Friday, April 29, 2016

HGB Ep. 121 - Athens Lunatic Asylum

Moment in Oddity - The Life of Jeremy Bentham
by: Bob Sherfield

Born in February 1748, Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher and social reformer who is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. A child prodigy, Bentham went to Queens College Oxford in 1760, aged 12, completing his bachelor’s degree in 1763 and his masters in 1766 aged only 18. Though called to the bar in 1769, Bentham never practised due to his deep frustration with the complexity of the English legal code. It was these concerns for legal reform that led Bentham to design a prison building he called the Panopticon. Though never built, the concepts he came up with influenced the design of many of the early American prisons, such as Eastern State Penitentiary. His philosophy was centred on the principle that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." He was a leader in the field of Anglo-American philosophy of law and he promoted the politically radical ideas of welfarism, individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce and the decriminalisation of homosexual acts. Ideas that for the 18th century were highly controversial, some of which are only now being accepted and implemented. Bentham’s radical way of looking at things didn’t end when he died in 1832. He left instructions in his will that his body be dissected in front of an invited group of friends and displayed as an auto-icon. The head and skeleton were preserved and placed in a wooden cabinet called an Auto-icon, with the skeleton dressed in Bentham’s clothes and padded out with straw. In 1850, it was moved to University College London, an institution that he had ties to, and placed in the South Cloister of the College where it is displayed to this day. Unfortunately, the mummification process employed on the head was not a success, leaving it dried and darkened with skin stretched taut over the skull. This led to the auto-icon being given a wax head, fitted with some of his actual hair. For many years the skull was kept in a box within the cabinet, and then on a plinth nearby, but after repeated student pranks that involved stealing it and holding it for ransom to get charitable donations and smuggling it to a railway station in Scotland, it is now safely kept locked away. The final straw had been a prank that involved students using the skull to play soccer. As to why Bentham wanted to be displayed this way after his death, no one is sure; it may have been from a sense of self importance, or perhaps as a way of questioning religious sensibilities about life and death. Either way, it certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Joan of Arc Arrives at the Siege of Orleans
by: Jessica Bell

On this day, April 29th, in 1429, Joan of Arc arrives at the siege of Orleans. Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans," was born in 1412 in France. The daughter of a tenant farmer, she was not taught to read or write, but her mother instilled in her a deep love for the Catholic Church and its teachings. At the age of 13, Joan began to hear voices, which she determined had been sent by God to give her a mission of overwhelming importance, which was to save France by expelling its enemies, and to install Charles as its rightful king. She took a vow of chastity and stopped her father from trying to force her into an arranged marriage. In 1428, Joan made her way to a stronghold of those loyal to Charles. Initially rejected by the local magistrate, she attracted a small band of followers who believed her claims to be the virgin who according to a popular prophecy, was destined to save France. When the magistrate relented, Joan cropped her hair and dressed in men’s clothes to make the 11-day journey across enemy territory to the site of the crown prince’s palace. Joan promised Charles she would see to the expelling of the English and would have him installed as the rightful king. Joan asked for an army to lead to Orléans, which was under siege from the English. Against the advice of his advisors, Charles granted her request, and Joan set off for Orléans in March of 1429 dressed in white armor and riding a white horse. By June, the French defeated the English, and in July with Joan at his side, Charles VII was crowned the king of France, But sadly he was not fully convinced of her divine inspiration. In 1430, Joan was captured and ransomed to the English who planned on using her as a propaganda prize. Due to concerns from his advisors that Joan was becoming too powerful, Charles VII distanced himself from Joan and made no attempt to have her released. In the trial that followed, Joan was ordered to answer to some 70 charges against her, including witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man. In May 1431, after a year in captivity and under threat of death, Joan relented and signed a confession, denying that she had ever received divine guidance. On the morning of May 30, at the age of 19, Joan was burned at the stake. Her fame increased after her death, and 20 years later a new trial ordered by Charles VII cleared her name. Long before Pope Benedict XV canonized her in 1920, Joan of Arc had attained mythic stature, inspiring numerous works of art and literature over the centuries and becoming the patron saint of France.

Athens Lunatic Asylum (Suggested by listener Tracy Martin, Research Assistant Jenni Watt)


The Athens Lunatic Asylum is an institution that operated in Athens, Ohio from 1874 until 1993. This hiospital not only has a strange and morbid history, but it has gone through a series of name changes. Today it is known as The Ridges, a name it took on in the 1990s. While it was operational the hospital served thousands including Civil War vets, children and violent convicted criminals. The Ridges are now part of Ohio University and house the Kennedy Museum of Art, an auditorium, offices, classrooms and storage facilities. The faciltiy also houses something else. Spirits of those who have died here have decided to remain. There are legends, tales of seances and unwashable stains that are all part of the paranormal happenings at this location. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Athens Lunatic Asylum!

Mound builders were the original residents of Athens, Ohio. Both the Adena Culture and Ohio Hopewell called this area home. The Shawnee moved in much later and were the primary tribe here by the 18th century. It would not be until 1797 that the first Europeans would arrive. Athens County was established in 1805 and named for Athens, Greece. The town of Athens would incorporate in 1811, but it wouldn't become an official city until 1912. The Hocking River passed through Athens and the Hocking Canal opened in 1843 to enable shipping. The railroad arrived in 1857, bringing more people and commerce.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum was built on farm land owned by Arthur Coates and Eliakim H. Moore Farms on high ground south of town. The property included over 1000 acres. For many years, the hospital had livestock, farm fields and gardens, an orchard, greenhouses, a dairy, a physical plant to generate steam heat and even a carriage shop. The architect for the original building was Levi T. Scofield of Cleveland. The designs of the buildings and grounds were influenced by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, a 19th-century physician who authored an influential treatise on hospital design called, "On the Construction, Organization and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane." We've discussed Kirkbride buildings in past asylum episodes and these designs are most recognizably characterized by their "bat wing" floor plan and often lavish Victorian-era architecture.  The main building included an administration building and two wings that included three sections. The males were housed in the left wards and females in the right. They each had their own specific dining halls. There was room to house 572 patients in the main building, which was almost double of what Kirkbride had recommended. The building itself was 853 feet long and 60 feet in width. Also built onto the main building in the back were a laundry room and a boiler house. The main building was built from bricks, which were fired on-site from clay dug on-site.

The institution provided its own utilities with electricity coming from plants on the property powered by steam turbo-generators and water came from wells there. Heat was provided by coal-fired boilers. Seven cottages were constructed to house more patients that were grouped together dormitory style. The hospital grounds were designed by Herman Haerlin of Cincinnati, who also designed the grounds for Ohio University. There were ponds, fountains and gardens, which the doctors believed would help patients recover from their mental afflictions. Eventually there would be 78 buildings built on the property and care would go from good to horrible as overcrowding and new forms of treatment were used to experiment on patients.

The asylum started with 200 patients. The first patient at Athens was believed to have been Thomas Armstrong from Belmont County and then there was Daniel Fremau. Fremau apparently thought he was the second coming of Jesus Christ. Reasons why people were considered insane varied and there were weird theories on why people became mentally ill. Many of these are quite laughable to us today and include intemperence (a lack of restraint), dissipation (wasteful spending and activities) and, of course, masturbation for men and postpartum depression, menopause and menstral derangements for women. No joke, in 1876, eighty-one men and one woman were diagnosed as having their insanity caused by masturbation. Also, fifty-six men and one woman were diagnosed as having their insanity caused by intemperance and dissipation. During this same period of time, 51 women were diagnosed with something similar to postpartum depression, 32 women with menopause or change of life issues and 29 women with "menstrual derangements."

Epilepsy was also considered a major cause of insanity and was another reason for admission to the hospital in the early years. Historically, this was not uncommon, a lot of people who suffered from epilepsy were either considered cursed by witchcraft, possessed by the devil and or insane. The first annual report lists thirty-one men and nineteen women as having their insanity caused by epilepsy. General "ill health" accounted for the admission of thirty-nine men and forty-four women in the first three years of the hospital's operation. Overall, common ailments faced today such as epilepsy, menopause, alcohol addiction and tuberculosis were cause for enrollment in the hospital.

Within two years of its opening, the hospital was renamed The Athens Hospital for the Insane. Through the following years, the hospital would be called the Athens Asylum for the Insane, the Athens State Hospital, the Southeastern Ohio Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center, the Athens Mental Health and Developmental Center, and then (again) the Athens Mental Health Center. Obviously, they weren’t very decisive when it came to naming the place.
Treatments at the hospital were considered cutting edge at the time, but we see them as barbaric in our current era. One such treatment was hydrotherapy, in which patients were submerged in ice-cold water for extended periods of time or sometimes they were wrapped in sheets which had been soaked in ice water and restrained. Another treatment was electroshock therapy, which was administered to patients in one of two ways. The first was to submerge the patient in a water tank and apply an electrical current through the water. The other was to place brine-soaked electrodes directly to the temples. A patient held a rubber piece in his mouth to prevent him from biting his tongue off during the convulsions which followed a treatment.

And then there was the infamous lobotomy for which Athens was famous. There were two types of lobotomies performed: the original and the trans-orbital. An original lobotomy required a patient to have their skulls opened and their neural passages separated midway through the brain. This difficult and arduous procedure killed many people, but those who survived did in fact forget many of their depressive or psychotic tendencies. They also forgot a lot of other things, like how to maintain property bodily functions. It was not uncommon for patients to defecate down their legs. Doctors were more concerned with streamlining the process, than actually providing true treatment.We've discussed the trans-orbital lobotomy before, but as a refresher, it was developed by Dr. Walter J. Freeman in the early 1950s. It was a simpler process and thus became something of a craze in mental health circles up through the 1960s. Dr. Freeman's method involved knocking the patient unconscious with electric shocks, then rolling an eyelid back and inserting a thin metal icepick-like instrument called a leucotome through a tear duct. A mallet was used to tap the instrument the proper depth into the brain. Next it was sawed back and forth to sever the neural receptors. Sometimes this was done in both eyes. There is some evidence that this method actually helped some people with very severe conditions, but much more often, the patient had horrible side effects and in many cases ended up nearly catatonic. It also killed a whole bunch of people.

