Monday, October 29, 2007

Spooky Story Four: A Skeptic's Experience

I hope you've enjoyed this year's Spooky Stories Series, and I decided to save the best for last.

The following story was told to me by a good friend. He will remain anonymous, but I assure you that this is his personal, first-hand experience. Before he told me this incredible account of his very scary run-in with the supernatural, he explained that he was a big-time skeptic. Anything paranormal, he immediately discounted. In fact, he and his wife were both atheists.

Although he does not practice any sort of religion, he now doubts that death is truly the end.

Here is "Tom's" story:

In 1986, my wife and I were expecting our first baby. We had lived in an apartment, and thought having a real house would be a better place to raise a family. We didn't have a lot of money for a down payment, so we decided to rent a home first - with a portion of our rent going towards the purchase of the house. We found a great little town just outside of Kansas City. It had the feel of a small town, but had all the stores and businesses all conveniently there.

Our new home was a charming Victorian, built in 1900. It had three bedrooms, one bath, and a detached garage. It even had a yard which we thought we would fence-in later. We were excited, and we thought this started-home was perfect for us.

Early on, some very strange things happened. Lights would flicker off and on, and rooms would suddenly get very cold. I thought that all of this was from living in an old drafty house. Maybe when the heater kicked on, it would make the lights blink - or maybe a lack of insulation made a room cold when the winter wind blew.

Neither of us believed in any of that ghost shit. In fact, we didn't believe in any sort of afterlife at all. Ghosts, spirits, hauntings - it was all bullshit. But living in this house, we started to wonder.

I'm a big time checker. I check, double-check, triple-check stuff before we go to bed or leave the house. One night, my wife and I were going to go out to dinner and a movie. My wife went to our garage to wait in the car while I went through my ritual. I checked the gas stove, the lights, the back door, etc. I did leave one light in the living room on - just so we wouldn't come home to a completely dark house. All was perfect, and so we left to go on our "date."

Three hours later, as we pulled up to the house, we knew something was wrong. The porch light was on. When we got inside, we freaked out when we could see that every single light in our house was now on. Not just the light fixtures, but ALL the lights - including the lamps, and closet light bulb. My wife grabbed the phone, thinking we had been robbed while we were out. But after doing a quick sweep, we saw no sign of a robbery.

We also noticed that a few appliances were on as well. The empty dishwasher was going and the TV in the living room was on.

There was no explanation for this, and we didn't really try to find one.

In the next few months, all kinds of weird stuff happened: footsteps in the hall at night, we would hear doors shut on their own, and our keys would constantly go missing. All of these did have a reasonable explanation, however.

When my wife was six months pregnant, we had an experience that forced us to leave the house immediately and permanently.

One night, we were both completely asleep. Suddenly, we heard a woman screaming downstairs. It was an angry scream, and then she was sobbing. I turned on the light, and my wife and I looked at each other in horror. We heard a man yelling; it sounded like he was yelling at the woman, telling her to stop crying. The lady screeched back at him, and the man's booming voice yelled right back.

Our immediate thought was that people had broken into our house and were now arguing in our living room. My wife hid in the closet while I grabbed the baseball bat from under the bed to chase out the intruders. As I ran down the small hallway and down the steps, I was screaming bloody murder like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. I was hoping my fury would scare the burglers away. The man and woman were still screaming at each other, and when I reached the bottom of the steps, I heard a forceful "Shhhhhhhhhh!"

When I turned the corner, the living room was still. I fumbled for the light switch and hit it. The living room was just as I had left it - no intruders. With my aluminum bat, I did a search throughout the first floor for any sign of the angry, arguing couple - and found nothing. All the doors were locked, the windows were shut. TV and radio both off.

What the hell?

If I had been home alone, I would've easily explained that I must've been dreaming and jolted myself awake. That happens to everyone. The dream feels real, and for the first few seconds upon waking up, you're still sort of dreaming. But I know I was wide awake. And my wife had heard exactly what I had heard: a man and woman screaming at each other in what sounded like our living room.

