Thursday, February 15, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Bermeja Island Disappears
Maps dating back to the 1700s, document Isla Bermeja just off the Yucatan Peninsula’s coast. While many islands are important to the country that owns them for tourism, Bermeja Island was important to Mexico because it extended its reach for drilling for oil and would stop the United States encroachment on Mexico's oil drilling industry. As one can imagine, this caused some friction. So when the island just disappeared in the 1990s, all kinds of conspiracy theories erupted about how the CIA had something to do with the disappearance. These suspicions arose because important documents containing a treaty regarding major oil reserves within the island’s region disappeared as well. The disappearance of Isla Bermeja greatly reduced what had been Mexico’s 200 nautical-mile limit. The theory that was running around about how an island could disappear left many wondering if the CIA blew up the island, which measured 31 square miles. But can you really blow up an island? Researchers looking back at old maps noticed Bermeja Island was found on historical maps between 1535 and 1775, but after that, it disappears from the maps until 1857, when a US map once again included it. When the treaty was written up in the 1970s, nobody really verified that the island existed when it was used as a border. A Navy fishing expedition reported the island missing in 1997. This causes us all to wonder if the island ever actually did exist and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The First 45 RPM Vinyl Released
In the month of February, on the 2nd, in 1949, the first 45 RPM vinyl record was released. Prior to 1948, records were made of shellac and rotated at 78 RPM. Record companies like Columbia Records and RCA Victor, knew they needed to innovate and in 1948, Columbia Records unveiled the 33 1/3 RPM long playing record, commonly known as a LP, and it was made of vinyl. The vinyl was durable and much quieter. LPs played for about 20 minutes on each side. RCA decided they needed something else and they developed the 45 RPM record and released it in 1949. These were smaller records, measuring 7" inches and came in a variety of colors to differentiate between genres. Popular releases were on standard black vinyl while Country could be found on green, R&B and Gospel were on orange, Classical was on red, Children's records were on yellow and international recordings were on blue. The 45s' popularity soared because its size made it portable and this popularity would last for 40 years until the cassette tape and eventually the CD and the MP3 player started making music more portable. We have fond memories of playing our 45s on little record players and thoseof us from older generations know that a spider is not just a nasty arachnid, but they also were inserts that could be placed in the middle of a 45, so they could be played on a standard turntable. Most 45s ran between 2 and 5 minutes. In 1968, John Lennon asked George Martin, the Beatles music producer, what was the maximum length of play time that a 45 could handle. After some experimenting, Martin decided the answer was 7 minutes, 11 seconds. And thus the playing time of "Hey Jude."
Haunted Cemeteries 8
Much of a town's history can be found in its cemeteries. The granite and marble slabs carry the names of the people who founded and built the town and those who have called it home throughout the years. Some of the memorials are simple and some are very grand. But each one represents a person who was important to someone. Cemeteries are beautiful and peaceful, but sometimes that quiet is broken by the supernatural. Some cemeteries are haunted and we are going to look at several of them. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Bee Spring Cemetery in Tennessee, Hart Island Cemetery in the Bronx, Old Berkeley Cemetery in Virginia and La Noria Cemetery in Chile.
Bee Spring Cemetery (Suggested by Jacob Gray)
Bee Spring Cemetery is found in Giles County, Tennessee. Giles County is located in the south central part of the state and is named after William Branch Giles. Giles sponsored the admission of Tennessee as the sixteenth state into the Union when he was serving as a senator for the state of Virginia at the time. His support grew to also sponsoring the building of the city and courthouse, which has burned an amazing four times. The cemetery was established in 1816. There are around 200 burials here. Let's look at some of the people who have made this their final resting place.
Annie Bass was born in 1846 in Alabama. Everybody called her Blackie. She had six children and died when she was 92 in 1938 at her home in the Bunker Hill vicinity. Nancy Jane Cryer Beard died in 1897 and her tombstone is inscribed with, "Since thou can no longer stay, To cheer me with thy love, I hope to meet with thee again, In yon bright world above." Twenty-six members of the Beddingfield family are here. Box tombs are found in many cemeteries and one of them at Bee Spring belongs to Sarah Boyce. They are sometimes called chest tombs and they date back to medieval times. The box is above the ground and the body of the deceased is buried beneath it, rather than in the box. The advantage of this type of memorial is that they can be seen better than headstones and there are five surfaces for decoration.
The cemetery gives some an odd feeling. A person going by just J on the Angelfire website wrote, "Okay. We heard about this church/cemetery just over the Tennesse line. The story we were told was nothing big, just that if you took a camera there you could use the flash to see orbs floating around the church. We tried this and it did work, but we soon grew tired of it. We decided to try our luck across the street at the cemetery. We all felt strange about entering the cemetery (not sure why, it just seemed like a bad idea) so we stood just outside of it by the stone wall surrounding the cemetery. One of the guys with us was just about to snap a picture when I noticed what looked like two lights floating maybe ten feet over the cemetery. I got the attention of the other two guys with me and pointed out the lights. We all stood shocked at what we were seeing. The guy with the camera started to take pictures when we noticed several large dark figures coming at us at a fairly rapid speed. We all freaked out and began running to the car. Once we were inside and turned around, the camera guys asked me to pull the car up to the wall for one last picture. Once I reversed the car to the wall, he rolled down the window and we heard the sound of footsteps running through the leaves toward the car. I stepped on the gas to afraid to stick around and find out what it was."
Hart Island Cemetery
Hart Island Cemetery is located on Hart's Island, which is at the western end of Long Island Sound. The island is fairly small measuring only a mile long and one-quarter of a mile wide. The island has been used for a variety of purposes in its history. A Union Civil War prison camp was set up here, there was once a psychiatric institution and then a tuberculosis sanatorium, a boy's reformatory was here and the main part that we will be focusing on is that the island is basically a large potter's field that is still used today to bury the poor and the nameless. The city of New York bought the island from Edward Hunter on May 27, 1868. There are several stories as to how the island got its name. One story was that British cartographers named it "Heart Island" because it was shaped like the organ. Other historians claim that it refers to an English word for stag because deer would migrate to the island from the mainland when ice covered Long Island Sound.
The cemetery here is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. The first burials were of 20 Union Soldiers during the American Civil War when the prison camp was located on the island. City burials started in 1868 after New York bought the island. The first city burial was of a 24-year-old woman named Louisa Van Slyke. She had died at the Charity Hospital and since she had no money she was taken out to City Cemetery, which is what the potter's field was officially known as at the time. The graveyard stretches out over 45 acres and rather than being dotted with hundreds of headstones, it has white markers that denote mass burials of usually 150 bodies. These are laid out in two rows, three coffins deep. Two large monuments have been dedicated to all the dead on Hart Island. A tall white peace monument was erected after World War II by New York City prison inmates and can be seen on top of what was known as "Cemetery Hill."
The only identifier on most of the coffins are the dead person's name and an identification number that are carved into the wood. One tenth of the burials are for John and Jane Does. Their bodies are photographed at the morgue before being shipped to the island. These photos are then shown to family members who are missing people to see if any of them can be identified. Each year, about a hundred of the Does are identified. A body can be disinterred for up to eight years after the burial. Adults are buried in trenches with three sections of 48-50 individuals so that disinterment for those identified by family are easier. Infants and children are not usually disinterred and so they are buried in trenches of 1,000, stacked five coffins high and twenty coffins across. Before 1913, the adults and children were buried in mass graves together. A fire in 1977 destroyed many of the burial records, but it is thought that there are a million bodies buried on the island. The potter's field is also used to dispose of amputated body parts, which are placed in boxes labeled "limbs". Ceremonies have not been conducted at the burial site since the 1950s, and no individual markers are set except for the first child to die of AIDS in New York City who was buried in isolation.
Burials have been done by prison labor from Riker's Island. Inmates make around 50 cents an hour. Burial records are kept within the prison system and the island is maintained by the New York City Department of Corrections. They created a searchable database in 2013 that starts with burials from 1977. There are about 66,000 entries. Digital mapping of the trenches was started in 2009. Many of these measures were initiated because of an investigation into the handling of infant burials that was opened in response to a criminal complaint made to the New York State Attorney General's Office on April 1, 2009. The New York City Department of Transportation runs a single ferry to the island from the Fordham Street pier on City Island. There is an intense process to get a ride on the ferry and usually only family members of those buried on Hart Island are allowed to ride.
Some of the people buried here are rather well known or were at one time. Leo Birinski was a Jewish playwright, film screenwriter, and director. He died alone in poverty in 1951, so was brought to Hart Island. Dawn Powell was an American writer who authored hundreds of short stories and a dozen novels. She died of colon cancer in 1965 and donated her body to a medical center. Five years later, the center returned what was left of her remains to her estate, but the executor of her estate refused to reclaim her remains and so she was buried on Hart Island in 1970. Bobby Driscoll was a famous child actor who won an Academy Award for his starring roll in 1949's "The Window." Bobby was the first child actor put under exclusive contract to Disney studios. He appeared in their movies "Song of the South" in 1946 and "Treasure Island" in 1950. He quit acting in 1957 and his life took a downward spiral. He was arrested multiple times for drugs, forgery and theft. He died penniless and alone in an abandoned New York tenement.
There are tales of many restless spirits on the island and it is no wonder with its history and mass burials. Visitors to the island and the inmates working there have reported the eerie feeling that someone they can't see is watching them. There are several abandoned buildings on the island and shadow figures have been seen moving inside and outside of them. Disembodied whispers are heard in the buildings and also in the cemetery and they usually sound like children's voices. Investigations of this noise always come up empty. A few visitors have become severely nauseous while visiting and even a couple have been physically pushed down on the ground.
One inmate wrote, "I was a prisoner at Rikers Island in the year of 2007 and worked for corrections as a digger at Harts Island and...it is haunted. I did it for about 5 months and had one crazy experience [I couldn't explain.]" People claim after leaving Hart Island that they have very vivid dreams of the island and these dreams usually are of the island years ago. They see the asylum and the prison as though it were new and what makes it odd is that these buildings are either so decayed or have been torn down, so how do these people know what these buildings looked like in their prime? Apparitions are seen in the mist covered mornings and if approached, they disappear into the fog.
Old Berkeley Cemetery
Old Berkeley Cemetery is found in Charles City, Virginia. The graveyard is located across from the Berkeley Plantation, which is said to be Virginia's most historic plantation. The first official Thanksgiving took place here in 1619. The site was known as the Berkeley Hundred at that time. In 1726, the three story brick, Georgian styled mansion was built and was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia. The plantation would also be the birthplace of our ninth president, William Henry Harrison. During the Civil War, Berkeley was occupied by General George McClellan’s Union Army and it was used as a field hospital. It was while the Union Army was here that General Daniel Butterfield composed the familiar tune “Taps.” The Harrison family lost the home during the Civil War and it passed through several owners until it fell into disrepair. A drummer boy with McClellan's forces, John Jamieson, would eventually return to Berkeley in 1907 and he would buy the property. Their family would restore the house. His son, Malcolm, and his wife, Grace, are responsible for the extensive restoration seen today. The plantation is still in the family and is presently owned by the Malcolm E Jamieson family.
The cemetery was established as a final resting place for not only plantation owners and their families, but for members of the original Berkeley colony. People who are buried here include Benjamin Harrison, Grace Jamieson, and Malcolm Jamieson. The grave markers are very worn and hard to read. Dates on several of them are impossible to see. The names are a historic record of the Harrison family as most of the burials belong to them. The oldest burial is for John Hugh Noell who was born in 1630. The most interesting memorial simply states, "In memory of the Unknown Indian." A massacre did take place on the property at one time and perhaps he died during that and was buried here. The cemetery looks over the James River and it is here that people claim to see the apparition of, ironically, a red-headed drummer boy of about twelve years of age. He is seen beating his drum and occasionally people actually hear the beating of the drum. The spirit also likes to look out over the James River. This spectre is sometimes accompanied by an older looking male wearing a Union uniform. He tends to walk the banks of the James River.
Berkeley’s Twilight Ghost Tour is October 12 & 26, 2018
"Hear the tales of Berkeley’s paranormal activities with a guided tour through the 1726 mansion, followed by a lantern-led walk through the gardens, grounds, and cemetery. You will then finish your ghostly experience with Berkeley’s challenging corn maze, with only the light of your lantern." Tour is at 6pm and is $25 per adult. http://berkeleyplantation.com
La Noria Cemetery
The people who lived in the Chilean mining towns of La Noria and Humberstone in the 19th century, lived under terrible and gruesome conditions. Workers and children were treated like slaves and many died horrible deaths at the hands of the people who kept them like slaves. It is for this reason that some claim that La Noria and its cemetery are haunted. The painful treatment built up some terrible emotions. Paranormal activity kicks up once the sun goes down. Many of the buildings are ruined and witnesses to unexplained activity claim to hear disembodied voices and footsteps. Apparitions are seen wandering the streets where human bones are still sometimes found.
The bodies of those who died under the slave-like conditions were buried in La Noria Cemetery. This is considered one of the scariest and most disturbing cemeteries in the world. Several of the graves have been dug up and coffins are left open. Visitors claim to actually see the dead rise from the graves at sunset. These spirits then walk towards town. The ghosts that are seen in town are thought to have originated in the graveyard. Some call them zombie ghosts.
Each of the cemeteries are unique in their own way. We have a ghost town's cemetery in the northern Chilean desert. A family cemetery on a Virginia plantation. A large Potter's Field in New York where the poor and forgotten are piled on top of each other. And a cemetery in a small town that is like most of our local cemeteries. They all have one thing in common and that is the claim that they are haunted. Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Shoes in the Floor
Suggested by: Natasha Duhua
Our listener Natasha had posted in the Spooktacular Crew about purchasing a 200 year old home in Ireland and finding toddler-sized shoes under the floorboards. The placing of objects like shoes under floorboards, in chimneys, around windows and in the walls of structures has been a practice in Europe for centuries. The practice was so widespread that Northhampton Museum began maintaining a Concealed Shoe Index, which has well over two thousand reports. The practice was not done to store keepsakes, but were meant to serve as magical charms to protect the people who lived in the home from witches, demons and ghosts or they were meant to be charms to enhance fertility. Shoes were hidden in more than just homes. They have been found in public houses, churches and Benedictine monasteries. The earliest reported find was in 1308 and the shoes were found behind the choir stalls in Winchester Cathedral. Half of the shoes found were sized for children like those in Natasha's house and the majority have been well worn and some even showed signs of repair. The practice seems to have ended during the 20th century. Finding well worn toddler shoes under your floorboards, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - First Negro League Begins
In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1886, the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists became the first Negro league. It was the first attempt to organize a Negro professional baseball league and had 10 teams that included, the Charleston Fultons, the Georgia Champions, the Jacksonville Athletics, the Jacksonville Clippers, the Jacksonville Macedonias, the Memphis Eclipses, the Memphis Eurekas, the New Orleans Crescents, the Savannah Broads and the Savannah Lafayettes. A call was put out in southern newspapers to draw the captains of black baseball clubs to join the league. The first games were planned to start in May, but the season actually didn't start until June 7th. Newspapers reported on the games and gave favorable reviews. The league didn't last and it was not until 1920 that an organized African-American league, which was the Negro National League, survived a full season. The second league formed in 1923 as the Eastern Colored League. In 1947, Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, which opened the doors for other African-American players and signaled the end of the Negro Leagues.
Bonanzaville (Suggested by listener Typhanie Schafer)
On 12 acres in West Fargo, North Dakota sits a treasure chest of historic buildings and artifacts known as Bonanzaville. This is a pioneer village and museum that is home to 43 historic buildings and over 400,000 artifacts. The historic park has been operated by the Cass County Historical Society since 1967. The buildings have been collected from various places and bring more than just historical stories with them, several of the buildings are reputedly haunted. Enough hauntings go on here that the village hosts its own ghost tours at times. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Bonanzaville.
North Dakota became a state in 1889. The state was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was part of the Minnesota and Nebraska Territories until it broke off with South Dakota into the Dakota Territory in 1861. North and South Dakota had an ongoing rivalry to see which state would be admitted into the United States first and North Dakota won. President Benjamin Harrison selected the bills at random as to which would be signed first. Denise and I already knew this little factoid: Dakota is the Sioux word for "friend." This is actually why our first dog was named Dakota. Our second pup, Rafiki, was also named friend because Rafiki is Swahili for "friend." North Dakota is known both as the Peace garden State and Roughrider State. A recent fun fact about the state for us is that in 1999, a teenager discovered a “dinosaur mummy” on his uncle’s ranch near Marmarth that turned out to be a 67 million-year-old duck-billed hadrosaur. It was so well preserved that much of its bones, tendons and ligaments remained enclosed in skin. The city of West Fargo in North Dakota was founded in 1926 and is in Cass County, which dates back to 1872 and was named for railroad executive George Washington Cass. They are both in the Red River Valley named for the river that forms the border of North Dakota and Minnesota and that is the Red River.
While some might think that the village of Bonanzaville got its name because it is a bonanza of historical treasures, it actually is named for the large Bonanza farms that once existed in the Red River Valley. These large Bonanza Farms existed between 1875 and the 1920s. They came about when the Northern Pacific Railroad sold large acreages to its investors to cover its debts. These farms produced large wheat crops and became highly profitable with the use of huge crews and new modernized machinery. Local managers ran the farms, which existed in Minnesota and North Dakota, until the land was exhausted and the land was sold off or rented out to smaller farmers.
Bonanzaville consists of the Cass County Museum, the Pioneer Village, a Rotating Exhibit Gallery and a gift shop. The Pioneer Village was established in 1967 and has 43 buildings on the property that were collected from various cities. Arthur Town Hall is from the town of Arthur, North Dakota and was built in 1890. It features six stained glass windows that are from the Little Theater Company at NDSU. Not only were town meetings held here, but silent movies were screened during the 1920s. Community members played the piano to accompany the movies. The Blacksmith Shop is from Tower City, ND and houses the original furnishings and tools used by the blacksmiths. It arrived in the pioneer village in 1970. Bandstands were popular in towns during the 19th century and a bandstand from the town of Buffalo in ND found a home here.
Gilby, ND featured the Bjerklie Drug Store, which was built by a man named Jud A. Freeman in 1887. Ownership changed two years later to L.P. Bjerklie for whom the store is named. He operated it until his death in 1942 and then his son took over and ran it until 1975. It closed at that time. This was like a typical drug store at the time, so it featured a soda fountain. The building is a recreation of the original, but all of the interior furnishings are original. The medications were donated by the North Dakota State University School of Pharmacy. There is a decorative structure that features an eagle standing on a globe with the word CASE stamped on it. This is the Case Eagle and was placed on the former J.I. Case building on NP Avenue in Fargo. It was a logo created in 1865 and was named "Old Abe." The symbol was taken from Company C of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment, which fought during the Civil War and the logo was their mascot.
The Cass-Clay Creamery is a replica of a common 1920s small town creamery. Many of the furnishings are originally from the Kenmare, ND creamery, which was the last of its kind. The Cass County District Courthouse was actually the Hagemeister School in Berlin Township from 1930 to 1956. The furnishings; however, are from the Cass County Courthouse and are set-up as they would have been in 1904. The bell outside is original to the courthouse as well. The Checkered Years House is from a bonanza farm in Mapleton Township and was built in the early 1880s. The first person to live in the home was Mary Dodge Woodward. She kept a detailed daily diary that her granddaughter compiled into a book entitled The Checkered Years. Mary wrote of how the farm started with only two buildings, but eventually had twenty-seven buildings causing many people to think it was a town, rather than just a farm. She joked that if they built a saloon, they would be a town. Clearly, Mary never expected her diaries to become a book since she wrote, "I’ve nobody to talk to except this diary, and here I can say what I please for nobody but my children could ever read it."
Dawson Hall was built to be used for demonstrations and programs during the annual Pioneer Days celebration. It is named for Jim Dawson who donated much of the building's contents. The Dobrinz School was built in 1895 and was originally located in Mapleton Township. The school was named for John Dobrinz, a farmer who lived near the school. Thirteen of his children attended the school, which was a one room schoolhouse that taught children from grades one through to eight. Grade level was decided on completion of books rather than age. Some students were even older than the teacher. The Eagle Air Museum has a collection of over a dozen aircraft and related artifacts. One of the aircraft is the Douglas C-47 that was used in World War II during the D-Day Invasion. The Embden Depot was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1900 in Embden, ND. Telegraph services were also offered at the depot. The Eugene Dahl Car Museum houses a collection of over sixty vehicles from the early years of automobiles to more modern vehicles. And many of them were donated by Eugene Dahl and Lester Melroe who purchased a large collection of automobiles from the Paul Hemp Automobile Museum in Rochester, Minnesota.
The first permanent house in the Fargo area was built by immigrants in 1869 near Fourth Street and Second Avenue South. The house was built from logs cemented together by a mixture of cement and sand. That first home is now here and known as the Fargo First Home. It not only served as a residence, it also was used as a hotel and jail. The Forness Log Cabin is actually a reproduction of a typical log cabin of the area and is named for the man who built it on the grounds of the Pioneer Village, Palmer Forness. There is a cast iron stove in it that was used more for heating than cooking.
The Furnberg Store was built in the late 1800s by Christian Furnberg near the train stop at Osgood, ND. Furnberg was a young boy when he moved to the Dakota Territory in 1871 and he started his life selling goods by peddling them to people in the area. He opened the general store after borrowing $50.00 from his sister-in-law. The store remained in business for 75 years and closed in 1953.
The Habberstad Cabin was built by a group of Finnish settlers in 1874 and was moved from Kindred, ND. It is made from oak logs and has two levels. The second level was used only for sleeping. The Hagen House was built by Martin Hagen in 1897 near Horace, ND. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing for the four generations that lived in the house. There is a summer kitchen behind the house. The Harness Shop was used for harness and horseshoe repair and was brought from Addison, ND. The Horse Drawn Building is a museum featuring a collection of horse-drawn vehicles and equipment that include buggies, sleighs, farms wagons, drays and a milk wagon. The Land Office Bank is a replica of a Cogswell, ND building that served as a place for new land seekers to file their plots and receive titles to their property. The Law Enforcement Museum has displays donated by the Fargo Auxiliary Police Association.
The Maier House was built by John and Dora Maier in 1896 in Moorhead, MN. The house started out with two rooms and later a lean-to was added that added two more rooms. Electricity was installed in 1940. The house features a collection of historic medical devices. The Martinson Cabin was the former home of the North Dakota poet and labor organizer Henry D. Martinson. Before Martinson bought it as his home, it was a barn. Many of the furnishings inside had belonged to Martinson. He was named Poet Laureate of North Dakota in 1967. The Melroe Tractor Building houses a display on the history of American agricultural innovation. Two of the earliest steam engines built by J.I. Case are in this building. The Moum Agricultural Building also houses farm machinery and the very first Steiger tractor is Housed here. The Pioneer Fire Company was built by area firefighters as a replica of an 1890s station. The original horse drawn wagons of the Fargo Fire Department are here and the upstairs is furnished how the living quarters would have appeared at the time.
The Railroad Museum houses an 1883 Northern Pacific steam locomotive, caboose, Russell snow plow and a 1930 eighty-passenger coach. The steam locomotive was known as Number 684. Herb Banks, the General Foreman who worked getting Number 684 restored, summed up the importance of the American Standard class of steam engine by saying, "The American Standard’s history from 1837 to the late [1880s] is full of deeds of conquest over wilderness and trackless wastes – the bitter cold and mountainous snows and battles against almost insurmountable obstacles which they fought to settle the frontiers of the nation… No other single item has done more to make our country great than the Standard – by uniting vast territories into one nation and converting gloomy untrodden forests, dismal swamps and pathless prairies into prosperous states and fertile farms." The Telephone Museum used to be a hardware store in Tower City, ND. The Telephone Pioneers of America converted it into the museum and it features displays of 20th century receivers, switching equipment and line insulators which were made of glass. Before direct dial, calls had to be connected by phone operators. Many slept in the office.
Hunter Times building houses machinery from newspaper printing history that includes a strip casting machine, hand-operated press, flatbed press, and linotype machine. The Hunter Times was originally published in Hunter, ND and ran until the 1940’s. The first paper printed in Hunter in the 1890’s was known as the The Eye. and then in the 1920’s, the paper was known as The Hunter Herald. The building burned in the 1930’s and was rebuilt and renamed as The Hunter Times. The Kathryn Depot/Spud Valley Railroad Club is a building that houses the Spud Valley Model Railroad Club which operates a model railroad inside. The Thue-Brink Store is a general store from Horace, ND that was built in 1896 by H. H. Thue and his father-in-law C. O. Brink. At the time, it was the largest store in North Dakota. The store supplied flour, salt pork, molasses, nails, lumber, farm machinery, lace and even lingerie. The store also featured a post office that was run by the Thue family for 56 years. This is a two-story building with a basement and warehouse. The second floor was used for school plays, speakers and for living quarters and it was the town’s auditorium until 1937. There was a six-foot candy counter to tempt the children, which included the Thue children. Their father was strict about them taking any candy for themselves and one day H.H. followed one his daughter to the depot where he turned her upside down in front of everybody and shook the candy out of her pockets.
The Trangsrud Elevator was originally built as a granary in the early 1900’s near Kindred, ND by Amund Trangsrud and his son, Henry. Amund Trangsrud's house is also here and this was constructed between the late 1860's and 1871. The family lived there for seven years until and they moved into a bigger home. The smaller house then became a bunkhouse for hired men during the summer and eventually was used for storage. Amund's grandson restored the house and gave it to Bonanzaville in 2009. The U-R Next Barber Shop was built in 1900 and was located near Buffalo, ND. The objects and furnishings inside are original to the shop. The Wheatland Town Hall and Jail was built in 1905 for Wheatland Township, ND. The building housed two constables, a justice of the peace, and lawbreakers. There are two cells that featured a cot, a chair and a blanket. The hall also has its original safe with a hole blown in its side.
And now we come to the haunted buildings on the property:
The Houston House was built in 1881 by David Houston and was originally on a bonanza farm in Hunter, ND. Houston was a Scottish immigrant, farmer, poet, and he invented the roll film camera. You probably have not heard Houston's name in connection with this invention because Kodak Eastman never gave him the credit he deserved and even Thomas Edison is credited with creating the moving camera when he actually was building off of Houston's original invention. And Houston actually called his first device Kodak, but George Eastman claimed he came up with the name out of thin air. The house features maple floors, cherry and oak wainscoting, walnut stairs and large bay windows. The decor features fine lace curtains Victorian in style, an Art Deco mahogany bookshelf towering above parlor chairs, a pump organ and a medieval hunting tapestry. Houston installed a new type of heating system in the basement, a hot air furnace, and metal conduits and air registers brought the heated air into rooms. There was a bathroom as well, which was uncommon at the time.
This house is reputedly haunted. Staff have claimed to hear the disembodied voices and laughter of children inside the house when no kids are in the house. Brenda Warren is Bonanzaville’s Executive Director and she said, "In the upstairs southeast bedroom of the Houston House there is always an indentation in the pillow and I always fluff it back up. When I come back to check on things there is always the same indentation in that pillow. I’ve never really believed in the paranormal; however, this keeps happening over and over again so it makes me wonder if maybe there might be something there.” Houston died of a brain hemorrhage in this room. David Houston and his wife Annie were both spiritualists and they had one room set aside for seances.
The Brass Rail Saloon and Hotel was built in 1889 in Page, ND. It moved to Bonanzaville in 1971. There were nine rooms in the hotel and featured entertainment and fine dining, but no alcohol. North Dakota entered the Union as a dry state and so no alcohol was served until Prohibition was repealed in 1933. A room could be rented for 50 cents, with the elegant Bridal Suite going for 75 cents a night. There was no indoor plumbing. The furnishings are not original, but date to the early 1900s. Some of the entertainment available at the saloon and hotel came in the form of a brothel. This tavern is near the Houston House and is apparently haunted as well. Brenda Warren's daughter, Missy, who heads up special events at Bonanzaville once heard a loud noise inside the Brass Rail Saloon and said of it, "There is something in the saloon, and everything that has been heard has come from the upstairs, where it was most likely once a brothel." Warren herself has had an experience in the saloon. She was locking up by herself one night and says ofthe event, "I kind of got an eerie feeling. There's an upstairs — the hotel part of the Brass Rail — so I locked up downstairs, and as I was reaching for the door to go upstairs, something hit the floor very, very hard — I mean, shook the floor, it hit so hard. But the crazy thing is, there were renovations going on at that time and there was nothing up there. It was pretty much gutted — nothing that could have fallen off of a wall onto the floor or something. I didn't see anything, but I didn't stick around, either."
The South Pleasant Church arrived in Bonanzaville in 2015 and was built over 125 years ago. the church is originally from Christine, ND and was moved to replace the former church at Bonanzaville, St. John's Lutheran Church, because it burned down. This is another one of the haunted location in the village. In 2016, a crew from Horsley Specialities came in to clean up the steeple and restore it when they experienced what they describe as haunting activity. Raul Turrubiates Jr. and his workers had just climbed the stairs to the steeple tower when they heard what they thought was someone walking around on the wooden floor beneath them. Access to the church was limited, so Raul went downstairs to chase the person out. He didn't see anyone, so he called out. There was no response. Then to his astonishment he saw a set of footprints in the dust made by bare feet. The footprints led in different directions. Some went up to the altar and others led away. All of his crew were in boots and he found no one else in the building.
The crew went back to work figuring that someone had come in at some other time and that they just hadn't noticed the footprints. Then one of the men saw a small shadow movement. He told Raul and said that he thought the shadow was about the size of a seven-year-old child. He claimed that the shadow ran past him and around the corner of the doorway. He followed it around the corner and the shadow had disappeared. Then he saw another set of barefoot prints that were small, like a child's, in the corner of the pews where he thought the shadow had crossed. The crew decided that they would not stay to work into the night. Raul said, "I told my supervisor, 'I'm out of here by 5 (p.m.),' since it starts getting dark then. We've worked on many old buildings, many, but this has never happened before. It's a little creepy." The crew later claimed to see a large, unplugged 20-gallon shop vacuum move on its own across roughly 4 feet of carpeted entryway. Former members of the church were asked about hauntings, but nobody gave any further information. There had been a cemetery next to the church at its original location.
Bonanzaville is like a time capsule of another time that keeps history alive for those who visit. Are some of the buildings that were brought here still serving as home to some former residents who no longer are living? Is Bonanzaville haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Fifty Degree Temperature Change in Just 2 Minutes
The Black Hills area of South Dakota can experience a wide range of temperature variations, especially in the winter months. One reason for this are the warm Chinook winds that blow in over the Black Hills. The occurrence is so common that Black Hills have been dubbed the “Banana Belt” of the Midwest. Inversions, which are warm air flowing over a shallow pool of cold air, cause temperature jumps as well since the Black Hills rise above the plains into a warm air layer. Even though these temperature changes are expected, no one expected what happened on January 22, 1943. Temperatures on that day rose and fell almost 50 degrees in a only two minutes. During that January, arctic air had blown down from the north and temperatures in the Dakotas were falling into the way below zero range. On the morning of the 22nd, temperatures in a Black Hills town named Spearfish were sitting at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. This was recorded at 7:32am. Two minutes later, the temperature was recorded as 45 degrees Fahrenheit, a rise in temperature of 49 degrees. The temperature rose a few more degrees over the next two hours and then plummeted from 54 degrees back to -4 degrees in 27 minutes. This change was so quick and drastic that car windshields froze over with thick frost and plate glass windows cracked. This was so weird that it received national media coverage and was featured in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” and “Strange as it Seems” cartoons in the newspapers. A drastic change in temperature in just two minutes, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The Four Chaplains Heroic Act
In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1943, a very heroic moment in history took place involving the SS Dorchester. During World War II, the SS Dorchester, a U.S. Army transport ship, was hit by a German torpedo just off the country of Greenland. Before the war, the Dorchester had been a luxury passenger liner built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. It was launched in 1926 and featured electric fans and telephones in every room. She was refitted for the war in New York and made five successful crossings from New York City to Greenland. On February 3rd, she was only 100 miles from her destination when she was hit by the torpedo nearly an hour after midnight. She began to list immediately and it was clear she was going to sink. There were not enough life jackets on board. Four army chaplains, Catholic Father John P. Washington, Dutch Reformed Reverend Clark V. Poling, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode and Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, tried their best to keep the men calm as lifeboats were launched. The Four Chaplains gave up their life jackets to four frightened young soldiers. They had decided to go down with the ship and survivors reported seeing the Four Chaplains standing on the deck, arm-in-arm, praying together. They died along with the Captain and 667 other men making this the third worse loss of life at sea for the United States during the war.
We have been inside the Sorrel-Weed House twice and while we have never had a paranormal experience in the house, there is definitely an energy inside this house. The house has been through many changes in its 175+ years. After starting as an Antebellum mansion to a wealthy slave owner named Francis Sorrel, it served as a store that found the outside of the house completely changed, then it was apartments and finally is a museum today, in much need of renovation. The house was witness to tragedy and today is considered to be quite haunted and has been featured by both Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Join us as we take you through the history and hauntings of the Sorrel-Weed House!
Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia. The city is truly charming with its layout of park-like squares surrounded by Antebellum homes decorated in black wrought iron. One of those squares is Madison Square. The grand DeSoto Hotel once stood along the square and has now been replaced with the DeSoto Hilton. On the western edge of the square, there is the Green-Meldrim House, a Gothic Revival structure built in 1853, that serves as St. John's Episcopal Church's parish house and rectory. The Eliza Jewett House, built in 1842, stands across the square from the Sorrel-Weed House. As one can see, these squares just ooze history.
The land where the mansion stands today was once the location of a British barracks during the second bloodiest battle of the American Revolution. This was the Siege of Savannah in 1779. This was the most serious military confrontation in Georgia between the British and the Continental Army. The goal of the Americans was to liberate the city of Savannah from British occupation, which had lasted for a year. The American rebels and their French allies attacked on the night of October 8th. It started with a false attack to draw the attention of the British away from the real assault. The plan did not work. Miscommunication had one French line attacking before the rest were in place. The battle ended up in a ditch where a French flag and a South Carolina flag were planted. The Rebels probably thought this would indicate some kind of victory, but it would be anything but victory. The British, in response, cut down the attackers and their colors. Their counterattack lasted for an hour and left 80 of the American and French troops dead in the ditch. More than a thousand men lost their life in what was considered the bloodiest hour of the war. The rebels retreated in defeat. It was a great British victory.
Francis Sorrel was born to Antoine Francois Sorrel des Rivieres, a French military officer and sugar plantation owner, and Eugenie de Sutre, a free woman of color, in Haiti in 1793. At that time in history, Eugenie would have been referred to as mulatto, which was a term to distinguish between free people of color who had white fathers, versus black slaves. Francis was only six months old when his mother died. The Slave Rebellion was already well underway at this time and Antoine felt it was too dangerous and he left the island. He also left Francis. Eugenie's family would raise him and he would never see his father again. Francis did well for himself and was invited by Richard Henry Douglass to enter into a partnership. The Douglass-Sorrel firm opened an office in Savannah and Francis traveled there to run the business. Listeners may be asking themselves right now, how is it that Francis was able to do this since he was considered mulatto because his mother was mulatto? He hid the fact this his mother was a woman of color and he was fair skinned. He married Lucinda Moxley in 1822. She was the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and he had eyes on the fortune she would inherit as the eldest daughter because as a woman, her inheritance would pass on to her husband.
The couple had three children together and after the third was born, Lucinda came down with yellow fever. She died from the disease in 1827, destroying Francis' dreams of a large inheritance. He was doing well on his own as he had started his own shipping business, but he still liked that Moxley money. So he did what any man with such a goal would do, he married his dead wife's younger sister, Matilda. Matilda and Francis had eight children together, one of who was Gilbert Moxley Sorrel. Gilbert went by the name Moxley to honor his mother and he became a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. He helped in the capture of Fort Pulaski. He commanded Sorrel's Brigade and took part in nearly every major Civil War battle, including Gettysburg. After the war he became an executive for the Ocean Steamship Company and took a place on the Georgia Historical Society board. He wrote a book, "Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer," about his experiences during the war, which has been consulted by many movie producers when making movies about the war because Moxley wrote about the personal side of many historical figures. The house has a later edition of the book that contains pictures and Diane got to look through it and found it interesting to see some of the personal comments Moxley made. Several of them were not very nice. Three of Francis and Matilda's children died before reaching adulthood. They raised their five other children and Lucinda's three children together.
The Sorrel-Weed House was designed and built by renowned Irish architect Charles B. Cluskey in 1841 for Francis Sorrel. Construction began in 1836 There are three distinct architectural styles represented by the house. The main one is Greek Revival with a Haitian style represented in the shuttered balcony found on part of the house and in the orange coloring of the mansion. French Regency styling is mostly seen inside the home. Cluskey hated adding the Haitian elements, but Sorrel insisted, so the architect put the balconies away from the front of the house where they would not interrupt his Greek Revival elements. These elements include a parapet with elliptical arches, Doric columns on the portico, a sweeping double entrance and balconies on the first story front windows. The front foyer has a common piece of architecture found in Savannah mansions and that is a division of space in the foyer done by two columns, to differentiate between guest space and private family space. The stairway across from the foyer is Regency in style and is a center stairway that ascends to a midfloor stoop that has stairways going off to the left and right to climb up to the second floor.
The most interesting room inside the mansion is an oval shaped dining room with curved wooden doors. The doors are very unique and took several weeks to make as they were formed using water rather than the typical technique of just hollowing out a tree and using the natural curve of the tree for the doors. We noticed that the interior of one of the doors did not have a handle and the reason for this is chilling in how it relates to slavery. With a home like the Sorrel's where there were more than a dozen slaves serving a family of mostly children, it would be very easy for the slaves to overpower the master. So slave masters would use some practices to instill fear in their slaves. One of these was making it forbidden for a slave to get caught in a room with no way out. A slave would have to enter the dining room through these doors and move fast enough to put down whatever he had on the table or make his way in and out of the butler closet before the doors he came through closed or he would be trapped as there was no door handle. He would then face a reprimand or beating for this infraction.
There were two rooms on the first floor with doors that separated them to serve as parlors for the men and women. The rooms would be opened to each other when large dinner parties were hosted. The slaves would have to move the heavy furniture up and down the stairs to open up the rooms and to bring tables into the rooms. The basement is large and open and was where multiple kitchens were located. There are four fireplaces down here. One of the kitchens was specifically for the slaves and where there food was prepared. Any interesting fun fact about slave food is that it is what we considered typical southern comfort food today like black-eyed peas, collard greens, fried okra, etc. After the Civil War, rich southern families had lost nearly everything and they could no longer afford their expensive upper crust food anymore and the slave food that was served downstairs to the slaves, came upstairs to the rich dining rooms and eventually became the mainstay food of the south. So next time you eat some good southern vittles, keep in mind that this was once considered slave food.
One of the rooms in the basement would eventually serve as a doctor's office for Francis Sorrel, Jr. and he would work on wounded soldiers during the Civil War here. That means multiple amputations took place in this room. This is a room made famous by legends of it being used as a room for conducting Voodoo. The first time we saw it was on a ghost tour we took several years ago. There was a night vision camera hooked up in it and a couple of people on the tour were invited to enter and dance around. There were some weird lights and orbs, but these easily could have been dust and bugs. The girl that was in there did say that she needed to get out after about five minutes because she suddenly did not feel well. We didn't tempt the spirits. On Diane's recent visit, this room was wide open and decorated like an office with a medical table and instruments. It felt like any other room to her. A dumbwaiter had been used to transport food from the kitchen upstairs to an area right outside the dining room, but it no longer exists.
Another room that is on the first floor is what was probably Frances Sorrell's office. There are large windows around this room that lead out to the Haitian balconies. As many of you know, there was a time in history where houses were taxed according to the number of doors. Frances beat paying taxes on his "doors" leading to the balcony by making them windows. They stretch nearly to the floor and there is a hidden pocket in the wall where the one set of windows push up into making it easy for even a man to go out on the balcony without bending down. Diane got to test it out and went out on the balcony to get a closer look at the orange paint on the outside of the house. When it was originally restored, the Historic Savannah Foundation did not want the owner at that time to use the color. They claimed that it was not a historic color in Savannah. They apparently forgot the Haitian influence style of the house. When the city said no, the owner scraped off twenty layers of paint and found the original paint, which was, indeed, orange. The color stayed. We've never been to the second floor where the bedrooms are located, so we can't tell you what those look like.
There is a carriage house next to the house and it was in the upper area where the slaves were housed. Up to fifteen of them shared a large open area with a small kitchen and fireplace. This would have been very crowded. Diane asked about the smell of horses coming from the downstairs area where the carriages were stored and that is when she learned that horses were kept in stables outside of town. There was a separate room off the large room that had its own furnishings and a door and this was Molly's room since she was considered a level above the slaves. She was a type of middle management and had been given this position because of how well she cared for the Sorrel children as a nanny. There is no official record of Molly, but the legend around her claims that she was mulatto. Many of the slaves in the Sorrel household were listed as mulatto and it is generally understood that Francis had no problem helping himself to the bodies of his female slaves and it is thought that he fathered a few children with them.
The area below the carriage house was recently excavated and Diane's guide had taken part in that work. They believe a large wine cellar had once been in this area that stretches the length of the carriage house. They found a case down there with several brandy bottles inside of it and something quite remarkable and surprising was inside the case as well. A letter from Robert E. Lee was found. The guide said that General Lee had visited the home a few times, but they are not sure how this had ended up in the case or why. Next to the Sorrel-Weed House is a large house that once served as the guest house for the Sorrel's. It is now a private residence, but the family had lived there for a time when their finances took a nose dive. Two original mirrors that now hang in the parlors were found over in this guest house and they are two of the only original furnishings left from the Sorrel household. The Sorrel-Weed House was designated a state landmark in 1953, the first house in Georgia to be so honored. Day tours are 60 minutes and cost $10, starting at 10am and running to 5pm. Evening ghost tours are offered as well. Go to the carriage house to get tickets.
Matilda Sorrel was not a happy woman. She was given to bouts of depression and one can imagine that her relationship with Francis was not necessarily based on love, but rather, position in society. The women's parlor, where she spent much of her time reading, has windows that look out on the carriage house. The legend that surrounds the house claims that one day, Matilda looked out those windows and could see into the room that was Molly's and she saw a vision that shocked her to her core and fed her depression. Francis was having sex with Molly. The distraught Matilda, climbed the stairs to the third floor of the guest house next door and threw herself out of a window, head first, onto the brick patio below. There is no proof that this is what caused Matilda to take her life. It could have been mental illness or perhaps she even discovered the truth about Francis being a man not of pure white ancestry. Whatever the case, Matilda did indeed kill herself on the property. A family friend wrote his mother of the event, "The sad news has reached the office that Mrs. Sorrel, probably in a fit of lunacy, sprang from the second or third story window of her residence on Harris Street, next door to the house which was the family mansion for many years, falling upon the pavement of the yard, and by the concussion terminating her life." This happened in 1860. There are claims that Matilda made this jump from the mansion itself. This is difficult to ascertain. Francis did sell his mansion in 1859 to a man named Henry Weed, but there are claims that Francis was in the mansion in 1862 when Robert E. Lee visited.
The tragedy went further when it came to Molly. Shortly after Matilda's death, Molly was found hanged in her room in the carriage house. There is no clear indication as to whether she committed suicide or was murdered. There is also no clear indication in historical fact that Molly existed or that a slave killed herself on the property. The house remained in the Weed family until 1914. A.J. Cohen Sr. bought the 15,000 square-foot mansion from the Savannah Bank & Trust Co. in 1941. His son, A.J. Cohen Jr., built a one-story brick building around the Bull Street side about five years later that reached out all the way to the street. He did this to create a store front and opened the first of three Lady Jane clothing shops. Cohen also knocked out most of the walls in the basement where the store was located. And yes, many of these walls were load bearing and now the house is held up by steel girders placed in the ceiling of the basement.
In the 1960s, Cohen Jr. moved into the house with his family and continued to run the apparel business. The store started to do poorly in the 1980s and finally closed in 1991. The Cohens put the house on the market. Stephen C. Bader bought the house in 1996 and worked at renovating it for some time, but there was a lot of controversy surrounding his ownership. He had several workplace violations and scores of unpaid bills. His contractor and architect finally quit. A few of the positive things that he did were dismantling the storefront the Cohens built and he is the one who took the house back to its original orange color, which he toned down after pressure from the city. Bader spent four years burning through money and workers before his tenure with the house ended. After that, we're not sure how ownership went, but Diane was told that there had been apartments here, so we imagine that was after Bader. The current owner seems to be the group that runs the tours now, but we don't know their official name. The website is http://sorrelweedhouse.com.
There are several spirits haunting the Sorrel-Weed House and many claim that it is one of the most haunted houses in Savannah. Ghost Hunters was here in 2005 and Ghost Adventures visited in 2015. Both shows claimed to catch EVPs. The Ghost Hunters think they got the cries of a slave on an EVP. The EVP seemed to say, "Help! Oh Francis, help! Oh my God! Oh my God!" Zac Bagans said of his time in the house, "Our investigation of the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, Georgia, gave me a three-alarm hangover. It was very similar to a real one—headache, nausea, dizziness, throbbing, memory loss—but weirder. I can usually gauge how bad my hangover is going to be by the interactions I have with spirits during a lockdown, but this one threw me for a loop."
Diane asked her guide if he had experienced anything unexplained and he said he had never noticed anything he would consider to be a haunting. He has been alone in it at night and heard noises, but he always assumes that it is just the noises of a very old home. But others have definitely experienced weird activity. One of the people who lived in an apartment basement was named Steve and he was there for three months. He felt very uneasy in what was later called the Voodoo Room. He moved upstairs and claimed to hear the sound of parties and other social gatherings coming from downstairs when clearly there was no one down there. When he would go downstairs to investigate, the sound of music, laughing and talking would stop.
The scent of residual cigar smoke has been smelled by guests touring then men's parlor. Residual noises from the Revolutionary War are heard inside and outside the house. Some interesting finds during excavations were bullets from both wars. Diane got to see these bullets and how very different the bullets were from the wars. It is thought that the Revolutionary War bullets were possibly from bodies that had been buried where the house now stands, setting it up for future hauntings. Shadow figures are seen regularly and people claim to have been groped, poked and to have stabbing pains.
People who have toured or investigated the house claim to feel nauseous or a choking sensation when they are in the basement. A person named Jamie Stewart said, "I visited this house recently as a skeptic. When I entered the home I felt Ill. Our tour guide wasn’t great and didn’t really tell us what had happened there until we got to courtyard. But yet I felt extremely ill and nearly vomited in courtyard when we got out of basement. It’s not that I didn’t believe in ghosts but I was indifferent. This incident has left me to do research on it as I was freaked out by my reaction and the fact that I felt fine after I left the house."
Camera and cell phone batteries are known to be completely drained while in the house. David Duran wrote an article for Country Living about his experiences in Savannah and one segment was about a ghost tour he took at the Sorrel-Weed House. He got an interesting picture in a mirror that seems to feature a person who was not part of their group who has hair and clothing from another time period. Here is that photo:
|Photo by David Duran|
|Photo by Leslie|
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Dr. Graham's Quacky Cures
Scottish Doctor James Graham, who practiced in the mid to late 1700s, should appear in the Encyclopedia right next to the words "Quack Doctor." He pushed some very bizarre treatments. He would tell childless couples who were having trouble getting pregnant that they should do their business on a mattress filled with stallion hair. Barren women were also told to wash their delicate parts with champagne. In 1781, Dr. Graham introduced to the world his "Celestial Bed," which was a gaudily decorated vibrating bed that promised better conception. Another bizarre treatment he championed was something he called Earth-Bathing. This practice required patients to strip naked and be buried up to their necks in fertile dirt. One advertisement of the time reads, "Dr. Graham is now at Sheffield and he and a young woman were on Wednesday and Thursday buried up to their lips in earth, in order to prove the practicability and safety of the practice of Earth-Bathing, which he recommends as an universal restorative to infirm and decayed nature. The spectators were numerous, as might be expected." According to Graham, Earth-Bathing would open the pores, so that toxins could be released. He claimed it cured scurvy, gout, venereal disease, leprosy, rheumatism, cancer and even insanity. The appetite could be suppressed as well and obese patients were told to Earth-Bath for as long as 6 hours. Dr. Graham seems to have been a true believer as he charged Londoners a shilling to watch himself and a naked female companion Earth-Bathing. People began to lose faith in the doctor's quackery as they began to realize that he himself was slipping into insanity due to an opium addiction. It wasn't clear to the people of the 1700s, but it is quite clear to us now that Dr. Graham's cures, certainly were odd!
This Month in History - The Concorde Begins Passenger Flights
In the month of January, on the 21st, in 1976, the Concorde supersonic jet began passenger service with flights from London to Bahrain and Paris to Rio de Janeiro. The Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Sud Aviation and the British Aircraft Corporation under an Anglo-French treaty. The program was estimated to cost a whopping 70 million pounds, but due to delays and issues, eventually ran 1.3 billion pounds. Twenty of the supersonic jets were made and eventually made flights to London, Paris, New York, Virginia and Barbados. It took the Concorde half the time of other airplanes to make flights. Tickets to fly on the fast and luxurious Concorde were exorbitant, so only the wealthy could afford them. To fly from London to New York in 1997, cost $8,000. Not only could the Concorde fly at twice the speed of sound, it could fly at an altitude up to 60,000 feet. The Concorde was retired in 2003.
The name bestowed upon Rotherwood Mansion really says it all. It is known as the House of Terror and Sadness. Today, it is a private residence where the inhabitants seem to live in peace, but the history here is anything but peaceful. This home was once one of the largest slave plantations in Eastern Tennessee where life for slaves was terrifying. Death came calling many times in all of its forms: accident, suicide and murder. Left behind is the spiritual residue that attaches itself to strong emotions. Rotherwood Mansion has a reputation for being haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Rotherwood Mansion.
Kingsport, Tennessee is part of the Mountain Empire, which covers Southwest Virginia and Eastern Tennessee. Kingsport was originally known as Salt Lick and was established after the Revolutionary War at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Holston River. Our Executive Producers heard about this area and Long Island that is here in our bonus episode featuring the Curse of the Cherokee. This area was very important to the Cherokee and they were the first settlers here. The settlement became important for pioneers as part of the Wilderness Road. The city of Kingsport was chartered in 1820 and became a major port on the Holston River. The Civil War brought fighting here with the Battle of Kingsport and after the Civil War the city lost its charter. The charter returned in 1917 and Kingsport grew into a garden city and was one of the first cities to introduce traffic circles. Located in Kingsport is Rotherwood Mansion. *Fun Fact: Nick Castle, actor who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween, was born in Kingsport and always makes an appearance at the local haunted houses.*
High on a hill above the Holston River sits a beautiful red brick, dark shuttered mansion built by Reverend Frederick A. Ross in 1818. Reverend Ross was born in 1796 in Cumberland County, Virginia. He entered the Presbyterian ministry in 1818. He moved to Kingsport that same year and built his mansion. He became the pastor of Old Kingsport Presbyterian Church in Kingsport in 1826 and remained there until 1852. He moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1855 and finished out his evangelical and physical life there, dying in 1883. Many may wonder how a reverend was able to build himself a large plantation in Kingsport. Ross came from a wealthy family and they owned a large acreage along the North and South Forks of the Holston River. And even though he was a reverend, he owned many white indentured servants and black slaves. He even wrote a book in 1857 entitled, "Slavery as Ordained of God." And while he writes in the preface, "And let the Southern Christian-nay, the Southern man of every grade-comprehend that God never intended the relation of master and slave to be perpetual. Let him give up the theory of Voltaire, that the negro is of a different species," he also writes, "Let him learn that slavery, like all evils, has its corresponding and greater good; that the Southern slave, though degraded compared with his master, is elevated and ennobled compared with his brethren in Africa." Biographies say that Ross was good to his slaves and they enjoyed working for the family.
Rotherwood Mansion is breath-taking and the first item one notices about the plantation home are the large Doric columns that line the front porch. There was a garden and pool on the roof. There were large french doors and beautiful gardens all around the home. The heating in the house came from hot water radiator heat and it was throughout the mansion. The house has three floors and it is our understanding that the current house is actually two houses that were joined together in the 1840s. There are several fireplaces and every mantle is completely different with carved wood and the dining room has the most elaborate mantle with lattice work and scrolls. The name Rotherwood came from Sir Walter Scott's book "Ivanhoe." There is a guest house on the property as well and we're not sure when it was built.
Reverend Ross married a woman name Theodocia Vance and they had fifteen children together. Five of them died in childhood. His first and only daughter to survive to adulthood, Rowena, was born in 1824 and she was his favorite child. He sent her to the finest Northern schools. In 1842, she returned to Rotherwood and she was the most eligible belle in the area, so suitors were knocking down the door. It wasn't just that she was the daughter of a rich and influential man, she was beautiful and had an outgoing and mischievous personality. She had a friend named Mag that she would write to about her suitors. About one she wrote that he had an "outrageous impertinent request" for her to secretly meet him "at the upper gate" and that her father was "so perfectly outraged" by it all that he threatened to "horse whip" him. She finally settled on a young man that she referred to as "Dr." when writing Mag. She wrote, "Tell Dr. that the field is clear," but he had "two rivals who are determined to tilt a lance with him at the same Christmas tournament, which he doubtless remembers and if he is not forthcoming on the occasion it will be truly distressing!"
He asked for her hand in marriage and Reverend Ross was thrilled. He decided to build them a home on the property and it was the same design as Rotherwood only instead of red brick, it was entirely done in white. It was across the river from the main house. His daughter would never get to enjoy the home as it burned completely to the ground soon after it was finished. It was only the start of tragic circumstances for Rowena. On the morning of their wedding day, Rowena's groom decided to go fishing with his friends and so they took a small boat out onto the Holston River. Rowena was watching them from the porch of her childhood home. The Holston can have dangerous currents and on this particular day, a current capsized the boat and pulled the young men under the icy depths of the river. Three of them managed to break free and pull themselves to the shore, but one of those young men was not Rowena's fiance. His body was never found. Rowena was devastated and became a recluse, locking herself away in her third floor bedroom.
Rowena finally stepped out again after two years and met another man named Edward Temple to whom she became engaged and then married. They moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was a wealthy man and she was happy again, until yellow fever struck and took his life. She once again slipped into a depression. It took her ten years to recover and she remarried. The couple had a daughter and things seemed to be going well, but one night, Rowena slipped into her wedding gown and made her way outside, slipping silently beneath the water of the river. Some say that she heard the call of her first love and was going to meet him. This was tragic for the Reverend, but more bad circumstances would follow. A mill that he operated went bust and other businesses suffered losses and many of his investments failed. Just before the Civil War, he had to sell his beloved Rotherwood. The man to whom he would sell it, would add the "terror" part to the house's nickname, "House of Terror and Sadness."
Joshua Phipps acquired not only Rotherwood Plantation, but the Reverend's slaves as well. Phipps had been the overseer at the plantation and he was known for being a cruel man. For this reason, Ross freed many of the slaves and a fun fact about one of those slaves is that they were an ancestor of Diana Ross and that is where he last name comes from as many slaves would take on the surname of their owners. Phipps had abused the slaves when Ross was on the property, but once he was owner, the abuse intensified. Slave cells were installed in the basement of Rotherwood. They were windowless with dirt floors, save for one window that had iron bars set into it with no glass. The field slaves slept here at night. A woman who grew up here when her parents worked on the property as a cook and chauffeur, Jill Ellis, wrote of the basement, "As a child, I had to go into this area almost every day because the food Mother canned was stored in the basement, and the laundry facility was also in this area. The stench was embedded in the ground--the darkness and dampness was sometimes overpowering. One could imagine hearing the moaning, the wailing, the crying of slaves.. their misery and despair. If a slave was maimed, he was shot like an animal because he was of no more use. In the front room of the 3rd floor facing the river, was the whipping post. Slaves were shackled to the post to be whipped. The blood stains are still embedded into the wood floors of that room. Days of heavy moisture, the blood stains appear!"
Phipps was cruel to more than just the slaves. His own daughter Priscilla fell in love with a young man during the Civil War and her father did not approve. He arranged to have that man killed in action. It is said that his daughter died from grief at the age of 20. Phipps had a mistress who joined him in his cruel treatment and some say she was more evil than he was, even though she herself was a former slave. Edward Stewart wrote about a slave named Aunt Vic who was owned by Phipps, in an article published in the Kingsport Times-News in October of 1975. He wrote, "Aunt Vic was a slave at Rotherwood before the Civil War, and [she talked] about hiding in the reeds and culverts when the slave traders would come through, so she wouldn't be sold. Aunt Vic described Richard Netherland as a workmaster for Joshua Phipps, who made the slaves work harder. She said that both Netherland and Phipps were cruel and beat the slaves all the time." Aunt Vic also claimed that Phipps would say he wanted to be buried standing up on the hill at Rotherwood, so he could supervise the slaves working.
And that death would come in 1861. Phipps fell ill and no doctor could figure out what was wrong with him. Out of fear, he was moved to the carriage house, so that he would sicken anyone else. He presented with fever and delusions and a young slave boy was assigned the job of fanning him to keep him cool. Phipps breathing became more labored as the days went by and when death finally took hold, it came in a very strange way causing some to think that he was cursed. The slave boy claimed that Phipps came out of the fog of his fever and his eyes fixated on a spot behind the boy. The boy turned and let out a blood curdling scream of horror. The child described seeing a thick cloud of hundreds of buzzing flies. The thick cloud of wriggling flies descended upon Phipps, covering his entire face and they pushed their way into the openings there, his nostrils, ears and open mouth. Phipps began to suffocate and convulse and the boy bolted off to the main house to get help.
The boy returned with a doctor and family members and they found Phipps dead with his eyes staring up and a look of terror frozen upon his face. Everyone was confused because the boy had told them about the swarm of flies and there was not one fly in the carriage house. It was as though they had never existed. The funeral that followed is a part of Kingsport legend. His coffin was put on a cart that was pulled by two horses. As the horses made their way up a hill, the wheels of the cart got stuck and two more horses were brought to try to pull the cart out. The four horses managed to get the cart moving forward, just as lightning started to flash across the darkening skies and thunder clapped.
One bolt of lightning hit a tree near the path to the cemetery and knocked that tree into the path, blocking the way. The pallbearers had to carry the casket the rest of the way to the open grave. People started murmuring that the circumstances were due to how evil Phipps had been. The pastor began to conduct the graveside ceremony when the nearby river began to bubble and churn. The thunder and lightning grew more violent. And then, the casket under its dark cloth, began to move. Inexplicably, a large black dog hurled itself out of the casket and ran down the hill. The terrified group of onlookers quickly closed the casket, lowered it into the ground and buried it over. They then ran home.
A Uneca Company acquired the property and several men, including Jeffrey Johnson and John B. Dennis, farmed the land. Rotherwood Farms covered 2,000 acres of the original 6,000. They had Jersey Cows, riding horses and prized bulls. Rotherwood Farms was bought by the U.S. government in 1940 and a Colonel Ryan moved into the mansion with his family. The government occupied the farm until the end of World War II. And then Rotherwood sat empty for many years and it began to fall into disrepair. A man bought the property and fixed up the outside and then he sold to a couple named the Stones. Today, Rotherwood Mansion is owned by Lenita Thibault whom we think bought the property in the 1980s. She was a doctor and Kingsport was desperate to have her and after she visited the town and saw Rotherwood Mansion from a distance, she was sold as long as the money could be worked out. There is a video that we have posted a link to featuring her talking about the restoration and she clearly loves this home. She doesn't seem to believe in all the ghost stories told about Rotherwood, so we are thinking that she has not had any experiences.
There are many stories of hauntings on the property of the former Rotherwood Plantation. Rowena's apparition is a common occurrence. She is seen walking towards the banks of the Holston River, wearing her wedding dress, making her our Lady in White at this location. Sightings of Rowena's ghost started when her family still lived on the site. Her first love is also said to haunt the banks of the river due to his tragic death and the fact that his body was never recovered. Now the interesting piece of this story is the actual history because it is our understanding that Rowena committed suicide in Huntsville, Alabama. So has her spirit just decided to haunt here or is this just a piece of ghost lore?
Phipps daughter who died from grief is said to be an apparition seen sitting in one of the front windows of the mansion. The black dog that sprung from the casket of Phipps is referred to as the "Hound of Hell." People claim that this large black dog roams the area around the Rotherwood Mansion. It gives off a low and mournful howl, particularly on stormy nights. Joshua Phipps himself is said to be an apparition at the mansion. He enjoys removing the covers from people when they are sleeping and gives off a disembodied sadistic laugh. His evil mistress is here as well and the reason for that is because after Phipps died, the slaves rose up and killed her. They buried her in an unmarked grave, somewhere on the grounds of Rotherwood Mansion. Objects are said to move throughout the house and people claim to have been poked or pushed.
During one of the renovations, some workmen were working on replacing the plumbing and the wiring in the basement. One of the workmen looked up from his work and froze, with his eyes fluttering open wide and he went white. He began to scream and ran upstairs as his co-worker looked on in confusion. The co-worker followed him upstairs and outside, where he watched him jump into the work van and peal out as he drove away from the mansion. The man returned the next day as he had left his tools behind and he was calm enough to tell the owner and his co-worker what had happened. He explained that he had felt as though someone were staring at him and when he looked up, he saw an apparition materialize right out of the wall. The spirit was male and wearing a suit and had gigantic black dog with him that had glowing red eyes. The beast was snarling and the man gave the workman a sadistic smile and pointed at him. The dog leapt at him and that is when he ran out of the house. He claimed that the dog followed him upstairs and even followed the van down the road for a bit. And, of course, the other workman had seen nothing. That man never set foot in the house again.
The Sensbaugh Tunnels are just a few miles up Big Elm Road from Rotherwood Mansion. These tunnels are said to be incredibly haunted. The tunnel was widened in the 1920s and during that work 16 men working for the Clinchfield Railroad were killed. The tunnel was made from a natural tunnel that had been used by runaway slaves waiting for a ferryman coming down the Holston River. A slave owner once found two of his slaves and their three children hiding in the tunnel. He killed the woman, who had been his mistress, her husband and two of the children by shooting them. The baby he crushed against the inside of the tunnel. It is said that the baby's mournful cry is heard coming from the tunnel. Rumors of Satanic rituals taking place in the tunnel have been a popular part of the legend and people claim that car engines die when near the tunnel.
While there are only claims of three ghosts, Rowena, Phipps and his mistress, and the Black Dog, one has to wonder if some of the spirits of the slaves who were treated so badly, remain here in the afterlife. Could there be some trapped negative emotional energy? And while the current owner and friends who have visited the property claim that there is nothing haunting the property, has that always been the case? Could the spirits be at rest because the home is loved and taken care of now or do people in the modern era just ignore the supernatural activity? Is Rotherwood Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!
Video featuring the current owner and her story of acquiring Rotherwood Mansion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf8pUq7SXGs
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Fake Vampie Attack Thwarts Hukbalahap Rebellion
After the second World War, the Filipino's People Army that had fought against the Japanese started adopting Communist ideals and began a peasant's rebellion called the Hukbalahap Rebellion against wealthy Manilan Filipinos who had worked with the Japanese. The United States considered the Philipines an asset and they didn't want this Communist rebellion to succeeed, so the CIA sent one of their top men, Edward Lansdale, to the Philippines to quash the rebellion. Lansdale's favorite tactic was psychological warfare and he decided to use some of the cultural folklore to his advantage. As we learned in our Filipino legends episode, one of the things the people here fear is the Aswang, which is a vampiric creature. A unit of the Hukbalahap rebels had positioned them on a very strategic hill and it was imperative to get them removed from that advantage. Lansdale ordered several of his men to grab one of the rebels at the back of the group. They then punctured the man's neck in twoplaces and hung him upside down until the blood had drained from his body. They threw the man back onto the pathway, so that when several of the rebels returned to find their comrade, they ran across his lifeless corpse and discovered the marks and that he had been drained of blood. They were terrified and reported back to their group. The rebels fled their hilltop position, losing their advantage. Lansdale used other tactics like painting all-seeing eyes on homes and flying aircraft low. The rebellion ended in 1954 and Lansdale's fake vampire attack was credited with playing a large part in that success and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - British Egyptologist Howard Carter Finds Sarcophagus of King Tut
In the month of January, on the 3rd, in 1924, British Egyptologist Howard Carter found the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. Carter had searched for the tomb of King Tut for several years and found the entrance to it in November of 1922. His crews had been digging around ancient stone huts that had housed workers when they discovered a stair. This stair proved to be a full staircase that led to a sealed tomb door that was marked in a way that indicated it was a royal tomb. Carter reached the inner door and drilled a hole through which he could see the treasure of King Tut. It would take him over a year of excavation to finally find the body of King Tut, who had died at the age of nineteen, in his sarcophagus. The treasures and sarcophagus are usually on permanent display at the Cairo Museum in Egypt, but the collection has regularly traveled the world on exhibition.
Baker Mansion (Suggested by and research help from listener Tiffany Delozier)
The Baker Family moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania in the 1830s and grew a successful iron-making business. Elias was an ambitious man who ruled his family with an iron fist that resulted in him alienating his first son and driving his daughter to dedicating herself to a spinster life. He built the family a mansion in Altoona, known as the Baker Mansion. The home remained with the family for decades and most of them died in the house. Today, there are claims that this historic home houses more than just a museum. The spirits of the family seem to have decided to stay in the afterlife. Join us and our listener Tiffany Delozier as we discuss the history and hauntings of the Baker Mansion.
Altoona is located in Blair County in Pennsylvania, it was originally the home of the Iroquois Confederacy. The first western settlers arrived in the mid-1700's and a series of stockades were constructed in the region as a defense against Indian raids, one of which was Fort Roberdeau. In 1849 the Pennsylvania Railroad Company paid David Robeson $11,000 for his farmstead so that they could develop it into a staging area for the construction of the rail line that would be used to service the train locomotives. There are two theories as to how Altoona got its name, one is that it is named after the German tow Altona which is now part of Hamburg and the second is that it comes from the Cherokee word "allatoona" which means "high lands of great worth." In 1854 the Horseshoe Curve was completed and the travel time to get from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was cut from three days to 15 hours.
Even though the Civil War never made it as far north as Altoona it did still play a small role in it. The War Governors' Conference was held in the Logan House Hotel. Thirteen governors of the Union states came together for two days to discuss the support of President Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation and to discuss if General George B. McClellan should be removed as the command of the Army of the Potomac. The Logan House Hotel was also where David Wills held a meeting to begin plans for the establishment of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Unfortunately, the hotel was later torn down and the Altoona Post Office now sits in its place. In 1858, Altoona was incorporated as a borough and in 1868 it was chartered as a city. Altoona gained unwanted attention from the Nazi's during World War II specifically the Horseshoe Curve. The Nazi's knew that the curve was making it easier for the U.S. government to transport much needed materials for weapons making and hatched a plan to destroy the Horseshoe Curve forcing trains to take a longer way around and this met the goal of slowing down production.
Luckily the men that were sent over were caught before they could destroy the tracks and the Horseshoe Curve was saved. Altoona is home to a few historical sites such as Fort Roberdeau, the Leap-the-dips roller coaster that is in the now closed Lakemont Park which is the oldest still running wooden roller coaster, Reighard's which is one of the oldest still operating gas stations, the Railroader's Memorial Museum, the Mishler Theater, the Horseshoe Curve, and Baker Mansion.
Elias Baker was born on December 24, 798 to Frederick and Margaretta Baker in Pequea, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His wife Esther 'Hetty' Baker (maiden name was Woods) was born on October 2, 1803 to David and Ann Woods in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as well. There is no information as to when or where they were married, and there is no information as to when their son David was born other then he was born sometime in 1823 in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Their second child and youngest son Sylvester was born on October 31, 1825 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and David was about two years old. Their third child Anna was born on June 9, 1836 in Altoona, Pennsylvania since the family had moved to the area before she was born after Elias had purchased the Alleghany Furnace with his cousin Roland Diller.
Their fourth and last child Margaretta was born on December 11, 1839 in Altoona but she would never live to see the mansion her family would eventually live in, she contracted diphtheria and later died on January 14, 1842. In 1844 Elias bought Roland's share of the business and contracted the Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long Jr. to design a new home for his family which would become Baker Mansion. Construction on the building in 1845 but problems and delays one of which was the falling prices of iron caused the building to go uncompleted until 1849. Elias almost caused himself to go bankrupt paying for the $15,000 cost of the mansion's completion, to give you an idea as to how much he would have had to pay today it would cost him anywhere between $460,000-$470,000 to complete today. The mansion is a Greek Revivial style home and is made of limestone and iron from Elias' own furnaces, it has around 35 rooms altogether one of which was Elias and later Sylvester's personal office, a double parlor which was used when the family was entertaining guests, a single parlor for quiet nights at home, a dinning room, the second floor is where the bedrooms were at along with a bathroom which was not a common thing to have at the time, the basement contained the kitchen so that the servants could cook the family's meals without worrying about getting in the family's way, an ice room and several other rooms for them to use, the mansion also had an in-house brick bake oven which was also another rare find in any home at the time.
In 1851, David married Sarah Tuthill and moved away, roughly a year after they were married Sarah gave birth to their only child Louise. Sadly Louise would grow up without David around, two weeks after she was born David was killed in steamboat accident and later on in life Louise would marry Ernst Beckworth and move to his native Sweden with him having never stepped foot in the mansion. Around the time of David's death there was more drama in the mansion as Elias found out that Anna was planning on marrying one of his workers, Elias was furious to find out that his daughter wanted to marry someone below her social stature and forbid her from marrying him. As the story goes during the argument Elias told Anna that the man was to poor to provide her and any children they would have and that he doubted that the ring she had been given was even a diamond. In anger Anna screamed at her father that she would prove to him that the ring was real, she took her ring off turned to the window and scratched her initials into the pane.
Nonetheless, Elias would not relent and went to the worker and either talked him into leaving Anna and Altoona or paid him to leave, when Anna found out what he had done she vowed that if her father would not let her marry for love she would not marry at all and was determined to die a spinster. Elias would never live to see the day, he died on December 5, 1864 from either an unknown illness or old age. Hetty never remarried and she remained in the mansion with Sylvester and Anna until she died on May 14, 1900 she was 96 years old so it isn't to far fetched to say that her age was probably the reason for her death. Sylvester died on June 24, 1907 he had been sitting on the couch in the single parlor when he stood to head up to his room and suffered a heart attack, he was dead before his body ever hit the floor. Even though she was all alone Anna refused to leave and died on December 20, 1914 leaving the mansion to her niece Louise, the mansion was closed up and would not open up for another eight years.
In 1922, the Blair County Historical Society began leasing the building from her and turned it into a museum. In 1941 with the communities help the Historical Society was able to purchase the mansion from her and they have continued to work with the community to restore the Baker Mansion to the grand home it has always been. They hold three tours a day Tuesday to Friday and hold several different events to pay for any renovations and to bring the community together. Baker Mansion was added to the PHMC on April 1, 1947 and the NRHP on June 5, 1975.
There are several ghost stories told about the mansion and many people have had experiences. The most famous story from Baker Mansion is that of the wedding dress, people have reported either seeing the skirt and shoes of the dress moving or the case that it is in violently shaking. What some people get wrong is that the dress belonged to Anna Baker when in reality it belonged to the daughter of another ironmaster named Elizabeth Bell, Elizabeth taunted Anna about the fact that she was unwed throughout their entire lives so some people believe that Elizabeth comes back every so often to taunt Anna once more by moving the dress or that Anna is longingly touching the dress that could have been hers if Elias had let her marry the man she loved and that when she is in a bad mood that she will shake the case so hard sometimes that people were worried that it would break. The dress is no longer on display due to it slowly falling apart from the passing of years so it is unknown if the dress still has activity happening. In the same room that the dress was kept in there is a music box that is said to play without being wound on certain nights. Elias has been spotted in the dining room possibly still tending to his business in the afterlife, a woman dressed in black that the volunteers believe is Hetty has been seen wandering around the attic and Anna is seen in different rooms of the house as well.
Near the end of his life Sylvester needed a cane to help him get around and when he needed to get either Anna or one of their servants' attention he would bang his cane on the floor as hard as he could, volunteers have reported hearing the sound of his cane banging along with the image of Sylvester sitting in the room it's coming from and have seen him banging his cane on the floor before he disappears. The single parlor is also haunted by Sylvester as well, the mansion has plates in the floor that goes off when someone steps on them and several times in the middle of the night they have gone off. Police will arrive and find no one there, there is even the story of one time when they brought a K-9 unit and the dog acted strangely in the house but was fine when it was out in the open refusing to re-enter the house, at one point the plates right in front of the couch that Sylvester sat on right before he died were found broken in the exact shape of a body while the rest of the plates remained intact. The basement is said to be haunted as well, when David died his body was sent back to Altoona for burial but by the time it had arrived the ground was frozen solid and they were unable to bury him so his body was placed in the ice room. Before his death, David and Elias had gotten into an argument and David had sworn to his father that he would never enter the house again, even though his body has long since been put in its final resting place people report hearing the screams of David Baker coming from the ice room in the basement at night.
David is not alone in the basement, one tour guide tells the story of when they were leading a group through the house. Everything was fine and the tour had gone off without a hitch until they got to the basement, a little boy took one look down the stairs before he clung to his mother and started to cry and beg her not to take him down. When they got him calmed down enough to ask him what was wrong he told them that "There's a soldier down there and he keeps glaring up at us. He doesn't want us down there." when he described what he saw they realized he was seeing a Union soldier. The war never made it up to Altoona but that didn't mean that it would not affect the Baker family, Sylvester was drafted into the Union army and unwilling to see his only remaining son leave to possibly die in a battle Elias paid another man to take his place. The soldier might be the spirit of the man who took Sylvester's place his life possibly cut short thus creating another spirit with a bone to pick with him.
Volunteers have also reported having a difficult time keeping some of the beds tidy mostly the bed that belonged to Hetty and Elias, they have reported going into their bedroom and straightening everything up for the next day or the next tour and moving on to another room before walking past the room and seeing that the bed has been messed up again. People outside of the mansion have also seen the Baker family and other unknown entities in the house, Hetty had a garden beside the mansion that she could see from her's and Elias' bedroom and the Historical Society keeps it maintained to honor her memory. People who have visited the mansion and stood in Hetty's garden have reported looking up to the bedroom window and seeing a woman matching her description looking down at them from the window before disappearing. Another woman who does not live in the area was driving by the mansion when her car either broke down or she realized she was lost, since this was well before cell phones she had no way of calling for help. She looked around to see if anyone was awake in any of the houses when she saw the lights on at Baker Mansion, she got out of her car and walked up the small hill to the front of the house.
She knocked on the door in an attempt to get someone's attention, she could hear people talking to each other in the house and became irritated at the thought that they were ignoring her. She knocked again and called out to them that she needed help, when no one answered the door she angrily knocked again and demanded help. Instead of anyone answering the door or calling out to her she heard a knock from the other side followed by laughter, she turned and stormed back down the hill in an attempt to find help elsewhere. She returned the next day and talked to the head volunteer at the time, when she told them the story of what had happened to her the night before the volunteer's jaw dropped and they apologized to her about the rudeness but explained that at the end of the night they give the mansion back to the Baker's and that the reason none of them answered the door was because Anna was the last one to live there and that she had died decades ago. The woman's face paled and she quickly left the mansion the way she had come, she is not the only one to have an encounter with a spirit inside the house while they were outside.
One person posted online that one night while their friends were returning home from Mansion Park they passed by Baker Mansion and noticed that one of the doors was open, they stood there daring each other to go into the house when they noticed someone in one of the upstairs windows. They moved so that they could see the figure better and saw a little boy in one of the windows looking down at them and waving at them to come in, thinking it was the child of one of the nearby residents they were about to enter the building when they realized that the boy's clothes did not match the time period. At the same time that the realization hit them the little boy vanished from the window, the door closed with the sound of a child's giggle and the two friends were sprinting down the hill as fast as they could. While the Baker family were the only people to live in the house that does not mean that there isn't a spirit from another location isn't there since the mansion has items that did not belong to the Baker's in its many rooms some of which is actually from the Logan House Hotel, who's to say that they didn't bring a spirit that cherished it along with it? There are numerous stories of sightings from the mansion that I either haven't found yet or are basically the same thing so I will end off with a story told to me in grade school and a personal one of my own.
Tiffany related the following to us, "This story was told to me by a worker at my elementary school, she had volunteered at the mansion during an event they held a few years before she told this story and one of the requirements was for the volunteers to stay behind and help close up the mansion. She went from the top of the mansion to the bottom and made sure all of the windows were shut and locked up tight since the windows had alarms connected to them as well and since the windows had not been fixed at that point they would fly open if not secured properly and set the alarms off. Once she had finished she went to the back door and let the other volunteers know that she had finished, they set the alarm and no sooner had they shut the door when the alarm went off for a window in one of the second story bedrooms. Thinking that she had not secured the window correctly she ran back up to the room and shut and locked the window again, she had just made it to the door when the alarm went off again. Now frightened but still not wanting to think about it to much she dashed up the steps and into the room slamming the window shut and pushing on the lock so hard she could have broken it.
Her feet hadn't even touched the 1st-floor hallway when the alarm went off again, she looked at the other volunteers before running out the door shouting to them that either one of them or one of the ghosts could shut the window because she was not going back up. My personal story takes place in the basement, whenever I would graduate from grade school to middle school to high school my dad would take me to take a tour of Baker Mansion. The year I graduated high school my dad told me that I was old enough to pay for my own way in and to go without him, I arrived in time for the first tour which turned out to be just me and a tour guide. Everything was fine other then the tour guide jumping when I stepped on a floorboard that squeaked and then we went down to the basement, the gift shop has been moved to the carriage house but at the time of this story it was still in the basement which I have always hated going in to since I've had two nightmares about that area of the house. The tour guide realized that she had forgotten the keys to the cash register and after excusing herself she ran upstairs to get the keys off of her boss, while I waited for her I browsed the selection of items they had for sale.
I had picked out a few things when I heard a man's voice 'What are you doing here?' he asked, he sounded irritated that I was there so I looked around to see if there was a male volunteer there wondering why I had been left in the gift shop by myself. There was no one there so thinking that I was hearing things I turned back to the items when I felt someone all but jump on me 'I said what are you doing in my house?!?' the man's voice said. I stood up straight and my breathing quickly came out short and panicked, something kept telling me not to turn around since I wouldn't like what I might see if I did so I stood frozen to the spot and the realization that I had not heard the voice out loud had me questioning if something was really happening to me or if I was letting my imagination get to me. Just in case I decided to think to myself just to make my possible imagination stop 'Seriously? I am a guest at your house and this is how you treat me? I've only come into this house because I love being in here and I love this house and this is how you're going to be? All I want to do is get a few things from the shop and leave! Leave me alone and I am out of here.' I thought. I felt the presence move a few feet away from me 'Fine then. Get your things and get out as soon as you purchase them,' he said.
After a few minutes the tour guide came back apologizing for taking so long before turning the register on, as promised as soon as she rung me up I power walked to the exit that leads from the basement to the backyard area taking the steps two at a time. About halfway down I stopped and turned towards the mansion half expecting to see Elias or Sylvester Baker watching me from the steps before heading to a bus stop to get back home. Most people wouldn't want to go back to a location after something like that happens to them but I have been back to the mansion at least three or four more times so far but I still wonder even ten years later if I really did have either Elias or Sylvester confront me in the basement or if I had made up the whole thing in my mind."
Have members of the Baker family decided to stay behind in their former home after their deaths? Are the strange noises heard supernatural or just the creaking of an old house? Is the Baker Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!