Halloween, this controversial holiday has come around once again. Love it or hate it, you cant deny its rapidly increasing popularity. I will begin this blog by pre-warning you all, if you are easily offended or just plain easy to creep out, please click away; this is not for you. For those of you who share my strange morbid curiosity, you’re in for a treat… There are many versions of the origins and unusual customs associated with Halloween, some remain consistent across all accounts, others not so much. The culture of Halloween began back with the Druids, a Celtic culture in Europe. They honoured the dead with rituals and ceremonies on October 31st, the Celts actually believed that the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages at night. These spirits were not all thought to be friendly and so gifts and treats were left out in order to calm the evil and keep the public safe, this has since evolved into trick-or-treating.
I’m partial to a good horror story, or anything dark and mysterious really, probably more than I would like to admit. Believe in them or not, there are some truly eerie and inexplicable legends associated with Halloween, the best of which all begin with the phrase “based on a true story”. So, in the spirit of everybody’s favourite haunting holiday, I’ve gathered what I consider to be the most terrifying, macabre urban legends and scary, unexplained stories that the internet had to offer. All of the following legends are all based on fact, they have all been proven to have truth to them. Enjoy.
1. The Tower of Vermont Asylum, Brattleboro.
Founded in 1834, the Vermont Asylum for the clinically insane is one place you definitely won’t want to go after dark. The beautiful grounds stretch across 1000 acres, most of the campus buildings are historically listed and are all laced with terrifying tales of ghostly happenings and hauntings.
The institute is still a functioning Asylum today. With today’s philosophies based on the humane treatment of its mentally ill patients, the staff aim to create a family-like environment; with emphasis on good meals, fresh air and exercise. Behind closed doors however, the institute once performed a range of electroconvulsive therapies on the patients. Although they were utilised in a fairy limited capacity, the ECT clinic is now closed; and for good reason.
Back in the late 1880’s, the patients of the Vermont Asylum were set the task of building a Retreat Tower, this is now the most notorious building at Brattleboro. The doctors believed that the physical labor would help the patients to gain stability and so they set to work building this large, eerie stone tower. However, the ill-divised plan had the very opposite effect on the patients, much to the doctors dismay. One by one the many inmates took it in turn one afternoon to climb the tower and throw them selves to the rocky cliff below, the number of suicides at the Vermont Asylum Retreat Tower is a closely guarded secret although according to the patient records, it was a frighteningly high number.
The reason for the suicides is to this day unknown, and will remain a mystery at the Vermont State Asylum. The tower has not been open to the public or patients, for obvious reasons, since 1887. It remains an eerie reminder at the edge of the institutes large grounds.
Over the past century there has been thousands of reports from patients, visitors and staff of a ghostly apparition falling silently from the tower only to disappear seconds before hitting the ground. The bodies of the suicides were laid to rest in a special cemetery, hidden in the grounds, filled with unmarked graves. Those who have visited the memorial site report feelings of immense uneasiness and always leave with haste. The suicides of Brattleboro Tower remain one of Vermont’s darkest mysteries to date.
2. Cast Deaths of the Exorcist
If you’re into horror movies, chances are you’ve seen the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. The film was immensely popular, and incredibly controversial. Many people strongly criticised the film for it’s Satanic content; Christian evangelist claimed there was a demon living in the celluloid reels of the movie. Enough to freak you out? Well, the haunting happenings didn’t stop there. Cast members claim the film actually was cursed and that dark, unexplainable happenings went on for years after the filming ended.
If the storyline of a demonic possession and a very controversial Catholic ritual wasn’t enough, the following catastrophic occurrences have given people reason to believe the movie itself and the film set were actually cursed by a demon. It all began in 1971 when William Blatty wrote the novel The Exorcist. This was based on the real life exorcism of a boy known through the pseudonym as Roland Doe. Catholic Priests at Georgetown University Hospital performed the real life exorcism, but had to stop when the boy managed to get free from his restraints, pull a bed spring out of his mattress, and slash one of the priest’s arms. Roland’s family requested that his character be changed to a girl (Reagan) in order to protect his identity.
Things began to go wrong pretty quickly once filming began at 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. Shooting was delayed for months after the set mysteriously caught fire, almost completely destroying what was supposed to be the MacNeil’s family home. Director William Friedkin claimed the fire was a freak accident, however, one room that some how remained entirely unharmed was Reagan’s bedroom… Coincidence?
Once filming began, things continued to go drastically wrong. One of the most notable incidents was when actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Reagan’s mother, suffered a permanent spinal injury when her harness mysteriously malfunctioned. Burstyn was actually flung across the room. This take is the actual one used in the movie, and the blood-curdling scream she lets out is real. The incident remains a mystery amongst the whole cast to this day.
The horrific tragedies rolled in thick and fast, to cast and crew. Over the course of filming, nine people associated with the production of The Exorcist died. Actors Jack MacGowran, and Vasiliki Maliaros both died one week before the film was released. What makes their deaths strange is that their characters died in the film as well. On the first day of shooting, Linda Blair’s grandfather and Max Von Syndow’s brother both tragically died. Most haunting of all, actress Mercedes McCambridge, who played the demonic voice of Pazuzu, was victim of a horrific family tragedy, when her son reportedly became possessed and killed his wife and children before taking his own life.
A handful of spine-chilling incidents happened once the film was released. A priest came forward and claimed that the set, cast and crew must immediately be exorcised. He insisted that Satan did not want the film to be made. During once screening in Italy, there was extreme weather conditions and mid-film there was an inexplicable scream out side of the theatre. Spectators were shocked to see that a large wooden crucifix on top of the church across the road had actually been struck by lightening and fallen to the ground.
If you decide to watch the movie this Halloween, do so with caution. Experts still say that the act of watching the film is an invitation for demonic possession. They believe there is evil within the film, in the fabric of the film itself.
3. ‘The Hands Resist Him’
You may or may not believe in spirits, demons or the supernatural; however this next story might be just what you need to change your mind. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, well this one is worth a million nightmares.
The painting named “The Hands Resist Him” was painted in 1974 by Bill Stoneham. The original photograph of Bill was taken by his parents when he was five years old, living out of his grandmothers closet at the time in his fathers attempt to save money. Little did the family know that the innocent photograph of their son and his friend playing would become one of the most infamous modern legends.
So, here’s the story of how an innocent photograph turned into an image that haunts the internet’s nightmares. Stoneham was working for a art gallery at the time and was commissioned to paint two paintings a month, for a fee of $200 each. With a deadline approaching, he quickly painted “The Hands Resist Him” and passed it on to the gallery, thinking no more of it. The painting was soon purchased by actor John Marley, famous for his role in The Godfather. Soon after in a seemingly unrelated death Marley passed away, that was the last anybody heard of the painting for the next 26 years.
A family found the painting lying face down behind an abandoned brewery, seeing value in it they decided to take the art work home with them, little did they know what they were embarking upon. The first few days were normal, the family hung the painting in their 4 year old daughters room and that was that. After a few days the little girl grew afraid of the painting, saying that they were fighting in the night and scaring her. Being rational adults, the parents put this down to their infant daughter having an over active imagination and they moved the painting out of her room.
Over time, the family grew increasingly uncomfortable around the painting, and couldn’t explain why. The father decided enough was enough and went about setting up a motion activated video camera on the painting at night. Sure enough, what they found was terrifying, just as their daughter had said, the painting contorted its self, leaving just the little girl stood holding what looks like a gun and the little boy fleeing the frame entirely.
The family, astonished and petrified at their findings, listed the painting on eBay, with a product description that reads like something out of a bad Stephen King knockoff:
“WARNING: Do not bid on this painting if you are susceptible to stress-related disease, [or if you are] faint of heart or are unfamiliar with supernatural events. By bidding on this painting, you agree to release the owners of all liability in relation to the sale, or any events happening after the sale, that might be contributed to this painting. This painting may or may not possess supernatural powers that could impact or change your life. However, by bidding you agree to exclusively bid on the value of the artwork, with disregard to the last two photos featured in this auction, and hold the owners harmless in regard to them and their impact, expressed or implied.”
The family also reached out and pleaded that somebody come and exorcise their home, they would not share details on why exactly, they simply stated unspeakable happenings and that was that. The eBay listing attracted a great deal of attention from day one, with the family receiving 30,000 viewings and thousands of emails reporting supernatural experiences from simply clicking on the listing. The painting sold for a mere $1,025 to gallery owner Kim Smith, and now goes by the nick-name ‘the haunted eBay painting’.
By the time the painting was sold to gallery owner Kim Smith for $1,025, its legend had spread across the Internet. A month after the eBay auction ended, Smith spoke with paranormal website surfingtheapocalypse.com about life after purchasing what had become known as “the haunted eBay painting.”.
Smith displayed the painting in the gallery for a few months, however, the strange happenings continued. Reports of uneasiness, nausea, blackouts and demonic whispers began to roll in, viewers all seemed to naturally avoid the painting, children would scream when in its presence. After viewing the painting, on three separate occasions viewers were taken to hospital due to losing consciousness. Three men also mysteriously passed away soon after coming into contact with the painting. Two of these men were Henry Seldis who wrote an article on the piece and Mr. Feingarten who requested to display the painting in his gallery.
The painting has only been shown four times in the past 17 years, and now rests in a storage cell beneath Smiths gallery and hasn’t been touched for years. Creepy huh?
4. Don’t Look Under The Bed
This urban legend has been around for a long while, with different variations of it being told time and time again. I’m sure you’ve heard spooky stories of stalkers and murderers hiding underneath innocent, unexpecting girls’ beds. With the tragedy being the result of the victim being simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However, this tall tale became a sickening reality in room 112 of the Burgundy Motor Inn in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The police received a chilling call from a petrified guest in the early hours of the morning to the Motel on the 24th July. Aaron Silver, the guest of room 112, had been staying at the motel for 3 days and each day had filed complaints about the room and a pungent smell. The manager dismissed these claims, alongside thousands of others about that particular room, putting it down to a drainage pipe or simply the result of being rented out every night. There was no explanation however for the reports of an uneasiness or an eerie feeling whilst in bed, and multiple guests requesting to change rooms in the middle of the night.
A panic stricken Silver had unknowingly discovered the body of a brutally murdered young girl, suddenly all the complains and reports over the years began to make sense to the Motel owners. The medical examiner claimed that the body had been deceased for around five years, the decay on the corpse suggested that it had been undisturbed for this time. The horrifying reality of this meaning that for 5 years, literally thousands of guests had slept above this rotting corpse.
The Motel made no comment on the discovery, besides insisting that they do not understand how this could have slipped beneath the cracks as the rooms were all thoroughly cleaned every day.
“I clean that room every day. I noticed a smell several times, and told my manager,” said Anita Rodriguez, a housekeeper at the motel. “He told me to just use extra Febreeze in the room and it would go away eventually. I always hated cleaning that room.”
The police seized room and occupant records for the last several years and are still to this day trying to trace the person staying in this mysterious room at the time of death.
So, the next time you decide to stay at that conspicuous motel resting in the shadows at the edge of the woods, be sure to check underneath the mattress before getting into bed…
This story again might sound familiar to some of you, this is probably because Hollywood got a hold of the story and made it into a block-buster Horror movie called The Conjuring. The movie is actually based on a horrific series of events happening on Rhode Island in the 1970’s. A girl named Donna received the Annabelle doll from her mother, who spotted the ragdoll in a hobby store. Donna was living with her friend Angie at the time, the girls displayed the doll in their living room and thought nothing more of it. Around a month after receiving the doll the girls realised that the doll seemed to move positions on her own, at first it was just subtle changes, but over time the movements increased. The girls decided to dismiss the issue and stored the Annabelle doll in a cabinet in their living room, they would leave the house and come back to find the doll on the sofa. (image below: The recreated Annabelle doll from The Conjuring)
One night, the girls had a friend stay the night, the man claimed he had a dream that the doll had attacked him in the night. Lou aged 26, woke up to find severe bruising and scratch marks across his chest. This frightened the girls but they did not throw the doll out… For the next few weeks, things began to get even stranger, notes were left in various places in their home saying “help me” in a child’s writing, Donna and Angie decided enough was enough and they took the Annabelle doll to a medium.
The medium told the girls that the doll was possessed with the spirit of a little girl, researchers later found that this was the spirit of the dolls previous owner Annabelle Higgins, who tragically died in the home at aged 7. The medium said that the spirit in the doll was not one to be scared of, she just wanted to stay with Donna and Angie and ‘be safe’, and that she meant no harm. (Image below: a portrait of the real Annabelle Higgins, one year before her tragic death)
Strange happenings got even stranger and the girls decided that there was more to the spirit in Annabelle than the little girl. They called paranormal investigators, the Warrens, who deemed that the doll was not possessed by Annabelle Higgins’ spirit but an inhuman presence, which was putting on a ‘face’ in order to attach its self to a human host. Terrified, Donna and Angie agreed that it was best that the Warrens took the doll to their Occult Museum, where she remains today.
The doll was exorcised and blessed with holy water, then locked in a special glass case in the museum, the inhumane demonic presence is said to be locked in the case with the doll; the Warrens urge that the case must never be unlocked, no matter what the circumstances.
(Image above: the real Lorraine and Ed Warren) Many people are sceptical about Annabelle and her haunting story, one of which was a young man in the early 2000’s, who visited the Occult Museum with his girlfriend. He began tormenting the doll, shouting and banging on the glass case, witnesses reported that he screamed “If you are real, come on, scratch me. Do it!”, in an attempt to impress his girlfriend. Ed Warren calmly removed the young man from the premises and told him not to mess with this kind of darkness. On his way home, the young man lost control of his motorbike, he died instantly but his girlfriend survived the incident, she was hospitalised for over a year. When investigators asked what happened, the girl explained that they were laughing about the Annabelle doll and the bike suddenly began to swerve.
The police actually credited the doll with the murder of the young man, and published the story as a warning to the public, that we should not challenge evil, as if God is real, so is Satan. If you’re feeling brave this Halloween, why not take a trip to the Warrens Occult Museum, just be sure not to taunt Annabelle….