Where are all of the animal ghosts? Spook yourself with 10 tales of nonhuman hauntings
Ghosts often make their presence known without being seen.
It might come in the form of mischief. A stationary object will start to roll across the floor unprompted by touch or wind. Without any warning, a book will fall from a shelf or a dinner plate will slide off the table and shatter into a million pieces. An item placed down in its usual spot will disappear, only to show up days later in an entirely different place.
Or perhaps it’s an inexplicable noise — a bump in the night, or the chilling sound of sharp fingernails dragging against the wall.
And in almost every case, the source is assumed to be human in form.
But knocking things off counters, spilling drinks, and scratching at walls? That sounds an awful lot like the behavior of my cats. Then, too, there are those ghosts that lurk around the corner, watch wordlessly from beneath the couch, lightly brush against legs undetected, or disappear as soon as they realize they’ve been seen — all cat-like habits as well. How many times have I seen a shadowy figure on the sidewalk ahead duck out of sight to stealthily observe my every step through glowing yellow eyes?
I’m not saying every ghost is a cat. Surely, there are dogs, bears, birds, snakes, monkeys, and, yes, even humans engaging in these spectral customs. But in spooky stories, animals are almost always overlooked as the culprits behind the haunting, and personally, I find that incredibly presumptuous.
Plenty, of course, believe that animals, much like humans, have souls that carry on long after they’ve taken their final breath. It’s an attitude prevalent enough to allow pet psychics to earn a living communicating with dogs, cats, and other cherished companions who have crossed over to the other side. Even without the help of a psychic, a great deal of comfort following the loss of a pet can be found in picturing a beloved pooch frolicking through a heaven of endless balls to chase and geese to bark at.
Some pet owners get additional reassurance when an indentation appears next to them on the couch or the faint jingle of bells on a collar is heard from the other room.
These alleged visits from the afterlife very rarely involve any type of haunting. Why would they? If a cat enjoyed a full lifetime of watching birds from a sun-drenched post on the window ledge and getting pet by someone who regularly scooped poop and distributed treats, there would hardly be enough anger or sadness present at the time of death to justify frightening a former owner or causing havoc in a household.
Not every animal, though, enjoys such a cushy existence carrying them well into old age. Wild animals forced into captivity and stuck in substandard enclosures could have plenty of reason to return as ghosts, as would the dogs confined to dirty cages in overcrowded puppy mills and forced to breed over and over again in appalling conditions. The death of a shark captured for its fin and dumped back into the ocean unable to swim is no less tragic than many of the backstories explaining the origins of well-known ghosts. And even the most precious pet could be left with unfinished business after meeting an untimely end. The supposed lack of spectral animals has been used by skeptics to debunk the existence of ghosts entirely, human or otherwise. But really, what can be stated definitively about ghosts? Depending on who you ask, the orbs that appear in photos could be the manifestation of a person's spirit or nothing more than specks of dust illuminated by the camera’s flash. And if there’s room for debate, couldn’t they just as well be the ghosts of anything from dogs to dinosaurs? Besides, even if animals do deserve more credit in hauntings involving unknown entities, there's still a wealth of interesting and eerie stories concerning nonhuman apparitions and other signs pointing toward animal spirits. It doesn’t stop at the Headless Horseman’s menacing black steed and Jack Skellington’s lovable ghost dog Zero. And it’s not all dogs, cats, and horses, either. From spooky to heartwarming, these 10 tales could shift the way that nonhuman creatures are regarded during life on Earth, souls and feelings as evident as can be in explaining why these particular animals stuck around as ghosts rather than fully crossing over to the other side. At the very least, they’ll bring about some Halloween cheer. 