Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Myrtles Planatation

The Myrtles, according to hundreds of people who have encountered the unexplained there, is haunted -- but perhaps not for the reasons that we have all been told. The children of the household were not poisoned but they and 13 other adults did die in the house of several yellow fever epidemics that were a few months apart. There is no record of a slave named "Chloe" but many other servants died at the home. So although the facts of the haunting may be different from the stories that are told, there were many deaths in the house in its 200 plus years.

The house may really be haunted by the ghost of a woman in a green turban or bonnet even if her name is not "Chloe". The Williams family that owned the house had an on going tale of her and while it may have been a story that was never meant to be told outside the family, the story was told regardless. They admit that while she did exist, no identity was ever given to her. It's also very likely that something unusual was going on at the Myrtles when Marjorie Munson lived there in the 1950's, which led to her seeking answers and to her first introduction to the ghost in the green headdress. The builders of the house put the keyholes in the doors upside down to confuse any evil spirits that might attempt to enter.

Frances Myers claimed that she encountered the ghost in the green turban as far back as 1987. She was asleep in one of the downstairs bedrooms when she was awakened suddenly by a black woman wearing a green turban and a long dress. She was standing silently beside the bed, holding a metal candlestick in her hand. She was so real that the candle even gave off a soft glow. Knowing nothing about ghosts, she was terrified and pulled the covers over her head and started screaming! Then she slowly looked out and reached out a hand to touch the woman, who had never moved, and to her amazement, the apparition vanished.

The Central Stairway

One film, which was decidedly not paranormal but which did encounter paranormal activity, was a television mini-series remake of The Long Hot Summer, starring Don Johnson, Cybill Shepherd, Ava Gardner and Jason Robards. A portion of the show was shot at the Myrtles and it was not an experience that the cast and crew would soon forget. One day, the crew moved the furniture in the game room and the dining room for filming and then left the room. When they returned, they reported that the furniture had been moved back to its original position. No one was inside of either room while the crew was absent. This happened several times, to the dismay of the crew, although they did manage to get the shots they needed. They added that the cast was happy to move on to another set once the filming at the Myrtles was completed.The employees at the house often get the worst of the events that happen here. They are often exposed, first-hand, to events that would have weaker folks running from the place in terror. And some of them do! One employee, a gate man, was hired to greet guests at the front gate each day. One day while he was at work, a woman in a white, old-fashioned dress walked through the gate without speaking to him. She walked up to the house and vanished through the front door without ever opening it.

The Parlor

I have had three significant experiences over the course of my many visits.

The first one was my first visit there. I walked out over the bridge to the small pond and my camera batteries immediately went from 100% charged to completely drained. The camera wouldn't come back on until after the batteries were replaced. I have never had this happen with this camera before or since that visit. And apparently I am not alone when it comes to this. The grounds have had sightings of shadows, heat signatures have been detected as well as footsteps and other sounds. Ghost Hunters heard and saw movements on the grounds when they investigated there. They also experienced battery drain while on the grounds. The crew of Unsolved Mysteries had extensive technical problems when they films at the plantation too.

The Bridge

My second experience was on a tour of the house. It is guided by a member of the staff and roughly 10 people were on it with me. I began to feel my ankles tingle. It reminded me of walking by gauzy curtains in front of a window with a gentle breeze. Or the swooshing of long dresses at a ball. It was early spring and I was the only one wearing shorts. I looked down and saw nothing on my ankles. It only touched my ankles. I felt it over and over. I later found out that during that era it was more appropriate to show your bosoms than it was your ankles. Perhaps it was a touch to tell me to cover them or the passing of a lady in a long dress. It was very distinct.

The Porch

On my last visit there I went with my Mom and a friend. We were the only ones on the tour. The girl came out of the living room of the Myrtles instead of from the visitors center and asked us if we were waiting to tour the home. I thought this was odd at the time because normally no one is in the house unless there is a tour. But she directed us through the home and gave us the full tour with particular focus on the story of "Chloe". Our guide was a very young black girl, about 20 years old. She also was wearing a green scarf around her head, covering her ears and tied in the back. I found this odd as well because it didn't fit the modern look and fashions and none of the other guides had ever been in period dress. She reminded me a lot of what the descriptions of "Chloe" sounded like. When the tour was over, and we went back to ask her a question, she was gone and we never saw her again.

The famous picture of "Chloe" with a close up below.


Monday, June 8, 2009

The Alamo | San Antonio, Texas

When I was about 10 years old, my poor, long-suffering Pawpaw took his wife, daughters and granddaughters on a two-week car trip through the America West. For those of you keeping tally, that’s one man trapped in a full-size van with seven females. Not only did he take us through Texas – stopping at today’s topic, the Alamo – but also visited New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and south of the border to Mexico.

Since I am alive today and here writing this, I think it’s safe to assume that Pawpaw had the patience of a saint. That’s one man against seven women, 12 states and one politically unstable foreign country. Anyone who came through the experience without maiming an obnoxious, road-weary child pretty much could be trusted to negotiate peace in the Middle East.

Alas, I digress… this is about ghosts at the Alamo.

It was during my first visit to the Alamo that I saw something unexplained. As I mentioned, I was about 10 years old during that trip. I can remember parking in an adjacent lot to square in front of the old mission and walking across to the front entrance. Things were more relaxed back then. There was no formal line like there is now to enter. You just moseyed through at your own pace. If you had a question there were several park service folks there to answer you, but for the most part it was an informal, self-guided experience.

The first thing that struck me about the Alamo was how the temperature seemed to drop when we entered. It was more like being in a cool subterranean cave than an ancient house of worship. After filing through the main building – the iconic portion that comes to mind when you think of the Alamo – we exited backside into the main complex. I can remember walking with Pawpaw to the edge of a little stream-like waterway that cut through the middle of the property. In it there the largest gold fish I had ever seen.

I’m not sure where my mother and sisters were at that point. Probably in a bathroom somewhere. I’m pretty sure my grandmother was in the gift shop. My aunt and cousin were with them so it was just me and Pawpaw walking around the mission grounds. I can remember him saying he wanted to show me the well that provided water to the Alamo. He fished in his pocket and pulled out a couple of coins for me to throw in and make a wish over.

As I was dangling over the old stone well, looking into the water and preparing to toss my coins, Pawpaw spoke.

“Look at that man,” he said in that calm, but assertive way of his.

I glanced up and looked toward the side of the building that house the gift shop and museum. Walking quickly, with purpose across the yard toward the side of that building was a man dressed how a working cowboy would. His entire body was dusty, as if he’d just ridden through the dessert. He was wearing brown chaps and had a gun slung around his hips. A cowboy hat tilted just over eyes, obscuring his features.

We’d already seen several character actors dressed as the Alamo defenders and Mexican attackers. One lady was giving a lesson on how they cooked during that era. Another man was talking about ammunition and guns near the battery. We just assumed this was another actor, reacting history. As we walked toward the man, my grandfather reached for his camera. I – being a camera hog – was going to get my picture with that cowboy, by god. Or so I thought.

Just as stepped onto the stone pathway, the man’s stride seemed to slow. He was nearing the side of the building and we assumed he was going to set up for some sort of historical presentation. But as the man approached wall he didn’t stop walking. He took one final step toward the building and disappeared. It was like he walked through a solid concrete wall.

Pawpaw and I stood there for a moment. I blinked a couple of times, assuming my eyes deceived me. Pawpaw just took my hand and led me toward the coolness of the shade. We sat there on a stone bench for a while and watched the people come and go. Pawpaw lit up a cigarette and smoked. My eyes wandered, looking for a glimpse of our traveling companions. We said nothing about the disappearing cowboy. Not that day. Not ever.

Was it the overactive imagination of a little girl? Perhaps. Something paranormal? Most would say not. In fact, I myself wrote the incident off. It was just something strange that I’d think of from time to time.

Fifteen years later I returned to the Alamo. This time I was a married woman, with a husband in tow. After a long, hot day on the River Walk, we decided to take a nighttime walking tour of the Alamo area.

Overall this was a pretty mundane event. They told us about the siege of the Alamo, the burning of the bodies in three points around the mission and all return of the Mexican Army to burn the remains of the mission to the ground.

Legend goes:

When the Mexican troops neared the church with flaming torches, six fully formed spirits suddenly appeared before the front doors of the mission, waving blazing sabers and yelling, "Do not touch the Alamo, do not touch these walls!" The Mexicans fled in fear and would not be persuaded to return regardless of threats made by their superiors. Some say these entities were Alamo defenders while others say they were monks protecting the mission.

Throughout the tour, our guide had pointed out different spots throughout the area that were thought to be haunted. A wide range of spirits are claimed to still call the location home – from Davy Crocket to John Wayne. (Read more on the ghosts here.) It was at this moment that I recalled the even from my childhood and I began listening intently to see if there was any mention of a cowboy ghost. Well, apparently there were several. One that walks through a cloister area and appears to be soaking wet and another that walks the roof line of the building.

I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps my memory had been false after all. Then as the group was about to disperse, the guide made one final comment – almost as an afterthought.

“Oh, there’s one more point of interest,” he said. “Visitors standing near the old well have reported a cowboy, in dusty clothing walk toward the secondary building. When the figure approaches the wall, he appears to walk through. If you look closely at the seams in the mortar, you can tell that a doorway used to be located there. This is the most frequently reported apparition.”

Score. I knew I wasn’t crazy.