Monday, December 29, 2014

HGB Podcast 18 - Haunted Iceland And Its Folklore

Moment in Oddity - Energy Addicts Jewelry

Israeli jewelry designer Naomi Kizhner has created a new line of jewelry for her graduation project at
Jerusalem's Hadassah College.  The jewelry line has been named "Energy Addicts" and it certainly is odd.  The jewelry is designed to generate electricity that turns a golden wheel inside the jewelry that generates electricity through kinetic energy that is enough to light up LEDs and possibly even charge mobile devices.  It sounds innovative and useful until you find out how that kinetic energy is generated.  The jewelry looks to us like torture implements.  There are golden spikes on each end that are inserted into the wearer's veins and then the flow of blood is directed through the jewelry piece generating kinetic energy.  The collection has three pieces: the Blood Bridge, the Blinker and the E-Pulse Conductor.  The jewelry is meant to wake people up to their use of energy and whether they would be willing to sacrifice their bodies to create energy.  Naomi said, "I wanted to explore the post-humanistic approach that sees the human body as a resource."  The human body already makes a pretty good resource, we think, upon death when organs can be transplanted and our body returns to the dust of the earth.  While we agree that finding alternative forms of energy is a good idea, sticking golden spikes into our veins via jewelry is not only odd, but terrifying!

This Day in History - The Trouble with Tribbles

On this date, December 29th, in 1967, an episode of Star Trek introduced us all to Tribbles in an episode titled, "The Trouble with Tribbles."  It was Star Trek's 44th episode and debuted during its second season.  The show finds the Enterprise at the Deep Space Station K7 with orders to guard a grain shipment.  While there, Lt. Uhara, played by Nichelle Nichols, is given a tribble by a trader.  Tribbles appeared to be cute furballs and they are initially treated like pets.  The idea for the form of the tribble was taken from a furry keychain.  1,500 tribbles were created for the episode.  The Enterprise crew is unaware just how quickly tribbles multiply.  And tribbles eat, so great concern arises that the tribbles will eat all the ship's food.  Not to mention that the little creatures are getting inside of the ship's systems.  And finally, the tribbles find the grain that the crew is guarding and they gourge on it.  The tribbles begin to die, solving one problem, but then the crew realizes that the grain is poisoned because it is killing the tribbles.  The Klingons have poisoned the grain.  The Klingon responsible is arrested and the trader is ordered to get rid of all the tribbles.  The Enterprise transports its tribbles onto a nearby Klingon ship where Scotty says, "They will be no tribble at all."  This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.  This episode has been described as "the most celebrated episode of the whole series" and has been the most watched episode reaching outside the bounds of Trekkies.  

Haunted Iceland And Its Folklore

Iceland is a gorgeous country with a rich history.  Irish monks settled in Iceland in the 8th century.  In the 860s, Norsemen "discovered" Iceland.  The first Viking who tried to settle in Iceland was a Norweigian named Floki Vilgeroason, but his animals were killed in the deadly cold and he returned to Norway calling this new land Iceland.  A noble Norseman by the name of Ingólfur Arnarsson, settled in Reykjavík in 871 and he is the one who gave the city that name. Iceland was broadly settled in the 9th and 10th centuries by Norsemen from Scandinavia and by Celts from the British Isles and the Irish monks were driven out.  By 930 there were 60,000 people living in Iceland.  Today Iceland has a population of around 320,000.  Iceland has become known as a beautiful destination with hot springs, glaciers and volcanoes that occasionally disrupt air travel, but there is far more to Iceland than just pretty pictures.

When speaking about the supernatural in the country of Iceland, one must always start with the lore about elves, which are a big deal in Iceland much like the fairy people are in Europe.  Superstition is a part of Iceland's history that continues on today.  The people of Iceland believe they share their land with elves, trolls and a group of little people like dwarfs.  The lore behind elves dates back to the beginning of time and starts where many people believe life started, with Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve had had several children and God came to visit them one day and asked to see the children.  Now as we know, God knows everything and sees everything and so he knew that when the first couple presented their children, not all of their children were present.  Eve had not been able to wash up all the children, so she had hidden the unclean children.  God was angry with this deception and so He said, "What man hides from God, God will hide from man!"

The unwashed children became invisible and can only be seen when they choose to show themselves.  The elves descended from these people.  They can either be friendly or hostile.  Elves are believed to have control of the sun and weather and if you mess with an elf, you can bet you will have bad luck.  Elf stones are found around Iceland, which look like large boulders, and they are believed to be the doorway that leads to an elf house.  Elves prefer craggy, interesting rocks.  Superstition has lead the Icelandic people to build homes and roads around these elf stones and they leave them alone.  Mess with a rock and disaster will follow.  How does one tell if a boulder is an elf stone?  Try moving it with a bulldozer or breaking it up with a jackhammer and if it does not budge or break, it is an elf stone.  Here is a story that is an example of how this superstition continues today.

A New York Times article reported:
 "A port on the outskirts of Reykjavik, prides itself on its unusually high elf population. Tourists are invited to tour the known elf locations, including a large rock whose reputation as an elf habitat meant that a nearby road was diverted some years ago so as not to disturb its unseen residents.

Elly Erlingsdottir, head of the town council's planning committee, said that made sense to her. Recently, she said, some elves borrowed her kitchen scissors, only to return them a week later to a place she had repeatedly searched. "My philosophy is, you don't have to see everything you believe in," she said, "because many of your greatest experiences happen with closed eyes."
Since we are just coming out of the Christmas holiday season, we should give a mention of the Yule Lads.  These are thirteen men that take the place of Father Christmas or Santa Claus in Icelandic folklore.  Children put their shoes in the windowsills on the thirteen days leading up to Christmas and based on their behavior, they either receive a gift or a punishment like rotten potatoes.  At different times in history, these Yule Lads have been anything from pranksters to full on monsters that eat children.  This year, we enjoyed following Inspired by Iceland (@icelandinspired) and learned about all thirteen Yule Lads.  There is the Sheep Coat Clod, Gully Gawk who steals milk, Stubby who steals pans to eat the crust from them, Spoon Licker who steals spoons of course, Pot Licker who eats leftovers, Bowl Licker who eats from your bowl if you set it down, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler who eats Skyr, which is like our yogurt, Sausage Swipper, Window Peeper, Doorway Sniffer, Meat Hook who steals meat with a hook and Candle Stealer.

Icelanders celebrate twelve nights of Christmas like Europeans.  January 6th is Twelfth Night.  On the eighth night of Yule, the New Year falls and this is considered a magical time in Iceland.  On this night, cows can speak, elves move, seals become human and the dead rise from their graves.  That being said, this is probably the most haunted evening in Iceland as well.  Iceland is considered to be quite a haunted land based on its Celtic and Nordic history.  Ghosts are broken up into several categories.

There are Mountainside Ghosts that live in shacks and caves in the hills.  They are often seen by shepherds.  Two of these ghosts are named Egill and Starkadur.  Egill was killed when he fell off a mountain and Starkadur died when he was crushed by a rock.  The farmer Tómas from Brattholt had a run in with a Mountainside Ghost at a mountain shack in Lambafellsver and spent an evening having to defend himself with a pocketknife.

There are Mori, which are the male ghosts that wear clothing like the poor people of old in Iceland and female ghosts are called Skotta.  The Skotta are reputed to wear brown dresses, backward headdresses and red socks.  And apparently they suck on their fingers for some reason.

There are Stable Ghosts that are the spirits of farmers who have passed away and continue to hang out in stables.  One such ghost would attack men from behind and so people walk backwards out of stables to ensure no such attack.  Sagas relate the tales of ghosts from ancient times as well.  One of these ancient ghosts is named Gaukur Trandilsson of Gaukshöfði in Gnúpverjahreppur.  

There are the stories about nude ghosts as well that seem to be premonitions of approaching death.  Several stories through the years tell of people who have seen a familiar face sitting or walking somewhere naked and then the naked person just disappears.  Several days later, the person who appeared to be a nude ghost will die. A man by the name of Valdi who was from Hellur saw the crew of a ship in Stokkseyri, naked on the street. These men would later drown in a shipwreck the following winter. Then these men would become Sea Ghosts, which appear to people as wet and sad ghosts.

There is a superstition in Iceland that explains ghosts of infants that are seen, but more often heard.  If an infant is not baptized before they die, they are doomed to haunt as a ghost.  Their cries are sometimes thought to be warnings of bad weather coming.  Ghost animals are explained as being human ghosts that have disguised themselves in animal form.  The lore of ghosts in Iceland claims that a ghost can take on any form that it wants.

