• Christina Corsetti, H.S.

Ectoplasm was coined from the Greek words ektos and plasma , which together means “outside formed.” Ectoplasm is used to describe spiritual energy with substance. Charles Richet created the word ectoplasm to first describe physical manifestations that appeared from psychic mediums during the late 1800’s while in trances. Ectoplasm was purportedly secreted from the medium’s orifices, such as the ears, nose or mouth.

However, ectoplasm of this type was more of a hoax during the rise of spiritualism and fraudulent mediumship.

Today, ectoplasm has come to represent physical manifestations of mists believed to be ghosts. At first, being something more of legend and lore, the idea of ectoplasm was still popular, and eventually was used in plays, movies and books. But ectoplasm had a real rise in cultural popularity after the comedic movie Ghost Busters described green slime emitted by ghosts as “ectoplasmic residue.” Most everyone who has ever seen the film can remember people getting “slimed” by the ghosts.

In modern times, ectoplasm in ghost investigations may still be described as “any unknown physical substance,” such as a slime, attributed to a haunting; but, mostly, photographic and video evidence of mists and vapors captured during ghost investigations are being labeled ectoplasm. When a mist is present that cannot be attributed to moisture, fog, smoke, cigarette smoke, steam, or breathe in cold air, the vaporous cloud can usually be assumed to be a physical manifestation of spirit.

Ectoplasm can be called “ghost mists,” “ghost fog,” or “ghost vapors” by paranormal investigators. Ectoplasm has been described as the “precursor” to the formation of an apparition; the mist, sometimes, being witnessed first. Then, the ectoplasmic formation may take on a human shape with details, including body features, color, clothing, etc.

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  • Christina Corsetti, H.S.

The mountains deep in West Virginia are full of old folklore, legends and ghost stories to unearth. Many arise from the railroad era, ghostly tales passed down from one generation to the next. Some can even be dug up out of old, dusty newspapers.

Like stories of the Tommyknockers. The name sends shivers up the backs of those who know the origins—it comes from the pops, knocks, and bangs miners would hear right before the walls of a tunnel they were digging would collapse. The sounds were attributed to both imp-like creatures and the ghosts of miners who had died before them. The farther back a miner dug, the bigger the chance a Tommyknocker would be awakened. But both signaled warning. If you heard a Tommyknocker, you better run. The world was going to come crashing down on you!

There’s a place along the West Virginia North Bend Rails to Trails near Salem (305 Flinderation Road Salem, WV 26426 or 39.294294, -80.509783) where Tommyknockers have been heard. A reporter from the Sandusky Star Journal picked up the story in 1927 and wrote about a man who heard voices coming from the tunnel. He followed the sounds to one of the indentations in the tunnel called a manhole so those walking within could escape a train coming down the tracks. He expected someone to be inside. But when he lit a match to peer within, no one was there.

His account has been one of many throughout the years of strange voices, sobbing, and chatter heard within the tunnel which is known as both Flinderation Tunnel and Brandy Gap Tunnel #2. Even as the railway was being worked on from 1852 to 1857, workers of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad building for the B & O reported strange lights inside the tunnel.

There’s a small cemetery (the old Enon Baptist Church Cemetery) settled into the hillside that is above the tunnel. Some attribute the voices to those whose graves lie not far away in the cemetery, a suicide along the tracks, and a railway inspector killed while checking the tunnel. But others say they came from one of their own, a worker by the name of Hanley, whose untimely death occurred on a cold winter’s day of January 15th, 1853. The Cooper’s Clarksburg Register wrote this: “Killed. A man named Hanley, was killed at the Brandy Gap Tunnel on last Saturday, by a quantity of earth falling on him. He was taken to Fairmont, on Monday, for interment. Two other men were seriously injured.”

Legends say Tommyknockers are known to take Saturday off. When Hanley was killed, it was on that day. He may not have been warned. But fellow workers would hear his ghostly chatter and other sounds. Whether they were comforted by it or felt fear, we won’t know. They, too, are dead and gone. Maybe they have returned to keep their fallen comrade company. Or maybe they simply want to scare unwary hikers away. You can listen for the Tommyknocker and be scared away too. The tunnel is part of the Parkersburg Branch of the North Bend Rails to Trails. Just make sure you follow their rules.

  • Christina Corsetti, H.S.

Just six days after Martha’s birth, on March 15th, Abenaki Indians from Quebec attacked Haverhill, killing 27 people, taking 13 captives, and burning six homes. Among those captured was 40-year-old Hannah, her 6-day-old baby, and her friend 51-year-old Mary Neff.

Thomas Dustin, who had been working in the fields during the attack, heard the shrieks of the raiding party and was able to save the other childAs the Indians marched their captives into the wilderness, Mary Neff was carrying baby Martha and having trouble keeping up with the rest of the party, one of the Indians took it from her and murdered the infant by smashing her head against a tree in front of her horrified mother, Hannah.ren but was too late to save his wife and baby. After the Indians captured the women and the baby, they set the house on fire.

As the Indians marched their captives into the wilderness, Mary Neff was carrying baby Martha and having trouble keeping up with the rest of the party, one of the Indians took it from her and murdered the infant by smashing her head against a tree in front of her horrified mother, Hannah.

In the camp, the Indians relaxed, seemingly unworried about their captives. However, some six weeks after they were captured, Hannah woke Mary Neff and Samuel Lennardson while the Indians were sleeping. Armed with tomahawks, they killed 10 of the 12 sleeping Indians, including two adult men, two adult women, and six children. Two of the Indians — an injured woman and a boy, were able to escape into the woods.

Hannah Duston was the first American woman honored with a statue in 1874. The Hannah Duston Memorial was the first publicly-funded statue in New Hampshire. It is located at 298 US Route 4 in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Another statue stands in her hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts in Grand Army Park. It was erected in 1879. Also standing in Haverhill is the Dustin House, which was under construction during the Haverhill raid of 1697. After Hannah returned from captivity, Thomas Dustin completed the home which stood about a half a mile away from their previous house. One of a very small number of surviving period houses built out of brick in Massachusetts, it stands at 665 Hilldale Avenue.