Do you believe in ghosts?
For many of us that’s an easy question. Either we do, we don’t, or we sit teetering on the fence between belief and non-belief. A large majority want to believe but maybe haven’t had that one mind-blowing event that’s put them over the edge. They are very skeptical, but they believe in the possibility. Skelievers – skeptical believers.
Others feel it goes against their scientific or religious dogma. They find it difficult to believe in something they cannot quantify, or too bound in faith to accept anything that contradicts their religious doctrine. My own family fell into the latter category which made my fascination for the occult a sin in their eyes. But, as they told me in church, Jesus died for the sinners.
Once I embraced the paranormal there was no turning back. I accepted my Christian faith as confirmation for the paranormal. The Bible is full of stories about spiritual beings – angels, ghosts, demons – and prominently features the idea of an afterlife. Jesus rose from the dead, scared the heck out of his bewildered followers and assured them, “I am not a ghost….”
But I digress…
One topic that puzzled me was the idea of a soul. A soul is what separated humans from all other of God’s creatures, even angels. A soul was our spiritual center, our connection to heaven, our ticket to the afterlife. Without a soul one could not enter the kingdom of God. There are other requirements as well but I don’t want to get into that right now.
I accepted the idea of a soul just as I accepted the idea of a conscience. My issue with the concept was the exclusiveness. Humans had souls. Animals did not.
Are there animal ghosts? What happens to their souls after they die? Can our pet’s spirit live on after bodily death? What kind of heaven doesn’t allow cats and dogs in?
My priest, my teachers, and my family assured me that animals were soulless and therefore not permitted beyond the pearly gates. Saint Peter had his orders.
But why can’t an animal have a soul? They have emotions, after all, and experience many of the same feelings we do. Anyone who’s ever had a loyal dog can attest to this. Some scientists may disagree, but they’d be hard pressed to convince pet owners that their furry family members don’t convey many of the same emotions as humans do. Fear, joy, anger, anxiety, love, and even shame.
The greatest of these emotions is love. Animals love. If love is the bond that ties our spiritual being to the physical world, then why wouldn’t an animal be tethered to it as well?
Are we responsible for holding these connections with our pets after death, or is it the will of the animal to remain with us? Stories of dogs who refuse to leave the graveside of a fallen master come to mind. Dogs who won’t eat, or seemingly lose the will to live, apparently overcome with sadness are thought to die of a broken heart. Is there something biological going on here or is it an emotional response?
Animals are mysterious, complex creatures. We can’t ask them what’s going on in their head. We can’t analyze their feelings in the context of an abstract idea like love. We can, however, interpret their behaviors, and those behaviors tell me that they can feel emotional pain and loss just as we do.
Love and loss are popular themes in hauntings. Some ghosts stick around waiting for their loved ones to join them. Others are so heartbroken they can’t seem to move on. The sudden loss of life can be unacceptable for both the living and the dead. Some feel love so strongly they refuse to leave a spouse or family member behind. I believe these emotions are not reserved for humans alone.
Other emotions that fuel hauntings are anger or hate. The flip side of love can be a very powerful feeling. Heart racing, blood boiling, teeth grinding anger that turns us red hot and out-of-control. It can be a palpable energy that resonates after death. There are plenty of stories of hell hounds, devilish creatures, evil, vengeful animals that terrorize the living. But our pets?
Hopefully, Fido wasn’t in a bad mood when he passed.
I have encountered many animal spirits in my investigative work. One of my very first residential cases was a puzzling dilemma. The homeowner felt as if he was being visited by a nefarious demon and was scared to be alone in the house. He thought an exorcism was in order until we considered a far less terrifying explanation – a dog.
The client reported strange growling noises, unusual smells, doors opening on their own, small dark shadows darting quickly across the floor, a cold wet sensation on his hand as it dangled over the bed at night. We deduced that it was the spirit of his recently deceased family dog who had a habit of rubbing his nose on his masters hand as they settled in to bed at night. When he realized the likely cause of the paranormal activity was his beloved canine, the client went from a real sense of fear to an overwhelming sense of comfort.
