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March 10, 2022

Ep. 75: The Hauntings of Union Cemetery

Ep. 75: The Hauntings of Union Cemetery

Union Cemetery sits at a crossroads, almost 400 years old, with headstones scattered across its area spanning centuries of New England history. From the first settlers from the New Fairfield Company to the most recent citizens of Easton, Connecticut, Union Cemetery is home to the final resting places of hundreds of locals...and several spirits.

Why has Union Cemetery and its surroundings been the site of not one, not two, but at least three brutal murders/body disposals? Who is the real "White Lady", Union's most famous ghost who has become one of the most often-seen spirits in state history? And what made Ed & Lorraine Warren, basis of the Conjuring films and locals to Union themselves, call it the most haunted cemetery in America?

Follow us on a haunted cemetery stroll through decades of history, madness, and bloody, bloody murder.


Union Cemetery sits at a crossroads, almost 400 years old, with headstones scattered across its area spanning centuries of New England history. From the first settlers from the New Fairfield Company to the most recent citizens of Easton, Connecticut, Union Cemetery is home to the final resting places of hundreds of locals...and several spirits.

Why has Union Cemetery and its surroundings been the site of not one, not two, but at least three brutal murders/body disposals? Who is the real "White Lady", Union's most famous ghost who has become one of the most often-seen spirits in state history? And what made Ed & Lorraine Warren, basis of the Conjuring films and locals to Union themselves, call it the most haunted cemetery in America?

Follow us on a haunted cemetery stroll through decades of history, madness, and bloody, bloody murder.

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Transcript

Sean, it’s our 75th episode this week!

It’s hard to believe we’ve come this far. Well, actually, it’s a bit easier to believe, because we do work our butts off every week on this research and recording to make sure we’re putting out a good product every time - it’s definitely a point of pride for us. But it seems like just yesterday we were recording Roast 2 Roast AM for our 50th episode, and here we are, 25 later.

We have a lot of exciting things still to come for y’all, including some great news we’re psyched to share with you…all in due time, dear listeners. Til then, go check out our revamped website at aintitscary.com and feel free to leave some love! Our site now has easy access to leaving reviews, checking out our Youtube videos, and even leaving us voicemails. There’s a pinkish-purple button on the bottom right with a microphone on it - just click that, record, and leave us your thoughts! Nice once, we hope.

For our 75th I wanted to bring it back to our roots, and if you’ve listened to our first couple episodes, you know we’re deeply based in local legends and lore - local to Connecticut, that is. We love our oft-maligned state as a site of much history and weirdness, and we love sharing those lesser-known stories with all of you. So, with that in mind, we’re taking a trip back to the cemetery to cover one that we haven’t before, one that has been called the most haunted cemetery in America: Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut.

I love Union Cemetery. It’s got a mix of very old and very new stones in it, so you really feel like you’re walking through centuries of history in one small area of land. It’s right off the road but also feels incredibly peaceful when you’re inside of it…and often, especially in the fall, the surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful. Us weirdos even took some of our engagement photos there, not to be morbid, but just because it felt like a really unique place to celebrate the things we enjoy together, and we especially enjoy the spookier side of history. Bless our photographer, Kristen (who you can find at lbfphoto.com); she really rolled with it and we got some gorgeous shots. No spooky experiences during this particular photo shoot, but some say that they’ve had a very different time when shooting and ghost hunting at night. And that’s what we’ll be talking about today…the very, VERY haunted history of Union Cemetery.

Let’s back it up to cover some of the origins of the Easton area, which is close to where both of us grew up, Sean. Union Cemetery is nearly 400 years old, so it dates back almost to the time when Connecticut itself was established. Easton was first officially settled in 1757 by men and women from the town of Fairfield, which was established in 1639. Of course, let’s not forget that these men and women were originally Europeans, Puritans and Congregationalists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and were not the people indiginous to this land. According to the Easton Historical Society, “A battle took place in the area that is now Southport in 1637, known as the Great Swamp Fight, and the natives were from a group called the Pequonnocks, an Algonquin-speaking group made up of five separate groups or “bands”. One of those bands, the Aspetucks, settled in an area called Great Swamp or Middlebrook Swamp in what is now Easton, somewhere along current day Cricker’s Brook, perhaps now beneath the Hemlock Reservoir…In 1670 or 71, native leaders signed deeds with the town of Fairfield and the Pequonnocks signed similar deeds with Fairfield and with Stratford. This purchase by Fairfield from the natives secured ‘the last six miles of the town common’ of the Native Americans’ land holdings in the area for the sum of 36 pounds sterling.” That area included what is now Easton, and was then settled by the New Fairfield Society.

Fast forward some years and we have Union Cemetery, at the junction of what is now routes 59 and 136. If you’re on the right road, you can’t miss it - it’s enclosed by an old-school iron fence and a sign out front proclaims “Area Closet Sunset to Sunrise”. A small church building sits across the street. 

So how did Union become known as one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world? Well, part of that is due to our old friends and Connecticut natives, Ed and Lorraine Warren. Yes, the stars of The Conjuring films lived just minutes away from Union, and studied it extensively due to the legends surrounding the space - which they documented in their book, Graveyard. Lorraine told the Westport Daily Voice in 2011 that, “I know for a fact that this place is haunted, it’s one of the most haunted places around.” I’ll be sharing some of the stories they recounted in Graveyard with you today. 

Even growing up I heard legends about Union, as I had about Dudleytown. I was told it had dozens of officially documented ghost sightings by people like police officers and firemen who had been called to the scene or were driving by when they had their experiences. I was also told that it was constantly patrolled by the police after dark due to the popularity of the area with ghost hunters, and that you would get arrested if they caught you in there at night. And, of course, I heard many tales about Union Cemetery’s famous “White Lady”.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with some short tales to get the blood chilling.

The Warrens wrote that, several decades ago - and this account came from 1992, so let’s say somewhere in the mid 20th century - a murder occurred that may have ties to the White Lady legend, but certainly has a gruesome connection to the Cemetery itself. Ellen Smathers was a lovely young woman who worked as organist for her church, and it wasn’t uncommon for the men around her to develop feelings for her. Unfortunately for them, Ellen was happily married to John Smathers, an outdoorsman who worked for the nearby plant. Ellen was known around town, and tragically became the object of obsession of one Richard Jason.

Jason lived near Monroe and would often see Ellen going about her day downtown and even walking by Union Cemetery on nice days. Not a lot was known about Jason, as he was a newcomer to the area, but it was rumored that he’d spent his younger years as a carny. Here the story gets quite strange: Jason was the protege of a certain Swami Lorenz, a carnival mentalist. One day Lorenz gazed into his crystal ball and saw a vision of his young friend Jason taking Narda, the carnival’s trapeze artist, into the Tunnel of Love and attempt to choke her to death after learning she’d been unfaithful to him. Lorenz was disturbed by the vision and told Jason not to go into the Tunnel, but apparently he did and was possessed by a sudden rage. Only Lorenz’s lucky intervention stopped Jason from choking Narda, and so Jason fled the carnival and eventually ended up in Connecticut. 

Who knows if that’s true, but that’s clearly the story surrounding Jason. He became obsessed with Ellen, stalking her and attempting to convince her to be with him. Eventually, as is wont to happen in small towns, the news of Jason’s stalking reached Ellen’s husband, John. Some say that John visited Richard Jason a few times, warning him to stay away from his wife. However, this didn’t deter Jason. He had become convinced that if John Smathers were to die, Ellen would marry him…so, of course, he went about trying to make that happen. 

The plan was to murder John Smathers and dump the body in a sinkhole close to the cemetery, behind the Baptist Church. And one night, John didn’t come home. She tried to call him at work, thinking he was there overtime - no answer. In the morning she called the police, who found that John had left work at his normal time and headed home along his normal route, but at some point, disappeared. Policemen and search parties looked for John for the next several days, to no avail. They eventually would give up the search.

John would be found, however. Despite weighing the body down and sinking it into the sinkhole, John’s corpse eventually floated to the top and revealed itself to the world. The medical examiner wasn’t sure how it was possible for the body to float back up still attached to weights, but there it was, and it became clear that Smathers had been murdered. Soon after, Jason was pinned as the prime suspect, and hours after his arrest he confessed to the murder of John Smathers. Richard Dean Jason spent the rest of his life in prison, wondering why Ellen never responded to his monthly letters…and how a weighted-down body had floated to the top of a sinkhole. Some say the White Lady is actually the spirit of Ellen Smathers, mourning the loss of her husband to her mad stalker.


Another story from Union Cemetery follows the tale of Don Parrish. The 41-year-old was the cemetery sexton, tending the ground and doing handywork in the area. One day Parrish was hiking the countryside surrounding the cemetery with snowshoes, a bit of a hobby of his, and saw what he described as “the dark man”.

