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I do love a good horror movie, especially in autumn when the leaves begin rustling against the front door and the wind whispers forebodingly in the chimney.
This Halloween weekend, I intend to plonk myself comfortably on the sofa with plenty of pick n’ mix and some true jump-out-of-your-skin classics.
I will no doubt be a little bit spooked, but probably won’t descend into full-blown depths of terror. After all, I know – somewhere in the logical parts of my brain – that what I’m watching isn’t real, that I’m really just shrieking at sleep-deprived actors covered in sticky corn syrup and food dye.
Of course, filmmakers don’t just pluck their ideas from nowhere, and there are enough dark and creepy goings-on out in the real world to keep Blumhouse Productions churning out creaks and scares for the foreseeable. Take, for instance…
1. The Haunting of 455a Sackett Street
In 2007, a story appeared on the Your Ghost Stories forum which chilled even those well used to reading about spectral happenings.
A charming old Brooklyn Brownstone full of character, 455a Sackett Street will no doubt appeal to those who’ve watched too many New York romcoms. However, behind its cinematic façade lurks an apparent darkness that lingers, tenant after tenant.
‘Tormented in Brooklyn’ gives the account of a woman named Jane, who claims she moved into this address in 1998, at the age of 14. Her family were initially ‘thrilled because it was the first apartment we’d ever had with more than one floor’. However, things soon took a devastating turn.
Within a fortnight of moving in, Jane was raped in her own bedroom by a man from the neighbourhood. Afterwards, their elderly neighbour told them nobody had stayed in the apartment ‘for more than a year at a time’ in all the many years she’d lived there, claiming ‘terrible tragedies befell all of said people’.
These tragedies allegedly included a little boy perishing in a fire mere weeks after moving in back in ‘the ’30s or 40s’, while a couple ‘were ‘whacked’ by the mob’ in the ’60s. Very quickly, the initial ‘eerie feelings’ and strange occurrences experienced by Jane’s family began to escalate.
The ceiling above Jane’s brother’s room collapsed, while a fire in Jane’s own bedroom couldn’t be explained by fire services. Terrifyingly, the door slammed behind Jane as she fought the flames and, had it not been for someone rushing up to open it, she wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.
One friend ‘refused to set foot’ in the apartment ever again after ‘seeing a little boy in burnt rags staring at her in my bathroom mirror’. Another, who’d been unaware of this sighting, ‘awoke in the middle of the night swearing that she saw a woman walk into my room through the door’.
Jane detailed ‘weird smells, sounds, and the feeling that something, or someone, did not want you there’, explaining how the family constantly felt ‘something bad was going to happen to you, and that you were not welcome at all’:
My brother and I heard children crying and laughing one day downstairs, and when we tried to leave my mother’s room, we were locked in, even though there was no lock, for an hour before it finally opened.
My mother was downstairs doing the laundry when the lights turned off in the basement and she felt a cold, scaly hand grab her shoulder.
The family moved out a year after they first walked in, as soon as they were able to find somewhere else. Not too long afterwards, the new residents discovered ‘the body of a little boy in the wall’ while renovating the basement, and swiftly moved out in turn.
Fortunately, the hauntings stopped after the move, and Jane urged others to trust their instincts ‘if you get horrible vibes from a place’. Solid advice.
2. The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund
One of the most detailed exorcism cases in American history involved a Wisconsin woman named in record books as Anna Ecklund, a pseudonym used to protect her identity.
Born to German immigrants in 1882, long before William Friedkin’s classic movie forever shaped how we imagined exorcisms to look, Anna’s early life was marked by significant trauma.
Anna was a devout Catholic who would attend mass up to seven times a week, and it would appear this was somewhat of a refuge for her. Her abusive, alcoholic father, Jacob, had already begun an affair with his own sister, and purportedly asked his daughter to begin an incestuous relationship on multiple occasions.
To complicate matters further, Jacob’s mistress/sister – a woman named Mina – was rumoured to be a witch and was widely feared by those in the area. Anna would later claim that Mina had ‘murdered four little ones’.
At the age of 14, Anna’s already troubled life took a terrible turn. She began reacting violently when entering the church, a place she had once loved, and even vomited after taking communion. Sinking into a dark depression, Anna stopped attending church altogether, becoming increasingly isolated from society over the years.
Anna underwent her first exorcism at the age of 30, performed by Father Theophilus Riesinger on June 18, 1912. She was declared free from all demons at this stage, but little did she or Father Riesinger know that there was even greater terror ahead.
In the years to come, Anna claimed she was being tormented by the spirits of her dead father and aunt Mina, believing they had cursed her for rejecting his advances. Unable to bear it any longer, in 1928, she sought out Father Riesinger’s services once again.
During three sessions of exorcism carried out at convent, described in a 1936 Time piece, Father Riesinger detailed how ‘her body, carried through the air, landed high above the door of the room and clung to the wall with catlike grips’ after ‘strong-armed nuns’ attempted to pin her down to a bed.
According to Father Riesinger’s account, Anna – who was determined ‘neither mentally nor physically abnormal’ following a medical examination – was possessed by her late father and aunt as well as by the biblical figure Judas Iscariot.
The priest also reported that Anna was possessed by the Christian prince of the devils Beelzebub as well as ‘hordes of imps’. The demonic voices were heard emitted through her mouth, ‘in English, German and Latin’.
Father Riesinger recalled how ‘horrible excrements, obviously preternatural in their volume and filth, were ejected by the possessed woman’, with Anna screaming ‘that burns, that scorches!’ when blessed with holy water.
A prayer to the Virgin Mary reportedly ’caused a bloating of the woman’s body’, with Anna appearing ’emaciated at times, her face fiery red at others, her lips swollen to the size of hands, her abdomen so hard at one time that it bent the iron bedstead to the floor’.
The exorcism was believed a success, with Anna only exhibiting ‘milder’ possessions after this date. However, the terror among those who had witnessed her possession lingered after the demons had purportedly gone, with several nuns who had been present requesting a transfer to another convent.
3. Zombie Road
Zombie Road in Wildwood, St. Louis County officially closes after nightfall. However, that hasn’t perturbed endless groups from following its gloomy trail, torches in hand, in search of supernatural occurrences.
Originally named Lawler Ford Road, Zombie Road is marked on the map as ‘Rock Hollow Trail’, a path which runs alongside the Meramec River. However, its eerie nickname far better reflects its notoriety.
Like many found-footage movies (and this certainly has potential for a stonking found footage film), Zombie Road has an eerie origin story passed down through generations of morbidly curious teenagers.
According to local lore, the nickname ‘Zombie Road’ comes from a murderer known as ‘The Zombie’ who escaped from a local asylum many decades ago. It’s said that The Zombie disappeared into the dark woods, leaving only his bloodied clothing behind.
Check out footage from one such spook searcher below:
Widely regarded as the most haunted road in the Midwest, Zombie Road is a hotspot for inexplicable and nightmarish sightings. There have been reports of ghostly schoolchildren wandering around in the dead of night, while others claim to have encountered the restless souls of confederate soldiers and Native Americans.
According to a Reddit post by one local, Lawler Ford is a path surrounded by a valley which begins right by an elementary school. ‘For the first 5-10 minutes’, there is a house on every ledge. But then, the path quickly darkens into a trail surrounded by trees, stretching onwards for around 2.6 miles up to a craggy quarry.
It doesn’t take long to find first-hand accounts from those who’ve ventured down this shadowy path. One Reddit user claimed to have heard a very, very loud demonic feminine scream’, while another claimed to have ‘heard a little girl’s voice come from the woods saying ‘Mommy?”
To make matters even more terrifying, the makers of the 2007 documentary Children of the Grave claim to have captured images of so-called ‘shadow children’ out there in the woods.
Some say these are people who died in an orphanage fire in the early 20th century. Others think there must be a more rational explanation. Either way, in the words of the famous interviewee from The Blair Witch Project, ‘I believe enough to not go up there’.
4. The Winchester Mystery House
One of the most striking looking haunted houses anywhere in the world, the Winchester Mystery House has a past as strange and unforgettable as its unique architecture.
If you were to ever wander through the San Jose mansion’s complex maze of corridors, you’d be forgiven for wondering what on earth was going on in the mind of the person who designed it. The answer to that question is a feeling all of us will have experienced in some form or another: fear.
Sarah Winchester was a wealthy Connecticut heiress who married into an enormous fortune after catching the eye of treasurer of Winchester Repeating Arms Company, William Wirt Winchester.
The firearms giant manufactured Winchester rifles, a range of lever-action repeating rifles used in numerous battles. The Model 1873 was famously marketed as the ‘Gun That Won the West’.
In the space of under two years (1880- 1881), Sarah, who had already lost her only daughter, suffered three terrible losses. Her mother and her father-in-law both passed away in quick succession, before her husband William, succumbed to tuberculosis in March 1881.
Like many grief-stricken people before her, the young widow sought the advice of a medium, and was particularly concerned about what exactly to do with her vast inheritance. However, the message she received, purportedly from the mouth of her late husband, was anything but comforting.
From beyond the grave, ‘William’ instructed Sarah to leave her New Haven home behind for California, where she was to build a home for the ghosts who’d lost their lives at the end of Winchester rifles. Unless she did so, she was doomed to be haunted for the rest of her days by the vengeful spirits.
In 1884, Sarah purchased a modest San Jose farmhouse, which she soon expanded to extravagant proportions. Eventually, the eerily beautiful redwood house was extended to seven stories, boasting 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, two basements and three elevator shafts.
Numerous jarring quirks were added to the increasingly opulent property, including a surreal staircase leading to nowhere as well as a number of windows looking out inexplicably onto other rooms. The effect is surreal, disquieting and perhaps will only ever have made sense to Sarah and her ghosts.
As per All That’s Interesting, contractors hired by Sarah recalled how she would have seances every single day with local mediums so as to keep contact with ‘good spirits’.
During her daily consultations, Sarah would continually ask how to best appease the ghosts, furnishing ‘their’ home to constantly evolving requirements. Some of the more bizarre structural oddities are believed to have been built according to their ethereal wishes.
Sarah died in 1922 at the age of 82, but many of those who visit her home still feel an otherworldly presence lingering. Now a popular tourist attraction, guests have apparently encountered spirits they at first believed to be employees, as per the house website, including a moustached man named ‘Clyde’ who has previously been spotted trying to repair the fireplace in the ballroom.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas
Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on their website or on their free helpline 0808 800 5005, open 9am–5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 8am–8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am–2pm Saturdays
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