Thursday, February 22, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Legend of "Mountain" Tom Clark
Suggested by: Elizabeth Fatica
There was a time in the late 1800s when northwest Alabama and southern middle Tennessee struggled to maintain law and order. Criminal men formed gangs of thieves, murderers and bushwhackers and they would terrorize people living in small towns. The most notorious gang at this time was the Clifton Shebang, which were nicknamed the Buggers. A man named Thomas Clark was their leader. Everybody called him Mountain Tom and he was one bad dude. He deserted from both the Union and Confederate armies. By 1872, he claimed to have killed nineteen people, which included three people at the Wilson Plantation, three Confederate soldiers and a child. His gang had already raided the town of Florence in Alabama once before and in September of that year, they decided to hit it again. The townspeople were fed up and Florence City Marshal William Edward Blair rounded up a posse to head out at sunrise in pursuit of the gang of three men. They caught up with the outlaws and when Mountain Tom saw that they were outgunned, the gang surrendered. The men were taken back to Florence and thrown into the jail. Around midnight, a crowd of people gathered outside the jail set on bringing justice their way to the outlaws. They pulled guns on the jailer who refused to give them the key and took the men to a vacant lot across Pine Street, behind the old Masonic lodge and hanged them from a large tree in the lot. Three graves had already been dug for the men, but one of the men on the burial detail remembered hearing Clark boast that “no one will ever run over Tom Clark.” He told the others that were with him that instead of burying Mountain Tom in the cemetery, that they should bury him underneath East Tennessee Street so that everyone would “run over” Tom Clark. So, the notorious gang leader who boasted that no one would ever run over him, now lies buried near the center of Tennessee Street and to this day is still be run over daily and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - National Foundation Day in Japan
In the month of February, on the 11th, in 660 BC, the first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, ascended to the throne and that is today celebrated in Japan as National Foundation Day. During earlier periods in Japan, people were more loyal to regional leaders than national leaders, like the Shogun or the Emperor. Shintoism also had a number of deities that caused citizens to have competing loyalties. The government of Meiji Japan wanted to change this practice and it designated the National Foundation Day as part of the modernization of Japan by the Meiji Restoration. The Emperor had just been treated as one of the many Shinto gods. The Meiji government wanted the emperor to be worshiped as THE god and it promoted the imperial cult of emperor-worship. They hoped this would ensure loyalty to the national government in Tokyo and outweigh any regional loyalties. In its original form, the holiday was named Empire Day. Empire Day was abolished following the surrender of Japan after World War II. The commemorative holiday was re-established as National Foundation Day in 1966. Obviously, Japan no longer has an Emperor, so all references to such a leader have been stripped from the holiday and it is treated as a day to express patriotism and love of the nation. Customs include the raising of Japanese national flags and reflection on the meaning of Japanese citizenship.
Carnton Plantation (Suggested by listener and EP: Tammie McCarroll-Burroughs)
Franklin was a small town in Tennessee when the Civil War erupted. The war would bring the deadly Battle of Franklin to the city, leaving behind scars that would forever change the landscape of Franklin in various ways. Nearly forty years before the war, a plantation named Carnton would be built that would soon become the premier farm in the county. The plantation would play witness not only to the battle, but to political intrigue and much death and pain. For this reason, there are those who claim that Carnton is haunted. And there are many stories of paranormal experiences that feature many different spirits. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Carnton Plantation!
Abram Maury, Jr. was a state senator who founded the city of Franklin on October 26, 1799. He named the town for Benjamin Franklin. Randal McGavock was born in 1768 in the state of Virginia. He eventually migrated to Tennessee and got involved in politics. Because of the politics, he became friends with President James K. Polk and President Andrew Jackson. He served as mayor of Nashville a one-year term in 1824. McGavok completed construction on his mansion, that he named Carnton, in 1826. The property was named after his father’s birthplace in County Antrim, Ireland. The name “Carnton“ is from the Gaelic word cairn which means “a pile of stones.” A smokehouse was the first building built at Carnton and this was in 1815. This smokehouse would eventually be connected to the main house by a two-story kitchen wing. The mansion sat on 1,400 acres and was run as a plantation with crops that included wheat, corn, oats, hay, and potatoes. The McGavocks were also involved in raising and breeding livestock and thoroughbred horses.
The mansion had eleven rooms and was built in the Federal style out of red brick. The foundation was limestone with a tin roof, two dormer windows and projecting end chimneys. The house was two stories with a central pedimented portico that was Greek Revival-styled. The two-story portico contained four, square Ionic columns with beveled recessed panels and a vase shape balustrade on each level. The fascia above the first level had decorative scrollwork and the doorway was flanked by columns and sidelights, with a semi-circular fanlight above. The back of the mansion had a two-level Greek Revival gallery with seven two-story Doric columns. The open roofed porch ran the length of the house. The inside of Carton was just as grand. The interior style was Greek Revival with faux painting, carpets and a variety of wallpapers. The parlor had a Greek Revival fireplace mantel and on the mantel sat a clock that still remains today as one of several pieces that are original to the McGavock family. A 200-piece china set in the dining room is original as well. A rocking chair was given to the family by President Andrew Jackson and that still remains.
McGavock not only ran a farm, but he wanted gardens on the property. He started by planting cedars along the driveway leading up to the house. His son would add to this with more cedars and boxwoods. Randal's son, John, was a fan of Andrew Jackson Downing who was considered the father of American landscape architecture and he modeled a 1 acre garden that was on the west side of the house after Downing's designs. Square mini vegetable gardens were bordered by ornamental shrubs with a large white picket fence around the entire garden. The garden eventually fell into neglect in later years, but was recreated in 1996. The peony, daffodil and hosta collection of flowers found on the plantation today is composed entirely of varieties available in Middle Tennessee prior to 1869. For the green thumbs and flower lovers in the listenership, you'll be interested to know that Carnton Plantation houses the largest historic daffodil collection in the South. There are 40 varieties in the collection that date back before 1869.
Slaves were a part of the work force at Carnton Plantation and this continued even after Randal McGavock died in 1843. His son John inherited the property. He married his cousin Carrie Winder of Ducros Plantation and the couple had five children. Only two of them would survive to adulthood. John's net worth grew to about $339,000 in 1860, which is equal to about $9.7 million in 2018. When the Civil War started, John sent most of his slaves to Louisiana, so they wouldn't be taken by the authorities. John was too old at 46 to join the fight, but he did help and support groups of Southern soldiers. His wife sewed uniforms for relatives and friends. When Federal troops took control of Middle Tennessee they found out about the McGavocks’ efforts with aiding the South, and the Union took thousands of dollars of grain, horses, cattle and timber from Carnton Plantation.
The last great battle of the Civil War and one of the bloodiest battles, the Battle of Franklin, came to Franklin, Tennessee on the afternoon of November 30, 1864. The battle would rage across the town and forever change the landscape. As was the case with so many towns during the Civil War, most buildings were used as field hospitals. Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood led his 33,000-man Army of Tennessee into Franklin where the Union's Major General John Schofield had already set a strong defensive line south of town with his 30,000 men. Hood's army took up a position two miles from the Union forces with rolling farmland between them. At 4pm, Hood sent his troops out in two columns from the west and the east. This tactic proved successful and the Union defense collapsed and fell back into a line closer to the city of Franklin.
The next portion of the battle involved a massive frontal assault larger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. By the time this happened, it was already dark, so much of this skirmish was in the dark. The Union was having a hard time gaining ground until a brigade led by Col. Emerson Opdycke arrived. Confederate Gen. Stephen D. Lee's corps re-enforced Hood's left, but it was not enough and Hood's forces were driven back and suffered heavy losses. The Confederates suffered over 6,200 casualties, which included six dead Confederate generals. Total casualties for both sides numbered over 8,500. The Union left Franklin and left their wounded behind. Hood would continue on to Nashville for the later Battle of Nashville.
Carnton Plantation became the largest temporary field hospital after the Battle of Franklin. A staff officer wrote that "the wounded, in hundreds, were brought to [the house] during the battle, and all the night after. And when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated until the wounded and dead filled that." That is quite the visual. Add to that the fact that on Carnton's back porch four Confederate generals’ bodies were laid out. These were Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl. The McGavocks tended to nearly 300 soldiers inside their home. Half of those men had died by the next morning. Those that had survived were spread all throughout the property, including the slave quarters. Carrie McGavock's dress was blood soaked at the bottom. The McGavocks' seven year-old son Winder and nine year-old daughter Hattie, both witnessed everything and pitched in to help. To this day, Carnton still serves as witness to the events of the horrible battle. Many of the floors are still stained from blood. The heaviest stains are found in one of the southern facing bedrooms because it served as the operating room.
Following the battle, the people of Franklin were tasked with burying the dead, which numbered 2,500. According to George Cowan's "History of McGavock Confederate Cemetery," "All of the Confederate dead were buried as nearly as possible by states, close to where they fell, and wooden headboards were placed at each grave with the name, company and regiment painted or written on them." Over the next eighteen months, the markers rotted and the writing disappeared. Many of the Union soldiers were re-interred in 1865 at the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The McGavock's wanted to do something more formal and in 1866, they set aside two acres of their land for a cemetery. The citizens of Franklin raised the funds that would be needed for the intense process of exhuming and reburying the soldiers. A man named George Cuppett led a team that moved the 1,481 soldiers. One civilian was buried in the cemetery as well. This was George's brother Marcellus, who had died during the process of the reburials. The original names and identities of the soldiers were recorded in a cemetery record book by Cuppett and he gave this to Carrie McGavock . The graveyard is called the McGavock Confederate Cemetery and it is the largest privately owned military cemetery in the United States. The McGavocks maintained the cemetery for the rest of their lives. The cemetery is organized by state with thirteen sections separated by a 14-foot pathway. Today, the cemetery is maintained by The Franklin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
After the war, Carnton Plantation continued under a sharecropping arrangement with former slaves. John died in 1893, so Carrie managed everything, particularly the cemetery, until here death in 1905. A prayer in the Confederate Veteran magazine mentioned Carrie McGavock in 1905, "We thank thee for the . . . feeble knees she lifted up, for the many hearts she comforted, the needy ones she supplied, the sick she ministered unto, and the boys she found in abject want and mothered and reared into worthy manhood. In the last day they will rise up and call her blessed. Today she is not, because thou hast taken her; and we are left to sorrow for the Good Samaritan of Williamson County, a name richly merited by her." Winder inherited the plantation, but he died two years after that in 1907. His widow eventually sold the mansion in 1911,bringing to a close a century of family ownership.The story from this point is similar to others where the home passes through several hands and falls into disrepair starting in the 1960s. The Carnton Association formed in 1977 to raise money to buy and restore the mansion. This restoration was completed in the late 1990s. Today, the site is maintained by The Battle of Franklin Trust, a non-profit organization which also manages the Carter House. The house is open for tours Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and on Sunday from noon to 5pm.
There are many hauntings happening at the plantation and they mainly seem to date back to the Civil War. Carrie McGavock cared deeply about the fact that so many men lost their lives at Carnton. That is why it was important for them to designate the cemetery. Her spirit is sometimes seen as a full-bodied apparition on the back porch that overlooks the Civil War cemetery. She is either standing or sitting and some witnesses claim that she floats over the backyard. Many believe she is watching over the cemetery. She would be our Lady in White here because she is generally seen in a long white dress. A tour guide at the mansion, Margie Thessin, claimed that her daughter saw Carrie's ghost wearing a long pink gown.
The most seen apparitions belong to dead soldiers. The activity heightens at dusk when the battle was fought. It would seem one of the general's spirits is at unrest. The ghost is thought to belong to General Pat Cleburne since he matches the description of Cleburne with a mustache, a short beard and piercing eyes. He is een pacing the back porch and looking very worried as though he is fretting over the well-being of his men. A descendant of one of the men who was buried at the plantation visited one evening after the mansion was already closed to visitors. He decided to walk around the property and followed a path to the the rear of the mansion. He was shocked to find a shadowy man wearing a uniform standing next to a horse as though he was preparing to get in the saddle when he arrived at the back. He figured it was a re-enactor until the horse disappeared. The visitor saw another man dressed as a Confederate on the back porch so he asked him, “What happened to his horse?” The soldier replied that it must have been shot just like his own horse was shot. He expressed that he was very concerned now because they would be at the mercy of the enemy without horses. He also told the visitor that he better make sure he had a pistol.
The man chuckled to himself and decided to go with the little act and asked what kind of gun the soldier used and informed him that he had no gun. The soldier became alarmed and turned to another soldier on the porch and said, "Well if we are going to die, let us die like men." He threw his hat in the air forcefully and vanished. The visitor then heard the sequence of the sounds of battle and a yell that said, "Charge men! Charge." Then a swell of the sound of shots, shells, muskets and cannons filled the air. A cacophony of rebel yells followed. And it was then that the visitor realized he had been standing among a group of ghosts. He ran terrified to his car. He felt as though he really were in the middle of a battle. He returned to the plantation the next day when it was open and he realized that the ghost on the porch had been General Pat Cleburne .
Two spirits haunt the kitchen area of the mansion. In the 1840s, a young house servant girl was murdered in the kitchen by a jealous field hand who had become infatuated with her. She rejected his advances and he strangled her. Her spirit seems to have remained and is a mischievous spirit who likes to play tricks on the living. A curator at the house heard some noises from the small, enclosed porch off the back of the house and decided to see what was going on. When she got back there, she found two panes of glass that had been taken down from a box of panes. Each was placed nicely on either side of the door. Not somewhere an employee would place them, not to mention that there was no reason to have the panes pulled out of the box. She thought it was the girl who had been murdered.
The other spirit is thought to belong to a head cook who had worked for the family during the Civil War years. This apparition has been seen floating in the hallway, near the kitchen. Disembodied bustling noises are heard coming from the kitchen that include banging dishes and running water.
Other spirits found inside the house include a soldier who stays in one of the bedrooms. A picture of the mansion that was hanging on the wall in that bedroom has mysteriously crashed to the floor. Another time, that same picture was found on top of the floor heater, where it could not have fallen.
A beautiful young girl, with long brown hair appeared to a workman when he was in the second floor hallway. He quickly ran down the stairs when he realized she was transparent. After that, workmen started going upstairs in pairs.
Carnton Plantation was the scene of a horrible battle, but even more, it was a place of immense pain and death. These kinds of emotions tend to feed paranormal activity and that seems to be the case here. Here we have another battlefield where the soldiers still seem to think they are fighting the war. And Carrie McGavok is still watching over the graveyard in the same way that she did when living. Is Carnton Plantation haunted? That is for you to decide!
