For nearly two centuries, American popular culture has been influenced by the supernatural. Author and founder of American Hauntings Ink, Troy Taylor, joined Dave Schrader (email) to reveal the roots of our fascination with ghosts, haunted houses, and the supernatural, along with stories he's uncovered that showcase something scary, evil, or demonic.
Taylor spoke about the Fox sisters and the rise of rise of spiritualism during the mid-19th century, which introduced Americans to idea of talking to the dead. Millions of people believed in spiritualism in that period, he revealed. Spiritualism faded in popularity but experienced a resurgence after the Civil War, when President Lincoln and his wife made it popular once again, Taylor continued. "The idea that someone died and that you could communicate with them afterward wasn't as strange back then as it is now," Taylor said.
He traced origin of one of his favorite ghost stories, The Vanishing Hitchhiker, in which an unsuspecting driver gives a dead girl a ride home. According to Taylor, the real story actually happened in Chicago, where a woman was seen flagging down drivers and trying to get into their cars as they passed by the Resurrection Cemetery. She became known as Resurrection Mary and drivers recognized her as someone from the area who had recently died, he reported.
In the latter half of the program, Colin Dickey traced a trail of some of America's haunted places. Dickey credited growing up near the famous Winchester Mystery House for fueling his fascination with weird locations. His journey took him to the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, where a ghost is said to move buckets of ice, to haunted hotels in downtown Los Angeles, a cemetery in Kansas, a bridge in Portland, Oregon, and a penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia. The stories of hauntings at each place have different vibes, Dickey disclosed.
He suggested the economic benefits of tourism is a motivating factor for many locations to claim paranormal activity occurred there. "Ghost tours become a way of keeping [these places] from becoming... a drain on the community," he said, noting how the Moundsville state prison was unceremoniously closed and left for the small town to deal with. Hauntings associated with these locations are usually residual hauntings, he explained, citing the St. Johns Bridge in Portland. "Supposedly a woman was murdered there in 1941, and the stone and metal from the bridge became a perfect conductor that would then replay her murder back," he revealed.