Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Legend of Azzurrina

Ugolinuccio Malatesta did not understand this poor twist of luck. He was the feudal lord of a magnificent castle, Castello di Montebello Terriana, he had magnificent holdings, envied by all far and wide... but now his newborn daughter, Guendalina, had been born an albino. She would be considered evil and burned at the stake as were all albinos in 1375 A.D. Italy.
"Do not worry, my love. I have a plan. It will work," his beloved wife told Ugolinuccio. And so it was that Guendalina's white hair was dyed with natural herbs. Unfortunately, albino hair did not hold color well, and the child's locks turned a bluish tint. With her eyes also a light shade of blue, she earned the nickname Azzurrina or Little Blue One. She spent most of her time in the castle since her pale skin did not tolerate sun well.

The time came when castle staff was busy with preparations for the approaching summer solstice celebration. Azzurina's father gave her a new red rag ball to entertain her and keep her out of the way. The child was enchanted with the new toy -- rolling, throwing it into the air, and kicking it. Down the stairs it rolled into a basement room with Azzurrina fast behind, laughing gaily.

Azzurrina would never be seen again. She would, however, be heard: laughing, crying, running, yelling "Papa, Papa, I'm here!" every five years on June 21st, the summer solstice.

On June 21, 1990 (the summer solstice), an investigative team came to the castle armed with ghost-hunting equipment. Not only did they capture recordings of the aforementioned sounds, but an apparition of the small girl was also seen holding her red ball. Investigations have since commenced every five years on the summer solstice with "Azzurinna activity" always being captured with paranormal equipment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"R" Marked the Spot

Scientific recreation of Richard III's face
The royal body had been missing since 1485. For two days, its mortal remains had hung in the city square, proving the king was dead. Then, his body was hurriedly thrown into a shallow, dirt grave to be found centuries later in a hidden, long-forgotten tomb.

Although ruling a scant 2 years, Richard III has always had numerous stories and rumors swirl around him and his reign. The last of the Platagenet dynasty to rule England, Richard III was depicted as a repulsive monster and a hunchback with a withered arm. His life and throne had been lost in the final skirmish of the decade-long War of the Roses -- a humiliating loss as Richard III had the larger army and greater support from the English people.

In 1924, the Richard III Society was created, and members began the laborious task of separating fact from fiction surrounding the king. Their first task: finding his lost body.

It was known that Richard III was originally buried inside the GreyFriars Church of the Annunciation of Mary the Virgin, but the church had been demolished in 1538 with no records detailing its location. Five hundred years later and using old maps, Phillip Langley guesstimated what she believed to be the location of the body under a concrete car park in Leicester.

Digging began August 24, 2012 over a mysterious white-written "R" written on the concrete parking lot. Richard's remains were immediately found at odds of 1,785 to 1 that he would be discovered on day one of the search. His skeleton was completely intact including a predominately curved spinal column. Mitochondrial DNA from a tooth proved positive the identity of the ancient monarch.

His remains told volumes. As foretold, Richard III's spine did have a severe curvature from scoliosis, but there was no sign of the fabled withered arm. Other discoveries: two mortal blows had shattered his skull; his diet was rich in fish, sugar and carbohydrates; Richard would have been 5'8" had he a straight spine; the king greatly suffered from round worms (up to a foot long); and, he ground his teeth presumably from stress. Through forensic science used on his skull, technicians were also able to re-create his looks and prove the accuracy of early portraiture.

This story serves as a perfect illustration that ghost hunting need not be a daytime preoccupation or an old house the only site worth investigating for spirits. Although there has been no publicity surrounding a ghost investigation at this site, it would be an interesting venture -- and a reminder that we never know what buried secrets lay beneath our feet as we tread throughout the day -- be they old relics, burial grounds ... or the bones of royalty.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Mystical Number 7

Symbolically thinking, seven is the granddaddy of sacred numbers.

In the Bible there are seven days of creation, seven virtues, seven deadly sins, seven pillars of wisdom, seven sorrows (and joys) of the Virgin, seven divisions of the Lord's Prayer, seven sacraments, seven cardinal sins, and seven graces.

The Book of Revelations, the last chapter of the New Testament, is built around the number seven. It speaks of seven trumpets (heralding the end of days), seven golden lamp stands (representing the seven churches of the apocalypse), seven golden stars (representing the seven angels of the apocalypse), seven spirits before the throne of God, seven plagues, seven bowls of wrath, seven vials, seven judgments, seven kings, a seven-headed beast, a dragon with seven heads wearing seven diadems, a lamb with seven eyes, and an earthquake that kills seven thousand people.

The three most important Jewish feasts each lasts seven days, as do Levitical purifications, and the sabbatical occurs every seven years. Ancient astrologers recognized seven plants. In Islam, there are seven heavens and seven holy sleepers. Buddhists revere the seven treasures. In many religions, the seventh son of a seventh son is endowed with magical powers. Japanese folklore has seven gods of good fortune.

There are seven days in a week, seven seas, seven continents, seven wonders of the ancient world, and seven whole notes in a Western scale. Shakespeare famously wrote of the seven ages of man. The average number of objects a human being can retain in short-term memory is seven. (This is why phone numbers have seven digits.)

Taken from the book Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone, published by HarperCollins in 2012.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Redefining School "Spirit"

"We believe it's a taboo to move or disturb a body, because the spirits become unrestful," Drake said. "Many will be angry." Havatone performed a ceremony to pacify the spirits, blessing all the spirits along with the workers who had disturbed the graves. "Spirits will sometimes go home with the person who disturbs them," Havatone had said. A cleansing of the workers left them pacified as well.

