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  • In the early 1900s the St. Nicholas Croatian Roman Catholic Church was opened in western

  • Pennsylvania to meet the needs of an influx of Croatian immigrants.

  • Just a few decades later, many of those immigrants wouldn't go near the church.

  • It was said ghosts lurked among the disturbing murals that had been painted by the world-renowned

  • Croatian artist, Maxo Vanka.

  • This man had experienced first-hand the horrors of war.

  • He'd seen bloodshed in all its vivid horror.

  • He'd watched men die before his own eyes.

  • When he worked at night he demanded to be left completely alone with his dark thoughts.

  • It was then while painting the walls and ceiling of the church, he became aware he was being

  • watched.

  • A strange, hooded figure glided past his scaffold; the artist heard mumbling as his body was

  • eclipsed by what felt like a rush of freezing cold air.

  • This is just one of many ghost stories that have throughout time have both entertained

  • and frightened various groups of Catholics.

  • It's no campfire tale, either.

  • It's a very real story of a very real man who was certain specters came into his life.

  • Let's stick with his story for now.

  • As this tale goes, he was hired to beautify the church after it had fallen into a state

  • of disrepair following a fire in 1921.

  • The pastor there, Father Albert Zagar, was a big fan of Vanka's work.

  • Vanka himself had accumulated a lot of support for his painting in Europe, so he was the

  • ideal man to paint what would become one of the most celebrated murals in the world.

  • Vanka was not a crazy man, but he was certainly affected by the horrors he'd seen while

  • serving in the Belgian Red Cross during the First World War.

  • He was a devoted pacifist, but that didn't prevent him from seeing fields stained with

  • blood and hearing the primal moans of dying soldiers.

  • This is reflected in his artwork.

  • He painted scenes in the church that depicted what he had seen during the war, that and

  • how faith in God was the remedy for such horror.

  • Vanka only ever painted at night when there was complete silence in the church.

  • He demanded that no one could enter the place, not even Father Zagar.

  • It was during his first few days of work that he began to hear strange noises, sounds he

  • had never heard before.

  • At first, he just brushed this off as his imagination playing tricks on him.

  • Then on the fourth night, he noticed something about 30 meters away from him, what looked

  • like a robed man moving his arms around.

  • Vanka just thought that somehow Father Zagar had gotten into the church.

  • The only noise he could hear, however, was the sound of Zagar's dog barking wildly.

  • At around two in the morning when Vanka quit work, he met the Father for tea and snacks.

  • “I saw you inside the church,” said Vanka, trying not to sound as if he was censuring

  • the Father.

  • “I wasn't in the church,” was the reply he heard.

  • A few days later Vanka felt a presence again.

  • He looked down from his scaffold, and what he saw was a figure dressed in robes with

  • his head covered by a hood.

  • Vanka squinted just to make sure he wasn't seeing things, but the figure remained below

  • the scaffold, mumbling to himself and making gestures with his hands.

  • Again, Vanka wondered if it was the Father.

  • Maybe the old man was playing tricks on him, he thought.

  • Maybe the Father was just walking around the church, but didn't want to disturb him as

  • he painted.

  • You see, Vanka didn't immediately think he'd seen a ghost.

  • He wasn't the kind of person to believe such a thing.

  • But what had he seen?

  • Vanka went over to the Father's quarters where he found him soundly asleep.

  • After he woke him up he asked him if he had a habit of sleepwalking, because someone was

  • in the church while he was painting.

  • The father just looked at him sternly and took a big gulp.

  • He told Vanka that for some years people had claimed to have seen ghosts in the church.

  • He said the community was scared stiff.

  • He said that many of them had argued about what the ghost was, or who the ghost was.

  • The Father hadn't seen any ghosts himself, but many others had.

  • The only reason he didn't tell Vanka was that he didn't want to scare him.

  • He said from now on, he'd sit below the scaffold while Vanka worked.

  • The next night the two weren't exactly in the same state of mind.

  • Vanka was still shaken by what he'd seen, but the Father just made jokes about the mysterious

  • specter.

  • That smile was soon erased from his face when he heard the same strange sounds that Vanka

  • was hearing.

  • Almost shaking, the father walked towards the noise and said loudly, “If you're a

  • ghost, if you're a dead man, go with God.

  • Peace to you.

  • I'll pray for you.

  • Only, please don't bother us.”

  • At that very moment, Vanka looked over to the fourth pew.

  • There he saw the robed man, only this time he could make the figure out better.

  • He was old, very old, and had an angular face.

  • Then just like that, he disappeared.

  • The Father hadn't seen him, but he'd heard something spooky.

  • He wasn't quite sure if to believe Vanka about the figure, though.

  • It was perhaps this skepticism that caused something to happen that would change the

  • Father's life forever.

  • Later that night as he was sleeping he was awakened by strange noises seemingly pervading

  • his bedroom.

  • He felt a cold shudder down his back; he felt a presence.

  • Again, the Father told the ghost that he would pray for him, that God was with him, but please

  • could he leave the church.

  • A few nights passed and the noises came back.

  • The ghost was obviously not agreeable to the Father's entreaties.

  • When he walked over to the church to tell Vanka about what he'd heard, he got another

  • surprise.

  • This time the ghost walked down the altar and over to the eternal flame.

  • That flame had been lit for eight years and had not gone out once, but as soon as the

  • ghost reached it, it flickered and died.

  • The Father was no longer a skeptic, and so much for eternal.

  • Vanka kept up with the work but always with a sense that something evil was in that church

  • with him.

  • The noises and the apparitions became so regular that he started to stuff bits of cotton in

  • his ears.

  • To prevent him from seeing the ghost out of the corner of his eyes he made blinkers with

  • old newspapers.

  • Word got around about what the artist was seeing.

  • Many people said the pacifist in the war had what they called a “gift of sympathy”.

  • This was why he was able to see the dead.

  • Still today, you can see those quite amazing but also disturbing murals that Vanka painted

  • in the presence of ghosts.

  • For the next terrifying tale, we must leave the USA and head over the pond to the city

  • of London, England.

  • It was there in the bitterly cold winter of 1847 that a young woman had a violent run-in

  • with something not of this world.

  • This woman was just 29-years old and she was incredibly wealthy as well as very attractive.

  • She lived in a palatial mansion that was decorated with fine and art and furniture made by the

  • best hands in Europe.

  • Also sharing the house was a Lord, a man not in any way in intimate relations with the

  • woman.

  • One night she was reading a novel in her exquisite bedroom.

  • It was past midnight, and her eyelids were starting to droop.

  • When she heard the clock strike one she laid the book down on her bed table and blew out

  • the candle.

  • After a few minutes as her mind was about to drift off into the realms of sleep, she

  • witnessed something she couldn't explain.

  • A bright light filled the room.

  • It was through this light that she noticed the young Lord appear.

  • He walked over to her as she sat up in bed, her screams held back by the shock.

  • He grabbed her arm so hard it hurt.

  • In a deep and resounding voice, the man said to her, “There is a hell!”

  • The pain was so much at that point that she passed out.

  • About an hour later she was awoken by an intense pain emanating from her arm.

  • When she lifted up the sleeve on her nightdress, she almost passed out again when she saw a

  • burn that was so bad she could almost see the bone in her arm.

  • The next day she discovered something terrifying.

  • The previous night at the same time she had been attacked, the Lord had become delirious

  • having what looked like a seizure.

  • The servants did their best to help him, but he died just after the clock struck one.

  • We don't know the name of this woman's family, but we know they were very religious

  • people.

  • The woman it's said for years wore a golden band over that burn mark, but the family hardly

  • ever talked about the incident again.

  • Now let's return to stories with names and places.

  • The location of the next tale is La Roche College in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

  • This place was built in the 1960s for the Sisters of Divine Providence.

  • It was there where nuns studied, some of whom would see phantoms in their midst.

  • One of the nuns at the college was blind, but she knew the layout of the land very well

  • and so wasn't frightened to wander around.

  • She was well aware that there was a pond not far from the main building, and since she

  • was blind and couldn't swim, she made sure never to stray from the path when in the vicinity

  • of the pond.

  • But as you all know, sometimes fate has an ugly way of expressing itself, even when it

  • comes to a disabled person who's devoted her life to serving God Almighty.

  • One day, as she walked down that familiar path something caused her to slip.

  • She fell sideways into the pond.

  • While it wasn't that deep, she may have got caught in the vines and mud, because the

  • next time she was seen was a few hours later when her pale body was pulled out to the distress

  • of the other nuns.

  • For decades after, people who studied at the college claimed to have seen the apparition

  • of the sister taking that fateful walk.

  • In fact, so many people said they had seen the ghost that in 1996 the college newspaper

  • decided it was time to look into the matter.

  • Not only did some people not believe in the sightings but many folks thought the whole

  • blind nun story was fiction.

  • It wasn't.

  • It turned out that on March 22, 1949, a blind nun named Sister Mercedes Michel had indeed

  • gone out for her daily walk.

  • It was just after 10 am when the other nuns realized that she hadn't appeared that morning

  • to start her lunch duties, something she never failed to do.

  • They soon heard the news.

  • A guy driving past the pond had seen a body.

  • It was Sister Michel.

  • As the story goes, for a few days prior to her fall she had been incredibly anxious about

  • something although she wouldn't tell the other nuns what was on her mind.

  • What was also strange, given her young age, was that the pathologist said the reason she

  • hadn't been able to get out of the pond was the fact that she had had a heart attack.

  • To this day, people still occasionally see her walking along that path, only to fall

  • into that murky water again.

  • Now let's go back in time and look at a place that was once called the most haunted

  • house in England.

  • This wasn't any ordinary house, it was a rectory, the place where the holy person dwelled

  • when he wasn't in the church.

  • In 1862, that person was Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull.

  • He was the reverend of Borley Church in the south of England, so his house was Borley

  • rectory.

  • What's interesting is the church goes way back.

  • Some people say it was built on the top of a monastery that dated back to 1362.

  • This place had a very dark past indeed, according to Borley lore.

  • One of the monks there fell in love and had an intimate relationship with a nun, which

  • was about as big a dereliction of duty as you could get back in those days.

  • The punishment was harsh, to say the least.

  • The monk was executed and the nun was bricked up alive and died within the walls, all the

  • time pleading for God to forgive her for her earthly transgression.

  • Ok, so the first signs that the place might be haunted go back to 1863 while Reverend

  • Dawson Ellis Bull was in charge.

  • It wasn't such a big haunting, with folks just saying they continually heard footsteps

  • in the rectory.

  • When the father was dead and gone his four daughters took over the house.

  • In the year 1900, all of them saw the same thing.

  • That was the ghost of a nun running down the yard.

  • They tried to talk to this nun, but the apparition just disappeared.

  • This sounds like a tall tale, but people took their story seriously.

  • Other incidents occurred around that time, such as people claiming they'd seen headless

  • horsemen riding a carriage around the grounds of the rectory.

  • Time passed, but the stories didn't stop.

  • In the early 20th century, Reverend Guy Eric Smith took over the rectory.

  • One day his wife was cleaning the house when she came across a puzzling thing: a human

  • skull inside a paper bag in a cupboard.

  • This family knew all about the hauntings, but obviously didn't believe in headless

  • horsemen and spectral nuns.

  • They soon did, though, after hearing servants' bells ring by themselves and other strange

  • noises.

  • They were so taken aback by the strange events that they contacted the Society for Psychical

  • Research.

  • When a paranormal investigator from that organization went to the house, he too said he saw and

  • heard strange phenomena, which he put down to ghosts.

  • The family wanted to leave the rectory.

  • The problem was, since everyone knew about the hauntings it wasn't exactly easy to

  • find a replacement.

  • Nonetheless, a replacement came and that was Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster and his wife

  • Marianne.

  • Did they see strange things?

  • You bet your life they did.

  • The reverend, like the family before him, wrote to the Society for Psychical Research.

  • He said servants' bells kept going off by themselves.

  • He said windows would suddenly shatter into small pieces.

  • Worse still, sometimes objects would fly through the air and writing would just appear out

  • of nowhere on the walls.

  • One of the most frightening incidents was when his young daughter went into a room and

  • the door just locked behind her, even though she couldn't have locked the door herself.