The Haunted Cemetery

If you want to hear weird tales of something awful, things that will make the very marrow chill in your bones and that will cause the shivers to creep up your spinal column as you look fearful over your shoulder to see, you know not what, then go out to the foothills of Hollywood and talk with the old timers who live about the neighborhood of Primrose and Vista Del Mar where the Krotona Theosophical colony once practiced their religion. For the uneducated, Theosophy is a “collection of mystical and occultist philosophies concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.”

A leader of this institution, Ernest A. Sydow, was styled in the annals of his faith as a “pioneer of the colony,” a title well earned. In the fall of 1922, Sydow was on an evangelical mission in Northern California when he died and was buried at Vallejo, the scene of his last labors. But after a few years, the Krotona colony asked that his body be exhumed and brought back to Hollywood, his first love.

This was done, and the occasion of the return and reburial was made memorable by a series of phenomena which it is possible may be explained by natural causes, but which have not yet been so explained. This may be due to the unscientific character of the investigators at the colony, inclined by the nature of their calling to believe in a supernatural intervention where a scientist would see only the workings of a mundane force or the misinterpretation of sights and sounds. But I will relate the tale as a respected Hollywood centenarian told it, and the reader can draw their own conclusion.

After its arrival, the casket containing the body of Mr. Sydow lay for a time in the offices of Hollywood Cemetery, at its eastern entrance, and watchers sat with it. On the night before the reburial, the watchers were Jeremiah Altman, a member of the Krotona colony and Harry Westfield, an employee of the cemetery. Along in the hours near morning, Altman stepped out for a breath of fresh air, but in a moment, came rushing back with the exclamation: “Westfield, Westfield, the cemetery grounds are full of ghosts.”

Both men went out. In every direction through the tombstones they saw figures darting hither and thither in a wild and fitful dance. The men approached, but the figures drew back before them, forming to the left and right of them, and it was impossible to get within close range.

In the morning, when the casket was lifted, the floor beneath was found to be blackened by fire, and a hole was burned clear through to the stone foundation. How did this happen? No one has ever tried to offer a speculation.

This was not the end. That night, several members of the Krotona faculty sat in the cemetery’s office with manager Theodor Piltz discussing the strange events that perplexed them. Suddenly, their discussions were abruptly terminated by a startling and tremendous racket just outside the door, a clattering and whacking that was deafening. Piltz threw open the office door. Not a soul was outside the building. He returned to his office, but hardly had he sat down when the noises began again. Again, a sudden dash outside failed to reveal any one. Nor did a search of the building reveal any intruders. A third time the noises began, and this time Piltz spoke outside to the cemetery grounds: “If you are gentlemen, be still.” The noise stopped.

Coming at another time, all this might not have occasioned any mystification, but in conjunction with the other strange and unexplained happenings, it assumed an importance it would not have assumed alone.

After the reburial of Ernest Sydow, a photograph was taken of the cemetery. One of the cemetery staff was the photographer. In the foreground of the picture can be seen two graves, just as they appear in the cemetery. But at the foot of each grave stands something no visitor has ever seen, and for the peace of his mind it is to be hoped never will see. At the foot of one grave stood Buren Pratt, a well-known Hollywood practitioner of the mystical arts, dressed in his psychic garments. At the foot of the other grave stood the counterfeit presentment of its occupant, Charlotta Sweetwood, a woman who in life was a benefactor of the psychic.

When these startling things appeared at the time the photograph was developed, the cemetery management decided that possibly some well-timed conjunction of sunlight and foliage was the cause of the images; that they had no real existence—were only shadows. So, they had the picture thrown on a screen by stereopticon. But the figures came out more plainly—so plainly that there was no denying that they were the well-remembered features of Pratt and his benefactress, Charlotta.

The possibilities of photography were not so well known then as now. The superimposing of one negative upon another and the resulting “ghost photographs” that have been the stock in trade of so many imposters was an art not well known then. Still, there were those who suspected the photographer of a trick and charged him with it. He denied the charge and offered this unassailable plea of innocence: Because he was a man of unscrupulous character, there was no such thing as a photograph of Buren Pratt in existence and nobody had ever heard of one.

What of these ghosts? What explanation can be offered? The writer confesses he is unconvinced. Yet he has personal acquaintance with persons who claim to have seen them, with clergymen on the one hand, with university-bred agnostics on the other. So, there you are, and from the evidence presented can render your own verdict.

 

Dear readers, please note that this is a story of fiction to celebrate the Halloween holiday. Names, characters, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. 

Please follow and like us:

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply