It's Halloween, and we love ghost stories. Word On Fire Research Assistant Jack Thornton reveals our top ten favorite rumored Catholic hauntings in the U.S.
Well, it’s Halloween: a time when folks dress up in all manner of costumes while enjoying candy, parties, scary movies and ghost stories. The ghost stories in particular arouse the interest and wonder of many a lively imagination at this time of year. All over the world, stories of hauntings, spirits and monsters, including some supposed hauntings of Catholic locations, frighten and delight believers everywhere, especially during the Halloween season. Some stories are scary and mysterious. Others, not so much.
In the spirit of Halloween, and in no apparent order, here are our ten favorite rumors of Catholic hauntings in the U.S.
1) Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery
Royal Palm Beach, FL
The ghosts of those buried there supposedly haunt this Catholic cemetery. One account says, “Strange fogs have been reported, described as looking like individual strands of something moving within the fog. Appearing and disappearing. The mist seems to form in to something, very dense. You could see it moving all different directions. Noticeable temperature change, uneasy feelings, and feelings of felt like someone was right behind you. Then it feels like whatever it this is trying to grab your arm.”
Or, to be more accurate, realistic and grammatically correct, “I was in a cemetery one night and it was foggy. The End.”
2) St. Mary’s Catholic Church
There are three ghosts rumored to haunt this church and its grounds. One story holds that a priest died during construction of the church. Another story claims that, during the Civil War, a Catholic priest
serving as a chaplain for the Confederate Army was shot and died in the church. There is another rumor that the ghost is the spirit of Bishop Richard Pius Miles, the first bishop of the Diocese of Nashville, who died in 1860. He was buried in the church basement and supposedly still haunts his old stomping grounds.
According to one story from 1937, a pounding at his bedroom door woke up a priest in the rectory but he could find no one there. After he fell asleep he was woken again, this time by a pounding on the headboard of his bed. There was no one in the room, so the awakening was attributed to supernatural causes by superstitious locals.
I can’t say that I personally would substitute a ghost-pounding-on-my-headboards wake up call for a regular alarm clock, but hey, whatever gets you out of bed in the morning, right?
3) Mission San Buenaventura
Father Junipero Serra founded this mission church in 1792, and it still operates as a parish church to this day. A ghostly monk supposedly haunts the church and the grounds, and apparently only appears to Catholics. This doesn’t seem to be a very effective evangelization technique, but perhaps the ghost is one of those shy folks who only like talking to like-minded friends and just can’t bear interacting with other, less savory sorts. If this haunting is true then that means introversion doesn’t end when we die, so I suppose there will be awkward conversations in Heaven too. Le sigh.
4) Sedamsville Rectory
Over the course of its 130-year history this rectory has seen its share of deaths—mostly normal ones, but with a few oddities thrown in. Apparently in recent years several visitors to the house have seen and heard strange things including dark shadows, mist, footsteps, voices, doors opening and closing, and often times a figure of a man dressed in a dark clergy robe. It could be ghosts…
Or it could just be normal things that happen in houses. Just last night I woke up to find that it was dark in my room. Is my house haunted, or was the sun just on the other side of the earth? We’ll never know.
And today at work, I heard footsteps, and doors opening and closing, and I saw a strange man in priestly garb wandering the office. Was it a ghost or was it just Fr. Steve? Actually, Fr. Steve is pretty strange, and unnaturally silent and glide-y when he walks. He could be a ghost. Hmmmm, interesting.
I’m a little nervous now.
But not really.
5) Old Ursaline Convent
New Orleans, LA
The Ursalines have been in Louisiana since the early 1700s and have inhabited a series of buildings up to the present day while working with schools, charities and orphanages.
Apparently, in the 1720s, the French government sent young ladies to their settlements in America as prospective wives for the settlers there. The mademoiselles arrived with their belongings in chests or “casquettes” (Casquettes … caskets … coffins … haha, get it?!) and took up residence with the Ursaline nuns until they could find husbands. According to legend, they weren’t carrying the usual possessions one would find in the luggage of a group of young girls at the time: dresses, books, shoes, money, iPods, hair ribbons, brushes, etc. No, they were carrying vampires.
