Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HGB Podcast 21 - Haunted Chico Hot Springs Lodge

Moment in Oddity - A Flight to the Future

In 1934, Victor Goddard of the Royal Air Force was flying over Scotland through a storm in a Hawker Hart biplane.  He had become disoriented and thus lost.  He was desperate to find some kind of landmark that he recognized to get him back on track.  Goddard knew that an abandoned airfield named Drem should be in the area and so he dips his plane below the cloud bank.  Goddard could see what looked like Drem in the distance and he banks in that direction.  All of a sudden he sees the sky light up in an ethereal light brighter than even the sun breaking through the clouds.  As the light fades, Goddard looks below at the abandoned airfield and is shocked to see a bustle of activity below him.  Men are running about the airfield in blue overalls, working on bright yellow airplanes.  Goddard circled at 50 feet as he rubbed his eyes.  None of the people on the ground seemed to notice his plane.  He flew back up above the clouds now knowing where he was and flew back to his own airfield.  Drem Airfield would be abandoned until 1938 when the threat of war pushed the British to reopen the base.  It was that same year that British training planes were changed in color from silver to yellow.  So what did Victor Goddard see in 1934?  How could an abandoned airfield be teeming with activity four years before it was reopened?  Did Victor Goddard take a brief flight into the future?  Whatever the case may be, this experience certainly is odd. 

This Day in History - Eastward Hoe

We chose the following event in history due to the recent massacre at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  Free speech is a precious right that we must always fight to protect.  On this day, January 13th, in the year 1605, a controversial play landed the creators in jail.  The play was Eastward Hoe, a satirical comedy written by George Chapman, Ben Johnson and John Marston that is considered one of the best written Elizabethan comedies.  The play was a response to Westward Ho, which was an earlier satire written by Thomas Dekker and John Webster.  The company that performed the play were the Children of the Queen's Revels. Eastward Hoe was an anti-Scottish play that poked fun at the Scots and King James I was not pleased.  Scene III is reputed to be the main source of issues, but the written play that survives today either is missing the scandalous section or the stage play took some liberties that the playwrights were then blamed for and then arrested.  The playwrights were suppose to have their ears and noses cut, but one of them, Marston, escaped capture.  Chapman and Johnson were released by November of 1605 with the help of the Earl of Suffolk.  The play was never banned or suppressed, but for a brief moment in time, the men who wrote it were punished for what they wrote.

Chico Hot Springs Lodge


Just north of Yellowstone National Park, in the heart of Paradise Valley in Montana, lies the Chico Hot Springs Lodge.  The Lodge has been a vacation getaway featuring hot springs for over a century.  Those hot springs attracted people not only seeking relaxation, but those looking for a cure for their various maladies as well.  The land and the Lodge feature more than just hot springs and breathtaking scenery.  Spirits are at unrest in this area of Montana.

The state of Montana is named for the Spanish word for mountain.  The initial name Spanish explorers gave to Montana was Montana del Norte and it was part of the Idaho territory when America was beginning as a country.  Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States of America.  Various Native American tribes have lived in the Montana area including the Crow, the Blackfeet and the Cheyenne.  These same indigenous people were the first to use the hot springs found in Pray, Montana.  Pray, Montana was established in 1907 by Valentine Eggar and the unique thing about the town of Pray is that it is privately owned and always has been.  Eggar was an entrepreneur and he wanted to name the town after himself, but the post office said it sounded too much like Edgar, which was already the name of a nearby town.  He decided on Pray after Congressman Charles N. Pray who was the member of Congress that approved new post offices.

The town has always been just a few small buildings that include the post office, a store with a bar, a commercial building and a few outbuildings with several hundred people in outlying areas using the town as their address.  The Walker family took over the town in 1953, moving there from Hardin, Montana.  It passed from father to son and then shut down until 2003 when Johnny Walker (yes, that is his name) stopped by the family property and decided to breath new life into the place.  He worked on the place a bit and then got cancer, so the property was idle again until 2007 when Johnny's wife Barbara decided to give it a go.  The process has proved time consuming and so in 2012, Barbara put Pray up for sale for $1.4 million.  Barbara tells stories of a time when the general store had a zoo behind it in the 1960s and drunk locals brought a box of rattlesnakes into the bar to warm them up.  The snakes were gone when the bar owner came in the next morning and they spent all winter catching rattlesnakes.  Apparently, there was a murder at the bar in the 1950s.  The town was put up for auction eventually and the largest offer was $325,000, so apparently Barbara still owns the property since she turned down that offer. 

Chico Hot Springs Resort is three miles south of the town of Pray.  John S. Hackney was a miner who came to Paradise Valley in 1865 to join other miners who had been gold mining in nearby Emigrant Gulch.  He kept a diary and in it, he made the first mention of the hot springs in the area.  By 1890, two wooden tubs had been built for the water of the hot springs to flow into inside of a small wooden building.  Ten years later, Chico Warm Springs Hotel was built by Bill and Percie Knowles and consisted of a main lodge and the two wooden tubs were replaced by a large pool filled by the hot springs.  The pool was dubbed "The Plunge" and it was six feet deep and 44 feet in diameter.  Separate private baths were built for both men and women.  Bill Knowles died in 1910 of cirrhosis of the liver, but Percie continued to run the operation until her health lead her to turn the operation over to their son.  During the time that Percie ran the hotel, she brought in a doctor and turned the place into a pseudo hospital offering treatments for arthritis, kidney issues and blood and skin diseases.  Two other oval pools were added through the years and The Plunge was enlarged.  In 1957, the roof over The Plunge collapsed, miraculously killing no one and only giving two people minor injuries.  The roof was left open after that.

Owners Mike and Eva Art bought the property in 1973, which now consists of lodges and cabins with a larger Main Lodge.  The Main Lodge is the original building that was built in 1900 and it is a three story Victorian inn.  There are forty-eight rooms in the Main Lodge.  Part of the Main Lodge is the Warren Wing named for actor Warren Oates who was a frequent guest of the Lodge.  Oates appeared in "The Wild Bunch," "Dillinger" and "Stripes."  Stars have frequented the Lodge over the years.  A fun fact is that Jeff Bridges and his wife of thirty-seven years, Susan, met while he was filming a movie near the Lodge and she was a waitress at the Lodge.  The Fisherman's Lodge is a one story motel with twelve rooms.  On the hill above the Fisherman's Lodge are several rustic cabins.  There are chalets and cottages as well.

Present day stars, guests and staff are not the only people on the property.  Apparently spirits from bygone eras are still at the Lodge.  People died here when the hotel was used like a hospital and of course, the property is on land that was lived upon by native people.  Former owners Bill and Percie Knowles are thought to be two of the spirits still roaming the area.  Before her death, Percie had spent quite a bit of time sitting in Room 349 looking out the window as her health deteriorated.  The third floor hallway  near that room has hosted several appearances by full body apparitions of Percie and both herself and her husband Bill have been seen sitting at tables in the restaurant.  One appearance of Percie that took place in 2000 was witnessed by many guests who thought she was a staff member until she disappeared.

We have mentioned in previous podcasts the phenomenon seen in so many different places known as the "Lady in White."  It seems most states and even countries have an urban legend or true tales about a woman who appears in white.  We have hypothesized that the reason this might be the case is that people of lower classes decades ago could not afford the expensive dyes to color their clothing and so they were stuck with basic white.  Chico Lodge has its own lady in white as well.  She is considered the most well known ghost at the Lodge and has been scaring guests for many years.  Two security guards claim they saw the lady in white near a piano on the third floor in the late 1960s.  They took a picture of her and the photo featured a white orb where the ghost had been.  The ghost has been followed to Room 349 and the rocking chair has moved on its own in that room.  Unsolved Mysteries featured a story about a group of trespassers who broke into the hot springs building and started throwing a party.  A woman in white appeared above the pool and the terrified revelers ran out.  Could this possibly be Percie too?

This same woman was seen by a staff member in 1989 who was retrieving a blanket for a guest.  She claimed to see a figure in a dress with a blank face that started to move toward her and she ran.  A security guard had an experience in 1990 that he tells like this, "It was in January of 1990 when I was doing my 2:30 AM rounds and there were only a few guests in the upstairs building. I was walking on the 2nd floor and passed the stairway leading to the third floor. I stepped back a few paces to the bottom of the stairwell and looked up to see a matronly lady standing at the top landing looking down at me. This was unusual because there were no guests staying on the 3rd floor. The lady was about 5'5" tall and about 45-50 years old. she wore a full length pale blue dress with a high collar and long sleeves w/ white flowers. Her hair was in a bun. She didn't acknowledge my presence whatsoever. I asked her if I could help her and with a face absent of expression, she walked away, drifting without movement of her torso. I ran upstairs to the 3rd floor and the hall was empty and quiet. The lady was gone! However, I detected a sweet fragrance between rooms 346 - 350. I opened room 349 only to find a dark cold room. However, the rocking chair was slightly rocking back and forth. When I turned on the room's light, the chair ceased movement and the sweet fragrance was gone. When I went back to the lobby and explained what happened to the night auditor, she replied 'welcome to the Percie Club.'"

Another guard reports that the bar had been put up for the evening with all the stools in their place and he went down the hall to the bathroom.  When he returned from the bathroom, his path was blocked by the same bar stools that had just been straightened up for the evening.  That same evening, he and the night auditor heard noises coming from the kitchen.  When he entered the kitchen, the noises suddenly stopped.  Pots and pans are heard banging around in the kitchen in the middle of the night by other people as well.

A dark figure has been seen in Room 351.  An old family Bible in the attic always remains open to the same page in Psalms and never collects dust.  The rocking chair that Percie always sat in will move to face a window no matter where it is placed.   

A male ghost was reported by an employee.  He tells the following story, "I had gone to bed and was just about to fall asleep. It was fairly dark but a little light from outside was coming through the window. Suddenly a tall figure appeared in the corner of my room. It hovered off the ground, extending almost to the ceiling. It began moving; waving away from the wall and down toward me, then back again. I couldn't see it too clearly but the figure like that of a very tall man wearing something like an overcoat. I could make out the definite outline of a beard and the facial features, too. Finally, after four or five motions away from the wall and back again, the ghost came right down next to me as I lay in bed. I tried to scream but my throat was paralyzed. I remember rolling out of bed and crawling out into the hallway on my hands and knees. I couldn't bear to go back into my room; after I finally did, I lay in bed with the light on for a long time."

Another man felt a presence push down on his chest while he was praying in bed and then the bed shook violently.  The bed was against the wall and soon the man was being bounced against the wall loud enough that the person in the next room heard it.  Eventually the presence went away.  One person on Trip Advisor reported last month, "We stayed in room 215 in the main lodge. The bed was very comfortable. I'm not very superstitious. However from the night in that room I am. I am fairly certain there was a ghost standing next to the bed all night. If I winced over I could see her. But staring right over I couldn't see anything. I'm sure for ghost hunters this would be great. It left me feeling very unsettled though. Have fun!"

So is there more than just relaxation and therapy going on at the hot springs at Chico?  Is Percie Knowles still watching over her property?  Are there other spirits making the rooms at the Lodge their home?  That is for you to decide.

*To book your stay:   http://www.chicohotsprings.com/*

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