helen came out of the house wearing a beautiful, flowing white dress. As the moonbeams flashed through her hair, she hurried down to be with her love.

When she reached him, Philip took her into his arms and said "You're just like an angel. Promise me you'll stay just the way you are tonight". Helen blushed and shyly promised that she would. Philip and Helen spent the evening talking of the parties that were to be thrown, Helen's dress for the wedding that belonged to her grandmother and Philip's work on the house he was building where they would raise a family and live out their lives. Time seemed to stand still, but all too soon, Helen's father called her home for bed.  The two shared a lingering embrace before parting ways. Philip stood beside the water and watched his love run back up the hill. It was the last time he would ever see her alive.

That night, Helen fell into a sleep from which she never awoke. The doctor said it was a heart attack. Philip was devastated. In his anguish, he returned to the spring every evening and waited for Helen to come running down the hill. People in the town talked and worried about him. Then one moonlit night that fall, a local preacher new to the area told of riding by and seeing a young man and a girl with golden hair in a white dress standing beside the spring behind the Hardin's house. He inquired as to who it was as he knew the family did not have a daughter. As time went on, Philip continued to come to the spring on nights when the moon was full and there were many who told of seeing him standing close to a beautiful girl in a white dress.

Philip devoted himself to his work and became very successful, but he never married. He lived his whole life in the house he had built with his own hands in 1839. The Hardin House has changed owners several times, but people totally unfamiliar with the history still report seeing the ghost of Helen Hardin dressed in white with the moonlight shining through her golden hair, running down the slope of the back yard before vanishing beside the spring. She had made a promise, you see. A promise she has kept.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Haunted Sanatorium

Just outside a small town in northwest Arkansas sits what once was a Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Opened in 1909, by the time it closed in 1973, over 70,000 patients were treated there. When the facility was opened, the mortality rate from tuberculosis was over 80%. By the time it closed, it was down to 10%. During those years of medical advancement however, more than 20,000 people died before the facility was closed and the front gate was left unlocked for the first time in 63 years.
The Nyberg Building once housed over 1,000 patients at a time.  The sick people who came to live here knew it most likely was a death sentence as there was no sure cure. They were contagious and had to be quarantined away from their family and friends. They were sent here to live out what time they had left. The building now is closed, in disrepair and empty. TB has been conquered by modern medicine so there is no need for a TB sanatorium. Thank God. Thank God. The broken glass in some of the windows has been boarded over, but not all. The roof has gaping holes through which the rain and the winter snow pour through and the occasional pigeon returns to roost for the night.  
The halls that run the length of the building, and the rooms, especially the rooms, have an aura of sadness. Everything is covered in dust and cobwebs. The rooms where the people lived and breathed their last, room after room after room are each and every one dark, shadowy places infused with sorrow and misery. They were built as places where those who entered would never have to leave. And many of them seem to have found this a permanent home even after death.

From the time it opened until the late 1940’s, medical tactics for combating TB were often horrifying and even barbaric. For a while, doctors thought that giving the lungs time to rest was the best treatment. Of course, breathing is necessary for life, but to make the patient breathe less, they often would clip and pull out the phrenic nerve, the long chord which connects the spinal column to the diaphragm and enables breathing subconsciously. Without the phrenic nerve, the patient must consciously think about breathing and must force air into the lungs by contracting and relaxing the diaphragm. The painful procedure was most often done while the patient was fully awake so he could tell the surgeon whether or not he was prodding the right nerve. Other treatments were tried as well, such as opening up a patient’s chest, deflating the lungs, filling the chest cavity with sterilized ping pong balls and then sewing the chest closed to force the lungs into staying mostly deflated. This left the patient in a continuous state of gasping for air, always feeling on the verge of smothering to death. Another treatment was thoracoplasty, which is the removal of a large chunk of the patient’s ribs and chest muscles to force the lungs to collapse and not have the ability to fully inflate again. Many of the patients said they would welcome death from TB rather than continue to suffer from the “cure.”

For many of them, especially in the early years, there was nothing but boredom and fear every single day and night. With no cure prescribed except clean air and bedrest, they were left in their room laying in their bed with no human interaction and nothing to occupy their minds for hours at a time. Nothing to do but stare at the same walls, the same door, the same little rectangle of sky through the window, trying to breath and waiting to die. Those lucky enough to somehow survive the disease, the “cures,” and the boredom reported their life at the sanatorium was mostly one of sound. Laying in their bed, sounds were the only thing to focus on. Mostly it would be the sounds of someone in another room down the hall dying. “It always began with a long coughing spell, then it would turn into a kind of gurgling, raspy sound. Then it would get deathly quiet. You knew what happened.” Death was a daily occurrence. Death became routine.

When someone died like that, everything would get real quiet. A stillness would descend and then the nurses would push a gurney down the hallway, the wheels wobbling and squeaking. When it came back with a body on it headed to the morgue in the basement, the weight would cause the wheels to run straight and it no longer made a sound.

With this much tragedy, suffering and despair, is it any wonder some of the thousands who died here have not been able to leave? Several of the buildings in the complex are still occupied and serve as a home and training facility for over 130 developmentally challenged adults. Over the years, staff and maintenance workers have reported hundreds of ghostly incidents in every building, but especially in the Nyberg building where the TB patients were housed & treated. Forlorn faces looking out of broken windows in empty rooms, seeing quick-moving “shadow people” from the corner of the eyes, unexplained glowing orbs of light, lights in abandoned rooms glowing even though the electricity has been turned off, faint feathery touches on the neck and arms when nobody else is around, a strong feeling of being watched or “someone being there”, apparitions suddenly appearing or disappearing, and ghost people walking through solid doors and walls disappearing into empty rooms have all be reported. Most of the staff refuse to go anywhere near the Nyberg building after dark and more than a few have abruptly quit, stating they would “never come back to this place” after an encounter with a long dead resident.

Some of the developmentally challenged residents refuse to walk near the Nyberg building. They know nothing of the building’s history, but will pull back and cry out in terror whenever they are brought near it. There are good spirits and there are evil spirits and it seems some of the current residents are especially aware of the evil ones.

Only a few people know about one particular part of the 3rd floor in the Nyberg, the part that was blocked off from the rest of the floor and the rest of the building. TB doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you are a good person, an innocent child or a deranged axe murderer. Part of the 3rd floor, the part few know existed, was where the criminally insane, the murderers, the rapists, the child molesters and psychopaths were held after they had contracted TB in prison. This is where many of them took their last ragged breath. And, if the actions of the current sensitive mentally challenged residents are to be believed, this is where some of them, their essence forever rotten and evil, remain.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Not All Haunted Houses Are Scary

There are horrifying stories of hauntings like The Devil's House and frightening possessions like the evil Raggedy Ann doll. But contrary to popular belief, not all hauntings are frightening. Take the case of the Rose of Sharon house in Waxahachie, Texas for instance.

Sharon was a realtor and was able to see beyond the weeds in the yard and the rundown condition of the long deserted house, at least enough to know that underneath all the neglect, the basic structure was sound. She realized that with a lot of work and effort, the sad house could once again be the beautiful home it once was.

The house was built in 1892 by F. P. Powell, an attorney, for his new bride and the children they hoped to have. Two daughters were born to the union and the Powell's happily lived in their Waxahachie home for 20 years. In 1912, F. P. was offered a job in Austin, one with enough of a raise and increased benefits that he couldn't turn it down and so the home they loved was sold.

Unfortunately, over the next 70 years, the house was sold a number of times and none of the owners did much in the way of taking care of it. With each successive owner, the home's condition deteriorated a little more until it was eventually abandoned.

When Sharon purchased the house, she found that it originally had wrap-around porches which provided shade and a place to sit on a porch swing to enjoy a pretty spring day, but one of the previous owners had sealed in the porches and turned the house into a number of small apartments which were rented out. The exterior walls were covered in dead vines and the walls inside were full of holes. The floors were covered with trash and creaked when they were walked on, the stairs seemed ready to fall to pieces. In short, the house was in a sad state indeed.

The day after the sale had been completed and before any restoration work had begun, Sharon took a walk around the inside. Entering a small room which at one time had been a large dining parlor, she sat her oversized handbag on the floor in the middle of the room. leaving the heavy bag, she proceeded through several more rooms until finally entering one that contained piles of old magazines and newspapers. Sitting down to thumb through the stacks, she lost track of time as she became fascinated with the news and fashions from years past. 

When the shadows began to lengthen and the light to dim, she realized she had been there longer than she had intended. Hurrying back into the dining parlor to retrieve her bag, she found it right where she had left it, but sitting next to it was a pair of 14-karat gold earrings. The earrings were ones Sharon had loved and treasured, but had lost more than a year ago! She had looked everywhere for the missing jewelry, but no trace of them had turned up until now, a year after she lost them, sitting next to her handbag on the floor of a house she had not even known existed a year ago! Sharon believed then and still believes the return of her earrings had been a housewarming present from Mrs. Powell, long dead, but obviously happy Sharon had purchased her home and intended to restore it and once again fill it with love.

As the restoration work continued, Sharon would often enter a room and feel a presence of someone else. She could feel she wasn't alone, but it was never spooky and she was never frightened. Quite the contrary in fact as she said it was always a welcoming sensation.

After restoration, Sharon decided to open her now beautiful home to other people by turning it into a bed & breakfast. She doesn't advertise the ghostly presence, but some of her guests have reported hearing footsteps in the hallways at night when nobody is up and around. Sometimes footsteps are heard going up and down the stairs long after everyone has retired for the night. There are also reports of soft waltz music being heard which seems to emanate from everywhere and nowhere at the same time with no source able to be pinpointed. Most describe the sound as seeming to be stringed instruments, most likely violins. The haunting sounds are exactly what one would expect to hear coming from a cultured family home of the early 1900's.

Sharon often catches a glimpse of a family, but they are barely visible and completely disappear almost as soon as they are seen. The man wears a top hat and the woman is always wearing a long dress which appears to be from the late 1800's. There are also two children, little girls who always stand in front of their parents holding hands. They give the appearance of being very happy. Sharon thinks they are the Powell family and they seem pleased with what she has done and the way she takes care of "their" home.

The Rose of Sharon is a nice, homey bed & breakfast in the interesting town of Waxahachie, Texas. It is often full of paying guests, many of whom are repeats - folks who found the inn to be so inviting that they return multiple times. And nobody minds at all the friendly, happy ghosts that continue to watch over their home.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Phantoms of the Minot's Ledge Lighthouse

A mile east of Scituate, Massachusetts is a slice of rock that at low tide is just above the crashing waves of the northeastern coast. Now known as Minot's Ledge, when the first white settlers arrived in the area, they found the Native Americans to be terrified of it.

Their stories told of a man-eating monster that lived amongst the bluffs overlooking the ledge. They called him Hobomock and they believed when Hobomock grew angry, he unleashed terrible storms which often destroyed their villages and killed many of their people. To appease Hobomock, the natives made frequent offerings to him by paddling out at low tide to leave food, ornaments and flowers on the rock. Most of the time their offerings kept him happy and sleeping peacefully, but occasionally he woke up in a bad mood and rejected their offerings. He would then rise from beneath the waves, tear into the shore with ferocious winds and waves and cause the Indians to flee inland, away from Hobomock's terrible fury.

Of course the Europeans didn't believe the native peoples and never made offerings. For almost 300 years, they paid the price. Time and again Hobomock rose up to smash ships and drown sailors. During even the mildest of storms, the rocky ledge was covered with waves and impossible for the ship's captains to see and avoid it. Few, if any, obstacles along the east coast caused as many lost ships and took as many human lives as Minot's Ledge. When the count went over 400, there was great demand for the government to do something.

There was a reason no actions were taken previously. Building a lighthouse on the ledge, no matter how much it was needed, was considered impossible. Anything built there would be totally exposed to the full force of the ocean storms and would be battered to pieces. That is, until a lighthouse inspector named I. W. P. Lewis came up with a radical suggestion. Instead of the normal cylindrical tower built on the rocks, it was proposed this lighthouse be built upon eight iron pilings, each of which would be sunk 5 feet into the rocks and cemented into place. The theory was the lighthouse structure containing the light and the keepers living quarters would be high above any waves and the eight iron legs would offer almost no resistance to the crashing water.

With the great need for something to be done for the safety of ships and seamen, the Treasury Department authorized the funds and the building commenced in early 1847. Numerous times storms would sweep drilling rigs and construction equipment off the rocks and into the sea, but work was always started again. Finally, after 3 years of labor, the lighthouse was put into service on New Year's Day, 1850.

Mr. Lewis declared the structure would weather even the harshest storm with no damage, but the first keeper, Isaac Dunham, quickly declared his misgivings. Living in the lighthouse, he claimed he could feel it swaying in a strong wind and the iron legs would groan and bend as they were hit by waves. Many of his official reports indicated his concerns. His beloved assistant at the isolated lighthouse was a cat which helped keep the population of rats down and provided him with much needed companionship. His feline friend evidently felt their home was unsafe as well. He never seemed to relax and constantly alerted and ran from one room to another. One day during a storm, the lighthouse suddenly jerked as an exceptionally large wave hit it and the cat was so startled, it ran through a door which had come open and jumped over the rail. Unfortunately, there was nothing below but a raging sea and the cat was lost. When the storm finally abated the next day, Isaac rowed back to land in the station's boat and quit his post. He had been on the job for exactly 9 months.

Within several weeks, a man named John Bennett was hired to replace Isaac. Because of the isolation and damage the structure had suffered which needed to be repaired, two assistants were hired with him. A month after his hiring, John came back to town on shore to purchase supplies. While there, a vicious storm came up and he was forced to stay in town. The storm grew even worse and huge waves pounded the shore. Bennett began to wonder if the lighthouse and his two assistants, Joseph Antoine and Joseph Wilson, would survive. Bennett was looking through binoculars toward the lighthouse from the building where he had taken shelter when at 1:00 in the afternoon, he saw the iron legs begin to sag back toward land and he knew right off the lighthouse and his two friends were doomed. Within minutes the whole structure collapsed. Several days later, the battered and bloated bodies of the assistants were recovered from the rocks where they had been thrown by the storm.

Within a year, construction was begun on a new lighthouse, one that would actually be able to withstand the pounding of the ocean waves. Over the next 8 years, a tower was built with huge granite blocks laying in parallel on top of foundation stones weighing two tons each. Now, more than 150 years after it was put in service, the second lighthouse remains standing. Fully automated, the old lighthouse still sends out its light to warn ships and sailors to keep away, but even though living humans are no longer needed to keep the light burning, that doesn't mean the old station is not occupied.

For almost 100 years, lighthouse keepers, sometimes with their wives, lived in the cold, dank living quarters. Often stranded for weeks at a time due to stormy seas making the trip to land too dangerous in the station's small boat, they endured isolation and stifling boredom. One thing many of them came to agree on was that the old stone tower was haunted.

A look in the official logbooks reveals many strange occurrences. Keepers often noted a tap, tap, taping on the granite walls of the tower. They heard pounding on the doors even during storms when nobody could possibly be out there. And often, they heard voices which seemed to come from all directions at once. In a number of cases, keepers would abruptly quit upon being able to get back into town. Some would just say they didn't want to talk about it. Others said they had to leave before they went mad. A few said they couldn't stand the voices anymore.

Nobody has lived at the Minot's Ledge Lighthouse since it was automated in 1947, but fishermen who pass the lighthouse on their way into Scituate harbor often report seeing the dark figure of a man climbing the iron ladder leading to the outer door. They say the man calls out to them in a foreign language that sounds like Portuguese. Historians note that Joseph Antoine, one of the assistants killed in the collapse of the first structure, was born and raised in Portugal.

And sometimes, boaters who have passed the lighthouse say they have seen, and heard, a very wet and anxious cat standing on the station's boat landing, squalling at the top of its lungs.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hotel Monte Vista's Permanent Residents

Located on old Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona is the Hotel Monte Vista. Constructed in 1926 and opened on New Year's Day, 1927, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel has played host to such notable people as John Wayne, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, Humphry Bogart, Lee Marvin, Jane Russell, and President Harry Truman, but all of its many distinguished and famous guests came and left after a brief stay. What the Hotel Monte Vista is most famous for are the guests who came and never left.

The Phantom Bellboy - Many guests over the years, especially those staying on the 2nd floor, have reported a knocking at their door and then hearing a faint, muffled announcement, "Room service," but when they open the door, nobody is there. One guest reported he just happened to be walking toward the door in the act of leaving his room when he was startled to hear the knock and voice. He opened his door within 2 seconds and just like all the other reports, nobody was there and no one was in the hall. It couldn't have been someone playing a trick because a person could not have ran away fast enough to not be seen. Even John Wayne reported having the same experience. According to him, when he opened his door, nobody was there, but he could feel a presence as if someone unseen was standing there. The Duke said he didn't feel threatened at all and it seemed to him the ghost was actually a friendly sort.

The Little Boy - Guests have for years reported seeing a little boy wearing "old fashioned" clothes wandering around the halls. Sometimes his voice can be heard as he looks up toward an invisible grownup person beside him. His mumbled words can't be made out, but everyone says it appears and sounds for all the world like he is looking up and talking to his mother. Occasionally a guest reports they were walking down a hall when they felt a cold little hand grasp theirs and when they jump and turn around, the ghostly image of a little boy abruptly vanishes.

The Rocking Chair - By all accounts, Room 305 is the most active room. There have been numerous reports by guests of seeing an old woman sitting beside a window in an old rocking chair. Sometimes the woman can't be seen, but the chair consistently rocks back and forth all by itself. Some unwary guests have been so unnerved by being awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of the chair creaking as it rocks that they went down to the desk in their night clothes demanding someone come back to the room with them and move themselves and their belongings to a different room. Cleaning staff consistently report moving the chair to a different place in the room only to return later to find it back exactly where it had been even though the room had been locked and nobody had been in it. Historical hotel records indicate that an elderly woman was once a long-term border in room 305 and she spent countless hours sitting in that same rocking chair staring out the window. Nobody knows what she was looking at or who she was waiting for. Evidentially she waits and watches for that person even in death.

Baby in the Basement - Probably the most unnerving of all the haunts is that of a crying baby in the basement. Reported time and again by maintenance and laundry personnel, there is never a reason found for the sound, no records exist showing a baby died in the basement, but people are often driven upstairs to escape the pitiful and incessant crying of an infant.  Turnover is normally rather high among staff performing these jobs at any hotel, but it is not uncommon at the Hotel Monte Vista for the personnel to come into the office visibly shaken, turn in their hotel key and quit on the spot while saying, "I can't take it anymore!"

Ghostly Dancers - Lounge staff and patrons have often seen the ghostly apparition of a man and woman dressed in period clothing slowly swaying to music only they can hear out on the dance floor. Their clothing is formal and they are seen laughing as they dance, holding each other close for all eternity.

Phantom Fallen Doves - In the early 1940's, the Red Light District was just 2 blocks from the hotel. One night a male guest of the hotel returned with 2 ladies of the night and they retired to his room, number 306. For one reason or another, both girls were killed during the night, their bodies thrown from the 3rd floor room's window to land on the cold street below. The male guest disappeared without a trace and was never found. For some reason, female guests staying in the room never seem to have any trouble, but male guests often report an uneasy feeling of being watched the whole time they remain in the room. There have been many male guests who reported being awakened in the middle of the night unable to breathe, feeling like a hand is being held tightly over their nose and mouth. Once awakened in such a manner, the men find it impossible to return to sleep because they feel extremely anxious and have a strong sense that someone is in the room "keeping an eye" on them.

Call from the Beyond - Staff working the night shift on the front desk have become accustomed to the desk phone ringing in the middle of the night with a call from Room 210. It only happens though when there are no guests staying in that room. When the call is answered, the clerk is able to make out a faint, scratchy sounding "Hello" through the static noise coming from the handset.

Dead Bank Robber - In 1970, three men robbed a nearby bank. As they were running out with their ill-gotten-booty, a guard pulled a hidden revolver and managed to shoot one of the robbers. Passing by the hotel, the men, not comprehending the severity of their companion's wound, decided to hide out from the arriving police as well as to celebrate their success by having a drink in the hotel's bar. Sitting in a corner booth, the wounded man died before finishing his drink. Since then, staff and patrons have repeatedly reported seeing drinks and even bar stools move seemingly on their own and are often greeted with a faint, but cheery "Hello" from what appears to be empty air as they enter the bar.