Picture that Drea took that we mentioned on this episode:
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Bermeja Island Disappears
Maps dating back to the 1700s, document Isla Bermeja just off the Yucatan Peninsula’s coast. While many islands are important to the country that owns them for tourism, Bermeja Island was important to Mexico because it extended its reach for drilling for oil and would stop the United States encroachment on Mexico's oil drilling industry. As one can imagine, this caused some friction. So when the island just disappeared in the 1990s, all kinds of conspiracy theories erupted about how the CIA had something to do with the disappearance. These suspicions arose because important documents containing a treaty regarding major oil reserves within the island’s region disappeared as well. The disappearance of Isla Bermeja greatly reduced what had been Mexico’s 200 nautical-mile limit. The theory that was running around about how an island could disappear left many wondering if the CIA blew up the island, which measured 31 square miles. But can you really blow up an island? Researchers looking back at old maps noticed Bermeja Island was found on historical maps between 1535 and 1775, but after that, it disappears from the maps until 1857, when a US map once again included it. When the treaty was written up in the 1970s, nobody really verified that the island existed when it was used as a border. A Navy fishing expedition reported the island missing in 1997. This causes us all to wonder if the island ever actually did exist and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The First 45 RPM Vinyl Released
In the month of February, on the 2nd, in 1949, the first 45 RPM vinyl record was released. Prior to 1948, records were made of shellac and rotated at 78 RPM. Record companies like Columbia Records and RCA Victor, knew they needed to innovate and in 1948, Columbia Records unveiled the 33 1/3 RPM long playing record, commonly known as a LP, and it was made of vinyl. The vinyl was durable and much quieter. LPs played for about 20 minutes on each side. RCA decided they needed something else and they developed the 45 RPM record and released it in 1949. These were smaller records, measuring 7" inches and came in a variety of colors to differentiate between genres. Popular releases were on standard black vinyl while Country could be found on green, R&B and Gospel were on orange, Classical was on red, Children's records were on yellow and international recordings were on blue. The 45s' popularity soared because its size made it portable and this popularity would last for 40 years until the cassette tape and eventually the CD and the MP3 player started making music more portable. We have fond memories of playing our 45s on little record players and thoseof us from older generations know that a spider is not just a nasty arachnid, but they also were inserts that could be placed in the middle of a 45, so they could be played on a standard turntable. Most 45s ran between 2 and 5 minutes. In 1968, John Lennon asked George Martin, the Beatles music producer, what was the maximum length of play time that a 45 could handle. After some experimenting, Martin decided the answer was 7 minutes, 11 seconds. And thus the playing time of "Hey Jude."
Haunted Cemeteries 8
Much of a town's history can be found in its cemeteries. The granite and marble slabs carry the names of the people who founded and built the town and those who have called it home throughout the years. Some of the memorials are simple and some are very grand. But each one represents a person who was important to someone. Cemeteries are beautiful and peaceful, but sometimes that quiet is broken by the supernatural. Some cemeteries are haunted and we are going to look at several of them. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Bee Spring Cemetery in Tennessee, Hart Island Cemetery in the Bronx, Old Berkeley Cemetery in Virginia and La Noria Cemetery in Chile.
Bee Spring Cemetery (Suggested by Jacob Gray)
Bee Spring Cemetery is found in Giles County, Tennessee. Giles County is located in the south central part of the state and is named after William Branch Giles. Giles sponsored the admission of Tennessee as the sixteenth state into the Union when he was serving as a senator for the state of Virginia at the time. His support grew to also sponsoring the building of the city and courthouse, which has burned an amazing four times. The cemetery was established in 1816. There are around 200 burials here. Let's look at some of the people who have made this their final resting place.
Annie Bass was born in 1846 in Alabama. Everybody called her Blackie. She had six children and died when she was 92 in 1938 at her home in the Bunker Hill vicinity. Nancy Jane Cryer Beard died in 1897 and her tombstone is inscribed with, "Since thou can no longer stay, To cheer me with thy love, I hope to meet with thee again, In yon bright world above." Twenty-six members of the Beddingfield family are here. Box tombs are found in many cemeteries and one of them at Bee Spring belongs to Sarah Boyce. They are sometimes called chest tombs and they date back to medieval times. The box is above the ground and the body of the deceased is buried beneath it, rather than in the box. The advantage of this type of memorial is that they can be seen better than headstones and there are five surfaces for decoration.
The cemetery gives some an odd feeling. A person going by just J on the Angelfire website wrote, "Okay. We heard about this church/cemetery just over the Tennesse line. The story we were told was nothing big, just that if you took a camera there you could use the flash to see orbs floating around the church. We tried this and it did work, but we soon grew tired of it. We decided to try our luck across the street at the cemetery. We all felt strange about entering the cemetery (not sure why, it just seemed like a bad idea) so we stood just outside of it by the stone wall surrounding the cemetery. One of the guys with us was just about to snap a picture when I noticed what looked like two lights floating maybe ten feet over the cemetery. I got the attention of the other two guys with me and pointed out the lights. We all stood shocked at what we were seeing. The guy with the camera started to take pictures when we noticed several large dark figures coming at us at a fairly rapid speed. We all freaked out and began running to the car. Once we were inside and turned around, the camera guys asked me to pull the car up to the wall for one last picture. Once I reversed the car to the wall, he rolled down the window and we heard the sound of footsteps running through the leaves toward the car. I stepped on the gas to afraid to stick around and find out what it was."
Hart Island Cemetery
Hart Island Cemetery is located on Hart's Island, which is at the western end of Long Island Sound. The island is fairly small measuring only a mile long and one-quarter of a mile wide. The island has been used for a variety of purposes in its history. A Union Civil War prison camp was set up here, there was once a psychiatric institution and then a tuberculosis sanatorium, a boy's reformatory was here and the main part that we will be focusing on is that the island is basically a large potter's field that is still used today to bury the poor and the nameless. The city of New York bought the island from Edward Hunter on May 27, 1868. There are several stories as to how the island got its name. One story was that British cartographers named it "Heart Island" because it was shaped like the organ. Other historians claim that it refers to an English word for stag because deer would migrate to the island from the mainland when ice covered Long Island Sound.
The cemetery here is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. The first burials were of 20 Union Soldiers during the American Civil War when the prison camp was located on the island. City burials started in 1868 after New York bought the island. The first city burial was of a 24-year-old woman named Louisa Van Slyke. She had died at the Charity Hospital and since she had no money she was taken out to City Cemetery, which is what the potter's field was officially known as at the time. The graveyard stretches out over 45 acres and rather than being dotted with hundreds of headstones, it has white markers that denote mass burials of usually 150 bodies. These are laid out in two rows, three coffins deep. Two large monuments have been dedicated to all the dead on Hart Island. A tall white peace monument was erected after World War II by New York City prison inmates and can be seen on top of what was known as "Cemetery Hill."
The only identifier on most of the coffins are the dead person's name and an identification number that are carved into the wood. One tenth of the burials are for John and Jane Does. Their bodies are photographed at the morgue before being shipped to the island. These photos are then shown to family members who are missing people to see if any of them can be identified. Each year, about a hundred of the Does are identified. A body can be disinterred for up to eight years after the burial. Adults are buried in trenches with three sections of 48-50 individuals so that disinterment for those identified by family are easier. Infants and children are not usually disinterred and so they are buried in trenches of 1,000, stacked five coffins high and twenty coffins across. Before 1913, the adults and children were buried in mass graves together. A fire in 1977 destroyed many of the burial records, but it is thought that there are a million bodies buried on the island. The potter's field is also used to dispose of amputated body parts, which are placed in boxes labeled "limbs". Ceremonies have not been conducted at the burial site since the 1950s, and no individual markers are set except for the first child to die of AIDS in New York City who was buried in isolation.
Burials have been done by prison labor from Riker's Island. Inmates make around 50 cents an hour. Burial records are kept within the prison system and the island is maintained by the New York City Department of Corrections. They created a searchable database in 2013 that starts with burials from 1977. There are about 66,000 entries. Digital mapping of the trenches was started in 2009. Many of these measures were initiated because of an investigation into the handling of infant burials that was opened in response to a criminal complaint made to the New York State Attorney General's Office on April 1, 2009. The New York City Department of Transportation runs a single ferry to the island from the Fordham Street pier on City Island. There is an intense process to get a ride on the ferry and usually only family members of those buried on Hart Island are allowed to ride.
Some of the people buried here are rather well known or were at one time. Leo Birinski was a Jewish playwright, film screenwriter, and director. He died alone in poverty in 1951, so was brought to Hart Island. Dawn Powell was an American writer who authored hundreds of short stories and a dozen novels. She died of colon cancer in 1965 and donated her body to a medical center. Five years later, the center returned what was left of her remains to her estate, but the executor of her estate refused to reclaim her remains and so she was buried on Hart Island in 1970. Bobby Driscoll was a famous child actor who won an Academy Award for his starring roll in 1949's "The Window." Bobby was the first child actor put under exclusive contract to Disney studios. He appeared in their movies "Song of the South" in 1946 and "Treasure Island" in 1950. He quit acting in 1957 and his life took a downward spiral. He was arrested multiple times for drugs, forgery and theft. He died penniless and alone in an abandoned New York tenement.
There are tales of many restless spirits on the island and it is no wonder with its history and mass burials. Visitors to the island and the inmates working there have reported the eerie feeling that someone they can't see is watching them. There are several abandoned buildings on the island and shadow figures have been seen moving inside and outside of them. Disembodied whispers are heard in the buildings and also in the cemetery and they usually sound like children's voices. Investigations of this noise always come up empty. A few visitors have become severely nauseous while visiting and even a couple have been physically pushed down on the ground.
One inmate wrote, "I was a prisoner at Rikers Island in the year of 2007 and worked for corrections as a digger at Harts Island and...it is haunted. I did it for about 5 months and had one crazy experience [I couldn't explain.]" People claim after leaving Hart Island that they have very vivid dreams of the island and these dreams usually are of the island years ago. They see the asylum and the prison as though it were new and what makes it odd is that these buildings are either so decayed or have been torn down, so how do these people know what these buildings looked like in their prime? Apparitions are seen in the mist covered mornings and if approached, they disappear into the fog.
Old Berkeley Cemetery
Old Berkeley Cemetery is found in Charles City, Virginia. The graveyard is located across from the Berkeley Plantation, which is said to be Virginia's most historic plantation. The first official Thanksgiving took place here in 1619. The site was known as the Berkeley Hundred at that time. In 1726, the three story brick, Georgian styled mansion was built and was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia. The plantation would also be the birthplace of our ninth president, William Henry Harrison. During the Civil War, Berkeley was occupied by General George McClellan’s Union Army and it was used as a field hospital. It was while the Union Army was here that General Daniel Butterfield composed the familiar tune “Taps.” The Harrison family lost the home during the Civil War and it passed through several owners until it fell into disrepair. A drummer boy with McClellan's forces, John Jamieson, would eventually return to Berkeley in 1907 and he would buy the property. Their family would restore the house. His son, Malcolm, and his wife, Grace, are responsible for the extensive restoration seen today. The plantation is still in the family and is presently owned by the Malcolm E Jamieson family.
The cemetery was established as a final resting place for not only plantation owners and their families, but for members of the original Berkeley colony. People who are buried here include Benjamin Harrison, Grace Jamieson, and Malcolm Jamieson. The grave markers are very worn and hard to read. Dates on several of them are impossible to see. The names are a historic record of the Harrison family as most of the burials belong to them. The oldest burial is for John Hugh Noell who was born in 1630. The most interesting memorial simply states, "In memory of the Unknown Indian." A massacre did take place on the property at one time and perhaps he died during that and was buried here. The cemetery looks over the James River and it is here that people claim to see the apparition of, ironically, a red-headed drummer boy of about twelve years of age. He is seen beating his drum and occasionally people actually hear the beating of the drum. The spirit also likes to look out over the James River. This spectre is sometimes accompanied by an older looking male wearing a Union uniform. He tends to walk the banks of the James River.
Berkeley’s Twilight Ghost Tour is October 12 & 26, 2018
"Hear the tales of Berkeley’s paranormal activities with a guided tour through the 1726 mansion, followed by a lantern-led walk through the gardens, grounds, and cemetery. You will then finish your ghostly experience with Berkeley’s challenging corn maze, with only the light of your lantern." Tour is at 6pm and is $25 per adult. http://berkeleyplantation.com
La Noria Cemetery
The people who lived in the Chilean mining towns of La Noria and Humberstone in the 19th century, lived under terrible and gruesome conditions. Workers and children were treated like slaves and many died horrible deaths at the hands of the people who kept them like slaves. It is for this reason that some claim that La Noria and its cemetery are haunted. The painful treatment built up some terrible emotions. Paranormal activity kicks up once the sun goes down. Many of the buildings are ruined and witnesses to unexplained activity claim to hear disembodied voices and footsteps. Apparitions are seen wandering the streets where human bones are still sometimes found.
The bodies of those who died under the slave-like conditions were buried in La Noria Cemetery. This is considered one of the scariest and most disturbing cemeteries in the world. Several of the graves have been dug up and coffins are left open. Visitors claim to actually see the dead rise from the graves at sunset. These spirits then walk towards town. The ghosts that are seen in town are thought to have originated in the graveyard. Some call them zombie ghosts.
Each of the cemeteries are unique in their own way. We have a ghost town's cemetery in the northern Chilean desert. A family cemetery on a Virginia plantation. A large Potter's Field in New York where the poor and forgotten are piled on top of each other. And a cemetery in a small town that is like most of our local cemeteries. They all have one thing in common and that is the claim that they are haunted. Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Shoes in the Floor
Suggested by: Natasha Duhua
Our listener Natasha had posted in the Spooktacular Crew about purchasing a 200 year old home in Ireland and finding toddler-sized shoes under the floorboards. The placing of objects like shoes under floorboards, in chimneys, around windows and in the walls of structures has been a practice in Europe for centuries. The practice was so widespread that Northhampton Museum began maintaining a Concealed Shoe Index, which has well over two thousand reports. The practice was not done to store keepsakes, but were meant to serve as magical charms to protect the people who lived in the home from witches, demons and ghosts or they were meant to be charms to enhance fertility. Shoes were hidden in more than just homes. They have been found in public houses, churches and Benedictine monasteries. The earliest reported find was in 1308 and the shoes were found behind the choir stalls in Winchester Cathedral. Half of the shoes found were sized for children like those in Natasha's house and the majority have been well worn and some even showed signs of repair. The practice seems to have ended during the 20th century. Finding well worn toddler shoes under your floorboards, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - First Negro League Begins
In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1886, the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists became the first Negro league. It was the first attempt to organize a Negro professional baseball league and had 10 teams that included, the Charleston Fultons, the Georgia Champions, the Jacksonville Athletics, the Jacksonville Clippers, the Jacksonville Macedonias, the Memphis Eclipses, the Memphis Eurekas, the New Orleans Crescents, the Savannah Broads and the Savannah Lafayettes. A call was put out in southern newspapers to draw the captains of black baseball clubs to join the league. The first games were planned to start in May, but the season actually didn't start until June 7th. Newspapers reported on the games and gave favorable reviews. The league didn't last and it was not until 1920 that an organized African-American league, which was the Negro National League, survived a full season. The second league formed in 1923 as the Eastern Colored League. In 1947, Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, which opened the doors for other African-American players and signaled the end of the Negro Leagues.
Bonanzaville (Suggested by listener Typhanie Schafer)
On 12 acres in West Fargo, North Dakota sits a treasure chest of historic buildings and artifacts known as Bonanzaville. This is a pioneer village and museum that is home to 43 historic buildings and over 400,000 artifacts. The historic park has been operated by the Cass County Historical Society since 1967. The buildings have been collected from various places and bring more than just historical stories with them, several of the buildings are reputedly haunted. Enough hauntings go on here that the village hosts its own ghost tours at times. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Bonanzaville.
North Dakota became a state in 1889. The state was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was part of the Minnesota and Nebraska Territories until it broke off with South Dakota into the Dakota Territory in 1861. North and South Dakota had an ongoing rivalry to see which state would be admitted into the United States first and North Dakota won. President Benjamin Harrison selected the bills at random as to which would be signed first. Denise and I already knew this little factoid: Dakota is the Sioux word for "friend." This is actually why our first dog was named Dakota. Our second pup, Rafiki, was also named friend because Rafiki is Swahili for "friend." North Dakota is known both as the Peace garden State and Roughrider State. A recent fun fact about the state for us is that in 1999, a teenager discovered a “dinosaur mummy” on his uncle’s ranch near Marmarth that turned out to be a 67 million-year-old duck-billed hadrosaur. It was so well preserved that much of its bones, tendons and ligaments remained enclosed in skin. The city of West Fargo in North Dakota was founded in 1926 and is in Cass County, which dates back to 1872 and was named for railroad executive George Washington Cass. They are both in the Red River Valley named for the river that forms the border of North Dakota and Minnesota and that is the Red River.
