Sunday, December 27, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 92 - Magnolia Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Mummified Cat as Mascot

The Milwaukee Press Club has a very unusual mascot. The Milwaukee Press Club was established in 1885 and is considered the oldest continuously operating press club in America. So it would be only fitting that their mascot would be old as well. But mummified? The club's mascot is a mummified cat named Anubis. He is one hundred years old and sits encased in glass above the bar at the club's headquarter, which is named the Newsroom Pub. Until 1950, no one knew where Anubis had come from. It was that year that President Woodrow Wilson's former personal secretary and Washington correspondent Tom Brahany confessed that as a student journalist, he helped to steal the mummified cat. It had been originally in the possession of the Wisconsin Historical Society and then passed on to the cheif game and fish warden. Newsman Charlie Lush wanted to borrow the cat to display at a cat show, but the warden said that wasn't possible since the cat was state property. But he also added that if the cat disappeared after hours, there wasn't much he could do. So Lush got Brahany to help him steal the cat. And it was never returned. Instead, it ended up at the press club and they cleaned it up and named it Anubis. It was a good move for Anubis. He would have been forgotten at the historical society, but he has instead been glorified by poets, orators and statesmen and is enshrined in the hearts of scholars and savants. Anubis appears to be well loved. But his position as a mascot for a press club is certainly odd!

This Day in History - Radio City Music Hall Opens
by: Jessica Bell

On this day, December 27th, in 1932, Radio City Music Hall opens.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. held a $91 million, 24-year lease on a piece of midtown Manhattan property properly known as "the speakeasy belt." Plans to gentrify the neighborhood by building a new Metropolitan Opera House on the site were dashed by the failing economy and the business outlook was dim. Nevertheless, Rockefeller decided to build an entire complex of buildings on the property-buildings so superior that they would attract commercial tenants even in a depressed city flooded with vacant rental space. Radio City Music Hall was to be a palace for the people. A place of beauty offering high-quality entertainment at prices ordinary people could afford. It was intended to entertain and amuse, but also to elevate and inspire. The shimmering gold stage curtain is the largest in the world. Audiences have thrilled to the sound of the "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ, which was built especially for the theatre. Its pipes, which range in size from a few inches to 32 feet, are housed in eleven separate rooms. The Hall contains more than 25,000 lights and features four-color stage lighting. Original mechanisms still in use today make it possible to send up fountains of water and bring down torrents of rain. Fog and clouds are created by a mechanical system that draws steam directly from a Con Edison generating plant nearby. More than 300 million people have come to the Music Hall to enjoy stage shows, movies, concerts and special events.

Magnolia Hotel (Pictures and research help from Rhonda Mayfield)

Photo by Rhonda Mayfield
The historic Magnolia Hotel is located in Seguin, Texas. Its history includes use as a fort and was built by a man rooted in Texas history as a colonist. The property has existed for 150 years and passed through the hands of many owners and is currently under restoration. Its current state is nothing like the grand hotel it had been once upon a time. Hotels tell many stories and this one has stories that include murder and prostitution. Spirits are at unrest here. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Magnolia Hotel.

Seguin, (Segeen) Texas has a small town feel with streets lined by Queen Anne style homes and trees. It is east of San Antonio and is one of the oldest towns in Texas. Frontier rangers settled in the area in 1838 and named it Seguin after Colonel Juan N. Seguin who was a Tejano that fought against the dictator Santa Anna with his Anglo counterparts. German immigrants arrived in the 1840s. It was at this same time that Seguin became a stagecoach stop and the place where this stop was located was the Magnolia Hotel.

The original Magnolia Hotel was a two room log cabin that was built by James Campbell in 1840 and used as a fort. Campbell was an original DeWitt Colonist. The DeWitt Colony was one of the main colonies that helped to settle Texas. It was named for Green DeWitt who had petitioned the Mexican government to set up a parcel of land for hundreds of Catholic families and many Mexican nationals. After a couple of attempts, the petition was agreed to and the area was surveyed and a capitol was chosen. In 1826, the colony was attacked by Indians on a horse raid and the capital was moved. Despite being the second most successful Anglo-American settlement in Texas, the colony soon faltered when DeWitt was unable to get enough families to come. The colony later became a county. Not much is known of Campbell's part in the colony other than he was with it early on. Campbell went on to become a Texas Ranger and fought as a Confederate soldier in Company D of the 4th Texas Regiment in John Bell Hood's famous brigade. He also co-founded Seguin as one of the thirty-three signers of the charter that established the town in 1838.

Photo by Rhonda Mayfield; original concrete structure
In 1844, Joseph Johnson bought the property and added a concrete building to the back. The log cabin was converted to a stagecoach stop and the concrete building was opened as a hotel. An interesting note about Seguin is this use of concrete as a building material. It was unique and before long, Seguin had the largest concentration of concrete buildings in the country and some would even say the world. The type of concrete used was called limecrete and it was developed by John Park who was a chemist and inventor who moved to Seguin in the early 1840s. He built the hotel addition that became the Magnolia Hotel. It is the oldest concrete building in town. A bell was rung every time a stagecoach came to the stop and it is believed that the bell originally came from the Alamo. It was found in the San Antonio River in 1845.

By 1847 Jeremiah Calvert owned the hotel and his daughter married the nephew of President Andrew Jackson in the hotel that year. Calvert sold the property to Dr. William Reid in 1850 and he ran the hotel for ten years. In 1853, the log cabin was replaced by a two story frame wood building. It was built in the Greek Revival style. Thomas Dickey Johnson took over in 1860 and he held the property until 1900. That same year, the stagecoach arrival bell stopped being rung and it was donated to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. During the time that the hotel was a stagecoach stop, it had been the center of the town. The stagecoaches not only brought people, but it brought the mail and newspapers and other goods. So it was sad to see that come to an end. The hotel also fell out of its premiere position as the hotel to stay at in the early 1900s when other hotels were built that advertised that they were fireproof while the Magnolia was not.

Photo by Rhonda Mayfield
The hotel passed through several hands until the 1930s when the Lannom family acquired the property. The family decided to use the first floor as their residence and they rented out the second floor as apartments. They did this for sixty-five years. Then the building fell into disrepair. During that time, since the hotel was empty, it became a haven for homeless people and drug users. Erin O. Wallace, author of Haunted New Braunfels, purchased the hotel in 2013 and has been working to restore the property. Two rooms have been finished and an old porcelain sign found in the building hangs outside the door. And based on pictures taken by Rhonda, it would appear that the entire outside has been repainted. The original stagecoach bell also hangs outside the property with a sign describing its use.

Photo by Rhonda Mayfield

The Magnolia Hotel has a reputation for being haunted and there are several reasons why this may be the case. Wilhelm Faust, who was commonly known as William, had grown tired of his wife. He had actually become interested in her sister. He decided that the best way to end his marriage would be to murder his wife and he chose one of the favorite weapons of choice in the 1870s: an axe. It was 1874 and he had traveled to Seguin and was staying at the Magnolia Hotel on business. His wife hated staying alone, so she stayed with some friends in New Braunfels. This was a typical routine and William knew it well. He knew that his wife would be staying in the friends' daughter's room and that she would be sleeping on the floor. In the middle of the night, he stole a horse from the Magnolia Hotel and rode to the friends' house. He broke into the house and swung the axe at the body on the floor. He had made a terrible mistake though. The daughter Emma had switched places with his wife and she was the one on the floor. His wife was in the bed. So he swung the axe at the bed. As he went for another swing, Emma's brother came into the room and scared William away. His wife had not been killed by the attack, but he did blind her. William was caught and sent to prison for life. He was shot and killed while in jail in 1876.

William is not at rest and for some reason, he has chosen the Magnolia Hotel as his final resting place. People have reported strange smells in the room he had once occupied and a shadowy figure has been seen in the window of the room. Emma has joined him, many claim. Is it because she is tied to her murderer somehow in the afterlife? Or is this young girl that reportedly haunts the hotel, someone else? This little girl ghost roams the hallways.

Could the limecrete that part of the building is constructed from be a conduit for supernatural activity just as limestone can be? An English man who had been a traveling salesman was staying at the hotel and he committed suicide by cutting his own throat. Amelia was a young child who passed away in her sleep. Both of these rooms are upstairs and it is believed the spirits of these two people haunt the upstairs. Lights have been caught on video flickering and turning off and on. Another room upstairs seems to harbor a malevolent spirit. People are very uncomfortable in the room and have felt pressure tighten around their throats. The basement is creepy and has spirits at unrest. There are various noises that are heard down there that seem to be more than just shifting ground or other natural sounds.

Ms. Idella was a fortune teller who lived at the hotel and is one of the more famous haunts here. Several orphaned children died at the hotel and seem to have never left and a young woman who was waiting for her beau to show up on a stagecoach died from a broken heart when he never did arrive. Willy was a young woman who took her own life and the life of her child. The list of deaths is extensive at this property, leading to an extensive list of ghosts here and makes us wonder why there seem to be so many at this location. Many figures have been photographed in pictures. Strange mists have been picked up on digital pictures as well.

The owners reported just last week that, "Seems the second floor of the Magnolia Hotel was rather active yesterday for our A/C and electrical contractors! The antique pictures that are sitting on the mantel kept flying off whenever the contractors entered the room. They would place them back only to discover they were once again tossed off. After these several incidents they refused to be alone upstairs BUT thankfully they did finish the job."

The Magnolia Hotel has a long and rich history and has been the scene of tragedy. Has this led to the house having supernatural activity? Is the Magnolia Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

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