Category Archives: Tales

The Ghosts of Hannah’s Creek Swamp

History is a tricky thing. Like the old adage, “can’t see the forest for the trees”, there’s a lot of different ways to look at large events depending on the motivations and beliefs of the people not just telling the story, but also the ones researching them.

Take the American Civil War, for instance. It’s a topic that we circle often on this site and on our podcast, mostly because it’s a lynchpin of American culture. The Civil War is one of the primary influences on the history of the United States. If the Revolutionary War is this country’s id, then World War II was our ego and the Civil War is its superego, and while we tend to deal with spirits of a more-or-less physical kind on this site, the ghosts and specters of the Civil War haunt us all in a very morally underpinning way.

I don’t want to get into ethical judgment or debate here, but in general, we look at the Civil War through a scope of ‘the South was performing human rights atrocities, and the North set out to stop them.’ That’s the broad “forest” view. But as anyone who has spent any time of social media will tell you, it is all too easy for a person, having ascribed themselves the virtue of “fighting evil”, to easily excuse themselves of horrific acts so long as they are against someone who represents that evil.

Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

In the Civil War, the North was very much the “invading force”–Northern soldiers pushed into the South much more than the other way around, and the citizens of the South, we’ve found while digging up ghost stories and histories, have many horrific tales of Northern soldiers acting in less than gentlemanly ways as they marched southward. Those tales comprise a portion of “the trees” in our ongoing metaphor.

One such story we’ve come across involved the fact that Union soldiers marching across the South were given leave to raid and plunder the homes and farms they came across as they continued to push. They were given orders not to harm unarmed civilians, and to make sure that they left each family with enough food and supplies to survive, but beyond those meager boundaries they were free to ransack and steal as they desired.

In fairness, most soldiers only took liberties up to what their orders would allow, but this particular ghost story involves one group that decided to play by their own rules. This unit, under the command of one Colonel David Fanning, pillaged and plundered at will, leaving bodies, ashes, and destruction in their wake. The group quickly became known as Fanning’s Marauders.

Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

One of the homes Fanning and his Marauders assaulted was that belonging to Confederate Colonel John Saunders and his wife, near Smithfield, North Carolina. Bloodthirsty Fanning looted everthing of value from the home, then killed the Saunders and razed their homestead to the ground, unknowingly sealing his own fate.

Col. Saunder’s son, Lieutenant John Saunders Jr., learned of the destruction of his home and the death of his parents and vowed revenge on the men who were responsible. The Confederate Army, knowing that Saunders was properly motivated to seek out such brigands, assigned him and his unit to the area near Smithfield and tasked them with the job of ferreting out guerilla fighters, bandits, and other individuals that chose to shy away from the front in lieu of taking advantage of the wartime chaos. The unit did their job as well as any group, but the operation’s time was running out and, to his chagrin, Saunders still hadn’t found his parents’ killer.

Finally, Saunders caught wind of a group of Union soldiers hiding out on an island in Hannah’s Creek Swamp in Johnston County. To scout it out, the Confederates borrowed some civilian clothes and rowed out to the small island under cover of night, hoping not to alert any lookouts the Yankees might have.

Photo by Krystian Piątek on Unsplash

Before Fanning and his Marauders could realize what was happening, they found themselves surrounded by Confederates. Lt. Saunders ordered the camp and all the men be searched and took the liberty of searching Fanning himself. Saunders found a small gold crucifix around Fanning’s neck, a crucifix that he immediately recognized as belonging to his murdered mother. Rage instantly took over.

Holding Fanning at gunpoint, Saunders ordered all the Marauders hung right then and there on the island. Fanning was forced to sit and watch as his men had their necks stretched one-by-one. Then, rather than turning Fanning in as a captured soldier, Saunders marched him back to Smithfield, to the Saunders familial home. Saunders took Fanning to the large oak tree overlooking his parents’ newly lain headstones and hung Fanning there, his last moments spent looking upon those graves, the fruits of his hubris being burned into his eyes as the last image he carried to the great hereafter.

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Today, visitors to Hannah’s Creek Swamp report random cold spots in the area and unexplained feelings of dread. Some have reported hearing the voices of men begging for their lives, while other hear the creak of branches, heavy with the weight of hanging bodies. Some witnesses even say they’ve seen the bodies themselves, as many as 50 hanging from the trees on a moonlit night.

Now, I’m not telling you this story to pass judgement on men who died over 100 years ago. But what I am interested in is how these stories affect people. We all know someone who will have a knee-jerk reaction to any mention of the Civil War, whichever slant to the congressional house that reaction might elicit. This is a reaction to what they have chose to see as the most poignant summary of the war. But that summary is always going to be a personal thing, and like all personal things, they are going to differ person-to-person, at bare minimum in the details, even if the broad strokes are a shared perspective.

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

For instance, the above story, near as my research can pull up, is completely fictitious. Research didn’t turn up any David Fannings from the Civil War. Likewise, research turns up John C.C. Saunders, John L. Saunders, John Sherman Saunders, and John Saunders Gooch, but none of them from Smithfield, North Carolina and none of them an obvious choice for the Saunders in the story.

So why would such a story take root and continue to be told over 150 years later, far outliving the men it purportedly is about? Perhaps the answer can be found in the interesting fact that there IS a David Fanning in military records, but a Fanning that fought in the Revolutionary War.

This David Fanning was an infamous Tory and British loyalist, siding with the Redcoats when war was declared. Given the rank of Colonel in the British Army, Fanning was well-known for his blood thirst and regularly killed men off the battlefield, and act soldiers on both sides largely considered dishonorable. When the war ended, Fanning’s atrocities were so numerous that he was one of only a handful of men that the state of North Carolina refused to pardon for their wartime activities. Now a wanted fugitive, Fanning was forced to evacuate to England with the rest of the British forces that departed Charlotte. Fanning stayed in England until he died, decades before the American Civil War even began.

Photo by Marie Bellando-Mitjans on Unsplash

So what happened here? Is this a case of bad record keeping? Was it a flat out lie? Something the locals in Smithfield and Johnston County use to excuse themselves from history’s judgment? Or something more?

Ignoring the haunting for a moment, I like to think that the story of Saunders extracting revenge on Fanning is a way for a state and its people to heal through the power of folklore. Redcoat David Fanning reeked serious damage on the people of North Carolina, both physically and mentally. He slaughtered people like a movie monster and then in the end, just…got away.

When we started The Booze + Spirits Podcast, a big belief guiding our ship was that stories are just as important and the truth, and in some cases more so. The tale of Saunders and Fanning, in my eyes, is a wonderful example of that ideal. People left wanting for justice and retribution, in this case the North Carolinians, created a fictionalized hero to defeat the fictionalized version of their villain. They created their own mythology, their own superhero, to put right things that were left unavenged, just as thousands of small communities had over human history.

By rewriting this legend, they determined their poignant summary. A myth of a hero defeating a villain, and a promise that justice still exists in the world and the fragile hope that keeps humanity from devolving into monsters raging against a cold uncaring universe gets to continue just a little bit longer.

Featured photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

The Enfield Poltergeist

This tale originally appeared in Episode 009 – A Haunting in Cognac.

The Enfield haunting started in August of 1977, at 284 Green Street, Brimsdown, Enfield, London, the home of single mother Peggy Hodgson and her four children. The first sign of something odd came as two of the kids, Janet and Johnny, complained that something kept shaking and moving their beds around at bedtime. Peggy told them to knock off the foolishness and go to sleep.

248 Green Street, Enfield

The next night, as the commotion from their room started again, Peggy went to the kids’ room only to find the door obstructed by a chest of drawers. She pushed her way in and squeezed into the room, and shoved the drawers back against the wall, only to have some unseen force push them back towards the door while still in her grip. It was at this point Peggy knew something truly bizarre was at play. The family huddled together and went to a neighbor’s house, the Nottinghams, to wait out the night. Vic Nottingham, a large builder, went over to the Hodgson’s house to try to suss out the issue, but instead found himself shaken by knocks on the walls and ceilings for which he couldn’t determine the cause.

This was just the start of what would become an 18-month marathon of torment. Not just from paranormal activity, but also from a never ending queue of reporters, investigators, lookie-loos, skeptics, believers, debunkers, and rigorous scrutiny that still echoes through on to today. By the time all was said and done, over 30 individuals would claim witness to the incidents in Enfield.

Janet Hodgson with Maurice Grosse

The Hodgson family would be beset by beds lifting, furniture moving, and chairs being overturned. The knocking would race up and down the halls or fade in and out so much that soon nobody felt comfortable sleeping without the lights on. Objects would often launch themselves across the room. Eventually whispers and voices would start making themselves known, and the children themselves would be picked up and tossed around.

The first major witness to the activity was a police constable. She sat and watched as a chair wobbled and moved on it’s own accord. Inspection of the chair revealed no wires or strings or anything else to explain the phenomenon. Though the police sympathized with the family, they had to leave explaining that it wasn’t a police matter since no real crime was being committed.

As Peggy Hodgson continued searching for help, eventually her case reached the ears of the Society for Psychical Research, and investigators Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair arrived to try to make sense of things. Shortly after arriving, Grosse saw a t-shirt fly off of a table right next to him. The two men, over the coming months, would come to see furniture move and spin, find small objects like marbles and Legos tossed around the room (and commented that the tossed toys would be hot to the touch), and eventually captured tape of phantom voices and photos of children reportedly levitating. Grosse remarked, “It’s smarter than we are. Look at its timing–the moment you go out of a room, something happens. You stay in the room for hours, and nothing moves. It knows what we’re up to.”

Grosse and Playfair’s investigation found the activity to be focused primarily on the two girls: Margaret, age 13, and Janet, age 11. Margaret, tried to go up the stairs, in one incident, only to claim something wouldn’t let her leave, and had a hold of a leg that was held aloft in the air behind her. It reportedly took several people to free her. When the girls were separated and sent to stay in different homes for the night, incidents would occur in both places.

But Janet was deemed to be the epicenter of the haunting. Janet was tall and athletic for her age, and seemed to be a favorite target. Grosse and Playfair noted right away “curious whistles and talking coming from Janet’s general direction”. She would often be levitated about against her will or go into trances from which she couldn’t recall any details, and sometimes talk in a deep gruff voice of a man calling himself ‘Bill’.

“I knew when the voices were happening, of course,” Janet said in a 2011 interview, “it felt like something was behind me all of the time. They did all sorts of tests, filling my mouth with water and so on, but the voices still came out.

“The levitation was scary, because you didn’t know where you were going to land. I remember a curtain being wound around my neck, I was screaming, I thought I was going to die.”

Janet “levitating” while Margaret looks on.