While some might think that the village of Bonanzaville got its name because it is a bonanza of historical treasures, it actually is named for the large Bonanza farms that once existed in the Red River Valley. These large Bonanza Farms existed between 1875 and the 1920s. They came about when the Northern Pacific Railroad sold large acreages to its investors to cover its debts. These farms produced large wheat crops and became highly profitable with the use of huge crews and new modernized machinery. Local managers ran the farms, which existed in Minnesota and North Dakota, until the land was exhausted and the land was sold off or rented out to smaller farmers.
Bonanzaville consists of the Cass County Museum, the Pioneer Village, a Rotating Exhibit Gallery and a gift shop. The Pioneer Village was established in 1967 and has 43 buildings on the property that were collected from various cities. Arthur Town Hall is from the town of Arthur, North Dakota and was built in 1890. It features six stained glass windows that are from the Little Theater Company at NDSU. Not only were town meetings held here, but silent movies were screened during the 1920s. Community members played the piano to accompany the movies. The Blacksmith Shop is from Tower City, ND and houses the original furnishings and tools used by the blacksmiths. It arrived in the pioneer village in 1970. Bandstands were popular in towns during the 19th century and a bandstand from the town of Buffalo in ND found a home here.
Gilby, ND featured the Bjerklie Drug Store, which was built by a man named Jud A. Freeman in 1887. Ownership changed two years later to L.P. Bjerklie for whom the store is named. He operated it until his death in 1942 and then his son took over and ran it until 1975. It closed at that time. This was like a typical drug store at the time, so it featured a soda fountain. The building is a recreation of the original, but all of the interior furnishings are original. The medications were donated by the North Dakota State University School of Pharmacy. There is a decorative structure that features an eagle standing on a globe with the word CASE stamped on it. This is the Case Eagle and was placed on the former J.I. Case building on NP Avenue in Fargo. It was a logo created in 1865 and was named "Old Abe." The symbol was taken from Company C of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment, which fought during the Civil War and the logo was their mascot.
The Cass-Clay Creamery is a replica of a common 1920s small town creamery. Many of the furnishings are originally from the Kenmare, ND creamery, which was the last of its kind. The Cass County District Courthouse was actually the Hagemeister School in Berlin Township from 1930 to 1956. The furnishings; however, are from the Cass County Courthouse and are set-up as they would have been in 1904. The bell outside is original to the courthouse as well. The Checkered Years House is from a bonanza farm in Mapleton Township and was built in the early 1880s. The first person to live in the home was Mary Dodge Woodward. She kept a detailed daily diary that her granddaughter compiled into a book entitled The Checkered Years. Mary wrote of how the farm started with only two buildings, but eventually had twenty-seven buildings causing many people to think it was a town, rather than just a farm. She joked that if they built a saloon, they would be a town. Clearly, Mary never expected her diaries to become a book since she wrote, "I’ve nobody to talk to except this diary, and here I can say what I please for nobody but my children could ever read it."
Dawson Hall was built to be used for demonstrations and programs during the annual Pioneer Days celebration. It is named for Jim Dawson who donated much of the building's contents. The Dobrinz School was built in 1895 and was originally located in Mapleton Township. The school was named for John Dobrinz, a farmer who lived near the school. Thirteen of his children attended the school, which was a one room schoolhouse that taught children from grades one through to eight. Grade level was decided on completion of books rather than age. Some students were even older than the teacher. The Eagle Air Museum has a collection of over a dozen aircraft and related artifacts. One of the aircraft is the Douglas C-47 that was used in World War II during the D-Day Invasion. The Embden Depot was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1900 in Embden, ND. Telegraph services were also offered at the depot. The Eugene Dahl Car Museum houses a collection of over sixty vehicles from the early years of automobiles to more modern vehicles. And many of them were donated by Eugene Dahl and Lester Melroe who purchased a large collection of automobiles from the Paul Hemp Automobile Museum in Rochester, Minnesota.
The first permanent house in the Fargo area was built by immigrants in 1869 near Fourth Street and Second Avenue South. The house was built from logs cemented together by a mixture of cement and sand. That first home is now here and known as the Fargo First Home. It not only served as a residence, it also was used as a hotel and jail. The Forness Log Cabin is actually a reproduction of a typical log cabin of the area and is named for the man who built it on the grounds of the Pioneer Village, Palmer Forness. There is a cast iron stove in it that was used more for heating than cooking.
The Furnberg Store was built in the late 1800s by Christian Furnberg near the train stop at Osgood, ND. Furnberg was a young boy when he moved to the Dakota Territory in 1871 and he started his life selling goods by peddling them to people in the area. He opened the general store after borrowing $50.00 from his sister-in-law. The store remained in business for 75 years and closed in 1953.
The Habberstad Cabin was built by a group of Finnish settlers in 1874 and was moved from Kindred, ND. It is made from oak logs and has two levels. The second level was used only for sleeping. The Hagen House was built by Martin Hagen in 1897 near Horace, ND. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing for the four generations that lived in the house. There is a summer kitchen behind the house. The Harness Shop was used for harness and horseshoe repair and was brought from Addison, ND. The Horse Drawn Building is a museum featuring a collection of horse-drawn vehicles and equipment that include buggies, sleighs, farms wagons, drays and a milk wagon. The Land Office Bank is a replica of a Cogswell, ND building that served as a place for new land seekers to file their plots and receive titles to their property. The Law Enforcement Museum has displays donated by the Fargo Auxiliary Police Association.
The Maier House was built by John and Dora Maier in 1896 in Moorhead, MN. The house started out with two rooms and later a lean-to was added that added two more rooms. Electricity was installed in 1940. The house features a collection of historic medical devices. The Martinson Cabin was the former home of the North Dakota poet and labor organizer Henry D. Martinson. Before Martinson bought it as his home, it was a barn. Many of the furnishings inside had belonged to Martinson. He was named Poet Laureate of North Dakota in 1967. The Melroe Tractor Building houses a display on the history of American agricultural innovation. Two of the earliest steam engines built by J.I. Case are in this building. The Moum Agricultural Building also houses farm machinery and the very first Steiger tractor is Housed here. The Pioneer Fire Company was built by area firefighters as a replica of an 1890s station. The original horse drawn wagons of the Fargo Fire Department are here and the upstairs is furnished how the living quarters would have appeared at the time.
The Railroad Museum houses an 1883 Northern Pacific steam locomotive, caboose, Russell snow plow and a 1930 eighty-passenger coach. The steam locomotive was known as Number 684. Herb Banks, the General Foreman who worked getting Number 684 restored, summed up the importance of the American Standard class of steam engine by saying, "The American Standard’s history from 1837 to the late [1880s] is full of deeds of conquest over wilderness and trackless wastes – the bitter cold and mountainous snows and battles against almost insurmountable obstacles which they fought to settle the frontiers of the nation… No other single item has done more to make our country great than the Standard – by uniting vast territories into one nation and converting gloomy untrodden forests, dismal swamps and pathless prairies into prosperous states and fertile farms." The Telephone Museum used to be a hardware store in Tower City, ND. The Telephone Pioneers of America converted it into the museum and it features displays of 20th century receivers, switching equipment and line insulators which were made of glass. Before direct dial, calls had to be connected by phone operators. Many slept in the office.
Hunter Times building houses machinery from newspaper printing history that includes a strip casting machine, hand-operated press, flatbed press, and linotype machine. The Hunter Times was originally published in Hunter, ND and ran until the 1940’s. The first paper printed in Hunter in the 1890’s was known as the The Eye. and then in the 1920’s, the paper was known as The Hunter Herald. The building burned in the 1930’s and was rebuilt and renamed as The Hunter Times. The Kathryn Depot/Spud Valley Railroad Club is a building that houses the Spud Valley Model Railroad Club which operates a model railroad inside. The Thue-Brink Store is a general store from Horace, ND that was built in 1896 by H. H. Thue and his father-in-law C. O. Brink. At the time, it was the largest store in North Dakota. The store supplied flour, salt pork, molasses, nails, lumber, farm machinery, lace and even lingerie. The store also featured a post office that was run by the Thue family for 56 years. This is a two-story building with a basement and warehouse. The second floor was used for school plays, speakers and for living quarters and it was the town’s auditorium until 1937. There was a six-foot candy counter to tempt the children, which included the Thue children. Their father was strict about them taking any candy for themselves and one day H.H. followed one his daughter to the depot where he turned her upside down in front of everybody and shook the candy out of her pockets.
The Trangsrud Elevator was originally built as a granary in the early 1900’s near Kindred, ND by Amund Trangsrud and his son, Henry. Amund Trangsrud's house is also here and this was constructed between the late 1860's and 1871. The family lived there for seven years until and they moved into a bigger home. The smaller house then became a bunkhouse for hired men during the summer and eventually was used for storage. Amund's grandson restored the house and gave it to Bonanzaville in 2009. The U-R Next Barber Shop was built in 1900 and was located near Buffalo, ND. The objects and furnishings inside are original to the shop. The Wheatland Town Hall and Jail was built in 1905 for Wheatland Township, ND. The building housed two constables, a justice of the peace, and lawbreakers. There are two cells that featured a cot, a chair and a blanket. The hall also has its original safe with a hole blown in its side.
And now we come to the haunted buildings on the property:
The Houston House was built in 1881 by David Houston and was originally on a bonanza farm in Hunter, ND. Houston was a Scottish immigrant, farmer, poet, and he invented the roll film camera. You probably have not heard Houston's name in connection with this invention because Kodak Eastman never gave him the credit he deserved and even Thomas Edison is credited with creating the moving camera when he actually was building off of Houston's original invention. And Houston actually called his first device Kodak, but George Eastman claimed he came up with the name out of thin air. The house features maple floors, cherry and oak wainscoting, walnut stairs and large bay windows. The decor features fine lace curtains Victorian in style, an Art Deco mahogany bookshelf towering above parlor chairs, a pump organ and a medieval hunting tapestry. Houston installed a new type of heating system in the basement, a hot air furnace, and metal conduits and air registers brought the heated air into rooms. There was a bathroom as well, which was uncommon at the time.
This house is reputedly haunted. Staff have claimed to hear the disembodied voices and laughter of children inside the house when no kids are in the house. Brenda Warren is Bonanzaville’s Executive Director and she said, "In the upstairs southeast bedroom of the Houston House there is always an indentation in the pillow and I always fluff it back up. When I come back to check on things there is always the same indentation in that pillow. I’ve never really believed in the paranormal; however, this keeps happening over and over again so it makes me wonder if maybe there might be something there.” Houston died of a brain hemorrhage in this room. David Houston and his wife Annie were both spiritualists and they had one room set aside for seances.
The Brass Rail Saloon and Hotel was built in 1889 in Page, ND. It moved to Bonanzaville in 1971. There were nine rooms in the hotel and featured entertainment and fine dining, but no alcohol. North Dakota entered the Union as a dry state and so no alcohol was served until Prohibition was repealed in 1933. A room could be rented for 50 cents, with the elegant Bridal Suite going for 75 cents a night. There was no indoor plumbing. The furnishings are not original, but date to the early 1900s. Some of the entertainment available at the saloon and hotel came in the form of a brothel. This tavern is near the Houston House and is apparently haunted as well. Brenda Warren's daughter, Missy, who heads up special events at Bonanzaville once heard a loud noise inside the Brass Rail Saloon and said of it, "There is something in the saloon, and everything that has been heard has come from the upstairs, where it was most likely once a brothel." Warren herself has had an experience in the saloon. She was locking up by herself one night and says ofthe event, "I kind of got an eerie feeling. There's an upstairs — the hotel part of the Brass Rail — so I locked up downstairs, and as I was reaching for the door to go upstairs, something hit the floor very, very hard — I mean, shook the floor, it hit so hard. But the crazy thing is, there were renovations going on at that time and there was nothing up there. It was pretty much gutted — nothing that could have fallen off of a wall onto the floor or something. I didn't see anything, but I didn't stick around, either."
The South Pleasant Church arrived in Bonanzaville in 2015 and was built over 125 years ago. the church is originally from Christine, ND and was moved to replace the former church at Bonanzaville, St. John's Lutheran Church, because it burned down. This is another one of the haunted location in the village. In 2016, a crew from Horsley Specialities came in to clean up the steeple and restore it when they experienced what they describe as haunting activity. Raul Turrubiates Jr. and his workers had just climbed the stairs to the steeple tower when they heard what they thought was someone walking around on the wooden floor beneath them. Access to the church was limited, so Raul went downstairs to chase the person out. He didn't see anyone, so he called out. There was no response. Then to his astonishment he saw a set of footprints in the dust made by bare feet. The footprints led in different directions. Some went up to the altar and others led away. All of his crew were in boots and he found no one else in the building.
The crew went back to work figuring that someone had come in at some other time and that they just hadn't noticed the footprints. Then one of the men saw a small shadow movement. He told Raul and said that he thought the shadow was about the size of a seven-year-old child. He claimed that the shadow ran past him and around the corner of the doorway. He followed it around the corner and the shadow had disappeared. Then he saw another set of barefoot prints that were small, like a child's, in the corner of the pews where he thought the shadow had crossed. The crew decided that they would not stay to work into the night. Raul said, "I told my supervisor, 'I'm out of here by 5 (p.m.),' since it starts getting dark then. We've worked on many old buildings, many, but this has never happened before. It's a little creepy." The crew later claimed to see a large, unplugged 20-gallon shop vacuum move on its own across roughly 4 feet of carpeted entryway. Former members of the church were asked about hauntings, but nobody gave any further information. There had been a cemetery next to the church at its original location.
Bonanzaville is like a time capsule of another time that keeps history alive for those who visit. Are some of the buildings that were brought here still serving as home to some former residents who no longer are living? Is Bonanzaville haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Moment in Oddity - Fifty Degree Temperature Change in Just 2 Minutes
The Black Hills area of South Dakota can experience a wide range of temperature variations, especially in the winter months. One reason for this are the warm Chinook winds that blow in over the Black Hills. The occurrence is so common that Black Hills have been dubbed the “Banana Belt” of the Midwest. Inversions, which are warm air flowing over a shallow pool of cold air, cause temperature jumps as well since the Black Hills rise above the plains into a warm air layer. Even though these temperature changes are expected, no one expected what happened on January 22, 1943. Temperatures on that day rose and fell almost 50 degrees in a only two minutes. During that January, arctic air had blown down from the north and temperatures in the Dakotas were falling into the way below zero range. On the morning of the 22nd, temperatures in a Black Hills town named Spearfish were sitting at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. This was recorded at 7:32am. Two minutes later, the temperature was recorded as 45 degrees Fahrenheit, a rise in temperature of 49 degrees. The temperature rose a few more degrees over the next two hours and then plummeted from 54 degrees back to -4 degrees in 27 minutes. This change was so quick and drastic that car windshields froze over with thick frost and plate glass windows cracked. This was so weird that it received national media coverage and was featured in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” and “Strange as it Seems” cartoons in the newspapers. A drastic change in temperature in just two minutes, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The Four Chaplains Heroic Act
In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1943, a very heroic moment in history took place involving the SS Dorchester. During World War II, the SS Dorchester, a U.S. Army transport ship, was hit by a German torpedo just off the country of Greenland. Before the war, the Dorchester had been a luxury passenger liner built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. It was launched in 1926 and featured electric fans and telephones in every room. She was refitted for the war in New York and made five successful crossings from New York City to Greenland. On February 3rd, she was only 100 miles from her destination when she was hit by the torpedo nearly an hour after midnight. She began to list immediately and it was clear she was going to sink. There were not enough life jackets on board. Four army chaplains, Catholic Father John P. Washington, Dutch Reformed Reverend Clark V. Poling, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode and Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, tried their best to keep the men calm as lifeboats were launched. The Four Chaplains gave up their life jackets to four frightened young soldiers. They had decided to go down with the ship and survivors reported seeing the Four Chaplains standing on the deck, arm-in-arm, praying together. They died along with the Captain and 667 other men making this the third worse loss of life at sea for the United States during the war.
