Knock, knock, knockin’…

Everyone loves a good ghost story. There’s something about the use of  narrative to relay a spooky tale that gets the blood pumping and the fine hairs on the back of ones neck standing at attention. Every story has its own twist, its own flavor, and the tale of the Fox Sisters and the Stratford Knockings have a flavor all their own.

The Fox Sisters

Around 1850, many individuals claimed to be able to communicate with the other side. There had been a rise in Spiritualism, a system of religious practice or belief that communication with the dead is possible through a medium. Supposed mediums began popping up everywhere, all claiming that they had a direct line to the afterlife. The cause of this rise (or rather, explosion) can be traced to three sisters, Leah, Kate, and Margaret, but they are more widely known as The Fox Sisters.

Kate (age 12) and Leah (age 15) lived with their parents in a modest house in Hydesville, New York. Although Hydesville no longer exists, it was located just outside Newark. In March of 1848, the girls began to report knocking sounds. At times, it sounded like furniture being moved around. The house was rumored to be haunted, but until this point there was no verification of this.

Kate would often ask the noisemaker, an entity the girls began to call Mr. Splitfoot, a nickname for the devil, to communicate. She would snap her fingers and ask for the entity to repeat the pattern. It would. When she requested it to knock as a response and she would get it. Eventually, the girls created a code in order to communicate with Mr. Splitfoot using a series of knocks that corresponded to the letters of the alphabet. Think along the lines Stranger Things when Joyce hangs Christmas lights and draws the alphabet on the wall to communicate with Will in the Upside Down, but with only knocks. I knew I’d manage to fit a Stranger Things reference in here somewhere. ;).

After some time, the entity identified itself as one Charles B. Rosna, a peddler. According to the spirit, his remains were buried in the cellar following his murder five years prior. No peddler by that name could ever be identified, but a skeleton was found buried in one of the cellar walls in 1904. A manhunt followed and a man named Bell was eventually accused of the crime, having been the previous owner of the house, but was never convicted of murder.  Bell would be ostracized from the community for the rest of his life as a suspected murderer.

During all of the excitement at home, Kate and Margaret resided in nearby Rochester. Kate with her sister Leah and Margaret with her brother David. The strange occurrences followed them. Long time friends of the Fox family (and radical Quakers), Amy and Isaac Post, invited the girls to visit them in their Rochester home and began to tell all of their radical Quaker friends about the girls and their supernatural abilities.

In the first ever public exhibition of Spiritualistic practice in 1850, the sisters, Margaret and Kate, performed seances for a large audience at Corinthian Hall in Rochester. The girls asked questions of the spirits they claimed were present and received definitive answers. Onlookers were enthralled by the spectacle and the sisters became quite popular. That is until the investigations began.

Scientists and doctors at the time believed that the sounds emanated from the girls themselves, saying that clicking joints were the cause of the “rapping.” E. P. Longworthy, a physician, noted that the noises always seemed to come from under the girl’s dresses and never from an outside source. He explained that cracking toe joints, hips, and knees could produce such a sound and, in fact, the sounds the girls created were so loud that they could be heard plainly throughout a large hall.

Many more in the scientific community came forward to cast doubt upon the public seances and, in time, the crowds at the Fox Sister’s events and their popularity dwindled. Margaret attempted to return to the practice later in her life due to financial need.  Although she had confessed to a major newspaper that the rappings were a farce, she tried to recant her statement but to no avail.  At the time of their death, the women were penniless and were interred in pauper’s graves in Brooklyn, NY.

Margaret had this to say about their ruse.

“Mrs. Underhill, my eldest sister, took Katie and me to Rochester. There it was that we discovered a new way to make the raps. My sister Katie was the first to observe that by swishing her fingers she could produce certain noises with her knuckles and joints, and that the same effect could be made with the toes. Finding that we could make raps with our feet – first with one foot and then with both – we practiced until we could do this easily when the room was dark. Like most perplexing things when made clear, it is astonishing how easily it is done. The rapping are simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is not commonly known. Such perfect control is only possible when the child is taken at an early age and carefully and continually taught to practice the muscles, which grow stiffer in later years. … This, then, is the simple explanation of the whole method of the knocks and raps.”

She also wrote:

“A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them. It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: “I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder.” Of course that was pure imagination.”

Harry Houdini was devoted to debunking Spiritualist activities and had this to say about the practice of Spiritualism.

“As to the delusion of sound. Sound waves are deflected just as light waves are reflected by the intervention of a proper medium and under certain conditions it is a difficult thing to locate their source. Stuart Cumberland (an English mentalist-added) told me that an interesting test to prove the inability of a blindfolded person to trace sound to its source. It is exceedingly simple; merely clicking two coins over the head of the blindfolded person.”

Stratford Knockings

Eliakim Phelps was a Congregational minister in Stratford, Connecticut in the 1850’s. He and his wife, a much younger woman who had been widowed as he had, and their blended family, lived in a beautiful home. It had been built by Matthias Nicoll for his daughter Elizah and her husband Captain George Dowdall in 1826. Dowdall worked in the China trade and the top floor of the home had been modeled to look like the deck of a ship, but when Dowdall died in China several years following the house being built, it was put up for sale. Phelps saw the property as the perfect place for his family and purchased it, using it seasonally and living the rest of the time in Philadelphia. It is at this point that things begin to get a little strange.

One day, the family, Phelps, his wife, the children (from their previous marriages), and the 3 year old daughter they shared, returned from church to find the house in a shambles. Their belongings were strewn about, clothing and trinkets lay everywhere, and the mirrors in the home had been draped in black funeral crepe. Naturally, the family was taken aback. Who would have done this? Phelps told his family to wait as he explored the house to ensure nobody was hiding inside. Upon inspection, he found no one and realized that nothing had been taken. Assuming it was the work of vandals, he gave the rest of the family the all clear and they proceeded about the task of cleaning up. When Phelps entered the master bedroom, he found a dress laid out on the bed. The arms were crossed over the chest in funeral pose. The dress had belonged to his previous wife, now deceased.

The scene made Phelps uneasy, but he simply brushed it off as a prank. In the weeks and months that followed, there were more strange occurrences.  Books, tools for the fireplace, and a potato would appear in random locations in the house. Items thought to have been under lock and key appeared in plain sight. Items would fall from their places and windows would be smashed. At one point, Phelps send the remainder of the family on to Philadelphia to see if the activity would continue. Something tells me he believed it was the work of one of the children. The activity was less frequent, but continued.

When the whole family was back in the house, they found that the spirit(s) most often communicated with 11 year old Henry. He would ask questions and the spirit(s) would rap out answers. Sound familiar? Friendly spirits would help the family locate lost or misplaced items while “evil” spirits would set fires and break windows.

Newspapers had a field day with the Phelps story. There was much speculation as to the validity of the claims the family made and many wondered if they were simply telling tall tales. A few news outlets stated that they believed the rapping and lost objects were the doing of Phelps’ wife and children. Others claimed he was in on the ruse. The events would start and stop according to the time Henry spent in the house, so the sounds and damage were largely blamed on him.

Phelps eventually sold the home to the publisher of the New York Sun and the family moved away in 1852. There were no further reports of ghostly happenings on the property. The house has long since been demolished, but the story lives on in spooky Connecticut history.

What do you think of Spiritualism? Drop us an email and tell us about your tarot/star readings or experiences with psychics. We’d love to read them. =)

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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S2 Ep. 3: Halloween Episode (Sort Of)

S2 Ep. 3: Halloween Episode (Sort Of)

NEW EPISODE AVAILABLE 11/13/2017!

This week, Mimi returns with the tale of Poveglia Island in Venice, Italy, and Janine mesmerizes us with the story of Franz Freidrich Anton Mesmer, the father of Mesmerism.

This episode contains memories from Halloween past, talk of witches and The Craft, being recognized, and shitty people.
*Note: If you’re not a fan of chit chat, we’d suggest you begin listening at about 20 minutes in.

Mesmerism: An exploration of wild hand gestures and animal magnetism.

I’m a Halloweenie. I just can’t help it. There’s something about the cooler evenings of Fall that bring out the goblin in me and cause me to ransack the basement in search of fake spiderwebs and inflatables. Maybe it’s the change in the weather, the fact that I can wear my regular wardrobe (seriously, I’m addicted to hooded sweatshirts), or the fact that there’s pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. I don’t know. All I know is, the mere sight of the Halloween section in a store, no matter how minuscule, makes my heart flutter and instantly transports me to a time when my dad and I would ransack the neighborhood for candy treats in one of the many homemade costumes he had designed and crafted for me. But that was a long time ago.

Since the days of trick or treating with my dad, I’ve moved from Newfoundland, Canada, to Milwaukee, WI. I’ve also aged 22 years. I’ve gotten married and purchased a house. In the purchase of my home came a new conundrum. Trick or Treat. There isn’t one. Well, let me clarify, it’s terrible. We get MAYBE four kids a year and apparently, because we’re on a main street, that’s a banner number. I’ve tried reaching out to my neighborhood group to gain some insight into the issue, but I generally get the runaround. That’s why I’m looking for other ways to celebrate my favorite season. That’s why, on October 29th, I attended a play.

The Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, WI, put on a production in which they read through  a handful of the works of Edgar Allen Poe. My dear Edgar had such a whimsical way of looking at madness and mayhem that I thought would be most appropriate given the season. I attended and sat in silence as they read through classics like The Raven and The Black Cat. They even did Hopfrog, a piece that sometimes gets overlooked for its macabre qualities. Although I was disappointed with the attire of the actors, one wore a dress that appeared to have been made out of sweatshirt material and there wasn’t a cravat in sight, their delivery of Poe’s work was very well done. As a cherry on the evening (in my opinion), they did a read through of The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, a story that offers a very interesting look into the practice of mesmerism.

Valdemar is mesmerized at the point of death in an experimental effort to separate Valdemar’s mind from his body to see exactly how long his death could be postponed. Mesmerizing the patient essentially involves the narrator in the story motioning with his hands, supposedly pushing and pulling some unseen energy into and out of the half-alive Valdemar.  The narrator inquires into Valdemar’s well being throughout the procedure of being mesmerized, asking repeatedly if he is “asleep.” Valdemar responds over and over to the narrator’s questions, stating that he is indeed still asleep, but bade’s the narrator to let him “die so.”

The story as a whole is very interesting, but it is more than just a mere story. You see, Poe didn’t just make up a story (or two or three) about mesmerism. He was crafting a commentary on the very real practice of mesmerization, one that could be seen repeated by many a practitioner during Poe’s time.

Mesmerized

Franz Freidrich Anton Mesmer was born in Germany in 1734 and became a physician with a noted interest in astronomy. Mesmer had a theory that there was some sort of natural transference of energy between inanimate and animated objects which he called animal magnetism, later referred to as mesmerism. It was a popular theory between around 1780 and 1850 and held sway over a great many people who believed that Mesmer was actually able to control this energy.

Mesmer grew up in the village of Iznang, on the shore of Lake Constance in Swabia and attended a couple of Jesuit universities before eventually taking up the practice of medicine at the University of Vienna in 1759. The doctoral dissertation he wrote in 1766 entitled De planetarum influxu in corpus humanum (On the Influence of the Planets on the Human Body). The work basically expounded upon  Isaac Newton’s theory of the tides, stating certain tides in the human body  might be accounted for by the movements of the celestial bodies within the solar system. It has been suggested that Mesmer plagiarized a part of his dissertation from a work by Richard Mead, English physician and a close friend of Newton. Luckily for Mesmer, during this particular time period, it didn’t matter whether or not the work was plagiarized. In 1768, he married a wealthy widow named Anna Maria von Posch and worked on establishing himself as a physician in Vienna. 

In 1774, Mesmer produced his first reaction within a patient using his theory of animal magnetism. He referred to it as creating an “artificial tide” within his patient, Francisca Osterlin, who suffered from hysteria (just as a footnote, some believed that hysteria was caused by the occasional tendency of a woman’s uterus to wander around inside her body, causing madness). Mesmer had Osterlin swallow a concoction containing iron filings, then proceeded to attach magnets to various parts of her body. The patient reported a sensation of streams of “mysterious fluid” running all through her body and felt relief of the symptoms she’d reported for several hours afterward. Mesmer was a humble sort and did not believe the magnets had anything to do with curing Osterlin. He believed that his own animal magnetism had been transferred to her and that he, himself, was the cure. I think perhaps Osterlin mistook the power of suggestion for mezmerism.

