The group of friends walked through Vandalia Cemetery, tombstones dotting the ground glowing yellow in the moonlight. This cemetery in Porterville, Calif., called Scranton Cemetery by the locals, has a troubled past.
“The legend that I have heard since I was in high school is that there used to be a home for wayward girls in the middle of the cemetery,” Porterville ghost chaser Tammy Heston said. “And the head mistress of the school was extremely abusive and also was into devil worship and some of the girls were used in that practice as sacrifice.”
A girl who is said to have escaped this home was captured, killed and buried somewhere in the cemetery, but Heston tends to think that part of the story is urban legend.
“I have not found anyone who actually knows this for a fact, but the kids around here seem to believe it,” she said.
A run-down building “with an old sink and bathtub” near the center of the cemetery lends some credence to the “home” story, but part of the legend Heston is convinced is true – the cemetery is haunted.
“From the moment we arrived at the cemetery, we started feeling weird things,” said Heston, who has seen spirits since she was young and is able to sense their presence.
The group decided to separate into pairs and investigate the cemetery. They were equipped with a camera and a compass.
“When a spirit is present, the compass needle will spin like crazy,” she said. “And it was going nuts that night.”
Heston chose to walk the perimeter of the cemetery, her niece by her side.
“We were together walking around by the side of the cemetery where the headstones date all the way to the early 1800s,” she said. “And I got the feeling that someone was walking along side me with their hand on my shoulder.”
Heston didn’t mention this to her niece because she didn’t want to alarm her – but the feeling alarmed Heston. Then she saw something dark and sinister.
“As we walked I would see a black figure hiding behind the headstones,” she said. “It wasn’t human and it didn’t walk or run ¬¬– it floated from headstone to headstone.”
After wandering Vandalia Cemetery, the group met back at the cars and discussed what they’d experienced.
“Everyone had seen the black figure that I had seen,” Heston said. “Then we saw it again as it darted behind a tree. So we started walking toward it to see what it was.”
As the group got closer to the figure, the black thing peeked from behind the tree and saw them approaching.
“When it saw that we were near it, it let out a blood-curdling screech and flew up into the tree,” she said. “We got a fairly good look at it and it was definitely not human but it wasn’t spirit either.”
The entity appeared to wear a long black dress or cape and a hat.
“It looked like a witch’s hat,” Heston said. “That was one of the freakiest things I have seen.”
Although Heston doesn’t belong to a formal paranormal research group, she does explore the unknown.
“I have done some ghost hunting on my own as I have had many experiences and I’m interested in the paranormal,” she said. “I have investigated a few reported haunted places and have taken some interesting pictures and things like that. I haven’t gone on an investigation in awhile but have some pretty freaky stories to tell about some of my experiences. But I thought the one with the humanoid thing was about the scariest.”
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
You can get Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at www.amazon.com.