My favorite local haunt is Willoughby Coal; a historic building that now serves as a hardware store. The ghost stories that emanate from this place could fill a book! Besides the numerous human spirits that dwell inside this unusual location is a legendary ghost of a dog named Yukon.
Yukon was the favorite pet of a former owner who brought the dog with him to work every day for nearly a decade. The dog died after being hit by a train right outside Willoughby Coal. Workers and customers have continued to see, feel, hear, and smell him for more than a decade after his accident.
The Haunted Housewives have encountered this ghost dog so often we consider him our unofficial mascot. Yukon is hanging out at the place he found most comforting and familiar; a place where he knows he is always welcome with people who will always remember him with fondness.
The phenomenon of animal hauntings is nothing new. As long as there has been a belief in a spiritual realm there has been reports of these fascinating ghosts. Ancient Egyptians held strong beliefs that their souls continued in the afterlife.
Pharaohs were often escorted into the afterlife with their earthly belongings, i.e., the elaborate tombs full of riches. These belongings often included a favorite pet…or slave. Both were often killed in order for their souls to accompany their master into the next realm. The ancients strongly believed that animals had souls, and therefore a place in the afterlife. The soul was often depicted in Egyptian art as a bird, a cat, or some other non-human figure.
Native Americans were known for their belief in the connection between nature and man. The universe consisted of both a physical and a spiritual component that demanded a mutual respect for all living things. They held strong the belief of spirit animals – although not quite the same thing as animal spirits. The importance of nature and harmony with the whole of the universe was the very essence of their culture. Everything had a soul – people, plants, the wind. Everything had a part to play in the bigger picture.
More modern examples of ghost animals can be found in accounts initiating from all over the globe. Some of my favorite come from the good old U.S.A.
Cat-tastrophy In D.C
One of the more well known animal ghosts is the so-called “Demon Cat” that haunts the Capital Building in Washington D.C. The spirit of this black feline is said to appear during times of great political strife, natural disasters, or the unexpected death of a president. Always elusive and always black, this cat has defied security measures for decades. Besides being spotted on the catafalque, the ghost frequently roams the dark corridors of the basement, terrifying unsuspecting guards that give chase.
The apparition has been reported in the White House as well as other federal buildings in the capital. Is this ghost cat a demon, an evil spirit somehow responsible for the tragedy at hand? Or is it somehow a harbinger of death, a warning, a symbol of the change and chaos that accompanies its visits?
Getty-Up Ghosts of the Civil War
Any history lover or elementary school student can tell you about Gettysburg, the most famous and arguably the most important confrontation of the American Civil War. In July 1863, Union and Confederate soldiers littered the small Pennsylvania town with bullets and blood. Over the course of three days Gettysburg saw more than 50,000 casualties; 50,000 men captured, wounded, or killed.
An epic battle like that leaves a stain. The death toll was unparalleled and the suffering immeasurable. If there was ever a recipe for a haunting, this was it. Paranormal enthusiasts believe the battlefield and surrounding town are notoriously haunted. The hotels, B&Bs, museums, and even the national park have countless stories of ghostly encounters.
Residents and visitors have seen soldiers in full regalia, still fighting a war that ended over 150 years ago. Many of these spirit soldiers are spotted on horseback. Are these just residual hauntings replaying like a broken record? Are they just a memory or are they “stuck” along with their riders as some paranormal experts believe? Horses are not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of animal spirits, but when you factor in the importance of these creatures to the soldiers, it just makes sense.
Serving up Spirits in the “Show Me” State
St. Louis is one of my favorite cities in the United States. The people are always friendly and the beer is always cold. One of the most intriguing reports of an animal ghost originates from the Lemp family, once considered St. Louis royalty – beer moguls who’s lives and deaths captivated the country. The Lemp family mansion sits proudly as a restored tribute to this fascinating clan.
The Lemp story has everything – rag to riches to obscene wealth, mystery, love, betrayal, tragedy, suicide, curses, and ghosts! After four (yes four) members of the Lemp family committed suicide there was bound to be a few hauntings. The Lemp Mansion is definitely one of the most haunted places in the country, replete with ghosts. According to legend and eye witness accounts, one of those ghosts is a dog.
Charles Lemp, the fourth and final Lemp to commit suicide, had a pet dog named Cerva. Charles decided to end his life in the same method that his father, brother, and sister did before him. He believed his beloved furry companion would be too distraught to live on without him, so he shot the dog before turning the gun on himself.
Cerva is reported to be one of the most common of the Lemp Mansion ghosts, especially fond of the room were he met his tragic end. His wet ghostly nose nuzzles guests as they sleep. His sorrowful howl echoes through the mansion on the anniversary of his demise. The spirit of Charles Lemp is often spotted in the upstairs guest rooms. Loyal in death as he was in life, Cerva always accompanies his master.
The Uninvited: Pet Friendly Hotels
A familiar story of animal hauntings comes from the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The magnificent hotel is notoriously haunted by the victims of an evil doctor who scammed unsuspecting cancer patients. The sick put their lives and their life savings in the hands of Dr. Baker whose treatments did more harm than good.
The tales of ghostly encounters at the Crescent are nothing new. One would almost expect a place like that to be haunted. But recently, stories of a different kind of ghost have surfaced. The spirit of an orange tabby cat has been spotted roaming the halls of the luxury resort. The cat is thought to belong to one of Baker’s many victims. Maybe the cat is seeking the comforting arms of its former owner before crossing over the rainbow bridge.
My favorite animal ghost story comes from a place I’ve frequented numerous times and a spirit I’ve encountered often.
Tucked away in a quite little town called Linesville, perched on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania is a quaint, unassuming, yet utterly charming place known as the Knickerbocker Hotel. The hauntings date back to its early incarnation as the Arnold House, a place to fill your belly, raise your glass, and rest your head. Over the decades, the Arnold House collected memories and stored them in the weathered red brick foundation, locking them away them like a family treasure.
Today the building is the home and heart of Merle and Peg Knickerbocker. They keep safe the ghosts of those who graced the halls of their magnificent venue, protecting them from anyone who tries to exploit or disrespect the dead. One of the most beloved spirits that dwell the antiquated halls of the hotel is a ghost kitty.
The cat, another orange and white tabby, has been haunting the Knickerbocker since Merle and Peg took ownership. Its origins are unknown but its presence is the more prominent of all the spirits that live at “The Knick.” Guests reported the familiar sounds of a cat, purring and meowing in empty rooms.
Countless EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) have been captured of the unmistakeable meows. I have personally heard the phantom feline on numerous occasions, both with my ears and on my recorder.
At one point, the hotel was completed wired for video via U-Stream CCTV system. People from all over the world could log in and watch a live broadcast of the happenings at the Knickerbocker from their computers. One viewer saw a cat in one of the rooms on the second floor and had the foresight to snap a screen shot. This photograph confirmed what many had known for a long time – the Knickerbocker had a paranormal pet, aka “The Ghost Kitty.”
The ghost kitty has been immortalized at the hotel in a display that shows the screen shot in question, along side of a picture of a real orange tabby cat that once stayed at the hotel. There is a room, replete with toys and trinkets, named in honor of the ghost kitty. It is my favorite room in the hotel and undoubtably one of the most haunted.
Where did this ghost come from? Who’s pet was it? Why is it still hanging around the Knickerbocker? We may never know the true origins of the cat but this one is a keeper. No feeding necessary, no shedding, no fleas, no litter box. As far as the owners are concerned, ghost kitty is welcome to stay.
The stories of animal ghosts are endless, the encounters compelling. It seems some animals do live on in spirit form after death. Is it their choice or our need that keeps them in our earthly realm? That question will remain a mystery. I for one am relieved to know that our pets, like our loved ones, will be waiting for us in the afterlife. Who would want to live an eternity without them? They are part of our universe. They are part of us.
Theresa Argie, The Haunted Housewife, is an experienced lecturer, educator, researcher and paranormal investigator and has had many years dealing with spirits, ghosts and paranormal activity. Theresa has worked beside some of the most well-known experts in the paranormal field, and has been featured by countless media outlets. She is also the co-author of America’s Most Haunted.