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TerraX's Spooktactular TrickorTreats!

Updated: Nov 4, 2023


Happy spooky season Xplorers! We hope you all had a happy Halloween full of treats! To end the season we are getting into some of our most spooktacular finds working in CRM — tricks and treats! (depending on how you look at it?) Yes, the CRM world can be quite haunting — but in the best ways! KB and I (Soph here) reached out to our bewitching departments to recount their most memorable moments of spooks and curiosities within their field or even on the job. Lets see what’s hiding in the shadows of CRM!

adobe illustrator halloween cartoon

Get Ready for some Scary Scary Stories!

*Cue the spooky KB voice. It was a dark and stormy night… (Just kidding! Please continue, KB.)

Kathryn Tucker Windham Ghost Stories

Well… everyone loves a good ghost story, but possibly no one more than Kathryn Tucker Windham. We were led to this author by our very own Historian and now, Architectural Historian, Maragaret Shultz. “She is a Southern author from Selma, Alabama who wrote a bunch of southern ghost stories.” Margaret Shultz informs us. “I first heard of Windham in an American Literature class I took in undergrad. My professor was from Alabama and wanted to include some southern works in the curriculum, so we read authors including Kathryn Tucker Windham.”

After digging through the deep and dark archives of TerraX (by candlelight of course — just setting the tone, hehe.) KB went on her own ghost hunt and found…

Kathryn Tucker Windham has been collecting southern ghost stories for decades! Her many volumes of writing contain tales of restless spirits that have been passed down for generations — many of them written down only for the first time! These stories are part of a rich oral tradition here in the south.

Of course, her passion for collecting ghost stories didn’t come out of nowhere — Ms. Windham has first-hand experience with haunting! (Spooooky.) In the 1960s, she discovered a ghost living in her very own home: the one and only Jeffrey (The great and terrible… Jeff?).

For months, the Windham family would hear someone bumping up and down the hallway or moving about the living room, even though there was no one there. Jeffrey would occasionally shake a lamp or rock a chair, and he often caught the attention of the family cat, Hornblower, who would rise, hair standing on end and claws at the ready to attack the mysterious invisible intruder. On two occasions, Jeffrey even moved objects — once he managed to block a door with a dress, and another time he very nearly knocked a cake into the floor. Jeffrey even managed to have his picture taken. (See drawn image of Jeffery below - also worn on the necklace of Mrs. Windham above.)

One evening in 1966, while a group of young people were visiting the Windham home, Jeffrey decided to make his presence very known. The gang took several pictures of themselves, but when they were developed, standing next to Nikki Davis — herself a young photographer and the developer of the photos — there was Jeffrey, posing, just as if he wanted to have his picture made.

Now, if this writer (KB pointing to herself) had come across a photo of a ghost in her very own home, you can bet she’d be moving out and doing her best to forget about spooky specters altogether! But not Kathryn Tucker Windham. After the discovery of Jeffrey, she leaned in… *hard. Ms. Windham reached out to Margaret Gillis Figh (different Margaret), an expert on folklore, to learn more about Alabama’s rich history of ghosts and ghouls. Out of their consultation grew Ms. Windham’s first collection of stories, Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, which you can check out here. Ms. Windham went on to share ghost stories from all across Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, each one uniquely scary and fascinating!

Our Maragaret sure found it fascinating saying, “I enjoyed reading folklore,” not because of the spooks and scares, but because “it can be an engaging way to introduce people to local history.” Storytellers like Windamn are just one aspect of how we keep the history of the south alive! So, If you’re looking for the right ghost stories to share this spooky season, look no further! Kathryn Tucker Windham has you covered.

— Thanks Margaret for pointing us to the spooky side of the History Department!

Broken Doll Limbs and Frozen Charlottes

Now, if you’re not a believer in the ghost stories of our history department (as I, Sophie, surely am), and you need a scare straight from reality, step no further than the open fields and deep dark woods of the south! (if you dare!) Our Principal Investigators (PIs), lab techs, and in-field archaeologists find all kinds of spooky items at these historic sites. “There are some spooky areas where we work,” claims PI and Historical Archaeologist, Steve Filoromo. “The sheer amount of doll legs!” he emphasizes.

Oh yes Steve — most commonly found are the dolls and doll limbs…

*Cue Goosebumps theme … bum bum bum bum bum…

ziggy stardust david bowie halloween scarecrow

You may recount our history’s obsession with haunted dolls, with examples such as Annabelle, Robert the Doll, Chucky, this creepy scarecrow of Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie from Labyrinth) our team stumbled across on a job in Macon... Maybe it’s something about their frozen smiles and long-stares, or maybe it’s the commonality of their presence in the house, but dolls have been haunting our homes for centuries.

