The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Friday, July 29, 2011

Places that Should be Haunted, But Aren't

Okay, after the heaviness of the last two posts, here's something a bit lighter, though not at all archaeology related.

As some readers know, I am a ghost story enthusiast. No, I don't believe in ghosts, but I nonetheless love a good ghost story. I even keep a second blog where I keep track of ghost stories. When you find a story of a haunting, you also usually find some sort of explanation. These explanations range from an allegedly haunted site being the location of a tragic or horrific event to the place being the repository of human remains (often unburied or disinterred, though proper cemeteries are frequently reputed to be haunted as well), to the ever-popular "this place was built on an Indian burial ground!"

Most of the time, following through on the stories explaining the hauntings reveals them to be fabrications. The number of times that I have looked up a place that is "built on an Indian burial ground" only to find that there are no burials of any kind anywhere near it is quite large. Likewise with most other stories - tracking down the actual deaths of people said to have been killed in a house often reveals that they died elsewhere of different causes (occasionally they are even still alive) or that the person in question never even existed to begin with. Likewise, looking for evidence of the traumatic events said to have left some sort of psychic residue often reveals that these events never actually happened or that they weren't nearly as traumatic as often made out.

Still, these are the common stories given to explain hauntings, and if they were true, there are a number of places that I personally know of that one would expect to be haunted, but which, mysteriously (or not mysteriously), are not. For example:

Two of my former workplaces

During my first job as a supervisor, my office was in a building that was built right on top of a Chumash village site. Now, Chumash villages in the particular area where this one was typically contained burials. So, this office was literally built on a Native American burial ground. I knew about it, as did the other archaeologists working in the building, but for various reasons (mostly related to not wanting people to loot what was left of the site), we didn't advertise the fact. In addition to being built on an area that likely contained burials, we frequently had human remains in our office, mostly bone dug from archaeological sites. So, we had a burial ground and disinterred bodies. However, other than the soul-sucking boredom of Monday morning staff meetings, we never experienced anything supernatural, nor did anyone ever report such a thing.

A subsequent workplace was not built on an archaeological site of any sort. However, it also often served as a temporary repository of human remains - mostly the remains of Native Americans which were removed from sites that were about to be destroyed by bulldozers. However, we also, for a time, had the remains of two Navy Airmen who died in a Plane Crash during a WWII-era training mission. We had excavated their remains, and before the county coroner collected them, we processed and stored them at our facilities. So, Native American burials AND the remains of people who died in a traumatic way? Double check. Ghosts on the premise? Negative.

Pajaro River Floodplain

The above-mentioned plane crash, the remains of which we dug up, was located on the Pajaro River flood plain, in Monterey County. Not only did two men die a traumatic death in a plane crash, but the event became part of local folklore (including variations on the story in which two planes hit each other mid-air and crashed...not true, by the way). So, again, the sort of place that one would anticipate would have a ghost story...but it doesn't.

Abney Park Cemetery

Before the band Abney Park existed, there was a cemetery by that name. While the cemetery doesn't have any more int he way of tragic history than any other cemetery that I know of, it is nonetheless exactly the sort of place for which the term "creepy-ass" was invented. It looks like the set of a horror movie, with neglected and crumbling tombstones, a dilapidated chapel that looks like something out of a Dracula movie, and a generally weird atmosphere. Here's some photos that I took while visiting:

I have searched long and hard for ghost stories for this place, convinced that it must have some, but keep coming up goose-eggs. If a creepy-ass cemetery doesn't have a ghost story, then what is the world coming to, I ask?

The Duplex on Mason Road

One day, in the late 80s, as I was walking home from school, I noticed that Mason Road - which forms the eastern terminus of Driftwood Drive, the road in Salida on which I grew up - was cordoned off, and there was a butt-load of news vans parked around the entrance to the road. I didn't know what it was all about until I saw the news that evening.

Earlier that day eight people were murdered, bludgeoned to death, in one of the duplexes (dupli? duplo? duplae?) as a result of what appeared to be the result of drug deals gone bad. As the media hype began to increase, I found my neighborhood labelled "Drug Alley" by the Sacramento news stations, despite the fact that nobody ever actually called it that except reporters from Sacramento.

Eventually, the interior of the duplex was cleaned up and rented out again. Despite the grisly history, I never heard of anyone having any sort of strange experience there, and asking around never brought anything up. So, a sad history, but not one that has been made light of by people using it as fodder for campfire stories.

Crown, Merrill, Cowell, and Stevenson Colleges, UCSC

Every college of university seems to have a ghost stories, but UC Santa Cruz's are relegated to Porter College. UCSC is divided into multiple colleges, which serve as the residential and educational bases of each student (though every student will take classes at other colleges as well). Porter College is the art college, and many of the residents are, in my experience, given to self-induced drama, which probably explains why it has the monopoly on ghost stories. However, Merrill College, Crown College (which was my college), Cowell College and Stevenson College all butt up against Pogonip Park - an allegedly cursed forest - are within walking distance of a cemetery with decaying graves dating to the civil war, and the forest adjacent to these colleges is described by the forensic anthropology professor from whom I took classes as a "dumping ground for bodies." Despite this, the place doesn't have much int he way of ghost stories. Sure, the forest itself does (complete with the ghost of Sarah Cowell, of the family for whom the college was named), but this portion of the campus does not. Fnord!

So, that's what I've got. So, readers, what are places that you know of which should have ghostly reputations, but don't seem to have the ectoplasmic taint?


Diana said...

Thanks for the cheerful (?) post. With all the chaos that awaited my return from a week in Panama I appreciate a light-hearted post.

A previous house I lived in was haunted. I would be working on the computer at home and would hear, very faintly, the sound of a TV or radio playing. Now the dogs didn't get upset, there were no cold spots or mysterious object moving - just the sound like I had left the TV on.

The cause of this ghostly noise? Nearly deaf neighbors who would play their TV so loud I could just faintly hear it when I was working quietly. It took a while to figure out - I can't tell you how many times I traipsed down to the living room expecting our TV to have been left on.

A friend in High School lived in a house that should have been haunted. They got it cheap when they moved to town because someone had been murdered there. He never saw any signs of a haunting.

Anthroslug said...

I have always been amazed at the lack of follow-up that people do at places that they think are haunted. I have heard similar stories to yours (TV/radio heard when it wasn't on) and asked the obvious question (do you think your neighbors might have had theirs up really loud) only to be met with a response of "well, we didn't check...but that couldn't be it!"

But you did the follow-up, very cool.