Bloody Brunckow Cabin

A weathered ruin is all that remains of Arizona’s bloodiest location.

  • This adobe structure dates back to 1858.
  • As many as 22 deaths have been reported in or near the cabin.
  • Reports of “unquiet spirits” were reported as early as 1881.

Crumbling adobe walls sit on a hill overlooking the dry, meandering bed of a San Pedro River tributary. Ants and snakes burrow into the rocky soil, past the bleached bones of unfortunate prospectors and outlaws resting in shallow graves. At night, a cold chill descends on the desert floor of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Those who dare approach these ruins after sundown often report unsettling encounters with the unseen.

Located south of Charleston Road between Tombstone and Sierra Vista, Arizona, the remnant of this small adobe cabin is known as Brunckow Cabin and has been described as “the bloodiest cabin in Arizona history.” After reading the tragic history of the cabin (and the tortured souls rumored to haunt it), I had to see it for myself. Over the years erosion, vandalism, and neglect have taken their toll, and the historic site may not remain for much longer.

Finding it is not easy, and visitors are wise to use Google Earth and GPS coordinates (N31 38.31 W110 09.45 to be exact). What I found was a few decaying walls, but the remoteness of the place was not lost on me. It was easy to feel a chill up my spine as I went over in my mind the events alleged to have taken place there.

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Rewind the Clock at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park

Visitors report strange encounters with unseen entities under the glittering lights of this a lakeside resort town in central New York.

  • The first Sylvan Beach amusement park opened on Oneida Lake in 1886.
  • A Lady in White is seen and felt in the abandoned Yesterday’s Royal Hotel.
  • Sylvan Beach appeared in an episode of Ghost Hunters in 2013.
  • Zoltar the wise gypsy will tell your fortune at Carello’s Carousel Arcade.

Carnival rides, roller coasters, fun houses, arcades, sparkling lights on warm summer nights reflecting off the lake, these are the sights and sounds of Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake in central New York. For over a century, vacationers flocked to Verona and Sylvan Beaches in the summer, leading the area to called the “Coney Island of Central New York.”

Today, visiting the local amusement park and beachfront is like stepping back in time. After the lights go down, many visitors and employees have reported encountering the unseen among the old buildings, leading the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park to be featured on the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters in 2013.

Prior to European settlement, the Oneidas and the Onondagas, both members of the Iroquois Confederacy, lived in the Oneida Lake region. They called the lake Tsioqui, which means “white water.” Remnants of their fishing villages are still occasionally uncovered around the lake. During the early 1800s, Yankees from New England poured into the area, looking for more fertile land.

James D. Spencer and his sons began real estate speculation on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake in the 1850s. They recognized it as a prime vacation spot, and hotels and amusement parks soon sprung up. Carello’s Carousel Arcade (independently owned) opened in 1896, and children can still ride their original wooden carousel. Unfortunately, the original fun house at the park burnt down. The oddly named Laffland was installed in 1954. Its deceptively cheerful clowns have been terrifying children for decades.

Sylvan Beach Amusement Park features many rides and games, including Kiddieland, Laffland, the Bomber, Tilt-A-Whirl, Bumper Cars, Rock-O-Plane, Bumper Boats, arcade, Treasureland, Bonanza Shooting Gallery, and the Galaxi Coaster. Other well-known Sylvan Beach businesses include Yesterday’s Royal, Harpoon Eddie’s, and Eddie’s Restaurant. Yesterday’s Royal is closed down and currently sits empty, alongside several other amusements and local bars. Hopefully they will reopen in the near future.

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The Southwestern Ghost Town of Fairbank

A collection of sun-bleached houses, and a desecrated hilltop cemetery, are all that remains of this once prosperous silver town.

  • Fairbank was the last stop on the railroad before Tombstone.
  • It was once the scene of a train robbery.
  • Some visitors report seeing strange lights in the graveyard at night.

A forgotten cemetery on a sun-baked hill in the desert, rattlesnakes coiled on an old wooden porch, and tumbleweed drifting through dusty, abandoned streets all bring to mind the quintessential southwestern ghost town. Located off State Route 82 along the San Pedro River in Cochise County, Arizona, Fairbank is just such a ghost town.

An American Indian village known as Santa Cruz once occupied the site, but white settlers soon arrived to displace them. Fairbank grew up around the nearest rail stop to Tombstone and was first settled in 1881. It was originally known as Junction City and then Kendall, before residents finally decided on Fairbank in 1883. It was named after Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, founder of the Grand Central Mining Company.

On February 15, 1900, the Burt Alvord gang attempted to rob the express car on the Benson-Nogales train as it was stopped in Fairbank. Express Agent and former lawman Jeff Milton, who was the son of the Confederate Governor of Florida, John Milton, foiled the robbery when he threw the keys to the safe in a pile of packages.

During the shootout, he mortally wounded “Three Fingered Jack” Dunlop and wounded Bravo Juan Yoas. Milton himself was seriously wounded in the arm, but pretended to be dead when the outlaws finally boarded the train. The outlaws were unable to open the safe and fled with only a few dollars. “Three Fingered Jack” died in Tombstone.

