Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 43 - The Valley of the Kings

Moment in Oddity - The Mothman

The people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia have claimed for over fifty years now that their small community is plagued by the activity of a bird-like humanoid creature that has come to be known as the Mothman. The first sightings of Mothman came in November of 1966. A group of gravediggers claimed that they were buzzed by a man-sized creature that flew in low over the trees and then flew over them. A couple days later, two couples reported seeing a large man-sized creature flying in a park area they were driving through at night. When the headlights from the car caught the creature, they say they saw that the Mothman had glowing red eyes. Several other people from Point Pleasant claimed to see a flying creature with red eyes over the next several weeks. The following year, the Silver Bridge collapsed. Forty-six people were killed. Many believed that the Mothman either caused the accident or that it was warning them about the coming tragedy. The legend of Mothman was formulated around this event and it is now thought to be a portent of tragedy. The Mothman has been sighted in other areas as well, including Russia before the Chernobyl disaster. Some people believe the Mothman sightings have been a hoax or mass hysteria. John Keel wrote "The Mothman Prophecies" in 1975 and it later was made into a 2002 movie starring Richard Gere. The Mothman may be real or it may just be legend, but either way, it certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Electromote Begins its Run

On this date, April 29th, in 1882, the Electromote began its run in Germany. The Electromote was the precursor to the trolleybus. It was a converted four wheel landau carriage. An electric motor was used to power the chain drive that was attached to the rear wheels. The electric motor was powered by a cable that was attached to an overhead line. Dr. Ernst Werner von Siemens was the inventor and he ran the traveling vehicle on a 591 yard trail-track starting at Halensee railway station in a suburb of Berlin, Germany. The line ran to “Straße No. 5”, today's Joachim-Friedrich-Straße, and “Straße No. 13”, today's Johann-Georg-Straße, crossing the upper Kurfürstendamm at former Kurfürstenplatz. The Electromote only ran until June 13, 1882 and the track was dismantled. The run was basically an experiment and considered successful. Other similar vehicles were constructed and tested in America and Europe. The first trolleybus that was used to publicly move people, also originated in Berlin in 1901. Max Schiemann developed that trolleybus and although it only ran until 1904, the system he invented became the standard trolleybus current collection system.

Valley of the Kings

Egypt is a land of ancient treasures and wonders. Pharaohs were honored in death with immense public monuments that we know as pyramids. The Old Kingdom of Egypt built monuments in Giza and the Nile Delta. The New Kingdom pharaohs of Egypt wanted to be buried closer to their dynastic roots and they had their crypts built in the hills of Luxor. This area became known as the Valley of the Kings. The Valley of the Kings would end up housing the remains of at least sixty Egyptian nobles. Pharaohs from King Tut to Ramses II have tombs here. There are more than tombs here though. There are tales of curses and hauntings in the Valley of the Kings.

Luxor, Egypt is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. It is located in upper southern Egypt. Luxor is considered the world's largest open air museum and houses the Necropolis, the temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak, the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings. Luxor is the Arabic word for "the palaces." Thebes was the capitol of Egypt during the New Kingdom and considered the home of the god Amon-Ra. From the 18th Dynasty to the 20th Dynasty, Thebes prospered and became very powerful politically and militarily. The city faded during the Late Period and later fell into ruins.

The Valley of the Kings is also known as Biban el-Muluk, which means "doorway or gateway of the kings." The Valley has two branches, an eastern and western branch. The eastern branch is called ta set aat, which means "The Great Place." The royal tombs are located in this eastern branch. The western branch is larger, but only contains a few tombs. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom chose the Valley as their final resting places.

The New Kingdom began with the 18th Dynasty and the first pharaoh of that time period was Ahmose. He was the last pharaoh to be buried in a pyramid. The location of the pharaohs' tombs changed with the New Kingdom and pyramids were no longer built. Instead, crypts were dug into the limestone hills. The tombs are all very similar. They consist of three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. When a new pharaoh began his reign, construction on his tomb began. The construction usually lasted six years. The interior of the tombs are inscribed with words from the Book of the Gates, the Book of the Underworld and the Book of the Dead.

When a pharaoh or other noble died, they were mummified after a formal announcement. The preparations took three months. The mummification process took longer because the body was placed in Natron for seventy days. Mummification was used as a way to preserve the body, so that it could reanimate in the afterlife. Their burial chambers were stocked with elaborate preparations that included treasures, furniture, clothes, food, wine, beer and jewelry. Pets were buried with their owners as well. Sixty-two of these tombs were discovered before 1922. The most recent tomb was discovered in 2005. Most of these tombs were robbed well before they were officially discovered. When Greek writer Diodorus Siculus visited the Valley of the Kings in 60 B.C., he wrote, "We found nothing there except the results of pillage and destruction." Today, people can visit these tombs that are opened on a rotation. Eleven of the crypts are lit by electric lighting.

The pharaohs who were buried in the Valley included Tutankhamun, Rameses I through VII, IX and XI, Amenhotep II and IV and Seti I. Amenhotep IV is better known as Akhenaten. He ruled for seventeen years during the 18th Dynasty. He built the city of Amarna for the Aten. His queen was Nefertiti and his son was Tutankhamun. He gave Queen Nefertiti unusual stature and she reigned with him almost as an equal, which is depicted in the artwork from the time. Akhenaten died during his seventeenth year of rule and his son Smenkhkare became pharaoh. This lasted for only a year and he was succeeded by a female pharaoh, Neferneferuaten, who ruled for two years. King Tut then became king and was known as the boy king. This time period is very murky in the historical logs because the Egyptians were secretive about their rulers and Neferneferuaten was not given a royal burial.

The Rameses family of pharaohs took reign and moved the capitol to Memphis. Their time of rule is when the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. Rameses I was the first king of the 19th Dynasty. He was a military commander and when he died he was buried in the Valley until his tomb was vandalized. He was moved to Deir el Bahri. Rameses VI has the largest tomb in the Valley and it is decorated with the shattered remains of his immense granite sarcophagus. He was the fifth king of the 20th Dynasty and he obtained rulership by usurping it from his nephew, Rameses V.

The tomb of Thutmose III is unique in that its ceiling is spangled in stars and the walls are covered with 741 deities. Seti I's tomb is the most elaborate tomb. His sarcophagus was made from alabaster and was brought to England by Giovanni Belzoni. Other nobles ranging from princes to wealthy citizens were also buried in the Valley.

The air about the Valley of the Kings seems charged with the supernatural. Have the ghosts of former pharaohs led to the discovery of the tombs located here? The Egyptians have a saying that "To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again." There was widespread belief in ghosts in Egypt. The Egyptians believed that humans had a soul and they named it Khu. Khu was depicted as an ibis in hieroglyphs. During the Greek and Roman periods, it was believed the Khu could enter other people's bodies and torture them. The Egyptians later developed a belief in the human having five components. Those components included the heart, shadow, name, Ba and Ka. The Ba was the soul and the Ka was the spirit. Death occurs when the Ka leaves the body. In the afterlife, the Ba and Ka come back together and form the Akh, which is similar to the Western ghost. As long as the proper ceremonial rites were practiced, the Akh could reanimate. An Akh could do harm or good. They can even cause nightmares.

The Curse of King Tut is a well known legend. Howard Carter was an Egyptologist who was not university educated. He had been educated at home and gained his expertise in Egyptology through hands on practical experience he obtained in Egypt. He got his start by drawing pictures of artifacts for archeologists. Carter met Lord Carnarvon in 1907. Lord Carnarvon was an amateur archeologist and the two men worked together excavating in Thebes. In 1914, the two men applied for a license to excavate in the Valley of the Kings and they received that license. A big plus for Carter in teaming up with Lord Carnarvon is that the Lord had money and was willing to finance their diggings. World War I slowed the men down, but in 1917, Carter resumed his digging. He was positive that King Tut's tomb was in the area because artifacts with his name had been found here. He searched for five years to no avail. Lord Carnarvon gave him one more year of financing. On November 4, 1922, Carter found the stairs leading into King Tut's tomb. On November 26th, Lord Carnarvon accompanied Carter as the tomb was opened and they beheld great treasures of gold. And they released the curse.

The find was reported to the proper authorities and the press came running. Artifacts were photographed and emptied from the tomb. Things were going smoothly until March of 1923. Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito. He later nicked the bite with his razor and it became infected. Within three weeks, the Lord was dead. The day he died, the lights in Cairo went out. His dog, who was in England when the Lord died, passed away on the same day as his master. Carter's pet canary was killed by a cobra shortly thereafter. Stories about a curse began at this time and were fueled by the later deaths of twelve people who had been present when the tomb was open. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of those people who perpetuated the story about the Curse of King Tut. Howard Carter claimed to see jackals like the god of the dead, Anubis, near the tomb. Jackals had not been seen in this part of the desert in over thirty-five years. Some believe the deaths were caused by a deadly fungus or that the deaths were just coincidences. Many of the team lived on into old age, including Carter. So was the tomb of the great pharaoh guarded by a curse?

Shirley MacLaine played a guest role on Downton Abbey in 2012 and she claimed the home where the show is filmed is haunted. And not just by any ghost, by King Tut. The home belongs to Lord Carnarvon's family. MacLaine claims the tomb of King Tut was once stored in the basement of the home. She also claims King Tut spooked her while on set. But then MacLaine says a lot of things.

One haunting tale is about a chariot that travels through the Valley of the Kings. When the clock hits midnight, the apparition of a pharaoh, wearing a golden collar and headress is seen riding aboard a chariot that is pulled by black phantom horses.

The Pharaoh Akhenaten is rumored to have been cursed by the priests of his time because he abolished the worship of the Egyptian gods during his rule. The curse has forced him to wander the desert of the Valley of the Kings through the afterlife. Many people have witnessed his apparition wandering.

Do the ghosts of the pharaohs still continue to roam the Valley of the Kings? Have they led the mortal in finding their lost tombs? Does the opening of the tombs release ghosts and curses? Is the Valley of the Kings haunted? That is for you to decide.

Friday, April 24, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 42 - Leap Castle

Moment in Oddity - Murder Investigation Reveals Illegitimate Children

Recently, a modern day murder mystery revealed the indiscretion of a man and a woman. Yara Gambirasio was a thirteen year old girl who had been found murdered in a field in Italy in 2011. DNA was found on the body and Italian authorities decided to do a massive sweep and they collected thousands of samples of the DNA of local townspeople. Over 15,000 samples were collected and it was discovered that one of the samples had some DNA that matched. The authorities knew, based on testing, that the sample did not belong to the killer, but that one of his relatives must be the killer. His uncle, Guiseppe Guerinoni, was a match. The only problem was that Guiseppe had been dead eleven years. So they tested his three children who were not matches. Then the authorities heard the rumors that Guiseppe was quite the ladies man and as a bus driver, he had many opportunities to flirt and have affairs with women. 500 women were tested and Esther Arzuffi was a match. Imagine poor Esther having to explain to her husband that she not only had an affair, but that she was impregnanted by another man, giving birth to twins to boot. The twins were tested and Massimo Guiseppe (how nice she named him for his real father) Bossetti tested positive. He was charged with the murder of Yara in 2014. A murder investigation is certainly an odd way to find out your children are not biologically your children.

This Day in History - First Continuous Newspaper Published

On this day, April 24th, in 1704, the first continuous running newspaper in America publishes its first issue. That paper was the Boston News-Letter. The postmaster of Boston, John Campbell, was the first editor and the newspaper was published weekly. The paper was originally printed on the front and back of a half sheet of paper. Although the paper was located in Boston, most of the news was not local. English politics were covered as well as news from London. The biggest story to break at the time was the defeat and killing of Blackbeard the Pirate. Campbell turned operations over to the printer of the paper, Bartholomew Green, in 1722. Green began to run more stories that were about local happenings and when he died, his son, John Draper, took over the paper and improved it greatly. He expanded it to four pages that were bigger than half sheets and localized the news reporting even more. The front page was dedicated to news of London, but the rest of the paper was about Boston and the colonies. In the first issue, there was only one advertisement. Perhaps we should return to the ways of this early paper.

Leap Castle

Leap Castle in Ireland had it's beginnings in blood and death and is one of the longest continually inhabited castles in the world. Gothic windows and ivy covered towers give the castle a truly stereotypical look. The history contained within the castles walls is fascinating and covers centuries of war and fires. The best way to describe the history is as a murder soap opera. In more recent times, it has been under extensive restoration. Castles and rich histories go hand in hand with hauntings and Leap Castle has many stories of the supernatural and is considered the most haunted castle in the world. The most well known haunting is about the Elemental that apparently resides at the castle. Come along with us to Ireland to find out more about this interesting location.

The location upon which Leap Castle was built is thought to have been a place where Druid initiation ceremonies were conducted near the town of Roscrea. An earlier castle, that no longer exists, was built on the spot. Ireland is a country that used to be home to clans of people. Clans were similar to tribes in that there was much infighting between clans and wars for domination. The O'Carroll clan was one of the fiercest clans in Ireland. They ruled over Ireland and had a secondary chieftain clan under them named the O'Bannons. It was the O'Bannons that started the construction of Leap Castle and built the main tower. The Castle was named Leim Ui Bhanain, which translates to "Leap of the O'Bannons." The time of this construction is placed somewhere between the 13th and 15th centuries. John O'Carroll was Prince of Ely and it is thought that the O'Carroll clan also helped build the initial parts of Leap Castle. He lived there until his death from the Plague in the late 1400s.

John had a son with a reputation for being a great leader who was very brave. His name was Mulroney O'Carroll and he ruled from Leap Castle for forty-two years. In 1513, the castle was partially destroyed by the Earl of Kildare. Mulroney died in 1532 and was succeeded by his son Fearganhainm, who was ruthless. Legend has it that he killed a dinner guest once at the table. His rule was short lived. He was murdered in 1541 by the O'Mulloy clan. This launched a bitter rivalry between Fearganhaimm's three sons and the rest of the clan. Multiple murders would ensue beginning with Tiege the One Eyed. He had assumed control after his father was murdered and he then was murdered by his kinsman Charles O'Carroll. Retribution was dealt out by Tiege's younger brother William the Pale. He killed Charles and he was then leader. The O'Conor clan murdered William the Pale in 1581. William's son John took over the reigns. (At this point, we wonder why anybody would want to be supreme leader.) John was murdered by his cousin, the son of Tiege the One Eyed. John's brother Charles avenged him and he became Prince of Ely and was knighted in 1586. Charles was not a real great guy. He believed he could not trust some of his men, so when they came for payment he waited until they slept and took some of his trusted men and slew the others, which amounted to about 150 men. Charles found himself murdered in 1600 because of this act. Charles nephew, John O'Carroll was given ownership of Leap Castle in 1629, but he would give it to another clan, the Darbys, in 1649 as payment for services.

Jonathan Darby the 2nd was a Cromwellian soldier and he took over Leap Castle. There would be a line of Jonathan Darbys who would live at Leap Castle. Jonathan the 3rd was tried for treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but he was pardoned later. Jonathan the 5th was the last of the line to own Leap Castle. He had no children when he died in 1802, so the property was handed over to his brother Henry d'Esterre Darby. Henry also had no children, so Leap Castle was passed to his brother John Darby.

The Irish Civil War began in 1922 and during this time the castle was gutted by fire. Eleven raiders set fire to it in the early morning hours on July 30, 1922. At the time, a man named Richard Dawkins was the caretaker. He was held at gunpoint during the burning. He was given only twenty minutes to get out with his wife and child. It is believed the act was committed as retaliation for rents that were raised and the land being sold off around the castle. The rents had been raised to pay for extensions to the central keep. The castle fell into disrepair at this time and was boarded up. Dawkins saved as much of the furnishings as he could. He put the valuables in outbuildings, which were subsequently burglarized several times. The portion of the castle that was not burned during the first fire was burned in a second fire. Townspeople laughed at Dawkins when he asked for their help to save whatever valuables were left. In 1974, Peter Bartlett, an Australian historian, bought the castle and with the help of a builder, began restoration. Sean Ryan has owned Leap Castle since 1991 and has been renovating the castle.

The stories of hauntings at the castle are numerous. The castle is considered the most haunted castle in the world. One legend that has arisen that feeds the reason why malevolent spirits are felt at the castle comes from a story that occurred during the bloody rivalry of the O'Carroll clan. It is believed that one of the O'Carrolls was a priest. He was holding a mass at the chapel within the castle and one of his brothers came in during the mass and plunged a sword into him. Apparently, he was mad that his brother had started the mass before he arrived. Not only was this a vicious murder, but it happened during a holy ceremony. The chapel is now referred to as the Bloody Chapel. The Chapel is illuminated brightly at times and witnessed by many people. This started with the ownership by the Darbys and continues to this day with the Ryans. There is no reason for this illumination to be happening. The ghost of the slain priest is seen at times. He hangs out on the stairwell and is sometimes seen leaving the chapel.

Off the chapel is a dungeon that is really an oubliette. As we discussed on an earlier podcast, these were basically holes in the ground that people were thrown into. The O'Carrolls were sinister people and they installed spikes at the bottom of the floor. During renovations, three cartloads of bones were removed from the dungeon. The dungeon was then sealed, so that people could not access it anymore. The O'Carrolls also employed mercenaries to carry out some of the butchery on other clans. They would then invite the mercenaries back for a celebratory meal. That meal was poisoned. Whoever did not die from the poison had their throats cut or they were thrown into the dungeon. One of these clans was the MacMahons. They were murdered in their sleep in the castle. Their clan is believed to haunt the Great Hall at leap Castle. Recent owner Sean Ryan believes a male ghost lives in the oubliette.

During the times when the Darby family occupied the castle, they claimed the Priest's House was haunted. Mildred Darby recounts hauntings as such, "There is something heavy that lies on people’s beds, and snores, and they feel the weight of a great body pressing against them, in a room in the Priest’s House. A burly man, in rough clothes, like a peasant; he always pushes a heavy barrel up the back stairs of the wing, near the servants bedrooms, and when just at the top, the barrel rolls down and all disappears. A monk, with a tonsure and cowl walks in at one window and out another, in the Priest’s House."

Mildred also had an experience in the Muckle Hole Room. No one knows exactly where this room was originally located in the castle. Mildred wrote an article about an experience in the room and described it as thus, “I put my hand out of bed, snapping my fingers to call her Nell, (a terrier). My hand was suddenly in the grasp of another hand, a soft, cool hand, at a temperature perceptibly below my own flesh. To say I was astonished would but mildly convey my feelings! After a few seconds of steady pressure the other hand let go, and almost simultaneously I heard a heavy sliding fall, like the collapse of a large body at the foot of the bed. Then in the absolute stillness of the room there sounded a deep human groan, and some half-articulated words, or to be accurate, prayers. People have complained before-in fact; we don’t generally put any one there now. The room is called the Muckle or Murder Hole Room, and the story goes that the stain on the floor is the blood of a man stabbed there by his brother. Two O’Carrolls quarreled over the ownership of the castle. The room had been disused for 50 years or more when we did it up. The stain has been planed off the boards several times, but it always comes again-creeps up from below in a few hours”.

We have discussed many hauntings by a lady in white, but Leap Castle has a Red Lady. The story about her is tragic. Legend says that she was kidnapped by the O'Carroll clan and raped. She was impregnated as a result of the rape. When the baby was born, the O'Carrolls killed it. The distraught woman then killed herself. She is seen today as a sad apparition who can be quite menacing. She carries a dagger and raises it in a threatening manner. She is dressed in red and glows. There is an intense cold that follows her in whatever room she appears.

A young girl who had lived at the castle in the 1600s fell to her death from one of the castle's battlements. People still see the image of a girl falling from the castle to this day. But there is a story behind the girl's fall. The story reports that the girl may have been pushed to her death, by her father's ghost. Apparently she had killed her father one night because of an arranged marriage. He wanted her to marry a rich friend. She was in love with a poor farm boy. The father had the boy killed, so the daughter got revenge. Screams of a young girl are heard throughout the castle.

The most famous spirit at the castle is named "The Elemental." This spirit is not the ghost of anyone and based on descriptions, we would say it is something demonic. Theories abound about its origins. It is thought to have originated with the Druids who may have conjured it during their ceremonies at this location. The Earl of Kildare, who burned the castle in the 1500s, was rumored to be a magician and some believe he had something to do with using the Elemental to curse the place. In the early 1900s, Spiritism and dabbling in the occult were fashionable. Mildred Darby had tried her hand at a bit of magic and it is thought that perhaps she helped to awaken the Elemental. She describes an encounter with the creature in an article she wrote for the Journal Occult Review in 1909. She wrote, "I was standing in the Gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder.  The thing was about the size of a sheep. Thin gaunting shadowy..., it's face was human, to be more accurate inhuman.  Its lust in its eyes which seemed half decomposed in black cavities stared into mine.  The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea.  It was the smell of a decomposing corpse." The Ryans claim they have never encountered the Elemental. They have tried to keep the castle a cheery place and so perhaps they have not provoked the spirit into action.

But there have been numerous stories in the 2000s about encounters with the Elemental. A group of investigators reported:
"Our flashlights revealed a huge hole in the stone floored front hall and we gingerly made our way around the edge, heading for the spiral staircase. No ghost would make us nervous – we were the Dublin Ghost Busters! Despite our confidence, we found ourselves talking in whispers.  A slight sound behind me and I spun like a ballerina to see the cause.  But as I spun around, I slipped and then dropped through the hole in the floor.  The flashlight hit a rock and went out. Just above me, just out of reach, I could see the jagged outline of the floor. I could hear friends coming to help me. And then, in the darkness, I could hear a sniffling snorkly sort of noise. There was a smell, too.  A horrid, rotten smell.  I am not athletic, but that night, terror put rockets into my heels. I shot upwards. Scrabbling madly I made the doorway and did not stop running till I was safely in the car."
And in 2006, another person reported:
"I looked into the darkness of a corridor that exited the spiral stairway.  I became aware of the smell of sulphur.  It was as if boxes and boxes of matches had suddenly been lit at once.  I looked at my friend who had taken me to visit Leap Castle.  He could also smell the sulphur.  I stared into the darkness of the corridor and had the impression that a beast like a bear or lion was staring back at me .  The tension was rising like a ticking timebomb.  My friend then closed the door and said “To let sleeping dogs lie.”  Meaning sometimes you just have to leave things alone.  He was a friend of Sean Ryan and I certainly did not want to disrespect either of them by stirring up the Elemental. The Elemental has the potential to cause great harm to anyone receiving the brunt of an attack.  One belief is that that the Elemental has the ability to alter the atmospheric pressure, generally lowering it.  The polarity of atmospheric ions fluctuates and triggers a condition known as serotonin hyperfunction syndrome.  This can cause symptoms such as heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, sweating/chills, tremor, dizziness and fatigue.  It has also been seen that skin and hair will have an electrical charge.  This theory has been generated over the last 10 years and it is interesting to note similarities between these symptoms to those described by Mildred Darby in the early 1900′s. I felt every hair on my head separate and move. For my flesh all over my body and scalp crept, and every hair on my head stood straight on end...the absolute weakness that came over me, the seeming cessation of the pulses of life, the grip in heart and brain, the deadly numbness which rendered me incapable of thought, word or action, when I first saw that awful beast."
Has the bloody and violent past of Leap Castle led to unrest of the dead? Are these spirits spawned by violence or were they conjured long ago? Are these experiences just figments of the imaginations of those who visit the castle? Is Leap Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 41 - Tranquille Sanatorium

Moment in Oddity - Fireproof Bibles

Hillary Scott's Bible
Mixing fire and paper is never a good idea. Since the Holy Bible is a thick bound pile of paper, one would think that Bibles would burn quite readily. But something strange happens on occasion when Bibles and fires mix. It would seem that sometimes the Bible is fireproof. One such example of this phenomenon occurred last week involving one of the lead singers of country group Lady Antebellum. Hillary Scott was sleeping in the back of one the group's tour buses when a rear tire blew out and the bus caught fire. She evacuated the tour bus quickly, along with her husband, tour manager and the driver. The entire rear lounge area of the bus was destroyed including everything in it, except Hillary's Bible. She wrote on Facebook: "I kid you not, EVERYTHING in the back lounge was destroyed from the flames, except my Bible. The outside cover was burned and messed up but NOT ONE PAGE was missing." One might say this was luck and that the idea that a Bible will not burn is Urban Legend. But how do you explain all the people who began sharing their personal stories of similar experiences? Pam said the interior of her car was burned out, but the Bible she left inside had only a singed cover. Monica wrote, "When our house burned down 7years ago everything was destroyed .the firefighters did their best to save it but there was no use. A young firefighter fell through the floor and when they pulled him out he had my bible in his hand. Neither the firefight nor my bible was harmed." The Unexplained Mysteries website forum details a story about a girl whose house burned down, but the family Bible survived with only a burned cover and singed pages. So is the Bible fireproof? You knows for sure, but a book that doesn't burn in a destructive fire certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Oklahoma City Bombing

Twenty years ago on this day, April 19th, in 1995, America was shocked by a domestic terrorist attack on American soil. Baylee Almon would have been twenty-one years old this year if she had not been killed that day along with 167 other adults and children. Baylee was the little girl pictured in a photo taken by Charles Porter IV that appeared in papers and on the cover of Time magazine being cradled by a firefighter. The image of her sweet lifeless body was forever burned into the minds of people who saw the picture and won the photographer a Pulitzer Prize. Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, and his accomplice Terry Nichols planned and carried out a bombing against the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. They formulated a bomb from fertilizer and other chemicals and loaded it into the back of a Ryder rental truck. McVeigh parked it in front of the building and then set it off. The blast completely obliterated the front of the Murrah building and damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius. After the blast, 665 rescue workers worked in rescue and recovery operations. Not only were 168 people killed, but 680 were injured. McVeigh was pulled over ninety minutes after the attack and arrested for driving without a license and weapons charges. Nichols was arrested shortly thereafter. McVeigh claimed that he was motivated to give the government some payback after the Ruby Ridge and Waco Sieges that were disastrous for the government. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison without parole and that included 161 life sentences, which set a Guiness World Record. He is incarcerated at the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado. McVeigh was sentenced to death and that was carried out via lethal injection on June 11, 2001. The Oklahoma City National Memorial was built outside of the Murrah Building and dedicated in 2000.

Tranquille Sanatorium

On the outskirts of Kamloop, British Columbia lies what remains of a once thriving self-sufficient city for the sick. Tranquille Sanatorium is a complex made up of over forty buildings that once housed the sick and later the handicapped. The grounds were beautiful and tranquil and today attempts are being made to revitalize the location. But not all is tranquil at the Sanatorium. Spirits continue to knock about the place. The years of loneliness and sadness seem to have been absorbed into the environment and on occasion, those emotions can be felt by the living and haunting encounters can occur. It would seem that Tranquille Sanatorium just might be haunted.

