It is 1980 in Crosby Texas, a quiet town near Houston. Jean and Ben Williams have moved into a house in the newly-built suburb of Newport with their young granddaughter Carli. One of the first families in the neighborhood, they've been looking forward to settling into the new suburban home of their dreams.
Unfortunately, that dream soon becomes a nightmare.
From the beginning there is a wrongness to the house. Jean and her granddaughter Carli cannot seem to feel comfortable there, and both have a creepy feeling that unseen eyes are constantly watching them. The garage door and various other appliances suddenly come to life on their own. The toilets flush by themselves. The house is persistently chilly and dank year-round. The Williams begin to wonder what is wrong with their new home.
And they are not the only ones. As more people move in and the new suburb begins to fill up with families, dozens of neighbors begin to experience some of the same bizarre and unexplained phenomena as the Williams. A pall of bad luck seems to hang over the Newport suburb. Pets act strangely and die mysteriously. Plants fail to thrive in yards. Residents wage battle against unusually persistent plagues of ants and snakes (some poisonous) inside their homes. Serious storms- seemingly confined to their suburb only- open up and rage against the homeowners, leaving behind cascades of large worms.
It seems that virtually all of the families in Newport are experiencing these ominous and unexplained events.
Across the street from the Williams family, Sam and Judith Haney have also recently moved into Newport. Excited about their brand new suburban home, the Haneys have just gotten to work planning the installation of a swimming pool in their backyard when a knock rings out against the front door. They open the door to find an elderly, stooped man... a stranger.
Stranger still, he commences to tell them that there are human remains buried in the yard of their new dream home. They follow him in mild disbelief as he moves around to the backyard, and points out a spot where he claims that bodies are buried. As he leaves, the man gives them the names of some black families in the area that he says will confirm his story. Of course, the story sounds very far fetched, and somewhat dubious, the Haneys continue with their plans.
They never could have suspected what would happen next.
As the contractor bites into the earth with his backhoe, clearing the way for the new swimming pool, he unearths something awful... two crude wooden coffins containing the decayed remains of a man and a woman. Horrified, the Haneys immediately decide that they must find out who these people were, and, if possible, put them to rest properly. Starting with the names that the mysterious old man had given them, the couple begin trying to track down some answers, and their queries lead them to a man named Jasper Norton. Norton tells Sam and Judith that he had worked as a gravedigger in the area when he was a young man, and that one of the cemeteries where he had dug graves was called Black Hope Cemetery. He explains that old Black Hope had been a graveyard of paupers, and that most of it's dead were former slaves. As many as 60 poor souls were interred there, with the last burial in 1939.
His next words bring a chill to the perplexed couple, as he tells them that their home- and the surrounding suburb of Newport- has been built right on top of the abandoned Black Hope Cemetery.
The Haneys want answers. With Norton's help, they are able to identify the couple in their backyard as Charlie and Betty Thomas, former slaves who had been buried in Black Hope in the 30's. Sam and Judith then try to track down any of the couple's living relatives, with no luck. The couple feels wracked with guilt over the desecration of the Thomas' graves, and they come to an unconventional decision- to respectfully re-inter the remains to their original resting places, in the hope that they will be able regain the eternal peace that had been interrupted.
But it is not to be.
Disturbing events soon begin to plague the Haney's home as well. Water faucets and lights are turning off and on by themselves for no apparent reason. Television sets turn on unaided, even after being unplugged. Disembodied, eerie sounds start to menace the couple. One night, Sam comes face to face with two dark, unearthly apparitions... and when they reach out, their touch is an icy coldness which engulfs his entire body, stealing the breath from him. The serious, asthma-like attack sends him to the hospital. There is a malicious feeling to the phenomena and both Sam and Judith Haney are scared, tired, and tense.
Across the street, their neighbors, Jean and Ben Williams, are having problems of their own. Out in the yard, parts of the lawn have begun to collapse in on themselves, leaving rectangular sinkholes that appear again and again no matter how well or how many times they are filled. The Williams also notice an odd carving on an old oak tree in their yard, near the sinkholes. It is an arrow pointing downward, two horizontal lines slashed below it.
A long-time elderly resident of the area clears up the mystery of the tree when he tells the family that he had etched the markings on the oak himself, many years ago, as a way to mark the graves of his two sisters.
The Williams are outraged and shaken. Their worst fears are confirmed- their dream home is built atop the desecrated graves of Black Hope.
Things only get worse after that. One quiet afternoon, some loud, disembodied footsteps startle Jean and little Carli awake from a nap. Another evening, Ben returns home from work to find a terrifying sight- a dark, menacing figure leaning over his sleeping wife. A darkness seems to be falling over the Williams. Around this time, six members of their extended family are diagnosed with deadly cancers. Three of them are dead within the year. Ruled by fear and dread, the Williams' life is coming apart.
Their neighbors, the Haneys, are also falling apart... suffering from poor health and terrified of their own home. With nothing left to lose, they decide to sue the suburb's developer for not disclosing the fact that their new house is sitting on top of a desecrated cemetery. A jury awards the Haneys $142,000... but their bad luck is not over yet. A judge overturns the jury's decision on a legal technicality and then forces the Haneys to pay the court costs, further decimating their already-stressed lives.The Williams family also tries to take legal action but they are told that they will need definitive proof of a cemetery on their property before anything can be done.
Exhausted, scared, and worn down, Jean desperately decides that she will get that proof, whatever it takes. It is a decision that will haunt her for the rest of her days.
Grabbing a tool, she digs into one of the sinkholes, determined to uncover a coffin, a body, any kind of proof. She digs and digs wildly, until she is exhausted, and then she digs more. When she is on the verge of collapse, her daughter Tina takes her tools from her and takes over the digging. Tina has been digging for about thirty minutes when she collapses. She never recovers, dying two days later from a massive heart attack at the age of just thirty years old.
In 1987, shortly after this tragedy, Jean and Ben Williams give up everything and leave their house, convinced that something unearthly does not want them there. They move to an undisclosed location in Montana.
To this day it is said that the suburb of Newport has a high rate of resident turnover, with people moving in, and then immediately moving back out again.
It is interesting to note that the area where most of the suburb's phenomena is said to be centered at the east end of a street called Poppet's Way and it's connecting side street... according to one of Wikipedia's definitions of the word poppet,"...a poppet is a doll made to represent a person, for casting spells on that person. These dolls may be fashioned from such materials as a carved root, grain or corn shafts, a fruit, paper, wax, a potato, clay, branches, or cloth stuffed with herbs. The intention is that whatever actions are performed upon the effigy will be transferred to the subject based in sympathetic magic. It was from these European dolls that the myth of Voodoo dolls arose..." A strange coincidence, given the seemingly cursed nature of the suburb.
There has been much speculation on this case, and a book called The Black Hope Horror: The True Story Of A Haunting has been written by John Bruce Shoemaker (with Ben and Jean Williams) on the events.
This story was also the inspiration for the movie, Poltergeist...
Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Black Hope case in the comments section...