When we think of ghost stories, we may visualize old castles and graveyards with haunting spirits lurking in the shadows. For many, such stories are nothing more than fantasy.
But some people are more open-minded about paranormal activity and try to understand the unknown. Are these lost souls from the past? If so, who are they and why do they remain?
These 10 prostitutes—whose sadness, despair, anger, and energy apparently refuse to depart this world—may haunt the unsuspecting for centuries to come.
10 Miss Elizabeth And Her Infant Child
At the beginning of the 20th century, Goldfield, Nevada, was a prosperous mining town where thousands settled with the dream of striking it rich. In 1908, the Goldfield Hotel was built over a mine shaft and remains there to this day along with some of the hotel’s resentful spirits.
Aside from a confirmed suicide in the hotel in 1915, which has been associated with ghostly sightings, the most disturbing story occurred in Room 109. George Winfield, the hotel’s original owner, was having an affair with a prostitute named Elizabeth who unintentionally became pregnant. Amid fears of public scrutiny, Winfield chained Elizabeth to a radiator in Room 109, keeping her hidden from public view.
After the baby was born, Winfield allegedly threw his newborn down the mining shaft in the basement and left Elizabeth chained to the radiator to die. Ever since, many visitors have reported seeing Elizabeth in Room 109 and feeling her icy presence. A baby’s cries have also been heard echoing from that room.
9 Miss Sammie Dean
In the 1920s and ’30s, Jerome, Arizona, was a picturesque mining town that encapsulated the image of the Old West. The streets were lined with saloons, drunken miners, and brothels in the town’s red-light district.
One of the ladies of the night was Sammie Dean. She was stunningly beautiful even by today’s standards and acquired many admirers. On July 10, 1931, Dean’s lifeless body was found on the floor of her room in a section of town known as “Husbands’ Alley.” She had been beaten and strangled to death.
Initially, police suspected that robbery was the motive because Dean was known to carry a large amount of cash on her at all times. When her body was found, all the cash was missing from her purse.
In the years following Dean’s death, reports of apparitions in “Husbands’ Alley” began to surface. Some claimed that a female spirit roamed during the night. There were also reports of spectral voices in the empty inns and alleyways, slamming doors, the persistent scent of perfume, strange shadows, the feeling of being watched, and phantom footsteps echoing down the cobblestone and dirt roads.
8 Miss Lilly
The Franklin Hotel
Since the 1850s, the Franklin Hotel in Strawberry Point, Iowa, has had its share of visitors, some of whose souls may still remain. Given the hotel’s history, many people flock to it in the hopes of spotting Lilly, the town’s most well-known resident.
According to local legend, Lilly was a prostitute who “entertained” in Room 7 at the hotel. Although it is unknown how she met her demise, her spirit is not at rest.
Many visitors have reported sensing a sad, uncomfortable presence in Room 7 as well as hearing strange noises. One gentleman who had lived in the hotel for 42 years often heard singing and moaning coming from the room above him even though the room was vacant at the time.
Perhaps the most intriguing story comes from Doug Schmidt, a skeptic and co-owner of the hotel. Late one night, he saw a woman in a long lavender gown walking from the lobby to the dining room. When he told the woman that they were closed, she walked off into the next room, mysteriously vanishing into thin air.
To this day, Schmidt can’t explain what he experienced. But he knows what he saw.
7 Miss Peggy
Peggy the ghost is a prostitute from Zimbabwe who roams the streets at night looking for rides as well as a man’s company. Although it may just be folklore, this tale is one of Zimbabwe’s most well-known mysteries. It has spanned decades and involved countless witness testimonies about the midnight beauty.
According to legend, Peggy was a well-known prostitute in Highfield, one of Harare’s oldest suburbs. In her late twenties, the beautiful Peggy was brutally murdered by a jealous client, which caused her troubled spirit to haunt the dark roads by hitchhiking past midnight.
It is said that when men stop to pick her up, one of two things happens: They are either deathly surprised by the woman’s sudden, mysterious disappearance from their vehicle, or they wake up at the local cemetery, presumably where she was buried.
6 Miss Rosie
The Silver Queen Hotel
Virginia City, Nevada, was the most important industrial mining city between Denver and San Francisco in the 19th century. These days, Virginia City is better known for the endless tales that spur ghost tours around the spooky historic town.
One particularly frightening location is the Silver Queen Hotel, which was built in the 1800s. It is said that room 11 is the most haunted. There, a prostitute named Rosie committed suicide.
Many people believe that Rosie is still there. Hundreds of guests have heard inexplicable whispering in the empty halls late at night, doors slamming by themselves, footsteps on the empty balcony, growls coming from Room 11, and more. Items mysteriously fall off shelves, too.
As a significant number of patrons have fled the hotel in fear during the early morning hours, it suggests that Rosie’s restless soul still lingers there.
5 Miss Julia Lowell
In southern Arizona sits a quiet, sleepy town named Bisbee. In 1902, the four-story, Victorian-style Copper Queen Hotel was constructed, and it remains Arizona’s oldest operational hotel to this day.
Many who live in or visit Bisbee are familiar with the stories of ghostly sightings within the walls of this historic building. As proclaimed on the hotel’s website, the most famous sightings are those of Miss Julia Lowell.
In the 1920s and ’30s, Miss Lowell was a prostitute who worked in the hotel. Ultimately, she fell in love with one of her clients. When her love was not reciprocated, she committed suicide in her room.
To this day, numerous guests report ghostly paranormal activity, specifically on the third and fourth floors of the hotel. Some guests have heard whispers or felt a tap on their shoulders. Others have witnessed levitating keys as well as doors mysteriously locking and unlocking.
This paranormal activity initially causes patrons to flock to the hotel. But many end their stays by running from the grounds of the estate.
4 Miss Josie Arlington
After losing her mother in 1868, Josie Arlington seemed destined for a life of pain and hardship when she became an orphan at four years old. Her hometown of New Orleans provided no respite for her struggles, so she turned to prostitution in the red-light district in her teens.
She made a name for herself and became known for being violent and aggressive. On one occasion, she supposedly bit off the ears and lips of a fellow prostitute. Later, her brother was murdered by a pimp who worked in the same brothel as she did.
Eventually, Josie decided to change her life from one of despair to one of fortune and respect. In time, she built the finest bordello in all of New Orleans. It catered to the elite, and she became quite successful and wealthy.
Regardless, she was never accepted by the upper class, which was something that she desperately wanted. Resentful at how she was treated in life, she became determined to be buried in one of the flashier, more expensive tombs in Metairie Cemetery.
Following her death in 1914, apparitions began to appear at her tomb, which quickly became the busiest spot for paranormal activity in the cemetery. Her tomb was said to have burst into flames in front of terrified spectators, so it was dubbed the “flaming tomb.”
In time, witnesses claimed to have seen the statue in front of the tomb physically move by itself. Although there was no verifiable evidence of paranormal activity at the site, hundreds continued to gather at her grave in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the paranormal.
As a result, cemetery officials exhumed Josie’s body and moved it to an unknown location, where it remains to this day. Even now, some visitors claim to have witnessed the urns glowing red at the tomb where Josie once laid and gravediggers continue to report the statue moving from its original position.
3 The Ole Tavern
In Jackson, Mississippi, the historic Ole Tavern on George Street quickly fills with loyal patrons on the weekends. But when the bar closes after hours and only a few employees remain, souls from the bitter past run amok.
According to the endless stories, the bar’s employees and owners have questioned their beliefs at times and fled from the premises in fear. Supposedly, chairs and desks move around by themselves upstairs, lights turn on in vacant rooms, and inexplicable female voices speak on the telephone.
In the early morning hours when the tavern is closed and the padlocks are bolted, an employee may see someone—perhaps a ghost—sitting at the bar. In the 1970s when the tavern was a brothel, a prostitute was found dead there.
Her cause of death is still unknown, but the tavern’s owner believes that it was either suicide or murder. Could this be the female voice on the other end of the phone reaching out in despair from beyond the grave?
2 The Headless Woman
The Glen Tavern Inn
Since the early 1910s, the Glen Tavern Inn in Santa Paula, California, has hosted numerous celebrities, including Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, and Rin Tin Tin, Hollywood’s beloved German shepherd. Despite the inn’s history and the famous people who once graced the grounds, many people are more drawn to the hotel by the numerous stories of ghosts who refuse to leave.
The stories include a girl with blonde braids who wanders into the rooms of unsuspecting guests and is often mistaken for a lost child. Contractors have also fled the property after seeing children play in the halls and then disappear into the walls.
Guests who want to catch a glimpse of the paranormal are especially drawn to Rooms 218, 306, and 307. Supposedly, the doors of these vacant rooms have locked their dead bolts by themselves from the inside on a few occasions.
However, the most chilling stories come from Room 307 where the spirit of a woman still lingers today. Apparently, the unidentified woman was a prostitute who was murdered and beheaded.
Several days later, a maid found her body stuffed in a closet. Reports of cold chills, knocking sounds, echoing voices, and an eerie mist persist to this day.
1 The Lady In Red
The Mizpah Hotel
Like many establishments founded during the mining rush of early 20th-century Nevada, the Mizpah Hotel was constructed for settlers in 1907. It remained Nevada’s tallest building until 1929. The hotel hosted infamous guests such as Wyatt Earp and Howard Hughes. However, the most famous guest to date is Evelyn Mae Johnson (aka “The Lady in Red“).
According to legend, Johnson lived in the hotel and worked there as a prostitute under the name “Rose.” In 1914, a jealous ex-lover unexpectedly walked in on her while she was “entertaining” another man. This sent the ex-lover into a murderous rage.
Rose was chased out of her room and into the hallway where she was strangled and stabbed repeatedly. Since her murder, she has been seen in the hotel in the hallways, inside the elevator, and in Room 504 where she once lived.
The sightings of the Lady in Red are often accompanied by a memento left behind from the other side—a single pearl placed on a nightstand or pillow, perhaps to remind the living that she’s still there.
Publisher: Adam R. Romos
These days, it’s common knowledge that hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers can be a very dangerous and risky practice. However, while it’s heavily discouraged now, there was once a time when hitchhiking was very common, and people had few qualms about using it as a form of travel.
Unfortunately, creepy tales like these are the reason people are now more aware of the dangers of hitchhiking. These stories wound up ending in tragic murders, mysterious disappearances, and even brushes with the supernatural.
10 The Orange Sock Murders
It takes a very brazen killer to abduct and murder two separate women at two separate locations at two separate times on the same night, but that’s exactly what happened in 1982 near the town of Breckenridge, Colorado. At the time, Breckenridge was known as a safe community, so hitchhiking was pretty much a daily occurrence for many of its residents. On the evening of January 6, 29-year-old Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer phoned her husband, Jeff, to let him know she was hanging out with friends at a local pub and would get a ride home. Bobbie never arrived. Jeff went searching for her the next morning and eventually found his wife’s body in a remote field. Bobbie had been shot to death. Curiously, an orange sock that did not belong to her was found nearby.
Six months later, the body of another missing woman, 21-year-old Annette Kay Schnee, was discovered in a wooded area, 21 kilometers (13 mi) from where Bobbie was found. Annette had been sexually assaulted and shot to death. She also happened to be wearing the matching orange sock from Bobbie’s murder scene. It’s believed that the same perpetrator had picked up Bobbie and Annette at different points throughout the evening while they were hitchhiking and murdered them. Annette’s orange sock was likely left behind in the killer’s vehicle and somehow fell out at the location Bobbie was murdered. Jeff Oberholtzer was initially considered a suspect, since his business card was found in Annette’s wallet. However, this turned out to be an odd coincidence: Jeff had picked up Annette hitchhiking on a previous occasion and given her his card. Years later, Jeff was officially cleared as a suspect, but the “Orange Sock Murders” remain unsolved.
9 ‘Lydia, The Vanishing Lady’
One of the most popular ghost stories is the urban legend of the “vanishing phantom hitchhiker,” where a motorist picks up a hitchhiker who mysteriously vanishes without explanation. A particularly enduring version of this tale involves a ghostly hitchhiker from North Carolina known as “Lydia, the Vanishing Lady.” The story goes that on a rainy night in 1923, a young woman named Lydia traveled to Raleigh to attend a dance with her boyfriend. The couple was driving home to High Point on Highway 70 when they collided with another car at a narrow underpass. Lydia was killed instantly and happened to be wearing a white evening gown that night. Ever since then, there have been numerous sightings of a female hitchhiker at that location wearing that exact outfit.
One notable sighting involved a motorist named Burke Hardison. He was driving near the underpass one night when he saw a woman in a white evening gown signaling for help. Hardison picked her up, and the frantic woman said she needed to get home to High Point, since her mother would be worried. She provided her home address, but when Hardison arrived at the house, the girl completely vanished. Nonetheless, Hardison decided to go knock on the door. A woman answered. After hearing Hardison’s story, she told him that her daughter, Lydia, had been killed in an accident at the underpass. Apparently, Hardison was not the first person who had shown up at Lydia’s house to describe this experience. While the story sounds like a folk tale, researchers have uncovered a death certificate of a 19-year-old High Point girl named Lydia, who died in a car accident on December 31, 1923. The legend of Lydia, the Vanishing Lady continues to live on.
8 The Albert Brust Abductions
In July 1973, 15-year-old runaway Mary Ellen Jones went to the Fort Lauderdale police with a horrifying story. She had been hitchhiking with her 16-year-old boyfriend, Mark Matson, when they were picked up by a middle-aged man calling himself “Eric.” Eric took the young couple to his home, but then forced them to perform sex acts at gunpoint while he took photographs. At one point, Mark made a grab for Eric’s gun but was shot three times. Mary was then held captive for the next 24 hours. She was chained up and repeatedly raped inside a makeshift soundproof “torture chamber.” Surprisingly, Eric decided to let Mary go but warned her not to share her story. Nonetheless, Mary went to the police, but after contacting the girl’s mother and learning that Mary was a known pathological liar, they completely disbelieved her story.
Days later, residents in a suburban Miami neighborhood became suspicious when they noticed that one of their neighbors, a 44-year-old building inspector named Albert Brust, had been sitting outside in a lawn chair for two straight days and did not even move when a thunderstorm hit the area. They soon discovered that Brust was dead. He had taken his own life by drinking chocolate milk laced with cyanide. A search of Brust’s house soon uncovered some horrible secrets. The remains of Mark Matson’s dismembered body were found encased behind a slab of concrete inside a shower stall. A further search uncovered Brust’s hidden torture chamber, proving that Mary Ellen Jones’s story was completely true. Brust’s journal was also found, containing his fantasies about holding a girl captive as his sex slave. In his last entry, Brust expressed immense disappointment with the actual experience, motivating his decision to commit suicide.
7 The Disappearance Of Connie Smith
During the summer of 1952, 10-year-old Wyoming resident Connie Smith was attending Camp Sloane in Salisbury, Connecticut. On the morning of July 16, Connie had a violent altercation with some other campers, leaving her with a bloody nose. Connie then said she was heading to the dispensary to return an ice pack, but she decided to leave the camp instead. Several witnesses reported Connie asking for directions to the town of Lakeville, about 0.8 kilometers (0.5 mi) away. She was last seen holding out her thumb to hitchhike on US Route 44, before she completely vanished. Camp counselors didn’t notice that Connie was missing until they found the ice pack inside her tent that afternoon.
Connie’s grandfather was governor of Wyoming at the time and organized an extensive search campaign, but no trace of her was found. It was believed that Connie had become homesick at the camp and was leaving to visit her parents, but neither of them ever saw her. In 1958, hunters in Arizona found the skeletal remains of an unidentified young girl who would become known as “Little Miss X.” Four years later, the Connecticut State Police received an anonymous letter claiming that Little Miss X was Connie Smith. Little Miss X’s teeth were soon compared with Connie’s dental records, but the results were inconclusive. In recent years, Connie’s surviving relatives have submitted their DNA for a comparison, but unfortunately, Little Miss X’s remains can no longer be found. After more than 60 years, Connie Smith’s fate remains a mystery.
6 The Castration Murders
On June 12, 1982, 22-year-old Marty Shook left his mother’s home in Sparks, Nevada to travel to Colorado. He was planning to hitchhike to reach his destination. Two days later, a fly fisherman discovered Marty’s nude body near Daniels Canyon in Wasatch County, Utah. He was shot in the back of the head with a .38-caliber pistol. Most disturbingly, Marty’s genitals had been removed and were missing from the scene. The case would remain cold until 1989, when authorities connected it to the murder of another hitchhiker the previous year.
On August 19, 1981, the nude body of 30-year-old Wayne Rifendifer was found in a wooded area near Williamsburg, Pennsylvania. Like Marty Shook, he had been shot in the back of the head, and his genitals were removed and never found. The two victims physically resembled each other, and ballistics tests would eventually determine that they had both been shot with the same .38-caliber weapon. Authorities also looked into the possibility that these two murders were connected to another unsolved homicide.
On November 24, 1986, the nude body of 26-year-old hitchhiker Jack Andrews was found at a rest stop in Litchfield, Connecticut. Even though he had not been shot, and the cause of death was never determined, the victim’s genitals were missing. His nipples were also removed, and both legs had been severed at mid-thigh. While the same person may have been responsible for all three murders, they remain unsolved.5The Murder Of Phillip Fraser.
5 The Murder Of Phillip Fraser
In 1988, 25-year-old Philip Fraser had plans to attend The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. On June 14, he left his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to drive to Evergreen and complete his enrollment. Fraser first had to cross the border and drive through Canada. On June 18, he stopped at a cafe in the rural community of 40 Mile Flats, British Columbia. It was there that he crossed paths with an unidentified male hitchhiker, who asked Fraser for a ride. According to an eyewitness, Fraser initially turned down the man’s request and started driving away but suddenly reconsidered and stopped his car to let the man climb inside. This would be the last time Phillip Fraser was seen alive. On July 27, Fraser’s body was found in a remote gravel pit near the community of Stewart. Many of his personal possessions, including his birth certificate and passport, were never recovered.
Approximately eight hours after Fraser was seen in 40 Mile Flats, a couple from the town of Kitwanga pulled over to help a motorist with car trouble. The man was driving Fraser’s vehicle and matched the description of the mysterious hitchhiker at the cafe. He spent the night at the couple’s home and provided them with a personal backstory that was remarkably similar to Fraser’s. It was apparent that the hitchhiker had taken over Fraser’s identity. He also made an attempt to sell Fraser’s car, but when the couple turned him down, the man fixed the vehicle and went on his way. Twelve hours later, the vehicle was abandoned and set on fire at a car wash in Prince George. The hitchhiker was not seen again and has never been identified.
4 The ‘Triangle Of Death’
During the 1980s, the Marne region of France became known as the “triangle of death.” A large number of young army conscripts from the three military garrisons in the area wound up vanishing without a trace, often while hitchhiking. The first known victim was Patrick Dubois, a 19-year-old conscript from the 4th Dragoons regiment at Mourmelon Le Grand, who mysteriously disappeared on January 5, 1980. Over the next seven years, a total of eight young men went missing in the region. Most of them were army conscripts, and the only victim to be recovered was a 20-year-old Irish hitchhiker named Trevor O’Keefe, who was found strangled to death in August 1987. One year later, authorities uncovered a likely culprit: Pierre Chanal, a former commando who was the senior warrant officer of the 4th Dragoons.
