Thursday, April 17, 2014

When It’s Dark

This story was first shared with a Galveston journalist in 1889.

A businessman who lived in a small town north of Houston decided to buy an old abandoned hotel near a busy railroad line.

He bought several antiques in New Orleans to furnish his new hotel.

One item that caught his eye was an old walnut wood bedframe with elaborate carvings. He was surprised how cheap it was so he immediately bought it. Pleased with his purchase he decided it was the right piece to highlight the hotel’s best suite.

When the frame arrived he spotted a stain on the headboard so he had a worker scrub it but the stain remained. He then had the wood varnished. The stain was no longer noticeable.

When the hotel opened the first guest to stay in the suite was a no-nonsense cowboy from El Paso.

Shortly after this man retired for the evening the night clerk heard a door upstairs bang open violently. He then saw the cattleman racing down the stairs.

The man’s face was bright red and perspiration dripped off his nose. The clerk sent for the owner as he tried to understand what the cowboy was saying.

“Look at the bed, look at the bed. Good lord. I am afraid he is dead.”

The owner arrived and was able to calm the man down. The cowboy told the two that just as he had lain down for the night and turned the lamp off he had felt someone next to him in the bed.

“His throat was cut from ear to ear.”

The owner and clerk rushed upstairs as the cattleman collapsed upon a nearby sofa. The two men found nothing out of the ordinary in the suite. The owner felt the man must have had a nightmare.

The cattleman would not enter the room again so the clerk was forced to give him another room.

The next guest to stay in the suite was an elderly lady who had arrived in town to attend a funeral. She returned to the hotel late and retired to her room.

As the clerk and owner stood in the lobby they heard a piercing scream from upstairs. The owner quickly went up the stairs just in time to see the lady, now pale, exit the suite. He managed to catch her as she fainted.

He carried her back in the room and laid her on the bed. He arranged for a chambermaid to administer smelling salts. Coming to her senses the lady started when she noticed her surrounding.

She insisted they leave the room, once downstairs she told the owner a similar story to the cowboys. When she had gotten into the bed it was empty, as she put the light out she had seen the outline of a man lying in the bed beside her.

His throat was slit and blood was all over his shirt.

The owner once more inspected the room and found nothing. The hotel being full he convinced the lady to return to the room. She agreed when he told her the chambermaid would stay with her.

The owner retired to his room for the night, feeling the woman’s imagination was heightened because of her friend’s funeral.

Within minutes he heard two screams. He entered the hall and saw both women downstairs in the lobby talking to the clerk at the same time.

As he approached the chambermaid turned to him.

“ I have seen it sir. It was a ghost. I swear it wasn’t there before I put the lamp out.”

The elderly guest stated that there was a bloody specter in the room and she was not going back. The clerk arranged a room for her at a rival hotel.

The owner now concerned for his hotel’s reputation became determined to find out what was happening.

He went to the room and laid down on the bed fully clothed. He turned the lamp down slowly so his eyes could adjust to the dark.

He looked toward where the stain had been on the headboard and noticed it looked wet. He scraped his finger across it and felt a warm liquid on his hand. Curious he turned the lamp back up and crossed the room to the water pitcher.

He poured water into the bowl and plunged his hand in. The water turned pink. Unnerved he splashed his face with water from the jug and then he returned to the bed.

He again slowly turned the lamp down. A second later he saw a male form on the bed with him. This man wore a white shirt soaked in blood. His head was almost severed from his body. The owner now horrified saw this specter was glaring at him.

Gathering what was left of his courage he reached out to touch the form--to verify in his mind it was there--but he drew back as an icy chill ran up his arm.

He turned the lamp back up and watched as the form disappeared. Baffled he then turned the lamp down low and saw the man reappear. He leapt from the bed and ran out into the hall. His knees buckled and he fell to the floor.

The next day the owner arranged for the bed to be chopped into kindling wood.

Later, he wrote the seller of the bed in New Orleans. He requested its’ history. The merchant replied that all he knew was the bed had changed hands frequently without explanation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Haunted Brij Raj Bhavan Palace

Brij Raj Bhavan Palace

This 184-year old palace is located on the banks of the River Chambal near the city of Kota in Rajasthan, India.

It was built in 1830 and used as a British Residency. At the turn of the century it became the Kota state guesthouse.

Kings, viceroys, prime ministers and other important dignitaries stayed at the palace during this time. Among them were-- Queen Mary of England in 1911, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1971.

By the early 1980s the palace became the Heritage Hotel. It is also the residence for the Kota royal family.

The Brij Raj Bhavan palace has one other active resident--a ghost.

It is said this haunting is a result of the 1857 Indian Mutiny.

Clash of Cultures and Religion

Leading up to this mutiny tensions had been rising between the Indians and the British that ruled their country. These two cultures clashed in both customs and religious beliefs. 

In 1929, the British banned Sati-- the practice of burning a widow alive on her husband’s funeral pyre.* Their ongoing interference with traditional northern religious practices, such as female infanticide caused even more tensions.

Another major factor in these rising tensions was the change in the East India Companies’ philosophy. By the 19th century they were taking a more active interest in India's religious affairs--they sanctioned more missionary work. 

The result was that Muslim and Hindu Indians formed an alliance against what they saw as a common threat to their beliefs.

The Sepoy Mutiny

The rock on which British rule in India was built was the fact that 8 out of every 10 soldiers in the British army were Native Sepoys or Native Indians--drawn from the Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim warrior casts.

Sepoy soldiers

The Sepoys who served in the British army did not separate their warrior calling from their religious practices.

In 1857, a rumor spread that Indian troops where going to be issued cartridges that were sealed with pork and beef fat. This meant as they bit the end off they would come in contact with this lard. This infuriated the Sepoys. In the Muslim and Hindu religions these two animal products are strictly forbidden. 

The Sepoys knew if this rule was broken they would become "outcasts" to other Indians.

Battle of Cawnpore (Kampur)
Where entire British garrison,
including women and children
were wiped out.
This combined with the tensions mentioned above sparked the mutiny in May of 1857-- for the Sepoys now firmly believed the British intended to Christianize India.

The Major's Ghost

Three of the many European victims of this mutiny were a Major Charles Burton and his two sons. Major Burton served as the British Resident to Kota.

In 1857, during the revolt all the servants in the Brij Raj Bhavan palace--except for one camel-driver--abandoned the Major and his family. Taking the few weapons they could find they took refuge in an upper room--waiting for help from the Maharaja.

When the Sepoys arrived, they climbed up to the terrace. The major and his sons retreated to a room below, where they surrendered. It is said they fell to their knees and prayed just before they were killed.

It is believed that the Major’s ghost is the entity that haunts the palace. In 1980 a former maharani of Kota told a British journalist that she saw the major’s ghost frequently--often in the drawing room where he was killed.

She described him as an elderly man who walks with a cane. His ghost is harmless with one exception.

During his nightly rounds the major has been known to slap more than one guard who he has found dozing off while on duty.

* It should be emphasized not all Indian’s practiced Sati but between 1813 and 1825, 8,000 widows had died in this way in Bengal Province (Presidency) alone. This was a Hindu religious custom that ensured fidelity and piety.

Burning of a Widow
By James Peggs

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Two Tap Dancing Ghosts

A local legend in Stowe, Vermont states that a ghost from the 1800s haunts the historic Green Mountain Inn located in the village center.

Boots Berry was the inn’s horseman just like his father before him. He was born in Room 302 in the servant’s quarters in the hotel.

He was nicknamed, Boots because he loved to tap dance. He became a local hero when he saved a stagecoach full of hotel guests.

Boots’ one vice was drinking. This fault eventually resulted in him being dismissed from the hotel. It is said that after years of wandering around the country Boots returned to Stowe in the fall of 1902.

He again showed his courage when he saved a child from the roof of the inn during a bad snowstorm.

But he wasn’t able to save himself. It is said he slipped and fell from the roof to his death. Ironically, he was standing above the room he was born in at the time.

Both workers and guests at the Green Mountain Inn ever since have reported hearing Boot’s gleefully tap dancing on the inn’s roof.

Disembodied Tap Shoes

While doing research for the story above I came across the following gem.

This creative animated short is of a little legless ghost girl who becomes enchanted by a pair of disembodied mischievous tap shoes. As she watches them tap out the beat to the song, “Moses Supposes” from the musical Singin’ in the Rain she decides all they lack is a body to accompany their fancy footwork.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fourth of July Ghost

I first read this ghost story on a site called, West Virginia Ghosts. This site allows people to share their favorite ghost stories from West Virginia and from around the world.

A contributor from West Virginia told one of my all time favorite stories on this site.

Every year for as long as I can remember my family consisting of my six siblings, my mother and father, my uncle, and my grandparents watched the town fireworks display at our local park in Martinsburg.

We would always arrive early to claim our favorite spot then my mother would bring out an endless supply of food from our picnic baskets.

As we sat and ate, my father, the family storyteller would recount the history of the park to all of us one more time. Between dramatic pauses and whispered awe he would state that the exact spot where we sat was used by both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War as a camp since the park was close to the Baltimore and Ohio railroad depot.

He told us a bloody battle had been fought in the park and that since Martinsburg was the second largest town in the Shenandoah Valley it was a major strategic location. During the war the town had changed hands between the Confederate and Union troops 37 times. *

Following our usual routine my siblings and I got up to explore after we ate. But this year we regretted our decision for we missed out on a bit of authentic history.

My uncle and grandparents stretched out on our blankets waiting for the evening’s events to begin. My mother and father proceeded to clean up the leavings from our outdoor feast.

The breeze changed direction and my father noticed an awful smell. He glanced in the direction from where this odor originated. He saw a strange boy--a teenager--leaning against a nearby tree.

The odor became stronger and my grandfather sat up and watched the teen along with my father. My mother spoke up, “What is that smell?”

My father looked over at her. “It reminds me of rotten garbage.” My grandfather nodded and chimed in. “It is either horse sweat or rancid meat.”

Disgusted, my father shouted at the teen. “Get out of here, you are stinking up the place.” The boy showed no sign that he had heard my father.

My mother rushed off announcing she intended to get help. When she returned minutes later with a police officer she pointed toward the tree. But she realized the boy was no longer there.

She looked down at my uncle, my grandparents and my father and realized they were being uncharacteristically silent.

My grandfather spoke not to anyone in particular. “He just disappeared in front of our eyes.” He then looked over at the officer. “I know you won’t believe us but I am pretty sure what we saw was a ghost.”

That night two other groups complained about the “foul-smelling boy.” Several officers looked for him but he was never found.

The next day my father ran into the same officer in town. He sheepishly told my father, “Every one described that boy the same way.”

He was 5 feet tall, wore tattered brown pants, a dirty red checked shirt, suspenders, no shoes, had fifty feet, and a floppy weird cap with a small brim.

Example of a Kepi cap.
The officer hesitated and then asked my father, “Do you think he could have been a Confederate soldier?”

My father who was a history buff replied, “Well, Confederate soldiers were often ragged, soap was in short supply and they did wear caps with small brims called, kepis.”

I remember that fourth not because of the fireworks but because my siblings and I missed out on seeing a ghost.

* More information about the Civil War and Martinsburg, West Virginia can be found here.

Original version of this story can be found in Moore's book.