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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, lawd.

Ok, so. Internet hasn't been as easy to come by as I originally thought. It's been a straight month and some change since I was able to access it for longer than five minutes at a time.

I'm in the process of completely revamping this entire idea. Blogger doesn't offer the type of networking I was hoping for (or any actual networking for that matter). Also, what the fuck with not emailing me comment notifications? So, the new blog will be located elsewhere. If you need a link, email me. I'm not making it public for reasons most stalkeriffic.

This site will no longer be updated and content will be moved once I create duplicate entries on the new blog.

Later, Blogger. You suck.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Changing Perspective

Yo, just wanted to touch base a bit as it's been forever since I've been able to get out to some creepy places.

ECPH is (unfortunately) relocating to Virginia. In my research for Ohio, I also came across several interesting locations near the place I'll be living as well as the surrounding states of Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

Hopefully, I'll be able to rope a few accomplices. The idea is to eventually have this blog posted from several different viewpoints.

In any case, stay tuned! Great things are headed this way!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Old Chestnut Grove Cemetery (Olmsted)

First of all, I had a bit of an ordeal with my visit to this place. I made it all the way down, walked around for about fifteen minutes, and only then realized that I had my camera, but not my memory card. I was determined to check this place out, so I ended up driving all the way back to Cleveland just to get my card and then return.

I would say this place is, "Referred to as Witch's Hill," but most of the people I've asked about the place have never even heard about the legend that lurks here.

Supposedly, and nobody is certain of the time period, a woman was put to death in the cemetery; death by hanging as she was accused of practicing witchcraft (insert Monty Python reference here). She was not even given a headstone, her grave was marked off with a fence and she was, quite effectively, forgotten. All that remains of the site is a faint hollow in the ground, surrounded by the barely visible remains of a long since discarded fence. I was confused, though, when I found the spot (which didn't take long at all, I knew just what to look for thanks to Dead Ohio). It was covered with a fresh pile of black dirt. It didn't appear that anything had been disturbed underneath, just that someone decided to place a mound of dirt over the spot. Could have been previous sightseers, I guess, marking the place for future visitors, but still, odd.

As far as the saying that something 'bad' will happen if you get too close to the 'witch's' grave, the only annoyance I encountered was being assaulted with acorns from the tree above. Although, I imagine that it would suck a great deal to step on one of those rusty spikes.

Old Chestnut Grove is just that, old. Many of the tombstones located here are from the early 1800's, as with many of the older cemeteries in the county of Cuyahoga. It's a gorgeous setting, literally appearing carved from the woods. There are graves everywhere, I'd even go so far as to suspect that there are even more, just without markers. Towards the back and over the hill, there are even little clearings with the graves of families. Down the trail to the left, there's a huge marker surrounded by stones that's so weathered you can't even make out where the indentations of text may have been. It's a beautiful place, and very creepy at the same time. It takes a lot to freak me out in broad daylight, but I have to say, I just wasn't feeling this place, and I'm feeling it even less as I look back on it.

The majority of the pics I got when I came back are only from the outer part and from the chain that blocks off the trail. I heard some weird animal I'd never heard before crying back in the woods and I wasn't about to become aquainted. That, and like I said, it was just damned spooky. Apparently the 'natives' use it as part of their walking routine, I probably would have had a coronary if someone walked up on me out of the blue while I was in the wooded part. I really need to look into recruiting some back up, haha.

Speaking of possibly having to make a swift getaway, I've not yet retired my favorite (not at all run-for-your-life-worthy) flats. What can I say? I'm a sucker for comfort.

