My hometown, an old port town on Lake Erie, called Erie, has seen it's fair share of ghost storied and mysteries. From ghost ships to hauntings, around every corner you can find a take of secrets, mystery and tragedy.
One particular ghost story/mystery we set out to solve.
The picture below is "The Vampire Crypt" in the Erie Cemetery.
It's real name is "The Brown Vault". Not too romantic or mysterious, huh?
Even the employees of the Erie Cemetery call it "The Vampire Crypt" as a joke, because of the strange carving above the entrance (you can't see it well in the picture unfortunately, I'm working on getting a better picture of the carving, but I live 800 ish miles away now, so I'm relying on others)
The mystery of the vault begins with the fact that no name or year is present on the mausoleum. In person you can't even see an impression that something was once there, but the contrast of the black and white film I used to take the picture shows something... it looks like a year... but it's off centered. One could claim that's because paranormal things show up on film where the naked eye can't see it.
The blackened granite also adds to the mystery, the other mausoleums along the path aren't blackened. There's no windows, and the old Victorian architecture and old iron gate lends itself to the nickname of "the Vampire Crypt".
The particular place in the Cemetery also adds to this mystique. It's along a path that's on a ridge, one of many in a row of mausoleums. Trees line behind it as they do across the path, the entire area feels cut off from the rest of the Cemetery, shaded and shadowy even in the daylight. Since most of Erie is on a slope downwards to the Lake, it is on a particular sharp slope, creating a ridge, behind it and across the path not being good areas for actual graves in ground because it's too sharp of a decline. So there is a row of crypts, standing silently in an area that looks and feels different from the rest of the Cemetery.
Ghost stories and rumors circulate about it. The blackened granite is reminiscent of smoke, the odd carving above the door supposed to be a vampire symbol, which has evolved into the mausoleum being "covered in vampire symbols", and the lack of identification on the crypt solidifying the rumor that something paranormal happens there. There is also an odd air in the area.
So here begin to unravel the mystery of the Vampire Crypt.
First and foremost I emailed the general manager of the Erie Cemetery, Mr J Clarke Kuebler. While waiting for a response, we analyzed the photo. The blackened markings on the wall of the vault... what is that? Smoke?
No, it's weathering and acid rain. Erie is an industrial town. It has factories and forges, railroads and a busy street only a few hundred feet away. 26th Street runs not too far at all from the area. It's one of the main roads across town and always busy. I can't tell you how many traffic jams I got caught in on that road.
Also, if you know anything about weathering and acid rain damage, you can see that the markings go downward. Smoke damage goes upwards. You can tell this by looking at the top on either side of the buttress above the entrance. The black marks start in the center, along the buttress, then spread out. That's a downward marking.
As for the 'covered in vampire symbols', there's only one odd marking, the carving above the entrance. That is going to remain a mystery because I'm still waiting on Mr Kuebler to email on my particular question on what that is. I emailed him on a Saturday afternoon, I don't expect an answer right away, he needs to enjoy his weekend.
And what of the lack of identifying names and dates on the vault?
That is still a bit of mystery that may never be truly answered, but I have some good hypotheses on that.
Mr Kuebler was kind enough to give me some basic information and point me in the right direction on how to start unravelling the mystery. He emailed me some of the details of the vault and its occupants.
The mausoleum is owned by Gertrude Brown. However, there appears to be no Brown's interred there. The first person interred there was GW Goodrich, who died on November 14, 1884. Six other people were interred there, three of them were exhumed and moved there from somewhere else after GW Goodrich was interred. These three predeceased GW Goodrich. Two of them were moved from another cemetery, probably Presbyterian cemetery that used to be further downtown.
Now we'll redirect a little bit and explain the Presbyterian cemetery. That was not the official name of the cemetery. It got the name Presbyterian cemetery because in 1826, what was the town's non-denominational burying ground on the south east corner of French and Eighth Streets was purchased by the United Presbyterian Church. At this point, the various churches in Erie started their own burial grounds. It is no longer there, all the graves have been removed.
Now back to our mystery...
Working off of that information, we began researching as to who was the occupants of the vault with GW Goodrich. Using the Erie County Cemetery Association's web site's search option which allows you to search for graves by last name, we found the names of four other occupants of the vault. Mary A Goodrich, who died 03/14/1888. She was not noted as being re interred, and did in fact die after GW Goodrich. Julia A Goodrich, who died 03/24/1856, and was noted on the website as Rem to S. Brown vault 9/14/1888. George C Goodrich, who has no death date listed and was noted on the website as S. Brown vault (Rem from Lot 23 Sec B 9/14/1888). And "Son of A.J. (A.C.?) Goodrich, who died 04/27/1853 and was noted as Rem 9/14/1888 to Brown's vault. No birth dates were given on the website.
So now we knew five of the seven people buried there.
But how did it become in the possession of someone with the last name Brown? Mr Kuebler said the cemetery's records were very vague on how Ms Brown became owner of the vault. The theory is she is somehow a descendant of the Goodrich's.
This we had to know... how does the Brown family figure in? How were the Goodrich's in the vault related? Obviously family, but what relationship?
GW's name is listed on the website as George W Goodrich, which made sense. So we searched Google for GW Goodrich Erie PA. The only mention of the mysterious GW Goodrich was an article from the newspaper about a fire on State Street in February of 1857 that destroyed nearly an entire block. GW Goodrich was listed as owning a 'varity store and bakery' that suffered insignificant damage during the fire. However there was no other information on the life or death of Mr Goodrich available.
So we worked in a different direction... genealogy websites. After hours of researching we came up with nothing. No family trees that included any Goodrich's in Erie. However, there were a number of Goodrich's in Erie. One line that seemed to start with an Emanuel and Nancy Goodrich, then the line that began with George W Goodrich, then a line that started with Chauncey and Jane Goodrich. All these Goodrich's were alive at the same time. All having died in the 1870's or 1880's approximately the same age judging from the death dates. Emanuel and Nancy had the most information as far as cemetery searches go, findagrave.com having recorded their gravestones. So their children and relationships were all available. But the George W and Chauncey Goodrich lines were not. The Erie Cemetery website did give the grave locations of all of them though, Emanuel's line were buried in section A of the cemetery, GW's re interred family were buried in section B which is nearby, obviously. Is there a relationship? I don't know, but I'm inclined to think no. Just because they were close in the cemetery doesn't mean they were related, they just all died near the same time.
Then luck struck. On ancestry.com's message boards, I came across a post that someone had posted just as I was posting to ask for information, giving a website with all of the Goodrich family in America family trees. There we found what we needed, Goodrich's that lived and died in Erie, George Washington Goodrich, his wife Mary Converse, his only son, George Converse, his daughter, Julia Isadore, and a daughter Gertrude. He had a brother named Chauncey with a wife named Jane (Northrop). All the death dates matching.
So we were able to determine that the George C and Julia A (even though the middle initial of Julia doesn't match) were GW's children that had died young.
But now, how does the Brown family play in?
It seems that George and Mary had one child that didn't die young. Gertrude... and the Goodrich Family website gives her husband's name, Thomas Brown, who was once listed as owner of the Brown Vault.
Mystery of the Brown family... solved. Gertrude was the only surviving child, married into the Brown family so the vault passed into her name.
Why the re interments?
It's just speculation, however the most plausible answer can be found in two ways. Erie Cemetery opened in 1850, previously people were buried elsewhere.Son of A.J or A.C died in 1853, which was after the Erie Cemetery was opened, but he was originally buried in section B the re interred. George C died (according to the Goodrich Family website) September 2, 1844, before the Erie Cemetery was opened. Julia died March 24, 18556, after the cemetery opened, but no plot that she was removed from was listed on the Cemetery website, so we have to assume she was originally buried next to her brother in another cemetery.
Presbyterian cemetery is no longer there, as we said. When it was closed, I don't know, but that is another step in the mystery that will be solved. The cemetery was closed, that could be part of the reasoning why Julia and George C were moved, but more likely it was that Mrs Gertrude Brown wanted all her immediate family together.
One has to assume that GW was the one who built the mausoleum, although the cemetery has no records that the Goodrich's originally owned it, but it's safe to assume they did. It makes most sense. GW built the mausoleum with the intention of moving his family there. More research needs to be done on this though. We don't know when the mausoleum was actually built, probably before GW died though.
You could say the mausoleum has a bit of an unfinished feel to it, possibly that's why the names and dates are missing from the exterior of the mausoleum. Maybe it was being built as GW died and never properly finished? A few months after Mary died, Gertrude had the rest of the family moved to the mausoleum, all at the same time, some from across town, some from the same cemetery... before the weather went bad? Or was it in compliance of her father's or mother's will or wishes? Was it because Presbyterian cemetery, the supposed location of her brother and sister was closing and the interments were going to be removed anyway? Why did the surviving child of the Goodrich's move her family suddenly and all on the same day to the crypt....
And who are the other two occupants of the mausoleum? That we don't know. It certainly isn't Gertrude and Thomas Brown, in fact we can't find where they were buried. However, Mr Kuebler probably can answer that. All we can say for certain is the other two interments in the vault are not Goodrich's. No Brown's are listed as being in the vault either. We're going to search other families later, though.
The mystery still remains, to an extent, we still need to find out what the supposed "vampire symbol" is and why the names aren't on the exterior, and the other occupants of the vault. However, I think we laid to rest the ghost story, GW Goodrich wasn't a vampire, just built an mausoleum for his family that didn't fit the style of the other ones around him... and that mausoleum was subject to the elements.
I think that once we do some research on the 'vampire symbol" it may explain more about GW's tastes. The vault is actually in a Classic Revival style that fits in with the 1880's style, a bit ahead of the time, but still, it was gaining popularity.
Is the vault haunted? Probably.... we being the type who believe in ghosts are willing to believe there's something there, but I don't think the spirits surrounding the crypt are malevolent. Is the Goodrich family a bunch of vampires? Probably not. We'll see when Mr Kuebler gives us more information on the carving. Personally, I think the carving looks Masonic. Vampire seekers and paranormal fanatics tend to believe anything Victorian is 'vampire' but the mausoleum itself is just standard Victorian design.
Currently... we're waiting to see if Mr Kuebler can get a better picture of the carving. He said he'd see if he could get one. However, with the weather up there, he can take all the time he needs, I wouldn't send him out there in this heat! Tomorrow though, we're going to look into the Presbyterian cemetery, see if we can find some information on that. I did find some more information on Mary Goodrich's family, the Converse's. One remaining Goodrich is buried where 'Son of' was removed from, Sarah, not sure of the relationship though. However, where she is buried the Converse family is also buried. One little wicked temptation to the myths. The Goodrich's are all from New England. They are of English decent, but have been primarily in New England until the early 1800's. As are the Converse's. Granted that area of Pennsylvania attracted a lot of old New England families. But the Goodrich's have been in New England for a very long time.
Many many thanks to Pastor Swope for the picture of the mausoleum's 'v' symbol! I'm putting it here in this post too as an update so both pictures are together.
I'm still trying to sort out what the symbolism is on that. I don't remember seeing a flower quite like that before, but I'm thinking it might be a lily.
I'm going to dig into the symbolism as soon as I get a chance, I've looked over some pages briefly but haven't seen a flower like that on any of them.
However, those flowers you can see on the pillars, those are dogwood flowers I believe. ( I have to double check)