Saturday, May 30, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 47 - Gunter Hotel

Moment in Oddity -Sailing Stones

There are strange oddities in the parched desert of Death Valley. They appear to just be simple large stones that weigh as much as a man and up to 700 pounds. But these stones do something peculiar: they sail across the desert. The reason people know the stones move is that they leave an indented trail behind them. Geologists and scientists have studied the stones and at first they surmised that wind and ice caused the movement. That belief was put to rest when people began to notice that the stones made abrupt shifts in direction. The area is covered with dry cracked mud in the summer and ice in the winter. The stones even seem to move around each other. The trails they leave travel in more than just straight lines. They move in curves and circles as well. Their speed has never been clocked and no one has ever seen them move. What mysterious force is causing the sailing stones to move? We'll probably never know, but the whole thing certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Joan of Arc Burned at the Stake

On this day, May 30th, in 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy. Joan was born to peasant parents, but she would go on to be one of the most famous women in history. Joan's rise to infamy started with visions. These visions featuring St. Catherine, St. Margaret and Michael the Archangel told Joan that she was to support King Charles VII and free France from England. Joan went to war and rallied men to follow her in a time when women were not to do such things. Victories came swiftly and King Charles VII was crowned. France went on to become free. Joan of Arc; however, would lose her freedom. The English captured her and put her on trial before Bishop Pierre Cauchon. Upon hearing that Joan heard voices and saw visions and considering that Joan committed the high crime of cross dressing, the Bishop found her guilty and sentenced her to burn at the stake. She was only nineteen years old at the time. Joan was tied to a tall pillar and she asked two of the clergy present to hold a crucifix before her. A peasant made a small cross and Joan put it in the front of her dress. Witnesses said that Joan was brave and stoic as the flames engulfed her. It was a travesty and twenty-five years after the event, the Pope declared her innocent and stated that she was a martyr. She was then canonized and is considered a saint in the Catholic Church.

Gunter Hotel

The Gunter Hotel is a historic hotel owned by Sheraton that is located in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. The hotel provides high end accommodations and amenities that include an old time barber shop. There is more than meets the eye at the Gunter Hotel though. A long history that includes a horrific murder mystery has led many to believe that the hotel is haunted. And based on people's experiences, this hotel very well could be host to at least one restless spirit.

The location where the Gunter Hotel stands has hosted at least three different hotels since 1837. San Antonio is famous as the location of the Alamo. The dispute between Texas and Mexico over ownership of the land had come to war. The Texians put up a valiant fight and held the Alamo for thirteen days. The Alamo did finally fall and all the defenders were killed. The brutality of the Mexican general who took the Alamo, inspired the Texians to take up arms and fight and Texas kept her freedom from Mexico. The Texas Revolution ended in April of 1836. It was in the year after the fall of the Alamo, that the first hotel was built where the Gunter Hotel now stands. That hotel was called the Frontier Inn. The Inn provided a great location that drew people from the East and kerosene lamps were used to light the building.

In 1851, two brothers from the Vance family bought the building and tore it down, replacing it with a two story structure. Their goal was not to serve travelers, but the military. The Army moved in and used the building as a military headquarters until 1872. The Vances then turned the building into a hotel and this decision became highly profitable when the railroad came to town in 1877. The accommodations were considered first class and luxurious. In 1886, German immigrants Ludwig Mahncke and Lesher A. Trexler bought the hotel and renamed it the Mahncke Hotel. Trexler had a lot of experience when it came to hotels and the business flourished.

A man named Jot Gunter helped finance the building of a new hotel on the site and so the new hotel that opened in 1909 was named after him. Gunter was a local rancher, so it seems fitting that the Texas hotel was named for him. St. Louis architect, Ernest Russell designed the building, which rose to eight stories originally. At the time, it was the tallest structure in San Antonio. In 1917, another story was added. The hotel was bought by the Baker Hotel Company in 1924 and they added three more stories to the building in 1926. In 1980, renovations were begun and lasted for five years. In 1989, the hotel was bought by the Sheraton chain of hotels who sold it to the Camberley Group in 1996. By 1999, the hotel was back in the hands of the Sheraton and an extensive eight million dollar renovation was done. The hotel was added to the Register of Historic Places and continues to provide accommodations to this day.

Before we get into the horrific murder mystery associated with this property, we wanted to point out an interesting fact. On a previous episode, we had discussed people in the music industry who had reportedly sold their soul to the Devil to get his help with writing music and becoming famous. Robert Johnson is one of those artists associated with the legend of meeting the Devil at the crossroads. He had absolutely no talent and could not play the guitar at all. After his meeting at the crossroads, he became an artist and guitarist who still inspires song writers and musicians today. He met an early and untimely death that some claim was the Devil collecting on his deal. Robert Johnson stayed in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in 1936 and he held an historic recording session in that room.

The murder mystery dates back to 1965. A man who signed himself in as Albert Knox was given Room 636. He was young and blonde and checked in alone. He was later joined by a beautiful woman over the next several days. Many believe this woman was a paid escort. A maid had been unable to service the room for several days because the "Do Not Disturb" sign had been left on the door. Finally, she decided to let herself in thinking that perhaps the guest had forgotten to remove the sign. When she opened the door, she was met with a horrific sight. The bed was soaked in blood and the walls were running with blood. Beside the bed stood Albert Knox. He appeared startled by the maid's entrance. He grabbed a bloody bundle and pushed past her, out the door.

The police were called and when detectives arrived, they could not believe what they found. Blood covered everything and pieces of flesh were found all around the bathroom. A used .22 caliber bullet was on the bed as were strands of blonde hair and women's undergarments. Detectives quickly deduced that the woman who had been seen with Knox had been killed and that he butchered and dismembered her body in the bathroom, flushing what he could down the toilet. The police figured out that Albert Knox was really Walter Emerick and they tracked him down at a hospital where he was under the name Robert Ashley. He shot himself in his hospital room before he could be arrested. Police never did find the body of the woman.

Since the grisly murder, guests and hotel staff have reported paranormal events taking place in the hotel, specifically in and around room 636. Many have seen a full bodied apparition of a woman. She is seen many times with her arms outstretched as if she is asking for help. Maids are uneasy about cleaning the room and have experienced cold spots, been touched and had their equipment messed with. Hammering is sometimes heard coming from that room, particularly when no one is staying in the room.

The Sheraton Gunter Blog reports:
"Former staff member, Jackie Contreras, recalls an incident she had involving her and an apparition. One day back in 1990, she went to go check the room before important clients were to stay there that night.

When she opened the door, she found the room pitch black. Odd seeing how the maids typically drew the curtains back to allow sunlight in. As she fumbled around for the lights, the light from the hallway revealed a woman standing in the room.

Contreras says the woman was looking straight at her with outstretched arms! She described her as being very old and slumped over and as pale as a sheet. Contreras ran out of the room and down to the front desk to ask if anyone had been staying in room at the time. The attendants assured her no one had checked in….

That same year around Christmas, hotel employees were snapping photos together during the annual Christmas party. Once the photos were developed, one of the employees noticed a recurring unexplained human figure in each photo."
Does this female victim of a horrific crime still walk the Earth on this side of the Veil? Is she restless as she waits for her body to be found and justice? Is the Gunter Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Monday, May 25, 2015

HGB Road Trip 2015 Day 9 - Nashville, Tennessee

History Goes Bump is roadtripping and this is the final episode from the road! Diane and Denise visited Music City, better known as Nashville and took in some of the historic buildings and a ghost tour with Nashville Ghost Tours. On this show, they share a brief history and then the hauntings that take place at some of the historic buildings including the state capitol!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

HGB Road Trip Day 8 - St. Charles, Missouri

New episode! History Goes Bump is road tripping and stopped over in St. Charles, Missouri. This beautiful historic downtown area is a treasure of history and hauntings! Lewis and Clark left on their historic expedition from this area. Michael Henry was the tour guide for our ghost tour and he shared a wealth of knowledge. In this podcast from the road, we share a brief history of the town and some of the hauntings going on there!

