I always find the evolution of legends to be fascinating. How did they become the way they are today? What have been the different variations along the way? And, of course, what was the original truth? Over the years as a Ghostorian, I’ve had the pleasure of digging into a number of these stories, including the Skirvin Hotel and the “Gore Orphanage,” and this has cropped up yet again while researching a topic for a recent episode of Friday Night Ghost Frights. This time, her name is Lavinia Fisher.
It is said that Lavinia Fisher was America’s first female serial killer, that she and her husband, John, murdered over 100 people, and that when she was hung at the gallows she was wearing a white wedding dress. The legend includes a trap door bed in and inn that they ran in which sleeping travelers would meet their peril. One version of the legend has the trap dropping the victim onto a bed of spikes and impaling them. Another version of the legend as the trap dropping them into the basement where John killed them with an axe. It is also said that Lavinia would poison the tea of unsuspecting travelers.
That’s the legend. So what’s the truth?
The truth is that Lavinia Fisher and her husband, John, were two members of a gang of outlaw highway men who were convicted and sentenced to death for highway robbery, at that time a capital offense. The elusive gang would stop wagons traveling into and out of Charleston, South Carolina, and steal their goods and money, thereby damaging the Charleston economy. They worked out of the Five Mile and Six Mile Houses, the former of which was burned to the ground by a cavalcade looking to bring the gang to justice. At the Six Mile House, the occupants were evicted and a man named David Ross was left to guard the premises while the cavalcade returned to Charleston. The next morning, the gang arrived and assaulted Ross, including Lavinia Fisher who Ross looked to for help, but she answered his pleas by choking him and smashing his head through a window.
One legend had stated that John Peoples thwarted a murder attempt at the inn of the Fisher’s by sleeping in a chair rather than the trap door bed, then escaped and turned the Fisher’s into the authorities. It’s true that Peoples did identify members of the gang, including Lavinia and John Fisher, but this was after a hold up near Six Mile House when he stopped to water his horse, far from the legend that had him escaping a death trap. Unglamorously, the Fisher’s and several other members of the gang gave up without a fight after the Sheriff arrived at Six Mile House with a warrant for their arrest for highway robbery.
No one was ever charged with murder as the legend frequently claims. Two bodies, one of a white man and one of a black woman believe to have been deceased for about two years, were found about 200 yards from Six Mile House. It was impossible at that time to deduce who had killed them and nothing ever came of it. There were no accounts of 100 murders.
At the gallows in 1820 just outside of the Charleston city limits (not at the jail) following their conviction of highway robbery, John and Lavinia Fisher wore loose-fitting white robes over their regular clothes. This likely grew into the legend of the white wedding dress supposedly worn by Lavinia — imagine “they were wearing white” morphing over time: “she was wearing white” … “she was wearing white as if she was at her wedding” … “she was wearing a white wedding dress.”
To their deaths, John went peacefully, claiming he had found God, while Lavinia was dragged up to the gallows kicking and screaming, launching a tirade of obscenities at the crowd. One part of her legend is true — Lavinia’s final words to the throng of spectators: “If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me — I’ll carry it!”
Since her death, stories about Lavinia Fisher’s ghost being seen at the old jail have surfaced as well. It’s possible she haunts there, although it’s not where she died. Perhaps she developed some sort of attachment to the location while incarcerated there, however, Lavinia doesn’t exactly strike me as the sentimental type. There are plenty of other reasons for the jail to be haunted. Not only did it operate for 137 years, but prior to its construction in 1802 the location served as a workhouse for runaway slaves, as a makeshift hospital, and even as a holding area for criminals, a foreshadowing of its future use.
Catherine Maria “Kitty” Fisher by Nathaniel Hone in 1765
A final mystery of Lavinia Fisher’s legend… is the painting that is commonly associated with Lavinia Fisher truly a painting of the notorious highway robber? After all, when would she have had time to sit for this painting and the money to commission the work? Alas, a little digging reveals that the painting is titled “Kitty Fisher and Parrot” painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1763. Kitty Fisher was a prominent British courtesan who died at the age of 26 in 1767, only fours months after she was married. Any relation to Lavinia Fisher is extremely doubtful and it seems the use of the painting is an advent of the legend continuing on today in modern times, as someone likely searched for paintings of a woman named Fisher to use as a substitute for a Lavinia article. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in history, after all… since there are no known paintings of Elizabeth Bathory, substitutes close to her likeness have been used to represent her. Did Lavinia Fisher resemble Kitty Fisher? It is yet another mystery of the legend.