The idea that we had heard disembodied voices in our house terrified us.

We had had enough. All of the strange experiences in the house put together was just too much. My wife was pregnant, and this was not the kind of house to bring a baby home to.

So we left.

We lost our $300 deposit and six months worth of rent, but we felt it was worth it.

But our story doesn't end there. Fast forward nearly 20 years later to 2004.

My wife and I were at a party held by my co-worker. In the course of the evening, there was a couple sitting at the breakfast table talking about having lived in a haunted house ten years ago. Of course we had to listen. They spoke of the usual stuff - creepy sounds, cold spots, doors slamming. But the wife said that she saw a man's ghost in the living room, and from what I could tell, she was still terrified from that experience.

Someone asked where this house was, and it was the very same house my wife and I had lived in 18 years ago! We sat down and began talking about our own experiences in that same house, and the other couple had heard a man and woman screaming at each other too.

Being able to compare "notes" and really corroborate our experiences was so validating to us. Now I know for a fact we weren't crazy, and that what we heard and saw was REAL.

Even to this day, I'm a skeptic - but at the same time, I'm not so easily dismissive. From my own personal experiences, no one can tell me that we had just imagined it, or give us any other sort of ordinary explanation. To me, there is no doubt that for nearly six months, my wife and I lived in a real haunted home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spooky Story Three: The Ghost Hunters

Roto-Rooter plumbers by day, ghost hunters by night - Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of the T.A.P.S. (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) have worked to legitimize the idea that there are indeed some real ghosts going bump in the night.

Featured on the Sci-Fi channel on Wednesday evenings, Jason and Grant made ghost hunting more mainstream. By using a variety of high-tech tools like EMF detectors, digital voice recorders, and infrared cameras, they've taken a more scientific approach to hunting ghosts. Their objective isn't to prove the existence of ghosts at a particular location, but to DISPROVE any notion there are ghosts. It's a very different perspective and one that gives these ghost hunters a more skeptical slant.

Last night, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson came to St. Louis to discuss what they actual do, what they don't do, and cover some of the more interesting things they've found. They said that overall, they've been able to debunk 80% of all claims...but it's the remaining 20% that remains unexplained.

Over one-thousand people waited in line at the city library, and only 700 got to stay. Unfortunately, I was in the group of about 350 people that were stuck in a large room forced to watch Jason and Grant's presentation via closed circuit TV and sound system. Nevertheless, I found the seminar both entertaining and educational.

Here are just a couple cases they discussed last night:

The Stanley Hotel

This is the hotel that served as the inspiration (and actual shooting locale) for Stephen King's The Shining. The spirits of a past maid's children can still be heard playing in the halls up on the fourth floor. In Room 401, Jason witnessed a drinking glass on his nightstand shatter from the inside out, and he was able to catch on night vision video his closet door opening and then later closing by itself.

Last Halloween, the ghost hunters actually broadcast the entire investigation LIVE, and viewers were able to send text messages to both Jason and Grant during the six hour hunt.

During this awesome live broadcast, they even heard a girl's voice saying "hello" and laughing while investigating the cellar.

The Armory

T.A.P.S. investigates an old armory in New Bedford, MA built in 1903. Soldiers have reported all kinds of freaky things like large metal doors opening and closing on their own and all kinds of apparitions and ghosts being seen. What makes this episode so interesting is what happens to the soundman.

Frank DeAngelis is carrying a large boom microphone with both hands and a 40 pound equilizer in a case around his neck. Frank is a hardcore skeptic, often attributing any sort of paranormal activity to swamp gass, mass hysteria, or people smoking too much weed. But in one milisecond, Frank goes from big time skeptic to ulitmate believer.

He's literally attacked by an entity, and his life is changed forever.

Jason Hawes explained in the seminar that Frank immediately flew back home to California. They were able to talk him into flying back to finish production of their investigation, but Frank decided to not work on any more Ghost Hunters episodes.

