Sunday, May 29, 2016

HGB Episode 127 - Ben Lomond Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Holger Danske
Suggested by listener: Lisa Nielsen (Denmark)

One of Denmark's national symbols is a hero named Holger Danske. Much of what is known about Holger is drawn from legend, although it is believed that he could be based on an actual historical figure. In the epic, "The Chivalry of Ogier of Denmark," Holger is the son of the Danish King Godfred who died in 810. Their enemy was Charlemagne of France. He took Holger as prisoner and Holger performed many amazing tasks for Charlemagne. Eventually though, Holger would join the Francs in battle. It is said that Holger came to the end of his days, but that he did not die. Rather, he fell into a twilight sleep and slumbers to this day at Kronborg Castle. Hans Christian Anderson wrote of Holger Danske and here is a translation of that poem, "But the fairest sight of all is the old castle of Kronborg, and under it sits Holger Danske in the deep, dark cellar which no one enters; he is clad in iron and steel and rests his head on his stalwart arm; his long beard hangs down upon the marble table where it has become stuck fast; he sleeps and dreams, but in his dreams he sees everything that comes to pass in Denmark. Every Christmas Eve an angel of God comes to tell him that all he has dreamed is true, and that he may go back to sleep again, for Denmark is not yet in any danger! But if it should ever come, then old Holger Danske will rouse himself, and the table will break apart as he pulls out his beard! Then he will come forth, and strike a blow that shall be heard throughout all the countries of the world." Many Danes hold fast to this legend and have believed through the centuries that when they need him, Holger will awaken. That a hero of legend has become a national symbol, basically giving him life whether he ever truly lived before, some people might think that it certainly is odd!

This Day in History -Women Lose Jobs Over Turkey Trot
by: April Rogers-Krick

On this day, May 29th, in 1912, fifteen women lost their jobs for dancing the “Turkey Trot.” The women worked for Curtis publishing Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The company was a powerhouse in the flourishing magazine industry.  Curtis published the Saturday Evening Post, which featured popular cover art by Norman Rockwell.    They also published the Ladies Home Journal, the first magazine to have one million subscribers. The Ladies Home Journal had the widest circulation of a group of periodicals known as the “Seven Sisters.” They targeted a middle-class women’s audience, and included titles such as McCall’s, Women’s Day, and Good House Keeping.  All still very popular today.  The magazines featured stories on home making, including how-to articles and advice columns. Edward W. Bok was the editor of the Ladies Home Journal and he heard that fifteen of his employees had been dancing the “Turkey Trot” on their lunch break.  He felt that this behavior did not fit into his magazine’s ideas of the proper behavior of women.  The Vatican had condemned the ragtime dance as too suggestive.  Some dancehalls had banned the step, but censorship only served to make it more popular with young people. Bok fired all fifteen of the women when he found out about the dancing.  The magazine went on to rail against future dance crazes and in 1921 an article declared “The road to hell is too often paved with Jazz steps.”

Ben Lomond Hotel (Suggested by listener Jon Mueller & Dean Carrington, Research Assistant Kristin Swintek)


The Ben Lomond Hotel is located in the Historic Downtown of Ogden, Utah. This is one of the last three “Grand Hotels” in Utah that still operates as a hotel. Built in the latter part of the Victorian Era, the hotel has changed over time. The original five stories now rise to eleven. Ogden was a major railroad junction and brought people from all over. And while a hotel is meant to be a place of comfort, the Ben Lomond seems to be a place of death and this has lead to stories of strange happenings. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Ben Lomond Hotel.

The city of Ogden is in what is known as the Great Basin., which is the largest contiguous endorheic watershed in North America. Endorheic means that it is closed and does not flow out into rivers, but rather forms lakes. Since these watersheds are filled by rain, they tend to be arid areas. To give the listeners an idea of an endorheic landscape, the Salt Flat where speed records are set is one of these areas. Because of the lack of precipitation, people had to be hardy to live here. The first known groups here were the Fremont Culture. Numic language speakers followed and this indigineous group would become our present day Western Shoshone and Paiute tribes. The Great Basin was home to the Ute's Bear Dance and two Paiute tribal elders introduced our favorite named dance, The Ghost Dance. It is believed that when this dance is done properly, the spirits of the dead can be reunited with the living. There was a primary reason for this dance's creation and that was that native people believed that the dead would fight on their behalf and help drive white settlers off the land. This is interesting to consider when looking at hauntings. Many times we talk about native burial grounds causing hauntings, but what if rituals have spawned these hauntings dating back centuries?

