Ghosts and a Camera at Halloween

Abel Blood's headstone, Hollis, NH
Abel Blood’s haunted headstone at Pine Hill Cemetery, Hollis, NH

In the northeast, Halloween can be sultry or freezing cold.

This year (1999), the weather turned unusually warm.  Halloween night was perfect for ghost hunting.

After dropping my son at a church youth social, I decided to return Blood Cemetery (aka Pine Hill Cemetery) in Hollis, NH.

I wanted to take some quick photos from the roadside.

(Like many New England cemeteries, Pine Hill is closed from dusk to dawn.)

I carried my “old reliable” 35mm point-and-shoot camera which I’d used for years.

I’d taken over 100 photos with it during the two weeks before this, and it had worked perfectly.

In fact, about half of my photos are taken in low-light conditions using the flash.

On this evening, the batteries were fresh, the film was fine, and there was nothing to jam the camera.

Since it was Halloween, I felt a little nervous as I approached the pitch dark graveyard. Its scary reputation didn’t bother me as much as being alone on a very deserted road.

Because the cemetery had closed at dusk, I stood at the side of the road, staring into the eerie darkness. And I started taking photos at random, pointing the camera into Blood Cemetery.

And then things went weird

Ghosts, a camera, and Halloween - Blood CemeteryI pushed the button to take a photo.

Click.

Nothing happened. No flash, just the film advancing.

Click again. Still no flash, as I was using up film.

Click. Click. Click.

It took me eleven photos to realize that my flash was not going to work.

Yes, eleven flashless photos of total darkness.

Then the police – who patrol the cemetery regularly at this time of year – arrived and asked me to “move along.”

(My team and I always respect laws, especially at haunted sites. And, when the police ask us to leave, we do so, immediately.)

Something didn’t make sense

I left, muttering to myself about my camera. Fresh film, fresh batteries, a good camera… why had it suddenly failed?

For the next few minutes, I went through a mental inventory of reasons why the flash had abruptly stopped working, for eleven photos in a row.

About two miles from the cemetery, I stopped at a red light. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I picked up my camera and took a quick photo of… well, the car seat.

After all, it was right there.

FLASH!

Yes, the flash was suddenly working again.

Hmm… I wasn’t going to let a camera glitch – or Blood Cemetery – spoil my Halloween ghost hunting.

Challenge accepted!

I drove another ten minutes to another old cemetery. It was “Schoolhouse Cemetery,” the early burial ground next to Spit Brook Plaza shopping center.

But, at the time, that burial ground did not have a “haunted” reputation. (With lots of traffic on at least one side, and an apartment complex along one side, it’s not a great research location.)

There, I took another dozen photos to finish the roll of film, and the flash worked fine every time. (That’s the night when I photographed one of my best pictures of a ‘ghost orb’ at Schoolhouse Cemetery in Nashua, NH.)

Frankly, although it doesn’t feel that odd to me, I may have to accept that Blood Cemetery is, indeed, haunted. Abel Blood’s headstone is just one landmark among several local haunted cemeteries.

I’ve inspected my camera and batteries. Nothing seemed amiss.

Was the problem paranormal? Maybe. Even now, I have no reasonable explanation for the abrupt, location-specific failure of my camera.

I know that this sounds like a campfire tale from a Scouting trip. However, it’s what really happened.

I can’t think of a reasonable explanation. Not for eleven photos with a very reliable Olympus camera. The camera had worked fine for years before, and – as I update this story in 2020, over 20 years later – that camera has never failed since.

(However, other cameras have reacted weirdly at haunted cemeteries, too.)

Blood Cemetery seemed like a comfortable old graveyard before these experiences. But, it took me months to feel comfortable returning there.

Even today, I’m a little edgy about that cemetery.

Yes, I’ll admit that something’s just not right at Blood Cemetery.

Blood Cemetery, Hollis, NH – Probably a Bug-Orb

This was my second visit to Blood Cemetery (aka Pine Hill Cemetery). I was there just before dusk on Sunday, 17 Oct 1999.

According to ghost hunting tradition, the more time you spend in a “haunted” location, the more likely it is that you’ll go home with ghost photos. These generally include “ghost orbs,” but sometimes other haunted images show up in ghost hunters’ photos.

This was my second visit to Blood Cemetery during one day. These photos were taken with a 35mm film camera. I was taking “ghost pictures” near Abel Blood’s famous headstone , and around the Farley family graves.

bl-2no

About 30 seconds after taking the photo shown above, I thought a possible ghost orb appeared in the next photo. It’s at the far left of the photo, near the top.

bl-2nd

That white orb-shape is too small to be a fingerprint of someone at the photo lab, and the negative had no marks on it.

I was fairly certain there were no insects flying on that chilly night. There was nothing to reflect light at my lens. Among 24 photos taken that evening, this was the only photo with an orb.

However, after reviewing this photo several years (and several thousand photos) later, I think that an out-of-season, disoriented bug flew past me.

Most “ghost orbs” are perfectly round.

When one isn’t, there’s usually a good, normal explanation for it.

Though the moment had that “anomaly” feeling to it, I’m at least 99.9% sure the orb-like shape is a flying insect.

(And, for all I know, the real anomaly was going on in a nearby part of the cemetery. It’s another reason to investigate with a team, so the area is well covered, and nothing interesting is missed.)

Mary Nasson’s grave – York, Maine

At left: The haunted “Witch’s Grave” of York, Maine / Mary Nasson (1745 – 1774)

On 17 Oct 1999, I visited the Old Burying Yard on Rte. 1a in York Harbor, Maine. It’s a small cemetery on the side of the road nearest the water, slightly west of the downtown area. You can park in town and walk back to it.

On this day, I was searching for the grave of witch “Mary Miller Jason.” That was the name reported in at least one book about the ghosts of Maine, and at several websites.

Instead, I found a grave that matched the book’s description, but the woman was Mary Nasson, wife of Samuel Nasson.

(I’m fairly certain that the “Jason” spelling was originally a typo that spread as one resource copied another.  There’s a lesson in this: Double-check all resources, and don’t trust websites or books — even mine — until you’ve verified their research, yourself.)

I took several photos to document this grave, since — at that time — I was the only one who’d spotted the misspelled name. (Since then, others have used my website as a resource and corrected the spelling when writing about Mrs. Nasson.)

Footstone at Mary Nasson's grave
Footstone inscription at Mary Nasson’s grave.

According to reports, Mrs. Nasson had been a successful and respected herbalist in the community, and she was also skilled at performing exorcisms.

Her portrait supposedly adorns the top of the headstone, shown below. (I’m not sure if that’s a tiny orb at the upper left corner of the photo.)Mary Nasson's face

Mrs. Nasson’s grave is unique. Her husband erected a headstone and a footstone. As if those weren’t enough, he placed a heavy stone slab between them, covering the ground over her body.

Historians insist that Mr. Nasson placed the slab there to keep cattle from damaging the grave. However, earlier and later graves in this cemetery do not have that kind of “protection.”

The legend is that the stone was placed there to be sure she stayed in her grave.

I have difficulty believing that — if the cattle story is true — Mr. Nasson was the only person in York to care enough to protect a family member’s grave.

Mrs. Nasson’s grave is known as “Witch’s Grave,” and it is reported to be haunted.

Skeptical after the name was different from some published accounts, I put my hands on the stone slab covering the grave. Supposedly, the grave emits heat.

I’d expected some radiant heat from the sun. Instead, the stone covering her grave was dramatically warmer, only where it meets the headstone (the larger of the two grave markers).

That’s very odd.

The crows which frequent the cemetery in the summer are reported to be Mrs. Nasson’s “familiars,” still paying tribute to her. There were none when I visited in October, but I often saw the crows in the graveyard when I lived in York.

The inscription on the headstone:

Here liest quite free from Lifes
Distrefsing Care,
A loving Wife
A tender Parent dear
Cut down in midst of days
As you may see
But – stop – my Grief
I soon shall equal be
when death shall stop my breath
And end my Time
God grant my Dust
May mingle, then, with thine.

Sacred to the memory of Mrs. MARY NASSON, wife of Mr. SAMUEL NASSON, who departed this life Aug. 18th 1774, AEtat 29.

However, Mrs. Nasson’s grave isn’t the only eerie plot in the cemetery, nor the only reason why the cemetery may be haunted. For more information about the Old Burying Yard, see my other insights about York, Maine.