Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ghost Hollow’s Curse

Residents that live around the old settlement town of Ripley, Oklahoma on windy nights state they hear some chilling sounds coming from a large old oak tree.

Ripley is near the city of Cushing in Payne County. This county was opened to settlement in the Oklahoma land run in April of 1889.

This oak tree was an ideal place to hang people. The hollow this tree still stands in is considered haunted and cursed. The area was dubbed Ghost Hollow for this reason.

In the late 1800s Payne County was still an untamed lawless land. The only justice was imposed at the end of a rope or from the barrel of a colt pistol or Winchester rifle.

In 1899, three horse thieves were left hanging from the limb of this oak tree in the hollow. This was not the first time this tree had been used for this purpose.

The following tales are often told around a campfire.

An Accidental Death and A Curse

One legend states that a young Indian girl, in spite of her father’s wishes, ran away to marry a white man.

The father found them and shot the young man. But his bullet hit his daughter instead, killing her.

It is said in his grief and despair he placed a curse on Ghost Hollow where he found the two lovers.

His daughter was 17-years old at the time of her death. It is said every 17 years a death occurs in this hollow.

One victim of this curse was a gambler from Ripley. He was hanged from this tree when he was caught cheating at cards.

In the early 1900s a human skeleton was found in the hollow. Yet another body was found in 1922. Then in 1939, there was a fatal car wreck on a nearby road.

Haunting Noises and Eerie Glow

Local witnesses state that on windy nights in Ghost Hollow they have heard terrible moans and groans coming from this old hanging tree. They state this sound raised the hair on their necks and made their hearts beat faster.

One Boy Scout troop passing through the hollow stated all their horses were spooked when they entered Ghost Hollow one windy night.

Yet another legend that surrounds the hollow states an innocent man was hung from this tree in 1887. It is said the next day, all of the bark from this tree mysteriously fell off.

Since, during full moons witnesses state this tree glows brightly.

Of course, wind makes horses spook and moonlight makes things glow but I love these old stories...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ozark Ghost Folklore

The Ozark people who live in Missouri and Arkansas were descended from pioneers who came West from the Southern Appalachians at the beginning of the 19th century.

They mostly came from British stock many of their families had lived in America since colonial days.

They had very little contact with the outer world for more than a hundred years. At the turn of the century--1900--they still were not influenced by the progress that influenced the rest of the country.

These “hillbillies” as they became known, clung to the outdated customs of their ancestors. Because of this their old songs, sayings and stories are still shared today.

Hand in hand with their traditional beliefs came a firm belief in superstitions and ghosts.

During pioneer times the old-time hillfolk would invite people to their cabins for the express purpose of swapping supernatural tales. In a society where people didn’t hold with “dancing” and “card playing” ghost stories were a cherished form of entertainment.

In my post entitled, Kentucky Ghostlore I share one version of a ghost story entitled Dividing Up the Dead often told in the Ozarks.

Many of the ghost stories told were not only scary but also humorous. Here is a prime example from 1899.

A Lost Relationship

A young man had been visiting his sweetheart. As he rode away from her gate at midnight she called, “I’ll be with you all the way home.”

Soon he noticed something white floating in the air behind him. He kicked his horse into a trot but the white thing stayed close.

Just before he reached home the young man’s hat flew off, but he was too scared to stop and look for it.

Next morning he told his mother that the girl he was courting must be a witch. He announced that he intended to never see her again or have anything to do with her.

His sweetheart had no idea what was wrong. She wrote him several letters but never received a reply. A few months later she married and moved to Oklahoma.

The young man never saw her again. In the fall of the year she left he was walking through the woods where he had lost his hat.

He spotted something sticking up out of the brambles with a roll of cotton attached to it. He spotted a familiar snakeskin hatband. It was his hat.

His sweetheart and her mother on the last night he saw her had been carding cotton.

The long roll of cotton, streaming from his hat, was the “white thing” that had floated behind as he raced home.

Published 1947

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Black Hope Curse and Haunting

The two stories below reflect an ongoing theme I have presented on Seeks Ghosts--which is when graves are disturbed or desecrated bad things can happen.

The Haney’s Story

Black Hope Cemetery
In the early 1980s, Sam and Judith Haney purchased a new home in a Newport subdivision in Houston, Texas.

When Sam decided to put a swimming pool in their backyard an elderly black man, Jasper Norton showed up at his door. Norton told him he was about to disturb two graves. He then showed Sam where these graves were located.

Norton knew about these graves because years before he had dug them. The sub-division where the Heney’s new home was located on was an old 19th century African America slave cemetery called, Black Hope.

According to Norton there were at least 60 pauper graves in the area. The last burial had been in 1939. These graves had just been left and covered up by the developers of the sub-division.

Sam now curious brought in a backhoe and had the area dug up. Right where Norton had showed him he found two old pine boxes. The county coroner officially exhumed the bodies.

Two wedding rings were found and it was determined the two deceased were Betty and Charles Thomas. They were slaves that were freed after the Civil War.

Judith Haney uncomfortable that their graves had been desecrated insisted they rebury the two former slaves in their backyard--she then planted flowers over them.

New Graves
Scary Activity

After the two graves were disturbed strange activity started to happen in the Heney home.

