Moment in Oddity - Wojtek the Bear (Suggested by: Bill Richardson)
If we told you that there was a World War II hero that you had probably never heard of that was a beer drinker and cigarette smoker, you'd probably just shrug your shoulders. But what if we told you that the hero was a brown bear? His name was Wojtek and he served with the 22nd Transport Company's Artillery Division in the Polish 2nd Corps. The Polish soldiers found Wojtek as an abandoned cub in the mountains of Iran. They nursed the bear with a bottle of condensed milk. He learned to imitate the soldiers and could carry heavy supply boxes that usually took at least two men to haul. He would play fight with the troops and they taught him how to salute. Soldiers would snuggle with him for warmth and taught him some of their bad habits like drinking coffee and beer and chewing on cigarettes. Wojtek fought alongside the troops in the Battle of Monte Cassino. He carried live ammunition to help load the guns. Wojtek ended up on a farm in Scotland, in a village called Hutton in Berwickshire. He died in 1963. Princes Street Garden in Edinburgh has a tribute to Wojtek in the form of a bronze statue that was dedicated in 2015. A brown bear as Polish soldier, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - First Test Tube Baby Born
In the month of July, on the 25th, in 1978, the first test tube baby was born. We don't call them test tube babies today. People are more familiar with the term in vitro fertilization. Lesley and Peter Brown had trouble getting pregnant because Lesley had blocked fallopian tubes. British gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and scientist Robert Edwards removed a mature egg from Lesley's ovaries and fertilized it with her husband's sperm in a laboratory dish and then implanted the embryo into Lesley's uterus. It was very controversial at the time. The experiment worked and Louise Joy Brown was born via caesarean section, weighing in at 5 pounds, 12 ounces. The Browns had a second daughter via IVF a few years later. Louise, the original test tube baby, would have her own baby in 2006, naturally.
Haunted Taverns of Annapolis (Suggested by: Amanda Prouty)
Annapolis, Maryland has hundreds of years of history behind it. First settled by Puritans in the mid-1600s, it grew into an important coastal city of historical significance and is today the capital of the state of Maryland. The city has more 18th century structures still standing than any other city in the United States. Some of those structures are taverns and several of those are said to be haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the taverns of Annapolis!
Annapolis was settled in 1649 by Puritans who had arrived from Virginia. They named their new town Providence. Lord Baltimore later owned the colony started here and had the town named after his wife, Anne Arundel Towne. Sir Francis Nicholson was Royal Governor of Maryland from 1694 to 1698 and moved the capital to Annapolis and named it after Princess Anne who was to be heir of the throne. Anne became Queen in 1702, and in 1708 she chartered Annapolis as a city and this bit of history can still be seen in Maryland's very unique state flag, which features her royal badge. In 1783, the city became the temporary capital of America after the signing of the Treaty of Paris and it would be here that General George Washington would resign his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
The design of the now capital of the United States, Washington, D.C., was inspired by the plans laid out by Sir Francis. President Washington liked the baroque streets that were laid out with focal point circles that had radiating streets, giving Annapolis centers of importance like the State House and St. Anne's Episcopal Church. The town became wealthy thanks to shipping and the United States Naval Academy would be established here in 1845. *Rabbit Hole: Lt. James Sutton was serving at the U.S. Naval Academy when he shot himself in the head in front of several witnesses. At least that is what a group of naval officers testified to in 1907. The spirit of Lt. Sutton would not rest though because that was a lie. His ghost appeared to his mother and sister in Portland, Oregon and told them that he had not killed himself, but that he had been severely beaten before he was shot. The Sutton Family demanded an investigation and the body was exhumed and it was true that he had been badly beaten. No charges were ever filed though.* Like all towns, Annapolis was full of taverns and many of those still exist today and several of them have ghosts.
Rams Head Tavern
Rams Head Tavern is located at 33 West Street. This is a dark bar connected to a restaurant. The bar has a low ceiling with rows of hanging pewter mugs. The walls are brick and there is a fireplace off to one side. Also, in the back half of the bar, one will find a bed leg sticking through the ceiling. The building has been here a long time and hosted a number of businesses. During the 1700s, the property here was owned by the St. Anne’s Parish. William Reynolds, who was a venture capitalist, hatter and dry goods salesman, rented the building for one of his businesses. By 1769, Reynolds had turned his sights elsewhere and he sublet the building to Samuel Chase. Chase represented the state of Maryland when he signed the Declaration of Independence and went on to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court for 15 years. He faced impeachment for being too biased in his judgements on the court, but was acquitted. William Faris would be the next entrepreneur to take over the building and he opened a clock and silversmith shop called the "Crown and Dial."
