Thursday, January 21, 2021

HGB Ep. 369 - Harper's Ferry

Moment in Oddity - Tea Drinking Was Once Considered Irresponsible (Suggested by: Darren Koch)

So drinking tea in our modern age is considered pretty normal. As a matter of fact, tea time is a way of life in Britain. But there was once a time that tea drinking was looked down upon. Pamphlets were delivered to homes in the early 1800s warning against the waste of time and money that tea drinking was for women. One read, "We never were used to tea, and would not choose that our little girl should get a notion of any such thing. The hankering after a drop of tea keeps many poor all their lives. So I would not have any things in the cabin which would put us in mind of it." The attitude was that poor Irish women might as well be chugging from a bottle of whiskey when they were sipping tea from a cup. In England, tea was thought to ruin diets and foster thoughts of revolution. Women were banned from coffee and tea houses throughout Europe. The thought that drinking tea could be controversial and lead poor women down the road of laziness and rebellion, certainly is odd.  

This Month in History - Johnny Cash Performs at Folsom Prison

In the month of January, on the 13th, in 1968, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison. In 1956, Cash had written "Folson Prison Blues," which was written from the point of view of an inmate, but he himself had never done time in Folsom Prison and he had only been in jail to sleep off a drunk. Cash had been a successful songwriter and performer making his way to legendary status when he became his own road block. By 1968, Cash was depressed as his music career was in decline and drugs and alcohol had taken their toll on him. He had performed at Folsom Prison in 1966, but this visit would be very special as Cash planned to record the concert that he performed there. The inmates loved Cash and energized his playing. The record that came from the live performance was a huge hit and Cash's career skyrocketed. He became the "Man in Black" after this as he started wearing his trademark dark clothing as a symbol of the beaten down man and prisoner. He crusaded for the imprisoned man for the rest of his life.

Harper's Ferry

Harper's Ferry is located in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. The town is best known for its place in history as the site of John Brown's armed raid of the U.S. military arsenal there before the Civil War. This would ignite a spark that eventually ended slavery, which is precisely what Brown wanted. This may be the reason his spirit is still seen in Harper's Ferry. There is more than just Brown's spirit here though. This is West Virginia, a state we have always believed hones supernatural energy and its strategic location with the rivers, more than likely feeds this energy even more. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of Harper's Ferry!

Harper's Ferry was a very strategic location in early America, particularly because of its spot at the conjunction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. The first known Native Americans to be in the area were the Tuscarora People. With the large rivers, a ferry was needed to help commerce between the states of what was Virginia at the time and Maryland. And since this is named Harper's Ferry, you probably think that someone named Harper was the man to do this. Wrong. This area that was known as The Point was owned by Lord Fairfax, who was a Scottish Peer. Peer is one of those royal titles. He owned a big chunk of Virginia and worked some 30 farms there with slave labor. A squatter came along named Peter Stephens and he set the ferry up in 1733. He ran that for fourteen years until Robert Harper came through and saw how much wasted potential the ferry had. He paid Stephens for his squatting rights and Harper was off and running. 

In 1761, Harper purchased 126 acres from Lord Fairfax and legally set up the ferry and the Virginia General Assembly called the town Shenandoah Falls at Mr Harper's Ferry. The area was beautiful and when Thomas Jefferson visited he proclaimed that the view was "worth a voyage across the Atlantic." George Washington would later establish the site as a military location because of its strategic importance. He had a United States Armory and Arsenal built here. The armory was completed in 1799 and was one of only two in America at the time. Lewis and Clark would supply their expedition from this armory. Most weapons made in the US came from here and by the time of the Civil War, it was cranking out 600,000 muskets, pistols and rifles. This armory and the town of Harper's Ferry itself would be burned into the history of America when an abolitionist named John Brown raided the place.

John Brown was born in Connecticut in 1800 to a Calvinist family who were anti-slavery. The family moved to Ohio and that was where John was raised. He married a woman named Dianthe Lusk and settled in Pennsylvania where they had seven children. He ran several businesses and opened a post office. His main business was a tannery and a secret room there became part of the Underground Railroad. Brown went from doing well to a string of bad luck. His wife Dianthe died during child birth, his logging business ran out of wood and the tannery failed. He had 20 lawsuits filed against him and a variety of his failed business dealings and he eventually declared bankruptcy in his early 40s. He married a sixteen-year-old girl named Mary May and they had thirteen children. They moved to Ohio to start a new life because Brown was finding it very difficult to feed 20 children. 

One day he heard about an abolitionist meeting in Cleveland and he decided to attend out of curiosity because he had always been anti-slavery. He left that meeting inspired and emboldened. He told anyone who would listen that he was dedicating his life to bringing down the institution of slavery. Brown's first major moves in his new abolitionist path took him to Kansas and he brought five of his sons with him. The state was in play between abolitionists and slave holders. Lawrence was an abolitionist town and it was raided by some pro-slavery men on May 21, 1856. Brown and his sons were set on revenge and they attacked a group of cabins along Pottawatomie Creek, killing five men. This launched a series of skirmishes and eventually one of Brown's sons was killed. Brown formulated many plans and one thing he always believed would happen was that slaves would rise up and join him. By 1859, he had worked out funding from some wealthy Abolitionists that were dubbed the "Secret Six" and he had a small army of twenty men that included three of his sons and several free black men. The group rented a Maryland farm and hatched a plan to carry out an attack on Harper's Ferry.

Shortly before midnight on October 16th, 1859, Brown took his men down the road to Harper's Ferry. When they got to the railway station, a free man of color named Haywood Shepherd, who was the baggage master, approached them and told them to stop. He was shot and killed. There were several people in the area that the band of men took hostage and these included some slaves. Brown and his men seized several buildings, including the arsenal. Then they waited for the slaves to rise up. This was the thing Brown had always expected to happen. He just knew that their numbers would swell by the hundreds. That uprising did not happen. Word of the raid spread and soon Brown and his men were surrounded. They drove the raiders back to a fire hall that was dubbed Brown's Fort and they killed Dangerfield Nubie, a free black man with Brown. Dangerfield was the son of his mother's master, so clearly he started out as a product of rape. He eventually married and had seven children. When his father took the family to Ohio, he was freed because that was a free state. But his wife and children couldn't come with him because they were still slaves. So you can imagine why he found himself among John Brown's small army.

On October 18, Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart led a troop of Marines into Harper's Ferry and they joined the civilians in the attack on Brown, who was wounded and captured. Two of his sons were killed as well as ten of the other men with him. The state of Virginia tried Brown for treason and murder, and he was found guilty on November 2. He was sentenced to death by hanging and this took place on December 2, 1859. He climbed the thirteen steps of the gallows with pride. He had made his case during the trial, using the process to spread his message. Some thought he was a hero, others thought he was a criminal and some even thought he was a mad man. One thing he was for sure was prophetic. He passed a note to his guard that read, "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood." And soon the Civil War would start with many calling this raid, the first shot fired. 

Harper's Ferry would be a prized spot during the Civil War. Both the North and South would trade off control of it during various times. Several places in town have connections to the war and these locations seem to ooze spiritual activity. John Brown is still strongly connected to this place of his final stand. One story dates back to 1974. Shirley Dougherty was running a restaurant in town when a group of visitors came inside. As they settled in they commented to her that the John Brown re-enactor was amazing. Shirley frowned with confusion and asked what re-enactor they were talking about. They told her that this was a man down by Brown's Fort who was a dead ringer for John Brown. They had seen his picture and this man was tall with a shock of white hair and period clothing who had a wild look in his eyes. Shirley started hearing similar stories from other tourists. So many, that she thought perhaps the National Park Service had hired an actor. The craziest part of the story was that people took their pictures with this man, but when they got the film developed, the man was not in the pictures. Brown also is said to regularly appear taking a nightly walk with a dog and as they approach the engine house, they both disappear into a wall. This could be residual as many claim that Brown took this walk many times in life as he surveyed the lay of the land and planned his attack.

Some time later, a man named Brad Matthews claimed to be walking past Brown's Fort at night on the anniversary of the raid. He came face to face with several men carrying muskets who started to interrogate him. The man ran away and he heard gunfire behind him. Makes one wonder if those bullets were as corporal as the men! Park employees and visitors have both claimed to see the apparition of Dangerfield Nubie walking around Hog Alley. He was killed by a 6-inch-spike fired from a rifle that hit him in the throat. The reason Dangerfield might be in this place called Hog Alley is because his body was mutilated with his limbs being cut off and everything was thrown to the hogs. When his apparition is seen, he is wearing baggy trousers and a slouched hat and has a scar across his throat. But it is not just spirits connected to John Brown's Raid that are here. There are many more spirits and ghost stories here.

Today, Harper's Ferry National Historical Park stretches into three states, covers 4,000 acres and includes the historic town of Harper's Ferry. This was established by Congress in 1963 after being a National Monument since 1944. The main points of interest in the park are Jefferson Rock, John Brown's Fort, Loudoun Heights, Maryland Heights and The Point. The Point overlooked the B&O Railroad bridge, which was destroyed and replaced nine times during the Civil War. The Flood of 1936 destroyed it for good. Any buildings located here were burned by the Union in 1862 so Confederates couldn't use them as cover for sharpshooters. Jefferson Rock is named for Thomas Jefferson who stood upon the shale in 1783 and marveled at the view. Loudon Heights was seized by Confederate forces during the Battle of Harper's Ferry. The Confederate forces hauled four cannons up that mountain. Eventually the Union would reoccupy Harper's Ferry.

Camp Hill

Camp Hill is found on High Street. This former military encampment was founded in 1798, shortly after the Revolutionary War. General Pinkney was stationed here with his troops when France was threatening to attack. They never saw any action, but that didn't prevent them from experiencing a lot of death. Cholera swept through the camp and killed many men. Their bodies were buried on the west bank of Camp Hill. Because there was not much action here, General Pinkney kept his men entertained and fit by running drills with them. The troops would run up and down the hill as the fife and drum played. So it is not surprising that the haunt attributed to this location is said to be a phantom army and people claim to hear the sound of drums beating and a fife playing. The disembodied sounds of marching feet are also heard.

St Peters Roman Catholic Church

St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is located at 110 Church Street and dates back to 1833. The Neo-Gothic structure sits up on the heights of Harper's Ferry and was the only church in the town to not be destroyed during the Civil War. This is a small, but beautiful church built from gray stone with a red sandstone trim around the windows and archways. A grand spire sits atop its tower. The windows are made from colored glass. The interior is one large room that serves as the sanctuary. Father Michael Costello was a young priest shepherding the flock here when the Civil War broke out. He served from 1857 to 1867. When the war started, his homeland of Ireland offered to bring him back home, but he would not leave his church. The church was spared during the war because Father Costello flew a Union Jack flag atop St. Peter's to express neutrality. He protected church property and was nicknamed the "doctor of souls." He made it through the war, but died two years after it from an illness at the age of thirty-three.

Father Costello's ghost has been seen by several people walking around inside and outside of the church he loved. During the war, the church served as a hospital. A young wounded soldier laid out on the lawn waiting for a doctor to see him. He was losing blood fast and thus fading fast. He was carried inside the church and he whispered his last words, "Thank God, I am saved." His apparition is seen on the stairs occasionally and there are other people who claim to hear his disembodied voice whispering his last words again.

The Harper House

The Harper House is now known as the Harper Museum and is located at 102 Public Way. This is the oldest house in Harper's Ferry. It was built in the late 1700s by Robert and Rachel Harper for whom the town was named. The ferry business was good money, but England was charging them huge taxes, so Rachel starting hiding some of the money in jars and burying them. Rachel fell from a ladder in 1780 and her injuries were so severe that she died the next day. She must have been unconscious the whole time because she never told anyone where the money was buried. Some people believe it is in the garden across from the house. Perhaps for this reason, her spirit is still seen at the house and many times she is looking out in the direction of the garden.

Train Tracks by U.S. Armory

There are some old railroad tracks by the U.S. Armory at 118-198 Potomac Street and they have a crazy ghost story connected to them. Engineers claim to see some kind of anomaly coming down the tracks. They describe it as a huge ball of flame passing down the tracks. The scream of train wheels are heard following behind it. There was a woman who was known as Jenny who lived in a tiny shack near the train tracks and the river. She would walk the river looking for driftwood for her fire. One night, the hem of her dress caught fire and she took off running down the train tracks yelling for help. She ended up in the path of the train. Is this anomaly Jenny's spirit running, engulfed in flames? Is this a residual haunting playing the scene over and over again. And speaking of the armory and fire, the Confederates burned it in 1861.

A Phantom Named Jacob

Christopher Coleman tells the story of a phantom named Jacob in his book "Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War." There is a building that housed a former tintype studio that was taken over by the Union during the war and used as a Confederate prison. One of the guards there was named Jacob. He had met a local girl and left his post to have a late night tryst. His superior found out and punished the whole unit. Afterward, Jacob's troop decided to teach him a lesson and they bound and gagged him. He ended up choking to death and the soldiers dragged his body away and buried it in secret to cover their crime. This is probably why Jacob is at unrest. The sound of a body being dragged down the stairs in the building is heard as well as the sound of gagging and someone being beaten. 

Maryland Heights Trail

The North and South fought over the strategic location of Harper's Ferry heartily and each side traded control of it through the war. The Maryland Heights Trail is a steep mountain trail that winds nearly 6.5 miles. This is an area were hundreds of soldiers battled. Several encampments were set up in the mountains and people who walk here at night claim to see ghostly firelights dotting the hills.  Fun Fact: Before there were billboards on highways, advertisements were painted on the sides of brick buildings (as many of us already know) and stone cliffs. Maryland Heights is one of those places with an ad painted on the side made from milk and whitewash. It reads "Mennen’s Borated Talcum Toilet Powder." The ad was targeted for people traveling on the B & O Railroad.

Phantom Drummer Boy

This next story is a tough one. As we know, drummers during the Civil War were usually young boys. There was one certain nine or ten year old boy who found his Confederate regiment captured. The Union soldiers took pity on him because they knew he would never survive the prison camp. They kept him in the Town House that they were occupying. They first started off having him work like a servant for them, telling him to clean, polish their boots and do the laundry. Eventually, the soldiers started abusing the boy and he would beg them to let him go home to his mother. One day, the soldiers were drunk and when the boy started crying again, they were enraged and started passing him around to each other. One pass sent him flying through a window and he fell to his death. The disembodied crying and begging of a child are heard in the area of this building, which we could not track down the name of. The book "Haunted West Virginia" by Patty A. Wilson just calls it the Town House. 

Ghostly Hand Print

This next haunt we don't know the location of either, but it is another story told in the "Haunted West Virginia" book. A woman ran a restaurant in town and when she first moved in, she noticed a hand print on the wall. She tried to clean it off, but nothing could remove it, so she decided to paint over it. Imagine her surprise when the hand print came through the paint. She decided to ask the former owner about it who had no further information. The woman felt like she had a ghost because she often felt like she was being watched. But the former owner didn't believe there was a ghost. The restaurant owner decided that her only option for dealing with the hand print was to cover it with a painting. The morning after she hung the picture, she found the painting on the ground. Now she had no doubt that there was a ghost in the building. She made peace with the ghost. She would put the painting up on the wall during the day and then take it down when she left for the night. 

Alyssa LeVasseur told journalist Deborah Block, “The whole town is haunted. People have seen things. You can probably ask anyone in town who has been living here, or works here, and they have seen something. They can't deny it. I hear ghosts all the time. I’ve heard kids’ voices and footsteps, so I know they are here. I say good morning to them. I was walking by one of the displays when the audio went on by itself.  You have to push a button to turn it on. Then I realized I hadn’t said ‘good morning’ to the spirits, and as soon as I did, the sound stopped.”

Harper's Ferry has an important place in American history. This town has seen turmoil and war and survived. And while it has moved forward, there possibly could be remnants from the past still holding on in the afterlife. Are these locations in Harper's Ferry haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

HGB Ep. 368 - Haunted Houdini

Moment in Oddity - The Poison Squad (Suggested by: Scott Booker)

Ever have food poisoning? It's a nasty thing that leaves most wishing for the sweet release of death. Food poisoning doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to and much of that is thanks to the Poison Squad. At the turn of the 20th century, food producers were putting just about anything in as fillers for their food. There was borax, formaldehyde, chalk and copper sulfate added to food and things like lard were passed off as butter. This on top of the fact that keeping food free of bacteria was difficult before modern refrigeration and such. And the government didn't care. So a chemist named Dr. Harvey Wiley, who worked for the USDA, decided he needed to do something. He needed a way to get the government's attention, so that it started forcing food companies to label their food with ingredients. Dr. Wiley also worried about long-term effects of food additives. So he gathered together several strapping young men and named them The Poison Squad. This name reflected the fact that he was going to actively poison them. The squad became a pop culture sensation and really heroes for their efforts. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed. Soon, the formation of the FDA would follow. Poisoning a bunch of young men to prove how dangerous bad food could be, certainly is odd! 

This Month in History - Houdini Debuts Milk Can Trick

In the month of January, on the 27th, in 1908, Houdini debuts his milk can escape trick at the Columbia Theater in St. Louis. Houdini poked the can and turned it upside down to reveal that there was no hole on the stage. Houdini stood in a blue bathing suit as he was handcuffed. The giant milk can was filled with water and Houdini stepped inside, sloshing water everywhere. A lid was put over the top and locked down with six padlocks. A cabinet was put in front of the milk can so no one could see it and two minutes later, Houdini peeked out from behind the cabinet, dripping wet and panting from holding his breath. He was free of the handcuffs, but the padlocks remained on the can. How he escaped, no one knows, but this became one of his most famous acts and he did it over and over. He would copyright his tricks, but never apply for patents for his inventions because he didn't want to give his secrets away.

Haunted Houdini

The Houdini Estate crossed our radar about a month ago when our friend Maria posted on her Hollywood Exhumed Instagram account about a brush fire near the location. This was a bit concerning because while most brush fires are easily put out, this is California where one spark can burn down half the state! This got us to wondering if the Houdini Estate was haunted, which lead us down a path of wondering why this estate carried the name of a man who never lived there. And this led to researching his house in New York and whether it was haunted. Many listeners are probably very familiar with the stories of seances trying to conjure a message from Houdini. Has Houdini made his presence known from the other side of the Veil? On this episode, we explore the fascinating life and legend of Houdini and share the history and haunts connected to this amazing man who just may still be with us! 

We've done an episode on Spiritualism, Ep. 191, and we talked about the fact that Houdini effectively stopped the Spiritualism movement from continuing to grow. Does this mean that Houdini didn't believe in the afterlife or ghosts or even the ability to speak with spirits. We don't think so, but it certainly gave him fire to expose the rampant fraud that was a part of the movement. Houdini was world renowned as an escape artist and an illusionist, which made him perfect for revealing fraud by demonstrating how mediums were doing what they did during seances. Houdini's talent for magic started early. He was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary on March 24, 1874 to Mayer Weisz and his second wife, Cecilia Steiner. The Weisz family emigrated to Wisconsin four years later and changed the spelling of their name to Weiss and Erik's to Ehrich, which eventually became Harry because the family called him Ehrie. Harry grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin where his father served as a rabbi. No one knows where Harry got his first taste of magic, but he was fascinated with it and soon found an idol in Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. This is where he would get the inspiration for his stage name of Houdini. He simply added an "i" to his idol's name. There are those who claim that Harry apprenticed with a locksmith when he was a kid and that is how he learned to pick locks and he became so proficient, he could do it with his eyes closed. It's an interesting legend to be sure.

Houdini started his stage career at the age of nine doing a trapeze act, calling himself Ehrich the Prince of the Air. In 1887, Houdini and his father moved to New York and the family later joined them. During the day, young Ehrich worked in a necktie factory and at night, he entertained in the beer halls. He started his professional magic career at the age of seventeen. His brother Theo had joined him and worked as his assistant. The two brothers' most famous act was Metamorphosis. Houdini would lock Theo in a box, a curtain would drop and when it rose a few seconds later, Houdini had switched places with Theo and was now in the locked box. Theo would go on to become a very successful magician himself, performing in Europe as Hardeen and he was the one who pioneered the escape from a straitjacket act. He inherited Houdini's equipment upon his death. Even though the magic was good, Houdini was not getting much traction with it and even considered quitting and opening up a magic school.

It was during a performance at Coney Island in 1894 that Houdini met Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a singer and dancer with The Floral Sisters. She went by the name Bess and was initially courted by Theo, but Houdini won her heart and married her on June 22, 1894. Bess then became his stage assistant and would do that for the rest of Houdini's life. The couple traveled as The Houdini's and performed with the circus. The magic career still was not taking off and Houdini decided to add something else to the act. He had figured out how to get out of handcuffs and this became his focus. In 1899, Vaudeville Impresario Martin Beck caught the act and he told Houdini that he wanted to manage him, but that he needed to focus on the escape acts. Beck soon had Houdini booked at the best venues in America and then took the act over to Europe. As part of the act, he challenged members of the audience to lock him up in the handcuffs, so they knew the handcuffs were real. Houdini would visit local jails and ask the police to lock him in shackles and he would get out of them. Soon, people were calling him the "King of Handcuffs." The shows became sell-outs across Europe and when he returned home, he upped the ante by doing high-profile escapes, one of which was breaking out of the jail cell that once held Charles Guiteau, the man who assassinated President James A. Garfield.

Handcuffs soon became straitjackets that Houdini got out of and he started adding other elements like water-filled tanks and crates that were nailed shut. Houdini returned to Europe again and again to perform and in 1902 The German Slander Trial took place. A police officer named Werner Graff from Cologne claimed that Houdini had bribed him to rig an escape from the city jail. The claim was posted in a Cologne newspaper and a civilian jail employee also claimed to have been paid to help with a public demonstration. Houdini was outraged and sued. He had been through this once before in Germany. The police had not been friendly when he was here before and the police challenged him to prove he was legit. He did that by allowing them to clamp his hands behind his back with thumbscrews, finger locks and hand and elbow irons. His mouth was taped shut and he was put under a blanket. He freed himself in six minutes. So Houdini was not going to let these accusations stand. He won the case by freeing himself from locked chains in front of the judge. 

The Houdinis had become very wealthy at this point. Houdini adored his mother and he bought a dress that may have been made for Queen Victoria and then he held a reception for his relatives and presented his mother in the dress. Houdini claimed this was the happiest day of his life. In 1904, the Houdinis bought a brownstone in Harlem, New York City at 278 W. 113th Street. The brownstone recently got a new owner in 2018 who bought it for $3.6 million. Houdini and Bess lived in the Harlem townhouse for twenty-two years. They paid $24,000 for it at that time. The townhouse was built sometime in 1890 and Houdini quickly made the place his space, adding all kinds of neat contraptions. The Wild About Harry Blog writes of it, "Inside, Houdini had a gigantic sunken bathtub and a large mirror installed to practice his underwater effects. The bathroom tiles were engraved with an “H,” while Bess’s bathroom sported a “B.” Houdini also had the entire house wired for sound -- including an early “wireless” radio in the carpets -- so he could amaze visitors with mind reading effects. Even the front door was an illusion. It looked normal, but when you turned the knob, it opened from the hinge side."

Many family members would live with the Houdinis. One was Houdini's brother Dr. Leopold Weiss who was New York's first radiologist. He practiced out of the brownstone while he lived there. An intruder attacked Leo in the house in 1907 with a razor and the man as later captured. The reports never mentioned that this was Houdini's house. The year 1913 was a tough one for Houdini. He adored his mother and she passed away that year. The magician was away at the time and her body was kept in the parlor for a full week. The smell of decay stayed in the house for a long time and in 1914, Houdini tried to sell the house. He was unsuccessful, so they would rent it out. He and Bess eventually moved back into the brownstone in 1918. The house was filled with books and Houdini called it his library. He wept outside of the house before leaving on his last tour because as he told a friend, he would never see his house again. He died later that year. But perhaps he did see his home again. 

Bess sold the house to their neighbors, the Bonannos, and left much of the furniture and Houdini's tricks there in the basement, where they remained long after her death. Rose Bonanno was their daughter and she up kept the house and the history, even leaving it on just DC current into the 1980s. She started hosting seances inside the house to try to contact Houdini and she even claimed to receive a phone call from him and he told her and others to look at "Paper Magic, page 118, Fig. 12." The group couldn't follow those directions entirely because apparently the book had no Fig. 12 on that page. (There is no Fig. 12 on page 118.) A live Halloween seance was broadcast from the house in the early 1970s. Rose's brother Charles inherited the house when she died in 1978. By that time, the house was in the middle of a slum. A Louis Moise bought the house in 1980 and the Houdini treasures were auctioned off. By 1985, a man named Mr. Wilkes owned the house and he claimed that Houdini's ghost was there. He told a visiting magician that the spirit of Houdini was a regular visitor and he said, "One night he turned the lights on and woke me up from a sound sleep." A man named Fred Thomas bought it in 1991. And, of course, it just recently sold a couple years ago. Thomas always maintained that there was no spirit in his home. He actually had no idea it had been Houdini's place until he started noticing that people kept taking pictures of it.

Houdini liked to write of his exploits and even attacked some of his magic rivals in publications. His idol Robert Houdin was one such person whom he wrote a book about, exposing him as a fraud. Many people don't know that Houdini loved aviation and became a pilot. In 1909, he bought a French-made Voisin biplane, which he crashed on his first flight with it. He later made three successful flights near Melbourne, Australia in 1910 with that plane. These were some of the first powered flights in Australia. Houdini started using film as a part of his vaudeveille act in 1906. In 1918, Houdini signed a contract to star in a 15-part silent serial that was called, The Master Mystery, which features Houdini playing an undercover agent who does several of his escape acts to thwart criminals. He was then signed by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation/Paramount Pictures and made two films: The Grim Game in 1919 and Terror Island in 1920. Film buffs claim that The Grim Game was Houdini's best film. He then launched his own studio called the "Houdini Picture Corporation" and made two films with that,"The Man From Beyond" and "Haldane of the Secret Service." He lost a bunch of money with these exploits and gave up the movie business in 1923. 

It was during this movie time that Houdini took up residence in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. There is a bunch of confusion here, so let's break this down. We mentioned the Houdini Estate is what inspired this episode. While it carries his name, he never lived there. In 1919, Houdini rented a cottage located at 2435 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. He stayed there while making movies. There is some indication that Bess lived here after his death for a bit from 1934 to 1936. This cottage no longer exists. There was another house at 2400 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, which is today the Houdini Estate. This was the main mansion with the cottage as its guest house There is a pool there that Houdini did use to practice his tricks and acts. At 2451 Laurel Canyon Boulevard is The Mansion, which we mentioned in our Haunted Music episode. This is a home owned by Rick Rubin and is a recording studio that is really haunted. Some claim Houdini lived here too, but that is not true.

The Houdini Estate was built in the early 1900s in the Edwardian architectural style. Ralph M. Walker was the owner when Houdini lived in the cottage. This is a really cool place with hidden tunnels, caves, terraced gardens and the pool, which is a deep-water tank. This is what Houdini used for his practicing. When Bess lived at the cottage after Houdini's death, she hosted a party for 500 magicians and several seances at the bigger mansion. The Houdini Estate burned in 1959 and was rebuilt. Jose Luis Nazar is the current owner and the location is used for events. Fun Fact: After the estate burned down, the tunnels and caves became home for hippies and vagrants, one of whom called himself "Robin Hood." He thought Laurel Canyon was Sherwood Forrest and he would shoot arrows at trespassers. There are stories that this location is haunted by Houdini. The spectre of a man has been seen here, but no one can say for sure that it is Houdini. It is believed that a homeless man had died on the property at some time and some legends claim that it was Robin Hood.

Houdini continued to create new acts and even challenged audiences to come up with ideas for his acts. Cities he visited would challenge him in unique ways. Scranton, Pennsylvania filled a barrel with beer and asked Houdini to escape from handcuffs within the barrel. In 1911, a group of Boston businessmen came up with a really gross idea. A whale had washed up in the harbor and they challenged Houdini to escape from its belly. Thousands of people watched as Houdini was handcuffed, shackled in leg irons and then put inside the whale, which was then covered in chains and placed behind a curtain. Houdini was free in fifteen minutes, but said the embalming fluid nearly killed him. The Chinese Water Torture Cell would enter Houdini's act in 1912. This would become his trademark act and would remain in his performances for the rest of his life. Houdini would be suspended by his feet and lowered upside-down into a locked glass cabinet that was filled with water. The act forced him to hold his breath for more than three minutes to escape.

Houdini did share some of his secrets. He would enlarge his shoulders and chest when being locked into a straightjacket to give himself wiggle room. He picked locks with shoelaces, lockpicks and keys. And while Houdini had gone after some of his rivals, he was also the greatest proponent of magic and tried hard to bring as many magicians together as he could. The Society of American Magicians (a.k.a. S.A.M.) was founded in the back room of Martinka's magic shop in New York in 1902. Houdini became its President in 1917 and held that until his death in 1926. He expanded membership and sought to make this one large and strong unified group. Houdini also eventually became President of the Martinka & Co., which was the oldest magic company in America.

Houdini had loved his mother deeply and he was crushed by her death. He had been inconsolable and visited her gravesite often, calling out to her and talking to her often. He desperately wanted to speak to her again, even after death, and he sought out mediums with which he could do this. He ended up with nothing but disappointment. His worst experience came at the hands of his good friend, Arthur Conan Doyle's, wife. She offered to give him a reading from his mother. Mrs. Doyle sat at a table and wrote nearly a hundred words in response to questions Houdini asked. One part of this message read, "Oh, my darling thank God, thank God, at last I am through. I’ve tried, oh so often. Now I am happy. Why, of course, I want to talk to my boy, my own, beloved boy. Friends, thank you, thank you, with all my heart for this. You have answered the cry of my heart and of his. God bless him a thousand fold, for all his life for me - never had a mother such a son. Tell him not to grieve soon he will get all the evidence he is anxious for. I want him to know that I have bridged the gulf, which is what I wanted, oh so much. Now I can be in peace." Houdini knew it was a lie for several reasons. The writing was in English and Houdini's mother did not know the language. Mrs. Doyle drew a cross at the top of the page, but the Houdini family was Jewish. The experience happened on Houdini's mother's birthday, but she made no mention of the special date. The friendship with Doyle ended.

After a few years of this, Houdini was sick of all the fraud. He decided to make it his mission to weed out the frauds and he traveled the country revealing how mediums pulled off their demonstrations with his expertise in illusion. He always maintained that he believed it possible to communicate with the dead, but he found no evidence that any medium was communicating with spirits. While in Europe, he attended two seances a day and exposed 100 mediums. The magician joined a Scientific American committee that offered a prize to anyone who could prove they were a psychic. The committee built a fraud prevention box for mediums to sit inside. Houdini even testified before a congressional sub-committee in support of an anti-fortunetelling bill introduced into Congress in 1926. He angrily talked about how Spiritualism had entered the White House and that First Lady Harding and First Lady Coolidge had consulted mediums. He accused Spiritualism of running the government. It was meant to outlaw any kind of psychic activity for money. The bill failed because of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom and Spiritualism is a religion. 

The circumstances around Houdini's death are a bit of a mystery. He died on Halloween in 1926 of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix. How that appendix ruptured is the mystery. Some believe he was sick for days with appendicitis and never sought medical help, so the appendix finally burst. Another story claims a McGill University student named J. Gordon Whitehead gave Houdini a blow or two to the stomach that either Houdini wasn't prepared for or was too weak from being sick to tighten enough against. Houdini used to challenge people all the time to hit him hard in the stomach to prove how strong his stomach muscles were. He actually performed for the last time while sick at the Garrick Theater. He passed out during the show, but was revived and finished his performance. Supposedly his last words before dying were, "I'm tired of fighting." He was buried at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens.

As we have mentioned several times, seances have been held to contact Houdini ever since he died. Many of the early ones were hosted by Bess. She tried for ten years to contact him with no success. Early on, she would shut herself in her room every Sunday and try to get a sign from Houdini at the hour of his death. A medium named Arthur Ford got her attention when he gave her a word from Houdini's mother and that word was "forgive." Houdini had always wanted to hear that from his mother. The formal seances would be held every year on the anniversary of his death on Halloween. The last was the most famous and took place on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. Bess lived in Hollywood in the 1930s with her manager and partner Edward Saint and Saint helped her with this final seance. At some point before he died, the Houdinis had figured out a code to use to let each other know that they existed after death. This was so that a spirit medium could not play tricks. Inside Bess' wedding ring was the word "Rosabelle," which had been the name of the song she sang in her act when the couple first met in Coney Island. The code was: Rosabelle – answer – tell – pray – answer – look – tell – answer – answer – tell. So now you know what Rosabelle means. The other words equaled certain letters. The word "answer" stood for the letter "B." "Answer, answer" stood for the letter "V". Thus, the Houdinis' secret phrase spelled out the word "BELIEVE." Bess never got that message. After the final seance she said, " "Houdini did not come through. My last hope is gone. I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me, or to anyone...The Houdini Shrine has burned for ten years. I now, reverently... turn out the light. It is finished. Good night, Harry!" She felt that ten years was long enough to try. But perhaps Houdini did show up at that last performance. He was a grand showman, so why would he just say a few words or tap out a message? At the end of the seance, there was a clap of thunder right before it started raining. Raining only over the Knickerbocker Hotel. Was that Houdini saying "hello?"

This was not it for seances. Bess asked Walter B. Gibson, who had been a friend and ghostwriter for Houdini, to continue hosting a yearly seance. Gibson passed this on to Dorothy Dietrich, a famous magician and illusionist known as the "Female Houdini." She owns the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania and hosts the seances there. It claims to be the "only building in the world dedicated to Houdini." It features memorabilia and artifacts connected to Houdini and offers tours and magic acts. There are several museums in the world featuring Houdini artifacts and he willed his scrapbooks and other books to the Library of Congress. Bess Houdini died from a heart attack on February 11, 1943 in California at the age of 67. She was not buried next to Harry because she was Catholic. She is interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame was located in Niagara Falls. It is permanently closed today and now runs as a Ripley's Moving Theater. The museum opened in 1968 under the direction of Henry Muller and Vince Delorenzo at a different location originally and then moved to the newer location in 1972. Hardeen (Theo) had kept Houdini's artifacts in storage for 40 years. He had been instructed to have everything burned when he died, but that didn't happen and they went up for auction. Houdini had not wanted his tricks and such to get out, so he would not have been happy about this. He wanted his secrets to remain his secrets. The building had nothing but issues from the beginning. There were six fires and a freak accident that hurt the director of the museum. He walked through a plate glass window. There was also a robbery. A final fire on April 30, 1995 destroyed the original Water Torture Cell and the museum never opened again. Ann Fisher did a seance in the building in 1974. She told Houdini that this would be the last time she would try to contact him if he didn't give her a sign. At that very moment, a pot of flowers fell to the ground and so did a book. The book fell open to a page featuring a poster of Houdini and titled "Do Spirits Return?" Was this a sign from Houdini or some other spirit playing games? People in the movie theater claim to hear disembodied voices. Another theater that claims to have Houdini's spirit is the Princess Theater in Montreal where he was punched before dying. His apparition was seen in a cape and top hat. That theater no longer exists and we think it was turned into a food court.

The possibilities for Houdini to be hanging around in the afterlife are numerous. His props and magical implements could easily have attachments. Could his spirit still be practicing in Laurel Canyon? Is his spirit still at the Houdini House? Houdini, are you still with us? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

HGB Ep. 367 - Haunted Cemeteries 17

Moment in Oddity - Springthorpe Memorial (Suggested by: Rick Kennett)

The first garden cemetery in Australia is Boroondara General Cemetery, which is located in Kew, Victoria. The Springthorpe Memorial is located here and it not only is one of the most gorgeous memorials in the world, it is a bit weird. The Memorial is named for Dr. John Springthorpe who was an Australian physician. He had it constructed for his wife Annie. The memorial was clearly inspired by Greek temples and was designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear with a massive stained glass domed roof made from hundred of ruby-colored glass pieces that give the entire memorials a reddish glow. A marble sculpture is the centerpiece, which was sculpted by Bertram Mackennal. This sculpture features Annie lying down on a sarcophagus while an angel that is standing beside her, places a wreath by her head. Another female figure sits next to the sarcophagus, holding a lyre and looking very sad. Serpent-head gargoyles sit atop each corner of the memorial and the base is paved with redtiles that have verses on them in gold lettering. What is particularly bizarre when one observes all the details that make up the memorial is that Annie's name appears nowhere on it. The only indication as to who this memorial is dedicated is an inscription that reads:

    My own true love
    Pattern daughter perfect mother and ideal wife
    Born on the 26th day of January 1867
    Married on the 26th day of January 1887
    Buried on the 26th day of January 1897

Not only is it unusual to have no name on this memorial, but the fact that all the dates are the same day with different years all ending in seven, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Knights Templar Officially Recognized

In the month of January, on the 13th, in 1128, Pope Honorius II officially recognizes the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar was a military order and the pope sanctioned it as an army of God. The Templars were founded in 1118 by Frenchman Hughes de Payens. They made it their purpose to protect the path Christians would follow as they made their way to the Holy Land. They had a rigid set of rules that members had to follow and that first group only numbered nine during the Crusades. It is believed that they started collecting relics and riches and were hiding them in various places. Through the years, the Templars grew very wealthy and very powerful and this started to threaten the Catholic Church and the Pope. This led Pope Clement V and King Philip IV to join forces to take down the order in 1307. They arrested the leader at the time, Jacques de Molay, and other Templars and tortured them until they confessed that they practiced heresy and Satanism. This day of arrest happened on October 13, 1307, which was a Friday. So Friday the 13th. And that is why Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day. Molay and most of the other Templars were burned at the stake and the Pope dissolved the Templars in 1312. To this day, many people believe that there are many myths and legends connected to the Templars whether it is the Curse of Oak Island, the DaVinci Code or various conspiracy theories. Many of these legends claim the group had the Ark of the Covenant, parts of the cross and the Holy Grail and that surviving Templars moved these objects to hidden locations that people still seek today.

Haunted Cemeteries 17

Every cemetery is unique. Each has its own unique character based on location. Sometimes it is the landscape that is different. Other times, it is the local culture or customs. But truthfully, it is the personalities buried within that define the true character. We have featured over seventy haunted cemeteries around the world in the past six years. After compiling a list, we realized that there were several states, thirteen to be exact, that have not been included yet and on this episode we will rectify that by including several of those. On this episode, we have China Grove Cemetery in Arkansas, Friendship Cemetery in Mississippi, Mount Moriah Cemetery in Montana, Little Egypt Cemetery in Indiana and Cheesman Park in Colorado.

China Grove Cemetery

China Grove Cemetery is found in Saline County, Arkansas. The earliest burial we found was in 1883, so this is an old cemetery. Burials stopped in the 1970s. The cemetery is fairly neglected, sitting along a narrow abandoned road. The headstones are scattered haphazardly throughout the woods. That's about all we could find on the history of the cemetery. While trying to find out more about the history of this cemetery, we ran across a horrible true crime story. This was an appeal to the Supreme Court of Arkansas on a death penalty case. Darrell Wayne Sheridan had been found guilty and sentenced to die in the murder of Laurie Ann Brown. The two had once lived together, but Darrell was married to another woman at this time and Laurie Ann was in another relationship and pregnant with that man's baby. Laurie Ann had found out that Darrell and his wife were dealing drugs and she reported this to the police. Darrell went to her house to scare her and somehow managed to convince her and her boyfriend to get in his car. Darrell told his wife to drive into China Grove Cemetery. He told Laurie Ann to get out of the car and then the car drove away with Darrell's wife, Laurie Ann's boyfriend and another man inside. Darrell attacked Laurie Ann and stabbed her multiple times, killing her. Her body was found on the road to the cemetery.

Stories of hauntings at the cemetery have endured through the years. Legends begin at the front gate. This is an old gate at the end of the abandoned road. When cars approach at night with their headlights on, those headlights will start to flicker. The car radio sometimes flips to just airing static or turns off altogether. Also at the gate, people claim to see a white dog with icy blue eyes. Sometimes it is solid, but usually when the lights hit it, the dog is translucent. Inside the cemetery, an apparition of a woman has been seen carrying a baby and wailing. Sometimes she tries to hand her baby to visitors and of they take the bundle, they find out that it is a headstone that will weigh them down and make it so they can't get up off the ground. Another legend is about the headstones. Apparently, they glow sometimes and the glowing will follow visitors as they move through the cemetery.

