Thursday, January 20, 2022

HGB Ep. 419 - Holly Hotel

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!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

HGB Ep. 418 - Epping Forest

Moment in Oddity - Roman Dodecahedron

Brian Campbell was digging around in his yard in Romford, East London in 1987 when his shovel hit something metal. He quickly uncovered the clay-caked object and discovered an interesting artifact. He wasn't sure what to make of it and assumed it was some kind of measuring tool because it had multiple sized holes in the round object with 12 sides that was smaller than a tennis ball. He kept it on the windowsill and didn't think much of it until he saw a similar object decades later in a museum in Germany. It was then he discovered it was a Roman dodecahedron. The first was discovered 300 years ago and archaeologists have been baffled by them ever since. The artifacts are finely crafted from metal. More than 100 have been found in total and they are of varying sizes. There is no written documentation in any historical sources to shed light on their use. Were they used in trade like coins? Were they for ornamentation? Were they used in magical practices? Or were they a measuring tool as Campbell suspected? Nobody knows and that makes the Roman dodecahedron, very odd!

This Month in History - Georgia Becomes a State

In the month of January, on the 2nd, in 1788, Georgia becomes a state. Georgia was named after King George II and Europeans first settled it in 1733. That first settlement was Savannah. Georgia was one of the most prosperous British colonies, but that didn't stop the patriots in Georgia from sending delegates to the Second Continental Congress. The colony remained deeply divided during the Revolutionary War and Savannah was a stronghold for the British. In 1787, two Georgians named Abraham Baldwin and William Few Jr., signed the new U.S. Constitution at the Constitutional Convention. When the Constitution was ratified by Georgia on that day in January, it became the fourth state to enter the Union.

Epping Forest

There is nothing quite so epic when it comes to ghost stories as a haunted wood. About an hour outside of London is Epping Forest. This is an ancient woodland with more aged trees than any other site in the United Kingdom. One can only imagine how many elementals and fae people must call this place home. There is history and some legends and, of course, ghosts. Join us as we set off on an adventure through Epping Forest!

Waltham Forest is an outer borough of London, bordered by Essex, that was established in 1965. It's name is taken from an ancient woodland called Waltham Forest. The Waltham name was probably derived from Walthamtow. Roman and Saxon settlements cut down much of the original woodland and remnants of their settlements are still found in the borough to this day. What is left of that former woods is Epping Forest, which lies on a ridge between two rivers, Lea and Roding and covers 5,900 acres. This is more commonly known as the "People's Forest." Epping Forest is also its own government district in Essex that was formed in 1974. The town is referred to as a market town and is known to draw visitors to its steam engine tours, antique shops and historical re-enactments.

No one is sure just how ancient Epping Forest is, but it first was recorded in writing in the 17th century. Ruins dating to the Iron-Age were found, so the forest clearly dates back to that time. Benjamin Harris Cowper discovered an Iron-Age camp in 1872 and it was excavated by General Augustus Pitt-Rivers in 1881. The site was dated to 500 BC and is today marked off as several hill forts that sit in a line. They are named: Loughton Camp, Ambresbury Banks, Wallbury Camp, Little Hadham, Barkway and Littlebury. Loughton Camp covers 10 acres and is located at one of the highest points in Epping Forest. This camp more than likely had a single high rampart and there is a stone Iron Age grain millstone nearby. Ambresbury Banks is spread over 11 acres with a six foot high bank encircling it, hence where the Banks part of its name comes from. Puddingstone blocks were used in its construction.

(Rabbit hole) Puddingstone is a conglomeration of round pebbles that have been cemented to each other. The fact that the pebbels have colors that contrast with whatever cements them together is what gives them the name puddingstone because it looks like a Christmas pudding. Puddingstone is usually named after the paerticular area that it originates so there is Roxbury puddingstone, Hertfordshire puddingstone, Schunemunk puddingstone, St. Joseph Island puddingstone and so on. This is all naturally forming and the material that cements the pebbles varies from sand to silica to sandstone.

Not much is known about the other hill camps. Boudica is a British folk hero who was the queen of the British Iceni tribe. This was a group that rose up against the Roman Empire in 61 BC. There is a local legend that claims that Boudica used the camps for their last stand, but there has never been evidence of that found. The battle that legend claims took place on Ambresbury Banks was similar to the Battle of Bull Run. Families came out to watch that first battle of the Civil War in their wagons and the same was true for the Iceni. They far outnumbered the Romans and thought this would be a quick battle, just as Bull Run was predicted to be. Boudica's charge was faltered because they had to go uphill and the Romans fired a hail of javelins. The Iceni tried to retreat, but the wagons blocked them and trapped them and the Romans had a huge victory. Boudica and her daughters suicided on poison before the battle concluded. But again, in the dozens of times archaeologists have excav ated here, they found no evidence for this battle. Historians believe that it more than likely took place near Mancetter in Warwickshire. But the interesting thing is that the spirit of Boudica has been seen wandering around Ambresbury Banks and Loughton Camp. The sounds of drums and marching soldiers have also been heard.

The Anglo-Saxons cut down much of the forest in the area of the hill forts. The trees in this area were clearly a reforestation after the forts were abandoned because they are mostly wild service trees. There are many varieties of trees found in the forest including the beech-birch and oak-hornbeam trees. There are still around 55,000 ancient trees here including ancient Pollarding Trees. The Epping Forest also has around 100 ponds, grasslands, streams, a bog and a heath. Some of the ponds are man made since cattle were allowed to roam here. Other ponds formed from bomb impacts. Timber from the trees was used in the shipbuilding industry for the Royal Navy.

Much like the forest near St Briavels Castle, Epping Forest was a royal forest, first gaining that legal status during the 12th century under Henry II. Royalty would hunt here and villagers were allowed to let their cattle graze and they could gather firewood. The use of it as a hunting ground continued up through Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I. Henry VIII had a building known as the Great Standing built in 1543 to be used as a lodge. The building is still there and open to the public under the name Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. It offers a great view of Chingford. Deer were the most popular game sought in the forest. There were populations of both red deer and black deer. Today, red deer or Roe deer are no longer found in the forest. There had been an ancient tradition known as the Easter Monday Stag Hunt, which officially ended in 1807. There were still some hunters who engaged in it after that time until a riot brought it to an end in 1882.

There were several lords who had manors in the forest and they erected many enclosures, which caused strife for years. The commoners would break down the fences on occasion, so their cattle could graze freely. By 1878, Epping Forest was under the jurisdiction of the City of London Corporation and no longer a royal forest. The city purchased the nineteen manors. Many things changed after this, starting with no more hunting for the Crown. People had more ability to let their cattle graze in the forest and they could collect firewood. One person was hired as the primary caretaker of the forest and this was the Superintendent. Twelve Forest Keepers were also appointed. On Whit Monday in 1880 they recorded 400,000 people in the forest. Queen Victoria visited in 1882 and reiterated that the wood was the People's Forest. The forest would reach the modern era when a road was planned out through the center of it and is today known as the Epping New Road that is part of the A104.

The Butler's Retreat is another building that remains from Victorian times and is adjacent to the Queen's Hunting Lodge. It is named for John Butler who once owned the property. The building was refurbished and reopened in 2012 as a cafe. Along with the lodge and the retreat, there is a coach house and stables that have been opened as an interpretation center. These four buildings make up the Epping Forest Gateway. Today, Epping Forest is made up of a Lower Forest, which is just north of the town of Epping; Bell Common that has a cricket pitch; Epping Thicks where the Ambresbury Banks Iron Age fort is located; Genesis Slade; Great Monk Wood; High Beech; Bury Wood and Chingford Plain, which has a golf course; Knighton Wood and Lords Bushes; Hatch Forest and Highams Park; Woodford Green, which also has a cricket pitch; Walthamstow Forest and Gilbert's Slade; Leyton Flats; Bush Wood and Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park. And there are three visitor centers.

There are many legends connected to the forest and a few ghost stories. One legend features the highwayman Dirk Turpin who has turned up in a couple of our episodes. Turpin was born in Essex and took after his father as a butcher. In the 1730s, he joined an Essex gang of deer thieves. They were known as the Gregory Gang and they were notoriously violent. He eventually left them and became the legendary highwayman we all know him as. Loughton Camp in Epping Forest was a place of refuge for him and also his hunting ground. He worked with Thomas Rowden and eventually there was a bounty on their heads. A servant of one of the Forest Keepers named Thomas Morris saw Turpin in his hideaway in Epping Forest and decided to try to apprehend him. Turpin shot and killed him.

Eventually, Turpin was arrested and hanged in York in Knavesmire (York) on April 7, 1739. Turpin was buried in St. George's Churchyard in York, but his body didn't stay there long. He was exhumed by a man who sold him to a doctor that wanted to dissect Turpin's body. An angry mob showed up before that could happen and the doctor and body thief were arrested. Turpin was reburied, but he would not have a headstone for 200 years. Perhaps it was this little episode that has caused Turpin to be at unrest. His spirit is said to walk through Epping Forest and likes to hang out at his former haunt (hideout) near Loughton Camp. 

This wasn't the only crime going on in the forest. The Epping Forest is a good place to make things disappear and to dump a body or two. More than a dozen murder victims have been found in the forest since the 1960s. The most recent was in 2015. One of the more bizarre murders was of Patricia Parsons in 1990. She ran a local massage parlor. She apparently had a little black book of clients and was going to sell the details to a newspaper. So clearly more than massage was going on here. It is believed a contract was placed on her head and she was found dead in her car with a bolt from a cross-bow through her head. The murder remains unsolved. And there was a hit man style execution of an accountant named Terence Gooderham and his girlfriend Maxine Arnold in the forest in 1989. Gooderham was believed to have worked for the Clerkenwell crime syndicate laundering money and he extorted 250,000 pounds for himself. Nobody has ever been convicted of the murders, but a man described as "Britain's most notorious hitman", James Moody, was believed to be the trigger man.

A paper clipping from March of 1878 tells the story of an apparent suicide at Knocker's Pond, which is at Lindsey Street. It reads, "Early on Wednesday morning a hat and coat were seen by Mr. Bates' milk boy lying by the side of Knocker's Pond in Lindsey Street, Epping. The pond is a large one, within sight of a number of cottages, which get the greater part of their water supply from it. Under the coat was found the following letter: 'My dear brother - when you receive this my body will be lying in the pond at the lane near Epping. My brain is gone mad through that cursed horse racing and betting. I have spent my last penny in the town for bread, but I am driven mad through Croydon races. Please break the news to my unhappy wife and children. Tell her I have found her last words came true. Keep this from poor father, as it break his heart. Goodbye, my brother Walter; if it possible, never remember me no more. From your unhappy brother.'" The letter was addressed to a Thomas Morris and the paper says the pond was searched and dragged and no body was ever found.

So that's the real story, but the pond does have an amazing legend. The story morphed into a milkman and milk cart that managed to crash into the pond after he fell asleep while driving. Now people claim to see a cart and horses being driven by a headless man emerging from the depths of the pond on occasion. There are even some who claim it is carrying a body to the Angel in the Epping Cemetery in Bury Lane. Another story about this pond dates to the 1960s when visitors to the forest claimed to see two ghostly figures emerge from the pond and they were on horseback. They then rode in the direction of town. And speaking of ponds and suicide, there is another legend that claims another pond deep in the forest draws people to it to commit suicide in the water. This pond was said to be the scene of a tragic murder-suicide of two lovers around 300 years ago. The water is dark and murky and no birds sing here. The pond has been nicknamed Suicide Pond. No one knows the exact location and there was even a contest held one year for people to find it, but no pond seemed to match the description.

And speaking of headless spirits, the Wake Arms roundabout is home to a headless male spirit that is believed to be a biker who died here in an accident. He needs to watch out for the ghostly horse-drawn coach that comes through here as well. Perhaps the one from the pond in the forest? The Kings Oak Pub is a Victorian building that was built in 1887. The restored gastro pub has timber beams, antique crystal chandeliers and log fires where one can enjoy traditional pub food. There is also a headless horseman ghost that likes to haunt the area near the pub. And a little girl who drowned near the pub likes to pop up every so often.

We don't know for sure that anyone was hanged in the forest, but with its centuries of history there may have been an execution or two. One place with this reputation is Hangman Hill. The spirit of a hangman walks around this area according to local legend. And what he does sounds very familiar to our Spook Hills here in America. He likes to drag cars uphill. Just as with our hills, people put their cars in neutral on the hill and the car slowly drags up the hill. Perhaps just as the hangman dragged people to the noose. The high-pitched screams nearby though cause one to think this is more than just an optical illusion.

People love to spend an afternoon picniking in "The People’s Forest." The ancient trees make for a creepy and fun setting. There is much to do here from mountain biking to fishing to hiking to horseback riding, but be careful because many people claim to have been touched by things unseen, to hear phantom sounds and to feel as though they are being watched. Is Epping Forest haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

HGB Ep. 417 - Haunted Cemeteries 21

This episode sponsored by Best Fiends! Download Best Fiends FREE today on the App Store or Google Play!

Moment in Oddity - The Italian Bride Julia Buccola Petta (Suggested by: Jim Featherstone)

The grave of Julia Buccola Petta is found in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. She is known as the Italian Bride and her burial is quite odd. It's not because of the grandiose statue erected over her grave that is a duplicate of her wedding photo, or that she was buried in her wedding dress because she was considered a martyr for having died during childbirth. And it isn't because her child who also died in childbirth is buried with her. The odd thing here is that Julia's mother had her exhumed in 1927 after being buried for six years and Julia's body was found in a state of non-decay. She looked life-like, as though only sleeping. Her skin was still soft and supple. A picture was taken and we agree that Julia looks like she was just buried. However, the baby is in a state of decay as is the coffin. This indicates that this wasn't some kind of trick played by Julia's mother. The mother had claimed to have dreams of her daughter for those six years with Julia saying in those dreams that she was still alive and needed her mother's help. No one could explain what had happened here other than a really great embalming job and/or corpse wax, which is formed during decomposition. Julia's mother not only raised money after the exhumation to build the memorial, but she also attached two pictures to the grave. One was the wedding photo and the other was the postmortem picture after exhumation. The story of the Italian Bride, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Francis Salvador Becomes First Elected Jew in the Americas

In the month of January, on the 11th, in 1775, Francis Salvador became the first Jewish person elected to office in the Americas. Salvador's family were Sephardic Jews from London. His grandfather brought a group of Jewish settlers to Savannah, Georgia in 1733. They then bought land in South Carolina. Salvador's great grandfather had been the first Jewish director of the East India Company. When that business collapsed and the family's land in Portugal was destroyed in an earthquake. Salvador decided to follow his grandfather's path to America and set himself up in South Carolina in 1773 with a plan to send for his wife and children later. He was elected to that seat on the South Carolina Provincial Congress a little over a year later. Salvador was a strong supporter of the independence movement and he soon was known as the Southern Paul Revere after riding 30 miles through back country settlements to warn them of a Cherokee attack. He later would himself be attacked by a group of Cherokee and Loyalists while leading a militia group. He was shot and scalped, but lived long enough to find out that his group had won the engagement. He was 29 when he died and was recorded as the first Jewish soldier to die in the War for Independence.

Haunted Cemeteries 21

We love our cemeteries around here. They are places of such peace and for many of us, strangely, a place of comfort. And as we have found, many have a spirit or two unable to let go of their terrestrial bonds. On this episode, we are going to share some of the burial practices of rural families at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century and some of the traditions that are still carried on in cemeteries today. We also have several more haunted cemeteries to share from Ohio, Oregon, California and Indiana. Join us as we share Haunted Cemeteries 21!

Tammie Burroughs got some interesting information from her genealogy group that we thought would be fun to share. When death occurred among rural families at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century, the body of the deceased was prepared for burial by neighbors and/or family members. This was done by placing the corpse on a cooling board, which was generally a wooden plank between a couple of chairs, and then washing the body and putting clean clothes on the deceased. Back in the day, this was either their Sunday best or a burial shroud. Coins were placed over the eyelids to keep the eyes shut and a cloth was tied around the head and under the chin to keep the mouth closed. Rigor mortis set in within two to three hours, so all of this needed to be done quickly.

Before the advent of the embalming process, few preservatives were available. Those that were, however, were either liquids or mixed with a liquid. Placed on a white cloth, they were administered primarily to the face. Turpentine was often used, though the most commonly available preservative was camphor (made of camphor gum and pure liquor). In both cases, the drenched cloth was applied repeatedly to the dead person's face to try to stop it from "changing" or turning black. If the coffin had been completed, the body was placed in it; if not, the corpse remained on the cooling board until it was finished. The job of making the coffin fell to the neighbors and/or family. While they were busy building it out of pine or oak, then lining it, other neighbors took on the task of digging the grave. While these activities were carried out mainly in the day, in the evening an all night vigil around the corpse began.

"Settin' up with the body" or "the wake" as it was universally known, usually occurred on the night immediately following the death. The custom, which found its way into the North Carolina backcountry via Scotch-Irish settlers, served several purposes. It was a time of making sure the deceased had truly died and it allowed friends and family to pay their last respects. Animals and insects were kept away from the body. When Tansy was in bloom, it was commonly used because insects were repelled by its scent. Burial in the cemetery took place as soon as possible because it was impractical to keep a body out for even a short amount of time. Some burials took place on the same day of death because the bodies were in such poor condition. Most were interred within one to three days. It was really dependent on the state of decay the body was in and whether the coffin and grave were done.

Graves were usually dug by several men in the community. When asked what was done with corpses in the winter if the ground was frozen, Raymond Coins, 88-year-old resident of Stokes County, stated that they went ahead and buried them. "We never stood back on the ground being frozen. If necessary, a fire was built to thaw the ground some." Other people dealt with frozen ground differently. One woman's solution was to store her dead husband's body in their corn crib until the ground thawed in the spring. To reach the place of burial, which was either the family cemetery or the church, the coffin was often placed on a wagon drawn by mules or horses. Once here, the coffins were lowered into the ground using rope or plow lines, whichever was on hand. Planks were then lain across the top of the vault to cover the top of the coffins, then dirt was put on top of the planks to complete the grave.

Cemeteries face east toward the rising sun, associating the deceased with the Christian belief of Resurrection. Trees and plants commonly found in cemeteries include: dogwood, cedar, and perriwinkle. All of these are referred to as "evergreen." Symbolic meanings are as follows: Dogwood stands for love and adversity. Cedar stands for nobility. Perriwinkle stands for sweet memories of unerring devotion. And as we know, garden cemeteries became the most popular form of cemetery, giving families a beautiful place to spend time with their deceased love ones. And some of these places are haunted. Here are a few more of them.

Milan Cemetery

Milan Cemetery is located in Milan, Ohio. The cemetery is bordered by St. Anthony's Catholic Cemetery and Galpin Wildlife Sanctuary It was founded in 1851 and has over 7,000 burials, many of them early pioneers. Two of those pioneers were Benjamin and Lorena Abbott. Benjamin died in 1854 and a mausoleum was built for him. The unusual thing about it was that it faced away from all the other monuments. And the location was down an embankment, near a swamp-like body of water. Mr. Abbott clearly wasn't interested in having visitors to his grave. And it didn't help that legends started growing up around the mausoleum. People claimed that if you knocked on the door, the ghost of Mr. Abbott would chase you away. Sometimes his wife would get in on the action too.  

Along with Benjamin and his wife, their two granddaughters were buried in the vault. The two died of natural causes as happened to many children in the 1800s. But legends claim that the two girls died at the hands of their grandfather and that he buried their bodies in the back area of his property. After they were discovered, they were placed in the vault. The bodies were actually buried on the Abbott property as families sometimes did at the time, but new owners wanted them removed, so they were then placed in the vault. So a pretty tame story as compared to the murder story, but as we know, moving bodies can have haunting consequences. Another interesting tidbit is that Mr. and Mrs. Abbott are no longer in the tomb having been moved to a different plot. We're not sure why. The granddaughters remain though. And perhaps that movement also has caused problems. There are claims of strange lights in Milan Cemetery at night. People claim that these lights are the spirits of the Abbotts making their way around the cemetery.

Eugene Pioneer Cemetery (Suggested by: Angel Macias)

The Eugene Pioneer Cemetery is one of the three oldest cemeteries in Eugene and is basically located right next to the University of Oregon in Eugene. This covers sixteen acres with about 5,000 burials. Prime real estate in the university's eyes which had once planned to expand the campus there, but that clearly never happened thankfully. Three different sessions of the Oregon State Legislature had bills introduced trying to condemn the property and have the graves removed with the last one occurring in 1963. And as should be the case, the cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The cemetery was founded in 1872 by the Spencer Butte Lodge No. 9 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

The biggest area of the cemetery is the Grand Army of the Republic burial plot, which is in the center of the cemetery. General John W. Geary bought the plot in 1887 and there are 57 graves here, with 51 of them being Civil War veterans. The center features a twenty-five foot statue of a Union soldier. This is an 8-short-ton statue that was brought here by an eight horse team from Vermont and financed by Union veteran John Covell's estate in 1903. The head of the statue is not original. Vandals broke into the cemetery in December 2001 and pulverized the head. Local artist David Miller remade the head from Vermont blue marble and it was rededicated on Memorial Day in 2003. More restoration was done to the memorial plot in 2007. Another notable burial here is for Louis Renninger, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in the American Civil War.

Angel wrote, "I've taken occasional strolls through the cemetery heading home from lab, and unfortunately (although I use that term hesitantly) haven't seen or experienced anything first hand. However, common stories include hearing the sound of bagpipes late at night, movement of statues, and the classic woman in white." Stories about the woman in white claim that she does more than just walk around the cemetery. She appears to clean some of the headstones, so she acts as a caretaker. The movement of statues Angel mentions is said to happen on a particular night of the year around midnight. All the statues are said to get in the actions as they walk around and seem to talk to each other. 

Spadra Cemetery (Suggested by: Angel Macias)

Spadra was once a grand town, but today it is completely forgotten because there is not much left of it. There's the Phillips Mansion and the Spadra Cemetery and that's it. This is a small place near California State Route 57 in Pomona. Ricardo Vejar and Ygnacio Palomares received a Mexican land grant in 1837. Vejar built his Rancho San Jose de Abajo on the southern portion of this grant, but was eventually forced to sell the property. A Prussian Jewish immigrant named Louis Phillips started managing the ranch and he did so well with it that he eventually bought it and started selling plots of it to settlers coming to the area. This developed into the town of Spadra. The name comes from Spadra Bluff in Arkansas where many of the settlers had come from. This grew into a prominent city and was the dominant town in the Pomona Valley. The Butterfield Stagecoach and Southern Pacific Railroad both stopped here. 

The Spadra Cemetery was established in 1868 out of a need for a burial place for non-Catholics. Melinda Arnett was the first person buried there that year. Many prominent citizens of the town would follow including Phillips and his wife Esther. The cemetery was deeded to the Spadra Cemetery Association for $1 in 1897. There are around 200 people buried here. The last burial was here in 1965. Spadra's moment in the sun ended and the railroad left along with the businesses. The people left and their cemetery fell into disrepair. Today, it still is a jumble of broken and missing tombstones. The Historical Society of Pomona Valley owns the cemetery and the president Deborah Clifford said, "This has long been a happy hunting ground for anyone with a Ford F-150 and a chain. You roll in, lasso a headstone and take it with you.”

Perhaps this is why the spirits are at unrest at this cemetery. Many who have visited, come away completely creeped out by their experiences. Jonathan R. wrote on Yelp, "After walking around with a bunch of friends for a while, we decided to leave. However, on our way out the girls in the group ran out from feeling a hand grab them. One girl stayed behind, and once we were out she took a picture of the exit and what we found in the picture was really scary. A tall slim like figure with a very distorted face appeared in the picture. Ever since then I have not gone back."

Rudy M. shared his experience after visiting the cemetery, "We were on the 10 freeway almost back home about 20 minutes after leaving and I felt this overwhelming feeling of death. I felt so panicked & controlled, like something attacked me in [my] homie's car. I asked my grandpa to pray for me once I got home. This place is truly haunted and demonic.”

One of the famous spirits here is James Fryer. He likes to make disembodied noises and shows up as a full-bodied apparition. He was a man who died in 1921. A paranormal investigator names Huesca has been to the cemetery multiple times and had a run-in with Fryer's ghost. He said, "Out of nowhere I felt strange, and from the corner of my eye I saw this dark figure just look over my shoulder. It either wanted me to get out or make itself known, but it was really creepy.” A local named Wayne Owings who didn't believe in ghosts had his own experience. He said, "I seen him. I ain't lying. Heard something and I looked. Standing right there." Owings claimed that the figure was dressed in an old-fashioned black suit with a vest. 

Cherokee Cemetery (Suggested by: Chee Xiong)

Cherokee Cemetery is located at 3927 Cherokee Road in Oroville, California. This is a private cemetery governed by The Cherokee Cemetery Association. Ed Campbell is the sexton and it is something that has run in his family. Both his father and brother were sextons at the cemetery. The cemetery has a lot of evergreen plantings. Plots are marked out in borders of concrete. The front gates are metal and have the name Cherokee Cemetery near the top of the gates.

There is a legend that in the 1800s, a girl in the town was murdered by a man that lived in a house across from the cemetery. The town took vengeance by burning him alive in that house. People visiting the cemetery have heard his loud heavy footsteps. There are also claims of loud bloodcurdling disembodied screams. Another legend claims that if you place flowers on the grave of a child who died on the same day as his father, his apparition will visit you and thank you. Several people say they have seen a young boy hiding behind a tree or a gravestone. And the faint laughter of a child is heard sometimes. A woman named Cynthia claimed to see a woman in white standing near the entrance when she visited in July of last year (2021).

Doc wrote, "I lived near the Cherokee cemetery for years, right behind where the murderer was burned in his home. Many unusual things would happen at the cemetery and surrounding homes, one time after out of town friends thought it would be fun to visit the cemetery at night we had a couple weeks of music boxes playing by themselves, lights turning on and off and eerie silence when the area was a haven for many birds and bugs."

Kelly wrote, "My Brother lives in nearby Paradise, so when I go to visit I like to go the the nearby, old cemeteries. We were at Cherokee Cemetery, and there was a fresh grave dug for a burial the next day I guess. The grave was right next to the main gate of the cemetery. I took some pictures of the gate and the grave. In the pictures were smoke like figures, one hovering over the new grave and one over the gate."

Ashley wrote in 2019, "I live near the cemetery. For fun me and my son like to ride our bikes there. One day we looked at some old graves and it started to get dark so we got on our bikes to leave and near a woman grave unexpectedly I got strong smell of rose and vanilla perfume. It was a smell I had never smelt before and for some reason it seemed to smelled like old perfume. It’s possible there was a plant near by that I just got a woof of wind. Who knows?"

Highland Lawn Cemetery

Highland Lawn Cemetery is found in Terre Haute, Indiana. The cemetery is the second largest in the state of Indiana and was built on land that had once been home to a farm and a distillery. The land was very marshy, so not ideal. The graveyard opened in 1884 with its first burial who was Samantha McPherson who died from typhoid fever at the age of thirty. The entrance gate is gorgeous, featuring a Romanesque Revival bell tower and Gothic-style arch. This was designed by Architect Paul Leizt and built by Edward Hazledine out of local limestone. There are beautiful statues and memorials inside and a little chapel on the hill with gabled roofs and stained-glass windows.

Some of the notable people buried here include Union leader Eugene V. Debs. He ran for president a couple of times and was well-known in Terre Haute. People visit his grave from all over the country. He died in 1926. Vaudeville actress Valeska Suratt was buried here in 1962. All eleven silent films she starred in were lost in the 1937 Fox Vault Fire. Most of her work was done in the 1920s. She died penniless having squandered not only the money she had made, but also money that was raised for her during a benefit hosted by an author who had heard of Suratt's dire living conditions. She apparently liked to gamble. There is a grave with a large angel standing in front of a cross on the grave of lawyer and writer Max Ehrmann. He wrote the poem "Desiderata." This poem was very popular during the counterculture movement. Dr. Allen Pence, who founded the First Spiritual Society of Terre Haute in 1867 is buried here in section three. The second floor of his building, Pence Hall, was the society's meeting hall. Seances and lectures were hosted at Pence Hall and it became a spiritualist center. Pence remained a believer until his death even though the Spiritualist Movement had started waning by that point.

Claude Herbert is buried in a mausoleum off the main driveway. Herbert died a hero. He had been playing the part of Santa Claus at the Havens and Geddes Department Store on the evening of December 19, 1898 when a fire broke out. Herbert hadn't been real excited about the job, but he needed something to help support his widowed mother and he had just come home from the Spanish-American War. Children were taking turns on his lap in the basement of the department store when an incandescent bulb in the display window burst, setting nearby items on fire. There were thirty children with Herbert and he went into action to get them to safety. He got them all outside and then heard that there may be other victims in the building. He stripped off the costume and ran back into the building, but he never came out. Some witnesses thought they saw him jump from a fifth story window. Firefighters found two of his bones in the smoldering ruins the following day. Those remains were buried in the mausoleum and activity has been reported near the tomb. Strange lights and orbs are seen and weird mists have been caught on camera.

Many legends are connected to Highland Lawn Cemetery. One features a phantom bulldog. His name was Stiffy Green who acquired his nickname due to the stiff gait he walked with and the fact that he had bright green eyes. His owner was a nice elderly man named John Heinl. John died in 1920 and was buried in a mausoleum. Stiffy Green was taken to the graveside funeral and refused to leave the mausoleum. Like so many of these stories, the townspeople took pity on the dog and brought food and water to the cemetery for him. He eventually died there next to the mausoleum. The townspeople put their money together and had Stiffy Green taxidermied and he was placed inside the tomb. Shortly after that, people started hearing barks coming from the mausoleum. Especially the caretaker. He heard the barks all the time. The ghosts of both the bulldog and John have been seen near the mausoleum and the phantom smell of John's pipe tobacco has also been detected. 

Another cemetery legend is connected to a businessman named Martin Sheets. He had been a stockbroker and then a cattle farmer. He had made himself a lot of money and part of what he did with that money was planning his death. He was terrified of being buried alive like many people of his day. So he designed a custom casket with latches on the inside so he could open it if he needed. He had a mausoleum built and rigged it with a telephone. Sheets had the phone service paid for through many years. Not sure if he expected to rise at some point years later or what. He eventually died and wasn't embalmed and he stayed inside his coffin. His wife Susan died three years later from a massive heart attack. She was found clutching the phone in her hand. Her family assumed she had been calling paramedics. The odd thing is that when they brought her body to the mausoleum for burial, they found the phone inside there off the hook. Had she and Mr. Sheets been talking to each other before she died? 

Not every cemetery is haunted, but we have found that many of them do have a spirit or two hanging around in the afterlife. Are they unwilling to leave their bodies? Are they afraid of what may meet them beyond the veil? Could they just be lost in some way? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

HGB Ep. 416 - St Briavels Castle

Moment in Oddity - Great Escaped Snake Scare of 1953 (Suggested by: Tammie Burroughs)

In August of 1953, a homeowner discovered a cobra in their yard in Springfield, Missouri. We can imagine they were pretty shocked because cobras are not naturally found in Missouri. The homeowner used a garden hoe to kill the creature. This wouldn't be too alarming if it was a one-time thing, but the following week, another cobra was found in a yard across the street. This time the police were called and they visited a local pet store to see if they were missing snakes. They said no. But someone was letting snakes go because week after week, snakes showed up in yards. There were at least 11 of them that were killed or captured between August and October. For years, people believed that the pet shop owner was responsible, but he maintained his innocence until the day he died. Then in 1988, a man named Carl Barnett confessed to the Springfield News-Leader: “I’m the one that done it.” He had stolen a crate of snakes from the pet shop when he was fourteen and released them. He said of the incident, “I realized what I’d done, and I was scared to death. Every time someone mentioned the cobras, I just wilted.” The great escaped snake scare of 1953, certainly was odd!

This Month in History - National Hockey League Opens First Season

In the month of December, on the 19th, in 1917, the National Hockey League opened its first season. There had been the National Hockey Association before that time, which started in 1909. Major disputes had forced the association to shut down operations. Hockey was relaunched as the NHL with four teams, all from Canada. Those teams were the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the original Ottawa Senators, and the Toronto Arenas. The Wanderers and Arenas played the very first game under the NHL with the Wanderers winning 10-9. Fifteen minutes later, the Senators and Canadiens began their game with the Canadiens winning 7-4. So the Montreal teams won the first two NHL games played. Only three teams made it all the way to the end of the season. The fourth had their arena burn down. There was another league called Pacific Coast Hockey Association at this time and the champions of each league played in the Stanley Cup finals. This makes the NHL over 100 years old.

St Briavels Castle

St Briavels Castle dates back to 1075 and is located in Gloucestershire, England. This isn't one of those grand and beautiful castles that Britain is known for, but it has an important place in history, serving as a hunting lodge for King John and a debtors' prison. Today, it is a Youth Hostel. And this castle is believed to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of St Briavels Castle!

The Forest of Dean is a geographic and cultural region in western Gloucestershire bounded by the rivers Wye and Severn. This is one of the few surviving woodlands in Britain. Origin of the name is unknown with some historians claiming that it is Welsh and others that is represents a term meaning "land of the Danes" after Vikings came into the area. It was on the western edge of the Forest of Dean that St Briavels Castle was built. There was already a small village here before the castle was erected. It was a strategic position above the River Wye. Local limestone and red sandstone were used in the construction, which began in 1075. The castle was completed in 1129 and is a typical moated Norman castle that was fed water from a spring underneath the moat.

The castle keep was a square Norman design erected on a motte of stone and clay and was originally wood. As listeners know by now, this design was for defense putting a castle above the area where people would live. The bailey area was surrounded by a stone curtain wall. Many early elements no longer exist, but historians believe that there was a forge building, a gateway on a south wall and a small round tower on the south-east corner. The original hall and solar two-story building still stands as does a chapel built in the 14th century. The gatehouse is massive, flanked by two D-shaped towers and protected by three sets of portcullises, which are basically sliding gates. Those gates are usually latticed grille made of wood and/or metal. There was a drawbridge at this gate as well.

The royal custodians or bailiffs of the Forest of Dean were in possession of the land and they started the castle after a royal mandate to build one was issued. The Sheriff of Gloucester and his sons were overseers of the castle and used it for administrative purposes rather than defense. The civil war of the Anarchy started in 1138 and it was at this time that Miles de Gloucester, the son of the Sheriff was formally granted St Briavels Castle by Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, and she confirmed him as the Earl of Hereford. Miles' son Roger Fitzmiles held the castle until the reign of Henry II and then the King took the castle and rebuilt parts of it, in particular, the wooden keep was rebuilt from stone.

One of the reasons the King wanted this castle was because of its location to the forest. This would give him access to an incredible hunting ground. But it was more than that. The forest provided charcoal and iron and this made the castle a metalworking center. King Henry II alone acquired 1,000 picks, 100 axes, 60,000 nails and 2,000 shovels from the work done at the castle. King John used the castle extensively as his headquarters for hunting. He had several buildings erected inside the bailey to be used as a lodge. It would also be at this time in the 1200s that the castle would start serving as a prison. Peasants who poached wildlife or did illegal wood-cutting would be hit with stiff fines and when they couldn't pay, it was off to the prison with them.

After King John's death, the castle became known for another specialty. So we finally have started binging The Walking Dead and we learned something about crossbows that we didn't know before. We thought you just called the projectiles arrows because that's what they are called with bows. Daryl points out that his crossbow shoots bolts. These bolts are also known as quarrel and the castle became a manufacturing hub for quarrel because the crossbow had just become really popular. We're sure when Richard I made this the favored weapon of the land, he had no idea how important the crossbow would become for killing zombies.

Hugh Despenser the Younger was placed in charge of the castle in the 1300s. The Despensers brought a harsh rule with them, but Edward II backed them. This would be his downfall because his wife, Isabella of France, deposed him and the Despensers. Isabella was known as the She-Wolf of France and she hated Hugh Despenser. Some believe she arranged to have Edward II murdered. She took the castle and held it until her son, Edward III overthrew her in 1330. The castle would spend the 1400s bouncing between ownership by the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Warwick, William Herbert, Earl of Warwick, the 16th Countess of Warwick and finally Thomas Baynham. Then the castle went into decline.

Through the 18th and 19th century, there were many changes made with several buildings being knocked down. The keep fell apart. The castle was used after that point as mostly a court and prison. Most of those kept here were debtors until the Debtors' Act of 1869. The prison was not a place anyone wanted to be with no fresh water or firewood or exercise. Most people were here due to very small debts. They only got food if family or friends brought it to them and the constable charged prisoners a shilling a week for a bed. People used to say of the castle that it was "patched and cobbled like a worn-out shoe." The prison closed in 1842 and a school was run at the castle for a time.

In 1906, the buildings were renovated so that the castle could be used for habitation. In 1948, St Briavels Castle became a Youth Hostel and it remains so still with 9 rooms, two of which are dormitories. The moat was filled and turned into a garden. The Solar was named King John’s Bedroom in his honor. Inside is a huge fireplace that features notches in the stone. It is said those were made every time someone was sentenced to death because the room had been a courtroom at one time. A fun tradition is carried on at the castle every Whit Sunday. That is Pentecost for Christians. On that day, locals dress in medieval costumes for St Briavels Bread and Cheese Dole. A Dole Claimer would pay a penny to the Earl of Hereford so they could gather firewood from the Hudnalls Wood in the past. Today, bread and cheese is blessed by the vicar and then tossed from the wall for the Dole Claimers to collect. The villagers believe these pieces are imbued with magical properties and good luck. Upturned umbrellas are often used to make the catching easier.

And then there's the ghosts. We did say that this is thought to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. Many of the rooms have apparitions and strange things hanging around. There have been many times that people have not stayed for the whole night. The castle keep no longer stands, but the area where it once was has a resident spirit. This ghost wears a full suit of armor and usually appears at night. Once people see it, the spirit disappears. The top corridor has a lady in grey that is often seen gliding up there. 

The Constables Room leaves guests feeling lightheaded. Perhaps it is the phantom smell in here that gets them. Some guests have had the pleasure of smelling a strong putrid odor that comes on very suddenly. Sound sleep is difficult because the beds will sometimes vibrate. And the door swung open by itself once so violently, that it tore off its hinges. Maybe we should call this the Exorcist Room? The Chaplains Room isn't much better. There are unexplained flashes of light and big orbs that appear in the room. Several dark figures hang out in the room and often block the doorway. The beds sometimes move and people see indentations on them occasionally as though a spirit is sitting on them. People have also been touched in this room.

The Old Debtors Prison Room has disembodied whispering. There is also a dog growling that is heard and that is probably from a big black dog that manifests and roams about this part of the castle. A poltergeist in the room moves the furniture around and something likes to grab people roughly by the arm. Perhaps an old prison guard trying to lead them somewhere? The Porters Lodge is behind the kitchen and has had the odd occurrence of a misty form that hangs around the front of the fireplace. Guests also claim to hear dragging noises. The State Apartment is in the oldest part of the castle and features disembodied footsteps and a shadow entity that walks across the room. Someone also saw the apparition of a little girl dressed in white standing in here. The sounds of loud banging and scratching have also been reported, as well as violin music.

The most haunted area is King John's Bedroom. Many people who are staying in this room complain about hearing an unseen baby crying. The source of the sound was found one day when a worker was cleaning a chimney. The remains of an infant were found wrapped and tucked away in a niche in the chimney. The baby was thought to be have died centuries ago. The remains were given a proper burial. This was related to a bizarre custom we had not heard of before. Apparently, there were some who believed that evil spirits could get into homes through chimneys. If a baby passed away, the corpse would be put in a special niche of the chimney because it was thought the purity of a baby would keep the evil spirits out. Supposedly the recess was made specifically for this purpose.

There is a room called the Hanging Room. This is where those who were sentenced to die were left to await that fate. People often feel as though their throats are closing up in here. This even comes across like a gripping sensation around the throat. The scariest thing in this room is a large black mass. It likes to block people from leaving the room. People who try to get past the mass are usually given a sudden, violent shove. And remember that haunted college we talked about on an episode where they heard the sound of marbles dropping above them in two different locations? Well, this room features something that sounds like dropping and rolling marbles. Muttering, humming and crashing sounds also manifest.

The Guard Room is one of the dormitories. It is in here that people see the Praying Woman. She is dressed in peasant's robes that are dirty and tattered. She's called the Praying Woman because she walks from the doorway to the middle of the room facing the back window and kneels down as though in prayer and then she gets up after a few moments and walks straight out of the window. Prisoners were hanged out of that window in front of the crowds.

Like most castles, this one had an oubliette. Some captives were thrown down here and left to die. The room above this dungeon is called the Oubliette Room and a rug conceals the wooden trap door leading to the oubliette. People in this room have felt things tugging at their clothes. And several guests have been awakened when their blankets are yanked off them and thrown across the room. One man reported being pinned to his bed by something he couldn't see.

Chris Andrews, a manager at the castle, told Spooky Isles that he was doing his final checks one night around five in the evening. It was dark outside already. He could see the curtains swaying dramatically as though a strong wind was blowing. But there was no open door or window and no breeze coming from anywhere. When he went near the curtains, he felt something brush by his arm. He also heard the latch on a door rattle five times in a row when no one else was in the castle.

Castles always have a creepy vibe to them. St Briavels Castle has more than just a vibe to it. There seems to be a lot of activity going on here. One night in this hostel may be all a guest can take. Is St Briavels Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

HGB Ep. 415 - The Ramsey House

Moment in Oddity -The Great Windham Frog Fight (Suggested by: Bill Richardson)

In May of 1754, the French and Indian War broke out and tensions were running high all throughout New England. That summer, something peculiar occurred in the town of Windham, Connecticut. In the middle of the night, residents were awakened by a horrifying scream. Not just a scream. A shrieking roar. There were many voices in the sound. Some thought it was an attacking group of Native Americans. Others thought enemy forces were coming. Windham's militia leader, Eliphalet Dyer, called the militia to form. They fired their muskets into the darkness until daylight broke. Then a scouting group was sent out to see how successful they had been. What they found were hundreds of bullfrog bodies laying belly up everywhere. A large group of bullfrogs had descended on a large puddle, which is all that remained of a pond on Dyer's property. The people of Windham realized that the cries they heard were bullfrogs crying out for water. The incident is known as the Great Windham Frog Fight. Three ballads were written about it and even an operetta was performed in 1888. The Windham Bank even issued banknotes with an image of a frog standing over the body of another frog and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Debuts

In the month of December, on the 12th, in 1967, the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" debuted. The movie starred Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as the parents of Katharine Houghton's character, Joanna Drayton. This was the last film Hepburn and Tracy made together. It was a pivotal film for its time because it showcased an interracial couple in a positive light. This was a romantic comedy-drama from director Stanley Kramer and Sidney Poitier starred as Joanna's fiance. In 1967, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states until the Supreme Court passed anti-miscegenation in June of that year. In 2017, the film was added to the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically and aesthetically significant. Joanna's parents disagreed with each other about how they felt about the relationship. Poitier's character tells the  parents he will leave the relationship unless the couple gives their blessing. Joanna invites her future in-laws to dinner and they are shocked to find out that their son is engaged to a white woman. In the end, both sets of parents support the marriage.

 The Ramsey House (Suggested by: Tammie Burroughs)

The Ramsey House has also been known as Swan Pond and is located in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was built by a prominent man in the town, Colonel Francis Alexander Ramsey in the late 1700s. The house has a unique stone look to it and was the main home on a plantation that was held by the Ramseys until the Civil War. Today, it is a historic museum on 101 acres that includes gardens and a visitor center. And apparently this is still home to several family members in the afterlife. Join us for the history and hauntings of the Ramsey House!

Knoxville, Tennessee is located at the headwaters of the Tennessee River in the heart of the Great Valley of East Tennessee that was once the hunting grounds of the Cherokees. A burial mound is evidence of an even earlier indigineous group James White founded the town in 1786 and he built several cabins and a fort he named White's Fort. The Knoxville name came in 1791 and the city grew quickly becoming the first capitol of Tennessee. Early on the town had seven taverns and no church, so that tells you a little something about how raucous it could get around there. The railroad and river made Knoxville into a distribution center. The city found itself split during the Civil War and was occupied at different times by both the Confederacy and the Union. The University of Tennessee was founded here as well, starting as Blount College. Francis Ramsey would move here and build his home.

Francis Alexander Ramsey was of Scotch-Irish decent and was born in Pennsylvania in 1764. He joined the cause during the Revolutionary War, fighting alongside General George Washington and working his way up to Colonel. When he was nineteen, he set his sights on East Tennessee and relocated to Greene County. Ramsey joined an exploration group that included James White to search out new areas of settlement and he helped found Knoxville. On one of the trips to the area, Ramsey found a pond that had been dammed by a beaver and it was full of fish. He named the pond Swan Pond and asked for a land grant in 1786. He served as an official with the early State of Franklin that failed in 1788. Ramsey would continue his work in the government of the Southwest Territory and the State of Tennessee, which earned statehood in 1796. 

In 1789, Ramsey married Margaret McKnitt Alexander, whom everybody called Peggy. In 1792, he decided it was time to move Peggy and their children to Swan Pond and they built a log cabin to live in while the mansion was being constructed. The mansion was completed in 1797. During the construction, Ramsey had the pond drained because he was worried about malaria. Possibly a bit of precognition because malaria would be what eventually took his life. Architect Thomas Hope designed the house. Construction began in 1795 and local pink marble was combined with blueish-gray limestone was used as the main material. The house is two stories and done in the Late Georgian style. This included hand-carved cornices and window arches that have nine narrow stones each. The kitchen is attached to the main house via a dogtrot, which is a breezeway between two wings of a house. The house has six fireplaces, but only three chimneys. This was the first house in Tennessee to have an attached kitchen.

The interior is similar to many historic mansions with a front door that opens into a hallway with a dining room on one side of the hallway and a parlor/library on the other side. There are two bedrooms on the second floor and mysteriously, there is another door on the second floor that is an entrance. There are two stories on the kitchen wing. We don't know this for certain, but the house slaves probably lived on the second floor of the kitchen wing. The Ramsey slaves didn't work the land. They had indentured servants from the North for that. 

Peggy didn't get to enjoy the house for long. She died in 1805 at the age of thirty-nine. In 1806, Francis married his second wife Ann Agnew Ramsey. She died in 1816. In 1820, he married for the third time to a woman named Margaret Christian Russell. This was also her third marriage. Francis died that same year from malaria. Five months after his death, Margaret gave birth to their son, Francis Alexander Ramsey, Jr. Ramsey had three other children that made it to adulthood: James Getty McCready, William Baine Alexander and Eliza Jane. Another son, who had also been named William Baine, died when he was eight years old. Eliza Jane became one of the few women in the area to be college educated. William became Knoxville mayor and later the Secretary of State. 

James became a doctor and wrote “The Annals of Tennessee,” which was a historical documentation of the state’s early years. He also founded the East Tennessee Historical Society and established the region's first medical society. James also got into banking and became president of the Bank of East Tennessee. It was in this position that James got into some trouble. Parson Brownlow was publisher of the Knoxville newspaper and he accused the bank's directors of defrauding clients of the bank. He also accused James' son John of creating false pension funds for employees and Brownlow described him as "a few degrees removed from an idiot." The accusations really hurt the family and cost James' son the district's Congressional seat.

James and William both lived in the house at various times up until the Civil War. They supported the Confederate cause and when the Union took the city of Knoxville, they burned James' house, Mecklenburg. It is believed that Brownlow convinced the Union to do this. He not only was a anti-secessionist, but James' son John had Brownlow arrested on charges of conspiracy to burn railroad bridges and he pushed for him to be hanged. The Confederate Army was worried about backlash, so they didn't do that. After James' house was burned, he lost his spirit and the Ramsey family left the city for South Carolina. The Ramsey House was sold in 1866 by a Ramsey grandson, who shared the same name as his grandfather, to a man named William Spurgien. The house started to fall into disrepair after that. In 1927, the Bonnie Kate Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a historical marker at the Ramsey House in honor of it being James Ramsey's birthplace. The Historic American Buildings Survey documented the house for a decade. Despite this attention, it wouldn't be until 1952 that the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities would purchase the house.

The APTA began the process of restoring the house. They started with the windows and roof and then restored everthing else to its former glory. They also hauled an old log cabin onto the property to represent the first Ramsey home. They filled the house with period furnishings that included two original Chippendale chairs given to Francis Alexander Ramsey and his wife, Peggy, as a wedding present. In 1969, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is a museum that also hosts weddings and other events. 

At Halloween, the house has hosted an event called "The Spirits Within." And for good reason because apparently this house is haunted. There are stories of a Revolutionary soldier walking by a window and members of the Ramsey household continue to live here in the afterlife. The house was formally investigated and had a documentary produced about the findings. This investigation took place in May of 2013. J-Adam Smith and Lindsey Whatley of Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours conducted the paranormal investigation and Patrick Watson of Mapletree Productions produced the documentary. It is called, "Historic Hauntings - A Paranormal Study of Ramsey House." The film features Smith and Whatley communicating with spirits in the second-floor master bedroom with a flashlight. They ask the spirits to turn on the flashlight and it blinks several times on its own. They also play several EVP that they captured. 

Kelley Weatherly Sinclair was the Executive Director in the house in 2019 when WATE 6 visited for a Halloween segment. She told the reporter that they have experienced many things in the house. "It can be anywhere from seeing a shadow walk by to hearing footsteps. There are several that we think we have identified. One is Billy, the 8 year-old. Another is Anne, Francis' second wife. Another we think is Reynolds and another one is Seth. And those are all different walks of life: a child, a mother, a grandfather and we think one of the slaves that was here."

Sue Jones was a museum assistant and she said, "I heard the guy in the other room go, 'Oh my.' I go 'What's the matter?' 'Well, somebody just swore at me.' I said, 'Oh that's just Seth. Don't worry about it.' So we go, 'Seth, what do you want?' And the box said 'stairs' so we all go over to the stairs." Those stairs are the ones that lead up to a dormitory, but no one ever goes up there anymore. The door there will shut on its own and Seth has something to say. Jones also said that Billy has occasionally tapped her on the arm to let her know he is there.

Cars driving past the house when it is closed have called saying that they think someone has broken in because they'll see a figure looking out of a window. After the security company received calls four times for the same thing and each time finding nothing and no one at the house, everyone finally had to admit it was a spirit. The spirit is described as a tall, thin woman with her hair up in a bun. They believe this is the second wife of Colonel Ramsey, Anne. There are also descriptions of a woman in black looking out a window. Not sure if this is the same entity.

The Ramsey House is a very unique looking home. A definite one-of-a-kind. Is the Ramsey House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Another interesting haunted location in Knoxville is a bridge. This isn't like the Cry Baby Bridges all over the country. The Gay Street Bridge crosses the Tennessee River. It was completed in 1898 and is the oldest vehicle bridge in the city. The bridge was designed by Chief Engineer Charles E. Fowler with a steel spandrel-braced arch and a concrete deck. The deck is 42 feet wide with two vehicle lanes, although when it was first installed, it had trolley tracks. Those were removed in 1938. This was a challenging spot for a bridge. There had been four other bridges here previously: a temporary pontoon bridge, a stone bridge washed away by a flood, a covered bridge blown down by a tornado and a wooden Howe truss bridge that was demolished when the Gay Street Bridge was completed. During the construction of the final bridge, the plans had to be altered because getting materials was hard during the Spanish-American War. Major repairs were performed from 2002 until 2004.

One of those repairs was to the electrical system on the bridge because it seemed something was haunting the bridge. The story goes that in 1815, on one of the previous bridges, a man was running from a lynch mob. We're not sure what he did, but he ended up falling off the bridge. And for that reason, he haunts the bridge and usually shows his presence by playing with the electricity. The third light on the bridge has continually gone out for over one hundred years. The city has tried different methods to keep the light from going out, but nothing has ever worked. They rewired everything when they made the major repairs, but it still goes out to this day and even when it doesn't go out, it flickers.  The light likes to flicker especially when tours go by and talk about it. 

And not too far from the bridge is Knoxville's City County Building. The structure is located at 400 Main Street. Knoxville was a rough city at one time and the Old City area was full of saloons, brothels and crime. The area where the building sits was once the site of hangings. That past has left a residue. People see shadows around the building and doors inside the building slam open and closed on their own. Disembodied footsteps are heard. It's unnerving enough that people dislike working there at night. 

Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours

Thursday, December 16, 2021

HGB Ep. 414 - Haunted Petersburg, Virginia

Moment in Oddity - The Highest Court in the Land (Suggested by: John Michaels)

If you were asked what is the highest court in the United States, your answer would probably be the Supreme Court, but you would be wrong. There is a court that sits even higher than the Supreme Court. It happens to be in the same building. And that term "higher" actually refers to location. You see, the highest court in the land is a basketball court that sits on the fourth floor of the SCOTUS building. Meaning that it is located above the courtroom. Courthouse workers decided in the 1940s that they needed a recreational area to blow off steam, so they decided to take over a store room on the fourth floor and they installed wooden backboards and baskets and a weight room and full service gym were also included. Employee clerks, off-duty police officers and Supreme Court Justices have used the less-than-regulation size court including Byron White and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Sandra Day O’Connor even used the gym for yoga classes. No one can use the basketball court when court is in session, of course. One can only imagine that the justices don't want to hear dribbling balls and squeaking shoes as they are making some of the most important decisions for America. A basketball court being the highest court in the land, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Dissolving Bathing Suits Hoax (Suggested by: John Michaels)

In the month of December, on the 4th, in 1930, newspapers reported a story about dissolving bathing suits that turned out to be a hoax. The name of the journalist who first wrote the story was changed to protect his identity. The story read, "The newest and naughtiest fad of the ultra-smart young set on the Riviera is magic bathing suits which dissolve in water. The bathing suits meet all the legal requirements until they come in touch with water. Then they mysteriously disappear. The costumes are used only for moonlight bathing. Made of a tissue which melts in water, they are selling at a premium." When the journalist's editor cabled him to ask that he ship several suits because the head of a bathing-suit manufacturing company that advertised in the paper wanted some of the suits, the journalist soon discovered he had been duped. There were no such suits. But to save face, he wired back that the suits couldn't be shipped because the salt sea air would dissolve them. The editor replied, "Put them in a tin box and have it hermetically sealed." The journalist pulverized some cereal and put it in a tin box and the editor was convinced they couldn't be shipped. Vanishing bathing suit stories would continue to pop up through the years all the way up into the 2000s.

Petersburg, Virginia

Petersburg, Virginia is about 21 miles south of Richmond. Not many people know that this city has been thought of as the graveyard of the Confederacy. Anyone who has seen the movie Cold Mountain is familiar with the horrific scene of Union soldiers being slaughtered in a pit that is surrounded by the Confederates. That really happened. And Petersburg was the scene. The town still carries the residual energy from that moment in history. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Petersburg, Virginia!

Native Americans had been in the area where Petersburg, Virginia would be established since 6500 BC. The Appamatuck were there when Europeans first showed up. Rapids and waterfalls create an area on rivers called fall lines that are used as heads of navigation. The Atlantic Seaboard has a fall line and many cities were founded along this, including Petersburg. This was founded at the fall line of the Appomattox River by Colonel Abraham Wood. Fort Henry was built first and brought settlers and traders to the area in the mid-1600s. Peter Jones was the Colonel's son-in-law and he opened a trading post he called Peter's Point. The name of the city would be inspired by this name and the man who founded Richmond, Colonel William Byrd II, came up with the name Petersburgh. The Battle of Blanford would be fought here during the Revolutionary War and the Virginia militia took up the planks of the Pocahontas bridge to stop the British. Petersburg was eventually captured by the British. In 1784, the Virginia legislature chartered the town of Petersburg. In 1850, it became a city. The city was first an important port and then the railroad came through creating a transportation hub. Petersburg soon became the second largest city in Virginia.

Before the Civil War, the city of Petersburg had the highest proportion of free blacks in any Southern city and one of the oldest black settlements was on nearby Pocahontas Island. During the Civil War, the city hosted a battle and was under siege as a key location for the Union to capture the Confederate States. General Ulysses S. Grant targeted Petersburg during the Overland Campaign to cut off Richmond as Petersburg was considered the backdoor to Richmond. General Robert E. Lee arrived on June 9, 1864 and the 292-day siege of the city commenced. This was not a typical siege which usually left a city surrounded and cut off from supplies. Technically it was more of a campaign of trench warfare, with the trenches expanding and growing as the battles continued. The Federal forces were larger than the Confederates throughout the siege. 

A troop of the United States Colored Troops fought for the Union. General Lee countered by offering slaves their freedom if they agreed to fight and work for the Confederacy and this was backed up when the Confederate Congress passed legislation to enlist black soldiers. If the black men agreed to fight and their owner agreed to them enlisting, they were free men. This military policy was signed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and read, "No slave will be accepted as a recruit unless with his own consent and with the approbation of his master by a written instrument conferring, as far as he may, the rights of a freedman."

The Battle of the Crater took place during this siege and is the one made famous in the movie Cold Mountain. An engineer with the Union devised a plan that they all believed would work. He thought that if they could dig a mine under the Confederate forces, they could get inside the fort known as Elliot's Salient and plant explosives. And so digging on the mine started and it was going fairly well with the Union even devising an ingenious way of pulling fresh air into the mine. Fire at one end drew air up an exhaust shaft while the open end drew in fresh air. This is called the chimney effect. When finished, the mine was in the T shape and the Union filled it with 8,000 pounds of gunpowder in kegs. This fire power was directly under the Confederate stronghold. The explosives were armed on July 28, 1864. Major General Ambrose Burnside was one of the main men in charge of the operation and he would be leading the Union in the assault after the explosion. He wanted to lead with a black regiment, but General Meade and General Grant both told him not to do this. Historians are not sure if it was because they lacked belief in the black troops' abilities or they didn't want bad press in the North when the regiments were wiped out. Whatever the case, Burnside put a white brigade at the forefront lead by General James Ledlie who would be drunk through the battle and leave his men without any direction. This was a fiasco in the making. 

The first problem was that the explosives didn't blow when set off. A few Union soldiers had to crawl into the mine and restart the fuse. When it did blow, it created a crater still visible today. Hence the name, Battle of the Crater. In that first blast, 278 Confederate soldiers were killed. The plan had worked perfectly. Now the Union forces could rain down hell fire on the stunned Confederates...only they didn't. Ledlie's men just stayed in the trenches for 10 minutes without any direction. They also hadn't prepared foot bridges to help them across the trenches on the landscape. When the Union finally arrived at the crater they thought it would be a great idea to use the crater as a giant trench from which to take cover and shoot. Only that was the worst idea on the planet at the time. They left themselves completely vulnerable as the Confederates surrounded them and blasted away. The Confederates described it as a "turkey shoot."

Clearly, Burnside should have called back the troops and cut his losses, but he sent in more men. He would be relieved of his command for the final time because of this fiasco. Some other Union troops managed to repel some of the Confederates before finally giving up the fight in a bad defeat. The Union lost 3,798 men to the Confederates 1,491. Many of the Union losses were to the United States Colored Troops. General Meade was also found to be at fault, but he didn't suffer the blow to his reputation that Burnside did. The movie Cold Mountain opens with this battle and is pretty accurate other than the fact that the explosion took place in the dark hours of the early morning. Despite this victory for the Confederates, at the end of the Siege of Petersburg, the Confederates would count their dead at 30,000.

When Petersburg finally fell, Richmond could no longer be defended. And the Civil War was in essence, finished. After the war, Petersburg and Richmond would become the two largest tobacco towns in the world. Cotton and flour mills were built, as well as iron foundries. It's a beautiful mid-sized city today that managed to build back during reconstruction, electing many black Republicans to office. The city later was dominated by Democrats that pushed Jim Crow laws into place disenfranchising their black citizens. The Civil Rights Movement was strong here though because in the 1960s, 40% of Petersburg's population was black. Economic decline came with cigarette factories shutting down and racial tensions flared over the decades through to the 1990s. Petersburg is one of those cities left scarred by its history. And there are many hauntings in Petersburg that date back to the Civil War. Here are a few of the haunted spots:

The Stewart-Hinton House

Robert Stewart, Jr. was a Scottish immigrant and tobacco merchant and he had the Stewart House built in 1798 for himself and his wife, who was the niece of Peterson Goodwyn, a United States Congressman from Petersburg. The house was built in the Georgian architectural style with Federalist detailing. There is a hipped roof with wooden shingles, Flemish-bond brickwork with glazed headers, a modillion cornice and water table. A water table is when the bricks at the bottom of the structure stick out beyond the structure, almost like a step. The interior has an unsupported staircase that features a carved walnut balustrade with a ram's horn and there is a double-pile parlor with two fireplaces with marble hearths. The rooms on the first level are twelve feet high and the floors were made from heart of pine. The Stewarts lived in the house until 1815. Over the next forty years, the house traded hands through several owners. There was Dr. John Gilliam, Frenchman Richard Furt, financier D’Arcy Paul, Dr. William Jones Dupuy and tobacco manufacturer E. J. Hudson. During renovations, two thousand domestic artifacts were found. The haunting here belongs to a Confederate soldier. He is seen peering out of a front window.

Centre Hill

Centre Hill was built in 1823 by Robert Bolling IV, an officer during the Revolutionary War. It's a charming two-story brick house with a long front veranda supported by six Greek Ionic order columns. The home features elements of Federal, Greek Revival and Colonial Revival architecture. In the 1840s, an extensive renovation added a tunnel for slaves to carry food in and out of the house. An east wing was added to the house in 1850. It has played host to two presidents. Abraham Lincoln visited Union General George Hartsuff here in April of 1865, shortly after Petersburg fell, and President William Howard Taft lunched at the mansion in 1909. Centre Hill remained in private hands until 1936. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and it was deeded to the city of Petersburg at that time. Today, the mansion serves as a museum. The basement features memorabilia and photos on Petersburg's history, some antique furniture from the oldest black church in America and a stuffed bird exhibit featuring Australian birds. The mansion was featured on the series Turn and the series Mercy Street.

There are a few hauntings that take place here. There is a melodeon in the library - that is a type of button accordion - and it plays on its own on occasion. The apparition of a woman is seen on the second floor. Neighbors claim to see a lady in white looking out the window. And there was a residual haunting that occurred until the museum was opened. This happened every January 24th at 7:30pm. The door would open and an entire regiment of soldiers would march into the house. The group would go up the stairs and gather in a room and then a quarter of an hour later, the soldiers would descend the stairs and head out the door with a slam. The way the story reads about this, it sounds like this is only auditory, not visual. The boots are heard as well as the swords in scabbards rattling. There are those that claim the bricked in tunnel is haunted as well.

Central State Hospital

Central State Hospital was established to take care of blacks with mental health issues after a man named Dr. Frances Stribling pointed out at a meeting held in Philadelphia that there were no provisions on state levels to care for them. Private institutions cost more than slave owners were willing to pay to have a slave committed. And more and more slaves were thought to be mentally ill because a doctor named Samuel Cartwright had convinced people that there was a mental illness called Drapetomania, which was defined as a mental illness that caused slaves to flee captivity and seek freedom. The Freedmen's Bureau at Howard's Grove established Central State in 1866 in a former Confederate hospital to meet the need. The Commonwealth of Virginia took control of it in 1870. The place was pretty bad with holes dug for toilets and lighting was by candles. Patients killed each other or died and overcrowding was rampant. 

A new location was sought and in 1885 the City of Petersburg built a new facility on the former Mayfield Plantation. This was designed with the Kirkbride Plan and built from red brick with gray granite trim. The original Mayfield Cottage left over from the plantation was used for storage. Later, the East and West buildings were added. In 1896, another building was added specifically for the treatment of epilepsy. A chapel built in the Gothic Revival style was added in 1904. Two more buildings were added in 1915, one for male patients and the other for female. In 1929, a building for girls who were delinquent or mentally slow was added and the following year, an actual medical hospital was built. So by the 1940s, this was a large property treating people of color for pretty much everything. Like many similar sites, there were also gardens here and places to ply a trade. Sadly, the original Kirkbride building no longer stands. No one knows when it was demolished as no record was ever made. The chapel also collapsed in 2017 after falling into bad disrepair. The hospital was desegregated in the 1960s. And amazingly, the hospital was open until the Coronavirus pandemic.

While the new property was an upgrade from the primitive original, things here were as bad as at any asylum with even more emphasis on sterilization of patients. Eugenics had gained real popularity in the late nineteenth century and this increased in the United States in the early 1900s. There was a real focus on dwindling the black population. For people who don't know, eugenics is a theory or set of beliefs that unwanted genetic traits could be pushed out of the gene pool by not allowing people with those traits to mate. Early supporters of the movement in America were the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and President Woodrow Wilson. The sterilization of patients at this hospital continued up until 1980 with 1700 patients being sterilized without their consent. 

Reasons people were admitted to Central State:
Not getting along with an employee/employer
Talking back to a police officer
Typhoid fever
On the wrong side of the street
Being too old with no place to go (as in the case of the first admission, Edith Smith)

The property is believed to be haunted. Staff, police officers and locals claim that unexplained things happen there. They hear disembodied wailing, crying, moaning and screaming. Objects move on their own and the lights flicker on and off. Apparitions haven't been seen very often and if they are, they appear to be shadow figures.

Petersburg National Battlefield

Petersburg National Battlefield is located off Virginia Route 36 east of Petersburg and was established in July of 1926. It covers over 9300 acres. The park incorporates several areas that include the Five Forks Battlefield, where the Waterloo of the Confederacy took place, City Point Unit, which was Grant's headquarters during the siege, Poplar Grove National Cemetery and the restored entrance to the mine from the Battle of the Crater. Fort Stedman Battlefield is here as well. The Battle of Fort Stedman was the last attempt by the Confederates to break the siege. By March of 1865, General Lee's men were outnumbered and very weak. Food and supplies were running out where the Confederates were gathered at Colquitt's Salient. General Lee went to Major General John Gordon and asked him what he thought they should do. His first suggestion was surrender, which Lee was not about to do. So Gordon planned a pre-dawn suprise attack on the Union at Fort Stedman. The fort was not as fortified and relatively close. 

The attack began in the early morning and was a surprise. There was early victory for the Confederates and they captured Brigadier General Napoleon McLaughlen. General Gordon apparently said that the initial success met his "most sanguine expectations." The garrisons of Fort Stedman had been defeated as were Batteries 10, 11 and 12. Major General John G. Parke heard about the assault on Fort Stedman and he ordered Brigadier General John Hartranft to take his men and close the gap while he took his troops up on a ridge east of the fort. And then the Union punished the Confederates with crossfire and shelling. They suffered heavy casualties and Fort Stedman was recaptured by the Union. The battle only lasted four hours. The next battle was the Battle of Five Forks and it was final defeat for the Confederates and the siege was over.

Near where Fort Stedman once stood, visitors sometimes see a line of Union soldiers standing, ready for battle. Perhaps they are reflecting a time right before they hit the Rebel lines. When visitors look away and then look back, the soldiers have disappeared revealing that this was not some kind of re-enactment. There are other hauntings at the park as well. A park supervisor would hear the sound of a military band. This would happen every day at 5:30am. The sound comes from where the Union would have camped, so he assumed it was a Union band. A ghost brigade is also seen marching along White Oak Road. It is thought that these are a regiment that was killed by friendly fire. One group was coming to relieve another that was exhausted and they mistook their fellow soldiers as enemies. The regiment appears on the anniversary of their deaths.

Petersburg has an important history when it comes to the Civil War, black history and Civil Rights. Are these locations in Petersburg, Virginia haunted? That is for you to decide!