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Paranormal Books & Curiosities a Rare Treat

As I venture outside my home state of Illinois, I’m continually amazed by how much more interest in folklore, ghost stories, and the paranormal is accepted in other parts of the country. Even though Chicago is a major metropolis, and Illinois is home to three or four annual or semi-annual ghost conferences (in Decatur, Rockford, Mattoon, and Chicago), nothing I have encountered in Illinois compares to the enthusiasm for this subject in other states.

For instance, while famously haunted buildings like Peoria State Hospital and Ashmore Estates attract a crowd, I have never waited in bumper to bumper traffic before ultimately being turned away from a tour by police because there are just too many people lined up, as happened when I tried to visit Willard Asylum last spring.

I was equally impressed when I saw that more than a dozen local tourism bureaus in New York State had banded together to create and promote a Haunted History Trail. Now, in New Jersey, I stumbled upon Paranormal Books & Curiosities, a store catering to fans of things that go bump in the night.

Located at 627 Cookman Avenue in artsy downtown Asbury Park, New Jersey (itself worth the visit), Paranormal Books & Curiosities is owned and operated by Kathy Kelly. She first opened its doors in 2008. More than a store, it offers ghost hunting classes, seances, paranormal investigations, lectures, and a paranormal museum. Several haunted tours depart from there as well.

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American Vampires Long on Lore, Short on Vampires

americanvampireAmerican Vampires: Their True Bloody History from New York to California by Dr. Bob Curran is an interesting look at the darker side of American folklore, but ultimately falls short as a guide to American vampire lore. Published in 2013 by New Page Books, American Vampires is 254 pages and retails for $15.99. It contains 14 chapters (including the intro and conclusion), and includes stories from Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Wyoming. It is beautifully illustrated by Ian Daniels.

American Vampires takes a multicultural view of American folklore, drawing from American Indian, British, Irish, and African sources to explain the origins of many of our tales. Readers will be treated to a rich tapestry of myths, all of which merge together to form the foundation of our own unique American folklore. This reminds us that certain themes about mortality—and what lurks in the darkness, are universally human. It is a fresh perspective that Dr. Curran, as a native of Ireland, brings to this book.

However, American Vampires suffers from a major thematic problem. Although Dr. Curran argues that vampires are more diverse and complex than often portrayed in popular culture, he stretches the definition of “vampire” to the breaking point and beyond. He describes any supernatural or folk-entity that drains energy or tastes blood as a vampire, and entire chapters go by with only passing reference to a “vampiric” creature.

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New York Does it Right with Haunted History Trail

While popular haunted places in the Midwest struggle to gain recognition and help from local governments and mainstream business/tourism organizations, one state is getting it right. When I began researching legends in Upstate New York, I came across this website, and I was surprised to discover that the website was the result of cooperation across more than a dozen local tourism bureaus. This year, they released a full-color, 24-page guidebook to dozens of allegedly haunted places you can visit around New York, with phone numbers, addresses, and websites divided by region and type of experience.

Whenever the subject of haunted places or tours is discussed with community leaders in my home state of Illinois, it is usually in hushed tones, as if they are speaking of porno theaters or international crime rings. Despite the benefits of paranormal tourism, for example, a number of years ago local church leaders in my hometown petitioned the public library board to shut down a friend’s ghost tour, which she had ran successfully in cooperation with the library for years, because it was allegedly “occult” related.

Haunted History Tour of New York State is an effort by dozens of public and private organizations, including the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., Livingston County Office of Tourism & Marketing, Syracuse Convention & Visitors Bureau, Oneida County Tourism, New York State Tourism (creator of the popular “I Love New York” campaign), and many others. Their website and brochure offers a guide to over 30 different locations across the state, many of which have appeared on paranormal-themed television shows. The website also has an audio tour, haunted road trips, and a calendar of events.

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My Favorite Haunted Places Along the Gulf Coast

As many of my friends and readers know, I spent the summer and fall of 2014 along the Gulf Coast. Not only did I find the weather beautiful, but I also found rich history and folklore. During that time, I was able to visit some pretty interesting places in cities like Naples, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are some of my favorites.

Pensacola Lighthouse in Pensacola, Florida. Photo by Michael Kleen

Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum

2081 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
www.pensacolalighthouse.org (850) 393-1561

Pensacola Bay has long been a strategic harbor, and even today, it is used for military purposes. The Pensacola Lighthouse sits on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, home of the Blue Angels. The current lighthouse, located at the north side of the bay, was built in 1858 and lit in 1859. It is made of brick and stands 150-feet tall. In 1861, an artillery duel between Union and Confederate forces lightly damaged the tower. Today, some visitors claim to hear footsteps, heavy breathing, and their name being whispered. Others have had objects “thrown” at them in the keeper’s quarters. [Read More…]

Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo by Michael Kleen

Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library

2244 Beach Blvd. Biloxi, MS 39531
www.beauvoir.org (228) 388-4400

Otherwise known as Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home has an interesting history. It was built in 1852 by a wealthy plantation owner named James Brown. Jefferson Davis did not reside in the house until 1877, twelve years before he died. His daughter Winnie continued to live there until her death in 1898. The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home opened on the grounds in 1903 and operated until the 1950s. It was home to around 1,800 Civil War veterans and widows of Confederate soldiers. Roughly 780 of them are buried in the cemetery located on the property. Several visitors have reported encountering someone who they assume is an actor playing Jefferson Davis in the gardens. [Read More…]

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