Thursday, March 5, 2015

New Hampshire’s South Street Cemetery

South Street Cemetery
This cemetery located near downtown Portsmouth has many reasons why it is haunted. One of these reasons is this cemetery was used as a hanging ground in the 1700s.

South Street is huge and actually consists of five cemeteries that were eventually combined. “South Street” is not the cemeteries’ official name but most call it this--because it stands at the intersection of South Street and Sagamore Avenue.

Near the entrance to this cemetery, on its north side, and on its highest ground is where the gallows stood. It is in this area where many visitors and investigators claim they get “creepy” or “eerie” feelings.

It was here in 1739 where Penelope Henry and Sarah Simpson were “turned off the cart.” This means they were positioned on a cart beneath the gallows--the cart was then pulled away leaving them hanging.

The man responsible for their deaths was High Sheriff Thomas Packer. In New Hampshire’s history only three women have been executed by hanging--Packer was responsible for all three of these executions.

The most well known of these three was a 25-year old schoolteacher, Ruth Blay. Becoming pregnant out of wedlock Blay concealed her condition. Her baby was stillborn.

She wrapped her dead baby in a cloak and buried it beneath loose floorboards in the schoolhouse. Several of her students, including 5-year old Betsy Petterngill saw her do this.

Blay's trial was rushed. She was found guilty and sentenced to hang--which many considered too harsh a punishment, after the trial it was discovered her baby was stillborn.

Portsmouth residents defended the popular schoolteacher requesting that a reprieve be given.

However, on the day of her execution, December 30, 1768 Packer had other plans. Knowing a pardon might be on the way he moved Blay’s execution up by one hour before noon so he would not be late for dinner.

An angry mob discovering this stood in the street as Ruth Blay dressed in silk was taken by cart to the gallows. She did not go quietly--all heard her shrieks.

Packer hastily positioned her beneath the gallows and ignoring the shouting crowd looped the noose around her neck. With his brisk command the horses were driven away--leaving the young woman’s body swinging.

Her last view was of the open sea--today at the spot this view is blocked.

Ruth Blay is buried at the
bottom of Gallows Hill. 
Packer left quickly as not to be late for his meal. Within minutes of Blay’s death a rider with an urgent letter arrived. It was a pardon from New Hampshire’s Royal Governor for Blay.

Outraged the mod marched to the sheriff’s house. They hung an effigy of Packer with a sign that read:

“Am I to love my dinner
This woman for to hang?
Come draw away the cart, my boys--
Don’t stop to say amen.
Draw away, draw away the cart.”

Ruth Blay was buried in an unmarked grave 300 feet north of the pond that sits at the center of South Street Cemetery. It is near her grave where investigators capture the most anomalies in their photographs.

It is here where most cameras malfunction. When investigators leave the area they find their cameras work fine. Strange glowing lights--described as different than orbs--are also seen near Blay’s grave.

It is also believed that Blay and her baby haunt the old schoolhouse located at 94 Main South Hampton, New Hampshire.

Thomas Packer hanged all three women for the same reason--records show that they were convicted of “ feloniously concealing the death of infant bastard child.”

Just 25 years after Ruth Blay’s execution American lawmakers ruled that Concealment should no longer be punishable by death.

Packer died in office on June 22, 1771.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cherry Hills: A Lost Neighborhood, Part ll

Cherry Hills
During the 1800s the Cherry Hills neighborhood and its tenement houses along the East River were the worst slum in New York City.

Crime and disease plagued this area that had once been an elite neighborhood where George Washington and John Hancock lived.

Within Cherry Hills sat a 3-room flat that many tried to live in but did not succeed. This flat in the late 1800s and early 1900s quickly became legendary in Cherry Hills for an entity that haunted it.

It was plagued by a violent poltergeist for 19 years. Several New York newspapers at the time documented this activity.

Twenty years before this haunting was first noticed a French woman lived in this flat with her husband. When her husband died it is said she was left desolate--both emotionally and financially.

In an act of desperation she took a clothesline and hung herself in the flat. It was believed that she was the entity that plagued a variety of families that moved in after her suicide.

This flat first became notorious within Cherry Hills when a tough longshoreman, “Jackie” Haggarty decided to test the rumors that something strange was happening.

The night he visited he heard noises and left the flat. In the hallway something thumped his eye hard. Left with a black eye it is said this incident shattered his tough reputation.


Tenement House
Housing was scarce in the Fourth Ward and several families despite the flat’s reputation moved in. The newspaper reports stated that most only stayed a few hours.

A couple by the name of Ryan moved in with their three children. In bed the first night they heard a loud racket. They all scrambled out of bed and watched as an unseen entity threw their furniture across the room.

The husband was punched in the face, his wife’s left eye was blackened and the children became ill. This it was said all happened within 6 minutes.

It had taken the family six hours to move in, it took them less than an hour to move their belongings out.