Friday, May 22, 2015

HGB Road Trip Day 5 - Haunted Farmland

History Goes Bump spent several days in the small town of Westside, Iowa visiting family. Westside is located in Crawford County. The town derived its name from the fact that it is just slightly to the west of the divide between the Mississippi and Missouri river watersheds. The first settlers to the area arrived here after traveling from Council Bluffs. Council Bluffs was a major trading station. The settlers traveled by ox and cart, rather than by horse because horse ownership was a rarity. The people built log cabins to live in and they chose spots near tree groves because that meant water was nearby. The first major road that served Westside was the Railroad Telegraph Road, which traveled from Boone to Council Bluffs.

As the population grew, townships were formed to serve as government. Westside became its own township. Townships were headed by a Board of Trustees who were elected by the people. The town of West Side was officially incorporated on March 11, 1878. The town grew even more when the railroad came to town. The Chicago Northwest Railway built a station at this point west of the summit, the division of the water flowing to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.The coming of the railroad coincided with the end of the Civil War and more people immigrated to Iowa. Most of the immigrants were Irish and German families.

Westside is still a small farming community. Some of the property harbors more than just the living. Some of those from the past still seem to be hanging out in the afterlife. One of those haunted locations is Diane's sisters farm. The barn is haunted by a previous owner who met an untimely end at his own hand. There are also strange things that happen in the house on occasion.

Troy Taylor reports on his website,, about a haunted farm in Indiana. Strange phenomenon there includes:

- eerie voices that have been heard calling out

- strange behavior by horses, dogs and other animals as if they sense something that the humans who are present cannot (more about this later!)

- lights turning on and off by themselves

- Articles of clothing being taken and moved about

- knives and scissors disappearing from the barn. One knife literally vanished for ten years before being discovered again lying in plain sight on the floor of the barn

- strange moving cold spots in the barn and on the property

- a mist that comes up off the pond and then comes and goes at will. It has even been said (although not witnessed by the author) that the mist has even “performed” on command, coming and going in response to requests from witnesses

In addition to the barn and the outdoor areas of the farm, the house that is located on the property has also been the scene of disturbances. Accounts from the house include instances of:

- Lights that turn on and off (sometimes by request)

- Water faucets that turn on by themselves

- keys and other items that vanish from the kitchen table, only to be returned later

- a rocking chair in the kitchen that rocks by itself and has been seen by multiple witnesses

- cups and other items flying off the counters

Some of the scariest things found on farmland are scarecrows. Countless movies have featured terrifying scarecrows and one of the villains in Batman comics is the Scarecrow. Could a scarecrow be haunted?

The Bell Witch is a famous haunting in Tennessee on land that was once farmland belonging to the Bell family. The Bell Witch website reports the legend in this way:
"One day in 1817, John Bell was inspecting his corn field when he encountered a strange-looking animal sitting in the middle of a corn row. Shocked by the appearance of this animal, which had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit, Bell shot several times. The animal vanished.  Bell thought nothing more about the incident, at least not until after dinner. That evening, the Bells began hearing "beating" sounds on the outside walls of their log house.

The mysterious sounds continued with increased frequency and force each night. Bell and his sons often hurried outside to catch the culprit but always returned empty-handed.  In the weeks that followed, the Bell children began waking up frightened, complaining that rats were gnawing at their bedposts. Not long after that, the children began complaining of having having their bed covers pulled from them and their pillows tossed onto the floor by a seemingly invisible entity.

As time went on, the Bells began hearing faint, whispering voices, which too weak to understand but sounded like a feeble old woman singing hymns. The encounters escalated, and the Bells’ youngest daughter, Betsy, began experiencing brutal encounters with the invisible entity. It would pull her hair and slap her relentlessly, often leaving welts and hand prints on her face and body.  The disturbances, which John Bell told his family to keep a secret, eventually escalated to such a point that he decided to share his "family trouble" with his closest friend and neighbor, James Johnston.

Johnston and his wife spent the night at the Bell home, where they were subjected to the same terrifying disturbances that the Bells had experienced.  After having his bedcovers removed and being slapped repeatedly, Johnston sprang out of bed, exclaiming, "In the name of the Lord, who are you and what do you want!" There was no response, but the remainder of the night was relatively peaceful.

The entity's voice strengthened over time to the point that it was loud and unmistakable. It sang hymns, quoted scripture, carried on intelligent conversation, and once even quoted, word-for-word, two sermons that were preached at the same time on the same day, thirteen miles apart.  Word of this supernatural phenomenon soon spread outside the settlement, even to Nashville, where then-Major General Andrew Jackson took a keen interest.

Jackson claimed to have an experience when traveling through the area. Their horses would not budge. After several minutes of cursing and trying to coax the horses into pulling the wagon, Jackson proclaimed, "By the eternal, boys! That must be the Bell Witch!"  Then, a disembodied female voice told Jackson that they could proceed and that she would see them again later that evening. They were then able to proceed across the property, up the lane, and to the Bell home where Jackson and John Bell had a long discussion about the Indians and other topics while Jackson’s entourage waited to see if the entity was going to manifest.

John Bell breathed his last breath on  the morning of December 20, 1820, after slipping into a coma the day before.  Immediately after his death, the family found a small vial of unidentified liquid in the cupboard.  John Bell, Jr. gave some of it to the cat, which died instantly. The entity then spoke up, exclaiming joyfully, "I gave Ol' Jack a big dose of that last night, which fixed him!"   John, Jr. quickly threw the vial into the fireplace, where it burst into a bright, bluish flame and shot up the chimney."
 Could farmland in the midwest hold the spirits of the undead? That is for you to decide!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

HGB Road Trip Day 3 and 4 - Crime Scenes, Cemeteries and Haunts of Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s first permanent resident was a trader named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a black man apparently from Haiti. He arrived in the late 1770s. In 1795, the U.S. government built Fort Dearborn at what is now the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, a major area in downtown Chicago today. Ft. Dearborn was burned to the ground by Native Americans in 1812, rebuilt and demolished in 1857. Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837. Chicago was in a great spot to become central to westward expansion. The completion of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in 1848 created a water link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Railroads then took over and today O’Hare International Airport makes Chicago an aviation powerhouse. In the 1850s, they raised many of the streets five to eight feet to install a sewer system. Unfortunately, the buildings, streets and sidewalks were made of wood, and most of them burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Chicago Fire Department training academy at 558 W. DeKoven St. is on the site of the O’Leary property where the fire began. 2000 acres were burned and nearly all buildings in its path were destroyed. The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station at Michigan and Chicago avenues was one of the only structures to survive. Chicago became known as the White City after this and rebuilt quickly. Much of the debris was dumped into Lake Michigan as landfill, forming the underpinnings for what is now Grant Park, Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. Only 22 years later, Chicago celebrated its comeback by holding the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The hosting of the World's Fair is connected to a couple of haunted sites we visited on this road trip. Chicago was home to gangsters. Crime and tragedies have led to Chicago gaining a reputation as a haunted city. We visited several hot spots, which included Resurrection Cemetery, the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Hull House and the Murder Castle. Is Chicago haunted? That is for you to decide!

HGB Road Trip 2015 Day 2 - Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is the largest city in the state of Kentucky. Many famous figures from history have their roots in the Louisville area including President Zachary Taylor and Lewis and Clark. Louisville is famous for being the home of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Louisville Slugger and the making of Bourbon. The reasons for Louisville being home to greatness in horses and bourbon were answered on our tour at Louisville's Mega Cavern where we learned that the limestone and magnesium and other minerals in the soil and rock of Louisville contribute to two things that make this city perfect for horses and bourbon. Horses grow strong from eating the grass enriched with these minerals and the limestone water gives bourbon its pleasing texture and smooth taste.

Louisville is named for King Louis XVI of France and was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark. In 1780, the Virginia General Assembly approved the charter for the city of Louisville. Forts became the first homes in Louisville because of a fear of raids by Native Americans. Louisville's location near the water helped it to grow because goods had to be unloaded here and moved from this location, so it was a hot spot when it came to being a shipping port. Runaway slaves found safe haven in Louisville during the Civil War and the city became a stronghold for Union forces.

The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875. Churchill Downs was the location and has been to this day, although in 1875 it was named the Louisville Jockey Club. Major set backs for the city occurred when Mother Nature hit hard. First, there was the terrible tornado in 1890 that killed nearly 120 people. Several decades later, the Great Flood of '37 hit. Flood walls were built after this.

The city today is a blend of old and new with many neighborhoods featuring Victorian homes. Some of the old in this city has to do with things that go bump in the night. Louisville has its share of hauntings. Louisville is one of the most haunted cities in America, filled with its share of haunted hospitals, theaters and mansions.

One of those mansions is the Brennan House. This home is a three story Victorian home built in 1868. In 1884, the Brennans moved to Louisville and paid $12,000 for the property. Mr. and Mrs. Brennan had eight children. The home stayed in the family for many years because several of the children lived in it their entire lives. And apparently, some of them still live there in the afterlife. Apparitions have been seen or felt in several rooms of the house. These rooms include the main hallway, the first floor parlor and the medical office of Dr. John. The children had a play room on the third floor where supernatural things happen as well.

The Landmark Building dates back to 1855 and the ghosts that hang around this building are said to have good nature and mostly perform poltergeist type of activity. The Belle of Louisville is a haunted steamship. Captain Winters captained this ship when it was known as the Idelwild and he requested it be renamed after his death. That did not stop him from tracking down his beloved ship in the afterlife. The Captain still apparently hangs out on the Belle of Louisville. A Native American girl haunts the Mega Cavern and was once captured as a full body apparition on film.

One of the more famous haunted locations in Louisville is Waverley Hills Sanatorium. Denise and I made the drive up to the location. We were too late to take a day tour and the driveway was already chained off with "No trespassing" signs posted. The building sits back up a hill off the road and the trees are thick, so we merely caught a glimpse of the place. We were disappointed that we couldn't at least get some pictures, but we will return in the future. The stories of hauntings here are numerous. The property was first home to a school and later the Sanatorium was opened to care for those sick with Tuberculosis. Like every other Sanatorium we have discussed in past podcasts, Waverley Hills had its own zip code and was self-contained. It was built in the Gothic style and cared for patients until 1961. It then became a home for geriatric paients and was finally closed by the state in 1981.

Hauntings at Waverley Hills include a ghost named Timmy that likes to roll balls. Timmy was a six or seven-year-old boy who died at Waverley Hills but has yet to move on. Visitors often bring toy balls to the hospital and invite the ghostly child to play. The balls sometimes move without any seen help. There are shadow people and disembodied screams. Room 502 is haunted by a woman. She was a pregnant nurse who committed suicide in that room. There are underground tunnels here as well that are nicknamed the Death Tunnels. Supplies were run through them, but so were dead bodies. Unexplained noises, shadows, disembodied footsteps and creepy EVPs are reported in the tunnels.

So is Louisville haunted? Check it out and see because that is for you to decide!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

HGB Road Trip 2015 Day 1 - Chattanooga, Tennessee

 Chattanooga is the fourth largest city in the state of Tennessee. Native Americans were the first to settle the area and the name Chattanooga is derived from the Muskogean words for rock and dwelling. The Muskogean tribe were the first in the area followed by the Cherokee. In 1816, John Ross settled the area and it became known as Ross' Landing. John Ross was half Scottish, half Cherokee. The Cherokee would be interred at Ross' Landing and then driven out in 1838 by the United States government. This became part of what we know today as the Trail of Tears. Ross tried to alleviate concerns and make the transition better and he came to be known as the Cherokee People's Moses.

In 1839, Ross' Landing incorporated and became known as Chattanooga. The location near water and the railway caused Chattanooga to become a boom town. During the Civil War, the city became a battleground. The Battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, all took place here. After the war, industry took over and Chattanooga flourished once again. A large flood in 1867 overwhelmed the city and a reservoir system was built to prevent future flooding.

The 1930s saw Chattoanooga take on the nickname "Dynamo of Dixie" and the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" by Glenn Miller was released in 1941. As is the case with all major cities, there are things here that go bump in the night! Being the center of battles during the Civil War seems to have left some residual energy in the area. Spectral battles have been witnessed throughout the decades. Old Green Eyes is one of the legends of the battlefield. He apparently is a man who lost his head to a cannonball. He wanders the battlefield looking for his body, so the head must just float about. And people swear they have seen the green eyes floating towards them. Two people even wrecked their cars in the 70s and blamed the crashes on Old Green Eyes.

The Tively Theater in town is reported to be haunted. Moccasin Bend has the most active ghosts. We went on the Chattanooga Ghost Tour and had a great time with our guide Kevin. He shared stories of the hauntings at the Hunter Museum and the Chili's parking lot, along with lots of other great stories and the history of how the city was built and the Coke Bottling Company's contribution to the growth of Chattanooga.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 46 - Norwich State Hospital

Moment in Oddity - Bog Bodies

Hundreds of bodies have been found throughout the years during peat cutting activities in countries like Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands in bogs. They have been nicknamed the bog bodies. Some of these bodies date back to 8000 BC. Koelbjerg Woman is the oldest bog body found and it is believed she drowned at the age of 25 in 8000 BC. The bog bodies come in a variety of states of preservation. Some are basically skeletal remains, others are mummified well preserved bodies and some are just parts. The bogs are a type of wetland that is full of carbon, has low fertility and is found in a cool climate, so decay is very slow within the bog. Thus a human body that is buried in the bog, will become mummified in a way because of low humidity and all the processes within the bog. The great mystery about these people is how they came to be in the bogs. Many died violent deaths, so there are theories that the people were sacrificed. Some skulls had holes in them that appeared to be healing. Archaeologists wonder if they had some kind of brain surgery that they survived or if the holes were made to release evil spirits. We'll never know the true secrets of the bog bodies, but they are fascinating and certainly are odd!

This Day in History - King Henri IV is Assassinated

On this day, May 14th, in 1610, France's King Henri IV was assassinated. It was the final of twenty attempts to take his life. King Henri IV was an incredible leader and beloved by his people. He had been both an exceptional military leader and exceptional politician. France had been torn apart by religious wars and Henri IV united the country by converting from Protestantism to Catholicism. His rule was a time of restoration and reconciliation. On May 14th, Henri was riding in an open carriage through a Paris street when two carts blocked the passage. A mentally ill drifter jumped into the carriage and stabbed the king twice, slicing his aorta. The assassin is executed thirteen days later, but many questions were left. Were the carts blocking the path there by chance or had this been a plan? Did the assassin work alone? The mystery remains to do this day. The nickname the people had given King Henri was le bon Roy, which means good king. The king was laid to rest at the Abbey of Saint-Denis. The royal tombs were destroyed in 1793. The perfectly preserved embalmed body of Henri was taken to the Basilica and laid in state and the people of France filed by for days nearly 200 years after he had been killed. That is how much the French thought of King Henri IV.

Norwich State Hospital

Norwich State Hospital in Connecticut served as a home and place of treatment for the mentally ill for a hundred years. As is the case with many old insane asylums, treatment methods were arcane and in some cases torturous. Mental illness was not understood and people were mistreated years ago. Places that harbor pain and suffering seem to capture the energy for all eternity and that energy tends to lead to supernatural activity. Is it because spirits become trapped? Are evil beings attracted to the painful emotions and so they come and take up residence? Or is the bad energy trapped within the walls of the building itself? Today, we talk about the history and hauntings of the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane.

The area along the Thames River where the Norwich State Hospital was built lies within the cities of Preston and Norwich in the state of Connecticut. Preston and Norwich were originally the territory of the Pequot tribe. The tribe was eventually pushed out and the Mohegan tribe took ownership, handing over some of the land to English settlers led by Johnathan Brewster in the 1600s. The town of Norwich was also sold by the Mohegans to settlers shortly thereafter. Agriculture became the main economic activity of the area and still continues to this day. Clay deposits were natural in the area and brick-making became another area of economic growth in the 18th and 19th century. As we have recounted in various podcasts, fires devastated towns and so building with bricks became very popular.

In 1904, one hundred acres along the Thames River became home to the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane, which was housed in one building. Ninety-five residents were held in the building originally. By the next year, 151 patients were in the building and it became necessary to build two more buildings. In 1907, another building was added. By 1915, thirteen more buildings were added and some of these buildings included residences for staff and other buildings needed to set up a small village. Norwich State Hospital was similar to Tranquille Sanatorium in that it was a self-sufficient location, growing its own food and setting up its own industry. Twenty buildings stood on the property by 1940 and each building was given the name of a founding superintendent of the American Psychiatric Association and other pioneers in the field of psychiatry. Buildings continued to be built until finally thirty buildings stood on 900 acres.

As some of the newer buildings were built, some of the older antiquated buildings were abandoned. By the 1970s, only seven of the original buildings were still in use. Buildings were connected by underground tunnels. These tunnels were used to run utilities, but patients were transported through them as well. The architecture of the buildings ranges from Modern to Gothic Revival to Colonial Revival. Early residents were the criminally insane, but eventually others would live at the hospital. The elderly were sent here, along with those who suffered from Tuberculosis and addiction. Norwich was not a pleasant place to live for many years. Reports of sexual abuse and physical abuse were investigated through the years. Other harsh treatment was discovered to have happened. Patients were starved, restrained, confined and packed in ice. Electric shock treatments were used up until the 80s. And of course, lobotomies were used as a last resort to control the most out of control patients.

Tragedies became a part of the Norwich State Hospital history as well starting in 1914 when a resident hung himself. In 1917, a hot water heater exploded and two employees were killed. Many patients died while at the hospital and some of those deaths occurred because of treatment. A nurse committed suicide at her home and another employee was hit by a car and killed while crossing the street. Salmon Hall was closed in 1971 after years of housing the worst of the worst. Incarceration in this building was tough and unpleasant. In 1988, the buildings of the Norwich State Hospital were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Patients were able to participate in different activities and classes. There was occupational therapy in one of the buildings. Piano lessons were given, along with the teaching of different arts and crafts. Classes taught patients how to manage their lives on the outside of the campus. They were prepared well before returning to society in how to grocery shop, cook, make beds and social workers would help with the transition. New drugs helped to decrease the population at Norwich.

The hospital was closed in 1996 and the remaining patients were transferred to the Connecticut State Hospital. The state sold the property to the cities of Norwich and Preston for $1 and future plans for the property have not been decided. Some people want everything demolished and a nice preserve set up, while others believe the buildings could be developed as apartments. A development that was called Utopia became a source of conflict. Utopia did not have the money for clean-up and they did not seem interested in cleaning up the medical waste and such at the site. Most of the buildings had already been demolished by 2014 with the Administration building undergoing weatherizing and some restoration to save it. The costs of restoration would have been huge as most buildings were dilapidated. The city employs a private security company for the grounds and there is no trespassing allowed. There is hope that when the property is completely clean, developers will come running.

Stories of hauntings and supernatural experiences at the hospital have grown through the years. The main people who have been at the Norwich State Hospital since its closure have been members of  the security staff. One can imagine that patrolling a crumbling property full of sad and tortured emotions can be a haunting experience. Guards have reported paranormal activity for years. The lobotomy rooms give off strange beeping noises. When the buildings were still standing, many of them contained the haunting screams of unseen beings. There was talking and mumbling as well. A chilling air permeated many of the rooms when people walked through them.  One room in particular held the cries of an unseen woman in anguish. Apparitions of children have been seen as well and we saw some old photos that had both adult men and boys in the same rooms sitting at tables together. So children were definitely here. A doctor claimed that he saw two children looking out a window of the Salmon Building - the one that housed the criminally insane.

There are rumors that a student group help their initiations in one of the buildings and that perhaps they opened some kind of portal. Even demolitions cannot close portals. One investigator that had been in a few buildings before they were torn down got several pictures of columns of light and in two images there were clear pictures of faces. His cell phone was also completely drained when he entered a building. Maintenance people have seen weird lights on top of some of the buildings that resemble laser lights. Earle Building reportedly had doors that slammed on their own and tools were moved around. The tunnels have had screams heard in them. And people have claimed to hear screams in the Morgue as well.

Ghost Hunters featured Norwich State Hospital as the season six finale in 2010. They have been the only paranormal investigators allowed to check out the property. Obviously, a reality show's investigation is dubious at best, but since they are the people who have been able to investigate, we figured we would share their results. Now that most buildings are gone, there is not much to investigate anymore. But when TAPS was there, they were able to check out several buildings.The female investigators were in the hospital when they heard something dragging or sliding down the hallway towards them.They claimed that building felt particularly creepy. They heard audible talking as well. On the video later, a door does partially close on its own behind the girls. They heard shuffling in another building. Rats? Building falling apart? Two other male investigators also heard some dragging in a building they were investigating. They said it sounded like a piece of wood dragging on the floor above them. They saw a shadow figure peek around a corner too. Jason and Grant saw shadow people in an old research building and they heard moaning that reminded them of someone meditating. Diane did hear an audible whimpering during one part of the show like a dog. There are reports that animals were experimented upon at Norwich.

The buildings at Norwich State Hospital were once beautiful structures. Can tearing down buildings send spirits away? Or could the spirits of those at unrest be tethered to the land in some way? If the cities ever decide upon a plan for the land and the remaining structures, will any new buildings still be plagued by supernatural activity? Was Norwich State Hospital haunted and could it still be haunted? That is for you to decide!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 45 - The History and Haunting of Dolls

Moment in Oddity - The St. Louis Ghost Train

Residents of St. Louis, Saskatchewan have long reported sightings of a peculiar thing at an old railway crossing outside of their village. When people are out near the railroad tracks at night, they can see a bright light off in the distance, which resembles the light on an old railroad engine. The light gets closer and closer to the witnesses. As it gets closer, people claim that they can see a little red light near the bigger regular light. Before the light gets to the witnesses, it disappears. Local legend tells of a conductor who was accidentally decapitated by a train at this stretch of the railway. People believe the large light is the ghost train and that the red light is from the deceased conductor's lantern. Adding to the mystery is the fact that no train has run on this line for 30 years and the tracks are actually no longer there either. And although a couple of high school students debunked the ghost train while conducting a science fair experiment, claiming that the light was an optical illusion caused by car headlights, it should be pointed out that witnesses have reported seeing the ghost train even before cars were common place in the area. A St. Louis ghost train certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Join or Die Cartoon Premieres

On this day, May 9th, in 1754, the political cartoon known as Join or Die premieres. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was the owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette, which published the cartoon for the first time. This publication was not just the first time Join or Die ran, it was also the first political cartoon printed in America. Benjamin Franklin is the man who drew the cartoon. Most Americans are familiar with the design. The cartoon features a snake cut into eight pieces. The eight pieces represented the different colonies with New England colonies being combined together. Delaware and Georgia were omitted completely. The words "Join, or Die" were printed at the bottom. The cartoon represented Franklin's sentiments on colonial unity. Originally, the cartoon was meant to drive support for America to join Great Britain in the French and Indian War. Later, the cartoon became a symbol for freedom for the colonists during the American Revolution. The words were changed to Unite or Die during this time.

History and Haunting of Dolls

Dolls are one of the oldest and original toys. Dolls have been used for more than just play though. Sometimes they are used in religious rites, for magic or education. The main characteristic of dolls is the fact that they are made to resemble human beings. Could some dolls carry more than just a resemblance to humans? Could some of them contain a soul or spirit? Join us as we explore a brief history of dolls and then share the tales of many dolls that seem to do more than just sit idly and stare blankly into space.

The earliest dolls date back to 2000 BC and have been found in Egypt, but it is believed that dolls have been around since the dawn of human existence. Paddle Dolls are these types of early dolls found in Egypt and they were made from wood. Other early dolls were constructed from a variety of materials, including wood, clay, bone, ivory, leather, rags, soapstone and wax. Dolls with articulated limbs have been found as early as 200 BC. Many of these early dolls could be dressed and undressed and wore the fashions of the day. A girl would carry her doll throughout her young life in Roman and Greek society and then when she decided to marry, she would dedicate her doll to a goddess.

Various cultures have their own distinct dolls. Japan has Dogu figurines, Haniwa, Hina, Kokeshi and Daruma dolls. The Hina dolls are constructed from straw and wood and are elaborately painted, while the Dogu and Haniwa are made from clay and seem to be more decorative. Kokeshi dolls are made from wood. Daruma dolls are hollow and are considered good luck charms. The Ashanti people had Akuaba dolls, which were used in fertility ceremonies. Effigies, which are dolls meant to resemble actual people, have been used for centuries in various locations from African countries to European countries to indigenous populations. The most well known is a Voodoo doll, of course. The Hopi Indians called their dolls Kachina dolls and they were believed to harbor spirits of the gods and were fashioned to resemble the gods. Early North American dolls were apple dolls, which used dried apples for heads. Corn husk dolls were popular with Native Americans. Russia has the Matryoshka dolls, which are the nesting dolls we all know so well.

Clay dolls were made in Germany starting in the 13th Century and by the 15th Century, wood dolls had become more popular. It was in the 15th Century that doll making became more popular in most European countries. Wood was dominant in doll making until the 19th Century. It was after the Civil War that doll making became an industry in the United States. Other materials were soon introduced and combined with wood. Many of these dolls were constructed from papier-mache with leather bodies and wooden legs. The ingredients used to make papier-mache was closely guarded by manufacturers. Weird ingredients like eggshells and ash were sometimes used. English dollmakers Pierotti, Montenari and Meech began using wax in the production of dolls. These were the most lifelike dolls and glass was fashioned for eyes. Hair was individually applied to each doll and they were dressed in the finest fashions. Over time, these dolls heads would become cracked from expansion and contraction of the wax.

It was at this same time that china dolls began to be made. Only the heads were made from china and they were attached to bodies stuffed with straw or cotton. The finest dolls of the 1800s came out of France. Fine fashion dolls were produced by makers like Francois Gaultier, Jumeau, Barrois, Huret, Rohmer, and Bru. Bodies were fashioned from papier-mache and ball joints were added for better articulation. The French were the first to make dolls that resembled babies and children. Up until this point, dolls were made to look like adults. Germany eclipsed the French dollmakers by 1890 because they started cheap mass production. Germans made the heads from bisque and carved in the eyes. For those who do not know, both china and bisque refer to the use of porcelain as a material. Porcelein is made by firing different types of clay at temperatures above 2000 degrees. During the 1800s, rag dolls gained in popularity as well, especially in America. Mothers could make these dolls for their girls.

It was in New Jersey were celluloid was first used in doll making. This started after the Civil War and continued until 1950. The flammability of celluloid was its downfall. After World War II, plastics came into the mix. These dolls were very durable. Plastic soon was put aside for vinyl in the 1950s. Not only was it durable, but hair could be rooted into the head. Rubber and foam rubber were also used and most modern day dolls are made using these types of materials. Dolls are as popular as ever and some become all the rage like Barbie, the Cabbage Patch Dolls of the 1980s and today's Bratz and American Girl Dolls. Even boys get involved with dolls in the form of action figures.

One of the scariest movies about a doll that not only looks human, but is able to talk and move about is "Chucky." While we can sit back and watch such movies and think to ourselves that this is only Hollywood, is it possible that a doll could actually move about? Could a doll be almost real? Could spirits be just as comfortable in a doll body as they would be in a human body? When we tell you about the various haunted dolls that have been reported throughout the years, you just might find the movie "Chucky" all too real.

One of the creepiest places on the planet is the Island of the Dolls. The location is seventeen miles outside of Mexico City, Mexico and Mexicans call it "Isla de las Munecas." The area is separated by canals and it is in one of these canals that a young girl supposedly drowned. A man named Don Julian Santana Barrera had come to live in the canals and he had discovered the body. He found a doll near the body, so he nailed it to a tree. Don Julian was a hermit, but when he would venture out, he would collect discarded dolls. He began to decorate his island area with the dolls and doll parts. This was not because he really liked dolls. He apparently was being haunted by the spirit of the young girl who had drowned and he thought placing the dolls around the island would appease her restless spirit. The local town council decided to clean up the canal area in the 1990s and they were surprised to find the doll sanctuary. Or perhaps really creeped out. They left the dolls and Don Julian became a local celebrity. People started visiting the Island of the Dolls and bringing the man dolls to add to the collection. In 2001, Don Julian eventually met the same fate as the girl when he was found drowned in the canal.

Mohawk Valley Ghost Hunters sold a doll named Chandra on eBay several years ago. The paranormal investigators had originally bought the doll at a ghost convention in Virginia. Chandra had been donated to a haunted touring museum in 1991. The woman who had owned the doll claimed that she would wake in the middle of the night to sounds of a woman screaming from the basement. When the woman would investigate, she would find the window next to the doll opened. After arriving at the museum, people started having unusual experiences. Objects like office supplies would go missing. Disembodied footsteps would be heard. Lunches would go missing and be found in drawers. A weird substance has been found on the doll and in places were she has been set. After testing, the substance was found to be mostly of wood composition. Visitors to the museum claim that the doll moves. The ghost hunters claim that things had been weird for them too. They always found the doll on the floor even though she was not somewhere where she could fall onto the floor. Once, a two year old came out of the area where the doll was kept carrying Chandra. The doll was not in reach of a two year old. On another occasion, everybody heard a crash and they found the doll on the floor. A cold blast of air went by them as they entered. Someone snatched the doll up in the auction and who knows what kinds of experiences they have had.

A haunted doll named Christina was sold on eBay a few years ago and the owner sent the buyer the following letter with the doll:
Dear Shana,

Christina was originally purchased by myself at an antique store in Jefferson, Texas. And was given to my six year old daughter who named her the lovely name "Christina" I was never certain why but I believed it was after my deceased grandmother who she never knew.

I do not know why I bought such a fine antiqued porcelain doll for such a young child. Then again, but I knew instinctively I was to do this and in my life the doll would stay.

The doll was originally made in the late 1800's and she was not cheap. An original doll from England as I was told since her condition was so perfect at the time cost me $500.00.

The store I bought her in was called the Red Barn, and it's still there today. An old man waited on me I will never forget. He was very nice as he shuffled around pointing at the doll with his nice silver headed cane. He told me to notice that this doll was looking at me and wanted to go home with me. I said oh really.

I told him she was nice but I had a small child that would destroy her. He then looked me in the eye and said lady that doll is telling me it wants to live with you and will love your daughter until the day she dies and she will be no trouble at all. I was taken back because the man was talking to me as if he could hear the doll telling him just what to say. so I bought her and did not quibble about the price because I knew the doll was worth much more.

My daughter Jasmine Elisabeth Croaker was only 6 years old at the time. Everyone told me why would I give my child such an expensive present. I said i's not the price it's that fact of the happy memories it will give me and her. And of course Jasmine Elisabeth Croaker fell in love with her at first sight.

Christina lived with Jasmine day and night, I do mean lived. she had to sit on the toilet at bath time, She even went pre school and a few years of kinder garden. Jasmine informed me one day that Christina told her that she was bored and would rather stay home.

When Christina's right leg was broken accidentally by her best friend Connie Kaye. Jasmine cried real tears all day for the terrible tragedy it was just so devastating. And she flung her self about as I bandaged the nub that was left. I was told by my daughter or should I say informed that there had to be a professional funeral for the shattered leg, and Connie had to attend no if's ands or buts about it. I was stunned but I did what Jasmine asked. My husband built a little coffin out of a old cigar box that he cut to scale like a small pinch toed coffin. Jasmine told us it was just like the one Christina envisioned.

So we set to have the funeral as I was told to put the shattered pieces in the freezer. Jasmine called all her friends, and old our family. And told them to come dressed for the funeral which was to be held the next day. she said it had to be buried right away because the next day was Sunday and Christina not only was upset because she had one foot in the grave but because if it was buried on a Sunday the leg would go straight to hell.

Though Christina told Jasmine after that to never speak to her again Jasmine never did.

Jasmine carried her around as an invalid for many months that turned into a year or more. I constantly had to replace her bandage daily as Jasmine told me Christina instructed her to tell me. I also had to check it out for infection and what ever other malady Christina told her for me to check. She also told me that Christina would wake her in the night complaining of phantom pains where her missing leg once was. At this point I was beginning to think my kid just had a great imagination. Because in the early 1980's no one ever thought about a child's doll being really haunted.

Jasmine once woke me up screaming that the pain in Christina leg felt like fire ants were eating it. So in the middle of the night went to grave of the leg to see that it was now a mound of fire ants.

I personally believed the doll is haunted from that point on. Then I had to find a way to take the doll away. So I came up with a plan and have kept her locked away since. I told my daughter that Christina had decided she wanted see her mother and went to visit her friends and family back in England. then I locked her away in a old trunk in my attic where she has been since my daughter was 7.

Her right leg is broken and buried in a unmarked grave in someone's backyard in Henderson, Texas. I have since moved to El Paso. I hope she does not haunt you too much, and she has a new wonderful time with you to study.


Mrs. D. Croaker
Marie Ford who lives in Washington claims that she owns a haunted doll named Alice. Her grandmother had named the doll after her best friend who had died. The grandmother claimed that Alice's spirit resided in the doll and perhaps it does. Marie says that the doll's eyes follow you wherever you go in the room, the doll's expression changes and that she whispers in a ghostly voice when you press your ear to her porcelain lips. Marie claims to have caught EVPs from the doll saying, "I want to be left alone to suffer."

From Japan comes the Haunted Doll of Hokkaido. In 1918, a 17 year old Japanese man bought a present for his sister while he was at a marine exhibition on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was a doll named Okiku. The doll was sixteen inches tall and wore a kimono. The face was white porcelain with black eyes and the hair was black and hung to shoulder length. Remember that last detail. The doll's name was actually the little sister's name as well. She loved the doll and took it everywhere with her. Unfortunately, the little sister got the flu a year later and she died. The doll was placed on an altar in remembrance of the child. And then the doll's perfectly cropped hair began to grow. It grew irregularly. The growing stopped when it reached knee length. The family cut the hair and it grew again until it hit knee length. They decided that the little girl's spirit must be inside the doll. When the family moved, they took the doll to the Mannenji Temple where it resides to this day. And yes, the priest's have cut the doll's hair and it did grow again.

Then there is the exorcist doll. This doll has no name, but it is believed that it was made in 1740. Reverend Thomas Blythe somehow became owner of the doll and he started using it during exorcisms he would conduct on houses. The doll is thought to have been a part of at least 68 exorcisms. It was used as a distraction, something for the evil spirit to play with, but did it perhaps become a place for a spirit to inhabit? The Reverend claimed that he sometimes felt the doll was looking at him. A photographer once snapped a picture of the doll and then took another picture several minutes later. In the second picture, the doll appears to be smiling. People who saw the plates claimed that the two images showed different expressions. In 1888, the doll was given to Cedric Argyle of London. The doll then made its way to a dime store where it became an attraction and people would take pictures of the doll to see if they could capture changing expressions. The doll then ended up in the Museum of Curios in Cornwall until 2007. The doll is now privately owned.

A woman found this next doll at a resort in Clearwater, Florida. She unfortunately did not share the name of the establishment, but it dates from the late 1800s and is suppose to be haunted according to a security guard she asked. She and her husband had heard a woman moaning while they toured the hotel after midnight and when they investigated, they found the doll sitting next to the stairs. The woman took the doll home as a souvenir. After getting home, the woman was having trouble sleeping, so she was sitting on the computer around 3am. The doorbell rang and she jumped. She got her husband and when they both checked, they found no one at the door. The following day, a tremendous crash came from a room. When the couple investigated, they found nothing amiss. The woman auctioned the doll off on eBay.

A doll named Joliet has haunted a family for several generations. A woman named Anna claims that her great grandmother was given the doll by a vengeful friend who had cursed the doll. When the great grandmother gave birth to a boy, the child died three days later. Each generation of girls would give birth to a boy and a girl, but the boys always died on day three. The doll continued to be handed down through the generations. People claim to hear inhuman screams coming from the doll and baby cries. Could this be the cries of the deceased baby boys?

Could Elmo be haunted? For the Bowman family, he certainly was haunted. The Bowmans bought their two year old toddler, James, an Elmo Knows Your Name Doll. This was a talking doll that could repeat a child's name. That is fun and not creepy. But when the doll adds the word "kill" in front of the child's name, that gets creepy. This all started after the family changed Elmo's batteries for the first time. Elmo started saying "Kill James" so often that the mother took the doll away. Fisher Price issued the family a voucher. No one knows if they bought another Elmo doll.

We dicussed Robert the Doll in an earlier podcast, but another very famous haunted doll is Annabelle. Some people may know this doll from a recent horror movie. They doll in the movie is far different than the real Annabelle, which is a Raggedy Ann doll. Famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are the people who discovered Annabelle and took possession of her, keeping her locked up in a case. A mother originally bought the doll at an antique shop for her daughter Donna. Donna had been away at college and the mother thought she would appreciate it. Donna loved it and put the doll on her bed. Donna and her roommate began to notice that the doll seemed to change positions. At first the changes were subtle, but over time, there was no mistaking that the doll was moving on its own. Then the doll started moving into other rooms. Creepy messages would be found on scraps of parchment paper that appeared to be scribbled by a child. No parchment paper was kept in the apartment. The messages asked for help. On another occassion, Donna and her roommate found the doll kneeling on a chair at the table. When they tried to make the doll kneel themselves, it would fall over. One day Donna came home and got a really eerie feeling from the doll. When she inspected it, she found blood on the doll. Donna asked a medium for help and the medium claimed a spirit resided in the doll named Annabelle Higgins. The real Annabelle Higgins had been found in the field where the apartment now stood at the age of seven, dead. The doll began to give off some really unsettling feelings and the Warrens were called in and they took the doll. They always claimed that the doll was possessed by a demon.

Dolls are wonderful parts of many people's childhoods, but they can also be pretty creepy. Do dolls take on a life of their own because we will them to have that life? Are haunted dolls just part of overactive imaginations? Can spirits reside in dolls? Can dolls be haunted? That is for you to decide.

Monday, May 4, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 44 - Haunted Disneyland

Moment in Oddity -Famous Historical Figures and Their Odd Pets

Some of history's most famous figures had some really odd pets. President Andrew Jackson had a foul mouthed gray parrot. Unfortunately, this was revealed at his funeral when the parrot began cursing in the middle of the funeral. President John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator that he had been re-gifted by the Marquis de Lafayette. The alligator was kept in the East Room bathtub. Lord Byron owned both a wolf and a bear. When he was staying in Venice, a friend reported that Byron had the following pets there with him: 8 dogs, five cats, 10 horses, 3 monkeys, a crow, an eagle, a falcon and 5 peacocks. Roman aristocrat Lucius Licinius Crassus kept a moray eel as a pet. He even put a necklace and earrings on the thing. French Romantic Poet Gerard de Nerval had a pet lobster. He had the lobster walked around the gardens of Paris on a leash. He wrote, "Lobsters are peaceful, serious creatures, who know the secrets of the sea and don't bark." Well, they may not bark, but they sure are tasty. We love our furry pets, but the idea of keeping some of these weird pets is quite odd.

This Day in History - Fire at Paris' Rue Jean Goujon

On this day, May 4th, in 1897, a fire rages through Rue Jean Goujon, a Paris bazaar. The fire started at 4pm in the afternoon. The Duchess d'Uzes and other prominent women were hosting a bazaar for charity at the location. This was something they had done every year since 1885. The bazaar was arranged in such a way that the booths would represent a Paris street. Fifteen hundred people attended the event. The papers the following day reported that the fire started with an illuminating apparatus of the cinematograph that exploded and set fire to the Turkish curtains and hangings. The whole left side of the bazaar was immediately engulfed in flames. People towards the front of the building escaped, but people in the back were trapped. There were doors there for employees, but the patrons had no idea. People were crushed to death against the right side of the building. Firemen arrived and threw hundreds of buckets of water on the fire. It was no use. The building soon collapsed. Charred remains were five feet deep. The mansions in the vicinity became hospitals for the injured of which there were hundreds. In all, two hundred people were killed including French General Meunier and the sister of the Empress of Austria.

Haunted Disneyland

The Haunted Mansion at California's Disneyland Resort is one of the park's more famous and beloved attractions. What if that mansion were really haunted? Could it be? And what of the rest of the park? Could a park that was the heart and soul of Walt Disney go on without his spirit somehow sticking around? Disneyland was inspired by a dream to build a place where all the members of a family could have fun and this "Happiest Place on Earth" has been fulfilling that dream for sixty years. Come with us on a magical journey as we share the history and hauntings of Disneyland!

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901. His parents were Irish-Canadian Elias Disney and German-American Flora Call Disney. The name Disney is the anglicized version of d'Isigny. The Frenchman Robert d'Isigny was Walt's ancestor and he had travelled to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. The Disneys had four boys and one girl. Besides Walt, there was Herbert, Ray, Roy and Ruth. Walt was born in Chicago, Illinois, but the family soon moved to Marceline, Missouri, a town that would later inspire the main streets of all the Disney Parks. Walt loved to draw and began his career early, selling doodle art to neighbors at the age of seven. A love for trains developed at this time too and Walt spent a summer selling snacks on the local railway. Herbert and Ray ran away from home in 1906, fed up with too much work and no pay. Walt started school in Marceline in 1909 and then the family moved to Kansas City in 1911.

Walt attended art courses on Saturdays at the Kansas City Art Institute. During the week, he went to school and delivered the The Kansas City Star newspaper. The newspaper delivery business was hard work and Walt would fall asleep during class due to lack of sleep because of the hours he kept. He would rise at 4:30am every day with his brother Roy and deliver papers until the school bell rang. Then after school, the boys would finish their route, which grew to 700 customers. In 1917, the Disney family moved back to Chicago and Walt attended high school there. He became the cartoonist for the school paper. This did not last long as Walt dropped out of school at sixteen and tried to join the Army. He was rejected for being too young, so he joined the Red Cross. He drove an ambulance for a year in France and covered that ambulance in cartoons.

In 1919, Walt moved back to Kansas City and tried to find work drawing for newspapers. He was unable, but his brother Roy, who had become a banker in Kansas City, got him a job through a colleague at an art studio where he met fellow cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks. The two men would go on to start their own commercial company together. The business was a flop and the two men went back to working for another company where Disney learned about animation and fell in love with it. Animation had started out as cut-outs, but Walt soon found that cel art was much better. He recruited a fellow artist and the two men began creating Laugh-O-Gram shorts, which featured Aesop's Fables and they were screened at a local theater. Based on the success of these, Walt opened his own animation studio, but he was horrible with money and soon was bankrupt.

Walt did what all dreamers do, he packed up and headed for Hollywood. Roy joined Walt and they pooled their money to open a new animation studio, Disney Brothers' Studios. In 1925, Walt hired Lillian Bounds to do inking for the studio and the two soon began courting and were married in July of that same year. The Disney Studios began with the Alice Comedies based on Alice in Wonderland and they were very successful. The shorts incorporated live action with cartoons. Just the first sign of the innovation Walt would bring to animation. Next came Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt was hired by Universal to produce the cartoons. These were wildly popular, but ended in another failure for Walt. He did not know much about contracts and had not realized that Universal had put his animators and the character Oswald under contract. When Walt went to Universal to request higher compensation, he was told that he could take a pay cut if he liked. When Walt threatened to walk, he found out the news about the contract. He walked anyway and lost Oswald and all his artists except Ubbe Iwerks. Oswald did return to the Disney family in 2006.

Walt had a pet mouse and he decided to base his next character on that mouse. He scratched out a cartoon mouse and named him Mortimer. Lillian thought the name was not cute and suggested Mickey instead. Ubbe Iwerks reworked Walt's original cartoon and Mickey Mouse was born. Walt himself became the voice of Mickey until 1947. "Plane Crazy" was Mickey's first cartoon and it was silent. The first sound cartoon for Mickey was "Steamboat Willie." It was a raging success and Mickey soon was more popular than Felix the Cat. "Silly Symphonies" was the next animated outlet for the Disney Studios and while they were successful, they were not as popular as Mickey. Betty Boop was on the scene and started garnering most of the attention in cartoons, so Walt was ready to give up on his "Silly Symphonies" until a man appraoched him and convinced him to try Technicolor in the cartoon "Flowers and Trees." It was a huge success and Walt won his first Academy Award for the short. Another Academy Award was awarded to Walt in 1932 for his creation of Mickey Mouse.

Other characters were added to the mix in the form of Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Minnie Mouse. Donald Duck would become the second most popular Disney character of all time. At this time, Lillian Disney gave birth to a daughter and three years later adopted a little girl. The next big thing for Walt became known as "Disney's Folly" when he developed a full length animated movie that is today the beloved classic, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." The film was in production for three years when the Disney Studio ran out of money. Walt showed investors a rough cut of the film and managed to get the rest financed. The film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937. The film was a huge success and won Walt another Academy Award. More movies followed and as they say, the rest is history when it comes to animation and Disney Studios.

Walt was unsatisfied in one area though. He would take his two daughters to parks and watch them play on the merry-go-round. He would think to himself that it would be fun to ride with them and that there must be a way for a park to be built that all family members could enjoy together. In the late 1940s, he began sketching out ideas about such a park. Walt started WED Enterprises and transferred a small group of employees from the Studios to the new company and they were dubbed Imagineers. He directed them to design the park and make sure that it was encircled by a train because of his love for trains. Originally the park was designed to be next to Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The area was only eight acres and the group knew that eight acres would not be enough land. In 1953, a search was conducted for an area that would measure 100 acres and be inside the Los Angeles area near the highway. And the land would have to be cheap because Disney only had so much money. The perfect spot was located in Anaheim, California.

WED Enterprises ended up purchasing a 160 acres orange grove in Anaheim. Now they needed money to build the park and investors were skeptical. Talk of flying elephants, moon rockets, giant teacups and magic was not catchy to bankers. Walt needed to do something else to get financing and he decided to turn to television and share with America his vision. "Walt Disney's Disneyland" began airing on television, sharing details about the development of the park. ABC, which had just gotten started, agreed to help finance Disneyland if Walt aired the show with them and construction began on Disneyland on July 21, 1954. This was only a year before Walt wanted to open Disneyland. The citrus trees were removed along with fifteen houses. Walt planned out five separate areas in the park that would be their own land and designed the main street, that people would enter through, to resemble the turn of the century.

Other than Main Street USA, the five lands include Adventureland, which Walt described as "an exotic tropical place...a land that would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa." There is Frontierland, which Walt described as, "All of us have a cause to be proud of our country's history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. . .Our adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country's pioneer days." There is Fantasyland, which Walt envisioned as a place where dreams come true and he said, "What youngster. . .has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice's nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone's youth have become realities for youngsters-of all ages-to participate in." At the helm of Fantasyland is Sleeping Beauty Castle. Tomorrowland is the next land and the Imagineers struggled with this because Walt knew it would be obsolete the minute it was built. Of Tomorrowland, Walt said, "Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. . .The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future." Modern day Disneyland includes Mickey's Toon Town, Critter Country and New Orleans Square.

Nurseries from San Diego to Santa Barbara were emptied of their plants as Disneyland was loaded up with greenery. The Rivers of America was carved out of the soil and a bed of clay was laid down to help hold water. The Mark Twain Riverboat was moved piece by piece up the highway. The amount of money spent bringing Disneyland to fruition topped out at $17 million. Twenty attractions were complete when Disneyland opened. Disneyland officially opened on schedule on Sunday July 17, 1955. Opening Day was televised on ABC and only invited guests were suppose to be in the park. Unfortunately, counterfeit tickets had been made and 28,000 people were at the event. Drinking fountains did not work because of a local plumber's strike, traffic was backed up for miles on the highway, the temperature reached an unusual 101 degrees and the asphalt laid down for Main Street was not dry and women's high heels were getting stuck in it. The day seemed as though it was a fiasco and Walt's big dream was a failure. But as we all know, that was far from true.

The opening day for the public was Monday and people had lined up at the front starting at 2am. Things went much better this day as Disney and his staff worked to rectify the problems of Opening Day. Food and water were made more available. A fun fact about Disneyland is that this is where Doritos were invented. The Casa de Frito pavilion figured out a way to use crushed tortilla shells, so they wouldn't go to waste. They called the snack Doritos, which means "little golden things." Frito Lay saw how popular they were and went on to produce them in mass. In 1959, the first tubular-tracked steel roller coaster was installed in Fantasyland, the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The first audio animatronics were used in the Park in 1963 inside the Enchanted Tiki Room. By 1965, Disneyland had seen 50 million visitors. Walt Disney passed away the following year in December 1966 from lung cancer.

Walt Disney's legacy lives on and some wonder if his spirit continues to live on this side of the veil. Not only does Disney's spirit seem to hang around the park, but the spirits of others seem to be here too. Above the Fire Station on Main Street is an apartment where Walt Disney really did stay sometimes. An eternal candle is burned in the window to signify that Walt is still there. Some claim that he really is there still. A cast member was dusting the apartment once and she turned off the lights when she was done. When she got outside, she glanced up and saw that the lights were on again. Thinking that perhaps she had not hit the switch hard enough, she returned and turned the lights off again. She glanced up after exiting and once again the lights were on. She marched back up to the apartment and reached for the switch again when she heard a male voice say, "Don't forget, I am still here." Some say that this is really why the candle is left burning in the window.

Walt also had an office on Main Street behind a magic shop. The room is now used for storage and when people go in there, they claim to get an eerie feeling and that there are cold spots in the room. The Emporium on Main Street has a storage room above it as well. A cast member claims that she was in the stockroom near the Hanger Wall and something jumped up and spooked her from behind. When she turned around, no one was there. New Orleans Square has stockrooms above several of its shops and cast members claim that not only Walt Disney haunts them, but also his wife Lillian and some other female ghost that calls herself Mary. The exclusive Club 33 that is located in new Orleans Square is also reputed to be haunted. A figure is seen near Sleeping Beauty's Castle after closing hours. Could this be Walt walking through, just as he had so many times before when he was alive?

The Haunted Mansion may have its 1000th ghost. Anyone who has ridden aboard a Haunted Mansion Doom Buggy knows the famous verbage of the Ghost Host inviting the rider to join the 999 haunts already in the mansion. A young boy who loved the Haunted Mansion ride died and was cremated. His mother wanted to spread his ashes at his favorite ride, but of course, Disneyland refused. Imagine the health code violations. The mother went ahead and spread them inside the ride anyway. Unfortunately, this has happened many times with the Haunted Mansion and surely these people must know that their loved one's ashes will just be swept up and tossed with the trash. Apparently, the little boy's spirit is still inside the ride. Odd noises can be heard in the dark transition tunnel before guests board their doom buggies and the young boy's apparition has been seen several times near the ride's exit.The ghost of a man with a cane is also seen in the mansion. His story is that his plane crashed into a lake in the 1940s near the site of the mansion and he decided to take up residence in the attraction. A man in a tuxedo has been seen in the area where guests disembark from the ride as well. Usually cast members see him out of the corner of their eye and when they turn to look, he disappears. One cast member quit after having this chilling experience. A young man died in the attraction on Grad Night. He stepped out of his doom buggy and tried to step from the walkway to the Seance Room display. He did not realize there was a gap between the areas and fell fifteen feet to his death. Is his ghost there? Who knows.

Attractions are run before the Park opens to make sure everything is operating properly. Cast members ride aboard the boats on the Pirates of the Caribbean to make sure things look good and the track is running smoothly. One morning, a cast member claimed that a young child rode part of the way in the boat with him. The child disappeared and had not been on the boat when he boarded the ride. A young boy type apparition was once caught on the cameras inside the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Blue Bayou is the restaurant inside the ride and cast members claim the restaurant is haunted. The ghost is apparently that of a man.

Disneyland has hosted Grad Nights and one year, a senior boy was dared to swim across the Rivers of America to Tom Sawyer Island. He took the dare, but drowned before he got to the other side. His ghost now apparently haunts Tom Sawyer Island. Another story is told that two boys hung out on the island until after closing. When they tried to swim to shore later, they drowned. Spirits of children have been seen running and giggling on the island after it is closed. Cast members search for the children, but never find them. Maintenance workers do not like to go to the island after dark. That cave is pretty scary even in the day!

A young mother was once killed on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. She undid her belt so she could turn around to see her children and when the bobsled made a tight turn, she was thrown from the ride and hit by the bobsled coming behind the one she had been riding in. Her name was Dolly and people claim her spirit is still at the bobsleds. They named the area where she died, Dolly's Dip.

Of course, It's a Small World would have to be haunted. Nothing goes better with creepy dolls, then hauntings. Several of the dolls have been seen moving on their own when the ride is completely shut down. The People Mover that no longer is open at Disneyland was haunted by a young man who tried to jump from the car. He got caught under the ride. He had been riding with his blonde girlfriend and now makes appearances to blonde girls on occasion near where the ride used to run. Girls claim that he tugs on their hair.

Debbi Stone was a cast member who was killed at the America Sings attraction in 1974. She was new and did not know how the attraction worked. Guests sit in a theater that moves in a circle. Debbi was crushed between two walls when the theater shifted. Her ghost was said to haunt the attraction shortly after her death. Her ghost is still seen in Tomorrowland.

Disneyland is a favorite spot for many people. Have some of those people returned to the happiest place on earth after they have died? Is Walt Disney still watching over his beloved Park? Are some cast members still working here even after their death? Could Disneyland be the most haunted place on earth? That is for you to decide!

One of the most compelling videos I've ever seen is from Disneyland. What do you think? This walking light goes through a gate and seems to walk on water toward the end. It's on multiple cameras that follow it as it walks further through New Orleans Square.