Infamous Places

Whitechapel Series 1

History is repeating itself as bodies start turning up, murdered in the same style as Jack the Ripper. The local police force is baffled and can’t bring themselves to accept a copycat murder. But they have more problems as they clash with their new Detective Inspector who doesn’t think they look, act or even smell real policemen. How can they solve crimes when they lack discipline and hygiene?

So begins Whitechapel, where Detective Inspector Chandler is put in charge of a group of men who don’t want him around. His obsessive compulsive habits go against their disorder and chaos. But they’re forced to work together as they race to find clues or even a suspect.

Whitechapel is quite interesting in that it focuses on the police force and how they deal with trying to solve the crime. What do they do when they have no evidence? How do they move forward when everyone is saying Jack the Ripper is back?

Going outside the lines they consult a Ripperologist who enlightens them on the crime urges them to take the mythology seriously. What follows is a group of men who can’t work together chasing after a killer they can’t identify.

And it works very well. Everyone comes across as a suspect. So many people seem to have an ulterior motive. Even when it looks like they’re on top of the murders and have the location picked out, it still happens right under their noses. Who’s the mole in the force? Is Jack the Ripper wandering among them?

Even though it’s only three episodes it’s a very well written and well executed story that will make jump up to play the next one in the series. I watched these through Amazon and found it to be very enjoyable. As with most BBC productions, the grim nature of the content is implied and they don’t dwell on the gore at least not visually. They consult the Ripper lore and go into details about the murders, but you want see the streets or the screen running with blood.

The original murders are detailed and the original crime scene photos are put up on the board so they can compare with modern day events. Even the alternate theories are explained and tested. There is plenty of history with modern day drama.

If you have an Amazon Prime account you can watch the series for free or you can pay a mere $2.99 to watch all three episodes. That’s about the cost of a bottle soda these days isn’t it?

Each episode is around 45 minutes and will keep you guessing until the end, because after all, Jack the Ripper was never caught was he….?

Whitechapel – Series 1

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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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The Devil in White City

image After reading Bloodstains, many reviewers on Amazon suggested this was the next "definitive guide" to Holmes and his notorious crimes during the Columbian Exposition or Chicago World’s Fair as it was known. This book was to give a chronology of events and reveal details of Holmes and his activities.

It didn’t.

After reading Devil in White City, I once again felt duped. I trudged through 400+ pages of mind numbing details about the men tasked with the fair, their delays, the in fighting, the poor sales, the bad weather, union strikes, the lack of respect for landscaping, the toothaches, the headaches, the trash, the noise, the pigs and even the items listed on the dinner menu, waiting for the details about Holmes. Out of the 400 pages, only 40-50 revolve around Holmes and they were nothing but vague summaries that you could read about in Wikipedia. For someone who can just about document the number of bolts used in the Ferris Wheel, the details about Holmes’ Castle, life and crimes are shockingly hollow. In fact, Holmes is nothing more than a cameo appearance in this book and in my opinion is used as a lure to sell this book.

Every day I wondered why I kept reading. I thought perhaps the book would transition to an account of Holmes once the fair was up and running.

It didn’t.

There is absolutely nothing interesting or new to be learned about Holmes. The Strange Case of H. H. Holmes will give infinitely more detail than this long-winded tome. Even as an account of the fair itself it falls short. Erik Larson bogs down with excruciating details that simply don’t matter. Far too much time and too many pages are dedicated to meeting, dinners, train rides and trips abroad. This book should be condensed to 100 pages and it would be quite enjoyable.

Unfortunately, this is a bloated and boring read that left me frustrating for having wasted so much time when I learned so little. If you’re interested in reading about H.H. Holmes, aka Herman Webster Mudgett, look elsewhere. Again, you can read more in less time through Wikipedia.

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America

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