The color blue, unlike the green of the Gentry, is on the side of the angels. It is the Virgin Mary’s signature color, redolent of the blue of Heaven, purity, fidelity, etc. etc. According to early 20th century color analysts, the “moral effect” of the color blue was “sentimental affections” and it was deemed the color of true love. It is the most consistently popular favorite color.
Of course, blue is also the color of despair, the cursed Hope Diamond, DT’s blue devils, and “haint blue,” a shade of paint said to repel both flies and spooks. Paranormal literature is lit by the hellish blue flames of spontaneous human combustion and incendiary polts. So today let us don our blue-tinted glasses to search out some indigo apparitions.
We might start with a survey of the many standard-issue Blue Girls and Boys of the British Isles. The “Blue Boy” of Chillingham Castle, dressed in a blue costume from the time of King Charles II, and surrounded by light, is a representative example of the juvenile of the species. Even better, there was said to be archaeological “proof” of his existence. During restoration work in the 1920s, scraps of blue cloth and the bones of a young boy were found inside a wall. When the remains were properly buried, the Blue Boy ceased to haunt. British ghost-lore at its finest!
Still, I asked myself, do we have to go abroad to find blue ghosts? Are there no native cerulean specters? Conveniently, I had to hand a number of volumes on Ohio ghosts and once I started looking, I was surprised at how many blue ghouls there were in my own books.
Many of these apparitions have mere walk-on parts, striking only because the witness notices the color. For example, a Little Girl Blue has been seen in an apartment in downtown Ada, Ohio. The couple who lived there began catching glimpses of various people in old-fashioned clothes, apparently going about their ordinary daily afterlives, including “the lower half of a child, perhaps five years old, ‘spinning and twirling around in a circle’ as children do. [The witness] couldn’t see the top half of the tiny figure, but the skirt appeared to be one of those old-fashioned dresses with a dropped waist that children once wore. The remarkable thing was that the dress was blue, the first color the woman had seen….” [The witnesses had seen the other phantoms only in black and white.] [Haunted Ohio: Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State.]
Blue spirits may also be ephemeral in nature, like spook lights. One very versatile spook light at Harrisburg, Ohio took on the form of a blue headstone and a “ghoulish, blue-colored coffin,” while another capered on legs:
Other balls of fire were observed at a brick yard in Celina in 1931 and at Van Wert in 1900 where the ball of fire rolled out of a forest onto the highway and “after dancing on airy legs…” evaporated in a ghostly blaze of blue. The object was delightfully described as “the curdling object.” Van Wert [OH] Times 18 December 1900: p. 6 [The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales.]
These fiery mysteries may have some link to Spontaneous Human Combustion, where witnesses have said that the flames burn a bright blue. The case below specifically mentions hellish blue fire.
TORMENTED BY FIRE. THE QUEER STORY TOLD BY A GERMAN
LABORER IN CLEVELAND
From the Cleveland (Ohio) Leader, April 28.
At No. 76 Lussenden Avenue live the family of John Bush, a hard-working German, employed at the Cleveland Rubber Works. The story, as learned by a Leader reporter, who visited the place yesterday, savors so much of the supernatural that he feels able simply to reproduce it without attempting any theory….The man’s statement, made in broken English, as best he could, is as follows:
Several months ago he moved from Amherst, where he had lived for 13 years, most of that time being employed as a switchman on the Lake Shore Road. Five or six years ago his house was destroyed by fire, the cause being, as was supposed, a defective flue.
His first home in this city was at No. 1177 Lincoln Avenue, where on Sunday, the 18th inst., the first remarkable appearance of flames occurred. Some clothes, a coat, vest, and dress, which hung upon the wall, suddenly began to smoke, sending forth a peculiarly sickening smell. This was followed in a moment by a dark blue blaze that leaped hungrily over the garments, and almost consumed them before the fire was extinguished by the astonished Bush. His wife said that matches in his pocket had ignited, but he was positive there were no matches there.
On the following day he went to work as usual, and when he came home was met by his wife, who was frantic with fear. During his absence the fire had appeared seven different times. In the first instance, the bed upon which one of the children lay sleeping took fire, reappearing twice after it had been put out. Being of a superstitious nature, she feared that some evil spirit hung over them and craved for the life of the youngest child. To appease the wrath of the unknown, whatever it was, she went out into the fields and cast to the winds all the money they had—some $30, (all but $10 of this was afterward found.)
The father decided to stay at home the following day and watch, calling in a friend to do the same. By this time the mystery was being noised about somewhat, and everybody that came in decided that the children had been playing with matches. There seemed no other explanation, but the youngsters stoutly denied this. Mr. J.B. McGee, living near, was called in to make an examination. He thought at first that it was an ignition of phosphorus, but upon hearing the story in detail, gave the solution up….
Bush remained at the house on Lincoln Avenue until Tuesday, when he made up his mind to quit the place and move to the house on Lusseden Avenue, hoping thereby to shake off the mystery. On Friday the fire once more appeared, burning the straw in one of the beds. The straw in a barrel that stood in the shed was also burned in the same manner on Saturday, together with several coats that hung on the wall.
The family had by this time nearly become crazy. Many of their household goods and clothes had been destroyed, and some of the neighbors, filled with sympathy, came in and endeavoured to console them and pacify their fears as best they could. On Sunday, Mrs. Foland, a lady living on Giddings Avenue, dropped in to lend her aid in this direction. She took off her hat and laid it upon the table, where it had not remained five minutes when a large feather upon it was touched by the strange flame and nearly consumed. The reporter called upon Mrs. Foland who fully corroborated this statement and exhibited the hat as proof.
On Monday the fire appeared twice, each time destroying some clothes. Yesterday morning a child’s dress that hung on a peg near the door smoked, blazed for a minute or two, and fell to the floor. These singular occurrences have been witnessed by neighbors who came in to watch out of curiosity, and there is no one living on the street but believes everything that is told…Lancaster [Pa] Daily Intelligencer 3 May 1880: p. 1
In a follow up story:
The Bush family of Cleveland tell a strange story, and some folks believe them. They say their house is possessed by supernatural flames, which break out at unexpected times and places, consuming articles of clothing and even scorching persons. The blazes are very blue, suggesting a hellish origin, and disappear as strangely as they come. Partly burned garments are the best evidence the Bushes can produce in support of their word, but their motive for deception is not apparent. Waukesha [WI] Freeman, 3 June 1880: p. 3 [The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales]
These shades of blue also appeared as window pane ghosts, like this one from Ironton, Ohio:
Last week, there was much interest awakened in town over a “ghost,” which stood within the window in the rear end of the Club house. The latter structure stands on Olive Street, but below from Center, the culvert that crosses Rachel Creek, the “ghost” could be seen.
It was the figure of a woman dressed in a dark bluish dress with white collar and dark belt about the waist. The figure could be seen from the neck down to the knees. She stood with her back toward the window, and on a passing glance, a person would most swear that a woman was standing behind the large pane of glass. It was, indeed, a most interesting curiosity, and attracted many people Thursday and Friday; and long and varied were the discussions as to the cause of it. On close inspection, a person could see no figure whatever. The glass was clear and apparently without blemish. The cause of the phenomenon was doubtless some slight curves or waves in the glass, which reflected the light in such gradations of shade and color as to give resemblance of a woman’s form.
It was worth going a long distance to see, and was really as wonderful a curiosity as nine-tenths of the remarkable attractions billeted in guide books for the allurement of pilgrims. On Saturday, the window was painted and the remarkable curiosity blotted from existence. It was really a shame that this phenomenon was destroyed, for it occasioned no one any harm, and was very interesting to all lovers of the curious manifestations of natural laws. It was a bigger thing than the entire Club House. Ironton [OH] Register 8 July 1880 [From The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales]
This sympathetic interest in the fate of the Ironton window “ghost” is ironic, considering that, eight years earlier, the Ironton papers had lambasted the people of Portsmouth for not appreciating a window-pane image of the late Mrs. Mollie Sullivan/Mollie Stuart that caused a sensation.
Window pane ghosts in color happen only once in a blue moon—in fact, they’re so rare that I don’t mind stepping into an adjacent state for yet another Blue Lady window-pane ghost.
SPOOK PICTURE ON A WINDOW-PANE
Charleston, W. Va. A weird story comes from the coal mining town of Winona, Fayette county, and Mrs. Rogers, wife of C.P. Rogers, a Winona business man, is the authority for the details.
During a recent severe thunderstorm Mrs Rogers, according to her own statement, was standing by the east window of her kitchen, preparing the morning meal, when, just after a vivid flash of lightning, she noticed a thin, blue haze, like a small puff of smoke, gather near the window-pane in front of which she was standing. She thought nothing of this until the haze, seeming to settle on the glass, took the form of a human being, and remained upon the glass.
Doubting the evidence of her sight, she called in her husband and children to witness the phenomenon, and the picture still remained. News of the strange happening spread rapidly, and the Rogers’ home was visited by people from all over the country.
The picture is that of a slender figure of a woman dressed in the palest blue, with ruffles on her skirt and a veil over her face, seemingly standing by an excavation similar to an open grave. The likeness is in the glass, and no rubbing with cloth and water has taken away any of its distinctness.
Much excitement and not a little superstition has been caused among the miners and ignorant people by the mysterious picture, and their curiosity has been so great that the picture had to be placed on exhibition to relieve Mrs Rogers from distracting questions.
Several learned men have seen this remarkable pane of glass, and no one has yet advanced a really plausible theory as to the cause of the impression on the glass.
Mrs Rogers still retains possession of the glass, and her friends are trying to induce her to send the “ghost picture” to some eminent scientist at one of the large Universities, and have it investigated. Daily Herald [Biloxi MS] 2 May 1905: p. 4
A strange blue haze haunted Kohler Hall at Ohio’s Baldwin-Wallace college. The building, which stood on the site of an orphanage, has now been slated for demolition. The main ghost at Kohler was called “the blue haze.” It was a mist about two inches off the floor, which crept down halls and under doors and was seen by many students and faculty. It also had more than a hint of the Old Hag.
A 1990 pamphlet on the Baldwin-Wallace ghosts by the College Historian, Dorothy McKelvey, reports, “One student says he awakened in the middle of the night with a blue haze pressing down on his chest, making it almost impossible for him to breathe.” Another resident reported that he was awakened by something sitting on the edge of his bed. Nobody was there, yet the spot where the weight had been was warm.
The “blue haze” ghost always shows up when people are in the hazy state between sleeping and waking: the hypnopompic state, a kind of altered consciousness. Ghostly experiences in Kohler also only occur in the older, original wing of the building.
One serious-minded young woman, a devout Roman Catholic, was in bed one night, reading. She was tired, but didn’t feel like getting up to turn off the light. Suddenly, all her blankets slid back towards the foot of the bed, as if about to fall off the end. Sleepily, she just pulled the blankets back up—but she couldn’t; it felt as if something was holding them. Suddenly awake, she yanked on the blankets and they slid back up towards her. A second later, they were vigorously pulled off the end of the bed. She grabbed them and pulled, but, held in the grip of something, they didn’t budge. She jumped out of bed and fled the room…
Michael woke up one night from a nightmare. “Suddenly, I became very much awake—because I sensed that someone else was there in the room with me. I felt like I was being watched—I don’t know why…I was scared and prepared to either jump up at the intruder or scream. As I was getting up the nerve to do this, I felt a pull. Someone was pulling my blanket! I was wrapped in it and I was being dragged, with the blanket, to the edge of the bed. I was half-way off the bed, my right hand on the floor, when I squirmed around to face my assailant. There was nothing there.”
The Residence Assistant who lived in the next room to Michael was named Toby. One night in 1992, he fell asleep on his couch. He woke up in the middle of the night and saw something in the dim light that shone through his big double windows. It was the black figure of a human creeping across his room. When he looked at it, it froze. For what seemed like hours, they looked at each other. Then the thing “glided” across the room to him. Toby felt a heavy weight on his chest, like it was holding him down. “I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t.”
After an eternity, the thing released him and glided through the wall between his room and Michael’s. Toby was so terrified he left the building at 3 a.m. and drove to his girlfriend’s where he stayed the rest of the night. [Haunted Ohio IV: Restless Spirits]
Then there’s “The Lady in Blue,” known in life as Ethel (Bonnie) Bounell, who owned The Buxton Inn in Granville, Ohio from 1934 until 1960. Her favorite color was blue and she died in Room Nine. She has been seen at different ages and in various clothing, usually in her trademark blue dress. The owners of the Inn, Audrey and Orville Orr, had heard stories about ghosts, but they didn’t take them seriously until two young New Hampshire woodworkers came to work on the Inn. Normally they worked late into the night, but suddenly they started leaving at dusk. Orville asked them why. They told him they’d seen a woman in blue cross the outdoor balcony between the upper-story rooms and evaporate. [Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State]
Another Woman in Blue haunts the Olde Trail Tavern in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She has been seen wearing an old-style blue-and-white print dress, appears only to men, seems hostile to women, and walks about like she owns the place. [Haunted Ohio IV: Restless Spirits]
But the strangest Blue Lady I’ve run across was seen by a young woman from Dayton. This is a portion of her story:
Mindy lived in a double on Smithville, in the Belmont area of Dayton. In 1989, Mindy’s mother was painting in the front bedroom when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw something move in the hall. Naturally she thought it was Mindy or one of her three roommates and called out to them. Nobody answered and she went back to painting. Again, she caught a glimpse of somebody in the hall. She also smelled a strong smell of electric burning, like ozone just after lightning strikes…
A few days later, Mindy’s mother was putting on the second coat of paint when, again, something moved in the hall. She turned quickly, just in time to see blue smoke. That’s when she had the landlord call in an electrician who gave the house a clean bill of electrical health….
Mindy had been uneasy about noises like furniture moving coming from an unoccupied room upstairs. Then her attention was arrested by something moving in the hall:
There, like a flickering, old-time movie, floated a young woman, from the hipbones up. Only she was blue—all different shades of blue: deep midnight for her Gibson Girl hair; pale blue for her skin; light blue for her high-collared shirtwaist blouse held at the throat by a brooch; gas-flame blue for her belt that circled a very small waist. All was blue and smoky around her and Mindy could smell that burning, electric smell.
The blue lady looked at Mindy for about five seconds and held her arms straight out, palms up, as if in appeal. The living and the dead locked eyes for a few brief seconds and Mindy says it was as if the blue lady was searching for recognition. Then the blue ghost covered up her face, fingers on her forehead, looking down. Next she turned left so Mindy and Jolie could see her profile, and she walked through the wall.
The two women stared, their mouths open, eyes wide with shock. Scott came out of his room just as the blue lady vanished through the wall. All three smelled the electric smell.
“Needless to say, we all spent that night at my mother’s!
“You know” said Mindy, “I was never afraid of her. I never felt that she was a bad or mean person, I thought she was sad. That was the only time I saw her.”
Mindy’s friend Mike frequently came over to study. He was sitting in the kitchen when he heard somebody in hard-soled shoes click-clacking down the back stairs to the basement. He went downstairs and there he too smelled the lightning-strike smell. He came back upstairs and went back to studying, when he heard the footsteps coming up the stairs.
He looked out the window to see who was coming out, then he saw her standing behind him at the window. He only caught a glimpse of a woman dressed in Victorian clothes—a blue woman. He turned around and she was gone, leaving the smell of brimstone.
Mindy moved out shortly after that for financial reasons, but she’s always wondered about the blue lady. Why blue? Was she unhappy? Did she burn to death in the house?
“I thought it was interesting that you always smelled that burning smell, [and] that she was blue like a gas flame….” [Haunted Ohio IV: Restless Spirits]
Blue ladies and stained glass ghosts have nothing on this luminous and punctual blue ghost–one of an exceptionally alien appearance.
IT ONLY APPEARS ON THE THIRTEENTH OF EACH MONTH
The residents of and near West Huron, O., are all stirred up over the appearance of a ghost in that locality. This is not an ordinary ghost, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a visitor from ethereal regions, robed in flowing white. It is different from any ever before seen.
In the first place, this ghost is supposed to be the visible spirit of a departed bachelor who had large sums of money while he was an occupant of a flesh and blood structure on this mundane sphere. The ghost is not to be seen every night [but] his visits are so regular that those who have a desire to view him may go to West Huron at the stated time and see him walk through board fences, disappear in haystacks and sink mysteriously into the ground or soar heavenward on fiery wings.
The ghost is always seen on the Woolverton farm, West Huron, between 11:30 and 12:30 on the thirteenth day of each and every month unless that day happens to fall on Sunday.
Farmer Dildine, who lives near West Huron, describes the ghost in glowing words. He says:
“I first saw him more than a year ago and exactly 13 years to the day after the death of the old rich bachelor. As I was passing down the hill at Slate Cut, I looked across the valley on to Woolverton’s farm and there I saw a sight which baffles description… I saw a light kindle up suddenly, as of someone swinging a lantern. I paused to see what it meant. A weird glow, like an incandescent electric lamp, issued from the air or earth. Then there came to my view the form of a human being, but instead of being outlined in white it was invested with a bluish tinge—just as if you would look through a blue glass from the dark into a light room. This seemed to be the outside of the thing. Then the skeleton of the apparition appeared in dazzling brightness. The visitor seemed to be solid, and yet, he was not. The face of the thing, for I cannot better describe it, was intelligent looking, and the thing’s feelings and emotions were plainly discernible. You could tell by its countenance what was transpiring within its phosphorescent self, as much as an ordinary man or woman’s face shows sadness or pleasure. It beckoned for me to follow it, but I was afraid to do so.”
Fort Wayne [IN] News 27 February 1899: p. 17
This is an exceptionally mysterious apparition—more like an alien visitation–was it beckoning to get the abduction under way?
Other azure apparitions from Ohio or beyond? Blue clues to chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.