Thursday, August 16, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Qin Shi Huang's Tomb
One of the most incredible tombs ever made by man can be found in China. This is a large underground mausoleum that is mostly unopened. It was built for Ying Zheng who had ascended the throne at the age of 13. He ruled over the powerful state of Qin and proved to be a bold and fearless leader. He managed to unify China and this made him the first emperor of China. He commissioned the building of the Great Wall, roads and many scientific breakthroughs happened under his rule. This allseems to have gone to his head and he renamed himself “Qin Shi Huang,” loosely “The Son of Heaven.” He declared himself a god and became obsessed with immortality. He believed he would one day rule from the center of the universe. He ordered his alchemists to find a formula that would allow him to never die. One such remedy was thought to be mercury and Huang would drink it on a regular basis. Nothing seemed to work, so he focused on building the greatest tomb. The grand mausoleum was designed to resemble the capital of Qin, Xianyang and it was a city unto itself. Seven hundred thousand laborers worked on the tomb and took 38 years to complete and measures 38 square miles. The Emperor had died before the construction was finished, so he did not get to see just how massive his final resting place was, complete with an army of terra cotta soldiers. The underground mausoleum was discovered in 1974 by local farmers. Excavations began and it is estimated that the tomb holds more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all of which were painted and represented a real person. What remains unseen is believed to be even more mind blowing.Records indicate that in the tomb were palaces and scenic towers, priceless artifacts and a vast ceiling inlaid with the stars and constellations of the heavens. Apparently, two rivers of mercury flowed through the tomb as well. There are claims of treasures that have been booby-trapped and curses for those disturbing the mausoleum. In 2012, a massive Imperial Palace was found inside with an earthen pyramid inside of it believed to be where the Emperor's body is laid to rest. The necropolis of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang has gone on to become one of the most important archeological discoveries ever made with the terracotta soldiers making tours around the world, but building such a massive grave and then hiding it away from the world for centuries, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The Sacco and Vanzetti Case
In the month of August on the 23rd, in 1927, Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were electrocuted in Massachusetts having been convicted of murder without evidence. The case against them claimed that the two men had killed a guard and a paymaster while robbing a shoe factory. There was no evidence connecting either man to the crime and eventually another man admitted committing the crime with an organized criminal gang. The men had radical political views and many believe the jury was prejudiced against them for this reason. They also were Italian, which seemed to be another mark against them. As they sat on death row for the seven years after their convictions, worldwide protests grew. The matter became the center of one of the largest causes célèbres in modern history and riots broke out in major cities from Chicago to New York to Tokyo to Aukland to Johannesburg. On the 50th anniversary of the executions, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that declared Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names".
Haunted Castles of Denmark
Denmark is a land that has had people living on it since the Last Ice Age. This gives it an ancient history and while it is not considered a powerful nation today, it once ruled much of Europe with an iron fist. This history contains stories of wars, revolutions, political intrigue, religious conflict, Vikings and one of the oldest monarchies. The Danes are believed to have been in Denmark since 500 AD. The Middle Ages were a great time of power for the Danes and they ruled over England and united with Sweden and Norway. The monarchy of Denmark lasted for centuries and many of these nobles made castles their homes. Voregaard Castle is one of the most well preserved castles dating back to the Renaissance and today is home to a beautiful art collection. The castle also houses a spirit. Kronburg Castle was made famous by Hamlet and has a few ghosts of its own. Dragsholm Castle has been converted into a luxury hotel with a golf course, but it has more than just a reputation for being a nice place to get away to on a holiday. Dragsholm is reputedly the most haunted castle in Denmark. Join me as I share the history and hauntings of the castles of Denmark.
Voergaard Castle is on the North Jutland peninsula, which became an island in 1825 when a storm connected the North Sea and the fjord Limfjorden. The castle is about six miles or 10 kilometers from the small town of Dronninglund. Voergaard is considered one of the country's best-preserved renaissance castles, but historians are unsure of when it was built. Recorded history of Voergaard goes back to 1481. The castle was bought around 1510 by the Bishop of Børglum. It was taken by Skipper Clement's army of peasants and confiscated by the Crown after the Reformation in 1536. In 1578, King Frederick II ceded the property to Karen Krabbe in exchange for Nygaard, an estate located between Vejle and Kolding. Krabbe's daughter, Ingeborg Skeel, took over the property from her mother and carried out an expansion and restoration in 1588.
In 1872, Voergaard was purchased by Peder Brønnum Scavenius who was a politician and land owner. He managed to get back much of the original land and by the time of his death in 1914, the estate covered 4800 acres making it one of the largest properties in Denmark at the time. His son Erik Scavenius became the next owner. He was the Danish Prime Minister during World War II and owned Voergaard from 1914 to 1945. In 1955, the castle was bought by Ejnar Oberbech-Clausen, a Dane who became a count through marriage. His wife, Marie Henriette Chenu-Lafitte was the daughter of Jules-Émile Péan, one of the great French surgeons of the 19th century. Oberbech-Clausen returned to his native Denmark after his wife was killed in an air raid and he bought the castle. He brought 12 train cars of art with him back to Denmark and began the restoration of the castle. After his death in 1963, the castle and collections were passed to a foundation and opened to the public.
Today, the castle continues to house a unique and comprehensive collection of European art that includes works by Goya, Rubens, and Raphael, furniture belonging to both Louis XIV and Louis XVI, carpets, jewellery and porcelain. The castle has a Roman Catholic chapel which was used by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Voergaard is a two-winged, L-shaped castle built in the Renaissance style out of red brick. The east wing is flanked by two octagonal corner towers with a gateway and sandstone portal. The large park around the castle was laid out in 1768. In 1955 it was re-designed in the French style. Buildings in the grounds include a half-timbered building which in the 18th and 19th century was used by Voer Birk, a manor court where people who had committed local misdemeanors and petty crimes would be tried.
The castle has been considered haunted ever since the early 1600s. One reason there are hauntings going on here could be because of the castle's infamous dungeon that had no light, ventilation, or room for a grown man to sit or stand. No one is sure how many people lost their lives within its walls, but one can imagine that the torture that happened here would lead to some bad energy. Many of the darker stories about Voergaard Castle have to do with one of the owners, Ingeborg Skeel. She was a merciless noblewoman who had the architect working on the rebuild of the castle killed. Some claim that she pushed the man herself into the moat around the castle so she wouldn't have to pay him. She cut off the fingers of peasant children who stole grain from her fields. Ingeborg was considered cruel and greedy and she seems to be holding on to the castle even after her death. Priests have been called in for decades after her death to perform exorcisms. Legends claim that Skeel was a witch and had a pact with the devil and that is why she remains. Her apparition has been seen all around the castle. She blows out candles and gets annoyed when the door to a corridor on the upper floor of the east wing is closed.
Most employees seem happy to have the ghost there. One employee, Ole Senkbæk, said, “I’m happy for her to be here. We get a lot of visitors hoping to see her.” He had experience with the spirit. One night about a year ago, after he had neglected to turn off the lights in a corridor next to the banquet hall, he noticed a door shut that shouldn’t have been. He attributes this to Skeel, who was giving him a sign that he needed to turn the light off there.
There is another legend attached to the manor house. This one is about a wild boar hide that hangs within it. This legend claims that if the hide is ever removed, the castle will burn down. People also claim that the dungeons have listening channels built into the walls through which they can hear prisoners groaning. And there is an infamous blood spot on the floor of the northeast tower. People have tried to remove the spot, but it always returns. The tower room also has knocking sounds that are inexplicable.
Kronborg is a castle found on the extreme northeastern tip of the island of Zealand. This Renaissance Castle became famous when William Shakespeare used it as inspiration for the castle Elsinore in his play "Hamlet." The castle was built by King Eric VII in the 1420s. King Frederick II rebuilt the castle from 1574 to 1585. The main architects were the Flemings Hans Hendrik van Paesschen and Anthonis van Obbergen. The sculptural work was done by Gert van Groningen. In 1629 a fire destroyed much of the castle, but King Christian IV subsequently had it rebuilt. The Swedes attacked in 1658 and looted all of its treasures. In 1785, the castle ceased to be a royal residence and was converted into barracks for the army and they stayed until 1923. It was then renovated and opened to the public. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 2000.
Employees at the site claim that the place is haunted. A new restaurant was built some time ago that is called Kronvaerket and one of the staff, Jeannett Pedersen, claimed, "Windows and doors fly open, stacks of paper disappear and reappear elsewhere, and tables set themselves." Many other employees have reported experiencing strange things. They have seen two inexplicable gray shadows waft by and seen the ghost of an old man in the kitchen. Employees say the spirts seem to be good-natured. A transparent entity of a soldier has been seen walking through the walls, shadows have been seen in the windows, screams have been heard and the disembodied voices of soldiers and horses have been heard. Local paranormal teams claim feelings of being watched, hearing disembodied footsteps, batteries draining and capturing EVPs.
Ghost Hunters International investigated the site. One of the teams, Barry and Kris, heared noises and footsteps and saw a shadow in the Great Hall. Another team claimed to get a bad feeling. Perhaps the most compelling evidence was of the multi-meter experiment set up by Paul and Susan in the basement. The flashlight moves slightly and the EMF reader spikes to a 0.6 and the temperature gauge goes up by several degrees. This is not huge evidence, but all three things happening at the same time does make one wonder.
Dragsholm Castle is reportedly the most haunted castle in Denmark. The castle is located on the island of Zealand and was built as a palace in 1215 for Peder Sunesen, Bishop of Roskilde. The castle was heavily fortified through the years and for this reason, was a favorite for naobles to use as a living quarters. Dragsholm was the only castle to survive Denmark’s civil war of 1534-6, which was known as the Count’s Feud because it was waged by Count Christoffer who supported the Catholic King Christian II until the election of Christian III deposed him. The castle passed into the hands of King Christian III after the Protestant Reformation. The castle would no longer be a home for nobles, but rather a prison for them.
This would be a dark period and as Lutheranism spread, Catholicism was outlawed and bishops were imprisoned at the castle. Among the prisoners were a number of rather famous inmates, such as Joachim Rønnow, who was the last Catholic Bishop of Roskilde and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell and third husband to Mary, Queen of Scots. The prisoners were assigned to cells custom built to fit their crimes, actions, and nature of their behavior toward the King. When the armies of Charles X Gustav of Sweden invaded Zealand, Dragsholm’s defenders attempted to blow it up. The castle lay in ruins until King Christian V passed the castle onto Heinrich Muller, a grocer. He owed the man money and this was to cover his debt. Muller restored the castle. In 1694, nobleman Frederik Christian Adeler bought Dragsholm and rebuilt it as a baroque castle. The Adeler family held onto it until 1932 when the family died off. Denmark’s Central Land Board became the owner of Dragsholm Castle. In 1939, the Central Land Board sold Dragsholm Castle to J.F. Bottger, but only included the land belonging to the main estate. The Bottger family preserved the Baroque style of the castle, but extensively restored and modernized the interior.
There are reputedly nearly 100 ghosts living within the castle. Five of them are fairly well known: the Earl of Bothwell, the Mad Squire, the White Lady, the Bishop and the Grey Lady. The Earl of Bothwell was Mary, Queen of Scots third husband, James Hepburn. Hepburn always seemed to be in trouble and he ended up fleeing for his life from Scotland in 1567. A storm forced his ship to land in Norway, which was ruled by Denmark at the time and he was arrested for not having the correct identification papers. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Hepburn had run off with his former fiance's dowry and it was thought he had murdered Queen Mary's second husband. King Frederik II of Denmark imprisoned him at Dragsholm and reportedly he was barely given enough food and water to keep him alive. He was tied to a pillar and eventually went mad and died in 1576 or 1578. His spirit has haunted the castle ever since and visitors claim to see him riding into the courtyard of the castle in his carriage being pulled by horses. The sound of horses hooves have been heard in the cobbled yard as well.
Our next spirit is known as the Mad Squire. His real name was Ejler Brockenhuus and he was part of the noble Danish Brockenhuus family. The family began in Denmark with Oluf Brockenhuus who fought in the wars with Sweden and Norway and expanded into a Norwegian branch. Ejler was chained in the dungeon and left to die and guests claim to hear his groans float up the stairs.
Our Lady in White makes an appearance at Dragsholm. It is believed that in life she was Celina Bovles, a daughter of the Bovles family of nobles. As is the case so many times, she fell in love with a man her family did not approve of. He was a commoner and he ended up getting her pregnant. Her father was enraged and locked her in the dungeon where she died. And before we relegate this story to legend, it is interesting to note that workmen were repairing the plumbing at Dragsholm in the 1930s and they discovered a skeleton wearing a white dress inside one of the walls. Witnesses claim to have seen a woman wearing white walking around the castle at night and that she occasionally moans in sorrow because she is looking for her lost love.
Joachim Ronnow was the last Catholic Bishop of Roskilde was supposedly imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle in 1536. He did not die here, but some claim that they have heard his moans in the tower the sound of Catholic chanting.
The Gray Lady was a woman who was a servant at Dragsholm. She came to work one day in agony because of a toothache. The master of the castle gave her a poultice that cured it, but she eventually died. Her spirit is said to remain here because she was so grateful for the relief she got from her toothache. She is seen in spirit form as a gray mass or full-bodied apparition wandering the halls of the castle and she is said to perform good deeds for visitors.
These castles in Denmark are reminders of a long history of nobility. The spirits are a supernatural reminder. Are these castles haunted? That is for you to decide!
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Takanakuy
Suggested by: Anthony Ortiz
The mountain folk who have carved out the town of Santo Tomas in the Peruvian Andes observe a very peculiar festival called Takanakuy. These are people who have to be tough because of the area where they live that features steep inclines and craggy slopes. So it isn't real surprising that this festival basically consists of town members beating the tar out of each other. Yep, that's right, this is one big fight party. The tradition starts with a few days of heavy drinking and dancing in Andean horse-riding costumes and then on Christmas morning, everybody meets at the local bullfighting ring. Everybody pairs off, generally with someone they have a beef with perhaps because of a property dispute or stealing some sheep or even spilling a drink. They wrap their hands with scarves and proceed to beat each other. Referees circle the fight with whips to make sure fights aren't one-sided and there is no hitting someone on the ground. Participants are bound by the result of the match. I'm not sure exactly how they decide who wins, perhaps the one bleeding less or still conscience, but holding a festival dedicated to the pummeling of a neighbor, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The Nautilus Crosses Under North Pole
In the month of August, on the 3rd, in 1958, a nuclear powered submarine called The Nautilus was the first submarine to cross the North Pole under water. The USS Nautilus was built under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover and was the first nuclear submarine. Rickover was a Russian-born engineer who was in charge of the navy's nuclear-propulsion program. The Nautilus was 319 feet, displaced 3,180 tons and could travel over 20 knots. It could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods of time because its atomic engine needed no air. On January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across the bow of the Nautilus and it launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. On July 23, 1958, the submarine departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with 116 crew on board for a mission dubbed “Operation Northwest Passage.” It continued to Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980.
Haunted Cemeteries 10
Spooktacular Crew Member Lynn Weingarden-Marston said, "I have traveled all over the world. The quickest way to find out about the history of a city or town for that matter is the Graveyard! You can see the whole history of a town or area on the tomb stones. From what was the main industry of the town to plagues and outbreaks of illness. Life expectancy to infant mortality." And that really says it all about cemeteries. They are one of the best historical records of an area. And they are the best place to pay our respects to those who have gone on before us. In this episode, I feature four cemeteries that have reports of paranormal activity. these are Waverly Hall cemetery in Georgia, El Campo Santo Cemetery in San Diego, Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington and Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. Join me as we explore these historic graveyards!
Waverly Hall Cemetery in Georgia
Waverly Hall is a small town in Harris County, Georgia. The cemetery here is named for the town and has about 800 burials. One of the oldest graves belongs to the Reverend Thomas Darley who was born in 1760 and died in 1832. He was a Revolutionary War officer that went on to become a Methodist minister who founded many Methodist churches throughout South Carolina and Georgia.
The Waverly Hall Cemetery appears to be quite haunted. A couple traveling to Lanett, Alabama had heard about the cemetery and decided to stop and check it out. They took a few pictures on a digital camera and then left just before dark, mainly because they were feeling sick. The woman became distressed as she scrolled through the pictures. She saw something that startled her and asked her boyfriend to pull over so she could show him. As he started to do that, the pictures vanished. All of them. Including ones that had been on the camera for quite a while. They went to a CVS to get the memory card checked out and an employee told them the card was bad. They replaced it and the camera worked fine. They returned to the car and the woman told her boyfriend that she was really creeped out because the worker in the store looked just like the spirit woman she had seen in the pictures. Several paranormal investigators have investigated the cemetery and one claimed to have stepped out of his car and heard an inhuman screech and the sound of someone running toward him. There are reports of many EVPs captured, cold spots and full-bodied apparitions.
El Campo Santo Cemetery in San Diego
El Campo Santo Cemetery is located near the Old Town San Diego Historic Park where the Whaley House is located. The cemetery was founded in 1849 by the Catholic church. This graveyard was once much larger and now only has about 450 graves that can be seen. So yes, this means that parts of Old Town are built over the former cemetery grounds. The encroachment of the living on the dead started with a simple horse-drawn street car line that went through the cemetery, right over 18 graves. This road eventually became San Diego Boulevard. Many graves were moved as the land was needed for building. But not all of them were moved. This has caused issues with hauntings, not just for businesses and houses in the area, but also for the cemetery.
Several full-bodied apparitions have been seen throughout the decades, hanging around outside of the brick walls that surround the small graveyard. Occasionally, the cemetery hosts tours with employees dressed up in period clothing and sharing stories about some of the burials. Several times, people have thought they were talking to a costumed employee only to find out that whoever they were talking to was not a member of the staff or the figure has vanished before their very eyes. Some people claim to have seen legless apparitions, so only their top half can be seen. Cold spots that are described as freezing have been reported. Even more peculiar is that some people who park their cars in the parking lot in front of the graveyard have had trouble starting their cars.
A paranormal team went into the graveyard to do an investigation in 2003 and they reported:
02/15/03 - CSGR went with a team to investigate the graveyard. While no EMF readings were found along the walls, a jump in the readings happened in the middle of the cemetery. Team member Psychic Virginia Marco saw a young boy, trapped and confused. Also a grave digger entity was seen, who visits the place, according to Marco's report. Psychic Virginia Marco was able to help the little boy find his way to the light. The CSGR team reports a fairly peaceful cemetery, which basically has calmed down a lot since 1996, after ultrasound equipment found 18 graves (mostly children) under the pavement behind the cemetery and 20 graves( all ages) in the parking lot in front. Two plaques memorializing these graves were hung in the front and the back of the cemetery.Bayview Cemetery - Bellingham, Washington (Suggested by: Melisa Nelson)
The city of Bellingham in Washington State was named for Sir William Bellingham, who was the comptroller of the storekeeper's account for the Royal Navy. The first Caucasian settlers came in the 1850s with the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. At the same time, coal was discovered in the area and that mining industry would hold until the 1950s. Bellingham officially incorporated in 1903. There was a need for a cemetery with the growing population of miners and other people and so the Bayview Cemetery was founded in 1887. The first burial was in 1888. This cemetery is the final resting place of the founding families of Whatcom County and Bellingham was originally known as Whatcom. Bayview started at just 10 acres, but 12 more were added later. There are several well known people buried here and many fascinating stories.
One of the burials here is for Matthew Bickford. He was born in 1839 and served in the Civil War as a Corporal in Company G, 8th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. For bravery at Vicksburg, Mississippi, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His citation reads “Gallantry in the charge of the "volunteer storming party." A former governor of Washington is buried here, Albert E. Mead. He served as Governor of Washington from 1905 to 1909 and had been the Mayor of Blaine, Washington and a member of the Washington State House of Representatives.
Ella Rhoads Higginson was an American author and writer known for her poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She wrote for many magazines and from 1900 to 1904, she wrote a weekly column titled “Clover Leaves” for the Seattle Times newspaper. The work that she is most known for is her poem "Four Leaf Clover," which was first published by Oregon’s West Shore magazine in 1890. Higginson was named the first Poet Laureate of Washington State in 1931. She was born in Kansas and raised in Oregon and moved to Bellingham in 1888 with her husband. She died in Bellingham, Washington in 1940. Her burial has a large semicircular concrete bench around a monument topped with a concrete cross. the base reads, "Yet, am I not for pity - trembling I have come face to face with God."
Thomas S. Dahlquist has a simple tombstone. He started the Bellingham Bay Grocery Company and a car dealership with several floors above these businesses with rooms as a hotel. The Dahlquist Building still stands today and was one of the first reinforced concrete buildings erected in Bellingham.
A victim of one of the most notorious murders in Bellingham is buried at Bayview, Frederick Dames. Dames owned a butcher shop and that is where he was found bludgeoned to death in 1905 by his thirteen year old delivery boy. His skull was pinned to the ground with a screwdriver and the top of his head chopped off. This was assumed to be a robbery that went bad, but eventually police pinned the murder on Maple Falls man who had killed a woman he was engaged to for her money. He also was thought to have killed three other people and he was in Bellingham at the time of Dames' murder. Side note: The Redlight Bar now is in the location of Dames' butcher shop and if you look up at the ceiling, a row of meat hooks is still mounted there.
And another more well known burial is that of Issac Smith Kalloch who was a Baptist minister turned politician. He decided to run for mayor of San Francisco in 1879, which was a hotly contested seat at that time because the Editor-in-Chief of the San Francsico Chronicle, Charles DeYoung, wanted another to win. This was prior to the time that yellow journalism took hold of newspapers, but DeYoung's tactics would fit that description. Because he wanted another candidate to win, DeYoung started attacking Kalloch and accused him of having an affair. And in case anyone thought mudslinging during campaigns was a more modern day thing, Kalloch responded to these accusations with one of his own: that DeYoung's mother ran a brothel. DeYoung took things to the next level when he shot Kalloch twice on the street. The Reverend survived and got the sympathy vote and was elected the 18th Mayor of San Francisco. He served from 1879 until 1881. The story doesn't end here. On April 23, 1880, Kalloch's son Isaac went into the Chronicle building and shot and killed Charles DeYoung. Kalloch moved to the Washington Terrirtory after his stint as mayor and it is there that he died in 1887 at the age of 55.
Mark Twain was so taken with the way that New Orleans built its cemeteries with above ground burials that he called New Orleans cemeteries, the “Cities of the Dead.” Metairie Cemetery was founded on land that had previously been a horse racing track. The race track was owned by the Metairie Jockey Club. Charles T. Howard had made his wealth by starting the first Louisiana State Lottery and he asked the club for a membership. They refused membership and Howard vowed that the race course would become a cemetery. One of the more famous races there was the Lexington-Lecomte Race, which took place on April 1, 1854 and was advertised as the "North Against the South" race. Former President Millard Fillmore attended.
No racing took place during the Civil War and the grounds were used as a Confederate Camp named Camp Moore until 1862 when the Union took New Orleans. After Reconstruction, the track went bankrupt and the land was sold off for a cemetery, bringing Henry's vow or curse to fruition. Metairie Cemetery was established in 1872 by the Metairie Cemetery Association. The designer was Colonel Benjamin Morgan Henry and he refused to destroy the foundation of the horse race track, so upon visiting, one will notice that the cemetery and its tombs are laid out within the concentric oval patterns of the original track. The cemetery was eventually taken over by Stewart Enterprises, Inc., of Jefferson, Louisiana and then in 2013, Service Corporation International bought Metairie Cemetery.
What is today the back exit, used to be a grand front entrance with an ivy-draped archway. Metairie Cemetery is amazing for those of us that like beautiful and unique monuments and memorials. It has the most monuments and memorials of any of the cemeteries in New Orleans. One such memorial, the Foto family, features the statue of an angel who has a star on her forehead. This indicates that she has come from heaven. Her right hand is lifted and holds the head of a flower that she is going to drop as though it were a blessing. Her left hand is clutching at material that overlays her gown. The graveyard features a tumulus, which is a manmade hill very similar to those built by the ancient mound builders. The monument includes two notable works by sculptor Alexander Doyle. There is the 1877 equestrian statue of General Albert Sidney Johnston on his horse "Fire-eater", holding binoculars in his right hand and the other is an 1885 life size statue that represents a Confederate officer about to read the roll of the dead during the American Civil War. This tumulus features burials of the Louisiana Division of the Army of Tennessee. These were Civil War veterans that fill the 48 niches and one of these belongs to General Pierre G.T. Beauregard. For those of you who got to see my video on Fort Sumter, you know how pivotal he was to the beginning of the Civil War. He was also key in convincing Jefferson Davis to end the war. Even though he had been a Confederate general, Beauregard spent the rest of his life advocating for civil rights for blacks. He died in his sleep in New Orleans from what is thought to be a heartattack.
The Egan family has an unusual monument. It was designed to look like a ruin with a marble archway open to the sky that resembles a Gothic chapel on their property in Ireland. The blocks were distressed to make them look old and even the nameplate looks as though it had been dropped and cracked. The Brunswig Tomb is a granite pyramid that is quite tall. The statue of a Greek maiden is standing outside and has her hand raised as though she is knocking on the tomb's door. There is a tall Roman urn behind her with an eternal marble flame frozen in its mouth. A sphinx crouches across the entryway.
There are many famous burials here. Interestingly enough, one of the burials here belongs to Charles Howard who died in 1885 when he fell off a horse he had just purchased. His tomb is located on Central Avenue. Andrew Higgins is buried here. He was the inventor of the Higgins Boat. He founded Higgins Industries, the New Orleans-based manufacturer of "Higgins boats" (LCVPs) during World War II. They were small at first, but later became one of the biggest industries in the world with upwards of eighty thousand workers and government contracts worth nearly three hundred fifty million dollars. General Dwight Eisenhower is quoted as saying, "Andrew Higgins ... is the man who won the war for us. ... If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different."
Josie Arlington, the most notorious madam in New Orleans is buried here, but is no longer buried in her original tomb. She died in 1914 and was placed in a tomb designed by Albert Weiblen. The memorial features a bronze female figure. The grave became a tourist attraction because of her reputation and her family was mortified so they had the body moved. Arlington was born Mary Deubler and started her life in prostitution at the age of seventeen. She was known to have a quick temper and to be a spunky fighter. She wanted the classiest brothel in town and she made it happen. Soon it was the wealthiest and most sought out brothel in New Orleans. Her girls got $5.00 an hour! She suffered from early dementia and died when she was only 50. And speaking of red-light districts, Mayor Martin “Papa” Behrman is here and he wholly supported the civic implementation of Storyville, New Orleans’ legal red-light district, at the turn of the twentieth century. Behrman traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1917 when there was a threat to shut down Storyville and he said, “You can make it illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.”
Police Chief David Hennessy was murdered and this sparked a riot. His most known capture was of an Italian criminal named Giuseppe Esposito. He was murdered by a group of Italian men and a sensational trial followed in 1890. Nineteen men had been indicted for his murder, but there were a series of acquittals and mistrials and this angered locals. They formed a mob and forced the prison's doors and lynched 11 of those 19 men on March 14, 1891. This was the largest known mass lynching in U.S. history. Hennessy is buried under a tall column with a draped urn atop it. Louisiana songwriter Fred Bessel published a bestselling song about Hennessy in 1891, titled "The Hennessy Murder." It begins:
Kind friends if you will list to me a sad story I'll relate,
'Tis of the brave Chief Hennessy and how he met his fate
On that quiet Autumn Evening when all nature seemed at rest,
This good man was shot to death; may his soul rest with the blest.
A couple of restaurateurs are buried here: Al Copeland who founded Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Ruth U. Fertel who founded Ruth's Chris Steak House. Anne Rice's husband, the poet Stan Rice is buried here as well. John Bernecker was an American stunt performer who had worked on over 90 films and television series, including Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, The Hunger Games film series, Logan and Black Panther. He was performing stunts for the television series "The Walking Dead" on July 12, 2017 when a stunt went horribly wrong. Bernecker fell 20 feet onto a concrete floor, missing a placed safety cushion by "inches" and sustained a severe head injury. He died from his injuries the next day and was buried at Metairie.
Louis Leo Prima was an Italian American singer, actor, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter known as the King of Swing. Prima made prominent use of Italian music and language in his songs, blending elements of his Italian identity with jazz and swing music. Pelius Benton Steward was Lousiiana's only black governor and he served for just 35 days. He was born in 1837 to a white father and a mother of mixed race. He worked as a Mississippi River boat captain and also served in the Civil War. He became governor during Reconstruction after he was serving as Lieutenant Governor and the governor was impeached. He was buried in a private family tomb in Metairie Cemetery. John Gerald Schwegmann Jr. was a pioneer in the development of the modern supermarket and he owned eighteen stores in the New Orleans metropolitan area. He eventually got into politics as well and died in 1995.
Schwegmann was twice married and twice divorced. He outlived both wives by ten months, and the ex-wives died within three days of each other.
The most famous burial here is Jefferson Davis. He died in 1889 and was laid to rest beneath a 38-foot granite column marking the tomb of the Army of Northern Virginia. His wife later had his body moved to Richmond. Davis had been the president of the Confederate States of America. He had formerly been a member of Congress as both a Representative and Senator. He was not for secession originally, but clearly changed his mind. Because of his military and political background, he was quickly voted in as President. He moved the government to Richmond. He oversaw everything about the war effort, but respected the opinions of General Robert E. Lee as well. There were many strategic failures during the Civil War and he eventually had to surrender. He was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe. He was in jail for two years and then let out on bail and the case was dismissed. He ran away with his family to Canada. Eventually, he was pardoned by President Johnson and he went to England. He returned to America and later in life had a plantation. He became ill during a trip and died on December 6, 1889.
There are several stories about paranormal activity in Metairie. One of these stories is about the bronze female figure outside of Josie Arlington's former grave. There are claims that the figure leaves its post at the door of the monument and walks around the other graves. And early on, people claimed that the tomb would appear to burst into flames after dark. Two grave diggers said they witnessed the statue of the girl at the door vanish and walk about in the cemetery. And it is said she continues to do that to this day. The urn outside the memorial is said to glow red as well.
The ghost of David Hennessey is said to walk around the cemetery. His spirit is always dressed in his police uniform and witnesses wonder if he is protecting the cemetery from vandals and grave robbers. And Charles Howard who promised to make the race track into a cemetery apparently speaks around his grave. people swear that they hear a male voice at his grave and it is so loud that visitors passing by stop to glance at each other.
Are these historic cemeteries harboring not only the dead bodies of some well known people, but also their spirits? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Telling of the Bees
Many of us are very aware of just how important bees are to our world. We may fear their stinger, but it would be much more fearful to live in a world without bees. Where would we be without honey, wax and pollination? In Medieval times, bees were held in even higher esteem and were thought to have a special intelligence in regards to the mysteries of the cosmos. Bees were highly prized and could be found kept at monasteries and manor houses, where they were cared for as a part of the community and family. Their behavior was watched closely and if the bees were seen swarming, they were given special attention. If the swarm was around a dead branch, a human death was imminent. A group of bees flying into a home meant that a stranger would soon call. Good luck was coming if the bees rested on a roof. Communities were very careful about their dealings with each other and emotions because they found that discord could cause the bees to stop producing honey, die, or fly away. Because of all of this the tradition of the “telling of the bees” was started. Bees would be kept informed about everything important in a keeper's life like marriages, births and journeys. One of the most important rituals in the "telling of the bees" was in regards to death. If the bees were not put into mourning after being informed of a death, it was believed they might fail to thrive or leave their hives. In order to put the bees in mourning, a keeper would need to drape the hives with black crepe fabric and leave a piece of the funeral bread nearby. Then the keeper would sing pleasantly to the bees about who had died and how it happened. These songs became rhymes that were shared across Europe and eventually made their way to America. We should all treat bees with respect and harvest their honey sustainably, but the idea that we should tell the bees all about our major life events, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Starts
In the month of July, on the 23rd, in 1976, the Legionnaires Disease outbreak starts. The disease is named for the group of men who came down with it in the late Summer of 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The American Legion opened its annual three-day convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia on July 21 with more than 2,000 Legionnaires in attendance. Three days after the convention ended Ray Brennan, a 61-year-old retired US Air Force captain and an American Legion bookkeeper, died from what was believed to be a heart attack. A couple days later, another Legionnaire named Frank Aveni died of what looked like a heart attack. Six more Legionnaires died and officials finally took notice. Within a week, more than 130 people, mostly men, had been hospitalized, and 25 had died. It was discovered that this was a cluster of a particular type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacteria.
Hauntings of the Cumberlands (Suggested by: Jamie Wolfe)
Williamsburg, Kentucky is said to be the "Gateway to the Cumberlands." This area is nestled in the foothills of Daniel Boone Country. It's part of Whitley County with the Cumberland River running through it. Another city in this county is Corbin, which has stories of its own including Satanic activity. On this episode, Jamie Wolfe shares many legends and ghost stories from the Williamsburg and Cumberland Gap area in Kentucky. These include University of the Cumberlands, Highland Cemetery, The Independent School, Cumberland Inn, the Bird Man, the Mulberry Black Thing and Cumberland Falls. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Cumberlands.
University of the Cumberlands
Jamie attended the University of the Cumberlands, which was originally called Williamsburg Institute. The college was founded on January 7, 1889. This was a religious institution established by the Mount Zion Association, which were representatives from 18 eastern Kentucky Baptist churches. This started just as one building, but in 1907 the school bought the three buildings of Highland College. The name changed to Cumberland College in 1913. The name Cumberland comes from the Cumberland River, Cumberland Falls and the Cumberland Gap. Because this was a religious establishment, the rules on campus are very strict. Jamie explains that they are not allowed to close doors and they must keep feet on ground when a male is in their rooms.
There are several ghosts at this location. Gillespie Hall is considered the residence hall of choice for freshmen women and was dedicated as Johnson Hall on February 11th, 1894. On ghost story goes, "Long ago, a young girl went to Cumberland College. If you have ever heard of the school, you know that it is a somewhat strict, private Christian institution. Anyway, the young girl got pregnant while on campus and knew that if anyone found out, she would be shamefully dismissed. Thus, she committed suicide by hanging herself on the third floor of Gillespie Hall. Long after this, a girl was staying in room 316 (?) and she was engaged. One day, she sat her engagement ring down on a desk and left the room. When she returned, she could not find the ring anywhere. She searched and searched until finally she found the ring in a trash can. The incident happened multiple times. It is also said that, even thought the room is locked up, the light will sometimes be on in that room and the girl who died will show herself to other girls in the dorm. She will not talk but stand on the third floor. You can talk to her and everything and she will not disappear and such but she will vanish after you walk by without a sound." Jamie recounts the story for us.
Mercurial1101 wrote, "My friend unfortunately saw the one in Gillespie. She spoke with her and everything and the girl didn't say anything. When my friend turned around, the girl was gone."
The Ruby Gatliff Archer Hall opened in 1966 and houses more than 150 female students. It is rumored that a room on the first floor is haunted. The cause of the haunting is unknown. It is reported that posters fall off the wall no matter how much they're taped up, alarm clocks will go off at midnight despite them being set for a different time, cd players will come on by themselves, also different objects within the room will become misplaced inexplicably. Jamie has experienced it.