In 1794, the “Sign of the Green Tree” opened in the space and we're not exactly sure what this was, but it would seem that a brothel was involved in some way. One of the women who worked there was supposedly named Amy. Remember that name. The Farmers Bank of Maryland acquired the property in 1812. Other businesses named this address as home, including a boarding house and other taverns. The next most prominent business would be the one that opened in 1989. Bill and Paula Muehlhauser bought the building and refurbished it into the Ram's Head Tavern. And it has remained family-owned under that name ever since. Through the years, Ram's Head Tavern has expanded. The Muehlhauser's bought the dry cleaners next door in 1992 and opened a restaurant and in 1993 they bought the barber shop next to that to increase capacity.
The legend connected to this property is connected to Amy. There is not a lot of historical proof behind the story. This is a typical story for a young woman in the 18th century without many options. She was only 16 years old when she started working at the brothel. No one knows for sure how she came to her demise, whether it was an accident or murder, but her bed came crashing through the floor and her neck broke. One bed post from that bed went through the floor and now sticks out of the ceiling of the bar. The apparition of Amy started showing up almost immediately after her death. A woman named Beverly Litsinger was investigating the Ram's Head and she captured a shadowy image in a picture that is believed to be Amy.
During renovations, workers found the name "Amy" written in the concrete of one of the pillars. Amy's perfume is smelled and people claim she is a fun-loving and flirtatious specter. She giggles often, ruffles hair, touches faces, spills the drinks of women and knocks women off their chairs. Many female employees feel that Amy sees them as competiton and she often causes them to spill plates and turns off equipment they are trying to use. There are other spirits here as well. There is an elderly woman that has been seen and a Civil War soldier in a Union uniform. These spirits move furniture and the electric receipt calculator has worked when not plugged in to an outlet. The phone would ring over and over with nobody on the other end of the line. The soldier has been seen standing or sitting at the bar, drinking a beer. And if a beer is left unattended for too long, the beer will disappear from the glass.
O'Brien's is located at 113 Main Street and was built in 1774. It was first opned as the Rose & Crown, that was a watering hole for both rebels and loyalist tories.The upstairs was a brothel for a time and the storage rooms had been tiny bedrooms or probably cribs. In 1836, the building became Sam’s Café, the only place at the time to eat and dance in downtown Annapolis. Sailors and merchants loved to hang out here. The first Cabaret Theatre was established here in 1964. In the 1970s, Fran O’Brien opened a restaurant that he named for himself. He had played for the Washington Redskins as a defensive lineman. O'Brien's Oyster Bar and Grill opened here in 1999. They refer to themselves on their website as "Your favorite haunted banquet house" and claim to have spirits. A newspaper article also claimed there were ghosts here. They didn't share any stories in those places, but on their Facebook Page they said "Ours like to stack chairs at night in odd places. This has happened more than once." A local ghost hunter named Beverly Litsinger claims that O'Brien's is "so haunted its ridiculous."
Reynolds Tavern is located at 7 Church Circle, facing St. Anne's Episcopal Church, and this is also home to the 1747 Pub. The building was constructed in 1737. We don't know by who, but by 1747 a man named William Reynolds was leasing the property as a tavern and a hat shop named “Beaver and Lace’d Hat.” This was a place where business was conducted. Mary, his third wife, took over the property when William died in 1777. William's son-in-law took over the tavern after Mary passed away in 1785 and he opened it as a boarding house. A John Davidson then bought the house and his widow would run it as a boarding house until 1811. The Farmers Bank of Maryland bought it in 1812, but realized it wouldn't work well as a bank. They built the bank next door and used the tavern as the cashier's private residence. The building was bought 1935 by Standard Oil Company and it hoped to demolish the structure and rebuild it as a filling station. There was an outcry over destroying the historic building and the location really wasn't suited to a gas station.
The next main owner of the building would be the Female Orphan Society who bought it in the 1950s and converted into the Annapolis Public Library. Ironically, the 1747 Pub that is currently in the basement here had been the space used for the Children's Library. The library outgrew the space and in 1974 the National Trust for Historic Preservation took over the space and leased it to the Historic Annapolis Foundation. There were many tries at restoring the building back to its original purpose of a tavern, but that really didn't take off until 2002 when Jill and Andrew Petit bought the building and in a tip back to the original owner, they named the new tavern Reynolds Tavern.
A fun legend connected to the tavern claims that George Washington liked to frequent this pub. He apparently took a liking to Mrs. Reynolds and when he professed his love to her, Mr. Reynolds ran him out of the tavern. We don't know if there is any truth to this, but its fun to imagine Reynolds chasing Washington down the street. The pub has quotes from the Founding Fathers on the wall, perhaps to recognize that some of them were patrons of the tavern. Other stories include ghosts. Items in the kitchen would be moved by things unseen and once an employee heard a female voice singing Christmas Carols in a room they found to be empty. Other things experienced by the Petits were finding indentations in the beds upstairs, a spiral notebook in the office moved on its own and seeing shadowy figures.
The Petits and their employees experienced so many strange things that in 2004 they brought in paranormal investigators. This would be the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Society and sensitive Beverly Litsinger was their leader. The group thinks they interacted with at least five spirits in the tavern. One piece of evidence they gathered was an extreme temperature change in a corner of the room. The temp gun registered a sudden drop in the temperature followed by a spike in heat. Later, a dish suddenly broke in the kitchen where nobody was located. Litsinger claimed to see Mary Reynolds and said, "When I saw Mary, I just stood there dumfounded. She was a tiny woman - very thin - and she was lying on the bed, where I saw the covers move by themselves." There was quite a bit of evidence collected, but so much hype was drummed up and the activity started to amp up that the Petits decided to stop any further investigations.
Mary has proven to be a helpful ghost. One day, an employee had filled a rucksack with frozen Filet Mignon. Before he was able to leave the tavern, the strap on the bag broke and when it hit the floor, the top opened and spilled out the stolen meat. If patrons get drunk and disorderly, Mary dumps drinks on them or knocks food over onto them or if they go to the restroom, she'll lock them inside.
Middleton Tavern is located at 2 Market Place. Much like Reynolds Tavern, Middleton Tavern hosted some of the nation's earliest leaders. Guests included Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and members of the Continental Congress. The building was here starting at least by 1740 and was owned by a wealthy widow named Elizabeth Bennett. She sold the property in 1750 to Horatio Middleton probably because the stockades were nearby and it would get to be a bit much. There was also a gibbet there, which was a type of gallows where bodies would be wrapped in chains and left to be picked over by birds. Horatio opened an inn that catered mainly to seafarers. Middleton himself owned a ferry that went between the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis. One person who was carried on this ferry in 1781 was Tench Tilghman who was delivering the news that General Cornwallis had surrendered. When Horatio died, his widow Anne ran the operation and then later, their son Samuel took over the tavern and continued to run the ferry. His son Gilbert would take over later. By 1818, Annapolis mayor John Randall owned the tavern and he invited President James Monroe to stay and he did so from May 28th to 30th in 1818. At the time of the Civil War, this operated as the Marx Hotel, named for owner Frederick Marx.
This was a beautiful tavern that hosted community events, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Annapolis Masons and the Tuesday Club, which was a group of what was described as the town's most "distinguished wits." People came to enjoy the gardens that spread from Prince George Street to the waterfront, to drink, eat, smoke and gamble. Cleo and Mary Apostol operated the Mandris Restaurant starting in 1933 and they continued that for thirty-five years. In 1968, Jerry Hardesty bought the property and he restored it back to its prior glory and named it Middleton Tavern for the family that had operated it at the very beginning. There were two fires, one in 1970 and another in 1973, but Jerry pushed forward. An upgrade came in 1983 when the tavern was expanded to add an oyster bar.
There are supposedly three spirits in this building. One is a Revolutionary War soldier who hangs out in the first floor dining room. Another is a shadow figure that flits about the first floor and the third is a man dressed in 18th century seaman's attire who likes to look out the windows. Bartender Mike Conroy told The Ghost in My Room Podcast some of his experiences while working at the tavern. He was serving the manager Josh at the bar and wiping down bottles when he saw a dark figure moving behind Josh and he described the figure as coasting out of the bar as if on wheels and he thought it was almost floating. He tried to put it out of his mind, but then Josh told him that the hair on the back of his head felt like it was standing up with an electrical charge. Mike thinks this was Roland who is the most well-known ghost at Middleton Tavern.
When Roland is around, there is usually the smell of cigar smoke. He likes to knock glasses over and pushes plates off shelves. He likes to move bottles and even sneak alcohol, which is why many believe he had been a patron here in the late 1770s and he was said to have mooched drinks from people. An employee saw him once and he was wearing colonial clothing. He at first thought he was a real person, but when he turned back to ask if he could get him a glass of water, he had disappeared. Melissa Huston who is a guide with Annapolis Tours and Crawls claims to have had Roland mess with her too. She was standing up telling stories to her tour group when a full water glass slid across the table and fell on the floor behind her. It took her a minute to compose herself. The group was all looking at the glass very shocked and they would have seen if a human had done it.
There is a fourth ghost connected to the tavern, but this one is seen outside. This spirit is seen on Franklin Street and people think this is Alexander Hastings who was beaten to death during a robbery outside of the tavern in the late 1700s. Witnesses claim to see the shadowy figure of a man running through the alley and yelling for help, usually being chased by other shadows. So this is probably something residual.
These taverns are some of the oldest bars in the country. Do they still host patrons from another time? Are these taverns in Annapolis haunted? That is for you to decide!
*Fun Fact: Many bartenders will do a toast to the house by tapping their drink on the bar twice.*