Thursday, April 14, 2016

Was New England full of Vampires?

Was New England full of Vampires?

Well, if you believe some of the stories that came out of the area from the 18th and 19th centuries, it was.  Believe it or not, Rhode Island was considered quite a haven for vampire's in those days.  As a matter of fact, vampires were so well known that when Bram Stokers notes for Dracula were discovered, there was but one newspaper clipping among them.  It was about Mercy Brown, a suspected vampire who lived in Exeter, Rhode Island.  

Several cases of consumption (tuberculosis) had occurred in the family of George and Mary Brown, in Exeter, Rhode Island. The Brown's two eldest daughters had already been taken from them ten years prior.  When Mercy became ill, some friends and neighbors suspected the influence of the undead was causing the illnesses.  Not much was known about consumption and folks were pretty superstitious back then.  

Mercy's older brother Edwin became ill, and moved to Colorado in hopes of curing the disease.  He came home feeling better. .Mercy had become ill and Edwin soon relapsed, causing the town folk to press the issue that the town was being plagued by the undead.  Mercy died on January 18th, 1892. She was 19 years old.  

Her body was stored in an above-ground crypt for two months until the ground was soft enough to dig her grave. After Mercy's death, George Brown finally arranged for Dr. Metcalf, from Wickford, to go to the cemetery on March 17th to examine the bodies of the Brown women.

Mercy's sisters had been in the ground some ten years. So when their bodies were exhumed, they were found to be in the expected state of advanced decomposition.  However, Mercy's body was still in the above ground crypt she'd been stored in upon her death.  Having died in January it had been to cold to bury her, and so she had spent the two months since her death in a nearly frozen state.
 Because of those conditions, Mercy was in a state of far less advanced decomposition than she would have been under normal circumstances.  There was "blood" found in her heart and mouth.  Her hair and nails looked to have grown while she was interred, and her skin had become pale and seemed unblemished by death, and she seemed to have shifted position in her coffin.

All of that  was taken by the towns folk as confirmation that the undead were influencing the family to be sick. Poor Mercy's heart was burned on a nearby stone, mixed with water and given to her brother Edwin, who was sick, to drink, in order to stop the influence of the undead. The young man died two months later.

Mercy's was only the last, however, of five vampire cases in Exeter, dating as far back as 1796.  She was the last "vampire" exhumed in Rhode Island.

Below are some links where you can learn more about Mercy and other New England vampires.
Wikipedia- Mercy Brown

A great article by The Smithsonian


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What kind of Ghost is that? Part 2. Intelligent Hauntings.

Welcome to part two of What kind of Ghost is that?

The first type of haunting we covered is Residual Haunting.  To quickly review, in a residual haunting ghosts or spirits will not interact with people or the environment in any way.  This type of haunting is thought to be more like a recording of events played back over and over again, sometimes at certain times of the year.

The second type of haunting we're going to look at is called Intelligent Haunting.  With an intelligent haunting, ghosts can and do interact with their environment and other people.  Investigators will receive intelligent and relevant answers to questions or comments during EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) sessions.  The spirits involved in an intelligent haunting usually have some type of connection to the location, or to the people who live or work there.

The interactive ghost is the consciousness of the person that once lived.  It will retain all the knowledge, personality and habits of that person. This person may have purposefully decided to stay behind instead of moving on, or may be "stuck"  because of murder, an accidental death, unfinished business, or undying or unrequited love.

Another reason a spirit might choose to stay behind is fear of judgement.  If a ghost was evil in life it may believe that in the afterlife it would be judged harshly and sent to hell.  In this case a spirit might choose to stay behind in order to avoid that fate.

 Because of the fact that the ghost retains all of the emotions and personality of the living person it once was, there is the potential for there to be benevolent, peaceful spirits, as well as malevolent, angry spirits.  It's important not to confuse malevolent spirits with an inhuman entity...a malevolent spirit was once human and may just give off an angry feel in the air and possible tension and animosity around the area that it is haunting. These negative spirits are not evil but angry. This may be due to confusion and about what is going on around them. This also may mean that in life they may have been an angry person and that it carried over into their death.

 Because they retain their original personalities and intelligence,  they can and sometimes will interact and communicate in many different ways.  They my leave messages via EVP, make other types of noises, or move things about.  As investigators, intelligent hauntings are fascinating cases.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stingy Jack and the origins of the Jack O'lantern.

Tonight is Halloween Night!  At some point this evening, I'll be driving around the small city I live in, to look at the decorations, and particularly the Jack O'lanterns.  These wonderfully carved pumpkins have always been my favorite Halloween decoration.

In honor of Halloween and my love of Jack O'lantern's, I've decided to tell you the legend of Stingy Jack. and how the Jack O'lantern came to be.

And now!
The Legend of Stingy Jack

Once upon a time, there was, in Ireland, a man known as Stingy Jack.  Jack was mean, drank too much, and delighted in playing tricks on anyone and everyone.

One day, Jack ran into the Devil.  Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him in the local pub.  When the time came to pay, Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to pay for the drinks.  Once the Devil had done so, Jack put the coin into his pocket near a silver cross, so the Devil could not change back to his original form.

Jack eventually told the Devil he'd free him, on the condition that the Devil wouldn't bother Jack for the period of one year, and that when Jack died, the Devil would not come for his soul.  The Devil agreed and Jack freed him to go on his way.

The next year, the Devil returned to see Jack, and Jack, ever the trickster, convinced the Devil to climb a tree to pick some fruit. The Devil agreed, but as soon as he was up the tree, Jack carved the symbol of a cross into the bark of the tree so the Devil could not climb down.   Again Jack told the Devil he would release him, on the condition that this time the Devil would not bother Jack for a space of 10 years, and again, that when Jack died, the Devil would not come for his soul.  Again the Devil agreed and Jack released him from the tree.

When Stingy Jack finally died, God refused to allow him into heaven due to his unpleasant character in life.  The Devil, still stung at having been tricked twice by Jack, turned him away from the gates of hell. Instead, he gave Jack a single glowing coal and condemned Jack's spirit to forever walk the world of the living, with nothing else to light his way.   Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and used that as a lantern to light his way.

 To this day, in dark and lonely places, you can sometimes still see Jack O'lantern walking through eternity.

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns.  They would carve scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits.  They would also carve happy or welcoming images in order that friendly spirits, or those of their ancestors, were welcome to visit.  In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States and soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.

And so my friends, thus goes the story of Stingy Jack and the origins of our modern day Jack O'lantern.

Whoever you are, and whatever you celebrate and believe...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Pendle Witches

On December 8, 2011 the BBC News website featured an article about the discovery of the archaeological remains of a 17th century cottage.  The building was found under a grass mound, when workers from United Utilities were sent to survey an area of the Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

The bones of a cat were found bricked into one wall of the cottage.  It's believed that the cat may have been buried alive to protect the inhabitants from evil.

From an archaeological standpoint, the discovery of the cottage was a treasure trove of information about daily life for the poor in 17th century England.  However, it's the assumption that was made about the people who lived there that leads us into the paranormal.

Pendle Hill is well known for a series of witch trials held in 1612. In all, twenty people were accused of witchcraft and tried.  Ten of them were hanged, and one died in jail.  One was sentenced to stand in the pillory, and the rest were acquitted.

In what almost feels like a precursor to the Salem Witch trials of 1692, the testimony of a child was key to the proceedings.  Nine year old Jennet Device gave evidence against her mother, brother, and several other members of her family and neighbors.  Jennet's testimony, even at that young age, was allowed under King James' rules.  Under his system, all the normal rules of evidence were suspended for witch trials.

There are other similarities to the Salem Witch trials as well.  The families involved in the Pendle trials were long time rivals, much like the many of the families involved at Salem were.  Elizabeth Southerns (Old Demdike) and Anne Whittle (Mother Chattox) and their families, had been at odds for years.  In those days, women who were known as witches didn't just perform hexes and cause the neighbors milk to spoil in the cow.  They were also the local healers and even midwives, using herbs for their medicinal properties to help the sick and ease childbirth.   Both Chattox and Demdike were known as witches and were obviously competitors for whatever business was to be had in the area.  Both families were also known as beggars and there was likely competition there as well.

All in all, the story of the Pendle Witches is fascinating and well worth looking into!

If you're interested in knowing more about the Pendle Witches, and young Jennet Device in particular, there is an excellent documentary called The Pendle Witch Child.

You can read more about the witches at The Pendle Witches.

Also, this page on Google is where I started my research for this article.

NOTE:  The cottage was reburied in 2012 to prevent further damage harsh weather, and overzealous tourists.  You can read the BBC article here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Kind of Ghost is That? Part 1.

Not all ghosts are the same!  In fact, there are several different types of haunting activity that are recognized by the paranormal community.  As an investigator, it's important to be able to identify these various types of activity.

I'll be writing several posts detailing the various types of hauntings.   First up, the Residual Haunting!

Residual Haunting:  A residual haunting is a playback of a specific time or event. One theory on how residual hauntings come about postulates that when a particular location experiences an event or a series of events, the emotional energy generated can imprint itself on the atmosphere of that location.

In some cases, it's thought that the very building materials used, particularly at older locations, aid in the imprinting process. This is called the Stone Tape theory. Video and audio tapes capture sounds and images on a film of special material that has been oxidized or rusted.  Certain building materials, such as slate used in older castles and stone structures and iron nails used in many older buildings, have properties similar to that of the tapes.  When a traumatic event or a time of heightened emotions occurs , these materials are thought to be able to "record" the event.

The apparitions seen are not actual spirits, but recordings of whatever events took place at the location. Most often residual hauntings are associated with traumatic, highly emotional events such as war, or murder, but in some cases can be associated with simple repetition of an event. Apparitions will not interact with witnesses, and can seem oblivious to the fact that anyone is there at all.  They will perform the same actions every time they are seen. A Figure moving through a wall where once a door stood, or climbing a long removed staircase are classic examples of such encounters.  EVP recordings have also been made of residual haunting activity. In some cases, activity will only be seen at particular times, such as the anniversary of whatever event caused the haunting in the first place.

Residual hauntings can be brought about by either positive or negative events, though there seem to be more examples of negative ones.  Likely due to the fact that negative emotions are much stronger than positive ones.

An excellent example of residual haunting is the ghost of Anne Boleyn.  Anne was the second wife of King Henry VIII.  Henry desperately needed a male heir to secure the family line, but Anne bore him only a daughter.  In a remarkable twist of fate and irony, that daughter went on to become Queen Elizabeth I. But still, Anne bore him no son.

 On May 19, 1536, Anne was beheaded on patently false charges of witchcraft, incest and adultery.  Numerous sightings of Anne's ghost have been reported at several locations throughout England, including the Tower of London.  Typical of a residual haunting, the apparition never interacts with witnesses, and she does the same things each time she is seen, depending on the given location.  In a unique twist, sightings of Anne's apparition have been reported at several different locations, at different times of the year.

There is a very informative article about Anne's ghost at On the Tudor Trail.

Other examples of residual hauntings include The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, and the battlefield at Gettysburg.

While witnessing residual haunting activity can be startling, they are by nature, completely harmless. If given the opportunity to visit or investigate the site of a residual haunting, do so and enjoy the show!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Brightest Blessings and Farewell: Debbie and Mark Constantino

By now most of the paranormal community knows that on September 22nd, we lost Debbie and Mark Constantino.

The Constantino's were a valuable and respected resource for their work with Electronic Voice Phenomena.  It is with a sense of sad irony that I note that I am posting this just days after covering EVP for the first time on this blog, with Who is Sara Estep?.

Most recently, the couple were best known for their appearances on the Ghost Adventures television show. Their deaths represent a great loss to the Paranormal Community and they shall be sorely missed.

I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Debbie and Mark.  

The Paranormal Pundit.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Who is: Sarah Estep?

Sara Wilson Estep began experimenting with EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) in 1976 after reading The Handbook of Psi Discoveries by Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Shroeder.  She is known as one of the world's leading experts in the field.  

Sara's experiments with EVP began on her husband's old reel to reel tape recorder.  Over the course of her career she collected thousands of recordings and eventually popularized the classification system originated by Konstantin Raudive. This system is still in use today, as a tool for amateur and professional EVP investigators to specify the quality of their recordings.

Sara went on to found the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena in 1982.  Until 2000, when she retired, Sara published newsletters, wrote two books, and helped thousands of researchers learn more about EVP and best practices for recording and analyzing their findings.  

The AA-EVP is still active today as the Association Trans Communication.  You can find their website here.  The site is a treasure trove of information.  You can listen to recordings Sara and many others have made there.  I listened to quite a few of the recordings while researching this post and, I'm amazed at the audio quality of many of them.  Given that Sara never used electronic equipment, but tape only recorders in her research, the quality and clarity of many of the samples rivals or surpasses much of what you'll hear today, recorded on electronic equipment.

One of my favorite pages on the site, and the one I personally consider most informative, is titled EVP Online Listening Trials.  It contains theoretical explanations of how spirits are able to create EVP and even talks about Agnosia, which is the loss of ability to interpret sensory stimuli, and pareidolia, which I covered briefly in a previous post entitled Am I really seeing that?

Anyone interested in EVP phenomena would do well to include the site, and the work of Sara Estep in their research.