Travel Log…The Devil’s Tramping Ground

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.

20170711_113012The 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.

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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.   

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Listen to Episode 17…Trips, Triangles, and North Carolina Folklore

20170711_105007.jpgThere 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.  

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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.

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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.

IMG_3104It 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.  

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Listen to Episode 19…Tripping Carolina in My Mind

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Listen to Conversations on Folklore with Craig Payst

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The Ghosts Come at Night…Two True Stories

The ghosts come out at night.

That’s what they all tell us at least.  Whether it’s an old ghost story, and legend, or a talking head on a paranormal show, there’s something about a dark and stormy night that sets the table for an encounter.  Reasons are sometimes provided.  Pseudo-scientists, obsessed with explaining the paranormal using the idea of waves will talk about the sun’s radiation being lessened and how that allows other energies time to shine.  Other will say that with the lack of light our other senses are heightened.   The truth may be we’ve been told ghosts will come when the lights go out, and so we’re ready for them.  Either way, there’s something about being defenseless, in your bed, that makes those shadows or creaks come alive and reveal the dead.

DSCN1211Maybe those sleeping moments are the reason.  You’re subconscious and dream world bleed into reality and create hallucinations.  Maybe you’re more awake when you’re asleep.

Over the years I’ve collected dozen of stories with two common elements; beds and ghosts.  These are not moments of sleep paralysis or Old Hag Syndrome; they’ll be another post about those.  Instead here are two stories of people who put their head on their pillow expecting a good night’s sleep, but something happened on the way to dreamland.

The Bedroom

Jason is an eighteen year old son of Portuguese immigrants who have lived in the Fall River/New Bedford area since their arrival in America.  Members of his family have had numerous experiences, including a ghostly kidnapping of sorts in a chapel near Isben, but Jason remembers what happened most in the second house they lived in when he was only ten.

The landlord told them the three bedroom apartment on South Main Street in Fall River had a history of “weird” things happening, but Jason’s father didn’t believe in that sort of thing.  There had been reports by people living in the apartment of and neighbors had said things were found moved and there were sometimes noises coming from the kitchen when no one was in there.

For the first four months nothing unusual happened and the whole family ignored the cold spots that occurred randomly in the house.  “It was summer, and sometimes you’d have to wear a coat in the kitchen sometimes,” Jason relates.  He and his family were never sure what rooms would get cold or for how long.

It was Jason’s room that became the source of tension in the house.  One night, around 1:00 in the morning, Jason got up to go to the bathroom.  When he returned to the room the window was open.  He remembered having closed it but shut it again and returned to bed.  He tried to go back to sleep, but he opened his eyes again when he heard his window slowly opening again.  He raised his head and there was no one in the room.

DSCN1200“I was too lazy to get up and close it, so I tried to forget it and went back to sleep.”  He couldn’t though.  As soon as he put his head back down, the window slammed shut.  He sat up and watched as the window opened and closed four or five times while he watched.  He ran out and slept on the couch.

Over the next few days he begged his parents not to make him stay in the room and they eventually broke down and moved his little sister in there.  After a few nights she experienced the same thing and “flipped out.”  Jason says he was young at the time and there might be another reason, but the family moved out less than a month later.

Goodbye

After arguing over where we would live, I decided in 1999 to move from Boston to Orlando, Florida, to be with my fiancé.  Jenna and I were living on Park Drive in Boston with another friend of ours, Amy.  Nothing had ever really happened in the apartment, although we would often have the feeling we were not alone or that we were being watched.

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Also, Karma, Jenna’s cat, would attack the walls.  I would photograph her when she would do this, but I never picked anything up.

 

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After we loaded all my things into a moving truck we went to bed because Jenna and I were leaving in the morning to start the twenty-one hour drive to Orlando.  Because my bed was packed, I slept on our comfortable couch.  I was woken up at about four in the morning by a kiss on my cheek.  At first I thought it was Jenna or Amy, but it seemed odd for either of them to come out and kiss me.  Her face was right next to mine, close enough that I have kissed her back.  I remember thinking my face was even still wet from the kiss.  The only word I can use to describe her expression is bittersweet, like she was going to miss me but was happy for me as well.  She had these intense, squinted eyes, like when someone you know is trying to send you a message without saying anything so other people don’t pick up on it.  I turned to get a better look at her, and instantly she appeared across the room near the girls’ bedroom, like she was on a sliding dolly.

IMG_E4683The girl now standing by their door was slightly shorter than either of them with her hair coming down off her shoulders.  I could not make out her face, and as I was about to say hello, she turned to leave and disappeared.

The Backroom

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.

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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.

IMG_4281.JPGIn 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.

IMG_4297Either 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.

Scary Story a Day…The Guard at the the Door

These next few we’re going to call the Jenna Chronicles.
 Jenna was my roommate for years and got this whole thing started for me.  We sat down together that first night and set up http://www.geocities.com/chrisandjenna441/Massachusettsghostsandlegends/, the precursor of Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.
In addition to being willing to talk to anyone and egg me on to do the same, Jenna was a magnet for activity. She was part of the background for the Mr. Mustache story and the Haunted Majestic legend and experienced the FedGov and Charlesgate cases with me.  By the time we made our first trek into the Bridgewater Triangle to look into haunted Rehoboth, she had already experienced enough odd things to fill a book.
If you have a story or legend contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com.

 

Sometimes it takes a while to piece together the little things that happen on a day to day basis and realize there might be something else at work.  Sometimes when spirits don’t get their due they pop their heads up and tell you they’re there a little louder.

Jenna and I were living in an apartment together on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton.  It was a small apartment with a tiny room for a front entrance that had an intercom system and a door buzzer.  We centralized the phone there and soon found Jenna’s cat, Karma, was fond of playing near the front door.

There were two locks on the door, but I never locked both of them, even when nobody was in the apartment, because the same key that unlocked one unlocked the other.  Anyone who could break into one could easily get into the other.  I soon became annoyed at Jenna.  She would double lock the door when she went to bed and then double lock it when she left in the morning.  I was getting bored having to open both locks every time I wanted out or in.  After a few months I asked her to stop.  Her eyes sparkled when she told me she never touched the lock, but was getting annoyed that I was always double locking the door.  This continued until the day we left.

1412During the same time, Karma would often jump at the wall in the front entrance, playing with something that wasn’t there.  The intercom would often buzz and there would be no one needing to get in.  We didn’t think about it too much because the apartment building was filled with younger people like ourselves.  Whether drunk or just trolling for someone to let them in, it would not have been unusual for people to hit an apartment that wasn’t there’s.  Our phone would ring at all times of the night and day and there would be silence on the other end of the phone.  Several attempts to contact whatever was there failed to give us any solid proof of a spirit, but we knew they were there.

It wasn’t until my friend was coming to stay with us that we experienced fully what the ghost was capable of.

My fiancé at the time, Jill, had come to stay with us over the summer.  She and Jenna were at home waiting for my friend to arrive from out of state while I was working down the street.  Jenna was working at the computer in my room and Jill was sitting on my bed.  They were talking when they heard something in the front hall.  They stopped, and heard the door lock by itself.  They looked at each other, and Jenna screamed and jumped on the bed.  They heard it click several times, and then the buzzer went off.  After arguing over who would get the buzzer, Jenna went out.  It was my friend.  She buzzed him in and unlocked the now locked door, opening it a bit so he could get in.  She then ran back to my room and on my bed.

Several seconds later there was a knock at the door.  The door was now closed, and the deadbolt locked.  They both walked to the door, arm in arm, and let him in.  When I got home an hour later, to a double locked apartment, they were all still on the floor of my room.

Scary Story a Day…Shadows in the Apartment

These next few we’re going to call the Jenna Chronicles.
 Jenna was my roommate for years and got this whole thing started for me.  We sat down together that first night and set up http://www.geocities.com/chrisandjenna441/Massachusettsghostsandlegends/, the precursor of Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.
In addition to being willing to talk to anyone and egg me on to do the same, Jenna was a magnet for activity. She was part of the background for the Mr. Mustache story and the Haunted Majestic legend and experienced the FedGov and Charlesgate cases with me.  By the time we made our first trek into the Bridgewater Triangle to look into haunted Rehoboth, she had already experienced enough odd things to fill a book.
If you have a story or legend contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com.

 

Jenna and Nicole have had many experiences together due to their astrological signs.  Jenna is a Pisces, or the last sign in the zodiac, and Nicole is an Aries, the first.  Together they formed a life cycle and became a magnet for all sorts of paranormal activity.

One summer they lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Dallas, Texas.  They began to experience things almost immediately.  “It was really benevolent”, says Jenna.  The spirit would try to help them, but never quite get it right.  It would take the batteries out the remote and replace them with fresh ones.  It would put soda in the freezer to get it cold, but they would only find it after the can exploded.  It would turn lights off when they weren’t home.  They had gotten use to the little annoyances when they accidentally invited something else in.

When they moved in, Nicole had put crystals in the entrances to protect them and keep bad spirits out.  She placed one by the front door and another in the window in the back.  Jenna came across the one near the door while cleaning and threw it on the counter.  Almost at one the atmosphere in the apartment changed.

Two days later they were getting ready to go to bed.  They slept in the same bed, and as Jenna put her head down she noticed a black shadow behind the TV facing them.  She tried to ignore it, but Nicole asked her if she saw something in the corner of the room.

The object was as tall as the ceiling and four feet wide.  It at first looked like a shadow, but there were no lights on.  As it got closer it appeared to have substance, more like thick black smoke than a shadow.  There was no sound coming from it and it did not give off an odor.

Nicole ran to put the light on and it flew across the room to intercept her.  She got the light on and ran back to the bed, but the cloud followed her and stood at the foot of the bed.  It was right in front of them and they could see it fully.  It would slowly start to creep onto the bed and then slowly creep back when they would yell at it to stop.  They were both scared.  The cloud was both threatening and mesmerizing as the streams of smoke moved like a lava lamp and then bled into each other.  “You felt that it could possess you at any moment.”

After fifteen minutes of watching this, they call Nicole’s cousin, Mallori.  She was psychic and had experience dealing with the paranormal.  She came over a few minutes later with a camera, a picture of her spirit guide, batteries, a bell, and a piece of fabric that Jenna does not remember the significance of.

They bolted from the bed and got the door when she arrived.  They had to walk straight through it to unlock the door.  “You could feel it.  It sort of sapped you or something.  It was weird.”  They ran back into the bedroom, but Mallori stopped right in the doorway, consumed by the smoke.  She wouldn’t move.  “It was like she was doped or something.”  When she eventually got into the room she tried to load the batteries into the camera, but they were now dead.

Mallori began to ring her bell and the spirit moved out of the bedroom.  They shut the door, but the image of the object was coming through the wood.  It started to flash images on it, and all three of them began to draw what they were seeing.  The first was a face with a three-point crown on.  It also spelled out the words SEX and EPT.  Jenna saw all the images in black and Nicole saw them in white, but they were seeing the same thing.

Then Nicole started to act unusual.  She would daze out and then complain about a stabbing pain in her back.  Mallori tried different things to force the spirit back, but the more she tried, the harder Nicole yelled.  The cloud eventually moved out into the living room and then slowly disappeared, but they felt it never left.

Jenna and Nicole then had a string of bed luck involving their jobs and love lives.  Everyone who would come into the apartment would freak out and want to leave.  A friend who spent the night on the couch said he heard whispers in his ear all night long.  A few weeks later they decided to move to Boston.

“We just sold everything, packed up and left.”

The Country Tavern

This was a classic haunted I first heard about in the early days of researching. I got the story because my parents ate there on an almost weekly basis. The legend was already hot by then, but when I published it in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places, it’s infamy grew. There is less spoken about the legend today, but the backstory and first hand accounts make it a classic New England haunted tale.