I've thought about maybe producing my own ghost hunting video blog, but it would be full of nothing but footage of me screaming like a girl and running away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spooky Story Two: Haunted Illinois College

Jacksonville, IL is a really nice smaller town about two hours north of St. Louis. It's a great place, and the blending of the modern world with the historic buildings makes for an interesting visit. Jacksonville is also home to Illinois College, founded in 1823. The college has had many incredible visitors and speakers including Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The school was an important site for the Abolitionist Movement, and many tunnels from the Underground Railroad can be found beneath the campus grounds.

With all of this rich history, you know this place has to be haunted

Beecher Hall was built in 1829. This two-level building is now used as a meeting hall for two fraternities - Sigma Pi and Phi Alpha. There's been tons of reports of footsteps that can be distinctly heard in one room, always coming from another. If somebody follows the sound, then the footsteps will suddenly be heard in the other room instead. Decades ago, this was a medical building and cadavers were secretly stored on the upper floor. Some believe that this may explain the ghostly activity.

The med students here were not supposed to have the cadavers, but they stole them from local hospitals and cemeteries for their studies. They hid the corpses in the attic until the stench of decaying flesh alerted college officials to their presence.

Other legends claim that the ghost here is that of Williams Jenning Bryan, who has returned to haunt his frat house. He was a member of Sigma Pi and was often in the building during his years at Illinois College. There are others who say that it might be Abraham Lincoln’s ghost, since he had stayed there during his visits.

The David A. Smith House was built in 1854 and is home to three sororities. There are several different stories regarding the young daughter, Effie Smith, and her suicide. Whatever the varying circumstances, the one common denominator is that she jumped out a window from the attic. To this day, they say if you move Ellie's rocking chair away from its spot near that window and leave the room, the chair will somehow return to its proper spot.

Perhaps the most compelling haunting is at Ellis Hall, built in 1957. The urban legend was that some girl didn't get a bid from a sorority and she hung herself in Room 303. In that room and those dorms surrounding it, doors will open and shut on their own, radios will turn on and off by themselves, and windows will also open and close.

After some digging, the truth is that no girl killed herself there. However, a young lady named Gail did die in Room 303. She was already terminally ill while attending college, and passed of natural causes in bed. In fact, a plaque in her memory is still on the door of room 303.

Students living in or near the room say that doors often do open and close on their own and they are always missing stuff. If they ask Gail to return the missing item, it will sure enough be found shortly thereafter.

One former resident that lived in the room directly below room 303 said that she often heard knocking sounds from the other side of the wall. The funny thing is, it's an outer wall and there aren't any trees or object even close to it.

Another former student said:

"I attended this college and stayed in the dorm where this girl died (My girlfriend at the time was a student and it was in her dorm). My former girlfriend woke up to find a female ghost floating above her over the bed. The radio would often come on by itself, but it would always play music from the 70s or 80s even though we never left it on any stations that would play music from that time. We were also awakened by her hair dryer turning on by itself."

Illinois College is absolutely full of all kinds of reports - from Civil War soldier ghost sightings to objects floating around. Sturtevant Hall, Crampton Hall, the McGaw building, Rammelkamp Chapel, and the Fayerweather House all have just tons and tons of stories.

In fact at the Fayerweather House, the attic was converted into a series of dorm rooms, but they are no longer used. No one would stay there, as too many students complained of freaky things happening too often. Reports of footsteps and scratching on the walls at night, doors slamming, and even objects flying around the rooms was enough for the adminstration to close the newly renovated doorms for good.

Whether or not you believe that the campus of Illinois College is haunted, you can't so easily dismiss the thousands of reports from students and faculty alike - and I'm sure it's a repuation the administration doesn't want to advertise.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spooky Story: The Linda Sherman Mystery

This is not an urban legend or simple folk tale. The following is a very real story - a true mystery that happened when I was in high school here in the St. Louis area. ..

