Raisin the Dead: The haunting story of Jan Bryant Bartell and the spooky happenings in her Manhattan home.

Shadowy figures in the corner, strange noises in the night, and a little dog that senses an unseen and unearthly presence. This, dear reader, is only a glimpse into the life that was the haunted reality of Jannis “Jan” Bryant Bartel. Bartel was a poet, lecturer and off-Broadway actress. She appeared in such plays as “Bell, Book, and Candle,” and “Night Must Fall.” Her poetry was published in several magazines. Bartel’s experiences prompted her to write a detailed account of her time at 14 West 10th Street in New York titled Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea. I’ve found a copy of the book at a reasonable price (copies range anywhere from $40-150) and look forward to reading it, though it hasn’t gotten terribly good reviews. I’m wondering if Bartel’s accounts are so far-fetched that they simply can’t be believed or if the language is a turn-off. Apparently, it’s wordy and wandering. I thought adding her story to the ever-growing Haunt Heads collection of creepy fare would be entirely appropriate given that the Halloween season is upon us and so, without further delay, it’s time to cuddle into a corner of the sofa, snuggle down into a blanket, and chew off all of your fingernails.

It’s 1957 and Jan Bryant Bartell has just moved into the top floor apartment of 14 West 10th Street in Manhattan. Her husband, Fred G. Bartell, was a restaurateur who was seldom home, his work often causing him to work late and spend weekends away. Most notably, Fred ran the Riverboat restaurant once located in the Empire State Building. Jan found Fred to be a difficult companion at times. He was a WWII veteran who suffered from PTSD and was prone to outbursts, but by all accounts, Jan herself was rather difficult. She was spoiled and neurotic and suffered from clinical depression. I suppose they were well suited in their brokenness. There was little to be done for depression in the 1950’s-60’s and the condition absolutely colored Jan’s writing. It’s believed that she attempted suicide on more than one occasion, though this is pure speculation.

Contact with the other side…

Interestingly enough, Jan possessed psychic abilities, but the presence of these abilities only amplified her anxiety once the activity in her home began to escalate. Her attempts to understand what exactly was happening were fruitless and she even called in self-appointed psychic expert and ghost hunter Hans Holzer to find some sort of peace or resolution. If Holzer’s name rings a bell, it absolutely should. Holzer investigated the Amityville Horror House with Ethel Johnson-Meyers in 1977 and has written over 140 books on the paranormal and unexplained. Holzer wrote a nonfiction book about the house, “Murder in Amityville” (1979), which formed the basis for the 1982 film “Amityville II: The Possession”; he also wrote two novels, “The Amityville Curse” (1981) and “The Secret of Amityville” (1985). In the end, Holzer was unable to silence or dispel the spirits in the house and all of Jan’s attempts to find peace ended in failure and only added to her distress.

From the nypost.com:

“The strange occurrences started out small: a sound of footsteps following her up the stairs, a brush against the back of her neck even when her hair was tied up, a strange rotting smell that would seemingly come and go like wispy smoke.

Things got darker. Shadows that no light would touch, a mysterious chair their dog would snarl and growl at as if it contained some invisible enemy. Then a phantom, shriveled grape that appeared in the dead center of a clean dinner plate, even though the couple hadn’t bought grapes in months. She found furniture inexplicably moved from its usual place. The sound of crashing glass chased her around the building.

Most unsettling was the odors that appeared out of nowhere: one fragrant, like ancient perfume, the other a “rotting miasma” that was offensive. Then one day, a vision of a man appeared. Bartell reached out to touch it.

“What was it I touched?” she wrote. “A substance without substance. Chilly, damp. Diaphanous as marsh mist or a cloud of ether. I could feel my fingers freeze at the tips. They were numb, and yet they tingled. In the split second between contact and recoil, the scent came. Fragile and languorous. And sweet; unbearably, cloyingly sweet.”

I find myself flashing back to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart and wonder if there isn’t a festering organ hidden somewhere beneath the floorboards.

In 1973, social and economic changes began to affect their neighborhood and Jan and Fred finally settled into a home in New Rochelle, NY. Some reports say that Jan committed suicide in the bathroom on June 18, 1973, prior to the publication of her book. Others say that Jan died of a heart attack. She was 51. Fred went on to manage other restaurants in New York and passed away on September 8, 1980, in New Rochelle, NY. (Through additional research, I did find a Frank Bartel that passed away on April 1, 1978.)

