Eavesdrop on Voices from the Past at the Burgwin-Wright House

Remnants of a Colonial-Era jail where prisoners were held in appalling conditions make this centuries-old home ripe for ghostly tales.

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In its early days as a British colony, North Carolina was perceived as a backwoods territory full of crime, indentured servants, pirates, and other rough characters. Many ended up locked behind iron bars in the old Wilmington jail, over which John Burgwin built this home. Today, you can tour the house and see its history firsthand, but don’t be surprised if you hear something unusual.

Wilmington’s original wood, brick, and stone jail, known as a gaol, stood at the corner of Market and Third Streets from 1744 to 1768, when it burned in a fire. Nearby was Wilmington’s historic public courtyard, where debtors and lawbreakers were hanged or pilloried. Sensing an opportunity, a British merchant named John Burgwin purchased the property, along with its stone foundations. He built a handsome Georgian-Style home where he could conduct business while in town.

Ingenious construction methods allowed the home to remain cool over the hot summer months, but the Burgwin family spent most of their time on their plantation outside of town. Joshua Grainger Wright and his wife Susan purchased the house from Burgwin in 1799. The Wright family lived there until 1869. Its rooms are well-furnished with eighteenth and nineteenth century antiques, reflecting how these families lived.

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Chicago Haunted Handbook Features a Few Surprises

You would be wrong if you thought nothing more could be written about Chicago ghostlore. Chicago Haunted Handbook: 99 Ghostly Places You Can Visit in and Around the Windy City (2013) by Jeff Morris and Vince Sheilds discovered new gems among well-worn territory. Though a little dated at this point, it still offers enough tales to delight readers.

Published by Clerisy Press, Chicago Haunted Handbook is part of the “America’s Haunted Road Trip” series. At 226 pages and with a retail price of $15.95, this book invites you to, “Join in Chicago’s Grandest Ghost Hunt.” It features 99 haunted places, along with four “places that didn’t quite make the book.” The locations are divided into five sections: Cemeteries; Bars and Restaurants; Roads and Bridges; Parks; and Museums, Theaters, Hotels, and other Buildings.

The authors are an unlikely pair. Jeff Morris, from Cincinnati, Ohio, is an experienced author with several titles under his belt. Vince Sheilds was born in Elgin in 1984 and moved to Chicago in 2006, where he formed the Chicago Paranormal Investigators.

I’ve read just about every book on Illinois ghostlore, so I look at them with a discerning eye. Chicago Haunted Handbook has several good qualities that make it worth owning. First, it features several locations seldom covered by other books. The old Huntley Grease Factory is my favorite, but the Polish Museum of America, Joliet Potter’s Field, Tyrell Road Cemetery, and The Drinkingbird, are all relatively new.

Second, the book contains an appendix of day tripping “mini tours.” Each features a couple of different stops (or days), with a different location for each stop. There is even a haunted pub crawl and a gangster tour. I enjoy extras like this, especially since it allows you to explore these places at your own pace (as opposed to going on a bus tour).

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White Lady's Castle at Durand Eastman Park

According to legend, a sorrowful phantom patrols the shore of Lake Ontario, searching for her daughter’s killer.

Ruins of a majestic mansion and sightings of an ethereal woman dressed in a flowing white gown are ingredients for a classic ghost story, so curious residents of Rochester, New York make furtive nighttime journeys to this park overlooking Lake Ontario, hoping to catch a glimpse of a phantom. Abusive men, however, have reason to fear.

As legend goes, this medieval-looking stone wall was once part of a stately mansion on the hill, occupied by a reclusive woman and her beautiful daughter. The woman forbid her daughter from meeting with male suitors, so when her daughter went for a walk and failed to return home, she feared the worst. She leashed her two hounds and wandered the lake shore, searching for her missing daughter. Eventually, the woman died alone and her house fell into ruin.

The area became a lovers lane, where teenagers would park their cars and fool around. If a young man pushed things too far, or was disrespectful to his date, they said, he risked inciting her wrath. These frightening encounters served as a warning to men to be on their best behavior.

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Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts & Hauntings

Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits by Deonna Kelli Sayed is a book I really wanted to enjoy. Despite its redeeming qualities, however, it feels too much like a first draft. The book promises to be a fresh look at the paranormal in American pop culture, with an insider’s view of paranormal reality TV shows like Ghost Hunters.

The interesting tidbits it delivers, however, are too often undermined by the author’s undeveloped writing style. Even as an introductory work, it fails to summarize the history of interest in the paranormal as succinctly or as accurately as other books on the subject.

Paranormal Obsession was published in 2011 by Llewellyn Publications. The author, Deonna Kelli Sayed, has lived in and traveled throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa (she describes herself as a “Global Citizen”). She was a paranormal investigator with Haunted North Carolina from 2008 to 2011. She has an academic background in social theory and postmodern thought, and this was her first book.

I found the chapter on SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters to be its most interesting section. As a skeptic of paranormal reality TV, I was eager to glimpse behind the curtain at The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and its founders, Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes. Like many viewers, I assumed the show was fake, and like many others, I have frequently blamed Ghost Hunters for spawning hundreds of wannabe paranormal investigators whose knowledge of the subject goes no deeper than what they see on TV. Sayed acknowledges these criticisms while letting Jason Hawes tell his side of the story.

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From Sorrow to Serenity

Monument to Mead Belden (1833-1876) and his first and second wives, Sarah Elizabeth Hubbell (1834-1855) and Amelia Gertrude Woolson (1844-1864) and their family in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. Mead was a Freemason, a clothing merchant, and senior partner of Belden & Van Buskirk. Later, he was involved in construction and helped build canals and reservoirs.

Mead Belden (1833-1876) I

According to legend, either a ghostly bride or bride and groom have been seen descending the stairs to the bottom of the hill. The following eyewitness account appears on a sign for the Oakwood Ghost Trail: “Me & my friends spent the night in Oakwood one night. Over by the stairs graves in the west of the cemetery, I looked to my right and saw the bride and groom. They were beautiful, but they were bloody and they vanished before our eyes.” It’s unclear how this story is related (if at all) to the Belden family.

Where to Order Tales of Coles County

Legends live right outside your door!

The 6th and final edition of Tales of Coles County, Illinois is finally here! If you already own a previous edition, or are hearing about it for the first time, this is the one to buy! 232 pages of hidden history, ghost stories, legends, and lore from one of the most fascinating areas of the state!

Where to order:

Tales of Coles County, Illinois is divided into three parts: Tales, Legends and Lore, and Hidden History.

‘Tales’ takes an entertaining look at local history through vivid historical fiction. When four students from Eastern Illinois University are stranded during a violent storm, they seek shelter with an elderly couple who give them more than they bargain for. After one night, the four will never look at Coles County the same way. With each story, they learn more about the place they’ve come to call home. The Second Battle of the Ambraw, the Charleston Riot of 1864, the Coles County Poor Farm, events surrounding the Airtight Bridge Murder, and the Blair Hall Fire of 2004, all are told.

In ‘Legends and Lore’, Michael Kleen reveals over a dozen hidden stories from the from the area’s past and present, including ghost stories, folk tales, and other legends and lore. When did a poltergeist terrorize one rural family in Pleasant Grove Township? What is the real story behind the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon”? Why do they call one stretch of road “Dead Man’s Curve”? The answers to these questions and more can be found in this definitive volume.

‘Hidden History’ examines events some believe are better left unremembered. What is the history of Coles County’s ghost towns? What were some of its most infamous murders? What happened in the Tornado of 1917? Never-before published information about Mattoon’s battle with Prohibition and even a local chapter of the KKK is inside.

University of Delaware – Historically Haunted?

Nearly every college and university can claim a ghost story or two, but if even half its stories are true, the University of Delaware is among the most haunted in the country.

The University of Delaware opened in 1834 as Newark College and has undergone dramatic expansion in the intervening 186 years. It was established by Presbyterians under the auspices of the Academy of Newark, a school which graduated three signers of the Declaration of Independence. It became Delaware College in 1843 and the University of Delaware in 1921. Twenty-four years later, it merged with the Women’s College of Delaware to become a fully coeducational institution. Each change not only expanded its campus and enlarged enrollment, but cultivated stories and legends as well.

Take, for instance, the legend of the “Kissing Arches.” Storytellers say that when the Women’s College of Delaware opened on an adjoining campus in 1914, brick archways near Memorial Hall separated the two campuses. Young lovers rendezvoused under the arches before returning to their respective schools, and to this day, couples that kiss five times beneath the arches will be blessed with marriage.

It’s a romantic tale born from this unique relationship between the formerly distinct colleges, however, a university archivist told UDaily that men were always allowed to escort their dates back to the women’s campus. If they stopped to make out under the arches, it was by choice.

It’s the ghost stories, however, that have most captured students’ imaginations, and the University of Delaware has more than its share. Reportedly haunted locations include the Academy Building, Old College, Mitchell Hall, Smyth Hall, Memorial Hall, Recitation Hall, and Christiana Tower East to name a few.

The Academy Building at 105 East Main Street replaced a Colonial Era structure in 1841 and was originally part of Newark Academy. The University of Delaware acquired it in 1976 and today it is home to the Office of Communications and Marketing. Appropriately, this building is rumored to be home to the college’s oldest legend.

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Wisdom of Shadows

This cloistered memorial dedicated to Marian Hooper Adams (1843-1885) is by far the most famous in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, 201 Allison Street NW, Washington, DC. Historian Henry Adams commissioned this sculpture of a hooded figure from artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens in honor of his wife, Marian “Clover”. The statue, though Adams requested it remain nameless, has been called “Grief”, “Angel of Death”, or “Peace of God”. There is no inscription.

Marian Hooper Adams (1843-1885)

Things get weirder… According to John Alexander, author of Ghosts: Washington’s Most Famous Ghost Stories, visitors have reported feelings of extreme loneliness at the memorial. Stranger still, some say the spectral image of a frail woman appears there at dusk. Is this the ghost of Mrs. Adams reaching out for human companionship from an anonymous grave?