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.”

Met State: The Asylum Time Forgot

There’s an odd thing how paranormal landmarks work.  There’s an ebb and a flow to the popularity of locations which draw people in.  Whether it’s the Lizzie Borden’s Bed and Breakfast or Eastern State Penitentiary, these locations have a tendency to flare up, become very popular and eventually take a backseat to the next supernatural trend. Usually it’s due to television and media exposure, and much like a hot trend on television for the season, unless there is a deep rooted sense of community or legend within the story behind the location, it is almost impossible to keep the momentum.

Metropolitan State in Massachusetts is a lot like that.   Obviously when the hospital was still open reports from there were frequent.  When you consider its closing aligned with the rise of ghost hunting television shows and the founding of investigation groups, it’s no wonder it became one of the most popular legends in the Metro Boston area.  The longer it sat unoccupied, the more the stories grew.  The larger the fence was around it grew, the more people needed to see what was behind it.  It was even featured in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places.  Then nothing.  

After I found this old article, I tried to connect with some of the people I had spoken to about it and research whether things were still being spread the old building.   People I spoke to who research and investigate in the area had to look  it up when asked about it.  Met State’s time has come and gone.  It will be interesting to observe what might happen to it as time passes.  These things tend to go in cycles.

 

Asylums feed into our very idea of terror.  The insane, the locked doors, the masked doctors performing treatment we’d rather not think about.  To hear the word conjures up images we try and block out.  The buildings, designed to be inviting and practical, fit into our worst visions of these asylums, and as they fell into ruin they became more and more intimidating.  The torment that went on in them and the patients who died without names and without peace create a settling ripe for ghosts and ghost stories.

Although not as famous as its nearby cousin Danvers State Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital in Middlesex County, Massachusetts has become known itself for the type of ghosts and ghostly legends that give people nightmares.  No one knows what went on behind the cement walls of that building, but our imagination has created its resident’s lives.  When reports started to come out about the strange happenings on its grounds, Metro State was labeled as haunted, and since its closure in 1992 those rumors have been confirmed time and time again.  Trespassers inside the building and people just interested in the beauty of the land say the same things doctors and mental health workers had said for decades.  Metro State is haunted.

metstateWhen looking at the hauntings at Metro State Hospital, it is important to separate the facts from the legends that now surround them.  The rundown buildings lie in Waltham, Belmont and Lexington, Massachusetts, cutting into the landscape of three very different communities.  It was originally opened in 1930  and functioned successfully for decades..  Although many mental health treatments in the past century seem ludicrous to us today, Metro was always on the cutting edge of the field.  As methods changed, Metro changed with them, and when severe financial cutbacks hit the state in the 1980’s, Metro felt them as much as the other institutions in the state.  The buildings were plagued with overcrowding and understaffing.  Unlike other hospitals that could be converted to prisons or juvenile detention facilities, Metro State was hampered by the design that had made it unique.  The building was finally closed in the early nineties. 

During the time it acted as a functioning hospital, its residents suffered horrible conditions and saw the worst of human sorrow.  Lost souls filled the rooms, giving in to homicide and suicide by its residents.  Doctors tinkered with experimental treatments like mind-altering drugs and electroshock therapy.  The poor died without family around them to grieve.  The psychic energy amassed in within its walls makes the hospital a prime area for the appearance of ghosts.

The reports started while the building was still open.  Several employees spoke of shadowy figures seen at night.  Described as a looking like a tall slender man but having no solid form, the unknown visitors would walk through walls or appear in locked rooms.  Residents reported the same shadow, but the reports were ignored as delusion.  Then nurses and security officers began seeing them too.  One woman described at least three different men who all walked differently.  She stated it became common knowledge around the main buildings and were talked about but ignored.

Other residents reported hearing the screams of residents who had passed, especially those who had suffered electroshock treatment at the hospital.  One employee went to assist a certain patient he had had a close relationship with.  The man was screaming about his mother, but when the worker, recently back from a vacation, went into the room a different man was there.  His resident had died over the week.

met6Underneath the hospital runs a network of tunnels once used to travel to different parts of the 23 acre grounds.  The tunnels were lit by intermittent bare light bulbs, and patients were often found in them after having wandered off.  There were also reports of deviant workers would take willing and unwilling patients down there for sex.  Whispers were often heard down in the tunnels although no people could be found.  One man described always feeling as if there was someone behind him or in front of him, but he never saw anyone there.

Not all the spirits in the yard are happy.  Poorer patients without families were buried on the site.  Hundreds of bodies were laid to rest in unhallowed ground with nothing but a marker stating their religion and a number.  Although there have been recent attempts to find their identities and give them a proper burial, their souls seem trapped.  Glowing red and green figures have been seen in the areas of the old and new cemeteries.  The emotions of these people are felt throughout the grounds.  People have heard whispers and footsteps and one woman stopped walking near the grounds after she continuously saw visions of the patients while near the building.  Although she walked without really thinking about what went on there, she would see them inside her head and feel what they had felt.

met5The reports continued after Metro State’s closing.  The longer it remained closed, the more the main building looked like a stereotypical haunted house.  What was once a beautiful and intriguing piece of architecture was became covered with graffiti with broken windows and crooked doors.  Adventure seekers and paranormal investigators found their way in.  Inspired by their own fears and the media coverage of the asylum, they broke in.  Equipment has registered activity such as EMF readings, bizarre changes in temperature and ghostly photographs.  They have experienced the same shadows and screams reported while it was still open, but they have also felt sudden sadness and depression hit them and seen objects in plain sight move by themselves.

The ghosts are not confined to the buildings.  There have been numerous sightings made on the grounds.  Designers envisioned a active yard where patients would receive occupational therapy and grow their own crops.  Touch and sensory treatment was also utilized.  This positive energy has also been imprinted at Metro State.  In the daytime there have been reports of people with a glowing aura picking flowers with smiles on their faces.  These people disappear when approached and have even been seen floating slightly off the ground.

met3Like other asylums throughout the East coast, the grounds at Metro State are being recycled.  AvalonBay Communities Incorporated has purchased part of the land and is converting it to apartments and a golf course.  Buildings are already being torn down and construction has started, giving rise to a new chapter in the land’s history.  The same company has been buying old hospitals and building homes, laying the foundation for a new set of hauntings and legends.  Instead of a haunted house being on what was once an old Indian burial ground, people will begin to talk of houses built over the sunken remains of old asylums.

met2If a society is judged on how it treats its sick and helpless, should it not also be judged on how it remembers it?  Metropolitan State began as an experiment in curing those society had cast away.  The souls trapped in the hospital may never find peace and those walking the grounds may never find rest.  That then remains the legacy of Metro State; a reminder of what we tried and a living ghost of just how far we need to go.

Grandma’s Raising Your Child

Regina always felt close to her grandmother, Maria, living with her most her life, surviving tragedy together and sharing all of the best times of her life. After Maria’s death from cancer in 1989, Regina found herself feeling guilty over her death and saddened that her grandmother and friend would not be able to share the most exciting stage of her life.  She was dating the man she would eventually marry and soon there would be children.  “I think she would have gotten a kick out of my sons.  She never had a grandson except Paul and Michael a bit later.  She would have loved them.”

Lately Regina has begun to feel that Maria might not be missing out but is sharing her family’s lives in the apartment she used to live in.  Regina has felt her grandmother’s presence since her death, but since the birth of her second child and the boys moving into what was once her grandmother’s bedroom, the feelings have turned to physical experiences, and as the moments seem to intensify, Regina is left more confused than scared.  “It’s scary, but more or less positive,” says Regina, an energetic mother and cataloger at a library in Boston.  “Ever since she died there’s been a connection there.  What’s the message?  I mean, what’s the main purpose?”

grandma2Regina lived in the same house as her grandmother for most of her life.  After a fire in 1981 they were separated for a few months, but when her parents bought a two family house in Everett, Massachusetts, Maria moved in downstairs.  Regina would climb down the backstairs to her grandmother’s apartment to have tea and spend time talking.  When Regina left for college in the late Eighties, Maria became sick.  She tried to come home as much as possible, but the college was in Western Massachusetts and her grandmother was in and out of the hospital.  The night before Maria died, Regina had a confusing dream that seemed to trigger the connection between the two.  She dreamt of standing over her mother’s casket, her grandmother at her side.  The next day, although she was doing better, Maria passed away.  Regina never fully got over the guilt she felt about not being there, and it did not help when years later she heard her grandmother had responded to her absence by saying, “What, is geography more important to her than me?”

The first time she noticed something unusual about the apartment was shortly after her grandmother’s death.  She was staying there with some riends from college.  They joked around and watched scary movies, but some time during the night each of them experienced something they blew off until the next morning when they all told what had happened to them.  They each distinctly heard tea being made, from the sounds of things being moved to the clinking of the pot and the sound of the spoon against the cup.  Regina sees it as a sign of their connection.

“As soon as I would get home from school in the afternoon she would yell up the backstairs, ‘Are you coming down for tea?’  It was our thing.”

Four years later, now married, she moved in to the apartment.  Through the years she noticed small things but constantly pushed the idea aside.  “You look back and make the connection.”  There was often a smell in the apartment she associated with her grandmother, even though the apartment had not been lived in for years and her father had renovated the place.  They both would smell her grandmother’s perfume, White Shoulders, mixed with cigarette smoke, often coming from the bathroom.  Maria would often sit in the bathroom smoking and doing crossword puzzles.  Regina would also see shadows out of the corner of her eye and experience vivid dreams about her.  One involved Maria standing on the newly renovated upstairs porch, dressed in black, holding a baby, and eerily cackling.  She also woke up once to her grandmother in the room glowing white with angelic wings.  She felt it might have been a dream, but the next morning she found feathers in her bed.

1172840_10152431110917841_210684489_oShe attributed most of the dreams and experiences to her imagination and guilt.  When her second child was born, however, things began to intensity.  “When I had Anthony I needed more room so the two kids could share a room.”  She moved Anthony, and his older brother Tom, into the bedroom where her grandmother once slept.  Almost immediately things started to happen.  There was a fire alarm installed in the room that ran off the electrical of the house.  It started to beep as soon as the kids moved in, although her and her husband had lived there for three years without any noise.  They cleaned the alarm, reset it and had an electrician take a look at it, but every time they put it back up it went off.

Tom, her three year old son is often heard talking to someone over the baby monitor.  Regina hears a soft buzz and then her son whispering low enough so that she cannot understand what is being said.  When Regina finally got up enough courage to ask him who he was talking too he explained, “I’m talking to my friend, the lady.  The lady that watches me sleep.”  Tom has started to not sleep in his room, preferring to sleep with his mother in her bed.  Recently, Regina was talking with her mother upstairs with the boys asleep in their room.  Her mother heard Tom talking over the monitor and asked what he was doing.  Regina explained to her skeptical mother, Maria’s daughter, who she feels has had things happen to her but refuses to talk about them.  Regina went back downstairs and right before she opened the door to the boys’ room, she heard Tom say, “Shhh,” over the monitor.

There have been other signs that there might be someone else living in the house.  The family dog does not go in the room unless there is someone in it, often circling around the door when it goes by and running from the room into Regina’s lap.  Regina has seen a figure in the hallway out of the corner in her eye.  She has not gotten a solid look, but she knows there is someone there.  Keys hanging from hooks in the hallway start to swing when she feels someone is there.

nanaLately things have gotten stranger.  Near Halloween she was sleeping in her bed with her son.  From the angle she was at she could see her mirror and through the mirror the reflection from her television.  All of a sudden there was a bright light about the size of a grapefruit in the mirror, slowly moving from side to side.  She tried to rationalize what was happening, thinking it might have been the Halloween lights outside, but she could not tell where the light was coming from.  She closed her eyes, but when she opened them, the light was clearly in the room inches from her, right above her son.  The light then seemed to move into the bathroom, at which point Regina ran into a different room.

A few nights later she was again lying in bed with her son Tom when she felt someone sit on the bed.  She could feel the pressure and thought it might be her husband.  When she looked there was no one there.  She asked, “Nana, is that you?”  The pressure on the bed felt like someone just jumped up and Regina felt as if the room had become suddenly empty.  This experience has confused Regina more than the others.  She always felt the presence was her grandmother, but she does not understand why she would run away when she tried to make contact.

Regina is convinced the spirit is that of Maria, but she is not fully ready to see her grandmother in the kitchen making tea.  “I’m afraid to know.  I like to hear it on the other side but I know it’s not in my head any more.  At some point you have to say, ‘there’s something here.  There’s something going on.”  She feels her grandmother was not ready to die and was on some much medication towards the end she did not know what was happening to her.  If she had, she would have fought it.  She feels Maria wants to see her great-grandchildren grow up and share their experiences.  “She won’t have wanted to miss out on everything she’s missing out on.”  She also feels the nature of what happened points to her grandmother.  “I think the stuff that is happening is her personality.”

Regina also believes the activity will get stronger as Christmas approaches.  “It was her thing,” she says thinking about the holidays spent with her Nana.

Regina has gotten use to the idea of the ghost she might share her house with.  Although she is still not sure what to make of her grandmother, she accepts the signs that are around her.

grandma3It was somewhat discouraging for her though.  Just when she was ready to listen to what her grandmother had to say, she stopped talking.  She continued to smell the roses and cigarettes in the bathroom and sometimes felt someone watching her when she was alone, but the lights and noises stopped.  Pretty soon Regina felt her grandmother must have passed on.

That was until Christmas.

