CLOSE
Original image
Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons //GFDL 

7 More Haunted Places and the Ghost Stories Behind Them

Original image
Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons //GFDL 

Last week, we told you a quite a few ghost stories tied to specific locations. Below, a few more tales of spirits doomed to spend eternity wandering through estates, cemeteries, lakes, and more.

1. KREISCHER MANSION // STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK

In 1884, New York brick magnate Balthasar Kreischer built two identical, mirror-image mansions on Staten Island for his sons Charles and Edward. One still exists, and is said to be haunted. In 1894, Edward Kreischer was found dead of a gunshot wound at his factory. He was just 43; the coroner ruled it a suicide. The Kreischer family eventually left the neighborhood, and of their homes, only Charles Kreischer’s house still stands. Although Edward Kreischer never lived there, there have been numerous tales of slamming doors and a ghostly woman’s voice wailing, said to be Edward's wife Freda mourning her husband’s death.     

In 2005, gangster Robert McKelvey was murdered at Kreischer Mansion, drowned in the brick pool, cut into pieces, and then burned in the mansion’s furnace. The caretaker of the house and another man were convicted of the mafia hit in 2009, and a third went into the witness protection program.  

The Kreischer Mansion, which was added to the Historic Register in 1968, has been on the market for years. If you’ve got $11.5 million—and nerves of steel—it can be yours.

2. THE MYRTLES PLANTATION // ST. FRANCISVILLE, LOUISIANA

The Myrtles Plantation house was built by David Bradford, who had been a respected lawyer in Pennsylvania until he took part in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Wanted for arrest, he fled to Louisiana, leaving his family behind. There, he purchased 600 acres of land and, after a pardon in 1799, brought his wife and children to live there too.

The property passed to Bradford's son-in-law Clark Woodruff. Legend has it that during Woodruff's reign at the plantation, he had a relationship with a slave girl named Chloe while his wife was pregnant. Chloe became paranoid when Woodruff ended the affair, and he allegedly cut her ear off as punishment for eavesdropping. From that point forward, Chloe wore a turban to cover her scar. In an act of revenge, Chloe later poisoned a birthday cake meant for one of the children. Woodruff didn't indulge, but his wife and children did and subsequently died. As punishment, Chloe was hanged from a tree on the property. Today, the ghosts of Chloe and the children supposedly roam the plantation house—though there's no solid evidence she ever existed. (Records indicate that Mrs. Woodruff and two of their three children died of yellow fever.)

Ruffin Grey Stirling bought the plantation in 1834. Five of his nine children died there before reaching adulthood. The family lost their wealth in the Civil War. The next owner didn't have much luck either: Stirling’s son-in-law William Winter, who inherited the property, was murdered on the front porch in 1871, shot by a still-unknown assailant. The plantation passed through several owners since then, and, in addition to Chloe's spirit, is said to be haunted by Winter. These days, The Myrtles is operated as a bed and breakfast. You don’t have to stay the night, though, as it also has a restaurant and offers guided tours.

3. THE GRAY LADY // COLUMBUS, OHIO

Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, is the final resting place of 2260 Confederate soldiers. Why Ohio? It was the site of a Union POW camp, which held 9400 rebel soldiers during the Civil War. A smallpox epidemic struck the camp in 1863, and the victims, both prisoners and those who worked at the camp, were buried there. After the war, the camp was dismantled; the cemetery was all that was left. In 1895, gravestones slowly began to replace wooden markers.

Louisiana Ransburgh Briggs was a Southerner from New Madrid, Missouri, whose father sent her north to Ohio to avoid the war. After it was over, she married a Union veteran—but never forgot her Southern sympathies. Briggs visited the Camp Chase Cemetery and placed flowers on various graves, even those covered with overgrowth. During her evening visits, Briggs wore a veil to hide her identity, earning her the nickname "the Veiled Lady of Camp Chase." She later spearheaded the efforts to reclaim and maintain the cemetery. After her death in 1950, reports of mysterious flowers appearing on graves—and the sounds of crying—were attributed to the ghost of Mrs. Briggs, who then came to be known as "The Gray Lady." Briggs' spirit seems particularly active at the grave of a 22-year-old soldier from Tennessee named Benjamin F. Allen. (There have also been reported sightings of Confederate soldiers' ghosts at Camp Chase.)

4. GRACE BROWN // BIG MOOSE LAKE, NEW YORK

Grace Brown was in love with Chester Gillette. After hearing that her boyfriend was consorting with other women, she pleaded with him to marry her. After all, Brown was pregnant with their child. Gillette took her to a resort in the Adirondacks, which she hoped would result in an elopement. Instead, on July 11, 1906, the couple went for a boat ride on Big Moose Lake, where Gilette beat her with a tennis racket and threw her overboard. She could not swim. Brown’s body was recovered the next day; an autopsy confirmed the pregnancy. Gillette was tried and found guilty of murder, and executed in 1908.

To this day, the ghost of Grace Brown is often seen standing on or sinking into the water, or walking along the shores of Big Moose. Those who live nearby or work at one of the resort hotels sometimes report strange happenings inside too, which they blame on Brown's ghost. 

5. FREDERICK FISHER’S GHOST // CAMPBELLTOWN, NSW, AUSTRALIA

Frederick Fisher was a local businessman who had been in and out of prison. His neighbor George Worrall held power of attorney over Fisher's property while he was incarcerated. On the night of June 17, 1826, Worrall announced that Fisher had fled to England to avoid more legal trouble. Worrall soon disposed of Fisher's assets, and the suspicious citizenry had him arrested. Worrall blamed four other men, who were also arrested. But where was the evidence of any actual wrongdoing? According to legend, a local farmer, John Farley, saw the ghost of Fisher sitting on a bridge, pointing to an area where his body was subsequently found. The ghostly story was not used as evidence in the trial, but Fisher's body was recovered on October 25, and Worrall was convicted of the murder and hanged. The story was made into a movie in 1924. And now, every November, Campbelltown holds the Festival of Fisher's Ghost.

6. CHERRY HILL HOUSE // ALBANY, NEW YORK

Philip and Maria Van Rensselaer had a large house built in 1787, where their family lived for five generations. By 1827, Elsie Lansing Whipple, married to John Whipple, was the lady of the house. The couple hired a drifter named Joseph Orton as a handyman—or so they thought. The man's real name was Jesse Strang, and it turns out he was hiding from the wife and children he had abandoned. 

Supposedly, Elsie hated her husband, but could not divorce him because he would then get her family fortune. Instead, she began an affair with Strang and convinced him to kill John. After a failed attempt at poisoning, Strang shot and killed Elsie's husband. Strang and Elsie Whipple were both arrested. Strang tried to blame Elsie for the murder, but was nonetheless found guilty and executed. Thousands of people turned out to witness his hanging. Elsie Whipple was tried separately for aiding and abetting the murder, and was acquitted, presumably due to her social standing.     

Ghosts are said to haunt the house called Cherry Hill to this day, although witnesses are divided as to whether the ghost is that of John Whipple or Jesse Strang. There are still bullet holes in the roof of the mansion, now a museum, from the night Whipple was murdered. 

7. CHASE VAULT // CHRIST CHURCH PARISH, BARBADOS

The Chase Family Vault in Christ Church Parish, Barbados was built in 1724 and used by the Chase family beginning in 1807. Remains were interred and sealed with marble and cement. When Thomas Chase, a man with a reputation for cruelty, died in 1812, two of his young daughters were already interred in the vault. Mary Anne was only two years old when she died, and her older sister Dorcas later died under unusual circumstances. When the crypt was opened for their father’s burial only a month after Dorcas’, the coffins already there had clearly been moved. (The toddler’s coffin was found standing on its end.) All three caskets were repositioned and the vault was resealed. Twice in 1816 and once in 1819, the crypt was opened for further burials; each time, the previous coffins were found flipped over or turned end-to-end. The island governor ordered a seal placed on the door and sand put on the floor to retain evidence of any break-ins.

Yet when the crypt was next opened, the seal remained unbroken, the sand was intact, and the coffins had once again moved. That's when the family decided to relocate the coffins of their loved ones elsewhere. The vault has not been used since.

Skeptics maintain that underground water seepage is to blame, because that could, theoretically, move the coffins without seeming to disturb a layer of sand. As the mausoleum is built of coral, leakage does seem to make sense. Other researchers are convinced that the story is just plain untrue, since contemporary accounts are lacking.

See also: 8 Haunted Places and the Ghost Stories Behind Them

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
Original image
iStock

If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

Original image
Bess Lovejoy
arrow
Weird
The Legend (and Truth) of the Voodoo Priestess Who Haunts a Louisiana Swamp
Original image
Bess Lovejoy

The Manchac wetlands, about a half hour northwest of New Orleans, are thick with swamp ooze. In the summer the water is pea-green, covered in tiny leaves and crawling with insects that hide in the shadows of the ancient, ghost-gray cypress trees. The boaters who enter the swamps face two main threats, aside from sunstroke and dehydration: the alligators, who mostly lurk just out of view, and the broken logs that float through the muck, remnants of the days when the swamp was home to the now-abandoned logging town of Ruddock.

But some say that anyone entering the swamp should beware a more supernatural threat—the curse of local voodoo queen Julia Brown. Brown, sometimes also called Julie White or Julia Black, is described in local legend as a voodoo priestess who lived at the edge of the swamp and worked with residents of the town of Frenier. She was known for her charms and her curses, as well as for singing eerie songs with her guitar on her porch. One of the most memorable (and disturbing) went: "One day I’m going to die and take the whole town with me."

Back when Brown was alive at the turn of the 20th century, the towns of Ruddock, Frenier, and Napton were prosperous settlements clustered on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, sustained by logging the centuries-old cypress trees and farming cabbages in the thick black soil. The railroad was the towns' lifeline, bringing groceries from New Orleans and hauling away the logs and cabbages as far as Chicago. They had no roads, no doctors, and no electricity, but had managed to carve out cohesive and self-reliant communities.

That all changed on September 29, 1915, when a massive hurricane swept in from the Caribbean. In Frenier, where Julia lived, the storm surge rose 13 feet, and the winds howled at 125 miles an hour. Many of the townsfolk sought refuge in the railroad depot, which collapsed and killed 25 people. Altogether, close to 300 people in Louisiana died, with almost 60 in Frenier and Ruddock alone. When the storm cleared on October 1, Frenier, Ruddock, and Napton had been entirely destroyed—homes flattened, buildings demolished, and miles of railway tracks washed away. One of the few survivors later described how he’d clung to an upturned cypress tree and shut his ears against the screams of those drowning in the swamp.

The hurricane seemed to come out of nowhere. But if you listen to the guides who take tourists into the Manchac swamp, the storm was the result of the wrath of Julia Brown. Brown, they say, laid a curse on the town because she felt taken for granted—a curse that came true when the storm swept through on the day of her funeral and killed everyone around. On certain tours, the guides take people past a run-down swamp graveyard marked "1915"—it’s a prop, but a good place to tell people that Brown’s ghost still haunts the swamp, as do the souls of those who perished in the hurricane. The legend of Julia Brown has become the area's most popular ghost story, spreading to paranormal shows and even Reddit, where some claim to have seen Brown cackling at the edge of the water.

After I visited the swamp earlier this year and heard Julia Brown's story, I got curious about separating fact from fiction. It turns out Julia Brown was a real person: Census records suggest she was born Julia Bernard in Louisiana around 1845, then married a laborer named Celestin Brown in 1880. About 20 years later, the federal government gave her husband a 40-acre homestead plot to farm, property that likely passed on to Julia after her husband’s death around 1914.

Official census and property records don’t make any mention of Brown’s voodoo work, but that's not especially surprising. A modern New Orleans voodoo priestess, Bloody Mary, told Mental Floss she has found references to a voodoo priestess or queen by the name of Brown who worked in New Orleans around the 1860s before moving out to Frenier. Mary notes that because the towns had no doctors, Brown likely served as the local healer (or traiteur, a folk healer in Louisiana tradition) and midwife, using whatever knowledge and materials she could find to care for local residents.

Brown’s song is documented, too. An oral history account from long-time area resident Helen Schlosser Burg records that "Aunt Julia Brown … always sat on her front porch and played her guitar and sang songs that she would make up. The words to one of the songs she sang said that one day, she would die and everything would die with her."

There’s even one newspaper account from 1915 that describes Brown's funeral on the day of the storm. In the words of the New Orleans Times-Picayune from October 2, 1915 (warning: offensive language ahead):

Many pranks were played by wind and tide. Negroes had gathered for miles around to attend the funeral of ‘Aunt’ Julia Brown, an old negress who was well known in that section, and was a big property owner. The funeral was scheduled … and ‘Aunt’ Julia had been placed in her casket and the casket in turn had been placed in the customary wooden box and sealed. At 4 o’clock, however, the storm had become so violent that the negroes left the house in a stampede, abandoning the corpse. The corpse was found Thursday and so was the wooden box, but the casket never has been found.

Bloody Mary, however, doesn’t think Brown laid any kind of curse on the town. "Voodoo isn’t as much about curses as it is about healing," she says. The locals she has spoken to remember Julia as a beloved local healer, not a revengeful type. In fact, Mary suggests that Julia’s song may have been more warning to the townsfolk than a curse against them. Perhaps Brown even tried to perform an anti-storm ritual and was unable to stop the hurricane before it was too late. Whatever she did, Mary says, it wasn’t out of malevolence. And if she’s still in the swamp, you have less to fear from her than from the alligators.

This story originally ran in 2016.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios