Revisiting Rockadundee

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I first published information about Rockadundee Road in early 2oo2 as I was starting Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.  It was one of the first Massachusetts legends, right after the Red Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44, that connected with me and that I was able to, to some  some degree, track down.   It’s interesting how this story went from an obscure legend passed through the writings of a few Web sites back in the day to a full fledged legend.

The greatest moment of local folklore is the moment the story becomes such a part of a community, or such a menace to it, that media outlets and other writers have to come forward to prove the legendness of it.  Here are some more modern accounts of the story and the craze around it:

 Suburban Legend: The Haunting of Rock-a-Dundee Road  by Hell’s Acre

Ghostvillage’s discussion on it…with a little visit by Christopher Balzano

Strange USA’s discussion

In Massachusetts, there is the tale of Rockadundee Road in Hampden, a small town in the western part of the state that could be copied and reproduced as a picture of New England.

It is the kind of road, formerly part of the forest that now surrounds it, that inspires ghost stories.  Urban legends stick there and get passed between residents and paranormal enthusiasts alike.

The more bizarre stories involve an old witch who lived on the road who needed humans, particularly teenage, for rituals and incantations.  She would find people who became stuck on the dirt road, hack them up with an ax, and bring them back to her shack in the woods.  There is also a tale of a group of teenagers who went to the road, and for reasons unknown, and hung themselves from the trees along the road, perhaps hoping their spirits would haunt the town together.

The town reports no teenager who ever went missing or a group who ever killed themselves in a mass ritual, but the legends persist.  All of the stories coming out of Hampden are echoed across the country in other legends, and the themes of the stories should be familiar to anyone who spends any time near a campfire.  The hanging, the witch, the haunted road, and the use of teens in all the stories, resonate with urban mythologists and researchers alike.

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There is one story that has a twist unique to Rockadundee Road.  The story starts once with the death of a child, usually a young boy.  While playing near the road, the child is hit by a car, almost always said to be a drunk driver, and killed.  The parents, or maybe the community, create some kind of memorial for him.  The site of his demise is covered with signs, a cross, or teddy bears.  The ghost of the child then becomes like the ghost hitchhiker, appearing in cars or seen playing on the side of the road.

The story is pretty standard, and more and more investigators are hearing of haunted roadside memorials. At Rockadundee Road the victim is a boy killed by a drunk driver whose parents, in their grief, built a gazebo as a memorial. The boy is seen playing in the structure or nearby.  The story goes on that a group of teenagers suffered a mysterious death while jumping on the gazebo as part of a dare.  

In almost every report, like most haunted road graves, there is also a ghost car that follows people in the same area.  The phantom vehicle comes from behind, often honking at the observer or flashing their lights.  The car disappears going around the next turn.  In Hampden the haunted tailgater has been reported to run people off the road.  Most believe the car to be the one that killed the child.  The psychic impression of the violent demise is trapped on the road and is forced for some reason to replay itself.

The haunting seems too good to be true and involves a situation too familiar to not connect with the majority of people.  We have all seen the memorials on the side of the road and wondered what the back story is.  When the deceased is a child we become even more empathetic and more likely to believe the story.  We feel for and are frightened by the little boy unable to find peace.

There are usually contradictions or inconsistencies involved in the story.  The driver is said to be drunk and never caught.  There is also the fact that no one ever reports of seeing both ghosts.  The stories are always retold as, “I saw this and I was told this is the reason why and there is this other ghost…”  The teller fills in the holes, making the story more exciting.  Most importantly, the same haunting is told and told again in different towns around the country.

The dark and lonely road is enough to inspire fear in anyone, but on Rockadundee Road, the haunted road is raised to the level of art form.

 

 

Venice’s Phantom Train

If the folklore of a town is both a reflection and the building block of that community, what does it say if a local legend can’t be confirmed, embarrassed or even really defined.  Venice is a strange area of Southwest Florida, not unique in its complexion or population from its neighbors, but a more of a mix of the personalities of the surrounding towns.  Like  the places that neighbor it, there is a balance struck between the old and the new, between generations of Venetians and recent transplants who seem in search of something the coastal towns of the Gulf promise.  Businesses drift between a touch of rundown quaintness and neon glitz, giving the whole area a sense of identity crisis.  However, anyone who is not new to the scene understands this is an identity, a bit manufactured based on what tourists expect but at the same time thumping with a heartbeat that connects the communities up and down the coast.

The story of the Phantom Train of Venice had that feel.  It was referenced in a book, but no one seemed to know about it.  Last year I spent the weeks leading into Halloween trying to track down the details and sent feelers out to the writer of the book and the historical society who maintained the site.  As I reported last year, no one was forthcoming with information or knew what I was talking about.  I still can’t make sense of the e-mail I received from Kim Cool when I asked her to allow me to walk in the footsteps of her research to try and track details down.

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I had given up on it and moved on to other ideas.  The legend was not done with me, however.  In the weeks leading up to Halloween this year, some odd tumblers fell into place and seemed to draw me to Sarasota County.  The first was born of my own paranormal confusion.  Frustrated by what I was working on, I challenged the universe to give me a sign.  What followed was a series of random song generator moments.  In other words, I would start thinking about wanting to hear a song, and my Ipod would randomly play just the song I was looking for.  Hardly the concrete research of the Rand Institute, but it got my mind moving.  In the few days leading into the holiday, this happened so often I could not overlook it.  I was also seeming references to trains and Venice all over the place.  Cognitive bias to be sure, but the fact my mind wanted to see these things felt like a sign in and of itself.

Then came the dance.  I had written previously about the connection between Ringling and the two dollar bill.  To show the people of Venice his employee’s impact on the town, it is said he paid them all with two dollar bills.  At the end of the day, count them up and see how much they were pouring into the local community.  I became enamored with the idea of making that part of my trip there.  I would use the money as a type of offering or tulpa to jump start the activity.  Problem was, in the past I had a hard time getting my hands on one.  During my schools Halloween dance though a student paid for their candy and soda with a two dollar bill.  I pocketed it, making sure to stick two ones in the drawer, and was convinced this was the last sign to go out.

img_1243img_1209   After I had said goodbye to my kids and their candy haul, I met up with my partner for the Legends Project, Natalie Crist.  It was an hour ride out to Venice, and we were cutting the time extremely short.  I gave her a recap of the legend and a brief outline of what we were going to do.  Natalie has an amazing passion for research and is a sponge for information, so speaking with her often allows me iron out the details of what needs to be done.

We got to the Venice Train Depot around 11:30 and decided to tour the area around it, including the nearby bridge that goes over Highway 41, a major freeway through Southwest Florida.  Our purpose was to get into character, but also to understand the sound complexion of the train station.

We were unsure of what we might see and hear and wanted to be able to tell the difference between a train blast and a siren or an elephant trumpet and any geese in the area.

We went live on Facebook counting down the moments leading into midnight.  We placed the two dollar bill in between the rails of the track, in between us, and placed our hands on the rail to notice any change in vibrations.  In retrospect, this would have also been a good time to do an EVP session, but I had not planned the night too well due to its suddenness. After about 10 minutes we left that area and walked the tracks before touring the whole area again, shooting a second Facebook live video, and heading home.

img_1233Here’s where the story gets exciting and I tell you about the lion who jumped out of the ether and the train lights that threatened to run us down.  Only, that’s not this story goes.  We did hear unexplained train whistles and later confirmed that no trains were running at that hour in Venice or the surrounding cities.  Natalie did get an odd scent of cinnamon at one point which was out of place, sudden, and fleeting.  But that’s about it.

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…and also not really the point.  As an investigation, the trip would have been a failure, but as a legend trip, it was a complete success.  The difference between the two is hard to tell at times, like trying to split hairs over whether something is a legend or folklore.  The main separation might spring from the intention and what is considered a victory.  Tripping is about the journey and the moment, both of which were rich and satisfying.  Nothing happening is not a notch in the paranormal investigators movement to determining whether someplace is haunted.  Something did happen.  We touched a local legend and become part of it.

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The Devil is in the Details

I was conducting one of many long interviews with Alan Alves while writing Dark Woods.  Thicase2s one was at his house as he worked on a project outside, and as he railed against the evils of Satan and the occult, I noticed his granddaughter’s backpack leaning against the side of the house…covered in occult symbols.  I brought this up to him, and he laughed it off and continued to tell me about the dark path the youth of the country was so tempted to go down, seemingly unconcerned that his little one might be one of them.

