There’s a photograph making the rounds on the Internet of a supposed apparition of a young girl peering through a window at Eastbury Manor House. The image is too blurry to definitively state that Joanne Puffett and Diane De-Groot captured a ghost in the photograph. However, the location is worth discussing.
Barking Abbey, located in Barking, London, England, was a large monastery established in 666 AD. It remained viable until King Henry VIII dissolved all British monasteries in 1539. Only the Curfew Tower remains today. In 1551, the land was sold off. Clement Sisley purchased a plot in 1557 and built the first red brick Elizabethan gentry house in the area. Construction was from 1560-1573. The home was originally called Estburie Hall.
Clement Sisley (1504-1578) and his much younger wife Anne Argall (1547-1610) lived in the home with their 4 young children. Even though Clement was of the gentry class (wealthy landowner who lived totally on rental income), he was in serious debt when he died in 1578. Anne sought financial security through her second husband, Augustine Steward (d. 1597). Ownership of Eastbury remained in the family until 1629.
Ownership of Eastbury fell through many hands over the centuries. The National Trust (England) purchased the home in 1918 and restored it. The home is an H-shape with an inner courtyard. Although most of the land once owned by the Sisley family has long been sold, the house does boast two gardens: a Tudor herb garden and a walled garden. The walled garden houses bee-boles. “Bole” is a Scottish word for recess in a wall. Rows of recessed bee boles help bees proliferate.
But the question of the day is whether Eastbury Manor House is haunted. It probably is. The most familiar legend tells of the house being haunted by a young girl that only women can see. That certainly fits the narrative of the photograph. However, there is a lesser-known variation where it is a young girl and a woman who haunt the dwelling.
I’m curious about whom might the girl—and woman—be. Records from the 1500s are scarce, possibly lost to fire. Luckily, the house does hold paranormal events. At this time, though, the home is closed due to COVID. (Note: Joanne and Diane merely walked outside the house, where they took the picture.) Check the website, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/eastbury-manor-house, to see when the home reopens. And I will add the house to my bucket list.
There have been 13 sightings of Nessie, the famous mythical water creature thought to reside in Loch Ness. New to the official database that collects information on sightings: Webcam footage from the live webcam is divided into a separate category, arranged by year. This allows visitors to the website to view portions of the video footage that is monitored by volunteers. Photographs remain divided by year. So far this year, there have been 8 web camera postings and 5 photographs. However, there still isn’t credible evidence that Nessie actually exists. But that shouldn’t stop you from visiting and searching for yourself!
TheAngel of Grief, as it is known, is one of the most iconic funerary sculptures that exist. It is also one of the most copied. The original was created by American lawyer, poet, and sculptor William Wetmore Story. TheAngel of Grief would be his last major work and lovingly dedicated to his recently deceased wife, Emelyn. It captures the grief he experienced at the prospect of living without his spouse.
William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) saw an opportunity to quit practicing law and become a full-time artist. He was the son of Associate Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) who served on the Supreme Court of the United States, also known as SCOTUS. William graduated from Harvard College and began his career in law. He was successful but unfulfilled. When his father died, William accepted an offer that changed the course of his life.
A committee set up to honor the late Justice Joseph Story wanted to commission a statue in his memory, and they asked William to create it. William was a hobbyist and accepted the commission as long as he and his family moved to Italy for him to study.
By this time, William and Emelyn nee Eldredge had married and started a family. They had two children: Edith “Edie” Marion and Joseph “Joe.” And so, the family moved to Rome, Italy where William embarked on an apprenticeship. Tragedy struck the young family when little Joe died from gastric fever on November 23, 1853. He is buried in Campo Cestio in Rome.
The family grew while William honed his craft. Thomas Waldo, born December 9, 1854, and Julian Russell, born on September 8, 1857, joined older sister Edie. (Note: All four surviving children embarked on careers in the arts: T. Waldo became an acclaimed sculptor; Julian was a famous painter; and Edit, known as the Marchesa Peruzzi di Medici, became a writer.)
Although William returned to the United States to erect the monument for his father, he would make Rome his home. During the forty years he and Emelyn resided in Italy, William created other famous sculptures and gained acclaim as a poet. They enjoyed life and each other.
Emelyn died in 1894, and William’s heart broke. He prepared and created one last sculpture: The Angel of Grief. An angel dressed in Roman attire drapes her body over the altar with her large wings slumped in despair. The sculpture personified the grief that embraced William.