Maria had always enjoyed the holidays.  Regina was able to look back on her experiences in the apartment and see her grandmother had always made herself known around Christmas.  She was not really thinking about it when she put up her decorations this year.  There were other things to think about.  Her husband had just gotten out of the hospital with a heart problem.  More importantly, this was the last Christmas they would be in the apartment.  They had bought a house several months before and were only waiting to finish fixing it up before moving in.  When she had purchased the house she had wondered briefly if Maria would move with them.

Tom, now almost five, made his way downstairs from his grandmother’s upstairs.  He stopped to look at the tree and then went into the kitchen to brush his teeth in the sink.

As Regina finished up the last of the decorations, she heard Tom talking from the kitchen.  He was not singing or babbling, but talking in complete sentences with pauses as he was listening to someone else and responding.  Regina thought it must be her father and went it to say hello.

Tom stood alone on his stepladder with his wet hands in the sink.  He was alone.  “Tom, where’s Papa?”

Tom looked confused.  “Papa’s not here.”

“Well, who were you talking to?”

“The lady with the white hair on the stairs.”

Regina wanted to ask him who the woman was.  What did she look like?  Had you talked to her before?  But all she could do was watch little Tom make his way to the TV room as and think about all the times she had run down those same stairs to go see her grandmother.

Old Ghosts at the Almshouse in Walpole

The Almshouse on East Street in Walpole has been the sight of hauntings since a fire in the late 1800’s and may have been the site of more than one tragedy before that.

 

Built in the early 1800’s by the houses original owner, Daniel Allen, the house was transformed into a house for the poor of the town and a weigh station for the homeless who jumped the railroads tracks nearby.  The poor farm allowed people to work in return for room and board and was supported mainly by town funds.  Because many of the people who lived in the house were unregistered with the farm it was difficult to keep track of who was there and tragedies that might have happened to people who lived a high risk lifestyle, but in the late 1800’s a fire killed anywhere between 16 and 26 boarders.  The house switched hands many times after the fire and in the early 1900’s children accidentally set fire to the barn and caused other damage to the property.  There are also rumors of the house being used as part of the Underground Railroad, and as we have seen in other stories, there has been a coloration between these locations and hauntings, often because of escaped slaves caught, but also because of the emotion releases during the tense moments hiding for one’s life.

 

The house has been known to be the spot of several hauntings, the most regular of which is known as Uncle Joe.  He is said to be responsible for tickling people on the back of their necks and misplacing thing.  There is a bit of sadness in his haunting, as he seems to play out his failed escape from the fire by opening and closing windows and rattling windows.

 

There have been various investigations of the hauntings at the Almshouse, but they have yet to produce anything more than medium impressions and scary stories.

 

The majority of information for the Almshouse came from a 1970 article by Janathan Kannair and an Article in The Walpole Times which ran on October 31, 1985 by Steve Mackinnon

 

Thank you to The Walpole Public Library and librarian Warren Smith for the information.  Libraries and Librarians like them are vital to the research I do and proved most helpful.  Help them keep up the work they do by checking out the Friends of Walpole Public Library and giving what you can.

Horn Pond’s Little Demons

 

100_0203Most of the locals who walk along the picturesque trails  circling Horn Pond know little of its history. They do not know how it was once used to carry supplies in and out of nearby Boston. They look across its empty surface and do not know that boats and swimmers used to sail and play and laugh.

They do not know it is haunted.

Horn Pond has been a source of mystery since before it was settled. Native Americans in the area stayed away from the pond. Their legends tell of a great battle between the gods of light and the gods of darkness. The bad guys were winning victories all across the land, forcing the good guys to run and hide and try to regroup.   Finding a hiding place in Woburn, they made the mountains of Woburn their home until they got word the bad guys had found their hiding place.  They dug out a trench, waited for the evil ones to enter it and then filled it with water, trapping the demons beneath the surface but not killing them.

It’s not a new story.  In fact, there are several similar references to this kind of battle, including one in Lakeville, Massachusetts, where the legend is attached to Pukwudgies.  There the curse was responsible for the sketchy murder of  John Sassamon, the spark of King Phillip’s War.  The backstory is also responsible for haunted ponds and lakes in Minnesota, Michigan, and Oregon.

It may be the demons that have taken the lives of the people on Horn Pond, but it the human spirits people believe they see at night. In the past two hundred years the body of water has taken the life of over forty-five people, an amount made even more outrageous by the size of the pond. Most of the accidents involved boating errors or small children. There have been some reports of falling through the ice, but what is unusual is that there is no curse or negative Native American-settler story attached to the area. Most bodies of water considered this haunted in New England have a story of a settler taking the life of a Native and the pond becoming a source of death as revenge. Natives and modern Americans seem equally affected by the forces.

