Hauntings Don't Just Happen at Houses
by Sarah Todd
Think "paranormal houses", and the address 112 Ocean Drive
probably springs to mind. This was the address for the property which became
the focus of Jay Anson's bestselling book "The Amityville Horror",
about a house seemingly affected by the murder of six members of his family
by Ronald DeFeo, Jnr. The experiences of the Lutz family, who bought and
moved into the house 13 months after the murders, are the basis behind
Anson's book, which was made into a film. Other books and films have been
written, and while the reality behind the story of the house has probably
faded in light of the paranormal experiences there's no denying it's one of
the world's most important paranormal residences.
Sharing a house with a supernatural or paranormal being has given rise to
some fascinating horror stories, and the reasons it chooses to remain on the
earthly plain instead of "moving on" are often more interesting
than how it manifests itself.
Borley Rectory in Essex in the United Kingdom has been called "The
Most Haunted House in England". The unearthly sightings at the property
include a headless man, a woman dressed in white, unseen footsteps and
ghostly whispers, strange lights, the sound of a horse-drawn coach pulling
up to the front door... and the ethereal image of a nun wandering through
the garden, her head bowed in sorrow. The visions apparently dated back to
the 13th century, when there was a monastery on the site. A young novice
fell in love with a beautiful young nun, and when the affair was discovered
the lovers were put to death - the monk was hanged and the unfortunate nun
was walled up alive in her convent. During the centuries that following many
stories were told by local folk of ghostly encounters on and near the
property. In the mid-19th century Reverend Henry Bull built the rectory,
disregarding warnings from local residents about the apparitions and
paranormal activity on the site.
It wasn't long before his daughters and his servants began to encounter
the "beings" - ghostly knocking and rapping, the sound of
footsteps and misty images became a regular feature of life at Borley
Rectory. None of this bothered Reverend Bull - in fact he built a summer
house, where he and his son Harry would relax in the evenings, waiting for
the sorrowful nun to wander past them! Harry took over the rectory after his
father's death, and lived there in relative harmony with his ghostly guests
until his death in 1927. His successor lasted just one year, unable to
remain in the now deteriorating house and unwilling to put up with the
ghosts. In fact, a female skull was discovered in a brown bag at the back of
a cupboard soon after the family took up residence. Until 1930, when
Reverend Foyster and his wife moved in, the ghosts were relatively quiet;
perhaps relishing the absence of human companions. Paranormal activity
increased with the new occupants, and things became unpleasant. Guests were
locked out of their rooms, windows were broken for no reason and furniture
was moved around.
The worst of the violence was aimed at Mrs
Foyster, who found herself
targeted by invisible assailants. Household objects where thrown at her
during the day, and at night she was thrown from her bed. She was slapped by
invisible hands, and once nearly suffocated by her mattress. Messages
directed at her began appearing on the walls, addressing her as Marianne
(her first name) and asking her to "say Mass prayers" and
"get help". The renowned ghost hunter Harry Price believed one
spirit was sympathetic to Mrs Foyster, and her messages asking for help
appeared to show a Catholic lien. At a sťance contact was made with Marie
Lairre, a French nun who left her convent to marry Henry Waldegrave, whose
wealthy family had once owned a manor on the site of Borely Rectory. Her
husband had strangled her, and buried her in the cellar - unconsecrated
ground. She was doomed to wander the property, searching for eternal rest.
Some months after Marie Lairre's appearance, another spirit claimed it would
burn the house down and the unfortunate nun's body would be found. Exactly
eleven months later the new owner knocked over an oil lamp and burned the
Price found several very fragile female bones in the cellar, and
concluded they belonged to Marie Lairre. A service was held for her at
Liston, and her remains were interred in consecrated ground. No further
sightings of the young woman have been reported since.
While there is indeed evidence that Price was perhaps not always honest
in his work, the facts and stories around Borley Rectory have all the
elements of a classic haunted house, made even more interesting because they
date back for centuries. The fact that the property was occupied by a
"man of God" was no deterrent to the ghosts, which goes against
traditional beliefs. I chose this example because there are so many elements
to this specific haunted property, and each one is an interesting story in
its own right.
Writers have used haunted places to great effect, creating a diverse
selection of interesting horror stories. Here's a brief synopsis of a few
published stories featuring haunted houses. Each one shows the only limiting
factor is the writer's imagination:
The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's "The Shining" took
on a life of its own, as a host to a community of ghosts and evil spirits.
The Overlook wanted to absorb young Danny Torrance, because his psychic
powers would give it more power and strength.
Belheddon Hall in Barbara Erskine's "House of Echoes" is
an ancient house in Essex and no man has ever inherited the property. The
new owner Joss learns the house's history - during the 15th century, a
powerful witch cast a spell on King Edward IV to make him fall in love with
her daughter Katherine. 500 years later the spell is still effective,
binding King Edward to pursue Katherine's descendents, of whom Joss is one.
At the same time Katherine's angry ghost attacks any men living at Belheddon
Adams, Tennessee is the location The supposedly true story of a
poltergeist is the theme of Brent Monahan's "The Bell Witch: an
American Haunting". In a twist on the traditional poltergeist
manifestation the being in this story attacked John Bell in the family home
while developing a more friendly relationship with the rest of the family.
At first the poltergeist stayed true to its supernatural roots; throwing
rocks on the roof, chewing on bedposts and pulling covers off beds. However
it soon changed its attitude, and began integrating itself into the Bell
family. It would obtain news for the family about distant relatives, sang in
four different voices, rescued children in distress and allowed itself to be
touched. For three years it joked, debated about theology, allowed itself to
be touched and rescued children in distress. When Mrs Bell fell ill it
helped nursed her. At the same time it affected Mr Bell with a variety of
physical ailments, from nervous tics to palsy. Each illness was more intense
than the previous one, and the poltergeist did nothing to easy John Bell's
Harrow is a boy's prep school on a Hudson River Estate in Douglas
Clegg's "Nightmare House", the final book in a trilogy based
around the school. Suggestions of hi storic evil and occult experiences in
the first two books - "Mischief" and "The Infinite" -
are realised when Ethan Gravesend inherits the estate from his eccentric
paternal grandfather, who built the mansion on supposedly cursed land.
Almost immediately eerie apparitions are seen lurking in Harrow's shadowy
halls and gloomy grounds. A boarded-up room reveals the proverbial skeleton
in the family closet that serves as the entrance for the supernatural forces
to enter Harrow.
A good story about haunting will stay with a reader forever. In the
examples given above the spirit has its own story; a reason for being in the
building. And hauntings are not restricted to houses, either.
On Mount Everest climbers claim to have seen the ghost of a
climber, believed to be Andrew Irvine, who disappeared while trying to reach
the summit with George Mallory in 1924. In 1975 two climbers said they
shared a snow hole with the ghost during their climb...
Since 1978 many people have died in car accidents on Hong Kong's
Mun Road, and the death toll is blamed upon ghosts. It is said the ghost
suddenly appear in the middle of the road, causing drivers to swerve to
avoid hitting them and crashing their cars. The ghosts are believed to be
those of past victims, and many drivers say they've lost control of their
vehicles for no obvious reason...
If one stands in the Screaming Tunnel in one of the woods near
Niagara Falls, and lights a wooden match in the middle of the tunnel at
midnight a scream will be heard when the match burns out. The scream belongs
to a young girl who was burned alive by her unhappy father after he lost a
legal battle over her. Another story claims the girl's ghost stalks the
living, and anyone it catches will die suddenly. There are also reports of
her father wandering through the wood, carrying a lantern...
Since opening in 1886 Melbourne Australia's Princess Theatre has
hosted several ghosts. Singer Frederick Baker, who died in 1888 while
singing the role of Mephistopheles in "Faust", was seen by the
rest of the cast taking his bow with them at the end of the show. For many
years a seat has been left vacant for him in the dress circle, where his
appearance during rehearsals is taken as a sign the show will be a
Haunting at Ireland's Leap Castle began during an argument between
two princes over the kingdom. One day, while the younger brother was
conducting a sermon the older sibling rushed in and stabbed him. The
combination of fratricide and an unfinished sermon damned the castle for
eternity. The bloody chapel's name was earned when the walls turned red for
no reason. A seven year old princess died after an inexplicable fall down
the stairs. In 1924 a woman felt a hand on her shoulder, and saw a being
resembling a half-human/half sheep that stank of sulphur. Terrified she fled
the castle. Her husband never emerged, and his body was never found...
Indonesian legend claims the daughter of the Queen of the South
Sea killed herself by leaping off a cliff into the sea. Bathers are advised
not to wear green when they swim, because it is the queen's favourite colour
and her daughter's ghost will pull the offending swimmer under the water.
Room 308 at the Samundra Beach Hotel is supposedly reserved exclusively for
the queen's use...
The reason Sarah Winchester built Winchester Mystery House is San
Jose in California was to protect her from the ghosts of people killed by
her deceased husband's famous rifles. Today it is said she haunts the
The forest called Aokigahara at the foot of Mount Fiji is said to
be haunted by the ghosts of those who commit suicide there - the location is
a popular place for suicides...
During the hasty construction of the Manila Film Centre in the
Philippines in the early 1980s the ceiling scaffolding collapsed, causing
workmen to fall into the wet cement in the orchestra pit. The cement was
drying at the time, and in the interests of haste (and apparently under the
instructions of the wife of the then President Ferdinand Marcos) no rescue
would be undertaken and the bodies must be covered by cement. Some of the
workmen were still alive when this was done. Subsequently paranormal
activity was reported on the site, particularly strange noises, ghostly
voices and poltergeist activity. Efforts have been made in recent years to
appease the souls of the entombed workmen, many of whom have moved on. But
many locals claim ghosts of the dead workers still remain...
In conclusion, it seems no place on earth is safe from a supernatural
being; be it a house, castle, film centre, forest or highway. Inspiration is
everywhere, and the only limit is YOUR imagination...
About the Author
The writer was born in Africa, and lived there for the first 38 years of
her life. She worked in the world of public relations for over five years,
running her own PR company and dealing extensively with the world of
journalism and the print media. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/,
a site for Writers. Her blog can be visited at: http://www.writing.com/authors/zwisis/blog