Meat Man - In the early 1980's, one of the hotel's long-term guests was known among the staff as "Meat Man" due to his strange habit of hanging pieces of raw meat from the chandelier in his room. The cleaning staff only cleaned his room once each week so it wasn't odd that his body was only discovered in his room, #220, three or four days after his death. The room was cleaned and aired out and 3 days later, maintenance workers were making repairs and updating the room in preparation for the next guests. Breaking for lunch, the men locked the door and left for the break room. Returning about 30 minutes later, the men entered the still locked room to find it in disarray, the bed clothes stripped off and the TV on with the volume turned up. There was also the distinct smell of meat present. The workers found it extremely strange, but assumed somebody had somehow gotten into the room while they were gone. They alerted the cleaning staff to get the room back in order and finished up their work just in time for the arrival of the night's guest. In the middle of the night, that guest, a male traveling alone, rushed downstairs to the front desk dressed only in underwear and a t-shirt very upset because somebody he couldn't see was in his room pulling the covers off the bed! The clerk accompanied the man back up to his room and found the bed clothes strewn around the room in profusion. He also wrote in his report that there was a distinct smell of "raw bacon" in the room. Since then, not every guest has such a terrifying experience, but the staff has leaned to not rent it to anyone traveling with a pet, especially a dog as it will invariably go crazy barking throughout the night, staring intently in corners and often up toward the ceiling, right where meat once hung from the chandelier. 

Located at 100 N. San Francisco Street, this renovated hotel still serves guests today and according to many witnesses, remains home to a number of guests who for one reason or another have chosen to not go toward the light.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Spectral Line Rider

The old barbed-wire fence enclosing a portion of the remote West Texas ranch is long gone, the posts weathered away and the wire rusted to nothing more than red specks. The little cemetery is still there, but the hand-made gravestones and crosses are mostly on their sides laying amongst the rocks where roadrunners hunt lizards for supper. It's hard to get to and nobody much ever does. The ranch itself nothing more than inhospitable wide open spaces that even the Mexicans avoid after crossing the Rio Grande on their way to work the big farms up north during the picking seasons. The ranch house is long abandoned, all the great-great grandchildren of the original land owners living miles away in one big city or another. No, it's not like it used to be. But let me tell you a story about this place, a story from long ago you may find hard to believe.

Juan Delgado, a vaquero who had just hired on, was out alone looking for some lost cattle in this part of the ranch. On the evening of his very first day, he was caught by a sudden thunderstorm. With dark rapidly coming on, even though he didn't relish spending the storm-filled night next to a cemetery, he took the only shelter there was for miles around, the sagging, little church. For Juan, it was to be a long, fitful night as the lightning flashes turned the tumbled gravestones into dark, threatening forms and the rumbling thunder reminded him how alone he was. But he was a proud cowboy and so he hunkered in his poncho and waited out the night.

The early morning light only brought more gray gloom and unrelenting rain. Juan kept to his shelter and ate his breakfast of beef jerky and the last of the coffee he had made the night before. Determined to wait out the rain, mid-morning found him standing in the doorway of the little church watching the rivulets of water swirling by when he was surprised to see a rider trailing along the close-by fence. The horseman was sitting astride a big bay, his face concealed by a broad brimmed black hat pulled low. The man slowly rode closer, his eyes staring fixedly at the ground, his clothes covered by a long black coat. Juan thought only a fool would ride in rain like this so he called out to the man to come share his shelter. The mysterious rider didn't answer or even look up. Perhaps the thunder and noise of the rain on his hat prevented him from hearing Juan's greeting. When he arrived directly across from the doorway, within just a few feet of where he stood, Juan called out again, louder this time, "Come in out of the rain, compadre," but still, the rider acted as if he didn't hear and kept riding, his eyes remained fixed on the ground beside the fence. It was obvious he was riding line, but what was wrong with a man who would not acknowledge a friendly greeting?

Suddenly, the rain ceased falling and except for little gurgling sounds of water draining to low spots, there was silence. It was only then that Juan realized the strange rider's passage was entirely without sound. No hoof beat, no creak of a leather saddle, nothing. The vaquero's hand involuntarily went to the gun in his holster, but the rider was drawing away. Still following the fence line, he passed the cemetery and eventually over a little hill and out of sight. Convincing himself that it was a crazy gringo so dumb he wouldn't even come in out of the rain, Juan tried to put his unease behind him as he gathered his things and prepared to leave.

It had not been an hour later when Juan was ready to resume his search for the lost cows, but before he could mount his horse, he saw the mysterious rider coming back toward him, slowly and deliberately, his eyes fixed on the ground just as before. Had he not found a break in the fence? There hadn't been enough time to repair a break, so why was he coming back already? And then the rider turned from the fence riding toward the little cemetery just below the top of the hill a short distance from Juan. He listened closely, but even in the near silence, neither the rider nor his horse made a sound. This time, Juan did not call a greeting. This time, Juan's gun hand deliberately went to his holster. For what seemed a long time, Juan stared beyond the rim of the hill, but the rider did not reappear. What was going on? There was no fence in that direction; the ranch house was not in that direction. The only thing there was the cemetery. A little voice inside his head told Juan he should leave this place. Quickly. To heck with those missing cows, Juan thought, they can find their own way home. He mounted up and urged his horse at a gallop toward the ranch house miles away.

 Several hours later when Juan reached the house, he rode up to find the foreman and several other hands standing on the porch discussing what chores needed to be done that day. "What the hell kind of fence rider do you have working for you?" "What are you talking about," asked the foreman, "I haven't had anybody riding fence for over a week." "Well I ran into one mighty strange one this morning," Juan replied and then went on to describe his appearance. "Where exactly did you see him?" came the foreman's sharp reply. "At the little church by that old cemetery. I called to him not 20 feet away, but he never even gave me a nod." "Which way did he ride?" the foreman wanted to know. Juan told him which way and that within an hour he had returned.

With that, the foreman turned to the cowboys on the porch and said, "Boys, get your guns. Let's go! Juan, there's food inside. Wait for us here until we get back." The men instantly jumped to the ground and ran to the bunkhouse to get their weapons and then the corral to get their horses. They left riding hard to where Juan told them he had seen the line rider.

It was just after dark when they returned. One of them had been shot in the arm, but they had two men with them who had their hands tied to their saddlehorns. The foreman announced, "We caught these men stealing our cattle and buried two other rustlers. These two will meet their fate at the hanging tree in town tomorrow."

After the two dead-men-walking had been hog-tied and securely locked up for the night in the potato bin, the foreman had a cup of coffee on the porch with Juan. "You saw our fence rider, all right," he told the vaquero. "He was one of the best I've ever known. Always had a gut feel for when there'd been fence cutting. All we had to know was which direction he rode and how long before he got back. Knowing that, it was easy to pick up the rustler's tracks." Juan nodded, but there were questions in his eyes. "He's dead," the foreman said matter-of-factly, "10 years now. He jumped a gang of rustlers, but there were to many of them. He's buried in that little cemetery on the hillside where you stayed. In front of it is exactly where he was killed. Now, every time our fences are cut," the foreman said quietly, "he rides the line until he finds where. Then he goes back to his hillside. Comprende?"

Juan could only nod. The foreman bid him goodnight and walked back into the house leaving the shaken vaquero standing on the porch in the dark. Early the next morning, Juan Delgado saddled his horse, packed his meager belongings and left that ranch. He didn't want anything to do with working alongside a ghost rider.

There were few that believed his story, but it was of no importance to one who had seen such a thing as he had. You may not believe it either and that's ok. The little forlorn cemetery is quietly crumbling, the fence and wooden church gone, the land empty and forgotten. There's no need for a solitary man to ride a lonely string of fence now. If you were to make camp where Juan spent that long, disturbing night, there where the graveyard and church lie hidden, there's probably little chance of your sleep being disturbed by a lone, lack-clad rider.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Headless Boy of Little Geronimo

Little Geronimo is today a peaceful little town in central Texas just north of the larger town of Seguin. In the early 1900's, it was a collection of a few business buildings surrounded by hard-working German farmers and one old house where nobody lived for long.

There were stories about the big old house sitting on the south edge of town. Only uninformed newcomers would move into it and they all left within a few months, usually in the middle of the night with no warning, not even taking the time to pack all of their belongings. None ever returned to tell what had driven them from the house. The stories told of "someone else" who lived in the place, an evil someone who had so frightened a big, strapping teenage boy whose family had moved in that one night he had fired his hunting rifle at it. The shot went through his locked bedroom door and wounded his little brother asleep in the room across the hall.

Not long after "the war to end all wars" was finished,Ludwig Neumann emigrated to America with his family and eventually moved to Geronimo and the big house on the south edge of the town. Like their neighbors, the Neumanns were farmers and they toiled from daylight to daydark. All was well that spring and summer with an abundant crop and new friends made. Ludwig did wonder why everyone seemed inordinately interested in their home, but he chalked it up to curious neighbors just being interested in a house bigger than theirs. 

One dark September night, Ada, one of Ludwig's daughters, left the rest of her family talking in the kitchen and walked to the other side of the house to sit on the porch and wait for a friend who was coming to visit. In the middle of the dark living room, a sudden chill enveloped her and what felt like an ice-cold hand brushed across her cheek! Frightened, she ran through the room to the porch, but it was pitch black outside and she was too scared to stay there. Ada steeled herself to run back across the living room to get to her family. Sure enough, she felt the chill in the middle of the room and then that ice-cold hand touched her face again, this time fingers pulled at her hair as she ran past! She made it back to her family and the light in the kitchen. Knowing her sisters would surely make fun of her, she said nothing of her frightening encounter.

The very next night, the youngest daughter came running back into the house after emptying the dishwater off the porch, her eyes wide with fear. No amount of coaxing however, could get her to tell what had scared her so. 

For several days and nights, all was normal until one evening when just after the supper dishes had been put away and the moon was rising, the two middle girls were outside bringing down the clean clothes from the drying line. They had placed a lamp atop the milk safe on the porch to provide light for them to work by.   Suddenly they heard what sounded like someone walking through the brush out by the windmill just beyond the reach of the feeble lamplight. Knowing the rest of the family was in the house, they worked faster. Then they saw it. From behind the windmill it came out of the darkness, a white, luminous, indistinct form that seemed to float just above the ground. As the girls stared in horror, it turned to face them. When it started coming toward them,they ran screaming toward the house. As the first opened the door, the second dared a look behind and saw the thing, formless and close enough to touch them! Both girls crashed safely inside and slammed the door shut.

"What in the world is the matter with you two?" an alarmed Ludwig asked. They couldn't describe it exactly; how could they when they had ran as fast as they could? Before it came for them, it seemed kind of small, like a little boy, but not. It moved so fast, much faster than anyone could run and it got close, so close! As they cried and told in halting sentences what had happened, the other two girls spoke up and told what they had also experienced. Ludwig, a stern, no nonsense kind of man, admonished the girls for such a story and for leaving a lit lamp out on the porch. He would retrieve it and the girls should go straight to bed. The children begged him to take his gun, but he didn't need a gun against what was nothing but a fanciful story.

Ludwig did return with the lamp, but there was a look on his face and in his eyes that the girls had never seen before. There was a pair of double doors at the end of the house leading out to the far end of the porch. Those doors had been stuck closed and no matter how hard the strong Ludwig had tried, he had been unable to get them open. While he had been on one end of the porch retrieving the lamp, he had glimpsed a misty shape at the other end and heard a loud screeching noise. The double doors were standing wide open. They knew what this meant - it was inside now!

As a group, the whole family went from room to room throughout the house lighting all the lamps, turning them up high so they would provide as much light as possible. Ludwig cleaned his gun and they all spent the long night together in the living room. Nothing happened and in the morning, the back door which had been securely locked was found to be standing open. Evidently the thing had returned outside.

A week later, the oldest of the Neumann girls, Bertha, who was married and lived in San Antonio, came for a visit. When her sisters told her of "the thing," Bertha, a pious, God-fearing woman, shamed them for having over-active imaginations. Good Christians do not see ghosts, she said, and she wanted to hear nothing more of that nonsense. 

A very methodical young woman, Bertha spent each day working and doing chores as proper ladies should. At the end of each day's work though, she enjoyed cooling herself on the porch with her feet being soothed in a pan of cold water. While sitting all alone enjoying this small act of indulgence late one evening several days after arriving for her visit, she clearly saw the buggy house door slowly open seemingly all by itself. The buggy house was only a few yards from the big house with nothing in between so it was impossible not to see the door opening wide, the interior blacker than the night. Suddenly, out of that blackness, a hazy, white mist came forth and right before Bertha's wide-open eyes, began to take the shape of a small boy. Much to her surprise and confusion, she noticed the misty figure was wearing very large, glowing shoes, shoes that were much too big for a little boy. She then tore her eyes from those huge shoes and was astounded to see the figure had no head! "It" seemed to be looking at the woodpile beside the buggy house, but how could it? It had no head! As it turned toward her, Bertha broke from her trance to run into the house screaming, "It has no head! It has no head!"

Again, the family went from room to room, turning up every lamp in the house, making sure all the windows and doors were securely locked. Without anyone prompting this time, Ludwig loaded his gun. Once again, a long, restless night was passed by the family all gathered together in the living room. The Neumanns were relieved to see no doors standing open in the morning. It had not gotten inside.

Several weeks went by with no appearance by the headless thing and the family began hoping it had simply gone somewhere else. The German families occupying the nearby farms had a love for singing the old songs of their homeland and a number of them had formed a choir. The Nuemanns were no exception and having the largest house in the area, volunteered their home for choir practice. One evening, about 30 singers had gathered in the large room near the back hallway. Ludwig's wife sat nearest the door to the room so she could join the singing and still get snacks for their guests. It was she who saw it first.

When the family had found the double doors standing open that previous night of terror, Ludwig had wedged them shut and nailed a large board across both doors. Over the singing, Mrs. Nuemann heard the sound of someone coming up the stairs and walking across the porch toward those doors. As she looked down the hall, there was a loud noise as nails and the cross-board flew across the room! At the crashing sound, the singers fell silent and as Mrs. Nuemann looked on, both doors slowly opened wide.

As she watched in horror, the misty form of a boy entered the room. He turned and straight down the hallway he came, not exactly walking, just silently moving. As it got close, Mrs. Nuemann screamed and ran further into the room. As more than 30 people watched, the form floated right into the room and before their horrified gaze, kept going across the room and up the steps to the 2nd floor. Several of the women fainted dead away and more than a few of the men took quick steps toward the back of the room. All noted later "the headless boy" carried something in his arms, perhaps a pillow? Or at least something wrapped in a pillowcase. Some swore whatever it was, it had the shape of a head.

Ludwig gathered his wits just a few seconds after the headless boy had floated up the stairs and, followed by several brave men in the choir, rushed up to the 2nd floor. Every room was searched and found empty. It was noted all windows were locked shut and the people who remained behind were sure nobody, or nothing, had come back down the stairs. The choir practice quickly ended.

Less than a week later, the Neumann family, like so many others, moved away. Later, Bertha received a letter from her father saying they left because he was getting too old to farm. Perhaps that really was the reason.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Letter From The Beyond

Godfrey Barnsley" by Source (WP:NFCC#4)
Godfrey Barnsley was born in Derbyshire, England on August 26, 1805. His father owned a cotton mill and as Godfrey grew up, he was taught all aspects of the cotton business. In early 1824, while still only 18 years of age, Godfrey immigrated to America seeking his fortune. 

Settling in Savannah, Georgia, he became involved in the lucrative trade of brokering cotton. Buying cotton at a low price in the south which was awash in the crop and selling at a much inflated price to England, it wasn't long before Godfrey became wealthy. In early 1828, he met Julia Scarborough, the daughter of wealthy ship builder William Scarborough and on December 24 of that same year, the two were married. Godfrey and his father-in-law developed a close friendship and with William's help, Godfrey began shipping his cotton to England with his own fleet of ships. The Barnsley family became one of the richest in the whole south.

By 1842, Godfrey and Julia had 6 children. Godfrey deeply loved his wife so when Julia's health began to deteriorate that year, he sought out the best doctors in Savannah. Due to the heat and humid conditions of the city, yellow fever and malaria were constant threats and when the doctors told Godfrey his wife would be better served to live in a more hospitable climate, he began searching for a better location. He found land near Adairsville, Georgia to be suitable so he bought 3,600 acres of woods and valleys which used to be occupied by the Cherokee Indians until they were forcibly removed onto a reservation. 

Godfrey had plans drawn up for a grand estate and had his ships seeking out and bringing back marble from Italy and exquisite furniture, windows, exotic shrubbery and plants from around the world. Julia loved roses so he purchased and had planted in ornate gardens every known variety of rose bush in the world. The mansion, designed as an Italian Villa, was to have 24 rooms and such ultra-modern features as hot-and-cold running water. By April, 1845, the mansion and gardens were still under construction, but were complete enough to allow the family to move in and get away from the heat in Savannah. Shortly after moving in though, things took a nasty turn.

In May, Julia's father died. It was a terrible time for the Barnsley family as William was much loved by all. Just a few weeks later, Godfrey and Julia's infant son became ill and quickly died. It was devastating for the family who was still grieving over the death of William, but the worst was to come just a month later when Julia's health took a decided downward turn and in late summer, she passed away of tuberculosis. Godfrey buried his beloved wife next to their son in one of the estate's beautiful gardens. 

For weeks afterward, Godfrey spent hours every day sitting in the garden which held Julia's remains. He said he felt her presence there and could often be seen talking to her grave. Work on the mansion and grounds had ceased upon Julia's death, but one day he came from the garden and ordered work to resume as Julia had spoken to him saying the home should be finished for their children and future generations.

For the next two years, work continued on the home and gardens until it was at long last complete. Godfrey, still openly grieving, could be seen visiting Julia's grave daily. He doted on the children, but even with the comfort they provided, he seemed adrift since her death. He even lost interest in his business, but it continued to be profitable due to the dedication and business acumen of the managers he had hired to run it for him.

Over the years, he continued to be so depressed that his children and friends began to worry he might commit suicide in order to rejoin the love of his life. They tried to find anything that would bring a smile back to his face but nothing worked until one day, exactly 10 years to the day after Julia had been laid in the ground, a letter was delivered to him. It was postmarked from Savannah just a few days earlier. 

The later stated, "My dear mortal Barnsley, Julia is with me and all doing just fine." It was signed William Scarborough and was written in his deceased father-in-law's distinctive handwriting.

Godfrey immediately seemed to be better and once again began to take interest in his business and life. He never remarried, but his smile and zest for life returned. In 1873, he passed away of natural causes and was buried beside Julia in the garden of roses. The mysterious letter was handed down for several generations but it eventually was lost and now nobody knows what happened to that very unexplainable missive.  For Godfrey, it was a desperately needed message, a message from a different realm which arrived just in time to give life back to a good man.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Old Brit Bailey

James Briton Bailey was born in North Carolina in 1779 and married at a young age. He and his even younger wife, Edith Smith, had 6 children over the next 10 years. Sadly, his wife died of an unspecified illness. A year later, "Brit" as he became known, married his deceased wife's sister, Dorothy (nicknamed Dot) which wasn't uncommon in those days. He took his new wife and 6 children with him when he moved to Kentucky where he managed to get elected to the state legislature. He earned a bad reputation for being quarrelsome and confrontational while he served, but apparently everything was fine at home as he fathered 5 more children with Dot. He eventually resigned from the legislature and moved with his large family to Tennessee. There is some indication he was about to be prosecuted for forgery when he left, but no definite proof has been found for this. 

While in Tennessee, Brit enlisted in the military and fought in the War of 1812. In 1818 he once again moved his family along with 6 slaves he had managed to acquire, this time to the wild and wide open spaces of south Texas (still a part of Spanish-ruled Mexico.) Bailey purchased his land from the Spanish government in what would later become Brazoria County between the present-day towns of West Columbia and Angleton south of Houston. On the prairie land in the middle of his property he built a house large enough to accommodate his family and painted it barn red. He built quarters for his slaves, barns, outhouses, sheds, and several storage buildings over the next year and had them all painted the same barn red color.

