While many paranormal stories are embellished and exaggerated over the years — by products of rumors and hearsay, no doubt — there are still a number of tales that can be substantiated by newspaper stories, historical artifacts, and eyewitness accounts. To become a particularly famous ghost story, the tale must include a history of known violence, repeated paranormal activity, direct contact with visitors and extreme actions. A number of books have been written about these famous haunts, but nothing beats a hair-raising tour of a place like The Winchester Mystery House, Gettysburg or Alcatraz, where one may encounter his or her own personal paranormal sightings.
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is an infamous story because this particular apparition has been so reliably photographed. While she hasn’t made an appearance since 1936, many witnesses reported seeing a woman apparition in a long brown cape or dress. In the early 1800s, King George IV said he saw a woman with disheveled hair in a brown dress standing over his bed. Later, an 1835 house guest, Colonel Loftus, reported that he saw a woman wearing a brown satin dress with empty eye sockets.
Captain Frederick Marryat slept in the “haunted room” hoping to catch a glimpse, but surprisingly encountered her carrying a lantern down an upstairs hallway. Two little boys reported seeing her in 1926 and the famous photograph caught her on camera in 1936, when Captain Provand and Indre Shira were taking a photo of the staircase for Country Life Magazine. Legend has it, the paranormal happenings come from a woman named Lady Townshend, who was suspected of infidelity and reportedly locked up in the house by her cruel husband until her death.
Another one of the most famous paranormal stories is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. As legend has it, Sarah Winchester was distraught following the successive deaths of her baby, her father-in-law and her husband, who died of sudden tuberculosis. After consulting with a psychic, she believed that her family was cursed by paranormal spirits who had met their bitter fate at the end of a Winchester gun.
To avoid being cursed and killed herself, she felt she had to continuously keep building a mansion to house the spirits and keep them satisfied. The end result was a $5.5 million dollar haunted mansion, with a number of bizarre design features intended to confuse the malevolent ghosts — doors to nowhere, vaults within vaults, windows that opened up to blank walls, trap doors, secret hallways, and staircases that lead to ceilings. Today, visitors often report the sounds of footsteps, organ playing, and photographs of faces in windows.
The Amherst Poltergeist is one of Canada’s most terrifying paranormal stories. After 19-year-old Esther Cox of Amherst, Nova Scotia was raped by a shoemaker, Esther and her sisters began experiencing violent activities, with thunderous noises coming from under the bed, objects moving across the floor and unseen forces moving beneath the bed sheets. Esther’s body turned red and swelled mysteriously and reports from Dr. Carritte say he was baffled by what he saw.
According to the doctor, there was no clear medical reason for the swelling and he watched an unseen hand scrawl the words “Esther Cox you are mine to kill” across the plaster wall. Potatoes and knives flew across the room. Esther’s face was poked by sewing needles and her back was stabbed with a pocketknife wrenched from her friend’s hand. Lit matches caused beds in the house to erupt into flames on more than on.