That’s the way the occult works in our society.  As I wrote in a recent article for Spooky Southcoast, “What if familiarity doesn’t breed contempt?  What if instead it fosters a slow, subtle acceptance?”  As I read through George Case’s “Here’s to My Sweet Satan” leading up to his interview on the show, I was struck by the patterns of indoctrination he explored and was left wondering who or what might be behind it all.  While the book avoids asking some questions, I was left seeing design in some of the patterns Case explored in the book.

What is the draw to Satan.  One thing Case’s book clearly shows is our appetite for the idea of the Devil and our obsessive need to be drawn in and repelled by the occult.  It tracks the rebirth of Tolkien and the rise of heavy metal music while examining the occult undertones and symbols of mass murderers and serial killers at the time.  It might be easy to pass off these trends as just giving the public what it wants, and moving beyond what he covers in the book, to look at the 80s through today as the reaction to those movements he covers.  That would be dismissive.  Whether obvious or subliminal, we live in a time that can be seen as the shadow of the Devil, and if it is impossible to say who the source of the conditioning is, we should at least be able to see the signs around us.

It might be a case of the left hand being unaware, or at least trying to make US unaware, of what the right is doing.  While the devil tries to convince us that he is not real, occult and satanic imagery and ideas filter into our daily lives.  There might just be groundwork being laid for our acceptance and embrace of these ideas.  As people who work in the paranormal, the occult does not mean evil, not does it imply a path to the dark side, and that’s a dangerous message I don’t want to send.  Witchcraft and the Hobbit are not gateway ideas to hell or hell on earth.  For many, however, those lines are blurred and those might be the people the storm is looking to sweep up.

I first noticed a trend while working with juvenile criminal offenders, many of whom were having paranormal experiences in some of the state facilities across Massachusetts.  A student was not allowed to wear a baseball hat for the Pittsburgh Pirates because it was their way to represent their gang.  Assignments handed it had to be devoid of stars and crosses and their hair couldn’t be parted certain ways.  As one member of the Vice Lords sat explaining his gang symbols to me, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to markings at the Assonet Ledge.

Then I published an article about Freetown for the magazine Haunted Times and a reader corrected me about a picture I posted of a Blue Oyster Cult symbol on the Ledge.  He explained he and his friends marked up walls all the time as kids with their favorite bands.  What he failed to see was that BOC may have been part of getting these designs into our consciousness.  He also ignored the fact it was upside down and contained other markings connected to cults.  This is an example of the shadowy way the uncommon hides itself within the common.

For years gang culture in this country has borrowed heavily, mainly unknowingly, from Satanic imagery.  The most well known biker gang in the country is the Hell’s Angels.  Modern urban gangs rely heavily on five pointed stars and upside down crosses, and new members are trained to tag things from right to left, mirroring the technique used by practitioners of dark magick.  Joseph Stalin talked about being able to control and train the youth through their music and literature so in several generations an idea becomes bible truth.  It may be oversimplifying it, but gang life gave rise to rap and hip hop which has found its way into the suburbs and every aspect of pop culture.  Who is doing the feeding and who is doing the eating?  Hand gestures and greetings used in gangs are the same as those used by secret societies though to run this country.

There are other connections to be made, some of which became more obvious while reading “Here’s to My Sweet Satan.”  There is a general rise in nonfiction publications about the occult once a successful movie comes out about the topic.  While this is not unusual, the fact that this has been happening with this particular topic over decades means the general public blurs the lines between what is real and what is fiction.  Middle school students I talk to think Paranormal Activity and Slenderman are real.

In Case’s book, he talks about how the climate gave rise to horror writer Stephen King, who has only gotten more popular in the four decades since he was first published.  His works, especially the 1977 novella Rage have been sighted by several of the modern school shooters as offering inspiration, to the point King has come out and said he wish he had never published it.  Add to this that the location of some of the most covered shootings occur near famous occult centers.  For example, Columbine and the Dark Knight shootings happened in the shadow of Denver International Airport, well known for containing occult symbols.  To further connect things, in King’s seminal work The Stand, the survivors of its apoclypse gather in that state to rebuild.

In 1999, as the new millennium approached, movies and books explored the proposed fictional link between numbers and the coming of the antichrist.  From the top of rooftops people claimed everything from Nostradamus to the Book of Revelations to coded messages from World War I saw the Devil as gaining power as the calendar turned.  It’s difficult for me to agree with this.  Every generation has their hope or fear that they are living in the end of days, and modern times seems to have an armageddon set for every few months.  There does seem to be a form of training going on that goes beyond just our desire to be scared or explore what happens when we die.

I lived in the wake of the era “Here’s to My Sweet Satan” explores.  I remember seeing the Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and the Omen on Channel 38, unedited, as a child.  Amityville was based on a true story and there was no story made up while drinking glasses of wine.  My grandparents and mother took me with them to see A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was 9, two years younger than my son is now, which was also around the time Gremlins and Trolls was being marketed to me.  I’m from a generation who absorbed this fictional battles between good and evil as near fact, understanding I was watching a movie, but thinking they were based on real stories or at least real ideas.  I watched GI Joe and every other episode involved Cobra using the occult to try to gain control of the world, the same thing those Nazis did in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I was that kid who spend their time doodling the symbols of my favorite bands on desks and on paper book covers; designs Case and others claim are so simple that their occult meaning is lost and their lines easy to duplicate.  By the time I was in my teens, the urban legends surrounding Led Zeppelin’s submergence into Satanic subculture was solid fact and KISS really did mean Knights in Satan’s Service, even if they were taking their makeup off.  I did not have the filter of an adult, so they became part of what I knew to be true.  As Tim Weisberg is so fond of saying, “When the legend is bigger than the truth, print the legend.”  

But to what end?  

Most parents would never agree to introduce their children to evil, but might not think twice about letting them watch Teen Titans Go, and show where one of the main characters is the daughter of a demon.  On the first day of school I noticed the same symbols associated with acts like King Diamond and Iron Maiden hidden in designs by Hollister and Justice.  The connections gets tighter when you get into the more obscure, at least for me, fashions of the urban youth.  

They have been trained to see these symbols as holding no power, and it that ignorance might be giving power.  When I was handed a copy of the Necronomicon, I was told to not read it out loud for fear I would raise a demon without meaning to.  However silly that might seem, there was a power in those words.  That same power might lie in the markings of the occult.  There might be something to a cultural incantation brought on by making the paranormal normal, a sort of negative spiritual awakening sparked by tracing these designs and accepting the occult into our minds without protection or wonder.  Think of the myths surrounding certain patterns of music being able to draw out Satan, the same keys and chords used heavily in heavy metal and borrowed by many of the modern bands we listen to.  Who is to say all of this media doesn’t have the same end impact on our culture.  We are more willing to let it in and might be actually be actively calling it out.  

All of the liberal, free speech fibers of my being wants to believe this sounds like the rantings of fundamentalists who see the devil in power drinks, but I think indoctrination might have a more human cause.   Either way, the occult is no longer in the hands of the officially initiated, and the effect of that is unknown.  

When I was a kid I was talking to a friend about a book I was reading on serial killers.  He was into the conversation and then something changed in him.  This kid, who would go on to commit some horrific acts in the future, looked at me with dead eyes and said, “We should stop talking about this.  It makes me want to do bad things.”  The normalization of the Devil as explored by George Case might not reach that kind of dramatic conclusion.  It should be clear, he is not saying reading Harry Potter will make people want to hurt their friends or listening to the Beatles will make people want to kill.  But then again, Mark David Chapman did kill a Beatle…outside the Dakota…where they filmed Rosemary’s Baby…which urban legend says Anton LaVey was involved in…who once…

3 Lies Poltergeist Taught Me

This article was originally published on the Spooky Southcoast Web site, but was recently lost when we redid some of our format.  As I was reading Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend, whose author Dr. June Pulliam will appear on the show August 27th, and after listening to so much nostalgia based on the new Ghostbusters movie, I thought back to the impact this movie had on me and decided to repost this…

Like many people my age, my ideas about the paranormal were formed from the movies of the 1970s and 1980s. I remember being left in the library for hours on end and gravitating to the books of ghost and UFO stories, but there was something in the easy access visual medium of those movies that stuck with me. I can more easily remember the glowing eyes and red room of Amityville Horror and the spinning head of the Exorcist than I can the lessons of Hans Holzer and Brad Steiger. There was something exclusive and esoteric about those books, but the movies were for us all, lessons taught crouching behind the sofa while my parents watched HBO or staying up late in my sisters’ room watching the late version of The Movie Loft on 38. They formed what I knew ghosts were and whet my appetite for shows like In Search of and Sightings. Those were the reinforcement, but cinema was my hook.

If the general public knows what they know about serial killers from Psycho and Silence of the Lambs and what they know about sharks from Jaws, I learned everything I know about noisy ghosts from 1983’s Poltergeist. I was about to watch it at the tender age of 9 (when it came out on HBO) because it was only PG, and for that same reason I was able to frighten a room full of teenagers thirty years later by showing it to my class on the last day of school. In the age of Paranormal Activity and shows like Ghost Hunters you would think they would have been yawning, but that was not the case. They were literally on the edge of their seats, jumping at the right moments and covering their eyes from time to time.

The movie holds up, but does its ideas on the paranormal, especially what it tells us about poltergeists.

This week, as we welcome in poltergeist authority Geoff Holder, I reflect back on what I learned from the flick I have seen more time than just about any other movie. If you take into account we really don’t know much about any kind of paranormal activity, that there is no straightforward ideas we can cast our anchor on, there are some general ideas brought about by the movie that spit in the face of modern ideas about poltergeists. I ask you to ignore the other movies in the series (an idea that will passionately fought about by Tim Weisberg) and understand that as we have developed more of a social exploration of the topic, we have dissected different aspects of hauntings to try and classify things.

None of what I say takes away the impact of the movie for me. I still cringe thinking about certain parts and embrace the idea of the curse (that’s another post altogether) while watching every single time I see it is on.

Poltergeists are the spirits of people and can act together to haunt people

One of the fundamental ideas put forward by the original movie is that the activity in the house is due to the people still buried underneath the house. Their spirits have been disturbed and disrespected, and they together decide to exact revenge on the humans living above them. I know the idea changes as the movies progress, but as a stand alone work of art, Poltergeist teaches us that the spirits form some sort of union and collectively decide to strike. There would seem to be some overpowering spirit that acts as the shop steward in this, but this idea has no real place in the paranormal world we know now. While this may be more the direction of demonic spirits, it would seem most ghosts, even if they are existing in the same space, have very little interaction with each other, especially if there was no connection to the people in life. There are some notable exceptions to this, but for the most part strangers in life, dying at different times, don’t act together.

That point can be argued, but when you then think about what poltergeist spirits mean to most people today, the movie misses the mark dramatically. Most people don’t even think of these spirits as people but rather telekinetic energy of the living who suffer some sort of trauma in the house. The activity is almost always the work of one spirit that focuses the activity on one member of the family, although everyone in the house is disturbed by what is going on. That disruption can create something very real with its own personality, but the personality usually reflects the id part of the person who created it, doing the things the helpless can’t. Things can get as physical as they do in the movies, one of the things that separate poltergeists from other types of hauntings, but this points to them being more the product of usable energy than spiritual energy. Ghosts can impact the physical world, especially electronics, but they don’t strike out with the same force as poltergeists.

Poltergeists, and ghosts in general, can abduct children and bring them to the ether of the spirit world

This may be the most disturbing moment of the movie and the one my parents often sited when I was being bad a child or they wanted me stay in line. If you don’t clean your room, the ghosts might come and take you away (I’d expand on that, but that psychological damage is for my personal journal). This idea feels ridiculous now; great cinema, but more artistic license than supernatural moment, but it was a real fear for people when they saw this movie. There have been example of time slips or stories of potential parallel universe bumps, and many people who have Near Death Experiences talk about being brought over to the other side for moments before deciding to come back. That is not what happens in the movie. They take Carolann from her bedroom hold her hostage in the veil, and confuse her into thinking she is playing with children until she is rescued by her father.

