Posts Tagged ‘cemetery’

From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; me; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother Chris Harris, offscreen.

You’ve been waiting patiently for this post. Now here it comes. My recap of our amateur investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House! Or at least part one of it (what can I say, a lot happened in two days!).

Now, a little refresher for those of you not up on your macabre American history. In June 1912, the Moore family–Josiah Moore, Sara Moore, their three sons and daughter–plus two friends of their daughter were murdered overnight at the Moore residence with an axe. The crime is currently unsolved and is Iowa’s oldest cold case. The house where the murders happened still stands, and is available for tours and for overnights, and is reputed to be haunted.

The Villisca Axe Murder House has been on my list of haunted places to visit since 2015, and my friend/colleague Joleene Naylor lives right by the house, so it was inevitable that I would someday visit. And when an opportunity afforded itself earlier this year, we reserved the house for a night with the hopes of experiencing paranormal activity.

Before we visited the house itself though, Joleene and Charles showed me around their hometown of Villisca. And I have to say, it’s a beautiful little town. There’s a central square where most of the town business and activity takes place. Some buildings are closed down, but others are in the process of being remade into new businesses, even in the midst of a pandemic. What really surprised me, though, was the business on one of the main streets.

Yeah, you’re seeing that right. That’s Needful Things, as in the shop from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Trust Leland Gaunt to find a town with dark history to set up shop in! Joleene, if you and Charles are reading this, your family better be prepared to save Villisca from itself!

After that, we headed out to the town cemetery to see the actual graves of the Moores and the Stillingers, the two girls who were murdered alongside the Moores.

Front entrance to the Villisca Cemetery.

The Moore family tombstone.

The Moore children’s tombstone. Many people leave toys and, for some reason, coins on the graves.

Me at the Stillinger girls’ graves.

Yeah, sobering reminder that the only reason this house is known is because of a grizzly murder. One involving six children. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to find ghosts and interact with them, let alone the ones in that house, but it’s something to think about before you go into that house.

We also passed by the Senator’s House, pictured below. Named after its famous former owner, Senator Frank Jones, who was rumored to be involved somehow in the murders. It’s a beautiful old house, though one with a history. Which might explain why it’s currently unoccupied, if I remember what Joleene and Charles told me.

The Senator’s House

After seeing those sights, we went through the suburbs of Villisca, allowing me to see my first view of the Axe Murder House, and Joleene’s beautiful home, featured below. I loved seeing the many homes in Villisca. Most of them are beautiful Victorians, the kind of home that I would love to live in (no surprise there). And apparently it’s very affordable to live in Iowa, which tempted me to buy a house or at least put down a down payment. I had to really think about that before I did, though.

Hilariously enough, Joleene said many people prefer the ranch houses, which I saw fewer of but were present in the neighborhood. I don’t know why. Yeah, Victorians are a lot of work to maintain, but they have such beauty and history!

Now, onto the investigation of the Axe Murder House! Joleene, Charles and I arrived a little before four o’clock, and our guide came by a little while later. And after I signed the papers and set up my new GoPro, we got started on the tour, which you can find in this video.

Yeah, I figured out how to turn the video off. And I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a ton of coins around the home. I know the parents’ room was rather dark, owing to my GoPro not having night vision, but they were there too. We think that might be from people hoping the ghosts will knock the coins off surfaces or move them. Nothing like that happened while we were there, but other stuff did.

More on that in a bit. First, let me make a few observations about the house. As I said, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. But it differs in other ways from expected. I think part of me expected it to be like the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, recreated to look very close to what it looked like back in the day, though with a few modern amenities. In actuality, it’s been mostly preserved in the same state it was in when the house was turned into a museum. In addition, the house is also full of toys, dolls and other knickknacks. It feels more like it was decorated to be more pleasing to the spirits living there, especially the children. And you know what? I kind of like that.

Also, it’s not a bed and breakfast, and the only amenities are the air conditioning units on both floors.

After the tour guide had left and we got settled into the house, we decided to pass the time waiting for our two other companions for the night, Joleene’s friend Monica Ware and her stepdaughter Harlie Jones–the little girl mentioned by Joleene at the end of the video–by doing a dowsing rods session in the girls’ room. You know, the room where those two girls were killed and where a dude stabbed himself a few years ago?

Here’s that video for your viewing terror.

We cut the session short because Monica and Harlie arrived and we wanted to get them up to speed. After another quick tour through the house, during which Harley refused to check under the bed where, as a toddler, she saw those “weird kids,” we had a little fun locking Joleene in the upstairs closet.

Yeah, we’re still laughing about that one a week later. Especially now it’s on the Internet forever.

After the fun and games were over though, I somehow managed to convince Harlie to do a dowsing rods session in the girls room downstairs. I figured that since she was around the same age as the older girl, Lena Stillinger, and had seen the kids’ spirits when she was younger, she might have better luck than me in communicating with the spirits. And although she was a little too freaked to actually ask the spirits to manifest (understandable, I guess), she did a very good job drawing them out and asking questions.

Forgive how dark the video was. We were working with what daylight we had, and it appeared brighter when we were filming. Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t explore the basement of the house, it’s because while we could access it, the door needed repairs, and we didn’t want to worsen that.

After that session, Joleene’s brother Chris, who took the photo at the top of this post, arrived. We then locked up the house and left for dinner in town, unaware of what would occur while we were gone.

But that will have to wait until Part 2 of my recap.

That’s Part 1, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have Part 2 up very soon. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

My dad and I on the balcony of the Garfield Memorial.

So this past week I was in Cleveland visiting family, including my dad, and getting to see a bit more of Cleveland than I ever have before (when you have a car, planning your own leisure activities during your vacation is sooo much easier). Among other things, I got to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, get the best shave I’ve ever had, and visit a huge indoor marketplace. But the one thing I wanted to talk about in this post was something my dad did with me Friday morning: we visited Lake View Cemetery.

Now if you don’t know, Lake View Cemetery is a large, ornate cemetery modeled after the great cemeteries of Victorian England and France. It’s known as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum,” and is home to some very prominent individuals, including Eliot Ness, Alan Freed (who coined the term “rock and roll”), John D. Rockefeller, and President James Garfield, who has the most ornate mausoleum not just of any resident there, but of any American president. Amazing considering he only served for about 200 days.

Me being me, I’d been looking forward to seeing this place since I first heard about it. And of course, me being me, I brought my reliable dowsing rods with me, because they are so good at striking up conversations with the dead.

Our first stop was the Garfield Memorial, but even before we reached that place, I could tell this was a different sort of cemetery than any I’ve visited in the past. For one, it was so pretty. Cemeteries used to take the place of public parks in places that didn’t or couldn’t have public parks for whatever reason, and as I said, this cemetery was based on the kinds popular from a hundred and fifty years ago. So you had wide, sloping hills and fields of green, a lake with benches and geese and swans in and around it, and majestic lanes to walk upon (or walk your dog, as I saw one woman doing with her husky). Also, there were so many different kinds of headstones and grave markers! Look at some of the photos below.

I don’t ktow these people, but I love their tastes. Good kitty!

Alan Freed’s gravestone, front side.

Alan Freed’s gravestone, back side.

The Rockefeller Obelisk, or most of it. It’s a big monument.

As I said, our first stop was to the Garfield Memorial, this huge, ornate structure that was even more amazing once you got inside. A docent there told us how money was raised for the memorial after the president’s death and some of the features of the construction and artwork on display. For example, the glass in the walls were all inserted by hand, and the murals on the wall include goddesses representing the thirteen original colonies, plus Ohio and War and Peace, and the leaves set into the floor are supposed to guide you around the room, showing Garfield’s humble beginnings in Ohio and how he came up to become the President, a real American success story.

The front exterior of the Garfield Memorial.

 

The glass designs on the wall, from afar and up close. Imagine the work that went into all that!

Later we went downstairs to the crypt, where I got out my dowsing rods. Unfortunately, my dad forgot to hit record on my phone, so we didn’t have a recording of that conversation, but I did get into contact with James Garfield’s ghost. Apparently, while his family is buried with him, none of their spirits are with him, and he’s pretty lonely. I felt bad for him, and considering how many other spirits are in the cemetery, I had to wonder why he didn’t have many people on either side of the veil to speak to. The docent later told us that after his assassination, a friend of Garfield did engage a medium to speak to his spirit, and other psychics have been by the grave.

The Garfield crypt. It was a lot mores shadowy when I was there.

The balcony from the Garfield Memorial. You can just see Lake Erie in this photo.

After a quick trip up to the balcony, where we had a view of Lake Erie (hence the name “Lake View”), we checked out some of the other graves around the cemetery. One of those graves was John Rockefeller, and that was a conversation we did get on video. Check it out below.

Now, that was amazing. How many people can say they’ve had a conversation with John D. Rockefeller? And apparently death is treating him well. Not surprising, when you consider he’s got a scenic place to live in death and lots of people to talk to. And he may go visit Garfield, for all we know.

We left soon after that. We tried to visit the Wade Chapel, this beautiful structure with this Tiffany glass decoration, but there was a funeral going on there, and we didn’t want to disturb the grieving family, who seemed like they were going to stick around a while. But in all honesty, I really enjoyed myself. This trip played to all my interests, and I got to do it with my dad, who I don’t see often anymore and whom I enjoy doing most things with.