A story about a talking skeleton goes like this:
"In the 18th century, a complete skeleton of a woman was found in a grave but the unusual thing about the skeleton was, that it was totally intact. She was later placed underneath a bench in the church, but then some schoolboys challenged a maid servant to go to the church and fetch the skeleton, which she did.  On her way through the church basement, the skeleton began talking to her and told her a story about how she had died during a dispute with the bishops wife and therefore would not rot completely in her grave. She asked to be buried in the grave with the bishops lady and after some discussion between the two of them the dispute was settled and in that same instant the skeleton turned to dust."
This story is told by Akshath:
"My name is Akshath. I have experienced these paranormal activities two times in my life and I would be writing down one of it now and the other one later. (Please bear with my English.)

This must have happened when I was in my schooling days. Being a resident from Mangalore, I visited my uncle's house which was next to the railway tracks. My uncle had bought the house and started living in it.

As I had summer vacations, I wanted to visit and stay in my uncle's house and my relatives were talking about this experience in that house. I was anxious and I decided to stay there for a week.

This activity used to start around 8:00 PM when the power goes of as we used to have these "Load Shedding" to save electricity. In these houses they have an attic with a wooden flooring and my uncle used to store coconuts in the attic. At around 8:30 PM we hear this sound in the attic as if some one would bang with a hammer on an heavy object in a proper series. First it would be three bangs and after few seconds again three bangs. (These sounds seriously increase your heartbeats.)

My two uncles and many more relatives including myself were sleeping under the attic and was waiting eagerly to witness the sound and then it really happened. And when I experienced these, I really got scared as it was not sounding normal. Many relatives had different explanation. Some said it would be the rats or the wooden flooring that expands due to heat and and all that. But trust me, these sounds were like someone was really banging the attic floor. My uncle and I checked the attic the next day but there was nothing except for some coconuts lol... But we both were so scared.

The house was blessed by the priest several times and it had no effect. Finally, I got to know that my uncle, as they are very religious and being Roman Catholics, had asked service from really powerful nuns (powerful means spiritually) and then the sound had stopped. They say that the house was occupied by Hindus who had a "TULSI Katta" in front of the house, a place were Hindus pray early in the morning, which was removed by my uncle and that was the cause. No one ever knew why it was happening but seriously, guys, it was one scary experience.

Sorry, I am writing for the first time so I could not put it in a way that might thrill you. Will try my best next time."
There is a Ghost Center in Iceland in the city of Stokkseyri that offers audio tours that tell the ghost stories of the country.  The reception area has a bar that plays host to its very own Brennivin ghost and there is a ghost maze.  Brennivin is the original Schnapps of Iceland and so I guess the bar ghost is aptly named.  The Center has a tale about Kampholtsmori:
"In the year 2000 a project was scheduled to tear down some old buildings, farms and outhouses in south Iceland that had been abandoned and left for destruction. The project was led by only the best, Ræktunarsamband Flóa & Skeiða. Every day for a couple of weeks, the director would meet his staff in the morning and tell them which buildings to tear down that day. The men where startled when they were asked to tear down the old farm in Kotinu and the following day the old farm in Hjáleigunni. Then one morning, the director told them to tear down an old farm and outhouse in Kampholt, which had not been used for some thirty years.

But what happened was that the workers absolutely refused tearing down the house in Kampholt. They were all raised in Flóinn and knew that Móri had stayed there for a long time. The director tried to make them obey orders, but the men refused and said that they would tear down Bessastaðir (the presidents residence), but Kampholt they would not touch. The director wondered and was well aware of what hung from the beam in Kampholti. To his luck, a man came along who said he was willing to tear down the farm. He had just moved to Selfoss from east of Fljótsdalshérað with his family and never heard the stories of Móri. This man was to go there alone, for no one would go there with him. He had got his bulldozer up on his big truck and was headed for Kampholt.

As he was getting the bulldozer off his truck, he thought he saw a person running into the house. He approached the door and called to the person to come out, the farm was being demolished and he did not want anyone to get hurt. There was no response so he went into the house only to find that nobody was inside. He thought to himself that it might just have been his imagination and started tearing down the buildings.

The three following nights were very hard for him and his family. Each night he would wake up by being dragged to the front door and beaten on by an invisible being, so he would lay there on the floor battered. His wife cried and thought her husband was losing his mind. But the situation ended almost as soon as it had started.

The man says himself that he was in no doubt, that the person he saw run into the house was Móri, and that he was angry of what was happening and wanted revenge. The man believes that his life was saved because another ghost that followed him from where he lived previously intervened and saved his masters life!"
Iceland is indeed a country of wonders.  Do some of those wonders include mythical creatures such as elves?  Do the undead continue to roam about the countryside and villages?  That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from History Goes Bump! 
My how the year has flown and Christmas is upon us!  My annual tradition of watching the "A Christmas Story" marathon is well underway.  I so adore this movie that I watched for the first time in the movie theater when it was released in 1983!  My parents were out of town and my sister and I were staying at a friend's house and we decided to go see the movie.  As a girl, I didn't quite "get" the whole air gun thing, but I enjoyed the comical elements.  As an adult, I came to understand the themes of the movie and as someone who feels they are an old soul, I really appreciated the time period that the story is set within, which is never indicated in the movie but could easily be early forties based on the decor.

The movie was directed by Bob Clark and based on the stories of Jean Shepherd, whom also narrates the movie.  The store that was used for several scenes in the movie was a well known store by the name of Higbee's in Cleveland, Ohio.  The store was named after Edwin Converse Higbee who began his traverse into stores with the Hower and Higbee Dry Goods store he opened with a partner.  After the death of his partner, the store name changed to Higbee Company.  The new department store known simply as Higbee's, opened in September of 1932 in the Terminal Tower Complex.  It was the first department store in the area and had twelve floors with an elegant restaurant, The Silver Grille, on the tenth floor.  Higbee's was known for its elaborate Christmas displays and was a major part of the golden age of department stores, which are nearly a thing of the past now.  In the 1960s, the store underwent a renovation adding magnificent crystal chandeliers to the front entrance aisle.  The 60s also saw the Higbee brand expand into six stores.  In 1992, Higbee's was bought by Dilliard's and then eventually closed for good in 2002.  It was the last department store in the area at that time.
The house that was featured as the Parker's home is in the Tremont section of  Cleveland's West Side.  Today it has been renovated to match the way it appeared in the movie and has been opened for tours and across the street is the "A Christmas Story House Museum" that features movie memorabilia and a gift shop.

The movie and story may not be a classic in the lines of "A Christmas Carol" or "It's a Wonderful Life," but for my generation it is a classic that will be around for decades to come. Now...I wonder if the place is haunted?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The History Goes Bump Christmas Special 2014

The chorus of the Christmas carol "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" goes like this:
"There'll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago
It's the most wonderful time of the year."
People sing this carol every year, but we wonder if they stop to think about the line dealing with ghost stories.  What do ghost stories have to do with Christmas?  Aren't ghost stories for Halloween?  Most of our traditions like caroling and sending Christmas cards date back to Victorian England.  There is one tradition that has been lost.  People in Victorian England used to sit around the fire on Christmas Eve and tell scary ghost stories.  British humorist Jerome K. Jerome explains why there is the tradition of telling ghost stories in his 1891 Anthology "Told After Supper" by writing, "There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas — something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails… For ghost stories to be told on any other evening than the evening of the twenty-fourth of December would be impossible in English society as at present regulated.  So what is it about Christmas that goes so well with ghosts? Such a question inevitably brings up the issue of why we celebrate Christmas in December at all."

Originator of the antiquarian ghost story, M R James wrote in 1904 in a preface to one of his works that he "wrote these stories at long intervals, and most of them were read to patient friends, usually at the seasons of Christmas."  James also detailed how a good ghost story should be told by writing, "Two ingredients most valuable in the concocting of a ghost story are, to me, the atmosphere and the nicely managed crescendo. ... Let us, then, be introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.  Another requisite, in my opinion, is that the ghost should be malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales or in local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story."

The best proof that ghost tales were an important tradition is in Charles Dicken's beloved Christmas classic "A Christmas Carol."  Not only is the story a morality tale, but it incorporates the use of ghosts to scare Ebenezer Scrooge into becoming a more compassionate human being.  The ghost of Marley coming on Christmas Eve to Scrooge follows the tradition of Christmas ghost tales as well. 

There is also the connection to the Winter Solstice, which represents the death of light and the taking on of more darkness with the day being the shortest one of the year.  Some say this leads to the Winter Solstice being the most haunted day of the year.  Some scholars will claim that ghost stories at this time of year dates back further than the Victorian era and could go all the way back to Celtic times when the Solstice was more revered.  We may never know exactly when the telling of ghost stories on this day originated, but we do know that it is a lost tradition.

Listen to the podcast as we take part in this fun Christmas tradition.  Pull up a chair to the fire and grab some cocoa and cookies!

We will begin with the first ghost story M R James wrote and shared with his friends near the fireplace:  Canon Alberic's Scrapbook.  This tale was written in 1894!

Our second story is "The Red Lodge" written by H. Russell Wakefield.  Wakefield is well known for his ghost stories, which he began writing in the 1920s.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

HGB Podcast 17 - Quarantine Station in Australia

Moment in Oddity - Santhara Ritual

Jainism is an Indian religion that practices abstaining from worldly pleasures and believes in non-violence.  it is also a religion that carries on a very odd annual ritual known as Santhara.  Santhara is a ritual several hundred Jains dedicate themselves to each year that requires the participant to fast to death.  It is believed that this practice is the ultimate way to die with good Karma.  This ritual is not only for Jain monks, but for any Jain who decides they want to do this and many of those people are perfectly healthy.  The numbers have been increasing in the last decade.  The participating Jain gradually gives up solid and liquid nourishment as he or she gives up worldly attachments and makes peace with death.  Spectators gather in the last days of those who are practicing Santhara, to support and glorify them and watch them pass out of this life.  The longest any participant has managed to survive is 87 days.  The practice is controversial as many consider it to be suicide.  Regardless of whether one sees the ritual as suicide or not, there is no doubt that such a practice is indeed odd.

This Day in History - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Premieres

On this day, December 21st, in 1937, the Walt Disney Production Company premiered a breakthrough movie that was a huge risk.  Walt Disney gambled everything on this project that took three years to make and cost $1.4 million.  750 artists worked to create the 2 million individual paintings that make up the film.  That movie was the first ever full length animated feature and it was based on a European fairytale.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles to a soldout crowd and 30,000 other people who could not get tickets gathered outside the theater to celebrate the event.  The character of Snow White was developed by animator Hamilton Luske and was voiced by Adriana Caselotti.  A young dancer named Marjorie Celeste Belcher who was also the daughter of another animator, Ernest Belcher, served as a live action model for the artists, so that Snow White would appear on film as life-like as possible.  Snow White was the first Disney princess and she is one of the few fictional characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The dwarfs are the heart of the story and give the film its real character while the Evil Queen sets the precedence for future villains.  The film won a special Academy Award that featured seven little Oscars and its original worldwide gross was $8.5 million.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the highest grossing movie of all time until Gone With the Wind took the title away in 1940.

Quarantine Station in Australia

Quarantine Station is a heritage site located in Manly, which is a suburb of Sydney in Australia, that holds much historical significance for the country.  The place was used as a quarantine station from 1833 until 1983.  There is much more than history to this site though.  This site is reportedly one of the most haunted locations in all of Australia!

The expanse that the Quarantine Station is located on was once an area that Aborigines occupied and had not only used as a living space, but also part of the site was an aboriginal burial ground.  Aborigines are believed to have arrived in Australia around 70,000 years ago.  The first European visitor was a Dutchman by the name of Willem Janszoon and he arrived in 1606.  The Dutch continued throughout the century to explore Australia and they named it "New Holland."  The United Kingdom sent explorers as well and in 1770 Lieutenant James Cook charted the East Coast of Australia and returned to Britain announcing that it would be a good idea to colonize the continent.  The UK did just that, but not in a very favorable way.  They decided to send their cast offs to Australia and so in 1788, the First Fleet arrived in Australia in the area that would become Sydney with a cargo of convicts.  As was the case with explorers to North America, these new residents of Australia brought disease with them and soon the Aborigines found their numbers declining with some clans becoming almost completely extinct.

As is the case with growing immigration, the need to keep disease from entering the land became apparent.  When we say disease, we are talking about diseases like Whooping Cough and Small Pox.  Early on, sick people were contained to ships and not allowed to come to land until they were healthy, but healthy people did enter, many carrying disease.  The government realized that people had to be put through a quarantine period before being allowed to roam about the colonies and so in 1828, this space that had been named Spring Cove at North Head became a place for quarantine.  The site was chosen because of its distance from the center of Sydney and the fact that the area had natural springs.  In 1833, the Quarantine Station was officially opened with 36 tents set up for healthy people to live in while waiting for their quarantine to end.  Sick people were kept on board ships.

In 1838, several buildings were built to replace the tents and stone markers were set up to mark the boundaries of the site.  Quarantines were long and conditions were miserable.  People who died on the ships and in quarantine were buried at the Quarantine Beach.  By 1840, the crowding at the station had become abhorrent with four children to a bed.  A Resident Superintendent was appointed to help work to make the conditions livable.  In 1844, a woman by the name of Louise Ann Meredith wrote in an eyewitness account, "Near the North Head is the quarantine-ground, off which one unlucky vessel was moored when we passed; and on the brow of the cliff a few tombstones indicate the burial-place of those unhappy exiles who die during the time of ordeal, and those whose golden dreams of the far-sought land of promise lead but to a lone and desolate grave on its storm-beaten shore."

In 1847, the station was expanded to include kitchens, bathrooms and a hospital, but the area was still only equipped to handle less than 200 people.  Most ships would arrive with a thousand people.  In the 1850s, the Station was again expanded, but by the 1860s immigration had drastically slowed down and the Station stopped being maintained.  This proved to be disastrous when a smallpox epidemic hit Sydney forcing the quarantine of large numbers of residents in 1881.  A Royal Commission was formed and the Station was drastically upgraded.  At about this same time, medical discoveries informed us that there was a connection between cleanliness and disease and so measures were implemented at the Station to improve cleanliness.

The brick buildings that are a part of the Quarantine Station to this day were built in the early 1900s.  The Station was able to accommodate 1,200 people at a time and the Commonwealth government had taken over operations.  Everything was good until the influenza pandemic of 1918.  The facility was overstretched and five of the nursing staff there died of the flu along with many people.  After 1919, things improved once again and only two deaths occurred at the Station after that year.  The Quarantine Station saw less and less use and by the 1970s it was mostly being used to fumigate cargos.

In 1984, the Quarantine Station became part of the Sydney Harbor National Park and a Conference and Functions Center was added.  The National Parks and Wildlife Service maintains the site, but private funding has had to be used to help prevent the Station from falling into complete disrepair.  Quarantine Station now features Q Station, a hotel with magnificent views, suites and cottages.  Weddings and conferences are held here.  There are numerous tours as well that feature history tours and ghost tours and educational programs are offered.

Any location that has been around as long as the Quarantine Station and been the location of not only aboriginal burial grounds, but also the place were numerous deaths have occurred in less than stellar conditions, has the possibility of paranormal activity.  The Station has been featured on numerous TV shows including Ghost Hunters International.  Stories of supernatural activity date back to the start of the Station.  Some of the earliest stories were reported by nurses on night shift who would see ghosts that appeared to be what they described as "Chinamen with long ponytails."  Lights would turned on in unoccupied areas of the hospital as well.  Shadow people have been seen on several occasions.

A young blonde girl's spirit has been experienced by tourists on many occasions.  She reportedly holds people's hands with her icy grip and leads them around the site.  She occasionally is seen hiding in the bushes and will tug on people's clothing.  She has appeared to be so real that some people just assume she is a child taking the tour until no one claims her and guides inform everyone that there were no children booked on the tour.

There are three rundown and overgrown cemeteries on the property with nearly all the headstones gone.  In one cemetery, all that is left is one small headstone surrounded by a black wrought iron fence.  The cemetery is reported to be icy cold even in the summer.  But the cemeteries are not the creepiest location at the Station.  The creepiest area is the Shower Block and many visitors to the spot, including psychics, claim that it is evil.  There is a resident spirit there that seems to have undergone some sort of sexual abuse.  Screams are heard coming from a corner of the Shower Block and light bulbs explode.  The Australian Ghost Hunters Society relays the following tales on their website about the Shower Block:
"One resident gave his family a tour of the shower block, feeling uneasy he encouraged everyone to return back to his residence as dusk was approaching and none of the roads had lights along with most of the buildings. The family however, insisted on seeing the shower block. They entered the building and saw the cable box which contained exposed cables that were hanging out. The building had no electricity and to make sure and prove this the resident flipped the light switch a couple of times.

They all walked down the center aisle and upon reaching the third cubicle, the end door (which was rusted open) suddenly slammed shut. To the surprise of everyone the lights came on and footsteps paced around at the opposite end of the shower block. Do I need to mention that everyone exited the shower block at a fast pace? When they walked out the lights turned off. Decided to have another look they walked in again, once again the lights turned on when approaching the third cubicle.
December 1992 a hen's night went for a tour and when inside the shower block (after being told the above story) the third cubicle shower turned on. The women all screamed and ran out. No one had actually turned the shower on. Two of them dared to go back inside and turn the shower off, once inside a loud banging sound came from the other end of the showers which sounded as if someone was kicking the corrugated iron. They all nearly had a stroke on the spot and ran for it out of there! At the time there was no one else around that could of turned the shower on or created the banging noises and the women were all too terrified to be playing tricks on each other."
  On the blog Ghost and Girl, author Laura reports an experience she had while visiting the Station:
"During a ghost tour at the Station, I experienced the smell of potatoes as we walked towards the second class dining facilities. I wasn't the only one, as a handful of other tour attendees also picked up on the smell, but there were others who couldn't smell anything at all. The tour guide then proceeded to reveal to the group that the smell of potatoes is often picked up by members of tour groups. This event sticks out in my mind due to the fact that at the time, the Quarantine Station did not have a restaurant or accommodation, so there was no obvious explanation for the smell. As the Station is quite isolated, there is little opportunity for contamination from other sites."
Other sounds are heard at times too that range from the sound of keys being dropped to rocks being rolled on the ground to scratching noises.  People are touched and many get that feeling that they are being watched.

Sonia details the following personal experience on her blog Life Love and Hiccups and there is a photo that accompanies this blog post as well you might want to check out:
"In the caretaker's cottage apparently resides the ghost of Sam. According to mediums, Sam is a poltergeist who along with the ability to move things, push and even knock people over and manipulate the temperature from hot to icy cold breezes, Sam is also a cranky soul who doesn't like people nosying around his cottage.

Despite being told this, we still nervously but respectfully wandered around the dark rooms of the caretaker's cottage in the pitch black, ours eyes adjusting to the darkness and our senses on high alert.

Apart from the overwhelming eeriness of the cottage, nothing much happened. Just a few bangs here and there, but nothing that sent me running from the building.

As we left the cottage, I lingered at the entrance with an older couple who were on the tour with us. I was standing across the doorway, pointing my phone into the empty cottage and taking photos, when we distinctively felt a warm breeze pass between us. This was odd in itself given we were standing outside on a hill where it was freezing cold. The three of us commented on it at the same time and nervously laughed it off before moving on to the next building."
The Quarantine Station provided a very needed service many years ago.  The Q Station provides a wonderful service today by giving people a chance to get away from it all for a little rest and relaxation and fine dining.  Is it possible that the Station is still providing a service and accommodations for those that have already departed this plane of existence?  Is the Quarantine Station haunted?  That is for you to decide.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

HGB Podcast 16 - The Life and Afterlife of John Lennon

Moment in Oddity - Lee Harvey Oswald's Coffin

On November 25th in 1963, the alleged assassin of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, was laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.  He was buried in a No. 31 Pine Bluff coffin wearing a dark suit.  His brother, Robert Oswald, had paid Baumgardner Funeral Home $710 for the coffin, vault and flowers.  Last week, an odd trial came to a close and a judge's decision is pending.  This court case is over Oswald's No. 31 Pine Bluff Coffin.  Here is the back story into how a coffin caused a court battle.  Oswald was exhumed in 1981 when rumors started that a Russian body double had been buried, rather than Oswald.  Tests confirmed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the guy in the grave.  Apparently the coffin was in bad shape, so the owner of the funeral home put Oswald in a new coffin and stored the old one for 30 years.  Then he decided to sell it in 2010 and he did for $87,468.  When Robert Oswald heard about the sell, he sued to block it and claimed that not only was it ghoulish, but he owned the coffin and had thought it was destroyed.  The funeral home owner, Allen Baumgardner, countered saying the coffin had been a gift to Lee from his brother and so the brother had relinquished his rights to the coffin, plus no one had claimed the coffin in 30 years.  Allen also declared that the coffin had historical value and should not be destroyed.  Not only did the funeral home sell the coffin, it also sold the table Oswald was embalmed on.  We don't know what the judge's decision will be, nor what it should be, but a court battle that has raged for several years over a rotting wooden coffin certainly is odd.

This Day in History - The 1835 Great New York Fire

On the evening of this day, December 16th, in 1835, a city watchman smelled smoke as he patrolled the streets.  The area was the heart of the import and export industry of New York.  Rows of warehouses were packed with fine silks, glassware, coffee, furnishings, lace chemicals and musical instruments.  New York's volunteer fire departments were called into action, but their efforts to save the area were thwarted by the freezing temperatures that had frozen hydrants and water pumped from the nearby East River was blown back by freezing winds.  The entire area south of Wall Street between the East River and Broad Street was burning out of control.  The fire continued to spread engulfing one of the finest buildings in America: the Merchants' Exchange.  The only thing that managed to hold back the fire was a rubble barrier built by the military from buildings they blew up that were in the path of the fire.  When the Great Hew York Fire was finally over, two people were dead and 674 buildings had been destroyed.  The area was rebuilt in a few years and measures were taken to fire proof buildings.  The area was never threatened by a large fire again.

Life and Afterlife of John Lennon

Thirty-four years ago this month, the world lost a musical legend in an unexpected way outside of the Dakota
on Central Park West in New York City:  assasination.  The story of John Lennon - his life, death and afterlife - is seasoned with legend and mystery.  Reams have been written about the life of John Lennon and so we are only going to give a brief overview of his life and focus more on what is not usually covered in the anthologies and documentaries about this gifted man and that is his afterlife.

John Winston Lennon was born on October 9th, 1940 in Liverpool, England.  The middle name Winston was chosen in honor of Winston Churchill.  Early life for Lennon was not in a happy home.  His father was away all the time working as a merchant seaman and his mother paid very little attention to Lennon, eventually leading John's aunt to report the substandard care and she was given charge of Lennon's care.  In 1946, John's father attempted to take Lennon away to New Zealand, but his mother confronted his father and a scene no child should have to endure ensued.  Lennon was forced to decide between his parents and he chose his father, but as his mother walked away, he ran after her crying and he would not see his father again for twenty years.  Although he has chosen his mother, it would be Aunt Mimi who would raise John.

John Lennon's musical career began early.  When he was a child, his uncle bought him a mouth organ and his mother taught him to play the banjo and introduced him to the music of Elvis Presley, whom Lennon always looked to as inspiration and he hoped one day to be as big as Elvis.  Lennon was a troublemaker though, the type of boy parents would warn their children to stay away from and school labeled him as someone who would be a failure.  In 1956, Lennon's mother bought him his first guitar and insisted that he leave the guitar at her house so that his musical ambitions would not be squashed.  It would seem that Aunt Mimi was not a fan of Lennon getting involved with music and his declarations of being famous one day caused her to scoff.  When Lennon was seventeen, his mother was struck and killed by a car.

Lennon seemed to be heading nowhere when he entered college.  As a matter of fact, he was only accepted into art school after his Aunt Mimi intervened and he was thrown out before he was able to graduate.  Music was always there though.  Before college, Lennon had become interested in skiffle music.  Skiffle arose in America during the 1920s from New Orleans Dixieland jazz and it incorporated the use of mostly handmade instruments like guitars made from cigar boxes and washboards and the melodies combined folk, blues and jazz music together.  Skiffle jumped the pond and became very popular in Britain in the 1950s.  Many small bands started as skiffle bands and Lennon had one named the Quarrymen that he actually launched when he was only fifteen.  Paul McCartney was at the second Quarrymen performance and the two future legends met.  Lennon asked McCartney to join the band.  At 18, Lennon wrote his first song, "Hello Little Girl."

George Harrison joined the group along with Stuart Sutcliffe and in 1960 they changed their name to The Beatles.  They got a booking agent and were set up with a gig in Hamburg.  They had a problem though, they had no drummer.  Lennon recruited Pete Best and they set off for Hamburg where they would play in different clubs until 1962.  Sutcliffe left the group at that time and later died of a brain hemorrhage.  The Beatles recorded their first record and were discovered by Brian Epstein who is responsible for formulating the group's image.  Pete Best left the group and Ringo Starr joined forming the Fab Four the world would come to love.  For all of the incredible music the group created, one would think that the collaboration lasted a really long time, but by 1970 the group had broken up.  Lennon may have been unfocused in school, but he was driven when it came to music and he was a task master in the studio.  Their first album, "Please Please Me," contained fourteen tracks and was recorded in ten hours!  The album featured eight songs that McCartney and Lennon wrote together.

Towards the end of these Hamburg performances, Lennon's girlfriend Cynthia Powell became pregnant and so he insisted that they get married.  Later in life, Lennon became known as a man of peace, but during these early years he was a man of violence getting into fistfights and this hitting was not just focused on men, he hit women too.  Lennon terrified Powell with his angry outbursts and he abused her.  In 1963, she gave birth to their son Julian.  Lennon and fellow Beatles had already begun abusing drugs to help them stay awake on the road and Lennon started using LSD after Julian was born.  Dealing with the drugs, abuse and finally discovering Lennon with Yoko Ono, Cynthia asked for a divorce in 1968 and was given custody of Julian.  Julian and Lennon would have a strained relationship with Julian becoming closer to McCartney who wrote the song, "Hey Jude" for him.  Before his death, the strained relationship became better and Lennon guided Julian into his music career, although Julian was left very little in Lennon's will.

Lennon met Yoko Ono in 1965 and she became pregnant in 1968 with their first child, which she miscarried shortly after Lennon's divorce was final.  The circumstances of how Ono and Lennon met depend on whom you ask, but they always claimed it was at an art exhibition of Ono's work.  The couple married in 1969.  Their relationship eventually lead to the break-up of The Beatles and Lennon launched a successful solo career with Ono occasionally accompanying him on songs, much to our ears' dismay!  The couple moved to New York in 1971 and lived at the St. Regis Hotel until they found a flat in Greenwich Village.  They were robbed while living their and so they moved to the Dakota in 1973 for more security.

It was at this time that Lennon began an affair with the couple's personal assistant May Pang and Lennon eventually left Ono and moved to California with Pang.  She was good for Lennon and helped him re-establish a relationship with his son Julian and with friends like his Beatles mates.  His violent temper did cause him to nearly strangle her once though.  Lennon always referred to this time in his life as "The Lost Weekend."  The couple returned to New York and planned to buy a home.  In 1975, Lennon agreed to a meeting with Ono and great mystery surrounds what happened at this time.  Many people, including Pang, suspect that Ono somehow managed to brainwash Lennon.  Two days after the Ono meeting, Lennon met up with Pang at a joint dental appointment.  She had not seen or heard from him in those two days and he announced that he was getting back together with Ono.  Pang claims he seemed almost drugged and confused.  She would continue to be his mistress.  Later that year, Ono gave birth to a son whom they named Sean.  Lennon spent the next five years rearing Sean and staying out of the music business.

It was also during the year 1975 that deportation proceedings finally ended against Lennon.  He had been very politically active and protested the Vietnam War loudly.  His influence and criticism worried American President Richard Nixon who was seeking re-election and Nixon began deportation proceedings in 1972 against Lennon on grounds that he should have never been allowed to enter the country due to cannabis charges in Britain back in 1968.  After Nixon resigned due to Watergate, President Gerald Ford stopped the proceedings and Lennon received his Green Card.

In October of 1980, Lennon finally emerged from family life with the hit song, "(Just Like) Starting Over."  The single was ranked as the 62nd biggest song of all time by Billboard Magazine in their Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2013.  The album "Double Fantasy" was released in November to harsh criticism.  Most critics dubbed it a big yawn.  On December 8th of that year, Lennon and Ono were taking a walk outside of their apartment at the Dakota when Mark David Chapman approached the couple from behind and shot Lennon four times in the back.  He was dead on arrival at the hospital and Ono had him cremated and later spread his ashes in Central Park.  Chapman would claim as recently as just a few days ago that the idea of fame and notoriety that would come from killing someone like Lennon was irresistible.  Chapman pleaded guilty and was sentenced twenty years to life.  He remains in jail and has been denied parole eight times.

Lennon left a legacy that continues to this day not only in the world of music, but in the world of political activism.  Memorials and tributes to Lennon exist throughout the world.  But does something other than just a legacy continue on for John Lennon?  There is much mystery, conspiracy and supernatural activity that exists when it comes to Lennon. One of the first mysterious circumstances that occurred after Lennon's death came with the release of the Double Fantasy album.  People have claimed that the song Kiss Kiss Kiss on the album sung by Yoko Ono features her saying, "I shot John Lennon."  It's a bizarre song and I have to say, it does sound a bit like she is saying that in several sections.

In the book "The Lennon Prophecy" by Joseph Niezgoda, the Lennon Prophecy is described as a pact made with the devil.  The story goes that John Lennon wanted to be as big as Elvis and so he sold his soul to the devil.  The pact was made in 1960 and was to last for twenty years.  Right after the pact was made, the Beatles performed Litherland, England and Beatlemania ensued with the Beatles going on to International fame and fortune.  Did Lennon really sell his soul?  Some say the evidence is in the reaction of crowds to the Beatles.  People appeared mesmerized and crazed when the group sang.  Niezgoda also claims that Lennon told his friend Tony Sheridan that he had sold his soul.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison reunited to make a song in 1995 named "Free As A Bird."  They posed for a promotional picture outside and at the last minute a rare white peacock walked into the picture and was captured on film.  McCartney said of the event, "I said to the other guys, 'That's John!  Spooky, eh?'  It was like John was hanging around.  We felt that way all through the recording."

Liam Gallagher of the group Oasis claims that John Lennon paid him a visit.  In his story, Gallagher recounts that he was taking a nap and awoke feeling the presence of someone else in the room and he says that he knows it was Lennon.  Gallagher also claims to be the reincarnation of Lennon.  May Pang describes her experiences with Lennon in the afterlife here.

Lennon had told his son Julian that if anything happened to him and he died that he would return through a sign to Julian and that that sign would be a white feather.  In 2007, Julian was working on the film "Whaledreamers" in Australia about the plight of whales.  He was working closely with the aboriginal tribes.  A tribe elder invited Julian to attend a ceremony one evening and Julian was presented with a white feather there.  Julian believes that this was the sign his father had promised him.

People claim to see the spirit of Lennon outside the Dakota and he is occasionally seen across the pond with a woman whom people believe is his Aunt Mimi.  A musician named Joey Harrow was walking with a friend near the Dakota and he said they both saw him standing near the entrance with an eerie light surrounding him in 1983.  Yoko Ono claims that she saw Lennon sitting at his white piano and that he told her that he was still with her.

The Dakota has a history of being haunted, so Lennon just may have joined the crying lady ghost he said he once saw there.  Is the legacy of John Lennon more than just his memory?  Is the spirit of John Lennon still here among the living?  That is for you to decide.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

HGB Podcast 15 - Outside The Gate, St. Augustine

Moment in Oddity - Whisky Scented Fabric

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland has a School of Textiles & Design.  The school was experimenting in the development of new and different kinds of fabric and they came up with a very unique and strangely scented fabric.  Their new fabric carries a permanent odor of whisky.  And not any old whisky either.  The scent is that of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky.  The scent has been dubbed "Aqua Alba."  The technique used to make the fabric is known as "microencapsulation technology," which layers the scent into the fabric.  The fabric was developed for textile company Harris Tweed Hebrides and distiller Diageo's Johnnie Walker Black Label brand and the school's  business development manager Jim McVee said, "Smart textiles are a fast-developing sector that offers enormous potential. Our year-long collaboration with Harris Tweed Hebrides is a great example of the ways in which we can help Scottish textile companies to develop their business, add value to their textiles and bring exciting new products to market."  We're not sure what Harris Tweed Hebrides or Johnny Walker plans to do with the fabric, but we sure hope they don't plan to upholster vehicles.  Trying to explain to the officer that it's just your fashionably upholstered seat that is drunk, would be quite odd.

This Day in History - Edward VIII Abdicates

Today's moment in history is a tale of a wonderful love story.  On this day, December 11th, in 1936, King Edward VIII publicly abdicates the throne to his younger brother George.  King Edward had taken over the throne on January 20th, 1936 after the death of his father.  The king was a bachelor at 42, but he had his sights set on marrying an American girl he had fallen in love with named Wallis Simpson.  There was a problem though, Ms. Simpson had already been married twice before with her most recent divorce still pending.  King Edward tried to convince the Church of England, his family and politicians that it would be okay for him to marry Ms. Simpson, but he received no support.  He was informed that the only way he would be allowed to marry her would be to give up the crown.  And that is just what King Edward did.  In a speech on December 11th, King Edward said, "You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.  But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.  And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.  I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all."  The King's brother George bestowed the title "Duke of Windsor" on Edward and Edward and Wallis lived happily until his death in 1972.

Outside the Gate

History Goes Bump traveled to one of our favorite cities in America, which just happens to be the oldest city in America: St. Augustine, Florida.  We were in town for two events, one was the Annual Night of Lights and the other was the Ghostly Encounter ghost tour hosted by Ancient City Tours.  Night of Lights in St. Augustine begins in November and runs through February every year and has been voted several times as one of the best holiday light displays in the country.  It truly is beautiful as white lights line the main drags and illuminate the many historic buildings that make this city so wonderful.  The tradition of using white light bulbs traces back to the Spanish tradition of placing white candles in the windows during the holidays.  Our advice if you decide to see this in the future is to do your own walking tour.  Trolleys are overloaded with people and waits are long, plus we didn't see any of them stop for photo opportunities.  Here are a few pictures we took:

No trip to St. Augustine is complete without a ghost tour and the city offers a bunch of them.  Our tour with Ancient City Tours was the third we have done in the city and we have enjoyed each one.  Since St. Augustine is full of so many haunts, we thought that it would be best for this podcast to focus on a specific area of St. Augustine and that would be the area just outside the city gate.  To begin, we want to remind everybody about a little history that was covered in Podcast Episode 1 dealing with the beginnings of St. Augustine.  The city was founded in 1565, making it one of the oldest cities in both North and South America.  It is America’s oldest city.  The city took its name from the day upon which the city was founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the Festival of San Augustín.  The city was originally founded to protect the Spanish trade route and the Castillo de San Marco was built to help facilitate defense with a small city cropping up nearby.

The city of St. Augustine had been established for 150 years before walls were built to protect it from the continuous onslaught it endured from pirate attacks, British attacks and various other attacks.  The final attack that caused the city to make the decision to enclose itself behind walls was an English attack in 1702 lead by Governor James Moore.  The old city was looted and burned as Governor Moore and his men tried to take the Castillo de San Marco where the 1500 residents of St. Augustine were hiding.  He was unsuccessful in taking the fort, but the city was utterly destroyed.  Construction on the wall began in 1704 and it was made from earth and Palmetto logs.  The wall stretched west from the Castillo along the northern side of the city all the way to the San Sebastian River.  This was named the Cubo Line.  A second wall was built running south down the west side of the city and it was named the Rosario Line.  Redoubts were placed along the walls for fortification and for placement of artillery.  The word "redoubt" means a place of retreat and is entirely encircled providing protection from all directions.  To give everyone an idea of what that looks like, here is an illustration:
The walls worked and the city was never again taken or destroyed by force.  Since the walls were wood, they had to be replaced frequently.  Today, a portion of the wall has been reconstructed to give visitors an idea of what they looked like in the past.  The Cubo Line contained the main city gates.  The Old City Gate was originally constructed in 1808 and made from coquina, a concrete like substance infused with shells, that was quarried from nearby Anastasia Island.  Here is a picture of coquina:
The Old City Gate stands to this day - minus the actual gates - at the northern end of St. George Street, which travels through the heart of the shopping district and the old city.  The Gate has two 24 1/2 foot high square towers on each side and once featured a bridge that went over a moat that used to be around the city walls.  Here is a picture of its appearance about 50 years after it was built:
Photo taken by Samuel A. Cooley, circa 1860s
The Old City Gate is the scene for our first haunting.  While many spirits may be hanging around this location due to its proximity to the Castillo and cemeteries, there is one spirit in particular that is reported to haunt the gates.  In 1821, a devastating Yellow Fever epidemic hit the city killing hundreds of people.  Yellow Fever is an acute viral disease that is spread by mosquitoes.  It causes flu like symptoms and if it worsens, it attacks the kidneys and the liver causing people to have yellow skin, thus it is called Yellow Fever.  One of the first people to catch the horrible disease was a fourteen year old girl named Elizabeth.  Her father was a guard at the City Gate and she loved to join him as he stood watch so she could wave to and greet people.  Upon her death, she was buried at the Huguenot Cemetery, which sits just outside the city wall.  She is sometimes seen dancing in the cemetery, but most times is seen keeping her post at the City Gate after midnight.  People report seeing the young girl waving, but it is not known if she is welcoming visitors or warning them to stay away.

Denise and I were strolling along St. George Street when we decided to enter a neat little shop by the name of Faux Paws located at 4 St. George St.  Dogs were welcome and we had our furry producer, Rafiki, with us, so we decided to check out the inventory, which consists of a lot of dog collectibles and figurines and gifts.  We purchased a couple of items and struck up a conversation with the owners, Lynn and Marc Small.  They were a really neat couple and when we mentioned the podcast, Lynn took us next door to the St. George Inn.  This inn is not only charming with beautiful accommodations, but it sits right in the heart of the City Gate Plaza with great views of the city.  Lynn didn't take us there to show us the inn though, she wanted us to see a picture that was taken right outside the inn during a ghost tour.  The picture was amazing and we were both left believing that the picture was the real deal.  The picture was taken while the tour guide was telling a story.  The guide is holding a mug and it almost seems as though an orange colored mist is rising from the mug that ends in a ball of light, or an orb, at the guide's head.  This isn't just a typical dust orb though because there is a face in the orb and it sure looked to Denise and I like the profile of a young girl.  Did this picture capture the ghost of Elizabeth?

As mentioned early, there is a cemetery right outside the Old City Gate by the name of the Huguenot Cemetery.  The same year that Yellow Fever erupted in St. Augustine, the Huguenot Cemetery was established as the public burial ground.  There were already Catholic cemeteries, but the Protestants needed a place, so this half acre area was set aside for them.  It would take on the name Huguenot at a later date and was named for the 16th century French Huguenots that were massacred by the man who established St. Augustine, Menendez.  There were so many deaths due to Yellow Fever that one whole section of the cemetery has no headstones because it is a mass burial.  Burials continued from 1821 until 1884 and then the cemetery fell into a period of neglect.  In 1946, citizens of St. Augustine decided to clean up and restore the old cemetery and maintenance has continued to the present under the Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery.

As is the case with many cemeteries, Huguenot spirits are not completely at rest.  As mentioned earlier, Elizabeth is sometimes seen dancing among the headstones.  Unexplained faces and shadows and lights appear in pictures and sometimes voices can be heard along with the giggling of children.  John Hull, John Lyman and Erastus Nye were three men who died in 1835 at nearly the same time and so they were buried side by side in the cemetery with similar headstones.  In life, the men had been mischievous, which probably explains why they died, and those prankster ways have continued into the afterlife.  The spirits of the men are blamed for people being pushed, hats being knocked off and women's skirts flying up.  As for us, I had some trouble taking pictures of Nye's headstone the night we were on the ghost tour.  It was the only time I couldn't get the camera to work properly.

The most famous ghost that haunts the Huguenot Cemetery belongs to that of Judge John B. Stickney.  Judge Stickney was born in Massachusetts in 1833 and moved to St. Augustine after the Civil War ended.  He worked in St. Augustine as a state and district attorney and as a judge advocate.  He was well liked by the people of St. Augustine and was mourned by them all when he passed away.  The Judge had been appointed as US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida and he had to travel to Washington D.C. on business in 1882.  Unfortunately, the Judge was not feeling well.  As he traveled, he became sicker and sicker as Typhoid Fever ravaged his body.  The Judge was dead within the week and his body was shipped from D.C. back to St. Augustine where he was laid to rest...but not for long.  In 1903, Judge Stickney's children had his body dug up and moved to D.C. to be reburied closer to them.  In the process of digging up the grave, the Judge's gold teeth went missing, more than likely stolen by graverobbers when the gravedigger wasn't paying attention.  Apparently the Judge was quite attached to those gold teeth and although his body was moved, his spirit still hangs out at the cemetery. People claim to see a tall dark figure that resembles Judge Stickney wandering the grounds of the cemetery as he searches for his missing teeth.  Or maybe he is looking for the men who stole his teeth.

Across the road and outside of the Castillo is a large park like area covered in grass.  It is thought that this area is a large unmarked graveyard, yet another place where the hundreds that died of Yellow Fever were dumped in mass graves.  Such a scene reminds one of the Black Death.

Death seems to permeate the area outside the Gate and now the spirits do as well.  Or do they?  That is for you to decide. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

HGB Podcast 14 - Hyde Hall

Moment in Oddity - Missing Brains

Could the University of Texas, Austin have suffered some kind of Zombie Apocalypse?  As any fan of the zombie genre will tell you, zombies love to eat brains and apparently 100 of them have gone missing from the University.  The school uses the brains in scientific research and as teaching tools.  The brains were stored in jars of formaldehyde - I'm having visions of Frankenstein here.  The answer for solving the mystery of the missing brains may be in the fact that the university was initially given 200 brains thirty years ago, but only had room for 100, so the other hundred were stored in the basement.  Imagine rumors flying around the campus that there are brains in the basement.  We imagine some ended up as peculiar decorations for dorm rooms.  Of the brains missing, Charles Whitman's is one of them.  He is the man who climbed the clocktower at the University of Texas and shot and killed 16 people in 1966.  While keeping brains in a jar at a university for teaching may be considered normal, swiping a brain in a jar seems rather odd.

This Day in History - Pride's Purge

On this date, December 6th, in 1648, the most significant event of the Second English Civil War takes place.  Pride's Purge is considered the only coup d'etat in English history and was lead by Colonel Thomas Pride.  The Grandees of the New Model Army planned the purge, which targeted anyone who did not support them.  King Charles I had been imprisoned during the first civil war and negotiated a treaty with the New Model Army and others to end the war.  The King stalled negotiations and escaped impisonment causing the second civil war.  King Charles I was recaptured in November 1648 and offered some answers to demands that were unacceptable, but the House of Commons passed the King's offers anyway.  Pride's Regiment of Foot took up guard on the steps of the House of Commons and arrested anyone whose name appeared on a list he carried.  Forty-five people were arrested with twenty-five being released later before Christmas.  There was now a majority that could form a Republic.  The King was charged with treason and beheaded on January 30, 1649.  The monarchy was abolished, but all this was reversed in 1660 when a new Parliament restored the monarchy and declared Charles II to be king.

Hyde Hall

Located in Glimmerglass State Park, Hyde Hall is a limestone regency era mansion that reminds visitors of a bygone era.  The park is just outside Cooperstown, New York, the birthplace of baseball and home to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Hyde Hall overlooks Otsego Lake, which gives the park its name.  James Fenimore Cooper dubbed Otsego "Glimmerglass" in his novel "The Deerslayer."  In the novel, he describes the lake as such, "On a level with the point lay a broad sheet of water, so placid and limpid, that it resembled a bed of the pure mountain atmosphere, compressed into a setting of hilts and woods.... Of course its margin was irregular, being indented with bays, and broken by many projecting, low points. At its northern or nearest end, it was bounded by an isolated mountain, lower land falling off, east and west, gracefully relieving the sweep of the outline...But the most striking peculiarities of this scene, were its solemn solitude and sweet repose. On all sides, wherever the eye turned, nothing met it, but the mirror-like surface of the lake, the placid void of heaven, and the dense setting of wood...As if vegetation were not satisfied with a triumph so complete, the trees overhung the lake, itself, shooting out towards the light, and there were miles {75} along its eastern shore, where a boat might have pulled beneath the branches, of dark, Rembrandt-looking hemlocks, "quivering aspens," and melancholy pines. In a word, the hand of man had never defaced, or deformed any part of this native scene, which lay bathed in sunlight, a glorious picture of affluent forest grandeur, softened by the balminess of June, and relieved by the beautiful variety afforded by the presence of so broad an expanse of watervel."

George Clarke was born in 1768 to a family that was prominent, rich and honorable.  Well, at least his great grandfather was honorable.  George's dad was considered a villain who racked up debts he would not pay and left his wife with two young sons to run off to Jamaica with a mistress.  George's great grandfather had lived in the New York colony, serving as both Secretary and Lieutenant Governor, and bought nearly 120,000 acres in the Hudson and Mohawk Valley.  He returned to his native England where he died and was honored with a monument.  George inherited his great grandfather's land and decided to move to Albany from England in 1806.  James Fenimore Cooper was the author of "The Last of the Mohicans" and his brother Richard Cooper owned land nearly adjacent to Clarke's property, so Richard had been hired to oversee the Clarke property.  He died, leaving his widow Ann Lowe Cary Cooper to look after things and she and George became friendly with each other, marrying in 1813.  A few years after that, George bought several more acres of land that ended up joining his wife's family property to the Clarke property.

In 1817, construction on a country villa designed by Albany architect Philip Hooker began.  George picked a plot on a hill he had named Mount Wellington, after a school chum, to be the site for the villa's construction.  What was suppose to be a quaint villa grew into a large country mansion complete with servant quarters and a farm complex.  There are fifty rooms in all.  The home was named "Hyde Hall" after the ancient seat the family had held in England.  The home was not complete until 1834 and George sadly died the following year in 1835.

Several types of architectural design and style are represented at Hyde Hall.  The house was built around a central courtyard with the family area being built in a Palladian style, a second area for servants is larger than the family area in a simple style and the third area is an entertainment area done in a Greek style.  The whole home is considered to be a fine representation of romantic classicism.  The family area is called Stone House and includes Tuscan piers on the front porch with the main area being two stories high and one story wings on either side.  There is a Palladian window with oval arch and five other oval windows.  The interior is a smooth ashlar limestone.  The second part was not officially named and has fieldstone on its exterior.  The entertainment area is called the Great House and has Greek Doric Columns and is very angular in shape.  The rooms include a dining room, a drawing room and a billiard room.  To give an idea of size, Mount Vernon would fit completely inside of the Great House.

In all, five generations of the Clarke family have passed through Hyde Hall.  When George died, Hyde Hall passed onto his son, who apparently took after his villainous grandfather, and that son threw his mother Ann out of the house.  According to legend, she cursed the property, promised to haunt the property forever and proclaimed, "May no other woman be happy in this place."  This thankless son went bankrupt in 1886 and at that time his own son bought the property.  Over time the building fell into disrepair and the state of New York took ownership of the building.  Rumors that Hyde Hall was going to be demolished spurred Clarke family members and other concerned citizens to form an organization called Friends of Hyde Hall.  The building has undergone extensive restoration and great efforts have been made to acquire original furnishings of the home.  Some of that restoration includes the lighting, which consists of vapor light chandeliers that are very rare and original to the house.  It is believed they are the only ones in the world that function the way they did in 1833, making them a treasure.

Rumors of Hyde Hall being haunted inspired television's Ghost Hunters to host their Halloween show in 2013 at the location.  They collected many pieces of evidence and had multiple personal experiences, but one piece of evidence stands above the rest and they describe it as thus, "Analysis reveals the strongest evidence of haunting, however. As Jason and Steve are in a bedroom, recorders pick up a voice saying "head to the baby's quarters." At the exact same time, a bright flash of light illuminates the wall behind the bassinette. There's no source for the light! It's one of the most compelling pieces of evidence ever collected." 

Nothing malevolent seems to be in the house.  An older man fitting the description of George Clarke, the original builder of the mansion, has been seen walking the hallways in his multi-colored robe.  During restoration, tools were moved around in a playful way.  Ann Cary Clarke, whom supposedly cursed the property, is thought to be in the home as well.  Her proclamation about the women of Hyde Hall being left miserable seems to have come true because life at Hyde Hall for women was never good.  One visitor to the home claims that he felt the presence of a women and heard the words, "Get out."  Footsteps are heard many times, particularly in the long hallways.  Swirling grey clouds or mists have been seen and photographed and people claim that they have been pushed.  An old AM radio once stopped playing music and a workman heard static and the words, "May day, may day, may day."  Two members of the Clarke family died during World War II.  They had both been pilots and crashed their planes, one of whom was female.  The piano has been heard playing in the Drawing Room when no one is in there.  There is a family crypt on the property as well and apparently it is quite haunted.

James Fenimore Cooper's grandson tells a story about a stay he had at Hyde Hall.  He was in a room on the second floor in the back of the house and he was awakened by the feeling of someone else in the room.  He heard footsteps coming from a corner of the room and the footsteps grew louder as they approached him.  They stopped at the foot of the bed and then his covers were pulled off of him.  He reported the incident to his hostess and she confessed she knew the room was haunted.  It had been George Clarke's dressing room.

Hyde Hall offers daytime tours May through October and during the Halloween season, candlelight tours are offered.  Admission is $10.  The mansion offers plays, musical performances and lectures throughout the year.  And it is a great location for weddings.  If you got married at Hyde Hall, would you have a couple of unseen, uninvited guests?  Do things go bump in the night at Hyde Hall?  That is for you to decide.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

HGB Podcast 13 - The Queen Mary

Moment in Oddity - The Gumhead Statue

Outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery stands a peculiar piece of  As they say, beauty or art is in the eye of the beholder.  Canadian artist Douglas Coupland created a seven foot fiberglass replica of his own head and colored it black.  But the art did not stop there.  Coupland came up with a sticky idea for the statue.  He decided it would be fabulous to have the people of Vancouver get in on the creation of this art piece and he asked that they start taking their nasty, hard chewed up balls of gum and stick them all over the head statue.  And thus "Gumhead" was born.  Unfortunately, such an idea in the heat of summer is not a good idea and by the time the exhibition was over on September 1st of this year, the gum had become a melted mess that attracted more bees than people.  Coupland declared his masterpiece to be "ugly beautiful" and claimed it to be a total success.  While getting a city to join in on the creation of artwork is great, we think asking people to stick their nasty gum all over a statue is not only revolting, but quite odd.

This Day in History - Negro National Baseball League Disbands

On this date, November 30, in 1948, the Negro National Baseball League disbands.  Starting in the early 1880s, black baseball players began to form their own independent teams when bans against black players were implemented by national teams.  There were nearly 200 teams.  By World War I, black baseball had gained a great following.  Andrew "Rube" Foster decided that the time was perfect to form a Negro National League and the League flourished spreading into Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Birmingham, Nashville, Atlanta and New Orleans among other cities.  The Great Depression affected the Negro National League in a negative way, just as it did everything else in America and the League dissolved in 1931.  In 1933, the Negro National League was reborn and took over where Foster's League had left off until 1948.  On April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball by signing on with the Dodgers and the flood gates opened for other black players as integration set in.  All the talented black players were leaving for the big leagues.  The Negro National League was no longer financially viable and although the Negro American League continued on into the 50s, black baseball was done.  While blacks have made up 26% of baseball players in past decades, the 2014 season saw only 8.3% of players identified as black.  Here's hoping that more black players make their way onto rosters in the future.

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner with a rich history spanning from the time of The Great Depression to the present day.  She has been docked for the last 45 years, but she continues to provide hospitality and luxurious accommodations for the living and the...dead.  Commissioned by the Cunard Line, the Queen Mary was designed to become one of two super ocean liners that would leave its predecessors like the Mauretania and Berengaria in the dust.  The Cunard Line has been operating for 175 years and is under the Carnival Corporation today, but it started in 1839 under Nova Scotian Samuel Cunard and his partner, Scottish steamship builder Robert Napier.  The Cunard Line was based in Britain and when it ran into hard times because of the Great Depression while building the Queen Mary, the British government gave Cunard a loan to finish the Queen Mary and build its sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth.  The government also insisted that the Cunard Line merge with the White Star Line, of Titanic fame, at that same time.

John Brown & Company began construction on Hull Number 534, the original name of the Queen Mary, in 1930.  And actually, the Queen Mary was meant to be called the Victoria so that there would be an "ia" at the end of the name like all the other Cunard liners, but when King George V was asked if the ship could be named for Britain's greatest queen, the King said his wife Queen Mary would be delighted, so the Cunard Line was forced to name the ship Queen Mary.  The ship took three and a half years to build at a cost of $3.5 million pounds sterling.  She was 1019 feet long, 181 feet high and could hold 2139 passengers and 1100 crew.  The Queen Mary was a technological achievement with the largest magnetic compass in the world and the ship raised the bar on luxury travel and soon became known as the grandest ocean liner ever built.  Celebrities and royalty loved traveling on the Queen Mary.

The ship began her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936 from Southampton, England.  She had five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital, which set a new standard in luxury.  She was also the first ship to have a Jewish prayer room.  The main dining room had a type of transatlantic map across one wall and the ship's progress was marked by a motorized model.  The Verandah Grill and Observation Bar also offered smaller dining areas with a la carte menus. 

For three years, the Queen Mary provided opulent accommodations for the well to do, but World War II would change all that when the ship became "The Grey Ghost."  The ship was revamped to carry up to 5,000 troops at one time and by the end of the war she had moved 800,000 troops and participated in the D-Day invasion.  Winston Churchill credited the Queen Mary for shortening the war by a full year because of the ability it gave the Allies to move large numbers of troops.

By 1947, the Queen Mary had been retrofitted to sail the seas as a luxury cruise liner once again.  Sailing the high seas in such fashion would soon lose its luster as the airline industry took hold and people decided flying was easier and faster than sailing.  By the 1960s, cruise lines noticed a sharp decline in passengers and in 1967, the grand Queen Mary made her last voyage to Long Beach, California where she has remained to this day.  She has become an icon of what luxury sailing used to be and now serves as not only an attraction, but as a hotel. Restoration continues to this day and a new future museum is in the works.  RMS Queen Mary has been registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Time Magazine has voted the Queen Mary as one of the top 10 haunted locations in America.  We have heard that anywhere from 150 to 600 spirits call the ship home.  The Queen Mary hosts a variety of ghost tours both during the day and the night.  The day tour is titled Haunted Encounters and includes a show titled "Ghosts & Legends" and is part of the Haunted First-Class Passport Package, which runs $31 online or $33 at the door and keep in mind that parking cost $15 on top of that.  In the evenings, there are four haunted tours to choose from and here is the link for all the information.

Former crew members haunt the ship.  John Pedder is one of the more well known spirits thought to still be hanging out on the ship.  He was a young sailor who lied about his age in order to get a job on the ship.  Engine Room Door 13 - interesting number - in Shaft Alley was the scene of Pedder's death.  He was crushed to death by the watertight door there during a fire or a routine drill.  The bearded Pedder is said to appear wearing blue coveralls.  Another crewman named John Henry worked in the Boiler Room.  His remains were found in the hull near the Green Room outside the Boiler Room.  Henry usually appears as a black figure and several EVPs have been caught of him.  William Stark, who was a ship's officer, died after drinking a toxic cleaning fluid he had mistaken for gin.  He joked about the mistake with fellow crew members, but it was no joke when he was dead four days later.  Stark is seen near the Captain's Cabin and on the Promenade.  The last captain to pilot the ship, Captain Treasure Jones, reportedly hangs out on the ship still smoking his cigars even though he did not die on the ship.  People claim to smell the cigar smoke on occasion.

The pool areas have been scenes of tragedy numerous times and spirit swimmers have been seen or heard splashing and walking about the area.  Two women drowned in the first class pool, one in the 30s and the other in the 60s.  A little girl was having some fun and thought she would slide down the banister into the pool, but lost her balance and fell, breaking her neck.  Jackie Torin is a little girl of six who drowned in the second class pool.  She wanders the area where the pool used to be, calling out for her parents, giggling and singing.  Under the stairs near the first class pool a mean spirit can sometimes can be heard growling.  A ghost cam is left running live in the pool area.  Some claim that a type of vortex is in this area of the ship.

Every haunting seems to have a Lady in White and the Queen Mary is no exception.  The Lady in White on this ship enjoys music and is seen most times dancing in the Queens Salon.  She is seen going up and down the stairs near the lobby as well.  Other people dressed in clothing from bygone eras are seen in staterooms.  One gentleman appears in 1930s garb in one of the rooms.  Lights turn on and off and the water runs by itself in several rooms.

No one stays in Stateroom B340 anymore because the paranormal activity in that room was so intense.  Very little furniture is kept in the room where sheets use to fly across the room and lights blinked on and off.  A cook on board the ship during World War II was murdered by crew members because his cooking was terrible.  The legend goes that they stuffed him in an oven and burned him to death.  His screams are said to be heard to this day.

Although the Queen Mary's service during World War II was honorable and very helpful, that service was not without tragedy.  HMS Curacoa, a ship named after a Caribbean Island, served in the Royal Navy as a C-class light cruiser that had been called upon to escort the Queen Mary.   The Curacoa was guiding the Queen Mary in a zigzag formation, so that both ships could avoid detection by the enemy.  During one of those zigs, the Queen Mary zagged and plowed right into the Curacoa, splitting it in two and leaving hundreds of men dead when it sank in just six minutes.  Most died in the icy waters when the Queen Mary made no attempt to rescue the men because of fears of U-boat attacks.  Ninety-nine men of the 338 crew were pulled from the water by two other ships.  Cries of these men can be heard sometimes when in the outside forward areas of the ship.

A woman named Terri told the website about an experience she had as follows:
"On our third day on the Queen Mary, I decided (after a night full of horrible and outstanding experiences) to try and find some of the lonely spirits that are claimed to be seen at the first class pool. I was not taking photos, but Tommy I could relax and enjoy the beauty of the ship's pool, and just listen. I was standing at the far right side of the pool (can be seen on the web cam), and I first felt a tug on my blouse. I of course turned around fast to see who was next to me, but no one was there. Tommy was on the other side of the pool taking photos, so I knew it was not him. Again the feeling of not being alone was over powering, and I felt someone touch my left arm. I again turned around and NO ONE was near me! I called for Tommy to come over and take photos, and while I was talking to him, saying that I again have been touched, someone was playing with my purse strings (which was over my shoulder). It felt so weird. I just stood there while this little person was playing with my purse and my blouse. I could feel someone or something touching my back... I told Tommy it keeps touching me and the tour guide said calmly, "Our little girl Jackie is playing with you. Say hello to Jackie." I felt a little weird knowing that someone was touching me and playing with my blouse; but at the same time IT WAS OUTSTANDING!!!! I was not afraid at all."
So is this grand old ocean liner housing the spirits of deceased crew and passengers?  Is this floating hotel truly one of the most haunted locations in America?  That is for you to decide.