In 2012, my wife and I spent our 20th wedding anniversary in New York. It was our first visit to New York and we walked for miles on end around Manhattan, seeing all the typical tourist attractions. When we travel or take vacations, we make the most of our time, from morning until late at night, we try not to miss anything. Two attractions we planned to visit were Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We visited the Ellis Island Museum and walked around Liberty Island, but one thing struck me as odd. Why was the hospital on the south side of Ellis Island left abandoned? The hospital must have equal historic significance as The U.S. Immigration Station, right? When we returned from our trip, I did some research online and found that several organizations offer guided hardhat tours of the hospital for small groups.Upon learning this, we had something new to add to our bucket list for a return trip to New York.In August of 2018 we made our return, but this time we took our two teenage sons. With everything we had planned for the week, I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback, or misery, I’d get from the family about taking them on a hardhat tour of an old hospital. I expected to get some groans, or at least are we done yet? comments from our boys. And I was completely wrong!Talking around the dinner table the following week, my two sons said that the hardhat tour was a highlight of our trip.
When I began writing about the spirits of the Queen Mary, I realized that it’s a topic that has been more than thoroughly covered. What I haven’t seen much of is people sharing more than the absolute basic information about the souls who reportedly haunt this amazing ship.I’ve been thinking a lot about our culture’s fascination with ghost stories. I think a lot of people have become blind to the fact that when we’re telling spooky stories about ghosts and the tragic events that often accompany them, we’re often speaking of actual people. People who had families, some of whom might still be living. It made me wonder how I would handle knowing that a loved one of mine was not only a ghost but a “famous” ghost? What if the only mention of your loved one was found in paranormal YouTube videos or ghost tours? What if the only mention of your loved one was the horrible way they died?I don’t think that people with morbid curiosities or lovers of the paranormal, like myself, mean to offend or hurt the living families of these dead people. It’s simply that there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to seeing ghosts as people who were once living, and most people don’t share information about the lives these people lived. They only focus on the death and the afterlife. The reason I try to humanize these ghost stories and urban legends is to help make the point that these people were much more than the way they died.
That being said, I want to share the real story of Senior 2nd Officer William E. Stark.
The tale about the ghost of Officer Stark is usually one of the staple stories told about the Queen Mary’s ghosts. An apparition of a man wearing a Cunard Line officer’s uniform has been seen in the Captain’s Cabin, as well as the Sun Deck and the Promenade Deck. Disembodied sounds of choking and gasping in the Isolation Ward have also been attributed to Officer Stark. So who was Officer Stark and how did his ghost come to haunt the RMS Queen Mary?
Seafaring Was In His Blood
William Eric Stark was born on the 25th of September, 1918 in Sunderland, England. By the time he was born, his father, William Eric Stark Sr, was already a Master Mariner. He served as an officer on numerous ships, including the Queen Mary. William Sr, was a mariner until he was 57 years old.
From Apprentice to Decorated Officer
William Jr got his start in sailing in 1936 when he was 17 years old. His career began as an apprentice on the cargo ship Silverpine. He quickly made his way up in rank, and by 1940 was a Junior 3rd Officer on the RMS Antonia. While I couldn’t figure out exactly what he did during WWII, I was able to find that he was decorated, and got married.Sometime in 1941, William married Margaret Joyce Blake in Port Said, Egypt. Margaret was a nurse, so it’s very probable they met while working on a ship. Whatever he was doing during the war, it must have been significant as he received six different service medals.
An Officer Onboard The Queen Mary
By November 1947, William was now a Senior 3rd officer onboard the RMS Queen Mary. Margaret must have lived a somewhat lonely life because William was at sea more than he was home. Margaret appears to have kept busy as a midwife in Hampshire, England.By April of 1948, William was made Junior 2nd Officer, and by the following year, he would reach his final rank, that of Senior 2nd Officer.His final voyage aboard the Queen Mary took place in September 1949. The ship had arrived in New York on September 12th, 1949. It left to return to Southampton just a couple of days later. Unfortunately for Officer Stark, this voyage would not end well for him.
