Haunted Histories Part 3: Alcatraz

To continue my 4 part series on haunted locations to visit, I would have to give Number 3 to Alcatraz. One of the reasons that I chose this place for my list is the extensive history of this island. As Fort Alcatraz it was home to Civil War soldiers, prisoners, and was also used as a lighthouse.
Between 1934 and 1963, Alcatraz is most widely known because of its time as a Federal Prison. During this period it saw its share of famous inmates such as Al Capone, “Machine Gun” Kelly, and the “Birdman of Alcatraz” Robert Stroud.
In 1969 Alcatraz was occupied by Native Americans for about two years after the government turned down their request to turn Alcatraz into a Native American cultural center and school. There are still reminders of this occupation around the island today.

 

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Alcatraz just off of the Ferry
 As I poured through the websites for things to do in San Francisco this tour ranked as one of the most popular, and it was something that both my husband and myself always wanted to see. One suggestion that I have is if you are planning a trip ahead of time to get tickets as soon as possible; these tours sell out quickly. I think we booked our tour a few months in advance and all they had left were tickets for the day tour.
I’m really glad that we did get to do this tour on our trip because we were able to see more of the outer buildings than during the night tour. The tickets are booked by time selection so that they can ferry you over to the island. As long as you leave on the last boat, you can spend as much time there as you want.

Once you step onto Alcatraz island, a tour guide takes you up to the main building. During our walk, we stopped at different locations along the way; the Warden’s house and the Morgue for example. While we were there, restorations were taking place on some of the buildings because of damage from weather and salt water.

 

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As you’re exploring the facility, the audio tour does a good job of guiding you to the different locations while you listen to personal accounts from previous inmates. It’s kind of like being thrown back in time to when the prison was up and running.

 

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With the riots, failed escape attempts, and multiple deaths there is no doubt why this island is considered haunted.
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Alcatraz Island at Night
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Not long after visiting San Francisco for the first time, I found myself traveling back for a work function. Since we had the evenings off I was fortunate enough to book the night tour of Alcatraz. This time we weren’t able to tour the buildings around the main structure, but the hospital ward (which wasn’t included in the day tour) was open to us. Being there as the sun was setting cast an eerie feeling over everything. You could hear the sounds of cars and people projecting from across the bay, and the dimming light allowed us to experience what it would’ve been like for the inmates at night.
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“Broadway” at night
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One of the most unique aspects of the night tour, was the option of being locked in a solitary confinement cell with a small group of visitors. As we filed in, I made my way to the back so that I could stand as close to the wall as possible. The whole time we were locked in I couldn’t help feeling like there was someone behind me in the pure darkness of the cell.
Due to the time of our tour we didn’t have long to stay in the hospital ward, but I felt that this was by far the creepiest place in the entire structure.

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After reviewing the pictures that I took of the hospital, I came across one that I believe has an orb in it, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Here are two pictures I took, one right after the other.
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Alcatraz is a unique place to visit, and if you are ever in San Francisco I highly recommend that you book a tour to this island. If possible, book both the day and night tours to get the full perspective of what life was like on “The Rock”.
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View of San Francisco from Alcatraz

Gale Force

The road stretched on in front of us, the sky darkening with every mile. Ahead, the unmistakable threat of a storm loomed and I didn’t want to be on the road when the clouds finally opened up.

“I knew we shouldn’t have stopped for dinner,” Sophie muttered from behind the steering wheel.

The hour we spent at the diner somewhere outside of Salem, Massachusetts put us further behind schedule than either of us would’ve liked. From the way things were looking, we’d be lucky to make it across the Maine border before the storm hit. The local stations had been calling for strong weather to hit the area, but the threat wasn’t great enough for us to cancel and lose the non-refundable deposit that we had put down on the rental house.

“Just drive faster,” I suggested from the passenger seat. The GPS mounted on the window had been silent for the last 20 minutes as we continued down a road that ran parallel to the ocean. Next to me, the waves crept closer to the asphalt with such vigor it looked like the water would lap onto the pavement within the next few minutes. “We need to get off of this road.”

“Bay, there aren’t any turnoffs. Where do you want me to go?” Sophie asked, scanning the horizon for any exits. Since our last stop for gas the road had been mostly barren, which for such a picturesque area was a bit disconcerting.

Why was a place like this not developed? I thought. There were no roads or even driveways off of the route we were on, and the GPS showed that we still had over 30 miles until our next turn. Which, by my calculations would be too late to get out of the storms path.

“There!” I nearly shouted pointing into the distance. Barely visible against the ominous sky was the distinct outline of a lighthouse. “Maybe we can wait out the storm inside.”

