Ghost Stories

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The South Pittsburgh Reporter Story

Halloween photo.jpg

In this Halloween greeting card from 1904, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of the face of her future husband.

As we slowly, ever so slowly, creep toward the ghostly All Hallows' Eve in the historic neighborhoods of Carrick and Overbrook, we gaze upon the dozens of cemeteries of Carrick and Overbrook looking for that errant spirit. Halloween is that special day we set aside for the apparitions and souls who maintain their existence on this earth and pray for them on the following day, All Saints Day. The old Concord Presbyterian Cemetery dates to back to 1813 and there are numerous unintelligible and unnamed and unmarked graves there. In 1904 the South Side Cemetery was described as "romantic," not ghostly, but I doubt if many of us would want to take a midnight leisurely stroll about the markers. Do you think there are ghosts haunting these hallowed grounds? How many miners have been lost in the numerous caverns under our homes; do they come out on All Hallows' Eve? Do Indians still hauntingly hunt deer in our woods? Have you seen them? Are you sure?

Do you have a Carrick or Overbrook story about the goblin that haunts your neighborhood, one of our dozen cemeteries, or even that one mysteriously knock in the night above your bed in your attic or closet every night at that one particular hour? Have you seen John M. Phillips, our most illustrious citizen, walking the grounds of his former homestead, Impton, at St. Pius Church or in his beloved Phillips Park. Does the industrialist Milton Hays, Overbrook's most distinguished citizen, run his train and blow its whistle late at night past your home making that midnight run toward Castle Shannon. Have you heard vaudeville music, boxing matches or the roller coasters in Phillips Park? Did you see "Jumbo," the 1920's motorcycle cop, chasing prohibition drinkers in the woods?

Would you would like to share it with your neighbors? Now is your chance to author and share that story about "your" ghost. Send your stories to this site or to carrickhistory@gmail.com and we will share them with you and include them on our website for future generations of electronic ghosts and goblins to see, since we know many of them actually inhabit most of our electronic equipment.

Trick or Treat!

John Rudiak


Lilly, the Little Lost Girl of Carrick

Written by John Rudiak as told by Julia Tomasic

Rosalind was one of my best friends who visited my home in Carrick. Her little girl Lilly, as she called her, was her constant companion, but she couldn’t be seen by us grownups. We were too old to believe in earthbound spirits and that made us blind to little Lilly.

Rosalind’s presence in the salon would always bring unexplained events. On one occasion, when my son was young, he walked into the basement room wearing nothing but his little shirt, and no diaper. I suspected the diaper simply fell off – or as young children are apt to do, he removed it. Strangely, the wet soiled diaper was found on the third floor, folded and taped ready for the trash bin. Rosalind had already gone for the day and we were alone.

Finally, one day Rosalind told me her secret. She said she had once visited a psychic who told her she had a little spirit friend, Lilly, who was a lost little girl and she was her constant companion. Lilly was a playful spirit always looking for a new friend and was always happy to go outside with her everywhere. This begged the question: did Lilly change my son’s diaper? Did he see her to allow her to do so? My young son never understood that adults were unable to see spirits – in fact as a youngster he often had “conversations” with my uncle who died in 1994, 8 years before he was born and who he never knew.

Sometimes spirits make their presence known to the earthbound bodies in the physical world. We do not have little girls in our house. However, one day when Rosalind was at the salon, she, my son and I heard a little girl’s voice clearly speak “hello!” The words were loud and crisp, and hung in the air. We all looked at ourselves and said “hello” in unison. My son was smiling and gazing into the distance as if knowing Lilly was indeed speaking to him, and wanted to make friends. From that day on, my son and I would always look forward to Rosalind’s visit, but only my son could actually see and play with Lilly.

Rosalind told me other secrets. On day, she had lost her very special diamond rings, and she was frantic. She knew they were in the house because while doing chores, she took them off, and placed them safely into a cup in the basement. She was alone in the house all day, so she knew no one would take them from this obscure location. When she returned to retrieve them, the cup was empty. She horridly tore the house apart, searching tirelessly and endlessly for months. No rings were found. How could a very large diamond ring and wedding band go missing? Out of shear desperation she returned to her psychic friend.

The psychic told her she would find her precious rings someday, and they were neatly wrapped and safe in something red. She said Lilly was responsible since she liked to play impish games with objects. However, Lilly apologized for putting Rosalind through so much worry, and the rings were safe and sound.