On the evening of the 18th of September, Captain Andrew MacKellar asked Officer Stark to go to the Cabin of the Staff Captain and prepare some drinks for the Captain, himself, and two other officers who would shortly be off duty. Specifically, he asked him to make gin and limes. When Stark got to the cabin to make the drinks he couldn’t find the gin. He asked the Captain’s Steward, Frederick Stokes, to help him. In the dimly lit cabin, the two men searched for the gin, until finally, Stokes found what he thought was a bottle of gin in one of the cupboards. He handed it off to Stark who made the drinks.At 9:45 that evening, Captain MacKellar saw Stark when he came to report after doing his rounds. At the coroner’s inquest, Captain MacKellar testified that Stark said: “That was funny gin we had, sir, at dinner-time.” It was then that the Captain realized that Stokes had mistakenly grabbed the old gin bottle that now held carbon tetrachloride, which they used to clean the furniture. According to the Captain, the actual gin was kept in a separate cupboard along with the glassware. In the dim light, Stokes didn’t notice that the bottle he grabbed was dirty, was probably not the Captain’s gin.The Captain immediately notified the ship’s doctor who informed Stark that he needed to come to the ship’s hospital straight away to have his stomach pumped as carbon tetrachloride was highly toxic. From all reports, William didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Not only did he refuse to have his stomach pumped, he joined the other officers to have actual drinks with gin and lime juice. Numerous men would testify that Office Stark treated the whole incident lightly and joked it off.This is where the story of Officer Stark’s death differs from the stories that are most often repeated. By the following day, Officer Stark’s health had started to decline. The coroner’s inquest stated that he was in bed receiving injections and treatment.On September 20th, the Queen Mary arrived at Southampton. Officer Stark was immediately taken to the Royal South Hants Hospital. It appears that Stark was not comatose at this point because he was able to see and speak to his wife. She asked him why he refused to have his stomach pumped and he said: “I did not think anything of it.” I imagine that Margaret knew that he was going to die, and I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for her.Three days later on September 23rd, 1949 Officer William Eric Stark succumbed to carbon tetrachloride poisoning. He died two days shy of his 31st birthday. I wasn’t able to track down any burial records for him. According to the Queen Mary’s records, he was buried at sea. This would not have been unusual for a nautical officer.Many people believe that a person must die at a location in order for their ghost to haunt it, and that’s simply not true. Personally, I believe that many haunted places are haunted by those who loved the location, or more commonly the spirits that are seen are simply residual energies. Like a tape being replayed over and over again.For those that have seen the ghost of Officer Stark, it sounds as if he’s still making his rounds on deck, or still searching for the bottle of gin in the Captain’s cabin. I doubt that Officer Stark’s ghost haunts the Isolation Ward as I don’t believe he spent time there. I also don’t think he’s responsible for the ghostly choking and gasping sounds. Death by carbon tetrachloride is not an immediate death. From all accounts, he wasn’t choking or gasping for air. He would have suffered kidney and liver failure and eventually slipped into a coma and died.
When I was a kid one of the earliest books about ghosts I ever read had a story about the ghost of Abe Lincoln in the White House. I don’t remember the title of the book, or much else about it other than it told the story of the ghost of Abraham Lincoln knocking on the White House bedroom door in the middle of the night.If you search for White House ghost stories the mention of Lincoln’s ghost is usually the most popular. So, I thought that I would delve into the historical lore behind the ghosts of the White House, starting with the Lincoln family. This will be a series of posts, so if you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter to be informed about upcoming posts and other bits of news.
The Death of William Wallace Lincoln
The middle child of President and Mrs. Lincoln, Willie Lincoln was said to be a very friendly and happy child; he was also the son with whom Lincoln was closest to. Willie and his younger brother Tad both became ill in early February 1862 with what is believed to have been Typhoid Fever.((Family: William Wallace Lincoln))He lay very ill, in the Lincoln Bed, in what was an upstairs guest room of the White House. This room is now called the Private Dining Room. On February 20th, 1862 he passed away, throwing the Lincoln’s (especially Mrs. Lincoln) into an inconsolable grief. The picture below, taken in 1898, is the room Willie Lincoln died in, which at the time was the McKinley bedroom.((Family Residence Dining Room))Shortly after his death, Willie’s body was taken downstairs to the Green Room where it was embalmed and laid out for viewing. The Green Room was Mrs. Lincoln’s favorite room up until this point. In 1861 she went to great lengths redecorating it and was very proud of the purple drapes.((Green Room History)) Mrs. Lincoln came to view her son’s body only once. She laid a piece of laurel on his chest and then quickly left the room. She never set foot in the room again and did not attend his funeral.
Seances In The White House
It’s well known that Mrs. Lincoln was very into spiritualism which was quickly gaining in popularity at the time. After the death of Willie, she increasingly began participating in seances, usually at the homes of friends in Washington. On at least one occasion, however, she held a seance in the White House with President Lincoln in attendance.They referred to the seances as “calls to the dead” and Mrs. Lincoln’s favorite medium was Cranston Laurie.((First Ladies & The Occult)) Shortly after she attended these seances she began to talk of both of her dead sons (Willie, and a son Eddy who died years before). She told friends that Willie would come and stand at the foot of her bed in the middle of the night.
Ghostly Sightings of Willie Lincoln
The first published mention of the White House being haunted that I could find comes from The Washington Critic on April 22nd, 1883 and is titled “Is The White House Haunted?”. However we’ll get to that article in a future post because it does not involve a Lincoln ghost.
Grant Administration – 1869 – 1877
Ulysses S. Grant was in the White House from 1869 until 1877. In the 1870’s, a member of Ulysses S. Grant’s staff reported he had a conversation with the ghost of Willie Lincoln. Members of the Grant Administration also said that his ghost was spotted throughout the White House from time to time. I found a couple of vague newspaper articles that all mentioned the same thing. However, no one was ever quoted by name.
Taft Administration – 1909 – 1913
The first direct Willie Lincoln ghost mention comes from someone pretty well connected to the White House in his day, Major Archibald Willingham Butt. What a name huh? Major Butt served as a military aide to both Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft. He also, unfortunately, went down with the sinking of the Titanic.In July 1911 he wrote a letter to his sister stating “It seems that the White House is haunted.” He went on to detail an event where he overheard a few of the servants talking about some ghostly activity. Maj. Butt relayed the gossip to President Taft who “went into a towering rage”. Taft threatened the staff saying the next person to talk about ghosts again would be summarily fired. Realizing that the President must have heard these stories before by the way he reacted, he waited until the President calmed down to ask him what it was all about.A short while later Major Butts and President Taft talked about the servants being upset over the ghostly activity. The President relayed that the ghost is felt more than seen, and the consensus among the staff is that it is the ghost of a boy. They told him that more than one person has felt a hand placed on their shoulder when they’re alone working in the White House. They said it felt as if someone was trying to look over their shoulder to see what they were doing. ((The Brooklyn Daily Eagle · Thu, Sep 4, 1930, · Page 6))
Eisenhower Administration 1953 – 1961
During an event at the White House in the 1950’s, the young daughter of a Belgian Ambassador was seen playing peek-a-boo with an unseen playmate. When her parents asked what she was doing, she explained she was playing with a boy. She described him in detail but no one else had seen any other children. During a visit to the Smithsonian shortly after she pointed at a picture of a boy and told her parents that was who she was talking to at the White House. When her parents looked up, they saw that it was a picture of Willie Lincoln. ((Arizona Republic 31 Oct 1978, Tue • [First Edition] • Page 20))
Johnson Administration 1963 – 1969
