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Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghosts Are More Than Just the Spirits of the Dead

Take a walk through a creepy forest
Photography by Jack Cain

What Are Ghosts?

Are they the benevolent spirits of our loved ones who have passed on? Or are they malevolent specters haunting the shadows, waiting for the moment to attack unwitting victims? Modern folklore says that ghosts are the souls or spirits of a dead person or animal that can often be perceived by the living. These apparitions vary widely in descriptions, whether they be completely disembodied sounds, translucent forms of a person who has passed, or wisps, orbs, shapes, and other realistic silhouettes. From firsthand experiences and stories passed down through the ages, it seems that these entities can be fully aware of their surroundings, or simply faded recordings tragically repeating moments from within their own lifetime.

There is a widespread belief in the afterlife, including the manifestation of spirits which is highly intertwined in the ancestor worship that has appeared in cultures across the world since before the written word. These beliefs have led to funeral rites, exorcisms, and attempts to contact those who have passed as a means to put the spirits of the dead to rest. Contacting those who haunt your halls can be done in a number of ways, most notably through a séance wherein participants use Ouija boards or mediums.

Disembodied spirits are identified not necessarily by their appearance as apparitions, but by the displacement of objects, strange or flickering lights, as well as an auditory presence—laughter or screams with no origin, footsteps when there is no one else around, ringing bells or other spontaneous music that comes from untouched musical instruments. Haunted locations are believed to be associated with possessing spirits who still have a strong attachment to the location from their own past, whether it be sorrow, fear, or distress due to a violent death. People can be haunted as well—not entirely unlike possession, but the person being haunted does not have their body inhabited by the spirit itself, instead, they are likely associated in some way to the unhappy experience that keeps the spirit tethered to the world of the living.

Ghosts walking down the road
Photography by JR Korpa

There are multiple types of spirits that are known to haunt the living, even in the modern age. First, is called the interactive personality—these are considered the most common of all and are often human in nature. Whether it’s your deceased Aunt Sally coming to tell you that she’s not happy that you took her vintage jade brooch or a person lost to history they’re not always kind apparitions. These personalities can make themselves known in a variety of different ways, whether visible or not, some can speak, make noises, touch you, or even cause odors reminiscent of when they were alive (i.e. a perfume they used to wear, or cigar smoke). Those who study and hunt for ghosts are convinced that these spirits retain their personality and can still feel the emotions that would have been relevant to them during life.

Not all of the commonly acknowledged apparitions go out of their way to communicate with people—if you’ve ever heard of the White Ladies, you know that most if not all of these women keep to themselves, by lingering mournfully in a cemetery, or an aging historical building. These White Ladies are described as being dressed entirely in white and can be heard sobbing, crying, or wailing over the painful loss that drove them to take their own lives. They’re not known to necessarily interact with their environment, so much as to be painfully aware of where they are and continue to wallow in the depth of grief that keeps them stuck where they died.

The term poltergeist would most likely conjure images of a swirling vortex and alternate dimensions resulting from disrespecting ancient burial grounds of Native Americans, but it’s not the most accurate portrayal. Poltergeist is actually one of the most common names for a ghost that can interact with their environment—except that instances of these spirits are more often associated with violent interaction with their physical environment. They can knock items off of shelves, open cabinet doors, slam doors, stack chairs, or generally displace objects from their original resting place. Not too surprisingly, poltergeists are the most terrifying because they give us the impression that if they can move things around us, then they can also take physical action upon us.

So, whether you’re experiencing unnatural phenomena throughout your house or are out hunting ghosts in an abandoned building, you may find that there are multiple types of entities that you come across. Ghosts are herein described as the spirits of people or animals that have passed away that may have an unordinary attachment to the world of the living–good or bad, it depends on the person they were in life. Due to the lack of documentation that has been proven to be authenticated, it’s unlikely that you will be able to capture viable evidence that would declare with finality that ghosts are real. It is, however, important to continue to try to document proof of the existence of ghosts, because otherwise, we may never know.

Lalaurie Mansion – New Orleans Louisiana

The Lalaurie Mansion is considered one of the most haunted houses in the United States. It is located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Delphine LaLaurie inhabited the mansion with her third husband Dr. Louis Lalaurie. Delphine had a mysterious past being that her first two husbands both mysteriously died. She inherited a great fortune from those marriages and her wealth only grew when she married Louis LaLaurie. They moved into the mansion around 1831 and it was known as a high brow spot for entertaining and parties. Delphine was known to abuse the house slaves with a very short temper and it seems possible she got pleasure out of the torture.

On one occasion during a party at the house, Delphine became enraged at a slave girl and allegedly pushed her over the stair rail to her death in the courtyard. She was later accused of barbarism for how she treated her slaves which at the time was illegal. Due to the Lalaurie’s status though they were quickly able to regain their slaves and continue with little re-corse. On April 10th, 1834 during another party the house experienced a kitchen fire. It was discovered that another slave had set fire to the kitchen on purpose as she would rather die than remain chained to the kitchen stove where she had been shackled for days.

When the fire brigade arrived and began investigating they found a chamber upstairs with as many as seven deceased slaves that had been tortured, possibly experimented on in a medical fashion, and all were chained to the walls or floors.

After the gruesome discovery and angry mob formed but Delphine, Louis, and their two children escaped justice in a carriage. They were never again found so the mystery of what happened in that torture chamber continues on to this day.

This haunted house has reports of liquid leaking from the walls, banging and screaming coming from the upstairs chamber and a history of being cursed. No one who has owned the house has kept it for more than a few years and several experienced financial ruins while owning it. At one-time actor, Nicholas Cage owned the house, but he also quickly turned it over.

Due to the hideous activities that occurred in the house, it is often considered one of America’s most haunted mansions. This paranormal story still has gaps though. Where did the family escape too and did they continue torturing and killing people?

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Horror Mystery and Lore

The Ghosts of 274 Charming Forge Road

Built in 1749 on roughly forty-eight acres of land the Charming Forge mansion is nothing short of that, charming. Originally under the ownership of Baron Stiegel, a well renowned glassmaker and ironmaster in Pennsylvania, the mansion features seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, seven different fireplaces, original colonial woodwork, and a history of paranormal encounters within the property.

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Charming Forge Plaque

In August of 1976 Charming Forge came under the ownership of Luther Sensenig Womelsdorf and her sister Lewis Everline. Sensenig said her family experienced paranormal encounters very frequently. The first phenomenon Sensenig and her family recall happened on the lengthy stairs leading from the entry way of the mansion to the top of the third floor. Sensenig was in the kitchen and heard footsteps. She called out to whoever was running on the steps, but there was no answer.

As she made her way into the hall she arrived in time to hear the footsteps turn at the first landing of the stairway. Nobody was in sight even though she could see the opening of the stairway up to the third floor. What made it all the more odd was the phantom footsteps continued to be heard as if someone were running up to the third floor. She followed the sounds up the stairs . Once the unknown footsteps reached the third floor they immediately stopped. No one was there.

Over the course of the Sensenig families’ residency at Charming Forge footsteps were heard occasionally throughout the house as well as unexplained clunking and scraping of chains, screams, bumps, doors creaking and loud crashes. Sensenig also recalled a day walking through a hall directly next to the main hall and noticed a black cloud was floating just above her head. As soon as she noticed the apparition it quickly disappeared. On separate occasions Mr. Sensenig and his daughter Peggy had both hear the screen door slam shut, but no one was there. There wasn’t any wind according to Sensenig and the spring on the screen door was locked.

Another legend surrounding Charming Forge includes the “Weeping Lady” and her lover Stiegle. The story of Stiegel recalls that he galloped up to the Forge on his horse where he saw his beloved on the mansion hill, waving a kerchief at him. He rose on his stirrups to acknowledge her but the action spooked the horse which reared up and threw him from the saddle to his untimely death. Some accounts add the disturbing detail that as he was being tossed the reins wrapped around his neck and severed his head. She is said to roam these halls aimlessly awaiting the return of her lover, crying and weeping. Some say you may even see her deceased lover in the yard at night, a headless ghost.

Others say you may hear the sounds of German prisoners from the American revolution that died on these grounds. It is also noted the original owner, Baron Stiegel himself is said to have died in the house while his nephew was looking after him. Some believe Baron Stiegel haunts the house to this day.

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Outside of Charming Forge

A story from 1926 recounts that while the mansion was undergoing construction, an Indian visited the site and warned crew members and the owner at the time that it was being built upon an Indian burial ground. This is believed to be true as old records of the Forge mentioned the discovery of several human bones  during the renovations. 

As the story goes the ironmaster scoffed at this notion and waved off the Indian. The Indian is said to have placed a curse on Charming Forge. However seconds after the Indian spoke he was killed by a blow from a piece of faulty ironmaking equipment. His ghost too is believed to roam the yard of Charming Forge.

The last homeowner who lived there for fifteen years before recently selling Charming Forge hasn’t had any paranormal experiences himself, though some guests have felt the presence of the paranormal and have been uneasy in the house. Charming Forge is filled with history of the paranormal, and the attraction to it leaves those interested in the paranormal in awe.

This house just changed owners in September of 2019. As you might imagine it sat on the market before finally selling for the low price of $650,000. Perhaps buying haunted real estate is where the best deals are… if only you can find a brave enough buyer.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Haunted Remnants of the Harry Flavel House in Astoria, OR

About the House

Also built by the Flavel family, the Harry Flavel House, even though it was first considered the Captain George Flavel House, is called such because of the history that followed after Harry Sherman Flavel. This house was originally owned by Captain George Conrad Flavel, then inherited by the captain’s son Harry M. Flavel where he lived with his wife Florence, and his two children Harry Sherman and Mary Louise. The status of the Flavel family, as well as respected members of the community, ended when Harry Sherman earned his Hatchet Harry nickname.

The Timeline of the Flavels, Their Houses & Fate

1893

Captain Flavel lived in the house for seven years with his wife Mary Christina Boelling and their two adult daughters, Nelli and Katie. Their son, George Conrad Flavel never resided within the George Conrad Flavel House, as he was already married and living in a house of his own. During his seventh year in the residence of the Flavel House, Captain Flavel passed away, leaving the to the family.

1901

Captain George Conrad Flavel’s son, George Conrad Flavel would build his house—the house that is now often referred to as the Harry Flavel House. George Conrad Flavel Junior had worked as a bar pilot for his father, becoming a Captain as well.

1923

Harry Melville and his first wife had three children, the middle of which—Patricia Jean Flavel—would donate the Captain George Conrad Flavel House to the Clatsop County Historical later in 1951. The two had their own home, but after Harry Melville’s father George Junior had passed away, he inherited the house. He ended up moving back into the home to stay with his mother.

1925

Harry Melville and his second wife Florence Sherman would have their first child Mary Louise.

1927

Harry Melville and Florence had their second child, Harry Sherman Flavel.

1944

Harry Melville’s mother lived in the house until she passed away.

1947

When Harry Sherman was twenty-two years old, the Flavels’ neighbor Fred Fulton heard screams of help emanating from the Flavel House—he feared that something was wrong and he burst into the home and rushed upstairs, where he found Harry’s mother, Florence screaming to be let out of the room she had been locked in. Harry Sherman proceeded to attack his neighbor with a hatchet, hitting the banister and cutting his neighbor’s arm. It was at this point that Harry earned the nickname “Hatchet Harry.”

Harry was subsequently charged with assault with a deadly weapon, but his mother Florence insisted she had been in no danger when the trial rolled around. Both Harry’s mother and sister Mary testified that their neighbor, Fred Fulton, had been drunk and broke into their home. They claimed that Harry had acted in self-defense because he had been frightened of the neighbor. The charges against Harry were eventually dropped.

1983

Thirty-six years after the incident that dubbed Harry Sherman, Hatchet Harry, he and his sister Mary Louise were still living at home with their mother Florence. Neither Harry nor Mary had gotten married and thus had no children to speak of.

Between the hatchet incident and 1983, Harry had a history of taking in stray dogs, so there were always a lot of dogs on the property—he was once accused of stealing a dog from his neighbors because Harry believed they weren’t walking it enough, but his neighbors were too scared of him to go to the Flavel house and take their dog back.

