Wednesday, December 9, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 88 - Homestead Sanatorium

Moment in Oddity - Fake Skeleton Underwater Tea Party
Suggested by Spooktacular Crew Member Conrad


A man was snorkeling in the Colorado River near the Arizona and California border. Most people when they go snorkeling expect to see some fish and cool underwater geography, but probably not skeletons. Especially skeletons sitting in lawn chairs at the bottom of the river bed, complete with sunglasses. The man was terrified by the sight and promptly reported it to the La Paz County Sheriff. The police assumed they had a couple of dead bodies on their hands, until they saw the skeletons. They realized they were fake. They had been strapped to the lawn chairs, which had been bound to large boulders. One of the skeletons held a sign inferring that he was Bernie from the Weekend at Bernie's movie. The police decided to not investigate who might have placed the skeletons in the water and they figured it was just a fun prank. The sheriff's office thought that perhaps they would recover the skeletons and put them outside the building for fun. We're not sure if they did, but a fake skeleton, underwater tea party certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Christmas Seals
By: April Rogers-Krick

On this day, December 9th, in 1907, the American Lung Association Christmas Seals went on sale for the first time in the United States.  During the early twentieth century tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the U.S.  In Sanatoriums doctors were finally experiencing some success treating patients. A tiny sanatorium on the Brandywine Creek in Delaware had fallen on hard times and if $300 could not be raised its doors would have to close.  One of the doctors from this sanatorium explained the problem to his cousin, a volunteer named, Emily Bissel.  Being a veteran fundraiser Bissel soon came up with a plan based on an idea that had worked in Denmark. In 1904 Einar Holboll, a Danish postal clerk developed the idea of adding an extra stamp on mailed holiday greetings during Christmas. The money raised from the sale of this extra stamp could be used to help sick children with tuberculosis.  The success of this charitable stamp inspired Emily Bissel to design a stamp that could be sold for a penny each at the local post office in Delaware.  The fundraiser was so successful that they ended up raising ten times the amount needed to keep the sanatorium open.  By 1908 Bissel’s idea grew to a national program. Through World War I, The Great Depression, and World War II the tradition continued.  As the American Lung Association’s mission expanded to include research into other respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer, more people began to send Christmas Seals.  In the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s the American lung Association stepped up to protect children and families from pollution and cigarette smoke, so did Americans with their continued support each year by supporting the Christmas Seals tradition. Today the American Lung Association still uses the sale of Christmas Seals to fund a majority of their research and programs.


Homestead Sanatorium

Photo By: Diane D'Alessandro

Many people mistakenly refer to the Homestead Sanatorium as an asylum, but it was never an asylum. Although abandoned and derelict, the building still stands grandiose and beautiful and it would be a shame to see it torn down. The benefactor of the property, Horace Carpentier would not want to see that happen either. For decades, those with TB called Homestead home and many of them died here. Is that why the place is rumored to be haunted? Or is it just because it is a large abandoned building with a history? Join us as we look at the history and hauntings of the Saratoga County Homestead Sanatorium.

Horace W. Carpentier was born in 1824 near Barkersville, New York to James and Henrietta Carpentier. The family name had originally been Carpenter, but Horace's grandfather changed it to Carpentier. Their branch of the family tree was the only one to take on this spelling. The family lived in Galway, which was a part of Saratoga County. Horace attended Columbia Law School and graduated in 1848 with a degree in Law. That same year, gold nuggets were found in the Sacramento Valley in California. Soon, the California Gold Rush was on and men found themselves traveling across America or by boat around Cape Horn to find their riches. One of these men was Horace. He boarded the ship "Panama" to sail around the "Horn" and on August 8, 1849 he arrived in California. On the ship he met Andrew Moon and the two men fostered a successful business relationship in both law and real estate.

Politics soon entered the picture and Horace decided to run for State Senator. He was unsuccessful, but he did not give up. He tried for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and again failed. What is a man to do in such circumstances? Well, go look for gold, of course! His fellow law partners, Andrew Moon and Edson Adams joined his efforts. Adams had already located some land that measured around 160 acres and laid claim to it by squatting on it in 1850. Horace and Moon claimed the same amount of acreage to the east and west of that property and that land would come to measure 200 city blocks. The area was incorporated as Contra Costa and we know it today as Oakland, California. Horace finally broke into politics in 1851 as a Senate Enrollment Clerk and the position allowed him to make several political connections.

At the same time, Horace started a ferry service between Oakland and San Francisco. It flourished and he sold the operation to another man while holding onto the contract for twenty years and he soon became a rich man. He worked with his partners and other politicians to incorporate Oakland as an official town in 1852. He managed to get the rights to the entire waterfront and people went along with it because he promised to build a school and a wharf. The school was completed in July of 1852. There was a lot going on behind the scenes though and Horace was wielding his power and doing things that made him one of the most hated men around. But he also had a lot of fans because he could be very charming and he had become fluent in Spanish and claimed to be a former Padre. To make people feel better, Horace placed the waterfront property into the name of his cousin Harriet, although he continued to control much of what happened in the area.

In 1854, despite not having the best reputation with the people, Horace was elected the first mayor of Oakland. Members of the city council decided to put a halt to Horace's monoploy on the waterfront and they passed a measure to build another wharf. Of course, the new mayor would not sign off on such a thing and a political war began. Horace would serve only two years. He turned his sights to the railroad and made a lot of money with that venture as well. He was worth up to $20 million at one time and gave much of his estate away before he died on January 31, 1918 at the age of 94. One part of his estate was his father's homestead and he deeded that to Saratoga County in hopes that a Tuberculosis Sanatorium would be built there. He also donated $5600 in 1915 to get a 20 bed facility built. He maintained the road outside the sanatorium, providing $1000 every year and he named the road after his Chinese butler because of his loyalty. His will left $40,000 to the sanatorium.


The Saratoga County Homestead Sanatorium officially opened in 1914. The first building was built from wood, but later replaced with the building that stands today. This main building was built in 1932 in the Classical architectural style with large columns lining the front entrance. Red brick and wood were the main building materials and based on photos we have seen in its dilapidated present condition, hallways were long with rooms coming off them and stairs were built from wood with fancy carved banisters. There were separate areas for girls and boys and these titles were carved in the concrete above the doorways. Some reference the hospital as an asylum, but it never housed the mentally ill. It's main purpose was to help patients with TB. It was believed the clean mountain air here would be good for the lungs.

In 1960, the sanatorium closed because the need to treat TB was gone. It reopened in 1961 as the Saratoga County Infirmary, which was basically a public nursing home. This remained open until 1979. The building was sold in 1980 to Bruce Houran who had planned to open a treatment facility, but this was abandoned. Patrick Brereton bought the property from Shimon and Dervinowitz LLC for $60,000 in 2015. The property is fenced off and there is no trespassing. A caretaker lives next door.

In January of 2012, a teenager named Noelle Johnson died in a traffic accident near the property of the sanatorium prompting officials to seal off the property. They believed that she was there along with other teenagers because they wanted to check out the "haunted hospital." There are rumors that if you take something from the building, like a book, that you will be cursed. Had this teenager taken something with her? Police are called on trespassers, but they generally will not enter the building. Is this out of fear of asbestos and other hazards or is there something else going on here. Something unexplained?

Cecil wrote about an experience he had with his sister:
"My sister and I came to visit saratoga a few years back and was looking for a place to play disc golf. But, we ended up getting turned around and stumbled upon this place. We thought it would be a good idea to jump the fence and take a peek inside to just get our thrills. When we went inside I was so glad it was during the day cause at night I would have just stayed outside. After about 20 mins inside we got s few pix and decided to get the hell out. But as I was driving down the road, we started to feel sick and have headaches like something was on or in us. It was a few minutes later that my sister pulled out a tile she took from the place... my superstitious thought was to return it immediately.. So my sis agreed. and we went back to return the tile. Once, the tile was returned, we both felt better and got the hell outta dodge."
Let's deal with the rumors or what we like to call the urban legends. People tell a story about an evil doctor who liked to experiment on women, particularly on their reproductive organs. He ended up killing many of them and claiming they had died from TB. There are no records to back this up because supposedly they burned. I will say that it seems that are not many records for this location anywhere. Did this doctor actually exist? Who knows?

A film called "The Expedition" is said to be based on true events when a Canadian film crew entered the Homestead Sanatorium on Halloween in 2004 to make a documentary. There were five of them, but by the time they left in the morning, there were only four of them. No one knows what happened to the fifth who was named Thomas Kring. We were unable to find any record of this and I would assume there would be some kind of news story or report somewhere. So is this true? We doubt it.

Horace Carpentier was buried at the nearby Barkersville Cemetery and it is believed that he is one of the ghosts haunting the sanatorium. Children were rarely seen outside of the buildings, but they were here and there are claims of hearing the disembodied sound of children giggling and a girl apparition has been witnessed. People claim a heaviness inside the buildings and feel like the chapel holds some kind of evil entity. The website thefreegeorge.com claims this location to be one of the top haunted locations in Albany, but there is not much verifiable information about hauntings out there.

Horace Carpentier cared about this place, so is it possible that he decided to stay in the afterlife? Is the Homestead Sanatorium haunted? That is for you to decide!

Since this place was kind of a bust, we thought we would look into ghosts connected to the California Gold Rush. We found this story about a ghost named Eleanor at Murphy's Historic Hotel:

Eleanor came to work at Murphy's Historic Hotel in the early 1860s when the hotel was known as the Sperry and Perry House. Eleanor worked there as a chambermaid. As happened with many young ladies during the Gold Rush, she found herself falling in love with a miner. She married him and he went off to find their fortune. And he never returned. Eleanor continued to work at the hotel as she waited and waited for him to return. Her duties expanded to working in the kitchen and running the front desk. She died thirty years later, never having her husband return to her. It was after her death that guests started to notice strange things happening in the hotel. Eleanor is seen as a full bodied apparition in the kitchen and occasionally small objects go flying without assistance in the kitchen. A maintenance man claims that coffee beans were thrown at him once in the kitchen when nobody was in there with him. Eleanor also plays with the locks. She tries to wiggle the Master Lock free and this can go on for hours. She also pushes open closed doors, especially upstairs in the Mark Twain ballroom during staff meetings. Some people claim to see her reflection in the mirror of the hutch in the Gold Room, an area off of the main dining room. A picture of Eleanor is nearby. Two guests staying in Room 9 got so spooked that they left the hotel and did not ask for their money back.

And there is this story by Nancy Bradley:

"The winding hillside known as Prospector Road is considered one of the most haunted roads in the Gold Rush country. It's pavement runs over old mines, old claims, and the bodies that lived it's history. In some cases, the collapse of tunnels gave miners premature burials, some died as a result of being eliminated by other greedy miners. Prospector Road is in some places little more than a one lane path, as it runs the seven mile stretch adjacent to the convenient and more traveled county built Marshall Road. Prospector Road was built by Chinese labor in the 1800's, and cuts the winding mountainside connecting with Marshall at both Lotus and Garden Valley. The barely traveled road and surrounding terrain has a colorful Gold Rush history. It is well documented the treacherous nature of the countryside caused many a wagon, and later automobile, to overturn, spilling their passengers down the hillside to their painful date with death. In the 1800's, substantial gold discoveries were made in these hills, which account for its name. As with the age-old stories of prospecting and claim jumping, many a foolish miner who bragged a bit too openly about his "find" was coincidentally lost among the hills of Prospector. Their bodies were often never recovered, and more often never looked for. It is known that many spirits roam the Prospector hills, and at least one is still seeking the gold he never recovered while having his life cut short while trying. Perhaps it was his specter who frightened a young couple with poltergeist-like pranks after they settled in a new home along the road. It was late one night the pretty young bride awakened from her fretful slumber. She was cold and had a feeling of something amiss. She pulled the covers up. Then she remembered making a large log fire before retiring, one that should have kept the house warm till morning. She turned her head to see the reflection on the wall, observing the wood still burning in the stove. She was grateful for the mirror on the wall which made this possible from her second story bedroom. Then her imagination kicked in, and she thought she heard unnatural noises in the house, She carefully and gently woke her husband, who was not to thrilled to be getting out of bed to indulge her. Together they went down the stairs. "I knew my husband had locked and bolted the front door before we went to bed" she told us. "Now it was ajar. The bolt pin was still in the outward position, yet the wall slot where it should still be secured had not been torn." the couple could find no evidence of forced entry. The mystery of the unexplained open door went unanswered. Everything else appeared as it should. that is, except for their dog. Hearing a frightened whimper, they turned to find their pet huddled and trembling in a corner of the room. Consoling the animal, the husband opened the door and looked outside into the darkness. Nothing! He carefully went around the house. Nope! Thus the family was introduced to the ghost of Prospector Road. He is a wily old cuss. This apparition is described by residents as rugged, big, stocky and attired in old pants, or work like clothes. Sometimes he has a canvas looking rain coat pulled over his head. To those who are able to see him, he appears semi-transparent, tall and craggy. Some say he is sporting a beard. to those who cannot see him, but endure his wrath, he is considered a pesky, annoying trickster. "The legend goes, and most folks believe, his purpose is to keep people away from a claim he never received."

You can continue reading this story and other stories about the Hauntings on Prospector Road and other Haunted Highways in "The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts." True stories of Hauntings in the Mother Lode. Authored by Psychic Nancy Bradley.

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