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. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HGB Podcast 12 - The Stanley Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Charles Dummet Gravesite

Douglas Dummett began purchasing land in New Smyrna some time prior to 1844.  He built a house on an Indian mound overlooking the river, set up shop as a sugar merchant, and eventually tried his hand at growing citrus.  He quickly became successful and is credited with starting the strain that led to Florida’s famous Indian River Citrus.  A man of means, he was a natural choice to become the Justice of the Peace for theThis information is from Florida Fringe Tourism*
area.  Douglas married a black slave girl and had three daughters and a son, Charles, who was born in 1844.  On April 23, 1860, 16 year old Charles Dummett was hunting with a friend when he tripped and fell.  His gun discharged, killing him instantly. Distraught over his son’s death, Douglas built a marble tomb and buried Charles on the exact spot where he had died.  Many years later when Douglas was asked to sell some of his land to the city of New Smyrna, he had one stipulation: his son’s grave was to never be moved or disturbed.   The city agreed to his terms, and the deal was made.  In the 1960s, as the town began to grow and developments were being planned, the grave became the center of some controversy. A developer wanted to run a road directly over the final resting place of Douglas Dummett’s son.  After having all of his requests to move the grave site denied, the developer finally gave in and split the road around the tomb.  Today, the grave of Charles Dummett remains in the middle of Canova Drive, and motorists happily navigate around the burial site.  The grave has recently been named a city landmark and locals are happily joining in the effort to help preserve this little piece of Florida history. *

This Moment in History - Kennedy's Burial

On this date, November 25th, in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington national Cemetery.  John F. Kennedy made his first formal visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1961, to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Eleven days prior to Kennedy's assassination he returned to Arlington for the 1963 Armistice Day services.  On Nov. 22, 1963, while on a campaign trip to Dallas, President Kennedy was shot and killed.  There are only two U.S. presidents buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The other is William Howard Taft, who died in 1930.  Usually presidents are buried in their home states.  Mrs. Kennedy was asked her wishes and she said, "He belongs to the people."  The first formal statement from Mrs. Kennedy concerning the burial was to model her husband's funeral after ceremonies rendered for Abraham Lincoln.  On Nov. 25, 1963, at 3 p.m., the state funeral of President Kennedy began.  Among the mourners at Kennedy's grave site were President Charles de Gaulle of France, Chancellor Ludwig Erhard of the Federal Republic of Germany, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom. Overhead, 50 Navy and Air Force jets flew past the gravesite followed by the president's plane, Air Force One, which dipped its wing in final tribute.  A contingent of the Irish Guard stood opposite the grave, and the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing, performed a Roman Catholic committal service. The body bearers folded the interment flag, and the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery presented it to Mrs. Kennedy. She and Robert Kennedy then used a torch to light the eternal flame. *Some material reprinted from the Arlington website here*

The Stanley Hotel

Today's show is a roundtable discussion with Colorado Historian Annette Student, otherwise known as Mom.  The history of the city of Estes Park is covered as well as the original owner of the land where the Stanley Hotel is built.  The owners of the Stanley Hotel through the years are shared as well as the supposed hauntings at the hotel and how Stephen King's "The Shining" correlates with the Stanley Hotel.  The following links will provide more information on the show:

The ghost of Flora Stanley as seen in a photo can be seen here.  Is this really her?  You decide.

The Stanley Hotel's official website.

The History and Haunting of the Stanley Hotel by Rebecca Pittman is THE definitive book on this historic site!  Check it out here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

HGB Podcast 11 - The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa

Moment in Oddity - Gef the Talking Mongoose

In the 1930s, a talking mongoose became an international sensation.  The story began on the Isle of Man in the little village of Dalby.  Doarlish Cashen was the name of a farmhouse located there.  James and Margaret Irving lived there with their daughter Voirrey.  Between the walls of the farmhouse was a gap.  The family first saw a weasel like creature in the farm yard.  The mongoose moved into the house and took up residence in the walls.  Shortly thereafter, the animal began to talk, starting with repeating animal noises and then nursery rhymes and finally conversing with the Irvings.  People who heard the mongoose claimed that he spoke with a high pitched squeaky voice.  The mongoose claimed to be an "extra, extra clever mongoose."  James Irving claimed that the mongoose asked to be called Gef and that it could shape-shift.  Gef became violent over time threatening to hurt the daughter leaving the family to lock themselves in a room together at night.  Sometimes Gef would be nice leaving the family dead rabbits as gifts and accepting their gifts of bananas and sausages and other times he would throw stones and curse at the family.  Hairs that Irving sent as samples to a zoo came up as dog hairs and the Irvings did indeed own a dog.  Pictures that Margaret Irving managed to take of Gef do seem to show an animal similar to a cat only smaller with a long tail.  People came to believe that Gef was a hoax, but Voirrey was interviewed 40 years later and she claimed that Gef was detrimental to her life and very real.  People had claimed that she had thrown her voice and pretended to be Gef, but Voirrey said she was not that talented.  One investigator said that he had heard Gef when Voirrey was not in the house and the Irvings were in full view.  Friends of the Irvings claimed to hear Gef and Gef apparently hitched rides on the local bus where he ate stolen sandwiches and harassed people.  So, was Gef the talking mongoose a hoax?  Was he a shared delusion?  Was he a spirit of some sort?  Or was the whole thing the real deal?  Whatever the truth may be, whether fact or fiction, the whole affair is quite odd.

