Thursday, December 11, 2014

HGB Podcast 15 - Outside The Gate, St. Augustine

Moment in Oddity - Whisky Scented Fabric

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland has a School of Textiles & Design.  The school was experimenting in the development of new and different kinds of fabric and they came up with a very unique and strangely scented fabric.  Their new fabric carries a permanent odor of whisky.  And not any old whisky either.  The scent is that of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky.  The scent has been dubbed "Aqua Alba."  The technique used to make the fabric is known as "microencapsulation technology," which layers the scent into the fabric.  The fabric was developed for textile company Harris Tweed Hebrides and distiller Diageo's Johnnie Walker Black Label brand and the school's  business development manager Jim McVee said, "Smart textiles are a fast-developing sector that offers enormous potential. Our year-long collaboration with Harris Tweed Hebrides is a great example of the ways in which we can help Scottish textile companies to develop their business, add value to their textiles and bring exciting new products to market."  We're not sure what Harris Tweed Hebrides or Johnny Walker plans to do with the fabric, but we sure hope they don't plan to upholster vehicles.  Trying to explain to the officer that it's just your fashionably upholstered seat that is drunk, would be quite odd.

This Day in History - Edward VIII Abdicates

Today's moment in history is a tale of a wonderful love story.  On this day, December 11th, in 1936, King Edward VIII publicly abdicates the throne to his younger brother George.  King Edward had taken over the throne on January 20th, 1936 after the death of his father.  The king was a bachelor at 42, but he had his sights set on marrying an American girl he had fallen in love with named Wallis Simpson.  There was a problem though, Ms. Simpson had already been married twice before with her most recent divorce still pending.  King Edward tried to convince the Church of England, his family and politicians that it would be okay for him to marry Ms. Simpson, but he received no support.  He was informed that the only way he would be allowed to marry her would be to give up the crown.  And that is just what King Edward did.  In a speech on December 11th, King Edward said, "You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.  But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.  And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.  I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all."  The King's brother George bestowed the title "Duke of Windsor" on Edward and Edward and Wallis lived happily until his death in 1972.

Outside the Gate

History Goes Bump traveled to one of our favorite cities in America, which just happens to be the oldest city in America: St. Augustine, Florida.  We were in town for two events, one was the Annual Night of Lights and the other was the Ghostly Encounter ghost tour hosted by Ancient City Tours.  Night of Lights in St. Augustine begins in November and runs through February every year and has been voted several times as one of the best holiday light displays in the country.  It truly is beautiful as white lights line the main drags and illuminate the many historic buildings that make this city so wonderful.  The tradition of using white light bulbs traces back to the Spanish tradition of placing white candles in the windows during the holidays.  Our advice if you decide to see this in the future is to do your own walking tour.  Trolleys are overloaded with people and waits are long, plus we didn't see any of them stop for photo opportunities.  Here are a few pictures we took:


No trip to St. Augustine is complete without a ghost tour and the city offers a bunch of them.  Our tour with Ancient City Tours was the third we have done in the city and we have enjoyed each one.  Since St. Augustine is full of so many haunts, we thought that it would be best for this podcast to focus on a specific area of St. Augustine and that would be the area just outside the city gate.  To begin, we want to remind everybody about a little history that was covered in Podcast Episode 1 dealing with the beginnings of St. Augustine.  The city was founded in 1565, making it one of the oldest cities in both North and South America.  It is America’s oldest city.  The city took its name from the day upon which the city was founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the Festival of San Augustín.  The city was originally founded to protect the Spanish trade route and the Castillo de San Marco was built to help facilitate defense with a small city cropping up nearby.

The city of St. Augustine had been established for 150 years before walls were built to protect it from the continuous onslaught it endured from pirate attacks, British attacks and various other attacks.  The final attack that caused the city to make the decision to enclose itself behind walls was an English attack in 1702 lead by Governor James Moore.  The old city was looted and burned as Governor Moore and his men tried to take the Castillo de San Marco where the 1500 residents of St. Augustine were hiding.  He was unsuccessful in taking the fort, but the city was utterly destroyed.  Construction on the wall began in 1704 and it was made from earth and Palmetto logs.  The wall stretched west from the Castillo along the northern side of the city all the way to the San Sebastian River.  This was named the Cubo Line.  A second wall was built running south down the west side of the city and it was named the Rosario Line.  Redoubts were placed along the walls for fortification and for placement of artillery.  The word "redoubt" means a place of retreat and is entirely encircled providing protection from all directions.  To give everyone an idea of what that looks like, here is an illustration:
The walls worked and the city was never again taken or destroyed by force.  Since the walls were wood, they had to be replaced frequently.  Today, a portion of the wall has been reconstructed to give visitors an idea of what they looked like in the past.  The Cubo Line contained the main city gates.  The Old City Gate was originally constructed in 1808 and made from coquina, a concrete like substance infused with shells, that was quarried from nearby Anastasia Island.  Here is a picture of coquina:
The Old City Gate stands to this day - minus the actual gates - at the northern end of St. George Street, which travels through the heart of the shopping district and the old city.  The Gate has two 24 1/2 foot high square towers on each side and once featured a bridge that went over a moat that used to be around the city walls.  Here is a picture of its appearance about 50 years after it was built:
Photo taken by Samuel A. Cooley, circa 1860s
The Old City Gate is the scene for our first haunting.  While many spirits may be hanging around this location due to its proximity to the Castillo and cemeteries, there is one spirit in particular that is reported to haunt the gates.  In 1821, a devastating Yellow Fever epidemic hit the city killing hundreds of people.  Yellow Fever is an acute viral disease that is spread by mosquitoes.  It causes flu like symptoms and if it worsens, it attacks the kidneys and the liver causing people to have yellow skin, thus it is called Yellow Fever.  One of the first people to catch the horrible disease was a fourteen year old girl named Elizabeth.  Her father was a guard at the City Gate and she loved to join him as he stood watch so she could wave to and greet people.  Upon her death, she was buried at the Huguenot Cemetery, which sits just outside the city wall.  She is sometimes seen dancing in the cemetery, but most times is seen keeping her post at the City Gate after midnight.  People report seeing the young girl waving, but it is not known if she is welcoming visitors or warning them to stay away.

Denise and I were strolling along St. George Street when we decided to enter a neat little shop by the name of Faux Paws located at 4 St. George St.  Dogs were welcome and we had our furry producer, Rafiki, with us, so we decided to check out the inventory, which consists of a lot of dog collectibles and figurines and gifts.  We purchased a couple of items and struck up a conversation with the owners, Lynn and Marc Small.  They were a really neat couple and when we mentioned the podcast, Lynn took us next door to the St. George Inn.  This inn is not only charming with beautiful accommodations, but it sits right in the heart of the City Gate Plaza with great views of the city.  Lynn didn't take us there to show us the inn though, she wanted us to see a picture that was taken right outside the inn during a ghost tour.  The picture was amazing and we were both left believing that the picture was the real deal.  The picture was taken while the tour guide was telling a story.  The guide is holding a mug and it almost seems as though an orange colored mist is rising from the mug that ends in a ball of light, or an orb, at the guide's head.  This isn't just a typical dust orb though because there is a face in the orb and it sure looked to Denise and I like the profile of a young girl.  Did this picture capture the ghost of Elizabeth?

As mentioned early, there is a cemetery right outside the Old City Gate by the name of the Huguenot Cemetery.  The same year that Yellow Fever erupted in St. Augustine, the Huguenot Cemetery was established as the public burial ground.  There were already Catholic cemeteries, but the Protestants needed a place, so this half acre area was set aside for them.  It would take on the name Huguenot at a later date and was named for the 16th century French Huguenots that were massacred by the man who established St. Augustine, Menendez.  There were so many deaths due to Yellow Fever that one whole section of the cemetery has no headstones because it is a mass burial.  Burials continued from 1821 until 1884 and then the cemetery fell into a period of neglect.  In 1946, citizens of St. Augustine decided to clean up and restore the old cemetery and maintenance has continued to the present under the Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery.

As is the case with many cemeteries, Huguenot spirits are not completely at rest.  As mentioned earlier, Elizabeth is sometimes seen dancing among the headstones.  Unexplained faces and shadows and lights appear in pictures and sometimes voices can be heard along with the giggling of children.  John Hull, John Lyman and Erastus Nye were three men who died in 1835 at nearly the same time and so they were buried side by side in the cemetery with similar headstones.  In life, the men had been mischievous, which probably explains why they died, and those prankster ways have continued into the afterlife.  The spirits of the men are blamed for people being pushed, hats being knocked off and women's skirts flying up.  As for us, I had some trouble taking pictures of Nye's headstone the night we were on the ghost tour.  It was the only time I couldn't get the camera to work properly.

The most famous ghost that haunts the Huguenot Cemetery belongs to that of Judge John B. Stickney.  Judge Stickney was born in Massachusetts in 1833 and moved to St. Augustine after the Civil War ended.  He worked in St. Augustine as a state and district attorney and as a judge advocate.  He was well liked by the people of St. Augustine and was mourned by them all when he passed away.  The Judge had been appointed as US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida and he had to travel to Washington D.C. on business in 1882.  Unfortunately, the Judge was not feeling well.  As he traveled, he became sicker and sicker as Typhoid Fever ravaged his body.  The Judge was dead within the week and his body was shipped from D.C. back to St. Augustine where he was laid to rest...but not for long.  In 1903, Judge Stickney's children had his body dug up and moved to D.C. to be reburied closer to them.  In the process of digging up the grave, the Judge's gold teeth went missing, more than likely stolen by graverobbers when the gravedigger wasn't paying attention.  Apparently the Judge was quite attached to those gold teeth and although his body was moved, his spirit still hangs out at the cemetery. People claim to see a tall dark figure that resembles Judge Stickney wandering the grounds of the cemetery as he searches for his missing teeth.  Or maybe he is looking for the men who stole his teeth.

Across the road and outside of the Castillo is a large park like area covered in grass.  It is thought that this area is a large unmarked graveyard, yet another place where the hundreds that died of Yellow Fever were dumped in mass graves.  Such a scene reminds one of the Black Death.

Death seems to permeate the area outside the Gate and now the spirits do as well.  Or do they?  That is for you to decide. 

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