Ghosts and Their History

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

Ever since ancient times, we have had rich folklore of ghost stories, tales of spirits who return from the dead to haunt the places they have left behind.  Some places seem to be susceptible to hauntings.  Some have been famous ghostly sightings of historical personalities from queens and kings to politicians and gangsters!

What Are Ghosts?

The concept of a ghost is based on the ancient idea that a person’s spirit exists separately from his or her own body and continues to exist after that person dies. It is believed that this idea brought about holding funeral rituals as a way of ensuring that the person who died would not return to “haunt” them.

Places that are thought to be haunted are believed that there was an incident or an emotion in that spirit’s past that keeps them here.  Whether it is a home or the place where they died.  Signs associated with ghosts range from actual ghostly apparitions, strange noises, lights, odors or breezes.  The displacement of objects from their normal place, musical instruments being played and bells being rung.  All seemingly on their own.

Ghostly Sightings:

It is believed that the first ghostly sighting took place in the first century A.D.  The Roman author and statesman Pliny the Younger recorded one of the first notable ghost stories in his letters.  He reported that the specter of an old man with a long beard, rattling chains was haunting his house in Athens.

In 856 A.D., the first “poltergeist” (a ghost that causes physical disturbances, such as throwing objects and loud noises) was reported at a farmhouse in Germany. The poltergeist tormented the family by throwing stones and starting fires among other things.

Three Famous Historical Ghosts:

One of the most frequently reported ghost sightings in England dates back to the 16th century. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I, was executed at the Tower of London in May 1536 after being accused of witchcraft, treason, incest and adultery. Sightings of Boleyn’s ghost have been reported at the tower as well as in various other locations, including her childhood home, Hever Castle, in Kent.

America’s own rich tradition of historical ghosts begins with one of its most illustrious founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin. Beginning in the late 19th century, Franklin’s ghost was seen near the library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; some reports said the statue of Franklin comes to life and dances in the streets!  Only Ben Would!

The White House:

No political figure has made a more frequent appearances then Abraham Lincoln. He was killed in April 1865. Lincoln has reportedly been seen wandering near the old Springfield capitol building in Springfield Illinois, as well as his nearby law offices. At the White House, everyone from first ladies to queens to prime ministers have reported seeing his ghost or feeling his presence. It is said that during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln was there many times!

Haunted Places:

Historical battlefields seem to have a lot of sightings, i.e. the battlefield of Gettysburg.

Reportedly, one of the most active locations is aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 cruise ship.  The Queen Mary was built in 1936, after serving in the British Royal Navy in WWII. The ship was retired in Long Beach, California.   She has become known for having more than 50 ghosts being reported over the years.

The ship’s last chief  engineer, John Smith, reported hearing unexplained sounds and  voices from the area near the ship’s bow. The bow is where  a British aircraft cruiser, the Coracoa, had  pierced a hole when it sank after an accidental wartime crash that  killed more than 300 sailors aboard. Smith also claimed to have  encountered the ghost of Winston Churchill–or at least his cigar smoke in the prime minister’s old stateroom.  Many people have reported seeing a phantom crew member in blue overalls walking the decks. Around the ship’s  swimming pool, reports have been made of mysterious splashes  and ghostly women in old fashioned bathing suits or dresses and trails of wet footsteps appearing long after the pool had been  drained.

New York City has it’s fair share of ghostly hauntings!  The ghost of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch colonial’s last governor, has been sited in the East Village since 1672!  Mark Twain has been spotting in an stairwell of a onetime Village apartment.  The Poet Dylan Thomas is said to have been seen on many occasions, sitting at his favorite table in the White Horse Tavern.  This is where he drank his fatal 18 shots of scotch in 1953.  Perhaps the most famous ghost would be Aaron Burr.  He served as Vice President under Thomas Jefferson and is best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804.  It is said that he roams the West Village. Burr’s spectral activity is focused particularly on one  restaurant,” One if By Land, Two if By Sea”, which is located in a  Barrow Street building that was once Burr’s carriage house!

I highly recommend that you stop by the History Channel’s site and check out the wonderful videos, games and other information pertaining to Halloween!

The Halloween Game

Have a Great Day!

Ellen

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