Friday, May 22, 2015

The Most Haunted House in America

There are many haunted homes in the United States and Louisiana seems to have more than its fair share. However, only one can legitimately lay claim to being “the most haunted house in America.” The Myrtles” has earned that title in part by being the abode of as many as 14 ghosts. Serving as a respected Bed & Breakfast establishment now, even without the ghosts, the place would be creepy merely due to its bloody history and the mysteries it holds secret.

In 1791, General Daniel Bradford, a hero of the American Revolution, was a leader of the Whiskey Rebellion, a violent protest of the new U.S. government’s imposition of a tax on whiskey. In July, 1794, a government militia force of over 13,000 men marched into western Pennsylvania to put down the rebellion and enforce the tax laws that were being protested by 500 distillers. Bradford decided discretion was the better part of valor so, after retrieving a small fortune in funds and leaving his wife and 5 children behind, he high-tailed it out of the government’s reach down to Spanish-held Louisiana.

In 1796, General Bradford purchased a 650-acre tract of land to begin a plantation and chose to build a large house on the highest point of the estate.  What he didn’t know, however, was that the spot was the exact site of an ancient burial ground of the Tunica Indians. It took several years for the construction crew and artists to complete Bradford’s mansion and for the plantation, which he named Laurel Grove, to be established. Stories handed down indicate that before building began and also during the construction, he spent a number of nights at the site. During those nights, his sleep was often disturbed by the appearance of a nude Indian maiden who would slowly shake her head from side-to-side while looking at him. He said he somehow understood the apparition was trying to tell him not to build on the sacred ground, but not believing in omens, he chose to ignore the warning.

In 1798, President John Adams pardoned Bradford for his actions in the Whiskey Rebellion. That same year, he travelled back to Pennsylvania and brought his wife and children back to live with him in Louisiana. They lived there, peacefully building a life together, until 1808 when Bradford died in bed. After his death, the house passed ownership to his oldest daughter, Sarah, who soon married a lawyer, Clarke Woodruff. Over the next few years, the couple had 3 children and owned a large number of slaves to work the plantation and take care of the house.

One of those slaves was a beautiful, young mulatto girl named Chloe who the master of the house forced to become his mistress. Clarke treated his slave mistress better than any of the other slaves, making her the family’s cook and the children’s nanny.  A year later though, Clarke took a different slave girl to be his new mistress and threatened to put Chloe back in the fields if she told anyone of their coupling. Being fearful of being relegated to backbreaking work in the fields or being sold and separated from her family, Chloe began listening at keyholes to her master’s private conversations for information concerning her fate. One day Clarke caught her and in a fit of rage, cut off her ear. She survived and for the rest of her life wore a green turban on her head to hide the missing ear.

Chloe was sure she would be dealt an even harsher punishment even as time passed so when an opportunity finally presented itself, she concocted a plan to get back into Clarke’s favor. The family was having a birthday party for one of the young daughters and she was instructed to bake a cake for the occasion. Chloe laced the cake with oleander, a poisonous shrub. She only meant to make the family sick so she could then nurse them all back to health and prove how essential she was. Unfortunately, she used too much poison and Sarah and 2 of their children died lying in their beds in spite of Chloe’s efforts to nurse them back to health.

The night of the funeral, Chloe was very distraught and when her fellow slaves asked her what was wrong, thinking they would keep her secret, she confessed to what she had done. However, in those times, a serious infraction of the law by a slave would bring quick and painful retribution not just to the perpetrator, but also to the other slaves on the plantation and Chloe surely had broken a major law of the white man.  Before a white mob could come for them in revenge, the other slaves decided to take matters into their own hands. Later that night, pulling Chloe from her bed, they dragged her to a tall oak tree near the house and hung her until she choked to death. Just before dawn when they were sure she was dead, they cut her down and threw her body into the nearby river and let it wash away.

After the death of Sarah and the two children, Clarke left the plantation in the hands of a caretaker and moved with his surviving daughter to Covington, Louisiana and in 1834, sold the plantation, the house and the slaves to Ruffin Stirling. Before he and his wife Mary and their 9 children moved in, they spent a considerable amount of money remodeling and adding to the original structure. Renaming the plantation & house to “The Myrtles,” by the time they were finished, the house was twice as big. No matter as the ill will of the house did not abate. Five of the Stirling children died in the house at a young age and Ruffin himself died there in 1854.

In the early 1860’s, the eldest surviving Stirling daughter, Sarah, married William Winter and in 1865, Mary Stirling, who had inherited The Myrtles upon Ruffin’s death, hired William to manage the plantation. William and Sarah lived in the house along with her mother. The Winters, not faring any better than previous occupants, had a daughter, Kate, who died at the house from typhoid when she was only 3. Facing hard times after the Civil War, the family was forced to sell The Myrtles in 1868, but William began making a good living as a lawyer, won several big cases, and they were able to buy the plantation back by late 1870.

The following year, a man on horseback rode up to the house and called to William for the purpose of hiring him as a lawyer. When Winter came out onto the porch, the man shot him in the chest and rode off into the night. William staggered back into the house and, evidently trying to reach his wife who was upstairs, began climbing the staircase. He made it to the 17th of the 20 stairs where he collapsed. Sarah ran to him and cradled his head in her lap as he died. The sheriff and the doctor were summoned and when they arrived, they found a sobbing Sarah sitting on the stairs still holding the corpse of her husband. When his body was removed, a large pool of blood remained on the step where he died. The gunman was never found, the case never solved.

The bloody history of The Myrtles did not end with William Winter’s murder. William’s widow Sarah remained at the house with her mother Mary until she died there in 1878. Mary died in the house 2 years later in 1880 and the plantation went to her son, Stephen. By this time, the plantation was heavily in debt and Stephen sold it in 1886. Shortly thereafter, a man was stabbed to death in the hallway over a gambling debt. The Myrtles then changed hands a number of times over the next few years until in the early 1900’s, the land was divided up among the last buyer’s heirs after he died and the house itself was sold to a new buyer. In 1927, the overseer of the large house was stabbed to death during a robbery attempt. With its history of violence and death, the house changed hands numerous times, seeming to bring ill will to most of its owners until the 1970’s when James and Frances Myers purchased it. After extensive repairs and remodeling, they turned it into the Bed & Breakfast it is today.

With all of the deaths experienced in the house, it’s no wonder the home has earned its reputation as being extremely haunted. Not long after the death of the slave girl named Cloe came the first reports from residents and visitors of an apparition wearing a green turban. She apparently is still hanging around and still very active over 200 years later. Many guests have awakened from a sound sleep to see the green-turbaned specter standing over them. Often, a baby’s cry is heard when Chloe appears. By standing over the person’s bed and gazing down on them, it is thought she is still carrying out her duties as a nanny, checking on the children she used to care for.

Two other spirits are sometimes seen looking through bedroom windows or standing at the foot of beds in the dark of night – two blond-headed girls with long corkscrew curls wearing antebellum dresses. Children’s happy voices are heard playing in the hallway, laughing and squealing as they invisibly run from one end of the hall to the other. Sometimes, guests return to their locked room after the service staff has carefully made their bed only to find the bed clothes rumpled with the unmistakable indention of a child’s footprint, as if a child had been jumping on the bed. Apparently, Cloe’s young victims are still hanging around.

One of the most reported mysteries is a thumping sound, as if someone is staggering across the foyer and climbing up the stairs. The sound always stops on the 17th step and then the thud of a falling body is heard. Upon investigation, there is nothing seen, nothing at all, except for the dark blood-colored stain on that step, and no amount of scrubbing or bleaching has ever been able to remove it.

Other spirits seem to have made The Myrtles their home as well. Guests of the current Bed & Breakfast have told the owners they witnessed a lady softly playing the grand piano late at night. However, the owners do not know how to play piano and when asked, none of the other guests at the time claimed to know how either. A slender young man in a fancy vest and top hat has been sighted on numerous occasions wandering around the grounds. The clothes and appearance of the man exactly match the description of the gambler killed in the foyer over his gambling debt. There is also the female apparition dressed in a long black skirt who floats about a foot above the floor, dancing to music nobody among the living can hear.  Occasionally, after everyone has gone to bed and all is quiet in the dark of the night, the sounds of laughter, music, and the clinking of glasses can be heard coming from the parlor. Perhaps the ghosts are enjoying a lively social gathering.

The media has often reported on the many phantoms at The Myrtles. It has been featured in Life magazine, Southern Living, and numerous tabloids. A number of television documentaries have featured the old house and its stories through the years. With its location on a Louisiana bayou, surrounded by huge oak trees, Spanish Moss hanging from their branches providing an eerie atmosphere, it has even been featured as the setting for a number of big-budget movies.

A group of paranormal investigators recently spent time at the place and with their video cameras and assorted electronic sensing equipment, they succeeded in documenting several paranormal phenomena. Unexplainable drops in temperature, tape recordings of footsteps in empty rooms and on the stairs, strange whistling sounds emanating from unoccupied rooms and video recorded glowing orbs of bright light strangely whizzing around unseen by the naked eye were a few of the things they documented. Two of the investigators were returning to the house after walking around the grounds when they noticed a gray cat looking at them from the porch. Not knowing what it was at first, they shined their flashlights on it. The cat did not run away, it just sat there looking at them. One of them said, “That cat is creepy” and then both noted something really strange – the cat’s eyes did not reflect the light the way a normal cats would have. One of them grabbed his digital camera and took a picture of it. As soon as he did, the cat disappeared. Looking at the picture later, there was no cat, just a small white orb that seemed to be streaking toward the edge of the photo. When the owners were asked about the cat the next day, they reported it was a family pet named Mert. There was just one problem – Mert had died the year before.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Bizarre Case of Alien Abduction in Italy

On the night of December 6, 1978 in Torriglia, Italy, a 26-year-old night watchman on routine patrol stumbled into a strange, terrifying encounter with alien lifeforms. The encounter would forever change his life and become the most infamous account of an alien abduction in Italy's history.

Pier Zanfretta, a husband and father of two, was navigating his patrol car along an icy road just outside the little mountain town of Torriglia heading toward the unoccupied country home of a client, Dr. Ettore Righi. He was just turning into the home's driveway when suddenly his car's engine, lights and radio all stopped functioning. When the confused Pier looked toward the house, he saw what he thought were 4 flashlights shining their beams around right next to the home. Thinking there were burglars attempting to find an entrance, he quietly exited his vehicle with his gun and flashlight at the ready. 

After slipping through an open gate, he bent low and proceeded toward the intruders while hiding behind a low rock wall that surrounded the property. Carefully peeking from behind the wall, he started to jump over in order to surprise and get the jump on the criminals, but just as he began his leap upwards, a hand grabbed his shoulder from behind. In spite of the tremendous shock, he twirled around with his revolver in hand, but it wasn't an ordinary person standing there. He was just inches away from "An enormous, green, ugly and frightful creature with undulating skin as though he was very fat or dressed in a loose tunic. The monster was no less than 10 feet tall, had points on the side of his face, monstrous yellow triangular eyes and red veins across his forehead."

  Pier was so startled that he dropped his flashlight, but as the creature reached toward him again, he had the sense to duck, grab the flashlight from the ground and, no doubt propelled by a burst of adrenaline, made a hasty retreat back toward his car. Afraid the being would be right behind him, he ran as fast as he could without looking over his shoulder. Just as he reached the front of his car and was reaching for the door, a brilliant beam of light appeared which illuminated everything around him as if it were a bright, sunny day. Shielding his eyes with his arm, Zanfretta dared a look toward the light source and saw a huge, triangular UFO slowly rising from behind the house. As it arose with a loud hissing sound, he could see the craft dwarfed the Righi home in size. Suddenly, Pier was hit by a blast of searing heat and the spaceship zoomed up into the sky at an unbelievable speed.

With all quiet now, he managed to get into his car and call the office on his 2-way radio. At 12:14 am, Carlo Toccalino, the security company's radio operator, logged the call. His report indicated Zanfretta spoke in a confused and very agitated fashion, almost babbling. Carlo had a hard time understanding Zanfretta, but he was able to figure out he was describing the appearance of strange creatures that were not human. When Carlo asked him who was attacking him, Pier shouted, "No, they aren't men, they aren't men! They are so ugly! My God, they are so ugly!"

The call suddenly broke off and Carlo, afraid for his officer, immediately dispatched another car with 2 guards as backup. Due to the icy conditions, the additional car took almost a full hour to reach Zanfretta. When the men arrived, they found Pier laying stiff on the frozen ground in front of the house. As they approached him, Zanfretta looked over at them, leaped up with a wild, scared look on his face and with eyes bulging, shined his flashlight on the men. More alarming, he also aimed his pistol at them. The two men, Walter Lauria and Raimondo Mascia, later said they were both shocked to see the normally timid and restrained man to be babbling irrationally, and despite having worked together for several years, showed no sign of recognizing them. When they began asking him to lower his weapon, he looked totally confused as if he didn't understand the language. When he continued to aim his gun at them, they split up and slowly advanced, one on either side of him, and were able to tackle him and wrench the gun out of his hand. They were both shocked to discover that although he had been laying on the frozen ground for over an hour, his clothes and body was very warm, almost hot.

The guards made a call to the police who were then dispatched to the scene to perform a thorough investigation. Much to their surprise, they found two very large, very deep unexplained indention's behind the Righi home. The indention's were measured to be 9 feet in diameter and shaped like horseshoes. The ground around the marks was found to not be frozen, but muddy from thawing. 

Over 52 calls from Torriglia citizens were received at police headquarters with all reporting seeing a bright light coming from the direction of the Righi home. Most of them reported watching the light ascend into the sky and all of them came in within minutes of when Zanfretta made his first call.

Before long, the press got wind of this strange tale and almost without exception proclaimed Zanfrettta must be either crazy or a liar. Pier shunned all notoriety possible and rarely left his home except for work. He refused offers of payment for his story and did not want his picture taken. He told all who would listen that he wished he had not had this awful experience, but he was neither crazy nor a liar. In hopes of proving himself to be sane and truthful, he agreed to be hypnotized.

On December 23rd, 17 days after the incident, Zanfretta submitted to the session at the office of Dr. Mauro Maretti in Genoa, a fully accredited psychoanalyst of high regard in the field. 

Under hypnosis, in addition to confirming he had seen beings from another planet, Zanfretta was able to recall that he had actually been abducted by them! He stated the beings had taken him into "a hot, luminous location" where they stripped and thoroughly examined him. He also reported the creatures did not speak Italian, but used a strange-looking device to translate what they said into thoughts which he could understand. They told him they were from the planet "Teetonia," located in "the 3rd galaxy" and that they want to talk to us and will "soon" return in large numbers.

Dr. Maretti later said on a personal level he, like everyone else, found Pier's story to be so incredible it was hard to believe, but on a professional level, Zanfretta's demeanor, his voice, his reactions - all indications were that he was telling the truth.

Just three days later at 11:45 pm on December 26, Zanfretta was back at work patrolling when he once again radioed into dispatch. He frantically told the radio operator that his car was driving itself and he could not get it to stop or respond to turning the wheel.  He said he was driving in the Bargagli tunnel near the Scoffera Pass when the car came under the control of someone else. In a panic-stricken voice, he described mashing on the brakes, trying to turn the steering wheel and even trying to turn the engine off, all to no avail. Emerging from the tunnel, the car swerved off the dark road and up a steep embankment. Suddenly, Zanfretta's voice became very calm and measured as he reported, "The car has stopped. The light is back. It has me. I'm getting out of the car now."

Like before, another car with 2 more guards was dispatched, but due to a pouring rain, it took a while to find the car. Finally, at 1:10 am, Sergeant Emanuele Travenzoli radioed in that they had found Pier's car, but there was no sign of him. The police were called to the scene and a few minutes later Sergeant Travenzoli said they had just found Zanfretta in an open field they had already searched before. First he wasn't there, then a few minutes later they saw a movement and he was standing in the middle of the field. Upon reaching him, the guards were astonished to find that despite the downpour of rain, his clothes were dry and very warm. They claimed he was in shock, his body quivering uncontrollably and he was crying. He said, "They say I must go with them, but I don't want to. What about my children? I can't leave my children!" He then began repeating over and over, "I don't want to. I don't want to. I don't want to."

When the police arrived and began investigating, they were astonished to see steam rising off the roof of Zanfretta's Fiat. They found that despite being in the heavy rain for an extended time, the roof was extremely hot. Inside, it was "hot as an oven," as if the heater had been on full blast, but the control was only in the low position and the car had been turned off for at least an hour or more. They then noticed the car was surrounded by very large footprints measuring 20" long and 8" wide, with a distinctive bare spot between the sole and the heel. Searching the field where Zanfretta had been found, they discovered his revolver, a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver laying in the mud. The gun had been fired 5 times, but Pier later insisted he couldn't remember who or what he had fired it at.