Apparently, back in 1998 they had a bit of a scandal at the cemetery. A policeman had crashed his cruiser into a headstone, damages rang to the tune of about 800$. To save his skin, the police officer lied (with the help of a fellow officer) and said that someone had moved the headstone into one of the narrow driveways through the cemetery. Needless to say, the officers were found out and slapped with charges of falsification and tampering. Ah, humanity. And people wonder why I'd rather hang around a bunch of dusty, old corpses all day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Butternut Ridge Cemetery (North Olmsted)

As far as graveyards go, Butternut Ridge is definitely on the smaller scale, but is certainly not lacking in history. Graves located here date back to the early 1800's and include the veterans of more than six American wars, including the Revolution. This area was originally settled by Issac Scales in the early 1800's. Unfortunately, Isaac died at the age of 35 in 1821 and the land remained unsettled for another fourteen years. In 1835 Charles Olmsted gave the area to the Township to be used for burials. The small crypt that stands within the graveyard was erected in 1879.

As I walked through the area, I noticed that many headstones had been overturned and even smashed. Upon further investigation, it would appear that two morons completely trashed the place on May 22nd, 2005, effectively destroying and vandalizing over 100 tombstones and monuments. The two kids responsible (ages 15 and 16) finally confessed (a mere two days after the act) and both recieved felony vandalism charges. The James A. Garfield Camp #142 apparently made donations to help with the repair, but I can't really see that any of that restoration came to fruition over the past two years. It's clear that the toppled stones were just placed back, but the broken ones are just piled haphazardly on top of the graves.

I haven't heard any claims of the place to be haunted by anything other than a groundhog (who lives in a burrow under the crypt), but on my way back from Old Chestnut Grove (entry for that coming soon) I caught the sight of it as I was driving and just had to go back to check it out. I could certainly understand, however, if it were. I'd be pissed if someone smashed my tombstone, too. I only took pictures and walked around, I'll have to go back to this one in the future and try some EVP's. Definitely not at night, though, this graveyard is routinely patrolled for obvious reasons, two patrol cars drove by within the thirty minutes I spent walking around.

Butternut Ridge Cemetery can be found by taking 252 South (Exit 6A on 480 towards Olmsted Falls) on Great Northern Boulevard and turning right on Butternut Ridge Road. It's on the right side of the road. There's a bunch of construction going on down there right now, since exit 6A is closed, just take exit 6B and turn around to go the other way.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Squire's Castle, or what's left of it.

Some would have others believe that Willoughby Hills is patron the ghost of a woman who, with a less than amicable relationship towards the countryside, tragically met her end at what must have been a magnificent home. I'd say they've got a ghost alright, the ghost of a former architechtural gem of the early 1900's.

The woman I speak of is Louisa Squire, wife to Feargus B. Squire. These were the owners of the previously magnificent gateskeeper's house, Squire Castle. Legend has it that Louisa hated to be away from the city and therefore never joined her daughter and husband on their outings to the place. However, once, when she was feeling particularly guilty about it she indulged her husband's wishes and attempted to stomach a stay at the castle. One night, she was stumbling around Feargus's trophy room and became so scared, possibly of the decapitated and preserved animal heads lining the walls, that she frantically tried to run. Louisa ended up tripping, or slipping and somehow managed to break her neck in the process. It's said that she now haunts the very grounds that she once loathed.

Feargus was so distraught over the death of his beloved that he lost all motivation for finishing the manse he had planned and with a heavy heart, moved back to the city with his daughter, Irma, abandoning his treasured retreat and everything in it.

Slightly more credible, however, is the documentation that Mrs. Squire never stayed in the castle at all and died at their mansion on Wickliffe's Millionaire's Row of more natural causes; a stroke. Feargus later took to traveling Europe and sold the gatehouse. The Metroparks acquired the castle in 1925, and well, you can see what happened after that. Everything was stripped from the house down to the very walls themselves. There's been some speculation as to whether or not that process was expedited through the looting of vandals, but as I understand, a good deal of it is on display in a museum, though the name escapes me.

Feargus was an entrepeneur who hooked up with Frank Rockefeller as vice president of Standard Oil. He made his way to the states from England as a boy and worked his way up the ranks until he practically owned all he could survey, so to speak. Oil was massive money, and money most definitely talks. If you look closely in the photo to your right, you can faintly make out what appears to be the ghost of a photographer picking Feargus's nose.