William died in his sleep a year later. He is buried beneath the sculpture with the love of his life. The monument sits in Campo Cestio, also called the Protestant Cemetery or the Cemetery for the Non-Catholic Foreigners. It may be viewed during posted business hours. If you’re unable to see it in person, you can visit some of the copies in America. I cannot state if the cemetery is haunted; however, I can tell you that it has some of the most beautiful funerary monuments that I’ve ever seen in one location. It also has about 40 cats that roam the cemetery listening to classical music when the cemetery closes for the day. Well worth a visit, in our post-COVID world.
While researching this article, I wanted to find a photograph of Emelyn; however, I was unable. There are a few of William and his children who survived into adulthood, but nothing for Emelyn. That is also heartbreaking. I would love to see the woman who supported and encouraged her husband to create so many famous pieces of art, especially the most important piece that is one of his most well-known.
The story goes: Teenage Laura Mitchell fell for town banker Clement Clay Kelly only to die at the young age of 38 years old. Clay, as he was called, was bereft with grief and commissioned an Italian sculptor to craft a 15-foot statue in her likeness to be erected in the family plot of the Kosciusko City Cemetery in Mississippi. Further, he requested—so the story goes—the builder of his beautiful Victorian house at 309 East Jefferson Street to add a third floor so that he could gaze blocks away upon his dead wife’s monument. Only, there are a few plot holes in this version.
Let’s begin with the details we know. Laura Mitchell was born on November 15, 1852. She did, in fact, marry Clay and bore five children. Laura did die at the young age of 38 on November 29, 1890. And, finally, Clay did erect a large statue in her likeness. The height is between 15-20 feet high.
The impressive statue shows Laura dressed in Victorian attire with a cane in her right hand. I could not locate the name of the sculptor or verify that Laura appears in her wedding dress. However, I presume it to be her wedding dress or a dress for a special occasion given the time period.
Sitting in the cemetery, the statue is a local landmark. There are recent articles where local young adults portray various famous townspeople every Halloween for an annual cemetery pilgrimage through the cemetery to hear the stories associated with these people. Although she lived a relatively short life, Laura has lived on in our imaginations for over 130 years. However, some are not as respectful when visiting her.
On at least two occasions, Laura’s stone right hand has been severed and her statue vandalized. In both instances, the community, along with her only remaining relative great granddaughter Laura Ann Hooff Kline, have contributed to a new hand being installed. The only ghost stories I’ve read associated with the statue involve circling around it. Never—and I mean NEVER—deface or vandalize a statue. Removing a hand—or any piece—from a cemetery monument is wrong.
Laura’s statue is called “The Lady in the Cemetery.” I wished it was more descriptive because her statue is truly unique and captures what I believe to be her likeness.
The family plot where Laura is buried had already gained two angels prior to her death: Sons Samuel (1874-1888) and Otho Lamar (1876-1877). Four years after Laura was buried, her daughter Lillian died a new wife on December 5, 1894. She was only 22 years old. Another son, Leland Mitchell, born December 7, 1882, died at the age of 35 on October 10, 1918. All are buried in the plot, surrounded by black wrought iron fencing. The only child to live through adulthood was Alta S. Kelly Clark. It is through this line that the only surviving direct descendent comes from.
I’m fascinated by women who die young, and Laura was one such woman. I was unable to locate a death certificate. Actually, I was unable to locate a lot of government issued documents to prove her existence. For instance, various family trees on Ancestry.com identify her mother as Martha Jones. However, the supporting document showing Martha’s marriage to Samuel Mitchell, Laura’s purported father, was after Laura’s birth. A couple years after. The data listed in the family trees show that Samuel was 12 years older than Martha. Given the time period, I’m inclined to think Martha was a second wife after the first wife, and mother of Laura, had died. Or Laura wasn’t Martha or Samuel’s biological daughter.
The dream home that Laura was in the process of building prior to her death has also yielded conflicting information. One blog stated the address as 310 East Jefferson Street. This house was built by George E. Wilson circa 1840-1845 and sold to John Atkins, who sold it to Laura. It is a lovely 2-story structure. You will the problem in the next paragraph.
The second home associated with Laura sits across the street at 309 East Jefferson Street. This is a stunning 3-story Victorian. Now, if I am reading the online stories correctly, it makes sense that the house at 309 was the home the Kelly family intended to reside in, as some stories suggest that Laura never lived in her dream home. This is further strengthened with the obituary of Alta Semiramis Kelly Clark, where the address is clearly printed.
Having possibly solved this conundrum only yielded a new one. Looking at the map of Kosciusko, the city cemetery is a ways—a long ways—away from Jefferson Street. If Clay was on the third floor, looking south, he would still need binoculars to see the monument. I’m not dismissing the heartbreak he felt and the story. I’m questioning the ability of Clay to see the statue. Maybe that area of Mississippi was clear-cut without any trees. My guess is that this is an embellishment in an already tragic story.
As if this wasn’t enough, I found three additional facts that stood out. When Laura died, Clay remarried, with at least one account claiming he remarried twice. Second wife, Lucy Leake Keirn Kelly (5.3.1861-9.10.1898) died at the age of 37. That seems strange. Quite the coincidence.
Lucy and Clay married in 1891 and had three daughters: Mary, born 1893; Rosa, born 1895; and Lucy, born 1897. Mother Lucy had the three girls and was visiting relatives in Lexington, Mississippi when she fell ill and died. She is not buried in the Kelly family plot in Kosciusko.
A few stories and various family trees list a third wife: Katie Cross Kelly. She’s even linked to Clay’s Find-A-Grave entry. However, I am unmoved that they actually married. I cannot locate a marriage certificate. If they were married, it would have been between 1899, after Lucy’s death, and 1918, before Clay’s death. This is dubious. However, I am always happy to update my blogs when provided with new information.
The final story that stuck out is truly heartbreaking. When Lucy died, she left three little girls aged 5, 3, and 2 months. The middle child was Rosa Hutter Kelly. Rosa was 3 years old when her mother died. In the 1900 Census, Rosa is residing with her widowed father and his children. He is a banker and owns his home. By the 1910 Census, Rosa remained in her father’s home, along with her sisters Mary and Lucy. On Valentine’s Day (according to online blogs but not verified) in 1914, Clay’s bank, the largest privately owned bank in Mississippi, closes and he is bankrupt. By 1918, Clay is dead. So is Rosa’s older sister, Mary. All Rosa has is Lucy.
Neither appear on a 1920 Census. However, in 1930, Rosa appears as a “patient” in Jackson at the Mississippi State Insane Asylum. Her status has changed in the 1940 Census: Now she is an “inmate.” That is the last time Rosa appears in any official document.
The tragedy continues. Thousands of patients at the asylums in Mississippi were buried in unmarked graves. The person who entered Rosa’s information in the Find-A-Grave database surmises, and probably correctly, that Rosa is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Cato, Rankin County, Mississippi. I hope that one day someone will uncover her resting place so that a proper tombstone may be erected.
Tonight, my heart is breaking as I learned of the death of my friend Chris Sutton. Chris was one of my earliest supporters. We met through Scarefest and continued our friendship long after I parted ways. He was diagnosed with lung cancer, but I felt confident that he would beat it. Alas, he did not.
I love the Internet! If I’m watching a TV show and see something that I want to learn more about, I jot down some of the details. Then I get down to it. Season 13 Episode 5 “Shop of Horrors” on The Dead Files provided that spark.
The episode had Amy Allan investigating Daydreams & Nightmares, a large costume shop in Modesto, California. The shop’s owner, Dana, called in Amy because she and her employees were experiencing disturbing phenomena. Steve DiSchiavi interviewed employees and locals to get a sense of the location’s history. Boy, it is a tad dark!
According to the show, the business located at 1219 7th Street, served as the Evans Funeral Home that included a crematorium. One photograph showed charred remains from the cremation process stuck to the ceiling. Per the show, the business was active from 1995-2015.
Now, I don’t believe that all funeral homes are haunted or negative places. Just like I don’t believe that cemeteries are inherently haunted. Steve retold the tragic 2011 murder-suicide of a father and his juvenile son. That hit hard; however, I was fascinated by the 1910 story of Andrew Sorensen, a 30-year-old prominent businessman who went temporarily insane and attempted to kill his wife. Now that had my attention.
Andrew came from a prominent and well-respected family. His father served two terms as the County Recorder of Stanislaus County. He was born on December 8, 1880, and co-owned the Maze Hotel with his wife, Marie E. Stone Sorensen, whom he married 4 years prior (November 22, 1906). On December 30, 1910, Andrew returned from the post office and met his wife and 17-year-old cousin Edith “Eda” Simon on the landing at the stairs. For some unknown reason, Andrew lunged at Marie’s throat and finding he was unable to strangle her, he took out a 12-inch butcher knife and began to attack Marie. Marie fell to the floor; Edith began to scream. A couple of carpenters, Dawes and Tucker, who were on the property came running and chased Andrew to his bedroom. Shortly thereafter, Deputies Dallas and Swatzel arrived and broke through the locked door. They found Andrew had thrice attempted to slash his neck. The final, and fatal, wound was when Andrew took the knife and sliced from ear to ear. Newspaper articles reported that he severed his windpipe. Dr. F.R. DeLappe arrived as Andrew slumped to death. His motive taken to the grave.
Marie, miraculously, faired much better. Her wounds were severe but not critical. She was transported to the Evans Hospital. She sustained deep cuts to her head, throat, and hands. Her left hand was cut to the bone. The third finger on her right hand was cut off. She was recuperating in the hospital and did not know her husband’s fate until the next day when the coroner completed his inquest.
The local paper reported the attempted murder and suicide in the evening paper on the 30th. It was quickly picked up and disseminated across the wire service. The inquest was the following day, the 31st. Here, we learn a bit more.
Supposedly Andrew was beset by mental demons off-and-on for years. Many stated that he suffered frequent, though brief, mental incapacity. The coroner verdict was death caused by knife while in fit of insanity. Basically, he died by suicide. Found in his bedroom was a partial suicide note, where Andrew scribbled 2 lines of illegible text addressed to his mother, Anna Simon Sorensen. No one was able to discern any of the writing.
The red flag that went up for me was why. Why did he return home to brutally attack his wife in front of his cousin and with workers and patrons nearby? One article referenced a jealous streak in his personality. That may be. There are plenty of criminal cases where jealousy ignited the attack. Others claimed to have seen his mental capacities decline over time. Why was that? Today, the investigation would last more than 24 hours, and all possible avenues would be explored. This is especially true when three separate newspaper articles had varying degrees of facts.
Miss Eda Simon returned to Stockton, California the following day (the day of the inquest). She, in fact, did not appear in person but was interviewed by telephone. That also seemed strange.
Andrew was prepped and buried shortly after the inquest. He now rests in the Modesto Pioneer Cemetery, then known as the Odd Fellows Cemetery, in Block 29, Lot 2, Grave 3. It is a family plot purchased by his father, Martin Iverson Sorensen (1853-1902). This is a family plot that contains the remains of Martin, Anna, and other relatives. However, one person is missing: Marie E. Stone Sorensen is not buried in the plot.
As for the Maze Hotel: Nothing is mentioned in the local newspapers after 1932.
The show did end on a more positive note. Amy told Dana and her employees Michelle and Eva that the low-level child demon could be taken care of. In the 2-month follow-up reveal, Dana said they followed Amy’s directions and the building doesn’t feel as oppressive. If you happen to visit, let me know. I’m always trying to find a great costume for Halloween.
At 2 AM on August 24, 1953, George Wellington Van Tassel was sleeping outside the Giant Rock in the Mojave Desert with his first wife*, Eva, when 3 extraterrestrials woke him up. The leader, Solganda, spoke English and convinced George to take a ride on the flying saucer parked nearby. Onboard, George encountered three additional extraterrestrials who communicated telepathically in “Omnibeam,” as they were mutes. In total, George estimated that Solganda and the other men from Venus were on the ground for 20 minutes. George took a flight on their saucer, and it was the first and only time he saw them. This encounter started George’s life work: the Integratron.
The Integratron is a 16-sided all-wood dome structure with 16 small windows built without nails, screws, or any metal (joinery). Van Tassel used Douglas fir to create glulam (glued laminate wood) ribs connected with dowel beams. These beams were designed to spin the structure and generate electrostatic energy in order to facilitate time travel and to act as a rejuvenation machine that would extend the human life to 300-1500 years. According to Solganda, the largest hurdle facing humans was our limited life expectancy. If we could live longer, we could accomplish so much more. Unfortunately, George would not live to see the Integratron completed.