The aged wooden building now known as Country Tavern in Nashua, New Hampshire, has served many purposes over the years.  The flashing video sign and new coat of paint might hide the history to those passing on Amherst Street, but anyone who has been inside knows the past comes off the walls.  The antiques on the walls and exposed beams hint at stories that stretch back, and any waiter or waitress you ask is willing to share the history of Country Tavern’s most famous visitor.  Camille, the owner, looks more like a uncle or old friend than the proprietor of one of the most successful restaurants in “America’s Number One Town to Live in” as he shakes your hand and confirms the story.

At Country Tavern the talk is of Elizabeth.

Originally built as a farmhouse in 1741, the newly restored building was once the house of Elizabeth Ford, the wife of a ship captain.  After one of his long voyages, he returned to find his wife pregnant by another man.  He waited until the baby was born and then killed them both, burying them somewhere on the property.  Some say they were buried directly on the land below where the restaurant now stands.  Other say he dumped them in a well on the property.  Either way, Elizabeth has stayed on the property.

Employees of the restaurant report items being moved and hearing footsteps late at night.  Some say she would regularly cause things to fall and break.  This seems to be the most malicious thing she desires to do, because most stories about her describe her actions as harmless and at times even pointless.  There is no rhyme or reason to what she does.  The sightings seem to be focuses more on women on the premises and her favorite activity used to be to play with women’s hair in the ladies room.

There have been several physical sights of the mother.  She is never seen in detail, but more as a shadow with a face.  She is most often seen looking out the windows to the parking lot in the back of the building.  One customer was in that parking lot smoking a cigarette before rejoining his family inside.  He saw a door on the second floor open and close several times without anyone moving through.  The door then began to swing violently, still with no one appearing.  He questioned the people inside who confirmed no one was in the area at that time.

Although a specialist was brought in during the late nineties to give Elizabeth peace, the owner and staff do not try and hide what they have experienced.  The reports of her activities have all but stopped, but the employees and customers keep the tragic story of mother and child alive.

Nick’s Nest

This is another found story, and another case of serendipity leading to a treasure.  I was originally supposed to go to a gallery opening in New York with Jackie Barrett, but snow made travel impossible.  The next day I planned to go to the Warrren Museum and spent a while talking to Lorraine on the the phone, but it started to snow again.  Instead, after the snow had stopped, a friend and I headed out to Nick’s to follow up on a report we were told.
Although the restaurant has hit come controversy of late, Nick’s is still around and changing with the times, although it is unclear whether they are still experiencing anything unexplained.

 

Nick’s Nest in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is a landmark built on tradition.  People can sit at the counter and touch the past, and enjoying a hot dog and some homemade baked beans has never felt more like traveling back to a simpler time.  From the basic, original menu to old the neon sign and the antique music box, when you get sit and eat your popcorn you feel someone from another age is sitting next to you, whispering old stories.  The new owners know all about touching history.  They feel the ghost of a past owner walking the halls, checking up on the place.

Although it is now a landmark in the town of Holyoke, Nick’s Nest earned its name in part from its humble beginnings.  Nick Malfas was the very definition of the American dream.  Malfas first started his business as a popcorn pushcart in 1921.  Every morning he would fill up the cart and walk up and down the streets of town selling his goods.  As his popularity grew, he continued to expand his business.  Without money to buy a professional electric cart, he converted an old Ford model T into a makeshift mobile restaurant by building the popper into the truck.

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One set of stairs where people have seen a ghostly figure.

 

In 1927 further expansion forced him to open a store on his favorite corner in Holyoke.  The new highway was being built, and Malfas knew the right food in the right location would be the perfect fit.  The story goes the building was so small his wife called it nothing more than a “nest”, and they just knew the name was right.  In 1948, Malfas decided to move to a new location that included two additional floors for his son Charles.

