Monday, November 28, 2016

HGB Ep. 166 - Granbury Opera House

Moment in Oddity - The Mortsafe
Suggested by: Anna Prado-Frias

There was a time in history when people had to worry about being buried alive. There was another real concern for those buried and that was body snatching. For example, in the United Kingdom, medical students had a need to study human anatomy out of something more than books. Traditionally, the corpses of executed criminals would be used, but in the nineteenth century there were not many executions as punishment had become more lenient. Demand for bodies far outweighed the supply and thus the thriving trade of bodysnatching took hold. Something needed to be done to ensure the safety of buried loved ones and out of this demand arose the mortsafe. The first mortsafe was made around 1816. Mortsafes came in a variety of designs, but they all were formed from iron rods and plates that surrounded the burial completely. The top was weighted down with more iron and stone. The security continued below the ground. After the grave was dug, the coffin was placed inside and an iron plate was placed on top that had holes along the side to receive the iron bars from the cage. This extra security was necessary because grave robbers had developed a practice of digging a hole and tunnel system that could be up to twenty feet away. It was impossible to tell that the grave had been disturbed as the coffin had been pulled out horizontally through the tunnel. Mortsafes had another plus. They were reusable. Obviously, after several weeks of decomposing, a body was no longer useful. Then a mortsafe could be unlocked and removed and placed on another burial. They could be expensive, so churches would rent them out. That sometimes didn't solve the problem of expense as some elders would levy heavier charges. Societies developed to buy the mortsafes and members could use them at a minimal charge. Use of the mortsafe ended when bodysnatching ended after the Anatomy Act of 1832. The act allowed for unclaimed bodies or donated bodies to be used for science. There are not many mortsafes still around today, but the ones still around serve as an odd reminder of bodysnatching.

This Day in History - Women Vote 1st Time in New Zealand

On this day, November 28th, in 1893, women vote for the first time in a general election in New Zealand. Women received the right to vote in New Zealand after the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed the Electoral Act 1893 into law. This law was the first of its kind in the entire world. New Zealand was the first country to give all adult women the vote. Voting day was only 10 weeks later and despite there not being much time to get registered, 84% of adult females registered and 82% of them turned out. More women voted in that election then men. And even though there were no electoral rolls for the Māori seats, women cast 4000 of the 11,269 Māori votes that year. Some people feared that women would be harrassed when they went to the voting booths, but their fears were unfounded and the day passed as a very festive affair. According to a Christchurch newspaper, the streets "resembled a gay garden party" and "the pretty dresses of the ladies and their smiling faces lighted up the polling booths most wonderfully."

Granbury Opera House (Suggested by Beth Lang)

Granbury, Texas is a place where some claim Texas history lives and never left. The Granbury Opera House is a beautiful restored building that has a history of entertainment that continues to our modern day. It is a physical example of the importance theater has had in America in general and Texas specifically. The building has housed a variety of businesses. One of the more famous characters to perform at the theater, reputedly, was John Wilkes Booth and he may not have left the theater. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Granbury Opera House.

The first building in the settlement that would become Granbury was a log cabin court house. The city is named for General Hiram B. Granbury. He moved to Waco in the 1850s and during the Civil War he recruited the Waco Guards. They moved into Kentucky and the Texas Volunteer regiment elected Granbury as Major. On February 15, 1862, he was captured with his command at the Battle of Fort Donelson. He became a prisoner of war and shipped north to Johnson Island Prison at Lake Erie under General Grant's terms of surrender. In 1864, he would lead the Granbury Brigade at the Battle of Franklin. He lost his life there.Granbury is the county seat of Hood County and it was this county where Davy Crockett's family received 640 acres in land grants in that county after the Texas Revolution. A center square is the heart of the city and many historic buildings are on that square, including the Granbury Opera House.

As strange as it may sound, theater began in Texas inside the Mexican war camps that were built during the battle for Texas independence. Organized theater would later arrive in Houston, Texas in 1837. Over time, nearly every city in West Texas had an opera house and typically it was the largest building in town. These opera houses would be filled to standing room only capacity and both amateur and professional companies would perform. This popularity was at its most intense during the latter part of the Victorian Era. The opera house faded as movies swept the country as a new form of entertainment. Some of these original structures still stand and one of those is situated on the southeast corner of the square in Granbury, Texas.

Henry Kerr was a former city official and he decided to build the structure that houses the opera house. The two-story structure featured a saloon and saddle shop on the ground level with the theater up on the second story. The doors opened for the first time in 1886, although acts were not officially booked until 1891. It was originally called Kerr's Opera House after the owner. Lighting was provided by gas lights and it revealed a stunning interior of red velvet. Men were asked to remove their spurs before entering. A newspaper reported on January 14, 1892 that Kerr had enlarged the stage from the one built earlier in 1886 and added painted scenery and four drop curtains. Dances were held on the second floor as well.

Entertainment came through a variety of means including acrobats, minstrel shows, magicians, vaudeville acts, sword-swallowing and, of course, plays. Keeping in mind that this opera house opened in the Victorian Era, it is not surprising that the community was torn between enjoying risque
acts and crying out against vulgarity heard in some plays. Young people were kept from even walking in front of the building and rumors floated about the reputations of performers who enjoyed the proximity of the many saloons in town. One of the more controversial shows was provided by the Billy Kersands troupe. This was a troupe of black minstrels and Billy Kersands was one of the most famous black minstrels of that day. Legend claims that Billy could put a whole billiard ball in his mouth and go on to deliver an eloquent monologue without any trouble. Occasionally, he shoved a saucer into his reputedly large mouth. He was an unconventional dancer and created jazz tunes. He had earlier toured Europe with another troupe before forming his own. The Granbury paper reported that the troupe played to a full house at Kerr's Hall on a Monday night and that it was the best show of its kind on the road, but that many of the townspeople "kicked against paying a dollar to see it."

There is a handwritten diary on display in the lobby of the Granbury Opera House that was written by a traveling actor named Arminedale. One of the interesting entries says, "We played Granbury on the 25th and 27th...We came back on the 26th and played a second night at Granbury but we had a very small house. We had a little disturbance here on the first night between the Marshal and one of the citizens, but it did not come to much. We put up at the Farr Hotel and I wish it had been a little farther as it was a very poor place to stop at."

Carrie A. Nation was a Temperance warrior who carried around a hatchet. She used that hatchet to chop up saloons and it is said that she chopped up seven of the saloons in the Granbury square. Reportedly, the loss of the saloons led to the downfall of theater in the town. Which makes us wonder how good the acting was if liquor was considered necessary to the theater's success. The final curtain fell in 1911. A grocery store moved into the space and was run by former schoolteacher J. B. Wilson. Other businesses would come and go, including the first bowling alley in town. Another grocery store moved into the west side of the building in 1940. There was an insurance company and an abstract company run by Margaret Carmichael. At this point, the building had fallen into such disrepair that she covered her desk in plastic every night before leaving just in case it rained.

Carmichael eventually was forced to borrow money from a family member named Karl Weiser. The property was deeded to Weiser on January 14, 1965 and seven years later, he deeded it to retired businessman Joe L. Nutt.  Nutt's ancestors helped establish Granbury as the county seat. Nutt deeded the building to the Granbury Opera Association on August 28, 1974. The opera house recently underwent a $3.5 million renovation that has made it a state-of-the-art performance hall. That renovation took the theater back to the Victorian era in decor. The original limestone walls house elegant twin curved staircases, imported chandeliers hanging from pressed-tin-inspired acoustic ceiling tiles, filigree iron balcony railings and plush seats.

One of the legends of Granbury is about Jesse James. He is buried there. The headstone that marks his grave used to have the name J. Frank Dalton on it, but now features a Confederate flag and reads:  "CSA - Jesse Woodson James. Sept. 5, 1847-Aug. 15, 1951. Supposedly killed in 1882." Historians claim that Jesse James was shot and killed by a member of his own gang in 1882. Legend claims the man that was shot and buried was another member of his gang. Jesse moved to Granbury where he met a young lady and fell in love. When he was a very old man, he returned to Granbury to live out the rest of his days and died of natural causes at the age of 103 in 1951. James family descendants dedicated the headstone found at the Granbury Cemetery.