On a final note… the band All The Little Pieces has a haunting album specifically themed for Lavinia Fisher titled “The Legend of Lavinia Fisher.”
Music from this album can also be heard on Enigma Underground Radio, and is regularly featured on its Friday Haunting Hour at 9:00 PM Eastern / 8:00 PM Central.
Come join us! Celestial Entertainment Presents… a watch party with Mike Ricksecker at Montgomery’s Steak House in Spiceland, Indiana, to watch the March 25th Season 14 premiere episode in which I was a special guest of Ghost Adventures to discuss my paranormal experiences at the haunted Stone Lion Inn! Starting at 6:00 PM, there’s going to be a meet & greet, book signing, and we’ll watch the show! Come join us!
The Bellaire House is innocently nestled into the hills alongside the Ohio River across the water from Wheeling, West Virginia. A beautiful early 20th Century colonial home, it’s outside appearance is pleasant and inviting for a happy family. However, it’s owner, Kristen Lee, will not let the house fall into the hands of another unsuspecting family under her watch because she does not want them to suffer the same terrors as she.
I have now investigated this house three times for paranormal activity, including this past weekend the day after it was featured on Paranormal Lockdown, and I continue to find its history and the history of the town of Bellaire quite compelling. For someone simply looking to experience paranormal activity, this house will not disappoint. The moment I walked in the door this past time with my friend and colleague, “Copperhead” Greg Graham, we felt the heavy energy upon us immediately, heard noises coming up out of the basement, and heard footsteps overhead when no one else was in the house. But there is more to this house than just simply a supernatural thrill.
As with most places I investigate, there is a living story that accompanies it, living both in this life and the afterlife. From the original landowner, to those who worked the mines underneath it, to those who have lived in the house, each have a narrative to tell. Some are told through historic records while some told through other means from the world beyond.
Below you’ll find some pieces of our most recent investigation of this storied home when we sent Facebook Live throughout the night and The Edge of the Rabbit Hole preview that preceded it, but in the coming weeks Haunted Road Media will be releasing a full documentary on the Bellaire House. Stay tuned!
Happy New Year! This past year, 2016, proved to be quite and adventurous and eye-opening year, and I’m almost sad to see it gone. However, that just means 2017 is shaping up to be bigger than ever, and we at Haunted Road Media and Society of the Haunted have a lot in store to share! But, first, let’s recap 2016…
It was a dynamic year, both professionally and personally, with a lot of traveling, investigating, and major life changes. I met my soulmate, moved back to the land of my birth, and discovered an even bigger realm of the paranormal and supernatural. Haunted Road Media has grown, especially on the YouTube channel, with the new Friday Night Ghost Frights and all of our investigation videos, Paranormal Roads, et al, featuring the revamped and resurrected Society of the Haunted, originally founded in 2011. For a full recap, watch here:
The biggest spotlight of the whole year has been the Goldenrod Showboat. That fantastically haunted piece of history is what finally brought Shana Wankel and I together, and I’ve never felt more complete in my entire life. She’s my twin flame, my partner in crime, the one true companion of my life, and I can’t wait for the new adventures that await us. The showboat itself has some wonderful haunts and history associated with it, and even some additional supernatural activity that we have yet to detail in full, and we featured this former National Historic Landmark in the latest Encounters With the Paranormal: Volume 2, of which a portion of the proceeds with go toward the restoration and preservation of the Goldenrod.
In other ventures we brought The Edge Of The Rabbit Hole radio show, the paranormal talk show I co-host with Vanessa Hogle, to an actual video Livestream on YouTube, which has received a very positive reaction from fans. Vanessa and I are looking at possibly going to a weekly show in 2017 rather than every other week. We also launched Enigma Underground Radio this past year, which is a streaming hard rock radio station with a paranormal theme that specializes in spotlighting independent bands while also mixing in some mainstream favorites. Shana does a fantastic job as our “Procurer of Music” in reaching out to the bands for our weekly lineup on Thursday, including the fan favorite show Chicks Who Wail, and our media mogul, Paula, keeps up on our Facebook page and creates some great show banners.
I keep saying that the latest “big” Haunted Road Media videos will be the Ferry Plantation, the return to the Goldenrod, and the haunted Guthrie, Oklahoma, tour — so be on the lookout for those in the near future. Of course, we’ll be bringing you more Friday Night Ghost Frights, Paranormal Roads, Ghosts and Legends, Edge of the Rabbit Hole Livestreams, the new Time Channeler Chronicles episodic supernatural adventure with featured illustrator Adam Tillery, and more, so keep check backing on all of our social media outlets for the latest and greatest to come.
Finally, I want to thank everyone that has been tuning in and watching all that we do and also supporting our Haunted Road Media authors. While we would continue to do what we do because it’s our passion, we are so greatly appreciative of all of you for being there throughout our adventures. It’s really humbling that you have taken an interest in us, but we also consider you a part of the team, that extra set of eyes and ears as we investigate. We’re looking forward to you continuing the ride with us in 2017!
Elizabeth Bathory, most noted in history for her brutality toward young women, was a Hungarian noble woman born in Transylvania on August 7, 1560. As had been the case with Vlad The Impaler, her people were in constant war with the Ottoman Turks, a very violent time in history in that part of the world.
She was born into extreme wealth and privilege, her family’s control over the surrounding area complete. In fact, her husband appended her name to his own when they were wed. However, her family was also known for its brutality, a collection of Hungarian and Transylvanian princes that would kill their opponents and peasants who fell out of line in the most brutal manner. The torture of servants was part of everyday life.
Although her marriage had been arranged since she was three years old, she actually got along quite well with her husband, Ferenc Nadasdy, right down to torturing people together. One such recorded account was in covering a naked servant girl in honey and making her stand outside for a full day while she was attacked by bees and ants.
While her husband was away at war, Elizabeth was left to rule the empire on her own, and by all accounts did so quite well. But when Ferenc died in battle when she was aged 44, Elizabeth spiraled out of control. Her obsession became sexuality, youth, and power.
With the help of a few favorite servants, including a deformed male dwarf she called Fizgo, Elizabeth is said to have murdered over 600 people. She took to beating, biting, and burning her victims, but she also had an array of mechanical devices that she would use, including cages that would shoot out spring-loaded blades and cages with spikes that would slowly spear the victim while Fizgo yelled out sexual obscenities at them. There were times Elizabeth would fly into a rage and kill her victim instantaneously, but she also enjoyed killing her victims slowly through an assortment of means, including stripping girls naked in the dead of winter, throwing them outside, and pouring water over them to watch them literally freeze to the ground.
Of course, there are the infamous legends that gave Elizabeth Bathory her moniker – The Blood Countess – stories that she bathed in the blood of virgins, believing this would help her retain a youthful visage. Some of these legends claim that she was a vampire. The story goes that a servant girl who was brushing her hair pulled a little too hard with one particular stroke, and Elizabeth smacked the girl so hard that she bled. Some of this blood dripped onto Elizabeth’s hand and she noticed it had a rejuvenating quality to her skin. Thus, she took to bathing in blood… as the legends goes. But there is little evidence to support that she actually did bathe in blood, even with all the atrocities she committed. However, she did take to biting victims during her torture sessions, even to the point of drawing blood.
Elizabeth’s downfall could either be contributed to carelessness or her own ego after having gotten away with murder for decades. Bodies were carelessly discarded around the land, near rivers, or simply thrown over the castle wall, but she also upped the ante when she started running out of local servant girls to prey upon. She began luring the young daughters of nobility to Cachtice Castle to learn etiquette, and when they started disappearing, the noble families wanted answers.
One of the portraits used as a stand-in for Elizabeth Bathory.
When an investigation was launched by King Matthias of Hungary, the investigation’s lead, George Turzo, wrote that immediately upon entering Cachtice Castle the murdered body of servant girl was discovered. In all, nine girls were discovered in some state of mutilation.
Elizabeth was arrested and testimony was collected against her, but she was never put on trial. Doing so would have put her in line for an execution. Such was not the case for her loyal servants who assisted her, three being executed and the other serving life imprisonment.
Although some called for her torture and execution, Elizabeth Bathory was still a noblewoman, after all, so instead she was locked away in a room in her castle and fed through a slot in the wall. She eventually died there four years later in 1614.
There’s a lot we don’t know about Elizabeth Bathory. Many documents that were compiled at the time were destroyed in an effort to hide the atrocities that happened, to cover up the blemish of this Hungarian society. There is also no known image of Elizabeth, the paintings that are used to depict her are actually of other women who have been said to resemble her appearance. And then there are the legends and stories that have cropped up over the centuries, eventually making it into Hollywood to further murky the facts of her life.
Today, the ruins of Cachtice Castle, abandoned in the 1700s, still exist as a haunting visage and may be visited, and a local winery uses the basement of a Bathory manor house where many of the tortures were committed to store barrels of wine. They do sell an Elizabeth Bathory-themed wine, which is, of course, blood red.
Welcome to autumn, what I like to call the haunting season, although any season, any day can be one for hauntings. Fall, however, offers a mystique that the other seasons do not. Perhaps it’s the briskness in the air, the changing colors of the trees, the aroma of the first fires that are lit, the sweet, delectable taste of pumpkin pie, or the recounting of ghost stories around the campfire as Halloween approaches. Whatever that combination may be, it is truly magical.
With that ahead of us, let’s recap the season that just concluded: summer. It’s been a busy few months for me and for Haunted Road Media, with a plethora of trips, excursions, and paranormal investigations. Shana has been along with me for much of the ride, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner… and partner in crime.
So let’s recap where the summer has taken us — this is not all-inclusive, just a few highlights — and then take a look at where we’re headed this fall.
Kampsville Grade School Raw Footage #1 (June): This was actually the second time I had investigated this mysterious grade school with Shana, but it’s the first “raw footage” video of the series. Phantom footsteps are heard overhead…
Paranormal Roads: The Exchange Hotel (June): A wonderfully preserved historic location in Virginia that has once been used as a Civil War hospital
Paranormal Point of Interest: The Great Valley House (July): A little known historic location in Pennsylvania that contains the only known type of stone sink of its kind in the United States. Walkthrough plus an EVP session with Shana at a crypt embedded in a stone wall near the house.
Friday Night Ghost Frights 14: The Second Life Of John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy Theory (July): A detailed look at the interesting “conspiracy theory” about the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, read from Ghosts And Legends Of Oklahoma.
Abandoned Kampsville Lock Urban Exploration (July): Exploring the woods near the Illinois River for the historic Kampsville Locks.
Making A Murderer Season 2 Sneak Peek (July): Take a look at what to expect in the second season of Making A Murderer, the docu-series covering the Steven Avery case.
Haunted Kampsville Grade School Raw Footage #2 (August): Shana and I conduct a deeper paranormal investigation of the school that possibly reveals an apparition caught near the basement stairs.
Zombies Teach You Grammar! Grammar Police #1 (August): Hilarious video using zombies to teach the difference between there, their, and they’re, plus more!
Ghost Stories from CIL-CON (August): At the Central Illinois Conference, Shana and I collected ghost stories from those who visited the booth.
Haunted Cemeteries of Ashmore (August): During one of our cemetery excursions in Ashmore, Illinois, Shana and I each experience supernatural activity.
Paranormal Roads: Haunted Farrar Schoolhouse (September): Road trip to investigate a haunted school house in Illinois, meeting up with Haunted Road Media author and illustrator Adam Tillery.
Helltown Preview (Mike’s Morning Mug #66) (September): Grabbing some coffee and heading out to “Helltown”, Ohio, in search of its mysterious legends.
Friday Night Ghost Frights #18: Monster In The Closet (September): A look back at this supernaturally intense episode of The Haunted in which I appeared.
Much more coming the autumn, including an investigation that Shana and I conducted at an undisclosed historic home which saw a great deal of paranormal activity surrounding the family dog, the FULL Helltown exploration video, investigating the Ferry Plantation in Virginia, and an all-new funny Grammar Police video. Plus, all your favorite Morning Mug coffee videos and Friday Night Ghost Frights… and you never know what’s in store for Halloween!
Also… thank you for helping us his 2000 subscribers! Drawing for the giveaway will be held on Enigma Underground Radio on September 29!
The Goldenrod Showboat awaits its imminent demise on April 1, 2016.
It’s so much more than ghosts. To gaze upon a relic is to infuse yourself with everything that relic has come to represent: the people, the era, the ambience. History in today’s society has been relegated to the monotonous memorization of names and dates of people to which we believe we have no connection. We have forgotten the world as it once was, lost in the grind of our breakneck society while traversing what had once been countryside through concrete monstrosities and lifeless asphalt. And so, when one of those relics is greeted with the demise of a scrap pile death, such as the historic Goldenrod Showboat, most don’t even bat a manicured eye at its imminent destruction.
It was a jewel on the Mississippi River, the largest and most luxurious showboat ever constructed. Red Skelton got his start there and other famous talents performed on its stage, such as Bob Hope. Do those names even resonate with people anymore? For nearly 100 years the Goldenrod provided laughter and life for thousands along the old waterway, providing a means of escapism from life along the river, but now it rests on shore, a rusting hulk replete of its previous grandeur. Must we allow ourselves to forget all that has come before us?
Stand still for a moment and listen to the lap of the water against the shore and the breeze gently caress the leaves of nearby trees. Open your eyes and stare not at your cell phone but at the gentle ripple of a wave or the delicate veins of a leaf. For just a moment lead not with your persuasive techniques or heavy hand in the corporate boardroom, but lead with your senses. Where does it take you? Does anyone look at the stars anymore or have they become so blotted out by the false light of our street lamps that no one even bother to look?
