Finding Haunted Sites Using Old, Online Books

In my earlier article, Using History to Find Haunted Sites, I talked about visiting the public library to study dusty old books.

You may have similar success using old books that are online.  From Gutenberg to the Internet Public Library, you can search for references to forgotten haunts at book- and magazine-related websites.

Generally, I start my search with the name of the location.  I want a site I can visit, easily.

Then, I add words such as:

  • ghost, ghosts, apparitions, specters, spectres
  • haunts, haunted
  • tragedy
  • murder
  • massacre

(The latter three terms are because most hauntings relate to one or more of four themes:  Money, power, drama, and tragedy.)

Next, I browse the results to see if any seem worth further study.

For example, I wanted to find forgotten ghosts in Lexington, Massachusetts.  So, I entered “lexington ghosts haunted” … and found a ghost story in Germany.

Konigsmark’s ghost – Germany

It seems that Philipp Christoph, count von Königsmark, vanished in 1694 after a presumed affair with Sophia Dorothea, wife of the future George I of Great Britain, and mother of George II.

One version of the story claims that Königsmark was killed on the orders of George I’s father, and the body was weighted with stones and thrown into the river.  Another version says that the body was found, either strangled or in pieces (or both), beneath the floorboards of Princess Sophia’s dressing room.

According to the Quarterly Review (Volume 89) published in 1851, “It was long believed that Konigsmark’s ghost haunted the palace where we now know his body lay—and Mr. Cressett, in a subsequent letter, relates that it was supposed to have appeared on so incongruous an occasion as the ballet at a court opera.”

Sophia was divorced by her husband, and she was imprisoned for the rest of her life.  So, her story adds to the tragedy.

I’m not sure if the haunted castle is Hanover Castle, Leineschloss, and — so far — I’m not seeing any modern reports of ghost hunting at that site, or in connection with this tragic tale.  If I were in Germany, I’d definitely look for additional information.

Note: As I continued researching Konigsmark’s ghost stories in dusty old books, I found this odd reference — not to Konigsmark, but to ghosts in general, from 1852 — “Reichenbach says, that ‘thousands of ghost stories will now receive a natural explanation,’ from his discovery that the decomposition of animal matter is accompanied by light, or luminous vapour, which is visible to certain sensitive persons.”

I’ll go back and study this research, later.  For now, it’s an interesting theory and I’d want to see supporting evidence.

Narrowing the search for ghosts

Next, I narrowed my search with the words “lexington massachusetts ghosts haunted” and discovered ghost references related to Henry David Thoreau, Henry James and William Dean Howells… at Boston’s Beacon Hill.

Noting those for future research, I continued my search and discovered — in a magazine from 1873 — “…there are four distinct visitations which defy exorcism. One is the Newburyport school-house visitor; a second is a woman who haunts the tenders of the locomotives in Central New York; a third is a mysterious comer, always seen shovelling snow at dawn in certain villages of Massachusetts; a fourth is one who plays pranks with telegraphic instruments in Dubuque.”

I’m pretty sure that I know the Newburyport story — set at Charles Street Schoolhouse — since debunked.  The other tales sound a little vague (and therefore incredible) but they might be worth additional research.  I’ll keep them in mind if I see a second reference to any of them.

The research road leads to Concord

Finally, I found a reference that mentioned a ghost in Concord, Massachusetts.  It’s near enough to Lexington that I stopped my search there.

Though the story sounds like fiction, a few reference points might be worth exploring.  I’d be looking for the home of Jerusha Billings (b. 1818), and I’d also look for maps of the early highways around Concord, particularly the ones that are dirt roads today.  I keep seeing references to multiple haunted houses — perhaps abandoned sites — along those roads.

So, during a two-hour search this morning, I didn’t find detailed ghost reports that I can use for immediate paranormal investigations.

However, I found enough odd references to ghosts that my time was well spent.  Those are stories I’ll research in more detail, as time permits.

I hope that gives you some ideas for finding unreported and under-reported ghosts and haunted places near you.  Online or at the public library, you may find some great, forgotten, true ghost stories.

Photo credit: Castle Hill in Quedlinburg by Kriss Szkurlatowski

More Ways to Use History

Public sites are among my favorite locations for research, and also for training new team members.

I’ve also talked about the importance of using haunted cemeteries for those purposes. (That’s why I go into such detail in Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.)

They’re still my most important research and training sites.

However, sometimes you’ll want a fresh and unusual location. To find those locations, dusty old books can be among your best friends.

Here’s an example of my book research.

Along coastal New Hampshire (USA), a massacre site — and related burial ground — are on property that’s open to the public.  The magnitude of the violence that occurred there… well, it should be an excellent investigation site.

Frankly, I was saving this location for my own research.  However, with an overloaded writing schedule in 2011, I’m not sure that I’ll have time for this Rye site… not in the near future, anyway.

The site is related to a 1691 massacre that I’ve briefly mentioned in the past.

I found it described in a dusty old book in the library at Harvard University.  Fortunately, the book is also online. It’s called The History of the Town of Rye, New Hampshire: from its discovery and settlement to December 31, 1903.  (You can tell from the title, this isn’t a book that many people look at.)

Several stories in that book suggest sites that could be haunted.  However, the story that begins on page 245 is probably the most lurid and promising for paranormal research.

The tale was summarized, “… a party of savages, variously estimated at from twenty to forty, came from the eastward in canoes and landed at Sandy Beach. They did not attack the garrison house there, but killed some of the defenceless families living on or in near vicinity to Brackett’s lane (now known as Brackett road), took a number of persons captive, and burned several small houses.”

The story is grisly, involving the loss of about 20 people.  Most of them were buried at the Brackett Massacre Burial Ground. [Link to photo & map.]

Driving directions: Brackett Road runs parallel to Rte. 1A.  From either the center of Rye or from Rte. 1A, take Washington Street (in Rye, NH) to Brackett Road and turn north.  Massacre Marsh will be on your right, shortly after you cross a small stream.  If you get to Geremia Street, you’ve gone too far.

Though some websites mention fierce mosquitoes at the burial ground, one person joked that the insects seem to attack everyone except descendants of the Brackett family.  (Yes, I know she was kidding, but I still pay attention to quirky comments like that one.)

The massacre occurred long ago.  The burial site may not be haunted.   The massacre site — around Wallis Sands beach — is far less likely to be active since the energy has be diluted by centuries of tourism.

However, this is such an overlooked episode in history, and the burial site has had so little attention (before this article appeared, anyway), it could be excellent for research.

You can probably find similar sites in your own area, using similar research methods.

During the chilly winter months — or sultry summer days — you may enjoy spending time at public libraries with really old, regional books.  Often, those books are kept in a room used by historians and genealogists.

There are no shortcuts in this kind of preliminary research.  You really do need to sit down and browse a lot of dusty old books.

Tip: Bring change for the copy machine or use your camera to photograph pages of interest.  Many of the best old books cannot be taken out of the library.  Though you may find several books reproduced online (such as the Rye, NH book), don’t count on it.

Whenever I think I’ve taken enough notes, I usually regret not getting copies of relevant pages in the book/s.

People often ask how I find such great haunted sites.  Though I’m now exploring obscure sites revealed by my paranormal patterns work, the simple version — browsing dusty old historical books — still works well.

If you’re not able to conduct much research during winter months, it may be an ideal time to identify sites for future investigations.

Visit the public library.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Consider The Ghosts’ Contexts

I firmly believe that some active hauntings aren’t ghosts, but a brush with another time period… a time in which the person is still alive.

Radical?  Yes., but it’s not an original theory. (I’ve written an article, Dickens’ Christmas Carol, part 2 – Astral travel. In it, I describe Shelley’s doppelgangers, and Goethe’s encounter with himself in a future time.)

In a 2008 episode of the Ghost Hunters’ TV show, the TAPS team investigated New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Hotel. In crystal clear EVP, the “princess” seemed to be speaking from her own time period.

How does this affect ghost research?

At this point, it’s simply an interesting theory to consider.

It might be an important point. When communicating with spirits, it’s vital to keep their contexts in mind.

Let’s say that the ghost can hear you. To him, you’re a ‘disembodied voice’. If the ghost is (or believes he is) still alive, he may think that you’re an evil spirit… something that’s a threat to his eternal soul.

If he thinks you’re in his own time period, he may decide you’re an intruder, a thief or some other kind of criminal.

You may seem foolish or rude, if you ask him to perform… tapping once for yes and twice for no, etc. (In earlier times, some actors — especially women — were considered a bit tawdry. If the ghost thinks you’ve mistaken him for a performer, this could be very insulting.)

Let’s say that the spirit is a woman — alive or dead — and she has always lived in a highly structured, conservative society. Your clothing might shock her, because the style is too revealing to wear in public.

Your language, even when you’re not speaking to her directly, could alarm her or cause her to hide from you, temporarily.

I encountered something like this at an historical society in Massachusetts (USA). One of its ghosts was a minister from early American times.  He was highly offended by my trousers (jeans), and the fact that I spoke to him directly.  In his time, women didn’t speak to him unless he addressed them, first.

I had to leave the room.  Then, he was willing to communicate with others in the room, as long as they addressed him respectfully, and through a designated (male) leader.

In the past, people were formally introduced before beginning a conversation. How many ghost hunters introduce themselves before trying to talk with the ghosts?

For more successful investigations, consider the time and culture that your ghosts lived in. By respecting their social rules, you increase your chances of establishing rapport with the spirits.

A little historical research can improve your ghost hunting results.

book-and-applewoodsyFor further reading

The Victorian Period – an online game of Victorian etiquette and manners, from the McCord Museum

Did your ghost live during the Regency? For insights, see Instances of Ill Manners to be carefully avoided by youth of both sexes and A Sample of Regency Manners.

George Washington’s Rules of Civility – described as The Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, transcribed before the American hero was 16 years old.

Your public library may have books about manners and society from the time when your ghosts lived. For example, if your ghost is an American who lived during the Victorian era, the Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette is entertaining and informative.