There is a bit of conspiracy theory and legend surrounding John Wilkes Booth, the city of Granbury and the Granbury Opera House. Many of you listeners are probably aware that there are some that claim that the 16th New York Calvary that was chasing down John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Lincoln, did not, in fact, get their man. They had tracked him down to the Garrett Farm in Virginia and ordered him to come out of the barn. When he did not, they set the barn on fire. He limped to the entrance and was shot and paralyzed and carried to the porch of the farmhouse. He succumbed to his injuries the following morning. His body was carried up the Potomac and buried, although some accounts have the Calvary tossing his body into the Potomac River. Other accounts claim his body was turned over to his family. *Rabbit Hole: Sergeant Boston Corbett who shot Booth was a mentally unstable man. He castrated himself in the 1850s to help him "resist sin." He later served as Sergeant-of-Arms to the Kansas legislature and fired off two pistols on a legislative session. He was confined to a mental institution after that, but later escaped and vanished.*

But what if Booth actually escaped or if the federal agents let him go? There is a legend that he changed his name to John St. Helen and ended up in Granbury, Texas. He tended bar there in the late 1870s and was described as scholarly and a man who had a penchant for quoting Shakespeare. Some say he performed at the Granbury Opera House. Even though he was a bartender, St. Helen never drank except on one day of the year and that was April 14th. The day President Lincoln was assassinated. On that day, he would drink himself into oblivion. Later, St. Helen took ill and people thought he was on his death bed. He did too and he took that opportunity to confess to a priest that he was Booth and that he had shot President Lincoln. He told the man that he could find the murder weapon wrapped in newspaper and hidden behind a certain board in a house where he had lived. He recovered, changed his name again and fled to Enid, Oklahoma. He again confessed to shooting the President before he committed suicide in 1913. In an odd twist, a Memphis lawyer and promoter named Finis Bates, mummified the body and took it on a tour around the country. He did end up in Granbury one day and the residents declared that the body was not that of St. Helen. The house that St. Helen had lived in at Granbury was razed in 1938 and the gun was found where St. Helen said it would be and it was wrapped in a yellowing newspaper that had a headline about Lincoln's assassination.

Logan Hawkes wrote on the Texas Less Traveled website:
"Years ago, before ever hearing about John St. Helens and the Granbury connection, when I was a young reporter working for the San Antonio Light newspaper out of the Hill Country bureau, I stumbled in the Bander public library for a little research on local history. I stumbled across a local newspaper clipping from the late 1800s that told the story of a young man who very much met the description of Booth and St, Helens, who had come to Bandera under suspicious circumstances. He was a school teacher and thespian, and opened a school of acting for the children of elite families in Bandera. It wasn't long before this educated foreigner, who walked with a limp and talked with a southern accent, worked his way into the mainstream of local society and fell in love with the daughter of a local cattle baron."
Because of this connection to Granbury, many claim that Boothe haunts the opera house. Those that have witnessed the apparition, claim he wears large black boots and has a waist coat that matches those boots and that he quotes Shakespeare on occasion. Sometimes he is seen wearing a white puffy shirt. People claim that he looks very much like pictures of Booth they have seen. Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab investigated the theater and they picked up some strange anomalies.

The city has many legends. Is the story of John Wilkes Booth surviving true? Does his ghost hang around the opera house? Is the Granbury Opera House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Granbury Ghost and Legends Tour: Granbury Tours

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Special 2016 - Top 10 LA Haunted Eateries

Top 10 LA Haunted Eateries (Suggested by Gourmet Ghosts author James Bartlett)

Author and journalist James Bartlett joins us on this episode to share his Top 10 haunted eateries and bars in Los Angeles. Originally from London, James has been a freelance journalist since 1999 and has been living in Los Angeles since 2004. He has written about travel, entertainment, food and the weird and wonderful side of LA in over 100 magazines and newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Hemispheres, American Way, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph,, Film Ireland, and BBC He has also contributed to Variety, Bizarre, The Historian, RTE Radio and BBC Radio and he is author of Gourmet Ghosts and Gourmet Ghosts 2, which feature murder, mystery and history at dozens of bars, restaurants, hotels and landmarks across Los Angeles.

Locations discussed on this episode where:

1.  La Golondrina - Mexican Cafe
2.  El Carmen's Tequila Bar
3.  Tom Bergen's - Irish Bar opened in 1936 and Cheers was based on it.
4.  Tam O'Shanter - Scottish place that Disney Imagineers used to frequent.
5.  El Cid - Spanish
6.  Yamashiro - Japanese restaurant with beautiful grounds
7.  The Magic Castle
8.  Roosevelt Hotel - this is a location we've covered on the podcast.
9.  Barney's Beanery - located on the original Route 66
10. The Biltmore Hotel - Black Dahlia haunts this location.

You can find James' book here: James Bartlett Amazon Page

Sunday, November 20, 2016

HGB Ep. 165 - Windsor's Capitol Theater and Texas Road

Moment in Oddity - Unsinkable Sam
Suggested by: Michael Rogers

When it comes to a cat that lived during World War II, we're not sure if it is more strange that he survived the sinking of three ships or that he started with the Nazi regime and ended up with the Royal Navy. His name was Oscar and he was a black and white cat. Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine had the battleship Bismarck built and it launched on February 14, 1939. During a battle with the Allied battleship Prince of Wales it was heavily damaged and later sank. One hundred eighteen of the 2200 crew were all that survived, along with one cat. He was rescued by the British destroyer HMS Cossack, which found him floating on a board on the water. They named him Oscar and now he has switched sides in the great war. The Cossack carried out covert activities and Oscar was there through it all for several months. Until the Cossack was hit by a torpedo west of Gibraltar. As it was being towed back, it sank and Oscar was found clinging to a piece of plank and taken on to Gibraltar. When the British officers who had rescued him heard that this was the second sinking he had survived, they changed his name to Unsinkable Sam. The crew of the HMS Ark Royal adopted him. This aircraft carrier was known as a lucky ship because it had survived many near misses. On November 14, 1941, the ship was returning from Malta when it was torpedoed by a U-boat. A motor launch found Sam clinging to a floating plank and they described him as "angry but quite unharmed." Poor Sam had enough of this sinking business and switched to dry land hunting mice in the building of the Governor General in Gibraltar. After the war, he went to live at ‘Home for Sailors’ in Belfast until the end of his earthly days. What a wonderful story that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Second Treaty of Paris Signed

On this day, November 20th, in 1815, the Second Treaty of Paris is signed. Napoleon Bonaparte had been exiled by the allied government in 1814 to the island of Elba after he abdicated at Fontainebleau. He escaped in February of 1815 and fled to France where he began the Hundred Days of his restoration. Part of that was the Waterloo Campaign. The united powers of Austria, the United Kingdom, Prussia and Russia defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June. Four days after this, Napoleon agreed to abdicate the throne again. This restored the French monarchy. As part of the treat, France was ordered to pay 700 million francs in indemnities and the borders of France were reduced to where they had been in 1790. It also called for the occupation of France by 150,000 coalition forces and France had to foot the bill for that force, which lasted for three years. Napoleon was sent into exile for the second time and he died there on Saint Helena.

Capitol Theater in Windsor (Suggested by Alisha Lesperance)

Windsor, Ontario is a mid-sized city on the southwest tip of Ontario, Canada, across the river from Detroit, Michigan. It's a multi-cultural city with a strong history in manufacturing. The French founded the early settlement here and this is reflected in the names of streets. There are many historical buildings in the city and one of these locations is the Capitol Theater where full seasons of contemporary plays have been performed sine the 1980s. As is the case with many theaters, this one is reputed to be haunted. There is also a road in Windsor that is cloaked in legends and that is Texas Road. Listener Alisha Lesperance joins us from Windsor to share her experiences performing at the theater and to discuss the legends of Texas Road. 

Windsor, Ontario was once separate villages and towns. These included Sandwich, Walkerville, Riverside, Ford City and Ojibway. First Nation tribes lived in the area until the French came and a small Jesuit Mission known as Petite Côte or the Little Coast was built. Later, it would be known as La Côte de Misère or Poverty Coast, based on the sandy soil found there. In 1748, the French set up an agricultural community, making this the oldest continually inhabited city in Canada west of the Quebec border. The French influence here is seen in the names of streets and the pattern of the roads. The settlement of Sandwich was founded in 1794, after the American Revolution. Sandwich had been the Huron Church Reserve and would now be a new administrative headquarters for the British. It was incorporated in 1858. French control fell away before that in 1797 because of the numbers of British moving to the area.

Walkerville was  founded  by  Hiram  Walker  in  1858 as a company town. He was a New
England-born  distiller  and he bought several acres on  the  south  shore  of  the  Detroit  River to build a distillery and a flour mill. The Great Western Railway came here in the 1850s and helped build Walkerville and Walker even built his own line in 1885. In 1935, the future city of Windsor would annex the town. In 1904, the Ford Motor Company brought a Ford plant to land developed from the French parish, Notre Dame du  Lac, which had been founded  in  1884  on  land  donated  by  Francois  Drouillard. The community that developed around the plant was called Ford City. It became an official village in 1913 and then a town in 1915, finally incorporating as a city. It was very haphazard in its set-up and was plagued with debt. Both World Wars helped build the industrial production and growth of the city. Riverside was a residential town officially formed in 1921. The Canadian Steel Corporation founded another company town called Ojibway in 1913. Financial issues halted many of the plans for this town.

Eventually, all these towns would be annexed into the City of Windsor in 1935 and 1966. The name Windsor comes from the town in Berkshire, England. Windsor became a village in 1854, then a town in 1858 and finally incorporated as a city in 1892. The city suffered a devastating fire in October of 1871. One hundred buildings in the downtown were destroyed. It rebuilt and the city remains a primarily manufacturing based city. This is also Eastern Canada's largest agricultural business community. *Fun Fact: Windsor was the final stop of the Underground Railroad and the history is preserved at the John Freeman Walls Historic Site.*

American businessman and movie pioneer Marcus Loew headed up Loew's Theaters and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. In 1904, he had founded the People's Vaudeville Company, a theater chain, which showcased one-reel films and live vaudeville shows. In 1920, he would begin to lay the groundwork for MGM by buying Metro Pictures Corporation and in February of that year he purchased land on the Sound side of London Street, which is today University Avenue, and the West side of Pelissier Street in Windsor, Ontario, so that he could build a theater. He hired theater architect Thomas White Lamb to design the theater. It was built at a cost of $600,000 in the Adam-Empire style. The Loew's Windsor Theater took nine months to complete and opened on New Years Eve, December 31, 1920. The name changed to the Capitol Theatre in 1922.

Another interesting area of legend and hauntings in Windsor is Texas Road. Texas Road stretches between Windsor and Amherstburg and passes through a gully. There is a story that one man murdered another on the road and the dead man was buried nearby. It is said that his spirit is trapped and that he cannot leave the burial site. He returns on specific nights to the scene of the crime and motorists claim to see him as a mysterious shrouded figure. This rumor is said to have started in the 1960s when a teenager used a wire to pull a white sheet across the road as a prank. Satanists have met near the road to conduct rituals.

There are many legends of Texas Road. A couple was driving down the road looking for a place to get a little frisky. They found a good spot and pulled over to the side of the road. They were getting to know each other a little better when they suddenly heard scratching on the car door. It terrified the young woman and she begged her boyfriend to drive away and so he did. They stopped a little later and got out to check the door and they were stunned to find a hook attached to the door. There is a cemetery nearby that seems to be haunted. People will leave their cars to visit the cemetery and when they return, they can't get the car to start. When they look back at the cemetery, they see a light shining. The shining light has been seen on the road as well and is attributed to a rider who was murdered by thieves and his mangled body was left behind. The legend does not say that the man's head was cut off, but his spirit is usually seen as a headless horseman.

Is Capitol Theater in Windsor harboring spirits from the past? Is there some truth to these legends about Texas Road? That is for you to decide!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

HGB Ep. 164 - Ledge Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Inn

Moment in Oddity - UFO Battle Over Nuremberg

Long before the infamous trials of Nazi war criminals, Nuremberg was a Medieval city with courts serving during the Holy Roman Empire. It also was the scene of a reputed UFO battle on April 4, 1561. A woodcut illustration by Hans Glaser documents the battle. He did not witness the event himself. The battle was a mass sighting with residents reporting that they saw cylindrical objects that released many colored disks and globes. People described tubes and crosses in the sky as well. The battle lasted for approximately an hour. Some skeptics claim that the battle was nothing more than an atmospheric phenomena known as a parhelion or sundog. Sundogs are commonly made by the refraction of light from plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds. This more than likely was an atmospheric disturbance that the people of the 1500s would not understand, but even such a light show would be unique and certainly is odd!

This Day in History - UNESCO Founded

On this day, November 16th, in 1945, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, also known as UNESCO, was founded. A need was seen after World War II to bring the major countries of the world together to work for the greater good. Thirty-seven countries signed the constitution to found the organization and it was ratified by twenty of them including: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. Today, there are 195 member countries. There are more than fifty offices throughout the world all focused on the goals of building peace, eradicating poverty and education. Two of its top priorities are Africa  and gender equality. The World Heritage arm that has come up several times on this podcast, focuses on sites around the world that feature cultural and natural heritage for regions and humanity in general. These places are all unique and range from the Great Barrier Reef to the Serengeti to cathedrals to the pyramids.

Ledge Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Inn (Suggested by: Brian Morse)

The New England area is dotted with lighthouses to protect ships from the treacherous shores of the coast. Some of these lighthouses are more inland like the Ledge Lighthouse that sits in the Long Island Sound. It has a unique design that makes it appear to be a house floating out on the water, although the bright flashing light atop it is a dead give away of its true purpose. Across the water is the abandoned Lighthouse Inn that started out as a summer mansion and later served as an inn. Both of these locations are not only historic properties, but they are reputed to be haunted. Join us as we explore the histories and hauntings of the Ledge Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Inn!

New London, Connecticut sits along the Long Island Sound. The area was first settled by the Mohegan Tribe. In the early 1600s, this tribe was originally the Pequot. A rivalry developed between the chief, who was Sassacus, and another member named Uncas. The dispute was so great that Uncas left, taking a group with him. He was named chief and they called themselves the Wolf People. Mohegan means Wolf People. The main reason for the dispute arose from dealing with European settlers. Uncas wanted to collaborate with the English. There would be wars, but Uncas was successful with the help of the Europeans and they would protect the Mohegans during King Phillip's War. Settlers would come and buy land from the Mohegan, but eventually when Connecticut became a colony it ruled that the Mohegan would not be compensated for land they sold. Eventually the tribe was penniless and decided to relocate to upstate New York with the Oneida tribe.

The Pequot called this area Nameaug. The original settlement that would later become New London was founded by John Winthrop, Jr. in 1646. When it came to naming the settlement, the people wanted to name it London after London, England, but the Connecticut General Assembly wanted to name the town Faire Harbour. The colonists said they would rather continue with Nameaug if they couldn't have London. The legislature caved and the town was officially named New London on March 10, 1658. New London was the first official port of the Connecticut colony. It was the perfect spot as the Thames River was wide and deep and perfect for ships to maneuver through. The port was a maritime center with ship building and trade that specifically centered on the West Indies.The city would be incorporated in 1784 and was one of the first five cities in Connecticut.  The 19th century brought huge growth and prosperity to the city with sealing and whaling building this into the second-largest New England port and by 1850, the railroad had arrived. The prime water location would eventually bring the Coast Guard Academy here.

One of the most unique, in appearance, lighthouses in the world is Ledge Lighthouse, found off of New London in Fishers Island Sound. It stands at the mouth of the Thames River. The New London Harbor Light had been built upriver, but increased traffic made it obvious that another lighthouse was needed and so it was decided in 1900 to build Ledge Lighthouse. It took until 1906 for the United States Senate to authorize construction and another two years for T.A. Scott Company to be contracted to build it. The lighthouse was completed in 1909 and originally named Southwest Ledge, but after it was pointed out that another lighthouse had the same name, the Southwest part was dropped.

What makes the lighthouse unique is that it was not built in a round tower-like style, but more like a house. Two wealthy homeowners suggested that the lighthouse be designed in the same style as the homes in the area. The structure incorporates a mixture of the Colonial Revival and French Second Empire styles and made from granite and brick. Ledge is three-stories and has eleven rooms. And it really does look like a house sitting alone on an island with a light blazing from a tower atop it. When it was first lit on November 7, 1909, it was equipped with a fourth-order Fresnel lens, that had been crafted in France. That original lens was later replaced, but it can still be seen on display at the Custom House in New London. This particular beacon had three white flashes followed by a red flash every thirty seconds.

Ledge Lighthouse had a standard crew of three men, but sometimes a fourth man was added. They spent their days polishing the brass and the lens, painting surfaces to keep them new and clean, oiling fixtures and keeping the light fueled. The lighthouse has been restored throughout the years and is ongoing. Three windows were replaced just last month, October 2016. Tours are offered in the summer season. The Project Oceanology boat takes visitors on a 10 minute ride to Ledge Light from Avery Point in Groton.

The Ledge has a resident ghost that is fairly well known. His name is Ernie and it is believed that he had been one of the keepers. Information is hard to find about him, but there is a legend that has grown up around him. It is said that he served during the 1920s or 30s. He had married a much younger woman and she did not follow him to the lighthouse. While he was away, she fell in love with the Captain of the Block Island Ferry. She decided to run away with him. Ernie was heartbroken and in his distraught state of mind, he climbed to the roof of the lighthouse and flung his body over the edge. The body was never recovered. It is rumored that he has haunted the lighthouse ever since. Cold spots are felt and disembodied voices are heard. Strange noises seem to have no cause behind them. Boats that are tied up become untied, seemingly on their own.The lighthouse embraces the legend and has a furnished keeper's room with a mannequin of Ernie.

Across the sound from Ledge Lighthouse, to the northwest, and through some trees, stands the Lighthouse Inn. The inn was built in 1902 and was originally the mansion of one man, steel baron Charles Strong Guthrie of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It specifically was meant to be his summer home. The 12 acre field it was built in attracted Guthrie because of the wildflowers growing everywhere. He called his home "Meadow Court" for this reason. The house was designed by Boston architect William Ralph Emerson and the landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmstead. Emerson is considered by historians to be one of the inventors of the Shingle style. Meadow Court was designed in the Mission style with Mediterranean overtones. It was built in a half circle, so that all the bedrooms had views of the beautiful gardens.

Guthrie picked the location because the Pequot House was nearby and served as the cornerstone for the summer resort colony and the area was described as a small version of Newport, Rhode Island. In 1927, the mansion became an inn and because of the nearby lighthouses, it was christened Lighthouse Inn. Most of the land was sold off and the inn only retained 2.8 acres of the original 12 acres. There were twenty-seven suites to rent. In the 1930s, Hollywood celebrities like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis stayed here. In 1979, the inn suffered a severe fire on the upper floors and required a $2.5 million renovation. Over time, the inn had become a popular gathering place for dinner parties and weddings and their Sunday Brunch was famous. The inn closed in 2008 after years of being dogged with financial issues.

The Lighthouse Inn is the only location in Connecticut designated as a Historic Hotel of America. The inn was city-owned and sat vacant for quite a while and was placed on auction in 2010 and was awarded to New Haven businessman Anthony Acri for a bid of $1.25 million. Acri promised to restore the location and his family was going to run it as a restaurant and inn.  A series of break-ins followed the auction and Acri withdrew his bid. In 2014, he participated in another bid and offered $100,000. The city rejected allowing Acri to take ownership because he was a very unscrupulous businessman. He and several associates were accused of enriching themselves at the expense of the Alaska native corporation that provides funding for the Eskimo people of Kotzebue, in northwestern Alaska. The inn sold again in October 2016 on the auction block. The high bidder was Alwyn Christy of Glastonbury. His bid was $260,000. Christy was asked about his plans and he said that he wants to reopen it as an inn again. So we hope that eventually, you will be able to stay at this historic inn once again and we hope they retain its charm. We do wonder if they know about the rumors of hauntings at this location.

The Lighthouse Inn has several ghosts. A hurricane blew through in 1938 and two children were killed at the inn. It is believed that they are still at the inn in the afterlife, haunting the bedrooms and hallways. There is also a story about a young girl that may or may not be separate from the story of these children. Not much is known about a back story, but she appears to be an intelligent haunting. She is heard running in the corridors and the doors open and close on their own when this happens. She is heard talking and laughing. A female ghost wearing Victorian era dress has been seen and heard walking in the halls, particularly at night. She seems to be more residual than intelligent.

There is another woman here and she is a lady in white. She is reputed to be in white because she is a bride. The tragic story that is told about here took place on her wedding day. She was coming down a winding center staircase at the inn when she tripped and tumbled down the stairs. She broke her neck in the fall and her deceased body came to rest at the feet of her groom. This happened in 1930 and she has haunted the place ever since. Her full-bodied apparition hanging out in dark corners and her reflection is seen in windows. The scent of her perfume is detected at times. The New York Times even featured her in a 2007 article. Ghost Hunters investigated the inn in 2004 and Steve felt something unseen touch him in the basement tunnels. The pressure felt as heavy as 15 pounds. There was a recorded drop in temperatures of 30 degrees that could not be explained.

The Ledge Lighthouse continues to keep watch of maritime traffic. Is the spirit of Ernie still carrying on his job as keeper in the afterlife? Is the Lighthouse Inn harboring the spirits of former guests or are these stories of ghosts just made up? Are the Ledge Lighthouse and Lighthouse Inn haunted? That is for you to decide!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

HGB Ep. 163 - Capt. Tony's Saloon

Moment in Oddity - Magnetic Strip on Autobahn

 A section of the Autobahn in Germany between Bremen and Bremerhaven was opened in 1929 and in its first year of operation, one hundred cars crashed. That would be weird enough all on its own, but what makes this even more bizarre is that all the crashes happened in the same place near kilometer marker 239. On September 7, 1930, nine separate accidents occurred. All of the cars were totaled. Authorities were puzzled because the patch of road was not particularly hazardous. There was no tight turn. The road was straight and flat. Then they started comparing stories of accident survivors. Many claimed feeling a sensation as though a strange force had taken over the steering wheel and thrown the car off the road. A local water diviner named Carl Wehrs heard about the issue and went to the police offering his services. He walked with a steel diving rod around the marker. He was looking for an underground stream causing some kind of magnetic force. While he was walking, the rod was ripped from his grasp and his body was spun around 360 degrees. Wehr suggested that a box of copper be buried next to the marker. The accidents stopped. They tested the theory by digging up the box and three cars immediately crashed. They buried the box again and sprinkled holy water. No more accidents happened. An unseen magnetic strip along or under a road that causes accidents, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Polar Explorer Robert Falcon Scott's Body Found

On this day, November 12th, in 1912, the body of British polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott is found frozen to death in Antarctica. Scott headed two expeditions to the South Pole. The first took place in 1901 and lasted through to 1904. The second expedition was the Terra Nova Expedition that launched November 1, 1911 and had a couple of goals.The first was to conduct more research, but the ultimate goal was to be the first to reach the South Pole. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen beat him to it by a month. Scott had a 38 man team that set off with him initially, but only five men were with him at the time of his death. That entire team died on the return trip. Inside Scott's tent were found fossils, rolls of film, meteorological logs and scores of notes. The weather took a turn they were not prepared for and Captain Scott wrote, "No-one in the world would have expected the temperatures and surfaces which we have encountered at this time of the year. It is clear that these circumstances come on very suddenly, and our wreck is certainly due to this sudden advent of severe weather."

Capt. Tony's Saloon (Suggested by Maryann Barcomb)

Key West, Florida is the southernmost part of the United States. The city features man-made beaches, resorts, shopping, eateries and lots of history. One of the historical bars here is Capt. Tony's Saloon. The building has a long and diverse history that includes brothels, speakeasies, morgues and much more. One of the former bars here was a favorite watering hole of Ernest Hemingway. The current saloon, Capt. Tony's is a favorite gathering place for locals. It also seems to be a gathering place for customers from beyond the veil. Could it be because a former hanging tree once stood here? Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Capt. Tony's Saloon!

Visitors to Key West, Florida will not find any non-man-made beaches because the island is made from coral. This coral was once below the sea as a type of coral forest millions of years ago. The first settlers to come here were Native Americans. Spanish explorers gave the island the name "Cayo Hueso," which means little island bone. Explorers used Key West as a pit stop for water and other items. Bahamians were thought to have settled here before the 1800s, but it wouldn't be until Florida became a territory in 1821, that settlers came here permanently. Ownership of Key West was really confusing at this time and almost came across as a land scam. Juan Pablo Salas bought Key West as part of a Spanish Land Grant in 1815 from Don Juan de Estrata. A man named John Simonton bought the land from Salas, but he didn't really have a deed. Little did Simonton know, but Salas sold it twice. Once to him and once to a man named John Strong. Strong sold it twice as well and Simonton partnered with three other men with whom he split the land. In the end, Congress declared Simonton the owner. The city of Key West was incorporated on January 8, 1828. Key West also became a port of entry at that time. Wrecking, which is taking shipwrecks to a port of entry and selling off the goods, and salt mining became major forces of economy.

Anyone visiting Key West will hear about something called the Conch Republic. The story behind this is one that many do not know, but there was a time when a part of Florida, Key West to be exact, seceded from the United States and this was after the Civil War. In 1982, the Border Patrol set up a roadblock at Florida City's "Skeeter's Last Chance Saloon" to search for illegal immigrants. This effectively cut off the Florida Keys and inconvenienced residents and tourists. The Key West City Council complained to the federal government and pushed for an injunction against the roadblock. When they got no satisfaction, the council, along with the mayor of Key West, declared independence on April 23, 1982 and seceded. They lowered the American flag and raised the flag of the Conch Republic. Some Key Westers protested and the American flag was raised above the Conch Republic flag. The media brought attention to the plight of the Keys and the roadblock was dismantled. The American government never responded to the secession. Today, Key West continues to observe the event and celebrates their Conch Republic tongue-in-cheek and this has spread to the entirety of the Keys.

Capt. Tony's Saloon is located at 428 Greene Street and this location has a rich and varied history. The building was built in 1851 to serve as an ice house. Ice was necessary to keep food cold in the 1800s, but it was also very useful for keeping something else preserved and that was bodies. Before electric refrigeration, the ice house was used as Key West's first city morgue. There was a large oak tree beside the building that came to be known as Key West’s ‘Hanging Tree.’ Piracy was a huge problem in the waters around Key West and sixteen of those pirates would meet there end on this hanging tree. A seventeenth person hanged here was a woman who stabbed to death her family that included her husband and two small children.

In the 1890s, the building became a wireless telegraph station and some of the major news that came through there was about the sinking of the battleship Maine in 1898. The news went out from here to all over the world. A cigar factory moved into the space in 1912. A series of speakeasies moved in with various names including The Blind Pig and they featured the typical gambling, liquor and brothels. *Fun fact: Hoover Gold is what people in Key West called bootleg rum.* The speakeasies continued into the 1930s when an establishment that will become well known moved in and that was Sloppy Joe's.

Joe “Josie” Russell opened Sloppy Joe’s in 1933. This was Ernest Hemingway's favorite watering hole in town. Hemingway had his most productive time of writing while he was living in Key West and his daily routine was getting up at dawn, writing all morning and afternoon in his pool house and then heading to Sloppy Joe's to meet his friends at 3:30pm. During these years Hemingway wrote,  “Death in the Afternoon”, “The Green Hills of Africa “, “To Have and Have Not” as well as “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” A dispute over rent between Josie and his landlord caused Josie to decide to move the bar across town to its current location on Duval Street. The landlord presented him with a new lease that raised the rent and stated that all fixtures had to stay at the bar if the lease was ended. So Josie decided to move the entire bar in the middle of the night and he took the fixtures too. This included a urinal, which Hemingway insisted on taking because "his hard earned money paid for it.” The urinal can still be viewed at the Hemingway House where it remains as a cat trough.

The next person to own the building was an openly gay man named Morgan Bird. Although it was the 1940s, Key West seemed more open about gay people and perhaps that is why it is a gay haven to this day. Bird decided to open a gay bar here and called it the Duval Club. He decorated it in a late-Victorian style and threw lavish parties. Some of these parties attracted naval sailors and before long, the Duval Club was on the "off limits" list for the naval sailors who were apparently propositioned heavily at the bar. The well worn location at 428 Green Street would have its final and current tenant take over in 1958. The owner at the time was David Wolkowsky and he sold it to Captain Tony Tarracino, for whom Capt. Tony's Saloon is named.

Anthony Tarracino was an interesting character and so he fit well with quirky Key West. He was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on Aug. 10, 1916. His father was an immigrant and made money as a bootlegger during Prohibition. Tony decided to get into the family business and he quit school in the ninth grade to sell illegal whiskey with his father. This eventually led him to the New Jersey Mafia. He became a gambler as well and got himself into a tight spot that left him beaten nearly to death at the Newark City Dump. Tony decided he better chance things and fast, He moved to Key West in 1948 and spent the next sixty years on the island, even serving as mayor for two years. He only had $18 in his pocket when he arrived. He worked as a charter boat captain for 35 years, which is where the title "Captain" comes from. During the 1950s he claimed he was a gunrunner and that he ferried CIA agents and mercenaries to Cuba and Haiti. He opened his saloon in 1958. He once said of Key West, "Key West is an insane asylum. We're just too lazy to put up the walls or fences. I want to retain that mystique." He eventually sold the saloon in 1989 after running it for 28 years. He fathered 13 children with 5 wives. He died of lung and heart ailments at the age of 90 at Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West.

The back room at Capt. Tony's is a pool room, but it served as a dance hall named Silver Slipper in the days of the original Sloppy Joe's. A live band played Rumba all night long. The room hosted gambling before the dance hall. There was sawdust on the floor and gamblers played faro, celo, craps, roulette, slots and blackjack. Today, a huge tree grows in the center of the bar, all the way through the roof. And yes, it is THAT tree: The hanging tree. The decor features license plates, business cards and countless women's bras stapled to the walls and ceiling. The bar stools are painted and feature the names of famous people who have spent time there like Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Shel Silverstein. Jimmy Buffett performed at the tavern in the 1970s for tips and beer. The song “Last Mango in Paris” is about this time in Buffett's life. If you visit, be sure to try the Pirate Punch.

Many people have heard of  Robert the Doll. This creepy doll seems to have captured a spirit of some sort. But Robert is far from the only spirit on Key West and Capt. Tony's seems to have a few spirits. One of them is a "lady in blue'" Remember that woman who was hanged on the hanging tree for killing her family? She was wearing a blue dress when she swung from the rope. The effects of hanging also caused her to turn blue. So when people see her full-bodied apparition in the saloon, she is completely blue. One patron also claimed that he got a third degree burn on his hand after touching the tree.

A major hurricane hit Key West in 1865, with a massive sea surge. The waves smashed into everything and the city morgue, the current saloon, took a direct hit. Doors went flying and so did corpses. They disappeared into the murky waters. Only one was ever recovered outside the building. The Bahamians decided to bury the body and then they built a wall around the grave and placed bottles of holy water in the wall. The bar was eventually built over this grave. In the 1980s, restoration was being done on the floors when the bones of eight to fifteen bodies were discovered. The bar features a skeletal reminder behind it. A grave marker featuring the name Elvira was found at this time as well and it was put in the passageway to the pool hall. Was there a cemetery here at one time? Were the bones of those hanged, buried here?

A woman came into the speakeasy one night with her baby and found her husband carousing. She was so angry that she went into the bathroom and killed the baby. Ever since, the bathroom has been haunted. Cold spots are felt in the bathrrom and outside in the hallway.The stalls lock and unlock themselves. One woman had the following experience in 2005:
“I tried to go in the first stall, but it was locked. I figured someone was in there that I didn’t notice, but then I heard the outside door close. Just before we left, I went in again. I again went for the first stall – the back one gave me the chills and eerie feeling – and realized it was locked from the inside. While in the back stall, I again heard the outside door close and I looked around the corner. No one walked in. I was feeling strange but continued what I was doing when, all of a sudden, I heard that first stall door slam. I jumped out of the back stall and saw that no one was there, and that the first stall was still locked from the inside. I ran out and never looked back.”
A man named Joe Faber started frequenting Captain Tony’s Saloon in 1976. He has heard disembodied voices. He said, “About eight or nine years ago, I’m in the bar alone at about four o’clock in the morning. I was sitting there doing paperwork, and someone called me. All I heard was, ‘Hey, Joe.’ I thought that was pretty odd, so I got up to look around to see who was looking for me. I walked out of the back of the bar, and the back doors were wide open. I had just been out there maybe half an hour earlier.”  He looked everywhere, but found no one. He continued, “I didn’t think much of that voice until several years later. I was sitting at the bar at the end of the night doing paperwork, and I hear that same voice again, but this time it says, ‘Don’t leave.’ Now I’ve got the chills. I got up, and I ran to the back to see if the doors were open. I checked, and everything was locked down. So then I checked the entire building, because I’m thinking this may be a warning that there’s going to be a fire or something, but nothing was wrong.” He finds nothing again and heads home.

Several hours later his phone rang. He said, “I get a phone call about six o’clock in the morning from the police saying that a girl, maybe seventeen or eighteen years old, committed suicide in front of the bar. Apparently the girl called her mother from her cell phone, said that she had just taken some pills to kill herself, and that she was in front of a yellow building that she thought was a bar, under a green awning. Her mother called the Key West police, who went from bar to bar and found the girl in front of Captain Tony’s, dead. Had I stayed at the bar that night, maybe I would have found the girl and been able to help her. Now, do I know what the hell that is? Absolutely not. But I do know that I’ve been there twenty years, I’ve heard it twice, and it was meaningful both times. Everybody can speak about the Lady in Blue, the bathroom, and things like that, but I means nothing to me until I actively see it or hear it. But from what I’ve experienced, and the stories I’ve heard, I know something’s going on.”

Key West seems to have captured many spirits along its coral surface. Is the former Sloppy Joe's one of those places on this island harboring the spirits of those no longer living? Is Captain Tony's Saloon haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
We also featured the fifth installment of the third series of Tim Prasil's Spectral Editon: A New York Society of Ghost Hunters. Check out more Spectral Edition at

Quotes from Alan's Mysterious World Blog:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

HGB Ep. 162 - The White House

Moment in Oddity - The Doppelganger of Emilie Sagee
Suggested by: Michael Rogers

Many of you paranormal aficionados know what a doppelganger is, but for those of you who do not, it is either someone who looks like somebody else or the ghost of a living person. Seeing a doppelganger generally is bad luck. Emilie Sagee was a teacher in the 19th century in the country of Latvia. Julie von Güldenstubbe was a student of Emilie Sagée and she told an unbelievable tale to American writer Robert Dale Owen who wrote it down. One day in class, all of Emilie's 13 students saw a woman who looked exactly like her standing at the blackboard mimicking the moves of Emilie. The teacher was completely unaware of her doppelganger being there. Later, when Emilie was in the garden working, her students saw her doppelganger sitting at the desk. Some have reasoned that Emilie was able to project herself in some way, possibly just by her will. For example, as she worked in the garden, she thought to herself that she really should be in the classroom to keep the kids from mischief. Is this why her doppelganger appeared in the classroom while she was in the garden? The dobbelganger appeared several times and Emilie claimed that she never saw it, but she did say that she felt drained when it was nearby. If this doppelganger story is true, than it certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Assassination Attempt on Hitler at Burgerbraukeller

On this day, November 8th, in 1939, Georg Elser attempts to assassinate Adolph Hitler at the Burgerbraukeller. Sixteen years before, Hitler had launched the Beer Hall Putsch from Burgerbraukeller, which was one of the largest beer halls and located in Munich, Germany. This was a failed coup and resulted in the arrest of Hitler for treason. But it started the Nazi movement that would eventually come to power and install Hitler as Chancellor in 1933. Because of this, Hitler would return to this location every year to commemorate the Beer Hall Putsch. Georg Elser knew this and planted a time bomb inside a pillar of the beer hall. The bomb did go off and killed eight people and injured 57. But Hitler had cut his speech short and he had already left by the time the bomb exploded. Elser was arrested and executed for the assassination attempt.

The White House (Suggested by Bob Sherfield and April Rogers-Krick, Research Assistance April Rogers-Krick)

For over two hundred years, a building called simply "The White House" has housed the most important leader in the United States of America, the President.The structure that sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue today is not the original. And even after being rebuilt, it has been transformed throughout the decades both outside and inside. Despite the changes, the White House has always been a symbol of the great republic that America is and how seamlessly leadership is transferred from one presidency to the next. Running alongside the regular history of this building is a supernatural one. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the White House.

After the Revolutionary War, in 1790, Congress established a federal district to be the center of the government and called it Washington, D.C. They chose a spot along the Potomac River that was between the northern and southern states. George Washington was president and he asked French Architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant to survey the area and design a complete city. L'Enfant was presented with a blank canvas and he relished the opportunity. He arrived in Georgetown in March of 1791 and designed an ambitious city. Thomas Jefferson did not like the plan and preferred a design he came up with that was more simple. Washington liked L'Enfant's design that was a mall that would be open to all the people. And the White House would be more than just the President's house, it would be the people's house.

L'Enfant envisioned a palace for the President. President Washington hand picked the site for the White House. As the construction of Washington, D.C. began, L'Enfant got into numerous conflicts with builders and refused to allow any compromises. Before long, he was fired for insubordination. Someone else needed to be hired as architect for the White House. A competition was held in 1792 and several architects submitted designs. A design submitted by Irish-born architect James Hoban was chosen. Hoban was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1758 and immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina in 1785. He moved to the nation's capitol after winning the competition and spent the rest of his life there, even serving as a member of the City Council from 1802-1831. The house was built from Aquia Creek sandstone painted white.

After eight years of construction, President John Adams and his wife Abigail, finally moved into the unfinished house in 1800.  Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801 and moved into the house. He had architect Benjamin Latrobe add colonnades on each wing that helped conceal the stables and storage located there. During the war of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C. On August 24, 1814, they broke into the White House, ate the meal prepared for the President and set fire to the White House. Most of the building was a total loss as were many of the buildings in the city. President Madison urged Congress to rebuild the buildings right there and not move the government to another city.

James Hoban was appointed to rebuild the house. Hoban had the walls dismantled down to the basement level., except for the middle section and he held onto the carved ornamentation even though they had scorch marks. While it took ten years to build the original house, the rebuild took only three years. President James Monroe moved into the building in 1817.  Benjamin Latrobe drew up proposals for a north and south portico to be added to the house. During Monroe’s administration, in 1824, the South Portico was constructed. In 1829, President Andrew Jackson oversaw the construction on the North Portico. They were both constructed from Seneca sandstone that was quarried in Maryland.

Once these porticos were finished, the White House we see today was completed. In 1829, Andrew Jackson furnished the East Room for the first time. Offices were moved as the 19th century brought in presidential families with children and more living space was needed. The ground floor was a utilitarian basement area that housed the servants living quarters, storage rooms, kitchens, a furnace and workspaces. President James K. Polk ordered that a statue of Jefferson by French sculptor Pierre Jean David d Angers be set up on the front lawn of the White House in 1848. The statue stood in the center of the lawn, which was cut and rolled and seasonally decorated with flower beds. This garden was the people's garden and open to the public every day. This statue of Jefferson was moved to the Capitol building in 1873.

President James Buchanan was elected in 1857. He was unmarried and his niece served as First Lady and she urged him to add a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace that was adjacent to the State Dining Room. It was a garden wonderland that guests could visit until it burned in 1867 and was replaced by an iron and wood structure twice as large as the earlier one. President Chester Arthur transformed the interior of the White House drastically when his presidency began in 1881. Twenty-four wagon loads of furniture were transported away from the house. Interior Decorator Louis Tiffany added his touches, which featured artistic painting and many surfaces were transformed with his decorative patterns and then there was his trademark colored glass. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt was elected President. The White House had been referred to by various names ranging from the "Executive Mansion" to the "President's House"to the "President's Palace." Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name.

President Roosevelt also began a major renovation to the White House in 1902. He wanted the offices moved from the second floor to the new Executive Office Building, which is now known as the West Wing. This building would take the place of greenhouses that grew roses, orchids and bedding plants. The New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White oversaw the renovation. President William Howard Taft, had the Oval Office constructed within as an enlarged office wing and every president since has decorated the office according to his own tastes. President Woodrow Wilson's wife turned the attic into a space for herself and in the 1920s, President Coolidge's wife had a sunroom built that eventually became the current solarium.

