Sunday, March 1, 2015

HGB Podcast 31 - Oliver House

Moment in Oddity - MacKenzie's Tomb

William MacKenzie was a British civil engineer, but he was also a gambling man. He gambled with more than just cards legend tells us. MacKenzie may have gambled his very soul. Legend claims that MacKenzie played a game of cards with the Devil and the bet was his soul. Apparently, MacKenzie lost. Because of this, William MacKenzie planned an elaborate burial for himself that was carried out after his death in 1851. MacKenzie believed that the devil could only claim a soul if someone was buried in the ground. So he insisted that he be buried above the ground. His body was placed inside a pyramid shaped tomb that rose to fifteen feet. He was seated in a chair at a table and he held a winning hand of cards. At least, that is what legend tells us. The inscription on the pyramid reads, "In the vault beneath lie the remains of William MacKenzie of Newbie Dumfrishire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection A.D. 1868. The memory of the just is blessed". So it would seem that he was buried underground and that the pyramid came almost two decades later. So now we are left to wonder, did Satan get the soul he won in the game of cards? Either way, the idea that a man would bet his soul in a game with Satan is not only crazy, it's a bit odd.

This Day in History - Blood Bath at Vassy

On this day, March 1st, in 1562, the Blood Bath at Vassy was carried out. The Massacre at Vassy occurred during the French Wars of Religion that waged between French Catholics and French Protestants, who were called Huguenots. The Huguenots followed the teachings of John Calvin. After Henry II took the throne in France, the Huguenots were persecuted and they needed to move their ceremonies into hiding. The Duke of Guise, Francois, was traveling through the town of Vassy and decided that he would like to attend Mass. He happened upon a barn where Huguenots were carrying on services. The Duke ordered some of his troops to investigate, but the Huguenots would not let them inside the barn. The Huguenots started throwing rocks and the Duke was hit. Outraged, he ordered his troops to do something purely evil. He ordered that the troops secure the town and burn down the church. Securing the town meant shooting people. Sixty-three people were killed and a hundred were wounded. The massacre sparked the first war of many in the French Wars of Religion. The conflict would not end until 1598, leaving nearly four million people dead.

Oliver House

The Oliver House Bed & Breakfast is located in Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee is a quaint town with a historic mining background. As is the case in most mining towns, this town has a rich history with gambling, prostitution and murder taking center stage. The Bisbee of the modern era may have quieted considerably, but the unseen world has not stopped kicking up its heels. Long dead residents still seem to be hanging around and one of their favorite places to knock about is the Oliver House.

Bisbee, Arizona was known as the Queen of the Copper Camps and gets its name from Judge DeWitt Bisbee who financed the Copper Queen Mine. The city lies in the Mule Mountains and initially started as a stake claim. In 1877, Army scouts and cavalrymen were sent to the Mule Mountains to investigate whether there were any Apache in the area. What they found instead of Apache were mineral deposits like lead, copper and silver. The town grew with the influx of prospectors. On January 9, 1902, the city of Bisbee received its official charter. By 1910, 25,000 people lived in the city. As usually happens when mining operations close up due to no more ore being found, the town went through a slump in the 1970s as people moved out and the housing market crashed. The town today has revived as a retiree and artist mecca.

Oliver House was built as an office building and boarding house for mining executives by Edith Ann Oliver, who was the wife of Henry W. Oliver. Henry was an Irish born American industrialist. His family emigrated to Pennsylvania when he was two. He served in the Civil War in 1861 and when he came home, he married Edith Cassidy in 1862. The following year he formed a partnership with two other men and they opened a company that specialized in making nuts and bolts. The company flourished and incorporated in 1888 as the Oliver Iron and Steel Company. Henry was considered an iron pioneer. He died in 1904. Edith had Oliver House built in 1909. It served the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company. Edith chose to build the house with red bricks to help prevent its destruction by fire because Bisbee was a town that had many fires.

Oliver House was purchased in 1986 by Dennis Schranz. He ran the place until 2005 and sold it to Patty Hill who is the current owner. The Oliver House features fourteen rooms with most of its original rustic charm. Each of the rooms has a certain theme and name like "The Blue Room," "Peach Pit," "Chili Pepper"and "Plum Parlor." The building has an ugly history though with as many as twenty-seven deaths tied to the boarding house. Most of these cannot be verified because historical documents were destroyed by fires. One story that can be verified is that of Nat Anderson because his murder was covered by the Tombstone Epitaph and it reads as follows:
  BISBEE. Feb. 23. The Investigation of the murder of Nat Anderson early Sunday morning has come practically to a standstill. Every clue that has presented itself to the police has been run down.

    On the evening prior to the murder Anderson was at a party at the home of Mrs. Norris Greeley in Wood Canyon. It was a simple social affair among friends, cards and dancing being the principal entertainment.

    Shortly before 1 o’clock the guests left the house in a crowd, proceeding a short ‘distance together. When they separated Anderson escorted Miss Elizabeth King to her home on Tembey Avenue. He entered the house and talked with her for a few minutes, leaving at about 2:25 o’clock. He then went to the English Kitchen on Main street and ate a light supper.

    Anderson left the English kitchen shortly after 2:30 o’clock and presumably went directly to the Oliver house where he rooms. It is but a few minutes walk. The shooting occurred at 3:10 o’clock.

    An inquest yesterday morning shed little or no light on the murder. The coroner’s Jury gave a verdict of death “from gunshot wounds at the hands of an unknown person.” Following the shooting both Mrs. Richard Davis, the landlady, and a roomer saw a man leaving the place. They did not see him clearly enough to describe him.

    The theft of money and a watch from Kay Ross’s room a short time prior to the shooting, remains a puzzling feature of the crime. The weight of evidence against the theory that the man who entered Ross’s room is the same man that shot Anderson is almost overwhelming. On the other hand everything points to the crime as being the act of a man who had some personal score to settle with Anderson, a score of violent hatred. Before firing the third shot into the prostrate man’s back his assailant cursed him with a vile epithet.

    There is a wooden foot bridge across the canyon leading to the front of the house. A nearby neighbor said that before the shooting a scuffle was heard on this bridge and a woman screamed.

    The police think that the robbery of Kay Ross’s room might have been a coincidence or might have been done with the object of throwing them off the trail to make it seem as if it was the act of common thiefs trying to escape.
The murder remains a mystery, but most believe that Nat Anderson was having an affair with a married woman. And apparently, Nat owed his mistress' husband money as well. When the husband found out about the affair, he went to Oliver House and shot Nat in the back and in the head outside of Room 13.

Oliver House seems to attract those who are adulterous. In the 1930s, the sheriff's wife had taken up with a young suitor and one day while they were at Oliver House in the Blue Room, the sheriff came in and shot both the young man and his wife before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. The story is often referred to as a massacre with some tellings of the narrative including other patrons at the hotel being shot. Furniture is heard moving in this room as well as disembodied footsteps.

In a room that was dubbed "The Grandma Room," an elderly woman passed away. She had been seen in there at times rocking in a rocking chair and a broken clock would chime at 2am. The room was renamed and the chair removed by previous owner Dennis Schranz. This seems to have angered Grandma ghost who bopped a three old boy on the head while he slept in the room. He ran to his parents crying, but they did not believe his story...until the next morning when a dark bruise had appeared on his forehead.

One woman on TripAdvisor wrote of her experience at Oliver House:
"My family is sorta scared of the house because 1st it's creepy when you walk up to it and 2nd it's really dark inside. Plus I've had two different times of unexplained things happened to me. I've listened to a woman at two in the morning softly singing a song while walking down the hallway and stopping at my door to shake the doorknob. The other of a old man ghost cutting in front of me while I turned around taking my breath away. Of course the house is old with it's moans and groans of almost 100 year history."
 And another family reported:
"The rooms are old boarding house fair and have large old wooden doors with gaps at the bottom and dormer windows above for air circulation. The floors are wood plank and look original with scaring and all. So when we heard the clunking of boots going down the hall and up the stairs we weren't surprised. about the third time though we were a little annoyed and my wife asked me to check it out and to see if they stomper could be a little quieter. As I heard the steps come down the hall again and watched the shadows of someone walking buy I got out of bed and went to the door. Opened the door and looked to the right in the direction the person had traveled. Seeing no one I stepped out the door and turned right passed the last room on the floor and turned up the stairs still following the foot steps. I rounded the landing at the midway point up the stairs. Continued up to the top floor and turned left knowing I was right behind the stomper. Just as I rounded the corner and looked down the long hallway the steps stopped. There was no one in front of me. No doors opened or closed and no lights came on. I went back to the room and had to explain this to my wife. The rest of the night I barely slept. Wait for the steps to come back so I could catch the stomper. The rest of the night we heard very few sounds except for a few murmurs and what sounded like a heavy chain being dropped on the floor next to the night stand by our bed. That one did make us jump...As a side note, Ghost Adventurers TV show was there doing an investigation a couple of years later and one of the guys experienced the same chain sound in the same room and they caught it on tape."
While Ghost Adventurers was at the location, they caught a few EVPs, one of which was a scream. A disembodied laugh was captured as well and cold spots along with touching were felt. A guest book at the bed and breakfast is filled with countless stories of haunting experiences. People claim to see a shadow figure near Room 13 and running water is heard. Occasionally the sound of someone working on pipes is heard as well. Gunshot or firecracker sounds are heard too.

Have the previous patrons of Oliver House decided to book eternal stays? Are the spirits of the murdered still hanging around the halls? Is Oliver House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes
Old Bisbee Ghost Tours:
Louis Vuitton trunk we mention in podcast:
Our interview on the 9th Story Podcast:


  1. I was there for the Labor Day weekend, and the only thing I heard was a cat fight outside which was nothing abnormal, as there are cats, skunks and little foxes hanging under the house, so I was told. I loved the house, it is spooky and old. I was in room 12 with my daughter and a friend, and as far as I know, there were no paranormal activities of any kind. I want to go back for Halloween, the owner is very friendly and we appreciated all the hospitality.

    1. Thanks for your comments! Maybe when you go back you'll experience something. Here's hoping!


  2. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this information for my mission.
    real money slots