Harry was walking two dogs when a car belonging to a twenty-two-year-old Alec Josephson sped past him—Harry retaliated to the speeding by hitting the car with the dog’s chain as it went by. Driven to anger, Josephson chased Harry down an alley on foot where Harry stabbed him. Harry was charged with assault once again and was nearly sentenced to twenty years in jail, but was given probation instead.

1990

After he exhausted all of his appeals and lost, his sister Mary Louis and their mother Florence packed up and abandoned the house. Neighbors claim that the Flavel’s came back to the house several times over the years, but always called them first to be sure there weren’t any police around.

In October, Harry Sherman, Mary Louise, and their mother Florence were found in Pennsylvania where Harry was arrested for stealing hotel towels—he would have been extradited, but he and the family fled from law enforcement again.

1991

The Flavel family turned up once again in Massachusetts where Harry was arrested by the FBI and was taken back to Clatsop County where he was jailed until the hearing could take place. He ended up spending a year in jail before he was finally released and disappeared back to Massachusetts. Shortly after he was released from Clatsop County Jail, his mother Florence passed away and both of her children refused to claim her body from the morgue.

2010

Harry Sherman Flavel died at eight-two years of age on May 31 and while his sister Mary still owned the house, it remained empty—in October a black mourning bunting mysteriously appeared draped from the balcony. “Hatchet” Harry Sherman’s body remained in the morgue for nine months because Mary Louise refused to pay for a burial.

2011

The city of Astoria finally initiated proceedings to create a derelict building ordinance, in order to deal with the eye-sores of the Flavel properties. This ordinance allowed the city to impose a fine for each day that properties were in violation. After being unable to reach Mary Louise, the last remaining owner, the city began the process to have the properties forfeited, so that they would be able to take control of the properties.

2015

Eventually, a deal was made after the fines went unpaid, which allowed Mary Louise to sell the properties herself.

2017

The last of the Flavel’s dilapidated properties were finally sold, which left the family without any stake in Astoria.

Ghosts of the Harry Flavel House

The current owner, Newenhof dismisses the idea that the house is haunted, but the age of the interior and all of its facilities definitely gives the house a feeling of being stuck in the past. Aside from the vibe, there have been reports of it being haunted, but no real detailed reports of first-hand experiences.

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Haunting of Captain George Conrad Flavel House in Astoria, OR

About the House

The Flavel House in Astoria, while now a museum, was once a mansion that is haunted by the spirits of those poor souls of the family who once inhabited its walls. The phantom remnants of the Flavel family have made themselves known by speaking amongst themselves—which has been reported as disembodied voices—as well as practicing music in the empty rooms. A woman’s ghost has been sighted in the hallway, and Captain Flavel himself has been seen in his old bedroom before promptly vanishing.

The Interior

A Queen Anne style, two and a half story, 11,600 square-foot behemoth, the Flavel House sits on the corner of a fairly large plot of land—there is traditional woodwork around the interior windows, doors, windows, and staircase, all of which are Eastlake-influenced in design. The doors and window trim were made of Douglas Fir and were crafted by a master carpenter to look like mahogany and burl rosewood. There are six unique fireplace mantels within the house and they feature different imported tiles from around the world, an elaborate hand-carved mantel and a patterned firebox designed to burn coal. The first floor features fourteen-foot high ceilings, where the second floor’s ceilings sit at twelve feet high and are both embellished with crown molding and plaster medallions. The house was also fitted with indoor plumbing—incredibly state-of-the-art at the time—as well as gas-fueled lighting.

The first floor is dedicated to the public rooms, such as the grand entrance hall, formal parlor, music room—where the Flavel daughters held their music recitals—the library, dining room, and conservatory. The more private rooms on the first floor included the butler’s pantry, kitchen, and mudroom which were reserved for the housekeeping staff. The second floor was where the main bathroom, five bedrooms, and a small storage room or sewing room were. The attic floor is large and unfinished and houses the two plain wood bedrooms that were used by the Flavel’s domestic help. The four-story tower was made for the Captain to have a 360-degree view of Astoria and the Columbia River as a way for him to keep an eye on the local ship traffic coming through. There was also a dirt-floor basement that housed the large wood-burning furnace that kept the house warm.

The Carriage House was home to the family’s caretaker, and was also originally made to hold the family kept their carriage, sleigh, and small buggies—where it had three temporary holding stalls for their horses, a tack room, and an upstairs hayloft. In time it was transitioned to hold the more modern vehicles, such as the Flavel’s Studebaker sedan, and the family’s driver kept a room upstairs.

The Grounds

Not too long after the house was originally built, the family’s gardener, Louis Schultz, began planting trees, beautiful roses, as well as bulb flowers and shrubs—many of which were typical of a traditional Victorian garden. A number of the trees on the premises were officially named Oregon Heritage Trees—there is also a pond and a bench under the pear tree where Flavel’s daughters would sit in the shade. The entire house is considered a significant architectural and historical treasure for the entire Pacific Northwest.

The Timeline of the Flavels, Their Houses & Fate

1886

While the construction of the Captain George Conrad Flavel house was started in 1884, and it was finally finished in the spring of 1886. The Flavel House was built for Captain George Conrad Flavel and his family. The house was designed by German-born architect Carl W. Leick and the construction bordered between the Victorian and Colonial Revival periods. It was considered a prime example of Queen Anne architecture; one of the few remaining well-preserved examples in the entire Northwest. Due to the Captain’s long history and contributions to the community of Astoria, the Flavel family had long been considered the most prominent family in town.

The Captain had made his name and fortune as a prominent businessman through real estate investments and his occupation as a Columbia River bar pilot—becoming Astoria’s first millionaire—at the age of 62, he was finally able to retire in the house that he had built for himself and his family.

1887

The Carriage House was built on the south-west corner of the property.

1890s

Alex Murray, the family’s hired caretaker, called the Carriage House home while in the employment of the Flavels.

1893

Captain Flavel lived in the house for seven years with his wife Mary Christina Boelling and their two adult daughters, Nelli and Katie. Their son, George Conrad Flavel never resided within the George Conrad Flavel House, as he was already married and living in a house of his own. During his seventh year in the residence of the Flavel House, Captain Flavel passed away, leaving the to the family.

1901

Captain George Conrad Flavel’s son, George Conrad Flavel would build his house—the house that is now often referred to as the Harry Flavel House. George Conrad Flavel Junior had worked as a bar pilot for his father, becoming a Captain as well.

1922

When most of downtown Astoria was destroyed by a fire, the Flavel House was one of the only survivors.

1934

The Captain George Conrad Flavel House remained in the family until the great-granddaughter Patricia Jean Flavel gave the property to the city as a memorial to her family.

1936

The house was set to be torn down to establish an outdoor community property—the city ended up having financial difficulties and returned the property to Patricia Flavel—that same year, Patricia deeded the residence to Clatsop County, but with conditions. The understanding was that both the grounds and the house would be kept in good repair and used for public purposes.

1937

From the time the house was deeded the to county, until the end of World War II, the Public Health Department, Red Cross, and local Welfare Commission all had offices within the mansion.

1951

The Captain George Conrad Flavel House was officially added to the list of the National Register of Historic places, before which it was nearly demolished twice—once for a parking lot and again for a community park, but the townspeople rallied against the proposal and it began to be operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society in 1950.

2003

The Camperdown Elm, Sequoia Redwood, four Cork Elms, Bay Laurel, Pear, and Ginkgo Biloba trees on the premises were named official Oregon Heritage Trees in a state-wide dedication ceremony that was held on the grounds.

The Haunting at Captain George Conrad Flavels House

Truly, ever since the Flavel house was converted into a museum in 1951, there have been many reports of hauntings; phantom music and voices were heard on the first story of the house which was believed to have been a product of the Flavel sisters, as they were gifted musicians. The Library has always housed an unhappy and strange presence. There is an apparition of a woman who roams the hallway on the second floor, but she vanishes when approached—and a floral scent can be smelt at strange times in the bedroom of Ms. Flavel, when no one has been around. In Captain George Flavel’s room, his apparition can be seen, but he disappears into the floor once he has been noticed.