For many years, the hospital was the biggest employer in the surrounding area, although a large percentage of the work it took to maintain the facility, was carried out by the patients. Doctors and physicians believed this was not only therapeutic for patients, but it was also free to the hospital itself. By the end of the 1950s, most treatment incorporated drugs, which left patients unable to carry out their duties. Most of the non-patient employees at the asylum were not even trained and had little experience working with people who had mental illness. Most were employed because they were burly men who could physically control the patients. Also starting in the 1950s, the asylum became a place where people would leave unwanted relatives claiming they couldn't take care of them or they couldn't afford to have them around. These discarded people included the elderly, the homeless and “rebellious” teenagers. The situation got so bad that soon the asylum's population was at three times the recomended amount, with 2,000 people being housed there.

One of the more famous patients at the Asylum was multiple personality rapist Billy Milligan. He was sent to Athens by a Franklin County judge in 1977 for treatment after his insanity plea was accepted by prosecutors. His case was the first time an insanity plea was accepted in American history. Milligan's crimes included the kidnap and rape of three women on the campus at Ohio State University. Milligan reportedly had suffered from mutliple personality disorder since early childhood. His story was told in the book "The Minds of Billy Milligan" by Daniel Keyes, who was also the author of "Flowers for Algernon."

Many people died at the asylum and they were buried in a cemetery on the property. There are 1,930 people buried at the three cemeteries located on the site. 700 women and 959 men lay under headstones marked only with numbers. In 1943, the State of Ohio began putting names, births, and deaths, on the markers of the patients who died instead of numbers and no one knows why this switch was made. By the 1980s, the state no longer took care of the cemeteries, which made it easy for outsiders to vandalize them. And nature brought damage as well with headstones being uprooted and broken. The stones marking where patients were buried were in desperate need of repair. Beginning in 2000, the Athens, Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) started the reclamation for the cemeteries, taking on the work that was once the responsibility of the Ohio Department of Mental Health. NAMI worked to help restore the cemeteries at the Asylum to their original states. The State of Ohio had always allowed families to erect private markers at the graves of their loved ones, but very few families were made aware that they could do this, so few are personally marked in that way.

Since the takeover, more information has been discovered about the patients that are buried in the three cemeteries. Much of the recovered information is about the veterans that had spent the remaining days of their lives at the Asylum. Many of these veterans did not receive honors and only 19 have had any recognition. There are 80 veterans that are buried at The Ridges. To find these “lost” veterans, a special search was added to the broader research project that had been organized to uncover background information on the over 1,900 patients buried in the Asylum’s three cemeteries. Of these veterans, two fought in the Mexican War, sixty-eight fought in the Civil War, one was a member in the Confederate Army and another two veterans served with the United States Colored infantry. There are three veterans who served in the Spanish–American War and seven fought in World War I. Some of the other veterans that are buried here were active duty in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

NAMI implemented other practices to honor the dead buried in the cemeteries at The Ridges. Besides helping replace grave stones and keeping the grounds in proper condition, starting in 2005, The Ridges Cemeteries Committee has been organizing Memorial Day Ceremonies for the many veterans buried at the asylum. Prior to 2005, the veterans had never received such honors. NAMI started the Memorial Day Ceremonies to help restore dignity to the patients and recognize the sacrifice of the veterans, many who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other post war symptoms. With the Help of the Athens County Veterans Service Office and a special appropriation from the Athens county Commissioners, flag stands and flags have been placed at the graves of all the veterans in the three cemeteries.

In 1972, the last patients were buried in the asylum cemetery and by 1981 there were only 300 patients at the location. The hospital was eventually decommissioned and in a land swap between the Department of Mental Health and Ohio University, the hospital's property was deeded to Ohio University. Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, Athens Campus (as Southeast Psychiatric Hospital was renamed), still serves as a psychiatric hospital in Athens. With the original Athens Lunatic Asylum situated on a hill south of the Hocking River and the newer hospital on the north bank of the river, the two facilities are still within sight of each other. A naming contest was held in 1991 and the name The Ridges won. The asylum officially closed in 1993. The buildings were remodeled and the main hall is now known as Lin Hall and houses the music, geology, and biotechnology offices, as well as the Kennedy Museum of Art. Most of the buildings have been remodeled and are used by the University. There are walking tours of the The Ridges on the third Sunday of every month with extra hours added in October.

Reasons abound for asylums to be breeding grounds for paranormal activity and Athens Lunatic Asylum is no different. Restoring and introducing a new use for a location only seems to feed spectral activity. The asylum is one of the most haunted locations in Ohio, if not in America. There are many weird ghostly stories centered around the cemeteries, particularly on the strange circle of graves that is taking up the corner of a tombstone layout. Perhaps there was a center stone in other times, but all that is distinguishable today is a ring of graves. The local legends claim that witches make use of this circle for holding séances. The official Ohio University explanation is that the circle was created by some pranksters several years ago and this might be the most reasonable explanation, although it is less fun. The place is reportedly visited by ghosts, especially at night. There is a little creek and woods that are part of the cemetery and people have reported seeing strange lights and hearing screams in the cemetery at night.

On December 1, 1979, a patient by the name of Margaret Schilling went missing. The hospital staff made a half-hearted attept to find her, but Margaret was nowhere to be found. Her body would be found forty-two days later. She had been locked into one of the abandoned infectious disease wards. Testing was done on the body to determine why she died. The conclusion was heart failure, but she had been found in a weird state. She was found completely naked with her clothes neatly folded and placed next to her body. Worse yet was the fact that because she had been there for so long, her body had started to decay and the gooey bodily fluids leached on to the floor and left an imprint of her body. Much to their dismay, the stain couldn't be scrubbed out no matter how hard they tried, and to this day the lonely outline of her body can still be seen on the top floor of the asylum. Some say that on clear nights, Margaret can still be seen trying to escape the room where she died. People report seeing her through the windows of the top floor of Ward N20.

Not many investigators have had a chance to explore the buildings. There are no overnights allowed and trespassing became so bad that the abandoned turburculosis ward was finally torn down.  PJ Rogers posted this at the Haunted Athens Ohio website:
"Was in Athens in 1999 with husband checking out campus/ college for oldest son and stopped to eat at restaurant down below front of building. As we left to go to car,we decided to walk closer to building, so strolled around it. As we approached, we thought we saw a disheveled, middle aged woman in a window on the second floor looking out at us. Did not find out until much later, what the building was and its history. Had eerie feel to it."
People report hearing disembodied voices, feelings of being watched, an oppressive feeling in the chest making breathing difficult and the very chilling disembodied screams of those receiving treatment so many years ago. One nurse who had worked in the electro-shock therapy ward claimed that it got to a point where she was never sure if the screams were coming from an actual patient being treated or some kind of paranormal experience. EVPs have been recorded and we have an example of one that I heard while watching a video of some urban explorers on the property.

What would cause a stain to permanently stay within the fibers of wood even when cleaned with acid.? Is this a paranormal event? Do the spirits of dead patients still remain at the asylum? Is the Athens Lunatic Asylum haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
For more information you can visit http://athenshistory.org/asylum-walking-tour/

Sunday, April 24, 2016

HGB Ep. 120 - Dumas Brothel

Moment in Oddity - Pykrete and Ice Air Craft Carriers
by: Bob Sherfield

In 1942, Geoffrey Pyke, an English inventor in the employ of Lord Mountbatten, the Chief of Combined Operations, proposed a new material that he hoped would be of benefit to the allied war effort. Whilst working on the problem of how to keep ships in the North Atlantic free from ice, it occurred to him that using huge blocks of floating ice could provide a means of creating aircraft carries that would be able to provide air cover for the vital supply convoys that were running between North America and Great Britain. When tests showed that neither naturally forming pack ice, nor icebergs would prove suitable, he and his team of researchers came up with a composite material that would be strong enough to construct such a ship. The material, which came to be know as Pykrete, is made by mixing water and sawdust together in a ratio of 6 to 1. When combined, these materials produce an ice block, which has a slower melting rate than normal ice, and vastly improved strength and toughness. In fact, it is more like concrete than ice. It could be molded into any shape or form required, repaired or maintained using seawater, and was extremely durable and tough, so long as it was kept at or below freezing. Plans were drawn up under the code name Project Habakkuk to determine whether a craft could be made large enough for land based aircraft. It needed to survive both the rigors of the open sea and enemy attack. It soon became clear that the “bergship” as it came to be known would have to be 1200 metres long and 180 metres wide, with a 12 metre thick hull and required sixteen refrigeration plants, as well as twenty external engines to propel it along at 7 knots. The project came to an end even though the US, Canadian and British military all were seriously interested in building such a vessel. Spiralling projected construction costs and the sheer scale of the project , coupled with advances in other areas and unresolved problems such as how to steer the ship, and how to keep the structure at -15 degrees killed the project. The idea that the Allies planned to build a ship, with a displacement of 2.2 million tons, out of ice certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Joshua Slocum Begins Solo Round the World
by: Jessica Bell

On this day, April 24th, in 1895, Joshua Slocum began his solo trip around the world voyage. Slocum, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1844 and became an American citizen at the age of 16. He began as an ordinary seaman and worked his way up to captain. He married in 1871 and his wife accompanied him on his voyages, bearing four children aboard the ship. The seas were his home as he transported goods to and from the California coast, China, Australia, the Spice Islands, South America and more. His life as a captain was an interesting one. His wife died on one of the voyages, he faced a mutiny in which he shot two men, he overcame disease, married a second wife, gained and lost commands and finally ended up in Boston, Massachusetts in 1890. As steam power supplanted the sail, Captain Slocum's hard-earned skills were in less demand. So he decided to write a book of his memoirs, and unfortunately the sales of the book were less than stellar. In need of a change and adventure, on April 24th, 1895, the 51-year old Slocum sailed alone out of Boston in his 11m (37ft) sloop named Spray, a decrepit oyster dredger that he had rebuilt himself. Slocum’s plan was to cross the Atlantic toward the Suez Canal. When he reached Gibraltar he was warned by naval officers regarding the presence of pirates and he changed his course. He started back across the Atlantic, and headed down the Brazilian coast, through the hellish Strait of Magellan. It was there that he faced a violent storm that ripped the sails from his ship and there was nothing he could do, but to keep on and go east as the only safe course lay in keeping the ship before the wind. During the rest of his voyage he faced deadly currents, rocky coasts and heavy seas as he sailed around Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Atlantic. Over three years later, he and the Spray returned on June 27, 1898 completing a journey of 46,000 miles, as the first man to sail around the world solo. His adventures were first published in Century Magazine and then in book form under the title of “Sailing Alone around the World”, in 1900. His book earned him a large income, but it was not enough to sustain him and his wife and he found he was not suited to a settled land based life. In the hopes of another book deal, he set sail in 1909. It was on this final voyage that he disappeared while aboard his famous boat, the Spray.

Dumas Brothel (Suggested by listener Julie David, Research Assistant April Rogers-Krick)


Butte, Montana has its roots in mining. The town came to be known as the "Richest Hill on Earth" and gold, silver and copper were all mined here. As was the case with so many mining towns, a successful red light district grew within the town. One of the most successful and high-class brothels in town was the Dumas Brothel. Rich clientele could have their fantasies met here, but there was also pleasure for the working class in the basement, which ran like a sex mill. The brothel passed through many hands and has the reputation of being the longest running brothel in the country. And it seems that clients and the girls are still hanging out here in the afterlife. Several entities are thought to haunt this building. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Dumas Brothel!

The fact that Butte was rich in mining material brought many immigrants to the area from all over the world. There were the Irish, the Italians, Eastern Europeans and the Chinese. The influence of these immigrants is still represented in Butte today via a bakery specialty enjoyed mainly during the holidays. The Povitica (pov - e-Tee-za) is a Cornish pastry made from dough, nuts and vanilla. This was something that miners could eat easily while they worked. There is also Scandinavian lefse (lefsah) that has remained popular in the region as well. Butte seperated into immigrant areas with their own gangs featuring the Eastern Europeans of the McQueen Addition, the Irish of Dublin Gulch and the Italians of Meaderville. Butte also had its own Chinatown.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882 and this halted Chinese migration. This federal law was signed by President Chester A. Arthur and was the most restrictive bill on immigration ever passed in the U.S. It prohibited all Chinese immigration into the country and was the first law that prevented a specific ethnic group from entering the U.S. This was not repealed until 1943 via the Magnuson Act. There was much anti-Chinese sentiment that began in the 1870s and it only grew forcing Chinese business owners to sue the unions and they won.

Women saw mining towns as wonderful opportunities to make money. Their services were needed in housekeeping and cooking and of course, there was the sex industry. Pimps and their girls followed the miners to Butte from all corners of the world. Prostitutes usually went by generic names such as Jew Jess or Mexican Maria and their pimps were referred to as “John McGuimps” or “secretaries”, which was a more refined epithet that was peculiar ro Butte. More sensitive to the rights of working people than to those who exploited them, the local police were especially hard on pimps and would often run them out of town when they were identified. A group of women called “ladies of the line” began selling sexual services on Park Street, located in the North part of the city.  Tents and shacks lined the street and were used solely for the purposes of prostitution.  At some point over the next twenty years, the tents and shacks were replaced with legitimate businesses.  The “Park Street Girls” as they had come to be known moved to the South side of the city.

By 1888, Butte's East Galena Street was lined with brothels.  Nearly every building on the street housed prostitution. This area of Galena Street came to be known as the "Twilight Zone."  Prostitutes plied their trade from rooms or spaces called “cribs” that were equipped with callboxes for ordering drinks or food from nearby bars and noodle parlors. Evidence of these cribs can be seen in the narrow doorways of the buildings that line the street.  The largest of these establishments was the Casino Theater, a mixture of Saloon, dance hall, and brothel. The Casino employed 100 girls. In the late 19th century, several prominent Montanans owned brothels in Butte.  Two of those men were Lee Mantle, who later became a United States Senator, and Anton H. Holter, a wealthy businessman from Helena, Montana.

French Canadian brothers, Joseph and Arthur Nadeau (Naidoh), would eventually acquire the most property in Butte’s prostitution areas, or "red light district."  The brothers built a brothel in 1890 at 45 East Mercury Street and named it for Joseph's wife Delia Nadeau, whose maiden name was Dumas. By the turn of the century in Butte, more discriminating clients could visit three high-class sex houses in Butte: The Hotel Victoria, the Windsor Hotel and the Dumas Brothel, also known as the Dumas Hotel. The Dumas Brothel is a two-story brick building facing Mercury street built in the Victorian style. There is a raised basement level that backs onto Venus Alley.  The upstairs has several large rooms and suites and a large open balcony with skylights.  This area was for the people with money, who wanted to fulfill their sensual desires with a beautiful, well dressed prostitute, in a private, comfortable room that included the bells and whistles of the privileged.  Politicians and wealthy businessmen enjoyed sex with these stunning young women, whom they would hand select.  These well-appointed ladies would sit in one of the parlor rooms, waiting to be chosen for their next intimate encounter.

From 1890 to 1942, the basement area was reserved to meet the sexual desires of the common man; the miner.  Dumas Brothel had an ample basement where miners with less money could go to enjoy sex with the “not so pretty” and “older” prostitutes, each of which worked out of a tiny cubicle, just big enough for a bed, called a crib. There were 43 cribs that were operational around-the-clock, using three shifts of women to cover the demand during the busy weekends and on pay day.  As the miners were assigned one of three shifts at the mines, it was just good business to be open 24 hours a day.  Originally, a stairway led downstairs from the front sidewalk.  There was a door in the basement that opened up into the underground tunnels that ran under the city of Butte as well.  Through this door, men could enter discreetly and enjoy some sex with a woman. It is claimed that these tunnels circulated out to other brothels and even, ahem, city hall. There was also access from a back door of the Dumas that opened into Pleasant Alley, near South Wyoming Street, which was the busiest section of Butte’s red light area.

During its earlier history, two boarders at the Dumas Brothel listed their occupations as “gambler” and “saloon man” in census records. So one can see that there were efforts to cover-up the true purpose of the hotel. By 1900, the brothel was being run by Madam Grace McGinnis, her servant, a Chinese cook, and four prostitutes. At that time, the cost of sex in the brothel was fifty cents. The women were only allowed to keep 40 percent of their earnings, but some received high tips from their clients making the business lucrative for them. This enabled them to dress in fine clothes,making them appear to be just another fine lady about town. One such lady was a French prostitute named Sandra. It is thought that she was probably brought in illegally from Canada by the Nadeau brothers. She was a petite woman who was incredibly popular with the men because she knew a lot of techniques that were described as satisfying to her customers. The authorities eventually caught on that Sandra was here illegally.  Before they would raid the Dumas Brothel to look for her, police would call ahead so that the politicians could get out. Sandra would get the warning as well and took to hiding in a specially made refrigerator.  The latch on the refrigerator was broken and so it was thought the door would not open, but the truth was that the inside was fitted with a lock.  Sandra would climb into the refrigerator and lock it from the inside.  When the police would try to open the door, it would not open and they would be left to believe that it was just a broken handle. Sandra was never caught and she made a good living until she retired at the age of 61.
    
Despite the large size of the brothel, Madame McGinnis had only five girls and a musician working for her in 1902.  During this time, the Dumas and other like businesses in Butte’s red light district were unusually lucrative ventures that were frequented by miners from the local Anaconda Copper Mining Company.  In 1903, traffic grew to a point where the Dumas’ operations had to be expanded and more “cribs” were built in the basement of the house. Even though the Dumas operated 24 hours a day with several girls taking three shifts, by 1910 there were only two women reported to actually be living there.  Instead the prostitutes lived in other parts of Pleasant Alley and commuted to the brothel for their shifts.  In Butte, the activities of the city’s prostitutes were generally restricted to Galen and Mercury Street.  From the windows of their street facing cribs, the girls would attract prospective clients in varying states of undress.  The Butte Miner, a local newspaper, explained how the girls did this:
"With an abandon that has no trace of modesty in it, these women lean out of their windows and address the vilest kind of language imaginable to people passing on the street, or else boldly make their appearance on the thoroughfare and visit from one crib to another."
The Dumas’ business and those like it were criticized by a number of people who sought to reform the red light district.  Reverend William Biederwolf condemned Butte as “the lowest sinkhole of vice in the west,” and that he saw “enough legitimate vice in Butte to damn the soul of every young man and young woman in it.”  He held revival services for residents which attacked “rounder’s, gamblers, and habitués of the red light district.” The opposite opinion was held by the local business as they benefited and even came to depend on the support of the sex workers at the Dumas and other places of business like it.  The prostitutes would buy their dresses at local clothiers, frequent the city’s dry cleaners and would patronize Chinese herbalists, looking for birth control potions and venereal disease remedies.  Five dollar “fines” were paid to the city government and police to make sure that their operations were unhampered with.  Instead of closing and relocating the red light district, the mayor and police of Butte ordered that the women wear longer skirts and high-necked blouses and that they “refrain from indecent exposures.”  After their ordinances were put in place, the Butte Miner reported that “nothing was seen in the district except long dresses and long faces.  What the women say about the matter is not fit for publication.”  By 1910 the people were petitioning Mayor Charles Nevin to shut down the district:  with the district contributing two thousand dollars to the city’s coffers every month, the efforts eventually died.

In 1913, the brothel was expanded again.  A one-story structure was added to the building, increasing the number of cribs by eight:  four of the added cribs opened directly onto Pleasant Alley, by that time known as Venus Alley.  When copper prices went up, the more than 14,000 miners in the city experienced a pay-raise of twenty-five cents and injected an additional $6,000 into Butte’s economy.  During this time the Dumas experienced an upswing in patronage.  In 1916, as a result of the added cliental, the brothel added five partitions and a staircase, and the ground floor, once a grand parlor, was partitioned into cribs. With the onset of World War I and Prohibition, local lawmakers began to crackdown on Butte’s red light district and by 1917 the district was effectively closed.  Signs saying “Men Under 21 Keep Out” were commonplace and in the next census, prostitution had completely disappeared as a declared profession in Butte. Undeterred the Dumas brothel remained in operation.  I

Anne Vallet began overseeing the Dumas for the Nadeau family in 1925 and by the 1930’s operations had passed to Madam Rose Davis.  In 1940, Lillian Walden and her husband Dick began running the brothel.  Under the new management the price of sex at the brothel was raised to $2. In 1942, the federal government ordered all open brothels in the United States to shut down.  This was done to protect their war effort.  They said it was to prevent the spread of venereal diseases among soldiers in World War II.  The boom from the Butte vice industry was curtailed sharply at many of the once open brothel establishments.  The underground passages were closed and all that remained of the popluar Venus Alley were the red bricks of the original alley.  Besides having to knock down the cheap addition in the back of The Dumas Brothel, the cribs in the basement were sealed as well, with everything left behind by the women. Much of it is still there to this day, creating a time capsule.  However, the first and second floors and rooms were still discreetly open for business and “the action” simply moved upstairs, becoming more hidden from prying eyes, making it hard for the law to prosecute them. That is if they even wanted to.  The “window-shopping” was abandoned completely, much to the disappointment of the clients.  Clients of the brothel, now called The Dumas Hotel, would come to the front door, and after being studied through a door hole, they would be led inside to a parlor, where a few available women would be seated, waiting to be chosen.  In addition, doorbells were added and a code system was employed for use in dealing with troublesome guests.

In 1950 when Lillian Walden retired, the price for a woman at the brothel was $5.  Next Elenore Knott took over running of the Dumas.  The Nadeau family ceased being owners around this time as well.  Knott only managed the Dumas for a short time, as she committed suicide in 1955 after her lover died of a heart attack.  On February 8, 1955 Elenore Knott had made a decision to change her life.  She had decided to run away with her lover and start a new life.  Her lover was a married Butte business man.  Elenore waited patiently with suitcase in hand but her lover never showed. In the morning, Elenore was found in room #20 of the Dumas, dead of an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol.  Elenore’s life had been very financially rewarding and she possessed a number of worldly goods including a nearly new red Cadillac convertible, gold and diamond jewelry, cash and a new Harley Davidson that she had just bought.  The motorcycle, she told friends, was purchased to “put some fun into her life.”  After her death, none of these things were ever found or reported through the estate.

Bonita Farren was the next madam to take over the reins of the Dumas in 1955 and she stayed in charge until her death in 1969.  In the late 1960’s, several local police officers took the initiative to close the remaining three operating high-class sex houses: Hotel Victoria, Windsor Hotel, and the Dumas.  The Dumas did not remain closed for long and Madam Farren had it back up and running. In 1970, the Dumas was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a “Victorian Brothel” and an active house of prostitution.  In 1971 Ruby Garrett, a local resident of Butte for some thirty years, purchased the Dumas.  Garret would pay local police officers and officials $200 to $300 a month in return for their silence about the Dumas’s activities.  Under Garrett, the cost of a prostitute was $20.  In 1981 Madam Garrett was charged with tax evasion. Madam Garrett was convicted of federal tax evasion and served six months in prison in 1982.  The brothel was closed soon after, but not before a robbery took place there. On March 17, 2012 Ruby Garrett died at the age of 94 at Crest Nursing Home in Butte.  She was remembered as a kind woman in her later years who looked out for her working girls. Garrett had served nine months of a four-year sentence for manslaughter in 1960.  A victim of spousal abuse and so badly beaten that she was unrecognizable, Garrett walked into a card game her husband was participating in and shot him five times killing him.  She was charged with first degree murder but the jury felt manslaughter was the strongest charge that they could and would impose.   

When the Dumas closed, it was the longest operating brothel in the United States having operated for 92 years, long after prostitution was outlawed. Unable to pay taxes on the Dumas, it was sold by Garrett in 1989 to an antiques dealer named Rudy Giecek on the condition that it was preserved in its original state.  Giecek turned the brothel into a museum and operated it as such for most of the 1990s.  Due to financial difficulties Giecek attempted to sell the building in 1998.  The International Sex Worker foundation for Art, Culture, and Education (ISWFACE) responded.  The ISWFACE sought to reopen the Dumas as not only a museum but also a gallery and convention center.  Ellen Baumler of the National Register of Historic Places wrote in support for the rescue of the Dumas that “it is not only significant as the  last standing parlor house in this area of Butte, but also because of its length of operation as a rare, intact commentary on social history.  Many people were against the restoration of the Dumas, including former prostitutes in Butte, but operation proceeded.  Then in September 2000, Giecek claimed the ISWFACE owed him $52,000 in wages for work performed at the Dumas.  Giecek sued and was granted the wages he petitioned for and additional penalties.  The business deal with ISWFACE was terminated however.  In the years that followed the Dumas was put up for auction twice as Giecek did not have the money to maintain the building.

In May of 2005, Rudy Giecek closed the Dumas Brothel permanently.  He was concerned that a collapsing back wall made it unsafe for tourists to walk through the cribs and access a second floor of bedrooms.  Giecek had attempted to sell the Dumas even using eBay as a way to dump the building, but back taxes and liens made it impossible to sell. Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders took on a fundraising campaign to help the Dumas Brothel.  Elders worked with the ISWFACE and attended a fundraiser in Butte. And she shared her controversial side while there saying, “I always tell young people the vows of abstinence break more easily than a latex condom." Elders spoke about prostitution and many of the reasons women get involved in it including poverty and the fact that several are forced to work in the sex industry. The negatives were discussed as well from disease to women being beaten by pimps. One woman disagreed and said, “I choose to be a prostitute because everyone is good at something and I know what I’m good at.” ISWFACE wanted to restore the defunct Dumas Brothel in Butte as its international headquarters and as a museum.  It is trying to promote health-care and workplace rights for those in the sex trade, as well as legalization of prostitution.  Elders encouraged the prostitutes to keep up their crusade and not to shy away from controversy. “It’s controversy that gets the press,” she advised.  “You know I know that.”  In 2008 the Dumas reopened for tours.

Michael Piche and Travis Eskelsen of Butte bought the brothel in 2012 with plans of improving the beleaguered building in the middle of Butte’s former red light district. In December 2013, The Urban Revitalization Agency considered a $92,000 loan request for repairs and shoring up outstanding debt for the historic Dumas Brothel. Even though it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operated as a museum, it had slipped even further into disrepair and had significant structural problems. At the current time, the Dumas Brothel is open for tours April – September, Tuesday-Saturday 11:00am -4:00pm, restorations permitting.  A small gift shop is available on site.  Proceeds from the gift shop and tour entrance fees are used for restorations.

Brothels seem to attract ghosts in the same way theaters do and it could be for similar reasons. Strong emotions pass through brothels. No matter how well the prostitutes were treated, the life of a prostitute was not a happy one.  It was very dangerous to the women’s health; Unwanted pregnancy; complications of an opium-induced abortion, venereal disease, or even being murder by a jealous client or boyfriend.  Entities that die unexpectedly on the job sometimes continue in their profession after death.

Elenore Knott did not leave the brothel after she committed suicide. Working girls of the Dumas reported seeing the ghost of Elenore with a suitcase in her hand, walking the halls.  Many believe she is still searching for her lover.  Her full bodied apparition has been seen by visitors to the Dumas as well. Dramatic photos have been taken of her apparition all throughout the Dumas. She also seems to be a strong protective spirit of the building, who encourages and leads the others as well.

The women who worked on the upper floors enjoyed a higher class of clientele.  The women who worked in the basement may have ran into a few men with anger management issues.  The remains of a blood-stained hand print can still be seen on an inner wall of a crib room, that also had a badly damaged door jam.  This was discovered when the basement crib rooms were unsealed by Rudy Giecek.  It is extremely possible that a prostitute was killed in her crib where she worked. Other prostitutes simply overdosed or committed suicide. In 1917, a young prostitute named Sarah worked at the Dumas Brothel.  She had a client named James that she had every intention of marrying. James sent her a love letter and she displayed it in her crib. James was killed in a mine explosion the day after she received the letter.  Sarah either accidently overdosed or deliberately killed herself using an opium based drug used by the women to medicate themselves or cause abortions.

After the 2013 renovations began, the Dumas was overrun with paranormal activity.  Noisy activity was unmistakable, coming from the basement area; perhaps sounds heard in a brothel. Sarah became very active as these massive renovation got underway. Possibly Sarah and the other spirits were upset with all the new people and renovation workers in their house, messing with the cribs and their leftover personal artifacts.  Paranormal investigators believe that something in her belongings that had once been sealed had now been opened, causing her to be more restless than the others.  The new owners, Travis Eskelsen and Michael Piche were scared to death by the paranormal activity. They asked an investigation team from “Haunted Collector” to come in and see what was causing this spirit’s unhappiness and perhaps uncover what this entity wanted.

Haunted Collector aired their episode on March 20th 2013 and they reported their findings. They found some hard evidence that pointed to a prostitute, Sarah, as the most restless spirit by catching her on a couple of EVPs in her crib room. When investigators picked up a letter from her miner boyfriend, James, that was still on display, the bed shook and this was caught on camera. The team brought out a bottle of the opium medicine they think Sarah took that killed her. The activity increased until they removed it from the building. This medication was never brought back inside the brothel and Sarah seems to have moved into a state of peace.

Male entities of miners seem to like to relive their special recreation time with their favorite lady in the basement as well.  Smokey mists have been seen and disembodied voices have been heard in the first floor areas.  During a tour a latched door unlatched itself in front of a group of witnesses. The strong scent of cigar smoke comes and goes most often on the first floor. The enitity of Sandra, a French prostitute, has tenderly touched people and held their hands. An EVP was caught in the Madame's room by the Haunted Collector group as well. One male entity has been caught on a photo by an investigator. He was wearing a miner outfit, including a bandana. A male and female entity were caught on camera, near the basement door that led to the tunnels that ran through the red light district. The male is standing on the right, looking down at the female who seems to be wearing a large hat or she has a lot of hair.

When Rudy Giecek owned the building three teens broke into the Dumas Brothel.  They grabbed some stuff from the antique/photo shop in one of the first floor parlors.  When they started up the staircase to the second floor, they were stopped in their tracks by an avalanche of flying china dishes. The frightened thieves did an about face and made a hasty retreat out the back door. No one knows what caused those dishes to fly at the young men.

Do the spirits of former prostitutes still turn their tricks at the brothel in the afterlife? Are spirit miners still looking for a good time at this location? Is the Dumas Brothel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

HGB Ep. 119 - Folly Beach

Moment in Oddity - Dr. Suess House
Suggested by: Listener Ren Davenport

Located in Willow, Alaska is one of the most amazing homes. The whimsical architecture of this multi-tiered house has led it to be dubbed "The Dr. Suess House" by locals. Construction began on it around 2002, but it stood mostly unfinished for 10 years because the owner passed away during construction. During that time, the house played host to non-Suessical characters. There were no Whos, no Horton, no Cat-in-the-Hat, no Thing 1 and Thing 2, no Sam I Am, no Lorax, no Grinch and such. Rather there were derelicts, drug addicts and partying teenagers using the place for their festivites. In 2012, a new owner started the construction again and it still needs to be finished. The structure has 12 levels, but these are not your traditional stories as found with most homes. Each level is set-up like its own individual house and they are stacked on top of each other. The structure at each level gets smaller, so that the top level is basically a tiny overlook. Riding the rail line from Anchorage to Fairbanks gives one a great view. Finding an architectural wonder in the middle of Alaska certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Shot Heard Round the World

On this day, April 19th, in 1775, the Revolutionary War began with the "Shot Heard Round the World." The war began when 700 British soldiers were sent with orders to destroy colonial military supplies in Concord, Massachusetts. What these British troops didn't know is that their orders had been revealed through some colonial spying by the Sons of Liberty and the Patriots were prepared. They moved the supplies and then prepared for battle. Dawn broke in Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19th and shots rang out. The colonial militia was outnumbered as they only had 500 men and they were forced to retreat. The British took the opportunity to look for the supplies. While they were busy doing that the colonists reformed their group and met the British at the north Bridge in Concord, where they drove back the British. The Siege of Boston would soon follow, but it was this day in history when the American War for Independence got started.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a poem about this historic moment:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Folly Beach (Suggested by listener Dee, research assistance from Sharon Spungen and April Rogers-Krick)


The barrier island of Folly Beach, South Carolina appears picturesque with its images of waves lapping against the sand. Locals refer to it as the "Edge of America." Below the surface of painted sunsets and beautiful beaches lies a dark history of mysterious and tragic losses. Folly Beach really has it all from shipwrecks to the Civil War to pirates. Blackbeard himself took cover at Folly Beach. A native tribe also died out here. Is it this colorful history that has led to rumors of hauntings? Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Folly Beach.

Much of what we know about Folly Beach comes from its close geographic and cultural connections to the city of Charleston, South Carolina.  The name Folly is thought to have come from the Old English translation of the word, which means a clump of trees or a thicket.  This name appears to be historically appropriate for the island.  The main channel into Charleston harbor in the 1700 and 1800’s brought the ships past the northern side of Folly Island.  For some ships, the trees on Folly Island may have been the first they had seen after a long voyage across the Atlantic.  The island is also at times been labeled Coffin Land or Coffin Island on some historical maps.

The significance of this name is still under debate for several reasons.  Some believe that it is due to the fact that ships entering Charleston harbor would drop off sick and dying people on the island to avoid becoming quarantined.  Others think it came about from a shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Folly in 1700. Many of the bodies of those onboard washed up on the beach.  The final inconsistency with the name Coffin Island is that documents also show that name being used for Morris Island as early as 1749.  

King William III issued a land grant for the area to William Rivers in 1696. Mr. Rivers was unable to do anything with the land grant, so he sold it. Folly Beach passed through the hands of several owners who never lived there, but the true owners of the island had been there for many years. The Bohicket tribe called this land home. The Bohickets were a sub-tribe of the Kussoe or Cusabo who lived in a village near Charleston Harbor. By the late 1600’s this tribe had completely disappeared.  Even today it remains unclear what happened to them.

By the eighteenth century, pirates would hideout along Folly Beach and maraud among the surrounding coves and inlets near Charleston.  They would wreak havoc and commandeer innocent trade vessels. Edward Teach or Edward Thatch became the notorious pirate known as Blackbeard. He was an English pirate who terrorized the Caribbean Sea during the Golden Age of Pirates. This was a time period during the earlier 18th century. His main ship was the Queen Anne's Revenge. For Blackbeard, image was everything. He made sure to be pictured as a fearsome man with a feathered tricorn hat, pistols, knives and swords. To add to the image, in person, Blackbeard would appear as a terrifying man with smoke and fire emanating from his beard and around his head. He got this effect by weaving matches and hemp into his beard.

Originally, Blackbeard had served as a privateer during the War of Spanish Succession working aboard an English ship in the Spanish West Indies. When the war ended in 1713, Blackbeard turned to piracy. He learned from other pirates and eventually was given his own ship by Benjamin Hornigold. His ship the Queen Anne's Revenge was originally the La Concorde, a French slave ship, and he added 40 cannons to it, to make it the mightiest ship on the sea. He named it for the queen of England and Scotland. He blocked the port of Charleston and looted several ships before the town encouraged him to leave by giving him a chest of valuable medicine. Blackbeard's ship ran aground on a sandbar near North Carolina in 1718. The wreck was discovered in 1996 and confirmed in 2011 as that of Queen Anne's Revenge.

Blackbeard went legit after this causing many to believe he wrecked his ship on purpose. Governor Eden of North Carolina pardoned him and then soon enlisted him in crooked dealings. Blackbeard would continue to loot, but share his treasures with the Governor. Two Royal Navy sloops caught up with Blackbeard and a fight ensued with the pirate almost escaping. In the end, the military got their man leaving him with twenty sword cuts and five bullet wounds before cutting off his head and throwing his body to the sea. Legend claims that the body swam around the ship three times before sinking into the murk. The head was presented for proof in order to collect a bounty. Most of our modern day ideas about pirates are inspired by Blackbeard, the most famous pirate in history.

A tragedy occurred in the next century. In 1832, a sailing ship, the Amelia, was en route from New York to New Orleans when it was wrecked. As the story goes, 120 passengers survived and were cast ashore at Folly Beach. However, because it was believed cholera had broken out among the passengers, they were left at Folly Beach to fend for themselves instead of being brought to the mainland. On November 9, 1832 Charlestonian’s burned the wreck and cargo. While stranded on Folly Beach twenty of the survivors did die from cholera.

During the Civil War, because of its close location to Charleston, Folly became a stronghold for Union soldiers.  In 1863, Federal troops began occupying the relatively uninhabited island.  The federal troops constructed the first system of roads on the island.  This allowed ambulances to transport wounded soldiers and for communication purposes.  The troops built various forts and batteries on both the northern and southern ends of the island.  A commissary depot, known as Pawnee Landing was built to aid in the unloading of troops and supplies.  There was virtually no actual fighting on the island.  An exception to the no fighting was on May 10, 1863.  Confederate forces attacked federal pickets on the left side of Little Folly Island.  The fighting was light, as the confederate forces were conducting a reconnaissance mission, aimed mostly at gathering information and taking prisoners.

Folly Island’s major contribution to the Civil War was its use as a base, housing troops and equipment, and for the presence of an artillery battery located at the northern end of Little Folly. Rebel commander Warren Ripley had less than 2000 men in Charleston while Union General Alexander Schimmelfennig had 6000 on Folly and 8000 at Port Royal and Hilton Head.   The island was used as a staging area for the battle of Morris Island which took place from July to September 1863.  Fort Wagner a confederate fortification that guarded the entrance to Charleston harbor was located on Morris Island.  From the artillery battery on Little Folly, the federal troops shelled Fort Wagner and deployed troops to capture the fort.  With the capture of Fort Wagner, the federal troops were now in position to shell Fort Sumter.  On August 17, 1863 the shelling began and quickly reduced Fort Sumter to rubble. The troops moved their artillery from Big Folly to the captured fort, and renamed it Battery Meade.  Still they were unable to force a confederate surrender.  Folly Island and Morris Island remained occupied by federal troops until the end of the war.

The Civil War ended and Folly Beach Island lost its use. The forts and beaches were abandoned until people realized that this was a nice beach area near the city. A pavilion was built in the 1920s and rumor has it that this helped usher in an era similar to that of the time of piracy where pirates enjoyed the isolation of the island. Bootleggers made good use of the island for their hideouts and dropping off liquor. Building and habitation really launched in the 1930s as temporary camps became cottages and then homes and then finally, tourist attractions were added like the Folly Pier, which became a musical headquarters. Big Bands came to play including Maurice Williams' and Glenn Miller's Bands. George Gershwin came as well and while he was here, he composed the classic musical Porgy and Bess that contains the classic line, “Summertime, and the living is easy,” in 1934 while staying at 708 W. Arctic.

A wooden bridge and tollgate was built to aid with the influx of day visitors. A toll of twenty cents per person or fifty cents for a carload was charged.  Friends would fill the car to capacity and beyond to avoid the high toll fee.  Residents paid $3 a month to come and go as they pleased.  At this same time, goats were being used to keep the grass under control.  It became a popular game called “kid-snatching” to try and steal a goat and get it pass the toll and off the island without getting caught.  What they did with the goat once they were back in the city is unknown.

It wasn’t until 1936 that Folly became a township all unto its own.  A jail, if you can even call it that, was erected.  It consisted of a mere cage in the marsh where the Sandbar Restaurant is now located in present day.  Any man arrested for drunken or disorderly conduct was locked away with the mosquitoes and heat, and left to sober up for a few days under the awful conditions.  Later the jail was moved into a more central location with a better environment.

The 1940’s coupled with World War II saw an increase in population and needed housing on Folly.  In 1942 the island initiated an air raid system.  The siren would sound on Saturday at noon.  This happened every Saturday until the late 1990s. As visiting the beach for vacation became more popular in the 1940’s through to the 1950s there was an increase in musical entertainment on the island.  A magnet for famous groups, top performers of the day played the prier.  Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, The Ink Spots, Dinah Shore and many more performed for large crowds of beach goers.  The 1950s saw many black bands entertaining the throngs of white beach goers.  Folly Beach like all southern beaches was segregated.  The only blacks allowed on the beach were maids, entertainers, or workers.

