Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The First Days of the Haunting in Connecticut

On June 30, 1986, the Snedeker family (formerly of New York) relocated to the city of Southington, Connecticut to be closer to the hospital where their son was receiving treatment for cancer. They rented the downstairs portion of a home on Meriden Avenue that had recently been converted to serve multiple tenants. Before then, the building had been the home of the Hallahan Funeral Home. Over the next two and a half years, the family would report an assortment of paranormal activity that they claimed grew increasingly violent towards them and ultimately resulted in an exorcism. Their accounts of their stay in the home have been debated to this day by skeptics and believers alike and are the source of a book, television docudrama, and most recently a feature film titled The Haunting in Connecticut. The film's DVD release is slated for July 14 and is sure to renew interest in the story.

Read the accounts, controversy, and adaptations of the reported haunting at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Takeover of Cashtown Inn

The small community of Cashtown, Pennsylvania flirted with the events of the United States Civil War in late-1862 when a Confederate calvary briefly occupied the town, but it was short lived. It is possible that the citizens thought a similar scenario was underway when on this date in 1863, Confederate Major General A.P. Hill arrived in town and immediately set up headquarters in the town's Cashtown Inn. However, this time was different. A few days later, General Henry Heth would lead his men to a town seven miles away in search of supplies and encounter forces of the Union Army. A fight would erupt. The nearby city was Gettysburg and a battle was underway that would cause mass casualties on both sides and be a pivotal engagement in the war and the history of the United States.

Aside from forever becoming intra-linked with the infamous Battle of Gettysburg, the small community, and Cashtown Inn in particular, would find reminders in another way. Today, the inn is well known for its ghost stories and tales of paranormal encounters. In recent years, its stories have been featured and investigated by the likes of Ghost Hunters and the Travel Channel's Mysterious Journeys, as well as countless books that explore the ghosts of the Civil War.

Read more about the ghosts of the Civil War at Cashtown Inn.

-Casey H.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Sentencing of Chante Mallard

On June 27, 2003 former nurse's aid Chante Mallard was sentenced to fifty years in prison for the death of Gregory Biggs. The case for which she had been tried is infamously known as the Windshield Murder. On October 26, 2001, Mallard struck Biggs with her vehicle. The unfortunate victim became lodged in the winshield of her car. Under the influence of alchohol and possibly other substances, Mallard decided not to report the accident and drove home. Mallard then apparently left the poor injured man trapped in her garage where he finally died.

The tale of Gregory Bigg's miserable death quickly circulated among the public, however with many false details and even led to a film in 2007 (Stuck) that is loosely based on the rumors surrounding the case. These tales excentuate the cruelty of Mallard by having Biggs lingering for days in her garage as Mallard coldly alternates between ignoring the man and plotting how to dispose of him. This is known to be false, in that Gregory Biggs was revealed through forensics and testimony to have died within hours of the accident.

Accomplices of Mallard's dumped the corpse of Gregory Biggs in nearby Cobb Park. The park has been the scene of many crimes and has been a dumping ground for murder and rape victims on multiple occasions. Many of the crimes remain unsolved. Luckily in the case of the murder of Gregory Biggs, the people responsible were put on trial and are facing the punishment meted out by the court system.

Click here to learn more details about the Windshield Murder case and other crimes associated with Cobb Park.

-Tom G

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Desecration of a General's Grave

Today marks nine years since it was discovered that someone had desecrated the remains of Civil War General Elisha G. Marshall at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY. The dead man's bones were discovered scattered around his place of interment. His skull wasn't discovered among the littered remains and still has not been recovered all these years later. Was the act a misguided and sick prank or was it part of one of a dark ritual; one of the ones said to take place within the confines of the large cemetery from time to time? Odds are that someone out there knows the truth... and the current whereabouts of the missing skull.

The crime isn't the only one to occur inside the cemetery's gates. Wander to the Mt. Hope Cemetery to discover what horrible thing happened there on Halloween night last year.

-Tom G

Sunday, June 21, 2009

When Japan Struck the U.S. Mainland in WWII

On this date in 1942, a Japanese I-25 submarine surfaced just miles from the Northwest Oregon coastline using night as its cover and the soldiers inside ran to their battle stations. Their target was an area of land on the northwest corner of the state where they believed a U.S. Naval Station, complete with submarines and destroyers, was stationed. Their goal was to strike back at the U.S. Mainland, after being caught off guard by the U.S. Doolittle Raid on Japan, and divert further military resources to shoring up the protection of the mainland. An earlier shelling of the Ellwood oil production facilities near Santa Barbara, California had caused no casualties and only $500-1,000 worth of damage.