Kamloops, British Columbia in Canada began as a fur trading post in 1812. The Thompson Rivers meet in Kamloops and the local indigenous tribe, Secwepemc First Nation, named it Tk'emlups, which means "where the rivers meet." The location near the rivers helped Kamloops grow into a thriving city. Two rival fur trading companies had set roots in the area, The Pacific Fur Company and The North West Company. The two companies combined efforts in 1813, but were later merged into the larger Hudson Bay Company in 1821. The Hudson Bay Company established Thompson's River Post. The post would later be renamed to Fort Kamloops. Fort Kamloops became an important way station between forts and later was used heavily during the Cariboo Gold Rush. The Cariboo Gold Rush was the most famous gold rush in British Columbia and started in 1861. The Canadian Pacific Railway was established in the 1880s and Kamloops expanded during that time. The city was incorporated in 1893.

In 1907, the King Edward Memorial Sanatorium was built in Kamloops to help treat tuberculosis despite the objection of local townspeople who feared contracting the dreaded disease. The climate in Kamloops is semi-arid and temperatures are generally mild, making it a keen place for tuberculosis sufferers. The name was later changed to Tranquille Sanatorium based on the small community that built up around the hospital. The community included several homes, a farm and a fire department. The farm was original to the property and had been owned by the Cooney family that originally settled the area in 1865. The Anti-Tuberculosis Society bought the property and used the farm to house sick people until the hospital could be finished. And the farm continued to operate as a ranch, helping the hospital to be fairly self-sufficient. The hospital was under the direction of Dr. Charles Fagan. The goals of the Anti TB Society were:
    *To inaugurate and carry on a publicity campaign against tuberculosis;
    *To stimulate a lively public interest in the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis;
    *To cooperate with, assist and encourage organizations and institutions engaged in the fight against the
    white plague;
    *To endeavour to promote the physical economy and social welfare of dependents and homes of persons
    incapacitated with tuberculosis;
    *And generally to assist by all lawful means in bringing about conditions designed to control and prevent
    the spread of tuberculosis and curtail its ravages.

The main building was completed in 1910. Other buildings were built to house doctors and nurses on the property. The nurses' residence was completed in 1913. The Anti-Tuberculosis Society ran the sanatorium until 1921. The provincial government then took over operations. The decision to transfer operations to the government at that time was made because according to Provincial Secretary John McLean, "This is too large and important an undertaking to be managed and supported by voluntary effort, and secondly, because the care of contagious disease of this nature should be the duty of the province." The government built the J.B. Greaves Building in 1921 using money donated by J.B. Greaves to the Anti TB Society. In all, there were forty buildings on the property with four of them serving as hospitals, including the main building, the Greaves Building, the East-West Pavilion and the Infirmary. A beautiful sunken garden was built on the property as well. Access tunnels were built below the gardens to facilitate the transport of food and laundry.

The hospital closed in 1958 when tuberculosis had become less of a threat because a cure was discovered in 1957. Tranquille Sanatorium was repurposed and reopened the following year as a place to house the mentally handicapped and mentally ill. Conditions in such hospitals was deplorable around the world. Tranquille tried to be different. The food was good and care was better than most places, but privacy and other concerns were poor. Unionization caused care to decrease in the 1970s. The hospital closed permanently in 1983. Twenty years later, a group of investors bought the property and renamed it Tranquille On The Lake.  Many of the buildings were decorated with murals that still exist to this day. Restoration efforts are underway and the ranch is still a working farm that is open and sells produce as the Tranquille Farm Fresh Market on the weekends. The ultimate plan is to make the area an urban living location. We wonder if prospective residents have been told about the unseen residents that knock about the place?

We did find some records that indicate that there was a cemetery on property that was relocated to Kamloops. Bodies of the poor and unclaimed were dumped into a mass, unmarked grave apparently. Not something one wants to do if they hope to keep spirits at rest. Reports of light phenomenon abound on the property. Light orbs and faint floating lights are seen traveling in circles, especially at the main entrance and the lights go on and off by themselves. Many of the buildings are abandoned and will probably be demolished. Apparitions and dark figures have been seen in the windows. A bizarre twisting mist has been captured in pictures. The mist is not witnessed by the naked eye.

The hospital had been divided into several wings. The B Wing in particular has reported hauntings. Pediatrics was contained in this wing and the crying of children is still heard there. An apparition has been seen wandering this same area claiming she is looking for her lost child. She is witnessed crying. Those cries echo in the hallways even after she disappears. An electrician reportedly died in the basement while doing repair work and his spirit is sometimes seen down there.

As mentioned earlier, there were underground tunnels beneath the sunken gardens. These tunnels are reportedly the most haunted area of the location. More than food and laundry was moved in these tunnels. Dead bodies were transported this way as well. The staff did not want to upset the living, but apparently they did upset the dead. People who have investigated the tunnels claim to have been pushed by unseen forces and muffled moans are heard echoing down the tunnels. Tunnel tours are offered on occasion.

Rumors have circulated that a nurse was murdered by a patient and now she still wanders the grounds. An intense feeling of sadness is felt throughout the buildings that we believe is latent emotion that has built up from years of people being separated from others and their family because of their illness or mental issues. Sudden drops in temperature are felt as well. One person claimed that he was at the location at night and he was chased away by a mist like apparition.

Do the former residents of Tranquille Sanatorium still hang around the place? Is their energy locked into the location? Is Tranquille Sanatorium haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
*Sheila Webster has been to the site and taken some great photos that are up on her website here:
*Restoration efforts can be seen here:
*The farm's official website:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 40 - Port Aurthur, Australia

*On today's podcast, we are joined by 17 year old Australian Freya Porter*

Moment in Oddity - The Blue People of Kentucky

They are known as the Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek. The name Fugate derives from an ancestor named Martin Fugate who settled in Eastern Kentucky. He was an orphan from France and he carried a unique gene that has been passed down for six generations. That genetic trait is blue skin. At first, doctors thought the blue skin was caused my heart disease or discolored blood. Eventually, a nurse named Ruth Pendergrass and a hematologist named Madison Cawein made an in depth study of the family. The genetic trait was a disease that came to be known as methemoglobinemia. Sufferers of this disease have more methemoglobin than iron in their blood. Red blood cells are not able to release as much oxygen to tissues, Tissue hypoxia results. Benjamin Stacy, who was born in 1973, is the last known descendant of Martin Fugate. His blue skin faded as he got older and he now appears normal. It is believed that the condition is rarely seen anymore because the gene pool has dispersed and is not concentrated in one area any longer. And it also helps that most families do not interbreed. The Fugates did. Human smurfs certainly are odd!

This Day in History - Pony Express Arrives in San Francisco

On this day, April 14th, in 1860, the Pony Express arrives for the first time in San Francisco. The Pony Express was established in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1860 as a way to deliver mail and messages to the West Coast. A series of 157 relay stations was set up along the route. The route carried a man on horseback through the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Each rider rode for seventy-five miles a day. The stations were set up about ten miles apart, which was the distance a horse could gallop before tiring. The rider would arrive at the station, receive a fresh horse and continue on his journey. To save on extra weight, Pony Express riders could only weigh a maximum of 125 pounds. The horse would carry not only the rider, but twenty pounds of mail, a revolver, a water pack, a horn to alert the relay station that a fresh horse was needed and a Bible. On April 3, 1860, the first Westbound Pony Express rider left St. Joseph, Missouri. Ten days later, the mail arrived in San Francisco. Only one of the letters that was carried still exists today. The Pony Express stopped its run in October 1861.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur is part of a World Heritage site featuring former Australian jail sites and it is an open air museum. Australia has a harsh history since it was established as a place for Britain to send her convicts. Many of the prisoners from Ireland's Kilmainham Gaol were sent to Australia. Port Arthur's prison became the stop for Britain's worst convicts. Such a harsh place would be a good breeding ground for things that go bump in the night just from its penal history alone. But this area has an even more tragic story. It was the site of a massacre in 1996. No wonder Port Arthur is considered to be one of the most haunted locations in all the world.

Twelve thousand years ago, the oceans were rising due to the melt off from the Ice Age. This rising of the oceans changed the geography of Australia and cut off one area of the continent that we know today as Tasmania. The aboriginal people who had lived there were cut off from the other aboriginal people and they developed uniquely both culturally and physically. They became known as Tasmanians and by the time Europeans arrived to settle, the Tasmanians had nine distinct ethnic groups. The British originally settled the area in 1803. Within thirty years, only 300 of the Tasmanians still survived having dwindled from a population that some have estimated at 10,000. The survivors were relocated to Flinders Island.

The capital city of Tasmania is Hobart and it was established in 1804 by British Lieutenant-Governor David Collins. In 1830, Port Arthur was established as a timber station. It was named for Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur. The harshest criminals formed the population of the penal settlement and they set up several types of manufacturing, which ranged from ship building to shoemaking to brick making and even flour milling. The ship building was very successful and the settlement produced fifteen large ships and 140 smaller vessels. The prisoners sent to Port Arthur were reoffenders who had been shipped over to mainland Australia. Port Arthur was the perfect location for a prison for these reoffenders because of several factors. The only land route to the mainland was over a 30m wide isthmus that was heavily guarded and the waters surrounding the area were shark infested. The prison there was sold as being inescapable.

Some prisoners did try to escape. One such prisoner was George "Billy" Hunt who dressed as a kangaroo and tried to hop across the isthmus. Guards shot at him and he was returned to the prison and given 150 lashes. Martin Cash and two other prisoners were more successful and they did escape. Cash was a Bushranger meaning he had survival skills to live in the bush and committed armed robbery. He actually escaped twice from Port Arthur. He later had a ghostwriter write about his adventures in the book "The Adventures of Martin Cash," published in 1870.

In 1848, the Separate Prison was built. With the addition of this prison came a new era in punishment. Previously, the punishment had been corporeal, but now punishment moved to psychological. It was so harsh, it drove many insane. Good prisoners were given luxury items like tea and and sugar, while bad prisoners were given only bread and water. This prison also used the Silent System that we have talked about on other podcasts where prisoners were not allowed to speak at all and they were hooded. Point Puer (pronounced "pure") was set up as a place for juvenile offenders. Some of them were as young as nine years old. The juveniles were expected to do the same work as the adults. A church was built and all prisoners were forced to attend.

In 1863, the Pauper's Depot was built followed by the construction of the Asylum. The population of Port Arthur was aging and getting sick and these were part of Port Arthur's Welfare Phase, but it was anything but good for the convicts. Treatment was rudimentary and most of the patients continued to suffer from depression and mental instability. The Asylum later became a school and a townhall after it was damaged by a bushfire. Industry began to halt at Port Arthur because of the aging population and in 1877 it was closed. At its closing, the Isle of the Dead, where prisoners who had died were buried, contained 1646 graves. Only 180 remain marked. Tourists began to visit soon after the closure.

Much of the property was auctioned off and the buildings deteriorated. Many were torn down and were damaged in fires. In 1916, the Scenery Preservation Board took over management of the area and in the 1970s, the National Parks and Wildlife Service took over. It was at this time that restoration and clean-up began. Today the museum includes the Model Prison, the Guard Tower, the church and parts of the main penitentiary. Guided tours are offered as well as ghost tours.

But this is not where Port Arthur's tragic history ends. In 1996, the third deadliest mass shooting spree in the world occurred at Port Arthur. The murderer was Martin Bryant. Bryant was born in Tasmania in 1967. Bryant is what one would deem a bad seed. He was difficult and angry from the very beginning. He would break his toys and rage in fits. He once snatched the snorkel from another boy while they were diving. Teachers described him as distant and a poor student. He tortured animals as well. After his arrest, he was found to have an IQ of 66. Bryant often was depressed and became an alcoholic. In early April of 1996, Bryant bought a large bag he would later use during the massacre.

On the morning of April 28, 1996, Bryant went to the Seascape Bed and Breakfast and killed owners David and Sally Martin, He blamed them for causing his father's depression and suicide because they bought the B & B out from under his father. He ate a meal at the Broad Arrow Cafe at the Port Arthur historical site. After eating, he set up a video camera and went to the back of the cafe where he pulled out a Colt AR-15 SP1 Carbine and he began shooting. He killed twelve and wounded ten there. He walked to the other side of the shop and killed eight and wounded two more people. He changed magazines and fled in his car, shooting people along the road, killing four more and wounding six. He came upon a mother with two children. He fired killing the mother and one child, while the other ran. He chased her down and killed her. He carjacked a BMW and killed its four occupants. He stopped another car and killed a female occupant and forced a man to get into the trunk of the BMW. Bryant returned to the Seascape B & B with his hostage and a stand-off ensued. He killed the hostage, set fire to the B & B hoping to escape in the chaos and was finally arrested. He was sentenced to thirty-five life sentences plus 1,035 years without parole and is in the psychiatric wing of Risdon Prison in Hobart, Tasmania. In the end, he had killed thirty-five people and injured twenty-three.

One can imagine that a history as a harsh penal colony and the site of a massacre would lead to hauntings and it does. In 1840, Private Robert Young drowned near the Jetty Cabin and tourists report seeing a man with straight black hair and a ruffled white shirt in or near the cabin. Freya shared some of the haunting history she has heard:
"With such a tumultuous history, it's no wonder that ghost sightings are abound in that place! The site offers night ghost tours every day (except Christmas Day), which from personal experience are fantastic. The Parsonage is one of the first stops on the tour and I'd say it's the most haunted place on the site. Reverend George Eastman died in the upstairs bedroom, but the stairs were difficult to navigate so his coffin was lowered by rope out of the window. During the lowering his coffin burst open and his body fell into the gutter below. Maybe this undignified exit from his home promoted his haunting of the place. He was barely settled into the ground before people started reporting smelling rotting flesh, hearing unearthly moans and seeing strange bright lights inside the Parsonage. The study seems particularly prone to lights, while the guest bedroom has been problematic too. A lady guest was driven from the room by unexplained knocking coming from the walls and floor, and as she fled up the stairs she heard the patter of feet running behind her. Also in this room a servant shrieked and collapsed one day while checking the fire. After waking she said she had seen a man standing outside the window looking at her, holding a knife as though about to strike her. More recently, around 2004 I think (I went on the ghost tour in 2010 so my memory isn't as clear about it although I remember the gist of many of the stories), a young girl and her mother were standing at the garden gate when they saw a shadowy figure standing in the doorway to the house watching them. 

The church bells sometimes ring inexplicably around 6pm on a Monday afternoon, attributed to the ghost of Joseph Shuttleworth who was murdered by fellow convict William Riley as they worked on the church construction. In the Junior Medical Officer's house, ghost children are often heard playing on the roof, running around, rattling windows and moving furniture. The Commandant's house is home to the Nanny Chair, which rocks on its own and whose ghostly occupant touches unwary visitors. Faces appear in the holes in the walls of the dissection room under the Senior Surgeon's house. Of course the Separate Prison is home to all manner of ghosts and apparitions, including a screaming boy awaiting execution, depressed and anxious feelings in the cell of a convict who committed suicide, and mysterious lights in the dark punishment cells."
Andrea Allison's website has the following account:
"The very location of Port Arthur's cemetery has its own paranormal reports. A prisoner named Mark Jeffrey, serving time for manslaughter, lived on the island in a little hut as the resident gravedigger. One morning a signal fire caught the eye of the authorities and a boat was sent over to retrieve Jeffrey. He returned to the mainland with an unbelievable tale. The night before his hut had been shaken and rocked by an invisible force and a fiery red glow had lit up the walls and surrounding ground. Upon investigation, he was confronted by an creature with eyes smoldering, horns erect and encircled by sulfurous smoke. No one took his experience serious but visitors have felt an oppressive atmosphere on the Island of the Dead."
P. Clifford shared his personal story at the website about a tour he was on and something they saw. One of the fellow tourists had left to use the restroom before this event occurred and here is what happened:
"We had been there not that long, but long enough so that the guy would have been able to have rejoined the group. We were laughing and joking that a ghost had taken him, when we saw someone at the end of the path, about 150 meters away that had trees dotted on either side of it. The tour guide called out to "him" as we were in a dark spot an he may not have spotted us. I had my video camera, with which I was able to see in the dark to some degree. And as I zoomed in on him, the figure walked behind a tree and stopped. We were all calling out and had no response. The guide then spoke on her walkie talkie to see if it was another guide, who may be playing a joke on us, but no one was near us. The guide then went down to see what it was and she found no one there!

She then rejoined the group and we then entered the building, looked around the place and then finished our tour. After, when we went back, we found the gentleman, sitting having a coffee and of course the first question was, "So was that you?" He looked at us like we were mad, and said that he had found the toilet and decided to head back to the main building and wait for us there. And our group were suddenly wondering who our "visitor" was?"
Our guest co-host, Freya Porter, related her personal story:
"The Parsonage is of special interest to me because it's where I had my brief ghostly experience in 2010. I went to Tasmania on a school trip when I was 12, and one of the places we visited was Port Arthur after having studied it in history class. Our teachers organised for us to go on the ghost tour at 8pm in the dead of winter, which we all joked about until we actually got on the tour itself. The Parsonage was the second stop after the Church. We'd already visited the building earlier in the tour and had no problems. It's a very peaceful looking building in the daytime, surrounded by a pretty flower garden with a little winding path from the garden gate to the veranda. I was near the front of the group. The guide held up the lantern and asked one of the us kids to open the garden gate for him. I put my hand on the gate and was about to push the gate open when I felt a presence holding me back. It didn't want me going into that house. I stepped back, insisting that we couldn't go in there. Whatever was in that house, good or bad, didn't want us there. The guide ignored me and the group left me and another teacher outside the gate while they spent ten minutes inside the house. I would not cross the gate, trying to tell the teacher that there really was something there that wasn't happy about the intrusions. He seemed sympathetic at least - he didn't like the vibes around that place either. The group came out unscathed however, and the tour continued without any more ghostly occurrences.

When my class got back to school the next term and brought our photos in to share, we noticed something strange in one of my teacher's photos of a house (he couldn't remember which it was but it was definitely a residence, not a prison complex) in the daytime. In one of the windows the side profile of a woman can be seen, with her hands held near her face like she's praying or crying. We had no idea what to make of it. There's reports of the Lady Blue who died in childbirth hanging around the parsonage or accountant's house, but we have no idea if it was her or not."
Port Arthur has nearly two centuries of documented history and tales, many of them haunted in nature. Do the spirits of former prisoners still roam the grounds? Can so many personal experiences just be hallucinations? Did Freya really feel something disturbing? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

HGB Podcast 39 - Hotel Jerome

Moment in Oddity - The Drunk Zookeeper and the Cobra

The following account comes to us from
"In October 1852 Edward Horatio Girling, an employee at London Zoo, died after being bitten by a five-foot cobra. A post mortem on Girling’s corpse showed the cobra had bitten him five times on the nose. One of these bites had penetrated to the nasal bone and bled profusely. Girling was rushed to hospital by cab, a journey that took 20 minutes. While in the cab his head swelled to “an enormous size” and his face turned black. Once at hospital Girling was given artificial respiration and electrical shocks. Neither was successful and he died 35 minutes after arrival. After ascertaining how Girling died, an inquest investigated how he had come to be bitten in the first place. Early press reports put it down to a homicidal serpent. One suggested the cobra had bitten its victim with “murderous intent”, another had it lunging from the shadows while Girling was delivering food to the enclosure. It did not take long for the inquest to discover that Girling was responsible for his own demise. One of Girling’s work colleagues, Edward Stewart, the hummingbird keeper, testified at the inquest. He claimed to be passing by the snake enclosure with a basket of larks when he saw Girling inside. Apparently showing off, Girling picked up the ‘Bocco’, a mildly venomous colubrid snake, by its neck. According to Stewart: Girling then said ‘Now for the cobra!’ Deceased took the cobra out of the case and put it inside his waistcoat, it crawled round from the right side and came out at the left side… Girling drew it out and was holding the cobra between the head and middle of the body when it made a dart at his face.” Stewart and other witnesses also testified that Girling was drinking ample quantities of gin at breakfast time. A zookeeper named Baker told the inquest “he believed that the deceased was intoxicated”. It was also noted that Girling had little if any experience with venomous snakes; he had only recently started working at the zoo after employment with the railways. Unsurprisingly the coroner found that Girling had died as a “result of his own rashness whilst in a state of intoxication.'"
Now that certainly was odd!

This Day in History - The Battle of Arras

On this day, April 9th, in 1917, the Battle of Arras begins during World War I. The offensive was planned by the British and it was set to begin on April 8th, but it was delayed. Sleet and snow fell on April 9th, but the offensive went forward, led by Field Marshal Douglas Haig. The British went with a frontal assault on Observation Ridge just East of the French city of Arras. The Canadian troops were led by General Julian Byng and they went after the Vimy Ridge and they were very successful by using a creeping barrage and heavy machine guns. The Canadian Corp also used a new tactic in warfare where entire platoons were directed what their objectives were, so that even if their commanding officer was killed, they could press forward knowing exactly what their job was. They achieved a position that gave them visuals of the German rear area on the plain of Douai. They paused there as darkness came. The British were successful too in taking parts of Monchyriegel. This area was full of trenches and many of the trenches were cleared on that first day. These initial successes were followed by stalemate. The Battle of Arras would continue until May 16th. In the end, 160,000 British and 125,000 Germans lost their lives during the battle. There had been considerable advances, but no breakthrough, so the battle was not considered a direct success.

Hotel Jerome

Hotel Jerome is located in the heart of the city of Aspen in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The luxury hotel provides high end amenities in a truly historic building. Hotel Jerome was built by a man who wanted it to be a model of excellence for years to come. And it has been that, but it also has been something else. The Hotel Jerome is apparently so luxurious that some guests never want to leave, forever. The Hotel Jerome is haunted.

The precious metal silver is at the heart of the development of many of the mountain towns in Colorado that still survive today. The Colorado Silver Boom began in 1879 when a lode was discovered in the town of Leadville. This followed the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 and it was more lucrative. When the silver boom was finished, $82 million worth of silver had been mined. The Hotel Jerome has its roots in the silver boom as well. The hotel was built during the heart of the silver boom in 1889 by a man who was heavily invested in silver mining: Jerome B. Wheeler.

Jerome Wheeler was born in 1841 in Troy, New York. His parents, Mary Jones Emerson and Daniel Barker Wheeler, were both from Massachusetts originally. They eventually moved the family to Waterford, New York (Fun fact: home to the largest annual tugboat festival) and Jerome attended school there. He liked engineering and got involved in mechanical engineering and machinery. By the time he was twenty, the Civil War had started and he joined the fight enlisting with the 6th Regiment New York Volunteer Calvary. He was very successful working his way up to Second Lieutenant and then Colonel. An act of heroism got him demoted shortly thereafter. A regiment of Union soldiers was socked in behind enemy lines and in desperate need of supplies. Wheeler's superiors decided that it was too dangerous to get the supplies to these men. Wheeler however was committed to helping them and he went against orders, successfully bringing supplies to the men who were starving. After the demotion, Wheeler left the army. For those interested, the website has an extensive history of Wheeler's service.

Wheeler worked several jobs as a bookkeeper in Troy and then New York City, joining Holt and Company in 1869 where he eventually was made partner. Wheeler met Harriet Macy Valentine during this time and the couple was married in 1870. And yes, the name Macy means that she is related to the family that founded Macy's. She was the niece of Rowland Hussey Macy who started R.H. Macy and Company. Wheeler eventually became a 45% partner in the company and stayed with it until 1888 when competition from other department stores began to grow. He and Harriet decided to make a trip to Colorado in 1883 and they fell in love with Colorado. Wheeler had heard about the vast mining operations in Aspen and Leadville and he decided to buy into them. The name Wheeler would eventually become synonymous with Aspen as he developed many parts of the town.

Wheeler began with building a tramway for an Aspen mine that made the transportation of the ore easier. The silver needed to be smeltered after it was mined and so he built a smelter at the base of the mountain. He started the Croseus Gold Mining and Milling Company, of which he served as President. He invested in the Colorado Midland Railway and built the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen. He also built a bank, a mountain tramway and the Wheeler-Stallard House, which was a home where he never actually lived. And then he built the Hotel Jerome, which bears his name.

The Hotel Jerome was not Wheeler's idea. He first offered to finance the project and loaned $60,000 to two Kansas innkeepers, Bixby and Phillips, who wanted to rival the Ritz in Paris. Wheeler also donated the land upon which the hotel was built. Construction was not going as Wheeler had wanted and costs began to balloon. Bixby and Phillips eventually skipped town and Wheeler took over the entire project and was stuck investing more money, which came to a total cost of $150,000 that equals $1.6 million in today's dollars.  The hotel rose to three stories and was constructed from red bricks and sandstone that came from nearby kilns. Handmade Colorado tile was used to decorate the interior and elaborate wall coverings were installed. The first elevator west of the Mississippi was also installed in the hotel. The completed hotel had ninety guest rooms and fifteen bathrooms. And to top all that off, the hotel was the first in the West to have electricity. The grand opening was celebrated with a ball and banquet and every room was lit by electric lights.

These early years in the late 19th century were booming for the hotel. Stars of the stage and opera, politicans and the very rich all flocked to the Hotel Jerome. The invention of the Pullman sleeping car made train travel a wonderful experience and helped bring in more people to Aspen. Wheeler decided to sell the hotel to a Denver man named Fisk who soon found he could not pay the taxes and Wheeler eventually became the owner again. Hard times were looming though as the silver market crashed during the Silver Panic of 1893. Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act a year later and the silver boom was officially over. Colorado Mountain towns began to crash after this with many people leaving town and businesses going out of business. Wheeler was hit hard as well and had to declare bankruptcy eventually in 1903 and he lost the Hotel Jerome in 1910, unable to pay the taxes for the building. He dies in 1918 in Manitou Springs.

A traveling Syrian American drummer, Manser Elisha, had come to Aspen and he took a job as bartender at the hotel. He bought the hotel in 1911 for the amount of the back taxes. With few visitors coming to Aspen, the hotel became a boarding house. A flu epidemic swept through the town in 1918 and the parlor was used as a morgue since it was one of the largest buildings in Aspen. The year 1919 brought Prohibiton and Elisha decided to change the bar into a soda fountain to keep it going. Liquor still worked its way into some of the offerings and a concoction of vanilla ice cream mixed into a shake and spiked with bourbon became known as the Aspen Crud, which is still served there today. The population of Aspen declined and rent at the Hotel Jerome was cheap. The building suffered heavy neglect at this time and was getting run down.

Elisha died in 1935 and left the hotel to his son. The Hotel Jerome was about to find itself in the boom of another industry on its way to Aspen: skiing. U.S. Olympic bobsledder Billy Fiske came to Aspen and saw potential for a ski resort. He bought land and formed the Highland Bavarian Ski Club. The club built the first ski lodge and the first two ski guides for the lodge stayed at the Hotel Jerome during construction of the lodge for five weeks. The U.S. Army's Tenth Mountain Division trained on skis in the nearby area and they traveled down to the Jerome one night where Laurence Elisha let them stay and offered to let the soldiers stay and have a steak dinner for a dollar whenever they liked.

In 1946, U.S. industrialist and philanthropist Walter Paepcke travelled to Aspen with his wife. They saw Victorian charm in the rundown buildings of the town and they bought up many of the properties, which included Hotel Jerome. He started the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Skiing Company. His investing into the Aspen Skiing Company allowed the completion of the longest ski lift anywhere in the world. Paepcke started renovating Hotel Jerome and one of his additions angered the locals. He actually painted the beautiful red brick exterior grey. A pool and poolhouse were added. After the renovations, movie stars started pouring in for vacation. Those stars included Lana Turner, Gary Cooper and John Wayne. But then the hotel hit hard times again and shut its doors in 1956.

John Gilmore of Michigan decides to buy the Hotel Jerome in 1968. The place had been closed for twelve years and it was a wreck. The walls had become unstable and the roof leaked. Gilmore does not have the money to restore the building and he makes attempts to get investors to help him. He is only successful in paving the way for future restoration at zoning meetings. (Fun fact: In 1977, serial killer Ted Bundy escaped from the Aspen Courthouse.) It is not until 1984 that the Hotel Jerome is bought by a group of investors and they begin renovations the following year. The structural system was the first thing to be restored. Heating and plumbing was brought up to code. The grey paint was sandblasted off the exterior of the building and the interior was refurbished to its former glory.

The J-Bar was a popular spot with writer Hunter S. Thompson and it was refurbished to its original appearance in 1998. A ballroom was also added, along with a new rear wing, and guest rooms were refurbished in 2002. When Thompson died in 2005, his memorial was held in the ballroom. This same year, the Gaylord family bought the hotel for $33.7 million. They wanted to add a fourth floor, but the city would not approve the changes and kept delaying, so the family sold the hotel. The new owners would get caught up in the Lehman Brothers fiasco that occurred a few years ago and the owners were foreclosed upon. Jerome Property, LLC had conducted the foreclosure and they took over the property. They were mired for a couple years in lawsuits with city over taxes, but those seem to be gone now and the Hotel Jerome is now under the management of Auberge Resorts. Another renovation was conducted in 2012. This updated the rooms, which now have iPads in the rooms.

The hotel features standard rooms, suites and luxury suites. There is a weight room, two jacuzzis, a heated outdoor pool and spa. The restaurant is managed by Executive Chef Rob Zack and features fresh local cuisine. But the hotel features something else that management does not advertise. This hotel quite possibly is haunted. As a matter of fact, the folks at Aspen Walking Tours claim it is the most haunted location in Aspen.

The ghost that has countless sightings of him is that of a ten year old boy. His family was staying at the hotel in Room 310 in 1936 and the boy drowned in the pool. Some people see him sitting in the corner of a hallway, shivering inside a towel. He then disappears leaving only a wet spot. Sometimes he is walking and leaves behind only wet footprints. He occassionally is seen in Room 310 as well.

Henry O’Callister was a silver prospector who came to Aspen in 1889. He found what he was looking for when he discovered a 1,500lb silver nugget. Feeling as though he were a rich man, he checked into the Hotel Jerome. While he was staying at the hotel, he met Clarissa Wellington of Boston and fell in love with her. Clarissa's father didn't think much of old Henry and he sent his daughter back to Boston. Henry was broken hearted and he squandered the fortune he had made, dying broke. He seems to have returned to the Hotel Jerome and is seen and heard walking the halls at night. He sobs and wails.

The third floor seems to be the most active and hotel staff do not like to work on the third floor for that reason. A long dead chambermaid seems to be doing some of the housekeeping for the staff. Kate Kerrigan joined the Jerome staff in 1892 when she was only sixteen. She was a beauty and many of the male guests took a liking to her. This made the other chambermaids jealous and they would tease her. One evening, the teasing went too far when another maid told Kate that her beloved kitty had fallen into a frozen pond. Kate rushed out to save it and she fell through the ice. She caught pneumonia and died a week later. Kate apparently is still tending to her duties and modern day housekeepers will find beds already turned down for the evening when they go to do that job. Another maid claimed to smell a certain perfume in empty rooms and that she found beds made when she entered rooms to clean.

ChrisAroundTheWorld commented on TripAdvisor about her stay at the Hotel Jerome and linked back to an article on her blog. Here is her account:
"I walked quickly through the building, trying not to catch a reflection in the mirrors. Turns out I should have been more worried about the room. When I entered, my friend Kathryn – who had skipped most of the ghost tour – had some questions for me. “Why did you put the heat back on?” she asked. “When I came back into the room, it was on. And I know I turned it off before I left.” I didn’t touch the heat, I told her. “Hmm, that’s weird,” she answered. We had both been in the room during turndown service, and specifically told the maid not to touch the heat. But that wasn’t the end of the weirdness: “And why did you leave the left sink full of water? Did you wash your face before you left?” Kathryn said. “Because it was filled with soapy water when I came in.” Let the record show that I had not used that sink all day. We examined the soaps in the dish. They were unused. We looked at each other in horror, then Kathryn dove into my bed with a shriek. “Creepy!” she shouted. “Omigod, I am not going out in that hallway by myself again,” I told her. Eventually we did fall asleep in our own beds. But we kept the TV on all night, as well as a light on in the bathroom."
Typical complaints by guests and staff include cold spots, sinks filling up on their own and televisions turning themselves on and off. Are some of the previous guests still here at the hotel in spirit? Is the Hotel Jerome haunted? That is for you to decide?

Show Notes
Aspen Walking Tours featuring ghost tours:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

HGB Podcast 38 - Lemp Mansion

Moment in Oddity - Tragic Coincidence for Brothers

Many brothers enjoy sharing experiences with each other. The enjoyable experiences may be fishing trips, road trips, a family barbeque or other bonding event. Some shared experiences can be tragic and this one in particular is not only deadly, it is a bizarre coincidence. Bermuda is a beautiful island, small enough for residents to get around by moped. Neville Ebbin was seventeen and he owned a moped. The year was 1975. He was riding along one of Bermuda's busiest roadways when tragedy occured. A taxi driver, who was either not paying attention or driving like a typical taxi driver in Bermuda - which is completely erratically based on my personal experience - hit Neville and the moped, killing the young man. Erskin Lawrence Ebbin was Neville's younger brother and he manged to get the moped working again. Erskin went riding on that same main drag where his brother was killed. He too was killed. He was also seventeen at the time. He was riding the same moped that his brother had been riding when he was killed. It was a taxi that hit and killed him as well. As a matter of fact, it was the exact same taxi driver that hit him. Both brothers were killed at the same age, while riding the same moped on the same road by the same taxi driver. Now that coincidence certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day, April 4th, in 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. King began his civil rights activism in 1955 when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. For years, he continued the fight to rid the nation of segregation. In 1963, he organized the March on Washington and gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at that time. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and the following year, he led the March from Selma to Montgomery. Throughout these years, he received numerous death threats. He told his wife after President Kennedy was assassinated, "This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society." On April 3, 1968, King had gone to Memphis to give what would be his last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." He retired for the night in his usual room, 306, at the Lorraine Hotel. The following day, King went out onto the balcony a little after 6pm. He was struck by a bullet fired from a Remington Model 760 in the cheek. The bullet passed through his jaw and some vertebrae and his jugular vein was severed. King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05pm. The assassin was James Earl Ray, who was staying at a room across the street at a boarding house. He fled the scene leaving behind a rifle and binoculars. He was arrested two months later and sentenced to 99 years in jail. He died in jail in 1998 at the age of 70. There are many who believe Ray was a scapegoat and that the US government assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lemp Mansion

The Lemp family and lager beer go hand in hand. What started out as a grocery business grew into a beer empire in St. Louis, Missouri that brought success and wealth to the Lemp family. But the history of the Lemp family is far from happy. Their story is one of sadness and tragedy. And that tragedy has led to rumors of hauntings at their home, the Lemp Mansion, in St. Louis.

In 1793, Johann Adam Lemp was born in Gruningen, which is located in the German province of Hessen. Everyone called Johann by the name Adam and he spent his youth learning the brewer's trade, eventually becoming a master brewer. He set his sights on America and sailed for the land of opportunity in 1836. He headed for Cincinnati, Ohio, but decided he would rather be further west and he moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1838. Adam decided that he wanted to make his way in the grocery business and he opened a small grocer. This does not mean he gave up brewing beer. He continued and before long, his grocery store was the only one selling beer in the area. Adam brewed vinegar as well.

The beer and vinegar sales were good and Adam decided that perhaps he should put his focus on those two items. The William J. Lemp Brewing Company was established officially sometime between 1840 and 1842. Records disagree with each other on the actual year. Adam opened a new factory at 112 South Second Street between Walnut and Elm Streets and the plant manufactured vinegar and beer. A pub was built onto the factory and this is where Adam sold his beer. By 1845, Adam was brewing only beer at his brewery. Some claim that Adam was the first to brew lager beer, having brought the yeast over with him from Germany. We will let beer historians argue on that point, but suffice it to say that Adam Lemp had a unique commodity and people were buying it up and he was the first to bring brewing to St. Louis. Lager beer was unique in that it did not have to be refrigerated or drunk quickly before it would go bad. It's yeast is bottom fermenting, while most ales have a top fermenting yeast.

The success of the Lemp Brewing Company led to a big issue. The factory was too small to store all the beer during the lager process. Adam came up with an ingenious solution. A natural limestone cave had been discovered on the outskirts of town and Lemp found that if they used ice from the Mississippi River to keep the cave cold, he could use it to store his beer during the lager process. The cave held twenty to thirty barrels of beer and by the end of 1845, 3,000 barrels of beer had been stored in the cave. The brewery continued to grow and by 1850, it was producing 40,000 barrels of beer annually worth $24,000. In 1858, Adam's beer captured first place at the St. Louis Fair.

Adam Lemp died in 1862 and while he was not a millionaire, he was very wealthy and had become known as the father of beer in St. Louis. His funeral procession had thirty horse drawn carriages. Adam left the brewery to both his son William Jacob Lemp and grandson Charles Brauneck. The will stipulated that if either contested the will, then the other man would receive the full inheritance, so apparently the father and son did not get along. The two formed a partnership and changed the name to William J. Lemp & Co. The partnership only lasted two years and William bought out Charles. William had learned brewing when he was younger and already had a successful brewery in St. Louis. His experience helped him to make the Lemp Brewery twice as successful as it had been under his father. William built a new factory over the limestone storage cave. He moved on to establish coast to coast distribution. The Lemp Brewery was the first to accomplish this feat. The future was bright and William was grooming his favorite son to take over the operation.

The Lemp Mansion was built in 1868 by William's father-in-law Jacob Feikert. The architecture was Italianate and when William purchased the home in 1876, he expanded the house to thirty-three rooms and added Victorian decor. He also had three huge vaults built where the family would store all their valuables including artwork when they left town. A tunnel was built between the house and the brewery and a portion of the limestone cave was converted to a ballroom, auditorium and swimming pool. These were accessed via another tunnel that no longer is open. In 1884, a radiator system was installed. Radiant heat had been patented five years earlier. An open air elevator was installed where the grand staircase had been several years later. Today, only a portion of the lift still exists.  The parlor's ceiling was hand-painted and the fireplace mantels were made from intricately carved African mahogany. An atrium was located behind the parlor and exotic plants and birds were kept here. A unique feature of the main bathroom was a glass-enclosed, free-standing shower that William had discovered at an Italian hotel and brought back to St. Louis. The house also featured a sink with glass legs and a barber chair. The bedrooms were on the second floor with the servants' quarters on the third floor. The third floor also had an observation deck and skylight. Another bathroom in the mansion featured a white granite shower stall and a marble and cast-iron mantle. The basement held the wine cellar and kitchen and their was a laundry room down there as well. The kitchen was completely modernized at the time.

All seemed well until 1901. Frederick Lemp was William's fourth son and his favorite son and he was heir apparent. In 1901, he died under mysterious circumstances, but Frederick had multiple health issues and it is believed he died of heart failure.. William was devastated by the death of his son and he spiralled into a depression. In 1904, William shot himself in the head in his bedroom in the mansion and died. It was only the first of several suicides to take place in the Lemp family.

William Lemp, Jr. had gone to the same university as his father and he had studied brewing of beer as well. He married Lillian Handlan in 1899. She was known as the "Lavender Lady" because it was her favorite color. She painted her carriages in that color and most of her wardrobe consisted of that color. William Jr. took over operations at the brewery and he continued the success his father had with the brewery. He also moved into the Lemp Mansion. Unbeknownst to the Lemp family and beer and liquor makers across America, temperance was gaining a foothold and Prohibition was on its way. The cave swimming pool became a place for true decadence. William hosted lavish parties where he supplied his wealthy friends with prostitutes and liquor. It was during this time that it is rumored that William fathered an illegitimate son who was born with Down Syndrome. The boy was reportedly hidden in the attic during his lifetime. In 1908, Lilly filed for divorce from William Jr. claiming abandonment and cruelty. She got custody of their child, William III. Problems would continue for William Jr. finally culminating in the brewery shutting down in 1919 because of Prohibition. Falstaff was the name the Lemp family had given their beer and the trademark was sold off and the brewery was auctioned off to the International Shoe Company. William Jr. fell into despair and in 1922 he shot himself in the front left dining room of the mansion, which was his office at the time.

William Jr. was probably not only depressed over his failed business, but over the death of his youngest sister, Elsa Lemp Wright, the wealthiest heiress in St. Louis. She had been William Sr.'s youngest child and had married a man named Thomas with whom she had a horrible relationship and they divorced. She claimed she had suffered mental cruelty. She did reconcile with Thomas, but in 1920, she shot herself in the head while in bed at her and Thomas' home. So by 1922, three of the Lemps have committed suicide.

William Sr.'s son Charles took over residence at the Lemp Mansion after his nephew's suicide in 1929. He lived a reclusive life and possibly went a little nuts. In 1941, he sent a letter to a funeral home stating that when he died, he wanted his body taken to the Missouri Crematory and that it should not be clothed, bathed or changed in any way. He wanted to be cremated and have his ashes put in a wicker box and buried on his farm and he wanted no funeral. Eight years later, he would shoot his dog dead and then turn the gun on himself and shoot himself in the head.

William III would die before his uncle Charles in 1943 from a heart attack when he was only forty-two years of age. Edwin was the last of William Sr.'s children and he died at ninety in 1970. He had all the family heirlooms and artwork burned. The Lemp Mansion had earlier fallen into decline. The mansion was sold in 1949 and no longer belonged to the Lemp family. It became a boarding house. In the 1960s, construction on the Ozark Expressway caused the mansion to lose much of its grounds and two carriage houses. It fell into further disrepair until 1975, when the Pointer Family bought the property and restored it. The building is now the Lemp Mansion Restaurant and Inn. The Inn has six suites, each named for a member of the Lemp family. Special events are held regularly and the Lemp Experience and haunted tours are hosted.

Tragedy and hauntings go hand in hand and the Lemp Mansion is no exception. The home is considered to be one of the most haunted locations in America. Boarding house residents were the first to complain about hearing disembodied footsteps. During renovations of the mansion, workers experienced slamming doors, an oppressive feeling throughout the mansion and other strange noises. A painter who had been working on restoring the painted ceiling, quit because he could not handle the oppressiveness of the house any longer. Restaurant employees have reported footsteps, strange noises, seeing apparitions appear and disappear and glasses have gone flying off the bar all by themselves.

William Jr.'s illegitimate son had been nicknamed cruelly, "Monkey Faced Boy." He died in the mansion during the time that Charles lived there when he was in his thirties. People reportedly see the face of a young boy with Down Syndrome peaking out of the attic windows. Paranormal investigators have brought toys into the attic and drawn circles around them, only to find them moved later. EVPs of a young voice saying, "Come play with me" have been recorded and even guests claim to hear the same thing audibly.

The women's bathroom has become home to the leering eye of William Jr. One woman had been at the bar with two male friends. She excused herself and while she was doing her business, she looked up and saw a man peeking over the stall. She returned to her male companions and remarked that she hoped they had gotten an eyeful. Both denied being the peeping Tom. William Jr. also apparently kicks the door to the bedroom that had been his father's room. It is believed that William Jr. had kicked at the door to get through it after his father committed suicide.

The staircase features the disembodied footsteps of someone running quickly up the stairs and glowing orbs have been witnessed moving up and down the stairs. The back staircase is where Charles' dog is heard panting and clicking his paws against the floor. In William Sr.'s room, a white glowing apparition with a beard was seen near the sliding door that leads to the bathroom. The Lavendar Lady Suite occassionally has a distinctly lavendar scent, the door opens on its own even after being locked and a shadow figure has been witnessed. The diminuitive Lavendar Lady has sometimes been seen as a full bodied appartion. A piano on the first floor plays itself occassionally. The tunes are usually Rag-time.

A tour guide was strolling the grounds and reported hearing something that many people have claimed to hear. The sound is that of horses braying and snorting with bridles clinking. The area that this is heard is where the carriage houses had once been. The basement is reportedly a scary place and has been nicknamed the "Gates of Hell." An angry shadowy presence seems to hang out near the sealed off tunnel. Perhaps he is angry he can't get into the party. A white, misty apparition has been seen and when photographed, a white orb appeared on film.

Legends of America toured the mansion and they report on their website:
 "As we began to make our way back down the stairs and passed by William Lemp Sr's room, Amy pulled me aside because the door was standing wide open, with the key in the door. Not going in, we just wanted to peek. We continued our journey down the hall when an alarm was raised by the guests of the room. When they had arrived back from dinner, they found the door wide open and were looking for a manager. However, there was no key in the door when they arrived. A manager quickly responded -- it was "impossible" that there had been a key in the door, as there were only two keys to that room. One was in the hands of the guest, the other in the hands of the manager. So, who opened the door, and where was the key that we saw when we passed?

Later, several members of the group would describe having passed a man in the hallway, holding a key in his hand and described as acting irritated with the large group moving through the hallway. Described as pale, older, and wearing a white shirt and black pants, no one thought anything of it at the time, believing him to be a member of the staff. However, we would find that there was no such gentlemen working or staying at the mansion that night that met that description. Though no harm was done and nothing was disturbed in the guest room, the whole experience was very bizarre."
Delisa on TripAdvisor reported:
"When we got there we found out that my husband, stepdaughter and I were the only ones staying in the house that night. We had the lavender room and Elsa's room. Around one in the morning we heard voices talking down the hall on the third floor. While sitting in the Elsa room we also heard something crawling down the hall. It was terrifying. My stepdaughter stayed the night on the couch in the Lavender room with us. I did not sleep at all. We didn't even turn down the beds."
Did tragedy leave the Lemp Mansion ripe for hauntings? Are the only ones in the mansion those that are still living? Is the Lemp Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!