Sunday, September 11, 2016

HGB Ep. 148 - Vicary Mansion and Beaver County Legends

Moment in Oddity - Herophilus Dissected Live Humans

Herophilus was a Greek physician who lived from 335 to 280 BC. At a young age, he moved to Alexandria and spent much of his life there. He was fasinated with the human body from an early age and was a pioneer in anatomy. Most consider him the father of anatomy. In his time, he wrote nine works ranging in topics from childbirth to blood flow. All of those works would be lost. Dissections had been banned throughout Greece, but in Alexandria that ban had been lifted and Herophilus was the first to perform dissections on human cadavers. He would perform these in front of masses of people who all came to learn from a man who had become famous for his anatomy knowledge. Herophilus felt that it would be even better if he could show people the parts of the body actively working. Meaning that live specimens would need to be used. And since some prisoners were already condemned to die, why not use them as subjects? And that is what he did, vivisected living prisoners who were tied down to the table. There are claims that 600 prisoners were vivisected by Herophilus. Though his work dispelled many myths the ancient world believed about the human body, the fact that he dissected live humans, many aware of what was happening, not only seems immoral, but quite odd!

This Day in History - Massacre at Drogheda

On this day, September 11th, in 1649, the Massacre at Drogheda, Ireland occurred. The Massacre of Drogheda was headed by Oliver Cromwell, who was a Protestant representing the English Parliament. He was sent into Catholic Ireland to subdue it. The plan was to offer fair terms and keep violence to a minimum. Arthur Aston represented the Irish Catholic patriots and they were not about to surrender. Cromwell ordered attacks on the walls that protected the town. Six thousand Parliamentary troops rushed through the walls and the irish fell back easily. Drogheda had been taken. What happened next is debated in historical circles. Some say that Cromwell ordered the massacre of the soldiers and people here, others claim that the Parliamentary troops went through slaughtering people of their own accord. Aston and about 200 of his men took cover at Millmount Fort. Cromwell told them that if they surrendered that they would not be killed. They surrendered and an hour later, they were all killed. Aston was beaten to death with his own wooden leg. Roughly 2800 soldiers died that day, along with 800 civilians.

Vicary Mansion and Beaver County Legends (Suggested by listener Heather Marie)

Freedom, Pennsylvania has the Ohio River flowing next to it and on a hill above the river stands a mansion built by Captain William Vicary. The mansion was built in a unique style and has stood on this spot since 1826. The home remained in the family for nearly one hundred years and was saved from demolition by the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation. Today, it is a museum that can be toured. The Foundation claims there are no ghosts at this location, but rumors and legends claim there is some kind of activity that is unexplained happening at the mansion. And Beaver County, where the mansion is located has many legends of its own. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Vicary Mansion and explore the legends of Beaver County!

Beaver County was created in 1800 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ohio and Beaver Rivers flow through the county. The Harmony Society moved to Beaver County from Indiana where they had been harrassed for their abolitionist views. They founded Old Economy Village in 1824. The Harmonist Society were a group of  Christian Theosophists and Pietist that had fled Germany because of persecution. The Harmonists took their campaign of abolition of slavery along the Ohio River and placed signs with the word "Freedom" on the banks. The borough of Freedom located in Beaver County gets its name from those signs because people began to identify the area with the word freedom. Stephen Phillips and Jonathan Betz were owners of a steamship building business and they formally established Freedom as a borough in 1832. It consisted of 100 acres that were platted out by Simon Meredith. The town grew fast alongside another borough named St. Clair, which eventually joined with Freedom as Greater Freedom. St. Clair was founded by Captain William Vicary.

Captain William Vicary was a retired merchant sea captain out of Philadelphia when he purchased 604 acres of land in Beaver County in 1826. Vicary had served in the Navy during the War of 1812 and the government had given him 500 acres in the Northwest Territory, which was land northwest of the Ohio River. Vicary met members of the Harmony Society and he liked the sound of Old Economy Village, so he decided that he would build his mansion and establish a village near Economy. That village came to be known as St. Clair. The mansion was built on a hill overlooking the Ohio River. Vicary hired John Moore to head the project. Other men were hired as workers and they mined sandstone from the local area. Captain Vicary had a very specific vision for his house and this created disputes with his foreman. He was unhappy with the lack of progress. Early contractor issues?

Vicary fired Moore and hired another crew of men, but Moore was not about to go away without a fight. He claimed that Vicary owed him money. The dispute went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Vicary would win after many years, but he would already be dead by then. The house was finally finished in November of 1829. The mansion had red oak floors and hand hewn beams. The outside walls were two feet thick and built from sandstone. The inner walls were brick with plaster over them. The mansion boasted twenty rooms. Vicary died in 1842 and the house passed to his wife who died in 1853. The couple had only one living child at that time named Hannah. She had married a doctor and they moved into the mansion. They made some changes and added a mausoleum for their daughter Leonora who had passed away at four years of age. The vault was made of stonework and covered in the back with earth, so that it was mound shaped. Inside the mausoleum were two benches. The outside was encircled in an iron gate and there was an urn decorated with a kneeling woman, wringing her hands in sorrow, and an angel hovering over the grieving woman.

Hannah's other daughter inherited the house in 1880. When her husband died, she remarried and she and her new huband added the porch to the mansion. They later moved to California and rented the house in 1912 to the Bischoffberger family. This family made improvements to the house in hopes of buying it eventually, but it was never sold to them. The Daily Times reported a fire in 1916 at the house in this way, “Fire at the residence of E.J. Bischoffberger in East Third avenue , Freedom, Saturday night about 9 o’clock resulted in damage to the structure and furnishings estimated at from $500 to $600. The family was away from home at the time and the fire which is thought to have originated at or near the furnace in the basement was discovered by an engine crew in the Conway yards who gave the alarm by blowing the locomotive’s whistle. The fire ladies responded with their big motor fire truck and by good work confined the fire to the main hall on the first floor to which it had eaten its way by the time they arrived. Mr. Bischoffberger arrived home from Erie about one o’clock Sunday morning and could not be censured if he regards the happening in the light of a rather costly “house warming”.”

Joseph Nannah bought the mansion for $10 in 1924. He had the mausoleum removed and the bodies interred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Freedom. His daughter Hazel inherited the property and turned it into apartments in 1948 and ripped up the wood porch, replacing it with concrete. In the 1960s, the state government decided to run Route 65 through and they appropriated the property. The mansion was set for demolition. And it would have happened except for one woman who took a stand. Mildred Pappas wrote a letter and then she got other organizations on board to stop the destruction. The state built a retaining wall to save the mansion and the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Beaver County took ownership of the property and it is now the official home of the Beaver County Historic Research and Landmarks Foundation. The mansion is being restored and is open to the public.

The main spectral presence at the mansion is Captain Vicary himself according to local legend. There are claims that the chandeliers swing of their own accord. They are too heavy for it to be wind blowing them to and fro. The lights flick on and off by themselves as well. And then there are the disembodied voices and whispers that seem to indicate that there is more than one spirit here or that the voices are a type of residual haunting. Members of the Foundation say that claims of hauntings are just legend. No paranormal investigation group seems to have found anything haunting the property. So is this just an urban legend?

Never fear our faithful paranormal lovers! We decided to look into Beaver County itself to find some other haunts and we found a few gems! There is Mudlick Hollow. Here a newlywed couple was riding home in their buggy when something spooked the horse and caused it to rear up. In a story we have heard at other locations, the bride fell and broke her neck. The groom himself was pinned under the horse and he soon died as well. There are claims of strange noises in Mudlick Hollow. The clippety clop of a horse's hooves, the crack of a whip and the sounds of a crash and scream. The fog rolls in almost setting off the residual haunting to occur. A young woman writing an article about this area claimed that she would run cross-country through this place and that often felt creeped out and thought she heard noises.

There are a couple of our infamous bridges here with the white lady as well. One bridge is called Summit Cut Bridge and it is in Beaver Falls and the other is Independence Bridge in Hopewell Township. One starts to realize that perhaps there was one true story that has just been adopted across the country. In the tale about Summit Cut Bridge, a young woman drove her car off the bridge, hitting the train tracks below. She is seen both on the bridge and the tracks below as a lady in white. Independence Bridge's tale is about yet another young couple in a carriage that were riding across the bridge and were killed when their spooked horse turned over the carriage. They fell to the creek below. The young woman is seen walking along the creek.

John T. Anderson Cemetery is located in Beaver County in the Independence Township. The cemetery served Service Creek Church, which was built along the banks of the Ambridge reservoir in the 1700's. The graveyard was officially named for Dr. John Anderson, the pastor of the church from 1788-1810. Weather gets weird around this cemetery. It is found at the end of the lane and when one reaches the cemetery, thunderstorms roll in as if on cue. Heading back out the lane leads the storm to dissipate. As if the lane itself triggers the weather phenomenon. Strange voices are heard on the air and people claim to feel that they are being watched. A soldier from the Civil War is buried here and some claim to see a ghostly vision of him still lying in his coffin above the grave.

Old Economy has a legend as well. The Harmony Society was like most religions and they expected chastity. People were to remain celibate until they were married. Melinda was a young follower of the religion who found herself in the very precarious position of being pregnant without being married. Melinda gave birth to the baby and the legend claims that it was more of a miscarriage. But reports that a baby haunts the basement where she buried it in the wall with a pair of gloves seems to indicate that there is a disturbed soul here. More than likely the result of murder. Melinda seems to have been so tormented that she haunts the building herself as well. An attempt was made to see if the remains of the baby could be found to help bring peace. That attempt went sour when a strong wind blew through the basement. Screen windows were blown out and the excavators ran out, leaving the search uncompleted to this day.

The borough of Baden is home to the Calvin Blazier House on State Street. Blazier was a captain of a riverboat and people referred to him as “The Patriarch of the Mississippi.” The home was built in the 1870s and Blazier moved into it in 1890. He lived in it for 50 years. A financial planning firm eventually ended up using the house for its offcies and that is when the reports of hauntings started. Gaylin Katterson was the office manager and she claimed that many odd things would happen. She was working late one night and had her children with her. She saw a child go streaking past here, making quite a commotion and tearing around. She was tired and exasperated as she hollared at her children to stop. The only problem was, this child was not her's and she realized that when he obeyed her order to knock it off and she turned to look at him. She was stunned to see a young boy dressed in knickers and a shirt with a stiff white collar. Then, he disappeared. Other poltergeist-like activity has been reported, but whatever it is, it seems playful.

The 1810 Tavern in Bridgewater is a popular pub and eatery in Bridgewater. They feature live music inside and poutide depending on season. A French Martini here is reported to taste like Gummy Bears. Sounds unusual, as do the reports of the resident ghost here. Employees report hearing disembodied footsteps and claim that doors and cabinets open and close on their own. Occassionally, the chandeliers can be seen swinging of their own accord just like at the Vicary Mansion. Apparently, this is another friendly ghost just looking for some fun at a pub.

Is the Vicary Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

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