Everything was fine until 1821 when Mexico won its independence from Spain and the newly installed Mexican government refused to recognize Brit's claim that the land belonged to him. Legal wrangling ensued over the next several years with Bailey refusing to back down an inch and daring anyone to come and try to take his property. In 1824, Mexico granted Stephen F. Austin the right to settle up to 300 Anglo's on land which included Bailey's. Austin tried to force Brit to give up his claim and move along, but Bailey didn't back down from the imposing and strong-willed Austin any more than he did the Mexican government. After numerous confrontations, Bailey informed Austin he was unwilling to move, but more than willing to make him a corpse with his Kentucky rifle. Soon after, Austin recognized Brits claim to a league and labor of land (4,605.5 acres). This land became known as Bailey's Prairie.

There is nothing left of the Bailey
homestead and nobody knows exactly
where Brit stands in his grave.
Over the next 8 years, Brit once again gained a reputation for his eccentric behavior, hard drinking, and being quick to engage in brawls. He remained a constant thorn to Stephen Austin, loudly and often proclaiming his dislike of him. He fought several duels and in true Texas fashion, did things his own way and dared the world to have an opinion about it. 

In late 1832, he became very sick, probably of cholera. On December 5th, while on his death bed but still lucid, he dictated his last will and testament and gave specific directions for his burial. He insisted he was to be buried standing up, "for I never lied to a man in my life and I want no man, on passing my grave, to say, 'there lies old Brit Bailey.'" He wanted to be buried with his face to the west, for he had begun going west when he left Carolina and had never ceased looking toward the setting sun. He wanted to be buried with his trusty rifle at his side with a full horn of powder and his pouch filled with bullets and fresh flints; with his possibles bag filled with pipe, tobacco, strike-a-light and a large chaw and a full jug of whiskey at his feet. He proclaimed the reason for his demands was because, "a man doesn't know how long the road may be and what hazards may be along it and my rifle has never failed me yet and I may be in need of refreshment along the way." Brit died the next day.

"Uncle Bubba," one of Bailey's slaves, dug a shaft grave 8 feet deep in order to bury Brit standing up as he requested. The funeral was held and Brit was prayed over by a local preacher. His body was placed in the hole feet first facing west. Into the grave his wife placed his long rifle, a full horn of powder, his bullet bag full of bullets and flints and his possibles bag loaded with a pipe, tobacco, a strike-a-light and a chaw. However, Mrs. Bailey was a devout Methodist and she simply could not in good conscious put a full jug of corn whiskey in the grave with Brit. She hadn't been able to stop his drinking while he was alive, but she sure could keep the jug away from him now that he was dead.

Very shortly after Brit's death, Dot moved the family to Harrisburg (now part of Houston) and rented out the red house. The first family of tenants moved out suddenly and without explanation just a few weeks after moving in. So did the next and the next and the next. There was a reason. 

The first couple who moved into the Bailey house practiced the most effective form of birth control of the time - they slept in separate bedrooms. Just a couple of nights after moving in, the wife came flying into the husband's bedroom one night and jumped into bed with him. "What's wrong with you, woman?" the husband asked. "There was a man in my room," she exclaimed. "I thought it was you. He was on his hands and knees feeling for something under the bed. I reached out to touch him and my hand went right through him!"

The husband was, of course, skeptical, but the wife refused to spend the night in that room again. Finally, the husband had had enough and decided to sleep in the wife's room to prove it was just her imagination. Shortly after midnight, the husband came running from the room and said, "Not only is there a man in there, but I recognized him. It was old Brit Bailey himself!"

It turns out, the bedroom in question had been Brit's and it was his habit to keep his jug under the bed. Each and every tenant moved out of the house saying they saw Brit Bailey walking around the room that used to be his, obviously looking for something under the bed or in the closet or behind furniture. Eventually, nobody would rent the property. The house and buildings fell into disrepair and crumbled to the ground. Today, no trace of the house remains and nobody knows the exact spot where Brit still stands facing west, but Brit has never left. 

For years afterward, he manifested himself in various ways in and around Bailey's Prairie. His appearances became so well known that even the most skeptical of the hardy settlers believed whole-heartedly in the ghost at Bailey's Prairie. He was still making appearances in the late 1930's when a passing traveler reported seeing a gauzy apparition of a man alongside the darkened road he was driving on. His car abruptly stopped running. The radio came on without his touching it and the antenna started waving around in the air. The windshield wipers, which in those days worked off manifold pressure and wouldn't work at all if the engine wasn't running, began to quickly sweep back and forth. The horn honked and the lights flashed, all without any human actions. The traveler said the phantom looked right at him, then appeared to look into his car before shaking his head and disappearing. When the apparition vanished, the car stopped going crazy, could be started again and driven normally. 

In the late 1940's, an oil well being drilled near the site of the old house collapsed in upon itself every time the bit was removed. When casing was placed in the hole, the casing collapsed inward. There was no known physical reason for either the collapse of the hole or the casing. No other wells in the area had any trouble like this and no fault was found in the casing pipes. The well was finally moved just 20 feet away and no further problems were experienced. Old-timers said the well was being dug too close to Brit's grave and he didn't appreciate it.

Today, a mysterious light is often seen floating around Bailey's Prairie. It appears as a bright, white ball moving about 4 - 6 feet above the ground, the same height a man would hold a lantern. Too many sober, well-respected people have seen it for the phenomena to be dismissed. No scientist has been able to explain what causes what is known as Bailey's Light. Perhaps they should just accept the explanation that has been verbally handed down by generations of area residents - old Brit Bailey is still out there, looking all over for his missing jug of whiskey.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Doing Eternal Time at Alcatraz

The end of the line for scores of America's worst criminals was the prison called Alcatraz, aka "The Rock." For almost 30 years, the damp, dank, fog-enshrouded prison on a rocky outcrop 1 1/2 miles out in the San Francisco Bay kept the public safe from over 1,000 of the baddest of the bad. With the heavy fog, the swirling currents of the freezing water of the bay which totally surrounded the rocky island, the searchlights sweeping the barred windows all night every night and the ominous foghorns, it was a most lonely place to be incarcerated. Those who survived often did so at the cost of their sanity. For some, the cost was even higher - their very souls.

Alcatraz tested the limits of men's endurance, both physical and mental. Over the years, many prisoners reached their limits and attempted suicide. Many of them succeeded. Many more were driven to insanity. One prisoner who worked in the machine shop took a hatchet and, placing his left hand on a wooden table top, methodically began chopping off each finger and then his hand at the wrist, all the while laughing maniacally. He then handed the bloody hatchet to one of the guards, placed his right hand on the table and began begging the guard to chop off his right hand while calmly saying he had no more use for hands. Another inmate used the small blade from a disassembled pencil sharpener to slice the inside of his arms into strips of spaghetti. A third man broke the lenses of his eye glasses and used one of the shards to cut open his jugular vein.

