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Web Hauntings

Get your Halloween heebie-jeebies online and off

October 25, 1999
Web posted at: 5:13 p.m. EDT (2113 GMT)

(CNN) -- While interpretations differ on the Old World origins and details of Halloween, it's clear that worries about the paranormal at the end of October are nothing new. It's not just you. Relax.

Most analysis seems to agree that concepts of such annual unpleasantness began thousands of years ago when Druids -- the priest class of Irish Celts -- marked the end of summer on October 31. They kicked off their new year on November 1 with a rousing Festival of Samhain ("SOW-an"), sometimes spelled Samhuinn, and probably meaning "summer's end."

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  • Message board: Haunted places

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  • In the fifth century B.C., Celtic tradition seems to have taught people that on the night of the 31st, those who had died during the previous year were allowed to return to Earth. They were looking for comely bodies to spend the next year in. Since being possessed was considered something less than a positive experience, people dressed in frightening costumes to ward off these free-range spirits.

    In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints' Day to replace some pagan carryings-on with something Christian. At that point, though, All Saints' Day was was held on May 13. Pope Gregory III, who wore the "shoes of the Fisherman" from 731 to 741, changed the date to November 1. And the preceding night, October 31, was known as "All Hallows' Eve," the basis for the eventual term "Hallowe'en."

    The Catholic Church followed All Saints' Day with All Souls' Day -- a time to intercede with prayer for dead friends and relatives whose souls hadn't been adequately purified.

    Today, rather than making a shambles of your reputation by running around the neighborhood dressed as a wild boar -- consider accessing the Internet. No, not to appease wandering spirits (except maybe in the chat rooms), but to find out about visiting places said to be haunted.

    If ghost-busting always has seemed your lost career, or if you love those scary stories that always seem to have some basis in truth, there are several sites awaiting your clicks.

    Since you've knocked on our cyber-door, let us treat you to a look at some of the tricks we've discovered.

    Haunted places
    Haunted Places  
    SPECTRE Search  
    Prairie ghosts
    "Ghosts of the Prairie"  

    Spooky spots of the world

    You may live around the corner from a haunted place and not even know it. Or maybe you heard that a nearby landmark is inhabited by a ghost, but you've never learned the story behind it. Some of those mysteries may be explained at Haunted Places.

    The site has a "Paranormal Travel Guide" that gives state-by-state listings of locations reported to be supernaturally ... challenged. The public library in Bernardsville, New Jersey, for example, is said to have a "ghost so active, the staff issued it a library card." The California listing has a special link to the location of such "Hollywood Ghosts" as Marilyn Monroe, Rudolph Valentino and Jean Harlow.

    A section on "International Haunted Places" calls Singapore "Asia's most haunted city." It tells of an unfortunate banshee in Scotland that shows up to wash the clothes of those who are about to die. It recounts the legend of a Barbados mausoleum in which the coffins of family members buried in the early 1800s are said to sometimes line up vertically along the walls of the locked vault.

    For a directory of haunted lodgings and restaurants in the United States, SPECTRE Search has a regional breakdown. It includes a few warnings too, such as one for the Hayloft Tavern in Plymouth, Indiana. The site states: "If you visit this restaurant and smell something like burnt, wet wood, stay alert. This is the sign that the old farmer who burned to death in a barn formerly on the site is about to appear."

    "Ghosts of the Prairie" also has an extensive listing of places said to attract the paranormal, including what author Troy Taylor considers the "Top 10 Most Haunted Places in America." There's also a section that focuses on "Haunted Chicago," which has the lowdown on gangster Al Capone as well as the legend of Mary, the ghost of Resurrection Cemetery.

        10 'Most Haunted' Places in America

    1. Alcatraz -- San Francisco, California
    2. Bachelor's Grove Cemetery -- near Midlothian, Illinois
    3. The Bell Witch Cave -- Adams, Tennessee
    4. Dudleytown -- northwestern Connecticut
    5. Gettysburg National Battlefield -- southern Pennsylvania
    6. The Lemp Mansion -- St. Louis, Missouri
    7. The Myrtles Plantation -- St. Francisville, Louisiana
    8. The Old Slave House (Hickory Hill) -- Junction, Illinois
    9. The Whaley House -- San Diego, California
    10. The Winchester Mansion -- San Jose, California

    Source: Ghosts of the Prairie


    Salem witch-hunting made easy

    National Geographic
    Moonlight Road
    The Moonlit Road  
    Castle of Spirits
    Castle of Spirits  
    The Shadowlands  

    Salem, Massachusetts, gained a notorious reputation for the witch trials that took place in the 1690s under the Puritans. Twenty-five people were executed in the hysteria. And of course, we wouldn't know anything about witch hunts today, would we? So National Geographic has created a site that gives historical background on the period as well as an interactive game that puts you in the shoes of the accused. Without even having to audition for a role in a production of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," you can see how it might feel to be accused of witchcraft, thrown into jail and subjected to grueling questioning before your peers. What a lark.

    If your broom is warmed up, the site also has a travel guide with information on places to visit that document the trials, such as the Salem Witch Museum, Salem Village Witchcraft Victim's Memorial, Witch Dungeon Museum and Summit of Gallows Hill, where some scholars believe accused witches were hanged.

    Spooky Southern ghost stories

    The American Deep South is a world-renowned crossroads of eerie ghost stories and disturbing folktales. Each month The Moonlit Road offers several tales from regional storytellers accompanied by cultural background information. You can read the text or listen to an audio reading of the title work, "The Moonlit Road," by Ambrose Bierce, with music by Michael Thomas. That story is about murder and lost souls in Tennessee.

    Other stories are on the site from Georgia and Mississippi -- along with some rapturously atmospheric pictures of Spanish moss, honey. Adjust your browser to a little brighter setting than normal to see into the darkness of the poetics to be had here.

    Another of October's hair-raising selections, "The Bell Witch Cave", comes from Adams, Tennessee. It's the story of a girl who goes looking for the witch who was said to have terrorized the Bell family in the 1800s. The cultural background page relates the "real" Bell Witch incident and explains how to visit the so-called haunted cave.

    Bermuda Triangle, Nessie and other mysteries

    The Castle of Spirits site has, among many categories, information about "Mysterious Things." That's not a reference to your next-door neighbors, but to such celebrated phenomena as the supposed paranormal doings in the Bermuda Triangle. In that region of the Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida, ships and planes are said by some to have vanished; people who were aboard them are said to have traveled in time; and Hollywood has certainly fished up plenty of inspiration for B-grade plots.

    The site also elaborates on the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately dubbed Nessie.

    According to the site, a dinosaur-like creature is alleged by believers (St. Augustine among them) to lurk in around Urquhart ("ARE-kart") Castle in Scotland. The entity is thought sometimes to hide in underwater caves. The site goes through the history of sightings and gives links to the official Legend of Nessie Web site, where you can view sonar pictures of what some researchers think might be the "monster."

    Conducting ghost hunts

    Infamous haunts
    Tell us about the spooky places you've visited, online or off

    If you think there's a specter harassing you -- and you'd like to get proof -- The "Ghosts and Hauntings" category on The Shadowlands Web site offers guidelines on conducting a safe ghost hunt.

    It lists the best time to go (9 p.m. to 6 a.m. -- this seems logical except in Iceland in the summertime), popular haunts to investigate and equipment to bring. One of the pricier pieces of gear suggested is an EMF Detector, which is supposed track down a ghost by reading electromagnetic fields.

    The site has pictures and video of what are said to be ghostly occurrences and more than 1,100 stories of paranormal encounters submitted by visitors. The Shadowlands also lists names of ghost-hunting organizations around the United States, maybe useful in your own paranormal junkets.

    Happy Samhain.


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    Pursuits: Haunted dinners
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    Haunted Places
    SPECTRE Search
    "Ghosts of the Prairie"
              "Top 10 Most Haunted Places in America"
              "Haunted Chicago"
    National Geographic
    Salem Witch Museum
    The Moonlit Road
              "The Bell Witch Cave"
    Castle of Spirits
              Bermuda Triangle
              Loch Ness Monster
    Legend of Nessie
    The Shadowlands
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