In reality, a Naval Station had been approved, but was not yet under construction. However, it was home to the American military installation, Fort Stevens, that served to protect the mouth of the Columbia River. It was home to 2,500 soldiers who immediately ran to their stations when the first shell was fired. Because the Japanese were cautiously keeping their gun sight free in case of American reinforcements from the air, they fired at nothing in particular, attempting to draw return fire to hone in on their target. However, orders were quickly dispersed at Fort Stevens not to return fire (either because they were concerned about giving away their positions or that the submarine was out of range of their cannons). In total, 17 shells rained down on the Oregon coastline before the Japanese submarine re-submerged and escaped into the night.

The only reported casualty of the shelling was a baseball diamond backstop. The closest the shells came to a military post was about 300 yards in front of Battery Russell. The concrete artillery battery dated back to the early 1900s and it would be decommissioned before the end of the war. Today it is a popular tourist destination in the park, and home to a ghostly night watchman according to some. Another shell that reportedly landed nearby is marked today by a historical landmark that relates the seldom reported attack. While the attacks were less than successful in causing major casualties and/or damage, it did create widespread panic up and down the West Coast of America and helped reinforce the need to “relocate” Americans of Japanese ancestry into internment camps for the duration of the war.

Check out the historical landmark and read more stories of Battery Russell.

-Casey H.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Salem Saga

On June 20, 1970, the cast and crew of the popular television situation comedy Bewitched moved their production to the city of Salem, Massachusetts. The decision to suddenly shoot a series of episodes on location was necessitated by a fire that damaged and destroyed some of the Bewitched sets in the studio that normally housed the production. The writers rapidly set to work, crafting a series of episodes that would have the characters visiting both Salem and Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The on-location shoots brought an expected temporary burst of business to Salem, which had been financially suffering as its shipping business decreased over the years. It also had an unexpected long term effect in that the episodes, once aired, caused tourism interest among some television viewers. The initial boost in tourism turned into escalating waves of tourists, until Salem was transformed into the city full of museums, tourist shops, psychics, and haunted attractions it is today.

The episodes which where shot on location in Massachusetts are collectively referred to as The Salem Saga. Among the episodes are two that deal with an enchanted bed warmer that chases Samantha following her visit to Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables.

Venture to the House of Seven Gables and see what follows you home.

-Tom G

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Tribute to the Lake Erie Monster

On Father's Day 2005 (June 19th), Dale and Gerard Schofield debuted their own personal tribute to their recently deceased father, Thomas. In 1994, Thomas decided to pay tribute to an area's local legend by building a full-scale replica. Sightings of the Lake Erie Monster, also known as South Bay Bessie or just Bessie, date back to 1793 and have continued sporadically in recent years (see Lake Erie). A flurry of sightings in the late-1980s/early-1990s inspired one bordering town to capitalize on the marketing potential. In 1990, the town of Huron, Ohio passed a proclamation that declared the town was the “National Live Capture and Control Center for the Lake Erie Monster.” To further their cause, the local businesses joined efforts to raise $102,700 for the live capture of the creature, as well as built a containment pen where Bessie would be relocated if captured.

Schofield joined in on the fun in 1994 and released his 35-foot replica of Bessie in a marshy area near the Huron River and in full-view of passing motorists on SR-2. The sculpture was firmly embraced by the local community and remained in place until 2004 when it mysteriously disappeared following Schofield's death. The marsh area would remain empty for one more year until Schofield's sons stepped up. On Father's Day, the two men payed tribute to their father by building their own sculpture and even gave it its own “baby monster” to keep it company. At last word, the sculpture had been damaged, but no word on if it has been repaired or whether it has managed to stay around this time. As for Huron, Ohio – No lake monster (alive or dead) has ever been turned in for the reward, but the reward is still out there.

Read more tales of Bessie and Huron.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Haunted Old West Ghost Town

On this date in 1863, the town of Virginia City, Montana was officially registered, although the townspeople originally opted for the name, Varina - a name that did not sit well with Union officials during the American Civil War. Varina happened to be the first name of Confederate President Jefferson Davis's wife, Varina Howell Davis, and its selection was no accident. At the time, the overwhelming population of "Varina" happened to be Confederate sympathizers, despite being in the heart of the Idaho Territory, which was in the Union. Rather than accept the townspeople's choice of a name, Union officials recorded the registration as Virginia City. The name snub by the officials was one thing, but there are some that wonder if those same officials were not responsible for a terror that was yet to come.

At the time, Virginia City was a booming gold-rush town with no law protection. Crime was rampant in the town until the arrival of a force of men known as the Vigilance Commission. These vigilantes took matters into their own hands, serving as judge, jury, and executioner and their methods were brutal. According to some, some of their "criminals" did nothing wrong outside being sympathetic to the Confederate movement. It is also said that much of the gold that was found in the town played a major role in funding the Union Army during the Civil War.