Charles took over the business and continued to run it like his father.  Every passing year meant more pressure to expand and modernize, but Nick’s Nest stayed much the same as it always did.  The menu remained simple; popcorn, hot dogs, baked beans, soda and soup from time to time.  The people of Holyoke took this consistency to heart, continuing to cherish the restaurant for its delicious, high quality food.  The bean recipe became notorious and the hot dogs were always made from lean fresh meat.  Once, when the meat packers went on strike, hot dogs were taken off the menu until the best meat could be purchased again.   The food was always good, but it was the tradition and nostalgia that truly drew people in and kept them coming back.

Charles son, Charles Malfas Jr., has become as much a part of the modern legend of the place as the food it sells.  Much has been said about him, and all of it falls into the realm of rumor.  Some say he did not like the family business and tolerated working there and running the place after his father passed because it was the only life he knew.  Others say a injury that forced him to install chairs lifts from the restaurant floor to the residence on the second floor prevented him from working the restaurant the same way his father and grandfather had.  Other say he was influenced by a seedy friend who manipulated him to take out a second mortgage to pay debts and ultimately sell the restaurant.

While none of this can be confirmed, Charles Jr. did allow the business to go downhill.  He was said to be rude to customers and employees, many of whom had worked there for years.  Press releases and interview contradict this, but former employees and old customers tell a different story.  Old ways were looked down on, and money stopped getting put in for repairs.  The second floor was not kept up and the third floor was all but abandoned.  It was at this time the rumors of a possible ghost began.  Again, nothing can be confirmed, but Charles Jr. was said to have been pestered by some spirit in the place, and the rumors all stated it was one of the old owners showing their disapproval of the state of the family treasure.

DSCN1214In early summer 2005, the location was bought by Kevin Chateuneuf for a little over six hundred thousand dollars.  The price included the restaurant, the residence and the attached house and the secret recipes and traditions of the name.  Kevin and his brother-in-law Ted went about rebuilding the business and restoring Nick’s Nest to its old glory.  Ted moved into the second floor and has since become familiar with all the sounds and odd winds connected to such an old building.  It was Ted that first started to notice odd things, but he brushed them off at first.

Odd things started to happen to different electric devices in the restaurant.  Several times the radio in the restaurant turned on after Ted had shut it off for the light.  He though he had forgotten in the course of closing up the first time it happened.  “We hadn’t been there that long,” says Ted.  “We were both new on what we were doing closing up.”  He shut the stereo system off, but then heard it on after he had made it upstairs.   The second time he knew he had turned off the radio when hours later, while sleeping upstairs, he heard it on again.  He was too tired to go down and turn it back off, but he started to think something unexplained was happening.

Another time the lights in the basement went off when he knew he had left them on.  The main switch lights the stairs and first section of the basement and then hanging lights all along the rafters light the rest of the area.  He and another employee were moving things out of the basement.  When they went back down, the basement was in total darkness.

Another time Kevin was walking with his wife and decided to go by the store after it had closed.  Ted  had closed up for the night and the building was locked and the lights turned off.  As they made their way down the street, the couple noticed something odd.  “We went past the place and, I don’t know why but we looked up,” says Kevin.  “There was a light on on the third floor.  I knew there was no one there.”  Kevin also saw a figure in the window, but assumed it was a reflection of something on the wall behind the window.

Ted confirms he shut the light off before going to bed, and the switch is located as you leave the stairs.  No one had access to the second or third floor other than Ted himself and there is no way to get to the third floor without going through Ted’s apartment.  As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Kevin has been unable to rent the space is because there is no way to get out in case of a fire.

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The most disturbing incident happened when both when were working late just after they had purchased the property.  “We hadn’t been there that long.  We were both new on what we were doing closing up,” says Kevin.