A clock in their bedroom was seen eerily glowing and sparking--it was unplugged. Judith heard the distinct sounds of someone enter their home through their sliding glass doors, she heard a voice she thought was Sam's state, "What you doing?"  Only to find no one was there.

Judith Haney
A pair of her favorite shoes disappeared out of her closet. Later she and Sam found them sitting on top of Betty’s grave. They discovered that it was Betty’s birthday that day and they felt that Charles her husband placed them there.

The activity became so frightening that the Haney’s wanted to move out of their home--but they could not afford to. They sued the developers for not informing them about the cemetery.

They eventually lost this case. They had to declare bankruptcy for they owed $50,000 in court costs.

They moved.

A dozen other neighbors reported lights, televisions and water facets turning on and off. They also heard disembodied voices. Several reported seeing apparitions.

The William’s Story

Ben and Jean Williams reported that near their flowerbeds sinkholes appeared in the shape of coffins. They would fill them only to have them reappear a few days later.

Jean stated that the flowers she planted in this area all died.

The couple saw shadows move along the walls in their home accompanied by whispers and a putrid smell.

Their granddaughter, Carli lived with them. She felt intense cold spots in the home during the hot summer months.

She and her grandmother got the uneasy feeling someone was watching them in the home. The toilets flushed on their own and Carli states as the water would go down she could hear murmuring voices.

Ben late one night after returning from work saw two apparitions appear in the kitchen. He watched as they entered the den and then disappeared in the hall leading to the master bedroom.

The Williams also took legal action. They were informed by the developers without bodies they had no proof.

Frustrated Jean started to dig in the backyard. When she became ill her 29- year old daughter Tina took over. But after a half-hour she became ill.

Tina was rushed to the hospital were she died of a heart attack. Jean believed that her death was a direct result of the paranormal activity they had been experiencing.

The Williams lost their entire life savings when they moved. They have since written a book about their encounters entitled, Grave Secrets.

Nothing unusual has happened in their old neighborhood since--probably because many of the old graves were eventually moved. 

The Haney and William’s stories were shared on Unsolved Mysteries in July of 2002. This episode is below.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Dr. Mudd House

Dr. Samuel Mudd
Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd was a farmer and practicing physician during the Civil War. He was a Confederate sympathizer and member of the Confederate underground.

He lived in Waldorf near Bryantown, Maryland with his wife and children. His farm was 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.

He was accused and convicted of being a part of John Wilkes Booth’s conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Dr. Mudd met Booth three times in 1864--twice in Bryantown and once in Washington-- before Booth murdered Lincoln but at his trial the doctor stated Booth was just a casual acquaintance.

After Booth shot Lincoln he broke his left leg as he leapt from Lincoln’s box to the stage at Ford’s Theatre.

Needing a doctor’s assistance, Booth and David Herold showed up at Dr. Mudd’s house at 4:00 a.m.

Mudd Farmhouse
The doctor stated at his military trial that he did not recognize Booth. He told the tribunal that when Booth and Herold arrived they gave the names of “Tyson” and “Henston.”

Dr. Mudd set and splintered Booth’s broken leg.

The doctor stated he did not know about the assassination until he went to Bryantown to do an errand for his wife--Booth was still recovering in an upstairs bedroom of his home at the time.

Booth and Herold stayed at the doctor’s home for approximately 12 hours, paid him $12 for his services and then headed into the nearby Zekiah swamp.

Shortly after this Dr. Mudd was arrested and charged with conspiracy for harboring Booth and Herold as they escaped.

Mudd was tried with 6 other men and 1 woman--Mary Surratt whose story I share here.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. He missed the death penalty by 1 vote.

Fort Jefferson prison
He was imprisoned at Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas located 70 miles from Key West, Florida.

In the summer of 1867, Yellow Fever broke out. The prison physician died. Dr. Mudd took over--he came down with the fever himself but recovered.

Because of his efforts all the decommissioned officers and soldiers signed a petition on his behalf.

President Andrew Johnson pardoned him in February of 1869. He returned home and continued his medical practice.

He died of pneumonia in January of 1883 after walking through the cold and snow to attend to a patient.

Dr. Mudd had 9 children and his descendants for many years worked tirelessly to clear his name. Historians today still debate whether he was innocence or guilty.

One compelling argument that he was guilty can be read here.

The results of an impressive “mock trial” that found him innocent can be read in the New York Times here.

Haunted Farmhouse

Today the Mudd farmhouse is run as a private museum. Several witnesses claim the house is haunted.

One author, Mike Ricksecker who wrote about this haunting in his book Haunted Maryland captured some interesting photos.

Danny Fluhart president of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society told Ricksecker that no one is supposed to touch the bed that Booth stayed in on the 2nd floor.

Despite this rule the staff is often frustrated to find they have to re-straighten it because the bed is mussed when they return to the museum in the morning. A distinct human-shaped impression is always discovered.

Bed Booth stayed in.
Click to enlarge
Ricksecker, taking pictures in the home with Fluhart one Monday when the museum was closed discovered the bed in this state and was able to take pictures.

The following video has several staff and a Civil War reenactor talking about their encounters with a variety of paranormal activity at the farm. This video begins and ends with one group’s EVP sessions at this old farmhouse.