And Lake View Cemetery is just a beautiful place to go. If you haven’t gone and have the chance, I highly recommend you take a trip there. I’ll definitely try to go again the next time I’m in Cleveland and have a few more conversations while I’m there.

Have you ever been to Lake View Cemetery? Did you have any encounters there? What was it like?

And in the meantime, this is a reminder that anyone interested in being an advanced reader for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel “Rose” has till June 7th–this Friday–to sign up. The novel follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you’re interested, please send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after the release. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have a few more posts out this week, including a review and some more of my recent experiences. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

My car, the Unholy Roller.

This past weekend was a busy one for me, all due to it being the Jewish holiday of Passover (which, if you’re unfamiliar, is us celebrating the events movies like Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt are based on). Among other things, I somehow ended up tying the musical Hamilton to two different dinners, played a prank on my stepmom that I posted on YouTube (you can watch it here), ate more food lacking in yeast and drank more wine than is probably recommended, and watched a lot of anime and Lucifer.

However, what feels for me like the highlight of my weekend was something quite different. As some of you know, I only got my driver’s license this past July after nearly ten years of on-and-off instruction and practice, and my car, the Unholy Roller, this past October. Since then, I’ve had a number of firsts: driving to work, driving to the movie theater, driving on the highway without anyone else beside me, driving at night, driving in the rain, driving in the rain at night, driving at night in the rain on the highway (not something I’m ready to repeat anytime soon). And this past weekend, I racked up another first: my first road trip.

You see, I live in Columbus, Ohio and my dad lives in Cleveland, which meant I had to drive up to Cleveland to attend his Seder (Passover ritual meal), and then drive back the next day. And I was driving up by myself.

Honestly, I was more than a little nervous. I’ve never driven that long or that far on my own, and while I’ve gotten comfortable driving on highways, I’ll never like doing so. But I got some good advice before I embarked, and I made sure to have caffeine and snacks, as well as a full tank of gas, before setting out. And you know what? It went well. Very well. In fact, the ride back home was almost enjoyable. I listened to an audio book both ways, Red Rising by Pierce Brown,* which is one of my favorite science-fiction stories and which kept me calm in the absence of music. This allowed me to enjoy the passing scenery (Ohio has some lovely mountains and farmlands) and keep an eye on the road without getting antsy.

It was fine. Even better, it was fine. And dare I say it…it was fun at times. Lots of fun.

I guess this makes sense for Passover. The ancient Israelites had never been outside Egypt prior to the Exodus, and had no idea of what to expect, though they had been prepared for the trip for a while now. But they left, crossed the Red Sea, and…found numerous instances to complain and want to go back to Egypt, which eventually led to no Israelites entering Israel until all the generation who had known Egypt died off forty years later. But if they hadn’t freaked out and tried to turn around anytime they faced a small inconvenience, they would’ve enjoyed life in the Holy Land instead of dying in the desert.

And I went on a trip, with only a vague idea of what to expect. But I didn’t freak out every time a driver cut in front of me without signaling and tried to turn off and go home. And in the end, I got to my hotel in one piece, enjoyed dinner with my family, and somehow ended up rapping a mini-medley of Hamilton songs with the lyrics changed to reflect Passover (yeah, that was a thing. And it is something only heavy demand will make me repeat). And the next day I got home, easy as pie, with enough time afterwards to relax before cooking dinner.

I would love to revisit the Reformatory and reconnect with the ghosts there someday soon.

And perhaps I’ll do the trip again. I’ve applied for some vacation time at work, and I’d like to spend a few days in Cleveland with my dad and see some of the city’s sites, including the cemetery where James Garfield is buried (yes, I’m bringing the dowsing rods), as well as go back to the Ohio State Reformatory and check out some other haunted locations in Ohio. Now that I know I can, it should be a breeze.

Oh, and before I forget, on the way up I made a pit stop in the village of Bellville, Ohio, which I found to be quintessential small-town Ohio at its best. The Waze app on my phone had me drive around the place a little bit in order to get back on the interstate, and I was charmed by what I saw. Bellville feels like the perfect place to set a novel, and I even have an idea for one cooking in my head. I’ll have to visit again at some point so I can write it and make it feel real. Maybe after visiting my dad and the Reformatory?

I just hope nobody in Bellville minds their town being the setting of a horror novel. Otherwise, I might never be able to return!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to have dinner and then do some writing. In the meantime, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose, being released by Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is you read it and consider posting a review after the book is released. If interested, please email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*They’re slight, but there are some parallels between Moses and Darrow, the main character of Red Rising, which is why I listened to it. Totally recommend the book, by the way. If you want a science-fiction story about a revolution of the have-nots against the haves in a dystopian world but want it to be much more immersive and smarter than Hunger Games, the Red Rising series might just be for you.