Ghosts: Haunted Places in Oregon!
There’s something to the Name Game, but there are times when a legend plants itself so deep into the minds of residents it forces them to actually name the place for the odd folklore born there. We recently came across something like this with Bloody Bucket Road in Wachula, Florida, a road named after a story which then inspired a story which inspired an urban legend. We’ve also found our way to places informally named after the weird happenings there, like the Devil’s Tree and Thrill Hill. Rarely does a crazy story, known by the people living in the area if not fully believed, make the powers that be change the name of a place to reflect the popularity of a story.
The Devil’s Tramping Ground in Bear Creek, North Carolina is one of those places. As we heard more about the story, given our obsession at the time with all things named after the Devil, we knew if we were going to North Carolina to look for phantom trains and hitchhikers, we were going to have to stop in and see if we could glimpse something unknown and supernatural making circles in the middle of the woods.
It started with a search into an area of North Carolina known as the known as the Piedmonts. While looking for something else, I stumbled upon Craig Payst’s Web site North Carolina Ghost Stories. He has a whole section of his site dedicated to the odd stories from that area, including a weird legend that has gained popularity among the people there over the last few decades. Some of the details were familiar in that way a good piece of folklore should be, but one of the most interesting slants to the story was that the legend was shifting, adapting with the times to conform to changing ideas. As we changed as people, the little tale of a patch of land where nothing would grown changed with them.
The basics of the story should sound like something you’ve heard before. In the woods near an area known as Harper’s Crossing there is a patch of land where things would not grow. The infertile pattern was in an almost perfect circle, so people said there had to be something sinister and supernatural about it. The first stories, which is said to date back at least two hundred years, tell of the Devil himself cast down, or up, to earth to contemplate what evil deeds to commit against the people of the Piedmonts. Payst attributes this foundation to the strong religious ideas of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who made their way to the State. No reason is given as to why these people should be a target for him, but there he walked in a circle debating and scheming what to do and tearing up the ground as he walked.
There is more than just barren land in the story though. Men and beast avoid the spot for reasons they can’t explain. People who have dared to try and stay there at night have left with terrible visions. It is also said that anything placed in the middle of the circle, living or dead, will be cast out by unseen hands. Some have seen unexplained lights, and like many sites like this one, people have reported seeing hooded figures, either dark souls or Satanic cult members, walking the circle and the surrounding woods.
If that was end of the story, it would make for an interesting tale. But there is more to the story. In the past few years, every trend in the paranormal has been used to explain the site or offer up a backstory for the unexplained. According to Payst and some others who have looked into the stories, over the years the story has shifted to aliens, a witchcraft hotspot, and an ancient Indian burial location. Each variation reflects the fears and the interests of the people who are making the story their own, evidenced by the newer idea that the spot is actually a vortex. Whether to keep the deep folklore alive or just to claim a little ownership in the story, the little patch in the woods transforms itself into what people want.
This, along with the idea of being pushed by unseen hands drew us to the site.
When we got there is a warm summer day with clouds and a slight breeze. It was not hard to find, especially considering the street is named for the legend. We set up a stationary camera to capture the whole thing and walked the perimeter of the circle. It was littered with garbage, convenience store cups, and beer bottles. There was a metal chair set up roughly in the middle and a makeshift fire pit. Someone had been there recently, confirming the Devil’s Tramping Ground as a party place.
We walked a ways into the woods and found evidence of other activity. There were animal bones scattered in different locations, proof of either cult activity or people wanted it to look like there was cult activity. Other than the bones and tarps, there was not too much to the area itself. We spent time in the circle itself to see if we could feel anything trying to get rid of us, but our feet remained firmly planted. Natalie had the idea to make a cross out of some of the local vegetation to see if it would get tossed from the circle. We stayed for about an hour, mainly to say we had been there, and made our way to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.
The original plan was to go back that night and see if we could talk to some of the people who partied there or even interview the dark forces, but we spent too much time looking for the hitchhiking Lydia and were not able to get back. A follow-up the next day revealed nothing else out of the ordinary and our cross was in the same place. In fact, after the being molested by ghostly redheads in Greensboro and getting new Pukwudgie reports in Indiana, the Harper’s Crossing and the Devil’s Tramping Ground felt mundane.
