Friday, October 9, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 74 - Gettysburg

Moment in Oddity - The Nagyrev Poisonings

It all started in 1911, during World War I. Lonely soldiers' wives in the Hungarian town of Nagyrev decided to comfort their loneliness in the arms of the enemy. Allied POWs were being kept in the town and many of these women took them as lovers and some were impregnated. A midwife by the name of Julia Fazekas came to town that year. Her own husband had mysteriously disappeared. The women of Nagyrev came to her with their problems. Fazekas performed abortions on many of the women who were pregnant. And for the girls who came to her complaining that they had been forced to marry the men that were now off to war and that they wanted out to be with their foreign lovers, she helped teach them how to make arsenic by boiling flypaper and skimming the poison off the top of the water. When the men returned from war, they would eat food made with the arsenic and die. Now you might think that suspicions would grow when the village clerk started recording all these deaths as murder. But the village clerk did not record the deaths as murder because she just happened to be the cousin of Fazekas. The poisonings soon spread from the returning soldiers to other family members. These young women would off their parents as well since they considered them a burden. Every little problem was solved with arsenic. By the time a neighboring town caught wind of what was going on in Nagyrev, 300 people had been murdered by 50 different women. The idea that arsenic poisoning could become a fad certainly is odd!

This Day in History - First Railway in Ireland Opens

On this day, October 9th, in 1834, the Dublin and Kingston Railway opens in Ireland. It was the first railway system for the country and it was not completed without jumping through some hoops. Not everyone was keen on having the railway, particularly if it affected them personally. The line was going to run for six miles between Westland Row in Dublin and Kingstown Harbor in County Dublin. This meant having to cross through the property of two landowners, one of whom was Lord Cloncurry. Cloncurry was an Irish politician famously known for his adultery lawsuit against Sir John Piers. Cloncurry decided that he was going to make some elaborate requests of the railway company before he would agree to let them use his land. He demanded that they build him a foot bridge over the line so that he could cross to his bathing area. He wanted the bridge to have a Romanesque temple built on it as well, complete with a tunnel for him to go through and a cutting to maintain his privacy. The other landowner made a simpler request of a large sum of money. The Dublin and Kingston Railway ran on that October 9th with eight carriage cars pulled by a locomotive named Hibernia. The line remains today as a part of the DART line, which is the Dublin Area Rapid Transit.

Gettysburg  (Research Assistants: Steven Pappas and Amy Connor)

The Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the most famous battle of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln even gave one of his most enduring speeches from Gettysburg and named it the Gettysburg Address. Nearly every American knows the first line, which reads, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Many men died during that battle and it was truly the turning point of the war and the beginning of the defeat of the Confederacy. Perhaps this is why the Battle of Gettysburg continues to this day. Not just as a part of re-enactments, but as ghostly battles continuing on the field. Countless witnesses have reported seeing the battle, hearing the sounds of the battle and bumping into ghostly soldiers. Today, we explore the history and hauntings of Gettysburg.

The town of Gettysburg is a borough and the Adams county seat in Pennsylvania. In 1736, the land that now makes up the center of Adams County was purchased by William Penn's family from the Iroquois Indian tribe. At the time, the land was called Marsh Creek. The majority of the first settlers were of Scots-Irish descent that had fled Northern Ireland to escape English persecution. The French-Indian War led the residents of Adams County to become victim to several raids. One such event took place on April 5, 1758. The Jameson family was attacked at dawn. There were several children in the family, including a daughter, Mary who was around 16 at the time. Mary was captured and two sons escaped. Several other family members were captured and taken West. Only the fate of Mary's parents is known, they were murdered on the trip West. Two Seneca women later adopted Mary. She had multiple opportunities to return to the "white" world, but chose to remain with the Native Americans. Later in life she married two Indian chiefs and bore several children. Mary died in 1833 in her 90's. There is a life-sized monument dedicated to her memory at St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic church in Pennsylvania.

The Bard family fell victim to a similar attack on April 13, 1758. Their home was raided and their infant was murdered. Catherine Bard was kidnapped, but her husband escaped and was able to bargain for her release. It's important to note that raids only occurred during the French-Indian war. At the close of the war, residents were able to again exist peacefully.

In 1761, Samuel Gettys, an early settler of the area, opened a tavern. A short 25 years later, his son, James, had added 210 lots to the town which included a town square. Back then Gettysburg was part of York County. But in 1790 the residents decided to separate from York County. In 1800 the state legislature approved a new county. And so, Adams county was born, named after then president John Adams. The residents chose Gettysburg as the county seat and named the city for the Gettys family.

In 1860, Gettysburg had a population of 2,400 people. As many as ten roads led in and out of town making a small, but successful economy possible. There were approximately 450 buildings that held merchants, banks and taverns. Also included were carriage builders, shoemakers and tanneries. Gettysburg was also home to several schools and other educational facilities. The burgeoning industries and road system led two armies to Gettysburg in the summer of 1863.

When the summer of 1863 rolled around, the Confederate Army, led by General Robert E Lee, had achieved many victories. This convinced Lee that his army was ready to invade the north. This decision moved both armies from war-ravaged Northern Virginia toward Pennsylvania. Lee thought that once he invaded the North , and if by chance he was victorious, the tired and haggard North would pressure the Lincoln administration to end the war.

The 75,000 man Confederate Army was marching toward central Pennsylvania when on June 30 they learned that the 95,000 man Union Army led by George C Meade was pursuing them. Both armies arrived in Gettysburg on July 1st and thus began the Battle of Gettysburg. A battle that would last three days, but live on in infamy. General Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate forces and General George Meade commanded the Union Army. Two small factions of Confederates headed to Gettysburg, led by Hill and Ewell, to gather supplies. Unbeknownst to them, a Union cavalry was already there, but they were few in number and the Confederates drove them back to Cemetery Hill. Lee saw the advantage his men had and he ordered Ewell, who had taken over for the mortally wounded Stonewall Jackson, to attack Cemetery Hill. Ewell was worried that there were too many Union forces and he delayed. Because of this delay, Union reinforcements were allowed to arrive that evening and fortify Cemetery Ridge all the way to Little Round Top.

The following morning, July 2nd, Lee decided to attack the Union where it stood. He directed two of his leaders to attack from each side while he drove through the center. Lee had wanted to strike early, but one group of Confederates were not in position until 4pm. Daniel Sickles led his Union troops into holding the line. They stretched from the Devil's Den through a peach orchard and onto Little Round Top. The Confederates hit hard and Sickles was wounded. The Union lost ground. They retreated from the orchard and Devil's Den, but a Minnesota Regiment helped to hold Little Round Top. The battle was bloody and by evening, both sides had lost 9,000 men each. 35,000 in total had died over the two days, but there was more fighting to come.

On July 3rd, General Lee made a critical decision that would be a bad one. He thought that the Confederates were close to victory based on the previous two days of fighting. He ordered a division of 15,000, led by George Pickett, to march three quarters of a mile in open field to hit the center of the Union forces. This plan would come to be known as Pickett's Charge. It began at 3pm, led by an infantry bombardment of artillery. The Confederates were hit from all sides and Pickett's division lost two thirds of their numbers. The survivors retreated and Lee regrouped for a Union counterattack. He expected it to come the next day, but it never did. Lee knew his army was decimated and on the evening of July 4th, he led his men back to Virginia. This battle signaled the end was near for the Confederacy.

Several months later, the citizens of Gettysburg were still working through the aftermath of the battle. A prominent attorney, David Wills  was tasked with the establishment and construction of the Soldiers National Cemetery. It was meant to honor and be the final resting place of  the fallen Union soldiers. Wills was also responsible for the dedication ceremony and he invited president Abraham Lincoln to attend. The ceremony took place on November 18, 1863. And this is when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address.

The city of Gettysburg and in particular, the battlefield where the Battle of Gettysburg was staged are thought to be some of the most haunted places in America. Tales of hauntings reach into the thousands. Bodies littered the streets of Gettysburg and many were dumped into mass graves. Those that were wounded and dying were taken to buildings throughout the town that were turned into makeshift field hospitals. Meaning that people died all over the town. Could this be why there are so many accounts of haunting experiences?

Denise and I have a paranormal investigator friend, Linda Zimmermann, who was driving through the area with her husband. A mist was laying over the battlefield and she and her husband saw a man approaching them who they thought was a re-enactor. Until he disappeared. She couldn't believe she had witnessed this full bodied apparition.

When Filming the 1993 film Gettysburg, several of the extras who were playing soldiers were sitting on the hill known as little round top. They were approached by another gentleman wearing a tattered and burned Union army uniform and who smelled of sulfur. He commented on how intense the battle had been, passed out extra rounds of ammunition, and walked down the hill. The extras assumed this was just another actor who had wandered up the hill, but when they brought back the ammo to the props department, the props folks said it had not come from them and identified the rounds as authentic and dating back to the mid 1800s. Could have just been an extra who happened to be a collector, but its still pretty odd.

The Pennsylvania Hall building at Gettysburg college was used as a hospital during the battles and as a lookout. General Lee himself watched from the Old Dorm's cupola. One resident and his roomamte claim to have seen a shadowy figure in the cupola. This happened over several nights. Surely many men saw their end in the building. Two of the faculty were coming down on the elevator from the fourth floor to the first level. The elevator kept on going past the first floor and on to the basement. When the elevators opened, what the men described was a silent horror. They said they saw ghastly figures of bodies laying around and a nurse and doctor tending to them. Blood was splattered across the walls.There was no sound from the scene that laid before them, but they said the nurse looked at them with a pleading look on his face. They hit the buttons for the doors to close and made it back up to the first floor. Both men still claim to have seen this.

There have been countless accounts of people hearing screams on the battlefields and cries of soldiers urging their men to "Charge!" from within the woods surrounding the battlefield. Orbs and Mists have been captured on film in many locations on the battlefield, especially at the Sachs Covered Bridge. This is where many have claimed to see a few different apparitions of soldiers. The battle poured into the town and skirmishes took place everywhere. The dead bodies laid in the street to the point that the smell of decay was overwhelming. Women would press handkerchiefs soaked in pepperment or vanilla to their faces to protect themselves from the smell. Those scents are still detected today as ghostly aromas.

Many homes that were built on the edge of the battlefield are now owned by the National Park Service and there are claims of hauntings in these homes. The George Weikert House is one such haunted residence used by park rangers. There are tales of a door on the second floor that refuses to stay shut. One ranger nailed the door shut and still found it opened later. The attic plays host to disembodied footsteps.

Another of these homes is the Hummelbaugh House, which is haunted by a Brigadier General and his dog. Brigadier General Barksdale was wounded on Seminary Ridge. He was brought to the front of Hummelbaugh House where he called out for water over and over. This was even after he had been given water. The General died and was buried on the property, but his wife soon arrived and had the body exhumed, so she could bring it home to bury her husband properly. She brought the General's loyal dog with her and he leapt onto the grave before the body was exhumed. They managed to pull him away, so they could unbury the General. The dog jumped back on the grave after the exhumation and refused to leave. The wife finally left the heartbroken dog who became a fixture at the farm. He remained there until he died from dehydration since he refused food and water. The General's cries are heard to this day and people report seeing not only the General, but also his dog. And an unearthly howl is heard sometimes on the anniversary of the General's death.

In the town of Gettysburg, a childrens orphanage opened in 1860.The original owner had to move out of the area and left Rosa Charmichaels in charge. She was a sadistic woman and the orphanage was closed in the 1880s after it came out that she beat the children, tied many of them in the basement for days on end, and also was rumored to have killed some of them. They later found that the basement had been converted to a dungeon with torture devices and shackles on the walls for children to be chained up and, many times, left to die. There have been numerous accounts of people hearing disembodied children's voices and even feeling as though they are being physically touched.

Fun Fact: Some people have claimed to not only see ghost soldiers, but full on ghost battles. As a matter of fact, Diane once heard the popular conservative talk show host Michael Medved share his story about camping out on the battlefield with a bunch of friends and in the middle of the night they were awakened by the sounds of battle. They found themselves in the middle of what seemed like a real life battle only they could see through the men. It was this experience that convinced this total skeptic that ghosts were very real.

The Farnsworth House Inn is home to many disturbing hauntings as well as some less terrifying ones. One of the rooms is even closed and padlocked because of all the aggressive activity that has been reported there. Here is a quote about the inn from weird US:

 "The lock on that door sometimes rattles of its own accord, and meanwhile, up in the garret’s ensuite bathroom, a bloody mess that’s almost impossible to clean sometimes appears. The room was apparently a post for three Confederate sharpshooters during the conflict, and presumably at least one of them was seriously injured or killed there. In another upstairs room, a bereaved man is heard sobbing inconsolably, and seen carrying a child wrapped in a quilt. The door to the cellar often opens to an apparition carrying a wounded comrade down to the catacombs, where a voice is heard singing quietly. And in true Sixth Sense mode, the temperature suddenly plummets inexplicably.Other rooms feature less frightening occurrences. The McFarland Room often contains strange sounds, including unusually heavy breathing (and close-up, not from neighboring rooms). The Schultz Room is supposedly often visited by a solicitous midwife who tucks you in, and a little boy. Both are considered very benign presences, but apparently one of them smokes cigars."

The battle that took place at Gettysburg seems to continue to rage on. The eyewitness accounts are too many to ignore. It is difficult to claim that people are just imagining these experiences. But as we always like to do, we leave it to the listeners. Is Gettysburg haunted? That is for you to decide!

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