As he was coming down the slope leading to the cemetery, he spotted a man dressed in black minister’s clothes…clothes that looked to be from about 200 year before. Don attempted to call to the man and followed him up a hill, but no matter how he tried to get his attention, the dark man kept winding through the snow away from him. Parrish watched as the figure approached the crest of the hill…and simply vanished. Gone in an instant. 

Don Parrish became obsessed after this experience. He lost interest in everything except for the dark man. Some time later Parrish brought his friend Aaron to the cemetery to try and spot the dark man again. Aaron had become concerned for Don, but he humored him anyway and went along for the excursion. They saw nothing as they walked through the hills that late Friday afternoon until they headed back to the cemetery - and Don spotted it. “Look!” he said. Close to the perimeter of the cemetery was a young man wearing deerskins and a raccoon hat; the garb of a seventeenth-century deerstalker. The clothes looked worn, and the young man seemed as startled by them as they were of him, staring at their clothes as they were staring at his. Don asked “What are you doing?” and the young man responded in hard-to-understand English, as if it was from an earlier time. He said he was going to meet some friends of his by cutting across the field. However, Don knew that the path the man was talking about would be leading him directly through the Easton Reservoir, which wasn’t exactly hike-able. However, the Reservoir hadn’t always been there.

The young man walked away from Don and Aaron, and though they called for him to wait, he kept going…and, like the dark man, vanished before their eyes.

Don’s obsession became worse. He studied the occult and the paranormal; had trouble sleeping; lost considerable weight. Friends would sometimes find him staring at the hill where he’d first seen the ghostly men. 

A few weeks later, he committed suicide. 

The day Don Parrish was buried, a local conservation officer reported seeing a mysterious figure of a man dressed in deerstalker clothes, standing on the hill above Union Cemetery. Watching. And waiting.

More stories to come…after the break!


[BREAK]


There’s a bit of a thread throughout the stories in Graveyard that I haven’t delved into, and that is the Warrens’ apparent feeling that maybe those that became obsessed with Union Cemetery were actually possessed by some negative entity or energy. It was a bit of a theory around Richard Jason’s act of murder, and clearly Don Parrish went through a big personality shift after his experiences. 

Another story in this vein is that of Earle Kellogg.

It was the Depression, 1935. Jane Kellogg ran an inn nearby to Easton with good food, good prices, and good vibes…aside from those of her husband, Earle. Earle seemed like your classic piece of shit. He was violently jealous and accusatory of any man who so much as smiled at his wife. He would argue with her customers and got into countless fistfights. He was, you might say, a good-for-nothing.

Sometimes, as legend goes, he would hear voices, too…voices that would tell him kindly Jane was being unfaithful. And sometimes, when he’d directly accuse her of these things, he’d supposedly speak with a voice that was not his. It seems, at some point, he heard the voice call to him: “The harlot must be punished!”

It’s uncertain what triggered Earle’s final action. Some say he became psychotic when a man brought Jane a bouquet of flowers, others say it was something else entirely, unrelated to Jane. Either way, he developed some unfounded hatred for a local carpenter. One day, he lured this carpenter to the wooded area across the street from Union Cemetery, knocked him unconscious…and then lit him on fire.

Earle fled, and it’s said that as he hid the demon possessing him took over entirely. When he was found and arrested, it’s alleged that Earle kept on whispering to himself, over and over…or to someone else that none of the policemen could see.

Fairfield County had never encountered a crime like this, and many called for the death penalty. Earle wouldn’t say why he committed the crime or why he chose the area near Union Cemetery to commit it. During his trial some of his own family said that Earle had long had a peculiar obsession with the cemetery, and would often drive over there to park and look at the headstones. The Warrens finish the story of Earle Kellogg by saying, “They insist that while Earle had always been a fighter, he had never been a killer…not before his visits to Union Cemetery took their toll. Not before he was heard to speak in voices not his own - and to a person no one else could see.” Along with the White Lady there is an entity nicknamed “Red Eyes” that is a popular sight at Union. Some think that maybe it’s the carpenter, haunting the area where he was murdered. Or perhaps it’s Earle Kellogg himself, still possessed by the demonic entity that forced him to kill.


Speaking of murder. We have one crazy story recounted in the Easton Courier by Elizabeth Boyce in October 2020. Here’s the gist:

On the night of August 30th, 1920, the police pulled over just off Sport Hill Road next to Union Cemetery. A confessed murderer claimed to have hidden the body of his victim. In the dense mud a large green trunk was discovered, and in that, the body of George E Nott. Nott was wrapped in a bloody comforter and curtains and several large stones had been placed inside the trunk with him to weigh it down. Sound familiar?