The original architect Hoban did not make the best decision when he kept the damaged walls in the rebuilding after the War of 1812 and much of the White House needed to be demolished and rebuilt starting in 1948. That reconstruction would finish in 1952 and was supervised by architect Lorenzo Winslow. The Truman family moved back in after the construction in 1952. The White House consists of 6 levels which include 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. There are 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators. 

*Fun Firsts: There have been a few historical first that have taken place in the White House.  President James Polk (1845-49) was the first President to have his photograph taken.  President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was the first President to ride in an automobile and also the first President to travel outside the country when he visited Panama.  President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) was the first president to ride in an airplane.* 

Every President since John Adams has occupied the White House, and the history of the building extends far beyond the construction of its walls.  From the Ground Floor Corridor rooms, transformed from their early use as service areas, the State Floor rooms, where countless leaders and dignitaries have been entertained, the White House is both the home of the President of the United States, his family and a museum of American History.  The White House is a place where history continues to unfold.  Some of that history continues to haunt the grounds today.

When President John Adams and his wife Abigail moved in to the White House in 1800, construction was not complete and the home was not yet fully furnished. Abigail must have loved the house or left quite an imprint on it because her apparition has been seen many times. Looking for a place to hang and dry laundry, Abigail had chosen the East Room for this task. Over the years, many people have claimed to see Abigail Adams with her arms outstretched as though she is carrying the laundry, entering the East Room. President Howard Taft claimed to have seen the ghost of Abigail Adams floating through doors on several occasions.  

Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, was known for her lavish social gatherings and parties. She planted the lovely Rose Garden we still enjoy today. When President Woodrow Wilson was in office, his wife Ellen decided to have the rose bushes moved. The gardeners were busy digging and preparing the roses to be moved when all of a sudden they saw the apparition of First Lady Dolly Madison coming towards them yelling and waving her arms frantically. Her message was clear. She was not happy about her roses being moved. They refused to continue the work and the Rose Garden stayed where it was planted. Others have seen her strolling in the garden as she must have many times while she was still alive.

The War of 1812 left a mark on the White House that was more than just the one left by fire. Since 1814, the ghostly figure of a British Redcoat has been seen trying to set the house on fire as a type of residual haunting. One account is from the 1940’s and was told by a diplomat and his wife who were spending the night in the White House. They were asked if they slept well and the diplomat replied that they had not. He said that his wife kept waking up during the night claiming that a British soldier was trying to burn the bed.

The Lincoln family has added two apparitions to the White House. Mary Todd Lincoln claimed to see the apparition of her young son Willie. He had died in the White House in 1862. From 1862 to 1863, she would hold séances in the Red Room trying to reach her son.  Spiritualism was highly popular during the Civil War and Mrs. Lincoln became quite the aficionado. She also claimed to hear President Andrew Jackson stomping and cursing around the hallways. During the 1870s, President Ulysses S. Grant claimed to see the apparition of young Willie Lincoln on several occasions. The daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed to have seen the ghost of Willie in her room and that was the room where he died.

President Abraham Lincoln is the most seen ghost in the White House. In the 1940s, Queen Whilimenia of the Netherlands was visiting FDR and she was staying in the Queen’s Room.  Looking rather tired at a cocktail party, she related the story of the night before.  She heard a knock at her room's door and when she answered it, there stood the full-bodied apparition of Lincoln. She fainted to the floor and there she spent most of the night passed out. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also claimed to have seen the ghost of Lincoln. White House employees and First Lady Grace Coolidge also claimed to the see the ghost of Lincoln in the Yellow Oval Room, which Lincoln used as his personal library. He is seen in there standing and looking out the windows.
One of the most famous sightings was reported by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He was staying at the White House in the 1940s and he had just finished with a bath and was walking into the Lincoln Bedroom naked. He found Lincoln leaning against the fireplace mantle. Churchill remarked, "Good evening Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Lincoln smiled and then disappeared. President Harry Truman also claimed to have encountered the ghost of Lincoln.  He heard a knock on his bedroom door and when he answered it, no one was there. He stepped out of the room into a cold spot and as he walked down the hall he heard footsteps and shuffling down the corridor.

The list of those who have claimed to see Lincoln also include First Ladies, Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, Presidents Hoover, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower, and Presidential children Susan Ford and Maureen Reagan and her husband had seen the ghost several times at the White House, usually as a red or orange aura. An unnamed prominent actor claimed to have awakened because of a voice pleading aloud. He rolled over to see Lincoln lying prostrate on the carpet, with his arms outstretched and his fingers digging into the carpet. Tony Savoy, White House Operations Foreman, has had the last reported sighting of Lincoln and that was in the 1980s. He saw Lincoln sitting in a chair at the top of the stairs.

It has been said that President William Harrison, who was the first president to die in office just one month into his first term in office, has been seen haunting the attic. They say he is looking for something but no one knows what. The ghost of President Andrew Jackson has been spotted in the Rose Bedroom.  He is always either laughing or swearing and a cold spot can be felt on the canopy bed. It's not all presidents and their families seen in the afterlife here. David Burns, the man who sold the land that the White House was built upon, has been heard in the attic and several other rooms. Lillian Rogers Parks, was a White House seamstress that worked there for 30 years. In her 1961 memoir, she told the story of a valet to President Franklin D. Roosevelt who claimed to have heard a disembodied voice in the Yellow Oval Room, saying “I’m Mr. Burns.” A guard serving during Harry S. Truman’s administration, claimed to hear a similar voice say the same thing, but he thought it was Secretary of State James Byrnes. When he went looking for him, he learned that the secretary hadn’t been at the White House that day.

The following is a retelling of a story told by President Reagan: "According to the President, Rex, the King Charles Cavalier spaniel who had recently replaced Lucky as First Dog, had twice barked frantically in the Lincoln Bedroom and then backed out and refused to set foot over the threshold. On another evening, while the Reagans were watching TV in their room, Rex stood up on his hind legs, pointed his nose at the ceiling and began barking at something invisible overhead. To their amazement, the dog walked around the room, barking at the ceiling. ‘I started thinking about it,’ the President continued, ‘And I began to wonder if the dog was responding to an electric signal too high-pitched for human ears, perhaps beamed toward the White House by a foreign embassy. I asked my staff to look into it.’ The President laughed and said, ‘I might as well tell you the rest. A member of our family [he meant his daughter Maureen] and her husband always stay in the Lincoln Bedroom when they visit the White House. Some time ago the husband woke up and saw a transparent figure standing at the bedroom window looking out. Then it turned and disappeared. His wife teased him mercilessly about it for a month. Then, when they were here recently, she woke up one morning and saw the same figure standing at the window looking out. She could see the trees right through it. Again it turned and disappeared.’"

And then there are stories of the demon cat that many have claimed to see in the basement. It only shows itself when a significant national disaster is about to happen. It was last seen sometime before 9/11. Let's hope nobody ever sees it again. The Rose Room and Lincoln Bedroom are claimed to be the most haunted rooms in the house. So is the White House haunted by all of these ghosts? That is for you to decide!

Friday, November 4, 2016

HGB Ep. 161 - The Palmer House

Moment in Oddity - The Lake in the Gulf

Some have called this location the "Jacuzzi of Despair." And it would seem it is a type of hell on Earth, or actually, under the water. It's approximately a days ride aboard a boat from New Orleans. Scientists have been amazed by this discovery in 2014 and Erik Cordes, associate professor of biology at Temple University, has said of this lake at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, “It was one of the most amazing things in the deep sea. You go down into the bottom of the ocean and you are looking at a lake or a river flowing. It feels like you are not on this world." This is a circular pool that measures about 100 feet in circumference and about 12 feet deep and is around 3,300 feet below the surface of the Gulf. The water in the lake is five times as salty as the water surrounding it and contains toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide and methane. Anything that swims into this area dies. Only bacterial lifeforms like shrimp and tube worms manage to survive this deadly lake. Scientists look at the lake as a chance to study what life on other planets would be like. You know, because some day you might go to space and end up in the bottom of some toxic lake. This lake at the bottom of the Gulf, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Genie the Wild Child Discovered

On this day, November 4th, in 1970, a child given the name Genie is taken to Children's Hospital and she will come to be known as the Wild Child. Genie had suffered horrid abuse for the first thirteen years of her life. Her mother had brought her into a welfare office seeking help for the blind. It was after Genie was taken to the hospital that the world found out that she spent those first thirteen years locked in a bedroom, tied to a child's potty wearing diapers. That was during the day. At night, she was bound inside a sleeping bag and an enclosed crib. If she spoke a word, she was beaten. No one spoke to her and her father only growled at her. She was given the name Genie by Social Services because she reminded them of the genies that were kept in bottles. Her parents were charged with abuse and her father committed suicide before his court appearance. Genie was studied for a few years until funding dropped off. She traversed through foster homes where her abuse continued. It is believed that she is living in an adult foster care home somewhere in California. The movie Mockingbird Don't Sing was made about Genie and her tragic life.