It was not until we reviewed the camera some time later that things got eerie. One of the things I noticed, and we had not talked about it at the time of the trip, was how little time we spent in the middle of the circle. Most of the time we were there was spent trailing the woods, but we seemed to unconsciously avoid actually being where the Devil was believed to walked. It was subtle. We had travelled 1,000 miles and didn’t spend much time in the middle.
You can’t put your hands on that kind of idea or hold it up. It could just be an overactive mind wanting to justify having touched a legend. The camera, however, picked something up which almost defines the eye. At one point the lighting completely changes (perhaps due to the clouds overhead), but then several odd noises are heard. These climax with a clear clanging of metal. At that exact moment, something flies through the frame and out of the circle. We have broken it down and determined it was not a bird and was too big, even in perspective, to be an insect or something else hanging out in the woods. This, mixed with the sound heard right before the movement, leads us to believe one of those beer or soda cans was kicked out of the circle while we played in the woods.
Like the legend itself, there is no clear cut answer to what we saw. The Devil’s Tramping Ground has exist for decades, and if every bit of folklore is born from some truth, there might be more to the story than just some dead vegetation and some odd lights in the woods. People will continue to tell their stories about the place, odd first hand accounts with their choice of background to give it context. The legend will continue because we want it to, but just when you think it’s safe to sit back and think of it all as just a story, a swift kick and clang might happen and make you rethink whether a ghost story, or even a tale of the Devil, has more fact than fable to it.
Some legend trips are about the excitement of the moment or the depth and mystery of the mythology behind the story. Others are about the anticipation of being in the dark with the weight of what has happened there breathing down your neck and making your hairs stand on end. At the heart of all of them is the hope that there is a connection between the history of the location and the ghostly stories that develop around them. As we look into the stories what’s looking back at us are lost moments waiting for someone to pick them up again and share with the world. They become more than legends or ghost stories. They become a way for the dead to live again and for lost history to dust itself off.
As we started looking into legends throughout South Florida to begin our journey, we sent out e-mails to historical societies and libraries in the area asking for insight into their hidden treasure other people may not have heard about yet. We didn’t get many responses, but one came from the coordinator of the DeSoto County Historical Society’s Research Library with a reference to an article in the September/October 2016 edition of Gasparilla Magazine. One of the locations writer Marcy Shortuse explored in her Haunted Arcadia was Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia, Florida. Arcadia was a little over an hour away, not too far for a quick drive and a perfect training ground for Natalie’s first official, researched, legend trip, especially given its proximity to what we thought was a primary location for the Singing River legend.
What drew us in were stories that came out of the location. The first was a talking Mary statue located in the cemetery. According to Shortuse’s article and further research we conducted into the story, people had talked for years about a stone woman looking over a patch of graves who spoke to people who stopped to pay their respects or just spent time around her. The article spoke of people having entire conversations, but most of the other accounts online were sporadic occurrences, happening randomly and with no specific connection to people or times. This was of interest to me as I had researched haunted statues throughout the country.
The idea was to try and find the statue and get her to speak with Natalie. Many of the reports involved woman speaking with Mary, so we hoped that whatever was talking to people would be more drawn to her empathic, almost psychic side. Our plan was to also record the whole session with a digital recorder to try and gather some EVPs if we couldn’t hear anything with our own ears.
The second legend was more connected to the history of the town and drove us into research mode before we arrived in Arcadia. The real centerpiece of the cemetery is a memorial to the British Royal Air Force pilots who trained and died in Florida during the World War II era. This was a part of Florida history neither of us knew anything about, and as we have spoken to more people over the course of the last year, we discovered most outside of Desoto County haven’t either. In reaction to the Lend Lease Act, FDR decided to allow British pilots to train in the United States because the sky over their own country were a bit too dicey to allow new pilots to get the experience they needed. Arcadia petitioned to use Carlstrom Field which had been opened during WWI but had closed after peace had been established and the need for American war pilots had decreased.
The first class of RAF pilots graduated in 1941 but were not without their issues. Many of the foreigners were not used to the hazing which was a vital part of American troop training and that damaged their moral. As explained in Wing Over Florida, many of the trainees also suffered from homesickness and overindulgence. It seems the young men had come from a land of war into a land of plenty, and many became overwhelmed with how much food and Florida oranges they were able to get at a moment’s notice. It would also seem they were distracted by the number of Florida women with “loose morals” in the area they also could find at a moment’s notice.
Even given the distractions, many of the airmen went on to distinguish themselves in combat. 23, however, died in training in or near Arcadia and are buried in Oak Ridge along with their commander who requested to be buried with his men 40 years after he helped to train them. The cemetery is their final resting spot, along with a memorial commemorating Arcadia and the fallen pilot’s, contribution to history.
The stories coming out of the memorial are traditional haunted folklore for soldiers’ graves. People are seen standing before the headstones and then disappear moments later. A dark figure is said to move from grave to grave mourning each and leaving memorials, much like the legend of the man who leaves flowers at Edgar Allen Poe’s grave in Baltimore. There are also reports of phantom planes, seen but mostly heard above the cemetery, maybe explained away by airports nearby, many of whom host airshows which feature older, WWII planes. If these stories are not merely legend, it might make sense. Part of the mythology of the paranormal includes spirits being at rest. These pilots would be more likely to walk their graves because they are not buried in their own country but in a foreign one far from home and they may not be able to find peace or find their way back home.
One of the other unusual stories we unearthed mentioned the Union Jack flying at the memorial. People have reported the flag sometimes disappears although no one is there to remove it. According to reports, the flag was taken down and put up daily, but that no one currently moves it. The flag is supposed to fly at all times. In addition, many of these reports involve the Union Jack disappearing or being moved to half-mast while they are visiting although there is no visible caretaker present. I noticed while we were there, however, that in certain locations on the grounds the pole was obscured by trees, perhaps giving the feeling it had temporarily disappeared.
We arrived at the cemetery a little after noon on a fairly windy Sunday. We entered through the wrong gate, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it allowed us time to explore the cemetery as we searched for Mary. One of the things we noticed was the seemingly segregated nature of Oak Ridge. A large field separated the main part we entered through and a large section towards the back. As we walked the graves it became clear that African American were buried in one part of the cemetery, separate from what might be considered the main section. As a Northerner, I also was taken aback by the colored graves and how many graves had colored pictures built into the stone, something I had never seen in the hundreds of cemeteries I had spent time in while living in New England.
And all the time we kept our eyes on that Union Jack to make sure it was still there.
By the time we made it to the RAF memorial, the wind had mostly settled and it was a bit after 1:00 PM. We had seen several stone statues of women but narrowed down which one we believed was the one from the story based on the description and the picture from Shortuse’s story. First, we wanted to pay our respects to the airmen and see if we could touch some of the stories attached to them. We spent some time reading the headstones and the memorials. We said each airmen’s name and left a penny on each grave, a British military tradition. To try and spark a response, Natalie read the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian poet and soldier John McCrae, which has a deep connection to British veterans of both World Wars. We also played the song “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn about English soldiers and pilots going off to WWII.
Nothing unusual happened while we were at this part of the location, although the rope on the Union Jack, which never disappeared the entire time we were there, went crazy clanging against the pole even though the wind had basically died down. On the recording you can hear it, but no wind. When we read the poem, every noise, including the birds and the rope, stopped entirely.
After spending time at the memorial, we moved on to the statue, which seemed to be looking over a plot dedicated to the Hollingsworth family, who we researched later and found to be an important family in the history of Arcadia. We determined, based on its location to the fence (some reports came from people who had played near the fence as children when they heard the voice) and the mere age of it, that this had to be the woman from the stories.
The first thing we noticed was how cold the statue was, especially in relation to the other headstones and statues we had touched. The other was an abandoned wasp’s nest, which in at least one of the stories we had read was used as an explanation for the voices heard. It was clear that the statue was not of the Virgin Mary based on the way she looked and was wearing. Natalie, trying to get in touch with her sensitive side, got the name Agnes and went with calling her that, although an Abby Hollingsworth was one of the dominant graves in the family plot. We spent about a half hour at the location, recording about 26 minutes of audio before leaving. Natalie felt she heard some unexplained noises she was unable to account for, but nothing that felt like a voice speaking words to her. She also was overcome at one point by the smell of incense.
It was not until we got on the road and listened to the recording that we fully understood just home much Mary may have been talking to us. Even through the speakers of the car with no enhancement we could hear unexplained voices and noises on the tape. Several times we hear an odd honking, more of a train whistle or harmonica or accordion than car horn. It also sounds a bit like bagpipes, and there have been reports of ghostly pipes being heard at the RAF site. The noise also seems to be deliberately interrupting what Natalie is trying to say. At the time we heard nothing that resembled this, as we make a point to speak about noises we hear as they happen. This could be attributed to the sensitivity of the recorder itself, as we have been amazed at some of the things we have heard from a great distance with it. At several moments we also hear the recorder being played with although neither of us moved it.
Throughout most of the recording there are voices under what we are saying or under other noises from the cemetery. At one point Natalie asks who is speaking to people and a voice is heard saying something like, “I’m a Hollingsworth” or a first name followed by Hollingsworth. We also heard someone saying “Hey” trying to get our attention.
Please listen to the audio yourself to find out more…
We found some other connections in the research we did after we went, but nothing that was able to explain who might be looking over the graves or talking to people who spend time around the graves. Of course, that’s the nature of the beast when it some to trying to track down a legend. What is clear after being there and looking the history of the town and the cemetery is that Oak Ridge Cemetery is a crucial link to heritage of Arcadia.
And a damn good ghost story for them to be proud of.
Back in the day I posted stories of my experiences or rumors I heard about haunted locations throughout the state. Eileen (I’m pretty sure that’s not her real name, but more than 15 years later I have a hard time remembering what it might actually be) e-mailed me concerned over strange experiences she was having that she had no real frame of reference for. It was my first time talking to someone who was coming to me for help, and it was a trial by fire to get to the heart of what was happening while trying to confort her and help her understand what might be going on.
Eileen belongs to a generation that sees the paranormal as fiction. Ghosts are fine for the movies and eerie stories on Halloween, but the only true spirit is the Holy Spirit and tales of demons and things that go bump in the night are more cautionary tales for people who invite bad things to happen to them. She believes there are powers that cannot be explained, but if it happens to you then you wanted it to or it is a sign that something is wrong with you. That is what her Catholic upbringing taught her, and that is what she believed until she started to experience things that challenged what she felt about the other realm.
Eileen moved into her three family duplex in Chelsea 23 years ago with her small daughter and husband. Almost immediately she experienced things. The first night she had trouble sleeping and sat awake next to her husband. She was beginning to dose off when she noticed a figure in the room. Although there was no sound a dark shadow figure moved into the room and to her husband’s side of the bed. Although she could make out no features on the form, she got the feeling it was female as it bent over, picked up her husband’s pants and went through the pockets.
Although Eileen noticed something odd about the feeling of the house, it was not until her three year old daughter began to tell her there was a ghost in her room that Eileen started to get suspicious and remember that first night. She would run from her room screaming, Ghost in room.” Soon after her daughter developed an imaginary friend named Ekky who spent four or five years with them until she “moved to Florida”. Eileen did not think too much of it because she understood it was normal and healthy for a child to have such friends. Over the years her daughter would bring up the subject of the ghost in a nonchalant way, Eileen believes mainly because people did not believe her and Catholic did not believe in such things.
But other unusual things happened. Items would disappear and things would be misplaced and Eileen would tell herself it was her own fault. She had just forgot where she put it down.
Eileen’s daughter entered her late teens and she became more and more uncomfortable in the room. She refused to sleep sometime, never saying why, but it was clear there was something there she did not like. Once when she was twenty she went to sleep in her mother’s room. When they woke in the morning there was a cat at the foot of the bed although they did not own a cat and the house was locked up and secure. They opened the door and shoed the cat out with a broom.
In 2002 Eileen moved into her daughter’s old room and the occurrences began to happen more and more. One time she woke up to find her house sweltering. Sometime during the night the thermostat and been turned up and the cover had been thrown across the room. Another time she came home to find the orange juice she had left out spilled over her calendar and some papers she had on the kitchen table. The table was soaked but the glass was sitting straight up.
Although she does not feel the ghost is threatening, it has recently began to touch her. Once she felt her hair being lifted as she lay in bed. The most disturbing incident involved another night time meeting. Eileen was again lying in bed when she felt her leg being lifted up by her big toe. She closed her eyes and regained control of her leg.
There have been renovations that might account for some of the occurrences. The duplex is three floors and has been shared by family members over the years. At one point the house was gutted out and evidence of a fire was found, although she has not been able to find any account of it in old newspapers. There has also been construction on the second floor as her brother prepares to move in, although he is now giving it second thoughts. He led Eileen on a few goose chases after making up stories about the ghost in the house, but now he is finding it more and more uncomfortable to do the work to repair the house. He will not say why, but he does not like to be in the house alone.
Either does Eileen’s daughter. She still gets uncomfortable in the room, although she does not feel afraid. According to Eileen, she seem more upset by the whole thing, as if she had convinced herself that the things that had happened to her as a child were her imagination. To hear Eileen now talk of those things makes it seem more real.
They have reversed roles because Eileen does not fear the female spirit in her house. Nothing has happened in a while and the spirit is most obvious when she is not thinking about her. Eileen wants to talk to her, but does not know what she will say. She is now convinced she is not going crazy in her old age but that now, maybe because everyone has moved out, she has found a new roommate.
This will be my first dive into the realm of personal online publication. Naturally I’ve written previously, however it was always for the purpose of professional advertisement, or literature for product knowledge. In short I’ve never put myself out there for the world to read. Wish me luck!
In 2016 I was introduced to Christopher Balzano, and quickly learned about his ongoing Legends Project. Immediately I was drawn in by his enthusiasm, and extensive knowledge. Not only was I in presence of someone who truly had a passion for his field, but a highly educated individual who could offer fresh perspective and alternative opinions on the popular or widely accepted ideas the modern paranormal world had to offer. Hell, not even just the world of weird, he has an opinion on everything! He asked me to join in on the Legends Project – specifically resparking the Tripping on Legends part, and of course I wanted in.
At the time I didn’t even really realize what I was signing up for… I’ll never fully grasp why me, but I suppose it has something to do with my naiveté, my natural inclination to trust what’s given to me. Be it words, smells, sounds, or gut instinct, I have a tendency to blindly believe, and ask questions later. And I was a newbie into the paranormal, so I had no preconceived notions of right or wrong when it comes to stepping into the spooky.
From the very beginning we hit the ground running. I had never been a part of such an engaging adventure. Picking the theme song for the podcast was like destiny embodied. I’ll never forget that moment. Pure entrancement. Choosing artwork for the cover. (We argued here – for I’m not zombie fan!) We compromised. The picture of the spooky forest, was perfect for us in my humble opinion.. For me it stood as an allegory – a seemingly blank yet terrifying forest, with a touch of mystery – this was us. It calls to me. It has a luring quality, like you just have to know what lies beyond the blackness… We had both undergone life altering changes in our personal lives, and we were ready for the next chapter. The empty spaces needing to be filled with adventure; paranormal adventures.
This adventure came with a set of issues though – I’m prone to spiritual attack, or at least I think I am. It could just be my empathic tendencies picking up strong emotions, and I can suffer. Number two, I despise attention (Not really the personality traits of a Paranormal Podcast host, huh?). Thankfully we’ve worked around these issues! Christopher is kind enough to shoulder my need for anonymity and does most of the publicity. I don’t really love to be seen on camera, and he respects that. (He’s also much more charismatic, and, er, enigmatic, so the role fits him) But, I am slowly stepping up.
2016-2017 was a hell of a year!
We’ve been to so many places I had never heard of, experienced so many things I never thought possible, had lengthy discussions about the philosophical meaning of legends, but in the same breath joked about them as well. We have had the cards stacked against us, and we’ve had to learn on our feet. We’ve shelled out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just experiencing new places, and I wouldn’t want a dime back for the lessons, the connections, and the memories are invaluable.
The next time I write I think I’ll delve into the what draws me in so strongly and what my reactions have been. One sentence kind of drives me – Often I forget the words that are said, however I feel forget the feelings.
Thanks for reading… I welcome feedback!