Thursday, June 20, 2019

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

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

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

This Day in History - Pulse Nightclub Massacre

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

It's a Haunted Gay Life

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

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

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

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

The Stonewall Inn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvey Milk's Old Castro Camera Shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upstairs Lounge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Most Haunted 2019

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

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

10. King's Tavern

9. Croke-Patterson Mansion

8.Lillian Place House

7. 1725 Captain Taylor House

6. Treehouse Bar

5. Mineral Springs Hotel

4. Ripley's Odditorium

3. St. Augustine Lighthouse

2. Baker House

1. Waverly Hills Sanitorium

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

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