The Slain Robbery Victim's Ghost
This waterfall is located in the Daniel Boone Forest in Cumberland State Park. Jamie tells us about the very cool moonbow phenomenon here.Lover's Leap has led to hauntings.
Jamie also shared about Highland Cemetery, The Independent School, Cumberland Inn, the Bird Man and the Mulberry Black Thing.
This area along the Cumberland River that is home to Whitley County seems to have many ghost stories connected it. And the legends are fun too. Is this area of the Cumberlands haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Moment in Oddity - The Sin-Eaters
There was a rather peculiar tradition that started in southern England that was meant to free a dead person from any sin they may have committed. Upon the death of a person of prestige, a certain outcast from the edge of the village would be brought to the home. This person was an outcast because they were thought to carry the sins that they ate. You heard that right. These people were known as sin-eaters. The ritual usually consisted of a body or casket being carried out of a home and past the sin-eater. The deceased's family would pass a bowl of beer, a loaf of bread and a sixpence to the sin-eater over the body of the dead person. The sin-eater would say an incantation and then eat the food. Sometimes the ritual would take place inside the home. A plate of salt was placed on the chest of the departed and then a loaf of bread was placed on top of that with a mug of ale next to that. The sin-eater would whisper over the body and consume the food. This whole ritual signified that the sins of the dead person had been eaten away. They could then pass on to Heaven and be saved from walking the earth as a spirit or even as something undead. The 1926 book Funeral Customs by Bertram S. Puckle reads, "Professor Evans of the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, actually saw a sin-eater about the year 1825, who was then living near Llanwenog, Cardiganshire. Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean, the sin-eater cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures by reason of the life he had chosen; he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption." Believing that someone could eat away the sins of another human, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Dymaxion Car Goes into Production
In the month of July, on the 12th, in 1933, the first three-wheeled, multi-directional Dymaxion car was manufactured in Bidgeport, Connecticut. Architect, engineer and philosopher Buckminster Fuller designed the car as part of his goal to live his life as “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.” Fuller first sketched out the car in 1927. It was part aircraft, part automobile with wings that inflated. Fuller asked his friend, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, to make more sketches of the car and the final design was an elongated teardrop with a rear third wheel that lifted off the ground. There was also a tail fin. The name Dymaxion was a combination of the words “dynamic,” “maximum” and “ion” and was a name Fuller used as his own personal brand. Under this brand he created not only the car, but the geodesic dome and the Dymaxion house, which was made of lightweight aluminum and could be shipped by air and assembled on site. Production began on the Dymaxion car in Bridgeport with the final car being made of ash wood, covered with an aluminum skin and topped with a painted canvas roof. The engine was in the rear, much like the Volkwagen Beetle. It could reach a speed of 120 miles per hour and average 28 miles per gallon of gasoline. The car went on display at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago. Production of the car went downhill after that when investors backed out after professional driver Francis Turner was killed driving the car during a demonstration. In 2008, the only surviving Dymaxion was featured in an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City that was dedicated to the work of Buckminster Fuller.
Fort Mifflin (Suggested by and research by: Drea Hahn)
Fort Mifflin stands on Mud Island as a reminder of a time when the original capital city of our new nation, Philadelphia, was in need of defense. The British commissioned the fort in 1771, but it would be the Americans who would finish the construction. The fort would witness the greatest sea battle of the Revolutionary War. Hundreds lost their lives here during that war. When the Civil War raged, the fort served as a Confederate prison. This kind of history lends itself to paranormal activity and there are many stories of a variety of ghosts walking among the casements and barracks. Join me and listener Drea Hahn as we share the history and hauntings of Fort Mifflin!
Fort Mifflin, or as it was known at the time, Fort Island Battery, was commissioned in 1771 and construction started along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers by the British. They wanted to protect their very prosperous port, which the Quaker William Penn had left without defense. The problem was that there were not enough funds to complete construction and the project was abandoned with only the east and south walls completed. Once the American rebels declared their independence, Benjamin Franklin formed a committee, The Philadelphia Committee of Public Safety, and they restarted construction on the fort and finally completed it in 1776. They named it Mifflin after it’s first commander, General Thomas Mifflin. who eventually became the first governor of the state of Pennsylvania.
In 1777, Fort Mifflin would be the scene of the greatest sea battle of the Revolutionary War. The British bombarded Fort Mifflin with a barrage of cannonballs that would damage a large portion of the fort and leave hundreds of men dead. This was called the Battle of Mud Island. A couple of decades would pass before the fort was rebuilt. French architect and engineer Pierre L'Enfant had designed the plans for Washington, D.C. and President John Adams directed him to supervise the reconstruction of Fort Mifflin. The oldest existing complete structure is the blacksmith shop, which was built during this reconstruction in 1802. The fort was used again during the War of 1812.
During the Civil War, the fort served as a prison for Confederate soldiers and Federal prisoners from 1863 to 1865 and were housed in Casemate #1. After the war, the army discontinued using it as an active fort. It was used again during World Wars I and II when the Army stationed anti-aircraft guns there to defend the nearby Fort Mifflin Naval Ammunition Storage Depot and the United States Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. After 1954, the fort fell from use as a military post and the federal government deeded it to the City of Philadelphia. Restoration efforts began in the 1960s. The United States Army Corp of Engineers set up shop at Fort Mifflin and so it is now considered the oldest active military base in the United States and the only base in use that pre-dates the Declaration of Independence.
Jacob the Blacksmith
There is a small blacksmith shop on the site (photo). The story is that the blacksmith had an ongoing argument with the fort’s commander. Jacob wanted to keep the back door to the shop open while he worked. It’s said that you can hear a hammer hitting an anvil around the building, but when you go in all goes quiet. It’s also said that the door keeps opening on its own. Last time I was at the fort, I got curious about this. I don’t want to burst any bubbles. The door is on very well-oiled hinges and easy to move. The ground in the area is bumpy and uneven, so there is a chance that the building is just on a slant and the door swings open. I’m visiting again in November and will check it out.
TAPS (Ghost Hunters if you want to check out the episode) investigated in 2008 and reported a sense of dread in the building.
|Blacksmith Shop - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
There is now electric lighting throughout the fort and all the buildings. Entity is seen walking on the 2nd story balcony of the barracks building (built around the War of 1812). He appears in the evening, at twilight, carries a long pole with a flickering light at the end, and is lighting the lamps that would have hung on the balconies. The figure is pale and barely discernible.
Revolutionary War Soldier and Tour Guide
A friendly man dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier who will take you on a tour around the grounds. Visitors complimented the site on the excellent docent…the only problem is that no costumed staff were working that day. Or nobody on staff who matches the description.
Thought is that he was one of the men who died during the bombardment.
Can’t speak to this because when we’re there, the entire fort is filled with soldiers.
The Screaming Lady
This spirit is attributed to Elizabeth Pratt. Dale Kaczmarek and his team, Ghost Research Society (www.ghostresearch.org) have a great report of their investigation online. They summarize the story “Elizabeth was married to an officer and her daughter, who lived with them at the fort, fell in love with and wanted to marry an enlisted man. Elizabeth could not accept this and disowned her daughter. The daughter died of typhoid fever before they could reconcile, which threw Elizabeth into a deep depression. She hanged herself over the balcony of the second floor [of the Officer’s Quarters]. It is true that screams have been heard in the area of the Officer’s Quarters. TAPS/Ghost Hunters captured an EVP in this area that sounds like a child asking for “mommy”. The police have been called out several times to investigate the screams.
The true story of Elizabeth Pratt is much more tragic. She was a real person and the wife of a Sargent Pratt stationed at the fort. However, the family never lived in the Officer’s Quarters because those weren’t built yet. The family lived in another part of the fort, a spot that does have quite a bit of reported activity. The fort used to have a cemetery (it was moved at some point) and internment records confirm that Elizabeth had two children. One, a son born at the fort, died on July 20, 1802 as an infant. The other is a daughter who died on December 6, 1802 – the records include a note that she was a “child” and this indicates that she was 12 y/o or younger when she died. Elizabeth herself died on February 11, 1803. All three are thought to have died of yellow fever, annual epidemics of which were common during those years. Yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes which would be prevalent in the shallow moat and swamps around Fort Mifflin.
|Where Screaming Lady is Heard - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
Probably the person you will hear about most often. The stories vary. In all, it goes that he was a Civil War deserter, traitor, and murderer. He was captured and held at Fort Mifflin until he was hung on gallows built in the middle of the fort. Once again, the truth is much more tragic. Howe was a private with a local Pennsylvania regiment during the Civil War. He was very highly esteemed by his superiors and today would be what we call a war hero. After he was injured at the Battle of Fredericksburg (VA), he and some other men were told to go to the hospital in DC to recuperate. When they reached the hospital, there was no more room. Howe left his companions and went home to PA to recover. One of his ailments is listed as “inflammation of the bowels” which might have been dysentery, an awful condition marked by severe abdominal cramps and frequent, bloody, diarrhea.
When the local Union officers found out about this, they went to Howe’s home to arrest him. The men hammered on the door, Howe fired two shots out of the window, and the men fled. Howe did not know that he had fatally shot one of the men. Several days later he was arrested and taken to Fort Mifflin to stand trial. He was charged with desertion and murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death by hanging. During his time at Fort Mifflin he was held in an underground cell. He was executed at the fort on August 26, 1864. He was 24 years old at the time and has the distinction of being the only person ever executed at the fort. He has been associated with an entity called “The Faceless Man” who is seen mostly in and around Casement 5. Why Faceless? At the time it was customary to put a bag over the head of the person you were hanging. I’m thinking it was to spare the audience the sight of someone choking to death, which could take several minutes and be grotesque.
This might be a case of mistaken identity. In 2006, Wayne the fort caretaker, was moving the grass. The rear wheel of the riding the mower started sinking. He got the mower un-stuck and did a little bit of digging to figure out what the hole was all about. He found steps leading down and into the side of the fort. Excavations revealed stairs, then a short underground hallway, then a small room, and then a slightly larger room. So, imagine a stone room about the size of a walk-in closet that leads into a second room about the size of a large bathroom. It’s thought that this was the original powder magazine (aka. storage) for the fort and that charges and torpedoes were made here by the soldiers. If there was an explosion, it would be contained. We also know that this is where William Howe was kept. And we know this because he wrote his name on the wall.
|Howe's Name on Wall - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
A crouching figure in the cornerOne of the investigators sensed a cold spot. He looked through a vent shaft into the larger room (it looks like a small window opening) and saw a face with blond hair and scraggly beard.
Flashlight and camera malfunctions
The air thickening, hearing breathing, footsteps, and scratching.
A feeling of not being alone.
EVP in the room caught “the boss wants it deeper”. It was later revealed that Casemate 11 was refurbished in 1861, as part of this the floor was dug up in order to make the room deeper.
EVP in the room caught “Can I get some water?”
|Casement 11 - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
In addition to these, people have reported disembodied voices of children, men, women, dogs barking. The figure of a “sad man” walking on the road toward one of the gates. The scents of fire and bread baking (might be leftover from reenactments so take it with a grain of salt). Also, “People have been touched, pushed, pulled, and sometimes restrained”. The bathroom another odd area. TAPS/Ghost Hunters reported seeing a shadowy figure near the ladies’ room. This is one of the fort’s old buildings that has been converted into modern bathrooms and a gift shop.
Drea says, "I’ve been to the site over 10x, usually in November when it’s cold. The ladies’ room is one of the few places with heat - a nice place to change clothes, or get dressed in the morning, or duck into just to warm up a bit. I always get the creeps there and a feeling of being watched. A few times, just outside the ladies’ room in a little hallway leading to the outside I’ve turned around and expected to see someone, but there was nobody there. Not a big scaredy-cat and used to walking around sites at night, but this is just one of those places where I bring a buddy."
A lot of activity especially is reported in the Casemates. Reports are of pale outlines, shadows, faceless men in confederate uniforms walking in this area. Camera problems. Feelings of not being alone. Given the history as a prison, misery, and number of deaths in this area it makes sense. This is where two of my experiences happened. Entity known as The Faceless Man is reported, usually in Casemate 5. When TAPS/Ghost Hunters visited their thermal camera caught a heat signature, as if someone was sitting on one of the beds, but there was nobody there. For a long time, it was believed that this was the spirit of William Howe because he was thought to have been held in this casemate. But with the discovery of Casemate 11 we can’t be sure. Drea shares an experience she had with a friend here:
"When we visit for a history event, the re-enactors live in the fort and stay for the whole weekend. We usually arrive Friday night, my group stays in one of the large casements, and leave on Sunday afternoon. I’ll share a photo, so you can get the idea. At an event a few years ago, I was walking from the bathroom back to our casemate. It was a Saturday morning and to go back you go along a flagstone path/sidewalk, then into the casemate tunnel, you go around a bend, and then the casemate door is on the left. Since it was morning, before the site opened to visitors, I didn’t have my cap and hat on yet. Thanks to an experiment with Clairol, what I did have was long blonde hair. I came around the bend and was slowing down to open the door to the casemate when I felt a hard yank on my ponytail. So hard that you almost fall backwards. I turned around ready to smack whoever did it, but nobody was there. I got the chills. While collecting information for this podcast, I read that there are reports of an entity in that area that seems to have enmity for blond haired women. Great. So, for any of you blonde listeners who would like to give it a go and let us know what happens."Fort Mifflin has a rich history and it is nice to know that it continues to have a living history. With all the reported paranormal activity, it seems to have a dead history as well. Is Fort Mifflin haunted? That is for you to decide!
|Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
|Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
|Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
|Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
|The Casement Drea Overnighted In - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn|
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Largest Baby Ever Born was 23 Pounds
Anna Haining Bates was a woman born in Canada who became famous because she was considered a giantess. She was sixteen pounds at her birth in 1846 and grew to the height of 7 feet 11 inches. She eventually joined the sideshow circuit and met her husband Martin van Buren Bates. He himself was a tall man and stood 7 feet 9 inches. They traveled in circus troupes together and separately. Eventually Anna became pregnant and gave birth to an 18 pound baby girl. Unfortunately, the baby died at birth. Anna became pregnant again while touring in the summer of 1878 and this baby grew to be even bigger, as if having an 18 pound baby was not enough. The baby was born on January 18, 1879 and Anna lost six gallons of fluid when her water broke. He only survived 11 hours. That little baby boy made his imprint on the world though in the form of a Guinness World Record. He was the largest newborn ever recorded, at 23 pounds 9 ounces and nearly 30 inches tall. His feet were six inches long. That record still stands today. His father wrote, “He was 28” tall, weighed 22 lbs and was perfect in every respect. He looked at birth like an ordinary child of six months.” The baby is buried, along with his parents, at Mound Hill Cemetery in Seville, Ohio. A baby weighing nearly 23 pounds at birth sounds not only rather painful, but it certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Enigma Code Broken
In the month of July, on the 9th, in 1941, the Engima Code was broken. The Enigma machine was Germany's most sophisticated coding machine. The machine was originally designed for use in business by Dutch inventor Hugo Koch, but the Germans adapted it to make an unbreakable code. The Enigma allowed an operator to type in a message that would be scrambled by three to five notched wheels that contained the alphabet. The receiver would need to know how the notched wheels had been placed to decipher the coded message. German code experts continued to make the machine more complicated. Parts of the code were broken by a group of British mathematicians and other problem solvers early on, but it wouldn't be until July that they achieved a true breakthrough. It is believed that this breaking of the code helped to shorten the war. Not only did the Allies manage to hide the fact that they had broken the code so that they could continue to decipher German war plans through the rest of the war, no one knew anything about it until 1974.
Colonial Williamsburg (Suggested by: Lloyd Dierker)
Colonial Williamsburg is part of America's historic triangle. Today, it is a historic area that features a look back into the America of colonial times just as the struggle for independence was sparking. Visitors can watch artisans ply trades from the past and visit dozens of historic buildings that have been restored to their eighteenth century charm. This is a place where one can walk in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers and experience the reality and uncertainty of the times that earlier Americans lived under, both free and slave. In any city with this much history, there is bound to be talk of a ghost or two. And there are many here with fascinating stories of pirates, poisonings, suicides and war. Many of the historic buildings have ghost stories attached to them. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of Colonial Williamsburg.
Williamsburg was originally known as Middle Plantation. The settlement was founded in 1633 about halfway between the York and James Rivers. The town started to rise to prominence when Bruton Parish was built in 1683 and the College of William and Mary was charted in 1693. This college is the second oldest college in the United States, right behind Harvard. Francis Nicholson was lieutenant governor from 1698 to 1705 and he platted out the town of Williamsburg. He was experienced in this in that he had helped design Annapolis. The principle axis was a 99-foot-wide central avenue known as Duke of Gloucester Street. Homes were allotted a half acre and most were built from wood and then painted white with either a gambrel roof, A-frame roof or a hip roof. Each home had at least one chimney and shutters on the outside. Most of the public buildings were made from brick that was made locally. It was in 1698 that Williamsburg became the capitol of Virginia when the state house in Jamestown burned.
The city was officially incorporated in 1722. The ideas of freedom and revolution had a birthplace in Williamsburg. After Britain passed the Stamp Act in March of 1765 to help foot the cost of the French and Indian War, the colonists became enraged. Their gripe was that they were being taxed without representation and it was a fair assessment as people who lived in Britain had representation. Virginians believed that only the Virginia General Assembly could tax them. The other colonies felt the same. A fiery orator named Patrick Henry started giving speeches and one of those was in Williamsburg. When older legislators accused him of treason he said, "If this be treason, make the most of it." A crowd in Williamsburg forced the stamp collector to resign. Virginia's burgesses passed five resolutions condemning the Stamp Act. The seeds of revolution were fomented. Williamsburg would host parts of the Revolutionary War and was even occupied for a time by General Cornwallis of Britain.
And it is this timeframe in which Colonial Williamsburg seems to be frozen. The historic area stretches across 301 acres and features 88 original buildings that have been restored and many more than have been rebuilt, most of them on their original foundations. I remember fondly visiting when I was a kid. It was educational and fun to watch the various artisans ply their trades from blacksmithing to candlemaking to sewing and so much more. The people all dressed in period clothing and played their character to the fullest, pretending to not know about modern conveniences. The buildings were wonderful to explore. Little did I know as a kid, that many of these buildings harbored spirits. Let's venture through this historic place and see what ghost stories we may find.
King's Arm Tavern
You can't have a haunted historic town without having at least one haunted tavern. Colonial Williamsburg has more than one. The first is the King's Arm Tavern. Some may not be aware, but during colonial times, a town could be fined if it did not have a tavern. Jane Vobe opened the original tavern that was here on February 6, 1772. She used slave labor to run the place, but was said to be a "good" master who made sure her slaves got an education and were baptized. One of the first ordained black ministers was Gowan Pamphlet and he had worked at the tavern. When he left that job, he became pastor at the First Baptist Church, which was founded by both enslaved and free blacks. They had originally had to meet in secret in the woods, but were given use of a carriage house on Nassau Street by a man who was moved by their prayers and singing. Vobe's main customers were politicians and other government officials and it is said that both Washington and Jefferson stopped by the tavern on occasion. The King’s Arms Tavern was very important during the Revolutionary War as military folk and politicians gathered there to talk strategy.
King’s Arms Tavern is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a woman named Irma who had worked and died at the tavern. She was killed in a bad fire that was ignited by a dropped candle. For this reason, when candles seem to go out on their own in the tavern, people credit Irma with doing it. She is said to be a friendly spirit. Tavern employees claim that she helps them out on occasion and that they regularly thank her for her help and wish her a good night every evening.
Another reportedly haunted tavern is the Raleigh Tavern, which opened in 1717. The one that stands here today is not the original. That one burned to the ground in 1859 and was replaced by a couple of stores. They were demolished during the restoration and the Raleigh was rebuilt in its former footprint. Like the King's Arm, this was a tavern that saw a lot of action, but it also had a darker side. Slaves were auctioned on its steps and there are rumors that the skull of Blackbeard was used as a punchbowl. Could it have been the secret society that met here in the Apollo Room, that used the punchbowl? Painted above the mantel in the Apollo Room is the tavern's motto, "Hilaritas Sapientiae et Bonae Vitae Proles," which means "Jollity, the offspring of wisdom and good living."
The haunting that is reported here definitely seems to be residual and it features a party atmosphere. People walking outside the darkened tavern at night claim to smell the distinct scent of tobacco smoke and to hear laughter and music playing from harpsichords. When people walk up to the windows, they see nothing inside. No light filters from a back room. The tavern is empty.
Bruton Parish Church and Cemetery
The Bruton Parish Church was part of the Church of England. The brick building was constructed in 1683. After the Boston Tea Party, worshipers gathered here for a day of fasting and prayer. Many colonial leaders including Washington worshiped at the church. The church served as a hospital during the Civil War. The cemetery that surrounds the church has graves from the 17th century through to the 20th century and one mass grave for around 100 Confederate soldiers. One of those buried here is Reverend Scervant Jones. He is buried here with his first wife who died during childbirth. Before she passed, he proclaimed his undying love for her and that he could never love another woman. He asked her to wait for him in Heaven. He left town for three months after her death and returned with her headstone and...a new wife. While he was away, people reported seeing his wife's ghost walking around the cemetery and even sitting in a church pew. After the reverend's return, his wife's spirit seemed to turn angry and people would see her crying and wailing. The church has a haunting as well that involves the church organ playing by itself. The curtains inside the church flutter and move without explanation as well.
Another ghost story told about the church and cemetery involves two security guards. The story goes, "Late one night, two Colonial Williamsburg Security guards were sitting in their patrol car, and saw a man walking up from the palace green along the road towards the church. He was described as a tall, shadowy figure dressed in cardboard black suit with a vest. He had a strangely elongated neck, but what surprised them most was that he had red, glowing eyes. As security was watching, they saw him duck behind this tree and the brick wall. They assumed that he must have used the tree to jump over the wall, and entered the cemetery in search of him. When they entered the church cemetery, he had vanished. They looked all around, but couldn’t find him. They thought they heard the sound of the church door closing, and believed the man somehow made his way inside the church. When they arrived at the main entrance, it was locked. Determined to catch this intruder, they unlocked the door and entered the church. As they allowed their eyes a chance to adjust to the dark, they heard a strange sound: it was described as being sort of a whoosh-‐thud, whoosh-‐thud. Once they turned on their flashlights, they could clearly see what was causing the noise: the hymnals were seen to levitate up from the church pews, fly across the room, and hit the wall. Needless to say, they decided to flee the church!"
The Ludwell-Paradise House
The Georgian styled brick Ludwell-Paradise House was built in 1755 for Philip Ludlow III. Ludlow owned the Green Spring Plantation in James City County. He traveled often to London and he eventually died there in 1767. The house was then inherited by his daughter Lucy. She was married to a man named John Paradise and they lived in London, so they rented the house out. Paradise died in 1795 and he had ran up so much debt before that, that he left Lucy destitute and she had to return to Williamsburg. Lucy had been a member of London’s social elite, so she expected to be treated accordingly in Williamsburg. She was very eccentric, walking the streets like a member of royalty greeting everybody. And she bathed a lot for the time. People began to whisper that she was insane and in 1812 they had her committed to the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds. She was locked away for two years. And then she committed suicide.
The house is haunted by the spirit of Lucy some say. One of the primary unexplained experiences is the sound of water either running, splashing or dripping when no water is on. It sounds almost as though someone is taking a bath. Perhaps Lucy bathed so much because she suffered from OCD and thus washed her hands and arms incessantly. The haunting seems to be residual in nature.
The Nicholson House
The Nicolson House was built sometime between 1751 to 1753. The house was built on land owned by the famous planter and lawyer Mann Page. His son had sold the parcel of land when Page died in 1730. Cabinetmaker James Spiers was the first to take over the lot, but he later sold it to a tailor named Robert Nicolson. He made a good deal of money from his tailor business, which also operated as a post office and general store. The house Nicolson built was two stories with a fireplace and bedrooms on the first floor. He rented out some of the rooms and one of the renters was violinist Cuthbert Ogle. It is his spirit that is said to haunt the home. People claim to have been touched on the shoulder or to hear scratching noises.
The Wythe (With) House
Next we have the Wythe House, which was built for George Wythe as a gift from his father in law. Wythe was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and served in the House of Burgesses. He knew everyone who was anyone and was said to have quite an influence on Thomas Jefferson. He became the first professor of law at the College of William and Mary after the War. Wythe died from poisoning. His grandnephew had been staying with him and was what we would call in our vernacular, a deadbeat. He ran up huge debts and he decided that he would kill his uncle so that he could inherit his money. Unfortunately for the nephew, Wythe held on long enough to figure out what happened and to write his nephew out of his will. The only witness to the crime was Wythe's cook, a slave whom Wythe had freed. She couldn't testify since she was black and the nephew went unpunished.
Another owner of the house was the Skipwith family, Ann and Sir Peyton. Ann got into a very public fight with Peyton at a ball being held at the Governor's Palace. She accused him of having an affair with her sister. She ran home and took her own life in the master bedroom. Visitors claim hear the sound of a woman in heels running up the the stairs in the home. The apparition of a female in a ball gown has been seen as well. This is usually in the bedroom or near the stairs. The room where she died is said to occasionally have the scent of lavender and the closet door opens and closes on its own. There are people who test the spirit here by walking up to the closet door and loudly proclaiming, “Lady Skipwith, Lady Skipwith, I found your red shoe!” The spirit of George Wythe is also said to haunt his former home for an obvious reason, since he was murdered and never received justice. It is said that he returns to visit each year on June 8, the day of his death. Guests who have stayed in his former room have claimed to feel a firm and cold hand press down on their foreheads.
College of William and Mary
Reverend Dr. James Blair set sail for England in May of 1691 to ask King William and Queen Mary to grant a charter for a college to be founded in Williamsburg. They granted the charter in 1693 and the college was named for them, The College of William and Mary. The first building was constructed in 1695. One of the buildings that still remains a part of the college is the Wren Building. It was named for the famous London architect Sir Christopher Wren in 1931. The building was designed by Thomas Hadley and is said to be the oldest college building still standing in America. The structure was here before the founding of Williamsburg. The many purposes it served included a school for Native Americans and from 1700 to 1704, the Virginia General Assembly used the building while the state Capitol was under construction. A fun fact about the building is that Thomas Jefferson was not a fan and wrote in his "Notes on the State of Virginia" that the Wren was a “rude, misshapen pile which would be taken for a brick kiln. The genius of architecture seems to have shed its maledictions over this land.”
The building suffered a series of fires and later served as a wartime hospital and it is for this reason that the building just may be haunted. Apparitions of soldiers have been seen roaming the hallways from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Disembodied footsteps are heard echoing through the building. Sir Christopher Wren is said to haunt his namesake as well, though no one knows why. A spirit matching his description has been seen pacing the floors. The spirit of a soldier is said to patrol the third floor. The students who see him most frequently are those pulling all-nighters. Ghostly legends are told here as well. There is a bridge that is said to either reward or curse collegiate sweethearts. This bridge is behind the Crim Dell and if lovers kiss at its peak it is said that they will marry and live happily ever after, but if they break up a curse is placed on them that can only be lifted by one pushing the other off the bridge. A legend about the statue of Lord Botetourt, an 18th century Virginian Colonial Governor, claims that if it is touched it will grant good grades to students.
Another building on the campus is called "The Brafferton" and it is the second oldest building on campus and was built in 1723 and is southeast of the Wren Building. This building was used for the instruction of some of the Native American boys, who arrived malnourished and many became ill and died. Their spirits are said to be trapped in the building and are restless as they seek to escape. The boys were said to not be happy to have been brought here and many would have liked to escape when they were alive. On foggy nights, ghostly boys are seen running through the Sunken Gardens.
The Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall has a haunting that is reputedly of a girl who was going to be the lead in a play, but she died while visiting home. A new lead was chosen and one night while she was practicing alone, she saw the dress she was supposed to wear for the show sitting upright in one of the audience’s seats. There is a ghost in St. George Tucker Hall that is said to belong to a girl who hanged herself in the third floor bathroom in the 1980s. It’s said that her ghost will visit students who are pulling all-nighters and ask them how their exams are going. If they answer that their exams are going well, she’ll scream and throw a fit until the student leaves.
Hangman's Road and the Public Gaol
Hangman’s Road is a road that sets just off from Colonial Road and is exactly what it's name indicates, a route from the Public Gaol to the gallows. The Gaol was ordered by the General Assembly in 1701 and construction was completed on the brick structure in 1703. There was an exercise yard that was twenty square feet and the property was surrounded by a ten-foot wall. All sorts of people found themselves in the gaol, not just criminals. Some were debtors, others were mentally ill. Punishment was harsh here and involved whipping or branding and there were many executions. Some of these executions were of members of Blackbeard's crew. Fifteen of his men found themselves in the Williamsburg Gaol after Blackbeard had been captured and killed. Thirteen of them were hanged on the gallows and their bodies left to rot in iron gibbets along the road. Another man held here was the Lt. Governor of Detroit, Henry Hamilton. He had paid Native Americans for the scalps of Americans.
The spirits that haunt the jail reputedly include the family of Peter Pelham, who was a gaoler here and lived in a section of the gaol with his wife and children. People claim to hear conversations between two women and have seen the ghostly image of a child playing. Haunting sounds are heard here as well that include slamming doors and creaking floorboards. Haunting experiences are had on the Hangman's Road as well that include the sound of an old wooden wagon traveling down the street. Other eerie sounds are reported.
Bassett Hall is one location here that is unique in that it is staged as it appeared in the 1930s when the most famous owners of the property, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, lived here. This is a two-story eighteenth-century frame house. It's white with black shutters and surrounded by gardens. Philip Johnson, who was a member of the House of Burgesses, built the home between 1753 and 1766. The home was later purchased in 1800 by Burwell Bassett who was Martha Washington’s nephew. He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1787 to 1789 and served on the Virginia State Senate from 1794 to 1805. The property would function as boarding house and tavern and exchange hands until the Rockefellers bought it in 1936. The Rockefellers had to do extensive restoration to the home, which was damaged by fire after lightning struck the structure. *Fun Fact: General Custer spent 10 days here after the Battle of Williamsburg to attend the wedding of a West Point buddy who was Confederate John Lea. Lea was engaged to the daughter of the owner of Bassett Hall at that time.*
The Battle of Williamsburg happened near the property and that may be why it is rumored to be haunted. Tourists who visit the hall claim to hear disembodied voices and some have felt cold spots that defy explanation.
The Orrell House
The Orrell House is believed to have been built in the 1850s, but historians are unsure who initially owned the home that is today an inn. The house is two-stories and built as an almost perfect cube by its dimensions. James Orrell purchased the house in 1800 and the house is named for him. He lived there for about 20 years and then it passed through several hands.
The inn apparently has some ghostly chills in store for guests. One family had the following experience according to Steve Erickson, who is the general manager of the Colonial Houses-Historic Lodging. A family was watching television in the living room when they heard water running upstairs.The father went up to investigate and found that a faucet had been turned on. He assumed one of the kids had left it on. He went downstairs to scold whomever had left it on when he suddenly heard the water running again. The family had another fright when the father went to the bathroom. The drinking glass that had been in the medicine cabinet was now shattered across the floor, “as if it had been thrown.” The following morning, the bathroom was found strewn with toilet paper.
The Peyton Randolph House
Our next stop is the Peyton Randolph House. This house was built by William Robertson in 1715 and then later purchased by John Randolph who was considered the colonies most distinguished lawyer. He was even knighted for service to the Crown. The home has been restored and is actually three buildings, two of which are connected to each other. An east wing is more like an outbuilding. The main center part of the house is two stories and burgundy colored clapboard in style. There is a hall with a large roundheaded window and a grand staircase that connects single rooms on each floor. When John died, he left the home to his wife and then his first born son Peyton, for whom the home is named. Peyton went to law school and served as attorney general, served in the House of Burgesses and was eventually elected Speaker of the House in 1766. Peyton had a brother named John and the Revolutionary War would fracture the family. Peyton was a Patriot, while John Jr. sided with the Crown. Leading revolutionaries from Virginia met at the Peyton Randolph House before going on to Philadelphia. A little fun fact is that the Randolphs' cousin was Thomas Jefferson and he inherited the library Peyton had built and those added with his books were part of the formation of the Library of Congress. Peyton was said to be the "father of his country" before that title was given to George Washington. He died in 1775. The house was auctioned off after his wife's death. It is interesting to note that Peyton died in Philadelphia and his body was pickled in a barrel for the trip back to Williamsburg.
There seems to be several spirits in the home and this home is said to be the most haunted in Williamsburg. One belongs to a young soldier who stayed here when a family named Peachy owned it. They owned the home in the 1820s. The soldier was staying at the house while he studied at the college, but he fell ill and eventually died in the home. People who visit the home claim to hear heavy booted feet wandering through the halls and to see the apparition of a young male. The Peachys housed French General of the American Revolution Marquis de Lafayette when he returned to Williamsburg in 1824. He claimed to experience something unexplained and wrote, "I considered myself fortunate to lodge in the home of a great man, Peyton Randolph. Upon my arrival, as I entered through the foyer, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It nudged me as if intending to keep me from entering. I quickly turned, but found no one there. The nights were not restful as the sounds of voices kept me awake for most of my stay.”
One guest who stayed here in the 1960s said, “I was resting comfortable when awakened by the peculiar feeling that someone was tugging on my arm. Naturally, I assumed I was dreaming, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. A short while later, I was being shaken violently! As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see that I was completely alone. I darted out of bed and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t even go back to collect the things I’d left behind.” There have been many claims through the years of violent shaking and tugging. Another spirit here is our lady in white. She is said to be an older, friendly woman who wears a white flowing gown. And a young girl who died in a fall down the stairs or out a window still seems to have her essence lingering here.
A security guard who was watching the house became trapped in the basement. He a terrifying growl behind him and felt something grab his legs and his feet felt as though they were firmly rooted to the floor.The shutter doors that he was going to exit out of, slammed shut on their own and his flashlight turned off. He grabbed his radio and called his lieutenant for help. When the man arrived, he had to pry open the cellar doors. At that same moment, the security guard was released by whatever had been holding him. He quit the following day. Other activity that has been reported are strange knocking sounds and furniture moving on its own. The Peachy family had a son die in the house and the sound of children laughing when no children are present has been heard. The second floor is said to be the most haunted and people claim that something has tried to push them down the stairs.
An alarm once went off at the east wing of the house. Security couldn't find a key to the house, so they entered through a window. They thought perhaps there was a fire inside, but they found no smoke or flames, but they did find a fire extinguisher resting in the middle of the floor, its contents completely emptied around it in what looked like a controlled circular pattern. They searched the house for intruders and found no one. They also never found the pin to extinguisher. No residue was found underneath the fire extinguisher, nor on its bottom and there were no footprints through the discharged spray.
Colonial Williamsburg is a must stop for anybody visiting this area of Virginia. A chance to be immersed in the eighteenth century is hard to find. And for those of us that love the darker side of history, Williamsburg offers a lot of stories and what could be lots of haunts. Are these historic buildings in Colonial Williamsburg haunted? That is for you to decide!