Virginia City, Montana still hosts a population around 100 today, although the structures and ambience are really frozen in the time of its glory days. Aside from being a popular tourist stop as a living "ghost town," it has also gained a reputation of another sorts. Today, the community is considered the most haunted town in the state of Montana - probably due, in no small measure, to its violent past. A popular tourist stop in town is with the Virginia City Ghost Walks, who pass along the paranormal legends that hide in the shadows.

Take a walk through Virginia City, Montana.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Incarceration of a Wild Bunch Member

112 years ago on this date, Henry "Bub" Meeks was arrested in Fort Bridget, Wyoming. While initially charged with a robbery charge, the authorities were more interested in Meeks for a crime that had been committed in the state of Idaho. Just under a year before his arrest, it was alleged that Meeks, together with Wild Bunch gang members Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay, had held up a bank in Montpelier, Idaho. Unfortunately for Meeks, he had been designated lookout on the heist and as such, did not wear a bandana over his face. Since Cassidy and Lay both entered the bank and held it up, they did although it was generally well acknowledged that the bank had been hit by the "famous" Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch.

Due to the easy identification, Meeks was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to serve time at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise. During his stay, Meeks made two failed escape attempts. For his efforts in his last attempt, he received a bullet in the leg that later required amputation. Now severely handicapped, he turned to attempting suicide to escape the prison's walls. In one of the cases, he managed to climb a 35-foot wall and made a dramatic leap to his supposed demise. He received only minor injuries. The story of Meeks did not end there and he is only one of many stories of the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

Click here to read more.

-Casey H.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Mystery of the Stars and Stripes

On this date in 1777, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the original 13-star version of the United States Flag. Not surprisingly, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 that officially declared today as Flag Day, although not technically an official Federal holiday. The state of Pennsylvania, however, decided to declare it a legal, state holiday in 1937. Of course, the Stars and Stripes and Pennsylvania are forever intertwined as the flag's origins date back to the state itself. As popular legend goes, the Philadelphia seamstress, Betsy Ross, is credited with sewing the first flag.

This brings us to yet another anniversary. On this date in 1937, in conjunction with the declaration of Flag Day as a state holiday in Pennsylvania, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia opened its doors to the general public. Today, the house is still welcoming tourists from around the world, although it has a few mysteries of its own. Aside from reports of paranormal encounters, the restless burials (plural) of Ross herself, there are now questions of the role the woman, now called America's Seamstress, played in the creation of the American Flag. Did someone else design the flag or is Ross the victim of conspiracy theories?

Pay a visit to her house and decide for yourself.

-Casey H.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

30 Years Since Darla Left Us

On today's date in 1979, actress/singer Darla Hood unexpectedly passed away at the age of 47 years. Hood, who was primarily known for work she had done as a child actor in the Our Gang (Little Rascals) series of film shorts, had been attempting to organize a reunion of Our Gang actors to take place during the following year. Sadly, her plans and life itself were interrupted when she contracted a fatal hepatitis infection during an apparently routine medical procedure.

Of the child actors who appeared in the Our Gang shorts, one committed suicide, two (including Darla) died at early ages due to medical problems, two died in accidents and three were the victims of homicide. These deaths, along with other cases of misfortune involving the former child stars has led some to believe that there is a curse upon the cast of producer/director Hal Roach's comedy series. There are others who say that statistically the numbers are not extreme for the small sample of the population that the Our Gang actors represent. Either way, there are definitely some dark and tragic tales among the life stories of the Little Rascals.

Pay a visit to Hollywood Forever, where Darla Hood and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer are interred.

-Tom G

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Other Tragedy at Ford's Theatre

Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. has a long and storied history. Originally built as the home to the First Baptist Church of Washington in 1833, it was converted to the theater, Ford's Athenaeum in 1861 after being purchased by John T. Ford. After a fire necessitated a rebuild, it reopened as the infamous Ford's Theatre. It served in this capacity when its place in history would be forever cemented with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865 as he attended a play inside the theater.

While most people know Ford's Theatre as the site of Lincoln's assassination, few know of another tragedy that struck the building years later. After serving as the site of various government-related offices over the years, Ford's Theatre had become the clerk's office for the War Department by 1893. On June 9th of that year, tragedy would once again rear its head at Ford's Theatre. On that day, the front of the building collapsed and 22 people lost their lives, while another 68 were gravely injured. Given the amount of lives that were lost, including the high profile assassination of Abraham Lincoln, gossip began to circulate that the theater was forever cursed and the superstitions necessitated its transformation into a government warehouse.

Ford's Theater has avoided any further tragedies to this date and has since been re-opened as a theater and museum to the life (and death) of Lincoln. While the talks of a curse seem to have subsided, there are still rumors of ghosts and paranormal activity haunting the facility to this day. In fact, stories persist that Lincoln's assassination still plays out in paranormal form from time to time inside the historic building.

Read more stories of the historic Ford's Theatre.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 8, 2009

No Justice in the Death of George Wythe

On this date in 1806, the so-called "Father of American Jurisprudence" passed away from arsenic poisoning. Wythe earned that moniker as the first professor of law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, but he has other historical accomplishments as well. In addition to being one of the Virginia delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence, he was also one of three to draw up the rules and procedures for the Constitutional Convention.

Later in his life, Wythe became an abolitionist and followed through by freeing his slaves. Taken his new viewpoint one step further, Wythe amended his will to provide for his former slaves, Lydia Broadnax and her son, Michael Brown - today there is speculation that she was his lover and the boy was his son. The news did not set well with his grandnephew, George Wythe Sweeney, and other heir to his fortune, who decided to take the matter into his own hands and devised a plan to poison them with arsenic. Wythe and Brown received a fatal dosage of arsenic, while Broadnax survived. Due to bigoted laws that forbade testimony of blacks against whites, Sweeney was acquitted of the crime. However, Wythe had survived the poisoning long enough to write his grandnephew completely out of his will - administering the only justice they would receive.

Wythe is buried in the cemetery at the St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia - the historical site of Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. Wythe is one of many historical figures buried there, including the mother of famed horror author, Edgar Allan Poe.

Read more stories of the Richmond St. John's Episcopal Church.

-Casey H.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Active Month of the Haunted Highway

Stories of haunted highways and phantom hitchhikers are known around the world. While there are variations to the tales depending on the locale, there are often similarities. The story of Highway 365 in Arkansas is no exception with the familiar tale of concerned drivers stopping to give a ride to a teenage girl; often wearing a torn and bloodied prom dress. After following the directions to her house, the driver arrives to find that the girl has mysteriously disappeared from the backseat of the car.

Interestingly, this particular account is tied to an accident that is said to occurred in the 1950s where a young woman and her date die in a car accident on the way to their prom. The tie to the prom might explain why this particular girl is often said to be most often cited in the month of June on or around a bridge on Highway 365 (formerly known as Highway 65).

This tale is also tied to Dark Destinations interestingly enough. You may or may not have noticed our unofficial logo (or one of the many variations) of the dark road. The road is none other than Highway 365 that was taken when else, but in the month of June 2007. Sadly, the hitchhiker did not make an appearance that night, but one never knows if and when she might be popping up this year.

-Casey H.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vampire Proms and Ghosts at the View Point Inn

On this date in 1925, the now world-famous View Point Inn opened its doors and offered its guests a spectacular view of the Columbia River Gorge in Corbett, Oregon. Although originally opened as the Palmer House, the inn underwent various name changes with consecutive owners until current owner Geoff Thompson reopened the facility in 2007.

Since its purchase and reopening, staff and guests alike have reported unexplained ghostly phenomenon. Among the wide-range of activity cited (credited to not one but two ghosts) are cigar smoke that appears from nowhere, disembodied footsteps, doors that open and close on their own, drapes that jump off their supports, the sounds of a child giggling, and more. Although its paranormal stories are only now coming to light, the View Point Inn is perhaps more famous for its recent appearance in the 2008 hit vampire film, Twilight. In the film, the inn played host to the famous prom sequence, which appears at the end of the movie. Not missing an opportunity when it lands on their laps, the View Point Inn continues to host Twilight-themed parties and events to this day.

Read more on the View Point Inn.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spooky Legends of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Recognized today as one of the more luxurious hotels in the world, the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has a rather twisted and dark history. Opened originally as the Banff Springs Hotel (the Fairmont name was added in 2000 when it joined the hotel chain) on June 1, 1888, the Canadian hotel got off to a rather odd start when it was discovered one year into the construction that the structure had been inexplicably built backwards from the original plans. Adding to the mystery and quirkiness, a design flaw would result in one room being constructed with a lack of any windows and doors - essentially being walled off and forgotten until years later.

Over its history, the hotel has endured a fire that necessitated a rebuilding, as well as countless ghost tales and legends. Among its reputed otherworldly inhabitants are a bellhop that refused to leave after his death, a ghostly bride that is sometimes seen covered in flames, an ever-helpful unseen bartender, and a missing room rumored to have been the site of a tragic murder and where fingerprints of a young victim are said to be impossible to remove from the room's mirror. While some account these tales to the fanciful imagination (and early marketing ideas) of a former manager, others insist that something strange is afoot in the grand old hotel.

Hear the ghostly tales of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

-Casey H.