In May, 1946, six of the prisoners managed to overcome five of the guards in an organized escape attempt. The guards were locked in cells 402 and 403 and when the inmates could not find the key which would let them out of the cell block, they used rifles they found in the guards office and shot them, killing two and severely wounding the other three. Other guards, trained troops and even Marines were brought in and began firing into the doors and windows of the cell block. In addition to bullets, the cell block was barraged with tear gas and rifle grenades. Three of the convicts ran back to their cells and lay on the floor behind their water-soaked mattresses while the other three took refuge in a small corridor that ran off from the main passageway. After the guards retook the cell block, the bodies of these three were found riddled by bullets and shrapnel.

 Not long after, prisoners began complaining about noises, moaning and screams, which seemed to come from the corridor where the 3 men had died. Eventually, the iron door was welded shut. In 1976, long after there were no more prisoners or anyone living on Alcatraz, a night watchman heard strange sounds coming from behind the door. After much effort with special tools, the door was once again opened, but nothing was found. Several nights later, the guard heard the noises again and immediately opened the door. As soon as the door was opened, the noises stopped. Shining his powerful flashlight into the maze of pipes and conduits the guard found nothing that could have caused the noises. As soon as he shut the door, the noises began again. For several years, different guards all reported hearing the noises as they made their rounds, but the noises always stopped as soon as they opened the door and nothing was ever found. When the guards began to refuse to go into the area at night, authorities decided to re-weld the door shut. Today, Alcatraz visitors walk right past this door every day and never hear anything, but in the dark of night, long after the last visitor has left the island, guards say if you are brave enough to put your ear to the door, you sometimes will hear the muted sounds of moaning and desperate voices crying out.

Sounds coming from behind welded-shut doors are not the only signs of haunting. Through the years, night watchmen have told of hearing footsteps echoing from upper walkways and voices of long dead men talking. Upon investigation, no rational cause can be found. In the machine shop where the insane prisoner chopped off his own fingers, unexplained loud crazy laughter is often heard.

In the late 1990's, a female National Park Ranger told of working one cold, rainy day when the number of visitors was few due to the weather. She went for a walk in front of A Block and was just past the door which leads down to the infamous dungeons, the cells of solitary lockup where severe and unusually cruel punishment was administered, when she heard a loud scream from down below. Knowing this area was locked and off-limits to tourists, she ran away. When asked why she didn't report it , she stated, "I didn't dare mention it because just the day before, everyone was ridiculing another worker who reported men's voices coming from the hospital ward and when he went to check it out, it was completely empty."

A number of the Rangers and guards talk, off the record of course, about one particular cell in the dungeon, 14D. They all speak of a sudden feeling of intensity, a strange, heavy feeling immediately upon entering the cell. They all will tell you that cell 14D, even on the hottest summer day, is always cold, much colder than the other 3 cells right next to it. 

A guard who worked there in the 1940's told the off-the-record story of solitary confinement in cell 14D. About 1946, one particularly hardened prisoner was locked in 14D for some infraction. Within seconds of being locked in the dark cell, the convict began screaming in terror. Upon being looked in on, he was found to be shaking uncontrollably and crying. He said a a creature with fiery eyes was locked in the cell with him. He begged to be locked up in a different cell, but the guards, used to hearing claims from the prisoners about ghostly spirits walking the catwalks at night, ignored the man's pleas and locked him in the dark again. The man's screams continued on into the night, shouting that he was being attacked by "a devil." Finally, just before the sun rose, there was silence in the cell. When it was time for the man to be fed his breakfast of a single slice of bread and a cup of water, a guard found the man dead, his eyes wide open, a look of horror frozen on his face. There were clear marks of finger prints around his neck. An autopsy showed the man had been strangled to death, but the indention of the prints proved he could not have strangled himself in such a way. Rather than try to explain how someone could have strangled a man while he was by himself in a locked, tiny cell with multiple guards monitoring the cell door all night, his death was officially declared to be of "natural causes." Even stranger, the morning after the man's death, two other guards who had been informed of the man being sent to the dungeon but knowing nothing of his death, reported they were 1 over on their count as the prisoners lined up for their walk to the cafeteria for breakfast. They found the man who had been sent to cell 14D the night before standing at the end of the line. When they began to approach him, he vanished right in front of the guards and several of the prisoners standing close by.

Could it have been just a coincidence that cell 14D was the exact cell where a notorious bank robber and murderer, Henry Young, was locked up for several months after an escape attempt? Guards reported Henry had gone quite insane during his stay in 14D, his eyes "crazy looking" and constant incoherent babbling. He was finally moved back into the general prisoner population where he later murdered another inmate by strangling him. Did Henry leave a piece of his insanity behind in 14D? Or perhaps, did an evil something that already inhabited that place give a part of itself to Henry?

It is said the ghosts of people return to places where they suffered traumatic experiences when alive. Prison guards from the 1940's through 1963 when Alcatraz was finally shut down as a prison, told of experiencing many strange happenings. They told of hearing disembodied voices speaking out, of hearing sobbing and moaning, inexplicable smells, cold spots and spectral prisoners and soldiers who inhabit all parts of the island. Phantom gunshots sent seasoned guards ducking to the ground in the belief that prisoners had escaped and acquired guns. The deserted laundry room sometimes filled with the smell of acrid smoke, but upon investigation, the air would be clear with no evidence of fire. 

James Johnston, the first Warden of Alcatraz, did not believe in ghosts, but even he experienced several unexplained events.  He was once in the middle of personally giving a tour of the facilities to several important visitors when they all heard the unmistakable sound of someone sobbing as they walked past the 4 empty solitary confinement cells in "The Dungeon." Trying to find the source, the warden put his head right next to the wall before quickly leading his visitors from the area. He later swore the sounds were coming from the wall itself. 

One of the most famous prisoners on "The Rock" was Al Capone. Warden Johnston refused to allow any special treatment for Capone, insisting he be treated just like all the other criminals in his prison. As time passed, Capone had very few friends among the other prisoners because he refused to take part in several strikes the convicts tried to stage for better treatment and since he wasn't allowed any privileges the other prisoners didn't have, he wasn't able to dispense gifts or favors to anyone. One of the jobs he was assigned was to mop the halls and he was quickly given the nickname "the wop with the mop" by the other prisoners. Capone learned to play the banjo and for a short time, even played in the prison band, but as the years went by, he slowly began losing his mind due to the harsh conditions of confinement in Alcatraz and an untreated case of syphilis. He was finally admitted to the hospital ward where he would sit unresponsive to people, playing simple snippets of music on his banjo. Guards, tour guides and tourists sometimes hear soft banjo music coming from the hallways Capone called home and the infirmary where he spent his last days on Alcatraz before being transferred elsewhere. 

Could it be the famous gangster himself, his lonely and broken spirit returned to where he lost his sanity? Maybe it's the spirit of a long-forgotten soldier from the days when Alcatraz was a military fort. Or perhaps it's simply one of the other countless spirits condemned to eternally do time on The Rock.