Moment in Oddity - Killer Clothing
Suggested by: Ronda Borgen
Have you ever thought to yourself when you're trying to squeeze into those skinny jeans, "I'm going to get these on, even if it kills me?" Well, apparently back during the Victorian era, your clothes really could kill you. Arsenic could kill a person even without them having to ingest the poison. It was found that arsenic could be used to create a vibrant green dye and thus it was used to dye clothing, particularly dresses. Imagine sweating in these dresses over and over and having the dye absorb into your skin. And then there were hats that contained mercury. Men wore top hats made from fur and mercury was used to make the fur strands stick together to give it that sleek look. It was extremely toxic, especially if inhaled. Socks were made with aniline dye that inflamed feet and celluloid combs exploded. And the cotton that many women wore via their hoop skirts and costumes, were incredibly flammable and there were candles everywhere. A woman's dress could ignite and burn completely in 60 seconds. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's wife died this way. While death for a wearer of these toxic clothes was rare, the danger to the makers was very real. Hatters went mad, inspiring the phrase "Mad as a Hatter," and dress makers or floral arrangers died from arsenic poisoning and that, certainly is odd!
This Day in History - Bill of Rights Ratified
On this day, December 15th, in 1791, the Bill of Rights is ratified. The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These were meant to define the basic rights that all humans have upon birth and that the Constitution already supported. Some felt that the Bill of Rights was necessary to make sure everyone understood what basic rights were, but others believed that putting these rights on paper would actually limit them in some way. A promise to attach the Bill of Rights to the Constitution was needed to get some states to ratify the Constitution. These rights included the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the free exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government would be reserved for the states and the people. The ratification process was lengthy and there were fights over which amendments of the original twelve to include. Virginia was the tenth state of the fourteen states at the time to approve ten of the rights and that was what was needed to ratify the Bill of Rights.
Whidbey Island (Suggested by Marjorie Sneed)
Whidbey Island sits along Puget Sound and has a long history dating back to the 1800s. The island is the largest of all the islands making up Island County in Washington. It is a picturesque location that stretches for 55 miles making it the fourth longest and largest island in the contiguous United States. It is home to the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The island also is home to Fort Casey, Ebey's Landing, Admiralty Head Lighthouse and a few legends and stories of hauntings, that include The Lurker. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Whidbey Island.
Whidbey Island is one of nine islands located in Island County, Washington. It is about 30 miles north of Seattle and Whidbey Island is the northern boundary of the Puget Sound. Whidbey Island was once inhabited by Native American tribes that included the Swinomish, the Lower Skagit, Suquamish and Snohomish. A Spanish expedition led by Manuel Quimper and Gonzalo López de Haro on the Princesa Real, sighted the island in 1790, but the full exploration would come in 1792 at the hands of Captain George Vancouver. Further exploration and mapping would be done later by Peter Puget for whom Puget Sound is named and Jospeh Whidbey for whom the island is named. Captain Vancouver decided to name the island for Whidbey after he had circumnavigated the island in June 1792. We will talk about Isaac Ebey later, but he was a pioneer to the island who had great success and other families came based on that success in the mid 1800s. In 1860, a man named W. B. Sinclair built an inn, warehouse and postal station. Around 70,000 people call the island home today.
Fort Casey - There was a need to protect Puget Sound and so a Triangle of Fire was devised, which were three forts. There was Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island. Construction began on Fort Casey in 1897. It was named in honor of Brigadier General Thomas Lincoln Casey, the last U.S. Army chief of engineers. The fort was first activated in 1901 and it had a special feature when it came to its cannon guns. They could disappear. They were rigged on special carriages that could be raised up above the fortifications long enough to fire and then brought back down. And...they were obsolete in no time. They were no defense against planes flying overhead. During World War II, the guns were shipped to Europe and placed on railcars. The fort went inactive in 1935. Fort Casey is now a state park.
There is a lighthouse here as well named Admiralty Head Lighthouse. The Spanish style lighthouse is fairly short and barely rises above the two story keeper's lighthouse. The house has three bedrooms upstairs. A kitchen, dining room and living room were downstairs. It is named for the Admiralty Inlet that it keeps watch over. It was built in 1890 and then rebuilt in 1903. The original lighthouse lens was part of the house. The lighthouse was designed by German architect Carl Leick and it was the last brick lighthouse he designed. The Army used it as a place to train for their K-9 dog program. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1922 and its lantern house was moved to the New Dungeness Lighthouse in 1927. The lighthouse is reputed to be haunted. Some people claim to have seen the figure of a woman leaning over the top railing.
The things that people report experiencing at Fort Casey are weird noises and weird drawings on the walls. Somethings like claws are heard scratching on the walls. A disembodied female voice is heard screaming and apparitions have been seen. There are underground tunnels where people have prickly feelings on their arms. Sandi wrote of her experience, "We stayed in the converted officer duplexes at Fort Casey Inn from July 24-25, 2013; Duplex #5. My 10 year old granddaughter was with her grandpa and I, and we had a car full of those things 10 year old girls MUST have in order to remain appeased and not eternally whining that everything is STUPID. I carried in the first load through the rear entrance of the duplex, while grandpa began unloading rhe overstuffed trunk of the car. I walked in and I began to lay my load on the kitchen table, when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up in time to see a young woman, maybe 19-20 years old with hair cut short like a "20's" kind of flapper style. I figured she was one of the staff, perhaps a maid doing some last minute cleaning in our unit. I did think it was odd that she was wearing a calf-length dress cinched at the waist, especially after encountering the office staff earlier who provided me the keys. These girls were dressed in the standard t-shirt and jean uniform of most college students, so it seemed strange to see someone in such different clothing. I started to say something but she was headed out the door, and then gone. When she didn't greet me and seemed in a hurry to leave, I got a little suspicious, and followed her to the screen door which was closed as soon as I got to it. I pushed it and it gave a great groan. I walked out onto the porch and those 100-year old boards beneath my feet squealed with every step. Despite my following nearly in her footsteps, our mysterious maid had disappeared as if she had never been there. Nothing inside seemed amiss, and I rather forgot about it while trying to get everyone settled in. It was only later that I realized that when the Mystery Woman fled out the screen door it had made no noise, whatsoever. Nor did the porch register it's tired protest, as it had with me."
A woman named Ampbreia wrote of an experience she had at the Fort, "I felt the prickle of an extra presence there, but that was it. Nothing special; not for me anyway… but when we got back out into the sunlight, my mother, who been in the single file line between me and my step father, he leading – mentioned feeling it too and then we all looked at her in surprise because she was wearing a necklace now that she hadn’t been wearing before: a little gold cross I think. Her hand went to her neck when she saw me frowning at it in puzzlement. 'Where did you get that?' I asked. 'What?' she asked in the same minute that her fingers found the necklace and froze with a similar frown on her face. She couldn’t crane her neck enough to see it properly with it on so I unfastened it for her and held it up. 'This.' She frowned. 'It’s pretty, but I have no idea. I have never seen that necklace before…. But I felt…. Something….' I can’t recall if she put the necklace back on, but she kept touching her neck, uneasy as to how the necklace might have gotten there."
The Lurker - Whidbey Island has a Naval Air Station. The Base Exchange was constructed in 1942 as a hangar for the P-3 flying boats. When the Navy no longer needed the flying boats, the building was reconstructed to house the store. Inside, walls divide the building into a snack bar, large retail store, quickie food mart and some smaller specialty stores. It is here that an apparition known as The Lurker is seen.
In the late 1940s, mechanics worked on the P-3s in the hangar. One horrible day, a mechanic came to a gruesome end when he walked into a moving propeller blade. No one is sure if this was an accident or a suicide. Either would be tramatic enough to cause a haunting to occur. Ever since this happened, people have claimed to see a man wearing coveralls in the store. He is usually seen on the catwalks in the back portion of the warehouse. No one should be on those catwalks and when anyone approaches to find out what he is doing, he has disappeared. Employees claim to find piles of clothes on the floors when they open up in the morning. What is bizarre about the clothing is that it is usually found in a state as if someone had laid down and just disappeared. The underwear is inside the pants, socks are inside shoes and the shirt is tucked into the pants.
A strange smell accompanies the apparition that is described as being similar to the smell of popcorn and employees hear disembodied footsteps walking among the clothing racks. The hangar has a very secure key padlock and chain system to lock the building at night. There have been several occasions when the night manager has finished locking up and then hears the padlock clicking as it unlocks and opens. The chain and lock then fall free from the doors. Security has been unable to explain how it happens and even after they secure the door, the same thing happens. Very few are skeptical about the Lurker because so many have experienced him.
Crockett Farm Bed & Breakfast - This charming Bed and Breakfast is run out of a 150 year old home that had once belonged to Colonel Walter Crockett. He was born on January 29th in 1786 in Virginia. He served during the War of 1812 and served three legislative terms for Virginia. In 1838, he decided to move west for greener pastures and ended up in Missouri. He decided the Pacific Coast would be even better and he took his family on the dangerous journey there in 1851. He went with several other families. The family did very well with farming on 640 acres and the Colonel lived there for eighteen years before he passed. His sons Walter Jr. and Charles moved into the house. In 1895, Walter Jr. had the barn built from old growth timber with a "mortise and tenon" technique to secure the beam work. The architecture style is unique in that wood dowels were used to secure the beams, so no steel bolts or plates were used.
The Historic Crockett Farmhouse features five guestrooms, each with its own bathroom, a library and a dining room. There is also a barn on the property that is now only 11.5 acres. It is owned by Paula Spina and she hired historian Diana Peterson to be the proprietress. Before Paula owned the property, it was owned by Bob and Beulah Whitlow. They ran it as a bed and breakfast from 1984 until 2005. They even had Danny Devito, Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas stay there while they were filming a movie. They called in help to purge the evil from the house because they felt they had a ghost in the place. For years before they owned the place, it had been a crash pad for hippies. Much renovation was needed and it was during this time that the Whitlows started to feel an unpleasant presence. One time, Mr. Whitlow was trying to go upstairs to retrieve an item and he was physically stopped by something he could not see.
The Colonel's son, Charles, killed himself with a pistol in an upstairs bedroom on Dec. 12, 1893. He was having mental health issues and decided it would be better to die than be locked away in an asylum. There was blood everywhere and it soaked into the floor boards. It still can be seen underneath the carpeting. It is his spirit that roams the house in the afterlife. Mr. Whitlow was giving a tour to a group of women and when they were leaving the room that Charles killed himself in, glass fell with a crash out of the pane of a broken window. The Whitlows also discovered a hand-sized blood stain on the ceiling in a downstairs bedroom beneath Charles' room.
Gordon Weeks, a former reporter in Coupeville, lived for about six months in that very room and he reported having a number of supernatural experiences. “I felt like it was a benign presence,” he said. “I never felt like it was threatening." Most of the experiences were the basic catching movement out of the corner of the eye. The window shades went up by themselves one time and on another occasion, the bathroom door swung open on its own. It was after this that the Whitlows had the home cleansed and none of their guests ever reported having any issues. And the new owner says she has had no issues either. So perhaps, Charles is at rest now. The property is within the bounds of the Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve.
Isaac Ebey and Ebey's Landing - Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey was born on January 22, 1818 in Ohio. The west called to him and he spent the early part of his life moving in that direction. He ended up in Missouri for a time where he studied law and he met a woman named Rebecca Davis. They were married in 1843 and had two sons named Eason and Ellison. Isaac wanted to continue to the west coast, but he did not think that would be a good idea for his family. So in 1848, he left his family with relatives and headed off to pursue the Gold Rush. He ended up in the Puget Sound area and after exploring Whidbey Island, he fell in love with the area. He entered a claim for 640 acres in October of 1850. The area came to be known as Ebey's Prairie. He wrote to his brother about the location, "I have taken my claim on it and am now living on the same in order to avail myself of the provisions of the Donation law. If Rebecca, the children and you all were here, I think I could live and die here content."
Rebecca did come and brought their three sons in 1852. She was also joined by her three brothers and a family named Crockett. Isaac built the family a blockhouse. His parents and brother soon joined his family on the island and built a home right next to his blockhouse. The land was very fertile and Isaac did very well. When others heard about the agricultural success, they moved their families to Whidbey. Rebecca died after the birth of their third child, a daughter named Sarah, in 1853. Sarah died as well. The Mainland Indian Wars started in 1855 and Isaac joined the fight leading a company of volunteers. He received the title of Colonel for his efforts. When he returned from the fight he became involved in territorial affairs and used his law degree as a prosecuting attorney.
Isaac remarried a widow named Emily Palmer Sconce and she joined Isaac at Whidbey with her daughter, Anna. Everything was very good at Whidbey except for one thing and that was the relationship with the Haida Tribe. There were several skirmishes and the Haida were finally forced to move north. The tribe agreed that they would go, but within their group they promised to take the heads of several prominent men, which they referred to as Tyee, before they left the territory. Isaac would be one of the men they would choose to attack. It was a peaceful summer day in August of 1857 and the Ebey family were entertaining friends. The dogs suddenly started barking and going nuts.
Isaac told everybody to stay put while he went out to investigate. He was attacked and beheaded by the Haida who ambushed him. We should note here that there is some debate as to who really attacked Isaac Ebey. The oral history of the Kake tribe, a sub-group of the Tlingit from Alaska, claims that they conducted the revenge raid in 1857. A delegation of Kake elders visited Coupeville in 2014 on the anniversary of Col. Ebey's death to offer restitution. Whichever tribe is responsible for the raid, it was brutal. The family and guests heard a gunshot and they escaped through a back bedroom window when the natives broke into the front of the family's cabin. They ransacked the rooms as the guests fled to the woods. Emily took the children to her father-in-law's house.
Isaac's brother, Winfield, wrote in his diary on August 14, 1857: "My Brother Isaac is Dead - My noble high minded brother is no more - shot and beheaded at his own door...Oh! the agony I have suffered for three long days and still suffer. It seems more bitter than death. On the morning of the 12th at about 2 o'clock, we were awakened by a knocking and shouting at the door. I...sprang from the bed and found R. C. Hill, H. Hill, R. H. Crosbie and Mrs Corliss. In a few words they told us that an attack had been made on Isaac's house by the Northern Indians, that Mrs. C- had jumped from a window got off, ran to Mr. Engle's and aroused them and came up here."
Winfield gathered a posse and they rescued the group from the woods. In the morning, Winfield went to Isaac's home to take care of his brother's body. He found his brother's headless body near the end of the porch. He was buried up the hill from his cabin at Sunnyside Cemetery next to his wife Rebecca and their daughter Sarah. Emily left the island after the attack with her daughter and Issac's sons were raised by their grandparents. The cabin was left deserted. The cabin burned down in 1860 and was rebuilt not long after.
In 1992, Phyllis Burns visited the cemetery where Issac is buried and she and her mother reported, "As we turned to leave, I saw a movement off to our right about 100 yards away. I looked and saw a woman in a long black dress with a long black hooded cape over it. She had the hood over her head. She was walking down the hill towards the cabin. Without saying anything, I touched my Mother's arm and pointed to the woman. We all turned and watched as the woman slowly walked then disappeared behind some large bushes. She never came out the other side. We walked over to where we had seen her, feeling a bit apprehensive. There was no sign of her. We walked down to the road that runs between the cemetery and the cabin - she was nowhere to be found. There were no vehicles on the narrow lonesome road except ours. We drove back to the mainland in silence, wondering who the woman in the black cloak was. I often wonder if the apparition was Ebey's first wife, Rebecca, and if she is somehow stuck in time. She must have loved her island paradise as much as Isaac did. Because she died young and unexpectedly, she must be searching for something to hold on to -- maybe looking for Isaac to help him cross over?"
Other hauntings in the area feature the misty, pale blue apparition of Isaac himself. He is generally seen in the cabin and this seems to be residual in nature as he leaves the cabin over and over as if heading out to meet his tragic end again and again. Other times, people claim to see his headless spirit wandering the fields near the cabin. Sometimes he is cradling his head under his arm. He is at unrest, perhaps seeking his head, although his scalp with ears attached was later returned to his brother. Legend claims a couple of things in regards to the scalp. One story says that his brother dug up his brother's coffin so that he could place the scalp in with the headless body. Another story claims that the family passed it down through generations.
Do the Lurker and Isaac Ebey still wander the island where they met their horrific ends? Do spirits wander Fort Casey and Crockett House? Is Whidbey Island haunted? That is for you to decide!
We also feature the 7th installment in the third series of Tim Prasil's Spectral Edition. Check out more of his stuff at: http://merryghosthunter.wordpress.com
|Photo courtesy of Brian Dilbeck|
|Photo courtesy of Brian Dilbeck|