Moment in Oddity - Eggnog Riot of 1826
Ever heard of an Eggnog Riot? How about a Grog Mutiny? In December of 1826, the United States Academy at West Point, with all of its discipline, descended into a drunken riotous party. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer was in charge of the school and he had banned drinking, tobacco and gambling. Eggnog had become popular and more readily available at this time in America. George Washington was known to enjoy his eggnog with a liberal amount of rum or whiskey. The soldiers at West Point were determined to celebrate Christmas with some spirits. They snuck in gallons of brandy, rum, whiskey and wine and planned to mix it with homemade eggnog. The officer assigned to watch the North Barracks, Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock, went to bed on Christmas Day thinking that the cadets were not going to throw a party. He was wrong and the cadets in the North Barracks started partying. By 4am, the party was spiraling out of control. The Captain was awakened and he entered one of the party rooms and told the cadets their party was unlawful and they were going to be punished. The drunken cadets turned on him, throwing rocks through his window. They also rampaged through the hallways with muskets, bayonets and swords and even took shots at the Captain. Things ballooned into a riot with more than one-third of the cadets involved. When everything wrapped up, 70 cadets were implicated with 20 of them court-martialed. An eggnog riot, especially at West Point, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Avalanche in Peru Kills Thousands
In the month of January, on the 10th, in 1962, and avalanche kills thousands in Peru. There were several small farming communities that had formed in the Rio Santa Valley in the shadow of Mount Huascaran, part of the Andes Mountains. This mountain was notorious for cracking off ice and snow, but villagers usually had plenty of warning to get to higher ground. On this particular day, things happened so fast that there was no escape. The block of ice that broke off was the size of two skyscrapers and weighed millions of ton. The avalanche it created traveled nine-and-a-half miles in only seven minutes. Whole towns were buried in up to 40 feet of ice and mud and trees. Barely anyone survived. Four thousand people were believed to have died with many bodies never being recovered. Some washed away as far as the Pacific Ocean in flooding created by the avalanche. That was a distance of 100 miles.
Holly Hotel (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)
The Holly Hotel is located in Holly, Michigan and has survived through several fires, the Great Depression, two world wars and a visit from the infamous temperance leader Carrie Nation. This is a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian that once provided lodging to railroad men and is today a popular restaurant that reputedly is full of ghosts. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the Holly Hotel!
Holly, Michigan is a village located in the thumb area of the mitten about 55 miles northwest of Detroit. Nathan Herrick was the first settler to arrive in 1830. A little over a decade later, a sawmill and a grist mill were built and in 1850, the village was official when the post office was opened. At the time it was known as Holly Mills. The name changed to Holly officially in 1861. No one knows for sure where the name came from. Holly does grow in the area and an earlier settler named Jonathan Allen did come from Mount Holly, New Jersey so there are multiple possibilities. When the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad came to town, twenty-five trains a day stopped here and the village began to prosper. Soon hotels were needed for railroad men and travelers and the Hirst Hotel would open in 1891.
John Henry Hirst was born in 1857 and he built the first hotel to stand on the site at 110 Martha Street in 1891, naming it after himself. Martha Street was mainly known as Battle Alley because of all the street fights that took place here and the name stuck into the modern era, so the street is officially known as Battle Alley today. The structure was built from wood and was soon destroyed in a fire that happened in April of 1892. Hirst decided to rebuild and chose to use bricks this time. This would also be a more elaborate hotel. He hired George Stanard and John Laneto to design and build it. The new hotel was built from red brick in the Queen Anne style and was two and half stories with a gabled hip-roof and every modern convenience of the time. It was completed at a cost of $16,000 and was said to be the finest hotel in Oakland County with the largest dining room in the area. Hirst's wife Lydia died in 1903 and he remarried in 1904. He held onto the hotel for a couple more years and decided to sell, which he did in August of 1906 to a man named Alfred Jones. Jones then immediately transferred ownership to a man named F.W. Johnson and then leased it from him for two years.
The site would suffer its second fire and this new hotel would have the first of two major fires it would endure in July of 1907. The roof was completely destroyed and the interior had smoke and water damage. The interior was restored and the roof was replaced and the hotel would change its name to the Holly Inn. The following year would bring another force of nature to the hotel. Carrie Nation brought her hatchet to town on August 29, 1908. She brought a group of Pro-Temperance supporters with her and they used umbrellas to club patrons at the Holly Hotel. Nation was already angry about the drinking, but when she saw the painting of a scantily clad woman above the bar she weilded her ax and took out a row of whiskey bottles. The owner had Nation arrested and when Governor Fred Warner heard that news, he made his way to town to use the incarceration for political means. He popped into Holly to make a re-election campaign speech, which had a spotlight on it. Nation got out of prison and confronted the Governor yelling, "You're a coward!" since he wouldn't crack down on liquor. The Governor left town quickly after that. The Holly Hotel commemorates Nation's visit every year with a re-enactment of her visit, but we imagine without the busted alcohol bottle. They also have a special menu and, of course, drink specials.