Two years later, Rosalind’s mother, Abigail, was visiting overnight, and needed fresh towels and linens. She went into the guest room to search and opened a rarely used secretary desk. Surprisingly, she found a beautiful hat box. Never seeing such a wonderful old box she opened it and inside was only a gorgeous red satin scarf. As she picked it up to admire it, the scarf opened up only to drop the lost rings into her lap! Lilly’s secret hiding place was found.

Rosalind moved away a few years ago and I never found out if Lilly, her lost little girl, moved along with her. I wonder if the new owners of her house are Lilly’s new parents or if she will always be her adopted mother, going everywhere with her, maybe meeting each other, finally, in heaven.

"Rags a Diana, Rags a Diana"

by Diana Cipollone

When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived with us. My granddaddy, whom I loved dearly wanted to make sure I would stay a good girl. He would say to me that the ragman was coming down the street (with his horse and buggy) and he was yelling out, “Rags a Diana” “Rags a Diana”.

Of course he was wrong, he was yelling something else, (I can’t remember what) but I believed my wonderful granddaddy. To this day, in my dreams and in my thoughts about my granddaddy, I can still hear the ragman with his horses, crying out “Rags a Diana”.

Sometimes at night I hear the words "Rags a Diana, Rags a Diana" in my granddaddy's voice telling me to be a good girl.

I turned out to be a good girl.


October 31, 2016

Title: The Thing That Growls

Time: 1989

By Jill Flosnik

    The smell of popcorn and funnel cake loomed thick like fog.  Carnival music was everywhere and way too loud.  It was crowded.  Everybody in the world came out that night.  I lost at Bingo again, and I was disappointed.  Why did I not win like I fully expected?    Finally, a friend’s face emerged from the sea of blue snow cone stained faces and I was never so glad.  He was every bit as sick of the carnival as me.  Some people say that you should never stay too long at the fair and they are right.  They are so very right.
   “Let’s go sit down.”	 
    “OK.”
    We separated from the crowd and sat down on the church graveyard wall, our hands holding onto the wrought iron bars of the fence and feet dangling below.  All sound from the carnival drowned out.  For a while, it was peaceful.  Still.  Quiet.  The sun was setting and making the Carrick graveyard into a shady and colorful design that would inspire an artist to paint.  Nowadays, people would snap this picture with their cell phones, post it on the internet and save it in the cloud forever.  Back then, we just had our memories.  We talked and talked.  It got dark.
    Then we heard it.  It was a sickening, ungodly growl.  It was our imaginations, for sure.  He heard it, too.  I could tell.  I watched him, just like me, decide to dismiss the sound.  We paused for a second, then kept talking.  We weren’t ready to stop talking.  We did not want our peaceful time on the St. Wendelin’s church graveyard wall to end. 
“There is no way that you can stay in Pittsburgh anymore.”

“Yes.” I agreed. “There are no jobs.”

    And then we heard it again, this time louder to the point of shaking the earth. The sound was more animal than human, but unlike anything we ever heard before or since.  We looked right at each other, and again.  Another growl.  We jumped up fast as our blood froze cold in terror.  It felt like we were being hunted.  We ran.  And we ran.  We ran faster than we ever did in the history of our lives.   We ran out of the church parking lot, down Custer Avenue, down Edward drive to the Clover Streets in Baldwin where we grew up.  And keep in mind, we were not the running sort.  We weren’t athletic.  We were the weird, creative kids.  Never, have I ever, run just to run, nor has he.
    We never spoke of this again.  This was not usual, and dare I say, completely out of character for the talking sort.  Instead, we kept quiet.  We were endlessly relieved to have escaped that growl, whatever it was, whoever it was.  It felt like we escaped certain death.
    Over the years, I have tried to convince myself that this never happened, that it was imagination.  If I looked up my childhood friend, he would say he does not remember.  He would say that it was just a dream, but I doubt it.  
    Another childhood friend, a dependable smart girl who grew up by the cemetery, used to see bony fingers outside her window until she asked her mother for black out curtains.  Was this the thing that growls?  Still another classmate, a sweet, athletic guy who makes you feel safe, used to be afraid to walk across the graveyard at night.  Why?  Had he seen or heard the thing that growls?  In any case, I have never forgotten that night or that unearthly growl, and I never, ever will.


Haints, Hauntings, and Hoodoos

by

Rob Trappen

The Old House

When they tear down old houses where do all the spirits go that were said to have inhabited them? This was but one of the many imponderables I was left to consider after the house at 2507 Saw Mill Run Blvd. Was reduced to splinters in 1979. I lived in that house for 20+ years and in that time I was entertained, bumped, and sometimes terrified by the supposed spectral residents of my house.

These happenings were not like those depicted in the 1982 Spielberg classic Poltergeist, the Nix-Trappen-Rogerson etc. spirits were of a much friendlier temperament. Items were moved, doors were slammed shut, door knobs turned back and forth, and light switch toggles moved from On to Off. These were expected occurrences, but they did not happen without an initial shock or bout of goose pimples. I can say that I never let these events rule me but I was never comfortable with them despite the occurrences over many years. As a very young child I must have been oblivious to them; what did I know? Maybe everyone’s house acted this way, but by the time I reached eight or nine I started to realize things were different at my house.

To my parents this was not openly discussed. The old man (my father) got angry whenever the subject came up. Although not denying the ghostly happenings, he was of a conviction that if he angrily dismissed them they would go away. Mother kept her own council but when questioned she would relate a multitude of tales from current days back to the old Rogerson’s General Store. It was from the tales of that general store that my question of “When they tear down old houses where do all the spirits go that were said to have inhabited them?” should have been answered; they just move with you to the new house next door.

The ghosts that held sway over the old general store were much more persistent and adventurous than the ones I became familiar with. Possible they reacted to their environment or possible it was simply that hey had a bigger area to roam through and create havoc in. Before I continue I should define the players in this little drama:

• Ghost: A disembodied soul; especially : the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world or to appear to the living in bodily likeness

• Poltergeist: A noisy usually mischievous ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises (as such as rappings)

• Haints: called “haint“ tales. That is hillbonics for ghost stories. ”Haint is a corruption of haunt.

• Hoodoos: A body of practices of sympathetic magic traditional especially among blacks in the southern U.S. Something that brings bad luck

• Haunting: To inhabit, visit, or appear to in the form of a ghost or other supernatural being. To visit often; frequent:

Thanks to Merriam Webster for those definitions. Based on Merriam Webster’s descriptors I feel more comfortable in classifying the phenomena in this story. We were definitely plagued by Poltergeists and Hauntings. Father must have believed that acknowledging these events would being Hoodoos on the family but the older folks tell many a Haint Tale. But were there really any Ghosts in these two residences? I’ll let you decide.

I was given to understand that the Hauntings were due to William Rogerson’s delving into the realm of Spiritualism. Subsequently I’ve read that during mid 1800s until the early 1900s a fair percentage of the US population identified themselves as Spiritualists or had themselves conducted seances and the attempted contact of the deceased. Seances were sort of like early versions of Tupperware Parties. So the why of the Rogerson Hauntings remains a mini-mystery but the reports of them, coming from so many different people, is fairly well established.

The stories I was told were of the Rogerson General Store. I have one photo of this building taken from the side along what was to later become Route 51. At the time it was a one lane dirt road. The store looked to be the sort of place a ghost would move from rather than to. The upper section of this long building was the family residence while the lower quarters were for the general store and its supplies. The store was large enough to afford the family the opportunity to rent out rooms to people passing though the area or, later on, to construction laborers working on the new Route 51 project.

The activity in the house dates back to the early 1900s. Noises, tapings, cold spots, and the like began to occur following the death of Olive Rogerson in 1905. The Nix family arrived from England in 1906 and my mother was born in 1907. She was the one from whom I learned the most about the Hauntings at the old Rogerson house.

Mother related some of these to me directly and others I overheard after I was sent to bed following the arrival of company. Our house featured an unheated upstairs and in order to send some heat my way, father cut an opening in the hall ceiling enabling (very little) heat to rise toward my bedroom but offering me a perfect listening post from which to hear all the stories denied me because “Little pitchers got big ears.”

General Store Story 1. The Ghost Photo. This photo opportunity occurred shortly before William’s death. Photographers often came around towns and took pictures in peoples homes. These sessions were not impromptu. People dressed up and posed for the photographer. The man came with a large unwieldy device on a tripods and flash powder for illumination. William was photographed in profile against a wallpapered wall. When the photo was received William was seen clearly as were three faces; the faces of deceased relatives. One was an old man, the other two women. The faces were all different in scale and were sharp in focus in the center, blending into the wall at the extremes. I had this photo for years but my father, at the behest of my mother’s sister, asked for and was sent the photo after my mother’s death. The photo is in someone’s keeping or a land fill in Michigan now. All that remains is a picture of that picture which still shows the faces but it lacks the effect of looking at a full scale photo.