In 1985, Don and Linda Sherman were struggling to keep their marrage intact. They had separated and reconciled several times, but it seems divorce was imminent. Don worked in a machine shop, and Linda worked nights at the U.S. Government Records Center. They lived in a modest house in Vinita Park, a manicipality in northwest St. Louis County. On April 11th, Linda filed for a dissolution of marriage. Despite this, Linda continued to live with Don and their 9 year-old daughter, Patty.

On April 22nd, Linda clocked out of work at 2:16 AM and went home to sleep on the couch. Don took their daughter to school that morning, and at 6 PM Don says he saw Linda leaving for work.

He would be the last person to see her alive.

Linda never reported to work that day. Eventually, the police got involved in the search for Linda Sherman. Linda's family knew from the beginning that something was very wrong. They said that there was no way Linda would just leave her daughter without a word. In fact, everytime Linda tried to leave her husband for good, she had always taken Patty with her.

Five days later, police found Linda's Volkswagon Beetle at Lambert Airport's short term parking lot. Other than a couple of personal items, there was no trace of Linda. Of course the husband was the prime suspect, but investigators could not find one shred of evidence to prove he was involved in his wife's disappearance.

All the leads were exhausted, all potential suspects were cleared. Police turned to the media for help. Without a break, they could not solve this mystery.

Five years later, on June 28th 1990, flight attendants having lunch at the Casa Gallardo in Bridgeton, Missouri saw something very strange in the bushes. On the other side of their large window, they saw a human skull facing them. They thought it was a joke, and the manager shut the blinds. When he went out to investigate, it was clear that the skull was REAL. Bridgeton police came and the skull was taken to the St. Louis County medical examiner's office. The unidentified skull was stored on a shelf at the county morgue.

Fourteen months later, a strange envelope was mailed to the Vinita Park police station. Inside was an orange flyer advertising a Super Bowl promotion that the Bridgeton Casa Gallardo had run months ago. On the back, written in purple ink was:


Lt. Michael Webb of the Vinita Park police department immediately contacted Bridgeton police, and they confirmed that a human skull was indeed found at the Casa Gallardo there. Lt. Webb sent Linda Sherman's dental records to the county morgue where forensic tests proved that they were in possession of Linda Sherman's skull.

The FBI tested the envelope and letter, and found nothing. The sender had been very careful. Vinita Park police now had a homicide investigation, but no where else to go now. They did have new questions, however:

Where is the rest of Linda Sherman's remains?
Who sent this letter after the unidentified skull had been found by Bridgeton police?
Why write the letter on the back of a Casa Gallardo promotion?
And finally:

Why would someone take just Linda's skull and place it in plain view of customers at the Casa Gallardo restaurant??? Someone had to have gone to where Linda's remains were buried, unearthed them, and just took the skull. The thought was horrifying.

In November of 2001, Linda Sherman's story was featured on the television program Unsolved Mysteries. After more advanced forensic years later, they are no closer to solving Linda Sherman's mystery. It's been 22 years now since Linda Sherman's initial disappearance, and 17 years since the gruesome discovery of her skull at the restaurant.

It remains an unsolved case to this day...

Monday, October 1, 2007

3rd Annual Spooky Stories

It's hard to believe, but it's that time of year once again where I share some very spooky stories. As always, I would appreciate any submissions from you folks - it seems every year I get several really good ones. You can remain anonymous if you wish.

In the last couple years, I've talked about the Mothman, the real Exorcist, and the famous Lemp Mansion. What I'd like to do is keep that local theme going this year, and share many freaky stories centered around the St. Louis area.

It should be very easy to do, especially with all the stuff that happens in Alton, IL - which is probably only second to New Orleans or Philadelphia in being the most haunted city in the country.

So I hope you're ready for some good spooky stories!

You can submit your own story HERE.

Here are a few of my favorite spooky stories from October of 2005 and 2006:

The Lemp Mansion: I get at least 20 hits a day about this very haunted house here in St. Louis

The Mothman and The Mothman Returneth: Weird, but I get at least 50 hits a day about the Mothman.

The Real Emily Rose: This story of demonic possession is pretty freaky. I think the recordings of her exorcism scare the hell out of my readers.