The first European settlers in the area built Fort Buenaventura in 1846. A trapper named Miles Goodyear established the permanent settlement and it served as a trading post. Mormon settlers bought the property in 1847 and it was renamed Brownsville after Captain James Brown. The name Ogden would follow and the name was chosen in honor of Hudson Bay Company's brigade leader Peter Skene Ogden who had been an early trapper here and was a Canadian explorer. By 1869, Ogden became a railroad hub of commerce and travel when the transcontinental railroad was built. The city’s motto was “You can’t get anywhere without coming to Ogden.” Ogden would eventually grow to become the second largest city in the state of Utah.

In 1891, the five-story Reed Hotel was built in Ogden. The ground floor of the hotel was occupied by the Ogden State bank which was owned by A.P. Bigelow. Bigelow saw Ogden as a very important city in the Western US and bought the hotel in 1926, which he had razed. On the foundation of the former Reed Hotel, he built an eleven-story hotel and named it after himself, The Bigelow Hotel. The new structure was meant to be more modern and specifically, fireproof. Hodgson & McClenahan drew up the plans and it was built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The exterior is highly ornamental and covered in a terra cotta finish. The Bigelow was meant to reflect the wealthy of the community in the early 20th century. The hotel boasted five private themed dining rooms including the Shakespeare Room, which featured murals painted by LeConte Stewart, a Utah artist. Other themed rooms were the Florentine style ballroom, English Room with wood paneling based on Bromley Castle, an Arabian coffee shop and a two-story penthouse.

In 1928 the hotel hosted the Democratic National Convention. Leading up to this big event, Time Magazine featured the Bigelow Hotel in their October 3, 1927 issue, which garnered the hotel national attention. In 1933, the hotel was sold to Marriner Eccles when Bigelow’s bank failed after the 1929 stock market crash. The Eccles family renamed the hotel The Ben Lomond, after the mountains in the Highlands of Scotland. The family had emigrated to America from Scotland. Marriner served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and the Federal Reserve Headquarters in D.C.bears the name Eccles. (He was a millionaire by age 22.) After WWII, highway construction ramped up and rail travel dwindled, so the town of Ogden was no longer a travel destination and the hotel was affected financially. During this time, the Ben Lomond went against the tide of segregation in Salt Lake City and welcomed black celebrities like Louis Armstrong and Jackie Robinson to stay at the hotel.

There were gangsters at this hotel and plenty of booze running during Prohibition. There was a tunnel that ran underneath the hotel and traveled down 25th Street to various points in Ogden. The underground tunnel was used to smuggle alcohol, but also led to opium dens and gambling halls. The tunnels were eventually cemented shut by the city. In December of 1948, the hotel was caught up in a prostitution scandal. Several businesses on the same street had been closed because prostitution had been found going on inside. A prostitute and what the Ogden Standard-Examiner referred to as her "hustler" were arrested at the Ben Lomond during a raid. Closing the hotel was discussed at a commission meeting at that time.

After the hotel was no longer profitable, the Eccles family sold the property in the 1960’s. After the sale, some of the hotel was occupied as County offices, but the building soon fell into disrepair. In the 1980’s, the hotel was renovated and much of the original grandeur was kept intact, including the chandeliers in the ballroom, the ornate ceilings and the marble floors. The 350 rooms in the hotel were converted to a 120 suite condo-hotel. Today, the Ben Lomond features two restaurants, 12 Short stay suites with full kitchens, 23 corner suites, 6 two-bedroom suites, 58 standard suites, and 6 meeting rooms. The hotel is currently a part of the Choice Hotels’ Ascend Collection.

There are tales of strange occurrences at the hotel and these could possibly be attributed to the fact that several bizarre and gruesome deaths, including many suicides have happened at the Ben Lomond. The eleventh floor is the central hub of paranormal activity. The first story of deaths on this floor is not substantiated and could just be legend. This story involves rooms 1101 and 1102. A women was spending her honeymoon at the hotel and was staying in room 1102. During her stay, she drowned in the bathtub. After her death, her adult son came to the hotel to collect her belongings. He checked himself into room 1101, the room next to where is mother had died. The son was so distraught over his mother’s death that he took his own life. Guests who have stayed in rooms 1101 and 1102 have reported water in the tub running all on its own. Some report that they have been pushed by an unseen force. In room 1102, guests have reported hearing disembodied voices and seeing apparitions.

Room 1106 has been the scene of another death. A woman was living in that room while she awaited her son's return from fighting during World War II. She received word that he had been killed in action and she died either from natural causes or a broken heart. Phone calls are received in the lobby originating from rooms on the eleventh floor that are unoccupied. The scent of old perfume is smelled and the elevator goes up and down with no one inside, usually stopping on the tenth or eleventh floor. The night staff has reported the elevator doors in the lobby opening on their own.

On March 9, 1929 the hotel hosted the Utah Canners Association’s annual convention. One of the convention attendees, Dan Rowland, invited some friends up to his room for drinks. Earlier, he had met another man staying at the hotel named Edward Spelman and invited him to the room as well. One of the women in the group had too much to drink and opted to stay in the room to lie down when the group decided to go down to the ballroom for dancing. When Rowland returned to his room later that night, he found Spelman “attacking” the woman. Rowland tried dragging Spelman down to the lobby and the two started fighting in the hallway. Rowland struck Spelman on the chin causing him to fall back. He hit his head on the wall and died instantly. Rowland was charged with Spelman’s murder, but was later acquitted when it was discovered that Spelman died from a ruptured artery and not the blow to the head.

In another bizarre story, in 1939, two young men came to the hotel by cab, argued with the bellman outside the hotel and took the elevator to the top floor. The owner of the hotel felt there was something odd about these gentlemen, so she followed them to the top floor and brought them back down to the lobby. She looked around for some help and the two men ran off again, returning to the top floor where they jumped out of a window at the end of a hallway to their deaths.

Another suicide occurred around noon on July 16, 1951. Donna Anderson, a local teacher for 20 years, leapt to her death from a ninth story window. A Deseret News article reported that Anderson's friend, Leora McBeth, discovered her with her wrists slashed in her ninth floor suite. Anderson was still conscious and she ran past her friend and jumped out of the suite’s north facing window. Anderson had recently been in ill health and she had been nervous on the morning of her death.

Henry Topping, Jr. was a night clerk at the Ben Lomond Hotel. On August 24th in 1976, a 15-year-old man named Johnny Perez entered the hotel in an attempt to rob the hotel. Perez ended up stabbing Topping forty-four times, killing the man. A jury of eleven men and one woman found him guilty of first degree murder. Topping is believed to haunt the hotel. Is he the reason for the cold spots in the lobby?

Now remember, there was a hotel on this spot before the Ben Lomond Hotel. The Reed Hotel has its own stories to tell that could very well be contributing to the haunting activity. Three days before the hotel opened, the first death or eight occurred. The brother of the proprietor had just moved to the area because he had tuberculosis and he was staying in a room at the Reed. He succumbed to the disease on June 30, 1891. A woman named Helen Van Alen was staying at the Reed Hotel in 1902 with her husband. She had suffered from various ailments for a number of years. He husband left for work and she shot and killed herself. She was only 38 years old. On September 26, 1921 a newly hired cook named Asugi Nakano was waiting for the freight elevator. The doors opened and he stepped in, unaware that the car was not there and he fell three stories down the elevator shaft to his death.

Mrs. Van Alen had been staying in an apartment on the third floor when she shot herself. A security guard recalled an incident in the third floor hallway where a door handle began to shake violently as he passed a room. Upon further inspection, he found the room unoccupied. The security guard also said that the staff receives noise complaints and movement from empty rooms and/or hallways at least once a week.

In the comments of a blog post on writerstevensymes.blogspot.com, a reader named Joanna Zobell writes of her experiences at the hotel, “My husband and I stayed last February. And experienced some creepy things. While talking to the front desk I noticed the elevator doors opening and then closing and going to the 5th floor, then back down to open again while no one was in it. We also smelled a faint scent of perfume inside. At night while I was sleeping I woke up thinking my son was pulling my arm talking to me I saw some kind of shape like a man wearing a hat bent over me and we also captured an orb flying across my husband’s face in a photo.”

The history on this spot is home to so much death. Is there a reason why? Fortunately, no one has described any dark experiences with these unseen entities. And have all these deaths led to strange happenings? Have guests decided to remain here even after death? Is the Ben Lomond Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Benlomondsuites.com

Utah Stories Article about Ben Lomond Suites by Paige Wiren, 2015

http://www.haunted-places-to-go.com/ben-lomond-hotel.html

Rogers, R. (2002, March 16). 'Hunter' stalks ghosts in Ben Lomond Hotel. Desert News. Retrieved May 14, 2016, from http://www.deseretnews.com/

Ben Lomond Hotel - Utah's Haunted Hotel. (2013, December 13). Retrieved May 14, 2016, from http://writerstevensymes.blogspot.com/

Ben Lomond Hotel - Ogden, Utah. (2013, January 31). Retrieved from http://www.thedeadhistory.com/haunted-utah/ben-lomond-hotel-ogden-utah/

Hearing set for Ogden youth. (1976, December 2). Desert News, p. 27.

Organ Teacher Dies in Plunge. (1951, July 16). Desert News, p. 8.

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