Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ep. 286 - Culloden Battlefield

Moment in Oddity - French Stilt Walkers
Suggested by: John Michaels

There was a time, in the mid-19th century, when the Landes region in southwestern France was a swampy terrain. Raising sheep and keeping a homestead was very difficult in this area. The people who lived here were poor shepherds and they knew they needed to come up with a way to make their lived easier. That's when they came up with the idea of making stilts and using them to traverse the landscape. The stilts were called tchangues, which meant “big legs.” They were made from wood and stood five feet high, had wide straps to support the feet and the bottoms were widened and solidified with sheep’s bone. The shepherds used the stilts to take wide strides and it gave them the opportunity to see their flocks from a high perch. Some used staffs to give themselves more support and the shepherds became so comfortable on the stilts that they spent most of their lives on them. This skill also transfered to the other townspeople and included women and children. All the people became very adept and could perform amazing feats of balance and dexterity. Children walked to school on stilts and did their chores on them as well. Women could pluck flowers from the ground. Eventually, they were performing feats for visitors to the region, which included Empress Josephine who stopped here in 1808 to meet Napoleon. The stilt walkers greeted her and managed to keep up with her carriage horses. By the end of the 19th century, the marshland was drained and replaced by a plantation of pine trees and a forest is there to this day. But there was once a time when living on stilts, saved a French community and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Virginia Company Expedition Leaves London

In the month of December, on the 20th, in 1606, The Virginia Company expedition to America began with three small ships. These ships were called the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery. Captain Christopher Newport led the expedition as it launched from London with 105 men and boys and 39 crew members. The ships landed in Puerto Rico on April 6th and they collected provisions. They arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in late April/early May of 1607. Chaplain Robert Hunt offered a prayer as a cross was set up at the landing site. The expedition would move further inward. They ventured up the James River and found a suitable spot to establish the first permanent English settlement in America. They called it Jamestown after King James I.

Culloden Battlefield (Suggested by: Brian Morse)

The Battlefield of Culloden is under the care of the National Trust for Scotland and can be found in the Scottish village of Culloden. Culloden Village is an ancient town with buildings dating back to the 1600s, one of which is Culloden House that is today a hotel. The battlefield was the scene of the Battle of Culloden that would be the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. This battle was bloody and causalities were high. This has led to paranormal activity on the battlefield that seems to recreate the battle. Along with this are stories of omens, premonitions and The Scree. Join me as I share the history of the Battle of Culloden and the resulting hauntings of the battlefield.

Culloden Village is found in the Scottish Highlands and the name is Gaelic meaning "back of the small pond." Historic buildings that are found here include Culloden House, the Culloden Stables and the Barn Church. This village would become the scene of the final battle in the Jacobite uprising and the resounding defeat of the Jacobites would do more than just stop an uprising. This defeat would make it illegal to play bagpipes or to wear tartan and the clan way of life and system were destroyed. Jacobites were Scottish clans that supported the reinstatement of King James II who had been deposed by English nobility and they had him replaced by William and Mary. James II had been King over both England and Scotland and he had converted to Catholicism, which is what caused him to be deposed. The Scots would recognize nobody but James as their King. There would be several uprisings.

The Jacobite Rising began in 1745. This was also called the Forty-five Rebellion and was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. After William and Mary, Queen Ann took the throne until she died in 1714. She had no children alive, so the Act of Settlement of 1701, gave the throne to her cousin George I, which passed from the House of Stuart to the House of Hanover. Charles was more famously known as Bonnie Prince Charlie and he launched the rebellion on August 19th in 1745. The initial battle was at Glenfinnan and the result was the capture of Edinburgh. Some of the Scots were unsure of continuing to push back against the British, but Charles guaranteed that English Jacobites would come to the rescue. The group entered England in early November and they reached Derby by December. The English support never materialized and a split began between the Scots and Charles. The Battle of Culloden would take place in April of 1746.

The battle took place on the southeast of Inverness, which was a few miles southwest of Nairn and the date was April 16th. This would be a match-up between The Jacobite Army of Prince Charles and the Royal Troops of King George II under the Duke of Cumberland. The armies were fairly equally matched with 7,000 in the Jacobite Army and 8,000 in the Royal Army. The regiments present at the battle were: Cobham’s (10th) and Kerr’s (11th) dragoons, Kingston’s Light Dragoons, the Royals (1st), Howard’s Old Buffs (3rd), Barrel’s King’s Own (4th) Wolfe’s (8th), Pulteney’s (13th), Price’s (14th), Bligh’s (20th), Campbell’s Royal Scots Fusiliers (21st), Sempill’s (25th), Blakeney’s (27th), Cholmondeley’s (34th), Fleming’s (36th), Munro’s (37th), Ligonier’s (48th) and Battereau’s (62nd) Foot. Many might think that the Jacobite Army was mostly Gaelic-speaking Catholic Highlanders, but the reality was that many of these men were Non-juring Episcopalians from the Lowlands and English, French and Irish men were also among their numbers.

So we have a split in Prince Charlie's men. The main cause for the split was deciding what kind of warfare to engage with. Part of the Jacobites wanted to go back to their roots of guerilla warfare. These clan men were used to conducting raids, not professional military strikes. There was also a split within the ranks. The officers of the infantry were from the upper classes and aristocracy, while the foot soldiers were basically poor agricultural workers. Some major issues that happened during the decision making about tactics, weakened the Jacobites further. Lord George Murray led a heated council with the officers as he pushed for guerilla warfare and he believed there was not time to launch an attack and that they should abort. He sent Prince Charlie's right-hand man named O'Sullivan to inform him of the change in plan, but O'Sullivan missed him in the dark. Meanwhile, Murray took his men, which were one-third of the Jacobite forces back to camp as they aborted. The other two-thirds of the force had no idea that there was a change in plans. Some of these forces had dispersed to find food or were asleep in ditches and outbuildings when the British forces began engagement.

The British did have at least a thousand more men in total and you don't have a complete Jacobite army here. The British were more skilled with the artillery as well. The highland terrain also made a charge very difficult and rain and sleet were falling. This would be a very brief skirmish starting around 11:00 and lasted only an hour. The Jacobites formed three columns with the three Macdonald battalions; a small one of Chisholms; another small one of Macleans and Maclachlans; Lady Mackintosh and Monaltrie's regiments; Lord Lovat's Regiment; Ardsheal's Appin Stewarts; Lochiel's Regiment; and three battalions of the Atholl Brigade. Bonnie Prince Charlie ran off and hid somewhere and once found was pressed to order a charge, which he did with the Clan Chattan charging first. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the government troops, but faced superior fire power and had volleys of musket fire with roundshot that switched to grapeshot raining down on them. They managed to charge all the way to the government lines and there a direct clash ensued. Two British regiments took the brunt, but it was minimal and a counter attack followed. This attack formed a five battalion strong horseshoe-shaped formation and the Jacobites found themselves trapped.

A catastrophic collapse of the left-wing followed and this group of Jacobites began a retreat. Another clan group were waiting in the wings as a type of ambush, but their leader was killed and they soon were in retreat. A group of Irish picquets came to the rescue and prevented a massacre. Prince Charlie was not ready to give up, so Captain Shea told Charlie's bodyguard, "Yu see all is going to pot. Yu can be of no great succor, so before a general deroute wch will soon be, Seize upon the Prince & take him off ." He did so. The Lowland regiments retreated southwards and the Highlanders went back towards Ruthven Barracks, but the government cavalry cut them down and the rest had to retreat to Inverness. They were pusued and given no quarter. The only ones spared were 50 French officers and soldiers. The government forces captured fourteen of the colours or standards. The Jacobites had suffered a crushing defeat that left 2,000 of their number dead or wounded. The British suffered only 300 casualties.

There would be one more small skirmish that was naval and the uprising was over. This solidified the fact that the House of Stuart would not return and Bonnie Prince Charlie never tried to challenge the crown again. The punishment that the Duke of Cumberland issued after the battle left him with the nickname "The Butcher" and this has caused some controversy even in our era when the University of Glasgow awarded the Duke of Cumberland an honorary doctorate. Further civil penalties helped eradicate the Gaelic culture and undermine the Scottish clan system.

Today, people come from all over the world to see the Culloden Battlefield. The visitor centre is located near the site of the battle and was opened in December of 2007. The field had been a grazing ground during the battle, but today is covered in heather and shrubs. There are footpaths to explore and a memorial that stands 20 feet high, made of stones, was erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881. In the same year, Forbes also erected headstones to mark the mass graves of the clans. "The English Stone" marks the place of the government dead near the Old Leanach cottage. Something that might surprise people is that this was not an English versus Scots thing. More Scots fought for the Duke of Cumberland than for Prince Charlie. In fact, Scottish Captain Ferguson chased down and hanged highland rebels as he scoured the Scottish isles. Many Jacobites fled to the American colonies. The only building to survive the battle, still stands today: Old Leanach Cottage. It was inhabited until 1912 and is now kept by the National Trust for Scotland and looks like it did in the 18th century. There were barns around the cottage, but they no longer exist because Government redcoats found 30 wounded Jacobites seeking refuge within them and so they barricaded the barns and burnt the Jacobites alive.

As we all can imagine, this battlefield is full of negative energy. The supernatural activity here is high and the legends and lore that date back to even before the battle, reveal even more strange activity that had nothing to do with the aftermath of the battle. On the edge of Inverness and on part of the battlefield stands Culloden Woods. It is within these woods that one can find St. Mary's Well. Although the name leads one to think the well has a Christian connection, it actually has its roots in Pagan traditions and was originally called Tobar n'Oige, which meant Well of Youth in Gaelic. The well is named for St. Mary who lived in the woods. She would do her rounds with a bucket in her hand. It was said that she healed the sick with water from her well. This well has a legendary claim of being a place of healing. People are encouraged to come to the well and carry on a tradition in which they make a wish, walk around the well three times, gather water in a cupped hand and drink deeply and then tie a scrap of cloth from your clothing very tightly around a nearby tree. This ritual is said to only work when done on Beltane. It is more than just tourists and villagers who come. It is said that the clansmen come too, although Beltane is two weeks too late for them. They have been seen so many times, that few are skeptical about the stories.

The clansmen were said to have experienced an omen before the battle. Many were gathered near a well on the road from Uig to Portree. They were all stunned when a blood-soaked man ran up to them with pure terror in his eyes. He called out, "Defeat!" He yelled it twice more with anguish and then vanished before their eyes. The group all looked at each other realizing that they had witnessed a phantom. they they heard distant drums and the clash of swords. The sound moved quickly upon them and it was as if a ghostly army and battle passed right through their midst. The group had no way of knowing that this was an omen of the demise that was to come the next day at the Battle of Culloden.

Have you ever heard of the Scree? I had not. And if you Google Scree, you'll just find information about rock debris. But the Scottish clans believed in a figure that they called the Scree and they said that it was bad luck to see the Scree.  Death was said to surely follow. The Scree is described as a large black bird that rises up from the heather , screaming. The day of the battle, the men leading the Scots all claimed to see the Scree. George Murray was frozen to his spot. The bird practically blocked out the evening sky. It flew over Drummossie Moor giving off a shrieking caw. And then it just disappeared midflight. This was another bad omen. And it was not just something for the people of this time to see. A tourist witnessed it on the battlefield in July of 2005. What makes this legendary bird odd here is that it makes noise. For no bird makes any noise at the battlefield. They nest in the heather and the trees and fly over the moor and the graves, but they make no noise.

The ghost of The Highlander is said to wander here. A woman from Edinburgh was visiting in August of 1936. She was reading some of the clan stones and noticed that someone had laid a tartan on the cairn. She lifted the cloth so she could read the name and a ghostly face peered back at her. He stared at her and she ran. Other people who have seen this apparition, claim that he seems shell-shocked and lost. He walks for a while and then just stops. When people try to approach him, he disappears. It seems that most stories about him have him being spotted on April 16th.

Temperature fluctuations happen rapidly near the Cairns. On the anniversary of the battle, locals claim that they hear the battle as though it is being reinacted. There are the sounds of drummers beating a tattoo, weapons clashing and men yelling and then the sounds just stop. Andrea Byrne of Scottish Paranormal took a team of investigators onto Drummossie Moor and they used dowsing rods to try to find energy lines and they found one running from Cumberland's Stone to St. Mary's Well. Temperature and humidity flutuations were dramatic near the graves. They conducted interviews with staff who claimed to hear disembodied sounds and they reported that visitors often claimed to hear the sounds of battle. Most psychics who visit claim that the activity is all residual, just replaying events.

Even if none of this activity is intelligent, it still seems to exist. A reminder replaying over and over of the horrible thing that happened here when men fought and killed each other over a power struggle. Many lost their physical lives, but what was really lost was a culture. Highlanders bogged down in mud and overwhelmed by more powerful artillery could have had no idea that their way of life was dying with them. Perhaps the energy that replays here over and over is a desperate attempt for this culture's spirit to live again somehow. Is the Culloden Battlefield haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Outlander is a historical fiction novel that is a series that also was turned into a TV series about a WWII nurse named Claire who walks through one of these megolith/ley line places in Scotland and goes back in time from 1946 to 1743. So most of the novel and TV series is set in Scotland, specifically in the Highlands. One of the settings is the Battle of Culloden. It comes up in several of the books and in the Season 2 finale.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ep. 285 - Pennhurst State School and Hospital

Moment in Oddity - The Narragansett Runestone

The Narragansett Runestone is a Rhode Island formation meta-sandstone that is 7 feet long, 5 feet high and 2 feet wide and is inscribed with two rows of symbols, which some have indicated resemble ancient Runic characters. The Runestone is also known as the Quidnessett Rock and was first reported to the Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (HPHC) in the 1980s. According to the HPHC, there are several inscribed rocks that can be found along the shores of the Narragansett Bay Region. The most famous is known as the Dighton Rock, which was discovered during Colonial times and has been an object of study from that time. Brothers Everett and Warren claimed that they had carved the runes back in the summer of 1964, but locals claimed that the rock had been there before 1964. The fact that other similar carved rocks have been found seems to dispute that claim as well. The rock was stolen from the tidal waters off of Pojac Point in North Kingstown between July and August 2012 and eventually returned in 2013. It can now be seen in Wickford, a village of North Kingstown Rhode Island. Was this runestone carved by an early people in the Americas? Was it brought over from another land? Whatever the case, the Narragansett Runestone, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Bhopal Disaster

In the month of December, on the 3rd, in 1984 a deadly gas leak of methyl isocyanate at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed at least 3,000 persons and injured more than 200,000. This became known as the Bhopal Disaster. Union Carbide was a pesticide plant and the highly toxic gas leaked out of pipes and into the surrounding small towns, exposing over 500,000 people. Hospital staff had never heard of methyl isocyanate and thus they had no anecdote. Exposure caused coughing, severe eye irritation, stomach pains, vomiting and breathlessness. Children and adults smaller in stature were more affected. The morning after the leak, thousands of people had died. The cause of the leak has been debated, with the company claiming it was sabotage and others blaming loose management and maintenance that caused a backflow of water into a chemical tank. There were several civil and criminal suits filed. Today, the site is still in need of clean-up and groundwater remains contaminated.

Pennhurst State School and Hospital

Pennhurst State School and Hospital is sometimes referred to as Pennhurst Asylum. This is a location deemed to be one of the most haunted and with its history, there is no wonder. Decades of abuse and experimentation were perpetuated on children who for all intents and purposes were left abandoned to a system with no moral compass. An expose in the 1960s shined some light on the situation, but it would still take twenty years before the location was shut down. Today, it is open again as a haunted attraction and hosts tours. I'm joined on this episode by Tony Merkel of The Confessionals Podcast who lived near Pennhurst. We discuss his fascination with Bigfoot and the paranormal and the history and hauntings of Pennhurst Asylum!

The TV reporter who exposed all of this in the mid 1960s was Bill Baldini. He ran a five-episode exposé of Pennhurst State School and Hospital on Philadelphia’s TV10. The segments were entitled "Suffer the Little Children" and it revealed a degree of neglect that was horrifying.  People were bound with straps and placed in adult-sized crib beds. Many of the residents were severly disabled and seemed to just be rocking, pacing, and twitching. They all seemed withdrawn into themselves probably from fear and overstimulation. When one patient was asked by the interviewer what he would like most in the world, if he could have anything he wanted, the sad and withdrawn reply was simply, “To get out of Pennhurst.”

From the Weird NJ website:
Quaker Building:  Numerous shadows manifest and dissipate at will. These shadows include what appeared to be a small female child with long black hair, a hunched over presence with long dangling arms and the upper portion of bodies looking over or around obstacles. Doors and a rocking chair have moved without anyone being near them. Investigator was shoved from behind hard enough on a stairway to leave a deep red mark on the small of back. Investigator was scratched on the arm by unknown object when they were not by anything or close to any walls. Objects being propelled in the basement such as a pry bar, some sort of brass fixture, and various other unknown objects. Multiple EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) as well EMF spikes throughout the building when there is no electric supplied to any building there. Our Psychic Medium, Sharon Pugh, has felt multiple energies there including either a demonic force or a past life that wasn’t a very nice person.

Limerick Building:  The apparition of a woman in a old style nurse’s uniform was observed by a fire fighter, police officer and a marine.  Multiple EVP’s.

Devon Building: Unknown sounds and multiple EVP’s.

Mayflower Building: Shadow people seen multiple times. EVP’s captured. Investigators have been touched in this building.

Tinicum Building: Multiple EVP’s. Investigator had their legs touched.

Philadelphia Building: Loud sounds and voices heard coming from the building. Investigators surrounded the building and entered it via the tunnel system. No one was in the building nor could they have fled without being observed.

Administration Building: Multiple voices heard at various times and EVP’s caught of what appears to be a toilet flushing. This building has no running water or bathroom fixtures.

Hershey Building: Investigator heard a female child’s voice on the third floor.
 There does seem to be quite a bit of activity here and nearly every building has something unexplained going on. Is Pennhurst State School and Hospital haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ep. 284 - Squirrel Cage Jail

Moment in Oddity - Old Mike

Cornish Funeral Home in Prescott, Arkansas had a very unusual display for years. The display featured the embalmed, mummified remains of a man that everybody just knew as Old Mike. The reason they called him Old Mike was that no one knew who he was. The story is that Mike was a traveling salesman in the early 1900s and he would come into Prescott occasionally on the train to sell his wares, which consisted of stationary and pencils. He would sometimes stay overnight and then leave on the train the next day. No one really got to know the guy. Nobody knew about his family or where he came from. One day, the townspeople found Mike lying under a tree, dead. He had passed away sometime in the night. He was taken to the local funeral home, but no identification for him was found. People only knew that his name was Mike. So the funeral home embalmed him and decided to put him in the window to see if anyone recognized him. And there he was for the next 60 years. He became a tourist attraction and a challenge that young boys gave to each other. You know, "I dare you to touch Old Mike." In 1975, a petition finally got the state attorney general's office to request that Mike finally be given a proper burial and so he was laid to rest that May with a few people in attendance. The idea that a funeral home would put a body on display in hopes that someone would claim it and do it for 60 years, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Architect Stanford White Born

In the month of November, on the 9th, in 1853, Architect Stanford White was born in New York City. Stanford White was a renowned architect. He had been a member of the prestigious firm McKim, Meade and White and designed the Washington Square Arch, Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. He was well liked, but he had a side many didn't know about him. He had a taste for young chorus girls, even though he was married. He had a red velvet swing in his 24th Street studio and he would invite a teen-aged Evelyn Nesbit to come have a swing. Nesbit was an artist's model and a cast member in Broadway's hottest musical comedy at the time. Nesbit had another admirer though named Harry Thaw. He was a wealthy playboy and on the evening of June 25th in 1906, Thaw murdered Stanford White during a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden. This was called the Crime of the Century.

Squirrel Cage Jail (Suggested by Jessica Garcia and Lynne Larsen Savage)

Old jails just seem to be crawling with spirits as we have come to find from the several jails covered on this podcast. No matter the country, region or city and no matter the size, prisons hold spirits. One incredibly haunted jail can be found in Iowa. Council Bluffs was known as the Great Railroad Center of the Northwest. Before that time, it was a hub for trade between Native American tribes and white settlers. The Squirrel Cage Jail was built here in 1885. This jail has one of the most unique designs of any jail I have ever researched. This prison had a long run, being used until 1969. Today, it offers tours giving a glimpse into penal history and is said to be home to several spirits. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Squirrel Cage Jail.

The reason why Council Bluffs was considered the Great Railroad Center of the Northwest is because nearly every city in the state of Iowa is connected by rail to Council Bluffs. The town was originally known as Traders Point, being named by Francois Guittar who was a St. louis businessman. He came to the area in 1824 and established the town as a base for fur trading and other mercantile business with the local Native American tribes, the most prominent being the Potawatomi for whom the county where Council Bluffs is located is named. The trading was friendly because the chief of the Potawatomi was Billy Caldewell, who was the son of a Potawatomi mother and a Scots-Irish immigrant father. This became a desired destination in traversing the Missouri River for a multitude of groups working their way to the western United States. On the Oregon, the California, the Mormon, or the Lewis and Clark trails. The town eventually came to be known as Kanesville and it became a Mormon winter encampment. The claim to fame for Kanesville was that Mormon leader Brigham Young was sustained as the second prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the tabernacle here. The Mormon settlers left in 1852 and the town was renamed Council Bluffs after a site that was 20 miles north that had been named Council Bluff by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They had met with the Otoe Tribe on that bluff, which was near the Missouri River. The county needed a jail and Council Bluffs was picked as the location.

The Squirrel Cage Jail was originally known as Pottawattamie County Jail. The building is found at 226 Pearl Street in Council Bluffs and was built in 1885. The interior of the jail consists of revolving cells that are technically called a rotary jail. This was a design by William H. Brown and Benjamin F. Haugh, both from Indianapolis. They patented the design in 1881 and it would be used in eighteen jails in the United States. The patent on the design stated, "The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer."  This would mean that the jail could provide maximum security with minimum jailer attention.  It was said that if a jailer had a trustee he could trust, he could control the jail. The cells were wedges that resembled the shape of a pie and these were seated on a platform that rotated in a carousel fashion. They were more secure in that there was only one opening and so only one cell could be accessed at a time. a man would hand crank the gears that were beneath the structure to rotate the entire cell block. The design had an upgrade with a core sanitary plumbing system. There was just one problem. Inmates limbs would get caught either accidentally or on purpose due to self-harm and become severed. By 1939, all the rotary jails had been condemned save one, the Squirrel Cage.

The Squirrel Cage is unique from the other revolving cell jails in that it was the only one that was three-stories tall. The building itself was designed to be four-stories and this was a grand plan in that the prototype upon which it was based was only one story and had only eight cells. The total cost for the build was $30,000 and when it was complete, all three floors of the jail had the revolving pie-shaped cells, each with their own toilet, and there were quarters for women, a kitchen, trustee cells and offices for the jailer and other staff. The construction took only five months. The architects, Eckel and Mann, designed the building exterior with a Victorian style. They incorporated Romanesque arched windows, detailed brickwork and limestone trim. From the outside, it does not look like a prison, it looks like a mansion.

The first inmates arrived on September 11, 1885 with Sheriff Theodore Guittar at the helm. These inmates included Miles Mullen who was a horse thief, Frank Scofield, a forger, John Gordon who had violated tax laws, Ed Rankin and the Brock Family, Mr. and Mrs. and their daughter, all doing time for larceny. Not long after opening, the jailer quarters on the fourth floor revealed another issue with the revolving jail. The malodorous odors from the sewer system traveled upward. The second floor women's jail area was soon converted to a living space. Opinions of the jails were harsh. The danger to inmates limbs was an issue as was the lack of ventilation, but many townspeople were critical of the fact that prisoners had their own toilets when many of them did not. It was thought the prisoners were being coddled. But others focused more on the danger and an editorial was written that decried the jail saying, “Rotary cells of the present jail not only are a farce, they are dangerous to the lives of the prisoners.” And imagine a fire in one of these places!

Citizens signed petitions and the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in 1910 to ask voters for $75,000 so that a new county jail could be built and this would include a residence for the Sheriff and his family. Well, apparently there weren't that many in town who supported such an idea despite the complaints and petitions. The resolution was not passed and no new jail was built. Squirrel Cage would continue on for forty more years as a rotary jail. In 1960, a prisoner died of natural causes, but it took two days to retrieve th corpse because the rotary mechanism malfunctioned. After that, the mechanism was disabled.  Access had to be cut through the outer cage to cells, so that they could be reached from the floor or landings and the jail continued to operate until 1969.

After the jail ceased operations in 1969, it was acquired by the Council Bluffs Park Board. In 1972, the Squirrel Cage was named to the National Register of Historic Places. This is only one of three revolving jail cell prisons still in existence. The jail was still in great need of restoration efforts by 1977 and the Historical Society took up the effort. They are the current owners and operators of the facility and they offer tours. One of the things visitors can see are the signatures and dates made by some of the former infamous residents on the cell walls. The jail is open from 11am to 4pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April through October. There are many visitors and staff who claim to have experienced supernatural things at the jail.

Paranormal experiences date back to before the prison was ever built here. The apartment on the top floor was not only not used because of the odors, but there are claims that strange things happened up there. Bill Foster was a jailer there in the 1950s and he moved out of the fourth floor after experiencing what he called, "Strange goings-on up there." He reported hearing disembodied footsteps on the the fourth floor. These are thought to belong to J.M. Carter who oversaw the jail's construction. He lived in the top floor apartment for a while. There is a previous jailer haunting the fourth floor as well. He was named Otto Gufath and his full-bodied apparition has been seen.

The experiences indicate that there are both intelligent and residual activity. Nevermore Paranormal investigated the jail and claim to have caught EVP of laughing, a voice saying "Give it to me" and "You can't" said by a little girl with a southern accent and "Whose there," and there has been shushing. The Paranormal Research and Investigative Studies Midwest (PRISM) group investigated in 2005. They managed to video a cabinet door opening by itself three times. They also captured orbs on video at the same time that EMFs registered electromagnetic spikes and temperature changes were noted. In 2008, the Carroll Area Paranormal Team (CAPT) investigated the jail and they captured unexplained light activity in the infirmary and unusual sounds.

Carla Borgaila with the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County has said she has had the following experiences, “I have had my hat pulled off my head and my hair played with. I have seen mists, shadows, full body apparitions, footsteps, voices and doors closing. In addition to the little girl, there are reports of a teenage girl, several men – some inmates, some jailers – and a couple different women’s voices caught on EVPs or audibly heard during the night. We also have two ghost cats that are known for brushing up against peoples legs. Many groups have caught ‘meows’ on their recorders and seen the little striped cats going through doorways.” 

Heavy breathing and sighing and the jingling of keys have been heard and strange lights have been seen. The audible voice of a little girl singing has been heard. This little girl has been seen coming from the juvenile detention center by many people. These claims come from investigators from all over the country, which makes the claims more believable since they all have had similar stories without contact with each other. A woman working on a project in the building after hours, saw the little girl. She was dressed in gray and inside a cell that was locked with no way in or out.

Staff claim that whatever spirits happen to be in the jail, they are friendly and non-threatening. There is a great feeling of sadness throughout the building. And there are reputedly two ghost cats on the premises. So why do we have hauntings here? There were four deaths in the prison. A prisoner was trying to carve his name on the ceiling and he fell three stories. Another committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell. A third prisoner had a heart attack. The final death came about during the Farmer's Holiday Strike in 1932. An angry mob was storming the jail when an officer accidentally shot himself. The Sheriff at the time was named Lainson and he had hired 98 special deputies to get rid of blockades caused by the strike. He promised “to fight it out if it takes 5,000 deputies,” adding “if the Pottawattamie county jail bulges with picketers it will just have to bulge. I’m going to see that law and order are maintained.” Some strikers took that to mean that the jail was bulging with their buddies and word spread  that 1000 men were on the way to Council Bluffs. Tensions flared and the Sheriff told the press that if the jail was mobbed, his men were armed and would handle it “in the best possible manner.” Deputies had been told they could shoot to kill should any farmers try and storm the jail. A tragic accident occurred when special deputy Claude Dail was shot and killed from a gun that accidentally discharged during a weapons test.

So with four deaths, we have some fuel for paranormal activity. There was a lot of sadness within the walls as well. But where is this young female ghost coming from? St. Paul's Episcopal Church had a morgue that was on the site before the jail. Is it possible that spirits from some of the bodies that passed through here are now inside the jail? Are there other reasons for the activity? Is the Squirrel Cage Jail haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ep. 283 - Haunted Cemeteries 12

Moment in Oddity - Train Accidents Depicted on Gravestones

Tree-stump gravestones were popular for a twenty-year period from 1885 to 1905. Many cemeteries in the Midwest used them because limestone was plentiful and the tradition of stone carving was a fine art. The trees were meant to look as if a tree stump had been used to mark a grave and symbolize a life cut short. This was very true for Charles F. King who died when he was only 26 years old. He was killed in 1893 at Jonesboro, Arkansas, in a train wreck on the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas Railway. What is weird is that this accident is actually depicted on his gravestone. There is a train engine and then another rail car flipped on its side. I've never seen a car accident depicted on a marker or someone clutching the heart from an attack. Causes of death are usually not visually depicted on a stone. But as I came to find out this week, this gravestone is not unique. There is another and here's where that little synchronicity that happens around here all the time creeps in. I found the King Gravestone while searching for haunted cemeteries. A few days later, I was researching Bohemian National Cemetery for a Stones and Bones BonusCast and stumbled across a picture of a headstone there for Matej Sidlo that is also a tree stump and it depicts Sidlo's death due to a train as well. This carving shows a train hitting a beer wagon. Sidlo was forty years old and was riding on a beer wagon owned by the E.R. Stege Brewing Co. when it was struck by engine No. 590 belonging to the CB & Q RR Co. throwing him from the wagon. What are the chances that two tombstones depict deaths by train and that I would find them in the same week? All I know is that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Presidential Library Construction Began

In the month of November, on the 19th, in 1939, construction of the first presidential library began. This library would belong to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He laid the cornerstone next to his home in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt had donated the land, but public donations funded the building of the library, which was dedicated on June 30, 1941. Roosevelt noticed that he had a vast quantity of papers and other materials that he and his staff had accumulated during the first two terms of his presidency. He also knew that in the past, many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed or ruined. He asked historians and scholars for their advice and they all came up with the idea of a public repository of some sort. This began a tradition that continues to this day. There are currently 14 libraries in the Presidential Library System. These libraries are not like other libraries in that they are archives and museums that bring together the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and present them for the public to study and discuss.

Haunted Cemeteries 12

As I continue to roll out these new episodes in the Haunted Cemeteries Series, it never ceases to amaze me just how wrong I was in thinking that there were very few haunted cemeteries. After all, I surmised that spirits would want to be among the living with all of their energy and not hanging out with the dead. I tend toward believing that most graveyard ghosts are residual and perhaps that is why I have managed to find so many of them. On this episode, we are going to explore cemeteries in Erie, Pennsylvania, cemeteries in Iowa, Odd Fellows Rest in New Orleans and Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. Join me on this journey through the history and haunts of these graveyards!
  
Erie Cemetery

Erie Cemetery is located in Erie Pennsylvania and was established in 1851. The graveyard is laid out over 75 acres and is found at 21st and Chestnut streets. There are around 50,000 burials and these include General Strong Vincent, Daniel Dobbins and Sarah A. Reed. Within, one will find over 165 years of funerary art. Burials still continue there today.

General Strong Vincent was fatally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on Little Round Top. He wrote to his pregnant wife on the way to Gettysburg, "If I fall, remember you have given your husband to the most righteous cause that ever widowed a woman." Today, there is a statue of him at Gettysburg on top of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry monument. There is no identification on the statue because it was against Pennsylvania battlefield commission rules to place an image of a regiment’s commanding officer on a monument, but it is his likeness, not a random officer. He was buried at Erie Cemetery and his baby daughter joined him shortly thereafter. She died shortly after being born.

Sarah A. Reed was a founding member of the group who formed “The Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, and a Home for the Friendless”. They opened The Children's Center in 1871 as a place to  and homeless children. Sarah served as President for 45 years from 1889 to her death in 1934. The center was named for her after her death.

There are two unique burials here that are steeped in legend.

Brown Crypt/Vampire Crypt -  The final resting place of the Goodrich Family is a Mausoleum carved from a ridge. It's a beautiful Gothic structure, but quite plain with no typical stain-glassed window or even a name on the outside. There is a strange V-like carving above the entrance as though lettering has fallen away. The front gate is hewn from wrought iron. And eerily, the granite from which the crypt is made has blackened. No other structures near it have done so.
 

The actual owner of the mausoleum is Gertrude Brown, but she is not buried within more than likely because she is still alive and the last heir. Most of the bodies inside bear the name Goodrich, the first being George Washington Goodrich who died on November 14, 1884. Six other individuals have joined him: his wife, two of their children who died young and I'm unsure of the rest. That's all pretty basic, but somehow a legend got started that a vampire is locked within the crypt and thus it is nicknamed the Vampire Crypt.

One of the stories told about the crypt is that a wealthy man from Erie fell ill after returning home from a trip to Romania. He died soon after becoming ill. He was placed in the crypt, but people claimed that he was undead and left the crypt to attack people in the surrounding suburbs. They were found drained of blood and the classic teeth marks on their necks. Another tale claims that a young man broke into the vault and stole a ring off of one of the bodies inside. He bragged to his friends what he had done and told them that he would show them the ring the next day. His friends came over to the house, but when his mother went to fetch him, she found him dead in his room. He was colourless and his eyes and mouth were frozen open in horror. His ring finger had been ripped off of his hand.

The explanation for the V on the crypt that many claim means "vampire" is that the symbol is actually a lily with stylized leaves that are Victorian. The blackening on the tomb is most likely from rain runoff and pollution. But it sure is fun to believe a vampire lurks within this very cool looking crypt.

The other area of interest is known as the Witch's Circle. This can be found in the oldest part of the cemetery, by Chestnut Street. The graves here are placed in a circle and are very old. Two of them have darkened stones. These two graves are said to belong to the two heads of a coven. They died in the late 1800s and the legend claims that the stones were blackened when Satan came to drag their souls to Hell. At least, that is one version. Another claims that the coven practiced their magic in the circle and that the Devil sent a fire from Hell to burn up the witches and the blackening is scorch marks. People claim that you can hear disembodied footsteps, usually behind you and when you turn you will see no one, except a big black dog, who will try to attack you. Thankfully, he disappears right before he chomps.

Evergreen and Vegors Cemeteries in Iowa

Evergreen Cemetery is found in Vinton, Iowa and is located at 1002 E. 10th Street. The city of Vinton was founded in 1849 and incorporated in 1869. It was named for Hon. Plynn Vinton, a state legislator. The graveyard was established in 1853 and has over 8500 burials. Burials have continued up until our present day. There is a huge flea market held on the adjacent grounds every summer.

There are a couple of well known burials here. The first is for Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General James Loraine Geddes. He was born in Scotland, and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1837. He would go to a British military academy and serve in their army for seven years. In 1857, he settled on a farm in Benton county, Iowa. He raised a company of volunteers for the 8th Iowa infantry when the Civil War started and he became their captain. He worked up the ranks until he was wounded and captured at the Battle of Shiloh. He spent time in Libby prison in Richmond. He was released in a prisoner exchange and fought at Vicksburg and Jackson. He became a professor of military tactics and engineering at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames and later became vice president of the college and treasurer of the institution. He died in 1887 when he was only 59. He is buried beneath a draped obelisk.

Buren Robinson Sherman was Iowa Governor from 1882 to 1886. He too fought in the Civil War. He served as a State Court Judge in Iowa in 1865 and as the Iowa State Auditor from 1875 to 1881. He died in 1904 at the age of 68. His stone is granite with an American flag engraved across the bottom.

This cemetery apparently has a lady in white who rides on a horse and is seen riding up and down the train tracks. One of the areas in the cemetery is for unknown soldiers. People have reported seeing  strange phenomena around a military statue there and full-bodied apparitions of soldiers hang around the area.

Vegors Cemetery is located in Stratford, Iowa, which was platted in 1880. Stratford was named for Stratford-upon-Avon in England. The cemetery is believed to have been a burial ground for four Native American tribes originally from 500BC to 1200AD. These were the typical mound type burials. White settlers moved into the area in the early 1800s and they did a stupid thing. Yep, they moved the bodies, so they could use the burial ground as their own. These moved tribe people would be honored in 1960 when E.H. Hawbaker erected a monument in the cemetery to give recognition to the fact that the hilltop cemetery had significance before the settlers came.

There are multiple hauntings at the cemetery. One reason for the hauntings could be the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857. In the spring of 1857, Wahpekute Dakota Chief Inkpaduta and his band of warriors descended on the homesteads near Spirit Lake, which is near the Vegors Cemetery. They massacred a bunch of people because a whiskey runner and bad guy named Henry Lott and his son killed Inkpaduta’s blood brother Sintomniduta and Sintomniduta’s wife and five children in 1854. Inkpaduta asked the military to punish Lott, but Lott managed to get away. Lott was never found, and justice was never served. Many people were massacred in 1857 by the Native Americans. Legends claim that Mrs. Henry Lott was murdered at this time and that her spirit is said to haunt the graveyard and is seen as a full-bodied apparition. At least that is the legend. The Mrs. Lott I found here has on her tombstone that she died in 1849 from exposure of Indian raid. She is not buried in the cemetery. She was probably buried near the cabin. She was the first white woman to die in the area.

Other hauntings at the cemetery include full-bodied apparitions of Native Americans, probably because their graves were desecrated. The beating of drums is heard on the air as well. Anonymous posted on 5/24/2017: my friends and I went to vegors many times last summer and we walked through the whole cemetery to see the really old graves and sat near the memorial of mrs.lotts and then sat on a cement bench, first we heard a whistle and then a huge sound of voices as if you were in a stadium occurred and became louder and louder and got closer to us. we decided to move around and continued hearing whistles and drums and sounds mimicking what sounded like Indian calls. we heard screams, and you feel such a presence of paranormal activity while being here it is very active.

Odd Fellows Rest

This graveyard is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Odd Fellows Rest is considered one of the most mysterious graveyards in the world and there are those that claim it is the most haunted in New Orleans. No small feat, considering that nearly all graveyards in New Orleans claim that label. Odd Fellows Rest is located at the corner of Canal Street and City Park Avenue near St. Patrick Cemetery No. 2. This graveyard was founded in 1847 and its primary purpose was to hold the remains of members of the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows are one of the largest fraternal organizations in the United States. This is a secret society that dates back to the 15th century and started in England. It arrived in America around 1806. Most members were tradesmen with unusual or odd professions. Unlike other secret societies, this one was open to both men and women. The society flourished in America and reached its peak during World War I. Popularity dwindled after that and by the late 1970s, membership was down from three million to about 250,000. Most of the Odd Fellows Lodge Halls in the US have been sold off or left abandoned.

Their burials have a very distinctive symbol, which features three linked chains. This symbolizes the tenets of friendship, love and truth. Many times, the all-seeing eye accompanies the chains along with shaking hands. The dedication ceremony took place on February 29, 1849. This was a huge and elaborate event with a funeral procession that was fit for a king. The Odd Fellows disinterred the remains of sixteen of their members that had been buried elsewhere and put them in a sarcophagus. They brought the remains in a caravan that had two circus bandwagons, one of which was pulled by sixteen horses, and a funeral car. The single sarcophagus was to symbolize the burial of the cemetery’s first occupants.

The Odd Fellows were not only forward in their thinking about membership for women, but they were against segregation. In many cemeteries, blacks were not allowed to be buried next to whites. The Odd Fellows felt they deserved the same honors, so they opened the cemetery to people of color. They had purchased the land for $700 and expanded with the help of local donations, which they needed to do because the cemetery filled up quickly. In a few short years, the Odd Fellows had erected two hundred vaults and the tomb of the Teutonia Lodge number ten. Walls were named for past grand masters of the Order and enclosed the cemetery. Plots were filled by 1930.

As is the case with most graveyards in New Orleans, getting access to this cemetery is difficult. The only real entrance is through The Herb Import Company that is next to the graveyard. You have to ask somebody there to be let in and it is at their discretion. They give you a number, so you can call when you want to be let back out. I've also heard that due to restoration efforts, they do not allow anybody inside. So I'm not really sure you can peruse this one. Perhaps you could sip a tea on the back patio of this establishment and you should be able to at least SEE the graveyard. And it really seems as though it is a site to see with elaborate epitaphs. Other symbols seen throughout the graveyard include beehives, the mother and her children, the cornucopia, the world, the Bible, the five-pointed stars and the initials "I.O. of O.F."

Urban legends abound here. Some people claim that zombies roam the grounds. Others declare that they have seen ghost cats. There does seem to be a ghost dog here and it is accompanied by its owner whom people call Mr. Mike. He seems to be a friendly spirit and is seen wearing a white t-shirt and dark pants and he is always walking a large dog. There is no other information about him, so I'm not sure if he was an Odd Fellow or if he hangs out here for another reason. His dress makes me think that he is not buried here.
          
Riverside Cemetery in Asheville

Riverside Cemetery is found in Asheville, North Carolina, in the Montford Historic District, and this is a large cemetery that holds the dearly departed remains of over 13,000 people. Some of those people are quite famous. The cemetery is located at 53 Birch St. and the oldest known grave here is from December of 1885. Some burials are so old, it is hard to see the inscriptions and as is the case in all cemeteries, some are unmarked due to loss of a marker or perhaps a family did not have the means for a stone. This is not only one of the more well known cemeteries in the state, it is said to be the most haunted graveyard in North Carolina.

Riverside Cemetery was established in 1885. The years have blossomed this cemetery into a beautifully matured landscape with meandering roads. This is a great example of a garden cemetery. One fun epitaph declares, ""Meant Well, Tried a little, Failed much." The Battle of Asheville took place in 1865, less than a mile from the cemetery. Many of the dead are buried here. There are also dead from the other wars buried here, including 18 German soldiers from WWI.

O. Henry was born William Sidney Porter. He was born in 1862 and was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He began his working career as a teenager working in his uncle's drugstore. He became a licensed pharmacist, but enjoyed spending much of his time sketching the portraits of customers. He moved to Texas hoping to get rid of a cough he had developed. While there, he worked in a bank and was charged with embezzlement. His father-in-law posted his bail, but he ran away to new orleans and then to Honduras. He eventually returned to Texas when he heard that his wife was dying of TB. She passed away and he served his time in jail. He wrote as a hobby, but pursued it more when he was released and got a job with The Post in Houston. He began his prolific short story writing career in 1902. He was a heavy drinker and he became quite ill in 1908. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1910.

Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900. He began his writing career at the University of North Carolina, where he attended college. He wrote several one-act plays and edited the school newspaper. He moved to New York in 1923 and this became his home. Three years later, he started his novel "Look Homeward, Angel." The novel was a critical success, but angered some of his friends in Asheville who recognized themselves as characters in the book. He continued publishing works, but his creativity was cut off early. He died at the age of 37 from tuberculosis of the brain in 1938.

There are claims of multiple hauntings here and many of those seem to be connected to the Battle of Asheville. The shouts of troops are heard and there is also the disarming exchange of gunfire. An entire regiment of ghostly Confederate soldiers has been seen as well. A couple of the other ghosts belong to children. Their small apparitions are seen and the disembodied laughter of children is heard. The spirit of an old man is seen wandering among the tombstones, but no one is sure which burial he belongs to.

Each of these cemeteries has its own unique features, but they are all beautiful and peaceful. Save for the spirits that seem to be at unrest. Are the legends real? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ep. 282 - The Great Wall of China

Moment in Oddity - Sarah's Grave
Suggested by: Pat Clifford

Pat lives in Australia and wanted to share the local story about Sarah's Grave. This grave belongs to Sarah Simpson and is located in an old bush cemetery at Castlereagh about an hour west of Sydney, Australia. Some of the first settlers in the region are buried in this graveyard. Sarah was a British convict who arrived in New South Wales in 1818 aboard the Friendship. Her crime was stealing some clothes that were valued at fivepence. She served her time and met a recently released convict named John Simpson who was a tailor and the couple moved out west. They had 8 children together. On the evening of December 10, 1838, Sarah was walking home when a group of men attacked her and killed her. John was devastated when her battered body was found. They had not married and so he married her in a graveside service to ensure she could pass on without sin into the next life. But it doesn't seem that Sarah passed on. Legends claim that she harasses young men that lurk near her graveside. Young women claim to have seen her ghost in the branches above her grave. An even weirder part of the legend claims that her father visited her grave and found her headstone destroyed. Each time he repaired it he would return the next day to find it destroyed again. He decided to stay the night at the cemetery and watch for the culprit. He went to the bush to go to the bathroom and when he came back the headstone was destroyed.  He was truly puzzled because he was not gone long enough for anyone to destroy the marker and he had heard no noise. And it is that part of the legend that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Murder of Stringbean Akeman
Suggested by: Johnny Marvin Allen

In the month of November, on the 10th, in 1973, David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife Estelle  were ambushed and murdered. Stringbean had started his legendary music career with a guitar he made out of a shoebox and a piece of thread. He got his nickname at a talent contest because he was lanky and the MC yelled for the Stringbean to come to the stage. Soon Stringbean was picking his banjo in a band, but was eventually left behind because he was considered old-fashioned. He married Estelle and went on to continue playing his old-time music, doing comedy and living a simple life. He also became a part of the Grand Ole Opry radio show and the cast of Hee Haw on television. That simple life also meant that he didn't trust banks. He had good reasoning considering that the Great Depression had left many people homeless and businesses shuttered. It was rumored that he kept a huge wad of his cash in his bibbed overalls. A couple of lowlifes named Doug and John Brown would shatter the innocence of Nashville's small town feel. They had heard about Stringbean keeping a stash of money and they ransacked the cabin that Stringbean and Estelle shared. Stringbean knew something was wrong when they got home and pulled his pistol. It would do him no good as he took a bullet to the head the minute he entered the cabin. Estelle made a run for it, but she was shot too. Fellow Opry star, Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones would find the bodies. The Brown cousins were arrested and convicted and sentenced to life behind bars. Doug died in prison, but John was eventually released after 41 years. Stringbean did have stashes of money in the cabin that the Browns never found. They were found in the walls.

The Great Wall of China (Suggested by Katrina Ray-Saulis)

Visiting the Great Wall of China is a bucket list item for many people. This man-made structure runs west to east across northern China for 13,171 miles. Construction began with the First Emperor of China over two thousand years ago. Building would continue for centuries with most of the work being done during the Ming Dynasty and actually, most of the original wall no longer exists. Thousands of people died while building the Wall and many died in battles near and on the Wall. This much death seems to have lead to paranormal activity. The Wall is said to be the most haunted structure in China. There are many ghosts seen here. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Great Wall of China!

The Great Wall traverses eleven provinces and two autonomous regions. The structure began as the Northern Frontier Wall and was initiated by the First Emperor of China, Shi Huangdi in 221 BCE. This would be the Qin Dynasty and where China gets its name. But even before that, princes that headed up the various states in the country had built their own walls along state borders for protection. These were similar in style to the Great Wall and began as early as 650 BCE. Warlords eventually jopined the individual states during the Warring States Period and seven large states were the result.

The Qin was the most powerful and conquered everybody else. In 221 BCE, Emperor Huangdi begin construction on The Great Wall and the Grand Canal. He wanted the Wall to protect against the harrassment coming from the Mongols. This early work mainly joined together all the separate walls and took 9 years with nearly a million workers. These workers did not volunteer for the job. These were convicts and unwilling conscripts. This Wall measured 3100 miles and gave the Chinese no pride as they believed this Wall did not unify and that people were just sent there to labor and die. The Qin Dynasty only lasted 15 years and was replaced by the Han Dynasty.

When Emperor Huangdi died there were two powerful generals who tried to take control. They were Xiang-Yu of Chou and Liu-Bang of Han. Liu-Bang won and the Han Dynasty rose to power and continued construction on the Wall. This emperor was the first to use the wall as a means of regulating trade along the Silk Road. The Han Dynasty Great Wall stretched from the North Korea coast near Pyongyang in the east to Jade Gate Pass in the west. This spans included branching walls, natural barriers, and trenches. A special kind of building was adopted for this stage of the Wall. Builders made basic wall frames by weaving together rose willow and reeds, and then they filled the frames with gravel. These were then piled in layers. High saline groundwater solidified the sand and gravel. There were three main types of construction: yellow Gobi Desert soil pressed in layers; sand and stones in rose willow and Hu poplar frames and reed adobe. Beacon towers were built every three miles and 80 of those still survive today. These towers were used as signal posts. Smoke and fire could be seen as far as 10 miles, so these were used by guards. The construction here is amazing as this section of Wall in the Gobi Desert has survived.

Feudal Dynasties continued working on the Wall through 1271 AD. The vast Mongol Empire managed to invade China and ushered in the Yuan Dynasty. This would unify Mongolia and China and all work on the Wall ceased, of course. This was China's first foreign-led dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty was founded by Genghis Khan. *Fun Facts: This was the first dynasty to use paper money and Marco Polo visited China during this time.* As tends to happen, this dynasty lost touch with its Mongol roots and internal turmoil was the result. Weakness also came via the Black Death and natural disasters. This weakness opened it up to defeat. The internal rebellion called itself The Red Turban Rebellion and they blamed the government for the disasters. The final straw came when the Yellow River changed course and flooded a major region and impoverished it. The Red Turbans said that this happened because the empire had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

*Rabbit Hole: The Mandate of Heaven was similar to the Divine Right of Kings in concept in that God was in control of ruling powers, but with the Divine Right of Kings, a particular family was chosen and it was wrong to rebel against them, whereas the Mandate of Heaven allowed for the people to rebel when they saw that favor had fallen from an Emperor via signs like famines or disasters. There are four principles to the Mandate:

1. Heaven grants the emperor the right to rule.
2. Since there is only one Heaven, there can only be one emperor at any given time.
3. The emperor's virtue determines his right to rule.
4. No one dynasty has a permanent right to rule.*

Zhu Yuanzhang was an important leader of the Red Turban Rebellion and he defeated all the other rival armies, destroyed the Yuan palaces and established the Ming Dynasty. Most of the original wall does not exist today. What we see today was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty. This dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1664 AD. This undertaking was the most massive. The Ming added over 25,000 massive watchtowers that ranged in height from 16-26 feet, 20 feet across the bottom and 16 feet across the top. The Ming Dynasty also enclosed their prized agricultural center, Liaoning Province, behind a walled fortification. This wall has been a source of controversy between China and North Korea with North Korea claiming that this wall belongs to them and not China. This fight continues today. The Ming Dynasty had a long run, but there was some inner turmoil. Rebels turned against the Ming Dynasty, which at the time was headed by Emperor Wu Sangui. He decided to allie himself with the Manchus and made an agreement with them that he would open the wall if they would help him defeat the rebels. Dumb move as the Manchus seized power, expelled the Ming Dynasty, and established the Qing Dynasty that held power from 1644 to 1912 AD. The Great Wall would fall into negelct at this time.

In 1912, the Republic of China decided to use it for controlling immigration and emigration. As hard as it may be to believe, the Great Wall had no real efforts to maintain and preserve it until 1980 when the Chinese government realized it could be used for tourism. In 1987, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even with these efforts, the Wall has only around 600 miles that is stable. People come from all around the world to visit and contrary to the popular belief out there that the Great Wall is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space, it actually cannot. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield spent five months aboard the International Space Station and he tweeted, “The Great Wall of China is not visible from orbit with the naked eye. It’s too narrow, and it follows the natural contours and colors [of the landscape]." Many believe that this fallacy dates back to 1895 when English essayist Sir Henry Norman wrote that the wall was "the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the moon." His made this observation based on the fact that people on earth could see craters and canals on the moon. He reasoned that someone on the moon would be able to see something as long and massive as the Great Wall on earth. I'm more amazed by the fact that he was thinking about man on the moon at that time.

A legend connected to the Wall is about a fortress on the Great Wall originally named, the Xifeng Kou, or the Happy Meeting Fortress. This is how it got its name. The Great Wall required soldiers to be on guard at the place all year round and this caused much suffering for them and their families. A young soldier had gone to defend the northern territory of China along the Great Wall. He was gone for many years. He and his father were the only people that remained of their family and his father came to find him. The two men almost didn't recognize each other because of all the years that had passed. They greeted each other with hugs and wept. Then they both died on the spot. The fortress was named in their honor. They represented the heart of thousands of soldiers and their family.

The China Travellers website reports, "Jiayu Fortress is the Western end of the Great Wall of China. It is a huge fortress that marks the end and the beginning of the Great Wall. Beyond it, lay the barren Gobi desert in which nobody lived. Only travelers and traders risked their lives in passing the great fortress and their lives depended on destiny. In ancient China, and perhaps in present day also, people had the habit of testing their luck which they believed would predict the outcome of their travels. Travelers and traders had the custom of throwing stones on the walls of the Jiayu Fortress. If the stone created noise, no matter loud or not, it would be a good sign that they would at least be safe out of the fortress. On the other hand, if no noise came about, they would probably be lost in the vast unknown world and should never return. If the sign is good, they might make a fortune and most importantly, return safe and sound. If the sign is a bad one, they might be hindered of their decision of venturing out. Such habit existed along the Jiayu Fortress."

The Great Wall is visited by over four million people a year and some of those visitors claim to experience things that they cannot explain. There are stories that at least a million people died during construction of the Wall. The most common experience is the holy grail of ghost hunting, full-bodied apparitions. Many tourists complain that they feel weird while visiting and this "weird" entails nausea, headaches, feelings of uneasiness and body pains. Some people report being physically assaulted with punches, slaps and are grabbed. Local legends say, “If you visit the Great Wall, the spirits of the fallen workers will haunt you until you cross a line of firecrackers to scare them away”.

Many of the ghost stories originate from one area of the Wall that is north of Beijing and known as The Wild Wall. Even worse than stories of hauntings is the fact that several hikers have died along this portion of the wall via lightning strikes and falls. Marching footsteps are heard in this area of the Wall and strange apparitions have been seen. Destination Truth visited the Wall during Season 3, Episode 11 in 2010, to do some ghost hunting and this section was their focus because of its dark corners. Grant and Jason from Ghost Hunters reviewed the evidence.

Anon on Paranormal Stories: "We did a private hike of the 'Wild' Jiankou section of the wall in 2012. We also camped overnight in the isolated section there, just beside the wall. It was only myself, my wife, and the guide. The guide had his own tent and helped us set up ours, after which he prepared dinner. After eating and a bit of a chat, we went to sleep in our tent and the guide retired to his. Shortly afterwards, we heard someone walking around outside our tent. The sound of footsteps on rocks was unmistakable, as it was otherwise very silent there. I quickly unzipped the tent, thinking maybe it was the guide walking around, but I couldn't see anyone. I walked a few meters over to his tent to ask if he was still awake and he unzipped his tent before asking if I needed something. I told him we heard footsteps and asked if it was him and he said no, he had been in the tent since after dinner. In the morning he told us that other tourists had also heard footsteps over the rocks in the middle of the night."

The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest wonders in the world. It was built on the backs of millions of people and one has to wonder how many of those workers died and are buried somewhere along the Wall. Is this why there are reports of apparitions? Is this energy captured from the historical conflicts that took place here? Is the Great Wall of China haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ep. 281 - Duff Green Mansion

Moment in Oddity - The Park of Monsters
Suggested by: Kim Gasiorowski

The "Parco dei Mostri" or Park of Monsters can be found in Bomarzo in northern Lazio, Italy. The park is situated in a wooded area below the Orsini Castle. This castle was once home to Prince Pier Francesco Orsini who lived there in the 16th century. Orsini is the designer of this bizarre and horribly beautiful park full of stone sculptures of various monsters. The sculptures are designed to shock and were an expression of his grief. He had come through a terrible season in his life. He had just survived a brutal war that had killed his best friend, he had been held for ransom for years and when he returned home, his beloved wife died. The prince hired architect Pirro Ligorio to help him create what he called the "Villaof Wonders." This would be a place of art before its time as it demonstrates a type of Surrealism. Salvador Dali loved the place when he visited. The park took 20 years to complete and was finished off with a temple built for the Prince's second wife. Other designs include a house built on a tilt to disorient visitors, a war elephant, a giant tearing another giant in half, a huge fish head and an enormous head with a wide gaping mouth locked in a scream, known as the mouth of hell, that features a small picnic table within. A novel, libretto, and opera have all been based on the park. A lovely and peaceful Italian garden playing host to stone monsters, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Mission San Juan Capistrano Founded

In the month of November, on the 1st, in 1776, the Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in California. Saint Junipero Serra founded the mission as the 7th of 21 missions statewide. The mission was originally intended as a self-sufficient community for Spanish Padres and Native Americans and was a center for agriculture, education and religion. Over 300,000 people visit the mission annually, but it is not just humans that visit. This is the site of the famous Annual Return of the Swallows.  Swallows migrate 6,000 miles from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano and arrive on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day. This has been happening since the 1930s. The legend of why this happens goes: One day, while walking through town, Father O’Sullivan saw a shopkeeper, broomstick in hand, knocking down the conically shaped mud swallow nests that were under the eaves of his shop. The birds were darting back and forth through the air squealing over the destruction of their homes. “What in the world are you doing?” O’Sullivan asked. “Why, these dirty birds are a nuisance and I am getting rid of them!” the shopkeeper responded. “But where can they go?” “I don’t know and I don’t care,” he replied, slashing away with his pole. “But they’ve no business here, destroying my property.” Father O’Sullivan then said, “Come on swallows, I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission. There’s room enough there for all.” The very next morning, Father O’Sullivan discovered the swallows busy building their nests outside Father Junípero Serra’s Church. The mission also features one-of-a-kind artifacts and paintings and has the ruins of the Great Stone Church destroyed in an earthquake in 1812. Her nickname is the American Acropolis.

Duff Green Mansion

Vicksburg is one of those Civil War era cities that I long to visit because I love antebellum mansions.  The Greek Revival architecture and magnolia trees take me back to an earlier time with hoop skirts embellished with ribbons and elegant carriages riding in the streets, but it was also a dark time of slavery and division in the United States that would lead to the outbreak of the Civil War. Vicksburg was the scene of an intense battle that would leave over 37,000 causalities in its wake. Just prior to the outbreak of the war, Duff Green built his mansion and the Bed and Breakfast still carries his name today. The mansion seems to have more than just the Green name. Spirits of the family members seem to have stayed on her in the afterlife. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Duff Green Mansion!

Vicksburg, Mississippi is a river port that sits high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The United States bought the area from the Choctaw Nation in 1801. The city would become the scene of a battle that would be a major turning point in the Civil War. Confederate forces held the city under Lt. General John Pemberton. The Union knew that this was a strategic location that they needed because of the location on the river bluff. In the summer of 1863, Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee converged on Vicksburg. They found that Pemberton's forces had built a series of trenches, forts, redans, and artillery lunettes in a 7-mile ring surrounding the city, but the Union had the advantage of outnumbering the Confederate forces two to one. Grant went forward with two assaults but both were repelled leading him to lay siege to the city. This led Pemberton to surrender on July 4th as food and supplies ran out. Grant's Vicksburg campaign was considered one of the most brilliant of the war and it solidified the Union with control of the entire Mississippi River.

Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time in Vicksburg in 1894 by Joseph Biedenharn who was a local confectioner. Well, I had to know more because I love Coke. Coca-Cola originated as a soda fountain drink and sales were so good for Biedenharn, he decided to try bottling it. He used a common glass bottle called a Hutchinson. Biedenharn sent a case to Asa Griggs Candler, who owned Coke. Candler thanked him but took no action at first.

So Vicksburg was a major player in the war, but it suffered greatly afterwards and racial strife would be a key part of its history. Today, it is a grand city that focuses on tourism. People come from all around to see the antebellum mansions and one of those is the Duff Green Mansion. Duff Green was a local cotton broker that had become very wealthy. He had recently married Mary Lake and wanted to build his new wife a grand home that the neighbors would envy. Construction began in 1856. The mansion was built in the Palladian style with two large verandas that featured wrought iron embellishments. There were 13 fireplaces, several bedrooms and a large ballroom. Lavish parties were thrown at the mansion and both Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant were said to have danced in the ballroom. Things were wonderful until the Civil War broke out.

The Siege of Vicksburg that I described earlier brought the battle right to the home of the Greens. Five cannonballs blasted through the upper floors before Mary was able to hoist a yellow flag indicating that the mansion could be used as a hospital. Both Confederate and Union casualties were brought to the mansion. The Union took the top floor and the Confederate forces took the main floor. The kitchen became the operating room and so much blood flowed onto the floor that the wood is still bloodstained to this day. The Greens needed a place to stay during this time and they took cover in caves that they had built into the hill outside their home. Mary was pregnant at the time and actually had to give birth to their son in the cave. She named him William Siege Green. I'm not sure what happened with the Greens between the time the siege ended and when they returned to their home in 1866, but the mansion itself was leased by the US government to be used as a Soldier's Home.

The Greens stayed in the home until 1880 when Duff passed away. They had a daughter named Annie who died in the home when she was six. Mary decided to sell the house and she did so to the Peatross family. This would begin a time of ownership switching hands and different uses for the house. The Peatross family stayed in the house until 1910 and they sold it to Fannie Vick Johnston. She used the mansion as a temporary residence while her mansion was being built. That home is known today as Stained-Glass Manor. She moved out and allowed the home to be used as an orphanage for boys. For a time, it also became a home for elderly, destitute women. In 1931, Johnston's heirs sold the property to the Salvation Army and they used it for 50 years. In 1985, the mansion was sold to Harry Sharp and his wife.

The Sharps brought the Duff Green Mansion back to its former glory as they transformed it into a bed and breakfast. The process took two-and-a-half years, but it is gorgeous inside with polished wood floors, gorgeous chandeliers and walls covered in historic paint. Twenty-seven layers of paint had to be removed. The mansion is filled with period antique furnishings and offers several rooms for guests that include The Dixie Room, The Camellia Room, The Confederate Room, The Magnolia Room, Little Annie Room, The Pemberton Suite, The Duff Green Suite, The Nursery and Lucy's Cave, which is an apartment that is located under the driveway off the courtyard. There is a brick courtyard with a pool. Weddings and events are hosted as well. Something the bed and breakfast does not keep a secret, is that it also hosts ghosts.

The owner Henry Sharp himself has seen ghosts. He told the Vicksburg Post, "I've seen the ghost of Mary Green floating in the entrance of that doorway, plain as day." The cook has also seen the apparition of Mary and describes her as a beautiful woman with flowing blonde hair. She told a local television station, "I was standing there over the stove stirring my grits, and I felt this rubbing on my shoulders. I thought someone had walked in behind me - teasing me or something like that. But I looked back, and there wasn't anyone there. Then I know it was Mrs. Green." This apparition has been seen most of the time wearing a green antebellum dress. The cook also came in one morning and heard music coming from the ballroom. When she looked inside, she saw a ghostly couple swirling about the floor. A female spirit has been seen looking out a window in the dining room who could also be Mary Green.

Little Annie who died in the house when she was six still seems to be here. Her apparition is seen and heard running up and down the staircase and the sounds of a child playing with a ball have also been heard. Mr. Sharp's one-and-a-half year old granddaughter Lydia was in the ballroom with him one time and she kept glancing over at a corner in the room and finally said, "Ga-ga, ball," over and over. Mr. Sharp said "ga-ga" was Lydia's word for baby. Did she see Little Annie in the corner playing with a ball? A three-year-old guest kept making motions like he was throwing a ball in the ballroom and when his father asked why he kept doing that he responded that he was throwing the ball to Annie.

The most seen spirit belongs to a Confederate soldier who lost his leg. He is seen most often by the fireplace in The Dixie Room standing by the mantle or sitting in a chair and he just looks straight ahead. A policeman captured the figure of a soldier sitting on the front steps. I'm not sure if this is a different soldier as the description didn't mention a missing leg. A side note about amputations here, one of the basement rooms is where these took place and there was a window through which the limbs were thrown and it is said that the stack reached five feet high. During excavations around the foundation, human bones were found that had surgical saw marks on them.

Guests have had other experiences like feeling the sheets being pulled off them in The Confederate Room. Phantom smells have also been experienced in this room, one of which is gangrene. The investigative group Paranormal Incorporated captured some interesting EVPs during a stay. Most are hard to hear other than differentiating voices between male and female, but one sounds like a whistle that goes, "Yoo Hoo." Heavy furniture is heard dragging across the floors of rooms where no one is staying. Photographic evidence has been captured featuring shadow figures. Employees claim that hardly a week goes by that they don't have something strange happen or see something out of the corner of their eyes. Some guests have even claimed to see angels and a pair of undertakers. Only two guests have ever left the mansion, unable to stay because of the haunting activity, and that seems to indicate that the spirits here are not malevolent.

The mansion is beautiful inside and out. Could it be that Mary green's love for her former home has brought her spirit back? Did she come back to join her daughter Annie in the afterlife? Did the trauma of the Civil War leave the spirits of some soldiers here? Is the Duff Green Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

HGB Halloween Special 2018

On this episode, we share lots of listener true tales of paranormal activity! Also, the history of haunted house attractions. When and where did these start?

There are over 2500 haunted house attractions in the world and they are big money makers. People love to be scared, especially in a place where they are assured that they cannot be touched and what they are about to see is not real. The Egyptians were the first to come up with the idea of planning elaborate mazes and scares with the purpose of keeping body snatchers from raiding burials. They would put these scares around the outside of burials and filled them with traps, snakes and insects, moving walls and self-opening doors. Unfortunately, these scares were not as good as our modern day ones and most tombs were raided. Greeks and Romans are known for their mythological monsters and stage performances in which they used fog, fake blood and ghosts to scare audiences. So none of these are exactly like the haunted house attractions of today, but they show that humans have always looked for a way to scare and be scared.

The use of theater to scare people would continue into the late 19th century at the Grand Guignol Theater in Paris. Stage performances featured graphic dismemberment and it had a reputation of people passing out during plays. The first haunted house would start at an English fairground called Liphook in 1915. Patrick Collins was a carnival creator and he built the "Haunted Cottage" for his wife Flora at the fairground. This was during World War I and people were seeking a way to escape, so the haunted house was very popular. The scares were pretty tame and included a maze of rocking floors, vibrating walls and air blasts from below that took place in the dark. The cottage is called the Orton and Spooner Ghost House and still runs today at the Hollycombe Working Steam Museum in Liphook. The outside features the original artwork displaying ghosts, spiders, cobwebs, skeletons, Frankenstein’s Monster and Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera.

Amusement parks started hosting funhouses with dark mazes, weird mirrors and loud noises and this spilled over into small haunted houses that played up more of the creeps. Haunted Houses started appearing in America during the Great Depression just as trick-or-treating was getting started as well. It was thought that the haunted houses would distract the kids from getting into mischief. Most of them were hosted in people's basements. A 1937 pamphlet describes how parents could create these scares: "An outside entrance leads to a rendezvous with ghosts and witches in the cellar or attic. Hang old fur, strips of raw liver on walls, where one feels his way to dark steps....Weird moans and howls come from dark corners, damp sponges and hair nets hung from the ceiling touch his face....Doorways are blockaded so that guests must crawl through a long dark tunnel....At the end he hears a plaintive ‘meow’ and sees a black cardboard cat outlined in luminous paint...” (Fun Fact: I made haunted house with some friends down in one of their basements one year. Didn't know I was honoring an old tradition at the time.)

In 1969, Disneyland premiered their Haunted Mansion with lots of special effects that featured dancing ghosts in a ballroom, transforming portraits, pop-up monsters in a cemetery, a spectral sea captain and a headless horseman. The original idea was to make it a walk through attraction, but when people lingered to long looking at exhibits, doombuggy cars were introduced to keep the crowds moving at a steady pace. Today's haunted houses fall back on the walk through attraction. The Jaycees started making charity haunted houses and soon other amusement parks started incorporating haunted houses during October that continues all the way up to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. The haunted houses of the 1980s and 1990s featured a lot of connections to Hollywood's craze of slasher movies.

Today, the industry is worth $300 million dollars. Home haunters have gotten into the game, turning their homes into mini haunted attractions for Halloween. Have you been to a haunted house and which has been your favorite?