Is that clown doll looking at you funny? It may very well
be. Haunted objects are the subject of Stacey Graham’s new book, Haunted Stuff: Demonic
Dolls, Screaming Skulls, and Other Creepy Collectibles, and I’d
think twice before picking up that doll house at the next yard sale, bub. Here
are ten haunted items from the book:
Was a woman’s betrayal behind the sinking of the Lady Lovibond?
Driven mad by the sounds of his beloved’s wedding celebration to the captain
below deck in 1748, the first mate, John Rivers, bludgeoned the seaman at the
wheel of the tall ship and steered it to certain destruction on the Goodwin
Sands off the coast of England in revenge. Now, every fifty years, the vessel
has been spotted smashing upon the rocks only to fade before the eyes of its
rescuers. One ship recorded hearing the sounds of music floating across the
water as the Lady Lovibond nearly rammed into them. There was
no official sighting of the ship in 1998, but I’ll be on the beach waiting for
it to appear in 2048—I’ll save you a spot.
The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas boasts several ghosts, starting with the
death of the young daughter of a state senator following a fall down the grand
staircase in 1887. Soon after Samantha’s death, a ball was reported bouncing in
the first floor lobby, and her laughter echoes near the second floor ladies
room and the stairs leading to the mezzanine.
The Driskill also hosts the Suicide Brides. Twenty years
apart, two women took their own lives in the opulent room 427—one by hanging
and one by a self-inflicted gunshot in the bathtub. The rooms in that section
of the hotel have been refurbished, but rumor has it that 427 is resistant to
change. It had to be repainted four times as the paint peeled from the walls,
and the bathtub would fill with clear water—though there was no running water
to the bathroom and leaks were never found.
The painting of a woman hung in a bedroom at Shirley Plantation in Virginia
kicked up its heels at the thought of being forgotten. After being placed in
the attic during a redecoration of the bedroom, Martha Hill (or Aunt Pratt, as
she’d come to be known) created a “mighty ruckus” in the attic in the
form of the family hearing a chair being furiously rocked until the painting
was returned to the bedroom. In the 1970s, the Virginia Travel Council borrowed
the painting for an exhibition of supernatural phenomena at Rockefeller Plaza
in New York City. While there, witnesses saw the painting swing back and forth
so wildly that the seal of Virginia, which hung next to it, also began to rock.
The phenomena were captured on film after a reporter from CBS caught the action
while on a lunch break. One morning, workmen found the painting on the floor,
several feet away from its case and, in their words, “heading toward the
Broken-Faced Doll: Mandy
Strange things are afoot at the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives in
British Columbia. After acquiring a 1920s-era doll in 1991, the curator felt a
little uneasy with the way the baby doll smiled through its cracked visage. The
curator later learned that the donor would repeatedly find in the house windows
securely latched that, moments before, would be wide open, and hear the eerie cry
of a baby coming from the basement—only to find another open window…and no
child. These reports creeped the curator out a little bit more. The doll
settled into its new digs well enough, until patrons to the museum started
complaining about how they felt the doll’s eyes were following them as they
crossed the room, or that its fingers would move and eyes blink. The doll has
garnered national attention for its antics, and the museum welcomes those who
are brave enough to stare into the eyes of the broken-faced doll and make their
own conclusions of whether it is haunted…or simply just extremely creepy.
Haw Branch Plantation sits tucked away in the hamlet of Amelia, Virginia. The
owner’s cousin sent a painting of a young, distant relative who had passed
away; the owners, upon receipt of the painting, were disappointed to find the
painting a mix of black, grays, and dingy whites, having been told of the
painting’s beautiful colors in green and pink. Out of respect to their cousin who
had sent the painting, the owners placed the painting on the mantelpiece in the
library and forgot about it. Days later, women’s voices were heard coming from
the library, where the owners only found an empty room. This continued until it
was noticed that the painting of the young woman was taking on color. Over a
year and a half, the painting was slowly infused with the promised greens and
pinks, but also revealed a lovely redheaded woman. At some angles, it appears
that the woman was blushing but in others it looks as if the portrait was
bleeding. Local experts were called in to examine the painting for an
explanation, but none were ever able to give a firm and logical answer.
A spectacular tourist spot in San Francisco, California, the Golden Gate Bridge
welcomes visitors from all over the world—and leads some to their doom. Named
the premier suicide spot in the world (with over 1,300 known deaths from
jumpers since its opening in 1937), the bridge has a shadow over its beauty. On
nights locked in the fog rolling off the bay, passersby may hear the screams of
the jumpers before their bodies hit the water.
