The following article was written by Jason Offutt and published on on August 29, 2013

A concrete pavement leads visitors to Hannibal, Missouri’s Mark Twain Cave, and a dark, metal door opens to take them into the limestone labyrinth that inspired McDougal’s Cave in Twain’s 1876 novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

Sawyer and Becky Thatcher almost met their doom in this cave, but the real story of the cave has haunted Hannibal for more than 170 years.

An uncountable number of feet have scraped across the stone floor since the cave’s discovery in 1819. Feet that belonged to the curious, the romantic, and the likes of Twain, and outlaw Jesse James (he wrote his name on a limestone wall, and handwriting experts agree it’s his).

“I seemed to tire of most everything I did,” Twain wrote in his autobiography. “But I never tired of exploring the cave.”

The cave, at 11 degrees (52 degrees Fahrenheit) year-round, has housed town meetings, weddings and may still be home to the ghost of a teenage girl. St. Louis surgeon Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell, who founded the Missouri Medical College, owned the cave when Twain was a boy.

McDowell was a gifted physician and maybe a little crazy. “He was trying to petrify a human body,” Susie Shelton, general manager of the cave, said. “His own daughter died of pneumonia at 14. He took a copper cylinder lined with glass. He filled it with an alcohol mixture, put in his daughter, and hung it from a ceiling in a cave room.”

Let that sink in. Instead of holding a funeral service for his teenage daughter and interring her in the St. Louis McDowell family mausoleum, he stuck her body into a copper tube, filled it with alcohol, and suspended it from a cave ceiling 120 miles away from the home where she grew up, lived, and died.

The girl in the cave became a magnet for the children of Hannibal. Older children would lead younger ones on an adventure to the cave, which was three miles outside the city limits in Twain’s time. Armed with torches, they would crawl inside, and tell ghost stories around the cylinder.

Then, when the smaller ones were on the edge of terror, someone would approach the tube and unscrew it. “The top of the cylinder was removable,” Twain wrote in ‘Life on the Mississippi.’ “And it was said to be a common thing for the baser order of tourists to drag the dead face into view and examine it and comment upon it.”

The younger children would run screaming from the cave. Twain never admitted to taking part in these activities. After two years of complaints from the residents of Hannibal, McDowell moved his daughter’s body to the family mausoleum in St. Louis.

But, according to some, the lonely figure of young Miss McDowell is still there, walking in the chilled darkness of the cave. “I’ve had guides say they’ve seen somebody,” Susie said. “I’ve been in and out of there 15 years and have never seen or felt anything.”

However, former tour guide Tom Rickey saw something there in the late 1990s that still haunts him. “I got a cold chill,” he said. “I got them now thinking about it. I got a chill over me and I turned around and she was there.”

‘She was a girl wearing a long, old-fashioned dress with a cape. “I happened to look back in McDowell’s room … and I saw her standing there as plain as day,” Tom said. “She had long dark hair. Very, very pretty. She was only there for an instant.”

Thinking the girl was a lost tourist, he tried to speak to her, but she turned and went into the cave room. “She walked off,” Tom said. “She didn’t fade away, but there wasn’t nowhere to walk. She went through the wall. She just walked off and she wasn’t there anymore.”

Susie said Tom’s experience isn’t isolated. “There have been stories of people seeing a little girl in there, so it’s possible,” she said. “I’ve had a few tour guides who’ve said they’ve felt something. Some guides don’t like to go in there by themselves.”




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Built in 1890 by Bart Adams as a summer home, the house on Plant Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri, is known by the second owner’s name—Henry Gehm. Gehm lived in the house from 1906 until 1944. He died in the 1950s from spinal cancer at a local hospital

By all accounts, Henry Gehm was a bit eccentric. Examples: He owned railroad cars and, in the early 1900s, he leased many of them to traveling circuses. He dealt in gold coins and hid them in different places on his property. The first indication of a haunting was in 1956 when S. L. and Fannie Furry bought the house.

When S.L. and Fannie Furry bought the house in 1956, the first supernatural incidents emerged.

Fannie Furry reported:

  • Being shaken awake at 2:00 AM while sleeping.
  • Hearing hammering sounds on her headboard. The banging was so loud, she was sure the headboard broke. When she turned on the light, it undamaged.
  • A thumping against the windows at night, but she could never identify the source.
  • Finding a heavy wall sconce lying on the floor.
  • The sounds of footsteps going up and down the stairs at all times of the day and night. She felt like someone was searching for a lost possession.

Soon, other family members experienced eerie incidents.

S. L. reported:

  • Awakening to see a misty form drifting, then gliding into the hall. S.L. followed the enigma into his youngest daughter’s bedroom, where the mist vanished.

The Furry’s three-year-old daughter:

  • She asked her parents about the older woman dressed in black who came into her room at night. Fannie questioned her. The young girl said she was talking about a lady who had a little boy with her.
  • Later, she told her mom sometimes this woman spanked her with a broom, but it didn’t hurt.

The couple, having endured the ghostly activity for nine years, decided it was time to move.

The next family to move in was the Walsh family. They moved in In November 1965, their ten-year-old Wendy and twenty-year-old Sandy. They did not know of the hauntings.

Clare Walsh reports:

  • One evening, the family dog accompanied Fannie in the kitchen. Unexpectedly, the canine cowered and began quivering. Right after, Clare watched a white, misty form sail into the living room and hesitated for a moment before it vanished.
  • She heard footsteps traveling the house at night. She, too, felt as if a person was looking for something.
  • Clare felt a presence before hearing rapping on the bedroom window.
  • Claire Walsh sensed the spirit of a little blonde-haired girl in the attic. She also heard children running up and down the stairs and found writing made by a child with a handprint.

She decided to research the history of the house. She asked the neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Kuru, if anything strange had happened in the place. The Kurus told her they considered buying her home. They didn’t.

It seems the man across the street frequently stayed in the home. He told the Kurus he believed it to be haunted. Clare talked to the man across the street. He said Gehm hid valuables in various places in the house, and he was sure it was  Gehm’s ghost returning to find his treasures.

After this discussion, Clare thought about the house and the oddity of the attic door refusing to remain closed. She knew she had closed it; when she returned, it was open again. Her husband and daughters reported hearing footsteps and also hearing the door to the attic creak as it opened.

She thought the best place to start searching for treasure was the attic.

Clair discovered that the stairs to the attic had a tread that opened and exposed a hiding place underneath. A treasure could have easily been hidden there at some point in the past.

  • One day, Clare had an impulse to go to the attic. She found the door standing open. The last time that Clare had been there, everything was in order. She was shocked to discover everything out of order. A heavy chest of drawers stood open; one drawer was dangling on its side. Blueprints filled the bureau. When she inspected the prints, the name printed on them was that of Henry Gehm.
  • In March of 1966, Henry Gehm’s spirit appeared and directed Mrs. Walsh to a hidden doorway in the attic.
  • Behind the door was a secret chamber, but it was empty. Rumor was Gehm buried gold coins somewhere on the property.

The activity increased. Clare reports:

  • The footsteps continued.
  • She found the dining room’s breakfront open, and objects in its drawers rearranged.
  • One day, Clare discovered her dresser open and her clothing scattered. Wendy told her mother she saw a person opening and closing her mother’s dresser.
  • The family heard muted cries.
  • The typewriter in Wendy’s room worked by itself, lights turned on and off randomly, and their dog became bewildered and scared.
  • The family discussed the situation. They thought there were at least two ghosts, Gehm’s and a child’s. They decided to move.

Presently, the Wheeler family and their three children live in the house. They feel it’s haunted.

  • The Wheelers had a dog who would stand at the top of the stairs, with his nose pointed and tail raised in the air as if he was staring at something that they couldn’t see.
  • Their son Jack woke to the bed shaking on its own. He reported seeing the ghost of a man in old-fashioned clothes.
  • Mysterious noises emit from the attic.
  • Bedclothes are disturbed, and there are indentations on mattresses as if an invisible entity is sitting or lying on them.
  • A misty white form materialized in the pantry.

The ghosts are believed to be Henry Gehm, his wife, and a grandson, who was six when he died.

Wheeler said he initially thought about allowing investigations. On second thought, though, he decided to live quietly and raise three children at the house. For years, he turned down interview requests.

“Haunted houses either die off, or they get commercialized,” Wheeler said then. “We’re glad ours didn’t get commercialized.”


Haunts of Missouri:


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The Sultan’s Palace on 715 Dauphine Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, is also known by other names: The Gardette-LePrete House, the House of the Turks, and, of course, the Sultan’s House. The building in the French Quarter looks much like other mansions and structures there. So, it’s easy to chalk it up to another old building that adds charm to New Orleans—until you hear the rumors.

Joseph Coulton Gardette, a dentist from Philadelphia, built the house on Dauphine Street in 1836. In 1839 he sold the house to a wealthy plantation owner named Jean Baptiste LaPrete. LaPrete used the residence as a second home to spend the cooler months when he could afford to leave the plantation. During the Civil War, LaPrete fell on hard times and rented the house to supplement his income.

Prince Suleyman, a Turkish man who claimed to be a sultan of a middle eastern country, rented the property from LaPrete.

Suleyman moved in, installed new locks on all of the doors, blocked the windows, and completely redecorated the house. Suleyman moved several women, family members, children, and servants into the new home. Turkish guards patrolled the house regularly, and no one was allowed on the property without Suleyman’s approval.

Suleyman threw extravagant parties that filled the house with music, dancing, and incense, and some say opium. So much incense that neighbors said the scent filled the neighborhood. The frivolities went on for a while.

Then, a neighbor passing by one morning noticed that the house seemed unusually quiet. No guards patrolled the house, and the front gate, always locked, stood open. Curious, the neighbor went through the gate and saw blood oozing from underneath the front door, dripping down the stairs and filling the uneven stones of the walkway.

The neighbor went to the police. They reportedly found body parts scattered around the house. Blood saturated the floors. No one in the house survived. Women, children, servants, and even the guards had all been slaughtered, beheaded, and dismembered. The Sultan was not among the dead.

His absence was a mystery. Then, something in the courtyard caught the eye of one of the policemen. It was a hand straining toward the sky from beneath the dirt. It was the Sultan, and he had been buried alive.

No one ever identified the killers, but there were a lot of speculations. Some blamed pirates, but the murders didn’t fit the pirate Modus Operandi. After further investigation, it was discovered that Prince Suleyman wasn’t a sultan himself but the brother of one. It seems Suleyman had stolen from his brother and then fled the country to start a new life. His brother tracked him down and executed him, along with everyone else in the house.

It is also worth note that the murders supposedly committed on Daphne Street cannot be verified. There is nothing in old newspapers. The only confirmation is the legend handed down over the last almost 200 years.

Regardless of the murders occurring or not, several people report hauntings.

One owner of the Gardette-Le Pretre House, now a collection of apartments, admitted that odd happenings occur in the building, like keys that disappear only to reappear later. People continue to report the smell of exotic incense on the street outside the building. Tenants claim to have seen the spirit of the Sultan himself, dressed in robes and a turban, standing at the foot of their beds. Many blame vengeful ghosts for the falling death of a woman hanging laundry on an upper-floor balcony. People report seeing the veiled faces of the slain members of the harem peering mournfully out of upstairs windows. Ghosts of the Sultan’s entourage are said to move about the building, and the sounds of footsteps are heard running about in panic or climbing upstairs.

And then there are the screams. Specifically, cries in the middle of the night possibly lending credence to the night of horror in the Sultan’s Palace.

Further, In 1979, Frank D’Amico’s wife lived in the penthouse of the building on the upper floor. As she described the event, Mrs. D’Amico climbed into bed and almost immediately witnessed a dark figure standing at the foot of her bed. It approached her, gliding over the floor. She panicked (I would, too.) and scrambled to turn on the lamp sitting on her bedside table. The lights lit up all of the dark corners of her bedroom. No one was there. The dark figure vanished as quickly as it appeared.

One resident of 716 Dauphine reports going down the stairs to do laundry and watching his dog shoved down the flight of stairs by an unseen force. He says his dog also refuses to enter the living room unless brought inside by himself. Animals reportedly have a sixth sense in sniffing out ghosts and spirits, and it seems that this dog certainly knows that something isn’t quite right about the former Sultan’s Palace.

According to historians and paranormal enthusiasts like James Caskey, there seem to be two main ghosts haunting the Sultan’s Palace, and it’s unlikely that either one is a result of the purported bloodbath of 1836. The first is that of a Confederate Soldier, who still haunts the house in his military uniform. The second is the spirit of a woman, who probably lived in the house at some point in time. (Maybe the one who fell while hanging her laundry out to dry?)

The ghost of the Confederate soldier remains both mysterious and interesting. No Civil War battles were fought in the local area of New Orleans; it may seem strange, then, that the so-called Sultan’s Palace is haunted by one.

The “Sultan’s Palace” is a private residence, and you cannot go inside. There are, however, several ghost tours around New Orleans that will pass by the area, tell you the chilling story,  and give you even more information about who may be haunting the Sultan’s Palace.

Until next time,


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The story of the Titus homestead in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania seems to lend proof that the dead walk the earth. 

The Titus homestead is located near Plymouth. First settled in 1769, Plymouth was an early pioneer settlement in the Wyoming Valley of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Its location along the Susquehanna River and at the junction of several important Indian trails made Plymouth the ideal place for a trading post. When coal was discovered in the area in the early 19th century, Plymouth– like its neighbor, Wilkes-Barre– became a thriving mining town.

Dennis Titus, one of three miners killed in October of 1885 when the Delaware & Hudson mine collapsed, owned Titus homestead. After his death, his daughter, Cora, and widow, Mary Titus, stayed in the family home on Vine Street until 1900, when Mary remarried and moved out of town.

Although four generations of the Titus family lived on this homestead, the original owner’s name is unknown. Reported to be one of the oldest houses in Plymouth, its construction dates back to the Revolutionary War.

In May of 1897, Mary Titus began experiencing strange and peculiar happenings inside her home.

Residents in the area reported hearing strange knocking sounds throughout the house, anytime day or night. These sounds came from the basement. Yet, whenever Mary or Cora went down the wooden stairs, the knocking stopped, and they found the cellar empty.

At first, Mary attributed this knocking and pounding to some natural cause, like the settling of the house on its foundation. But when visitors heard the knocking sounds, they were immediately frightened out of their wits.

The knocks seemed to be coming up through the floorboards, and guests swore they could feel the pounding in the soles of their feet. No, this was not the sound of a house settling.

Neighbors witnessed the knockings and rappings inside the Titus home. They thought they had found a supernatural explanation when the neighbors learned that the strange sounds began almost immediately after company officials re-opened the portion of the mine where Dennis Titus had met his death.

Some of the Plymouth miners visited the house on Vine Street to hear the eerie sounds for themselves, and many said  the knocks were identical to those heard in the mines after workers the cave-in  entombed them.

Mary, however, did not buy this explanation. Her husband’s body had been recovered from the mine and given a proper burial, and whomever– or whatever– was haunting the Titus home seemed to have little interest in the widow. The unwelcome entity appeared to have a peculiar fascination with Mary’s daughter, Cora.

Since the knocking began, Cora was subject to fits of hysterics. St. Vitus’s dance afflicted her, too. This disease causes the victims to twitch and jerk uncontrollably. Cora claimed that she had seen the ghost, and it followed her from room to room.

Mary Titus came to believe that Cora’s malady might explain the tapping noises. One day, while sitting at the kitchen table, there came the sudden sound of tapping from beneath the floor. Mary noticed a tapping sound every time her daughter’s foot twitched involuntarily. The mystery, it seemed, had a perfectly rational explanation.

Cora was diagnosed with hysteria and St. Vitus’ dance. Today, we know that St. Vitus’ dance comes from a specific childhood bacterial infection and not from demonic possession or supernatural forces. Eighty percent of cases involve patients between the ages of 7 and 11, and it is exceedingly rare in persons over the age of 16.

However, Cora was nearly twenty years of age when she first began experiencing these convulsions. Also, Cora’s disease did not explain why numerous witnesses heard knocking and pounding noises even when Cora wasn’t present.

Mary Titus eventually remarried and moved out of the neighborhood, settling into a new home on Courtright Street in the nearby borough of Plains. Cora also got married and moved to Courtright Street, leaving the Titus homestead abandoned and stories of the haunted house forgotten. That is, until 1903.

In March of that year, some young boys were playing inside the abandoned Titus home. They were digging holes in the cellar’s dirt floor when they noticed a chunk of wood sticking out of the ground by the building’s foundation.

Further digging revealed a wooden box, about three feet in length and one foot in width. With thoughts of buried treasure in their curious minds, the young boys pried open the lid and found a bundle of bones inside.

Rather than being frightened, the youngsters were disappointed. One of the boys thought the relics might be worth something, so they gathered up several bones and approached a local junk dealer, who gave the children a few pennies. The boys immediately ran off to buy candy. The junk man showed the bones to Dr. C.L. Ashley, who recognized one of the fragments as a piece of the human breast bone.

When authorities arrived, they found the bones to be so brittle they practically crumbled at the slightest touch. Belief is the original owner built atop a long-forgotten burial ground of a centuries-old homestead. But they also made another exciting discovery—over the years, as the house settled, part of the foundation settled upon the lid of the wooden box, causing it to break.

Is it possible a spirit couldn’t rest in peace after the house’s foundation broke through the coffin?  Is it possible the knocking sounds heard by Mary and Cora and dozens of visitors to the Titus home result from the disruption? We may never know. I must admit, though, it is a great mystery.

Until next time,


Author: Marlin Bressi, source:

Marlin Bressi is an author and history buff who currently resides in Harrisburg. As a nonfiction writer, he has authored four books. The most recent are Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America’s Most Colorful Hermits and Pennsylvania Oddities.


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The Joshua A Ward house can be found just one block south of Town House Square, in the heart of historic Salem.

The Joshua A. Ward House is an impressive, three-story, brick Federal-style structure and is now the home to businesses.  The Massachusetts Historical Commission restored it beautifully.

Retired sea captain turned merchant Joshua Ward built this home in the mid-1780s. While visiting Salem in October 1789, George Washington stayed here as the honored guest of Joshua Ward.

In the late 1800s, this structure became an upscale hotel called The Washington Hotel.

The house faced a shaky future during the 20th century. As land near downtown is valuable, changes were coming for this property, with a building in need of TLC. In 1970, a developer approached the Salem Redevelopment Authority to demolish the house and build a commercial building.

The Authority turned his offer down. Instead, funds were raised to restore the mansion. Because of these efforts, the former home and hotel became a commercial enterprise, with businesses moving in to set up business offices.

In the early 1980s, a real estate company named Carlson Realty bought the Joshua Ward House, intending to turn it into their headquarters. After moving in, an employee named Dale Lewinski began taking photographs of the staff members to add to a welcome display.

Lewinski was using a Polaroid camera to snap head-and-shoulders, passport-style pictures. After photographing a colleague by the name of Lorraine St. Peter, a peculiar sight greeted Lewinski.

Instead of showing Lorraine St. Peter, the Polaroid developed but showed a strange, black-haired female figure. (The apparition completely overshadowed and even replaced St. Peter.)

Robert Ellis Cahill published a reproduction of this photo in his book Haunted Happenings. Ellis, himself an ex-sheriff) describes St. Peter as “both genuinely frightened and embarrassed by the picture.”

The possibility of the photograph being a hoax is ever-present, but the House endures frequent paranormal events. So,  it’s almost as if it’s more unlikely to NOT capturing something bizarre on camera.

Whether it is accurate or not, it is truly a bizarre photograph, one that certainly seems to contain a degree of menace and so starkly strange as to create fright in the onlooker, primarily upon first viewing.


Joshua Ward built his mansion on the land where the infamous Sheriff George Corwin had his house/jail during the 1680s.

Corwin was a bloodthirsty character whose zeal added to Salem’s notorious events in the late 1600s—nicknamed ‘the Strangler’ after his preferred method of torture (which included tying his prone victims’ necks to their ankles until the blood ran from their noses). Corwin executed Nineteen men and women under Corwin’s watch,  including that of Giles Corey.

Corey’s torture consisted of placing heavy stones upon his chest in an attempt to crush a confession from out of him (and seize his property). Despite his horrific treatment, Corey never confessed, and indeed he is said to have implored his torturers to pile on more rocks to hasten his departure. Legend states that just before he died, Corey cursed Corwin for his despicable acts.

Sheriff George Corwin died of a sudden heart attack in 1697. His family interred him in the house’s cellar—an odd place to put a body. However, the townspeople so dispised the sheriff that his family was afraid that an unruly crowd would dismember his body. His grave remained there for many years before being moved to Broad Street Cemetery.

Rumor is every sheriff after Corwin died in office or was “forced out from a heart or blood ailment. I cannot rule out these illnesses and deaths could be old age instead of a centuries-old curse.


One room, in particular, seems to be more haunted than the others. An employee would “lock her office door nightly only to return in the morning to find books and papers thrown across the floor, the wastebasket upside down and lampshades askew.”

At least two entities who reside here who were innocent victims of the witch trials, perhaps looking for Sheriff George. Neither of these apparitions are at peace or happy by the sounds of it.

One is the spirit of a woman with a black, rather wild hairstyle and may be an unjustly executed victim. People see her apparition roaming the hallways throughout the building. (This is the woman rumored to be in the Lewinski photograph.)

The second is said to be the spirit of Giles. Trash cans are found, turned over, books are pulled from shelves, rooms found in disarray.

Sheriff George is a third entity reported. He appears as an older male entity, sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace.

In the mid-1980s, people reported being choked by an unseen entity. No one is sure which entity causes this manifestation. Some think it is Sheriff George, while others believe it could be one of his angry victims.

People report many spirits, including the above-referenced elderly-looking gentleman sitting by a fireplace and a ghostly woman who roams the upper floors.

Other paranormal activity includes: Aportation (Objects appearing to move of their own accord) occurs at the Joshua Ward House. Candles leap from their holders and subsequently melt, or candles are mysteriously bent into ‘S’ shapes. Alarms go off by themselves (one alarm was triggered over sixty times in two years).

People report cold spots in certain corners of certain rooms.

The reports of hauntings in this house are numerous. Maybe one day it will be open for public tours. Until then, we can enjoy its extraordinary history and legends.


Until next time,

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