A Selection of “Ghosts” Haunting the Daily Mail: Ghost Photos, Leamington Spa, and the Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

sheet ghost

Previously: A Poltergeist Chair, a Driverless Van, and More.

Time for more ridiculousness from the Daily Mail! Alas, there seem to be fewer ghostly tales in it lately, so I’ve only got four for you this time; I have, however, found in one of them what might just be the greatest job title of all time: “Supernatural Liaison Officer” for the National Rail. In fact, let’s start with that one, shall we?

1. Leamington Spa Employs ‘Supernatural Liaison Officer’ to Monitor Train Station’s Ghosts

leamington spa

My only frame of reference for Leamington Spa is the Tom Stoppard play Dogg’s Hamlet; as such, bear in mind that my angle coming into this story involves an absurdist retelling of Hamlet and a mode of speech in which the phrase “useless, git” means “good day, sir.”

Anyhoo, it seems that the Leamington Spa National Rail station in the UK employs a “Supernatural Liaison Officer,” Nick Reese, to keep its ghosts in check. First put into service in 1852, the station is said to be one of the most haunted places in Britain (at least, according to the Mail and a few other similar rags); Rees’ duties include “checking ghosts’ tickets, ensuring that they do not eat customers’ sandwiches, [and] directing them to their train.” The passengers don’t really seem to have anything to worry about, though, as the most spooktacular areas of the station are the office building, which was built in the 1880s, and a disused basement under platform three. The basement apparently has a partially blocked off staircase that leads to nowhere, and, well… you all know how much I love a good staircase to nowhere.

Rees, a father of two, apparently volunteered for the gig after Chiltern Railways approached him about it; he seems quite affable, so I’m sure he’s a big hit with the station’s passengers. I’m not sure whether the whole “Supernatural Liaison Officer” thing is just a Halloween stunt, or if it’s going to be a year-round position, but I suppose if it’s all in good fun, then we might as well enjoy it.

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Abandoned: The Fading History of the Knox County Poorhouse (Photos)

Knox exterior edit

Previously: The Sanzhi UFO Houses.

In Victorian literature, there’s always one place you never, ever want to go, even if you’re as down on your luck as it’s possible to be: The poorhouse. Such was the case with the Knox County Poorhouse, located in the hamlet of Bangs, Ohio, just west of Mt. Vernon. First built in 1875, the facility was neither wholly hospital nor asylum, homeless shelter nor orphanage; instead, it housed any and all unfortunates who lacked a place to call their own: Abandoned children, the elderly, those suffering from physical or mental illness,and every conceivable type in between found themselves at the poorhouse when they had nowhere else to go.

As was the case with many institutions of the time, there was neither enough space nor staff to provide adequate care to the poorhouse’s denizens; rumors began to spread of the substandard living conditions and the accidental deaths that plagued the place, eventually forcing it to close down in 1953. We may never know entirely what went on in there — but what we do know is that in recent years, a number of shallow, unmarked graves have been discovered in the area surrounding the house. Perhaps there was more truth to the rumors than anyone knew.

After sitting abandoned for some time, the Knox County Poorhouse reopened as a Bible college in 1957. Although the Mt. Vernon Bible College functioned for several decades, it eventually relocated to Virginia in 1988, where it now goes the name of LIFE Bible College East. Following the move, the building remained unused—and, of course, stories began to collect around it as it sat there, empty and decaying, year after year. Did a part of the building collapse during its years as a school, killing a group of students and trapping their spirits inside forever more? Or was it an elevator crash that claimed their lives? And what of the unmarked graves, those stretching back to its period as a home for the destitute? Have they, too, been chained to the building in which they died?

Sometime after the departure of the Bible college, the building that had once been known as the Knox County Poorhouse began to play host to a haunted attraction during the Halloween season called The House of Nightmares. There’s a price to pay for shuttling hundreds of people through a decaying building year after year, however, and in January of 2006, four floors caved in. The House of Nightmares moved around for a few years after that, occupying the space formerly used by the Bloody Brewery before becoming a haunt known as The Terror Fest.

I’ve been unable to determine whether The Terror Fest is still in operation — but there is good news for those who cherish the old building: There’s a movement to restore the Knox County Poorhouse, and it seems to be chugging along quite well. According to Mount Vernon News, Northeast Ohio Investment Partners LLC purchased the building along with 2.6 acres of land from the State of Ohio in April; the plan is to renovate the structure, restoring it to its former glory and allowing it to operate as a business once more. What that “business” will be remains to be seen — as will whether its history continues to haunt it, literally or figuratively, as well.

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The Most Dangerous Games: The Staircase Ritual

staircasePreviously: Hyakumonagatari Kaidankai

I’m not totally sure where The Staircase Ritual originated; it’s credited on most creepypasta repositories to someone going by the name “CousinSpookyNoodles,” but the site on which it was found is never specified. In any event, though, this one is long and involved, so it’s best not to undertake it unless you can devote at least two days to it — including an uninterrupted 13-hour stretch for the second half. It’s not quite an exorcism, but if you’ve got something weird going on in your home, it’ll help contain it by banishing it to the first floor. It also places a series of obstacles either slowing down or stopping whatever might be plaguing you from making its way from the first floor to the second. You’ll have to face it eventually, though, so be prepared for a fight.

As always, play at your own risk.

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The Search Terms from the Black Lagoon: “Something Chill and Slender in This World” and Other Queries Answered

abandoned computer

Previously: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Haunted Dolls.

Hey gang! We’re back with another addition of The Search Terms from the Black Lagoon, in which I attempt to figure out what you were searching for when you found The Ghost in My Machine. We’re getting poetic this time, so get ready for it.

 1. “Don’t remember childhood memories creepypasta”

A huge number of creepypastas deal with the subject of memory; it’s an imperfect thing that we can’t always trust, which is why I think we’re so endlessly fascinated — and frightened — by it. Unfortunately this particular search term doesn’t give me a whole lot to go on, since so many pastas feature people who have suddenly recalled events from their childhood they thought they had forgotten. A couple of my favorites, though, are these:

2. “The ghost of witch tree lane”

At first I thought maybe this one referred to a story, myth, or creepypasta; accordingly, some preliminary searching pulled up the West African legend of Gang Gang Sarah, the Witch of Golden Lane, the Chesterville Witch’s Grave in Illinois, and a creepypasta called “The Witch’s Tree.” But I search specifically for the phrase “witch tree lane,” a children’s novel by Ann M. Martin, widely known for The Baby-Sitter’s Club series, called Here Today popped up repeatedly. There’s also a Nancy Drew mystery called The Witch Tree Symbol. My money’s on one of those two books being the solution.

3. “Something chill and slender in this world”

This phrase is from the John Burnside poem “On the Fairytale Ending,” published in his 2011 collection Black Cat Bone. The quotation it’s from reads as follows:

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Haunted Road Trip, TGIMM Special Edition (Part 2): Chasing the Ghosts of Clinton Road

Clinton Road GPS

Previously: Bannerman Castle.

Finding Clinton Road was trickier than it looked.

We set out from Beacon at 10 o’clock in the morning after filling up on eggs, French toast, and what was probably far too much coffee at the Beacon Bread Company. (You should go there, by the way — it was amazing.) It’s not that the route was particularly difficult to navigate — and in the era of GPS, you’re never really lost, anyway — but when you approach from the north, the turn off of Warwick Turnpike in West Milford, New Jersey is so blind as to be almost invisible. We ended up having to backtrack — something which would be a recurring theme for this part of the trip — eventually finding the left hand fork that led to the fabled road from the southeast.

The first thing you’ll notice upon reaching Clinton Road is how residential the road is. I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to live on a road with all those stories attached to it — or moreover, what it’s like to tell people you live on it. After you travel a few miles south, though, the houses and neighborhoods vanish, leaving you with the winding, secluded, tree-lined path of legend. This time of year, it’s awash with flame-colored foliage, red, orange, and gold; but underneath the beauty lies danger, a treacherous road full of curves that can’t wait to see you spin out of control or get side-swiped by another careless driver.

If you’ve ever seen any pictures of Ghost Boy Bridge, you’ll know it as soon as you spot it. That’s what happened to us: We rounded the curve, the guardrails came into view, and I gasped. “That’s it,” I said, and Anjoli pulled the car over. It’s just as well that we were able to identify it on sight; somewhat ominously, my cell phone had lost the signal shortly after we had turned onto Clinton Road.

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Haunted Road Trip, TGIMM Special Edition (Part 1): Scaling the Ruins of Bannerman Castle

Bannerman through trees

During the first weekend in October, one of my best friends and I took a mini-haunted road trip. This week, I’ll be posting a two-part series detailing our adventures. All photographs appear courtesy of Anjoli Anand and myself.

It was pouring, of course; after all, we were going to hunt ghosts.

To be honest, I didn’t actually think we were going to find any — but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to visit a few places we’d hitherto only read about, and to see whether the legends held true. If you’re going to take a haunted road trip, there’s no better time than of year than fall — so on October 4, one of my frequent partners in metaphorical crime, Anjoli, and I set off in a borrowed car and drove north, leaving New York City behind in favor of the Hudson River Valley.

Our first stop: Beacon, NY. Just off the coast of Beacon in the middle of the Hudson River lies an island. It’s uninhabited, but that doesn’t mean that it’s empty; on the contrary — it’s full of history. The island is known as Bannerman Island, and it houses the remains of an honest-to-goodness Scottish castle. What’s a Scottish castle doing in the middle of the Hudson River? The story goes a little something like this:

Bannerman arsenal

Industrialist Francis Bannerman VI purchased the island in 1900, when he was 49 years old. Born in Dundee, Scotland in 1851, he moved with his family to the United States in 1854; they settled in Brooklyn in 1858. Bannerman’s father spent the boy’s childhood building up a military surplus business, and by the time young Francis grew old enough to join in, Bannerman’s was a world-renowned arms and ammunition business. The original idea behind the purchase of the island was for it to be used as a safe storage site for the weaponry on which the family business thrived; all that gunpowder and other explosive matter had to go somewhere. Going back to his roots, Bannerman also built a Scottish castle he designed himself on the island, as well as a smaller, simpler residence in 1901.

Although no one knew it at the time, Bannerman’s death in 1918 heralded the beginning of the end for Bannerman Island. The powder store exploded in 1920, ending its role as both a powder store and a residence; then in 1950, a storm sank the ferryboat that serviced the island, and the land and its buildings were left to rot. New York State purchased Bannerman Island in 1967, and after the removing the military merchandise, began running tours regularly, seemingly given the island new life. But in 1969, a fire gutted the arsenal — the imposing, castle-esque structure the island is best known for — and Bannerman Island was placed off-limits to the public.

For the past 20 years, however, the Bannerman Castle Trust has made it their mission to restore the island and prevent further damage to its failing buildings. The official New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s “Friends” organization for the site, they’ve cleared the paths, buttressed the walls, and begun running tours, again opening up the island to the public. It was members of the Trust whom we met on the dock that rainy Saturday, ready to carry us over to the island by boat and regale us with tales of the strange and unusual.

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Creepypasta of the Week: “The Art of Jacob Emory”

unfinished charcoalPreviously: “A Few Suggestions.”

Confession: I know almost nothing about the origins of “The Art of Jacob Emory.”  It’s credited to someone called “Peterdevine,” and the Creepypasta Wiki categorizes it as a “classic”… but beyond that, I couldn’t find a damn thing about where it came from. It’s not the most complicated of pastas; nor are its themes of hubris and Marlovian overreaching anything new. But a story doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective, and it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be worth your time. Sometimes, all you need is a good old fashioned yarn to spin while you huddle round the campfire.

Just don’t let Jacob draw you any pictures.

Ghost stories? Nah, we don’t have anything like that around here. We DO have the story of Jacob, but that’s about as close as you’ll get.

…You really want to know?… Well, I’m not supposed to tell you, but all right, just no interrupting. I don’t have the patience for it.

How to describe Jacob Emory… well, I guess you could say he was the kind of guy you could never take notice of. This isn’t to say he was a bad kid, in any sense- many people in this town thought he was the most reliable person for an odd job in the state- but he never really excelled in anything. He was the living proof behind the statement, “jack of all trades, ace of none.” Most of this was due to his own lack of will.

He dabbled in damn near everything this town could offer him, automobiles, radio operation, store management, what have you, but he never stuck with anything. His friends and workers went after him about it a number of times, but everybody got the same unsatisfying response: “It just wasn’t enough.” Needless to say, any friends he kept were either very patient or never spoke of the matter altogether.

It was probably inevitable, then, that Jacob would leave to go abroad. I don’t remember where he went, but I think Gertrude down the street knew before she passed on- you’ll have to scout someone else if you ever get curious. In any case, no one even tried to stop him. Everybody thought that a little travel would stamp the ambition out of him, or else feed it until it was no longer an issue. Hell, we even gave him a sending-off party, which I thought was pretty nice of everybody.

So anyway, he was gone for… six, seven years? Can’t remember. You’ll have to check with someone else about that, too. Anyways, he came back, eventually, and he had changed, obviously enough. He was amiable, energetic, all smiles all the time, and we all quickly learned why. He showed us a souvenir he’d brought back- a solid black stick, the length of a pencil but the texture of chalk. We all wondered why on earth such a simple thing would prompt such a spring in his step, until he gave his demonstration. He took a piece of paper, and with this stick- God, there’s got to be a better word for it- with this stick, he… he drew a crude circle.

It dropped, and rested on the border of the paper, like a stone. It didn’t leave the paper, but it acted out on it, sort of like an old movie projector on a screen.

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