Over the past couple years, the History Channel started showing specials dealing with particularly haunting subjects. In 2007 we were treated with the first collection that dealt with hauntings, vampires, witches, and ghosts. It was released on DVD about a month before Halloween that year and you can actually check out my review of that first volume here. About two months before Halloween in 2008, the second volume was released on DVD and it dealt with zombies, haunted houses, and even Frankenstein. My review for the second set can be read here. I was a bit concerned when the third volume came out in January as opposed to around Halloween when the first two came out, but the series kept rolling with more great stuff. The time has come now for volume four and you can bet your haunted boots that it’s up to me to review it.
This fourth installment in the series takes a nice approach that is different from anything we have seen so far. Instead of going with old legends or particular groups of things; A&E travels to different locations to touch upon their haunted history on a whole as a place. From the Old West to the sandy beaches of Hawaii; there are always tales to be told and memories to be shared. But that also means there are sure to be ghosts and spirits waiting around as well.
Disc One: Haunted Tombstone
Our first stop is the historic town of Tombstone, Arizona that just looks like it has a million stories to tell just by arriving in it. Made famous by the role it played in the way back days of the Old West; Tombstone is a city that has plenty of history just by the tales that could be told of cowboys and their arch-enemies Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp. Instances from those times even inspired the fantastic western by the very appropriate name of Tombstone. Gunfights at the local saloon or maybe just out in the street were common occurrences that never appeared out of the ordinary, but are now causing odd occurrences to take place so many years later.
Certain places and buildings in Tombstone are said to be haunted by the spirits of those that lost their lives in gun fights, battles at the dance hall, or even through fits of rage by jealous lovers. Two of the more interesting places showcased in this special were the Buford Bed and Breakfast and the San Jose Boarding House. The Buford home has everything from spirits appearing before guests to mysterious lights just illuminating certain areas of rooms from time to time. The San Jose Boarding House though has seen even spookier happenings as the room often frequented by Doc Holiday sees the most action. Drive-thru tenants have witnessed the front door repeatedly opening as well as noises coming from the bathroom. And don’t dare try to take a souvenir photo with a friend in that room because chances are that one of you won’t even show up. The Old West is full of tall tales, but you can double that amount when you bring up the supernatural.
Disc Two: Haunted Washington D.C.
When it comes to our nation’s capital, the thing that first crosses the minds of many is the great amount of politics and power that have populated the district for years. The Washington Monument towers in the distance as a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln sits not far away from the most famed residence in the world, the White House. Yet with all the historical facts and figures that can be read in textbooks and countless other reading materials; one must not forget that Washington D.C. is actually a lot more crowded then suspected. Senators, representatives, and the rest of the governing bodies are joined by the lives lost throughout time in the monumental buildings that adorn the area.
The capital has long been the central point for much rejoicing as well as plenty of controversy. Our tour takes us through a handful of locations but one of the most intriguing is the uniquely shaped Octagon House that actually only has six sides. Occupied by numerous figures and families throughout time; it is said that a young woman who once lost her life by falling to her death in the stairwell can still be seen lurking around at times. The shadow of her candle can be seen ascending the stairs and then her screams heard just like when she plunged to her demise. Another great tale tells of a time during the Civil War when one of Abraham Lincoln’s close personal friends Elmer Ellsworth was doing the Union proud by removing a Confederate flag from the outside of a hotel in Arlington. Little did Ellsworth know that James Jackson, the tavern owner, was at home and soon took the life of the Union supporter. Jackson’s life was immediately ended by a Union soldier as well. It’s said that the battle between the North and the South continues to wage on as the spirits of Ellsworth and Jackson are still seen wandering around the tavern.
Disc Three: Haunted Savannah
Savannah, Georgia has a vast and deep history no matter what you may be talking about. One can go around the city and probably hear a great story about every single building they come across. Sit down and watch your copy of Gone With the Wind and see the beauty of a city that simply needed to have every inch shown so nothing was missed. But when you’re in the heart of the South such as Savannah is and have generated such a rich history, it seems as if it is inevitable that there are going to be tales of mystery and intrigue along with plenty of spirits never wanting to leave.
A number of locations are checked out during our visit to one of the most beautiful cities in the nation including the only remaining eighteenth century mansion known as the Olde Pink House still haunted by past tenants. One of the most interesting segments in this entire collection rests on this DVD, though, and it entails the restoring of Savannah. Over time, parts of the city have been neglected and left to sadly just deteriorate. Preservationists have come out thankfully and began restoring some of the older homes and even moving them to different locations so that they could intact and preserved. What is interesting though is that a lot of the tales and spirits went along with the homes during the moves and still rest inside them. Obviously there are some restless souls if they are willing to travel along with the home no matter where it may now reside.
Disc Four: Haunted Hawaii
When it comes time to rest and find a beautiful place to leave all your worries behind and do nothing but relax on a beautiful beach; then what better place the gorgeous islands of Hawaii? Hawaii has been labeled one of the most enchanting places in the world to go to or live in, but little know that it is also one of the most haunted. Still it is an ideal vacation spot for millions every single year even though there actual lives and sanity may be in danger thanks to the countless stories and restless spirits that inhabit not just the buildings but all parts of the islands.
The special on Hawaii is not without shrouds of mystery or even a good bit of fear. From the volcano Goddess of Fire, Pele to the Maori warriors roaming through the forests and on some of the beaches; Hawaii is full of things to scare you out of your wits as you lay in a hammock for some peace and quiet. Another one of the most interesting legends is here on this DVD and it pertains to the “choking ghosts.” These ghosts appear to the locals or traveling businessmen as shadowy figures and as the victims-to-be are right in between consciousness and sleep. Those that have experienced it have told that they find it hard to breathe and can’t even move to do anything about it. Quite a frightening experience and might make you question where you book your next vacation.
Disc Five: Haunted Chicago
The “Windy City” seems to always be in the news whether it is for a big business deal, the ever-changing weather, or one of the overly-inept sports teams (sorry Chicago-ites). Full of tall buildings and hard-working people, Chicago has been the showcase for countless moments of tragedy as well as mysterious gangsters that did anything and everything they wanted no matter what the cost. It is a city that is said to have not only millions of residents but maybe even more spirits that still wander around hoping to one day find their eternal rest.
St. James Cemetery is a place that has headstone after headstone telling of the final resting places of many that come through Chicago. But while the bodies may lay at rest, the souls continue to stalk the cemetery grounds as remorseful souls merely trying to atone for the wrongdoings done during their lifetimes. Take that into consideration if ever you should want a tour of St. James Cemetery. Chicago also has the distinct disadvantage of owning a tale of one of the memorable tragedies in human history and it is so aptly named the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Al Capone and Bugs Moran were bitter enemies and made sure to keep fighting to the bitter end. Even though the building no longer stands where it all took place; souls of the lives lost during that fateful night back in 1929 still wander the area. Not the most romantic place to take your loved one on the day for sweethearts because you might never get any alone time.
The episodes are shown in Full Frame format and look really good. The recreations (of which there are thankfully few) are shown in good light with bright colors making them some of the better looking segments. Interview portions also look good, but not like there could be much bad about them in the first place. Old footage and photographs sometimes come about with a washed look to them, but that is to be expected with their age.
The episodes are heard in Stereo Sound and more then do an adequate job for this series. Everything can be heard clearly and nicely without any hiss or volume problems.
A&E and the History Channel have done a phenomenal job with this series so far and I am extremely happy to have reviewed all four volumes so far. It isn’t even necessarily the idea of each volume being better then the last, but they have all stayed consistently good. My excitement was taken up a notch with volume four because it went in a bit of a different route then the others by straying from regular aspects of horror and focusing this time on locations. One thing that threw me off was the packaging here because I understand condensing space, but when one case has two discs in their own spaces and one case has three discs stacked literally on top of one another…that kind of bugs me. A small complaint though in an otherwise great gathering of haunted places that should make anyone’s “future vacation destination” list.
A&E Home Video presents Haunted Histories Collection: America’s Most Haunted Places. Starring: Various. Running time: 250 minutes on 5 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: August 25, 2009. Available at Amazon.com