HOLLYWOOD CREATES MANY spooky films that can be great fun to watch, but there’s nothing fun about these scariest hauntings. Unexplained things… unspeakable things… have terrorized homes that were once as quiet and normal as yours or mine. From some unfathomable place, dark and sinister forces have crept into our reality with a mission of disturbance, fright and even violence. Here are some of the creepiest true accounts of hauntings ever recorded.
THE PROCTOR HAUNTING
Have you ever spent the night in a house reputed to be haunted? This story could make you reconsider.
It was the autumn of 1834 when the Proctors, a Quaker family, began to notice disturbances in their house near Tyneside in northern England. Every member of the family complained of hearing footsteps and whistling that could not be accounted for. The sound of a clock being wound could not be explained. Over a six-year period, the intensity of the haunting increased. The stomping of angry footsteps echoed throughout the house, contrasted by faint whisperings. And then there were the apparitions. The white figure of a strange woman was seen in a window by a neighbor, and then seen in other rooms of the house by the Proctors. A disembodied white face appeared over a stair railing, seeming to watch the family.
The Proctor’s plight was known throughout the area, and then, as now, there were skeptics who were certain they could explain it all away. On July 3, 1840, Edward Drury, a local doctor, volunteered to spend a night in the house with his colleague, T. Hudson, while the Proctors were away. Dr. Drury armed himself with pistols and waited on the third floor landing, unafraid of what he was sure were mundane house noises. Less than an hour into his vigil, Drury began to hear soft footfalls, then a knocking and an echoing cough. Hudson had fallen asleep. But at about 1 a.m., Dr. Drury watched in horror as a closet door slowly swung open out of which floated toward him the ghostly lady in white. Drury screamed and charged the phantom, succeeding only in tripping over his friend Hudson. What next happened the doctor could not recall. “I have since learned,” he later wrote, “that I was carried downstairs in an agony of fear and terror.”
Some years later the Proctors could stand no more of the unexplained manifestations and vacated the house in 1847. The building was later torn down.
THE FREEBORN HAUNTING
If a previous owner has died in the house in which you now reside, you might want to think twice before you redecorate.
After Mrs. Meg Lyons died suddenly in her Bakersfield, California house, it had remained untouched when Mrs. Frances Freeborn moved in during the month of November, 1981. Every piece of Mrs. Lyons’ furniture was just as she left it. Her clothes still filled the closets and dressers. Eager to make the house her own, Mrs. Freeborn set about cleaning out the house and refurbishing it to her liking. And that’s when the trouble started.
The first unsettling mystery was a loud thumping noise coming from the kitchen area, which Freeborn at first dismissed as noisy plumbing. But then there was other strangeness. Freeborn habitually closed all doors and cabinets before retiring to bed, only to find them wide open in the morning. Lights would be switched on by unseen hands while Freeborn was out of the house. She tried to take these curious occurrences in stride, but was convinced a paranormal force was at play when she tried to hang a particular picture – a triptych (three photos in one frame) of pre-Civil War women.
The morning after hanging it, Freeborn was puzzled to find it on the floor, but neatly propped against the wall. Figuring it had merely fallen (and luckily not broken), she re-hung it. In fact, five times she tried to hang the picture, and each time it was taken down and set against the wall. A week or so later, following an impulse, she hung the picture in a spare bedroom much lower on the wall and too close to the light switch than she actually preferred. But this time the picture stayed put. Why? When Luke Cowley, the dead Mrs. Lyon’s son-in-law, visited the house, he remarked that Mrs. Lyon had hung a very similar picture in that very spot.
In 1982, as Mrs. Freeborn was preparing to redecorate the master bedroom, the poltergeist activity increased. Throughout the day that she shopped for paint and wallpaper, she was unnerved by the sensation of being watched. That night, crashing noises and loud banging in remote areas of the house kept Freeborn from sleeping. She arose from her bed at about 2 a.m. and walked to the bathroom. She ran some water at the sink to wash her hands. Suddenly, the bathroom window flew open. She closed it, returned to her bed and sat, frightened. Again the bathroom window opened and in the same instant the bedroom window crashed shut. The folding doors of one closet tore open as another closet door slammed closed. Her dog barked frantically at the terrifying spectacle.
Scared out of her wits, Freeborn’s solitary thought was to get out of that house. She picked up her dog and fled the bedroom into the hallway and ran smack into some unseen force. “There was a zone of pressure,” she later related, “a mass out in the hall, as if something ominous and ugly was concentrated there. I realized I had to get out of the house or I would die.”
Three distinct forces were in that hallway, she insisted – one to each side of her and one blocking her way out. Gathering all her courage, she shouted, “Get out of my way!” and forced her way past the dark presences. Somehow she sensed that the two entities at her sides her “surprised” that she was able to do this, and she felt that the entity in front of her was knocked back. She ran out the back door and sped away in her car… still wearing her nightgown.
THE OLD WOMAN HAUNTING
Some teenagers think it’s fun or cool to go traipsing around disrespectfully in cemeteries on Halloween. If you’ve considered such an outing, consider too that you might be disturbing those who rest there… and something might even follow you home.
A 17-year-old British girl made that mistake. It wasn’t Halloween, but the Spring of 1978 when a girl, identified only as Miss A by the Society of Psychical Research, and several of her friends decided to make their way through a local graveyard, trampling graves as they laughed and joked. Only Miss A and her family was to pay the price for that prank, however. Several nights later, Miss A awoke to see the apparition of an old woman sitting in a chair near her bed. The spirit was not transparent, and Miss A did not sense any harm from it. In the morning, she wrote off the experience as a weird dream.
But it wasn’t. For several weeks following, Miss A repeatedly saw the ghost of the old woman – sometimes in broad daylight. It would follow Miss A from room to room, hovering less than a foot above the floor. At times it watched Miss A’s every move, following her, and would freeze in place whenever she turned to confront it. And soon the encounters became more threatening.
While making tea one day, she felt an unseen force grab the tea kettle – filled with boiling water – and twist it in her hands. Miss A felt that the entity was trying to scald her. Finally, Miss A told her mother of these bizarre experiences. Mrs. A was skeptical at first – until she too saw the old woman drift across the downstairs hall and disappear into a room. The entity continued to make its presence felt. On one occasion it wrenched the vacuum cleaner from Mrs. A’s hands. It would sometimes push or pull against doors that family members were trying to open or close. Miss A’s father – the most diehard skeptic of the group – was even forced to believe when loud rapping noises awakened the entire household, and later when he could not explain water incessantly dripping from the kitchen ceiling. A plumber could find no leak.
The poltergeist activity escalated. Loud banging, unexplained snoring sounds, objects moved about. Then, it seemed, the entity attempted to make its identity known. Miss A was sitting with her father one day when she suddenly fell into a trance. She began to speak of another life – as the daughter of a French doctor in the 1800s. After this incident, Miss A’s behavior changed noticeably and she appeared to be endowed with unexplained psychic powers: she could bend the tines of a fork just by brushing them with her fingers. Doctors and other investigators could find no rational explanation for what was happening to the A family. But they could endure no more. Miss A and her family moved out of their home of 11 years.
But the ghost was to give Miss A one last life-threatening scare. Out of a nagging curiosity, Miss A returned to the empty house one day. She found the back door broken and open. She went in. She picked up the telephone to see if it was working. Suddenly, something grabbed her by the throat. Icy, unseen fingers had grabbed Miss A by the neck and were choking her. Terrified, she managed to pull herself away and ran out the front door. Needless to say, she never returned.
THE MACKIE HAUNTING
By now it must be clear to you that not all hauntings are benign. They can sometimes – although rarely – be far more physical and threatening than a fleeting shadow drawn by Casper the Friendly Ghost.
What took place at the Mackie farmhouse beginning in February, 1695, for example, is one of the most active and violent poltergeist cases on record. I was also well documented, having been witnessed and experienced by more than a dozen upstanding members of this Scottish community. Andrew Mackie, described by neighbors as “honest, civil and harmless,” lived in the modest farmhouse with his wife and children. The property had been known to be haunted, but the Mackies experienced nothing out of the ordinary there… until that February.
The attack on the Mackies began with an assault of stones and other objects, thrown by some invisible force. Several family members were struck and injured by the missiles. The family sought the counsel of Alexander Telfair, the parish minister, who upon arrival experienced first-hand the bewildering phenomena. Whatever the entity was, it “molested me mightily,” Telfair said, “threw stones and divers other things at me, and beat me several times on the Shoulders and Sides with a great Staff, so that those who were present heard the noise of the Blows.”
The hateful presence was unrelenting. The Mackies testified that it attacked their children one night in their beds, delivering forceful spankings. More than once “it would drag People about their House by their Clothes,” an investigation described. A blacksmith narrowly escaped death when a trough and plowshare were hurled at him. Small buildings on the property spontaneously burst into flames and burned to cinders. During a family prayer meeting, chunks of flaming peat pelted them. A human shape, seemingly made out of cloth, appeared, groaning, “Hush… hush.”
This being the late 17th century, the Mackies were quick to attribute the phenomena to demons. On April 9, Andrew Mackie enlisted no less than five ministers to exorcize the farmhouse of the demonic spirits. But the ministers were to have their hands full throughout the ritual. Stones hailed down on them. A few of the minister, including Telfair, claimed that something had grabbed them by the legs or feet and lifted them into the air. The clergymen were not willing to yield victory to the entity, however, continuing their exorcism efforts for more than two weeks. Then on Friday, April 26, a voice from the invisible specter declared to them, “Thou shalt be troubled ’till Tuesday.”
When that day arrived, the witnesses watched in astonishment as a dark, cloud-like shape formed in the corner of the Mackies’ barn. As they stared, the cloud grew larger and blacker until it nearly filled the entire building. Blobs of mud flew out of the cloud into the faces of the witnesses. Some were gripped by some vice-like force. And then… it vanished, just as it promised it would.