George Nott was a self-described professional gambler and married to Ethel in what was known to be an unhappy relationship. Ethel, for her part, described George as a liar, a cheat, and an opium user.

It seems Ethel had given up on George by 1919, when she began sneaking around with Elwood B Wade, a 23 year old milkman who also was married with children. Ethel and Elwood were often seen together, and weren’t exactly subtle with their relationship. As the Easton Courier reports it, “Gossip in their Bridgeport neighborhood led to George confronting his rival and threatening his life. Elwood, a short and slight man, was greatly intimidated, and he ran to the police to report George’s threatening statements. He was so panicked that he applied for a firearm permit, only to be denied with the recommendation that he stay away from a married woman. On the morning of Sunday, August 29, 1920, George reportedly beat his wife for continuing to see her lover and in retribution, purportedly, a plan was concocted to frighten and beat George. With a fellow dairyman named John E. Johnston, Elwood snuck quietly into the Nott house armed with a gun and a lead pipe.  Ethel, who unlocked the door for them, led her children away and instructed them to play the mechanical piano in the parlor…The two milkmen had tried to sneak into George’s bedroom to catch him unaware, but George awoke and went after Elwood. John offered little help and fled in fear, leaving Elwood alone to face the angry husband in a brawl that carried both men tumbling down the staircase. Rather than running for help, Ethel was heard by neighbors screaming, ‘Keep him from hollering!’ Elwood managed to shoot George three times and hit him repeatedly with a lead pipe. Ethel handed her lover a 14-inch kitchen knife saying, ‘Finish him off!’ Stabbed 19 times, George was still moaning, but a final deadly blow to his head cracked his skull and ended his life. Who exactly held the pipe at that moment is unknown, but George’s blood was literally and figuratively on both their hands.”

Elwood hid Nott’s body in a green steamer trunk and carted it away with John, dumping it in an area of muddy quicksand near Union Cemetery. Meanwhile, neighbors had become suspicious of the loud music and yells that had come from the house the night of the murder, and alerted police. After a quick search, police discovered a bullet hole lodged in a wall and blood on the bed. After an intense interrogation Elwood, John, and Ethel all confessed to their parts in the crime. John cooperated with prosecution for a lesser charge while Elwood and Ethel were both indicted for first-degree murder. The only penalty at the time for guilt? Death by hanging. 

The trial was a sensation. Elwood seemed to enjoy the attention and dressed for the “show”, showing no signs of worry or concern. He would frequently enjoy a cigar in the courtroom and often whispered, touched, and even kissed Ethel in front of everyone…including his wife. Elwood remained calm, even when he was sentenced to death at the end o the trial. He faced the gallows on May 20th carrying a dozen roses delivered to him from the Bridgeport dairymen, and spoke his last words: “Goodbye everyone.” Many had sympathized with Elwood, but it wasn’t the same for Ethel. She was often portrayed of a woman of “loose morals” and, in contrast to Elwood, appeared to the trial looking gray and gaunt in all black. This outfit caused the press to refer to her as “The Vampire”. 

As a final Hail Mary, Ethel’s attorney presented a packet of 46 explicit love letters written by Ethel to Elwood while they were both in jail. These letters admitted more involvement in the crime than she first admitted. So why did the defense bring it to the judge? Well, the attorney had also convinced Ethel to change her plea to guilty, hoping for a lesser charge of second degree murder with the penalty of life in prison, rather death by hanging. The judge decided to accept the changed plea, not wanting to send a woman to the gallows in Connecticut for the first time since 1786, and so Ethel’s life was spared by the evidence of her own guilt.

Perhaps George still haunts the cemetery today…or maybe the White Lady is Ethel, though it doesn’t seem in line with her “Vampire” persona to be clad in all white.


And now that brings us to the story of the White Lady, Union Cemetery’s most notorious haunting. Many have reported seeing her, either to the Warrens or to the news or even to police. Some of the stories are as follows…

Brothers Frank and Vincent Barberri lived in the house above Union Cemetery growing up. Frank, at the time of his interview a retired state trooper, recalled “One spring night when we were boys, we were down in the cemetery playing when we saw this very bright light. In the middle of the light was this very attractive woman. She was very close…no more than two hundred yards away. We stopped playing and just stared at her as she floated through the cemetery.”

