Friday, February 19, 2016

HGB Podcast, Ep. 106 - Fearing Tavern

Moment in Oddity - City of Souls
(As suggested by several listeners)

There's a wonderful little town just outside of San Francisco that is full of old world charm. There are only 1400 residents and the architecture is Spanish-Mediterrean in design. The streets are paved in brick and lined with ornamental lights. That town is Colma and its a wonderful little city with a small municipal government. Its even caught the attention of the New York Times that described Colma as more "necropolis than metropolis." Wait, what?! Indeed, the city of Colma has been dubbed the "City of Souls." And the reason why is that the dead far outnumber the living here. While there are 1400 residents, there are 1.5 million dead. There are 16 cemeteries here. As we know from studying haunted history, many cemeteries have been moved or bulldozed over because they sit on prime real estate. For San Francisco, this was a real problem. They passed an ordinance in 1900 that outlawed the building of anymore cemeteries due to property values rising. It was just cost prohibitive. San Francisco went further in 1912 by evicting all the dead and closing down the cemeteries. Colma was originally known as Lawndale and it was incorporated in 1924 as a necropolis. The dead were relocated and more cemeteries were opened. Most living residents were employed in relation to the cemeteries. The city took on the name Colma in 1941 and slowly the city grew and diversified. Some notable dead residents include: Wyatt Earp, William Randolph Hearst, Levi Strauss, Joe DiMaggio and Manson Family murder victim Abigail Folger. The city's motto is "It's great to be alive in Colma!" Now that, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - The Donner Party Rescued

On this day, February 19th, in 1847, rescuers reached the stranded Donner Party. In the summer of 1846, a group of emigrants decided to head west to find their fortunes. There were 89 of them and 31 of those people were members of the Reed and Donner families, for whom the group has been named. They set out in a wagon train from Springfield, Illinois. The group made it safely to Wyoming and they decided to try a new route called the Hastings Cutoff. George Donner became the captain of the group and he led them through their shortcut, which turned out to not be a short cut. It actually added three weeks travel time. They met up with other hardships and did not reach the Sierra Nevadas until October. The group set up camp near Truckee Lake, which later became known as Donner Lake. An early winter storm came through and blocked their path through the mountains. They were stranded and their supplies were dwindling since their travel time had extended past what they had planned. The Donner family and a few others decided to travel onward and they made it six miles before they had to set up another camp. Tents were made from wagons. Eventually the oxen had to be killed for food. In December, a group decided to go for help. Fifteen of them set out for Sutter's Fort near San Francisco. The expedition was plagued with problems and several members finally resorted to cannabalism to survive, as did the emigrants still back at camp. Only seven survivors managed to reach a Native American village. The news reached Sutter's Fort and they sent a rescue party. They reached the group at Truckee Lake on February 19th. The return trip was rough and took until April. Of the 89 emigrants who originally set out with the Donner Party, only 45 made it to California.

Fearing Tavern (Suggested by and Research Assistant Dianne Moores)

Photo courtesy of Dianne Moores

The Fearing (Fairing) Tavern is located in the Massachusetts coastal town of Wareham, in the southeastern portion of the state. The town is bordered by Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay and is considered the "gateway to Cape Cod." The fact that the town was situated near rivers and coastline made it prime real estate for European settlement. The area is rich in colonial history and the tavern itself dates back hundreds of years. The tavern is considered by paranormal investigators to be one of the most haunted locations on the SouthCoast. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Fearing Tavern.

In 1678, the first Europeans began to settle the area that would later become the town of Wareham. This was on the heels of King Philip's War that we discussed in our Plymouth episode. This was an armed conflict between the Native Americans and English colonists. Wareham was incorporated in 1739. It was named for the European town of Wareham. *Fun fact: Wareham is home to the Tremont Nail Factory, which is the oldest nail manufacturer in the United States.*

Photo courtesy of Dianne Moores
Before Wareham was an official town, a man named Isaac Bump, who ran the local grist mill,  moved to the area and built the original structure that would become the future Fearing Tavern. The year was 1693. The home had four rooms and plans for incorporating the city of Wareham were conducted here. In 1747, Israel Fearing purchased the house and made plans to expand the property. His son Benjamin took ownership and built the white clapboard Georgian Colonial style house that still stands today. The property remained in the hands of the Fearing family for 200 years. It was in 1765 that the home opened up as a tavern. In the 1820s, Benjamin's son added a new bedroom and kitchen to the house.

The Fearing family was rumored to have had loyal ties to England during the 1700s, but conflicting local information states that members of the family were “Patriots” during the American Revolution. Local history reveals that the Tavern was often frequented by British soldiers and the paranormal activity in the building includes sightings of British troops. Rumors have persisted that the Fearings hid British soldiers in the house. The Tavern was also used as a stop on the underground railroad for slaves on their way to Canada. Several secret rooms and passages still exist in the building and are highlights of the paranormal investigations that have taken place. Legend has it that over 200 British soldiers stopped at the Tavern for spirits and a bite to eat before heading out to burn down a local cotton factory.

The Fearing Tavern served many purposes over the years. It was a stage stop on the route to Boston, it was a one room schoolhouse in 1825, an old Methodist Meeting House in 1835, the Union Chapel in 1880, a court house and a post office for the Town of Wareham. The tavern was restored in 1958 and boasts 16 rooms. The building is now owned by the Wareham Historical Society and is uninhabited. It is run as a museum during the summer months and is open to the public for touring. the museum contains period artifacts and antiques, some of which have been donated by the Fearing family. Guided tours are offered of the museum. A creepy doll room, antique rocking chair, family bible and secret tunnel under the street add mystery to the centuries old tavern. And then there are the hauntings

Author Michael Markowitz’s book titled "EVP: Electronic Voice Phenomenon – Massachusetts Ghostly Voices" details over 50 EVP’s collected during one such investigation at the tavern. Examples of EVPs include a German accented voice saying, "Ze Attic" and a little girl saying, "Wanna play dress up?" The strangest capture featured the following conversation between two male voices, "Hey Ashford, I killed Grandpa Ash!  I just knew you’d feel the pain” and a voice states in reply, “then consider it… a gift."

The tavern has had numerous paranormal groups conduct investigations which have yielded EVPS, apparitions and unexplained happenings. Well known paranormal author Jeff Belanger has included the Fearing Tavern in several of his books and the Wareham Historical Society holds an annual Haunted History Night which includes tours of the tavern as well as other buildings in the area.  A 30 minute YouTube video by Jeff Belanger featuring a tour of the building, highlights many of the rooms and areas where paranormal activity has been observed. Light orbs and EVPS were recorded and are visible on the video. (We've included the video in the show notes.) Local paranormal investigators have documented many unexplained occurrences and consider this tavern one of the most active buildings in the area. The Fearing Tavern continues to lure investigators every summer, hoping to witness something paranormal or at least unexplainable.

But it's more than just those who are seeking ghosts that have had experiences at Fearing Tavern. A young girl on a school field trip to the tavern claimed that she saw a female spectre sitting in a rocking chair knitting. A newspaper reporter toured the tavern one evening and was startled by several shadowy figures that seemed to be following her. She wasn't sure there was anything to the shadow figures until a gray mist began to form before her eyes and then it started to approach her. Women in period dress have been seen by multiple visitors. Disembodied noises of horses and carriages are heard outside of the tavern.

Nothing tragic seems to have happened at the Fearing Tavern. The property has not passed through many hands. So why is there some kind of paranormal activity taking place at this location. Is it just that family members who have passed away are unwilling to leave in the afterlife? Did British soldiers die near the tavern during the Revolutionary War and now they come here in the afterlife looking for the comfort they found in life? Is the Fearing Tavern haunted? That is for you to decide!

Jeff Belanger video:

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