Tuesday, May 16, 2017
HGB Ep. 202 - Appalachian State University
Moment in Oddity - Venezuela's Everlasting Storm
Suggested by Michael Rogers
The Guinness Book of Records claims that the highest incidence of lightning in the world takes place in an area at the mouth of the Catatumbo River in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia. It has been called "Venezuela's Everlasting Storm." There is so much lightning that residents of the nearby Lake Maracaibo need to shut their blinds against the flashes of light around 300 nights each year. They also refer to the ongoing storm as "River of Fire in the Sky." The lightning has become part of the identity of the state of Zulia and so they added a large lightning bolt to their flag. Scientists believe that the reason why the region has so much electricity in the air is because the conductivity of the air is increased from large supplies of methane coming from one of South America's largest oil fields. How much lightning does it take to get into the record book? Venezuela's Everlasting Storm is estimated to give off an incredible 3,600 flashes per hour and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The Hindenburg Disaster
In the month of May, on the 6th, in 1937, the airship Hindenburg catches fire and crashes, killing 36 people. LZ129 Hindenburg was built by the Zeppelin Company in 1931 in Germany. This was the lead ship of the Hindenburg class, which was the longest class of flying machine and the largest airship by envelope volume. It had 15 Ferris wheel-like bulkheads and the gas cells were a new innovation by the Goodyear Company. There were small passenger quarters, a dining room and a large public area. The airship was originally designed to use helium, but export bans forced a redesign to hydrogen. Hydrogen was extremely dangerous, but no German airship had ever had an issue. That all changed on that fateful day in 1937. The destruction of the dirigible would cause Herbert Morrison to declare, "Oh, the humanity!" The Hindenburg was attempting to dock at a Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey at 7:25pm. No one knows where or how, but fire broke out and the Hindenburg was quickly engulfed in flames. The tail crashed into the ground first. Total crash time from start of fire to bow hitting the ground was around 30 seconds. There were 61 crew members and 36 passengers on board. Thirty-five people on the airship were killed along with one man on the ground. This brought to an abrupt end, the Airship Era.
Appalachian State University (Suggested and researched by listener Steven Pappas)
Boone, North Carolina is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, in an area of the state locals refer to as the "High Country". Known for it's beautiful climate, easily accessible outdoor activities, and easy-going attitude, Boone is a major vacation destination for those in NC and from all throughout the southeast United States. While many know it for its autumn views and its deep roots in the bluegrass community, there are those who know that there is more to this town than advertised. Boone and the surrounding areas seem to be a hotbed for strange occurrences, tragic deaths, and hauntings almost as chilling as the mountain air. One of these locations is Appalachian State University. Executive Producer and listener Steven Pappas joins us to share his experiences as a student there.
The settlement of the high country of NC is thought to date back as 13,500 years. Artifacts have been discovered that have matched dates reaching this far back and serve as an indicator of tribal activity in the mountains of the state. During Colonialism this was an area inhabited by the Cherokee and Shawnee tribes of American Indians, who were known to use the NC mountains for summer hunting. A treaty signed in 1770 between the British and the Cherokee prohibited the settlement of most of this region, however, settlers poured in anyway. In 1780, a British Militia leader named Major Patrick Ferguson ordered for the illegal settlers to lay down their weapons and vacate the area. This did not go over well with those who lived in the area. They formed a militia which they named the "Overmountain men" and marched against Ferguson's troops on October 7,1780 in Kings Mountain, NC which is located on the NC/SC border. It was a decisive victory for the settlers and the battle is credited with causing general Cornwallis to pull out of NC. This preceded the American victory at the battle of Yorktown in 1781. After the revolution, many veterans were given land as payment for their service and they returned to continue settling the area.
People continued to flock to the area in the years following the revolution. There was plenty of game, resources, and cheap land to be had. It seemed everyone wanted a piece of the area. The settlers set up an economy trading hides, and other resources like timber and stone across the state borders with TN and VA. Daniel Boone, though born in PA, had moved with his family to the Yadkin Valley area of NC as a young man in 1750. He became a long hunter and chose to spend mush of his time hunting in the high country. He set up camp in a small town named Meat Camp just north of modern day Boone, NC. Between 1750 and 1779, Daniel Boone hunted in this area, until moving with his wife and children to Kentucky. Due to his impact on the area, the town of Boone, NC was formed in 1872.
Modern day Boone, NC sits on the banks of the Watauga river (which in Cherokee means "Beautiful Water"). It is the county seat of Watauga county and sits at an elevation of 3,332ft. It was serviced by a small railroad that cut through the town (nicknamed Tweetsie) until a large flood in 1940. Most of the tracks were washed away by the flood waters and it was decided that they would not be replaced. Boone now has a local theme park, open in the summer, called Tweetsie Railroad. It is an attraction primarily for small children that essentially acts as an interactive cowboy town. Boone also plays host to "Horn in the West". This is an outdoor drama that depicts the lives of early settlers in the area, as well as explores the history of Daniel Boone himself. This production as been put on every summer since 1952. Boone is also the center of bluegrass music and culture in NC. Doc Watson, one of the most pivotal bluegrass creators in music history, was a native of Boone. Old Crow Medicine Show was also discovered in Boone. While many may not know their name, they wrote a song that was covered by a successful country artist in 2011, which reached the top of the country charts. It is titled "Wagon Wheel".
At the center of the town sits Appalachian State University. Blanford B. Dougherty and his brother Dauphin D. Dougherty, recognized that northwestern North Carolina did not have a good place of education. They gathered a group together to work towards building a school. They convinced their father, Daniel B. Dougherty, and another man named J. F. Hardin, to donate land for the building of that school. They constructed a wood frame structure that cost them $1,000, which they raised from nearby citizens. The Dougherty Brothers decided to co-principal the school and it opened in the fall of 1899. They named it Watauga Academy. The academy offered three grades and enrolled 53 students that first year. Dauphin was convinced that they could eventually get the state to fund a bigger institution. He went to the capitol, pleaded his case and the Appalachian Training School for Teachers was established. The school opened on October 5, 1903 with $2,000 from the state and 325 students.
