“And though you fight to not hit BUY
Your fingers start to click it
For no mere mortal can resist
The draw of haunted Craigslist”
– Vincent Price, Michael Jackson and Kaylee Dugan
Turn off the lights, put on your brave face and get ready for a story unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. Welcome to the newest BYT column, Ghosts For Sale, where we talk to the kind people of Craigslist and Ebay about the back stories behind their haunted items. For the first edition of the column, we called up Chris Trojack of Pennsylvania, and what started off as a conversation about German folk art soon turned into a lesson in haunted dolls, haunted houses and so much more.
How did you come into the tree face?
That’s the one thing I did not find or buy over the years. It’s something we actually had in our family. My aunt lived in Germany and her husband was in the army, I think and they were stationed over there at some US Military base. When she lived over there she used to jog right through the Black Forest. It’s some big creepy forest in Germany. I’ve never been there myself, but you read about it and see stuff on paranormal websites. Everyone says it’s this really old, haunted, creepy, ancient woods that had some battle there with the huns, or whatever. Anyway, it’s supposed to be one of those typical haunted forests and there’s a guy who sold wood cuttings from the wood there. She jogged by him all the time and she bought that tree from him. I think it was ’71 and she bought it the last day that she lived there. She was moving back to America and she was like, “I never bought anything from this guy and I felt bad because I always saw him, so I’ll buy something.”
So they had it in their house for a little bit and then they said they didn’t like the feel of it. It was staring at them, it had a creepy feeling. So they gave it to my grandfather, who was my mother’s father, and they had it in their house for years. When I grew up and I saw this… We were all mortified of it. It doesn’t look that creepy when you see it. It looks kind of neat and it’s kind of regal looking. It’s well made, but it has… I don’t know. It’s a guttural creepiness to it.
Has anything ever happened in the house since you’ve had it?
Yeah. We’ve had it in our house for a long time. It’s just… I’ll put it this way, almost anyone that sees it, at first they’re like, “Oh, that’s creepy” or “That’s cool,” but if you’re in a room with it for a set period of time you get a feeling of dread. Your hair goes up on your arms. It seems to follow you with its eyes, now I’m sure that’s just an optical illusion. It’s just your mind playing tricks on you. You’ll hear… It’s kind of like knocks? It’s like someones knocking on the wall. It’s usually in threes. Of course, this could all be explained. It’s just the pipes or it’s whatever, but it seems to happen consistently. The main thing is a lot of people look at it and feel sick. They get nausea in their stomach.
I don’t have that feeling about it… I’ve had a few people that claim to be psychics look at it and they’ve all said there’s some male presence in this, and then one woman said… This is kind of creepy, she said, “This is not a human presence.” And I’m like, “Well what is it? A demon?” And she said, “No it’s like an elemental, it’s an ancient thing.”
That’s fascinating. You said in your email that this is one of a few haunted items you have. Could you tell me about the others?
No I’m in D.C.
If you were from the area you’d know about it, but there’s a mental asylum called Pennhurst. It’s a big local spot where people go to try to break in and explore. It’s been abandoned since the ’70s. It’s the typical thing, it had all this abuse going on and they shut it down. It’s a big creepy abandoned place. When people have gone in it the last 10 years, it’s been an attraction. They were smart and just opened it up. We went in it years ago when I was a teenager. We were bad and used to go to all these abandoned places we shouldn’t have. We found this horrible creepy looking doll in there. It’s pretty tall and old looking. I had one lady look at it that was an antique appraiser and she said it could be from the late 1800s, it could be from the early 1900s, but it’s not like it’s from the 1600s or anything like that. It’s weird it has almost like a Curious George look but with a human face. Do you know about Robert the doll?
Yes! I’ve been to Key West.
I lived in Florida and I was afraid to go anywhere near him! We call this one, jokingly, Bob the Cursed Doll. It doesn’t look like Robert, but it’s tall and creepy. It’s not made to stand, it’s kind of top heavy, but whenever you try to sit it on anything, it will not cooperate. It always falls down. I’m not saying that’s paranormal, it’s not, it’s just weird. Like, why did someone make this thing? We wont keep it in the house. I keep it in the garage. Out of sight out of mind. If you bury it in a closet or keep it in the garage, it’s fine, when we start to see it we’ve seen this kind of… I don’t know if you believe in this stuff, but there’s a shadowy figure. I don’t want to say ghost, but you see this shadow in front of your eyes. And you feel like it’s watching you. It really has a creepy face. It has kind of a fat baby Shirley Temple face.
It was weird. It was clean. Almost everything we got from Pennhurst… I used to have a lot of stuff that I got rid of. I had patient charts, I had EKGS, I had those straight jackets and I just threw them away eventually. One of them had blood on it, it was really gross. We were just young and stupid and were like, “We gotta take these, these are cool.” Later I was like, “Why the hell do I have this stuff?” They had everything laying around, the place was long since abandoned when we went in it. They actually had a human maze in it, which was really creepy. Like a mouse maze, but it was for people. It was some kind of mental experiment and we got lost in it, which was not fun. I got a lot of stuff out of that place. Bob, our version of Robert, that’s the thing that I kept, just because it’s really cool looking. It’s an antique. It’s neat. It has some kind of presence to it. Some kind of shadow figure associated with it.
What makes you want to keep it?
Like I said, I got rid of all the other stuff I took out of Pennhurst, but that one… All of my friends say it’s compelling me to keep it, you know what I mean? And I’m like, I don’t know about that, but it looks too neat. Everything we got out of there was really dirty and dusty and gross, this thing was perfectly clean. No cobwebs on it, no dirt, but it had to be in there for a long time and it was in good shape. I just feel like this thing is too cool to get rid of? If someone had an offer for me… I’ll probably put it on Craigslist for $100 and I’d take $50 or even $20… Part of me thinks I should’t get rid of it and that the minute I do I’ll be like, “Damn!” It’s unique.
What’s your favorite horror movie?
I’d say Poltergeist, the original one. I actually live in a haunted house and I didn’t have anything happen like in that movie, but I had some stuff almost directly out of it happen. You relate to it more. I like the gory ones like Evil Dead. I like some of the old Italian ones and I like new horror movies, but I’d say Poltergeist. I know some people say it’s dated.
No! I love that movie, but wait a minute, you lived in a haunted house?
Yeah. I’m from Pennsylvania and we moved down to Maryland. When we moved back to Pennsylvania we lived for two years in a colonial house. We didn’t know, we rented it, but the back yard was where the Battle of Brandywine happened. It was a battle where the Americans were slaughtered by the British. We lived in this house that had a child’s grave right in front of the house. We used to play on these hills in the backyard and we didn’t realize they were mass burial grounds, just where all these bodies were thrown. We didn’t learn that until later.
I don’t want to waste your time, but we had a lot of crap go on in there. I’ve always kind of liked ghost stuff, but I didn’t believe it then because I had no reason to. Even when you’re little with Santa Clause, you might believe in it, but you always kind of know it’s probably not real, but you hope for it. That would be like me for ghosts. I thought it would be cool, but it’s probably not real. Then when I lived in that place, stuff happened and you just can’t deny it. It’s in your face. It’s not a good thing. People say, “Ah you’re so lucky!” No, life’s messed up anyway. You don’t want to have crap happening that defies science. You tell other people that things are crazy and you think you’re crazy yourself. Like, is this for real? Am I seeing this? The good thing is when it happens in front of a party, like we had a party and stuff happened in front of like 20 people, and you’re like, okay, I’m not the only one witnessing this.
Of course. That must be super validating.
You’re right. It is validating. My dad was a doctor, he was very scientific minded, and he decided to disprove a lot of this stuff. We had a rocking chair that would rock by itself and it would stop up, you know what I mean? Instead of going back down. It would stop backwards. So he would sit there for three hours, he’s stepping on the floorboards, he’s like, “It must be a draft.” Then he’d be like, “Okay, I can’t explain this.” And then he’d just be frustrated. By the time we left the house even he admitted it. He was pretty much an atheist until… My mom was religious, but after we moved out of that house he started going to church. I don’t want to say he was an atheist, but he was agnostic, he was scientific. Then after that house he started going to church.
That’s insane. Can you tell me a story from the house?
I could tell you a million stories. I could tell you a few cool things. The first thing I know that we all saw, that’s my mom, my brother and myself, my dad didn’t see it. We were all in one room and my mom had one of those big sun hats, like a straw hat. It was on a coat rack, a standing one. So the hat was on there and it just falls off the coat rack. Now that’s explainable, you know what I mean? It could have been not on there right. So my mom puts it back on there and we’re talking and it falls off again and it’s floating in the freaking air. We’re all looking at it and we’re all like, “Wait, what?” Then it starts falling really slowly and it slides across the room.
