Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lore of the Ghost - Tales of Ghosts of the Famous

Hey everyone! Since we started off the week with an interview from author Ursula Bielski about children's experiences with the paranormal we thought we'd end the week with tales from times past. Please find an excerpt from author Brian Haughton's - Lore of The Ghost.

Unlike the vast majority of books on the subject, Lore of the Ghost is not a gazetteer of ghost sightings or a ghost hunter’s manual, but an investigation into human belief in the supernatural and its effect on the nature of ghosts worldwide. Please find an excerpt for your reading pleasure.

Chapter 4—Ghosts of the Famous

From a quick perusal of the literature devoted to hauntings it is obvious that it is the spirits of famous people, more than any other class of ghost, that have had the habit of returning from beyond the grave to visit the places and people they loved in life. These particularly restless specters include English kings and queens, American presidents, and Hollywood movie stars. But are reports of such illustrious ghosts really more prevalent than those of, for example, run-of-the-mill servant girls or laborers? Or is there some kind of bias either in the reporting of such phantoms or in the expectations and needs of witnesses?

As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the wives of King Henry VIII (1491–1547) are probably the most frequently reported of royal ghosts. The former royal residence of Hampton Court Palace, located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, is purportedly haunted by two of Henry VIII’s wives. Jane Seymour was Henry’s third wife (1507/9–1537). She died of septicemia just 12 days after giving birth to the future King Edward VI of England. The ghost of Jane is said to walk, clad in white and carrying a lighted candle, down the stairs and through the Silver Stick Gallery in the Palace. In stark contrast to Jane’s peaceful spirit, is the tragic phantom of Katherine Howard. Katherine Howard was Henry’s fifth wife, and was beheaded for treason and adultery on Tower Green on February 13, 1542, when still only 21 years of age. Katherine’s haunting is a re-enactment of the desperate scene said to have taken place was she was arrested on November 12, 1542. Katherine managed to break away from her guard’s clutches and ran through the gallery to the chapel where Henry was at Mass, screaming his name and pleading for mercy. Her pleas fell on deaf ears, however, and she was taken by the guards and confined to her rooms in Hampton Court to await execution. The sounds of wild shrieking and the desperate beatings of Katherine’s fists against the chapel door were said to echo though the corridors of Hampton Court Palace, until the gallery where this tragic scene took place was reopened in 1918, and the haunting apparently stopped.

Red Lion Square, a small square on the boundary of Bloomsbury, and Holborn, London, is reputedly haunted by three leading Parliamentarians—Oliver Cromwell and his colleagues John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton. The Red Lion Inn, on the Square, is said to be the place where the bodies of the three men were kept overnight before being taken to the gallows at Tyburn to undergo the ritual of “posthumous execution.” Cromwell, Lord Protector of England from 1653 to 1658, Bradshaw and Ireton had shared the responsibility for the execution of King Charles I of England on January 30, 1649. After the Restoration of King Charles II in May 1660, the remains of Cromwell (who had died of natural causes in 1658) and his colleagues were removed from Westminster Abbey, and after the macabre post-mortem ritual their heads were placed on poles at Westminster Hall as a warning to others. The ghosts of the three Parliamentarians are said to walk diagonally across Red Lion Square, apparently deep in conversation.

Kensington Palace, a royal residence near Hyde Park, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, is the haunt of King George II of England (1683–1760). The German-born King was the last reigning monarch to use the 17th century Palace. He was confined to the building due to illness and longed to return to his native Hanover, but severe storms prevented any ships from reaching England with news from Germany. King George II died at the Palace on October 25, before the messengers arrived with word from his homeland. The ghost of George II is sometimes seen staring fretfully out of a window of the Palace watching the weather-vane above the entrance for a sign that the winds have changed.

In the United States there are a number of stories of hauntings surrounding various presidents of the country. Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837), was heard stomping and cursing around the Rose Room of the White House after his death by Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln, and a woman with a keen interest in spiritualism. The ghost of Abraham Lincoln himself, U.S. President from 1861–1865, is the most often reported of White House phantoms, perhaps because of his melancholy bearing and the fact that he was the first President of the United States to be assassinated. The first person known to have witnessed Lincoln’s ghost was Grace Coolidge (1879–1957), wife of the 30th President Calvin Coolidge. The First Lady apparently saw a tall figure she thought was Lincoln gazing out of the Oval Office window over the Potomac River, as he was wont to do when President. When Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was visiting Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House in 1945 she heard a knock on her bedroom door in the dead of night. When she opened the door she found herself face to face with President Lincoln, in a black top hat and traditional dress. Queen Wilhelmina, who also had a prior interest in spiritualism, promptly fainted and when she recovered found herself lying on the floor with the strange figure nowhere to be seen.

Mary Eben, Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary, reported seeing Lincoln’s ghost sitting on the bed in the Lincoln bedroom, pulling on his boots as if preparing to go somewhere. Various members of the White House staff during the Roosevelt administration also claimed to have seen Lincoln lying on the bed. Others at the White House in later years, such as Liz Carpenter, press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States from 1963 to 1969, believed they felt Lincoln’s presence in various rooms of the building. There is also a legend that Lincoln, like a modern day King Arthur, still watches over his nation, returning to haunt the hall of the second floor of the White House whenever the United States is in danger.

Ghosts associated with show business personalities appear to be particularly active, especially in the United States, though there is one interesting early example from the U.K. British actress Lillie Langtry (1853–1929), led a high profile and somewhat scandalous life, she was at one time mistress to the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward, the future king Edward VII. Her ghost has been reported from various places including the Edward VII Suite at the luxurious Cadogan Hotel, Sloane Street, London, where Lillie’s liaisons with the Prince of Wales took place.

The haunting occurs on Christmas Day when the hotel is quiet. Langtry’s ghost, in the form of a Grey Lady, was also seen in the late 1970s at the Langtry Manor Hotel in Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. The hotel, originally called the Red House, was built in 1877 by the Prince of Wales as a home for his mistress
On Wednesday, August 25, 1926, an estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of New York City to witness the funeral of Italian born actor and romantic idol Rudolph Valentino, who had died of peritonitis two days previously, aged only 31. Understandably for such a huge and charismatic star, there have been numerous reports of Valentino’s spirit. His ghost has been reported from various places throughout southern California, including his beach house in Oxnard, the Santa Maria Inn (where he has been seen reclining on the bed), the costume department at Paramount Studios and his mansion Falcon Lair, located above Beverley Hills. Valentino’s much travelled ghost has also been witnessed near his final resting place in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park, on Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. One of the entrances into Paramount Studios, the Lemon Grove gate, is only a few feet away from the cemetery and the Italian star has been seen by security guards walking into the studio through this gate.

The original “blonde bombshell,” U.S. actress Jean Harlow is said to haunt the home she shared with her mother and stepfather on Club View Drive, west Los Angeles. Born in 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri, Harlow shot to fame in the early 1930s with films like Platinum Blond and Red Dust, but died tragically in June 1937 of uremic poisoning when still only 26 years old. The home Harlow shared with her second husband, MGM executive Paul Bern, at 9820 Easton Drive, Benedict Canyon, Beverley Hills, Los Angeles is also haunted. Bern committed suicide by shooting himself in the head (or was murdered by his deranged ex-common-law wife—accounts differ) in the couple’s bedroom of this house. His bloodied ghost was allegedly seen in the house by actress Sharon Tate who was staying there in 1966 with Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring. Tate not only claimed she saw the apparition of someone she believed was Bern but also “a human form tied to the stair rail, bleeding from slashes to the throat and quite obviously dying.” The latter image has been interpreted by many as a premonition of the brutal slayings of Tate and Sebring at the hands of Charles Manson’s followers in August of 1969.

The Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona is said to be haunted by Hollywood stars Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, who spent the first night of their honeymoon there. Lombard, who died tragically in a plane crash in January 1942, is also said to haunt the penthouse suite of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, on Hollywood Boulevard, where she once stayed with Clark Gable. In fact, the Hollywood Roosevelt is home to a plethora of old Hollywood ghosts.

Originally opened in May 1927 and financed by a group which included movie celebrities Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Mary Pickford, the hotel was temporary home for a number of movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Perhaps the best known story from the Hollywood Boulevard involves Marilyn Monroe, who stayed there early in her career for a magazine shoot. A full-length mirror which now stands in the lobby outside the elevators on the mezzanine level, once hung in suite 1200, when Monroe was in residence there. There are one or two tales that guests staring into the mirror have seen the glamorous actress’s image reflected in its glass, only to turn around and find no one there. Another movie star whose spirit remains at the Hollywood Boulevard is Montgomery Clift, who lived there for three months in 1952 during the last stages of filming From Here To Eternity. Guests and employees have occasionally reported feeling the tragic actor’s presence (he died of a heart attack on July 23, 1966, at the age of 45), others have heard bugle playing coming from his old room, Room 928, or seen him roaming around the hallways of the 9th floor.

The many legends and reported sightings of famous people, only a few of which have been touched on in this chapter, show clearly how deep an impression their lives have made on people’s minds. Many of us would like to have met or been close to great Queens or famous movie stars, and when the death of the icon removes that possibility, for a few of us a posthumous visit by their phantom is the only way to have any connection with them. If someone walking through an English stately home catches a glimpse of a misty vision in what appears to be a long flowing gown, it is somehow more satisfying to think they have witnessed the ghost of Anne Boleyn rather than an off duty tourist guide or even the spirit of a lesser mortal. As is usually the case in ghost lore, those who have died tragically young or have suffered a particularly violent death are more likely to come back as ghosts; this is especially true when considering the stories of celebrities returning from the grave. Some psychical researchers are of the opinion that because many famous people possessed forceful personalities or single-minded devotion to their objectives their spirits are more likely to linger on after death. However, it is more probable that, in the case of Hollywood celebrities and English Royal Ghosts at any rate, hotels are cashing in on the association with cultural and national icons by exaggerating or even creating legends and tales to bring in the tourist dollar.

Brian Haughton
is a qualified archaeologist and researcher, with an interest in the strange and unusual. He is author of Hidden History: Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge, and Ancient Mysteries, and Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places (both published by New Page Books) and Webmaster of, devoted to the lives of enigmatic people. He has written on the subjects of ancient mysteries and the folklore of the supernatural for a variety of print and Internet publications, including the BBC’s Legacies Website, Doorways Magazine, New Dawn, Awareness, and Paranormal Magazine in the U.K. He currently lives and writes in Greece.

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