This Day in History - The Temple is Cleansed

On this date, November 21st, in 165 BC, Judah Maccabee orders that the Jewish Temple be cleansed.  Judah was the third son of Mattathias, a Jewish priest.  Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the ruler at that time and he had forbidden any Jewish customs to be practiced.  Mattathias gathered his sons together and they started a revolt against Antiochus in 167 BC.  Mattathias died a year later and Judah took over the mantle of leadership and took on the surname of Maccabee meaning "sledgehammer" in Aramaic.  He was ferocious in battle and lead his men in guerrilla tactics knowing that they were no match for Antiochus' military force in face to face confrontations.  Judah died in 160 BC, but the fighting continued under his other two brothers and independence for the Jewish people was attained several years later.  Judah's cleansing of the Jewish Temple by removing the Hellenistic statues and restoring Jewish worship is celebrated to this day during the holiday we all know as Hanukkah.

The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa 

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is home to more than 100 Victorian restaurants, galleries and shops.  Near the downtown area are Victorian cottages and the Crescent Hotel and Spa, opened in 1886 and located at 75 Prospect Avenue.  The Crescent has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations.  The hotel has endured controversy, fires and extensive renovations while passing through the hands of several owners.  The hotel has retained its 19th century look and is a beautiful structure built from native limestone that attracts visitors from around the world to enjoy its rooms, spa and hospitality.  But deep within those limestone walls lies a history that has lead this hotel to be declared "America's Most Haunted Hotel."

Isaac L. Taylor of Missouri was chosen as architect of the Crescent Hotel by Powell Clayton, former Governor of Arkansas, and other investors and then the site in Eureka Springs that covered twenty-seven acres overlooking a valley was dedicated.  The area was popular as it was located by the waters of the Ozarks that many people believed had healing qualities.  Construction on the Crescent Hotel began in 1884 under a partnership between The Frisco Railroad and the Eureka Springs Improvement Company, a company formed by Clayton.  The building was formed from blocks of White River Limestone that had to be transported by special wagons.  A group of specialists from Ireland had to be brought in to assist with the cutting of the stone because it was so dense and precision was needed with cutting the stone.  The walls were built eighteen inches thick and no mortar was used.  The masons constructed towers, balconies and a large stone fireplace in the lobby.  The leader of the Irish group once told a reporter that he had never encountered such stone in his life.  We will cover the significance of limestone when it comes to hauntings a little later.

During construction, a worker crashes to his death in what is now Room 218.  Undeterred, construction continues and opens under the operation of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company in 1886 with a big grand opening gala ball featuring guest of honor presidential candidate at the time, James Blaine.  Blaine was a well known politician having represented Maine in both the Senate and the House, where he served as Speaker of the House from 1869-1875, and he twice served as Secretary of State.  Blaine lost his bid for president narrowly to Grover Cleveland.  The Eureka Springs Time Echo wrote that the hotel would be "featuring large airy rooms, comfortably furnished, the Crescent Hotel offers the visiting vacationer opulence unmatched in convenience and service." 

After the grand opening, the Crescent Hotel catered to the upper crust of society and what was deemed as the "Carriage Set."  People came to enjoy the trails, riding the beautiful horses kept on the property and to partake in the afternoon tea parties and evening dance parties where the hotel orchestra played.  The hotel also offered rides aboard The Tally Ho, their large open coach that was drawn by teams of horses.  The latest amenities were a part of the hotel including Edison Lamps, electric bells, heating with steam and open grates and there was a hydraulic elevator.  There were tennis courts, croquet and a swimming pool.  The luxury of running water arrived at the Crescent Hotel in 1900.

Winters became a tough time for business and people had realized that the "curative" waters were not really all that healing and they stopped frequenting the hotel, so the Crescent Hotel opened Crescent College and Conservatory for Women in 1908.  The college stays in operation until 1934 when the Great Depression forced the closure of both the college and the hotel.  In 1937, Dr. Norman Baker bought the hotel.  He reopened the Crescent Hotel as a cancer hospital and advertised promises that people who would come to the hospital would leave cured.  Dr. Baker claimed that he could bring healing without painful tests or surgery.  There was a high price for the "cure" and many desperate people came to the hospital.  What those people were unaware of was that Dr. Baker was no doctor.  He had been convicted in Iowa is 1936 of practicing medicine without a license.  Not only was Baker not a doctor, his "cure" and various elixirs were pure scam.  He bilked people out of $4,000,000 before he was arrested for mail fraud in 1940.  Baker was sentenced to four years in Leavenworth, which seems like an easy sentence considering that people's deaths may have been quickened because cancer patients gave up conventional medicine for fake elixirs.

The Crescent sat empty until 1946 when four Chicago business men bought the building and renovated it trying to match its former glory.  In 1967, fire swept through the fourth floor of the south wing, almost completely destroying it.  The hotel continued to switch hands and undergo renovations, but the hotel continued to decline until 1997.  Marty and Elise Roenigk bought the hotel and promised to return the Crescent to its former glory and they actually accomplished that going even beyond the promise.  The couple spent $5 million dollars restoring guest rooms, the landscaping, the electrical and plumbing, lounges, rebuilding the hotel's burned out skyline, renovating the 3,500 square foot penthouse and center observation tower and opening the New Moon Spa with hydrotherapy tub, sauna, Vichy showers, tanning beds and massage tables.  The hotel is open for business with 72 guest rooms and 12 luxury suites you can book today.

Before we discuss the long list of haunting experiences, we want to touch on the significance of limestone in regards to supernatural activity.  Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is formed from several types of minerals and crystals.  Limestone is usually found near water and water tends to conduct supernatural activity as well as it conducts electricity and some believe that is the connection with limestone as well as the idea that minerals and crystals absorb energy.  The quartz found in some limestone is an electromagnetic conductor as well, which is why quartz is used in building radios.  If limestone does indeed seem to be related to hauntings, then it would most likely be connected to residual hauntings and the absorption of energy.

Ghost tours are offered nightly at the Crescent Hotel.  People wind through the halls ending up in the morgue that was once in the hospital.  On any night, people may witness apparitions or catch the scent of a bygone odor.  Perhaps they may run into Michael, an Irish stonemason.  He was the worker that died during construction that we mentioned earlier.  The room he died in, Room 218, is considered the most haunted location in the hotel.  Toilets flush on their own in this room, lights turn on and off and guests have complained of being awakened in the middle of the night after being touched.  Hands have been witnessed coming out of the mirror and people have heard what sounds like someone falling on the ceiling.  Michael was killed when he fell to his death.

In the early years of operation, a young girl had fallen over the fourth floor railing and died.  During a tour of the hotel, the guide stood in the spot where it is thought the girl landed and she suddenly felt an intense chill.  Two women standing next to her both asked the others in the group, "Did you feel that?"  A man in the group took a picture and supposedly a foggy apparition of a little girl can be seen standing near the three women.

The Crystal Dining Room is an elegant room with its own kitchen and apparently its own ghost.  A little boy is thought to haunt the kitchen.  He moves utensils and other items around.  The Crystal Dining Room plays host to several spirits that are usually seen wearing Victorian era clothing.  Many of them dance and one gentleman sits by the window and tells people he is waiting for a beautiful woman he had met the night before.  One Christmas season, the Christmas tree was moved across the dining room along with all the presents underneath it and several chairs were placed in a circle around the tree.

Dr. John Freemont Ellis was the in house doctor at the Crescent in the late nineteenth century.  Dr. Ellis enjoyed smoking his pipe and to this day, people continue to smell his cherry pipe tobacco.  The hotel is a non smoking hotel in the present era, so any pipe tobacco smell is not coming from the present.  Of further interest is that whole groups of people will encounter the smell at the same time and thus it is a shared experience.

There is much activity that seems to originate from the time when the hotel was the cancer hospital.  A nurse has been seen pushing a gurney on the third floor.  She disappears when she reaches the end of the hallway.  Sometimes no ghost is seen, but the sound of squeaking wheels can be heard.  The third floor is where the morgue and walk-in freezer were located.  Dr. Baker's autopsy table and the freezer are still in the hotel.  During tours, people can volunteer to be closed up inside the freezer.  Experiences range from nothing happening to icy chills to orbs of light being seen.  One young man even had an orb pass through him and he became ill.  Dr. Baker himself has been seen in different areas of the hotel, although he died in Florida.

Whether one books a stay at the hotel for the accommodations or for the spirits, they are sure to enjoy the visit.  So is the Crescent Hotel host to more than just the living?  That is for you to decide.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

HGB Podcast 10 - The Shanley Hotel in New York

Moment in Oddity - Moeraki Boulders

On the Otago coast of New Zealand's South Island, one can find some of the strangest boulders on the planet that have become tourist attractions.  These very large stones look like alien lifeforms that have been encased in stone.  These boulders can be as large as seven feet in diameter.  These stones are called Moeraki Boulders and they are created on the floor of the sea from sedimentary deposits that continue to gather in layers, much in the same way that a pearl is formed.  The material that makes up the boulders is mud, fine silt and clay that are cemented together by calcite.  Maori - the indigenous people of New Zealand - legend claims that the boulders are storage devices like eel and gourd baskets from the wreck of the Arai-te-uru, while a nearby rocky promontory is said to be the captain of the ill fated vessel.  While the idea that a rocky outcrop is thought to be the remains of a captain is strange, the legend fits well will these giant rocks that certainly are odd.

This Day in History - LSD is Invented

On this day, November 16th, in 1938, the drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide is invented by chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann of Sweden.  The drug is better known as LSD.  Dr. Hofmann was not meaning to create a hallucinogenic drug.  He was doing research on a fungus that grows on rye named Ergot.  As we all know, penicillian was derived from fungi and the chemist was researching ergot alkaloid derivatives for medicinal uses.  One of the derivatives, Ergoline, is used today in treating migraines and Parkinson's Disease.  Dr. Hofmann did not realize that he had created LSD until five years later when he got some on his fingertips.  Dr. Hofmann described the experience like this:  "I was affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”  LSD would go on to be used in psychiatry and by the CIA in mind control projects like MKUltra.  Dr. Hofmann would go on to create Magic Mushrooms and other hallucinogenics.

The Shanley Hotel in New York

The Shanley Hotel is a beautiful inn with a long wrap around porch and a large arching roof that reminds one of a an old fashioned barn.  The hotel is painted in classic white with black shutters.  The hotel boasts 35 rooms with fun names like The Rose Room, The Blue Room, The Marguerite Room and The Silent Room, but there is more to this hotel than just the rooms.  There is a hidden basement room and a former bordello.  The Shanley dates back to the early 1800s and from that time until the early 1900s, the Shanley was a favorite spot for summer vacationers.  The hotel was located near the railroad making it very convenient for travelers and the town enjoyed the hotel for some other types of "entertainment."  The Shanley was not only a place to have a drink for the upper crust, but the "Private Gentleman's Club Quarters" provided companionship for a price.  The Shanley has seen twenty different owners come and go, experienced a variety of name changes and even burned to the ground once.  The charm of the inn is broken only by the countless reports of unexplained happenings that have lead to the declaration that the Shanley is one of the most haunted hotels on the East Coast.

The Shanley Hotel is located in the city of Napanoch in New York, nestled in the beautiful woods of the Shawangunk Mountains in the historic Hudson Valley.  A man named Thomas Ritch built the inn in 1845 and originally named the place after the city of Napanoch.  His goal was to provide accommodations that had the best food and lodging and he filled the place with the best amenities and furnishings for the time.  The first name change came in 1851 when the hotel was renamed "Hungerford's Hotel" and then in 1887 Adolph Wagner bought the place and the hotel flourished under his guidance, but in 1895 the hotel burned completely to the ground after a nearby house fire spread.  Not one to be discouraged, Wagner rebuilt the hotel in eight short months, but quickly sold it again and the hotel exchanged hands repeatedly until 1906.

In 1906, the Shanley Hotel would take on the owner for whom it has been named until the present day.  James Louis Shanley was born in Ireland on Halloween in the year 1874.  He had moved to the Hudson Valley for health reasons and was living at the hotel.  He was a successful entrepreneur and he decided he wanted to own the hotel and he made some changes that caused the town to adore the man.  The hotel became known for social gatherings that included card and domino tournaments and he installed a bowling alley, billiards room and a barber shop.  The rich and famous visited the Shanley as well.  Guests included Thomas Edison and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1910, James married Beatrice Rowley and when the couple returned from their honeymoon, the town threw them a parade.  James and Beatrice decided to start a family, but tragedy struck three times for them as all three children Beatrice gave birth to died within their first year of life.  The couple were heartbroken, but when Beatrice's sister, Esther Faughman, died after giving birth to her third child, the couple were given custody of her children.  High teas and card parties continued until August 26th, 1937 when James Shanley died from a heart attack.

Beatrice held onto the hotel until 1944 and then she sold it to Al Hazen so she could move to New York City where she died in 1961.  Hazen ran the hotel successfully until his death in 1971 and then a string of ownership left the hotel closed by 1991 and it stood vacant for a number of years leaving it in ruins.  In 2005, Salvatore Nicosia bought the building, refurbished it and the Shanley opened once again in 2007.

Sal originally moved to Napanoch so that he could restore a different historic building that was the homestead of Abraham Bevier, a project that took six years.  The Shanley came up for sale at that time and Sal decided he would like the new challenge.  The hotel has blossomed under Sal and become a mecca for paranormal investigation.

Before getting into the extensive documentation of supernatural experiences at the hotel, we should touch on some of the sordid past of the hotel.  James Shanley was a good man, but he also was a businessman and Prohibition brought opportunity.  We mentioned that the hotel had a secret basement room and that room was used by James and his business partner John Powers to make, store and sell bootleg liquor.  The room was accessible through a trap door in a hall closet.  Authorities raided the hotel in 1932 to put an end to the operation.   There is not much information about the bordello in regards to how long it was in business or how many owners kept up that side of the business, but bordellos always seem to have hauntings connected to them.  Based on evidence collected through the years by paranormal investigators and historians, the Shanley has been the site of much death through accidents, murder and natural causes.

No one seemed to know, or at least it was never recorded before, that the Shanley was haunted before Sal bought the place.  Sal and historian Doug Hart were celebrating the closing on the second floor of the hotel one night when they heard footsteps coming up the main stairway.  They were a bit worried that police or a neighbor were investigating why there was candlelight coming from the building.  Upon investigation, they discovered no one on the stairs and Sal checked the door and it was still locked.  Like most people, they didn't want to believe the place was haunted, so they started taking pictures and bought a video camera.  Through the pictures and EVPs they captured, the men realized that there were many spirits in the place.  Some were from the Victorian era, others were from the 60s and some were downright spooky.  We want to share a few of these spirits with you and then you decide if they are the product of overactive imaginations.

James Shanley had built a barber shop into the hotel and he hired a barber by the name of Peter Granger who had a three year old daughter named Rosie.  Rosie was playing across the road at the Hoornbeek Farm when she fell into a well there, hitting her head and drowning.  The frantic search for her took two hours before she was found.  The distraught barber moved to Brooklyn with the rest of his family shortly after that tragedy.  Rosie is said to haunt the hotel and has been caught on tape laughing and speaking softly in the bordello area.  Her bedroom had been on the second floor of where the bordello had previously been.  The well has been sealed by a heavy concrete slab.

In 1915, a six year old boy who lived in the house next to the hotel was hit by a car that was backing out of the alley between the house and hotel.  A spirit named Jonathan that haunts the third floor claims to be this boy.

We mentioned earlier that Beatrice Shanley's sister, Esther, had died.  She had lived at the hotel and died from influenza in 1918.  Her spirit is said to hang out on the second floor where her room had been along with the Sunroom that is adjacent to that room.  She had been a very lonely and depressed woman when she had been alive.

Many people have been through the doors of the Shanley and thus many different presences have made themselves known by opening and shutting doors, poking or pushing people, talking on tape and appearing as weird light anomalies in pictures, which can be viewed at the Shanley Hotel's official website.  Music from a bygone era can be heard in the rooms as well as disembodied footsteps.  The hotel has been investigated by many paranormal teams including TV's "Ghost Hunters" and "Ghost Lab" and was featured on "My Ghost Story."  Our friend paranormal investigator Linda Zimmermann has been to the hotel and written about it in her books as well.  Entering the bordello area leaves people feeling light-headed with overwhelming feelings of sadness.  Some guests have complained of being held down in their beds.

James Shanley was born on Halloween, so the hotel hosts a birthday bash every Halloween.  Although renovations continue, the Shanley Hotel is open for business and overnight stays include breakfast.  The beauty of the area and the quaint historic hotel are very inviting.  So would you want to book your stay at the Shanley?  Might you get awakened from your sleep by something going bump in the night?  Is the Shanley Hotel haunted?  That is for you to decide.

Monday, November 10, 2014

HGB Podcast 9 - Haunted Marietta, Georgia

Moment in Oddity - The Greenbriar Ghost

The case of the Greenbriar Ghost is not only unique in the supernatural world, but it is a one of a kind tale in the annals of the American Justice System.  Imagine if you were able to testify against your murderer after you were dead.  In 1873, Elva Zona Heaster was born in Greenbriar County, West Virginia.  In 1896, she met and fell in love with a drifter who was passing through Greenbriar named Erasmus and they married soon after.  A young boy running an errand for Erasmus to the home that Zona and Erasmus shared, found Zona dead at the bottom of the stairs.  The local doctor gave the body of Zona a cursory examination after Erasmus had already moved the body to the bedroom and dressed Zona in her finest dress.  The doctor made the exam brief, as Erasmus seemed very overcome by grief and the doctor decided that Zona had fainted and fallen down the stairs.  During the wake and before burial, Erasmus was very watchful of the body, concealing Zona's neck and keeping people away from the body.  After the burial, Zona's mother attempted to return the sheet that had been in the coffin back to Erasmus, but he refused to take the sheet.  Zona's mother decided to keep it and she washed it because it seemed to have a strange odor.  The minute the material hit the water, the water turned red and then the sheet turned pink.  Try as she might, Zona's mother could not remove the stain and she took it as a sign that her suspicions about Erasmus were true: her daughter had been murdered!  For four nights after this, the ghost of Zona appeared to her mother.  The ghost would explain that Erasmus had been cruel and beaten her many times.  On this final beating, the ghost claimed that Erasmus had broken her neck and she turned her head almost completely around to show her mother.  Zona's mother went to the Prosecutor and Zona's body was exhumed after the doctor admitted he had not done a thorough examination.  It was proven that Zona's neck was broken and even more incriminating, her windpipe had been crushed.  Erasmus went to trial and his defense tried to make Zona's mother appear crazy by asking her about the ghostly visits, something the prosecution had avoided.  Zona's mother was unwavering and the people of the town believed her, so the plan of the defense backfired.  Erasmus was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, where he died three years later.  Zona's ghost was never seen again and a plaque on Route 60 commemorates her witness with these words: "Interred in nearby cemetery is Zona Heaster Shue. Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how she was killed by her husband Edward. Autopsy on the exhumed body verified the apparition’s account. Edward, found guilty of murder, was sentenced to the state prison. Only known case in which testimony from ghost helped convict a murderer."  A ghost serving as her own witness to the crime is not only unique, but quite odd.

This Day in History - Sherman's March to the Sea

On this day, November 10th, in 1864, General William Sherman began his March to the Sea from Atlanta, Georgia.  There are many references to other dates in November being the official start of the March, but Sherman himself claimed the date of November 10th being the start in his memoirs.  Atlanta had been captured by Sherman and the Union Army and they decided to press across Georgia all the way to Savannah and they reached that goal on December 21st having gone 300 miles from start to finish.  Sherman burned the path as his troops went and unfortunately many historical buildings were destroyed during this time.  Sherman's strategy had not been used before and was brave because it occurred deep behind enemy lines and Sherman had no direct supply lines coming to himself.  The plan was revolutionary and unique in the annals of war and solidified Sherman's place in history!

Haunted Marietta, Georgia - Marietta Square, Kennesaw House & Haunted Restaurants

The city of Marietta in Georgia is a beautiful, quaint town rich in history that was established in 1834.  The city was founded by Thomas Cobb and named after his wife Mary.  Many of the original buildings still stand in Marietta despite the fires started by General Sherman because he spared the churches and buildings used as hospitals or Union headquarters.  Like the city of Savannah, Georgia, which inspired the building of Marietta Square, Marietta is a haunted city due to the fact that the center of the old downtown area is built above a graveyard.  As is the case for so many cities during the Civil War, Marietta was the site of many deaths and the heart of the city, Marietta Square, was one area of the city where the bodies were brought until they could be buried.  The shops and restaurants that line the downtown area have many reports of hauntings by various people and for various reasons.  We decided to take a ghost tour hosted by Ghosts of Marietta and we had a wonderful time and highly recommend this tour!  Our tour guide Charlotte was very knowledgeable and a wonderful story teller.  We heard stories of murders, accidental deaths and hangings and we want to share some of these with you.

We traveled along the railroad tracks and as if on cue, the train came roaring by bringing with it the haunting echo of a train whistle.  Down from the tracks stood a modest home once owned by the Root family, which is the Root Museum today.  The home is in the style of Greek Revival and was built in 1845.  William Root was a merchant and Marietta's first druggist.  The family's young son died in an upstairs room.  He continues to stay in the home leaving an indentation on the bed.

We heard about the ghost who is a shadowy man with a tall hat that likes to hang out near the tracks.  As we made our way towards the end of the path we stopped outside of a restaurant called Thaicoon, which serves Thai food, but it had once been a cotton mill and apparently the owner is still believed to be hanging out at the place.  Turpentine was stored in the mill and caused a fire that killed the owner.  He is heard pacing to and fro as he seems to worry about the running of his business.  The original cotton weigh scale is still inside the restaurant.  The unique thing they do at this restaurant is that they leave a plate of food and a drink on a tray right outside the door.

At the end of the path, we arrived at Kennesaw House.  This building was formerly called the Fletcher House for the family that once owned the building and ran the inn that was there.  The building was originally four stories tall, but a fire that started in the corner of the building on the fourth story burned the entire floor and the building is now only three stories.  Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher bought the building from Marietta's Mayor John Glover in 1855 and turned it into a hotel.  The house originally was a cotton warehouse that had been built in the 1840s and then a restaurant for some time.  The Fletcher House was popular and became infamous for something that occurred during the Civil War.  James Andrews was a Union spy and he recruited a group of men to help him with a plot against the railroad.  The Fletcher House was the perfect location since it stood right next to the tracks.  The plot became known as the Great Locomotive Chase and took place in 1862.  Andrews and around twenty other men dressed in plain clothes and boarded a train called "The General" as it stopped in Marietta.  The General pulled into the town of Big Shanty and the Chase was underway!  The men jumped into action, detaching all the rail cars from the engine and they threw the throttle forward.  As the Confederates gave chase, Andrews and his men cut telegraph wires and used crowbars to tear up the track.  They used some of the rails to wind around poles forming them into a bowtie shape and calling them Sherman Bows.  The Confederates finally managed to catch Andrews and most of his raiders and they were hung in Marietta.  Other raiders received the first Medals of Honor from President Lincoln.  The Fletcher House then became a hospital and morgue and later Sherman's headquarters after the Union captured Marietta.  Today, the building houses the Marietta Museum of History.

Hauntings at Kennesaw House include people seeing full body apparitions of Mrs. Fletcher and Dr. Wilder, one of the doctors who had served at the hospital.  We were shown pictures from security cameras that appeared to have full bodied apparitions of both the doctor and Mrs. Fletcher.  The current owner of the building hears footsteps on the third floor even though no one is on that floor.  Cigar smoke has also been smelled in different areas of the building.  Residual scenes of doctors and patients have been witnessed as well.  Charlotte enthusiastically explained the process of amputation in those days.

We walked around to a parking lot that was lined on one side with a stone wall that appeared to us to be some kind of wall for protection.  Recessed into the wall were four archways that no one has been able to figure out the purpose of, but the theory that many believe is best is that these are tunnels that lead to Marietta Square and could have been either supply lines, routes for escape or catacombs for storing bodies.  The city will not excavate the tunnels out of respect, so we may never know what lies in those tunnels, but they run under the city for several blocks.

Some of the locations that are above these tunnels are restaurants and shops.  We ate at one of the restaurants named "Hemingways" that apparently was a morgue at one time and many employees have complained of the spectral scent of formaldehyde.  Diane had gone down to the basement to use the bathroom and although the walls leading down the stairs were creepy because they appeared to be the original stone, Diane didn't feel anything weird.   Down from Hemingways is The Vineyard Cafe, which plays host to a ghost nicknamed The Colonel.  He hangs out at the back of the building.

An Irish bar and grill named Johnnie MacCrackens after a group of firemen killed in the Cardage Factory Fire in Glasgow, Ireland used to be the original fire department for Cobb County and then it became a bank.  Two working vaults from the bank are still located in the building near the bar. It is believed that the banker, Sessions, is still hanging out at the bar and he has been known to move money from the upstairs area into the vaults.

Earlier we had mentioned that Andrews and his Union spies were hung in Marietta.  The area where many of the hangings took place in Marietta is now just a narrow alleyway that we walked down called Hangmans Alley.  People claim that this alley is colder than the ambient temperature, but on the night of our tour it was so chilly we don't think that even ghosts could have made the area colder.

We made a pass of a shop called "Eddie's Trick Shop" and it was pretty creepy to peer through the windows at night.  Plastic skeletons peer down from the ceiling and costumes line the walls along with trick gags and such.  Hauntings of this shop usually occur around the costumes and involve people seeing feet move about.  There is a trap door near the fourth display case that leads down into the infamous tunnels, but the tunnels are blocked just like the archways we mentioned earlier.

The Strand Theater sits at the corner of Marietta Square and is hard to miss with its flashing display screen and lights of the marquee.  The Theater was built in 1935 and is Art Deco in design.  The Strand was the most modern theater outside of Atlanta and it featured air conditioning, heating, an acoustic sound system and seating for 1,000.  Our guide Charlotte informed us that the actress Joanne Woodward had grown up in Marietta and that her visits to the Strand Theater inspired her to become an actress.  Woodward donated money to renovate the classic theater that now plays host to theatrical productions and movies.  As is the case with most theaters, the Strand is haunted.

The movie "Gone with the Wind" has its own museum in Marietta complete with original dresses from the production.  The ghost that resides in the museum is a poltergeist of sorts and enjoys locking and unlocking doors and moving books around in display cases or even taking the books out of the cases.

One of the stops with the most interesting and scandalous stories was the Museum of Art, a restored Classical Revival building.  This building once housed the Marietta Post Office run by a postmaster, DeWitt Cole, doing more than overseeing the delivery of mail.  He had a mistress named Katherine.   She disappeared one day, but it probably was not by her choice because she reportedly haunts the building.  She is a poltergeist who likes to play with the elevator and move things about.  An upstairs room is also a favorite spot for her and the staff leaves a light on for her.  Charlotte told us a chilling tale about an experience some people had at the museum one night.

This was a wonderful tour and the city of Marietta is a must see in Georgia.  Is this historic city haunted?   That is for you to decide.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

HGB Podcast 8 - The Mysterious Podcast: Mystery Manor and the Winchester Mystery Home

Moment in Oddity - Robert the Doll

Robert Eugene Otto was given a doll in 1906 from a servant of his family when he was a child.  The doll wore a sailor's outfit and had small beady eyes with an expressionless face.  The servant disliked the family and practiced black magic and voodoo and it is believed that he cursed the doll.  Eugene's parents told stories of hearing Eugene talk to the doll and then hearing a different voice answer Eugene back as if the doll could really talk.  Neighbors reported seeing the doll look out of windows and move about from window to window and claimed they heard weird giggling when no one was home.  Eugene died in 1974 and the doll was relegated to the attic until another family moved into the home in Key West and a young girl took ownership of the doll.  She soon was waking up in terror at night claiming that the doll was trying to kill her.  Robert the Doll now resides in the Fort East Mortello Museum in Key West.  People claim to see the doll's expressions change and the doll seems to hate to have its picture taken.  When people snap pictures without asking him for permission, people claim to feel cursed and the display area around Robert is covered with notes of apology as people attempt to erase the curse.  So is this doll really alive or just the object of superstition and overactive imaginations?  Whatever the truth may be, the doll is certainly odd.

This Day in History - The Gunpowder Plot

On this day, November the 5th, in 1605 a plan to kill King James I of England was suppose to unfold.  England's Parliament was to open on that day and the plot included blowing up the House of Lords.  If successful, the bombing would not only have killed King James, but many members of the Monarch's family and the Privy Council.  The plotters met in taverns for several months to finalize their plans.  Robert Catesby was their leader and Guy Fawkes was given charge of the explosives.  The plot was foiled when an anonymous letter tipped off the authorities.  A search was made of the House of Lords and Fawkes was discovered where he was guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder, enough to level the House of Lords.  Fawkes was arrested as were several other conspirators.  Catesby was killed in a battle a little while later.  Fawkes and the others that were arrested were tried and ordered to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  The thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot has been commemorated ever since with the ringing of church bells and the modern day Bonfire Night.

Two Mysterious Places - Mystery Manor and the Winchester Mystery Home

There is a haunted house attraction in Nebraska that is commercially named "Mystery Manor," but this is not some warehouse that has been converted into a bunch of rooms designed to scare teenagers to their core.  Mystery Manor was a home at one time. First let's get the legend out of the way about the Hall family.

The year was 1887 and William Hall had paid for a home to be built for him and his wife Greta in Sharpy
County in Omaha, Nebraska.  Nebraska had become a state in 1868 and the year 1887 found the state embroiled in a controversy due to the sensational hanging of William Jackson Marion for murder.  This would be a case that would bring public executions under scorn and lead to Nebraska adopting lethal injection for dispatching criminals.  Evidence was circumstantial against Marion and the entire state was paying close attention to the trial.  A guilty verdict was given and Marion was hanged until he was "dead, dead, dead."  The proverbial cow poo hit the fan four years later when the man that Marion was accused of killing was found in Kansas...alive and well.  We imagine that the elite of Omaha probably discussed the controversy for years following the hanging as they gathered in Hall Manor, William and Greta's fabulous home.  Little did any of these people know just how dark the lives of their hosts would turn one day.

William Hall was a very wealthy man and much of his money was invested in the Stock Market.  On October 23, 1929, a day that became known as Black Tuesday, the Stock Market suffered an unparalleled crash that caused millionaires to become paupers overnight and lead the nation into the Great Depression.  Many men threw themselves from windows and killed themselves in various other ways over the shock and loss.  William Hall was one of the men who lost everything in the crash and then he lost his mind.  As we discussed in our podcast on the Villisca Axe Murders, axes as murder weapons were not unusual.  They were a weapon of convenience.  William had an axe and he was going to use it.

Greta had no idea what William had planned for her.  In his rage and insanity, he took his axe from the shed and in a frenzy he killed Greta, chopping her body into multiple pieces.  The next morning, after realizing what he had done, William gathered up Greta and placed her in a grave at the front of the home.  Somehow, Greta's brother, John Martin, found out about the murder and a week after Greta had died, John showed up at Hall Manor and found the axe William had used.  He turned the axe on William and killed him in similar fashion to the way his sister was murdered.  John dumped William into the same shallow grave as Greta.  The reason the name "Mystery Manor" was used for the haunted house attraction is due to a real mystery that seems to have taken place after John had avenged his sister's death.  He was found dead with an axe buried in his skull and no murderer was ever found.  Legend tells the tale that William Hall came back as a ghost and did away with his brother-in-law.  This is the story the attraction tells. 

The real mystery about this place is the truth about its history.  During the time that William and Greta were suppose to be living in the house according to the legend, the place was serving as housing for the the Union Pacific Railroad, a bordello in the early 1900s where the Madame was murdered along with her son and as a tuberculosis hospice from 1910-1916 where 296 people died. The house was then broken up into apartments until it fell into disrepair and became condemned.  In 1983, it was bought by Wayne Sealy and converted into the haunted attraction that it is now.  There was a time when the home was a private residence before the brothel, but as to who owned the house, we do not know.

So what is the truth about Mystery Manor?  Many years have passed, but the evidence of hauntings at the building leads many to believe that several spirits are at unrest.  A woman in a blue dress has been seen on several occasions by people going through the haunted house attraction.  They believed she was an employee until she either disappeared or they were told that no one fitting the description worked at the house.  Investigators have felt a very dark presence that seems to hold power over the other ghost residents.  A paranormal investigation group out of Kansas City, named Elite Paranormal, conducted an investigation at Mystery Manor and they collected EVPs saying words like, "can't," "behind you," "you're wrong" and "you frightened."  People also heard tappings on a trunk in one of the rooms.

The business office on the main floor is known to have a lot of activity, which includes a feeling of being watched and people are sometimes touched.  A few years ago, a dead cat was found in the ceiling of the second floor.  The owner, Wayne Sealy, went to get a garbage bag to put the cat inside and when he returned, the cat was gone leaving only the imprint of a cat's body in blood.  The stain is still there.  The attraction is full of props and machinery, all of which turn themselves on and off or move around.  A psychic claims that a woman named Claire who had worked in the brothel is present in the building.  Wayne Sealy's son Mark who manages the attraction has said, “The building has stuff happen all the time.  Every once in a while, we’ll find the teddy bears from the child’s room lined up here on the stairs. They just get put here. We think the ghost uses this almost as the house’s lost and found. If someone loses a baseball hat the night before, we’ll find it here.”

Omaha is considered one of the most haunted cities in Nebraska.  Is this location one of those haunted places?  That is for you to decide.

Now join us as we move further west to San Jose, California to introduce you to probably the weirdest home ever built.  William Wirt Winchester lived from 1837-1881 and his father Oliver established the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company.  William was a part of the Winchester company for his entire life.  The company designed the Winchester Rifle in its various models and these became known as the "gun that won the west."  William married Sarah Lockwood Pardee in 1862 and died from tuberculosis in 1881.

After William's death, Sarah moved to California with her sister and in 1886 she bought an eight room farmhouse.  Sarah was very superstitious and she felt as though she were cursed and she sought answers from a medium named Adam Coons.  He confirmed Sarah's fears and told her that she was being haunted by the spirits of the people who had been killed by Winchester Rifles.  Coons directed Sarah to make the move to California and he told her to build a home for her and the spirits and he warned that if she ever stopped building on the house, she would die.

Sarah was very wealthy and she used her fortune to begin renovations on the farmhouse.  Then she started adding rooms.  She instructed anyone working on the house to continue building 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The house grew to seven stories with the installation of an observation tower, but after the 1906 Earthquake, the house was lowered to four stories when the tower toppled.  The front area of the house was badly damaged and Sarah had the entire front portion of the house sealed off because she thought the spirits were angry with her since they did not protect the house nor her from the quake.  She herself was trapped for several hours in her Daisy Room after the earthquake.  The Grand Ballroom was one of the rooms sealed off and it was built almost entirely without the use of nails and contains two leaded stain glassed windows with mysterious quotes from the work of Shakespeare. 

No official plans were ever drawn up of the Victorian style house and the foreman John Hansen followed Mrs. Winchester's plans rather than common sense or his own expertise over the years causing chaos.  That chaos is revealed in staircases that lead to ceilings, doors that open up into walls and windows that face walls.  One staircase goes down for seven steps and then rises for eleven steps.  The number thirteen shows up in a variety of way from thirteen panes in windows to thirteen ceiling panels in the rooms to thirteen steps in many of the staircases.  Five and a half million dollars was spent in total on construction.  We have discussed in previous podcasts the lore about mirrors and how spirits fear them as objects that could entrap them.  Sarah had only three mirrors in the immense mansion to appease the good spirits.  It is thought that Sarah may have used the weird layout of her home to confuse the evil spirits, but others argue that the weird layout was simply from unplanned construction.  Whatever the case, the house is weird.

Sarah died on September 5th, 1922 and the construction immediately stopped.  But Sarah did not leave the home after her death.  She reportedly haunts the home.  Brent Miller was caretaker of the home from 1973-1981 and he heard breathing and footsteps in the room that Sarah Winchester died in.  A friend of Miller's caught a picture of an apparition in coveralls when he came to visit.  Another caretaker turned off all the lights and locked up one night and when he got into his car he glanced at the house and saw that every light on the third floor was lit.  Unused kitchens sometimes give off the scent of a warm meal, particularly chicken soup.  Paranormal investigators report feeling icy spots, organ music, orbs, locked doorknobs turned and moving lights.

There is no doubt that the house is unusual, but is it haunted?  That is for you to decide.

For more information and tours of the Winchester Mystery House: