The Mystery of Roanoke

The Croatan are a small Native American group residing in the coastal areas of what is now North Carolina. Croatan Island (sometimes called Croatoan Island and now known as Hatteras Island) is located on the banks of the Staunton (pronounced Stanton) River and, in 1587, the Croatan got some new neighbors. They were English settlers, numbering somewhere between 115-120, led by Gov. John White.

White was to be the guiding hand and to aid in the development of a new colony. Sir Walter Raleigh had intended for the colony to be established in the Chesapeake Bay area, but the Captain of the ship they sailed upon dropped them on Roanoke Island instead, a site that had hosted a colony of settlers previously. The previous attempt had been a glorious failure.

The new settlers began setting up shop, building structures, and working toward creating some sense of home in their new surroundings, picture an even shittier version of Oregon Trail, but it wasn’t long before the group began to run out of supplies. White set sail for England to procure more stores for his settlers on August 27, 1587 and arrived in November of that year, just as England was about to go to war with Spain. Queen Elizabeth I ordered that all available ships to confront the Spanish Armada, preventing White from returning to Roanoke for a period of three years.

When White did return, he found the colony abandoned and all of the settlers missing. Although he searched endlessly for them, he found no clue as to there whereabouts nor did he find any human remains to indicate they had been killed. His daughter, Ellinor White Dare, son in law, Ananias Dare, and granddaughter, Virginia Dare, had vanished. A single word was carved into a wooden post, the only clue as to where the settlers may have gone or what had happened at Roanoke. That word was Croatoan.

What happened to the settlers of the lost colony of Roanoke? Were they captured by local native tribes? Were they murdered by an aggressive tribe? Were they assimilated into a friendly native tribe? Were they taken as slaves to work in copper mines? (It was speculated in Return to Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony (History Channel, 2015) that this was the colonist’s fate.) Were they murdered by Spaniards marching up from Florida or were they abducted?

White was left to wonder and failed to find any settler, alive or dead.

Virginia and The Dare Stones

Virginia Dare was the first child of English heritage to be born in the Americas and was named Virginia because she was the first born there. Her father was Ananias Dare, her mother was Ellinor White Dare (daughter of Gov. John White.) Illustrated depictions of young Virginia’s baptism into the Catholic faith at the Jonestown Exhibition in 1907 can be found online, but the child vanished soon after without a trace. Her life is a mystery and remains so to this day.

In 1937, a California man driving through the coastal Carolina region found a 21 pound rock, roughly 80 miles from Roanoke Island, engraved with strange markings. He delivered his find to the History Department at Emory University. When university officials declined to pay for testing of the stone, Haywood Pearce brought it to Brenau University and began tracing its origins and transcribing the writing on the stone. He put out a call for other stones, offering a reward, but was essentially buried in potentials, further muddying the mystery. There are a total of 48 stones supposedly describing the last days of the colony at Roanoke.

According to The Native Heritage Project (https://nativeheritageproject.com/2013/12/08/the-dare-stones-1-through-48/), the original stone reads as follows.

The writing on the stone appears to be a message from Ellinor White Dare to her father describing murders by “sa(l)vages” (save 7 colonists) and the locations of grave sites along with where the group of surviving colonists might be found. Some scientists have speculated, upon close examination, that some of the stones appear to have been recently carved, one even looks as if it may have been done with a drill press.

 

A team of historians commissioned by the Smithsonian did assign some validity to the original stone. The team was led by Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard University. A preliminary report was released stating that the stone appeared to be valid and the stones officially became known as the Dare Stones.

In 1941, the Saturday Evening Post all but reported that Pearce Jr. had crafted the stones himself. There was talk of libel action against The Post, but WWII pretty much put the kaibash on that. The stones disappeared from view on campus.

In 1977, Leonard Nimoy narrated an episode of In Search of… on which a Brenau professor, Dr. Southerland, stated that he believed only the first stone was authentic. Ten years later, he amended his statement, asserting that even the original stone may have only a 50% chance of being real.

Interest in the stones was once again revived as Jamestown, VA, celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first English colony to gain purchase on American soil. An internet scavenger hunt (among other scheduled events) caused Brenau officials to receive dozens of phone calls. One of the items on the scavenger hunt list was a rubbing of one of the Dare Stones.

Location of the Stones

It has been speculated that the stones are housed in an 18th century mausoleum on campus, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Dare Stones are actually housed in a boiler room beneath the university amphitheater and range in size from 20-40 pounds each. One stone is on view at the Northeast Georgia History Center adjacent to campus. Two (including the original stone) are housed in the special collections section of the Trustee Library.

Every Good Mystery Has a Twist…

In an interesting twist, part of the Ellinor Dare legend is that she gave birth to a child named Agnes who was fathered by an American Indian “king” from North Carolina or Georgia. Tribes in that area believed that the souls of the deceased were transferred into sacred stones.

Kathy Amos, the university’s Tradition Keeper states that Brenau’s resident ghost showed up around the same time the stones did. Supposedly, the ghost’s name is Agnes.

Stories exist about the ghost of Agnes committing suicide by hanging herself in the theater. It’s generally a story of unrequited love. Agnes is also said to have been a pledge for Zeta Tau Alpha who died in an initiation gone wrong. It has also been said that she killed herself after being ousted from the sorority. Some claim that Agnes appeared in the 1930’s while others say she’s been around since 1960. She’s said to haunt the theater, the dorms, the library… It seems as if it depends completely who you talk to on campus as Agnes stories abound.

Have you ever seen the Dare Stones first hand? What’s the story with Agnes? Is she the deceased daughter of Ellinor or another spirit entirely? Let us know in the comments below!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

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S1 Ep. 13 So Many Knights (Nights)

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/chdz8-6d0b70?from=yiiadmin

Mimi continues her voyage to the dark side this week with the tale of Giles DeRey, compatriot to Joan of Ark, child murderer, and necrophiliac. Janine explores vampire folklore and legend in a little piece she likes to call Bird of Death.
Disclaimer: Mimi’s piece is a little creep-tastic this week. If you’re faint of heart or just don’t enjoy graphic descriptions of violence, skip to the 20 minute mark.
Have a folklore story from your neck of the woods that you’d like to share? Experience some ghostly or otherwise unexplainable phenomena? Drop us a line! We’d love to read about your experiences and share them on an upcoming minisode! hauntheadscast@gmail.com is your friend. =)

Please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes. We’d very much appreciate your feedback!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2

Fanning the Flames

Spontaneous Human Combustion has both confounded and delighted individuals for a very long time. The anomaly has been featured in skeptic magazines and invaded the internet, but how much of what we read about SHC can be believed and have we simply accepted this queer idea as fact just because reports of people going up in flames actually exist? You’ll find that photos are absent from this article. If you would like to see photos of SHC, Google is your friend. Now, onto the show.

Twain, Melville, Dickens, Irving…

All of these literary greats have touched on the subject within their work, Dickens’ publisher actually chastised the author for including SHC in Bleak House, accusing him of fueling an idea based purely on speculation, but when the strange and unusual begins to make an appearance in everyday life, we are often taken aback. We are stunned and shocked, but more than anything we want to know why. Human animals are an inquisitive sort after all.

OMG. SHC.

In the late 1400’s, an Italian knight named Polonus Vorstius vomited flame after ingesting “several ladels” of particularly potent wine. To say the substance disagreed with him would be a drastic misrepresentation because Vorstius burst quite quickly into a ball of flame. There were no other casualties, many others had drunk of the wine, and the onlookers were baffled.

The first known, “confirmed,” account of SHC occurred in 1663. Danish anatomist Thomas Bartholin describes the burning death of a Parisian woman who was inexplicably and suddenly engulfed in flames. She “went up in ashes and smoke” while sleeping on a straw mattress. The mattress was unharmed as were the other objects in the room.

In the 1700’s, SHC claimed the life of a noblewoman, Countess Cornelia diBandi. She was found halfway between her bed and a window one morning, her torso, head, and arms burned to ash. Only three fingers and her lower legs remained intact. It was speculated by those who came upon the scene that she rose to open the window late in the night and spontaneously burst into flames. Near her bed, two candles sat unlit. The tallow of the candles had melted from the heat of the fire, but the wicks were untouched. Soot covered the room, but everything else near the Countess’ body, including a bedside table, draperies, and a plate of bread, remained unharmed though the surfaces were covered in soot.

Ruled a “visitation from God,” in 1725, Nicole Millet, the wife of an innkeeper, was found burned to death in the kitchen when her husband smelled smoke. Her body was almost completely reduced to ash. Wooden implements nearby were still intact, though damaged by smoke and soot. Some accounts state that Millet was found on a straw mattress with the straw being only slightly damaged by the flames. Her husband was tried for murder, but was exonerated when he used SHC as a defense. At that time, studies were being done on the anomaly and the courts could not rule out SHC as a possible cause.

In 1967, a passenger on a bus in London, England, saw a flash of blue light in a window while passing an apartment complex. She called the authorities, believing it may be a gas jet, but when the authorities arrived they found something far different. The fire brigade found the body of Robert Bailey. One fireman reported that the fire had emanated from a large slit in the mans abdomen.

In 1970, in Paris, France, Ginette Kazmierczak contacted the authorities stating that her husband had gone missing. Police searched for the man, but found nothing. A few days later, after the woman’s son had left to play with friends, neighbors smelled smoke. They found Ginette’s body still smoldering. Her legs were intact, but the rest of her remains were ash. The area around her body was undisturbed.

In 2010, the spontaneous combustion of an Irish man was reported, making it the first case in Ireland. The burned body of Michael Flaherty, an elderly man was found lying on the floor of his flat with his head near the hearth. Coroners determined that the hearth had not ignited the blaze and there were no signs of foul play. There was no evidence of accelerant and there was no other damage to objects in the room. The only signs of fire were scorch marks beneath the body and smoke/fire damage to the ceiling.  In 2011, the coroner officially stated that Flaherty’s death was unexplained.

We just don’t know WHY.

Cases of SHC are so peculiar because the spontaneous lighting of a human being, while still alive and conscious, is just fucking weird. It makes no sense that a body could burn so hot as to reduce remains to ash in a way (normally) only achieved by the process cremation. In rare cases, bodies have been found with their internal organs completely intact while the remainder of the torso was reduced to a smoldering pile. Witnesses (mostly “witnesses”) to this spontaneous burning report a sweet, smoky smell and a greasy residue that covers the surfaces surrounding the remains.

Another interesting anomaly is that people have actually experienced the sensation of burning, but have lived to tell the tale. Not everyone just bursts into flames. Some develop strange burns with no obvious cause while others emanate smoke from their body with no fire present.

As recently as 2013, a man from Vermont, Frank Baker, reported bursting into flames on his sofa. He and a friend were resting after loading their vehicles for a fishing trip when, very suddenly, Baker, a decorated war veteran who served in Vietnam, caught fire. Baker was not smoking at the time (well, except from the fire), nor was his friend who leapt to his feet to try and put out the flames. Baker suffered some burns, but was largely unharmed. Baker’s doctor reported that the fire had started burning “from the inside out,” and had no explanation for the occurrence. Baker is the only known survivor of SHC.

Let’s talk temps and criteria.

As stated before, high temperatures are required to reduce a body to ashes. In the 1600’s, people knew this to be fact. In order to burn a martyr or supposed witch, you needed several cartloads of wood in order for the body to break down to that point. In cremation, a fire in excess of 2500 degrees is necessary to achieve this outcome.

In 1667, Johann Becher offered a possible cause for SHC. Becher believed that the human body contained an element called Phlogiston that was expelled upon breathing by most people. However, there were people who were incapable, they had a medical condition to put it simply, of ridding their bodies of Phlogiston. Those people could be prone to SHC.

In 1717, John Cohausen proposed that what we ingest might be the cause. For example, those who chose to imbibe in spirits to excessive amount might spontaneously combust due to the excess of alcohol in their system. Cohausen (no doubt to cover all of his bases) also stated that there were people who were just more inclined to combust than others. Essentially, shit happens.

In 1731, when the Countess diBandi burned, Reverend Joseph Bianchini suggested it was caused by lightning that had shot straight down the chimney or had come in through a crack in the window pane. I guess that’s as good an explanation as any.

In 1745, Mr. Paul Rolli presented 3 cases of unusual death by burning in his paper entitled “Philosophical Transactions.” Those cases were that of John Hitchell (1613), Countess diBandi (1731), and Grace Pett (1744). Rolli considered these cases to fit his criteria and to be fires of unexplained origin.  His criteria were as follows.

  1. Flame from a candle or lamp cannot consume someone and reduce them to ash.
  2. Objects found around victims largely unharmed.
  3. Torso destroyed, but limbs often untouched. In a normal fire, limbs would be destroyed.
  4. Fire appears to run out of fuel by the time it reaches the extremities.
  5. Fire spreads extremely fast. Victim appears not to resist or try to stop it.

Rolli theorized that “gasses and waste” or effluvia combined with vapor from various consumed spirits actually caused the victim to catch fire and the torso burned primarily because of a concentration of fat in that area. Rolli claimed the Countess had been in a deep sleep when she caught fire and rose from her bed, only to fall to the floor and become engulfed. Grace Pett was an alcoholic and so, according to Rolli’s criteria, was definitely a victim of SHC. Although Hitchell did not fit the criteria, his case was lumped in and largely glossed over. Learned men of the time began to work with Rolli in an effort to identify these unexplained burning deaths, but many instances of death by burning were included in this collection of information, some that could be easily explained by an unattended candle or lamp. Over the next 50 years, Rolli and his associates investigated hundreds of instances of death in this manner.

In the 1800’s, Pierre-aimi Lair published a study of strange fire deaths entitled “On the combustion of the human body, produced by the long and immoderate use of spiritous liquors.” Lair was convinced that the deaths were caused by alcohol and he published his work in an effort to curb the enthusiasm for excessive drinking. Lair evaluated roughly 15 cases and presented his criteria.

  1. All victims excessive drinkers.
  2. Women are the only victims.
  3. All victims older.
  4. All lit by fire from internal source.
  5. Extremities left behind, largely unharmed.
  6. Water sometimes an accelerant. Water vaporized to steam instantly (as is the case with a grease fire.)
  7. Damage confined to victim.
  8. Body reduced to ash and soot.

Lair’s criteria applied to most of the cases he presented, but not all. As was the case with Rolli, information that didn’t fit the mold was largely ignored. Why even have criteria in the first place if it doesn’t serve to define what you’ve presented…? Who knows.

Over the next 100 years, the existence of SHC was hotly debated. The wick method was presented, stating that the human body could be burned using its own fat stores. Like a candle is fed by wax that is melted and vaporized, feeding the wick and, when combined with oxygen, maintains the flame, it was theorized that the human body could feed itself in the same way. However, this method was filed away with previous possible causes.

In the 19th century, there was a rise in spiritualism and publications that featured stories about ghosts and hauntings were widely popular. In many cases, SHC took over the front pages of these publications, delighting and intriguing readers. However, by the 20th century, these publications had begun to die out and gained only fading interest.

By this time, SHC as cause of death was largely ignored by the medical community. Most doctors feared ridicule from their peers if they admitted it was plausible. Medical professionals assumed there was an explanation far more mundane than some of the previous ideas presented and that the fires were started from external sources. This rejection of SHC as fact fueled the fire (excuse the pun) of those who believed it to be a real occurrence, causing them to believe that there was some sort of conspiracy within the medical community to sweep the information under the rug. Others believed SHC was supernatural in origin, explaining why the medical community had nothing to say on the topic. They just didn’t know.

Then…

In 1951, Mary Reeser’s death re-ignited the passion for investigation into SHC. Reeser’s body was found burned to ash, save one of her legs that had been untouched. The chair she sat in was reduced to a mass of smoldering fabric and springs, but the remaining furniture nearby was intact. The particularly unusual part of this story is that Reeser’s head was supposedly shrunk by the fire. It was more likely a knot of muscle that had not been entirely consumed by the flames, but many still believe the shrunken head story. It is more likely that her head would have expanded or exploded, but not shrunk. Reeser’s story was widely reported by the news media at the time because she had moved from Florida (roughly 4 years prior) to Pennsylvania and had many friends and acquaintances in both places. It wasn’t long before her story became national news. Authorities rules the Reeser case to be accidental death, but many figures at the time, including the coroner and the fire chief, were unable to explain it away. Reeser was buried and no tests were run on her remains.

With cases as recent as 2013, the enthusiasm to solve the mystery of SHC is alive and well. Perhaps I’m just fanning the flames, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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Find our podcast at hauntheads.podbean.com or on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2

 

I would like to thank http://anomalyinfo.com for all of the awesome info regarding Spontaneous Human Combustion. If anyone is interested in learning more about SHC, check out this website. It’s full of interesting information and a chronological list of SHC cases throughout history. You can find that here:
http://anomalyinfo.com/Topics/spontaneous-human-combustion-reports-chronological-order

S.K. Pierce and “Chair City”

When it comes to haunted, historical locations, there’s a line drawn in the sand by many paranormal investigators and enthusiasts. Either fix it up and live with the spirits, create a bed and breakfast and run historical tours, or turn it into something entirely else. That “else” can either be a welcome addition to the community surrounding the property or an unwelcome nuisance and, in this particular case, many in the field believe that line has been crossed. In the case of the S.K. Pierce Mansion, it’s been flipped into the “else” category. The mansion will offer stay-cations for those looking for a fright, but the basement will also serve as a haunted attraction during the month of October.

16003691549_72660b1f18_b.jpg

S.K. Pierce Mansion by jasonbakerphotography81 via Flickr

Let’s rewind…

In 1875, Sylvester Knowlton Pierce, a wealthy furniture magnate and owner of S.K. Pierce & Sons Furniture Company, decided to build a structure befitting his stature. That structure became the S.K. Pierce Mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts. Pierce’s furniture empire earned Gardner the title of Chair City and his name became forever entwined with the place he called home.  The home took 1 1/2 years to complete, a project that enlisted the help of 100 men. The completed mansion (a total of 6,661 sq ft, though some claim it’s closer to 7,000) had 10 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Little did Pierce know, but the energy he invested into the property would be forever trapped there.

The Pierce family, Pierce himself, his wife Susan, and their son Edward moved into the house in 1877. Roughly 3 months later, Pierce’s wife succumbed to a bacterial infection. Pierce mourned the loss of his beloved wife for one year before finding a new bride, Ellen, who was far younger than himself. With Ellen, Pierce fathered two more children, both boys.

Upon Pierce’s passing (1888), the home was left to Ellen but, once Ellen passed away (1902), constant bickering about property rights drove a wedge between the brothers. Edward ultimately took ownership of the property (some accounts state that Ellen’s son Frank took ownership), being Pierce’s only son, and turned it into a boarding house. It wasn’t long before Edward’s business venture turned sour. The mansion, once host to great names like P.T. Barnum, Pres. Calvin Coolidge, and Norman Rockwell (among others,) shifted to gamblers, alcoholics, and prostitutes. The boarding house quickly turned into a brothel. When Edward passed, his half brother Frank stepped in, but lost the property in a card game (there have been accounts that state Edward lost the house.) Having lost what remained of the Pierce fortune, Frank (some accounts say nothing of a brother named Frank, rather Edward is the guilty party) was allowed to stay in the basement of the home because he had nowhere else to go. The home was purchased by a wealthy and eccentric artist who abandoned the property in the 1970’s, leaving it to sit for 30 years. It was then bought by a young couple, when the property was on the brink of demolition, Edwin Gonzales and Lillian Otero, but it wasn’t long before they were forced to sell the house. The level of paranormal activity had been so great, Gonzales and Otero felt they could no longer safely reside there. They placed the property on the market for a song, a mere $329,000.00.

Present Day

Rob and Allison Conti, owners of Dark Carnival, purchased the house in 2015 when a friend relayed them the MLS listing. Rob had been looking for a location he could turn into a freestanding haunted house for some time, but had been unable to procure a location in his home state of New Jersey. Since a fire at a freestanding haunted attraction killed 8 teens in the 1980’s, the rules surrounding the running of such attractions had become more strict within the state. When the Pierce Mansion came onto the market, a friend of the Conti’s noticed the listing and brought it to their attention. After some debate as to whether or not they could afford to purchase the home, they decided to place an offer and it was accepted. The Conti’s began the reconstruction and beautification of the home’s many bedrooms in an effort to bring it back to its former glory. As of June 25th of this year, the house is still undergoing extensive renovation.

Paranormal Phenomena

Reported activity at the mansion is listed below. Please be aware, the following information has not been confirmed as many of the statements/murders are not backed up by any proof (newspaper, obituary, etc.)

  1. While the Pierce Mansion was a brothel, it is said that a prostitute was murdered in an upstairs bedroom referred to as the “Red Room.” Although I searched extensively, I could find no report of this murder in any newspaper of the time. It is entirely possible that the murder was covered up or that the police had little time to hear of the murder of a woman of ill repute. It is also said that her murderer, known only as David, still haunts the home.
  2. A Finnish immigrant named Eino Saari burned to death in the master bedroom. It is said that, to this very day, the bedroom smells of smoke. Saari is believed to have died from smoke inhalation and often smoked in bed, but there are those who believe that Saari’s death was a case of spontaneous combustion. There were no burn marks on the surrounding walls or floor. Only the bed had been burned.
  3. A young boy drowned in the basement.
  4. The spirits of S.K. Pierce, his first wife Susan, and the Pierce’s nanny (Mattie Cornwell) are said to haunt the home.
  5. The ghosts of a young boy and a young girl have been seen on the staircase.
  6. Unnamed dark entities inhabit the basement of the home, though some say the spirit of Edward (potentially Frank depending on which account you’re reading) resides down there. EVP’s have been caught by various paranormal investigators and there seems to be a voice saying the name “Edward.”
  7. Many visitors to the property have captured EVP’s and photographs of spirits.

Guests have experienced:

  • Disembodied voices.
  • Chanting.
  • Full bodied apparitions.
  • moving furniture.
  • Screens flying off windows.
  • Slamming doors.
  • Temperature changes.
  • Footsteps.
  • Foul odors.
  • Shadow people.
  • A lion’s roar (said to be S.K. Pierce reaching out from beyond the grave and voicing his displeasure of the residents and visitors to his house.)
  • Guests have been pushed on the staircase (one guest has almost been pushed out a 3rd floor window.)

The property has been featured on many ghost hunting shows including Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures and has been the subject of several books, but how much of the mansion’s history can be corroborated? Are the current owners of the home simply ramping up reports of paranormal activity in order to gain more business?

On their website, the Dark Carnival (Rob and Allison Conti) states that visitors to the property will need to sign a waiver prior to entry, absolving them of any physical or mental assaults from the spirits that dwell within. According to them, the spirits are “extremely advanced” and might “impose their will” on guests. The website also states that guests are not to antagonize the spirits as this may make the spirits angry and lash out.

Have you ever visited the S.K Pierce Mansion? Do you have a story to share? Tell us your feelings about the use of a historic property used as a haunted house in the comments section.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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NEW EPISODE!!

S1 Ep. 11 Places Of Confinement
This week, Janine shares the haunted history of the Alton State Hospital in Alton, IL, and Mimi relays the tale of Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, the New Orleans slave owner who took torture to a whole new level. This episode contains a critique of Wonder Woman, a mummified piglet, and a man named Fiffenberger.
Releasing this episode a little early in honor of Haunt Heads surpassing 1000 total downloads! Thank you to all of our regular listeners. We’re so glad you’re listening. =)

Article courtesy of The Alton Telegraph (1812) http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/~asylums/alton_il/index.html

Bird of Death: An exploration of vampiric folklore and legend.

Perhaps one of the most influential horror films of all time is F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, an expressionist horror film released in 1922. It was an unauthorized adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stoker’s heirs sued Murnau, ordering that all copies of the film be destroyed. A copy slipped under the radar and Nosferatu still lives on today with a ravenous cult following, but the same can be said of Vampire folklore. There’s a reason why Nosferatu holds the spot for third-best reviewed horror film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes. People are still watching, enthralled by the cinematography of a silent, black and white film that first premiered in America seven years after its release in Germany.

Since the release of Nosferatu, vampire legend has been at the forefront of popular culture. From Fright Night (1985) and Van Helsing (2004), to Leslie Nielsen’s vampire comedy Dead and Loving It (1995) and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), the story of the vampire and the struggles that one without a pulse might face enthrall us. They captivate us and make the small hairs on the backs of our necks stand up. Well, aside from the Leslie Nielsen movie, anyway.

But vampire folklore isn’t always about entertainment and celebrating characters that embody the truly tortured spirit of the creature of the night. Vampire legends have existed for millennia: the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, ancient Greeks, and Romans all shared cultural folklore tales of demonic entities bent on drinking the blood of the living. In fact, beliefs regarding these legends were so strong that they created mass hysteria and led to executions.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, many believed that those who suffered from tuberculosis were actually vampires in disguise. Individuals with TB experienced loss of muscle mass, exhaustion, lack of appetite, a chronic cough that produced blood, redness (swelling) around the eyes causing light sensitivity, low body temperature, chills, and malaise and, when one member of the family came down with TB, often the whole family would be affected. When a family member passed, they would be buried for a short time, then dug up and their corpse examined. Blood in the mouth, paleness of the skin with no general decomposition, or bloating of the corpse were all signs that their family member was actually a vampire, feeding on them nightly and stealing their health. Now, we understand that bloating is a natural part of decomposition and TB is often accompanied by a chronic cough that produces bloody sputum, but early on in many cultures around the world, the fear of having a loved one turn into a vampire was very real.

Rabies was also often linked to outbreaks of vampirism, which would cause the afflicted to become senile, be light sensitive as well as to garlic, and there’s that nasty propensity to bite people.

Rabies and tuberculosis were often mistaken for vampirism, but according to folklore tales from Greece, Romania, England, and Japan, a person can become a vampire not only by being bitten, but also if they:

  • Ate of a sheep that had been killed by a wolf.
  • Were the child of a woman who was once looked at by someone who was a vampire.
  • Were a nun who stepped over a body that had been exhumed or had not been buried.
  • Had teeth when they were born or stillborn.
  • Practiced sorcery.
  • Were an illegitimate child or their parents were illegitimate.
  • Died before being baptized.
  • Were excommunicated from the church.
  • Were the seventh son of the seventh son.
  • Had red hair.
  • Were suddenly killed or committed suicide.
  • Renounced their religion.

In order to free oneself from the vampire curse, the afflicted would have to do one of the following:

  • Dig up the corpse of the suspected vampire, cut out its heart and burn it on a sacred stone. The ashes would then be mixed with water or wine and drank.
  • Burn and grind the bones of a vampire and blend with flour. Make bread. Eat of the bread.

Neither of those suggestions seem particularly appealing to me…

There were also ways to protect yourself against vampire attack. Some vampire folklore states that a small bag of salt should be carried at all times. According to vampire legends, if salt is spilled on the ground, the vampire will have no choice but to stop and count each individual grain. In a pinch, birdseed can be substituted. It is also said that “sealing” your home with salt can protect against creatures of the night or against those who might bring harm. Sprinkling salt around door and window frames will keep vampires and other demonic creatures at bay so long as they are not explicitly invited to enter. In Romania, it is believed that a young boy dressed all in white and sent into a cemetery on a white horse can find vampires beneath the earth. If the horse stops atop a grave, you’ve found a vampire.

In Slavic society, it is believed that the spirit lingers forty days after death. In southwest Romania, in the small village of Craiova, in February of 2004, police investigated a case of grave robbing. Recently deceased villager, Petre Toma, had been dug up and impaled. According to his family, he had become a vampire. They believed that Toma was returning from the grave each night and drinking their blood because family members felt ill and tired, feelings they were unable to shake. Six weeks after his funeral, his corpse was dug up and, upon examination, they found that his hands were no longer clasped, rather they were at his sides, and his mouth was full of blood. The villagers did what their beliefs dictated. They used a pitchfork to remove Toma’s heart and, finding there was also blood in that, they burnt the heart and mixed the ashes with water, sharing the mixture among themselves. Instantly, they felt better and the family was no longer plagued by nightly visits from Toma.

This case is not unique in and of itself. There were many people of many different cultures throughout history who believed that vampires were real and, because they were a real threat, certain precautions were taken when preparing a body for burial. Those with birth defects such as cleft pallets or other deformities might be singled out. In this case, the body is pierced through the heart or “trunk of the body” using an iron stake. It is said that iron is a natural ward against evil and will pin the vampire to the earth, preventing him from rising from the grave. In other cases, bricks or stones were forced into the corpse’s mouth, effectively breaking the jaw and preventing the vampire from feeding. A more familiar practice to modern day vampire aficionados will likely be the use of garlic as protection. Vampires are said to despise garlic and, in many instances, the mouth of a corpse might also be filled with garlic.

Today, there are people who claim to be vampires, there are people who drink the blood of the living, but they’re not the real deal. Popular authors like Stephen King and Anne Rice have written about these blood drinking creatures of the night, but a story is just that.  In the case of vampirism, I think we can drive a stake through it and put it to rest. Just in case, I think I’ll sprinkle a little salt before I go to bed tonight.

Sweet dreams!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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Listen to our podcast at hauntheads.podbean.com or on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2

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Don’t forget to vote!

Mimi and I have collected a short list of places we’ve talked about on the podcast and we want YOU to tell us what our first road trip location should be! Visit our Twitter page (@hauntheadscast) and cast your vote. The location with the most votes will be the first stop on our WI road trip! We’ll visit the location, do a little ghost hunting, and report back to our loyal listeners with what we’ve found.

VOTE TODAY!!

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

S1 Ep. 10 The Amazing Jumping Crucifix

NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD!

This week, Janine shares an oldie but a good-ie, A Haunting in Connecticut, and Mimi introduces us to the ghost of A.W. Priest at the Hearthstone Historic House Museum in Appleton, WI.

This episode contains phantom hay fever, a shoutout to Thomas Edison, an oddball family, and a jumping crucifix.

Disclaimer: Box of eyelids not included.

hauntheads.podbean.com

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2

Also available wherever you listen to podcasts. =)

A Haunting in Connecticut: Fact Or Fiction?

It’s a familiar tale. A struggling family moves into a beautiful house, ready to make it a home. They fill their new home with artifacts, mementos from family vacations, photographs, and textiles. Then, a darkness seems to settle over the space… There are strange noises in the night. Family members begin acting strangely. You can feel eyes moving over you. There are shadows moving in your periphery. The house is far from being a home.

In 1986, the Snedeker family rented a beautiful colonial style home in Southington, Connecticut. Carmen Snedeker found it was large enough for her entire family and was very reasonably priced, encouraging an immediate move. Carmen had been driving her son some distance from their current home for cancer treatments and the drive was difficult on him due in part to the nausea from the treatments and his medication. After searching for some time for a home closer to the hospital, the colonial home seemed to drop conveniently into her lap. The landlord said she was welcome to move in immediately, she’d struggled with finding a place that would allow four children, and she and her family did so. Carmen’s husband, Allen, still had to travel for work, but was there on weekends or as often as he could be.

As the family started moving their belongings in, they began to notice there was something odd about the house itself. Above each doorway on the main floor, a crucifix was mounted. They appeared old and as if they had been there for some time. In the basement, there were strange tables lined against the wall containing what appeared to be medical tools, in the center of one of the rooms was a metal table on a swivel. In a corner of the basement was a large drain. A large hoisting mechanism was situated on one of the main walls. The family soon realized that the home they had moved into was originally the Hallahan (sp) funeral home and had operated as such since sometime in the 1930’s (some neighbors have speculated the business had operated there even longer). This in itself didn’t make it impossible to live in the house. After all, a funeral home is nothing to fear. Yes, corpses had once been stored in the basement and lifted in coffins to a viewing area on the first floor. Yes, preparation of the dead, embalming and drainage of fluids, had taken place. Every old house has a history. But, after a very short time, that history began to show its face.

Carmen’s son, Phillip, began exhibiting strange behavior. He was irritable, paranoid, and prone to fits of anger. Carmen chalked the behavior up to the medication and treatments he was receiving, believing that some of the things Phillip claimed to see were only in his mind. He would tell Carmen he saw men in the basement with long, dark coats and spoke with the ghost of a young boy with black hair down to his hips who lost his life in the house. When one of Phillip’s episodes became violent, threatening the safety of his siblings, Carmen made the difficult choice to have her son institutionalized. It was safer for everyone involved.

