Penn State Paranormal

Spooktober is almost over but I still have plenty of ghostly, scary tales to share.

When I wrote articles for Paranormal Rag, a now defunct online magazine, I did a series on haunted colleges. I have yet to hear of a college/university that doesn’t have its share of ghosts.

This particular article looks into the spirits at Penn State University. Apparently, there are so many ghosts in and around the campus of the Nittany Lions, they have their very own paranormal investigation group which was aptly highlighted in the television reality series, Paranormal State. Even though the show is no longer on, I still hold it up as one of the premiere ghost hunting shows to this day.


Paranormal Phenomenon at Penn State

By KC Freeman


One of the most popular places for ghostly tales comes from colleges and universities. Every school seems to have its share of paranormal activities. But none more so than Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). The main campus in State College, Pennsylvania is renowned not just for excellence in academics and sports, but it tops the list of institutions of higher education in another less publicized category – ghosts!

Founded in 1855 as the Farmers High School of Pennsylvania, the school underwent many name changes over the years and officially became Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in 1953. But not before the land and the buildings had seen their fair share of tragedy and death.

Two of the most note-worthy ghostly residents are a former president of the college, George W. Atherton (president from 1882 until his death in 1906) and the industrialist, Charles Schwab. George is buried next to Schwab Auditorium, near the Old Main building. There have been reports of the ghostly apparition of the president inside the auditorium taking in some of the shows there, possibly alongside another popular ghost – Charles Schwab himself who donated the majority of funding for the construction of the auditorium. Students and staff have witnessed the stage curtains moving when no one is near them. Even creepier are the accounts of seats being pushed down by an invisible force during performances and then goes back up when the show is over as if someone was sitting there watching the show. Mr. Schwab’s ghost has even earned the affectionate nickname of “Schwaboo the Ghost” from the students. Other ghosts are said to haunt the auditorium, including a janitor and at least one female spirit. Students and staff have experienced noises from upper levels when no one is there, footsteps, being scratched, and seeing objects move supposedly by themselves.

200px-George_W._Atherton_grave PSU

However, it’s the ghost of Atherton’s wife, Frances, who spooks students the most. She keeps vigil in an upstairs window of the Old Botany Building (the original location of the school’s botany department) overlooking her husband’s grave.


The building itself was investigated by the Penn State Paranormal Society (A&E’s Paranormal State) in 2007. Mrs. Atherton keeps herself busy. Reports of lights going on and off and the sound of footsteps in the locked room from which she watches over the grave; electronic devices mysteriously malfunctioning; and even an apparition of an elderly woman rocking in her chair while knitting. She has also been seen floating along the corridors of Atherton Hall, a former girls’ dormitory (now home to the Schreyer Honors College) named after herself. Other ghosts are reported to reside in Atherton Hall – a former house mother nicknamed “Gumshoes”, and the ghost of someone who was rumored to have died in the elevator shaft.

So far Penn State’s ghosts appear to be friendly, or at least non-threatening. If you’re up for a bigger fright, you may want to park yourself in the Pattee Library late at night for a study session in spookiness. An unsolved and mysterious murder happened there on November 28, 1969. Graduate student, Betsy Aardsma, was stabbed multiple times from behind. There was no sign of a struggle and very little blood at the crime scene. Betsy’s ghost is said to haunt the stacks of the library near where she was murdered. She makes her presence known by sudden drops in temperature, moving objects around, and her apparition has been witnessed by several students studying late at night. One male student was intrigued by a pretty girl passing him in stacks. After gathering his courage to talk to her, he walked in the direction she had gone only to find it was dead end and…no girl. Still seems harmless, right? Not so for one female student who felt invisible hands gripping her neck in the same location as the murder. Other students have reported hearing screams from the library basement, shadow figures, and red glowing eyes in the darkness. Creepy!

Want to go on a ghost walk? Sadly, Penn State’s own Ghost Walk trail no longer exists, but that doesn’t mean the ghost(s) went away. The secluded path once traversed from the Old Botany Building to the far northern section of campus. It is marked today by a lone spruce tree between the Old Botany Building and Burrowes Building. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, there’s a good reason it was given the name Ghost Walk. Back in the 1860s, a student became lost in a sudden blizzard and froze to death. Since then an apparition has been witnessed by students to be roaming the trail.

There are countless other tales of paranormal activity at Penn State, but by far the cutest ghost story (yes, I said “cutest”) is the one of Old Coaly, the mule. This particular mule was part of the pack team during the construction of the university back in the 1850s. Old Coaly stayed on campus after his work was done and was the first mascot for the school. He died New Year’s Day 1893 but still roams the campus. Sounds of his braying could be heard along with his thudding hooves through Watts Hall late at night. Why inside a building? Well, Old Coaly’s skeleton has been kept on display at the university. His bones have been moved numerous times, but wherever his remains are exhibited, his ghost follows. Currently, Old Coaly resides in the HUB-Robeson Center.

Old Coaly PSU


There are so many other tales of ghostly shenanigans at Penn State, it would take a full-length novel to include them all. Spirits are reported to rattle pipes in Beam Hall; a ghost hard at work late at night in Ihlseng Cottage; a poltergeist frightening students in the Keller Building by locking doors and ransacking rooms; disembodied voices in the Pollack Laptop Library; and too many ghost encounters to count in Runkle Hall – just to spotlight a few. Thus, why Penn State is considered to be one of the most haunted college campuses.


Crimson Ghosts

Halloween season also happens to be football season, specifically college football. Where I originate from, the great state of Alabama, the latter season is sacred.

Most colleges have their share of ghostly tales. But the multi-national football champions from the University of Alabama could claim another national title…most haunted campus!


Crimson Tide Ghosts – Hauntings at the University of Alabama

To anyone who even remotely follows college athletics, if you hear “Roll Tide Roll” you know exactly who and what it means. University of Alabama. More specifically, Bama sports. And more likely than not, it’s associated with Bama football. The university and the team are quite famous. After all, they won seventeen national football championships. Most of the country’s college football fans either LOVE the Tide or HATE them. For purposes of this article, I will refrain from expressing my own opinion.

But do you know what else Bama is famous for?


Since its inception in 1831, the hallowed campus grounds in Tuscaloosa, Alabama have experienced trauma and bloodshed (and not always related to football rivalries gone bad).

In the early days, it was common for gun fights to break out on campus. Later on, the university was turned into a military academy to train Confederate soldiers for the Civil War. After the war, it reverted back into an institute of higher learning, but violence still marred the land and gave rise to numerous reports of paranormal activity.

The Little Round House, also known as Jason’s Shrine, was a cadet guardhouse during the Civil War. Three Union soldiers still reside there after their grisly murders. The legend tells that two Confederate cadets stayed behind while the Union army burned the buildings on campus. One cadet was accosted by Union soldiers looking for whiskey. He directed them to the cadet guardhouse where the other cadet ambushed the soldiers and killed them. The soldiers’ boots can be heard stomping around inside the building. When someone ventures in to check out the cause of the sounds, no one is there.

The shadow of a young woman who committed suicide by lighting herself on fire still wanders the 13th floor of Tutwiler Hall. Others experience feelings of foreboding and of being watched in the basement of the same building.

The tramping of horse hooves can be heard throughout the main floor of Smith Hall, located on the Quad, where there is an exhibit of its namesake, Dr. Eugene Allen Smith’s carriage. It is accompanied by the sounds of disembodied horses neighing and horse whips cracking. There are also reports of voices, and when someone investigates, they find desks that had been arranged neatly just moments ago to be in disarray. The room where this phenomenon occurs happens to be a former boiler room where a boiler explosion killed several students.

Marian Gallaway, former theater director, still roams the Gallaway Theater in Rowand-Johnson Hall. Some theater students claim a person can call forth Mrs. Gallaway by standing center stage (alone) and asking her, “How’s my blocking, Mrs. Gallaway?” Her ghost also voices her displeasure if students are not working hard enough by slamming doors to get their attention.

One student claims that after the opening night performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the main theater, one student came up to a group gathered in front of Mrs. Gallaway’s portrait. He remarked that he saw Mrs. Gallaway in the audience and she appeared to thoroughly enjoy the show. When the group laughed and stated that was impossible, he pointed to the portrait and affirmed that was the woman he saw in the audience. He was shocked to discover Mrs. Gallaway had been deceased for some time.

An interesting side note is rampant speculation that Mrs. Gallaway was the inspiration for the character of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

What’s a college ghost story without a haunted library? The University of Alabama is no different. The Gorgas Library is still overseen by its namesake, Amelia Gorgas. She mostly haunts the fourth floor, so much so that the elevators have been programmed to NOT stop on that floor. However, students in the library late at night have experienced the misfortune of the elevator stopping and the door opening on the fourth floor.

Mrs. Gorgas is not alone though. Her husband, former University President and Confederate General, Josiah Gorgas, haunts the Gorgas House where he lived and died. Reports include claims of the sound of his sword banging against the walls.

Most colleges have a center of campus, commonly called a quad. Well, Bama students are wise to avoid the Quad on foggy nights. If one is unlucky enough to have to traverse the Quad on such a night, walk fast. Otherwise, you may bear witness to up to three ghosts – a Confederate soldier in full military garb of a Commandant, and two deceased professors whose bodies were cremated and their ashes scattered across the campus.

Following college football as closely as I do, I am surprised to find there has not been a reported sighting of the ghost of the legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. If anyone happens to come across him, please let me know. There are a hundred plus football coaches that would like to pick his brain for game day strategy. Perhaps that is how Nick Saban is such an amazingly winning coach – is he channeling the Bear? Maybe there’s a Crimson Ouija Board in the field house? (see previous articles on ouija boards)

Whether you love Bama or hate Bama, one thing is clear – even death can’t stop Bama faculty, or students from hanging around campus for their Crimson Tide.


Happy Hell Gate Hopping This Halloween

Six more days of Spooktober! If you’re not into trick-or-treating, how about a little Hell-Gate hopping?


Don’t Pass Through the Seven Gates of Hell

seven gates of hell pic

Urban legends abound, but none are quite as terrifying as this one originating out of a tiny rural are in Pennsylvania. The legend goes that if you pass through the seven gates, all located in a wooded area of Hellam Township off of Trout Run Road (formerly Toad Road), you go straight to Hell. A variant of the story states that you have to pass through the gates in order after midnight for the road trip to Hell.

Others say there are seven gates to Hell in Illinois where a portal to Hell opens and the person will be confronted by hell hounds; or if done in reverse order (end at Gate 1), you can see through the portal into Hell but are not transported there.

Another legend states that on Halloween night if you pass seven black gates (any seven black gates), you will see the seven gates of Hell. But let’s stick to the Hellam Township’s seven gates to Hell for now.

Two versions for the Pennsylvania gates exist. One – a mental hospital burned down and to keep the surviving inmates from escaping, law enforcement put up several gates to close in the area. These inmates were brutally beaten and most killed. The psychic echo of that heinous night cursed the land. Two – an eccentric doctor constructed the gates along a wooded path on his property.

Both stories agree that only one gate can be seen by daylight, and the other six gates are only visible at night. So far, no one has passed the fifth gate. Truly, who would want to?

Historically, according to Hellam Township, there was never an insane asylum there, and the doctor in question put up one gate on his personal property to keep trespassers out. The best evidence of remaining Hell gates are gnarled tree trunks throughout the forest that give off the impression of gates.

Even the reasoning that the gates to Hell exist here led to the name of the town, Hellam, is inaccurate. The name comes from Hallamshire in South Yorkshire, England. Most importantly, the township is adamant that the rumors are false and state on their website that “This area is private property. Trespassers will be prosecuted.”

So how and why does this legend persist? Over the years there have been many adventurers willing to test the theory – although, as reported, no one has made it past the fifth gate. Some claimed a sense of evil and the stench of death are so overpowering many don’t make it past the first gate. These explorers tell of piercing screams through the otherwise silent night and shadow figures stalking them along the path. Many are simply run off by law enforcement since it is private property and the owners don’t like trespassers (who does?). And even if someone did make it to the seventh gate, how would we know whether that person got a fast-pass to Hell if that person doesn’t return to tell the tale?

For now speculation runs deep as to the authenticity of the seven gates of Hell in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania. Plenty of locals will attest to the evil aura of the area. Some will even regale you with tales of their own adventures into the woods when they were devil-may-care teenagers. Regardless of the township’s own statements to the contrary, there simply isn’t enough evidence to convince this writer either way. But honestly, I’d rather not take the chance to find out the truth for myself.

If there is someone out there brave enough to seek out the seven gates and pass through them (remember the “No Trespassing” signs), AND you make it back out alive and well…I’d love to hear your story and share it with the world.

Happy Hell Gate Hopping!



Ouija Board – Family Fun or Demon Portal? (Part 2)

We started out the month of October (SpookFest) with an article I wrote for Paranormal Rag (an online magazine) about Ouija Boards. Below is the follow-up article…because honesty, ouija boards are fascinating…scary, but fascinating.


