More Americans Believe in Ghosts, Not Fewer

Full moon - ghostly sceneA decade ago, most scholars claimed that about 50% of Americans believed in ghosts or related paranormal phenomena.

Since then, those numbers may have increased. Here’s the news story:

MSU Professor: Belief in Ghosts and Other Paranormal is Strong – KEYC

“Studies indicate that 75% of Americans believe in at least one of the supernatural phenomenon surveyed, and while scholars over the last century have been predicting that believes in things such as ghosts and hauntings would dissipate as a result of the increasing efficacy of science, technology, and education. That’s just not proven true at all,” said Sociology Professor, Dennis Waskul.

Read more …

I wonder if the recent focus on “fake news” makes people less confident about supposedly reliable resources.

Left to trust their own instincts, perhaps some people realize that ghosts might be real, after all.

One intense encounter — or even an eerie experience — may be all it takes to tilt the scales from “skeptic” to “believer.”

ghostbat

Also in the news: Syfy may have cancelled Ghost Hunters, but other ghost-related shows continue to feature lesser-known haunts.

It’s smart to know what will be featured on TV, if you want to investigate a site before the energy is diluted by a fresh stream of eager, aspiring ghost hunters.

Here’s a former Ohio school that sounds interesting.

Haunted old Butler County school to be featured on national TV – Hamilton Journal News

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:27:04 GMT

Hamilton Journal News – Haunted old Butler County school to be featured on national TV. Poasttown Elementary, a former Madison Twp. school building that is now the home of Darrell and Brenda Whisman, will be featured on…
Read more …

Of course, I still recommend your own local research, to find unexplored haunts with powerful ghostly energy.

Houmas House Ghosts (and The Bachelor TV Show)

A recent episode of the American TV series, The Bachelor, was filmed at Houmas House in Louisiana.

Ghost orbs at Houmas House (Louisiana)
Orbs hover at historic (and haunted) Houmas House, LA (This is my own photo, during my stay at the site.)

Many people have written to me, asking if that house is really “one of Louisiana’s most haunted houses.”

The answer is: yes, Houmas House is very haunted. More than most Louisiana “haunted” houses, and perhaps more than most houses in America.

In fact, I once recorded a lengthy podcast about Houmas House. I may restore it in the future, once I’ve updated it.

Until I do, this article should answer most questions.

Houmas House’s ghosts don’t bear much resemblance to the way they were presented in The Bachelor.

In fact, I strongly object to how Houmas House — and its spirits — were portrayed in that show.

My husband and I had the honor of spending a night inside Houmas House, thanks to the hospitality of its owner, Kevin Kelly.

He knew that I would thoroughly investigate the house, unsupervised. He also knew that I’d write a blunt and honest review of what I did (and didn’t) find there.

He put no limits on what I could explore, day or night. He was a superb host, and — after a tour to show us what was where, and explain some of the house’s history — he let us wander around the house & its grounds.

I was impressed.

Houmas House is haunted for many reasons

I believe the house is truly haunted, and the energy comes from multiple sources.

First, there’s the history of the house. That includes its connection to the creation of what’s often called the Confederate flag, from the War between the States.

The house has also been the scene of several tragedies, including the loss of a family cemetery that was washed away in the early 20th century.

Then, there’s the energy that’s been brought to the house by the public. I believe that public perception can energize otherwise dormant spiritual energy. (It’s sort of like the Law of Attraction. If you believe a place is creepy and haunted, maybe your beliefs & energy contribute to it.)

The movie “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” left Houmas House with a lasting connection to ghosts, madness, and gruesome events.

Yes, that movie was filmed at Houmas House. If you saw The Bachelor episode, you may recognize the style of the staircase in the following movie trailer.

Next, I believe Houmas House contains a larger-than-average collection of haunted objects.

From quirky artwork to antique “vampire hunter” kits, to some of Anne Rice’s furniture, objects at Houmas House provide an energy mix you won’t find in many other haunts, anywhere in the world.

The other structures — small cabins, etc., that may (or may not) still be on the property — also provide reasons why the site is haunted. They have their own stories to tell. And, their energy lingers.

And finally, the location of Houmas House — near a large body of water, and where it’s placed on the road, in energy (or feng shui) terms — makes it a prime location for paranormal reports.

Some of the house’s eeriness can be attributed to infrasound from the nearby water. However, even if I discount the “creepy feeling” that seems to drift through Houmas House from time to time, infrasound can’t explain everything odd I experienced at the site.

During my visit to Houmas House, I saw several ghosts, mostly during the day.

The tall man at the front gate

In broad daylight on a sunny day, I saw a ghostly figure at the front gates. Another guest saw him, as well. We were up on the “widow’s walk” viewing deck at the top of the house.

The figure looked like a distinctive, slim, very tall man, pacing back and forth as if waiting for someone.

When I mentioned him to Kevin Kelly, he showed me an old photo. The dark-skinned man in the picture was an exact match for the slightly translucent person I’d seen at the front gates.

I had no doubt that it was the same person.

And, since I think I was the first person to report seeing that ghost, there’s no way Kevin was prepared to provide supporting evidence. (In fact, he had to go looking for the photo. When I confirmed what I’d seen, I think Kevin was more surprised than I was.)

The little girl on the stairs

Visitors and construction workers (making repairs and renovations) have reported a little girl on the house’s distinctive spiral staircase.

Kevin showed me one photo that I didn’t think was credible. But, I’ve heard and read other reports of the figure, and those were believable.

During my visit, I sensed something on the stairs, but I can’t claim that I saw a convincing apparition.

The ghost in the Bette Davis room

I believe that I saw a reflection of a reflection of a little girl in the room where actress Bette Davis had slept during the filming of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

The reflection appeared on the glass front of a clock in that room.

I turned to see who was behind me. That’s when I saw the reflection of a little girl across the room. She was very small, no more than about five years old… maybe slightly older, if she was particularly petite.

She was there… and then she was gone. All I can tell you is that I had the idea that one of her arms was injured or even deformed. It’s as if she was concealing it.

As I recall, I saw her in a mirror in that room. But, I’ll need to find my notes (and my old photos from that visit) to confirm that.

Kevin didn’t seem to think that Bette Davis experienced anything unusual when she slept in that room.

However, any ghost with an ounce of sense would stay far away from Ms. Davis. She was known for being strong-willed and sharp-tongued. She would not willingly share her room with a ghost.

Those are the ghosts I clearly recall from my visit to Houmas House. (My husband and I slept soundly in a guest room on the top floor of the house. If that floor was haunted, the ghosts didn’t disturb me that night.)

The Bachelor TV show… and poor production decisions

The Houmas House episode of The Bachelor was embarrassing to watch.

From the start, I was skeptical when the ghostly little girl was given a name, “May.”

Perhaps someone has successfully documented the ghost’s identity, but the Houmas House website doesn’t suggest that.

Then, the doll that they showed in the glass case did not seem to fit the correct time period. (Also, the staging with “Boo” outside, saying that someone had disturbed the doll… it seemed added as an after-thought. It didn’t make much sense.)

When Houmas House’s lights suddenly went out, and then when the chandelier seemed to crash (almost) to the floor, I was ready to stop watching the show.

Those kinds of things don’t happen in most truly haunted houses. Most of the time, they’re staged for silly movies and TV shows.

My biggest complaint was related to the Ouija board scene.

Yes, the letters had been painted white. That doesn’t make the board any less dangerous.

There is no way I’d allow anyone to use a Ouija board at a haunted site, unless everyone involved knew exactly what the risks might be.

(I’m not saying that Ouija boards are inherently evil. My personal issue with Ouija boards is that too many people use them for “fun,” not realizing that some divination tools open doors. Once a door is opened, an unprotected person can be at risk.)

Ouija board issues

In the following YouTube video (actually, an audio with video added later), John Zaffis talks about his experiences with Zozo and Ouija boards.

(I’ve known John Zaffis for about 20 years, and I respect him. He’s very different from how he was portrayed on the Haunted Collector TV show. If I’d ever considered accepting a role on a ghost-related TV show… well, after seeing how they edited John, there’s no way I’d put my reputation in the hands of TV producers.)

Also, in this video, that silliness about Aleister Crowley using the Sun symbol as something evil, and other text & images added to the video…? Ignore them. I’m including this video only for John’s description of the Zozo phenomenon.

And, since I mentioned the weird, strange, and possibly haunted objects at Houmas House, here’s a video of John Zaffis sharing his views on that topic.

I don’t agree with him on all points, but I definitely defer to his greater experience in the field of dangerous haunted objects, and demon-like entities.

Houmas House is worth visiting

Despite my skepticism and irritation with how Houmas House was portrayed on The Bachelor, the site is definitely worth visiting.

That’s not just because you might encounter a ghost in broad daylight.

It’s also because the house is magnificent, it has a fascinating history, and it represents an era (and architecture) you rarely see so well-preserved, anywhere in the South.

[When I find my old notes & photos related to Houmas House’s ghosts, I’ll add them at this website. For now, this summary should explain why I believe the house is haunted… and why you shouldn’t judge it by what was shown on The Bachelor.]

Elva Zona Heaster’s Ghostly Testimony

Greenbrier Ghost

Late October is a great time for ghost hunting… and not just on Halloween.

October 20th is also the wedding anniversary of Elva Zona Heaster and her murdering husband, “Trout” Shue.

If I were to investigate her grave (or his), I’d be there on October 20th. Anniversaries usually trigger extra ghostly activity. And, when the wedding soon led to murder… well, that improves the odds of an eerie graveside investigation.

Elva Zona “Zonie” Heaster is one of the few documented, ghostly detectives. According to her mother – and the jury at Trout’s trial – Elva solved her own murder.

elva zona heaster
Possible photo of Elva (may have been taken after her murder)

Elva was born in 1873 at Greenbrier, West Virginia (USA) to Jacob Hedges Heaster (1847 – 1917) and his wife, Mary Jane Robinson (1849 – 1916).

Elva was one of nine children in the family, and the elder of two girls. (Elva’s sister Lennie was born seven years after Elva.)

Elva was also one of the county’s most beautiful young women.

Her first boyfriend was Albert Carr. (He later married – twice – and named his daughters Elva and Zona. So, it seems like he never quite got over Elva Zona Heaster.)

Elva may have married George Woldridge. They had a baby boy in November 1895. The child may have died or been raised by someone else. The records aren’t clear about the baby’s fate, if George was Elva’s husband, or what happened to George.

A year later, Elva fell in love with Erasmus Stribbling “Trout” Shue, who’d been born in 1861 in Augusta, Virginia. (His parents were Jacob and Elizah Shue.)

elva and husband
Elva Zona Heaster and Trout Shue, in happier times

Evidence suggests that “Trout” was a heart breaker – and perhaps a wife-murderer – even before he arrived in town and courted Elva.

Trout had already been married to Allis (or Allie) Estilline Cutlip, Lucy A. Tritt, Ellen Estilline Cutlip, and Annie Williams. (Ellen and Allis may have been one person. Like many records of that time, spelling errors are commonplace.)

His first marriage (to Allis) ended in divorce, with cruelty cited.

His second wife (Lucy) died suddenly, hit on the head “by a falling brick.”

It seems as if most of Trout’s neighbors believed he’d killed Lucy, but they had no proof.

The other one or two wives… I haven’t found records for either of them, yet.

So, Elva was Trout’s fourth or fifth wife. (Apparently, his goal was to marry seven women.)

Trout was described as a drifter, and worked as a blacksmith near Elva’s home.

The couple married on October 20th, 1896, about a year after Elva’s baby (with George Woldridge) had been born.

From the start, it appears that Elva’s mother was uneasy about the ever-so-charming Mr. Shue.  In fact, some accounts say that Mrs. Heaster hated Trout on sight.

Then, on January 23rd, 1897 – shortly after the couple had been married just three months – Trout sent a boy to the Shue house on an errand. The boy found Elva, dead at the foot of the stairs.

By the time the doctor arrived, Trout had already brought Elva upstairs to her bed, wrapped her neck in a bright-colored scarf, and generally prepared the body for burial.

(The reference to the scarf, and the odd, flat appearance of Elva’s hair, face, and neck, suggest that the photo – near the top of this article – was taken after she’d died. Postmortem photos were common in some regions, as a memento of the deceased.)

Because Trout seemed so distraught at his wife’s death, the doctor did only a cursory examination. He decided that Elva had fainted and fallen down the stairs to her death.

(Only later were questions raised about the blood near her body, and the possibility that she was pregnant when she was killed.)

Elva was buried in an unmarked grave at Soule Chapel cemetery.

About a month after Elva’s death, over a period of four nights, her spirit appeared to her mother, Mrs. Heaster.

Elva’s mother said that Elva looked like she was “flesh and blood,” not a ghost.

Elva explained to her mother that Trout had killed her. To confirm that she spoke the truth, Elva told her mother several things that her mother could not have known at the time . And, to demonstrate that Trout had broken her neck, Elva (the ghost) rotated her head in a full circle.

Elva’s mother visited the sites Elva had named, and verified the details that Elva had shared. Everything confirmed that Elva’s spirit really had visited her mother.

So, Mrs. Heaster went to the county prosecutor and convinced him to open Elva’s grave for an autopsy.

As expected, it turned out that Elva’s neck was broken, but her windpipe had been crushed as well. She hadn’t been the victim of a fall.

Trout was charged with murder. On July 11th, 1897, he was sentenced to life in prison, where he died of an unknown epidemic on March 11th, 1900.

Elva’s mother’s story never wavered. She always insisted that her daughter’s ghost had appeared to her, and revealed the murder.

The story is so odd, I believe her.

Where is Trout Shue buried?

His body is in an unmarked grave near West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. (That retired prison is open for tours, as well as overnight investigations.)

If you’d like to investigate the prison cemetery, it’s part of Whitegate Cemetery. You’ll find it along Tom’s Run, about 3/4 of a mile from the main route into Moundsville on Fourth Street.

Where is Elva Zona Heaster Shue buried?

To investigate Zona’s grave, go to Soule Chapel Methodist Cemetery. It’s in Meadow Bluff, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, off the old Kanawha Turnpike. (I recommend checking other parts of that cemetery, as well. She’s probably in the family plot, but – since the grave was unmarked for more than 80 years – it’s not her guaranteed location.)

The Man Who Wanted Seven WivesMore reading and resources

For the full story, read The Man Who Wanted Seven Wives – The Greenbrier Ghost and the Famous Murder Mystery of 1897. That book presents the most thorough account of the entire story.

Haunted HomelandOr, if you’d like to read more about the Greenbrier Ghost and others, I recommend Haunted Homeland: A Definitive Collection of North American Ghost Stories.

The writing style is colorful and the stories are well-researched.