When Phillip left, the activity in the house escalated. One by one, the crucifixes above the doorways on the first floor inexplicably disappeared. When the crucifixes were all removed, the paranormal activity that seemed to be confined to the basement began to move upstairs. Food placed in the refrigerator would become rotten quickly, even if it had only just been purchased or eaten a short time before being stored. Carmen, while cleaning the kitchen floor, found that the mop water turned blood red upon contact with the linoleum and began to smell of decay. No matter how much she tried to mop it away, the festering puddle just kept getting bigger. The children began seeing shadows moving in their rooms at night, heard strange noises and voices, and experienced objects being thrown by unseen hands. The Snedeker children claimed that even leaving the house gave no relief. The spirits harassing them at home would follow them into social situations. If they went out, either they or their friends would experience the sensation of being touched or, on a couple of occasions, slapped. Both parents reported they had been raped and sodomized by demons. Many people asked why the family didn’t just move. Carmen stated that, not only would they lose their deposit for breaking their lease, something they were financially unable to do, they worried that the dark energy in the house would attach to and follow them wherever they went.

After a few weeks, the activity in the house got so bad that the family slept together in the living room on air mattresses.

It was at this point that Carmen decided to call Ed and Lorraine Warren, experts in the field of the paranormal and unexplained. It didn’t take long for the Warren’s to declare the house haunted and recommend the family go public about their experiences because, as Lorraine Warren stated, it would be easier to get the Catholic church to take notice and get involved if there was public outcry. Carmen’s husband was reluctant to go public at first, but after living in the home for so long, he had reached his breaking point. Their story was made public and the home was, eventually at least, as the Warren’s claimed, “successfully exorcised.”

Horror novelist Ray Garton brought the Snedeker’s story to light at the Warren’s insistence. Garton interviewed each family member individually about their experiences, but he encountered a problem. None of the stories matched up and they were unable to keep their stories straight about the paranormal activity. Garton claims he approached Ed Warren about the issue and was told that the whole family was crazy. According to Garton, Ed told him to find what story he could and make the rest up. “Make it up and make it scary.” According to some, that is exactly what Garton did.

The current owners of the home state that they have had no paranormal activity whatsoever, but that they are constantly bothered by people trying to take pictures of the home and asking about their experiences within its walls. Neighbors of the Snedeker’s have reported suspicious activity surrounding newspaper reports vs. actual occurrences on the property and doubt the property was ever really haunted at all.

Is the Haunting in Connecticut just another Amityville Horror story or is there more to it? Were the Snedeker’s telling the truth about what they experienced?

Neighbors and friends of the Snedeker children claim never to have heard anything about the haunting, though they did see the Snedeker children running around outside on warm evenings and making “spooky sounds” in through the open windows. None of the children ever mentioned it. One friend reported that he was eight at the time of the supposed haunting and it was never brought up. Were the children so afraid of what was happening in the house that they couldn’t bring themselves to speak of it? How realistic is it for a child around eight years old to keep that information secret? Was Carmen feeding stories to her children for the press and telling them to keep the information from their friends?

Enter the 2009 film, A Haunting in Connecticut,  supposedly a true story about the Snedeker’s ordeal. The movie claimed to be “based on true events” and told of all the horrifying and demonic experiences the family had in the house. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it seemed as if the movie often deviated from Carmen’s account. I’m still trying to figure out where the box of eyelids, bodies hidden in the walls, huge fire engulfing the house, and the carved symbols into Phillip’s body come into play. If by “true events” they mean a family moved into a haunted house and had some crazy shit happen to them, I suppose they’re not wrong…? The movie grossed over $77 million at the box office and DVD sales topped 1.5 million.

Haunting_in_connecticut

 

Gold Circle Films/Integrated Films/Lionsgate

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haunting_in_Connecticut

 

The truth is, there is little to no proof of any paranormal activity in the case of the Snedeker family. Perhaps they saw all the press The Amityville Horror had received and found out how the Lutz family had profited from their story. Maybe the mounting medical bills from Phillip’s treatment made the opportunity to craft a believable story impossible to resist. Desperate times…

What are your thoughts about the Snedeker’s  story? Let us know in the comments.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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Find episodes of our podcast at hauntheads.podbean.com, on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2,  or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

NEW EPISODE!!! S1 Ep. 9 Highknocker-ed

NEW EPISODE AVAILABLE TOMORROW!

S1 Ep. 9 Highknocker=

This week, Mimi takes us to a supposed haunted hot spot, Dartford Cemetery in Green Lake, WI, and Janine enlightens us with tales of immurement, the practice of walling up the faithful and/or the penitent. This episode features a haunted mausoleum, foundational sacrifices, and a conversation about finding the story behind paranormal occurrences

Send us your paranormal stories and/or folklore tales! We also love weird and wonderful stuff. If we like what you send, we might even feature it on an episode of Haunt Heads! Send your stories to hauntheadscast@gmail.com.

Stay spooky!

Our podcast is also available on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/haunt-heads-podcast/id1229525500?mt=2 , PodBean (hauntheads.podbean.com), or wherever you listen to podcasts. =)