Last time we discussed the history and a possible scientific explanation of the popular board “game” – the Ouija Board. It started as a simple board game for family entertainment, even though its origin was more supernaturally inclined.

Now I want to share true stories of just how dangerous this seemingly innocuous game can be.

A Ouija board, also known as a spirit board, is a flat board with letters of the alphabet written across in big arches, numbers 0 through 9 listed on a straight line underneath the letters, two words in the top corners of the board (“Yes” in the upper left; “No” in the upper right), and the words “Good Bye” centered at the bottom (sometimes the board also has “Hello”). A small triangle, sometimes heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic, called a planchette allows the participants to place the tips of their fingers on it and it guides them to spell out the answers to their questions.

Currently, Hasbro, Inc. (a toy manufacturer) owns the trademark and you can find the board game in the non-electronic games section of Walmart, Target, or even order online from Amazon. After researching for this article, I found there’s even Ouija apps for phones.

Can something so widely distributed and touted as a family game since its commercialization in 1890 actually be quite sinister?

In addition to being the basis for the possession of a little girl in the movie, The Exorcist, (which was based on a true story), there have been numerous reports of spooky, and even dangerous, encounters with the Ouija board.

One Reddit user’s experience was posted in Cosmopolitan magazine in 2016. She and her now ex-boyfriend used an Ouija board to attempt contact with a friend of his that had recently died. They got more than they bargained for when the spirit was more than anxious to speak with them. They stopped the session which seemed to anger the spirit. The planchette began moving on its own very rapidly, not even spelling out words. The atmosphere became heavy and oppressive, making the living persons in the room exhausted. The woman fell asleep for a few minutes. When she woke up, a dark shadow figure rushed at her and was screaming. She claims it felt like the apparition was trying to get into her body. After running from the house, the woman has sworn off Ouija boards forever.

One woman in West Virginia retold a story of using an Ouija board with her mom one night when she was just a pre-teen. She swore her mom was moving the planchette, although her mom equally swore she wasn’t. The spirit identified itself by a name neither recognized. When they asked how the spirit died, it did not answer so her mom attempted to say “good-bye.” The planchette moved to the word “No.” Her mom again said “good-bye” and the planchette moved to the word “good-bye” as well. However, that’s when it started to get weird. The woman (young girl at the time) began to hear growling in a corner of her bedroom at night. Her father did not hear it, but her mother did. Also, the mom’s cigarettes began to have a rotten egg smell (Sulphur smells like this and is commonly associated with demons). A few days later, her mom became very ill and was hospitalized with a nasty infection. After that, the growling stopped.

A couple teenage girls lost almost ten hours of their life using the board. They started a session with the Ouija board around 9 pm and after a few questions…it was 7 am. Neither recalls what happened after the first couple of innocuous questions.

People have reported shadows, voices, strange knocks and other sounds after using an Ouija board. However, some have also reported being assaulted – scratched, pushed, choked, and held down unable to move.

Doesn’t sound quite such an innocent game now, does it?

There have been countless stories of people throwing away, destroying, and even burning their Ouija boards and/or the planchettes (or homemade devices used as planchettes), but then the items turn up again, and along with it – dark shadows, disembodied voices, and a general sense of heaviness in the air.

Regardless of your own personal opinion of Ouija boards, and possible scientific explanations to how it works, there are enough reports of negative experiences both during the use of the board and long after the session is over to make goosebumps rise on even a skeptic’s skin.

For those of you daring individuals who break out one of these boards for any reason, please take care. Some safety precautions include:

  • Close out the session by saying “good-bye” and waiting until the planchette responds by moving to the words “good-bye” on the board (never leave a board open);
  • Do not leave these boards around for children to find;
  • If the spirit becomes aggressive, end the session quickly and include a statement to the effect that you do not give the spirit permission to remain – remember, you are in control, but you must wait until the planchette also moves to “good-bye” before walking away (otherwise the spirit will remain and could cause trouble);
  • Do not leave the planchette unattended on the board;
  • Do not ask the spirit to make a sound or touch something or someone to prove it is there. This will only invite trouble;
  • If the planchette begins making figure-eight designs on the board (either backwards or forwards), SHUT DOWN the board immediately (as described above). Same goes if the planchette moves forward or backward across all the letters and/or numbers. Both are signs the spirit is attempting a spell to cross over into our world;
  • Play the game with respect. Don’t curse at the spirit or call it fake. You’ll just piss off the spirit and then bad stuff follows;
  • Do not attempt a session with the Ouija board alone;
  • And this may sound nonsensical, but do not play with an Ouija board in a cemetery.

Just a few easy steps to make your Ouija board experience fun and safe. If you don’t, you may want to avoid it altogether. Don’t risk what happened to those persons whose stories are above happen to you.


Safe and happy Ouija’ing, folks!

Spirited Performances in a Haunted Opera House

Continuing our haunted tales series for the month of October, how about an opera performance from spirits of the early 1900’s?



Ghostly Concerts at the Albemarle Opera House

Although closed for over one hundred years, the building that housed the grandest theater in Albemarle, North Carolina has also experienced the highest level of paranormal activity in the state.

The Albemarle Opera House opened in 1908 and closed seven years later in 1915, shortly before the greatest flu pandemic of the twentieth century struck in 1917. Although vacant, many report that the building is not exactly uninhabited.

An apparition of a tall man in a dark suit and hat appears on the stage and in the balcony of the old opera house.

A lady in a white flowing dress graces the stairs going up to the balcony. Shadows of people dance across the stage.

Voices of a little boy and a little girl can be heard in the balcony, with the little boy confiding that he likes to play tricks – according to the owner of the building, the little boy does just that quite often.

Locked doors unlock themselves and open, much to the chagrin of folks looking for privacy in the bathroom of the jewelry store now located on the first floor of the building.

The sound of footsteps in the balcony and in other parts of the building when no one is there.

Once during a rare performance in the opera house for the local historical society, a female singer felt someone brush against her on stage while she was singing.

All point to one conclusion…the Albemarle Opera House is one of the most haunted sites in North Carolina.

The building was constructed in 1907 with the opera house opening in 1908, along with Huneycutt’s Furniture Store, Starnes Jewelry, and Hall’s Pharmacy. All of the various businesses there have experienced some form of paranormal activity.

The opera house’s claim to fame is that Thomas Edison visited the theater and provided a music concert with his first phonograph. The current owner, and grandson of the original builder and owner of the property, confirmed that there was a musical performance using one of Edison’s phonographs, but there was no evidence that Thomas Edison himself was present at the time. Regardless, the building hosted traveling shows, including magic shows, plays, and even comedic operas until it closed in 1915.

However, the building itself has its own intriguing history. During the pandemic of the Spanish influenza from 1917 until 1918, there were so many deaths that Huneycutt’s was used as a funeral home. And when space ran out, they cut out a wall from the mortuary and used the theater as a morgue. Some of the deceased awaited burial while stored just off the stage of the opera house.

According to the building owner, one of the fun aspects of working in the building has been the playing of music from the vacant theater. Albemarle citizens report you can hear the band from October until March, what would have been a typical season for musical performances in the theater.

The ghostly happenings aren’t limited to the opera house. Disembodied voices can be heard in Huneycutt’s Furniture Store and sometimes items move by themselves. Employees refuse to be alone in the building at night. The jewelry store computers and other electronics cut off and on; store merchandise (and personal belongings) are moved and hidden; and the store clocks chime in unison, but not on the hour. Hall’s Pharmacy was turned into a restaurant where employees and patrons claim items move on their own. An apparition similar to the well-dressed man in the opera house has been reported to be seen in the restaurant as well. When an employee followed the man upstairs to tell him no one was allowed there, he found the space empty.

Several paranormal investigators have been in the Albemarle Opera House. They’ve captured orbs on camera (a common indicator of spirits), picked up sound waves in response to questions, and experienced up to thirty degree drops in temperature. The most convincing experiment by a paranormal group consisted of twelve flashlights on the stage. While the investigators sat over sixty feet away and asked questions, the flashlights were turned on and off in apparent responses to their queries.

No one has ever complained of sensing anything evil in the building. Several paranormal investigation groups have conducted hunts there, and none reported anything malevolent. The building owner also stated that, at least in his experience, all the ghostly encounters have been associated with the opera house, nothing to do with the vast number of deaths from the flu. This was also the conclusion of the paranormal groups who have visited the opera house.

The Albemarle Opera House may not be open for business any longer, but that doesn’t seem to stop the musical performances. If you’re lucky, you may catch a ghostly concert walking by the building, having some good food in the attached restaurant, or perusing the sparkling jewelry in Starnes Jewelry Store.

Haunted Halls of Queens University

Another spooky tale. This time let’s study the school spirits haunting Queens University in Charlotte, NC.


The past few years I had opportunities to visit college campuses across the southern United States as my oldest son looked for his “home” for the next four (at least) years. I adore the older campuses with the weathered brick buildings and towering tree-lined quads. While my son was more interested in the sports teams and what his social life would be like, I soaked up the atmosphere and listened to tour guides regale us with the school’s history. Sometimes that included a ghost story or two. Now, being so inclined to cling to every word of a ghost tale, it got me to thinking – universities have some of the best ghost stories and those stories should be told to a much wider audience. So…I decided to dedicate at least one article an issue to haunted universities. Let’s face it – what college over two years old doesn’t have some rumored paranormal activity?

Queens University was founded in 1957 in the heart of Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a small campus that you may miss driving by if you blink. But it is prestigious and a bit pricey. Initially, it was established as the Charlotte Female Institute            and then changed to the Seminary for Girls from 1891-1896. The university then merged with the Presbyterian Female College. In 1912, the new college moved to its current location in the Myers Park neighborhood. After World War II, the college admitted its first male students.

Long before Queens University was founded and much earlier than its move to its current location, the land experienced events that scarred it and led to tales of Civil War ghost battles playing out in the student courtyard at the center of campus. Students have reported blood-chilling screams and sounds of gunfire out on the courtyard and at Burwell Residence Hall.

Checking into the history of the land, there were no reported battles fought at the site. However, two facts support the claim of possible Civil War ghosts haunting the campus. First, the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, fled to the area when the Confederate capital of Richmond was overtaken by the Union army. Second, the Confederate Naval Yard was moved from Portsmouth, Virginia to Charlotte in 1862. Either incident could account for the ghost soldiers.

Due to no actual reported fighting on the land, I sought to verify the claims by asking some current students, who wish to remain anonymous. Most have never been in the campus courtyard after midnight and thus had not heard any ghost battle noises. However, one enterprising young man, did venture out there after my inquiry. Although he did not see anything, he did hear muffled yells. Whether this was rebel soldiers re-enacting their grisly deaths or real people off in the distance, he refused to speculate. But he also said he would not be going out to the courtyard after midnight ever again. There have been enough reports of the phenomenon to grant it some credence so we won’t rule out the possibility of Civil War ghosts in the courtyard just yet.

Some past students at Queens University have reported seeing a dark apparition of a man hanging from a tree in the courtyard. Initially, this was attributed to the Civil War era as well. New information contradicts the timing though. As most of the other ghost stories of the college, it revealed that a student hung himself. Since the school was not co-ed until after World War II, his death – and subsequent ghost – would not be connected to the war.

Aside from the “ghosts with a rebel yell”, Queens is plagued with ghosts of suicide victims. The most frightening haunt being a young woman who slit her wrists in the Albright Residence Hall in the 1800s. Rumor has it that she was humiliated and distraught after her family discovered she was having an affair with another woman. Being the time period, that behavior was more than frowned upon so the family wasn’t quite understanding of the situation. The poor woman killed herself in her dorm room. There have been reports of loud knocking sounds inside the walls of that particular room and the door flies open of its own accord. It is even said that the lover’s name, Julie, appears on the wall above the bed as if written in blood.

Another chilling ghost tale of Queens University residence halls involves Room 303 of Hall Brown (also known as Overcash Hall). A student woke up during the night to see her roommate slumped over the desk. She tried to wake the girl only to realize her roommate was actually still in her bed. The figure at the desk sat up, looked at the girl, and promptly vanished when the resident screamed.

In the Belk Residence hall, a student was shaken awake. When she looked around the room, the desk was violently vibrating back and forth. It stopped when she got out of bed to check. About an hour later, the same shaking disturbed her sleep again. The student did what any self-respecting person would do – she made to run out the door. But this prankster ghost had other plans. The woman stared in shock as the door locked by itself. Then the face of a young girl manifested on the closet door. Three years later, another student reported seeing an apparition of a girl peeking out from the same closet door.

Wallace Residence Hall also has reports of strange things happening in a particular dorm room, including banging sounds and cold spots. However, to prevent students being scared of their room assignments, the room number has been kept secret.

It’s not just the dorm rooms at Queens University that house ghosts. Students often go to practice their musical performances in the Suzanne Little Rehearsal Hall underneath Dana Auditorium. Many have reported seeing a well-dressed ghost lady pass them and then vanish.

Queens University has a long history of paranormal experiences, easily making it one of the most haunted places in North Carolina. If you visit the Queen’s City of Charlotte, be sure to take a tour, especially if you have a child looking for a fabulous university and you don’t mind forking out over $32,000 a year. The student guides won’t unveil all the ghostly secrets of the university, but feel free to ask any students roaming the courtyard. Just make sure those students are corporeal.

The Vampire Beast – The Beast of Bladenboro

Let’s detour from the spooky tales to the downright terror-inspiring stories of the monsters hidden in the dark. It is October after all, so we shouldn’t forget the other horrors awaiting us in the night.


Blood-Sucking Feline?

The Beast of Bladenboro – The Vampire Beast

Back in the winter of 1953-1954, the tiny town of Bladenboro, North Carolina was terrorized for approximately ten days by what later became known as “The Beast of Bladenboro.” The beast vanished suddenly, only to make a brief appearance in 2007 in areas surrounding Bladenboro. But is the creature truly gone or just excellent at the game of hide and seek?

The beast became so well-known and its existence rose from mythical status to achieve full acknowledgement of its existence as a cryptid. What is a cryptid, you ask? It is a newly discovered species once thought to be have been simply myth or rumor, but has become widely accepted as a genuine species without mainstream scientific evidence. The Beast of Bladenboro has been officially recorded as a terrestrial cryptid according to Eberhart’s classification. It is denoted as a blood-sucking feline-like predator, and is also called the “Vampire Beast.” Other famous cryptids include the Yeti, Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, and even mermaids. To be included with such notorious creatures, the Beast of Bladenboro is in good company.

So what exactly is the Beast of Bladenboro? Descriptions by the few who actually saw the creature vary, but all agree it was a large cat (four to five feet long) with bushy black hair that resembled a mix of a bear and a panther. Tracks discovered by hunters revealed over one inch long claws. Based on sightings and paw prints, it was estimated the beast weighed anywhere from eighty to one hundred-fifty pounds. That is one large cat!

A big cat roamed the swamplands of eastern North Carolina? Big deal, right? Well, it wasn’t just the sightings of the creature that struck terror into the hearts of Bladenboro citizens. No, the beast earned its reputation the old-fashioned way – it slaughtered animals (mostly dogs) in a most vicious manner. The victims were found crushed, even flattened, entirely. Some had their jaws ripped off completely. Tongues were chewed out of the animals. But most frightening…the bodies were drained of blood. Hence, the moniker of the “Vampire Beast.”

It all started in late December 1953 and ended approximately ten days later. A man found his two dogs mutilated, crushed, and one missing its jaw. He wrapped the bodies in a quilt to bury the next day, but the bodies were carried off (supposedly by the beast) before daybreak. The following day, two more dead dogs were discovered with similar wounds. The next day, another dog. The following day, two more with jaws shattered and their tongues chewed out.

Finally, the police chief stepped in to investigate. An autopsy of the last two murdered dogs showed something more alarming than the bodies simply being flattened. They been completely drained of blood.

Other dead animals – goats, pigs, and rabbits – were found in the same manner. Crushed, nearly flattened. Jaws missing. Tongues and ears chewed off. And NO BLOOD remained.

There were several sightings of the beast, but only one human was attacked. On January 5, 1954 a woman went out on her front porch to check on her whimpering dogs. The feline predator was a few yards away and charged at the frightened woman, but her screams brought her husband running to her aid and the beast beat a hasty retreat into the trees.

The police chief also saw the beast attacking a dog, and then followed its tracks into the swampy woods. To his surprise, there were two sets of tracks with one set smaller than the others. Did the beast have a baby beast with it?

The next day a young boy looked out his window to see a large cat meeting earlier descriptions of the beast. What disturbed him the most was it had a cry like that of human baby.

The community finally had enough. Hunters were requested to find the creature and kill it. Over eight hundred hunters showed up in the tiny town of Bladenboro.

On January 13, 1954, hunters did succeed in killing a bobcat. Anyone who had seen the beast claimed this animal was too small, and therefore, could not be the Beast of Bladenboro. The small bobcat could not possibly have so violently crushed its victims. And what about the drained blood?

But surprisingly, the attacks stopped. Until…

Fast forward to 2007. About two and a half hours west of Bladenboro in Lexington, North Carolina, a farmer discovered sixty of his goats mutilated with their heads crushed and drained of blood. A similar incident happened in Greensboro, North Carolina (two and a half hours from Bladenboro, but only thirty minutes from Lexington). Police in both jurisdictions ruled the deaths as cougar attacks. While this is certainly a possibility, cougars do not tend to suck out all the blood from their victims.

Some suspect that the initial attacks in 1953-1954 were part of a publicity stunt for a movie coming out called, “The Big Cat.” However, the movie by that name was released in 1949, before the attacks.

Today, the quaint town of Bladenboro, North Carolina has fully accepted its status as home to the cryptid, the Vampire Beast. They even have an annual festival in late October to honor their claim to fame. If you’re ever in the vicinity of Bladenboro (eastern North Carolina about an hour west of Wilmington) around Halloween, drop in and enjoy the festivities at the Beast of Bladenboro BeastFest!

This year’s festival will be held October 25-26, 2019. Here’s the link for all the information you need regarding the festival:

I checked with the Town Clerk – no new sightings of the beast so it should be safe.

Where Can a Ghost Go to Have a Drink?

TGIF! What’s everyone planning to do this weekend? How about grabbing a pint at the most haunted pub in Charlotte, NC?

Continuing the spooky tales for October, the following is an article I wrote for a now defunct online magazine about an authentic Irish bar & restaurant in the heart of uptown Charlotte, NC.


Ri Ra – A Real Irish Pub with Real Irish Ghosts But Far From Ireland

Sit right down and order up a pint of Guinness or a dram of your favorite whiskey and let’s mingle with the ghosts of the most authentic Irish pub in North Carolina, possibly the continental United States, and one of the state’s most haunted places – Ri Ra.

Although established just a little over two decades ago on March 14, 1997, the Ri Ra Irish pub and restaurant has already made itself well-known for its paranormal activity. How could such a new location be home to centuries-old ghosts?

Before we jump too far ahead, let’s introduce the ghosts of Ri Ra. That’s why we are here anyway. Well, that and the delicious Shepherd’s Pie and…oh, I need a Guinness refill, barkeep!

What? You don’t see the bartender? He’s right there (as I point to the end of the bar situated close to the entrance of the second floor of the pub just to the side of the dining room). He’s a handsome and physically fit gent in his late twenties with a handlebar mustache and dark brown hair. What? You still don’t see him? He’s wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and no collar, gray pants, and suspenders. He’s right there!

Oh, wait! Never mind. That was just Ri Ra’s resident ghost bartender. Perhaps he’ll pour himself a dram and join us.

Yes, Ri Ra has its share of ghosts. According to the staff, they are all friendly, but some can be quite the pranksters. The night repairman remains on high alert when he comes in after he was pushed by an unseen force on the stairs one night.

There were two particularly famous ghost stories of Ri Ra I wanted to discover more information about, so I went straight to the source – Ri Ra General Manager, Jonathan Murphy (authentic Irishman from County Clare) and Sales and Event Manager, Michelle Smith. They were more than welcoming of my questions and more than happy to talk about Ri Ra’s ghosts. I met with Michelle during the morning while the pub was mostly quiet, but I swear eyes were watching me and there was more than one moment the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

One of the most unusual stories indicating paranormal activity at the pub started with a seemingly harmless red brick. Late one night, the security system went off. The police showed up and there were no signs of breaking and entering or that anything had been disturbed except…a red brick lay in the middle of the floor of the first floor bar area. The manager was adamant that all was in place during the closing walk-through, and there had been no brick. No one had entered or exited the facility after closing. Ever since, the mysterious red brick was kept in the manager’s office. However, the brick currently is missing.

Another story that intrigued me was the chalk alphabet in the alcove above the hostess stand. Previously published stories did not do this phenomenon justice to the full story. The report was that a ghost girl draws the alphabet on the brick walls of the second floor. Actually, the chalk letters and numbers were not discovered until after a fire nearly destroyed Ri Ra in 2009. When the wall was torn away to reveal the underlying brick, they discovered the chalk markings. However, during the fire cleanup, numerous attempts were made to wash away the drawings, but they always came back. Some would “chalk” it up to someone playing a prank, but the area where the alphabet and numbers are written on the wall are high above the first floor hostess stand with no access available except by an incredibly tall ladder.

Ri Ra alcove

Ri Ra alcove close up of number2

Other stories of ghostly activities have been reported by the staff at Ri Ra, although the ghosts seem to prefer to lay low when customers come in. For instance, the manager during a morning walk-through checked the entire pub out, top to button, with no one else in the building. A little while later, someone came in to find the beer tap running. Well, if it’s an Irish ghost, that’s to be expected. Every good Irishman or woman needs a pint once in a while, even if it is in the early morning – it’s five o’clock somewhere, after all. Or our friendly ghost bartender is just trying to do his job still. However, the current staff would appreciate it if the ghosts would stop knocking the bread baskets off the counter in the upstairs dining room.

In 2003, Ri Ra brought in a clairvoyant to investigate the pub. Her team identified several ghosts from different time periods, and possibly different continents. After the two investigations, the staff were able to corroborate her findings with tales of their own which lent credence to the reports.

Based on the paranormal investigation conducted in 2003, the friendly spirits at Ri Ra are as follows:

Most prominent is the little girl, suspected of writing on the brick walls in the alcove above the hostess stand. She’s seven to ten years old with blonde hair and blue eyes, wearing a floor-length lace dress and Victorian button shoes.

In the basement, near the caged storage area where the door sometimes swings two inches each way by itself, there is a stout, elderly man with his golden retriever and a walking cane. He was also seen by the clairvoyant in the dining room. Staff report the distant sound of sewing machines in the basement and occasionally a little girl’s laugh.

The kitchen is still being overseen by a stocky woman in her late forties or fifties, wearing clothing from the 1900s. Her presence is felt most by the steel bakery rack. Between the kitchen and the hall, there is a male presence also in 1900s attire, thought to perhaps be the husband of the female presence in the kitchen.

There is also a male energy standing at attention at the stairway closest to the front door and at the top of the landing to the second floor dining room. He’s thin and in his late twenties, wearing a pillbox hat and white gloves. Perhaps he is a bellhop from when the building was a small hotel.

There have been no further investigations of Ri Ra, but you can check it out for yourself during any ghost tour of uptown Charlotte.

So back to the question – how is a relatively new establishment in the heart of modern Charlotte, North Carolina so haunted? First, the building is the second oldest building in the city. At one time, it was a textile factory (seems like someone is still on the clock with all the reports of the sound of distant sewing machines) and then a small hotel (hence, the friendly bellhop waiting to direct us to our room). It was also rumored, but there are no public documents dated back far enough to confirm, there was once a settlers’ cemetery on the property.

Second, with the goal to make the pub truly authentic, Ri Ra was built completely from refurbished materials directly from Ireland – old pubs, a monastery, barracks, and even the parquet flooring in the entrance was from the same Irish shipyard as the Titanic. The establishment’s Irish artifacts include an original shop bar (from Northern Ireland) with a restored Guinness mirror and some Dublin Corporation ledgers from 1800 to 1840. There is an authentic Victoria bar created from the restoration of Dublin’s Phoenix Park barracks officers’ mess. The bar was removed from its home in the 1920s and stayed in storage for over 70 years in Castleknock, Ireland.

Ri Ra Saint Patrick statue

(Picture taken by myself during a visit to Ri Ra during the Christmas holidays)

Artifacts, including a large statue of Saint Patrick, from the 1700s and 1800s were brought directly from Ireland. If you’ve ever watched The Haunted Collector you may be familiar with the concept of haunted objects. It is thought this mass accumulation of historic items contributes heavily to the paranormal experiences in the bar/restaurant. Ri Ra also proudly displays an enclosed cabinet and other artifacts that survived a fire in the bar in 2009.

Considering Ri Ra inhabits such an old building that has seen many uses over the years, and it was constructed using refurbished wood brought over from Ireland and all the antiques from the 1700s and 1800s…I’d say that’s a nice compilation to kick start some paranormal activity. Wouldn’t you?

I’ll keep visiting Ri Ra in uptown Charlotte hunting the ghosts of Ireland’s past. Please come out and join me for a pint at the bar…if you dare.


Spookiest Cemetery — Stull


It’s October, so you know what that means…SPOOKY STORIES! In honor of the final season premiere tomorrow night (10/10/19) of my favorite show, SUPERNATURAL – here’s another article I wrote earlier this year for an online paranormal magazine, Paranormal Rag (sadly, it is no longer in circulation).


My biggest pet peeve with television shows and movies is when they don’t follow the
book or super-stretch and twist folklore, myth, or facts for so-called dramatic effect. This
happens most of the time when it comes to horror movies, sci-fi, and fantasy stories, but
especially anything to do with the supernatural. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to learn something recently that put my favorite television show in even a more favorable light.

Supernatural follows the adventures, or rather misadventures, of demon hunting brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester. Being a fictional television show means they make up a lot of stuff. However, they – at least on the surface – try to keep things straight. Such was the case in Season Five, episode “Swan Song” where Sam essentially challenges Satan to an old-fashioned cage-match of the mind. As Lucifer quoted, “…a fiddle of gold against your soul cause I think I’m better than you.” Satan won round one and booked his forked tongue and tail down to a little boneyard a few miles outside of Lawrence, Kansas for the ultimate championship bout with his archangel brother, Michael. The location? Stull Cemetery.

Now this didn’t mean anything to me when I first saw the episode, but a few weeks ago I
picked up a magazine with a list of the most haunted places in the United States. Smack in the middle of the country was a little dot marking Stull, Kansas that caught my attention. Turns out the creators of the show hadn’t just picked a fictional cemetery. They chose the site for Armageddon carefully because Stull Cemetery has quite a history as the place Satan shows up to party two nights of the year – Spring Equinox and Halloween.

Kudos to the writers at Supernatural for this nugget of ingenuity! The show creator even
admitted in a 2006 interview that he chose Lawrence, Kansas as the demon-hunting brothers’ hometown precisely because of its proximity to Stull Cemetery.

Stull Cemetery is super-creepy and with good reason. Even if I had a loved one buried
there, I don’t believe I could muster up the nerve to visit their gravesite. It’s THAT creepy. I’m all for haunted houses and such, but who would intentionally tread on the same ground as Satan himself?

Turns out…quite a lot.

So many show up in the tiny town of Stull that they now post police to guard the
cemetery on the nights of Lucifer’s supposed risings. It was even banned to visit the graveyard after dark when in 1988 over 500 bystanders showed up hoping to see the Devil and caused a lot of property damage. Trespassing on these unhallowed grounds could now burden you with up to $1,000 fine and sixty days in jail. No thanks!

Interesting enough, on Halloween night 1998, permission was given to the Lawrence
Journal World and the Sunflower Cable Station Channel 6 News to stake out the cemetery. However, around 11:30 pm, an unnamed representative of the cemetery requested they be removed – just thirty minutes before Satan’s expected arrival.

Nothing to see here, folks!

More power to you brave people if you decide to attempt trespassing at Stull Cemetery. If
you get past the security fence and see Satan partying down on the smoldering ruins of the old stone church or amongst the dilapidated tombstones, please send me pictures!

Stull Cemetery has been crowned the most evil graveyard in America. But how did a
small cemetery in the middle of nowhere earn such a reputation?

Even since its creation in the 1850s by German settlers (the town went by the name of
Deer Creek until 1857), the graveyard has seen a plethora of paranormal activity – ghost
sightings, demon sightings, occult and satanic worship, witches, and reports of human sacrifice.

No wonder folks believe Satan pops up twice a year to stretch his legs and do the “Macarena” (or maybe he prefers the “Chicken Dance”).

The first reported incident was of a stable hand stabbing the town mayor on cemetery
property, precisely in an old barn that was converted into a church in 1867. However, the story doesn’t account for the fact there has never been a mayor in Stull so that’s a bit suspect.

According to legend the church sits atop a gateway to Hell created by Satanists after the
building was abandoned in 1922. Although burned by a mysterious fire (some say by the
community in an attempt to seal the door to Hell), and the roof missing since the 1920s, the stone building was finally torn down in 2002, but the owner claims to have not authorized its demolition and no one has taken credit for it.

Ghostly tales were handed down over the years since the town’s inception, but none were documented until 1974 when the University of Kansas student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan, ruled that Stull was deemed “haunted by legends of diabolical, supernatural happenings.” The article was the first to claim Satan paid visits to the small boneyard twice a year. As a result, over one hundred and fifty people overran the property on the Spring Equinox of 1978. The Kansas City Times published an article in 1980 that further fed the urban legend by reiterating the claim that Satan rose on Halloween every year in two places on the planet – one of those places was Stull Cemetery.

Whatever government office that assigns zip codes didn’t help matters when they inserted the cemetery into Topeka’s zip code which starts with…you guessed it…666, even though the town of Stull itself is 66050. Other geographic “evidence” is that the road leading up to the cemetery was named Devil’s Lane until 1905.

People have reported seeing smoke rising from the carcass of the old church. Others
insisted that an old wooden cross inside the church turns upside down by itself. Most interesting, and if I could get up my courage I’d check it out, is the story that when it rains, no rain falls inside the church even though it is missing a roof.

Other reports of paranormal activity stem from an old tree rumored to have been used to hang witches back in the day. One of the witches had quite a reputation as she was proclaimed to have been Lucifer’s lover and bore him a child. An old tombstone with the name “WITTICH” has been speculated to be the resting place of the witch-turned-lover. Personally, I feel bad for the poor woman, Anna A. Andrews Wittich (1832-1910) if she is innocent of these charges. Who wants “Satan’s Slut” as their family legacy? The rumored child was presumed to be born deformed and died shortly afterwards. However, he is said to stalk the cemetery as a ghost with a werewolf-like appearance.

After a particular hanging of witches from the tree on the Spring Equinox (remember this is when the devil shows up for his famous bi-annual rave), a man from the town went missing and was later found hanging from the tree. Covens visited the cemetery, and the tree, for years until the tree was torn down in 1998.

The lore gets a bit stranger as years go by. In the 1980s a group of teenagers passed
through the cemetery and experienced a strange wind gust. They ran back to their car only to find it not parked where they left it, but on the opposite side of the road and facing the opposite direction.

Even cultural icons have contributed to Stull’s story…

Now the Vatican probably will never admit it, or even acknowledge the story, but it is
reported that Pope John Paul II had his airplane diverted so as to not pass over Stull Cemetery in the early 1990s on his way to an appearance in Colorado. He claimed he could not fly over unholy ground.

Don’t give the Pope’s story any credence? How about pop star, Ariana Grande? For
whatever reason Ariana wanted to visit Stull Cemetery herself to see what it was all about. Apparently, she got the full scare-fest experience according to an article in Complex in 2013. Ariana stated that she felt overwhelmingly ill and could smell sulfur (common odor indicating demons). She and her entourage immediately left, but she apologized out the car window for disturbing the peace of the spirits there.

Miss Grande claimed to have a picture with clear “textbook” demon faces, but she
deleted the photo after seeing it took up exactly 666 megabytes. In addition, the computer folder she kept the photo in was aptly titled “Demons” and weird stuff happened until she rid herself of the photo. What weird stuff? Well, one night, Ariana closed her eyes to go to sleep only to be scared by a loud rumble right next to her. When she opened her eyes, the sound went away.  When she closed them again, she began to see disturbing images of red shapes and the noise returned with whispered voices. After moving to the other side of her bed for better cell service to call for help, she rolled up next to a black mass. Too frightened to do anything, she closed her eyes and eventually fell asleep. When she woke, the mass was gone.

Not sure I could fall asleep with a menacing black cloud sharing my bed. Some people are made of stronger stuff – or her mattress is “to die for.”

So what do you believe? So many unsubstantiated tales surround Stull Cemetery that
many dismiss the stories as simple rumors from the very beginning of the tiny hamlet of Stull up until modern times. No paranormal investigations have been conducted at Stull, the owner of the property and the town itself refuses all requests. But why exactly did the local police turn away spectators outside the cemetery just before midnight when Satan is said to make his grand appearance?

Doubts abound as to Stull’s diabolical history, but a common truth is that there is always
an element of verity in every urban legend. There’s certainly enough regarding the claim that Stull Cemetery is a gateway to and from Hell that this woman will never gather up the guts to make a visit to the old boneyard, especially not around midnight of the Spring Equinox or Halloween. But if you do, please look me up afterwards. I’d love to hear your tale.

Ouija Boards: Spirit Portal or Simple Child’s Play

It’s that time of year again where everything takes on an allure of spooky.  Month of Ghosts, Goblins, Witches, and much more. To celebrate, and in response to watching the Haunted Salem Live 4 hour ghost hunt on Friday night, here’s an article I wrote for Paranormal Rag (an online magazine that has since ceased operations) about Ouija Boards and why even seasoned ghost hunters should think twice before breaking out the board.


Who hasn’t been at a sleepover and had someone whisk out an Ouija board? It’s fun. It’s spooky? It’s thrilling? But is it just a game or is it something much more sinister?

A Ouija board, also known as a spirit board, is a flat board with letters of the alphabet written across in big arches, numbers 0 through 9 listed on a straight line underneath the letters, two words in the top corners of the board (“Yes” in the upper left; “No” in the upper right), and the words “Good Bye” centered at the bottom (sometimes the board also has “Hello”). A small triangle, sometimes heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic, called a planchette allows the participants to place the tips of their fingers on it and it guides them to spell out the answers to their questions. Currently, Hasbro, Inc. (a large toy manufacturer) owns the trademark for the game. Seems innocuous enough. Right?

Use of Ouija boards has been documented back to around 1100 AD in China where planchette writing was a well-known means of necromancy and communicating with the spirit world. During and after the Civil War in the United States, spiritualists claimed to talk with the dead using the board as the telecommunications medium. Even First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, used the board during a séance to speak with her dead son. It’s even documented that I well-renown spiritualist of the time warned Mrs. Lincoln of the impending death of her husband.

It became more popular when the Kennard Novelty Company commercialized the board in 1890. The United States Patent Office tested the board and insisted it be proven to work exactly as described before they signed off on the patent. The patent officer demanded that the board spell out his name (supposedly unknown to anyone present at the time of the exhibition). When it did spell his name correctly, he awarded Elijah Bond (a co-founder of Kennard Novelty Company and attorney) the patent.

Where did the Ouija get its name? That is subject of much disagreement. One story tells that an employee of Bond’s, William Fuld, took over production of the talking board in 1901 and changed its name to “Ouija”. He claimed that he asked the board what its name was and the board responded “Ouija”, an Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” Fuld even went so far as to claim he invented the board. After much public arguing over who invented the board, the majority shareholder in Kennard Novelty Company sold Fuld his remaining interest in the Ouija for $1.

Another story insisted the name was a mashup of the French (oui) and German (ja) words for “yes”.

However, Ouija historian Robert Murch, contended that Elijah Bond’s sister-in-law (a reported medium, Helen Peters) named the board after asking it what it wanted to be called. Ms. Peters was also wearing a locket with a portrait of famed women’s rights activist Ouida. Murch believes she was the true basis for the game’s name.

In the early years of the board’s commercialization, it was considered to be simply a parlor game, nothing sinister or paranormal. But all that changed during World War I when a famous spiritualist, Pearl Curran, utilized the board as a divining tool – a method of gaining knowledge by an occultic process or ritual whereby answers are derived by spirits or other supernatural entities.

Christian denominations, particularly the Catholic Church, adamantly warn against the use of these boards as they invite in unknown entities, including demons. They have gone so far as to ban the boards. As recently as 2001, Ouija boards were burned in New Mexico, along with copies of the Harry Potter books, as “symbols of witchcraft.”

Others claim the Ouija boards can be used carefully for good means. Emily Grant Hutchings maintained that the spirit of Mark Twain dictated a novel, Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board, to her through an Ouija board in 1917. William Butler Yeat’s wife used a talking board to help him with his poetry. Two prisoners of the Turks during World War I used a board to convince their captors to free them.

But even pro-Ouija enthusiasts warn that inexperienced users should refrain from their use because “you may get more than you bargained for.”

Skeptics claim the spiritual reasons provided for the movement of the planchette to answer questions are pseudoscience and have no basis in reality. They conclude, and numerous scientific experiments have been conducted to prove this, that the planchette moves by unconscious movements of the persons with their fingers on the device. It’s called the ideomotor effect.

But what if the Ouija isn’t simply an innocent game? It’s been marketed as both an oracle into the unknown as well as family-friendly entertainment. Certainly no one would mass market dangerous telecommunication devices with spirits to children and families?

Anyone remember “The Exorcist”? 1973, the perception of the innocent family game pivoted sharply and our collective interest in the Ouija board took on a more sinister outlook. In the movie, an innocent twelve-year old girl played with the board and ended up spewing pea soup everywhere and her head spinning all the way around her neck because the board brought over a demon to possess her body. To top it off, the story was claimed to be based on a true story.

But what is more chilling is all the horrific tales from the cast and crew of the movie itself. They were plagued with all sorts of scary and paranormal activity during the film shooting. Many say the movie itself was cursed by a demon. The set of the house burned down, all except the bedroom for the character of the possessed girl, Reagan. The director claimed he saw a winged creature with talons, but it was reported that a pigeon got into one of the circuit boxes that started the fire. The actress playing the mother was seriously injured during a take where the demon-possessed little girl throws her across the room. Nine deaths are associated with the film. Crew witnessed objects moving of their own accord, including the phone used to communicate between the set and the production house. So many unexplained and terrifying instances occurred that the cast and crew requested the movie’s religious advisor, Thomas Bermingham, to exorcise the set. Initially, he refused. The next day the entire set burned to the ground leading Bermingham to relent and perform the ritual. The poor lead actress, Linda Blair, experienced such horrific issues during and after filming it is reported she underwent several exorcisms herself.

All that from an innocent, family-friendly game? Perhaps it wasn’t the Ouija, but maybe…just maybe…