The Black Hope Curse

On July 17, 2002, the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” featured the story of the “Black Hope Curse,” which centered on the Newport subdivision of Crosby, Texas.

Unsolved Mysteries – Black Hope Curse

Below is the synopsis from the Unsolved Mysteries website:

    For the families who bought new houses in a subdivision near Houston, Texas, life in their dream homes quickly turned into a nightmare. When one couple began to dig a swimming pool, they unearthed two bodies and made the horrifying discovery that their homes rested atop an old African-American burial ground. Then frightening, unexplainable things began to occur.
    Sam and Judith Haney bought their dream home in the upscale subdivision of Newport outside of Houston, Texas, in 1982. A year later, when they began to excavate a site for a pool, an old man, a stranger, knocked on their door and told them human remains were buried in their backyard. He pointed out a spot where he claimed two graves had been, and gave the Haneys the names of some black families living nearby who could confirm his story. Digging with a backhoe where the old man had indicated, the contractor unearthed two bodies, a man and a woman, interred in crude wooden coffins. Horrified, the Haneys were determined to find out who these people were and to give them a dignified burial.

    Their search led them to an elderly black man named Jasper Norton who, as a youth, had worked as a gravedigger. Norton told the Haneys that their home and surrounding houses were built on top of an old cemetery called Black Hope, and that the deceased were mostly former slaves. The last burial had been in 1939, and as many as 60 people had been interred there in pauper’s graves. Norton identified the two people buried in the Haney’s backyard as Betty and Charlie Thomas, former slaves who had died during the thirties. Unable to locate any living relatives of the Thomas’, and plagued with guilt for desecrating their graves, Sam and Judith made the extraordinary decision to rebury their remains in their own backyard, and resolved to live peacefully, side by side with Charlie and Betty. But, according to the Haneys, what would follow was anything but peaceful.

    Shortly after they reburied the Thomas’, the Haneys began to experience the unexplainable. Disembodied voices disturbed their sleep, and one night Judith was awakened when an unplugged clock in the bedroom began shooting sparks and giving off an eerie glow. The clock was only the beginning. One evening when Sam was working a night shift, Judith heard their sliding glass door open and assumed Sam had forgotten something. “What’re you doing?” she heard a voice ask. But when she checked, there was nobody there and the door was locked. The next morning, Judith couldn’t find her red shoes. When she finally located them, they were outside, sitting side by side on top of Betty Thomas’ grave. Even more unsettling, the Haneys realized the date was Betty Thomas’ birthday.

    As the disturbing occurrences continued, the Haneys came to feel that something was trying to drive them from their home. They were not alone. A dozen neighbors whose houses were built on top of the abandoned cemetery reported lights, televisions, and water faucets turning on and off for no apparent reason. Many claimed to hear unearthly sounds and some even saw supernatural apparitions. And there seemed to be an increasing maliciousness to the bizarre events. Could the spirits of the Black Hope cemetery, angry at the desecration of their graves, be seeking vengeance?

    Ben and Jean Williams thought so. They lived across the street from the Haneys with their young granddaughter, Carli, in the home they had built in 1980, and from the beginning nothing about the house had felt right. The house retained a clammy chill year round, and Jean and Carli couldn’t shake the persistent feeling they were being watched. Toilets flushed by themselves and the garage door and household appliances seemed to operate on their own. Rectangular sinkholes opened up in the yard, and no matter how well the Williams filled them in, they reappeared within a few days, and Jean, who had always had a green thumb, couldn’t get any new plants to live on the property, no matter what she did. The Williams also noticed strange markings on an old oak tree by the sinkholes, an arrow pointed downward with two horizontal slash marks beneath it. When a long time resident of the area told them he had marked the tree as a way to identify where his two sisters were buried, the Williams’ were devastated.

    Soon menacing presences began to invade the house. Jean and Carli were awakend from an afternoon nap by phantom footsteps in the hall, and Ben returned home from work one evening to find a threatening apparition hovering over his sleeping wife. Worse yet, six members of the Williams’ extended family were stricken with deadly cancers, with three of them dying within a year.

    The Haney’s lives were also unraveling. Plagued with health problems and frightened of remaining in their house, Sam and Judith decided to fight back. They sued the developer for not disclosing that their home was built over a cemetery and were awarded $142,000 by a jury. However, the judge ruled on legal grounds that the developers were not liable and reversed the decision, ordering the Haneys to pay $50,000 in court costs. Exhausted and broke, the Haneys filed bankruptcy and abandoned their home.

    The Williams’ also explored legal recourse, but say they were told that without definitive proof of a cemetery on their property, nothing could be done. It was then that Jean made a decision she will forever regret. Desperate to prove their home was built on a cemetery, Jean began digging in one of the sinkholes beneath the oak, sure she would find a body to prove their case. When she became too exhausted to dig any longer, her daughter, Tina, took over. After digging for about a half-hour, Tina collapsed. Two days later she died, at thirty, of a massive heart attack.

    Convinced their desecration of a grave had precipitated their daughter’s death, Ben and Jean Williams’ resolved to leave no matter what it cost them. They escaped to Montana and later moved back to Texas. Today both the Haney and Williams families are living happy, productive lives, no longer plagued by the mysterious noises, horrific apparitions and heart-breaking tragedies that marked their years in Newport. Subsequent owners of the homes in the area say they have noticed no unusual occurrences—and are completely content to live in such a lovely neighborhood. Was the “Black Hope Curse” real or imagined? It may remain an unsolved mystery.

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