The new high school opened in 2012. No word yet on whether the hauntings continue.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Hauntings of the Haywood Park Hotel

ASHEVILLE, NC -- Premier builder W.E. Grove constructed today's Haywood Park Hotel complex in the early 1920s. From 1923 to 1937, the building was known as Bon Marche, Asheville's first upscale department store. Ivey's Department Store then occupied the space for 38 years before the classic-revival Haywood Park Hotel opened its doors in 1985 -- apparently to people and ghosts alike. Among the many stories recounted to us is this [unedited] TripAdvisor review:

4 of 5 starsReviewed December 6, 2011 by an2nini
from New Orleans, Louisiana
Am I the only one who had a paranormal experience at this hotel??? It's a great place to stay but I got really scared so we checked out one day early. This was back in January of 2007. I woke up around1:45 a.m. to use the bathroom. I was in one of the beds with my young daughter and my husband was in the other. The suites are large (very nice) and as i walked toward the bathroom, I could hear a man and a young girl conversing back and forth. It was very muffled but I heard it. I back up to check on my daughter and husband and of course, they were both sound asleep like they were seconds before when i got out of bed. As i got closer to the bathroom, i heard a little girl's voice singing "lalalalala..." very faintly. I couldn't understand why I would hear someone talking in another room? outside the hotel room door? - because it was beginning of Janauary and the hotel was virtually empty. I thought only 3 of the 8 rooms on the floor were taken. Also, why would a young kid be awake at the time of the morning? Anyway, I proceeded into the bathroom and as I'm about to sit on the toilet, very LOUD in my ear, I hear a man's voice say "GOOD MORNING!" It scared me sooo much! I ran out the bathroom hitting my thigh on the point of the dresser. Jumped back into the bed with my daughter and just lay there quietly, listening. Never heard anything else and eventually I drifted off back to sleep. I told my husband about it first thing in the morning. It was so surreal but I know what i heard! This happened on our 2nd night there and although we checked out one day early, it was not because of the hotel itself, which I thought was really nice. If you want to try and have an encounter with something "unknown" - I would recommend staying there.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Forever Facebook

PHOTO: New Hampshire's House is voting whether or not to give the executor of an estate control over the deceased person's social networking pages such as Facebook and Twitter.There is much to be done in the death of a loved one: funeral arrangements, acknowledgement of memoriams, disposal of personal effects. Now there's one more item to check off: Dealing with the digital accounts of the deceased. It has become a rather messy and complicated process and, while Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, Indiana and Connecticut have established legislation regulating email accounts, that still leaves a slew of online social media options that all have differing policies governing the postmortem handling. Among the outstanding issues: Who gets to decide what to do with the deceased's social media accounts?

New Hampshire state representative Peter Sullivan is introducing legislation saying the executor of the estate should be in control. He cites the story of a young Canadian girl who committed suicide because of bullying. The taunts continued on facebook even after her death. "The family wasn't able to do anything because they didn't have access to her account," Sullivan said. "They couldn't go in and delete those comments, and they couldn't take the page down completely."

Early on, facebook gave three options: (1) Do nothing and let the account stand open, (2) Remove the listing entirely, or (3) Set the page up as an online memorial. For the latter, facebook requires family or friends to fill out a form to provide a link to an obituary or other information confirming a user's death. Users will then cease showing up in facebook's suggestions, they will not be included on the stream of user updates,  and the profile will be sealed from future log-in attempts. The account's wall will remain open for people wishing to pay respects.

Other social media sites are struggling with the question of what to do with users' accounts post mortem; Twitter, MySpace, Pinterest and other social media companies currently have no set policies.

Some lawmakers think the federal government should step in with legislation. Ryan Kiesel, former state legislator from Oklahoma, says: "The federal government should pass uniform laws to govern all digital assets ... it is quite difficult for an estate to have to navigate endless numbers of digital policies postmortem."

Although the legal process is unable to keep up with the quick evolution of today's technology, and facebook is thus far the only social media company to set policies for "dead" accounts, one thing is certain:  There is now yet one more avenue of immortality... through the facebook profile.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Pink Lady of Ghost Park Inn

The Grove Park Inn denied it for years: There were no hauntings, no pink apparitions, no ghostly phenomena. But after 80 years of sightings, reports and screams, the Inn could no longer deny it; the Grove Park Inn was indeed haunted by a young woman dressed in a flowing pink gown.
The Pink Lady has been an unregistered visitor of the Grove Park Inn for over 80 years and has been witnessed by senior management, children, maintenance personnel, security. It is told the pink-clad ghost fell to her death in the Palm Court atrium circa 1920. Not so, according to the Asheville Paranormal Society. Their investigations led to communications with the ghost; The Pink Lady told them her name was Katie. Employed as a servant in a wealthy, aristocratic household, Katie says she became pregnant by the master of the house. He had a reputation to protect, a position to safeguard. Katie was pushed from an upper floor of the Inn onto the stones of the Palm Court atrium. She and the baby were no longer inconvenient.

The Pink Lady has been seen in a number of places within the historic Main Inn although the greatest amount of energy and paranormal occurrences seem to revolve around room 545. Among the witnessed accounts:

 Manager of Elaine's, the GPI nightclub: "It's like a real dense smoke -- a pinkish pastel that just flows. It's a real gentle spirit whatever it is." The manager has seen the spirit several times in 5 years.

Although the hotel was closed and locked for the winter, 2 employees saw all the 6th floor guest room lights come on and then off followed by the lights in the Main Inn following suit. The President of the National Federation of Press Women experienced toe tickling in the middle of the night ... twice.

Employees report The Pink Lady likes to manipulate the environment, turning on and off the lights all at once, pulling back curtains, turning on televisions and radios.

Yes, scores of people have seen, sensed and been touched by the spirit of The Pink Lady and, as the unexplained and reports continue to occur, a substantial waiting list grows - of those courageous visitors who want to stay in room 545.