Haunted Tombstone

Hey, Readers. It’s time for another legend. It’s been a few weeks since I posted about a haunting, so I thought this would be a good time.

Tombstone, Arizona is a historic town founded in 1879 by prospector Ed Schieffelin. Known for its silver mines, it became one of the last boomtowns on the American frontier. It grew from a population of one hundred to around 14,000 in less than seven years. Today, a little over 1,300 reside there.

I visited there in 2006 while on a business trip to Tucson. My coworker and I took an early flight so we’d have time to see this legendary town. If you ask a resident what Tombstone first became famous for, they would say the silver. However, I doubt many would even know the town’s name if not for the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral involving the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday against Cowboy members Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton.

Tombstone was known for its lawlessness, or blatant disregard for the law, which resulted in the deaths of several people. As you might imagine, there are said to be lots of ghosts that still reside there, some even walk the streets.

On October 28, 1888, Curly Bill Brocius, a leader of the Cowboy faction gunned down Marshall Fred White. He died two days later, and his spirit is said to haunt the street near the shooting site.

Some have claimed to have seen another apparition, dressed in a long black frock coat on several occasions crossing the street. This occurrence is near the place where Virgil Earp was ambushed and shot in the arm. Earp lived but was crippled for life. Some believe it is his spirit that haunts the place. Interestingly, the ghost never makes it across the street.

As you might guess, the O.K. Corral itself is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the Cowboys who died there. Several witnesses claim to see fading apparitions dressed in cowboy attire, often with guns drawn. Others say they feel cold spots in various places.

The graves of Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Tom McLaury in Boot Hill Cemetery. The sign to the right states they were murdered on the streets of Tombstone.

Visitors to Boot Hill Cemetery report seeing strange lights and hearing unidentifiable noises in the old graveyard. Some say Billy Clanton walks from his grave back toward Tombstone. A number of people say spirits appear in photographs.

My coworker and I visited Boot Hill but didn’t witness any strange sights or sounds. However, another coworker went there with a group of friends. One of them took a photo of her standing near a grave marker. To Tami’s left was a dark image of what looked like a cowboy. This was in broad daylight. She showed me the photo, and I easily saw the apparition.

These are only a few of the reported sightings in Tombstone. But a town with its history is sure to have some hauntings.

The Haunted Landers Theater

Hey, Readers. We’ve had a few weeks of mysteries, so I couldn’t let a month go by without posting at least one legend. This week, we’ll travel to the Show Me State of Missouri.

The Landers Theater is a four-story brick and terra cotta building in Springfield, Missouri. It was built in 1909 and has been in use since then. It once hosted such notable artists such as Lillian Russell, John Philip Sousa, and Lon Chaney. It later became a motion picture house and was one of the first to acquire talking films. The Landers has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977 and underwent renovations to restore it to its 1900s elegance in 1980.

Rob Kinney, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But it’s reported the theater also has another type of history. It seems it’s the home of several restless spirits. On December 17, 1920, a major fire took the life of a janitor. It’s said that actors on stage can see the janitor’s ghost sitting in the balcony seats watching them as they rehearse.

Another story claims someone accidentally dropped a baby from the balcony. Actors often say the baby repeats its fall over and over. Others say they often hear a baby crying followed by comforting words from its mother.

There is another apparition that peers down from a fourth-story window at passersby on the street. This spirit is tall with long blonde hair and wears Elizabethan clothing. She’s never seen inside, but it’s also reported the spirit of a six-foot-tall man can be seen throughout the theater.

Many guests feel they are being followed, followed by a tap on the shoulder. When they turn around, there’s no one there. Other occurrences include unplugged spotlights that turn on and off of their own accord and other apparitions glimpsed throughout the building.

Is it any wonder The Landers Theater may be one of the most haunted places in Springfield?

Sally Carter’s Grave

Hey, everyone. This month’s Legends and Lore post takes place in the state of Alabama.

Huntsville is a city in Alabama, located in the hills north of the Tennessee River. Its population is around 215,000, making it the most populous city in the state. Founded in 1805 as Twickenham, it was renamed Huntsville in 1811.

Today Huntsville is a thriving city with its main economic influence from aerospace and military technology. The Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center are located there.

Historic rockets in Huntsville (Public Domain)

But the modern city also has its share of legends and folklore, one of them involving the ghost of Sally Carter and Cedarhurst Mansion.

Stephen Ewing built Cedarhurst as part of a larger estate in 1823. It didn’t take long before tragedy struck the home when Mary Ewing’s sister, Sally Carter, came to visit.

Sally, just three weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday, took ill and died on November 28, 1837. She was buried in the family cemetery on the estate grounds. The epitaph on her tombstone read:

My flesh shall slumber in the ground

Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound

Then burst the chains with sweet surprise

And in my savior’s image rise.

Stories say Sally loved the estate and that’s the reason some say her presence is still there today. The legend began in 1919 when a seventeen-year-old boy visiting from nearby Dothan slept outside Sally’s bedroom. There was a storm during the night (yes, a dark and stormy night). The teenager claimed to have dreamed Sally visited him and asked him to prop up her headstone.

When he awoke the next morning, he told his family about the dream and said he was going to visit Sally’s grave. Strangely enough, Sally’s tombstone had toppled over during the storm.

Other stories claim Sally still walks the halls and grounds of Cedarhurst Mansion. A guard claims to have heard Sally walking upstairs one night. After her shift ended, the guard realized she had lost some money while doing rounds. After searching the grounds in vain, the guard gave up on finding the money. It was then she heard footsteps following her and her flashlight began flickering. When she returned to the guardhouse, the flashlight flickered brightly and shone directly on the cash she had given up for gone.

Another person who knew both families who lived in the mansion had a friend who slept in Sally’s room. The friend said doors opened and closed by themselves, covers were snatched off the bed, and lights turned on and off.

Other women claimed they had jewelry broken in the area of Sally’s room, with beads scattered everywhere.

Mapel Hill Cemetery, Huntsville. Creative Commons photo by Lonely Pilgrim via Wikimedia

The stories drew much attention and many visitors to the area, especially to see Sally’s grave. In 1982, the family had her body exhumed and relocated to an undisclosed location in Maple Hill Cemetery.

Today, Cedarhurst Mansion is now a part of a gated community with the home serving as a clubhouse. Sources say Sally’s bedroom has been preserved, but visitors aren’t allowed. Those wishing to catch a glimpse of Sally can always purchase one of the many condominiums.

A rather expensive price just to see a ghost, don’t you think?

The Bell Witch Legend

Many areas in the southern United States are rich with stories about hauntings and superstitions. Several of my ancestors who lived in Northern Alabama passed down many stories of hauntings, folklore, and unexplained events to younger generations.

The legend of the Bell Witch is a tale of American Folklore from the state of Tennessee. The legend supposedly attracted the attention of then future president General Andrew Jackson.

Like many legends, there are varying accounts as to the identity of the Bell Witch and the purpose of her visits.

John Bell, along with his wife and children, moved from North Carolina to Robertson County, Tennessee in 1804. The Bell Farm comprised 320 acres of rich farmland along the Red River. For the first thirteen years, the family lived a peaceful life. They attended the Red River Baptist Church, where John Bell became a deacon.

A Tenneesee Historical Commission Marker near Adams, Tennessee. Photo by Brian Stansberry, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the summer of 1817, events happened that changed the lives of the Bell family. Some of them began seeing strange looking animals around the property. Knocking sounds on the doors and outer walls of the house came late at night. Sounds of rats gnawing on bedposts, chains dragging through the house, and stones being dropped were heard. These strange occurrences culminated in the sounds of someone gulping and choking.

The terrified family kept their problems a secret for over a year. Finally, John Bell confided in a neighbor, James Johnson. He invited Mr. and Mrs. Johnson to spend the night. After witnessing these strange occurrences, Mr. Johnson suggested more people needed to know.

Before long, people came from miles around to see and hear the unknown force that terrorized the Bell house. I find it interesting that as more people came, the unseen entity developed a voice. When asked, the voice gave different identities. The spirit once stated it was the witch of a neighbor woman named Kate Batts. From then on, people called the entity, “Kate,” the “Bell’s Witch.”

There are differing accounts of Kate’s reasons for visiting the Bell family. Even on the farm’s website (now a popular tourist attraction), the reasons vary.

Some say Kate wanted to kill John Bell. She also wanted to stop John’s youngest daughter Betsy from marrying a neighbor boy named Joshua Gardner.

For three years, “Kate” tormented the Bell family almost daily. John and Betsy received the worst physical abuse. Betsy’s hair was pulled, she was pinched, scratched, and stuck with pins.

John Bell suffered from spells of swelling of the throat. He later developed twitching and jerking of his facial muscles. Kate would blast him with curses and hideous threats during these spells. As time went on, John Bell became weaker and weaker.

Kate finally accomplished her mission when John Bell died in December 1820. The following March, Betsy broke off her engagement to Joshua Gardner.

Sources say Kate said goodbye, promising to return in seven years. Supposedly, she returned in 1828 for a few short weeks to the home of John Bell Jr. where she had several long talks with him about the past, present, and future. Kate also said there was a reason for his father’s death, but she never stated what it was.

Again, there are discrepancies. One account says Kate Batts was angry with John Bell, believing he cheated her in a land deal. On her deathbed, she vowed to haunt him and his decedents forever. Other accounts say the voice said, “I am a spirit. I once was very happy but have been disturbed.” The spirit gave diverse explanations of why it appeared, tying its presence to the disturbance of a Native American burial ground located on the Bell Property.

After “Kate’s” second visit, she vowed to return in 107 years. That would have been in 1935. However, some believe she never left the area.

The legend, along with numerous tales, continued into the twentieth century. There are many skeptics, and some who knew Betsy suspected her of fraud. One skeptic, Ben Radford, said the Bell Witch story is important for all paranormal researchers. “It shows how easily legend and myth can be mistaken for fact and real events and how easily the lines are blurred when sources are not checked.”

Regardless of skepticism, The Bell Witch Legend is a part of Tennessee history and is still taught in schools today.

The Ghosts of the Hotel Galvez

Today we’ll travel back to my home state of Texas and the City of Galveston for this month’s Legends and Lore post.

Located on Galveston and Pelican Islands, the City of Galveston was once the largest in Texas. The 1900 Galveston hurricane changed that. Still known as the deadliest natural disaster in United States history and the fifth-deadliest Atlanta hurricane, the storm claimed between 6,000 and 12,000 fatalities. Official counts cite around 8,000 dead. After the storm, investors grew alarmed and turned inland to Houston which is now the largest city in the state.

Today Galveston is a coastal resort city with an economy consisting of tourism, shipping, financial, and medical industries. It’s the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch which has an average annual enrollment of 2500 students.

Galveston as seen from the International Space Station
(Public Domain Photo)

Galveston is rich in history. As you might expect along with that history comes tales of haunted places, one of which is the Grand Galvez Resort and Spa.

The historic hotel has 226 rooms and opened to the public in 1911 as the Hotel Galvez. Once referred to as the “Playground of the Southwest,” celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jimmy Stewart, and Duke Ellington were frequent visitors. American Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson also stayed in the hotel, as did General Douglas MacArthur.

But the Hotel Galvez is also known for some permanent tenants. Guests who checked in but have never checked out. The hotel is ripe with paranormal activity. Who are some of its permanent inhabitants?

The Love Lorn Lady

Audra is the most famous ghost that resides in the Galvez. In the mid-fifties, she was a twenty-five-year-old bride-to-be. Her fiancé was a mariner who often sailed in and out of the port of Galveston. She would often rent room 501 which was close to the elevator. Audra used the elevator to access a ladder that led to the roof.

Audra would climb to the red-tiled roof to await her fiancé’s ship, sitting inside the hotel’s rooftop turret. After a devastating storm, Audra received word the ship had capsized and “all hands were lost.” Inconsolable, Audra hung herself in the hotel’s west turret.

Sadly, her fiancé arrived in Galveston a few days later, having survived the storm. Visitors to the hotel claim Audra frequents the fifth floor, although she’s most often seen in her matrimonial room.

Some claim to feel a sudden chill before Audra’s specter appears. Others say there is an inexplicable slamming of doors, televisions turn on and off, and lights flicker back and forth. Front desk staff say they have a difficult time making electronic keys for the room.

Sister Katherine

Sister Katherine is another spirit who haunts the hotel. She belonged to the Sisters of Charity which oversaw the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum. During the 1900 hurricane, the asylum was ravaged by the storm.

Trying to save as many orphans as possible, the sisters made rope out of cloth, tied them to the children and their waists, in hopes of withstanding the storm’s devastating winds. Some believe the ropes were counterproductive, leading to the deaths of ninety children and ten sisters. They were found still attached to one another along the beach where the Galvez is now located.

Their bodies were buried on-site, which lead some to believe the Galvez stands above their mass grave.

Phantom Children

A small girl, dressed in nineteenth-century clothing often frequents the hotel gift shop, lobby, and staircase. She’s often seen bouncing a ball. Other phantom children are said to run throughout the hotel, laughing and often playing the piano. Visitors can hear the sounds of their laughter, but the children remain unseen.

Would You Visit?

I have not stayed in the Galvez, but I wouldn’t be opposed to doing so. What about you? Would you book a room in a haunted place?