The Palmer House (Suggested by Katie Flanay)

Minnesota became the 32nd state in America on May 11, 1858. The Minnesota city of Sauk Centre has a long history as a wild west of the Midwest. In this city sits The Palmer House Hotel, which is both a hotel and a restaurant. It has been a popular place for over 100 years. It was not the first building on this location. An earlier hotel burned to the ground. The Palmer brought innovation to the city with its glitz that included electricity. There are stories of people who have died at the hotel and some claim that there are dozens of restless spirits in this most haunted location. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Palmer House.

Minnesota was once inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe Native American tribes. They were eventually pushed back by European settlers from Germany and Scandinavia. In 1762, it became part of Spanish Louisiana. Land west of the Mississippi became part of the United States after the Revolutionary War with the rest of Minnesota coming along after the Louisiana Purchase. Logging would become a main part of the economy and sawmills would dot the land. Nearly smack dab in the middle of Minnesota sits the city of Sauk Centre.

Sauk Centre is 117 miles west of St. Paul. Sauk Lake sits nearby and it is from this lake that the city takes its name. The name was initially suggested by Alexander Moore. The Sauk Centre Herald was the first continuous newspaper west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. The first issue was published by Joseph Simonton June 6, 1867. *Fun Fact: A printer's devil is a person serving at or below the level of apprentice in the printing industry. (A Twilight Zone episode had that name too.)* The second publisher of the paper, Charles F. Hendryx, said of the town, "When I came to town in July 1879, the frontier town was like a child in swaddling clothes and when I left in 1903, it was like a young child running around in knickers." The city was a true wild-west town hosting settlers and trappers. In the early days, there were two flour mills and one grain elevator. A rail line brought two trains a day, the stagecoach was running and a steamboat brought produce and passengers down Sauk Lake.

Sauk Center House - Sauk Center Historical Society Collection
The old Sauk Centre House was the city's first hotel. It was built along the stage coach line as a stop around 1863. It quickly became a social gathering place. Which meant it housed some extras like a brothel. Unfortunately, on June 26, 1900 it burned to the ground. There were no reports of anybody dying in the fire. Many people in the city were glad to see it go as they did not approve of the side activities going on here. Businessman Ralph L. Palmer, along with his wife Christena, built a new hotel in the former's footprint and Ralph was all about going big. He wanted this new hotel to be bigger and better than the Sauk Center House and he went for glitz with the goal of giving the city its first class hotel. When it opened, the hotel had 38 rooms and a spacious gathering area. It was the first building in Sauk Center to have electricity. There were beautiful Austrian stained glass windows in the lobby that remain today.

The Palmers had two children, Hazel and Carlisle. The family lived at the hotel and Christena’s mother and brother, George Brandner, also worked at the hotel. The hotel was the cornerstone of the city's downtown area. Nobel Prize winner Sinclair Lewis had worked at the hotel and he included it in his 1920 novel, Main Street. In the novel, the hotel is called the Minniemashie House. There were several families from the town that called the hotel home. During the 1920s, with prohibition in full swing, the Palmer House became a place to headquarter the running of liquor. There were reports that tunnels under the hotel took liquor to other locations in the city. There was a flea maret at the hotel at one time too.

A major renovation began in 1993 of the hotel. Rooms were combined so that 38 rooms have become only 19 and each of these has their own bathroom. Jacuzzis have been added to some rooms as well. There is a restaurant and pub just off the lobby stocked with favorite cocktails and savory dishes that include home-baked goodies for dessert. There is also a conference room. They provide historic tours of the hotel and even ghost tours with a ghost hunt in the basement that is normally off limits to guests. They keep a log of ghost experiences because they are so frequent here.  When the place was renovated, everything was re-wired and updated. So how do you explain so many electrical disturbances from lights turning off and on without assistance and televisions flickering off and on? Kelley Freese became owner of the hotel in 2002. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both guests and employees have had so many experiences that it is hard to keep track. Reports started back in the 1950s. The chef has heard footsteps moving across the wet floor when she is mopping all alone. A wet puddle will appear in the middle of the kitchen floor for no reason. Servers will set up the tables after dinner is over, so that they are ready for the next day. When they come in the next day, they will find that the silverware has been moved. A night clerk had a male guest come down and ask if he could get a beer. The clerk went into the pub and got a bottle of beer. The man asked how much he owed as he took out a $5 bill and the clerk wasn't sure what to do as he had no access to any money. He told the man he would either need to drink five more or he would have to give him change in the morning. The man fished out $1.25 and went upstairs. When the clerk told the owner about the interaction the next morning, the owner stated that no man was staying at the hotel with that description.

Kelley, the owner, has experienced some chilling paranormal occurrences. She was a skeptic before coming into possession of the hotel. She has felt what seemed like the palm of a hand grabbing the top of her head. She has had guests fling their room keys at her as they make a run for it in the middle of the night. She has seen a shadowy figure in the basement. Her husband was with her at the time and he thought the figure's eyes looked red and that it a wolf type creature. As the figure moved into the room further, all the light was blacked out and there was a strong malevolent feeling. Her husband said they should all go upstairs immediately. Kelley says it is the most chilling experience that she has ever had at her hotel.There is also a story that a psychic told Kelley there were bones in the basement. Kelley dug where she was told they were located and she found what looked like rib bones. She placed them in a box to show to her husband later. When she went to retrieve the bones, they were gone.

Ghost Adventures has filmed an episode here. My Ghost Story featured a couple in episode 15 that experienced a freaky possession type haunting while at the Palmer House. Darkness Radio with Dave Shraeder uses this as their supernatural base. They host events here often. Katie Heart had interned with Darkness Radio for a while. She is now co-host of One Bizarre Podcast and I asked her on Twitter if she ever experienced anything there. She tweeted, "There's always lots of activity there! We had the lights, and some movement as well. It was very interesting!" Psychic Echo Bodine claims that there are at least 40 individual ghosts at the hotel.

Ghost Stories Inc. visited the Palmer and had unexplained knocks on the wall of their hotel room. They figured out that the knocks sounded like the headboard of the beds bumping against the wall, but could not explain why this would come from an empty room. They picked up a young boy singing on a walkie talkie several times, including when asked if he could do it again. They had no children with them. A ball that they brought with them was moved from the hallway to the inside of a room. A couple members of the group also saw the apparition of a child crouched on the stairs. There is a story that a young boy died at the hotel, possibly of the flu, and there have been other reports of a young boy seen in the hallway playing with a ball.

Other ghosts reputed to have made the Palmer House their home in the afterlife are Raymond, Lucy and Hank. Raymond is a grumpy spirit that haunts the entire hotel with an emphasis on the room that is called "Raymond's Room." Lucy is very good at changing the temperatures of a room. She can drop it 30 degrees in minutes. Guests wake up in the middle of the night freezing and able to see their breath. The most haunted area is in the basement. The ghost here is a former maintenance man named Hank. Some claim that Sinclair Lewis liked the hotel so much that he not only wrote about it, but has decided to stay there after his death.

The basement may be the most haunted area, but the rooms that have provided the most experiences are rooms 11 and 17. A newlywed couple were staying overnight in Room 17 and they were awakened in the middle of the night by the apparition of a man wearing clothes more suited for the 1920s. He was standing at the foot of their bed. The furniture gets moved in this room when the guests are absent. A guest in Room 11 was sleeping with his legs outside of the sheets - a big no no - and sure enough, he felt unseen fingers stroking his legs. When he jumped up to see what was causing the sensation, he found nothing. Both rooms have cold spots at times and seem to have a heavy oppressive feeling.

Do these former employees and guests still roam the halls of the Palmer House? Is the Palmer House Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!