Saturday, August 27, 2016

HGB Ep. 145 - The Whitney


Moment in Oddity - The Mortuary Railroad Station 
Suggested by listener: Teresa Slaven

In the late 1860s, a very peculiar train station opened its doors for the first time. This train station was a mortuary.  It's located in Sydney, Australia and when it was running, it carried the dead along with their loved ones to Rockwood Necropolis. Thirty dead bodies would be placed in wooden wagons and loaded onto the train. When they arrived at the station, they would be off-loaded and carried to their burial plots where they would be reunited with family members that had also rode the train. The Rockwood Necropolis is the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere, spreading out over 700 acres. Nearly one million have been buried here. The funeral train stopped running in the 1950s, but the railway station for the dead still stands. The station and cemetery are reputedly haunted and many believe it is because of the power behind railway lines. A train that ran for the sole purpose of bringing the dead to their final resting place and a railway station that really was just a mortuary, certainly are odd!

Picture from listener Rick Kennett:

Mortuary Station 1, now All Saints Church in Canberra

This Day in History: Pierre Barrière Attempts to Assassinate King Henry IV of France 
by: Richard Schaffer

On this day, August 27th, in 1593, Pierre Barrière attempted to assassinate King Henry IV of France. He failed in this endeavor and later confessed the attempt to a Dominican priest named Father Varade in hopes that the priest would absolve him. This would lead to his demise, as this priest would turn him in. Apparently, Jesuit priests were notorious for promoting the assassination of the king while others, like the Dominicans, remained loyal to the crown. It is shocking that Father Varade not only encouraged him to confess, but also told him to follow through with all the religious rituals including Easter Mass. He told Barrière that this was a good thing he was doing and perhaps the wanna-be assassin thought that his confession would save him from punishment, along with the practice of the other rituals. Barrière never made it to Easter Mass. He was arrested later that day and was convicted in less than four days. He was placed on the breaking wheel and after his body was broken and devastated, he was then dismembered.

The Whitney (Suggested by listener Emily Ridener)

In Detroit, Michigan sits a grand home with a gabled roof, arched windows and a beautiful rose hue emanates from the facade. This upscale dining establishment was once the David Whitney House and is known today simply as The Whitney.  David Whitney, Jr. was such a successful lumber baron that people would remark that he was "the man who could out-lumber Paul Bunyan." He was one of the wealthiest men in America and he would leave his mark in Detroit in a very positive way. Some believe he remains in the home he had built in the afterlife. They seems to be other spirits at The Whitney as well. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of The Whitney!

The Whitney family is known for their wealth and were early settlers to America. John Whitney came over from London in 1635 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. The Elms is the historic family mansion in Watertown and was built in 1710. One of John Whitney's descendants was David Whitney, Jr. David was born in October of 1830 in Massachusetts. He established himself well in Lowell, Massachusetts and was a millionaire by the age of 27, when he decided to move west to Detroit, Michigan. The year was 1857 and David would become one of the most prominent men in Detroit history. He made his money in lumber and he joined forces with his brother Charles in Detroit and they expanded the lumber business into Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

The Mound Builders were here in the Detroit area before the French came. The area came to be known as le detroit, which means "the straits" in French. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac felt that the area would be great for a fort. A cannon could be fired from one side of the Detroit River to the other. The court in France agreed, and Cadillac was allowed to establish a settlement at the Detroit River in 1701. Cadillac called his settlement Fort Ponchartrain. Little did Cadillac realize, but his King had sold him out to Canada. The Company of the Colony of Canada was an all-Canadian fur company and it was given full rights to the fort with Cadillac as its employee. He left in 1702 hoping to get his rights back. He finally would in 1705 after things got very sour for the company with ill relations with the Native Americans and embezzlement in the leadership. In the mid 1700s, Britain attacked Quebec and Montreal and took the fight south. The French finally had to surrender New France and Detroit came under British control. American forces would take Detroit in 1796. The legislature of the Northwest Territory at Chillicothe, Ohio, would vote to incorporate Detroit on January 18, 1802. The city incorporation would become official in 1806. Throughout the 1800s, the Detroit government would grow and take shape.

David was a brilliant real estate investor, knowing that if he could buy forested land cheaply, he could make a mint because steel was still in its early stages of development and wood was in dire need. Most of the good New England wood had already been harvested. Michigan offered plenty of forested land and he bought much of it for as little as $2 an acre. His profits would generally equal one hundred times what he spent on the land. One obstacle to building a timber business in Michigan was getting the wood to sawmills and then to market, so David invested in shipping lines. He soon owned an extensive line of steam barges. When steel finally got a foothold and most of the prime white pine timber was harvested, David decided to use his real estate skills in buying property for other uses. He came to be known as "Mr. Woodward Ave." because he bought so much property on that street. One of the structures he would have built on Woodward Ave. would be the David Whitney House.

David's wife Flora, whom he had married in 1860 and had four children with, had passed away in 1882 and so she would never see the impressive home he commissioned to have built in 1890. Flora's sister Sara would get to enjoy the home though as she married David in 1883 and she would live in the home until her death in 1917. David hired Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd to design the house and it was built in the Romanesque style. A unique building material was chosen, South Dakota Jasper, which is a rare variety of pink granite. Because of this, the house has a pink hue that is quite striking. The granite was laid in a random ashlar pattern. The outside is decorated with grotesques, intertwined leaf motifs and the initials DW. Slate tiles cover the roof in a fish scale pattern. There is a round tower with a conical roof, giving it a bit of a castle-like flair. It took four years to complete and encompasses 21,000 square feet with 52 rooms, 20 fireplaces, 218 windows, an elevator and a secret vault in the dining room. It cost $400,000 to build. One newspaper described the house in 1894 as "the most elaborate and substantial residence in this part of the country."

The inside of the house was even more impressive than the outside. There was a Great Hall that featured a grand staircase. All rooms of the house opened into the hall that stretched all the way to the third floor. The hall was illuminated a Tiffany stained-glass window that was two stories tall featuring a knight paying his respects to the Whitney family whose ancestry contained several knights. A bronze balustrade adorned the staircase. An ornate fireplace and mantlepiece were in the Great Hall with an antique bronze clock on the mantle. The tile floor was in a Flemish mosaic design. The Whitney's extensive collection of art was displayed on the walls in the form of tapestries from the legendary Gobelin Tapestry Works in Paris, hand-woven silks and other objects. The house was electric and put in by David Whitney's good friend Thomas Edison.

A statue of Psyche was placed in the Music Room, which also had tiffany stained-glass windows featuring St. Cecilia and Apollo with his Lyre. The ceiling was silk and cherubs were painted on it. David's Smoking Room was right next door. It had a vaulted ceiling and mahogany woodwork. The Reception and Drawing rooms were painted in ivory with gold relief. The floors were Honduras mahogany with bird's-eye maple inlay. The Library had seven foot high bookshelves made from mahogany. The ceiling was criss-croosed with wooden beams. There was also a 10-foot high fireplace with deep blue tiles accented with sliver filigree.

David passed away in 1900 and he was worth $15 million at his death making him one of the richest men in the country. As mentioned before, Sara lived in the house until her death in 1917 and then the beautiful home stood empty with only a caretaker to look after it until 1932 when the Whitney family let the Wayne County Medical Society move into the home. The carriage house was behind the home and was the largest carriage house in the state when it was built. There was a lift to take carriages to the second floor. It held the offices of the Visiting Nurses Association, which had moved into it in 1929. The Whitney family had always been big supporters of the medical arts and they charged the society nothing to occupy the house and even paid the annual taxes. The Great Depression eased and the society was able to take over the bills. By 1941, the family had given the home to the society. Grace Whitney, who represented the family, said, "It means much to us that this house filled with sacred memories is now given to such a glorious organization as the Wayne County Medical Society."

The Medical Society stayed at this location until 1956 when it built an upgraded facility elsewhere. They did take some of the artwork from the home to put in the new facility including a bronze bust of Shakespeare, the Psyche statue that had been in the Music Room and a bust of Venus de Milo. When the Medical Society moved out, the Visiting Nurse Association used grants to purchase the house in 1957. The nurses maintained the building until 1979. Rumors started to float about after the nurses left that, the home would be torn down. An entrepreneur named Richard Kughn could not bear the thought of this city treasure being torn down. He believed it should be preserved for the public to enjoy and so he bought the David Whitney House.

David's former home became an upscale restaurant called The Whitney that Richard opened in 1986 after a costly and long renovation. The dining areas were placed in the various rooms of the house on the first and second floors and named for the original purpose of those rooms. The servant quarters in the back of the house was made into a state-of-the-art kitchen. The painted murals in the home were all restored. A cocktail lounge named Winter Garden was opened on the third floor. Richard ran the place until 2007 when he sold it to Bud Liebler who did some more renovations and renamed the third floor The Ghost Bar. Liebler also moved his business The Liebler Group into the third floor.

Liebler changed the name of the bar on the third floor to Ghost Bar for a specific reason. That reason being that David Whitney may have passed away, but his spirit did not pass on to the other side of The Veil. There are rumors that his spirit still haunts his former home. People claim he is one of the most well dressed ghosts in the afterlife because when he appears as a full-bodied apparition, he is seen in a short-waist tuxedo. Liebler claims that one morning he came out of his office and found a candle lit on a table. He was the only one in the restaurant and he had not lit the candle. *Fun fact: They serve Ghostinis at the Ghost Bar*

The kitchen is the scene of some haunting experiences in the form of mysterious sounds like water running and stacking dishes without anyone actually being in the kitchen doing dishes. Grace was one of the Whitney's children and some claim she haunts the property. She has a table that is kept in the Carriage House. It is referred to as Grace's table that has a tea set on top. Her full-bodied apparition has been spied several times in the Carriage House and EVPs of her have been caught. But Grace was an adult woman, so when Ghost Hunters acted like they were talking to a little girl, we're not sure what that was about. The Ghost Bar has been the scene of both a little girl's apparition and a man's apparition walking through the walls and a large curtain. Some also claim that a little boy's spirit has been seen here as well. The identity of the little boy or little girl is unknown.

The most haunted area of the hotel seems to be the elevator. It inexplicably opens and travels up and down on its own. No one will be anywhere near the elevator and it will just slide open. And in case you don't believe stories shared on the Internet, perhaps you will believe the story that our listener and suggester of this episode, Emily, shared about her parents experience at The Whitney:
"On October 27th, 2014, my dad brought my mom to The Whitney for lunch to celebrate her 50th birthday. They ate in a first floor dining room with two other groups. By the time they had finished, they were the last ones in the dining room and asked their server if it was alright to explore the house. This wasn’t them looking for ghostly activity seeing as my dad isn’t the spook-seeking type, but rather they wanted to see  all the beautiful décor and architecture. They were basically told to “help themselves” and began wondering around and taking pictures. While on the third floor, they stood at the banister looking down at the landing and the stained glass windows. As they were taking in the stained glass, which my mom is a serious sucker for, the elevator to their left opened, waited, closed and went back down as if someone had been standing nearby and had pressed the call button. Remember, the other two groups had left leaving only my parents and the staff in the building.  They had been up there for long enough that they would have seen anybody call the elevator and walk away.  They knew it was said to be haunted and figured the elevator showing up on its own was something that frequently happened. Again, they weren’t seeking anything by exploring but did get a bit of a thrill."
Ghost Hunters claimed to debunk this by timing the elevator, but there are too many experiences to completely write this off as some kind of constant mechanical malfunction. We've never seen elevators just open and close on their own regularly. One woman did claim that a relative of her's had been killed while working on the elevator. We didn't find any proof for that. Haunt Investigators of Michigan have caught some interesting photos and EVPs. One EVP was of a male voice saying, "Restroom." Objects move on their own, drawers open and close on their own as do doors.

The Whitney is a wonderful reminder of the grand past Detroit once had. Are there other reminders of the past still held on this property in the form of paranormal activity? Have the spirits of family members continued to stay in their beloved home after death? Is The Whitney haunted? That is for you to decide!

Pictures of the interior shared by Emily Ridener:

Show Notes:
Weird pictures sent by listeners:

Cheryl shared this on Instagram. Her boyfriend took it in Savannah outside the Colonial Park Cemetery. There is something that looks like a face in the tree trunks.
Cheryl zoomed in the photo here. See the face? Looks kind of like Nosterafu!
Kevin sent this. The two men on the left are now deceased. Weird auras look like faces coming out of their heads.

Kevin sent this of a picture he took in a cemetery. Most orbs are explainable, but this one is unusual in how bright it is and that it appears to be moving.

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