For the next 6 months everything was calm. Gradually, poor Pier began coming out of his house for an outing with his family or for drinks with the fellows at the local pub. He claimed he was relieved to have shed the notoriety. His request had been granted by his employer to be assigned to sectors in Genoa, far from the area of the encounters. Life was good. Until he once again disappeared. 

On the night of July 30, 1979, Pier was on motorcycle patrol in the residential area of Quarto in Genoa. Several residents reported seeing him riding down one of the streets, turning a corner onto a second street and then just vanishing! When he failed to report in at the scheduled time and couldn't be raised on his 2-way radio, a notice went out to the patrols in the area and the proper authorities were alerted. 2 hours later, Zanfretta was located on the top of nearby Mt. Fasce. There was only 1 road leading to the top with numerous houses along the route, but residents claimed they had not seen Pier or any motorcycle on the road. 

This time the shaken Zanfretta seemed to be more mad about the abduction than frightened. He insisted on another session with an expert of unquestioned credentials and he also insisted on being given sodium penathol, the infamous truth serum. Two days later, Pier was injected with the sodium penathol in a session with Professor Marco Marchesan at the Center of Medical and Psychological Hypnosis in Milan.

While under the effects of the truth serum, Pier claimed that he and his motorcycle were lifted into an alien spaceship by a green light. He said his abductors had stripped him and forced him to wear a strange helmet that allowed him to understand their language, but gave him a tremendous headache. He said he was then given a short tour of the spaceship accompanied by one of the large aliens. During the tour, he saw a number of large, clear cylinders filled with a blue liquid. In one of the cylinders was a large frog-shaped body. The alien told him it was "an enemy of ours from another planet." Another cylinder contained a large bird-like creature and a 3rd contained the body of a being that looked like "a Neanderthal or a caveman." The alien then told Pier that he needed to come with them, but Zanfretta told him, "No, I don't want to. I know you need me, but I have two children and I don't want to leave them. I don't want to go with you because you aren't human. You are horrible!" Pier then found himself on top of the mountain with no memory of how he got there. 

When the session was over, Professor Marchesan stated, "No human is able to knowingly lie while under sodium penathol so I have to say it is most probable Zanfretta had these encounters."

Four months later, at 10:30 pm on December 2, 1979, Zanfretta disappeared yet again. As before, he failed to call in at the appointed time and an alert was sent out. This time however, the worst was yet to come. This time, Zanfretta would not be the only one to have an encounter with the aliens.

While out looking for Pier in the hills around Genoa, four different guards claimed they had clearly seen a very large, strange craft floating above them before it quickly rose and vanished into the night sky. A few minutes later, two patrol cars were stopped next to each other to discuss matters when suddenly two rays of incredibly bright lights beamed down from a "strange cloud" illuminating the vehicles. Both car engines suddenly quit and the lights went out. Although frightened, the guards, Lt. Cassiba and Germano Zarnardi, got out of the cars and looked up. According to Zarnardi, Lt. Cassiba suddenly screamed in terror as he looked upward, pulled his gun and fired several shots at a huge craft that seemed to be hovering within the cloud. At this point, the lights were extinguished and the cloud and strange aircraft rose up "at an incredible speed."

A few minutes later, Zanfretta was again found. Standing in an open field as before with extremely warm clothes in spite of the winter chill, he was shaking and crying, "Make it stop! Make it stop!"

Both Lt. Cassiba and Zarnardi sought counseling after their encounter, but unfortunately, Zarnardi never seemed to regain mental stability. 3 months later while sitting in a chair at his home, Zarnardi took his own life by shooting himself in the head with his service revolver. A short note in his handwriting was found on the table beside the chair. "I saw it." was all it said.

 In the years since, Zanfretta reports he has been abducted a total of 11 times. He had to retire from his job as a guard due to the repeated disappearances and the notoriety resulting from 2 books which have been written and a 2-part documentary broadcast on Italian television. In his last hypnosis session, Pier said he warned the aliens, "I know you are trying to come more frequently, but you have to stop. No, you can't come to earth; people get scared when they look at you. You can't make friendship." Evidently they listened because they did not appear again.

At least not until recently when Pier reported, "They're back. I'm not sure what for."