Tuesday, February 14, 2017
HGB Ep. 183 - Point Lookout Lighthouse
Moment in Oddity - Legend of Goatman's Bridge
(Suggested by Kelly Helter)
In episode 182, we featured universities in the city of Denton in Texas. Our listener Kelly Helton told us of a historic iron truss bridge that connects the cities of Denton and Copper Canyon. It was built in 1884 and was used to carry horses and carriages, and later cars, across the Hickory Creek. The official name of the bridge is Old Alton Bridge, but locals call it "Goatman's Bridge." Some claim that a demon like satyr lives in the nearby woods and it is said to be a type of Goatman. But another legend claims that a black goat farmer named Oscar Washburn lived north of the bridge. People started calling him the Goatman because of his success with his goats. But the local KKK did not find Oscar's success endearing. When they found a sign placed on the bridge that said, "This way to the Goatman's," they became enraged. They kidnapped Oscar in 1938, placed a noose around his neck and threw him over the side of the bridge. When they looked down to make sure that he was dead, the noose was empty. They panicked and went to his house and killed his wife and children. From that time, strange lights and ghostly figures were said to be seen on the bridge and in the surrounding woods. Rocks were hurled at people near the bridge as well. And the local legend warns that if you cross the bridge without your headlights, the Goatman will be waiting on the other side for you. The legend of the Goatman's Bridge certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Richard Hauptmann Found Guilty in Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping
In the month of February, on the 13th day in 1935, a jury in Flemington, New Jersey, found Bruno Richard Hauptmann guilty of first-degree murder in the kidnap-slaying of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. He was sentenced to death and he did indeed die in the electric chair for his crime. Through the years, many books and people have claimed that Hauptmann was innocent and there were even 15 men who have claimed to be the son of Charles Lindbergh. The facts of the case were that 20-month-old Charlie Jr. was snatched from his second-story crib. The kidnapper used a homemade ladder to gain entry to the house. A ransom note containing several misspelled words and a symbol comprised of two intersecting circles and three holes was left at the scene. Several ransom notes followed demanding a $50,000 ransom. It was paid, but Charlie was not returned. Ten weeks after the kidnapping, the partially decomposed body of Charlie was found in a wooded area about two miles from the Lindbergh home. He was identified by matching-up his homemade undershirt with the cloth remnant from which it had been cut. Colonel Lindbergh and the baby's nursemaid, Betty Gow, also identified the body at the morgue. Hauptmann was discovered when he used the ransom money to buy gas and much of the rest of the money was found in his garage.
Point Lookout Lighthouse (Suggested by Bob Sherfield)
Point Lookout is a peninsula formed by the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. Maryland's first governor claimed the point as his plot and he built his manor there in 1634. In the early 1800s, the government chose the point as a place to install a lighthouse. During the Civil War, Point Lookout became a prison for Confederate soldiers. Today, the lighthouse has been decommissioned, but still stands and the area is now Point Lookout State Park. The history and deaths that happened here have left Point Lookout and the lighthouse reputedly haunted by several spirits. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Point Lookout Lighthouse.
The indigenous people who lived at Point Lookout were the Yaocomico tribe. They used the area as a fishing and hunting ground for thousands of years. Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to arrive and they did that in 1500. Captain John Smith landed there in 1612 and explored the point for England. In 1632, King Charles I granted a bulk of land to George Clavert that included Point Lookout. George Calvert was also known as Lord Baltimore and it was his younger son, Leonard, who would become the first governor of Maryland. He chose a spot a mile and a half from Point Lookout as the place to build his manor. Later in 1805, James L. Richardson built his home on that land and named it St. Michaels Manor. That house still stands today and is a bed and breakfast. Nearby St. George’s Island was the site of the first battle on Maryland soil during the Revolutionary War. In July of 1776, Lord Dunmore’s navy was spotted with “forty sail of square rigged vessels as far up the Bay as Point Lookout.” A few days later, Captain Rezin Beall prevented the British armada from sailing any further. During the War of 1812, Point Lookout became a watch post for spotting British ships.
While the point was a good look out spot, it also was dangerous for ships and the government decided that a lighthouse was needed at Point Lookout. On May 3, 1825, the Federal Government appropriated $1800 for the project. The owner of the land at the time was a man named Jenifer Taylor and he was not willing to sell to the government. The battle was long and in the end, the government paid him a sizable sum for the land that was barren. They paid $1150. John Donohoo was awarded the contract and he began construction in 1830. He had already built many lighthouses in the bay area. One of those was the Blackistone Island lighthouse, which was very similar in style to the Point Lookout Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in the style of a house, similar to Ledge Lighthouse. It was a story and a half tall with the lighthouse torch centered on the top. The lighthouse began operation on September 20, 1830.
The first lighthouse keeper was James Davis,but he would not hold the position for long. He died a few months later. The position was then offered to another person living with Mr. Davis, his daughter Ann. She was the first female keeper at Point Lookout Lighthouse. She apparently upheld her duties well and in a report made in 1840, Miss Ann Davis was complimented by a supply boat captain, "Miss Davis is a fine woman...and I am sorry she has to live on a small naked point of land". Not only did Ann Davis break ground as the first female keeper at Point Lookout, but she made the same salary as her father at $350 per year. She continued in her duties until she died in 1847. A unique feature of the lighthouse was a fog bell that needed to be manually rung when it was foggy. Whole keeper families would take turns ringing the bell. In later years, a windup mechanism would ring the bell.
The next lighthouse keeper was William Wood and he was said to be very clumsy. He broke most of the light's mirrors and had his pay withheld for a year. He also allowed a cat to fall into the lantern oil barrel, which contaminated it and it had to be replaced. Richard Edwards was appointed as the next keeper in April of 1853. He died while serving that same year and his daughter Martha was assigned the duties. Martha got married later and so her sister Pamelia Edwards took over and that's when things got really interesting. In August of 1863, Camp Hoffman was built just north of the lighthouse. It was in operation from Aug. 1863 until June 1865 and was the largest Union prison camp for Confederate soldiers. Despite only being around for two years, 52,000 prisoners of war were incarcerated there. It was built for only 10,000. During that time 3,000 to 8,000 men died in the camp and were buried on site in a mass grave. The graves were moved later.
The story goes that Pamelia was forced to allow the Union leaders to set up shop in the lighthouse. They used it to house female prisoners who could not be kept at Camp Hoffman that was ramshackle built and basically similar to Andersonville in that it was a yard that was heavily fenced in with no real shelter other than tattered tents. The camp was hot and mosquito infested in summer and freezing cold in winter. The water there was contaminated and the food was spoiled.The female prisoners were later transferred to a federal prison. The officials used a room in the lighthouse for interrogations and many times torture was implemented. Edwards regretted that time period as she was said to have witnessed torture and deaths and she became a rebel sympathizer and helped prisoners escape. She was relieved of her duties in 1869. The lighthouse served as a stop on the Underground Railroad during this time and was a refuge for escaped slaves from Virginia.
The Hammond General Hospital was also set up near Camp Hoffman and the lighthouse to care for those wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was designed with a central hub and wards radiating out. The trip to the hospital was long and arduous from Gettysburg and many wounded did not make it the whole way. The hospital was shut down shortly after the Civil War ended. In 1871, William Yeatman became the lighthouse keeper. He served until 1908 when he died. He was the polite and efficient keeper. The steamship Express from Baltimore broke apart off of Point Lookout in 1878 and that same year, Congress authorized the establishment of a Coast Guard Station next to the lighthouse. Developers built a resort and hotel on Point Lookout in 1880. It later burned to the ground, but there is still a huge, rusty wheel protruding from the sand as a reminder of the former escape for vacationers. In 1883, the house was renovated to two full floors and a summer kitchen and bedroom were added. In 1927, it was renovated again to be a duplex, so that the keeper and assistant keeper could live next to each other. There was another house on the point, so there could be up to three keepers at one time and so this was not a solitary commitment like we have found at some lighthouses.
The final lighthouse keeper was Raymond Hartzel. He served until January 11, 1966, when the light was extinguished for the last time. The Navy took over and then it went under the management of the State of Maryland. The state rehabilitated it and opened it up as apartments. And that is when reports started rolling in that strange things were taking place at the lighthouse. Former keepers denied any haunting activity, but it seems highly unlikely that nothing would happen until civilians moved in. The second to the last keeper was George Gatton and he scoffed at the idea of the lighthouse being haunted. Gatton said, "Haunted? Naw, I don't believe it. I have lived here nearly all my life and I ain't never seen nothing- I never seen nothing, never heard nothing." Tenants claimed to hear strange sounds and unexplained voices and they saw full-bodied apparitions.
Gerald Sword moved into the north side of the lighthouse and Anna Carpenter moved into the south side in the late 1970's. Anna didn't live there long, but she reported hearing someone walking up in the attic and frequently heard furniture being moved around in the north side when Gerry was out. Gerry wrote about his own experiences. He claimed that the kitchen wall started to glow one night for about 10 minutes and during storms he heard disembodied voices inside and outside. For two weeks straight, he heard someone snoring in the kitchen. One night his dog woke him up with its barking. He found the dog outside the porch with the door locked from the inside. He had locked the dog in the screen-in porch before going to bed. He also claimed that the lights were turned off and on by themselves.
Point Lookout is a place full of legends and hauntings. One of the most frequent ghost sightings at Point Lookout is a man in Civil War era clothing. He is seen moving across the road, away from what was once the Smallpox unit. The gaunt ghost shambles across the road, reeking of mildew and gunpowder, wearing ragged clothes. This apparition is most likely residual as it seems to keep to the same route and be unaware of the living. Our listener Melanie wrote and told us, "I went camping there several years ago and there are so many creepy stories associated with the place. One of the stories involved sightings of a headless soldier that walks the circular road in the tent camping area. Another was of a woman who walks the grounds surrounding the lighthouse. Creepy stuff. I didn’t see either, but I can tell you that the electrical system in the Ladies Shower/Restroom area provided to campers was terribly unreliable. Imagine being in a stall, in a park bathroom, in the middle of the night, with all those ghost stories in mind, and the lights begin to flicker. Every. Night."
One of the ghost stories features a man named Mr. Haney. He needed help from one of the keepers and he attempted to row to the lighthouse at Point Lookout. A storm was raging and he never made it to the lighthouse. One of the people living at the lighthouse claimed to see a man at the back porch and he was wearing clothes from long ago. The person opened the door and the man floated across the lawn and disappeared toward the Bay.
Laura Berg lived at the lighthouse from December 1979 to October 1981. Laura wrote about what happened to her after moving in, "I heard through the grapevine that the Point Lookout Lighthouse was available to rent and scheduled an appointment to see the house. I had never been to Point Lookout State Park prior to that. After falling in love with the house and being assured that the State of Maryland had a long-term agreement with the Navy to lease the lighthouse, I signed a lease in November, 1979. After moving in officially on December 6, 1979...I had my first ghostly experience. I heard someone walking up and down the hallway just outside the bedroom door. That same day I noticed an odor in the middle room on the north side. The odor was strongest at night and would basically disappear during the day. On January 14, 1980, the hauntings were confirmed by the experts."
Paranormal investigations have found quite a bit of evidence. One of the investigators was parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holzer. Mediums have felt sick and one claimed to feel the presence of a woman and felt that this woman had contemplated throwing herself down the steps many times. A woman's voice was recorded singing the words "living in the lighthouse." A female apparition has been seen and many think that she is the spirit of former keeper Ann Davis. She has been seen standing at the top section of the stairs wearing a shirt that is white in color and a skirt that is long and blue. A figure has been seen in the basement in the farthest back room. A voice was recorded saying, "Get out!" Other unexplained voices have been recorded. A female voice was recorded saying, “My Home” and a male voice was documented in ordering, “Fire if they get too close.” In the south side basement, a woman named Carol was pushed by an unknown entity and felt unwelcome.
Throughout several areas of the Point Lookout Lighthouse, immense temperature drops have been documented. Naturally, there was no rational explanation on why this occurred. Furthermore, the “chills” were felt at various locations in and around the lighthouse. A key haunting has been smells. They are described as something very “sour” or “rotten.”A picture of a spectral soldier has been taken as well.
Laura Berg wrote, "On the evening of December 7, 1979, after retiring for the evening, I heard footsteps walking up and down the hallway outside of my bedroom door. It sounded like heavy shoes with thick heels or boots. They just kept walking up and down. My immediate thought was I guess this place is haunted. But I did not feel frightened at all. I also noticed that the middle room (guest room) had a strong odor in the evening. It smelled like something was dead in this room. However, in daylight, the odor would disappear. I scrubbed and waxed the floor thoroughly and used air freshener to no avail. I had overnight guests stay in that room on December 6th, but they did not notice anything. As of January 14, 1980, the odor was still noticeable. On January 14, 1980, Dr. Hans Holzer and his group of investigators came from New York to study the Point Lookout area as well as the Lighthouse. When they went into the guest room, the smell was mentioned. One of the mediums reported that she felt sick in this room and actually got chills. She felt very cold and began feeling this way when just walking toward the room. She said that someone had experienced agony in this room. She felt someone had been held against their will. The medium could not determine if the person was a man or a woman. The investigative group speculated whether any prisoners from the Civil War may have been held here but Gerald Sword, Point Lookout State Park Superintendent, reported there was no evidence that this occurred. It was also mentioned that in the 1800's, if someone was retarded or mentally ill or ill, they were sometimes kept out of sight or locked in a room. This is also a possibility. All I know is that after that night, the odor disappeared!"
Robbie Klotz wrote, "My first visit inside the lighthouse was on November 4, 2001 for the open house. However, I have had encounters in the area near the lighthouse before then. I was going through a difficult period back in 1997 and I needed some time alone to think. One morning at 3 am, I drove to the lighthouse, parked in front and rolled down my window about half way down. I was the only one around. At first I thought I was imagining things, but as I went back to thinking again, I heard voices right outside my window, only this time I heard what sounded like someone rattling tin cans or tin plates like they used back in the civil war times. I thought I must have imagined the sounds, however, I returned to the lighthouse on another occasion. This time, I could hear the galloping of horse's feet and male voices, although I could not hear what the voices were saying. Then the voices just faded away. I have visited the park since I heard the sounds - but never late at night- and I always feel like I am being watched."
Robert, Tim and Laura were doing an investigation at the lighthouse and had a shared experience. Tim described it this way, "I was looking to my right over at the old heater and I noticed movement to my left out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see what moved and I saw a rather large translucent shadow move through the air. This gray shadow was about as big as my two fists. My first reaction was that I was seeing a really big luna moth. The object dove down about a foot through the air and zipped across the room away from Laura and I, and towards Robert. I sat in disbelief. Someone said, "Did you see that?" I am very glad somebody else saw it as well. I almost feel like my eyes played a trick on me, but both Laura and Robert saw it as well." Laura described it as, "During a quiet moment, a small transparent shape, no larger than the size of a human hand, appeared to glide in front of Tim and I heading towards Robert. It did not crawl or scurry on the floor and there was no sun in the room that a shadow could be cast from. No noise emitted from the shape. The shade glided just above the floor and was no higher than our knees while seated. It then simply disappeared into the wall near Robert. This entire incident took place in about five seconds. Immediately, we all remarked "what was that?" and a conversation ensued about the possibilities." And Robert said, " As I watched, the transparent object moved just above the ground and very quickly on an angle toward the north wall. Once it got close to the north wall, it veered sharply and began moving parallel to the wall and directly toward me at a high rate of speed. It disappeared to my right, and when I turned to look behind me, it was gone. At first, I thought it was a rat because of the way it headed for the wall, but the object seemed to float on air and moved very quickly and smoothly, with no breaks in shape or size. Had this been a reflection, I would have expected to see the shape disappear and reappear as it moved from one corner of the room to another, but the shape was consistent."
Jim and Julie had the following experience, "We have toured dozens of lighthouses in past years and must admit that there was something odd about Point Lookout lighthouse. From the moment we walked in we sensed sadness, despite the bright sunshine and eager tourists. What was truly disturbing was this... As we climbed the South Side stairs to the 2nd floor, a young boy, maybe 8 years old, followed us, bubbling over with stories about the house and its hauntings. I didn’t notice his clothing as being out of the ordinary, but I did notice that he was alone and not with a family group. I recall him saying, "This is the most 'haunted-est' Lighthouse in the whole country!" He followed us and talked with us for just a few minutes, then went back downstairs at some point. We didn't think much of it rather, we were amused with his energy level and knowledge. He was certainly talking a mile a minute. We assumed it was one of the volunteers' children. When we went back downstairs, we mentioned to the volunteer that his son was delightful and he had been well trained! The volunteer said he had no son, nor did he have any children with him. We looked around the grounds, no children. We went to the back room where a few people were selling candy and promotional items and asked if it was their child. No – there were no children. Were they playing a trick on us? Furthermore, when we got home, we played the video for our grown children to see. There was no child in that video, nor was any young voice audible. Also, in the footage that my husband filmed up in the cupola, there was faint singing, like a woman humming in the background. He did not hear it while he was up there."
In March of 1977, Ranger Donnie Hammett was at work on the Potomac River side of the point, taking environmental data. Hammett spotted an elderly woman searching for something near the beach. Hammett approached the woman and asked if she needed help. She told him that she was looking for a gravestone. Hammett felt unwelcome, as if the old woman resented his intrusion. As he moved away from the area, he had a good view of the road. He left shortly afterward and found his vehicle alone in the parking lot. He has not seen any vehicles on the road. Later, he learned that a tombstone stolen from the Taylor cemetery turned up at a local hotel. Perhaps the woman was searching for her own grave. Authorities are still not quite sure of the exact location of the graveyard. There have been numerous sightings of the ghostly old woman, always searching for the disappeared cemetery.
There are many legends connected to Point Lookout and her lighthouse. Is it possible that some of the former keepers are still carrying on their duties in the afterlife? Is the Point Lookout Lighthouse haunted? That is for you to decide!