Friendship Cemetery

Friendship Cemetery is located in Columbus, Mississippi. Mississippi is a state known for its vast quantity of Antebellum homes, so it is not surprising to find a haunted cemetery here that is connected to the Civil War with a haunted specifically centered on its burials for the Confederate dead. This cemetery was founded in 1849 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Originally, it only covered five acres, but that grew to 35 acres by the 1950s and now spreads out over 70 acres. We mentioned unique design in the intro and this one certainly has that the original layout incorporating three interlocking circles. The Odd Fellows symbol is made up of this same design, so they literally designed the cemetery like their emblem. The City of Columbus eventually acquired the graveyard and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Burials still continue at this cemetery.

During the Civil War, the capitol of Mississippi - Jackson - was invaded and controlled by Union forces, so Columbus became the temporary capitol. The Confederate Army of Mississippi fought heavily in the Battle of Shiloh and many of their dead were brought back here to be buried. Columbus itself served as a military hospital center. Both Confederate and Union dead are buried here. There are between 40 to 150 Union soldiers and more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers. The poem "The Blue and the Gray" by Francis Miles Finch was inspired by an event that took place here at Friendship Cemetery. A large group of women laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers on April 25, 1866 and this moved him because the dead were treated with equal care. This poem was first published in an 1867 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Eventually the decorating of military graves on grave decorating days became Memorial Day.

There are a couple of stories told about haunting legends in this cemetery. The first is about a Confederate soldier. His apparition has been spotted wandering around the graves in the Confederate burial area. There is someone who actually might have captured this spirit in a photo. Matt Garner is a page designer for The Dispatch newspaper. He visits the Friendship Cemetery a lot to take photos. One morning he was in there alone and decided to catch the sunlight as it came through the trees. The headstones were making cool shadows. He used a tripod to hold the camera and fired off 10 pictures in quick succession. When he developed the pictures later, he saw something that chilled him to his core. In the middle of one of the pictures was a fairly clear face. The image is slightly translucent and white with dark hollow eyes. It really does look like a face. Matt is a skeptic, as are we, so perhaps it is pareidolia with the sunlight, shading and shape of the trees causing it, but it only appears in this one photo. And it's creepy nonetheless. Garner claimed that on another visit to the cemetery, he heard something that sounded similar to the sound of a door shutting that came from the nearby forest. The sound unnerved him.

Reverend Thomas Teasdale was born in New Jersey in 1808. He entered the ministry in 1828 and eventually ended up preaching at a church in Columbus, Mississippi. During the Civil War, he left his home church to preach to Confederate soldiers until the end of the war. After the war, he moved to Tennessee and preached there. He died in 1891 at the age of 82 and was buried here in the cemetery. His memorial is very moving with the statue of an angel lying over the headstone, weeping. People who visit the memorial claim that when they touch the angel's hands, they feel lifelike.

The picture that Matt Garner captured can be seen here:

Mount Moriah Cemetery

Mount Moriah Cemetery in Butte, Montana has a really unusual haunting. This cemetery was founded in 1877 by the Silver Bow County Masons. The first interment was for a woman named Bettie Fant Boyce who passed away on September 29, 1877. The cemetery is 58 acres in size and has over 14,000 burials. U.S. Congressmen Albert James Campbell and Lee Theophilus Mantle, who was also the Mayor of Butte, are among those burials and one of the cooler memorials is for J. Frank Beck that includes a sculpture of his faithful dog. Not so fun fact, Mantle was a bachelor until the age of 70 when he married a 25-year-old woman he had known since she was a child. They were married for 13 years and had a son before he died.

Stories of the hauntings here started in the 1970s. The first witnesses were two police officers. They were patrolling the cemetery grounds one evening when they saw a person in a wheelchair approaching the gates. They watched as the wheelchair continued all the way through the locked gate. The two men thought that perhaps the wheelchair had fallen into a hole or something and that it had caused this optical illusion. Particularly because they no longer saw the wheelchair. When they got over to the gate, the wheelchair and person had definitely disappeared. Not only that, but there was snow on the ground and there were no tracks anywhere. They reported their story. From that time until now, many people have come forward claiming to see the same thing. A person is wheeling themselves towards the gate and then disappears. This happens at all hours, day or night. No one knows where this spirit could be coming from. Did someone have an accident outside the cemetery? Are they visiting someone at the cemetery? Is their body buried in the cemetery?

Little Egypt Cemetery

Little Egypt Cemetery is more formally known as Ewald Cemetery and it is located on Fifth Road in Bremen, Indiana. The cemetery takes this name from the Ewald family, so we're assuming this may have started as a family plot, but others were buried here before any Ewalds, so who knows. Jacob and Barbara Ewald had twelve children and three of them would die before adulthood. We are not sure of their exact birthdates, but Matilda was a newborn when she passed in 1865. Her brother Henry died in 1870 and Catherine died in 1873. Both were four-years-old when they passed. Those three Ewalds are definitely here. According to Ashley Hood who wrote "Haunted Cemeteries in Indiana" the first burial was for an eight-year-old boy named Alfred Knobloch who died in 1852. His sister Elnora followed shortly thereafter. The cemetery is watched over by the German Township Trustee and there are many German immigrants buried here. Part of the issue with getting an accurate historical picture of this cemetery is that it has been ravaged through the years by vandals. It got so bad that a fence was erected and topped with barbed wire. Based on the headstones that do still exist, it appears that burials stopped here in the late 1930s. As to why this plot of land has been dubbed Little Egypt, we do not know. 

Legends abound about this little graveyard. Part of that may come from the fact that the little dirt road that winds around the cemetery eventually ends up at a bridge nicknamed the Troll Bridge. Hoosier Reborn writes a blog called Hoosier Happenings and he shared this in 2008, "As a teenager, some friends and I had to put this legend to the test. It was a warm Halloween night back in 1986....I remember a moist wind blowing around the few leaves left on the trees that were at the corner of the cemetery. Legend has it that as you enter the swampy woods through which the gravel lane passes on your way to Little Egypt, the knoll you can see in the distance, a young man as white as a ghost will dart out in front of your car.......with no time to stop you hit the apparition, only to learn that nothing is there. Terrified you continue down the gravel road, now coming out of the woods, moonlight beaming down on the slight rise in front of you that leads to the knoll on which Little Egypt was established. The crunch of the gravel beneath the tires makes your heart beat a little faster as you begin to wind around the cemetery, nearly at a dead stop in the turns. Suddenly figures appear to be climbing and hanging from the old trees in the corner of the speed up, leaving a trail of dust as you look out the rear view mirror at tombstones reflecting the moonlight. Then you enter another woods......this time the apparition appears again, standing along the road, staring at you, and covered with blood. You emerge from the woods again and come to stop on a small bridge over a winding creek. Legend has it if you turn off your car and whisper "hamburger, hamburger, hamburger" the car will fail to start again. Just as you move beyond the bridge, suddenly lights appear to mysteriously turn on in the old brick church ahead of you....and then just as suddenly, go out! Unfortunately, none of this happened to us in 1986."

This is indeed a hot spot for teenagers to visit. Rumors of Satanic rituals abound. There are claims that a farmer who owned land near the cemetery is buried here. His death was due to an accident and it is said that he is angry about this. His apparition rises from the center of the graveyard and glows as it runs to chase off visitors. There is also a story that a young child once choked to death on a coin and that if one places a coin on its tombstone, they will hear the crying of a baby. Some people say that no coin is needed and that the disembodied howls of a baby can be heard regularly at the cemetery. They usually seem to be emanating from the ground. Visitors may even find small handprints in the dust on their car windows. A male voice has also reportedly been heard. 

And what is a cemetery without a hitchhiking ghost? Many people cruising around the cemetery have been shocked to catch the image of a young man in their headlights. His skin is so white it is almost translucent and he usually takes off at a full run in front of the car as though he is being chased. When people stop after almost hitting him, they find that he is nowhere to be seen and that there is no evidence of him like footprints. Even more disturbing are reports of a phantom car. This is described as a large, older model sedan that is black. It usually appears in the rearview mirror as a car drives passed the cemetery heading to the bridge. The sedan picks up speed as if trying to ram the car and then disappears once the car drives across the bridge. We've heard legends like this many time, but Hoosier Reborn also shared on his blog, "We did make a return trip a few years later only to find ourselves being chased away by a pair of about heart-thumping!" So perhaps they saw the phantom car!

Cheesman Park

Cheesman Park is found in Denver, Colorado between Downing and York Streets. Diane affectionately calls this park the "Gay Park." This is where gay men have gone to cruise for other men for years. The AIDS Walk launches from here every year and gay people just like to hang out here. Now you might be wondering why a park is included on a haunted cemetery episode. We all know that Victorian cemeteries were established as garden cemeteries and people treated them like parks, regularly picnicking within their borders. Cheesman Park was not always just a park on the outskirts of downtown Denver. This was once a cemetery and perhaps some of you have heard the horrific stories behind it that have led to this being considered one of the more haunted locations in Denver.

Many people who visit the park, probably have no idea that they are visiting a graveyard when they lay out a towel to sun themselves or spread a blanket for a picnic. Perhaps they twist an ankle running after a Frisbee when they step into an odd depression. If one could have the perspective of a cloud when looking down on this park, they would see that it is dotted with these depressions. You see, there were once thousands of bodies buried here and when these bodies were removed to make way for the park, well, not every body made its way out of the ground. And so Cheesman Park still is very much a graveyard. Despite the beautiful Greek Pavilion and tranquil fountains, this is a place of death not only because it is a former cemetery, but many people have chosen this peaceful location to end their lives. 

Cheesman Park is part of a neighborhood that carries its name. This neighborhood includes the Denver Botanic Gardens, which are also haunted. The home that inspired the movie "The Changling" starring George C. Scott used to also be located along Cheesman Park. The Denver Botanic Gardens was once the site of the Catholic cemetery and since Protestants could not be buried there, the Protestant cemetery was where Cheesmen Park is now located. They were basically next to each other. Clearly, both were decommissioned and the bodies were moved since they are no longer cemeteries. Well...most of the bodies. Cheesman Park started out as Mount Prospect in 1858, but most people just called it Denver's Boot Hill. General William Larimer had platted out the grounds. Mount Prospect covered 320 acres. 

Congress decreed in 1872 that the site of Mount Prospect was actually federal land and so the City of Denver bought it with the plan of keeping it a cemetery and the name changed to Denver City Cemetery. Some acreage was sold off to become a Jewish cemetery. Two of the early burials were Hungarian immigrant John Stoefel and his brother-in-law. Both men were prospectors and Stoefel ended up shooting his brother-in-law in order to take his gold dust in 1859. A "People's Court" was formed and Stoefel was found guilty of murder. It was decided that he should be hanged and this took place on April 9, 1859 with 1,000 people watching. This took place at a cottonwood tree at the intersection of 10th and Cherry Creek Streets. Both Stoefel and his brother-in-law were dumped into the same grave at the edge of the cemetery.

The cemetery became home to many corpses of criminals and the poor, with one of the first criminals being Jack O'Neil who was killed in a saloon. The powerful and rich in Denver were not happy with him being buried at the cemetery and soon people were referring to it as Jack O'Neil's Ranch. Usage dropped off by the mid 1880s. The grounds were unkempt and cattle were allowed to roam freely through the tombstones. This led the city to thinking that this area would serve better as a park since it was near the heart of downtown. They petitioned Congress for several years to change the status since this was federal land. Congress finally agreed on January 25, 1890. The cemetery then became Congress Park. Now, they just needed to move the bodies. The Chinese section of the cemetery was emptied by the Chinese community and they sent the bodies back to China. Families were told that they had a certain amount of time to move the bodies of their loved ones and many of these bodies were moved to Riverside and Fairmount Cemeteries.

There were still many bodies left in the cemetery after this process, so the city decided they needed to hire someone to remove what was left. That man would be Irish undertaker Edward P. McGovern. He was told he would be paid the equivalent today of $53 per coffin moved to Riverside Cemetery. E.P. McGovern was an enterprising individual and he reasoned that if he used smaller coffins, like child size, and broke up skeletons, he could fill more boxes and get paid more. This went on for a while until the city figured out what he was doing and he was fired. Not only had he desecrated bodies by breaking them up, but he actually filled some boxes with wood. The city decided to just leave the rest of the bodies, backfill more dirt and start work on forming the park. Most people would not know the bodies were there until years later when some would surface or get dug up, on more than one occasion. There are estimates that 3,000 bodies were left.

The Catholic Cemetery remained where it was until 1950 when the City of Denver persuaded the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver to deed their cemetery to the city. This would become the Denver Botanic Gardens in 1966. Cheesman Park would be named for Walter Cheesman, but not because the city wanted to honor him. His widow and daughter donated $100,000 for the building of the pavilion in the park in exchange for the park being named for Walter. Some people in Denver grumbled about this because Cheesman was not a nice guy. He originally came to town to help his brothers with their drugstore, but he soon found a different route for making money. He noticed that the waters of Cherry Creek and the Platte River were undrinkable because of contamination. He founded the Denver Union Water Company and charged exorbitant prices for water and gave terrible service to his customers. So clearly, Denver citizens would not want to name a park for this guy. But maybe it is fitting since this park is notoriously haunted.

For myself, I never felt any dread or bad feelings when I was at the park day or night and I never saw anything weird, but plenty of people claim to have seen strange things and to have bad feelings. The first experiences started when the bodies were being removed. A gravedigger named Jim Astor had been looting the graves and he claimed that he felt something unseen push down on his shoulders. He ran from the cemetery and did not return. Nearly every home that borders the park, claims to have had unexplained activity and many have seen apparitions in their homes. They describe these spirits as sad and confused looking. People are seen in the park wearing period clothing, which indicates to observers that they are not living.

Unfortunately, several people have hanged themselves in the trees of the park and this is one of the horrifying images people have seen: bodies hanging in the trees. Ghostly headstones are sometimes seen just as dusk sets in over the park. Disembodied  whispers and moans are heard. Shadowy mists are also a regular occurrence. One woman saw another woman sitting in the park singing who just disappeared. Children have been seen playing in the park at night and they disappear as well.

Cemeteries are some of our favorite places to visit when exploring a new city. Spotting a cemetery from the road is like discovering a treasure. And cemeteries are like a treasure chest full of mystery and history and all kinds of goodness. Some of these cemeteries are full of spirits too. Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Haunted Cemeteries of Indiana by Ashley Hood, published by Haunted America 2020

Thursday, December 31, 2020

HGB Ep. 366 - University of North Alabama

Moment in Oddity - The Accent of Tangier, Virginia (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

We've all been on the phone or listened to a podcast with someone who has a heavy accent. We have to listen extra carefully, so that we understand what is being said. At least that is the case with English. But we imagine that it could be the same for people who speak other languages. And while some accents almost sound like another language, we generally understand what is being said especially in America. That is the case with most states and cities, except for Tangier in Virginia. Tangier Island is off the coast of Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay and despite it being 2020, the island is fairly isolated. One can only reach it by boat. And the people who live here want to stay insulated from outside influence. Families here go back to colonial times and this is reflected in their distinct dialect. Their tonal pronunciations go back centuries and the vernacular they use makes quite a bit of what they say unrecognizable. The accent is so thick that most people would assume that they are speaking a different language, but it is actually English and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Plymouth Colony Construction Begins

In the month of December, on the 23rd, in 1620, construction on the Plymouth Colony begins. The Mayflower carrying 102 passengers left Plymouth, England for the New World on September 16, 1620. The group had people who were escaping religious persecution and others who were looking for business opportunities. Despite differences, this group formed the Mayflower Compact as they sailed, which would lay the groundwork for American democracy. This incorporated both majority rule and constitutional law. The Mayflower landed on Cape Cod on November 21st. A scouting group went out and found the perfect location for their settlement and named it after the place they had come from, Plymouth. The Mayflower was brought down to the harbor and construction on dwellings began. The group would stay aboard the ship for several months as they worked on the settlement and eventually moved ashore permanently in March. Nearly half of them would die that first year, but eventually they flourished.

University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is located in the city of Florence and has been a fixture here for almost 200 years. It started like most older colleges, in a different spot and much smaller. Today, it has grown into a large university covering several acres with many buildings. Several of those buildings are reputedly haunted and there are even a couple of creepy statues that come to life! Join us as we share the history and haunts of the University of North Alabama.

Florence, Alabama sits along the Tennessee River and is the largest city in the area that is commonly known as the Shoals. This city also has the distinction of being home to the only house in the state of Alabama designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. And the name Florence is indeed from the Italian city that is the capital of Tuscany. An Italian surveyor named Ferdinand Sannoner first surveyed the town in 1818 for the Cypress Land Company. Florence was incorporated in 1826. Four years later, LaGrange College was founded and opened by the Methodist church. Despite that origin, the goal was to have the college be neither religious or theological. This was not in Florence, but rather a mountain town called LaGrange, which means "The Barn" in French. By 1855, however, LaGrange College had moved to Florence. And that was fortunate since Union troops burned the original school to the ground in 1863. The name of the school changed at that time to Florence Wesleyan University. 

This move to Florence was controversial and many students and staff refused to move. It took three days to caravan everything to the new site, which consisted of a bunch of tents until buildings could be constructed. That is why the school needed to change its name. Admission to the university was tough. Students not only needed to have a command of grammar, geography, math and Latin and Greek, but prospective students had to be able to translate parts of four books: Caesar's Gallic Wars, six books of Virgil's Aeneid, Jacob's or Felton's Greek Reader, and at least one of Xenophon's Anabasis. There were 160 students enrolled in that first year after the move. Future politicians would graduate from here, along with Civil War generals. The Civil War would bring hardship to the university, but it managed to keep from being destroyed, although various buildings would take turns being occupied by both sides. 

In 1872, the Methodist Church deeded the university to the State of Alabama and the name changed to the State Normal School at Florence. This would be the first teachers college south of the Ohio River that was state supported. At that time, the school was still only for men, but a year after this, women were allowed to enroll. The first women would enter the school in 1874 and the first female member of the faculty would be added in 1879. This made the university one of the first co-educational schools in the country. It would remain a normal school for fifty years. In 1929, it branched into a four-year curriculum offering bachelor's degree, the first of which was awarded in 1931. Graduate courses were offered later starting in 1956. In 1957, the college would change names again, this time to Florence State College.

Although the school had been co-educational for years, there was still one milestone it needed to cross and this came in 1963 when Wendell Wilkie Gunn became the first African-American student to enroll at the college. Gunn did have to sue for this to happen when he was initially denied admission. The trial lasted just ten minutes and Gunn's lawyer Fred Gray said in 2005 that this was "the easiest case of my civil rights career." Gunn would eventually become an international trade adviser to President Ronald Reagan in 1982. By 1967, the school had expanded its programs so much that it was agreed that another name change was necessary and the school became Florence State University. Yes, those are a lot of name changes and that leads to this little fun fact. Ethelbert Brinkley "E.B." Norton, was president of the institution for all three of those name changes. Wonder if he ever forgot which school it was that he was presiding over on a particular day? 

On August 15, 1974, the university underwent its final name change and became the University of Northern Alabama. More masters programs were added and the school started enrolling thousands of students. Today, the campus is spread out over 200 acres and has nearly 6500 students. The school nickname is the Lions and it actually owns two live lions named Leo III and Una who live in a state-of-the-art facility near the main campus entrance. There are many buildings and houses that make up the campus and several of them have ghost stories connected to them. We are going to share those with you now.

The O'Neal House

The O'Neal House is located at 468 North Court Street. This was home to two governors of the state. Edward O'Neal was born in 1818 and attended the University of Northern Alabama when it was LaGrange College, graduating at the top of his class.He married Olivia Moore and they had nine children together. When the Civil War broke out, O'Neal joined the Confederate Army as a Captain and worked his way up in rank to Colonel. During the Battle of Seven Pines, he was severely wounded and his horse was killed under him. He recovered and went on to lead regiments in several other battles. After the war, he worked in law and then politics and was elected governor in 1882, serving until 1886. He died in Florence, Alabama in 1890. The O'Neal House was built in the 1840s and the O'Neals bought it in 1857. Mrs. O'Neal loved the home from the moment she saw it and it is said that she has stayed in the house even after her death. She is most often seen standing in an upstairs window and is described as beautiful with long blonde hair. For those who have encountered her apparition, they report that she is friendly.

Off Campus Bookstore

The Off Campus Bookstore is located right next to the O'Neal House at 472 North Court Street. This house is cute bungalow built in the early 1900s and was home to a young girl named Molly in the 1920s. The family had a family dog that unfortunately caught rabies. Molly loved to play with the dog, so it was only normal for her to reach out to her dog that appeared to not be feeling well as it foamed at the mouth. The dog bit her and infected her with rabies. This was before there was a treatment for rabies and the poor girl died a horribly painful death. And perhaps that is why she has returned in the afterlife. Or maybe she misses her dog. People claim to see her apparition inside and outside of the house and a few claim she has asked if they have seen her dog. Sometimes she seems to have found her dog as the pet appears with her. The Kappa Sigma Fraternity used the house in the 1980s and the room that was reputedly Molly's room, was always painfully cold. A contractor claimed to see the girl during renovations. She appeared as a floating pink mist. He also heard disembodied footsteps like those of a barefoot child. Molly continues on in the bookstore with some poltergeist activity. Candy mysteriously disappears and objects get moved around. People also see the little girl looking out of the windows when the store is closed and no one is inside.

Norton Auditorium

The Norton Auditorium is located at 600 North Pine Street. At one time, this was the largest theater venue in the area and had been known as the Auditorium and Fine Arts Center. Major musical acts have performed here as well as theater productions. The auditorium underwent its first major renovation in January 2020. And we are sure that this helped to kick up activity because the spirit that haunts this place is not an entertainer, but rather, a construction worker. The Auditorium was built in the the 1960s and a worker was working on a high beam when he fell to his death. His spirit remains and likes to play tricks and people have taken to calling him George, although no one knows what his real was. He makes noises throughout the building and plays with the lights. The theater crew claims that one night they turned all the breakers off, so that they could change out the lighting. They went on a break and when they returned, every light was ablaze...and the breakers were still off. The campus newspaper, The Flor-Ala, decided to have some of their staff try to communicate with George using a Ouija board back in 2011. Apparently, they did get some kind of communication that verified the legend. 

Coby Hall

Coby Hall is located across the street from the Norton Auditorium. Before this was Coby Hall, this was the Courtland Mansion. The mansion was built by John Simpson in the 1830s for his wife Margret Patton Simpson. It was built in the Georgian Revival architectural style. Simpson ran a mercantile business in Florence for many years. The Civil War found both the Union and Confederacy occupying the mansion at different points. Confederate General John Bell Hood was one of the occupiers. George Foster bought the house for his daughter Virginia and her husband James Irving after the war, which passed down through the family to the Irvine’s great granddaughter, Mrs. Madding King. The Kings restored the house after World War II. Ellis Coats owned the house into the early 1980s and he allowed Project Courtview to use the mansion for Florence’s first Decorator’s Showcase. Coby Hall got its name from its last private owners, David and Coby Brubaker. Coby died from cancer at a young age and David gave the house to the University of Northern Alabama in memory of her. Coby Hall was dedicated in 2005 and is the headquarters of UNA’s Admissions and Recruiting. The mansion is also used for various events. The spirit here goes all the way back to the Simpsons. Margret Simpson is believed to haunt the hall and she dislikes any loud parties. She has made several appearances during parties. She has been seen in a navy skirt and white blouse, particularly on the first floor of the house.

Willingham Hall

Willingham Hall is a college administrative building located at 687-601 N. Morrison Ave. This site originally was home for the Locust Dell Academy, which ran from 1834 to 1843. The private school had been established by a man named Nicholas Hentz and his wife Caroline. Caroline was Alabama's first best-selling novelist. The current building was constructed in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration as a men's dormitory. The Tennessee Valley Authority housed employees there during World War II and after the war it was a boys' dormitory. In 1947, the dormitory switched to a female dormitory and it remained that way until 1968. The name officially became Willingham Hall in 1949 for one of the college's presidents, Dr. Henry J. Willingham. His support of a new sales tax in Alabama helped insure that the teachers at the college got their full pay. Prior to this, most teachers were working twelve months for nine months of pay. The first reports of haunting activity came from an English professor who had returned to his office for a book when he heard an awful banging coming from the basement. He decided to investigate and found nothing in the basement. He went back to his office and the banging started again. This scared him to hear it a second time and he ran from the building. There are reports that Nicholas Hentz liked to play music loudly at night and there are claims that he is responsible for the noise.

Phi Gamma Delta House

The Phi Gamma Delta House is located at 523 Oakview Circle. In 2017, this grand home was nearly destroyed in a fire, but is back to its former elegance after extensive restorations. The Phi Upsilon Chapter of the fraternity calls the house home and they apparently share it with a female ghost named Ella. Ella fell down the stairs and died according to legend. Because of this, her disembodied screams are heard. She also seems to be jealous when the brothers bring their girlfriends into the house and she will act out in a poltergeist fashion.

Wesleyan Hall

Wesleyan Hall is located on Cramer Way and is probably the coolest building on campus and its oldest. The Gothic Revival architecture has many castle elements like battlements that surround the roof line. The building was designed by Adolphus Heiman who was a Prussian engineer, stonecutter, and architect. The builder was Zebulon Pike Morrison and the building was made from brick that was made on the southern edge of the campus and slave labor did the construction. Construction was completed in 1856. This served as Florence Wesleyan University. During the Civil War, both sides occupied the building at various times, one of whom was General Sherman. After the war, the university started up again, but with only one professor. The school foundered and closed in 1871. The school was turned over to the state and they chartered it as a normal school and a three-story building was added in 1909. Eventually, the buildings became part of the University of Northern Alabama and serve as the departments of Foreign Language, Geography and Psychology. 

The ghost that haunts this building is a young boy thought to be named Jeremiah. Legend claims that he was the son of one of General Sherman's officers and served as a Union drummer. He went for a swim and unfortunately drowned. People claim to see his wet footprints on the floor and his apparition has been seen standing still wet as though he just finished a swim. The campus newspaper conducted an investigation in 2011 and during that, doors opened and closed by themselves and computers turned on and off by themselves. 

Guillot University Center 

The Guillot University Center is located at 202 Guillot University Center in the heart of the campus. The building was constructed in 1986 on the former site of O'Neal Hall, which had been there since 1913. It is named for Robert M. Guillot, who was UNA's former president from 1972 to 1989. Today, this serves as a student union with a mail room for students, food court, meeting rooms, banquet facilities, 300-seat performance hall and The Lion's Den Game Room. The resident spirit in this building seems to be a carry over from the O’Neal Hall. Legend claims that a girl named Priscilla hanged herself in an elevator shaft. Several students claimed to see her apparition in the building looking very forelorn. One student claimed to hear the sobs of a woman when he was locking up the building after a fraternity meeting. He followed the sounds upstairs and saw a translucent woman weeping. He ran out of there. Local author Debra Johnson was once leading a tour on the campus and the group experienced some weird stuff in front of the center. The elevator doors opened and closed on their own even though the building was closed for the night. And then the front door opened by itself even though it clearly had to have been locked.

Romeo and Juliet Statues

The strangest paranormal stories on campus center around the statues of Romeo and Juliet. Legend claims that these statues take flight on nights with a full moon. No one knows how this happens, but every Halloween, Romeo ends up with a pumpkin in his hands. There are a couple of theories. Obviously, ours would be that some student or students are having a little fun. Others claim that this is part of some kind of pagan Halloween ritual. Faculty members like to claim that Romeo goes out and searches for a pumpkin to give to his love Juliet. Those are fun, but what is not fun are the stories that students tell of being chased by the Romeo statue as it throws pumpkins at them. Would be fun if they were flaming ala Headless Horseman. Some believe Romeo might be looking for a new love and that is why he has been seen in the women's bathroom in Steven's Hall. And one male student reported seeing Romeo standing over the fallen body of a woman. He fled and called police who could find nothing to back up the story. The student swore that he had heard a female crying and had seen the statue standing over that woman. Juliet is adventurous too. She has been spotted atop Wesleyan Hall with her eyes burning red. A female student claimed that the statue had attacked her. She had been crossing the bridge to the Guillot University Center when several strands of her hair were pulled out. When she turned around, the statue of Juliet was floating above her with blood red eyes and she was laughing.

The University of Northern Alabama has some beautiful and interesting buildings. Could it be that several of these places are haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Lewis O. Powell IV Blog: Southern Spirit Guide

Thursday, December 24, 2020

HGB Ep. 365 - Marshall House Hotel

Moment in Oddity - The Rock People and Houses of Kinver (Suggested by: Sandra Latham)

Starting in the late 1770s, people began living in rock houses in the United Kingdom's Kinver Edge. Joseph Heely was the first person to report about these rock houses. A storm was brewing and a family that Heely described as a “clean & decent family” took him in and he was amazed by their dwelling. These homes were carved out of the soft red sandstone in the area. They were preferable to the local cottages because they were high above the flood level and they were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The rock houses were equipped with water and gas and earth closets provided sanitation. The homes had furniture, stoves, windows and doors. By 1861, eleven families were living in the rock houses at Kinver Edge. By the early 1900s, the houses had become famous and were a tourist attraction and tea was served at a cafe. On one day in 1905, 17,000 people came by the cafe. This closed in 1967 and the property fell into disrepair. The houses were restored in the 1990s and opened for tours in 1997 that continue today. One of these is Nanny's Cave, which had layers of carvings and graffiti on the walls with occult symbols, runes and sigils. A chimney chute at the front had been affectionately named "The Devil's Chimney" and reputedly became the means by which Satan crawled in and out of this house. Generally we think of prehistoric or cave men living in rock houses, so these rock houses certainly are odd!

This Month in History - Leicester Codex Auctioned

In the month of December, on the 12th, in 1980, a notebook penned by Leonardo da Vinci was bought at auction by American oil tycoon Armand Hammer for $5.1 million. This was the highest price paid for a manuscript at the time. A couple years early,  a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only half as much. This manuscript was written in 1508 and was one of thirty books that da Vinci penned during his life on various subjects. The topic of this one was water. This book had seventy-two loose pages with 300 notes and detailed drawings. Parts of this are thought to have inspired parts of his work the Mona Lisa. He used his mirror-writing technique to pen the booklet and used brown ink and chalk. The work is officially known as the Leicester Codex.

Marshall House Hotel

The Marshall House Hotel has stood in the heart of historic downtown Savannah for nearly 170 years. This was not only a place for weary guests to the city, it also served as a hospital before and during the Civil War. A nod to the history of the Civil War can be found on the third floor. We stayed here for one night and based on the haunted reputation of the place, we decided to do a little paranormal investigating. The activity started practically the minute we walked in our room. Join us as share the history and hauntings of the Marshall House Hotel! 

Savannah is one of our favorite cities. This was Kelly's second time here and it was her first chance to really get a feel for the city. We started with a visit to Bonaventure Cemetery and wandered around for a couple hours before heading to the Marshall House Hotel. (Kelly shares what she thought about the cemetery.) The Marshall House is located at 123 Broughton Street and is Greek Revival architecture in style. One of the first things people notice about the Marshall House is the iron veranda that is 120 feet in length and 12 feet wide and high and was placed on the hotel in 1857 by Ralph Meldrim, who was the proprietor of The Marshall House at the time. This gives it a real New Orleans feel. The minute we walked into the lobby we not only noticed the gleaming marble everywhere, but we also saw a large oil painting of Mary Marshall on the wall behind the reception desk. This work had once been owned by Jim Williams who was the main person in John Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  The Marshall House is named for her because she founded the hotel in 1851. The location was very important in that it was in the heart of the shopping district of Savannah. Mary remained a prominent figure in Savannah and her family's history in the city started with her grandparents. She inherited a large sum from her father and built upon that by buying property, two others of which still remain in the city: A double-tenement house found behind the hotel on Oglethorpe Square and the Marshall Row that lies on Oglethorpe Street across from Colonial Park Cemetery.

The hotel is four stories with winding hallways leading to rooms and a large library sitting room on the first floor where they host wine socials and then a restaurant area off that for the morning buffet. As stated before, there is a collection of Civil War memorabilia on the third level that is part of a self-guided tour. There are also displays of artifacts found during restorations. Our room was fairly small with antiques and some modern conveniences that included a small bathroom. It was all very quaint. It was room 203 and we were a little startled by that because we also had room 203 in Wilmington.

A yellow fever epidemic swept through the city in 1854 and the hotel was converted into a hospital to treat the sick. Over 1,000 people died during that epidemic. In 1864, the hotel was occupied by Union troops led by General William Tecumseh Sherman. They stayed for several months and then the hotel became a Union hospital until the end of the Civil War. Then the hotel reverted back to a hotel. During the Reconstruction Period, Joel Chandler Harris, author of the famous Uncle Remus Stories, lived at the hotel. In 1880, the building that was next door was annexed and became part of the hotel. The hotel closed in 1895. 

The hotel reopened in 1899 and featured electric lights and hot and cold running water. At this time it was still the Marshall House, but the name would change to Gilbert Hotel in 1933 when real estate man Herbert W. Gilbert leased the building. He would expand it so that it had a new lobby, dining room, living room, reading room, 66 guest rooms, one suite, an apartment, and six storage rooms. In 1941, he sold the hotel and it reopened under new ownership in 1946 after a complete renovation. Fire codes changed and it was too hard for the hotel to update in 1957, so the top three floors were closed and the main level was opened as shops. This was the case until 1998. The hotel was renovated once again and reopened as The Marshall House once more in 1999 and this is said to be Savannah's oldest hotel. We should mention that during these modern renovations, body parts were found beneath the floor boards. This was treated as a crime scene and everything was carefully cataloged. Tests revealed the bones were from the Civil War. These were probably amputated arms and legs and such and they were just placed under the floorboards since they had nowhere else to put them.

We went to dinner at a brew pub that was next to the hotel and then we headed off for our ghost tour with Ghost City Tours. Our tour guide was great, but we would be hard pressed to recommend the company. This was another one of those big tour companies that offers tours in several cities. Diane had a bad experience with Ghosts and Gravestones and now she's added this one too. There were supposed to be two tour guides to break our group up into two small groups of 30, but our guide was informed right before we were supposed to head out that there was a screw up with the website. So this poor woman had to take out a group of 50 people, in the age of Covid. So clearly this was not according to healthy guidelines either. And for us, any group over 40 is ridiculous anyway.

We did another session with the dowsing rods after getting back from having dinner and doing our ghost tour. (Marshall House after Tour) The next morning Diane tried her hand at the dowsing rods. (Marshall House Morning) We continued with another dowsing session and we talked about religion (Marshall House Religion) Through all of our dowsing rods sessions, we formed a picture of the young woman we were speaking with. It seems that she was a young pre-teen girl and her family was from Ireland and were indentured servants. She had siblings, at least one brother and more than one sister. She more than likely died here when the hotel was a hospital with yellow fever patients. She does not leave the hotel and her family is not with her. We never figured out what her name was. Kelly did a little research and found that there was information that backed up the possibility that Irish indentured servants were in Savannah.

The city of Savannah was pretty new when a ship wrecked off the coast on January 10, 1734. There were forty survivors, thirty-four men and six women. These people were Irish indentured servants who had been sailing for New England. General James Oglethorpe who had founded Savannah had a motto, not for self, but for others. So there was no way he was going to turn these destitute and suffering people away. He wrote of the situation, "A sloop loaded with servants was forced in here through stress of weather and want of victuals many of them were dead. Forty only remained. As they were likewise ready to perish through misery. I thought in an act of charity to buy them, which I did, giving five pounds a head. I gave one of them to each of the widows which will render them able to cultivate their lands and maintain their families. I let each of the magistrates have one at a prime cost that they might not be behind hand in their gardens and plantations by reason of their spending much of their time in the public service. Of the rest, I have allotted Mr. Lafond five to help him in building a saw mill, four to the gardens, and four to the Island Hutchinson’s." These people stayed and urged the relatives to come to Savannah as well and a rich Irish heritage took root in the city. Particularly during the Irish Potato Famine.

While Kelly was in the bathroom getting ready, Diane started having doubts about what was causing the EMF gauge to go off. She had opened the blinds and realized that the room was on the far end of the hotel, which was the corner of the block and a large traffic light was outside the window. So she took the EMF to the window and, of course, it went off. And she noticed it went off around the TV. So she decided to do a test. There was a chair in the far corner. She put the EMF on the chair and there was no signal. She asked that if there was a spirit in the room that it would make the EMF light up. Nothing. She asked several times. Nothing. Diane picked up the EMF and when Kelly came into the room, she explained what had happened. As she said that she had put the EMF on the chair and it hadn't gone off, she set the device on the chair. And it lit up like Christmas! They got a good laugh. 

We certainly are not the only people to experience strange activity here. We stayed here because of its haunted reputation. This hotel has been featured on countless lists and in countless programs. Guests claim to hear children running in the hallways when there are no children in the hallways or even in the hotel. Faucets turn on and off by themselves. Any many people claim to see full-bodied apparitions. A doctor was staying with his wife and he was awakened in the middle of the night by a tickling sensation on his feet. He looked down at his feet and saw a little girl smiling at him while she tickled his feet. She quickly vanished.

A woman wrote on TripAdvisor of her experiences at the hotel in 2006, "We were on the 4th floor. I never got much sleep while we were there I always felt very uneasy and utterly creeped-out at night in my guts and could not rest. Did hear some strange noises in the hall late at night around three am or so what sounded like a hard rubber ball rolling along the hallway and bouncing also what sounded like a marble rolling and bouncing also a VERY LOUD crash in the hall three am-ish almost like a body falling and hitting the floor and no one was out there. We also heard what sounded like walking around on the floor above us but there is only the roof. Also very unnerving feeling of being TOUCHED while in bed at night and I was completely awake...touched on the inside of my lower leg/ankle and buttock area. This made me nearly jump out of bed more than once! On the last night we stayed there we noticed a STRANGE SMELL in the room and the bathroom that we could find no source for. It was almost like a sweet burned-flesh smell combined with a slight sewery odor."

Kristin wrote in 2014 on TripAdvisor, "After a night out my girlfriend and I retired to room 409. After eating a late night snack and watching some television I had used the bathroom. Upon walking out of it I noticed the fan was off so I asked my girlfriend why she would shut the fan off on such a hot night. She replied "I didn't". I then noticed our channel was changed from watching CNN to ESPN. I asked her why she was watching the football game since I knew she had no interest. She again replied "I didn't". We searched for the remote which at one point was right next to us. The remote had gone totally missing. We threw off the sheets of the bed, and tore up the room only to be let down of finding the darn thing. At this point my girlfriend was very bugged out so I personally had asked whatever was playing tricks on us to please stop because I knew my girlfriend would have wanted to leave if she knew we were being taunted by some type of supernatural presence. As I lay my hand on her shoulder to reassure her everything was going to be ok, my black beaded bracelet was ripped off my wrist. That's right, ripped off my wrist. Not by myself nor my girlfriend. My girlfriend just starred at me with tears in her eyes as I looked back with complete shock. Needless to say we both started praying. We hopped into bed with every light on and there right before our eyes was the remote, all snug in the same spot we had just been sitting in. I held my girlfriend through the night as I watched the fan now turned back on rock back and forth till the morning. I made the woman at the front desk aware of this encounter and her reply was "Oh yea that's casper and he's sort of mischievous so it makes sense he would turn the football game on and taunt you like that." She went on to add the 4th floor is the most haunted of all the floors. Although I lost a bracelet and a night's sleep this was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I have believed in paranormal activity before but this solidified it for me. Oh and the room was beautiful too! Best wishes to you all who stay in room 409."

The strange smell is a thing many people report. It started during renovations in 1998 and people who stay in rooms 214, 314 and 414 complain often of smelling a strange odor. Not deodorizers have been able to get rid of it and neither have ozone machines. We did find a story that prayer seemed to help with rooms 214 and 314, but a radio playing Christian programs placed in room 414 seemed to be the only thing that worked in there. Clearly, people are still detecting some strange odors. The night manager's office is where the amputated limbs had been found and this is said to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel. They hear disembodied footsteps and moaning. One manager claimed to see the spirit of a Union soldier who was missing an arm.

We hit the Colonial Park Cemetery after we checked out and wandered around the River Walk for a bit too. This is another great cemetery in the heart of Savannah that also happens to be haunted. We loved our visit to Savannah and we really enjoyed the interactions with our little spirit friend. Is the Marshall House haunted? That is for you to decide!