Moment in Oddity - The Petrifying Well of Knaresborough
The Petrifying Well of Knaresborough is England's first visitor attraction. Sir Charles Slingby had bought the land where the well was located from King Charles I in 1630. The Petrifying Well was so well known at that time that the enterprising Slingby started charging people to visit the natural oddity. The earliest reference to the well dates back to 1538. King Henry VIII's antiquarian John Leyland wrote at that time that the well was considered to have healing properties in its water and people would shower in it hoping for healing. People began leaving trinkets and gifts by the well and were astonished when these items would become petrified over time. This caused people to declare that the well was cursed by the Devil. No matter what the water touched, it eventually turned to stone. The well also started taking on the look of a skull. Rather than rushing to the water for healing, people were afraid to go near it because they thought they would be turned to stone. The cause behind the petrification is scientific. The well has been tested and the mineral content is extrmely high. The water flowing over objects has an effect like what happens in the creation of stalactites and stalagmites. But while that process takes centuries to happen, the petrifying at the well takes as little as 3 to 5 months. So you could leave a teddy bear there today, and in six months return to find it made of stone and that certainly is odd!
This Day in History - Spanish Flu Hits Philadelphia
On this day, September 28th, in 1918, the Spanish Flu Epidemic hits the city of Philadelphia. The Spanish Epidemic of 1918 would hit worldwide and reveal just how deadly influenza can be for humans. The origin of the flu was believed to be farm animals in the Midwest. The flu traveled through various animal populations and then mutated into a form that could live in humans. The flu spread slowly through the US and then hopped to Europe aboard soldiers headed to World War I battlefields. For Philadelphia, it was the Liberty Loan Parade that gave the Spanish Flu its foothold. The parade featured floats, bands and soldiers marching up South Street. The crowds were thick as people came out to celebrate. By October 3rd city officials had closed all schools, theaters, churches and places of amusement. One of the largest clothing stores in the city, Strabridge and Clothier Department Store established an emergency telephone switchboard to field calls about the flu and reports of deaths. Everyone fell ill from residents to city officals to service workers. The city had one morgue and it was overflowing with bodies. There were 500 bodies there when it was built to handle 36. Bodies were stacked in the hallway where they began to decompose. Convicts were ordered to dig graves and five other morgues were opened. When the Spanish Flu was done wreaking havoc, 30 million worldwide had died.
Hotel Galvez (Suggested by Kathleen Shanahan Maca)
Galveston Island is a beautiful setting on the Gulf side of the state of Texas, south of Houston. People flock here as a vacation destination. The island was originally settled by Native Americans and then explorers came who set down roots. The city of Galveston was chartered in 1839 and the rich came to build their mansions along Broadway. The city grew to be one of the largest in Texas in the late 1800s. This would all change with the Great Storm that hit on September 8, 1900. Thousands were killed by the hurricane and two thirds of businesses and homes were destroyed. Bodies were buried quickly wherever a spot could be found. The aftermaths of this storm and the countless bodies buried beneath the island seem to have opened a portal into the afterlife. Galveston is quite haunted. Many locations on the island claim to have ghosts. Historical Researcher and Author Kathleen Shanahan Maca has just published "Ghosts of Galveston" and she is going to share the history and hauntings of Hotel Galvez.
Are the spirits of the tragic victims of the storm still walking the island? Could Galveston be one of the most haunted island in the world? Is the Hotel Galvez haunted? That is for you to decide!
Kathleen's author page at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Shanahan-Maca/e/B00V2HCL3E
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Moment in Oddity - Daisy and Violet Hilton
Suggested by: Jill Phenix
Daisy and Violet Hilton were a couple of remarkable ladies and what makes them odd is that they were conjoined twins who managed to find a way to make a living from their difficult circumstances. The twins were not identical and they became fused to each other at the base of their spines in vitro. They were born in Brighton, England in 1908. Their mother was a barmaid and their father was a soldier. No one knows their names and it seemed that the mother died shortly after their birth and their father was killed in World War I. The midwife who delivered them was Mary Hilton and she would care for the twins and give them her name. Mary realized that displaying the girls could make her some good money, so she started touring them around to circuses and carnivals. She heard how well freak shows and vaudeville was doing in America, so she traveled to the US with the twins in 1916. Mary was a heartless woman and treated the girls horribly. They were malnourished and forced to participate in sideshows. The twins met Harry Houdini in the 1920s and he taught them how to do self-hypnosis, so that they could create their own solo spaces. It helped them to get rid of each other in their minds. The girls also decided to rid themselves of Mary and in 1929 they went to court and they were free. Once they could keep their earnings, the girls enjoyed the world of freakshows and vaudeville. They even appeared in the 1932 film "Freaks." They became headliners and their fame grew until the 1950s brought television and vaudeville went into the dustbin of history. They moved to Florida and worked in a grocery store. They were found dead at their home in 1969, having succumbed to influenza. Conjoined twins no longer are treated as bizarre oddities, but as an unique mutation and we can't help but think that the Hilton sisters had something to do with that.
This Day in History - The Beast of Gévaudan Killed by Antoine de Beauterne
On this day, September 21st, in 1765, the Beast of Gévaudan was killed by Antoine de Beauterne. The Beast of Gévaudan was a man-eating wolf that terrorized the former province of Gévaudan in France between the years 1764 and 1765. The wolf would kill its victims by ripping their throats out. The beast was reported to have an immense tail and massive teeth. Most reports have the wolf attaching 210 people and killing 113 of them. Over ninety of the victims were partially eaten. Antoine de Beauterne was employed by the King Louis XV as Gun-Bearer and Lieutenant of the Hunt and it was his job to hunt the animal. On September 21st, an announcement was made that the wolf pack had been spotted in Pommier Woods. Antoine gathered his hunting party and he positioned himself at a place where the hunting hounds would scare the beast towards. It worked and Antoine encountered the wolf. He fired his musket that was loaded with no less than five charges of powder, a ball, and thirty to forty pieces of shrapnel known as "wolf shot." The blast knocked him off his feet and hit the beast in the right eye and shoulder. The wolf struggled to its feet and lunged at Antoine. Antoine's cousin fired his musket and hit the wolf again, which struggled for twenty-five more yards before falling over dead. The Beast of Gévaudan was dead.
St. James Hotel (Suggested by listener Richard Cutshall)
When one thinks of the Old West in America, cowboys and Native Americans, along with all varieties of gunslingers from sheriffs to outlaws come to mind. It was a time when a man could die in the streets with his boots on or at the poker table holding the Dead Man's Hand: a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black. Cimarron, New Mexico was in the middle of all this and the St. James Hotel built there in 1872, exudes the faded Wild West. This was a wild town that played host to a veritable who's who of old west gunmen, lawmen, gangs and famous performers like Buffalo Bill Cody. The hotel itself was witness to at least twenty-six deaths. And now the hotel seems to be playing host to spirits. The hotel is reputed to be quite haunted with at least seven identified spirits. Our listener Richard Cutshall has stayed there and hunted for some of those ghosts. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the St. James Hotel!
There are many buildings and markers in Cimarron, New Mexico that reflect upon the town's heyday during the Old West days of the 1800s. Cimarron was originally home to the Native American tribes of the Ute, Jicarilla Apache and Anasazi. The town sits along the Cimarron River and before it was established, it was a place along the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail, which was established to avoid confrontations with the tribes in the area. A fur trapper named Lucien B. Maxwell came to northern New Mexico and stayed at a ranch there where he fell in love with one of the owner's six daughters. He eventually married her and inherited the ranch and built a mansion on the land. He built the Aztec Mill nearby. This area that would later become Cimarron and several other towns was known as the Maxwell Land Grant. It incorporated a total of 1.7 million acres. In 1870, Maxwell sold the land grant to a group of English financiers. Such a large holding is hard to keep squatters off of and by 1873, a range war known as the Colfax County War had broken out between Maxwell and squatters. It would continue until 1888.
Henry Lambert is the man who built the St. James Hotel and pinning down details on him is difficult as there are differing opinions and accounts on his life. Most agree that he was born in October of 1838 in Nantes, France and moved to Bourdeux as a child. He came to the United States in 1858 and joined the Northern Navy during the Civil War. Some accounts have him working as a steward and then he was employed by Ulysses S. Grant as a field cook. This employment lasted for one month according to some reports. President Lincoln heard about Lambert's cooking, either from General Grant or through the grapevine and he became the White House Chef for Abraham Lincoln. But there is no official record that Lambert was a White House Chef. There is a story that he owned a restaurant in the area. Perhaps he cooked for the President, but not in an official capacity? The family passed down the story and the hotel maintains it, so maybe it is true. There's just no official proof.
Henry named the hotel after himself and called it The Lambert Inn. It opened in 1872 and the saloon became a big draw. Fur traders, miners, cowboys and explorers visited the saloon on their travel down the Santa Fe Trail. Bar fights were a regular occurrence in this rough and tumble place and there are claims that as many as 26 people lost their lives in the saloon in shoot-outs. The reputation for violence sparked expressions around town like, "It appears Lambert had himself another man for breakfast." Henry added rooms in 1880 and fashioned them in such a way that The Lambert Inn came to be known as one of the most elegant hotels west of the Mississippi. Many famous names stayed at the hotel including, Bob Ford who killed Jesse James, Jesse James himself, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Pat Garret, Black Jack Tom Ketchum, General Sheridan and Wyatt Earp and his brother Morgan.
Henry was married twice, first to a woman named Anna who died in 1881 and then to Mary in 1883. He had five sons with Mary: William, Frank, Johnnie, Fred and Eugene. Fred went on to become sheriff in Cimarron and he always told people that Buffalo Bill Cody taught him how to use a gun. Fred was also a member of the tribal police and a territorial marshal. Cody even gave Fred the nickname “Cyclone Dick” because he was born during a blizzard and he became his godfather. Cody loved Cimarron and he loved staying at the hotel. He met Annie Oakley at the hotel and invited her to join him in performing the Wild West Show. When the two took the show on the road, an entire village of Native Americans from the area joined them.
The roof was replaced in 1901 and more than 400 bullet holes were found in the ceiling above the saloon. Guests were prevented from being killed with an errant shot by a double layer of wood in the ceiling. There are still 22 bullet holes in the ceiling of the dining room to this day. The hotel did really well while the Santa Fe Trail was being used, but when the railroad came through, the trail died and soon the precious minerals that brought miners also dried up. The population moved out of Cimarron. Henry died in 1913 and his sons tried to maintain the hotel. Mary died in 1926 and the hotel fell into disrepair. The St. James passed through numerous owners and was occasionally closed.
