Today is the 30th anniversary of the film that defined my generation, a generation too smart to settle for the mediocrity of earlier attempts at capturing specters on film: GHOSTBUSTERS! If you landed on this page and you are thinking something like, “I never saw that movie,” then just leave. We aren’t gonna call you.
In honor of this occasion (and because I’m an enormous fan of Bill Murray) we are celebrating with a roundup of tales real life ghost hunters in appellate decisions and the news, and haunted tales from Arkansas.
Aside: I spent my 30th birthday in NYC and a friend took my husband and I to see the firestation in the movie. Here’s my husband’s picture of it:
Real Life Ghost Hunters:
Ghost Hunting Leads to Death of a Teen
State v. Davis
Slip Copy, 2014 WL 117409
Rachel Barezinsky and two of the other girls exited the vehicle and walked toward the home. One of the girls noticed an open first-floor window. As they approached the home a car horn sounded, and one of the girls believed she heard a bat. The girls became frightened and ran back to the car. As they drove away from the home, they heard several popping sounds.
Believing they had heard firecrackers, the girls circled the block and returned to the residence. Some of the girls yelled out in the direction of the home, and then several more pops were heard. The girls again became frightened and drove away. They had traveled only a short distance away from the residence when Rachel slumped over onto the driver. It was at that point that the girls stopped the vehicle and discovered that Rachel had been shot.
Police recovered a .22 caliber rifle from appellant’s home. Appellant admitted that he had fired a number of “warning shots” at a vehicle. According to appellant, two men had harassed him the previous week by pounding their fists on his bedroom window as he slept, and he believed that the same men had returned on the evening in question. Appellant stated that he fired the shots to scare the men away and to protect his family. Appellant did not believe he had done anything wrong.
On August 31, 2006, a Franklin County Grand Jury indicted appellant on five counts of felonious assault, each with a firearm specification. Appellant initially entered a not guilty plea to the charges.
State is Not Responsible for 17 Year Old’s Injuries from Ghost Hunting
Burton v. State
80 A.3d 856
On the evening of November 27, 2005, Burton gathered with four of his friends (ages fifteen to eighteen): T.D., C.A., H.C., and L.V., at T.D.’s home, drank “[m]aybe two” beers, and set off in C.A.’s truck to explore a local haunt—the former Ladd Center in the Town of Exeter. The Ladd property has been closed since 1994; and, in the years since, it has acquired a reputation in certain quarters as a home for ghosts and things that go bump in the night.
There is no perimeter fence around the property, but there are a number of “No Trespassing” signs posted, and the building that was the focus of the group’s exploration was secured by plywood boards over the windows on the first and second floors, chains on the doors, and metal grates welded shut. The plaintiff had visited the property on two prior occasions, and there was testimony that members of the group were aware that they should not “get caught” on the premises. The plaintiff testified that he had not sought permission to enter the Ladd Center property. Undaunted by the numerous obstacles to access, the group shimmied up a pipe to access a third-story window. Once inside, the group began to explore the abandoned hospital building. Although they failed to discover any ghosts, they did encounter the detritus of “medical-like tools, bed frames, broken stuff” left behind when the Center closed.
Eventually, the group made an intriguing discovery—a cache of four clear glass bottles housed in a Styrofoam container inside a locker. The bottles appeared to be gallon-sized and contained a clear liquid; the labels on the bottles were decrepit and illegible. L.V. testified that he poured a small amount of liquid from one of the bottles onto a table, to see what it was. It was apparent to the group that the liquid had a syrup-like consistency and that it was not water. The plaintiff testified that he believed the bottle contained a hazardous material. Despite not knowing what substance was contained in the vessels, the group spirited away three of the bottles. The group later made its way to the first floor of the building and searched for an exit, finally kicking out part of the plywood that covered an exterior door and slipping, one by one, through the opening created between the plywood and the door frame. The plaintiff exited just ahead of H.C., who was carrying two of the gallon bottles. H.C. dropped a bottle which broke, spattering both plaintiff and H.C. with the unknown liquid.
A few seconds later, plaintiff felt a burning sensation on his legs. He rubbed his hand on them and his hand started burning. Realizing the liquid was “some kind of chemical,” plaintiff stripped off his clothes, leaving his wallet and cell phone behind, and ran screaming for C.A.’s truck. The caustic liquid was later determined to be sulfuric acid. On November 9, 2006, plaintiff filed suit in Superior Court against the State of Rhode Island, Phoenix Houses of New England, and several John Does alleging that defendants “negligently failed to inspect, repair and/or maintain its premises free from defect and/or dangerous condition.”On January 18, 2012, a bench trial was conducted, at which time plaintiff testified and presented two additional witnesses: L.V. and former State Buildings and Grounds Coordinator Carl Abbruzzese. At the conclusion of plaintiff’s case, defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law. The court reserved decision on the motion, and the state declined to call any witnesses.
The trial justice issued a written decision in favor of defendant, finding that plaintiff was a trespasser and that defendant did not owe him a duty of care. Further, the trial justice held that the attractive-nuisance doctrine did not apply to the facts of this case. Final judgment entered on February 27, 2012, and plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal. Further facts will be provided as may be necessary to discuss the issues raised on appeal. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
Local Police Captain Believes Family’s Tale of Haunting
(This is a repost from Gawker by Ken Layne)
A police captain in Gary, Indiana, says he believes a family’s claims of supernatural terror in a rental house they’ve since fled. Levitating children, swarms of flies in wintertime, mysterious footprints, invisible friends, another child “walking backward up a wall in the presence of a family case manager and hospital nurse”—this movie-ready tale even features screaming Catholic priests performing exorcisms.
The photograph shown here was distributed by the police department, according to theIndianapolis Star, which notes that “officials say the home was unoccupied at the time the photo was taken.”Why is that noted? Because there’s a “figure” visible inside the enclosed porch. And there are 800 pages of official, local government reports on the strange happenings here. The alleged hauntings came to an end once the family of four moved to another home.
Local psychics showed up with their own very specific diagnosis: The small house on Carolina Street was crowded with more than 200 demons. And with that, the newly counted demons went to work possessing the three children, according to mom Latoya Ammons and their live-in grandmother, Rosa Campbell.”The family said demons possessed Ammons and her children, then ages 7, 9 and 12,” the paper reports. “The kids’ eyes bulged, evil smiles crossed their faces, and their voices deepened every time it happened.”
While most children behave this way most of the time, Ammons was convinced the Devil was involved.
Family services caseworkers, priests and a police captain are among those who say they believe the little house was filled with supernatural evil. And the Indianapolis Star dedicated more than 6,000 words to the ghost story. Even the local patrol officers can’t seem to get enough of it, leading the house’s owner to ask the cops to please stop driving by the house at all hours and spooking his new tenants.But when the family’s doctor visited the house during the alleged haunting, he noted their behavior was “delusional.” An unnamed witness told caseworkers the kids were “performing” for Ammons, and that she likewise encouraged the weird behavior. The house was kept clean and there was plenty of food for the kids, but investigators noted Ammons had constructed religious shrines everywhere.
The children were taken away by child services, but things have since settled down and the family is together again, apparently free of demons and ghosts.
[Photo via Hammond Police Department/Indianapolis Star.]
All from Encyclopedia of Arkansas
The Allen House
A famous Arkansas haunted house is the Allen House in Monticello (Drew County). It was built in 1905 by Joe Lee Allen, who lived there with his wife, Caddye, and his children, Ladelle, Lonnie Lee, and Louis. Pictures of them still hang in the front hall. Joe Lee Allen died in 1917. Sometime later, Ladelle committed suicide in the South bedroom by drinking potassium cyanide. Caddye Allen had the room sealed off until 1986, when new owners opened it up and found the bottle of cyanide still sitting on a shelf in a closet. The house is said to be haunted by Ladelle and her son, Allen Bonner. Since the 1950s, tenants of the Allen House have heard footsteps and moans and have reported other supernatural incidents. One couple, seeing a closet door ajar, tried to close it but felt someone pushing back on the other side. When they opened the door, they saw that nobody was there.
Several places in the natural world are the sites of their own ghost legends, usually connected to murders. Lorance Creek inSaline County is said to be haunted by a girl, her name unknown, who was apparently murdered by being pushed into the creek; she was buried at Cockman Cemetery near the creek a few days later on December 24, 1863. By the 1920s, her wooden grave marker was entirely weathered away. The first reported sightings of her ghost were in 1920, when workers started drilling for oil near the creek and graveyard. Some workers said they heard a woman’s scream, and one worker reported seeing her on Halloween. She was crying and was heard cry out, “Why?” She then walked to the creek and disappeared. She was seen several times later that year, reportedly appearing in the white dress she was buried in. After the workers left, her ghost was seldom seen.
Outside of Crossett (Ashley County), where the old railroad tracks once lay, an unexplained light has become a local legend. It has reportedly been seen consistently since the early 1900s by multitudes of people. The light is typically seen floating two to three feet above the ground but also is said to move into the treetops and sometimes side to side. The light reportedly disappears as one walks toward it and then reappears the same distance away, so that one can never get a close look at it. The Crossett Light’s color reportedly ranges from yellow or orange to blue or green.
The Crossett Light is one of many similar phenomena commonly known as “spooklights” in the South. There are other notable “spooklights”—around Joplin, Missouri; Senath, Missouri; and Gurdon (Clark County), to name a few. Like other such “spooklights,” including the Gurdon Light, the Crossett Light is, according to legend, the ghostly lantern of a railroad worker who lost his head in an accident in the early 1900s and who walks the tracks to find it. There seem to be many similar stories explaining this phenomenon, but this seems to be the most common. There are also stories, not widely credited, that the light is related to extraterrestrials.
A commonly expressed scientific theory holds that the Crossett Light could be swamp gas, a natural phenomenon. Some authorities also posit that the light could be an illusion caused by car lights and an incline in the land. This theory is more widely accepted than the swamp gas theory; however, the major drawback for the car light theory lies in the fact that the light was first reported in the early 1900s, before cars were common in the area. The first reports of the light started as the railroads were put in, which may have started the famous railroad worker story. No one knows for sure what the Crossett Light is, but it has entertained many residents and visitors throughout the years who drive down that old road to watch for it.
An Ozark Story: Things that go bump in Eureka Springs
Baxter Bulletin (Mountain Home, AR)
Copyright 2011 Gannett, October 29, 2011
EUREKA SPRINGS — Known as a quaint, quirky weekend getaway spot and wedding destination, Eureka Springs is now known as a destination for something a little spookier.
Two hotel owners with shady business dealings and a bank robber shot as he fled the heist are the genesis for the most well-known spook stories told around the Ozarks town.
The Crescent Hotel
The infamous Dr. Norman Baker bought the Crescent Hotel in 1937 for $50,000 and turned it into a cancer hospital. The high school dropout from Muscatine, Iowa, had tried his hand at a number of jobs, including machinist, magician, radio station owner and inventor.nHe also bought a radio station and began a campaign to discredit medical doctors while simultaneously promoting his own “natural” cure he bought from a snake oil salesman. The “cure” consisted of corn silk, watermelon seeds, alcohol and carbolic acid. Authorities soon shut down his radio station and Baker shut down his hospital, took his 144 patients — and his cure — and moved to Eureka Springs.
In addition to treating patients, Baker sold his cure through the mail. Most patients left the hospital only after dying and being autopsied in the basement of the building. Baker eventually was arrested and tried for mail fraud, spent four years in Leavenworth prison and was fined $4,000. Authorities estimated Baker made $4 million from “treating” cancer patients.Rumors of evil things Baker was doing in the basement morgue include organ and limb transplants and cutting live patients. To this day, rumors still make the rounds, particularly on the Internet.
Keith Scales, ghost tour manager for the hotel, says rumors were born from the contents of mason jars housed in the morgue.”People believed the mason jars contained organs,” Scales said. “It’s more likely they contained tumors Baker cut from patients after their deaths.”Baker sold the hotel a few years after getting out of prison, moved to Florida where he retired and later died.
» Michael, Room 218
The history of Crescent Hotel ghosts actually begins with its construction. According to legend, one craftsman was an Irish stonemason named Michael.”Michael was a handsome 17-year-old, and well known as a ladies’ man,” said ghost tour guide Kathy Gilmore as she briefed two dozen people prior to a tour. “He always had a smile for the good-looking ladies.”
Michael was high up on a beam one day when he saw a pretty woman far down below, Gilmore claims. On his second attempt to get the woman’s attention, Michael allegedly fell to his death. Death has not deterred his interest in women, and he continues to flirt with pretty women to this day, she says. “Michael does like to flirt with the ladies,” Gilmore said. “He’ll touch them, turn lights and water on and off. He doesn’t like men. He’ll try to shove them out of bed.” Those wishing to interact with Michael should book room number 218, Michael’s favorite haunt, as it were, according to hotel legend.
» Theadora, Room 419
Guests who like help with their bags would do well to stay in room 419 where, according to Gilmore, they might receive help from Theadora, a cancer patient with a penchant for neatness. “Theadora is a particularly active ghost — people see her, hear her, she moves things,” said Gilmore to her tour group. “She is solid-looking, small, in old-fashioned clothes, and can often be seen standing in front of the door to 419 looking for her keys in her purse.” If Theadora thinks a guest is too sloppy, they may find Theadora has packed up their belongings and placed their suitcases by the door, in an apparent other-worldly invitation to take their slovenly habits and vacate the premises, according to Gilmore.
» Nurses and corpses, Third Floor
The third floor of the hotel was home to what Baker calls the asylum during the hotel’s time as a hospital. It was on this floor the patients in the most pain were housed. “He may have called it an asylum to paint the people as insane to explain the screaming,” Gilmore said. Nurses were constantly wheeling patients around the floor in wheelchairs, and less often on gurneys after patients died, according to Gilmore. “They still do it today,” Gilmore told her tour group. “People report seeing nurses pushing wheelchairs, pushing dead bodies on gurneys. People say they hear the squeaking of the wheels.”
» A sad, dead little boy, Room 228
Down the hall and around a corner from Michael’s room on the second floor is room 228, where a little boy named Breckie died of peritonitis, Gilmore says. Breckie was weak and was not allowed outside to play like other children. For entertainment, he bounced a ball in the hallway. Guests report he can still be heard bouncing his ball. And, he can be heard to proclaim his fate as unjust. “Guests say they’ve heard him say ‘It’s not fair,’ because he didn’t get to go out to play,” Gilmore said.
» We have a jumper
At one point in its history, the Crescent served as a girl’s college during the off-season. It was during this time, the seed of another ghost story was planted. While the college was strict, girls were known to sneak away from chaperones while in town and meet boys, and boys were rumored to be sneaked in, Gilmore says. Legend says one of the girls jumped — or was pushed — to her death from a balcony high above the hotel grounds. To this day, people, including a Eureka Springs police officer, report seeing a woman fall from a hotel balcony. When hotel personnel check, they find no one, Gilmore says.
» The Basement
Access to the spa is through a door in the basement of the hotel. To the left, lies another door, one much more interesting for ghost hunters. It is through this unremarkable wooden door one must step to reach the hotel’s maintenance workshop. During Baker’s time, the space was used as an autopsy room and a morgue.It was in a room stuffed with spare parts where employees of a televised ghost-huntingshow say they spotted the image of a person while using a thermal-imaging camera. The airing of that and subsequent television shows featuring the hotel and its ghostly goings-on catapulted the Crescent into the national consciousness.
On a recent October night during Gilmore’s tour, no one reported hearing or seeing anything unusual. What they chose to keep to themselves, only they know.