Bill claimed to be the former resident of the home, and that he had died while sitting in a chair in the living room, suffering a hemorrhage in his sleep. Records and conversations with the former tenant’s son confirmed these claims.

Janet said, “I felt used by a force that nobody understands. I really didn’t like to think about it too much. I’m not sure the poltergeist was ever truly ‘evil’. It was almost as though it wanted to be part of the family.

“It didn’t want to hurt us. It had died here and wanted to be at rest. The only way it could communicate was through me and my sister.” She also admitted to playing with a Ouija board shortly before the incidents began.

But as the activities and phenomena became more grand so did the scrutiny, and holes in the claims started to emerge. First off, Bill would only talk if Janet and Margaret were together and in another room, separate from everyone else with the door closed. And Bill’s conversations were peculiar in that he would often change the subject mid-conversation, a habit that Janet had as well. He also seemed oddly interested in things a girl Janet and Margaret’s age would deal with in puberty, like menstruation.

Margaret’s sheet appearing to levitate.

Once one loose thread is pulled, others quickly unravel around it. An article about Matthew Manning torn from a magazine was found in the house and raised suspicions, as many of the earliest occurrences seemed to parallel the Manning case. The famous photographs of the girls levitating were pointed out as easily being well timed photos of children jumping on their bed. Even Grosse and Playfair, though never denying an actual haunting was at work, would see evidence of foul play at times. They had on occasion caught Janet banging on the walls or ceiling with a broomstick, or trying to hide Playfair’s tape recorder. Playfair would admit, “Janet was all energy, big for her age, jumping up and running around on the slightest pretext, and talking so fast that I had some difficulty understanding her. She had an impish look and I can understand why some visitors in the later months would suspect her of playing tricks.”

Playfair believed that though the haunting was real, the girls became enamored of the attention and would (sometimes clumsily) create activity for their own benefit, especially on camera. In interviews Janet would often wave excitedly at the camera, but then put her hands over her mouth “in shock” when mysterious voices or noises occurred. When BBC Scotland visited to do a story on the haunting, the girls were asked, “How does it feel to be haunted by a poltergeist?”, to which Janet responded, “It’s not haunted,” only to have Margaret silence her by quickly whispering, “Shut up!” Indeed, one video even caught Janet bending spoons and attempting to bend an iron bar when she thought she wasn’t being watched.

Experts from other disciplines observed the behavior and were left unimpressed. Ventriloquist Ray Alan said all the voices and whispers could easily be done with vocal tricks. Stage magicians Milbourne Christopher and Joe Nickell visited the family as well: Nickell observed that objects only seemed to move or be thrown when no one was looking at them, while Christopher watched Janet retreat to her room, only to see her peek her head out the door as if to see if anyone was watching her, and seemed genuinely flustered to find that someone was. Christopher attributed the haunting to, “a little girl who wanted to cause trouble and who was very, very clever.”

The girls were blamed for wanting the attention, especially from two doting male investigators so recently after their father had left the family (by coincidence, Grosse had lost his own daughter, also named Janet, in a motorcycle accident the year before). Their mother Peggy was accused of trying to scam the Housing Council into finding the family a better place to live. Janet was bullied in school, getting called ‘Ghost Girl’. One brother was called ‘freak from the ghost house’ and spit at in the street. Many psychiatrists and health professionals thought that the whole incident would just end if Grosse and Playfair would leave the family alone. Eventually Mrs. Hodgson got to the point that, with the exception of Grosse and Playfair, she refused to welcome others into her house.

Despite the deep cuts Ocham’s Razor seemed to be leaving everywhere, Grosse and Playfair continued to be convinced of the haunting’s genuineness at its core. They had seen too many things they considered to be unexplainable to throw the whole case away on a couple of childish pranks. Indeed, at one point Janet and Margaret even admitted to faking the whole thing, but were convinced by Grosse and Playfair to recant their confession. Playfair said, “It almost seemed that the poltergeist were out to incriminate her (Janet), by proliferating third-rate phenomena in the presence of first-rate observers.”

According to Janet, a priest visited in 1978. The activity calmed down after that, but never totally subsided. Janet left home at age 16, and married young. She says, “I lost touch with everything, all the coverage of the case in paranormal books. My mum felt people walked over her at that time. She felt exploited.”

Her brother Johnny tragically died at the age of 14 from cancer, shortly after the press attention drifted away. Bobby, the youngest, felt watched up until the day he moved out. Janet’s mother, Peggy, passed away in 2003 from breast cancer, and still lived in the home at the time. Janet says the presence in the home never fully went away. “Years later, when Mum was alive, there was always a presence there — something watching over you. As long as people don’t meddle the way we did with Ouija boards, it is quite settled. It is a lot calmer than when I was a child. It is at rest, but will always be there.”

After Peggy’s death, a new family moved in, a mother with four boys. They reported constantly feeling watched and regularly hearing whispers and talking from downstairs at night. The night before they moved out, the 15-year old was woken in the night to see a shadowy man enter his room. He ran to his mother’s room and told her, “we’ve got to move.” The following tenants asked not to be informed of the home’s history, hoping their children’s ignorance of the past would keep them hidden from the haunting’s attention.

The haunting was dramatized in the film “The Conjuring 2”, a film series circling around the lives of demonologists and paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren. While the film portrays them as heroes of the haunting and does a decent job of fitting many of the reported incidents into the narrative (despite a classic Warren climax that always ends up attributing the incident to ‘demons’) , in reality they were only on the scene for a day and quickly left. Playfair later reported that Ed Warren told him that, “someone could make a lot of money off this story”. The Warrens’ own organization, NESPR, makes no claims that the Warrens played a significant role in the Enfield haunting.

Janet later did admit that the girls tried to fake some of the phenomena, but says that every time they tried Grosse or Playfair would catch them. When asked how much of the phenomenon they were responsible for, she said, “about 2-percent.”

“I didn’t want to bring it up again while my mum was alive,” Janet says, “but now I want to tell my story. I don’t care whether people believe me or not, I went through this, and it was true.”

The Bandage Man

This story was originally told in Ep. 003 – Salty Bill’s Limp Richard.

For decades, the forests and back roads of Cannon Beach, Oregon have been haunted by their own mummy-like monster. He harasses teens and jumps into unsuspecting vehicles, and is known locally as ‘The Bandage Man’.

Highway 101 runs up the length of the Pacific Ocean in the continental US. It’s infamous for being an amazingly gorgeous drive, but also extremely winding and curvy as it hugs the coastline, and among the many small seaside towns along the 101 sits Cannon Beach.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

A stretch of this winding highway just north of Cannon Beach is the focus of the Bandage Man’s legend. The stretch of road nicknamed ‘Bandage Man Road’ is actually an abandoned part of Highway 101, long since replaced by a more forgiving and less dangerous parcel of pavement. Driving Bandage Man Road has become something of a rite of passage by the local teens after they get their driving license, braving upsetting the Bandage Man on his own turf.

The Bandage Man is known to lurk Cannon Beach’s forests and roads, covered in bandages like the classic Universal Pictures depiction of The Mummy, and is known to reek with the smell of rotting flesh. He is most known for going after parked or passing vehicles, jumping into unguarded truck beds or the back seat of convertibles, and his activity seems to increase on nights of heavy lightning.

Photo by Wojtek Pacześ from Pexels

Most legends place The Bandage Man’s origin back to the 1950’s, though some go back as far as the 1930’s. The primary story says that he was a logger (though this is sometimes substituted with an electrician or some other tradesman) who had an on-the-job accident and got “chopped up”. He was quickly bandaged up and placed in an ambulance, but the vehicle got caught in a landslide on the highway on its way to the hospital. By the time rescue crews got to the ambulance and unburied it, the injured man had completely disappeared.

Reports of the Bandage Man began almost immediately and have continued through today, though the biggest chunk of reports come from the 1950’s and 60’s. His favorite past time appears to be harassing teens in vehicles. One tale involves a pair of teens who had parked on the side of the road in a pick-up truck for a little canoodling. Suddenly, they felt the truck dip to one side, like someone was climbing into the bed. The whole truck began to shake violently, and the teens looked back to see the Bandage Man in the bed, rocking the vehicle back-and-forth and pounding on the cab. The panicked teens started the truck and drove away, but by the time they got to town the Bandage Man had disappeared.

The Bandage Man’s pattern is fairly consistent: Find teens parked in the road and scare them, disappear before help is available, repeat. He sometimes leaves behind smatterings of smelly bandages or even chunks of rotten meat. One out-of-character but truly horrifying tale tells of him smashing the window to Bill’s Tavern & Grillhouse in town so he could reach in and snatch someone’s dog, running away and eating the poor creature.

Like any good local legend, local pranksters and troublemakers have found ways to use the tales to their own ends. Indeed, there are occasional cases of teens getting caught or admitting to dressing up as The Bandage Man to cause trouble, so in the end it has become challenging to tell just where the line between local legend and local prank lay.

Featured image by elijah akala from Pexels

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki from Pexels

Julie on the Rooftop

This story first appeared in Ep. 001 – Rooftop Lady.

There’s a house on 734 Royal St. in New Orleans with a very peculiar ghost. She appears as a beautiful golden woman, sitting or walking in the building’s roof top, and apart from a pair of hoop earrings, she’s completely naked.

According to legend, the woman is named Julie, and she was madly in love with the building’s owner, a wealthy businessman by the name of Zachary. Depending on the telling, Julie is either a slave or a well-to-do lady, and is usually described as being of mixed-race, contributing to her golden hue.

The tale goes back to the 1850’s. Julie was in love with Zachary and wanted to be his wife, but to Zachary she was just a plaything, an object for a few moments of fun and nothing more. Their trysts would occur on the building’s third floor, and Julie was forbidden from visiting the lower levels. Zachary would often meet with her secretly on her floor, then return to the lower floor where he’d be having grand parties and or sometimes long chess games with his friends.

Eventually, one December night, Julie lays down an ultimatum, demanding that Zachary marries her. Hoping he can finally get her to drop the subject, he says he’ll only marry her if she strips naked, climbs out of the roof, and stays there all night to prove her love.

Zachary figured the notion was settled, and left downstairs to see to his other guests, but Julie was too determined to back out now. She stripped buck naked, climbed out onto the slanted roof, and spent the night out there, where she sadly died of exposure before the sun came up.

The next winter was the first time her ghost appeared. People reported a slender, naked, golden skinned woman wearing only hoop earrings, huddled up and pacing the roof trying to build up some body heat. Often times people even reported seeing her collapse up there.

Other apparitions associated with Julie include an ethereal chessboard in the third story windows seen on stormy nights, sometimes being played by a man or two. There have also been reports of Zachary being seen through the windows of the building or wandering in the garden below.