George W. Van Tassel was a Ufologist, writer, and self-ordained minister. Born in Ohio on March 12, 1910, George dropped out of high school but had a fascination with aircraft. He ventured out to Yuma, Arizona, where he married his first wife Eva Meek on January 31, 1932. They settled in California. Together with their three daughters, the Van Tassel family moved out to the Giant Rock in 1947.
The Giant Rock is a massive natural rock structure in the Mojave Desert. German American Frank Kritzer squatted under the rock and made it his home. The hermit believed there were glass-lined tunnels underneath the rock and attempted to locate while managing an emergency airstrip, often called an airport. (Note: See forthcoming blog on him) After Kritzer was blown up and killed on July 25, 1942, George and family took up residency and began running the airport.
George and Eva took advantage of the paranormal-friendly California landscape. They added the Come on Inn [sic] café, which served Eva’s famous hamburgers. On April 4, 1953, the 1st Annual Giant Rock Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention took place alongside the Giant Rock. From 1953-1977, hundreds to thousands of UFO enthusiasts ventured out to the desert, communing with like-minded people. The gatherings were popular yet a trigger point for one of Van Tassel’s neighbors.
From 1954 and up until his death by a heart attack, Van Tassel was under the watchful eye of the FBI—all thanks to one of his neighbors. According to the unsealed, though redacted, FBI file, the Bureau checked in on Van Tassel sporadically of the years. Much of what we know about George comes from one such visit.
FBI Inspector Joseph Sizoo spoke with Eva and gleaned some background information on George. She informed Insp. Sizoo that George was three months shy of graduating from high school. Although George was not a pilot, he did hold a mechanics certificate. A lot of George’s employment history is hearsay and sketchy. However, we do know he was captivated with extraterrestrials.
The 3-4 story Integratron, located 3 miles south of the Giant Rock, was meant to be the hub of the 10-acre College of Universal Wisdom, which was part of the UFO cult Ministry of Universal Wisdom. Originally called the Brotherhood of Cosmic Christ, George’s church incorporated sermons from the Bible with extraterrestrial high thinking concepts. These weekly sermons actually legitimized George’s behavior and formed the basis of exoneration of anti-American activity.
Eva died on May 11, 1974, and by the time George died he was supposedly remarried to Dorris Andre Van Tassel. Dorris attempted to keep the church going after George’s death but ultimately sold the property in 1987 to Emile Canning and Diana Cushing, who held onto the property until 2000 when three sisters (Joanne, Nancy, and Patty Karl) purchased the property and transformed the dome into a healing center and sound bath.
Shortly after George’s death, all equipment aimed at reversing the aging process and facilitating time travel disappeared. No one has ever found the tunnels underneath the Giant Rock. And the Integratron has become a local tourist attraction for day trippers heading out into the desert. On April 23, 2018, the Integratron was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. Both the Giant Rock and the Integratron are ensconced in UFO lore and should be on your bucket road trip itinerary.
* I was unable to locate any official documents showing that George married Dorris in 1975. However, his obituary listed her as his surviving 2nd wife. His Find-A-Grave page only identifies Eva as his wife.
I alter books and create journals. Usually, I visit the local Goodwill store to select a book. This weekend, I went to the Goodwill in Gainesville, Florida, where I have recently moved. I didn’t find a book suitable for altering. It’s like a treasure hunt to find a book not too big, nor too small. Not too old, but not so new that the pages aren’t bound. It is a quest! I also purchase older books to gut for collage paper. I pulled a slight book with a green cover but not a back cover. No dustjacket, either. The pages were yellowed with age. I turned it over and read the back page. To my delight, I found a 1967 Hans Holzer book!
The book cost 63 cents. Well worth it!
The Lively Ghosts of Ireland consists of 17 investigations Holzer conducted in Ireland. Countess Catherine Buxhoeveden (known then as “The Haunted Countess”), at the time Han’s wife, created 8 pen and ink illustrations. The book is incredibly fragile and will sit on a shelf with an eclectic mix of Rosary beads and porcelain dolls.
So, head on out to the thrift stores and locate your treasure.
Last night, Dave Schrader broke the news that The Holzer Files will not return for a third season. The reality TV paranormal series finishes with 20 episodes (2 seasons) ranging from 2019-2021. The cast of Dave, Cindy Kaza, and Shane Pittman re-evaluated case files from famed parapsychologist Hans Holzer (1920-2009). Even though the series has ended, Dave announced that new projects are underway.