The Ghost Of Butcherville
Posted 23 April 2017 - 02:58 AM
Since we started this "investigation," we have been keeping an e-diary with logs, pictures, videos, etc. I'll start posting some of those here. Please, jump in with questions, comments, and corrections (we need sooooo many corrections).
April 17th, 2017
So, last weekend one of our neighbors told us that he had seen a ghostly light out on the canal at night. We live in a small town in the deep south, which, for the purposes of anonymity, we shall call hereafter "Butcherville." Our little town is near the coast, so it is criss-crossed with canals to drain off the heavy surface water when it rains. We have several bridges that cross over these canals in our neighborhood, and our neighbor Mr. Eddie (who is hilarious, a widower, and more than a little "crazy"—but in a fun way) said he saw the light hovering over the canal as he crossed the bridge north of our house as you look toward the train tracks.
Normally, I wouldn't give a "Mr. Eddie story" much credence, but my younger sister (14 y/o) latched onto this tale and is dying to see a ghost. Dyyyyyyiiiiinnnnnnnng! (Say that out loud, as loud as you can and with as much teen girl angst as you can muster, and you'll experience just a little of what my week has been like. ). Mr. Eddie insinuated that others had seen the ghostly light on the canal and that our little town has at least one other famous "ghost light" location.
My two sisters and I have lived in this town for almost four years and have never heard any of this. So on Sunday night (4/17) we took Mr. Eddie some cake that my youngest sister (12 y/o) made and try to get as many stories from him as we can to start our investigation. B made Pink Velvet Cheesecake Brownies (in a round cake pan, because . . . tradition). We call them Pinkies. The Pinkies were delicious. Mr. Eddie loved the Pinkies.
While we ate, Mr. Eddie told us many stories about ghosts in Butcherville. They all seemed to revolve around dead husbands and train tracks. A quick Google search at lunch the following day confirmed that most of the "haunts" here (and everywhere in the southern US it seems ) involve either houses or train tracks with a dash of dead husband. Our ghost story does take place near the train tracks, so there's that.
After the Pinkies were eaten, and Mr. Eddie had served us coffee, he told us of his own personal ghostly encounter. He was headed west on one of our "bridge roads" that crosses over the canal north of our house. It was about 10PM (Mr. Eddie has no business out driving at 10PM! At his age?!?!), so he was going even slower than the posted 25MPH. As he approached the bridge, he saw a greenish blue light that he described as hoverin' over the canal, about halfway between the bridge and the train trestle. When he saw the light, he slowed even more as he crossed the bridge, and he rolled down the passenger's side window to see better. He said the light hovered without moving, and he couldn't hear any sound of a train "or any other sound for that matter." He said he wasn't sure how long he looked at the light, but it was still there hovering when headlights flashed behind him, and he knew he had to move on or obstruct traffic.
As we were leaving with bellies full of sugar and hearts filled with hope and caffeine, Mr. Eddie said, "I'm not the only one who's seen the ghost light near the train tracks." And then he gave us the names of two more people who have seen lights there on the canal, though he was quick to add that one of them is now dead and ". . . last I saw Jim, he wasn't lookin' so good."
So, there's Eddie's story such as it is. We were all very excited to think we have a chance to actually see a ghost or . . . something.
Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:04 AM
Deputy Tank Top and a Ghost Named Stinky
Deputy Tank Top:
Almost as soon as Mr. Eddie told us the story about the ghost light, I realized that we were going to need a law-enforcement connection to get anywhere with this "investigation." There is no good place to legally park to walk to the section of canal where he saw the light without parking in someone's yard or beside the "no parking" signs in the neighborhood just to the east of it. We can't get onto the canal at night when the lights are seen, and we have no way to know how frequently people are busted for being on the canal or even if it might have been police lights that he saw—from what people say, the police to patrol the canal regularly. But we don't know anyone in law enforcement . . . and then I remembered Deputy Tank Top.
I am a daily runner early in the morning before work, and often B and C will run with me at least part of the way on weekends. Because I keep a regular jogging schedule, I tend to see the same people every morning. Most of them don't live on our street or the adjacent streets, so I don't know them by name. I have given them names in my head though. There's "Delilah," the woman in her 50s who gets dragged all over the neighborhood by her Bernese Mountain Dogs named Samson. I know the dogs name because he is in a constant sate of nearly pulling her off her feet and she constantly yells after him, "Samson! Samson! Heel Samson! Stop Samson!" and so on. There is also "Heart Attack," a very overweight man in his 40s who jog/walks (good for him!) but constantly looks like he is about to go into cardiac arrest. I also regularly see "Man Dog," a white-haired man who walks his labradoodle, and the two of them look just alike. Uncannily alike. And I regularly see Deputy Tank Top.
Deputy Tank Top lives about three blocks from our house and works for the county Sheriff's Department (I know this because her cruiser is parked out front; I'm not stalking, honest!). She is in fantastic shape, has an arm sleeve of beautiful tattoos, and rocks white tank tops when she jogs . . . in way that, honestly, makes me a little dizzy. Note: if you were sitting in my living room as I typed this, you'd see me on the couch typing this and my two sisters sitting on either side of me reading over my shoulder. They just got to the part about Deputy Tank Top and are giggling and blushing. The teasing will begin any minute . . .
So, I decided Wednesday morning to take Chip (aka Captain Puppers, aka the Froggy Doggy) out for a walk to try to catch Deputy Tank Top before she headed out to work to ask her if she would humor us by answering some questions about the lights. I caught her as she was letting her dog out. So we talked while our dogs sniffed each other's butts,
I introduced myself and told her about Mr. Eddie's story. She smiled and nodded knowingly. Everyone in our neighborhood knows Mr. Eddie; he's lived here since he came home from Vietnam in 1971. I asked Deputy Tank Top if she would talk to my sisters about reports of lights on the canal near the train tracks. I offered to bribe her with coffee and cookies. She agreed and is going to stop by on Sunday (tonight, 4/23). As I was walking away, she said, "You know, one of our lead Deputies apparently had an up-close encounter with the lights back in the 80s and wrote a book about it and other ghosts in Butcherville." Finding that book is now on our list of things to do.
A Ghost Named Stinky:
I've gotten ahead of myself though. Deputy Tank Top makes me do that. Now C is just staring at me and B is still snickering. On Tuesday (4/18) after I got home from work, I grabbed the girls and we headed out to the canal. We parked at the little parking lot beside the canal and began walking toward the train tracks. My jogging app said it was about three miles to the bridge from which Mr. Eddie saw the lights. I'd doubted we would make it there that late in the evening and with it about to rain and us with no dinner yet, but I'd never been down on that end of the canal before, and who doesn't want to take a walk? Chip certainly was excited! We made it to within a mile of the bridge before the threat of rain turned us around, but we did discover a possible clue to the canal lights. It really, really stinks in places. One of the "drains," a smaller canal that intersects with the main canal, may have had a leaking sewer pipe or some sort of sewer vent, because the air near that side canal was filled with the smell of rotten eggs. At the time, I knew nothing about "swamp gas" or sewer gas, but if it is naturally flammable, even a little, that may be what people are seeing. It sure did smell potent. Here is a picture of Canal de Stink:
At some point B suggested we start calling the ghost Mr. Stinky, but C objected on the grounds that it might hurt its feelings and that Mr. might be a Miss or a Mrs. and that regardless we shouldn't say it to his (or her) face, so we all agreed not to call the ghost Mr. Stinky while we are on the canal and/or if she turns out to be a girl.
When we got home, we looked up the spot on Google Maps and snagged the image. On the map below you can see the train tracks in the top right corner and the bridge from which Mr. Edde saw the lights in the bottom left.
Edited by Butchern, 23 April 2017 - 03:16 AM.
Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:12 AM
-It seems clear that methane from swamps and sewers can combust and burn with a blue-green flame.
-When we get within a mile of the spot where the ghost light was seen, we get a strong rotten egg smell from one of the side canals. That could be hydrogen sulfide which is common in sewer gas and is, itself, "explosive."
-The rotten egg smell could be from decaying plant matter in the canal that smells at various times due to changes in water level. That rotten smell is common on just about all the waterways around here.
-It is unlikely to be swamp gas (methane) that causes the light, because the water in the canal typically flows too fast for the proper conditions to be met.
-During heavy rains, the sewer has overflowed into the canal creating a stink, but that hasn't happened yet this year that I could discover.
On our way to the beach yesterday we stopped off at the hardware store to collect some supplies for our home Methane and Hydrogen Sulfide test kits: plastic bottles (for air, water, and marsh samples), small plastic trash bags (to help with collecting air samples), duct tape (for . . . everything), Hydrogen Sulfide test strips, 8 feet of plastic hose (for siphoning gas and water), some fire-resistant work gloves, and kitchen matches.
We plan to take some air, water, and marsh samples from all the drain pipes that dump into the canal near where the ghost lights are seen to test them for combustible gasses. I'm also on the lookout for someone with an professional gas meter that can be used on the area if needed. I know one of our lab techs does home inspections on the side. I'll bet he has one or knows someone who does. The girls are out of school tomorrow so I'm only working a half day. We are going to have dessert with Deputy Tank Top tonight and then visit the canal to run our citizen scientist tests for combustible gasses.
Posted 23 April 2017 - 06:45 AM
Posted 23 April 2017 - 08:09 AM
Posted 23 April 2017 - 12:14 PM
Posted 24 April 2017 - 03:28 PM
Yesterday, we drove up to the canal and parked in the canal parking lot which is about two miles from the spot. We loaded up our amateur science gear and started hiking. It was beautiful and when we got to within about a half-mile south of the bridge, we started our experiments and worked them all the way to the spot where Mr. Eddie and others have seen the lights.
We did have some issues with some of our
And I have the stinky, muddy backpack and t-shirt to commemorate our failure.
As I mentioned above, we are working on procuring professional combustible gas detector and technician to either confirm or exclude "swamp gas" as the cause of the lights people keep seeing in that spot, but our tests turned up nothing. If there was methane at the pipes, in the water, or in the marsh, it was at an undetectable level. We couldn't even get a match to flicker. It was the same with hydrogen sulfide. There was less than 30 PPM (we could smell it), but even when we attempted to collect and condense the gas, we couldn't even get it to flicker a match. It seems unlikely to me at this point that the lights are the result of swamp, marsh, or sewer gas.
Here are some pics from the ghost sighting spot:
The bridge from which Mr. Eddie saw the lights (our backs are to where the lights were).
Mr. Eddie's view (from the ground below the bridge). It was out over this canal that he saw the light.
An up close view of the trestle visible in the picture above.
So, Deputy Tank Top has been promoted to Deputy Dreamy. This was not my doing, I promise. She came over last night to eat monster cookies and drink coffee and had her hair down and was in a sun dress. After she left I may have made the casual comment to my sisters that she "cleans up nicely." And they started giggling and calling her Deputy Dreamy. I take no responsibility for any of that.
Here is what Deputy Dreamy told us.
-Back in the 70s the Butcherville lights made the newspaper when it (they?) was seen by a newspaper reporter.
-In the early 80s they were also seen by TV reporter and made the evening, local news.
-In the mid 80s a deputy sheriff had an "up close encounter" with a ghostly light on the canal and later wrote about his experiences and other ghosts in our town in a book that we have ordered on Amazon.
-In her tenure as a deputy, DD said local law enforcement gets the occasional reports of lights on the canal in or near that spot (two or three a year at most). The police always check it out, but they have never caught anyone trespassing down there, though there is graffiti on the trestle, so someone was down there at some point.
-She also checked for us and said that the local PD checked in a "visual inspection" of that portion of the canal about an hour before Mr. Eddie saw the lights and there was no sign of trespassers or lights. She said "visual inspection" could mean anything from "we walked down there" to "We drove by and shined our lights" depending on the officers and what they had going on that night.
So because we lost all of our marsh samples down my back yesterday, we went back today to get some more. It rained furiously last night, so the swamp was even more swampy than usual. While we were down there getting some samples . . . surprise! Deputy Dreamy pulled up and met up with us! She just turned on her lights and parked on the side of the road by the bridge and got to skip the two mile hike. While climbing down the bank, B, slipped and slid down into the mud. C tried to rescue her and slipped. So I tried to rescue them both and . . . you guessed it, slipped and fell into the mud.
DD just stood up there and laughed and took our picture. To be fair we were laughing too and posed for a portrait. Ghost faces added to protect the muddy.
I'll let you know what we find when we test the marsh samples tomorrow. The book should come tomorrow too.
Posted 24 April 2017 - 05:20 PM
Posted 25 April 2017 - 04:29 PM
And yes, things in our strange little family are going as well as they ever have. I wasn't sure any of us were going to survive our first year together.
We are all work and no play until the weekend. We hope to get some ghost research done this weekend. I'll report back what we find soon.
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