Other Residents

As we well know, one haunting does not a haunted hot-spot make! For your consideration, some other haunted and unnerving occurrences at 14 W 10th St.

A man known only as Dennis said he lived in the house for several years and also experienced paranormal activity such as lights going on and off and “little clips and visions of women in long gowns going from room to room.” Dennis was a photographer and musician and would often invite women to his apartment to photograph them. He said on more than one occasion that women would run out upon seeing a woman in a long flowing black dress followed by a cat. Is anyone else having a hard time believing that women were running from a ghost and not from Dennis himself? He’s a “photographer?” Anyway… Activity has been reported at the location as recently as a few years ago.

Joel Steinberg, a disbarred New York criminal defense attorney, attracted international media attention when he was convicted of manslaughter after he beat his adopted daughter to death at 14 West 10th Street in November of 1987. Hedda Nussbaum, an author of children’s books who was employed by Random House, watched as Steinberg beat 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg to the ground while under the influence of crack cocaine. Nussbaum was not charged in the killing. The couple had illegally adopted Lisa after Steinberg had been asked to find a suitable home for the child. He instead took her home and raised her with Nussbaum. As of 2006, Steinberg maintained his innocence.

From the NYT article on the case from March 1989:

Joel B. Steinberg was sentenced to 8Y to 25 years in state prison yesterday in the death of 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg, the girl he helped raise. The penalty was the maximum he could have received, and the judge said he would recommend strongly against parole.

Mr. Steinberg received the sentence without any sign of emotion, except for slumping slightly in resignation at what he knew was coming.

Before the sentence was imposed, Mr. Steinberg – sounding like the lawyer he was until his disbarment – addressed the bench, at first dispassionately, almost clinically, going over bits of evidence presented in the trial, and then moving into a rambling monologue about Lisa’s death and his role in her life. By the end, his voice was breaking, although he said that he felt no remorse because he had not caused her death.

”I feel that pain every day,” he told the judge. ”It’s my loss. I’m a victim, as was everyone else who knew Lisa.”

When police first entered the home, they found Lisa beaten into unconsciousness. She died of a brain hemorrhage in the hospital 4 days later. Police also found another of Steinberg and Nussbaum’s children “tethered to a playpen by a length of rope.” The clothing of the child and the mattress on which he was sitting were covered in urine.

Leanna Renee Hieber, author of Eterna and Omega, writes, “Tucked within a famed high-end real-estate area where most of the gorgeous townhouses have stately stoops climbing to glorious first floors, 14 descends down below the sidewalk before you—as does the energy of the building, dropping off sharply. Just walking by it gave me a sinking, troubled, pressed, and fraught sense; the sense that the building is, in and of itself, a distinctly negative presence and that something is deeply wrong there.” She goes on to call it “A Manhattan version of Amityville.”

Truly, there is a darkness cast over the location. As many as 44 murders are said to have occurred there and it seems as if the paranormal tales won’t let up anytime soon. The house has been cut up into 10 separate apartments, but apparently, a spooky vibe still lingers.

Would you spend the night?

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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NOTE: Haunt Heads will return the middle of January 2019 with new blog posts and podcasts to binge. Stay tuned and, most importantly, STAY SPOOKY!

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S2 Ep. 18: Raisin the Dead

 

NEW EPISODE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD!

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This week, Katie has some Halloween history and spooky lore about Stingy Jack and Janine presents a snippet of the life of Jan “Jannis” Bryant Bartel, her haunted house, and the novel she wrote prior to her untimely death. Many spooks abound! The happiest of Halloweens to all of our listeners and we will see you in the New Year! (Likely sometime in mid-January)

This episode contains divinations, shadowy corners, witchy workings, and All Hallows lore, and a mysteriously appearing raisin (of all things.)

TRIGGER WARNING: 1hr:3mins, discussion of Joel Steinberg/murder of Lisa Steinberg. Those who do not want to hear about violence toward children, please be aware.

Intro/Outro: Fox & Branch

foxandbranch.com

Sources:

nytimes.com

circlesanctuary.org

newgrange.com

nypost.com

https://www.leannareneehieber.com/

Jan Bryant Bartell’s novel Spindrift: Spray from A Psychic Sea

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

S2 Ep 17: World Peace and Sippy Cups

S2 Ep. 17: World Peace and Sippy Cups

This week, Janine unravels the dark and twisting truth behind spirit photography, ectoplasm, and mediumship and welcomes guest podcaster Katie McAuly to the pod. Katie tells the tale of Mary Nohl and the Witch House in Fox Point, WI and talks a little bit about her personal experiences with the location.

This episode contains a rousing game of hide the cheesecloth, a man named Mummler, chicken bone art, and a spooky sculpture of squished children.

Please take a moment to leave us a 5* review on iTunes and tell your friends about our podcast. We’d sure appreciate it. Find us on Twitter @hauntheadscast and on Facebook at Haunt Heads Podcast. If you’d like to regale us with tales of your experiences with the paranormal or if you just want us to cover a particular topic on our show, please drop us a line at hauntheadscast@gmail.com.

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Stay Spooky, Y’all!

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/29qkg-9cf917?from=yiiadmin&download=1&version=1&vjs=1&skin=1&auto=0&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&download=1&rtl=0

Sources:

Makenzie Boettcher – Who was ‘The Witch of Fox Point’? (6/13/16)

Carrie Trousil – The Unusual Sculpture Garden of Milwaukee Artist Mary Nohl (5/31/18)

Allison Meier – Saving the Art and Home of Mary Nohl, Whose Neighbors Called Her a Witch (8/16/17)

Matthew Reddin – A House Divided (7/7/14)

Lori Kennedy – Silent Sunday (2/19/17)

Brian Noggle – The Milwaukee Witch’s House (10/28/06)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_photography)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ectoplasm_(paranormal)

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

https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/photography-a-z-ghosts-spirit-photography/

http://www.thoughtco.com

S2 Ep 16 (Minisode): That’s a fine BOO ya got there!

It’s our first mini-episode featuring stories from our pals on Reddit! We’re excited to share these tales with you, ranging from ghostly sounds and moving objects, to shadow people and spirits who count raisins (just trust us), and hope you enjoy. Haunt Heads will return on the 22nd with a new episode to accommodate some life “stuff.”

Stay Spooky, y’all!

Intro/Outro: Fox and Branch foxandbranch.com

Please take a moment to leave us a 5* review!!

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S2 Ep. 15: Caged & Enraged/Honest Abe

NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD AT hauntheads.podbean.com.

We’re back from our Summer hiatus and ready to deliver spooky tales to delight and terrify! This week, Mimi goes political and talks about the ghost of Abraham Lincoln and hauntings at the White House and Janine explores human darkness and despair at Pennhurst Asylum in Pennsylvania.

This episode contains naked Winston Churchill (did that dude even own clothes?), a ghostly little girl, and a haunted experience that perhaps shouldn’t be (according to your fellow Haunt Heads.)

Trigger Warning: This episode contains stories of abuses in an asylum. Many of the accounts may be too much for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised. Janine goes first this week, so feel free to skip. We understand.

Mimi’s source material: https://exemplore.com/paranormal/The-Ghost-of-Abraham-Lincoln

Welcome to Pennhurst: Asylum of Horrors

Hello dear reader and welcome to the back end of Season 2! Mimi and I have had a nice rest, enjoyed the sunny days of Summer and are ready to jump back in with both feet. I bet you missed us! You missed us…right? Only a few episodes remain for Season 2 and we’re excited to bring you the creepy content you crave!

I’m once again on an asylum kick (I’m still not sure why they called them that) and I’ve been really digging into the history of Pennhurst Asylum in Spring City, Pennsylvania. Once called the Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, the original structure sat on 112 acres of land and was built in the Jacobean Revival style (Jacobethan.)

“In architecture, the style’s main characteristics are flattened, cusped “Tudor” arches, lighter stone trims around windows and doors, carved brick detailing, steep roof gables, often terracotta brickwork, balustrades and parapets, pillars supporting porches and high chimneys as in the Elizabethan style.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobethan)

Without getting into too much detail about the history of Jacobethan (hinging on Elizabethan) architecture, let me just cut to the chase and tell you that the building itself is beautiful.

Admin-current-pennhurst

Pennhurst

With that said, let me also point out that Pennhurst was a dumping ground for all manner of afflicted individuals. Patients were separated according to sex but were also categorized by whether or not they were epileptic and whether or not they’d had dental care. There were many adult patients, but they were all called “children” regardless of that fact. Patients were also separated according to race because Eugenics. Segregation and sterilization was their bag.