Witnesses to Julie’s appearances continue to this day, and local lore says if you write her a note on yellow paper with blue ink about your love problems and leave it next to the house, she may solve it for you.

Featured photo by KEN COOPER from Pexels. 734 Royal St. is a privately owned building today, so please don’t harass the residents about ghost hunting.

Moran Manor Investigation

We figured that we should probably share some of the photos from our investigation of home to Alice Rheem, Moran Manor. As we discussed in Episode 008, Moran Manor is the crown jewel of the Rosario Resort & Spa, on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Island chain in Puget Sound.

Nick and his wife Kel visited in late January 2021. Winter being the island’s off-season, and with Covid restrictions in play both by the state of Washington and San Juan County, so there was not much to do on the island at the time. The island’s main industries are tourism, agriculture, and outdoor recreation, so with tourism hampered by the season and restrictions, and outdoor recreation made uncomfortable by the winter storm blowing in from the Pacific over the weekend they visited, it was good that they had ‘ghost hunting’ on their agenda because there was precious little else to do.

The resort covers 40 acres of the island, a scant sliver compared to the 7,000 acres originally owned by Robert Moran. The majority of the original Moran estate was donated to the parks service, creating the 5,000+ acre Moran State Park. The centerpiece of the park, covered with tons of waterfalls and hiking, biking, and horseback trails, it Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans at just under 2,400 ft.

A shot from the top of Mt. Constitution. Our Bellingham friends may notice the small wisp of their city in the upper center bay, and Mt. Baker and the Two Sisters on the horizon.

Moran Manor itself sits near the foot of the mountain, right on the edge of the state park, constructed by Robert Moran himself. Moran, a shipbuilder and former mayor of Seattle, arrived on the West Coast in 1875 with only a dime in his pocket. He worked his way up from an engineer to running one of the largest shipyards in America, supplying transportation for much of the Yukon gold rush and building the USS Nebraska.

Construction on Moran Manor finished in 1909, after Moran’s doctor pleaded with him to take things easy for his health. The plan worked; island life agreed with Moran, outliving the doctor’s expectations by over 30 years, and in the 1930’s the home was sold to Donald Rheem, the water heater and heat pump magnate.

Rheem intended to use the Manor as a summer home, but as he ran out of ways to subdue his wild socialite wife, Alice, he decided his last resort was to send her out to Orcas Island where the amount of trouble she could cause would be at a minimum. Naturally, the seclusion only instilled desperation in Alice, and it was soon a regular to find Alice donning her favorite red dress, climb aboard her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and drive into the small nearby town of Eastsound to drink and play cards.

Alice died in 1959, reportedly from complications with alcoholism, but it appears she hasn’t yet left. Alice’s ghost has often been reported on the grounds, sometimes walking down the stairway at the main entrance in her nightgown, occasionally in the parking lot departing into town on her motorcycle. Today, the Manor is part of a resort and spa, and many guests and employees have reported encounters with Alice over the years.

Living in nearby Whatcom County, Nick decided to investigate, and reserved a child-free weekend at the resort to entice his wife, Mikael, to come along. Mikael is not a believer in ghosts and spirits (with the possible exception of theatre ghosts), but played along and let Nick have his fun.

Though the Manor building itself no longer has guests overnight, much of the building is open for free exploration (some areas were closed off this weekend simply for Covid restrictions). A large portion of the second floor has been converted into a museum space for Robert Moran and his accomplishments. Among the artifacts were stories of shipbuilding, items from Robert’s office and his photography habit, odds and ends, and some of his stained glasswork collection.

The grandest feature of the second story is the two-story Aeolian pipe organ. During less restrictive times, the Manor is known to show old silent movies scored by the organ (most famously the original 1929 Phantom of the Opera). It was in this room that Nick thought he collected potential EVP’s.

Nick was using two pieces of equipment as he searched the museum, a micro camcorder and a voice recorder app on his cell phone (he has never declared himself a serious ghost hunter). While in the main music room, Nick heard a creak from the floor above him, though Nick and Mikael were the only people in the building above the first floor. In this clip, you can hear a series of audio pops, Mikael ask Nick what’s going on, and Nick answers he thought he heard someone above him. In the background is music being piped into the room, likely by CD. The creak happens roughly where the pops occurs.

Nick hears a creak

We noticed what may be a whisper under the pops, so cleaned that up and isolated it as best we could. Nick thought it sounded like someone saying, “never around”.

Never ’round?

Having thought they heard something, Nick and Mikael sat down in the music room and just listened for a bit. That is when they recorded another voice without an owner.

Unclaimed male voice

Though is it possible to hear people talking on the first floor (as evidenced in the full walkthrough recording) it is more muffled and continuous than the voice in this clip. Nick thought it sounded like a man saying, “twelve”.


We are making the full walkthrough recording available for anyone who wants to go through it on their own, but fair warning: Nick often forgot that he was carrying a recorder, and let his sleeve brush against the mic a lot and once or twice even absent-mindedly put it in his pocket.

There was little about Alice Rheem in the building, despite a plethora of information on the website. The bar has a drink named after her, The Lady in Red, and Mikael managed to locate a collection of old Vogue magazines owned by Alice in one of the bathrooms.

So, did Nick collect evidence that Alice or someone else still is creeping around Moran Manor? Maybe? Nick’s evidence is pretty thin, at best, but it definitely is interesting enough to warrant a second look in the future. Until then, the closest Nick got to finding a ghost was accidentally taking a picture of a park ranger while looking something up on his phone:

Nick’s a doofus.

The Red Ghost

This tale was originally featured in Episode 004 – The Hair of the Camel.

The Red Ghost terrorized Arizona during the 1880’s. The first reported appearance is in 1883, when it trampled a woman to death and left traces of red hair stuck to nearby tall grass at the scene. Later, a cowboy tried to rope the beast, but it turned and charged him, killing the man and his mount. A group of miners pursued it along the Verde River. It evaded capture, but shook something loose off of its back, a rotted human skull with dried skin and patches of hair stuck to it.

As sightings continued, the legend grew. Most described it as a great red demon with the devil himself riding on its back. Some witnesses claimed it was 30 feet tall. Other stories said that it had fought and devoured a grizzly, and that it could vanish before your eyes.

The Red Ghost’s reign of terror finally ended when a rancher in Eagle Creek caught it feasting on vegetables in his garden and shot at it, killing it dead. It was then that the Ghost’s true nature was revealed. It was a large camel, with gruesome straps of rawhide criss-crossing and digging into its body. The rawhide straps were apparently used to lash a human body, now in extreme decay, to the camel’s back. But how did such a creature in up in late 19th century Arizona?

For that answer, we have to go back decades, to a pre-Civil War America. In 1853, Secretary of War and future Confederate president, Jefferson Davis got approval from Congress, after much lobbying, to spend $30,000 on the importation of camels and dromedaries for military purposes. This was still decades before the transcontinental railroad, and Davis saw the camels as the key to westward expansion, especially through the arid southwest deserts. By 1857, 75 camels had been imported to America under the plan. Unfortunately, within a decade the initiative would be scrapped and all camels auctioned off.

Despite its epitaph, the program was largely successful. The camels were stationed with a U.S. Army at Camp Verde in Texas. The camels’ primary use was to strengthen current travel routes and poke and prod out new ones west to the Pacific and south to Mexico.

Two dozen of these camels made the famous trek to Fort Tejon outside Los Angeles under the usage of hero of the west Edward Beale. Beale’s troupe made the 1500 mile trek in just three months, a feat considered impossible at the time. The route discovered by Beale’s camel caravan was used to create the Beale Wagon Road, guiding thousands of settlers out west, and parts were adopted to make the Santa Fe Railroad’s contribution to the transcontinental railroad, and eventually Route 66 and Interstate 40.

The camels did have downsides, though. They were renowned for scaring the hell out of the horses, and given half-a-chance would just wander off overnight. Of course, this is all to say nothing of a pack animal that can spit with pinpoint accuracy at any handler it doesn’t agree with.

But the real straw that broke the camel program’s back came as Congress became afraid to pursue further importation of the animals due to pressure placed on them from lobbyists in the mule industry. Though this was plenty, further complications came from the secession of Texas and the South, causing Camp Verde to fall into the hands of the Confederacy. Left to Confederate care, the camels’ security was more lax, and many if them simply wandered off when let loose to graze.

The camel unit quickly scattered throughout the region. Union forces re-captured three of the beasts in Arkansas, but quickly auctioned then off. Some camels made it to Mexico, reportedly. A few found employment in the Confederate Postal Service. One, nicknamed Old Douglas, became the property of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry and was killed during the siege of Vicksburg, an act which so enraged Confederste Colonel Bevier that he tasked six of his best snipers with identifying and killing the Union sharpshooter that gunned Douglas down.

Some escaped camels turned feral and survived in the wilderness, but they never had enough numbers to provide a thriving and lasting sustainable herd. People would have chance encounters with these wild camels from time-to-time, the last report of such coming from the mid-20th century.

The origin of The Red Ghost himself is still something of a mystery. One rumor is that the rider was an Army soldier who was deathly afraid of the camels, so his fellow soldiers tied him to the back so he wouldn’t have to worry about falling off. Unfortunately, the beast took off and the soldiers were unable to keep up pursuit.

This seems a pretty poor explanation under scrutiny, though, because it relies on a soldier being tied on top in such a way that he couldn’t get himself off. It’s hard to image an arrangement under friendly intentions where the rider would not be given means to remove himself from the beast’s back. 

Another tale tells of a rider that was too tired to hold onto the beast and decide to tie himself on instead, but again that would leave us a rider that should be able to get himself loose before death set in. A more likely incident might be a screwball episode of frontier justice, or maybe a death sentence created by a particularly creative and sadistic outlaw, either one a situation where an individual would be attached to an animal without means of removing themselves, then the animal set loose with no destination in mind. Whatever the story, the rider’s fate and identity were never discovered. And despite The Red Ghost’s capture and killing, reports of a red camel being ridden by a skeleton persisted for years afterwards.

Today, a bright red scrap metal sculpture of The Red Ghost sits in Quartzside, AZ, where it has been lovingly named Georgette. Old Douglas has a grave in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi, somehow fittingly as it’s Jefferson Davis’s hometown.

Interestingly enough, though, another ghost story has sprung forth from the history of these imported camels. Three camels were purportedly purchased from an Army auction by a prospector by the name of Jake. The soldiers warned Jake that the camels were quite ornery, but Jake took good care of them and never had anything but praise for them and their behavior.

Eventually, Jake hit pay dirt and led his camels into town, laden in gold for the exchange. This caught the attention of a would-be claim jumper named Paul Adams. He heard of Jake’s success and decided to follow him and his camels out of town.