We have been inside the Sorrel-Weed House twice and while we have never had a paranormal experience in the house, there is definitely an energy inside this house. The house has been through many changes in its 175+ years. After starting as an Antebellum mansion to a wealthy slave owner named Francis Sorrel, it served as a store that found the outside of the house completely changed, then it was apartments and finally is a museum today, in much need of renovation. The house was witness to tragedy and today is considered to be quite haunted and has been featured by both Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Join us as we take you through the history and hauntings of the Sorrel-Weed House!
Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia. The city is truly charming with its layout of park-like squares surrounded by Antebellum homes decorated in black wrought iron. One of those squares is Madison Square. The grand DeSoto Hotel once stood along the square and has now been replaced with the DeSoto Hilton. On the western edge of the square, there is the Green-Meldrim House, a Gothic Revival structure built in 1853, that serves as St. John's Episcopal Church's parish house and rectory. The Eliza Jewett House, built in 1842, stands across the square from the Sorrel-Weed House. As one can see, these squares just ooze history.
The land where the mansion stands today was once the location of a British barracks during the second bloodiest battle of the American Revolution. This was the Siege of Savannah in 1779. This was the most serious military confrontation in Georgia between the British and the Continental Army. The goal of the Americans was to liberate the city of Savannah from British occupation, which had lasted for a year. The American rebels and their French allies attacked on the night of October 8th. It started with a false attack to draw the attention of the British away from the real assault. The plan did not work. Miscommunication had one French line attacking before the rest were in place. The battle ended up in a ditch where a French flag and a South Carolina flag were planted. The Rebels probably thought this would indicate some kind of victory, but it would be anything but victory. The British, in response, cut down the attackers and their colors. Their counterattack lasted for an hour and left 80 of the American and French troops dead in the ditch. More than a thousand men lost their life in what was considered the bloodiest hour of the war. The rebels retreated in defeat. It was a great British victory.
Francis Sorrel was born to Antoine Francois Sorrel des Rivieres, a French military officer and sugar plantation owner, and Eugenie de Sutre, a free woman of color, in Haiti in 1793. At that time in history, Eugenie would have been referred to as mulatto, which was a term to distinguish between free people of color who had white fathers, versus black slaves. Francis was only six months old when his mother died. The Slave Rebellion was already well underway at this time and Antoine felt it was too dangerous and he left the island. He also left Francis. Eugenie's family would raise him and he would never see his father again. Francis did well for himself and was invited by Richard Henry Douglass to enter into a partnership. The Douglass-Sorrel firm opened an office in Savannah and Francis traveled there to run the business. Listeners may be asking themselves right now, how is it that Francis was able to do this since he was considered mulatto because his mother was mulatto? He hid the fact this his mother was a woman of color and he was fair skinned. He married Lucinda Moxley in 1822. She was the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and he had eyes on the fortune she would inherit as the eldest daughter because as a woman, her inheritance would pass on to her husband.
The couple had three children together and after the third was born, Lucinda came down with yellow fever. She died from the disease in 1827, destroying Francis' dreams of a large inheritance. He was doing well on his own as he had started his own shipping business, but he still liked that Moxley money. So he did what any man with such a goal would do, he married his dead wife's younger sister, Matilda. Matilda and Francis had eight children together, one of who was Gilbert Moxley Sorrel. Gilbert went by the name Moxley to honor his mother and he became a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. He helped in the capture of Fort Pulaski. He commanded Sorrel's Brigade and took part in nearly every major Civil War battle, including Gettysburg. After the war he became an executive for the Ocean Steamship Company and took a place on the Georgia Historical Society board. He wrote a book, "Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer," about his experiences during the war, which has been consulted by many movie producers when making movies about the war because Moxley wrote about the personal side of many historical figures. The house has a later edition of the book that contains pictures and Diane got to look through it and found it interesting to see some of the personal comments Moxley made. Several of them were not very nice. Three of Francis and Matilda's children died before reaching adulthood. They raised their five other children and Lucinda's three children together.
The Sorrel-Weed House was designed and built by renowned Irish architect Charles B. Cluskey in 1841 for Francis Sorrel. Construction began in 1836 There are three distinct architectural styles represented by the house. The main one is Greek Revival with a Haitian style represented in the shuttered balcony found on part of the house and in the orange coloring of the mansion. French Regency styling is mostly seen inside the home. Cluskey hated adding the Haitian elements, but Sorrel insisted, so the architect put the balconies away from the front of the house where they would not interrupt his Greek Revival elements. These elements include a parapet with elliptical arches, Doric columns on the portico, a sweeping double entrance and balconies on the first story front windows. The front foyer has a common piece of architecture found in Savannah mansions and that is a division of space in the foyer done by two columns, to differentiate between guest space and private family space. The stairway across from the foyer is Regency in style and is a center stairway that ascends to a midfloor stoop that has stairways going off to the left and right to climb up to the second floor.
The most interesting room inside the mansion is an oval shaped dining room with curved wooden doors. The doors are very unique and took several weeks to make as they were formed using water rather than the typical technique of just hollowing out a tree and using the natural curve of the tree for the doors. We noticed that the interior of one of the doors did not have a handle and the reason for this is chilling in how it relates to slavery. With a home like the Sorrel's where there were more than a dozen slaves serving a family of mostly children, it would be very easy for the slaves to overpower the master. So slave masters would use some practices to instill fear in their slaves. One of these was making it forbidden for a slave to get caught in a room with no way out. A slave would have to enter the dining room through these doors and move fast enough to put down whatever he had on the table or make his way in and out of the butler closet before the doors he came through closed or he would be trapped as there was no door handle. He would then face a reprimand or beating for this infraction.
There were two rooms on the first floor with doors that separated them to serve as parlors for the men and women. The rooms would be opened to each other when large dinner parties were hosted. The slaves would have to move the heavy furniture up and down the stairs to open up the rooms and to bring tables into the rooms. The basement is large and open and was where multiple kitchens were located. There are four fireplaces down here. One of the kitchens was specifically for the slaves and where there food was prepared. Any interesting fun fact about slave food is that it is what we considered typical southern comfort food today like black-eyed peas, collard greens, fried okra, etc. After the Civil War, rich southern families had lost nearly everything and they could no longer afford their expensive upper crust food anymore and the slave food that was served downstairs to the slaves, came upstairs to the rich dining rooms and eventually became the mainstay food of the south. So next time you eat some good southern vittles, keep in mind that this was once considered slave food.
One of the rooms in the basement would eventually serve as a doctor's office for Francis Sorrel, Jr. and he would work on wounded soldiers during the Civil War here. That means multiple amputations took place in this room. This is a room made famous by legends of it being used as a room for conducting Voodoo. The first time we saw it was on a ghost tour we took several years ago. There was a night vision camera hooked up in it and a couple of people on the tour were invited to enter and dance around. There were some weird lights and orbs, but these easily could have been dust and bugs. The girl that was in there did say that she needed to get out after about five minutes because she suddenly did not feel well. We didn't tempt the spirits. On Diane's recent visit, this room was wide open and decorated like an office with a medical table and instruments. It felt like any other room to her. A dumbwaiter had been used to transport food from the kitchen upstairs to an area right outside the dining room, but it no longer exists.