“In 1903, the Pennsylvania Legislature authorized the creation of the Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic and a commission was organized to take into consideration the number and status of the feeble-minded and epileptic persons in the state and determine a placement for construction to care for these residents. This commission discovered 1,146 feeble-minded persons in insane hospitals and 2,627 in almshouses, county-care hospitals, reformatories, and prisons, who were in immediate need of specialized institutional care.

The legislation stated that the buildings would be in two groups, one for the educational and industrial department, and one for the custodial or asylum department. The institution was required to accommodate no fewer than five hundred inmates or patients, with room for additions.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennhurst_State_School_and_Hospital)

The asylum accepted its first patient on November 23, 1908, and, in short order, became overcrowded less than four years later. Conditions within the asylum quickly declined due to the huge influx of patients and the administration was under pressure to accept immigrants, orphans, and even criminals through its doors. Children aged between six months and five years were housed in one ward. Many of these children were never taught to walk or care for themselves because they lived in “cages,” cribs that kept the individual penned in. It was basically a recipe for not only disaster but also a great way to create a future haunted location. Pain, suffering, lonliness…that was Pennhurst.

Upon opening and admitting “Patient Number 1,” as listed on the original paperwork, the hospital was a gleaming jewel in the crown of administrators who hoped that Pennhurst would house and serve the needs of a vulnerable population. The long tables in the dining hall were covered in white linen tablecloths and the rooms made bright with fresh paint and large windows. Day rooms offered comfortable chairs, opportunities to play piano and relax. Within a very short time, through overcrowding and cuts to funding, Pennhurst became a horror rather than a refuge to its children.

 

In a 4 part docu-series on Pennhurst, shown on NBC in 1968 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au0tBIlHIhQ), Bill Baldini went inside Pennhurst to expose the living conditions and operational problems within. In an interview with a doctor at Pennhurst, Baldini finds out that problem patients are consistently drugged so that they can be handled more easily and children of delinquent parents and low educational background who are brought to the asylum by authorities or officials are being classified as mentally disabled. There is no real level of care at Pennhurst at this point in time. Residents are strapped to their beds for large portions of the day without the opportunity to move around and are often left to fend for themselves for long periods of time.  They are forced to sit in their own excrement and have no ability to get food or water if they are in need. They are sometimes even beaten by staff members. At this time, Pennhurst employs nine medical doctors and two psychiatrists who are expected to care for 2800 people. Pennhurst only allows .75 cents to care for its residents per day. The actual allotment is a little more than $5, but administrative fees are also expected to come out of that “budget.” Only 7% of residents are enrolled in rehabilitative programs due to lack of funding. Animals at the zoo are more cared for. The “hospital” is a relic at this point, lead paint peeling from the walls and leaking, rusty pipes jutting from holes in the walls like open wounds. Baldini spent hours compiling evidence that would eventually aid in the shutting down of Pennhurst 20 years later and actually only slept for between three to four hours per night at the station. He lost his voice and was so exhausted he almost collapsed. His final report (part 4) had to be read on air for him. The evidence Baldini uncovered was chilling and sounds very much like Geraldo Rivera’s expose on Willowbrook, another asylum plagued by budget cuts and accused of ill-treatment of its patients on Staten Island, New York. Find that story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcjRIZFQcUY

This place would give anyone the chills…

The halls were once filled with the sounds of patients yelling, howling, furiously kicking their bedframes while their feet remained strapped down. Some of the residents of Pennhurst, those who spent the majority of their lives on these wards, died here, their energy returned to this place for some reason, remain. They call out, touch those brave enough to wander the halls, and likely wonder why they were left to rot in this place, 25 miles outside of town where they could be forgotten like so much human garbage. Below is a breakdown of particularly haunted locations at Pennhurst.

  1. Limerick

In this building, you might experience full-bodied apparitions, get some ultra-clear EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomena), experience EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) surges, and actual, physical contact with spirits.

2. Philadelphia

Again, EVP’s and EMF surges are reported. You might see orbs, full-bodied apparitions or shadow people. Visitors have also reported being hit by thrown items.

3. Quaker

Hot and cold spots can be felt throughout Quaker Hall coupled with a strong sense of being watched. EMF surges are common, but Quaker is said to be the spot to get “Class A” EVP’s. Ghost hunters have captured images of a little girl roaming the halls and one investigator was scratched while inside.

4. Mayflower

The Mayflower building seems to also be quite the paranormal hot spot. The ghost of a little girl can be seen darting in and out of the corners of each floor. It seems like she follows those keen to investigate. The ghost of a man is seen sitting in the common room. There are also whisperings of a nurse who gives “invisible shots.” Guests report feeling a pinching sensation as they explore.

Pennhurst is an experience and not one that you will soon forget.

Haunted Haunt

In 2010, the main building was reopened as the Pennhurst Asylum Haunted House though this has been a controversial development to both locals and those who were previously employed as caregivers.

It’s $99.00 for paranormal investigators to thoroughly explore the admin building and a few of the tunnels underneath connecting to other buildings. The ghost hunter in me wants to lock and load, get into those buildings and see what’s up, but there’s a little voice inside my head telling me that Pennhurst isn’t just some spooky, haunted attraction. It’s a place where people lived and died. The average stay for “children” at Pennhurst was 21 years and some of those people never left. Some of them didn’t even remember what life was like before Pennhurst because they were sent there as infants and toddlers. They could request to be released, but more often than not the court would deny that request and insist that they remain there. It was a horrible place filled with suffering. Should we really be dressing up in costumes and scaring people in a place that was a pit of despair for so many people? For $20, you can choose one of the haunts to explore, the ticket prices go up from there, but what’s the real cost of turning this place into a haunted attraction? I guess that’s the question I’m asking myself.

Have you visited Pennhurst? I’m curious to know your thoughts.

Until next time STAY SPOOKY!

Your fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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S2 Ep 14: Eighteen Wheels and A Waste Place

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 This episode contains a ghostly carriage, shitty gardening chats, spider dog, and a life-changing surgery. #haunted #creepy #fact or #fiction #TrueStory #podernfamily #trypod
DONT FORGET TO LEAVE US A 5* REVIEW ON ITUNES!
See you in the fall. =)

Summer Hiatus!

Hello Fellow Haunt Heads!

This is just a little note to let you all know that Monday’s episode will be the last one before we kick off our summer vacay.  We will return in September with more spooky content so stay tuned!

Your Certifiably Spooky Pals,

Janine & Mimi

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Tweet us @hauntheadscast

 

S2 Ep. 13: Signal Ghosts and Glamis

In this episode, Mimi takes us to Angus, Scotland, to Glamis Castle and Janine goes back to her roots and tells of the ghostly past of Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
This episode contains Disney acid trips, human windchimes, creepy castles, and wailing ghosts.
Thanks to Fox and Branch for our intro/outro music! Foxandbranch.com
Find us on Twitter @hauntheadscast
Email us your creepy paranormal stories and favorite folklore tales at hauntheadscast@gmail.com
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Haunted History of Signal Hill, Newfoundland

The spray from the Atlantic causes your face to itch as you ascend the rocky cliff surrounding the French fort that resembles a medieval castle, its walls now bathed in the mottled pink and red of the rising sun. The way has been blocked at every instance and climbing is the only option. Your arms ache. Below you, the warship you arrived on is nothing more than a dark shape on the water. You take a deep breath and try not to look down. Your orders are simple. Col. Amherst has directed you to take the fort back into British command and, as a soldier under his order, you have no choice but to oblige. You can hear the disembodied screams of the wounded coming from the fort above. This is your destination. Your fellow men at arms are climbing beside you, dodging gunfire from French troops and fighting to hold their footing on the jagged face of the cliff. You have never seen war, have never watched the life drain from another’s eyes, but you are headstrong and willing to do as you are told. As a soldier in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, you know that the honor of dying for the crown will be far more glorious than falling to your death upon the jagged rocks below. So, you climb. This date will forever live in infamy whether you survive this conflict or not. Despite the uneven surface and the weight of all you carry, you finally reach the summit and feel your stomach drop as a bullet strikes you in the chest. You fall to your knees and watch for a moment as your comrades fight their way forward and then, everything fades to black.

“At dawn on September 15, 1762, Royal Navy warships anchored behind the steep hill, with masts out of view of the French. British troops then scaled the cliff side onto the hill itself. The surprise was total, and the engagement was brief but fatal. The commander of the French detachment, Guillaume de Bellecombe, was seriously wounded. On the British side, a bullet shattered the legs of one of Amherst’s officers, MacDonell. The French withdrew to the fort. The British began painstakingly bringing artillery pieces up the cliff and constructed small batteries which they proceeded to use to bombard the fort, until the French capitulated. At the close of the battle, Signal Hill was in the hands of the British. Strengthened by this advantageous situation, three days later they obtained the capitulation of the French garrison of St. John’s, which consisted of just over 1,500 French regulars.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Signal_Hill

signal-hill-flag

The signal flag arrangement for a Baird & Co. steamer coming from the south. (Submitted by Richard Klaas) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/replica-flags-signal-hill-1.4202910

My father is a security guard and, for several years, he was charged with protecting one of the most historic locations in Newfoundland. He’d worked his way up from night shifts patrolling the docks, risking his life boarding foreign ships in the dark (you could always miss a step on the gangway and plummet into the Atlantic and be crushed between the boat and the pier) and dodging particularly nasty rats, to securing the local airport (there’s only one.) When the position at Signal Hill became available, my father jumped at the chance for a change. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his position, it was just that the tourist site was easy enough to look after at night and there weren’t a lot of people who went up to the tower after dark. Sure, it was a popular place for teens to make out, but he could handle that. He was assigned the night shift, meaning it was just him wandering the areas surrounding Cabot Tower and the gift shop (only in operation during daylight hours.)

His first few shifts there went well enough. It took him a little while to get a feel for the inspection/patrol schedule and to figure out the keys he’d been given, but overall it seemed simple. He was to make sure all entryways and exits were secure and ensure the buildings were empty of tourists at the close of the business day. It wasn’t until after roughly a month of patrols that things started to get weird.

He’d see lights on in the tower at night. Random lights, not like a bulb controlled by a switch. The lights seemed to dance in the windows, first toward the top of the tower and then toward the bottom. It was almost as if someone inside were wandering about with a candle or a lantern, securing the fort for the night or conducting their own patrol. He’d go to check it out, that was his job after all, but he’d find nothing and have no explanation for the lights he’d seen. In addition to this activity, the gift shop/visitors center began to creep him out. He’d lay down a set of keys, go to the restroom, and return to find the keys on the opposite side of the desk from where he’d put them. There are mannequins dressed in soldier’s garb set in scenes behind glass in the visitor’s center and he swore that those figures would move when he wasn’t looking or that their eyes would follow him as he passed. The uniforms displayed on the mannequins had been worn by members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (1812/1817) and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band (1795) so I suppose it’s no surprise that the spirits of those who wore the uniforms previously might make an appearance during my father’s nightly rounds.

In addition to securing the tower and the visitor’s center, he also had to walk the path from the center to the tower several times each night. There are no lights on the road and the way is very dark. The Atlantic Ocean is to your right and a swath of sprawling, boggy land lies to your left. If anything had happened to him during these walks, he would have been stuck until the sun came up and someone came to relieve him. Scary stuff.

One night, he was walking along the road toward the tower and noticed movement near a pond to his left. It’s called Dead Man’s Pond because apparently, it’s fed by the ocean and divers have never been able to reach the bottom. It’s also earned this title because people have drowned in the pond and the pond was used to dispose of the bodies of those hanged on Gibbett Hill, the location of a rather active gallows way back when. In 1869, two little girls were skating on the pond and fell through the ice. A local man named Frederick Carter Jr. attempted to save the girls, but he too lost his life. My father witnessed two small figures seemingly floating along the surface of the pond. It was dark, but it seemed as if these two figures had an internal light source. They moved about, oblivious to my father’s presence, then faded away into the darkness.

Many have reported ghostly apparitions on and around Signal Hill. A friend of mine returned from relieving himself with a look of sheer horror on his face. My friends and I would often go to Signal Hill after dark, share a flask, and try to scare one another. This friend, in particular, was a prankster and had scared me numerous times. He was, in essence, the boy who cried wolf in this particular instance. Nobody believed him. He said he was taking a piss by the edge of the wall close to the ledge overlooking Dead Man’s Pond and had seen bodies swinging by their necks on the gallows on Gibbett Hill. We scoffed at him. There WAS no gallows on Gibbet Hill. It was long gone.

 

Worst. Windchime. EVER.

“Dissection and gibbeting were punishments that had long been established in England and her colonies for crimes of traitors, murderers, highwaymen, pirates, and sheep stealers.  The intention was that the body of Peter Downing (Downing was convicted in early April, 1834, for the brutal murders of a school teacher (Mr. Bray), his infant son and a servant girl. For his crimes Downing was sentenced to be hanged, dissected and gibbetted) would be left as a grim reminder and would stay on the gibbet for a year or more until it rotted away or was eaten by birds.  Gibbeting was formally legalised in Britain by the Murder Act of 1752.

Gibbeting was not generally accepted by the people in Newfoundland.  Many were offended by the sight and odor of a decaying body, others believed that the decaying bodies spread disease, others felt that being hung by the neck till dead was enough, even a criminal should meet his Creator in his full body.

In Harbour Grace, Dr. Sterling heeded the content of the note from the angry citizens. The decayed body of Peter Downing was buried immediately at the Court House, and no attempts were made to have the incident investigated or the body gibbeted again.

In Newfoundland “gibbetting” is well documented. In St John’s, Gibbet Hill, a small peak close to Signal Hill, takes its name from the practice.   The location was very intentional.  Anyone looking towards Signal Hill would see the ‘gibbeted bodies.”  A reminder to heed the laws of the colony!

Newfoundland for a number of years held the dubious distinction of being the last place in the British Empire to proceed with gibbetting.” http://archivalmoments.ca/tag/gibbet-hill/

For those of you who may not know what gibbeting entails…

“A gibbet is any instrument of public execution (including guillotine, executioner’s block, impalement stake, hanging gallows, or related scaffold), but gibbeting refers to the use of a gallows-type structure from which the dead or dying bodies of criminals were hung on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals. Occasionally the gibbet was also used as a method of execution, with the criminal being left to die of exposure, thirst and/or starvation. The term gibbet may also be used to refer to the practice of placing a criminal on display within a gibbet. This practice is also called “hanging in chains.””  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbeting

To this day, I don’t know if my friend was telling the truth. He always insisted that he’d seen the bodies swaying in the wind and his face was the palest I’d ever seen it. After he told us what he’d seen, he’d promptly thrown up, but that could have just as easily been due to the liquor he’d been consuming.

More Ghostly Tales

Visitors to St. John’s have reported hearing a woman wailing in or around Cabot Tower. There is an old story that tells of a woman who was struggling to keep warm by the fire. She was cradling her baby close to her. The fire had no means of venting, so she’d sometimes have to open the window to let the smoke out. Then the room would become cold and she’d have to close the window again. She did this several times but fell asleep at some point. When she awoke, coughing from the smoke, the realized that her baby had died from smoke inhalation. It is said that her ghost returned to the place of that terrible accident and cries out for her lost baby.

Hikers have claimed to see ghostly apparitions hoisting flags at the top of Cabot Tower. From around 1811-1958, flags were flown at the top of the structure to mark the approach of certain merchant vessels. The flags would alert those on the harbor front that particular vessels were coming in to dock and would allow time to find space to offload cargo.

“Red, white and blue designs represented the firms and trading companies of the day, including Baine Johnston & Co., Ayre & Sons, Bowring Bros & Co., and R. Templeton.

Each flag had a marker, such as an anchor, star, cross or other symbol that would identify the firm, and in turn ships would fly the flag of the merchant whose goods they were carrying.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/replica-flags-signal-hill-1.4202910

signal-flags

Painting of the signal flags, also called house flags, from the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University of Newfoundland. (MUN Maritime History Archive/Submitted)

In addition, figures have been seen tossing remains into Dead Man’s Pond. A friend of my fathers claimed that, on one of his walkabouts late in the evening, he came upon two men who were dressed in period clothing, throwing remains into the pond from a pile to their left. Obviously distressed by what he was seeing, he called out to the two men and told them to stop what they were doing. The two men did stop, looked at him, then faded away. When my father’s friend went to the spot they were standing, he could see no evidence of their being there even though it had rained the night before and the spot was quite soggy.

There is no end to the ghost stories told in and around St. John’s. There are even historical tours that highlight this part of Newfoundland history. If you’re ever in Newfoundland, go on the Haunted Hike walking tour. It’s AMAZING. The tour guide will take you to all the creepy/haunted spots in St. John’s for just $10 a person. I believe the tour is around 2 hours long, so that’s a great bargain. It also runs rain or shine!

St. John’s is a city steeped in history, both good and bad, and I’m proud to call it my first home. I hope you all take a moment to learn a little more about it and maybe even visit someday. It’s well worth the trip.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

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