Haunted History – Pennhurst Asylum – S01E04

Make no mistake, this is a tough episode to watch. Pennhurst Asylum has been brought up before, most specifically with Zak and Ghost Adventures. Zak’s editorial captured the shocking living conditions for the residents. Without exaggeration it was common practice to lock patients into cages, remove their teeth without anesthetic, perform lobotomies, leave patients unattended, starve them and even sterilize them.

When it was started in 1903 in Spring City, Pennsylvania, the Pennhurst Asylum set out to take care of those citizens who couldn’t take care of themselves. It was a sprawling 600 acre self-contained facility that boasted it’s own farm, dentistry, hospital, ball field, cemetery and morgue. But what started out as a grand idea turned into the shameful treatment of the mentally ill. It took a film crew and lawsuits to bring the facility to a close in 1987. While it was open, Pennhurst turned from a place of healing to a place of torture. And it’s claimed that many of the patients still linger and the energy can still be felt.

Some describe Pennhurst as an experiment in the idea of Eugenics. This is the thought that the lower functioning citizens need to be removed from the gene pool. This same idea fueled Hitler and his idea of creating a master race. With that in mind, Pennhurst became a dumping ground of the unfit and unwanted of society. People of lesser value could be hidden away from regular society. Over time the patients overwhelmed the nursing staff who didn’t have the resources to tend to them.

There was violence against the patients and the patients were violent with each other. Abuse and death were common. Since the grounds had it’s own morgue, crematorium and cemetery, it was easy to dispose of the bodies and keep it all contained within the facility.

When news reporter Bill Baldini, showed up on the scene in 1968 he found patients sitting in their own feces, the rooms smelled of human waste, patients were naked and beating their heads against the wall, they were malnourished, bruised, some had broken bones and some patients had never been let out of their "cribs". From a mental standpoint, they had gone from bad to worse. The facility was exposed and over time the patients were removed and finally the doors were closed. But now it’s claimed the energy lives on and many patients are still there.

Many visitors claim to get EVPs of patients speaking to them. Phrases such as "untie me", "don’t leave me", "I’ll kill you", the sound of gunshots and even a heart monitor have been picked up. Many people claim to see shadow figures and feel as though they’re being touched. They hear things being thrown around as well as people getting scratched.

The grounds of Pennhurst seem to have multiple hotspots. Why are these areas so charged? Are the former patients confused about crossing over to the other side? Are they unaware of what’s happened? Does the anger from the violence still linger in the air and play itself out?

While the mistreatment is well documented, there is a great deal about Pennhurst that comes across as "what we believe" or "this is what we’ve heard". Since Pennhurst is shrouded is scandal, it’s not hard to imagine that records have been sealed or destroyed. The patients had to sue for their right to get away from the place. News reports splashed the misconduct across the screen. I have no doubt administrators got rid of as much damning evidence as they could to keep themselves from going to jail or destroying their careers. But when it comes to evidence, does Pennhurst really set itself apart from any other location?

So much of what people talk about are the usual events of shadow figures moving around, cold spots and the feeling of sadness. Unfortunately, that’s not tangible evidence. That doesn’t fall into the hard facts category. That can easily be sympathy or emotion creating feelings and experiences. There are a few recordings of voices so there may be something going on. However, it’s hard to latch on to the idea of things being thrown when the building is in such disarray and such a state of decay. (That’s just one theory, not an explanation for everything.) Maybe the patients are lashing out, and they have every right to do so, but so much of what’s happening can be interpreted another way.

For as many investigations as people claim they do there, it would seem the evidence would be overwhelming. It would seem they would have names, events, the people involved, and so much more than what they have now. It’s hard not to feel paranormal activity is going on within those walls, simply because of the energy and sadness that prevails, but it’s not really substantiated. I’m sure most of the stories about how the patients were treated are true, but it’s hard to correlate that to paranormal events. It’s a fascinating place and I would really like to see more of what people come away with.

Pennhurst is a very dark story with ties to some very sinister people. Putting the paranormal aside, this should be a cautionary tale of what happens if and when we neglect our citizens.

Haunted History – Lost Souls of Pennhurst

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Haunted History – Ghosts of Gettysburg – S01E02

In July 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg would begin and before it was over three days later 51,000 men would be dead. It is considered to be the bloodiest battle the US has ever known. And with it many feel the very ground itself is charged with paranormal activity. That the soldiers of the wounded still patrol the area and still cause harm to the living.

Many visitors claim to hear voices and see apparitions. For example, one re-enactor felt as though he was shot in the gut when he played "Dixie" on his banjo. Two sisters swear they heard the song "Taps" being played even though no one was in the field. Others have heard the phrase "I’ll shoot you" and others have seen an apparition crouching in the attic in what some feel is a sniper den. There is even a report of man being dragged down the hill by Confederate soldiers.

So who could these spirits be and why aren’t they at rest?

The area of Gettysburg is made up of several locations each with a potentially sinister past. To start with there is the Homestead Orphanage. It was started as a way to help bring comfort to the 20,000 children who were made orphans after the "war". Things started off well, but then a headmistress by the name Rosa Carmichael took over. It’s claimed she was exceedingly cruel to the children, a woman who would lock them in the outhouse, chained them to the fence and locked them in the basement. It’s even claimed she brought on a teenage henchman named "Stick Boy" to help keep the children in line through fear.

There are claims that dolls left for the children will be moved and later found dismembered. There is another story that a tour guide was locked in the basement after saying she was going to lead the children upstairs and out of the basement. People also say toys will move on their own, balls roll up hill, they see dark figures in the area where the children used to play and a medium felt the presence of a very angry young boy.

What drove Rosa to act out in this way? We’ll never learn that since she simply disappeared after the orphanage was closed.

Another hotspot is the Jenny Wade House. Jenny is the only civilian casualty of the war. She was hit with a stray bullet, perhaps from a sniper. People claim to see dark figures roaming around the house. Visitors feel the presence of a woman and a medium is able to communicate with a entity who claims to be Jenny. Another guest takes a photograph of what she believes is a picture of a woman in period dress. Turns out it’s a mirror and not a picture at all.

The Farnsworth House was a base of operations during the was. The basement was used as a hospital to treat the injured. Treatment is a kind word for amputation. The sheer volume of people needing help meant the injured limb was simply removed. They didn’t have the time, tools or training to truly heal the wounded. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of amputations would have taken place in the basement. Limbs were simply tossed out the window as the doctor moved on.

Many people claim to hear screaming and cries of pain. There are reports of people getting touched and one tour guide says he saw the full torso of a man up in the attic. This is the same attic that is claimed to have been used as the sniper den and the fatal shot that killed Jenny Wade.

Since the surrounding area of Gettysburg is filled with Limestone rock, many believe this stores the energy of the lives that were lost on the blood soaked fields. And everyone would have died in a traumatic way, charging the air and soil with energy and emotion.

While there is no doubt the death and violence is beyond belief, are the claims real? Do the spirits of the soldiers still walk the fields? Are they capable of causing harm to those who don’t support their cause such as the man who played Dixie? Does the evidence support paranormal occurrences or do people feel the events so strongly that they see and feel events that really aren’t there? Is an old rusty door that won’t open the sign of an ill-tempered headmistress keeping children in the basement? Are chills at the sound of horrific tales signs of the paranormal?

Both Paranormal State and the Ghost Adventures team have investigated this area. They both feel the area is alive with paranormal activity even though their evidence is more wrapped in personal experiences rather than tangible proof. What’s going on out there? Are we sympathizing with our tortured past or do the spirits of soldiers want to make contact and tell their story?

Haunted History – Ghosts of Gettysburg

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Haunted History – The Manson Murders – S01E01

image For the first episode in this series, History goes all in with the story of Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders. They believe there are still connections between the murder sites and paranormal activity. History goes to three "hot spots" that were pivotal in the tragic events and are supposedly charged with energy.

The first location is the house of David Oman on Cielo Drive. He claims to have seen a full bodied apparition in his house. The odd thing is, this isn’t the house were the first set of murders took place. Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring lives a couple hundred feet down the road. The first question is, what relevance does this house have to the events? Unfortunately, there doesn’t really seem to be an explanation for that. David simply feels that Jay is visiting him. He had paranormal investigators come in who claim to hear a voice say "Jay Sebring" and the words, "I had big plans". That to me seems a little too thin to draw such a strong conclusion. And again, why this house? Why not where the events actually took place?

The second location is the Spahn Ranch where Manson began to build his family using drugs, rituals and orgies. He began to develop and instill his god complex. This is where he launches his plan to seek vengeance against those who wrong him because he didn’t get a record contract. Investigators claim to have visions of the Manson family congregating and planning murders. They feel a lot of angry energy still lingering.

Who may be the spirit out there? Some conjecture it’s Shorty Shay, a man Manson thought had called the police to raid the ranch. Shorty was supposedly taken out, killed and buried. His body was found several years later buried in shallow grave.

The activity continues at another location called Barker Ranch where Manson made his "final stand". Susan Atkins, one of the "family members" claimed that a lot of bodies are buried out in the desert. These could be young men and woman who didn’t accept Manson as their leader and when they tried to leave where silenced. Barker Ranch is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, out in Death Valley. No one would be allow to leave or be disobedient and since there was no transportation they could use, it would be easy to make them disappear. There are no names for those who might have been killed out there, but a cadaver dog has come across the scent of what could be four distinct graves.

There are also claims by Michael Channel that the odd outlines in the photographs that a friend took while they were camping out there is of a man turning to look at him in the face. Since these photos were taken at night and not with a very good camera by the look it, how can he say it’s nothing more than a bad photo? It’s the exact image of his body, just skewed. A lot of people would call this "fringe" lighting.

Since the land is now owned by the Park Service, they are less than enthusiastic to start digging up the area. Susan was quite chatty about the deaths and said the bodies were buried deep. She gave no number, but if it was that "easy" to find 4, who knows how many might be out there.

While this is a compelling story and certainly a sensational one, there seems to be a lot of holes in their theories. The first location really doesn’t have anything to do with the murders and is simply located close by. If that were the case, wouldn’t every house along the path experience the same thing? I’m not quite sure I buy into the proximity of it all.

And as for the other locations, while there was a body discovered at Spahn Ranch, and that is indeed a tragedy, it doesn’t seem like quite enough to support the claims of seeing the Manson family plotting the murders. Perhaps with all the drugs, anger and violence, something has been imprinted out there, but it doesn’t seem to stem from the source their putting forward.

Are there bodies at Barker Ranch? If Manson was involved, that’s certainly possible. And there could be a lot of energy out there. But then again, it could just be the ramblings of a weak willed and addle minded cult follower.

Some interesting evidence is brought up, but I’m not sure we’re getting closer to the truth.

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Haunted History Season 1, Ep. 3 "Murder Castle"

image A new series from the History Channel just popped onto my radar and one episode in particular grabbed my attention. The name "Murder Castle" should strike a chord with plenty of people. While this isn’t the first episode in the series, I felt compelled to jump ahead and see what new information they had to offer. Holmes is a uniquely fascinating, bizarre and terrifying creation. As you read of his ill deeds and lengths he would go it seems like the whole thing is made up. This is stuff or horror movies. Sadly, it’s real. Perhaps through time embellishments have been made, but there is no doubt that Holmes specifically built the Murder Castle within walking distance of the World’s Fair so he could find victims, perform experiments, carve up their bodies, sell the skeletons, steal money and property and then incinerate the bodies.

This episode expands on "H.H. Holmes – America’s First Serial Killer" which is where I first learned of these events. Since the original feature was made in 2004 a couple of new events have come to light, specifically we have Jeff Mudgett, the Great, Great, Grandson of H.H. Holmes who offers more insight into Holmes and goes so far as to say that Holmes is more than likely Jack the Ripper. Much of this can be found in his book, "Bloodstains", which I have read and find fascinating. But there is a slight problem. Much of what Jeff writes is hard to discern as fact versus hypothesis. You get the sense he’s revealing the truth, but in reality it may just be his opinion. So what does Murder Castle have to offer?

Jeff Mudgett and author Adam Selzer offer their understand of Holmes and the events he perpetuated on Chicago. Holmes started off his career as a doctor and made a fortune digging up bodies and selling the skeletons to medical schools. He would make hundreds of thousands of dollars in this endeavor. But money wasn’t enough. He enjoyed the kill and took that vast wealth to build the Murder Castle in Chicago. It is indeed a real place and when police investigator found it, it really did have hidden rooms, body chutes, an incinerator, acid baths, gas tubes for asphyxiating guests, peep holes so he could watch his guests, rooms that locked from the outside and holes in the floor that dropped people to their death. It was designed from the ground up as a way for Holmes to trap victims, kill them and make money off their death. And while the Castle was destroyed, a Post Office has been built on the site and the basement is largely intact.

New to this episode is the idea that Holmes is Jack the Ripper. Holmes bought the land for the Murder Castle in the summer of 1888, but construction didn’t begin until Spring of 1889. And during this time Holmes is unaccounted for in Chicago. There is evidence to suggest he took a boat abroad. There is also evidence of an American doctor selling skeletons to the University of London Medical School. As we all know, this was his old tried and true method of making money.

Mudgett puts forth the theory that based on the murders, medical training would be needed. Holmes had this training and would be quite adept at performing these procedures in the conditions of London. Holmes had the training, the temperament and perhaps even the timing to be Jack the Ripper. And since the Ripper was never caught, does this coincide with Holmes whisking back to Chicago before being caught?

We also get some more evidence about the Pietzel and some of his other victims. Could there be links to those victims and some paranormal activity that new homeowners are experiencing? Are the Holmes victims trying to be heard? Some Post Office workers speak about their experiences down in the basement of the building.

While most of the information has been presented in different books and documentaries, it’s interesting to see and hear it all in one place. Mudgett offers his interpretation of the events and Selzer offers his insight based on research and investigation.

Did Holmes fake his death? Did he commit the murders under the guise of suicide and what became known as the Holmes Curse? Were there far more victims that we realize? And most of all, can Holmes be linked to the events of Jack the Ripper?

This new documentary is available on Amazon as an Instant Video purchase. I only wish it were longer, there is simply too much story to tell in the 44 minutes that are allotted.

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