Chapter 6: Ghosts & Haunted Houses
When we think of the otherworldly, what comes to mind most often are ghosts. Where do we go when we die? Are spirits trapped between this world and the next? If ghosts walk among us, then do they move freely or are they stuck where they died? From Casper the Friendly Ghost to vengeful spirits, what are their ORIGINS and do haunted houses really exist?
ORIGINS is written and produced by award-winning author Jaimie Engle.
From the dawn of time, man has wondered what happens after death. This age old question has perplexed scholars, scribes, and the secular world ever since. Films such as Flatliners dive into the act of dying and returning from the dead to see what’s out there, though crossing over brings with it a few stragglers from the past. People have claimed to have passed on and gone to either Heaven or Hell, where time seems to stop even though only a few minutes have passed on Earth. At the core, we are most assuredly afraid to die and seek some level of comfort in our inevitable ends. We seek a road map or conversations with those who have already died, via Ouija boards, psychics, and seances. Are we speaking to actual humans who are no longer in bodily form? If so, why are they still among us?
In 1991, Angie Fenimore attempted suicide and claims that after a life review, she entered Hell where she was forced to live among others suffering the same fate. She is now the head prophetess of a religious organization that scares me more than the thought of ghosts being real. In 1997, a teen nearly died, swearing she was stuck in Hell watching demons torture humans until God saved her and sent her back to Earth for a second chance. Matthew Botsford was shot in the head and found himself floating over a fiery pit where his skin was devoured by demons, only to grow back to begin the cycle for eternity. He claims a giant hand yanked him out proclaiming it was not yet his time.
Ghosts have found a cozy place among the folklore of many people groups. They might just be the most natural of all supernatural entities that have infiltrated into our culture. Wandering souls are among the texts of the Bible, the pharaohs of Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome, Asia, throughout Medieval history, and to the world today. No time or culture is without this concept. In Biblical accounts, King Saul was visited by the ghost of Samuel, after seeking a medium due to radio silence from Heaven.
Pliny the Younger tells of perhaps history’s first haunted house through his letter to Lucius Licinius Sura. Here’s a recap: an old emaciated man, with a long gray beard burdened in death by long chains roams a property; his rattling and heavy moans curdle the blood of visitors. One night, a writer takes residence, his mind focused on producing his next work in the hopes of avoiding the supposed ghost. After dark, the faint clink of metal on metal dragging across the floorboards brings his pen down. Chilled air sweeps the nape of his neck, forcing the man to abandon his page and face whatever stands behind him. An opaque chain-laden man opens his mouth though no words escape. His crooked finger points to the door, motions the writer to follow, and the writer complies. The ghost then slips through the door like water and stops a few hundred feet from the threshold in the front yard before disappearing. The writer orders an excavation of the spot, where a chain wrapped body is uncovered. The ghost is never seen again.
The Ghost of Anne Boleyn is perhaps the most popular in Medieval stories. After marrying King Henry VIII and miscarrying his male heir, the vile king accuses her of adultery to seek execution so he can be free to find a wife capable of bearing a son. Anne is beheaded at the Tower of London (the same tower where King Richard III locks his nephews), and although pronounced dead and buried, she is said to still roam the tower. The headless apparition appeared before a guard who died from cardiac arrest, shocked a second guard who tried impaling her figure when she wouldn’t halt, and again year’s later she walked into this same guard’s bayonet leaving him screaming in fear.
The ORIGINS of the word ghost is from the Old English word gāst, meaning spirit or soul in German. They are sometimes described as solitary essences, though ghost armies have been encountered as shown in stories such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Pirates of the Caribbean film brand. In the Ancient World, the belief in an afterlife was common practice. Bodies were prepared and embellished or given coins to pay, for example, Charon the ferryman for passage across the River Styx. The land of the afterlife was governed by its own set of laws and souls were not allowed to leave without permission from the gods. Even then, ghost sightings were not welcome events. They implied unfinished business or improper burial, neither of which meant happy homecomings: something was terribly wrong and the dead needed help from the living to make things right. In Mesopotamia, the “land of no return” beneath Earth was a place of dreary darkness, where inhabitants ate dirt and drank from mud puddles. Not my idea of paradise. In Egypt, Osiris was the judge of the dead in the Hall of Truth, among 42 other judges who weighed the heart against a feather to determine if the soul was lighter and worthy of moving into the afterlife. If the heart was heavier, the soul was devoured by a monster and ceased to exist. Pretty harsh scale, if you ask me. The Field of Reeds mirrored one’s life in Egypt, similar to the way the film What Dreams May Come portrayed Heaven, where your earthly house, dog, and possessions wait for you in the afterlife.
In China, ghosts return in dreams to relay messages. The Chinese worship of their ancestors feeds into their belief that the dead still hold powerful influence over the living. In India, ghosts were known as Bhoots, with backwards facing feet to illustrate that something had gone wrong. They appear when someone has died before their time, seeking another body to possess until their appointed days are up. The fear that Bhoots might even reanimate their own corpse led to the common practice of cremation among the Indian culture.
It is clear that the root of ghosts runs deep in history. What about current sightings and hauntings? With so much available on the internet and in books, I thought I would focus on my own county, hoping that the tales will be new for both residents and strangers to the area.
In the US Spacewalk Hall of Fame, strange energy fields in certain areas and unseen hands moving exhibits have both been reported on multiple occasions. The Pritchard House in Titusville is known to have lights flicker or turn on and off by themselves. The grandfather clock pings although it has not been working for many years. Also in Titusville, the Emma Parish Theater boasts a haunted attic. Cold spots, weird smells, and objects that move on their own are among the weird things reported. In another theater, the Cocoa Village Playhouse’s former handyman Joe is said to open and close doors. A foggy and desolate stretch of SR 520 has produced claims of ghost cars, and in the Georgianna Graveyard in Merritt Island, visitors have seen apparitions, heard whispering voices, and eyed glowing orbs lighting various markers.
Perhaps the most well-known haunted location is Ashley’s Restaurant. In 1934, the body of a 19 year old named Ethel Allen was found, brutally murdered, on the nearby shores of the river. A regular of the restaurant (then known as Jack’s Tavern), it was also the last known place she had visited. One medium claims to have seen not just the murder, but that it happened in the restaurant, most likely in the ladies room, where most of the ghostly activity takes place. 1930s era shoes have been seen tapping the floor inside the stalls. Young women of the same time have been seen reflected from the bathroom mirror. Visitors have also claimed to have been pushed while climbing the stairs.
One haunting that has not received as much publicity, occurs in the house of a World War II veteran and his wife, both of whom are deceased. The wife died several years before her husband, although he spent his final days in a nursing home while neighbors kept their eyes on his property. The wife spent her final days in this house she loved, one of the very reasons the husband could not sell the home, even when he had to leave it. Upon his death, the house was sold to a company that gutted and remodeled it into a beautiful, shining glow, which caught the eye of a family who purchased the home.
Right away, the husband, wife, and two sons began to experience strange things. Children dressed in knickers and dresses with lace borders were seen standing near the kitchen then disappeared. The sliding glass door would lock itself when the youngest son went outside, as if to prevent his return. In one of the boys’ bedrooms, the window would unlock itself repeatedly and the oldest boy complained that his room had cold pockets. Stranger still, the ghostly images stopped just being seen and began to interact physically with the family. Both the oldest boy and the husband felt someone tickle their feet on several occasions, only to discover they were alone in their rooms. One night, the husband rolled over to find his wife lying beside him. Moments later, she walked into the room and he discovered his bed was actually empty. Was it his imagination or a ghost?
The scariest story by far was one night when the wife was asleep in bed. She suddenly gasped as someone punched her in the gut. She lurched awake, trying to catch her breath, grappling to turn on the bedside lamp. Her room was empty. Petrified, she soon left to join her husband on the couch, where they talked about the strange events, the woman who seemed to appear and disappear at any given time, and the fact that she was now physically hurting them. The next morning, the wife told the spirit to leave, believing it was the old woman who had died in the home and didn’t want to let go. The house instantly felt different, and the family didn’t experience any new hauntings.
Is this story truth or fiction? You’ll have to decide for yourself. As for me, I choose to believe, because the house in the story is my own. And the wife is me.
I’m Jaimie Engle, and you’ve just discovered ORIGINS.
ORIGINS is a bi-weekly podcast that shares the story behind legends and lore, where myth and science meet; written and produced by me, award-winning author Jaimie Engle of The Write Engle. If you like stories with a supernatural slant, I happen to write them. In fact, I have a new book releasing this summer. It’s a collection of my supernatural, humor, and historical short stories titled The Toilet Papers: Places to Go, While you Go. Please follow on all social media @theWRITEengle. I follow back. As always, subscribing, liking, and sharing this podcast is your greatest compliment. Thank you. And finally, if you’d like to stick around you can hear a sample from The Toilet Papers titled “Just Passing Through” a story inspired by The Baily House, a haunted mansion in Michigan, which was used in American Horror Story: Hotel.
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