Thursday, February 26, 2015

HGB BonusCast 3 - Ghosts and the Bible

On this BonusCast we discuss the Biblical view of ghosts. We examine the general belief in the Church about ghosts, which is way oversimplified and not Biblical and then we look at a couple of ghost examples in the Bible. This broadcast will not be for everybody, but if you do listen, we hope we give you some things to think about and consider. The Bible is one of the most supernatural books and Christianity does not have to be boring or what we see on television: Your best life now and God the big piggy bank in the sky. See if you come to the same conclusions that we do at History Goes Bump. We'd love to hear our listeners thoughts on the topic!

Bible passage on King Saul and Samuel:  1 Samuel 28

Jesus mistaken as ghost passages:  Matthew 14:25-27, Luke 24:36-39

Bible passages about going to Heaven upon death:  Hebrews 9:27 (More support for an anti-reincarnation stance than support for going straight to Heaven.), 1 Corinthians 5:8

But what about the Great White Throne Judgement for the unsaved:  Revelations 20:11-15

Nephilim:  Genesis 6:1-4  Could they be demons? So non-human spirit beings = angels, fallen angels, demons.

Great book for further reading from Christian apologist Cris Putnam: The Supernatural Worldview: Examining Paranormal, PSI and the Apocalyptic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

HGB Podcast 30 - Aokigahara Forest in Japan

Moment in Oddity - Sword Swallowing

The last Saturday in February of every year is officially World Sword Swallowing Day. Events are hosted at the various Ripley Odditorium locations around the world. Sword swallowing is an ancient practice with origins in India dating back to 2000 BC. Shaman and priests were the first to practice the art of sword swallowing and they used it not only to awe crowds, but to  make people think they held special powers. While special powers are not involved, special skills are required. Sword swallowers need to learn how to master their bodies, particularly their gag reflex, both externally and internally and they must maintain focus. Most train themselves slowly using fingers and small objects to master the gag reflex and then dull short swords are used as the performer works up to longer swords that can reach 25 inches in length. Performers lubricate the swords with oil or saliva and sometimes they will eat a large meal to distend the stomach. Sword swallowing spread from India into the Far East and throughout Europe, where the practice was condemned by the Catholic Church. Street performers continued the practice anyway. Sword swallowing came to America in 1817 in an exhibition hosted in New York with Indian Fakir Senaa Samma performing. The art then became a regular part of side show oddities and Vaudeville shows. The Chicago World's Fair also presented sword swallowing. This is a very dangerous practice with swords passing within centimeters of vital organs and it is stunning to witness. And, of course, a bit odd.

This Day in History - Internment of Japanese-Americans Condemned

On this day, February 24th, in 1983, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that had been established by Congress in 1980, issued a report about a black spot in American history: the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Congressional Commission report condemned the action and stated that it was a ''grave injustice'' that came from ''racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership.'' The report also found that the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans was not only unnecessary when it came to the military and security, but that President Roosevelt deserved most of the blame. The Japanese celebrated the report by printing the story about the report on the front page of all of their newspapers. Asians had endured much discrimination over the decades as they immigrated to America, but it intensified after the empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. President Roosevelt authorized Executive Order 9906 on February 19, 1942, which gave General DeWitt, who commanded the West Coast area, authority to do pretty much anything he wanted with the Japanese Americans. It began with curfews, which evolved into internment in detention camps. Enforcement stopped in 1944 and the last camp was closed in 1946. Executive Order 9906 was not officially rescinded until President Ford revoked it in 1976. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were interned during World War II.

Aokigahara Forest in Japan

At the base of Mount Fuji in Japan lies a forest that is 14 square miles in size and is referred to by some as the Sea of Trees. The forest's official name is Aokigahara Forest and is known for being very quiet. Aokigahara is notorious though for its reputation as a place people go to die by their own hand. Most people call this wooded area "The Suicide Forest." There are rumors that demons run the place. And the tales of hauntings are numerous.

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and it is a dormant volcano. It has not erupted since the 1700s, but through its previous eruptions it formed a bed of volcanic rock that the Aokigahara Forest sprang from. The floor of the forest is so hard that it is difficult to use a shovel or pick to dig.The trees are thick and twisted and very little animal life lives in the forest and no birds are ever heard singing. The tree roots snake across the surface of the forest floor like fingers reaching out to curl around visitors, never allowing them to leave. The forest is treacherous to walk through at times with areas being cloaked in almost total darkness and caves dot the landscape hidden so well in the topography that people could easily fall into them. The terrain is rocky and uneven. Hikers often get lost here. Some carry tape with them to mark their way as though in a modern day fairytale about Hansel and Gretel.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is never the right solution. Nearly one million people make that choice every year. Some people choose to go quietly while others choose a more grandiose exit. There are places on Earth that have earned reputations as great places to die. These places include the Eiffel Tower, the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, Niagara Falls and the Golden Gate Bridge. Aokigahara Forest usually ranks one or two on a list of places to die with nearly 108 suicides every year. Most forest trails have signs indicating the distance to different spots along the route, but at Aokigahara suicides are so prevalent in the forest that signs have been erected all over inside of it encouraging people to live and seek help. Annual body searches have been carried out since the 70s. The Japanese have a certain practice they follow when a body is found in the forest. The body is brought to a special room in a building near the forest. Someone remains in the room as a type of sentinel, not even leaving at night. As one might imagine, the job of staying overnight with a dead body is not one that most people want. The guards actually play rock-paper-scissors to see who will get stuck with the duty. It is important to have a guard or else the ghost of the dead person might haunt the building, screaming and acting deranged.

Why has suicide become so popular here? Some blame a 1960 novel by Seicho Matsumoto named in English "Black Sea of Trees" with a plot featuring young lovers who commit suicide in the Aokigahara Forest. The lore of the forest goes back much further than the 60s and is steeped in Japanese culture. The Japanese used to follow a tradition called ubasute, which loosely translated in English means "abandoning an old woman." During times of famine and sometimes at other times, the elderly and infirm were taken high up on mountains or into forests and they were left to die of exposure and dehydration. It is believed that Aokigahara was one such location where ubasute was practiced. A Buddhist poem tells one such story:
    "In the depths of the mountains,
    Who was it for the aged mother snapped
    One twig after another?
    Heedless of herself
    She did so
    For the sake of her son."
Suicide holds a unique place in Japanese culture as well. Japan's suicide rate is the eighth highest in the world. Current trends of suicide have been blamed on economic hardship and work demands, but suicide has long been considered a noble act in Japanese culture. Kamikaze pilots helped lead the Japanese to many victories. These pilots did not fear death, so they would take on very risky missions and after dropping their bombs, they would turn their planes into missiles by flying them directly into targets on purpose, killing the pilot.

The Samurai practiced honorable suicide, which is seppukku in Japanese. If the Samurai was unsuccessful in battle or meeting certain death, he would use a knife called a tanto that had a short blade and slash open his abdomen with a side to side motion. The act was thought to release the Samurai warrior's spirit onto the enemy and prevent any kind of dishonorable execution or torture. The Samurai would also practice seppuku if he brought dishonor upon himself or did something offensive to the group. If seppuku took place outside of battle, there was an elaborate ritual connected, which usually included a second who would cut off the head of the Samurai. The Samurai's wife would also kill herself by slashing her own throat. Women were taught how to do this as children. It was not only considered honorable, but was also done to prevent rape. She would tie her knees together, so that she died in a dignified pose.

Minamoto no Yorimasa is the first person to have practiced seppuku in recorded history. He was a poet, but also a warrior. The Minamoto part of his name represents the clan he belonged to and he lead the Minamoto army in many battles. It was during the Battle of Uji in the Genpei War in 1180 that Yorimasa took his own life. The temple he was defending was taken by a rival clan during the battle. He was shamed by the defeat. Seppuku was used for capital punishment as well and was not abolished until 1873. The last notable case of seppuku happened in 1970. Author Yukio Mishima tried to form a coup d'etat, but was unsuccessful. He went to the office of General Kanetoshi Mashita and sliced open his abdomen there while his second, Masakatsu Morita, tried to cut off his head three times. Another man finally finished the deed and then helped Morita with his own seppuku.

When it comes to hauntings at Aokigahara Forest, Japanese spiritualists and paranormal investigators believe that the spirits of those who have committed suicide or been left to die in the forest are absorbed by the trees leading to paranormal activity. Skeptics might be quick to point out that the volcanic floor of the forest contains magnetic iron, which can cause compasses to go haywire and could give people a weird feeling, but the military has proven that GPS and compasses work just fine while in the forest. Is it possible that such a hotbed for death could be cursed? Could the darkness that permeates suicide and abandonment possibly call out to dark forces?

The Japanese have lore about ghosts they call Yurei. These Yurei are angry or sad spirits. These spirits reportedly come from those who have been murdered or commit suicide and thus have not had either proper burials or good deaths. Emotions like hatred and loneliness or an overwhelming desire for revenge cause souls to be trapped on this plane and unable to leave. Japanese legends claim these souls are left to wander. White forms have been seen gliding between the trees, some possibly beckoning to those who have chosen this place to die. Yurei are heard howling in the forest. People claim that faces can be seen in the bark of the trees. EVPs have been captured as well as ghost pictures along with strange lights. Objects that are set down reportedly move on their own. Hikers claim that the trees feel as if they are pressing in on them and that they move as well.

Do the trees live in Aokigahara? Do they soak in the spirit and energy of those who have died and the negativity around them? Is this forest the home of demons? Is this forest haunted? That is for you to decide.

*Suicide prevention hotline:  1-800-273-TALK  Website:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

HGB Podcast 29 - The Life and Afterlife of Mark Twain

Moment in Oddity - Spider-Tailed Horned Viper

A snake that originates in Iran has a unique design for its tail. The tip of the Spider-Tailed Horned Viper's tail resembles exactly what its name indicates: a spider. The end of the tail is shaped like a creme or grey colored bulb and the scales that are near the end of the tail are long and thin and branch out, resembling little legs. A single Spider-Tailed Horned Viper was first discovered in the 60s and biologists thought it was a defect in the snake, until more were found later and it was classified as its own species when it was formally described in 2006. The snake uses the arachnid shaped tail much like a fishing lure. It shakes the end of its tail, so that any creatures that like to feed on insects will be lured close enough that the viper can strike. Victims include rodents and birds. The viper is the master of disguise as well. Its entire body is bumpy and colored like the surrounding terrain in sand and brown colors. This includes the snake's eyes. Snakes and spiders are creepy enough on their own. Combine the two and you have one terrifying oddity.

This Day in History - Huaynaputina Volcano Erupts

In Southern Peru lies a small volcano named Huaynaputina with a big history. On this day, February 19th, in 1600, this volcano exploded in the most violent eruption of any volcano recorded in South America. Huaynaputina is unique in that it does not rise high in elevation like most volcanoes, which resemble mountains. This volcano is located inside a caldera that was formed by a glacier. Because of the way it was formed, no one knew that it was a volcano. It was described as a ridge by those who saw it. That all changed when it erupted in an explosion that is considered one of the largest in the last 2000 years. It has been compared to the 1883 eruption of Krakatau. Within 24 hours, the nearby city of Arequipa was covered in 10 inches of ash. Pumice and ashfall covered areas up to 310 miles away. Lava flows traveled for 8 miles to the east and hot mud flows made it all the way to the Pacific Ocean 75 miles away. The eruptions continued on into March and people compared the sounds of the explosions to cannon fire. The indigenous people of the area blamed the eruption on their lack of sacrifice. They had once sacrificed humans and animals to appease the gods and they believed this eruption was their punishment for converting to Catholicism. When the volcano finally calmed, 1500 people had been killed. It took agriculture 150 years to recover.

The Life and Afterlife of Mark Twain

Mark Twain authored some of the most beloved stories in American literature. Everyone knows the story of
Tom Sawyer, his buddy Huck Finn and about whitewashing wood fences. Not many people know the details of the life of Mark Twain though. Twain's life was one of literary genius, but it was also one of financial ruin and immense pain when it came to his family life. The Twain's owned a home in Hartford, Connecticut and Twain claimed that the years that he and his family lived in the Hartford home were the happiest years of their life. They would eventually move from the home, but did their spirits actually leave the home? Twain was a lifelong skeptic, but is he now a true believer as his spirit continues to roam on this side of the veil?

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835. Samuel was number six of seven children born to John and Jane Marshall Clemens. Only four of the Clemens children survived into adulthood. John Clemens himself died from pneumonia when Samuel was twelve years old. John Clemens was a lawyer and a judge and he moved his family to Hannibal, Missouri when Samuel was four. Hannibal was a growing port city in 1839 and the setting would provide inspiration for Samuel's future writing. Childhood was tough for Samuel. Not only did three of his siblings die, but he was a sickly child who was mostly kept inside until he was nine years old. He would visit his uncle's farm in the summers and spend hours at the slave quarters listening to their tales and songs. After his father's death, Samuel decided he was done with school and he dropped out taking a job as a printer's apprentice.

The printing business proved to be a good fit for Samuel and when he was fifteen he joined the paper his brother Orion owned, the Hannibal Journal, and he served as a printer and an editorial assistant there. He started contributing articles and bits of humor to the paper and found that he enjoyed writing. Samuel decided he wanted to see the world and have adventure when he was eighteen. He headed east and found work as a printer at several newspapers in New York and Philadelphia. In the evenings, Samuel would go to the libraries where he would educate himself and study subjects he would have never had an opportunity to study when he was in school.

As a boy, Samuel and his friends had discussed and dreamed about becoming steamship captains and pilots. Steamboat pilots made a lot of money. Following those dreams, Samuel headed back to Missouri in 1857. In St. Louis, Samuel became an apprentice to steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby and learned how to steer a steamboat on a course that went from St. Louis to New Orleans. Samuel learned the intricacies of the Mississippi River, another skill that would contribute to his future writings. He also acquired his pen name at this time using lingo from the steamboat industry. The term "Mark Twain" meant that the river's depth was two fathoms or twelve feet. Steamboats needed at least two fathoms of depth to keep clear of the river bottom. Samuel liked the term, but he would not use the pseudonym until 1861. Samuel invited his younger brother Henry to join him as he trained and Henry accepted. It would be something Samuel would regret the rest of his life. On June 21, 1858, the steamboat Henry was working aboard exploded and he was killed. Samuel would always feel responsible for the death, but he finished his training and he received his pilot license in 1859. And then the Civil War started.

Traffic along the Mississippi was impeded by the war and Samuel decided to join the fight and enlisted with a Confederate unit called the Marion Rangers. The experience only lasted two weeks. Samuel wrote an article about it called "The Private History of a Campaign that Failed." He went out to Nevada to work for his brother Orion again, who now was Secretary of the Nevada Territory. The trip was an adventure. Samuel traveled by stagecoach, met Native Americans along the way and made a stop in the Mormon community in Salt Lake City.  He wrote a book of short stories named "Roughing It" that detailed the trip. Silver mining was hot in Nevada and Samuel even tried his hand at silver prospecting, but he failed horribly and went back to writing, taking a job at the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. It was at this time that he started using the name Mark Twain.

In 1864, Twain continued west, stopping in San Francisco and wrote for a paper there. By the next year, he had a piece that made it into many of the magazines and the papers in the nation entitled "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog." The short story was a tall tale about a gambler named Jim Smiley. The plot features a bet over a frog jumping contest. Based on that success, the Sacramento Union hired Twain to go to the Sandwich Islands and report on them. His stories were widely followed and when he returned to the Continental US he embarked on a lecture tour where his knack for stage performing was demonstrated.

His travel writing continued to the east and after arriving in New York, Twain set off for Europe and the Holy Land. The stories he wrote as he traveled were later compiled into his book "The Innocents Abroad" that was published in 1869. While he was traveling, he met Charles Langdon. The two men shared stories and Charles showed Twain a picture of his sister Olivia. It was love at first sight for Twain. Twain started writing Olivia and he asked her to marry him. She refused. He asked again a couple months later and she agreed. They married in 1870. They settled in Buffalo, New York where Twain was writing for and editing the Buffalo Express.

While in Buffalo, Langdon Clemens was born. Twain and Livy decided to move to Hartford, Connecticut and they rented a home there. Twain wanted to be closer to his publisher and at the time, Hartford was the city that had the highest per-capita income in America. Twain described Hartford as "Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief...You do not know what beauty is if you have not been here." Tragedy would strike again for Twain as two year old Langdon came down with diphtheria. The disease killed the boy. But there was a light at that time as well when their daughter Susy was born. Twain published his novel "The Gilded Age" in 1873. The book was a social commentary on corruption and greed. In 1874, the Clemenses moved into a beautiful twenty-five room mansion they had built on Farmington Avenue. This home would see Twain's greatest successes and more tragedy.

 The Mark Twain House was designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter from New York. Construction began in 1873 while the Clemenses were traveling abroad and the project was plagued by delays and ever rising costs. When the family moved into the house in 1874, the construction was not yet finished. Daughter Clara was born that same year. The style of the home is Victorian Gothic Revival. It truly is a beautifully designed home and Livy played a big role in the design. Some claim that the house was designed to look like a riverboat. The decor reflected the family's world travels with inspiration from Japan, India, Morocco, China and Turkey. The top floor of the home was a billiards room and a private office where Twain did his writing and cursing. The library had embossed wallpaper, hand stenciled paneling, fireplaces from India and a large handcrafted mantel from Scotland. The children had their
own own nursery and playroom and a classroom where Livy taught the children. This was on the second floor along with the master bedroom. The entrance hall is ornate with a large wraparound staircase. The area features carved wood on the ceiling, wall paneling and banisters. In 1880, daughter Jean was born. In 1881, following the success of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," which had been published in1876, Twain decided to renovate and expand the home. The kitchen was rebuilt and doubled in size, a phone was added in the entrance hall and it was enlarged, the driveway was redone and the grounds were re-landscaped.

Twain wrote most of the works he is known for while living in this house. Out of this home came "The Gilded Age," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "Life on the Mississippi," "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." He also started investing at this time and many of those investments would bring him to financial ruin. The typesetting machine that was invented by James W. Paige seemed like a great idea, so Twain invested heavily. Unfortunately, the linotype machine was invented at the same time by Whitlaw Reid and it proved to be a superior machine since the typesetter never worked properly. Twain also formed the Charles L. Webster & Company publishing firm. The company went bankrupt. Bank panics like the Panic of 1893 did not help either and by 1891, the Clemenses were looking for a way to get away. They decided to move to Europe.

In 1894, Twain, Livy and Clara set off on a lecture tour to try to get money to throw towards their ever growing debts. Susy and Jean stayed behind at the Hartford home. Susy contracted spinal meningitis and died in the home on August 18, 1896. She was only 24 and her death in the home made it so that Livy could not bear to return to the home. The Clemenses eventually would sell the home in 1903 and it would later serve as a school, then an apartment building and a library. The home was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The house was extensively renovated and turned into a museum dedicated to the life of Twain. In 2003, the Mark Twain Museum Center was opened and features documentaries, exhibits, a great hall, cafe and research library. Financial hardship almost closed the home in 2008, but it was back in black by 2011 after donations from the state, concerned citizens and businesses. Attendance is now record setting and the home generates millions in tourist dollars.

The years following Susy's death turned very dark for Twain and that darkness was reflected in his writing. Lectures followed suit with Twain even giving a harshly sarcastic introduction for Winston Churchill. Later works were rejected by magazines as they seemed to shed a bad light on Twain. Their were whispers of Twain turning traitor. The Clemenses lived in New York City from 1900 to 1903 when Livy became ill. Twain took her to Italy and she died in 1904. He returned to New York and then moved back to Connecticut in 1908. Twain's youngest daughter Jean died the following year from an epileptic seizure, leaving only Clara who was recently married. Twain died shortly thereafter on April 21, 1910 at the age of 74 from a heart attack. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. Twain had paid off all his pre-bankruptcy debt even though he was no longer responsible for the debt before he died. Twain showcased in his writings a changing world whether it was via technology, attitudes about slavery, traveling, culture or observations on history. We are a better world for his gift of the written word.

Is there more still existing on this side of the veil in regards to Mark Twain than just his contributions through writing? Are the rumors of hauntings at the Mark Twain Home true? Before we discuss the paranormal aspects of this tour, we should touch on the spiritual beliefs of Twain.  Earlier we referred to the death of Twain's younger brother Henry aboard a steamboat that exploded. What we did not mention is that Twain dreamed about the event before it happened. This prompted him to explore parapsychology and he became interested in Spiritualism. He became an early member of the Society for Psychical Research. Spiritualism was in its heyday in the late 1800s, particularly in America. Eight million people in America and Europe belonged to the religion at that time. It was not weird for members of upper crust society to host seances in their parlor rooms.

As early as 1866, Twain wrote against Spiritualism calling it a "new and unprospected wildcat religion" in an article for the "Territorial Enterprise." But his interest in this religion grew, particularly after Susy died. He made attempts to contact her using the Ouija board. The Ouija board comes up again in regards to Twain after his death. A 1918 lawsuit was brought by the publishers of Mark Twain's writings, Harper & Brothers, against a publisher named Mitchell Kennerley who published a book named "Jap Herron." The book was written by Emily Grant Hutchings and she claimed that Mark Twain had dictated the novel to her letter by letter via a Ouija board. The case grew from a simple copyright infringement in regards to Mark Twain's name to a trial on the afterlife. Lawyers wanted to put the issue of immortality into the hands of the Supreme Court. The writing seemed to be above the level of what Ms. Hutchings usually put out, but many claimed that Jap Herron was not at Twain's level either. (To read the New York Times articles on this topic, please go here.) The case never went to trial after it was agreed that Jap Herron would not be distributed and most copies were destroyed.

Twain is a conundrum when it comes to the afterlife. Many people, including Twain himself, claim that he did not believe in an afterlife. The Mark Twain Museum currently is exhibiting "Spiritualism, Seances and Sam." The Interim Curator of the museum, Mallory Howard says on the website, "Mark Twain was fascinated with spiritualism, reveling in debunking seances as a young reporter in San Francisco, and maintaining skepticism on the subject all his life -- but sanctioning his wife Livy's attempts to seek solace in seances after their daughter's death. But the exhibition is broader than that -- it covers the gamut of spiritualism, mourning and attitudes toward death in his era and after, and how his attitudes fit into that continuum. We bring the story into the 20th century with an extraordinary collection of objects loaned by artist Calvin von Crush, and finally into the present century."

Would Twain approve? It's hard to say. Twain did write to Reverend JH Twichell, "Susy is gone, George is gone, Libby Hamersley, Ned Bunce, Henry Robinson. The friends are passing, one by one; our house, where such warm blood and such dear blood flowed so freely, is become a cemetery. But not in any repellent sense. Our dead are welcome there; their life made it beautiful, their death has hallowed it, we shall have them with us always, and there will be no parting."

The afterlife is active in the Clemenses beloved home though. Susy had died in the home and her manifestation is the one most reported by visitors and employees of the museum. She has been seen sitting on a round velvet couch in the front entryway. A young woman in a white dress has been seen floating in a hallway. A spirit was witnessed looking out of an upstairs window and even caught on film. Typical cold drafts and flickering lights have been reported as well as female giggling.

Susy is not the only female at the home. Many believe her mother Olivia resides at the home as well. She is seen wearing black with a black veil. A maid that the family had also seems to have returned in the afterlife to continue working in the home. A woman has been seen by an employee wearing a hoop skirt, but no one is sure which of the women this could have been. Clothing has been tugged and the laughter of children is heard as well.

The billiard room where Twain wrote and spent much of his time, reportedly has the smell of cigars in there on occasion and knocking is heard on the walls. Mark Twain's ghost has not been seen in the house, but supposedly has been seen walking the hallways of an apartment building in New York on West 10th Street where he once lived.  A woman claimed in the 1930s that she came into her apartment and saw a man with wild white hair sitting at a chair looking out the window. When she demanded to know who he was he told her, "My name is Clemens and I got problems here I gotta settle."

The basement is altogether another story. Reports of experiences in the basement are far from pleasant. A security guard claims that a silver serving tray was thrown at him when he was down there. Several people have reported hearing a growling sound when they are down there. A psychic exploring the basement was overcome with terror and ran from the house. Has something taken up residence here that is possibly demonic? Keep in mind that something could have been opened up with the use of seances and Ouija boards by Livy Clemens (although these were not used in the home) and paranormal investigators sometimes bring along supernatural hitchhikers with them.

Graveyard Shift tours are offered by the museum that explore spiritualism and haunting experiences. In 2009, Ghost Hunters investigated the site for their cable show and reported evidence. Has Samuel Clemens continued his writing in the afterlife? Is the Mark Twain House haunted? That is for you to decide.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

HGB Podcast 28 - St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Moment in Oddity - The Story Behind The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock was an amazing director and one of his most well known films is The Birds. Birds never seemed very frightening until that movie was made, except for perhaps Ravens, which acquired their infamous creepiness from Edgar Allan Poe. In Monterey Bay, California in 1961, thousands of Sooty Shearwaters descended on the city and began acting erratically. They ran into buildings and people, regurgitated fish and finally died. Newspapers reported the story on August 18th and soon one of the papers got a call from Alfred Hitchcock who wanted to know more. Such an event had never been reported before and it seemed isolated. Hitchcock had read the 1952 story by Daphne du Maurier named The Birds, which was about unexplained bird attacks on humans. He decided to go ahead and make the movie because not only was there real life proof of birds acting oddly, but the story was hot because it had made the news. Tippi Hedron was cast as the lead and Hitchcock had Evan Hunter write the screenplay. He instructed Hunter to re-write the entire story, keeping only the name and concept of the original. The movie premiered in 1963. The true story of weird bird activity was not isolated though. Thirty years later, Brown Pelicans went berserk in the same area. Biologists decided to figure out what was going on and they did. They isolated a toxin in the birds called Domoic Acid. The acid is produced by algae that is eaten by zoo-plankton. This toxin can effect humans as well by giving them shellfish poisoning. People have actually died from this. The effects of Domoic Acid not only inspired a great movie, but the behavior it creates certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Bradley Announces the Earth Wobbles

On this day, February 14th, in 1747, Astronomer James Bradley makes a presentation before the Royal Society in London of an incredible discovery he made. Bradley was born in Gloucestershire to an aristocratic family. Bradley was raised mainly by an uncle who was an amateur astronomer and was friends with men like Newton and Halley. Bradley became interested in astronomy as well, but he decided to become a vicar. He continued with astronomy on the side and his love for it grew. With a recommendation from Newton, Bradley got an appointment which allowed him to do astronomy full-time. A rich amateur astronomer named Samuel Molyneux approached Bradley about working together. Molyneux had commissioned the building of a 24-foot zenith sector. With this instrument, Bradley developed a new era in astronomy of high-precision observation. Bradley later changed to a 12-foot sector, which he used to verify a theory that Newton had put forward. Newton claimed that the Earth moved on its axis. The reason why Newton believed this to be true is because stellar positions seemed to change slightly. Bradley was able to prove that the Earth wobbled on its axis by as much as a 9-second arc. This effect was caused by the moon's gravitational pull. Bradley called this nutation. Bradley presented these findings to the Royal Society and he was given the position of 3rd Astronomer Royal.

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The most notorious gangster shooting in history occurred on a day that was meant for the veneration of a saint and for the commercialization of love: St. Valentine's Day.  This event occurred during the era of Prohibition and tension between rival Mafia families was at an all time high.  The crime was horrific and bloody and forever left its mark.  But this event not only holds a place in history, it seems to hold a place in time and location in the present even though the building in which the massacre took place has been torn down.  This event is haunted.

The S-M-C Cartage Co. building stood along North Clark Street at number 2122.  The building was a
red brick nondescript office building with a garage in the rear.  The sign hanging at the top of the building claimed that the business specialized in packing and shipping.  The only packing and shipping that was going on in this location was in the transportation of bootleg liquor.  In 1929, Prohibition was in full force.  Ten years earlier, the 18th Amendment had been ratified making the production and sale of liquor illegal.  However, people could still consume liquor legally though and so this era became a prime time for illegal activity in regards to alcohol.  The man who owned the S-M-C Cartage building was Adam Heyer.  He was good friends with a man named George Moran, whom everybody called "Bugs."

 Bugs Moran was born in 1893.  Bugs' father was born in a part of the German Empire called Alsace-Lorraine.  His mother was from Canada and both parents were French Catholics.  Bugs was a bad kid from the very beginning.  By the time he was 21 years old, he had been jailed three times.  He ran away from home when he was nineteen and headed for Chicago.  Bugs joined a group of Irish thugs that called itself the "North Side Gang" and this gang was lead by a man named Dion O'Banion.  O'Banion and the North Side Gang were the main rivals to another mobster group in the Chicago area, the Chicago Outfit, which was an Italian mobster group from the south side run by Johnny Torrio.  These two groups fought each other for control of Chicago.  Torrio invited a chap from New York to come to Chicago and help him run the gang and that man was Al Capone, who came to be known as Scarface.

Capone was born in Brooklyn in 1899.  Both of his parents had immigrated from Italy.  Capone did
well academically in school, but he hated the rules at his Catholic school.  He dropped out when he was fourteen years old because he was facing expulsion for hitting a female teacher in the face.  Like Bugs, Capone found trouble early.  He joined several gangs in New York, finally working his way into the powerful Five Points Gang in Lower Manhattan.  Capone's trouble with women would continue and while he was with this gang, he worked as a bouncer at a nightclub and insulted a woman there.  Her brother took a knife to Capone's face, leaving him with the lifelong scar that lead to his nickname "Scarface."  Capone got married when he was nineteen and moved to Chicago at the age of twenty on Johnny Torrio's invite.  There he would work as a bouncer at a brothel where he would contract the Syphilis that would eventually kill him.

Dion O'Banion pioneered bootlegging in Chicago, striking deals with beer makers in Canada and gin and whiskey distributors.  He also hijacked other gang's liquor supplies.  His first hijacking took place in 1921 and within several months, the North Side Gang had eliminated all their competition.  O'Banion was making $1 million a year.  O'Banion bought a flower shop as his front for criminal activity.  It would be in this flower shop that he would meet his end on November 10, 1924.  Shortly after returning from a trip to Colorado where he purchased three Tommy guns, O'Banion had a disagreeable phone conversation with a rival named Angelo Genna.  Genna had earlier dropped a lot of a cash and a large marker, which is a line of credit at a casino, at a casino owned by O'Banion.  Capone wanted the marker to be forgiven as a professional courtesy, but O'Banion refused and called Genna demanding the money.  Genna and his family put out a hit on O'Banion and Frankie Yale, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi carried it out at O'Banion's flower shop on a ruse that they were there to get flowers for another Mob boss' funeral.

The O'Banion murder sparked a five year gang war.  At one point during that war, Bugs ordered a hit
on Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn. McGurn was born in Sicily and his family emigrated to America when he was a year old. The Chicago slums would become his home and he would become a boxer. Now if the surname has you confused, the reason is that Jack changed his last name from Gibaldi to McGurn during his boxing days because Irish boxers got better bookings. McGurn was not a bad kid and he had no interest in gangs. That all changed when his father was assassinated because he had been mistaken as a gang member. McGurn avenged his father's death and killed the three men who had assassinated his father. Capone was impressed and invited McGurn to join the Chicago Outfit. McGurn opened up a club called The Green Mill right in the middle of Bugs' territory. He served Capone's booze there, which probably set Bugs off.

McGurn survived the assassination attempt by Bugs and he flew to Miami to see Capone, who was vacationing there in the winter. He wanted revenge against Bugs and everyone agreed that the trouble with the North Side Gang needed to stop. The two men decided they needed to do something big and that the entire gang needed to be executed. Capone agreed to put up the funds needed and McGurn agreed to plan the hit. McGurn worked the streets and found out that the headquarters for the North Side Gang was at the S-M-C Cartage building. Now he needed to figure out a way to get everybody to be there at the same time, including Bugs. A big shipment of liquor is what McGurn decided to use as bait. McGurn decided to enlist the help of gunmen outside the Chicago area because he worried that if anybody managed to survive, they would recognize members of Capone's gang. McGurn got his hands on police officer uniforms and a police car to help perpetuate the elaborate sham he was planning. He then contacted a booze hijacker and asked him to call Bugs and tell him that he had a shipment of Old Log Cabin Whiskey that he was selling for $57 per case. This bait was perfect because that brand of whiskey was not only good, but very expensive and this was a deal. Bugs agreed to meet the hijacker the following morning, February 14th, at 10:30am.

Lookout nest
Now that we have set the stage, let's get to the event that occurred on February 14th, 1929. It was 10:30am on North Clark Street. Harry and Phil Keywell were at a rented room across the street at 2119 in position as lookouts. These boys were from the infamous Purple Gang of Detroit. Harry Keywell would later tell police he was not there and he supposedly had a solid alibi, but alibis at this time were bought or lied about.

Bugs Moran was running late. At 10:30am, he and one of his men, Ted Newberry, were still on the way to the meeting. The lookouts saw gang member Albert Weinshank come towards the building and enter. Weinshank had the same build as Bugs and looked much like him as well. The lookouts mistook him for Bugs and they gave the signal to the assassins that Bugs had arrived at the garage and it was time to launch the plan. The police car that McGurn had acquired pulled up outside of the garage. Four men, Fred Burke, Joseph Lolordo, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, exited the vehicle. Two of them were wearing the police uniforms. The men entered the garage and announced they were conducting a police raid. Rather than open fire or try to run, the North Side Gang was compliant and allowed their weapons to be taken from them.

While this is happening, Bugs and Newberry arrive outside the garage and see the police car. They decide to avoid the raid and head to a coffee shop. Bugs has no idea that seven of his men are about to be assassinated. Those seven men were the garage mechanic John May, Adam Heyer who owned the building, Peter Gusenberg and his brother Frank, Albert Weinshank, Reinhardt Schwimmer and Albert Kachellek. All seven men were lined up against a wall of the garage. The assassins opened fire using a .45, two Tommy guns and a sawed off shotgun. The faces of May and Kachellek were so obliterated, they were unrecognizable. Seventy rounds of ammunition were fired.

The assassins continued their ruse as they exited the building. The two men dressed as officers pointed their weapons at the two men dressed in plain clothes, while those men held their hands up. Neighbors who heard the gun shots assumed the police had raided the place and were arresting some gang members. They got in the cop car and drove away. The real police arrived a little later after a neighbor who had walked in on the grisly murder scene called them. The neighbor had heard a dog barking wildly inside the garage. The dog was a German Shepherd named Highball who had been left unscathed, tethered inside the garage. The police found all the men dead except for Frank Gusenberg. He was breathing heavy and choking on his blood. He had been shot fourteen times. He was rushed to the hospital where he died three hours later. The police were unable to get him to talk. An investigation was conducted, but nobody ever was pinned with the crime. Capone was in Miami and Jack McGurn's fiancee gave him what came to be known as the "Blonde Alibi." She claimed that the two had been together while the massacre occurred. And thus ended the most notorious and horrific gang slaying in mob history.

Scene outside the Massacre with curious onlookers
But that is not where our story ends. This kind of violent act has all the ingredients for making a haunting. The location where the massacre occurred is very different today. The building is no longer there. The area where the garage had been located is now a grassy area that is connected to a nursing home. The brick wall that the gang members had faced before they were killed was torn down long ago and a large tree marks the spot in the park. Before the building was torn down, an antique furniture store was set up in the front area. The owners did not realize that a massacre had happened at the location until they figured out that most of the people visiting their store were not there to purchase anything, but rather to see the bullet holes left in the brick wall.

In 1967, the building was torn down and the bricks from the infamous wall were auctioned off to a man named George Patey. He reassembled the brick wall for the men's restroom at a nightclub he was opening. He put plexiglas in front of the wall to protect it. Three nights a week, the ladies at the club were allowed to peek into the restroom to see the wall. When the nightclub closed, the bricks were put into storage and then Patey decided to sell the bricks one by one. Legend claims that the bricks are cursed. Is this true? Well, Patey soon started getting the sold bricks back. People were returning them claiming that after they acquired the brick, their fortunes had turned. Many claimed that the bricks had caused them financial ruin. Some even blamed illness and death on the curse of the bricks. Where are the bricks today? Patey died in 2004 and nobody knows what he did with them. A few still turn up here and there.

The nursing home park area seems to be haunted. People claim to get weird feelings of dread when they walk by and animals that walk by the area whine and cower. Haunting audible noises have been heard in the form of gunshots and screams. Unusual lights and mists have been seen. Male voices have been heard both audibly and as EVPs.

Al Capone himself claimed to be haunted by an entity until he died. He claimed that the spirit was James Clark, who was Bugs Moran's brother-in-law and was also one of the massacre victims. James Clark was the alias of Albert Kachellek. When Capone was incarcerated at Eastern State Penitentiary, fellow inmates said they would hear Capone crying out at night, "Jimmy, please leave me alone!" In Chicago, Capone lived at the Lexington Hotel. He would have his most frequent encounters with Jimmy here. Bodyguards for Capone heard him begging in his room to be left alone. Occasionally they would bust in thinking that someone was trying to hurt Capone, but Capone would be alone. He would tell them that Jimmy's ghost had been there. Keep in mind that syphilis might already have been making him half nuts. Capone enlisted the help of a psychic named Alice Britt to help him get rid of the ghost. It did not help. One of Capone's valets once saw the specter in the parlor and he witnessed it run behind the curtains. He called for the bodyguards, but no one was there.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre left an indelible mark in American history, but did it also leave that same mark on the land? Was Capone haunted and is that why the authorities pursued him so heavily after the Massacre? This act put Capone on the authorities map and lead him to be proclaimed "Public Enemy Number One." Perhaps someone or something was helping the authorities. Is North Clark Street haunted by the ghosts of gangsters? Is the land cursed? That is for you to decide.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

HGB Podcast 27 - Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

Moment in Oddity - The Skunk Ape

In the remote areas of the swamp and the Everglades in Florida, lives a variation of the creature commonly called Sasquatch or Bigfoot. This hominid cryptid variation is known as the Skunk Ape. And yes, it did acquire that name based on its repulsive stench that some claim is a cross between garbage and skunk spray. The Skunk Ape is hypothesized to live in caves that are dank, which may be the cause of its stench. Supposed sightings of the elusive creature detail a seven foot, upright walking beast completely covered in long black or reddish hair. The eyes of the creature reportedly glow red. Sightings of the Skunk Ape began in the 1960s and continue to this day, with the most recent highly reported pictures being taken in 2000 by an anonymous woman who sent the pictures to the Sarasota Sheriff's Department in Florida. The National Park Service claims that any such sightings are hoaxes, but indigenous tribes that live in the areas where the Skunk Ape has been seen, claim that the cryptids are real. Does the Skunk Ape actually exist? If it does, it certainly is a mysterious and odd creature.

This Day in History - The Larchmont sinks killing 150

On this day, February 11th, in 1907, the passenger ship Larchmont sinks off of Block Island in Rhode Island. The Larchmont had left Providence at 7 o'clock. The ship was on course with smooth sailing and no signs of trouble. Around 10:45pm, that all changed when a schooner that was out of control of her crew approached the Larchmont. A siren of warning was sounded. The Larchmont tried to pull away, but it was too late.  The schooner slammed into the port side of the Larchmont before falling away and disappearing.  The Larchmont began to take on water rapidly.  Everyone was ordered to abandon ship and the lifeboats headed for Block Island.  Capt. McVey wrote about the experience, "The cold was terrible. We struggled for hours and hours, and the pain from our frostbitten hands and feet was almost unbearable. One of our men, a seaman, became crazed and committed suicide in the boat by cutting his throat. No one in the boat had strength enough to prevent him from doing it. We arrived here at 6:30 o'clock in the morning, very much exhausted and frozen." The captain of the schooner blamed the Larchmont for the accident. He claimed the steamship came towards them and seemed to not see the schooner's lights. By the time the captain realized that the Larchmont was not going to steer away, it was too late. The schooner sank as well. Nearly all the inhabitants of Block Island joined the efforts to rescue victims and recover bodies the next morning. A survivor from the Larchmont claimed the Captain and crew abandoned the passengers. Only nineteen people aboard the Larchmont survived of 169 passengers, so it would seem that the old adage that the captain goes down with the ship was not true here and that perhaps the crew really did save themselves. In the end, 150 people lost their lives.

Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

Barren Hill Tavern and Brewery has only been open for a couple of years, but the history behind the building that this warm eatery is housed within has an extensive history.  Some people who come to this establishment, that is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia near the Barren Hill Battlefield, get more than just a nice meal and the chance to sample an originally crafted beer.  Some of them have an experience with the unseen.  The former General Lafayette Inn might still be playing host to guests that decided to never leave.

Barren Hill Tavern is located in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.  The town was named for French General Marquis de Lafayette who spent time in the area during the American Revolution.  Lafayette was a French aristocrat who fought with the rebels during the American Revolution and he was a close friend of several of the Founding Fathers.  Lafayette had been commissioned as an officer at the tender age of 13 in his home country of France.  He came to America and was commissioned as a general when he was just nineteen.  He would be wounded at the Battle of Brandywine and play a major role in the Siege of Yorktown.

In May of 1778, General George Washington sent General Lafayette to Barren Hill with 2,200 men to do some spying. This seems like a large group for reconnaissance and indeed the British soon found out about the group and surrounded them on three sides. Lafayette's force was nearly one third of General Washington's army and thus they could not afford to be slaughtered. General Lafayette climbed the tower of the St. Peter's Church, which was right next to the Inn, and he mapped out a plan for escape. The British far outnumbered Lafayette and he ordered a retreat.  He knew in order to put up a better fight and succeed in retreating, he needed to convince the British that they were dealing with a bigger force than what Lafayette actually had.  He ordered his men to spread out on the future Lafayette Hill and fire sporadically from different spots.  The group then backed away through a sunken road where they were not easily seen and they made it across Matson's Ford safely.  The British headed for New York and General Lafayette came up from the rear, successfully attacking the British in New Jersey.

The original building that would later house inns, restaurants and breweries was built in 1732. In 1752, Christopher Rapine bought the property and named it the Three Tuns Inn. General William Smallwood and General William Hull are believed to have used the Three Tuns as their headquarters during the Revolutionary War.  They joined General Lafayette in spy operations on the British before the Battle of Barren Hill.  After the Revolutionary War, the Inn needed extensive repairs and it was expanded.  Fireplaces were added to the first and second floors in corner spaces, which was unique for the time.  Marble from the Old Blue Quarry was used to make the mantles. Ludwig Dager owned the Inn during these renovations and the property was kept in the Dager family until 1825 when John Hagey took over the inn and renamed it "Trooper." In 1828, the property went back to the Dager family until 1869.

George and Leonard Fisher bought the property and changed the name yet again to the Barren Hill Hotel. In 1874, a horse drawn trolley line was built from Philadelphia and the hotel saw a resurgence in business. It was at this same time that the property found itself in the hands of another owner.  James Mehwhinney kept the building until 1895. Lottie Gundlack owned the hotel until 1946.

Ludwig Zackiewicz bought the hotel in 1946 and changed the name to Lafayette Hotel, naming it for General Lafayette.  The hotel faced demolition in 1958 to make way for a gas station, but Ludwig saved it.  He sold the building to Todd Helmetag and convinced him that restoration would be a plus and that if he made improvements, the hotel would thrive.  Ludwig was right and the Lafayette did very well for the next thirty years. From 1961 until the1990s, the Mustin family held the property.

Mike McGlynn bought the property in the early 1990s.  McGlynn believed strongly in preservation and he began extensive restoration on the building.  By 1996, the old building was ready for business again, this time under the name the General Lafayette Inn.  It was at this time that the microbrewery was added.  In 1999, a bed and breakfast was added.  Because of his love for the history, McGlynn began hosting events to commemorate General Lafayette's escape and the local soldier return from the Battle of Germantown.  McGlynn died of cancer in 2003.  The Inn's brewmaster, Chris Leonard, took over ownership in 2004.  The place was never the same though.  The General Lafayette Inn went into bankruptcy and closed in 2010.

Erin Wallace is a restauranteur who is unique in the world of brewery ownership since she is female.  Besides owning Barren Hill Tavern, she also owns Devil's Den in South Philadelphia and Old Eagle Tavern in Manayunk.  She bought the former General Lafayette Inn in 2013.  She poured $1.5 million into renovations before opening the Barren Hill Tavern and Brewery.  And that is what this historic inn and restaurant is today.

With such a vast history and with a location in the heart of some of the American Revolution battles, it is not surprising to hear rumors of hauntings taking place at the building. An older woman is one of the more prominent ghosts rumored to be at the building. When the location was still the General Lafayette Inn, an older woman's full bodied apparition would be seen walking in the smaller upstairs dining rooms. She also communicated with investigators via Ouija boards. There are claims that a woman was killed in the building, but we found nothing to substantiate that.

One night, after closing, two waitresses were organizing the chairs and they came upon a chair that would not budge no matter how hard they tried.  They both felt as though someone unseen were sitting in the chair.  They asked a manger for help and he lifted it quite easily as though whoever had been sitting in the chair had gotten up. On another occasion, a chair was witnessed tipping up on one leg and twirling in the pool room.

Doors have slammed and their knobs have rattled.  Former owner Mike McGlynn claimed that when he would be in his office doing paperwork with the door closed, he would hear the doorknob jiggle as if someone were trying to come in, but when he would look at the knob it would not be moving. No one would be at the door when he opened it. Disembodied footsteps can be heard throughout the building.  Full bodied apparitions have been seen.

In 2007, a bar patron was leaving the tavern around 1am and he claimed to see the apparition of an old hunched over man wearing a white nightshirt moving from the host stand towards the kitchen. A bar tender did not see the spirit, but he did see the patron's face and how white his face became.

A former brewmaster named Russ Czajka tells the following experiences, “I’ve had a couple of experiences, but just hearing things.  I was here one morning, early, by myself.  Actually there was one person in the kitchen.  And I had gone up into the attic to get some stuff for a beer festival.  When you come out of the attic there is a swinging door and a long hallway before you come down the back kitchen steps.  I came out of the door and down the hallway.  And when I made the turn to come down the steps I heard someone walking behind me.  I stopped, went back to look in the hallway and there was nobody there.” At the time, only Russ and one other employee were in the building.

Paranormal investigators had been allowed to investigate the building when it was the General Lafayette Inn and many groups claim that they captured orbs on film, had weird feelings in the building and experienced battery drains. As far as we know, no investigations have been made in the building recently and the new owner seems indifferent to talk of ghostly experiences.

The Barren Hill Tavern slipped through the hands of many owners in its nearly 280 years of existence. Are some of those owners still hanging around the property? Are there ghosts hanging out with the patrons and employees at the tavern? Is this place haunted? That is for you to decide.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

HGB Podcast 26 - Grace Dieu Priory

Moment in Oddity -Nazca Lines

Located in the Nazca Desert of Peru are unique and peculiar designs that have been carved into the reddish earth of the area leaving behind white lines that form the Nazca Lines.  The lines consist of 4 to 6 inch deep trenches and form geoglyphs that resemble animals, trees, flowers and humans, while other lines are geometric shapes or just simple straight lines.  It is believed the Nazca Culture created the geoglyphs between 400 and 650 AD.  Many of the designs are quite complex and they are so large that they can only be seen from high above on either the foothills or in the sky, leading many to wonder how an indigenous people were able to create the lines.  Were these people far more advanced than we think and they were able to fly?  Did UFOs have something to do with their creation?  Others wonder the purpose of the designs.  Some scholars believe that they have religious or spiritual significance.  Were the geoglyphs made for the Nazca People's sky gods?  In 1985, Archeologist Johan Reinhard hypothesized that the Nazca Lines were sacred pathways to places of worship.  Other scientists believe the symbols are reverse constellations.  No one knows for sure the purpose of the lines or how they were made, leading the Nazca Lines to be grouped in with other mysteries of the world.  The Nazca Lines are not only mysterious, but they are rather odd.

This Day in History - Cripple Creek Miner's Strike

On this day, February 7th, in 1894, the Western Federation of Miners begins a strike in the city of Cripple Creek in Colorado.  The price of silver had crashed in 1893 and this launched the Panic of 1893.  But gold
Miner's fort in Cripple Creek. Photo courtesy of Heritage West
still held much value and gold is what they were mining in Cripple Creek.  Miners flooded the area after silver crashed and over 150 mines were opened.  Labor was easy to come by, so mine owners took advantage.  They worked the miner's for long hours and offered no extra pay.  When the miners complained, the greedy mine owners gave them an insulting offer:  they would go back to eight hour work days, but miners would lose $.50 a day.  This would take their pay down to $2.50 a day.  The miners went on strike.  These were the days when strikes consisted of more than walking or standing with signs in front of a place of business.  Strikes got dangerous and deadly.  The mine owners raised a private army and the miners armed themselves in return.  The miners even built a fort.  Attacks were in the form of fires and dynamite explosions.  The state militia entered the conflict in June and took the side of the miners and the situation was tamped down.  This was a major victory for the Labor Movement and the Western Federation of Miners became very powerful.

Grace Dieu Priory

In Leicestershire, England the ruins of a religious settlement can be found that was once the Grace Dieu Priory.  Despite the fact that not much of the stone structure still stands today, people from all around the world come to visit the site for various reasons.  Some are tourists interested in the history.  Other visitors are interested in the esoteric and come to the ruins seeking the spiritual.  They believe the ruins lie on top of ley lines.  Still others come because of their interest in things unseen.  Reportedly, the stones of the priory are not the only vestiges still here.  The spirits of those who have come before seem to remain.  Grace Dieu Priory is haunted.

Grace Dieu Priory was established as an independent monastery of the Augustinian Order.  This order was named for Augustine of Hippo.  The order was split into different factions, one of which followed the Roman Catholic religion and was called the Rule of St. Augustine.  The members were strictly female.  These women formed different communities of Augustinian nuns.  One of these orders came to live at Grace Dieu Priory and they were called the White Nuns of Augustine.  They were the only order that had that name.

The Priory was founded by Rohese de Verdun some time between 1235-1241.  Rohese was born in 1204 in Staffordshire, England.  Her father was Nicholas de Verdun and he owned a large amount of land around Belton.  The land that the Priory would be built upon was originally given to Nicholas by William Wastneis, who was the lord of the manor of Osgathorpe.  Rohese gave the land for the building of Grace Dieu Priory and the Bishop of Lincoln gave the Priory its charter in 1241 and dedicated it to the Holy Spirit and St. Mary.  Rohese died in 1246 and she was buried in the Priory Chapel.  An eternal light was kept at the tomb.  The tomb including Rohese's body was moved to the parish church at Belton during the Dissolution.

The Priory grew to be rather large with sixteen nuns living at the monastery and a hospital was built next to the Priory.  The nuns were forbidden to leave the monastery.  The Priory was never wealthy, but it was undervalued in 1536 by the King's representatives, which put it in danger of being closed.  It was given a reprieve that ended in 1538 and the Grace Dieu Priory was dissolved.

William Wordsworth wrote of the Priory:
“Beneath yon eastern ridge, the craggy bound,
Rugged and high, of Charnwood’s forest ground,
Stand yet, but, Stranger, hidden from thy view
The ivied ruins of forlorn Grace Dieu,
Erst a religious House, which day and night
With hymns resounded and the chanted rite.”
John Beaumont bought the property in 1539 and converted the monastery into a home, which stayed in his family until 1684.  Sir Ambrose Phillips bought the home and within a short time, he had pulled down most of the buildings.  The site passed down through the Philips family and in 1833 a descendant named Ambrose De Lisle built a home 300 yards from the Priory ruins.  Grace Dieu Manor stayed in the family until 1964 when the home became a Catholic school.

In 1996, the Grace Dieu Priory Trust was formed by a group of people who wanted to conserve the ruins of the site.  The Rosmisian Order owns the property and has leased the area to the Trust.  Architects were brought in to solidify the structure and make it safe for visitors.   The site is now open for public touring as well as ghost walks.

Grace Dieu Priory is situated near the Thringstone Fault, named for the nearby village of Thringstone.  The geological fracture in the earth is below the ground.  There is a theory that the crack in the earth somehow interferes with the electromagnetic field and thus EMF detectors are affected and people sometimes get that "weird" feeling.  There are traces nearby of what appears to be a worship area for pagan practices.  In particular, there is a standing stone.  Standing stones are part of the Pagan practice of setting up a type of pillar to worship before.  Archeologists believe that the only remaining standing stone is part of a circle of fourteen that had once existed here.  The Catholic Church liked to build their structures over pagan sites, so is this perhaps why this particular spot was picked for the Priory. 

It is claimed that a ripple of energy lies below the surface as well leading some to claim that the Priory is located above or near ley lines.  A ley line is a point where several historical, spiritual or other structures are located near each other.  For example, Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid supposedly are on ley lines.  Ley lines are mystical and work much in the same way as Feng Shui is suppose to work, guiding energy in certain directions. These lines criss cross the globe and they also have been connected to unexplained or supernatural occurrences.  Ley lines are sometimes described as pathways that have been tread many times like the Oregon Trail in America.  Corpse roads were these lines that wove the same path to the cemetery.  Is it possible that residual hauntings are following these well worn pathways?  And if something is built over that ley line, would that cause a ghost to haunt that place?  All of this is purely speculation, but interesting to consider since Grace Dieu Priory has many tales of haunting experiences.

One such tale originates in the 16th-century.  A nun named Agnes Litherland had become pregnant.  This was quite the feat since nuns were suppose to be celibate and these nuns were restricted from leaving the Priory.  Agnes gave birth to this illegitimate child.  The child was drowned in the nearby pond and Agnes was punished by being walled up in a room in the Priory.  (A side note here is that there has been information that Agnes was given a pension and asked to leave the Priory.)  The ghost of a woman is seen wandering the property, probably looking for her baby.  And remember that these nuns were called the White Nuns, so you probably will not be surprised to hear that this woman is called the "White Lady."  The White Lady has no hands or feet in most of accounts told about her.  Charlie Gough, a former worker on the grounds, tells a story from 1948 of seeing a nun dressed in all white, wearing a wide brimmed hat.  The figure disappeared when Mr. Gough approached.

There have been sightings of a woman in grey as well.  A police officer saw a women dressed in grey with a hood, cross the road near the Priory.  She then disappeared.  And a worker at the site once felt a woman behind him, but before he could turn around, he was pushed forcefully from behind.  He turned white as a sheet and never returned to work.  As mentioned earlier, Rohese de Verdun was originally buried at the Priory, but her remains were disturbed and moved.  People claim that this female spirit is faceless and on at least two occasions, the specter has ventured across the road to a bus stop where a bus driver has stopped to pick her up only to have her disappear when either of them opened the bus door.  Is it possible that this woman in grey might be Rohese?

The sightings of either of these female looking spirits are numerous.  In 1990, the Lea family drove past the Grace Dieu Priory and saw a bright light coming from the bus shelter.  As they got closer, they saw that it was a woman with no facial features and no hands or feet, hovering above the ground.  In 1961, a police officer was walking his dog near the site and saw a figure dressed in a white hooded robe near the railway.  The dogs hackles were raised and it growled.  Vince Bell was riding his motorcycle to work in 1986 and saw a women dressed in a white robe cross the road near the Priory.

A vision of some sort has been reported featuring a large group of men and women sitting at a table to eat together.  The plates are made of metal.  A young boy plays a flute.  Companies of disembodied soldiers have been seen at the site as well.  And similar to one of the tales that occurred at Australia's Quarantine Station, one group of investigators felt a warm breeze come through their group before the cold night air returned.

People riding the Carnwood Forest Railway claim to have seen ghosts or felt sudden chills when stopping at the Grace Dieu Station.  Orbs and mists have been photographed on many occasions.  Here are some unusual photos that have been captured:

Is this site just another pile of rocks with historical significance?  Are some of those people who once lived here, still hanging around?  Have other spirits from other events or times gathered here?  Is Grace Dieu Priory haunted?  That is for you to decide!

*For more information:

Monday, February 2, 2015

HGB Podcast 25 - Rockwood Mansion

Moment in Oddity - The Legend of Gray Man

Stories of a haunting male figure that has been dubbed the "Gray Man" are told all along the eastern sea board.  The apparition has been named for its nondescript appearance.  The man is reported to wear almost colorless clothes that are drab.  Sightings of the Gray Man seem to coincide with hurricanes.  The legend of the Gray Man claims that if a person sees the Gray Man before a hurricane hits, they and their property will be protected from any harm or damage.  The Gray Man sometimes actually appears to people and warns them verbally.  Appearances of Gray Man go back nearly 200 years.  One of the earliest sightings was in 1822 near Pawley's Island in South Carolina.  Before the Sea Islands Hurricane in 1893, the Gray Man appeared to a family and warned them that a hurricane was coming.  A newlywed couple by the name of Collins were sleeping soundly in October of 1954 when a loud knocking awoke them in the predawn hours.  A man dressed in all gray clothing with a gray wide-brimmed hat pulled down low over his face was at the door and he told the couple they needed to leave, which they did after he completely disappeared right before their eyes.  Hurricane Hazel struck soon after.  The Gray Man was seen by another couple in 1989 and they knew they needed to leave because they had heard of the legend.  No one is sure why the Gray Man appears to certain people.  Would people miss out on protection if they did not heed the warnings of the Gray Man?   No one can be certain, but a nondescript specter that predicts weather and danger better than forecasters, certainly is odd.