The second major fire for the hotel happened on January 19, 1913 and The Flint Journal reported, "Fire which is believed to have originated in a clothes chute where someone carelessly threw a match, totally destroyed the Holly Inn here yesterday. The estimated loss is $20,000, of which only $8,000 was covered by insurance. The fire had worked its way up the elevator shaft to the third floor before being discovered. The flames were noticed by several persons at the same time, and when the fire department reached the hotel the roof was ablaze. The hotel was a brick structure, built in 1892. It was owned by Mrs. Marie Powell, of Pontiac, and conducted by Otis Kennedy. Very little furniture or clothing was saved from the fire, and several of the guests had narrow escapes."
Mrs. Powell decided to sell the property rather than rebuild. Joseph P. Allen became the new owner and he was going to add a new element to the hotel when he rebuilt. He had obtained a liquor license, so there would now be a bar. Allen rebuilt the front entrance with a Tuscan columned porch and took the top story off the corner tower. The interior had elegant custom millwork with rich woods, tin ceilings, lead glass, luxurious velvets and plaster walls. The restaurant featured china and fine linens. Joseph renamed the hotel for himself, The Allendorf, taking inspiration from New York's Waldorf Hotel. People came from all over the Midwest just to eat here. The Sunday dinners were famous and priced at 50 cents per person. Things went great until Prohibition came to town and shut down the bar, Allen innovated and added an ice cream parlor and movie theater to try to make up the revenue lost at the bar. He sold the hotel in 1930 to Henry Norton who changed the name to Hotel Norton. It was at this time that the hotel mainly became a dining establishment as rail travel dropped off drastically.
In a bizarre synchronicity only HGB listeners could appreciate, the hotel suffered another devastating fire exactly 65 years to the day as the 1913 blaze. Some accounts claim it was even exact to the hour. Faulty wiring completely gutted the interior. The ruined building was bought by local residents Dr. Leslie Sher and his wife and they decided that if they were going to rebuild, they were going to return the hotel to the way it looked in 1892 and that's just what they did, which included salvaging pressed tin from the ceiling and ceramic tiles from the floor. They used local historians to help ensure everything was painstakingly exact to as the hotel had been in its glory days. They reopened in 1979 as a fine dining restaurant and they called it the Historic Holly Hotel. The following year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Holly Hotel is owned by George and Chrissy Kutlenios. The hotel still has its three-story, helmut-domed, octagonal corner tower and hip-roof. There are three main floor dining rooms and two private banquet rooms. The Holly Hotel is one of the few properties to have had continual food service into three centuries. And the hotel is going to be featured in a Hallmark-style Christmas Movie named "Christmas at the Holly Hotel" in 2022. You know, home town girl leaves New York to help folks run the hotel and she falls in love with the police chief.
The Holly Hotel website says, "True to historic accounts from the turn of the century, the Main Dining Room has been decorated in burgundies, mauves and warm, dark oak, all typifying the Victorian Era. Rich Axminster carpeting provides an elegant field for the Victorian pedestal tables red velvet wing-back chairs, and arched, stained glass windows. Authentic Victorian gas fixtures reflect a soft light from the embossed tin ceilings. The dining rooms, each with it’s own distinctive character, have been appointed to blend true Victorian tradition with the spirit of the bustling railroad era." The restaurant has won numerous awards. Many of their recipes date back to the original hotel. And they have a comedy club here that has hosted the likes of Soupy Sales, Jackie Vernon, Bill Mahar, Pat Paulsen, Judy Tenta and Tim Allen.
Octobers are special at the hotel. This establishment embraces its spirits, and we aren't talking about the ones Carrie Nation busted up. Several paranormal groups have investigated here and captured evidence and the end of October features Victorian seances. And they offer a special haunted dinner menu. And the fun with ghosts continues into December when the hotel hosts the Spirit of Christmas with an Olde Fashioned Christmas Celebration, complete with characters from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Professor of Parapsychology Norman Gauthier visited the hotel in 1989 and declared that it was "loaded with spirits." And many people agree with him believing that the Holly Hotel is the most haunted historic building in Michigan and maybe even one of the most haunted hotels in America.
Hotel owner Chrissy Kutlenios said in an article
in 2009 that she had heard hundreds of experiences from guests and
employees in the 30 years she had owned the building at that point. She
even had her own experience in February of 1996. On that particular
morning, she entered the building and began to walk the dining rooms for a quick morning inspection. When she came around a corner, she saw the full-body apparition of a
Native American Indian, minus his feet. She said of it, "It was strikingly real and in
three seconds it was gone. It was a very, very frightening experience
and one that I haven’t been able to recreate." The spirit was only seen that one time and has never returned. This is very interesting because one has to wonder what a Native American spirit would be doing inside this hotel. Was there something he was connected to with the land?
One of the most widely experienced unexplained happenings are phantom smells. So here we go with our nose pictures again, but they are pretty reliable, especially when it comes to cigar smoke and old lady perfume. There is no smoking in the building, but the original owner of the hotel, John Hirst, enjoyed his cigars. And we imagine several bar patrons did as well. Guests claim to catch a scent of cigar tobacco on occasion describing it as barely a whiff at times and overpowering at others. And a flowery perfume is often detected as well. Mr. Hirst is the most prominent ghost here and he shows up in ways that are not just olfactory. He has appeared as a full-bodied apparition although that is very rare. When he is seen, he is wearing a frock
coat and top hat. Hirst generally sticks to the top of the stairs, but has been seen a few times in the Carry Nation Banquet Room. The lower level of the
Hotel once had the tonsorial parlor and he likes this area as well, especially with the cigar smoke. For those who don't know, a tonsorial parlor was a fancy barber shop. EVPs of someone believed to be Hirst have been captured. These usually feature a faint, baritone laugh. A couple of employees claim to have heard this audibly as well.
When the investigation group Highland Ghost Hunters investigated the building, they claimed that the door to the attic swung open by itself even though it was supposed to be locked. A medium named Kirsten Stanley-Morin felt an overwhelming presence of a woman when she visited the hotel. People believe this may be Nora Kane. She was the hotel hostess in the early 1900s. Her portrait is on display in the restaurant's main lobby wearing a mourning dress. She was a beautiful and petite woman who enjoyed playing music, so if you hear piano music in the air when no one is at the piano, it is probably her playing the tune. Her soft disembodied singing is heard as well. Occasionally, people playing at the piano have heard a feminine voice whisper in their ear a tune she would like to hear. The perfume scent that people have detected is thought to be hers. She likes to hang out in the turret area in the main bar and the back hallway. Nora's figure has been captured in photos, particularly during weddings that are hosted at the hotel. She is usually wearing a beautiful dress and looks graceful, but what convinces people that she doesn't belong in the pictures is that she is cut off at the knees.
And then there is the ghost in the kitchen. Nora Kane had a daughter and she is wearing the mourning dress in her portrait because that daughter passed away. This little girl ghost likes to hang out in the kitchen and she plays with many of the pots, pans, dishes and utensils, moving them all around . Many of these date back to the turn of the century. It is a bit troubling that her favorite implement is a meat clever. This spirit sometimes plays on the banquet room steps as well, running up and down them. And there are some who claim that this actually might be the spirit of another little girl who died in an accident in the livery stable. Possibly there are spirits of two little girls here. The spirit that has materialized sometimes appears to be between the ages of ten and thirteen and she has red hair. She is a happy and playful spirit whoever she might be as her disembodied giggling is heard. This young ghost made its presence known during a seance in the early 1990s.
There is an animal spirit here too that many people believe is the Hirst's rat terrier dog that they named Leona. The sound of a dog running in the hallways is heard even though there are no animals in the building. The feeling of an animal brushing up against a leg has been felt by guests and employees. And disembodied barking is heard, especially in the early morning hours by kitchen staff.
Sally wrote in 2016, "I live in Holly and frequent the Hotel quite often for their tea hour and Sunday brunches. It took several times before I finally had an experience. To be honest it wasn’t even on my radar, and was the very last thing on my mind. When you live here in Holly you hear about it all the time and eventually take it with a grain of salt. While in the bathroom freshening up, all alone standing at the sink I had the most cliche of experiences, but one that frightened me to the core. The air became very cold, not drafty but icy. I looked at myself in the mirror and actually saw my hair moving from the breeze (there are no windows in the bathroom) as I turned to leave I actually turned my body so I was face to face with a woman. She was most definitely not of this world. She had very long black hair, her head was down and her arms were out as if she wanted me to hand her something. She looked to be “misty” with very torn clothing and greasy looking hair. I tore out of there faster than I have ever moved in my life! While in the basement on another occasion at the comedy club, we were some of the first to arrive. We ordered our cocktails and were chatting when the same cold air came in. It’s a completely different feel than a cool breeze from outdoors. It actually makes the hair on your neck and arms stand up and the eerie feeling that comes with it is unmistakable. We stayed for the show with no further incidents, but I am now a true believer."
Robin wrote in 2018, "My Aunt and Uncle owned the Holly Hotel for many years. They operated it as a boarding house, bar, package liquor store, pool hall and restaurant, serving hamburgers and pizza. They lived on the second floor in a large apartment. It always smelled like cigars, everywhere We had the run of the place. We had experiences down in the cellar/basement where we played on our Uncles old /illegal slot machines and often times when we ran up and down the large staircases. We just got use to the fact that our balls would be moved around on the old pool tales or “someone” would brush past us on the stairs. We would say things like “hey, leave my #3 ball alone.” or “you’re in my way,” while on the stairs. Nothing too frightening ever happened. As an older adult we had a lunch at the Holly Hotel after our Aunt died five years ago. We, again, went all over the building and the only place I felt some presence was in the lady’s bathroom."
Alex Cripps was a former employee and he said, "I never believed in it until I decided to work here, and it’s one of those things that you have no choice of not believing. There’s just too much activity. It’s just too frequent to just pass it off as something else and act like it’s nothing." Based on all these accounts, it does seem that paranormal activity is frequent here. It would be cool if that Christmas movie manages to capture some evidence during filming. Is the Holly Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!