Friday, March 31, 2017

HGB Ep. 193 - Legend of the Faeries

 
Moment in Oddity - Mother Ludlam's Cave
(Suggested by: Rachel Thomson)

There is a small grotto in Surrey, England that has many local legends told about it. This grotto is known as Mother Ludlam's Cave. Early stories claim that monks found the cave and the spring inside, which was used for drinking water. It was thought that the spring had healing properties and was named Lud after the Celtic god of healing. The most interesting story related to the cave is the legend of Mother Ludlam. Mother Ludlam was a white witch who would help out the local townspeople. She would lend them whatever they needed, but it was always with the stipulation that it had to be returned in two days. Villagers would approach the cave and ask Mother Ludlam for what they needed and when they returned home, that item would be sitting on their front stoop. One man borrowed a cauldron. He forgot to return in within the two days and Mother Ludlam flew into a rage. She went seeking him and when he found out, he took the cauldron and hid in Frensham Church. That is one version of the story. The most told tale is that it was not a man who came to borrow the cauldron, but the Devil himself. Mother Ludlam saw the Devil's hoofprint and she refused to give him the cauldron, so he stole it. It is said that as he ran, he leapt over the ground forming hills that are known as the Devil’s Jumps near Churt. He finally dropped the cauldron (or kettle) on the last one which is called “Kettlebury Hill” today. Mother Ludlam retrieved the dropped cauldron and hid it in the Frensham Church where the Devil wouldn't look for it. These sound like fun legends about a real cave, but the cauldron actually can be seen to this very day at Frensham Church and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Johann Sebastian Bach is Born

In the month of March, on the 31st day, in 1685, Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany. Bach began school at the age of seven. He studied Latin and received religious studies in the Lutheran faith. His faith would influence his future musical career. Tragedy struck for him at the tender age of ten when both his parents died and he found himself an orphan. There would be a silver lining as his older brother, Johann Christoph, took him in and raised him. Christoph was a church organist in Ohrdruf and he taught Bach how to play. Bach lived with him until he was fifteen. He went away to a school in L√ľneburg where he had won a spot because of his beautiful soprano singing voice. His voice changed later and Bach decided to switch to playing instruments. He chose the violin and the harpsichord. Bach became a composer, but during his lifetime, he was more known for his organ playing than his composing. Some of his famous compositions include "Toccata and Fugue in D minor," "Mass in B Minor," the "Brandenburg Concertos" and "The Well-Tempered Clavier." He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. Today, he is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.

Legend of the Faeries (Suggested by Vicki Luther and Amy Harris Martinez)

A belief in Faeries has existed for centuries and stretches all around the world. Early stories of faeries originate in medieval Western Europe and this is where we get the term "Fairy Tales." The roots of the oldest tale of fairy creatures comes from a folktale named “The Smith and the Devil.” Some fairy tales are thought to be up to 6,000 years old. Stories of faeries traveled with the colonists to America and are still strong in Appalachian and Ozark lore. There are many theories as to what faeries may be and because of this, they take many forms in folklore. And while most people believe that faeries are not real, the belief in these creatures is very real. And there are tales that go beyond superstition and leave open the possibility that faeries may just exist. Join us as we explore the folklore about these fascinating beings and examine some of the tales that are told about them!

When it comes to appearances, most of us grew up with the image of a cute little winged pixie that was little more than a human butterfly. Ask someone what a fairy looks like and they most likely will describe Tinker Bell from "Peter Pan." But faeries come in a variety of forms and are generally much larger than the six inch image most of us have. The smallest faeries are described as little more than balls of light, similar to fireflies, but these orbs of light can be as large as two to three inches in diameter. They are referred to as Will o' Wisps many times. Then there are the "gnome-sized" faeries, equated with little people, that run between two and three feet tall and they like to wear the color red and green. Human-sized faeries are not as common and usually appear more shadowy in somber colors, occasionally wearing cloaks. All sizes have been described as winged, but faeries do not necessarily all have wings. They have fair skin, which can come in a variety of pastel coloring. All faeries are thought to be magical creatures.

There are many theories as to the origins of faeries. There are beliefs that they have descended from the ancient race of elves and so they have a similar look, but with the upgrade of being able to fly. Elementals are spirit creatures of air, water, fire and earth and there are some that believe that faeries are really elementals. It's important to note that some spiritual practices see elementals as branching out into pixies, sprites, devas, elves, brownies, leprechauns, gnomes, merfolk, kelpies, hobgoblins and faeries. Even more interesting is that there are those who classify faeries as these individual creatures, making faeries the top classification. So pixies are really a race of faeries, as are leprechauns and so on. Perhaps because of the wings, faeries are thought to be a type of angel. Early Christian beliefs held that if someone died without being baptized, then they would become a faery creature. It was taught that the fallen angels that went with Lucifer became faeries when God stopped them in mid-flight on their way to Hell. They were told to stay right where they were, which is why some are in the air, some are in the water and some are in the earth. These accounts are found in Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian folklore. Others think they are souls caught between heaven and Hell in some kind of limbo. And still other tales claim that faeries are the offspring of demons and angels coming together. 

These beliefs in early Christianity were adapted from pagan beliefs, which is where faeries have their true origins. All branches of the Celtic families adopted stories of faeries and those beliefs spread to the British Isles and on to France and Germany. The Welsh had a matriarchal society and they called faeries "The Mothers" coming down from the Mother Goddess they worshipped. Faeries in their lore were always depicted as females living in Fairyland, which was also known as the Land of Women. An interesting incorporation of faeries in the pagan pentagram, makes faeries seem to be a spirit type elemental. The five points of the pentagram are air, water, fire, earth and spirit, with faeries being the spirit incarnate. One of the reasons why it is rare to see a faery is because of this spirit nature and the idea that they live in a different world or what we might term in our modern language, a different dimension. This dimension is sometimes referred to as the land of Tir na nog which is the Land of Eternal Youth. The veil between these worlds seems to be thinner at twilight and this is when these creatures are most likely to be seen. If a human tries to pass into Tir na nog and actually accomplishes this feat, they will never return, at least not alive.

As we covered on our episode about Icelandic folklore, Icelanders are superstitious about elf rocks where they believe elves live. Those rocks are not to be moved. Other countries have similar beliefs about faery domiciles, which makes sense when considering that elves and faeries may be one and the same. The Irish have burial mounds they call sidhe, which means fairy mound, because they believe faeries live in these mounds. Hundreds of these still dot the Irish landscape. So the Irish believe that faeries are connected to the deadlands and that they can go back and forth from earth to heaven to the underworld. This is interesting when thinking of faeries as spirit beings. At Samhain, faeries leave their fairy hills according to Irish lore.

The purpose of faeries really depends on the faery. Some are mischievous imps leading travelers astray in the woods, while others are helpful and bring food for those lost in the woods. If you awaken with tangled hair, those could be elf-locks that a faery has twisted into your hair as you slept. They occasionally help themselves to small items. Consumption was blamed on faeries in some places as it was thought that they were keeping these people awake all night, mostly dancing and such, and the lack of sleep was wasting them away. Most faeries were thought to be hard workers, but shy and diminutive in stature. It is thought they raised animals to be of smaller stature as well. Brownies, for example, were welcome around farms and the house because they were happy to help with chores. There is historical evidence of little people races in Europe and the British Isle, which could be what spawned stories of faeries.

There is a sinister side to faeries though, that involves changelings. Many of you have probably heard of changelings. These are faery babies that have been substituted for human babies. You may not know; however, why faeries exchange babies. Female faeries have great difficulty in carrying babies and even more difficulty giving birth. If they manage to carry a baby to full term, it is generally deformed in some way. There is actually a genetic reason for this because faery races are small in number and so inbreeding is common. They bring these sickly and deformed faery babies into the human world and exchange them for a healthy human baby. They are then taught the faery ways and strengthen the blood lines. Adult humans can be exchanged with a changeling too. It is rare, but has happened according to lore. These humans are trapped with faery magic for a length of time to help them forget their former lives. Then they are used to produce healthy faery babies. (This seems similar to tales of aliens using humans for breeding purposes.) The changeling left behind usually gives itself away because of its ill tempered nature.

There are things that humans can use to keep faeries away. Faeries do not like iron, particularly if it is cold iron that has yet to be heated for shaping. Steel is an alloy of iron and is said to weaken faeries, although it is not toxic to them like iron. Charms made from salt, herbs like rosemary, St. John's Wort and dill, gravesoil and rowan wood weakens faeries. Planting a rowan tree near the door works best. Newfoundland folklore claims that bread can keep the beings away. Holy water can make them ill and if you know the faeries real name, you have power over them, which is similar to a belief that knowing a demons name gives one power over them. Horseshoes are not just a symbol of good luck, they apparently are a faery deterrent, particularly if made from iron. A row of iron nails would be hammered into the headboard of a bed where a new mother would lie down with her baby and Scotland held the belief that if the father's pants were hung at the foot of the bed, it would frighten the faeries. Wrapping the baby in the father's shirt would have the same effect. And remember that a faery is like a vampire in that it cannot enter your home without being invited.

In Thailand, they have a fairy-like creatures that they call Naree Pon. They are said to be a combination of plant and animal. They stand less than three feet tall and have female bodies with a camouflage coloring to their skin. Locals sometimes refer to them as the Thai Flower Pod Women. In Buddhist folklore, the Naree Pon come to Buddha as he meditates and they distract him. This happens mostly during the day, as they hide in the trees at night. The legends also describe the Naree Pon as fruit on trees that become alive after falling from the trees and live for a week. After the week is over, their bodies whither into little carcasses that can be held in the hand. A temple outside of Bangkok has a couple of them on display. They have unusually long arms and a plant-like structure on their heads. Syfy’s Destination Truth went out in search of them on an episode, but did not find any.

One of the events that caused many to lose faith in faeries were the hoax photos that came out in the early 1900s known as the "Fairies of Cottingley Glen." There were five photographs in the collection that were captured by two cousins named Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. The girls appeared in the photos with these tiny human-like creatures who had period style haircuts, wore flowing gowns and had large wings on their backs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the authenticity of the pictures wholeheartedly. He published two of them with a piece he wrote for "The Strand" in 1920. He then authored a book about the Cottingley Fairies and his belief in them named "The Coming of the Fairies." City News wrote of the story in 1921, "It seems at this point that we must either believe in the almost incredible mystery of the fairy or in the almost incredible wonders of faked photographs."

Now, we have referred to these photos as a hoax, but Harold Snelling, who was a fellow spiritualist and also an expert on photographic retouching, said, "These dancing figures are not made of paper nor any fabric; they are not painted on a photographic background — but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during the exposure." Snelling reprinted and retouched the negatives to get crisper images. Those images looked even more real than the originals. He and Doyle agreed that the girls were too young to pull off such a hoax. The two girls grew into women and they were hounded several times in iradult lives to tell the truth. They were always very evasive with their answers until they were older women in their 70s and 80s. They professed that "the fairies in the photographs were actually drawings Elsie had made, cut out and set in place with hatpins." They traced them from "Princess Mary's Gift Book" and placed cardboard behind them that was fastened with zinc oxide bandage tape. Frances wrote in 1983, "I'm fed up with all these stories... I hated those photographs and cringe every time I see them. I thought it was a joke, but everyone else kept it going. It should have died a natural death 60 years ago." What is fascinating about this story is that although the women admitted the pictures were a hoax, they maintained that they really saw faeries and interacted with them. And this, they both maintained until their deaths. In the 1980’s, Ronnie Bennett, a forester in Cottingley Woods, came forward with a fairy encounter he had while working there: "When they showed themselves about nine years ago there was a slight drizzle around. I saw three fairies in the woods and I have never seen them since. They were just about ten inches tall and just stared at me. There is no way the Cottingley Fairies is a hoax."

William Blake was a poet and an artist and apparently, a believer in faeries. It is said that he had the following conversation with a woman:
"Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam?" said Blake to a lady who happened to sit next to him.
"Never, Sir!" said the lady.
"I have," said Blake, "but not before last night."
And he went on to tell how, in his garden, he had seen "a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and grey grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared".
The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan Castle is a very interesting story. Dunvegan Castle, on the isle of Skye, is the ancestral home of the MacLeod clan. The family came into possession of the flag, when the Fae wrapped the infant MacLeod in it when he was at the point of death. The family was told that they could wave the flag two more times when they were in distress and the Fae would come to help. The second time it was waved was at a battle in Waternish in 1520 and it was used to rally MacLeod's men. The flag was later cut into small pieces and carried by the MacLeod Warriors during World War II. The soldiers believed the flag would give them magical protection. Those who carried a piece of the flag were said to have come home alive. What is left of the Fairy Flag is preserved under glass on a wall at Dunvegan Castle. There is still one more wave of the flag left.

William Butterfield was the keeper of Ilkley Wells in West Yorkshire, England and he claimed to have a fairy encounter in 1815, “As he drew near the wells he took out of his pocket the massive iron key, and placed it in the lock; but there was something “canny’ about it, and instead of the key lifting the lever it only turned round and round in the lock. He drew the key back to see that it was alright, and declared, “It was the same that he had on the previous night hung up behind his own door down at home. Then he endeavored to push the door open, and no sooner did he push it slightly ajar than it was as quickly pushed back again. At last, with one supreme effort, he forced it perfectly open, and back it flew with a great bang! Then ‘whirr, whirr, whirr’, such a noise and sight! All over the water and dipping into it was a lot of little creatures, all dressed in green from head to foot, none of them more than eighteen inches high, and making a chatter and jabber thoroughly unintelligible. They seemed to be taking a bath, only they bathed with all their clothes on. Soon, however, one or two of them began to make off, bounding over the walls like squirrels. Finding they were all making ready for decamping, and wanting to have a word with them, he shouted at the top of his voice—indeed, he declared afterwards, he couldn’t find anything else to say or do—”Hallo there!” Then away the whole tribe went, helter skelter, toppling and tumbling, heads over heels, heels over heads, and all the while making a noise not unlike a disturbed nest of young partridges. The sight was so unusual that he declared he either couldn’t or daren’t attempt to rush after them. He stood as still and confounded, he said, as old Jeremiah Lister down there at Wheatley did, half a century previous, when a witch from Ilkley put an ash riddle upon the side of the River Wharfe, and sailed across in it to where he was standing."

Janet Bord wrote "Fairies: Real Encounters with Little People." She reported that in 1968, contractors in Donegal would not cut down a gnarled tree that stood in the way of a new road they were building because it was believed that the tree was a fairy tree. One of the contractors said, "There is something uncanny about it.The roots are not more than a couple of feet below ground - yet it defied a hurricane seven years ago." There are multiple stories of people getting sick after cutting fairy thorns and putting up buildings across fairy paths. People living in homes blocking a  fairy path would open their windows at night so that the faeries could pass through and then the occupants would not become ill. A girl became lost in 1935 on Lis Ard, which was a fairy fort in County Mayo. There was a gap to the outer bank that she should have been able to pass through, but some kind of external force kept her from passing. This force turned her round so that she was walking back into the fort. She tried again and again, but it was as if there was an invisible wall and it felt hostile to her. Later, the barrier disappeared and she was able to leave. Bord also writes of an impossibly tiny shoe found in Ireland and a large group of tiny people seen playing in a Fairy Bog in Wales.

A Somerset farmer's wife  claimed in 1962 that she had lost her way at Berkshire Downs and was put on the right track by a small man in green who appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared after pointing her in the right direction. A woman in Cornwall also claimed to see a small green man with a pointed hood and pointed ears as she was making her way to the ferry. Her daughter saw the same creature and they made a mad dash for the ferry, totally terrified.

Danica wrote, "I do believe in fairies. My daughters and I rented a trailer in El Cajon, California in 2010. One morning we were all eating breakfast in the kitchen, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a fairy floating in the air. It was a female about three feet in height sprinkling gold dust all around her. At the same time, my oldest daughter said, 'Mommy , mommy, there is a fairy sprinkling gold dust everywhere over by the window.' My daughters and I also experienced some other unexplained phenomena in that trailer. It was getting a little too scary for us. We only stayed living in that trailer for 10 days and moved out as quickly as we could. I think my daughters and I somehow attract the unexplained, paranormal, whatever you want to call it, because we have encountered several more experiences with the paranormal that were scary. Thankfully, it has been almost a year that we have not encountered anything. We have seen things that no one would believe. Prayer and faith have kept us safe."

Did faeries actually exist? Is it possible that they still exist today? Most of the former Celtic nations of Brittany, Germany, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have people who believe that faeries still exist. There is a theory that they are rarely seen because they are a dying breed. Still others reason that the creatures are disappearing because we fail to believe in them. Do you believe in faeries? That is for you to decide!

Monday, March 27, 2017

HGB Ep. 192 - Penn State University

 
Moment in Oddity - Lord Tod Wadley
(Suggested by: Kelly Helter)

Lord Tod Wadley was a doll made by the Steiff Toy Company. The company was based in Germany and started by Margarete Steiff in 1880 and specialized in plush toys like teddy bears. Lord Tod Wadley was a male doll that stood over a foot tall. He was given to Marion Barbara 'Joe' Carstairs by her girlfriend, Ruth Baldwin. Joe Carstairs was a British eccentric heiress to the Standard Oil family who made a name for herself in power boat racing in the 1930s. In her day, she was known as the fastest female speed boat racer in the world. Before she got into that, she served during World War I in France with the American Red Cross, driving ambulances. She helped rebury the war dead after the war ended and later in Dublin, during the Irish War of Independence, she served with the Women's Legion Mechanical Transport Section. She was very different for her time. She tattooed her arms, dressed like a man and was openly gay. She had affairs with numerous famous women including Dolly Wilde - who was Oscar Wilde's niece - Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead and Marlene Dietrich. She bought an island named Whale Cay to retire on and she ruled there like a queen. But what truly made her unique was Lord Tod Wadley. Joe was never without the doll, unless she was racing, because she feared losing him. She treated the doll as though it were a living child. And she spoiled it with gifts. She bought him cowboy outfits, dolls of his own, Italian made shoes, a small wristwatch, sailor suits, revolvers, a Bible and suits from Savile Row. Sculptures were made in his honor, along with portraits. One portrait featured Lord Tod Wadley before a mirror with his reflection that was titled "Narcissus." Joe talked to the doll and when she finally died in Florida at the age of 93, she had the doll cremated with her. Having dolls and toys as an adult is normal, but keeping a doll and caring for it as if it were a living child and as your only companion, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Nazi General Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff Attempts to Assassinate Hitler

In the month of March, on the 21st day, in 1943, Nazi General Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff attempts to assassinate Hitler. Throughout World War II, there were many attempts to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Nazi General Gersdorff was one of those men who participated in an elaborate plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The Nazis had intercepted a bunch of Soviet weapons and they were stored at an armory in Berlin. Gersdorff was a weapons expert, so he was tasked with taking Hitler on a guided tour of the former Soviet arsenal. He realized that this was a great opportunity to try to kill the Nazi leader since he would be right there next to him. Gersdorff stuffed two bombs in his pockets and began the tour. This was going to be a suicide mission. The plan was to ignite the fuses, which would take ten minutes to detonate and before they exploded, Gersdorff was going to lock Hitler into an embrace. As it turned out, Hitler was in a big hurry when he arrived at the armory. He had no plans to stay for ten minutes and so there was not enough time to detonate the bombs. Gersdorff had to make a mad dash for the toilet where he secretly detonated the bombs and his plan remained unknown to Hitler, who would have had him killed. Gersdorff spent much of the rest of his service supervising the construction of mass graves following a series of mass executions of Poles perpetrated by the NKVD, which was a clandestine Soviet police organization.

Penn State University

Penn State University is a part of the Big Ten East and has 24 campuses across the state of Pennsylvania. Not bad for a school that had small beginnings and only 64 undergraduate students. Penn State was one of the first land grant universities in America and was founded as an agricultural school. The main campus is situated in the Nittany Valley between Nittany Mountain and Muncy Mountain. The university sits on a limestone shelf, which lends itself to capturing energy and it is said that this may be one of the most haunted universities in America. Matt Swayne, author of America's Haunted Universities, joins us to share stories of spirits that continue here in the afterlife. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Penn State!


Pennsylvania State University has meager beginnings as a farmer's college. A man named James Irvin was a prominent ironmaster and agriculturalist in the 1800s. He entered politics and was elected twice as a representative to Congress for the 14th congressional district in Pennsylvania. He ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 1847, but did not win. Irvin was also a landowner and had several acres in Centre County. He donated 200 acres for the founding of the Farmer's High School, which was chartered in 1855 by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was one of the nation's first colleges of agricultural science. The land was located at the junction of Penns, and Nittany Valleys near the geographical centre of the State. Irvin was passionate about mixing agriculture and science and had a certain vision for the new school.

Irvin wrote to the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society that "If we would add dignity to Manual labor, if we would have it held in honor by the Community; we must associate it with Science, and if we would lessen the expense of acquiring scientific knowledge, so as to bring the Cost within the means of the farming Community, we must connect its acquisition with manual labor – These as I understand are leading objects of the Farmers High School of Pennsylvania; and if, as has been suggested such an institution properly organized, with the aid of the Surplus funds of your Society and a reasonable appropriation from the State, can afford to the young men of Pennsylvania, able and willing to work, (when work is required of all, and esteemed honorable) a scientific practical education, at an expense of less that Seventy five dollars per annum, it will be productive of benefits to the community, the full extent of which time only can develop, and future generations only tell."

Evan Pugh was the founding president. He planned a curriculum based on the scientific education he had received in Europe. He joined other leaders in supporting the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act through Congress in 1862. The act enabled states to sell federal land, invest the proceeds, and use the income to support colleges "where the leading object shall be, without excluding scientific and classical studies ... to teach agriculture and the mechanic arts [engineering] ... in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in all the pursuits and professions of life." The Farmers High School would then become Pennsylvania's land-grant institute and the name was changed to Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. In 1874, the college would become Pennsylvania State College. The mission of Penn State has been research, teaching and public service and you will hear Matt talk about that a little later.

In the 1880s, Penn State expanded the curriculum to include far more than just agricultural science. Liberal arts were introduced, along with engineering. This was championed by then president George W. Atherton. He and his wife will come up again later when we get into talking about hauntings. The early 1900s brought cooperative extension and outreach programs, which grew into other campuses branching out across the state. This would give students a better chance of attending the university during the Great Depression. In the 1950s, research brought advances in building insulation, dairy science, diesel engines and other specialized fields. It was also in the 50s when Penn State would officially become a university under President Milton S. Eisenhower, who was the brother President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1967, the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center was established as a college of medicine with a hospital in Hershey.

In 2000, Penn State merged with the Dickinson School of Law and it also graduated its first students enrolled in the World Campus. The university has had a huge influence in the state. It is the largest school in the state and has the second-largest impact on the state economy, generating an economic effect of over $17 billion on a budget of $2.5 billion. A main outreach of the university is philanthropy as well. Its Grand Destiny campaign raised over $1.3 billion. Unfortunately, Penn State has a black mark in its recent history because of an assistant football coach employed by the university named Jerry Sandusky. As a time stamp on this episode, just this last week in March of 2017, former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier was found guilty of child endangerment related to Sandusky's crimes. Those crimes were sexual abuse on boys that he had groomed thorough a charity he started called The Second Mile. The scandal broke in 2011, but Sandusky's crimes went on for decades. And several university officials were implicated for covering up or not reporting the crimes. As was the case with the former President.

Now we are joined by Matt Swayne who works at the university and has documented the hauntings going on there:

The hauntings according to Matt Swayne:
"Penn State's haunted heritage goes way back—the whole way back to one of the oldest buildings on campus, in fact. Old Botany, the quaint, red brick cottage tucked off of Pollack Road, looks innocent enough, but masks, if you believe some ghost-hunting buffs, a range of supernatural phenomena. In one legend, Frances Atherton, the wife of George Atherton, uses the windows in the top floor of Old Botany to keep an eye on her husband’s grave, which rests across the street from Old Botany. As students trudge along Pollock Road—one of the busiest walkways through campus—they cast an eye on the upper-floor windows, half-expecting to see the worried gaze of Frances looking back at them.

One of the most haunted spots on the University Park campus is Schwab Auditorium, a theatre that seats a little more than 900 people with enough room left over for at least two or three ghosts. People have reported spotting a few apparitions—including the ghost of a janitor—in the auditorium over the years, according to Rachel Moeser, president of the 40-member Paranormal Research Society, one of the nation's first university clubs formed to study the paranormal. Her team has scoured the theatre looking for evidence of the haunting and who's behind it. She says that some speculate that Charles Schwab—the industrialist, not the stockbroker—is haunting the auditorium. A former Penn State trustee who funded the construction of the auditorium, Schwab loved supporting the arts and going to the theatre so much that he has stuck around long after his lifetime passes expired, or so the theory goes. The theatre isn’t haunted only by industrialist-sized theatre goers, though, according to Moeser. "I think Schwab [Auditorium] is active," says Moeser. "There seems to be the ghost of a janitor, and we think there is a female spirit in the theatre." Over the years, students, staff, and faculty claim to have heard strange noises echoing from the building’s upper floors. They say they hear footsteps, feel scratches, and see objects moving across the floor. When someone goes upstairs to check, there is no sign of a presence—at least a human presence. Because of the confusion about exactly who—or what—is doing the haunting in Schwab, students gave the auditorium’s paranormal presence a generic nickname, “Schwaboo.”

While ghost stories about university presidents, founders, and donors haunting the halls of campus buildings are not unique in higher education ghost-lore, Penn State has a spirit that separates it from the rest of its collegiate competition—the ghost of a mule.
 Born in 1855, the same year as Penn State’s traditionally observed founding, Old Coaly traveled from his native Kentucky to, among many other duties-as-assigned, labor tirelessly at lugging limestone blocks from a quarry at the corner of what is now the southeast corner of the Old Main lawn to the construction site of the original Old Main.The mule quickly became a favorite of the students at the Farm School—which was what most people called the University at the time—and almost became the school’s mascot. It’s true that, but for a twist here or there in campus history, we may be watching the Nittany Mule do pushups at Beaver Stadium during home football games. Old Coaly was so loved and appreciated by the entire University community that his bones were preserved once he shuffled off to the great pasture in the sky on New Year’s Day of 1893. But he wasn’t quite ready to retire. It seemed every place where Old Coaly’s bones were displayed—in Watts Hall, for example—ghost stories would follow. Students claimed to hear, usually during the dead of night, the sound of plodding hooves thudding down dark, empty halls and the occasional braying of a mule echoing through the silence. Most people suspected a prankster was behind the "paranor-mule" phenomenon. The spirit of Old Coaly, by the way, seems pretty content now in his current resting spot in the HUB-Robeson Center. At least, no one has reported seeing the ghost of a mule, or heard the rumble of hooves in the HUB so far."
Are there spirits wandering around Penn State, that include a donkey? Is Pennsylvania State University haunted? That is for you to decide.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ep. 191 - Spiritualism and the Eddy Brothers' House

 
Moment in Oddity - Madame Tussaud Originally Used the Dead to Make Her Waxworks
(Suggested by: Angie Reynoso Akbarzad)

Marie Tussaud was a wax artist who has become famous for her waxwork museums. She began her work during the late 18th century and was asked to make death masks of King Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette after they were beheaded during the French Revolution. She complied to prove her loyalty to the French Revolution. The Princesse de Lamballe was the superintendent of Marie Antoinette's household. Marie thought of her as a kind person, so she was upset to hear that she had been horribly abused and murdered during the Revolution. And to her true horror, the murderers brought her severed head to Marie and forced her to make a wax cast of it. Having to hold her friend's head in her lap as she made the mold had to have been horrible. Then there was radical journalist Marat, who was murdered in his bathtub. The police escorted Marie to the scene of the crime and she had to take a mold of his still warm head. Marie would visit the cemeteries where bodies of historically significant people were starting to pile up to see if she could find more heads to mold to help her make money. She expanded into making dioramas of notorious criminals and their gruesome crime scenes. Tussaud added real artifacts to her displays as well. She decided to take her creations on the road in 1802 and she traveled throughout Britain. She finally ended up at London’s Baker Street in 1835. Her museum there was called the "Chamber of Horrors." Today, there are 24 museums on four continents. Most waxworks are made from the living, but the idea that Madame Tussaud's original waxworks began with using the dead and beheaded, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Two Boeing 747s Collide In Canary Islands

In the month of March, on the 27th day, in 1977, the worst accident in the history of civil aviation occurred as two Boeing 747 jets collided on the ground in the Canary Islands, resulting in 570 deaths. The accident happened at the Los Rodeos Airport on the island of Tenerife. One jet belonged to KLM and the other to Pan Am. Not only is the crash unique in being the worst, but one has to wonder how two jumbo jets hit each other at a small airport in such a devastating way that nearly all passengers on both jets were killed. Neither plane was supposed to be at this airport, but the airport they were destined for had suffered a terrorist bombing. Both jets waited at Los Rodeos to be cleared to land at Las Palmas. They were cleared and KLM was told to take off first. But the pilot, who was a top 747 instructor, decided to refuel first. During that time, a freak blanket of fog enveloped the airport. Planes would have to make a back-taxi departure as well because of congestion at the small airport. The Pan Am pilots missed their turnoff from the runway, just as the KLM was ready to taxi. KLM received route clearance, which they mistook for takeoff clearance. They began their taxi without permission and the Pan Am flight and control tower both said things to get the KLM jet to stop, but their messages overlapped and were not heard properly. The Pan Am saw the KLM jet when it was 2000 feet away heading at them nose first. The pilot tries to pull the 747 off the runway, but it is too late. The KLM tries to pull up, but its undercarriage and engines slice the midsection of the Pan Am and a series of explosions follow. Sixty-one people survived including the five people in the Pan Am cockpit. The series of blunders and miscommunication killed 570.

Spiritualism and The Eddy Brothers' House (Suggested by: Mariessa Dobrick)

Psychic phenomenon and interaction with the spiritual world date back to the beginnings of humankind. Humans have used various means to facilitate this communication. During the Victorian era, the practice of Spiritualism began and grew in popularity. Many people are credited with growing the beliefs and interest in the afterlife. The Fox Sisters from New York are a couple of those people. The sisters would eventually claim to be frauds, but there was another pair of siblings who are much harder to discredit that were popular a couple decades after the Fox Sisters. Those siblings were the Eddy Brothers of Vermont. Not only were they practitioners of Spiritualism, but their home was host to countless spirits and apparitions.Some of whom still seem to remain today. Join us as we explore the history of Spiritualism and discuss the lives of the Eddy Brothers and the hauntings at the Eddy Brother House with listener Mariessa Dobrick!

Consulting oracles or seers or medicine men seem to be a part of all early cultures from the Greeks to the Romans to the Druids. Ancestor worship was a key part of religious practices in ancient China, revealing that people believed that the spirits of their loved ones continue on after death. It would be in the 18th century that a scientist named Emmanuel Swedenborg would begin writing about philosophy from spiritual teachers. He was considered one of the greatest European minds and many thought he had been chosen to bring enlightenment to the masses as a seer. The religion of Swendenborgianism grew up around his writings and claims to be a part of the Christian church. (It had been considered a cult at one time, but many of its modern day tenets do align with Christian beliefs.)

The practice and beliefs around modern spiritualism have their beginnings in the Victorian era in the 1840s. Andrew Jackson Davis would claim to be a clairvoyant who was in contact with the spirit of Swedenborg. In was in March of 1844 that Davis had a life-changing experience and his first contact with the spirit world when he entered a trance-like state while in Poughkeepsie, New York. When he pulled out of the trance the next morning, he was forty miles from Poughkeepsie and had no idea how he got where he was. The only thing he recalled was being in contact with both Swedenborg and a Greek physician named Galen. This started him on his career of lecturing and writing about contacting the spirit world and many considered him the “John the Baptist of Spiritualism” and his writings became the foundation for American Spiritualism.

Three years after Davis had his first trance experience, the Hydesville Rappings occurred. This phenomenon is named for the city where it happened, Hydesville, New York. The Fox family had moved into a two-room cottage in the city in March of 1848. The family had two daughters, Margaretta and Catherine who were known as Maggie and Kate, and shortly after they moved into the cottage the two girls claimed to hear knocking on the walls. The two sisters quickly figured out that a spirit was trying to communicate with them. Neighbors and other family members witnessed the rappings, both hearing and feeling them. They investigated to see if they could figure out what was causing the noise, but nothing was found. The girls decided to name the entity Mr. Splitfoot. At first, Mr. Splitfoot communicated in very simple ways, like one rap for yes, two raps for no. The Fox sisters' older brother David, developed an alphabet to make the communication more in depth.

This alphabet system was basically like using an audible ouija board. David would call out the letters one at a time until a rap on the wall would signal the correct letter. Through this process, the family learned that Mr. Splitfoot was a Jewish peddler named Charles B. Rosna. He had been traveling door to door selling his wares and when he got to this particular house, the previous owner who was named Mr. Bell, had robbed and murdered him and then buried Rosna in the cellar. He said he was earthbound because his family that included a wife and five children, did not know where he was or what had happened to him. Digging in the cellar revealed teeth, some bone fragments and a tin box that Rosna had carried. That was according to a Spiritualist site I found. But I also found a story that the bones were found in 1904 in a crumbling cement wall by kids playing in the Fox's old residence.

Much publicity surrounded this event and many people started coming to the cottage, overwhelming the family. They moved to Rochester and apparently, Rosna came with them and he continued to rap on the walls and communicate with the Fox Sisters. People from all around came to witness the communication for themselves. A public demonstration was arranged at the Corinthian Hall, the city’s largest assembly. Before this was allowed to happen, a committee formed that really wanted to debunk the whole talking to a ghost thing. They insisted on investigating the sisters. They hoped to prove that they were cracking their joints somehow to imitate the knocking sounds. The Fox Sisters passed the tests and the committee announced that they were authentic, the real deal.

Horace Greeley was founder and editor of the New York Tribune, but for us, he is better known as the namesake for Greeley, Colorado. He was a part of the growth of Modern Spiritualism as not only someone who believed in mediumship, but he wrote about all of the events surrounding the Fox Sisters. He sent a reporter to Rochester for the demonstration. The reporter was amazed and this convinced Greeley to bring the Fox Sisters to New York where scientists could exam them further. Greeley said of the girls, “I am convinced that the sounds and manifestations were not produced by Mrs. Fox or her daughters, nor by any human being connected with them.” He put the demonstrations of the girls on stage at a theater off Broadway. They were a sensation. This is what really got spiritualism out to the masses and people were soon trying their hand at seances and contacting spirits. This was especially popular with the middle and upper classes. House parlors soon became the center of seances.

It should be noted that in 1888, the girls admitted it was a hoax they perpetuated by cracking the knuckles of their toes and that it had started as an attempt to just scare their mother that got way out of hand. But then how do we explain people finding a body on the property? I found an interesting article in the Evening Star from October 1888 in which the author maintains that the recantation of the girls could not affect Spiritualism. But in another article from 1890 in the Salt Lake Herald, I found that the history of the house seems to have a haunting. There was someone who lived in the house before the Foxes, but after Mr. Bell. Mike Weekman, described as a poor ignorant laborer, had trouble with mysterious rappings on all the walls of the house. It got to the point where the family could not sleep at night and they soon abandoned the house. And even more interesting point I found in this article was a part about Spiritualism starting long before the girls with trance channeling happening in a Shaker church in 1843 in New York at New Lebanon and Watervliet. The members struck with these trances delivered long discourses from "eminent men of bygone ages."

Another key figure in the movement was Emma Hardinge Britten. She was born in London in 1823. She got involved in the theater and traveled with a company to New York in 1856. When there, she met a medium named Ada Hoyt who converted her to Spiritualism. Britten mastered automatic writing, psychometry (which is reading objects by feeling them), prophecy and healing. Robert Dale Owen was an American statesman who communicated with Britten after he died and he gave her the first four of the seven original principles of Spiritualism. British spiritualists still adhere to these principles, while the American Association has drafted its own set of principles. Britten was one of the most zealous spiritualists in history and she took her message around the world.

Another adherant and pioneer to Spiritualism in America was a very unlikely person, a Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. Judge John W. Edmonds wrote the book "Spiritualism" in 1853 detailing his investigations of mediums. He had witnessed hundreds of manifestations. His book outraged the churches and politicians and they, along with the press, forced the Judge to resign the bench and return to private practice. Despite the negative response of much of the public, many high profile people were embracing this new spiritual science. The Lincolns used mediums and participated in seances, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a true believer as were Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Cullen Bryant, Thomas Carlyle, Emily Dickinson, Sir William Crookes, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Russell Wallace, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Queen Victoria, and W. B. Yeats.

Harry Houdini had been traveling the country and actively proving psychics and mediums to be frauds. He would show how many mediums pulled off their demonstrations with his expertise in illusion. He became friends with Conan Doyle and on a trip to America, Doyle offered Houdini a reading from his wife in regards to Houdini's dead mother. Mrs. Doyle presented the result in a letter, which read, “Oh, my darling thank God, thank God, at last I am through. I’ve tried, oh so often. Now I am happy. Why, of course, I want to talk to my boy, my own, beloved boy. Friends, thank you, thank you, with all my heart for this. You have answered the cry of my heart and of his. God bless him a thousand fold, for all his life for me - never had a mother such a son. Tell him not to grieve soon he will get all the evidence he is anxious for. I want him to know that I have bridged the gulf, which is what I wanted, oh so much. Now I can be in peace.”

Houdini would believe none of it. The letter was in English and Houdini's mother did not know the language. Mrs. Doyle drew a cross at the top of the page, but the Houdini family was Jewish. The experience happened on Houdini's mother's birthday, but she made no mention of the special date. The friendship with Doyle ended. While Spiritualism was popular through the Victorian era, the 1920s would see a movement against mediums. There was even an anti-fortunetelling bill introduced into Congress in 1926. It was meant to outlaw any kind of psychic activity for money. Houdini testified before a congressional sub-committee in favor of the bill. The bill failed because of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Doyle became friends with another American named Arthur Augustus Ford. This man was from Georgia and he was able to channel spirits while in a trance. He traveled to Great Britain in 1927 to meet with Doyle who said of Ford, "One of the most amazing things I have ever seen in forty-one years of psychic experience was the demonstration by Arthur Ford.'' Ford claimed that he could channel Houdini who had died in 1926 from a blow to the stomach. Houdini's wife Beatrice was notified and see agreed to meet with Ford. What Ford didn't know was that she and Houdini had arranged a secret word they would share with each other if either was able to communicate from the spirit world after they died. Ford and Beatrice had 10 sessions. Apparently, the code word was given during these sessions. Beatrice said,  “Regardless of any statement made to the contrary, I wish to declare that the message, in its entirety and in the agreed-upon sequence given to me by Arthur Ford, is the correct code prearranged between Mr. Houdini and myself.” The press reported that the code was not given correctly. It's hard to know the truth, since Beatrice held seances for ten years on the anniversary of his death and it was said that Houdini never came through.

Practitioners of Spiritualism have consistently declined through the years. Great Britain has remained the hub of Spiritualism. The first Spiritualist Church was established in the British Isles in 1853 by David Richmond at Keighley in Yorkshire. In 1855, the first Spiritualist newspaper in Britain, The Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, was published. Spiritualist societies and churches popped up throughout the country throughout the 1870s. Today, there are more spiritualist churches, publications, mediums and colleges in Britain than anywhere in the world, combined. Its showplace is the Arthur Findlay College at Stansted Hall in Essex, which is run by the largest spiritualist association, the Spiritualists National Union.

That's the nuts and bolts of Spiritualism, which on the surface doesn't seem all that creepy or spooky. Spirit photography really took off during the Victorian era as well as the expulsion of ectoplasm from the mouths of mediums, but this was all proven to be false with double exposures causing the eerie photos and most ectoplasm was cheesecloth or gauze that a medium had stuffed into the back of their throat. (I found an article from 1883 detailing a man in California suing a medium after he seized upon the material and found it to be gauze and the mediums henchmen beat the crap out of him.) Table tipping, in which a table floated beneath the tips of the fingers of the participants were found to be rigged and knocking sounds were caused by devices hidden in clothing. But can we say without a doubt that all of these seances were just elaborate displays of trickery? We can't imagine that people would continually host parlor tricks in their homes. And despite being skeptical, we do believe in an afterlife and the ability to communicate across the veil. As we wonder with the use of the ouija board, who were these people talking to and what was being channeled? Was it all a fraud? The story of the Eddy Brothers in Vermont seems to give some legitimacy to the claims of Spiritualism.

William and Horatio Eddy were born to Zephaniah Eddy and his wife Julia Maccombs in Vermont. There was talk that the family had ties to the Salem Witch Trials, on the side of the witches through Mary Bradbury. The Eddy family was said to have psychic abilities. The family lived on a small farm in Chittenden, Vermont today known as the Eddy Brothers' House. The town is the largest in the state by size, but not by population. It is named for Thomas Chittenden, one of the Green Mountain Boys. This was a militia that resisted New York's attempt to control the territory and was headed by Ethan Allen in the late 1700s. The brothers started having psychic experiences from a young age, claiming to see and speak with ghosts. Their father would beat them for this, as though he was beating the evil out of them. (Mariessa shares with us more about these beatings and how their father sold them to a traveling show.)

After their father passed away, the boys continued to live with their mother and they reconstructed their farm into an inn known as The Green Tavern. The boys built a cabinet that they called the Seance Cabinet and it was inside this that William would channel spirits. Seances were held at the inn on a regular basis in the 1870s and were the main reason for people to stay there. All manifestations occurred from ectoplasm to communicating to spirit guides to something that made the Eddy Brothers unique in the seance world. Full-bodied apparitions would appear during their seances. The manifestations were so powerful that Spiritualists began calling Chittenden the "Spirit Capital of the Universe". But not everyone was convinced.

Henry Steel Olcott was a successful attorney when he read about the exploits of the Eddy Brothers in a copy of the Spiritualist newspaper, the Banner of Light. Before becoming a lawyer, Olcutt had studied agricultural science, founded a school for agriculture students, been the farm editor for Horace Greeley’s newspaper, the New York Tribune and been a special investigator for the Union Army during the Civil War. He was one of the investigators on a three-person panel looking into Lincoln's assassination. Olcott studied law and became a wealthy lawyer after the war. He decided he wanted to check out what these Eddy Brothers were up to and his main goal was to prove them frauds.

An outdoor seance was held on Olcott’s first day at the Eddy Brothers' House. A group of ten people gathered in a ravine at night in front of a cave. The location was known to locals as "Honto’s Cave" because a Native American spirit was known to appear there. Horatio was the medium  and he sat on a stool under the cave's arch. He was covered over with tree branches. A large Native American man emerged from the cave as Horatio rested beneath the branches. Horatio began to speak with the spirit when suddenly another large Native American appeared on top of the cave. The participants cried out as more spirits appeared. There was a female on a ledge and William White, the late editor of a Spiritualist newspaper. Ten spirits in all appeared before they vanished all together. Olcott investigated the cave with a man he had brought with him. They found no footprints and could not see a way that anyone could slip in and out of the cave without being seen.

Olcott was not easily fooled and he wanted to attend a seance in the house where he felt he could control the environment more easily. A large circle room was used for the seances and he examined everything, taking measurements and looking for secret doors or false panels. He found nothing. He brought in engineers and carpenters to look over everything and see if they could find anything strange. The experts found nothing out of the ordinary. Olcott was convinced after this that the walls and floors were solid. He stayed on for many weeks.participating in seances. People would sit on benches and watch as spirit after spirit would appear from the Seance Cabinet. Some nights there would be as many as 20 or 30 apparitions. Some would be solid, others transparent. Some were very tall and others quite small. All races and forms of clothing would make appearances.

Olcott was befuddled. He had examined everything thoroughly. The cabinet was only big enough for one person and that would be the medium. Where were these people coming from? In all, Olcott witnessed 400 spirits during the weeks he was at the Eddy Brothers' House. He continued to investigate, but in the end he concluded that the brothers were incapable both physically and financially of pulling off an elaborate fraud. The brothers were themselves practically illiterate having very little formal schooling. Olcott disliked his stay. He didn't care for the food or the brothers, but he did believe they were mediums. This lends a little more credence to that belief as one would think he would not lie for people he didn't like. He wrote a book about his experiences called "People From Other Worlds." (We share some excerpts.)

What is interesting is that a magician named Chung Ling Soo exposed one of the Eddy Brothers' tricks as a fraud and psychical researcher Hereward Carrington claimed the brothers were using sleight of hand that was so simple it was farcical. The trick involved Horatio and two members from the audience. All three would get behind a curtain. Horatio would have one person grab his arm and he would grab the arm of the other participant. Horatio was in the middle. After this, a musical instrument would dance above their heads and tap the three on the head. Then a hand would come through the curtain and write a message. The idea was to convince people that a spirit was moving the instrument and writing since Horatio had one arm being held and was holding someone with the other hand. But apparently, the magician claimed that a fake hand was being used that was made from a piece of heavy sheet lead to hold onto the participant. It was heavy enough to convince the person they were being held. Horatio would then have a hand free to perpetuate the trick.

Eventually, the brothers moved away from each other. Horatio died in 1922 and William in 1932. He had refused to participate in Spiritualism after he left his brother and remained a recluse. They took whatever secrets they may have had to their graves. But their spirits seem to remain at their former home.

There are reports of hauntings at the house, but no one is able to investigate the private property. During the rise of Spiritualism and seances, were there spirits being contacted? Was it all fraud? Did the Eddy Brothers have psychic powers? Were spirits manifested at the Eddy Brother House? That is for you to decide!

Friday, March 17, 2017

HGB Ep. 190 - The Ghost Town Bodie

 
Moment in Oddity - The Cadaver Synod
(Suggested by: Kathy Webb-Thomas)

The story of the Cadaver Synod is horrible and involves having to follow the succession of many Popes, as during this time in history they had a penchant for dying, usually by murder. The united empire under Charlemagne was crumbling. Politics were heavily involved with the papacy and in order for someone to ascend to Pope, he needed the backing of political leaders. Pope John VIII was ruling at this time and he felt threatened by a Bishop named Formosa because he was a great missionary and he was gaining political power. He even seemed to be ruling over more than one place at a time, which was against the law and so, he had him excommunicated. Pope John was later murdered by poisoning and a violent bash to the head. His successor reinstated Bishop Formosa. Two more Popes followed and then Formosa became Pope for five years. He died of a stroke. His successor died 15 days after gaining the papacy, more than likely poisoned. Pope Stephen VI was next and he decided he wanted Pope Formosa dug up to face a trial for his crimes of ruling over more than one place at a time and for seeking the papacy. It was January of 897 when the rotting corpse was put on trial at the Basilica San Giovanni Laterano. The irony here was that Stephen was guilty of the same crimes. This fact may be why Stephen wanted the trial. He reasoned that if he could find Formosa guilty, than any appointments he made would be null. One of those appointments was Stephen's and it would erase his crime of ruling over more than one place when he was appointed to bishop. There are those that think Pope Stephen VI was really just insane. The corpse was dressed in papal robes and Stephen screamed and ranted at it. Formosa was found guilty and his three blessing fingers were chopped off. He was reburied in an obscure grave and then dug up again and thrown in the Tiber River. The Roman people finally threw Stephen into prison after this fiasco and he strangled to death there. Formosa's body was finally recovered and buried properly, but the story behind the Cadaver Synod and what happened to him before reaching his final resting place, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

During the month of March, on the 25th, in 1911, a raging fire at a New York garment factory kills 146 people. The factory belonged to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. It was located on the 8th, 9th and 10th stories of the Asch Building in Greenwich Village. The company employed mostly young immigrant women of Jewish and Italian descent. They worked long hours six or seven days a week in very bad conditions for as little as $5 a week. Part of the poor conditions was the fact that managers locked exit doors to keep employees from taking unauthorized breaks. This proved to be deadly when the fire broke out in a scrap bin. Fire Marshals figured a cigarette or match had ignited the scraps, although arson for insurance purposes was entertained, as the company had suffered four other suspicious fires previously. The fire spread quickly. As many as fifty of the victims jumped from windows to escape the flames. The rest died from burns or smoke inhalation. The tragic event brought to the forefront worker's rights and a need to stop dangerous working conditions. This was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in American history.

The Ghost Town Bodie (Suggested by: Debbie Miller)

The town of Bodie in California is probably one of the best preserved ghost towns in America and the town describes itself as being in a state of arrested decay. There are over 100 structures still standing today with many of them dating back to the late 1800’s. The town is a State Historic Park maintained by the California State Parks System. In its heyday, it played home to gamblers, miners, gunfighters and prostitutes. It went boom and bust quickly and left abandoned. Some would claim that it is not completely abandoned. The spirits of those who lived during Bodie's glory years seem to still be around, as if waiting for another rich strike to bring the people flocking to the ramshackle buildings. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the ghost town of Bodie!

Photo by Jon Sullivan

The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found in the western Sierra foothills. A prospector named James W. Marshall was working the area near Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California when he found the gold. The news traveled fast and some 300,000 people came from all over the world to strike it rich. Most panned for gold, collecting little more than gold dust, but others dug and blasted mines in search of the mother lode. Four prospectors decided to travel into the eastern foothills on the other side of the Sierras ten years after the start of the rush. They found gold, but decided to keep it a secret until they could dig more out the following spring. This area would come to be known as Bodie Bluff, named for one of those four men, W. S. Bodey.

No one is sure if  W.S. Bodey's first name was Wakeman or William. He had been a tin manufacturer in Poughkeepsie, New York before the lure of gold brought him west. He left his wife and two children and boarded the Mathew Vasser for a trip around Cape Horn. He arrived in San Francisco in 1849. He joined up with a half-Cherokee named Black Taylor and two other prospectors and this group made the strike near modern day Bodie. W.S. Bodey did not want to leave the claim and he returned with Black Taylor. Winter was soon upon them and they needed supplies, so they decided to travel to Monoville. On their return trip, a blizzard blew through and caught the two men. They were lost and before long, Bodey was unable to continue. He told Black to keep going. Bodey perished and his body was found the next spring. It is believed he died in November of 1859.

The find did manage to grow a camp around it, which was named Camp Bodey in honor of Bodey. Originally it was spelled as his name was spelled, but according to local lore, it was changed to Bodie when a painter got the spelling wrong. People preferred the misspelling and Bodie stuck. The first appearance of this misspelling is recorded as happening on October 15, 1862. By 1861, Bodie had a mill with 20 miners in residence. There were other bigger strikes in the area, so Bodie was slow to grow. Nearby Aurora, Nevada was booming, drawing the likes of Mark Twain. Things would change after a freak cave in at one of the mines in 1876. A huge strike of gold was revealed and the Standard Consolidated Mining Company brought in lumber and equipment. The town started growing with thousands flowing to the area. On May 1, 1877 a man named Silas Smith opened his first store near King & Main Streets. This became the first post office in town. When a strike at the Bodie Mine in 1878 delivered a million dollars worth of gold bullion in just six weeks of mining, the influx of those with gold dust in their dreams increased even more. Stocks in the Bodie Mining Co. soared from .50 cents to $50 a share. By 1880, there were 10,000 people in Bodie.

With a growing population comes a need for more saloons, restaurants, boarding houses and, of course, brothels. Gambling halls and opium dens opened and at its height, there were 65 saloons in town. People from all over the world came. There were families, but also criminals, miners, prostitutes and gunfighters. Bodie worked like every other mining town. Miners would work the mines all day, get their pay and head into the downtown area at night to spend their money on gambling, booze and women. Violence erupted on a regular basis. So much so, that townspeople would check the newspapers in the morning to see if they "Have a man for breakfast." This was slang at the time for somebody being killed the night before.

Photo by Jon Sullivan
The Bodie Jail was built in 1877 at a cost of  $800. The jail was not well built, but despite having many guests, only one prisoner ever escaped. The building was only 14’x18′ and had two cells.This jail would be connected to a very infamous moment in Bodie's history. Over time, a vigilante group had formed in Bodie and they called themselves 601. The name has an ominous meaning: 6 feet under, 0 trials, 1 rope. They set their sights on a man named Joseph DaRoche in 1881. Apparently, DaRoche had attended a ball at the Miner's Union Hall on January 15th. He asked the wife of a man named Thomas Treloar to dance. She accepted and Treloar was less than pleased. An altercation ensued and DaRoche left the dance early. Later. Treloar and his wife were walking home via Main Street. When they reached Lowe Street, DaRoche ambushed the couple and shot Treloar in the head. He was arrested by a drunk Deputy Farnsworth almost immediately, but DaRoach managed to escape. He was recaptured about eight miles away and locked up in the Bodie Jail. What happened next was detailed in the Bodie Free Press and Reno Gazette Journal in January 1881:
 "Judge Lynch held his first court session in Bodie early on Monday morning and passed judgment on a criminal whose crime is already recorded and impressed on every mind in this community. The tragic end of DeRoche, the murderer, was at once awful and impressive. The lesson to be learned from it is easily read and the simplest mind can fully comprehend it. That a cruel murder had been committed no one can deny; that the swift retribution was expected every observing citizen could predict with safety. The excitement of the Sabbath did not die away and the wrath of the people did not go out with the setting of the sun. As the shades of darkness enveloped the town, the spirit of revenge increased in intensity and developed into a blazing column of fire. It was burning in its intensity and fearful in its results. After the adjournment of the court and DeRoche was taken back to his narrow cell, a mysterious committee was organized, the like of which has existed in many towns on this Coast since ’46, and whose work has been quick and thorough. The Committee, it is reported, held a long session and discussed the matter in hand. The session was long and deliberate, and its conclusions resulted in the lynching of DeRoche.
Between 1:30 and 2 o’clock Monday morning, a long line of masked and unmasked men were seen to file out of a side street into Bonanza Avenue. There must have been two hundred of them and as the march progressed to the jail the column increased. In front were the shotguns carried by determined men. They were backed up by a company which evidently meant business, and no ordinary force could foil them in their progress. When the jail was reached it was surrounded and the leader made a loud knock at the door. All was dark and quiet within. The call had the effect of producing a dim light in the office, and amid loud cries of “DeRoche,” “Bring him out,” “Open the door,” “Hurry up,” etc. Jailer Kirgan appeared, and responded by saying: “All right boys; wait a minute; give me a little time.” In a moment the outside door was opened slowly and four or five men entered. Under instructions the door of the cell in which the condemned prisoner lay was swung open. The poor wretch knew what this untimely visit meant, and prepared for the trying and humiliating death. It was some moments before he was brought out, and the crowd began to grow impatient. Some imagined the prisoner had been taken away by the officers – If this had been the case what would have followed can only be imagined. All these doubts were put at rest by the presence of the man.

He wore light-colored pants, a colored calico shirt, and over his shoulders was hung a canvas coat buttoned around the neck. His head was bare, and as the bright rays of the moon glanced upon his face, there was a picture of horror visible. It was a look of dogged and defiant submission. With a firm step he descended the steps and came out upon the street in a hurried manner, closely guarded by shotguns and revolvers. The order to fall in was given, and all persons not members of the mysterious committee to stand back. The march up Bonanza Street was rapid. Not a word was said by the condemned man, and his gaze was fixed upon the ground. He was hurried up a back street to Fuller. The corner of Green was turned, and when Webber’s blacksmith shop was reached, a halt was made. In front of this place was a huge gallows frame, used for raising wagons, etc., while being repaired. Now it was to be used for quite a different purpose. “Move it over to the spot where the murder was committed,” was the order, and immediately it was picked up by a dozen men and was carried to the corner of Main and Lowe streets. The condemned man glanced at it for a moment and an apparent shudder came over him, but he uttered not a word. From an eye witness we learn that the scene which followed was awful in its impressiveness. The snow had just begun to fall, and the moon, which had shone so brightly during the early part of the night, shed but a pale light on the assembled company. When the corner was reached, the heavy gallows frame was placed upon the ground, and the prisoner led under it. The prisoner’s demeanor still remained passive, and his hands, encased in irons, were clasped.

His eyes occasionally were turned upward and his lips were seen to move once or twice. On each end of the frame were windlasses and large ropes attached. The rope placed around the prisoner’s neck was a small one; when the knot was made it was tested against the left ear. This did not suit DeRoche particularly, and he changed it so that it was in the rear. Someone suggested that his legs and hands should be tied. This was immediately done. The large iron hooks of the frame dangled near the prisoner and the grating sound produced a peculiar feeling. It was at least three minutes before everything was ready DeRoche was asked by the leader if he had anything to say. He replied, “No nothing.” In a moment he was again asked the same question and a French-speaking bystander was requested to receive his answer. The reply this time was: “I have nothing to say only O God.” “Pull him,” was the order, and in a twinkling the body rose three feet from the ground. Previous to putting on the rope, the overcoat was removed. A second after the body was elevated a sudden twitch of the legs was observed, but with that exception, not a muscle moved while the body hung on the crossbeam. His death took place without a particle of pain. The face was placid, and the eyes closed and never were reopened. Strangulation must have been immediate. While the body swung to and fro, like a pendulum of a clock, the crowd remained perfectly quiet. After a lapse of two or three minutes a voice, sharp and clear, was heard in the background: “I will give $100 if twenty men connected with this affair will publish their names in the paper tomorrow morning.” The voice was immediately recognized as that of a leading attorney. (Only Pat Reddy would have had the courage to face the mob, and a yell went up from the crowd.) “Give him the rope,” “Put him out,” and similar sentences drowned out the man and his voice. His retreat was as dignified as the exigencies of the case would admit of. While the body was still hanging a paper was pinned onto his breast bearing the following inscription: “All others take warning. Let no one cut him down. Bodie 601.”
The Reno paper ended with, "The mysterious committee had completed its work and the captain gave out the order 'All members of the Bodie 601 will meet at their rendezvous.' In a moment, the scene of death was deserted. To use a familiar expression DaRoche died game. He was firm as a rock to the last and passed into the unknown without a shudder."

By 1882, things in Bodie were starting to taper off. The mines were not giving as much ore and in 1887 the Bodie Mine and the Standard Consolidated merged. They would operate as one unit for the next two decades. A fire in 1892 destroyed much of the main street area. It was said that for as far as the eye could see down Main Street, there was nothing but the debris of burned buildings. Not a restaurant or lodging house survived, so the families of Bodie opened their homes to the miners. Things never picked up again and the slow decline resulted in closed mines and the Bodie Railway stopped running in 1917.

Bodie was located in Mono County and one family, the Dolan family, had two sheriffs in that county: Sheriff James P. Dolan and Sheriff Bert Dolan. James was killed by a gunshot on July 26, 1915. A plaque memorializes him in the town, near the lake:
"In July of 1915, the peace and quiet of Mono County was shattered when Sheriff James P. Dolan died as the result of gunshot wounds received while attempting to apprehend two outlaws who had terrorized ranchers a short distance from this location. Outraged by the shooting of Sheriff Dolan, the citizenry of Mono County quickly organized a Sheriff’s posse which tracked the outlaws to a location near Mono Craters. Justice was served when both outlaws were killed in a shootout with posse-men. A coroner’s inquest determined “death caused by resisting arrest by duly constituted representatives of the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Dolan, the 15th lawman to serve that office since the formation of Mono County, made the ultimate sacrifice with the fearless determination which had been entrusted to him by the citizens of Mono County."
Prohibition added yet another impediment to the survival of Bodie and by 1932, another fire had destroyed much of the town. The Depression all but shut the entire place down. There were no new strikes, but some mining continued. In the 1950s, Bodie became the ghost town that it is today. No one knows for sure how it happens that towns people just abandon their homes. Do they have meetings and all decide to leave? Do families leave one at a time until they are all gone? What is known about the abandonment of Bodie is that people only packed what they could fit in a wagon or truck. That is why so many belongings have been left behind. In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie became a State Historic Park, and two years later the ghost town of Bodie was dedicated as a California Historic Site.

Photo by Jon Sullivan
One cannot talk about the supernatural occurrences taking place in Bodie without first talking about the Bodie Curse. There is a superstitious belief about the belongings left behind. People believe that the spirits who remain here, guard these items from the past as though they are a treasure. If anyone removes any item, large or small, from the town, that person will be cursed with bad luck. This misfortune will continue until the item is returned. Listeners might be quick to pass the Curse of Bodie off as just another legend, but J. Brad Sturdivant, who is a park ranger, claims that the curse still exists today. He knows this because he has collected many returned items from visitors who claim that they have had nothing but bad things befall them ever since they visited and took home a souvenir. These items run anywhere from old tools to clothing to simple old nails. Letters accompany the packages saying things like, "I'm sorry I took this, hoping my luck will change."

A nail arrived with the following letter, “Life since then has been a steady downward slide. It’s possible that all the unpleasant events of the past nine months are a coincidence, but just in case the Bodie curse is real I am returning the nail.” A letter dated to 1994 reads, “Dear Bodie Spirits, I am SORRY! One year ago around the 4th of July I was visiting the Ghost Town. I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting. This trip was different, I collected some items here and there and brought them home. I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had 'bad luck.' I started to think about the car accident, the loss of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have “haunted” me for the past year since my visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but . . . Please find enclosed the collectibles I 'just couldn't live without,' and ask the spirits to see my regret."

Bodie has been the subject of several television programs. Beyond Bizarre from 2000 featured the story of a German man who claimed his uncle visited Bodie and brought home a small bottle. Two days later he had an accident on the Autobahn. The uncle's son took the bottle to school to show his classmates and he had a bicycle accident when riding home. It made the man a true believer in the Curse of Bodie. Diane watched a recent one on the Weather Channel titled American Supernatural featuring the curse. A mother warned her kids to not even take rocks when they visited. Her husband did take some colored glass. He ended up in the emergency room. And then her daughter broke her arm falling out of a tree. They made three trips to the ER in a ten day period. The mother knew she had to break the curse.

There is more than just a curse here though. Some say there are ghosts. A house at the corner of Green and Park Streets belonged to businessman Jim S. Cain. He worked in the lumber business. The family had a Chinese maid who Cain started having an affair with and when his wife found out, she threw the maid out into the streets. She was shamed and could find no work in town, despite the fact that Main Street was basically sin city. The maid eventually took her own life. Her spectre haunts the Cain house reputedly. Children who had rooms on the second floor claimed that this heavy set Chinese lady appeared to them. Rangers have lived in this house and one of their wives wrote of an experience she had, "I was lying in bed with my husband in the lower bedroom and I felt a pressure on me, as though someone was on top of me. I began fighting. I fought so hard I ended up on the floor. It really frightened me." A ranger named Gary Walters had a similar experience in the same room, only the door opened on its own. He also felt as though he were suffocating. Music is heard coming from one of the rooms that is empty.

Two other houses in the town are said to be haunted as well. A woman has been seen peering from an upstairs window at the Dechambeau House. At the Mendocini House it is said that people hear the disembodied sound of children’s laughter. There is also the smell of food cooking and the sounds of a social gathering. Bodie Cemetery is haunted by Albert and Fannie Myers three-year-old daughter Evelyn. Some claim she was hit in the head accidentally by a miner's pick in 1897. Her grave is topped with a child angel, sculpted from white marble. A man visited the cemetery with his daughter and she giggled and appeared to play with something he could not see.

Is there such a thing as the Curse of Bodie? Does the ghost of the man whom the town is named for still wander the streets here? Are there other spirits here? Is Bodie haunted? That is for you to decide!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

HGB Ep. 189 - Hampton Court Palace


 Moment in Oddity - Light Bulb That Has Burned Since 1901
(Suggested by: Tim Scott)

Inside of Fire Station 6 in Livermore, California, hangs a Guinness World Record holding light bulb. What does it take for a light bulb to get into the record books? An accomplishment that is not only incredible, but odd. Adolphe Chailet designed the bulb and tested it against other engineers, one of whom was Thomas Edison. The idea behind the test was to subject the various bulbs to increasing voltage. All of the bulbs eventually exploded except for Chailet's bulb, which just got brighter with the increased voltage. But just as Nikola Tesla did not reach the heights of his rival Edison, neither did Chailet. The bulb is a testament to its inventor as it has burned continuously for over a century save for a few days when it has been moved from one location to another and when the electricity has been cut off. It burns dimly today, high above the fire engines, attracting visitors from all over the world. The little bulb even has its own website with a live cam. The Shelby Electric Company made this bulb out of hand blown glass with a carbon filament that appears to be a big squiggle in shape. Theories about why the bulb has lasted vary from just good design to the fact that it is not continuously turned on and off, so it has not had to use as much energy firing back up. Whatever the case may be, a light bulb burning for 116 years, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Nelson's Pillar Blown Up By IRA

In the month of March, in 1966, a monument in Dublin, Ireland known as Nelson's Pillar was blown up by the IRA. Nelson's Pillar was a large granite structure with a statue of Horatio Nelson on top, that was erected in 1809. In 1805, James Vance, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin, suggested the monument be built to honour Admiral Lord Nelson and his victory over the Franco-Spanish fleet at the battle of Trafalgar. A spot was picked on the future O’Connell Street to erect the column. Thomas Kirk of Cork sculpted the statue in Portland stone. The pillar itself was made from Wicklow Granite quarried from Gold Hill Kilbride with an interior made from black limestone. The complete structure rose to 121 feet. On the morning of March 8th, at 1:32am, the top was blown off with a tremendous explosion. Nobody was injured, but Lord Nelson was blown off his perch and much of the pillar was crumbled. After the explosion NCAD students stole Nelson's head as a prank. Over the following six months, the head made several secret appearances, including making its way onto the stage of a Dubliners concert in The Olympia Theatre! Nelson's head is now stored at the Dublin City Library Today, the Millennium Spire or Dublin Spire stands in the same spot that Nelson's Pillar once did.

Hampton Court Palace (Suggested by and researched by listener Amanda Prouty)

Hampton Court Palace located in the London suburb town of Hampton, dates back to medieval times. Throughout the centuries, the palace has been expanded to the point that it has become two palaces in one. The first is a Tudor Palace that was transformed by both Cardinal Wolsey and then King Henry VIII and a baroque castle that was built by William and Mary. The interior decor has changed to suit the occupants, who have ranged from knights to cardinals to kings and queens. What has been left behind, makes Hampton Court a museum of history. Spirits have been left behind as well. Join us and our listener Amanda Prouty as we explore the history and haunting experiences, one of which is hers, of Hampton Court Palace.

The name Hampton is Anglo-Saxon with Hamm meaning an enclosure in the bend of a river and Ton meaning farmstead. In 1236, the Knights Hospitallers of St John Jerusalem acquired the Hampton medieval manor and they used it basically as a huge storage hall for their produce and they had an estate office there. In the 14th century, it was updated to be a guest manor for the wealthy and then the Knights began to rent the property out. Giles Daubeney became Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VII and he leased Hampton Court in 1494. The value of the property increased when he lived there, but the real changes would come when Cardinal Wolsey acquired Hampton in 1514.

(Amanda Prouty shares with us the improvements that Henry VIII made to the palace.)

We talk about the various hauntings including Catherine Howard, Sybil Penn and Skeletor. Amanda believes she may have experienced the spirit of Catherine Howard.

What was it that Amanda experienced? Was it the spirit of Catherine Howard living out her horrible ending in a residual manner? Is there a creepy dead monk named Skeletor running around, throwing open doors? Is Hampton Court Palace haunted? That is for you to decide! 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

HGB Ep. 188 - Rispin Mansion

 
Moment in Oddity - Winston Churchill Writes About Aliens

Timothy Riley is the director of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri. Recently, he stumbled across an essay written by Winston Churchill in 1939 that explored a very unique topic, that being alien life. Britain had just entered World War II, which makes it even stranger that Churchill would have focused on pondering the existence of aliens. The essay was eleven pages and titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" Churchill reasoned like a scientist that if we had everything needed for life on Earth, that in a vast universe, there had to be other planets that held all the components to sustain life. Churchill wrote, “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets. I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development, which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.” The fact that the future Prime Minister of Britain thought enough about aliens that he actually put pen to paper about the topic at a time of war and at a time when such things were not normally discussed, certainly was odd.

This Month in History - Casimir Pulaski was Born

In the month of March, on the 6th day, in 1745, Casimir Pulaski was born in Poland. Pulaski fought against the Russians for Polish independence. When that failed, he was driven into exile. He later emigrated to the colonies in American upon Benjamin Franklin's recommendation. He took his drive to fight for independence and turned it towards helping the Americans during the Revolutionary War. He became a general in the Continental Army and even saved the life of George Washington. He is considered one of the fathers of the American Calvary as he devoted time to reforming the entire Calvary. He lead a daring charge against the British forces at the Battle of Savannah in which he was mortally wounded. Chicago observes the offical holiday Casimir Pulaski Day on the first Monday in March in his honor.


Rispin Mansion (Suggested by Sasha Wolfe)

Rispin Mansion is located in Capitola, California in the beautiful and supernaturally infused Santa Cruz area. The history of the mansion is intriguing and just part of that, is the fact that a rich real estate baron built it and then went on to be buried in a pauper's grave. Everyone from nuns to hippies have called this place home and the once grand estate has become an abandoned eyesore. But it is not completely abandoned. Rumors of hauntings swirl around the property. And legends and hauntings seem to be everywhere one looks in Santa Cruz. We will share some of these strange tales as we explore the history and hauntings of the Rispin Mansion.

Santa Cruz County is one of the original counties in California and dates back to when California gained statehood. A Spanish pueblo there was called Branciforte and so the county first had that name, but it was later changed to Santa Cruz, which means "Holy Cross." Santa Cruz is an area steeped in the supernatural that is built in the middle of a flood plane. It has seen a fair share of tragedy. The exploiting of Chinese laborers and construction upon Native American burial grounds have added to the supernatural energy that has built up here. Every summer, a thick fog rolls in and legend claims that this is the energy of spirits from the past who have been wronged.

The native burial grounds more than likely belonged to the Ohlone tribe. They had many legends about the area. One of them was about a sycamore grove off of what is now Highway 9. They claimed that a spider lived in this grove and it wove webs that would entangle anyone walking through the forest who harbored dark secrets. The nearby redwood forest had a legend about another type of creature, a giant snake. This snake would kill indiscriminately. A young Ohlone man defied the rules of the tribe and the elders called him to answer for his insubordination. The punishment was extreme and final. He was sentenced to die. Just before they executed him, he cursed the land. No one knows for sure, but many wonder if this curse led to an invasion by another tribe named the Yachicumne. They were from the Stockton area. They considered the Ohlone tribe as a weak group and they came through and slaughtered as many as they could. So many were massacred that it is said that no one can walk across Santa Cruz without traversing upon an area of ground touched by bones or gore.

Either the curse, this massacre or both have led to further catastrophes. A fire ripped through in 1894 and everything was reduced to ashes. Severe earthquakes also plagued the area. In 1898, a local powder works exploded. Windows in town were blown out up to three miles away. Nine of the Irish emigrants working in the factory were killed and they were buried in a mass grave at the Odd Fellows Cemetery. And by some horrible twist of fate, a young bride had just stepped out on her porch and a huge rock that was thrown by the explosion, hit her in the head and she was killed. Its hard to peg down, but there were other deaths in town associated with the explosion. An article in the Star Tribune from April 27, 1898 details what happened.

The ghost of William Waddell is said to wander Santa Cruz, apparently looking for his arm. It would seem that a mother bear tore it off in the 1870s when he hiked too close to her cubs. The arm was buried in a meadow. Waddell died some time later and it was decided that his arm needed to be located, so that all of him could be buried together. The group was unable to locate the arm. Part of this tale claims that the arm itself haunts the place and manifests as small thefts. It is said that the arm has sticky fingers.

We have a woman in white that wanders Santa Cruz and that white dress is actually a wedding dress. This woman was a mail order bride who found herself married to a very cruel man. She had arrived from Massachusetts and shortly after the wedding, her horrific abuse began. Her husband would tell her to put on her wedding dress every night and then he would beat her mercilessly. She decided that she needed to leave him.When he learned of her plans, he beat her to death and then beheaded her. He then set the house on fire with her body inside. Throughout the decades the apparition of a woman in white has been reported at the neighborhood where she used to live. This is not some residual haunting featuring a woman just wandering the street. This spirit is very angry. She curses and slaps people. One story claims that she threw an axe at an old drunk in town. People are warned to steer clear of this apparition.

On episode 28 about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, we featured the story behind the movie "The Birds as the Moment in Oddity. Alfred Hitchcock had lived in the Santa Cruz area for a brief time. There is even a hotel there that inspired his image of the Bates Motel. It was a true event that occurred in Santa Cruz that inspired Hitchcock's "The Birds." On the evening of August 18th in 1961, hundreds of shearwater seabirds seemed to go crazy and they slammed their bodies into businesses and homes. People who were outside were attacked as well. The next day, two truckloads of the dead animals were collected and destroyed. Theories of what caused the birds to act this way ranged from some kind of toxin in the air to an unusual fog. Perhaps the fog of the angry spirits? Shearwaters still sometimes have carried on these attacks into our most recent history.

Located in the center of Santa Cruz, on the west coast, is the city of Capitola. The city was originally known as Soquel Landing, which was named for the Soquel Creek. The settlement was built on the local produce and lumber industry and the wharf at Soquel Landing served as a way to export the material. Frederick A. Hihn owned property near the wharf and he built a seaside resort in 1869 that he later leased to Samuel A. Hall. Hall called the area Camp Capitola. No one knows where Hall got the name Capitola, but the city is the oldest beach resort on the West Coast.

In 1919, a man named Henry Allen Rispin moved nearby and bought the city. Rispin's parents were English and they had relocated to Ontario in Canada. The couple ran a ticket agency there, but they died when Rispin was very young. His older brother raised him until Rispin left home at fourteen. There seems to be no record that Rispin finished high school and he did not attend college. He worked odd jobs in lumber and the railroad. He set his sites on America and he moved to New York where he became a manager at the Savoy Theater. It was the first of many jobs in the theater. He directed productions and even acted at the McKenzie Opera House in 1896. He then went on to manage the Grand Opera House and after appearing in a play there the New York News wrote, "Everybody is talking of Mr. Henry Rispin's impersonation of  'Dick Chivy' at the Opera House...The manager of the Grand made his first dramatic effort...That he scored a decided success is recognized by the critics."

Rispin was in his late 20s when Winfield Blake introduced him to his sister Annette. She was a beautiful college graduate and nine years younger than Rispin. She also was the daughter of a wealthy oil baron, Isaac Blake. Blake had struck it rich in Utah in 1875 and he started Continental Oil, which was one of the first such businesses in the west. Blake created the tanker car that carried petroleum products by rail. He went on to merger with the Rockefeller family and other investors and Conoco was born. Rispin left the theater for the oil business. He and Annette moved to San Francisco and got married. Their son Alan was born shortly before or after the wedding. Rispin worked for his father-in-law managing an oil field in Santa Maria in 1908. He moved to Ohio for a time to work a field there in 1914 and 1916. At some point after that, he and Annette moved to Denver. In 1918, the couple moved back to San Francisco. They lived at the Fairmont Hotel there.

Rispin did not move to Capitola when he bought it in 1919. Rispin wrote in 1923 of this time, "About five years ago I was run down in health, tired out, etc, so moved to California, purchased the town of Capitola, which is one of the most beautiful spots in California and without doubt the most delightful, where one can enjoy life outdoors twelve months out of the year. I built one of the most beautiful homes in California here. The result is that I feel twenty years younger than I did five years ago, and while Capitola is a good paying proposition, as we own not only the town, hotel, stores, amusements, etc, but also own the water works system for this entire district, the electric light, gas plants, etc, but I am nervous to get back into the oil business, it being the business that I know better than anything else. Hence I am looking for a producing oil property that has not been entirely drilled up so that I can get back into the harness again, and would consider trading Capitola with everything that goes with it, also my home, for a good oil property."

This "most beautiful home" that Rispin was referencing was a four-story, 22-room mansion he had built. George McCrea was an architect that the Rispins had hired to remodel a home in San Francisco and they asked his to design the mansion. His specialty was Spanish Colonial Revival. Construction began in 1921 and it cost around $1 million in today's dollars to develop the property. Rispin never intended to live in the home, but rather to use it to attract people to come to Capitola and then invest in the area by buying lots. He wined and dined the wealthy. Perhaps because he did not live on the property, Rispin failed to keep up the water and sewage systems. There was no police or fire protection either. Things seemed to be failing miserably and he divested slowly from his holdings, eventually sold the mansion and left. The crash of the stock market hit him hard. By 1936, the once wealthy oil and real estate man was hitting up friends for money. When he died, he was buried in a pauper's grave in San Francisco.

The next major owner of the property was a business partner of Rispin's, Robert Hays Smith. He was a Bay Area speculator and he paid about as much attention to the mansion as Rispin had before him. This beautiful property just continued to fall into neglectful disrepair. The Catholic order of the Oblates of St. Joseph bought the property and they used it as a convent until 1957. The mansion was just too cold for the nuns who had taken vows of poverty and wore sandals and so the convent closed. There was also another issue. Rumors circulated about the mansion and nearby residents were curious, so they would peer in through the windows occasionally. It was unnerving to the nuns. The Rispin Mansion continued to be an object of fascination after the closing of the convent. Especially for young people. Teenagers have used breaking into the home as a rite of passage. Vandalism has occurred, including graffiti. And there have been illegal squatters, particularly by hippies during the sixties.

The property is listed on the National Historic Register and the city of Capitola's council purchased the mansion in 1986 for $1.3 million.There were plans to remodel the structure into a library, city hall and community center, but those plans fell through in the early '90s. A private group headed by Dan Floyd and Ron Beardslee, tried to develop plans to open Rispin Mansion as a bed and breakfast in 1998, but that failed as well. It is thought that the property continues to sit abandoned because construction costs are to much and environmental laws limit what can be done with the property. A fire ripped through the property as well, sealing its fate. The main expanse of tile roof and the floors below it were destroyed. From what I read in newspapers, it seems that there are beautiful gardens on the property that were open to the public, but there is a chain link fence around the property now.

There are reports that the mansion is haunted. The setting seems perfect for ghost stories. The walls are grimy and stained. The interior is cold and dank. There are strange looking pipes, bullet holes in the walls and the stairs creak more than normal. There are also several burned out areas. The place is just creepy. Two caretakers died of old age inside the home. The main apparition hanging out here belongs to Henry Rispin. Although he never lived at the property, it is believed that it led to his ultimate demise. He is usually seen on the first floor, wearing glasses.

The spirit of a woman wearing a Victorian-era dress is seen in an upstairs room looking for what people believe is a book. There is another female seen and this is a nun in full habit and black dress. Down in the basement, the disembodied barking of a dog is heard. It is described as angry. The local SWAT team had used the property for training, so some wonder if this is residual from that time. The basement wine cellar harbors an evil spirit reportedly. Maryanne Porter of Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters, got permission from the city to do an investigation in 2012. Maryanne said, "We actually cut off our investigation early because it just wasn’t feeling safe any longer, as if we were making something rather angry.”

Doug Simerly wrote of an experience he had back in 1979:
"The Rispin Mansion. I have never heard it called that. It was about 4 blocks behind my house, when I was a child. We always called it "Poor Claire's Retreat", as it was called when the nuns were there. It was a very foreboding place, and no one would go near it when we were young. As a teenager, I talked some friends of mine into going in there. There were 4 of us, all guys. We snuck over the fence...we peeled back a piece of plywood that was nailed over a window on the main (ground level floor, back side of house.) We had a flashlight, and it was very dark. We entered a small room, and through a doorway, entering the main room in that part of the house. Vaulted ceilings, very large room. There was a fireplace, with book cases on either side of it. As my friends walked down the hallway, I remembered something I had read somewhere, and walked up to the bookcases. They slid open, and there was a small room behind each one of them! Enough room to hide someone, or something! Nothing in there but splashes of ink on one of the walls, could not make anything of them.

Anyway, we went over every inch of the place, very careful to damage nothing. In the basement there was a red brick hallway, perfectly square, and very long. At the end it looked like a solid brick wall,sort of funny that it ended there. We rested up against the back wall, and it moved! There was a secret room behind it, about 12 foot by 8 foot. The wall was on a hinge, very strange. Our batteries were dead by now, so could not see a whole lot. It did not seem scary at all though, just interesting. We did hear what sounded like footsteps a bunch of times, so thinking it was the guy watching the place, we were very quiet. Never saw anyone, spooky.

There was one room, that seemed like it must have been the main quarters for mother superior, or whoever. It had a white marble fireplace, very ornate decorative trim, and very large windows. [There was] a balcony overlooking the Soquel Creek, facing what used to be a department store and the doughnut store that my grandparents used to run...This room sounds like the one where someone saw a lady in the black dress. I never saw anything, did not take pictures, it felt icy cold in that room, and it was probably 75-80 degrees that day. We all felt things, heard things, but never saw anything. There was something in there, but what, I do not know. I went back quite a few times, it was a very cool place."
Is Santa Cruz an area drenched in the supernatural? Has the negative effects of the past carried over into the present and now is that energy manifesting as hauntings? Is the Rispin Mansion one of Santa Cruz's many haunted locations? That is for you to decide!