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Shay Loves Horror

Fueled by Coffee and Horror Movies.

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haunted

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)

Grave Encounters (2011)

Documenting the Witch Path (2017)

Antrum (2018)

The Changeling (1980)

Exploring the Haunted Fortress of Suomenlinna

A few years ago I was lucky enough to travel to Finland for an internship studying marine seagrass ecology through the San Diego State University Research Foundation with Åbo Akademi University! While there, I was able to explore the beauty of the wonderful country and one of the incredible places I was able to see was the Fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki. It was an incredible experience to see the ruins of something that old, way older than anything I have seen before! On the day that we boarded the ship across the water, it was cold and raining and simply added more to the experience of the place.

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“Suomi” means Finland and “Linna” means castle. It was constructed in 1748 and has defended the Kingdom of Sweden, the Russian Empire and most recently, the Republic of Finland. Also known as Sveaborg, it sits on the Susiluodot islands near the Helsinki harbor, originally built by the Swedish and later falling to the Russians in 1808 who expanded the base, added barracks and an Orthodox church and renamed it Viapori. Finland achieved independence in 1918, taking the fortress and renovating it, naming it Suomenlinna, “The Castle of Finland.” It was used to defend the country during WWII.

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Stepping off of the ferry was like stepping into a whole new world, another time and place. Most of the fortress was renovated back to its original form and you could just sense the history coming out of that island. We, my adviser and I, decided to wander on our own and try to take in all that we could. Luckily, almost everything was written in Finnish, Swedish, French, English and Russian, so we could navigate ourselves pretty well without a guide.

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We started by circling around the outer perimeter of the grounds, as most of the middle had been transformed to tourist attractions and museums, and the outer walls were still very original. We went up first, following the reinforced edges surrounded by turrets, battlements and some of the coolest underground storage facilities I have ever seen, disguised from the air as mounds of dirt. We weren’t able to go inside as the doors were very unsteady, but what a cool design!

We then moved downward into the tunnels below the walls. Most of them were open to the outside, as you can see from the image above, and were only used for shelter and to remain hidden. However some of them veered off into the ground, some down into the ground, until it either caved in or was blocked off and deemed “condemned.” We still went into most of them. And I have to say that throughout the entire experience, the feeling I felt in the tunnels was the eeriest out of the entire grounds. You could almost sense how many feet had traveled those corridors. How many battle were fought in those tunnels and how many people lost their lives over the centuries that it has been standing The fortress has seen so many souls pass through it, and I definitely got a sense of that down there.

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After leaving the tunnels, we started inward to the inner grounds of the fortress. This is where you could tell a lot of renovations occurred, but this is also where we were able to get a better sense of the history of the place. Travelling under decrepit archways and around stone walled buildings, we were able to see just how much these old structures have really stood the test of time. What continued to get me was the fact that everything had a thick layer of dirt and vegetation on it. It gave it all such an old, antique look about it, and really showed it’s age.

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We spent the good part of the day just roaming. Looking at every stone, every mound building, walking through every tunnel and reading every sign that we could understand. Even though it was raining, it didn’t seem to faze us. As I said before, it actually added to the atmosphere of the whole place. The clouds and mist looming overhead just gave everything the authentic look that I only would have expected coming from an island like this. The history of the place still has me in awe and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to be able to travel all the way to Helsinki, Finland and witness the greatness that was the Fortress of Suomenlinna!

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-SLH

Exploring The Haunted Alamo

While visiting beautiful San Antonio for a friend’s wedding, I decided to take advantage of the city and visit one of the oldest landmarks in America’s history. While there were a lot of people there, being able to roam the grounds and enter the church itself was quite an experience!

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The Battle of the Alamo in 1836 was no doubt one of the most remembered events during the fight for the Texan struggle for independence. During this battle, name’s like Davy Crockett and Colonel James Bowie became enveloped in history for their bravery and sacrifices. But before it was The Alamo, it was known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, and was one of the first five mission built along the San Antonio River to help spread the ideals of Roman Catholicism to the local Native American people in the area. Soon, it was turned into the first hospital in Texas and later outfitted as a fort, where it was dubbed the name “Alamo” meaning “cottonwood.”

The vast grounds of The Alamo housed hundreds of soldiers and  their families. For 32 years, it managed to defend and protect the city from raiding Apaches and Comanches. However after Mexico earned it’s independence from Spain in 1821, the people of San Antonio regained their own hope for victory from the Mexican regime. The Texas Revolution began in 1835 and soon came to the walls of the Alamo. Not a single Texan solder survived.

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When we were trying to find it initially, we thought we were in the wrong spot, until we turned a corner and out of nowhere came this small clearing with one the famed building looming in the background. One thing that I wasn’t expecting, but definitely should have been prepared for was the amount of people! The line itself to get into the building was a 45 minute wait, so instead of waiting, we took advantage of the grounds first. Looking to the left of the church was the entrance to some of the grounds that were left over. The original wall still remained, with a few renovations, however most the actual land has been transformed into urban area.

Through the ruined and crumbling remains, we were immediately met with a giant tree. Just growing in the middle of San Antonio! It was and old Live Oak, a tree that in the early part of the twentieth century, was transplanted as an already fully grown tree. It was approximately 40 years old when it was placed in 1912. Today, it measures 12 feet in circumference!

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We took the trail around the old tree and at the end of the path we came across and old well and some more crumbling remains. It was so strange seeing all of this history in the middle of a city, but that was soon to change when we finally got in line for The Alamo.

While in line, the path was surrounded by plaques relaying the history of the building and the grounds, as well as pieces of artillery like cannons and other battlements. We also passed a building to the right, that we later discovered was an art exhibit, relaying pieces of San Antonio history along with some museum items. But what got me was how beautiful and green everything was. Even with as hot as it was, there was a strange chill in the air.

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Then we made it to the doors. The old, heavy wooden doors. I’m not going to lie, when I pulled those doors open I got this heavy sense of eerie, unsettling heaviness. Like I was opening the doors into history itself. When we got inside, the air immediately became cold and stale and every sound was hushed to a muffled whisper. After that initial feeling however, everything kind of went back to normal. There was a guest kiosk, flags and plaques with the names of all the people that lost their lives during the battle. You could see musket holes in the walls and in the middle of the floor there was an old stone that was labeled as the burial stone of 5 unknown bodies lying beneath the floor. There were no photos allowed, so I found one online that accurately depicts the inside of the building.

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And just like that it was over. We explored every ounce of the room, looking at all the old wood supports, all the names carved into the wall that looked like they were done with old knives who knows how long ago, and read every sign we could find. Once we left, and our eyes adjusted to the daylight, we were done. I realized that once we were outside, that a heaviness seemed to lift off of my shoulders. I didn’t know if it was the atmosphere and the history or something else, but either way, we walked away from the grounds of the building having absorbed every bit that we could of The Alamo.

Later, without realizing, we found out that there was one more stretch of our journey into San Antonio’s haunted history. As we were following the River Walk, we climbed some stairs to the street above and found this giant, magnificent church that we soon found out was the San Fernando Cathedral. Walking up to the front doors, we stopped in our tracks. On the building read that it was the final resting place of Davy Crockett. We walked through the doors and sure enough, there it was. And it was fascinating.

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And with that, our Alamo experience was over, and it was very rewarding. Through the building and the grounds and ending with the surprise visit to Davy Crockett, I am so glad that I was able to experience it! Definitely something that I will always remember. Even if there were no ghost scares, the heaviness of the history and the deaths that happened in that place made me certain that the spirits were there, even if they were silent.

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— SLH

Exploring The Winchester Mystery House

To start off, I went with my husband back in 2013 and I CANNOT for the life of me find our pictures!! To be fair though, we were not allowed to take any photos inside the mansion, only outside, so they would be fairly generic photos anyway. So you can get a visual of what I’m describing however, I’ll use photos from http://www.atlasobscura.com, since they actually have photos of the inside!

The Winchester Mystery House was built in 1886 by Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune made by her husband, William Winchester. It started out as an 8 bedroom farmhouse, but once she began to be haunted by the spirits of all those who had been killed by her husband’s rifles, she transformed the farmhouse into $5.5 million renovation project that took almost 36 years, only stopping in 1922 on the day of her death. The labyrinth style mansion house is filled with 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, stairways to nowhere, 15 foot drops into the kitchen, doors that open up to the outside, a seance room, and secret spying corridors that the paranoid Sarah could use to spy on her help. Most of this was built as a way to confuse the spirits that were after her, going through great lengths to even stay in a different room every night and take secret passages to get from one side of her house to another. She even had special doors built for her that were only a few feet off the ground, as she was an unusually short lady. In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake destroyed much of her home, which she took as a sign from the spirits that she was getting too close to completion, and ordered for that half of the house to be boarded up and to start adding to another section. The destroyed parts are still in the same state today, although structural renovations have been done.

When we pulled up to the mansion, it was beautiful, however not quite as big as we would have thought from the front view. The vastness to the house was behind it however, hidden behind a beautiful yellow Victorian style facade, which in front of it laid a gorgeous garden. To the right of the entrance was the gift shop where the tours formed. We hopped straight onto the first tour of the morning and we were off.

We started by walking through where Sarah Winchester would arrive on a normal day through the entrance where the horse carriage would show up. From there we were taken through a normal sized doorway, although right next to it was a doorway that was only four feet off the ground which Sarah would walk through instead! It was incredibly odd to see, but apparently very convenient for her as the doorknob was closer to the ground and she could access it more easily. The doorway also lead to a stairway with over 200 steps, going through turn after turn, and seemingly lasting enough time that we thought we had gone up as least two floors. We had not. We were only one floor up and the story was shorter than usual!

We were then taken to all of the usual attractions. We walked past the “Door to Nowhere”, the stairway to the ceiling, and windows with no view. We even were able to see the place where Sarah could look down into the kitchen and spy on her help, something that she did on occasion to make sure that she was not being watched or talked about, and in a place where they could not tell that she was watching and listening. The most interesting of these attractions however, was the seance room. It wasn’t large and it was only one of many from what we were told, but it definitely had an eerie feel to it. It was small, dark, and had the well worn aura that a lot had happened in that room.

After the seance room we were led to Sarah’s bedroom, which was the first time that we were really exposed to the attention to detail that Sarah had put into every aspect of the house. Her bedroom was gorgeous. Each piece of furniture, each print on the fabric of the bed and rugs, each detail in the wood floors, was meticulously made and showed master craftsmanship. It was definitely eccentric, as was Sarah, but everything had a place and it was all custom fit for Mrs. Winchester. The bed was short with a tall headboard, and even the room itself wasn’t vast, but it was perfect sized for her. It was also the place in which she passed away, which after our guide mentioned this, an odd chill seemed to creep throughout the room and we were ready to move onto the next thing.

After making our way back down the stairs (normal ones this time) we were taken to the main entrance, another show of the beautiful craftsmanship that was put into the creation of this gigantic building. As we were observing the tiniest attentions to detail, we were told of when Theodore Roosevelt visited the house and one of Sarah’s grounds keepers almost told him to leave because she didn’t want visitors! We made it to the ballroom, another beautiful show of Mrs. Winchester’s eccentric style, where there was more oddities such as some mysterious ballroom windows to nowhere that read “Wide unclasp the table of their thoughts” from Troilus and Cressida (IV:5:60) and “These same thoughts people this little world” from Richard II (V:5:9).

Near the end of the tour, we were given the chance to go into the basement of the mansion. Besides the fact that it was very creepy and the only reason we were able to go into it was because it was recently remodeled, it was mostly just a normal basement filled with coal furnaces and storage. It still reminded me of something out of a horror movie though!

And with that, the tour was over. The house was fantastic, eerie, creepy, and a gorgeous feat architectural engineering. With all of it’s twists and turns, the house itself was remarkable and I hope, especially with the new movies coming out, to someday be able to visit it again.

-SLH

 

 

Exploring the Haunted Northern State Hospital Farm

I’m finally doing it! I’m trying my hand at exploring some haunted places! I have a list ready of some local places that are either haunted, run down, or just plain creepy, and with the help of my amazing, not so enthused about being haunted, husband, I am going to visit them all!

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First on the list is actually not that far from me. The Northern State Hospital Farm located at the mouth of the Cascade Mountains in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, now transformed into a recreational park, is managed by the state in order to preserve the buildings and land that used to belong to the Hospital.

The Northern State Hospital for the Mentally Ill was a very large, self-sufficient facility with a number of production facilities spanning across a 700 acre farm. Not only was it self-sufficient, but it was also productive enough to be able to feed other hospitals in the state, raising livestock from chickens to cows, managing a canning facility and processing food and crops on site. The farm was very beneficial to it’s patients, giving them a great way to socialize and work, and becoming the largest farm of it’s kind at it’s height this side of the Mississippi. The hospital is still in use, however the farm, closed in 1973, is now a great place to hike, pay Frisbee golf, and explore the empty, decrepit, decaying barns and milking houses.

 

We started at the parking lot and as we were walking towards the place, we realized very quickly how many people were exploring at the same time we were. Although it would have been more of an experience to be just my husband, father-in-law and I, it probably wasn’t a bad idea to have it not only be a high traffic area, but also be daylight .. and our dogs were with us to round out the numbers.

Among the first few buildings were what appeared to be milking, meat processing, and delivery facilities. There was a large loading dock near another building full of gated stalls with a long pit underneath. I’m still not quite sure which purpose this building served, but it was a little unsettling none-the-less.

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Past these buildings were a number of large, empty buildings that could have been used for storage or for housing livestock. Along with the debris, the “empty” buildings were also filled to the brim with graffiti of all kinds, from the amateur to the artistic, and was even in some impressively hard to reach places.

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Once we felt like we efficiently explored every square inch of these old buildings, we took to the trail to find some more structures along the 700 acres of land that were utilized. While we searched, we found a very intricate Frisbee golf course, winding in and out of buildings and housing platforms, around trees, and through streams and ditches. Along with finding this course, I also found a NEED to participate in a Frisbee golf game at some point in my life.

At the end of the trail, before it looped back to the main buildings, we found the remains of what looked to be an old food processing center, completely suffocated by Blackberries and almost completely obscured by the twisting vines. Although it made it hard to see and explore, it made for a very cool looking picture.

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And with that, we decided to not make the dogs withstand anymore torment of us jumping around these old buildings like children and we went home. It was an incredible experience and one that I hope to do again! I would recommend to anyone who likes to explore the abandoned to make the trip out to this “middle of nowhere” treasure.

It has definitely caused me to want to do this again and find more old buildings, abandoned to time, and be able to explore them and find what secrets they might hold and what stories I can learn from them!

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SLH

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