“Thousands Dead,” “Hundreds Missing,” “Entire City Gone.” Natural disasters are synonymous with death and destruction, but when coverage wanes and the initial shock wears off, other, more unusual, stories emerge: tales of ghosts. Here are 10 natural disasters, some modern and some not, that reportedly left hauntings in their wake.
2011 Christchurch Earthquake
According to the director of Christchurch Paranormal Investigators, paranormal claims jumped 120% following the disaster. People began hearing strange noises, seeing weird shadows, and feeling touches from unseen entities. One prominent man claimed a ghost attacked him.
The strange events continue nearly four years later. In January 2015, The New Zealand Herald reported that Pakistan cricket player Haris Sohail awoke in terror one night, convinced that a ghost had pushed him. In town for the Cricket World Cup, Sohail and his teammates were staying at Rydges Latimer Christchurch. Sohail demanded another room, and the hotel complied, but the player was so ‘freaked out’ that he couldn’t train for two days.
Rydges Latimer is just 100 meters from the former site of the CTV building (above) which collapsed in the 2011 quake, killing 115 people. Could Sohail’s experience and the CTV tragedy be related?
“Pakistan Cricket Player Haris Sohail ‘Traumatised’ by Supernatural Presence in Christchurch Hotel Room” – New Zealand Herald
“Christchurch: City’s Spirit Lives On” – New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
2013 Moore Tornado
On May 20, 2013, an EF5 tornado roared through Moore, OK, leveling entire neighborhoods and killing 24 people. Seven of the victims were elementary school children, including nine-year-old Nicolas McCabe. However, Scott McCabe, Nicolas’s father, insists his son is still around.
In November 2013, an Oklahoma news station reported that Scott claimed his son appeared in a photo taken on the Fourth of July. The photo shows Nicolas’s cousin Madison playing with sparklers while a blurred face hovers in the background (left). Scott is certain the blurred face is his son’s.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” McCabe said of his reaction to the photo. “My brother, when he saw it, said the hair stood up on the back of his neck.”
Skeptics say the image is nothing more than motion blur or a faulty camera phone, but McCabe is unconvinced.
“I feel it, you know. I feel that he’s here. They can say what they want. I believe. I believe he’s watching over us.”
“Moore Family See Guardian Angel in Photo” – News 9
1991 Antofagasta Landslide
On June 18, 1991, a sudden mudslide swept away large portions of Antofagasta, Chile, killing over 100 people and leaving thousands homeless. According to a local paper, victims of the disaster continue to haunt Antofagasta and neighboring villages.
In 2005, the newspaper Las Ultimas Noticias of Santiago de Chile reported that nocturnal screams and sobs ring throughout Villa Los Salares, a village near Antofagasta that was home to half of the landslide’s victims. There are also tales of a ghost boy, a child in white who wanders the village and passes through solid objects.
“A few weeks ago, I saw a little boy dressed in white, about four years old,” a man named Luis told the paper. “He passed right through the gate without any effort. My oldest son also saw it. He told me that he felt chills, and, when he went to the window, the little boy was staring at him.”
Other eerie events in the village include levitating glasses, disembodied sobs, and floating apparitions.
“Chilean Town Haunted by Landslide Victims’ Ghosts” – Las Ultimas Noticias of Santiago de Chile via Godlike Productions
1910 Wellington Avalanche
Just after one a.m. on March 1, 1910, an avalanche smashed into a railway depot in Wellington, WA, throwing trains 150 feet downhill and killing 96 people. Many of the victims’ bodies could not be retrieved until 21 weeks after the disaster. The avalanche was the deadliest in U.S. history, and now many paranormal investigators believe Wellington is one of Washington’s most haunted locations.
Legend has it a ghostly woman wanders the area, humming and singing, but never staying in one place long. Some visitors hear children playing, even when there are no children around. Disembodied screams and voices are also common. One woman was so struck by Wellington’s ghosts that she wrote a book on the subject, Avalanche of Spirits.
“After the things that I have experienced there, I am a believer,” author Karen Frazier said of her time at Wellington. “A century later, they’re still trying to find their way home.”
“Ghost Hunters to Stake Out Site of 1910 Disaster” – The Herald
2011 Joplin Tornado
Over 150 people died after an EF5 tornado tore through Joplin, MO on May 22, 2011. At least one family wonders if victims of the disaster now haunt the city.
In a 2013 episode of Syfy’s Haunted Collector, a man named Bob Wilson and his family discussed strange activity at their home. It seems that whenever someone took a photo of an old mirror they owned, odd lines and shapes appeared in the glass. The family also conducted an EVP session during a paranormal investigation and asked if victims of the Joplin tornado were near. When they played back the recording, they heard a faint voice and shuffling sounds on the stairs. According to one author and researcher, many Joplin first responders noticed strange activity after rendering aid to tornado victims. Bob Wilson assisted with a rescue. Did something follow him home?
The Joplin tornado also spawned tales of butterfly people, beautiful guardian angels who saved potential victims from certain death. Soon after the twister, tales of the butterfly people spread across Joplin, leading many to believe in miracles.
“‘Haunted Collector’ Travels To Joplin, Missouri To Help Family Impacted By 2011 Tornado” – Huffington Post
“The Butterfly People of Joplin” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
2010 Chile Earthquake
On February 27, 2010, a massive earthquake rocked the coast of central Chile, killing hundreds and splitting entire buildings in half. It was the sixth largest earthquake ever recorded and triggered a huge tsunami which devastated several towns. Tales of ghosts soon followed.
In Constitucion, people claimed to see eerie shadows near a bridge where 12 people had lost their lives. They also heard unexplained footsteps and whispers in the dark. Other survivors noticed the screens of their cell phones suddenly lighting up, as if an incoming call was imminent. Yet the calls never came.
Around two months after the quake, Chilean newspapers reported that survivors in affected regions heard the anguished cries of the dead. The sounds came from a forest where some 30 people had died while camping.
“It’s the people who died here. They’re asking to be found and given a burial,” said construction worker Juan Morales.
“Psychologists Explain Ghost Sightings After Chilean Earthquake” – Santiago Times via Ghost Theory
“Ghosts Reported After Chilean Earthquake” – El Mercurio via Inexplicata
2005 Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina roared over the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, destroying homes and triggering a catastrophic levee failure in New Orleans. Over 1,800 people died, making Katrina one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history.
Just 17 days after the disaster, members of the National Guard spoke about a ghostly child they encountered at an evacuated school in New Orleans.
“I was in my sleeping bag, and I opened my eyes, and in the doorway was a little girl,” Sgt. Robin Hairston told San Francisco’s CBS 5. “It wasn’t my imagination.”
One guard heard a little girl laughing. Another saw a small shadow looming over her in the bathroom. There were no children to be found.
In 2013, the crew of Ghost Adventures investigated a former bordello in New Orleans. Host Zak Bagans believes a Katrina victim spoke through the ghost box, naming the storm as his or her killer. That same year, the owner of a New Orleans burger joint claimed a Katrina ghost brought bad luck to his business.
“Guardsmen Sense Ghostly Presence in New Orleans” – CBS 5
“Hurricane Katrina Victim Haunting New Orleans Burger Joint?” – WGNO
2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
On March 11, 2011, a massive undersea quake triggered a huge tsunami that roared over the coast of Japan. Over 18,000 people died in the disaster, and 2,600 bodies were never recovered. Survivors have reported seeing victims’ ghosts ever since.
Journalist Kahoku Shimpo is intrigued by such tales. And there are many. There’s the mother who lost her son and later noticed his toys moving on their own. There’s the cab driver whose passenger disappeared mid-ride. The driver kept on and discovered that the passenger’s address was nothing but an empty lot, his home wiped away by the tsunami. There’s also the firefighters who kept answering calls for homes on a certain street, only to discover the homes had been lost in the tidal wave. Once firefighters prayed for the victims, the calls stopped.
According to Shimpo, some doctors in the disaster zone claim that 20% of their patients have seen a ghost since the tsunami. In 2013, a few of these witnesses appeared on a television show about bereaved family members who believe they’ve seen tsunami victims’ ghosts.
“Journalist Researches Ghost Stories of Relatives Bereaved by 2011 Tohoku Disaster” – Japan Today
“Ghosts of the Tsunami” – London Review of Books
1900 Galveston Hurricane
The Galveston hurricane of 1900 was the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, claiming over 8,000 lives. Some historians place the number at 12,000. Regardless of the final death toll, it’s certain that at least 90 of those lost were children at St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum. The Hotel Galvez now sits at the site of the old orphanage, and legend has it ghosts walk the property.
Activity at the hotel includes lights that turn on and off, dishes that mysteriously break, disembodied laughter, and a ghost bride in Room 501. Some people believe that a ghostly nun walks up and down the beach whenever a powerful storm draws near, as if to warn Galveston of danger.
In 2009, the crew of Discovery’s Ghost Lab investigated the Hotel Galvez to determine if there is a link between storms and paranormal activity. They recorded an EVP at the same instant a bolt of lightning struck the grounds outside. Coincidence? The hotel also appeared on an episode of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Stories.
“America’s 10 Most Haunted Cities” – USA Today
“Portrait of a Legend: The Great Storm of 1900, St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum” – Houston Family Magazine
2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami
On December 26, 2004, a massive tsunami swept over the coasts of 14 countries, killing more than 200,000 people. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Over 5,000 tsunami victims died in Thailand, and it wasn’t long before survivors there began seeing ghosts. Foreign ghosts.
According to an Australian news network, a guard at a beachfront plaza in Pataong quit his job after hearing disembodied screams late at night. The guard and others repeatedly searched for the source of the voice, which yelled “help me, help me,” but never found a soul. In a similar tale, a ghostly tourist roamed up and down the beach calling out for her lost child.
In the months following the disaster, tales of foreign ghosts were so prevalent in Thailand that monks offered pizza, paper clothes, and money to help the lost spirits move on. But why foreign spirits?
“Foreigners make a big impression on Thais,” said psychologist Dr. Wanlop Piyamanutham. “They’re physically imposing, and often seem rich and powerful. If people like that die in terrible circumstances, it’s not surprising they should come back in people’s minds as ghosts, especially when they have so far to get home.”
“Thai Tsunami Sparks Foreign Ghost Sightings” – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
“Ghost Stalk Thai Tsunami Survivor” – BBC News