Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HGB Podcast 24 - The Legend of Black Aggie

Moment in Oddity - The Philadelphia Experiment

A secret experiment was conducted by the United States Navy at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1943 that was code named Project Rainbow, but is known today as the Philadelphia Experiment.  Inventor Nikola Tesla began work with a group in the 1930s that were experimenting with the idea of moving through time and space and the University of Chicago worked with these ideas to create a type of invisibility using these principles and electricity.  The project moved to Princeton's Institute of Advanced Studies in 1939 and they reportedly were able to make small objects go invisible.  Tesla came to the conclusion that this type of technology would not benefit man and he was very right.  The Navy used the ship the USS Eldridge to conduct its tests and it began with animals.  The test with animals proved successful in that the ship became invisible, but when it returned many of the animals were missing and those still on board were burned or full of radiation.  The Navy decided to go forward with human testing.  In October of 1943, the USS Eldridge was placed in a powerful electromagnetic field and for four hours the ship disappeared from radar.  The USS Eldridge reappeared at a military base in Norfolk, Virginia in front of several witnesses and then it disappeared and reappeared where it started in Philadelphia and the state of the crew was something found only in nightmares.  Some men were missing, others were completely on fire and still others had become a part of the ship meaning that their torsos were locked into walls.  Everyone still on board that survived became very ill.  The Navy denies any such experiment.  Others claim the story is a hoax.  If the Philadelphia Experiment did actually happen, then it not only is one of our greatest mysteries, but also an occurrence that certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Pall Mall Lit By Gaslight

On this day, January 28th, in 1807, the first street is lit by gaslight in London.  This was seventy years before the first incandescent electric lamp would be invented and gas lamps were commonly used in the home.  Gas lamps work in one of two ways, either indirectly with a gas mantle being heated by gas or directly by a flame that was fueled by a mix of gases.  Typical fuel gases include methane, propane, butane, ethylene, carbon monoxide, natural gas and hydrogen.  In the early 19th century, gas lamps would have been lit manually.  Before street lights were invented, home owners were required in some cities to hang a lamp from their front door to help light the road.  The Mayor of London had issued an order in 1417 that read, "Lanterns with lights to be hanged out on the winter evenings between Hallowtide and Candlemasse."  In London, an Act of the Common Council in 1716 requires that lamps be hung outside of homes from 6pm to 11pm every night and that anyone not following the law would face a fine of one shilling.  William Murdoch becomes the first person to use gas for use in lighting.  He lights his own home with gas lights in 1792.  In 1798, he lit the main area of his workplace, the Soho Foundry Steam Engine Works, with gas lighting.  German inventor Frederick Albert Winsor started a gasworks in Britain in 1807 he made the first public demonstration of street lighting with gas lights on one side of Pall Mall in London.  A few years later, in 1813, the Westminster Bridge was lit by gas lights.  Today, many historic districts still use gas lighting out of nostalgia.

Legend of Black Aggie

Urban legends are the folklore of America.  Many of these legends begin with truth, but they change and grow through the years as people share the stories.  One such story is the legend of Black Aggie that has its origins in the Druid Ridge Cemetery.  Could a simple cemetery statuary be cursed?  Is someone reaching out from the afterlife?  And why in the world do crazy humans challenge each other to test the spirits, the unexplained or whatever?  Who is Black Aggie and what is its legend?

This story begins with a woman named Marian Adams.  Her friends called her "Clover."  She was born in 1843 in Boston to Robert William Hooper.  The Hooper family was wealthy and Clover became a well known socialite and amateur photographer.  Henry James even claimed she was inspiration for his novel "The Portrait of a Lady."  Clover's mother died when she was five and she in turn grew very close to her father who was a doctor.  She married a writer named Henry Adams in 1872, who was the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, and he became utterly devoted to Clover.  Adams became a professor at Harvard and then the couple later moved to a home across from the White House in Washington, D.C.

Clover's beloved father died in 1885 and she sank into a horrible depression.  Clover used potassium cyanide to develop her photographs and in December of 1885, she used that poisonous chemical to commit suicide as she sat before the fire in her bedroom.  Potassium cyanide needs the stomach acids to be at a certain acidity in order for the compound to become hydrogen cyanide.  Potassium cyanide was used by Nazis Eva Braun, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goring and the People's Temple and Heaven's Gate cults to commit suicide.  Clover's husband found her dead and the papers reported that she died suddenly from her heart stopping.  Adams was crushed and he decided to have a sculpture made in Clover's honor to be placed upon her grave at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was an American sculpture originally from Ireland.  He was well known for creating sculptures to honor Civil War heroes and creating the double eagle golden $20 piece.  Henry Adams asked Augustus to design the Adams Memorial.  We have been in many cemeteries and beyond that we have seen all varieties of graveyard statuary.  Many pieces are gorgeous featuring crosses or angels, some are cute like the carved headstone of Gracie at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia and then there are others that are just downright creepy, many of which are found in Europe.  The Adams Memorial, which was dubbed "Grief," is one of those creepy types of statuary featuring an androgynous figure draped in a cloak with vacant eyes in a seated position, its hand near its face.  Grief took four years to finish and was inspired by both figures of Buddha and the works of Michelangelo.  Henry Adams would never call the monument by any name and he would never speak of the death of his wife.

Normally, this is where the story would end, but not this story.  General Felix Agnus was the publisher of  the Baltimore "American."  He was born in France and fought in Napoleon's army against Austria.  In 1860, he moved to New York to work as a silver chaser and sculptor at Tiffany & Co., which had opened in October of 1840.  The Civil War broke out shortly after he came to America and he joined the Union Army.  His skill as a leader caused him to rise to the rank of Brigadier General very quickly.  He was only 26 years old.  Agnus had been wounded so many times in battle that a friend claimed he "had so much lead in him that he rattled when he walked."  Agnus spent time in Baltimore recovering from injuries where he met Annie Fulton, the daughter of the then publisher of the Baltimore "American."  They married and after a career working for the IRS and Consul to Ireland for the United States Senate, he took over as publisher of the "American" from his father-in-law.

In 1905, Agnus decided to have a family monument built at the Druid Ridge Cemetery.  Druid Ridge Cemetery is a cemetery located outside of Baltimore, Maryland.  The cemetery is not only the final resting place of pioneers in medicine, politicians and war heroes, but it also is home to several of German sculptor Hans Schuler's creations.  Agnus purchased a sculpture for the memorial made by Sculptor Eduard L.A. Pausch.  This was not a sculpture designed by Pausch.  It was a pirated design copied from the Adams' Memorial's "Grief" monument.  This was not by permission and Henry Adams wrote to a friend that "even now, the head of the figure bears evident traces of some surreptitious casting, which the workmen did not even take the pains to wash off."  Apparently, a granite supplier from Conneticut named John Salter had hired Pausch to make the knockoff and had told Agnus that Pausch had permission to make the copy.  The only difference between the two statues is that the original was made from pink granite, while Pausch's was made with a stone of gray coloring. The original sculptor's wife sued Salter and won.  General Agnus decided to place the statue at the Agnus Monument anyway and did so in 1907.  Agnus faced scrutiny and criticism for the copied sculpture, but he claimed he was just an innocent victim.  

Agnus had a pedestal built for the sculpture and then had his mother's body brought over from France and she was the first to be buried at the Agnus Memorial.  Agnus' wife Annie died and was buried there in 1922 and Agnus joined her in 1925.  The statue came to be known as Black Aggie based on her coloring and the fact that she sat at the Agnus Memorial.  No grass would grow before the statue, but what did grow was the legend of Black Aggie.  The sculpture no longer is in the Druid Ridge Cemetery.  It was donated to the Smithsonian by the Agnus family because of the defacing the sculpture had received at the hands of graffiti artists and because of the lore building around the monument that brought unwanted attention.  The Smithsonian decided they did not want a knockoff statue and it was given to the General Services Administration and they placed it in a courtyard at the National Courts Building in 1987 behind the Dolly Madison House, where it still sits today.

Black Aggie as it appears today in its new place
This brings us to the urban legend.  Numerous claims have been made about Black Aggie, all of which lead to the belief that this melancholy figure is cursed.  Claims of a curse gained strength when people noticed that no vegetation would grow near the memorial.  Rumors began to circulate that the spirits within the Druid Ridge Cemetery would gather around Black Aggie as though she were calling to them on certain nights.  People would claim that if anyone met the vacant stare of Black Aggie for too long that they would be struck blind.  Still others claimed that Black Aggie's eyes would glow red.  And if a pregnant woman were to gaze upon Black Aggie, she would soon find herself miscarrying or giving birth to a stillborn child.  Clover Adams had been unable to have children and many attribute this curse to her.

A fraternity at a college near Druid Ridge Cemetery decided that they wanted to include the statue in their hazing rites due to growing urban legend.  New initiates were required to spend a night in the cemetery curled in the lap of the statue.  Part of Black Aggie's lore was that anyone sleeping in the figures lap at night would be strangled or suffocated as they slept.  There is a tale about one such initiate being crushed to death.  One evening, the cemetery caretaker heard a blood curdling scream and found another initiate dead at the feet of Black Aggie.  Two other fraternity brothers who had been with him had run away earlier after, they claim, they saw the statue move and reach out and grab the initiate.  Are these stories based in truth or just a part of the legend?

The monument soon faced desecration when young people would break into the cemetery and spray graffiti on the statue and its pedestal.  Groundskeepers placed thorny bushes around the statue to protect it, but people continued to vandalize the statue.  Others placed coins in Black Aggie's hand for luck.  One man who put his cigarette out in Black Aggie's hand was found dead a few years later, a victim of a gunshot to the head.  Another individual sawed off one of Black Aggie's arms and claimed that the statue had done it to itself.  He was put in jail.

The legend of Black Aggie has reached the ranks of Bloody Mary.  It is claimed that saying Black Aggie three times before a mirror in the bathroom at midnight brings the same results as those brought about by saying Bloody Mary three times.  Black Aggie will appear behind you in the mirror and then stab you or take you for a ride to Hell.  There have been no reports of Black Aggie being a part of supernatural activity since being removed from the cemetery.  This may only be because many people are unaware of her new home or no one who sees the statue realizes that she is part of an ongoing urban legend.

Does the spirit of either Clover or Henry Adams possess the Black Aggie?  Is this somber statue cursed for some other reason?  Are the stories about Black Aggie simply from the imaginations of the living who just want to claim some part of the urban legend?  The grass now grows at the Agnus gravesite.  Is that just a coincidence?  That is for you to decide.

*A great website for more information on America's urban legends can be found here:

Friday, January 23, 2015

HGB Podcast 23 - The Haunted Kremlin

Moment in Oddity - Blue Exoplanet Rains Glass

Way out in the middle of interstellar space sits a planet with a very familiar blue.  At first glance, one may think that this may be an Earth-like planet, possibly able to sustain life.  There is carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor in its atmosphere.  The planet has been named HD 189733b and it was discovered in 2005.  This exoplanet is approximately 63 light years from Earth.  Unlike Earth, it orbits far closer to its sun than we do.  A year on this planet lasts only 2.2 days.  Boy, does one age fast there!  And you might want some major sunblock on this planet where surface temperatures reach 1551 degrees.  The Hubble Space Telescope was used to study the planet and they found that the blue of the planet is a deep azure due to many elements in its atmosphere that are similar to Jupiter's elements creating solid cloud particles.  Sodium atoms in those clouds absorb red and green wavelengths and then give off the deep blue.  The sodium atoms are created by silica, which basically means that the clouds are made up of grains of glass.  These grains of glass then most likely fall from the clouds resulting in a planet that rains glass.  Now that certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Roots Mini-series Premieres

On this day, January 23rd, in 1977, the Roots mini-series premieres on ABC-TV based on the novel "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" written by Alex Haley.  ABC was apprehensive about how audiences would receive the series and so they ran it on a unique schedule and made sure to advertise it using more of the white actors.  Their fears were unfounded as Roots broke viewership records and won several awards.  An estimated 140 million Americans watched.  The mini-series' finale holds the record as the second most watched series finale in television history.  Roots was nominated for 37 Emmys and won nine of them and it won a Peabody Award and Golden Globe.  The plot of the series follows a black family's history from Africa to America and through the 18th and 19th century past the Civil War.  Stars of the series include LeVar Burton, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ben Vereen, Ed Asner, Loren Greene, Sandy Duncan, Llyod Bridges, Burl Ives, Maya Angelou and O.J. Simpson.  The series was not without controversy as it came to light that Alex Haley had plagiarized several parts of his novel, stealing from Harold Courlander's book "The African."  Courlander sued and Haley settled out of court.  Two sequels were made later and the History Channel is currently working on a remake of the mini-series. 

The Haunted Kremlin

Kremlin is a Russian word meaning a fortified complex found inside a city.  There are many kremlins in Russia, some of which that are in use and others that are just ruins.  Our focus is on the Moscow Kremlin, which is simply known today as The Kremlin.  The area upon which the Kremlin is built has thousands of years of history behind it and the Kremlin itself does as well.  As the seat of government, the Kremlin has seen many leaders come and go.  Some of those leaders never left.  Not only does the spirit with which they lead the country remain, but in some cases, their actual spirits still roam the halls of this magnificent building.

Archaeological digs have revealed that humans lived in the area where the Kremlin now stands as far back as 500 BC.  The area was a prime spot for living because two rivers, the Moskva and the Neglinnaya, come together there.  Yuri Dolgorukiy, the founder of Moscow, was born sometime in the 1090s - no one has ever been able to pinpoint his year of birth - during the Rurik Dynasty to Vladimir II Monomakh, the Grand Prince of Kievan Rus'.  Kievan Rus' was a federation of East Slavic tribes and modern day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus all come down from these tribes.  The capital of Kievan Rus' was Kiev and Vladimir ruled there from 1113-1125.  In 1108, Vladimir sent Yuri to govern the Rostov-Suzdal Province, which was in the northeast.  Yuri founded many cities while he was in this territory and he allied himself with Sviatoslav Olgovich, who was a prince himself.  The two met in Moscow in 1147 and Yuri stayed there and fortified the walls of Moscow, earning him the moniker, "Founder of Moscow."  A wooden fort was built on the spot where the Moskva and Neglinnaya Rivers converged by Yuri and the city of Moscow grew.  A monument and a coin were made in Yuri's honor and a Russian submarine was named for him as well.

The Mongols came in the early 13th century and they razed the wooden fortress.  A hundred years passed before the Kremlin was rebuilt in 1339 by Prince Ivan Kalita.  He enclosed the Kremlin within fortified oak walls.  It was at this same time that the Kremlin was first mentioned in Russian Chronicles.  In 1366, Dmitry Donskoy who was the Prince of Moscow at the time, replaced the wooden oak walls with white limestone.  Ivan III Vasilyevich, famously known as Ivan the Great, became Grand Prince of Moscow in 1462 and things really began to grow for the Kremlin.

Under Ivan the Great, the Kremlin became the seat of power as the Russian territories were unified.  Ivan commenced a rebuilding of the Kremlin, inviting Italian Renaissance architects to help with the design.  New walls, a new tower and a new palace were all built as well as three extant cathedrals, the Palace of Facets and the Deposition Church.  The Palace of Facets was built as the throne room where state receptions were held and today is the official representative hall of the Russian government.  The Deposition Church is known today as the Church of the Deposition of the Robe and the robe part of the name is for the robe of the Virgin Mary.  The church was a private chapel for the Patriarch of Moscow, who was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, but was later taken over by the Russian royal family.  The walls of the Kremlin were finished in 1495 and they are the same walls that can be seen today.  Ivan the Great decreed that nothing could be built near the Kremlin and a 30 foot moat was placed around the Kremlin.

Ivan the Terrible was the next czar to hold court at the Kremlin and he became the first czar over all the Russias.  He was crowned the Prince of Moscow at the age of three and his mother served as regent for him until she died when he was eight.  At just sixteen, he was crowned Czar of Russia.  Ivan was a wise and powerful ruler bringing the printing press to Russia for the first time, but he also established serfdom and was terrifying at times.  He found it hard to control his temper and he was given to bouts of mental illness.  This mental illness was on display during the Massacre of Novgorod and also when Ivan killed his hand picked successor who also happened to be his son Ivan Ivanovich by hitting him in the head with his staff.  The first strains of paranoia came when his first wife died by poisoning and he blamed his advisers, but his mental instability showed as a child and the narrative is similar to that of any garden variety serial killer.  He enjoyed torturing and killing animals as a child and he ran with mobs as a teenager beating women and children.  Ivan would never trust his advisers and would kill many of them through the years.  But he was also a man of art and letters that he wrote have been described as Shakespearean in content.  Ivan continued the building that had been ongoing at the Kremlin.  He had Saint Basil's Cathedral built over the moat and renovated the palace.  He also had a palace and a cathedral built for his sons.

The Time of Troubles followed this period and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied Russia from 1610-1612.  Famine in the area killed two million people.  The volunteer army of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky liberated the Kremlin and a new czar was elected.  Czar Romanov added the eleven-domed Upper Saviour Cathedral, Armorial Gate, Terem Palace, Amusement Palace and the palace of Patriarch Nikon to the Kremlin and their construction was completed during the reign of his son.

In the year 1682, the reigning czar died and an uprising resulted known as the Moscow Uprising of 1682.  It was at this time that a ten year old Peter the Great became the new Russian czar.  He would rule until his death in 1725 and he was so traumatized by the uprising that he moved the seat of Russian power to St. Petersburg.  The Kremlin was still used for certain events and it continued to be improved with tiled tent-shaped tops added to all its towers.  According to the famous historian I.F. Zabelin, the addition of the tent tops to the towers "did not strengthen the Kremlin’s defense but gave it some other, eternal, strength and expressed the poetry and spirit of the old pre-petrin Rus."  Peter the Great had the Kremlin Arsenal built.  The building was commissioned in 1702, but due to the Russo-Swedish War, it took until 1736 for it to be completed.  It was built in the shape of an elongated trapezium with a large central courtyard and was used as a museum and then later as a barracks.  The Arsenal has endured much destruction.  In 1737, it was heavily damaged by fire.  The reconstruction took until 1796 and then in 1812, Napoleon blew the building up.  That reconstruction took until 1828.

In the late 18th century, the Kremlin Senate was built and its architecture is done in the Moscow Classical style.  The Senate has a circular hall that has been dubbed the Russian Pantheon.  Colonnades run around the outside of the circle and rise to over 88 feet and the hall is topped by a dome that has twenty-four windows.  This building held the private studies for both Lenin and Stalin and has wonderful bas-relief sculptures.  A secret tunnel beneath the area was probably used for spying.  Since 1991, the Senate has been the home for the President of the Russian Federation.

The Great Kremlin Palace was built in 1849 over the area where Ivan III's Palace once stood.  The building has wide-bayed brick arches and while the outside is not considered to be anything special, the inside of the Palace is extraordinary featuring styles from the Renaissance to the Byzantine.  There are five halls inside, each dedicated to an order of the Russian Empire.  The Georgievsky Hall has marble plaques that are engraved with the names of more than ten thousand Russian officers who have received the highest honor of the Russian Army, the Order of St. George.  The Andreevsky Hall is the throne room and built from pink marble with a spherical dome.  Vladimirskiy Hall is in the form of an octahedron and is domed as well.  When the Soviet Union existed, the Andreevsky and Aleksandrovsky Halls were combined to form the seat of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

World War I had broken out in 1914 and Russia's participation proved to be the initial undoing of the Czars.  Two separate revolutions took place in 1917, known as the Russian Revolution, and Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks overthrew Czar Nicholas II.  Civil war ensued and the Communist Era began.  The Kremlin again became the seat of power at this time and large red stars were placed around the towers.  Lenin became the architect of the Soviet State and its first leader.  His last name is not his birth name.  It is a name he chose for himself while working in the political underground.  During the Civil War, Lenin launched the Red Terror that killed any opposition in the civilian population.  Lenin's dreams of a perfect society never came to fruition.  The same lower classes he had used to rise to power turned on him and strife was a part of the new USSR.

Joseph Stalin became the leader of the USSR in 1924 and he rules for two decades until 1953.  His was a reign of terror that sent the peasants back into serfdom and millions of people starved to death under his leadership.  Continuing what his predecessor Lenin had begun, Stalin removed all reminders of the czars from the Kremlin.  Statues were destroyed and the Golden Eagles on the towers were removed and replaced by Kremlin stars.  Stalin also pulled down some of the cathedrals and replaced them with a military school.  The Kremlin was closed to foreign visitors at this time as well.

The Kremlin would not open for visitors until 1955 and the Kremlin Museums were opened in 1961.  Nikita Khrushchev had the Kremlin Palace of Congresses built in the 1960s and it clashes horribly with the rest of the Kremlin's architecture.  Current leader Vladimir Putin added a unique feature to the Kremlin, a helipad, which was finished in 2013.  The Kremlin is open every day of the week for tours except Thursdays and tours begin at 10am.  There are individuals tickets for different areas, the museum tickets run under $10.

Based on this history, one can see that the Kremlin is the heart of Moscow and contains some of the oldest structures in Russia.  A place with such a rich history and veiled in mystery is the perfect setting for hauntings and the Kremlin is notoriously haunted.  The main hauntings are attributed to three of Russia's leaders:  Ivan the Terrible, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.  The interesting point to keep in mind when talking about ghosts and Russia is that Communism forced a type of atheism on the people.  Telling ghost stories was almost a forbidden act.  So image the irony of Communist leaders haunting their people.

Ivan the Terrible is thought to mainly haunt the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.  His heavy booted footsteps have been heard and a shadow figure resembling the crazy leader has been seen on multiple occasions.  Several times, Ivan's ghost has appeared engulfed in flames.  Nikolay II was the last czar in Russia before the Soviet State was installed and he and his wife claimed that they had a visitation from a full bodied apparition of Ivan the Terrible on the evening before Nikolay's coronation.  Many look back on this event as a bad omen for the Romanov royal dynasty, which was going to collapse. 

In 1923, a security chief reported seeing the ghostly apparition of Lenin.  The weird thing about this sighting is that Lenin was still alive at the time.  The chief had thought it was odd that Lenin was wondering about without a security detail.  Perhaps he was preparing to chew some people out for this lack of protection, but instead of finding the lazy security detail, the chief found out that Lenin was not even at the Kremlin.  He was away in Gorky.  Was this Lenin's doppelganger?  A doppelganger is a look-a-like of a living person and is read about mostly in folklore.  Seeing a doppelganger is generally considered a sign of bad luck.  Lenin would die three months after this incident.  Even more bizarre is that there were other witnesses who saw Lenin that same evening and claim that the leader who was ill and needed a cane was walking about just fine and seemed very healthy.  Lenin's body is still around and on display in the Lenin Mausoleum.  The macabre display features Lenin in a suit that is washed and ironed regularly and changed out every three years, lying in a glass coffin that is kept at a constant temperature and humidity.  His skin is regularly treated with a bleach solution to prevent mold.  Lenin can be viewed in small groups for up to five minutes under the watchful eye of several guards.  Lenin's spirit might still be hanging out since his body was never buried like he had requested before his death.  The apartment he had lived in is locked and sealed, but people say they hear papers rustling, furniture creaking and pacing footsteps as if someone were inside.

A woman by the name of Fanny Kaplan was accused of trying to assassinate Lenin and although no proof was ever given and no trial was held, Kaplan was executed by being shot and then stuffed in a barrel and set on fire at the Kremlin.  She is said to haunt the Komendantskaya Tower where her apparition is seen with unkempt hair, holding a gun and trembling.

Joseph Stalin's ghost is the most seen specter.  If a room in the Kremlin suddenly gets cold, people believe that Stalin is there particularly if the country is facing some kind of crisis.  The scent of urine occasionally accompanies the cold spots because Stalin was found lying in his own urine after he was poisoned with rat poison, most likely by one of his generals.  Stalin's special service chief Ezhov has been seen wandering the halls, particularly where Stalin's private residence, the Patriarch Chambers, once was located. The ghost of Stalin's secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, has been seen within the Kremlin.  He and his men tortured and killed hundreds of people who opposed Stalin.  The haunting sounds of screams and footsteps can still be heard in the dungeons below the residence.

False Dimitriy claimed to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, although those claims were never proven.  He overthrew the czar at the time and ruled for a short time.  He fell out of favor with the people and they revolted.  Several assassins climbed the walls and False Dimitriy jumped from a window breaking his leg.  He was then shot to death.  His ghost has been seen wandering among the battlements of the Kremlin.  He was last seen in 1991 by a group of employees.  They claimed he was waving his arms as if warning them of something.  The next day a Communist coup d'etat was staged that Boris Yeltsin defeated.

Workers at the State Archives of the Russian Federation claim to see a woman in a white robe who wanders the aisles there as if protecting the historical accounts.  Some claim she is a member of the Romanov family, the last czar line.  Figures dressed in shrouds are witnessed in the corridors of the Kremlin Palace of Congresses.

The Kremlin was built as a fortress of protection.  It appears to be no match for the restless spirits of those long dead.  Are Russia and the USSR's former leaders still holding court in their former residence?  Are the spirits of those tortured and killed still trapped within the walls of their former prison?  That is for you to decide!

Additional show notes

Tour tickets for the Kremlin:
Sound effects courtesy of:
Russian song can be found here:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

HGB Podcast 22 - Octagon Hall

Moment in Oddity - George Feifer's Lost Book

The Girl from Petrovka was a 1974 feature film starring Hal Holbrook, Goldie Hawn and Anthony Hopkins.  The movie was based on the novel written by George Feifer.  The plot is a love story between Holbrook, who plays an American journalist, and Hawn, who is a Russian dancer living illegally in the Soviet Union.  They have to hide from the KGB.  Anthony Hopkins wanted to read the novel before starring in the movie, so he scoured the bookshops of London to no avail.  He could find no copy of the novel anywhere.  He headed for the Leicaster Square subway station to head home when he saw a book sitting on a seat, forgotten by someone.  The book just happened to be a copy of The Girl from Petrovka.  The movie began filming two years later in Vienna.  George Feifer, the author of the book, visited the set to see how things were going.  Hopkins and Feifer visited and Feifer told him that it might seem silly, but he had no copy of his own book because he had given his last copy to a friend who lost it in London two years prior.  Hopkins retrieved his copy and asked Feifer if it was the book that had been lost.  Feifer flipped through it and saw his notes in the margin.  Sure enough, this was his lost book.  The fact that this book just happened to be at the subway station that Hopkins could find in no bookstore in London is strange enough.  For that book to be the author's long lost copy is even weirder.  The chances that this lost book would end up in the possession of one of the stars of the movie based on that book and that he would still have it and be able to return it to its original owner, the author, certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Captain Cook discovers Hawai'i

On this day, January 18th, in 1778, the English explorer Captain James Cook discovered an island group that he dubbed the Sandwich Islands, naming them in honor of the Earl of Sandwich.  Today, we all know those islands to be the Hawaiian Islands and we also know that Captain Cook could not possibly discover something that already had inhabitants.  So we all understand that the Polynesians discovered the Hawaiian Islands.  But Captain Cook did put the Islands on the map.  His journeys to Hawai'i would eventually prove fatal for him.  Initially, Cook and his crew were welcomed and this first visit went smooth with good trade.  Cook had explored many lands before this from New Zealand to Tahiti to Antarctica and so he was an expert at exploration.  Cook and his crew left, but they returned to Hawai'i a year later.  Captain Cook just happened to land in Kealakekua Bay during the Hawaiian's festival of Lono on this second visit.  The Bay was the home of the god Lono and since Cook showed up during the festival, he and his crew were treated like gods.  They took advantage of the Hawaiians until a crew member died, revealing to the Hawaiians that they were mortals.  Cook and his crew left, but had to return after damage occurred to one of their ships.  The Hawaiians greeted them by throwing rocks and stole one of Cook's cutters.  A lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death and a mob of Hawaiians overtook Cook's party.  Despite the fact that Cook's men were firing their guns, they were overwhelmed and Cook was killed.  A handful of Cook's men made it back to the ships and they set sail again, firing cannons as they went. 

Octagon Hall

Octagon Hall in Franklin, Kentucky has the distinction of being the most unique house in the state of Kentucky.  An octagon shaped home is a rarity, there are only four in America, but this Antebellum home is mysterious and distinct for more reasons that just its shape.  Octagon Hall and the entire property that makes up the plantation it was built upon, survived the Civil War and occupation by the Union Army.  But something else survives here as well.  This Kentuckian historical landmark transforms ever Autumn into a haunted house attraction that really is reportedly haunted.

Andrew Jackson Caldwell was born in 1818 to John and Elizabeth Caldwell in Hardin, Kentucky.  He was one of three children born to the couple.  His first wife was Elizabeth Akers and the couple had two children, Mary Elizabeth and AJ.  AJ died before he was two and Mary Elizabeth died as a child, we've heard ages ranging from 7 to 11 to 12, in a horrific manner that we will detail further on in the podcast.  (1860 census has Mary still alive at 11.)  Elizabeth herself passed away in 1851.  Caldwell then married Harriet Smith Morton in 1855 and the couple had eight children: Edith who died at 4, Henry, Martha, Andrew, twins Joseph and John, Virginia and Ernest.  In 1847, Caldwell laid out plans for a home on a plantation in Franklin, Kentucky.  He decided he wanted the place to be unique, so he chose to build it in the shape of an octagon.  The home was built from bricks that were fashioned on the plantation from clay and other materials.  The home was completed in 1859 with its distinct eight sides and it rose to three stories. 

Not long after, in 1861, Civil War broke out in the United States.  Kentucky was a Confederate state and Caldwell was very pro-Confederacy.  His brother was a colonel in the Confederate Army.  Word was put out through the Confederate Army that if a Confederate soldier found himself in trouble and if he could make it to the Octagon house, he would be given shelter.  Wounded soldiers came, received medical care and were hidden in the attic.  Many did not survive their injuries and they died in the safe harbor of the home.  Two soldiers were buried on the property.  The First Kentucky Brigade was nicknamed the Orphan Brigade and they played a big role in the Battle of Shiloh.  A group of 12,000 men that were part of the Orphan Brigade camped overnight at Octagon Hall in 1862.  The Union Army was in hot pursuit and the next day 18,000 of them were camped on the plantation.

This stay by the Union Army proved devastating for the Caldwell family.  All of the family's cattle were killed, including their beloved milking cow "Old Spot."  Some of the dead cattle were thrown into the well, contaminating the water for months.  The Army also threatened to burn the house down, but later decided against it.  This entire area of Kentucky was soon under Union occupation and it became harder and harder for the Caldwell family to harbor Confederate soldiers.  The Caldwell family were slave owners and so it is ironic to think that the Underground Railroad was harboring runaway slaves in the same way the Caldwells were harboring rebel soldiers.

We are not sure on her date or year of death, but we are guesstimating as accurately as possible that Mary Elizabeth died in 1860 at the age of twelve.  We are basing this on the 1860 census that has her alive at 11 (which is inaccurate since the 1850 census has her age 3) and EVP sessions (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) that claim she is twelve.  Mary was either playing by the fire down in the basement's kitchen or helping to prepare a meal there when her dress accidentally caught fire.  The poor girl was horribly burned over much of her body and suffered for several days before she finally passed away.  Andrew Caldwell died in 1866 at just 47.  Harriet and the children continued to live in the home until 1918.  She sold the house at that time to an Osteopathic doctor from Tennessee named Dr. Miles Williams.  Dr. Williams lived there until his death in 1954.  His widow continued to live in the home until 1981.  The Williams family then rented out the property.  In 2001, the Octagon Hall Foundation was formed and bought the property.  Billy Byrd is the Executive Director and he has worked to restore the home.  It is now a Civil War Museum, with one room even set up as a hospital, and it hosts not only daytime tours, but paranormal investigators can do overnights in the building.  Throughout the month of October, weekends feature Haunted Hall, a haunted house attraction.

Ghost tales and a belief in the supernatural is a part of the history of the south and Kentucky is no exception.  Some of America's most haunted locations are located in Kentucky, including Bobby Mackey's Music World and Waverley Hills Sanatorium.  Octagon Hall is believed to have several ghosts on the property.  There is not only a family plot that has the graves of first wife Elizabeth Akers Caldwell and her two children, Mary Elizabeth and baby AJ, but there are two Confederate soldiers graves and a slave cemetery.  Billy Byrd and his brother Barry were the first to report strange happenings as they renovated the home.  Beds that were made up would either become rumpled or have indentations on the mattress as if someone were lying on the bed.  Doors opened and closed of their own accord, disembodied footsteps are heard and occasional dark figures were seen.  The burglar alarm went off one evening and Billy joined an officer inside the home.  The two watched as the parlor door knob jiggled, so the officer went around back to sneak up on the intruder.  He found no one and when he returned to the front, both he and Billy watched as the knob turned and the door opened on its own.

After renovations were complete, the house and property were opened for tours.  During one such tour in 2003, the heavy iron kettle that hung in the fireplace of the basement's kitchen became dislodged and flew across the room in front of the entire tour group.  The kettle had no visible assistance with this action.  The following video that was recorded by Sebourn Paranormal Investigations in 2011 features the basement kitchen's fireplace and a weird phenomenon that floats in the room.  It appears to be a shaft of light that disappears when humans enter the room.  Our skeptical minds claim it is some kind of play with string and the infrared light from the camera, but if this group is honest in their claims, then we have no explanation for what caused this phenomenon:

Mary Elizabeth is thought to haunt the kitchen and experiences involving her have been reported by numerous investigation groups.  EVPs have caught a young girl crying for her mommy and reporting her age as twelve.  Some people claim to hear audible screams of a young girl, many of which include her screaming for her mother.  These strike as a residual in origin.  Mary has played what investigators call "The Flashlight Game," which is a game involving a standard flashlight left sitting by itself turned off and the spirit is asked to turn the flashlight off and on.  We will say after scouring numerous websites featuring EVPs of a young girl, that we wonder who exactly this spirit really is because many of the words and sentences captured lead us to believe that this spirit is a prankster with an intention of trying to scare people.  The young girl voice has claimed her favorite game is "a haunting" and the voice has been recorded saying "I'm going to get ya" and as if talking to someone else, "How should I get them?" 

When Andrew Caldwell passed away, they held a viewing and wake in the parlor as was custom at the time.  There was no embalming at this time and so a few days of a body sitting open in a room could get a bit, well...odorous.  On the anniversary of Caldwell's death in 2003, a strong scent of flowers was smelled in the parlor, although there were no flowers in the home.  This scent was then followed by the unmistakeable scent of death and decay.

Strange light phenomenon have been recorded in the nursery.  The spirit of a Confederate soldier who bled to death in the attic is thought to still be in the attic.  Adult male voices have been caught on recorder and are seen in the windows.  Ghost Hunters investigated the property and got their usual audible noises that only they seem to be able to hear.  Sorry to be snarky, but we mostly believe Ghost Hunters is staged entertainment.

A tunnel exists under the ground running from the kitchen to an outdoor barn and there is paranormal activity that has been attributed to the tunnel and is perhaps a result of the tunnel being excavated.  The tunnel would have been used to secret away Confederate soldiers.  The Loom House is a small wooden building on the property that is a replica of the former building that had stood there.  It was used as a slave quarters and was also a place where knit fabric was made.  Supernatural activities take place in this building, which include disembodied footsteps, doors opening and closing on their own and sudden chills.

Is Octagon Hall distinct for more reasons than just its unique design?  Do parts of its tragic past continue to replay in the present?  Do spirits continue to roam the grounds and buildings of the Octagon Hall Plantation?  That is for you to decide.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Ghosts of Prohibition

On this day, January 16th, in 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified making the sale and production of alcohol illegal.  The Prohition Era had begun!  A temperance movement that had been spreading since 1820 steamrolled legislation in several states and the wave finally hit the federal government.  President Woodrow Wilson originally vetoed the measure, but his veto was overturned.  On October 28th of that same year, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which gave the government power to implement the 18th Amendment.  Nationwide prohibition began in 1920.

It was not illegal to drink alcohol and thus bootlegging, speakeasies and gang activity surrounding the distribution of alcohol blossomed.  The level of supernatural activity resulting from things that went on during Prohibition is far too great for a single blog post, but let us focus on just a couple of places.

The Casablanca Inn

This bed and breakfast located in St. Augustine, Florida was once a boarding house.  It was built in 1914 in the Revival architectural style and named The Matanzas Hotel.  A couple years later, the hotel was turned into a boarding house and the name was changed to Bayfront Boarding House.  The woman who ran the boarding house decided that the place was better off as a hotel and so she changed the name to the Casablanca Inn.  This woman was an intelligent businesswoman and she saw a great opportunity when Prohibition began.  She knew that providing alcohol for her customers would make her money.  She also knew that helping the bootleggers would have financial reward as well.

She was well positioned to help the bootleggers because government agents would stay at the Casablanca Inn in hopes of catching illegal rum coming into port.  Whenever the agents were in town, the woman would notify the bootleggers with a special warning they had worked out together.  She would use a lantern to signal to the bootleggers whenever the agents were in town.  She would wave the lantern from the second floor.  The woman eventually died and was buried at Huguenot Cemetery and Prohibition was repealed.  But this has not stopped the lantern warnings.  To this day, people out on the water claim that they still see a lantern light waving back and forth from the second floor of the Casabalnca Inn.  Wispy fog like apparitions are seen inside the inn as well.

Children's Center in Ohio

The following is a true story as told by a journeyman working in a building that was a former speakeasy.
"As a young Journeyman in a construction union I had been waiting to finish my apprenticeship so I would be able to run my own jobs and in a way be my own boss but when I finally got the opportunity to work on a job by myself, I was wishing that I would have been working with someone else.

First off I was given a key to walk into my project that was located down a shady brick stairwell from the outside of the building. This stairwell led to a door that you most commonly see in old prohibition movies about Elliot Ness and the mob. Thinking nothing of it, excited to finally work alone I was shown my project and I worked my first day there aware that it was eerie inside of what is now a Children's Center but nothing happened.

The next day I went in to work earlier than I usually did so I could get a better idea of what kind of material I needed for the work week. I used my key and quickly turned the lights on. I walked down a brick hallway further into the basement. The whole area that was once a speakeasy had motion activated lights set up, again I didn't think anything of it. There was one dark room in the whole basement that didn't have any motion lights at all. When I reached the bottom of the stair well I peeked my head in the dark room and waived my arms thinking it would turn the lights on. At that moment a wooden chair slid across the floor. I remember the sound of it echoing as I started screaming and running in the other direction but I was the only one there.

Eventually I found the maintenance man and told him the story. He told me that he knew about the ghost he was the one that painted the religious picture down there and that one time he saw someone walking through the building when he was the only one there. He said "I don't mess with them and they don't mess with me"...

True story."
Bell's Jewelry Store

Bell's Jewelry Store in Decatur, Illinois was a former speakeasy that hosted drinking and gambling.  The building was built in 1865.  During Prohibition it became the most popular spot in town serving its own brand of homemade beer and whiskey.  When Prohibition was overturned, the place became a brothel as well.  The police force in Decatur was known to be lazy and corrupt and crime flourished in the city.  People were killed at the speakeasy due to fights and most probably gang activity.

Utility workers have heard noises coming through the walls reminiscent of those one would associate with a bar.  Heavy objects moving around and footsteps have been heard coming from upper floors.  Employees have expressed feeling weird when they enter the area that use to be the old speakeasy.  Much of this space has never been touched and has some pieces still left from a bygone era like pin-up pictures.  A chill can be felt in this area as well.

Have you heard of any former speakeasies that are haunted?  Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HGB Podcast 21 - Haunted Chico Hot Springs Lodge

Moment in Oddity - A Flight to the Future

In 1934, Victor Goddard of the Royal Air Force was flying over Scotland through a storm in a Hawker Hart biplane.  He had become disoriented and thus lost.  He was desperate to find some kind of landmark that he recognized to get him back on track.  Goddard knew that an abandoned airfield named Drem should be in the area and so he dips his plane below the cloud bank.  Goddard could see what looked like Drem in the distance and he banks in that direction.  All of a sudden he sees the sky light up in an ethereal light brighter than even the sun breaking through the clouds.  As the light fades, Goddard looks below at the abandoned airfield and is shocked to see a bustle of activity below him.  Men are running about the airfield in blue overalls, working on bright yellow airplanes.  Goddard circled at 50 feet as he rubbed his eyes.  None of the people on the ground seemed to notice his plane.  He flew back up above the clouds now knowing where he was and flew back to his own airfield.  Drem Airfield would be abandoned until 1938 when the threat of war pushed the British to reopen the base.  It was that same year that British training planes were changed in color from silver to yellow.  So what did Victor Goddard see in 1934?  How could an abandoned airfield be teeming with activity four years before it was reopened?  Did Victor Goddard take a brief flight into the future?  Whatever the case may be, this experience certainly is odd. 

This Day in History - Eastward Hoe

We chose the following event in history due to the recent massacre at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  Free speech is a precious right that we must always fight to protect.  On this day, January 13th, in the year 1605, a controversial play landed the creators in jail.  The play was Eastward Hoe, a satirical comedy written by George Chapman, Ben Johnson and John Marston that is considered one of the best written Elizabethan comedies.  The play was a response to Westward Ho, which was an earlier satire written by Thomas Dekker and John Webster.  The company that performed the play were the Children of the Queen's Revels. Eastward Hoe was an anti-Scottish play that poked fun at the Scots and King James I was not pleased.  Scene III is reputed to be the main source of issues, but the written play that survives today either is missing the scandalous section or the stage play took some liberties that the playwrights were then blamed for and then arrested.  The playwrights were suppose to have their ears and noses cut, but one of them, Marston, escaped capture.  Chapman and Johnson were released by November of 1605 with the help of the Earl of Suffolk.  The play was never banned or suppressed, but for a brief moment in time, the men who wrote it were punished for what they wrote.

Chico Hot Springs Lodge

Just north of Yellowstone National Park, in the heart of Paradise Valley in Montana, lies the Chico Hot Springs Lodge.  The Lodge has been a vacation getaway featuring hot springs for over a century.  Those hot springs attracted people not only seeking relaxation, but those looking for a cure for their various maladies as well.  The land and the Lodge feature more than just hot springs and breathtaking scenery.  Spirits are at unrest in this area of Montana.

The state of Montana is named for the Spanish word for mountain.  The initial name Spanish explorers gave to Montana was Montana del Norte and it was part of the Idaho territory when America was beginning as a country.  Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States of America.  Various Native American tribes have lived in the Montana area including the Crow, the Blackfeet and the Cheyenne.  These same indigenous people were the first to use the hot springs found in Pray, Montana.  Pray, Montana was established in 1907 by Valentine Eggar and the unique thing about the town of Pray is that it is privately owned and always has been.  Eggar was an entrepreneur and he wanted to name the town after himself, but the post office said it sounded too much like Edgar, which was already the name of a nearby town.  He decided on Pray after Congressman Charles N. Pray who was the member of Congress that approved new post offices.

The town has always been just a few small buildings that include the post office, a store with a bar, a commercial building and a few outbuildings with several hundred people in outlying areas using the town as their address.  The Walker family took over the town in 1953, moving there from Hardin, Montana.  It passed from father to son and then shut down until 2003 when Johnny Walker (yes, that is his name) stopped by the family property and decided to breath new life into the place.  He worked on the place a bit and then got cancer, so the property was idle again until 2007 when Johnny's wife Barbara decided to give it a go.  The process has proved time consuming and so in 2012, Barbara put Pray up for sale for $1.4 million.  Barbara tells stories of a time when the general store had a zoo behind it in the 1960s and drunk locals brought a box of rattlesnakes into the bar to warm them up.  The snakes were gone when the bar owner came in the next morning and they spent all winter catching rattlesnakes.  Apparently, there was a murder at the bar in the 1950s.  The town was put up for auction eventually and the largest offer was $325,000, so apparently Barbara still owns the property since she turned down that offer. 

Chico Hot Springs Resort is three miles south of the town of Pray.  John S. Hackney was a miner who came to Paradise Valley in 1865 to join other miners who had been gold mining in nearby Emigrant Gulch.  He kept a diary and in it, he made the first mention of the hot springs in the area.  By 1890, two wooden tubs had been built for the water of the hot springs to flow into inside of a small wooden building.  Ten years later, Chico Warm Springs Hotel was built by Bill and Percie Knowles and consisted of a main lodge and the two wooden tubs were replaced by a large pool filled by the hot springs.  The pool was dubbed "The Plunge" and it was six feet deep and 44 feet in diameter.  Separate private baths were built for both men and women.  Bill Knowles died in 1910 of cirrhosis of the liver, but Percie continued to run the operation until her health lead her to turn the operation over to their son.  During the time that Percie ran the hotel, she brought in a doctor and turned the place into a pseudo hospital offering treatments for arthritis, kidney issues and blood and skin diseases.  Two other oval pools were added through the years and The Plunge was enlarged.  In 1957, the roof over The Plunge collapsed, miraculously killing no one and only giving two people minor injuries.  The roof was left open after that.

Owners Mike and Eva Art bought the property in 1973, which now consists of lodges and cabins with a larger Main Lodge.  The Main Lodge is the original building that was built in 1900 and it is a three story Victorian inn.  There are forty-eight rooms in the Main Lodge.  Part of the Main Lodge is the Warren Wing named for actor Warren Oates who was a frequent guest of the Lodge.  Oates appeared in "The Wild Bunch," "Dillinger" and "Stripes."  Stars have frequented the Lodge over the years.  A fun fact is that Jeff Bridges and his wife of thirty-seven years, Susan, met while he was filming a movie near the Lodge and she was a waitress at the Lodge.  The Fisherman's Lodge is a one story motel with twelve rooms.  On the hill above the Fisherman's Lodge are several rustic cabins.  There are chalets and cottages as well.

Present day stars, guests and staff are not the only people on the property.  Apparently spirits from bygone eras are still at the Lodge.  People died here when the hotel was used like a hospital and of course, the property is on land that was lived upon by native people.  Former owners Bill and Percie Knowles are thought to be two of the spirits still roaming the area.  Before her death, Percie had spent quite a bit of time sitting in Room 349 looking out the window as her health deteriorated.  The third floor hallway  near that room has hosted several appearances by full body apparitions of Percie and both herself and her husband Bill have been seen sitting at tables in the restaurant.  One appearance of Percie that took place in 2000 was witnessed by many guests who thought she was a staff member until she disappeared.

We have mentioned in previous podcasts the phenomenon seen in so many different places known as the "Lady in White."  It seems most states and even countries have an urban legend or true tales about a woman who appears in white.  We have hypothesized that the reason this might be the case is that people of lower classes decades ago could not afford the expensive dyes to color their clothing and so they were stuck with basic white.  Chico Lodge has its own lady in white as well.  She is considered the most well known ghost at the Lodge and has been scaring guests for many years.  Two security guards claim they saw the lady in white near a piano on the third floor in the late 1960s.  They took a picture of her and the photo featured a white orb where the ghost had been.  The ghost has been followed to Room 349 and the rocking chair has moved on its own in that room.  Unsolved Mysteries featured a story about a group of trespassers who broke into the hot springs building and started throwing a party.  A woman in white appeared above the pool and the terrified revelers ran out.  Could this possibly be Percie too?

This same woman was seen by a staff member in 1989 who was retrieving a blanket for a guest.  She claimed to see a figure in a dress with a blank face that started to move toward her and she ran.  A security guard had an experience in 1990 that he tells like this, "It was in January of 1990 when I was doing my 2:30 AM rounds and there were only a few guests in the upstairs building. I was walking on the 2nd floor and passed the stairway leading to the third floor. I stepped back a few paces to the bottom of the stairwell and looked up to see a matronly lady standing at the top landing looking down at me. This was unusual because there were no guests staying on the 3rd floor. The lady was about 5'5" tall and about 45-50 years old. she wore a full length pale blue dress with a high collar and long sleeves w/ white flowers. Her hair was in a bun. She didn't acknowledge my presence whatsoever. I asked her if I could help her and with a face absent of expression, she walked away, drifting without movement of her torso. I ran upstairs to the 3rd floor and the hall was empty and quiet. The lady was gone! However, I detected a sweet fragrance between rooms 346 - 350. I opened room 349 only to find a dark cold room. However, the rocking chair was slightly rocking back and forth. When I turned on the room's light, the chair ceased movement and the sweet fragrance was gone. When I went back to the lobby and explained what happened to the night auditor, she replied 'welcome to the Percie Club.'"

Another guard reports that the bar had been put up for the evening with all the stools in their place and he went down the hall to the bathroom.  When he returned from the bathroom, his path was blocked by the same bar stools that had just been straightened up for the evening.  That same evening, he and the night auditor heard noises coming from the kitchen.  When he entered the kitchen, the noises suddenly stopped.  Pots and pans are heard banging around in the kitchen in the middle of the night by other people as well.

A dark figure has been seen in Room 351.  An old family Bible in the attic always remains open to the same page in Psalms and never collects dust.  The rocking chair that Percie always sat in will move to face a window no matter where it is placed.   

A male ghost was reported by an employee.  He tells the following story, "I had gone to bed and was just about to fall asleep. It was fairly dark but a little light from outside was coming through the window. Suddenly a tall figure appeared in the corner of my room. It hovered off the ground, extending almost to the ceiling. It began moving; waving away from the wall and down toward me, then back again. I couldn't see it too clearly but the figure like that of a very tall man wearing something like an overcoat. I could make out the definite outline of a beard and the facial features, too. Finally, after four or five motions away from the wall and back again, the ghost came right down next to me as I lay in bed. I tried to scream but my throat was paralyzed. I remember rolling out of bed and crawling out into the hallway on my hands and knees. I couldn't bear to go back into my room; after I finally did, I lay in bed with the light on for a long time."

Another man felt a presence push down on his chest while he was praying in bed and then the bed shook violently.  The bed was against the wall and soon the man was being bounced against the wall loud enough that the person in the next room heard it.  Eventually the presence went away.  One person on Trip Advisor reported last month, "We stayed in room 215 in the main lodge. The bed was very comfortable. I'm not very superstitious. However from the night in that room I am. I am fairly certain there was a ghost standing next to the bed all night. If I winced over I could see her. But staring right over I couldn't see anything. I'm sure for ghost hunters this would be great. It left me feeling very unsettled though. Have fun!"

So is there more than just relaxation and therapy going on at the hot springs at Chico?  Is Percie Knowles still watching over her property?  Are there other spirits making the rooms at the Lodge their home?  That is for you to decide.

*To book your stay:*

Thursday, January 8, 2015

HGB Podcast 20 - Chillingham Castle

Moment in Oddity - Coral Castle

A whole show could be dedicated to this Moment in Oddity about Coral Castle, except that it is not
haunted.  How it was built by one man is a mystery and an oddity.  Over the course of 28 years, from 1923 to 1951, a little man from Latvia named Edward Leedskalnin carved and moved 1100 tons of coral rock to build Coral Castle that can be seen in Homestead, Florida to this day.  A sign carved in stone by Ed sits atop the entrance reading, "You will be seeing unusual accomplishment."  Not only are there many unusual elements that make up the Castle, but there are amazing carvings in the stone sculpture garden.  There is the nine-ton gate that opens with the touch of a finger, functioning rocking chairs made of stone, a Polaris telescope, outdoor bathtub, stone beds and pillows and a fountain shaped like the moon.  All of these weigh several tons.  As a matter of fact, when the nine-ton gate needed repairs in 1986, it took six men and a fifty-ton crane to move it.  How did this man put these stones in position?  Even more amazing is that initially Ed had built the castle in Florida City, but then moved it to its current location using a tractor and truck.  He did all of his work at night and in secret.  People claimed that they spied on Ed and saw him levitating the stones.  One hypothesis claims that Ed used some kind of anti-gravity or magnetism to move the stones and apparently the site in Homestead is the perfect place for manipulation of gravity based on harmonics.  Still other reasoned minds believe he used a system of pulleys and levers to move the stones.  As for what Ed claimed, he always said he had learned the secrets of the pyramids.  However Ed managed to create his magnificent castle, there is no doubt that it certainly is odd. 

This Day in History - Battle of New Orleans

This day, January 8th, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, which is the most famous battle in Louisiana history.  It was on this day in 1815, that General Jackson led his troops to victory against the British as they tried to capture New Orleans.  This battle was the final battle of the war.  Two weeks before this, the British had set their sites on New Orleans.  They decided to attack by the ground instead of the water and were initially successful taking the Viillere Plantation.  General Jackson hit them from the water and along the banks of the river and the British held, so Jackson pulled his men back.  After both sides regrouped for two weeks, the final battle ensued.  General Jackson had positioned 4000 men and cannons very well and when the British attacked, they had little success.  Jackson had also placed a reserve group right where the British launched their attack.  The Americans had used their break to fashion a well prepared defense and the British were devastated.  General Pakenham, who was leading the British, was killed and the battle ended.  251 British soldiers had been killed including three generals and eight colonels.  1,259 British were wounded and 484 were missing.  The Americans fared far better with only eleven killed and twenty-three wounded.  The tragedy of this battle is that a peace treaty ending the war had been signed before the battle, but nobody in New Orleans knew that news.

Chillingham Castle

Chillingham Castle is a castle that was built in the 12th century and resides in Northumberland, England in a village named Chillingham from which it takes its name.  It was initially built as a monastery and then was used as a stronghold mostly for defense rather than offense through the many centuries of fighting between England and Scotland.  The Castle sits near the border between Scotland and England and so it was often under attack.  Much of the Castle as it is seen today is the way it was originally built with a few additions.  It is reportedly one of the more haunted locations in Europe.  This haunting energy is not only a result of war, but of the horrific way in which men were imprisoned and killed within the walls of the Castle. 

In our podcast on Edinburgh Castle, the name William Wallace came up since he was a hero for Scotland and a statue in his honor resides at Edinburgh Castle.  William Wallace comes up again with Chillingham Castle as this castle was used during the 1298 attack on William Wallace by King Edward I, Edward Long Shanks.  Wallace had attacked the previous year and burned the women and children to death in the nearby abbey and made a belt for himself out of the skin of a local general.   In 1344, Chillingham Castle became a fully fortified castle with battlements, under Sir Thomas Grey.  Beginning in the 15th century, Chillingham Castle became the seat of the Bennet and Grey families.  By the 17th century, peace had come and the Castle was not needed any longer for defense, so the moat was filled in and new features were added to the Castle that included a banquet hall and a library.  During World War II, the Castle was used as a barracks.  Sir Humphry Wakefield now owns the Castle with his wife The Honorable Lady Wakefield.  His family has lived in this area for over 400 years, which is not nearly as long as the Greys who had been here for 800 years.

As mentioned earlier, the Castle has remained mainly the same, but there have been a few additions through the years.  The Castle is a complex of many rooms and buildings.  There is the Armoury, where weapons were stored and many are on display there to this day.  There is the Edward I Room, which was named for the King who first stayed here as he plotted his revenge against William Wallace and it is the most ancient room in the Castle.  It was used as a hideout for other royal families as well and secret documents were found in a compartment near the window relating to the Spanish Armada.  Family heraldic hangings are found in the room named for King James I who had stayed here and received guests in this room.  The Plaque Room was once a bedroom for the king and now hosts pictures of the many guests to the Castle and has a 16th century plasterwork armorial plaque that is dedicated to the Grey family.  The New Dining Room was once a chamber for the king as well and now features two white lion statues and massive guns on the wall.  The Great Hall was built for King James VI of Scotland and contains part of the original gigantic chimney and has stone flagged flooring and tapestries.  Weapons and trophies decorate this room as well as the heads of some of the ancient wild cattle that still live in Chillingham as the only wild cattle in all the world.  The Medieval Courtyard was the scene of many executions.  There is a museum and a chapel that was once the library.
The Great Hall courtesy of Chillingham Castle Website

Three of the more interesting areas of Chillingham Castle are the Still Room, the Dungeon and the Torture Chamber.  The Still Room was once a main entrance to the Castle and contains relics from bygone eras including the big pot used to feed the garrison and kettles that were filled with hot oil to dump over the walls of the castle on enemies trying to climb the walls.  The Still Room is apparently host to a witch who curses anyone stealing from the Castle.  People ignore the warnings and take things only to find out that the curse is true and they write letters of apology that can be found in the room.  Very similar to Robert the Doll down in Key West, Florida who curses people for taking his picture without permission.

The Dungeon was not only a prison, but a hiding place as well.  It is a small room with scratch marks on the walls as prisoners counted off the days until their executions.  There is a Oubliette in this dungeon.  An Oubliette is a dungeon that has a very small circular opening and is basically a pit.  Prisoners at Chillingham were thrown down into this pit, which was a twenty foot drop, and many suffered broken bones due to this fall.  Some of those broken bones were the result of the torture a prisoner endured before being thrown down.  They were left there to die and some resorted to eating the bodies of the dead already done there in an attempt to prolong their lives.

The Torture Chamber is a regular feature of most Castles.  Chillingham's contained and still contains to this day executioner blocks, an Iron Maiden and a Scold's Bridle, all in working order.  There were eye gougers, boiling pots and a cage device that was tied to a prisoner's stomach and contained a hungry rat who would eat his way out of the cage.  The floor is sloped, so that blood could run down and drain away to one side.  This chamber began use during the time of Edward Long Shanks under his castle torturer John Sage, who had been a loyal Lieutenant in King Edward's army.  Sage was brutal and enjoyed taking out his hatred of the Scots on Scottish prisoners.  Towards the end of the war, Sage took the prisoners out into the courtyard and burned them alive in a bonfire.  Small children were taken to the King Edward Room where they were hacked to death with an axe.  Sage himself was eventually hung by Long Shanks after Sage murdered his girlfriend who belonged to a powerful tribe that threatened to join the Scots against King Edward if he did not execute Sage.  While Sage hung dying, people cut souvenirs from his body like toes and fingers and well...other dangling objects.

Such emotionally charged events as imprisonment, war, torture and death lead to the possibility of supernatural and unexplainable events and Chillingham Castle reports hundreds of occurrences throughout the centuries.  Beneath the floor of the Chapel, human remains were found.  Cameras refuse to work in this room and batteries are quickly drained.  Cold spots are felt as well, although it should be pointed out that ghostwriter Lady Tankerville who lived here in the 1920s and wrote of her experiences was never able to find spirits in the Chapel.

The Blue Boy is the most well known spirit in the Castle.  He is usually seen in the Pink Room, which is part of the Wakefields' private residence, and is wearing blue, hence why he is called the "Blue Boy."  The legend of the Blue Boy goes something like this:  the clock chimed midnight and a child's cries were heard at the same time that a blue light began to eminate from the wall and the light approached the bed.  The witness who saw this sight then saw that there was a young boy in the middle of the light wearing clothes from the time of King Charles II.  He disappeared, but then many years later, during the 1920s, restoration work was being done on the room where the Blue Boy had been seen.  Inside one of the walls, the bones of a young child were found along with scraps of blue material.  The bones were given a Christian burial, but flashes of blue are sometimes still seen in the Castle.

Lord Grey of Wark once lived in Chillingham Castle with his wife Lady Mary Berkeley.  He decided that he was no longer in love with Mary, but rather her sister and left Lady Mary and their child and ran off with the sister.  Lady Mary died heartbroken and is said to still roam the halls of the Castle looking for her unfaithful husband.  The swishing of a dress is sometimes heard.

There is a ghost who hides among the paintings.  This ghost has been seen on several occasions stepping out of a painting.  The Tankervilles' children were the first to see this spirit along with their nurse.  The ghost followed them around for several minutes.  In present times, this spirit is sometimes seen as a full body apparition in period clothing and people mistake her for a guide.

John Sage has never left the building.  He is spotted on occasion and sometimes he is heard with his boots banging against the ground and something being dragged can be heard.  The Dungeon's Oubliette is said to hold the spirit of a little girl.  People sometimes see her down in the pit when they glance down there.  The Edward Room where all the children were slaughtered is quite active with the chandelier swinging from side to side on its own and the room carried a foul smell at times.  Disembodied voices are heard in the library.

A lake on the property became the mass burial ground for the thousands of Scots killed by the English.  The bodies were loaded onto carts and then dumped in the lake.  Rumor has it that the lake is cursed and that if you put your hand in the water, you will be pulled into the water.

Is this area cursed?  Do the undead walk among the living at Chillingham Castle?  That is for you to decide.

*Special note - Chillingham Castle hosts ghost tours!  For more information:

January 2015 Contest!

We thought we would start the new year with a contest to thank all of our fabulous listeners and supporters.  So if you want to win this:
Men's or Women's Logo T-shirt, your choice on color

Or this:
Then by January 31st, 2015 you need to either sign up for the newsletter at the official website: or join the Spooktacular Crew Group Page at Facebook.  That's it!  There is only one entry per name to keep it fair for people who are not on Facebook.  If you already receive the newsletter or are a member of the Spooktacular Crew Group Page, you are already entered.  We will randomly draw one name on Feb. 1st.  Good luck!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Phantom Pilot in England

While I was researching a haunted castle in England, I came across an unusual picture that seems to feature a ghost.  The ghost possibly belongs to a helicopter pilot who flew during the Falklands War since that is when the helicopter in the below picture was used.  The Falklands War took place over several months in 1982.  Helicopters played a major role in the recapture of the South Georgia Island from Argentine forces.  I am not an aviation expert and I have no idea what type of helicopter is in this picture, particularly with so little of the helicopter appearing in this photo, but I did find a record of a British Army Air Corp Western Gazelle helicopter that was shot down by friendly fire from the Royal Navy Destroyer HMS Cardiff near Pleasant Peak on East Falkland Island. All four people on board were killed and the Gazelle helicopters are a black color similar to the helicopter in the picture.  It would seem that the helicopter in the picture is in pretty good condition, so I do not know that it was ever shot down or if a pilot died aboard, but in the picture below, a transparent person wearing a white shirt seems to be sitting at the controls.  Next to him is a woman who was visiting the Fleet Air Arm Station in Yeovilton, England in 1987 by the name of Sayer.  Her friends suggested she hop in so they could snap a picture of her.  Little did they know that she was not alone and possibly that is why she felt a sudden chill while smiling for the photo.  I find myself wondering if Mrs. Sayer's husband was still alive and if this picture is not of a pilot, but rather someone attached to Mrs. Sayer.  So what do you make of the picture?  A trick of light or a spirit?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

HGB Podcast 19 - Edinburgh Castle

Moment in Oddity - Peeing Day

One of America's more obscure and mostly forgotten holidays is Peeing Day.  Now while this sounds like an offensive if not odd holiday, it really has a cool history...sorta.  During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington won the Battle of Princeton, which took place on January 3, 1777.  The British had regrouped at Princeton in New Jersey and the Continental Army staged a surprise attack in the early morning hours.  One would think this would lead the Americans to a decisive victory, but the British fought hard and started to push the Continental Army back.  The General leading the charge against the British, Hugh Mercer was killed.  A second group under Brigadier General John Cadwalader arrived on the scene and was forced to retreat.  And then came the hero, General George Washington, who immediately inspired the troops and the victory turned in favor of the Americans.  The British were defeated and marched out of Princeton.  As they took their walk of shame, the victorious Continental Army whipped out their manhoods and well, peed in the direction of the defeated British troops.  One hundred years after this occasion, the first Peeing Day holiday was observed in Princeton, New Jersey.  This went on as an annual event until World Wars I and II when the celebration was halted as it appeared to be anti-British.  The holiday continues today though and has been moved from January 3rd to the second Saturday of March.  Princeton is the only place to observe it and activities include a recreation of the Battle of Princeton.  At the end of the battle, two American soldier re-enactors chase after one British Redcoat re-enactor to an area at the end of Nassau Street where 50-200 other participants are busy peeing in the street.  The Battle of Princeton was a great victory, but the idea that such a victory would be honored by peeing in the street is a bit odd.

This Day in History -Martin Luther Excommunicted

On this day, January 3rd, in 1521, Martin Luther is officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X.  Martin Luther had been a Catholic priest, German Friar and a professor of theology at the University of Wittenburg in Germany.  While he was at the university, he started to notice discrepancies between what the Bible said and what the Catholic Church was teaching.  The Church had written much of their liturgy and the Bible in Latin, so that the unlearned people were left having to trust what the Church was telling them.  Martin Luther exposed the Catholic Church in his Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed upon the door at All Saints' Church in Wittenburg.  Luther taught that indulgences sold to people as an attempt to wipe away sin were wrong and that salvation was by grace and not works.  He also translated the Bible into a language that people could read.  Luther was brought before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and asked to recant his writings and beliefs, which Luther refused to do.  He became an outlaw and had to go into hiding.  German royalty hid him until his death in 1546. 

Edinburgh Castle

Castle Rock is a formation that has existed for millions of years.  Men lived on the rock starting in the Bronze Age in 860 BC.  During the Iron Age, an ancient fort was erected on the site by the Gododdin and they called it Din Eidyn.  That name would later evolve into Edin, which has Brittonic Celtic origins, and the city would be named Edinburgh from that time.  Edinburgh became the capital of Scotland and has been since the 15th century.  Edinburgh was the center of Scotland during the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the 17th century saw the people of Edinburgh building multi-storied buildings that were replaced with Victorian architecture in the 18th century.  In 1889, Edinburgh officially became a city.

The first King of Scotland took the throne in 1035 AD and his name was Duncan I.  King Duncan's eldest son, Malcolm III, became King of Scots in 1058 AD and he built a castle atop Castle Rock.  His wife, Queen Margaret, built a chapel within the walls and their son David I built the Abbey at Holyrood.  The Abbey and Edinburgh Castle would be anchor points on a road called the Royal Mile and the city prospered in the area.  The English eventually captured Edinburgh Castle and held it until Robert the Bruce's nephew, Thomas Randolph, climbed the side of the Castle with his men in the middle of the night and recaptured the Castle on March 14, 1314.

An enormous weapon resembling a giant cannon was built by Jehan Cambler in 1449 and was named the Mons Meg.  It could fire cannon balls up to 400 pounds in weight.  The Mons Meg was shipped to Edinburgh Castle in 1457 and was used for many years as protection.  The bulky weapon, which weighed six tons, soon proved to be too much and was left to be used during ceremonies.  That ended in 1681 when the Mons Meg exploded.  A restored version of the weapon now sits in Edinburgh Castle.  The carriage the Mons Meg sits upon was reconstructed based on a carving on a wall inside the Castle that dates back to 1500.

During the Lang Siege in 1573, the eastern defenses of the Castle were toppled and the Regent Morton took over the rebuilding of the Castle.  Much of what is currently part of the Castle was built during this time.  In the 18th and early 19th century, Edinburgh Castle was used as a military prison.  A massive prison break occurred in 1814 and so the Castle was named a National Monument and from that time forward it has been a tourist destination.

People enter the Castle through the Castle Esplanade, which was originally designed as a ceremonial parade
ground and gives a beautiful view of Edinburgh.  The Castle is a collection of buildings with the oldest one being St. Margaret's Chapel that we mentioned earlier.  It's Chancel Arch is one of the only original parts still left of the original Castle and it has more modern stain glassed windows.  Another building is the Royal Palace where the Stone of Destiny and Scotland's Crown Jewels are kept and a wonderful clock tower is located here as well.  For those who don't know, the Stone of Destiny is a Biblical relic brought to Ireland and then Scotland by Scottish royalty and legend claims that this stone is where Jacob rested his head when he had his dream about Jacob's ladder.  Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace and legend tells a tale of a friend of the Queen's using magic to project the horrible birth pains the Queen was experiencing onto a servant.  (Nothing good comes of magic!)  In 1888, the Gatehouse was built and statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace are there in honor of the heroes.  The Half Moon Battery is behind the Gatehouse and was used as defense with cannons being fired from this area. The Great Hall was built during the 16th century with a Hammerbeam roof that is one of those most extraordinary medieval wooden roofs in the world featuring carved stone heads and symbols - including the Green Man and a pair of thistles - and is located in the heart of the Castle at Crown Square.

All of this history and lore leads to the possibilities of a very supernatural location.  People died here, were imprisoned here, worshiped here and lived amazing lives here.  Edinburgh is considered the most haunted city in Europe and Edinburgh Castle is its most haunted location.  Beneath the Castle lies the dungeon.  There is a ghost of a prisoner here who in life had thought he had devised the perfect plan for escape.  He figured if he climbed into the dung barrow, which was full of, well...shit, that he could make his grand escape when the crap was taken out and dumped on the hill.  What he hadn't accounted for was that this pile was going to be dumped over the rocky crags and he was thrown down to his death.  His body may have been free, but his spirit is trapped here at Edinburgh Castle.  He is temperamental and tried to push people from the battlements and since his final place in life was in the dung heap, people report the smell of dung on occasion.

Ghostly dog barks have been heard coming from the pet cemetery on property and one ghost dog has been reported on several occasions.  A specter in a leather apron has been seen and is reported to appear as an old man.  These types of full body apparitions are very unique and rarely seen, but at the Castle they are the most reported type of phenomenon.  There are also claims of shadow people, mists, strange lights and drops in temperature.  Another full body apparition that has been seen and most definitely heard is that of the Piper.  The Piper was employed by the Castle to help with exploration of the underground tunnels.  It was thought the sound of the pipes would help lead the way for those above ground to find out where the tunnels lead and for a bit this plan worked.  But slowly the Piper's music began to fade and soon the people above ground could no longer hear his pipes.  A small group was sent in search of the Piper, but he was gone as if he had disappeared and they decided to close up the tunnels and they were sealed.  He was either buried alive in the tunnels or something quite strange happened to him.  The sound of his pipes can be heard emanating from the walls and the tunnels which run under the Royal Mile have had pipe music floating all the way to street level at times as well.

During the 17th century, the ghost of a drummer boy started to be seen.  He is usually seen headless and generally only during times of war.  The sounds of his drums have been heard, but no reports past 1960 have been made about this spirit, more than likely because we are in a time of peace.  No one knows who he is or how he came to lose his head.  Lady of Glamis spent some time in the dungeon of the castle.  She had been accused of witchcraft in the 16th century.  Accusations of her plotting to kill the king were added to the list of wrong doing and she was sentenced to death.  This sentence was carried out on July 17, 1537 and the means by which her life was ended was by burning at the stake.  Her ghost is seen among the battlements and the haunting sound of hammers at work have been attributed to the construction of the platform upon which she was executed.

America has a connection to Edinburgh Castle dating back to the Revolutionary War.  Prisoners of that war were taken to the castle and their ghosts are sometimes seen there.  The ghosts of French prisoners of war from the Seven Year War have been reported, also.  And if you think all these reported hauntings are poppycock, in 2001 a scientific study was conducted by a skeptical scientist by the name of Dr. Richard Wiseman.  He used participants that knew nothing about the Castle and equipped them with the best equipment of the time and the results astonished him.  Areas that had been reported to be haunted in the past were the same areas his test group registered activity.  The website describes the experiment on their paranormal page like this:  "As part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from Hertfordshire University in southeast England, enlisted the help of 240 volunteers to explore the allegedly haunted sites in a 10-day study. Chosen from visitors from around the world, the volunteers were led in groups of 10 through the creepy, damp cellars, chambers and vaults. Wiseman's team came prepared with an array of high-tech "ghostbusting" equipment, such as thermal imagers, geo-magnetic sensors, temperature probes, night vision equipment and digital cameras.  Each of the volunteers was carefully screened. Only those who knew nothing about Edinburgh's legendary hauntings were allowed to participate, yet by the end of the experiment, nearly half reported phenomena that they could not explain.  Wiseman tried to be as scientific as possible about the study. The volunteers were not told which particular cells or vaults had previous claims of strange activity. They were taken to locations with a reputation for being haunted as well as "red herring" vaults that had no history of activity at all. Yet the highest number of paranormal experiences by the volunteers were reported to take place in the very areas that did have the haunted reputations."  While Dr. Wiseman is reluctant to declare the Castle haunted by ghosts, he does agree that something strange is happening at the Castle.

So are these unusual experiences a result of the human imagination or some other phenomenon?  Is the Castle just old and thus creepy and cold?  Has the legend and lore taken on a life of its own?  Or is Edinburgh Castle indeed one of the most haunted locations in the world?  That is for you to decide.