Rain pelted the windshield as we drove closer, the wipers and headlights doing little to aid with visibility. Carefully, Sophie pulled off of the paved street and onto the muddy path. It looked like the grounds hadn’t been tended for years, but a light at the top of the structure burned brightly against the black sky.

Hoping that someone was inside, we dashed out into the stinging cold rain as the first strike of lightning hit the ocean. “Hello! Is anyone there?” I pounded on the door, my words lost in the wind. With no reply I tried the handle, surprised to find it unlocked.

“Should we go in and see if anyone’s here?” Sophie asked.

The two of us stepped into the shelter of the building, water dripping from our clothes. It looked like no one had been in the lighthouse for years, but the spiraled staircase looked sturdy enough to scale. Timidly, we climbed the metal stairs.

There was something eerily familiar about this place and as we continued to ascend, an overwhelming feeling of deja vu rushed over me. For as long as I could remember there was always an unknown force pulling me toward New England.

An unnatural electricity ran through this structure, pulsing through my veins, creating a connection that felt unbreakable. I looked around suddenly feeling like we were being watched, but the steps behind me stood empty. A cold breeze grazed my face like a gentle caress, the icy dampness lingering on my skin.

It seemed forever before we reached the top of the staircase, but after what felt like an eternity we reached the lantern room. From every angle we could see the alarming change in the weather outside. The waves crashed against the rocks, blurring the lines between land and sea. It wouldn’t be long before any coastal roads were flooded, blocking all escape routes.

“Guess no one’s here,” Sophie shrugged, stating the obvious. The words barely left her mouth before a crash echoed from the other side of the room. We turned in unison, but nothing looked out of place.

“Sophie, do you see the…” Wet outlines of footprints materialized directly across from us but faded before I could finish my sentence. “Maybe we should go back to the car,” I suggested instead, my nerves kicking into overdrive.

The storm raged on around us. The lights flickered with a clash of thunder, and the two of us instinctively huddled closer together. Running toward the stairs, my heart pounded at every step as we tried to get back to the car.

Without warning, the door separating the two chambers slammed shut. “What the…” I bellowed, stopping so quickly that Sophie stumbled into me. The building was drafty, but not enough for such a dense wooden door to close with so much force.

Turning the knob, the door wouldn’t budge. With no other exit from the chamber we would be stuck in here. The light flickered again, temporarily casting everything in darkness. Beyond the windows, the conditions had worsened even more. Water had risen over the lawn and was creeping up the bricks of the lighthouse, flooding our car as it continued to rise.

“We aren’t going anywhere.”

“What do you mean?” Sophie rushed to the window to see the situation that had befallen us.

Dejected, I sank down to the floor realizing how dire our circumstances would get if this squall didn’t let up. The building shook with ferocity as a crack of thunder penetrated through the structure. The lantern flickered once more before going out completely, leaving the two of us cloaked in darkness; the only illumination coming from the sporadic bolts of lightning that stretched across the sky.

Sophie nervously began to pace around the room, the rhythmic sound of her footsteps beginning to calm my nerves. Outside, a massive 50 foot wave crashed against the reinforced sheets of glass surrounding us. The curtain of seawater blocking out what little daylight remained.

“Bailey!” She screamed

“Sophie?” I worriedly scrambled across the room  to where she had just been. Since kindergarten the only times she ever used my full name was if she was scared or in trouble. “Sophie, where are you?” There was nothing but silence. Even the roaring outside from the storm had stopped. “Soph..” I stumbled over something in the middle of the floor. Searching frantically, my hand finally coming in contact with her body, limp on the cement.

Knowing that she needed help I rushed forward only to come face to face with a man about six feet tall. From his waistcoat to his boots everything about him seemed out of place, but what caught my attention the most was his translucency.

Dim light began to stream back into the room and out of the corner of my eye I could see my friend still unmoving. Fear encompassed me, my heart feeling like it was going to burst from my chest. He inched his way closer, stopping close enough for me to get a good look at his face. His long, grimy hair did little to hide the dark pink scar that ran the length of his cheek. “Welcome back, Bailey” he stated, a malicious gold filled smile spreading across his face. He circled me, the heavy sound of his footsteps pounding in my ears. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

A rush of memories from another lifetime swept over me and I instantly knew why I had been pulled here. Before I could move, he grabbed my arm and at his icy touch everything went black.

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© Kristen Ricketts

photo from despadani-blogger

Stephen King’s IT floats into theaters

After going to a pre-screening of Stephen King’s IT, here are my thoughts on the theatrical release.

What stood out to me almost right away is that this film is a completely different take than it’s 1990s made-for-tv counterpart. Growing up during this decade the tv mini-series was a favorite of mine, and I went into this with high hopes.  The new adaptation follows the opening chapters of the book more closely than the 1990’s mini-series did (I have not finished reading the novel so I cannot yet speak on the full work). The use of modern special effects added to the story and weren’t distracting like most modern day horror films; instead, they kept you in the moment.
I did however feel that the film had a bit of a slow start, but once the storyline began to pick up I became more interested. There was also a good combination of creepy moments as well as comedic ones that had me both anxiously awaiting what would come next, but also had the theater laughing; one didn’t overshadow the other.
Now to Pennywise. Personally, I favor Tim Curry’s portrayal of this character from the 1990s mini-series over that of Bill Skarsgård in this role. Both actors played Pennywise well, I just feel that there was something extra in Tim Curry’s memorable performance.

Leaving the theater, I was satisfied with IT. I would definitely recommend seeing this movie if you are looking for a well acted, well directed adaptation of this novel.

Book Reviews: Me Before You and After You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I loved this novel! Honestly, this is probably one of the best books I’ve read and one that I often recommend.
The story mainly takes place over a 6 month span, so things are not drawn out. It’s well written, and really connects the reader to the characters of Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. Their narrative unfolds in a unique way, and the twists found within these pages often left me yearning for more.
In 2016 this book was made into a movie and it did the story justice. Emilia Clarke and Sam Clafin portrayed the characters well, but in the end some of the connection between Louisa and Will didn’t translate well to the big screen (which happens a lot with screen adaptations). But, if you don’t read the book the movie is a good option.

After You by Jojo Moyes
After reading Me Before You I had high hopes going into the sequel, but I was quickly disappointed. In my opinion, this book takes away from the strength of Louisa Clark and most importantly I felt that it actually discredited the wonderful story of the first novel. To everyone that I have recommended Me Before You to, I have told them not to read the sequel.
There were a few redeeming qualities in this novel but honestly I wish I had never read it. Of course, these are just my opinions but After You was not what I expected.
I hope you find these helpful!

 

Unity

A dream
Once shared by many
Destroyed by a few
The constant struggle to distance ourselves from the past
Never to learn from the mistakes of those who came before us
Tearing apart the last reminders
Destined to follow the same path as our ancestors
We must change
Rise against the hate we see every day
Creating a better existence
Not only for us but for those that come after
We should never forget
But rise from the ashes and soar

 

© Kristen Ricketts 2017

Photo from pixabay

Raging Storm

Storm clouds gather on the horizon

Gradually moving forward to cover the sky

Shading the earth from the sun

Lightning strikes

Throwing the landscape in a blinding incandescent glow

The storm rages closer

Like two Gods fighting

 

Deafening roar

Crying out, warning all of what’s to come

Waves crash against the sand

Dragging remnants of the landscape into the black void

Slowly eating away at the topography

Creating a permanent scar along the waters edge

An endless cycle

 

© Kristen Ricketts 2017

Haunted Histories Part 2: Hill View Manor

Over the weekend my husband, our friend, and myself toured the Hill View Manor in New Castle, Pa. Before going, I watched the Ghost Adventures episode to get an idea of what we could possibly encounter. However, I never thought that we would experience what we did.

First, some back story… When the Hill View Manor opened in 1926 as The Lawrence County Home for the Aged, it operated as a poor farm. It was home to convicts just released from prison, unwed mothers, elderly, and the mentally disabled. One of the stories we were told while on the tour was about a man Eli Saurri who died in the original boiler room (We weren’t able to go into this section due to pipes that have fallen). They say that his friends found him drunk outside, and took him to the boiler room to sleep it off. Unfortunately, he died from potential alcohol poisoning and exposure.

Here is the entrance to the original boiler room

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In the late 1960’s the building was renovated to become a nursing facility. One of the more notable deaths of this time was of a woman named Amanda. She was around 100 years old and blind. Staff put her room across from a hallway that led to the outside so that she could easily wheel herself out in her wheelchair to feed the birds. Our tour guide told us that there are actually two theories about how she died. One, she got confused (and made a few extra turns instead of going the straight route to her room) and ended up falling down the stairs to the basement. The second is that one of the other residents pushed her down the steps. They think this might have happened because there have been multiple EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) captured on the stairwell saying “pushed” or “fall”.

Our tour began in the main entrance. We opted to take a 3 hour tour; 1.5 hour guided tour then 1.5 hours of us just roaming the facility ourselves. From the moment we walked through the doors, there was a different atmosphere to the place. Original documents and furniture transported us back to before 2004 when the facility closed. There was even still a calendar of events that hung on the wall.

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While walking the first floor, our friend got a feeling coming from a specific room near the nurses station. When he asked the tour guide if something happened there, the guide looked shocked. He was getting ready to tell us about this room; it belonged to Amanda. There was definitely some kind of connection between Amanda and our friend.

From the first floor, we went down into the basement. Our guide admitted that he didn’t like going down into the basement alone, and I’ll admit there was a different feeling down there than in the rest of the building. It had a heavy darkness to it that kept you on edge. Once there, the guide took us through the “Belongings Room” where they store things that the residents left behind.

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This was the only section of the basement that any of us felt comfortable in.

Next, we went to the boiler room (not the one where Eli Saurri died). There is said to be a spirit of a man named George who inhabits this space. As the tour guide stood in the pitch black, he jumped and grabbed at his arm; he said that he felt someone touch him. Entranced, I hung on the stories that he told until I noticed a dark shadow behind him move from behind one of the machines. I stayed quiet, not wanting to draw attention to myself or whatever the figure could be. Not wanting to be left behind in the basement as the others walked away I vowed to go back once the guided tour was over to get pictures. (More on that later in this post)

We followed on for the next hour, listening about the history and taking note of the newer parts of the building as well as the ones that were falling apart. The Hill View Manor does offer Paranormal Investigations so things are moved around or set out to be used as trigger objects. I don’t think the 3 of us would ever try to use anything like that to contact the other side.

The guide left us on the 3rd floor, and we began to explore alone. Nothing happened while we were exploring this area.

Picture from the nurses station on the 3rd floor with a photo of 2 residents

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We made our way back down to the 2nd floor. There was a section that the tour guide told us not many people go to because of what happened there. He said that a woman who lived at the poor farm with her son had been raped in the back room. We went down this corridor, and again you could feel an uneasiness surround you.

Another place we spent extra time is what’s called “Angelo’s hallway”. While looking through the rooms, we heard a few unexplained bangs and as I walked into the main corridor I heard a note from the piano two rooms over in the kitchen/cafeteria.

Angelo’s Hallway

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While walking through the many corridors, the guide suggested that if we take a picture of a hallway to do it over our shoulder. Many people have caught figures while doing this. I followed his suggestion a few times through the manor, and got this.  Feel free to comment if you see anything.

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There was one other room on this floor where all three of us experienced unexplained smells. In this picture, I highlighted a few areas that could be orbs. There is a fine line between an orb and a dust particle, but due to the shape and the brightness I don’t think these are just dust.

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Outside of this room, something brushed against our friend’s hand.

Almost directly below this room is the Chapel on the first floor. The guide had said that people received EVPs if you read from one of the many hymn books that are out. I was sitting in the chairs facing the riser and took this picture. I’m not quite sure what the area highlighted is, but it was only in this one photo. I took the same shot multiple times.SAM_2611 2.jpgSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

Before leaving this area I began to look through the hymns. Almost instantly I felt a coldness (like when you stick your hand in a bucket of ice water) on my elbow and an energy wave wash over me; it felt like someone was holding on to my arm.

We finished the tour of the first floor, again stopping at Amanda’s room before moving back down to the basement for my pictures of the boiler room. I led the way down the steps, and for some reason could not bring myself to open the door; I had to have my husband open it. The feelings that I had the first time we went down there were intensified for no reason.

Turning on our cell phone flashlights, we hurried back into the “belongings room” where a calm once again fell over us. We took our time exploring the different suitcases, tables, papers..all of us interested in different things. I was looking in a cabinet when I heard a loud growl coming from the corner of the room. Frightened for the first time in the 3 hours, I suggested going to the boiler room then leaving.

All of us stopped in the doorway to the hall, frozen in place, looking into the darkness. I pulled my camera out to take a picture as the others noticed something dark move at the end of the hall. I hadn’t seen it since I was looking down, but I snapped a picture and went to step forward when I saw a dark figure crouching across from the boiler room entrance. Sheer fear washed over me, and I couldn’t get out of the basement fast enough. Words can’t describe what I felt or saw in that moment.

So much for a picture of the boiler room… but I did get this picture of the basement hall. (The creepy bunny was left by someone) The bright lights at the end of the hall are reflections of my camera flash. Again, if you see anything please feel free to comment.

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In all, if you are looking for a place that has history and is known to be an active paranormal location the Hill View Manor is definitely a place worth seeing.

Annabelle: The Haunted Doll

Last night I had the opportunity of seeing a prescreening of the upcoming movie Annabelle Creation, the latest horror movie in the Conjuring series. Based on of the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren, these movies offer an inside look into the occult and the works of the famed Demonologists.