Mesmer continued to treat his patients using his technique and even offered group sessions. For individuals, he would sit directly in front of the patient and press his knees against his patients knees. He would then press his thumbs into the backs of the patients hands and look into his patients eyes. Mesmer would then move his hands from the patients shoulders, down his arms, and concluded the treatment by pressing his fingers on the area just below the diaphragm. Many patients reported feeling “peculiar” or convulsed afterward. Mesmer regarded these as “crises” leaving the body and that they would bring about relief of his patients symptoms. These treatments were often followed by some sort of musical interlude. It was all very theatrical. As Mesmer brought his patients deeper into a trance, many would swoon or make noise. Mesmer, draped in a flowing gown, would wave his hands over each of the patient’s bodies, transferring his healing energy to them.

For group sessions, Mesmer would prepare a “baquet” for his patients. The process was described by an English physician who witnessed one such treatment (around 1780.)

In the middle of the room is placed a vessel of about a foot and a half high which is called here a “baquet”. It is so large that twenty people can easily sit round it; near the edge of the lid which covers it, there are holes pierced corresponding to the number of persons who are to surround it; into these holes are introduced iron rods, bent at right angles outwards, and of different heights, so as to answer to the part of the body to which they are to be applied. Besides these rods, there is a rope which communicates between the baquet and one of the patients, and from him is carried to another, and so on the whole round. The most sensible effects are produced on the approach of Mesmer, who is said to convey the fluid by certain motions of his hands or eyes, without touching the person. I have talked with several who have witnessed these effects, who have convulsions occasioned and removed by a movement of the hand… 

Not surprisingly, Mesmer’s “treatment” didn’t always work. In 1777, when Mesmer’s cure all failed to treat the blindness of an 18-year-old musician, Maria Theresia Paradis, Mesmer was ridiculed and left Vienna, eventually settling in Paris. He set up a practice in the most affluent part of the city and began accepting patients. The city was split on Mesmer. Some believed he was a charlatan while others believed that he had made some miraculous discovery.

A physician of high acclaim at the time, a Dr. Charles  d’Eslon, appreciated the fact that Mesmer understood health as the free flow of the process of life through thousands of different channels. Overcoming obstacles (illness) that inhibited the flow through these channels produced “crises” which restored health to the patient. Often, a patient might not be able to accomplish this on their own, calling into employ someone like Mesmer ( a conductor of animal magnetism) who could safely accelerate the process. In some instances, curing insanity might call for causing a fit of madness. Achieving a cure in a safe environment was beneficial for all involved.

A Doctor or A Fool?

In 1784, to Mesmer’s chagrin I’m sure, King Louis XVI called together four members of the Faculty of Medicine to investigate the process of Mesmerization. They examined whether or not Mesmer had discovered a new physical fluid, not necessarily whether or not his process worked, but at the end of their investigation three of the four commissioners decided there was no evidence to prove such a fluid was in existence. The final commissioner, a botanist, took exception to the official final report. Antoine Laurent de Jussieu declared Mesmer’s theory credible and worthy of further investigation, but it is likely that opinion was largely ignored.  After this point, Mesmer faded from the limelight. He was driven into exile soon after the investigations concluded and was ridiculed for his practices.

According to Abbé Faria, an Indo-Portuguese monk in Paris and a contemporary of Mesmer, said “nothing comes from the magnetizer; everything comes from the subject and takes place in his imagination, i.e. autosuggestion generated from within the mind.”

Have you ever been mesmerized or hypnotized? What were your experiences? I’d love to read them. =)

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

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Red Eyed Monster

It’s named for the color of its aluminum paint and carries travelers  over the Ohio River on U.S. Route 35, connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio. I’m speaking, of course, of the Silver Bridge, the bridge that collapsed in December of 1967 around Christmastime. After some investigation, a faulty eye bar in the suspension chain was said to be to blame for the collapse, the bridge was almost always carrying a higher load than it should and was poorly maintained, but some residents of Point Pleasant believe that something more sinister lies at the heart of the disaster that claimed the lives of 46 people (2 bodies were never recovered). Some of those residents claim a creature that has wound its way into the history of Point Pleasant, and popular culture in general, was the culprit. That creature was a being called Mothman.

Red Eyes

Prior to the collapse of the Silver Bridge, several residents of Point Pleasant had communicated to their friends, neighbors, and the authorities, that they had seen a strange creature in the skies above the small city. It was large and birdlike, but the most memorable and often repeated feature were the creatures glowing red eyes.

The first appearance of Mothman can be traced to Clendin, West Virginia, when a group of men digging a grave observed a strange creature circling above them (Nov. 1966). They said it was human-like and remained high over their heads for a short time before disappearing over the treetops and out of sight.

Just a few days later, (Nov. 15) in Point Pleasant, two couples reported seeing a white-winged creature with glowing eyes with the beams of their car headlights. Two witnesses, one of them Steve Mallette, one of the individuals in one of the cars, said “it was like a man with wings. It wasn’t anything like you’d seen on TV or in a monster movie.” The Point Pleasant Register reported, “Couples See Man-Sized Bird…Creature…Something.” Mallette and his wife had been driving near the McClintie Wildlife Reserve on West Virginia Route 62 at the time.

The other witness, Roger Scarberry, gave very specific information about the creature’s eyes, stating that they were about 2″ in diameter and 6″ apart. Scarberry stated that he might not have said anything if there hadn’t been so many people who reported seeing it. He might have dismissed it as a trick of his eyes and gone about his business, but the fact that 3 other people saw what he did, he felt compelled to relate his story. Scarberry and his wife were also driving near the McClintie Wildlife Reserve at the time of their sighting. Scarberry stated that their vehicle came to a hill and, as they crested it, they saw the creature with their headlights. They claimed it was 7′ tall and had a 10′ wingspan. Scarberry swerved to avoid hitting the figure, but mere seconds later, the creature was back in front of their car. It kept pace with their car as they sped back toward town, sometimes reaching speeds of 100 mph. At times, it would soar to almost 50′ above them, only to return moments later in front of them. The couple were forced to stop and observed the creature seemingly laying on the road in a lump. Too afraid to investigate, they turned their car around and headed back to town. They returned later that evening with a Sheriff’s Deputy, but the creature was gone. However, they did find a strange pile of dust where the creature had been.

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Point Pleasant Register Newspaper, 11-25-1966 http://cryptozoologynews.com/mothman-richardsons/

Many reported seeing Mothman both in the Wildlife Reserve and on their private property. Reports flooded the local paper. Residents stated they’d heard noises outside at night and, when they went to investigate, they came upon the creature with the beam of their flashlights. Others claim Mothman is responsible for eating their beloved family pets. A farmer told the Point Pleasant Register that his German shepherd disappeared after he’d seen a creature with large, glowing red eyes.

Sightings of the Mothman continued and came to a head in 1967 with the collapse of the Silver Bridge, leading many to believe that Mothman was a harbinger of doom and that his presence in Point Pleasant either brought about or predicted the disaster. Others are firm in their belief that Mothman predicted the tragedies and appeared as a warning to the tragedy. John Keel, writer of the book The Mothman Prophecies (the book was made into a movie in 2002), claims that residents of Point Pleasant were experiencing premonitions of the bridge collapse and tried to voice their concerns to others who brushed it off as superstition.

Wildlife experts believe that a large bird, perhaps a sandhill crane or a barred owl, is to blame for the sightings. This doesn’t explain the missing pets (sandhill cranes just wouldn’t find a schnauzer appetizing and a German shepherd is far too large for either bird to contend with), but many accepted this explanation. Other residents and experts feel that Mothman falls into the realm of cryptozoological phenomena, to be categorized with the likes of Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster. Some have even claimed that Mothman has been seen prior to other catastrophic events around the globe including 9-11.

Shows like Monster Quest have tried debunking the Mothman legends, claiming that those who have supposedly seen the creature are simply mistaken. MQ created wood cutouts of various sizes of the creature with red reflectors attached in hopes of figuring out whether the size and shape descriptions of the creature are entirely accurate. They claim there are many ways in which fear can influence memory and distort it, leading them to believe that a 3′ figure is actually 7-10′ tall. Apparently, people who view horrific things are highly confident in what they have seen or are seeing and they exaggerate certain features. Perhaps those who have seen Mothman exaggerated the glowing red eyes of the creature and are now so confident in what they have seen that it has become fact?

Festival

In September each year, the residents of Point Pleasant hold a festival for Mothman (https://www.mothmanfestival.com/) commemorating the original, 1966 sighting of the creature. The town is now home to a Mothman Museum, featuring witness sketches and accounts, newspaper articles, and merchandise, and a large statue of Mothman with a plaque outlining the first sighting. Attendance to the festival, featuring bands, guest speakers, and various merch vendors, is a must for anyone who wishes to learn more about Point Pleasant’s cryptozoological wonder and, if you’re brave, take a trip out to the Wildlife Reserve to perhaps see the creature himself. Linda Scarberry says she can still hear the sound of the creature’s wings above their car and she still has trouble sleeping. Just keep that in mind as you venture forth into the dark unknown.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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Listen to episodes of Haunt Heads at hauntheads.podbean.com, iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts and don’t forget to leave us an iTunes review!!

COMING SOON!

New episodes of Haunt Heads will be available at hauntheads.podbean.com (or wherever you listen to podcasts) on Oct. 12. The blog and podcast will offer new content on a biweekly schedule beginning at that time. Stay tuned! We’ve got a lot of new, interesting stuff coming down the pike. =)

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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S1 Ep. 20 Labor Day Special: Season 1 Finale

NOW AVAILABLE!

S1 Ep. 20 Labor Day Special: Season 1 Finale
We decided to round off Season 1, and our Labor Day episode, with a feature length special! In this episode, Mimi discusses Annabelle, the Ryman Theater (Auditorium) in Nashville, TN, and The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, IA. Janine, in an effort to return to her roots, tells the haunting tale of the Wabana Iron Ore Mines on Bell Island, Newfoundland, Canada, and regails us with the very creepy urban legend of The Body Under the Bed. Spoiler: It’s more true than you think.
This episode contains discussions of Mimi’s narcolepsy, listener shout outs, eclipse observations, and getting older.
Disclaimer: Janine’s piece, The Body Under the Bed, might be a tad too creepy for some listeners. The piece runs from 1hr 35 mins-1hr 51 mins. Feel free to skip it if you’re easily creeped out. Though it doesn’t contain graphic depictions of violence, it is a little “icky”.
Haunt Heads will return in about 4 weeks with new episodes and blog content. Stay tuned and thanks for listening!

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Find us on iTunes HERE.

 

Upcoming Blog Posts

New blog posts will begin at the start of Season 2. Episode 20 will mark the end of Season 1 and the beginning of our (relatively) brief hiatus. In Season 2, we will be exploring even more weird, wonderful, and downright strange content for our listeners/readers.

In the future, Haunt Heads will also be available on YouTube as a channel so that we can take advantage of the (very small) return that ad click will bring. No visual so far as we know right now, but definitely wonderfully creepy audio!

Stay tuned and, as always, stay spooky!

S1 Ep. 19 The Strange Case of Annabelle

S1 Ep. 19 The Strange Case of Annabelle

This week, the ladies are all set to record when something goes wrong with their audio. Is it because they’re talking about Annabelle? Oh dear.. Don’t worry guys, we’ll have a longer episode for you next week. Ep. 20 marks the end of Season 1 of Haunt Heads! Stay tuned but, more importantly, stay spooky!

Show us some love on iTunes! Please take a moment to leave us a review. Let us know how much you love Haunt Heads. =)

S1 Ep. 18 Grace and Doppelgangers

Mimi’s on vacay this week, but Janine’s got some creepy stuff to share. First, explore the (now demolished) Grace General Hospital in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, where ghostly apparitions roam the nurse’s residence, searching for release. Then, enjoy a tale of double walkers, more familiarly known as doppelgangers, and the strange case of Emilee Sagee. This episode contains nostalgia, gardening and astral projection, a creepy little boy in a hospital gown, and footprints leading to nowhere.

Find this weeks episode at hauntheads.podbean.com or wherever you listen to podcasts!

If you listen to us on iTunes, please take a moment to leave us a review. We’d really appreciate it. =)

Wabana Iron Ore Mines, Bell Island, NFLD, Canada

I remember when Bell Island was a hub of activity. In the summer months, my family and I would take day trips over on the car ferry and spend the day there, topping off our trip with a tour of the ore mines. It was truly the highlight of our trip, next to a stop at the gift shop. Our last trip there was sometime in the summer of 1998 and sadly, by that time, the island tourism had appeared to slow. Although a few stragglers wandered in and out that year, it seemed as if the foot traffic had hit a low, but the stories of the Wabana Iron Ore Mines, of strange noises, lights, and apparitions, persisted.

Life on the Island

Bell Island is located on the Northern part of the Avalon Peninsula, a small block of land sticking out of the ocean that is roughly 9  km long and 3 km wide. Year round, the island can be accessed via a car ferry on The Tickle, the section of the Atlantic that lies between the island and Portugal Cove. Farming is a primary means of income for many and is second only to fishing, though not many can make a living from the sea any longer. The topsoil on the island is unusually rich and makes for a good yield. Throughout the 19th century, the seal hunt drew large crowds of men from both Bell Island and Conception Bay.

Mining History

In 1578, a merchant from Bristol, England, reported that there were very rich iron ore deposits on the island and, by 1678, soil samples were sent by Sir John Guy’s colony in Cupids to England for analysis.

By 1890, the deposits began to draw attention from outside mining interests including New Glasgow Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company (later called Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Co.). The NSSC began developing the site in 1892 at the urging of the Butler’s from Topsail. Thomas Cantley, Secretary of the NSSC, called the site Wabana. It is believed that Wabana is an Abenaki Indian word meaning “the place where daylight first appears.” Mining officially began in the Summer of 1895. The deposits at the Wabana mines fed giant steel mills in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and ore was also shipped as far as the United States and Germany.

For the most part, mining operations ran steadily, at times at an expanding pace, but WW1 (Germany being one of Bell Island’s largest purchasers of ore) and the Great Depression greatly affected the demand for ore and its price. Although many believed that modernization would help the mines, it was actually more of a hindrance. Many lost their jobs because new machinery could get the ore out of the ground and to the surface far faster than men with picks and shovels and mining carts. Though the mine experienced an upswing between 1936-59, one mine was shut down. By April of 1966, the final shaft, #3 mine, was shut down permanently. At the time of closure, Wabana was Canada’s longest operating mine project. Almost 80 million tons of ore was pulled from the earth and shipped to other parts of Canada, Germany, the United States, Belgium, and Holland.

Since the mine’s closure, many have left the island. In 2011, the total population was 2,346. Tourism is the primary industry at present, but those who live on Bell Island also farm and fish (to the best of their ability since the government crackdown.) #2 mine has been reopened for tours and many come to the island in the summer months to see what live below the ground was actually like.

To date, no outside company has made a bid to reopen the mines.

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Haunting

If you think about it, working in a mine was likely very dangerous. Heavy machinery could crush you, the ceiling could cave in, low lighting conditions might cause to to catch a pick to the head… None of the above sounds particularly pleasant or pretty, which is likely why many have experienced paranormal phenomena in #2 mine.

Visitors to the mine have reported:

Shadow figures- A visitor to the mine in 2016 reported seeing the shadow of a man standing in a lower portion of the tunnel that she was in with her tour group. She said the figure just stood and watched for a time, then vanished.

Noises- Strange noises are likely common in a mine shaft, particularly one as old as #2. Clanging and banging is often heard along with voices and a strange hissing sound.

Lights- Lights are often seen down in the mine shafts at night. At night, #2 shaft is not lit nor are any of the others (as they are not in use and sealed.) Some visitors have reported that the lights seen appear to be those similar to the older lights worn on mining helmets.

Visitors have also reported being touched on the shoulder or back and feeling cold spots throughout the mine.

Have you ever visited the Wabana mine and gone down into shaft #2? Did you have a strange experience? Please drop us a line via email or leave a *comment below.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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*UPDATE: Thanks to Melissa McCall for sending photos of her Wabana Mine experience! Without Melissa telling me what she was seeing, we found out we were both seeing the same thing! What do you see?

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Melissa wrote: ‪My family and I took a tour in the Bell Island Mines back in 2015, the tour guide brought us to one area of the mine where two cardboard cutouts of miners were placed. She told us how women in the mines were known to be bad luck and weren’t allowed in the mines. I was in the very back of the group and, as we left this area, I stayed behind to take a picture. I said “girls aren’t allowed in this area” and laughed. When I looked through my photos that evening, the photo that I took has an image of a man looking in my direction behind that cardboard cutout. Thought I would share and get your thoughts on this. ‬

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