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The Bizarre Haunting of Black Hope Cemetery

Back in the 1980s the city of Houston, Texas was experiencing a major influx of new citizens pouring into the region, and to accommodate all of these people there was major construction of housing subdivisions in the outlying areas. One of these was called the Newport Subdivision, which was created just outside of Houston in Crosby, Texas. It was a charming, upscale development, with beautiful new homes and well-manicured lawns, and it seemed like a postcard perfect image of the American dream. However, beneath the shiny veneer of this well-to-do slice of peaceful suburbia there were dark secrets and roiling supernatural forces.

One of the first families to move into the brand new subdivision was Sam and Judith Haney, who purchased the house of their dreams here in 1982. At first they couldn’t have been happier, as it was the house they had always dreamed of living in, and there was not much to hint at the ominous secrets this place held. However, things began to get odd when they decided to put in a swimming pool on their property, and right after the construction crew began making preparations to dig the pool they received a very strange visitor in the form of an elderly man calling himself Jasper Norton, who told them that there were graves under there and that they should not go through with their plans. Sam Haney would say of the surreal encounter:

This elderly man told me that he had noticed that we were putting a swimming pool in our backyard and that there was something about our backyard that I needed to know about. So I followed him around to my backyard and he pointed at the ground and said that there are some graves right here. And he marked a spot on the ground where they were. And I really didn’t know how to react to that. I didn’t know if he was just joking. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to joke about something like that.

Entrance to the Newport Subdivision

Norton went on to explain that he had been the one to bury the bodies there himself when he was a teenager, and that unbeknownst to any of the people moving into the subdivision the land had once been a cemetery mostly for African American former slaves, called “Black Hope Cemetery,” the last of its burials having been in 1939. According to him there were at least 60 pauper’s graves still in the area, and the housing subdivision had simply been built over the former cemetery without moving the bodies, the housing developers merely covering it all up and forgetting all about it. As creepy as this was, Haney did not put much stock in these spooky old tales, but just to be sure he grabbed a shovel and began to dig in the spot that Norton had specified, soon finding out for himself that it was more than just local lore.

As Haney dug, his shovel hit something made of wood, and it was not long before the couple had unearthed two wooden boxes with human remains inside of them, with one of the bodies still wearing two wedding rings. Authorities were notified and with some digging into local records it was found that the corpses belonged to two former freed slaves named Betty and Charles Thomas, who had died in the 1930s. The couple were shocked that they had unwittingly desecrated these two graves, and went about reburying the two bodies where they had found them. Unfortunately for them and the dozens of other families who had moved into the area, this would be the start of a rash of strange paranormal phenomena that would grip the entire development.

For the Haney’s it began soon after they had dug up and reburied those two bodies, when Judith Haney noticed that their wall clock was glowing blue and making strange sparks, all the stranger when she found that someone had unplugged it. She would then have other experiences such as feeling a strange sensation of being watched and hearing the sliding door open and close even when no one else was at home at the time. On another occasion Judith went to go get her red shoes from the closet, but found that they were gone. The couple looked everywhere for them, but ended up finding them in the last place they would have expected, perched upon the graves that had been dug up. Eerily enough they would then learn that that day had been Betty Thomas’ birthday, and Sam would explain of the strange incident:

So, of course, I started looking for them and went through all of her closets where she normally puts things. And we just couldn’t find them. We had walked just a short distance from where the gravesites were and I could see something on the grave. And they were both side-by-side like someone had just picked them up and carried them over and laid them down on the gravesite. And I kinda got the feeling that it was like Charlie was giving Betty a birthday present.

In the meantime, other families in the subdivision began experiencing various strange phenomena as well. One of the neighbors of the Haneys was a couple named Ben and Jean Williams, who began to notice that all of the flowers in their yard had started to inexplicably die off for reasons they could not figure out, and which would keep dying no matter what they did. There were also coffin-shaped sinkholes that had begun to form on their property, which would eerily reappear no matter how many times the couple refilled the holes. In addition to this their house was besieged with all sorts of paranormal activity, including potent cold spots even in the middle of summer, faucets that would turn on or off by themselves, toilets flushing by themselves, footsteps when no one was there, doors opening and closing on their own, shadowy figures that would vanish into thin air, disembodied murmuring voices, a rancid stench that would appear and disappear for no reason, and a general feeling of dread, unease, and menace that pervaded the entire home like a cloud.

Jean would later say, “I absolutely believe that all of these things happened to us because we were on the graveyard, and that we were simply going to be tormented until we left there.” They talked about moving away, but they had no money for a new home and so decided to stay and see if anything could be done, much to the apparent displeasure of whatever was terrorizing them. Indeed, the frightening occurrences grew in intensity and maliciousness, and Ben Williams describes one of the most terrifying of these, saying:

I came home from work around ten after twelve from the midnight shift, and I walked straight to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and that’s when I seen these two ghostly figures. And they went straight backwards into the den. And then they started heading right down the hall to Jean’s. And it was standing right about a foot and a half from the end of the bed. The only thing I really thought of was, ‘They ain’t messing with me wife.’ As I dove through it, I felt a sticky cold sensation in my body.

After learning of the fact that the development had been built over a cemetery, the Williamses became convinced that a gnarled oak tree in their yard into which had been carved an arrow and some lines was some sort of grave marker. The tree and its etchings had been there since they had moved in and they had never given it much thought, but with the realization of the cemetery it had been cast in an ominous new light. They ended up seeking legal action against the housing developer, accusing them of failure to disclose the fact that their home was built upon a graveyard, but they were told they would have to prove that there were bodies buried on their property in order for the accusations to stick. Ben, his wife, and their daughter Tina then went about digging around that creepy old oak tree, convinced they would find a body there, but both Jean and Tina were overcome by an inexplicable illness and had to stop, with Tina then being rushed to the hospital to die of a massive heart attack. The family were sure that the tragic death had been caused by whatever forces were haunting the area and finally moved away to Montana, eventually moving back to Texas and writing a book on their experiences called The Black Hope Horror, which was later made into the movie The Grave Secrets.

The Haneys also took it upon themselves to seek legal action against the developers as well, and it did not go much better for them. They were at first awarded a large cash award of $142,000, but the decision was overturned when a judge found the developer without guilt. In the end, the Haneys were saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in court fees and didn’t see a dime, forcing them to file for bankruptcy. They would be penniless when they finally moved away from their accursed land, their dream having become a nightmare.

It doesn’t seem as thought this was the end of the strange occurrences on this land, though. Although the current owners of the house where the Haneys used to live have reported nothing odd, other families in the neighborhood have had some odd stories to tell. One resident of the Williams’ former home has claimed that she heard a sound “like a cougar” outside her window, but when she went to see what it was nothing was there. The house a few doors down has reported strange electrical disturbances, and another neighbor has claimed that doors slam shut mysteriously even with no draft or wind present, as well as the sensation of a hand upon the shoulder. The mother of the owner of the home, a Jan Clark, has also said her granddaughter complained of seeing “the brown man” in her room, once saw a black orb cross the room, and has said of another weird incident:

Another time, I had gone to the restroom with my granddaughter, Taylor. She had run out, leaving me in the restroom alone and something like a man’s voice, breathed real heavy, real close to me. I got out of there and quick. To this day, I try not to go back in there and use that restroom anymore. There is something to this. Some people won’t talk about it because they don’t want to be considered crazy, or they just don’t care to know the truth.

Still another family in the vicinity has had their own spooky encounters, such as Venay Luna, who says she has had several inexplicable experiences here. On one occasion she says that her husband’s slippers flew out of his hand and that their dog had been found hovering in the air. She also says that her grandmother will see strange apparitions lurking about, of which she explains:

Grandma always says that there is a dark lady that comes to her and she doesn’t know why. Then sometimes she says that there are children in her room and she can’t sleep because they are keeping her awake.

Other families have conversely reported nothing strange at all, and it is enough to make one wonder just what is going on here. It is a fact that there was a cemetery here and that the developers either didn’t know or didn’t care when they paved it over to make their housing subdivision. The question is, did any of this spawn the ghostly activity said to congregate around here? Were these spirits disturbed and possibly very angry about the desecration of their graves? No one can really know, but one thing that can be said here is that when building a housing development it might be a good idea to just follow the typical rules of thumb; don’t build on Indian burial grounds or really any gravesites until the bodies have properly been moved.