The last reported sighting of Willie Lincoln took place during the John Administration. Lyndon Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Robb was staying in the room in which he died. Not only did she report seeing his ghost, but she also spoke to him. I would love to know the details of this encounter, but that brief mention is all that I could find. ((Ghosts of Presidents Past))So, I thought I would try and reach out to Lynda Robb and see if she would be willing to share her story with me. To my surprise, she called me, just a couple of days after I mailed the letter.She explained that when she moved into the White House (which she called a great honor) she really wanted to know who lived in the room before her. So she began to ask around and no one really could give her answers prior to the Eisenhower Administration. That wasn’t good enough for her! So she began to research and found all the macabre history of her room.She said that over the years her talking about researching her room somehow turned into her seeing and speaking with Willie Lincoln. “Unfortunately, ” She said “I never saw or spoke with Willie Lincoln. I wish I had a better story to tell you!”So there you have it!Reports of ghostly activity at the White House seems to have dwindled since massive reconstruction was done in the 1950’s. It could be that the ghosts have calmed down over the years, or I’m inclined to think that people shrug off odd things they notice. Maybe the ghost of Willie Lincoln is still wandering the halls of the Executive Mansion but the stories just aren’t making it past those historic rooms.The next post in this series will be about the main man himself, the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1902 a southbound train was nearing Geneva, NY and came upon the Marsh bridge. As the train approached the bridge, the engineer and fireman onboard heard a piercing scream. When they looked up they saw a white figure standing to the east of the bridge frantically waving its arms. The engineer brought the train to a stop and as he did so, they heard another scream and the phantom disappeared before their eyes.The two men got out of the train and inspected the track and surrounding area for the screaming weirdo they saw just moments before. Nothing was out of place on the track and there was no sign of any person or thing nearby. As they started across the bridge they heard the shriek one final time.The train pulled into the station and the men shared their odd experience with the other railroad workers. They learned that there was an accident at that bridge years prior. The engineer and fireman both died when the train went off of Marsh Bridge. The article said that the fireman’s body was lost to quicksand and never recovered. Ever since that accident, a shrieking phantom is said to be spotted on this bridge every year around Thanksgiving Day.
Did Any Of This Really Happen?
Let me tell you. It was not easy to try and figure out if the events mentioned in the article from 1902 really happened or where it happened. I was starting to think it was all just urban legend. But I did find an actual event that very closely matches the details in this story.On March 29th, 1873 a train left Syracuse at 7:45 pm heading towards Rochester on the Auburn road. Within half a mile of the town of Geneva, the train ran into a sluice of water which had washed out a bridge over Marsh Creek. The locomotive, tender, and baggage car fell off the track and down into the flood waters. They practically disappeared under the water. Amazingly, the passenger cars stayed on the track and none of the passengers or the rest of the crew were seriously injured.The same could not be said for the engineer and fireman. Both disappeared and due to the raging water, attempts to locate their bodies could not be made immediately. The body of the engineer, Ignatius Buelte, was found on the afternoon of Sunday, March 30th. The body of the fireman, Augustus Sipple, was found quite a distance away on the 31st of March.The incident became known as the Marsh Creek Casualty or the Geneva Disaster. Consequently, the families of both men sued the railroad due for negligence in failing to properly maintain the bridge. Both families were later awarded money.I couldn’t find any connection to Thanksgiving Day. Maybe this is one of those urban legends meant to remind people how fleeting life can be. Or maybe the spirits of Engineer Buelte and Fireman Sipple were simply trying to warn other railroad men of the dangers of the bridge.
The Historic Calumet Hotel, located in Pipestone, Minnesota is said to be one of Minnesota’s most haunted hotels. It was also featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Hotel Hell. A friend of mine visited recently and told me I should check out the history of this haunted hotel.The hotel that currently sits on the corner of Main Street and Hiawatha Ave is not the first to grace this corner. The fact that there have been two buildings on this site also hints to a possible cause of the spooky activity.
The first Calumet Hotel was a three-story, wood-framed building with a brick veneer. It was built in 1883, at a cost of around $25,000 ($567,000 in today’s money). During the early years of train travel, it was common for evening trains to arrive hours before the next train would depart the station. Many of those travelers would need a place to stay and the Calumet filled that need. The Calumet Hotel soon became known for being one of the premier hotels in all of Minnesota.
Image Courtesy of The Pipestone County Historical Society
A Pipestone Horror
Within three short years, the hotel was completely destroyed by fire. At approximately 1:30 am on December 16th, 1886 a fire originating from the hotel’s kitchen quickly engulfed the building. Due to a lack of water and no real firefighting equipment, the hotel burned to the ground within a matter of hours.Numerous newspapers mentioned that one person was killed and two were fatally injured but did not die right away. I could only confirm the one known death, that of Rev. Alfred Stoddard Orcutt. Reports say he was trying to ensure that all the guests of the hotel had made it out safely when the building collapsed on him.The death of Rev. Orcutt caused the city officials to realize they lacked the ability to fight fires in town. Within a week the town organized a fire department, started plans for local waterworks, purchased two chemical firetrucks, and a hook and ladder truck.
By September 27th, 1888, the new Calumet Hotel opened for business in the same location as the original building. This building held a bank and hotel. The bank entrance was located on the corner of the block and the entrance to the hotel was from Main Street through a Syrian arch. The “new” Calumet Hotel was much bigger than the original hotel and had 50 rooms. In 1913, a fourth floor was added which brought the total number of rooms to 90. For years the Calumet Hotel was known as the place to stay for travelers passing through Pipestone. Everything was fine until Valentine’s Day, 1944.
Man, 53, Perishes In Pipestone Fire
At approximately 10:30 pm on Monday, February 14th, 1944 fire once again broke out at the Calumet Hotel. And oddly enough, it started in the kitchen of the hotel. Even though Pipestone now had a fire department, and they managed to put the fire out fairly quickly, a guest named Chris E. Herschberger did not manage to escape in time.The damage from the fire was quickly repaired, but over time as train travel became less popular, guests of the Calumet Hotel became less frequent. By 1978 the building was in such bad condition it was deemed to be unsafe and closed by the State Fire Marshal. It was purchased in 1979 and renovated into the hotel it is today, opening for business again in 1981.((National Register of Historic Places)) While much of the hotel was remodeled, the staircases and the lobby area have remained virtually untouched. Interestingly enough, this is where most of the paranormal activity is reported.
Ghosts Of The Calumet Hotel
Paranormal activity has been reported throughout the hotel, but Room 308 seems to be the hotbed of activity. Hotel staff says that Room 308 was the room that Charles Herschberger was staying in the night he died. A bellboy working the night of the fire in 1944 couldn’t understand why Charlie, as he’s often referred, didn’t simply climb out the window.((https://www.pipestonestar.com/articles/memories-of-a-bellboy/))Guests staying in Room 308 have reported the lights and TV will turn off and on at random, and they often feel like they are not alone in the room. Housekeeping reports that items will be moved about the room on their own as they’re cleaning it.
Staff at the front desk report that they will get calls from Room 207 with the person on the other end asking for various items such as toothbrushes or razors. When the employee goes to bring them the requested items they find that the room is unoccupied and locked.
Apparitions & Spectral Music
The ghostly activity also includes sightings of more than one well-dressed apparition.An older, well-dressed man has been sighted lounging in the lobby. Interesting that he is seen here as the lobby is one of few areas of the hotel that has remained pretty much unchanged since 1887. Witnesses report that he is wearing old-fashioned clothing and will sit calmly until promptly disappearing when approached. Could this be Rev. Orcutt from long ago still hanging out in the old hotel?A woman in a bright dress (often said to be red) has been seen walking the hallways of the hotel. She usually disappears from view as soon as she realizes she has been seen.And as if all of that isn’t enough on its own, hotel guests and staff often hear phantom piano music. While there is a piano in the dining room when the music is heard the lights are off and no one is near the piano.It seems to me that most of the activity is residual in nature. Not surprising given the tragic history at the 134-year-old Calumet Hotel.
On a recent trip back to my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona I decided to bring Matt to one of Arizona’s most talked about haunted locations: The Hotel San Carlos.Located on the southwest corner of Central and Monroe, the Hotel San Carlos has been a fixture of downtown Phoenix since 1928. It can also be seen, very briefly, in the center of the opening scene of one of the best thriller movies ever made, Psycho. By the time Psycho was filmed, the Hotel San Carlos had been in operation for 32 years and had gained the reputation as one of the nicest hotels in Phoenix. It was so nice that it hosted many celebrities of the era such as Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, and Clark Gable. Not only was it one of the places to stay, it was one of the places to be seen.But we didn’t come just for the history. It turns out the Hotel San Carlos is also known to host a fair share of spirits. Over the years staff and visitors alike have reported seeing a woman wandering the hallways who promptly disappears, the sounds of children laughing and crying, and disembodied footsteps. A few guests have even said they were woken in the middle of the night by a knock at their door only to find there is no one there.
The Hotel San Carlos sits on the site of Phoenix’s first school. Originally built in 1874, the small adobe building served the children of Phoenix until 1879 when it was replaced by a larger brick structure. Known as the Central School, this building remained in use until it was condemned in 1916. By 1920 it was finally demolished with plans to build a million dollar hotel on the site.The fact that two different school buildings were on this site from 1874 until 1916 is often listed as being the cause for the disembodied sounds of children that are sometimes heard. While the buildings themselves are long gone, one piece of that history remains, and it’s located in the basement of the hotel.While it doesn’t look spooky, this is the oldest part of the building, the original well. Well, the original well is located underneath the modern electric pump pictured above. If you took that pump off, inside would be the brick lined well that was dug for the first school in 1874.I have seen stories that children fell into the well and drowned and that is the cause of some of the hauntings at the Hotel San Carlos, however, I could find no record of this ever occurring. This well provided drinking water for the hotel until sometime in the 1970’s when it was switched over to use for the air conditioning system.The original chilled water spigots can still be found in most of the hotel rooms today.
We met with one of the hotel staff and were given a tour through the building. While in the lobby she told us of a recent event that took place while she was sitting at the front desk. She said the lobby was empty and she heard a loud banging noise coming from around the corner. The only thing around the corner was a short hallway leading to the stairwell.As she got up to check it out she heard a loud crash and the sound of shattering glass. As she turned the corner she saw broken glass on the floor beneath a framed picture. The picture, however, was still hanging on the wall, with half of the glass missing. She couldn’t explain how it happened as no one else was in the lobby. She said they even went back to check security footage to see if someone had come from the stairwell and no one had been in that area for hours prior to the noise.As we explored the different floors of the hotel I kept thinking about the Hotel San Carlos’ most famous specter with the saddest story; the ghost of Leone Jensen.Being from Phoenix, I had heard the story of Leone Jensen before. The most common story is that Leone Jensen was a 22-year-old woman who was staying on the 7th floor of the hotel. She had just traveled from across the country to meet with her fiance in Phoenix. Once she arrived, she found that he no longer loved her. Heartbroken and alone she made her way up the stairs on the 7th floor to the penthouse above and jumped off the roof.In the years since her suicide on May 7th, 1928 people have reported seeing a woman in a long dress on the roof of the hotel. When they try to get a better look at her, they find that she’s disappeared. A wispy figure of a woman has also been seen wandering the hallways of the hotel.After we were done with the guided tour, we explored the rest of the hotel and went out to check the rooftop pool. It is said that this was Marilyn Monroe’s favorite hotel to stay at while she was in Phoenix. She would request a room on the third floor so that she could easily access the pool. She would sunbathe here for hours.
Things That Go Bump In the Night
Finally, we decided it was time to call it a day and went back to our room. We were both so exhausted it didn’t take long to fall asleep. I woke up around midnight and got up to use the bathroom. While I was standing in front of the sink washing my hands I heard a strange sound coming from the room above ours.I stood there for a good thirty seconds or so just listening to it. The only way I can describe it is it sounded like someone was dragging a piece of heavy furniture across a wood floor. That’s not something you would expect to hear in a hotel at 12:30 am! I can’t say I’ve ever heard anything like it while staying in a hotel. As I was listening to this sound I was trying to come up with an explanation for it.The problem was, there are no wood floors in the hotel. The rooms and hallways are carpeted, and the bathrooms have tile floors. They’re also way too small for anything to be dragged across the floor. On top of that, we hadn’t heard any sounds other than when we were in the lobby. Just as I went to go wake Matt up the sound stopped.Other than that incident our short stay was uneventful. This hotel has so much history that it’s not hard for me to see why it has the reputation of being haunted. The spirits that apparently decided to never check out of the Hotel San Carlos don’t seem to be malevolent. Like with other haunted locations it seems they just want people to know that they’re still around. If you’re ever in Phoenix, stop by and check it out for yourself.
