Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Ghost of James Dean

On this day in 1955, the hunky and talented actor James Dean was killed in an auto accident at the young age of twenty-four.  It was early evening and the young Dean was taking his Porsche 550 Spyder to a race in Salinas.  German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich was riding along and was injured in the crash, breaking his jaw and shattering his thighbone.  Based on an earlier speeding ticket and the amount of distance Dean had traveled in a short time, it is believed that he was speeding when he approached an intersection and crashed into a Ford sedan that was making a left turn through the intersection.  The driver of that car was a college student by the name of Donald Turnupseed and he was only injured in the crash.  Neither Dean or Wütherich were wearing seatbelts.  The picture from the wreck paints the picture of how violent the wreck was and why it killed Dean.
The story sounds like your typical deadly accident, save for the famous driver, but the story continues with some bizarre twists that include tales of a cursed car and people.  Several parts from the Spyder were salvageable and placed in other cars: the engine, transmission and tires.  All cars that received parts from the Spyder were later involved in terrible or deadly accidents.  When the car was initially brought into the shop of the new owner, George Barris, it rolled off the back of a truck and crushed a mechanics legs.  Later the car was being used as an educational piece about driving safety and on a trip to one event, the truck transporting the Spyder went off the road and killed the driver.  At another safety event, a teenager's hip was broken when the car's restraint chains snapped and the car fell on the teenager.  Then somehow the Spyder managed to disappear...forever.

The German mechanic who had ridden with Dean when the accident occurred tried to kill himself a number of times.  He was never successful, but he did go on to stab his wife fourteen times.  He died in 1981 in a drunk driving accident.  Was this about guilt or was he cursed?

It is reported that James Dean is not at rest.  He was buried in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana and his grave sits atop a small hill.  People claim that Dean's ghost haunts his grave site.  James Dean was a smoker and a legend has grown that if a visitor to the grave site places an unlit cigarette at the headstone after dark and leaves for a bit, when they return they will find the cigarette lit and the scent of cigarette smoke in the air.  Some people report that the cigarette completely disappears. 

The ghost of Dean appears as well.  He has been spotted sitting on the tombstone and cold spots in the heat of summer can be felt around the grave.  The area where the car crash occurred has also apparently been visited by a hitchhiking Dean who disappears when people stop to pick him up.  The Porsche, driven by Dean, is sometimes seen cruising the highway as well.  So is James Dean still roaming the earth?  That is for you to decide.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

HGB Podcast 1 - Ripley's Odditorium In St. Augustine

Odd history – Great Serpent Mound
The Great Serpent Mound can be found in southern Ohio.  It was first discovered in 1847.  A couple of amateur archeologists, Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis, surveyed the twisting site and found it to be 1,348 feet long and most parts of the serpentine structure measure three feet high.  Not only did the serpent mound get its name from its curved body, but the mound also has a head that is snake like and appears to be swallowing an egg.  Some people claim the egg like symbol is really an eclipse.  The area beneath the mound is hollow in several places.  It is thought that the serpent mound was built by either the Adena people who walked the earth from 800 BC to 100 AD or the Fort Ancient people who existed in 1070 AD and that the hollow areas may be caves that they lived in or burial chambers of some sort.  Not only is the structure odd, but its reasons for being built are strange and mysterious.  Is it a map of constellations?  Does it keep track of calendar events like the solar and lunar schedules?  New Age groups think it is an intergalactic portal.  Whatever it is, it certainly is odd!

This Day In History

On October 1st 1908, Henry Ford introduced his revolutionary Model T car, that some called Tin Lizzy.  The car could travel at 45 mph.  The Model T was light and durable and could travel 25 miles on a gallon of gas, which is comparable to even modern day cars.  A hallmark of the car was its affordability.  For the first time, it was possible for every middle class family to own a car.  Henry Ford wrote in his book, My Life and Work, "I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."   Fifteen million Model T’s rolled off the assembly line before Ford decided that the vehicle was obsolete and discontinued production in 1927.

Ripley’s Odditorium in St. Augustine

St. Augustine is thought to be one of the most haunted cities in all of America.  It’s long history probably accounts for that fact along with the large amounts of people who died in the city from Yellow Fever, pirate attacks and war.  The city has existed for over 440 years.  It 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.  Today, it is a city rich in history and filled with quaint shops, which we have enjoyed perusing.

Castle Warden circa 1930
The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium in St. Augustine is an amazing building.  It is located at 19 San Marco Ave. and hard to miss.  The building was originally called The Castle Warden, named for the man who built the Moorish Revival Castle complete with merlons and wide archways in 1887.  That man was William G. Warden, a business partner of both John D. Rockefeller and Henry M. Flagler.  Warden was an oil man who founded the Standard Oil Company with Rockefeller after building the successful Warden, Frew and Company crude oil company.  One of his philanthropist efforts in St. Augustine was building the Warden Academy School for Blacks.  He was worth over $1,000,000 at the time of his death.  The original Castle Warden design featured twenty-three rooms, which was necessary for the family of 16!  Family members lived in the mansion until 1926.  It stood vacant, except for the occasional vagrants, until 1941 when Pulitizer Prize winning author Majorie Kinnan Rawlings and her husband Norton Baskin bought the place and renovated it into a hotel.  They dubbed the place “Castle Warden Hotel.”  Things went well for several years, but 1944 brought tragedy and some future ghostly activity.

The story that we have heard about the about what happened in 1944 is as follows.  A certain politician, who has been dubbed Mr. X, did what many politicians do:  he took on a mistress.  Her name was Bette Nevi Richeson and she was in her 20s.  Bette was staying in Room 17, while Mr. X was staying in Room 13.  At some point during the middle of the night, a fight ensued.  Perhaps Mr. X was trying to break things off and Bette threatened blackmail.  Mr. X choked Bette to death and placed her body in a dry bathtub.  While this is happening, there is another female guest in the hotel staying in the penthouse.  She is Ruth Hopkins Pickering, a 49 year old friend of the owners.  She apparently is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Mr. X sets fire to the building to cover up the murder of Bette and Ruth is trapped above the flames.  Both women are thought to have died in the fire, but the truth is that Bette was already dead.  Mr. X flees the scene, but he seems to have returned in death.  More on this later.

Robert Ripley was born in 1890 and eventually became one of the most famous men in America and in all the world.  At one time, he received more mail than Santa Clause.  He was a handball champion, but his interests soon changed to the odd and with the help of funding from William Randolph Hearst, Ripley traveled around the world building his collection of odd items.  He detailed his findings in the newspaper cartoon pages with the Believe It Or Not panels.  Ripley was not only an amateur anthropologist and collector of the strange, he also was a talented cartoonist.  The cartoon was fabulously popular and even helped launch the career of Charles Schultz when Believe It Or Not published the first Peanuts comic.  Ripley had stayed several time at the Castle Warden Hotel and absolutely loved the place.  He tried several times to buy the place, but he was rebuffed every time.  Unfortunately, Ripley died young at the age of 58 in 1949.  His estate followed the pursuit to acquire the building and was successful in 1950.

Soon Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium opened with a fascinating design of hallways and rooms, featuring over 800 exhibits.  Nearly every strange thing one can think of can be found here from shrunken heads to ancient artifacts to reproductions of some of the strangest people.  There is even a giant erector set ferris wheel that turns in the center of one of the rooms.  But this building houses more than just creepy and strange seen things.  There is much unseen here as well.  It is believed that there are over eighteen active entities in the museum.  The three most talked about and experienced are Bette, Ruth and Mr. X.

On an upper floor, there is the room where Mr. X killed Bette.  Today, that room is called the Vortex Room
and Mr. X has been seen and felt in that room.  And by “felt” we mean he has choked people.  (In the podcast for this show, we detail our own experience in this room.  We believe Mr. X was active.)  He is an angry entity.  Bette has been captured on film in the Theater Room, which was part of the room in which she was staying.  Phantom women believed to be Ruth and Bette have been seen in the windows and walking the hallways.  A Florida based paranormal team, Peace River Ghost Trackers, have investigated the place and shared one of their pictures with us.  It appears to be the ghostly apparition of a child sitting in the hallway above the room with the giant erector set ferris wheel.

The Ghost Train that Ripley’s offers was well worth the money and includes a tour inside the museum…at night…with low lighting!  Click here for more info on The Ghost Train.

So, is this building really haunted?  That is for you to decide!

Another great site for the history of this location:  http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustineripley.html
To find out more about the mystery of Mr. X:  http://augustine.com/article/mystery-and-history-ripleys

Watch the video below!  Featured pictures are from the inside of the museum!

Friday, September 19, 2014

What exactly is a ghost?

This is a tough question to answer and it really depends upon whom you ask.  Different spiritual beliefs, or
lack thereof, will guide most people in their answer to this question.  I would love your comments on this blog post as to what you believe is behind ghostly apparitions.  For myself, I'm not completely sure and I believe it depends on the circumstances of the supernatural experience.  As a Christian, I believe what the Bible teaches for people who die in Christ: absent from the body, present with the Lord.  But what exactly is the timing of that?  I certainly believe that it is possible for loved ones to appear shortly after their death.  And I'm not beyond believing that God allows The Veil to drop occasionally.  I certainly do not mean for what I'm about to write to sound judgmental, but because of my beliefs I do believe in a final judgement for unsaved people.  That is not suppose to occur until the end of days and so I wonder if lost souls are left here to hang out until that time. 

There are many Christians that believe all ghosts are just demons, some of them impersonating loved ones.  Perhaps you are of this persuasion.  I myself believe that much of this activity could be demonic and deceptive in nature, but certainly not all of it.  There are paranormal investigators that will disagree.  I have heard many that believe demonic activity is a rarity if they even believe it occurs at all.

Residual hauntings certainly could not be chalked up to demonic activity and they are far more complicated to explain.  Humans have a very narrow understanding of time and dimensions.  For me, residual hauntings have a number of explanations from some kind of time loop that has become stuck to a time travel experience to energy being trapped dimensionally.  Quantum physics tries to explain some of these subjects, but for the regular man on the street, all we really can surmise is that the repeating event is not interactive.

There is also that whole alien thing.  Could some of this activity be caused by something not from this planet?  Many people who have experienced an alien abduction or visit describe similar experiences as people who experience something paranormal like sleep paralysis or manifestations.

Only 34% of the world are Christians like myself.  So I wonder what people of other beliefs think about ghosts.  I know that some Buddhists believe in the concept of different types of ghosts that are manifestations of obsessions or surroundings and the Dalai Lama has mentioned evil spirits.  Some Buddhists believe in what I would define as dimensions and that ghosts come from an overlap of dimensions.  And Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so a spirit could be hanging out waiting for their next life.

Wiccans believe in an inner and outer world, or different planes if you will, and that supernatural experiences spawn from interactions between the two.  They also believe in a spirit world that can manifest as a variety of things.  Some believe that a ghost is our personal stamp left behind after the body has died.

When it comes to Hinduism, the website angelsghosts states, "Hinduism teaches that ghosts are people without physical bodies, the souls of people who died before their time, typically by tragedy. Many Hindus believe human beings have two bodies. When the physical life ends prematurely with the passing of the first body called the gross body, the person will remain in an ethereal state in the second body called the subtle body, until the remaining time of the life is complete and an entirely new body can be inhabited. Having not fully experienced life's joys, ghosts experience great suffering due to the senses remaining intact, but without a physical body to interact with our world through. Therefore, it is impossible to satisfy the ghost's desires and a hell-like state of existence is suffered for the set period of time allotted."

Muslims claim that they do not believe in ghosts because in their faith the spirit goes away and returns only on the Day of Resurrection and so they generally believe that supernatural activity is caused by Jinns, which are evil spirits.

Judaism has many explanations for ghostly activity ranging from demons to dybbuks to golems.  The Old Testament mentions ghosts a few times.  One story has the prophet Samuel paying a visit to Saul after Samuel has died.  A witch manages to conjure the spirit.  Jews believe the soul goes to heaven after death, but that the spirit (nefesh) can roam the earth.

So what do you say?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Should Paranormal Investigations Be Allowed At Historic Locations?

There is a great debate that has gone on for a couple of decades as to whether locations that are concerned with historical preservation, should allow paranormal investigative teams to conduct research at the locations.  Obviously, many properties are autonomous and decide such things on an individual basis, but as a broader discussion, the debate has merit.  There are pros and cons on both sides.

Much of the decision rests on the actual teams themselves.  Let's face it, many investigators are in the business for the thrills and chills.  I think most people on the planet, save for the hardcore atheists, agree that there are unexplained experiences and that energy continues on after bodily death.  And it is relatively understood that the scientific method is nearly impossible with paranormal research.  So the really serious paranormal teams may claim that they are out to prove life after death, but the point is moot.  What does make the serious and professional teams relevant though, is proving whether a particular place has unseen inhabitants.  So one pro to having a team come in and conduct research is to obtain some results that back up experiences people have had at particular locations.

Another pro is that many teams will pay for the chance to investigate a location.  Some locations do not have government backing and so rely on outside sources for money via tours or these kinds of investigations.  Legend trips and other gatherings can generate quite a bit of revenue.

Along the lines of earning money is that these locations also get some buzz, which can be very important if a location is facing the wrecking ball.  If enough people are interested in saving the location, it usually can be saved.  Paranormal teams have a symbiotic relationship with historical societies in working to not only keep the properties from destruction, but also help in the process of restoration.  Both sides delve into historical research as well.

There are a few teams that help in the area of cleansing a place.  And when I use the term "few," I really mean few.  Throwing holy water around and smudging with white sage is not going to help with most problems.  But there are teams that have helped in cleansing a historic location.

And while all those pros are convincing, there are enough cons to make locations think again.  The number one con is destruction of property.  Not all teams are equal and many are not professional.  These people are going to be running around in the dark, banging into things and stringing/taping wires all over the place.  Wood floors are damaged and artifacts are damaged or stolen.  Keep in mind that people can get hurt while bumping around and in this sue happy world, a lawsuit could finish a location.

There is also the con of the real possibility that these teams could stir entities up and make what may be a slight problem into a huge issue.  No one knows for sure what is on the other side of the veil and sometimes doors are opened that are better left closed...and locked!  Every time I watch Ghost Hunters, I chuckle as I listen to the investigators congratulate each other on helping out the people at a location.  All they did was run around and perhaps caught some evidence.  For all they know, they pissed something off.  And they certainly did not cleanse the place.  Having teams come through on a regular basis may encourage entities to stay and play, rather than move on.  This may not be a positive outcome for either the location or the unseen inhabitants.

Having the reputation of being a haunted location could be positive or negative.  Either people will be drawn to check out the place and see if anything happens while they take a tour or some people may stay away in fear.  Fortunately, in our modern era, most people are not pushed away by the idea of a place being haunted. 

As to where I stand on this debate, I do not have an opinion either way.  I personally do not conduct paranormal investigations, nor do I have any desire to do so in the future.  When all is said and done, it really is the decision of the location and it is up to us to respect their wishes.