Another room that is on the first floor is what was probably Frances Sorrell's office. There are large windows around this room that lead out to the Haitian balconies. As many of you know, there was a time in history where houses were taxed according to the number of doors. Frances beat paying taxes on his "doors" leading to the balcony by making them windows. They stretch nearly to the floor and there is a hidden pocket in the wall where the one set of windows push up into making it easy for even a man to go out on the balcony without bending down. Diane got to test it out and went out on the balcony to get a closer look at the orange paint on the outside of the house. When it was originally restored, the Historic Savannah Foundation did not want the owner at that time to use the color. They claimed that it was not a historic color in Savannah. They apparently forgot the Haitian influence style of the house. When the city said no, the owner scraped off twenty layers of paint and found the original paint, which was, indeed, orange. The color stayed. We've never been to the second floor where the bedrooms are located, so we can't tell you what those look like.
There is a carriage house next to the house and it was in the upper area where the slaves were housed. Up to fifteen of them shared a large open area with a small kitchen and fireplace. This would have been very crowded. Diane asked about the smell of horses coming from the downstairs area where the carriages were stored and that is when she learned that horses were kept in stables outside of town. There was a separate room off the large room that had its own furnishings and a door and this was Molly's room since she was considered a level above the slaves. She was a type of middle management and had been given this position because of how well she cared for the Sorrel children as a nanny. There is no official record of Molly, but the legend around her claims that she was mulatto. Many of the slaves in the Sorrel household were listed as mulatto and it is generally understood that Francis had no problem helping himself to the bodies of his female slaves and it is thought that he fathered a few children with them.
The area below the carriage house was recently excavated and Diane's guide had taken part in that work. They believe a large wine cellar had once been in this area that stretches the length of the carriage house. They found a case down there with several brandy bottles inside of it and something quite remarkable and surprising was inside the case as well. A letter from Robert E. Lee was found. The guide said that General Lee had visited the home a few times, but they are not sure how this had ended up in the case or why. Next to the Sorrel-Weed House is a large house that once served as the guest house for the Sorrel's. It is now a private residence, but the family had lived there for a time when their finances took a nose dive. Two original mirrors that now hang in the parlors were found over in this guest house and they are two of the only original furnishings left from the Sorrel household. The Sorrel-Weed House was designated a state landmark in 1953, the first house in Georgia to be so honored. Day tours are 60 minutes and cost $10, starting at 10am and running to 5pm. Evening ghost tours are offered as well. Go to the carriage house to get tickets.
Matilda Sorrel was not a happy woman. She was given to bouts of depression and one can imagine that her relationship with Francis was not necessarily based on love, but rather, position in society. The women's parlor, where she spent much of her time reading, has windows that look out on the carriage house. The legend that surrounds the house claims that one day, Matilda looked out those windows and could see into the room that was Molly's and she saw a vision that shocked her to her core and fed her depression. Francis was having sex with Molly. The distraught Matilda, climbed the stairs to the third floor of the guest house next door and threw herself out of a window, head first, onto the brick patio below. There is no proof that this is what caused Matilda to take her life. It could have been mental illness or perhaps she even discovered the truth about Francis being a man not of pure white ancestry. Whatever the case, Matilda did indeed kill herself on the property. A family friend wrote his mother of the event, "The sad news has reached the office that Mrs. Sorrel, probably in a fit of lunacy, sprang from the second or third story window of her residence on Harris Street, next door to the house which was the family mansion for many years, falling upon the pavement of the yard, and by the concussion terminating her life." This happened in 1860. There are claims that Matilda made this jump from the mansion itself. This is difficult to ascertain. Francis did sell his mansion in 1859 to a man named Henry Weed, but there are claims that Francis was in the mansion in 1862 when Robert E. Lee visited.
The tragedy went further when it came to Molly. Shortly after Matilda's death, Molly was found hanged in her room in the carriage house. There is no clear indication as to whether she committed suicide or was murdered. There is also no clear indication in historical fact that Molly existed or that a slave killed herself on the property. The house remained in the Weed family until 1914. A.J. Cohen Sr. bought the 15,000 square-foot mansion from the Savannah Bank & Trust Co. in 1941. His son, A.J. Cohen Jr., built a one-story brick building around the Bull Street side about five years later that reached out all the way to the street. He did this to create a store front and opened the first of three Lady Jane clothing shops. Cohen also knocked out most of the walls in the basement where the store was located. And yes, many of these walls were load bearing and now the house is held up by steel girders placed in the ceiling of the basement.
In the 1960s, Cohen Jr. moved into the house with his family and continued to run the apparel business. The store started to do poorly in the 1980s and finally closed in 1991. The Cohens put the house on the market. Stephen C. Bader bought the house in 1996 and worked at renovating it for some time, but there was a lot of controversy surrounding his ownership. He had several workplace violations and scores of unpaid bills. His contractor and architect finally quit. A few of the positive things that he did were dismantling the storefront the Cohens built and he is the one who took the house back to its original orange color, which he toned down after pressure from the city. Bader spent four years burning through money and workers before his tenure with the house ended. After that, we're not sure how ownership went, but Diane was told that there had been apartments here, so we imagine that was after Bader. The current owner seems to be the group that runs the tours now, but we don't know their official name. The website is http://sorrelweedhouse.com.
There are several spirits haunting the Sorrel-Weed House and many claim that it is one of the most haunted houses in Savannah. Ghost Hunters was here in 2005 and Ghost Adventures visited in 2015. Both shows claimed to catch EVPs. The Ghost Hunters think they got the cries of a slave on an EVP. The EVP seemed to say, "Help! Oh Francis, help! Oh my God! Oh my God!" Zac Bagans said of his time in the house, "Our investigation of the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, Georgia, gave me a three-alarm hangover. It was very similar to a real one—headache, nausea, dizziness, throbbing, memory loss—but weirder. I can usually gauge how bad my hangover is going to be by the interactions I have with spirits during a lockdown, but this one threw me for a loop."
Diane asked her guide if he had experienced anything unexplained and he said he had never noticed anything he would consider to be a haunting. He has been alone in it at night and heard noises, but he always assumes that it is just the noises of a very old home. But others have definitely experienced weird activity. One of the people who lived in an apartment basement was named Steve and he was there for three months. He felt very uneasy in what was later called the Voodoo Room. He moved upstairs and claimed to hear the sound of parties and other social gatherings coming from downstairs when clearly there was no one down there. When he would go downstairs to investigate, the sound of music, laughing and talking would stop.
The scent of residual cigar smoke has been smelled by guests touring then men's parlor. Residual noises from the Revolutionary War are heard inside and outside the house. Some interesting finds during excavations were bullets from both wars. Diane got to see these bullets and how very different the bullets were from the wars. It is thought that the Revolutionary War bullets were possibly from bodies that had been buried where the house now stands, setting it up for future hauntings. Shadow figures are seen regularly and people claim to have been groped, poked and to have stabbing pains.
People who have toured or investigated the house claim to feel nauseous or a choking sensation when they are in the basement. A person named Jamie Stewart said, "I visited this house recently as a skeptic. When I entered the home I felt Ill. Our tour guide wasn’t great and didn’t really tell us what had happened there until we got to courtyard. But yet I felt extremely ill and nearly vomited in courtyard when we got out of basement. It’s not that I didn’t believe in ghosts but I was indifferent. This incident has left me to do research on it as I was freaked out by my reaction and the fact that I felt fine after I left the house."
Camera and cell phone batteries are known to be completely drained while in the house. David Duran wrote an article for Country Living about his experiences in Savannah and one segment was about a ghost tour he took at the Sorrel-Weed House. He got an interesting picture in a mirror that seems to feature a person who was not part of their group who has hair and clothing from another time period. Here is that photo:
|Photo by David Duran|
|Photo by Leslie|