Friday, March 23, 2007

The Freeport Ghost

As every student of Forteanea knows, during the past 70 years there have been numerous monster and "phantom attacker" scares in different parts of the country that typically shared the same characteristics: sightings of some type of bizarre entity would be reported, the locals would become scared and organize into groups to hunt down the invader, and the creature would disappear, never to be seen in those parts. Cryptozoology can point to the Momo case as one of their most famous, while the Mad Gasser of Mattoon has become one of the most widely studied "mass hysteria" incidents in Fortean history, studied not only from a Fortean point of view, but from a sociological perspective as well. However, one never hears about ghost -hunting expeditions, which makes the following account, taken from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, all the more interesting:

As reported in the Nov. 19th, 1893 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, several residents of Freeport, Long Island encountered a bizarre phantom and described it as being eight feet tall and running silently near the speed of a "trotting horse", with a long and "spooklike" beard. It first chased a Martin Beacon and, according to the article, very nearily caught him until Beacon managed to get home and slam the door shut in the face of his pursuer. Interestingly enough, the next witness, an Austin Ellison, heard a strange voice calling his name before turning to see the being dissolve into nothingness, though Ellison was able to note that the face of the figure was covered with "long white hair". It next attacked John R. Losse, who reported that it looked like a man in very ragged clothes, and then chased after Joseph Bennett and Pauline Klein, both of whom were unable to clearly describe their pursuer. At the end, the writer notes that a ghost-hunting expedition had been put together to go out and search the night after the article was published.

It is possible that some or maybe even all of the reported encounters could be chalked down to a mentally unbalanced homeless man, and the fact that Bennett and Klein were unable to describe their pursuer could mean that it was just someone suffering from a mental disorder and not a paranormal incident. However, a strike against this theory is the claim by Ellision that he saw the alleged ghost dissolve into thin air, not to mention the strange speed displayed by the phantom, who was almost able to overtake Beacon in his pursuit. The fact that Ellison also allegedly heard a voice speak to him first before he saw the ghost is interesting as well, since in most cases ghosts tend to be largely silent and not prone to speaking to witnesses (though if I am wrong on this, someone please correct me).

Up next: The Mapleton Phantom - Long Island's Great Ghost Scare

*Note* - I am very bogged down with work for classes right now, 18 credits is killer, so as I said in my last post I am trying my best to update and get back to everyone. I plan to get the Mapleton post up by Sunday night the latest, so please be patient, if you read this and I have not responded to your email yet, I will, just give me some time. Thanks.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Long and Winding Road..

hey everyone, I apologize for such a long delay in updating, but I've been trying to get work done for my classes and so I've been a little behind in other areas that I've wanted to work on. In the next few days I plan on both writing a decent blog entry detailing ghost hunting expeditions on Long Island in the 19th century and also to get back to people who wrote me through email, so I ask you to please bear with me. For now though, here are two pieces I wrote a while ago, they are more op-ed pieces than the ones I usually write, but for now they will have to do:

"The Native Americans have many names and legends about the creature that the white man has come to know as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, but probably the most prominent one is that the creature only shows itself when there is big change on the horizon. "The Big Man", as is one name for the animal, is held to be a spirtual being, only showing itself to those who respect nature, and so the recent surge in reports has many of the tribes convinced that big change is coming soon, though they hold that change to be neither good or bad, but simply being what it is.
With the surge in recent years of reports of not only Bigfoot, but other anomalous happenings, it seems that change is indeed coming soon that may very well impact us all. UFO sightings continue to come in from across the globe, leaving no region of the Earth immune from their mysterious purpose and design. Crop Circles increase in complexity and design, culminating in the first ever 3D design recently found in an Oxfordshire field. Sightings of strange animals, encounters with bizarre entities, falls of fish from the sky, ghostly happenings, mystical occurrences...all of these reports are building up to something huge, something that has never been seen before in this planet's history and probably never will be seen again. 2012 is inching closer and closer with every new day, is this what is being built up towards? It is very possible, but not absoulte.
Big change is coming soon, now it is up to us to pay attention and keep our eyes and minds open for the new and possibly grand changes that are on their way."


" In 1955 a farmhouse in Kentucky was beseiged for an entire night by small, goblin-like creatures that proved resistant to bullets and would float away into the darkness come the morning.
In 1966 a headless, black winged humanoid flies around a town in West Virginia for an entire year, scaring the locals senseless and coincending with a wave of other strange activity, including UFO activity, poltergeist occurrences, and Men in Black visitations.
In 2003 a report is submitted telling of a bonfire gathering in the Illinois woods that is interrupted by the arrival of about thirty "stick people", who stand completely motionless but still manage to completely terrify the witnesses.
Now all three of these reports sound like something out of a science fiction or horror novel, but, with the possible exception of the last report, they are all true, and they all happened. They are not the only cases however, for plenty of other reports exist of encounters with winged humanoids, lake monsters, hairy bipeds, fairies, otherwordly beings, and strange creatures and entities that by all logical sense should not exist and certainly should not be generating reports in this manner. Yet, assuming the witnesses are telling the truth, and there is no reason to think that most of them aren't, then what could the appearance of these beings possibly mean? One reader at the Fortean Times forums submitted his theory that the purpose of these entities may be "to break us out of the box of our own thinking. And with that achieved, there really is no need to provide proof of their existence, or even very frequent exposure. The task is accomplished - our minds are freed to relate to the universe again with a re-opened sense of wonder and healthy curiosity." I find myself in agreement with this statement, though I wish to add that this doesn't mean I would say to give up searching for evidence of their existence, because this would be a faulty way of thinking, as evidence and proof must always be sought, not just for cryptozoology and its more paranormal branches, but for all fields of Fortean inquiry. Rather, I would say that it is the hunt itself that brings the most enrichment for the hunter, for it forces him/her, as said above, to open ones mind and expand the intectual horizons, adopting a new view of the universe that may have been impossible to formulate before the hunt began. These types of things will never be taken seriously by the mainstream public at large, due to the admitted bizarre nature of the reports, forver remaining on the fringe, but that is inconsequential at best, for there will always be those who walk to the beat of a different drummer, and who strive to bring light to the darkest and most bizarre corners of the world that all else have neglected. Even if there prove, for example, to be no such thing as stick people running around in Illinois, one will still be richer for the experience of looking, and will benefit tremendously, intectually and even spirtually from daring to pursue the parts of reality that have been deemed "impossible", and yet, still are."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ghosts of Long Island

While Long Island may not be known as a ufological or cryptozoological hotspot to most, if there's one thing that the island does have plenty of, it's ghosts. The most famous case from Long Island would without a doubt have to be the "Amityville haunting", spawning a series of movies and national interest in the events that took place in "High Hopes" despite the case eventually being exposed as a hoax. Regardless of this fact, reports of hauntings and ghostly experiences have being noted in local newspapers for over a century, serving as a documentation of the island's paranormal history. While there are many cases that could be discussed and analyzed, for now a small catalog of reports taken from that most Fortean of newspapers, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, shall serve as a quick illustration of the nature of ghost reports near the end of the 19th century:

1) Visits The Earth Again - The Screams of a Murderer's Ghost Heard in Port Jefferson (Aug. 11, 1889)

The residents of Port Jefferson were terrifed in this year by mysterious, ear-piercing screams issuing from a barn on the Emmet Darling property. It was known to the local residents as a place where a double murder had taken place many years prior, ending with the murderer, a Mr. Waters, hanging himself in said barn. The eerie screams are said to have begun soon afterwards, lasting for several decades and always ringing out from the barn roughly around midnight. Conventional explanations, such as a creaky weather vane or the call of a nocturnal bird, were put forth in order to explain the phenomenon, but all were ruled out as not being able to adequately explain the phenomenon. The screams eventually died out, but returned with a vengeance shortly before the article was written, despite that Emmet Darling's aunt, who lived at the property at the time, denied ever hearing the screams (one suspects that she might have been in denial). This article is interesting, not only because it took place in the town next to mine, but because strange, highpitched screams have long been a staple of Fortean phenomena. Indeed, as Loren Coleman writes in his book Mysterious America, "This peculiar sound - also described like that of a baby crying- often spills out of hanuted houses to bathe the locale in eerie vibration. Strangely, the awesome Bigfoot seem to emit this sound, as well as those elusive phantom panthers that prowl the landscape. And, of course, the legendary banshee is famous for its terrible scream. Often, a myriad of "unrelated" unexplained phenomena have the same element in common."

Now, of course, no honest or sensible researcher would try to link haunted houses to phantom panthers, or Bigfoot to the banshee, but it has been increasingly noted by researchers that many other types of phenomena do share many similar aspects. Whether this has any significance towards their meaning, however, still remains a subject of debate. (Note: In a later post, I plan on returning to the characteristic of high pitched screams in anomalous phenomena reports, and how it has been consistently included in reports throughout the decades).

2) A Lively Ghost - Which Is Causing Consternation Near Far Rockaway (Dec. 7th, 1885)

As the heading of the article noted, the specter that was seen regularly by "scores of persons" in the belfry of the Methodist Episcopal Church was indeed a playful character, jumping and dancing throughout the belfry. It also exhibited other curious behaviors, such as "enlarging and decreasing in size according to the angle of observation", or following certain witnesses and hanging around their homes for hours. Some people even claimed to hear the bell of the church ring at odd hours of the night. In fact, one night, as the article notes, "Half the village declares that at precisely ten o'clock the bell was tolled, and the other half is laughing at the superstitution, as they call it. Immediately after the tolling, three hearty amens were heard, and then the specter flattened itself out on the roof. This was interpretated to be an attitude of prayer."

It is noted that, appropriately enough, the ghost supposedly makes its appearance from a graveyard, though there are no reports in the article of any witnesses actually seeing the ghost appear in the adjacent cemetary. Jerome Clark, in his book Unnatural Phenomena, reported a news story from Arkansas in 1894 dealing with the appearance of a ghost in a belfry that was also alleged to have rung a bell, showing that at least some apparitions seem to have a fondness for church belfrys. Interestingly enough, although not related to ghosts and hauntings, Rockaway Beach was experiencing a "wildman scare" during this same period, with many people claiming to have witnessed a strange wildman on the nearby beach, and who was theorized to be an insane shipwrecked sailor (these reports and others from the island will be the subject of an upcoming post).

3) A Firey Tongue - The Latest Long Island Ghost Story (Dec. 18, 1885)

The "firey tongue" noted in the title of this piece belongs to a specter that was seen regularly on the Centerville race course just south of Woodhaven, and just like the stories from Port Jefferson and Far Rockaway noted above, it not only reappeared after a span of five years but was witnesses reguarly by scores of people every night. The ghost was seen to first appear in the vincity of the stables at the old Centerville Hotel and then moving at a quick speed across the race course, stopping at certain intervals and even reportedly saying "Whoa!". Disagreements (perhaps inevitably) arose between the witnesses on certain details such as whether the apparition was wearing a robe of white or a garment more the color of sheep's wool, and whether the specter was the ghost of one of two jockeys murdered on the track, or perhaps the troubled spirit of the murderer responsible for one of the bloody deeds. However, as the article notes, "But on one other point there is no disagreement - the ghost spits fire like a foundry chimney and leaves a sulphurous odor behind it."
The characteristic of fire spitting is something that does not come up in ghost reports very often, making this an unusual case if we stick mainly to looking at reports of ghosts and hauntings. If we broaden our range and look at other Fortean phenomena, however, we will notice that fire spitting is a detail that appeared in some Spring-Heeled Jack reports, to continue the train of thought noted earlier about similarities between anomalous phenomena occurences. While I would not advance the theory that Spring-Heeled Jack was a ghost, and the reports of his spitting fire may have very well been exaggerated, it remains an interesting coincedence none the less.

While these three accounts are but a small sample of the avilable reports from Long Island, and indeed I have some in my files that I have not touched upon yet, they represent the kind of ghostly experiences that Long Islanders have reported over the years and that form part of our paranormal history. In my next post, I plan on discussing the periodic "ghost scares" that have overtaken parts of the island from time to time, and which even led to the creation of ghost hunting expeditions. Stay tuned.