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The haunting happen at night and during the day. The pond is used for nature walks and has foot traffic even on the coldest day. Some people have said the mood changes when they reach certain spots. They have feeling fine and then need to stop walking and turn around. They often feel as if they are being watched. Dogs have been known to bark or whimper and then become normal again.

At night lights have been seen above the water. They have been described as bright blue, round, several feet tall and hovering above the water. Several people have seen people walking on the water, always with their back to the viewer. One local tells of a canoe she has seen several times. The canoe always is seen sailing to the middle of the pond and then fades away as she watches. The water itself is closed to both boats and swimmers.

Holiday’s Ghostly Pants?

picture courtesy of iHorror

This story originally appeared in the book Ghostly Adventures.  I edited it slightly for modern consumption, but this seems like a great day trip for the Legends Project.

 

Check out the audio from the episode…

Laurie’s work as a paranormal investigator sometimes forces her to keep quiet around people she does not know. Many investigators are fine among their own kind, but the outside world is not so accepting. Spending too much time with people who believe in the paranormal makes you think everyone is open about that kind of thing. It only takes a few people giving you that look, the one where you know they will not invite you over for coffee sometime, to keep your stories and your ideas to yourself.

 

Holiday, Florida, is like that. On the west coast of Florida, halfway down the state but a world away from the lights of Orlando or the history of St. Petersburg, the town is bursting with untold ghost stories and legends. It just takes time, and the right questions, to get them out of people.

 

Laurie was not sure how her neighbors would perceive her experiences when she moved there. “When I first moved to this neighborhood I kept a low profile. No one even knew I was a ghost hunter for ten years. Over those ten years I heard lots of stories from neighbors about strange happenings around there, and since my ghost hunting pastime became known I have heard even more endless reports.”

 

One story stays with her. “About twenty years ago I went to a barbecue at a neighbor’s home, a fisherman who had lots of local yokel buddies. Someone started telling a story saying that he had seen a pair of pants with shoes, like a man from the waist down, run across a nearby road on a rainy night. Another man jumped in to say that he saw it too and pretty soon they were comparing notes, and even with all I have seen and heard myself, I chalked this up to just too much beer and a bunch of tall-tale fishermen telling yet another ridiculous tale.”

 

The story was a legend in the town, but like many legends, there was an air of truth to it. While many accounts came secondhand, there were also people who saw the mysterious pants with their own eyes, making the other stories more believable. Laurie saw the story as legend, but a while later she was confronted herself. “About two years later, I was coming home from a friend’s home. It was late and it was raining, there was a slight fog but nothing blinding. I saw my neighbor’s eighteen-year-old son on the side of the highway near the road that leads to my road. His motorcycle had broken down and he was soaked to the gills. I picked him up to give him a ride home as he lived four houses down from me.

 

“We were driving down the road that eventually dead ends to my road, and as we came over a rise and into the dip that followed I could not believe what I saw. I was driving my old Bronco, which was very tall, and I had my high beams on, which illuminated the road for quite a distance. There are no streetlights here and the road is very dark at night. The rain was still coming down but only a light drizzle now compared to the earlier downpour. There, about thirty yards in front of my truck, was what appeared to be a man from the waist down, crossing the road into a nearby trailer park.” The ghost had no upper body and she could not see its feet. There was only a pair of pants, suspended in midair.

 

“I locked my brakes and sat in disbelief and looked over to the boy beside me. He looked scared to death. The youth asked her if she had seen what he had seen. I said that of course I had and he replied, ‘I am so glad. I have seen it before and no one would have believed me so I never told anyone.’”

 

The clothes matched the description given by the men at the barbeque. “The pants were brown, uniform-style pants, with shoes and a belt, but there was absolutely nothing visible of the man above the belt.”

 

Although it seems most towns in America have some kind of highway haunting, they are usually full-bodied apparitions, not just a pair of slacks. In fact, it is unusual to see only the clothes of a ghost. While many people feel spirits can exists after death, one of the questions always asked is why they have clothes. That question cannot be answered except to say somehow their remaining energy consists of how they viewed themselves in life. Regardless, the phantom pants are a rarity in the field, even to someone with Laurie’s resume.

 

The experience made Laurie more open to legends and local folklore. “That evening I learned that no matter how ridiculous something sounds to me, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to people. I have heard several bizarre claims since. I can honestly say that even though I scoffed and shook my head when I heard the tale, I now have to eat my words on the ghost of the traveling pants. I have no explanation for what I saw that night. I haven’t seen it again even though others claim to have.”

 

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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