Have you stayed at the Hotel San Carlos or another haunted hotel? I’d love to hear your experiences, comment below!
I received a request to research Mouth Cemetery, and I’m not going to lie, I got a little excited because what a name for a cemetery! Turns out the name is based on geographical location, and not because of something quirky. Despite this, after doing a bit of research I found that the cemetery and surrounding area are known for having a history of strange occurrences.Located in White River Township, Michigan, not far from the shores of Lake Michigan the cemetery is surrounded by dense trees in a somewhat remote area. At a little over 165 years old, Mouth Cemetery has fallen into disrepair over the years and appears to be mostly overgrown. Based on its remoteness and unkempt appearance it’s not hard to see how this cemetery has gained the reputation of being one of Michigan’s most haunted locations.Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing strange mists among the bushes and trees, hearing the sound of footsteps behind them yet turning and finding no one, seeing a young girl in an old-fashioned white dress, and disembodied sounds of crying and screams. As if all of that wasn’t enough, there is also an urban legend connected to Mouth Cemetery, the cursed chair!
With a name like Mouth….
Located near the mouth of the White River, in White River Township, Mouth cemetery got its name from an old town nickname. Locally the town was often referred to as “the Mouth” or simply “Mouth”. The nickname stuck for the cemetery and also one of its first schools. Long before White River Township existed, there was a large Native American village at the mouth of the White River. According to stories passed down through the years, and a few historical records, a great massacre between tribes occurred on the north shore of White Lake in the mid-1600’s.In 1854 the White River Village post office was established and the town had become a thriving lumber town. The earliest date found on tombstones in the cemetery was 1851, but it is thought that burials took place in this cemetery around 1830. In 1859 all the township records were burned by city officials after it was determined to be impossible to reconcile the financial records. With these records, all early records of burials at Mouth Cemetery were also destroyed.
While many of the people buried at Mouth Cemetery have been lost to time, one of the most talked about graves here belongs to Captain William Robinson. Interestingly enough, the ghost of Captain Robinson has reportedly been seen and heard over the years, but not at Mouth Cemetery.The ghost of Captain Robinson and his wife Sara are said to haunt the nearby White River Light Station. Captain Robinson maintained the lighthouse from when it was built in 1875 until his death 45 years later in 1919. He was not ready to retire, despite the fact that he was 87 years old. Eventually, he was forced to retire due to his age and the responsibilities of keeping the lighthouse fell to his grandson. Many at the time felt that he died from depression over having to leave the place that he loved so much. Captain Robinson died the day before he was set to leave the lighthouse. The staff of the White River Light Station, report hearing the sounds of footsteps and the thunk of a cane after the lighthouse is closed for the night.Towards the end of his life, Captain Robinson used a cane to get around. I found mentions of the sounds of his distinct gait. It doesn’t seem that Captain Robinson is alone at the lighthouse, however. When tidying up after visiting hours are over, museum staff report that dust rags will be moved when left near a specific display case.
A Cursed Chair
Not only is Mouth Cemetery rumored to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Michigan, it’s also home to an urban legend. According to the Grand Rapids Paranormal Investigations blog, a teenage boy who sat in a chair in the woods near the cemetery was killed in a car accident one year to the day following sitting in the chair. It’s also referred to as Sadony’s chair, which we’ll get to later.The legend of the cursed chair brought so many people to the cemetery that local police removed the chair to deter further legend tripping.
