Saturday, February 27, 2016

HGB Podcast Ep. 108 - Haunted Old Salem

Moment in Oddity - Violet Jessop
Suggested by: Robert Sherfield

Was the life of Violet Jessop charmed or cursed? Violet was the daughter of Irish emigrant sheep farmers and she was born in Argentina. She moved with her family to England after her father passed away. She helped to support the family by working as a stewardess on cruise liners. Her first job was aboard the RMS Olympic in 1911. On September 20th of that year, the Olympic collided with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke. Neither ship sank, but a water tight compartment in the Olympic did fill up. Violet was uninjured in the accident. She next worked on the ship HMS Titanic. And as we all know from history, Titanic will sink. After the horrible collison with the iceberg, Violet helped women and children board lifeboats. She later stepped onto Lifeboat 16 and was handed a baby to care for until the Carpathia came to the rescue. Violet had survived a second cruise ship wreck. Violet moved to the RMS Britannic, which had been converted to a hospital ship during World War I. That ship struck a mine on November 10, 1916. Violet was once again helping people into lifeboats and getting aboard one herself. She survived yet again. And even though she had three brushes with death aboard ocean liners, Violet went right back to work aboard a cruise liner. We're not sure if she was charmed or cursed, but the fact that she experienced three ocean disasters and lived, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - The First Mardi Gras in New Orleans
by: Jessica Bell

On this day, February 27th, in 1827, the first Mardi Gras is held in New Orleans. The term Mardi Gras is French and means “fat Tuesday.” The "Tuesday" refers to the fact that this day falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the last day prior to Lent. Lent is a 40-day season of prayer and fasting observed by the Roman Catholic Church (and many other Christian denominations) which ends on Easter Sunday. The origin of "Fat Tuesday" is believed to have come from the ancient Pagan custom of parading a fat ox through the town streets. Such Pagan holidays were filled with excessive eating, drinking and general bawdiness prior to a period of fasting. The New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition began in 1827 when a group of students, inspired by their experiences studying in Paris, donned masks and jester costumes and staged their own Fat Tuesday festivities. The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple (symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of faith) and gold (symbolic of power). New Orleans' krewe tradition began with the Mistick Krewe of Comus, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen that organized a torch-lit procession with floats and bands in 1857. As years passed, Mardi Gras gained other lasting customs like the throwing of beads, wearing of masks, decorating of floats, and eating of King Cake. Though Louisiana remains the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday, nearby Alabama and Mississippi acquired their own Mardi Gras traditions and Fat Tuesday celebrations are now held across the nation. And to get the real insiders look at Mardi Gras, we suggest the Beyond Bourbon Street Podcast.

Haunted Old Salem (Suggested and Researched by Assistant Producer Steven Pappas)

When most people think of cities in North Carolina, they think of Charlotte or Raleigh. These are the state's two sprawling metropolises and home to many large industries. What most people don't think about is a city mid-way between the two and that is Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem is a town that is not only the home to the headquarters of some large companies such as Texas Pete and RJ Reynolds, but also has a rich history which began as a religious settlement in Old Salem that is still standing 250 years after being established. The town of Old Salem is considered to be an archaeological site. This is a place where people put down roots, and it seems some spirits may have as well. Come with us as we explore the history and the hauntings of Old Salem, North Carolina.

The Moravian church started as a protestant movement which became an established denomination in 1457. This movement was started by John Huss in what is now the Czech Republic. The Moravians were the earliest protestant church, rebelling against Rome earlier than Martin Luther. 50 years earlier in fact. The anger of the Roman empire forced the rebels to worship underground and after a few centuries of persecution, they found themselves fleeing as exiles. They found protection under a German nobleman and eventually crossed the Atlantic to settle in the new world. They settled in Georgia and Pennsylvania until eventually being sent to settle in North Carolina. They established the first Moravian settlement in North Carolina at Bethabra, before settling the central city of the Wachovia land tract. This town was called Salem and it was established in 1766.

Salem thrived, becoming known as a trade town. They produced and exported many goods ranging from tools and metals to furniture and food. There was a standard tavern, which George Washington spent a night in, as well as many other buildings which are still standing today. The Single Brothers House, the church, the Sisters House, winkler bakery, crafts shops and many others.  The Single Brothers House was a building that housed unmarried men, specifically those in the choir. It was built in two sections with the first being built in 1769 with half-timbered construction. The second section was built in 1786 from brick. The brothers not only lived in this building, they worshipped and ate here as well. A workshop behind the house could be rented by the men to practice their trades. The Single Brothers operated a bakery, brewery, distillery, tannery and slaughterhouse along with a plantation.

The Sisters House served a similar purpose for the single women. Their house was built in 1785. It was suppose to be built a year earlier, but apparently the tavern was more important. Bricks that had already been made for the Sisters House were used to rebuild the tavern after it was destroyed in a fire. The house would later go on to be used by the Salem Female Academy.

The town carried on for a few centuries as an everyday village until 1950, long after Salem and the neighboring Winston combined to form Winston-Salem, when the town became an official non-profit which is tasked with restoring the buildings, giving guided tours, and acting as a living museum in the vein of colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

When the town became a historical site, they chose a tin coffee pot as their symbol. This is due to the large coffee pot which is placed at one of the entrances to the town. It is 7 feet 3 inches tall and would hold 740 gallons if actually used for coffee. It is said that in the 19th century a small boy would climb to the top of the pot and put boiling water in it so that smoke would come from the spout. Other stories surrounding the pot include a union soldier using it to hide in from a passing patrol during the American civil war and it is even claimed that they may have used this large pot to boil water for coffee used in their annual lovefeasts at Christmas and Easter.

Lovefeasts are an important part of the Moravian denomination. They describe them as such on their official website:
"The holding of lovefeasts, after the practice of the Apostolic Church, has come to be one of the outstanding customs of the Moravian Church and has proved to be a real means of grace. Members of other denominations are attracted to Moravian lovefeasts in large numbers, and thus the spirit of fellowship is greatly advanced.Lovefeasts originated in the first gathering of Christians after Pentecost. The early believers met and broke bread together, thereby signifying their union and equality. These meals of the church family were associated with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which followed them. They were called agape, from the Greek word for love, that is for the highest type of spiritual love. Gradually the agape lost its devotional character, and toward the end of the fourth century the Church gave it up.

The lovefeast of Apostolic times was resuscitated in its original simplicity by the Moravian Church in 1727. There is no rule as to the food to be offered, except that it be very simple and easily distributed. The drink may be coffee, tea, or lemonade, fully prepared in advance, so that it may be served very quietly and without interruption of the singing. Usually mugs are used, which may be passed from hand to hand along a pew from a tray brought along the aisle. A slightly sweetened bun, which can be served in baskets passed along the pews, is a convenient form of bread. Usually men handle the trays of mugs, and women the baskets of buns. While the congregation partakes, the choir sings an anthem. Later the mugs are quietly gathered and removed. The food served is not consecrated, as in the communion. Children and members of any denomination may partake."
Considering the long and storied history of Winston-Salem, it should come as no shock that there has been a lot of supernatural activity reported in the area. There have been many reports revolving around the Salem Cemetery, which sits on the land directly adjacent to the town. People have reported hearing eerie sounds and wailing voices in the cemetery as well as seeing shadowy figures floating above the headstones at night. (While I have not heard or seen anything in the area, I have gotten an eerie feeling just looking at the massive graveyard while cleaning headstones in the Moravian Gravyard next to it.)

Many people who grew up in Winston-Salem know the story of the little red man. On March 25th, 1786 a local shoemaker was helping to excavate the foundation for the Single Brothers house, when a wall collapsed, which killed him. For years following the incident, strange things would happen. Throughout the house people would report hearing a tapping which sounded oddly like the hammer of a shoemaker. A small man wearing a red cap, like the shoemaker had been when he died, was seen scurrying around the halls on many occasions. After some years the house was converted into a home for Widows and one of the more famous stories is taken from that period. One of the widow's granddaughters, who was deaf but still able to speak, cam up to her grandmother asking questions. She knew nothing of the ghost, the story, or the accident, but she told her grandmother all about the man in the red cap beckoning her to come and play. In the mid 1900's a prominent city figure was showing someone important the house when the red man appeared before them in the cellar. Out of terror and embarrassment, he called in a local pastor to put the spirit to rest. It has not been reported since.Steven has been in the cellar at this location.

Many other stories surround the community. There is the story of the night rider, who died in the tavern only to send a message to his family from beyond the grave. There is the tale of the maintenance worker who heard unexplained organ music when he was alone in the church. And there are stories revolving around strange behavior and sounds in Salem College, a girls college located on the property. (My cousin went to this school and told me about everything from doors slamming to noises, to, BUCKLE IN, her friend waking up to her roommate sitting by her bed on the floor and staring at her face while grinning.)

With the history of this settlement and the success and peace those who settled it found there, it is no wonder there are so many tales about people staying behind. So are the spirits of settlers still around keeping an eye on their town? Do the craftsmen and women continue their crafts even in death? Is Old Salem haunted? That is for you to decide.

Show Notes:
More on Old Salem:
Lydia Miller's Horror Movie Article:

Matt's ghost picture at Old Jail in St. Augustine:

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hirons

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