Other families found their furniture piled high and pictures that they had hung turned around.

Yet another resident of the flat, Mike Finnegan saw his heavy iron stove tip over. He
Cherry Hills Slum
moved out shortly after observing this strange sight.

As to whether this activity would have continued is not known for shortly after these incidents most of the Cherry Hills neighborhood was torn down partly because of all the disease and crime that plagued this block and partly because of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge construction.

Here is a link to a New York Times account of this haunting in March of 1900.

This East River, NYC Cherry Hills neighborhood should not be confused with the Albany, New York estate called Cherry Hills that is also haunted.

In Part l of Cherry Hills: A Lost Neighborhood, information about Cherry Hills' history is shared.

Cherry Hills, A Lost Neighborhood, Part l

If one goes in search of Cherry Hills originally located in the Lower East Side in downtown Manhattan, New York City, they will not find it.

For a century, from the 1830s to the early 1900s, this neighborhood contained the worst slum in NYC. Within its boundaries sat a 3-room flat that was plagued by an insidious poltergeist for 19 years.

What area looked like in mid 1700s
At the beginning, the Cherry Hills neighborhood whose homes had a beautiful view of the East River was the fashionable place to live. George Washington during his first term as president had a home at 1 Cherry Hill Street.

John Hancock owned a home on the same street. Later Dewitt Clinton bought George Washington’s home. In 1824, the neighborhood was still upscale. Samuel Leggett founder of the New York Gas Light Company lived in the neighborhood.

The decline of Cherry Hills began with the birth of William “Boss” Tweed. He lived and worked in the neighborhood from young childhood.

By the time Boss Tweed was an adult the neighborhood had become a slum. Its tenement houses became the worst in the city--including an area known as Gotham Court. The Fourth Ward now housed saloons, boarding houses and brothels along Water Street.

Cherry Hills Tenement House
Photo Jacob Rilis
This included the legendary Hole in The Wall, which is today--Bridge Café.

The neighborhood became infamous when Jacob Rilis wrote a scathing account in 1890 entitled, “How The Other Half Lives.” He exposed the desperation, crime and
Rilis' expose
disease that was common along this now notorious block.

After this, Gotham Court was demolished in 1897. By 1909, with the anchorage construction for the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, entrance traffic from the rest of the city was blocked to Cherry Hills. By 1942, with the construction of traffic ramps, what little remained of the original neighborhood was obliterated.

This Cherry Hills neighborhood should not be confused with the Albany, New York estate called Cherry Hills that is also haunted.

In Part ll of Cherry Hills: A Lost Neighborhood the story of a 19-year poltergeist ordeal is shared.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Springfield: The Lake Club

The Lake Club was a popular nightclub in Springfield, Illinois in the 1940s and 50s. It featured well-known entertainers including: Mickey Rooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope and Nat King Cole.

This nightclub was also popular because it ran an illegal gambling operation located in the back part of the building. Patrons enjoyed billiards, card games and slot machines.

In December of 1958, the police raided this gambling operation and shut it down. After this The Lake Club slowly declined until it closed down in the early 1960s.

One popular employee at The Lake during its heyday was a bartender by the name of Albert “Rudy” Cranor. With the gambling operation he made a good living. Successful gamblers often tipped him well.

Interior of The Lake Club
With the decline of the club it was said Rudy also declined. He was found in the club’s office one afternoon--he had shot himself in the head and was dead.

In 1974, when this building was opened as a rock/disco nightclub it was believed that Rudy’s spirit haunted the building.

Bill Carmean and Tom Blasco co-managed this new club. They, the other employees and the customers all encountered Rudy’s ghost.

Shortly after opening the new nightclub Carmean was in the building alone one night when he heard a piano playing in the next room. He never discovered the cause.

When his partner, Blasco was brought in, he experienced strange sounds, whispers and cold spots. One night he saw the apparition of Rudy. He exited the building so quickly he left all the lights on. After this, he always carried his rosary for protection.

One waitress at the club, Barbara Lard also heard a phantom instrument. One afternoon before the club opened she heard a trombone playing. She assumed it was a band member until she discovered that none of them had arrived yet.

Lard also saw the apparition of the tall man. He had white hair and a white moustache. Later she identified this man as Rudy from an old photograph.

Rudy’s ghost spoke to her in the club office. He told her that one of the owners of the building was going to die. His prediction turned out to be true. One of the building’s landlords died shortly after of a heart attack.

One customer, a salesman, was sitting with Carmean one night when he saw a glass on the bar fly off--he ducked as it headed for his head.

Blasco in 1979, after attending a class reunion, requested a former teacher of his, Father Gary Dilley come in and cleanse and bless the nightclub.

Father Dilley and two other priests, Father John Corredato and Father Gerald Leahy were successful for after this the activity in the club settled down. It was felt Rudy was finally able to move on.

In 1992, the building that housed the nightclub burned down.