General Store Story 2. The Tea Party out on the Roof. My mother and her friend Helen Luffy were constant companions. They were having a tea party upstairs in mom’s room during the middle of the day. As the story goes the only other person around the house was my grandfather who was cutting grass in the rear of the house. They were in the room with the door open when something hit the door with great force. This could be explained as a sudden gust of wind but this gust locked the door and continued pounding on it. Severely frightened the two girls sang out for grandfather. He heard the slam and the pounding noise and was on his was to investigate anyway. Upon coming upstairs to the room he found the lockset and the door, both jammed shut. The pleas and screams of the two young girls were only eased by their exit from the room and onto a red tin porch room. Grandpa was then able to take them down from the roof using a ladder and a fireman’s carry. They were scared out of their skins. Mother slept in several other rooms for quite a while before trusting her own room again.

General Store Story 3. Bedtime for everyone. As I heard once through my floor microphone; family members did not wander alone freely though the house at night. At bedtime no one wanted to be the first nor the last to go upstairs to bed so there became a herd approach to going to bed; when one went upstairs, they all went upstairs. During the night the sounds of footsteps, voices arguing, and to quote my mother a sound “As if every pot, pan, and plate in the house flew out of their cupboards and hit the floor.” The grate in the coal stove would move back and forth unattended and lamps whose wicks were dimmed were turned back to their pervious levels. These were ongoing nightly and unexplained occurrences.

General Store Story 4. Room & Board. Towards the end of it’s usefulness the Rogerson house served as a boarding house for highway workers on the Rt. 51 project. As I was told few of these men stayed the night or returned the next night. The common complaint was the noises and several spoke of unexpected visitors in their rooms at night. One of the best tales was that of a visitor who was slated to stay several nights, bill to be paid when leaving. One morning Grandpa found bedding and pillows out in the front yard. It was from one of the rooms he had rented. Later the Boarder returned to settle up and tell the story of his attempted nights sleep. He claimed that in the wee hours someone or thing got into his and started poking at him. He hollered and got out of bed. Whatever it was rose up in the sheets and covers and chased him down the stairs and out the door, cursing him as he ran. Once out of the house the covers dropped to the ground in a heap and remained there until Grandpa found them in the morning. The man wanted to tell his story to Grandma and assure her he was not in the habit of acting in this fashion.

General Store Story 5. Get out and (please) stay out. I do not have the complete (to say the least) story of the Rogerson house but by the late 1920’s it was becoming unlivable and ground breaking for the house I grew up in was undertaken. Once completed the family; My mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather and great-grandmother moved several hundred feet south along Rt. 51 to the new home. The Rogerson house and its spirit dwellers were left for the wrecking ball with the hopes that whatever was resident there other than the family did not follow them. To some extent they got their wish; but not completely. My Old House

Someone recently asked me my reactions to the goings-on around the Trappen house. Really it wasn’t any big deal. I thought everyone experienced things of that nature. It was only when my register vent in the hall was installed and when playmates reacted negatively to “things” that I thought were normal did I start to develop a fear then later a resolution to the way life was at the house.

I had seen ghosts or wisps of white light moving through rooms. Mostly at night but on rare occasions in the daytime as well. I remember looking out the window and seeing a faceless form reflecting in the window next to me. I jumped, I turned around and nothing was there. Many times I’d experienced events such as that. A way of describing the image is by telling you to look out a window at night in a partially light room. The image you see of yourself, no color, no real detail, but a definite form is as good an image as I can relate to you. We experienced only a scant few happenings where the image was recognizable as someone in the family and at those times it was witnessed by more than just one person. From a personal viewpoint my ghosts were more demonstrative than those I’d heard about, but seeing does carry a bigger impact.

2507 Story 1. One bump or two? I used to be in the habit of making a cup of tea, adding milk and sugar to it and letting it sit for a while. What do you want from an 8 year old? I set out the tea and went into the living room to turn of the Television; those old sets took a while to warm up. When I returned the cup was perfectly upside down in the saucer with the tea running all over the table and down onto the floor. I can appreciate a lot of kitchen accidents but a full cup jumping into the air and coming down in the middle of a saucer isn’t one of them.

2507 Story 2. The smoking lamp is out. Some houses have basements, ours had a cellar. Dirty, dark, and cold even on a hot day. There were small wood frame windows near the top of the seven foot high walls that let very little light into the recesses of the cellar. The marks in the cement were still visible where the old coal furnace once stood. That area was known as Grandpa’s place. He, William Nix Sr., spent his days and sometimes nights there. Reading the three daily newspapers he bought at Miss Willy’s Frederick Street news stand in Overbrook. Reading the papers, chewing tobacco and spitting against the stove to hear it hiss, and smoking his pipe; that was Grandpa’s activities in his later years. Grandpa died in October 1962. Several months afterward I was working on some mid-winters project in the kitchen and went to the basement for a pair of pliers. I flipped on the light switch at the top of the stairs which lit a bulb in the center of the cellar. Once that was on I could go to the workbench and turn on the other light there. As I approached the middle of the cellar the light went out. In front of me was Grandpa’s place and there in a rocking chair with his feet up against the workbench sat Grandpa. A decidedly pale and transparent image smoking a pipe was directly in my path. I stood there transfixed, too scared to move. After what must have only been seconds but felt like minutes the light flashed on again. My goose pimples had goose pimples at this point. In the center of the room at the light a ring of smoke was encircling it. Pipe smoke, there was no question. This ended my 1st close encounter of the 3rd kind, one of several we’d experience but this one was the most unnerving. 2507 Story 3. Get out of my way. Our house was built by people who did not object to stairs. To go upstairs involved 17 steps, a large landing, then 5 more steps. One night I was coming home late from a date. I took off my coat in the hall and started up the stairs. After 4 or 5 steps I heard the sound of someone else walking on the steps. This was unmistakable; the stairs and the railing squeaked from the lightest footstep or motion. I took another step and stopped, the step behind me squeaked. I looked, there was no one there. I started to run up the steps but something ran past me, shoved me to one side and entered my room and slammed the door. I spent that night on the couch.

2507 Story 4. Red Dust. My Step Sister had a Beagle dog named Red Dust; named that because of adopting him in El Paso, a city covered by red dust. Lou brought him to the house for his initial visit. Red Dust ran in the front door and straight up the stairs. The dog then let out a loud yelp and ran back down growling. The dog never went near the stairs again.

2507 Story 5. I Hear Ya Knocking. People tend to gravitate to certain areas in a home. In our house the kitchen was the people collector. My friends and I used to drag a portable hi-fi (pre-stereo) phonograph Into the kitchen to play 45s and talk. One evening my friend noticed the chain on the cellar door lock swinging back and forth. There was no reason for this and as I write this I think there was also no reason for an entrance lock on an inside door. After a time the motion slowed but the door know then started to turn as if someone was attempting to open the door. I backed away allowing plenty of space between me and the door. This activity continued until my friend, noticing the key in the lock, suggested I lock the door. I reached out as far as I could and quickly turned the skeleton key that was always in the lock. We felt at ease now; nothing was going to come up out of the cellar now. A few minutes passed and then something hit the back of the door with such force as to chase us and the dog out of the kitchen. The next day I finally got up the nerve to look at the door from the inside. There was an imprint, similar to the shape of a fist, imprinted into the oak door. Many people saw this mark over the years. I guess Grandpa’s ghost didn’t appreciate being locked in the basement, I know Grandpa didn’t care for that.

2507 Story 6. Top 40 Hits? Grandpa had what he called “a tin ear.” I understood that to mean he didn’t hear things the way others did. This was especially true with music. He’d order me to “Turn that jukebox off” when he was passing by. He died in 1962. In the mid 70s his daughter and her son were visiting from Michigan. The boy, Lee, was given Grandpa’s bedroom to use for the duration of his stay. With transistor radio in hand he went up to the room to play around. Lee came running down stairs with a large red welt on his face. “Something hit me” he cried and although 14 years old, he was crying. Grandpa still didn’t like that damned jukebox.




2507 Story 7. Walk on by. Quickie. Grandpa’s son William Jr. died in 1957. One time in the mid 60’s I was sitting in the living room watching TV with my friend. William walked through the room and out into the hall. I started to say “Uncle Bill?” but my friend interrupted with “Who was that?” It sure looked like him but not in a spectral form. He appeared as I once remembered him dressed in a suit. No one was in the house except us two TV patrons. I guess he was just passing through.

2507 Story 8. Mother. Several weeks after her death in 1963 my father and I we watching television. I was not a fan of Disneyland with the exception of the cartoons. This night we were watching on of their lovable animal entrees, “Pedro, the Singing Chihuahua”, I hated that type of show. In the end the animal got run over by a Taxi or something and the old man was sitting on the cough crying over it. He remarked how Mom would have loved that show. As finished saying it she appeared on the couch across the room We both saw her and later described the dress she was wearing. She was not paying attention to either of us simply sitting there staring away from us. Her image then simply vanished.

2507 Story 9. The Cedar Chest. When I moved out on my own I took very little furniture, mainly because I had very little furniture. The old man chipped in by giving me an antique cedar chest. This wasn’t overt generosity, this was an engagement present to my late Mother from an earlier suitor and dad took this opportunity to get rid of it. It was packed with my clothes; fairly heavy as a friend and I carried it up to my 2nd floor apartment in Prospect Park. I put the chest in the living room to serve as a combination footstool, table, and sofa. Furniture was at a premium at my place, the dust had plenty of room to blow around. Weeks after moving in I was laying in bed trying to sleep but I keep hearing a sound; a strange unidentifiable sound coming from the living room. Finally, I could not ignore it any longer and went to investigate the source. I’d heard that sounds came in through speakers but there was nothing there, the refrigerator wasn’t running, the radiators weren’t hissing or popping so, having exhausted all the possibilities I could think of I sat in the chair and listened quietly. Next to me was the cedar chest. The sound, I determined, was coming from the chest. It could now be described as a low breathing sound, like someone’s labored breathing. Later the next day…I checked on the now silent cedar chest. There was nothing in it but some clothes, a few Playboys, and a box of “stuff” from the old house. One of the items was my Grandfather’s wrist watch. I removed the box and it’s contents from the chest and that was the end of the noise. I never heard it again and I still have the chest. My son is using it in his room in much the same manner as I did.

Well enough of those stories; there are many more but most are variations on the same theme. Things are quiet in Arnold, PA., I’ve no experiences to add but wife and son keep reporting visits by old, long gone cats. I can live with that.

I am not familiar enough with my relatives such that I am aware of any happenings in their homesteads. But early in my childhood I used to partake in a Sunday ritual at my Uncle’s home in Clairton. To describe this ceremony is to open one’s self to ridicule but describe it I shall. Knowing what I’ve come to know about Ouija Boards, this was a dubious form of entertainment, akin to knocking on Hell’s door. Gil and Florence Trappen staring in The Frontier Drive Card Table Party. My father made a few less that wise career moves; I should talk! His Brothers worked in the Mills and made very good money. Dad’s brother Gil lived in a brick house he literally built from the ground up (living in the basement for several years while the 1st floor was being built.) When the house was finished it was like the home of the future to old clap board house dwellers like me. The home complete with a plate glass wall in the living room was quite the place. We gathered there on Sundays for dinner and afterward the card table would be brought out. It was (and had to be I’m told) a table with a heavy papered surface and metal legs. The metal legs were the key. The table was placed near an open doorway or an interior arch while 6 people sat around 3 sides of the table, the fourth side (open) facing the doorway. The people placed their hands on the table and waited. After a short period the table would start to life up and slide around on the floor. I was intend on checking to see if anyone was using their knees to move or steer the table but no one was. Palms flat and fingers extended the 12 hands alone moved the table. The game was to ask the Table questions. Tap once for yes, twice for no or to count out numeric answers by taps. The Table would kick back on the two legs furthest away from the door and rock forward when completing a tapping operation. My father was dumb struck when it counted the change in his pockets and dollars in his wallet. It would also answer yes or no to subjective questions or ones that could not be proven either way. When the Table seemed to tire out it would simply stop or when confused my aunt would say “Polka Table” and it would dance around and rock back and forth. Since the advent of the Internet I have tried searching for links for happening like this but I’ve found nothing. This seemed to be a carry over from the Séance days of parlor tricks, and mysterious rappings. The whole thing seems too Demonic to suit my current spiritual level. I thing there was an unwitting attempt contact to another realm buy playing with this table in that fashion. When you open a door in that fashion you can’t be sure who or what comes through.

The Trappen Family House on Margaret Street: The Devil’s Advocate. This story has too many finger prints on it to be believable but the joy is still in the telling. It seems that the Trappens and some friends were playing cards around the parlor table. A man stopped by the house asking directions. When he say the card game he asked to join. The man was playing well and winning his share. One of the Trappen youngsters was playing on the floor and crawled near the table to retrieve a toy of some sort and pulled the coat that the stranger was wearing to one side. The youngster shrieked and the man stood up revealing a long tail. Grandma Trappen cursed at him and (and as the story goes) the stranger dove through a glass window and disappeared. I’ve heard this account from many relations none of whom was present at the event.

Oakwood Avenue, Springdale. Touched by a Guardian Angel or something. The shack on Oakwood Ave. was the second of several houses I purchased. I bought it in haste and repented at great length. What a terrible purchase this was! Anyhow, after settling in I became aware of the presence of a smallish older woman in a red and white checkered dress. She would appear at all times of the day but particularly at bedtime. I would be half-asleep and open my eyes to see her staring down at me as one would when tucking in a child. I was loathe to mention this to my wife for fear of being laughed at but as it turned out Andy had been noticing her all along and was loathe to mention her to me.

