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!