Jake was smart enough to not head directly to his claim, and instead took a long, circular route, so long that he ended up having to camp for the night. Mistaking the temporary camp site for the actual gold claim, Adams snuck in and murdered Jake. Trying to protect his owner, one of the camels attacked Adams, biting him, but eventually getting gunned down as well.

It wasn’t long before Adams realized his mistake, that this wasn’t the claim, and spent the next few days searching the nearby area, vainly trying to locate the real spot. It was on one night of searching that Paul Adams was awoken and saw the ghost of Jake on the back of his camel looking over the murderer. He quickly mounted his horse and fled, but the galloping camel continued the chase, unrelenting until Adams rode into town. Adams was so frightened he confessed all his deeds in exchange for the protection of a sheriff’s jail cell.

Photo by Isabelle Henriques from Pexels

The CORA Tree

This tale was originally featured in Episode 006 – Macomb Smokeshow. Featured image by Tobi from Pexels

In the 1700’s a slight woman and her baby, whom she was never seen without, arrived in the community of Frisco on Hatteras Island, North Carolina. The woman, known as Cora, built a crude hut outside of town in the woods and mostly kept to herself. Her distance, both physically and socially, from the other villagers served as a catalyst for rumors to quickly form and circulate about her possibly bastard child. The Salem Witch Trials still on the mind of the American settlers, it didn’t take long for gossip about Cora to turn towards sorcery and witchcraft.

Stories persisted that a cow she touched dried up and quit producing milk days later. A child that taunted and made faces at her suddenly became ill and died. And Cora always seemed to have an abundance of fish, even as the local fishermen were unable to catch any themselves.

The rumors might have stayed just that were it not for the arrival of the ship Susan G. and her captain, Eli Blood. Hailing from Salem, Massachusetts, Blood considered himself a student of New England tradition, a defender of the people, and, of course, a witch hunter. He immediately set himself to ingratiating himself to the townspeople and working his way in with the local hobnobbers and gossip hounds.

Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels

Of course, after hearing of the town’s troubles and of the suspicious Cora outside of town, Blood determined that she had to be the witch responsible for it all. The deal became particularly sealed when the body of a local man was found washed up on shore. His face was frozen in an expression of terror, his hands were clasped together as if he were praying, and the number 666 was carved into his forehead. Most damning of all was a collection of small footprints around the body that headed off into the woods towards Cora’s hut.

This development emboldened Captain Blood. He became sure that Cora was a witch and set out to prove it. He gathered an angry mob and marched to Cora’s hut, smashing their way inside and taking Cora and her baby prisoner. Out to prove her guilt, Blood pulled out his knife and performed the first test. As he suspected, her hair would not cut, announcing, “her hair was stronger than wire rope”. Next, Cora’s hands and feet were bound, but she floated in water regardless. In his final test, Blood filled a ceremonial witch hunter bowl with water, and placed a drop of blood each from himself and three other men into the water. He then, “stirred the water and blood vigorously, mixing it into a froth” and had the other men confirm what he saw in the bowl: the faces of Cora and the devil.

Blood and his men tied Cora and her baby to an old oak tree and began gathering firewood to place around the base. It was about this time that some of the townspeople, led by local captain Thomas Smith began to protest that Cora should be taken to the mainland and tried in a proper court of law.

An argument ensued. Blood tried to light the fire himself, but Smith grabbed his arm, keeping his torch from the pyre. Blood shook loose from Smith’s grasp, determined to burn his witch, when suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree. 

As the smoke cleared and the ringing of ears subsided, the people found that Cora and her baby had vanished. The ropes still hung wrapped around the tree and the kindling sat at the base completely untouched. The trunk of the tree had been ripped open by the lightning, leaving a large, smoldering, heart-shaped hole. And where Cora and her baby had been tied to the tree were left letters burnt into the wood: C-O-R-A.

The Cora Tree still exists even to this day, and the word CORA is still visible on the trunk of the great tree. The tree stands on Hatteras Island in the middle of Snug Harbor Drive in Frisco, quite literally as the road splits in two to go around it on either side.

Regarding the tree itself, it has been attributed as being both a Southern Live Oak and a Water Oak. Southern Live Oaks generally reach maturity around 70 years old, and so long as a carving on the tree is done after maturity the carving will remain for the tree’s lifespan. There are examples of Southern Live Oaks in America over 900 years old,. Water Oaks, on the other hand generally only live 100-150 years, and usually start to decay before the century mark. No known core sample has ever been taken of the tree, but in 2009 LG Research reportedly estimated the Cora Tree at around 500 years old based on its circumference.

Interestingly, the CORA carving has a lot of similarities to the CRO carving on Roanoke Island and the CROATOAN carving from Fort Raleigh. All three carvings sit about 5 feet off the ground, all are about 4 inches tall, and all share a similar lettering design. Also, artifacts discovered near Frisco matched artifacts in the other locations, suggesting the items were even cast from the same die.

Photo by Dmitry Demidov from Pexels

Neither the captains nor the Susan G. show up in any historical record, and the name Cora wasn’t common in America until the mid-1800’s, after the publishing of The Last of The Mohicans. Kora-with-a-K was a common name in 1700’s Germany, so the prospect of Cora being an immigrant, unfamiliar with the common language if the nearby village would easily explain much of her behavior.

In fact, the details of the event change wildly depending on the attitude of the storyteller. Those looking to condemn Cora tend to embellish the witchy aspects of the story. It’s not uncommon for the story to mention the baby transforming into a black, green-eyed car and running away into the woods before the lightning strike.

Retellings by more sympathetic orators tend to make note of Blood having a boastful and egotistical personality, and the suspiciousness of his crew as they stayed away from town and placed themselves in positions to help sell the more sordid details of Blood’s story. It’s also of note that this North Carolinian tale has the hot-headed Massachusetts man be the one thirsty for blood while the cooler-headed, hospitality focused Southerners were trying to push for civility and proper legal procedure.

Whatever the case, the tree still exists, and the CORA carving is visible to this day, even in photographs, a living reminder that mystery and wonder still exist in our world.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

The Phantom Trapper of Labrador

This tale originally was told in Episode 005 – Christmas Special 2020

The Phantom Trapper is a ghost seen in the Labrador area of Canada, whose presence is often said to herald the arrival of a large storm.

The person most commonly accredited to being The Phantom Trapper was a man named Esau Gillingham. He was a Newfoundlander who would regularly cross the Straits of Belle Isle into Labrador to trap. Depending on who tells the tale, there’s two slants on the story that are usually told.

The first is that trapping never made Esau the kind of money he wanted, so he ended up setting an illegal still up in the tall spruces. This swill was a foul but effective alcohol made from pine cones, sugar, and yeast, and he called it ‘smoke’, earning him the nickname ‘Smoker’.

The other version of the tale is that he actually brought back very fine, valuable furs whenever he returned, which was kind of fortunate since in this version he was a horrible, raging, hot-headed, woman-attacking asshole. The money he and his skins brought into town were the only thing that would convince the townspeople to put up with him for a short time. But eventually his drunken and ornery side would become too much, and he would wear out his welcome and get kicked out of town until the next time he had a load of furs. He still makes and sells smoke in this version, but it ends up more a feather in his ne’er-do-well hat rather than being a key part of his origin story. In some tellings, he continued selling smoke even though he was well aware that it was poisonous. 

Photo by Roland Juhász from Pexels

Whichever the version we prefer, eventually the Mounties found Smoker’s still, smashed his kegs, and hauled him off to jail in St. John’s for a year. But that time in the cooler just gave Smoker the time he needed to plan the next stage of his evolution.

After being released, he went around begging or stealing every white husky he could in the area, building a new team of dogs–some say a team of 8 while others say as many as 14. He then made himself a suit exclusively of white animal skins, and after restarting his distilling business, painted his komatik and kegs white as well.

Now decked all in white, Smoker began selling his contraband booze again. RCMP tried several times to shut him down again, but his new white camouflaged outfit made it impossible to track him for long in the snow.

There’s several tales about how Smoker met his end. Some say he harassed the wrong innkeeper’s wife and got gunned down by her husband. Some say he got lost while out in the wilderness or maybe got caught in a vicious storm.

My version is that it was his own smoke did him in at the end. While soused on his own drink, Smoke fell off of a fish flake and broke his back. He lay, on the frozen ground, suffering and unable to move for three days. Sensing his time was drawing to a close, and having a pretty good idea what was waiting for him in the great hereafter, he shouted out, “Lord God, don’t send me to Hell! Let me drive my dogs till the end of time, and I’ll make up for all the bad I’ve done!”

Eventually Smoker’s body was found and brought back tp Newfoundland to be buried, but he would not find peace in the grave. Legend tells that even today the howl of the Labrador wind is sometimes joined by the sound of a dog team running through the night.

Some hear them passing by in the snow, while others have heard their traces slapping against the outside of their cabin. Occasionally a person might catch a glimpse of an all white dog team being driven by a figure in white furs on a white komatik, but they never leave tracks in the snow or stop on their eternal run.

Stories tell of a Labrador man who got lost in a blizzard while driving his dog team, and became desperate to find shelter. As he drove on, he was passed by a team of all white dogs piloted by a man in white furs. Sensing this was his best opportunity, he followed the team.

A half-hour later, the lost man and the white driver came upon a fishing village, and hearing the dogs a fisherman stood in the doorway of his hut to see who was approaching. The white driver continued on past with his team, but the lost driver slowed to a stop, thrilled to find shelter, and called out, “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome!” called out the fisherman. “Come in a get warm!” The lost man thanked the fisherman, but corrected him that he was calling out to the other driver. The fisherman just looked at him strangely, and said that he never saw or heard another driver.

Another story involved a man on foot who got caught in a blizzard and had nearly froze to death by the time the Phantom Trapper found him. The trapper easily picked the man up and set him on his sled, covering him with warm skins, and drove towards the nearest inn. Upon arrival, the trapper again easily picked up and carried the man inside, sitting him on a chair next to the fire. The trapper turned to the innkeeper, told him to take care of the half-dead man, and promptly disappeared into thin air.

Hero, villain, or antihero, the Phantom Trapper, or sometimes Damned Trapper, is a proud piece of local folklore. He was fictionalized in the 1972 novel White Eskimo: a Novel of Labrador, and is a respected entity in the local folklore.

Photo by Tomáš Malík from Pexels

Booze +Spirits Tales

We thought it might be a fun idea to write out some of the stories that we tell on the podcast. After all, it can be hard to retell a story solely from listening to it, especially after it’s been buffeted on all sides by profanity and inside jokes.

So, starting this week, we’ll be sharing written versions of our tales here on the website, about once or twice a week. Hope you all enjoy it!

Cover photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels