Thursday, September 10, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 67 - Raynham Hall

Moment in Oddity - Odd Creature in Russia

This comes to us from the Sydney Morning Herald:
 "A tiny alien creature that washed up on the banks of a river in north western Russia has locals and experts stumped. At first glance it looks like something borne from the abdominal cavity of a Nostromo crew member to wreak space-horror havoc on Sigourney Weaver and the human race. But the four-centimetre oddity that was found in the Leningrad region in the town of Sosnovy Bor by a woman named Tamara as she waded in the shallows of the Kovashi River, according to a local television news report. With what appears to be an elongated skull, shrunken frame and taloned limb, Tamara's friends thought it was a mutant chicken embryo. But Tamara was not convinced the creature she found - and christened 'Kesha' - was of such mundane origins. Biologist Yegor Zadareev at the Krasnoyarsk Institute of Biophysics agreed. 'It seems that this body is neither fish nor fowl … this creature has a mysterious skull, no neck and wings,' he said according to a translation of an interview on Russian TV. Kesha was to be sent to Moscow for further analysis, which is sufficiently vague to conjure images of top secret underground bunker laboratories, reverse-alien probes and mitochondrial sequencing. Kesha had alien conspiracy theorists dusting off their tin-foil hats. UFO Sighting Daily, whose other tops stories are "UFO follows The Donald Trump Helicopter, Tells US Trump will be next President", and "City on Mars Inside Alien Skull Found In India"  is eagerly awaiting the results of further tests. But Tamara's friends and their mutant chicken egg theory is closer to the money for Sosnovy Bor locals. The key word being 'mutant'. The residents of the town, which is in the shadow of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, are "naturally suspicious" of expert authority, reported the Australian duo behind the Mysterious Universe podcast report, tongues-firmly-in-cheeks. The plant had a history of disastrous industrial accidents and cover-ups, according to a former Russian Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, Vladimir Kuznetsov. Three people were killed when a cooling circuit unit ruptured the year the plant opened in 1975. Over last three decades there have been two fires, a radiation spill detected six kilometres from the site and five other major accidents at the plant. If it is a radioactive mutant spawned from a leak at the nuclear power, that makes Kesha more Blinky the fish than a flesh-eating alien."

This Day in History - Sewing Machine Patented

On this day, September 10th, in 1846, Elias Howe patents the sewing machine.  Elias was a factory worker who lost his job in the Panic of 1837. He moved to Boston where he was able to find work in a machinist shop. Elias liked to tinker and he began using some of the equipment to build a machine that could sew. When he was done with his creation, he had the first Lockstitch Sewing Machine. It took him eight years to invent. He decided to demonstrate his creation for the public and they were dazzled by this machine that could do 250 stitches per minute. It did the work of five hand sewers. He patented the machine in Conneticut. Many legal battles ensued as Elias tried to prtotect his invention from being copied. Other inventors like Isacc Singer improved on the mechanism, but ended up having to pay Elias some of their profits since the original was his to begin with. Elias made over 2 million dollars with his sewing machine and during the Civil War, he donated some of his money to the Union Army.

Raynham Hall   *All photos courtesy of Philip Childers*

Raynham Hall has seen much history in its time. The homestead survived the Revolutionary War and occupation by a British regiment. It was part of a spy ring as well. It has survived years of additions being added to the building and the changing of hands. Something else has survived from the past as well. It would seem the spirits of the former occupants have decided to stay as well. Come with us as we explore the history and hauntings of Raynham Hall.

The city of Oyster Bay was first settled by the Matinecock Indians, which were really from the Lenape people. The first European settlers arrived in 1650. Both the Dutch and English set up camp here and the boundaries between the two were very fluid. The area was given the name Oyster Bay because oysters were plentiful in the waters. Many of the Dutch settlers were Quakers. The Townshend family were some of the Quakers who came fleeing religious persecution. and their family would have deep roots in the shipping business. Oyster Bay received its charter from England in 1667, after the Dutch relinquished control and within twenty years, all the land still owned by the Indians had been sold.

Samuel Townshend was born in 1717. He was 23-years-old when he moved from Jericho, New York to Oyster Bay. He purchased land there in 1740 that would provide him better access to the waterfront. He was building a shipping business with his brother Jacob and this location would be perfect. He built a four room frame home initially, which meant the house was built with two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second floor and there was a central chimney. This proved to be too small for him and so he added four more rooms to the north side of the house. The home was considered to be of the "saltbox" style. That style referred to homes built with a wooden frame and a pitched roof that slopes back farther in the back, so basically the rear roof is longer than the front roof. Salt was kept in boxes like this, thus the name. He dubbed it "The Homestead" and it officially became known as the Townshend Homestead. The reason the home became too small was because Samuel married Sarah Stoddard and they ended up having eight children.

The shipping business flourished and by 1765, the Townshend brothers owned four ships and were sailing them to far off locations like South America, the West Indies and Europe. The ships exported goods like rum, fabric and molasses along with lumber. Samuel also imported goods and decided to set up shop as a merchant from his home. As his business grew, Samuel grew in prominence and he decided to get involved with politics. His first government position was as Justice of the Peace for Oyster Bay. As the drum beat of revolution grew across the colonies, Samuel took part as a member of New York's Provincial Congress serving from 1774-1777. When the Revolutionary War was over, Samuel became a State Senator for New York.

Samuel's endeavours during the Revolutionary War and his loyal patriotism made life very dangerous for him and his family in New York. The British occupied much of New York for a substantial amount of time. Many people found themselves on prison ships where they would die. It is estimated that 10,000 people from New York died on these ships.The British came to Townshend Homestead and burst open the door. They took a rifle down from the mantle and smashed it declaring that a rebel had no right to a gun. Samuel was arrested and led away in chains. A neighbor who supported the British crown saw Samuel being led away and he followed. He was good friends with the Townshends despite their political differences and he paid a large sum of money to the soldiers in order to gain Samuel's freedom. We're not sure how happy he was to have done this after Samuel entered politics, but because of what he had done, he was allowed to stay when the British vacated. The British did occupy the Townshend Homestead and use it as a meeting place for Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe from 1778-1779. Simcoe fell in love with Samuel's daughter Sarah and wrote her the first recorded Valentine. No one knows if Sarah felt the same way, but she never did marry.

Robert Townshend was Samuel's fifth child. Two of his older siblings, Phebe and Solomon I, died as infants and older brother Samuel Jr. died of fever in 1773. His other older brother Solomon II was Captain of the Glasgow, which was a ship owned by their Tory neighbor that had helped free their father, and although the ship belonged to a Tory, Solomon was a loyal rebel who had met up with Benjamin Franklin in London. Robert was a loyal patriot as well, which led him to become a spy. George Washington had formed an intelliegence ring dubbed the Culper Spy Ring. Robert joined the ring in 1778 and he used his business as a merchant as a cover. Robert's code name was Culper Jr. and he sent messages to Washington as a result of information he gathered while eavesdropping on the british. The messages were encoded with a secret numerical code and sometimes written in invisible ink using a formula developed by John Jay's brother James. Washington used a re-agent solution to make the ink visible. The Culper Spy Ring's greatest moment came when they alerted Washington to an attack on the French fleet landing in Rhode Island. Robert kept his spy work a secret from his family his entire life. It was not revealed until 1930.

Samuel died in 1790 and his family continued to live at Townshend Homestead. Phebe lived in the home with Sarah and Robert. You might be getting confused by some of these children's names because the Townshends used the same names for a couple of the children. There were two Solomons and two Phebes. This Phebe that lived a long life caused quite a scandal. She was what we would today refer to as a cougar. An older woman who marries a young man. When Phebe was 45 she married Dr. Ebenezer Seeley who was only 26. Seeley would later become owner of the property. In 1851, a grandson named Solomon redesigned the property in the Victorian style, which was popular at the time. He added carpeting, decorative wallpaper and ornate furnishings. It was at this time that the homestead became known as Raynham Hall because Solomon wanted to project wealth. The name is taken from the Townshend Seat in Norfolk, England.

The house continued to pass down through the family, enduring a legal battle, being sold off for debt and being bought back by family again. It was transformed into a tea room for a time in the 1930s and was used by the Oyster Bay Historical and Geneological Society. A great granddaughter deeded the home to the Daughters of the American Revolution who eventually found it too expensive to upkeep the property.  The town of Oyster Bay bought the property in 1947 and they restored the buildings front area to its original look from the 18th century. The building opened as a museum in 1958 and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

In 1938, Raynham Hall was under the ownership of Julia Weeks Cole. She was a descendent of Samuel Townshend. She wrote an article for the Glen Cove Record detailing some paranormal experiences that she had heard had taken place here. One story tells of the apparition of a ghost rider on horseback. A woman staying overnight was awakened from her dreams from the sounds of a horse outside her window. When she looked out, she saw the spirit. Some think this is the ghost of a British soldier named Major John Andre who was hung for treason after paying many visits to Raynham Hall. Others think the spectre is simply a harbinger of doom.

Julia also wrote that the ghost of Robert Townshend has been seen on the stairs even though they were a newly built part of the home. The stairs are actually the most active area of the home. The swishing of petticoats is heard near the base of the stairs. Michael Conlin was a worker at the home who tended to the gardens in 1860s. His apparition has been seen out in the garden. He wears a coat with brass buttons and sometimes appears without his legs. He has dark curly hair and a moustache and beard. Staff members report hearing disembodied footsteps.

Sally Townshend's old room is always chilly and has an oppressive feeling of sadness. Perhaps over her loss of her Valentine as she died a spinster. The sweet smell of apple and cinnamon are smelled in the kitchen as if reaching back from the past. Of course, this may not be strange considering that apple scent is used in homes all the time. Pipe smoke is smelled as well. The scent comes from an area of the home where Samuel used to sit in front of the woodburning stove smoking his pipe. EVPs have been captured by investigators and we listened to a few. On one we did clearly hear the word "Johnson" said in a lower tone. Where that name comes from, we don't know. Another was creepy as hell because you can distinctly make out the screams of someone behind the talking of an investigator.

Raynham Hall has been a museum for several decades, rather than a residence. But it would seem that someone or something is residing at this location. Are members of the Townshend family still here in spirit? Is Raynham Hall haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
To listen to the EVPs:

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