Yup. Vampires. In their luggage. Good thing this was in the 1700s because there’s no way the TSA would let vampires get through security anymore. They’re so strict about what you can bring on planes these days: no liquids in containers greater than 3 oz., no sharp objects, no aerosol cans and no un-dead monsters.
Anyway, the legend suggests that the girls were permanently locked in the 3rd floor attic of the Old Convent with their blood sucking carry-ons. To this day, the superstitious locals believe that the vampires sneak out of the convent to feed at night, although how they sneak out of a building they were locked in is beyond me.
Since the young women were trapped in the convent along with the monsters, I hope that the vampires were at least gentlemen enough to romance the young ladies with sparkly romps through the forest while calling them “spider monkey,” which is now considered cute and romantic and not at all weird or lame, apparently.
6) Ancilla College and Convent
Apparently students at this Midwestern Catholic liberal arts college have seen Catholic nuns and sisters wandering in the tunnels beneath the school grounds only to walk through a wall or disappear into thin air.
This seemed really creepy until I realized that these are college students. At night. In the tunnels beneath their schools. We all know college students like to indulge in some unsavory things, especially in out of the way places like an underground tunnel. Something tells me that most of these kids probably weren’t exactly in a clear-headed state when they had these “visions,” so maybe we can all relax and not take it seriously anymore, just like some college students do with pretty much everything.
7) Most Holy Trinity Church
There are a few possible origins of the hauntings that supposedly plague this old parish. One claims that the current church building, built from 1882-1885, stands over an old cemetery where some bodies are still buried. Supposedly the ghosts of the folks under the church haunt the building and mysteriously turn lights on and off, open and close doors, and walk back and forth.
Or it could just be living people doing those things since those activities, believe it or not, are not limited to ghosts. The living can also open doors and turn on lights. At least they could last time I checked. Or maybe I am a ghost and don’t even know it, like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense, which is why I can also turn on lights and open doors that aren’t too heavy.
Another source of the ghost legend is that one of the first pastors of the church, Monsignor Michael May, passed away in his bedroom and continues to haunt the church grounds. Apparently visitors hear mysterious steps at all hours of the night, and dogs have been known to stare, as if in a trance, at the stairs and dining room of the rectory. So it must be a ghost, right? Maybe.
I’m not sure if “dogs staring at things” is proper evidence for a haunting though. My dog once stared at my fireplace for over an hour because he thought there was a bird in it. He runs as fast as he can after a tennis ball when we play fetch even when I am only pretending to throw it. Sherlock Holmes, he is not.
He also looks at me while I eat in the dining room like I am the Sistine Chapel ceiling and he is a blind art critic who has miraculously regained his vision. I don’t think he’s looking at ghosts though. I think he’s just looking for food handouts. So yeah, we might need to wait for better evidence than dogs looking at a room before we call in the ghost hunters.
Maybe cats looking at a room would do it. They probably have a connection with the world beyond. Just look at the way they slink around like they’re sooooo smart and secretive. Yeah, if a cat is ever staring at a room it’s definitely haunted. Or something.
8) St. Rita’s Church
On All Souls Day in the early 1960’s St. Rita’s parish had a ghostly visitation. More than a dozen parishioners had gathered there to pray when, sometime in the early evening, the organ began to play by itself. Suddenly, six robed monks appeared, three wearing black and three wearing white. The parishioners attempted to flee, but they found the doors of the church were locked. The phantom monks moved towards the parishioners while the organ continued its dirge. Finally, the vision faded as a disembodied voice whispered, “Pray for us.” So next time you see a ghost it probably just wants to ask you a favor, not kill you. So ignore your instincts and don’t run away or anything.
9) St. Turibius Church