That wasn’t all: Vincent added that “She wasn’t alone. There were these dark forms around her and they seemed to be arguing with her. She was dressed in an old fashioned veil and a long wedding gown.” Spooked, the boys ran back home and tried to get their parents to come down to Union and see the lady or themselves. They managed to convince their mom, who followed them back, but when they got there, the lady was gone. When she saw headlights scan over the grounds of the cemetery, she told her sons that was all they’d seen - just some headlights. But they were insistent on what they’d experienced.

So, night after night, the Barberri brothers would sit in their bedroom at the window, looking for the White Lady to appear again, to no avail. However, years later, Vincent did see he once more. He told the Warrens, “One night I was sitting on a ledge up across from the cemetery - I sat there a lot of times so I could look for deer to shoot - and when I looked down into the cemetery I saw the White Lady. This time there didn’t seem to be anybody with her, no dark form or anything, and no sound of arguing, either. She moved up the driveway toward the entrance to the cemetery - I could see her very clearly - and then vanished, just like smoke.” On another occasion, Vincent was coming home late at night and saw her once again, just off the road, shining white light with the lady in the middle. 

The Barberri brothers are not the only ones to have had experiences with the White Lady, of course. Like other notorious White Lady cemetery spirits - see our 2 part Haunted Cemeteries series for more - many have encountered her while driving by.

When seen, the White Lady is classically wearing a white nightgown or perhaps wedding dress, gliding between Union Cemetery and Stepney Cemetery down the road in nearby Monroe. She will commonly be seen in the middle of Route 59 and be “hit” by a passing car, only for the poor driver to stop, check, and find no one in the road. One story was recounted for both Graveyard and the TV show “From Beyond” by Connecticut native Rod Vecsey, who apparently many years later had some legal trouble for blinding his wife with a carrot, but that’s another story for another day. Vecsey is now deceased, at the young age of 54, so I won’t speculate or speak ill of the dead. I will share his story, though.

In the summer of 1991, Vecsey was driving home from the late shift at the lumber supply company where he worked. He took a longer route as he wanted to enjoy the late summer night drive in his new Chevy, and lucky for him, the radio was playing a marathon of Springsteen songs, which Vecsey loved. So, likely driving down route 59 belting out “Born to Run” or “Thunder Road”, Vecsey passed Union Cemetery on his left. He turned on the fog lights as the rain from a humid summer shower was evaporating from the pavement, got what he called a “terrible feeling of not being along anymore”, looked over to his backseat…and spotted a man sitting behind him. They stared at each other, Vecsey in shock. As he looked back at the road he saw, about 100 feet away, a dark-haired woman standing in the middle of the street, wearing a nightgown and glowing with a “curious blue radiance”. She held up her hand for him to stop and Vecsey stomped on the brakes, and glancing into the backseat once more, saw that the man had vanished. 

Vecsey opened the driver’s side window to yell to the woman to get out of the way, but it appeared she didn’t hear him. As the car fishtailed, to his horror and then astonishment, the Chevy passed right through the woman. He felt the icy coldness of her touching his shoulder and cheek as it happened, and once he came to a stop, he looked back. She was still standing there, and he noticed her nightgown was old-fashioned, a style from maybe a century before, and she wore a brooch on a golden chain hanging from her neck. She turned and walked away down the road, and though he yelled to her to attempt to help, she became lost in the swirling fog and vanished completely. A feeling of terrible sorrow overcame Vecsey, and when he finally made it home all he could do was, in his words, “[sob] like a small child whose parent had just died.” Vecsey went on to say, “My life has not been the same since. Despite some very good fortune-” he won the CT state lottery, by the way- “I have never been able to forget that night, or the feelings it evoked in me.” After contacting the Warrens, Lorraine would tell him “Sometimes, a paranormal experience gives us an insight into ourselves that we almost can’t handle.” Vecsey thinks that’s definitely the truth in his case.


Ed Warren also saw the White Lady after spending many nights investigating Union Cemetery. He was beginning to become discouraged when, at 2:40am one late summer night, an unnatural silence overcame the area. He began to record, and a glow appeared, eventually taking the shape of a woman, who he described as about 30 years old, with dark hair and a flowing white gown. Warren stated that there were dark figures surrounding her, shapes that seemed to jump on her and argue with her. It kinda reminds me of those little demon things from the movie Ghost. She began to walk towards him, but as he looked through the viewfinder, he saw that to the camera, she wasn’t there. And soon after, she vanished…though later, after checking the footage, he was able to spot the White Lady, gliding between the headstones.