We’re like uhhh… oh crap. It was the first thing that happened and I’m getting goose bumps saying this. It’s just… Your reality is kind of ruined. Like, what the hell is this? Why is this happening. So we put it back again and it fell down again and we just left the room. We’re going to the mall, we’re getting the hell out of that house. We go to the mall, we’re at the mall for a few hours and we go home and go back into that room and the weird thing is, the hat wasn’t on the ground, it’s on the rack again. Then a book flies out of the bookcase. My mom picked it up and it was ice cold. Like it was in the freezer for ten years. My mom is like, “Okay, we can’t just run back to the mall.” It was almost dark, it was the winter. So we started to deal with it. That was the first thing that multiple people witnessed, it was creepy and kind of woke us up.
We had a Halloween party and we had three Jack-o’-Lanterns lining these big wooden steps that went up to the second floor. They were on the edge of the steps, it was a real wide staircase. That part of the house was from 1709. We had a party and at least three or four people witnessed it. The pumpkins were facing the front door, so when you walked in you would see them. At the time, we weren’t in front of them, we were off to the side, maybe 10 feet away, and they all turned and faced us. My uncle, my dad, myself and another relative. My uncle was like, “How did you do that? You must have had it rigged.” And my dad’s speechless. So my uncle goes over and he’s inspecting and he’s looking and he’s like, “They’re ice cold, were these outside?” It wasn’t even cold that day and we’re like, “No.” And he’s like, “These feel like they were petrified.”
Every night at three o’clock, we’d here this pounding in the attic. Then we found out while we still lived there that our house was a hospital in the revolutionary war. It was used as a mission’s hospital and they would keep all the people on the third floor. There was actually this creepy door on the side of the house that lead to nothing, like you would just fall out of the house and it was barricaded because of that. They’d call that the coffin door. When people would die they would throw the bodies out of the door into a hay bale and then move them away. The maid, apparently, would bang her broomstick on the ground signifying that the bodies needed to be taken away. They’d take them away at night or something, I don’t know. This is a story I was told. It would happen like clockwork, but we got used to it. We slept through it eventually. We’d go up into the attic and it came from nowhere and everywhere. You couldn’t pin point it.
The scariest thing that happened to me was in 5th grade I got detention from school. I forget what happened. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was a pretty good student so my mom was really mad at me. She was yelling and I was a little bratty kid, so I ran upstairs. I was mad. I was like, “I don’t want to hear it!” So I ran up to my bedroom, I jumped in my bed, I pulled the covers over my head and they’re hovering in the air, like floating above my head. It’s so quick that you’re like, this isn’t happening, what’s going on? Why are they not coming down? Then they come down and they cover my face and they’re tight against my face and I hear these little girl voices in my head all talking and they’re like, “Shhhh…” It’s so creepy, I’m freaking out just saying it. They’re like, “What’s your name? What did you do?” I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed, not out of fear, I was trying to move and I couldn’t move. It only lasted a few seconds and then it let go and the covers went flat and I could breathe again and the voices stopped. I ran out of my house and I was screaming. My mom is like, “What happened? What happened?” and I’m screaming. We had a horse pasture behind us, that’s where the battle took place. I jumped over the fence and kept running and the horses almost trampled me. I wouldn’t go back in the house for hours.
Later, we had a psychic come to the house once, and she said, “There’s a little girl ghost named Katie. She comes into this room and she tries to talk to the people that sleep in this room.” That was me and my brother. We actually slept in the same bed because we were so afraid. We were little kids anyway, but still, normally you’d want your own room. But in that house? It was like, no screw that.
So she goes out front to the house and there was this little lamb statue that was right in front of our house. It was old. She pulls it out of the ground a little bit and it says ‘Katie’. It’s a grave marker. A little girl was buried right our front of our house. We looked up her information, her name was like Katie Johnson, she was the daughter of a soldier that live there. His arm was blown off, he was supposed to be another ghost, but we never saw him. I could go on for hours and hours. That place was awesome, but not while I lived there. In retrospect, I’m like that was really cool, but I would never want to live there again. I don’t even know if I would want to go back there.