1. A demon cat at the U.S. Capitol Spectral animals can fall into a few distinct categories, as outlined by paranormal investigator Joshua Warren. First, there are entity ghost animals, self-aware apparitions much like the pets visiting from the afterlife. Imprint ghost animals play a fixed role by, say, pulling a haunted carriage or serving as a mount for a soldier’s spirit. Elemental ghostly animals come from the netherworld, and harbinger ghostly animals are physical animals with special powers who usually function as harbingers of death. The demon cat haunting the U.S. Capitol likely falls into that fourth and final grouping, possibly with a hint of the third as well. The legend began with a sighting during the Civil War and gained further traction during the late 19th century, upon the discovery of paw prints in wet concrete inside the Capitol building. The name “demon cat,” in addition to cleverly matching the initials of the creature’s location, is fitting for the cat’s behavior. At first, the cat seems like a perfectly normal feline, either black or tabby in coloring, but its innocent appearance doesn’t last long. The cat grows to the size of an elephant, as its eyes take on a blinding, unnatural glow. Coming across the demon cat is said to be a bad omen. Its first appearance could be linked to the death of former President John Quincy Adams, with subsequent sightings foretelling the stock market crash of 1929 and the assassinations of former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Curiously, it hasn’t been seen since. 2. The Old Los Angeles Zoo In Los Angeles, a short hike in Griffith Park will lead to the graffiti-covered ruins of the Old Los Angeles Zoo (previously known as the Griffith Park Zoo). Wandering around the remains of the long-abandoned zoo, it’s difficult to imagine polar bears and tigers spending their lives in the claustrophobic enclosures. But the suboptimal living conditions still on display over half a century after the zoo closed for good make it especially easy to consider the possibility of the animals’ souls continuing to inhabit the property. Take the harrowing tale of Ivan the Terrible, for instance. The 900-pound polar bear, nicknamed for a temper likely brought about by poor treatment compared to life in the wild, killed two of his colleagues while fighting with them over his mate. Later, Ivan would maul his mate of 11 years, too. If similar events transpired among a group of four humans, there would assuredly be an accompanying ghost story. There are countless examples of neglect beyond the tight living quarters alone. A baby zebra broke its neck; so did a bear. Cats were fed cost-cutting diets of horse meat during World War I and subsequently perished from inadequate nutrition. A woman wrote a letter to the zoo claiming that she had seen at least 100 canaries die during a recent heat wave. Another wrote a letter asking to adopt a badger after watching the creature try to dig through the wooden enclosure floor with bloody paws. After a lifetime of torment, the animals that inhabited the Griffith Park Zoo seem unable to rest in peace. Paranormal investigators who have visited the abandoned zoo in the present day have heard strange noises, from fences rattling and cages opening to the whimpers and moans of animals in distress. Occasionally, shadowy figures have been captured on camera. 3. Preston the boxer Just as there are friendly human ghosts who intend no harm, not every animal ghost needs to inspire fear either. Preston, the ghost of a boxer, is definitely one of the good ones. As the story goes, Preston was a boxer who lived with a family in the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood of Nashville. One Halloween evening, he accompanied the local children on their trick-or-treating route. When a young boy in the group spilled his collection of sugary treasures while crossing the street, he stopped to gather the candy, unaware of a car speeding his way. Ever alert, Preston jumped in front of the car to push the boy to safety. Thanks to Preston, the child was unscathed. Preston, however, made contact with the car, and onlookers watched as his body was launched into the air. But when they hurried to the yard in which he seemed to have landed, the heroic boxer was gone. Neighborhood searches were unsuccessful, and Preston was never seen again ... at least, not in his corporeal form. Years after the tragic events unfolded, children trick-or-treating in the same area where Preston met his unfortunate demise have claimed that an invisible touch urges them toward the sidewalk whenever they wander too close to the road. 4. Presidio Pet Cemetery Any cemetery, haunted or not, can feel like an incredibly solemn place, but a cemetery full of beloved pets can hit particularly hard for anyone who has experienced that same incomparable companionship. The setting for San Francisco’s Presidio Pet Cemetery — in a shadowy section beneath a freeway constructed long after the cemetery claimed the land — further gives the graveyard a melancholic atmosphere, as does the fog typical of its location. Dating back to the 1950s, the cemetery serves as the final resting place for the pets of those stationed at the Presidio, a former military base on the San Francisco Bay. Hundreds of pets have been laid to rest in the half-acre plot, ranging from parakeets to rabbits to lizards. It’s speculated that even earlier, the cemetery was used for cavalry horses and dogs that served in World War II. A majority of ghost sightings come from this era. Ghostly men dressed in uniform roam around the cemetery, often accompanied by their four-legged friends. Cold spots, too, are a frequent occurrence. 5. The ghost cat of the Jerome Grand Hotel Jerome, Arizona is filled with remnants of the past. At one point, the hillside city was the site of a bustling mining community. Then, with plummeting copper prices during the Great Depression and landslides threatening the foundation of buildings constructed on the steep slope of Cleopatra Hill, it became a veritable ghost town. Today, revitalization efforts have transformed Jerome into a tourist destination where visitors can explore well-preserved reminders of the town’s history, like the famous Sliding Jail that has slowly slinked its way down the precipitous mountain and the mining town’s United Verde Hospital, now converted into a hotel popular with fans of the paranormal. A hospital-turned-hotel really ought to be haunted. Still, it’s extraordinary just how many reviewers mention a conspicuous spectral presence at the Jerome Grand Hotel. According to those who have stayed the night, the hotel’s ghosts take on a number of different forms, but there’s an especially good chance of running into the ghost cat that roams the third floor. Though not guaranteed to appear, the ghost cat is an excellent amenity for those missing a pet back home. Other than being mostly invisible and not requiring a litter box, the cat behaves much like the typical household pet — curling up at the foot of the bed, scratching at doors, and rubbing against legs. 6. Greyfriars Bobby When a night watchman in Edinburgh, Scotland died of tuberculosis in 1858, Bobby, his inseparable canine companion, led the funeral procession to the grave at Greyfriars Kirkyard. Fiercely loyal, Bobby tried to stay by his master’s side after the funeral had ended, making no moves to leave until the cemetery’s caretaker sent him away. But that wasn’t enough to deter the terrier, who returned to the grave with even greater determination to stay put in the cemetery. For 14 years, Bobby watched over the grave, his dedicated post ending only with his own death in 1872. Bobby, of course, was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, too. And even then, he remained as committed as ever — a ghostly dog is spotted amidst the headstones to this day. 7. The ghost chicken of Pond Square Perhaps one of the strangest tales of an animal haunting involves esteemed statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon and the meat preservation experiment that led to his death. According to English antiquary John Aubrey, Bacon was struck mid-travels with the idea of using snow to preserve meat and found the concept so intriguing that he bought the first chicken he could find. Upon stuffing the chicken with snow, he became almost immediately ill with a severe case of pneumonia. Just days later, Bacon died of suffocation from the buildup of mucus in his chest. If Aubrey’s account is somewhat questionable in its validity, so, too, are the events that followed. It was not Bacon’s ghost that returned to haunt the site of that fateful experiment but that of a half-plucked chicken, likely seeking revenge for dying in vain. Known as the Highgate Chicken Ghost, the bird is said to run in circles around London’s Pond Square, disappearing when anyone gets near. 8. The pet cemetery at the Stanley Hotel If a hotel inspired the setting of a bestselling horror novel, moving a cemetery on the grounds from one location to another seems like an obvious mistake. The deceased often do not take kindly to disturbances. But that’s exactly what the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado chose to do — with a pet cemetery. Best known as the hotel on which Stephen King’s “The Shining” is based, the Stanley Hotel is a prime destination for ghost hunters seeking stories that corroborate the vacation spot’s haunted reputation. There’s so much to explore within the 140-room lodge that the hotel’s small pet cemetery tends to get overlooked as a spot for potential spirits. Not to worry, though. The ghosts of the animals buried in the cemetery can find their way into the hotel. Cassie, for instance, is the ghost of a golden retriever with a fondness for finding treats and fetching newspapers. There’s also Camanche, a fluffy white cat who’s been known to wander the halls and enter guest rooms. Both seem to be the friendly type, indicating a lack of resentment for the relocation of their final resting place. But that’s not to say that every pet buried in the cemetery is as understanding of the decision to construct a wedding pavilion atop their original grave, as many of the unattributed eerie occurrences at the Stanley Hotel could just as easily be the work of a spectral animal. It’s also possible, said a local psychic interviewed at the time of the move, that bothering the dead may have inadvertently opened a pathway for additional spirits to return to the world of the living. 9. The haunting of Ballechin House Considered the most haunted house in Scotland in the 19th century, Ballechin was once home to an eccentric army major named Robert Steuart. After serving in the Indian Army, Steuart returned to Scotland a staunch believer in the transmigration of souls and became convinced that upon death, he would return in the body of a dog. Striving for an effortless transition, he lived in the company of 14 dogs and hoped that one would ultimately serve as a vessel for his soul. Steuart never married, and his nephew inherited the house upon his death. To prevent his uncle’s soul from returning to the house, the new owner of the estate ordered all of the dogs shot. It’s said that the brutal act instead ensured that Steuart would forever haunt Ballechin as a disembodied spirit, a far worse outcome than had the nephew simply allowed his deceased uncle to inhabit the house as a black spaniel. Soon after Steuart’s passing, the nephew’s wife was working in the study when she became overwhelmed by a strong canine odor, followed by a dog-like nudge against her leg. Around that same time, a series of strange noises, from explosions to arguments, began to echo throughout the house. Frightened by the prospect of Ballechin being haunted, servants and governesses started leaving their posts. In 1895, Steuart’s nephew was fatally struck by a cab on the same day that three aggressive knocks — later understood to be a warning — rattled his door. A family that moved into the house in 1896 lasted only 11 weeks in their new home before the continuation of this mysterious mayhem prompted them to relocate. As time went on, reports of similar experiences at Ballechin grew. Not every story involved dogs, but many of them did. Claims of invisible dogs brushing up against guests’ legs were common. One account described the apparition of a black spaniel playing with a real one; another more disturbing apparition involved two detached black paws appearing on the bedside table. Ultimately, paranormal activity subsided, beginning with a discredited investigation that prompted a dismissal of the house’s entire reputation as the result of pranks and obvious explanations. By 1932, the house was abandoned. In 1963, a fire decimated the structure, and Steuart and his spaniels were never heard from again. 10. Athelhampton's ghost ape There are said to be six human ghosts living at Athelhampton, a Tudor manor home in Dorset, England. Frightening as they may be, their presence is overshadowed by the dwelling’s seventh ghost. It’s tough to compete with an ape. It’s especially hard when the story of the ape’s death is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. The ape was a beloved member of the Martyn family, having made his way to England by way of ship and ending up in the possession of Sir William Martyn. An especially close bond had formed between the ape and one of Martyn’s daughters. If fact, he ape cared so deeply about the daughter that when she locked herself in a secret room with the intention of killing herself over a broken heart, the loyal ape followed. In some versions of the stories, including the one on Athelhampton’s website, the daughter changes her mind. In others, she follows through with her plan. But all agree that the ape never makes it out of the secret chamber. Without any escape route or food supply, he starves to death. Now, the ape is said to haunt Athelhampton by scratching at the walls in an attempt to finally escape his accidental confinement. Of course, a ghost should have no problem walking through walls, and accordingly, others have seen him swinging throughout the house and scratching at his privates. ARTICLE FROM: https://abc6onyourside.com/news/offbeat/where-are-all-of-the-animal-ghosts-spook-yourself-with-10-tales-of-nonhuman-hauntings