In 1985, restoration was begun on the St. James and it was brought back to its former glory complete with antique chandeliers, brocade wallpaper, velvet drapes, mounted deer and buffalo and original furnishings. Old hotel ledgers are also available to peruse. As you will hear Richard share, the hotel is separated into two parts. There is the historic area where 14 rooms have been kept to their rustic, former nature with no televisions, phones or radios and then there is the Annex with 10 rooms that have all the modern amenities. The historic rooms are named for certain people who had stayed or owned the hotel at one time. For example, there is the Mary Lambert Room and the Annie Oakley Room. The old saloon is now the dining room and the original antique bar is still there.
The St. James Hotel staff are not shy about their ghosts as you will hear from Richard. The sightings and reports are numerous about the ghosts at this location and it is considered one of the most haunted places in New Mexico. There are at least seven identified ghosts here. The second floor is the most haunted area. Nearly all the senses are affected from the scent of roses and cigar smoke to the feeling of cold spots to the sound of disembodied voices and haunting music to seeing full-bodied apparitions. Ghost Adventures has been here and the hotel has been featured on A Current Affair and Unsolved Mysteries.
Mary Lambert gave birth to all her children at the hotel. Her son Johnnie was born in 1889 and tragically, he was killed in an accident in 1892, inside the hotel. His spirit has been seen in the hotel. Mary died at the hotel as well and she seems to have remained behind to watch over Johnnie. The two are seen together often. The epicenter for hauntings by Mary seem to be in her room, Room 17. Her rose scented perfume is smelled in the room. If a guests open the window in the room, they will hear a tapping on the window until the window is closed. Her apparition is seen in the room and in the hallway outside the room and she usually has a milky white appearance.
Sometimes Johnnie’s ghost is witnessed playing with two ghosts of little girls who are said to have died at the hotel as well. The girls were 8 and 10 when their family stopped at the St. James Hotel. They had been traveling along the Santa Fe Trail and the girls became ill. Unfortunately, both died from their illness. They are most often seen playing in the hallway by the Governor’s Room. The spirit of a prostitute has been identified as Melissa because EVPs have been recorded of a female voice saying her name was Melissa. She probably died at the hotel. Ladies of the Evening were not really allowed by Mary, but they would sneak in late at night through a side door and then slip out in the mornings before Mary made her rounds. Melissa is playful and enjoys tugging at men’s hair, sitting in their laps and tickling their necks.
There is a room at the hotel that is so haunted and by such a negative entity, that no one is allowed to rent the room. The room is actually padlocked. That is Room 18 and it was a room that was rented by a Thomas James Wright, who was known as T.J. on March 31, 1882. He liked poker and he was playing a game in the poker room with Henry Lambert and a couple of other men. The game got heated and a legend about the game claims that Henry ended up putting the hotel into the pot. T.J. won the pot and the hotel. Another story just claims that T.J. won everybody’s money. Whatever the case, somebody was not happy about losing and shot T.J. in the back as he walked down the hallway to his room. He threw himself into his room and locked the door. He succumbed to his injuries during the night. No one was ever convicted for the murder. And now his angry spirit has remained in Room 18. T.J.’s ghost has violently pushed and shoved people, including an owner who decided to put the padlock on the room. She claimed to see an angry orange ball of light in the upper corner of the room once, also. None of the staff is brave enough to enter the room to clean it and the room is staged as though a gambling, drinking cowboy is still in the room. When guests were allowed in the room, they would report seeing a cowboy popping up in the window and one couple told a security guard, "A cowboy ghost was rocking, watching and grinning at us!"
Another peculiar entity may not be a ghost at all. This thing is called The Imp or Little Imp. He is a dwarf-like man who is very mischievous. He moves objects around and likes to take things and then return them later. He laughs at the staff and plays tricks on them as well. Other unknown entities are here and some think that spirits come and go because of the nearby Santa Fe Trail. It seems to be some kind of energy highway. These spirits knock things off the check-in area, pictures fall of walls, lights flick on and off and cold spots are felt. Cameras malfunction often inside the hotel. A college student named Kody Mutz worked at the hotel during summer breaks. In 2002, he was working the front desk when he was startled by a loud shriek coming from a far corner. His eyes darted about, looking for whoever who had screamed. There was no one in that corner. And guests on the other side of the lobby seemed to not have heard the noise.
Do members of the Lambert Family still remain at the hotel after death? Are some of the cowboys of old still here, roaming the halls? Is the St. James Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!
Friday, September 16, 2016
Moment in Oddity - Ma'nene Festival in Indonesia
Suggested by: Bob Sherfield
The Torajan People of Indonesia live in the mountains of Sulawesi and they conduct a very unique festival every three years called the Ma'nene Festival. The name means "The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses." The ritual has been carried on for over a century and entails exhuming dead relatives, washing their mostly mummified bodies and dressing them in new fine clothing. Family photographs are then taken. Death is treated very respectfully and many members of the tribe save money their entire lives for their funerals. Funerals are elaborate and can last a week. It is very important to the villagers for them to die in the village and family members will carry a loved one back if they die elsewhere. After death, a villagers body is wrapped in cloth to help prevent decay. Coffins are repaired when the bodies are exhumed to help prevent decay as well. We're not sure if there is a limit on how many times a body is exhumed, but there was one villager exhumed in the latest ceremony that had been dead 30 years. Exhuming and redressing a dead relative is meant to be a sign of respect in Indonesia, but for us, it certainly is odd!
This Day in History - Okeechobee Hurricane Hits Okeechobee in Florida
On this day, September 16th, in 1928, the Okeechobee Hurricane devastates the area around Lake Okeechobee in Florida. The storm formed near Africa and intensified as it traveled west. It was the first recorded hurricane to reach Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale in the Atlantic basin. Landfall was made first in Puerto Rico and it is the only recorded hurricane to strike Puerto Rico at Category 5 strength. One thousand people were killed there. The storm then hit West Palm Beach and is one of the ten most intense hurricanes ever recorded to make landfall in the United States. Winds hit 125mph. Buildings splintered as if made from matchsticks. The final and most vicious blow was saved for the community around Lake Okeechobee. This is inland and not many expected it to cause more deaths here than Puerto Rico. The lake crested and the humble muck dike broke releasing a tidal wave of water. At the same time, winds were blowing homes off their foundations. Nearly 2,000 people perished. The Army Corp of Engineers would build a new dike leaving the flow of water in the hands of man rather than nature and the Everglades were forever changed.
Ghost Lights: Bragg Light Road and Paulding Light (Suggested by listener Summer White)
There are desolate roads in America that inspire sweaty palms, goosebumps and fuel the imagination with images straight out of a horror flick. These are roads where no sane person would want to have a breakdown in a car occur. Some of these roads have inspired tales of ghost lights. These are lights that seem to move of their own accord, always staying just out of reach. Legends have spawned about headless ghosts swinging lanterns as they search for their heads. Some people believe that these lights could be attributed to UFO activity. The Bragg Light in Texas and the Paulding Light in Michigan, are two of these ghost lights. The roads where they are seen are walled by thick forests. Both have haunting tales that claim that a ghost or possibly something worse, are responsible for the lights. And both have had skeptics claim that it is nothing more than swamp gas or light reflecting from something else. Are these natural phenomenon or is something supernatural going on here? Join us and our special guest, listener Summer White, as we explore the history and haunting of these ghost lights!
Bragg, Texas is named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg. The town is located on Farm Road 1293, ten miles west of Kountze in northwestern Hardin County. The Colorado and Santa Fe Railway started running through the area in 1901. Bragg became a major stop along that railway and soon a small community grew in the area. John Henry Kirby came to Bragg with the railway and decided that because of the rich forested area, building a sawmill here would be quite profitable. That sawmill was completed in 1901. The success was short-lived when the sawmill burned down in 1903. It was not rebuilt. A post office was built, along with a hotel and train depot. The post office closed in 1914. What kept Bragg thriving was the oil boom going on in the town next to it named Saratoga.
J.F. Cotton was exploring in the area that is now Saratoga and he discovered a spring there in the 1850s. A settlement was established and it was called New Sour Lake. An enterprising man named P.S. Watts thought he could use the spring to make money and he built a hotel there and promoted the medicinal qualities of the spring. He changed the name of the town to Saratoga, which he took from Saratoga Springs, New York. Cotton realized there was oil in the ground and spent several years in the 1860s drilling for the oil until he ran out of money to buy more machinery. The Saratoga Post Office was established in 1884. Large scale drilling started again in 1901 and the railway was built to help transport lumber and oil. The town got serious about platting out a formal plan in 1903 and the population grew. The Saratoga trunk line was abandoned in 1934 and this helped turn Bragg into a ghost town and today it is thought of as a ghost town, despite the small farming community there.
The path that the Colorado and Santa Fe Railway ran between Bragg and Saratoga became a dirt road when the tracks were dismantled. That road remains today. It runs 8 miles and is wide enough for two cars across. The road is lined with thick forest that is made up of Loblolly pine, oak and magnolia trees in the upland that forms a canopy. Yaupon and Waxmyrtle form understory cover. The thick forest adds a creepy factor to the road, but what makes it even more unusual are the carnivorous plants that line the road. These plants are bladderworts and there are around 233 varieties of these plants throughout the world. They use small hallow sacs to capture bugs and they digest them. They are usually found in or near water and when an animal triggers the bristles on the outside of the plant, a trapdoor opens and sucks the animal inside.
But Bragg Road is not known for its forest. It's known for its ghost light. The stories about this light go back to a time when horses and wagons were still traveling the road. One man claimed his team of horses were spooked by the light and that he was dumped on the side of the road. The light comes in a variety of colors and appears to be a circle of light in the distance. Some people claim that it approaches them on the road. One young man claimed that the light came down on his car and made odd noises. National Geographic even captured the light on film.
What is the cause of the light? Skeptics claim that it is swamp gas or headlights. Those who believe that the light is a paranormal light have other reasons. Many tell a tale of a train brakeman who was decapitated while checking over the train one night. They believe the light is coming from his lantern and that he is either walking the line as if checking a train or he is looking for his lost head. There is folklore that claims a Spanish treasure was buried and next claimed and somehow it is giving off the light. Others claim that it is a residual fire from a time when the Confederates camped here or possibly a ghost fire from when the Union tried to burnout the Confederates.
The Paulding Light does not go back as far as the Bragg Light. Sightings of it began in the 1960s. It's name for the nearby town of Paulding in Michigan that was named for John Paulding, a militiaman during the Revolutionary War. He was captured during the war and held at Sugar House Prison in New York City. He escaped by jumping from a window and swiping a Hessian coat that he used as a disguise. He received the first military decoration awarded in the United States, the Fidelity Medallion. The first recorded sighting of the ghost light was in 1966. A group of teenagers had been out near the meadow when they noticed a bright orb of light in the distance, at the end of the road. It startled them and acted so unusually that they reported it to the local sheriff.
There are claims that the Paulding Light appears nearly every night. The story behind this ghost light mirrors Bragg Light's railroad brakeman story. Same decapitation, same search with a lantern for the head. So is this just an urban legend that has spread? There are videos that feature the light and it has undergone scientific study. Engineering students from Michigan Technological University made the trip out to the Robbins Pond Road. They did find that the light was a real phenomenon, but they think they proved it was just reflecting headlights from nearby Route 45. They documented cars driving by and even found that the first report dated back to when the road was rerouted.
But SyFy Network's Fact or Faked went out and they found that the Paulding Light was unexplained and they did many of the same tests using headlights and even a flying light. The light continues to attract many thrill seekers though and most would like to believe that the cause is supernatural. The Forest Service supports the visits and even places a sign where the best spot for viewing the light is reported to be. It would seem though, that the mystery has been solved. But we do wonder if the urban legend is borrowed from somewhere like the Bragg Light Road.
Is there something supernatural behind the ghost light on Bragg Road? Are there ghosts wandering this dirt road? That is for you to decide!
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Moment in Oddity - Herophilus Dissected Live Humans
Herophilus was a Greek physician who lived from 335 to 280 BC. At a young age, he moved to Alexandria and spent much of his life there. He was fasinated with the human body from an early age and was a pioneer in anatomy. Most consider him the father of anatomy. In his time, he wrote nine works ranging in topics from childbirth to blood flow. All of those works would be lost. Dissections had been banned throughout Greece, but in Alexandria that ban had been lifted and Herophilus was the first to perform dissections on human cadavers. He would perform these in front of masses of people who all came to learn from a man who had become famous for his anatomy knowledge. Herophilus felt that it would be even better if he could show people the parts of the body actively working. Meaning that live specimens would need to be used. And since some prisoners were already condemned to die, why not use them as subjects? And that is what he did, vivisected living prisoners who were tied down to the table. There are claims that 600 prisoners were vivisected by Herophilus. Though his work dispelled many myths the ancient world believed about the human body, the fact that he dissected live humans, many aware of what was happening, not only seems immoral, but quite odd!
This Day in History - Massacre at Drogheda
On this day, September 11th, in 1649, the Massacre at Drogheda, Ireland occurred. The Massacre of Drogheda was headed by Oliver Cromwell, who was a Protestant representing the English Parliament. He was sent into Catholic Ireland to subdue it. The plan was to offer fair terms and keep violence to a minimum. Arthur Aston represented the Irish Catholic patriots and they were not about to surrender. Cromwell ordered attacks on the walls that protected the town. Six thousand Parliamentary troops rushed through the walls and the irish fell back easily. Drogheda had been taken. What happened next is debated in historical circles. Some say that Cromwell ordered the massacre of the soldiers and people here, others claim that the Parliamentary troops went through slaughtering people of their own accord. Aston and about 200 of his men took cover at Millmount Fort. Cromwell told them that if they surrendered that they would not be killed. They surrendered and an hour later, they were all killed. Aston was beaten to death with his own wooden leg. Roughly 2800 soldiers died that day, along with 800 civilians.
Vicary Mansion and Beaver County Legends (Suggested by listener Heather Marie)
Freedom, Pennsylvania has the Ohio River flowing next to it and on a hill above the river stands a mansion built by Captain William Vicary. The mansion was built in a unique style and has stood on this spot since 1826. The home remained in the family for nearly one hundred years and was saved from demolition by the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation. Today, it is a museum that can be toured. The Foundation claims there are no ghosts at this location, but rumors and legends claim there is some kind of activity that is unexplained happening at the mansion. And Beaver County, where the mansion is located has many legends of its own. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Vicary Mansion and explore the legends of Beaver County!
Beaver County was created in 1800 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ohio and Beaver Rivers flow through the county. The Harmony Society moved to Beaver County from Indiana where they had been harrassed for their abolitionist views. They founded Old Economy Village in 1824. The Harmonist Society were a group of Christian Theosophists and Pietist that had fled Germany because of persecution. The Harmonists took their campaign of abolition of slavery along the Ohio River and placed signs with the word "Freedom" on the banks. The borough of Freedom located in Beaver County gets its name from those signs because people began to identify the area with the word freedom. Stephen Phillips and Jonathan Betz were owners of a steamship building business and they formally established Freedom as a borough in 1832. It consisted of 100 acres that were platted out by Simon Meredith. The town grew fast alongside another borough named St. Clair, which eventually joined with Freedom as Greater Freedom. St. Clair was founded by Captain William Vicary.
Captain William Vicary was a retired merchant sea captain out of Philadelphia when he purchased 604 acres of land in Beaver County in 1826. Vicary had served in the Navy during the War of 1812 and the government had given him 500 acres in the Northwest Territory, which was land northwest of the Ohio River. Vicary met members of the Harmony Society and he liked the sound of Old Economy Village, so he decided that he would build his mansion and establish a village near Economy. That village came to be known as St. Clair. The mansion was built on a hill overlooking the Ohio River. Vicary hired John Moore to head the project. Other men were hired as workers and they mined sandstone from the local area. Captain Vicary had a very specific vision for his house and this created disputes with his foreman. He was unhappy with the lack of progress. Early contractor issues?
Vicary fired Moore and hired another crew of men, but Moore was not about to go away without a fight. He claimed that Vicary owed him money. The dispute went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Vicary would win after many years, but he would already be dead by then. The house was finally finished in November of 1829. The mansion had red oak floors and hand hewn beams. The outside walls were two feet thick and built from sandstone. The inner walls were brick with plaster over them. The mansion boasted twenty rooms. Vicary died in 1842 and the house passed to his wife who died in 1853. The couple had only one living child at that time named Hannah. She had married a doctor and they moved into the mansion. They made some changes and added a mausoleum for their daughter Leonora who had passed away at four years of age. The vault was made of stonework and covered in the back with earth, so that it was mound shaped. Inside the mausoleum were two benches. The outside was encircled in an iron gate and there was an urn decorated with a kneeling woman, wringing her hands in sorrow, and an angel hovering over the grieving woman.
Hannah's other daughter inherited the house in 1880. When her husband died, she remarried and she and her new huband added the porch to the mansion. They later moved to California and rented the house in 1912 to the Bischoffberger family. This family made improvements to the house in hopes of buying it eventually, but it was never sold to them. The Daily Times reported a fire in 1916 at the house in this way, “Fire at the residence of E.J. Bischoffberger in East Third avenue , Freedom, Saturday night about 9 o’clock resulted in damage to the structure and furnishings estimated at from $500 to $600. The family was away from home at the time and the fire which is thought to have originated at or near the furnace in the basement was discovered by an engine crew in the Conway yards who gave the alarm by blowing the locomotive’s whistle. The fire ladies responded with their big motor fire truck and by good work confined the fire to the main hall on the first floor to which it had eaten its way by the time they arrived. Mr. Bischoffberger arrived home from Erie about one o’clock Sunday morning and could not be censured if he regards the happening in the light of a rather costly “house warming”.”
Joseph Nannah bought the mansion for $10 in 1924. He had the mausoleum removed and the bodies interred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Freedom. His daughter Hazel inherited the property and turned it into apartments in 1948 and ripped up the wood porch, replacing it with concrete. In the 1960s, the state government decided to run Route 65 through and they appropriated the property. The mansion was set for demolition. And it would have happened except for one woman who took a stand. Mildred Pappas wrote a letter and then she got other organizations on board to stop the destruction. The state built a retaining wall to save the mansion and the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Beaver County took ownership of the property and it is now the official home of the Beaver County Historic Research and Landmarks Foundation. The mansion is being restored and is open to the public.
The main spectral presence at the mansion is Captain Vicary himself according to local legend. There are claims that the chandeliers swing of their own accord. They are too heavy for it to be wind blowing them to and fro. The lights flick on and off by themselves as well. And then there are the disembodied voices and whispers that seem to indicate that there is more than one spirit here or that the voices are a type of residual haunting. Members of the Foundation say that claims of hauntings are just legend. No paranormal investigation group seems to have found anything haunting the property. So is this just an urban legend?
Never fear our faithful paranormal lovers! We decided to look into Beaver County itself to find some other haunts and we found a few gems! There is Mudlick Hollow. Here a newlywed couple was riding home in their buggy when something spooked the horse and caused it to rear up. In a story we have heard at other locations, the bride fell and broke her neck. The groom himself was pinned under the horse and he soon died as well. There are claims of strange noises in Mudlick Hollow. The clippety clop of a horse's hooves, the crack of a whip and the sounds of a crash and scream. The fog rolls in almost setting off the residual haunting to occur. A young woman writing an article about this area claimed that she would run cross-country through this place and that often felt creeped out and thought she heard noises.
There are a couple of our infamous bridges here with the white lady as well. One bridge is called Summit Cut Bridge and it is in Beaver Falls and the other is Independence Bridge in Hopewell Township. One starts to realize that perhaps there was one true story that has just been adopted across the country. In the tale about Summit Cut Bridge, a young woman drove her car off the bridge, hitting the train tracks below. She is seen both on the bridge and the tracks below as a lady in white. Independence Bridge's tale is about yet another young couple in a carriage that were riding across the bridge and were killed when their spooked horse turned over the carriage. They fell to the creek below. The young woman is seen walking along the creek.
John T. Anderson Cemetery is located in Beaver County in the Independence Township. The cemetery served Service Creek Church, which was built along the banks of the Ambridge reservoir in the 1700's. The graveyard was officially named for Dr. John Anderson, the pastor of the church from 1788-1810. Weather gets weird around this cemetery. It is found at the end of the lane and when one reaches the cemetery, thunderstorms roll in as if on cue. Heading back out the lane leads the storm to dissipate. As if the lane itself triggers the weather phenomenon. Strange voices are heard on the air and people claim to feel that they are being watched. A soldier from the Civil War is buried here and some claim to see a ghostly vision of him still lying in his coffin above the grave.
Old Economy has a legend as well. The Harmony Society was like most religions and they expected chastity. People were to remain celibate until they were married. Melinda was a young follower of the religion who found herself in the very precarious position of being pregnant without being married. Melinda gave birth to the baby and the legend claims that it was more of a miscarriage. But reports that a baby haunts the basement where she buried it in the wall with a pair of gloves seems to indicate that there is a disturbed soul here. More than likely the result of murder. Melinda seems to have been so tormented that she haunts the building herself as well. An attempt was made to see if the remains of the baby could be found to help bring peace. That attempt went sour when a strong wind blew through the basement. Screen windows were blown out and the excavators ran out, leaving the search uncompleted to this day.
The borough of Baden is home to the Calvin Blazier House on State Street. Blazier was a captain of a riverboat and people referred to him as “The Patriarch of the Mississippi.” The home was built in the 1870s and Blazier moved into it in 1890. He lived in it for 50 years. A financial planning firm eventually ended up using the house for its offcies and that is when the reports of hauntings started. Gaylin Katterson was the office manager and she claimed that many odd things would happen. She was working late one night and had her children with her. She saw a child go streaking past here, making quite a commotion and tearing around. She was tired and exasperated as she hollared at her children to stop. The only problem was, this child was not her's and she realized that when he obeyed her order to knock it off and she turned to look at him. She was stunned to see a young boy dressed in knickers and a shirt with a stiff white collar. Then, he disappeared. Other poltergeist-like activity has been reported, but whatever it is, it seems playful.
The 1810 Tavern in Bridgewater is a popular pub and eatery in Bridgewater. They feature live music inside and poutide depending on season. A French Martini here is reported to taste like Gummy Bears. Sounds unusual, as do the reports of the resident ghost here. Employees report hearing disembodied footsteps and claim that doors and cabinets open and close on their own. Occassionally, the chandeliers can be seen swinging of their own accord just like at the Vicary Mansion. Apparently, this is another friendly ghost just looking for some fun at a pub.
Is the Vicary Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Moment in Oddity - Indonesian Man is 145-years-old
Suggested by: Corbin, one of our listener's sons
News broke last week out of Indonesia about a very unique man. He is incredibly frail and the name on his identity card reads, Mbah Gotho. That identity card also identifies his date of birth. Unbelievably, the card states that Gotho was born December 31, 1870. That's right, Gotho is 145-years-old. He has outlived all ten of his siblings, four wives and his children. He has reached a point where his only desire is to die and he has been preparing for that for twenty-four years ago. If his age can be confirmed, it would mean that he would hold the world record for oldest human recorded in our present era. That record is currently held by Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at the age of 122. When asked what his secret to longevity was, Gotho remarked that is was "patience." Such an answer coming from a man who has wished and prepared for death over two decades, seems rather ironic and the fact that he has lived so long, certainly is odd!
This Day in History - US President McKinley Shot
One this day, September 6th, in 1901, United States President William McKinley is shot and mortally wounded. President McKinley was attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo New York and he was shaking hands with the public inside the Temple of Music on that fateful day in 1901. The President had been re-elected for a second term in 1900 and he was a popular president because he liked to meet with the public. One member of that public waiting to meet President McKinley, was Leon Czolgosz. Czolgosz had lost his job during the Panic of 1893 and he was very bitter. He had turned to Anarchism and one goal of the political philosophy was to kill political leaders. Czolgosz shot the President when he reached to shake his hand. The bullet entered his abdomen. The President was rushed for medical care, but no one was able to find the bullet in his body and soon gangrene took hold. President McKinley died on September 13th. Czolgosz was sentenced to death and he met his end in the electric chair. President McKinley was the third president to be assassinated and it was his death that finally got Congress to charge the Secret Service with the duty of protecting the President.
Shanghai Tunnels (Suggested by C. Laurel Boaz, Lisa Lindermann and Michelle Vaugh)
Portland, Oregon was known in Victorian times as the "City of Roses" and it has retained that nickname for over a century. The Portland Underground is known more readily as the Shanghai Tunnels. These tunnels that snaked through what is today Old Town and Chinatown, were used for practical business purposes, but they also serviced the seedy side of things in the city. Some parts of these tunnels can still be accessed today and they reveal a dark, cob-webbed maze that one would not want to enter without a strong flashlight and a good guide. Spirits are reputed to lurk here. Is it because men and women were carried off for human slavery operations through these tunnels? Was it the era of Prohibition that has led to spectral activity? Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Shanghai Tunnels! *Fun Fact: "Keep Portland Weird" is its popular slogan*
Portland, Oregon early in its beginning was inhabited by the Chinook tribe. They were foragers and fishermen and it was this tribe that Lewis and Clark encountered on their expedition in 1805. The Chinookan people practiced flat-boarding, which is a process that would flatten the back of the skull. This would be started when a baby was 3 months old and continued until one year of age. The deformed skull was a sign of a higher social standing. For this reason, white explorers referred to them as "Flathead Indians." The Oregon Trail soon brought settlers to the area and the Chinook were pushed into a smaller region. The massive amounts of trees made Portland a lumber town. And the proximity it had to the Columbia River and the Williamette River gave it a foothold in shipping. Settlers flocked from the East Coast. Portland came by its name in a unique way. Believe it or not, it came down to the flip of a penny. Two men, Maine merchant Francis Pettygrove and Massachusetts lawyer Asa Lovejoy, flipped a penny to decide if the town would be called Portland or Boston after their respective hometowns. Portland was incorporated in 1851 and today is Oregon's largest city.
During the 19th century, the demand for able-bodied men on ships grew. The best place to recruit these men was in port cities. A practice began during this time because there were not enough men willing to go to sea. This practice was called shanghaiing and it took place in most major ports. Portland was one such place. Shanghaiing was at its base, kidnapping. In most places where this happened, men would be drinking in a bar and crimps or kidnappers would approach and offer them something else to drink. Usually this was drugged liquor. Other times, men were just knocked out or grabbed and tied up. The men would awaken to find themselves aboard a ship being ordered to work. Many would spend months at sea in servitude. Crimps were usually middlemen who would sell their victims to captains of ships. Shanghaiing had a unique twist in Portland, where this occurred from the 1850s to the 1940s, because there was an underground there.
Like most cities in the 1800s, Portland's streets were dirt, which meant that much of the time they were mud. This made it hard to transport goods in a bustling port city. A catacomb of tunnels was built beneath Portland starting in the 1870s with many finished by 1894, after the flood in the city that year. Chinese laborers built most of the substructure. The tunnels were brick archways built between basement areas of businesses. They snaked through the North End and South End of town. This basically would connect the modern day Chinatown to downtown Portland. In the North End of town was a bar known as Lazlo's Saloon. It is today a fusion restaurant known as Hobo's and this is where one of the main tunnels ran from. A trapdoor was located at the back of the saloon where victims were dropped down through, their shoes were removed and they were locked in a cell for a time. In case they woke up before they were moved to a ship that was ready to leave port, broken glass was spread on the floor, making escape difficult and leaving a trail of blood to be followed. That trap door has been tiled over at Hobo's Restaurant.
The main purpose of the tunnels was to connect the Williamette Riverfront to businesses in town, making the transport of goods easier. We have heard of similar tunnels in other cities and many times, these underground areas would be used for nefarious or secret purposes. They were used to carry people from gambling halls to opium dens to brothels, without being seen by the public. Access would come through the basements of these various establishments. During Prohibition, the tunnels were used to run liquor. Underground speakeasies were fashioned in the tunnels and barrels of booze were stored along the walls. Human trafficking continued until the early 1940s when it became no longer profitable.
The ease with which shanghaiing could be practiced in Portland because of the tunnels, made it one of the most dangerous cities to visit and it was considered the capital of shanghaiing. Men would be dropped through trapdoors down into the tunnels to be scuttled off to the port. Or at least, that is what the legends surrounding these tunnels claim. There is no actual proof that the tunnels were used for this purpose. While it is clear, that the tunnels were not specifically built for shanghaiing, they certainly could have been quite useful and we're sure that some kidnapped men and women were moved through them. Some researchers claim that number to be 1500 a year. And why wouldn't these tunnels be used? They are perfect for such a practice.
The tunnels are dim and dank, with cobwebs clinging to the dark corners. One can only imagine what the tunnels were like before they were finally closed off in the 1950s. Cascade Historical Society discovered the tunnels and opened up some of them and renovated them. These areas can now be toured. There are holding cells and unearthed artifacts from a bygone era in the tunnels. People reportedly died down here, either murdered or by accident. Something lurks here. Something not human and mainly unseen. Some experiences are residual and some are intelligent and violent. People excavating artifacts in the tunnel claim to have had bricks thrown at them. Paranormal investigators have set up wind chimes to indicate when a spirit passes by. This seems dubious at best since this area is under a shaking and vibrant city, but there is not suppose to be any air flow in the tunnels.
One of the spirits reputed to be here is found beneath the former Merchant Hotel. A young prostitute had been talking to some missionaries in the early 1900s and they told her that they wanted to rescue her from this life. Her employers discovered that she planned to leave and she was thrown down the elevator shaft. Her full-bodied apparition is seen not only in the Old Town Pizza that is located in what was the Merchant Hotel's lobby, but in the basement area connected to the tunnels. She has been seen in both black and white.
Those who died in captivity seem to remain in spirit form. They have been seen as full-bodied apparitions and felt as icy cold spots. Hulking dark figures are attributed to the crimps that ran people through the tunnels. Dark corners suddenly move as though the shadow has come to life. Some claim that these shadows have piercing red eyes.
The basement of the Lotus Nightclub is home to an evil and angry male entity that is reputed to be a bartender who worked in tandem with the crimps. Employees won't go into the basement alone. Glasses are thrown and moved around and CO2 tanks in the basement have been turned on by themselves. Glowing, human-shaped forms are seen climbing up stairs out of the tunnel. People have heard audible voices say both "stay" and "get out."
One of the most frightening experiences usually happens once a year on an anniversary. Back in 1902, the Jennifer Jo was a four-masted schooner that was leaving the port in Portland. On board was a crew of 100 men that had been shanghaiied. They were chained together in the hull of the boat. The ship sank in the Portland Harbor. The crew died. It is said that every year, on the day of the sinking, the crew runs through the entrance of the tunnels the closest to the water. They seem to be looking for the crimps that took them and enslaved them. Several people claim to have seen them and felt as though the group was going to run into them. Even more chilling are the claims of being touched by cold, wet hands.
There is a wolf associated with the tunnels, which seems strange. There is a legend about a Native American man who worked on a Longboat helping to turn the ships in the harbor and he was tall and strong. A crimp wanted to capture him because he felt he could get a lot of money for him. A group of men surrounded him on the streets. Suddenly, he shape-shifted into a wolf and got down on all fours. The men ran in terror. It is said that to this day, the cry of the wolf can be heard along the riverfront. Homeless people claim to hear the call on the night air. People who have heard it are sure that it is not a dog or a coyote. The wolf has been seen in the Underground.
The practice of shanghaiing was cruel and brutal. Such activity builds up strong negative emotions. How many men and women died wanting justice for what had happened to them? Were these tunnels used for shanghaiing? Do spirits of those who lost their lives in the tunnels still remain here? Are the Shanghai Tunnels haunted? That is for you to decide!
Diane's article at Entwined Podcast: http://www.entwinedpodcast.com/news/fingerfood10
Pictures from Christopher Klimovitz of Hunedoara Castle in Romania: