Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Haunted Locations

Many years ago, I ran across a website devoted to chronicling haunted locations throughout the United States. The website was full of fascinating entries. By happenstance, I recently found the website again and it has not lost its amusement value.

The website,, has user-submitted entries for haunted locations. The entries have minimal punctuation and grammar, rendering some of them borderline incoherent. But entries that aren’t incoherent are often hilarious. I’ll avoid mocking the writing because that’s just too easy. Many of the entries report electric lights flickering and unexplained power failures. Apparently none of these people have heard of bad wiring or old buildings. It might be interesting to interview these people to see how much their reasoning resembled that discussed in my earlier post on electronics and the supernatural.

Let’s start with my home state of Connecticut. One highlight is Loomis Chaffee High School. We are told that “One can expect that such an old establishment would have a history.” Yes, because 140 years old is so old. I’m surprised that every city in Europe isn’t crawling with ghosts.

Albertus Magnus College in New Haven is listed as having no less than four haunted sites. One of them, Rosary Hall, has a no longer functioning elevator. The area must be haunted because “staff have reported an evil presence it, as well as freezing cold blasts of air and moaning sounds.” Yes, elevator shafts never make noise. Nor do they ever have wind come through cracks. Elevator shafts after all aren’t long columns that can easily funnel air.

In Illinois, we have a cursed graveyard. What is the main evidence that the graveyard is cursed? “Some murders took with place within a mile.” I used to be a skeptic, but now I’ve seen the definitive evidence to convince me that there is real supernatural evil in the world. After all, some murders took place within a mile of a location said to be haunted. One question: there have been murders about a block from my house. Should I be worried that I’m at the epicenter of a horrible curse?

In Pennsylvania we have a place where dowsing rods were used to verify the presence of ghosts. I guess dowsing rods don’t just find gold and water anymore. Now they also find ghosts. And this also explains why all controlled tests of dowsing rods have failed: obviously they were done in locations where ghosts were present and the dowsers’ readings were confused by the ghosts. No doubt the evil skeptics make sure to perform the tests over old Native American burial grounds.

Let’s jump over to Massachusetts. We have an abandoned train tunnel where “On some nights temperatures drop several degrees.” Right, getting colder at night is a sure sign of a haunting. In Haverhill, we have among other locations “Lizzie Bordens lawyers house” (ERV would be happy about the lack of apostrophes). Apparently if a murder is famous enough, the lawyers get to haunt places also. After the lawyer died, a family lived there but there were problems: “The family moved out that month of fright and fear.” I think I’ll go back on my promise of not mocking the writing style by noting that that sentence did not have a period at the end; I had to add that. But even with the bad grammar, I’m really scared now. I wouldn’t have believed if the family had only moved out of fear or out of fright. But they moved out due to both. The ghost must be real and very dangerous. And now we come to the entry that forced me to write this blog post.

In Marblehead there is a middle school that is severely haunted. According to the page:

In the girls’ locker room there is a ghost of a young man who died in a motorcycle and he haunts the girl room. Also there was a report of UFOs over the school and it was even in the local news paper there was a photo of the UFOs. The town of Marblehead was a built on a psychical portal a sort of window that lets in both negative and positive spiritual energy, a “hellmouth” as it was called in the 17th century.
I thought that the idea of a “hellmouth” as a magical portal was a late 20th century idea. By sheer coincidence, the only other one of which I’m aware also happens to be at the site of a school. That school is Sunnydale High in Sunnydale California. Apparently someone has been watching too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Aside from notable individual entries, there are also larger patterns in the entries. None of the Ivy League schools are haunted. Harvard isn’t mentioned at all. Yale is only mentioned in passing when talking about a building bought by the earlier mentioned Albertus Magnus. Similar results apply to the rest of the Ivy League. What could explain this apparent lack of ghosts? Here are a few possible explanations for this apparent lack of otherworldly manifestations: One explanation is that the ancient Ivy League schools already have a secret society devoted to stamping out ghosts and so everyone else not involved do not get a chance to notice the ghosts. This society might not only be devoted to dealing with ghosts. They might also deal with other threats, especially when they work with their colleagues from Miskatonic University. Yale no doubt plays a critical role in all this since it has the Voynich Manuscript, which we all know is really the Necromonicon.

This hypothesis however isn’t satisfactory. Many other schools also aren’t mentioned. Stanford does not have any entries nor does the University of Chicago. It seems like the more prestigious the school, the fewer ghosts it has. Maybe there are ghosts at those institutions but the ghosts are scared that, if they manifest themselves, then the smart people at those schools will make proton packs and go all ghost busters on their asses.

Another possibility is that the people at these schools are just more closed-minded. They have their “books” and their “science” and their “critical thinking.” Consequently, even when they see clear evidence of ghosts, they rationalize it away by saying things like “Hey, a mile from a location is pretty far away” or “elevators shafts are long and generally leaky. Wind can go through them easily” and other stuff that is generally said by closed-minded, skeptical meanies.

Now, suppose for a second that we set aside the convincing evidence of ghosts that we’ve seen. Forget about the cursed graveyards with murders within a mile. Forget about the haunted elevator shaft. Definitely forget about the hellmouth which has nothing at all to do with a fictional television show starring Sarah Michelle Geller. What other explanations could exist for this apparent disparity in ghost reports? Two possible explanations then emerge: First, people at more prestigious schools are more skeptical and so say things like ““Hey, a mile from a location is pretty far away” or “elevators shafts are long and generally leaky. Wind can go through them easily” and other stuff that is generally said by people who bother to use their brains. However, my own experience with Yalies does not make me inclined to think of them as a terribly skeptical group. Second, people at such schools don’t feel a need to tell spooky stories to give their schools a unique reputation. If your school isn’t so well known, having a ghost might make you feel like you’ve got some unique flavor.

Full disclosure: Boston University, where I am a graduate student, has an entry: The room that Eugene O’Neill died in is said to be haunted by his ghost. So far, the ghost has bothered none of my classes.


Stacy said...

140 years old!! No one was alive then!! ;-)

I must admit - I have a soft spot for "haunted houses" - I love getting scared and scaring little kids on Halloween. :-)

Jay said...

In Louisville, we have The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, an early 1900's era tuberculosis hospital. One of the most noteworthy features of the place is the so-called "Death Chute" that was used to transport the deceased down the hill from the hospital to the road.

It is, in fact, a creepy place - in the same way that any hulking, decaying old building is creepy.

Joshua said...

Yes. Any readers interested in learning more about Waverly Hills should read (which I saw by way of Jay's blog which is very worth reading)

Jay said...

Thanks for the plug, Joshua.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in old houses all my life, so I totally understand that they make sounds and a drafty window can make doors open and close and whatnot. In other words, I never believed in ghosts. However, I started a library internship at Albertus Magnus the other day, and ,I kid you not, I felt something firmly brush against the small of my back. I was standing in room 36 on the second floor. I was by myself admiring the beauty of the room. When I felt it, I honestly thought that I backed into something, but there was nothing there when I turned around. I came across this site trying to find out if other people have had similar experiences.

Joshua said...

Anonymous, a few questions.

First, do you agree that even with your experience, moaning sounds from an elevator are not evidence of haunting?

Second, given how bad human sensory perception is (optical illusions, hallucinations and synesthesia all come to mind as example issues), do you find your experience to be good evidence for the presence of a supernatural event?

Third, if you do think it is a supernatural activity, what makes you think it is a haunting and not some other phenomenon?