There are stories of people, mainly children, being taken from their homes, but most of these fall more into the urban legends we come across in the paranormal world. Ghosts, even poltergeists, have been caught in lies, and again there are many of these kinds of tales when it comes to the demonic, but the whole thing seems like something I read in my collection of Irish folklore, and even they only carry their children into the fairy realm.

Poltergeists can be photographed or can be talked to using the television

The most memorial moment of the movie, the catchphrase that survives the series, might be its most seminal lie. This one might the one uncomfortable for some people, and in that way we really need to understand that there is no formal classification of spirits and no set characteristics of any single part of the paranormal. That being said, there are some accepted classifications of spirits and set characteristics of the paranormal. Poltergeists can tear a room apart and throw people across the room, but they are not thought of as having any aspect of themselves presented in a corporal way to the people they haunt. Maybe you can capture a smear of energy, but not couples walking calmly down the stairs. This is even more strongly a media creation if you accept the idea that they are the energy of the living.

Most reports of poltergeist activity reflects a very remedial form of communication. There are a series of knocks for basic answers to questions. They are not known for leaving EVPs or written messages, and you never hear of that kind of spirit having a long conversation with someone. These things all exist in other forms of ghosts, and are the touchstone moments in many of our paranormal lives. In this situation though, the ghost just would not talk that way.

 

Tripping a Train and Coming Up Empty

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Sometimes the force of a good ghost story moved more like a toddler on a tricycle than with the speed of a train.

After doing research on the legend of the Ringling Ghost Train, I discovered some things.  The first is that no one has ever heard of it and it has no trackable presence online.  This is unusual in that a story like this usually has some kind of traction in the modern era of media.  Not even older sources of hauntings have it listed.  I found a few other hauntings connected with Ringling Brothers, but nothing local or even connected to the college.

I did find more information on the depot itself though, and the news is a bit more encouraging.  It would seem that while the arena where the circus laid up for the winter has been pretty much torn down, the depot still exists.  The Venice Area Historical Society maintains the property and has used it as a way to preserve the history of the city.  A brief history of the depot can be found through their site, although it makes no mention of the legend.  I contacted several people associated with it looking for more information, and I hope to hear back from them.  It is hard to tell from the pictures and map online, but it seems to be accessible to some degree for what I am looking to do, although I will be careful not to enter the property itself without permission from someone from the society on the night of the event.  I will, however, scout the location tomorrow and see if I can get any more details.

I also reached out to Kim Cool, author of the book Ghost Stories of Venice, although the only contact information I was able to use was from her Facebook account.  While this sometimes has the immediacy needed for research, and removes the days you would often have to wait for people to check and respond to e-mails, more and more people are moving away from being active on a daily basis on their account, and unless it is hooked into their phone, it might be a while before I hear back from her, especially considering messages not sent by friends go into the nebulous “other” folder of people’s accounts.

She has several books about ghost stories and folklore from the area, but both her business site and artist site seem to be as abandoned as an old train depot.  Based on some of the information and book titles, I think I might have met her during the infamous St. Pete ghost conference of 2008.  We’ll see if she gets back to me.

Catching a story can be as difficult as trying to catch a picture of a ghost.  My lines have been cast and the stage has been set.  My hope is that even if I can’t get a glimpse of the train Saturday night, some of these contacts I have thrown out there might lead to the next story.

You  can follow the details of the story on Twitter at #Trippingtrain.

Polo Shirts and Glasses

This story first appeared under the name “The Message” at Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads and then in the book Ghostly Adventures.  The story has been changed slightly from its original appearances.  


Polo Shirts and Glasses

We have a hard time letting go sometimes, even when it is for the best.  The person tells us to move on, but we may linger on them, not understanding the signs around us.  Our perception of the moment, our slant of belief, makes angels into ghosts and familiar people into shadows, and we need to clear our heads before things can make sense again.  John was trying desperately to get someone to listen to him, and after his friends and fiancée turned him away, he turned to Denise.

All he wanted to say was that he was all right.

John was from Middletown, New Jersey, and was known as a good guy who went straight to work from high school and was known as a “typical guy.”   In the fall of 1997 he asked his girlfriend, Tara, to marry him.  She said yes and three weeks later he passed away for reasons that have not been discovered to this day.

Denise went to be with her best friend just days after she got the news.  Maybe it was how likable he was, or maybe it was the way he went with no explanation, but everyone he touched was unsettled by the passing.

Unusual things started to happen the night of his wake.  Everyone was standing in the driveway getting ready to leave when the sensory lights began to blink on and off.  John had been working on them when he died, but he had never finished installing them.  “They had never worked before, and never did again,” says Denise, remembering Tara laughing about the lights before breaking down sobbing.

Tara became convinced she saw John at night.  “She would wake up and see him sitting on the bean bag in her room.  She told me it became something that happened every night.  She stopped sleeping, but that didn’t stop it either.”  She would also see him at the foot of her bed and hear him walking through the house.  She would be too scared to talk to him and lie under the covers, hysterical.  She began sleeping with her parents and was unable to walk in areas of the house she thought he had walked on.  When she walked in the house, she would shift direction or talk the long way around the room to avoid places the ghost had stepped.  Her parents thought it might be PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) but they still ripped up the carpet and changed the house around trying to settle her mind.  Nothing worked.

In the meantime, John’s friends started to see him at night too.  He would appear at night at the foot of their beds or in the corner of the room.  He always seemed like to want to communicate with them.  Most of them hide under the covers until he disappeared or ran out of the room.  Other convinced themselves they were dreaming, until they started to talk about it.  He appeared to at least six of his friends before one of their mothers went to a psychic about it.  The psychic said he was trying to tell them something, and they went to her as a group.  They were unable to make contact.

Denise also had her own experience, but she didn’t tell anyone until eight months later when Tara finally went back to school at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, West Virginia.  She asked Denise about the wake and the funeral because she had blocked most of it out.  Denise told her and then began to tell her a dream she had not longer after his death.

“I call it a dream because I don’t have any other explanation.”  She was sleeping in her bed, her room in complete dark, when she was suddenly awoke.  John was standing in the middle of her room looking down on her.  Everything in the room was dark except for him.  He had on a navy blue polo shirt with a red symbol and glasses, something she had never seen him wear.  “He told me to tell her that he was okay.  That he was happy, that he had moved on and that she doesn’t have to be afraid.”  Denise says he was solid, talked his usual voice and there was nothing unusual other than the fact he shouldn’t have been in the room.”

Tara’s reaction when Denise told her about this was even stranger.  She ran out of the room and came back with the only processions she kept from John; a navy blue polo shirt with a red rider and a pair of glasses he never wore after he had gotten his contacts.

There were no more occurrences after that.  After hearing the story, John’s friends moved on knowing their friend was okay.  Tara found peace as well.  “Prior to that she used to go to his grave every single day.  It was an obsession, she had to go.  If she didn’t she couldn’t function.”  Now she has married another man and is happy in her life.

“After my dream, the message got to her.”

Meeting Mrs. Gately

The events that mold our lives usually happen when we are looking the other way.  We blink, and fate steps on our toes.  Relationships are the same way.  We hold a door open and our soul mate smiles at us.  People who experience the paranormal often come face to face with the butterfly effect, wondering what it was that brought them to the park that night or what attracted them to the house they now cringe to enter.  Kenny, a former resident of East Dedham, Massachusetts, met the woman who would change his ideas about life almost thirty years ago.

 

Unfortunately, she was dead.

 

On October 27, 1977, Kenny experienced something that would have a profound effect on his life: so profound he recites the date from his teenage years today without even thinking about when it happened.  He was walking to his Grandparent’s house in East Dedham at about 4:30 p.m., just as the sun was setting.  Unlike other teenagers, he enjoyed going over there and often made the short trip from his house.

 

As he walked he noticed an odd, sparkling glow underneath a streetlight about 150 yards away.  It being Halloween time, he thought it might be a Halloween decoration, but as he got closer he saw it was the perfect image of a woman.  Thinking it might be a gag he kept walking towards her, looking for some type of projector creating the image, but the closer he got the more defined her face and features became.  As he came several yards from the image he realized he was staring at a ghost.

 

The woman was in her late 30’s or early 40’s, tall, with her hair tied up in a pun and pinned down.  She was wearing a long pleated dress almost to the ground with puffy shoulders, but her feet were clearly several inches above the pavement.   One odd feature he still remembers is her long fingernails.  The entire figure was in white, and she seemed translucent, as if she were a projection, and Kenny continued to look around for something that was throwing her up there.  The woman was completely still, and image and not an interactive spirit, and she stood with her mouth open and her hands at 90 degree angles with her palms up.  What Kenny really remembers, even today, is the detail of her clothes and face.  She was not in this world, but he could see every line of

her face and every wrinkle of her clothes.

 

He became convinced he was seeing a ghost when he began to circle the woman in white.  He was 3 or 4 feet from her and she appeared in three dimensions, hologram technology too advanced for the late seventies.  He was curious, not scared, and although he considered himself open-minded but by no accounts a believer in ghosts, he thought there might be a reason she was there.  During the entire encounter, the street was completely silent, and he felt there should be more activity or that someone would come by and see them.  He asked her who she was and if there was any reason for her to appear, but she did not move or speak.  After about ten minutes, he began to feel there was something wrong with his grandparents and ran the rest of the way to their house.

 

Kenny arrived at their house, winded and a bit nervous.  The asked him what was wrong, but he stayed silent until he grandfather asked him why he was off.  Kenny eventually opened up and told him the whole story, but his grandfather did not seem startled by his tale.  He had experienced something similar when he was younger in that same area while he was working a pony cart.  It was just dark when he saw a woman come out of the woods and knew it was a ghost.  He whipped the horse to get out of there quick and never went on the road after that when it was dark.

 

He attributed it to a story he had heard about a man who either had killed his wife and dumped her in the water to be found later or had killed her near the water.  The brook where she was found became known as Murder Brook.  Kenny’s grandfather believed he had seen the murdered woman walking from the water to her house, trying to get home.

 

Although he was known as a character, Kenny believed his grandfather.  Kenny had never been strongly religious or thought about death, but what he had experienced caused him to doubt what he did believe.  He held his feeling inside though, never daring to tell anyone for fear of being thought crazy or ridiculed.  It wasn’t until he was pressed because of his change of moods that he finally told his closest friend, Tom.  Tom was silent about the haunting, but came back a while later and said he wanted Kenny to meet someone.

 

Kim was slightly younger than the boys, but she had told Tom a story and had sworn him to secrecy.  Murder Brook ran through her backyard, and for the past ten years she had seen the ghost of a woman at the foot of her bed.  The hauntings happened two or three times a year and disturbed her greatly.  When the two of them compared descriptions of the women they matched to the finest detail.

 

Kenny held on to his story for almost thirty years, telling only a few people, but always wondering about the woman he had seen and the reason he had been chosen to witness.

 

Research shows there was a murder like the one Kenny’s grandfather described.  Although there is no body of water known as Murder Brook, and the Dedham Public Library and the Dedham Historical Society were unable to find any reference to it in any literature, there is a Mother Brook nearby.  They were also unable to find any legend about a woman in white walking either in the woods or near water in Dedham.  Records do not say if Mother Brook was used, but a murderer did try to wash his crimes away in a body of water in East Dedham.

 

In 1881 James Gately killed his wife, Mary, by beating her with an ax handle.  The real reason for her murder remains a mystery, but Gately was quoted as saying her hit her to pacify her.  He then walked to a brook nearby, washed his bloodied self off and went back to the house to go back to sleep in his son’s room.  Although the autopsy report states she died of one fatal blow to the head, the room was covered in blood and struck police at the time as the worst murder they had ever seen.  He was brought to trial a year later and found not guilty by reason of insanity.  He was committed to the Worcester State Hospital and is presumed to have died there because there is no record of him after that.  The age of Mary at the time of her death is consistent with the ghost seen by Kenny, his grandfather and Kim, but records could not be found to prove where the Gatelys had lived and where the blood was washed off (Dedham Transcript 5/20/1882)

 

Even proof can be selective.  As we collect more information on the Gately murder we may prove Mary Gately was killed at the very spot Kenny saw her in 1977.  The mystery will never be solved for Kenny.  He had walked that stretch of road his whole life and drove it as a cabby for years after.  That night something was different, and it is this difference that haunts him today and keeps him coming back to that night.  The ghost he saw may have moved on since then, but in some ways Kenny is still in that moment in time, trying to make sense of fate and give reason to the supernatural.