Chanal’s military career came to an end after a police patrol happened upon his camper van parked by the side of a country road. They discovered Chanal videotaping the rape and torture of a young Hungarian hitchhiker he had abducted. Chanal was given a 10-year sentence for the crime, but was released on probation in 1995. Since Chanal had become a suspect in the “triangle of death” disappearances, DNA testing was eventually performed on his camper van. Traces of DNA evidence were found that matched Trevor O’Keefe and two of the other missing victims.
In 2001, Chanal was charged with the three murders and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of all eight victims. On October 15, 2003, shortly after the start of his trial, Chanal decided to commit suicide in the prison hospital by slashing an artery in his leg.
3 The ‘Walhalla Hitchhiker’
Much like Lydia, the Vanishing Lady in North Carolina, the state of South Carolina has its own famous urban legend about a vanishing phantom hitchhiker. According to local legend, a ghostly male figure wearing a dark all-weather coat has been seen haunting Highway 107 near the city of Walhalla, South Carolina for the past several decades. He is known as the “Walhalla Hitchhiker.” Depending on which direction the vehicle is traveling, the mysterious man asks to be dropped off at either the Piedmont Overlook or Moody Springs after he is picked up. Given that he often appears on dark and stormy nights, his decision to visit scenic tourist sights seems bizarre. After the hitchhiker arrives at his destination, he exits the vehicle without saying a word and promptly vanishes without a trace.
One popular theory is that the Walhalla Hitchhiker is the ghost of a deceased pilot named Larry Stephens. Sometime during the 1950s, Stephens and his plane took off from Greenville to go on one of his typical sightseeing excursions through Oconee County. Tragically, a violent hailstorm hit the area while Stephens was airborne, seriously limiting his visibility. Stevens wound up crashing into some mountains near Highway 107, in the Walhalla area. Even though remnants of Stephens’s plane were found, his body was never recovered. According to eyewitness reports, the Walhalla Hitchhiker bears a striking resemblance to Larry Stephens and is dressed in the same clothing he was believed to be wearing at the time of his death.
2 The Disappearance Of Amy Billig
During her teen years, it was not uncommon for 17-year-old Amy Billig to hitchhike through the Miami area. On the afternoon of March 5, 1974, Amy left her home in Coconut Grove. She planned to visit her father’s office and was last seen hitchhiking along Main Highway. She never arrived at her destination. Amy’s camera was later found at the Wildwood exit on Florida’s Turnpike, but she was never heard from again. Throughout the next several years, Amy’s mother, Susan Billig, would be dragged on a bizarre journey as she attempted to find her daughter. A biker named Paul Branch approached Susan and told her that Amy had been abducted and was being held captive by a biker gang called “The Pagans.”
Susan searched all across the country for Amy but could never find her and was often led on wild goose chases by the people she encountered. Paul Branch died in 1997 but supposedly gave a deathbed confession to his wife. He claimed that Amy actually overdosed on the same day she disappeared while attending a party held by The Pagans. They subsequently disposed of her body by feeding it to some alligators in the Florida Everglades.
For over 20 years, Susan was also tormented by harassing phone calls from a man named Henry Johnson Blair, who claimed Amy was being held captive by a sex slavery ring. After Blair was arrested and charged in 1995, he claimed to know nothing about Amy’s disappearance. However, Amy’s diary did contain an entry about her wanting to run away to South America with a man named “Hank,” which was Blair’s nickname. Unfortunately, Susan Billig passed away in 2005, without ever finding out the truth about what happened to her daughter.
1 The Murder Of The Prendergast Family
In November 1958, Thomas Prendergast from El Cajon, California picked up Carl Alfred Eder, a 16-year-old runaway hitchhiker from New York. Eder was homeless, and Prendergast felt sorry for him, so he decided to let Eder stay with him and his family until Eder got back on his feet. However, Prendergast would come to regret that decision after leaving for work on December 12. When Prendergast returned home, Eder was already standing outside the house and asked for a ride to San Diego. Prendergast complied and dropped Eder off at a service station. Prendergast then went back home again and made a horrifying discovery. His wife, Lois, was shot to death. The couple’s four children—nine-year-old David, six-year-old Thomas Jr., four-year-old Diane, and two-year-old Allen—had been murdered with a hunting knife.
Eder was captured two days later and claimed he had snapped and thrown Diane to the floor because she was making too much noise. As Mrs. Prendergast tended to her injured daughter, Eder shot her before murdering Diane and Allen. When David and Thomas Jr. returned home from school, Eder killed them, too. He was subsequently given two life sentences. In October 1974, Eder managed to escape from prison and has never been recaptured. He left behind a note which read: “I’ve done enough time and I’m leaving.”
In subsequent years, Eder was seen hanging out with motorcycle gangs and radical, left-wing, anti-government groups, and it’s speculated that one of these groups might have murdered him. However, if he is still alive, Carl Alfred Eder would be 73 years old today. There is a $20,000 reward for his capture.
Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at Cracked.com. He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently worked on a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow. Feel free to contact him here.
Japanese superstition explained the unexplainable by turning it into living things. It was a rich supernatural world where spirits lurked in every shadow and monsters walked in the footsteps of men.
10 Getting Lost At Night
According to folklore, the supernatural was as big a threat to Japanese travelers by night as were wildlife and bandits. Unless you carried a lantern, the only light to show you the way came from the Moon and stars, so it was only natural that many travelers got lost in the dark. Superstition, however, pinned their detour on a monster.
The nurikabe was a yokai—a Japanese monster—shaped like a wall that appeared in the paths of travelers. Usually invisible, it would completely impede a road, forcing them to go around it. Like many yokai, though, the nurikabe was a trickster. Even if someone tried a different path, the wall would elongate or inexplicably get up and move. It was said that anyone who encountered a nurikabe could get lost for days.
The belief that nurikabe could suddenly appear and impede a traveler’s progress was first recorded in Japan, but there is at least one account of it elsewhere. The author of the popular yokai manga GeGeGe no Kitaro has said in one of his yokai encyclopedias that he encountered a nurikabe during his military service in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Such an encounter, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt. Following in the footsteps of the historical authors of yokai encyclopedias, the author leaves a number of his stories unreferenced and likely invented them himself.
9 Mysterious Footsteps From An Empty Room
Large houses in ancient Japan were open affairs with rooms separated by shoji screens. Noise would carry and would often seem to come from strange places. When rustling noises or the sounds of footsteps came from an empty room, superstition had it that a spirit called a zashiki-warashi was inhabiting the house.
Roughly translated as “parlor child,” zashiki-warashi were child-like spirits that lived in empty rooms. They were said to be at most 12 years old and would occasionally appear to the house’s tenants. While the noises they made were mysterious and their sudden appearances would probably have given most families a shock, zashiki-warashi were said to bring good fortune and prosperity to whomever they lived with.
Unfortunately, they also took it away when they left. Zashiki-warashi moved from place to place whenever they saw fit. In one story, a family had two living with them who brought prosperity to their household while they were present. Eventually they left, however, and soon after almost the entire family died when the servants mistakenly served them a meal of poisonous mushrooms. The next family that the two zashiki-warashi moved in with, meanwhile, immediately became prosperous. Due to their association with fortune, it’s been theorized that zashiki-warashi were a device used to explain the sudden rise and fall of wealthy families.
8 Missing Children
There could be any number of reasons for the disappearance of a child, but according to ancient Japanese superstition, most missing children were spirited away by a monster called an ubume. An ubume is a bird-like creature that became a woman who kidnapped children once its feathers were plucked. Ubume were believed to be the spirits of women who died in childbirth, though they could also have died while pregnant. Either way, their attachment to their lost child lingered after death and gave them an insatiable need for one of their own, which they appeased by kidnapping one.
Another incarnation of the ubume is a topless woman carrying a baby. Appearing at dusk at crossroads and bridges, the ubume would ask passersby to hold her child while she ran an errand. The baby grew heavier and heavier until the person holding it recited a Buddhist prayer, whereupon the ubume returned and thanked them for bringing her child back into the world of the living. Still other accounts had ubume searching for guardians to care for her baby after her death, while in others she did so herself by making occasional visits into town to buy supplies with coins that turned into dried leaves after she disappeared.
7 Missing Lantern Oil
Night work was usually done by oil lamps in ancient Japan. Unfortunately for those who made their living at night, the preferred oil was fish oil, a favorite of both mice and cockroaches. The pests would drink the oil and force the worker to waste time fending them off. Sometimes, though, when the loss of oil was thought to be too much for the critters to have stolen, superstition held that it was taken by a monster called the himamushi-nyudo.
It was said that the soul of a person who wasted all his free time would become a himamushi-nyudo—which roughly means “oil licker”—and interfere with the night work of others. Despite the superstition, the connection to cockroaches was not lost on yokai catalogers, and the monster was often depicted alongside cockroach symbolism. As the insect was once believed to have been born from the cracks in kama, or Japanese scythes, the himamushi-nyudo was often portrayed with cockroaches and other related symbols like mugwort and chickens, which were thought to keep the pest away. This association led to the suggestion of himamushi-nyudo being giant anthropomorphic cockroaches.
6 Dirty Ceilings And Night Chills
Without modern heating and insulation, ancient Japanese houses proved very cold in winter. Those with high ceilings also grew quite dark at night. Superstition held that both winter’s chill and the dark were caused by a monster called the tenjo-name. The creature would float in the upper reaches of the room, bringing down the temperature and obscuring the ceiling. It was a tall, bony creature with a long tongue that it used to lick the ceilings. When the tenjo-name licked the ceiling it became dirtier, not cleaner.
Even as a superstition, blaming dirty ceilings, winter chills, and darkness on a monster might sound absurd, and it’s unknown how widely believed this particular tale actually was. Modern historians now think that the author of the historic yokai encyclopedia in which the tenjo-name first appeared most likely simply invented it without any prior belief in its existence.
5 The Feeling Of Being Watched
In ancient Japan, taking shelter in an abandoned house might have been necessary for protection against the elements, but just like today it often proved an unnerving experience. It was often reported that people who slept in an abandoned house had an uncanny feeling that they were being watched by an unseen presence. Unwilling to chalk the sensation up to mere imagination, superstition held that uninvited guests were in fact being watched by the house itself. Called a mokumokuren, the old, abandoned house would sprout hundreds of eyes that would watch them ceaselessly.
As unnerving as an over-vigilant animated house sounds, the idea of the mokumokuren was somewhat tongue in cheek. It is believed to be another creation of the same artist who invented the himamushi-nyudo. While the former was rather ugly and frightening, the mokumokuren’s eyes looked more confused than sinister. The artist and cataloger Toriyama Seiken wrote in his description that it came about because the former owner of the house probably played the game of go. Both the squares on the board game and the pieces were known as “eyes” in Japanese, a joke that punned the countless eyes of the mokumokuren. More than 80 of Seiken’s yokai were invented, often to satire unscrupulous monks and ancient Japan’s red-light districts.
4 Unexplained Noises From The House
In modern Japanese, yanari means the shaking or rattling of a house, usually during an earthquake. The word itself, though, finds its origins in folklore and superstition. In the past, any strange noise that a house made was caused by a monster called a yanari shaking, hammering, and pounding at the walls. While earthquakes were common in ancient Japan, it wasn’t known that numerous low-level quakes occurred throughout the day that couldn’t be felt. When a house shook for no apparent reason, it was thought to be the yanari causing mischief.
Even modern houses make sounds as they settle into the foundation and the nightly drop in temperature causes their materials to bend, and since ancient Japanese houses were often constructed of bamboo, wood, thatch, and packed dirt, they were likely quite noisy at night. Compounding this was wind and any animal that may have crept in, which would have made the yanari quite the busy little monster.
According to ancient Japanese folklore, common animals were often more than they seemed. Foxes in particular were responsible for a variety of supernatural mischief. They usually confined themselves to common pranks, but could also be responsible for more sinister exploits ranging from arson to kidnapping. A common belief was that, after nightfall, foxes appeared as beautiful women who lured men away from their families.
One story tells of an amorous man who, while walking around town just after dark, came upon a beautiful young woman. At his insistence, she led him back to her estate and the two spent the night together. The following morning had him vowing eternal love to her and completely forgetting about his previous life. His new wife became pregnant, and nine months later she gave him a son.
Meanwhile, his family had been searching for him for almost two weeks. When they finally gave him up for dead, they prayed to the goddess Kannon to deliver them his body. Kannon answered their prayers and the man suddenly crawled out from beneath the floorboards of their storehouse while the magical family of foxes that had kidnapped him scurried away.
2 Falling Down
That someone could simply fall down from time to time didn’t seem to make much sense to the superstitious Japanese, so they held that people were knocked down by a monster. Kamaitachi, or “sickle weasels,” were packs of monstrous weasels that rode the winds and inflicted cuts and scrapes on innocent human victims.
Moving faster than the eye could see, kamaitachi worked in groups of three. The first would knock the victim down, then the second, bearing the sickles, would slash at them until a third came behind and healed the wounds. The monsters were held responsible for all sorts of tumbles, and after getting up and finding a cut, the victim would exclaim they had been cut by a sickle weasel. They were a ready excuse for cuts and scrapes that someone might not be willing to explain. Several accounts had people blaming their wounds on the sickle weasels instead of admitting what they had actually been up to.
1 Sleep Paralysis
Compared to other countries, sleep paralysis is common in Japan, with an estimated 40 percent of the population experiencing it at some point in their lives. The prevalence, however, is likely cultural rather than genetic. Called kanashibari, which roughly means “to be bound by metal,” it is considered a well-known phenomena in Japan. With a plethora of blogs and television programs about it, Japanese sleepers are simply more conditioned to recognize kanashibari than those in other parts of the world. Sometimes, though, being unable to move while lying half-awake in bed is believed to be caused by spirits.
Children all the way up to college students describe seeing ghosts or intruders coming into their rooms and pinning them down while they sleep. Children say that sleeping with a stuffed animal draws the binding ghost, as does sleeping on your back. Others say that it’s from being unkind or studying too much. As common as it is, some are fascinated by kanashibari and make a point to use these techniques to attract the horror of being bound by a “spirit.”
Everyone seems to know of at least one haunted house; as kids there was almost certainly one in our own neighbourhood. This list contains the most famous and most haunted places in the world. If you have had any experiences of a similar nature, feel free to tell us about it in the comments. I should add, before starting, that I am a skeptic; I have written this list for entertainment value.
1. Borley Rectory, Essex, England [Wikipedia]
The haunting of the Borley Rectory during the 1920s and 1930s, is undoubtedly one of the most famous in Britain, as well as being one of the most controversial. The wealth of sightings and experiences by independent witnesses, suggests that although much of the phenomena can be explained in rational terms, a percentage remains which can still be seen as inexplicable at the present time.
2. The Whaley House, California [Wikipedia]
Author deTraci Regula relates her experiences with the house: “Over the years, while dining across the street at the Old Town Mexican Cafe, I became accustomed to noticing that the shutters of the second-story windows [of the Whaley House] would sometimes open while we ate dinner, long after the house was closed for the day. On a recent visit, I could feel the energy in several spots in the house, particularly in the courtroom, where I also smelled the faint scent of a cigar, supposedly Whaley’s calling-card. In the hallway, I smelled perfume, initially attributing that to the young woman acting as docent, but some later surreptitious sniffing in her direction as I talked to her about the house revealed her to be scent-free.”
3. Raynham Hall, Norfolk, England [Wikipedia]
aynham Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. For 300 years it has been the seat of the Townshend family. The hall gave its name to the area, known as East Raynham, and is reported to be haunted, providing the scene for possibly the most famous ghost photo of all time, the famous Brown Lady descending the staircase. However, the ghost has not been reported since the photo was taken. Its most famous resident was Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1674-1738), leader in the House of Lords.
4. The Myrtles Plantation, Louisiana [Wikipedia]
The Myrtles Plantation was built in 1796 by General David Bradford and called Laurel Grove. Touted as “one of America’s most haunted homes”, the plantation is supposedly home of at least 12 ghosts. It is often reported that 10 murders occurred in the house, but historical records only indicate the murder of William Winter. Possibly the most well known of the Myrtles supposed ghosts, Chloe (sometimes Cleo) was reportedly a slave owned by Clark and Sara Woodruff. According to one story, Clark Woodruff had pressured or forced Chloe into being his mistress. Chloe and Clark were caught by Sara Woodruff, and Chloe began to listen at keyholes, trying to learn what would happen to her.
5. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia [Wikipedia]
Designed by John Haviland and opened in 1829, Eastern State is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary. Its revolutionary system of incarceration, dubbed the Pennsylvania System, originated and encouraged solitary confinement as a form of rehabilitation. On June 1st, 2007 a television show called “Most Haunted” went live to the penitentiary. Part of the group went to Al Capones cell. Two people passed out while “investigating” the prison. One member of the team, Yvette, stated that “this is the most evil place I have ever been.” They claimed to have had contact with spirits but there was no hard evidence that their claims were legitimate.
6. The Tower of London, London [Wikipedia]
Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress The Tower of London, more commonly known as the Tower of London (and historically simply as The Tower), is an historic monument in central London, England on the north bank of the River Thames. Perhaps the most well-known ghostly resident of the Tower is the spirit of Ann Boleyn, one of the wives of Henry VIII, who was also beheaded in the Tower in 1536. Her ghost has been spotted on many occasions, sometimes carrying her head, on Tower Green and in the Tower Chapel Royal.
7. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Kentucky [Wikipedia]
Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in Louisville, Kentucky, opened in 1910 as a two-story hospital to accommodate 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. It has been popularized on television as being one of the “most haunted” hospitals in the eastern United States, and was seen on ABC/FOX Family Channel’s Scariest Places On Earth as well as VH1’s Celebrity Paranormal Project. It was also seen on the Sci Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters. Ghost investigators who have ventured into Waverly have reported a host of strange paranormal phenomena, including voices of unknown origin, isolated cold spots and unexplained shadows. Screams have been heard echoing in its now abandoned hallways, and fleeting apparitions have been encountered.
8. The Queen Mary, California [Wikipedia]
RMS Queen Mary is an ocean liner that sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for Cunard Line (then Cunard White Star Line). The Queen Mary was purchased by the city of Long Beach, California in 1967 and transformed into a hotel. The most haunted area of the ship is the engine room where a 17-year-old sailor was crushed to death trying to escape a fire. Knocking and banging on the pipes around the door has been heard and recorded by numerous people. In what is now the front desk area of the hotel, visitors have seen the ghost of a “lady in white.” Ghosts of children are said to haunt the ship’s pool.
9. The White House, Washington DC [Wikipedia]
The home of the presidents of the United States. President Harrison is said to be heard rummaging around in the attic of the White House, looking for who knows what. President Andrew Jackson is thought to haunt his White House bedroom. And the ghost of First Lady Abigail Adams was seen floating through one of the White House hallways, as if carrying something. The most frequently sighted presidential ghost has been that of Abraham Lincoln. Eleanor Roosevelt once stated she believed she felt the presence of Lincoln watching her as she worked in the Lincoln bedroom. Also during the Roosevelt administration, a young clerk claimed to have actually seen the ghost of Lincoln sitting on a bed pulling off his boots.
10. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland [Wikipedia]
Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted spots in Scotland. And Edinburgh itself has been called the most haunted city in all of Europe. On various occasions, visitors to the castle have reported a phantom piper, a headless drummer, the spirits of French prisoners from the Seven Years War and colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War – even the ghost of a dog wandering in the grounds’ dog cemetery.
Author: Jamie Frater