Thursday, July 18, 2019

HGB Ep. 303 - Keg Mansion Steakhouse

Moment in Oddity - The Tree with Matchmaking Powers
Suggested by: Ariel Facey

There are some lonely hearts out there that turn to online dating sites and newspaper personal ads to find love. There is a city named Eutin along the Baltic Sea in northern Germany and it is home to Br√§utigamseiche, which in English means Bridegroom’s Oak. This tree is believed to be 500 years old and it is the only tree in Europe with its own mailing address. And why would a tree need a mailing address? Because there are people, dozens every day, who hope to use its magical powers to their benefit. And what magic power does the tree have? It apparently is a matchmaker. A mailman named Karl Heinz Martens has been delivering these letters for 20 years and what he does is puts the letters into a small knothole in the trunk. Then lonely hearts come from all around and reach into the hole, hoping to find a match. The story behind the tree is that a young woman fell in love with a chocolate maker in 1890 and her father did not approve. The couple sent secret messages to each other at this tree by leaving letters in the knot hole. Eventually, her father realized that the love was good and he hosted their wedding under the canopy of the tree. By 1927, the tree was so overwhelmed with mail, the post office decided to give it its own address. The rules about the letters is that you must write to the letter sender or place the letter back in the tree. And many couples have found love this way and gone on to marry. Some have carved their initials on the branches of the tree. The Bridegroom's Oak has ropes holding parts of it together and many branches have been removed due to fungus, but it still stands and matches lonely hearts to this day. An old tree playing matchmaker, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Percy Shelley Drowns

In the month of July, on the 8th, in 1822 poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in the Bay of Spezia. Percy Shelley was born in 1792 into a family of not only means, but also political position. He stood to inherit his grandfather's estate and seat in Parliament. He attended Eton College and moved onto Oxford from which he was summarily expelled for voicing his atheistic views. His father broke ties with him over this as well and this left him in dire straits for a while. Shelley believed in free love. He married a sixteen-year-old girl named Harriet in 1811, but by 1814 he had fallen in love with Mary Godwin and he abandoned a pregnant Harriet. Mary would become pregnant too, but lost the baby. She would later give birth to a son the couple named William. Eventually, Harriet would commit suicide and Percy would marry Mary who went on to write Frankenstein. Percy became most well known for his poetry with his best work being Prometheus Unbound in 1820. Percy had a schooner named Don Juan and he took it out to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia in Italy in July of 1822. A storm erupted and Percy went overboard and drowned. At least that is according to one story. Conspiracy theories claim pirates may have attacked to rob him or that creditors had him killed. The boat was found with a huge gash in its side like it had been rammed. Percy was cremated and a story claims that Mary kept his desiccated heart in her desk for 30 years. There are modern-day theories that believe it was actually his liver as it would have been waterlogged and not cremated, while the heart would have burned up quickly.

Keg Mansion Steakhouse

Keg Mansion Steakhouse in Toronto, Canada is considered Canada's most infamous and haunted restaurant. The Steakhouse is the former home to a radio station and the Bombay Bicycle Club, but for many of its years, it was a home to some very well-known Torontonians. Several family members died here as well as a staff member. Many have claimed to have unexplained experiences at the steakhouse. Could these be caused by spirits of the family? Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Keg Mansion Steakhouse.

Toronto has been the setting for many films like The Shape of Water and Suicide Squad and for television productions like The Handmaid’s Tale, Orphan Black, American Gods and one of my favorites, Umbrella Academy. This is a great city for productions as it is a financial center and large with a population close to three million. But this was originally the domain of the First Nations, first the Wyandot People and then the Iroquois. The first European settlement here was a French trading fort known as Fort Rouille and it was established in 1750. A Frenchman named Etienne Brule was the first to explore the area in 1615 and that is why the French would be the first Europeans to settle. The Seven Years War started in 1756 and when it finished, all of Canada would be British ruled. A man named John Graves Simcoe would become governor of Upper Canada and in 1793 he founded the town of York named for the Duke of York. It would be the capital of Upper Canada. The first post office opened here in 1833 and the following year the town changed its name to Toronto and was incorporated. Gas street lights were added in 1841 and the city grew and flourished The railroad would come as well as horse drawn streetcars that eventually were electrified. In 1867, Toronto became the capital of Ontario. The city would suffer its own great fire in 1904 and the Depression would hit it hard, but following World War II, the city rose to prominence.

Some early prominent families in Toronto were the McMaster Family and the Massey Family and both would have connections to the Keg Mansion. William McMaster came to Toronto in 1833 and was the founder of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and McMaster University and he served in the Senate of Canada from 1867 to 1887. He had  made most of his money running a wholesale dry goods company and eventually partnered with his nephews, one of whom was Arthur McMaster. Arthur would build the mansion that is today Keg Mansion. The Massey Family is said to be arguably the most prominent family in Toronto. The Masseys are most known for manufacturing farm equipment and for being patrons of the arts in Canada. One of the bigger contributions was the concert hall, Massey Hall, built by Hart Massey in 1894. The Massey Foundation, which was formed by Hart's sons Chester and Vincent after he died and donated most of his estate for the building of public insititutions, is responsible for the construction of many landmarks in Toronto. These include the Massey Memorial Pipe Organ, Hart House Theater and Hart House. Vincent Jr. would go on to be Governor General of Canada in 1952 and another grandson named Raymond would become an actor most well known for his performance as Abe Lincoln in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois." Americans were not happy that a Canadian had been given the role, but his wonderful performance silenced the critics and got him an Oscar nod. *Fun Fact: A friend of Raymond said, "Raymond wouldn’t feel his Lincoln impersonation is complete until getting assassinated."*

During Victorian times, Jarvis Street in Toronto was once the pinnacle of society. This is where the wealthy built their mansions. One of these stately homes that still stands today is the Keg Mansion. Arthur McMaster built the house in 1867. The mansion is unique in its look and was built in the Baronial Gothic style. This style is Scottish and inspired many of the Disney castles for its whimsical flair. These include the round towers, lancet windows and gothic spires. The mansion originally had twenty six rooms and seventeen fireplaces. There was also a stable and large brick carriage house in the back.

Hart Massey had moved to Cleveland, Ohio for a while, but when he returned to Toronto, he bought the McMaster's former mansion. This was in 1881. The Masseys renovated the house and added a turret with a red tile roof, verandah, and greenhouse. Edward James Lennox was an architect who embarked on his solo career in 1881. He was immediately hired by Hart Massey to supervise alterations to Euclid Hall. He would later design the family's Massey Mausoleum in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It is a magnificent structure! Hart also added a secret tunnel under the house that connected directly to the Wellesley Hospital building. There is a legend that claims that the tunnel was used so that Hart's son Frederick Victor could be secretly whisked away to the hospital. He ended up dying when he was only twenty-three. Tragically, Hart had lost another son named Charles, six years earlier. Another son had died in infancy, so at this point, he had lost three sons. He eventually died in 1896 and his daughter Lillian would take over ownership of the house and the family interests. She was a strong woman and she needed to be because a woman as the head of the family was just not done at this time. Lillian had loved their time in Cleveland and she officially named the manion Euclid Hall after the street they had lived on in Cleveland. Lillian demanded respect, but she was a wonderful employer and her staff adored her. When she died in 1915, they took it very hard, especially her personal maid. Stories claim that the woman hanged herself in the foyer over her grief. After Lillian's death, the house was given to the Victoria College and it became the first home of radio station CFRB, now Newstalk 1010. Later an art gallery would take over and then finally the Keg company bought it in 1976 to house one of their steakhouses.

Inside, the lobby has a marble checkerboard floor. A women's restroom is located on the second floor with an oval vestibule that overlooks the lobby. Columns and a gorgeous wooden archway open up into the main lobby area. There are only two booths in the restaurant and they are located in the library, which is not the original library. The library had been outside the kitchen, but a fire caused the redesign to occur. A beautiful carved wood staircase leads to the second floor and the bar is nestled underneath. I hear the food here is amazing. The other thing I've heard is that this place is full of haunting stories. Staff and patrons have seen many spirits. The reports date back to the 1950s.

As I mentioned, there is a story that claims the maid hanged herself in the house. Based on many people's experiences, I think the story is probably true. The oval vestibule is the scene of this death and many people have seen a residual scene of the maid hanging there. A girl named Mia T. shared the following experience, "This was my first time inside the Keg Mansion. What an amazing place! I had a wonderful dinner with my fianc√©. I knew about the woman in the washroom and kids on the stairs. Even knew about the hanging maid. We took an impromptu tour after dinner and ended up at the second floor ladies room. I was in there alone, but it felt like someone was with me the entire time. I came out and looked to the stairs. A woman dressed in a dark, beautiful old fashion dress looked at me. I assumed she was a Keg worker, maybe someone made to look old fashion. Sounds weird now, but made sense to me that night. I even said “Hi” to her when walking past and down the stairs. Felt weird about it, so I asked the host. He said it was only four male servers that night, no waitresses and definitely no one in an old fashion dress."

The Travel Geek reported this story as told by a waitress, "The one that stuck out in her mind was that of a father and daughter who came to the restaurant after a gymnastics competition in the city. The two were from out of town and knew nothing about the restaurant before stopping by “The Keg” for a meal. The girl was 10-years old and went to the washroom at some point during the meal. A while later she came back to the table crying. She told her father that while standing by the oval vestibule outside the washroom, someone tried to push her over the edge of the railing. When she turned around, no one was there. It was only after talking to the waitress did they learn that this is where Lillian Massey’s maid committed suicide shortly after the death of her employer." 

Children died in the home and their spirits seem to still be here, especially a little boy. The children's rooms were upstairs when the Masseys lived in the house. The disembodied running footsteps of little kids that are excited can be heard running on the second floor and when people go up to investigate, the footsteps stop. The little boy is seen on the main staircase often and there are a few stories about this staircase that may or may not necessarily be connected to the boy. He is not residual, but intelligent as many times he will look directly at diners and glance into rooms with a curious look on his face. One account said, "I went upstairs to wait in the Keg Mansion bar for a table to open up. At the top I saw a dark haired boy playing on the stair. Strange because I knew kids are not allowed in there at night. Walked passed him towards the bar, looking back again to see the boy was gone. There again in 2014, I went up to the second floor bar with a friend. Talking, we both heard it at the same time… the sound of kids running down the stairs. We looked over without a word to see no children at all."

Another experience on the staircase involves a wooden spindle. Several years ago, one of the wooden spindles under the bannister on the third floor landing came loose and fell straight down onto the bar top below during a busy Saturday night. Amazingly, no one was hurt. Scared the crap out of the bartender though. The manager went upstairs to see where it came from and wrote it down in a logbook. The spindle was repaired. One year, to the day, the exact same spindle fell down onto the bar again. People wondered after this if the spindle had something to do with the little boy on the stairs and his death. Had he fallen and this was a reason why and was that date the date of his death? The spindle was again found to be sticking out some time later and had to be repaired again. Pretty freaky! The little boy is seen often just sitting on the stairs watching people eat. Kids see him most often and several have claimed he is playing with a train set.

The Women's Bathroom is a center of activity. People describe the woman who haunts this area as creepy, but that seems weird to me because many people believe the woman is Lillian Massey. One woman said that she went into the bathroom and she saw what she thought was another woman in a stall because she could see the feet under the door. She entered the stall next to this one and heard the other toilet flush. As she opened her stall door, she heard the other one open and expected to see a woman step out, but no one stepped out. She glanced into the stall and no one was in there. She came out of the bathroom with a look of utter terror on her face and after verifying from someone standing there that no one had come out, she told them her story. Another woman entered the bathroom and instantly felt like someone else was there. She looked in the stalls and knew that she was alone, but she couldn't shake the feeling. She went into the stall to do her business and heard the lock start moving. It unlocked and the stall door swung open, but no one was on the other side. I'm not sure how she reacted, but I would have immediately been done doing whatever I was doing.

Another woman asked her husband to wait for her while she ran to the bathroom. She had bought a bottle of wine and it was in a bag that she carried in with her. She hung it on the hook on the stall door. She heard the plastic of the bag rustling as she did her business and looked up to see the bag off the hook and in mid-air. She closed her eyes preparing to hear a huge crash on the floor. She didn't hear anything and when she opened her eyes the bag was sitting on the floor by her feet with no damage to the wine bottle.

Melanie Elaraby had an experience here while dining with her husband. She believes she had interactions with two different spirits. She describes it as follows, "While at the Keg Mansion on a Friday evening, my husband and I encountered two different spirits. We arrived at about 5:45 pm for our first visit to the Keg Mansion. As soon as I entered a feeling of excitement mixed with anxiety, my heart fluttered in my chest. Maybe I was really excited because I knew the place was haunted, and was so happy to finally visit. My husband and I were alone in the India room. I soon felt a light coldness leading to goose-bumps on my arm. After our waitress took the orders, I needed to use the ladies room upstairs. Nothing happened (unfortunately), just continued anxiety. At our table the coldness and goose bumps returned, continuing through our meal. It escalated to a light wispy touch on my fingers, centered near my engagement ring. I thought maybe a fly, looked down to see nothing.
I moved my hand off the table, and the feeling stopped. Back on the table and it returned. I told my husband, who was surprised but said he felt nothing odd. Later on I once again felt the touch, but this time on my neck. Then a flash across my mind of a woman. She was young, blonde hair with a wide face and blue eyes. She wore her hair swept up and wore a light colored blouse with a high neck, and a long light colored skirt. In the flash, she was standing behind me, as if shy around my husband. All during our evening the gentle, shy presence remained near me, except one moment. I went back to the woman’s washroom a second time, and again she was gone. Maybe my husband wasn’t the only one she feared."

There is a lot of activity in this beautiful steakhouse. They even keep a ghost log behind the bar upstairs. I'm so glad the Keg company goes around and gives these old historic locations new life. Are the renovations they do somehow awakening the spirits and making them more active? Is the energy of having all these people in the restaurant fueling the paranormal activity? Is the Keg Mansion Steakhouse haunted? That is for you to decide!

*Fun Fact: Some episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were filmed here!*

Thursday, July 11, 2019

HGB Ep. 302 - Mineral Springs Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Peck San Theng Columbarium
Suggested by: John Michaels

The story behind the Peck San Theng Columbarium is interesting and unique. This was a place where the living lived with the dead. The history goes back to 1959 when Singapore broke free from a century and a half of British colonial rule. They set up their own government, which found its first task to be finding a place to house the population. The Housing and Development Board or HDB formed to build housing and since Singapore is only around 45 miles across, they decided to build vertically and if you have seen pictures of Singapore today, you have seen that it is just tall building upon tall building. Singapore’s tallest public housing buildings are 50 stories high with about 10,000 public housing buildings on the island. Many of the people in Singapore were Chinese migrants who had set up these ornate cemeteries and had communities that believed in taking care of each other from cradle to grave. The need for land would change the way burials were done in Singapore and it would also mean closing down and emptying the cemeteries. One government cemetery was established and the process of disinterring and cremating bodies began. Peck San Theng Cemetery was one of these graveyards, but there was a problem, This wasn't just a cemetery, it was a self-sufficient little Cantonese community of around 2,000 residents. These people built little thatched roof homes among the graves because the active graveyard meant jobs. Tombstones needed to be carved, graves needed to be dug and they needed to host mourners by selling food and goods. They installed a large, Chinese-style gate at the entrance to the village and built stores and a clinic. The government couldn't leave it alone though because it took up so much space. Some family plots in the cemetery were as big as a three-bedroom HDB apartment. In 1978, the community received a letter informing them that the land was being reclaimed and public housing was going to be built on the cemetery. The living and the dead were given four years to vacate. Eventually, everybody was moved out, but the Peck San Theng cemetery association fought in court and got eight acres of their original 324. They built a few administrative buildings and the Peck San Theng Columbarium, which was designed by Tay Kheng Soon, a controversial architect known for designing brutalist superstructures. The outside looks like a typical condo, but inside there are nine levels that are a series of cascading stories and half-stories that resemble traditional Chinese tombs like cement hills. It is airy and sunny inside with urns lining the walls from floor to ceiling. The rituals around death did a 180 degree turn for Singaporeans with 80% of them now getting cremated, all because the living needed the dead to move out, even though they had once lived together in a symbiotic relationship. And that, certainly is odd! To hear more on this, I encourage you to listen to Ep. 359 of 99% Invisible.

This Month in History - German Radar is Foiled

In the month of July, on the 24th, in 1943, the British literally foiled the German radars. It was during World War II that the idea of using chaff was developed and ironically, it was developed in the UK, Germany, Japan and America all independentantly of each other. Chaff is a countermeasure used to block radar signals and this is done with thin pieces of aluminum or plastic. The radar's signal would hit the aluminum strips and this caused an echo that bounced the signal back. There was no way the opposing force could distinguish aircraft from the chaff. The Germans had hit the British home front hard with bombing raids, so the Americans and British decided to retaliate by hitting Hamburg. They called it Operation Gomorrah and out of 791 aircraft, only 12 were lost. As they approached Hamburg, the planes dropped strips of aluminum foil and blocked the radars. The air raids continued for 8 days and 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped, killing or injuring 80,000 people.

Mineral Springs Hotel

Alton, Illinois sits along the great Mississippi River and this made it a good place for industry. Lots of business was done here. This was also a good place to get away and hotels popped up around town for visitors. One of the grandest places to stay was the Mineral Springs Hotel with its marble staircases and two mineral pools. Eventually it went the way of many grand hotels and became apartments and now shops. Its former glory has faded, but one truly expects to see a man or woman hanging around the former lobby in period clothing. And apparently, they sometimes do as visitors from the afterlife. This is one of the most haunted locations in Alton and on this episode we will share its stories as we venture into every nook and cranny from the dug out spaces underneath the building to the empty pool room and beyond. Join us on our investigation into the Mineral Springs Hotel!

Mineral springs and the spas built near many of them have a rich history. Today, we enjoy them as a form of recreation, but centuries ago they were favored for what many believed were their healing properties. These mineral springs are naturally occurring and usually result from the water passing underground and collecting minerals, sulfur compounds, salts and gases along the way. They are classified according to their minerals from salt springs to soda springs to hot springs and etc. We have covered several locations that are reputed to be haunted that were built because of the nearby mineral springs including the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas from episode 58 and the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas all the way back on episode 11. Mineral spas popped up mainly around the Victorian Era and were places mostly for the well-to-do. Belief in their restorative powers even lead presidents like Franklin Roosevelt to use them in hopes of healing ailments like his paralysis. There are at least 12 notable mineral springs in America. The one in Alton no longer exists, but the building that housed it still does.

In the late 1800s, there were two brothers, Herman and August Luer, who had moved from St. Louis to Alton and they opened a meat-packing plant. August had moved initially to Alton with his wife as he felt the air was cleaner and healthier. After Herman joined him, the two brothers thought that they should venture into the ice business. They hired some men to begin drilling in 1910, so that they could build a cold storage facility and ice maker where the Mineral Springs Hotel is today. There was just one problem, or maybe not, depending on how you view business opportunities. The workers found a natural mineral spring when they drilled. The time was ripe for such a discovery because mineral springs were being promoted everywhere as having healing powers. The brothers decided to build a health spa instead of the ice facility. And not only would they have pools, but they would bottle the water to send out around America.

When you look at the hotel, it looks like it only has two floors, but it actually has five more levels below the street. The hotel was built in layers going up starting in 1913 with a water bottling plant on the lowest sub-basement. The hotel was completed in June of 1914 and designed in the Italian Villa style. The roof was tile, with stucco on the outer walls colored in beige. The interior featured those marble staircases along with terrazzo tile floors and art glass, along with two mineral pools. One of the pools was exclusive to men and smaller in size. The mineral water was pumped from the springs into the pools and people immediately started declaring that the water was healing their ailments. About 100 bottles of the water were sold every day and declared a curative for things like colds, headaches, muscle problems and even alcoholism. The pool hosted around 3,000 people every season. In the mid 1920s, an orchestra was hired and more rooms were added to the hotel. August Luer sold the hotel in 1926 and it would run successfully until the 1960s when the popularity of mineral springs dried up. The rooms were then rented out to any comer, many of whom were transients needing a place to live for a week or a month. Throughout the 1960s, the hotel really deteriorated and in 1971 it was condemned. The roof was leaking and collapsing at this point.

A man named Roger Schubert saw potential in the faltering building and bought it in 1978 and restored it, so that it could be run as an antique mall with restaurants. Eventually that shut down as well as business went away, but another man named Bob Love came in and did more renovations. The current owner, Dan Hornsey, is renovating the upstairs. The main area includes a banquet room that overlooks the Mississippi River, an antique mall, In Zone Barbershop, the "Curiosity Museum," which used to be the Historic Museum of Torture Devices and the metaphysical store "It's Raining Zen."

Rumors of the hotel and now mall being haunted go back years and years. Some of the stories are just fun lore like the story of an artist named Charlie who used to frequent the bar here often and ran up such a high tab that he was required to paint a mural in the building to cover his tab. Charlie began that mural, but committed suicide before it was complete and the legend claims that other artists had a hard time finishing the mural, which was untrue. Other ghost stories have historical facts to back them up. Let's walk around to the various areas of the building and see what we find!

The story that is generally told about the Jasmine Lady that is said to haunt the marble staircase is that she and her husband were staying at the hotel as he worked as a salesman. He came back to the room early one day and found her with another man.  They argued and the fight went out into the hall and ended up above the staircase. Some of the stories have claimed that she accidentally fell down the stairs, others claim she was pushed. It's a marble staircase and she broke her neck. Some have him telling the front desk that she had an accident and the police are called and other versions have him going back to the room where he hanged himself. None of these are true. A woman did fall down the stairs, but she only broke her hip. This was because she was fighting with her son who turned out to be a man wanted for the murder of two people. When the cops arrived after the accident, they recognized her son and arrested him. There is activity on the stairs and this comes in the form of the scent of jasmine, which is where the Jasmine Lady comes from. No one knows why the stairs are active. A female voice has been caught on EVP saying, "It was a misunderstanding."

The upper floor appears to be under refurbishment. One of the upstairs rooms has the spirit of a gangster haunting it. Many gangsters stayed at the Mineral Springs and they would get the spa treatment. This spirit presents as the scent of alcohol and cigar smoke. And some people believe a shadow figure they see is him. Our guide Luke will tell us a story later about seeing a shadow figure in this upstairs area that freaks him out pretty bad during our investigation. Was it this gangster? Another area in this upstairs area is said to be haunted by a child and there is a teddy bear there. Luke said he never had any interactions with ghosts in there. We venture into Pearl's room. She was staying at the hotel because she had marital problems. She was really depressed and ended up killing herself by taking a bunch of pills. People leave flowers for her and coins are moved around. We tested this with a coin, but it never moved. We spent some time sitting in this room. The final room we went into upstairs was a room with a very dark energy and the reason for this is that it is believed a seance was not closed out properly. A woman on a previous tour said, "Oh hell no" at the door and wouldn't come in. She said she felt a very bad feeling in the room. People get nauseous in this room.

Our final stop was down in the pool room. There is some ghost lore and this involves a party being hosted near the pool. These parties were extravagant affairs with hors d'oeuvres being served by waiters and orchestra playing. A couple was staying at the hotel and the wife was taking too long to get ready, so her husband went down without her. As seems to always happen in these stories, she finds him in the arms of another woman, she yanks off her high heeled shoe and starts hitting him with it. He falls into the swimming pool and died. The lore claims his spirit is seen haunting the pool area and also the former room, most often leaving a puddle of water outside the door. And none of this is true. Someone did die in the pool, however. In 1918, a 21-year-old named Clarence was taking swimming lessons at the pool. While he waited for his instructor, he apparently decided to go ahead and jump in the pool. He did so, head first into the shallow end and knocked himself unconscious and he drowned. His body sunk to the bottom of the pool and wasn't found until a bunch of people got into the pool and someone felt his body bump up against them. His death certificate is showcased in the lobby. Now strangely, it doesn't seem that Clarence is haunting the pool, but a little girl some believe is named Cassandra. So perhaps she drowned in the pool and it just never made it into the news. Or maybe she died soon after being at the hotel and she had loved it so much, her spirit returned to the hotel. People have experienced this child spirit playing with marbles and appears as a pink orb in pictures. The couple who own It's Raining Zen believe this spirit has an affinity for pink agate stones and told The Riverbender Magazine: "We started finding little pink agates everywhere. They were all over in the shop, behind Dave's toolbox, they were everywhere, and we had no idea where they came from or how they got there."

Luke told us he had an experience two years ago. There was no one else with him in the pool area and he was sitting quietly. He kept hearing the sound of hard-soled shoes walking around the pool and when he turned to look, he wouldn't see anything. Then he heard somebody walk in on the other side of the pool. I'll let him tell what happens next. (Luke Pool) Troy Taylor talks in his book Haunted Alton about an experience that was shared with him that happened in the pool area. A man was in the basement when he heard the sound of water coming from behind the locked door of the pool room. This was in 2002. He thought a water pipe had broken and he was really worried they had a major leak. He unlocked the door, rushed inside, flipped on the lights and saw that the floor was completely dry. The wound had stopped too. He started to leave the room when he noticed a set of wet footprints. They lead from the side of the pool to a few feet away and then disappeared. There's no water in the pool. There is no one else in the room. Where had these come from? He didn't care. He bolted out of there and would not go into that room again for the entire time he was employed there.

There is a room beyond the pool that has a spirit named William haunting it and apparently he doesn't like women. So we decided to investigate there first with Jennifer Jones of The Dead History and her family. We tried to capture some EVP and we didn't catch anything. As we were leaving, we walked through an area that was used for storage and Kelly captured some weird light anomalies that we put up on Instagram. On the Ghost Radar, we get the word Horse, which started our weird paranormal experience that continued for the rest of the trip. (Horse) A little later we tried an experiment with our temperature gauge and we seemed to get some interaction. (Temperature)

The lobby definitely has some haunts going on and we had some interesting interactions there. We were in there twice during the evening because we had what seemed like the most communication in there, specifically through our EMF detector. This picture was taken in the lobby previously and seems to show something trying to materialize:

The first time we left the lobby area and were heading into the ballroom, the Ghost Radar said (Stay conversation) As you hear, we have the names Christopher and Effie come up. We had joined three other girls who were investigating. I believe we caught an EVP. One of the girls asks how many are here. I think I hear an answer really low. What I'm going to play is the original at original volume and then right after it you will hear it again amplified a ton and we'll see if you hear what I do. (EVP 1 Mineral 5 Million) Did you guys hear the answer as 5 million? What in the hell does that mean?

Luke comes in to tell us his experience he just had and you will hear the Ghost Radar give us a word that goes with the story. (Luke Scared) You can kinda hear that his voice is shaky. We follow him upstairs to see if we can find the shadow person. Again a particular name comes up and this one comes up three times, Edward twice and Eddie once. You'll also hear in this clip Luke showing us how the shadow figure peered out in front of the window. We also hear a knock or something and we were the only people on the second floor. After we hear Edward for the third time, the Ghost Radar says Army and then Base. (Edward)

Kelly and I return to the lobby. We started communicating with something that moved the EMF needle to respond to us and we get our first interaction in regards to Kelly's horse that will continue throughout our trip. There is a fountain in the lobby, so excuse the background noise and we apologize if it makes you suddenly need to run to the bathroom. (Pony and Trail) At this point, we believe Kelly has her horse's spirit attached to her. As you heard in the McPike Mansion episode, we get more answers in regards to this and the saga comes to completion on our bonus episode that we made for Executive Producers at the $5 and above level with our stop in Chattanooga.

So here we had back-to-back episodes of locations in Alton, Illinois. These places seem pretty active making the claim that Alton is one of the most haunted small towns in America ring true. Or does it? Is the Mineral Springs Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

HGB Ep. 301 - McPike Mansion

Moment in Oddity - Robert Wadlow

Robert Wadlow was considered Alton, Illinois' Gentle Giant. He was born in Alton on February 22, 1918. He was an average baby weighing in at eight pounds, but things would drastically change. By the time he was one-years-old, he was already weighing 44 pounds. At five-years-old, he was weighing in at 105 pounds and measuring five feet, four inches tall. When he started school, the whole world realized that Wadlow was quite different. Freak show operators came calling, but his parents wanted him to have as normal a life as possible. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with pituitary gigantism.  They told his parents that they could operate, but that it was very dangerous, so they opted not to do it. Wadlow had dreams of becoming a lawyer, but he soon realized that any career was out of the question as he was too big for books, cars and much more. His only option was to make money off the publicity of being a very tall man. The tallest man to have ever lived. He began promoting the shoe company that made his special sized shoes. He eventually joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He stipulated that they would need to provide a suite for him and his father to live in and that he would not be a part of the sideshow. He would enter the center ring, three times a day. He traveled to 41 of the contingent United States and over 800 cities. He grew to a record 8 feet 11 inches and had to walk with a cane. He wore braces on his ankles for added support and one of them rubbed him raw and the sore became infected. He suffered in a hospital for 10 days with fever before emergency surgery was performed, but it would be too late.  He passed away on July 15, 1940 at the age pf twenty-two. A special coffin was made and there were 12 pallbearers at his funeral. His coffin was encased in concrete to keep anybody from stealing his body or bones.

This Month in History - First Anti-Rabies Vaccine Given

In the month of July, on the 6th, in 1885, Louis Pasteur gave the first anti-rabies inoculation to a boy who had been infected by rabid dogs and it was successful. Louis Pasteur was born to humble beginnings. His early interest was art, but obviously, he eventually got into science and studied fermentation and focused on coming up with ways to prevent bacteria from growing on food. We get pasteurization from his name. He went on to study infectious disease. While studying silkworms, he came up with germ theory, which revolutionized hygiene in all settings, especially in the medical field. He used the rabies virus in rabbits to formulate his human vaccine against rabies. He took it from their spinal cords and reduced the veracity of the virus. What he didn't know at the time is that rabies was a virus and not a bacteria. He first used the vaccine on dogs and when that proved successful, he tested it on his first human subject. This was a boy who had been severely attacked by feral dogs and he was dying. Pasteur injected him with a daily series of vaccines with each day having a more virulent dose. The boy didn't develop rabies and Pasteur became a hero.

McPike Mansion

Mark Twain once referred to Alton, Illinois as "a dismal little river town," but I don't agree with those sentiments. This was the birthplace of the tallest man ever to live, Robert Wadlow, and was a center of the abolitionist movement. Many paranormal enthusiasts think of Alton as the most haunted small town in America. It is here that one finds the McPike Mansion, a once grand home with marble fireplaces that had become a wreck of a place. The current owner has poured much time and love into restoring this home and though it has a long way to go, some of its former glory is starting to shine through. And I imagine that makes the spirits of the McPike family very happy. And they would definitely have seen the progress as many of them are still in the home in the afterlife. Or at least that is what people claim. And after my visit to this home, I believe there are certainly spirits here and I had one of the most profound unexplained experiences of my life. Join me as I share the history and haunts of the McPike Mansion. 

This is our second location that we've covered in Alton, Illinois. The first was the Milton Schoolhouse in Ep. 90. I just love Alton because despite being a small little town most people haven't heard of, it has a really rich history. Mound builders first called this home and the Cahokia Mounds lie just 30 minutes away. These same native people birthed the legend of the Piasa bird that calls Alton home. We've covered that in a previous Moment in Oddity, but a quick recap is that this is a cryptid that resembles a dragon with large wings that Father Jacques Marquette, whom discovered a mural depicting two of them in 1673 on a limestone bluff, described as "large as a calf; they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture." This is a place where the Missouri and Illinois Rivers flow into the mighty Mississippi that carried explorers and supplies into many areas of America. Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas here for the seventh and final time as they ran for a senate seat. And this would be a place the McPike family would call home.

Henry Guest McPike was born July 6, 1825 in Indiana to John Mountain and Lydia McPike. Henry's early experiences were touched by the abolitionist sentiments crossing the nation and his father was even the editor of an abolitionist paper. He was twenty-two when his father moved the family to Alton, Illinois. Henry got involved in real estate in the 1850s and at one point, he and his real estate partner owned 700 parcels of land. In 1854, Henry married his first wife, Mary Amanda Mulveeney Burns and they had five children: James, Jennie, Alice who died at 18 months from teething, John Haley and Robert Samuel. He would help organize the Lincoln-Douglass Debate in Alton. Henry was friends with Abraham Lincoln and as a matter of fact, he was with Lincoln when Lincoln received a telegram informing him that he had won the election to the presidency. While everybody whooped and hollared, Lincoln simply said, "Well, I guess I'll go tell mother" referring to his wife Mary Todd. Henry's wife Mary died from a heart ailment in 1867. In November of 1869, he married his second wife, Nannie Louise Lyons. They would have one child named Eugene in 1870. The marriage was short-lived as Nannie filed for divorce on grounds of fault and misconduct and she got custody of their son. The divorce wouldn't be finalized until 1878. Henry would get even more involved in politics when he became mayor of Alton in 1887 and 1891. Henry was also a horticulturist and he ended up developing the McPike Grape, which was patented and became famous for the wine that was made from it. In 1892, Henry would marry his third wife Eleanore or Ellie and they had one daughter named Moreland. He died April 18, 1910 after coming down with a cold that he fought for only a few days. He was eighty-five.

The McPike Mansion was built on 15 acres of land in 1869 by architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger. Pfeiffenberger was a German immigrant who spent time in California as a Deputy Sheriff trying to tame the Gold Rush town of Hangtown before getting into architecture. Another lawman who worked with him was one of the Studebaker brothers. He visited a friend in Alton who talked him into staying and he would eventually become the most prominent architect in the area. The land the mansion was built upon was known as Mount Lookout Park. The mansion was built in the Italianate-Victorian style with 16 rooms, custon-made interior doors to go with the twelve-foot ceilings, chandeliers, a vaulted wine cellar and black marble mantle pieces.

James McPike married Jennie Wilkinson. Jennie McPike married Robert Wilkinson and they had two daughters, Gertrude and Birdie. John Haley inherited the house when Henry died and he lived in the house for 20 years, but ended up losing the house in a poker game it was rumored. The McPike family lived in the mansion until 1936. Then Paul and Sugie Laichinger bought the house and either lived in it or ran it as a boarding house until Paul's death in 1945. Some records have him buying it in 1925, so I'm not positive on those dates. In 1954, Sugie sold the house to Paul Davis, a developer who planned to demolish it, so he could build a shopping center. The city would not allow the new zoning and so the property sat for years abandoned and in disrepair and vandals took the marble fireplaces and destroyed much of the interior. Even things that were nailed down were stolen including the toilets! In 1990, a man named Gary Hendrix bought the mansion with big plans to renovate, but he soon gave up in 1994.

Sharyn and George Luedke are the current owners and they had driven past the property for years and Sharyn just really loved the place. George called it the Scooby Doo House. The house went up for auction on August 8th, 1994. Sharyn bid on the house and won it for $42,000. At the time, Sharyn had no idea that the mansion was haunted. They planned to restore it and open a Bed and Breakfast and Banquet Room. They have replaced the roof and done a $25,000 renovation to the front porch, which looks amazing. There is a picture up on Instagram of it. They also have replaced all the windows in the mansion. Lighting has been added and the physical support of the mansion is complete. Not long after they started repairs, they realized that something else was going on with the house. Now it is known as one of the most haunted houses in Alton and has found itself on the list of the Top Ten Haunted Houses in the United States. Many paranormal shows have featured the location from Ghost Adventures to Ghost Lab and Scariest Places in America.

Stories abound about this mansion. When it was apartments, there were two girls who claimed to hear disembodied sounds of a child running and playing upstairs even though they were the only children on the property. A picture taken from the outside reveals a little black boy standing at a window that is believed to be the son of a servant. Laichinger was a heavy smoker and there are those who claim to catch a whiff of cigarette smoke in the home. Sharyn had a run-in with Laichinger's ghost about six weeks after buying the property. She was outside watering some plants when she saw him in a window looking out at her. She didn't know he was at the time, but she noted he was wearing a striped shirt and tie. She later saw a picture of him wearing the exact same clothes. A former servant named Sarah is believed to be here and when she appears there is a scent of lilacs, She has hugged Sharyn. Rene Kruse who has written several books with Troy Taylor, was touring the house and doing a video when a white mist enveloped the group and she described it as feeling electrically charged. No one has been able to debunk the video. 

Sandy Little Lizard was our medium guide. She is Cherokee and Choctaw and had set up a pot of burning sage for everyone to pass around to both cleanse ourselves and to use as protection. I felt that Sandy was sincere and that she had a good rapport with the spirits of the mansion. What I'll do here is play a little chat that we had at breakfast with Tammie and Brian Burroughs who had done the McPike Mansion the previous night. (Tammie explains what the presentation is like and then she shares her own experiences. She explains that Henry is a shadow person and that even though we'll be in ptch black, it is still possible to see his shadow.) I'm going to be honest, I thought this talk of seeing bursts of colors was just eyes trying to make sense of the complete darkness. I was thinking it was BS. I will change my mind.

Sharyn shares an interesting story with us before we walk around the outside of the house, which we did before going down into the wine cellar. Kelly had an amazing experience out here where she saw a blue oval light in the garden and it lasted long enough for her to take a picture and we put that up on Instagram. Len had told us when we showed him the picture that he had had a disturbing experience in that area before and doesn't like going over there. There are stories that a woman's spirit is over in this part of the yard and she has been caught in a picture that looked pretty real to me. But that isn't who Kelly and I think she got with this picture. Our dowsing rod session had Henry telling us that it was him. 

What we are going to do now, is take you with us into the dark session. We had the most amazing experiences during this! Hopefully, you are somewhere in a place where you can close your eyes. Sit down next to me across from Sandy or next to Kelly who is sitting on Sandy's left. Here we go.

So as you heard, I saw Gertrude appearing as a purple burst/mist and it felt cold in front of me, at least a little cooler than the cellar already was. She hung out with me almost the entire time and Kelly and the girl next to her both saw the purple in front of me. And then it was blocked out by the shadow figure of Henry. I believe I didn't see Henry because Gertrude was in front of me. Kelly and I think she had the little girl Abigail crawl into her lap and play with her earring. One of the kids or other spirits tapped on her dowsing rods when she had them down and was not using them.

There are so many stories here of haunting experiences. After our visit and upon listening to Tammie's experience, I'm convinced that this place has something going on. Is the McPike Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

HGB Ep. 300 - It's a Haunted Gay Life

Moment in Oddity - Whispers of Yellowstone Lake
Suggested by Carren Sanders

Science has been able to document and explain many weird atmospheric occurrences that have happened throughout the years, but when it comes to the Whispers of Yellowstone Lake, they have documented the phenomenon, but never explained it. The first reports of these sounds were collected in 1893 and published in Science Magazine by Edwin Linton. He had heard the strange noise himself twice. But accounts go back much further than that to the fur trappers and mountain men. For many years after Linton's article, nobody mentioned the sounds, but reports started again in 1924. Jack Haynes was a photographer and he was with a group in a boat on Yellowstone Lake early one morning. They all heard this low roar that got louder and rose in pitch and then faded, only to start up again from another direction. It happened a third time and all of this took place in less than a minute and then it was silent. People who have heard the Whispers say that they sound like these weird ethereal aerial sounds that mimic an electric harp and that they sound as though they are coming up out of the lake or that the sound is hanging over the lake. They are like a low hum that increases in decibels and it sounds almost as if the hums pass right over the person who hears them. It then fades away.. There have been several causes suggested over the years. Some say it is caused by swarming bees, but the sound is still around in the winter. Others believe it is just the wind blowing through the trees. A man named Ed Henry suggested that the weird sound was created by air currents created by the mountains and many agree. The sound is always heard when the lake is calm and early in the morning after an unusually cool evening. Whatever it is that causes the whispers, they certainly are odd! And here is a sample shared by the National Park Service!

This Day in History - Pulse Nightclub Massacre

In the month of June, on the 12th, in 2016, Omar Mateen, opened fire inside the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. The Pulse Nightclub was opened in 2004 by Barbara Poma and Ron Legler as a gay bar and nightclub that hosted various theme nights. This particular night happened to be Latin Night, so most of the victims were Latino. Mateen was a security guard who had been to the club a few times. He had sworn allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a recent event in which the U.S. killed Abu Waheeb, the leader of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq, triggered him. That would not only make this a mass shooting and hate crime, but also a terrorist attack. The attack started around 2am with Mateen marching into the club carrying a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. An off-duty police officer working as security called in the police immediately. There was an initial engagement, but Mateen barricaded himself inside and created a hostage situation. He claimed to have explosives, which made the police more cautious about bursting in, but in actuality there were no explosives. At the time of the attack, this was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in US history. Today, it is still the deadliest act of violence against the LGBTQ community in US history. The Pulse Nightclub is now a memorial site and museum, slated to open in 2020.

It's a Haunted Gay Life

This episode is going to be a little different and why shouldn't it be since this is officially HGB's 300th episode! June 2019 marks a few things. I've been producing the podcast for exactly 4.5 years. We've hit a big episode number and have almost 4 million downloads of the podcast. And the month of June is gay pride and 2019 marks 50 years since the StoneWall Riot that started the big push for gay rights in America. This coming together of big milestones inspired this episode and what I will present here for your listening pleasure is a bit of gay history that has hauntings connected to it and after producing a haunted history podcast for this many years, I have changed my opinions, beliefs and practices in regards to the paranormal and will share that perspective. Plus, my top 10 most haunted places I've visited! Join me on an exploration into my haunted gay life!

For podcasters, big milestone shows usually mean rolling out a big topic. I struggled. What did I want to do? I haven't done Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum yet. How about Skinwalker Ranch? Or perhaps Raynham Hall in England? But these places have been done to death and I really enjoy doing the obscure places. But I wanted this episode to be different. I thought that I might share my top haunted locations based on my own experiences - and I will throw a few of those in - but this would be repeating things from other episodes. Almost like a review show. Then I thought about the fact that I've been doing History Goes Bump for a year now, on my own. I've settled into my own skin and realized that my views have changed from the very first episode. I listened to Episode 1 a few weeks ago and once again cleaned up the audio a little bit and added an intro disclaimer in hopes that people would not just listen to that episode and decide they didn't like HGB, but give it a chance as the production has drastically improved. As I listened, I realized that I had changed my mind on a few things and even more importantly, in the last four and a half years, I've had quite a few of my own experiences that I can't explain. I also got really inspired by a podcast I just binged. The latest season of Uncover by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is titled The Village and it explores the history of the Toronto Gay Village and unsolved murders of gay men and transsexuals that have happened there. That trip through history made me think of American gay history and my own. Things have changed so much. And wouldn't you know, as I explored the history, I found some haunts in some very important landmarks.

I turned sixteen in 1987. I guess that makes me a little old for some listeners as the vast majority of podcast listeners are millennials. While most teens at that age are concerned with passing their driver's license test, I was realizing what it was exactly that made me seem different then everybody else and it wasn't just that I wished I lived in the attic of the Addam's Family House while they all lived downstairs. I was gay. It amazes me as I sit back today and see that we live in a culture where people don't even have to claim a gender anymore and can love anybody they want to love. That wasn't the case when I was a teenager and it certainly wasn't for the decades before I came out to myself. There was a time when a relationship of mixed religious beliefs or races was taboo and even illegal. My how things have changed and I'm so happy for young people today. There are definitely still places where it isn't accepted and families that will still lay down judgement, but for the most part, we are pretty close to being where we should be.

I like to educate on this podcast, so let's take a trip back 50 years to one of the most momentous moments in gay history here in America. There was a time when not only was homosexuality considered a mental illness, it was illegal to practice. Come with me to The Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn got it's start in 1930 as a speakeasy located at 91 Seventh Avenue South. Vincent Bonavia was the owner, so it was known as Bonnie’s Stonewall Inn and its cover was that it was just a basic tearoom serving up light faire and some non-alcoholic beverages. It eventually was raided by prohibition agents, but it continued to operate. When Prohibition was repealed, Bonavia decided he wanted to move to a better location. There was a building on Christopher Street that had once been stables back in the mid-19th century. Bonnie's Stonewall Inn moved in there in 1934 and took up two storefronts, 51-53 Christopher Street. The bar and restaurant was very successful until the inside was gutted by a fire in 1964. The place needed somebody new to love it.

In walks the Mafia. They were all about making a profit and they saw a need in New York City for gay bars. So in 1966, three members of the Mafia refurbished the Stonewall Inn and reopened as a gay bar. At that time, it was the biggest gay establishment in the U.S. This not only made it popular with the gay community, but it put a big target on it for the police. It was customary for the New York Police Department to raid bathhouses and gay bars. Every establishment got hit at least once a month. The ludicrous rules in place at the time were that it was illegal for same sex people to dance close to each other, it was illegal to serve gay people alcohol and customers had to wear clothing specific to their genders. For example, a woman needed to wear three pieces of feminine clothing. A police raid usually happened early in the evening and if the bar was lucky, they would have been tipped off, so they could hide a bunch of liquor and continue business after the raid. The police would come in and turn on all the lights. Everybody would be lined up along the wall, verbally harrassed and they would have to present their IDs. If you didn't have ID or were a man dressed in drag or a woman dressed butch, you would be arrested. Bar employees would also sometimes be arrested.

By 1969, the gay community in New York had had enough. On June 28, 1969, the gay community would make their stand and their frustration would erupt in riots. At 1:20 in the morning, eight police officers raided the Stonewall Inn. They expected the typical subjugation, but the 200 patrons refused to cooperate. They were all informed they were under arrest, but the cops needed more paddy wagons. As they waited for the wagons, a crowd began to form outside and before long, it was ten times its original size. The wagons arrived and the first to be loaded was a lesbian. She pushed back and refused to get in the wagon and as she fought she was hit in the head with a billy club. She was picked up and thrown into the wagon. And that was all it took.

Some of the crowd pushed against the paddy wagon trying to tip it over, while others threw beer bottles and bricks at the other wagons. There were ten officers against a crowd of 600 and in a true twist of irony, they ended up seeking shelter in the very gay bar that they made unsafe for the gays. Despite this being their place to love and dance, the rioters turned on Stonewall and threw anything they could at the windows, from bottles to rocks to garbage cans. Attempts were made to bust down the doors. The Tactical Police Force was called in and they managed to squash the rebellion and arrested a bunch of people. The streets were cleared by 4am. Several people had been injured including four of the officers. Damage to Stonewall was devastating. Everything was broken.

This would not be the end to the riots. News spread quickly through Greenwich Village and riots occurred on the next five nights. Things quieted down and the raids stopped. The next year on June 28th, a parade was hosted marching from Greenwich Village to Sheep Meadow in Central Park. This would be the first gay pride march and they have continued in city's around the world all the way until today. I'll never forget my first pride parade. It was so much fun and even though at the time, the city of Denver only gave us access to one side of Colfax Avenue, we were able to celebrate, rather than hide who we were.

The Stonewall Inn did not go on however. It closed. And for the next twenty years, a variety of businesses used the building. There was a shoe store, a bagel shop and a Chinese restaurant. In the early 1990s, the block of Christopher Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was co-named "Stonewall Place" and another gay bar named just Stonewall opened in part of the building where the original Stonewall had been. Through the efforts of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Things went well for the bar until 2006 when it closed again due to mismanagement and noise complaints. Another group of investors took over in 2007 and renovated the neglected club and was reopened as the Stonewall Inn in March 2007. It is still going strong today.

With this kind of history from Prohibition to the launch of a national push for human rights, it is easy to believe that some energy is inside this building and there are both patrons and employees who claim that Stonewall has ghosts.One employee said, "We think we have ghosts. Doors slam if no one is there, so we say there are two guys and one girl ghost upstairs. It's an ongoing, running joke." And the upstairs is indeed where most of the run-ins with apparitions take place. That's all I could find, but I'm sure if I ever got the chance to talk to employees there, I'd hear a lot more.

Harvey Milk's Old Castro Camera Shop

Harvey Milk was born on May 22nd in 1930 in Woodmere, New York. His parents were Lithuanian Jews who owned a department store. He worked in the store when he was growing up. It was also as he was growing up that he figured out he was gay. He attended New York State College for Teachers in Albany, which is now known as State University of New York. He studied math and history and became a writer for the school paper. Many of his columns featured commentary on diversity. When he graduated in 1951, he decided to enlist in the Navy and he was enrolled in officer training. He did well and ended up stationed as a diving instructor in San Diego. His naval career would come to an abrubt end when his orientation was discovered. He resigned at the rank of lieutenant junior grade. He decided to get a job as a teacher and did so working as a public school teacher on Long Island. He later would work as a stock analyst in New York City and then as a production associate for Broadway musicals. The Vietnam War would get him more active in politics and activism.

He eventually made his way to San Francisco in 1972 and opened up a camera store on Castro Street. The Castro District and gay culture go hand-in-hand. The Castro Street Fair has been hosted for 45 years and was started by Milk in 1974. He started it because of the discriminatory policies of local merchants who tried to block two gay men from opening a store. It was an offshoot of the Castro Village Association, the first US organization for gay businesses. The influence of the Castro Street Fair was much of why Castro transformed into the center of the LGBTQ community.

Milk went on to announce that he would be running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He lost the race, but he was now a prominent figure in politics. He ran again for the combined San Francisco City/County supervisor seat in 1975 and almost won. Mayor George Mascone appointed him to the city’s Board of Permit Appeals. This was a precedent and made Milk the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States. Milk ran for state assembly and lost, but this spurred him to champion an amendment that would replace at-large elections for the Board of Supervisors with district elections and he won his next race. He was inaugurated as a San Francisco City-County Supervisor on January 9, 1978. He became an advocate for many people, especially the gay community. He once said during a speech, "Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out." Many people hated Milk though and he received daily death threats.

Former city Supervisor Dan White was really angry. The bad blood between him and Milk went back to an early controversy over the building of a mental health facility for troubled youths. Both White and Milk opposed it, but then Milk changed his mind and voted against White who lost on the issue. White never forgot that and voted against every issue Milk supported after that. White would resign his seat on November 10, 1978 citing that the money was not enough to support his family. He then changed his mind, but the Mayor would not let him back. Now White hated Mayor Moscone too. On November 27, 1978, White managed to get into City Hall with a gun through a basement window. He went to Moscone’s office and killed him, then walked down the hall and killed Milk. White used the Twinkie Defense, which basically was claiming he had so much sugar that he had lost his sanity so he was not accountable for what he did. And it worked. He was acquitted of murder charges and given a lesser sentence for manslaughter. People rioted on Castro Street and set police cars on fire. The police in turn raided gay businesses and beat people.

Perhaps this is why Harvey Milk is not at rest. I mentioned that Milk opened up a camera shop when he first moved to San Francisco. This shop would become a neighborhood center. Milk's spirit is said to have returned here and taken up residence. Moviemaker Gus Van Sant definitely felt this was the case as he filmed the movie Milk. For the film, Van Sant recreated the former Castro Camera Shop in the gift store that took its place. He tells the following story, "The gift store owners were very into the legacy of the store and willing to let us close their shop down and move our set in. They had a mural of Harvey Milk. During a shot at night there was a take where we were using most of the room and there were three or four actors in the scene. Some people were sitting on the sofa which was outside of the shot and during one of the takes somebody walked in from outside and sat down on the sofa during the shot. After the shot was over and I yelled 'Cut,' he apparently got up and walked out. The actors were like, 'Did you see that guy?' I didn't see anybody, but they kept describing Harvey, so I figure it was the ghost of Harvey walking into the store for a brief second."

Milk would make another appearance via a Ouija Board in 2012. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to name a Navy vessel for Milk and it just happened to be his 82nd birthday. Supervisor Scott Wiener said, "LGBT people have always served in our armed forces. For many, many years, our community was hidden and oppressed in the armed services. Now, because of the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' our community can serve openly and proudly. We must support our LGBT soldiers past and present. I can think of no better way to do that than to name a vessel for a Navy officer who went on to become one of the most important civil rights leaders in history."

Another supervisor named John Avalos suggested they ask for Harvey Milk's opinion on a Ouija Board. He described what happened as, "We actually put our hands on the Ouija board and the letters g-o-o-d-r-i-d-d-a-n-c-e-d-a-d-t came out. We asked Harvey, and Harvey gave us these letters: 'Good riddance don't ask, don't tell.' It was quite clear that Harvey Milk would have been opposed to 'don't ask, don't tell.' I can honestly say that's one aspect of this resolution that's really valid."

Upstairs Lounge

Our final stop is at a location in New Orleans. This was a bar known as the Upstairs Lounge and it was located on the second floor of a three-story building at the corner of Chartres and Iberville Streets. The tragedy that occurred here was made worse by the fact that this location had only one entrance and patrons had to climb up some wooden stairs to get to the bar. We need to go back to the summer of 1973 in June. The French Quarter has always been an open and party kind of place, but back in the 70s, gay people still needed to keep their gathering together underground. It was the last Sunday in June and was the final day of Gay Pride for the city. Such a celebration was new as Stonewall had only happened four years prior.

Happening at the same time in America was a not so well known targeting of gay churches. The Metropolitan Community Church, MCC, had been founded in 1968 by Troy Perry. MCC churches were starting in big cities, many of them having to share space at community centers or spaces. Earlier in 1973, a Nashville MCC was burned as well as the Los Angeles headquarters for the MCC. A fledgling MCC congreation in New orleans had asked the Upstairs Lounge if they could use the space for church services. Since the Upstairs Lounge was a gay bar, it was a no brainer and they said yes. The group would move services to their pastor's house just a couple weeks before the Upstairs Lounge would be firebombed, but this was still a spiritual center for them.

The afternoon of June 24th, the lounge hosted an all-you-can-eat buffet and free beer. Around 130 people attended. The beer ran out and only about 60 people stayed, mostly MCC members. They gathered around the piano and sang some songs together. At 7:56 pm, the buzzer downstairs sounded. This usually meant that a cab had come to pick someone up, but no one had called for a cab. One of the guys went to the steel door that led to the stairs leading downstairs and when he opened it, flames rushed inside the club. Someone has deliberately set the wooden stairs on fire. The bar was an immediate inferno and as I told you, this was the only exit. There were windows, but they were boarded up or had iron bars over them. There was no marked emergency exit. Some bars were far enough apart that a few people were able to squeeze through and jump down to the sidewalk.

The local MCC pastor was Rev. Bill Larson and he was at the lounge. He attempted to get through the bars and became stuck. He burned to death wedged in the window. This would become an image of the mass murder as his body remained in that window into the next day. A bartender named Buddy Rasmussen knew where the emergency exit was and he managed to get fifteen people out. One of those men, MCC assistant pastor George "Mitch" Mitchell, ran back inside to get his partner and both men ended up dying. Twenty-nine people died that night and three more would died later from their injuries. More people died that night then died when the entire French Quarter burned down in 1788. Not only was it troubling that someone would set out to burn a gay club and murder gay people, but the city had a very tepid reaction. It was as if no one cared. Descriptions of the aftermath were horrible and none of the coverage mentioned that this was a hate crime.People claimed it was God's judgement and a cab driver even said, "I hope the fire burned their dress off." Two days after the firebombing, the story disappeared from headlines. And to be honest, I knew nothing of this until I heard Mark Bologna cover it on his podcast "Beyond Bourbon Street"

Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the New Orleans Police Department, said of the victims, "We don’t even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar." As if gay people didn't carry ID or were unworthy of identification. Churches refused to host memorial services. Clearly, there are many reasons why spirits would be here in the afterlife. We have a painful death, murder and no justice because nobody was ever caught in connection to this crime. Not to mention the community's reaction. Several victims were dumped into a mass grave at a Potter's Field because their shamed families wouldn't claim the bodies.

The Upstairs Lounge was not rebuilt or reopened. There is a bar in the first floor under the lounge called The Jimani Bar. Patrons and employees all claim to have unexplained experiences. People feel as though they are being watched and that someone or something they can't see, is there. Disembodied voices are heard both in this bar and on the third floor. Voices are also caught on EVP and they have told investigators their names and that they don't want to be forgotten. Full-bodied apparitions have been seen walking on the second floor and in the kitchen area of the Jimani. And obviously, the vision of these ghosts is horrible as they are seen charred. The smell of smoke floats on the air and I can only imagine that occasionally there is another smell as well.

Gay history is important and I'm glad that I was able to share a few key pieces of that history. Are these locations haunted? That is for you to decide!

My Most Haunted 2019

I've been doing ghost tours since I was a kid. At this point, I've lost count of how many I have done. I've been going into haunted locations just as long, but for most of those years I was not actively seeking interactions. As we like to say around here, I didn't tempt the spirits. For those of you that have been on this journey with me - and that includes any of you that have binged the back catalogue - you know that I have been tempting the spirits more and more and starting here in 2019, I have been doing actually ghost hunting or investigations. What changed that got me doing that? Number one is that I really wanted to start getting my own answers. Number two is that I had been afraid to interact with the spirit world, partly because of my religious upbringing and partly because I didn't have a partner in crime to do it with. I wrote down a list of haunted locations that I have visited that have been discussed either on a regular episode or a BonusCast. These are places that I've actually been inside and wandered around a bit. I'm sure I've missed a few places or forgotten about some. I have 25 of them: Mammoth Cave, Mineral Springs Hotel, King's Tavern (Natchez), The Colosseum, Moses Cone Manor, Sorrel-Weed House, Driskill Hotel, Biltmore Estate, 1725 Captain Taylor House, Old Charleston Jail, Disneyland, Hotel Cassadaga, The Stanley Hotel, Queen Mary, Croke-Patterson House, Molly Brown House, Sugar Mill in St. Augustine, Cuban Club, Treehouse Bar in Orlando, Lillian Place House, Baker House, Waverly Hills Sanitorium, Lemp Mansion, Ripley's Odditorium and the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Of those 25, I would say that in ten of them, I have had some kind of unexplained experience. So I guess that makes it easy to do a top 10 most haunted locations based on my experiences. But before I share that, I want to talk a bit about some of my beliefs that have changed. Obviously, I'm more open to tempting the spirits although I would say there are certain methods I'll never use...can you say Ouija Board? I used to really wonder about child spirits and I didn't think that a child's spirit would just be left here. But I'm not sure where I stand on what happens directly after we die, so it is possible in my mind that a child spirit might still be around. And the thing that has convinced me the most about this are the EVP of children I have caught myself. As for what a ghost is, I'm still open to ghosts being sourced from many things, but I lean most heavily on some kind of trapped energy. I think this is why the most common experiential thing we hear when it comes to the paranormal is that someone feels weird in some way.

10. King's Tavern

9. Croke-Patterson Mansion

8.Lillian Place House

7. 1725 Captain Taylor House

6. Treehouse Bar

5. Mineral Springs Hotel

4. Ripley's Odditorium

3. St. Augustine Lighthouse

2. Baker House

1. Waverly Hills Sanitorium

So I've done 300 episodes and way more locations than just that. Am I running out of material? No way! I've counted 200 locations on my suggestions list still left and you guys add to it consistently. Some of them don't have enough for a regular episode, but they make it into a BonusCast. And speaking of those, I have over 150 of those available and some of those have been my favorite to produce. So I can sit back at the end of this episode and declare, "It's a haunted gay life!" Or is it? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

HGB Ep. 299 - Haunted Cemeteries 13

Moment in Oddity - Giant Skeletons Found in Lake Okeechobee

We have a lot of lakes in Florida. There are so many in the county in which I live, that it is actually called Lake County. Some of the lakes here are pretty big with Lake Okeechobee being the largest. It's the one you see when looking at a map of Florida and you see what looks like a hole in the side of a well...I won't say, but we all know what the shape of Florida looks like *ahem*. Indigenous cultures flocked to the area around Lake Okeechobee and many of them are thought to have been very advanced, building canals and causeways. There are even legends here that claim that some of these tribes were giants. It's easy to laugh off a legend, until bones are found. Settlers in the early 1800s claimed to have seen thousands of massive skulls bobbing on the surface of the south end of Lake Okeechobee. They described it as looking "like a field of pumpkins." No formal investigation must have been done at the time, but things would be different when a drought that started in 2006 receded the water level of Lake Okeechobee. The black muck revealed thousands of human skeletons. The Anthropology Department of Florida Atlantic University started digging up the bones and artifacts as quickly as they could. What they found was startling. This was a cemetery with two levels. The lower level had small-boned indigenous skeletons that were typical of the Native peoples of Central America and the Amazon Basin. The upper level contained the bones of a very tall people. The bones were larger and belonged to people measuring over seven feet in height. Their skulls were massive and many had intentional deformations. An article that I read about this stated, "Whether or not they were of mixed human-extraterrestrial humanoid ancestry has not been determined and of course, is a matter of conjecture." There are those who believe that these giants descended from the Paracus People of Peru and were wiped out by a devastating hurricane. Giants living in southern Florida, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Drive-in Theater Opens

In the month of June, on the 6th, in 1933, the first drive-in theater opened in Camden, New Jersey. I love drive-in theaters. They are the perfect place for watching a good scary movie and how fitting that the first would open with the start of the summer season. I have the newspaper ad here and it reads, "Opens tonight 8:30, Drive-in near Central Airport, 2 miles from Camden Bridge. Sit in your car and enjoy talkies. World's finest automobile movie theater. Individual driveways three times the length of your car. 25 cents per car and for each person. Family admission $1. Three shows nightly: 8:30; 10; 11:30." The original term for drive-in theaters was park-in theaters and Richard Hollingshead who was a sales manager at Whiz Auto Products received the first patent. He got the idea when he watched his mother struggle to get comfortable in her theater chair and he thought that people would be more comfortable in their cars. He used his driveway to experiment and mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and pinned a screen to some trees with a radio behind the screen for sound. His initial investment was $30,000 and he opened his first drive-in in the Pennsauken Township district of Camden, NJ were he lived. The film he showed was the 1932 British Fox comedy “Wives Beware” starring Adolphe Menjou. There were no in-car speakers back then. There were just three speakers mounted near the screen, making it a little difficult to hear, especially at the back of the theater and one can only imagine what the neighbors thought. I'd love to know, do you have a drive-in theater near you somewhere. They are unfortunately a dying breed. We have the Silver Moon Drive-In here in Lakeland, Florida.

Haunted Cemeteries 13

There are various types of cemeteries all around the world. There are those that are huge with grand sculptures and palatial mausoleums. Others are boring with flat stones and markers and fake flowers. Still others seem abandoned to the elements and time. The one thing they all hold in common is that they are a testament to humanity. We lived and we died. And hopefully, somebody cared. Sometimes these cemeteries are haunted. On this episode, we'll explore graveyards in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Georgia. Join me for Haunted Cemeteries 13!

I do care. It's what makes me a taphophile and I know many of you are too. By reading the names on headstones, we remember, we care. I used to wonder why a cemetery would be haunted. Why hang out with the dead when you can spook the living? I never considered that I love cemeteries in life, so why wouldn't I in death? Perhaps that is why there are spirits in graveyards. There are other reasons too. There was a time when a "sinner" couldn't be buried in hallowed ground. This always perplexed me. Aren't we all sinners? Perhaps it's this irony that causes a spirit to be at unrest. Or there are claims that an improper burial could cause hauntings. Many wartime mass graves are thought to be haunted because they are so impersonal. And then there is the business of unfinished business. Can a spirit be rooted to their body as a kind of homebase from which they come and go to finish up what they need to complete before moving on to whatever is next? And let's not forget the residual ghost that carves out the same path in the cemetery, over and over. It never ceases to amaze me that every time I think I have finished up these haunted cemeteries episodes that a bunch of new ones come along. And we have several to explore here!

St. Mary's Cemetery in Salem/Peabody

St. Mary's Cemetery is located on Route 114 at 226 North Street near Salem in Peabody, Massachusetts. The gate is stone and wrought iron with the name "St. Mary's Cemetery" formed in the wrought iron. The cemetery is attached to St. Thomas Church and was founded as a Catholic cemetery in 1849.Inside the cemetery is a bronze bust sculpture of Reverend John J. Gray that was sculpted by Samuel J. Kitson. Gray had been that pastor of St.  James Catholic Church in Salem and was founder of St. John's Church in Peabody. US Congressman George Joseph Bates is buried here. He was a member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives from 1918 to 1924, and served as mayor of Salem from 1924 to 1937. In 1937, he became a US Congressman and was re-elected, serving 12 years until he was killed in 1949 in a plane crash. Also buried here is Peacetime Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, Patrick Francis Bresnahan.

The forest that lies down the hill from the cemetery gives people a really uneasy feeling. Faint white lights move about in the forest and into the cemetery. But that isn't the main haunting here. There is a female spirit clad in gray that has been seen as a full-bodied apparition here. Tour guide Sarah-Frankie Carter has seen her on multiple occasions. The first time was a few years ago around 3am. She and some friends had been walking by the cemetery when they noticed what looked like a large white trash bag caught up in a tree. The bag seemed to dislodge itself and float down towards them. They soon realized that it wasn't a bag, but a spirit and she was glowing. And it wasn't just floating at them. It was crawling down the tree and then it started running at them. The women ran out of the cemetery completely terrified. Ms. Carter returned some time later with a psychic friend who saw the female apparition. The psychic said that she appeared to be around twenty-years-old and she had died at that young age. Another encounter was with a skeptical friend who claimed that he didn't believe in ghosts. He went into the cemetery with Ms. Carter and they ran into the female apparition. He must have started believing because he quickly ran out and would not go back to the cemetery.

Gilson Road Cemetery

Gilson Road Cemetery is in Nashua, New Hampshire. The town of Nashua was originally part of a tract of land known as Dunstable that was established at the confluence of the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers. The Dunstable part that was in New Hampshire was renamed Nashua in 1836. The name means "beautiful stream with a pebbly bottom" in the Nashuway tribe's language of Penacook. The town became a textile town, starting originally with fur trading and eventually developing textile and cotton mills. After World War I, the city fell into decline as the textile industry changed and moved, but high tech revitalized it. Gilson Road is home to a cemetery of the same name and this graveyard has a big reputation for being haunted.

Gilson Road Cemetery is a little knock-about, rural graveyard. It is isolated and hard to find because a stone wall shields the cemetery from view. The history behind the cemetery has been lost to time, but most people agree that it probably started as a family plot dating back to colonial times. The stone wall is thought to have been built to mark the border of a farm. The farmhouse there is said to have burned down and that the victims of the fire were buried in the cemetery. A later house that was built on the property also burned down with the people killed in this fire being buried in the graveyard. It was decided to just leave the property as a cemetery as the luck here for homesteading was no good and so many people were already buried on the land. Could this be a reason why visitors experience EMF anomalies, cold spots, record EVP and see apparitions? Another legend claims that two Native American groups clashed here. The battle was very bloody.

One apparition that is famously seen here has been named Betty. The urban legend that goes with her claims that if you walk farther up Gilson Road heading to the northwest and shout, “Betty Gilson, I have your baby,” her ghost will appear. She is seen wearing colonial era garb and is around thirty-years-old. There are some witnesses who claim that her apparition appears without any prompting and some people have nearly driven off the road when she appears in the middle of it. Others claim that she hides behind a tree that you will only see her peeking around the tree. Sometimes, just her hand is seen grasping a tree. She's not the only spirit seen on the road though. A little boy was killed on the road and his spirit is seen darting across it.

One paranormal group investigating the cemetery claimed to see shadowy figures moving through the woods behind the cemetery. Mysterious fogs and strange lights are also seen in the wooded area on clear nights. The apparition of a male Native American was seen in the back left corner. This group also claims that the burials of the Lawrence family seem to be the most active with orbs repeatedly showing up in pictures. And perhaps it is a member of this family that is our woman in white here. This lady is seen wearing a flowing white gown as she traipses through the gravestones.

There is something angry here too. Disembodied voices are sometimes heard and many times this voice is threatening. There have been times when people have felt almost as though something is pushing back against them at the entrance gate. And a really strange claim is that the back corner where the Native American apparition has been seen seems to disappear at night, along with some of the headstones there. (Maybe it's just really dark?) And there is a hole in one headstone that appears and disappears - don't know what that is all about.

Another person claimed that as he was driving by the cemetery, he saw a man dressed in clothes dated to the late 1800s. He was just sitting on the stone wall and watched the man as he drove by. They locked eyes and the man who saw the spirit said, "It was one of the scariest things I ever saw. I was just driving by not thinking about anything, just listening to the radio, something just caught my eye so I looked over at the cemetery and there he was. There was no way the man could have walked, or even ran that fast to not be seen by the time I drove back. Paranormal is not something I believe in but I have to be honest, this really freaked me out!

Page Jackson Cemetery in Sanford, Florida

The Page Jackson Cemetery located in Sanford, Florida is in need of a lot of love. Nature has been taking back this historic cemetery that has burials belonging to many of Sanford's pioneers. Old oaks are laden thickly with Spanish Moss, thick brush makes certain areas impenetrable and many family plots are surrounded by old, iron fences in need of repair. It is part of the Evergreen Municipal Cemetery that is basically five cemeteries that form an arterial network of graves. Page Jackson is the only one that is maintained by volunteers rather than the city or a church and that is why it has fallen into disrepair. Some of the graves have sunken in as much as two feet and many burials have only the original rusted out metal markers from the mortuary to mark where they are located.

The town of Sanford is great and I've done the ghost tour there, which is excellent. It starts in a homebrewing shop because the owner of that establishment, also runs the tour. Sanford was laid out by General Henry Sanford who bought twelve thousand acres of land  near Lake Monroe and founded the town in 1870. It was officially incorporated in 1877. The cemetery was established around that time and was named for the gravedigger William Page-Jackson who allowed many people to bury their dead for free for many years. He had been a farmer who had land adjacent to the cemetery and worked digging the graves. The graveyard had originally been called the Odd Fellows Cemetery, but they changed the name to honor him. They figured they should honor him with something. Many of those dead were black and this was Sanford's first black cemetery.

*Rabbit Hole: Slaves died by the thousands of course with the mortality of black children being unbelievably high. The mortality rate for black children on the South Carolina and Georgia coastal rice plantations was around 90% before the age of 16. On more interior cotton plantations, one in three children died before reaching adulthood. Obviously, for decades POC were segregated in every way and this was very true in cemeteries. Many times they wouldn't even be buried in a special section, they had to be buried in a completely separate graveyard. And these fell in to ruin and neglect, so many are unknown today. Many of these graveyards would be on the plantation property on land not used for growing. Very occasionally, a slave might be buried in the family plot of the owner. Researcher Elsie Clews Parsons wrote of the cemeteries, "They were hidden away in remote spots among trees and underbrush. In the middle of some fields are islands of large trees the owners preferred not to make arable, because of the exhaustive work of clearing it. Old graves are now in among these trees and surrounding underbrush." Headstones were a rarity and if they were used, they were fashioned from wood and paint was used to mark them. Sometimes a wooden staff that was ornately carved would be used or iron pipe, sometimes the type used for the railroad. Natural things were used too like large shells or plants. A favorite choice of plant was the Yucca as its prickly nature might help fend off evil spirits in the cemetery. A tree could symbolize that life could continue after death.

Most of the burials happened at night, since that was when work was no longer done and it made it possible for slaves to attend from other plantations. There would be prayers and singing and they were really big affairs continuing into the wee hours of the morning. Much of what I read claimed that POC were buried with their head to the west and this would be so that the dead person would not have to turn around when Gabriel blew his trumpet in the east or they would be buried facing Africa. I imagine much of this was based on spiritual beliefs of the individual. Offerings were left or brought later and could include knives, tomato cans, spoons, cups, saucers, clocks, cigar boxes, medicine bottles and even false teeth. It was thought that the dead could use these things in the afterlife. And this was a key difference between white and black cemeteries. Death was idealized by the whites who chose favorable and parklike locations, while death was not denied by the blacks and random burial was the norm and there were not things like family plots.

So the slaves definitely had a belief in an afterlife and they did believe in hauntings. One reason why a plantation might be haunted by a former slave is that the individual was not buried where they had wanted to be buried. Folklore tells of a story of a slave who begged to not be buried in the graveyard of his cruel master. His dying request was ignored and it was said that his spirit haunted the plantation in retribution.* 

This is a cemetery I had not heard of before here in Florida and so I was quite surprised to read claims that this is considered one of the top ten haunted cemeteries in Florida. Backpackerverse actually has it at number ten on their list. I've been to three of these cemeteries, so I have some visiting to do! People have had many unexplained experiences here. They describe feeling cold spots and feeling very uneasy. There have also been shadow figures and strange noises. One person who has heard those strange noises is Kevin Young who bought a house adjacent to the cemetery. He initially didn't even know it was there because of all the brush. He was outside one night when he saw a greenish glowing light moving through the brush and heard hollow-sounding moans. He ran inside his house, but that would not be the last of the light or sounds. He claims to hear them regularly.

The spirit of a young boy named Neal is said to be here. Kissimmee Paranormal Investigators have been to the cemetery many times and one night they took the author of "Ghosthunting Florida," Dave Lapham for an investigation one night. They heard some rustling in some bushes and then a faint happy whistle. Dave was told that this was Neal. One of the women named Kim told him that she first met Neal a few years before and that he had presented as a shadow that eventually stepped out to reveal a Tom Sawyer-like boy who was barefoot. He seems friendly. Kim also claims that there is a spirit named Annie that she has spoken with several times. She was a girl who passed away in her teens in 1911. She had been attending a picnic near the cemetery and the next thing she knew was being buried in the cemetery. She appears as a red-haired spirit and occasionally is heard singing. Both see and Neal have been caught on EVP a few times, so they are not just the imaginings of psychics apparently. And a phantom horse has been heard and seen riding in Page Jackson.

Pinewood Cemetery in Daytona Beach, Florida

Kelly and I visited this cemetery a few months ago when we went to check out a haunted location in Daytona Beach that we shared on a BonusCast. We wanted to see where the members of the family who owned the haunted Victorian house we toured, were buried. The cemetery is right in the middle of this old downtown area, right across from the Boot Hill Bar. The bar caters to bikers and it was really loud while we were there. I was trying to record video, but I really couldn't use it because of the noise from music and yelling. So needless to say, I imagine spirits have a hard time resting here. Although I will say, those bikers have been instrumental in saving the cemetery and they have raised $90,000 for its upkeep. We had no idea at the time that the cemetery was supposedly haunted, but it's number nine on the Backpackerverse list.

There are many graves here that are terraced and lots of beautiful funerary art and mausoleums. The walls and arches are made of coquina and everything is very white, making it practically glow in the sun. The first burial was in 1877 for the daughter of a John Smith, Alena Beatrice, who had passed away from small pox as a teenager. He called the cemetery Memento and ironically, it had been a piece of land he had already set aside for Alena that she would receive upon her marriage. In the early 1900s, the Pinewood Cemetery Corporation took over the cemetery, but the company was wiped out by the Great Depression and the graveyard fell into disrepair. Burials continued up to the 1970s. One of those burials was in 1979 for a man named Albert Kingston who left money in a trust for the upkeep of the cemetery. One of the peculiar burials here says John H. Abraham and Wife. I mean, come on! The wife doesn't get her name on the tombstone? He was buried in 1927 and she followed two years later. Thankfully Find-A-Grave found her in census records and her name was Eliza. One of the mausoleums has a bricked in door that I would imagine was more of a door or gate, but vandalism took a toll. Schon Rawlings Adler is buried here and some teens broke into the vault one night and threw his decayed body into the street. They had a party in his crypt until the cops came and ran them off. The skull of Adler was never found and some say they have seen a headless spirit roaming the streets that might be him. Eighteen Confederate soldiers are buried here too.

One of the spirits that reputedly walks the grounds is Alena. After all, this was her land and she loved it. The first sighting of her happened in the 1920s and she has been seen ever since. Most often, she appears on the anniversary of her death, April 15th. Her apparition is seen wearing a lone white gown, so I guess she would be out Lady in White here. There are also the spirits of a man who is described as a "giant of a man" and a woman who is described as a "tiny wisp." They are together in death as they were in life. This couple is Slim and Bonnie. Bonnie had worked at a saloon in Daytona Beach called the Brass Rail Saloon. She would carry a little bar stool around with her since she was a little under five feet tall to make her a little taller. Slim on the other hand stood nearly seven feet tall. He would stop in at the saloon in the evenings after working all day at the livery stable. He fell in love with Bonnie at first sight, but he was shy. She managed to pull him out of his shell and the two became a couple. Slim started saving his money so they could marry. He was walking Bonnie home one night and since he had drank several beers, he had the courage to ask her to marry him and she said yes. Unfortunately, it was never to be. Slim was riding home after dropping Bonnie off and he hit his head against a tree while riding his horse. The fall from the horse broke his neck. He was buried in Pinewood Cemetery and Bonnie was devastated. She tried to go on, but a couple weeks later, Bonnie's boss found her hanging in her home, the stool she carried everywhere, kicked over under her feet. She too was buried in Pinewood and the couple seem to have found each other in the afterlife. Their apparitions have been seen, videotaped and caught in pictures.

The largest burial belongs to a Daytona Beach pioneer named Charles Burgoyne. He came to the area in 1896 and really turned the area into a tourist destination. He passed away in 1916 and a giant cross made from coquina blocks marks his final resting place. His wife was very sad about her loss and she would go to his grave every day, dressed all in black for 28 years. A spirit described as a shadowy figure dressed in black is seen at the Burgoyne plot, usually sitting down.

The McCoy burial plot is the most active. And if you've ever heard the statement, "Is that the real McCoy?" then you know a little something about the boys buried here. Bill and Ben McCoy were brothers who built luxury vessels. By the 1920s, their kind of boats were falling out of fashion and they needed another way to make money. Along comes Prohibition and these brothers became rum rummers bringing rum up from the Bahamas to New York City's speakeasies. They made a ton of money and Bill got a reputation for honesty. Many rum runners watered down their booze to up profits, but Bill refused to do that. Thus came along the saying, "the real McCoy." The Coast Guard finally caught up to the McCoys and ended their business. Bill spent nine months in a New Jersey jail. He died in 1948 from a heart attack and ptomaine poisoning and his brother survived him by many more years. I had heard that both were buried here, but another account claims that Bill's asses were spread at sea and only his brother is buried in the cemetery. Sounds are heard at the plot that include laughter, breaking glass, singing and the scent of cigarette smoke is smelled. But there is a bar across the street and Bill was supposedly a teetotaler. Many orbs have been caught in photos at this plot.

Riverview Cemetery in Canton

Riverview Cemetery is located in the city of Canton, Georgia. It was established in 1844 after Judge Joseph Donaldson donated a plot of land for burial. This was not land that was unfamiliar with graves. There were Native Americans already buried here and one of them is thought to have been a Cherokee chief, although his name has been lost to history. His plot is marked with a stack of granite rocks. And he apparently is one of our ghosts here. Strange golden orbs show up in pictures of the grave on such a regular basis, that it's hard to just discount them as bugs. One man who walked in the cemetery nightly with his dog said that everytime they were near this particular spot, his dog would go nuts with barking.

An even stranger set of stories occurred on Halloween night several years ago. A special ghost tour was being offered in the cemetery and everyone on the tour witnessed the apparition of a horsedrawn hearse sitting at the back of the old church there. There were glass panels on either side, which revealed a dark coffin inside.Dark colored horses were hitched to it and their harnesses were decorated with plumes of black feathers. The tour goers all thought that it had been rented for the event, until it was no longer there. The tour company said they had not rented a hearse for the event either.

This tour usually doesn't have jump scares, but they changed it up for Halloween. One of the guides was sitting and waiting for the group to come by when he heard his cue to get into position: the girl role playing the gravedigger walked near him. When he heard her footsteps, he got into position. But no group came and he didn't see the gravedigger. He waited several minutes. Still no group. He stood up and walked over to where he had heard the gravedigger and there was no one there. He was positive that he must have heard disembodied footsteps. That theory was solidified when he was later pushed down by something he could not see.

A tour guide saw a spirit while giving a tour one day. She noticed a young man about her height standing off to the side of the group when she was telling them about a certain plot. He was wearing a long-sleeved shirt without buttons or fasteners of any kind, a vest and drawstring pants. The outfit was definitely from another time, but she just thought that maybe he was someone on the tour she hadn't noticed before. When they arrived at the next spot she wanted to share, he was gone.

It is my understanding that only one plot here has a statue and it is this burial where most of the paranormal activity takes place. This generally involves people being touched. A young lady in a wheelchair was there with her mother and they both were touched by something they could not see. Another time, a woman was on the tour with her young daughter and when they got to this plot, the little girl said "baby." The mother and guide asked her what she saw and she said she saw a baby sitting there. The burial is a grave for an 11 month old baby girl at this plot. The statue at this plot is said to roam the cemetery at night and there are people who claim that they have seen it shift from foot to foot.

Other spirits seen in this cemetery include a tall man dressed in dark clothing, ghost animals, a trapper, a red-headed man wearing overalls a white shirt and tie, a woman who weeps at a grave towards the back of the graveyard and shadow figures. 

Old Sheldon's Churchyard (Suggested by NestorGirl)

Haphazard is the term I would use here and that is because this is a ruin. The Old Sheldon Prince William's Parish Church in Yemassee, South Carolina, had once stood here and it had the customary churchyard attached to it. All that is left are red brick walls and columns and gravestones that lean or are sunken with a few above ground crypts. The church was built between 1745 and 1755. It was burned down by the British during the Revolutionary War in 1779 and was rebuilt in 1826. The church was again burned down in 1865, this time by the Federal Army under General Sherman during the Civil War. Although a letter in 1866 written by Miton Leverett stated that “Sheldon Church not burnt. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired.” The tearing up was to use the materials inside the church to rebuild homes burnt by Genral Sherman. The name Old Sheldon was taken from the ancestral home of the Bull family who had come over from Warwickshire in England. One can tell from the ruins that this was once a large and beautiful church with a flair towards medieval/castle-like structure.

There are graves scattered throughout the ruins. And there are ghosts here too. Our lady in white here is actually dressed in brown, in an outfit that looks like it dates to the time of the pilgrims. She is seen most often standing over the grave of an infant. While many people feel a sense of peace at this location, it is near this infant's grave that many are struck with a great sense of sorrow. Disembodied footsteps are heard here as well and there are those that have seen strange, flashing lights.

Be sure to include a stop at the Carolina Cider Company. This roadside shop is close to the ruins and offers a huge variety of ciders, fresh pies, jams, pickles and more.

Silver Cliff Cemetery in Silver Cliff, Colorado

And finally, we have Silver Cliff Cemetery in Colorado and is owned and operated by the town of Silver Cliff and was founded in the early 1880s. Silver Cliff was once the third most populous town in Colorado, right behind Denver and Leadville. It was incorporated in 1879 and got its start as a silver mining town. The big mine here was called the Geyser Mine and it did well until eastern stock manipulators came in and several unscrupulous stock promoters managed to bankrupt two of the mining companies who owned the mine. It never turned a profit after that even though it was one of the deepest mines in Colorado.

The gate to the cemetery is just a simple metal arch with the name formed in metal. The land is treeless and pretty barren with mostly scrub grass and there are two sections, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. It is famous for the Silver Cliff Lights, which look similar to blue lantern lights or bright white spheres. They are seen bouncing among the tombstones. They were first seen by a group of miners who were taking a shortcut through the cemetery. They got lost, but saw the lights and found their way. Word spread and people came from all around to see them. The lights were featured in the August 1969 National Geographic Magazine, Volume 136, No. 2. We sometimes get things called Swamp Lights here or Wildfire, also known as Will-o-the-Wisp and that is what people think this may be.
Lots of great stories here and that is what makes cemeteries so interesting. The stories in the stones. Are there spirits moving around among those stones? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!