In 1959, Hurricane Gracie pommeled the island and what was known as Rainbow corner, a colorful cluster of buildings nestled in a grove of palmettos right on the ocean.  One of the most popular dancing and drinking spots on the island.  It was completely destroyed and had to be demolished.  Roads and bridges were improved as utilities were upgraded and the Edge of America seemed to be just a bit less isolated. The first surfboard made it to the beach in the 1960s and Ocean Plaza was built with amusement rides and games and a boardwalk that stretched 1,700 feet. There were shops,food vendors and even rollerskating. This truly was the golden age of Folly. Today, it is a local vacation destination and home to a few thousand people. Part artistic retreat, part eclectic community, but all sun, beach, and ocean.

With the kind of history that has occurred in and around Folly Beach, it is no wonder that there are claims that the town is haunted, particularly its beaches. One possible reason for hauntings at Folly Beach could be linked to a mysterious discovery in the 1980s. Construction workers were digging on the island when they found 14 bodies at the western end of Folly Beach. The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology was called out to handle the dig and investigate and they figured out that the bodies belonged to members of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. The 55th Regiment was joined on Folly Beach by the soldiers of the 54th Regiment that was made popular in the movie Glory. Archaeologists were shocked to find that 12 of the skeletons were missing their skulls and other body parts. And even stranger was the fact that the bodies didn't have battle wounds. Were the bodies buried this way and why? It's one of the great mysteries of the Civil War. Many of the soldiers who died at the Union Field Hospital were buried in unmarked graves on the island and are reputed to haunt the island.

On the western side of the island, some residents have experienced paranormal activity that includes the smell of burning flesh, disembodied voices and one resident claimed that an unseen small child was jumping on their bed in the middle of the night. It only makes sense that a fearsome pirate like Blackbeard would still be here in the afterlife. His spirit has been seen walking the beaches near where he was killed, particularly near Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Twenty passengers died at Folly Beach after they were left abandoned. For this reason, it is believed that many of them haunt the island.

Does the spirit of Blackbeard still walk the beaches in the afterlife? Are the beaches here crowded with more than just the living? Is Folly Beach haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

HGB Ep. 118 - Legends of Mexico

Moment in Oddity - The Highwayman Dick Turpin
by:  Bob Sherfield

The Highwaymen were thieves who preyed on travellers across Great Britain from the Elizabethan era right through until the 19th century. The term highwayman was first recorded in 1617, though they were also know, slightly euphemistically by names such as Knights of the Road or Gentlemen of the Road. In the 19th century American West, they were known as "road agents" and in Australia as "bushrangers." The method of robbery they employed usually involved them working in pairs or small gangs and targeting poorly protected stagecoaches and postboys. They would halt the coaches with a cry of “Stand and deliver!” or “Your money or your life!” They would lay in wait on the main roads that radiated out of London, favouring heathland or woodland to spring their attacks. So bad did the problem become in Hyde Park, that the King, William III had the route between St James’s Palace and Kensington Palace lit with oil lamps. Making it the first artificially lit highway in Britain. One of the most famous of these highwaymen was Dick Turpin. Born in Essex in 1705, he trained as a butcher, but by 1730 he had joined a gang of deer thieves whose activities progressed to armed robbery of houses. After a long period of activity in which they terrorized London and the surrounding villages, the gang had been caught by the authorities and many were hung at Tyburn. Turpin turned to highway robbery after this. Turpin, and his partner, Tom King operated from a cave in Epping Forest, robbing anyone who passed their hiding place. So notorious did he become, that a bounty of £100 was placed on his head. A botched horse robbery would start the decline for Turpin. The horse he stole was traced to a pub in East London, and when King came to collect the horse, Turpin accidentally shot him rather then the constables who were trying to arrest him. A dying King provided the information on where to find the hideout to the Police. Turpin fled London and headed to Yorkshire. When he returned home, he was arrested. The local police investigated as to how he made his living, and discovered that there were charges of sheep and horse stealing against his name. Whilst being held in the dungeons of York Castle, Turpin wrote the letter that would prove his undoing. He wrote to his brother in London asking for a character reference. His brother was too mean to pay for the postage, so returned it to the post office. By complete coincidence, Turpin’s former teacher saw the letter and recognised the handwriting. He was sent to York to identify him, and Turpin was sentenced to death by hanging. His hangman, ironically, was a pardoned criminal. Possibly a member of the gang he had been part of in 1730. That would have been the end of his story, and he would have most likely faded into obscurity had not, in 1834 a novel called Rookwood not been published. In this, a fictional Turpin is credited with riding from London to York, in one night, on his horse Black Bess in order to create an alibi. This novel made Turpin into a noble highwayman, rather than a thief. The fact that such a notorious criminal was convicted because his handwriting was recognised by a school teacher certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Titanic Hits Iceburg
by: Jessica Bell

On this day, April 14th, in 1912, the British passenger liner RMS Titanic hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 23:40. The Royal Mail Steamer Titanic was the product of intense competition among rival shipping companies Cunard and White Star Line in the first half of the 20th century. The Titanic was one of three ships that were part of a new “Olympic” class of liners, from White Star Line. Each Olympic class liner would each measure 882 feet in length and 92.5 feet at their broadest point, making them the largest of their time. Titanic’s creators believed they had built an “unsinkable” ship due to the Titanic’s double bottom and 15 watertight bulkheads equipped with electric watertight doors which could be operated individually or simultaneously by a switch on the bridge. It is thought that this design had a fatal flaw, that while the individual bulkheads were watertight, water could spill from one compartment into another. Titanic departed for its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912. After stops in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown (now known as Cobh), Ireland, the ship set sail for New York with 2,240 passengers and crew. Due all of the press surrounding the Titanic many of the passengers were high-ranking officials, wealthy industrialists, dignitaries and celebrities. After four days at sea on a moonless night, a lookout saw the iceberg dead ahead, rang the warning bell and telephoned the bridge. The engines were quickly reversed and the ship was turned sharply, and instead of making direct impact the berg seemed to graze along the side of the ship, sprinkling ice fragments on the forward deck. The lookouts had no idea that the iceberg’s jagged underwater spur had slashed a 300-foot gash well below the ship’s waterline, and that Titanic was doomed. In compliance with the law of the sea, women and children boarded the boats first; only when there were no women or children nearby were men permitted to board. Sadly, due to confusion and chaos, nearly every life boat would be launched under-filled, some with only a handful of passengers. The Titanic managed to stay afloat for three hours, and only 705 people survived. Lessons have been learned from the 1,500 lives lost on the Titanic. From increased training and appropriate personal protection to standardizing requirements for emergency procedures, maritime safety has improved and many lives have been saved.

Legends of Mexico (Suggested and research assistance by Kristin Swintek)


From the Aztec Sun Stone with the sunken eyes of Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god, peering out from the center of the stone to the Alley of the Kiss to the Devil's Alley, the country of Mexico is rich with legends and superstition. On this episode, we are joined by our Research Assistant Kristin Swintek who is going to share some of the legends of Mexico with us. There is La Llorona, the Ironed Lady and the Monster El Cucuy. Bring along a little salt, violet petals, sage, or ginseng to help keep unwanted ghosts away. Join us as we explore these Legends of Mexico.

One of Mexico's more famous legends is that of Quetzalcoatl (Keh-tzal-coh-WAH-tul.) The name comes from the Nahuatl with "Quetzal" meaning a bird with beautiful plumage and “Coatl” meaning snake. So technically he is "The Plumed Serpent." Quetzalcoatl was a god who had been around when the world was created. He was an outsider who would watch the other gods subjugate humans. This made him very angry and he decided to become a human, so that he could live among them and teach them the secrets of the gods. He ended up coming to Tollan, which is located in the modern state of Hidalgo in Mexico.

At the moment of Quetzalcoatl's arrival, a human sacrifice was about to begin in honor of his brother Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl put a stop to it and halted a storm that was coming. The people were amazed and they wanted to make him their god, but he refused and told them he wanted to teach them, particularly about purity of soul, The town of Tollan thrived and Quetzalcoatl taught them many things from gardening to astronomy to writing. All of this goodness made his brother angry and he devised a plan to bring shame to Quetzalcoatl. He disguised himself as an old man and presented Quetzalcoatl with a gift. It was a drink that was very delicious and also very intoxicating. Quetzalcoatl drank it down. Now he had been a god that took pride in his celibacy. But under the influence of this drink, he slept with one of the priestesses of his order and he was made unclean.

He decided he could no longer lead Tollan and so he built a boat from snakes and sailed toward the setting sun. He told the people of Tollan that he would return one day. Many of us knioe from history that eventually Hernan Cortes would be mistaken as the returning Quetzalcoatl. That fact gives this story a place in history. But there is something else that does that as well and that is the belief among some historians that Quetzalcoatl was a real man because he is depicted as a white man who is tall with a beard. And that man was a Viking. What makes this story unique is that so many mesoamerican cultures had Quetzalcoatl stories. Some called him by a different name, but it was in essence the same individual. These cultures include the Incas and the Mayans and the Aymara from Peru. How did Quetzalcoatl get to all these places? It was as if he could fly - like a god or perhaps in some kind of ship?

Tonacacihuatl (pronounced toe-na-ka-SEE-wah-tl) is a goddess in Aztec mythos that was considered the Goddess of Creation and thus the mother of Quetzalcoatl. She and her husband were believed to transfer the souls of infants from Heaven to female wombs. Her themes revolve around death, hope and ghosts. Her name means "Our Lady of Flesh." She gives life and the spirits of children return to her in death. Angelitos Day is a week long festival for the dead, mainly children. Cakes are made in honor of the deceased children and put in a special spot and this encourages Tonacacihuatl to release that child’s spirit for the day. The child's picture is also placed next to a candle to help light the way and welcomes the souls of the departed to the festival.

Mictecacihuatl (pronounced ‘Meek-teka-see-wahdl’ or ‘Meek-teka-kee-wadl’) is another goddess in Aztec mythology who is Queen of Mictlan, the underworld. She rukles over the afterlife and she keeps watch over the bones of the dead. She also presided pover the ancient celebrations of the dead, which today has become Mexico's "Day of the Dead." Her back story is that she was born and then sacrificed when she was still a baby, Her representation was pretty horrific as she was usually depicted as being defleshed and a gaping jaw that swallows the stars.

La Llorona - The Wailing Women. “La Llorona” which is spanish for “the wailing women”, is a popular legend in many spanish speaking countries. The story goes a woman possibly called Maria, witnessed her husband with another woman, and in a fit of rage, drowns her children in a river as revenge. She immediately regretted what she had done and drowns herself as well. For many years her spirit roams the river banks wailing “Ay mis hijos (Oh, my children)” This legend is often told to children by their parents’ as a cautionary tale so prevent their children from going out at night. They will often say “Don’t go out after dark or La Llorona will get you!”, warning that La Llorona will kidnap them, and drag them into the river. Similar legends exist in other cultures such as the Gaelic Banshee.

La Llorona is sometime identified as La Malinche the Aztec women who served as Hernan Cortes’ interpreter, go-between, and mistress who betrayed her people by warning Cortes of an oncoming attack by the Aztecs resulting in the eventual conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. La Malinche did indeed bore Cortes two sons. The connection between La Malinche and La Llorona is another legend. As the story goes, The King of Spanish wanted Cortes to come back to Spain, and sent a beautiful woman to entice him to come back. This beautiful women secduces Cortes and convinces him to return to Spanish and to bring his two sons along with him. When La Malinche learns of his plan, she flees with her children. Cortes sends his soldiers to find her. They meet her at a river bank where the soldiers stab the babies in the heart and toss them into the river. La Malinche is overcome by grief and walks on the river banks days and night crying her children until the day of her death.
Kristin could not find anything to substantiate this story. In reality La Malinche did indeed bare Cortes on son, Martín who went on to live a full live life. The true story of La Malinche is that Cortes baptized her in the catholic faith and changed her name to Marina. After the birth of their son Cortes built a house for Marina to live in. When Martin was six years old he returned to Spain with him father where he grew up.

The Aztec believed in a spirit known as Cihuateteo (“Divine Women”), are the spirits of women who die in childbirth. They saw childbirth as a battle and considered women who died warriors who have fallen in battle. Their spirits were feared and were said to haunt crossroad at night and would steal children. This could possibly be another origin for La Llorona. When the Spaniards conquered Mexico and dismissed the beliefs of the native Aztec and Mayan the story of the Cihuateteo may have taken on another form.

La Planchada - The Ironed Lady. La Planchada is the spirit of a nurse with an impeccably neat and ironed uniform - hence The-Ironed Lady - who heals patients in hospitals around Mexico. In Mexico City’s Juarez Hosptial during the 1930’s doctors noticed that patients’ conditions were miraculously improving. These patients claimed to have been visited by a nurse during the night who sat with them and talked to them until they fell asleep. When they woke in the morning they felt much better than they had the previous day, and were often cured of the aliments.

One source claims the nurse in life was named Eulalia who had fallen in love with a young handsome doctor who joined the staff, They started seeing each other and were soon engaged. Shortly after the doctor left to attend a seminar in another city. Eulalia did not hear from him for several weeks and grew worried. She later found out that the doctor had met another women at the seminar and never returned to the hospital and Eulalia never heard from him again. She became very depressed and her work was suffering. One of the patients died from an error made on Eulalia’s as a direct result of her distraction. She soon became very ill herself and was overcome with guilt from letting this patient die in her care that she wasted away and soon died.

Today, patients are supposedly visit by this spirit. They see her in a very neat old fashioned style nurses’ uniform. Some think she is a living nurse, but then they realize that her footfalls to do not make any sound. Others have said she is surrounded by an unearthly glow, which exudes peace and calm, often thinking she is an angel.

El Cucuy (also know as El Coco or El Cuco) The myth originated in Portugal and Galicia as Coco. The coco is a monster that that eats children who disobey their parents. The oldest rhyme about El Coco dating back to the 17th century by Juan Caxés:

“Duérmete niño, duérmete ya…
Que viene el Coco y te comerá.”
(Sleep child. Sleep now…
Here comes the Coco and he will eat you)

El Coco is also featured prominently depicted in the Franciso Goya painting “Que Viene el Coco” where the his is a depicted as a hooded figure. There is not really a description of El Cucuy other than the fact that he is a monster that eats children, and honestly I think that is scary enough. He is basically the Mexican version of the Boogeyman. Parent’s often use El Cucuy to scare their children into submission. “Don’t go into that dark room, El Cucuy is in there” (this is from personal experience).

Are these legends of Mexico based on true stories? Did these people actually exist or are they just myths? That is for you to decide!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

HGB Ep. 117 - Grove Park Inn

Moment in Oddity - London Bridge Comes to U.S.
by: Bob Sherfield

Many people may be surprised to find that, after the Grand Canyon, one of the most popular visitor attractions in Arizona is a structure that started its life several thousand miles away in London. How did London Bridge end up in Lake Havasu City? Was it an error on the part of the buyer as urban legend sometimes claims? Or was it a clever way of selling a structure no longer fit for its purpose. This isn’t the bridge which caught fire in 1212 killing a reported 3000 people, nor the medieval bridge on which the severed and tarred heads of executed traitors were displayed and certainly not the bridge immortalised in the children’s nursery rhyme. This bridge dates from 1831 and had come up for sale due to the fact that it had become unable to cope with the traffic demands of 1960’s London. Subsidence problems were causing one side of the bridge to sink at a rate of an inch every 8 years and by 1967 it was nearly unusable. So the City of London decided to put it on the market. Robert P. McChulloc, a Missouri-born oil and aviation entrepreneur and chainsaw tycoon, purchased the bridge for $2.5 and then spent another $7 million dismantling and transporting it to the US. McChulloc had two reasons for purchasing the bridge. He had founded Lake Havasu City, a planned retirement community in 1964, and wanted it to link to an island on the Colorado River, attracting buyers as well as acting as a tourist draw for his new development. By Oct 1971, the bridge had been reconstructed, and a lavish opening party took place, with a gala dinner held in a tent 40ft high, weighing nearly 20 tons. Its walls were decorated with pendants, coats of arms, shields and the entrance was lined with suits of armour. The bridge's relocation inspired a 1985 made for TV movie, Bridge Across Time, starring David Hasselhoff in which the spirit of Jack the Ripper is transported to the US in the stones of the bridge. So, had McCulloch been aware he was purchasing Tower Bridge? Probably not, but the fact that London Bridge now spans the Colorado River certainly is odd!

This Day in History: General Lee Surrenders to General Grant
by: Kristin Swintek

On this day, April 9th, in 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant ending the Civil War. In early 1864, President Lincoln made Grant the commander of all Union armies. Grant made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac and put Major General William Sherman in command of most western armies. Sherman moved his armies from Chattanooga to Atlanta defeating Confederate Generals Joseph E. Johnson and John Bell Hood along the way. On September 2, 1864, Atlanta was taken by Union armies, guaranteeing the reelection of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. After leaving Atlanta, Sherman reached Savannah, Georgia in December of 1864. His armies were followed by thousands of freed slaves; there were no major battles along this march. After months of increasing pressure on Lee’s army it was thinned by many casualties and desertion. By December, Lee’s army was much smaller than Grant’s. The Confederate’s last attempt to break the Union’s hold was at the Battle of  Five Forks (also know as “the Waterloo of the Confederacy”) on April 1 and they failed. The Confederate capital fell to the Union XXV Corps, which was made up completely of black troops. With their capital now lost Lee evacuated his army. Lee did not originally intend to surrender but had planned to regroup at the Appomattox Court House to gather supplies and continue the fighting. Grant chased Lee, got in front of him and Lee’s army was surrounded upon reaching the court house. Realizing the fight was hopeless Lee surrendered at the McLean House in Appomattox, Virginia. As a sign of respect and with the hope of restoring peace, Grant made a untraditional gesture allowing Lee to keep his sword and horse. This surrender came 5 days before President Lincoln is shot in the Ford Theater by John Wilkes Booth on April 14. The President died the next day and was succeeded by Andrew Johnson. President Johnson officially declared an end to insurrection on May 9, 1865

Grove Park Inn (Suggested by listener Gina Guinn, Research Assistant Steven Pappas)


Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina is one of the more uniquely designed hotels in America and it fits its setting in the mountains of North Carolina perfectly. Those mountains have a number of claims to fame. People come from all around to see the leaves change colors in the fall, to take part in winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, and to hike its dozens of trails on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. Nestled in the mountains, lies the city of Asheville. This growing city is home to over a dozen craft and major breweries, the University of NC at Asheville, and The Biltmore Estate - which we previously covered on the podcast in episode 81. Just down the road from the estate, sits the historic Grove Park Inn, which faces Sunset Mountain. The guest list includes the rich and famous and many presidents. But it's one guest in particular who has endured through all the decades. She is a mysterious woman in pink who has a penchant for appearing out of nowhere and disappearing just as quickly. And she brings an icy chill with her. Join us as we explore the history and the hauntings of the Grove Park Inn.

Before the Europeans arrived in America, the land which Asheville now sits on belonged to the Cherokee Nation. They controlled the majority of the western part of North Carolina until their numbers were greatly diminished by the arrival of Europeans bringing weapons and disease. In 1784, Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family decided to settle in the Swannanoa Valley and built a log cabin in the North Carolina mountains. Not long after the completion of their home, Colonel Davidson was lured into the woods by a group of Cherokee hunters and was killed. His wife and child, along with a female slave, fled on foot to a fort 16 miles away to seek refuge. Davidson's twin brother William, along with Samuel's borther-in-law, formed a group to retrieve the Colonel's body and avenge his death. After a campaign in which many Cherokee were killed, they returned to the area with their families and settled the town of Morristown, North Carolina. This would go on to be renamed Asheville in 1797, after the North Carolina governor Samuel Ashe. The Ashe family had been very active in politics and Governor Ashe had served in mulitple capacities before becoming Governor. *Fun fact: Governors in North Carolina at the time served for a one year term and they had a term limit of three.*

Edwin Wiley Grove was born in 1850 in a small town in the state of Tennessee. He served in the Civil War and then began to chase his dream of working in the pharmaceutical field. He moved to northwest Tennessee, to a town named Paris, when he was twenty-four. He began working as a clerk in Dr. S. H. Caldwell and A. B. Mitchum’s pharmacy located in the courthouse square in Paris. Grove was a hard worker and motivated, two things that would help him become a leading entrepreneau. Dr. Caldwell took notice and brought Grove on as a partner. By 1880, Grove was able to buy the partners out and he put his name on the pharmacy, renaming it Grove’s Pharmacy. Grove experimented with different concoctions and he held in the back of his mind the idea that if someone could figure out how to make Quinine tasteless, that person would become rich.

Quinine is found in the bark of the Cinchona Tree, which is found mainly in Andean forests in South America. It has medicinal qualities that reduce fevers, swelling and pain. One of the main diseases that it is used in the treatment of is malaria. Malaria is not much of a danger in America anymore, but at one time it was and quinine was in high demand. In fact, Malaria was called the scourge of the South. Ed Grove started working on a tasteless form of quinine and he was successful in 1885. He managed to formulate a tonic that suspended quinine in a flavored syrup that needed to be shaken vigorously before taking. He called the formula, "Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic." It was not exactly tasteless, but it was far more palatable than other quinine remedies and it was an immediate success. Based on this, Grove met with a group of investors and they all formed the Paris Medical Company to produce the Chill Tonic. By the late 1890's the tonic was a staple in many houses and sold more bottles than Coca-Cola. After 20 years, Grove had sold more than 1.5 million bottles.

Grove was now a very wealthy man. He believed the area near Asheville had medicinal benefits and began buying tracts of land and farms. He intended to change the face of the city and demolished some TB hospitals during this process. He began work building neighborhoods, but then decided that he would like to build a hotel. He partnered with his son-in-law Fred Seely and the two looked for a suitable architect. Grove didn't find anyone who had a plan he liked. Seely came to him with a set of plans he had drawn up himself and Grove was so pleased that he told Seely that he was in charge of building the hotel. The men chose an area on Sunset Mountain. Seely promised to have it built in a year. In 1912, construction began on the Grove Park Inn.

The hotel has a very unique look because it was built from granite stones. Keep in mind that this is being built on a mountain in the early 1900s. Meaning that everything had to transported by mules, wagons and ropes. Some of the granite boulders weighed as much as 10,000 pounds. Four hundred men were employed and they worked ten hour shifts, six days a week. The frame of the building was made from concrete and steel and then workers formed the walls with the granite stones, building them much like a puzzle fitting pieces that would go together perfectly. Seely kept his promise and the Grove Park Inn officially opened on July 12, 1913. William Jennings Bryan was the Secretary of State at the time and he gave a speech at the grand opening.


The lobby is known as the Great Hall and measures 120 feet across with 24 foot high ceilings. Two grand granite fireplaces are in the lobby and they are famous for not only their size, but their unique style. When the hotel first opened, those two fireplaces were the main heating source. The two Otis elevators have been featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not and are located within the fireplaces. This design was originally meant to hide the noice of the mechanisms. The goal of the inn was relaxation and they tried to dissuade unnecessary noise. So much so, that children under 10 were not welcome, running water after 10pm was discouraged and if conversations got too loud in the lobby, staff would hand people cards asking them to quiet down. The roof has 5.5 inch thick poured concrete over an elaborate web of twisted steel and red clay tiles were laid over that to give the roof a thatch like appearance and this design makes it completely weather proof. There is also an expansive porch overlooking Sunset Mountain.


The furniture was mission style and designed by the Roy Croft Artisan Community. Six hundred hammered copper light fixtures were made as well as 400 oak crafted chairs and an 8 foot grandfather clock. Many of these can still be seen at the hotel today. The grandfather clock sits at the main entrance and features a hammered copper face. Quotes are inscribed on rocks throughout the Great Hall as inspiration. Over the years, the Grove Park Inn has boasted quite the guest list. The names of those who have stayed at the hotel are too numerous to list them all, but it has seen stays from Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini, William Shatner, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, William Jennings Bryan, 10 US Presidents (from FDR to Nixon to Obama) and many other famous people. F Scott Fitzgerald stayed in the hotel for two years as he wrote and visited his wife in an asylum nearby. This is also the location where William Howard Taft resigned from the US Supreme Court in 1930.

Ed Grove died at his Battery Park Hotel in Asheville in 1927. His body was sent back to Paris, Tennessee, where his funeral was held and he was laid to rest at the Paris City Cemetery. His death certificate simply listed his occupation as “capitalist.” Because of his development of Asheville, he became known as the "Father of Modern Asheville." Luckily, he was not alive to see the hotel fall into a slump after World War II. The only reason the inn was not torn down was because it would have cost too much money. During WWII the hotel served as an internment center for diplomats who were associated with the Axis powers. It also served as an army redistribution center and a rehabilitation facility for navymen returning from war. In fact, the Philippine Government operated in exile on the grounds during the war.

In 1955, Dallas businessman Charles Sammons bought the hotel and he restored it. *Fun fact: Mrs. Sammons wnated to bring her dog to the inn with her, so she would hide it in a baby carriage.* In 1973, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. As the inn was restored, two wings were added. In 1998, another massive renovation started and the $50 million spa was added at that time. In 2012, a $25 million renovation was begun, which updated guest rooms and added the Edison Craft Ales and Kitchen Restaurant. Omni Hotels and Resorts bought the hotel in 2013 and they are the current owners. *Fun fact: Later in the 20th century, the Supreme Court of the United States even planned to relocate to the hotel in the event of a nuclear attack.* The inn does offer history tours.

Many historic hotels have more than just long and interesting histories. Many of them house the spirits of lost souls. Do they stay because the hotel holds fond memories for them? For some, is it because they died at the hotel? Whatever the case, many hotels claim to have ghosts and the Grove Park Inn is one of those. The most famous ghost here is not the Lady in White, but rather the Pink Lady. In the 1920's, a young woman staying in room 545 stepped out on her balcony and somehow fell two stories to the Palm Court atrium floor. When witnesses ran to her body, they found that she had perished and that she was wearing a beautiful pink dress. There have been many eyewitness reports of the Pink Lady in the history of the hotel. It would seem she has been seen in various forms as well. One form she takes often, is that of a pink mist that is nearly the size of a woman and is seen floating through the hall on the fifth floor or in the lobby. She is also sometimes seen as a full bodied apparition of a young woman in a pink ball gown. Most who meet the spirit claim she is a kind spirit. One guest claimed to receive a full embrace from the lady. Another guest claimed that when the lady appeared, she held her hand because the guest had been afraid.

The hotel staff have become accustomed to her presence. Encounters that staff have experienced with the Pink Lady include several of them seeing all the lights on the sixth floor turn on and then off and then the lobby's lights did the same. The hotel was closed and locked for the winter when this happened. Two accounting employees were attending an office party that went into the wee hours of the morning. Around 4am they claim, “We heard someone come in the back door. We looked up and she went by real fast- a woman dressed in party clothes. We thought it was a guest, so we got up to help her. Then she was gone.” The manager of the Grove Park Inn's nightclub Elaine's claims to have seen the Pink Lady several times in the past five years and said, “It’s like a real dense smoke, a pinkish pastel that just flows.”

The Pink Lady likes children and appears to them more than to adults. This could just be that children are more sensitive. If a child is ill, she is seen speaking softly to them and gently stroking their hands. One guest who was unaware that the Pink Lady was a spirit at the hotel, left a note when he checked out that he would like the staff to thank the woman dressed in pink who had spent time playing with his children. Another guest who was a professor was sitting in the main lobby with his two year old son. The child napped and when he woke up he asked his dad where the nice lady had gone. There had been no lady around them.

The ghost of the Pink Lady is also said to enjoy playing small pranks. She's been blamed for lights, air conditioners, and other electrical devices turning on and off by themselves. She seems to enjoy rearranging objects in the rooms. It's also been said that she'll occasionally wake up a sleeping guest with a good tickling on the feet. A former police chief claims that he was sitting on his bed making a phone call when he felt someone sit down next to him on the bed. People report cold chills when walking through the hallways and some researchers who were going to conduct an investigation in Room 545 decided against it because of the extreme chill that met them upon entering the room.

For those of you who follow the paranormal closely, you probably have heard of paranormal investigator Joshua P. Warren. He dug into the Pink Lady phenomenon because he lived in Asheville and even wrote the book "Haunted Asheville." He interviewed 20 people who had experienced some kind of interaction with the Pink Lady. His research began in 1996 and he went back 50 years with his interviews. One of those people was a painter who worked for the Inn for 30 years. He said, “Back in the late ’50s or early ’60s, the hotel used to shut down during the winter months, and that’s when we caught up on painting. One cloudy, gloomy day back then, I was checking on some of the guys’ work. As I got closer to 545, I got cold chills that got worse the closer I came to the door. It got so bad, I couldn’t work up the courage to go in at all. In fact, to my last day at the hotel, I never did go back there; sent my boys in instead.”

The Engineering Facilities Manager had an experience as well and told Warren, “One day in early 1995 I was on my way to check a recent bathtub resurfacing in room 545. As I approached the room, my hair suddenly lifted from my scalp and stood on end on my arms. Simultaneously, I felt a very uncomfortable, cold rush across my whole body. I didn’t go in, haven’t gone back and don’t ever intend to.” The interesting thing about these accounts is that neither man knew about a connection between room 545 and the Pink Lady and neither knew of each other's experiences. It was based on their experiences and scientific evidence that room 545 became a part of the narrative. This lends more credibility to the story.

With the hotel being in such a beautiful area, it is no wonder that the most famous guest at the Grove Park doesn't want to leave, even in death. Is it possible that a young lady in a beautiful pink dress still walks the hallways here? Is the Grove Park Inn haunted? That is for you to decide!

Special note: We'd like to acknowledge the Omni Hotels for embracing their haunted history! From their blog:
"If you’re a fan of the unusual and unexpected, plan your fall trip with one of our haunted hotels in mind… Some of your favorite Omni Hotels & Resorts have long had friendly visits by guests from the other side."