H H Holmes’ Exhumation

Seven years ago we shared with you two stories of one of America’s first serial killers who plucked his victims from the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Chicago World’s Columbia Exposition (the forerunner to the World’s Fair subsequently held in cities around the world) of 1893. Young women would travel to Chicago seeking work and would simply vanish, all thanks to a man who would become known as America’s first serial killer. Though his notorious Murder Castle no longer occupies its previous space in the city of Chicago, there is one aspect of this grisly tale that does still exist: the mortal remains of Herman Webster Mudgett a.k.a. Dr Henry Howard Holmes. His remains are due to be exhumed at the request of his great-grandsons John and Richard Mudgett as there has been rumors that not only was Mr Mudgett a serial killer but also a consummate con artist and he somehow conned his way out of the death penalty and took off for parts friendlier to unknown individuals.

If you’re unfamiliar with Holmes’ tale, you can read our previous posts here: H H Holmes’ Murder Castle and America’s First Serial Killer. More information about the exhumation can be read here: The Body Of ‘Devil In The White City’ Serial Killer H.H. Holmes Is Being Exhumed and Who Is Really Buried in the Grave of the ‘Devil in the White City’? There’s also the book titled Devil in the White City A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.

As a personal note, I tried listening to the audio version of this book and I have to say it’s pretty boring. It’s non-fiction and there’s only a very tiny amount of dialogue. The book takes you through the entire creation of the World’s Fair from the very very beginning when it was all still in the planning stages. Truthfully, the most interesting part for me was learning of the various ideas that the planners were trying to come up with to top the centrepiece of the previous World’s Fair in Paris (1889): the Eiffel Tower. In the end, as you probably are aware, it was the Ferris Wheel (also known as the Chicago Wheel) which was created by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. and debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair. Some of the ideas people came up with were pretty crazy, even by today’s standards.

Top 10 Haunted Colleges in the Southwest

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If you’re at the stage of your life where you’re thinking to the immediate future about where to go to college (I’m not speaking to those of you who just graduated in May or June who should already have your plans laid out), here are ten schools for your consideration listed here due to their haunting factor.

10. Utah State University – Logan, UT
9. Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, OK
8. Johnson & Wales University – Denver, CO
7. Texas A&M University – College Station, TX
6. University of Arizona – Tucson, AZ
5. New Mexico State University – Las Cruces, NM
4. University of Colorado, Denver
3. University of La Verne – La Verne, CA
2. University of Texas at Austin
1. University of Nevada – Reno, NV

This link directs you to short blurbs about how each school is haunted: full story

Haunted Happenings at Work: Largo, Florida

My sister Reenie is a mammogram and x-ray technician in a facility in the Largo area of Florida.  Reenie has had her own personal experiences with the paranormal, so while she isn’t a gullible sort, she does keep an open mind.

One of her co-workers, Maddie, started complaining during the down time in their work day that she thought her adult son, from whom she is estranged, was breaking into her home and moving her things around to mess with her. My sister and the other technicians pooh-poohed this idea and told Maddie that she was probably moving the things herself and just not remembering where she put them.  Maddie was adamant, however.  She lived alone, without even any pets, and she was a  bit OCD about putting things back in their assigned places throughout her house.  For instance, her remote control went on a small end table that was between her sofa and her recliner. Her keys were kept on a hook in her kitchen. Maddie explained that her son, a former Special Forces member, knew how meticulous she was, and that she would notice the small changes that occurred whenever she left the house. Early in their estrangement, he had broken into her previous home just to prove to her that he could. It had been some time since those days, but apparently he was back to his old tricks, she said. Sometimes, she was only gone a half an hour to run to the store, but when she returned, something was typically out of place. Reenie just told her  it sounded like she had a ghost. Maddie was not amused. She vowed to catch her son in the act. Continue reading

Update for Haunted Happenings at Work: New England

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Please see my original post for the background to this true account: https://4girlsandaghost.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/haunted-happenings-at-work-new-england/.

I have already shared the story of my sister Dee’s (now former) workplace, a preschool in Hampstead, NH. The original part of the building was constructed about two hundred years ago and went through a devastating fire in the 1870’s which left a small girl named Agnes dead. Though other teachers had experienced some pretty telling evidence, such as toys found in the middle of a recently tidied room, after-hours when the children were long gone, my sister had only experienced “circumstantial” evidence. While she was there after hours, she would occasionally hear movement in the older parts of the building, or sometimes a toy would start when she walked through an empty room. This was nothing that Dee couldn’t convince herself was coincidence or overactive imagination. Continue reading

Haunted Libraries: Andrew Bayne Memorial Library

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Bellevue, PA

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Bellevue, PA

3. Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, Bellevue, PA

History

Unlike most of the stories told so far, Bayne Memorial Library began life as the home of Amanda Bayne Balph, daughter of Andrew Bayne who was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention and Sheriff of Allegheny County in 1838. Mrs Balph’s husband, James Madison Balph, was a prominent architect at the time and designed the Victorian home, placing marble fireplaces in each room and etching his name above the entrance to the house.

Upon the death of Mrs Balph and her sister Jane Bayne Teece, the house and surrounding property was bequeathed to the Borough of Bellvue. The sisters wanted the house to be used as a library and the rest of the property to be converted into a park.

In 1914, a library committee announced the opening of two rooms in the old home for use as a library. In the early 1920s, a group of women called the Bellevue Federation sought and received permission to use the home as a meeting place. They used the upstairs rooms for their meeting space.

It wasn’t until 1927 – thirteen years after the library committee first met to announce the opening of rooms for use as a library – that the library and park were formally dedicated to the citizens of Bellevue. At the time of the dedication, the library contained 3,000 volumes, most of which had come from the private libraries of Amanda and Jane.

In the 1960s, the library was renovated and with the renovation came the monumental task of updating texts that were in poor shape or no longer used. Some were discarded outright, some repaired, but all were finally cataloged.

Today, the park surrounding the library has playground equipment and a large field that is used for football and extreme frisbee. During the summer, the library offers movies and concerts on Wednesdays.

Haunting

Since the library began life as a home, it’s understandable that it was a beloved place for those who spent so much of their lives within its walls. One of the manifestations witnessed by staff and patrons alike is that of Amanda Bayne Balf herself, recognizable because a of her portraits hangs in one of the library rooms. She is often seen upstairs in what was once her bedroom. She is also known to be a mischievous entity, often turning lights off and on, randomly. Strange numbers have also appeared on computers, entered by unseen hands.

Sources

Haunted Libraries: The Saline County Library

Old Palace Theatre, Benton, Arkansas converted into a library for Saline County from 1967 - 2002

Old Palace Theatre, Benton, Arkansas converted into a library for Saline County from 1967 – 2002

5. The Saline County Library, AR

History

The Saline County Library has its beginnings like most other small libraries around the country: it was begun by a social organization which often took on civic projects to benefit the surrounding community. In this case, it was the Benton Junior Fortnightly Club of Benton, Arkansas that took on the task. The library was located on the second floor of the Walton building in downtown Benton and opened in 1931.

As with most libraries, the first location and many subsequent locations of the Saline County Library became too small to hold the library’s ever growing collection. Seven years after opening, the library was moved to a building next to City Hall. Ten years beyond that, it was relocated again to a former doctor’s office. There would be three more moves over the years before the library finally settled into its own building in 2002. A second location was dedicated in 2003.

Today there are only two branch locations that serve the entire county.

Hauntings

The interesting thing about this library’s haunted history is that it’s from a former location, not a current one and the alleged hauntings might not have anything to do with the library. From 1967 to 2003, the library was housed in an old theatre, the Old Palace Theatre. One reported story is that the director once heard the tick-tick-tick of a manual typewriter when the library had discarded theirs long ago.

Other librarians reported hearing phantom footsteps, seeing paperback carousels rotating on their own, and the typical books falling off the shelves.

As there are no stories to be found of former librarians who passed on yet couldn’t quite let go of their earthly duties to the patrons of the library, I’m more inclined to believe that whatever ghosts there might be are from the days when the Old Palace Theatre served its true purpose to the people of Saline County as an entertainment venue.

Sources

The Saline County Library site
Library Ghosts: Southern U.S.
10 Haunted U.S. Libraries

Haunted Libraries: Peoria Public Library

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Peoria Public Library

Peoria Public Library

My apologies for falling behind with this series.

6. Peoria Public Library, Peoria, IL

Unlike the libraries so far in our list, the Peoria Public Library’s fate was doomed from the start. The land on which the library is built was cursed by a previous tenant.

It all started in 1830 with Mrs Andrew Gray and the death of her brother, after which she gained custody of her nephew. The nephew refused to get a job and generally trod on the wrong side of the law too often and Mrs Gray was forced to hire a lawyer to smoothe things over. David Davis was a newly made lawyer come to town and was hired by the Grays. He deftly got Mrs Gray’s nephew out of any jam, but at an increasing debt to the Grays. Concerned over payment, Davis forced the Grays to use their home as collateral for his services and when the bill came due, Davis sued to collect the mortgage as his fees and the nephew was given the boot. Soon after, the nephew’s lifeless body was discovered floating in the Illinois River. Mrs Gray then cursed the property and all future occupants. The curse seemed to work, for after Davis assumed the property, nothing would grow on the very land where Mrs Gray had cultivated beautiful gardens. It was then that the first ghostly appearances were reported: that of Mrs Gray’s nephew banging on the door, begging to be let in.

In 1894, the city of Peoria purchased the property on Monroe Street where Mrs Andrew Gray once lived. A library was built on the property – though there is some debate over whether it was built exactly where Mrs Gray’s house once stood or on another part of the property. Considering that at the time of the land purchase there were three different lots which made up the purchase, it’s entirely feasible to believe the library is not built directly on the same footprint as the house. At any rate, the first three directors of the new library died under unusual circumstances, a sure sign that the curse was working even beyond the existence of the house. The first director, E. S. Willcox, was killed in a streetcar accident in 1915; the second, Samuel Patterson Prowse, died from a heart attack suffered at a library board meeting in 1921; and the third, Dr. Edwin Wiley, committed suicide by swallowing arsenic in 1924. One might surely think that these were all coincidences and that Dr Wiley had previously established depressive episodes, but at the time of the events, Mrs Gray’s curse was foremost in everyone’s minds.

Though the directors are long gone, Mr Willcox seems to have a fondness for the library even after his tenure and life came to an end. Patrons have reported seeing a man wandering the halls dressed in early 20th Century attire. Employees have seen his face in a basement doorway, among other things such as hearing their names called when no one else is around and feeling cold drafts where there ought not to be any.

Hauntings are not the only strange things about the library…

In 1907, school superintendent Newton Dougherty blew up a safe inside the library to hide evidence of embezzlement of school funds.

The library was also part of a blackmail plot following the death of George P. McNear, Jr. McNear’s widow received two different letters informing her that she would be given the name of her husband’s murderer if she left $1,000 in a special drawer in the third floor education room of the Peoria Public Library. William A. Gibson and his son Billy Gibson were arrested for blackmail when they showed up to retrieve the cash.

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Whatever happened in this library’s past, it seems to have no affect on patrons today. People still use the library on a daily basis and no one seems adverse to having to stay there a little later in the evenings.

Sources:

Top 10 Creepiest Places in Illinois
Library Ghosts: Midwestern U.S.
Haunted Peoria by Stephanie E. McCarthy (book)
Peoria Public Library Is Haunted!