Union Cemetery, Arnold, PA. Turn around, Look at Me. One afternoon I found myself walking over at the Union Cemetery across the road from my house. It was about 2:30PM and I was keeping an eye on my watch as Robbyn’s bus would be pulling in around 3:00. This afforded me time to loop the Cemetery’s half-mile asphalt path several times before the bus arrived.

It’s rare to encounter anyone other than the groundskeepers. Funerals are conducted in the morning and the bereaved show up in the evenings. As I started my second loop around a girl, somewhat overdressed for the occasion due to the temperatures, stepped off a several foot high wall that separates the very old section from the new area with the mausoleums. She was in my space. I slowed my pace down a bit keeping her at a distance of 20-30 feet ahead of me.

The path through the cemetery is nicely paved and easy to walk. The only impediment to it was the debris from the oak trees; leaves and acorns. Walking along creates a noisy environment where silence is what usually greets the walker. I was aware of the cacophony of my own plodding but the shock came when I stopped and heard nothing from the footfalls of the lady ahead of me. She stopped at the entrance to the mausoleum area and sat down on the ground next to a fairly large headstone. She sat down and promptly vanished from sight. There is nowhere she could get to go from where she was that could go unnoticed by anyone in the area.

I pulled up short and looked at the headstone to see if any age or name could relate to the person that I observed. The headstone was for an Edna Walley: 1883-1912. The clothes would have been wrong for the time period but who says that people in the afterlife are worried about style?

I am now faced with a quandary, although I experienced a good percentage of these happenings first-hand I am not a true believer in the existence or appearances of Ghosts or of Hauntings in general. If these happenings are indeed a reality it is a reality that doesn’t seem to be very consistent. If we appreciate nature and natural order we understand that most events happen the same way each time. Apples leaving a tree don’t fall one time and rise skyward the next. I would be hard pressed to explain why one person’s spirit seems to remain while another’s is never heard from again. Harry Houdini vowed to make contact with the living if at all possible. Houdini did have motive and being dead did provide him with the opportunity but nothing was ever heard from Harry once he departed this mortal coil. Why Houdini failed and someone’s great uncle succeeds can not be explained by me.

One theory goes that a Ghost is the remnant of a person’s life force which is unable to accept that they have passed on. This theory also states that the deceased may have died tragically or abruptly and they just don’t get it yet. They wander the earth in a dream like state attempting to communicate or remain with the living. Gee isn’t that a nice thing to believe in? This would seem to support a theory that all souls are not equal and that afterlife varies with the individuals acceptance of death. If such a happening was possible than there are areas of the world where the spectral energy would be off the Ecto-Richter scale. The Concentration Camps or any of the world’s more infamous battlefields. I doubt whether any victims of the camps went gentle into that good night and the abrupt nature of a battlefield death would cause places like Gettysburg to be awash with supernatural activity. I recently toured Gettysburg and went on one of its celebrated Ghost Walks. I experienced no sensation other than the chill night air of south central Pennsylvania and in all honesty I was very open to the suggestions and stories related by the tour guide.

Areas where tragic or abrupt deaths happen would seem to place hospitals on the ghostly visitation, must-be places. The local emergency room in New Kensington has been the scene of many an unexpected passing over the years. I’ve never heard of any Nurse or Doctor being visited by Spirits while in the ER. Traffic accidents would also seem to place quite a few disembodied spirits on the nation’s highways and byways if that theory is true. In researching this subject I came across a “guaranteed untouched photograph” (aren’t they all?) that would seem to show a spirit leaving the twisted wreckage at an Interstate highway fatality. It is the most compelling photo I’ve ever seen.

My guess is that nothing we currently believe or understand is the truth of the matter. We often see what we want to see and believe things that either comfort of frighten us. If a remnant of a person’s life force does, for some reason, remain in our realm or more likely intersect our reality from time to time, it is an occurrence we can neither predict nor understand given our current level of knowledge.

Controversies between skeptics and believers in paranormal phenomena often turn on what the parties mean when they say something is real. The scientist says, "We can't observe this thing, much less reproduce it. We have to assume it's not real." The believer says "So what? It was real to me."

To science, an event is real if it is objectively real. That is, if it exists in a world outside of and independent of our minds. Subjective events take place within our private thoughts and feelings. Subjective events may feel intensely real to us, but they may not refer to, or connect with, anything objectively real. Contrary to what many think, science does not claim to deal with all possible kinds of knowledge, but only with public knowledge. Public knowledge is knowledge which is available to anyone, believer or skeptic. We can reach a consensus about the truth of a public knowledge claim by checking it against experience, but we can't do so with purely subjective knowledge. So skeptics want to know if ghosts are objectively real, like water is real, or other people, or tables, or clouds, or electrons and all the other furniture of the physical universe. Skeptics certainly don't deny that people have strange and powerful experiences; we just want to know if those experiences point to anything in this real world. I believe that ghosts are not objectively real. First, no ghost story which has been thoroughly investigated has held up; and, second, there are plenty of good explanations for why people have ghost experiences (or remember that they did).

Usually the ghost tales expand upon the telling and become more and more fantastic. An example is the "Amityville Horror" hoax, which spawned several books and one really bad movie before running its course. More interesting to me are the reasons why people believe they have seen a ghost. Most of the time our brains are pretty good reasoning instruments, but occasionally they fail. Psychologists have learned a lot about how this happens, and the results are fascinating. These anomalous experiences include hallucination, hypnogogic and hypnopompic dreams, fantasizing, memory confabulation and the feeling of "missing time." Anomalous experience is not limited to crazy people; it happens to all of us normal people now and then. For example, hypnogogic and hypnopompic dreams are hallucinations that occur upon falling asleep or waking, respectively. The sleeper may feel paralyzed or floating out of the body. He usually sees ghosts, aliens, monsters, or some such creature, and the experience seems very real, much more so than the typical dream.

Psychologists estimate that fantasy-prone personalities make up perhaps 4% of the population. These people are perfectly normal except that they tend to fantasize much of the time, fully experience their fantasies with touch, smell and hearing, and are easily hypnotized. They also tend to mix their fantasies with memories of real events and construct new memories which seem real but are not. This process is called memory confabulation, and we all dolt to some degree.) Fantasy-prone people are in no sense crazy. They just exhibit a part of normal brain function to a greater degree than most people. Obviously, such persons are likely to see, or remember that they saw, ghosts, and sincerely believe their memories are real.

Ah, but now the Devil’s advocacy creeks back in. The theories about fantasies and fantasy-prone personalities explain the occurrences in most, but not all, of my experiences. What about the rappings and physical contacts?

The activities of rambunctious poltergeists typically include knockings, tappings, heavy trampling, the setting of fires, the hurling of stones and other objects, the breaking of pottery, the banging of doors, the jiggling of latches, the opening of windows and dresser drawers, the overturning and displacement of furniture, and the shaking and levitation of beds and their occupants. Some poltergeists have also been known to sob, moan, and scream. As these mischievous, attention-getting, and sometimes malicious tricks would suggest, the poltergeist theory is almost invariably linked to the presence in the house of one specific young person, usually an adolescent boy or girl.

Although research has shown some poltergeist cases to be fraudulent, investigators have found enough instances above suspicion to convince them that the poltergeist is a true psychic phenomenon, ungoverned by normal physical laws. Evidence suggests that the manifestations of the poltergeist are produced by bursts of psychic activity emanating from the one person whose presence is always required.

Attempting to understand the forces at work, researchers in parapsychology have hypothesized that the poltergeist's feats in moving objects (which are often seen to fly in violation of the laws of gravity, gliding, rising, and turning corners) are examples of psychokinesis. The most widely known examples of alleged psychokinesis are those of Uri Geller, but these have now been largely dismissed as fraudulent. A less well known but possibly more convincing exponent of psychokinesis is a Russian woman named Nina Kulagina. Her ability to move and otherwise affect small objects without physical contact has been witnessed by Western parapsychologists but has never been extensively tested under rigorous laboratory conditions in the West, and her feats have not been scrutinized by professional magicians.

The foremost skeptic of all such claims is the Amazing Randi. From his website:

At the James Randi Educational Foundation, the JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The prize is in the form of negotiable bonds held in a special investment account. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant." To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests.

So if Nina and Uri have the ability to move objects and bend spoons why not become a millionaire as well? Short explanation; they can’t do it.

The deficiency of the psychokinesis theory as an explanation of poltergeist phenomena, however, is that the energy involved in many poltergeist disturbances far exceeds anything claimed by the supporters of Kulagina and other psychokinesis adepts. The best they can do is to move a small object, such as a fountain pen, whereas poltergeists can cause objects to fly across a room.

In view of this, some researchers have cast about for a source of energy that might be utilized by poltergeists. But so far their attempts to explain poltergeist phenomena have simply replaced one mystery with another. Even more mysterious is why any spirit or being that could marshal such remarkable psychic energy should expend it on such purposeless activities.

So now that I have unsuccessfully argued both sides of this mystery I’ll stop here to rethink both positions.