Originally the tract of land that houses Squire's Castle was to be named "River Farm Estate." It was thought only to be 525 acres, a fresh look at the maps indicate that he was actually the owner of over 800 acres. There were plans to build an immense country home but, for whatever reason, Feargus lost interest. Kind of odd considering he was rumored to have a deep love of the place and the solitude it brought.

Louisa, according to those that knew her personally, did in fact hate the place with a passion. I can imagine being the spoiled wife of a millionaire oil tycoon would accustom one to more amenities than the bush has to offer. Their daughter, Irma, loved the place, however, and accompanied Feargus there often. Pretty much everything there is to know about the weirdly reclusive life of this immensely wealthy family was learned when Shelley Pearsall, a historical interpreter, decided to weave the clues and newspaper reports together. Pearsall also participates in reinactments at the castle during festivals.

In my personal experience there, I had the sneaking suspicion that I was not alone on many an occasion. In fact, I was greeted by what appeared to be a zombie with a flourescent pink mohawk as I entered the central archway. I was plagued with visions that appeared to be young boys frolicking on the forest trail. I even came face to face with the most hideous thing I've ever laid eyes upon: An otherworldy (or at least other-decade-ly) visitor in a powder blue cardigan, wearing sand blasted...MOM JEANS.

Also, just as a warning, the room to the right of the entrance archway, pictured to your right, is completely infested with mud daubers. Incredibly nasy wasps, to anybody who's not familiar with that name. Those things hurt like nothing on this planet if you're stung by them, and there had to be at least thirty nests in there. I don't even want to think what being stung by about a hundred of them would feel like. You can't help but hear them, even before you walk in. I would NOT advise pissing them off or you're going to have a hell of a lot more than a ghost to worry about.

Needless to say, it's kind of hard to have the place to yourself, and the proof is everywhere. On the walls, on the floors, in the fireplace, on the freaking ceiling (how in the hell did they get up there in the first place?). Graffiti, everywhere, whether meticulously carved into the sandstone or written in permanent marker, it seems that every moron who's visited this place felt it absolutely necessary to warn future generations of their presence. While I intend to avoid anyone named JuJu or Alyssa and I do thank them for saving me the five minutes it would have taken me to find out exactly to what extent their idiocy reached: This is why we can't have nice things.

It goes without saying, but there are always those who will be too stupid to listen: Don't. Fuck. Shit. Up. I'm trying to keep these pages somewhat free of profanity (believe me, that's an arduous task), but I don't know how else to say it and convey my exact meaning.

All in all, Squire's Castle wasn't a complete bust. I don't see any possibility of it fulfilling the claims to be haunted, but it's a beautiful structure, I'd like to go back some day and check out the hiking trails behind the house.

For future reference, I had one hell of a time finding accurate directions for this place. It is as follows: I90 East from Cleveland, take the exit towards OH Route 91/Willoughby Hills, turn LEFT on Route 91/SOM Center Road, Turn LEFT on Charden Road (the Charden sign's a little hard to see for the trees in summer). Follow down Charden Road and turn right on River Road. Follow River Road until you see the sign for Squire's Castle. It's clearly marked and on the right side of the road. You can't miss it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The island that isn't. (Whiskey Island, OH)

Whiskey Island, near downtown Cleveland, originated as an outlet for procuring bootlegged booze acquired from our neighbors to the North during prohibition. A distillery was erected here in 1836 and many Irish immigrants established makeshift homes in the area. In addition to the not so legal goings on, it was also used for shipping and railway transportation. The "island" is actually a peninsula located down a rough and narrow road east of Edgewater Park. In attempts to boost commerce in the area, the way is now (just recently, actually) clearly marked. Some of the roads, leading back to the now bustling marinas, used to be sections of the Erie Canal from what one of my roommates explained.

I suppose, in some light, this may lend credence to many claims of the area to be haunted. There's a saying that "for every mile of canal, an Irishman is buried," because countless immigrants died of disease and injury during construction of the canal. Nobody cared about supplying an actual grave for the poor souls, so they were buried beneath the canal itself and forgotten. Given the state of the city during those times, I cannot imagine it to have been a cheerful place.

Malaria ran rampant in the canal, denizens of society were supplied with an endless supply of victims here. It was for this reason and many grisly others that "Untouchable" Eliot Ness took it upon himself to create some kind of a reform with his "crime sweep." Few people could be bothered with how or why the homeless, drifters and hookers ended up dead. There are also believeable rumors that murderers found the construction sites to be a prime place for hiding and dumping bodies. Aw, hell, what's one more? If a body was left too long in the canal without being discovered, who would be able to tell if they drowned, fell, or died of some disease?

While there are documented accounts of the infamous Torso Killer dumping body parts in the canals, I have not been able to locate any other official stories relating. My guess is that they were either A: not important enough to make official news, B: were never found, or C: pointedly forgotten.

Nowadays, Whiskey Island holds a drastically different air. It's mainly a picnic and party spot. The Sunset Grille located in Wendy Park boasts good food, great drinks, and of course: a haunted bathroom. I suspect that the only spirits to be found in the establishment are the kind you can imbibe, but that's probably just my cynicism's opinion. Many have reported faucets turning on, stall doors slamming just as they enter or while they're inside, and the feeling of being watched as they go about their, uh, business. I think it's safe to say these allegations can be attributed to nothing more than publicity scheming or are the product of knocking back a bit too much of grandpappy's favorite medicine.

Either way, after a long walk around the peninsula today, I found myself in need of said restroom. Needless to say, the only creepy feeling I got was from having to brush a hair from the toilet seat. Maybe I had mistaken the haunted one for the women's, but I wasn't up to investigating the men's.

All in all, Whiskey Island is working on becoming a prime family getaway spot, but if I had to choose, I'd still go for Edgewater Park. They've supposedly got Bloody Mary wandering up and down the shoreline, anyway, and far less tampon applicators washed up on the beach.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Graveyard Sidequests

While I was visiting family this weekend, I came across a quiet little graveyard on the side of the winding road that leads back to their lake getaway. It wasn't until I met up with an old friend later that day, however, that I decided to check it out.

The United Methodist graveyard was very, very small, not even the length of a football field. The majority of the graves were newer, but toward the back and on top of the hill, there were graves dating as far back as the 1800's. Which reminds me, I need to start a rubbing collection.

Luckily, I was able to acquire a companion for my trip this time. Most people would enjoy having dinner and a movie, I prefer dinner and a late night romp through someone's graveyard. Without his company, I probably wouldn't have had the guts to go prowling around at night, and after some of the creepiness that ensued, even if I had managed, I would not have stayed long.

One of the biggest things I worry about being in any kind of wooded area is the possiblity of running into an animal, namely skunks. Nine times out of ten, they'll be more afraid of you than you are of them but when you surprise a skunk, they don't just meander along their way, they leave a parting gift that would be rather embarrassing to explain away.

The first stop was the tiny graveyard next to the old Methodist church. I've been to several graveyards by day, but this was my first at night. I had no previous information about the graveyard and didn't even know the age of the graves until we actually set foot in it, and honestly, I'd have to go back to get the proper name. I don't know if it's supposed to be haunted or not, but given our experience, I'd say it is.

I spent most of the time walking around provoking 'spirits' so I could possibly catch something on film or audio. My instruments are by no means state of the art, but for me, they don't have to be. I use a Lumix camera with video capabilities and then I separate audio from video later on using a program. My friend and I didn't personally hear or see anything with the first pass, so we headed back to his truck to review what I'd gotten so far. I got a lot of pictures with standard dust orbs (it's the middle of nowhere in summer, there's bound to be all sorts of crap floating around in the air), but there were two photographs from this graveyard that caught my attention. They were far brighter and appeared to have a "nucleus" of sorts, though according to some websites this is easily explained away.

Just for clarification, it's widely accepted and my personal opinion that orbs are not ghosts. They are, if anything in the first place, miniscule sources of energy. It could be residual energy from the living or it could be left over from an apparition. Either way, while it's possible they may come from spirits, they are not spirits themselves. The majority of the time the things people consider "orbs" are nothing more than dust particles and insects that reflect in the camera's flash. I'm posting these pictures because they look nothing like anything else I got.

As usual, click on the pictures to open full-sized in a new window.

In this picture, you can see the other "dust" type of orb I was talking about near the bottom along with one of the unusual ones. Notice how it appears to have some sort of membrane with a definite center. Whatever's inside the orb appears to be less dense and lighter colored. The only enhancement to these photos is that I cropped them and placed an enlarged version of the orb in a new layer on top to better illustrate.

This photo was taken in another part of the graveyard near some of the older tombstones. Some of them were so weathered, you couldn't even read the epitaph or names. I've also noticed, in the dust orb photos, there's a much larger number of orbs. You could easily recreate the same effect by beating the cushions of your sofa and snapping a photo with flash. You'd get a ton of them, this is why I try to disturb as little as possible when taking photos. In the unusual photos, there may be only one or two others, if that. As you can see, in this photo, it's the only one.

After I looked through the photos, I decided to check the audio. Much to my surprise, I heard what appears to be someone breathing or sighing. There wasn't much of a breeze that night, and the static you hear under and over the sounds can be attributed to the air moving over the microphone. I know there are a hundred possiblities and explanations for the sound, but it's still pretty cool and to be honest, it scared the bejesus out of me. It was enough for me to cut the entire trip short. My friend was the one that talked me into going back to see if I could get more. Here's a link to download the mp3, the noise occurs at seven seconds to nine seconds:


Another interesting thing, and the friend can back me up on this: I did have another EVP that had what I thought to be piano music in the background, however, upon listening to the audio on my laptop at home, I couldn't hear anything. There's also another occurance of the breathing in later audio, but it's very similar to the one above. I've gotten voices and music in other recordings, I'm not sure (and I'll have to research this) but I think it's radio audio somehow getting mixed up with my own.

After we reviewed the material, I was all for moving on. The friend, however, wanted to go back and get more. I think it was termed to me that, "In this profession, you don't run away when you're creeped out, you go to the creepy." Well, it's not my profession and I'm not exactly for pissing off whatever ghosts might be there. I've seen my share of B-horror movies, I know what happens to nosy outsiders. In any case, I did go back and when we reached the end of the graveyard, right after I had stopped recording some more audio, I saw a shadow move between the two tombstones directly in front of me. It wasn't out of the corner of my eye, I didn't just get a glimpse, I stood there, mostly out of shock, and watched it move between them and dissapear. If I'd been holding the camera normally, instead of to the side, I'm positive I would have caught it. It could have been headlights from the road below, meaning I was scared of my own shadow, it could have been a trick of the eye. Whatever it was, I was done with it.

Without even telling my friend what I saw I just shouted, "OK. That's it," and started running back to the truck in a particularly pansified fashion. My friend quickly followed suit shouting all the way asking what happened. This is how I decided that A: My favorite flats, while comfortable, are not good ghost hunting shoes, as I ran right out of them, paused very briefly to pick them up and ran barefoot, in the dark, in a cemetery all the way back to the truck. B: I desperately need a belt. I almost ran out of my pants, too. With that, I was completely finished with that place, despite whatever the hell my friend was babbling about, and we decided to head back to my car.

I thought I'd had just about enough for the night, but while we were driving I thought it'd be a good idea to hit the memorial gardens as well. It dwarfed the other site massively in comparison, but was filled with very recent graves and they still sell plots there.

It was a lot of fun to walk around at night, but the only things we experienced were the catching of another weird orb and my friend (resident self proclaimed psychic, inside joke, haha) felt some creepy vibes off to one section. Even though I was reluctant to follow him towards the creepy, I took some audio and plenty of pics but that photo is the only thing I got other than the amusing exchange we had when he announced said vibes and a vague whiff of skunk.

All in all, I'd say it was a productive waste of five hours time. I'd definitely go back to the Methodist graveyard (accompanied by someone, of course, you'd be surprised at how many people volunteer to tag along with me), but as for the memorial gardens, I am left unimpressed.