Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HGB Podcast 37 - Lord Milner Hotel

Moment in Oddity - No Red Haired Wet Nurses

French doctor Francois Mauriceau wrote a book in 1688 titled "The Diseases of Women with Children." Now most people would hear that title and wonder to themselves, what kind of diseases do mothers have that non-mothers do not have. Does the birthing of children bring certain diseases? Apparently, Dr. Mauriceau thought so, but that is not surprising considering his thoughts on breast feeding. The good doctor wrote, "The necessary conditions in a good nurse are usually taken from her age, the time and manner of her labour, the good constitution of all the parts of her body, and particularly of her breasts, from the nature of her milk [and] from her good manners...She must not be red-haired, nor marked with red spots… She ought to have a sweet voice to please and rejoice the child, and likewise ought to have a clear and free pronunciation, that he may not learn an ill accent from her, as usually red-haired [women] have." The doctor went on to advise against the use of wet nurses with stinky breath or bad teeth and that the breasts "ought to be pretty big… but not big to excess” and “not flaggy and hanging”. What any of those things have to do with breast feeding, we do not know, but Dr. Mauriceau claimed that red haired women's breast milk was "hot, sharp and stinking, and also of an ill taste." How he knew this, well we'll let you imagine how he knew, but one thing is for sure: that doctor's advise on breast feeding certainly is odd.

This Day in History - The Massacre at Chios

On this day, March 31st, in 1822, the Ottoman Turks begin a massacre of the Greek people of the island of Chios. The island of Chios was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in 1822. The Greek people who lived there were tired of living under the Ottoman thumb even though the island was very prosperous under the Turks and they were given much control over their own affairs. The Greek Revolution had started in 1821 and followed a string of attempts by the Greeks throughout the centuries of Ottoman rule to gain their independence. Armed Greeks from the island of Samos were already a part of the revolution and they traveled to Chios to convince the Chians to join the fight. The Greeks attacked the Turks and they were successful, driving them back to the citadel. Only a few of the Chians had joined the other Greeks, but the island population would pay a terrible price. A Turkish fleet arrives on March 22nd to back up their comrades and when they came ashore, they pillaged and looted the island. On March 31st, a heinous order was given that would be carried out over the next four months. Not only was the entire town burned, but the Turks slaughtered every child under three years of age, all males twelve and older and all women over the age of forty. The only thing that would save a person was conversion to Islam. In all, 52,000 were enslaved and 52,000 were killed.

Lord Milner Hotel

The Lord Milner Hotel appears to be a mash-up of old Victorian London and a medieval castle. The hotel is located in Matjiesfontein on the Grand Karoo in South Africa and sits along national highway N1 that links Cape Town to Johannesburg. The hotel is lauded as a tranquil escape, but some parts of the hotel seem to be disturbed. Could there be spirits at unrest in this historic old building?

The original inhabitants of the region that would become known as Matjiesfontein were from two distinct groups: the Khoikhoi people and the San. The term Khoikhoi means "real people." They had traveled from Botswana and were agricultural people. They raised livestock and planted their food. The San are also known as Bushmen. They were hunter-gatherers. The two groups did have some mixing together, but for the most part, they did not get along. European explorers lead by the Dutch East India Company arrived in the area and things went downhill for the tribes from there. The Europeans brought small pox and warfare began. The Khoikhoi were eventually driven from the land.

In the 1800s, the Cape Government Railways would bring civilization to Matjiesfontein. The Prime Minister at the time drew a line through South Africa and directed his engineers to build a railway where this line ran. Matjiesfontein became a small stop along the railway when it opened in 1878. The station was named for a sedge that was used to make mats that were used in the construction of huts. There was a farm near the depot, but that is all that existed until 1884. A young Scotsman by the name of James Logan would change the future of Matjiesfontein permanently. Logan had been born in Berwickshire in 1857. He decided to head to Australia to make his fortune, but a ship wreck at the Cape of Good Hope stopped him in his tracks. He got a job with the Cape Town Railway Station and worked his way up to station manager. He then became District Superintendent of the line between Touws River and Prince Albert Road. He later quit his job with the railway to purchase a hotel in Touws and a wholesale liquor store in Cape Town. When Logan discovered a farm and land were for sale cheap at Matjiesfontein and that the railway ran through there, he purchased it quickly. As an added bonus, he found the air to be good for his weak chest. And like any great entrepreneur, he saw a need and decided to fill it.

The Cape Government Railways was efficient at moving people around, but not at feeding people. There were no dining cars as part of the train. People would arrive at Matjiesfontein and stretch their legs, but there was nothing to feed them. Logan received a government catering contract and started to build a village on the land he had bought. Logan built a refreshment station for travelers. He also built his home, Tweedside Lodge, and planted trees and a garden. He wanted to create an oasis. Then he built the Lord Milner Hotel in 1899, which helped to make the area a fashionable place to not only visit, but to stay for a period of time. Visitors included Lord Randolph Churchill and Rudyard Kipling. The author Olive Schreiner lived in a cottage on the property for five years. The mineral water business near the Lord Milner Hotel is still considered remarkable to this day. When the Lord Milner Hotel opened in 1899, it found itself serving another purpose altogether. The Boer War had started around the same time and the hotel served as the Headquarters of the Cape Western Command. Ten thousand soldiers and twenty thousand horses lived at Matjiesfontein. The village served as a base hospital as well.

James Logan died in 1920. His son and daughter ran the hotel and the village for many years after that and then sold it to David Rawdon in the 1960s. He was a successful hotel owner and he dedicated himself to restoring the Lord Milner Hotel. He re-opened it in 1970. In 1975, the entire village of Matjiesfontein was declared a National Historic Site. David Rawdon passed away in 2010. His nephew Jonathan Rawdon took over the reins and now runs the hotel along with help from his siblings and other family members.

The hotel offers 58 rooms, all without televisions, a suite, villas and cottages along with a restaurant and the Lairds Arms is a pub right next door where patrons can hear Johnny at the piano. There is a double decker bus on property to take visitors for a quick tour of the village. Attractions include a railway museum with a collection of well-restored railway carriages and an 1893 Glasgow-built steam locomotive. Another museum is dedicated to Olive Schreiner, author of The Story of an African Farm, who lived here from 1890 to 1895.

But more than just antiques and museum artifacts from the past exist here at the Lord Milner Hotel. Spirits from the past seem to be hanging out in the village and at the hotel. Many of the ghosts reputed to be at the Lord Milner Hotel are said to be cheerful. Their disembodied laughter is heard while they play an unseen game of billiards. The Logan family claimed to host many spirits and these spirits seemed to have a bit of trouble with doors. The Logans would marvel over rattling doorknobs. A woman named Jennifer had just had her wedding at the magnificent hotel. She was busily packing up her gifts when the doorknob began to rattle. The sound carried on rather quietly for a bit, but the spirit seemed to grow impatient and soon the rattling was so loud, Jennifer could ignore it no longer. She threw open the door and roared, "Fine, come in if you must, don't make such a damn noise about it!" A blast of cold air shot past her and out through the window. The ghost did not bother her anymore.

Since the Lord Milner Hotel was a place used in wartime, it is not surprising that the ghosts of soldiers are seen here. A wounded British soldier is seen near the cemetery. His arm is in a sling and there is a bandage wrapped around his head. When people stop to help the man, he disappears. Other soldiers hang out on the stairway at the hotel, but do not ask the staff about them because they will claim that nothing paranormal has ever happened at the place.

Is this Olive's ghost?
The author Olive Schreiner has not left the place yet. She really enjoys hanging out at the Lairds Arms and James Logan joins her on occassion. He was the creator of an oasis in the desert, so one can understand his desire to stay even after death. Logan is seen in all the lounges and in the hotel. Lights flicker on and off in the lounges as well.  And apparently in the bathroom. A journalist was writing about her stay at the hotel and how she had not experienced any ghosts until she went into the bathroom. She closed the door and the light immediately went out. She turned it on, walked away and it went out again. She figured it was faulty wiring and turned the light on again. Yes, it turned off once again. She got fed up and hollered something to the effect of, "I need to use the loo and I don't want to go in the dark. Please leave the light on!" The light stayed on. Another female ghost named Lucy was caught in a lovers' fight. She wanders the hallways in a nightgown, crying.

The disembodied sound of cards shuffling is heard on the second floor in a small room and a ghost named Kate claims to be the card lover. And that could be possible because there was a young nurse of nineteen named Kate who cared for wounded soldiers here during the Boer War. She loved to play cards will her patients. She passed away mysteriously.

A housekeeper by the name of Jean du Plooy tells the following story:
"She was alone in the hotel while it was being refitted. The night after the workmen had finished laying new wall-to-wall carpets, Jean was awakened by a ringing at the door. She clambered out of bed and went downstairs, expecting to have to turn away some would-be guests. She opened the door and was confronted by five rather peculiar travelers - all she could see of them was their upper bodies. In her astonishment, she blurted out the thought most in her mind: 'For god's sake, dont make a mess of the new carpets!' The ghosts stared at her blankly, looked down at their invisible feet, and vanished."
The crew filming the movie "The Story of an African Farm" had the following experiences:
 "A GHOSTLY presence joined the cast and crew filming The Story of an African Farm on location near Matjiesfontein, witnesses claimed.
The film, starring Swaziland-born actor Richard E Grant and local actress Karin van der Laag, will be released at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Producer Bonnie Rodini said she first met the ethereal resident of the farm Zoute Kloof when she was location-hunting eight years ago.
Rodini recalled how the hair on the back of her neck stood up one day when she was photographing the derelict farmhouse.
“I called somebody outside to come with me, walked on and took a picture.”
When Rodini had the film developed, she saw something on the wall that she photographed. “I turned the print upside down and saw it was a woman in a flowing white dress.”
Later, after the farmhouse was restored for the movie, Rodini was reluctant to tell fellow crew members about the farm’s ghostly resident.
“Some of the crew felt a presence in the house while we were filming, especially people from the art department who spent a lot of time in the house,” she said.
By the end of the six-week shoot, security guards also saw the woman. “One night the security guards heard a noise and saw a woman in white storming down the passage of the farmhouse.
“A few nights later, she opened the front door and you could see her from the yard,” said Rodini.
But it was not only at Zoute Kloof that the cast had strange experiences. Video operator Marco Rinaldi had to move out of his room in the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein, after repeatedly waking up with a strange feeling in the middle of the night.
“It continuously felt like someone was looking over my shoulder,” he said.
Local historian Rose Willis is convinced the “ghost” that haunted the set is that of Louisa Margaret Green, the wife of a civil commissioner.
“She was travelling with her husband, Henry, who was on his way to become the civil commissioner of Colesberg in the 1860s, but then she fell ill with dysentery and died at Zoute Kloof.
“Her ghost has been seen often . . . She wears a kappie(bonnet), has a small waist and wears flowing white clothes that look like they come from the 1860s,” said Willis.
John Siems, manager of the Lord Milner Hotel, was not surprised at Rinaldi’s experience.
“There have been many visitors here who told me they saw ghosts late at night. I’ve been here for seven years and I used to feel scared when I had to close up the lounges late at night. At times I have felt the hairs on my neck stand up late at night.”
The Lord Milner Hotel is a distinct oasis in the desert, but could it be something more? Could it be an oasis for spirits? Is the Lord Milner Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Ghost Video from South Africa:

Show Notes
*The Legend of the Flying Dutchman that was read on show:  http://www.essortment.com/flying-dutchman-legend-64877.html
*To book your accommodations:  http://www.matjiesfontein.com/
*Ghost tour in South Africa hosted by the Mystery Ghost Bus:  http://www.mysteryghostbus.co.za/

Thursday, March 26, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 36 - Island Hotel and Restaurant

Moment in Oddity - Most Lightning Strikes

Roy C. Sullivan was a park ranger for the National Park System. In 1942, Sullivan was working in a lookout tower when a thunderstorm started raging. All of a sudden, a bolt of lightning rocketed from the clouds and hit Sullivan while he was in the lookout. The bolt shot through his leg and out his foot, blowing off the nail of his big toe. Sullivan survived. In 1969, Sullivan again found himself in the middle of a thunderstorm while driving a high mountain road. A bolt of lightning hit him again, knocking him unconscious and burning his eyebrows off. He survived yet again. A year later, Sullivan was walking to his mailbox to retrieve his mail and he was struck by lightning again, this time suffering burns to his shoulder. He survived yet again. In 1972, lightning set his hair on fire and he had to dump a bucket of water over his head to put the fire out. He lived. Within a year, his hair had grown back and was set on fire yet again by lightning when a bolt passed through the hat Sullivan was wearing. The blast rocketed him out of his truck and seared his leg as well. But he survived yet again. In 1976, he was walking around a campsite when a bolt of lightning hit his ankle. It didn't kill him. In 1977, Sullivan was fishing when a bolt of lightning hit him and burned his chest and stomach. He survived. In all, Sullivan was struck by lightning seven times and survived to tell the tales. One would think that the Human Lightning Rod was impossible to kill, but that was not true. It would be the heartache of losing a woman that would take Sullivan down. He killed himself in 1983. A human lightning rod certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Book of Mormon Published

On this date, March 26th, in 1830, the Book of Mormon is published for the first time. The founder of Mormonism was Joseph Smith. He claimed that an angel named Moroni visited him in 1823 and told him about ancient writings that had been engraved on gold plates. The plates had been hidden in New York and Moroni told Smith where he could find them. Moroni was the last prophet to add to the writings and he had hidden the plates, so that is why he knew where they were located. He directed Smith to translate the plates into English because the original writings were in unknown characters that Smith claimed were reformed Egyptian. The writings told tales of Jesus Christ appearing in the Americas and when Smith was finished, he named the book, "The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon Upon Plates Taken From the Plates of Nephi." Many people claimed that the book was a fabrication and Smith never produced the plates that he claimed to have translated. Smith took his book to Egbert B. Grandin's printing press in Palmyra, New York and asked Grandin to publish the book. Grandin refused because he thought the book was a fraud and thus a financially risky venture for him. Smith took his work to Rochester and found a printer there willing to publish the book. Smith really wanted Grandin to do the job though and so he appealed to him one last time pointing out that another publisher was willing to publish. Grandin agreed to print 5,000 books, but only after he was paid $3,000. Smith got a friend named Martin Harris to give him the money. Publication continued and on March 26th, Gardin announced in the Wayne Sentinel that The Book of Mormon was available at his bookstore. Over 150 million copies have been sold and it has been translated into 108 languages.

Island Hotel and Restaurant

The Island Hotel and Restaurant that is located on Cedar Key in Florida was originally made to be a general store and it was built to last. The building material that was used was Tabby, which is a mixture of oyster shells, sand and limestone, and the structure has lasted 155 years. The building has survived severe weather, the Civil War, fire, passing through the hands of many owners, a stint as a brothel, foreclosure and death. It would seem that the spirits of many who have passed through the doors have survived as well. Island Hotel is not only one of the better known hotels in Florida, but it has a reputation of being haunted. The actual number of haunts seems to be thirteen ghosts.

Cedar Key is located just south of the mouth of the Suwannee River. The islands derived their name from the Eastern Red Cedar that once grew abundantly in the area. It is believed that the Timucua tribe were the first people to live on and near Cedar Key. The indigenous population was decimated by the Spanish when they arrived in the 1500s. The Cedar Keys would go on to be used by several groups including the Seminoles and pirates. The United States Army established itself on Cedar Key in 1839 by building a fort there where a garrison was headed by General Zachary Taylor. A hurricane in 1842 chased the army away. That same year, Congress passed a law called the Armed Occupation Act. The bill was a blatant attempt to run the Seminole off and bring more white people to Florida.

It would be the Florida Railroad that would bring big changes to Florida and in particular Cedar Key. The President of the Florida Railroad was also a United States Senator, David Levy Yulee. Yulee was a Jewish Moroccan, making him the first ever Jewish Senator. Because he was the president of the Florida Railroad, he was nicknamed the "Father of Florida Railroads." Yulee had bought Way Island, which was part of the Cedar Key group, to have a place for the railroad's terminal facilities. Cedar Key would become the railroad's western end of the line. The first train arrived in 1861.

Because the railroad meant prosperity, several people took interest in establishing homes and businesses there. Major John Parsons bought some land and began construction on the building that would one day become the Island Hotel. He partnered with a man named Francis E. Hale and when the building was finished, they named it Parsons and Hale's General Store. Unfortunately, just as the general store was ready for opening and business seemed ready to grow in Cedar Key, the Civil War started. It brought a halt to all growth and it brought war to Cedar Key. Union troops invaded the area and they burned nearly every building. The general store was left alone because the Union saw it as a strategic point for a headquarters. Cedar Key was near a major port and the general store provided shelter, supplies and storage.

Major Parsons joined the war effort and he served as a commander of some Confederate volunteers. He and his men defended the Gulf Coast and soon the Confederates were able to take back Cedar Key and they then used the general store as a barracks. The war ended and Parsons returned to Cedar Key where he and Hale reopened the general store. Parsons and Hale ran shipping from the general store and supplied the area with everything from furniture to oil to hardware to food to building supplies. The Cedar Key Post Office and the customs house were also inside the general store. At some point, Parsons and Hale decided to offer boarding at their place as well and John Muir is one of the people who may have stayed there. Muir is considered the father of our America's National Park System. Cedar Key was the finish to his thousand mile walk, which he had started in Indiana and was his attempt to study and enjoy the natural landscape. He wrote of his adventure in his book "A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf" and in it he recounts stepping into a little general store in Cedar Key. President Grover Cleveland is also rumored to have stayed at the Parsons and Hale's General Store on a return trip from Cuba. Times were very good, but they would not last.

Parsons died in 1888 at the age of 71. Florida is known for hurricanes and a big one hit Cedar Key in 1896. Most of the town was destroyed and despite the fact that the general store was built from almost indestructable tabby, it did suffer damage. A fire roared through the town a few years later and then the cedar business collapsed. Cedar Key had hit rough times. Francis Hale died in 1910 and the property went to Langdon Parsons, Major Parsons nephew. He decided to sell the building in 1915 to a man named Simon Feinberg. Feinberg had no use for the general store and he turned the building into a full fledged hotel he named Bay Hotel. Feinberg added a second floor balcony and reconstructed much of the inside. Marcus Markham managed the operation with his wife.

On May 11, 1919, Feinberg died in the hotel under very mysterious circumstances. Feinberg was a religious man and he supported the efforts of the Temperence Society, a group heading up the effort to bring Prohibition. Prohibition had not been made law yet, but President Woodrow Wilson had already called for a temporary wartime prohibition in 1917. Feinberg had gone to the Bay Hotel to collect money from the manager and was dismayed to find out that the manager had been running a whiskey still in the attic. There was a false roof about twelve inches below the real roof and this concealed the copper pipes used for the still. The manager wanted to placate Feinberg, so he treated him to a wonderful meal and then Feinberg retired to the hotel a went to sleep. He never woke up.

The hotel would filter through the hands of several owners after the death of Feinberg. The building became known as the Cedar Key Hotel and then later was renamed Fowler's Wood after a new owner. It was the hotel's tenure as Fowler's Wood that it would become a brothel and speakeasy during the 1930s. A Mr. Crittenden managed the hotel at this time. In 1932, the railroad stopped running to Cedar Key and economic depression hit the area once again. Times were so tough for the hotel that it went into foreclosure. The owner took the foreclosure pretty hard and tried to burn the building down three different times. His plan might have worked had he stopped to remember that the fire department was right across the street. The fire was extinguished every time.

Ray Andrews bought the property at the end of the 30s and had his sister and her husband manage the place. It was here that most of the residents of Cedar Key heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1945, the King Neptune lounge was added to the hotel. In 1946, Bessie and Gibby Gibbs purchased the hotel. It was in bad shape and they renovated it and reopened it as the Island Hotel. The couple added their unique flair to the place and Gibby kept bar. The townspeople loved to gather at the bar as well as visitors. Some of those visitors included Pearl Buck, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Frances Langford, Richard Boone and Myrna Loy. In 1948, the couple hired an artist to paint murals in the restaurant and bar and upstairs. The restaurant had a great reputation as well and was known as a place to eat the freshest seafood and vegetables around. Bessie created many of the recipes cooked by their chef Catherine "Big Buster" Johnson and she chastised any patrons who did not eat their vegetables.

In 1950, Hurricane Easy hit Cedar Key and ripped the roof off of the Island Hotel. The upstairs room was water damaged as well as the King Neptune mural in the bar. Gibby Gibbs died in 1962 and Bessie continued to run the place on her own until 1973. She sold the hotel to Charles and Shirley English. Bessie would die tragically in a house fire two years later. The Englishs did not last long and they sold the hotel to Harold Nabors in 1978. Nabors remodeled the bar and made that his main focus, letting the restaurant and hotel fall by the wayside. In 1980, he sold the operation to Marcia Rogers and she refocused efforts on the restaurant once again, hiring Chef Jahn McCumbers. The restaurant again became a place known for its food. Singer Jimmy Buffett became a frequent guest at the Island Hotel during the 1980s and gave impromptu performances in the Neptune Bar. The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Marcia got a little New Agey at this time and closed the Neptune Bar to the public and made it into a coffee and juice bar where she hosted things like the Full Moon Wakefulness Retreat. Cedar Key residents burned her in effigy in front of the post office in response.

Tom and Allison Sanders bought the place in 1992 and cleaned it from top to bottom and reopened the Neptune Bar after they fully reconstructed it, covering it with a Cedar Key cedar top. The Island Hotel became a social center once again and the restaurant continued its reputation for good food still under Chef Jahn McCumbers. Dawn Fisher and Tony Cousins moved to Florida from England and they purchased the Island Hotel in 1996. The couple would focus on refurbishing the hotel and added private bathrooms to every room. Central heat and air was also added, bringing the hotel more up to date. Televisions and phones were still kept out of the rooms to retain the hotel's charm. While redecorating the dining room, the couple hired a colorist to help them decide which colors to use. They chose a lilac and plum with a pine ceiling. Dawn got the shock of her life when Bessie Gibbs' nephew came to visit and showed her a bunch of old photos. One of the photos was in color and featured the dining room. The colors that Bessie had chosen to paint the dining room were the same ones that the dining room was repainted with by Dawn.

Dawn and Tony got married and had a child and realized that the hotel was too much for them, so they sold it in 2001 to Bill and MaryLou Stewart. The Stewarts had been born in Florida, but they had both ended up in Texas. They retired and decided to return to Florida. Things at the hotel seemed fine at first, but in 2002, the couple abruptly fired the entire staff, boarded up the place and ran back to Texas. The Cousins took back ownership and reopened the hotel and restaurant. They then sold the place to Andy and Stanley Bair. They refreshed the place and have run it for the past ten years. Stanley writes of their adventure, "We returned to the States in August 2003 and began a search for 'that one last quiet, undeveloped spot' that might be still found in Florida. We stumbled onto Cedar Key and the Island Hotel. We immediately knew we had found what we were looking for. The wonderfully quaint island and the manner in which they welcomed us has been a bonus beyond our wildest dreams. We are greeted every day by friendly, smiling faces.
Our first few weeks were spent giving the hotel a face lift. We painted the downstairs lobby and replaced worn out furniture throughout the hotel. A new bath/shower was added for room #27. The hotel quickly came back to life, and I do believe even the ghosts are smiling. It is as if they had spent the day at a beauty parlor! Our staff is excited about the 'new look' and they have reason to be proud of 'their' hotel again."

The Island Hotel has ten rooms and operates as a bed and breakfast, so there is a complimentary breakfast in the morning. All the rooms are decorated differently with antiques and each has their own private bathroom. There are no televisions or phones in the rooms, but there is Wi-Fi. The wrap around second floor balcony has several rocking chairs for guests to enjoy.

As one can see, the hotel has passed through many hands, but it has never lost its character. Its spirit has continued to thrive and now some say that spirits from the past remain here at the Island Hotel. Thirteen spirits to be exact. Let us introduce you to the thirteen ghosts. As described earlier, Native Americans lived in the area before the Island Hotel was built. Three spirits have not been described by anybody, but psychics claim that they are there. Two spirits of Native Americans have been seen in the hotel at various times. A fisherman has made an appearance and another specter that is described as tall and thin. None of these spirits is very well known, but the rest of the thirteen are seen more often and have made themselves known.

When the Island Hotel was Parsons and Hale's General Store, a young black boy of the age of nine was given the job of stock boy. He would stock shelves and keep the store clean. One day, something went missing in the store and the manager accused him of stealing. Whether the boy actually stole anything is not known, but he was scared and ran away and hid. The location he chose to hide in was a bad one. It was a five foot deep, 2,500 gallon cement cistern in the basement of the store and he drowned. No one knew what happened to him until his skeleton was discovered in the cistern a year later. The young boy's ghost continues to haunt the basement.

The most seen ghost at the hotel is that of a Confederate soldier who apparently died on the property for unknown reasons. Had he been wounded or did something sinister take place? His ghost seems to like to take early morning walks and is often seen in the early morning mist that blankets the coastal location. He is seen standing at attention near the doors leading to the stairs, also. Some have wondered if the apparition is that of Major Parsons who had led a Confederate garrison.

As we talked about earlier, Simon Feinberg had died at the hotel under mysterious circumstances. Had his meal been too rich and caused him to have a heart attack or was someone trying to protect their whiskey still and made sure he would not interfere with operations by killing him? Was he poisoned? Feinberg seems to be at unrest. Hotel guests have seen him walking the halls and heard disembodied footsteps. He has been seen in Room 27, which is the room where he died.

Room 27 seems to be the most active area of the hotel. Besides being haunted by former owner Feinberg, a prostitute from the brothel days hangs out in this room and the adjacent Room 26. She had worked here during the Depression and it is believed she was murdered. Male guests have had the most experiences with her. They not only see her, but they feel their bed being sat upon and occassionally a patron receives a disembodied kiss. When lights are turned on, she vanishes.

The manager who some think poisoned Simon Feinberg was Marcus Markham. He was drinking one night in the King Neptune Lounge when he got in a fight with a steamboat captain. The argument got very heated and a knife was pulled. When the fight was over, Markham had been stabbed to death. His spirit seems to have taken up residence in the bar. His apparition is most often seen behind the bar near the pantry. Bullet slugs have also been found in the wall behind the King Neptune painting. Were these just from some idiot shooting at the painting or did something else take place here in the bar?

The dominant ghost at the Island Hotel is Bessie Gibbs, whose tenure at the hotel is the most memorable. She loved the place and really gave it life. She still enjoys taking care of the place and has been seen attemtping to make beds, cleaning and rearranging furniture. She locks guests out of their rooms and occassionally comes walking through rooms in the middle of the night only to disappear through another wall.

One guest reported the following story:
"After being out many hours later, my husband wanted to go to sleep while I still wanted to hang out in the famous lounge. I told him to keep the lights on and I was taking the flashlight (having heard that the main ghost had sense of humor about flipping on and off lights).

The lights were still on though when I went upstairs.

I still felt strangely calm (and I'm rather intuitive and sensitive so if I hadn't been feeling peaceful I would not have even fallen asleep). After several hours of good sleep, I immediately was awakened by a LOUD BANG. It sounded like a book had been slammed to the floor. That was all I heard I waited a while longer and then woke my husband up and asked him to check to see if the Bible that was right next to the bed was still there. He said it was. He got up and turned the nightlights on and we both discovered that a Kleenex box that was on a coffee table across the room had been thrown down across the floor. Just to rule out any possibility of a breeze doing this we did all sets of tests placing the box under a fan and everything but knew it had to have been thrown..."
Our friends over at Peace River Ghost Trackers have investigated the building and the following were their personal experiences:
*We entered the basement at 4:30pm and was also accompanied by Derrick from channel 20 news out of Gainesville. The basement had a lot of dust so any pictures from down there are hard to prove. Scott did have a heavy feeling at one point near the cistern where a 9 year old boy had drowned in the 1860’s. Scott had to remove himself for a moment from that area. Sprout also felt the heavy feeling in her chest and also chose to leave.
* Sprout was entering the room behind the bar at around 1:30am which was where a man had died of a knife stabbing. While entering I had a very cold breeze sweep over the top of my left hand and could fine no explanation for it.
* At 2:15am Toni, Sprout, Janice and Scott where in the kitchen using dowsing rods to communicate with a man who is connected with the pantry. Many staff have seen and felt his presence for many years. We were standing in the order stated above when the activity occurred. Janice was facing the pantry and using the dowsing rods, she asked where the spirit was and the one rod swung around and pointed behind her. When Janice asked for the spirit to move in front of her Toni said “here it comes”. Toni said she saw a dark shadow of a figure of a man coming towards her then making a sharp turn in front of all of us. One at a time we all said “oh” as the coldness swept passed us. I saw Janice shaking from the cold and Scott said it went down his arm.
* Scott’s camera at 2 different times had taken pictures and his flash did not go off. Once in the basement and once in the lobby. This in not normal behavior for his camera.
*We had laid down for bed at 4:30am and shortly after I (Sprout) heard what I thought to be the piano down in the lobby. It was about 7 or 8 hits on the high notes of the keyboard then Lori started to talk. (her first time in a haunted hotel she was a bit nervous ) then I heard it again about 4 hits this time. That's when I asked Scott if we would be able to hear the piano in our room. He said he hopes so because he had just heard it. Didn't get up cause we were pooped and had enough for the night. I can say I believe we were the last to go to our rooms for bed and didn't hear anyone else up and moving about the hall.
* In the morning we were getting the 2 sets of keys together for check out but could only find one set. The key was finally found in the Velcro sealed left pocket of a pair of shorts in the suitcase. They were Scotts shorts and he does not use the left pocket they were also folded up and unworn shorts. Lori watched her video from the night before and saw Scott take the key out of the door. He put almost everything on the dresser so it was assumed that is where he set the key. There were several incidents of room doors being unlocked by themselves told to us by other investigators. Sprout even witnessed room 23’s door unlock twice by itself. The occupants of the room were inside during the first time and were sitting on the opposite side of the room when the door unlocked.
* Lori sent us her video that was done in our room. At one point Scott is communicating with a dowsing rods and a spirit is thought to be in the corner of the room that is being video taped. During this time the video is having a hard time focusing, until Scott said “where did you go”. Knowing the spirit had moved from that spot. At this time the camera functioned properly.
Other occurences at the hotel include lights flickering or turning off and on without assistance, doors open and close and cold spots are felt. Some claim that Bessie's old room is a portal. The television show "Haunted Inns and Mansions" featured the Island Hotel in 1999. Is the Island Hotel home to more than just living guests? Are some of the previous owners still hanging around? Is the Island Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes
*To book your stay:  http://www.islandhotel-cedarkey.com/

Saturday, March 21, 2015

HGB Podcast 35 - The Life and Afterlife of Marilyn Monroe

Moment in Oddity - Tarim Mummies

European explorers were searching for antiquities in China in the early 20th century when they discovered several desiccated bodies in the Tarim Basin near Xinjiang, China. That discovery would stir up controversy as to the true origin of the Tarim Mummies. The mummies have blonde hair and long noses. These distinguishing characteristics, along with the fact that traces of an Indo-European Tocharian language have been found in the area, have lead researchers to claim the mummies are Europoid. Professor of Chinese, Victor T. Mair, from the University of Pennsylvania, took a team to the Tarim Basin to gather DNA samples and the DNA from 52 mummies was tested. The results suggested that Europeans and Asians intermingled far before most archaeologists had thought. Professor Mair wrote that the discovery was "extremely important because they link up eastern and western Eurasia at a formative stage of civilization (Bronze Age and early Iron Age) in a much closer way than has ever been done before." The Tarim Mummies date back to 1800 BC. These Indo-European nomads are thought to have brought bronze work and chariots to the area and taught those living in the East how to make and use them. Pliny the Elder wrote to Emporer Claudius that a group from an embassy near the Tarim Basin claimed that the people there “exceeded the ordinary human height, had flaxen hair, and blue eyes, and made an uncouth sort of noise by way of talking." The Tarim Mummies are on display at the Xinjiang Museum. The idea that Caucasians were in the area of the Tarim Basin and that their bodies were preserved in such a way to enable these findings, certainly is odd.

This Day in History - New Orleans Fire of 1788

On this date, March 21st, in 1788, the Great New Orleans Fire destroyed most of the buildings in New Orleans. New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French. It was named for the Regent of France, Phillip II, Duke of Orleans. The Spanish later took control of the city. In the afternoon of Good Friday, which happened to be March 21, 1788, a fire broke out at Army Treasurer Don Vincente Jose Nunez's home on Toulouse Street. Normally, church bells would have rung out, alerting the town people to the danger and signaling for help, but since it was Good Friday, the priests refused to allow the bells to be rung. The fire raged and within five hours, nearly every building in the city was destroyed including the church that would not ring its bells. The Army barracks was destroyed along with everything in the French Quarter and the jail. In total, 856 structures were consumed. Even the two working fire engines that fought the fire were destroyed. The people of New Orleans were devastated. Governor Esteban Miro reported to Spanish authorities, "If the imagination could describe what our senses enable us to feel from sight and touch, reason itself would recoil in horror, and it is no easy matter to say whether the sight of an entire city in flames was more horrible to behold than the suffering and pitiable condition in which everyone was involved" and that the city was "now in ruins, transformed within the space of five hours into an arid and fearful, desert. Such was the sad ending of a work of death, the result of seventy years of industry." What people see now in the French Quarter was built post the two great fires in New Orleans. A second fire would destroy most of the buildings that survived the first in 1794.

The Life and Afterlife of Marilyn Monroe

No other actress has ever had the notoriety and fame or stirred the emotions quite like Marilyn Monroe. She was a legend in her own time and that legend has only grown since her untimely death. Not only was her rise to fame epic, but her personal life was a tale fit for the silver screen filled with torrid love affairs that included a president, drugs, scandal, tragedy, conspiracy and a mysterious death. Such a tumultuous life is hard to completely snuff out and perhaps Marilyn Monroe's spirit continues to live on in the afterlife.  Not just in our memories, but as a spirit still walking among us.

On June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in Los Angeles, California to Gladys Pearl Baker. There is confusion when it comes to who was Norma Jeane's father. Her birth certificate has Martin Mortenson as her father and that is who she was initially named for, but her mother would change the surname to that of her first husband and that name was Baker. Gladys Baker was married to Mortenson, but they had apparently separated before Norma Jeane was born. Their divorce would be final in 1928. Norma Jean had been told by her mother that a man named Charles Stanley Gifford was her father. Thus began the tumultuous life of Norma Jeane.

Norma Jeane's mother was a mental wreck and so she turned the little girl over to foster parents. In 1933, Gladys took custody of Norma Jeane back, which was a huge mistake. Norma Jeane would witness episode after episode of her mother's mental instabiliy until Gladys was finally hauled off to the State Hospital. Norma Jeane then went to live with her mother's best friend, Grace McKee. It was McKee who would teach Norma Jeane how to get all dolled up with make-up and she would take her to the movies and she encouraged her to become a movie star. Grace married when Norma Jeane was nine and she sent Norma Jeane to an orphanage. Norma Jeane was in and out of foster care and then Grace came and brought her back to her home where her husband tried to sexually assault Norma Jeane several times. Norma Jeane would be moved in and out of this home several times over the next few years. One of those places was with her great aunt Olive Brunings, whose son would rape Norma Jeane. After this, she ended up with an aunt named Ana Lower. Norma Jeane would always remember the time she spent with Lower fondly and later in life, she would visit Lower's grave many times.

In 1942, Norma Jean moved back in with Grace. She was in high school at this time and she started a relationship with a boy named James Dougherty. Grace and her husband needed to move for a job offer, so Norma Jeane was going to be shipped off to an orphanage again. Grace decided to pressure Dougherty to marry Norma Jeane instead and he reluctantly did marry her. Norma Jeane was barely sixteen at the time. In 1943, Dougherty joined the Merchant Marines to fight in World War II. Norma Jeane moved in with Dougherty's mother. Norma Jean got a job an airplane factory, Radioplane Munitions Factory, and it would be here that her superstar life would begin.

David Conover was hired by the Army to take picture of women working in the factory to promote the war effort. Conover was taken with Norma Jeane and recognized how photogenic she was and he told her to apply at the Blue Book model agency. Within two years, Norma Jean had appeared on the cover of thirty-three magazines and had changed her brunette locks to blonde. She felt abandoned in her marriage and Grace helped her to obtain a divorce from Dougherty. The modeling got the attention of 20th Century Fox Studios and she was brought in for a screen test. They signed her with a contract that lasted for six months and paid her $125 a week. Ben Lyon was the Fox executive that would take Norma Jeane under his arm and guide her. He suggested that she change her name, so Norma Jeane Baker became Norma Jeane Monroe. She got the surname Monroe from her mother's maiden name. The name still did not sound right. So they tried getting rid of Norma. But Jeane Monroe sounded common. Then Lyon wondered what about using the name Marilyn. It was lucky since it had double Ms and it just sounded nice. Norma Jeane thought it sounded like Mary Lynn and she hated that name. But Lyon convinced her and Marilyn Monroe would become her name, a name that would live on in legend forever.

Marilyn started out as an extra as she took singing and dance lessons. Her first speaking part came in the movie "Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!" She had one line. Her next movie, "Dangerous Years", gave her nine lines to say. 20th Century Fox did not renew Marilyn's contract and she went over to Columbia. Columbia signed her and gave her a role in "Ladies of the Chorus." She then was dumped by Columbia and she decided to go back to modeling for a while and it was at this time that her infamous nude pictures were taken by photographer Tom Kelley. The year was 1949. Marilyn then signed on with talent agent Johnny Hyde, with whom it is rumored she had an affair. Hyde got her some bit parts in low budget movies and then got her an audition with John Huston. Huston liked her and gave her a role in "The Asphalt Jungle" playing the mistress to an aging criminal. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and critics took notice of Marilyn and gave her rave reviews.

Based on this success, Marilyn was given a role in "All About Eve." The critics liked her again and this led to Hyde landing a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox for Marilyn. She also got a nose job at this time. Several films were made by Marilyn at this time with lower budgets and moderate success, so Marilyn decided to take some college courses and she enrolled at the University of California studying art and literature. At the time of her death, Marilyn had 400 books in her library. She was not a blonde bimbo by any means. Then in 1952, those pesky nude photos surfaced in a calendar. Marilyn had given a fake name when the pictures were taken, but people who saw the calendar said the girl sure looked like Marilyn Monroe. Scandal started to perculoate and the studio scrambled for a way to handle the situation. Marilyn was not only beautiful, but she was smart and she handled the situation brilliantly. She told the studio that she was going to tell the truth. And she did. Marilyn explained that she was desperate at the time and needed rent money and so she posed for the photos for the money. The public sympathized with her and Playboy put her in their first issue and thus Marilyn became their first Playmate of the Month.

Baseball player and legend Joe DiMaggio entered her life at this time and would remain a fixture in her life until her death. The two began dating and Marilyn took on roles in several films at this time, none of which got her much notice. Then came the movie "Niagara." This was her first big role and she played a femme fatale plotting to kill her husband. Critics did not care for her overtly sexual portrayal of her character, but it was this image that she would carry forward on the advise of a her make-up artist friend Whitey Snyder. The musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" came next and Marilyn got a chance to really shine by singing and dancing. Her memorable rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" is unforgettable. Jane Russell co-starred and the two women became fast friends. Russell learned that Marilyn had terrible stage fright and that it was the reason Marilyn was always late for filming, so she started escorting her to the set. Russell said of Marilyn that she was "very shy and very sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for."

Marilyn had fallen into a place of type casting at this point and could not get serious roles. She starred in the Western "River of No Return" and she felt it was beneath her. Her next film was to be with Frank Sinatra, but she did not show up for work and 20th Century Fox suspended her. DiMaggio and Marilyn got married at this same time in 1954. The marriage lasted a year and ended due to DiMaggio's jealousy, both of Marilyn's fame and his belief that she would cheat on him. Fox lifted Marilyn's suspension and she starred in "There's No Business Like Show Business." Next came "The Seven Year Itch," which was one of Mailyn's greatest roles. Her iconic skirt blowing scene is from this movie. This movie gave Marilyn real power and she re-negotiated her Fox contract and gained creative control of her roles.

Marilyn concentrated heavily on acting lessons, hoping she could do stage work, but her stage fright was too overwhelming. She did win the praises of her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, who said of Marilyn, "I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando and the second is Marilyn Monroe." Marilyn began dating Arthur Miller in 1955. In 1956, Marilyn made the romantic comedy Bus Stop and she garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. "The Prince and the Showgirl" was her next film starring opposite Laurence Olivier and she received international attention for this role. She won the Italian equivalent of an Academy Award for her performance. Miller and Marilyn married this year as well. Their marriage would last five years and end after their collaboration on "The Misfits."

My favorite Monroe film, "Some Like It Hot," was made in 1959. Marilyn was nearly impossible to work with on set, but Billy Wilder considered the film his biggest success and it was nominated for six Academy Awards. Marilyn won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy. Marilyn's health began to deteriorate and she began heavily relying on prescription medication. She would mix sleeping pills and alcohol. John Huston directed Marilyn's final film "The Misfits." Production was nuts with Marilyn landing in the hospital for ten days. The film was not a commercial success at the time, but it is a classic today with Clark Gable's and Marilyn's performances highly praised. Marilyn won another Golden Globe for the film.

In 1962, Marilyn began filming "Something's Got to Give," but she spent much of the time ill and she was eventually dismissed. At this same time, Marilyn gave a small performance at Madison Square Garden for President John Kennedy's birthday party. She sang "Happy Birthday" and "Thanks For the Memories" to the President.

Marilyn bought a home at 12305 5th Helena Drive in Brentwood, California in 1962. It was the only home she ever owned and she had only lived there for six months when she died in the bedroom of this home. The circumstances surrounding her death fall into three different categories: accident, suicide or murder. Let's explore all of these, starting with accident. The medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, ruled that Marilyn died of acute barbiturate poisoning. Did she accidentally overdose herself? There is also the possibility that she was poisoned accidentally by an enema that was administered to her that was contraindicated with another drug she was taking. Then there are those who think Marilyn was suicidal and took an overdose of drugs on purpose. People claim she had been depressed and she had been recently dropped by Fox Studios, but they did finally rework her contract for double her salary. She also reportedly had just had an abortion. Whitey Snyder saw Marilyn in her final week and said she never looked better and was very excited about her future. There are those who think Marilyn was murdered and Diane is one of them.

Who would murder Marilyn Monroe and why? John and Bobby Kennedy were both having affairs with Marilyn and while it was just a fling for President Kennedy, Bobby and Marilyn had an intense relationship. Monroe kept a diary of all her affairs in a little red book. Marilyn was under the impression that Bobby was going to leave Ethel for her. Obviously, that was never going to happen since Bobby was a Catholic with his eyes set on the White House. Marilyn kept a diary that we'll never know the contents of, but we imagine there was a lot of information in there that the Kennedys would not want out in the public. So we have motive. Now lets look at the evidence.

In the book, "The Murder of Marilyn Monroe" by Jay Margolis and Richard Buskin, the authors make claims that actor Peter Lawford, who was the brother-in-law of the Kennedys, confessed that he knew what happened to Marilyn. The authors also had eyewitness testimony from paramedic James Edwin Hall. The story goes that Bobby went to Marilyn's place to break things off permanently. A fight ensued and a bodyguard with Kennedy gave Marilyn a shot to calm her. Bodyguards then administered an enema with 13-19 Nembutals and 17 Chloral Hydrates crushed up in it. This left Marilyn comatose and the group left. After the housekeeper found Marilyn unconscious, she called paramedics. James Edwin Hall gave Marilyn CPR because she had a weak pulse. He noticed that there was no vomit nor any drug odor in Marilyn's mouth, which is very unusual in overdoses. There was also no water by the bedside, so how did Marilyn take up to 64 pills (not to mention that that amount of pills seems almost impossible for a human to take at one time.) Dr. Ralph Greenson, who was Marilyn's psychiatrist and a man she also could take down because of the affair they were having, arrives on the scene and claims to be Marilyn's doctor, so Hall lets him take over even though he notices the doctor seems to have no clue what he is doing. He then witnesses Greenson take out a huge hyperdermic needle, fill it with a liquid and he puts the needle into Marilyn's heart. Marilyn is dead after that. Peter Lawson claimed this happened in the guest cottage and that Monroe's body was moved to her bedroom and placed faced down in bed for photographs and to back up the suicide story. They needed to prevent lividity from showing she had been on her back. Pictures showing Marilyn face down in bed back up this story and it is only common sense that paramedics are going to take a body out of bed and administer CPR unless the person is stone cold dead and Marilyn was not.

Police arrived at the house at 4:30am and notice fresh sheets on the bed and that the housekeeper is washing sheets (in the middle of the night?) and that there is no water for washing down pills. Marilyn could not take pills without water, she even gagged on them at times with water. Undertaker Guy Hockett arrives around 5:30 and claims that Marilyn died between 9:30 and 11:30pm. Police get statements from everyone, but the housekeeper keeps changing her story. The coroner finds no proof of drugs in Marilyn's stomach and the only way there would be no residue is if she took the pills over a stretch of time. If she had taken the pills slowly, she would have been dead long before she could have taken the amount found in her bloodstream. There was no evidence she shot up with the drugs. The amount of drugs in her system, would have killed 30 people. In the end, Marilyn's death was ruled a suicide.

Joe DiMaggio made the funeral arrangements. There was a public viewing and the coffin Marilyn was buried in was the top of the line. It was a hermetically sealed antique-silver-finished 48-ounce (heavy gauge) solid bronze casket that was lined with champagne-colored satin-silk. Only twenty-five people were allowed at the service. Marilyn was buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California in a pink marble crypt at Corridor of Memories number 24. For twenty years after her death, DiMaggio would have a half dozen roses placed at her memorial three times a week.

But was this truly the end of life for Marilyn on this side of the veil. With so much turmoil in her life while she was living and with such mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, the possibility that she would be at unrest is real. And there is much eyewitness testimony out there about Marilyn's afterlife. It would seem Marilyn has many locations she still holds dear and visits regularly, even all these years after her death.

Several hotels seem to still be a stomping ground for Marilyn. As we covered in podcast epsiode 5 featuring the Roosevelt Hotel, Marilyn had a suite where she lived for nearly two years. A mirror that had once been in that suite was moved to a wall in the lower elevator foyer.  People claimed to see the reflection of Marilyn in the mirror.  Recently, the mirror was moved into storage.  Marilyn is not stuck to just haunting her old mirror though.  She has been seen and felt in her suite, which was room 246.  She also has appeared in the Cine Grill and the scent of her perfume lingers. L.A. ghost story expert Richard Carradine claims that the ghost of a blonde woman has been seen in the penthouse suites of the Beverly Hilton and that he believes that the apparition is Marilyn. Hotel guests and staff both have reported seeing her. The Knickerbocker Hotel's bar was a favorite haunt for Marilyn when she was married to Joe DiMaggio. She is still seen at times in the bar, which also is reportedly haunted by Rudolph Valentino.

Marilyn Monroe, of course, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Many people claim to have seen her apparition at the star's location. Sometimes a pink mist is witnessed. And Marilyn still seems to enjoy the cadiallac she once owned. She has been seen in the vehicle, particularly sitting in the back seat.

Marilyn's gravesite at Westwood Memorial Park has also been the scene of afterlife sightings of the actress. Her ghost has been seen floating above the tomb and orb pictures appear in many photos, which of course could be attributed to a variety of things. Visitors at night are kept from the cemetery by a gate, but people claim to see flashes of light near Marilyn's crypt.

Marilyn's former home in Brentwood is where she seems to be most active. Every room has a story about a sighting. Housekeepers claim to hear a woman humming even though they are alone in the house. Occassionally the humming turns to soft singing. Items go missing in the kitchen often or are moved around. In the bedroom where she died, she has been seen hovering over the area where her bed was located. Marilyn claimed that the home was the only place where she had felt truly safe and secure. Is that why she still seems to want to stay at this beautiful and charming home?

Marilyn Monroe was so much more than just the "Blonde Bombshell." Her legacy lives on, but does her spirit? Does Marilyn continue to haunt her old haunts? Might you spot Marilyn one day sitting near her crypt or dancing about in a mirror? That is for you to decide!

Monday, March 16, 2015

HGB Podcast 34 - Kilmainham Gaol

Moment in Oddity - The Legend of the SS Ourang Medan

The following account is one that has gone down in the annals of not only the unexplained, but also legends. Did it really happen? We may never know. The May 1952 edition of  the Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council details the story of the SS Ourang Medan, a ghost ship that was located after a very bizarre distress signal was sent out in 1948. The contents of the signal call were "All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead." And then a few moments later another distress call stated simply, "I die." A ship called the Silver Star answered the call and found the Ourang Medan in the Straits of Malacca. They boarded the ship quickly when they noticed no visible crew members. What they found was a true horror. Every member of the crew was dead and all of them had died with their eyes wide open and their mouths twisted into expressions of terror. Many had their arms out in front of them as well. Even the ship's dog was dead with a snarl frozen on his muzzle. The rescuers searched the bodies for wounds and found none. As they prepared to tow the boat back to land, a fire broke out in the cargo hold. The rescuers evacuated the ship right before it exploded and sank to a watery grave. To this day, no one knows what killed the crew. Some have surmised a gas possibly overtook everyone. Others wonder about an unseen force. Was the ship carrying a secret cargo on a secret mission? The strangest thing is that although this legend has been around for decades, any proof that the Ourang Medan actually existed has never been found. No ship building records or any other records. Just this account written up in one Coast Guard journal. Now that certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Susan Hayhurst Becomes First Female Pharmacist

On this day, March 16th, in 1883, Susan Hayhurst became the first woman to graduate from a pharmacy college. She was 63 years old when she graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Even more remarkable at the time was the fact that Hayhurst was already a medical doctor as well. That makes her the first female doctor to become a pharmacist. She had graduated from the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia in 1857. She stayed at the college and served on the staff, running its pharmaceutical department for many years. It should be noted that the American Pharmacist Association credits Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf as the first female pharmacist. She had opened an apothecary in 1727 and helped her husband formulate medicines for his patients. But she did not have a degree, so it is somewhat dubious to credit her as the first female pharmacist. Another notable woman in pharmaceutical science is Ella Stewart. She fought back against discrimination at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy and became the first female black pharmacist in Pennsylvania in 1916. Today, women make up 55% of the profession.

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol is an immense structure found in Dublin, Ireland that holds a place in the annals of Ireland's fight for independence and has a history that spans over two centuries. Today, it is the largest unoccupied prison in the country and is now a museum, but at one time it was home for hundreds of prisoners and was the scene of many executions. Those prisoners included not only notable revolutionaries, but also ordinary men, women and yes, children. And now it seems to be home for the spirits of several of these former occupants. Kilmainham Gaol is rumored to be haunted.

Kilmainham Gaol was opened in 1796 to serve as the county jail for Dublin, Ireland. The jail was considered to be the most modern jail at that time. The original building was smaller than the present day structure and consisted of long dark claustrophobic hallways and cells. This area is now called the West Wing. The East Wing was added and opened in 1864 with a Victorian design that was much more open and rose to three stories with catwalks circling it. Outside is the Stonebreaker's Yard. This area hosted executions. Hangings were both private and public, but starting in 1820, executions were moved inside to a small cell on the first floor that today is located between the East and West Wings.

Prisoners at the jail came from all walks of life and initially there was no segregation at the jail. Men, women and children were all housed together. Up to five of them in each cell. Men were usually allowed to have some form of an iron bed, but the women and children were given straw to sleep upon. Until the 1840s, the jail had no lighting and no windows. Each cell was granted a candle that had to last for two weeks. Prisoners were served oatmeal, bread, soup and milk for meals. When the East Wing was opened in the 1860s, seperation and silence were implemented and prisoners were not allowed to speak and they were alone in their cells. Most of the crimes that people were jailed for consisted of petty theft or being a debtor. There was the occasional prostitute or murderer. Many of the adults would later be shipped off to Australia, but overcrowding continued to be a problem. In 1881, the prison became an all male prison.

To understand the history of the jail, one must understand the history of Ireland's fight for independence. There were two main sides on each side of the fight. The radicals wanted to be completely independent of Ireland and become their own republic. As a matter of fact, America's fight for independence and Thomas Paine's book named "The Rights of Man" inspired the Society of United Irishmen. The moderates wanted to write a constitution that gave them a form of independence while still under British rule.

The United Irishmen formed in 1791 and became a secretive, oath-bound group that was lead by a man named Henry Joy McCracken. He came from a prominent family and was jailed at Kilmainham Gaol in 1796. He spent a year there and when he got out, he lead the bloody Irish Rebellion of 1798. The fight was unsuccessful because of disorganization and an unwillingness by some to fight and Britain put more of an iron fist around Ireland after the Rebellion was put down. McCracken was on the run for a month before he was captured and he was tried for treason and hung on the same day. This was not the end of the fight for independence.

The United Irishmen tried again to form a rebellion in 1803. This time, a man named Robert Emmet was their leader. He helped the group to organize better and conceal their plans. They built weapons and made explosives. But at the moment when the rebellion was ready to launch, many people once again did not fight and the rebellion turned into more of a riot. After the defeat, Emmet was jailed at Kilmainham and tried for treason. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The next day he was indeed hung on Thomas Street and he was beheaded afterwards. The block that he was beheaded upon is now on display at the Kilmainham Museum along with his death mask.

A group calling themselves the Young Irelanders and lead by Willian Smith O'Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher started another rebellion in 1848. This was also unsuccessful and both men were brought to Kilmainham for a time before they were shipped off to Tasmania. And in a plot fit for a movie, Meagher escaped Tasmania and made his way to America were he fought in the Civil War, leading the Irish Brigade.

The Fenian Uprising followed in 1867 resulting in yet another failure and many members of this secret, oath-bound group found themselves in Kilmainham as well. The Land Reform Movement began in 1881 under the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell who was an MP and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Parnell and other MPs rejected the Land Act of 1881 and Parnell ended up at Kilmainham for six months. The Fenians morphed after this time into another group calling themselves "The Invincibles." The Invincibles assassinated Lord Frederick Cavendish, who was the British Secretary to Ireland, and Thomas Henry Burke, who was his undersecretary in 1882. Five of them were arrested and taken to Kilmainham where they were hanged in the yard.

The prison closed in 1910, but was reopened after the 1916 Easter Rising. The Easter Rising changed the political landscape in Ireland. Two groups had been formed earlier calling themselves the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers. The two joined forces on Easter Monday in 1916 and took over the General Post Office and other government buildings. They proclaimed they were now an Irish Republic. The groups managed to hold out for a week, but their efforts failed. Kilmainham Gaol was re-opened specifically to house the rebels, of which there were hundreds of men and women. Fourteen of the men were taken out to the Stonebreaker's Yard and killed via a firing squad. James Connolly was one of these leaders. Connolly had grown up in the slums and became very politically active. He lead the Dublin Brigade during the Rising. He had been severely injured during the fight. He could not walk or stand, so he was carried into the yard on a stretcher. He was then sat in a chair and tied to it. After the executions, public opinion of Britain soured greatly. People who were not as interested in the fight for independence became more supportive. Even British people were appalled by the executions and there was an order for no more to take place. The Irish Free State formed in 1921 in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

Civil War broke out in Ireland in 1922 over a disagreement about the contents of a truce that lead to the formation of the Irish Free State. Members of the Free State Army took over Kilmainham Gaol. The Free State Government executed 77 Republicans, several of them out in the Stonebreaker's Yard. The jail was opened to women again in 1923 and 300 women and girls were housed there until the Civil War ended and all prisoners were released in 1924. The jail was abandoned until 1960 when Kilmainham Gaoel Restoration Committee formed. Restoration took thirty years and the building is now open year round as a museum and for tours.

With a history like this and all of the executions, it is easy to believe that this building could be haunted. It was during the restoration work that people started reporting paranormal activity. Governor Dan McGill lived with his family at the jail, overseeing the restoration being done by volunteers. His room overlooked the Stonebreaker's Yard. One night, he was settling in for bed and looked out the window. He noticed that the chapel across the way was lit up on the inside. He went to investigate and found the chapel empty. He shut off the lights and returned to his quarters. When he looked out the window again, he saw that the chapel was ablaze with light again. He went back to the chapel, saw no one and clicked the lights off. He returned to his quarters only to find the chapel lights on again. He turned the lights off for a third time and they remained off.

Not only do lights go on and off inexplicably at the chapel, but several psychics have claimed that they feel an evil presence at the chapel, particularly on the balcony area. There are some spirits that seem to have a malevolent presence, but no one is sure if they are spirits of former prisoners or wardens. As a matter of fact, a former caretaker once wrote, "I never felt afraid in the cells, the feelings there and the ghosts of former prisoners never worried me, the guards however, now that was a different story altogether." Jail cells clang shut on their own and disembodied footsteps are heard. Cold spots are felt as well, like in this account by a man named Chris:
"At the bottom of the stair case (As seen in [the movie] the italian job) is a lower level, on a visit to this jail I went down to that lower level, there is, if I remember right, three cells/ rooms, which you can walk round. All rooms are the same, but on entering the middle room I felt an icy shiver down my back and the hairs on arms stood up. I feel that their was a presence in that room."
The dungeon area of the jail was being repainted. A sudden gust of wind uprooted the man who was painting and blew him into a wall. The wind was so intense that he was looked to the wall for several minutes. Needless to say, he never returned to work. Another worker heard footsteps appraoching him. He figured another worker was coming towards him, but he saw no one. He heard the footsteps go past him and felt as though a presence passed him as well. Another person told a story about his father working at Kilmainham in the 1960s and that he heard footsteps reminding him of a soldier brigade in one of the corridors. He ran across the street to the local pub to tell his co-workers, who had already quit for the day, what happened. They laughed and bought him a whiskey, but he remained shaken.

Full bodied apparitions that are seen during the day have been mistaken as actors. Visitors claim that they get that feeling of being watched. It feels as though the eyes of hundreds of prisoners are peering out from the cells. Weird feelings and cold drafts can be explained by the fact that this is a creepy cold jail built of limestone. But as for some of these other experiences, who knows. Children do not seem to like to go into the jail. Groups of children will arrive to go on tour, but refuse to enter. Do they feel something that adults cannot?

Kilmainham Gaol is counted as one of the top ten haunted places in Ireland. Does Kilmainham hold more than just the essence of a long and turbulent political history? Are there spirits still here at the jail? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes

*Ghost walks in Dublin with Hidden Dublin Walks:  http://www.hiddendublinwalks.com/

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

HGB Podcast 33 - Morse Mill Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Carnac Stones

Carnac is a small village in  northwest France. Carnac is home to the Carnac Stones. These stones number 3,000 and make up one of the largest megaliths in Europe. The stones were erected during the Neolithic Period and were hewn by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany from local rock. The largest stone is over thirteen feet high. The stones are laid out in both straight lines and circles with some of the lines stretching further than 2,000 feet. Why were these stones placed here? There are many theories. Some scholars believe that the megalith was built over time as people erected stones in honor of ancestors. Some think the stones are grave markers. Others speculate that there is a connection to astronomy. The idea that these are grave markers is supported by the fact that the area also has several Dolmens, which are funeral chambers. The area was first excavated in the 1860s by a Scottish antiquarian named James Miln. The site is in need of management to help preserve the area. The megalith was taken over by a group of protestors in 2002 demanding that the site stop its current management and form a different plan. Controversy still abounds. Megaliths like the Carnac Stones are a wonder, but they are also odd.

This Day in History - Spanish Flu Hits America

On this day, March 11th, in 1918, the Spanish Influenza is diagnosed and reported for the first time in America at Fort Riley in Kansas. A cook had come down with influenza a couple days earlier, but it was not identified as Influenza until the 11th. One hundred soldiers were infected by that time. Cases were reported that same day in Queens, New York as well. Now imagine hundreds of infected troops being shipped overseas to fight in World War I. Close quarters caused the disease to spread throughout Europe. This first wave was the least deadly. Two more waves were worse with more than 195,000 Americans dying. Worldwide mortality is estimated between 50 to 100 million. Cities banned public gatherings and people were quarantined. Gravediggers were overwhelmed. Famed pilot Amelia Earhart contracted the Spanish Flu, but she survived. It is believed the virus originated in China, traveled with Chinese laborers and mutated in America. The flu was given the name "Spanish" because most of the news of the pandemic came when the virus traveled from France to Spain. Global organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization formulated plans to prevent pandemics based on their experiences with this flu.

Morse Mill Hotel

The Morse Mill Hotel in Hillsboro, Missouri has it all for history and ghost enthusiasts alike. This location has not only served as a private residence, tavern and inn, but also as a hospital for the Confederate wounded during the Civil War. And during Prohibition, this building was both a speakeasy and a brothel. A female serial killer has been connected to the Morse Mill Hotel as well. This nearly two hundred year old structure is full of surprises and quite possibly, ghosts.

The first structure built on this property was a one bedroom house in 1816 that served as a residence for a farmer. The area had once been a Native American burial ground and had been ruled by the Spanish under the Louisiana Territory. By 1816, the region was known as the Missouri Territory. William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition served as the territorial governor. In 1847, bridge engineer and entrepreneur John H. Morse settled the area and built a grist mill along the shores of the beautiful Big River, naming it Morse Mill. That mill was the longest running and most prosperous mill in the state of Missouri. The mill would give the city of Morse Mill its name as well. Morse bought the farm property at that time and expanded the house to 5300 square feet and three stories, building it from limestone and maple. The house has a New Orleans style balcony and Widow's Walk. Unfortunately, the date that the Morse homestead was built is hard to track down. We have found dates ranging from 1847 to 1856 or the early 1870s. We also found a Groupon posting that claimed Morse was a warlock.

John Morse joined the Confederate Army when the Civil War broke out. The home became
Sandy Creek Covered Bridge
a makeshift hospital for the Confederate prisoners of war and possibly a stop on the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War, Morse opened a contracting business and built the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge that still stands today and resembles a long red barn. He later went on to become a state senator representing the counties of Jefferson and Washington. As if that was not enough, Morse opened two general stores as well. Morse had big visions for Morse Mill. He knew the area would make a fine retreat for tourists, but he did not live to witness the future playground for the rich, famous and infamous his home would become.

When Morse died, his home became the Riverside Hotel and it was expanded further to make room for eighteen guest rooms and a fourth floor was added. The entire town of Morse Mill became a thriving tourist town. The hotel became a hot spot for many people looking to find relaxation near the waters of the Big River. The hotel saw its most success during the 20s and 30s. Guests included Charles Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin, actress Clara Bow, Al Capone and J. Frank Dalton.  Dalton is an interesting character. He claimed to be Jesse James and although his claims did not hold up under the scrutiny of James' family members, many people do believe he was the real deal and when he died in 1951 at 103, his death certificate recorded his name as Jesse Woodson James. A sheriff by the name of Oran Baker went to the funeral home where Dalton was taken and confirmed that he was indeed Jesse James based on markings on his body, including a missing fingertip. Dalton's gravestone bears the name of Jesse James as well. If we believe this, then Jesse James frequented the Morse Mill Hotel. The official website for the hotel claims that Jesse James and his gang left their names in the register along with doodles. Apparently, one of his gang members was a cartoonist.

During Prohibition, the hotel was the perfect location for a speakeasy. The whiskey that was served, was Al Capone's whiskey. But Al Capone was not the most infamous character to be tied to Morse Mill and the hotel. That distinction goes to Bertha Giffords who was born near Morse Mill in 1876. Bertha's family was a Christian family and well known. In her twenties, Bertha married a man named Henry Graham and they took on the managing of the Morse Mill Hotel. Graham became ill and died. It would be years before people would surmise that Bertha killed Graham with arsenic because arsenic is going to put Bertha in the annals of female serial killers and she is going to be quite prolific. After Graham died, Bertha married Gene Gifford, a man she was rumored to be having an affair with. They moved to Catawissa, which was several miles away, in 1911. That same year, Bertha went to the Pacific Pharmacy and purchased a large amount of arsenic for "rats." In 1917, she would also make large purchases of arsenic from the Powers Pharmacy. Bertha was known to be a great cook and she made great candy. Candy that killed. Yes indeed, Bertha poisoned several children with her arsenic candies. Sherman Pounds was a drunk who spent some time at the Gifford's farm. He died after some violent stomach pains, but people assumed it was the alcohol that got him. His granddaughter died in the same house several years later. Bertha made potions too that she administered to people on their sick bed. Gene's mother died and then his younger brother. Jim Ogle, a hired hand they owed money, came down with malaria or something and Bertha nursed him to death. The deaths started to pile up and anywhere between 17 and 26 are credited to her. She was finally arrested in 1928 and charged with the murders of one man, Edward Brimley, and two boys, Elmer and Lloyd Schamel, seven and nine years old respectively. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was locked up in an asylum until her death there in 1951. Her death certificate reveals she had been diagnosed with Paranoid Psychosis. She is buried in Morse Mill Cemetery.

New highways were built and resorts in the Ozarks became more appealing. Morse Mill lost its luster as it became a declining town with much of it washing away in a flood in 1993. Patrick Sheehan bought the Morse Mill Hotel and is working to restore the building. The hotel is open for paranormal investigation and events. And with a history like this, paranormal activity is plentiful.

Bent fire poker
In 2008, a paranormal group made a documentary named Morse Mill Project. The group claimed that something unseen played with their camera equipment, moving it. They reportedly saw a tall dark shadow figure and a fire poker was bent into a curve by something not seen. And they heard several strange sounds including a loud metallic sound. A couple of the people were scratched as well.

The current owner has gotten used to the paranormal activity even though he had no idea that the place was haunted when he bought it. Disembodied footsteps are a common occurrence at what he took on as a project. Glowing orbs are seen, doors are opened and closed, locks are locked and unlocked and apparitions have been seen. A group that included police officers investigated the hotel in February and they reported:
"K2 and flashlight sitting on display cabinet started lighting as soon as turned on and placed on case. One officer thought he heard someone whispering behind him, he turned around and no one was there. One of the young girls felt dizzy and had to sit down all of the sudden.  She felt better after moving to a different area. We kept hearing noise outside the window while I was giving history, I actually stopped and had Dawn go outside to check noise.  No explanation and it started again after she came in. One of the officers is part of a swat team and he brought his night vision glasses while I was finishing the history he started to see a figure behind the large upright display case.   At first all that he could see was the legs.   At least two of the other officers looked and agreed that it wasn’t a reflection of any of us in the room. Several of the group tried the dowsing rods.   They all received responses to the questions they were asking while holding the rods. I had placed a flashlight on the stairs and while we were using the dowsing rods the flashlight stared going on and off in response instead."
A ghost by the name of Annabelle, who claims to be twelve-years-old, lives in the attic. The entity purportedly plays with toys brought by investigators. However, we did find other investigators that reported that this spirit claims to be five or six years of age. In the basement is a room that contains shackles and a body was buried there. The ghost of a former slave is reported to haunt this area. Clattering of cooking implements are heard in the kitchen. Both of the Giffords are thought to haunt the location, but we doubt that. Bertha's first husband Henry Graham would be more likely. Spirits have been witnessed outside of the house too. Many groups have recorded EVPs numbering into the hundreds. Most experiences are not negative. There are claims that at least twenty spirits are on the property.

Image captured on attic stairs
The previous owner was named Alice and she claims that the hotel is not haunted and that she never experienced anything paranormal. When people charge for investigators to go though a place and seem to be making money for it, it does tend to place doubts on claims. It is nice to have the money to help with restoration, but it does raise questions. 

Morse Mill Hotel was featured in Travel Channel's Most Terrifying Places in America 6. Are the previous guests still staying at the hotel? Has John Morse been reluctant to leave his home? Has some kind of residual energy been trapped in this hotel? Is Morse Mill Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide.

Show Notes

*Morse Mill Hotel website:  http://morsemillhotel.com/
*American Hauntings Event, April 25, 2015 - $75.00 per person:  http://www.bumpinthenight.net/morse.html
*Bertha Gifford death certificate:  http://www.sos.mo.gov/images/archives/deathcerts/1951/1951_00031245.PDF