The Tennessee ran aground on the sharp rocks
on the Golden Gate Strait in 1853. Luckily, all of her passengers and crew were
saved before it sank, but in 1942, the crew of the USS Kennison reported
seeing the ship sail under the famous bridge and into the fog without leaving a
blip on the Kennison’s radar.
Screaming Skull of Burton Agnes Hall
The untimely death of Katherine (Anne) Griffith of Burton Agnes Hall in
Yorkshire, England left behind more than a tragedy of a young life cut short.
After being robbed and beaten by one of England’s notorious highwaymen near her
home in the early 15th century, Anne was taken home to perish in relative
comfort. Making her sisters promise to always keep a part of her with them, she
died wanting to “remain in our beautiful home as long as it shall
last.” Literal much, Anne? Burying Anne’s head along with her body, her
family returned to the Hall to discover one very grumpy ghost pleading to come
home. Disinterring the body a few weeks later, they found that her head had
been severed from the neck and was completely bare of skin or hair. (You have
total permission to get grossed out now.)
Returning with the skull to the Hall, the ghost and odd
noises stopped until years later, when the skull was thrown away and Anne got
her caterwauling on. The family eventually hid the skull within the panels in
the Great Hall, and it has been quiet ever since.
Belcourt Castle in Newport, Rhode Island housed a diverse collection of
artifacts from around the world—some just happened to be a little sassier than
others. In the French Gothic ballroom, visitors to the mansion have described
feelings of unease, a dip in room temperature, and getting the stink eye from a
pair of salt chairs reportedly used by French royalty.
Salt chairs were so-called due to the fact that they have
a chamber beneath the removable seat to store commodity such as salt and
whatever crown jewels they had laying around. Now at Belcourt Castle, the
chairs have been reported to repel would-be sitters, and even to have once
tossed a person from the chair itself.
A row of suits of armor dating from the 15th and 16th
centuries lined the back wall of the ballroom. Each March, the family reported
hearing screaming coming from one set of the amour as a knight relived his
final moments. A helmet was also rumored to swivel to follow tourists as they
walk through the house. Other ghosts in the home include a robed monk, a
British soldier, ladies dressed in evening wear, and a Samurai warrior who is
believed to have traveled to the house along with the former owner’s Asian
collection of antiques.
It’s a little on the dramatic side, but with the chair hanging from a wall
at the Thirsk Museum, in North Yorkshire, England, you can’t be too careful.
Convicted of murdering his father-in-law in 1702, Thomas
Busby placed a curse upon anyone who dared to sit on his favorite chair at the
Busby Stoop Inn—the same one his father-in-law had sat in the night he was
killed by a blow of Busby’s hammer. After Busby’s hanging, the legend of the
chair’s curse grew. Locals dared each other to sit in the chair and taunt the
curse of a dead man—until a string of accidents made them wonder if they had
pushed it too far. First, in the late 18th century, a chimney sweep was found
hanging from a gatepost next to where Busby was hung years before. Years later,
airmen who had dared the curse were found dead in an automobile accident the
same day. More and more car crashes linked the chair to untimely deaths. The
pub owner finally donated the chair to the museum after a man working on the
roof fell to his death after using the chair earlier in the day.
Bright lights and the big city can also equal crushed dreams and a roll down
the hill into legend. The Hollywood Sign looms over the sun-drenched valley in
California as a symbol of ambition and fame—but what happens when it all becomes
too much? Actress Peg Entwhistle felt her career had gone nowhere after she
left New York to try her luck in the movies in 1932. Desperate and no longer
wishing to be a burden to her family, she chose to plunge off the top of the
letter H of the (then) Hollywoodland Sign. The next morning, a hiker found her
coat and purse, with the suicide note tucked within, at the base of the sign
and left it at the police station. They found the body two days later; it had
rolled into the brush downhill. Two days after identifying the body, a letter
arrived at her uncle’s house giving her the lead in a new production at the
Beverly Hills Playhouse.
Now, hikers report seeing a woman in 1930s-era clothing
wandering at the base of the sign, only to disappear when they approached her.
Park ranger John Arbogast claims to have smelled gardenias, Entwhistle’s
favorite scent, in the dead of winter. Police have often been called to the
sign on reports of seeing a woman jump, only to find nothing but the beautiful
view of the valley below.