PI, Historian, and TerraX lab curator Emma Jackson Pepperman, tells us, “We often find a lot of ceramic dolls and doll pieces, like legs and arms, at the Antebellum Plantation sites.” Many of these curious little ceramic dolls (not all) are known as Frozen Charlottes or Frozen Charlies, and they come with a ghostly true story and a haunting song (of course!).

The story behind the name goes… a wealthy young woman by the name of Fair Charlotte was on her way to a very fancy party in a very fancy dress with her very fancy suitor, Charlie. It was a cold night in 1840, but our Fair Charlotte did not have a jacket worthy of covering up her very fancy dress, and so she refused to wear one at all. (We get it girl, no one wants to ruin their Halloween costume with a jacket!) Well, like we said, it was a very cold night in 1840. So, on her way to the very fancy party in her very fancy dress with her very fancy suitor, by way of a less-than fancy sleigh ride, Charlotte arrived at the party (yep, you guessed it!) frozen to death (I take it back — put that jacket on girl!) Her loving suitor, Charlie, was said to have died of a broken heart soon after. (The Victorians had a twisted sense of humor naming their dolls after these guys).

Since then, our team has come across many of these dolls at sites in the southeast, and Emma has even curated a couple of these doll pieces right here in the TerraX lab (seen in the photos above and to the right.)

frozen charlie

The Frozen Charlottes (and Charlies) were originally manufactured in Germany and hit the states around 1850. The small dolls were sometimes baked into deserts as little surprises for children to find, or otherwise presented in little porcelain bathtubs or coffins. (A bit creepy but okay, sure, it was the Victorian era — I guess.) The dolls are typically made of porcelain or bisque and sometimes have evidence of painted clothes; however, “most of the dolls are found naked and made of white porcelain,” says Emma.

porcelain dog head

Although these dolls come across as a bit unnerving, they are very helpful to the team as they fill in some of the gaps about the inhabitants of the site such as information about their greater economic standing and the existence of families of various ages and genders. “They are creepy looking,” Emma concludes, “but I think it’s cool when you find those pieces of the dolls, particularly the foot with the boots — their little feet are pretty flipping cute!” Emma says. (Professionally said, Emma.)

— Tiny frozen dolls are cute and all (for our archaeologists and historians maybe…), but you know what’s not so cute? (smooth transition Sophie…) The real life spooktacular encounters our in-field archaeologists Steve and Kevin Rolph (Crew Chief) encounter in the field, out on the bayou, and even while surveying haunted structures!

Haunted Places, Animal Sounds, & Spooky Swamps!

spooky image of ruins

“Oh I have some stories!” Steve says with a hearty laugh. Before working with TerraX, Steve worked at the infamously haunted and historic Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Alabama. “Are you kidding me? I swear I have heard the voices of miners in those tunnels!” says Steve with conviction. “You could hear some weird blasts or noises or what sounded like voices in those tunnels.” What’s even more haunting, Steve continues, “Sloss Furnace was extra creepy when it would rain and the place would get flooded and eerie stuff would float up — lost items like someone's phone. You could even see the water lines on the walls when it was dry.” (Ew! Mystery stains and mystery voices, never a comforting sign.)

sloss furnace tunnel
Tunnel at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Alabama - Photo By Steve Filoromo

“I personally get creeped out by the swamps!” Kevin interjects with his own spooky experience. (We got plenty of those in the southeast!) Commonly, Steve says, “we have to go out on the bayou to test for whatever might be out there, looking at things like shell deposits.” However, Kevin interrupts, “when you are on a boat in the middle of no man’s land, it gets a bit creepy,” especially when there is what Steve calls an “exceptional fog warning.” (Alone on a boat out in an exceptionally foggy swamp… yep a swamp monster is coming after you for sure!)

Steve claims there is even local lore in Louisiana about an early 1800s pirate (smuggler later turned patriot) by the name of Jean Lafitte (which is actually a National Park that you can explore here) who is said to haunt these very swamps and many other parts of New Orleans. Our team hasn’t experienced any sightings yet, but a Swamp Monster or a Ghost Pirate are bound to show up in these spooky conditions.

But in-field scares don't just stop at haunted tunnels and mysterious bayous! No sir, the boy's spookiest spooks are not the structures or the conditions you see in the field, but are actually the things you don't always see!

“The animals are some of the spookiest stuff out here,” says Kevin. And boy do we have a lot of them! We got rattlesnakes and mountain lions, bears and jaguars (Oh my!). “Have you ever heard the call of a jaguar?” Steve asks. “There are the jaguars that sound like crying babies,” says Kevin, “You think, ‘Let me go help this baby crying in the woods’… it’s as if it is trying to trap you!” Steve reassures us saying, “It is unusual to hear (jaguars) too far north, but I’ve heard them in Alabama and Louisiana.” And here's a helpful tip! “If you already hear one, you might be done for,” (Helpful…), “just back away slowly and walk the opposite direction.” (Jeez, stay safe out there guys!)

“And what about the bears!” Steve continues. (Oh good…bears.) “Oh yeah, the bears love sugarcane,” which is great for the many sugarcane plantations where our TerraX team get to work! (Hardcore sarcasm.) “I’ve walked into a couple dens for bears and other animals.” says Kevin. “I also walked into a hog’s den in Shreveport, Louisiana, on a sugarcane swamp.” Thankfully, no bear or hog encounters occurred. (Thankfully! You can't even run from those things!)

— I never would have thought we’d be talking about real life scares in our special little Halloween post, but here we are! (Sophie said, simultaneously gripping her bear mace and turning up the heat in her Colorado home known for freezing cold winters and previously mentioned predators…) What do you say we move out of the shovel-tested fields and into another unique part of the job where our historic resources experts have animal encounters of a different kind…(the kind we love, live with, and one day bury like family…)

Pet Cemetery, not Pet Sematary

We have all heard the typical trope on cemeteries, known in American culture to be something of the spooky or eerie nature; however, our main girl Briane Shane (Architectural Historian) finds them to be beautiful and fascinating, just like the Victorians did! In-fact, Braine says, “Did you know that cemeteries were originally joyful places used not just to lay to rest the deceased but to actually hang out with them?! Briane tells us that cemeteries used to be designed more like parks where kids could play and families could gather. It’s true! “Victorians used to have picnics next to their loved ones' graves.” says Briane. “This park-like style known as Rural or Garden cemeteries’ changed around WWII as people began to move around more and take care of the gravesites less.” The ‘scary’ stereotype about cemeteries we are now so accustomed to is more of a modern thing. It is simply due to the access to travel that our graveyards are now mostly empty places made up of only ghosts and ghouls.

Briane says that even though she may be in the minority, she doesn't believe this trope. Respectfully, Briane records all kinds of cemeteries for the job, whether they are active or inactive, and she even evaluates them for NRHP standing. (Remember? From What’s up with the NRHP?) One of the most interesting recorded cemeteries she has ever come across is also among some of the oldest cemeteries listed on the NRHP. It is the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in New York! No, not like Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (No animals or people will be coming back to life over here!)

Pet Cemetery Pet Sematary
Hartsdale Canine Cemetery, October 2012 - Photo by Anthony22

The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery was established in 1896. A neighborly woman named Emily Berthet had the idea for a resting place for her neighbors' furry friends, and a local veterinarian (because… of course), Dr. Samuel Johnson, set aside a part of his very own orchard for the little (and big) guys. With over 80,000 pets buried — along with some of their owners — it’s one of America's first pet cemeteries!

Ming's resting place in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, Hartsdale NY - Photo by HenryJones nyc

We aren't just talking about cats and dogs in this cemetery — Hartsdale allowed all kinds of animals on its grounds from monkeys and rabbits to lizards and lions. The Hartsdale cemetery welcomes all! But wait, there’s more! Not only is it one of the oldest pet cemeteries in America, but it is the only pet cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). “Not really something you would expect to be on the NRHP,” adds Briane. “It’s such a cool way to express our intrinsic connection with animals.” And see, “Section 106 protects the afterlife too!” (Heck yeah!)

These Tricks are Sweet as Candy

Thanks for joining me (Soph) and KB on our haunted tour of CRM spooks! All these stories about ghosts, frozen dolls, and haunted locations has me in the Halloween spirit! What about you KB?

Heck yeah, girl! We hope you enjoyed learning about some of our favorite creepy crawly field experiences — we (the entire team) sure enjoyed sharing them!

But stay tuned, friends — we’ve brought you our favorite tricks, but for the rest of the year, we’re serving up all treats. You won’t want to miss our BIG update from Carson and Grant’s fishing tournaments (Spoiler — they’re kicking major fish tail), the Thanksgiving feasting spectacular, or any of the other goodies we’ll have ready for you soon.

Until next time, folks! Your pals,

— The witch and the ghost — AKA KB and Soph!


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