In 1925, the school name was changed to Appalachian State Normal School. This was a two year school for educating teachers. It later expanded to four years and again had the name changed to Appalachian State Teachers College. Through all these changes Blanchard Dougherty was there. He presided over the school for fifty years. Dr. William H. Plemmons became president of the shcool in 1955 and he oversaw the transformation from a single-purpose teachers college into a multipurpose regional university. Twenty-five construction projects took place during his tenure and he became known as the builder president. Enrollment grew to 5,000 students at this time. In 1966, fire destroyed the administration building and in 1971 the university became part of the University of North Carolina system. Dr. Herbert W. Wey became president around that time and the innovation he brought earned Appalachian State national recognition as an institution of change and enrollment was doubled to 9,500.
The university would eventually garner recognition in U.S. News & World Report and other publications as a top comprehensive university. The university’s emphasis on international education led the American Council on Education to recognize Appalachian as a model institution for international studies. TIME magazine named Appalachian a “College of the Year” in 2001. Today, the university has one of the highest elevations among American schools and enrolls around 18,000 students.
There are many hauntings in the high country of NC that are well known. We have already covered the Moses Cone Manor in episode 62 of this show. While that is a story everyone in town talks about, there are others that are equally as eerie. The Green Park Inn is located about 10 minutes outside of Boone and about 2 Minutes from the Moses Cone Manor. It was built in the 1880s and operated continuously until 2009. At this point it was bought out, renovated, and has now reopened. Gone with the Wind was written by Margaret Mitchell at the inn as well as hosting Herbert Hoover and Annie Oakly. The inn is supposedly home to the apparition of a woman who was killed in the hotel. The third floor has seen all kinds of strange activity, but the most common are reports of a woman in room 318. She is seen at night by many guests. This just so happens to be the room where a young woman committed suicide after a fight with her partner. People also smell pipe tobacco in this room, leading them to believe it is residual energy from the lover who drove her to her death. There have been so many sightings that the employees keep a "ghost log" at the front desk for visitors to write down experiences.
While there are other hauntings in the high country (Such as a dorm haunting at Lees-Mcrae college or an abandoned hospital in Jefferson, NC), many stories come out of Appalachian State University itself. Over it's years of operation, it has been the host to plenty of tragedy, which may explain why there is so much going on here. Many people have blamed the long winters and periods of extended cold and darkness for the number of suicides and deaths on the campus. (I know the year after I graduated they had 11 deaths, 9 of which were suicide. One girl went missing for a month before they found here hanging in the University woods. Just heartbreaking stuff.) The most famous paranormal activity on campus is in East hall. As a student I heard stories of a suicide pact where 6 students killed each other in the basement to open a portal to hell. Turns out, from talking to historians on campus, a student killed himself in the basement. There are reports of odd footsteps which seem like they are coming from inside walls or where there is no hallway. There is the apparition of a young man who has been seen in the 3rd floor bathroom causing all sorts of panic. There are also reports of floating lights seen hovering in the windows of the basement.
Across the road from East used to be Cofey hall. It has since been torn down, but when I was there I was told about a ghost who the professors called Max. He had hung himself in his room on the second floor in the 1970s. In that room, I think it was 204, anyone who lived there reported the lights turning on and off in the middle of the night, the TV volume shooting up and down, or the the TV coming on and off all night too. They considered Max a friendly spirit, but just a little mischievous. No reports in the building that now stands in its place.
I lived in Eggers hall my freshman year, and I was told by a school historian, that a girl had thrown herself from the 9th floor in the mid 1990s. While I was there, friends who lived upstairs told me about all kinds of problems with showers turning on and off and doors slamming. Also that year, a large crack appeared in the building around the 9th floor. The worked on it for about 5 months, during which time they built us a wooden tunnel to walk through because bricks were falling left and right. I didn't participate, but people made all kinds of morbid jokes about the sound of the bricks hitting the tunnel being the young woman throwing herself off the building again.
IG Greer is a classroom building that has a large auditorium in it. This is now used for large classes, but it used to be the original school of music on campus. The story goes, there was a young couple who was engaged to be married. She was a piano major and her fiance would sit in the same seat every time she had a recital to ease her nerves. She could always look up, see him, and relax. Well, he had to go down to Wilkesboro for a wedding related meeting on the day of one of her recitals, but he assured her he would be back in time. Right before the show, she saw him slip in and sit in his seat. She went on with the performance, but afterward she received word that he had been killed in a car accident on the way back to Boone that evening. Eerie right? Well now that seat behaves oddly. It doesn't seem to go up and down at the will of the person trying to sit in it and, without fail, people report getting sick after sitting in it during classes or movies.
Last, but not least, we have the one I have some experience with. During my time at App, I was a leader in my campus ministry. We had a small building on campus and it is where we spent the majority of our down time playing ping pong, or watching TV. It's where I met my wife. Anyway, while it wasn't supposed to be shared with incoming students, we all knew the building had a bit of a dark history. The campus minister who came before the minister who preceded ours had died in the building. He had hung himself in the stairwell one night, and the students found him the next day. Well, let's just say weird stuff went on there sometimes. Just sounds that came from nowhere more than anything, but God help you if you were in the building alone at night and had to go up the stairs. I always felt something watching me, or like I wasn't alone in that stairwell. It still gives me the creeps just thinking about it.
Is Appalachian State University haunted? That is for you to decide!