Archive for Cemetery

Plato on Ghosts

Posted in Commentary, History, Investigations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2014 by S. P.
Plato (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Plato (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

With the spirit realm we are dealing with the completely immaterial. This is the realm of the pure intellect. The rational beings which inhabit this realm include God, angelic beings (angels and demons), and human souls separated from their physical body. These beings have absolutely no material element whatsoever; no parts whatsoever. They are not “energy” since energy is a material phenomenon – in many cases, such as with electromagnetic radiation, we cannot see the energy with our bare eyes, yet it nevertheless remains a thing of the physical realm. Thus, beings of pure spirit cannot be called “energy;” however they do have existence and we are able to study and learn about this existence. While the natural sciences are, by definition, mute on nonmaterial things, we do have two sciences which directly study the immaterial: theology and philosophy. Theology used to be known as the “queen of the sciences” and Aristotle tells us that philosophy, particularly metaphysics (the study of being as such) and epistemology (the study of how we know what we claim to know), establishes the foundation from which all the natural sciences operate. Therefore, these are the sciences to which we should turn in order to learn more about the realm of the immaterial and what it means for an immaterial being to exist.

Perhaps it comes as a surprise to some, but the great ancient philosophers were not silent on the subject of “ghosts.” For example, in his dialogue of Socrates called the Phaedo, Plato specifically mentions how “ghosts” come to exist. Plato held to an idealist epistemology which viewed the world we inhabit as a “reflection” of the actual and unchanging world of “ideals.” Consequently, while holding to belief in the existence of an immaterial and immortal soul, Plato saw the physical body as merely the “container” or indeed the “tomb” of the soul. Death of the physical body “releases” this immaterial soul.

Having been “freed” from the body, the soul’s progress then depends on its connection to the physical world. The soul of a person who did not overly connect himself to the physical world is essentially “freed” of the physical world: “If [the soul] is pure when it leaves the body and drags nothing bodily with it, as it had no willing association with the body in life, but avoided it…A soul in this state makes its way to the invisible, which like itself, the divine and immortal and wise, and arriving there it can be happy, having rid itself of confusion, ignorance, fear, violent desires, and the other human ills and, as is said of the initiates, truly spend the rest of time with the gods.”[1]

What about the soul of the person who did not work in life to “detach” himself from the physical world? “But I think that if the soul is polluted and impure when it leaves the body, having always been associated with it and served it, bewitched by physical desires and pleasures to the point at which nothing seems to exist for it but the physical, which one can touch and see or eat and drink or make use of for sexual enjoyment…We must believe, my friend, that this bodily element is heavy, ponderous, earthly, and visible. Through it, such a soul has become heavy and is dragged back to the visible region in fear of the unseen and of Hades. It wanders, we are told, around graves and monuments, where shadowy phantoms, images that such souls produce, have been seen, souls that have not been freed and purified but share in the visible, and are therefore seen.”[2]

Interestingly, Plato proposes precisely what many who’ve never heard of him report: “ghostly” activity often seems associated with those who held a strong connection with the physical world in life. A connection indeed appears to exist between one’s attachment to the physical world in life and the likelihood of that person being associated with a “ghostly” presence after death. It logically follows that the more a person was connected to the physical world, the more difficult it would be for that person’s soul to “let go” of the physical world following death of the physical body. Certainly, this doesn’t explain every type of “haunting,” however it does seem to explain a certain type often encountered. At the same time, we don’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture of the Phaedo, which actually involves Plato making a very strong case, based on multiple arguments, for the continued existence of the immaterial and immortal soul following death of the physical body. This is merely one example of how the study of philosophy and theology brings us to an understanding of what the great thinkers of the past believed regarding what we now call “ghosts.” The more deeply we understand precisely what it is that we’re seeking to investigate, the more likely we are to actually understand the results of our investigations.

1. Plato, “Phaedo,” Introductory Readings in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, C.D.C. Reeve and Patrick Lee Miller, eds. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2006), 80e-81a, p. 119-120.

2. Ibid., 81b-d, p. 120.

[©2014 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]


“Ghost Magnet”

Posted in Commentary, History, Investigations, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by S. P.

Have you met anyone (or even perhaps it’s you) who seems to be a “ghost magnet?”  This isn’t necessarily someone who’s “sensitive” or “psychic,” but someone who seems somehow “tuned in” to paranormal activity.  It’s as if the paranormal often finds them, not the other way around.  In almost every case, it’s not the person loudly proclaiming he or she is “seeing ghosts” everywhere.  Instead, it’s usually the person who’s quiet and introspective – you never know about this person’s brush with the supernatural until he or she feels comfortable enough to confide in you about their “experiences.”

I met one such person several years ago while attending college in the northwest.  This person, “Mary,” had already experienced more paranormal activity than most people experience in a lifetime.  As often seems to be the case among those who have a strong connection to the paranormal, Mary’s mother and grandmother were also “sensitive” to the paranormal.

Mary’s ancestors were early settlers to the area.  Consequently, the family maintained a small cemetery just outside of town.  During high school, Mary and a guy-friend decided to visit the cemetery at night, taking along an Ouija Board.  As they soon learned the hard way, Ouija Boards are not something to play around with.  Mary and her friend sat on the grass and began attempting to “communicate” with “spirits” using the Ouija Board.

They soon became aware of a “presence” coming towards them.  Mary felt whatever it was had malevolent intent.  She ushered her friend back into their car.  At this point, Mary wanted to leave, but her friend insisted they continue their “experiment.”  This time, the friend seemed to go into some sort of trance, which obviously frightened Mary a great deal – particularly since she again “felt” the entity moving towards them.

She finally succeeded in snapping her friend out of his “trace.”  They both knew it was time to cease “playing with” the Ouija Board and leave the cemetery immediately.  Once they’d gotten away, Mary quizzed her friend about what happened.  He reported feeling as if an angry old man with a limp was coming towards them.

Curiosity forced Mary to return to the cemetery the next day.  Investigating in the direction from which she’d felt the presence coming from the night before, she found the headstone of a lone male set off from the other family plots.  Unfortunately, none of her relatives recalled the man, who’d died many years earlier.

On another occasion, Mary reported visiting a local history museum housed in a historic home.  She viewed the displays on the first floor without incident.  However, as she climbed the stairs to the second floor, Mary began feeling a heaviness, which she likened to walking into a tarp blocking the stairs.  She described it as so completely overpowering, she was unable to reach the top of the staircase.  Both her mother and grandmother experienced similar powerful “negative” feelings about the second floor.  Supposedly, a psychic visited the location afterwards and claimed “feeling” the presence on the second floor of a male who strongly hated women.

In the metro area where our college was located, a major interstate passed right next to one of the city’s largest cemeteries.  One time while driving down this freeway alone, Mary felt something suddenly enter her backseat as she passed the cemetery.  Mary was convinced something or someone was now in the backseat of her car.  She said she was so scared with its overwhelming presence she could not bring herself to look in the rearview mirror as she felt positive she’d see whatever it was looking back at her.  As she neared her home, she could no longer stand feeling its presence.  Mary slammed on her brakes then yelled at the top of her lungs, “Get out of my car!”  She said she felt it immediately disappear from her car.  She made it home without further incident, but never did look in the back seat until the next day.

My own interesting personal experience connected with Mary happened while visiting her parent’s house one evening.  Walking into a bathroom, just as I was about to flip on the light switch, I felt a cat brush against my leg.  Knowing there were no cats in the house, I searched in vain for what I might have brushed against, but found nothing.  When I mentioned the incident to Mary, she told me their cat had died a few months prior.  Had I encountered a “ghost” cat?  If so, at least it seemed to like me since I didn’t get clawed.

Can I verify any of these incidents?  Certainly not.  However, they do make for interesting – and if nothing else, amusing – anecdotes.

So, who’s your “ghost magnet?”

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Mysterious “Poe Toaster” Fails to Appear!

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by S. P.

Poe's Gave

[This article first appeared in the Bump in the Night Ghost Report edited by Troy Taylor of American Hauntings and is republished here with permission.]

By Troy Taylor

On January 19, a date that marked the 201st birthday of legendary mystery and horror author Edgar Allan Poe, a tradition was broken that began more than sixty years ago. For the first time since 1949, the mysterious “Poe Toaster” failed to appear to leave roses and cognac on Poe’s grave in the old Western Burial Grounds in Baltimore. The event has become a pilgrimage for Poe fans, many of whom travel for hundreds of miles to be there between midnight and 5:00 a.m., when the Toaster traditionally appears. So, what happened in 2010?

“I’m confused, befuddled,” said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, and the man most linked to the tradition over the past couple of decades. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

At 5:30 a.m., Jerome had emerged from inside the church, where he and a select group of Poe enthusiasts keep watch over the graveyard, and announced to the crowd that the visitor never arrived. Jerome said the Poe toaster has always arrived before 5:30 a.m. There was still a chance the visit could occur later in the day, but Jerome said he doubted the person would risk a public unveiling by performing the task in daylight, when other visitors could be there. January 19 came and went and the Poe Toaster never arrived.

The tradition of the Poe Toaster began in 1949, honoring the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe, who died under mysterious (and still unsolved) circumstances in Baltimore in 1849. The tradition became one of the most enduring mysteries of the graveyard where Poe was laid to rest.

Edgar Allan Poe

The man began to appear under the cover of darkness one hundred years after Poe’s death. Whoever this strange figure may be, he is always described in the same way. Dressed completely in black, including a black fedora and a black scarf to hide his face, he carries a walking stick and strolls into the cemetery every year on January 19, the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe. On every occasion, he has left behind a bottle of cognac and three red roses on the gravesite of the late author. After placing these items with care, he then stands, tips his hat and walks away. The offerings always remain on the grave, although one year, they were accompanied by a note, bearing no signature, which read: “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.”

Not only as the Toaster’s identity a riddle, but scholars and curiosity-seekers remain puzzled by the odd ritual he carries out and the significance of the items he leaves behind, too. The roses and cognac have been brought to the cemetery every January since 1949 and yet no clue has been offered as to the origin or true meaning of the offerings.

The identity of the man has been an intriguing mystery for years. Many people, including Jeff Jerome, the curator of the nearby Edgar Allan Poe house, believe that there may be more than one person leaving the tributes. Jerome himself has seen a white-haired man while other observers have reported a man with black hair. Possibly, the second person may be the son of the man who originated the ritual. In 1993, the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, “The torch will be passed.” A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his sons.

Regardless, Jerome has been quoted as saying that if he has his way, the man’s identity will never be known. This is something that most Baltimore residents agree with. Jerome has received numerous telephone calls from people requesting that no attempt ever be made to approach the man.

For some time, rumors persisted that Jerome was the mysterious man in black, so in 1983, he invited seventy people to gather at the graveyard at midnight on January 19. They had a celebration in honor of the author’s birthday with a glass of amontillado, a Spanish sherry featured in one of Poe’s horror tales, and readings from the author’s works. At about an hour past midnight, the celebrants were startled to see a man run through the cemetery in a black frock coat. He was fair-haired and carrying a walking stick and quickly disappeared around the cemetery’s east wall. The roses and cognac were found on Poe’s grave as usual.

Not in an effort to solve the mystery, but merely to enhance it, Jerome allowed a photographer to try and capture the elusive man on film. The photographer was backed by LIFE Magazine and was equipped with rented infrared night-vision photo equipment. A radio signal triggered the camera so that the photographer could remain out of sight. The picture appeared in the July 1990 issue of LIFE and showed the back of a heavyset man kneeling at Poe’s grave. His face cannot really be seen and as it was shadowed by his black hat. No one else has ever been able to photograph the mysterious man again.


The Mysterious Toaster?

With each year that passes, the mystery remains and as January 19 comes around, Poe devotees gather at the old burial ground to see the man in black as he leaves his annual gift at the original grave of one of America’s greatest writers.

In 2010, they gathered again, only to be disappointed. “People will be asking me, ‘Why do you think he stopped?'” Jerome said. “Or did he stop? We don’t know if he stopped. He just didn’t come this year.”

Perhaps the most logical answer to this new baffling question is that the Bicentennial of Poe’s birth, an event widely celebrated last year, marked a good stopping point for the mysterious ritual. Since the first roses and cognac bottle were laid on Poe’s resting place one hundred years after his death, then perhaps the final tribute was paid two hundred years after his birth. No one can say… It remains as puzzling as what started the ritual in the first place and who the men are behind the events.

And perhaps this is for the best. Poe lived and died with a great many mysteries himself. Maybe it’s fitting that the “Poe Toaster” is just one more enigmatic chapter to the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe.

© Copyright 2010 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

American Legion Post 5, Tampa, Florida

Posted in Locations with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2009 by S. P.

Post 5 Cemetery

On the evening of October 30th, the Tampa Ghost Watchers met at American Legion Post 5 in Tampa, Florida.  Why an American Legion Post?

American Legion Post 5 is one of the oldest Posts in existence.  In fact, several founding members of Post 5 were also the founding members of the American Legion.  Veterans of World War One formed the American Legion in 1919.  Early members of Post 5 read like a who’s who of early 20th century Tampa history.

The really unique feature of Post 5 is not its famed membership, but its cemetery.  Post 5 is one of the only American Legion Posts with its own cemetery.  Some posts have an American Legion section set aside in a local cemetery, the National Headquarters administers some cemeteries, but Post 5’s cemetery belongs to the Post itself.

According to Post history, in the 1920s, Mrs. O. N. Bie, a member of the Auxiliary, took up the cause of a cemetery after learning the city planned to bury a decorated World War One veteran in a pauper’s grave.  She championed the cause which resulted in purchase of the current land.

J. E. Colbreath, KIA, 20 July 1918

The cemetery sits on land immediately adjacent to the Hopewell Cemetery.  To the casual observer, it appears as a single cemetery.  However, the Hopewell Church once stood next to the Hopewell Cemetery.  The church burned in the late 1800s and wasn’t rebuilt, but its cemetery remained.

Hopewell is the final resting place of many prominent Tampa residents, including Confederate officers and World War One Veterans, including the grave of at least one World War One soldier who was killed in action.

Post 5 takes great pride in the maintenance of their cemetery.  We were honored the Post allowed us to meet at their hall and even more honored with stories of the Post’s history and a personal tour of both cemeteries by Post 5 Commander, Bill Hamblin.

Don’t forget the men and women who fought for our freedom.  Please take the time to visit them.  Also, Post 5’s source of income is rental of their hall.  If you are in need of a meeting space in the Tampa area, please see if their building meets your needs.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Oaklawn Cemetery

Posted in Locations with tags , , , on December 7, 2009 by S. P.

Officer John McCormick

On October 25th, my family and I attended the “10th Annual Gothic Graveyard Walk” at Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa.  The walk benefits the Tampa Historical Society.  Maureen Patrick, director of Historic Guides (, leads the tour in the character of Miss Prudence Fipwhistle (b.1855, d.1899).  Miss Fipwhistle, assisted by the good Father O’Brien and the Sexton, shares storied of her friends, old, new, and dead, along with the colorful history of early Tampa.

Established in 1850 as a public burying ground for “white and slave, rich and poor,” Oaklawn Cemetery is Tampa’s oldest cemetery.  The difficulty of shipping stone markers prior to establishment of rail lines to Tampa in 1884 meant wood markers showed the site of graves.  However, the wood often rotted or caught fire.  This fact, along with the loss of the original plat map left a cemetery full of unmarked graves.

The cemetery is the final resting place of many Tampa notables, including Civil War soldiers, mayors, judges, and legislators.  V. M. Ybor, founder of the cigar industry in Tampa and name sake of Ybor City, rests here.  Dr. John P. Wall, who discovered the cause of Yellow Fever before the Reed Commission, also calls Oaklawn his final resting place.

The grave marker pictured above is that of Officer John McCormick.  Just after midnight on September 26, 1895, Officer McCormick and Officer Bishop responded to a disturbance at the Salter’s Bar.  The officers found two women, Ms Lulu Williams and Ms Ela Felter, arguing.  The officers arrested Ms. Felter, whereupon her boyfriend, Harry Singleton, fatally shot Officer McCormick with a .38 caliber pistol.  Singleton fled, but police captured him several weeks later.  Officer McCormick left behind a widow and five children.

McCormick’s is merely one of many stories behind the markers in Oaklawn Cemetery.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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