Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An Outlaws’ Mummy

When one thinks of mummies they think of Egypt and ancient Pharaohs but this story is about an American mummy from the Wild West.

An epitaph on a gravestone in Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma reads:

ON OCT. 7, 1911
FOR BURIAL APR. 22, 1977

Elmer McCurdy wasn’t buried until 66 years after he died.

A Feckless Outlaw

Even though McCurdy claimed to have killed a man he was a clumsy outlaw at best.

He was arrested only once, the reason--drunk and disorderly conduct.

In March of 1911, McCurdy decided to try his hand at train robbing. His target was a train that was due to pass nearby Lenapah, Oklahoma. This train was carrying a substantial amount of silver but McCurdy used too many explosives and the blast ended up melting the safe.

McCurdy later robbed a bank in Chautauqua, Kansas. He again used too many explosives.

McCurdy then joined a band of outlaws and the group set their sights on a train that was due to carry a large sum of Osage tribal payments. But the group misread the train timetable and hit a passenger train instead.

For their efforts they walked away with $40 and a jug of whiskey.

A posse found McCurdy later drunk in a barn near Bartlesville. In a stupor McCurdy announced he would never be taken alive. He got his wish when a shootout ensued.

A Notorious Corpse

The fame McCurdy craved in life he actually achieved after death.

The funeral director in Pawhuska preserved the body with arsenic fluid so the authorities could make a positive ID. Then while he waited for relatives to claim the body the director displayed the body for public viewing.

To the delight of all he posed the corpse wearing suspenders, a broad hat and holding a gun in one hand. Visitors paid a nickel to view the dead train robber.

At one point this director tastelessly put roller skates on the corpse and propped him in a corner of the room--so he would lunge out at the paying customers.

A Sideshow Mummy

Before and after mummification.
In 1916, five years after McCurdy’s death, two men showed up claiming McCurdy was their brother. These two were actually carnival owners. They proceeded to bill and display McCurdy’s mummy as “The Outlaw Who Never Gave Up” around the country.

By the time McCurdy was sold to a wax museum many had forgotten the form was a real mummy.

After being displayed in various museums the mummy was next used as a backdrop in the 1967 campy horror film entitled She Freak.

With its last purchase the mummy was at the Na-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California. Here it was displayed in a horror funhouse hanging with a noose around its neck.

It had now been years since anyone knew that this mummy was a real corpse.

A crewmember working on a television show entitled Six Million Dollar Man in 1976 was in this funhouse preparing this supposed dummy to film a scene that it would be in. 

This man accidentally broke the arm of this prop while painting it a neon red color. To his shock and horror he discovered a broken bone--real skeletal remains under the leathery skin.

A Proper Burial

Hanging in funhouse
with broken arm.
A forensic investigation was opened and two items were found on the body. An old ticket to the Los Angeles Museum of Crime plus a 1924-penny was discovered in the mummy’s mouth.

This information eventually led the investigators to McCurdy.

The remains were then transported back to Oklahoma. An old hearse that had not been used since 1913 was dusted off and two white horses were hitched to it.

McCurdy then was taken in a funeral procession to Summit View Cemetery were he was finally laid to rest.

A concrete trunk was brought in to pour cement in the grave so the mummified body would never be disturbed again.

But this story doesn’t end here. Some claim that McCurdy is so used to wandering he leaves his grave at night and moves about in this old frontier cemetery.

The first part of this documentary is about the discovery of this mummy in the funhouse.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Haunted Hillside Dorm

An old building located off the campus of SMCC--Southern Maine Community College--was used up until recently as a resident hall for students that attend this college.

Hillside Dorm is located at the corner of Preble and Broadway in South Portland, Maine.

This building is now up for sale. The reason for this might be that this structure is haunted.

This fact is not surprising when one considers the history of this old structure. At various times it was used as a brothel, nursing home and a funeral home.

To add to the creepiness the building sits near the Old Settlers Cemetery.

This varied history brings confusion for no one has been able to pinpoint the era or eras that this haunting represents.

Many former residents of Hillside share some disturbing and even scary experiences they had while living in this dorm.

The buildings’ attic--where the door is always padlocked shut-- is where some of the strange activity was centered.

On a daily basis, sounds were heard coming from this area. Maintenance workers feeling it might be a critter unlocked the padlock and placed an animal trap just inside the door.

Old Settlers Cemetery
Complaints about the sounds continued and when they returned they discovered human footprints in the dust leading to the trap from the other side of the room. The door had remained locked and no one had been in the attic.

One apparition that has been seen in Hillside is that of a young boy. His ghost was considered to be annoying and a trickster.

Student bedspreads were often found bundled on the floor--these students would wake up cold. They also discovered their windows had been thrown open in the bitterly cold winter months.

This child ghost was fond of moving items around in the various resident rooms. One positive attribute this ghost exhibited was he would often make the resident's beds.

Another entity seen in Hillside is that of an old lady. One Maine paranormal team that investigated the dorm picked up this ghost’s voice on several EVPs.

One witness to this activity was a man who was hired by the college to be a security officer. He was also an RA at Hillside Dorm and lived in the building from 1997-99.

The fan in his room would turn on and off without reasonable explanation and he like the rest of the residents often heard noises of movement coming from the locked attic.

He saw lights going on and off in the building when no one was around.

This often occurred in one 2nd floor bathroom. When he would go to investigate he saw the door to this room shut, he would also hear the toilet flush but on closer inspection he found the 2nd floor was deserted.

He hated doing laundry because every time he would go to the basement where the machines were-- all the light bulbs would blow out.

He also heard disembodied whispers throughout the building.

Over time he became more and more frustrated because his investigations of this unusual activity always just left him with no discernable cause.

He mentioned that it was a relief when he finally moved out of Hillside Dorm.

He moved away from Maine and 10 years later while visiting South Portland he stated that just driving by this building still "creeped him out."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pasadena’s Suicide Bridge

Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California is 150 feet tall and was constructed over an 18-month period in 1912-13. It was the highest concrete bridge of its time and was considered an engineering feat.

Before the completion of this bridge people had to cross the Arroyo Seco canyon using horses and wagons. They had to descend a steep eastern slope and cross a bridge over the canyon’s steam then they had to climb back up the west bank through Eagle Rock Pass.

Building this bridge was not an easy task. Engineers could find no solid footing in this seasonably wet arroyo bed. An engineer, John Drake Mercereau solved this problem by curving the bridge 50 degrees to the south.

This not only worked it created a graceful design of soaring arches and a curved deck that eventually placed the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

This bridge was built along the historic Route 66 and connected Pasadena to Los Angeles. But its two lanes quickly became clogged with traffic and by the 1930s * was considered inadequate.

*  The Colorado Street Bridge was featured in the Charlie Chaplain film City Lights in 1931. Ironically, Chaplain’s character convinces a man not to jump--that life is worth living.

A New Reputation

Because of the Colorado Street Bridge’s height it became a chosen place for suicides. The first known person to jump off the bridge was in 1919.

During the Great Depression in the years 1933-37 many people jumped off this bridge to their deaths. Over the years, more than 100 people have ended their lives in this manner at this spot.

By the early 1980s this bridge was in major disrepair--chunks of concrete fell from its ornate arches and railings. After the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the bridge was closed as a precaution.

After this, federal and state funds were raised--27 million dollars--in order to renovate the bridge.

In 1993, this project was completed--including a suicide prevention rail being put in place. But suicides still occur.

Some locals state cynically that this rail was not built high enough. The Colorado Street Bridge--is on what is now Colorado Boulevard. This is the route that the New Year’s Rose Parade follows. It is said the rail was kept low to insure the bridges esthetic appeal remained intact.

Lost Souls

Because of the large amount of suicides that have occurred this bridge is often called Suicide Bridge. It is because of these deaths that the bridge and the arroyo canyon and park below are considered to be haunted.

Some believe when you commit suicide your soul is doomed to wander. If this is true--the Colorado Street Bridge--appears to be proof.

An apparition of a man wearing wire-framed glasses has been seen on the bridge many times as well as woman wearing a long flowing white robe.

Her apparition is seen climbing to the top of one parapet preparing to jump. When people approach to help she is no longer there.

While on the bridge drivers report seeing in the middle of the road another female apparition. Most state they had to swerve to avoid hitting her--but then she just vanishes.

Underneath the bridge others have reported seeing phantoms wandering the area. Some have heard unexplained noises, such as crying and screams.

One couple walking in the tunnel under the bridge reported that as they passed the six lights that illuminate this path each one went out. When they looked back the entire area was pitch black.

My Uncle’s Ghost

The following is part ghost story and part guardian angel story.

That night I had my one and only encounter with the paranormal. I have rarely spoken about it even years later. Being shy, I have no desire for the notoriety that claiming an encounter with a ghost would bring.

At the age of 10 my parents were killed in a car accident. My Uncle Charles a childless confirmed bachelor found himself my guardian.

He proved to be a loving, wise and very protective guardian. Sadly, he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and didn’t live to see my 18th birthday.

Before he died he assured me that he would always be with me even in spirit form.

He left me financially well off and I continued to seek his advice feeling his warm presence and wise council even in death.

One early winter evening I was driving from Boulder Falls back to Boulder where I was a student at the University of Colorado. A light snow was falling and a mist blocked the moon and stars overhead.

As I approached a bend in the road a ghostly figure suddenly appeared in the middle of my path.

This figure was wearing a white shirt and the headlights from my car reflected off this form with a brilliance. I then recognized the man before me as being my Uncle Charles.

He was holding his hands up palms out stretched as if he was beseeching me to stop. His facial expression revealed alarm.

I took my foot off the gas and slowly pumped the brake just as he had taught me to avoid a skid on wet pavement.

As my car came to a complete stop on this sharp curve I was horrified to see a large tanker truck had jackknifed on the slippery road.

The truck had hit the guardrail demolishing it and then turned over on its side. Some sort of liquid was spilling out and congealing on the road’s surface.

If I had not heeded my uncle’s warning my car would have hit this slippery surface and then headed over the edge of the steep drop that was beneath the missing guardrail.

My uncle’s spirit had saved my life.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Remembering Emma Crawford

Manitou Springs and Red Mountain
For the past 20 years the small Colorado town of Manitou Springs has hosted a wonderful, fun and weird celebratory festival during the last weekend in October. This party is thrown to honor Emma Crawford-- the town’s oldest ghost.

Healing Waters and Fresh Air

The Crawford family in the 1880s became the focus of Boston’s music elite. Madam Crawford was a graduate of Germany’s prestigious Leipzig Academy of Music.

Inspired by her mother’s love of music Emma the oldest Crawford daughter became an accomplished concert pianist. But tragically just after her first major concert was heralded at Washington Square in 1887 Emma fell ill.

At the age of 7 Emma had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and years of living in a large grimy city had taken its toll on her health.

Emma Crawford
Madam Crawford following the lead of many other easterners packed up Emma and her younger daughter and the trio traveled to Manitou Springs Colorado.

The dry fresh alpine air and the springs located in this town were said to do wonders for those who suffered from TB.

The three women settled into Crystal Cottage were Emma could convalesce.

Emma from her attic room had a view of the summit of Red Mountain and she became enamored with the local legends about an Indian Chief’s spirit that was said to haunt the mountain--she secretly named this spirit Red Chief.

She became determined that once she recovered she would hike to the summit of Red Mountain.

The new climate did agree with Emma and her condition greatly improved. Out in society once more she met a construction engineer, Wilhelm Hildebrandt who worked for the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Cog railroad.

A Promise

The two fell in love and Wilhelm purposed to Emma. Now engaged, Emma asked her fiancé for one promise. Considering her health she requested that if she died before him that he bury her on the summit of Red Mountain.

A few months before the pairs’ wedding Emma had a vision in which Red Chief summoned her to the top of Red Mountain. Feeling he was her spirit guide she climbed to the top of the mountain.

View from atop Red Mountain
Before starting her descent back down the mountain she tied her handkerchief to the branch of an ancient pinion tree. * She then raced down the hillside wanting to share with all her adventurous experience.

But her illness overtook her and she struggled back to Crystal Cottage shivering with a high fever.

Her mother called for the doctor but there was little he could do. As she lay dying in her mother’s arms Emma asked her to remind Wilhelm of his promise to bury her on Red Mountain’s summit.

Wilhelm heartbroken, followed through on his promise but not without surmounting difficulties that included: frozen ground, rights to the land and men who threatened to leave the summit before Emma was properly buried.

*  Later her handkerchief was found on this tree making this part of the story more than a legend.

A Thrill Ride

Emma would probably still rest in peace but for the fact her grave was moved and then washed down the mountain.

In 1912, the railroad developed the Red Mountain Incline and constructed a powerhouse and depot--at which point Emma’s coffin was moved to the east side of the mountain.

A concrete slab with her name was placed over this new grave and this railroad line started to charge tourists one dollar to ride up to see Emma’s grave in hopes they might see her ghost.
Red Mountain Incline Rail Line
On the way back down this rail line became a thrill ride because it was built on a steep incline with an 80 percent grade. Riders literally screamed on the way down.
In 1927, after a few seasons this line was shut down for safety concerns.

Shortly after this a flood washed Emma’s coffin down the mountain. A couple of boys found her skull and the brass nameplate from her coffin. What could be found was buried in the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Manitou Springs.

This was directly against Emma’s last wish. Ironically, it was at this point that hikers actually began to report seeing Emma’s ghost wandering the summit of Red Mountain.

She is described as a woman with dark hair and she is sometimes seen wearing her wedding dress, which she was buried in.

A Benevolent Ghost

Emma’s ghost is considered to be benevolent. Locals feel that she looks after their town from high atop her mountain.

In 1993 the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce decided to pay homage to their beloved ghost with a festival.

Since, thousands of Colorado residents attend this weird and fun festival held close to Halloween every year.

This celebration includes: coffin races, hearse parades, ghost walks and a more sedate traditional Victorian wake for Emma held at Miramont Castle.

Emma Crawford Festival

Here is a local television news story about this festival.


Here's a video of the races and parade--it shows the fun that is had by all.