From the deck of the Goldenrod I finally understood why the ancients so revered the celestial heavens. That night, the darkest sky I have ever experienced produced the brightest stars in the highest abundance I have ever seen. For the first time I saw the constellation Orion in its full glory flanked by so many other brilliant twinkling skylights that I almost couldn’t discern it. One word describes the moment and even it doesn’t do that moment justice: amazing. The night sky greeted me with a sensuous kiss that I have longed to return.
Make no mistake that I enjoy having my car to travel from place to place and my computer is currently making this article possible, but having modern conveniences doesn’t mean we should forget the past and the world around us. Locations like the Goldenrod Showboat are a time capsule, a vessel to take us to a place we’ve left behind. The encompassing energy when one steps inside its main doors instantly whisks you away to that forgotten era of ragtime and authentic melodrama, making you drunk on escapism within escapism if you allow it. It’s a pure looking glass into that time of American history without the overzealous pandering of modern commercialism.
Soon the Goldenrod will be gone. Whatever doesn’t get salvaged for scrap will be burned, adding further insult to injury as longtime owner, Captain Bill Menke, pieced a significant portion of the boat back together by hand after a fire in 1962 when he was more than 80 years old. To this day his spirit still roams his life’s passion, literally going down with the ship.
In the end the Goldenrod Showboat will be a footnote in history, relegated to a few paragraphs on a dusty webpage with a few museum items kept on-hand by those who truly cared for it. Hopefully, it will be remembered for a bit more than just a few names and dates — for the best history teachers are storytellers. And its ghost stories that they tell.
Society of the Supernatural recently conducted a paranormal investigation tour, hitting four locations in four days in the Midwest, primarily Indiana. The tour began with a kickoff interview on Norene Balovich’s ParanormalZoneTV on Friday, March 11, followed by a public investigation at the Bellaire House in Bellaire, Ohio, the following night. But things really picked up on the 13th when we investigated the Randolph County Infirmary in Winchester, Indiana.
Mike Ricksecker, David Weatherly, and Dave Spinks of Society of the Supernatural at the Randolph County Infirmary, March 2016.
Although the final 50 years of the facility were of a positive nature and known for quality care, it’s origins were dark and ominous. The building is the third on the same location, built in 1899, the first constructed in the early-1800s burned down and its successor torn down due to poor conditions and to make way for the current building. As with many asylums and poorhouses of the time, patients were treated cruelly, over-medicated, and experimented upon. Death was common place, including murder, and numerous bodies were buried in unmarked graves around the property.
Rainy weather bogged down our travels and we arrived after dark, so we unfortunately captured no daytime photography. Such are the perils of a road trip of our nature. However, we arrived at just the right time to start capturing some compelling paranormal activity.
Just as we were setting up to go live near the main stairwell, we all heard a disembodied voice emanate from the second floor. This was accompanied by the sound of something large being moved, perhaps a cart. I took a quick look upstairs and called out to make sure nobody else was with us, but Dave Spinks, David Weatherly, and I were the only three in the building. We had to start the Livestream, so I came back down and we rolled into our intro, addressing what we had just witnessed.
Within minutes we were receiving intelligent responses on the ghostbox. I ended up exploring upstairs because I had seen a light in one of the corridors, but when I got up the stairs shadow movement was picked up on the night vision camera and the Geophone motion sensor on the EDI device sitting on the stairs started flashing.
After my foray upstairs I ventured back down and David start coughing profusely. He ended up having to step out of the building for a moment and when he did Dave and I distinctly heard a growl rise up out of one of the halls. This all made for a pretty hair-raising first 30 minutes of our investigation, just a precursor of things to come.
Black eyed kids — BEKs or black eyed children — what are they? Where do they come from? Why do they strike fear in the hearts of those who encounter them?
David Weatherly presents a complete overview of the BEK phenomenon with his intriguing book Black Eyed Children from Leprechaun Press. Weatherly’s thorough research includes scores of first-hand accounts, linking the similarities and attributes between each sighting, dissecting various theories, and studying the black eyed children’s possible relation to other mysterious encounters, folklore, and legends.
Anything and everything you wanted to know about these strange, monotone children with the completely black eyes that want to invite themselves into your home or car is included in this book. “Don’t invite them in,” everyone says. Find out what happens when you do invite one in.
The book isn’t meant to scare you, it’s supposed to be an informative piece of literature about the phenomenon of black eyed children, but it may just have you jumping out of your seat the next time you hear someone rapping at the door.