I know not all people believe in the supernatural, but even if you don’t these movies are good for a scare. The same can be said for this new installment. Without giving any spoilers, I highly recommend seeing this film. It does well to provide a backstory on the “haunted” doll Annabelle in the Conjuring world, and incorporates story lines from the previous movies to round out the series.

Annabelle Creation premieres in all theaters August 11, 2017.

Now for the real Annabelle.

 

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Completely different from her fictional movie counterpart, Annabelle is actually a Raggedy Ann doll. As stated in the book The Demonologist about the lives and cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle tricked the owners of the doll into allowing “her” to move into it. Unbeknownst to the owner, this was not a young child but a demon. Strange things starting happening at this point, and the Warrens were called in to investigate.

With the help of a priest, an exorcism was performed on the residence and the people involved. The Warrens took Annabelle with them, and she still resides with the family in Connecticut. Over the years there have been several stories about occurrences surrounding those who’ve come in contact with this doll.

Every year, there is an event called “An Evening With Annabelle” where they bring Annabelle and other items from the collection to a location where you can experience them. I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to attend this event the last few years but timing never seemed to work with my schedule. This year, the event is being held on August 12 in Connecticut.

For more information about the event you can visit:                      http://www.warrens.net/An-Evening-with-Annabelle.html

The Other Side Of The Tracks

You forge down the path set by others

Fighting against the befallen curse

Unable to break free from the chains

 

Destined to continue down the desolate trail

Gazing across the tracks to where you want to be

Unable to make any progress against the restraints

 

The endless struggle

Against the unchanging tides

The constant exertion wearing you down

 

At the point of oblivion

A bright light comes into view

Forever changing your fate

 

One day you will look back at this bare, trampled ground

Covered by nothing more than the worn footsteps

And reflect on what got you to where you are

 

© Kristen Ricketts 2017

Haunted Histories Part 1: The Winchester Mystery House

Many haunted locations also have a historical significance. Over the next few months, I want to highlight a few places that I feel are worth visiting. Feel free to comment if you have had any experiences of your own or recommend visiting somewhere. I’m always looking for a new place to explore!

First on my list is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. I was in my teens when I heard this story, and I made it a goal to visit. Two years ago I finally had the opportunity, and it didn’t disappoint.

For those who are unfamiliar with the tale, the Winchester House was remodeled by Sarah Winchester in the 1800s. After the death of her daughter and husband (the Winchester rifle manufacturer), she met with a psychic who told her to move west and build a house. By doing this, it would keep the spirits who attached themselves to the family (from the deaths of those killed by the Winchester rifles) happy. She took the psychic’s advice to heart and moved completely across country and purchased an 8-bedroom house. She immediately began construction on the property, and it continued until her death. She would overlook all renovations, changing the floor plans numerous times after consulting with the spirits in her séance room. In 1906, an earthquake shook San Jose and Mrs. Winchester became trapped in her bedroom. She felt that she had somehow angered the spirits, and closed off part of the mansion; it wasn’t until after her death that this section would be reopened.

The unique architecture now has 160 rooms, doorways to nowhere, stairways that go straight to the ceiling, a master ballroom, and Tiffany windows (only to name some of the features). This place boasts some of the most exquisite and random designs that I’ve ever seen, but every room adds a little more to the origin of how it became what it is today.

The Winchester Mystery House is best experienced in person. Nothing can prepare you for this monumental structure and its gardens. Honestly, I was expecting it to be off by itself surrounded by acres of land, but the area is actually very commercialized. Once we entered through the gift shop, the grounds and buildings on the property distracted from the noise outside the gates; the beautiful trees and gardens damper much of the sound from the outside.

We were able to take a tour through the gardens and outbuildings, the main house, and the basement. This “Grand Estate Tour” doesn’t look to be offered anymore, but there is a tour that might take you through all of these these places. We weren’t able to take photos inside the house but it is something that I will never forget. The tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and they didn’t mind answering questions. The rooms were amazing and many of the hidden features or little details were intriguing. By the end of the tour, we walked over a mile through the many rooms and corridors.

This location is said to be haunted, but during the tour we didn’t experience anything paranormal. However, there was a feeling in the house that had me looking over my shoulder; it felt like there was something present that caused me to be on guard at all times.

The Winchester Mystery House has been featured on many different Paranormal Investigation shows over the years, my personal favorite being Ghost Adventures where it’s been showcased on multiple episodes.

If you are in the San Jose area, this is definitely a place worth touring.

You can visit the website at http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com  to get more information the tours that are offered or more on the history of the building itself.

 

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