This Day in History - New Amsterdam Becomes A City

On this day in history, February 2nd, in 1653, the New Amsterdam settlement receives municipal rights making it an official city.  New Amsterdam was established on the southern tip of Manhattan Island by a group of Dutch settlers in the 17th-century.  The entire area was considered the New Netherland Territory and New Amsterdam became the seat of the government.  Fort Amsterdam had been built outside of the settlement and was established in order to protect the Dutch West India Company's fur trade.  The fur trade was flourishing along the Hudson River, which had been named for English explorer Henry Hudson who had been employed by the Dutch West India Company.  The Beaver pelts were highly prized in Europe for the manufacture of waterproof hats.  The Dutch West India Company was feeling threatened by English interests and felt a need to protect the mouth of the Hudson and thus Fort Amsterdam was built.  Around 270 people lived in the settlement.  August of 1664 brought a big change for New Amsterdam.  The English and Dutch were at peace, but this did not stop a group of English frigates from demanding the surrender of New Netherland.  The settlement surrendered, but the moved sparked the Second Anglo-Dutch War.  In June of 1665, New Amsterdam was renamed in honor of King James II, the Duke of York.  That is why today we call New Amsterdam by its new name, New York City. 

Rockwood Mansion

Delaware is one of America's original thirteen colonies and the state's roots in American history are deep.  The city of Wilmington is not only its largest city today, but Wilmington is also the first city established in the state in an area that was once the settlement for the Lenape tribe.  Wilmington is home to a mansion that is situated off Marsh Road that is formally called Rockwood Mansion.  The mansion is old and beautiful, but it is also something else: haunted.  This home is considered the most haunted house museum in the state of Delaware.

The city of Wilmington is located on the site where Fort Christina was built in the 1600s.  The fort was originally a Swedish colony and the area was settled because of several rivers that all come together nearby.  The land had once been home to the Lenape tribe lead by Chief Mattahorn and the New Sweden Company bought the land from him in order to build their fort.  The Lenape tribe would later be driven west after the American Revolution.  The Swedish ruled this area until 1655 when the Dutch came in and took over and many of the people became Quakers.  The British would later establish their authority and occupied the area until 1778 when British troops vacated America after the American Revolution.  Wilmington would surge forward in growth during the Civil War because it was home to the manufacture of gunpowder, carriages and iron ships and also because it remained mostly neutral during the war supporting both the Union and the Confederacy.

Joseph Shipley was born in 1795 in Wilmington, Delaware to Joseph and Mary Levis Shipley.  The Shipley family owned flour mills along the Brandywine River.  The milling business was not for Joseph and after school he went into finance.  In 1823, Joseph moved to Liverpool, England where he became a successful merchant banker running his own firm and also joining with two other firms already established in England.  In 1846, Shipley rented an estate called Wyncote that had vast gardens on the property.  Joseph's nephew would write after a visit to Wyncote, "Wyncote is in beautiful order; elegantly & neatly furnished, and the grounds and lawns are such as I never saw in America. The painting of it at Brandywine [the family home in Wilmington] gives a good idea of the house, but....the softness of the verdure cannot be painted."  It would be the time spent on this lush property that would influence Joseph in his design of Rockwood Mansion.

Joseph decided it was time to retire because bouts of gout were plaguing him.  He sent his niece and nephew to look about Wilmington for some suitable land and in 1851 he purchased nearly 400 acres of farmland that sat up on a hill overlooking Wilmington.  Because of his time spent in London, Shipley had become very English in his taste and so he hired an English architect, George Williams who had designed Wyncote, and an English gardener to help him design his home and the beautiful gardens that would become a part of the landscape.  English style was very naturalistic when it came to gardening and Joseph followed those rules.  Some people may not be aware that English rules also meant that a garden was to be a private affair.  While we in America are typically use to the front area of homes being the show place, the English had their gardens visible only to those invited to the home to tour the garden.

Rockwood Mansion was built from 1851-1854 in the style of Rural Gothic Revival Architecture and the property included stables, a coach house and a kitchen garden.  As for the grounds, Joseph spared no expense.  He placed orders for over 1,200 trees and shrubs.  Several of those trees are still on the property to this day.  The Mansion itself has twenty rooms and Joseph decorated those rooms in Victorian style with blue silk damask for the curtains and upholstery, rosewood furniture and the Conservatory was described as "stunning."  Walls were painted in muted tones rather than using wallpaper.  Rockwood had the most modern conveniences of the time that included central heating, bathrooms, servant buzzer box and boilers and the farming equipment was all modern as well.  People remarked that it was as if Joseph had picked up an English estate, sailed it across the ocean and planted it in Delaware.  The only American touch was a piazza he added to the southern end of the home.  The Gardener's Monthly wrote of Rockwood Mansion in 1861:
"The magnificent place constructed and occupied by Joseph Shipley, Esq...whose name is well known in the commercial world... commenced... ten years ago after plans made in England, and under the direction of Mr. Salisbury, a gardener whom he brought out for that purpose. The entire place is improved upon the plan of natural landscape gardening so much employed in English country places...we will say that it is the most splendid specimen of the English park-like style of landscape work that we have ever seen... We feel quite sure that there is nothing of the kind equal to it, in its peculiar style..."
Joseph died in 1867 and his estate passed on to his sisters, Hannah and Sarah.  The sisters only used the estate as a summer retreat and although Joseph's servants had stayed on to look after the place, it was not well kept.  The property went up for auction in 1892 after Hannah died and Joseph's niece, Sarah Bringhurst who had helped him locate and buy the land, bought most of Rockwood.  She then passed it on to her son Edward Bringhurst, Jr.  Edward's daughter Mary inherited the property and she lived there until her death at the age of 100.  Mary passed the property to her niece Nancy Sellers Hargraves who donated Rockwood to New Castle County in 1973.  New Castle County restored the property in 1999, which included the Gardener's Cottage, Porter's Lodge and the Barn and Carriage House, which was converted into a banquet and catering facility.  Rockwood is now a museum that can be toured Wednesday through Sunday.  Rockwood Park that surrounds the estate is free to tour.  The home is listed on the National Register of Historic places.

There are not just garden and mansion tours at the museum.  Ghost tours are also offered because the family members who loved this home and lived and died here have been reluctant to leave.  Employees at the museum claim to have seen full bodied apparitions.  Philip Nord, who is the Director at Rockwood, claims that he saw a male figure sitting in a seat in the Tea Room one evening when he was doing the rounds before locking up the museum.  He asked the man to leave as he felt a chill run up his spine.  He glanced away and when he looked back, the specter was gone.

The room that had belonged to Mary Bringhurst, the daughter who had lived to be 100, is considered the most haunted in the mansion.  She does not like people in her room.  Psychics say that the energy in the room is so strong that they are reluctant to enter.  People have felt ill or passed out in the room.  Mary spent the last five years of her life on the main floor in the Butler's Room because she had become blind and crippled and could no longer manage the stairs.  She is felt in that room as well.  Photographs have captured a strange human shaped mist of what is thought to be Mary both in a hunched and crippled position and also appearing as a younger Mary.

Mary's younger brother Edward has had a lot of activity occur in his bedroom.  A child has been heard giggling near the stairway and footsteps have been heard on the stairs as well.  A paranormal investigator caught a picture of what looks to be a little boy sitting on the stairs.  A woman in a gown has been seen at the top of the stairs.  Flowers and perfume are smelled inside the mansion with no direct cause for such scents.  Lilac is the scent that is reported most often.

The basement is extraordinarily creepy with cramped hallways.  Women feel very uncomfortable in the basement as though they are not welcome.  A photograph that is one of the most compelling we have ever seen appears to be a shadow person with black eyes towards the back of the basement.  Here it is:

Ghost Finders Investigators believe they picked up a servant boy during a ghost box session.  The spirit is heard saying, "Yessum."  Other voices were recorded asking for help.  Balls of light and strange sounds are heard throughout the rest of the museum.  The most bizarre claim about Rockwood is that it has a vortex above the house.  A misty substance is seen above the house that occasionally reveals faces from within and thus it has been dubbed, "The Vortex of Souls." 

Is this beautiful English estate home to more than old furnishings and magnificent gardens?  Does the family that owned this home for over a hundred years still remain on the premises?  Is Rockwood Mansion haunted?  That is for you to decide.

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