Monday, October 29, 2012

Witches and Ghostly Wisps -- Oh My!

When I wrote The Diva Haunts the House, I immersed myself in all things spooky and ghostly. To that end, I visited a haunted sanatorium, St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital, in Radford, Virginia. My friend, Amy, who is always game for interesting adventures agreed to go with me.

My father worked in the radiology department at St. Albans when I was a child. I still have a vivid memory going there with him once. The front doors closed behind us and locked before the doors in front of us opened. That's a very eerie feeling. One that I didn't experience again until I visited someone in jail.

The hospital was abandoned some years ago. Originally built as a boys' school in 1892, it's a huge, sprawling building that sits high on a hill. From the other side of the river, it looks, or used to look, like an elegant mansion.

These days, it's downright spooky with broken windows and peeling paint. But remnants of former beauty remain -- the broad main staircase and huge moldings hint at better times for the building.

St. Albans has been the focus of a number of paranormal investigations, some of which you may have seen on television.  It even has its own Facebook page and Twitter page!  

This amazing video was taken at St. Albans by Grave Concerns Paranormal.  

Seven Hills Paranormal Society says St. Albans is the most active site they have investigated.  They specifically mention shadow people and unexplained noises.  Investigators from Seven Hills, as well as many other individuals, have reported that someone touched them when no one else was there.  Hearing voices and footsteps is not uncommon.  Assorted paranormal investigators have recorded eerie electronic voice phenomenon and have seen apparitions.

It's a little bit creepy to visit a haunted site to begin with and St. Albans certainly doesn't need any dressing up to make it scary. There are narrow stairways, and lock down wards, and plenty of stories about water that turns on and off, and people who felt someone touch them. Nurses are said to have spent their shifts sitting on the stairs at night, checking on patients only when necessary. It would be easy for someone unfamiliar with the building to get lost, which would be scary indeed.

The photo above was taken when the lights were turned off in the bowling alley. I thought for sure that if anything weird showed up in my photographs, it would be there. As you can see, there's nothing sinister.

So Amy and I drove home, sad to see the state of the old building. Neither of us heard anything odd, felt a cold entity, or were "touched" by a ghost. End of story, right?

A year later, I pulled out the photos that I took, looking for some to use. It was the first time I had viewed them full screen. Maybe we weren't as alone as we thought!
This is radiology. Do you see the wisp in the air at 11 o'clock?

This is the wisp enlarged. You can see that it is partly in front of the open cabinet door, so it's not a stain on the wall.

Fear not, the ghosts haven't made me forget a recipe! This frosting makes enough for witch cupcakes but if you are like my friend who thinks the cake is really only something to hold the frosting, then you might want to double the recipe.

Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)

1 cup flour
1/2 cup high quality unsweetened powdered chocolate like Pensey’s
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups minis

Combine flour, powdered chocolate, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and blend well with a small whisk or a fork.

Cream butter with sugar. Add each egg and beat well. Add the flour mixture in small amounts, alternating with the milk. Beat in the vanilla.

Divide between cupcake papers, filling each about 3/4 full. Insert a Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the center of each cupcake and push down into the cupcake batter just a bit. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Allow butter to come to room temperature. Cream it with the peanut butter. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until desired consistency is reached.

Witch Cupcakes

These can be made with any cupcake. I added a little bit of turmeric to the frosting to give the witches a yellowish tint, but green would be very cute, too.

I have to say that these were fun to make and very easy. If you baked the cupcakes and made the frosting ahead of time, this would be a fun project for kids. I would just set bowls of the candies on the table and let them create. I bet they would come up with spectacular witches!

Tootsie Rolls
Green Mini M&Ms
Red Jolly Ranchers
Peel and Strip Twizzlers
Mini chocolate chips

Twist an Oreo cookie apart. Scrape off the white middle and save. Cut each cookie in half.

Roll out a Tootsie Roll. If it sticks to your cutting board, just slide a knife underneath it to loosen. Cut a triangle for the top of the hat.

Place one half of an oreo cookie about 1/3 of the way down as the brim of the hat. Place the hat above it. I bent them a little bit to add character.

Add two green mini M&Ms as eyes.

 Mold two small pieces of leftover Tootsie Roll as eyebrows. If you place them close together and slant them a little, they look menacing.

 Cut off a tiny bit of the Oreo middle and mold it into a cone for the nose.

 Cut a thin piece off a red Jolly Rancher and mold it into a frown. Add strands of Twizzler for hair, and of course, a mini chocolate chip wart.

 When I was all through, I was disappointed by my grouchy group of witches.

So I turned their frowns upside down and lifted their eyebrows. Much better! These are exactly the same cupcakes.

Witches not right for your little goblins? The instructions for my Vampire Cupcakes are over at Cozy Mystery Book Reviews.


  1. I'll take a dozen of each, thanks! I have seen the paranormal investigations of St. Albans. I think that one of those groups should invite the Long Island Medium to go with them so she can tell them just WHAT those ghosts are trying to say! Works for me!~~Nurse JudyMac

    1. Sending witches and vampires your way! LOL! Wish I could, Judy.

      St. Albans is gaining some notoriety. In fact, it was slated to be razed last winter but the interest in the building's spirits helped them raise enough money to save it.

      I love Teresa Caputo! Wonder if she'd talk to the spirits there . . .

      ~ Krista

    2. Krista, they "raised money so the buildings didn't have to be "razed". Love it!

  2. These are adorable, Krista. You and yours stay safe in the storm!

    1. Thanks, Wendy! It has started snowing here. Heaven knows what will happen when the storm comes closer.

      ~ Krista

  3. Krista, I love the story and definitely see the wisps. There are times I truly believe in ghosts, though I've never had a close encounter. :) Love the tale behind a tale. And adore the cupcakes! Superb!

    ~Daryl aka Avery

    1. Thanks, Daryl. The cupcakes were such fun to decorate!

      It wasn't until I posted this that I saw the sinister head in the bowling alley picture. Do you see it?

      ~ Krista, imagining things now

  4. I definitely saw the wisps. But then I do believe in ghosts! Wonderful cupcakes--such fun for a party!

    1. So you think there was a ghost in the room with us?

      ~ Krista

  5. Great Halloween story, Krista. Those cupcakes are adorable--sure to be the hit of any party. As for that wisp, it appears to be supernatural to me, but then I believe in ghosts, too!

    Here's hoping protective spirits are around for everyone in the path of Sandy. Be safe, Krista - and everyone! And Happy Halloween!

    ~ Cleo

    1. Thanks, Cleo. Lots of believers in this group!

      Hang on, Cleo. I'm afraid you're going to get the worst of the storm. Stay safe!

      ~ Krista

  6. Just finished your book the Diva Haunts the House, of course I enjoyed it! I am going to try a couple of the recipes for Halloween. I'll have to add the cupcakes too.
    Hope your safe & dry,
    God Bless,
    Helena Georgette

    1. I'm so glad that you liked the book! Hope the recipes were to your liking, too!

      ~ Krista

  7. Krista,

    I went on a Haunted Tour of Leesburg, VA, which has many ghosts from the Civil War. In one house we toured, I didn't understand or believe the story the guide was telling us. It seemed to me that the facts didn't add up and that the "poor" female ghost could have been a murderer. It was almost as if the ghost could read my mind or feel my skepticism because I detected a hostile force in the room that wanted me gone! I left and noted that others felt unwelcome too, only proving the old adage that you can fool some of the people, some of the time, but not all of the people all the time. I was glad we ticked her off!

    1. Oh, that's scary! Amy and I didn't feel anything hostile or sinister. I think that would really frighten me.

      ~ Krista

  8. Cool picture, Krista. Last week I blogged about my experiences in this vein. It was titled Events Without a Scientific Explanation and is in the archives of the Writers Who Kill blog site. I wrote about the ghost who haunted my house as well as my grandparents house and some other strange things I've experienced. So yes, I believe. If you have time go to
    I just wish I had pictures to go with it.

    1. You've had some eerie experiences, Gloria. We've had some similar incidents in my family, but not nearly as many. Fascinating about the train going to the mountains!

      ~ Krista

  9. I think the cupcakes are cute with the frowns or smiles. I enjoyed your recent newsletter, too. I even survived seeing those "severed" fingers again!

    1. Christi, next year I *have* to remember that not everyone thinks those fingers are as amusing as I do!

      I think the frowny cucpakes might be better for older kids. Young ones might like the friendly witches better.

      ~ Krista