Valley of The Pines & Joseph A. Sadony
In the research request, the laboratory of Joseph A. Sadony was mentioned. The ruins of his laboratory are visible from the cemetery. Joseph Sadony was known as a “philosopher-scientist” and focused his life on the study of intuition. He was also known to have an uncanny ability to foretell future events, including his own death. To say that he was an interesting person would be an extreme understatement.When I first started researching the cemetery I couldn’t understand the connection to Joseph Sadony or events that occurred nearby at his estate, Valley of The Pines to Mouth Cemetery. He died in 1960 and is buried at Valley of The Pines. I read numerous newspaper articles printed during his lifetime about him and Valley of The Pines. I also read many different current websites about his life and beliefs. Most of the articles written about him were very positive. A few articles referred to Valley of The Pines as a cult and painted a less than flattering picture of Joseph Sadony. It was then that I realized that his name is mentioned in connection to Mouth Cemetery because he lived close to the cemetery, and he was considered to be a very unusual person. Over the years of researching haunted locations and urban legends, I’ve found that even just a little bit of weirdness is often enough to spark an urban legend.Even if he had lived today he would be considered unusual and different, let alone during his lifetime (1877-1960). In an interview with his granddaughter, she said how her father told her that people would often see Joseph Sadony walking down the street and they would cross to the other side so as to not get too close. They were afraid that he could read their minds. That was when I realized that the close proximity of the mysterious Valley of The Pines, the place where Joseph Sadony kept a laboratory and wrote his newspaper columns and books, made for a perfect “creepy” background to the strange occurrences in this old cemetery.
Do you know of a great urban legend or a haunted location that you’d like to learn the real history of? Send me the info and it could be featured in a future Dead History post.
Detroit Free Press, Sun, Jan 16, 1994
Like the Goldfield Hotel, the Pennhurst State School and Asylum was on my Top 5 list of haunted places to visit. In Summer 2015 I went to Pennsylvania to visit my family, and it gave me the perfect opportunity to check it out.If you want to read about Pennhurst’s history there are a few great websites such as Preserve Pennhurst, The Pennhurst Project, and Pennhurst Asylum: The Shame of Pennsylvania. There is also a television news report from 1968, called Suffer The Little Children that helped bring public attention to conditions inside Pennhurst. We arrived at Pennhurst about 6 pm and while waiting for my friend Nick to arrive and let us in we wandered around the outside and took some pictures.
Pennhurst opened its doors for Patient No. 1 on November 23rd, 1908. Within just a few years Pennhurst was underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded. As early as July 29th, 1913 there were reports of abuse at the institution. A man named John Jacobs was arrested and charged for beating two young men who just didn’t move fast enough for his liking. He beat both of the men with a wooden club.
By 1923 there were accusations of mismanagement of funds. The superintendent was paid $5,000 a year ($79k today) along with a residence, expensive car, two servants, and a chauffeur.
In the 1960s an eye opening documentary was released by a local reporter named Bill Baldini. You can watch it here. At the time this was produced Pennhurst was housing 2,791 patients, most of whom were children. There were nine medical doctors on staff and eleven teachers, none of whom had any training in special education.
By the time Pennhurst finally closed its doors in December, 1987, over 10,000 people had passed through its doors. When you think about the vast amount of people, in severely questionable conditions, suffering from varying degrees of mental and physical illness, it’s not surprising the location is considered to be quite haunted.
It wasn’t until the location sat empty and caretakers began experiencing strange things that the site got the reputation as one of the most haunted locations in the United States.
Doors would slam shut, loud sounds and voices were often heard coming from inside the buildings. When the caretakers would go inside to flush out trespassers no one could be found. In the Quaker building, shadow figures are often seen, as well as full bodied apparitions. One of these is a small girl with long black hair. The Quaker building also has reports of people being shoved and scratched and items being thrown from across the seemingly empty room.
An apparition of a nurse has been spotted in the Limerick building. She’s seen wearing an old fashioned nurses’s uniform.
Having spent some time inside Pennhurst I can vouch that the place feels heavy. The history of what took place here still hangs in the air. It’s one of those places that you just will never forget the feel of.