Most famously for Union, an off-duty fireman thought he hit a woman in white while driving one evening in 1993, only to find nothing in the road…but a large dent in his car! 

As recounted in The Easton Courier in 1998: “Two transformers caught on fire in front of Stepney Cemetery off Route 25. Glen Pennel, a fireman, raced to the scene in his pick-up truck. A police officer was with him. As Pennel arrived at the cemetery, he was horrified to see a woman wearing a white gown dart in front of his truck. ‘I slammed on the brakes,’ Pennel said. ‘I hit her. The impact was like I hit a brick wall.’

The woman rolled up onto the hood of the truck and fell to the ground. A woman driving behind Pennel shouted at him, ‘how could you hit that woman? Didn’t you see her?’ Pennel’s grief gave way to fear when he looked around his truck and found nothing there. Yet, the front of his truck was dented in. ‘It was not a deer or a cow,’ Pennel said. ‘It was a woman. A solid object.’” This is commonly seen as one of the most credibly sightings of the White Lady, and one of the most credible accounts of a ghost experience in this state.

So, who is the White Lady? Well, like we said, it could be the spirit of Ellen Smathers. Or, maybe, it’s someone else. Paranormal investigator Thomas D’Agostino wrote in The Yankee Express “Another prime candidate might be the soul of Ethel Hutchinson Knott, wife of George Knott whom Elwood Wade murdered in 1920 after an argument at the Knott residence. The two concocted to murder the husband but were caught and brought to justice.  Mrs. Knott spent the rest of her life in prison and Wade was hanged for the murder. There are no records of Mrs. Knott per se after that, but it is conceivable that she may be haunting the area looking for restitution or a chance to tell her side of the story. She could be bound to the locale by eternal remorse.” Other legends tell the tale of a couple in a carriage on the way to be married at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in nearby Stepney, when an tragic accident befell the pair and either just her or her and her fiancee died. The White Lady was buried in the Stepney cemetery and the soon-to-be husband buried in Union down the road, so she walks between the two searching for him - hence why she’s often seen on the road between Easton and Stepney. Stepney, by the way, is where both of the Warrens themselves are buried. 

Another suggested identity for the Lady in White is one “Harriet B. Seeley.” Though there are quite a few Harriets buried in Union, none match this name precisely. If this is due to misreading or a conflation of different women, there are two possible candidates: Harriet Seeley Bryan, who died in 1836 and Harriet R. Seeley, who died in 1853. Both died in the prime of their lives, and both are buried at Union. 

Harriet Seeley Bryan, daughter of Patience and Elijah Seeley, was born on October 19, 1815. She married Titus A Bryan on February 10, 1836…and just 9 days later, she tragically died. Her tombstone reads, “Strongest ties how soon they’re severed, Brightest prospects soon are gone / Fairest blossoms soon are withered, Born by death unto the tomb.” For her part, Harriet R Seeley died 8 days after giving birth in May 1853, to a son that also died. She was only 24 years old. Her epitaph reads, “Nay do not weep / You’ll all come soon.” Woof. 


So Sean, what do you think about the hauntings of Union Cemetery?


NEWS 

We’re taking a trip to the Bizarre Bazaar.

Well, I didn’t have this on my 2022 Bingo Card, but here we are: a Japanese boulder said in legend to have contained an evil spirit for almost a thousand years was found inexplicably split in two. 
X† 
Yep, as if we didn’t need anything else to worry about! 

According to mythology the sessho-seki, or “killing stone”, contained the transformed corpse of Tamamo-no-Mae, a beautiful woman alleged to have been part of a feudal warlord’s secret plot to kill Emperor Toba, who reigned from 1107-1123. Tamamo-no-Mae’s true identity according to legend was actually an evil nine-tailed-fox - kind of like on Lovecraft Country - whose spirit was embedded in the chunk of lava. The stone was named a local historical site in 1957 and has been mentioned in fictional works as well as inspired a play, novel, and anime film.

The breaking open of the boulder seems to have happened within the last few days and has spooked those who believe in the legend, who note that according to folklore the stone continually leaks poisonous gas…hence the name, “killing stone”. 

Some speculate that the spirit of Tamamo-no-Mae has finally been released after a thousand years…while others think that nature has simply taken its course. The Shimotsuke Shimbun newspaper has reported that local and national government officials will meet to discuss the stone’s fate, and quoted a Nasu tourism official as saying he would like to see the Sessho-seki restored to its original form – presumably with its demonic inhabitant sealed inside.

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END

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