They were in the office on the third floor when they heard a long creak and then a loud bang from one of the doors on the second floor.  “We were sure we were alone.  We just heard a creak and then, ‘Bam’, it slammed.  It sounded like the loudest door in the world,” says Ted.  The two felt the temperature and began to joke with each other about who would go upstairs to check.  Neither went to check, but they were sure no one else was in the building; they both reported there was no wind that night and the door that was the best candidate for the sound was open when Ted eventually went to sleep.

Orbs seen on the second floor landing, the area where the slamming door was heard.

All of these experiences could be passed off it was not for other disturbing elements to the house.      While the store was open one day, Ted was hit in the back of the head with a package of plates.  The plates were not on a shelf above him and no employees were behind him.  He also reports things falling off the rack that have been placed securely.

Ted, as a resident in the building, as had more exposure to oddities that might exist in the building.  He has heard creaks that sound like footsteps and has experienced cold spots.  Much of the activity seems to center around the second floor residence.  Ted is sure there is something there, although he not quite ready to admit it might be a ghost.  “Sometimes when I’m in there (his room on the second floor) I sense something is with me.  I look over to my right (down a hallway that leads to the room in the front of the building).  I look over and feel something is there.”

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Another spot of activity…ignore the orb…

There are other things about the house that remain unexplained.  The intercom on the second floor is pulled out, almost as if destroyed in anger or frustration.  In the days when Charles lived there, it acted as an intercom to the store, and the microphone to it is still hanging in the store.  He would go up to sleep or take a break during the slow times, and when it was busy, his father would call up to him to come down and help.  Could it be the father still tried to communicate through the line after his death, perhaps giving some sign of his disapproval of the way things were being run?

There are also an abnormal number of thermometers placed throughout the second and third floor.  They are not thermostats, but rather cheap gauges measuring changes in the room.  Almost every room has at least two, including doors near crawl spaces and the kitchen.  Why would it be so important to know the temperature?  If there were spirits in the house, they might have caused dramatic changes Charles was trying to monitor.

In December of 2005, Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads traveled to Holyoke to interview the owner and his brother and law and take a tour of the place.  During the visit, pictures were taken of most of the rooms and temperature and EMF reading were made.  Several unexplained orbs were sighted in areas mentioned as having activity, although it should be mentioned almost all were in areas that had the potential for dust.  The temperature often dropped ten degrees in small pockets of space, especially in the basement.  In one of the third floor bedrooms a small object, like a plastic bag but with a tip on the top, was seen in both the video and digital pictures taken.  This room is just off the main room on that floor, where the light went on, and had a bed and some personal items left by Charles, the only room to have anything from the former owners.

As the investigators left they took the time to get some pictures of the outside of the building.  The light on the third floor was on, even though the video clearly shows Ted shutting it off and no one has access to it after they had left.

Kevin and Ted are unsure who they ghosts might be.  Both believe it to be Charles Senior, checking up to see what they are doing.  They have recently started renovations to restore much of the original look of the house and store, and Kevin believes Charles likes this.  Before they bought the building, neither was told of any haunting and nothing has been reported by the tenants of the office space attached where Nick and his family lived.  No customers have ever had anything happen, but a few employees, mostly former or older employees have said they hear odd noises, like footsteps and voices, from time to time.

There are rumors Charles Senior reported the place being haunted to a few customers.  This seem like more of a rumor, especially considering his disposition.  It seems unusual he would confide such sensitive information given his personality.  It is worth noting the investigation into Nick’s was sparked by an e-mail from a ChuckyLighthouse who we have been unable to contact since.  If Charles Junior did indeed retire to Maine or Florida as some have said, he may very well have an affection for lighthouses.

It is hard when your future is laid out for you.  Nick Malfas worked hard to pass something on to the next generation and to leave a piece of himself behind.  After generations, sons can lose sight of this.  From your birth you are planned to inherit the mantel, even if you want another path.  Those kinds of emotions can stir up negative feelings, and if last wishes are ignore, there might just be enough there to allow someone to return.  Two generations lived for the small store in Holyoke that was nothing more than a nest, and in death they seem to still feel the emotion of its neglect and the pride in a new family looking to bring back the old days.