Thursday, April 25, 2019

HGB Ep. 296 - Battle of Passchendaele

Moment in Oddity - Myrtle Corbin
Suggested by: Jennifer White

Myrtle Corbin was born in Tennessee in 1868. She was born with a very rare condition known as dipygus. Myrtle had a twin that was a part of her, not like a conjoined twin, but as a malformed lower half. You see, Myrtle had four legs. The two middle legs were shorter and the feet on each only had three toes. Myrtle could control them, but she couldn't use them for walking. She had a problem with one of her longer legs as well as she had a clubbed foot. As was the case for so many people like Myrtle who lived during the 1800s, she was an oddity who would find a home in a freak show. Her first stop was with none other than P.T. Barnum and then later she moved on to Ringling Bros. and finally ended up at Coney Island. She was very popular and earned $450 dollars a week. She married Dr. Clinton Bicknell when she was 19 and actually was able to get pregnant and give birth five times. The couple had four daughters and a son and it is believed that three of her children were born from one womb and the other two were from another womb. Yes, Myrtle had two sets of sexual organs and in the book "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine" by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle it was reported that both vaginas menstruated , so clearly both functioned normally. Myrtle lived to the age of 60 and passed away on May 6, 1928. A human born with four legs, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Howard Hughes Dies

In the month of April, on the 5th, in 1976, Howard Hughes Dies. Howard Hughes was born Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. in Texas in 1905. He was born into some money, but would go on to make himself incredibly rich as a manufacturer, aviator, and motion-picture producer and director. He was not only one of the richest men in America, he was incredibly eccentric. He produced many movies, usually running over budget and including risque material. Two of those movies were the Academy Award-winning Two Arabian Knights in 1927 and Hell’s Angels. During World War II, he started manufacturing military aircraft, but these ran over schedule too and were not completed before the war ended. While testing one of the planes, the Hughes XF-11, Hughes had a near fatal crash that left him in chronic pain for the rest of his life. Another plane he built, the Hercules, came to be known as the Spruce Goose and was flown only once for one mile. It was an eight-engine wooden behemoth that was suppose to carry 750 passengers. Hughes' eccentricities included going into complete seclusion at times, obsessive-compulsive disorder and he was a germophobe. In 1953, he established the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In his latter years, he moved around a lot going from the Bahamas to Nicaragua to Canada to England to Las Vegas and finally to Mexico. While in Mexico he starved himself to emaciation and was heavily addicted to drugs. He set out to seek medical treatment in 1976, but died on the plane ride from Acapulco, Mexico, to Houston, Texas.

Passchendaele (Suggested by: Brian Morse)

They say it was 103 days in hell. Any amount of time, during any war could be deemed hell. But the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium during World War I brought a new definition of hell during war. The battle would be one of the bloodiest of the war, killing half a million men. The weather and mud at the field would contribute to dealing that heavy blow. Battlefields of all kinds seem to be epicenters for the paranormal. The blood becomes a part of the earth and seems to cry out from the afterlife. This area of ground would come to be known as Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

Poppies. They're weeds. Not really anything special about them. At least there wasn't until war. It was during the Napoleonic War that poppies first became associated with fallen soldiers and memorializing them. But Flanders Fields would bring red poppies into the limelight of remembrance ceremonies and days. You see, dead bodies on a field make it unsuitable for growing many plants because of the high lime content. Poppies would flourish on Flanders Fields and for that reason they are worn on Remembrance Day in Commonwealth member states and on Veterans Day in America. So what happened on Flanders Fields? First, the Battle of Passchendaele was not the first battle fought here. This was actually the third Battle of Ypres. This was considered the Western Front and was a very strategic place because of the proximity of the railway line for supplying the German troops. This would end up being one of the most controversial battles of World War I and is still hotly debated by scholars and historians today.

Belgium is a culturally rich and diverse country. They have three official languages, Dutch, French and German, as proof of that diversity. The name "Belgium" comes from a Roman province in the northern part of Gaul known as Gallia Belgica. This area was inhabited by the Belgae before Rome invaded in 100 BC. The Belgae were a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. Merovingian kings would eventually rule over Belgium due to the immigration of Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century. Belgium would become mostly independent in the 11th century. The country became very prosperous through its wool industry that would later prove to be an issue when France would go to war with England. France expected their vassals in Belgium to join them against England, but Belgium relied on English wool. Belgian peasants later rose up against the French and defeated them and then spent decades of trading out who would rule over them, going from Burgundian territory to Austrian rule to Spanish rule then back to Austria and then the French again by 1794. After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, the great powers redrew the map of Europe and combined Holland and Belgium. The two countries proved to be too different and Belgium would finally become independent. In 1914, Belgium declared itself neutral, but that would mean little to Germany and that brings us historically to where we need to be for this episode.

As I said, Belgium had declared themselves neutral when World War I started and King Albert was ruling in 1914. The Germans requested that they be given passage through the country, so that they could attack the rear flank of the French. King Albert refused, so the Schlieffen Plan was launched and the German army invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914. The Race to the Sea began in September and the first Battle of Ypres would begin on October 19th and end on November 22nd. The end put a stop to the German advance in an unconventional way. The Belgian army flooded the Yser plain by deliberately opening the locks at Veurne-Ambacht, Nieuwpoort. The second Battle of Ypres would come as a devastating surprise chemical attack by the Germans. On April 22, 1915, the Germans released chlorine gas and the effect was immediate, killing thousands of Allied troops and driving them back. The success of the gas was so surprising to the Germans that they lost their advantage by not giving a full attack. The battle would be over by May 25th after the British basically blew the top off the hill where the German army was stationed. They had burrowed underneath and blew it up with mines.

This strategic spot had not seen its last battle. The Third Battle of Ypres would start on July 31st in 1917 and this would be the Battle of Passchendaele. The Germans had established a submarine base at Bruges, which was around 44 miles from Ypres. Germans had been using U-boats very successfully and the British were on the verge of defeat by them. The Germans called their submarines Unterseeboot or U-boot for short, which we anglicized to U-boat. While many might think that U-boats were mainly battle ships, they actually conducted a more damaging attack by raiding merchant ships and blocking shipping lanes. This cut off supplies. But the U-boats also sunk a large number of battleships starting with four of them in September of 1914.

So the Allied forces needed to do something to destroy this submarine base in Belgium. First they would need to seize the railway line that ran beyond the German line. General Douglas Haig of Britain would direct the attack. Haig took his plan to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. That plan was to attack the Ypres Salient and if successful, the British could push all the way to the ports on the English Channel coast. And since I didn't know and I imagine some of you don't, a salient is a military term for an area where one side has pushed into their opponent's territory and it looks like a bulge. The three sides of the salient are surrounded, so the army within the salient is vulnerable. Usually trench warfare is the form the battle takes. Nobody was crazy about Haig's plan, namely because the British barely outnumbered the Germans. There was a fear that there would be a great loss of life and that fear was going to be realized. The plan was approved.

The offensive began with the detonation of 19 mines under the German lines at Messines Ridge. The explosions were heard all the way in London. Before talking about the battle to come, I need to explain how the land here was set up. Much of this was farm land and there had been an ancient drainage system set up to pull away the water and keep the land from getting soggy. All of the prior offensives had not only wiped out all of the vegetation, but the drainage system was destroyed. There was nothing to keep this area from becoming an apocalyptic quagmire. If there was any rain, especially a lot, these soldiers were going to be in big trouble. And we all know how it rains in this area. General Haig chose General Hubert Gough to lead the British offensive. Gough was unfamiliar with the Ypres Salient and that is probably why Haig chose him. He figured the man would do his bidding with aggression and without question. It was a fatal error.

So the British began their attack at 3:50 am on July 31, 1917. The British intially gained ground, but eventually were pushed back. Dozens of tanks rushed to help the British, along with a French contingent. For the next month, fighting went back and forth, as the ground became more sodden. Haig knew they were getting nowhwere, so he asked the Canadians to attack the French city of Lens occupied by the Germans to try to draw some of the Germans away. The Canadians opted for a different strategy and were really successful. Haig continued to falter and by September, politicians in London were calling for him to pull out of the Battle of Passchendaele. He refused and pressed on. The Australians and Kiwis came to reinforce the British, but the results were the same as they had been all along. The Allies would gain a little ground and then get pushed all the way back again. The Germans also attacked with chemicals once again, but this time they used mustard gas rather than chlorine gas. The mustard gas was nicknamed ‘Yperite’ after the city of Ypres. The gas blistered the skin, eyes and lungs. The death was painful. By October, Haig was turning to the Canadians again, but this time he wanted them to come to Passchendaele. Their leader, General Currie, didn't want to come, but he had no choice so he made sure to reinforce gun emplacements and rebuilt roads. He was worried that there would be at least 16,000 Canadian casualties.

The Canadians arrived and assaulted the Passchendaele ridge, but it made no difference. October had brought pure hell. The rain fell continuously. Shells rained down too with only a few being cushioned in the mud. That mud that made explosions less damaging also gummed up rifle barrels, slowed down stretcher-bearers and made it hard to detect the front line. Soldiers drowned in puddles, some being swallowed up as they slept. Private Richard Mercer described the horror of the mud in this way, "Passchendaele was just a terrible, terrible place. We used to walk along these wooden duckboards – something like ladders laid on the ground. The Germans would concentrate on these things. If a man was hit and wounded and fell off he could easily drown in the mud and never be seen again. You just did not want to go off the duckboards."

November would change things and the Canadians were successful as they launched their third large-scale attack on the ridge. They captured it and took back the ruins of Passchendaele village. One final assault captured the remaining high ground on November 10th and the battle was over. In the end, the losses were huge. The Allied forces had 275,000 casualties and the German had 220,000. Currie's prediction of 16,000 Canadian casualties was almost spot on with 15,600. Canadians were awarded nine Victoria Crosses, the British Empire’s highest award for military valour.

Churchill would describe the Battle of Passchendaele as a "watchword for the wasteful horror of the Great War." Another way to describe the battle would be a total waste. Within a few months, all the ground won would be regained by the Germans during the Spring Offensive of 1918. Two more battles would take place on the battlefields here. The Germans would finally be pushed out. Many of the remnants from those battles still exist today and there are dozens of cemeteries in the Ypres Salient area for the dead from these World War I battles. There are memorials to the missing and unidentifiable as well. The Menin Gate at Ypres features a memorial with the names of 54,000 men who died in the area during World War I. Although the medieval town of Ypres was never occupied by the Germans during the Great War, it was basically razed by the battles. During the 1920s and 1930s, it was reconstructed, brick by brick. Hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians died in Flanders. Conditions were inhumane. There can be no doubt that something sorrowful, fearful, angry and negative has been left behind. What remains in the paranormal ether from the Battle of Passchendaele?

The village of Passchendaele experiences multiple hauntings. The disembodied sounds of battle are heard throughout the village and this is accompanied by the screams of men. Machine gun fire is heard in the distance.

BBC News Magazine journalist Chris Haslam, wrote a piece entitled “Does the WW1 tourist trade exploit the memory of the fallen?” In the article he writes, “My disquiet is caused by something less solid – a brooding sense of malevolence oozing from the earth, as though the violence has a half-life. I’m no believer in spooks but the old lady I meet walking her dachshund most certainly is. Her name is Beatrijs and her dog is called Robert. As we amble down the muddy track, she tells me about mysterious lights seen flickering in no man’s land, of half-heard screams in the night and of corners of fields where generations of Robert’s ancestors have refused to go.”

Another ghost story goes back to World War I itself. The German army stationed at Ypres had a weird experience. In 1918, a British captain named Hayward reported watching the Germans throw granite and shot at an empty piece of land. The soldiers clearly seemed to be fighting against something, but he couldn't see what it could be. The Germans finally retreated and the British captured them. Captain Hayward asked the German colonel heading the contingent about what he had witnessed. The German officer claimed that there had been a white cavalry in the field. What did he mean by a white cavalry? The Germans swore they saw white riders on white horses and that they trotted right through bullets and got closer and closer until the Germans had to retreat. Did they see a ghostly cavalry?

John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields for his friend Alexis Helmer who had been killed in the war. McCrae took care of wounded soldiers at a bunker in Ypres. He eventually died in 1918 of pneumonia. The site is now part of a memorial near the Ypres Canal. There are two ghosts reportedly here. People claim to have seen the full-bodied apparitions of John McCrae and his friend Alexis Helmer. The echoes of disembodied gunshots are also heard.

On a side note, there was a 2008 movie named Passchendaele that was shot in Calgary, Alberta, Fort Macleod, Alberta, and in Belgium that featured the experiences of a Canadian soldier at the Battle of Passchendaele. One of the places where part of the movie was filmed was in the Prince House in Heritage Park Calgary. The house is said to be haunted. A grandfather clock in the downstairs parlor started to chime during the movie. It chimed and chimed and the crew couldn't figure out how to stop it. So they called security to come help. The security forces were perplexed. They said that there was no way to stop the chiming because the clock had no innards. There was nothing inside to make it chime. Several tour guides at the house have heard it chiming as well. Security claims to see lights coming from the third floor. One guard called the manager to report it and the two men were stunned because there is no electricity on the third floor. The guides claim that whatever ghost is at the house, it is friendly.

Much blood was spilt on the fields of Flanders. The Battle of Passchendaele was the most devastating. Do the spirits from that time still roam that sacred ground? Is the Passchendaele Battlefield haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ep. 295 - Haunted Derby Street in Salem

Moment in Oddity - Fredric Baur Buried in Pringles Can
Suggested by: John Michaels

Fredric John Baur lies beneath a fairly normal headstone in the Cincinnati Springfield Township, but his burial container is anything, but normal. Baur was born in 1918 in Toledo, Ohio. He studied science in college and eventually went to work for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati as a chemist. His main job was to develop methods of food storage. In 1967, Proctor & Gamble developed a new-fangled chip based on Baur's experimenting. People had been complaining that chips were stale and broken and Baur designed a saddle-shaped chip that was easily stackable. But the chip wasn't tasty, so another man named Alexander Liepa took over and it would be his name on the patent for the chip that we all know as Pringles. Even though Baur didn't get his name on the patent, he is known for something else. That special chip needed special packaging and he invented the Pringles can. He declared that “the Pringles can was a revolution within the realm of snack food.” Baur died in 2008 at the age of 89. He told his children that he had a request about his burial. After he was cremated, he wanted his ashes buried inside a Pringles can. His children fulfilled his request by stopping at a Walgreens before arriving at the funeral home. The can was for the classic original flavor. Obviously, being buried inside a Pringles can, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Levi Weeks Acquitted in Manhattan Well Mystery

In the month of April, on the 1st, in 1800, Levi Weeks was acquitted of the murder of Gulielma Elma Sands. Elma had been found at the bottom of the Manhattan Well badly beaten and dead. This would be one of the first murder mysteries in New York and has never been solved. But Levi Weeks was indicted because he was Elma's love at the time. The couple had been intimate many times, leaving some speculating that Elma was pregnant when she divulged that the couple was secretly engaged. Elma met up with Weeks on the day they were to marry and she was not seen alive again. A carriage driving away from the well in a hurry was said to belong to Weeks' rich brother. That brother hired the best defense for his brother and that would be lawyers Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The case was circumstantial and the judge made sure to drive home that fact to the jury before he sent them to deliberate. Trials were very different at this time. All the evidence was laid out over 2 days and it was 2am when the jury was sent off to come up with a verdict. They wouldn't take long, only 5 minutes. They voted to acquit and Levi Weeks went off to become a very successful architect. The case and trial was controversial and a cause celeb at  the time. It was the first murder trial in the US to have a recorded transcript. The trial is referenced in the song "Non-Stop" in the 2015 musical Hamilton.

Haunted Derby Street in Salem

Long before America was America, there was Salem. The town was a successful and busy port city, but it would become an infamous location that still causes a chill to run down our spines at the mere mention of its name. Even though it was not the first spot to hold trials and hangings in regard to witchcraft, it would be the most well known. This apparently has left behind energy that lends itself to paranormal activity, but there is even more to the history of Salem that probably contributes to this spiritual residue. Based on my research, I would say that Salem has two main streets in its historic district that are the most haunted in the city. One is Essex Street and the other is Derby Street. On this episode, we are going to focus on the history and hauntings of Derby Street.

I've been to Salem, Massachusetts twice in my life and HGB has featured the Salem Witch Trials and locations like the Witch House and the House of the Seven Gables. This is a city that seems to be enveloped in an ethereal energy and that impression seems to be backed up by accounts of the tribes that used to live in the area that claimed that the land had an energy of its own and that energy was negative. I myself did not feel anything negative when I was there, but like so many historic cities in America, I had an appreciation for the history that penetrated nearly every building in this town.

What is it about Salem that makes it seem to be such a center of paranormal energy? Is it just the energy from the violence that accompanied the Salem Witch Trials? Or could there have been something here before the accusations started flying? Native Americans in the area seemed to think so and there are those who claim that multiple ley lines come together in Salem, making it a powerful place of spiritual energy. Ley lines are pathways of strong energy and that energy could be electrical or magnetic and even in some cases, psychical. Many of these lines run under places like churches or locations like Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid and Machu Pichu. Could these lines influence the emotions of humans or affect their thoughts? There is more to the history of Salem than just witch trials and hangings. Being a port city, it has stories of bootlegging, rum running, pirates and brothels.

Derby Street is named for Elias Hasket Derby, Sr. Derby was a very wealthy man and there are claims by historians that he was the first millionaire in America. He was usually seen walking around Salem using a gold-headed cane and wearing a Sir Roger de Coverley coat. Derby had made most of his money in shipping and trading. His father had a very successful business that he inherited and expanded so far that he was shipping to St. Petersburg, Russia. You can imagine that during the Revolutionary War, he had a bit of trouble with the British Navy. They intercepted his ships and nearly ruined his business as they impounded vast quantites of his rum and sugar cargo. Derby decided to rally the men of Salem and equipped at least 158 vessels with weaponry like 2,000 cannon. Men from Salem and the contiguous ports of Beverly and Marblehead manned the ships. When America eventually won the war, the news was brought from France aboard a ship that belonged to Derby named "Astrea." After the war, Derby continued his trade, which had to change tactics since during the war he operated as a privateer. This is when he would begin trade with Russia. America would send tar, rice, rum and turpentine and get back hemp, iron, tea, spices and duck, which was what they called a fine linen canvas used to make sails.

The Derby Street Historic District was established in 1974 and runs parallel to Salem Harbor. The district includes all of the buildings on both sides of Derby Street, beginning at Herbert Street and extending north to Blockhouse Square. Nearly all the buildings here are directly associated with the commerce and people from the 1760-1820 period. The House of the Seven Gables is at the far end of the street. Most of the buildings are in the Georgian Colonial and Federal styles.

Old Burying Point Cemetery - 51 Charter Street, borders Derby Street as well

Of course, the first stop in any city for me is a cemetery and like most cities, Salem has several. The cemeteries in Salem and in New England in general are some of my favorite. There is one that borders Derby Street and it is known as Old Burying Point Cemetery or Charter Street Cemetery as it is named for the street where one can find its entrance.This cemetery was founded in 1632, making it the second oldest cemetery in the United States. There are not many burials here, at least officially. That number is around 350 bodies, but as I found in Boston, sometimes a burial plot could hold several bodies stacked up on each other. Names from the headstones have found their way into the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Most of the headstones here are hard to read and falling over in a haphazard way.

There are many well known or historical figures buried here. Eight of them are members of Hawthorn's family, including his great-great grandfather John Hathorne, who was a judge during the witch trials. Nathaniel added the "w" to his name to try to distance himself from the man. Also buried here are the poet Anne Bradstreet, architect Samuel McIntire, witch trial judge Bartholomew Gedney and Mayflower passenger Richard More. And Giles Corey's second wife, Mary, lies beneath a small, white gravestone here. Giles name appears on a plaque in the cemetery known as the Witch Trials Memorial, along with the name of his third wife, Martha. Many of you probably are familiar with the curse associated with him in which his apparition appears as a harbinger of doom. They say he called out the curse as he was unmercifully pressed to death.

There are several spirits reputed to be here. The first is said to belong to the Hanging Judge, John Hathorne. People claim that he shows up in pictures taken in the cemetery. There is also a lady in blue here that wears a Victorian dress, carries a picnic basket and is usually joined by a little boy. Legend claims they both died in a tragic fire at an inn next to cemetery on Charter Street. These spirits are usually caught as white streaks in pictures. Christopher Forest wrote about a Lady in White in this cemetery in his book, North Shore Spirits, "The ghost itself does not typically appear in person. Rather, it often manifests itself in the form of orbs. It has even appeared as a slight figure in pictures taken at the site." So I guess she is different than the other woman because she is alone and has no basket? This spirit may not be readily seen in the cemetery, but she may wander to a nearby business based on reports that I have read. 

Murphy's Restaurant and Bar - 300 Derby Street

This business is Murphy's Restaurant and Bar. and it is at the back corner of the Old Burying Point Cemetery. Before it was Murphy's, it was Spirits and before that it was Roosevelt's and owned by Henry McGowan.

One legend claims that a casket crashed through the retaining wall into the dining room. I say "legend" because there is no verifiable evidence, but employees say that it really did happen and they will show you a patch on the wall that indicates some work was done to the wall. The casket is said to have belonged to a little girl.

The Lady in White has been seen by employees at the pub and specifically former owner Henry McGowan. He said that he was alone on the second floor in the restaurant one night around 3am when he saw a female apparition looking down on him. He looked away for a minute and when he looked back, she had disappeared. There are those who wonder if this is Giles Corey's second wife Mary. The two were said to be much in love. The Lady in White has been seen coming from her grave.

Bunghole Liquors - 204 Derby Street

Right across the street from Derby Wharf is Bunghole Liquors. Okay, so let's just get the laugh out now. Yes, this next location is a liquor store with the real name Bunghole. I can hardly say it with a straight face. The place looks so cool with its retro neon sign and it has a fabulous history for history and ghost story lovers alike. The building originally housed a funeral parlor, but liquor always seems to have had a home here. Embalming was done downstairs, but there was more than just preserving bodies going on down there. The name "Bunghole" was a nickname that people in town gave to the speakeasy in the basement of the funeral home. The term is actually what they call the hole in a barrel or cask. So clearly since this was a speakeasy, it was in operation during Prohibition. People would whisper to each other on the street, "Psst, I'll meet you at the bunghole tonight." The speakeasy had a perfect location since it was right across from the wharf. And remember those tunnels? The owner easily smuggled spirits into his joint. When prohibition ended, a friend of the owner suggested that he turn it into a liquor store and he did just that. The second ever liquor license was issued to Bunghole Liquors and they got rid of the funeral parlor accoutrements like the embalming tubes, which were closed up in the walls. The tunnels were also sealed.  

But something has remained from that past and it is confirmed by both patrons and employees. There are several spirits here. An assistant manager named Brandon O'Shea had his own experiences. When he started working at the store, he was a total skeptic. He was in the bathroom and the light had gone out. He suddenly felt a cat rubbing against his legs. He flew out of the bathroom and asked a co-worker if there was an animal in the store. Of course, there was not and when they looked in the bathroom, they saw nothing. So people are pretty sure that one of the spirits here is a ghost cat. O'Shea said, "When you're working alone, you always see weird things here. I'm telling you, I'm the last person ever to believe in this stuff. But something is here."

There are those who claim that there is residual energy left over from the speakeasy and that disembodied sounds and voices are heard. A camera in the basement picked up white flashes of light. The only other apparition that has been seen here is said to belong to a woman. New Year's Eve of 2013, the store had a big rush. An employee saw a woman walk behind the wine racks and then go out back. He couldn't pursue her to see why she was going out the back. He was sure another employee would have run into her, but that person saw nothing. They saw the woman in the store again two hours later. One of the employees actually bumped into her and when he looked up to apologize, there was no one there.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site - 160 Derby Street

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first national historic site established by the National Park Service and this happened on March 17, 1938. The maritime history in Salem is rich. Shipbuilding and trade flourished and obviously, some of that trade was for smuggled products. Derby's son had a few tunnels built leading from the wharf to various buildings in downtown Salem in 1801. The goods would be brought up through trap doors, some of which can still be seen in various historic buildings today. These tunnels are said to be haunted.

This complex has several points of interest and several hauntings. We mainly are going to focus on Derby Wharf and the old Custom House. Derby Wharf was built by Elias Hasket Derby, Sr., for whom it is named, in 1783. The original wharf was shorter, but was extended to one mile in length in 1809. The Debry Wharf Light Station was built in 1871. The white and black lighthouse is fairly small, only standing 20 feet tall, and has a unique square design. The light for this one is actually red that flashes every 6 seconds and can be seen for 4 nautical miles. There was never a keeper's house here and was tended by a lamplighter until it was automated in the 1970s. The lighthouse has stories of at least one ghost, but there could be two. People who visit the wharf claim to see full-bodied apparitions of sailors from a bygone era and there are cold spots even on warm summer days. There was one woman who claimed to feel an icy tap on her shoulder as she walked the wharf and when she turned around, there was no one there. Many claim that the spirits they see belong to pirates and that they seem to be residual. But there are others who believe these shadowy figures are crewmen from the Andrew Johnson, which was literally ripped apart by the schooner the Haskell during a hurricane. Jeff Belanger, who hosts the New England Legends Podcast, wrote, "They saw dark, shadowy figures rising out of the sea. There were ten of them in all, and as they reached the Haskell, the watchmen could see that the figures looked like men. The dark wraiths reached their hands over the rail of the schooner and climbed aboard. Their eyes were black, like hollowed-out holes, and they wore dark and oily sealskins for clothes. The phantoms quickly took up positions around the ship and began to go through the motions of casting lines, rigging sails and setting the anchor."

The other main structure here is the Custom House, which faces Derby Wharf. This structure was built in 1819 and features a carved wooden bald eagle that is painted gold sitting on top of the brick Federalist-style building. Nathaniel Hawthorne had worked here at one time as a surveyor and he actually uses the location in the opening pages of "The Scarlet Letter." The Custom House issued permits to land cargo and certification for ship measurements. This was also where merchants paid custom duties. Those duties were very important because they were a main source of government revenue before there were taxes. The spirits here seem to belong to captains of ships and disembodied whispers are heard as though they are discussing the treasures they have aboard their vessels. Disembodied footsteps are also heard and strangely, flickering lights appear throughout the building, but disappear when approached.

I should mention that The Derby House is also here. There are no hauntings,but it was the home of the Derby's, so it is very historically significant. Elias Derby built the home in 1762 as a wedding present for his wife. They lived there for the first twenty years of their marriage and had seven children there. Derby called it the "little brick house." He sold it in 1796 to Capt. Henry Prince, who built the West India Goods Store next to the house around 1800. The Princes stayed until 1827 and then the house passed through various hands and had many uses, some of which were tenement apartments where the Polish community lived while working in the nearby mills. In the early twentieth century, the house passed into hands to preserve the history.

Witch's Brew Cafe - 156 Derby Street

The Witch's Brew Cafe and Mercy Tavern stand across from the wharf, which made them prime locations for brothels. Not only were there brothels here, but also bars and remember those tunnels? These were used to shangai men into working on the ships. So Derby Street basically became a red light district. The activity in the brothels and bars seems to still be here. Apparitions of sailors and pirates still walk about the restaurant. Tuesday nights are Tarot card reading nights.

Mercy Tavern - 148 Derby Street

This establishment was formerly In A Pig's Eye, which had been open for thirty years. The Boston Eater paper reported on the transition to the new restaurant in April 2017, "The food at Mercy Tavern leans towards a gastropub style with both international and New England comfort food. There are “small bites” such as hand-cut prosciutto, roasted cauliflower, and roasted red pepper crostini; appetizers such as French onion soup and pork skewers; and entrees that range from spaghetti and meatballs to fried chicken, a Cuban sandwich, burgers, and pan-roasted steak. Mercy Tavern also has 12 draft lines and a cocktail list." The name "mercy" was chosen because of the concept of mercy as a beautiful practice.

Regardless of what name hangs on the shingle here, the one constant are the hauntings. Those that take place here are full-bodied apparitions of pirates that appear to be hanging out at a bar. Disembodied voices are heard and the sounds of struggling men being carried off through the tunnels is also heard.

There is a bit of a troubling aspect to Salem. Some find it controversial that business has been made on the backs of people who were wrongly accused and hanged. Could this partly be to blame for the hauntings in the city? Bridget Bishop was the first woman to be hanged in the Salem Witch Trials. No one knows for sure when Bishop was born, but it is estimated to be around 1633. She and her husband moved to the Massachuestts Bay Colony in 1660. Her husband died four years later. She lived a life very different from the Puritans, which is probably what made her a target. She dressed in a way they considered to be flamboyant. She and her second husband fought often and in a very public way. In 1678, Bishop was brought into court for cursing at her husband. The exchange was described in the book Salem-Village Witchcraft, "Bridget, wife of Thomas Oliver, presented for calling her husband many opprobrious names, as old rogue and old devil, on Lord’s day, was ordered to stand with her husband, back to back, on a lecture day in the public market place, both gagged, for about an hour, with a paper fastened to each others foreheads upon which their offense should be fairly written."

After her second husband passed, rumors started flying. Bishop's stepchildren accused her of causing their father's death by bewitching him. Nothing came from that and Bishop married her third husband. They lived in downtown Salem where she owned an apple orchard. Bridget Bishop was arrested on charges of witchcraft on April 18, 1692. She was accused by Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard and Ann Putnam, Jr. The next day, she was examined by Judge John Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin. Here are some of the exchanges:

    “[Hathorne]: They say you bewitcht your first husband to death.
    [Bishop]: If it please your worship I know nothing of it.
    She shake her head & the afflicted were tortured.
    The like again upon the motion of her head.
    Sam: Braybrook affirmed that she told him to day that she had been accounted a witch these 10 years, but she was no witch, the Devil cannot hurt her.
    [Bishop]: I am no witch.
    [Hathorne]: Why if you have not wrote in the book, yet tell me how far you
    have gone? Have you not to do with familiar Spirits?
    [Bishop]: I have no familiarity with the devil.
    [Hathorne]: How is it then, that your appearance doth hurt these?
    [Bishop]: I am innocent.
    [Hathorne]: Why you seem to act witchcraft before us, by the motion of your
    body, which seems to have influence upon the afflicted?
    [Bishop]: I know nothing of it. I am innocent to a witch. I know not what
    a Witch is.
    [Hathorne]: How do you know then that you are not a witch?
    [Bishop]: I do not know what you say.
    [Hathorne]: How can you know, you are no witch, & yet not know what a
    witch is?
    [Bishop]: I am clear: if I were any such person you should know it.
    [Hathorne]: You may threaten, but you can do no more than you are permitted.
    [Bishop]: I am innocent of a witch.”

There was a lot of evidence provided, some of which included a neighbor claiming she had sent a talking deformed monkey to torment him. An examination found unnatural growths on her body. Bishop was found guilty of witchcraft on June 8, 1692 and hanged two days later. Since then, her spirit seems to be haunting many locations in Salem. Her spirit is said to be malevolent and I can imagine why she is angry. The main location is where her apple orchard once stood and since the Hawthorne Hotel is nearby, she is said to walk around the hallways there. But that is probably an erroneous location and the real spot is the Lyceum Building, home for Turner's Seafood restaurant. The scent of baked apples clings to the air where her spirit roams. This location is a couple blocks up from Derby Street.

If Bishop still walks around in the afterlife, it is probably not on this street, but because of what happened starting with her, the guilt, fear, anger and sorrow that permeated the witch trials, still continues on in Salem. And to make light of it might be why hauntings continue and spirits seem to be at unrest. Is Derby Street in Salem haunted along with all these various locations? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ep. 294 - Dover Castle

Moment in Oddity - Movie Disclaimer About Work of Fiction
Suggested by: John Michaels

I'm sure there are a few of you out there that are movie credit readers like myself. Yep, I stay through the credits, not only to see if the producers of the film have thrown in a little extra at the end of the film, but I like to pay my respects to the full list of people who have made a film. The ones generally not paid much. If you've sat through the credits on any movie, you've probably seen the phrase, “This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.” Did you ever wonder why every movie has that disclaimer? MGM released the movie "Rasputin and the Empress" in 1932. This film featured the story about mystic Grigori Rasputin and his relationship with the Russian imperial family, specifically the Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna. The Barrymore siblings, John, Ethel and Lionel, played the key characters of Prince Chegodieff; the Czarina and Rasputin. It is the only film in which all three siblings appear together. The Prince was depicted as the murderer of Rasputin and he was meant to represent Prince Yusupov who was still alive. He threatened to sue, but he didin't have the money to do so and he had claimed in his memoir that he was responsible for Rasputin's death. So his wife sued because she was also depicted in the movie and the film claimed she was raped by Rasputin. She felt that ruined her reputation particularly since it didn't happen. She won $127,000, the equivalent of almost $2.4 million today. The reason she won, according to the judge, was because the studio acknowledged that the movie was based on a true story. After that, studios decided to add the disclaimer to cover their butts and they do it to this day. So basically, Rasputin not only had an enduring impact on Russia, but also on Hollywood film making and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - My Fair Lady Premiers on Broadway

In the month of March, on the 15th, in 1956, the musical "My Fair Lady" premiered on Broadway. This was a musical based on George Bernard Shaw's "Pymalion." The story features a Cockney flower girl who desires to pass as a lady and so she takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins. The musical was directed by Moss Hart, choreographed by Hanya Holm and starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews and ran for 2,717 performances, closing on September 29, 1962. That was a record at the time. The Broadway theater that hosted it was the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City and then it transferred to the Broadhurst Theatre and then finally onto the Broadway Theater. Rex Harrison was not experienced in performing live with an orchestra and at the first preview he declared, "Under no circumstances would he go on that night...with those thirty-two interlopers in the pit." He then locked himself in his dressing room. He eventually came out right before the curtain went up and opening night was a success. The musical headed over to London where it was a smash hoit as well and went on to become the classic film starring Audrey Hepburn. My Fair Lady is considered to be "the perfect musical."

Dover Castle (Suggested by Sara Emmins)

Dover Castle stands on the White Cliffs of Dover in Britain. This castle was originally not much to behold, but during the reign of King Henry II, it would become a grand structure. Tunnels lie beneath the castle and are built into a cliff, making it unique among castles. This is the largest castle in the country and has been around since the 12th century. The castle was a key defense and saw wars that were revolutionary, civil, Napoleonic and great. Today, it is a tourist destination with a reputation for being haunted. Join me for the history and hauntings of Dover Castle!

Dover is located in Kent in the southeast of England. This is an area where human habitation dates back to the Stone Age. The Romans were the first to have a significant presence here and that is evident in the Roman lighthouse that still remains near Dover Castle. This is the tallest Roman structure in Britain and was built between 115 and 140 AD. The Church of St Mary-in-Castro stands next to the lighthouse and was built during the late 10th & early 11th century. The church was neglected for years and used for storing coal, but it is refurbished today and beautiful inside. Dover would become a fortified port and one of the Cinque Ports and has been nicknamed the "Lock and Key of England" with its strategic placement on the English Channel. Dover Castle would be built on the White Cliffs of Dover, which are that color because they are mostly composed of chalk.

Dover Castle is the largest castle in England and was built by Duke William of Normandy in the 12th century. The Great Tower was constructed during the reign of Henry II in 1179 and served a couple of purposes. The first was that it made for a great lookout. The other was more for Henry. He wanted something impressive to show off and he felt it reflected his power. People could see the tower on their way to Canterbury Cathedral. Let's talk about Henry for a minute. This guy had a lot going for him. I mean he was duke of Normandy from 1150, the count of Anjou, Maine and Nantes from 1151, duke of Aquitaine from 1152 and the king of England from 1154. He also partially controlled Scotland, Wales and the Duchy of Brittany and had eight children, five of them boys. Things were good, but he just had to start something with his friend Thomas Beckett, whom he had appointed archbishop in 1162. I guess it isn't fair to blame it all on the King. He was stubborn, but Beckett was a vain man and highly political. Their disagreements were numerous and neither would back down. King Henry would have one final altercation with Beckett. He sent knights to Canterbury to arrest Beckett for breaking an agreement, but Beckett refused to be arrested by lowly knights, so right there before the altar in the church, those knights hacked Beckett to death and then they looted his palace. Right after this, King Henry faced a rebellion led by his sons and wife and an invasion from Scotland and France. He overcame this and many said that Beckett who had been declared a saint by the Pope, had helped Henry. There are historians that believe Henry added the improvements to Dover Castle because of his guilt over his part in the murder of Becket.

Starting in 1179, King Henry II spent more money on Dover Castle than any other and nobody could figure out why. There was no great threat that the castle needed to protect against. It was strategically located, but there had to be some other reason why a castle, Henry mostly had ignored, all of a sudden was a place he was pouring money into to make improvements. It is said that until his death, he spent a total of £5,991, which was almost two-thirds of total expenditures on all English castles during those years. So why? The King was building this almost as a shrine to Becket near to Canterbury. In 1179, the King of France, Louis VII traveled to England and this became the first state visit in English history. Henry met him at Dover and they went on to Canterbury where Louis paid his respects to Beckett in a pilgrimage to save his ill son. They returned to Dover afterward. This incredible visit probably gave the king the idea that more of these kinds of visits would be coming and he wanted to really impress visitors. Thus, he poured money into the castle. The benefit would be that the castle would stand through the Great Siege of 1216, led by Louis VII’s grandson, Prince Louis of France, when he revolted against King John in May of 1216. This prince would not give up on trying to conquer Dover Castle and he would spend three months trying to do so, which stopped his momentum. He eventually was defeated and the castle had saved Henry's son's and grandson's thrones and this was attributed to Beckett as well. There are others who claim that a rising anti-monarchical cult inspired by Becket caused the King to want to improve the castle. He wanted to outshine Becket's tomb. Whatever the case, a bunch of money was used to improve the castle.

The next significant action that the castle would see would be during the Napoleonic Wars in the 18th century. Massive rebuilding was conducted and a bunch of gun emplacements were added. Also, a defensive earthen bank was built up to guard against enemy fire. This would also be when the second set of tunnels were added. They were placed 149 feet below the top of the cliff and were meant to house troops because the castle itself didn't have enough room to house the troops needed to man the artillery. About 2000 men lived in these tunnels, that numbered seven, at their peak. Napoleon never attacked Dover Castle, but that wouldn't be the end of the tunnels' use. And since I didn't mention it earlier, the first tunnels were built during medieval times when the Great Siege of 1216 was underway.

During World War II, these tunnels would become the nerve center for Operation Dynamo, which commenced on May 26, 1940. They were first reinstated for use by the Dover Naval Command starting in 1938 as the threat of Hitler loomed large. Operation Dynamo was the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France. British, French and Belgian troops numbering over 400,000 were cut off by the German Army. Best estimates had only about 45,000 of the 400,000 being evacuated. Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who headed the Dover Naval Command, was given the job of running the evacuation, which was clearly an impossibility and the first two days of the operation only made that seem even more the case. On the first day, only 7,669 men were evacuated and on the second day only 11,874. But on day three, the military got big help from some “little ships.” Old men and young boys, not fighting in the war, manned tugboats, pleasure crafts, barges and lifeboats from ports in England, Scotland and Wales. Their help during the evacuation made the total result of Operation Dynamo 338,226 men rescued in nine days. Those tunnels also became air raid shelters and Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the tunnels often.

The Secret Wartime Tunnels are a winding maze and it is easy to get lost if not guided. They stretch over three miles. The rooms were refurbished in 2009 under a £2.45 million project managed by English Heritage and were made to resemble how they would have been in Henry's day. Tours are conducted in the castle and begin in an underground bunker room. There are multimedia presentations and the underground tunnel system takes visitors to an earlier time. Photography in the tunnels is prohibited. There are not only these Wartime Tunnels to see, but also medieval tunnels, an underground hospital, the Great Tower, the Regimental Museum and the battlements. The tunnels have mocked-up recreations of how things appeared in World War II. Two levels of tunnels were added during the war. Annexe, was added in 1941 and this is where the underground hospital was located. In 1943, a basement level, that was codenamed Dumpy, was added. Many parts of the tunnels are off limits because they have not been explored or are dangerous and one of those areas is Dumpy.

On a side note, I found a claim that Gawain is buried at Dover Castle. Sir Gawain was the nephew of King Arthur and he was a Knight of the Round Table. One of the greatest. He is the hero of the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is one of the greatest works of Middle English literature. He goes to the Knight believing that the Knight is going to kill him, but it was a test. One that Gawain fails, so he asks the Knights of the Round Table to absolve him and they do. They also decide they will all wear a green sash as a reminder to always be honest. Gawain was killed as he came back to Britain to fight Modred and there are many claims as to where he is buried. There is a myth that claims he is buried on the Pembrokeshire coast as well. This older than the claims about Dover Castle and more probable. “And so at the hour of noon Sir Gawain yielded up the spirit; and then the king let inter him in a chapel within Dover Castle; and there yet all men may see the skull of him, and the same wound is seen that Sir Launcelot gave him in battle.”  [Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, Book  XXI, Chp 2] There is a thought that a skull was on display in a chapel at Dover Castle and people claimed that it was Gawain's skull and showed the wound that killed him.

There are many haunted spots in Dover Castle with several spirits making this their home. The most haunted area is the tunnel system. But before we get into that, let's talk about the battlements. The ghost that is here is said to be a young boy. A boy who played the drums of battle. He was sent on an errand, carrying a large sum of money. Some thieves either had heard he had this money or they got lucky when they captured him. They decapitated the boy and stole the money. Today, his full-bodied spirit is seen on the battlements. Well, not completely full-bodied. He is headless, but that doesn't keep him from playing his drum. He is not only seen doing this, but the disembodied sound of drumming is also heard.

Another spirit belongs to a woman and she wears a red dress. She is generally seen in the old keep and near the west stairway or mural gallery of the keep. No one has been able to make out her facial features and she generally seems to be sobbing. This apparition was reported by a male member of staff. There have also been sightings of a figure in blue being seen in the mural gallery, this figure has yet to be identified as male or female. Also in the keep and elsewhere, disembodied voices have been heard during the night and doors have been witnessed opening and closing by themselves often. Sudden unexplained drops in temperatures like cold spots have been felt.

A knight or cavalier has also been seen inside the castle. His dress seems to be from the early 17th century and he was first documented by a female member of staff in 1990. She was cleaning in the morning and when she got to the basement of the keep she saw a figure that had long dark wavy hair and a mustache. The spirit stared at her for about 30 seconds and then faded away into nothing.

As I said before, the tunnels are the most haunted and many times it is the spirit of World War II soldiers seen here and also felt. They are seen going about their duties in a residual manner. They have also been heard. One American couple visiting the castle claimed to hear violent screams and cries for help. They thought they were hearing a re-enactment and were startled to find out that no such thing was going on. The strangest soldier spirit seen here has a blurred face. The most recent spotting of him was in 2013. Occasionally, people get separated or lost in the tunnels and they tell stories of being chased out of the tunnels. They hear disembodied footsteps running at them and they flee in terror. It doesn't seem that anyone has been touched by these running spirits though.

There have been so many sightings of weird things in the tunnels, that the staff have created a protocol for how to deal with them. Christine Pascall, the castle’s visitor operations manager, said, “About once a month we will have a report of something untoward, like a figure. We have a process that we put into place where we close down the system, evacuate visitors and a team of staff will sweep through the whole network of tunnels. It can be very frustrating for visitors.”

Some schoolchildren were here on a school outing and were drawing pictures while in the tunnels. One boy wrote, “Where is Helen?” on his paper. When asked about it, he said that he had met a man in the tunnels dressed in a green jumper and brown trousers and that the man told him he was looking for Helen. The man matching this description was never found.

Another time, a tour group said a door had suddenly slammed shut and a stretcher trolley that was on display moved very quickly along the corridor as though something unseen were pushing it forcefully. A ghost has been reported in the King's bedroom and this spirit is usually only seen as the  lower half of a man. This was witnessed by two female staff members and the apparition crossed the doorway of the King's bedchamber during the evening search of the keep. They followed the figure into the chamber only to find he had disappeared and there was no other exit from which he could have escaped. Other members of staff were close by in the main hall at the time and they saw nothing. Nobody knows why only the bottom half of this spirit is seen.

A camera crew was filming at the castle and they heard a terrifying scream come from the battlements above them. The scream sounded as though someone had thrown themself off the castle. They ran for cover, so that they wouldn't be hit, but the scream just disappeared and no body appeared or hit the ground. The lighthouse and church also have a couple of spirits. One is a ghostly monk wearing a dark habit and the other is a phantom Roman soldier.

There are many castles in England. Each with their own special history. Dover is the largest and one of the oldest. The energy here crosses over many centuries and some of it seems to continue. Are there spirits here? Is Dover Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Ep. 293 - Kentucky Caves and The Trickster

Moment in Oddity - Giant Penguin in Clearwater
Suggested by: Kayla Buss

Leave it to Florida to have the prints of a giant penguin show up on a beach. In Clearwater, Florida in February of 1948, mysterious three-toed footprints showed up on the sand of several of the beaches on the Gulf Coast. These were really large prints measuring 14 inches long and 15 inches across. People were stumped as to what could be creating them and since the prints seemed to originate from the water, they knew it had to be some kind of water fowl or creature. Experts came to photograph and plaster cast the prints and they estimated that the creature probably weighed nearly 2000 pounds to make prints so deep. They started calling the creature the Clearwater Monster. People even claimed to spot a large furry creature in the water. Which was impossible, because The Clearwater Monster was a man. Yep. It was all a hoax perpetuated by Tony Signorini. He crafted himself a pair of 30-pound, three-toed, lead shoes and then after strapping them on, he stomped around the beaches near Clearwater for 10 years. Signorini had a partner in crime, his boss at Auto Electric,  Al Williams, whom was a well known hoaxer. Signorini revealed the hoax in 1988. Signorini had kept the metal shoes and wore them for photos to prove he was the giant monster penguin-like creature.

This Month in History - Churchill Talks about Iron Curtain

In the month of March, on the 5th, in 1946, Winston Churchill declares that the Iron Curtain has descended. Churchill was coming off of a political loss, having not been re-elected Prime Minister. President Harry Truman decided to cheer him up by inviting him to give a speech at Westminster College in the little town of Fulton in Missouri. Churchill jumped at the chance to build his American reputation. The President joined Churchill as he traveled to Fulton on the train and while they rode, Churchill asked the President to read a draft of his speech. The President told him it was very good, neither man knowing that the speech would go down in history. Churchill told the crowd at the sollege that "a shadow had fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory." He explained that shadow was coming from Stalin’s Soviet Union. Churchill declared, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent." He emphasized the need for Britain and America to stay strong allies. Churchill was the most famous man to first use the term ‘iron curtain’ and before long, the Cold War was on.

Kentucky Caves and The Trickster

A cave is a large void found in the ground or in the side of a mountain or hill. A void is an emptiness and within that great nothing, one can find some of the strangest things. The state of Kentucky is not only a place full of caves, these voids seem to exist under the entire state with the largest cave system in the world being located here. Add to the limitless possibilities of what could exist within caves, the fact that these caves are carved mostly out of limestone and you have the perfect makings for strange supernatural activity.  I've been in two of these cave systems, Mega Cavern and Mammoth Cave. They are a wonder to behold. But there are stories of other things here that cannot be as easily explained as natural wonders and formations. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of Kentucky's caves and the Trickster who may be playing within them.

I was inspired to produce this episode after watching Greg and Dana Newkirk's documentary "Hellier." I discuss parts of the documentary and specifically a moment when during a spirit box session, the group are warned of a coyote, which I interpret to be something other than the animal. Could this be the mythical Trickster god playing with the Newkirks. Do goblins really exist? This is what Hellier set out to document, but I think the result was actually an interaction with something quite different.

Since the early 1800s, tours have been run through the cave systems of Kentucky. The first one I visited there was Mega Cavern. This is an immense network of open areas that required riding in trams to tour much of it because it is so large. This place has bike roads and zip lines and all matters of entertainment. It once served as a bomb shelter because it was underground and had so much area for sustaining a large population of people. Mega Cavern is near Louisville, Kentucky and is actually considered the biggest building in Louisville. Yep, you heard that right, building. This cave system started as a massive limestone quarry known as Louisville Crushed Stone owned by Ralph Rogers that was worked by miners for 42 years, starting in the 1930s. The cave stretches over 4 million square feet and is considered a building because of the support structure that has been installed inside of it over time. It's so secure that commercial investors bought it in 1989 to turn into a storage facility and you do see Pods stored down there when on a tour. Recycled concrete, brick, block, rock and dirt have been used to fill in areas to make the support stronger. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the cave was prepared to house 50,000 people if a nuclear attack occurred. The temperature runs around 58 degrees year round and on a side note, dogs are welcome on the tram tour.

I had no paranormal experiences myself. Are these caves in Kentucky haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ep. 292 - Aradale Asylum in Australia

Moment in Oddity - Moonshiners Used Cow Shoes to Hide Footprints

Moonshining had been going on in America from the time of the Revolutionary War. During Prohibition, the effort to bootleg moonshine stepped up. Most moonshine operations took place in remote wooded areas where they were easier to conceal. This didn't keep law enforcement from finding the illegal distilleries and when they did, the operators would usually take off running. It is easy to track a human with their shoe prints. Moonshiners devised an unusual way to camouflage their tracks: they made cow shoes. These were basically a strip of metal that had a wooden block on the back and the front that had been carved to look like the hoof of a cow. This contraption was then strapped on to a real shoe. Thus when a moonshiner ran away, he left behind hoof prints. The police didn't know if they were following a cow or a human. These cow shoes were worn all the time because they also didn't want authorities to see shoe prints in the woods where humans shouldn't be and suspect that an operation was going on. Once the newspapers reported about the cow shoes, they became less effective. But the idea that moonshiners devised these cow shoes and that they really did work, certainly is odd!


This Month in History - First Photo of an American President

In the month of February, on the 14th, in 1849, the first photograph of a United States President was taken by photographer Mathew Brady. That president was James Polk. Brady was one of the earliest photographers in America and is considered the father of photojournalism. He photographed 18 of the 19 presidents from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley and this included many photos of Abraham Lincoln. He photographed other famous people like Daniel Webster and Edgar Allan Poe as well. He became best known during the Civil War when he took many battlefield photographs and made use of a mobile studio and darkroom while in the field. He hired many assistants and many of ther photos attributed to him were taken by these men. A lack of documentation has made it hard for historians to know whom to attribute photos to and when and where pictures were taken. A war-weary America lost interest in the Civil War photos by the end of the conflict and Brady eventually lost all his money because he had self-funded much of his Civil War work and died in debt. It's sad to think that someone who gave us so much photographic history of this early time, including photos of President Lincoln that would be used to create the $5 bill and Lincoln Penny, would die penniless in a charity hospital.

Aradale Asylum in Australia

Gold brought people to Ararat, but what it would be known for is its asylums. The Aradale Asylum would be home for the mentally ill for over a century and would feature conditions and treatments similar to other asylums around the world, most of which were not good. This misunderstanding and mistreatment of the mentally ill lends itself to the negative energy that sometimes feeds paranormal activity. The fact that the criminally insane were kept in J Ward only heightens that energy. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Aradale Asylum!


Ararat is a city in south-west Victoria, Australia, about 120 miles west of Melbourne. It's named for Mount Ararat, the mountain that the Biblical Noah's Ark is said to have landed upon. The Tjapwurong Indigenous Australian people were here first. Thomas Mitchell was the first to survey the area in 1836 and Horatio Wills passed through in 1841 and wrote in a diary about his group resting like the Ark near a hill, which he named Mt. Ararat. A post office was established in 1856 and then gold was discovered the following year and Ararat became a boomtown. The town continued to grow until the turn of the 20th century. It was proclaimed as a city on May 24, 1950. The town remains small to this day and there is a complex that remains as a reminder to something else that Ararat came to be known for more than just the gold rush. This was a place for the mentally ill. The Aradale Mental Hospital opened in 1865 and the Ararat County Gaol that later became J Ward, a lunatic asylum for the criminally insane, was opened in 1887. They not only harbor a troubling history, but the spirits from the past are said to have remained.

The asylum in Ararat was designed by G. W. Vivian and J.J. Clark in the Victorian Italianate style with an E-plan barracks format. This was modeled after an asylum in Colney Hatch, England. The design incorporated linking bridges and an arcade on an arched gateway with towers and unique detailing of the central block. There were wings on each end that were two-storied and split by gender. The ward wings were surrounded by courtyards lined with iron columned verandas. Another unique feature of asylums like Ararat were Ha-Ha Walls. These walls were meant to give the illusion that no one was imprisoned while the reality of the construction was that they were meant to prevent escape. This was accomplished by using a trench. One side of the wall was vertical and faced with stone or bricks and the other side was sloped and turfed. The material used for the buildings was oversized bricks made from cement that was stuccoed and the roofs were slate. The builders were O'Grady, Glynn and O'Callaghan and inmate labor was not used as was the case with many other asylums. The asylum initially was known as Ararat Asylum before it became Aradale. I'm going to call it Aradale as that is what it is known as today.

Like most other asylums we have covered, Aradale was a city unto itself. This included gardens, vineyards, an orchard, piggery and other livestock. There were 63 buildings in the complex with 500 employees. There was a billiard room, a school, a large multi-purpose hall, library and 2,100 feet of verandahs for patients to get air. A landscape architect named Hugh Linaker had laid out the grounds of Alexandra Park, so he was chosen to layout the grounds for Aradale in 1913, most of which has not survived to today.

The most infamous ward at the asylum was J Ward. J Ward was originally the Ararat County Gaol, which had been built from 1859 to 1861 and was made from bluestone. The prison maxed out at around 40 prisoners and executions were conducted.The first execution was on August 15, 1870 and this was for Andrew Vere who was hanged for the murder of Amos Cheale. The second execution was on September 25, 1883, when Robert Francis Burns was hanged for the murder of Michael Quinlivan. The third and final execution was on June 6, 1884 and Henry Morgan was hanged for the murder of Margaret Nolan. By 1887, this area of Australia needed some place for the criminally insane and so it was converted to a maximum security psychiatric ward for the criminally insane.

After the facility was decommissioned in the early 1990s, patients were transferred to community living and to other facilities and eventually the last remaining ward, the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre was closed in December of 1993. After the official closing, it still was used to house female prisoners during the building renovation of Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. The women left in 2001. Then the Victorian Government provided $7.4 million to Melbourne Polytechnic, so they would set up a campus. As part of this campus, 30 hectares of vineyard and 10 hectares of olive grove were planted in 2002. A winery and olive press was later added and this has become a world-class wine and hospitality training facility. J Ward is today a museum where tours are offered and visitors can see artifacts and photos. Prisoners had done artwork on the outside walls and this can still be seen today.

This is all nice about the buildings, but what of the people? As we know, mental illness was treated quite differently than today, not only method wise, but also socially. These places where they were housed were called lunatic asylums because people were labeled as lunatics and also as idiots and imbeciles. Luna was Latin for the moon and people believed that the moon made some people go mad, so the definition was people affected with periodic insanity dependent on the changes of the moon or moon-struck, which is Lunaticus in Latin. Thus we get lunatic, which is today considered derogatory toward someone with mental illness. Treatment was harsh in some cases and there are those who claim that 13,000 people passed away in its 130 years of operation. It took only two signatures to get you committed, but eight to get you released. The common treatments here included electro-shock therapy, lobotomies, imprisonment in mechanical contraptions and other inhumane treatment. The gardens had fountains which were meant to give a feeling of peace, but how peaceful could one really feel when doctors documented you as an imbecile and strapped you in a strait-jacket.

J Ward's former pastor was Gordon Moyes and he wrote in the 1960s, "On my first day in Ararat I was given a massive iron key to open the thick, heavy, iron and wood doors to the maximum security division to enable me to visit cell to cell the psychotic prisoners… J Ward was built last century of heavy blocks of blue granite with high walls topped with rolls of barbed wire. Every gate and window was barred with steel bars one and a half inches thick. The prisoners were considered the most dangerous in the country and the people in the community looked up to the top of the hill where the psychiatric prison stood like a great castle, fearful of the night when the sirens might go announcing a mass escape when they would all be murdered in their beds. There was no love for those prisoners in Ararat. The prisoners I met as I went from cell to cell or stopped and talked to in the exercise yard were a strange mixture. They were the insane murderers of Victoria marked “Never to be released” or “To Be Held At The Governor’s Pleasure”. There was a man who constantly barked like a dog, and another man who would ask you frequently if you had ever sawn a man up into small pieces with a wood saw as he had. Let's look at some of the prisoners that once called the facility home.

Mark "Chopper" Read died of cancer at the age of 58 in 2013. He had been a figure in the Melbourne underworld and committed various crimes ranging from armed robbery to kidnapping to murder. He had been doing time in Pentridge Prison in 1978 when he arranged for a fellow inmate to cut off both his ears and this is where they say his nickname "Chopper" comes from. This got him transferred to J Ward, but he only stayed there for a few months before being transferred back to Pentridge. Chopper wrote of his time at J Ward, "A terrible place. There was a shit bucket in the middle of the room. People slept on the concrete floor. Meal times were like the feeding of animals. Some people couldn’t have their straightjackets removed, they were that mad. So people still wearing their straightjackets would just dunk their heads into the bowls of food.”

Charles Fossard was a French immigrant who spent the longest time in the facility of any other patient. He was brought to J Ward in 1903 when he was only 21 after he killed a man and was judged insane. He remained there until he died at age 92 in 1974.

Bill Wallace was the oldest inmate ever at J Ward. He was suspected of murdering a man in 1926. And the reason he killed the guy is because he wouldn't stop smoking in a cafe when Wallace asked him to, so he waited outside and shot the guy. There were no witnesses, but a police officer heard the shot and ran to the scene. Two doctors declared Wallace unfit to plead when he wouldn't talk. Wallace was 43 years-old when he entered J Ward and he was there until he died in 1989 at the age of 107. You probably are asking why they would keep somebody there until that age. People petitioned for him to be released when he reached 100, but Wallace didn't want to leave. This was his home. His chess set that the prison had given him on his 100th birthday is on display in the museum.

Garry David, also known as Garry Webb, was an Australian criminal who had a variety of personality disorders. His mother was an alcoholic and his father was abusive, a pedophile and a criminal who spent most of his time locked up. This caused David to grow up in a number of orphanages and his life of crime began at the age of 11. He was eventually diagnosed with antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. The definition of insane has a picture of him next to it. He not only enjoyed hurting others, he was especially abusive to himself, mutilating his ears, nipples and genitals. He would swallow razor blades, hammer nails into his feet and drink corrosive chemicals. In 1982, he attempted to rob a pizza joint and ended up sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of three people, one of whom was an officer. While in jail he wrote graphic fantasies of massacres, assassinations and other disturbing scenarios. In January 1990, David was declared mentally ill, but the Mental Health Act of 1986 gave David the right to appeal and he was later found to not be insane. The government of Victoria was not about to let David out into society, so they passed the Community Protection Act of 1990. He was kept locked up and committed suicide in 1993 by swallowing razorblades. He had spent 33 years of his 38 years in institutions.

The Age wrote on June 20, 1993, "On a wall at J Ward, the Dicken-ilan former prison for the criminally Insane at Ararat, is a painting rendered in angry slashes of black and white. A bearded and long-haired figure, gaunt and furious, more than two metres tall and dressed In colonial convict garb, lunges through a wall of blackness. He has burst his chains and In his right fist he wields what looks like a straight rator. Behind him are glimpses of sky and trees that seem to ask whether tbe figure is escaping to or from freedom. It is an ominous and disturbing work that seems to say much about the man who created It: Victoria's most notorious prisoner, Garry David."

Garry WebbGarry Webb Tue, Dec 18, 1990 – Page 1 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) · Newspapers.com
Username morbid curiosity wrote in 2009 on the Australian paranormal.com website, "My husband was grabbed on the leg is J-wards old bluestone cell block in Garry David Webb's old cell. The next day he had 5 bruises in that same spot where he was grabbed, one thumb and 4 fingers. Fascinating place." David didn't die here, but is some essence of his spirit here? People also claim to have heard a voice shout, "Get out!"

One of the criminally insane here was George Leondieu. He ended up in J Ward in the 1950s after murdering a man who made a homosexual pass at him. George truly was mentally ill and had both delusions and paranoia. Since I mentioned the homosexual thing, I should point out that people could be locked up here all the way into the 1950s for being gay.

J Ward wasn't just a facility for men. Women and children were here too and there is even a "Family Cell" that can be seen on the tour. Lorna Banfield and Roberta A. Daly meticulously searched through old newspaper archives to get to the heart of the stories of women who spent time here. I wanted to share some of their stories. From previous episodes featuring old gaols and specifically those sent to the penal colonies in Australia, a number of people were sent away for very petty crimes or things we might not even really consider crimes today.

Ellen Belser and her children were charged and convicted after breaking into a store and stealing. The official charge was vagrancy and in 1863 they were sent to the Ararat Gaol to serve a two month sentence. The newspaper reported, "The unfortunate woman is paralysed and unable to do anything for the support of herself or family. We understand an effort is being made to get the woman and children into a Melbourne Benevolent Home." The court finally decided to send her to a Melbourne Home. Ellen Jenkins was jailed simply for having no visible means of support. She was sentenced to three months and with no one to care for her children, the two were sent with her. After she got out, she was sent back to jail for drunkeness. This time at least, her kids were sent off to an Industrial School. Janet Mary Ann Pett was charged with drunkeness and sent off to the Ararat Gaol for a few days, which was not unusual for her. She had been here before. This time would last for 8 days in 1863. Two glasses of colonial ale got to Helen Jane Vaughan and as a Sergeant Dillon testified he heard her "utter one of the most disgusting tirades of obscenity it was ever his lot to listen to." She was sentenced to a month at the gaol. Unfortunately, she would later murder her husband in a drunken fight and she was back at the gaol.

These were just a few examples of what women were jailed for and the fact that their children joined them, except for that last one with murder. But more troubling were women like an inmate only known as McLeod. Physicians described her as a "wretched creature, painfully vacant and idiotic" and that there was no hope for her. She was said to eat dirt and suffer from hallucinations and this deemed her a dangerous lunatic. The second Governor was John Gray and his wife Christina was put in charge of the women. The gaol would have only four governors in its 26 years and most of the punishment was hard labor for both men and women. When the gaol became J Ward, women were still imprisoned here with the men. These women were at least accused of real crimes of abuse and murder. One of these women was Mrs. Davis, who was the daughter of Henry Morgan, one of the inmates executed here.

With stories of executions and around 13,000 people dying at the asylum, it is no wonder that this location is considered to be so haunted. The mortality rate was four to five inmates a week. If a contagious disease like TB broke out, that rate skyrocketed. Peter Dunn was a caretaker. He said that typhoid ripped through at one time after patients from the upper levels would throw their feces into the downspouts and water running down from rain. Add in that daily life was a mix of the mundane and the horrific and this place was somewhere no one wanted to go. The Victorian asylums were declared the worst in the British Empire. Add in that an executing gaol was once here and that the criminally insane were kept here and these dark corridors clearly lend themselves to ghost stories. The typical stories of cold spots are told here, but then there are also the claims of feeling cold hands reaching out and touching as if a spirit is asking for help in much the same way this person probably did in life. Disembodied screams are heard throughout the asylum.

I mentioned earlier that there were four governors of the gaol. The final one was a man named George Fiddimont. I couldn't find much on him, but apparently he was giving a group a tour of the gaol in 1886 and as he neared the bottom of a flight of stairs, he suffered a widow-maker. This was near the Old Underground Kitchen and to this day, visitors and guides hear footsteps up and down those stairs when no one is on the stairs. A young spirit boy named Stuart is also encountered here. A former cook occasionally joins him. No one is sure if Stuart had been a patient or a worker.

Peter Dunn claims to have had no experiences when he worked there. He said people would tell him about having strange sensations, but he thinks they just make for good stories. But is there something unexplained going on here? It's enough that at least one tour guide who was a skeptic is now a true believer. He has seen things, felt things and even smelled things that he could not explain. Another guide describes the building as very dark and he claims that on a good night, he'll get around forty screams from visitors. One group of paranormal investigators had been to Aradale eight times to investigate. On the last visit, one of the members fell to the ground flailing around and yelling, "You bastard get off me." When they pulled his shirt down, they found a bite mark on the back of his neck. They took him to an area with better light and looked again and the bite mark was gone. Weird!

The covered bridge leading into the Men's Ward was high enough that people could jump for a final escape from their life in Aradale. Women get a lot of attention in the Men's Ward. Nurse Kerry was a mean nurse and for some reason her spirit has stayed on here at Aradale. Visitors claim to see her full-bodied apparition giving them an icy stare. Shadow figures are seen darting around corners and passing the Superintendent's Office might leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. A former superintendent killed himself with poison in the form of Prussic Acid. This is hydrogen cyanide. The ghost of an older patient named Old Margaret is said to have returned to the building where she spent most of her life after she died. She is said to be one of the saddest ghosts in the building.

One of the crazier stories to come out of J Ward is the story of an inmate who was murdered and dismembered in the Governor's bathroom. It is for this reason that people believe a demonic force has taken up residence in the bathroom. The feeling inside is oppressive and visitors claim the evil is palpable.

Ghost tours are offered, some of which are several hours and offer investigation as part of the package.With a place that claims to have had more deaths than nearly all other buildings on the continent of Australia, it is no wonder that this asylum is claimed as one of the most haunted places in the world. Is the Aradale Asylum haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ep. 291 - Jackson Square in New Orleans

Moment in Oddity - Times Beach, Missouri
Suggested by: Jim Featherstone

Times Beach was a town founded in 1925 near St Louis, Missouri. I say "was" because this town was abandoned in 1983. Before the residents had to flee for their lives, Times Beach had a population of 2000.It's origin story is rather unique as its founding and growth were tied to a promotion by the St Louis Star-Times newspaper. The purchase of a lot in this town included a six month subscription to the newspaper. The wealthy of Missouri used this as a summer residence area, hence the beach part of the name. Eventually through the years, the town became home for the lower-middle class, but it was a popular destination along Route 66. The roads in the town were mostly dirt and created a bunch of dust, so in 1971 Russell Bliss was hired to oil the streets. But he sprayed more than just oil on those streets. Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, Inc had asked a company called IPC to discard toxic waste for them and they hired Bliss to do that. Hmmm, he must have thought. Where could I put this toxic waste? His answer was to mix it with the oil he was spraying on the roads. That toxic waste contained high levels of dioxin. Eventually the scandal was uncovered and the government sued in 1980. Some people left and a flood in December 1982 caused an evacuation of the town. The people were told to not come back because of the dioxin, but one elderly couple refused to leave. The town stood as an eerie abandoned ghost town for years and was demolished in 1992. A full clean-up followed and that toxic abandoned town is now a state park that celebrates the famous Route 66 and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Alan Shepard Golfs on the Moon

In the month of February, on the 6th, in 1971, Alan Shepard hits golf balls on the moon. Shepard had become the first man in space in 1961 and this was his return trip aboard Apollo 14, which had launched on January 31st. This mission followed the nearly-catastrophic Apollo 13 mission. The Apollo 14 was the third mission to land on the moon. Shepard had to rig himself a golf club using a head he had brought with him and attaching it to a sample collector handle that resembled a fancy butteerfly net used for collecting rocks. Shepard told viewers, "Houston, while you're looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my hand is the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that's familiar to millions of Americans. I'll drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can't do this with two hands, but I'm going to try a little sand trap shot here." It was hard swinging in the spacesuits, but Shepard managed to connect and send the golf balls flying because of the Moon’s lower gravitational force. The balls flew at least 200 yards. The Apollo 14 astronauts did get back to their task of exploring the lunar surface and they collected 100 pounds of rocks before returning home February 9. A fun fact about that rock collecting is that Earth's oldest rock was found on the surface of the moon. The astronauts at the time didn't know that, but recent research found this to be the case and the theory is that the rock ended up on the moon after an impact billions of years ago launched it all the way to the moon.

Jackson Square in New Orleans

Jackson Square is a magnet for visitors to New Orleans. Centuries of history are represented in the square and this history includes shipping, trade, artists colony, pirates, war and executions. The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral is a popular subject for photographers and Cafe du Monde is a must stop for some world famous beignets. New Orleans is considered one of the most haunted cities in the world, so it should come as no surprise that this iconic area of this historic city is home to many ghosts stories. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of Jackson Square!

This is another location that I have personally visited. Jackson Square itself is a park with a prominent statue of Andrew Jackson at its center, thus the name. It is one of the only areas in the French Quarter that has grass, but this is not much consolation for dog owners looking for a spot for their dogs to relieve themselves as dogs are not allowed in the park because it is home to a cluster of stray cats. The square is on the Mississippi River, on Decatur Street, between the Jax Brewery Shopping Mall and the French Market, and bordered by key buildings like the St. Louis Cathedral,   Café Du Monde, Muriels, the Cabildo and leading off into Pirates' Alley. Jackson Square was not always known by that name. Long before Andrew Jackson became a war hero during the Battle of New Orleans, this area was called Place d’Armes.

When Louis H. Pilie, a landscape architect from France, designed the layout of New Orleans in 1721, he centered it with this one-block common open market area that originally overlooked the Mississippi River's port across Decatur Street. This location made it perfect for shipping and commerce and it was also used as a military parade ground by both the French and Spanish depending on which country had control of the colonial administration. The square became even more of a central hub with the addition of the St. Louis Church, that would become St. Louis Cathedral after it was rebuilt following the Great New Orleans fire of 1788, and the Governor's Mansion known as the Cabildo. So the seat of government and a church were here. And the Place d'Armes would become the scene of the Louisiana Purchase. The territory land deal was signed in 1803 at the Cabildo and gave the United States 827,000 square miles of land stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The Cabildo would later become city hall and be used for court cases.

Since Place d'Armes was a public meeting area, it makes sense that public executions would be hosted here. These were conducted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The German Coast Uprising was the largest slave revolt in America and took place in 1811. Following that, three slaves were hanged at the square and the heads of several of the rebels were put up on the city's gates. The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 and was a huge American victory over the British with Brevet Major General Andrew Jackson leading the American forces. A woman named Micaela Almonester Pontalba was a baroness who was the wealthiest woman in New Orleans and she would lobby for and finance a redesign of Place d'Armes after the Battle of New Orleans into what it is today with an iron fence, gardens, benches and walkways and a new name in honor of Andrew Jackson.

Rabbit Hole: Now that I've mentioned Baroness Pontalba, let me take you down the rabbit hole to talk about her for a few minutes. Her father had become very wealthy working with real estate in New Orleans. When her father died, her mother married her off to a prominent cousin who gave her the baroness title. His family was only interested in her money and got her to sign papers giving her husband control of all her financial dealings. She eventually wanted to divorce and as she fought for separation in 1834, her father-in-law became enraged. He shot her point blank with a pair of dueling pistols at the family chateau in Paris. He hit her four times in the chest and she lost some fingers on a hand, but she survived. Her father-in-law killed himself that evening with one of the dueling pistols. She eventually did get her separation and a New Orleans civil law judge ordered the restitution of her property and she got her money back. She went on to build the Pontalba Buildings on Jackson Square and died in 1874 at the age of seventy-eight.

The area around the square has changed over the years. The streets were closed to traffic to allow for pedestrian traffic and paved with slate flagstone. An open-air artist colony now thrives here with artists using the iron fence to display pictures. Musicians play in the streets and horse-drawn carriages launch from here for tours of the city. The Spanish Colonial Cabildo is now a museum housing unique artifacts, historical documents and revolving displays. The Presbytere is on the opposite side of the cathedral and was designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo. It was originally called Casa Curial or “Ecclesiastical House” and used as housing for the Capuchin monks, but went on to be used for commercial purposes until 1834. The building became a courthouse at that time and eventually in 1911 became a museum, which it is today. Most of the other buildings have apartments on upper floors and shops and restaurants on the street level. The St. Louis Cathedral still serves as a church.

Clearly, these buildings have seen much history and much tragedy. New Orleans oozes with paranormal energy and Jackson Square seems to be a hub for it with many of its flanking buildings claiming to house spirits. Let's take a walk around and see what we find!

Muriel’s Restaurant – One of the best restaurants in town sits at 801 Chartes Street, on the corner of Jackson Square. Food offerings include Louisiana specialties like Jambalaya, Gumbo and other southern fare. The building was refurbished to its former mid-1800s glory and opened in March of 2001 as Muriel's. The history of this property reaches back to 1718. A young French Canadian named Claude Trepagnier moved to New Orleans and was awarded the lot where this building stands. He built himself a cottage, which soon became worth a lot of money when Jackson Square was laid out as the hub of the city. Because of its proximity to the port, there is a possibility that the cottage was eventually used for housing slaves before they were auctioned. Around 1745, the Royal Treasurer of the French Louisiana Colonies named Jean Baptiste Destrehan, bought the property. He tore down the cottage and built himself a mansion. His son inherited the home in 1765, but eventually he lost the home when the family money ran out and it was sold at auction.

Pierre Phillipe de Marigny purchased the residence in 1776 and used it as a home in the city when he visited from one of his plantations that is today known as Fauberg Marigny. On March 21, 1788, the Great New Orleans Fire broke out. The blaze burned 856 of the 1,100 structures in the French Quarter, which included the buildings around Jackson Square and part of de Marigny’s mansion was burnt. The Spanish quickly rebuilt opting for bricks over wood. *Fun Fact: The French had used cypress to build everything because it was the only wood termites didn't eat there.* Marigny sold the damaged home to Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan who returned the mansion to its original grandeur. Unfortunately, Jourdan was a gambling man and in 1814 he wagered his beloved home in a poker game and lost it. The loss was too much for him to bear and before moving out of the home, he hanged himself on the second floor.

Julien Poydras, the President of the Louisiana State Senate and a Director of the Louisiana Bank, moved into the house in 1823, but died a year later. His family stayed on in the mansion until 1881 and sold to Theodore Leveau. The Civil War had hit the Poydras families interests hard as was the case for many plantation owners and much of the wealth had shifted from the French Quarter to the American Sector in the Garden District and Uptown. Leveau kept the house for a decade and sold to Peter Lipari who was an orange baron of sorts. He refurbished the building to its present look. It then housed a series of commercial businesses, most of which were saloons. Frank Taormina bought the building in 1916 and ran it as a pasta factory and grocery store and a restaurant called The Spaghetti Factory until 1974. From 1974 to 2000, it was a Chart House Restaurant and then it became Muriel's Jackson Square.

During all of this time, the spirit of Jourdan stayed with the building and Muriel's has embraced their spirit even setting up a Seance Lounge in the area where Jourdan hanged himself. Employees claim that his specter does not make appearances, but instead is seen as a glimmer of sparkly light wandering around the lounge. He spends most of his time in the Seance Lounges on the second floor. Employees and patrons have witnessed objects moving on their own in the restaurant and whichever ghost is hanging out in the Courtyard Bar, it is pretty mischievous and likes to throw glasses from behind the bar at a brick wall 12 feet across from the bar. I say "whichever ghost" because there are those that believe multiple ghosts haunt the building. And some previous owners did die in the house. Paranormal investigations have been conducted over the years  and disembodied voices have been heard and shadowy figures have been seen. In the Seance Lounge, distinct knocks on the brick wall have been heard as a type of communication. EVP of a female was captured as well. Muriel's not only makes it known that they have a ghost, they always keep a table reserved for Mr. Jourdan and  set it with bread and wine.

Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carré – Le Petit Théâtre Du Vieux Carré is located at 616 St. Peter Street just off Jackson Square. The theater has called this home since 1922. It doesn't look like a typical theater, but it fits in with the style of New Orleans with wrought iron around its second floor balcony, black shutters and red brick. Le Petit was founded as an amateur theater group in 1916. As it grew in popularity, it was able to purchase the lot on the corner of St. Peter and Chartres Streets. The original building on this lot was built by Don Josef de Orue y Garbea, who was the head accountant of the Spanish Royal Finance Office and Army. Much of the structure was destroyed in the great fire. Three small buildings replaced the destroyed part. The theater removed them and incorporated the rest of the 1790s colonial building on the corner, which kept it with a Spanish Colonial style. Through its nearly century of production, the theater has been known as one of the leading little theaters in the nation. Facing financial trouble, the theater sold to New Orleans restauranteur Dickie Brennan and he opened a Creole Restaurant in part of the space and retired the theater's debt and it continues to put on productions to this day.

As is the case with nearly every theater, this one claims to have a spirit or two running around. There are claims that an actress named Caroline who worked in the theater in the 1930s is here in spirit. She apparently took a tumble over the railing to her death in the courtyard below. She was wearing a white wedding gown as her costume and so she is seen as a Lady in White. There is another ghost nicknamed "The Captain" who enjoys watching productions from his balcony seat. I'm not sure how he ended up here, but investigators claim he was sweet on an actress at the theater.

I really enjoyed the Haunted History Tours in New Orleans and this is the first one I recommend to people when they ask. It is one of the originals and was founded by Kalila Smith. He wrote, "New Orleans Ghosts, Voodoo and Vampires, Journey into Darkness" and in it he talks about a visit to the theater.He actually had his wedding there. He is sensitive and he felt as though there were several entities in the building and EMF readings were very high. Psychics who visited the building told Smith that although there is sometimes the smell of burning flesh in the theater, none of the spirits seem to belong to fire victims. The spirits mainly seem to belong to actors who have returned.

Faulkner House Books – Faulkner House Books is located at 624 Pirate’s Alley, just off Jackson Square, behind the Cabildo and opposite St. Louis Cathedral’s rear garden. The bookstore is owned by attorney Joseph J. DeSalvo Jr. and named for William Faulkner, the American author and Nobel prize laureate. When he wrote his first novel, he was staying in this house in 1925. The house was built in 1840 by the widow of Jean Baptiste LeBranche. The site had previously been home to the French Colonial Prison. It is Faulkner's spirit that is said to haunt the building. People claim to have seen his full-bodied apparition at a desk and the smell of his pipe has been detected.

Pere Antoine’s Alley – Antonio de Sedella was a Capuchin friar known to his flock as Pere Antoine. He was a controversial figure who was strong in his Catholic beliefs. He would help anyone in need whether they were poor, prisoners or slaves. In 1805, he was suspended over a dispute with the vicar-general of Louisiana, but he was so beloved by the people that they elected Pere Antoine their parish priest. The vicar-general's hands were tied and he remained the priest until his death in 1829 at age 81. St. Anthony's Garden behind St. Louis Cathedral was named after his namesake saint and was dedicated in Antoine's memory and St. Anthony's Alley was renamed Pere Antoine Alley for the priest. And it is in this alley where his restless spirit is said to still roam. Visitors to the alley claim to see Pere Antoine’s ghost in the early morning hours, clad in Capuchin black and sandals. Others have seen his full-bodied apparition in St. Louis Cathedral.

Haunted New Orleans Tour's website reported: "One recent account tells of a local woman who was rushing through Pere Antoine’s Alley on a rainy afternoon. Tottering on high heels, she tripped on one of the uneven alley flagstones and fell straight into the arms of a black-robed man with a white beard and surprised expression. He said nothing as he helped her gain her balance; when the woman turned to thank him, the man was gone. The woman further claimed that a sense of overwhelming peace came over her that afternoon and she fully believes she encountered not a ghost, but a saint."

St. Louis Cathedral – St. Louis Cathedral is a beautiful and stunning piece of architecture. This is not the original structure. This is actually the third version of the cathedral, which was originally called St. Louis Church and was named in honor of the French King Louis IX, the Saint King. It later became the cathedral and today is actually anointed as a basilica, but is sill referred to as a cathedral. The first structure here was a simple wooden structure built in 1718. The next church was built from brick and stood 1727 until 1788 when it burned in the Great Fire. The Spanish rebuilt much of what is seen today. Pope Pius declared it a cathedral in 1793. A central bell tower was added in 1819. This was designed by architect Ben Henry Latrobe, who also designed the White House. A renovation was started in 1850 because a larger cathedral was needed. The central tower collapsed, causing the whole cathedral to be redone, loosing much of the original Spanish architecture. However, the new design was solid and beautiful, creating a house of worship that has endured over 150 years!

St. Anthony’s Garden is located behind the Cathedral and its original purpose was as a burial ground. The bones were re-interred in St. Louis Cemetery #1 on Basin Street. Or at least, that is the story. And although this was meant to be a beautiful, peaceful garden, it eventually hosted illegal, deadly duels. After the Civil War, the site became just a garden. Both the garden and the cathdral are said to be haunted. Pere Dagobert hangs out here as well. His apparition has been seen walking with his head lowered down the aisles after worship. The ghost of Madame LaLaurie has been seen in the Cathedral and people believe she is here because she used to worship here in the early 1800s . That's strange since she didn't die here. 

The Cabildo - As stated earlier, The Cabildo was once the seat of government and the name translates as Council. It not only was the scene of the signing of the Lousiana Purchase, but the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson was decided in 1896 that rules that blacks were equal, but separate. The 1762 Treaty of Fountainebleau passed Louisiana from the French to the Spanish and this made the French angry since the trade had been an act of War during the French and Indian War. The French rebelled and the Spanish sent General Don Alejandro “Bloody” O’Reilly to put an end to it. He brought 2,000 troops with him in 1769 and killed the first Frenchman he came across. O'Reilly told the leaders of the uprising that he would like them to join him for a meal at the Cabildo and that he would work with them to settle the dispute. Instead, he handcuffed all the men and led them to the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Frenchmen Street where he executed them all. And speaking of executions, the Cabildo hosted executions in its inner courtyard. Today, the Cabildo is part of the Louisiana State Museum, housing hundreds of early colonization and 19th-century artifacts including a bronze death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Staff at the museum claim to have had strange experiences, particularly when working in the off hours. They have reported being touched or tapped on their shoulders and finding no one behind them when they turn around. Strange sounds and shadows have also been reported. There are still jail cells in the rear of the Cabildo and this is where most of the activity takes place. Visitors have reported seeing the spirit of a British soldier, who was hanged here because he had been a spy during the Battle of New Orleans. His spirit is seen wandering throughout the building.

An anonymous person wrote on the Haunted Nation website: "My ghost encounter there was actually in the front of the building on the second floor in the long foyer that runs the entire length of the building. I was walking through towards the room with Napoleon's death mask and felt a tug on my left shoulder. I assumed it was my daughter and slapped at the hand on my shoulder. Again my shoulder was tugged hard and I slapped again and said "Stop it!". And turned to confront my daughter. There was no one in the entire front foyer. I was totally alone. Something made me speak out "I know you are there, and it's OK." I then hurried off to find my family. I could not speak about it until we left the building. I felt followed for some time in the museum. I was a non-believer until that happened."

Pirate's Alley - Pirate's Alley is situated between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo. Early in the day, the alley is quiet and seems to honor the posted signs that read: "Quiet: Church Zone." At night, the old lampposts light the way and the alley is filled with noise pouring out from the Pirate’s Alley Cafe and Absinthe House. This street was first laid out in the late 18th century and was called Rue Orleans and was always meant to be an alleyway. It was originally unpaved, but cobblestones were added in 1830. So why is it called Pirate's Alley? Legend claims that the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte worked out of this alley. It was in this alley that they say Lafitte made a deal with Andrew Jackson, that if he helped get Lafitte's brother Pierre released he would aid General Jackson in the fight against the British during the Battle of New Orleans. But the idea that a pirate would operate out of an alley next to the church is pretty improbable.

But then why do people claim to see the apparition of Jean Lafitte in the alley? Is it him or is it another pirate by the name of Reginald Hicks? Heicks had been kidnapped as a boy by pirates and he grew up in their ways. He traveled with Lafitte to New Orleans and fell in love with a girl there named Marie Angel Beauchamp, a beautiful French Creole girl. She got pregnant and Hicks insisted that they get married. The only minister they knew was a German man doing time in the Old Parish Prison. They begged the prison guard to let the minister marry them and it was done by the iron gate along Pirate’s Alley. Hicks was later killed in the war and it is said that his spirit returned to the place of his marriage. People have claimed to hear wedding bells early in the morning and the sounds of ghostly laughter in the alley. Ghostly male singing is heard in the alley as well and some believe it is Father Pere Dagobert visiting this alley too.

Jackson Square is a must see for the visitor to New Orleans. Besides the beauty of the park, the architecture here is fabulous and full of history. And apparently, possibly full of ghosts. Are Jackson Square and its surrounding buildings haunted? That is for you to decide!